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Grace and Growth Through Distance Learning

May 2020 | by katie backer

We find ourselves in an unprecedented time filled with uncertainty and stress, ranging from minor inconveniences to major losses. The feeling of unknown and lack of control can seem scary. For us. Our kids. Our families and neighbors and friends. Even our pets don’t know what the heck is going on having us around all the time!

Even if you’ve homeschooled, taught, or worked from home before, we are all having to make adjustments on the fly in the face of all this unknown. As we continue to wade through the challenges, stressors, emotions, and newsfeeds, now is the time when we need to give grace. To ourselves and those around us. It’s important, too, that we give our focus to those things that we can control in order to foster positive growth in our lives, despite this tough season.

With a background in high school teaching and homeschooling, I want to share a few tactical things that have helped my daughter, and I, navigate this season of change, quarantine, and virtual learning.

Side note: I fully recognize everyone is experiencing this quarantine/pandemic in different ways, with varying emotions. I don’t presume to have all the answers, these are just a few ways my family is personally coping with our state’s shelter in place mandate, and I hope that they might give you some ideas and offer some reassurance.

How do I face the unknown?

By focusing on what I can control.

By looking for things that bring me joy.

By trying to see my circumstances through the lens of a broader perspective.

1.     Morning Routine / Daily Schedule

I have long been a firm believer in Morning Routines and have doubled down on that belief since the quarantine. As a writer, I already work from home and homeschool my daughter half-day, yet I had NEVER been through a month-long quarantine. Just because we’re spending more time at home doesn’t mean we should throw routines out the window; in fact, I find I’m clinging to them more to stay calm and centered. 

That said, there are days when I feel ready to take on the world (so to speak) and others when I just want to escape with a book for the next 72 hours. 

This gets us through lunch with less scheduled afternoons, allowing for fun free time (and physical activity) for my kiddo. Evenings have been filled with cooking and family dinners and movie nights.

Tip: Stick to your regular bedtimes, though, it helps in maintaining the morning routine.

Now, if you’re feeling uneasy or stressed (or your kids are), this is where that need for grace comes into play. Strive to stick to your routines but give yourselves grace if things go sideways or you need to shift gears some days. Find what helps bring calm and peace into your days and utilize those tools.

Remember, you have to find your groove while remaining flexible. Even under normal circumstances, it took us weeks to get into a good homeschool schedule.

There will be good and bad days, but let’s aim to set ourselves up for success with a game plan for how and when we go to work and the kids keep up with their schoolwork, balancing that with meal planning, physical activity, fun activities, and bedtimes. All of which adds balance and control into our weeks, which helps to alleviate stress.

In fact, weekly to-do lists might just be your new best friend. When it feels like…

To-do lists will help keep things on track as one day melts into the next. It’s a great time for the kids to grow in responsibility by way of household chores and/or opportunities for more independence. To-do lists might just save you from Couch Potato Status: Expert Level. 

2.     Free Time (FUN!)

I LOVE TO HAVE FUN! My motto for myself, and as a teacher and mom, is always, “Get it done, so we can have fun” or “Work hard, play hard.” That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy work too (I definitely do), but generally speaking, we tend to procrastinate the things we really don’t want to do. Meanwhile, if we just get it done, we could relax and have fun. And, in this crazy season, I’m looking for ways to alleviate stress however I can.

Tip: Do not feel like your kid needs to spend eight hours sitting at a computer completing schoolwork. They can make a lot of progress in a couple intentional hours of schoolwork - with or without your guidance (as needed).

These kiddos are learning a lot during this time… ranging beyond schoolwork to things like empathy, perseverance, patience, respect, love, and many other household skills.

I so enjoy seeing the pictures on social media of kids trying virtual music classes, art classes, learning how to fold laundry, cooking and baking, completing puzzles as a family, all sorts of fun things. These skills are helping them, too, so give yourself—and your kids—some grace during this time. ALLOW FOR FUN… and watch for growth.

3.     Fresh Air and Exercise

As I mentioned, every morning, I typically workout. Since this quarantine has started, I've really upped my workouts. I'm running farther and doing more virtual classes than ever. This is a healthy way for me to stave off any feelings of anxiety and increase my endorphins. 

It would be easy to fall back into my "couch-potato" tendencies, so I must be intentional about my goals while also giving myself grace. Sometimes, if I know that I’m not in the right headspace, I’ll go for a quiet walk or play with my dogs in the yard instead. Fresh air and exercise work wonders for our moods… and the same goes for our kiddos. There are numerous fitness options available on YouTube, or around the Internet that have been really awesome (including classes taught by some of our local gym instructors)!

Tip: If you haven’t been moving as much as you’d like, are feeling anxious or depressed, or have noticed your child is more sedentary, try adding a walk, yoga, a pushup challenge, or a fitness video to your daily routine and see how yours or your child’s mood (and focus!) improves.

4.     Communication & Praise

I have been so impressed by my daughter’s ability to handle what is happening, which I recently told her when we had a good sit-down chat. She understands why she has to stay home but admitted how much she misses her teachers and friends.

Just as we have had to adapt, so too have our kids. In a time that can feel scary and overwhelming to us, imagine what it feels like to our still-developing kids. From a completely revamped schoolyear and way of learning to being away from friends, to missing out on so many things and changes within their household. Never mind what they’re picking up from their parents’ conversations and emotions. It’s A LOT. But, with new experiences comes the opportunity for grace and growth.

Tip: If you see your kid really stepping up or handling this situation in a manner well above their years, make sure to tell them. This time is going to be a perspective-shifter for many of them (and us!) Hopefully one positive to come out of this time can be all that they learned they were capable of doing and handling during the 2020 Pandemic. This is literally history in the making. So, we have to remember to hug our kids, listen to them, and praise their resilience, manners, and responsibility. They're learning a lot right now, and I honestly think there are things we can learn from our kids.

Here’s to a blessed May!

Originally printed in the May 2020 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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