Educating Our Children While Keeping Them Safe During the COVID Crisis
As the pandemic continues to rage through many communities, parents around the world are facing a complex struggle: How will I keep my children safe while ensuring they receive the best education possible?
Some school districts are opening for full in-person classrooms with limited or no safety precautions. Other schools are creating a hybrid of in-person and online classes, while some schools are entirely online. Parents are left fearing for their kids' safety while struggling to navigate the added chaos to their already full responsibilities as parents.
In such uncertain times, it is easy to feel as if things are spiraling out of your control. Take a deep breath. You are not alone.
While authorities such as the government, the school district, and your boss may pressure you, it is essential to remember that you are the authority of your children's lives. No matter how well-intentioned the decision-maker, no organization knows and cares about your children the way you do. Each family is unique, as is each child.
"It is time to re-conceive how school works, because it's not going to work how it has worked for a long time."
~W Kamau Bell
Educational Options for Your Child
Empower yourself to explore your options and choose an education plan that is best for you and your children. If you feel your school is prematurely opening to in-person classrooms, you can explore short-term homeschooling alternatives.
I understand the thought of homeschooling might feel equally as overwhelming. When my daughter was young, she begged me to home school her; and, as much as I wanted to, I knew I was not capable of giving her the education she deserved.
Remember, at this moment, you want to seek a short-term solution during a global crisis. You might discover an unexpected gift, but for now, take it one day at a time.
Seek Out a Network of Support
If you choose to keep your children safe at home or your district has chosen online teaching, you don't have to do this alone. Consider hiring a teacher as a tutor. Teachers who don't want to return to the classroom for health reasons may seek alternative income. Even full-time teachers often tutor for extra income.
Many college students are deciding to take a semester off rather than pay excessive tuition fees for online courses. Overseeing childcare and schooling for a family or two might be a perfect fit for someone who is exploring their options for interim employment.
Lean into your community. Teaming up with another family to share the responsibility of overseeing at-home education can relax the responsibility of each parent and provide valuable social time for the children. In keeping with the community mindset, if you have the means, please consider donating to help children without access to computers and the internet.
Regardless of which logistical education plan you choose, the most important thing to remember is that education should prepare your child to live a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life. As the structure of life (as we knew it) unravels in the chaos of COVID, this is a perfect time to recalibrate and prioritize.
One thing is clear – our current paradigm of learning will not happen this year, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Most people agree the overscheduled, high pressure, torpedo-speed lifestyle that became the norm over the past several decades is not healthy. As difficult as this time is, it offers an opportunity to slow down, tune in, and focus on what you believe is most critical to teach your children so they can live happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.
"Education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think."
In a world of alternative facts, teaching our children critical thinking is an essential tool. Disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence promotes curiosity and creativity. It reinforces problem-solving and fosters independence. This foundation of learning is not restricted to textbooks. It can be taught through life experience, current events, creative projects, cooking, and sports. Remembering life itself presents a limitless opportunity for education and learning, opens the possibility for you to re-imagine your children's education.
A Happy Healthy COVID Generation
Having a foundation in Clinical Child and Family Therapy, I have been concerned with the consensus that this pandemic will have long-term detrimental effects on the generation of children in school at this time.
I understand that this is a unique and challenging time for everyone, especially children. But the talking point that children are only healthy in the standardized school system seems to overlook the notion that family can provide a nurturing environment that supports natural learning and holistic wellbeing.
I imagine this year as an opportunity to slow down and teach this generation of children to appreciate family, community, and diversity. I envision them learning to navigate their feelings with emotional intelligence.
The pandemic is also a perfect time to teach children the importance of personal health and wellness. And the upheaval of the school provides a new potential for children to discover their passion for learning.
How would you re-imagine your children's education? Life is gifting you a year to focus on giving your children the foundation of skills and mindset that will allow them to create the fulfilling life you dream for them. What will you focus on, as you prioritize the skillset you believe they will need to navigate such a life?
Here are a few of my ideas to spark your creativity:
Health and Wellness
With the pandemic at the forefront of most conversations, shifting the attention from fear and uncertainty to proactive prevention through self-care can help you empower your children:
- Engage your children in fun activities that promote exercise. From hopscotch and jump rope to family hikes, kickball games, and family dance parties, you can encourage a love for fitness that will last a lifetime.
- Gardening and cooking together will engage children in healthy eating and open an opportunity for conversations about robust immune systems as a preventative to viruses and other illnesses.
Raising a generation of emotionally intelligent children can change our world. We want our children to feel safe during this time of chaos, frustration, and uncertainty. But the truth is our entire world is dealing with some level of anxiety, grief, anger, and confusion. Learning to be comfortable even in uncomfortable emotions is a superpower for life. As a parent, this starts by exploring our relationship with emotions so that we can mirror healthy emotions to our children.
When I was young, my mom didn't want me to worry about adult concerns. Because my mom thought she needed to present a strong front, she told me everything was okay, even when I could sense she was upset. While her intentions were pure, having my most trusted authority tell me something that conflicted with my inner knowing left me questioning my intuition.
As a parent myself, when my children saw me upset and asked if everything was okay, I chose to answer with "I am sad (angry or hurt) right now, but I know everything will work out."
Having honest conversations with your children about the plethora of emotions that are natural – not only during this trying time, but throughout our lives – will give them skills to navigate life and relationships with emotional intelligence.
Writing poetry, short stories, and journals are great ways to help children explore their emotions. Photography, painting, and music are other creative activities to promote emotional expression.
The pandemic also brought to light the impact systemic racism has had on generations of Black and indigenous people around the world. This rising global movement to acknowledge and amend systemic racism opens an opportunity to expand your awareness as you learn alongside your children. What can you do to help create a more inclusive future for your children?
The first step is acknowledging what you don't know.
In the United States, and probably most countries, school systems overlook crucial elements of our history. Proactively researching the untaught aspects of slavery, segregation, Indian treaties, and boarding schools can help you teach your children a comprehensive historical understanding that is appropriate to their age. Movies, television, documentaries, and novels are great resources that can help children compassionately understand diverse cultures.
Consider the National Holidays (such as Columbus Day and Thanksgiving) as opportunities to explore the power of mythology, while learning about the actual historical events that inspired them.
You might also consider creating a zoom group or pen pal experience outside your circle of friends. Every opportunity you offer your child to connect on a deeply personal level with someone beyond their own age, race, and socioeconomic status can increase their compassion and expand their appreciation for diversity.
In the age of COVID, creating community consciousness can be as simple as teaching your child to wear a mask not only for their safety but also out of concern for the people around them. Now is also a great time to include your children in checking on a neighbor, buying groceries for an elder, or donating food, clothes, and resources to people in need.
Remember, your family is a community within itself. By working together as a team and helping each other, you are teaching your children the value of community consciousness.
Travel the World
You might feel confined by travel restrictions and community shutdowns; but fortunately, with imagination, internet, home entertainment, and international groceries, the world is at your fingertips.
Plan a family trip to a destination of your choice. Then, spend the week learning the culture, listening to the local music, cooking traditional meals, and watching entertainment created in the location of your chosen destination.
You Got This!
These are just a few ideas to help inspire you as you take on this new role in your children's education. As you navigate this time, remember, you know what is best for you and your family, you are not alone, and your best is always enough.