With the shelter-in-place order, everyone has a few challenges, especially parents. Every parent wonders about managing their bundles of energy disrupting their lives while also advancing their social and academic development. Everyone is asking and learning. Even the New York Times ran a recent article, “Home schooling simplified.” It’s mostly about the furniture needed. That’s not much help.
In these days of social isolation and shelter-in-place rules, what do we do with our children? There are all kinds of things to keep kids busy. But there is a catch. You have to change your thinking. You will need to think of your children as adults.
Children will want to help. Especially if they see their parents doing something. Do your kids help with cleaning? It doesn’t take much to help with the sweeping. As long as they are working alongside their parents, they will sweep all day.
Cooking is extremely useful. If your child can prepare a single dish in a meal, he or she will become extremely proud of themselves. If they are following a recipe, that’s even better. And what better way to learn fractions—not to mention focus and concentration, following directions, and safe knife skills—than cooking?
Do you have pets at home? Have them take care of the the pets. Show kids how to wash and take care of the car. Show them how to change the oil and spark plugs. Ask them to weed or water the garden. In short, give them real responsibilities.
Back in the 1990s, our situation was pretty much normal. We were not forced into home-schooling due to a pandemic, but we committed ourselves to it.
Things had been fine until the oldest hit kindergarten. Then he started practicing Power Ranger kicks and punches on his younger brother. He lost his ability to read. We audited the kindergarten classroom and what we found was chaos, barely under control. We asked what could be done and were told it would be simple: Our children would take a daily dose of Ritalin. For us, this was unacceptable. Here was a perfectly normal child about to be drugged into submission.
We took stock of the situation. We did not have enough money for private school. We did not even have a television. So we home-schooled our two boys, who are two years apart.
They ran around, built things, dug holes, and played. We also spent time reading stories. This turned out to be very important. Every night, the whole family would climb into the same bed. Then, they would look at the book and we would read. The boys knew this was a special time and they had to behave properly. We answered their questions and everyone enjoyed themselves. Being exposed to books made them very motivated to read. So, we started teaching them. We knew nothing about it except that the boys wanted to learn.
The boys wanted to make kites. So we learned to make kites, took them to the beach and flew them.
We needed help in our home software business. We sold thermal printers. These printers needed tiny black line sensors added. The boys had just the right-sized fingers to do the work. We paid them for their work. For the first time in their lives, they had their own money. They learned to manage money. We taught them to treat money as a tool, not as a goal.
It started to become apparent that we were not running their lives as much. More and more, they were setting their own goals and accomplishing them.
In conclusion, consider this: During this pandemic, we now have the opportunity to think of our children as adults. Once you begin treating them as adults, they will start behaving as adults.