The school week is about to start, but the kids are home due to the Coronavirus/COVID-19, so what should you do now? Should you view this as you would spring break? Should you give them some work to do? Should you contact the teacher to see if they have any work for them to do during this time?
I spend a great deal of time in the gym and at my age, injuries from squatting or deadlifting always seem just one more rep away when I’m really pushing hard in a power phase. Every so often, a minor injury does occur, but I rarely stop training all together.
Detraining can occur as quickly as two weeks and I never take that much time away from the steel. Since I workout with weights consistently four days per week, all year around, for 20+ years, a small “injury break” is a good reminder that the supporting muscles need to grow to support the prime movers that might need a well-deserved rest.
Now, I want to evaluate using the same approach with your child. If your kid(s) have been running at 90 mph since Christmas break, due to an hour of homework after school, sports practice and other activities, a break may be in order. If the schools remain shut down for more than two weeks, we can transition to other strategies (as you’ll see below), but for now, if they are exhausted and never have a chance to just play, now may be the time to allow them to play and explore the outside world. The younger they are, the more this is applicable.
But let us assume that either this extends beyond two weeks or you desire your kids to not get detrained mentally at all from the closings, I want you to start Monday morning or whatever the next day is prepared. First, remember that you are now acting as the “supporting muscle” to what the school or “prime mover or muscle” has been likely doing for years. Determining when your child gets up, eats, goes to the restroom, works, plays and goes home. Side note, if that sounds like the prison or military, there’s a reason for that and another reason why I do not send my children to school, but I digress. Overall, now that’s your job because those big muscles are taking a break and there is nothing you can do about their decision.
First, and this is a good evaluation for you, what are your kids learning in school and do you know where they are at in terms of development, interests and goals? I can tell you, I don’t think my parents ever had a clue about what I was learning in school. They knew what grade I was in and that was likely it. As long as my report said I was a solid A or B student, all was well. Conversely, I often have to think about what grade my kids are supposed to be in, but I know exactly what they are doing and what they are capable of producing. How about you?
If you do not, now is the time to ask and get acquainted with their progress so you know where they are strong and where they are weak. Just because your son can hook up the Xbox to the TV or play Call of Duty with four monitors he hooked up, doesn’t mean he’s “good at and likes computers”. Find out what they are studying in school and find ways to now supplement those subjects at home. Sure, higher levels of math may need to wait, but even then, I’m sure places like Khan Academy and YouTube have you covered. If you really want to jump off into this, I highly recommend my kids math teacher (no, it’s not me). Now, for other topics you can supplement, begin to brainstorm how to do so.
If they are in elementary school, that should be rather easy so I will not take up space now to go into details. But please let me know in the comments below if you would like some tips for that age. But for perhaps, 7-12th grades, let the fun begin! First, start with their favorite topic outside of school. Next, find out what their favorite class is in school right now. Then, and keeping it simple, develop a writing assignment that requires reading, some research and maybe even some data analysis. You can do this for 2-3 other topics that they enjoy as well. Again, depending on age, you can start with a 500-word essay, or bump it up to five page assignment. It is entirely up to you. Let me warn you, you may be surprised at your child’s skill level, as it could definitely be far worse than you think or (hopefully) far better.
Sound too simple? Think about this then, if you were pursuing your Master’s degree or definitely your Ph.D in a particular field, when you are preparing for your dissertation, are you in class every day? No, you are out there doing research! You do not have time to be in class gaining instruction, that time has passed, now it is time for you to take all of what you have learned and use your new found expertise to produce something noteworthy in your field of study and prove what you have learned. I would like you to ask your child to do the same.
I am giving you just one example as I know you may be saying, “But that is not enough work for them to be doing.” Why do you think that, because school has always been about being shuffled from class to class and filling up an eight hour or so day? Again, your home isn’t school so you don’t have to have such a rigid schedule resembling boot camp or prison. When your company forces you to work from home (as many are doing at this time), I hope you find that you can be far more productive at home (assuming you have an office type job of course) than you can at your desk. After working from home for nearly five years, I find that I can get much more done in less time. If I cannot, and many employees cannot, it would be due to my/our own lack of discipline. So if your kid cannot focus for a few hours on a topic they enjoy, then welcome to their teacher’s world! Because I’m willing to bet that they do not focus too well in class either with hours spent on topics they often could care less about. I mean, why was I, a Black child, learning about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in school, and do you think I cared? That stint in English class almost killed my love of books and reading! I certainly did not feel comfortable listening to “Nigger Jim” in a class full of White students that’s for sure. So, I’m sure you can do better and create more enthusiasm for your child at home during this time.
Now, once the topics are chosen, what books do you have in your house to support the work? This is another good evaluation as to whether you have a good learning environment in your home. Remember, these are topics that your kids enjoy. Therefore, I hope there are materials in your home currently that they are interested in reading. If you do not have the books at home, Amazon is your friend, and you now have your first outside activity, assuming that the libraries are still open.
Side note: Speaking of Amazon, order physical books and not audio or online versions. If anything, instead of hoarding toilet paper for some insane reason during this time, become a physical book hoarder. After all, what kind of world are we creating where our knowledge could mostly be wiped out with the push of a button or loss of power? The movie, The Book of Eli should have showed us something there…
Perhaps the libraries are closed and your child loves history. Again, online research and documentaries make this an easy one. But the one activity I love far more that I have my kids do all the time is to have them interview family members. We often forget that the greatest link to history isn’t a book, but the living eyewitness accounts of those that lived during that era that we can talk to and hear their voice, the emotions in their stories, etc.! So calling grandparents and other relatives that lived during a particular time period is extremely rewarding. First, they get to connect, which is something we all probably should have done more of with our elders when we were younger (remember the dead air when you called grandma to thank her for the gifts?). Second, they learn about their own family history and pull things out of their elders that may not have even been shared or thought about for some time. Old folks, like myself, love to talk to younger folks and share their wisdom, mistakes and the lessons learned from the past. Obviously, if they want to talk about the 1500s, I doubt if granddad is still alive, even though he might seem that old to a 14-year old. In that case, try to find the history buff in your family. They can watch a documentary, perhaps even together, and then your child can interview them or tell them what they learned and get feedback and their knowledge on the topic.
So that’s all for now as there are so many options and those are just a few that I have used over the years that I think you could use for now. I wanted to get you thinking and starting to plan. When all of this blows over, I hope the evaluations that you made concerning your knowledge about your child’s education, as to whether your home is a good learning environment outside of school, and the relationship building with you and their elders, are areas that you will continue to cultivate when life goes back to normal.
After an injury, you should actually be stronger in the gym, as your supporting muscles are now stronger and the primary muscle has recovered. My desire is for you to achieve this same goal in your home. Until next time…