Tales of Distance Learning II

My last post about distance learning was certainly a downer, but not everything about having my kids home is awful. In fact, there are a lot of things about distance learning that are …

(Meme Credit: Someone on The Internet)

Okay, actually there is nothing good about distance learning, but having my kids home and not having the pressure to go anywhere has been amazing. The upside of distance learning is that we have the freedom to do a lot of other things besides school. Once the worksheets are completed, the videos are watched, and the Zoom calls signed off, we can do fun things like bike rides, family games, family puzzles, read stories together, home-ec, or go to work with dad. The removal of the pressure to go, go, go is leaving us with a good opportunity to examine what we value and what our relationships are like.

This opportunity to spend so much time together certainly has it’s ups and downs, but it is mostly good. We realize that we really do like each other. The family that God has given us is able to withstand challenges and overcome. Older siblings step in and help younger siblings complete assignments; younger siblings sit quietly while older siblings are on Zoom calls. We all recognize that this situation is far from ideal but that doesn’t keep us from having fun together, supporting one another, and working through difficulties. They are learning to put other people ahead of themselves and to help around the house.

Helping around the house is something that my upper-middle class kids don’t get a lot of opportunities to do. We have a cleaning service come once a week but while everyone is home 24/7, once a week cleaning just doesn’t cut it. While I have always tried to teach the kids to pick up after themselves (on the whole they do a good job), there is a lot of mommy-guilt in asking them to do chores when they’ve spent 6 hours at school, an hour at practice, and have an hour of homework before their early bedtime. Mommy-guilt is a terrible burden that robs children all over the country of the opportunity to learn from old-fashioned hard work. We put our kids in activities to teach them team work and discipline, but it’s so easy to overlook the teamwork and discipline that is built within the family unit and within the context of home-economics.

In addition to home-ec, our kids are learning about our values by listening to our conversations around the dinner table or while hanging out together in the garage. I have never been one to follow the news but something about a pandemic has me plugged in to what’s happening in our country in a whole different way. I’m still not watching main-stream media but I am gathering a tremendous amount of information from many different sources. Putting it all together and talking about it is a great lesson in civics. The kids are learning about cause-and-effect, supply and demand, the deeper impact of our decisions, and critical thinking simply by listening to discussion between adults. Hanging out and sitting quietly while two educated adults have a conversation about the governor’s executive orders is a great way to learn. It’s far better than reading about the theory in textbooks.

Home-ec and civics aren’t the only lessons my kids are getting. The amount of critical thinking that is happening in our house is stunning. They are constantly thinking of ways to get around the rules that have been set. My six-year old can put together a surprisingly convincing argument about why she should be allowed to play games on her tablet. My eight-year old encourages me to think critically by demanding an explanation of every answer I give her. My ten-year old critically considers what she wants for breakfast and whether or not she wants to make it herself. My eleven-year old listens to every conversation and asks increasingly thoughtful questions. I am confident that my kids are using their brains a whole lot more than they would be at school.

The only thing missing that gets in the way of incredible learning opportunities for my children is the distance learning that is required by the school. If we were free to pursue our own interests and just give an oral report at the end of the school year about what we’ve done and learned then I’m confident the lives of everyone in our house would be much happier.

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