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Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures: Have Some Fun!

People everywhere are panicking on how to homeschool their children. We have a nation of stressed-out, over-anxious, over-tested, over-analyzed, burnt-out kids. Let’s panic about that for a second. Okay, well, no, let’s not panic, but let’s use this time to really look at this situation.

Your kid doesn’t know how to play.

Academics have been pushed down into preschool. Many children are drilled with phonics, numbers, activities, and worksheets from the age of 2 or 3. Every second of the school day in elementary school is filled with work. Children don’t get choices. Children have 15 minutes to eat lunch. They can’t choose who they sit next to. They’re sent to the office for fidgeting. Their recess is taken away for giggling. They’re told “No!” “Stop!” “Don’t” on the playground. They have one adult to monitor the health and well-being, and serious academics of 15-34 other children (yes, 34, and that’s at my own son’s school so I know).

Okay, now I’m speaking in terms of doom and gloom. I realize not every child is up against all of the above. I hear there are still some kindergarten classrooms with a dress-up area. Generally speaking though, children aren’t learning autonomy or choice or even what their interests are in school these days.

This is why being home with your children is that much harder in this time of closures, shutdowns, and quarantine. Your child doesn’t know how to play – they don’t even know what they like to do. They know how to prepare for tests and sit still when they teacher is looking (if they are lucky). They don’t know how to assess risk because we’ve taken all risk away. They don’t know how to problem solve because we are constantly handing them the solution, e.g. “Say you’re sorry.”

My recipe for mitigating this is to have as much fun as you possibly can over the coming weeks, maybe months, of all of this together-time. (As you possibly can being key, I understand we all still have very real life limitations and requirements.)

Put down your phone. I’m sure your phone time is up as you stay in touch with family, monitor the news, and watch your finances. Those are things that all need to happen, but can you quarantine your phone time too? Your child sees that you are on your phone. Your child notices your furrowed brow, your look of worry. Your child sees the uncertainty. Your child hears you talking about the virus spreading, who has it, where it’s spiking, who is most at risk. They notice everything. So really, put your phone down.

Find something you love to do and do it. Do it in front of your kids. Pull out the watercolors. Work on a home project. Turn up the dance mix. Dribble the soccer ball (in your yard, a safe distance from others).

Show kids how to play by playing yourself!

The news will be there after they’re in bed. The 37 memes sent by your high school friends in the last 20 minutes will still be there later to help you laugh off the real gravity of this current reality. If you want to check in with family members, use a video call so your kids can participate. Try to adjust your work schedule if you're working from home to squeeze work into pockets of time that leave you some time to just simply be with your family.

If your school sent you home with plans or a Chrome book, that’s great. You can set it on a shelf, throw it out the window, or I suppose, you can do a little work, but make it fun. Your kid will not be stupid after a few weeks off from the intense and overwhelming academics. I promise.

We don't know what the future holds. We can't guarantee the safety of ourselves or our children. We can love them and we can laugh with them, two things that children really need in order to thrive.

Play with them. Let them play alone. Slow down. Talk to each other. Connect as a family. Bring the bounce house inside. And really, have some fun!

*The inside bounce house is from a few weeks ago when we pulled our kids out of school in order to spend time at Grandma’s while we played on vacation with good friends in Costa Rica. I really wish we had that bounce house now.

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