by Marie Tynan

These are crazy times. Unprecedented times. Dramatic shifts have occurred worldwide and in our local communities. These changes happened fast, and they morph daily. The circumstances are frightening. But this crisis has provided us with multiple opportunities for personal growth, increased learning, and discipleship of our children.

Make Room for Personal Growth and Discipleship

How we as parents respond to all these new challenges is one of the most important lessons our children are learning. Since more is caught than taught, adopting a positive attitude (like a can-do approach and looking for the good) will help to instill confidence and flexibility in our children, now and over the long term. If we have found ourselves being grumpy and discouraged, it’s also an opportunity to role model repentance and self-correction. Learning early that life is difficult but that we can choose our attitude and actions (or correct them) is foundational for facing adult challenges later on.

Besides positivity and flexibility, other good character traits that we have a unique opportunity to role model right now include checking on and helping others, conserving resources to limit trips to the store, being resourceful and living independently, being patient with one another, and walking out a confident faith in our all-powerful and loving God.

Thank an Everyday Hero

The everyday heroes around us are also exhibiting extraordinary traits we would do well to emulate and acknowledge. Courage and duty in the face of fear and inconvenience are on display right now as few other times in living memory. What are some ways we and our children can express our thanks to grocery clerks, first responders, truck drivers, and medical personnel? How can we act courageously for the benefit of others? How can you impact those around you for good?

Many of those essential-services workers are pressing on despite being “outside their comfort zone.” With their example, and in solidarity, this can be a good time for us to practice this, too. Every one of us needs growth in some area. We can challenge ourselves and our students to stretch a little bit. (This stirs up very vulnerable feelings, so be very cautious– especially with sensitive children– and with all children, create a very safe and affirming environment before proceeding.) Maybe each family member creates a work of art, or presents a report, or tastes that awful vegetable!

Learn Through Current Events

Academically, we can take advantage of the impact of these events to perhaps step away from our usual studies and dive into topics of more immediate relevance. Because some of today’s topics can be frightening, this is best overseen by a parent and presented carefully, especially with young or anxious children. But this approach can assist with understanding the times, perhaps stimulate new interests, as well as cement retention.

For example, a lot of science can be explored through learning about viruses and the various methods by which we tame them. Effective handwashing can be practiced as we learn why that works. Reading about earlier pandemics can provide a historical perspective and inspire hope. Math can be done by looking at statistics and doing some calculations: it’s encouraging when one looks at the low percentage of the population infected rather than just absorbing scary-sounding numbers. (That alone is a lesson in why math is useful “in real life”!) Geography can be incorporated by looking at maps that track the spread of COVID-19 . The wide scope and swift spread of the disease point out how connected we all are as human beings across this enormous and diverse globe.

Embrace Digging Deeper

Older students can go even deeper into examining the scientific, economic, and ethical issues suddenly thrust to the forefront by current events. Controversial issues like the swift implementation of untested but potentially life-saving treatments, the pros and cons of vaccines, or what constitutes an actual “essential service,” might be topics for research and discussion. Career exploration may also be enjoyed by some teens as they think of ways they would like to help others: through the medical arts, manufacturing, research, mechanical engineering, materials science, transportation specialties, public administration, charitable outreach, or spiritual leadership, to name a few.

New skills can be gained during this pandemic as we sew masks for hospital personnel, cook more meals from scratch, garden, or tackle home and auto repairs. Civic responsibility is reinforced as we act out of respect and concern for others and comply with regulations and recommendations. By contrast, what can happen when people behave selfishly?

Hone Your Skills

We all know that homeschoolers are used to social distancing (hahaha!), but now we actually are pretty housebound, just like everybody else. In the absence of our usual activities, we can direct our children’s free time to individually honing those skills they would normally be practicing in groups (like sports, acting, or speech and debate), or we can encourage them to try out new activities. Pick anything you or your children want to learn, and you can be sure there are articles, books, and internet tutorials to get you started: dance, art, mechanics, woodworking, baking, starting a business…

We can expand our family’s creativity by finding new ways to break up the monotony: take nature walks, watch and identify neighborhood birds, make blanket forts, have a picnic and a footrace in the greenbelt, encourage a child to play teacher or nurse to the family pet or a stuffed animal, plan a family talent show, compete in a sibling cook-off, or take turns doing funny skits.

Has your child shown a particular interest in something that didn’t fit into your curriculum? Now may be the time to pursue it. Got a gearhead? Aspiring fashion designer? Computer nerd? Born performer? Novelist-in-the-making?

The world may seem scary and unpredictable, and change throws us off balance, but embracing the many opportunities for growth in character, learning, bonding, and faith gives us a new perspective and many reasons to be grateful.

Marie Tynan was blessed to homeschool her only child from birth through graduation. With her son now away at college, Marie desires to share her passion and encouragement with the next generation of homeschool parents. She resides with her husband in Maricopa, AZ.

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