1. Grace. Grace is a necessity. Grace for myself, for my kids, and for the school employees. The first few weeks of at home learning we were trying out new routines and trying to find the best schedule and balance for our family. After several weeks we have found a schedule that works for us. This is a time of adjustment for everyone. Some of us our struggling to the new roles we have found ourselves in and some are grieving the loss of normal routine and social contact with others. During this time of adjustment we should try to remember grace, show grace and receive grace. It is easy to get caught up in the "if only’s."
If only my kids would listen to me.
If only my kids would just focus on their schoolwork.
If only my child’s teachers would send out more thorough emails so I understood what he could/should be doing for school.
If only the school would give us some predictability of the plan for the end of the year.
If only I had more time in the day.
If only I could see my friends.
If only none of this had happened.
2. Mindfulness. Prior to school being cancelled we had several routines in our home to start the day in a mindful way. We usually kept things calm with some mellow music playing and paused to do some deep breathing when needed. When our normal routine of going off to school was replaced by a new one, we fell out of these helpful practices. It took a few days, lots of meltdowns and tears for my brain to go, “Duh!” We quickly got back on track and have also added a few more familiar routines. Below are a few simple ideas to starting your day off in a mindful way.
Jackson loves to meditate. Above is a picture of him listening to Mindfulness Meditation for Kids | BREATHING EXERCISE | Guided Meditation for Children from New Horizon.
Soup bowl breathing. Cup your hand below your mouth and pretend you have a bowl of soup. Smell the soup and then cool the soup.
We have two Amazon Music stations we like to listen to in the morning, “Mellow Folk Music” and “Lullabies and Bedtime Music.”
We also do a lot of hugs in the morning to help reset. As humans we need connection and when we hug someone we care about it oxytocin is realease which we know helps fight stress.
3. SEL. Focus on social and emotional learning (SEL) skills, not just the academics. Sometimes it’s okay to throw the lesson plan out the window. We have had a few days where schooling just wasn’t working out. Often times it was me driving the situation because I wasn’t regulated or in a good space to be the best teacher and mama. One day after some tears and whining, on both my part and my kids, I decided to say, “Enough! We need a break.” That day was about connection and resetting (also snuggling, games, baking and some movies). We often diminish the SEL skills that support academics. We can have the best, well designed lesson, but if our kids don't have the SEL skills needed to follow through with the lesson or are not in a regulated state it will fail.
Good practices around SEL promotes empathy, emotional regulation, allow us to make positive choices, maintain a hopeful outlook and promote healthy connection to others. What are you doing right now to support this for yourself and for your kids? Below are a few simple ideas to promote SEL.
We use the genius of Dan Siegel’s Hand Model of the Brain in our home. One day we made a book to think through things that cause us to be in our upstairs or downstairs brain, what it might look or sound like when we are in either of these brain states and then things we might do to either stay in our upstairs brain or get back there. I will post this activity for you all to use.
Playing games together as a family. Sometimes these are math games with cards and sometimes they are just silly games for fun. Play is an important component to learning. Kids and adults can learn through play.
Reading a book about feelings or situations where emotional regulation is important or that inspires empathy or grit. With libraries closed we have found a number of apps where we can read books electronically in addition to the ones we already own.
-Benji, the Bad day and Me by Sally Pla
-The color Monster by Anna Llenas
-Quiet by Tomie dePaola
-Wonder by R.J. Palacio
-Because of Mr Terup by Rob Buyea
-Out of my Mind by Sharon M Draper
4. Creativity. Fuel the creativity. There are many ways to learn besides pen and paper, memorization, worksheets or the classic 3 R's. Think of ways to take science outdoors, watch a documentary, paint and color, infuse art into learning, find math in a game or nature. This is a time to think of learning in a new way. My youngest child attends a Montessori school and one of the greatest lessons he has learned is that he is always learning. Whether we area driving down the road and he is observing wildlife, we are making a recipe and he is reading and learning about fractions or he is grocery shopping with me while he decides which turkey lunch meat is the best deal, he knows there are learning opportunities in each of these activities, not just the classroom. Cooking, baking, planting are all ways to learn. These can be more than just brain breaks.
“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”
5. Movement. I would say we are a moderately active family. We enjoy sports and outdoor activities all year round. I have noticed that we have had a lack of exercise because we have felt the pressure to say home. While staying home is the right thing to do it doesn’t mean we have to stay inside; we just have to be more mindful of others when taking our walks and bike rides.
My kids still need movement so my husband does push-up challenges with our kids. I have had to be more organized and actively set aside a time for movement. During the school week we have set a rhythm of taking a walk on the mile loop we live on every day. My kids and I also take breaks at least every hour to allow for some movement throughout the day.