Six weeks ago, I walked into a first grade class for the afternoon, not imagining it would be my last substituting job of the year. The world has changed for all of us in those weeks. In a manner of speaking, all of you have just taken over my job. I used to be the one to fill in when their teacher couldn’t be there. I know it’s a challenge to have kids at different levels doing different things but you can do this, and you can do it well! I do speak from experience because I was home with my kids teaching them for close to 20 years before I went back to the public classroom.
So what advice do I give you?
- Set a schedule.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
Getting back on a routine, like they had when they went to school is going to be important. Structure will give all of you a frame to work within. Have a wake up time, meal times, school times and break times. Depending on the age of your kids you may want to involve them in the making of the schedule or at least give them choices like, “Do you want 45 minutes off at lunch time or a 30 minute lunch with a 15 minute break in the afternoon?” If kids know ‘this is work time’ and, no we won’t have the TV on or you can’t play games right now, they can adjust to that. If there are no expectations, they will think they get to choose whatever they want to do with their time.
- Set up a workspace where kids can focus.
2 Corinthians 10:5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.
Perhaps my scripture is a bit out of context, but expecting kids to focus on their work if a TV is on the next room or a smaller sibling is playing video game nearby is not going to help. A place with a clear writing surface, needed supplies, minimal distractions and good lighting would be ideal. I often used the kitchen table. Depending on the assignment, of course, kids can move to other places like when reading a book or possibly working on the Chromebook or iPad. This happens in the classroom, too, but you do get to choose when it’s appropriate and when they just get to work ‘at their place’.
- Don’t be timid about contacting your child’s teacher when you have questions.
Matthew 7:7 Keep on asking and you will receive what you ask for…
Even as a professional, I end up writing or calling teachers for clarification about their plans or expectations. Know that these teachers care desperately about helping your kids be successful as you help them navigate this new world of distance learning. Please don’t think it’s stupid to ask – anything!
- Encourage your kids.
Ephesians 4:29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
I’ve always thought I would make a good Pharisee since I’m so good at pointing out all the things someone does that are wrong. This is not compliment to myself. It’s easy to see what’s wrong, but it takes some insight to point out the things that are right in the midst of a mistake. That’s often what we need to do with our kids – make sure there are several positive comments to cushion any negative one.
- Be ready to forgive.
Colossians 3:13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.
Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
At first glance you probably thought that this verse was about forgiving your kids when they mess up, and yes, that does apply, and they will mess up. But my true intent here is to ask you to be ready to forgive yourself when things don’t go according to plan. You will blow your schedule, the kids will work in front of the TV, you won’t get around to contacting the teacher and you’ll say some pretty choice, not encouraging words to your beloved child. Hopefully this won’t all happen at the same time, but even if it does, God loves you and He forgives you. When you accept that forgiveness for yourself, you can start to tell your kids about it and ask for theirs too.
Jill has volunteered at ALC since 1999 and lives in Gresham with her husband and two teenage sons. This year she celebrates the graduation of two children, her daughter from George Fox University and a son from Springwater Trail High School. Jill homeschooled her children for many years and has recently returned to the public classroom as a substitute teacher.