(or Homeschool Hacks to Live By)

            Toward the end of each issue of Real Simple magazine, there is a section entitled, “What Cooks Know.” I appreciate this section because, while my waffle iron game is relatively strong, I spent far too much time in higher education being institutionally fed, and lacking a proper kitchen, let’s just say, I still have a lot to learn. 

            Today I’d like to share with you two decades of teaching wisdom (or if you prefer “homeschooling hacks”) to help you weather this transition with grace.

1. As Harper Lee so aptly described her Aunt Alexandra, “She lived in the objective case.” For the time being, I encourage you to live in the declarative case. From working with special needs children, I learned quickly that we never ask, “Do you want to go to the bathroom?” We say, “Bathroom time.” Avoid asking your children, “Are you hungry?” Instead announce, “It’s lunchtime” or “Turn to page one hundred ten.”

2. We are currently in close proximity at home: closer than we may have wanted and certainly closer than we ever anticipated. Become familiar with Karasek’s Demand Control Model, (I just dropped some declarative case on you just there.) He states that the less control we have over a given work situation, and the less agency in that work, the more stress we experience. If your children are home, likely you didn’t choose this. Tensions may be running high. The post-modern knee-jerk response is to retreat into our phones. Yet, let’s ask ourselves, “How do we grow closer to people in relationships?” We spend time with them. Quality time. Sit beside your child. Limit phone time. This is no time for, “Do as I say, not as I do.” If you need motivation to put your phone down, think, “This is the behavior they will be teaching your grandchildren.” Did you just sit up a little straighter?

3. Show versus tell. If you want a chore done, rather than bark orders, lead from the middle and model. Music makes a difference when cleaning up the kitchen. Even if you have domestic help at this time, be sure to schedule in multiple “Tidy Up Times” throughout the day or suffer the consequences of a home-turned-workplace in shambles. Chores build responsibility, accountability and buy-in. In the name of sports and homework, many have alleviated their children of home responsibilities. Let’s take the time to course correct that. Their future partners, spouses and roommates thank you.

4. Meditate or Pray. We just need it. We need it desperately now, when many are sick, and stress is high. While exercise has become our de facto new religion (Our Ladies of the Peloton…follow me “dravery”), with the conspicuous exception of now-mainstream activities like yoga, exercise doesn’t often allow us to grow in mindfulness and self-understanding the way that meditation and mindful prayer do. Examine yourself and your relationship with the Divine. Explore your motivations. What are your hot buttons? Where are your past wounds? Increase awareness and we will see how we impact others more clearly. 

5. Model Humility. Visualize with me: you realize that you are reenacting your parents’ parenting and you begin to raise your voice and become demanding as your child becomes opposition to your new role as parent educator/enforcer of learning. Perhaps you had a coach or teacher who was a yeller. If so, try lowering your voice instead of raising it. When teachers get quiet, we perceive the change in tone. In contrast, we learn to tune out yellers. I’m here to tell you that this is growth opportunity for us all. We are living into a new normal. If you doubt yourself, listen to Jess Glynne’s, “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself.” You’re welcome. 

6. Leave notes and sing it out. “How to Talk So Your Children Will Listen and How to Listen So Your Children Will Talk,” a great book with comic reenactments of conversations (both critical and constructive), recommends leaving personified notes around the house and avoiding using judgmental diatribes. Instead of saying, “You’re all a bunch of slobs,” one can make a simple observation, “Jackets and cheese sticks do not belong on the floor,” or “I see cheesesticks and jackets on the floor,” and await a response to remedy the wrong. Sticky notes with a bit of humor go a long way too. “Put me away,” holds kids accountable to making the correction themselves, versus us doing the task after bedtime. And if you feel yourself losing your patience, try singing out your feelings to whatever spontaneous tune comes. Studies prove that the change in your tone prompts children to be more attentive and shifts our moods immediately. Perhaps, “I see cheesesticks,” to Westside Story “I Feel Pretty”?