I am not a teacher. Today, during our scheduled academic crisis schooling time, I had to help my youngest child with a math problem. I had to Google how do it, and even then, I couldn’t properly convey with my words on how to achieve the correct answer.
(By the way, this was a bad time for Photomath to go to a subscription based system in order to see the steps for how to achieve a correct answer. I digress.)
While we ate lunch, I thought about my shortcomings as a crisis schooling teacher… and then decided to change my attitude. While I am not suited for a classroom because I would say something to get myself fired very quickly, I do know a lot of things that I could teach these two over the next few weeks.
That’s my jam. I even asked them if they’d like to learn how to use my big camera (DSLR) on the manual setting, learning about ISO and F-Stop and all that jazz. I mean, I’ve won awards for my photography, so I could probably teach them a thing or two. Interestingly, I asked them if they wanted me to teach them this skill, and they immediately said yes.
I love to cook, but I didn’t learn lots of basics until after I was already married. I knew the basic basics: how to boil water, how to make macaroni and cheese or spaghetti, how to measure, how to cook and bake things from a box, how to read a recipe. But I didn’t know how to create things, how to cut (I probably still struggle here), how to just “know” when something is done.
I’ve taught the boys most of the basic basics, but now we have this extra time for more instruction. I think I will start by teaching them how to make a few of their favorite meals (my fettuccine alfredo, a tortellini soup, variations on burrito bowls, etc). Our youngest son helped me make a delicious pie for the Easter holiday this past weekend. The real trick here is twofold: getting our older son interested in learning how to cook while also making myself step back and let them learn from their mistakes. It should be a great time.
Other Important Domestic Knowledge
Beyond cooking, there’s a lot still left to teach them when it comes to the domestic stuff of running a household. They already do their own laundry (and learned the importance of separating colors the hard way). They even load the dishwasher the right way (meaning my way). Still, there’s so much more!
As an example, I had to re-teach myself how to thread my sewing machine last week when I made masks for the family. I could teach them to thread it and how to sew a basic stitch. Likewise, I should teach them how to sew a button and fix a seam by hand. These are important skills!
There’s also just a lot of invisible work that we do, as parents, that they don’t even fully understand or even know happens. Washing baseboards is a thing. Cleaning the fridge shelves is a thing. Before it sounds like I’m just employing child labor here, I’m just recognizing the importance of teaching them things that will be useful in their adult lives. I also want to do things on this list so they can’t hit me with, “Why didn’t you ever teach me to do such-and-such?” They’re my kids. They’re gonna say it.
HTML, Coding, and More
I taught myself HTML in 1997. While hand-coding websites is no longer a necessity to create and maintain a website, I feel like teaching them those basics so that they have a broader understanding of what they’re looking at when they load a site. Then I’ll teach them how easy it really is to create and maintain a site in 2020. Hard first. Easy second.
Additionally, we signed up for #CodeBreak with Code.org. I haven’t been able to watch along with them yet, so I’m super excited for this Wednesday when we’ll hear from Instagram’s co-founder, Mike Krieger. Our younger son has been building a video game during his free time right now. I’m so impressed with what he’s taught himself in such a short time. I’m excited to share more opportunities for them to learn technical skills during this unique schooling situation.
I proofread their essays when they ask for help. I point out needed or extra commas, word choice issues, and other important edits. This feels like a great time to break out my Super Grammar book! I can feel their excitement now.
Hold on for one second. Our older son fell into a weird gap during which Ohio decided not to teach cursive. They tried to remedy this lapse in judgment by teaching them this year… but now they’ve even lost this attempt at cursive writing.
As such, I ordered a workbook for both boys to get some cursive writing skills in during their academic time each day. I went with the Cursive Handwriting Workbook for Teens. It doesn’t talk to them like they’re in third grade, starts with the letters, and graduates to positive quotes and sayings that are appropriate for the age range. Like:
“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”-William James
Neither boy is really excited that I bought these books and am making them work through them each day. However, I literally can’t send them out into the world without the ability to sign their own name to official documents. (Note: Our younger son fell back into the “learned cursive” group, but practice never hurts!)
The Importance of Connection
The first two weeks of our crisis schooling, the boys were doing their work but not really engaging with their teachers. I encouraged them to leave comments, either publicly or via the private message feature in Google Classroom, simply to say hello or offer thanks for a particular lesson. They didn’t quite understand why at first, so I explained how their teachers care so much about their well-being and they’re working SO HARD to provide them with lessons, resources, and more right now.
Additionally, I’ve been trying to make sure they’re checking in with friends. Can you imagine losing your friend connections in middle school for multiple weeks or months… beyond normally scheduled summer breaks? It’s hard enough being a middle schooler, but to lose that connection would feel incredibly isolating.
We’re also sending cards, drawings, and other snail mail to make sure that family members, friends, and others in our lives are receiving little bits of joy. I hope I’m showing them how it’s important to nurture relationships even when, or maybe especially when you cannot physically be with those people. Plus, we broke out the typewriter for some of these letters. I do love a typewriter!
I’m sure I’ve also taught them many other lessons. How to schedule a day so you don’t go completely crazy. How to tip well during a pandemic. (I tipped when I ordered and tipped the driver because I wanted to make sure the driver really got the money.) How to burst into tears about just about anything at just about any time. How to run every single day even when it feels like the world is ending and your next race is canceled. How to apologize and the importance of forgiveness.
They’ve taught me the importance of laughter. How to sleep in really, really well. The importance of letting teenagers be teenagers, even in a pandemic. How much food we really need with two growing teens in the house. (Answer: All of it.)
And they’ve taught me what matters most: family.