What To Do When Everything Changes
After the first of the Great Homeschool Conventions ended early, I drove home from Texas to Virginia. While I listened to audiobooks most of the way, there was plenty of time to think about what the next few weeks or months could look like. Most of us will be at home all the time, and this will be new for many families.
The internet is filling rapidly with articles on “What to do if you’re stuck at home.” These offer an overwhelming number of ideas, and some even share a helpful resource or two. I’ll share a few resources later in this post, but mostly, I’d like to offer something a bit different — some ideas on what not to do, and things you might do instead.
First, guard your heart
Have you been spending more time than usual absorbed in news or social media? How does it make you feel? As news plays repetitively in the background or you scroll endlessly, pay attention to your body.
- Is your heart beating faster than usual?
- Do you feel tension in your shoulders or neck, or do you unexpectedly find tears in your eyes?
- Are you feeling more frightened than you did when you awoke this morning?
Please stop. Turn off the news. Turn off news notifications on your phone. Close social media apps.
Take a deep breath.
For now, you are home — not stuck at home, but simply at home. If you are with your loved ones, that is something to be thankful for. Today you are where you need to be.
In this difficult time, when we cannot do what we usually do, we must be mindful of what we should do. And in order to do that, we must guard our hearts against the things that drain hope and courage; against anything that seeks to sow discontent, discord, or division.
What is the next thing?
What does my family, my neighbor, my community need from me today? How can I love others? What can I offer?
So often we have lists of things we would do if we had time. We’d write letters to elderly relatives. We’d call that lonely, talkative neighbor that goes on and on. We’d do craft projects with our children; try new recipes; teach the kids to cook or sew; clean out our closets or inboxes; wash the windows; plant a garden; organize the photos from the road trip we took a decade ago. We’d clean house and get it so organized that we hardly recognize it. We’d start making Christmas gifts and homemade cards. We’d do all the wholesome, normal activities of living that have been displaced by busy schedules.
Most of us are now people with time. How can we create an atmosphere of hope, courage, and love for those around us?
How shall we then live?
Rather than focusing on what we can’t do; where we can’t go; or who we can’t see — think. What can I do? What kind of memories do I want to create? What kind of presence do I want to be in our home? How can I be love for those in my life?
Keeping in mind who we want to be for our families, and what we want our children to remember, here are five small things we can do today.
1 – Be kind to one another. Stress and close quarters are hard for everyone, and there will be moments when you or someone you love is not who you want to be. Apologize freely, forgive immediately with tenderhearted love. This will make everything else easier.
2 – Read good things. To read is to embark on a journey to elsewhere. During this season when you can’t physically go anywhere, reading can transport you and your family to other times and places. Faith reading can strengthen your soul; the classics can cultivate wisdom and virtue; and just plain old good books can delight your spirit and offer healing, companionship, and perspective. I have reading lists of Historical Fiction and Books Boys Like on Excellence in Literature, and there are many other good lists available from AmblesideOnline.org, Sonlight.com, and others. You might even start reading some of C. S. Lewis’s list of the ten books that most influenced him.
3 – Learn something. Is there something that you need or want to learn? This is a perfect time. On YouTube you will find videos on how to do every sort of handwork, including things you’ve never heard of, as well as instructions for building or fixing virtually anything. You can learn how to paint, budget, plant a garden, sew, change the oil in your car, and much more — all entirely free.
4 – Teach something. What do your children need to know? Not just academics — but playing (for younger students), life skills (133 ideas in the How to Change a Tire journal), and how to learn with living books and learning journals. You can teach whatever you are learning or skills that you learned from your grandmother. Often, the very best way to teach these things can be to learn and do them alongside your students. Through it all, your attitude and spirit will be teaching, too — love can make even difficult times bearable.
- If you have not been homeschooling but suddenly have children at home with schoolwork to do, please try not to panic. The homeschooling community and the internet are filled with resources such as Khan Academy that can help your students learn and complete any homework that schools have assigned. With older students, you are mostly a mentor — simply helping students find resources and seeing that they turn in assignments on time. Younger students will benefit from lots of good reading and copywork. This can be a time to pull out a world map and draw each country, ensuring that your children will not be among those who think that Spain is the capital of Mexico and New Mexico is a foreign country.
- Don’t be intimidated by the idea that you don’t know enough to teach — many teachers aren’t subject-area experts either. They have a degree in education techniques, but just as you will, they rely on books and materials by historians, scientists, mathematicians, and literary authors for what they teach. Start with things you know that students need to know, and work outward from there. There are links to many excellent, free learning resources below, and the Learning section of this blog has a number of helpful articles.
5 – Remember others. Who is your neighbor? Who do you know of who in a higher risk category? Set aside time each day to text, call, or write an email or letter to one or more of these people. Your children can participate, too. Do you have elderly or infirm neighbors who have simple, practical needs such as mowing the lawn and taking trash to the curb? This might be a way for teens and pre-teens to be helpful.
Finally, for those of you who are sustained by faith as I am, here is a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer. It was shared by S.D. Smith (author of The Green Ember series for kids) and seemed very appropriate for such a time as this.
Increase, O God, the spirit of neighborliness among us,
that in peril we may uphold one another, in suffering tend to one another,
and in homelessness, loneliness, or exile befriend one another.
Grant us brave and enduring hearts that we may strengthen one another,
until the disciplines and testing of these days are ended, and you again give peace in our time;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Despite everything going on in the world, there is kindness, grace, and mercy, and we are grateful. This may be one of “the times that try men’s souls” (with apologies to Thomas Paine), but it can also be a time of learning and growing together in grace and love. May it be so for you and your family.
Prayer resource: The Pray as You Go app from the App Store offers a daily scripture meditation, and has just begun a Pray as You Stay series. The app is free.
Free Learning Resources
Many of us face economic uncertainty in this crisis, which makes everything seem harder. Here are a few home learning resources — some from my friends in the homeschooling community, and some from the world at large. I will continue to add to this list as I think of or discover new resources.
Great Homeschool Conventions (GHC) will also be offering online conferences in place of those that have cancelled, and I’ll be speaking on topics such as How to Teach What You Never Learned, How to Plan Your Homeschool Life, How to Choose Curriculum, and How to Teach with Living Books and Learning Journals. I’ll post more information as those draw closer.
John Muir Laws is offering the ebook version of his beautiful new book, How to Teach Nature Journaling, free at this time. He also has other very helpful free resources — just add each item to the cart and “check out” (just create an account so you can receive the free downloads).
Rabbit Room is offering a really amazing free digital care package of music, stories, and more.
Ambleside Online offers a very sensible free online Helping Hand Emergency Learning Plan.
Creative entrepreneurs are invited to join the Unmistakable Creative online group for inspiration, help in making the shift from in-person to online services, and so much more.
Metropolitan Opera is streaming free daily performances! This is a marvelous chance to catch up on classic opera or just to get acquainted with this queen of the arts.
Google Arts and Culture has curated special online exhibitions.
New York Public Library and many (probably most) other libraries loan ebooks. Not the same as print, but much, much better than nothing.
Silvia Grossi, an executive chef in Italy, is offering free cooking lessons on her Instagram channel. You don’t have to speak Italian to appreciate these!
My Excellence in Literature site has many poems, author biographies, and resources for teaching classic literature.
Feel free to email me or comment below if you come across a great resource!
The Ashbrook Center is offering a free High School American History Webinar each Thursday for the next 6 weeks. The topics look great too! Here’s the link: Free Online History Webinars from Ashbrook – Ashbrook Scholar Program (thanks to Renee!)
Not free, but very good
Professor Carol’s Circle of Scholars and other resources provide years of delightful learning in music and the arts for an astonishingly small price.
A group of homeschooling speakers and publishers have posted “Better Together” conference specials.
SkillShare is an inexpensive source for good art, craft, and handwork classes (affiliate link).
A couple more posts you may find helpful