Quaran-Teens and Quaran-Tweens
Blog for Parents and Teachers:
Distance Learning? Let's Embrace Up-Close Learning through Quality Family Time
Are you stuck at home all day, every day, with your tweens and teens? As schools remain closed and families self-isolate, many parents and educators are wondering what will happen to their children’s education. How will we continue their learning? How will we grow their brains while competing against brain-draining video games? Will parents have to re-learn Trigonometry to be able to help their children? As a High School teacher of over 20 years and a mother of two teenagers, I am honestly not concerned. As we all know, the modern world has never seen a shut down like the one we are in right now. There are much bigger issues on our minds. As governments and health care workers scramble to save lives, let’s put this into perspective.
As I am both a high school teacher and a mother of teenagers, I sit on both sides of this brand new table we find ourselves at. I know that teachers are trying their best to rapidly provide distance-learning resources. I hope parents can appreciate that the teachers are trying their best, but the beautiful, positive influence of a teacher cannot be as effective through distance e-learning. At the same time, I also hope teachers can appreciate that parents don’t have time to help support the learning 4 subjects to 3 children, and more importantly, that the beautiful, positive influence of a parent is not going to come from nagging about school assignment completion.
I’d like to offer a different viewpoint.
I truly believe that learning will continue regardless of how long home-isolation lasts. At school, when your Tweens and Teens are with us they participate in a wide variety of subjects and expand their awareness and understanding on a daily basis.
Homeschooling is going on right now whether any of us are aiming for it or not. The lessons? Well, they simply revolve around real life.
Consider even a few of the following subjects, and know you are already scheduling them into your days and weeks. Here is the master list, but specific examples and teaching tips for parents are outlined below.
Sample ‘Subjects’ (Scroll down for specific Ideas)
Ideas and Examples:
Your teenagers can help you change out your winter tires, add windshield washer fluid and check the oil. At the very least, they can certainly wash the car for you!
Involve your kids in that home construction or fix-up project you finally have time for.
Cooking (as I write this, one of my teens is baking cookies)
So many possibilities here. Put them in charge of preparing dinner for the family once or twice a week while you are working from home. (Be prepared to patiently answer questions along the way). And speaking of cooking opportunities, now is a wonderful time to pass down the knowledge of great-grandma’s homemade recipes. You can’t put a grade on that kind of knowledge.
Youth of all ages are amazingly creative. The internet is teeming with how-to videos on drawing, painting, and other crafts. Gather up any supplies you have around the house and give them time and space to create. At the very least, pencil and paper can provide endless possibilities.
Home workouts are important for all of us regardless of age - exercise together as a family or use it as much needed alone time.
This website shares a home workout that requires no equipment.
This is also an amazing time to take up running. Find some beginner tips on websites like this one.
This area may very well save our sanity. Get outside daily, visit a forest, hit the hiking trails. Whether you travel on foot, bicycle, or snowshoe, time outside alone or as a family is critical for our mental health.
What a wonderful time for reading. Give your teens a list of your favourite books to read. This can open the doors for an incredibly bonding experience! Even watching your favourite movies together is a beautiful thing to do together.
This is also a great time for writing. Your tweens and teens have so many ideas racing through their heads. Encourage them to write a story or song lyrics or a poem (don’t be surprised if they have a virus theme.)
This is a spectacular time to learn about viruses, and how our immune system works. Many science videos are available to watch and learn from. As a science teacher myself, I’ve made this the first topic we discussed at home, as fears of disease and death are everywhere. I also want my kids to have some respect for their incredible body and it’s amazing immune system.
This is a perfect time to discuss ways to take care of our own health and why it’s so important. There are great apps for tracking healthy habits, and learning to set daily goals.
This is also an amazing time to express appreciation for our Public Health system and why we have protocols and rules for all citizens.
Dance like no one is watching - no one is. Whether you all dance in your PJ’s, or you dress up for Friday night ‘living room disco’ !
In our family, we love having dance parties at home. Last week we had an outdoor family dance party in the backyard - winter coats, hats and all. (Ok, truth be told we were celebrating my birthday so they were obliged to honour my request, but we all had a great time!)
Need some tunes that cross all ages? Last year My 15 year-old made a playlist of songs my husband and I loved when we were teens and he says all of his friends love this playlist too. Consider songs from the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s. If grandparents are home isolating with you, be sure to include songs from their era too.
Or, your kids could teach You some TikTok moves. (Yup this was another recent event in our home)
When was the last time you played guitar for your family? How about giving them a glimpse of the rockstar side of you they’ve never seen. Show them how to play a few chords or set them up with beginner lessons on youtube. If you have any instrument in the house, your teens can work on playing it. No instruments at home? The Garageband app is an amazing outlet for Musical Creativity. Of course, you and your teens/tweens can always sing.
They are teenagers. They've got this covered.
Amazing resources are found through Khan Academy videos on Youtube. However, consider that every time you are balancing your family budget, examining the current stock market, checking out the exponential growth of Covid-19, measuring a room to move furniture, or doubling ingredients for a recipe, if you involve your teen in the discussion, you are teaching applied math skills.
There is so much information here to discuss as the economy is a hot topic in the adult world. You can take some time over the dinner table to explain concepts in business and economics.
This is an incredible topic to reinforce resilience. All of our ancestors have been through so many challenges. Even better, if possible, get on FaceTime with Grandparents and let them tell stories from when they were young.
In our own household, we have also been watching documentary and docudrama movies with our teens, giving them a glimpse into human history then discussing it afterwards.
The world has never been so connected and so accessible via digital means. We have the means now to go on a virtual tour of almost any place on the planet. Give them some countries to look up and ask them to share what they learned over the dinner table.
They can also track the spread of Covid-19 around the globe with this amazing tracking site from John Hopkins University:
There is a great deal of information being discussed on how we impact the planet. Investigate the amazing environmental improvements that have been observed lately such as a cleaner Venice canal, and blue skies over cities in China.
Family Movie nights are an amazing way to learn together. I highly recommend watching Decoding the Weather Machine by NOVA on Netflix.
Let’s be honest here, your kids can likely give you lessons here. If you are tech savvy, the topics are endless!
Here is another idea: Do you have an old computer that is collecting dust in the garage? Let your inquisitive teen take it apart to find out what’s inside.
I can think of many tweens and teens who would love to help with haircuts and manicures now that you can’t go out for these luxuries.
OK we don’t formally teach Home-Economics courses in our schools anymore, but now is a great time to teach your kids how to repair clothing items or try out knitting or sewing. Again, YouTube has instructional videos to guide them.
If they are the right age for this, this is an interesting time for driving lessons while there are far fewer cars on the roads.
And last, but not least,
This is a beautiful time for Families to connect around prayer, gratitude and blessings. To focus our compassion for our vulnerable loved ones, for our healthcare and emergency workers, for the health of our fellow global citizens, and for the health of our planet.
If you are really concerned about grades, I don't think it's asking too much for students to reflect on any of these experiences and receive some traditional marks for school.
Tips for the Teachers (AKA Parents)
· Your teens/tweens may ask a lot of questions or they may ask none
· There are no dumb questions, teacher patience is the key
· Demo the skill and then say, “OK now you try...”
· Keep your calm if/when they get sassy
· Don’t ask “do you want to…..?” - the answer will be “no”. Instead say, “Tomorrow afternoon we are going to work on the car, I’d appreciate you helping me.”
I truly believe that during this Isolation period, our tweens and teens are still going to learn something new every day. Not only through teacher-led 'distance learning', but also from up-close learning with family and loved ones.
School is, after all, supposed to be preparing them for real life.