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Beyond homeschool: What families are learning in this time of forced isolation

Nikhil, 8, and Simon, 6, enjoy the fort they built making creative use of what they found in the house.


If I’m thankful for anything about this whole experience of social distancing, it’s that I’m able to spend a few more moments than I had before, teaching my two boys the skills they don’t necessarily pick up from school.

Don’t get me wrong, the homeschool situation isn’t perfect: My kids still find it difficult to sit still or to limit their own screen time, and they still argue, and use their outdoor voices inside. Even so, it’s taught us all to slow down and to be intentional with the time that we have with one another.

I’m finding that some families are feeling much the same way, in the Seattle area, while others are adjusting to this new normal in different ways .

“Now we don’t rush out the door for school,” says mom Angela Shields, about teaching her child to tie shoes, “so we [have the time to] try over and over.”

Some parents were even surprised to see how much their children were capable of doing, when given the time and chance to learn. Kids were able to proudly take on challenges and accomplish tasks, valuing their own independence. Toddlers put on their own socks and shoes and dressed themselves for the day, and older kids learned to ride their scooters and bikes or participated in some spring cleaning -- and actually had fun doing it.

“I am loving this opportunity to share some life skills with my children. ... I have time to instill some basic cleanup routines with my 3-year-old that I didn’t feel I had the time for in the past, and would just do more things for her. I don’t love the social isolation, but I am cherishing this time with my kids,” says local mom Monica Brillig.

Finding connections to your child can be as easy as discovering your heritage through language lessons and cooking recipes or having discussions around the dinner table about family ancestry, favorite childhood memories or how your family can help others at this time of need.

Parents are also tackling more informative talks with older children about the stock market, financial planning, budgeting, history and civics. Some are even having age-appropriate talks about the birds and the bees, all while their children are at home. They’re learning about their kids, too.

“We are observing what they get lost in, noticing details of their day, what they are most excited to show/share with us, and realizing how much they are learning about each other, having not had so much play time together ever,” says Bothell mom Hayley Ellis.

Parents are discovering things about themselves, too, about needing a great deal more patience, tolerance, prioritization and time-management.

Sarah Grabeel, mom to three young kids, lives on a farm and is figuring out what works best for her family.

“I tried to be a super homeschool mom, but that didn’t work for us. We have had to have a lot of reminder talks about personal space, the importance of alone time, respecting each other’s bodies and toys, constructive things to do when you’re bored, how you can still love someone even if you don’t like them, the importance of a sincere apology. You know, we live on this farm with lessons all around us, but the most important ones seem to be how to get along and treat each other well, while we are stressed, out of our routine and stuck together. ... I’m learning how to do less, accept less than perfect, and live in the moment.”

No one knows what will happen in the next few weeks or even the remainder of the school year. What I do know is that families all over the Seattle area are doing their best to provide for their families, as best they can, and in the time that they have at home. Families have looked beyond academic growth, offering lessons in good character, life skills, plenty of playtime and so much more. I hope your family comes away with a genuine closeness and more positive memories than ever before.

Read more about the life skills parents are teaching their kids.


Jasmin Thankachen is a contributing writer and an Eastside mom with two boys, ages 6 and 8.


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