by Angie Copetillo

About a month ago, I had Abby Grace record this awkward video of her teaching me violin. It is painfully obvious I have never played a stringed instrument. But I set out to try because I continued to be amazed at young Habersham students who demonstrated such focus and skill in playing violin and viola for the first time. Stepping into Ms. Mydell’s classroom, I regularly saw the concentration and sense of accomplishment on her students’ faces. I wanted to experience it for myself. So I started. I took one very hesitant step. 

Well, my appreciation for Ms. Mydell only skyrocketed. And now, after two days of our nine-year-old learning something from me at home, I feel about like I did after learning the D-major scale on violin from her. Bright. Encouraged. Ready to conquer the world. Not exactly. 

How are you feeling three days into this new reality? It is easy to cringe, as I did in the video, and ask the violin about its squeaky string: Why did it do that? But let’s choose instead to focus on the positive. The squeaky string has beautiful potential. And after all, neuroplasticity expert, Dr. Caroline Leaf, says: 

  • One minute of anger weakens your immune system for 4-5 hours. 
  • One minute of laughter boosts your immune system for 24 hours.

LAUGH, LEARN, & ENJOY ONE ANOTHER

So let’s do that. Laugh, learn, and have fun together, even in the hard things. Another expert, Keith McCurdy, a licensed counselor, therapist, school Board president, and 30-year family counseling veteran, has spent years helping parents understand the benefit of allowing children to struggle to do hard things. I suppose this principle applies to us as well. David Goggins, known as the Toughest Man Alive, says we should do something hard every day. Do you think he meant home-schooling in seclusion? Probably not, but we are certainly being called to new and hard things now.

This unique time to slow down grants us a remarkable opportunity to quantify life differently, to see life through a child-like lens of faith. Not knowing how long this present reality will last, we must take one day at a time and revel in the simple beauties.

To assist in this process, as we set up our homes for school, McCurdy encourages us to establish five priorities. (These principles are gleaned from an excellent classical school podcast, BasecampLive.)

FIVE PRIORITIES FOR SCHOOL AT HOME

  1. CAPTURE THE DAY
    • Wake and sleep are important. Start the day by knowing when it will begin and end. Unlike hurricane days, there is learning to be done. Set a clear bedtime and a clear school start time. “Families who don’t do this, won’t accomplish much,” McCurdy says. 
  2. SET ROUTINES
    • To establish a family of order, we need to put the order in place, and we need to keep it simple. We should start with school and service to the family. “We want to teach our kids to be of service to someone other than themselves.” The order of priority should be to complete schoolwork, complete work that benefits the home, and then freedom follows after that. 
  3. EXPERIENCE LIFE
    • Our children are now at home for a LOT of time. And we are at home for a LOT of time. So guess what, now they get to do more around the house! Have your kids help in taking ownership of the home. For many of us, our children don’t have that exposure in the busyness of today’s world. So…
      • Let’s start weaving our children into the functioning of the home. Let them help with dinner, learn to make a new dish, organize a closet. Helpfulness around the home helps to give children a healthy sense of pride and worthy accomplishment.
      • Identify projects and begin to work on things together that we don’t normally have time to do. Also, because everyone is at home, home maintenance will abound. Let’s take this opportunity to teach our children new skills. “Now is the time families can take on projects together. Shared joint projects are wonderful,” says McCurdy. 
  4. MASTER TECHNOLOGY
    • Everyone from Disney to Broadway to HBO has a new deal out there for us; you can almost hear their clamoring. More distraction than ever is available at a steal. McCurdy says, “And when we are at our wit’s end, it will be easy to allow technology well beyond what we know is healthy or appropriate.” The addictive nature of technology is a hard enough battle, and it will be even harder now that we are at home all the time. The problem is that this quarantined time will come to an end. What habits will we have picked up in the meantime? Our time with our children is a gift if we use it that way. Let’s master technology rather than letting it master us. {To Note: A few higher-quality free entertainment specials (to enjoy with our kids) currently include: Broadway from Home, NASA Media Library, The Great Courses, FooVentures at Oatland Island, Paris Opera Screenings}
  5. CREATE NEW TRADITIONS
    • If we limit technology, what are we to do with all that time? Let’s have fun together! May this time be a treasure our children remember fondly forever – a time where we say yes to so many things we may have rarely had time to before. Ideas…
      1. Let’s teach our children to cook and dine together! In Scripture, what is the one event that brings people together? Breaking bread. Let’s ask our children, what are your five favorite things to eat – we’re going to learn how to cook them together. 
      2. Take on new hikes, explore new trails or streets. 
      3. Practice the sport with your child rather than just watching them. Play basketball together. Kick the soccer ball. Dance. Play catch.
      4. Build something. Especially for older boys who need to expend energy and accomplish physical tasks, let them build something – a fire pit, a birdhouse, a chicken coop, change a tire, etc. For all kids, encourage creative expression through building  – legos, forts, mud hills, bug catchers, dollhouses, baby carriages, etc.  
      5. Game night – learn new card games, drag ping pong out from the garage, put together puzzles, set up a readily accessible game station.
    • Let us become people who enjoy one another’s company. By putting back into the family, we can enjoy our families more than ever.
  6. GIVE YOURSELF GRACE & START AGAIN
    • I added this one. Last Friday, I had laid out a grand plan for what homeschooling would look like. By Monday evening, I told Rich: “I don’t know exactly how I will work full-time, keep the house in recognizable order, and teach Abby Grace.” I have not yet completed all the school work on time yet. The schedule has not gone as planned yet. BUT, we have managed to go for more walks than we ever have. I have started the day with morning liturgy and listened to our girl excitedly play the monthly hymn on violin and guitar. Our home has been filled with many moments of joy and learning. And tomorrow is a new day to get better, learn more, follow the schedule, and end on time. We all face different circumstances, so remember your online learning day at home (quarantine schooling) will look different from others! You can always start fresh the next day. 

This closing prayer from our Habersham morning liturgy is exceptionally timely. Written hundreds of years ago, such gems are part of the beauty of classical education. Take comfort in knowing, though quarantined, we are all praying together in community each morning.

Give me, O Lord, 

a steadfast heart which no unworthy thought can drag down, 

an unconquered heart which no tribulation can wear out,

an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose can tempt aside.

Bestow upon me understanding to know You,

Diligence to seek You,

Wisdom to find You,

And faithfulness that finally may embrace You.

Amen. 

~ Thomas Aquinas

May this challenging time be characterized by life. May we enjoy our families. May we learn new things. May we revel in beauty. The string was just a little squeaky.

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The Habersham School