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CCE Corner – “Best Practices” for Lives Well-Lived in a Crisis

April 23rd, 2020 by Becca Tellinghuisen

People are experiencing this pandemic in a variety of ways. Some are looking for meaningful ways to use extra time. Others are asking, “What extra time?!” Some are struggling with grave situations; others are worrying about or grieving lesser but still significant circumstances. One thing we all share is the desire to continue to prepare our children for “lives well-lived.” In this CCE Corner, we want to look at some “best practices” for continuing your Trinitas education at home. Not surprisingly, they tend to be many of the same practices, attitudes, and habits that work well at school during more “regular” times and in many other areas of life. As a community committed to Christian classical education, it is fitting that we would look not only to tradition but also to each other. Thank you for contributing to this conversation and for furthering our shared mission in your homes.

When things feel out of control, turn toward the One who is in control.

When Moses led the people of God (on no easy journey), he reminded them of God’s unity and sovereignty: “Hear O Israel, The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” And he commanded them to “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:4-7

Most of us have the opportunity to eat and pray with our families more than ever before. We can literally speak of the things of God when we “sit at home,” “walk along the road,” “when we lie down,” and “when we get up.” Even if it’s only for a few minutes, such a way of marking the day impresses the love of God on our hearts. We are to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength. Talk together as a family about how you can do this. Some ideas in addition to shared prayer and worship time: we love God by being diligent in our work, helpful in service to others, careful with our words and with our entertainment choices, and by taking care of our bodies as His temple.

When things feel out of control, look for ways to regain order.

Start with sleep. Make sure everyone is getting enough of it. While this may be on a shifted schedule, keep it regular. A regular schedule for prayer, meals, school/work, chores, exercise/outdoor time, and free-time also helps everyone to function at their best. Not every hour needs to be planned out, but an order to the day helps children (and adults) know what’s coming next.

A few words about school work: While Trinitas teachers have scaled back a few things, students should still plan on full days of school, especially in the older grades. For some, it helps to block out times according to subject (as if they were in school). For all, it helps to have a place free of distractions to do one’s work. Some ancient advice to parents: Know thyself. If you are a parent who tends to be rather ambitious (maybe intense or perfectionistic?), relax a bit. If you are a parent who thinks all this classical education stuff is more work than necessary right now, try to be encouraging. Our teachers are working diligently and creatively to continue your child’s education; trust the school, help to create a good learning environment (time, space, and attitude), and equip your student to grow in independence but help as needed. Be sure to reach out to teachers or other staff if you need help or ideas.

A few words about chores: Some homes already have a good system in place for children to grow in skills, responsibility, and satisfaction from contributing to home life. If you haven’t had a good system in place, now is a great time to work on one. A job chart can be really helpful. (Don’t forget to include food prep!) Jobs can be done alone or together with siblings and parents. It can sometimes actually be fun to talk and do dishes together. Put on some music. Kids can use tally marks to record when they’ve completed a job. Set a goal of a minimum number of jobs per week. You may want to allow some freedom about what and when, and you may find a friendly competition developing. Be sure to offer words of encouragement and appreciation, and maybe even a reward here and there.

A few words about time for exercise: Make it a priority. Preferably outdoors. It’s good for our minds and spirits as well as our bodies. It’s best done together. Walking and biking and playing catch or Frisbee are all still allowed. (And Mr. F just happened to make a P.E. Challenge video about playing Frisbee at home!)

A few words about free-time: Let it be free (mostly). Don’t worry too much about providing entertaining or even educational activities for your children during their own free-time. Let them come up with their own ideas. One of the only guidelines? Keep screen time activities to a bare minimum. Now that so much of school is online, reducing screen time for other things is a good idea. For family free-time, let everyone add their ideas to a list of fun things to do together.

When things feel out of control, focus on relationships.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” But how do we do this with the appropriate social distance?

We are probably all coming to more fully appreciate that we were made to live in community with others. Our teachers miss their students and each other. Students miss their teachers and other students. Zoom meetings have been a surprising blessing. Rome’s birthday party, virtue stories read by teachers, student surprise parties, and parent hangouts, all provide an opportunity to fill us with cheer. Let’s continue to look for similar ways to be together “in person” in the days to come. Letter writing to grandparents and church members and friends can brighten their days, as can offering to drop off some groceries on a neighbor’s porch.

Loving your neighbor as yourself also includes family members. The lack of social distance from them may make this a little more challenging lately. There are some ways to make it easier. Families who weren’t game playing families, are now making time to get the games out of the cupboard and play together a couple times each week. Play outside together. Read together more. Some families are getting to know each other better over dinner (and lunch and breakfast and snack). There are some fun conversation starter games that can help with this. Take time to talk about what’s working at home and what’s not. Work together to come up with ideas to move toward shared goals. Take time to talk about the good things that you notice each day. And, always remember to thank God, the giver of all good gifts.