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Help! I’m Stuck at Home Teaching My Kids!

Photo of Renée SprolesRenée Sproles | Bio

Renée Sproles

Renée Webb Sproles is from Murfreesboro, TN, where she directed The School of Christian Thought for five years at North Boulevard Church. She is a 15-year homeschool veteran. She is also a founder and co-director of the Discipleship Tutorial in Murfreesboro, where she has taught government, economics, personal finance, health, study skills, English grammar, and writing. She is the mother of two grown children, Houston and Emma, who is married to Thomas Goodwyn. With her husband, David, Renée has co-taught parenting classes for 20 years and currently teaches a marriage and family class of 100 students each week. Renée is the author of On Gender: What the Bible Says about Men and Women (Renew, 2019).

I have friends who, like my husband and I, prayed for God’s direction for their child’s education. Some of them enrolled their children in public school, some in private school, and some, like us, homeschooled. It goes without saying (and yet I’ll say it): God places His people in all kinds of places to be salt and light.

There is a big difference between homeschooling and what parents are needing to do in order to safeguard against the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, even homeschoolers aren’t currently doing what they’d normally do for school. But as a homeschool mom of 13 years, I would like to share some advice that I hope is helpful for parents who understandably feel overwhelmed right now. Here’s my advice to you as you “quarantine school” your children:

  • Extend Grace.
  • Enjoy your kids.
  • Enact daily routines.

Extend Grace

This moment in history is wonderfully sweet and terribly hard, all at the same time. Embrace the weirdness and extend grace. Extend it to yourself and to your family. In particular, I suggest that you guard your tongue and tone, speak the truth to combat lies, and stop information overload.

As Christians filled with the Spirit of God, our words have the power of life and death. We have the ability to bless and to curse ourselves and others (James 3:7-12). We all have a running commentary in our heads as well as out-loud conversations with others. In both cases, strike inflammatory phrases like “you always” and “you never” from your vocabulary. Take a break if you find yourself about to yell. Preach the Gospel to yourself, and combat the lies with truth.

  • When that voice inside your head says, I’m not good enough! or This is really hard!, remind yourself that in Christ “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character; hope” (Romans 5:3).
  • If you’re startled by your kids’ lack of obedience, do you tend to say, “My kids are awful! They never listen to me!”? Turn condemnation into gratitude. “Thank you, God, for showing me an area that needs attention in my child’s character; give me the wisdom you’ve promised so I can train them better than before” (James 1:5).
  • Are you unable to get all the book work done? Replace I’m afraid I’m ruining my kids’ education with “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). Truth is, we are all learning new things in this unusual situation: how to run a house, how to bear up under trials, how to make our own fun…”

You get the idea. Speak with grace in your out-loud voice and inside your own head.

Finally, it’s great that there are so many free resources available to families right now, but if you’re like me, sometimes too many options make me feel overwhelmed instead of empowered.

If that’s the case, extend grace and opt for what I like to call “clumsy obedience.” Stop reading about the next cool thing you can do with your kids and do something today. Stop researching. Do what you can today. Do it imperfectly and be okay with it. Clumsy obedience extends grace to you and your family.

Enjoy Your Kids

This quarantine has stripped away all of our distractions and commitments, sending us to a collective time-out. Like so many blessings in our sin-riddled world, this rare, once-in-a-lifetime gift also comes with its own trials. Ephesians 6 highlights this truth: we live each day, at home, at church, at work, in a spiritual war. Satan is scheming right now to steal the joy from your family. Don’t let him succeed!

Relax your expectations for what school should look like each day and enjoy your kids. Read aloud together, take a walk, cook a meal, or do a chalk drawing on the driveway for your neighbors. Put your screens away for a few hours each day and enjoy each other. Entrust the future to our good God who can multiply your efforts at home in ways you could never imagine.

Enact Daily Routines

My spontaneous friends cringe at the word “routine” or “structure,” but hear me out. Structuring your day doesn’t mean you have no flexibility; it just means that you have a plan that you can change.

A very simple daily routine might involve breakfast, morning read-aloud’s, outdoor play, free time, lunch, nap time (or room time if they don’t nap anymore – we all need time away from each other!), outdoor play, dinner, and bedtime. Not sure what to do? Ask God to show you what’s best for your family. He promises wisdom when we ask (James 1:5).

Quarantine or not, weekly dates and family fun nights are routines that bless parents and kids alike. Now we get to practice both without distractions!

When money was tight, David and I regularly put the kids to bed a little early and cooked a special dinner for at-home dates. Family nights were planned by parents and kids, by turns, once per week. We had hide-and-go-seek marathons and photo shoots, with staging, costumes, and lighting directed by the 3 and 6-year-olds. We held our own “Olympics,” with sled races on cardboard down the stairs and timed obstacle courses.

Family night can be anything that heightens your enjoyment of one another and builds family identity. The routines of family life ensure we are intentional with the “today” God gives us.

Quarantine schooling is God’s time out for our too-busy families.

Extend grace to yourself and your kids. Enjoy one another at this historic moment, embracing the gift of time. And, enact a routine for your days to make the most of this opportunity.