“You’re not in a prison. You’re in your home. See this is a time to reconnect...as a break from all the things that take (us) from the home.”
-Rita Munn, homeschool adviser and mother of 10
As families are adapting to the challenges of social distancing, while stressful, this time can be viewed as one of refuge.
Local homeschool writer and mother of 10 Rita Munn shared some advice she’s learned through years of homeschooling to help ease some of the tension of sheltering at home.
“We’ve never had anything like this. No one has, not in my lifetime,” Munn said.
“We just have to say there’s a new normal and we just have to do this. Dial it back, accept that the house will be dirtier than normal and that the children are louder than you expected,” she said.
Munn first started homeschooling in the early nineties following a difficult time for the family.
“I needed a break. I needed to hide away from the world just for a year. I thought, I’m going to hunker down here in the house.”
Munn said that maybe that’s how parents feel during this time.
“If you look at it as a time to recharge, reconnect, then it can be a very positive experience. You don’t have to do it like I did, for years and years. Look at it as a six week period or through the summer as a time to get to know your family without the pull of all the things that take children and parents too from home.”
Munn sees a dichotomy among certain families depending on their situation. Some parents may have become cutoff from the support activities that offer social activities out of the house. While other parents can see this time as a break from many of those same activities.
She cautioned that the stress of being without work can add more tension in the home environment that is already stressed by health and safety concerns as well as little, unexpected things like how much more clutter is created in a home that’s being lived in more now.
“Families that have never been ‘locked up’ together are suddenly having to homeschool,” she said.
Munn says that homeschooling is like a marathon not like a sprint.
“Take it slow. Take it easy. Don’t have grand expectations. Appreciate this as a time to reconnect. Don’t stress. Be relaxed and appreciate this time because it won’t last. We’ll all get back into the groove of things,” she said.
“Take a deep breath and reboot. And see it for what it is,” she said.
Munn said that homeschooling needs to be a family thing, a family time that’s a break from the challenges of daily life.
She strongly warns that children are very perceptive and will pick up on the fears of adults. That’s why Munn urges parents to limit their exposure to coronavirus news.
“Put the stress stuff in a box in the morning. Say we’re not going to talk about these issues, watch the news and talk about all the scary stuff until all the children go to bed,” she said.
“We are going to be full-in to what we’re doing. Whether that’s yardwork or homeschooling,” she said.
“You may think that your children are not picking up on the conversation that you’re having about the coronavirus, but they are. They are more aware of tension than we are aware. If we put our focus on keeping things simple -- the simple routines and things that are familiar.”
Munn said answer questions simply and honestly without fear.
“If they ask, ‘Mom, are we going to have baseball season?’ Say, ‘Well, it doesn't look like it, but we’re going to just have to see,’” she said.
Children are very much aware, yet when young people feel these scary feelings, they may not understand what they are feeling. And often that’s when what is perceived as bad behavior comes out. It’s not that the children are bad, it just may be there is unspoken fear.
“Sometimes the only way a child can express their fear is by acting out,” Munn said. “Be very sensitive to that. Parents need to know that this is all going to be OK.”
It’s okay for parents to break down in front of one another. Talk about the concerns, but just make sure that the children are sheltered from their parents’ fear.
“If you find yourself in a situation where you’re stuck indoors, put yourself by a sunny window...feel the breeze come in. Put yourself in a place that takes your mind away from being locked down,” Munn said.
One of the tricks that Munn used during math time when the children wanted to play outside was to take a baby monitor to the porch and play outside noises for the children at the table.
Munn said that her faith has helped get her through these last months. Munn has children living in New York City (what she relays as ground zero in the pandemic) and one son that works in a Nashville hospital, so the coronavirus has hit very close to home for her.
“You may not be a person of faith, but that feeling of it’s going to be alright is what our children want from us,” she said.
“When all of this happened I could feel myself getting more and more tense to the point of anxiety. My son said, ‘Wash your hands, don’t touch your face. That's the best you can do right now. I’ve hung on to that. Our whole family has.’
“Reconnect at the end of the day. Wake up in the morning and say, we’re in it, we’re going to do it and God’s taking care of it,” she advised.