“Crisis Schooling” Your Middle and High Schoolers During the COVID -19 Coronavirus Shut Down
Updated: Apr 8, 2020
I wrote an article about the difference between “crisis schooling” and homeschooling with assurances and tips while we are in the middle of the COVID -19 coronavirus pandemic. (You can find that article here.) I had questions and comments regarding high school students, so I wanted to give you some ideas for them as well.
I haven’t been able to get this issue off of my mind because it’s so much more complex for our older kids. I have a 6th grader and a 10th grader and this is so hard on them!
For younger students, it’s easy to do “pajama schooling,” cuddle up with audio books, and do hands on fun learning, but that may not always work for our older kids.
In high school, you are no longer learning subjects like math or history. You are taking courses like Algebra or World History. These courses have a syllabus that you are expected to complete. Middle schools run a bit differently, but they also face similar challenges.
High schoolers are worried about things that affect their future. They have AP tests that might be cancelled and what about the SAT? They are not just missing out on playdates with friends. They are missing out on prom and other special events that they cannot get back again, especially if they are seniors. I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes typing this, thinking of the loss that seniors are experiencing, worrying that graduation might not happen, or wondering will it be some weird graduation in a Zoom room, walking through their living room in a cap and gown?
We homeschool, but my middle schooler and high schooler are not at home all that much. When homeschoolers hear the old “how do you socialize your children?” question we just laugh. We are busy! We have active social lives! Our communities are well connected and organized with a lot to offer. Both of my kids are competitive dancers. My son is going for Eagle Scout. They take classes in person that are for homeschoolers twice a week. My son has an internship. They get together with friends often. Now that’s all on hold and they also feel isolated. Their classes have all gone online, and we are so grateful for it, but… it’s not the same. The kids who were already homeschooling are also feeling the loss.
I’m more worried about the emotional state of our teens during this crisis than I am about their academics to be honest.
My suggestions for making learning fun and literature based just plain won’t work if your child’s middle or high school is trying to keep their classes going as if we aren’t in a pandemic. Personally, I find it unreasonable to expect kids to just keep going as if the world didn’t cancel everything and excel at course work through this traumatic time.
I personally know people suffering from this novel coronavirus and I have friends of friends I’m seeing posts about. Several close friends of mine are asking for prayers for people they know who might not survive this terrible virus. Just basic grocery shopping is a hassle. Some of us can’t get enough food or toilet paper. Parents are standing in long lines to get groceries, running around to multiple stores and worried about disinfecting them because COVID -19 lives on surfaces for such a long time. All of this is happening, but kids are expected to just keep on chugging and get those grades!
It’s hard for the teachers, too! They are also stressed about grading and the uncertainty. They are working all day and night, converting everything to virtual platforms. Their learning curves are steep if they haven’t done online teaching before and since we are all online now, they are dealing with glitches galore!
Sigh... Taking a deep breath here. There’s the reality of it.
Stress. Fear. Anxiety. Loss. Worry. Coping.
We are all facing it. So how do we cope and keep going? Is it possible to not only keep going but to thrive during this time? I think it is, believe it or not. I think we need to redefine what thriving is and do a balancing act between self care and moving forward with our goals.
This article isn’t going to look like my make learning fun article I wrote for younger students, (check it out here) because your middle and high schoolers are most likely being given work to do from school and they might even be in virtual learning sessions.
If your older child has not been given course work or online classrooms to join, you can actually use my thematic learning approach at a higher level, require more written responses and still keep them learning. You can also do a student directed, unschooling approach where your child decides what he or she wants to learn and then they research and write about it or create projects. Most of you won’t have that opportunity though, and you’re juggling coursework with the Corona Life, and I don’t meant the one you serve with a wedge of lime and some chips and salsa.
Here are my tips. I truly hope they help! I’m in this with you!
Name and honor your fear and grief.
"Named must be your fear before banish it you can." -Yoda
All of you, the entire family, is likely grieving right now. Grief, anxiety and worry have physical symptoms. You can feel exhausted, heavy in your chest, breathless, get chills, body aches, indigestion and many other physical symptoms. Allow grieving. Name it Honor it. Talk about it. Draw it. Write it out. Tear up the pages if it helps! Accept that it is normal and tell your kids it’s okay to be on an emotional roller coaster about the world shutting down. If an anxiety attack happens, stop and center. The world will not stop spinning if you don’t do alllllll the math problems! (Those math pages have way too many problems on them anyway. Busy work. Pshaw… not a fan.)
It is not reasonable to expect them to function at full capacity at this time as if there was not a pandemic! Find time to talk to your kids about how they are feeling. Let them process it, even if that means they aren’t being stellar in school for the moment.
Let them sleep in and start later.
I actually told my kids that maybe we should get up in the morning and get things done instead of starting late.
My daughter looked at me and asked, “Why?” Then she started laughing and so did I.
I did not have an answer. What’s the point? We aren’t going anywhere!
We all know how to get up early. We have all done it many times. The human body is capable of adjusting our biological clocks. People do it all the time when they travel. Shift workers adjust every few weeks or months. Human beings have the astounding ability to adjust to schedules, climates, types of foods, and millions upon millions of other situations.
There is no rule in the How to do Life Handbook that says you must get up early during a world crisis. (By the way the answer is 42 and if you get that reference, you get 1,000 geek points to spent on imaginary collectibles any time you wish!)
If it works for your family, let them get more sleep. Studies have shown that teens need their sleep and a later start to the school day helps them achieve more anyway.
Of course that doesn’t work if they have an online class early in the morning, but do what you can.
Start the day with family time
We are being extra diligent to eat breakfast together and plan our day. We pray together about what we will do for the day. We discuss our plans and how we are feeling. We check in about how much we think we can accomplish and what physical symptoms we are feeling from the stress. A peaceful start to the day makes a huge difference in how the rest of your day goes.
Let them do pajama school and be comfy.
One can never underestimate the power of being cozy. When I am stressed and need to relax, I make a blanket nest on the couch. I have a twin size faux feather bed that I put under myself and my fuzzy blankets, layered in a certain order, to achieve maximum cozy level. Cozy 3,000.
Feeling relaxed and physically comfortable lowers anxiety and stress. Teens might act like they’re cool, they know everything and they have it all together, but inside they might need a blankie and a teddy bear. Don’t we all need that sometimes?
Let them do what they need to do in order to achieve maximum cozy and feel nurtured. Do that for yourself, too!
There is nothing wrong with taking the book they have to read for school to the bathtub and reading it while relaxing, or doing schoolwork in bed.
I have always done school in our pajamas. When we wake up, we are ready to go. We eat breakfast, brush teeth and get going on our schoolwork. It takes away the distraction of getting ready and dressed, as well as the temptation to dilly dally and not get crackin. (I love the word dilly dally. It’s so Mary Poppins-ish.) We get straight to work after breakfast and then dress and get ready later when we are going to leave the house.
We aren’t leaving during quarantine, so enjoy those pajamas!
Accept the unanswered questions and simply wait.
If your questions are unanswered, the teachers just don’t know. Middle and high school teachers are just as anxious as you are with not knowing. They want to know, too! They are responsible for grading and they aren’t sure how to motivate kids to do the work if they aren’t graded for it. They are just as worried as you are.
There can be blessings in accepting the uncertainty. You just don’t know so let it go! For the high achievers, this will drive them bonkers! I was one of them! Not knowing how I will be graded, when I will be graded, when or if school will be open again, what will happen to my clubs and activities, will there be tryouts or not… I would have been losing my mind if I was in high school during something like this! Learning to accept uncertainty, quiet the panic and simply wait will serve them well in life as they grow up. It’s a really difficult skill to master.
Teaching at home doesn’t take as long. Do not school all day!
Homeschoolers do not spend all day long getting school work done. We do not have thirty-five students to get on task. We don’t have the same distractions that a large class of students has. Getting thirty-five kids to turn to page 27 and get their pencils out takes so much time.
Skip lessons the kids already understand and just do the quiz. There is no need to waste time on something you already know.
Adjust your expectations.
This one is going to make you cringe and some of you will get a twitchy eye. If you are dealing with anxiety and grief and your child doesn’t even want to get out of bed, adjust your expectations. Lower them. I know! You need A’s to get into those colleges! I know that some of your kids are high achievers and this is like asking someone who fell into a shark tank to just float and enjoy the swim!
Self care is important! In our society, we have a culture of busy. Being busy is equated with success and initiative. People wear their busy-ness like a badge of honor. They one up each other in an “I’m so busy” contest all the time. You’ve heard it yourself right? Maybe you’ve even done it? Don't tell anyone this, but I have done it, too. Hanging my head in shame now.
Right now your family needs self care...all of you. We do not know how long this will take and we need to keep our emotional and mental stamina as well as our physical
Let your kids socialize online, even if it’s midnight.
Your kids miss their friends desperately. They need social interaction. All humans do. Let them socialize, even if it means they won’t get up in the morning. We are letting them sleep in remember? Let them have open ended time to socialize virtually. They really need it right now.
If you need to do the minimum, do that! And do NOT feel guilty!
Schools are having a tough time justifying grading assignments with the issues surrounding the quarantine and online platforms. A lot of them are choosing not to grade and they are just giving credit. If you are blessed with that scenario, take it! Do the minimum if you are overwhelmed.
I was a straight A student all through high school, college and graduate school. For a lot of you, doing the minimum is horrifying and maybe even scary. Self care matters! Grieving and loss take time. Anxiety can be debilitating. If your school has taken the pressure off, be thankful and take the opportunity for self care. Educators are people too, and they are also dealing with the pandemic. Take any gift you get right now and if you are not graded, it’s a gift!
You are NOT FAILING by honoring your child’s needs right now.
You are NOT FAILING by honoring your own needs right now.
Self care is wisdom not folly!
Resting is NOT being lazy!
It is okay for them and you to say, “Today, I just can’t.”
It is okay to go for the maximum cozy and comfort yourselves.
It is okay to let go of all of that busy-ness and just stop for a minute.
It's okay for school not to look like school.
It’s okay to just sit with the not knowing and be uncertain.
Blessings to you in this historical time!
©2020 Heather Anne at Heather Anne Art and Soul. All rights reserved. See my copyright notice here.