Many families are beginning this new school year with some version of distance learning taking place in their homes. How can we make this challenging situation a little bit easier for busy parents and help encourage our kids to grow in their faith at the same time? Here are a few ideas to help you set a daily routine for your distance learners!
Start the Day with Prayer and Song
One of the hidden blessings of distance learning might be the ability to add some practices of the Christian faith to your children’s school day. Consider beginning each day together with prayer and a song before logging in to start classwork. My First Hymnal has a section of morning prayers, as well as a good assortment of easy-to-sing hymns. You could also choose to follow a daily Scripture reading plan using a Bible app, sing along with a favorite Christian CD, or find a playlist of children’s Bible songs on YouTube.
Keep an Interactive Calendar
At the start of each month, have the kids sit down with a calendar and mark important dates. Besides the obvious birthdays and holidays, be sure to include when they have school assignments due. Add any upcoming Church Year celebrations or commemorations, and plan to mark the day with a special meal or activity. You could also look up other “holidays” to celebrate—like National Coloring Day (September 14), World Smile Day (October 2), or National Play Monopoly Day (November 19). Hang the calendar in a spot where the whole family can see it and keep track of upcoming events together.
Encourage Audiobooks Instead of Screen Time
I was surprised one day to find my young son snuggled under a blanket with his Kindle, but instead of playing Minecraft or watching a video, he was listening to what he called a “talking book.” I was overjoyed to learn that my nonreader loves listening to audiobooks! You might consider turning to a talking book instead of a TV show when it comes to giving your kids a break from schoolwork. So much of their distance learning is taking place on a screen, using computers or tablets. Audiobooks can give their brains and their eyes a break. Young children can color with crayons while they listen to stories. Older children and youth might be able to multitask and listen to an audiobook while doing chores. Adults can listen while making breakfast or taking a walk. There are some free public domain audiobooks available online, or you can purchase audiobook versions of many of your favorite titles.
Elementary school students can typically focus on a task for about 10–15 minutes before needing a break. Middle school and high school students can go a bit longer, maybe 20–30 minutes. Kids of all ages—even adults—need physical activity to keep their bodies and brains healthy. If they were at school, they’d be heading outside to the playground for recess, and we’d be taking a coffee break. What are we to do when kids are distance learning, playgrounds are closed, and everyone’s stuck inside? Take a brain break! Find a website that offers free movement and mindfulness videos, allowing kids and parents to dance it out for a few minutes or play interactive games. Everyone will be able to focus better and, ultimately, learn more after a bit of physical activity.
Have a Weekly Scripture Memory Verse Challenge
When I was attending the Lutheran school of my childhood, memory work was part of our daily routine. Every grade was assigned sections of Luther’s Small Catechism and Bible verses that helped teach the basics of the Christian faith. Parents who are now supervising their children’s education at home can make the most of this uniquely challenging time of distance learning by adding a weekly Scripture memory verse to your child’s school routine. The LCMS Facebook page has been posting a new memory verse challenge each Monday. Print out the verse and hang it in your child’s study area. Say it with them during your morning prayer time. Review it with the family around the dinner table. Say it together before bed. Make God’s Word a natural part of your day together. “The word of the Lord remains forever,” St. Peter reminds us. “And this word is the good news that was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:25 ESV).
May God bless you and your children this school year as you embrace the challenges and opportunities of distance learning together!
Begin each day in prayer and praise to the Lord.