Forget Homeschooling During Quarantine, Teach Life Skills Instead

Attempting to keep up with school curriculum is the last thing parents, or kids, need right now, psychologist says. Both could benefit more from learning practical life-skills.

As if modern parents didn’t have enough roles to juggle already, many of us were suddenly given several more to play when schools suddenly closed across the country 7 weeks ago – the roles of teacher, full-time caregivers, and, in many cases, our children’s only friends.

All of this, on top of trying to continue to earn a living, seems like too much for the universe to ask from most of us. Somethings gotta give, and that something should be academics, says a renowned child psychologist.

“Trying to replicate school at home when you’re not trained and you don’t have the materials, that’s like mission impossible,” psychology professor and author of Raising Kids Who Read, Daniel Willingham says.

“This is not homeschooling,” he says. “It’s an emergency measure.”

Both parents and kids could benefit by looking at the last and next couple of months of quarantine as an extra long summer of sorts – a once in a lifetime opportunity to connect with our kids on a deeper level and to teach them life skills that aren’t often taught in school, like gardening, cooking, sewing, chores or home-or-auto repair, Willingham says.

Instead of trying to force academics, “think about what you are set up to do: what you know a lot about, and maybe what the child’s teachers couldn’t do,” he says.

For example, a father in Connecticut is teaching his 13-year-old son to rebuild a 1972 MGB car engine, National Geographic reports. The father gets a working engine out of the deal and now the son wants to take automotive mechanics as an elective when he starts high school next fall.

A Texas mother is teaching her two young boys to prepare a garden bed, add compost, plant seeds, and re-pot transplants, while a Pennsylvania mom is teaching her kids to fold laundry, wash dishes and make their own beds.

“Between rushing to school and rushing to soccer, it’s just been easier for me to do it all,” she said. “Now there’s nowhere to rush to, so we have more time to sit and tediously fold the same pair of pants four times until they figure it out.”

And if your kids are playing far more video games than you ever thought you’d allow, don’t beat yourself up. It won’t be forever, and they may even learn some valuable skills while they’re at it, says Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs.

Galinsky says video games such as Minecraft and Roblox are helping her grandson “learn to pay attention, think flexibly, and develop problem-solving strategies. These life skills will serve him well in whatever he does in the future.”

“I think this is a time that children are always going to remember, a time of forever memories,” she adds. “So what are the memories we want our children to have?”