What I Learned About Discipline vs Fun During Pandemic Homeschooling

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As a high school teacher, I pride myself on being firm but fair. I stress this to my students from the get-go when I give them an overview of their course and background on myself as their teacher. 

Naturally, I inform them I will inspire and assist them as best as I can and I will aim for our classes to be fun and enjoyable. I also remind the students they are at school to work, learn, and grow, and that it is both my responsibility and duty to ensure that happens. 

While I mix in plenty of jokes and display abundant enthusiasm in my instruction, with such a philosophy you can imagine I don’t win many Mr. Popular or Coolest Teacher of the Year awards the first year I teach a student. Yet, in the end, I thankfully earn their respect and appreciation. 

If nothing else, my students come to know I have their best interests at heart and that I will always challenge them to achieve their full God-given potential.

My teaching career also provides lots of practice opportunity for parenting. 

As the father of three young children, I certainly want our kids to like “Daddy” and for us to have loads of fun together. But I also feel it worthwhile they recognize from an early age the importance of principles like respect, hard work, and accountability. 

I want our kids to apply themselves as much as they can and to strive for great heights in everything they do. In other words, as I often tell my students, “do your best and let God do the rest.” 

In a world where we can be fed messages promoting the easy way or path of least persistence, my wife and I prefer to present to our children the teachings of St. Paul, who directs us to fight the good fight and to run our race to its completion, always holding faith the Lord will guide us along the way. (2 Timothy 4:7)

Understandably, this approach can sometimes be met with resistance from our little ones, and it can be a delicate balance to encourage our kids without placing too much pressure or expectation on them. 

Coming out of the Christmas break last month, schools in our region announced they would remain closed in order to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. The eventual four-week period of virtual at-home schooling carried with it a fair share of stresses, as my wife and I aimed to balance our professional schedules with our two sons’ education programs and our daughter’s preschool activities. 

Wanting to follow their teachers’ thorough lesson plans and to ensure our boys’ continued learning despite their absence from class, I – like so many other parents, surely – struggled between pushing our kids to work versus overwhelming them with expectations. 

Clearly, there’s a difference between not meaning for our children to fall behind in curriculum and overworking them to a point where they trade in their enjoyment of school for resentment toward their parents. 

This dilemma can certainly test me in my role as Daddy, particularly when placed beside my role as a teacher. 

As an educator, I know far too well the dangers of lazy or absent work ethic, and I fully support early level schooling as foundational for future success and healthy work habits. 

But as much as I appreciate the need to keep our kids engaged in learning during these pandemic-related remote-schooling programs, there’s another side of the coin that cannot be overlooked. 

As a parent, I can equally understand the pressures on students of all ages and the difficulties facing them – whether those are linked to long stretches in front of a computer screen, relying on help from parents unfamiliar with course content in order to complete assigned tasks, or any number of other challenges. 

This is why, as a dad, I catch myself also remembering the need to allow our kids ample opportunity to play, explore, discover, and have fun. After all, isn’t that the innocence and joy that Jesus calls all of us to display? (Matthew 19:14)

Unquestionably, I want the very best for our kids long-term – a strong education, a prosperous and rewarding career, security for their future family, and myriad unknown possibilities. 

In the meantime, though, whether it be school or any other facet of life, as parents, we must be quick not to press our kids too hard or damage their confidence and joy. 

As we plant seeds for our children’s personal development by emphasizing diligence and dedication, let us never forget to till the soil by always cheering them on and encouraging them to have fun.