“Dad, this has been the best day since we’ve been home from school.”
That comment from my oldest daughter was a punch to the gut and a wake-up call to what our kids need more than anything right now.
Our family had just spent the evening playing cards. That’s it. We were simply spending time together. Nothing fancy. Just sitting around the table.
As a school administrator and father, I have been trying to balance a variety of needs for our students at school and my own children. Yes, we’ve all been spending a great deal of time focused on meeting the educational needs of our students. Many educators have also gone above and beyond by meeting various physical and emotional needs of their communities.
This is all important. No doubt.
However, my daughter’s comment after a few rounds of Skip-Bo made it evident what our kids need now more than anything.
They need time.
Not time alone.
Not time for packets of school work.
Not time for video games.
They desire spending quality time with those they love.
As parents, many of us have had our lives slow down the last few weeks. How are we spending that time?
My daughter’s comment brought me face-to-face with the reality that I haven’t made a point to give her and her sisters enough of what they desired most.
My time and attention.
I’m not going to spend time in this post making excuses or justifying why with all of the responsibilities I juggle. I have a feeling many of us could fill pages with excuses.
And for what purpose? Those excuses don’t mean anything to our kids. Spending time with us does.
As an educator, this is generating even more reflection about the work schools are sending home. Schools, by and large, do a great job serving their communities. Meeting the educational, physical, and emotional needs of students are a part of this and are very important.
What if our purpose during this time wasn’t to serve by sending home mountains of work?
What if our purpose is to help our parents find ways to spend more quality time with their kids?
What if we could help our families by releasing the pressure, stress, and anxiety of meeting expectations of completing homework and packets?
Would our students be better because of this?
I know my own kids would value and appreciate more quality time. Quality time playing outside. Quality time playing games. Time spent cooking together. Time just spent together.
Could these family interactions create a stronger end product than the stresses of meeting a school’s homework expectations?
Yes, many of you are probably having similar thoughts as I am at this moment. There should be a balance. Yes, there should.
Sometimes, though, finding that balance seems easier said than done for the families we serve. Sometimes finding that balance is tough for my own family. The arguments over homework can ruin an evening. Sometimes those arguments result in a need for separation. If we only knew how often this occurred in our students’ homes, we might rethink what is being sent home.
Some of our students need quality time with their loved ones more than they need a packet of work to complete. As an educator and parent, this presents a unique dilemma for me. What is the best way to go about this?
I don’t always have the solution. What I do know is that this doesn’t just apply to school closures due to COVID-19. This is an every day of the school year issue.
This will not be a post to delve into the homework debate and discuss the related research. We should be familiar with this already.
If anything, school closure magnifies the importance of helping our families spend more quality time with their kids. Our students desire and need this more than anything. When life returns to “normal,” we should have these conversations with our parents, teachers, students, and staff. Let’s listen and then work together to help make the family units in our communities stronger and better than ever.
Doug Dunn is superintendent and principal of a small K-8 school in rural, south central Missouri. He can be found on Twitter at DougDunnEdS.