I can remember growing up hearing that “there is ALWAYS learning to do”. Even when there is no homework, there is still homework. Boy, I thought my parents were as crazy as a loon! These folks are talking silly! It’s a SNOW DAY!! Of course, once I became an educator, those expectations began to make sense. Once I became a parent, it all became clear as ever.
This winter has been exceptionally troubling. Schools and businesses have been closed and/or delayed more often than I can recall. It has elicited quite a few memories of the snow days we had when I was younger. No school, no work, just fun and games. Things haven’t changed much for the 21st century kids of today. Snow days are the benefits of the winter season. But, for parents, the feeling is not shared as intimately.
For working parents, snow days tend to cause frustration and irritation. Having to call off work or find accommodations for their children so they don’t spend the day home alone tends to cause unintentional stress to say the least. Not necessarily stress from having to miss school, but the added stress of deviating from your normal routine in order to figure out what to do with them with such short notice. I know. My husband and I have dealt with the same dilemma. It is without a doubt, stressful and inconvenient. Nevertheless, today is a SNOW DAY, so we do what we need to do.
For stay at home parents, the irritation stems from the fact that along with any household responsibilities they must accomplish, NOW they have to deal with the needs of the children as well. There’s no quiet time or naps to be taken. You can’t enjoy your lunch in peace, watch your soap operas, do the laundry, or read that book in the silence of your own home. Nope. There’s been a change of plans. Today is a SNOW DAY! So, instead, you get to hear the blaring of the video games, your son antagonize your daughter, screaming, yelling, the bumping of toys, and the ever pleasant yelping of “Mommy, mommy, mommy!” or “Daddy, daddy, daddy!” all day long. As it goes, this will undoubtedly become a great irritant. Especially after three, four, and five consecutive snow days in a row. But, what are you gonna do? Today’s a SNOW DAY.
Now, I may be in the minority on this, but I have to admit that I enjoy being home with my babies for snow days. Yes, there are times when they become overwhelmingly rambunctious, but even with that, we make time to play games, relax, and even do homework! I’ve come to the realization that the moment they show tumultuous behaviors, they are communicating boredom. There are times they need to release that energy and then other times they need to take a break from over stimulation. So, I need to be careful about what we choose to do while we’re cooped up in the house. I noticed several parents on my social media page posting pictures of their kids playing games and playing in the snow during their snow days. It warmed my heart to see all the family bonding. But I also noticed parents ready to get their kids back in school, regardless of the negative temperatures. Everyone has their reasoning, but after reading so many comments about how the schools are failing kids by being closed for so many days and questioning students learning and success by refusing to stay opened, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was the loss of their child’s instructional time in question or the loss the parent’s own personal time.
You know, I get it. These babies get restless and bored. Their minds are hungry. We as parents, as the first TEACHER to enter their lives, we have the responsibility and the duty to feed their minds with information that is nourishing to their growth and development. Believe it or not, research suggests that even video games can be vital in strengthening a wide range of cognitive skills (American Psychological Association, 2013). Yes, even the violent ones (although, I don’t condone them). Therefore, while there is video game play in our house, it is strictly monitored and controlled because after all, too much of anything good can become a bit toxic. Television and video games are limited to weekends only. And, well…of course, SNOW DAYS.
Snow days in our house consist of a variety of sensory stimulating activities. Most of the time, the kids play with toys, build things with their legos (and these aren’t the legos WE grew up with… these are advanced legos that end up looking like trucks, planes, and cities!), and they do watch TV for a while as well. But, after a few hours of that, we take time to read and practice math skills. You see, the rule in our house is much like that from my childhood…even when you don’t have homework, you still have homework. Yep! Even on your SNOW DAY! There’s always something to learn whether they know it or not. Our kids can be learning something new all the time and the best part about it…they don’t even know it! My daughter loves to draw and color and she can do this for hours without end. What she doesn’t realize is that she’s strengthening her problem solving skills, her creativeness, her fine motor skills, and developing her higher order thinking skills. She also enjoys reading which is a pleasantry in itself. She enjoys looking at the pictures and even adding her own details to the stories she reads. Doing this develops her fluency and her vocabulary skills. In the meantime, she’s having fun and also…learning. Both of my boys love to build with their legos and to read. My youngest loves to read and write about sports and my oldest has taken a liking to historical fiction, again building problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, inquiry skills, and also…more learning.
I know it seems that I’m going on and on about my babies, but I guess I’m trying to make a point. I acknowledge that snow days may become an inconvenience. I acknowledge that kids have a way of becoming bothersome. But what I cannot and will not do is risk the health and safety of my children on a snow day for the sake of my own sanity. I will not blame the schools and/or teachers for that which Mother Nature has so lovingly bestowed upon us. “She” is out of our control. The schools have a responsibility to keep hundreds of children, teachers, and staff safe during inclement weather days, not to our work or soap opera schedules. We, the educators, understand that we lose valuable instructional time when we have snow days, however, if we, the parents, expect more of our children and take first hand responsibility for our students learning when they are home, we, educators and parents, can come together where the rubber meets the road and help our children attain that much more.
With that, let me revisit an earlier discussion of expectations. Not teacher expectations of students, but parental expectations of children. When you were so blessed to have children, what were your dreams for their future? How do you picture them at age 5? 10? 21? I’d like to suggest that the moment we became parents, we imagined our children becoming something greater than ourselves. We see them as the doctors, lawyers, police officers, and firefighters they declare themselves to want to be. But I encourage you to dig deeper than that with them. Ask them why they want to be what they have declared and how they will reach their goal(s). You may be as surprised as we were when our son told us that he would choose to be a doctor, but, “that’s too hard”. An honor student, unknowing of his own capabilities, defeated before he’s even begun working toward his goal. Why is that and how do I respond? Do I blame his lack of confidence on the school system and the teachers who have crossed his path? Has the 5 snow days, plus the 3 days he was out sick diminished his ability to receive and retain knowledge? Although easy to place blame in those places, it is ludicrous to suggest that my children will not obtain what they need because of all things…SNOW DAYS.
Consider this, our children are what we, the parents, shape them to be. If we instill in them our expectations, these will ultimately become their expectations. If we model what learning looks like for them, they will ultimately mirror back to us the determination to learn. If we continuously talk to our children about how great they are, they will ultimately find that greatness inside. I whole-heartedly believe that we the parents hold the key to unlock our children’s future. Schools and teachers simply cultivate the seeds of knowledge, already planted. We are the first teacher our children encounter. Schools and teachers are in place to supplement and enrich the lessons we have already begun to teach. As teaching and learning change to fit the 21st century generation (and believe me, it is definitely different from when we were in elementary school), let us commit to changing and learning with the times for the sake of our children.
Let’s make our children’s education our first priority rather than making it the schools responsibility. Teachers need parents to be more invested in their children’s learning and parents need teachers to keep them abreast of the new curriculum and learning outcomes within the classroom. So, you see, we need each other, but parents…PARENTS are the ones that first teach their children and help them begin to find direction and purpose in their lives.
So, now, instead of blaming the schools and teachers for missed lessons and instruction…decide instead on what your kids will learn new from YOU today, because today is yet another snow day.