Jim Daly: Struggling with online schooling? Here are 7 things to teach your children that really matter

Many school districts across the country have once again reverted to virtual education 

Nine months into the COVID-19 global pandemic, parents of school-age children might be forgiven for their frustration concerning the whipsaw nature of on-again, off-again in-person classroom learning. 

Despite the urging of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and mental health professionals, some of the largest school districts across the country have once again reverted to virtual education. 

“I’ve had it!” one parent wrote me. “My son isn’t getting anything out of online schooling. He’s distracted and the classes are disjointed. I know the teacher is trying, but it’s a complete waste of time.” 

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Another mother lamented having to curtail her work hours in order to be home to supervise her child’s computer usage. And for good reason. Not only is the Internet full of dark places for kids – but more mundane temptations, too. During an online class, my colleague’s son made a few purchases from Amazon to the tune of several hundred dollars. 

There must be a better way. 

I empathize with these parents and their children, many of whom are caught up in an almost impossible situation. I also feel for the instructors, most all of whom are doing their best. 

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In fairness, some districts have run out of teachers and substitutes due to either viral infections or such extensive quarantining of staff and students that it’s been difficult to keep the doors open.  

There’s no question it’s challenging to teach a young child academics online, but what if those subjects weren’t the most important things our kids needed to be learning, especially during this uneven time? 

I like Dr. Martin Luther King’s observation that “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” 

So, what does “character” education look like? 

Teaching “character” to our kids goes well beyond talking about right and wrong. It involves developing a wide swath of critical attributes that are part of a healthy and robust life.   

Over the course of the next week, I’d suggest concentrating on one of these subjects each day. No offense to school’s most popular and primary disciplines, like reading, writing and arithmetic, but if you focus on these areas, you’ll be providing training and an education that will last a lifetime.  

It’s the wise parent who will try and redeem this current challenge with their kids.

Here are just seven suggested areas of emphasis. Put a quote about each one on your fridge each morning. Talk about it at mealtime, providing examples of times you mastered it or blew it – or both! Challenge your children to find a practical way to begin practicing each attribute. 

Day # 1: Honesty. Truthfulness and sincerity are foundational principles. If someone cannot trust you or you can’t trust them, your relationship will never go beyond the superficial.  

Day # 2: Discernment. Life isn’t always a choice between good and bad but often good, better and best. Help your kids learn how to make wise decisions by knowing how to say “no” and when to say “yes.” 

Day # 3: Contentment. How much is enough, and what’s the difference between healthy ambition, settling for second best and finding true satisfaction?  Being content is being grateful for what is and patient for what may or may not ever come. 

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Day # 4: Courage. Does your son or daughter have conviction? Our kids need to learn how to develop bravery and boldly stand up for what they believe. 

Day # 5: Generosity. Has me-ology replaced your theology? Learn to be a giving person, where we are not just contributing out of our excess but out of our primary resources. Charity comes in many forms, not just money – but also our time, talent and experience. 

Day # 6: Courtesy. Good manners will bring your children places no college education ever will. Thoughtfulness can be expressed in many forms – politeness, a handwritten note, a phone call, an offer to pray for a need or concern. 

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Day # 7: Humility. As my friend and renowned pastor Dr. Tim Keller says, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself – it’s thinking of yourself less.” Whether it’s acknowledging a shortcoming or recognizing that your success is the byproduct of many hands and influences, the humble man or woman doesn’t have to be the center of attention. 

I’m grateful there is a light at the end of the tunnel as distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine promises to help us turn the corner from this pandemic. But it’s the wise parent who will try and redeem this current challenge with their kids – and developing their character in or out of the classroom will prove to be time well spent. 

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