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Trena Prewitt helped her daughter Gianna with her schoolwork as her other daughter Teresa climbed on her back at their home in Florissant March 19.
Trena Prewitt helped her daughter Gianna with her schoolwork as her other daughter Teresa climbed on her back at their home in Florissant March 19.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Parents offer advice, perspective with new reality of homeschooling admid COVID-19 outbreak

Starting the day with prayer is key to helping get through

As schools in the area have closed their buildings to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, many families have suddenly found themselves homeschooling their children.

Catholic schools have been developing online distance learning plans. Many teachers are turning toward online video conferencing, phone and email to communicate with students and parents. Parents are finding themselves balancing their child’s schoolwork with home and work responsibilities.

Mary Prewitt worked on her computer to complete schoolwork at the Prewitt home in Florissant March 19.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston
Trena Prewitt has her hand in both worlds. The mom of four and parishioner at Sacred Heart in Florissant has two daughters at Sacred Heart School, and homeschools another daughter with a three-year-old at home. She recently shared advice with friends on Facebook about managing home, work and school.

“There are a lot of parents freaking out, stressing out,” she said. “A lot of parents are feeling a lot of weight right now.”

Prewitt said that starting every day with prayer is essential. “You just have to make the time,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “Your kids were already doing this at school. … We are fortunate enough to live close to church and have been able to walk up there every morning. But if you don’t have that luxury, find a corner in your house and make your own special area to pray. The quiet and stillness of prayer can really set the tone of your day. Do not forget Him in your day. You will not believe how much a difference your day will be once you ask Him to enter into it.”

In addition to homeschooling, Prewitt has worked another job from home for the last five years. She’s currently on a break from work, but working while homeschooling has encouraged her to get creative and think outside of the box.

Homeschooling programs have parameters to follow, but Prewitt added that many are done within a four-day week. The typical traditional school schedule is about seven hours a day, five days a week. With added responsibilities at home, Prewitt encouraged making a routine but stressed that it doesn’t have to model exactly what it would look like at school.

“I’m trying to tell my friends, you just want to keep your kids sharp and engaged,” she said.

A child’s emotional well-being should be considered top priority, Prewitt added. Staying at home for an extended period and having a disrupted routine certainly are factors that can create stress and anxiety for a child. Having a discussion about what happens when a brain is under stress is an example of teaching while staying relevant to the circumstances.

“Let’s look outside of the box with what we’re teaching right now,” she said. “Our concerns need to shift right now. If my child falls apart, I couldn’t care less about science or social studies.”

Ann Saladin is a mom of six children, and with her husband, Steve, owns several small businesses, including the Donut Palace in Ellisville. The parishioner of St. Clement of Rome in Des Peres said that she’s been focused on keeping the business open while trying to get her kids into a new routine. Two of her children attend private Catholic high schools and two are at St. Clement of Rome School.

“I feel like I’m drowning and we’re supposed to be homeschooling,” said Saladin, a former teacher. “Some of my kids are able to do some of this on their own, but my third-grader can’t do it on her own. I emailed her teacher and said, ‘I’m really sorry, but I am not available today.’ She was super helpful about it, telling me just get going when you can.”

It’s going to be a challenge balancing different school schedules, she acknowledged, but she’s hopeful that there will be some flexibility as the days and weeks progress. “There’s a lot of kinks to still work out,” she said. “There’s been such a huge learning curve for everybody, and I know it will change along the way.” Saladin is also hopeful that some lasting good will come in how schools approach education and how students learn in the future.

One thing that will stay constant, though, is the family’s spiritual foundation. Saladin has been watching daily Mass live streams at home as well as keeping time for prayer. She added that there has to be a trust that the Lord will get us through all of this.

“It’s such a hole in the heart missing Mass. But you just have to let it be and trust,” she said. “It’s a very powerful reminder that He has a plan. Our time is not His time.”

Making homeschooling manageable

Homeschooling mom Trena Prewitt offers the following tips for managing a new homeschool routine:

• Start your day off with prayer. Don’t forget Jesus in all of this. And if you don’t know what to do, turn on Catholic Sprouts. They have a daily podcast and it will be a great start to the day. But continue to invite Him into your day in your life.

• Your kids are used to a daily routine. But keep in mind that your homeschool routine does not have to match their regular school routine. Change it up a bit, but keep a good schedule for them. Routine is so important to these kids.

• Space out the work. Don’t force them to get it all done right then and there. Do an hour here and an hour there. Or 30 minutes here 30 minutes there. This will create more peace in your day and less tears.

• School does not have to be done at the kitchen table. Or at a desk. If it’s beautiful outside, take some blankets and have them do it in the backyard. Build a fort! Or drive to the park. Think outside the box! This is a beautiful time for education. You will see how much they will enjoy this.

To follow a stay-at-home order issued in St. Louis and St. Louis County, the Archdiocese of St. Louis extended the closure of all archdiocesan elementary and high schools through Wednesday, April 22. Pending continuing updates and guidance from local and state government and health officials, preliminary plans are for teachers to return on Thursday, April 23, and students to return on Monday, April 27.

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