Home From School–Now What Do You Do?

About 9 out of 10 students are out of school

The summer is wrapping up, and many schools are delaying their start or continuing with distance learning. This leaves a lot more free time at home. Though watching television and playing video games are fun, there are so many things students could and should be doing to get a little variety in their day and to stay healthy.

Of course, Lux Writing Center’s first suggestion is for you to write! That writing does not need to be more essays, though. You could write about what’s going on during this pandemic. What’s going on in the world, in your country, in your city, in your social circle, in your family, and within yourself.

In a recent podcast, author George Saunders asks, “Are you keeping records of the emails and texts you’re getting? The thoughts you’re having? The way your hearts and minds are reacting to this strange new way of life?” Students could use their new downtime to keep up with such things through writing.

Saunders says, “It’s all important. Fifty years from now, people the age you are now won’t believe this ever happened. Or will do the sort of eye roll we all do when someone tells us about something crazy that happened in 1960.”

Writing is also a way to make sense of things that are scary, sad, difficult, or boring. In that same podcast, the host Cheryl Strayed says, “Writing is the way I make sense of almost everything in my life.” Through keeping a journal or emailing a friend or family member, young people can both keep “records” and “make sense” of all that is going on and how they are feeling.

But students can also take this time to read. Read something fun. Read something easy. Read blogs, magazines, history books, science articles, anything! Public libraries often have ways to check out ebooks, digital magazines, and audiobooks. Many books can be found online through sites like Project Gutenberg. Read something your teacher isn’t “making” you read.

Watch documentaries about topics that interest you. Plant some seeds in a pot and leave that pot in a place where you’ll see it often so you can really watch the plants grow. Draw or paint. Have a video call with a friend or group of friends to play a game “together.” Use an online program or a YouTube channel to learn a language.

Exercise. You don’t have to be at a soccer field, gym, or track to exercise. Run around with Nerf guns outside your house. Do some stretches in the morning when you wake up. Do exercises that don’t require a lot of space, like pushups, situps, and jumping jacks. A simple online search will provide you with yoga and martial arts instructors who provide free video lessons.

Take time to breathe

And, don’t forget to breathe! It’s great to take 3-5 minutes to sit quietly, relax, and breathe. You can do this by sitting in a quiet place with your eyes closed, focusing on each breath you take–in and out. Or search for free guided relaxation videos online.

Whatever you do, though, try hard to get along with those you live with. It’s easy to get irritable and frustrated with people we are with for long periods of time. Try to find your own space, give others their space, respect each other’s needs, and help out wherever you can to create a peaceful living situation.

Teaching The Old Man and the Sea: Part Two

When teaching a work of literature in class or with your homeschooled child, it helps to have a work that is approachable in terms of length, plot, vocabulary, and sentence structure–a challenge is good, but it’s best not to scare away shy readers! As talked about in “Teaching The Old Man and the Sea: Part One,” Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea offers this sort of accessibility. But it also provides a clear approach to strong themes and meaningful symbols that illustrate those themes.

Themes

OldManandSeaReaders witness a harmony of the young and the old, a young boy who cares for an elderly man, and a mutual exchange of care and wisdom amongst the ages. The novel explores questions regarding wisdom versus knowledge, the role of humanity in nature, the risks associated with pride, and how to be a hero. The examples and glorification of perseverance teach young readers what it means to work hard for something noble. When Santiago faces extreme difficulty, he keeps pushing: “He rested sitting on the un-stepped mast and sail and tried not to think but only to endure.”

The novel pushes the reader to consider what it means to be “good”–a good person, a good neighbor, a good friend, a good teammate. Furthermore, the rich symbolism of the novel serves as clear support for themes that the young reader will be able to grasp.

Symbols

The Old Man and the Sea exemplifies the use of symbols beyond a mere treasure hunt for literary devices. Symbols are used to signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal sense. Symbols grab the attention of the readers. They help communicate, give understanding, and illustrate ideas.

Symbols can take different forms. Generally, it is an object, person, situation, or action representing another to give it a different meaning that is much deeper and more significant. Works of literature can be interpreted in various ways with various themes, and the rich symbolism of The Old Man and the Sea promote meaningful discussions of these interpretations. 

Be ‘good’ not ‘bad’

Hemingway said, “About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.” For Hemingway, the right thing is what makes you feel good afterwards. So, what is it that will make a person “feel good after”? To what does his novel point?

Santiago is a man whose actions and words are rich with Christian imagery. After all, his name is Santiago, or James in English. James, the Disciple, was a fisherman (like Santiago of the novel) called to be a follower of Christ: “He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.”

As the novel moves along, the reader see Santiago hold the fishing line in his fingers, The Old Man and the Sea Ernest Hemingwaymoving them like beads of a rosary as he kneels patiently in the boat. Santiago’s draped sack on his deeply cut back calls to mind the Passion of Christ: “They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him. They began to salute him with, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’” The suffering and enduring continue throughout the novel, and the Christian imagery remains.

The story aligns Santiago not with Christ, but as a follower of Christ. He is to be seen as a person who is “good.” What is that he does that is “good,” then? It’s not in church attendance or Bible reading that Santiago’s goodness is found. Instead, his goodness is found in his actions: he endures. He respects the fish, yet he fights hard against it. He knows that he must try his hardest against his “brother” fish.

backIn the face of difficulty, Santiago does what he believes is right, or “good.” The imagery and themes of The Old Man and the Sea align Santiago and his actions with the likes of Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch, Homer’s Odysseus, and William Faulkner’s Dilsey. Like them, Santiago pushes, strives, and holds firm to what he knows he must do.

Tips for traveling in a country where you don’t speak the language

School breaks are a wonderful time to take your children abroad where they can learn about different countries, languages, foods, and sites. And homeschooling allows for an even greater flexibility to travel.

My wife, son, and I had the opportunity to live in South America for two years. This was an experience that I feel was fundamental to our child’srunning view of the world. We have also spent significant time in Mexico. Furthermore, these trips have opened up a variety of writing projects for our son.

However, not knowing the language of a country that you’re visiting is not unusual. Many people love to be in new countries and experience new cultures, and traveling is an invaluable addition to one’s education—but we can’t simply pick up a language in a few weeks or even months. We shouldn’t let these language barriers prevent us from exploring the world around us, though.

So, what should you do when you don’t speak the language of the land? Below are a few tips I came up with while living abroad.

Learn the basics. At least learn how to say hello, please, thank you, excuse me, and goodbye. In Ecuador, for example, you don’t just walk into a store, look around, and leave. You should say “Buenos dias” or “Buenas tardes” (depending on the time of day) when you enter a store. If not, you’re rude. Furthermore, when you leave a small store, it’s important to say, “Gracias,” even if you didn’t buy anything.

As a safety precaution, learn how to say a few distress phrases. Even if you don’t end up needing them, you’ll feel more at ease having words like “help,” “emergency” and “police” in your vocabulary.

I also recommend you learn to ask for bathrooms, food, and drink. These can be important.

Use hand gestures and sounds. Nodding, pointing, and even making movements that represent what you’re saying can be very successful. Of course, gesturing for a bathroom might not be a good idea. So, like I said in number one, learn how to say it.

market

Bring a notepad. Drawing pictures is a great way to get your point across without having to play Guess-what-I’m-saying-based-on-my-gestures. Also, in Spanish-speaking countries, you could sometimes get away with writing the word in English, first. If you need a hospital, for example, you could communicate by writing the word. When a local sees the word in writing, they’ll know what you need because it’s the same in Spanish. If you say it in English, though, they might not understand you since the pronunciation is different.

Take notes. In that notepad, write down some important words and phrases that you think you might need but haven’t been able to learn. If it’s a short list and you know what’s in it, you’ll be able to find it fast. As a plus, you might learn those important words and phrases just from writing, saying, and repeating them.

Also, in the notepad, you could put the street address where you’re staying. If you get lost or don’t have a ride, you could show a taxi driver the address, with the nearest cross street–even if you don’t know how to pronounce it.

Be patient, stand back and observe. Many questions can be answered without speaking. Before asking, you might see a sign that indicates public bathrooms or a street name that looks familiar.

Use your smartphone. I recommend you use it as you would a pocket dictionary. You can also use a smartphone to translate text in photos, like street signs or menus.

Using a smartphone in some areas might prove to be a bit dangerous, depending on where you’re traveling. In that case, you might consider the old-fashioned method: a paper dictionary.

boatsThen, there’s the ever-frustrating suggestion: Take classes, meet a local, start a conversation. People traveling and living abroad have heard this over and over again. These are great ways to learn the language. However, for those who have tried this approach, you know it’s easier said than done. You don’t just learn it by being in a new country. Learning a new language is hard work and it’s frustrating. But be strong, have patience, learn the essentials, and enjoy the country you’re in.

If you decide you want to learn a new language, you will be taking on a worthy task. You can read more about the benefits of learning a foreign language in an earlier  post: Improve your English Grammar by Learning a Foreign Language.

Study finds that homeschoolers get more sleep; suggests a later start in the morning for traditional high schools

Study finds that homeschoolers get more sleep; suggests a later start in the morning for traditional high schools

In a recent study, researchers determined that teenagers who are homeschooled benefit from healthier sleep habits than those who go to private and public schools. The findings of the study provide addialarmtional evidence of teens’ altered biological clocks and support an argument for starting traditional high school later in the morning.

“The differences are stark,” said Lisa Meltzer, PhD, a sleep psychologist at National Jewish Health in Denver, and lead author of the study. “Across the country, public and private schools that have changed their high school start times see considerable benefits. Students are tardy less often and graduation rates are actually higher,” she said.

Whether your child is homeschooled or attends a public or private school, Meltzer offers advice to help your children develop healthier sleeping habits:

  • Get all electronics out of the bedroom. TVs, computers, video games and phones are major distractions for teens and often delay sleep.
  • Don’t look at any screens 30-60 minutes before bed time. Though turning off media is as simple as flipping a switch, the human brain does not work the same way. Being stimulated by media just before bed can make the brain too active to sleep.
  • Set up family charging stations, where mom, dad and the kids plug in their phones at night so they are out of reach.
  • Most importantly, set a consistent routine. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This one habit can help regulate your body’s internal clock and improve the quality of sleep you get.

“Adolescents need nine hours of sleep a night and if they’re only getting seven hours, on average, by the end of the week they are a full ten hours of sleep behind schedule,” said Meltzer, “and that impacts every aspect of functioning.”