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GUEST COLUMNIST - "An old parent and a school teacher"

By Cindy Fonnesbeck - April 23, 2020

Getting older has its advantages.

First, I have no kids at home to “teach,” except for my little kindergarten granddaughter that I help once or twice a week. Second, I have made about every mistake possible as a parent and I wish I could go back and change it.

But, we all know that hindsight is 20/20 (I wish 2020 was in my hindsight right now) and I want to share with you some pointers that I have learned from being a parent and a public education teacher.

I went to college for the first time when I was in my 40s. In fact, I took my first classes with my son Dallas and I graduated with my son Paul. That is when I started to realize that I had failed as a parent. I had done almost everything wrong. A fact my adult children like to remind me of my parenting blunders at family gatherings.

Oh, how I wish I could go back in time and do it again. If I could, here this what I would do. Feel free to learn from my mistakes and see if it will help you as home school parents.


One of the things that make a classroom run smoothly is a schedule. Every day I write on the board in my classroom what we are going to be doing and what time it is going to happen. This makes kids a little more willing to get through the hard stuff because they can see a reward in the future, like lunch, break, or just a time to do what they want to do.

Choice and Consequences

Children like to feel like they are in control. One of the ways I like to do this in my classroom is to give them choices. Let them help you plan the days schedule and let them choose what assignment they want to do first. If that doesn’t work, give them a different type of choice.

I tell my reluctant learners they can choose to do the assignment during class or they can stay in from break and do it. This way they still get a choice.

When administering choice and consequence be careful what you choose as a consequence. You HAVE to be willing to follow through or they will never take you seriously.

When I was a young parent, I had a particularly hard child and one time in a fit of rage I told him that if he didn’t get his work done, we wouldn’t hunt Easter eggs. Well, he didn’t get the work done and now I was left with a hard decision.

Easter only comes once a year, do I follow through knowing that he will miss this fun Easter tradition for the year and never be able to get it back? I did the hard thing and followed through.

It about killed me and to this very day I regret the words that flowed out of my mouth. However, good things happened when I followed through. He knew I meant business, so it was easier to get him to comply with my demands.

Don’t Yell

Contrary to what your little people might want you to know, you are in charge.

You are the ring leader, head honcho, king or queen of your home, but you don’t need to yell to let that be known.

When a child makes a choice that earned them a consequence, in a calm firm voice you administer the consequence.

In my classroom, I even go one step farther, by being sympathetic and saying, “I am so sorry this is happening to you, but it is the choice you made and you knew what would happen.”

The first time you do this, your kids will throw a fit. Stay calm, don’t yell and go to your secret candy stash and get another piece of chocolate. Don’t worry about the weight gain - we are all going to be rolling out of this quarantine together.


I’ve heard it said, “Don’t pray for patience because then you will be given the opportunity to learn it.” Well, here it is. Your prayers have been answered and you are now all teachers!

This is, and will, continue to be one of the biggest challenges in both teaching and parenting. My best advice is stay calm. You are the calming force in your children’s lives right now.

This will all blow over someday and all we will be left with is memories of how well we endured this trial. Do what you need to do to remain calm.

Positive Reinforcement

I had never heard of this until I went to college and it is one of the best tools any teacher or parent can have. Instead of always scolding or constantly giving attention to the one that is acting out. Try giving attention to the one that is working. This works so good with younger children and those kids with ADHD.

Instead of nagging them to get to work, praise another sibling for doing what they are supposed to do. In the classroom we call this “praise around.” When I walk by a table and five kids aren’t working, but one is, I don’t reprimand the five, I praise the one. This works like magic. Immediately everyone at that table gets to work.

When you catch that defiant child doing something right, praise them up one side and down the other.

If you listen to yourself do this, you almost think that it is a little too much or a little obnoxious, but it works.

The other day I was trying to get my sweet granddaughter Oaklee to write her numbers from 1 to 100. We had been breaking this into chunks, just to keep her interest, but now it was the last thing we needed to do for the days work. I sat her on my lap and painfully proceeded to get her to finish. She did everything to get out of it.

I tried holding her hand and helping her write. I tried bribery, “We’ll make cupcakes when you finish.” With every command she did something different. She would hold her pencil wrong, she would write her numbers backwards, she even tried writing with the pencil in her toes.

I was about ready to lose it, but I remembered I was in control and I had to be patient. As soon as she picked up that pencil and held it right. I praised her. That made her want to write. Then she wrote a sloppy 88 and I praised her for holding her pencil correctly. With each number she wrote, she wrote faster and neater and I continued to praise.

She finished that assignment rather quickly after that. She had the biggest smile on her face because she had made her grandma so happy.

Private Space

I realize that in some homes, children do not have their own room. I also realize that when kids are on the computer, parents want to stay close to them to make sure they are on safe computer sites.

Kids still need private space even if it is in a make shift tent to read a book, or in a corner of the room where younger siblings can’t disturb them. Maybe you could set them at opposite ends of the table or let them work at the table during separate times if they tend to pester each other.

Even though children are rowdy and rambunctious they still need a quiet place to work.

Never Give Up!

I hope this helps you during our trying time. Don’t be too hard on yourselves when you try the above suggestions and fail.

I have learned that your kids will love you know matter what. Get a good night’s sleep and try again tomorrow. All of us empty nesters are feeling your pain and cheering you on.

You’ve got this, everything is going to be okay.


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