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Challenges and Opportunities

  • Head's Note
Tobin Bechtel

As I noted in an email to current parents earlier this week, every challenge also brings opportunity. Our current situation gives an opportunity for us to show courage and develop robust 21st century communication skills. We will work on this together. Sage Ridge intends to be the leader in the Reno community in protecting our families and creating virtual learning environments for our students. We ask for your family's enthusiastic and committed cooperation.  

To help with this, I promised further suggestions and resources. Parenting is both a joy and a challenge at the best of times. We want so much for our children and we have experience to share. I remember my father (a math major and computer science pioneer) trying to show me easier ways to do the math problems I had for homework. He would literally take my pencil, scribble out the way it ‘should be done’, erase it and then ask me to redo it the way he showed me. From his viewpoint, I was doing things in a way that made finishing the problem harder than it needed to be. From my viewpoint, his way was confusing and skipped steps I had learned from other work I had done. It was a frustrating experience on both sides! 

As adults we become more task focused - we have a list of ‘things’ to accomplish and we want to get them done. We know that education is more process oriented. We construct knowledge and learning by doing is one of the most powerful ways to create understanding. Teachers design experiences to help students through a process of learning. So while we can share knowledge and experience, we can often help learning at home best by offering encouragement.

Suggestions for a happy school at home experience

  • Put on a happy face. Yes, being genuine is important also, but if we were genuine 100% of the time here, all of us would show a lot more fear, sadness, anger. Parents, especially for younger children, have to be positive, even when you may be frustrated by the situation, the school, technology, etc., stay positive. Be part of the solution. Don’t undermine by voicing frustration. Our children are always watching and they learn more by what we do rather than what we say.
  • Set up a space in the house to become "school." If students don’t already have a space, you can take that unused formal dining room or living room and turn it into a classroom. They need a writing surface, a reading place, electrical outlets for devices, headphones, supplies (for arts, writing, etc.). Perhaps add an extra table for projects or artwork. Remember that a public space is better - avoid the use of bedrooms as research reinforces the importance of keeping sleep and work areas separate for any age.
  • Avoid doing the work for them. We may know the answer or an easier way but children learn best when they grapple with ideas and problems. Support and guide their learning process and they will feel ownership while developing more lasting connections to earlier knowledge and experience.

Incorporate "PDF" into your Daily Routine

One mantra Dr. Denise Pope (Stanford University, co-founder of Challenge Success) often shares with parents is the importance of PDF — which stands for Playtime, Downtime, and Family time. But in the grand scheme of things – especially at a time like this, which can be stressful and scary for kids – this can be an opportunity. 

Research on protective factors for teens shows that engaging in PDF every day can support better mental and physical health. Playtime for teens means unstructured time for social interactions and playing informal sports, games, and other activities for fun. Kids need free, unstructured playtime every day and especially if extracurriculars are canceled, they’re going to need exercise. 

They need Downtime, which includes sleep but also time to relax, decompress, and rejuvenate. That might mean playing video games or watching TV for short stints, or just sitting and doing nothing so they have time to reflect, which is actually very healthy. 

And they need Family time. Research recommends approximately 20 minutes per day, five times a week — where families are eating together or participating in family activities such as game nights, projects, or chores. This is time where family stories and values can be shared. 

Protecting PDF for kids isn’t easy, but we know that it is effective. The opportunity is that we can use this time to help get kids excited about doing things they might not be able to do when they’re at school. Together, we can help our students broaden their love of  learning during this time.

In the days ahead we need to try our best to take challenges and turn them into opportunities. Hopefully we can take this time to deepen our family connectedness. Hopefully we can take this time to connect with those we love no matter where they are in the world. Hopefully we can take this crisis as a time to learn and grow. My hope is that will make us even stronger as community.

Further Resources

Please read the Thrive Global article by Dr. Pope for more insight on PDF and download these handouts for more practical ideas on how to support PDF for Teens, Elementary-aged kids, and Pre-schoolers. Some excellent suggestions from Challenge Success for Raising well-balanced kids.  

Parents of teenagers should check out Keen on Teens, a free virtual summit with over 24 parenting experts with ideas for how to guide your teen to a healthy and balanced life.

Schools are closing for coronavirus. Now what? (New York Times)

(Thanks to ISM and Challenge Success for the basis of many of these suggestions)


Be well - stay safe and healthy.


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