Religion Today: Spirituality Finds a Place in the New “School House”
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At 7:45 a.m., three children scramble through the Tryons’ home in Fullerton, Calif., gathering school items as they rush to the garage. But instead of getting into a car, they make their way to the three desks alongside the wall—their tablets and headsets already in place. This is the new morning routine for fourth-grader Michael,10, second-grader Owen, 8, and kindergartener Luke, 6.
For many children, education is now presented and received in kitchens, basements, and bedrooms: the new “schoolhouse.”
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But when school buildings shuttered their doors in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Jehovah’s Witness families turned the challenges of remote learning into an opportunity to expand their children’s education through spiritual activities.
“The pandemic upended our entire educational system,” said Greta Hawkins, principal of P.S. 90 The Magnet School for Environmental Studies and Community Wellness in Brooklyn, NY. “Parents must realize that now more than ever they need to take a proactive interest in their child’s education.”
For many parents accustomed to sending their children off to school each morning, taking a more active role in their child’s education has been one of the most difficult challenges of this “new normal.”
To accommodate the educational needs of their five children, the Tyron family converted half of their garage into a classroom-type setting, where each of their children can accomplish their daily school activities. Jehovah Witness – United States photo
John and Heather Tryon know about that challenge, multiplied by five—they are parents to five boys ranging in age from one to 10. Before the stay-at-home order, their three oldest sons attended the same school in Fullerton. Now they all go to the same classroom – one the Tyrons created inside the garage of their home.
“I panicked because I didn’t know how this virtual learning would work,” said Heather. “My husband works from home, and the boys have different class schedules.”
To accommodate everyone’s needs, the Tryons decided to convert half of the garage into the boys’ “schoolroom.” Despite the challenges, the new circumstances have allowed this Witness family to include spiritual activities into their children’s daily education.
“Education enhances our lives, and virtual learning has proved to be a blessing in some ways,” said John, who attends a Fullerton congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses with his family. “The fact that our children are safe during this pandemic and won’t be sick is well worth the sacrifice and challenge of adjusting to changing circumstances.”
Some families have found that the best education happens beyond the walls of their “schoolhouse”— with what educators call authentic or project-based learning. This learn-by-doing approach “requires developing skills in critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and various forms of communication,” according to PBLWorks, a nonprofit organization focused on project-based learning.
“Witness parents are handling their children’s education in a way that is worthy of imitation, perhaps because they have always had a structured educational program for their congregation meetings,” said Hawkins, who attends a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn.
Ryan and Kelly Welch of Palmdale, Calif., feel spiritual and academic development is critical to their three daughters, who range from ages 10 to 15.
Supplementing their children’s regular schooling during the pandemic, the family attended a virtual safari of Nairobi, Kenya, created memory games designed to recall Bible passages, and participated in a virtual Bible-themed charade event with fellow worshippers from their local congregation.
Weekly family worship for Witnesses is time dedicated to spiritual education, including interactive discussions or projects on exciting Bible topics that many families view as helping their students grow academically and spiritually.
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Providing a structured education—spiritually and academically—is also a way of life for Jim and Megan Thornton, parents of Darcy, 6, and Jemma, 4. They have made it a habit to include spiritual activities as a regular feature of their children’s education, along with visits to the aquarium, hiking, camping, and nature parks in their city of Tustin.
“Education can enhance our lives, but we never want it to be a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Megan. The Thorntons endeavor to engage diverse learning experiences for their daughters. Darcy is learning Spanish and Hindi, while Jemma is learning American Sign Language.
The Thorntons also take advantage of virtual travel opportunities, having “visited” Rome and Stockholm through guided Zoom tours.
“We want our children to have a good quality education,” said Jim, “but we also want them to have a broad and challenging learning experience.”
For more information on how families can succeed at distance learning and on the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses, visit jw.org, which has content in 1,030 languages.
Submitted by Jehovah’s Witnesses – Public Information Desk
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Trevor Montgomery, 49, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source (RCNS) and Shasta County News Source (SCNS).
Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County-based newspapers Valley News, Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; the Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County; and Mountain Echo in Shasta County. He is also a regular contributor to Thin Blue Line TV and Law Enforcement News Network and has had his stories featured on news stations throughout the Southern California and North State regions.
Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.
Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.