Deborah Morris Burton
Coronavirus Pandemic: Resources for the Homeschooler
With our world (personal and societal) focused on the coronavirus (as I will call it), I thought this would be a good time to share some resources I have found that will hopefully be helpful to homeschool parents and students. Perhaps others will find it interesting and useful, too. While the resources shared here are not exhaustive, they will assist you in starting to find materials you can use.
Today’s blog post will help you lay a foundation of information about viruses, the coronavirus in particular, and related spiritual issues. My next blog post (which I anticipate will be posted within a week) will center on legal issues surrounding this pandemic and the actions taken to slow its spread and its deadline. There's no shortage of legal issues -- it definitely needs its own separate post. This is a wonderful time to teach about the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. The educational value is unsurpassed. There are scientific, political, historical, spiritual, mathematical, geographical, sociological, and yes, legal ramifications to this global virus. No matter what your homeschooling style is, these resources will help you. Depending on your homeschool style or method, you could:
* create a unit study about the pandemic
* add specific resources to your regular curriculum
* unschoolers could give their children an overview of the topic and let them run free tracking down information that interests them
Coronavirus Statistics To get neutral statistical information on the coronavirus crisis itself, there is a website that updates daily the number of coronavirus cases worldwide. The total cases, number of deaths and number of recovered individuals worldwide are listed. Cases are broken down into active cases (currently infected patients; broken down into mild or serious/critical condition) and closed cases (cases with an outcome—either recovery/discharge or death). The information is updated daily. The website is found at: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/. Towards the middle of the landing page, there is a chart of countries listed in order from the most cases of the coronavirus to the least. For example, on the day I began writing this blog post, March 25th, China had the most total cases, with Italy second and the U.S. third. For each country, the chart provided on the website lists the total cases, new cases, total deaths, new deaths, total number of cases that are totally recovered, active or serious/critical, and the total cases (and deaths) per one million population. The website uses statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO). I have created a chart using some of this website’s information for several countries.
Switzerland was included to demonstrate a funny thing about statistics. Even though on March 25th Switzerland had about 1/7th of the total number of cases of coronavirus that Italy had, each country’s total cases per one million population was very similar. Clearly, the population of Switzerland is much smaller.
If you want to see even more extreme statistics due to small populations, look at San Marino, which has the greatest number of total cases and deaths per 1 million population (6,130 and 619 on March 27th). It is a microstate within Italy. Learning about San Marino and Vatican City (the next highest in total cases and deaths per 1 million population) would be a great exercise in geography, which helps explain their high rates of disease.
As you can see in the second chart, by March 27th the U.S. had pulled into first place. Improvements in testing also may skew the statistics. It would be interesting to know how many people were tested. Without knowing a country’s testing capability, you don’t know whether its total cases are increasing due to better testing, greater contagion, or both. This website is great for keeping up on what is happening worldwide in the fight against the coronavirus. Science Information It can be hard to get a handle on viruses in general and this virus in specific. There are a few resources around the web that can help explain things to a young person. Here is a website with a multitude of free lesson plans about viruses: https://www.ngsslifescience.com/science.php/science/biology_lesson_plans_bacteria_viruses. Here is a movie that helps explains, very simply, about viruses and the coronavirus, precautions to take and encouragement not to panic. I think this would be a good resource for a young child or a simple explanation for an older one: https://www.brainpop.com/health/diseasesinjuriesandconditions/coronavirus/. An older student could research very specific details about the coronavirus and how it differs (and doesn’t differ) from other viruses. If you’re looking for a creationist lesson about viruses, check out: https://answersingenesis.org/biology/microbiology/why-did-god-make-viruses/. Spiritual and Historical Aspects of the Pandemic Throughout history, Christians have often been the ones to go to places with terrible sickness and help the needy, sick and dying. A question in many Christian minds with regard to this virus is, What should the Christian do in this situation? An interesting podcast that combines history and theology is called “Christians in Times of Plague” and found on Breakpoint. The guest is Dr. Glenn Sunshine, a professor of history at Central Connecticut State University and author, who has taught classes about the Black Death. He gave an overview of three plagues that occurred in the first centuries after Christ’s death: during the rules/times of Galen, Cyprian and Justinian. (Learning about each of these plagues would be a good history lesson.) In each plague, Christians reacted completely opposite to the way the non-Christians acted in the face of the pandemic. Dr. Sunshine noted that the contrast between the panic of the pagans and the actions of the Christians was notable: “There is nothing in the pagan world that they would lay down their lives for.” In contrast, Christians acted with complete disregard for their own lives; in fact, they knew that a better life was waiting for them after death. This selflessness attracted many non-believers to Christianity. Now, when looking at the question of what Christians should do and how they should act in the current situation, Dr. Sunshine says that Martin Luther’s advice “is as good as anything I’ve seen.” He outlined the principles in Luther’s advice in modern language: *Take all the necessary precautions the experts recommend. *Do not go out unnecessarily, so as to not be responsible for your own death or that of your neighbor. *At the same time, do not shirk your responsibilities to your neighbor. If he needs you, be there for him. He said that as a pastor, if someone needed a visit, he should do it. *There is a balance to be reached between precautions and loving our neighbor. *As a practical matter, if meeting would be hazardous for another person or yourself, find other ways to connect. He mentioned Skype, a phone call, paying attention to what is happening in your neighbors’ lives, even if you can’t be physically present. Comfort them, support them, reassure them. Provide practical help such as grocery shopping. He said for pastors, hospital visits, if permitted, are important because people matter. At the end of the podcast, he was asked what passages of Scripture to turn to for comfort during this pandemic. He mentioned that Martin Luther wrote A Mighty Fortress is our God as a meditation on Psalm 46 and stated that was a great Psalm to meditate upon. He also recommended Psalm 90 and stated that “in general I would spend a lot of time in the Psalms,” adding that “[t]he majority of the Psalms were written when the Psalmist was in trouble in one way or another.” You can find the podcast here: https://bit.ly/2UCydYF Appreciating the Church A related opinion piece written for the New York Times was called, “The Christian Response to the Coronavirus: Stay Home.” The writer, Dr. Esau McCaulley, is an assistant professor at Wheaton College, and an Anglican priest, and his assessment of what Christians should do during this pandemic is clear in the subtitle to his article: When loving your neighbor means keeping your distance. He raised the same question the podcaster did: Should we respond differently than the early Christians who risked their lives to minister to others during a pandemic? His answer is a definitive “yes.” He expressed his hope that the church choosing not to meet will be a testimony to neighbors of the Christian’s care for them. He says that our actions now, of personal hygiene and social distancing, will allow elderly couples to have more years together, children to spend holidays with grandparents, and chronically ill children to have a full life. Dr. McCaulley also raised another benefit of the church choosing not to meet in order to help others: an appreciation of gathering as a church. He stated, “[t]he church remains the church whether gathered or scattered. It might also indirectly remind us of the gift of gathering that we too often take for granted.” Read his opinion at: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/14/opinion/coronavirus-church-close.html (You may have to go through several layers of pages on the website if you don’t use the link, but you can read this article without subscribing and the link should bring it up for you.) There was a similar article by a writer (not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention but writing for a group called SBC Voices) who spoke of the way the church may take from this time a sense of not taking for granted the gathering together of believers. It has been so easy for us to assume we will meet with our fellow church members each week, singing, learning from the Word of God, being encouraged and convicted by the sermon of our pastor. In what seems like the blink of an eye, that was gone and we don’t know for how long. The writer quoted Bonhoeffer, “It is true, of course, that what is an unspeakable gift of God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden under foot by those who have the gift every day.” Perhaps this will be one of the greatest benefits when this difficult time is over. You can find this article at: https://sbcvoices.com/mourning-what-you-cannot-replace-longing-for-what-cannot-be-taken-away/. I hope you will find the resources in this post beneficial in homeschooling your children. Depending on your location, things may be changing rapidly. My next post (within the week!) will be more focused on legal issues arising from this pandemic and the U.S. response to it.