Eleven-year-old Isaac Schmidt uses a garden hose to rinse as his 8-year-old brother Noah Schmidt scrubs with soap mitt while washing their dad’s truck, taking advantage of one of the first nice days of the year while completing the chore, April 1 by their Main Post residence. The Schmidt brothers have also been helping clean the house, assisting with meals, carrying in groceries, downsizing possessions and helping with other spring tasks. Several children across post are doing chores — learning and refining life skills — as they spend time with their families during the countywide stay-at-home order. Leavenworth County residents have been under a stay-at-home order since March 23 to help minimize the spread of COVID-19. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Katie Peterson | Staff Writer

Because of the threat of COVID-19, Fort Leavenworth residents have had to adjust to a new normal, which includes homeschooling and social distancing, but some have embraced the opportunity to teach their children other lessons and spend time together as a family.

Learning life skills

While students are still continuing their regular education through continuous learning online, Kristen Castana has also been teaching her children, 14 year-old Jacob and 10-year-old Lindsey, other skills they may need later in life.

Pamela Schmidt, mother of 11-year-old Isaac and 8-year-old Noah, has been teaching her sons similar skills as Castana, and she’s also taken the opportunity to teach them journaling.

Ten-year-old Lindsey Castana stands in a warrior pose during a neighborhood outdoor youth yoga class April 7 in Historic Main Post. Participants stayed in family groups along the sidewalk and kept plenty of space between neighbors to maintain social distancing. Lindsey and her brother, Jacob, have been challenged by their mother, Kristen Castana, to learn something new every day during the stay-at-home order. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

“Each day they have to learn something or try something new, even if it’s a new chore they haven’t done before,” Castana said.

New skills have included doing the laundry, washing the dishes, baking, shopping at the Commissary or the Post Exchange, and washing the car.

“It gives them some sense of independence,” Castana said.

Castana said her son has learned the importance of developing a routine, too, particularly with school.

“Those routines that you can develop on your own are important, and I think that was eyeopening for him on Tuesday (March 31) when he spaced his school day out and realized that wasn’t a good decision,” Castana said.

“There is a lot of scary stuff happening outside of our doors. People are very ill, and some are passing away from this,” Schmidt said. “Not being able to see friends on a daily basis and being stuck with family can cause some negative emotions.

“Every morning, I give the boys some thinking and feeling questions to help guide them. They are encouraged to write freely about anything and everything,” she said. “Journaling is a healthy outlet, and I hope this helps them think and help process all those emotions.”

Staying connected

While social distancing is a mandatory requirement right now, Castana has been helping her daughter learn new ways to stay connected including writing hand-written letters, buying birthday and anniversary cards, and ordering meals to be delivered to family members and friends.

“I’m Italian,” Castana said. “We show love with food.”

Family time

Both Castana and Schmidt said their families have embraced the opportunity to spend more time together, too.

Eight-year-old Noah Schmidt scrubs with soap mitt while 11-year-old Isaac Schmidt uses a garden hose to rinse while the brothers wash their dad’s truck April 1 by their Main Post residence. The Schmidt brothers have also been helping clean the house, assisting with meals, carrying in groceries, downsizing possessions and helping with other spring tasks. Several children across post are doing chores — learning and refining life skills — as they spend time with their families during the countywide stay-at-home order. Leavenworth County residents have been under a stay-at-home order since March 23 to help minimize the spread of COVID-19. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

“This is our opportunity to be a family, to develop, to play board games, to do puzzles together,” Castana said. “Even if it’s a video game together or we sit next to each other reading a book.”

Schmidt said they have picked up new things to do as a family.

“We have picked up religious studies again that, for no other good reason but a busy schedule, has fallen along the wayside the last several years since moving to Fort Leavenworth,” Schmidt said. “We start our day as a family with our hearts and minds focused on the same thing.

“We spend our days checking on the progress of our home that we are building in Platte City, playing old games that have been stuck away in closets and reading on the porch,” she said. “One of our new family habits is a daily walk around the track. Noah has been practicing so he’ll be ready for fall hockey, and Isaac has been working on his soccer skills for summer try-outs for a local soccer team.”

Schmidt said the stay-at-home order has taught her family new lessons, too.

“As a military family, we have suffered through a lot of separation. Military spouses are used to spending a lot of time alone while their spouse is deployed or traveling, and the children are away at school,” Schmidt said. “One of the biggest things I have learned through this is the tolerance of always having people in my house. … I have been able to see the blessing in this — it might have taken a couple days of hot panic first. We have learned to balance our time together and not be on top of each other. We gather for some events and other times we separate, giving each other required space and alone time.”

No matter what, Castana said everyone’s been given an opportunity.

“In life every day, we’re so busy, and we’re so wrapped around where we’re going, whose practice is next, who has school work, and sometimes we want to take that time to have family time, but we just can’t find the time,” Castana said. “It is all about time in our lives. Now, we’ve been given this opportunity. Yes, it’s not the opportunity we want to have to be stuck inside and not being around other people, but I feel like in any really tough situation, you have to look for something bright and so this is our brightness.”

Eight-year-old Noah Schmidt scrubs with soap mitt while 11-year-old Isaac Schmidt uses a garden hose to rinse while the brothers wash their dad’s truck April 1 by their Main Post residence. The Schmidt brothers have also been helping clean the house, assisting with meals, carrying in groceries, downsizing possessions and helping with other spring tasks. Several children across post are doing chores — learning and refining life skills — as they spend time with their families during the countywide stay-at-home order. Leavenworth County residents have been under a stay-at-home order since March 23 to help minimize the spread of COVID-19. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

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