This is an unprecedented time. I was raised by my grandparents who survived the Great Depression and World War II, and I keep thinking if they were here they would have brillant things to say about how to handle the sudden closures, curfews, and quarantines of #covid19. It’s a hard situation for working parents, for the school system and the teachers working hard to provide online lessons on platforms they may not be familar with, for the online learning platforms that probably never thought entire countries would be logging on at one time, and for parents still trying to work or take care of elderly parents or both on top of all of this during this time.
First of all, I want to be clear. This is learning at home, but in a different way than many homeschoolers traditionally do it. The families I have spoken with in my area who have children in public school now and who have homeschooled in the past have commented that the volume of work is high and here at least it is mainly on line. Probably the first advice seasoned homeschoolers would give is not to do “school at home” but this kind of is what is mandated by the school district for many families as the lessons and classes are online. If we pulled children out of the public school environment, we would take the time to deschool. Homeschoolers don’t remain isolated in their homes. And so that’s okay that this is different! It’s different for a reason! So just breathe; you are not imagining things; it is a lot of work. Sometimes just hearing that can make you feel a little less crazy – what you are perceiving is true. It’s a lot, and the fact that it’s a new normal that happened very quickly makes it difficult.
However, we have to move forward into the new normal – baby steps. I have spoken with parents who are completely worried that their children will be behind and not move to the next grade because they still have to work and maybe even leave the house to work, therefore there really is no one available to help. I know some parents I have talked to said school has taken them all day like 8-4:30 yesterday when they finally stopped, so I think communicating with your child’s teacher can be really helpful – Again, I am sure everyone is learning what the workload can be at these days at home and it’s a learning curve. The teachers want your children to be successful! Please, please keep communicating with your child’s teachers and the school staff. Again, I know they want your children to be successful, and they are learning about the amount of work for home too. Just breathe. Things are going to continue to evolve.
Expectations and framework are the most important keys to holding the space in a successful way. Many families aren’t used to being together for long periods AND having to really get things done. So the expectations for school and work hours need to be set. When can children expect you to be there right with them helping them? Is there anything they can do by themselves? When can they expect you to check their work? What should they be doing when you are on a call? When can they interrupt you and when can they not? What happens if they are wrestling with their brother on the floor during your call or when they are supposed to be doing their work? When are their breaks? If you only have one device and three children, when is each child’s turn? It is really helpful to have the expectations written down clearly and posted up somewhere so you can just refer to that chart when things are not going well.
For example, younger children will need more of a steady rhythm and most likely more support throughout the day, especially for certain subjects. So, hopefully you know a day ahead of time what is due, if the class is online at a specific time or more self-paced work – because if you know that, you can make a schedule around that and coincide it with your work schedule if you know where your child might need more help or if you can just check after working for half an hour. Homeschoolers in general often do school during unconventional hours, so if it is more self-paced, I wouldn’t be afraid to work after work hours on the subjects that need more hand holding if that is possible with the school and the teacher.
The framework that holds all of this is important. A rhythm that includes walks, movement, set meal times, and breaks are really important. Healthy snacks and water being available throughout school is also important and helps many children. Staring at a screen for long periods is hard on children’s eyes, so providing those built in breaks are important. Some children will do better trying to do online things if they are sitting on a yoga ball and getting more sensory input or a disc on their chair.
The other thing that learning at home entails is taking nurturing care of the home. Children should be helping with laundry, meals, the pets. It is okay if you are folding laundry during a school lesson! It is fine to do school at the kitchen table while chopping food for dinner. Homeschoolers multitask like this all the time. Also please plan some fun at night together – after dinner walks outside or a lovely game night.
Some parents have asked about troubleshooting problems. So, for example, if you have children who are fighting during school time, sometimes you can separate children if they are really bothering each other. Also, you can learn how to pace yourself and be available – it’s hard to do math with everyone at once if the age spread is wide or one child really outpaces another or if everyone is vying for your attention with questions about different subjects. You may need to seat them around a table and answer their questions in order. Sometimes older children can help younger children; for example my high school senior is a big help with my freshman’s math.
I also usually have things out like puzzles, science kits, and art supplies for younger children when it is not their turn to be worked with. They need the direction to do something not destructive during those times of not being held in a rhythm whether its due to your work or you working with another child.
I hope some of this is helpful and applicable to your situation. I will be running a live call to help some employees at my husband’s work troubleshoot, so if you also have questions I am happy to answer here or to try to get a call together for those interested.
This is hard, and again, quite unprecedented. I am wishing strong self-care for everyone trying to hold the space for children right now in the middle of being stressed out! I keep thinking that perhaps the only good thing to come out of this may be the realization of need for more funding for the schools, more appreciation for the roles that schools play for food and shelter and support for children, the importance of health care and public health initiatives, perhaps the importance of society learning once again that families can learn to work together to reach goals. It’s a large task and feels overwhelming right now, but I think these might be the lessons to come out of this. And perhaps the need for society to slow down in general!
Many blessings, would love to hear your thoughts,