School supplies are gracing the aisles of the stores, emails and phone calls coming in from school administration and teachers and it is time for Back to School 2020!! Except this year getting ready for “back to school” looks a little different! In fact, I think we are all wondering exactly what is in store for this upcoming school year.
Millions of students (and parents) across the country are having to shift to an “at-home/online” learning experience, and parents everywhere are scrambling to understand WHAT exactly our role is going to be through this thing called school. We are all dealing with differing stressors, our own work load, day to day household items and many other unexpected challenges in our homes. And I am sure we are all hoping for the same thing… to just be able to get through the day with some SANITY and hope that our kids will at least learn something!
We know that every household looks very different. You might be a single parent. You may have a LOT of kids at home. You might even have an only child who depends on that socialization time with friends. You may have a child who needs special attention in past years have relied on the help of professionals to provide the best learning environment for them. There are so many different scenarios but all of us are asking the same things…
Ok, so now that it’s here…how in the world are we going to accomplish this “home schooling” thing!!!??? How will I manage my home, my work, my kids, and just plain keep up with everything??? No matter if you are working from home or going into the office, or even if you are not working at all… Any of these situations brings forth new challenges that will require much patience and will be a new learning curve for us all. Covid-19, has certainly brought new challenges for parents and children alike and I’m not sure any of us are really prepared for it. But hey, look at it this way, at least we are all in the same boat together and we WILL figure out how to navigate these waters! Guys, it is going to be messy!! And that IS OK. Messy doesn’t have to mean that we fall apart at the seams or have to think we are completely inadequate.
Have no fear, we are here! AND we are here to HELP prepare you for this endeavor!! We want to encourage you and provide TOOLS to use as we all walk through this new and unknown 2020 school year. If we want to be effective leaders in our homes, we must face reality head on, especially during times of crisis and learn how deal with what we have been handed.
So, let’s get to it! Take a DEEP BREATH and keep reading… YOU’VE GOT THIS!
Here are 12 things you CAN do to help prepare yourself, your home and your family for going “Back to School 2020 Quarantine Style”…
1. Get on the same page as your parenting partner
First and foremost, get on the same page WITH your parenting partner. (Note that “a parenting partner” can refer to anyone you share responsibility with for raising your children) this may include a spouse, grandparents, child-care provider, or even an ex spouse.
Even when the sky is blue, the sun is shining and the birds are chirping… trying to figuring out who, what, when, and how to share in the responsibilities of housework, bills, grocery shopping, child rearing, and now schooling at home (all while your kids are tugging at your sleeve, the dogs barking, and your phone is ringing) can be a tricky thing! So, pick a time when there is nothing else going on and begin proactively talking about possible solutions if you haven’t done so already. It is always best to come up with solutions while you are in a calm place and able to think rational. You will then be in a better mindset to create a plan that is going to be in everyone’s best interest.
Remember, KEEP IT SIMPLE. You’re not trying to figure out how to solve the worlds problems, you just need to find what works for your household dynamics. It can be solutions as simple as designating certain areas of the house for certain activities. Like “work zones” or “reading zones” etc. Maybe you can even trade responsibilities in different shifts to give the other partner a bit of a break.
The bottom line is get on the same page, create some clear expectations and see what works!
2. Consider talking to your boss
If you are feeling overwhelmed juggling your work situation and need some help trying to figure out a creative solution. You may want to consider speaking with your boss about it. The outcome may surprise you if you come respectfully and mindfully with your concerns. After all, they are probably facing some of the same difficult, unexpected, and uncharted choices for themselves. Be sure to let your boss know the intention of your conversation ahead of time.
However, this conversation should not necessarily start out with how you want your work to accommodate for your family life. If you are only communicating what is good for you and not taking into consideration your bosses needs as well, you may not get you the support you are hoping for. Remember, this is a temporary situation so be sure you are coming to them with viable temporary solutions and building a strong foundation to protect your on-going working relationship.
Keep in mind, the goal is not only to communicate about your concerns up to your boss, but it should also be to understand what your boss’s expectations will be. Be clear about what your hopes and expectations might be in different scenarios: “This would be my hope of how we could possibly handle this situation. Am I understanding this right? Am I missing any important details?” “What do you think?”
Be courteous, respectful and put the options on the table so that you can both work together to discover productive solutions that will work for everyone. A win-win conversation is the intention.
3. Utilize your technology wisely
On any given “normal” day, there is the potential for several people to be hitting up your wifi signal all at the same time, let alone these upcoming days where there is bound to be multiple people (adults and children) home and needing service at the same time. First things first… You may want to learn what your technological capabilities (if you don’t already know). Your internet provider will be able to tell you if your service can handle multiple media calls at once. That way you will know if you can plan to have different calls happening at the same time. If this is the case in your home, you will probably want to set up spaces in different areas to accommodate for more than one call going on at the same time. If this is not the case with you internet, then you will want to stagger any zoom call meetings throughout the day as best as possible.
If you don’t have enough computers to go around, work with what you DO have so that everyone can get what they need done. For example, you will want to reach out to everyones teachers and get their expected schedule for class zoom calls. That way you will know if there are any potential conflicts with timing. If there is, then you can seek alternative options with the teacher.
Also, if you are working from home, try not to schedule yourself for any work related zoom meetings during these class meetings. Or, if you have to at least you can plan for it to be a phone call meeting instead of a zoom call.
Which brings me to the next point… Did you know that planning is one of the best stress management techniques!?!
4. Create a schedule for your family
Did you also know that writing out your work meetings, school projects, zoom calls, notes, etc. in a paper planner can actually help you retain AND remember more information? I know, I know… I’m sure most of you think, I already have a digital calendar or I set reminders in my phone. But for this stage of life…maybe think about unplugging from time to time. Plus, having a master calendar for the whole family to see may be very useful and can give everyone a place to look while trying to coordinate schedules.
Kids do well with schedules. The challenge may be to remember to stay FLEXIBLE – even with a schedule. Inevitably, those work-related issues or an important task will pop-up from time to time for mom and dad. That being said, think of creating this schedule as more of framework for the day. Again, remain FLEXIBLE. But at least you know you have something in place to help keep things moving forward and you can still provide some sense of normalcy for your home.
Creating a calendar around work, school and schoolwork will also help to establish a new routine for everyone and may even provide extra support to anyone in the home that may be feeling restless or having trouble focusing. No matter what the ages of your kids are, give them some ownership!!! Encourage them to help create the schedule and come up with the plan together as a family. If possible, try to divide each day into “morning” and “afternoon” sections. This will help your kids by breaking up the learning into chunks and will help give the day a nice flow.
Don’t forget to be have FUN while making this schedule. Incorporate everyday activities into it too, but maybe with a twist – such as “cooking with *insert kids name* “ and for that night pick one of the kids to be the helper for dinner. Designate a family movie or game night in each week too. Make an effort to put some things in the schedule that the whole family can all look forward to throughout the week.
Speaking of FUN…
5. Build in specific time for creativity and FUN!
As you are building the framework for your families school/work day schedule in particular, make sure to include more activities than just Math, Science and History. PLAYTIME and a time set aside to be creative is GOOD for every human, young and old!!
Art can be a creative outlet to get their mind on something else. It is also helpful for all these big emotions that kids and families are dealing with at this time. Encourage each other to draw, paint, or even journal their own story and feelings. These creations also provide some spectacular artifacts for families to hang around the house or even keep for documenting this time in history.
Remember that you AND your children are dealing with the stress of this ongoing situation. And everyone may be dealing with it differently, so creating a supportive and nurturing environment is the best thing we can all do for our family. Try your best to respond positively to any questions or expressions of each other’s feelings. It is important to let your child know that it’s not only okay, but normal, to feel frustrated or anxious during times like this. Research shows that music, art, drawing, and dance are engaging activities that can improve language skills, mental focus, empathy, and creativity. So let’s help each other build up some good coping skills and utilize some tools to deal with all of this stuff! So don’t be afraid to express youself and teach them expressions through dance, play, and ART!
6. Study according to your personal learning style
People learn in MANY different ways. You might be a visual learner, or an auditory learners. Some people thrive as a hands on learner. And there are those who learn better in a group setting and then some who do best on their own as a solo learner. Understanding what type of learner each one of your kids are could save you some serious headache. Bring your patience and understanding to the table and acknowledge that one size DOES NOT FIT ALL when it comes to learning and studying. Keep an open mind and reassure yourself that it is perfectly OK to approach online or homeschooling slightly different for each one of your children.
Research even suggests that when students are able to tailor the space to their specific learning style, they feel more engaged and are much more productive. So, step back for a moment and THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX, even go as far as ENCOURAGING your kids to make the their own learning space comfortable. That might even mean move the furniture around in your home…GASP… if it will help to fit their learning needs! Or how about even setting up a cardboard fortress that can become their learning castle!!! Come on guys, get crafty! Extreme times call for extreme measures!!
Yes, you will want to maintain some structure and even set clear expectations about how and when a space can be used… but if a pile of pillows will get your child to sit down and read… then why not stack em up to the ceiling!!! Help them to create a balance between offering structured space and allowing them to choose where they may be able to learn and engage most comfortably.
Bottom line, find out what works for your family and kids…then do that!
7. Avoid long stretches of academic time
For the sanity of everyone in your home, make sure that you do not expect anyone to sit down purely for academic work time for more than 3 continuous hours. In fact, studies show that the average minutes of attention you can expect from a child to do a task is approximately the same as their age. So, if you’re assigning your 10 year old some work to do, you can expect them to be able to focus on their own for about 10 minutes. *And just in case you think it should be waaaaaay longer, the average attention span for a “grown up” to focus on a task is about 18 to 20 minutes!!*
Knowing this, you may want to break learning/working time into smaller chunks throughout your day. Maybe have the kids set their own timers for 20 minutes or so at a time to focus on the task at hand, and then let them get up and move around. Have them set another timer for about 10 to 15 minutes to play, relax, go outside, etc. Keep in mind that if you have younger kids, you may even need to break it down to smaller bits of time. You are the best judge of your child and their attention span, so work according to what their ability is.
Have tools some tools in your back pocket that will encourage physical movement, such as impromptu dance parties, or some fun outdoor sport activities that you can give as a suggestion for them. Again, remain FLEXIBLE and if you notice your child’s motivation with school work is waning, encourage them to get up and moving to reinvigorate their brain!! Physical movement and brain breaks are so good for their bodies anyway!
8. Assign roles for everyone
While mom and dad are taking on a plethora of extra roles during this time, it can be tough to keep up with some of the normal household chores. Find ways that everyone can pitch in to share some of the workload and assign some new roles. Having these roles defined and sharing the workload with the entire family is one of the first steps to reduce some of the stress and/or pressure you may be placing on yourself. Every child, no matter their ages are able to do something. Try to create a list of all the “to-do’s” and help each child pick things according to their ages that they can manage to help with.
We as parents are our childrens’ first teachers and giving our kids hands on, real life learning opportunities is a great way to add in some life skills! Things like doing chores, cleaning, making beds, sorting laundry, washing dishes, how to make their own lunches, work a budget, yard work or gardening are valuable life skills that this extra time at home can provide for them. Not only are they meaningful ways to contribute to help out mom and dad, but they are real-world learning experiences that offer them the opportunity to develop some important problem-solving skills.
So teach on real life teachers and give those kids some chores 🙂
9. Tap into the power of music.
This doesn’t need much time explaining. Find your inspiration and get some feel good music vibes going in your house. There is really nothing like a great song to pick everyone spirits up and lighten the mood!!
The right kind of music can truly be a powerful tool to boost anyones mood, energy and focus. Need help finding some, hop on YouTube or Spotify and look up “study music” or “music to help you study” create a study playlist that will inspire these young minds.
10. Create your village
Ok, you know we have all heard that it takes a village to raise a child. However, our society isn’t necessarily set up like that with friends and families being spread out all over the country. But NOW may just be that time to deliberately get yourself out there and create your own village. Maybe it’s time to join that parent or community group you’ve been thinking about for the past couple years. Connecting with other parents who are going through the same thing will not only help you to feel like you are “normal” but it will help you gather some resources, share tips and find some support to get you through this unique and challenging time.
Be open to doing new things and willing to ask for help and then be willing to receive the help too! Consider ways in which you can reach out to friends or family to help make things easier for one another. It may be something as simple as asking a neighbor if you can trade watching each others kids while you go to the grocery store. Or maybe you can even ask a friend if they will take your kids for school time one afternoon to give you a mental break, and then you return the favor on a different afternoon. Let’s share the load… many hands make for lighter work!
For your kids sake, make sure your child is engaging regularly with other peers through the available technology. It could also be a great time to consider snail-mail once again and send out some hand made cards in the mail to those family members out of town. You could even help find them a pen pal to keep your student connected to other kids their age. I’m sure you have a friend with kids close to the same ages in other states or countries. Hook em up!
11. Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help
Make no mistake, this is a confusing time for parents, students, and everyone alike. Let’s smear the stigma of asking for professional health and recognize that we all could use a little extra help right now. If you are struggling to juggle everything there are some great therapist out there who are providing online sessions. So you don’t even have find one in yout own state!
Or maybe you are having a hard time with dealing with your child’s school work at home, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your child’s teacher and school with likely have some strategies they can help with. Consider even reaching out to their teacher from years past. They had firsthand experience of working with your child and may be able to give you some help with how they dealt with them in class. ASK for tips or ideas from the school’s administration, that is what they are there for.
12. Remember the bigger picture
THIS TOO SHALL PASS. This will NOT last forever. All you can do is all you can do PERIOD. Thankfully, kids are pretty resilient and will most likely make it through all of this unscathed! So let’s make sure we don’t lose our minds during the process.
Many families are not equip to deal with all of this stuff any ol way, they don’t have teaching degrees, they don’t have the same resources as teachers, and may not even have both parents to be there assisting right now and GUESS WHAT…THAT IS OK! Don’t worry!
Take another deep breathe and remind yourself that you are doing what you can with what you have.
Maybe it’s time to encourage your children to be a little more independent. After all, that is what they need to successfully navigate their future any way. Plus, it will help build their confidence and take some of the pressure off of you.
Take it ONE DAY AT A TIME and one moment at a time. If something is not working out, walk away for a moment. If you are noticing stress bubbling up in any area of your family, encourage everyone to take a breather! After being cooped up in the house all day, I’m sure everyone could use a little alone time anyway. It’s perfectly ok to set things aside and come back to it after everyone can have some time to cool off.
You can also take this opportunity to be open and honest with your family. It is the perfect time to be a little vulnerable with our children. Talk to them about things that are valuable to you and what matters. Share some of your own difficulties and how you’re working through them. Encourage everyone to support one another as a team to get through this and to sympathize with one another. We are all going through our own battles right now.
This home learning experience cannot and WILL NOT perfectly mimic school learning! So don’t expect it to. Do yourself and favor and don’t hold yourself or your kids to these unrealistic expectations. This is a time when the “standard” rules for school, home and life do not necessarily apply.
So BEST of LUCK to all you hard working parents out there! Don’t forget to remain FLEXIBLE and have some fun with it and laugh at yourself every now and again 🙂 Be encouraged that EVERYTHING will work itself out in the end!