According to a United Nations agency, nearly 1.5 billion children around the world are no longer attending school due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Families are scrambling to adjust to a new world order that has put most households in crisis mode. In addition to concern and worry over social distancing, protecting loved ones, and evading the novel coronavirus, the situation is compounded with life changes like telework, job loss, job insecurity, food scarcity, and self-quarantine.
As a mom of five children, the past few weeks being a juggling act is an extreme understatement. Like most parents, handling family needs for the pandemic has now reached an apex with the addition of supporting my children while their schools are now closed for the remainder of the school year. My weekdays now include the responsibilities of facilitating at-home learning which includes reading and explaining assignments, providing tech support for video conferencing and multiple apps, helping submit assignments digitally, and also acting as a pseudo physical education, music, and art teacher. Every core teacher and resource specialist has provided work for my kids to continue their learning during this time. Outside of school, my children had multiple activities like piano lessons and martial arts which now have scheduled video conferencing lessons. I thought it wasn’t possible, but life seems even more hectic than before.
Everything is still a work in progress, but so far there are a few lessons I have learned that have brought me some peace of mind in this situation. Hopefully some of these can lessen any anxieties that you may have too.
If you started self-quarantine with a daily schedule mapped out from waking up to going to bed and it works for you, then congratulations! But for the rest of us who can’t operate with this structure consistently with success, give yourself a break. Don’t try to accomplish every little thing each day. It is impossible. Implement resolutions to problems. If they don’t work, then brainstorm and try a new approach. If you find at the end of each day you failed miserably in sticking to the schedule, perhaps the problem is in the schedule and not you.
Set expectations for the day.
Make sure your children understand they still have responsibilities now that they are home, both to family and to school. Set some non-negotiables for each day that includes basic chores, reading, and easy self-paced academic tasks teachers have provided.
Capitalize on this unique opportunity for growth in your children.
We may initially think it is best to substitute closed school with structuring a “home school” day with designated tasks per subject for 7.5 hours straight. Yet, why be traditional when you can be a dream alternative for learning? If your child is really amped about a history assignment, don’t stop them to abide by a schedule. Let them continue working and provide them more resources to explore! Do your kids seem burned out after two days of working hard at virtual learning? Give them a break day and play. Take walks together when the kids are starting to get grumpy with each other. Bring them in the kitchen when you are preparing lunch or dinner. Have them plan out a meal. Include them when appropriate when a household problem is discussed. Teach them to be part of the family community on every level.
Focus on resilience.
This pandemic is hard enough to deal with. Give your child time each day, make it an hour, to explore something they personally are interested in that doesn’t include aimlessly surfing the net or social media. They can write poetry, learn how to play their favorite song, try a new craft, research any topic they want, exercise, etc. When individuals learn, create, and accomplish something new they build personal joy and self-worth. This arsenal of confidence and productivity will help them handle the tough and uncertain times that lie ahead.
Partner with your teachers, school, and other parents.
These people are your support network. Communicate any questions, concerns, and struggles with at-home learning as much as you can. Your situation, experience, and resources can be totally different from other families. This support network can provide resolutions and reassurance for issues you have. Read every email or message from them so you don’t miss something vital for your child including time-saving and stress-reducing tips and options. Whereas you are trying to figure out this new situation for your family, teachers and schools are trying to redesign their playbook as the game is being played AND changing in unpredictable ways. We can only get through this together and with patience!
Find instructional resources to empower your children.
Especially for secondary students, there are some incredible online tools and services that are available to support your child’s learning. Videos, ebooks, simulations, and interactives are abundant on the internet. Many companies and organizations are opening the gates for traditional paid services during the pandemic. Use the Virtual Resource collection as a starting point to find free resources to help bridge the gaps in remote learning.
Please remember, whatever you are doing, is better than nothing. It is going to be okay and we will all get through this. It is like we are going through a storm and are riding the same boat. Some rowers may be fatigued at times, some may be stronger at times. If we all row together, using our sensibilities, and support each other, we can get through the storm safely.
Lani deGuia has been an educator for the past 21 years with experience in elementary, middle school, high school, and instructional technology. She is currently an edu