Hey wonderful Bottle And Heels community. Checking in to see how everyone is doing during these unprecedented times. We are ok over here. Emotions come in waves – feeling grateful and blessed for my family – and also feeling great pain for what’s happening in our world right now. On top of all of it, We are all trying to balance homeschooling our kids, work and self care. I wanted to enlist the help of one of our wonderful writers Chantal Dube, who has spent a large part of her life in education, to come up with some helpful tips on how to set our kids and us up for success when it comes to schooling our children. I hope this list helps. Love you all.
About a month ago, overnight, we were all told due to a global pandemic that our children would not be returning to school for an unknown amount of time. Also, that we all would have to work from home as well. We had no time to prepare for this and many of us had no idea what this would look like for ourselves and our families. How would our kids learn from home? Who would be teaching them all day? How would we do work and teach at the same time? Everyone quickly became panicked, schools rushed to sort out their distance learning plans and parents eagerly awaited instructions from their schools on how to manage this all. I don’t think any of us realized how challenging this would be until we were fully in it! And man, we are in it now and possibly for the long haul…
I know this is a very difficult and stressful time for parents. Just know that we’re all in this together. I wanted to share what’s worked for us in our home for those of you that are looking to get more organized and get a few tips from someone that’s worked in education. First off, know that some kids won’t do well with too much structure right now and some will need the structure and routine now more than ever. Whatever works for you and your family is what’s best in this very difficult situation. There is absolutely no judgement here. In fact, I’d love to hear what’s working for all of you in the comments below. The teacher in me, and having to juggle multiple kids schedules and needs decided to take a more Type A approach to this all, so here’s what we’re doing in our home.
1. Create a dedicated workspace
In our home, my son has a desk in his room where he can sit and focus quietly and that’s where he does the majority of his work. Try and find a designated quiet space in your home where all of your child(ren)’s supplies can be found and easily accessible. Make sure that pencils, rulers, markers, crayons, paper, scissors etc. are all within reach, this way your child is not constantly coming to you asking for things. It will save you so much time and extra effort having everything organized and in one place. With my son sometimes he doesn’t want to work in his room all the time, and I think it’s important to be flexible, so in those instances we’ll all work at the dining room table, for example. The silver lining in this situation is that you can squeeze in a little extra quality time that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. He can do his math and have lunch while sitting next to his dad who is working too, and that’s pretty cute right now.
I made an excel sheet that has activities including both school and non-school related items for each hour of the day. It’s not for us to follow hour by hour, every single day. It’s more of just a guide to help us always have options of things to do and never be left feeling stressed about what we could be doing. For example, if my son comes to me at 10am and says “I’m bored right now”, we can look at the schedule and see that there was creative time blocked out and he can get some paints and do a craft without me having to think too hard about what to plan for him. It’s really helped us out having some sort of guide to follow. You can also get a large white board calendar and mark down what time your child’s school zoom calls are at or any special activities you have planned for the day. A large visual calendar can help everyone stay organized and help your child also have stuff to look forward to. It took about 3 weeks to finally get our daily schedule right. We played around with a lot of different ways to get through the day and finally found our groove in week 3. Just take your time adjusting to things and seeing what works best for you and your little ones.
3. Consistency is key
Wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast at the same time. Even if you don’t have a set schedule each day, try and at least keep your days consistent. Kids like to know what to expect and you have to remember their school days were very predictable. You want to aim to keep some sort of normalcy for them, as best you can. At school, they have recess and snack breaks at the same time each day and also have specialty classes such as music and PE on the same days each week. They have very structured academic time in addition to creative time available to them throughout the week. You want to be sure that their day mimics the school day, Monday through Friday, as much as you can so that this doesn’t feel like such a big shock to them and also, so that it’s not a difficult transition when they have to go back.
4. Rest up
Rest is key (and I realize that this is easier said than done). But, please remember, you can’t do this all when you’re tired and not well rested, you will get burnt out! Try and go to bed early when you can. Also, keep bedtime routines for your kids. If you just allow them to stay up late and they don’t get enough sleep, they can really start to act up. Every day they lose sleep adds up. Make sure your children get the recommended amount of sleep. We’ve been trying to keep to the exact same bedtimes as normal, with flexibility on the weekends only.
5. Social time
This is super important because our children aren’t able to see anyone else but those who are at home with them during this time. Their social emotional wellbeing is something we really need to be paying attention to right now. My son has mentioned how much he misses his friends and I think that the isolation is one of the hardest things our kids are going through right now. That said, I’ve made sure that they Facetime family and friends as often as possible with special activities planned for these calls as well. What social time looks like in our house is connecting with a family member or friend and playing bingo, doing an art project or building Lego’s together with a special theme that they can collaborate on. Sometimes it’s difficult for a child to just hop on a call and chat so planning something in advance has really been helpful for us.
This is a time to slow down and be very patient with our children. If your child(ren) are old enough to understand what’s going on this can be a very scary time for them. If they are acting out, take the time to sit down and listen to them and try to understand what’s going on with them emotionally. If they seem frustrated give them a big hug and take a few minutes to calm them down. Our children are experiencing social isolation for the first time, they have no idea when things will get back to normal and I’m sure a lot of children are experiencing some form of anxiety in coping with this massive disruption in their lives. So just try to understand that this is really difficult for them too.
7. Take care of yourself
Squeeze in some sort of self-care when you can. You can’t take care of everyone else if you don’t take care of yourself too. Take a shower and get dressed, meditate, read a book, have a glass of wine, Facetime your best friend. Even have yourself a mini spa day and do a facemask or a hair treatment and watch a tv show by yourself! Whatever it is that makes you happy, do your best to create the time and space to try and do it every single day!
Be patient and kind to yourself and to your family. None of us have had to experience something like this in our lifetime so just take it day by day. Some days you’ll feel like you’ve got it all under control. And some days you’ll feel completely overwhelmed, exhausted and defeated and you’ll just want to scream and cry. That’s okay, we’re all on this rollercoaster ride of emotions together! Just breath deep breaths, we’re all going to get through this and come out stronger for it.
9. Make it fun
There are tons of amazing resources online that homeschooling parents use such as cute printables for various themes. Sometimes I incorporate Lego challenges into my son’s learning theme. For example, he was learning about animals and habitats so I had him build an animal of his choice and their habitat out of Lego’s during his play breaks. He was so excited for this challenge and it allowed him to have fun while he was learning. Don’t stress about stuff like screen-time right now either. Use it as an educational tool, or a babysitter when needed, whatever works!
10. Stay connected
Call your friends, make sure they’re okay. Vent to your friends if you’re not okay. It always feels good to know that other people are feeling the same way you are, whether you’re up or down. Call your friends on Facetime, Zoom or download Houseparty and play games with your friends. Not only check in with people but share ideas and recipes. We all have things that are working well for us. The more we can share with each other, the more we can ultimately help and support one another during this time.
At the end of the day you may not be an expert in education or a child psychologist or a camp counselor, but you’re an expert on your child! Do what you feel will work best for your family right now, trust your instincts and go with it. Try to make things as easy as possible and don’t set too unrealistic of expectations during this time. If you want to have a pajama day and watch movies all day and not do any work, DO IT! As hard as these moments can be at times, we’ll never get this much time all together at home possibly ever again in our lifetime. Try and enjoy it as much as you can. Please share your tips with us, this is a community and we’re all here to help and support each other so we really want to hear from you!