If you are a parent of a school-aged child, your kids are now at the mercy of your ability and desire to be able to continue their education.
Mine are too. When I found out my kids would be home from school for three weeks (which will likely turn into more) because of the COVID-19 virus, I took a deep breath and told myself we needed a routine, some type of predictability in very uncertain times. During a family meeting, my three kids (6-year-old twins and a 9-year-old) agreed that they wanted some type of homeschooling. While I was proud of their eagerness to keep learning, I was also panicked.
I still have to work while they are home. Keeping kids educated is indeed a difficult task. Also, my anxiety levels at this current moment in time don’t make me a very patient teacher. I promised them I would make a schedule and do my best to keep them educated.
I have seen examples of COVID-19 homeschool schedules. They range from very detailed and ambitious, such as the ones found on the Hoffman-Boston Elementary School website like this one and this one, to satirical laced with reality like the one comedian and mother-of-six Jen Fulwiler created above.
I would not be surprised if any and all schedules explode into flames because this is a stressful and weird time without a clear end in sight.
But just like parenting during “normal” times, parenting styles for keeping our kids up to speed on their schoolwork will vary while we are practicing social distancing and waiting for schools to reopen.
Here’s an important piece of advice: All strategies and attempts to get through the day are valid. We need to be a lot less judgmental and a lot more kind and patient with each other and ourselves. What we are experiencing is unprecedented. This is not simply working from home with a sick kid or getting through a few days when school or day care is closed. Businesses are being forced to shut their doors, and employees are being sent home all across America. We’re all just doing the best we can.
Teachers are scrambling to provide resources and support for distance learning, and students are anxious, missing their friends, and mourning the loss of extracurricular activities and celebrated milestones. Homeschooling is the only option for most of us right now, but there are many valid variations of this.
If you’re going to go full professor mode, get a smartboard, and take your kids through a detailed curriculum, have at it. If you’re going to let the kids practice independence, use all the screens, and force them outside and lock the doors when it gets too loud, awesome. If you’re going to make an attempt at a schedule but build in flexibility and compassion if all goes to sh*t, great. Me too.
My kids are young enough to easily climb out of an educational slide if we skip a few homework lessons or all of them, but I don’t want to get so far out of a routine that reentry feels impossible. So I am setting up a schedule each night for the next day; it is based on what worked that day and what didn’t. The kids are excitedly working out of workbooks I ordered online and packets from their teachers.
I have been using online educational resources like PBS Kids, Scholastic, ABCya, and Khan Academy. And before our library closed, I borrowed several Bill Nye science videos. I also plan to use Netflix shows like Brainchild and The Magic School Bus to weave in social-emotional learning and more cooperative science.
I have time in the day that allows us to read together and then independently. Today the kids worked on writing books, and it was awesome. Tomorrow they may not be into it. We had snacks, free time, and plenty of time for movement. Our outside time was longer than I scheduled and happened at a different time than I had planned. But just like they are learning, I am too. I am learning to accept that I have very little control over my plans these days.
I know some days will be a free-for-all. I know some days will have lots of video games, movies, and cartoons with very little educational value. On the other hand, there will be days with long stretches of time spent outside or lost in imaginative play. There will fighting and yelling and tears — hopefully not all from me. I am reminding myself now that those days are part of their education, too.
So much learning happens outside of the classroom through nature, working through conflict, and finding ways to recharge when we are stressed, scared, and lonely.
Take it from Jennie Weiner, an associate professor of educational leadership:
“I’m just going to say this and judge me all you want. We are not planning anything educational for our kids. Homeschool will not happen. We will survive and watch too much tv. We will eat cookies and carbs and hope for the best. We will love and try not to go insane.”
Homeschooled, unschooled, Netflixschooled. We’re going to be OK.