I wrote the other day about how very little of what we now need to be doing as far as social distancing/self isolation/whatever you want to call it, is new for me. I do hate it, both having to admit that, and I really hate living it. But, like so many things I’ve experienced ,I can see now how God can use it for good. Maybe I can share both some practical ideas and some hope with y’all.
OK, so this overlaps with school, which I will talk more about, so bear with me – they are, for me, separate topics, but where you land in this area will affect how you approach education too. I’ve seen so many armchair and “official“ experts spouting off lately about how “now that your kids are home you must put them on a schedule!“ I’ve also seen some schedules, and YOWZA! It’s no wonder they are closely followed by a lot of frustration!
Here’s the thing, y’all. Kids do thrive on routine. It gives them security, knowing what’s next, that their world is turning. Sometimes, though, that’s very different from a stringent, highly detailed, and strictly followed schedule that can suffocate and defeat everyone involved. It’s also important to note that we all have different personalities and therefore different needs, so keep that in mind as you approach this. Some mamas and/or kids thrive best knowing in detail what their days look like and some function better with less structure. Sometimes your needs won’t match theirs exactly and that’s OK too. For example, my kids need a very relaxed but predictable flow, and I feel much better with a plan. (If I could, I’d lock the whole day in with 15 minute increments, but I’ve learned mom life doesn’t really work that way.) So, I plan as I need to, but give them the freedom to be created within looser blocks of time.
This gives me the mindset I need to feel purpose, but them the freedom to use their imagination during this time so, take a little time to figure out the individual needs in your household and maybe do a side-by-side routine based on that.
Another thing I challenge you to tune into, especially if you’re one of these families that is usually go – go– go, is that maybe this season is a good time to simplify and really connect. Maybe it’s a time (if you don’t work from home) to just be for most of the time. Watch a movie together. Take a walk together. Play board games. Create art. Worship together – I love the FireTV YouTube app for this. This season could really be something beautiful and a time of renewal, instead of boring, isolated, and miserable.
On school time:
Here in Virginia the governor just closed school for the remainder of the year, and I saw my Facebook feed just blow up as it happened in other places around the same time yesterday. Parents have actually been in an uproar since the kids have been home, I think about a week now, and I get it because for most of them this is far from normal and they don’t feel equipped to educate their children. I’m sure this brings up a whole lot of feelings- frustration, overwhelm, fear, etc. I’m here hopefully to encourage and reassure you – you have everything you need. Especially at preschool and elementary ages, pretty much any activity can be educational! To be honest, we haven’t done a ton of sit down school time ourselves the past couple weeks either. The waves of emotion have been draining on my mental health reserves (a story for another day) and I know I can’t give them my best when I’m depleted. Neither can you, friends, and you really don’t need to dig yourself into a hole trying. Maybe take a week (or a few! ) and the school as we homeschoolers-by-choice call it. Encourage them to read if they can, maybe even require it of them if they are already able. Read aloud to them! Educators have said that if all other subjects have to go by the wayside, reading aloud is the most indispensable. There are thousands of documentaries and educational videos on YouTube and all the other streaming platforms -put some of those on! Kids learn well by doing too. Let them help you cook, clean, whatever you can allow them to be part of without risking your own sanity. If you can let them create – Play doh, art projects, drawing. Ladybug girl just created a whole boardgame with complex rules last week!( I made her type up the rules-creative writing!)
Maybe after a few weeks of this you will feel more settled into your new/temporary normal, and you’ll want to do something a little more formal. If your school district is sending work, that’s great! If not, and you don’t know where to begin, try Pinterest. There are tons of free or low-cost resources and ideas on there.
When it comes time to actually sit down and do schoolwork, please don’t feel like you need to spend hours and hours. I’ve been doing a full 3 to 8 subject curriculum since ladybug was three, and even now, at second-ish grade we don’t spend more than 90 minutes working almost ever (that’s not including her independent reading, which she spends as long as she wants on.) For preschool, I spent about 30 minutes a day with my very lesson – oriented daughter doing papers, visual lessons, etc. With little Duck we use a lot of games and manipulatives with a couple papers, and he gives me maybe 20 minutes –if I keep switching activities often.
In my experience, less pressure equals better learning-and better learning sticks.
If you have a middle or high school student, I obviously don’t have experience, but I will say that I observed all my husband’s siblings being homeschooled through these years, and I’ve also talked to him about his experience, and he said he spent maybe three hours a day. About 90% was self-taught and he’d reach out for help as needed. If it’s something (like math) beyond you, there are so many resources out there, and it might even help to connect with a local homeschool Facebook her to get help.
On working from home (or if your spouse is)
This one is new for me, but I’m learning a lot! Since I’ve decided to treat this writing like a for-real job, I’ve been piecing out what that looks like, especially with the kids around. I have my schedule, as I mentioned before and on and I’ve both blacked out “hard “writing time and “soft” times I could write, leaving room for recreation as needed. But sometimes, the kids show up early or interrupt, or I get distracted – this morning is a case in point – D came down here almost the second I sat down to write, and even though he was very non-intrusive, it wasn’t a great environment for focus. Then, not terribly long after, they were both downstairs, And now it’s 10 AM, I’m still trying to finish my longhand first draft of this post, and I get the work from home struggle. I also get the challenge of having your spouse working from home. I have to time and schedule when we can walk through the garage, because right now that Scott’s office, and his job is wall-to-wall meetings and talking to his team. I also have to work with his schedule for my Peloton rides, because the bike is right next to his workspace and he can’t have me panting in the background of his calls. So, I get it, from some level, at all angles; trying to work with your kids around, having to protect your spouse’s work, and how to work and take care of the kids.
What can we do? Our best. I think that’s kind of the bottom line for all of this. But on a practical level here’s what I’m doing/trying to do:
- Communicate with Scott about my plans for the day and see how they light up with his. If I know some of the bullet points of his day – most of his calls seem to be unscheduled and this is only day two- I can better plan mine and everyone can better get done what matters.
- Only scheduling one day at a time for now – I have my weekly schedule, and that’s a blueprint, but in this season, especially at the start like this, flexibility is key. So, what I did for my weekly planning this week was to list my essential to do’s for each day and I’m going to fill in the actual schedule for each day the night before, hopefully with input from
- Working on firmer boundaries with the kids. I’ve been slowly chipping away at this over the past few months but it’s really tough when these kids have essentially had my phone complete attention since birth. Suddenly Mom has to “work” and can’t pay attention to us or be at our beck and call? Confusing, and, if I’m honest, very overdue. We aren’t even close to where we need to be on this, but when I am firm and consistent it does improve incrementally.
- Setting aside specific time to enjoy with the kids without distraction each day. I’m still figuring this out, but I’m hoping in the next week or so, to be giving them at least an hour a day parentheses 20 minutes together, 20 minutes each individually, of time with no screens, no phone, no interruptions. This is in addition to school, reading aloud, etc. it doesn’t sound much like much, even as I write it, but looking at my schedule and all the effort I need to put into my own needs right now, that intentional hour (I’m still with them all day long) could make a big difference.
On staying socially connected:
This part will be brief because there are tons of more creative people than me out there, and I’m still looking for opportunities to use their ideas. I think the main thing is intention, and, my word for 2020 – boldness. We can video chat, work out “together“ (if you’re on the Peloton app or you have a bike for tread I am up for a group work out often!), play games over video… Lexi plays and voice chat with her friends often anyway – we just need to be intentional and brave enough to reach out and connect.
I’m hoping to keep updating this post as I learn more through the season.
This is this new/temporary normal is crazy, Mamas, but we are in it together, and if we allow it to, it could be an incredible time of renewal and togetherness for our families. I am here for you! Please do not hesitate to reach out if I can encourage you at all remember you’re not alone no matter how isolated you may feel.