Let’s be honest, six months ago, none of us imagined we’d be where we are today. While last spring was filled with coping strategies and beliefs that this was all just “temporary,” the new reality is we are in this for the long haul. Here in Seattle, most schools have moved to an online platform for Fall. Which means parents, and especially working parents, continue to carry the load. If you’re like us, last spring was filled with moments of popcorn for dinner and philosophical ideas on how early was “too” early for happy hour.
With the first day of school just a few days away, it’s time to shift and accept. Accept that we need to gain a sense of control over our family lives and shift to a new normal. We have compiled a list of suggestions on how you might get through this, but only you can decide what will help you survive best.
1) YOU FIRST:
Just as the airlines instruct us to don our oxygen masks first before helping others, home school parents must prioritize their needs first. Let’s be honest, once the kids are up and the coffee is brewing, your opportunity for “me” time is thrown out the door with Monday’s recycle bin. So, consider waking an hour earlier for the special “me” time that allows you to be your best self. Quietly meditate, practice your living room yoga, or head outside for a mind clearing walk/run. While it means one less hour of sleep, putting yourself first will help center your focus on others for the rest of your day.
2) START THE MORNING RIGHT:
Ever since our daughter was little, we have always insisted that she brush her teeth, comb her hair, and change her underwear before she leaves the house. Even in the chaos of COVID, this basic requirement was the one thing that we held to in efforts to keep some sort of normalcy with our mornings. By establishing a morning routine, even in COVID, we are setting the precedent that now is the time to start their day. Pro parent tip: Just as we did when school was in person, consider continuing the morning prep routine while they eat breakfast such as filling their water bottle, putting together a snack and making their lunch. Send the water bottle and snack to their home school desk and leave the pre-made lunch in the fridge for easy access. Prepping in the morning allows for a lot less last-minute disruption with the never ending “I’m hungry!”
3) PLAN THE WEEK:
We love this printable meal planning calendar that our friends at Satsuma Designs put together. By encouraging the kids to take the lead on lunch, your success rate might reach 90% (percentages suggested, not guaranteed). Also, consider spending an hour on Sunday prepping grabbable snacks. We recently discovered Eazy Peazy Mealz for kid friendly, easy to access lunch items as well as Sunday Family’s for snack station ideas.
Remember how our teachers send their students outside, rain or shine, two to three times a day? Why aren’t we? Yes they’ll be cold and wet, but this is school! Store a plastic crate on your porch filled with balls, frisbees, mitts and more and send the kids outside. Set a recess schedule with alarms on your phone or iPad that remind the kids it’s time to go outside. If you have a neighbor pod, coordinate timing for all the kids to recess together and take turns for recess duty (Kahlua spiked coffee in tumbler optional).
5) TIME OUT:
Do you remember the sheer joy in your younger years when the AV volunteers rolled in the TV/VCR cart? Teachers used movies to get a break, so why can’t we? Do you have an important conference call coming up? Need a shower? Or just want to lock yourself in the bathroom for 30 minutes? You deserve a “guilt free” break today, so make the best of it! Check out the website Teach With Movies which is chock-full of educational movies for every age.
6) FIELD DAY:
Engage your children to remember what was their most favorite day at school. Crazy hair day, field day, pajama day, breakfast for lunch day? Review the calendar and plan out a few themed Fridays to get the kids excited about the week and something to look forward to. Participate with them and just let your Zoom colleagues know that yes, you did shower, but it’s Crazy Hair Day!
7) IT TAKES A VILLAGE:
This pandemic has truly sucked for EVERYONE! Now more than ever, we are all seeing the value of social interactions for our children. If you haven’t done so already, consider creating a pod with another family or classmate with similar values around virus protection. Setup a schedule for virtual learning together and take turns hosting at each other’s house throughout the week. If you have multiple aged children, break up the sibling rivalry by having one family host the older children while another manages the young ones. Home school virtual learning is lonely for all of us. By creating a pod, your children will thrive from the social interaction and you just might get a much needed break.
8) EMERGENCY TOOL CHEST:
Teachers have an emergency backpack in their room, you need one too. But consider this less of an earthquake survival kit and more like a daily existence tool chest. Even with remote learning, early release days still exist. So, when the important Zoom meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 2pm, you’ll need backup forces to help entertain the kids. Here are a few Netflix-free ideas to implement:
- Outschool – affordable online classes to learn anything from the latest TikTok dance to tween yoga.
- Duolingo – fun games and daily rewards for students wanting to learn from more than 30 different languages including Klingon, Swahili or High Valyrian.
- StoryLine Online – professional actors the likes of Kristen Bell, Kevin Costner and Angela Bassett read aloud popular story books.
- National Geographic Kids – provides a collection of videos and activities centered around animals.
- Crazy Little Projects – crafts, cooking and more to entertain all ages.
- Math Support – if there is one thing we learned in COVID, long division is no longer a thing. We’re still not quite clear what it is they are doing, but this list of math tools will provide frustration free help.
While last spring’s performance was well justified with survive and cope techniques, Fall’s virtual learning platform is an opportunity for us to create a consistent plan where our children have potential to thrive. The key to success is accepting that not every day will be perfect, that we must learn how to give ourselves grace, and as our friend Elisa recommends, “set boundaries, especially space.” If all else fails, our friend Carrie suggests keeping a supply of dark chocolate on hand while our friend Cassandra recommends day drinking. You decide what works best for you.