On Thurs 6/11/20, I polled parents who have had their children home full-time during Shelter in Place about their greatest challenges that they wish they had help with. Nearly 200 parents chimed in. I summarized these into 3 major pain points for parents.
- Not enough time to get everything done (42%). Parents lamented that finding a work-school-life balance has been tough. They have not been able to properly organize their time and space, which has caused some stress. Furthermore, the daily tasks, such as cooking and laundry, have often been neglected. And forget about any personal time!
- Difficulty with motivating, engaging, and teaching their children (38%). Parents have struggled to teach the higher-level content, such as math and science. They also have had a hard time determining and delivering academically and developmentally appropriate curriculum. Parents have also struggled with managing different instruction and individualized attention for their children of various ages/grades. Getting their children to be motivated and engaged has also been a daily challenge.
- Lack of socialization (14%). Parents are saddened by their children’s loneliness, stating that they are not getting enough time with their teachers or peers. Parents themselves also report feeling isolated and discouraged.
With my decades of experience working with families to achieve success, I began to compile solutions to these pressing problems. With predictions of a second wave and plans for continued remote learning, I hope these suggestions will help should Shelter in Place continue into the fall and/or winter.
Compartmentalize your brain to separate family time and work time. When you are with your kids, be fully present. Do not try to multitask by checking emails. When you are working, be totally productive. Avoid social media or texting breaks, for example. You’ll find that you don’t need 8 hours a day dedicated to work to achieve the same productivity. If something urgent comes up while you are with your kids, allow them 15 minutes of screen time while you address the issue. Parents with more demanding jobs can correlate schedules with the other parent to get longer uninterrupted stretches. Set work hours and stick to them. Have a hard stop at the end of the day. Don’t be tempted to “just check your email.”
The school day should only take 3-4 hours, unless they are really interested and want to keep diving in on a subject. Allow them the rest of the time to just be. Don’t fear unstructured time. “When children get bored they themselves find ways to be more creative to amuse/occupy themselves. Research says that unstructured play time makes children more creative and independent thinkers.” (Pooja Dugar)
In regards to household upkeep, have your children help around the house with cleaning and cooking. Or shift your mindset to realize that you really don’t need to mop 4 times a week.
Organizing Time and Space:
Keep to a rhythm every day and every week. Children need order and predictability to feel safe and secure. Sticking to a rhythm means you can be intentional about what your priorities are. For instance, you can all have the same wake up time and the same sleep time. Or you can have one adult get up early and work 6am to noon so the other adult has time for him/herself and then dedicated time with the kids, and then switch.
Put this schedule on a white board. Block off times for work and school meetings first, then add in time blocks for exercising, eating, and fun (baking, games, swimming, crafts). The key is not the specific schedule, it’s just having one. You can flex as needed if something major comes up, but with this in place, all of you will know what your days will generally look like.
You can also create a task list for each child each day with categories like: Self (meditation, journaling, etc.), Exercise (biking, running, etc.), Chores, Learning, Music, Create, Connect (with someone outside of the house). Set minimum time limits for each. Have each child check off the tasks as they complete them in any order they want. This allows them autonomy and ownership.
Get creative with your workspace. One mom said she found that an ironing board makes a great adjustable-height surface for her laptop when working on the couch. A small rectangular folding table with adjustable height can also create a makeshift workspace. Pro Tip: Give everyone headphones with mics.
Teaching Children of Different Ages/Abilities:
Again, try to get everyone on the same routine. For instance, aim to eat breakfast, have play/free time, and be on laptops for school by 9am in the hopes you can end the school day by lunch.
Use time blocks. When instructing one child individually in a core subject (math, reading, or language arts), the others can spend 30 minutes on learning programs on the computer (some parent favorites are Teach your Monsters How to Read, Mathseeds, and Reading Eggs). Then rotate out. Once each individual lesson is complete, come together for group “family style” learning consisting of science, history, social studies, art, and/or music.
If older or special needs kids require more of your time, use learning-based entertainment to occupy the other children’s minds while you focus on the one. You can find many free/cheap educational resources for the younger kids here: https://www.worldwisetutoring.com/covid-crisis-schooling-at-home-toddlers-and-prek/. You can feel less guilt about screentime if you look at it as independent academic time.
If older or special needs kids require more of your time, use learning-based entertainment to occupy the other children’s minds while you focus on the one. You can find many free/cheap educational resources for the younger kids here. You can feel less guilt about screentime if you look at it as independent academic time.
Also, don’t be afraid to seek help. Professional educators are trained and experienced in helping students of different ages and abilities. WorldWise Tutoring has tutors who can meet at scheduled times, standby office hours for last-minute help, and parent coaching for strategies on how to motivate and teach your unique children. Contact us here.
Find an outlet your children enjoy, such as music, crafts, or one-on-one time with you. Use these to supplement their traditional learning. Utilize extrinsic rewards for staying focused and completing work. Maybe they can take some time off from school work, play a game, watch a movie, or cook – which all still provide opportunities for learning. If your child is just not feeling it one day, give extra hugs, take a longer break, or maybe just skip some assignments to get back to neutral.
Socialization & Me-Time:
Plan virtual play dates with friends and family using the Marco Polo app, Facetime, or Zoom. Schedule virtual game or trivia nights. Do drive by’s to see each other in person. Go to a park where people are walking; just being in the vicinity of other people is nice. Meet up with one friend to throw a football, kick a soccer ball, or play tennis. Visit forest preserves (rainy days are best because there are less people and there is more mud to muck around it). Spend more quality time as a family playing games or watching movies.
For some guilt-free “me-time,” go for a walk every day, making it non-negotiable regardless of weather. Sometimes take a family member, sometimes walk while on a work call that doesn’t require your laptop, sometimes walk while on the phone with friends or family, and sometimes just listen to an audiobook or podcast. Or you can get in your car by yourself with my music and just pick a direction. Or you can hide in another room and watch a show. Whatever it is, schedule it and take it. It’ll never feel like there’s time for it. Take the time anyway.
Above all else, remind yourself that this isn’t forever. So take it one day at a time.
I’d love to hear what worked for you and your family! Email me at [email protected]