First, a check in. How are you faring at home? A quick update on us, and our operations: We are diligently working behind the scenes to stay up and running, while also considering what we can provide you during this time. Stay tuned for updates from us on Instagram as we share ideas and resources for this time we're all spending at home.
Listen, it’s difficult right now. The pressure is mounting, in many ways, but the one that may be most familiar to you in this space is homeschool via distance learning. Many of you—our readers—homeschool by choice, but circumstance has thrown the rest of us in with you. And the uphill battle (in the snow, both ways, without shoes, right?) seems daunting to create teachers out of us and obedient scholars out of our kids.
Ok, so. Now what? Let us offer a few calming, loose suggestions (that have helped us):
First, start small. Don’t overhaul the whole system right this second. Invest in manageable chunks that propel you toward the long-term goal. Introduce longer blocks of academic time every few days instead of all at once. Back off, if need be. This is just as new to your kids as it is to you, so slow and steady may benefit them just as much.
Second, be mindful of the atmosphere you create. The school-work station doesn’t have to be picture perfect, the schedule doesn’t have to be exact. but it does need to work for you and your family. So if a dining room takeover is the best objective, do it. If a corner of each child’s room works best as a workstation, carve it out. This goes for physical but also emotional—try to keep calm, stay patient, and be intentional.
Third, stay consistent. (We know, easier said than done. Been there. Actually, right there, every day.) If the flow of your day models itself similarly day-in and day-out, there’s less room for push back. Boundaries, as we all know, work for kids, settles them. Even if it’s just as much as, say, two hours of academic work and two hours of outside play per day, that’s enough to keep a somewhat-routine in place.
Fourth, find ways to allow independence. Regardless of the ages of your brood, one loss that affects every one of us is a shortage of freedom. (Even a preschooler is privy to independent decision making inside a classroom.) So, be sure to give your kids a wide berth if and when possible, conceding to new on-your-own skills (cutting vegetables in the kitchen) or a longer-than-usual solo bike ride.
Fifth, give yourself grace. You are doing the very best you can do (and don’t you forget it!). If you need a breather, take one. Let go of expectations for screen time, sibling squabbles, perfectly nutritious family meals. Focus on tiny victories, and take it day by day (even if this means forgoing consistency for the time being). This is new and uncharted territory for everyone, and staying mentally and emotionally positive is so important.
Now a few ideas (that work in our house):
Clipboards: Kids are antsy. Yes, a dedicated “school work is done here” space is beneficial, but so is bouncing around the house, as needed. A clipboard can help solve both—snuggle in on the couch with a blanket, sit on the cozy bed, stretch out on the floor in the living room...all with homework in hand.
Audio: In all forms. It seems to be a cure-all these days, from dance parties to read-alouds. You can try an instrumental playlist to evoke calm background music while studying; audiobooks during free play; pump up jams to bounce around and get the wiggles out; sing-alongs because, well, sing-alongs.
Timer: (Again with the boundaries!) Set a certain amount of time for academic work, and then following an allotment of time for a brain break (which translates to whatever you want to do). When the inevitable “How much longer?” is whined in your direction, feel free to point to the timer.
Access: For us, this looks like a pitcher of water on the table; sharpened pencils on the desk; school books in a certain drawer; socks in the laundry room on the way outside...the point being, give your kids the ability to do things on their own, so there is less asking of you to do all the things.
And if all else fails, remember the wise advice from creative Austin Kleon, that the best distance learning is reading a book: “Crack open a book and you can not only learn from someone who’s several thousand miles away, you can learn from someone who’s several thousand years away.” (Honest History and our kids magazine to the rescue!)