With schools temporarily closed to help stop the spread of coronavirus, parents across the country have been begrudgingly thrust into a new side job of homeschool teacher. And, with many moms and dads relegated to working from home for the immediate future, this means that hundreds of thousands of parents likely will be challenged to balance distance learning with their day-to-day responsibilities at work.
Juggling work and kids at home is an intense experience, but it is survivable. It won’t be easy or perfect, but with a little bit of planning and a flexible attitude, you’ll be able to better weather your COVID-19 stretch at home with the kids.
Be Realistic About Goals
As parents shuffle between their work and their kid's distance learning, it's inevitable that most of us are going to be less productive during this time. Setting realistic expectations with your employer about what you can accomplish is necessary to prevent misunderstandings down the line. If possible, convey to your employer what your optimal working hours will be, when you’ll be most available, and how much you think you can get done.
Also, keep in mind, this is a very trying and confusing time for kids, as well. They are abruptly forbidden to go to school, aren’t allowed to play with their friends and are spending most of their time confined at home. Understandably, it will take some time for them to get into the swing of distance learning. So, be patient if they forget about that project that's due tomorrow or if they don't do so great on that science quiz - we’re all learning to navigate these uneasy times together.
.@MDCPS reaches it’s highest attendance level during distance learning with 93 %, matching last year’s attendance at same time. All subgroups, ESE, ELL, FRL, are above 90%. #AttendanceMatters #covid19 @GreatCitySchls @NSBAPublicEd @PublicSchoolSup https://t.co/V7jDXXsyT2— Alberto M. Carvalho (@MiamiSup) April 28, 2020
Luckily, Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) is providing a variety of different resources and guides to help families deal with their new realities. If you haven’t already, spend some time going over the district’s Instructional Continuity Plan 2.0, its Distance Learning page and other tools that have been made accessible.
Routine is Key
Gone, at least temporarily, are the days of rushing out the door to head to jobs and school, but this doesn't mean noon wake ups and walking around in our pajamas all day should be the new norm. Maintaining a daily routine will help everyone stay occupied and manage some of the anxiety caused by this big change. Be proactive in keeping some normalcy by writing out a daily schedule (including what parent is on primary kid duty if you’re trading off) and pinning it to the wall or the refrigerator so everyone can refer to it throughout the day. A good way to start each school day is by signing into the student portal, which is how teachers are taking attendance and reminds your kids that it is time to get to learning.
Help and support at @MDCPS is a phone call away. Students, parents, or employees, we are here to help. Feeling anxiety or stress? Have questions about distance learning? Need a device? Need free meals? We're here for you! Please call us at 305-995-HELP or 305-995-3000. #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/7sUvXHYEf4— Alberto M. Carvalho (@MiamiSup) April 20, 2020
A detailed schooling schedule is also important for keeping the kids on a regular learning routine, say experts. "Under these circumstances, we're not going to entirely replace all of the structures that happen at school. But we can do a couple of things to make kids feel more secure and to make us feel like we're making the most of this time." Kimberly Fox, staff developer for The Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University in New York, said to CNN.
Give Yourselves a Break
Not only are children and parents dealing with the stress of having their routines turned upside down, but we’re all dealing with the uncertainty of how the next few weeks or months will play out. With so many changes and emotions at play, you can expect things to be a little rough at home for a time, making self-care a necessity.
"I would say to parents, do your best and cut yourself some slack as well, because it is not really possible for parents to suddenly be able to juggle everything, to be 100% present, to oversee all their children's homeschooling with complete efficiency and also to do their job," explains Eli Lebowitz, a clinical psychologist at the Yale School of Medicine to Live Science.
With the entire family's daily routine in flux, it's crucial to allow everyone some downtime. Parents who work while managing children are always on, and that can take a toll on everyone’s patience and energy levels. Consider carving out blocks of time throughout the day to escape from the daily pressures of remote work and school. If you give the kids your full attention during breaks, they can look forward to them, and it might just be easier for them to get through your working blocks too.
Don't forget that adults need alone time as well. In a house with multiple adults you can trade off breaks, while solo parents might need to wait until the weekend to use an early morning or late evening for alone time. Most importantly, avoid judging yourself – or others – on what you can get done each day.