I can’t believe it’s been 6 weeks since the country basically shut down. Last week Ohio officially announced that school would be closed for the remainder of the semester. Unlike when schools closed the first time, this was not a shocker to anyone. It is still surreal and somehow comforting to have it finally settled for certain.
I have not been shy about sharing my struggles throughout this whole pandemic. It’s been heavy enough that I decided to take a break from social media and some of my usual routine last week. I know this was the right choice for me and even though I still feel a bit disoriented by the whole act of quarantining I definitely worked out a lot of the kinks for distance learning. One way of doing this is by choosing sanity over assignments. I almost can’t even type that because it might sound like a cop-out. Academics have always been a HUGE priority to me. That’s why when other parents seemed to be struggling through all of this I had no problem reminding them that the teachers and schools are extending a ton of grace and understanding right now and “just do what you can do”, but when I had to turn around and say that to myself it didn’t really stick. I felt like I was failing my children.
The cool thing about distance learning or homeschooling is that each family can do what works for them. I know some people that keep things really flexible and do school at any hour of the day or break it up between their kids instead of doing it all at the same time. For us, with grades 1, 3, 6, and pre-k and a work from home husband who does a lot of conference calls, we have had to rely on some structure.
9:00 am – 1:00 pm is school hours. If you include travel time this shaves off 3 and a half hours from their school routine which used to be- leave the house at 8:00 am and get home at 3:30 pm.
I have one child who is an independent learner and barrels through assignments very quickly. This is where we have had to put up boundaries with google chats and video games. I have had to implement the fact that even though the assignments may be done it doesn’t mean the second half of the week is a free-for-all. Monday-Friday 9:00-1:00 is mostly used for educational activities. If you run out of assignments from school you can work on something fun that is educational like building a website, or you can read or help your siblings.
I have another child that is starting to become more of an independent learner so that is very helpful, but they also are a perfectionist. For all of our sake, I have had to cut off school at a certain time (this is where sanity over assignments comes in). We haven’t completed everything in distance learning, but we are doing our best and working well beyond the two hour daily minimum requirements that the district set. With this child I have also had to set boundaries about screaming for help. We are still working on the no screaming rule, but the idea is instead of screaming come and let me know that you need something and then be patient. When I (or big brother, or occasionally dad) can come to help I will.
For the other school-age child, I have had to sit down and walk them through everything. It’s been helpful to see the learning struggles there that I never realized were an issue. This child is great at math though, so when I have to leave them to help a sibling I will have them work on math independently, or just try to read, or take a break to play or have a snack. I set a timer and then come back when time is up.
Timers are my friend, I don’t use them religiously, but it works in other areas of my life so it finally dawned on me (5 weeks into it) to use a timer for distance learning rather than using the assignment as the standard for how long everything will take. Teachers don’t even do that in school! You give an assignment and some will finish early and some will be incomplete, but when the bell rings or test time is up then it’s “pencils down”. I have written about timers and routine before and they are some of my most popular blog posts. Here are the links if you want to check them out.
For the record, we also do walks, outside time, movement time, family time, reading a book together time, and of course breakfast and lunch. So when I talk about the first half of the day being all about school that doesn’t mean the kids are sitting at a desk with their nose in a textbook for four hours straight.
I sound like I really have things down pat now, but the truth is we are all navigating things one wave at a time. The kids are not thrilled with distance learning. We have some hard times. This is real life. I am grateful that at least for now I don’t feel like my head will spontaneously explode at any moment and that’s a good thing right?