Once COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, back in March, schools shut down, college campuses became ghost towns, and, most states/districts have announced their transition to distance/virtual learning for the remainder of the school year. Although the U.S. was “late to the [pandemic] party”, we are feeling similar physical, mental, and financial effects as the rest of the world. During these past months, some families have come up with a schooling-at-home plan that is working well, while many others are at their wits’ end!
If you’re like our family, it’s hard sometimes, to even remember the day of the week or recall how long you’ve been living this social distancing life (and who knows when it will end!). Since so many families have been forced into this Pandemic Schooling, we wanted to share Seven Tips to Make it Through Pandemic Schooling:
Although your idea of self-care might look a bit different these days, it’s extremely important to take care of yourself (mentally, emotionally, and physically). Have you heard the quote, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”? It’s true! This pandemic may have caused you to be unemployed, under-employed, working in hazardous conditions/environments, and/or stressed for other reasons (including being forced into pandemic schooling) but you have to take care of yourself before you can properly care for others.
- Maintain a schedule
You might never see another unschooling family recommend “maintaining a schedule”, but we realize that there are some people/families who prefer high levels of structure (sometimes, you have to do what works best for you). If this is you/your family, it might be time to
research unschooling sit down (alone or with your family) and develop a daily schedule. The level of structure is dependent on the needs and preferences of you and your family. While discussing schedule, it’s worth mentioning that you should find a way to keep track of the day and/or date (e.g., chalkboard, whiteboard, physical calendar, etc.).
- Get some fresh air, sunlight, and physical activity
It is my hope that your child(ren)’s school was providing them with daily access to sunlight, fresh air (weather-permitting), and physical activity. These are conditions that every body needs (yes, we’re basically plants) in order to maintain good physical and mental health! Since we are social distancing, you might need to get a little more creative….blow bubbles from your balcony; run in circles in your back/front yard; open a window in order to enjoy the fresh(er) air and natural light; take a longer route while walking your dog(s); participate in free, live workouts on various social media platforms; etc. [Disclaimer: Be safe while doing these activities. Maintain a large distance from others. We are are not health care professionals but have been successful in safely partaking in these activities, while maintaining at least 12 ft of distance from others.]
In addition to physical activity, don’t forget to incorporate games (card games, board games, hopscotch, jump rope, Roblox, etc.). In addition to it being fun, playing games is excellent family bonding time (plus, it breaks up the monotony of schooling at home while, potentially, working from home).
- Virtual play dates
Humans are social creatures! Unless you have found a member of that group of the most severe of introverts, people, eventually, need social interaction. Contrary to “popular” belief, homeschoolers/unschoolers are, often, highly social children (our boys are missing their homeschool coop, trips to the museum, daytime visits with friends, and playground time).
Pre-COVID, there seemed to be two segments of parents, when it came to play dates. On one hand, there is the segment that seems to abhor the scheduling of play dates for their children because they believe that play should come natural. On the other hand, there seemed to be this segment of parents that thrive on setting up get-togethers with other families. Regardless of where you fell previously, in these times, we [parents/guardians] have to utilize all resources in order to ensure that our children are able to maintain communication with friends and family members.
- Set realistic time lengths for schooling
If your child(ren) attend(ed) “traditional” school, did you ever spend a day at their school? A whole day…?? If you underwent this brave task then you would know that, although children are physically at school for 7+ hours, they aren’t spending all of that time doing ”Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic”. A lot of their school day was spent doing things like: transitioning; eating breakfast, lunch, and/or snacks; preparing for [standardized] testing; playing “catch up” for the student(s) who are behind the “average” child; taking Specials (Physical Education, Music, Art, etc.) – which are also important; potentially, dealing with classroom emotional/behavioral issues; etc.
If your child’s school wasn’t teaching them, as an individual, for the whole school day, why are you stressing yourself and your child(ren) out by attempting to do so? Depending on their age, your child probably needs, at most, 30-60 minutes per subject per day. That’s it! The added bonus of you teaching your own child is that you can now teach them at their academic level. For example, if your child is in fourth grade but reads at a 6th grade level and is at a 3rd grade level for math, now is the best time to provide them with the individualized attention that is needed.
- Remember that there is no right or wrong way – it’s your way
Whatever you choose to do – or not do – just remember that there is no right or wrong way. You are in charge now! Whether your children play computer games all day, spend the week learning to prepare meals, complete their weekly assignments in 2 days, discover an interest in the solar system, rediscover their interest in the Captain Underpants series, sleep in late every morning, or learning to use the washer and dryer, there is no right or wrong way. No matter what your siblings, neighbors, or friends’ kids are doing, this your journey. Plus, we are in a pandemic and stress has a negative impact on your immune system.
- File your district’s paperwork to become homeschoolers
If you’ve been schooling-at-home since outside closed and you’ve had enough of the schedule expectations set by your child’s school, consider filing paperwork to inform your school district that you intend to homeschool. Although we realize that there are different requirements in other states (or countries), the process, in Washington D.C., is as simple as completing an online form, waiting a few days for a confirmation email, and presenting this email to your child’s school (we assume this step is also electronic now). Taking this step would allow you to teach your child at their level and at times (i.e., weekends, evenings, specific days, etc.) that are convenient for you and your family.
It is our hope that, once you take your district’s required steps to become homeschoolers, you realize how well your child is flourishing. Remember, learning to read or do algebra or learn a new language is not more important than the long-term mental and emotional health of you or your child!