The coronavirus pandemic is hard on the whole world, but for working parents whose careers have been dumped upside down and are now being asked to homeschool our children (and now even teach online curriculum for sports teams!), our world has been really rocked.
While there is a growing list of fun activities you can do with your children at home and a variety of ways to keep them connected to the world, that’s not always realistic for a working parent in triage mode trying to reinvent themselves or their company. I by no means have this new gig figured out, but what I can offer up are three simple things that seem to be working for our family, as a resource for anybody in our same boat.
Prep your family schedule the night before
My new nightly routine has become creating a schedule for the next day; one that aligns with my kids’ classroom hangouts and virtual sports meetings, academic tasks for each child’s’ classes, conference calls and silent emailing and thinking time for mom and dad. I know that many people have been sharing on social media that schedules and routines are important for kids right now, but in our house, no two days look the same, which is why it has become important for us to take each day as it comes rather than feeling married to a schedule for the sake of routine.
To create our next days’ schedule I have to do the following, and as much time as it takes to prepare, I have found it saves me a ton of time (and guaranteed silence) the following day!
- Preview learning material~ I look at each child’s’ tasks to see what they are being asked to do the next day. I also spend some time interacting with the app so that I can anticipate any hiccups. I prioritize tasks for them and create additional resources that I know they will need help with. Sometimes I even put on our daily schedule: “if you get stuck, try xxx”. I have also started pre-reading books so that I know if my kid is actually reading and understanding. In a time that students aren’t getting a ton of feedback from their teachers, it feels important to be sure they actually understand what they are reading, if nothing else.
- Break up your day~ I like to do 1-hour increments for our daily schedule because sitting down and staring at a screen for more than 60 minutes is hard for any age, adults included. By breaking up your day you can prioritize tasks and also build in breaks, exercise, meditation time or “social hour”.
- Assign a Point Parent~ During each hour block, I have designated which parent kids should go to for help or questions. Silence and clear thinking time is hard to come by, and having a little one tap you on the shoulder every five minutes is enough to drive you crazy. The Point Parent knows when they are “on” and can allocate to work on certain tasks that can handle interruptions.
Create tech boundaries
I know that we are dying for our kids to just be occupied so that we can send off those last few emails, and sometimes playtime on a device can be the silver bullet. BUT during these times it is becoming critical to develop some boundaries with technology use. You can have a really honest conversation about the risks of too much technology use and also commit to modeling some healthy technology boundaries yourself during these social distancing times. One thing I have done in our house is to not allow my kids to text on devices other than my phone. This means that I get over 300+ texts in a given hour (I’m not exaggerating!) but that’s limited the stimulation my child experiences by 300 times! I don’t know about you but I feel like there is zero silence right now—everybody is trying so hard to stay connected that the text pings and video call invites feel suffocating.
Give yourself permission to turn down video invites for you or your children if it doesn’t fit into your family schedule or if it starts to feel overstimulating to you (then it most definitely does to your child).
Get outside together
Being stuck inside a home completely stunts our normal physical activity. Part of our daily schedule is to play together, in an unstructured way. This typically involves kicking a soccer ball around or throwing a softball or baseball in a game of catch. We also enjoy going on family walks with our dog—something we never did before COVID-19. If you can’t go outside, juggling a toilet paper roll inside works too. Whatever your interests are, share them with your kids and schedule in these little breaks to your day.
I know none of us signed up to be Physical Education (PE) teachers or coaches, but consider it part of your new job description. Every day from 4-5 we also do family PE. This has proven to be a great opportunity for me to get a workout in and clear my head from the workday. I set up a “boot camp” in our backyard that feels like an obstacle course so that all four of us can work out at the same time. We alternate turns on who gets to be “the coach” and that person has to think through our workout for the day. Instagram has some great ideas and I let my kids search #stayhomechallenge for ideas for us to try.
This is new territory for all of us, so if it feels foreign and chaotic, that’s because the world is in unchartered territories. Give yourself permission to try different things right now and not expect that what works for another family will work for yours-these times are about reimagining our life-what it was, and what it can be. I want to hear what is working for your family so comment and share below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jenny Pieratt, Ph.D. is author of award-nominated “Keep it Real with PBL”, Speaker, Mom of 2 (age 9 and 10), and President and Founder of CraftED Curriculum-an education company that provides products and services to schools looking to implement Project Based Learning. Dr. Pieratt’s work has an international reach and is well-respected in her field and community; to learn more about her and read recent news stories about her work you can visit https://craftedcurriculum.com/project-based-learning-experts/ and follow her work on social media @crafted_jennypieratt and parenthood on Instagram using the hashtag #teampieratt.