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In the span of twenty-four hours, I have received no less than fifteen emails from my children’s schools, several recorded phone calls, and “suggestions” that they utilize six new e-learning programs. (By the way, my kids are eleven and seven years old.) We are getting messages from principals, superintendents, food services, music teachers, art teachers, homeroom teachers, science teachers, math teachers, social studies teachers, literature teachers, physical education teachers … it’s overwhelming.
By the way–I’m a teacher.
Not to sound pompous, but my wife and I are both veteran educators, have our Master’s degrees, excellent bandwidth, numerous devices that can access the Internet, three levels in our house for privacy, and are absolutely feeling overwhelmed. We are in about as good of a situation as possible, and yet we are feeling overwhelmed.
For example, I had a Zoom meeting this morning at 9:00 a.m. for work. My eleven year old had a voluntary Google Hangouts meeting at 9:30, and my seven year old had a voluntary WebEx meeting at 9:45. That word “voluntary” is kind of tricky. We are overachievers, so nothing is really “voluntary.”
Here’s the thing–I have never doubted for a minute that my children’s schools love them. They have always made our children feel important, special, and loved. Yet, even though I’m sure this was not their collective intention, I felt like they were overburdening us. I can only imagine what it must feel like for disadvantaged families or for families that cannot take time away from work to help their kids navigate six new computer programs all in one morning.
Maybe you feel this way, too?
I want you to remember that, in nearly all cases, state superintendents are mandating that schools do no harm. Illinois’ own State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Carmen I. Ayala, has directed that “Remote Learning Days embrace the principle of ‘no educational harm to any child … ‘”
So what does this mean? It means that you and I should relax. Our schools want our children to remain engaged. They want them to keep learning. However, they also want them to maintain mental health, and they want that for you, too. Overachievers like us have to make peace with the fact that there may be days when we just can’t help our children get their work done. I promise you, the world will keep turning, and your child will not fail out of school as a result. No matter how much it seems like the teachers are throwing at your child, they want the best for your child and they will ultimately do right by your child.
Take a breath. Do what it takes to keep your job. Help your students as much as you can, but, most importantly, love them, give them security, talk to them, and let them be kids. If it comes down to choosing between a hug or homework, pick the hug.
We’re all doing the best we can.
Stay strong. Stay healthy. Love your kids. Love yourself. We’re going to get through this, and we’re going to do it together.
Do you have siblings in the house? Have the older sibling teach the younger sibling something at which they excel. It gives the older child a daily sense of purpose and it gives the younger sibling the attention they are probably craving.
Have you heard about GoNoodle? My wife has been raving about it for years as a great tool for brain breaks and as an in-class fitness tool.
Well, it’s been a little chilly in our neck of the woods during the last few days and our kids needed exercise, so I found GoNoodle on our TV’s YouTube app. (GoNoodle has it’s own channel.) The kids asked me to do it with them, and let me tell you that within three minutes I was sweating. Is this due in part because of my poor fitness? Sure, but it’s also a fun way to really get the heart pumping. It’s got the kids running in place, jumping, stretching–it honestly mirrors what you would do in an aerobics class. But, because it’s so entertaining, you don’t even realize how much exercise you’re actually doing.
GoNoodle is currently offering a free family service because of the outbreak. You can find it HERE, or you can locate their channel on YouTube.
Have fun, and keep moving!
Kids always take the lead from their parents (though they’ll never admit it). If you want your older kids reading at home, they need to see you reading books, too. Free time might be tough if you’re working remotely, but 20 minutes a day is plenty. Make it a regular reading date!
Many of our teens are retreating into their phones during these difficult times. Make sure you pull them out of their rooms and talk with them. Get them off the screen for a while. Encourage them to call friends and family. Keep them in the “actual” world, not just the “virtual.”
As of tomorrow, our kids are officially on spring break. Bad news, kids–no spring break this year. A week of being isolated during the entire week while giving the kids free reign is unthinkable for us. Therefore, we’ll continue the same schedule we established last week, which I’m sharing with you to adapt as you see fit.
This is a very flexible schedule, but we try to achieve most of it on a daily basis throughout the school week. We aren’t necessarily designating time parameters–things take as long as they take. My wife and I also try to switch off in order to give each other some time as well. Luckily, our eleven-year-old is very independent and doesn’t need much direction with the itinerary. Our seven-year-old is a sweetheart, but, due to her age, needs quite a bit of guidance.
Of course, we have the advantage in that we are teachers, so there isn’t much to worry about in the way of mandatory conference calls and those kinds of work obligations common to the business world. We have the time to facilitate a lot of these activities. We’re also fortunate to have streaming platforms, gaming consoles, Internet service, and that kind of thing.
That being said, feel free to adapt our schedule as you see fit. Make it work for you however you want. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments.
Home School Schedule
- Youngest gets one morning show
- Oldest gets one morning show
- Math time (Leap Pad/Prodigy/IXL/worksheets)
- Morning exercise (walks/GoNoodle on YouTube/sit ups/stretches/Wii U)
- Arts/Culture time (online virtual museums/Mo Willems Lunch Doodles)
- Science time (at-home experiments/outdoor observations)
- Free time
- Music time for oldest (trumpet/guitar)
- Reading time
- Afternoon exercise (walks/GoNoodle on YouTube/sit-ups/stretches/Wii U)
- Social call time (grandparents/family/friends)
- Writing time (journaling/letters/observations/short stories/picture stories)
- Free time
- Educational entertainment program (Shopclass/Nat Geo/You vs. Wild)
- Family games (Switch/Memory/board games/card games/charades/puzzles)
- Movie night (Disney+/Netflix/Amazon Prime Video
It’s not my discipline, but here’s a simple science activity for your student. Have them pick an outdoor tree or plant that’s nearby and keep field notes on its progress this spring. Take into account animals and insects. This will keep their writing and observation skills sharp.
By now your student understands they aren’t going to see their school friends or teachers for a long time. No matter how old they are, this is a devastating realization. Make sure that you talk to them today. Hug them. Tell them you love them, and it’s okay to be upset.
Have a student at home? Keep them writing. 20 minutes a day is sufficient. I’m having my oldest daughter journal about her day-to-day life during this historical moment. In 30 years, I’m sure she’ll find it fascinating. My youngest is doing the same, but mostly in picture format.