Learning Online Without Losing Your Mind
ONE: Repeat After Me: Social Media is NOT Reality! Sure, your Facebook friends all post magnificent busts of Renaissance Masters made of macaroni by their impeccably groomed first graders and their ten year olds are allegedly doing trig while they finish their quarterly reports and onboard online interns but their house is impeccable and they eat healthy colorful gourmet meals (made from scratch) three times a day… but that’s not reality! Everybody’s just doing the best they can. So cut yourself some slack, okay?
TWO: Budget Your Time.
If you have K-5 kids their work is going to require a lot more communication with teachers and supervision on your part than older ones, of course. If you have another responsible adult at home, maybe you could tag team: mom works mornings and helps everybody with their math, dad helps everybody with English in the morning and works afternoons. A large whiteboard daily schedule is immensely helpful to keep everybody on the same page. Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect or Pintrest worthy. It just has to work for your family.
THREE: Hire Your Older Kids to “Tutor” the Younger Ones. This can be a win-win-win. It buys you time to work, and is good for the older kids as well as the younger. For the older, it’s an effective way of teaching both a lesson in economics - they’ve got to earn money for that new video game to entertain them during quarantine or the eventual outfit they want to wear when it’s safe to go out again - and makes them develop analytical skills, patience and creativity. The younger kids get the academic help they need. And you get to attend that Zoom meeting undisturbed.
FOUR: Encourage physical activity. If you live in an area where you’re lucky enough to be able to get out of the house while observing social distancing and current local guidelines, take the kids with you for a lunchtime dog walk or bike ride. If you can’t get outside, do bear walk races down the hall or have a push up contest. Encourage your kids to make up or look up the exercises they want to do. If they love superheroes, they can now exercise with Thor for free: https://www.insider.com/chris-hemsworth-announced-home-fitness-app-is-available-for-free-2020-3 Anything to get them good and tired. All parents know the short term benefits of a tired child: more compliant, better sleep quality, less fidgety, less fighting amongst themselves. The long term effects of getting good and tired are equally important: boosts the immune system, better sleep, reduces anxiety and aggression, releases endorphins, etc. https://www.healthykids.nsw.gov.au/teachers-childcare/physical-activity.aspx And kids’ naptime is a great time for adults to get work done.
FIVE: Make your kids earn privileges: this is a pandemic. If your kids did not earn their screen time/playtime/recess before they should now. Parents can be resourceful and make kids earn physical activity without the kids even noticing. “If you finish these 10 math problems in x number of minutes, you can have 30 whole seconds for jumping jacks!” This way you build activity breaks into their and your day. Or even adapt the Math problems to exercise: “If Mama Bear does 15 squats and Papa Bear does 13, how many have they done total?”
SIX: Do not feel you have to “keep their lives as normal as possible.”
This deprives kids of a feeling of being on the same team which is making sacrifices for the greater good. If you can find a good volunteer activity, such as writing letters to elderly residents of a nursing home or sewing masks, it is good to involve them. It gives them a way to contribute and lessens their feeling of powerlessness. Maybe make one child the “Shoe Marshall” in charge of making sure anybody who comes in from outside removes their shoes and another “Dr. Disinfect” who can be in charge of the all-important disinfecting door knobs and light switches daily. They are part of a family and they have a responsibility to help keep that family safe and healthy.
SEVEN: It’s okay to prioritize work sometimes. Your job pays the bills. If their schooling suffers a bit this unusual year, they can pick up some of the slack over the summer or even at the beginning of next year. Even if you feel a bit guilty, if their grades slip or they don’t learn as much as hoped this year, it is NOT the end of the world. You guilt tripping yourself over your kids’ academics right now is not the best use of your energies nor is it beneficial to your health. Give the kids some books or art supplies and get work done.