As schools around the country are closed for the foreseeable future, I woke up feeling the need to take control of this strange new reality in some small way. There is so much we can’t control with this global pandemic, but the teacher in me is still in full gear. I decided to share my thoughts in the hope that you will find some helpful advice to get you through this challenging time with your family.
For this hiatus from school, I want to be sure to take advantage of our time together as a family, avoid a backward slide in learning and most importantly, try to stay sane. Here are seven tips that I hope will help you along the way.
Make a schedule
Making a schedule will help the whole family clarify their expectations of the day. Build in times for the kids to do some learning, some moving, some independent work time and some attention from you. Consider everyone’s needs including yourself so that your daily schedule has time for you to work, exercise and do your typical (or close to it) routine. At the beginning of the day have a morning meeting just like they do in kindergarten and talk about your day including when an adult needs to be present and who it will be.
The kids helped me make our schedule and I’m going to refer to it if any of us are feeling restless or frustrated so we at least have a game plan of what we can and should do. I have included time for art, science and projects and when I get motivated we can come up with something special, like painting or putting dye in celery water, but I’m aiming to keep things pretty easy.
Most of our outings are not available with the recommendation for social distancing (staying six feet away from others) but nature is there for us. When you feel overwhelmed, opt outside. Although we humans are having a rough time, our ecosystem hasn’t shifted due to this and it’s a great opportunity to reconnect. So, take advantage of your yard, your neighborhood, the park, local beaches, hikes, etc. You could also make it a learning or creative opportunity by studying nature, making collections and creating art with what’s growing around us.
Write to process this mess
One way to help all of us get through this scary time is to write. The act of putting pen to paper is a powerful way to process your thoughts to help you feel more grounded. If you’re a person who journals or writes often this may come naturally to you but if not, here’s what I recommend: Get a journal for everyone in your family. I even got one for my 3-year-old and my husband. Set a timer (just five or ten minutes to start) and just let your pen go without judgment — you don’t have to share it with anyone. The hope is that your kids will follow your lead or at least leave you alone so you can write. Here are some honest and hopeful prompts to get you started: What does it feel like to be home? What does your home mean to you? How are the kids doing? Are you worried? What do you hope one month from now will look like?
The number one way to help your child avoid a "slide" from this time away from their classroom is to read. Read in front of them, read with them, have them read to you. Though libraries are closed now, you can still check out audio or ebooks via Overdrive or return to a favorite from your collection at home. Regardless, read what you have available and reread it, too. Kids often read the same books over and over because the familiarity feels comforting. You could read a novel to them, yes even the little ones will enjoy curling up and listening to your voice even if they don’t comprehend it. And if you're bored with the material you have on hand, you could even write your own books.
Connect with friends and family (virtually)
All those little interactions in your normal day add up to quite the in-person social experience that will have shifted during this time. Reduce loneliness by keeping real-life connections and checking in with your friends. I already have a scheduled FaceTime date for my daughter to “hang out” and craft with a friend. I also plan on getting together with friends and getting some (virtual) playdates on the calendar (for the kids, but also so I have people to talk to).
Reach out to your community
Although being home with the kids for this time is a gift it is also going to be challenging. I’m also well aware of what a privilege it is to be able to stay home with my children without much change to our family’s financial situation. This school closure and virus is having a great impact on our community. I haven’t wrapped my head around how to best help, but I plan to open my doors to kids whose parents need to work and plan to support our local small businesses who may be struggling. If you have recommendations on how to best connect and help our community, please share them. One resource is the Hunger Intervention Program who provides food bags for my school community.
Take care of yourself and others
Let’s all have grace for ourselves. This is hard, stressful and something we could not prepare for. Take care of and have grace for yourself and those around you. When it feels hard, it's okay to acknowledge that it is hard. But we can do hard things.