I hope this post finds you and your family well.
My family, like most, is doing our best to settle into our new, temporary “normal.” As we approach next week, when “virtual learning” is set to begin, I wanted to share some thoughts as an educator and mom of two little ones before this process begins.
Even though we’re all safely staying home right now, I understand that each family is in their unique situation. There are parents who are working from home for the first time, parents who are out of work, or parents still leaving the house to go to work (I see and appreciate you first responders, medical personnel, grocery store employees, and more). There are families who are worried and concerned about the well being of loved ones. Families who are scared about loss of income and what the future holds. Families who are heartbroken over canceled milestone events. There are children who are confused, nervous, frustrated, and dare I say – BORED. So with all that being said, I think it’s important to show ourselves, teachers, and our children lots of grace as we begin distance learning.
I urge you to ask yourself if you start to feel stressed out, “will this matter in five years?” Because in five years what WILL matter is that you taught your children that YOU are their calm when life is chaotic. That life will not always go as planned, but we will rise to the occasion anyway. That we pivot, make a plan, and hope for the best. I know my son will remember teachers from his school driving through neighborhoods to wave hello and spread cheer. He’ll remember seeing his favorite country singers performing live on my phone. He’ll remember playing baseball every night with his dad, learning checkers, teaching his sister how to play Uno, baking homemade biscuits, running through the sprinklers, and *fingers crossed* riding his bike with no training wheels. I pray he remembers that we chose to focus on love, faith, family, and health above everything else.
One more thing: If you’re worried about next year, I promise you that teachers are MASTERS at bridging the gap. And I have to let you in on this little secret – we do this EVERY year. It’s part of our job. We instruct students at their level and from there, take them where they need to be. Seriously, every year we do this. We will figure out what wasn’t taught face-to-face and fill in the missing pieces. It won’t be easy but teachers are experts at meeting their students’ specific needs. This isn’t to say do nothing while you’re at home. This is to say – DON’T STRESS – do your best.
So here are some guidelines my family is implementing regarding distance learning:
Sanity over Strict Schedules
I’ve seen a lot of schedules posted on social media and I myself love, love, love a productive, color-coded daily schedule. And truthfully it’s not necessarily just for the benefit of my kids, I personally like breaking up the day with different activities because it keeps me from feeling like it’s Groundhog’s Day. With that said, whatever schedule you create, set your “academics” portion to about 2 hours a day, broken up into 30-minute or one-hour increments. And please understand that there are days where NO academics will happen and that’s okay too!
Playtime over Productivity
I will NOT, under any circumstances, stop my kids from playing to log on to a computer assignment. The times that they are peacefully playing are few and far between, so I choose not to interrupt that for an online lesson. This afternoon both kids wanted to sort and count coins from their piggy banks. I had originally planned on having my son do an online reading lesson, but listening to him teach and encourage his little sister was much more meaningful for all parties involved, especially me. I needed that. I needed to hear their joyful little voices to reassure me that everything will be ok. Lastly, the weather plays a big factor in our day. If the sun is shining, rest assured we’ll be soaking that up!
Bonding over Busy Work
At the beginning of each month, I write down a word or phrase to focus on for the month. On March 1st I wrote, “Fika, a Swedish word meaning to slow down and appreciate the little things in life.” Well, here we are now with all the time in the world to slow down and appreciate the little moments. I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend extra time with my family even if the circumstances that brought us here are unfortunate. So what that means for us is that board games, bike rides, and bonding will take precedence over excessive amounts of worksheets.
Creativity over (Loads of) Coursework
As I mentioned we will try our best to commit to two hours a day of academics. Other activities we will focus on are crafting, baking, writing, journaling, drawing, and conducting experiments. When we found out school was out until at least April 15th, I asked my children what THEY wanted to learn about. One of my friend’s children asked to learn words in other languages, so she’s teaching them five words in a different language each day. How cool is that? Include your children in this process. And dare I say, there is more for us to learn in life than just what’s stated inside the standards.
Resilience over Rigidity
The definition of resilience is to withstand or recover quickly from difficult situations. This may be one of the most important lessons we teach our children during this time. I imagine our kids one day saying, “Remember when everything was shut down? Mom had to work from home and dad was still going to the fire station, and somehow we managed to still have a great time!” I want them to learn that difficult situations don’t have to define our whole existence. This isn’t the time for rigid rules, it’s time to make the best of a difficult situation.