By Tracey Dowdy
As summer draws to close and more school districts are opting for online over in-person learning for the Fall, parents once again face the challenge of virtual homeschooling. As last Spring’s school closure taught us, finding a balance between work, home, and school to make distance learning work for your family requires patience and flexibility. The juggling act becomes even more challenging if one or both parents work outside the home.
So as we head into the 2020-2021 school year, keep these principles in mind as you prepare your family for their new normal.
Take a minute for yourself before you start your day. As Dr. Robert Puff says, “The first word in “alarm clock” says it all.” Instead of rushing headlong into the day, set aside a few minutes for self-care before you tackle caring for everyone else. Read something inspirational, pray or meditate, savor that first cup of tea or coffee of the day, and determine that no matter what the day brings, tomorrow is a fresh start.
A second key is to plan your child’s learning schedule around your work schedule. It may seem obvious – and sometimes not feasible – but whenever possible, try to keep your schedule flexible for times they will most need your attention and schedule your work calls or tasks around their independent reading or subjects that are less demanding for your child. No one accomplishes much with constant interruptions, and both of you will end up frustrated and annoyed.
Give clear instructions. Whether it’s a clearly defined list of tasks or a detailed schedule of their day, most children will need structure to stay on task and accomplish their goals. Let your child know you’ll be checking to see if their work is complete to determine if they are hitting their milestones.
Be rigidly flexible. Most children thrive on structure to move through their day yet others struggle to stay on task for long periods. Work with your child’s teacher to understand how they supported your child during in-class instruction and adapt those principles to at-home learning. Even the most academically gifted students will struggle with an assignment from time to time, so be flexible about when the task has to be completed. We all benefit from taking a break throughout the day, so consider whether this is a task best tackled later in the day when you both have the freedom to work on it with fresh eyes and a better mindset.
Take advantage of teacher and peer support. Just because they aren’t face to face doesn’t mean your child’s teacher isn’t equally invested in your child’s success. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s school for suggestions on tutoring, discussion boards, and a myriad of other resources. Be patient – remember that 100% online instruction is probably new for your child’s teacher, and they are doing their best to give your child the support they need. Just like you’re juggling your work/life balance, so too is your child’s teacher. A little kindness goes a long way these days.
Parents, remember to be kind to yourself. These are uncertain times with demands on your family beyond what any of us could have anticipated. Everyone is struggling to some extent, and comparing how your family is coping against what you see online – especially on social media – is a shortcut to frustration for both you and your children. This is only a season, and like all seasons, it will pass.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.