During this time of social distancing, it is not difficult to find loads of articles offering advice on a schedule for kids or how to keep children entertained at home. You can also find plenty of suggestions about how to structure homeschooling. I understand the importance of keeping normalcy with a schedule of some sort for children, but let’s face it. For some parents, as this hilarious article from Today points out, keeping a tight schedule (during a time of crisis) can add immensely to the stress that parents are already under.
What works for one family may not work from another, as we are all navigating different situations. I have found myself overwhelmed by the plethora of well-meaning suggestions to teach all the life skills during this time. There's also pressure to savor every extra moment. I'm just trying to get through the day while figuring out how to homeschool and work from home simultaneously. Most of the time, I feel like I am operating in survival mode.
There are plenty of suggestions out there about how to schedule every hour of your child’s day, if that’s what you are looking for, but may I offer an alternative suggestion? Ask your child how they would prefer to structure their day. It may help to ease some stress for everyone, and it's certainly been working for our family.
A schedule for kids best when kids can go at their own pace.
This unprecedented time is difficult for everyone—including children—and choosing how we structure our time can provide us with some control when our lives feel unpredictable.
Homeschooling my children is not something I have ever aspired to do, but I did come across one piece of advice I found to be very helpful: Take cues from your child and let them go at their own pace. As this insightful article from blogger and educator Heather Anne explains, "Homeschooling is not the same as crisis schooling."
Heather has spent a combined 25 years as a public school teacher and homeschooling mom, and says that parents need to offer themselves some grace right now and understand that children are struggling and grieving as well. “It is okay to NOT be amazing. Don't try to be Pinterest Homeschool Mom of the Year,” she writes. What matters the most right now is the mental and emotional well-being of everyone in the household.
Each child is unique and will react to homeschooling differently. My oldest son prefers to complete all his online schooling first thing in the morning. Then my middle child, on the other hand, likes to take lots of breaks (or recess as he calls it), riding his scooter or skateboard. And my youngest child, who would normally be in preschool, lets me know when he's ready for our little lesson for the day.
I do still try to keep some structure for them. We eat meals together at the same time each day and go for a walk around the neighborhood after lunch, but I let them set their own pace when it comes to remote learning. My only requirement is that they finish all assignments before they play video games.
You can help your kids' memories of this time be positive.
Sometimes, I find myself overwhelmed by trying to live this new normal, especially when I don’t know how long it’s going to last. I tell my children that they will always remember this unusual time in history, but I want to make sure that they have some happy memories to offset the fearful ones.
In a beautiful piece for the New York Times titled “Everything I Know About Parenting in a Crisis, I Learned From My Mom,” writer Priyanka Mattoo depicts life for her family growing up in Riyadh during the Persian Gulf War and how her mother’s ability to “infuse every difficult day with small moments of joy” kept their spirits intact. Priyanka says that she is doing her best to follow her mother’s example with her own children during this pandemic and that the schedule she has for her family each day is really more of a suggestion.
This is my hope for my family as well. That we can be flexible and traverse each day in a way that works best for us, even if it’s messy and doesn’t neatly check off each to-do. I want my three sons to remember when we social distanced by a campfire and made s'mores with strawberry marshmallows because that’s what we had on hand. I want them to remember the time spent baking, playing hide-and-go-seek, and that mom and dad let them eat ramen and watch movies late into the evening.
There are wonderful resources available, but we don’t have to have a schedule for kids for everything.
It seems that every time I scroll through my social media, I come across a wonderful source for help with homeschooling or keeping my kids busy during social distancing. While this is beneficial, it can also be overwhelming for parents who are already stretched thin. It helps me to remember that we don’t have to do it all. We can pick and choose activities (or skip them altogether), depending on how the day is going.
We have found a few favorites. My younger sons have particularly enjoyed “Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems” where the children’s author and illustrator gives families an inside look at his studio and teaches children how to draw some of his most famous characters. We also try to tune into a daily livestream “field trip” at our local zoo.
My kids have wonderful teachers who have put countless hours into moving curricula to a remote platform and who take the time to email parents countless resources to further their kids' education.
I let my kids take the lead when it comes to these resources for entertainment and education. They will ask me to get certain videos ready when they are in the mood for it and choose the platforms they respond to best for remote learning.
During times of crisis, it’s important to remember what really matters and that we may need to adjust our expectations of ourselves and others. I am finding more peace by letting go and being flexible as our family looks toward the future with hope.