March 19, 2020

I’m not homeschooling my kids during this pandemic. Neither should you.

Let’s cut to the chase: Covid-19 and social distancing has created a new normal for all of us. It’s an unprecedented time for everyone, and we are navigating a changing landscape day by day, sometimes hour by hour.

But I’m not here to talk about the critical importance of social distancing right now, or how many times a day you should be washing your hands. (Although, please do both!)

I do want to talk about the kids. Your kids. My kids.

I see you, mama. You’re stressing about having the kids home for the next 3-4 weeks…maybe longer.

You’re worried about keeping them busy, keeping them entertained, keeping them educationally on track (and let’s face it, out of your hair if you’re also having to now work from home, or work from home in addition to running your business from home…whatever the dynamic, having school aged kids home full time is a new challenge).

As a teacher, and a mother, I feel your worry. With so much time away from school, it’s a huge concern about how they’re going to keep up and then go back to school able to keep going.

I’ve seen tons of advice online (memes, blogs, videos) sharing information on free classes, free accounts for various activities, ideas for homeschooling, scheduling ideas…you name it.

Suddenly every mom is a homeschooling mom.

The response from schools has been varied, with many teachers scrambling to get work packages together for their students where they can, though not everyone is able to. (No shame on the teachers, they’re probably parents, too, with similar worries about their own kids.)

There’s this insane global pressure to keep our kids occupied and entertained and educated every minute of the day lest they fall behind and become unsaveable.

Suddenly, EVERY mom is a homeschooling mom. I feel it. You feel it. Your kids feel it, for damn sure.

So let me flip the script for a minute and put things in perspective.

YOU NEED TO STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT RIGHT NOW.

Yes, kids need structure, they need a routine, they need things to occupy their time because many of them (younger or older) probably don’t yet have the skills to manage their time effectively. (Hell, I know most adults struggle with that very thing so cut the kids a break.)

Yes, kids need to have some structured learning and activity time, too.

But I’ve seen moms sharing beautifully colour-coded, literally minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, rigid as F**K schedules that have made ME as an adult have a visceral reaction (ie: I wanted to run screaming).

I get it, you’re just wanting to do your best. I do. So here’s some loving advice from a mom in your shoes. Because we realistically don’t know how long this is going to be the new normal…so it’s best to maintain as flexible and adaptable a mindset as possible.

How you’re probably feeling:

You probably want to limit technology as much as possible and create a schedule outlining educational activities including math, science, reading / writing, PE time. You don’t want them to lose momentum. You don’t want them to forget what it’s like to be in school because this isn’t summer vacation.

You probably also think having a schedule will keep them out of your hair while you do what you need to get done.

Here’s what you should remember:

Reality Check #1: Right now many of us are isolating for 3-4 weeks. That’s shorter than summer break. Some “learning leaks” happen over summer, and they’ll happen here, too. Most kids don’t have a rigid learning schedule over the summer, and they fare just fine come September.

Reality Check #2: Our kids are sponges, and they’re probably just as scared and uncertain as we are right now. They hear everything we hear only they probably don’t fully understand it. But they can feel our anxiety and tension.

Reality Check #3: They may think the idea of 3-4 weeks off school sounds awesome, but they’ll soon miss their friends, they’ll resent being trapped at home. They’ll feel isolated and lonely.

Reality Check #4: You WILL experience push back over the coming weeks. While they do need structure, they may start to push back on schedules (the more rigid the bigger the push back). You WILL see an increase in behaviour challenges and big emotions, no matter the age of your child. Meltdowns, tantrums, unexplained sadness, oppositional behaviour, fighting, crying…EXPECT IT.

So what do we do in response to all this? Won’t schedules help? Having a routine? Having expectations every day?

Yes. Sort of.

Keep a schedule, but keep it loose. Build in lots of free time where they can choose their own activities (and if that means doing nothing, or sitting on a device for a bit or in front of the TV, it’s okay. I promise it won’t make them stupid).

Have a list of activities they can choose from rather than having mandated activities or exercises every day. My kid has math 2 days a week with her tutor (online rather than in person now). That’s it for math. She reads stories to her sister during the day and I read them bedtime stories at night. That’s her reading done. I give her a couple of hours (yes, hours) to FaceTime her school friends and be silly. Outside of that, I ask her to pick 2-3 activities from a small list to do at various points of the day. I also let her be bored.

That may not feel right for you, but it works for us. My whole point here is that you have to do what works for YOU…not what everyone tells you that you should do, or how you should do it.

The most important thing here is this:

They won’t regress in school. Literally every single kid is in the same boat right now. Every. One.

When they’re back at school, there will be a short period of uncertainty, but teachers are experts in their field…they’ll course-correct and each child will be met where they are.

Don’t fight with your kids over math because they don’t feel like doing it.

Don’t punish them for not wanting to stick to your schedule.

Don’t mandate hours of learning time if they’re pushing back.

At the end of all of this the MOST IMPORTANT thing is your kid’s mental health. Way more important than academic skills, study skills, how many colours you used in your perfectly laid out schedule.

And so is YOUR mental health. You need to do something that you can sustain for 3-4 weeks…or longer.

The one thing your kids will leave with at the end of all of this is how they felt and how you made them feel. That trumps all of it. All of it.

So instead, build in time for snuggles, watching movies, going for walks, playing together, reading together, alone time, and also time for you to reconnect with adult friends who lift you up.

We WILL get through this…but first we have to get over ourselves.

You’re already doing a phenomenal job, mama. Don’t complicate it by adding a layer to the weight I know you already feel.

I’d love to hear your ideas for fun activities you’re doing with your kids. Share in the comments, and please share this with a mama you think needs to hear it. I appreciate it.

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Copyright 2020 Sarah Khan