By Jessica Page Bergeron, Ph.D.
From the little information we’ve gained from the school districts that have already opened face-to-face, educators and parents are beginning to realize that virtual learning, in some capacity, will likely be here to stay for the 2020-2021 school year. Whether you’ve chosen virtual for your children or you’re anxiously awaiting your school district’s announcement to go face-to-face, below are tips and strategies from experts in education and our most knowledgeable moms to help you prepare for a great year!
First, give yourself some grace. This was the most often heard and most important piece of advice that I heard from countless interviews with all kinds of moms who have homeschooled before. And the moms who have already started virtual learning this year are warning us that it might be more than a little difficult. Even if you’re an old pro at teaching at home, it is certainly going to be different for most of us. Juggling work responsibilities, small children, or technology issues can exacerbate the existing challenges. The homeschool moms said that it’s important to manage your expectations this year. Make sure to tell yourself there will be some ups and downs and let yourself off the hook if you or your children get frustrated. Remind yourself that you are schooling in a pandemic, and this is not the same as homeschooling or schooling during a normal year. If you have a tough day with your child, it does not mean you aren’t a great parent; it just means you’re human.
Next, take some time for yourself. Identify a time each day to spend some quiet time alone and just be away from everyone. Self-care is a bit of a buzz word right now with lots of tips and strategies, but for a super busy or tired mom, this can come down to simply taking a nap or sitting on the couch to watch a show. You know how sometimes kids need a time-out to calm down or get themselves together? Moms do too. Every day. Here are some great self-care ideas.
Always remember: People first, learning second. You are a mom to your child first. In that moment when you and your child are screaming or crying and at the height of frustration, you have to make a choice to put your child and yourself first. Always let your kids know that you love them and that you will figure it out together. Remember that your relationship with your child comes first . . . even before school.
You set the tone. This isn’t toxic positivity we’re talking about – silver-lining every situation isn’t always helpful, and you definitely need to acknowledge your feelings. Schooling in a pandemic is not all rainbows and sunshine. But you definitely set the tone for your household. If you’re constantly complaining or being negative, that’s the message that your child will feel about the year. If you’re feeling inadequate or feel that virtual schooling isn’t sufficient, your child will carry that attitude into his/her classroom. In order to keep perspective, our homeschool moms recommended to develop a morning or evening ritual to set the tone for positivity or gratitude – like a book share together, a cuddle first thing in the morning, or even a small note to say “I’m glad we’re here together”. Teaching your child gratitude is going to help them through the year, and it’s a lifelong skill to promote resilience. Read how a gratitude journal can promote writing skills and happiness.
Create some space to talk about feelings. Your children are feeling the pain of this situation too, and kids’ feelings aren’t as easy to understand. But it’s important that you acknowledge feelings of everyone in your house right now. Experts are reporting that the social emotional aspect of learning is being largely ignored this year. Maybe it’s because the adults are still trying to figure it all out? Health and wellness experts suggest creating space in your home for your kids to talk about their feelings. Some ideas are: Start a family meeting where everyone gives the highs and lows of the day. Spend some time cuddling before bed and talking about what you felt today that was challenging and how you might face it differently in the morning, then invite your child to share their thoughts. Or just encourage your child to share or talk about their feelings when they’re frustrated or upset. I love this website that teaches parents how to help their kids express their feelings.
And finally, your kids need to do their part to keep your house clean. If your pre-pandemic life was picking up after kids who just had a few free minutes between juggling school, sports, and various activities, now is the time to start giving the kids some responsibility around the house. If they don’t have chores already, now is the time to start. Kids can get messy! Since most of us have decreased time outside the home and increased time at home, start deciding on some age-appropriate chores for each child and stick to it -chores have to be done before letting them have free time or device time! (check out this site for more ideas on age-appropriate chores). If your children are old enough, you can also assign them a dinner to cook each week. Younger children can clean up after their space, wipe down tables or counters, and make their bed.
The last thing I want to leave everyone with is this: you are not alone. You are facing an unprecedented time in your house and there is no guidebook or manual. Your neighbors, mom friends, and sisters are all going through the same thing. Don’t be afraid to admit that you’re struggling and ask for help. There are more tips and strategies on our website www.equitablelearningcommunities.com.
About Jessica Page Bergeron
Jessica Page Bergeron is a mom of three children in elementary, middle, and high school and works in education administration. She really enjoys volunteering to support families – especially families with kids with special needs – to build advocacy skills and knowledge about the education system.