COVID School

Okay, friends. Time to check in on everyone and their foray into the world of homeschooling. We are on day #3498 of distance learning, and boy, do I have some revelations. What is working? What has been kicked to the curb? Can we do this again if school doesn’t start up like normal in August? Wait. Let’s not go there just yet …

When we started this journey into distance learning as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020, the new buzz word in education became “grace.” As educators, we were told to give our families grace as they navigated this new normal of suddenly having to be a teacher, work-from-home-employee, and parent ALL AT THE SAME TIME. As parents, we were told to give our educators grace as they navigated this new normal of suddenly having to be a teacher to their own kids, teach-from-home employee, and parent ALL AT THE SAME TIME. The learning curve for everyone was steep, so grace and patience was needed while we all settled into our new routines.

Showing off her pet to her class on Zoom

Frankly, giving each other grace still rings true on day #4173. For my family, the routine that we carefully crafted on day one was out the window by day two. I’ve had to dig deep into my reserves for some extra patience with my own kids. Anyway, I thought I’d take a minute and discuss some things that have worked for my family, and some things that have definitely NOT worked.

Our routine has to be flexible.

Originally, I had the thought that I would start the kids on their school work at 9:00, they would work quietly until 10:00 (they are independent 3rd and 5th graders, after all), then they’d have outdoor time, followed by lunch, active time, more homework and finally free time. All the while, my husband and I would be blissfully helping our own students over Zoom, answering parent emails, and planning the next day’s lessons. Cue the uproarious laughter. That absolutely didn’t happen EVER. My kids needed help. We had overlapping Zoom meetings. The iPad wouldn’t load the video someone needed to watch. The cat threw up. The washing machine broke. Yada yada. After a few days, I resorted to a checklist of items that had to be completed by 3:00, including school, chores, practices, etc. When my husband and I weren’t available to help with schoolwork, the kids needed to move onto something else on the list. As soon as that list was complete, their free time began. This has been working well for awhile now. But ask me on day #5029.

Everyone needs their own device.

Generally, our kids take turns on a shared iPad. The minute it was announced that school was closed for the remainder of the school year, we cleared another iPad for the kids to use. This way, they could both access their assignments on Google Drive, link to articles to read, or attend a Zoom meeting simultaneously. Now, with my husband and I both on computers as well, our internet capability has been stretched thin. We’ve started using a cell phone as a hot spot to help with a low signal.

I worked here…for two days…
Our homeschool has flexible seating.

We spent one weekend clearing out spaces for each of us to have our own “office” once we started working from home. Each kid got a table and chair in their room, fully stocked with school supplies and charging cords. My husband set up the desk in the basement and I organized a spot in the dining room, complete with a bookshelf for all of my stuff. By day three, we’d all rotated spots. I took up residence in the hallway between the kids’ rooms, so I could squeeze in work while helping them. My husband took over the dining room. The kids preferred to lay on their floors or hang in the hall with me. I also found myself sitting on my bed quite a bit. Flexible seating is a thing in school these days. Apparently, it is in my home as well.

Finally, I’ve learned that I should never homeschool my own kids.

For parents who do that, my teaching hat is off to you! I can get 22 kindergarteners to follow my directions, yet I can’t get my 9 year-old to start her school work without wailing and gnashing her teeth. The work assigned to my kids is very straightforward and well thought out. It isn’t excessive busy work. But I’m constantly met with resistance, saying that it’s too hard or they don’t understand. I’ve found that sometimes it isn’t worth the battle. We separate and try again later. Or my husband helps one child while I help the other. We do what we can.

And really, that’s what this is all about – doing the best that we can with a crappy situation. This whole coronavirus thing is a crappy situation. What has worked for your family? And from a teacher to a parent, I’m telling you to just do what you can. Try your best, ask for help from us, and take a day off when needed. Stock up on grace. We will need it on day #6812.

Jen was born and raised in Overland Park. After going to Indiana University for college, then living in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, she grew exhausted of circling for a parking spot and headed back home to be near family. She and her husband Matt are parents to a 10 year-old boy and a 8 year-old girl. Jen teaches kindergarten and her husband teaches high school, so they wonder how they’ll relate to their kids during the middle school years. She spends her free time cheering on the Chiefs, Royals, and Hoosiers, hanging out with family, laughing with her teacher friends, and fostering a love/hate relationship with boxing. She also loves traveling, Target, coffee, wine, sunflowers and all things pop culture.