Who could have predicted that nine months after our governor shut down our schools, education would still look drastically different than normal? I am a mom of four, and three of my kids are currently in middle or high school. This school year, they are learning with a hybrid model of 2 hours per day of in-person instruction, and depending on the student and the schedule that day, between 3 to 4 hours of teacher-led online learning. It can be overwhelming! Here are five ideas I have relied on in our home during this challenging time.
Each of my students has a method for keeping his or her school area. This year, students do not have lockers on campus, which means all books and supplies are kept at home. My kids each have a way to organize and store their learning tools. My daughter keeps books and supplies in separate tubs for each subject. One of my sons spreads out on our big dining room table that is rarely used. He organizes his supplies in piles. My other son is in a room with a big desk. He likes his space clear and tidy. He has a box under his desk that he stands his books in, so he can see the spine of each for easy access. I knew going in that each space would need to be organized in a way that made sense to each of my kids individually.
Establish a flexible routine!
Similar to a typical school year, we are all about setting a schedule. We get up at the same time each weekday morning, and are out the door at the same time. When we get home from our in-person session, we have about an hour before online afternoon classes start. My kids all use that time to eat lunch and get set up for an afternoon of being at their computers. At the end of their school day, they often take a break and walk away from their school area for a while. At some point before dinner, they go back and finish homework and organize their space, so it is ready for the next day. Since my kids all do this without prompting, we do not set a specific time. If anyone had an issue, we would choose a deadline for completing that task.
This looks different for each of my kids. My daughter engages with her classmates in a chat before afternoon classes start. Sometimes they are silly, play games, or check in with each other on school work. Her middle school teachers have been good about assigning group projects that they work on in small group breakout rooms online. My boys stay connected with friends through group texts and have set up online meetings just to hang out. This fall, they all very much enjoyed athletic practices, even though those practices looked different. Regardless, the 2 hours together in person was invaluable when it came to staying connected.
We have found that making time to move our bodies is more important than ever. Think about what used to be a typical day, which included PE daily and sports practice most days, plus walking from history class to your locker and then on to math class, and now compare that to online learning where students sit from 11:30am to 3:30pm and rarely get up to move around. Exercise and movement are in a major deficit. We make a point to take advantage of any in-person workouts the school is allowed to offer as well as get outside as a family as much as we can. Even in the winter, while more challenging, it’s the time to get more creative.
Modeling a positive attitude is crucial in trying times. Typically, I am the proverbial optimist, to the point of being annoying! I can find the bright side in almost anything! Let me say though, sometimes lately, I am just tired!! I have found when I have a poor attitude, it is highly contagious and spreads through my home like wildfire. When I can keep an upbeat attitude, it makes for a much more peaceful atmosphere for everyone. Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.
This is all exhausting. My kids are tired! We are on a perpetual emotional roller coaster. Even on our best day, when we stick to the basics and can stay organized, keep our routine, collaborate with classmates, get moving, and most of all be positive, we make it through and often surprise ourselves when we share about the great day we had!