It’s been about a year since we started this online virtual school journey. It’s been a challenge for everyone involved and we’ve all found different things that work for us but I wanted to share a few things we’ve found useful in surviving online school.
1. Lower Your Expectations – Lower the expectations for you kids and for yourself. Your kids aren’t in their normal school environment and there are a lot of new challenges to overcome like technology. Also, lower your expectations for yourself. You have to divide yourself between parenting duties and everything else you are expected to get done like work. You can’t do it all and that’s OK.
2. Set Priorities – After you’ve lowered your expectations, set priorities. What are the most important things that need to get done each day? Maybe your child’s education falls into priority spot number 4 or 5 (or even lower). If there are more important things that need to happen each day make sure you allow enough time to get those things done first and don’t spend too much time on the less important. For us I have to prioritize which child’s work is most important. Based on the way our school district does grading my middle school child’s grades are more important than my kindergarten child’s grades. Also, I place priority for my son who has an IEP to attend his intervention classes over his regular school work.
3. Set Boundaries – I hear a lot of adults say they try to set boundaries when it comes to work/life balance, the same is true for kids. Set school hours and put away all school related items and work when school hours are over. Also, set boundaries for when you are available to help kids and be accessible to teachers. When I need to get work done I turn off my school app notifications. I also tell my kids that during certain hours of time day I need to work and if possible ask them to wait to ask for help.
4. Invest in Tools to Help Make Life Easier – If you are able to spend a little money on items that can make your life easier do it. I understand not everyone has the resources available to buy all the fancy new gadgets but sometimes you don’t need all the expensive things. We bought these inexpensive stylus pens for the kids’ touch screen computers (supplied by the school) and they have made school work much easier, especially for our youngest kids. What will make your daily life easier? Maybe this looks like ordering meal kits to make dinnertime easier. Maybe you need to buy a bookshelf or cart to help keep all of your child’s supplies organized. Sometimes spending a little bit of money can make your daily routine less stressful.
5. Take a Break – If you or your kids are feeling overwhelmed, take a break. Take a mental health day or step away from the computer for a few hours. The mental health of your child and yourself are far more important than any school assignment. Send your child’s teacher a short email explaining that you guys need to take mental health day. I think most teachers understand and are willing to work with parents as long as the child is trying.
I know a lot of these things are easier said than done. I’m constantly reminding myself to set boundaries and keep them. I have to remind myself and my kids to take a break when we get overwhelmed. None of us signed up for this pandemic. There are often no easy options but we can survive and possibly even thrive if we set some ground rules. I know I have been stressed more than ever this past year but I also see so many wonderful things flourishing in my children despite all of the challenges.
Again, these are just a few things that have helped our family, there may be different things that work for yours.