The introduction of coronavirus into our daily lives has changed just about everything. A shortage of toilet paper, pasta, and hand sanitizer is not something we usually had to worry about, nor was the possibility of contracting a novel virus, for that matter. But one of the lesser discussed cultural shifts is all of the parents who are now makeshift educators. Due to school closures, parents are now finding themselves the arbiter of their children’s education and, understandably, it’s adding yet another layer of stress. Especially for those who also have full-time jobs in addition to parenting. Or in homes where families are trying to recover from COVID-19.
Before we go any further, I want to say right here and now that you don’t have to take this on. I am giving you a permission slip to let yourself off the hook. Your sanity and peace of mind—along with the sanity and wellbeing of your children—are priority number one. They will not fall behind, their education will not be stunted, and this will not academically undermine them in any way.
These are scary and uncertain times, and it can be very easy to near-obsess about things that feel familiar—like your children’s schooling—as a way to cope. It is understandable but unnecessary. Funnel that energy instead into making your children feel safe, loved, and secure. This is a traumatic event, and they don’t need to be further traumatized with any academic pressure.
Instead, aim to do what you can. Give it your best, and then let it go.
The truth is, we are all learning through this together. If there’s no blueprint, then there’s no right way to go about it, it’s about finding what works for you and your family. However, holding yourself to an impossible ideal of perfect homeschooling isn’t working for you or anyone else. If you can’t help but feel the pressure of homeschooling, here are a few ways you can set a strong structure while not pulling your hair out:
Create a routine
Studies have shown that setting a daily routine not only reduces stress but improves your overall mental health. This routine doesn’t have to be the same as your old one, which might be a blessing in disguise. You don’t have to be up by 5:30 am to make sure everyone is dressed and fed before that 7:35 am school bell. You can start your “school” at 9:30 am. You can work in spurts of 90 minutes. You can spend a dedicated four hours and call it a day. Whatever works best for you, your children, and the brand new days we find ourselves. Whatever routine you decide on, be sure you stick to it.
Be creative and have fun
Children can learn about shapes and colors on a morning walk through the neighborhood. Older kids can learn a variety of mathematical elements by following along while you grocery shop, even if it’s just online. In fact, teaching your children how to use these principles in everyday life situations may be even more educational than practicing them in school. What are some other unique ways you teach your kids about history? Science? English? Be as creative as you’d like to be. And if your creativity means watching movies dedicated to historical figures or watching Blue Planet on Netflix to learn about animals, that is okay too.
Take lots of breaks
Give yourself a break, both mentally and physically (and emotionally too!) Taking breaks gives you a chance to refuel your patience and gives your kids’ an opportunity to refuel their attention span. Again, there is no right way to do any of this. You may have a fantastic day today and struggle to get through a single math problem tomorrow. Building in downtime and sufficient breaks is more important than completing any day of homeschooling “successfully.”
Whether you apply these tips or find something entirely different that works for you, let that be enough. Beating yourself up for not becoming a perfect teacher overnight in the face of a worldwide pandemic is not useless, but it creates unneeded stress and anxiety for anyone. You’re doing an excellent job. Your child has a parent who genuinely cares about them, and that is an incredible gift.
This is a formative event for children and one they will always remember. Yes, they are looking to you as the navigator of their days, but that doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. Focus on the kinds of memories you’d like to make and how you can make a scary, uncertain time feel magical and beautiful. Do you want your kids to remember feeling isolated and stressed out about their schoolwork? Of course not.
How about memories of learning to bake with you? That means learning about measurements, setting timers, and how to use a kitchen.
How about memories of snuggling on the couch and reading together? That means getting in their sustained reading times, learning about critical thinking while they discuss the plots and characters with you, and build deeper bonds with you too.
How about going on a hike or a walk together? This means fulfilling their physical fitness requirements, and you can also quiz them on what they learned that day.
Our children are going to remember this time. Mostly they will remember how you responded to this situation, and it will inform how they respond to change and stress going forward. Based on your actions, you can make sure that they remember all the ways you kept life wonderful for them. They’re going to remember everything they learned from you in ways they could never learn from a teacher. It doesn’t need to be a stressful experience for anyone. Start each day by telling yourself that you are exactly enough. Know that you are the best parent for your child. And, while you may not have a degree in teaching grades K-12, you know your child better than anyone. You can do this.
For those of you homeschooling your kids, what have you found that works wonders? Share in the comments, and let’s get inspired.