Your Child's Education: Creating New Perspectives and New Routines
By Catherine Weiss
April 11, 2020
During my 16 years of being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, the best way I’ve found to get goals accomplished, avoid child meltdowns, and therefore avoid parent meltdowns is to come from a new point of view in every moment of the day. This new point of view helped me create a new way of being and hundreds of new, some would call highly creative, routines, activities, setups, structures, boundaries, and environments for my kids' learning.
For parents used to dropping off their kids at school and then going to work, the old perspectives and routines just don't work anymore. Some may just need updating.
We are all, now more than ever, the creators of our own lives, our own responses. We are all, now more than ever, learning how to be fully self-directed. We’re tapping into the power within ourselves that we didn’t even know existed. As a result, our children get that opportunity too. I see it as an amazing learning (and therefore growing) opportunity for everyone.
This pandemic is causing more than a little anxiety out there, and it’s causing more than a little renewed sense of self-confidence. Some parents are starting to see how resourceful they are, how creative they are, how capable they are. Bravo for the parents. I’m your biggest fan.
My kids learned everything, school subjects included, in so many different ways, and at so many different stages of their lives. I have a lot of tolerance, patience, and trust in their learning. Some parents don’t and some parents do to a degree. Find what works best for your family, and consider these tips as ideas to consider and explore and modify. There isn’t one best way.
These are my top tips, by age group, to help you and your kids rock this temporary #shelter in place.
Infant to Preschool: Babies and toddlers just want to be touching you, smelling you, feeling the vibration of your voice on their skin, and being in the same room with you. Try wearing your baby and your toddler (if they’ll let you) in a backpack, front pack, or sling and do your work with them “on” you. You can do computer work with a baby on your back, at your breast (from the front pack), or in a sling. You can definitely go for a walk this way. I even did the dishes this way, cooked this way (for safety, only with them in the backpack while cooking), grocery shopped this way, and believe it or not it is even possible for you to go to the bathroom this way! My kids are 18 months apart and at one point I had one in the backpack and one in the front pack as I went about my day. It’s a great workout!!
Preschool to 2nd Grade: Try just letting them play (without screens) and be near you. Again, your work can be done while wearing them in a sling, front pack, or backpack if they’ll let you. I know, they’re getting heavy at this point so sometimes that’s not possible, and for extroverted kids who always want to be talking with you or having conversations with anyone it can be tough. So, here’s what I did. Put their favorite toys next to you and let them play. Avoiding screens is best because it creates massive withdrawal problems in them and lots of screaming later on. Pick toys that allow the child to be themselves, which is creative, self-directed… crayon and blank paper, blocks, dolls, things they can use their imaginations with, not things that are pre-scribed and “done for them” because they only hold the child’s attention for a few minutes. A child’s imagination is endless, so give them toys and activities that allow them to be endlessly tapping into it. If they love workbooks though, give them all they want. Order some on Amazon. Let them use their favorite writing utensils and go to town. Be present and attentive but come from the perspective that they love being the creators of their own worlds, with you in the same room. If you have a Zoom call, try teaming with your partner if you have one, or taking the Zoom call during nap time, or just do the call any time knowing that every other parent on the Zoom call is facing the same situation; laugh about how insane it all is and then have your call. Kids will always interrupt their parents at this age. Try not to let it frustrate you because getting frustrated pulls you away from your own creativity to solve the challenge. Another idea is to create a workspace that's side by side your young child complete with their favorite toys as wells as "school" work.
3rd Grade - 5th Grade: Your elementary-school-age children probably have their school routines laid out for them by their teachers. If that works for you, great. If not, there are multiple options. My first tip is to try a wonderful way of exposing your kids to multiple new learning opportunities. It’s called strewing. What is strewing? Strewing is putting their schoolwork, schoolbooks, school activities, school anything and everything, and anything interesting in the places your kids frequent the most. Do they love dinosaurs? Put a bunch of dinosaur books out on the kitchen table for them to see during the next meal. Got a scientist in your house? Put science-y things, books, and supplies where your little Einstein spends the most time. As an experiment, you could try putting the screens away completely so they aren’t distracted and let them have at the substitutes. They’ll put up a battle probably if you do have a “screen break” but they may eventually discover the new possibilities. If you say, “that’s just not happenin’ in my house, Catherine” then just know that screentime is now one of the best ways to do school. Your child’s school is probably heading in that direction and at least has electronically communicated with you and them about their schoolwork. There are so many great apps and classes and groups and activities on the iPad, computer and iPhone. To me, it is fine to give them that freedom (with time management responsibility) on their devices. Your own family decisions about screens are the best ones for you. If they love talking with their friends, there is a lot of learning that takes place there… try supporting them in talking on the phone with their neighborhood friend by both of them meeting in front of your house but a house-length away from each other. Side by side workspaces might work for this age as well.
Middle School: Your middle-school-age child also probably has their school routines laid out for them by their teachers. However, the teachers are not at home with your kids and don’t see the whole picture in your family life as you do. It is okay to not follow the rigorous replica of what your kids were doing at their school. It’s not really school-at-home. The new perspective is this: your family is living your life as best you know how, with what you’ve got, and with the knowledge you currently have. So, please do give yourself a break from the extreme pressure to keep going at the same pace. Look, most everything has stopped and/or is now going at a snail's pace, so, in my book, so can you and your kids. Enjoy the snail pace while you can while making sure the kids know that their education is still very important.
High School: Much can be done over the computer for high schoolers. For those preparing for college, most of what needs to be done can be accomplished over the computer. If you haven’t already, get set up with the online version of your child’s current school, try other online schools, try online classes (Udemy has tons), online groups, etc. Invite your high schooler to maybe set up an online study group. By this age, kids are much more independent and will create the kind of schedule for their day that works for them. Depending on your relationship with your child, you’ll have a certain amount of influence. I would try to be as supportive as possible for them in the way that they are wanting support. Try asking them how you can help or offer some ideas you might have. Ask them how their studies are going and let them know you’re there to help if they need it. Don’t turn it into a battle of wills. Again, enjoy the snails’ pace. It won’t last forever.
Those are just some of my ideas for you. What do you think? Would you like me to focus on a particular subject? What other challenges would you like me to help you with? Leave them in the comments below and I look forward to reading them! For now, I’m thinking of you and your family and wishing you all the best!