Distance learning creates a world unknown to many educators and parents. For parents of multiple children, this creates a layer of confusion and parents are easily becoming event coordinators getting kids on one learning platform, and their other child on another while they work 1-1 with a third child. This of course is all while trying to work from home, clean the house and have time to go to the bathroom! Preaching to the choir? This is a conversation I have with many parents on a weekly basis.
As a kindergarten teacher and mom, I’ve done my best to simplify learning for families who may not be used to managing so many different learning environments in one sitting and who also need time of their own.
The first thing to do is write down everything you know on paper and print it out or put it in a digital document; this depends on how you process. Use my template HERE. Think of it as a budget. You put in your meetings, and at the bottom, write the login items, websites, etc. needed to access those meetings. Do not include time required by a teacher for activities or homework yet. This can be filled in later.
Next, think about what is feasible for you; if you’re overwhelmed, you won’t get much done and neither will your child. High stress means lower productivity. So be realistic.
Make a schedule where all children work on writing, reading and math at the same time every day for multi-child households. This keeps a consistent schedule among children, but also means that if kids need assistance, then your brain doesn’t have to shift from one subject to the next, which can be draining and difficult. This is compounded by multi-child households. If a child has a zoom meeting or conference in the middle of one of your subject times, they should stop what you or their teacher had planned and attend the zoom meeting. Don’t expect your child to make up their time missed because of the zoom meeting because this will throw off the schedule and consistency. It will all even out in the end. The key is to keep the schedule as consistent as possible each day.
Schedule a time for “Study Hall.” Whatever didn’t get done, whether more time was needed or a zoom meeting interrupted a certain learning time, schedule a study hall time at the end of the day for about an hour for students to finish and work on assignments they need to complete. For younger children, include fun games, such as puzzles, etc. or a Break box that has multiple activities. Even if children don’t have any work to complete, have alternative work, games and activities available during this time. Don’t skip study hall and go straight to television. Keep the schedule consistent.
Schedule Snack times. Again, if your high school student isn’t used to snack time, but your kindergartner is, schedule snack time anyway. We all need breaks throughout our day. Keep them at the same time and try to keep the snacks healthy with some protein. Try swapping out a bag of chips for carrots and a slice of turkey or ham for a protein and vitamin boost.
Schedule Lunch. I always forget to eat, that is, when I don’t follow our family schedule. This means I grab for something unhealthy, overeat or get very cranky. Lunch is needed for everyone and having this in our routine and planned, will just make it easier. If you have work meetings, plan ahead and make sure you have something available while the kids eat. At this time, I still don’t allow any technology that is not school-related. This will help children to stay focused on the school day. Include lots of items kids can do that doesn’t involve a screen. But, if all else fails and you need to keep kids busy so you can do what you need to, don’t feel guilty. Turn on Veggie Tales!
Brain Breaks should be scheduled apart from lunch and snack breaks. Our brains need lots of breaks, especially when we are banking so much time in front of those screens. My favorite brain breaks in elementary school are on GoNoodle. However, as the weather warms, taking the dog for a family walk or doing an exercise video with my high schooler is higher on the priority list. Sometimes, we need time apart, so I might hop on the elliptical and do my own exercise routine. The important part of a brain break here is a body break. It has to be some form of physical activity. It can be walking in place, yoga, pilates, stretching, anything that gets the body moving. I work in my attic, and so I take intentional trips up and down the stairs to get items.
The above are the essentials. That’s right, I consider brain breaks an essential. Our brains and bodies need this schedule to keep our mood boosted and focused to stay productive.
Also think about what you need to help you keep going. If you have a meeting, and need school-aged kids to be semi-independent, have a light, signal or poster stating you need a few minutes and also let kids know what time you are free to help, answer questions or spend time with them. Kids need to not only know that you are busy and what and is not allowed during this time, but also when you will be free so they can be heard.
Another thing I need every day, is my coffee. I wake up, let the dogs out, brush my teeth, go to the restroom, feed the dogs and get my coffee. I let the dogs out again and go up to work. It’s my daughter’s job to let them in. I start my day an hour or two before my daughter. This is my routine every single morning. Once you get into a routine, it will become a habit. The hard part, is just starting the routine. If you don’t have a routine, it may feel hard to keep up, you may not feel as productive, or feel overwhelmed because you won’t have a consistent way of tracking what you are doing.
What have you deemed essential in your daily schedule? Let me know in the comments below.