by Lisa Reichelt, M.Ed., Parent Coach
I bet you never thought you would have to juggle parenting, working from home and being your child’s teacher all at the same time. Covid-19 brought this new challenge to our lives. Parents are scheduling learning from home at the same time as they are trying to complete their own jobs from a distance. It seems to be an insurmountable task. You have probably seen or received a lot of advice on ways to set up a schedule so that your child has a “school like” experience when they are learning from home. If you are like most families, you tried out one of these suggestions. Then reality set in! The schedule didn’t work. Your kids didn’t magically transition from math problems to reading assignments at 10:00 to a zoom meeting at 11. See if you recognize yourself in the following descriptions.
Can you Recognize your family?
Is this You? Parent of 2-3 school-age children who are enrolled in a school delivering Hybrid Learning. Your kids are learning from home two or three days a week. You started the school year with a handy color-coded schedule which you displayed in the kitchen. The kids all saw it and nodded their heads as you explained how each home school day would proceed. The first couple of days the kids needed a lot of reminders to follow the schedule. You were quite distracted from your work and some of the school work never was completed. Things went downhill from there. By day five, no one was following a schedule and sometimes the school work didn’t get finished at all.
Maybe this is You? Parent of 2-3 school-age children who are enrolled in a school delivering Distance Learning. Every day your child is at home. You are responsible for making sure he/she completes the school work and attends the virtual class meetings. Each of your children has a different school schedule. You need a spread sheet on your refrigerator just to keep track of who meets whom, when they are meeting and why they are meeting. You feel as if you have lost all control.
Educators, in an attempt to be helpful, provided sample schedules for families. Their intentions were good. The problem lies in the fact that most children aren’t used to being on a “school like” schedule when they are at their own home. They are easily distracted and think nothing of choosing an alternate activity at any time. So, if you have found yourself arguing, scolding, bribing and punishing your kids, you are not alone.
Four Ideas that may help
How do we fix it? First – take a deep breath and relax. Here are four ideas for ways to regroup. Offering choice, charting positive progress, using break times carefully and helping frame your child’s mindset will help you regain some order in your household.
Everyone likes to have choices. Choice makes us feel like we have a voice in the decision. One way to give your child choice is to allow them to help create the daily schedule. This can be accomplished in many ways. Start with the non-negotiables. You will not be able to reschedule the class Zoom meeting, but you may be able to switch math worksheets and reading 20 pages to different times. Your child may prefer to work on the easy subjects first and save the more difficult ones for last. By asking your child to participate in setting up the schedule for their day, they should feel a greater sense of ownership when the day goes as planned. Follow this link for some helpful guides to offering choice.
We all get a sense of accomplishment when a task is finished. Use a chart to track completion of each part of the day’s schedule. Your child can use a star, sticker or tally mark to record completing a task. Together with your child, establish a reward to work towards. Rather than reward them daily for completing their tasks, try keeping a tally of how many items were completed that day. Set a milestone that will take a few days to reach. This way, not completing something doesn’t become a devastating loss. And your child has a chance every day to add to the total tallies. Be sure to set up a reward for the total tally marks. You know best what rewards motivate your child but I suggest picking something like “time out with Mom or Dad” or another reward that doesn’t cost anything. I’ve included a sample chart here for you to use.
Taking a break is important but sometimes a child takes a break and you can’t get them to re-engage in the lessons. Before the school day begins, have your child choose a few preferred activities for breaks and the length of time for each break. When it comes to break time be sure enforce the choices they made. They must do the activities they chose and for the time agreed. Then set a timer. When the timer goes off, they are back to the books. Younger children can benefit from learning the principle of “First … Then”. (First you do your school work, then you get to go ride your bike) There are great visuals to help your child understand “First…Then” as it relates to learning at home. It may take a few days (or weeks) of enforcing this consistently but your child will eventually understand the routine and will actually benefit from the structure of this routine. Remember, we all find comfort in predictable situations.
Even with the best schedule and the utmost patience on the part of a parent, there will still be emotional breakdowns and dilemmas. Your child may hit a road block in a subject area and you may not be capable of helping them. They may truly believe they aren’t “smart enough” to learn. Fear of failure may block their thinking. In this situation it is important address the real problem. Try to figure out what is causing them to struggle. It might be something totally unrelated to the subject. Fostering the ability to persevere when things get difficult is another milestone in our children’s normal development. By supporting their growth in this area, you will be setting them up for success throughout their life. So, when the emotions begin to flare up, step back and see things from their perspective. Check out this article by Lisa Edwards for more insight into ways to encourage your child to develop a growth mindset.
I hope these ideas will help relieve some of the frustration you may be experiencing with Distance/Hybrid Learning. Let’s all hope that this crazy time of Covid-19 will soon be a distant memory and that our children can tell their children, “When I was your age….”
If you are interested in learning about Parent Coaching follow this link.