This was a text from someone dear to me. She asked for tips to survive at home with her kids. She’s not alone. I’ve gotten a whole bunch of texts and messages that are variations on this theme, and I have a few tips.
I’m also going to refer you to some other homeschoolers I turn to when I think I’m not going to make it.
Kelly Mantoan is a Catholic homeschooler and possibly one of the funniest people out there. Both her faith and her humor feature in her writing. She posted the other day on How to get stuff done when everyone is home. Start there.
Julie Bogart has graduated five homeschooled adults into the world and offers a wealth of kindness, encouragement and practical help. I have linked here to her blog post announcing a free conference next week for Homebound learners that might be of help. She also has a ton of curriculum resources, both short- and long-term, and a great book, The Brave Learner.
Melissa Wiley is a writer and long-term homeschooler. She’s got great advice for us.
I also want to highlight an Instagram feed with practical and evidence-based help for parents on managing kids’ behavior. You can find Jennifer on Instagram at everydayba.
My tips for surviving being stuck at home to save the world:
Remember why you’re home.
We all know someone whose risk with the virus is extremely high, whether it’s grandparents or neighbors or friends from school, and our temporary incarceration directly benefits them. Talk about this with your kids. Let them know that their actions matter. We have chosen to stay home to protect the vulnerable. It doesn’t feel heroic when your floor is covered with rice and ants and you’re yelling at your kids to set the table (um, me yesterday) but it is.
Adjust your goals.
This is code for “lower your standards.”
Perhaps your kids go to an elite school and are now trying to learn calculus off your television. Or maybe you have been in the habit of enjoying six hours of blessed silence every day while your kids are at school, and well… now there’s no silence and a house full of kid crap twenty-four hours a day.
Go back to tip #1 (remember why you’re doing this) and adjust your expectations. This may not be the year your kid masters calculus, but they are going to learn lessons of resilience, independence in time management, and creative mental health strategies that will benefit them their whole lives.
Likewise, you are now sharing your daytime work space with another person (or five more people), and it’s going to look different. But maybe this is the season when your kids finally learn how to pick up after themselves, do their own laundry and clean the house. (Their future roommates/spouses will thank you.)
A word about screen time: there are so many options emerging for fitness classes online, learning remotely, and connecting with loved ones. If you have strict screen-time limits, this is a good time to evaluate adjusting those. However, we should still be strict about WHERE screens live in our homes. There is good evidence that we eat, sleep and learn better if the screens stay out of our bedrooms, kitchens, and hidden corners of the basement.
Make a plan.
Humans like to know what’s going to happen next. This is what makes us different from dogs, and is probably why all of us are losing it right now.
Your plan should work for all of you. Not just for the kids, and not just for you. Sit down together to set some goals and priorities, and then shoo them away while you make the actual plan. Follow it for a week or two, and then readjust.
Seven times out of ten, when my kids start snarking at each other, it’s after a prolonged period of sitting or lying around. Ninety percent of the remaining time, it’s because they’re hungry or tired. You schedule your meals and add snacks when necessary. Do the same with movement.
Schedule regular movement throughout your day. And if you notice kids getting crabby, shake it up with some movement. The younger the kids, the shorter (and more frequent) the movement breaks need to be. Think: turn up the music and dance a song. Do five jumping jacks. Take a ten minute walk before lunch.
Be generous with praise.
Our kids are anxious. They may be reading the news, or just reading our moods, but they can tell things are not right. When we draw their attention (and our own) to what’s going well, the more of that we’ll get.
- “I noticed how patient you were with your sister during Monopoly.”
- “Thanks for waiting to talk to me till I got off the phone.”
- “Thanks for unloading the dishwasher.”
- “You’ve been working really hard on that math problem. Shall we work on it together for a little while?”
Keep a running tally of what went well.
I try to write down at least a couple things every day. My list is as simple as “P called Papa & Grandma, M unloaded dishwasher without complaining, crocuses by the front tree.” These aren’t major victories by any means, but they make all the difference in how my brain catalogs this day. A few small victories can move us from having a “bad day” to “good day.”
Say you’re sorry. Hug lots. Be consistent in your rules (whatever you all decide they should be) and have lots of grace for each other and yourself.
You can do this.
You are doing it. Thank you for protecting the vulnerable.