Yesterday’s announcement from our governor? All public schools in our state would be closed for the next two weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak. Among all the other concerns that could possibly surround a global pandemic- contagiousness, severity of the virus itself, food supply, flooding of the health care system, and most of all, protecting the vulnerable among us- now many families find themselves suddenly “homeschooling” on top of everything else.
This probably isn’t something you signed up for. You’re worried about your paycheck, basic supply availability, and how this situation will affect your personal life and the lives of those you know. At the very least, you have to manage a job (or lack thereof), your family’s health and safety, bored kids stuck at home, and remote learning assignments to boot.
To say this is a trying time would be an understatement.
Honestly, the schoolwork your kids likely have to do is probably among the smallest of your worries. But, it still has to get done.
I’m not able to take away all the problems that the coronavirus and school closures have caused. However, I can offer some advice for having to unexpectedly do school at home.
A note: If you or a loved one are sick with coronavirus or in quarantine, I am so sorry you are dealing with this. I absolutely recommend you follow your doctor’s orders and focus on getting well again. This article is meant to be a resource to those who are looking for solutions for their kids during school closings. It is not meant to be medical advice, and it is not meant for those who are currently ill.
Remember that this is a novel situation.
First off, you should know that your kids are likely going to be experiencing a range of emotions about this event. They may be scared about their friends or family members’ health, or they may feel that everyone is overreacting. They may be excited about the time off of school, or they may feel resentful that they have to stay home. You may all be at each other throats, or you may be having fun.
Remember: you are not in your regular routine. These next few weeks might prove to be a challenge. That’s okay! Don’t panic. We are going to talk about how to make the most of it.
Figure out what is essential.
When your entire world gets turned upside down, it’s hard to know what to do or where to start. What is essential during these next few weeks?
- Fostering family relationships
- Helping your kids through this strange and uncertain time
- Tending everyone’s basic needs
- Work responsibilities (for you)
- School assignments (for your kids)
Ask yourself what absolutely needs to happen today. Make sure everyone is healthy and sane first. Then, you can work on tending to your to-do list.
Determine what you will do about your job.
If you have one stay at home parent, this time of dealing with coronavirus will be easier for you. However, if you are a working parent, having school closed for 2-6 weeks is no small obstacle to overcome.
What in the world will you do about your job? About the kids? About their school assignments? Here are some ideas to get you started.
Work remotely if possible.
Can you work with your boss to work remotely, even some of the time? Working from home, while admittedly challenging, means that you will be able to avoid the dilemma of finding childcare in the middle of a wide-spread shut down. If this is possible for you, try:
- Working side by side with your child on your individual tasks.
- Working in the early morning, late night, during nap time, or while your kids watch a movie.
- Using a timer to help your kids know when you are available and when you’re not.
- Giving your kids quiet activities to do when you need to take a phone call or video conference.
Bring your child to work if it’s safe.
If you have to go into work, ask yourself if it’s a situation where you can safely bring your child to work with you while school is closed. Obviously, you don’t want to compromise the purpose of school closure, so make sure your kids wouldn’t be exposed to illness at your workplace.
For example, a dad who drives for a company might be able to safely bring his preteen a few days a week on the trip. A young child could certainly work on school or play quietly in the corner of an office if needed. If your baby or toddler’s daycare has closed, consider wearing the child in a baby carrier during work. (I’ve done it countless of times.)
I’ve seen it done in other circumstances, so it’s not unreasonable to suppose it could be done in this particularly trying situation. Try the following:
- Explain the school closure to your boss and ask permission to bring your child in. Make a case for how it can benefit your employer and your productivity.
- Discuss expectations with your child, particularly if they are young. Make it fun and exiting, practice being quiet together, and praise their little successes.
- Bring school assignments, a tablet, a quiet box, and some books for your child to work on in your workplace.
- Plan for mishaps and try to be flexible. It may not be a perfect day (or several weeks) at work, but if it gets you through then it’s better than not having the option at all.
(One of my kids at work with me when we got in a tight spot.)
Find childcare if needed.
If you can’t bring your child to work with you, you have two options. The first is to take some time off of work if you can afford it. If you can’t, then you can look for safe childcare options.
- Trade working days or shifts with your spouse, significant other, or a good friend.
- Call on family members to help out a couple days a week.
- Teach older kids to be self-sufficient during your hours at work.
- Check out this extensive list of child care options for the working- and schooling- parent.
While it may seem impossible, there are thousands upon thousands of parents who work and homeschool on a regular basis. Check here for practical solutions for working homeschool parents, or request to join this Facebook community for advice and encouragement as you try to work and educate your kids at the same time. You can do it!
Find a “good enough” routine.
If you were homeschooling full-time, I would encourage you to create a schedule that was sustainable for you and your family over the long term. You may not have enough time to adjust to an ideal schedule right now, but you can definitely find a routine that’s good enough for suddenly homeschooling.
Remember that your kids’ school assignments don’t have to happen Monday -Friday, from 9-3. There’s loads of flexibility in homeschooling, and you can take advantage of that fact during a coronavirus quarantine too. You can fit in school assignments or extra educational activities around your work schedule, in the mornings, evenings, or weekends. You can do extra school on days off and less of it on days you have to work.
Figure out what things have to happen first and schedule those. Be flexible with the rest of it, and be sure to leave some white space for taking care of yourself too.
Figure out how to help your child with learning at home.
There are a few different categories of kids who will find themselves suddenly stuck at home for weeks on end due to coronavirus. You may have mixed feelings about being both parent and teacher, but you can do this!
The first group of kids are those who have no set school assignments during their time off, and you as a parent may be pulling your hair out looking for things to keep them busy. Here are some great starting places:
- Outschool classes
- Khan Academy (from age 2- adult)
- Other Education companies offering free subscriptions due to school closings
- Online curriculum for homeschoolers
- STEM ideas for school at home
- “Unschooling” resources
The next group are the kids who have specific school assignments, but are too young to do them independently. This will likely be the most labor-intensive group of students. You can try:
- Having a designated “school time” each day.
- Fitting in their school work around your job responsibilities.
- Helping them with directions, then having them work independently for a few questions at a time while you work or tend to the home. Check in on them frequently to help as needed.
- If you have the time, sit and watch as they do schoolwork. The light bulb moments are really a joy to witness.
The last group of kids are the ones who have assignments and are old enough to work independently. This will make your work load a lot lighter! For these students, encourage them to do their best and turn assignments in on time. Even though they can work on their own, check in with them from time to time. This new, quiet learning environment is likely strange for them- and maybe even a bit lonely.
Make the most of the time with your children.
Thanks to coronavirus, our routines are demolished, events are being cancelled left and right, we’re facing financial crisis because of lost time at a job, and we are worried about the health of those we love.
It’s easy at a time like this to let stress and fear rule over us.
But the thing is, you can’t control coronavirus, or school closings, or cancelled vacations, or increasing debts. You can’t control weird work schedules or less-than-ideal childcare situations. You aren’t able to predict how long things will stay up in the air, and you can’t prevent who will and won’t get sick during this time.
However, you CAN control what the time you have with your kids is like.
In a way, it’s no different from the usual time with your kids. However, the mass closings of public schools provides many parents with extra family time that they weren’t expecting. Besides that, the implications of coronavirus provide a lot of fodder for conversation.
So, during the time with your kids, try these things:
Focus on the positive and practice gratitude. Find what’s good about the situation. Find what you can be thankful for. Celebrate “the best we can do right now,” even if it’s not ideal. Looking for the positive is one of the best ways to deal with a scary situation.
Talk about everything. The good, the bad, the frightening, the causes and effects, the politics, the shortages, the problems, and the hope. This is parenting; this is homeschooling: having conversations about the tough stuff with your kids, and practicing listening more than you talk.
Take time to connect. Make eye contact. Play a video game together. Talk to your teen while she’s in the kitchen with you. Work alongside each other. Take advantage of the time you have to just hang out.
Enjoy the moments of learning. It’s an amazing thing to watch your child grow and learn, whether in school or in some other context. Now that you are home together for a short while, look for and relish those moments of learning.
Make the time fun. Try a new game, rent a movie online, or create an at-home party with just your family and the food you have on hand. Camp out in the living room, spend time outside (away from crowds), or try a new hobby. Look for moments of adventure in your own home. Take this unexpected time and find ways to make it pleasant.
Suddenly homeschooling doesn’t mean you have to be a perfect teacher.
If you find yourself suddenly homeschooling due to coronavirus, I want to encourage you. You may be feeling overwhelmed with what to do with your kids or how to help them with school during this time, but you should know that you don’t have to be the perfect teacher to be a great mom or dad to them.
During this upheaval, focus on the essentials:
- Determine your schedule and childcare needs.
- Work with your child on fulfilling their school requirements.
- Enjoy your time together as much as possible.
That’s all you need for now.
I’m hopeful that school closings will help to slow the spread of coronavirus, and that soon we can cautiously return to normal.
If this article helped you to find practical solutions to suddenly homeschooling your kids, please share it with your friends and family.
More homeschooling resources.
If you are interested in “officially” homeschooling in the future, you can download a free copy of my Top Ten Homeschool FAQs e-booklet.
If you would like articles, resources, and encouragement for homeschooling parents, you may sign up for my weekly email newsletter.