My COVID-19 Homeschool Doesn’t Look Like This, And That’s OK

A friend of mine–who, not surprisingly, is a teacher–planned this daily COVID-19 homeschool schedule for her kids.  I’m impressed by her ability to develop such a well-planned daily routine. And, my days working from home with my 10-year-old in tow will never look exactly like this.

Fellow COVID-19 homeschool parents, fear not if you don’t have your kids’ days planned down to the second. They can still learn–and you can still work–even if your family’s day isn’t planned down to the minute. 

But it also doesn’t have to be each of you on separate devices–parent working, child playing Minecraft or watching YouTube or whatever–for eight hours straight. Honestly, that happened a lot in my house during the Chicago teachers strike last fall,  and I don’t want a repeat now.

By the way, this is a marathon, not a sprint. So we all need to pace ourselves. Will our focus on work be interrupted? Will our kids get on our nerves? Will they refuse to do the work their teachers assign them?

Yes, yes and yes. From the mom who sent an embarrassed email to her 5th-grader’s teacher yesterday after the 5th-grader made a smart remark to her teacher via Google Classroom. Teacher let students know they can use IXL to keep up with math. My kid messaged, “No.”

“No, I don’t have access, or no, I won’t do it?” Teacher inquired.

“Both,” came the answer.

“You always have choice about these activities,” Teacher wrote back. “Just make sure that’s OK with your family.”

I wrote an embarrassed email to the teacher thanking her for taking the comment in stride. And blew my stack at my kid over something else this morning. Maybe we won’t be perfect parents in this moment.

Maybe we’ll be less productive workers, too, at least temporarily. Maybe we just have to get over that. But maybe also having our kids around could help us parents spend less work time tracking COVID-19 news and more time on what we just need to get done for the day.

Here’s how I’m thinking about how to handle the home front and support my child’s learning during this unexpected round of homeschooling-while-working, with no clear end in sight.

Create A Schedule with My Kid’s Input

My favorite charts to help think through schedule don’t have time blocks. They have priorities and choices. Here’s an example from a friend that started a conversation about how to stay home together while getting along and getting things done.

It’s also important to take different daily rhythms into consideration. My daughter and I have different sleep-wake cycles. I’m an early-riser; she’d like to be a night owl. We’ve struggled with this tension before and we’re working on compromises. She stays up a little later than I wish she would, but I get up before she does in the morning and the hour I have to myself is golden time.

For her, the period between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. is prime learning time. So she’s having a block of tutorial on Zoom at 11 a.m. and she’ll do some independent reading or math after lunch.

Is she getting all four core academic subjects every day? Not yet. I hope we’ll get there, but right now she gets geography every day because it’s her favorite. We’ll work our way into math and science.

Enlist the Village

So, what’s on her Zoom tutorial? Chinese! Why? Because she wants to learn it and she has an aunt who is fluent, not working, and eager to teach her. We’re very lucky in this regard.

You can find an overwhelming array of Internet resources out there for e-learning, but if you are a work-from-home parent, this is a great time to consider who is in your house, or your family, or your Facebook Nation who does have time on their hands and can teach something your kids might never learn in school.

For example, my friend Bernita Bradley is making yarn bears:

Home School Doesn’t Have to Look Like Regular School to Be Good

I know it is hard to balance working and parenting, let alone having teaching thrown at us unexpectedly. Experienced homeschoolers know that home school doesn’t have to look like traditional schooling, particularly around the amount of time spent on “school.”

Why? Because at home, we don’t have to line 30 kids up, or wait for them to be quiet, or take them all to the bathroom at once. Older kids don’t have to spend half an hour every day in 5-minute increments walking from one classroom to another. This means kids can get their academic work done in just a few hours and then spend time pursuing their own interests, enjoying play, art, music and movement, or yes, playing Minecraft.

The challenge for us as working parents is keeping our kids occupied so we can focus. That’s a hard one. I’m not perfect at it. Device time for the kids is a big help with this. But if we’re going to be in the house for a month together–at least–I want to encourage my daughter to plan her own schedule and start managing her time more independently. And I want to be better at managing my own time so I take breaks for lunch with her and for outdoor time.

Outdoor time at a local park on Chicago’s South Side.
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Maureen Kelleher

Chicago Unheard blog manager Maureen Kelleher also serves as a senior writer and editor at brightbeam, a nonprofit network of education activists demanding a better education and brighter future for every child. Before joining the brightbeam team, she spent a decade as a reporter, blogger and policy analyst. Her work has been published across the education world, from Education Week to the Center for American Progress. A former high school English teacher, she is also the proud mom of a middle-schooler. Find her on Twitter at @KelleherMaureen.

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