Lots of things changed in March 2020. Nearly the entire country was forced to stay home and quarantine when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. That meant kids could no longer go to school and most adults had to work remotely. Suddenly, school, work and home melded into one. That meant your bedroom, office, and kids’ classroom were all under one roof. And you had to learn how to be mom, dad, manager, employee, and teacher pretty much all at the same time.
Not to mention, your kids’ entire world changed, too. No more eating out of lunch boxes with their friends in the cafeteria, no more gym class or after-school pick-up basketball. No more soccer practice or dance rehearsal. Lunch became whatever was in the fridge between every-two-weeks grocery store runs and practicing for the next big game turned into shooting goals alone in the backyard.
Transitioning to this “new normal” has been, and still is, a challenge. Heading into a new school year, taking steps to set up a space at home to feel more like school could be a big help for both you and your kids. Here’s a few tips to developing “a new kind of classroom.”
No one is saying you need to transform your home into a full-blown school or to go out and buy all the supplies their teachers have in the classroom, so don’t worry about that. Really, all you should do is find a space in your home where your kids can sit down, have a flat surface to write on, and enough light to be able to see and focus on what they’re doing. Maybe, during the day, your kitchen table turns into a desk. Or your coffee table. If you live in a small space and don’t have room at a table, clipboards let your kids do their work on the floor or couch. If it’s nice out, encourage them to sit outside on the porch or patio, or lay out a piece of wood in the grass to act as a table. Use their backpack as a locker if space is limited. Kids’ backpacks offer great storage and are a must for outdoor classrooms.
Start by treating the school day like you would for in-person instruction. Put on their best kids’ t-shirt or a snappy uniform polo. What they wear may help put them in the correct mindset. Eliminating household distractions are going to be hard at first. Your kids might not fully understand that being home all day doesn’t mean they can watch TV and play video games whenever they want. Of course, if your child’s teacher has instructed you to have your kids watch a certain educational program or use an iPad or a computer to complete assignments, watch videos or do online classes, then explain to them the difference between using electronics for educational purposes versus for fun.
Maybe you’re trying to balance your own full schedule of meetings and conference calls while acting as your kids’ teacher every day. You may be used to getting them up, ready for school and dropping them off, then having the rest of the day to yourself to drink your coffee in peace, possibly fit in a workout, and put in 8 hours or more at work by the time they get home. Now that you and your kids are home all the time, maintaining the same schedule isn’t really possible. That doesn’t mean you have to abandon it completely, though. Continue waking up around the same time as if you were going to school and work, have breakfast around the same time (if you don’t want to get dressed, that’s totally cool), and get the kids started on that day’s lesson before you have to be online for work. That way, you can all work at the same time. Everyone is pretty much in the same boat, so many of your coworkers will probably understand that you may be interrupted every once in a while with a “Dad! Can you help me with this math problem!” or a “Mom! I’m hungry!” Also, try to eat lunch around the same time. If you can, go for a walk or play outside with your kids on your break. It’ll be like recess! When school would normally be over, school at home can be over, too. Encourage them to go for a bike ride in place of soccer practice or to dance to a video online in place of going to rehearsal.
It might take a little time to adjust, but being patient and flexible will help you settle into the role (or rather, roles) that you may now have to manage. Just keep reminding yourself that you’re not the only one figuring it out – we’re still all in this together!