Today is the last day of the year and although it’s tempting to shout “we’re done”, most parents and caregivers are aware that the start of a new year doesn’t mean our labor of love stops for any breaks.
My quick message to everyone that had to help their children with their schooling during a pandemic year is: good job! and please give yourself grace if you feel that you fell short. This is every educator’s inner hardship, that struggle to feel at peace about how the school year has gone for their pupils under their stewardship.
This blog post is mean to be short, I’ve included a link to the podcast episode in the format of a candid interview with questions by Thomas Bean:
Happy and blessed New Year to you all: may God’s grace continue to give us the endurance to embrace each day we have.
Many COVID-19 closure weary parents, caregivers and educators haven’t recovered from the late 2019-2020 school year crash due to lockdowns across the nation. As many try to find a summer routine in the abyss of continuous coronavirus restrictions, school districts are having to formulate plans now for this upcoming school year 2020-2021 amid rising pandemic cases.
The new buzz word is “hybrid” model. I had no idea that my personal style of home education for our three children these last several years would be considered the new normal for some.
What’s a Hybrid Education and Will My Child Thrive In It?
Every school district has their own specific models but they generally follow something like this: a couple days in the classroom, a couple days at home, and possibly more virtual learning sessions.
Breathe in, breath out. While it’s preferable that all our students can return to their pre-COVID school routine, the reality may be that a hybrid model will work in lieu of that routine even if only temporarily.
The consensus by most parents (going forward, “parents” also includes caregivers/stewards) trying to facilitate their children’s learning during the last months of the 2019-2020 school year was that online learning doesn’t work. My heart sank when I heard this over and over again as I understood their frustration and yet was sad for their lack of imagination. What do I mean by that last part?
Let me start by acknowledging how difficult it’s been for everyone to adjust to the rapid changes that occurred in all manners of our society. The last thing many parents have been able to do is “embrace the moment” and try to participate in their children’s excitement for what each day brings. Many are trying to survive whether because of their jobs or have simply not stopped to actually participate fully in their kids’ learning each day. It is all-consuming to do so, there’s no way to sugar-coat that fact.
Whether we as parents like it or not, the COVID-19 pandemic has altered most of our regularly scheduled lives and that includes our children’s education routine. This amounts to a nearly total upheaval of what daily life was like for children and parents alike. This is no small matter. This is unheard of at least for the last century or so.
For a home-schooling parent like myself, nothing really changed for my own children’s daily schedules except for the fact that suddenly many of their peers now were joining them in this wide open expanse of learning possibilities outside of the “brick and mortar” school institutions. Granted, our extracurriculars were gone like swim team, dance, gymnastics, and Greek school. Suddenly I wasn’t alone either, many of my mom friends were now on the “front lines” of their children’s educational needs and curiosities—and it is EXHAUSTING.
If your child is going to spend time at home again as part of their education going forward in this school year especially due to COVID-19 pandemic precautions, I want to share with you my experiences in the hope that you’ll be able to navigate this “new normal” in the short term until such time as the regular school program is back or if you may find that your child(ren) thrive in a new educational paradigm.
The good news is that most of you should be able to use your current school’s distance learning or hybrid school options if your school district is not having students in session physically this fall. Also, as I’ll share later, there are so many educational resources to pull from as supplemental material for your children.
Please understand that this is what has worked for me and my family but it should only be seen as a source of ideas as you formulate what works for yours. For instance, some families have found fellowship in co-op learning groups. Although I’m a member of a local homeschool group for support and field trip opportunities, I’m a loner per se when it comes to curriculum instruction. However, my children are enrolled in a Greek school that takes them (pre-COVID) physically to a school a couple days a week. Again, this educational adventure is particular to your household needs and capacity.
Typical Bean Kid School Week
It has taken me years to refine the following schedule and every new school year I have to make certain adjustments as deemed necessary by the children’s maturity levels and interests. This is how a typical school week went for us most recently in 2019-2020:
The Costume: As a personal rule, I wear a special suit jacket when it’s time to start our “school time” each day, along with funny glasses and my clogs or short heels to indicate that my school teacher uniform is now “on” and therefore I’m no longer just the children’s mama.
Monday – Thursday from 8:30am – 2:30pm. Friday: Music lessons offsite w/teacher, local library visit, and Greek school.
Mon- Thurs, from 8:30am -10am: This time period is like our homeroom time when I start the day routine with the students. In our particular case it’s the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer, and some songs. Then we introduce the day/weather/announcements. Given I have three students of different ages, I will have a topic of the day that I’m able to pivot from for the various grades in our home. For instance, if that month we’re focusing on daily themes that study plants and earth sciences, then we have age appropriate instruction for each student. This past school year 2019-2020, I had a 6th grader, 3rdgrader, and kindergartener respectively.
10am is Snack, Exercise, and Nature Time: I have a physical bell I ring as it indicates it’s time for the kids (and the dogs) to go outside in the backyard and take a break from studies. I take this time to prepare a snack for them in the kitchen if I haven’t already—I also treat myself to a coffee, tea, or even a cookie, etc in order to reward myself for making through the first 90 minutes or so of an intense homeschool day!
10:30 – 11:00am is the time frame that I start calling the children back in. When COVID-19 restrictions went into place, this was also the time I did a P.E. workout with them typical of elementary and junior high complete with a jog and exercises like jumping jacks and leg lifts. Again, I adjust to each child’s level even during break. The younger ones will linger with playing in the dirt and I’m okay with that as it helps their cognitive development.
Post-11:00am: For our family, this is the time frame that I have the older students log into their virtual academy classes through Scholé Academy. Many states like Florida also have virtual public school offerings. For those students who aren’t in an online class, then I’m with them helping teach and moderate their basic curriculum work like spelling workbooks or a math exercise.
12 Noon – 1:30pm: this is a rolling lunch sequence, meaning if a child just got done with their online class after break, then it’s a good time for them to have their lunch. I keep a lunch menu list on our announcement board in the kitchen to show the kids what their choices are and they typically will make their own lunch unless they need help for safety reasons.
2:00 – 3:00pm: Depending on online class schedules is when our school day typically ends.
3:00pm onward: Pre-Covid pandemic, we typically would do dinner prep as we got ready to go to afternoon swim team practice or Greek school which is usually around 4pm until 6pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Each child is given one night as the chef where they have to pick the menu and execute it (with Mama as sous chef of course).
Wednesdays is STEAM, STEM, and all things SCIENCE: I typically reserve each Wednesday as our science lab experiment day. It is a messy and yet necessary affair to conduct these science experiments and exercises with the students so I find it helpful to have a day dedicated to it for set-up and clean-up purposes.
Thursdays: Art day. Thursdays are the days we start out with an art instruction and project/exercise first. In my case, I was educated heavily in the arts and am an amateur artist in practice. I believe the visual arts are very important for students and if a parent doesn’t feel capable, there are many art teachers/tutors and art centers around to delegate that instruction if needed.
Friday Fun Day: Perhaps it’s a throwback to when I was working in offices all week long, but I like to celebrate the end of the week with the children and so I reserve Fridays as the day for them to see their piano teacher (or FaceTime now in pandemic mode) and hit our local library to research, return, and check out new books. Also, personally it’s our second day of two days of Greek school where we drive 45 minutes to their classroom with other teachers and students (again, pre-COVID).
Refrain of Love: We as Parents/Caregivers are Our Children’s Security, Even in Education
I have heard from and read about so many who feel inadequate to “teach” their own children.
I get it.
There is not a day that I don’t go to bed and wonder with some degree of anxiety as to whether I was able to meet our children’s educational needs during the school year.
In fact, each year in June, I have to meet with a Palm Beach County district school teacher who reviews my children’s school year work and portfolios in order to make sure that they are progressing satisfactorily. If so we are given the green light to close the books on our school year until we start again at the end of the summer. I’m thankful they’ve “passed” every year up to this point.
That said, for my husband and me, we revisit our education choices for our children every year. Most asked question of us is “Are you going to homeschool them through high school too?”
I have no idea.
I repeat, we analyze the progress of our children every year and if they are thriving then we keep going on the same course with adjustments like new online courses or curriculums. This is probably similar to when parents decide that their child should be transferred from one school to another in their best academic interests.
Curriculum, Materials, and Resources
Like toothpaste offerings in the drugstore, there are so many things out there for educators whether they are working in a public school district or simply a CEO of the Home mama like myself.
My personal choices for our children are a la carte when it comes to things like mathematics and sciences. I lean toward classical learning when it comes to children’s literature and grammar. In other words, my overall curriculum is tailored from various sources to each child’s needs during that particular school year cycle.
Yet, that may not work for everyone, there are also box kits from places like Mother Goose Time for preschoolers or others like Charlotte Mason website that give families a one-stop shop when it comes to formulating what curriculum they’ll use.
Below is a short list of resources I’ve personally used in the past and present. If you know me personally, I also invite you to reach out to me so we can find a time to chat about any more questions or concerns you may have as you figure out what’s going to be the path forward for your children in the short term.
Note: For those reading this who don’t know me personally, this is a short background note. After attending both public and private schools growing up, I began teaching while an undergraduate at University of Florida in the late 1990s as part of the federal program America Reads. I had the honor of teaching a small cohort class of 2nd and 3rd graders in Bannockburn, IL during 2000. 9/11 occurred and my husband and I decided to help serve in our U.S. government in Washington, DC where I logged experience working on legislative priorities for a Florida congressman (including education issues) and time as an appointee at the U.S. Treasury with the George W. Bush administration. In 2008 I was reborn as a mother in this world when we welcomed our first child. It’s 2020 now and we have two sons and a daughter, ages 12, 9, and 5 years old respectively. I began homeschooling nearly a decade ago as we lived with and looked after aging grandparents. Today I follow a hybrid model with all three while also finishing my MBA degree at UF this December. The following article is meant to help others by sharing my current experience and some resources to help you on your journey if you are exploring alternative methods of educating your children—especially given the temporary uncertainties ahead with the COVID-19 pandemic situation.
To begin my small book review and personal reaction I would like to quote Dr. Schlessinger’s Preface for “In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms”: “With appropriate apologies to Shakespeare, I come to praise at-home moms, not to bury full-time working moms. This is not another missile attack in the ‘mommy wars,’ nor is it debate on day care versus mommy care.” These were literally the first two sentences that I read in this book and they served to immediately allow me to enjoy and finish her work in less than a week.
I received the book as a Christmas gift from my husband and appreciated it but in the haste of the holidays and family in town I never looked at it until one of my exhausted and depressed evenings last week. I guess I was a little skeptical at what this Dr. Laura would have to say. In truth, I’ve not listened to her radio show nor read much of her writing expect for excerpts from folks that don’t have glowing feelings for her in the mainstream media.
After ingesting this book I believe it’s a great book for all types of mothers out there, not just those whose full-time position is regarded as SAHM (Stay-at-Home Mom), homemaker, CEO of the Home or my favorite per one of my girlfriends: domestic goddess. She breaks it down into several chapters including poignant sections like: “The Decision, How Staying at Home Impacts the Marriage, The Good the Bad the Unforgettable”.
Overall the style of “In Praise-“ is conversational and has many transcripts and letters from her radio show and correspondence of listeners and readers. It is a strange comfort to read other women’s struggles with leaving the career-driven workforce for what can seem to be mundane housework, child care and certainly no financial rewarding reviews at the end of each pay period.
It was also refreshing to learn of Dr. Laura’s odyssey to becoming a SAHM herself during her life. It was reminiscent of my own experience and those of many of my girlfriends and colleagues in general. She was educated, went on to pursue a path of career excellence and in the course of it all found that even the markers of secular/business success were not “completing” her personhood. A comical reflection on watching the old PBS NOVA 60 minute presentation on the miracle of life is what finally propelled her to seek what ultimately brought her joy, albeit not perfection and not always happy times, but true completion as woman, wife and mother.
Although I was married nearly 8 years when my first child was born I still consider myself a late-bloomer to being a self-professed CEO of the Home and full-time wife and SAHM. I was simply petrified to follow somewhat closely in my own mother’s footsteps of having children at an early age as a young woman in my twenties. It’s as if I felt I needed to rack up respect or evidence that I was competent in “real life” in the full-time workforce. This brings me to Dr. Laura’s Chapter Two: The Stay-at-Home Mom’s Inner Struggles. “The older you are when you decide to marry and have children, the more ingrained you are with your own habits, and the more control you’ve been used to having over your own life…It was remarkable to me that something that barely weighed anything, couldn’t roll over on its own, couldn’t feed itself, and couldn’t talk to me literally ruled me, my husband, our time, and our home…There were days I didn’t shower until my husband came home”.
The dirty little secret for many of us SAHMs is that although our regret ratio is low, we still battle our inner doubts, our jealousy of our husbands and colleagues who have kid-free workdays and the loss of income that is especially felt if we had once enjoyed the cushion of being DINKs (double income no kids). Dr. Laura doesn’t mince words to this truth and share many experiences from her own life as well as other women who have shared their lives.
Undoubtedly the most impacting part of this small book were the tidbits sharing tender interactions between mother and child/children or quoted words from the children of SAHMs or their own written words. I was even more floored when I read about a mother who wasn’t a SAHM but then became one later during her son’s young life: “He handled it all so well, never complained when he had to be shipped off to another location or do things he didn’t want to do. It was the greatest gift to give him when I told him I would be home all the time to take care of him. He became less stressed, happier, calmer, and more loving. He could actually have a childhood with friends, play dates, and join things if he wanted. I will never regret staying home. Wish I could have done it sooner, but it’s never too late to make your child a priority…”
I realize by sharing this book review and personal reaction piece that I risk making some of my female colleagues feel certain emotions that may not be positive, perhaps downright hostile or defensive. Yet I would rather risk this because as my own life journey has taught me, there is nothing like being there for my child and husband even though we at the moment don’t even have our own personal living space. It is not the easiest and many times seems like it lacks any rewarding element—especially as my 33 week pregnant self with our second child fatigues easily. However, there are moments that I am able to witness and relay to my husband that I would otherwise miss if cloistered away in my work office during my son’s active days.
A final note on Dr. Laura’s book “In Praise-” is that even those women who are without children or unmarried can benefit from reading it as there are great pieces of advice on how to prepare for life as a SAHM—even though the reality is you can never be fully prepared for the ride it truly is when it occurs. Another touching shared experience from Dr. Laura’s book: “My son proceeded to tell me that he’s glad that I don’t work because at the CDC (child day-care center) you don’t get to do whatever you want, like go to the fridge to get a snack or go to your room to play with your toys, which he enjoys immensely after a long, structured day at school. He continued with, ‘Mom, do you know why I like to be in the kitchen so much?’ I replied that I didn’t and could he please tell me. My adorable son then went on to tell me that it’s because I’m there”.
Does Dr. Laura ‘preach’ that once you’re a SAHM you can’t take on any work that brings a paycheck to the household?—of course not, she herself still worked on her radio show, the caveat being that she went to the studio after her son had gone to bed for the evening. I myself am hashing out this blog piece at a start time of 4:57am on a Thursday morning; my track record usually is after my little man has passed out in the evenings when my own thought processes are delirious at best.
I encourage you to read this book if possible, especially if you have decided to take on the now-taboo work title of “homemaker, stay-at-home mom”. We need to remember that although the feminist era in the 20th century may have given us some freedoms and allowances, they also did us a disservice by trying to convince us that “quality time” with our children is better than “quantitative time”—try to teach your child or children that when they recall their childhood one day and either remember you being there during the good and bad times or just the “quality times”.