To All New At-Home with Schooling Parents/Caregivers: You are Amazing!

      

A Comical Meme: Author Unknown

Welcome to Friday of the first week of homeschool, online, virtual, or whatever new form of school you and your children just completed. This short blog piece is intended to congratulate and encourage you on your new journey as our American nation pulls together to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on those vulnerable in our population.

And, truly, I mean it when I say you’re amazing as this first week of alternative site schooling ends. We now have the rest of the school year to get through this “new normal”.

From a Homeschooling Veteran’s Perspective

When all this unprecedented school closures started occurring in my corner of the world here in south Florida, I felt the anxiety of all my friends and fellow parents/caregivers here and wanted to help with any weblinks or advice I could lend.  Last week is now a fuzzy memory of what our normal lives were as this week is like we’ve all stepped through Alice’s Looking Glass to a new dimension with the same characters but the landscape feels so different and otherworldly.

As this first week unfolded, I was impressed by the creativity of various parents/caregivers with setting up their school spaces versus their work-from-home spaces.  Some were able to carve out spaces from their living room or kitchen areas.  Others adopted the notion that where each student was comfortable worked well even if it meant sitting on their bed or in a cozy reading nook.

Also, I would like to thank many other moms who inspired my own program by sharing ideas of how to help others like having students write notes to those who are stuck in nursing homes without visitors or encouraging cards for the medics who are on the front lines of dealing with those suffering from the severe effects of COVID-19.

Even though I’m a mother who’s been doing the home- and multi-schooling thing for several years, I can get into habitual ruts and found this past week to be invigorating when reading about other households and how they approached this new world of blending school and work into the domestic home front. The comic relief shared between family and friends has also been a priceless and necessary help for our collective mental health.

Author Unknown: Favorite Meme of this 1st Week

Yes, Learning Can Be Messy

At risk of offering more unsolicited advice, I feel the need to tell parents and caregivers to not be too hard on yourself when you look around at the “school” area in your home and realize it’s devolved into a messy affair.  This may be mostly true for those who have elementary school and younger children in their midst.  However, it can also occur for those who are older and perhaps are having the opportunity to create and experiment in ways they were unable to in the conventional school setting.

Again, you’re doing great and perhaps having a mess is a nice visual to help us all honor our school janitorial staffs even more. Another inspiration for me this week was how many parents/caregivers started giving their children “life lessons” right away in how to help clean up in the home itself.  I will start applying some of those ideas in my own school area as I’m certainly not a good janitor.

As for the inevitable bickering that can occur between siblings, I’ve applied the same mantra to my own as maybe many of you have this week.  I remind my students that whether it’s their brother or sister is irrelevant, the conflicts they practice with them will come back again with their friends, future romantic relationships, work mates, and so on.  It helps to diffuse the current frivolity by presenting a vision of what the future holds for them one day.  Conflict resolution is a constant life skill that we can help our students recognize today.

Bean Homeschool Project Table

You Must Do What Works for Your Household

What’s truly new about this experience for many is that your children are now at home and not in the fold of the school building.  They’re now in your building.  The stress for everyone is at a level I’m not sure we can measure at this point.  Many others like myself would like to take this moment to say that you must do what works for your household.

If that means Spring Break starts this week, then so be it.  If that means your school meets on the living room couch, so be it.  If that means you let all your elementary school-aged kids out into the backyard for a few hours a day instead of sitting at a desk, by all means so be it. If that means no screens, great but if it means screens everywhere then so it shall be.

If there is anything I can share in terms of advice from my perspective as a homeschooling mother, it’s that having students at home means being flexible and ready to change the lesson plan and schedule as quickly as our kids have their growth spurts and mood swings.  We are receivers in a way and can only respond to help nurture and calm at times.  The school curriculum can wait if a snuggle or a rest period is in order.  

In short, you make the call on what works for your household and the students therein and no one is grading you but you.  Please give yourself grace. Remember that not only does it feel like your home is in a state of chaos, outside at the regular grocery store we see a surreal sight daily:

Publix Supermarket in Palm Beach County, Florida – March 16, 2020

We’re All in This Together

School districts and the various private schools have spent this week scrambling together their efforts to rewrite and create a new path forward for how they will decimate your students’ curriculum for the rest of this 2019-2020 school year.  We’ve all had to exercise patience under the most stressful of circumstances that our population has known, save that of the WWII generation.

In the meantime, it has been heartwarming to witness how parents and caregivers have pulled together to share ideas, information, and simply recognize what an incredible job school teachers and faculty have every day under normal circumstances.  I appreciate the sharing of ideas through social media of how to help others, online school and learning ideas, and groups with chats online to help parents and teachers alike.  Thank you all for what you’re doing to help not just those new to the homeschooling/virtual schooling arena, but also assisting us homeschool veterans.

In these abnormal circumstances, may we continue to remember that we’re all in this together. 

It’s also more important than ever to share with each other if anyone is struggling and needs financial assistance, help with new ideas for homebound activities, and just commiserating with sharing photos of our respective cups of tea or glasses of wine to celebrate the end of each week:

Whether it’s water, coffee, tea, smoothie, a glass of wine, or G&T
-do celebrate the end of each week!

I cannot applaud everyone enough as you navigate what works for you and your household as you figure out what facilitates your children’s learning at home—especially for those of you who must also delicately balance having to work from home, still leave home for work, or in some cases having just lost your paying job.  

Good strength to us all.

R.V.S.Bean

Some Random Links to Share:

http://www.marinelife.org

Another helpful article

https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2010/12/12/stress-and-the-high-school-student/the-home-school-advantage

The True Corona Nightmare: What If You’re Cooped Up with Children and COVID-19?

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“Worm” Full Moon in South Florida March 9, 2020

March 13, 2020

COVID-19 Quarantine: What If?

As the World Health Organization deliberated earlier this week on whether to upgrade COVID-19 from an epidemic to pandemic, I sensed another collective wave of anxiety rising in parents and caregivers throughout the United States: What if I have to quarantine myself and my children? What if my job forces me to stay home at the same time my children’s school (or glorified daycare) shuts down and moves to an online format? What if I must be a “stay-at-home” with no end in sight?

Hope and Experience Reigns

Having personally logged more than a decade’s worth of “homemaker” status experience complete with a full range of infant/pediatric care for three children and geriatric home care for octogenarians/nonagenarians, I feel this is a good time for me to share with the online community some quick tips of how to survive and thrive in a possible quarantine situation with little or big ones at home.  My tone is intended to offer hope and inspiration for ideas should you find yourself stuck at home with children.

Being a teacher-caregiver with three home/multi-schooled children, I’d also like to add some levity to the topic by dispensing my humble tidbits with an acronym description for COVID-19 using CORONA as the base word.  At the end of each vignette I’ll try to provide some weblinks when able to help you research your own home plan of action. Thankfully Google and other search engines like talking with your family and friends still exist to help you brainstorm your respective paths.

C is for Correspondence Courses, Creativity, and Calming Continuity

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Materials from http://www.mothergoosetime.com

The good news is that in 2020 most Americans have access to a wealth of resources both online and in print at home when it comes to helping educate students of all ages.  If your children are enrolled in a traditional “brick and mortar” school, chances are your school district or the institution will also provide links and virtual options should you be in a self- or mandated quarantine scenario.

Take this opportunity to declutter and disinfect your home dwelling, in the process carving out an area for your students to conduct their studies.  Comfortable and clear options for seating help your children find a cozy place to read, write, and create new ideas in your home abode.  If you own books, consider congregating them in one room or area.  One of my favorite places as a child was that space made in the children’s area of the public library that silently invited children to come and have a seat and open up the physical possibilities in a book, magazine, or today a “tippity-tapping” or swiping of the screen.

A few of my personal favorite websites to consider using for both digital and print educational materials: www.education.com, www.teacherspayteachers.com, www.ctcmath.com, www.ancient.eu, www.welltrainedmind.com, www.loc.gov, www.congress.gov, www.kumonbooks.com, http://www.scholeacademy.com

O is for Opportunity, Order, and Operations Management

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Found on Facebook, meme author unknown

While staying at home is not for the feeble of spirit or faint of organized, there isn’t any true template of what the order of things should look like in your space.  If recent political news is of any sobering indication, it’s that we Americans say we want change and yet are slow to accept changes in how we accept stereotypical roles.  We say we want more racial, gender, and age diversity in positions of government power and yet the U.S. Presidential field is now down to the likes of Senator Bernie Sanders and former V.P. Joe Biden to face President Trump in the fall elections.  This slowness to adapt change is especially true when running a household with children.

Somewhere along the line in our social evolution following the Industrial Age, the onus fell on the woman of the household to be responsible for the cooking, cleaning, and all other chores regulated to the “homemaker”.  When facilitating the education of your children at home, your workload more than triples because it is a full-time job alone to help students with their school studies—let alone teach them yourself.

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Motherhood is messy with little helpers sometimes, but tasty!

If delegation is king in the outside working world, then it is most imperative at home.  I recommend devising a list on a visible chart for the household to see helping divest the household chores that needed to keep everyone clean, healthy, well-fed, and in turn happy.  If you have been managing the home without much help from your dependents, consider the opportunity to alleviate those daily stresses and help foster more responsibility in your children.

In my home, the older children have certain nights they are assigned planning the dinner menu and must fold their own laundry (at age 10 you get your own hamper and clean your clothes too!).  Lunchtime is their own responsibility, however, I do provide choices that within their respective age-appropriate ability. For instance, an 8-year-old can reach the sliced bread to apply both peanut butter and jelly for their sandwich.

There are numerous resources online for tips or printables for devising a list of responsibilities for your household. Consider reading books to the younger ones that cover taking care of the home or cooking.  For the older kids, be honest and discuss what your concerns/needs are and what are they able to consider doing to be a beneficial working part of the household.  Again, consider finding a template list that works for you as guidance, one of my favorites: https://livingmontessorinow.com/montessori-monday-age-appropriate-chores-for-children-free-printables/

R is for Rest, Reset, and Review What’s Really Important

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Personal back portrait from days gone by

The old writings in various cultures and in my personal reading of Christian scriptures often repeat the adage that when faced with an unexpected circumstance in life that could be deemed unfortunate, there is good that can come out of it eventually if not immediately.

So, you’re suddenly stuck at home with children and your job whether it was inside or outside of the home. This combination can be depression-inducing or at the very least aggravating.  Also consider that your children are having a difficult time with this unforeseen set of events.  More often than not, your children will absorb and in turn react to however you’re feeling and acting in this situation.  Your default reaction may be either free-fall into this experience without much organization or swing to the other extreme of trying to exact complete control over every minute of the day with your children—both of these extremes can produce unsavory results.

I mention “rest” and “reset” in this section because for many of you, this may be how you try to approach the school break times in your children’s year.  If the summer is their big vacation time, the first few weeks are a decompression time for your students before settling into a new routine.  If this concept is foreign to you, again, there is no true template for you and your children but consider this to be a time to review what’s truly important.

Not unlike adults, children and teenagers need routine to help them grow and flourish.  They also need rest and reflection within that daily construct.  Being at home for extended hours every day may be something your entire household is not used to with jobs, school, extra-curriculars and the like.  Remember that the opportunities to learn are not regulated to your students, you have a chance to learn alongside them and realize what amazing souls reside in your children when not stressed about running from schools to practices in traffic every day.

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Lakeside park in North Palm Beach

O is for the Outdoors

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Trail in Signal Mountain, Tennessee

The fact that I may have to consider lecturing anyone on the importance of the outdoors for both children and adults is disturbing.  Yet many Americans have simply lost touch (physically especially) with the outdoors and what raw nature can teach us.  No amount of screen time with educational applications can replace what the interaction of the human and Earth can yield in terms of creativity, philosophical reflection, botanical and zoological education, and an overall appreciation for the organic mechanizations that make our daily life on this planet possible.

As mentioned before, there are countless digital and print ideas for how to approach “field trips” outside with your children.  You may be able to simple open your back or front door to investigate.  For avid readers, consider downloading or checking out from your local library the following book: “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv.

Our household is blessed with a backyard that’s allowed me the freedom to create planters with herbs, fruits, and vegetables with my children.  I’ve also allowed them a space in the yard to literally dig into the dirt and create and recreate their own worlds, complete with a hose running water through it.

My children’s world they named”Tai-rang”

Although this may overwhelm anyone with germaphobe tendencies, there is a lot of scientific research still coming in that points to the benefits of us interacting with nature, i.e. playing in the mud.  What good is teaching our children about the environment in schools if they don’t have the opportunity to physically walk, run, and play in it?  You never know, the extra time taken to go outside with your child this week may help inspire them to find a calling in a profession that would help the environment in the future.

www.nps.gov, www.stateparks.org, www.arborday.org, www.nationalgeographic.com

N is for Nesting, Neighbors, Not Saying “No” So Much, and News

 We usually think of “nesting” as a term reserved for the woman swelling with expectancy of her child’s birth.  In the case of a quarantine situation, it may be the first time you’ve had an extended period to sit in one place and really assess what does your home look like?  I personally went through a phase years ago where I researched “feng shui” for ideas on how to work with what I had in our home: https://www.thespruce.com/easy-steps-to-feng-shui-living-room-1274493

Neighbors: remember them?  Maybe you have great relationships with the people immediately to your right and left—or maybe not.  This may also be a season of learning who and what are in your local community and how you may be of help to each other during a possible COVID-19 outbreak in your area.

When dealing with circumstances beyond our control, we often resort to trying to control what we can.  If you’re a parent you also know that being at home with your children often involves many questions an hour and therefore innumerable ways to say “no”.  The trap for us becomes evident when we’re trying to exert more control in our home life and start replying in the negative more often than actually necessary.  Again, if you need more ideas as to how to respond more positively, there are many articles and blog entries online covering the subject or ask your local tribe of family and friends what their strategies are in communications with their children.

News may be a tap or a click away for most Americans, but when you’re stuck in the house this medium can get old very quickly.  It so happens that many publications still provide subscription materials at home these days.  In my home we have a 94-year-old and children under the age of 10 who especially benefit from the print medium.  Perhaps call your local paper or check in with your favorite magazine sources to see if you can enact a short-term subscription to have the publication(s) delivered to your door.

A is for Art Therapy, Appreciation, Adventure, and Amazon

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R.V.S.B. original art, acrylic on canvas, circa 2002

If you are a parent or caregiver of little ones then you know their affinity for drawing and coloring.  As an educator, I’ve noticed that the older children get it seems the less likely they are to participate in the visual arts unless they’re taught.  While I understand this may be subject matter out of your league, try to open your mind to the possibility that participating alongside your student in an artistic endeavor may benefit you too.

A time of quarantine at home with children may seem as inviting as hunkering down in a hurricane with them (I’ve been there too), but I focus on looking at the bright side for both parties to better appreciate each other.  This may be the first time you really get to pause and read through what coursework your children are doing at school and understand why they may be so detached and cranky at the end of a stressful school day.  In turn, your children may learn more about what you actually do at work during the day and how those responsibilities can drain you to the point of having a short-fuse temper if they make a mess on the floor when they’re home with you after school.

At risk of being redundant, adventure lies in the unexpected and a quarantine may afford the only “pause” time in your relationship with your children to seek out a new way of looking at things together.  If nothing else, this time together helps demonstrate to our children that life is filled with unplanned occasions where we simply need to press forward and make a positive outcome of it.

Amazon: need I say more?  At this time, we have the opportunity to have things delivered to our door via humans.  If they get short-staffed due to COVID-19, then the drone technology will likely get some quick updates.

Corona Closing

While we can all debate ad nauseum about novel this virus concern is, we are finding that government authorities around the world are taking unique measures that we’ve not seen since the likes of America’s travel security aftermath in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  As a home caregiver and educator, I’d like to impart the idea that staying at home with your children may be a life-changing opportunity offered during this temporary season. Although you wouldn’t have planned it this way, it may be priceless in its yields for both of your futures as parent and child.

R.V.S.Bean

About the Author: Current caregiver and education administrator at home and MBA candidate at University of Florida’s Warrington School of Business, her past life prior to children included work as a political appointee worker for President G.W. Bush at the U.S. Treasury Department, Legislative Aide for former Congressman Mark A. Foley, and reading teacher at Bannockburn Elementary in Illinois.
Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"