Parents, let’s talk about it…
Our house is made up of little kids (a 1st grader and 3rd grader), big kids (a 10th grader and two 11th graders), plus two educators (a high school teacher and a university instructor). We have been told to expect remote learning to extend for at least the next four weeks (with spring break in the middle). Y’all. Seven of us. Teaching and learning and playing and eating together for the next month, and likely longer. I’m already tired.
There are a wide variety of emotions present here: anxious, excited, unbothered, grateful, worried about balancing teaching responsibilities for our students and facilitating learning for our kids. At the same time, we are deeply aware of our privilege which affords us a great deal of security around income and food, as well as allows two parents to be home with kids right now. We continue to look for ways to support all members of our larger communities.
The parents and/or educators in our house know we need a plan…some structure…ok, a lot of structure…but flexible structure that can meet the needs of students aged 7 through 18 plus two tele-working parents.
It might be hard, but it’s gonna be fun!THE THIRD GRADER
So how do we prepare for remote learning?
PICKING A PLACE
Place and space matter, but there is not one right answer.
Some of us will be tucking in at home…do you already have a dedicated homework spot? How might it need to grow or change to accommodate what is to come? Some of us will need to be more mobile while we patch together child care…can we prep a mobile work station that provides some continuity no matter where our learner may find themselves working? Perhaps a backpack that is loaded up with all the materials we anticipate our learner needing as they move between home, friends, grandparents, babysitters, etc.
We picked our dining room as our place, and here’s why:
- All of us can comfortably fit there together. This is important because none of us have ever done this before, and we choose to figure it out together.
- Our dining room opens to our living room, so our learners can “break out” into the living room for a small change of scenery while staying within eyesight.
- We try to keep bedrooms as quiet places for reading and sleeping.
Even so, our place needed some adjustments. Clutter has been cleared out, and an extra desk was brought in so that everyone feels like they have enough room to spread their stuff out. We also brought in an extra shelf so that we can quickly transform our work space back into a dining table for meals. Our homework station was restocked with school supplies, and extension cords plugged in to accommodate all the devices. Last touch is a big whiteboard; at dinner each night we will outline what each person needs to accomplish the next day, including what time they are expected on video calls. It is important to us to create an environment where everyone knows what to expect (this especially helps our little human who thrives on a clear routine).
PICKING A TIME
Again, there’s no one right answer, but let’s be intentional. What are the work demands on the adults? When will your learners work best? Perhaps the nexus of these two questions is: When are the adults most available to support a productive work session with their learners? For some, this may be first thing in the morning, while others may opt to wait until their workday is over so they can give their undivided attention. You know best what your family needs!
For us, we are choosing to maintain as regular of a school schedule as possible. This means everyone downstairs for breakfast by 7.30, ready to start “school” at 8. Our big kids and high school teacher will have to be available for some synchronous learning (meaning all students will be expected to sign into a video call during their regularly-scheduled class time). Our little kids are their best selves early in the day, and we think we can best support them by engaging them in their most cognitively demanding work before lunch.
WHO NEEDS RECESS?
Ummm….everyone! One of the things I love the most about where our kids go to school is how much time they spend outside. We are all going to need fresh air, our legs stretched, a change of scenery, and most definitely a break from screens. The first grader painted a recess suggestion box, and everyone will get to drop in ideas for what the whole family can do outside together for 20-30 minutes after lunch each day.
WHAT WILL WE DO AFTER WE FINISH OUR WORK?
The parents and/or educators in our house depend on our kids going to aftercare so that we can finish our work and be fully present when we are with our kids. There is no way we will be done with our work each day when our little kids are going to be done with their work.
In addition to increasing our daily reading goals, our plan for our little kids is to have a list of semi-structured activities to choose from that (fingers crossed!) will involve at least 20 minutes of independent play. So far this list includes:
- Play-based coding with the Dash robots they got for Christmas last year
- Learning how to keyboard (if you can believe it, they are dying to learn how to type fast)
- Ukulele lessons (we love Yousician, but also YouTube and other free online sites)
- Daily art projects live with McHarper Manor on Facebook
Building community in new ways
I’m glad you’re here. Please use the comment section below to share how you’re prepping for remote learning with your family!