This week many of my friends have started back to school with a year that looks way different than they hoped.
Some are homeschooling for the first time, some are back in school with new social distance rules and masks required. Some of my friends are even managing their children being online for school.
Everyone seems like they are holding their breath for things to get worse, but hopeful we can “get back to normal” soon.
Here is my advice for all these scenarios:
Take each day, one at a time, as it comes and let go of your fears/worries and expectations of the upcoming months.
On each day, let your problems take a turn. What I mean by this is you cannot physically solve two problems at once. And the noisiest problem in the house may not be the most important one, or even the most urgent. So, if you have a ton of issues hitting you at once, either grab a post it note and make a quick list to work through, or at least mentally, tell everything else to pause why you finish one matter. What does this look like?
Let’s pretend you have three kids, all needing to log into classes online at once. No one can do it without your help. And the baby is crying. Well, If the baby is not starving or in a very uncomfortable diaper, you can set baby safely in a pack-n-play or the crib, while telling the kids to get the computers turned on. Then, move from oldest to youngest, staying with them until they are logged in and have what they need, then move to the next in line. It may take a full ten minutes to get child one set up. It’s OK. This computer at home school thing is just as confusing and painful to everyone else doing it.
Now, once the momentary stress has passed, make a quick note in your phone or planner or on a notepad, to resolve being the bottleneck for school starting. Then move back to the baby and help meet those needs. If someone needs you in the middle of that, tell them you will get back with them once the baby is settled.
Later, when school is not in session brainstorm and work with your spouse on solutions to the problems.
All the kids need help at once? Maybe have a note pad for each child with login info. Next time, have your kids start earlier getting online, and have older ones helping younger ones. You may also have issues with not having cords ready, kids not well rested, children hungry and tired. Make a note of each problem, discuss it and figure out solutions. Sometimes discussing the issues with your husband or a friend, with the purpose of solving it, will help find solutions.
An example from my own homeschooling life is that I was struggling with the kids wanting to eat in the middle of homeschool lessons. By the time everyone got situated to work, someone was hungry, then someone else was. I felt like the kitchen had a revolving door. And we were continually stopping and starting. As I discussed it with my husband, we decided the kids needed to eat a more substantial breakfast, including protein. And they needed limits or boundaries around snacks. So from 9:00-11:15 the kitchen was closed. Then, on weekends my husband offered to make a large batch of muffins and bacon that we put in the freezer that the kids could reheat as needed. I also make a batch of hard boiled eggs in the instant pot, and put them in the fridge. It took a few weeks for the kids to stop the snack train, but eventually they got used to it.
The other problem is that around the time we were sitting down for school, friends would text or my adult children would text or call to talk. I had to learn to set my phone on do-not-disturb for those few heavy school hours, and would let people know I was in the heavy school hours from 9-11:30. Since my husband works from home full-time, I did not need to worry about being available to him by phone.
These are just examples from our homeschool, and not meant to be rules for your home. But stepping back and looking at the problem and brainstorming how to fix it can be a huge benefit.
My final bit of advice is to stop holding onto the idea of “going back to normal.” Instead, commit to making each day and the future the very best you are able to make it. Even if and when things return to normal, those days will have their own worries and problems. Learning to systematically work through issues once you are past them, and setting up helpful systems will help you in all days, good and bad.
If you are blessed to be in a position that is really good (homeschool moms who have not been much impacted by the rapid school changes), reach out to the other moms you know who may be reeling. Even just a sweet gesture like an encouraging text, or dropping off coffee, or sending a note in the mail to let her know you care can be a real lifeline on a rough day.