Back to School at Home: Tips for Making the Best of It
Remember that time in March when schools closed, and they were all, “We’ll probably reopen in May!” And we were all, “Oh man, I can’t take 6 weeks of this!?” My, how the fates are laughing at all of us now! What we all thought might be 6 weeks turned into 5 months which is leading to more. My kids go “back to school” next week, which is 9 weeks (all of quarter one) of virtual learning, and then the county will reassess. I have a feeling it will end up being the first semester at home. While I am frustrated and finding it impossible to get anything done with 3 kids at home, one who is still in diapers, I can honestly say I prefer to keep them home at the moment and keep them and others as safe as possible. I had big dreams for how I was going to grow in 2020, and while those dreams are put on the back burner, I am finding that I am growing much more than I’d hoped… I am learning patience and flexibility, and I am learning to let go of control. Maybe that’s what 2020 is here to teach us. Speaking of being flexible, I want to share with you our tips for making the best of it as we begin to navigate a new and bizarre school year. I am joining several other bloggers this week in a back to school hop filled with ideas for this weird BTS season! Thank you so much to Kate at Kate Decorates for inviting me to share today. You can find the full line up at the bottom of this post. (This blog uses affiliate links).
Tip 1: Designated Separate Work Spaces
Last Spring I created a little office nook in our living room, and it turns out it was the best thing that I could have done pre-Covid. (Cassandra was a Greek prophet, so perhaps something in me knew.) The intention was for this desk space to be my office where I would write and edit my photos. While it’s still used for that, during the school year, it’s much more of a schoolwork place for the kids and I use it only when they are finished or early in the morning before they’re awake. Generally, Sawyer prefers to use this desk and computer, and sometimes his sidekick joins him.
With two kids needing to use computers and only one actual computer desk, we’ve designated our dining nook as workspace number 2. Luckily, Emmy prefers to use my old MacBook, so she can take it anywhere. While it can go anywhere, we have her set up at the dining nook where one of us can sit with her in case she needs any help. We also love the ease of sitting right next to the kids on the banquette to go over work with them.
These two designated spaces work well because there is a wall between them so the kids can’t bug each other, but they are close enough together that we can easily monitor both of them at once if needed. While I would love to have a pretty “homeschool” room, with an 8th grader and a 10th grader this year, the needs are very different and they do much better with space between them.
Tip 2: Headphones are Essential
We learned this one the hard way!!!! When you’ve got two kids e-learning with two loud computers blasting their lessons, headphones are KEY. We’ve now got headphones for both computers. Not only does it help keep the noise in the house down, but it helps the child who is at the computer working stay focused because they help drown out other noises.
Tip 3: Create Spaces for Quiet Reading
Some of the assignments they’ve had are to read, and then write or answer questions. Or if they don’t have much reading to do, we like to supplement their work by having them read books. My kids each have their own cozy bedrooms in which they can snuggle up, close the door, and read.
Emmy loves to close the canopy curtains on her bed and read there.
Sawyer is my night owl, and he prefers to read before he goes to bed. I honestly don’t care when they do it, as long as they do it! (You can find all of the information on his room here.)
Lastly, when the weather permits, I take Wilder outside for an hour long walk, and then playtime in the front yard to help keep the house quiet in the morning. (Of course, my kids can come get me in the front yard if they have questions.) He takes an afternoon nap, so that gives the kids at least 4 hours with a quiet house. Plus, Wilder lives for being outside, so everyone is happy! And sometimes Wilder mows are driveway, which is uber helpful.
Tip 3: Always Hold Your Child Accountable, No Matter How Old They Are
By some miracle, both of my teens finished the 2019-20 school year with straight As for the whole year. I say “by some miracle” because the beginning of quarantine didn’t go especially well. I was home alone with the three kids (I have two teenagers, and a two year old), and I assumed that my school aged kids, being teenagers, were doing their work. Every day I would ask them if they’d done it, and they would list off their assignments and tell me that they had, indeed, submitted them.
Weeeeeellllllll…. Then Chris checked in with them and we discovered that they had not been totally truthful with me, and had in fact skipped out on many assignments in those first few weeks. I would like to say that they learned their lesson, but it was I who learned my lesson. A few weeks later, we fell into that same pattern. My point is that my kids need accountability each and every day. I know that heading into this school year, and I will not be making that mistake again. I would love to just trust my kids, but they’re teenagers and they’ve broken that trust a couple of times now. Instead I get to be schoolmarm. 😉 Just gotta get my ruler ready to snap on their desks!
Tip 4: Build a Constructive Break Into the Day
As someone who works at home at a computer desk much of the day when times are “normal” and all three kids are at school, I know how hard it is to sit and stay focused. I’ve found that my kids tend to get tired and cranky as well from staring at a screen for hours. I encourage them to take little breaks as needed and come back to it. Emmy loves to head outside and draw with chalk, or sit at her bedroom desk and paint or create. I know how much she is missing being in an art class, so it’s important that she still has time to express herself creatively.
Sawyer, on the other hand, is not as creative, but has energy to burn. In the spring, he was running, but that slipped this summer. As the weather cools, I am planning to run with him a few times a week to keep him going. Running has been the thing that has really helped my mood lately, and I see a huge difference in Sawyer when he’s running as well.
Tip 5: Celebrate the Small Victories
Lastly, remember how hard this is for your kids, and celebrate all of the small things you can along the way. We are very lucky that we never had to be a student during a pandemic, and we can’t understand what they are going through exactly. Small victories include things like getting all of your work in for the week, finishing a book, finishing a week of online learning with no drama… seriously, anything can be a small victory. The point is just to keep encouraging them and celebrating the things that they do, not in a “everyone gets a trophy for participating” kind of way, but in an “I know this is the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do, but I see you doing your best” kind of way. Celebrations don’t have to be anything big… a pint of their favorite ice cream, a kitchen dance party to their favorite song, ordering out from their favorite restaurant… just something to acknowledge that you know how hard they are trying.
Well, my friends, I wish you all the best as you plunge ahead into this new school year. Stay safe and healthy, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. We’ve got this!
Don’t miss out on all of these other amazing back to school spaces…