If you’re reading this, chances are you or someone you know has been thrust into an unexpected situation this week that may or may not be challenging the very fiber of your being.
Across the nation, tens of thousands of school districts have closed, many for an undetermined amount of time. Many are trying to move classroom instruction into online instruction. Others may not have the resources to do so.
Either way, parents and caregivers have an unprecedented amount of time with their children home, and all of us are figuring out how to fill that time as we go.
In the midst of our new reality of socially distant living, we are turning to social media more than ever before to check in with our friends; ask questions; and get resources, information, direction, and inspiration. But thanks to the innate dangers of social media, we are—more than ever before—now living a life fueled by comparison and armchair-experting.
When schools first began closing en masse, colorful schedules began circulating almost immediately. Seasoned homeschoolers with years of experience moved to provide the rest of us with resources, lesson plans, virtual tours, and more. There was a collective moment when we felt buoyed, the curtain having been pulled back to show us how much support and content already existed for educating our kids at home.
In the span of a day, though, internet humor took over. Modified schedules began circulating mocking the productivity of the original ones, substituting time for screaming matches and movie marathons in place of virtual museum tours and quiet reading. I laughed. Funny is funny.
But then the humor moved to something sharper, something more derisive:
“If you’re thinking of homeschooling your kids for the next three weeks, let me give you some advice—don’t.”
“Kids don’t need to be stressed. Don’t set them—and yourself—up for failure.”
“All those pretty schedules are doomed to backfire.”
“Just let kids be kids.”
“Why do people insist on being productive even in the midst of a crisis?”
The new cool trend was to give the internet equivalent of a hair flip and tell everyone not only that you don’t plan to worry at all about learning while we are living socially distant, but that anyone who is attempting it is foolish at best and ruining their kids’ “memories of this time” at worst.
And just like that, I’m reminded of the worst part of social media. In this time of needing it more than ever to socially connect, it’s serving as a platform for us all to be told, yet again, that we’re doing everything wrong.
Let’s be clear about two things:
- You can’t hang out at home “wrong.”
- What works for you as a parent and a human doesn’t work for everyone else. Or maybe even anyone else.
My kids woke up on their first day of no school and immediately wanted to know what the plan was. We sat together at the kitchen table and collectively came up with a weekday schedule. It includes math, science, art, foreign language, reading, writing, and science. It also includes snacks and meal breaks and free time for what we call, “Create Your Own Fun.”
We are doing kindness projects (letter writing to grandparents) and passion projects (right now, researching code writing and breaking and then writing codes for each other). We have a two-mile walk scheduled. We have 90 minutes where they are outside running around, playing, doing whatever the hell they want.
As soon as we made our schedule and started to implement it, the anxiety in my eight-year-old son went from Level 9 to Level 1. He sighed a deep sigh and told me, “I just really like to know what is coming up next so that I can expect it.”
Now, our schedule might sound like absolute hell to you. That’s okay. I know my kids, and I know how to give them what they need to be happy and healthy. I’m also a former teacher, so I know how to pace our day to spread out instruction time versus free time.
We haven’t crashed and burned. We haven’t stressed. We haven’t argued. In fact, we’ve had a wonderful few days together.
You know what’s not on my list? Cooking together. Talk about a horrible, stress-inducing family activity. And crafting? Not our thing. And hours of free screen time? My kids turn into assholes when they’ve had too much. That’s not good for anyone…anyone, that is, in my family.
For your families, these may be great!
Look, as we all settle into this new reality of being home together for long stretches, what you have to trust is that we are all doing our best and that we all know what’s best for ourselves.
Maybe you’re a family that does best with unlimited unstructured time. Great!
Maybe you’re a family that does best with crafting and glitter and flour and mixing bowls. Great!
Maybe you are going to clean out all your closets and rearrange your garage. Great!
Maybe you’re going to not shower most days and eat sundaes for breakfast. Great!
Maybe you’re going to teach your kids about budgets and laundry and wiping baseboards. Great!
And maybe you’re going to do your best to keep their school learning going and put some routine and structure in their day. Also, great!
As we all spend exponentially more time on social media looking for connection and inspiration, don’t forget to trust that you’re the number one expert in the world on the needs of your family—and that no one needs you to tell them they’re doing it wrong.
The socially distant in me sees and honors the socially distant in you.
Keep on keepin’ on. You’re doing great!
How to Enjoy Life Amidst the Coronavirus Fear: Your Go-To Guide from Books to Podcasts & Wellness Practices.
What the Coronavirus is Teaching Me: 5 Lessons from Uncertain Times.
The Artist’s Stay-at-Home & Stay Sane Guide.
10 Simple Ways to Boost your Immunity without Leaving the House.