Wait, you want me to balance work, facilitate e-learning AND deal with COVID-19?

Kids have been participating in e-learning for a little over a month now and since it’s clear schools are not going to open up their physical locations for the remainder of this school year, it’s up to us to last through May 29th, the last day of school in Hillsborough County, Florida. Now, take a deep breath and take the time to let it out. Feel better? No? Us either BUT, we have learned a few things during the past month that have worked for us, perhaps they will work for you too! Pour a glass of wine and read on!

1. Don’t freak out! – We know, easier said than done… BUT, we are not home schooling and we are not teachers; we are e-learning facilitators and parents. We do not need to come up with a curriculum, simply follow the plan that your teacher has come up with. They are the professionals. Take a relief sip.

2. Know your strengths. – It is always important to utilize your strengths to overcome your weaknesses. We have kids in two different age groups, one in middle school and one in elementary school. Our elementary school kid needs a lot more supervision and guidance than our middle schooler. Our elementary school kid wakes up really early and our middle schooler sleeps in a bit. Knowing these things helps us manage our day. We can start our younger child’s school day earlier, before we start our own work and help him to get organized before our middle schooler wakes up. We break up assignments into smaller bits of work each day so he can focus on one assignment for a set amount of time until it is complete, then we can check it. This also gives us time to complete our own work. Knowing what time of day works best for your kids to learn and where they are most productive is a huge help. If mornings are not great, don’t fight it, let them have some free time and complete schoolwork in the afternoon. If sitting at the kitchen table (like my son) keeps them focused, great… if they work better at a desk in their room (like my daughter), even better! Sip that wine!

3. Make a Plan. Most schools issue some form of school planner each year. Use the planner! It will typically have each day broken down by subject. We write the assignments that need to be completed each day in every subject area within the planner. Our teachers are giving out assignments at the beginning of the week, some specify what needs to be done each day, others don’t. We break the work out over the week into manageable chunks so that it does not become overwhelming and we can go through the planner each day to make sure that everything was completed. We do this with our kids on Monday mornings, but you could also do it daily if your teacher is not providing a week’s worth of assignments at a time. For assignments with no specified due date during the week we let the kid pick what day they want to do them, this gives them control over a situation they have little control over. And who doesn’t like some control? Drink up!

4. Set expectations. I am an attorney and my husband is an executive director therefore we both have demanding jobs which require time where we work without interruptions. Communication is key. But really, it’s key! John and I must communicate when we are not able to handle parenting duties. If you lack communication, your significant other has no way of knowing that you are not able to help. We also have to communicate with our kids, especially when we can and can’t be interrupted. My kids understand that there are certain virtual meetings they can pop by and waive, and others that are totally off limits. If I am about to participate in a virtual hearing or mediation where they are not allowed to pop by, I make sure to talk to each kid and let them know that I am about to start a meeting where I cannot be interrupted. I also ask if they need anything before I begin and ensure they understand that everything else will have to wait until I am done. This method does not work for dogs… When I get there, I’ll let you know! Drink two sips now.

5. You will miss stuff, communicate that with the teachers. We have missed e-learning assignments and tasks due to the above-mentioned uninterruptable work meetings. Sometimes we both have work at the same time that cannot be interrupted. My son missed a quiz last week because neither of us were able to facilitate the sign-on process due to work obligations. We simply e-mailed the teacher and she was able to reopen the quiz so he could take it the next day. The same thing happened to our daughter regarding a zoom math class. Take that in for a moment, a zoom math class… In this situation we were both working unable to be disturbed and she was having technical difficulties. We again e-mailed the teacher and she provided us with the recorded session of the class. Teachers are expecting these types of situations to happen therefore they are being very flexible and understanding. Just ask and they will help you! Do you have any wine left? Just finish it and pour another glass.

None of this situation is ideal but we can and will get through it. It can be frustrating to balance all of this from home, especially if you are a single parent or parents who are both working longer than normal hours. It is ok to be frustrated! Take a time out, count to ten, breathe. Be sure to let your kids know that you are frustrated. They will learn how to deal with frustration by seeing how you resolve your own in a positive way. All that said, there are no right answers here. This is what has worked for me, hopefully it will work for you. Also, reach out to someone. If you need help call a friend. Sometimes talking to someone and venting for a few minutes can help you gain perspective. Well, that and wine. Lots and lots of wine.

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