There have been multiple pits of quicksand on our remote-learning journey, logistically and emotionally. One low point was the day my husband was on work calls from 9 a.m. until 7:45 p.m. in our bedroom. I was about to get on a video interview in my children’s bedroom when I yelled at them, “I don’t care what you do as long as you stay out of this room!”
So many parents are burnt out from trying to educate their children at home, and while there are calls to give up on distance learning all together, I’m not ready to quit just yet. So I asked a teacher, a learning specialist and a head of school how parents can keep going when every minute feels like an eternity.
Check in with yourself — and with your kid. Each day, build in some time to assess how you’re feeling, said Katharine Hill, a learning specialist and parent educator. Remote learning is new for everyone involved, and so checking in for just five minutes with a partner or friend, or even writing a note to yourself, to process what’s working for you and what’s not, can help you take a step back. You also want to check in with your child each day, said Amanda Marsden, a kindergarten teacher in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. “If your child wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, don’t expect them to be a writer today,” Marsden said. On grumpy days, don’t force your children to strictly follow a set schedule.
Ask about essential skills. Preschool- and elementary-aged students need a lot of parental support to complete their distance-learning obligations. But in many families right now, that kind of oversight is impossible. One way to figure out which assignments are most essential is to ask your teacher about what skills your child should master by the end of the school year, Hill said. And then try to embed those skills into your child’s natural activities.
Marsden gave the example of writing — something her students are finding particularly challenging to do at home. You can have your kid write about how to build a pillow fort or make a peanut butter sandwich, Marsden said. And that writing doesn’t have to happen on a computer or on a piece of paper. She recommended sidewalk chalk and portable white boards as tools to get kids writing on the fly.
Get your child excited about learning. Perhaps the most important skill your kid can develop in the early years of her education is a love of learning, said Marisa Porges, head of the Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, Pa., and the author of the forthcoming book “What Girls Need: How to Raise Bold, Courageous, and Resilient Women.” So rather than worrying about attending every single Zoom class, think about your kid’s interests and try to cultivate them. For example: If you’ve got a bug-obsessed child, go on a caterpillar hunt in the yard, find books to read about creepy-crawlies and structure writing assignments around that reading.
Remember teachers are in this with you. Many teachers are parents themselves, and will give you grace if you can have a conversation with them about your stresses. “Remember the big picture — this is global, and I have to remind myself of that: It’s not just happening to me, it’s happening to everyone,” Marsden said. Teachers are already preparing for kids to be in a different shape this fall socially, emotionally and academically then a typical set of returning students.
Teachers really miss your kids, too. “The deeper and deeper we go into quarantine, I’m really missing my connections with my students,” said Marsden, adding that updates from parents about their kids’ lives are always appreciated. She was recently moved by a video of one of her students who had learned to ride a two-wheeler. “Share your celebrations of home and life,” she said “because it’s happening around us even in this time of chaos.”
P.P.S. Today’s One Thing comes from Matthew Leacock, a board game designer and father of two (he even designed the game “Pandemic”). Leacock and his kids have been playing the game “Just One” over Zoom with family members — all you need is a piece of paper at the ready, he said, and it takes a minute to learn.
Parenting can be a grind. Let’s celebrate the tiny victories.
Challenged my 5-year-old to match up the socks in the laundry. Guess who didn’t have to do that part? — Sarah Neuroth, Herndon, VA
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