On “Home School” and Stay at Home Orders

Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind

Up in here, up in here

Y’all gon’ make me go all out

Up in here, up in here

Y’all gon’ make me act a FOOL

Up in here, up in here

Y’all gon’ make me lose my cool

Up in here, up in here

Song by DMX

Now that I’ve got my “homeschooling” mantra stuck in your heads, let’s delve into the topic at hand for this installment of #WhatWorksWednesday. Because for most of us across the country, this pandemic required task of not only keeping our children alive, fed, bathed and entertained 24/7 now also includes educating them as well. For any mama, that is a tall order. But, for us mama’s whose children have learning difficulties, come from a background of trauma and/or face both of these factors, this whole stay-at-home thing just got even more overwhelming.

I feel like I should offer a disclaimer. As someone who actually did homeschool in the past, THIS IS NOT HOMESCHOOLING! Homeschooling actually involves co-ops and extra curricular activities and the ability to go on field trips and learn OUTSIDE of the home. I have many friends who have homeschooled for years and they will join me in reassuring you, this is not what homeschooling looks like. This is pandemic schooling and it is challenging, even for veteran homeschoolers.

I hope that allows you to take some pressure off of yourself. Even families that have been homeschooling for years are having to adjust their tactics and techniques to accommodate the changes required in all of our homes and schedules during this unprecedented time.

So, now we need to focus on how to make this work for our families. Different kids, different schools, different needs, different expectations. It is enough to make a mama want to scream. Add in the extra tension of those of us trying to work from home at the same time and cue all the frustrated tears (I know I’m not the only one that has shed one or two here lately).

But, take heart mamas. There are things we can do and put into place that can make this work. Here are just a few of my thoughts:

  • Remember your priorities. Learning is important. I would never discount that but it is NOT the most important thing in our homes right now. Your mental health, your child’s mental health and the overall emotional temperature of your family is more important than a book report or whether or not your child masters their multiplication tables. This means that there will be times that school work needs to be put aside for a few minutes, an hour or maybe all day to help you re-regulate the emotional climate of the house and that is okay!
  • Relax your expectations. This does not have to be, nor should it be school at home. If Steven works best in his underwear, cross legged on the floor go with it. Sitting at the kitchen table in front of a computer screen for hours at a time is not a realistic expectation of a child. Heck, I’m struggling with it as an adult working from home. My teen wanted to listen to music on her headphones while taking a history test. While I didn’t think that was going to help her focus, we struck a deal that if she did well that way, it could continue but if her grade was not her best then we would re-evaluate the music. She got a 90% on the test! Headphones it is. We get to decide what school looks like in our home and we need to make it look like what works for our family and our kids.
  • Reserve time for fun! Our kids don’t just learn from textbooks and tests. They learn from hands on experiences and freedom to be creative too. Let them bake, cook, paint, build! Let them do all the things that interest them and choose to view those activities as educational too (because they are).
  • Give room for feelings! As hard as this is on us mama’s, it is not easy for our kids either. They miss their friends, they miss their teachers, they miss their routine too. It is not easy for a child to make sense of this time because their concept of time is not as developed as an adult. I know that when the CDC extended the stay at home recommendations to April 30th, I was sad. And, I understand how long it is until April 30th. Our kids, especially in elementary school, don’t have a complete grasp on how long 30 days is. It literally feels like forever to them. We need to give our kids permission to say “this stinks”. Some days will be better than others and some days will be more productive than others. Allow them, and you, to feel what you feel in the moment, validate and offer support for those feelings and then purpose to move past those feelings and get back to the tasks at hand.
  • Remind yourself to stay connected to your child. There is nothing that can frustrate a mama faster than an uncooperative child. Attitude, helplessness, defiance and more undesired behaviors can make us quick to become frustrated. Younger children can become jealous of the attention an older child is getting during “school” time and can begin to act out. There are all kinds of dynamics at play that can make us feel like we are swimming upstream. But, when we choose to stay focused on our connection with our child, rather than what we accomplish today, the tone of our home will remain more positive and calm. Choose to pick your battles. Choose to give your child grace. Choose to provide the opportunity for a re-do over imposing a consequence. Choose to connect.
  • Find your rhythm. Your family’s rhythm is going to look different than my family’s rhythm and that’s okay. It’s actually good. All of our families are knit together differently and we have to find the routine that works for our individual situation. For instance, we have horrible internet service. So my daughter can’t be online doing her school work during the time the school has requested because it would kick me off the video sessions I’m having with clients during the day. So, instead of freaking out or becoming resentful of the schools “demands”, I reached out to the teacher, explained our situation and she has been so understanding and is making herself available to my daughter for a few hours in the late afternoon/early evening when I’m finished with work for the day. Don’t assume that the school’s requests can’t be negotiated based on your family’s needs and situation. If your child does better with frequent breaks, than take frequent breaks! If your child does better plowing through and knocking out all their assignments in three hours and playing the rest of the day, go with that. Be mindful that different kids in the same house may accomplish their tasks best in different ways and that’s okay too!Don’t frustrate yourself and your child trying to force everyone to perform in the same way at the same time. Build flexibility into your families rhythm.
  • Reach out! Staying connected to your tribe. Your support system is really important right now. Phone a friend! They may be able to talk you down or suggest something you hadn’t thought of. Right now, we can feel like islands, adrift and alone at sea if we aren’t intentional about connecting with others. I’m maintaining my sanity right now through group video chats and prayer sessions with friends. And, don’t forget, I’m offering complimentary 30 min coaching sessions during this pandemic. Email me at kmelissasmallwood@gmail.com to schedule your free session.

In closing, I want to offer you reassurance that there isn’t really a way to do this wrong. It’s new, uncharted territory for all of us. As long as your desire and intention is to maintain connection, seek balance and find the rhythm that works for your family, you will get through this. And, chances are, your family will emerge stronger and more resilient than ever because of this challenging time.

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