How to Homeschool During a Pandemic
Probably not the answer you were looking for, I know. But, seriously. Stop it. Stop trying to turn a global pandemic into another Pinterest fail. We moms do a lot, whether you are a stay at home mom, working mom, work from home mom, you have a job already and adding "homeschool during a traumatic time" into the mix is just a recipe for disaster. Also, as it turns out, teachers are experts in their field. Now, I know since I'm a teacher you might not take that statement seriously, but it's true. For so long, so many people have had this, "I went to school, so I understand school and what makes it work" mentality. And I get it, it might seem easy, but it's really not. As I see my Facebook friends struggle with trying to keep up with their own work, the house now that it is fully occupied 24 hours a day, and add "homeschool" into the mix, it's a hot mess. So let's take a look at all the reasons not to "homeschool" right now.
1. You already have a job. Do you work outside of the house? Are you currently expected to work from home? Boom. You already have a job. Do you work from home normally? Boom. A job. Are you a stay at home mom? Boom. Job. Even if you were already staying home with the kids, I'm going to bet, you weren't also trying to homeschool them, so your days were filled with alternate tasks and responsibilities. Adding homeschool into the mix is extra work, planning, and adjustments to your already busy schedule. As a teacher, I have the unique experience of being a working mom 9 months out of the year and a stay at home mom during the summer. I understand most things that go into being a stay at home mom, and adding something like this is no joke. No matter what your situation before the pandemic, unless you were already homeschooling your children, this is a major adjustment for you both. Expecting to be able to slide right into homeschooling with little to no advanced warning, little to no prep time, while also still maintaining your other job or responsibilities is not easily said or done. Give yourself some grace here.
2. Teachers are experts. Yep. I said it. Teachers might get paid like garbage, but odds are, most teachers in your child's school hold at least one advanced degree. By the end of the summer I will be maxed out in terms of graduate hours I get credit for, a master's degree plus 60 hours of graduate credit. Your child's teacher at the very least has a bachelor's degree in education. Many also hold additional advanced degrees. These could be in curriculum and instruction, technology, math or reading endorsements, a lot of high school teachers hold a master's degree in their content area. Some overachievers have multiple advanced degrees. Teachers don't play around. There are few ways for a teacher to increase their salary if they don't want to move along the administration route, so going back to school is a great way for them to get a pay bump. We take our jobs seriously and we need to provide for ourselves and our families, going back to school is a two birds, one stone kinda thing for us.
3. This is traumatic! For you, your kids, everyone. Trying to pick up where your kid's teacher left off is not going to work. Kids aren't just missing instruction, they are missing their friends, the structures put in place by their school, wrap around services they have come to rely on. Simply pretending like all that other stuff doesn't matter and trying to go over fractions won't work. Right now kids need to know they're not alone. They're not crazy for how they're feeling during this time. They need understanding and support.
4. The time spent working on school at home, does not look the same as time spent at school. At school your kid, depending on age and district, will be in a class with anywhere from 15 to 30 other kids. Simple things like getting out materials, starting an activity, transitioning from one part of the room to another, or one activity to another, or just greeting everyone, takes time. The work that might take 50 minutes in a school setting, might only take 10 or 15 minutes at home. And that's fine! Don't waste your time, or your kids time trying to make things take longer than they need to, or by adding to an assignment when it's not necessary.
5. Take advantage of this time (if you can). Let your kids explore something new, or something that interests them. Your kid doesn't like school and doesn't want to complete the work being provided by their teacher, but he loves being outside? Let him explore outside. Your kids likes to read novels but not physics? Let her read novels. Your kid doesn't like English, but loves to draw and create things. Let professor YouTube teach them a new technique. Seriously. Learn something new with your kid. Let your kid do a deep dive into something they are interested in. Right now, everything kind of sucks for a lot of people, take advantage of the freedom we do have and let your kids (and you, too) really embrace their passions.
I know I'm a teacher and I should be all about school....blah, blah, blah. I am all about school. But more than that, I'm all about being realistic. And I'm all about mom's surviving this pandemic with a shred of sanity. And, I also prefer not to stress eat all the cookies in the pantry. It's important to understand that "remote learning" and "homeschool" are not the same, nor should they be. I think we all need to give ourselves a break, take some time to get our shit together, a little bit of grace, and decide for ourselves what this time should look like for our families.
Stay sane, safe, and healthy.
10 Things I Don't Do
I have a handful of truly amazing friends, smart women, great moms, shirt off their back type people. But, this one friend in particular...she is amazing. She is one of those women that seems to have it all together. She is a mom of two little boys. She is a lawyer, a public defender, and she LOVES her job. She is one of those "Do It All" moms, or at least she gives that impression to the outside world. But she does it in this effortless, not rubbing it in your face, kind of way. One of the things she does, that leaves me absolutely baffled, is to create and run Facebook support groups for everything. Now, I'm not sure how that sounds to everyone, but they are actually super useful and supportive groups. One such group is the Working Moms Unite page. I had no idea this group even existed, until I had my first child and she sent me the invite. I logged in, took a look around and was amazed by the over 200 women, either local to the Chicagoland area, or with roots to the area, that participated in this group. These women offered support, funny stories, and honestly, a place to vent when working motherhood became hard, sometimes even, almost undoable. Now, my favorite ever post from this super-human mama? Ten Things I Don't Do. This post spoke to me. Like I said before, it always seemed like she had it all together, there was nothing she either didn't or couldn't do. Reading over that post was liberating. And it got me thinking about how we all approach motherhood.
We all face similar challenges, whether we are working moms, stay at home moms, work from home moms, single moms. While we all have our own unique story and situation, there are some things nearly all moms can relate to. One of the things I have struggled with the most is feeling like I am not the mom that has it all together. I am not the "Do It All" mom some of my friends seem to be. After reading over my friends post, I started to reflect a bit. There were several things she listed in her "don't do" post that I do on a regular basis! How can this be!? There were also a few "don't do's" that we had in common. This got me thinking. The amount of pressure we put on ourselves, that society places on us, that we get from media, TV shows, even instagram! I'm so sick of scrolling and figuring out some new-fangled thing I don't do! So, just in case you're feeling a little bogged down with these mom-spectations being placed on you...I have here, Ten Things I Don't Do.
Before I share this with you, know that I'm proud of this list. I'm proud of knowing myself, my life, the expectations and goals I have set for myself, so that I am able to prioritize what's important in my life, what's important for my family. I no longer feel bad about these things that I don't do on a regular basis. I own it.
1. I don't spend a boatload of money on clothes for my kids.
I just don't. My daughter, Ellie, is teeny tiny. She wore the same clothes for two summers in a row. Seriously. She wore the clothes she got for her first birthday that same summer, but most of her shorts had a tuck in the back. I just took out the tuck for her second summer. Baby John gets most of his clothes (like 98%) as hand me downs from a friend that has a son one year older than him. And let me tell you...they are by far nicer than the clothes I would buy him!
2. I also don't spend a boatload on toys for the kids, either.
My husband and I are careful about what we bring in the house for the kids. Or at least we try to be. We have a lot of puzzles, STEM toys from (lots from KiwiCo), art and craft type toys, and games for the kids. We have one large kitchen set they love in our family room, which was actually an entertainment center converted into a kitchen set. We don't have a ton of figurines and little toys. Honestly, Ellie isn't very interested and I would worry about Baby John putting all of it in his mouth and choking. And I pretty regularly do a declutter and move things either to the basement or the donation pile.
3. I try to avoid purchasing "new" clothes for myself, too.
I don't know that this is mom-specific, but it's still true. I am a biologist at heart, still. And I'm completing a masters program that looks a lot at sustainability. One of the worst industries for the environment is the textile industry. I totally get this is not for everyone, but I have been challenging myself to reduce the amount of new clothes I purchase for me to wear. For the last year (probably longer because of my stint in maternity clothes) I have been trying to purchase anything new to me from places like Thred Up or other secondhand retailers. Honestly, Thred Up is a conservationists and budget shoppers dream!
4. I don't go to bed with a clean house every night.
Like, not even close. I try to have the kitchen picked up. But, honestly, by the time Thursday or Friday roll around, sometimes that doesn't even happen. Momming is hard. Working is hard. I like to sleep.
5. I don't purchase only organic/non-GMO/etc. food for my family.
I just don't.
6. I don't change the way I talk around my daughter. At least not completely.
If you've read my "about" page, you know that I worked in some interesting fields. You've heard the phrase "curse like a sailor"? I do that. A lot. And while I try to tone it down around my kids, things slip. And instead of pretending I didn't say it, I know my kids will hear that language other places. So instead I explain it to her, why I shouldn't say those words, why she shouldn't say those words. And now when I say shit around the kids, I have the cutest little 3 year old voice saying "mama, don't say that!"
7. I don't use cute words to explain body parts.
I'm a teacher, yes, but first a foremost, a biologist. My kids will know the right terms for their body parts, and use those terms without embarrassment. They also take baths together, so they will know the terms for both genders.
8. I don't put my needs dead last.
There is a reason you're directed to put your oxygen mask on first. If you want you're kids to be good, your marriage to be good, other important relationships to be good, you need to take care of yourself, too.
9. I don't sacrifice one part of my life for another.
Being a working mom is hard. Doing anything while being a mom is hard. It's all hard, honestly. But setting boundaries, priorities, and expectations helps. I have weeks that I work too much and come home way more tired than I'd like to be. But, I also have weeks that I spend way too much time reading books, drawing, playing play dough and not grading as much as I should. I've changed how I think about "balance" since having kids. I don't necessarily have good balance everyday or even every week. But if I feel like I've spent too much time on work lately, I do my best to get caught up on home life, and vice versa.
10. I don't turn down help.
EVER. If you offer me specific help, I WILL TAKE IT. I'm writing this four weeks into quarantine here in Illinois. Four weeks without my mom to help with the kids. I will literally never say to no to someone helping with the kids. I miss it so much right now. I love my kids a ton, but man, they don't stop moving! And when I'm trying to take care of them and facilitate remote learning for my kids at school....I'm going to need a vacation from quarantine when this is all over!
So there it is. My list. The ten things I don't do, and I don't feel bad about it either. What are some things you don't do?
I'm a mom and high school teacher living in the suburbs of Chicago. Becoming a mom was one of the most exciting things I've done. Being a working mom is as challenging as it is rewarding. This life may not be glamorous, but it sure keeps me on my toes and I love it.