Two small kids sitting on a treasure chest as the little girl whispers in the little boy's ear

I think we all cried the first day. The chaos of the whole COVID-19 pandemic felt like it was being funneled into the tiny details of long division and failed logins. 

I started the day off strong. All three of my kids were set up at the kitchen table and me with my laptop open to work. I had even written out a schedule on the fridge for the day (which is not my normal style).

We could do this. We would be great at this. I had my coffee. I took a cute picture. We were organized and ready.

We could do this. We would be great at this.

It wasn’t even 15 minutes later when the wheels started to fall off. One child had to print everything and the printer was out of ink. (Who regularly prints things these days?) Another child had literally six sets of logins that I could not get straight. The third child was emotionally melting down about getting a mountain of work done that day.

There was trouble paying attention. One child wanted to hum, while the other wanted silence. No one wanted to work in their own bedroom. It was a powder keg. There were meltdowns and tears—and not just the children’s.

The schedule came down from the fridge, swiftly and boldly, and down with it, we crashed. I was so tense by the early afternoon my shoulders were in knots. Something would have to give.

I was so tense by the early afternoon my shoulders were in knots.

I had kind of idealized this new homeschooling idea. Let me be clear: I have never wanted to homeschool my children. Yet, I am naturally a homebody, and I could work in my client sessions around their work. I felt optimistic. I thought it could be cozy.

It was not cozy. It was actually stressful as I was confronted alone (my husband had no breaks in meetings) with the task of re-learning how they each learn, understanding the new way math is done (Why is it so much more complicated now?) and keeping cool.

I apologized to my whole family probably three times by lunch. I was not only stressed out but by managing all their school work, I was completely blindsided by the stress itself. Grateful to be healthy and have jobs we could do from home, I didn’t see the stress coming. I think that’s partly why it hit me so hard. I was totally unprepared for how overwhelming it would be.

Just like I ripped that unrealistic schedule down off the fridge, I dropped my expectations too, as I realized they were too unrealistic. I decided to just get through the day. No other expectations would fit. 

I decided to just get through the day. No other expectations would fit. 

The weight and knots in my shoulders started to ease a little bit as I realized and remembered a few important things. I can start over at any point. It can be the next morning or at 10:15 a.m. I can apologize to my kids, get us all out of the house, take a cuddle and TV show break and start again. The confinement of a non-stop day that runs on without events means I can restart whenever we get off-kilter.

The kids need me more than they need math. Of course math is important, but what these kids need even more right now is a grounded, emotionally-connected adult to help anchor them through this storm. If my house is messier and the work isn’t perfect, then that’s ok. They need connection more than perfection.

What these kids need, even more right now, is…connection more than perfection.

I have a choice. The benefit of being in charge, is well, being in charge. I get to set the schedule, the tone, the priorities and the mood. With perfectionistic hopes of my ideal homeschooling scenario dropped, I started over with what I thought was most important for our day.

We start every day at the same time (with wiggle room because as the boss I value that). We have a morning meeting just like my son does at school, in a circle on the ground, and we talk about our feelings and read a little something together. This has anchored us. The kids love it. We check in and connect. There is room for their worries, fears or joys for the day in this unique time. 

The exact schedule for the rest of the day has to look different for three different children in three different grades, just like any other part of parenting I realized. Routine is important, but so is flexibility as is true for all parts of parenting.

Routine is important, but so is flexibility as is true for all parts of parenting.

We start the day together. When it is all over, we put all the stacks of notebooks and devices away, and we end together. Together is the most important lesson we are learning and relearning in our little home school. Walt Whitman put it best, “We were together. I forget the rest.”

Are you a parent taking on homeschooling right now? What are some techniques you have learned so far about staying home with the kids all day?

Image via Amanda Gallant, Darling Issue No. 7

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