“Mommy, there’s a virus…and it’s spreading all over the neighborhood,” from her car seat, my five-year-old observed. It reminded me that on all cognitive levels, children are absorbing the current situation surrounding COVID-19. It also reminded me of the saying, “Calm parents. Calm children.” Earlier in the day, my husband, unaccustomed to spending an entire day at home with the children, said, “I’m not going to be trapped in this house all day if these kids are not going to behave.” The ebb and flow of sibling interactions are real. They can be the crucible in which we “rub off our rough edges.” Yet, with tensions running high, and uncertainty causing increased sensitivity, family systems will be taxed.  

            This is uncharted territory: working from and studying at home. Together. How can we do so with peace and patience? Let’s do a deep dive. If parents are working from home, and there is no other childcare support at home, the children will have to be engaged and occupied. This requires planning. Every family’s dynamic and composition is distinct. But here are a few suggestions.

  1. With online learning, most schools will take attendance based on logging in. Most will operate asynchronistically, meaning, students can log in at any time of the day or night and complete and submit assignments, often through Google classroom or other platforms. That means that older students can work at their own pace and will have flexibility. You may have to call on older siblings to assist with younger children, adjusting their schedules to stagger with parents’ working hours. A schedule from the outset will be vital to establishing leadership and organizational ebb and flow. Course correcting this will be painful and punitive, so I urge you to take the time to create a comprehensive daily schedule. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “If you give me six hours to chop down a tree, I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” 
  • If your older child is a self-starter, excellent. Simply schedule a daily check-in to gauge their progress. If you have concerns about your child’s executive functioning or motivation, schedule a daily planning meeting in the morning or the night before. Create a daily “to-do” assignment sheet. Check the boxes. Make it a habit to inspect, perhaps under the guise of becoming acquainted with this new system of learning. We want to avoid the tsunami of missed work accumulating if, casually, assignments are overlooked or skipped. Remind students that they have to find a way to make this system work…or face the likelihood that they could be doing school throughout the summer months. For younger children, the expectation of parental involvement may increase. Be sure to create a schedule that allows for that. Families may choose to implement evening “Study Hall” hours to ensure that work is completed and goals are being met.
  • “Doing” school versus “going” to school is a different animal. Bereft of what students report as being the number-one motivation to attend school, their friends, schoolwork at home may feel like an obligation with no reward. Remind students that they are taking their learning into their own hands. They are taking ownership. This is an opportunity to prepare for their futures in a real way. Time management will be their liberator or their nemesis. It is their choice. And choices have consequences, both positive and negative. So collaborate, initiate and help students learn to take the lead on their learning. If you have any concerns, reach out and we are here to help smooth the transition to at-home learning.