School in the Time of COVID-19

School in the Time of COVID-19

DenaSeptember 24, 2020

School in the Time of COVID-19

Here we are, three weeks into the 2020/2021 school year and for most of us, it feels as though we’ve been at this for six months. It’s been a roller coaster. Schools around the nations are all implementing different approaches to “back-to-school” during a global pandemic. I can’t speak to all of the many experiences that are being had, but I will speak to what it’s been like for us.

Our district has implemented a “hybrid” approach to the start of the year. This means that we are doing a combination of in-school learning and at-home/virtual learning. There are two primary groups at the school, Group A and Group B. Group A children go into school from 8:45 am to 1:19 pm on Mondays, Thursdays, and every other Wednesday. Group B children go into school on Tuesdays, Fridays, and every other Wednesday. This means that the children are in school for a total of 9 hours each week.

While in school, the teachers are teaching in the areas of academic importance: math, language arts, social studies, and science. We are required to submit a daily health screening checklist. The children have their temperatures taken before they go into school. They wear a mask for the entire time they are there, with the exception of a break for outdoor snack and recess, weather permitting.

When the children are at home (or in daycare), they are scheduled for full days, beginning at 8:55 am and running until 2:41 pm. While at home, parents or caregivers are overseeing assignments given to supplement their in-school learning, as well as Google Meets (virtual classes) in their special areas, art, music, technology, and gym.

If it all sounds confusing, I can assure you that it is! It has taken a lot of “getting used to” to adjust to the schedule. The real challenge for me, however, has been with my second grader. He simply does not want to do school work at home. He has his routine at home and wants to stick with it, interrupting home life with school work is incredibly uncomfortable for him, and therefore it takes a big effort on my part to get him motivated and focused.

The other major challenge for me is in my ability to get my own work done. In speaking with other working parents, this really seems to be the key issue, for children in the younger grades (K-5) it is really all-consuming to keep them on-task, completing their assignments, and attending their virtual class meetings. They simply do not have the ability to do it on their own. Therefore the day becomes like a 3-ring circus, especially when there are multiple children in your home.

In our case there are 4 children (2 in kindergarten, 1 in second grade, and 1 in seventh grade). So between the assignments, virtual classes, snack times, and meal times–calling it a 3-ring circus is actually rather generous.

In any case, it certainly isn’t ideal, but I realize that there is no such thing as ideal in a situation like this. None of it makes sense and we are all dealing with unprecedented challenges. I try not to get political here often, but I do feel that we are being failed so miserably by our government right now. All of the schools around the nation are handling things differently. There is no guidelines that could keep the schools on similar paths to help ensure that children are all kept on equal playing fields. On top of that, there will always be those exceptions to the rule, children that need additional support for any number of reasons, and there is no guidance there, either, which in so many cases means that those children are falling through the cracks entirely.

I don’t understand why daycare centers are allowed to be open in full capacity, why it is considered safe for daycare center workers to work full days, 5 days a week for 12 hours a day, and yet it is not considered safe for teachers to do the same. I know that if my daughter was in a daycare center right now, many of them have licensed kindergarten teachers, so she could be going 5 days a week, for full days. But because she is in public school, we do not get that option.

Most working parents are faced with an impossible choice, and again there is no response from the government on how we should be handling this. I have heard so many beatiful people, wonderful, hard-working parents, crying out for help throughout these last few weeks weeks–but their cries are in vain.

I know that there are no easy answers here, no one-size-fits-all solutions. But I do believe that it could be better than this. With that said, I don’t want this to turn into a rant or a post full of complaining. I do want to offer up a few pieces of advice that have helped our family to get through this challenging time.

Tips for Surviving School in the Time of COVID-19

1. “I used to be overwhelmed by the thought of homeschooling, then I began to think of it as simply learning together at home.”

That is a quote shared by one of my favorite Instagrammers, Kristen. I don’t know if I got it exactly right, but it was along those lines. Ever since I read it, it spoke to my heart so sweetly. When I feel overwhelmed by the content of my childrens’ lessons, or by my worries about whether I’m “doing it right,” I just tell myself, “We’re learning together at home and that is enough.” It’s been such a beautiful mantra to get me through the tougher moments.

2. Get outside. With all of this time wearing masks, staying in the house and looking at screens, it is more important than ever to get our little ones outside to get fresh air. I used to “try” and get my children outside each day, but now I make it mandatory. We spend at least an hour outdoors each day even in poor weather. I prioritize our outside time over everything else, because for me, it is the most important thing.

3. Take breaks. I suppose that this one will depend on the child. I’ve heard some parents say that breaks don’t work for their children, but for mine, breaks are critical. We do a break between each change of assignment. We use a timer to keep the breaks at 5, 10 or 15 minutes depending on what the current state is. I find that these breaks really help my little ones to get their wiggles out and it keeps them motivated to complete tasks. They will get it done because they want that break.

4. Avoid artificial sweeteners and highly processed food and drink. I am always incredibly thoughtful about what I feed my childen, but even moreso when it comes to what they eat while learning. Artificial sweeteners, processed food and drink can cause intense spikes in their blood sugar, that later lead to serious crashes. If we are pumping their little bodies full of garbage, we certainly cannot expect them to perform. During the school days, my children drink a lot of water and they get one other drink (either organic chocolate milk or organic fruit juice) throughout the day. As for snacks and meals, I aim for as many whole foods as possible. I have a whole post about whole foods vs. processed foods here, if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

5. Finally, I say–“Do all things with love.” There are bound to be so many incredibly difficult moments throughout these days. Tantrums, fits, meltdowns, tears, pain, and all the rest. (Both from the children and the parents!) Remember to take a deep breath. Remember to slow down. Remind yourself that everything that you are doing is based in love and when you don’t know how to move forward, just ask yourself, “What is the most loving thing that I can do in this moment?” and then do that thing.

This is your reminder that you are enough. xo

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