Searching for a Routine with Distance Learning as a Single Mom and Nurse – Donya B.

Donya B., California
Instagram: @donyajphoto

What is your greatest struggle when it comes to distance learning?

I’ve found that my greatest struggle is finding a routine. Seriously I am not consistent.  I just don’t work that well with a routine, I get bored. Don’t get me wrong for work I need it, but to live my life with my kids in my own home, there is NEVER any real routine except when they went to a brick and mortar school. 

I am their Mother, their Teacher, their Entertainer, and the “One” who tells them what activity they should be doing.  My son asks me a lot now, “Mom, but what can I do?”  I give him options to clean the cat box, read, or help make dinner and he refuses 30-80% of the time.  But WHY do I have to be the one who figures out what he does?  So I’m their day planner as well.  My son is 8, he is smart but yet he hasn’t figured out that he doesn’t need to play Minecraft or video games all day. Instead, I get to be the one to remind him of that.  

What resources have you been utilizing to help you on your unexpected homeschool journey? 

GULP….you mean they are out there?!!  No really, I have a good group of mama friends that are teachers who have sent me information.  Honestly, I just don’t have the time. I think you sent me this interview weeks ago and I’m just now getting to it, so I know better to stick to a set plan or curriculum. 

I started off with using the workbooks that I found on Amazon with good reviews, but our school district now has them on Canvas and I thought it was going to be better. However, I haven’t used Canvas since college, so I had to remember and re-learn the system on top of helping them with their work. 

You are a nurse and work long hours on top of schooling your children. Would you like to go into details about the challenges that come from that?       

Yes, that unfortunately is my greatest struggle. I am a single mom and I work nights, so when I have my children it typically is on a day after I’ve worked 3-4 shifts in a row. If I’m lucky I may get 3-4 hrs of sleep before I have them for the day. Needless to say it’s rather difficult for me to shift back to days.

Also, my decision as to why I’m not going to self-quarantine when I have them was rather challenging. I don’t alway work the COVID Unit, so I’m not around this disease all of the time, but that’s not to say I haven’t been exposed to this disease while I’m working. I have mindfully observed if I have any specific symptoms that mean I’ve contracted the virus and thank God I’ve been symptom free!  

As a single mother I could not fathom being quarantined away from them, they are my life.  It is my joy to see them smile and laugh and learn new things. When they go to their father’s for their 5 nights away from me I ache for them. Plus when they come back I notice the little things they do differently, how they have matured or grown physically in just a few days.  My kids are 8 and 9 and they seem to be growing up way too fast. 

Ok, I’ve digressed. What I’m trying to say is that I take care of people at work, and as a mother I take care of my kids, so I want to have fun with them, not have to be the one who is constantly telling them what to do. I want to see them explore, live life, laugh, cry and uncover the wonder of living, not to be their “school” teacher.

How do you find balance and time for self-care in the midst of daily life as an unexpected homeschooling parent? 

Unfortunately, it is a challenge to find time for self-care.  I’m guilty of letting the kids have screen time and rewards to steal away for extra naps, an hour online yoga, or meditation class. At night, like now at 1:58am when the rest of the world is asleep, I like to take baths, stretch/do yoga, write, read, or listen to music to fill my cup.

I also found a trainer who keeps me accountable weekly and daily if I need it. It’s not that I want to get “fit”, I just want to be someone that my kids look up to and know that I’m doing the best that I can to show them what it is to eat healthy and to be active and to accept my body and to love being me. That way they grow up with positive self images and know how to accept themselves and not strive to be something or someone for anyone but themselves. 

I’ve recently joined a “book of the month club” so that I can read real hardback books (I’m old school baby!), and it all basically boils down to that I don’t want to have to think on my days off with my kids. I’m very visual so movies, Netflix or any new interesting TV series are a way that I can visually decompress, but I have a tendency to get lost in them and it’ll be 5am and my daughter will wake up and tell me to go back to bed. So I do try to limit that, as well as getting lost on my phone on Instagram or some mindless game that I may play to not think. Did I already say I just don’t want to think when I’m not working. 🙂

In a perfect world, what would your ideal homeschool day look like?  

Well, I’d wake up around 10, or rather the kids and I wake up at that time. We all make breakfast together as part of science/home economics class. Then I set them up on their computers while I go back and forth answering all their questions in a calm and quiet manner. Hallelujah!! We would take breaks to go out for walks thus getting our PE in while stimulating our senses with nature, or I’d ideally have a backyard where they could play while I get some me time to pay bills and make phone calls. 

But in reality, what does your typical day look like? 

Ha Ha Ha. 

Should I attach all the pictures or the videos I make that could blackmail my kids later in life? Well…..I attempt to start school at 8 or 8:30. I usually sense the mood and set up one kid first while the other is doing something they like so I have time to be present and focused. Then once they are on, I try to make myself a cup of tea or coffee.

Sometimes I forget to eat breakfast while I’m helping them get “set up” or answering what does this word mean while listening to “Mom, I can’t log onto Benchmark now…” and watching them them have a meltdown because technology is so very frustrating!! Mind you, this all happens within 10 minutes. I might even be the one having a meltdown or trying to email their teacher because their Zoom meeting is not opening and I have the wrong link or number to get them in. (There’s just toooo much to remember!) 

So I try to remind myself to breathe, because if I don’t I am the one going to my room to let them just try and figure it out because I am needing to cry or scream. 

Then other days it goes a bit more smoothly.

What are your best homeschooling memories thus far?

This question was hard for me to answer, because I know from the beginning I had an issue with having to parent them and homeschool them. This is why I chose public schools so I wouldn’t have to homeschool my kids; however, I noticed that when I look back on where we’ve been, it’s the little things I loved that would happen when we were not on any schedule. I’d play a music list and we’d all start randomly dancing or when we go on our nature walks to get out and explore.  

Is there anything else you’d like to add that I did not cover?

This time has made me look deeper into what I want to give to my children and how I am not good at doing it alone. The old adage that, “it takes a village” is SO very true.  I just wish I had a village, and one day we will have that!

I’d love to get to know you! Did you find yourself suddenly homeschooling your kids due to COVID-19? Or perhaps you would like to collaborate on a project? Let’s connect!