Balancing Work and Schooling-at-Home During a Crisis – Jeanne L. –

Jeanne L., California, USA

What is your greatest struggle when it comes to crisis schooling?

My greatest struggle when it comes to crisis schooling is navigating through everyone’s big emotions (and we’re all having them right now) while trying to create a school and work routine at home. The girls are having more meltdowns and are just more sensitive. We do a lot to try to look on the bright side and make the best of things, but you can’t deny feelings of loss and isolation. All the feelings everyone is experiencing are completely valid and I can’t change the situation, so as a mom, that’s hard to accept. As parents we try to give the girls and each other a safe place where we can vent and come to for comfort; however, when the parents are having moments of feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or sad, it’s very hard to also help the girls deal with their struggles. 

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

I rely a lot on my big kid’s kindergarten teacher. I’m lucky that she’s given us lots of resources  including end of year kindergarten standards so I know what our goals should be. She really has put a lot of time and effort into maintaining familiar school routines even at a distance and to continuing her students’ education. I’m forever grateful for her support, care, and dedication!

For my preschooler, I get a lot of ideas from a couple of Instagram accounts I follow – Busy Toddler and Days with Grey. I use Pinterest to search for arts and crafts projects, kinesthetic academic activities, large and fine motor skills games. I also use YouTube a lot for phonics, sight words, colors, counting, shapes, etc (also at the recommendation of my big kid’s kinder teacher)! Jack Hartman can be heard most mornings from our house!

You are also a teacher and working from home? What challenges does this entail?

There were a lot of bumps and figurative bruises in the beginning. We were all just thrown in the deep end trying to learn how to swim. It was difficult getting all my families online and helping them manage new technology remotely. We (teachers, administration, technology department, and support personnel) all learned quickly, but the learning part did feel painful for me. All the while, I was trying to homeschool my girls. To go back to my swimming analogy – it was like treading water while keeping your child afloat at the same time. 

What continues to be extremely challenging is balancing planning and teaching my own class and creating and maintaining my girls’ school routine. In the beginning I found myself working all day long. From when I woke up in the morning until I went to bed with breaks for meals and exercise. I’d just jump around all day between my class and the girls. At times, I have felt that I’m jumping around so much, I’m not doing one thing well, which is discouraging and overwhelming. Sometimes it’s still like this. I find it hard to shut off school these days.

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

I read somewhere that self-care for parents during this time could be getting dressed, so I make sure to do that daily. Really, I find self-care difficult and feel like I lean more to self-medicating with treats like my favorite junk or comfort food. I try to make time to exercise at least 4 times a week (especially because of my diet preferences these days). The best self-care for me is getting some time outside. If I can get some sun, it really helps me deal so much better with whatever the day may bring.

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

In a perfect world, if I were choosing to homeschool, I’d like to think I wasn’t working as a public school teacher as well. This would allow me to focus on the girls completely. I believe we’d go on a lot of field trips and have a lot of learning be through experiences. I imagine we’d have a morning school routine. Then, the afternoon would be learning through exploration or projects or it would be time to just be creative or even do chores. The girls would probably have music and/or dance classes and sports in which they’d participate regularly. I’d probably connect with other homeschool families and collaborate, maybe even share duties to help each other out. 

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

I wake up at 7am and furiously work at my laptop to prep and send out activities to my students for the day. Sometimes, I put out a morning activity for the girls to do once they wake up to keep them busy while my husband or I get breakfast going. Sometimes they just watch TV if they wake up before I have my lessons done. 

I try to get breakfast done by 9:30 and then we all get dressed, make beds, brush teeth and hair. I like to start the girls off with some phonics videos where they can be up and moving around. This allows the preschooler to feel like she’s participating too. 

Some days I’ll do a hands-on phonics/sight word practice with my kindergartener and I’ll give my preschooler something that looks similar or something practicing fine motor skills, because she wants to be included and needs to be kept busy if I’m going to be able to help the kindergartner at all.

Then, we move to the lessons my kindergartener’s teacher has sent her and try to power through these before lunch. Sometimes we need a break and have “recess”. Almost always at this point, the preschooler has grown tired of her activity and wandered off to do something that hopefully is not destructive. All the while, I’m checking in on my students online, commenting on their work and trying to help with any issues they may be having. Sometimes I have to stop to take a phone call or create a video mini lesson if students are needing extra support with an assignment. 

If we finish by lunch, then the girls just are left to entertain themselves for a good part of the afternoon while the husband and I are trying to finish up work for the day and maybe squeeze in time to exercise. If we don’t finish by lunch, then we tag team any left over assignments in the afternoon.

My  husband is working from home, as well and I often call him in to entertain the preschooler or to take over some assignment. As a teacher, it’s hard for me to let go of much control with the girls’ learning, so I take on the bulk of their homeschooling. 

What are your best homeschooling memories thus far?

It has been exciting to see my kindergartner improve in her reading. I feel super accomplished if I come up with an activity that engages my preschooler for an extended amount of time. Mostly, my best memories are watching my girls play together more independently. Their relationship has really bloomed. My kindergartner learned how to ride a bike without training wheels, so that was a big win for us too.

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

My expectations for how I would like to teach my children does not seem possible to meet during this time of shelter-in-place. Besides not being able to go anywhere, having to work has really limited what I have time or energy for. This has been hard for me to accept. I’ve had to learn that sometimes just doing the assigned activities is enough and sometimes it’s fine to walk away from assignments completely. It’s ok to decompress and be out of school mode. 

I’d love to get to know you! Are you an unexpected homeschooling parent interested in being interviewed? Or perhaps you would like to collaborate on a project? If so, send me a message.