First of all, I want to acknowledge that it truly is a perk, if not luxury to be able to work from home, and therefore, be home to help educate my kids during this time. While many of us have complained about trying to do “all the things” at home, I believe we should take the posture of gratitude since there are many moms and dads who have to report for work outside the home and therefore make other arrangements for their children who are out of school. That said, for those of us wearing multiple hats at the same time—here are some tips for this season:
- Have a schedule, but hold it with loose hands: Structure can help kids stay on track with expectations for the day. For example, waking up at the same time each day has helped our family. This means, if you have a child who would like to sleep later than the time identified, go ahead and get them up! Likewise, stick to the same bedtime. Once those two things are established, you can look at other times in the day as blocks of time that serve a purpose, such as: schooling, working, cleaning, playing, cooking, etc. Within those blocks can be a lot of flexibility. Sometimes the schooling block might be reading outside, while other days might be doing assignments from teachers. You might skip the cleaning block one day to extend learning time and vice versa. The point is, keep a schedule, but keep it open enough to accommodate the needs each day presents.
- Get “school” started with each child, each morning: Depending on the ages of your children, they will need you or your spouse to help them get started on learning time each day. Hopefully this leads to a block of time where they stay on task and you, parent, can do some work. Trading off in this role is super helpful if both parents are at home. My husband and I tag team “conferences” with each child every morning to go through emails and assignments from teachers, make a plan, and answer questions. In the evenings, each child reports back with what they accomplished. Having checkpoints throughout the day is also helpful to see if they are staying on track. For younger children, this is more challenging as they need to stay busy and need to be monitored at the same time (which makes those Zoom calls pretty interesting!) Plan multiple stations throughout the house that have things for them to do—much like a preschool classroom. Puzzles at the coffee table, art project at the kitchen table, legos or blocks on the floor, and a fort set up in their room with extra toys!
- Keep technology use to a minimum: This one is hard for any age because when parents really need to crank out a deadline without distraction, the temptation is to put on a movie, or pull out the Ipad. While there is a time and place for this, try not to double-down on it during this time. I’m speaking to the choir on this one since my boys LOVE to play video games—and sometimes it’s just easier to say yes to an extra 30 minutes (or hour or more)!! The heart behind this is to not beat yourself up if you do have to use technology for an activity, but have other things planned for learning and playing to find a great “balance”.
- Keep the weekends! As all the days run together, it might feel like the weekends disappear. I encourage you to mark the weekends with Sabbath rest as much as possible—meaning no working and no schooling; sleep in a bit, watch a movie together, play outside if possible, do something fun! Certainly on Sundays, watch a church service together and participate in any church activities offered through streaming apps or downloads for family devotionals. Above all else, worship together during this time. Your family needs to read the Bible together, pray together, sing together—now more than ever.
- Give yourself grace: The energy we had when the Covid-19 crisis began is more than likely waning at your house—as it is indeed at ours. There are some days that go better than others—and that is ok. We need to all realize that while we may have to live this way for a while, it was never intended to be sustainable long term. If you need a day to “not do school”, take that day—or week. If you need to take a day off from work, you can hopefully do that too. If your child cries during your online meeting, excuse yourself and go care for your child. Your co-workers will understand. We all have our stuff we are dealing with and grace abounds all around us. If nothing else, grace abounds.
Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from his fullness. John 1:16a
Jana Magruder serves as the Director of Lifeway Kids. She is a Baylor graduate and offers a wealth of experience and passion for kids ministry, education, and publishing. She is the author of Kids Ministry that Nourishes and Life Verse Creative Journal, which she co-authored with her teenage daughter. She and her husband, Michael, along with their three children reside in Nashville.