5 Sanity Saving Tips from a Working Mom and her Remote Schooling Kids
by Lauren Davis
This spring, my 3rd and 7th daughters didn’t learn a whole lot in school, but as we limped across that finish line (my husband escaping to his one-man office while I pretended to focus on my clients and not the dumpster fire beyond my bedroom-turned-office door), we definitely learned some valuable lessons as a family. Lessons I was really hoping never to use again. Lessons I’m now dusting off as reality sets in about the school year we’re about to dive into head first, crossing our fingers that we don’t smack our heads on the bottom of the pool.
Here’s our top 5 — some figured out early, and some “woulda shouldas” we’re giving a go now:
1. Design work environments that could keep a retriever focused in a forest of squirrels. This was especially important for my 3rd grader, who has been discovered 45 minutes into a public bathroom stop, counting the tiles on the walls. Tactics include:
- Setting up a clean workstation, facing a wall. Only objects on the desk are her school chromebook, scrap paper, pencils and a sharpener.
- Covering the bedroom closet door with chalkboard paper and using it to write the daily schedule and to-do list with checkboxes.
- Programming a “smart speaker” (for us, a $30 Google Home Mini) to announce what time it is, every hour, and to shout reminders 2 minutes before appointments where they need to hop on a video conference.
2. Develop baseball-level nonverbal cues to communicate updates and alerts. I speak from experience when I say most kid-related kitchen accidents happen when you are giving a major presentation to a large virtual audience. Here’s how we handle them now:
- Both kids have a device from which they can send our whole family an instant message (usually related to scheduling or technical problems). If Mom is busy in a pinch, Sis can jump in at home or Dad can call in for remote assistance.
- Mom now stars key times (on the closet door) where she absolutely cannot be interrupted unless there is an active fire burning inside of the house.
- During non-starred times, in case of “emergencies,” (in quotes because in our house, they have included “the cutest face the dog made” and “a great idea for next summer”) kids may quietly enter Mom’s office and check for signs of a call or video conference before speaking.
3. Schedule multiple daily check-ins to minimize those baseball signals. Remember when kids were gone for an entire school day and you didn’t hear from them at all for 6 hours straight? To think how we took those days for granted…
- I schedule (on my calendar!) two check-ins each day with my kids to get a feel for their mood, their struggles and whether they are focused on their daily goals, at 10AM and 3PM.
- My husband comes home for lunch, both to ensure the kids are fed and to do a mid-day check while I stay heads down (I schedule my lunch before/after for some non-work, non-kid downtime that may or may not include 30 minutes of Netflix).
4. Schedule weekly individual kid meetings so the train never goes completely off the rails. In the spring, we were blown away by the fact that our 7th grader had taught herself the ukulele, could do 3 pullups, and had started an etsy shop… until her math teacher told us she was 11 assignments behind. Here’s our new plan:
- Every Saturday, my husband and I have a set time to meet with each kid, where we review what was accomplished the previous week, what assignments/grades have been entered and what is on the docket for next week.
- The name of the game is not perfection or even achievement — it’s awareness. Our goal is to force conversations about classes that are most challenging, things that didn’t go as planned, and ways to course correct if she is falling behind.
5. Put some in-person dinners in the family bank, for when the world starts turning again. While I’m sorry that the play practice, sporting events and friends across town have become a thing of the past, I’m not sorry for a year where we’ll be able to sit down as a family, every night, to catch up. Here are some of our family-dinner best practices.
- We each announce our daily rose (best thing that happened), thorn (worst thing) and bud (what we’re looking forward to).
- We come up with social-distance-approved weekend activities to plan for — like when our 9 year old decided we should set up paint, easels and a screen and take on some Bob Ross “Happy Little Trees.”
- We Facetime far-away family members to say (sometimes full-mouthed) hellos, since traveling to visit them won’t be on the docket for a while.
I have no doubt that within a month, there will be a whole new set of recommendations and warnings coming out of our house, and I can’t wait to learn from others who are in our shoes. Do you have any sanity-saving tips that have worked for your crew? Please share them within the #2020Parenting community!