Surviving School: Practical Advice for In-Person or Remote Learning

Surviving School: Practical Advice for In-Person or Remote Learning

Parents are in an impossible situation when it comes to deciding what their children should do for school this year. There truly is no good answer. But we all have to make a decision and stick to it. I’m not here to offer any advice on how to make that decision or debate what is the right decision. Rather, I’d like to provide some inspiration and encouragement for all parents just trying to do the right thing and generally surviving school in this strange time without losing our minds.

I scoured the internet and asked fellow parents for advice on surviving school this year. I asked how to be comfortable with the decision you make for your kids and school, how to manage expectations for online learning, setting your kids up for success in whatever learning environment you’ve chosen, and how to manage multiple kids online or homeschool schedules. Here’s what I gathered.

General Advice on Surviving School

No matter which schooling method you’ve chosen for this year, it’s going to be different and challenging. Parents shared the following advice on surviving school in general this year:

  • The truth is mom (or the parents) set the tone. Our response and our participation and our support for teachers will likely determine the success of my child’s entire school year. So, no matter how school looks this year I’m going to encourage my kids to learn. Adapt, change, serve, love, grow. And succeed.
  • Remember, you help determine your child’s attitude. Be angry or sad in private. Discuss your frustrations away from the kids. Set them up for success by teaching them to make the best of it. Be a sounding board for their worries and disappointments. Stay positive and model perseverance.
  • Prepare to be flexible. Give a lot of grace to teachers, your child and yourself. And remember, this is temporary! We can do anything for a few months (or a year).
  • Homeschoolers write a “mission statement.” It’s the reason why a family homeschools and they put this in a visible place so that they are reminded each day of the “why” when things get tough. So, no matter your decision on school, write down the “why.” It gives you something to be reminded of when days are really hard and you’re struggling to dig down past the present emotions.
  • It’s okay if you’re not 100 percent comfortable.
  • The key to happiness is low expectations. And while that sounds like a joke, it’s more like a harsh reality. Keep your expectations low – for yourself, your children, other parents, teachers, districts. This is going to be hard for EVERYONE and most of us aren’t at our best under all this stress.
  • Link arms with other parents that don’t just offer resources and support, but also kindly challenge the way you think about education. Check out Gifted Time.
  • As for helping my children cope with this unprecedented time, they really are marvelously resilient. But when they cried, I stopped everything and held them and cried right along with them. Securing that I’m a safe place and I’m also human. Starting each day discussing our feelings using an emotion chart as a guide was also very helpful to know where my kiddos were at and to be flexible with my approach accordingly.
  • Don’t forget about you! It’s important that parents ensure that their mental health, physical health and wellbeing is well cared for so they can care for their children. Carve out time to take care of your personal needs, build up a support system and then be prepared for unexpected disruptions.
  • I’m constantly reminding my kids that no plan is THE plan. I’m teaching my kids to be understanding of “change of plans” to survive school.
  • Talk to your child about how they are feeling about school. Try not to make assumptions. And no matter how they feel, let them know it’s a confusing time for everyone and their feelings are okay.  
  • Research the education model you’re most interested in for your child. Use keywords like Pods, mini classrooms, supplemental education and virtual education support to help find options and tools available to support both in-person and virtual education models.

Surviving Online or Homeschooling

I asked parents who are planning to enroll their kids in online school or to homeschool them, and this is the advice they shared on surviving school:

  • I’m letting my kids make their own bulletin boards and including them in other small details to make them excited for school.
  • Some families are pooling to pay for tutors. Sort of like a study group (mostly hiring college students who are having to stay home.)
  • I’m setting up a “school” area for my child. I told her she’s expected to act like she’s in school while in that area. Remove distractions from these spaces and fill them with encouraging scriptures and silly motivational posters.
  • Let your children make choices on the things they can have a say in. Like where their home classroom will be. It’s important to hear what’s important to them and follow through on their choices.
  • Print out a list of the different websites your child will use along with the username and password. Use large print and tape it to the wall near the computer. Print out your child’s weekly schedule and encourage him/her to highlight items once they are complete.
  • Both parents in our household will be at work. We are considering investing in a monitoring system to keep everyone on track and relieve the older child of monitoring responsibilities. We are also going to have phone and Google home alarms set as reminders.
  • It’s important to maintain a schedule and take regular breaks too.
  • Make sure kids get up and dressed. It’s important for mindset.

Surviving School in Person

Parents who’ve chosen to send their kids to brick and mortar, in-person learning had the following advice to share on surviving school this year:

  • Students and teachers may be wearing masks all day long (depending on your local requirements). I recommend they have 2-3 of them and switch them out during the day.
  • Find a mask that they like that fits well. Try a bunch of different ones until you find one that’s comfortable. They’ll be wearing it most of the day.
  • Start teaching your kids to wear the mask now, before school starts. Teach them how to keep it on and talk.
  • Don’t act like everything is normal, especially for preschoolers or kindergarteners entering school for the first time. It’s important to let these kids know this is not how school will normally be.
  • Collect as much information from the school about new policies, procedures, schedules, etc. before returning to school. Do this for yourself as well as your child. It will make you all feel more comfortable knowing what to expect. Prepare their hearts and minds for all the changes within the school setting. Social distancing possibilities, no lunchroom use, desks apart in the classroom, the possibility of no social interaction. . . all of it. It’s so overwhelming, but preparing them for these things will make it easier for them to adjust to it when they run into these situations. For older kids, ask them to think about strategies they’ll use to follow the guidelines and encourage their peers to do so as well.
  • Provide reassurance. Kids have had to socially distance themselves from all their friends these last few months, so it may be confusing to them now that they are allowed to return to school. Talk with your child about why it’s safe to return to school, the things they can do to maintain their safety and reassure them that the school is taking steps to keep them safe too. Speak about safety measures and changes in a positive way in front of children – not as fear or frustration.
  • Watch your kids for habits that need to go. Like nail biting or nose picking. These aren’t healthy habits in any time, but especially now. Also, work on handwashing. Most kids do a terrible job. Practice singing the ABC song while washing hands.  
  • Practice playing with others without touching. I actually started taking my kids to parks so they can get comfortable staying away from other kids or reminding kids they’re playing with that they have to keep distant.
  • Have a backup plan in case school is canceled unexpectedly.
  • Plan to keep children home more often than usual. For example, if they have a mild cold.
  • Double-check your emergency contacts.
  • Make sure your kids have their own school supplies with their names on them.
  • Send your kids with their own cleaning wipes to clean their desks before they sit down. And their own bottle of hand sanitizer.
  • Send a paper bag lunch instead of using a lunchbox.

Regardless of the decision you’ve made for school this year, it’s going to be a tough one for everyone. Sometimes we just have to go into survival mode. But we will get through this!

Trista Gangestad

Originally from Florida, Trista Gangestad and her family moved to CO seven years ago and live on a small hobby farm with a beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains. She and her husband have 2 daughters, the oldest of which was born with Trisomy 18, a chromosome disorder. Trista has a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations from the University of Florida (Go Gators!) and worked in Communications and Event Planning for more than 10 years before becoming a mom. Now looking forward to getting back into her career, she recently formed Hello Pumpkin, a freelance business providing promotion and design services for small businesses. Trista is also currently writing a memoir of her experience raising a special needs daughter. When this busy mom has time for herself, she enjoys sewing, crafting, shopping, drinking “candy coffee” and watching guilty pleasure TV shows.

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