It’s hard to believe that summer is coming to an end and the time of back-to-school is already upon us. In a year full of new challenges, one of the toughest that’s facing parents is the unique landscape of the 2020-2021 school year. We’ve already discussed how many people are working more hours at home than they used to in the office. Now add to that the struggle of setting up a remote learning space for your kid(s) and helping them stay attentive during their school day…it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. We decided to talk to our staffers with school-aged kids to get their take on the year and the obstacles it poses.
Let’s start by giving an overview of the upcoming school year for those who don’t have a glimpse into this world. First off, it’s important to note that many parents didn’t get the official word on what school would be like until only 5-6 weeks ago. Beyond that, several in our organization didn’t have any official meetings with administration or teachers until two weeks ago! That is not a lot of time to prepare for what will end up being an extremely challenging set of circumstances going forward. Here in Washington, like many other states, instruction will be done all online. This means if you have a younger child, you’ll need to sit with them for the 3-4 hours of “class” so you can manage the computer and keep them attentive to the teacher. Think it’s tough for your colleagues to manage their mute/unmute button during a work meeting? Imagine a bunch of 7-year-olds trying to accomplish the same thing…
In addition to those hours of teacher instruction, they’ll also have a couple of hours of workbook/homework time. Again, with some level of guidance and supervision required. You may get some relief if your kid is in middle/high school and tech-savvy, but there are unique challenges that come with keeping a teenager focused during a zoom call when they have their own creature comforts all around them.
There were many worries that P2P parents expressed when asked how they would handle this year. The common theme was that even if you have the IDEAL situation (a co-parent at home who can assist with schooling, dedicated space set aside, all of the proper equipment/supplies), it is still EXTREMELY disruptive to normal life. If you’re a single parent or someone who can’t always work from home, the challenges are exaggerated. It’s no surprise that these parents also talked extensively about the impact on their young ones. School is the main opportunity for kids to socialize, make friends, and spend time with them. One of our employee’s daughters expressed how bummed she was that she wouldn’t get to ride the bus this year; a time when she typically gets to play games and have fun with her peers. And let’s not forget the impact beyond just the school day here – sports, clubs, and other activities have also been cut for the most part.
In defense of the schools and their administrations, this was and is an impossible task to create a scenario that works for all parties. Even the biggest and most successful corporations on the planet have had major trouble navigating the waters for the last six months. So, we must forgive the school systems which don’t have nearly the same resources at their disposal.
With so much stacked against you, what can you do to help yourself out in the coming months? We asked around and found some tips:
- Dedicate a separate space for learning – This is one surefire way to get kids excited about the school year. Give them their own desk or space for school time and let them make it their own! Give them the freedom to decorate how they want. Many young ones love the idea of getting to work on a computer at a desk because that’s what they see mom and/or dad do on a daily basis.
- Take breaks – Sound familiar? We just talked about this in our last post! It can be tempting to try to push through the work as fast as possible so you can move on to other things you need to get done. But that will ultimately do a disservice to your child and yourself. Break up workbook time, get outside or move around. It will be much more sustainable and productive in the long run.
- Explore group facilitation with other parents (if possible) – Some groups of parents are getting together and taking turns being the “facilitator” while their kids are getting instruction from teachers. It does require some logistics to coordinate, as well as a space that can fit several kids socially distant with workspaces. That means it’s not for everyone but maybe worth exploring if you need extra help.
- Ask for help – This is no time to be proud. Everyone is struggling and we could all benefit from a helping hand during these times. There are so many resources out there for everything from household chores to virtual talk therapy. And remember to be kind to yourself. This is all unprecedented.
Stay tuned for more on this subject as we keep tabs on our parents’ progress and gain perspective from others as the year goes on.
Until then, stay safe everybody!
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