If you’re looking for tips and ideas for surviving a school closure, you’re not alone.
We’re a week into school closures here in Toronto, with absolutely no idea how long this will last or how bad things will get. People are speculating that schools will be closed for the remainder of the academic year, and parents everywhere are struggling to figure out what their new normal will look like. Extended time cooped up inside with young children is difficult at the best of times, and when you add in the challenge of trying to work from home while also facilitating some sort of education plan with your little ones, it’s nothing short of overwhelming.
Whether you’re scrambling to create a homeschooling schedule to keep your kids learning while they’re cooped up inside, or you’ve decided to give yourself grace and take it one day at a time, we’ve put together our best tips and ideas to make surviving a school closure as painless as possible.
Surviving a School Closure: 12 Tips for Parents
1. PLAN AND PREPARE
While it can be tempting to use this time as an excuse to relax on rules, it’s no secret that children slowly start to fall apart without some form of routine. Does this mean you need to create an hourly chart of activities each day? No! But having a rough daily plan can be really helpful in adding a little structure to your days. If you map out how you want your day to unfold and come up with activities ahead of time, your kids will know what to expect, you’ll have ideas to draw from each time they say they’re bored, and you can find pockets of time where your kids will be occupied so you can tend to all of the other responsibilities on your shoulders.
A lot of schools are sending out eLearning plans, and tons of online businesses and bloggers are creating resources for parents to keep their kids entertained and learning. Once you start digging in, it can feel kind of overwhelming – where do you even start?! – but you’ll be amazed at what 10-15 minutes of prepping and planning the night before can do. Gather supplies (Amazon is still delivering!) and challenge your kids to create their own ‘work space’ while you print worksheets and coloring pages and find educational apps to keep them going each day. The more you plan and prepare, the more in control you will feel.
2. CREATE A DAILY SCHEDULE
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I have a thing for productivity. I geek out over anything that will help optimize my time and help me live more purposefully, and I’m relying on this skill more than anything right now. I’ve tried creating hour-by-hour schedules for my daughter in the past, but find it creates way more stress than it’s worth. I’m a much bigger fan of time-blocking, which involves breaking our day into chunks of time, and then assigning activities to each.
Right now, our schedule looks like this:
Independent play time
Educational time (worksheets, online learning, etc.)
Quiet time (reading, watching TV, iPad time, etc.)
Creative time (crafts, singing, etc.)
Independent play time
I don’t follow a strict timeline for each, we don’t get to each item every single day, and if my daughter is happy to spend time on her iPad or play independently for 3 hours, I’m not going to interrupt her. I know there will be other days when she needs more attention and one-on-one time – it’s all about finding balance and doing the best I can each day.
3. BE REASONABLE
When it comes to surviving a school closure, it’s important to be realistic, to know everyone’s limits, and to allow a whole lot of grace. Social media is full of moms sharing their homeschooling plans and all of the fun crafts they intended on doing with their kids while they are at home, and while I applaud their dedication and patience, please remember that this experience is going to look different for all of us. It’s about SURVIVAL at this point. Whether you’re trying to juggle a job, caring for someone who is sick, or worrying about lost income, be honest with yourself and your limits, and go from there.
It’s important to keep in mind that your children have limits too. This isn’t easy on them, and they are picking up on the stress and worry. They miss their friends and aren’t used to being cooped up for long periods of time. Expecting them to sit for long periods of time doing homework may not be a realistic expectation, and some days will be easier than others. The bottom line is that this isn’t easy on any of us, so stop trying to be perfect. Your best is more than good enough!
4. MAKE HOUSEHOLD CHORES MANDATORY
With everyone home all day every day, you’re probably cooking more, loading and unloading the dishwasher multiple times a day, and don’t even get me started on the never-ending abyss of laundry. It can start to feel pretty overwhelming, especially since we’re already tapped out trying to balance work and kids each day. If this sounds like you, it’s time to round up the troops and delegate age-appropriate chores!
If you’re finding it hard to get your kids to pitch in without moaning and groaning, you might consider setting up some sort of reward system to keep them motivated. Many parents already pay their kids a weekly allowance, but you might consider adding in additional chores as a means for your kids to earn privileges like extra iPad time, a later bedtime, a family movie night, etc.
5. GET OUTSIDE
Surviving a school closure wouldn’t seem so difficult if we didn’t have to keep 6 feet away from others and the world wasn’t simultaneously shut down, but these things have been imposed for an important reason: to keep us safe and alive. It can feel really isolating not being able to come and go as you please, and if you or someone in your family is immunocompromised, social distancing is more important to you than ever before. It can be tempting to just shut ourselves off from the outside world altogether, but if you can manage it, try to squeeze in a little outdoor time every day. The fresh air and vitamin D will do wonders for your soul, and your kids need the opportunity to let off some steam.
Depending on where you live and the health of your family, you might need to get creative. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Organize various activities in the backyard, like egg races, hula hooping competitions, and scavenger hunts
- Draw with sidewalk chalk on the driveway or sidewalk
- Wash the car!
- Blow bubbles out the window of your apartment
- Organize a family skip rope competition on the balcony
- Put on rain boots and jump in puddles
And if being outside isn’t an option but you have access to a car, strap your kids into their car seats, turn the volume up on your favorite tunes, and go for a drive. Order some washable window chalk and window clings to give them something to do while you drive and decompress.
A list of tips for surviving a school closure wouldn’t be complete without touching on fitness, and I fully recognize how challenging this is given that gyms and group classes are closed, and races and sporting events are being postponed. It can be really tempting to give up, but moving your body every day can do wonders for your mood and mental state, leaving you feeling more energized, alert, and productive. The challenge right now is less about exercising – it’s wrapping your head around doing it differently and then making a commitment to yourself to get it done.
There are so many ways you can move your body, and while it sucks that you have to give up things you enjoy, remember that anything is better than nothing at this point. Here are some posts we’ve curated with workouts you can stream for free from anywhere.
- Full Body Pilates Workouts
- Fat-Burning Jump Rope Workouts
- Bum and Thigh Workouts
- Tricep Workouts
- Stationary Bike Workouts
- Kettlebell Workouts
- Bosu Ball Exercises
- Body Weight Workout Routines
7. PRIORITIZE ONE-ON-ONE TIME
I realize it probably sounds crazy for me to recommend that you carve out one-on-one time with your kids when you’re literally locked inside with them all day, every day, for weeks on end, but hear me out. I’m not talking about the time you spend watching TV, sitting next to each other while immersed in your tablets and smartphones, or when you’re arguing over whatever homeschool curriculum you’re trying to do together. I’m talking about distraction-free, one-on-one time that reminds your little ones that you’re still a family and that everything is going to be okay.
Keep in mind that spending quality time together doesn’t need to be an olympic event where you try to recreate crafts you see on Pinterest – it just needs to be deliberate and intentional. Turn off your computer and put your smartphone away and give your child your undivided attention. Play a game, read a book, have a dance party, or just sit and talk for 20 minutes. There are so many simple ways you can squeeze quality time into your day – you just need to get creative.
8. RELAX ON RULES
While I like to be consistent with enforcing the rules I choose to govern our household, and have certain things I will not budge on, I think we all need to keep things in perspective right now. Be flexible, try not to nag, pick your battles wisely, and remember that if allowing your kids an extra hour of screen time and a later bedtime is going to make your day run smoother, DO IT!
9. STAY CONNECTED WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY
While we may not be able to have face-to-face get togethers with the people we love, finding other ways to feel connected can be extremely helpful. Setup FB groups and group texts with friends and family so you can stay in touch and find ways to keep each other’s spirits up. Share funny memes, motivational quotes, and lean on one another when you’re having a tough day. Remember that we’re ALL in the same position, and while our realities and struggles may be different, it’s all relative. We’re all cooped up. We’re all mourning the things we once took for granted. We’re all scared. This is a time to come together and build each other up.
Keep in mind your children are also missing their friends, so find ways they can connect with them. Schedule regular FaceTime sessions, set them up with an email account so they can send silly emails to one another, dig up an old cell phone and add pay-as-you go credits so they can text their BFFs, let them play video games together online…there are so many ways you can help your little ones keep in touch with their peers!
10. CREATE A NEW RITUAL THAT BRINGS YOUR FAMILY JOY
I’m in a few working mom groups on Facebook, and one of the things that has given me comfort is hearing how much other parents are struggling right now. It makes me feel a lot less alone. While some claim their lives have barely changed and they’re enjoying their time inside (really?), the vast majority are overwhelmed and feel like they are failing miserably. Work pressures are mounting, kids are bored, and finding the time to figure out a homeschooling plan feels impossible.
One thing I have found extremely helpful is having something we can enjoy as a family each day to help us come together and reset when emotions are high and we’re all teetering on the edge. Right now, our ‘thing’ is the Nintendo Switch. I splurged on a console when we cancelled our March break travel plans, and it was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. My husband and daughter play Mario Kart together a couple of times a day, and she and I play Just Dance.
Whether it’s playing Mario Kart or family board games, crafting, cooking, or challenging each other to a hula hoop contest, create a ritual and do it daily. It’ll give everyone something to look forward to, and one day – many years from now – your kids will think back to this terrible time and remember the ways you made it special for them.
11. MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
While I fully appreciate that alone time is a luxury right now, it’s essential. Juggling childcare, homeschool plans, a full time job, cooking, cleaning, laundry…I feel anxious just thinking about it. Your responsibilities have likely tripled in a matter of days, and while stealing 10 minutes on your own may seem impossible (and selfish), it’s not something you should be putting on the back burner. Surviving a school closure requires you to show up and be strong for your family, which will become increasingly difficult if you aren’t taking care of your own well-being too.
When you’re drafting your daily and weekly schedules, make sure you’re blocking off time to tend to your own needs. Whether it’s keeping a gratitude journal, committing to 30 days of exercise each day, listening to a podcast on your headphones while you fold laundry, taking a nap every afternoon, or enjoying a long bath or shower every night after the kids are in bed, find small ways you can unwind, reset, cope with anxious thoughts and feelings, and find the energy and motivation to push through.
12. GIVE YOURSELF (AND YOUR KIDS) GRACE
My last tip for surviving a school closure is to give yourself and your family a lot of grace. This is hard, and it’s a time when we need to be more forgiving with ourselves and others. Emotions are high, responsibilities are mounting, and it can be hard to remain calm and patient. When you lose your cool with your kids and/or spouse and feel guilty and annoyed with yourself, make it a point to be a positive role model and tell them you’re sorry. Acknowledge your mistakes, come up with a plan on how you can avoid a repeat of the situation, and then move forward. And be sure to offer the same kind of forgiveness and understanding in return.
I hope this collection of tips for surviving a school closure proves helpful to you. Remember to plan ahead, to devise some sort of daily routine, to be realistic and reasonable, to carve out one-on-one time with your kids and alone time for yourself, to stay connected with family and friends, and to give yourself and others a whole lot of grace.
My team and I are sending love to everyone – we’re all in this together, and the only way is through! Stay safe my beautiful friends!