This week’s blog details the living strategies our family has adopted to get through virtual/homeschool with two very active boys (1st and 3rd grades), while we work almost full time.
Last week’s blog, Home Learning and Living Strategies: a Homeschool Update (Part 1), is supposed to address the learning strategies we employed over the first month of homeschool. In hindsight, my categories overlap a lot. Here is Part 2 of a not so clean split. 🙂
There is something else that does not fit neatly into this blog but that I would like to mention. The last six months have given me a chance to know and understand my kids’ personalities in a way I haven’t since they were toddlers. Previously, our time together was very transitional and transactional. There is something to be said for quantity of time. I am absolutely loving hanging out with these funny, special, little people, who still complain they don’t get enough time with me. I don’t want to give them back!
Lani’s Ideal Daily Schedule
In Organize Your Time & Space for Home School Fall 2020: Part 2, I list five different times during the school day in which a parent can work. These times are early morning, during virtual learning, during independent play/screen time, while kids are with a babysitter for outside play, and after the kids go to bed. I also reference Laura Vanderkam’s blog The 30-hour workweek schedule (with a 50-50 split), which is a fantastic explanation of how two parents working from home can split up the day.
So how have things shaken out for our family? Mr. Real Life Style and I have transitioned to a split shift. He leaves for work at 11:30 am most days, and I wake up at 6 am to take advantage of the morning. I have been utilizing all of the strategies I offered up.
Although it is not written in my schedule pictured above, I do hop back on the computer a lot of evenings too. I also work both weekend days. I’m averaging about six hours of work a day, while taking advantage of all these windows. The kids come to me for things and family responsibilities eat into the chunks of time I have carved out for work. In addition, we still have doctor’s appointments, the babysitter only comes 4 days a week, and sometimes my husband has to be at work earlier. I would be more efficient if I hid out in my bedroom or closet as planned, but I’ve decided I want the kids to know I’m here and present. Headphones are a must!
I recognize as I write this that working 7 days a week sounds frightful. However, it still only adds up to 42 hours. I know I need to put some limits on my work time but honestly, isn’t this what everyone is doing? I am lucky to be able to make it work and to have no childcare worries. I am not an essential worker or a single parent. We are healthy and financially secure. This is a cake walk compared to what many people are going through. Not to mention I love my business so much I usually want to work more! But I should take off one day a week and put more exercise back on the schedule, which has been a major fail of mine this month. We did take a great family hike this morning! Thank you Mr. Real Life Style for planning our adventure!
Making Mornings Easier
I don’t want to waste the early morning hours because I sacrifice sleep to earn that time! It makes sense for some people to roll out of bed in their pj’s and get to work. I don’t feel awake and focused if I am not dressed. I usually shower quickly and get completely dressed. I do wait until 8 or 9 am to put on makeup, when I can trust myself with a mascara wand.
I pick out my clothes the night before to avoid my husband’s wrath. My entire outfit, including underwear, is waiting for me to put on quietly in my closet. Last week I was so excited about wearing fall clothes, I picked out my whole week of outfits on Sunday night! I hadn’t done that since before I had children…
I also set up the coffee pot the night before. I turn it on before I get dressed and it is ready by the time I’m done.
All Screen Time is Not Equal
James needs more intellectual stimulation than he is getting from Zoom school, and Max doesn’t have any friends who like football as much as him. Therefore, I let James watch BrainPOP Jr. videos (an app provided by their school) when he is done with his homework. Subjects he has watched include black holes, gravity, Martin Luther King Jr., and the health hazards of cigarettes. We also use a math app, i-Ready, that gives them lessons based on their specific level.
Max prefers to look up and record football statistics. His favorite team is the Chicago Bears. Both kids enjoy EPIC!, an expansive digital library . Kids can read or listen to the collection.
How to Get Your Kids Outside
Max, James, and a friend at the park.
My kids rarely play on playground equipment these days. We watch them like hawks to make sure they distance and keep hand sanitizer at the ready!
A babysitter picks up the kids four days a week for an outside play date. This gets them exercise, socialization and creative play. I was having quite a hard time getting my kids out the door every day before we had this arrangement. Read this blog post by the Parenting Mentor about the benefits of outdoor play.
Scheduling socially distanced play dates and finding outdoor places the kids want to explore are both successful strategies for our family. We now only need 10-15 minutes to do shoes, socks, water, bathroom, sunscreen, and masks (a 30 minute improvement from our first week with this routine).
The most important change in my cooking strategy is to rarely make recipes during the week. Instead, I come up with a protein and a vegetable or two, and I’m done. I fill out the What I Ate notepad with a list of options for each meal category as I unpack my groceries. The kids know to look at the list to let me know what they want for breakfast or lunch. As I make meals during the week, I put an X over the box. Keeping a list documents what is in the fridge and enables me to move planned meals around, according to how much time I have to pull dinner together. This is the meal notepad I should be using!
Thrown together leftovers for an easy fish taco lunch.
I try to sit down with the kids for lunch if our schedules allow. I also use this time to do a midday kitchen clean-up and dinner prep. I confirm what I want to make that night, pull out whatever I need from the freezer, prep veggies, marinate meat, etc. Having this dedicated kitchen time protects my mornings, although sometimes I slip! Lately we have also been needing a homework check-in during this time, which interferes with kitchen duty.
Bedtime For All
Do you see the little hand sticking out over the “Keep Out” sign?
One major element keeping our house of cards from falling down is that we get the kids to bed relatively on time. Consistency erodes protest. The kids only have trouble sleeping if we miss the window of the bedtime they have come to expect.
How much do you love James’ fort, pictured above? He calls it his “house”. Gosh only knows what is under his bed, which he calls his “closet”, because his mommy set up her closet to hide and hang out in. Can you even?
What strategies are you using to get you through virtual school? Let me know in the comments!
Real Life Style is a style consulting firm that teaches busy women to wear their power so they can live their lives fully and confidently. Lani Inlander and Kyle Dunphy are based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and serve clients across the country. We offer personal styling services, an on-demand e-course, corporate services, and training to become a personal stylist.
You can find Lani Inlander and Real Life Style on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.