What is being asked of everyone right now is impossible. Much of it is the nature of the situation. But in some ways, things are becoming harder than they need to be. Instead of acknowledging that we really can’t do it all right now, we are stubbornly insisting on trying to do it all right now. Or, more accurately, we are feeling pressured to keep doing it all.
And it’s not working.
If you’re a parent and you feel like you can’t possibly do what is being asked of you – for your job, for your kids’ teachers, in your home – you’re in good company.
I know it’s not always simple to tone it down – we still have businesses to run, and kids to educate after all. But couldn’t we just let some things go for now? Just a bit?
For a lot of us, the “hustle” of daily life – the work, the school, and even the kids’ activities – has hardly missed a beat. We are still franticly busy – despite having nowhere to be.
We’ve shifted meetups at bars to meetups on Zoom; from after school sports to dance classes being held online. School is still happening too, but in our kitchens, with many parents who feel entirely unable to keep up with the curriculums of their children while also managing conference calls at work. It’s insanity!
I think taking a step back with the frantic transition to online learning would be a step in the right direction.
I appreciate all the teachers who are working on overdrive right now to come up with virtual classrooms on the fly. But almost everyone I know is entirely overwhelmed right now. The ships are sinking.
It’s a kind of collective madness we are all engaging in. We’ve been given a punch to the gut and are stumbling ahead before anyone has caught their breath.
Several friends have described major anxiety and even panic associated with trying to keep up with the online learning expectations for their kids, as well as with their own jobs that they are now doing from home. Others are unemployed or sick themselves, and the level of stress they are under is extreme.
I have one Kindergartener and a pre-schooler, and I don’t personally have any complaints about what I’m being asked to do for my Kindergartener – the work is optional, and nicely laid out, and I’m grateful to my son’s teacher and teachers everywhere for caring about their students from a distance.
But what I’m most grateful for is the email sent out by my son’s Kindergarten teacher, acknowledging that while schoolwork may be useful for some of us right now, for others it’s not manageable – and that is ok. Just feeling like we have permission to choose what’s best for our family is so helpful. It’s an enormous weight off.
For many (probably most) families right now, running any semblance of a “homeschool” is not realistic. The oldest students (high school and college) who are used to working on computers and are self-directed may be more successful here. But there are lots of other kids for whom that is not the case.
Here’s a typical scenario:
Both parents are working full-time, remotely or perhaps outside the house if they are essential personnel. There is no child care available for either group.
If you have three children in elementary school and middle school, and each of those kids have daily assignments, weekly video conferences with their teacher, emails checking in on each child’s progress, quizzes and papers to be turned in, and a working parent who is the overseer of all of this – how is anyone possibly able to manage it?
And what about the teachers who themselves are at home with their kids? A lot of them are getting doubly hit with the pressure to manage a classroom remotely while also responding to the teachers for their own children!
Even if it were theoretically possible to work out the logistics of all of this – would the amount of additional stress it’s adding to an already overwhelmed family unit be worth the payoff?
I tend to think the answer is no.
Of course some families are going to want their children to continue with a rigorous education during this time away from the classroom. It would be great to have some optional resources available for those who want it.
But most families do not have enough laptops for everyone, or the wherewithal, skillset or resources to manage these expectations and keep their sanity. That’s putting it mildly.
And what if a parent gets sick? I’m currently on a 5 day quarantine while I wait to get my test results back. I’m locked away from the kids while my husband manages all three of them AND works “full-time.” Obviously doing all of that to full capacity is not humanly possible. There is no way he can keep on top of my son’s schoolwork. And yet families all over the country are in this situation, trying to achieve what is not achievable.
No wonder so many people are feeling like they’re failing at this. It’s not a setup you can win at.
What could work? I think going back to the basics would be better.
Every family is facing a different set of realities right now and the expectations need to account for that.
So what if the teacher/parents/student came up with a very loose game plan.
Reading is always a top priority. So, maybe the child has two books to read over the next month, and upon finishing those books they could write a report, or do a video presentation, or whatever. And maybe that’s supplemented with a journal they are keeping about their experience during the pandemic.
None of this requires parents to be helping kids on the computer all day, or juggling tons of emails, lesson plans, communications for every child in the house. And maybe we can all table math until the fall, since most parents are not going to effectively teach it anyway.
So – a focus on literacy, which is the cornerstone of education and has the benefit of being low tech. And if a family has a need for more books for their kids, that is something that could readily be requested in local community groups.
Science/health/gym/history? Go for a walk outside when you can and observe what you see. This is history in the making, so have your children record their own experience in a time capsule. Whatever is doable for you! And then just let the rest of it go.
This is a pressure cooker right now, and the expectations from both employers and schools are pushing a lot of parents to the brink of losing it. Parents who are about to lose their minds cannot effectively provide the kind of home environment that kids really need right now.
They just can’t. I wish we could all take a step back.
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