It’s A Different Kind of School Year – But There Can Be Joy in the Challenges

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

There certainly have been challenges this year, for all of us.

But one of the most difficult for parents has been adjusting routines and schedules now that kids have been home from school since early spring.

These challenges have been different for each family – and for some, the stress has been overwhelming – but there can be joy in these changes if we have the right perspective.

For kids in public or private school, they may miss the routine, their teachers, their friends, and the comfort of familiarity.

For parents, juggling working at home, or working away from home with the kids home all day has been an unprecedented adjustment.  It’s completely expected that we’ve all had a hard time trying to figure it all out.

There has also been sadness of sorts.  We may love the extra time with our kids but mourn the loss of things they were going to be doing this year, like performances and sports and milestones like graduation.

Millions of parents are going through the same thing, and many have found that distance learning has provided its own set of challenges.

Some kids have had trouble adjusting to learning in the sometimes-distracting environment of home.  Some have lost their love of learning because, let’s face it, it’s just not the same on a computer screen.

But there are ways to find joy in this temporary chaos and promote a love of learning for the kids.  And maybe, just maybe, moms and dads can find renewed joy in learning things long forgotten as they help their kids adjust.

Whatever your state or locality decides in the next couple of months, nearly everyone will be doing at least partial distance learning for the remainder of this new school year.

So it’s important to treat the school days taking place at home in the same way as the school days they used to have — or may have far less of for the foreseeable future.

Routine and structure are always important, so it’s helpful to get up and go to bed at the same times you had set when the kids had to leave the house for school.

Meals and breaks should also be held at the same times each day, and it goes without saying that kids should have a quiet, established place to work.  (For many of us, this has been another challenge in the search for a clear space for productive work in a full house!)

Let them decorate their workspace and pick out fun school supplies, just like they do every year when things are “normal.”  And if it helps with the fun and routine, you can even “pack” their lunch in a new lunchbox of their choosing.

Many veteran homeschoolers know the importance of space and routine, and despite the memes and commercials about joining Zoom meetings while wearing pajama bottoms, it’s important to get dressed each morning to put us all in the right frame of mind!

This is part of establishing boundaries for how school looks at home because, without them, the experience is going to be chaotic, stressful, and miserable for everyone.

By creating a routine and adding as much positivity and fun into it as possible, we can foster the joy of learning that kids had when they were in the classroom.

Keeping it as fun and exciting as possible is the key to success – but there are also emotions that may hinder the joy in learning in a different environment.

Many children are introverted and shy – and very nervous about being monitored online or being on camera.

Those who are more physically active or hands-on may find online learning difficult to adjust to.  And some just cannot sit still when they don’t have the “context” of the classroom.

It may be helpful to practice these skills outside the hours of school time.

Outside activity and creative projects like building, art, or helping to cook meals are not only educational but can alleviate some of the monotony and effects of being sedentary at a desk.

Keeping communication open with your child and your child’s teacher is more important than ever.  What are they struggling with, and how can you help?

Above all, it’s important to recognize that kids are going to be more anxious this school year.  We all are.

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They may be more irritable, or more tired.  They may be sad, wondering when things will return to “normal.”

This is when we can find joy in the comforts of home.

For young kids, a favorite blanket or stuffed animal they can keep on their lap while learning online… for older kids, it may help to work with other parents to “trade” kids who are on the same school schedule so they can work around one of their peers.

If your child simply cannot adjust to distance learning and have lost their joy in what they liked about school, a parent-teacher conference and family meeting may be a way to work out a plan that helps your child get through the challenges we’re all facing.

The joy is still there, perhaps just buried under a few layers of fear, uncertainty, boredom, or anxiety.

These emotions are all normal right now because school is such a big part of children’s lives.

But by making their environment loving, supportive, and comfortable – and fun and exciting whenever you can – you will get through this period of adjustment.

And it just may make our families stronger by working through the challenge together.

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