Wednesday, April 22, 2020

10 tips on homeschooling and staying sane through it:

As much as I love time with my kids, I never ever thought I would have to home school.  Frankly, if anything, the last 5 weeks have taught me that teachers get much less credit than they deserve, and that I don't have nearly as much patience as I thought I did. My kids are 6 and 3, so this isn't a test of my memory or mathematics skills as much, as it is of my patience and ability to juggle their tasks and my own.

Many of us are in the same boat, I hear it's easier with older kids who don't need constant super vision - but I'm sure each age has it's own set of challenges that it comes with.

It's not been easy though, I've lost my patience way more times than I can count. My son tends to zone off and day dream and my daughter is a definite distraction because her work is colouring and painting and more fun. Regardless, as we approach our 6th week, I think I've developed some coping skills to atleast keep myself sane, as we get through the rest of time (however long that may be).

Below are some tips that I hope help you, as I know they have helped me.

For tips on social distancing with children, and keeping them busy during the same, click here.

10 tips on staying sane through home school:

1. Set a fixed start time:
This doesn't have to be unreasonably early, or as soon as the assignments come. It's easier to start as soon as you feel sane. So, we start at 10.45 every morning. It gives me some time to laze around the kids, and it gives the kids time to play before we dig in (and also keeps bedtime a little more relaxed, since let's be real here - bedtime is currently all over the place).
From @mommydiaries on Insta - how I feel by the end of the day

2. Set your own start time before hand, to review:
If you sit first and go through what's due (or what you have to print), the kids have less time to sit around and wait and be restless. So, I usually sit down 15 mins before the kids so that they are not getting jumpy and impatient before we even start.

3. Step away from some of the assignments:
This is a sanity suggestion - for you! I didn't do this initially and then I felt I was screaming the whole 3 hours. Now, I know that when he's copying out math or English, I'm better off sitting elsewhere and then making him rewrite what I need him to, than sitting next to him and getting frustrated if he's distracted, being untidy, or making errors while copying.

4. Don't helicopter:
Make sure you check the assignments before they (or you) submit, but try not to look over everything while it's happening. I realized that I was prompting him, instead of letting him get there, with my own impatience. So it's better for them to, if you step back. And they will call you as soon as they need you - a 1000 times, and even if they don't need you.

5. Divide and conquer:
Regardless of whether you are also a working mom, trying to juggle your own tasks and calls, or a stay at home mom, or even a home schooling mom - crisis schooling, which is really what this is - is a whole other ball game! So, ask your partners, husbands or whoever is around - to pitch in too. I'm only able to pass off one assignment a week, but even that, is a big help! Though I've recently decided that bedtime is no longer my responsibility, on days I have to home school - it makes me feel like a monster to be the only disciplinarian in the house (and I'm really not one, at all, so when I have to be, I hate it.)

6. When you're about to lose it, step back:
This one always leads to regret. And tears. And guilt. And your own tears sometimes too.  So before you yell, or scream or flip out, breathe, count to 10, and step back. I normally save my shower - for this point. Cause it does come, and it's okay to step back - and give them a break too. I step back, go for a shower, tell them to finish the assignment by the time I'm back (if it's something they can do alone), or have a dance party and jump around till I'm back.

7. Work at the pace that keeps you sane:
A lot of people like to break up the assignments and do it in bits through the day. I can't deal with having anything due, hanging over my head. So I prefer to get it all done in one sitting. So do my kids. Then they have the rest of the day free to plan the things they want to do (as do you).
Whichever way you chose to do it - it's fine. Do whatever works for you, and in which way it does.

8. Don't stress about perfection:
I made this mistake too. I erased and fretted and made him change every answer that wasn't right, and then explained and explained and got fried too. Don't let yourself get to that point - they do get it, but your their parent first, and teacher second, that is going to seep through somewhere. So are their vulnerabilities, and the fact that they know they can ask you to repeat yourself and they have spent every day since they were born, testing your limits. It's their birth right though, and it's how they learn where the limits are.  But seriously, this doesn't mean you let them turn in work that's crap, you do let them work to the best of their abilities, given the situation, and lower your bar too. You too, are learning how much they know, and what their academic strengths and weak points are, so adjust accordingly. (I for one, have made my peace with my son's handwriting and I'm trying not to pass on my OCD tendencies downward).

9.You don't have to do it all:
Seriously, there's enough pressure on us as moms and teachers, and many of us are cooking and cleaning and doing home chores too. It's okay if you realise you're not the best, most patient teacher. Your kid is going to cuddle you at bedtime and tell you how much they love you anyway. However, you may love yourself more when you're calmer - so step back when you have to but forgive yourself too. Whether we have internalised what's going on in the world or not - its a time with a lot of fear and uncertainty. We are crisis and pandemic home schooling. Not a normal situation. So make the most of it and cut yourself some much needed slack.

10. Play!
Allow them to play, like free play. Jump around, play with clips, paint, make a mess (clean it up after too of course), and just be kids. Try though to schedule in some unstructured time, because that's what they love the most (and it will also give you some downtime).

I hope this helps mama! It's a weird time we live in, but wishing you all love, and strength and a sprinkle of patience.

More to come, always

All content on this blog belongs to the author and cannot be reproduced or replicated without expressed permission.

Friday, April 10, 2020

12 tips on social distancing with children:

We truly live in a weird time! I'm someone who stresses about the most random things, but even with all my public health experience and background, I never would have imagined (or wanted to imagine), a day when we are locked at home, and cannot get out for even our basic needs.

I'm an introvert, but I definitely have a few friends I can't do without. So, this is tough for me socially,  but mentally too, as there seems to be no end in sight. However, when I get out of my own head and think about what's happening in the world around me, how truly privileged we are starts to sink in. Not only to be alive but to ride out this storm in the comfort of our homes, with our families around us. My brother, lives alone in New York, and contracted COVID-19, and had to deal with being unwell, and completely alone too.

(Infact, to hear his first hand experience - including symptoms, early signs, medication and what to look for, you can check out the IGTV of his Live conversation with me, on my Instagram @mommydiaries. For Part 1 of Shaun's interview, click here. And for part 2, click here.)

So yes , we are definitely lucky but that doesn't mean it's easy though, to have family around the entire day. Particularly little children, who give you no down time, and are themselves confused with this drastic lifestyle change, and on top of that - having to deal with home school, and distance learning and the oodles of work that are being sent home. Below are some tips on social distancing with your children, that should help YOU stay saner, while at home.
a glimpse of the stay home series

Also, if your looking for entertainment or activity ideas (including recipes and workouts), check out the #mommydiariesstayhome series on Instagram/ IGTV!

12 tips on social distancing with children:

1. Watch their anxiety levels:
Kids pick up on everything (first of all, swear words), but on our feelings and anxieties too. It's very normal to be stressed at this time, and there an endless number of reasons to be worked up from the economy to health concerns. However, let's keep in mind that our kids are picking up on these too. My kids are as different as can be, with my son being the quieter and less expressive of the two. And to top it off, he loves to be home, and keeps saying how fun this is. However, I do find, that he's having more nightmares, is acting out by being more stubborn and is harder to put to bed (in part because of the lack of physical outlets, and also because he's scared of his nightmares). Both my kids have been coming to my bed at different times at night, complaining of bad dreams - including my daughter who has never had a nightmare before.

So, no matter how happy and well -adjusted they seem, they do pick up on our stresses, and they do have concerns and fears of their own too. Let's keep this in mind when we are having adult conversations around them, and when we are communicating with them too.

2. Keep some kind of routine:
Kids do very well with structure and routine. All kids. It helps them feel safe when the patterns are predictable. This doesn't mean every day has to be the same (even though in many ways, currently, all our days are blending into one endless one) or that you have to set alarms to be up and jumping, but it does mean that having some kind of structure to your day.

For example, we are starting our home school around 10.30 am everyday, and are done by lunch time. We have lunch time with my parents (who live in the same building), then they have downtime which can be anything from reading, free play, board games, or limited screen time (while I get some work done), then they have garden time (which my husband has taken charge of), and then their bedtime routine. So, while we haven't kept a rigid schedule for every minute of the day - their school time, lunch time and garden time are at set timings, so they know what to expect with the day.

This is much more fluid on the weekend.  They get more time to play but lunch and garden time is set, as is bedtime. We are on our 3rd week home, but they have known what to expect since a few days into the first week.

3. Answer their questions:
Kids have ALOT of questions. Address them and answer them. If you have things you feel you should discuss or concerns you don't think they are voicing, you should ask them their opinions and see what you get in return. Try to avoid overly open questions like "how are you feeling?" and go for more pointed and detailed questions like "what did your teachers say about this topic when..." You will be surprised at how much more they share when you get to the point (even if it's a seemingly irrelevant point), than when you ask an open question. And this is true regardless of the situation.
My kids have asked me
- Why someone ate a bat (my son learned this in school apparently),
- If their friends are ok (specific friends have been named, who they obviously miss and are concerned about),
- Why they can't see their friends
- Why they can't go to New York
- Why our summer holiday to Austria is cancelled
- If my grandparents are going to die of corona virus, because they are older.. and the list goes on.
Try to be honest with them without scaring them or scarring them. Instead of telling them that you are scared, don't know anything and are worried about how and if this will end, tell them that they are virus warriors who are staying home to protect everyone else around them. Try and put a positive spin on this so we don't add to their anxiety. There are great resources available online to help you come up with ideas - one of my favourites is Bookyboo kid's free printable and personalised book (click to check it out). 

4.  Activity time:
It's essential to spend time doing things with them so that when this is done they remember it as time they got with their full family around, and not as time they spent dealing with the uncertainty that we as adults are undergoing. Play board games, paint, let them build tents and dance it out - with you. If you (like me) are not someone who is super into DIY stuff - that's fine! Read and play old games and do puzzles, or whip out crayons and show them how well (or badly) you draw. But use this time to let them see you have fun. Tell them stories and read them books, just spend time together and bond.

Also, give them time to play by themselves or with their siblings so that you get downtime. Let them put bandaids on their dolls, and race their cars and do whatever they want to - so that you get some time too.

5. Step out of your comfort zone:
For many of us, this entire isolation is a step out of our comfort zone. Even for me, as an introvert, there are family members and close friends, then I hate not seeing, including my grandparents - who are at greatest risk at this point, with this virus. However, I know for me - the other thing I thought I would never do, is anything culinary. I've sent the microwave on fire twice - both times I was home alone in New York, and once was while I was pregnant (I'm still not sure how it happened, I was making Easy Mac, went to change out of my work clothes and when I came back the kitchen was filled with smoke. The dishes were charred too.)
Over the last few weeks though, my children have been wanting to bake! So, we've made a couple of cakes. Premade mixes of course, but for me that's as far out of my comfort zone as it gets, and compared to everything else - it didn't feel that strange.

So do experiment with what you're comfortable with too. We're living in odd times and it's okay to show our kids too how well we can adjust - it will make their journey a little easier (and maybe you will pick up some skills too).

6. Gratitude:
I have whined and whined and whined. About everything. However, I am also reminded (from someone I whine too), that all of my problems - are first world ones. Which only reminds me to be grateful for the comfort and things I do have. (Including my parents in the same building, which means I can see them when most of the people I know cannot). I want my kids to realise this too.
They have been keeping a gratitude journal. For this too, there are lots of online options available - check out ellybean designs (100% of their proceeds go to COVID verified related charities). You can also make them write down things they are grateful for, on strips of paper, and create a gratitude jar, that they can dip into and refresh their memory of - when they feel less cheery.

Most of the things my kids have been writing down - are moments or activities spent with me - which tells us so much about what they are most thankful for.

7. Chores:
This is a great time to teach your kids some basic chores, if you haven't already. They can help you put the dishes away, make the table, and make their beds - to start with.

You may meet some resistance at first, specially if your kids are not used to helping out (like mine), but in time they do get used to it, and it is a blessing to have them give you a hand with things around the house. Specially if they are old enough to bathe and eat themselves!!

8. Use a rewards chart:
This makes the home school a little easier too!
Create your own rewards chart, and give stars for things like not fussing at home school time, eating their vegetables, doing their chores (or whatever else you want to add in there).

We have been using this for a while and it has been a game changer. Under usual circumstances, if they got above a certain number of stars they get an outing to one of their favourite places (I prefer to keep rewards as an experience and not material). However, under current circumstances, they are settling for other things like getting to pick which movie to watch, and deciding what to bake/ eat.

9. Facetime:
Make them FaceTime their friends, their grandparents, your friends, anyone they love! They need to know that we are all in this together, regardless of how isolated. It also helps them feel some sense of normalcy and connection.  I know how much this helps me (not that I've had any time for it with the kids on top of me the entire day).

We recently had a zoom birthday - two actually, one for my cousin, and one for a friend's twins. It does help the kids feel connected, and spreads a little cheer!

10. Screentime:
Even if you, like me, are someone who limits screen time - now is the time to allow it! Limit it ofcourse, and use parental controls etc, but allow it because it will give you some time and sanity too.

You can also indulge in some movie time with your kids. Watch old classics and your favourites with them so that they are not stuck to Tom and Jerry and their animated favourites all day. We have watched some of my favourites in the last 2 weeks: Mrs. Doubtfire, Dr. Doolittle, Sound of Music, Honey I shrunk the kids and The Avengers (the last series, with my son only, as my daughter is still little for this).

11. Exercise
Make sure to get in some time for physical activity with you too. If you want to youtube dance videos and make them dance along, or run around corridors or a lawn (if you have access) that's fine, but get physical, and moving so that they get an outlet too. This will also make bedtime easier, as bedtimes have seem to have gone haywire all over the place.

It will also keep them fitter, and more active and just healthier - and will do the same for you.

12. No awards
Seriously, there are no competitions and no awards. More than the mom community, I find the mom blogger community putting a lot of pressure, on themselves maybe but that is visible to others too. We don't have to all show that we are perfect - I for one am a big advocate of keeping things real and letting everyone know that we are in the same boat - and it's not always sunshine and roses. Infact it usually isn't and currently more than ever - its ok not to be okay and all there.

Please ladies, let's suspend the competitions, lets put the awards on hold and let's put our sanity first. There are days we don't feel all there, there are days we yell and scream, there are moments we just want to hide and cry, and it's fine. Even when I remind myself that I'm better off than many - it's not to reduce the magnitude of what you are feeling in this moment. It's to distract myself perhaps but I also acknowledge that this situation is not normal from any standard, and so the MOST important thing, above all the rest, is to do whatever you can, to allow yourself to feel SANE. Even if that means you spend days doing absolutely nothing. I am quite tempted at this point to hide for 24 hours and take a mental health day. Except I know that my kids will find me in seconds anywhere. But the last 48 hours though, I've done nothing productive (except push myself to finish writing this as I have been trying to do so for 10 days now! Seriously, 10 days. That's how low my productivity is at this point.)

So let's focus on keeping sane, keeping our kids fed and clothed and keeping their anxieties at bay.

Also, I'm hearing from NGOs and all kinds of people connected and working in this field, that domestic violence is at an all time high. It's so scary and sad for people in this situation. My own housekeeper told me a story a couple nights ago about how her husband beat her eldest to death, and she had to run away and hide one morning at 6am, hide out in her city for a month (while cops were looking for her), and then take a train and end up in Bombay. She's been with me for almost 6 months and while I was watching the news last night about this, she told me her story. Currently though, many in this situation are cooped up with their abusive spouses, and children too. Please first, protect your kids. I've heard (today), of women who are being raped while their kids can hear. If you are in an abusive situation (or you know someone who is) - protect your kids - literally hide them if you can, and CALL FOR HELP. Please. For those in India the child helpline number is 1098 (it works from cell phones and landlines too).

Sorry to end this on such a serious note, but it would be a shame to have a platform to reach out and not use it.

More to come!xx


All content on this blog belongs to the author and cannot be replicated or reproduced without expressed permission.