I’d laugh if this didn’t feel so true!
So, how is everyone doing? Comfortably Sheltering in Place? Slowly losing your mind? Either way, I feel you.
I wrote some strategies for homeschooling during a pandemic in a previous post, but I’d also like to share some ways to combine homeschooling and caring for loved ones who are isolated.
Each of my parents lives alone in the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. My father happens to live in the epicenter of the epicenter. They can’t go outside. No matter how much they want to. And it’s taken a lot of convincing and record numbers of cases and deaths to convince them to stay home.
My parents have never been homebodies. Ever. Before cellphones were common it was almost impossible to talk to either of them during the weekend. They are both active and incredibly social people. Shelter in place has been very hard on them but in different ways.
Using Homeschooling and Caring for Our Older Loved Ones in Isolation
I love my parents and try my best to be there for them. Just as I love my partner and child and want to support them through this pandemic as well. In the beginning, I was trying to do everything I could for everyone. For a few days, I felt like a superhero, so proud of my ability to meet the needs of those around me. But, I’ve come to realize that that superhero feeling is an alarm sounding more than accomplishment.
It usually means that I have taken on far too much and am focused on helping my loved ones and not meeting my own needs. It also ALWAYS means that I am doing far more than my fair share and my partner is not doing enough of his. So, it was time for a meeting with my partner to talk about scheduling, responsibilities, etc.
I also had to realize that I could not sustain feeling responsible for the emotional, physical, and (in my kid’s case) academic well being. It’s too much for a normal day and completely unsustainable during a pandemic.
I had to get creative and figure out a way to integrate caring for my parents with the needs of homeschooling and facilitating my child and parents to help each other. I hope some of what I’ve been able to do will give you some ideas as well.
Physical Activity Together
My mother has been going to a gym for years. She walks miles every day in addition to exercise classes. The rain or snow can’t make her stay home. Having to spend endless days at home is not in her comfort zone. Fortunately, my mother is a positive person who likes to make the best of the situation.
However, my mother used Shelter in Place to discover the art of binge-watching. This is something she had never done before. When our phone calls consisted of her telling me about a French tv show she had discovered and how many episodes she had watched that day, I became concerned. My immediate reaction was, “How about we do some yoga together?”
I knew that if she sat on the couch day after day, she would start to feel sad or depressed. We all need to keep our bodies moving even when confined to one-bedroom apartments.
My child is also missing her kung fu classes and the ability to visit playgrounds and other play spaces. It’s incredibly challenging to spend all day with a restless child who can’t release all of their energy. Best case scenario they can’t go to bed at night, worst case scenario I get kicked in the head.
So, yoga together. Win-win for me. Cosmic Kids Yoga videos on Youtube are awesome. They are fun, the stories are interesting and the workouts are challenging. We set up the phones to face each other and used our laptops to watch the video. We only used the video sound on one end so the audio would be clear (no delay).
We’ve done this a few times and now my mother has added a few Zoom exercise classes to her week that she does by herself.
Academic Motivation Together
My father was far more affected by losing social interaction than my mother. Clinging to using a flippy phone and used to in-person social interactions, it’s been very difficult for my father to stay home. He was managing a quick early morning walk to buy some fruit at the small store near his home where he would greet the shopkeeper every day, but once all of the stores were closed he really felt depressed.
Since my father is an artist I was hoping he’d use the time to draw, but he would just tell me he didn’t see the point. With everything closed, he felt very sad and didn’t feel like doing anything.
Coincidentally, I had started a Fables unit at the beginning of March and once we had to shift gears and prepare for staying at home, the unit had lost some momentum. My kid was pronouncing her lack of interest and refusal to write and illustrate an original fable.
I told my kid that her grandfather was feeling down and that it would really help him if he had something to do now. It would be great if she would ask him to write and illustrate his own fable. She could choose the day and time when they would share their work.
Separately, I called my father and asked for his help with my child. I explained that she was refusing to do her work and that if he wrote a fable also it would motivate her to complete the unit. He would be doing me a huge favor.
They both wrote fables and had fun sharing them. I wish my father would embrace the smartphone so that they could have shared their illustrations as well, but we’ll have to wait until we’re in the same room again to share those.
I gave my father a distraction and something to do while teaching my child to care about others and do something she didn’t want to do in order to help someone she loves.
These are two examples of what we’ve been doing. Here are some additional ideas of how to combine your kid’s learning/physical needs with providing social, intellectual and physical interaction with older loved ones:
- Have kids read out loud (This can certainly count as part of their 20 minutes a day.)
- Do yoga or another exercise together. If possible, have your child lead the workout.
- Share project assignments (In addition to writing a fable, my father also joined in with inventing a creation myth as part of the mythology unit we’re working on)
- Book Clubs (can be just between kids and older loved ones or you can join in too)
- Using video chats to practice public speaking (have your kids plan and give a presentation on a topic of interest, try to teach something through video chat, explain an experiment, or give a tour of Lego Land, etc.)
If you have other ideas, please share them in the comments below. I know we want the best for our families, but the more we can have our kids learning combined with keeping our isolated loved ones socially connected, the more time we have for the other things we need to do every day.
One More Thing!
I am over-the-moon excited to share that the follow-up book to my wildly successful Jamie is Jamie picture book will be available the Fall of 2020!
(for ages 4-8)
“You can’t always know if someone goes by he or she or something else. Sometimes a person will tell you. If they don’t, you can use the person’s name or you can say they.”
Jamie helps Bubbie understand that it’s important not to assume a person’s pronouns based on appearance, and to always use the name and pronouns they go by: he, she, they, or something else.
Jamie and Bubbie is a book that introduces children, through an accessible fictional narrative, to the nonbinary experience, the use of gender-neutral pronouns, and how to respectfully use personal pronouns. They will learn the importance of using the correct pronouns, and that sometimes a person’s name and pronouns can change.
The story stays lighthearted and sweet, while diving into an often misunderstood, evolving topic, so children can build empathy and begin to explore their own feelings about gender identity. A section at the back of the book includes tips for teachers, parents, and caregivers for expanding on the concepts in the book and for talking with children about gender.
Afsaneh has been teaching for over 15 years from preschool to graduate school, and is often invited to give teacher training workshops and speak at educational conferences. Her vast experience in working with different ages, academic levels, and cultures has given her the ability to work with anyone and help them achieve their learning goals. She is also the author of Jamie is Jamie.