There's a ton of speculation around what education will look like come Fall; for me personally, I just found out that my daughter's four day school week will consist of two days in person and two days at home. While we have some clarity as a family, there's still a lot of unknowns that come with hybrid learning and definitely an uncharted territory for most.
I've struggled with how exactly to guide and support my daughter as she looks ahead to her first year of Middle School. What should be an exciting milestone for her has now been tampered with the current confusion of how hybrid learning will work and if it will be a successful solution.
On top of worrying about how this is all affecting her, I've also been struggling with how I will be able to manage juggling my career and daily life stressors, as well as being her—for lack of a better word "instructor" for two days out of the week. Ironically enough, the one advantage I may have is that I'm the CEO of an EdTech platform focused on promoting parent-teacher engagement, but believe me, talking about it and being appropriately engaged the way that teachers expect are two separate things. But I am learning every day, and certainly trying to figure out the best way to help my daughter succeed in the year ahead.
Prepping for what lies ahead
As parents, none of us were prepared for what happened just a few months ago, jumping head first into distance learning and drastically adjusting your role in your kids education. What a feat that was to overcome! Now that I have an idea of what distance learning looks like, I'm going to use this time to see how I can improve; Can we make suggestions to teachers? Can we ask for help from teachers and school districts on how to be more involved? Are there learning materials or summer reading lists that would be helpful to prepare for hybrid learning?
While I may not have all the answers right away, I might just be able to stay ahead of the game if I use this time to prepare now, so I'm not scrambling come Fall.
Keeping my kids social skills intact
Over the last few months, it's been extremely difficult for my daughter to cope with the fact that she can't see her friends or plan playdates or birthday parties and all the fun things that make up a childhood. I started thinking about how being outside of a classroom and around kids her age would start to affect her social skills and her overall adolescence, and quite frankly began to worry.
Now that she'll be returning to school part-time, it definitely takes some of my fears away, but also makes me think: how do I make up the time that she lost? Maybe I can't, but with school out for summer, I've started to do fun activities and projects as a family —whether it be going on hikes in Upstate New York, biking in Central Park or working on her idea of writing a book together. While these activities are focused on physical and mental focus, it's also mostly about ensuring her social skills are stimulated; for example being able to follow the rules of a game, not getting overly competitive with another family member or close friend and communicating and collaborating for a common goal.
These small things, things that you'd probably be proactively doing even without a global pandemic, are activities that will ensure you're keeping your kids social skills moving forward and intact so that it's not a huge culture shock for them come the new school year.
Making time for myself
Beyond education, there's a lot going on in the world—socially, politically, economically. Sometimes it's just not possible to give your all, and that's okay! Between running a company, keeping up with my daughter and staying on top of household chores, I often find myself just barely keeping my head above water. My key is to try and find balance.
In order to find balance, I had to cut down the long list of things on my plate that absolutely don't need to get done. I look at my tasks and meetings and critically assess if it can be delegated to other team members or handled at a later time. Similarly, I look for more efficient ways to simplify or cut down time on some chores at home. Can you afford to hire a cleaning service? Or maybe see about involving your kids more.
Now that some businesses are reopening, I escape the house for an hour or two and browse through a store, or take a walk around my neighborhood. Allocating just 1-2 hours to myself everyday, even as the new school year begins, will be so important to making sure that I can be the best parent I can be on a daily basis.
At the end of the day, taking care of myself and organizing my daily life will not only make life easier, but will also help me be a better support system for my child as they transition to whatever the back to school season brings. Lastly, it's important to know that we (you and me) are not alone! Millions of parents around the country and the world are adjusting just like we are. So we have to lean on our friends and family; they could have some other best practices to share, because after all… it takes a village and we really need our village right now.