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  • Writer's pictureKay Gravesande

Tips for The Working Parent as Summer Winds Down

As we approach the midmark of summer, it's time to start thinking about our return to school plans. This year, working parents have uncharted territory to explore when it comes to educating their children - remote learning. We adjusted our schedules a few months back when COVID-19 first reared its' head, and most people thought "this will all be over in a couple of months". Now we see that prediction was a hilarious premature understatement, and instead, we need to prepare for the possibility of remote learning for the remainder of the 2020 year... dare I say, the entire 2020 - 2021 school year.

Working parents face many difficulties in their day to day lives. From finding a career and childcare schedule that mesh together, to juggling extracurricular activities, fostering workplace relationships and still making time for family dinners around the table; it can easily get overwhelming. From my experience, the moment the nation was thrown into lockdown back in March, I instantly became a full time teacher to two elementary kids on top of my other normal responsibilities - a full time employee, wife, and mother. It was mentally chaotic and emotionally draining. I had to structure the situation if my family was going to survive this change, and if my children were going to successfully learn.

Now that we are looking at a repeat of "Mrs. Teacher Momboss" come late August, I've started to prepare my family now to avoid the shell shock. Some may think it's unfair, but moms are the heart of the home - we run this place and when we have it all together, things just run smoothly. Last week, my littles started up with homework just one day out of the week, as a slow reintroduction of schooling again. This week will be same thing and next week will be two days. Come August 1st, we will be switching up the sleep schedule Monday - Thursday. Because right now, my littles are up until whenever (hey, it's summertime).

The most important element in maintaining our sanity is a routine. My husband and I both work from home, and we have a Pre-K and a 2nd Grader in the house. We know each other's schedule and openly communicate daily. If he has a loaded day, I do my best to keep my day free from meetings, so I can manage the time with the boys and he can have as much peace as possible. When he catches a break, he tags in to relieve me. Trust me, this isn't fool proof - sometimes we get caught up on days when we are both chained to Zoom calls and the boys get lucky with free play for an hour or so.

Having a schedule also helps the boys know what to expect. We included Tech Time on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for a half hour, and during this time the boys could free play with their gadgets. They looked forward to Tech Time and knew when it was coming, which was a motivator to get through a less fun subject, Reading, which was right beforehand. We found that routines keep everyone going and motivated to power through the day, despite being the house consistently. We are blessed to have a home with a yard, so an additional weekly activity was Recess, which was 40 minutes of outdoor free play.

One of the best things about remote learning is the ability to control the curriculum. Since my boys have been home, we've worked on the class material, but added in economics and budgeting and amplified Black History. As a black family in the Midwest, I can remember my suburban school diving only as deep as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks when it came to Black History. We are now fortunate to mention figures like Mansa Musa, Malcolm X, Jackie Robinson, Nefertiti, and so much more. We can teach them the truth, instead of a white washed version glorifying Christopher Columbus for stealing land that wasn't his. We've started budgeting basics and have them saving $0.25 of every dollar earned (or given) in their Paw Patrol and Batman piggy banks. These are things that we didn't really consider when we were just shuffling through the daily hustle of life.

As you start to think about how your family is going to return to school in the fall, I encourage you evaluate the physical health and safety, and the emotional wellbeing of your loved ones. Is your educational system prepared to foster the mental state of minority students after the events of the Black Lives Matter movement? In addition, have they laid out a detailed plan to distance children for cautionary purposed to prevent the spread of the virus? As we've seen, life is short and we have to put ourselves first. Employers are remaining flexible, and its worth the conversation if you aren't comfortable or need an adjusted schedule to accommodate your childrens' needs.

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