We find ourselves in strange times as we practice social distancing and self-isolation to contain the spread of COVID-19. Trying to find some sense of normalcy during a national pandemic is a challenging task. One of our biggest challenges is inputting academics into our regular routine without causing unnecessary drama and tension. Preschool and Elementary school are going well, but Middle School is full of frustration.
Isolation School vs Home School
I have come to the realization there is a difference between home schooling and isolation schooling. The vibe is different. In our current situation, we are working with online resources from our wonderfully dedicated teachers. The assignments are familiar, but the environment is completely different. If we were home schooling the curriculum would be our own and fit into our current environment without an awkward feel. While we are trying to normalize our situation, let’s face it, the kids know things feel weird.
Middle School Mania
To add to our isolation schooling woes, my middle schooler does not handle change well. School is a struggle on a normal day, changing things up causes a lot of stress and tension. We talked things through. We looked at all the assignments together. Everything was planned out and ready to go. The result? Nothing! No work completed. Lots and lots of push back. I found myself spending hours of the day frustrated and angry with my 13 year old child. I decided this was not healthy or sane for anyone.
Switching to a more Home School Vibe
In these days of social distancing and self-isolation keeping everyone comfortable and relaxed is our most important goal. Spending hours of the day fighting with a middle schooler who feels out of control, anxious, and depressed is not a good plan. If bringing the normal curriculum home is not working, what else can we do? The answer is following the subject matter of my wonderful teachers, but creating my own assignments. The assignments need to meet my child where she is at right now and focus on her strengths. The goal is to keep her in some sort of routine of learning. Time to write a plan.
Starting With Humanities
The current curriculum covers DC memorials and Arlington National cemetery. How can we cover these topics without a traditional research assignment? My solution is videos and art. Remember the point is to meet the child where she is at right now. I listed each of the memorials out with the assignment to watch three videos on the memorial, write down three facts you learned, and then paint a picture of the memorial. For Arlington National cemetery the assignment is to watch three videos and write a one paragraph reflection. In addition to the paragraph, she is to paint a picture of the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A miracle happened at the sight of these assignments – no push back. No tears, no tension, no frustration. Instead as of today, we have two beautiful paintings complete and six facts written down on paper. Success!
Now for Language Arts
How can I engage a child who does not want to read or write voluntarily? Going to art again as my go to stimulus, we started with an assignment to write a descriptive paragraph about an original character she drew herself. I won with this assignment because she already thinks about personalities, families, friends, and things they like to do as she creates the characters. She eagerly wrote them all down. For reading I reversed the assignment. Fan fiction on Wattpad is the assigned reading and a drawing of at least one scene she read is the assignment. I wish I photographed her expression at hearing fan fiction was her assigned reading. Priceless.
Finding What Works
As we navigate our new normal, isolating ourselves at home, it is important to be flexible and find what works for our individual families. Do not get stuck in following the “rules” of a normal classroom environment to the detriment of your sanity. Sanity is more important than traditional academics. Trust me, your teachers will agree. I consulted mine and they were more than pleased with the changes I made to meet our needs. The last thing they want is to cause frustration and anger amidst our already strange situation.
As we navigate the current national pandemic, our days are filled with lots of unknowns. The unknown is stressful and there is nothing we can do to solve this problem. This is a first for everyone and we are making things up as we move along. As you continue to manage your child’s schooling in isolation, it is ok to think out of the box. It is ok to make some changes and figure out what works best for your child. Learning and some sort of routine is the goal of isolation schooling. Do the best you can. Maintain calm and enjoy the unexpected time together. I would much rather spend my days exploring my daughter’s art work instead of arguing about research papers. Remember moms and dads, you got this. Create a world that works even if it breaks all the rules. Sometimes rules are meant to be broken.