5 Tips for Meeting This School Year's Challenges with Intention
You might have heard that our latest designs have us extra excited for all things fall! Yep, we’ve pulled out our softest sweaters, given our favorite leather some love, and are ready to embrace autumn with open arms!
But, as excited as we are for autumn's arrival, we can't deny that this year September feels...different. The cooling weather may be familiar but the brisk excitement that usually accompanies the start of a new school year has been tempered by the sweeping changes brought on by COVID-19.
Instead of shopping for jeans and sneakers that we hope won't be outgrown in a week, we're shopping for masks and hand sanitizer. Instead of picking out new lunch boxes and backpacks, we’re trying to figure out which tablet or laptop would be best for online classes.
One thing is for sure, we’re in uncharted territory and parents, teachers, and administrators are all simply doing their best to navigate it. Everything is a trade-off and there are no easy answers. It's times like these when you need to take a step back, breathe deeply, and allow yourself some grace.
Whether your child is doing 100% in person, 100% virtual, or a mix of the two, they'll be encountering a lot of changes this year. The most important thing you can do is show them how to navigate those changes without losing sight of what really matters.
That's why we decided to share our 5 best tips for incorporating intention into your family's new normal:
#1 Keep It Simple
When thrown into a new situation, it's common to feel like you need to master everything at once. You don't! While we certainly encourage establishing a routine and planning ahead (more about that in Tip #2), you'll be doing yourself (and your sanity!) a favor by keeping it simple.
Now is not the time to reinvent the wheel. Complicated science experiments and in-depth projects may look amazing on Pinterest but they're only going to add to your stress if you're newly homeschooling. And a nice, clear kitchen table is just as suitable for virtual learning as those perfectly decorated education nooks you're seeing in your Instagram feed - we promise!
Children's brains are wired for learning - they can do it almost anywhere. So, if you find you're holding yourself to unnecessarily rigorous standards, just remember: grace, not perfection!
#2 Make a Map
One of the toughest things about new situations, especially for kids, is not knowing what to expect. Sometimes grownups forget that we have a lot more experience dealing with change than our little ones do. For them, all they know is that everything feels new and different and that can be scary. A great way to manage the anxiety this causes is by creating a plan and sharing it with everyone involved.
We recommend making a map for your children that shows them what their new school days will look like. If your child is on a hybrid schedule, put up a weekly calendar so they can see which days they'll be in school and which they'll be at home.
If you're homeschooling, make a sign or poster that shows the routine for the day. Don't worry about scheduling things down to the minute (remember Tip #1). Instead, create blocks for different categories of activities to establish structure while still allowing for flexibility.
Being able to look at their map and know what to expect will provide the reassurance kids need right now and alleviate some of the anxiety that comes with new experiences. For more help creating the ideal learning routine for your family, check out these links:
#3 Be Open to Input
Another important thing to remember when incorporating intention into your new routine is to remain open to input. It doesn't all have to fall on your shoulders! Ask friends how they are doing things and what has helped them. Seek out online resources (there are plenty!) that address struggles you may be having.
Most importantly, ask for input from your children. What do they like or dislike about their new style of schooling? How could it be adjusted or improved? Including them in the discussion will help them feel more in control and hopefully provide insights you wouldn't have thought of yourself.
#4 Follow Their Interests
One of the best things about non-traditional schooling is that it can provide more freedom to follow your child's interests. A teacher can't tailor a lesson meant for 30 students to one child's favorite topics. A parent, on the other hand, can.
Thanks to the internet, parents have a wealth of educational resources at their fingertips. Whether you're the parent of a future scientist, artist, or historian, you can easily find documentaries, shows, and virtual tours that will capture your child's attention and stimulate their minds.
And while homeschooling provides the most opportunity for customization, even hybrid and virtual parents can use this tip to supplement existing lessons with related activities featuring their child's special interests.
Many parents are experiencing anxiety around the idea of their children falling behind due to COVID-19. By making use of outside resources and encouraging learning in general, rather than stressing over individual lessons, you can alleviate some of that worry and hopefully avoid frustration.
#5 Learn By Living
We mentioned before that children's brains are wired for learning. They learn by playing, by observing others, and by doing everyday activities. So one of the brightest silver linings to come from so many school's shifting away from in-person instruction is that it allows more time for them to simply be kids.
Most veteran homeschool parents will tell you that a day of learning at home is much shorter than the traditional 7-hour school day. After all, guided, one-on-one instruction is always going to be more efficient than 1 teacher with 30 students.
Additionally, a parent can tailor a lesson to their child's particular learning style. For example, strewing (when you place several educational toys or activities throughout a space, allowing the child to choose what they spend time on) is a great way to work within the constraints of shorter attention spans.
Home education becomes even more efficient when parents find ways to incorporate learning into necessary daily activities like cooking, cleaning, and play time. Street signs or house numbers spotted during a family stroll through your neighborhood can be a chance to practice letter or number recognition. Books like this one can turn meal prep into a chemistry lesson. Grocery shopping can become an opportunity to practice different math skills.
Using daily activities as opportunities for learning will not only enrich your children's education and help them learn valuable life skills, it also frees up more time for the most important aspects of childhood: playing, exploring and bonding with your family.
At Urban Southern we try our best to look for moments to slow down and enjoy the things in life that truly matter. We know the situation with schools right now is difficult but we hope this advice will help you meet these challenges with an open heart.
Do you have a tip that helped you embrace this year's Back to School challenges? Share it in the comments!