As our family begins our 3rd week of distance learning, my list of “lessons learned” continues to grow. One lesson that is abundantly clear—it’s time for more structure, and self-compassion.
Ready To Slow Down
After the whirlwind that often typifies the Lanier Experience: our recent relocation to a new city (Atlanta) for my husband’s new job, downsizing into our new townhome (so we could embrace the walkability of our new neighborhood and the Atlanta Beltline), getting the kids settled in a new school, with a new routine, coaching/playing on new basketball teams and my attending games for basketball seasons x 3 (and getting to know new coaches, coaches wives and basketball parents… did I mention I was an introvert?), and recently starting a new track & field season for my daughter (the week after basketball season ended)… I was ready to slow down!
Whew… Even writing all of that made me tired!
That was a lot of “new,” so taking a breath and a beat from the madness, and establishing a slower-paced routine felt like a relief—even in the middle of a global pandemic.
I welcomed the flexibility that remote learning offered (as I understood it) and appreciated the hard work the school’s administration and teachers were putting into completely switching gears from face-to-face classroom learning, to distance learning in remote classrooms.
I’ve also enjoyed spending extra time together as a family. Conversation (and funny social media video sharing) has been abundant and cooking meals more often means we eat together as a family more frequently. These are the benefits…
Distance Learning Experiment
Week 1: I have teenagers, and the 1st week of distance learning coincided with Spring Break for many of their friends. Trying to balance COVID-19 concerns, figuring out how distance learning would work, and warding off FOMO (fear of missing out) as social media alerts clued them in on the fun their friends were having on break, took some effort. But we made it work well enough.
Week 2: My kid’s friends were beginning their foray into distance learning. My teens (who felt like pros as this point) compared how different schools were handling remote learning, while also bemoaning not being able to hang out with friends. Although I work from home (writing in a separate area of the house), I begin to sense the definition of “school day” was being interpreted much too loosely by my teens.
Week 3: Brought clarity on the need for more structure…
Time for More Structure
At this point, I began to notice that the flexibility I eagerly welcomed in the beginning, started to feel a bit too flexible!
While I believe that later school start times allows teens to get the rest they need, my kids were pushing it big time! Their wake up times were out of hand, out of line and out of order! It was time for a more structured routine.
Apparently their school felt the same way, because Week 3 involves exactly that. A Block Schedule with live “check-ins” at the start of class for attendance purposes. 😉
In addition to a more structured distance learning schedule, we established a more structured schedule for home.
Our kids will start the day (much earlier) by checking their schedules, email, and class assignments right after breakfast. The 15 minute breaks in between their online classes and their lunch period will be their opportunity to check quickly social media, get a snack, take a breather or FaceTime friends (the virtual equivalent of eating lunch in the cafeteria with friends).
“Attending” class looks like sitting at your desk, at the kitchen table or on the couch, not lying down in bed (being that relaxed makes it too easy to zone out or doze off).
In her article, Helping Your Teen Succeed at Remote Learning, Camille S. Johnson, Ph.D. offers more great tips for distance learning.
Time for Self-Compassion
While we plan on introducing more structure and routine into our day, we will also include a good amount of self-compassion.
Switching from in-person teaching to remote learning is quite a change for students. Adding anxiety about COVID-19, postponed or canceled events (including prom, sports seasons, music concerts, dance performances, art exhibits, field trips, etc.), having cabin fever and not being able to hang out with friends, can add to the stress.
With so much going on right now, it’s important to allow time and space to process any feelings of fear and uncertainty. Giving those feelings a name and recognizing them as valid without allowing them to take over, is helpful as well.
Having self-compassion helps us to acknowledge that we’re doing our best in light of our current challenges and allows us to meet those challenges with patience and grace.
Enjoy your week and stay safe!