Five Strategies for Navigating Working and Learning from Home

Three weeks ago our local public schools announced that they would be closing for COVID-19. That same day, my university colleagues and I were also asked to work from home. On the eve of this new era for our family, I rolled up my sleeves and designed the most beautiful “learning schedule” for our  8-year-old. 

I went to bed as dozens of Zoom meetings appeared on my calendar. At 6:00am I woke up to an iPad screen in my face and my daughter announcing that she was “ready to get started” with her new learning apps.

Wait a minute, I thought learning apps would come later in the day. Mama needs a cup of coffee. Did Mama just refer to herself in the third person? When is my first Zoom meeting? It’s in an hour. I hope the audio-video works okay. Alright child, you can preview the apps. 

And that is how we fell off my schedule before we even started. Sort of. This brings me to my first point about this new reality of working and learning from home. 

Give Everyone Grace

We are navigating uncharted waters in healthcare, learning, working, and living. This means neither school nor work will look or feel the same as they do face-to-face. Accept that balancing your work responsibilities with added childcare and teaching responsibilities is challenging at best, and in our most-stressed moments downright impossible. (Those moments typically pass.)

Through Zoom, my colleagues heard my daughter yell, “Hey Mom, I’m starting a fire.” She meant in the gas fireplace, but still—also it was 60 degrees outside. 

Pro-tip: Mute your microphone until you need to talk. Do this even if your work space seems quiet.

Create Structure and Choice

As I organize work-and-learn-from-home days, I’m not concerned with the order of activities. Instead, each day, my goal is simply to create structures where both my daughter and I can keep making progress.  I use Canva’s menu templates to make our learning schedules. Below is an example that you can print out and modify.

Learning Schedule Template by Dr. KFW

Our daily schedules include 9 activities for our eight-year-old to check off each day. We always include reading, arts, math, and wellness activities. She gets to choose the order. 

One day she read several chapters of a fantasy book, completed two of the fitness challenges her P.E. teacher sent home, wrote her teacher a letter, tested out two reading apps, started writing a creative story, challenged her dad to Blokus, yelled at Khan Academy while working on some math problems, and helped me launch a social media fundraiser for our local food bank. 

On our best days, we end the day by talking about what worked well and what we need to adjust for tomorrow. On our worst days, this doesn’t happen. See the first tip on giving everyone grace. 

Utilize Technical Tools

Technology is both helping us to stay connected and also teaching our daughter important technical literacy skills.

  • Google Drive is a wonderful resource for children (of all ages) to share their written work. During school closures, my daughter is sending updates, questions, and creative stories to family, teachers, and friends. While learning from home, being able to engage, with our supervision, through Google Drive, FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom helps our children feel more connected. 

Additionally, below are five learning apps and websites that we’re enjoying. All of these are either free or have free trials.

Remember, Wellness Matters

As we receive news about the impact of COVID-19, it’s okay to experience a huge range of emotions. These feelings are valid. As we navigate this new reality, keep prioritizing wellness. 

For me, this looks like starting our day with a snuggle (not an iPad in my face), our favorite breakfast beverage (pink lemonade for her and coffee with cream with me), a reasonably healthy lunch (my definition of reasonable is pretty liberal), affirming my daughter’s feelings as they come (even when that means muting my Zoom), and a walk (alone for me) in the evening with Yo Yo Ma in my earbuds and a dog by my side.  

Reach Out to Others

I have been touched by the tremendous outpouring of connection and curriculum by teachers (including my daughter’s teachers) across the nation. Teacher education students, retired educators, and homeschool parents are posting invitations to help with homework questions and tutoring. Schools that are experts in online and blended learning are offering their support. Authors and media specialists are recording read alouds. 

Remember, social distancing only refers to physical proximity. Don’t go on this journey alone. Reach out to family, friends, and experts. Ask questions. Share funny stories and difficult ones. Revise your home learning schedule (again) and accept that, with hope, tomorrow is yet another opportunity to learn, work, and love. 

Sending you and yours strength and well wishes, Dr. KFW

I recognize that having a position that allows me to work from home, technology resources, and enough food to feed our family are privileges that many do not have during these uncertain times.  Both my household and my school community are sending support, resources, and compassion to those in need of extra care. If you are able, I encourage you to incorporate this kind of caring into the fabric of what it means to be home during this historical moment.