Thanks to the coronavirus, parents around the world have traded in their corner offices and leisurely lunch breaks for the most challenging job of their careers: homeschool teacher. Parents who are otherwise accomplished, organized and respected in their chosen fields–whether as an attorney or stay-at-home-mom–find themselves overwhelmed and exasperated in this new norm.
Parents are drowning in the responsibility of the homeschool process, and frustrated that their new co-workers are their kids. Gone are the days when families separate for large chunks of the day to spend time with their peers, then reconnect at the end of the day just to share the highlights.
Now families spend 24/7 together attempting to duplicate the classroom and boardroom all from the same kitchen table. Parents are overwhelmed; kids are stressed; WIFI is overloaded; and nerves are frazzled.
Even if we survive the coronavirus, did we really win if we kill our kids or turn into Miss Trunchbull in the process?
Most Important Homeschool and Quarantine Survival Lessons during COVID-19
Although I am neither a teacher nor a typical homeschool mom, my family did spend 24/7 together during two extended periods. The first global adventure lasted nearly five months and the second lasted seven weeks. I managed all aspects of homeschooling (or worldschooling) both times.
As a result of our experiences, I am frequently asked for worldschooling and survival advice by other families planning long term travel. While the circumstances behind a family sabbatical and coronavirus quarantine may be totally different, they share some similar challenges. Following are three of the common issues and tips for surviving them:
Lesson 1: Don’t Sweat the Formal Schoolwork
The thought of blowing off math drills and science lessons either makes you gasp or giddy. If it makes you gasp, I understand. As someone who only had experience with traditional schooling, I felt compelled to try and duplicate those traditional school lessons in a worldschool environment.
As a result, we had a very organized worldschool system.
My daughters: 1) utilized online curriculums for math and science requirements ; 2) had extensive reading lists based on the different countries we were visiting to meet reading requirements; and 3) were required to write for our family travel blog for social studies/language arts requirements.
It was a LOT to manage considering we averaged three nights per location, were constantly on the move, and frequently without WIFI.
I specifically remember one stressful night in an airport hotel. It was our final night in New Zealand prior to departing for Indonesia. We all congregated in the hotel bar because it was the only area with free WIFI. Dale and I watched the Super Bowl while the girls caught up on school work. They were quite behind because free WIFI is practically non-existent in New Zealand.
After re-watching the same video lesson multiple times, tears of frustration began rolling down Riley’s cheeks. She was so frustrated because the Algebra lesson just wouldn’t click. She felt so dumb.
That one negative experience made her believe she wasn’t “good at math.”
The following year, after returning to traditional school, Riley earned the Math Award for her entire grade. That’s because Riley was never bad at math–our approach was bad.
Just as it wasn’t effective to apply a traditional school model to our first family sabbatical, a lot of coronavirus homeschooling won’t be effective either.
So don’t stress out over it!
When all the corona-dust settles, and kids (hopefully) go back to school in the fall, it is not going to matter who was glued to Zoom school and who wasn’t. It just won’t.
How do I know this?
Because Delaney and Riley are now successful college students at their university of choice (War Eagle!). They are living proof that missing large chunks of school will not inflict lasting academic harm.
What will matter? That everyone still has positive feelings towards school in general and that everyone in the family still likes each other!
Lesson 2: Write. Write. Write.
The single most important thing your kids can do right now is write. Looking back on our experience, the only lessons that really mattered were writing down the memories and experiences for the family travel website. That’s it.
Why? Because the global journey was the education.
Just like right now living through a global pandemic is the education.
Five years from now, 15 years from now, and 50 years from now, no one will remember or care about a single math or spelling lesson, Zoom conference call, or any other random facts that your kid memorizes.
What will they remember?
They will remember…how mom or dad, a healthcare worker, slept in the basement or family RV for months so they didn’t expose their family to the virus.
They will remember…how they missed their sports season, senior prom or graduation.
They will remember…mom or dad’s unexpected job loss and its impact on the whole family.
They will remember…helping their mom sew hundreds of masks from scraps of fabric for complete strangers.
They will remember…the surprise birthday party on Zoom or drive-by procession.
They will remember…collecting food for the local food bank that had run out, so that other families in their city wouldn’t go hungry.
They will remember…visiting their grandparents through glass or missing a loved one’s funeral altogether.
They will remember…worrying about toilet paper!
Encourage your kids to document their personal coronavirus stories and save them. If they don’t want to write, then they can draw, or paint, or record, or even create TikToks to preserve the memories. Just do something!
Because the COVID-19 stories of today are the history lessons of tomorrow.
Surviving Cabin Fever during Coronavirus Quarantine
Besides homeschooling, the next biggest challenge parents are facing during this coronavirus quarantine is cabin fever. But cabin fever doesn’t just infect those stuck at home; it can infect travelers too.
Cabin Fever during Global Travel
Our five month global journey began in mid-October with a quick stop in Iceland. From there we flew to London for a week, then on to Italy for three more. By early December, our wanderlust led us to Southeast Asia.
In mid-December, we visited an English-speaking church service one Sunday morning in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. After church we met the only other Americans attending: a couple from Louisiana. After eagerly accepting an invitation for lunch in the church cafe, we quickly bonded over a shared love of SEC college football and sweet tea.
In that moment we realized we had not had a meaningful interaction with anyone outside of our family for nearly two months…and we were starving for social interaction.
Rescued by Green Shoots International School
The following week we arrived in Hoi An, Vietnam. Not only is Hoi An a storybook charming town, it is also home to Green Shoots International School. After a quick google search, I learned two important facts about Green Shoots: 1) it was English speaking, and 2) the administrator was from the U.S.
I emailed Green Shoots, explained our situation, and made arrangements for Delaney and Riley to visit. They hardly slept that night as they were filled with nervous anticipation about their upcoming day at a school. With kids. Their age. Hallelujah!
The next morning we rode bikes to the school where the girls left their anxiety and shoes at the door.
When we picked them up that afternoon, they didn’t stop talking for hours. The girls told us about every student, every classroom activity, and every playground game. They begged to enroll.
This regular day, doing regular things, was one of the highlights of our entire five month journey.
Which is why cabin fever isn’t just about being confined to the same place for an extended period.
It’s also about being confined to the same people for an extended period.
Cabin Fever during Coronavirus Quarantine
Most Americans have been in some sort of quarantine for about a month now. Aside from my husband’s own stint in the COVID-19 ICU (thankfully he recovered!), the first few weeks could almost be considered fun. Many garages got organized, closets purged, and home projects crossed off the To-Do list.
Meanwhile, soccer practice and dance classes have been replaced with family bike rides, movie nights, game nights, and family dinners. And that’s a good thing.
However, as we round the corner and head into month two of the COVID-19 quarantine, the “fun” is wearing off. Sure, there are plenty more neglected projects begging for our attention or Netflix series to watch, but we’re just DONE. We all want to go out to eat, to go shopping, and to get our hair done.
But most of all, we just want to spend time with
someone anyone we don’t live with, or even no one at all!
Because even the happiest, healthiest families need a break from each other sometimes. And that’s okay.
Tips for Surviving Quarantine
So how do we get a break from those we love when we can’t leave the house?
Make participation in family activities optional.
We decided from the very beginning that anyone could opt-in or opt-out on any given movie night, game night, etc. No questions asked. No guilt. This seems to be working because everyone shows up more often than not.
Encourage socializing via technology.
Understand that your older kids really do need to connect socially. This is not the time to be a screen time Nazi. Not only is Zoom helping businesses keep on track, it has become our social savior. Plan a Zoom party, or regular Zoom meetings, with friends.
Thankfully, this is not the early 1900s during the Spanish Flu. We have Netflix, Zoom, and TikTok to keep us entertained, while the essential workers keep us safe!
Hope on the Horizon
Who knew that surviving the coronavirus quarantine would be so similar to surviving long term family travel?!
It really boils down to just three things: 1) don’t stress over the schoolwork, 2) record your memories, and 3) give each other some space.
So parents, hang in there! Homeschooling and cabin fever won’t last forever.
In the meantime, save the money you aren’t spending on shopping and lunch dates for next year’s Teacher Appreciation Day gift. And while you’re at it, pick up something extra special for an essential worker and stay-at-home-mom. We never realized just how important they all are!
Finally, when this is all over, many of you will look back on this chunk of family time as a gift. A gift you never wanted, a gift you never asked for, and a gift you had no idea how to unwrap.
But sometimes those are the best gifts of all.