- The coronavirus outbreak has caused schools across the country to shut down, and Beaton has developed tips to be productive and have fun while teaching her kids at home.
- As a teacher, Beaton stresses the importance of having a schedule, setting daily expectations, and being understanding to your children's emotions.
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My husband and I had our third child last June. The wonderful school where I teach third grade granted me a full year of maternity leave. Our two older children are 7 and 5, so they had been at school while I was enjoying a leisurely home stay with the baby. People had been saying to me all year, "Three kids! I don't know how you do it." Every time I replied, "I'm very lucky; there's no way I could do this if they were all home."
Cue: Foreboding music. Enter stage left: COVID-19.
To be clear, we're privileged even in the current circumstances. My husband has a secure job, we're all currently healthy, we have food and a place to live. Sure, we have to take care of three children in our apartment for an undetermined amount of time, but who's here to take care of them? Their parent, who has two education degrees, an impressive history of being able to corral children in various situations, and just happens to be on maternity leave. Not to mention, her sister (a beloved librarian) is also staying with them. Windfall!
Since we have the luxury of not having to worry about necessities, I've had more time to think (stress) about other things. When it became apparent that I was really going to be caring for three children within a confined space for possibly months, I went with my first instinct honed from years of teaching: I made a schedule.
I've been planning, prepping, and instructing. We've read books, written letters, and played math games. We've had socially distant morning walks and drawn with chalk on the roof. We've had video chats with family, and ample amounts of screen time. This has all been possible because I'm not currently working, and we just started distance learning with their teachers, which means we have even more support.
This all sounds pretty rosy, and, in many ways, it is. I've gotten to know my kids as learners. I've been able to spend some much needed quality time with them, and they have had more time with each other. We have yet to have more than three major quarrels in a day, thanks to bribery! So you may be surprised that the other day when a friend asked how I was doing, I said, "It's like I've been training my whole life for this. And then someone asked me to do it while holding a baby."
I am sure that there are people who are reading this thinking, "Why doesn't she just let it go? Just relax without worrying about a schedule!" I wish that I could do that I wish that it worked for me and for my kids. But it doesn't. It is better for our family to have an imperfect day attempting to follow a schedule than no schedule at all, and that's okay.
Flexibility and differentiation are key in the classroom, and they're also key at home. There's room for us all to parent the way that works for our nuclear unit to prevent things from going well nuclear.
These are my top tips for how to manage your kids at home.
1. Make a schedule
It doesn't matter if your schedule is all academics all the time or barely glances at a book. Kids benefit from knowing what to expect throughout the day.
2. Have a morning meeting
Morning meeting is a staple of classrooms across the country and is a great time to go over the schedule of the day, discuss the weather, talk about how the day before went, and remind kids of any behavior management plan you've created. Which brings me to my next point ...
3. Create a behavior management plan
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It can be logical consequences that enforce themselves, positive praise, a points system, or really any system that allows kids to reflect on positive and negative behaviors.
4. Provide a model
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Whether or not your kids are working on math or working on sharing the couch while watching a movie, I have found that success is much more likely if you show kids what you expect from them. Show them how to play a board game without arguing. Write an example of what a paragraph should look like.
5. Reach out to teacher friends or use the internet
If you need help understanding the academics that your kid is working on, reach out to their school or find online resources.
6. Feed and water your kids often
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Kids are infinitely better able to self regulate when their blood sugar is level and they are hydrated. We're keeping water within reach at all times and granola bars on standby.
7. Honor kids' feelings
This is a time of immense change and they are going to struggle. We instituted a new family rule anyone can ask for a hug at any time and it will be delivered post-haste by as many people as are in the vicinity.
8. Be kind to yourself
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There is no other job besides teaching where you receive performance feedback on a constant basis. It's okay to decamp to the bathroom for phone time or to plop the kids in front of the TV for however long you need to reboot. Are the kids relatively happy, safe, and fed? You're doing a great job, and they're lucky to have you!
This has been an incredibly difficult time for so many. I'm worried about our healthcare system and what this means for the national economy and the individuals who've lost their jobs. I mourn for the people who have gotten sick and those who have lost their lives. I worry about my family members who are high risk. I am fortunate to have someplace productive to channel my energy into nurturing my children's academic and emotional growth and the time to do this. It is an opportunity for me, both as a teacher and as a parent. How can I strengthen my bond with my kids while also practicing self-care? How can I use my knowledge as an educator to continue to foster my kids' love of learning during this challenging time? How can I find time to go to the bathroom and eat lunch without all three children winding up in a pileup with the baby on the bottom? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I do know snack time is at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m.
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