Life Hacks for Handling Remote Learning

Summer went by in the blink of an eye, and our kids are once again sequestered behind their screens. As we navigate another semester of remote (and hybrid) learning, our resourceful PSP members have offered up some life hacks to make your days run a little smoother.

 

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Make schedules and post them somewhere prominent.

 

“After thinking my daughter didn't have live instruction I bombed her Zoom session asking her a question. NOW I have a sign on her bedroom door with her schedule. (I don't know what day it is!). THAT HAS HELPED!”

 

“The printed schedules have helped us tremendously for homeschool! Especially for my 10-year-old with ADHD. It's stuck to the wall right over his laptop.”

 

 

Schedules are great for things other than class, too.

 

“A food menu for the week. In the spring, the children were just loose and often eating everything. This helps us keep a schedule and eliminates the thinking of what snacks should be, what we're making/ordering for dinner, etc.”

 

“My kids wanted some feeling of school, so we made a Lunch Calendar, and snacks on their desks like at school.”

 

“One other thing we recently added to our life is a dry erase board on the fridge. Simple I know :) Each day we write down something outside of the normal school stuff that needs to get done. For example, both my kids receive OT. So today we have the times of each of their OT sessions on the whiteboard. Other days, it will say stuff we need to do, like mail the letter or reminders for kids on what their chores are, before they can watch TV, like get their desks ready for the next school day.”

 

 

Meal prep is always a lifesaver.

 

“We pack lunches every morning and leave them on the counter. This allows my young children (3 and 6) to have lunch when they get hungry without me having to stop work to prepare it. On. heavy meeting days I may even pack a morning snack so that is also ready to go.”

 

“If your kids are old enough, make them pack their own lunch and snack the night before.”

 

“On days where I have my sh*t together, I prep a snack tray - it’s a big round divided container with a lid. I do a mix of fruit, veggies, cheese, meats, nuts and crackers. I then pull it out of the fridge at every snack time. It’s so helpful.

 

Divided snack containers here.”

 

“Food. Prep. Lunches in the fridge, basket of snacks, a place for water bottles where they must stay (not near the computers, thx). Yes, it's more time on Sunday, but I use it to listen to my favorite podcast and relax a little. I just get a lot of satisfaction out of filling up bento boxes, so it's almost like me time :). Also, I gave myself permission to buy five extra bento boxes (the cheap ones, but still) so that I could easily fill up all week's lunches for all kids at one time. Yep, an expenditure, but 1000x better than having to repack lunches on Wednesday. And the neat stacks of bento boxes look like something right out of real simple.”

 

 

Don’t forget about fun foods!

 

“Lunch Dessert makes everything better! and the kid's not all hyped up at bedtime. Ice cream sundaes and banana splits were the summer time favorite; cookies and croissants and chocolate chips are currently in vogue.”

 

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Prep for class in advance, and find methods for Zoom punctuality.

 

“Setting alarms for 5 minutes before the zoom calls to set everyone up without rushing and causing anxiety.”

 

“I also have a timer set up on my phone that goes off ten minutes before ‘lunch time’ is over and classes begin again. The kids have become used to hearing that one ring tone and knowing they have ten minutes to go.”

 

“I've also been forcing my 2nd grader to prep for his day himself - log into google classroom, print whatever needs to be printed the night before, and to do it himself so that he knows how and I can eventually take it off my list of things to manage. And like someone else said, I set alarms on the iPad that go off five minutes before each meeting so that I don't feel as stressed about reminding him.”

 

“I have Alexa announce it. Easy to set up under reminders in the app. She reminds each kid 2 mins prior. Computer alerts don’t work for my kids. They completely miss them.”

 

 

Find workarounds for tech challenges.

 

“We set Alexa/Google reminders for meetings, which I highly recommend. But often we still found ourselves scrambling to get the right Zoom link on the right device signed into the right account. Seems easy to just type in the Zoom ID and password but the DOE Zoom account keeps logging out and it takes my 8 yr old forever to locate each number on the keyboard. :)

 

We figured out a pretty good fix for this. You can invite their school email address to meetings and it will put them on their Google calendar! (You will most likely get a response that the email invitation isn't delivered but the event shows up on their calendar anyway.) Then you can give them a calendar bookmark and especially in day or week view it's really easy to see which event the red line is right before/in and click on that event to get the link. My 3rd grader has been able to completely self-manage joining several Zooms per day this way, and he really likes it because then when I'm in the middle of calls, etc., it doesn't make him late. Also if it's a time my husband has more availability to be his support person it's easy to add the event to his calendar at the same time.”

 

“I put these ‘learn to type’ stickers on a cheap wireless keyboard to make it easy (or easier) for my 6yo to hunt and peck for letters and numbers.”

 

“Trying to get creative w/ our resources. We had set the kids up on some of our super-old laptops, but realized that one of us was going to be driven to violence if one of those laptops shut down unexpectedly one more time. We don't think the DOE ipads are a good solution, and there's a shortage anyway -- but then we realized I am entitled to a laptop from work. So now my kid is going to use my computer and I'll use one for work. I know that sounds so obvious, but it just hadn't occurred to us until now, and it was a good reminder to try to think outside the box a tiny bit.”

 

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Delineate learning space from living space.

 

“My kids are 4, 6, and 8, so often their ‘work’ is an art mess or activity that I have to have at least half an eye on. In the Spring they usually wound up working at the kitchen counter or dining table. Having the school/paper/art/project mess at the kitchen counter & table was making feeding everybody, prepping meals, and keeping the house clean feel impossible.

 

I put a ‘project table’ right next to our kitchen table so that it is in the space where I most often need to be, I organized all of the art & school supplies so that they are easily accessible to the kids on shelves right next to it, and I bought a multicolored rag rug to put under it. Having a place where the school & project stuff can stay out and where spilling paint or getting sharpie or glue gun on the table is a nonissue reduced my daily stress by about 50%. It maybe looks weird to have a table stuck right next to our dining table, but right now it is SO worth it.”

 

“We made some changes from the Spring, which were to move a table into another room (lucky enough to have some space to do that), which has helped a lot as all the materials can be kept there instead of constantly moving things off our dining table to eat. I also feel like I can now either work next to my 2nd grader or in another room but still close enough - I found when I was shut in my room that it was just too lonely for him.”

 

“Separate space for school/work. We actually turned our third bedroom into a home office and crammed all three kids together in the largest room, and took a smaller one. It's been the *best* decision - to have a separate place where school happens, a sort of extra zone, a place we close the door on the mess when needed (or for a quiet call). It's set up with three work areas, so one of us (me) is still in a bedroom, but I like it this way, anyway. Obviously not everyone has an extra bedroom, but I think it's in the same spirit as the person who added a table to their dining area --really reimagining our spaces and days to make this all work.”

 

“My 1st grader has to sit at our dining table so to give him the feel of a desk, we got a little caddy for his pencils etc, and a faux-leather desk pad that we spread out for him to write on. It protects the table and makes it feel different from the place where we eat. We set it up each morning and pack it away at the end of the school day. It's been helpful for him to feel like he has a real workspace.”

 

 

If your own work schedule is flexible, take advantage of that.

 

“I have been able to shorten my work-blocks so that I can work for 45 minutes and then check on her to make sure she can access her school apps and is actually doing her schoolwork as opposed to something else (like reading for pleasure, heaven forfend, or watching PBS kids educational videos). When we catch her doing something other than schoolwork, she owes us 3 pushups per episode or book. This keeps her accountable - and btw - we let her choose the consequences and sometimes she chooses sit-ups instead LOL. (my husband's job is much more demanding in terms of meetings and deadlines - he does help out in much the same way & pops by at random to see if he can catch some pushups. he also usually does lunch).

 

This means that I have to work a few hours on the weekend to catch up, but I'm okay with that and able to do so. Also - during independent work periods I sometimes work side by side with her on the couch - so I'm on my work laptop and she's on her iPad and both of us are working.  Moral support.”

 

 

Walks around the neighborhood are a great way to refresh.

 

“My daughter and I go on random walks- we just get out of the house and walk around the neighborhood with no destination. It's such a nice change from ‘we need to stop by the bank, go to the grocery store, and drop off X with Y.’ And the weather is turning nicer. Have I mentioned lately how beautiful Green-wood Cemetery is?”

 

“I'll second the random walks too. The kids can be a little ‘ugh where are we going’; but I just tell them out, for fresh air and it's been great.”

 

“Walks. walks. walks. can't agree w/ this one more, and my kids do complain as we are getting out the door, and I care not a whit. I also have it split now so I get some alone time with each kid, which is really nice -- and they need a break from each other, too, though they are friends, which is something I was late to realize. Finally, we make our walks sort of seasonal scavenger hunts. We're in what we call pumpkin walk/ scary halloween season now, and thrillingly, we saw our first pumpkins last week. We've actually always done this (later it's holiday lights, etc.), and it's just a nice reason to be outside and appreciate our beautiful neighborhood and our neighbors' festivity, without being on an errand.”

 

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Create space for relaxation, play, and levity.

 

“We do our own version of ‘choice time’ like teachers do in the classroom. I set up stations (literally a blanket with magnatiles on it = magnatile station; one corner of the room = reading station; etc) and tell the kids these are their choices during choice time. I mix it up, and try to offer 4-5 choices / areas. Somehow the structure helps them settle into making clear choices for themselves and makes the options / old toys feel like new discoveries, rather than running around and tearing up the room & everything in it. Often it works for about 20-30 minutes!”

 

“One thing we do when people are falling apart is make ‘cozy nests.’ It’s usually some combo of blankets and pillows in a corner of the room (behind the couch...in the tub if it’s clean...bottom of a closet with the door open...just somewhere new/not their bed) and then each kid brings a pile of books/coloring book/quiet activity and they get some space and a reset.

 

(If you have more than one kid the nests MUST be separate! Obviously)”

 

“Standing play dates. We set up two set-it-and-forget-it playdates for each of my school-aged kids. I set a time and a place (the benefit of being the organizer is that you can choose time and dates good for you) and, rain or shine, until the weather gets really bad and we reassess, we meet up with other kids in a masked, outdoor setting. I cannot stress enough how great this has been -- a routine day for each of my kids to look forward to, that I do not have organize or fuss or think over (though you know of course, I do have to, because that's how it works, but see perks of being an organizer), and which results in a different constellation of school kids who play differently and creatively -- almost like at school itself.”

 

“We have good days and bad days. Our teacher is super supportive. On bad days we try to do something silly with her, or arrange contact with her friends - FaceTime or phone call. Or a distance play date - even just a stoop visit for 30 minutes.  They aren't meant to be so removed from their peer group and neither are the adults!”

 

“Our timer went off unexpectedly this morning and my son and I just started laughing. So now I'm randomly setting a LAUGH TIMER throughout the day. It's a great chance for a break, some laughs, and a hug. It's really making today better!”

 

 

Final reminder that this sucks, you’re doing you’re best, and that’s enough:

 

“Accept the things you cannot change. I have had so many conversations about this with my wonderful support system, and one thing we are really all working on is figuring out real solutions to real problems, but not trying to replicate what life was like pre-covid. For example, for months, a few members of our inner circle were demanding absolute silence for their calls or presentations, which obviously had huge cascading effects on an entire family who had to be silent or gone during those times. We staged a collective little intervention to really probe the necessity of that. We are all in this together. If we can set the norms and standards that acknowledge that dogs and kids and sirens are a component of our work lives right now, I think it will really take the temperature/stress level down for all of us. A lot of the conversation about letting go of the mommy/daddy guilt is similar -- it's just time to let that sh*t go, not just for you but for *all* of us. Pretending to let it go while 'graming pics of spinach blender muffins doesn't count.

 

The last thing, which I recently read in a book called How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids, is about stress. She defines stress as ‘not thinking you'll be able to handle what's coming.’ Man does that sum up how I've been feeling, and being able to put that into words in my brain just makes it so much easier to address head on. Instead of saying/feeling ‘stressed,’ which is so amorphous, I think that I'm worried I won't be able to handle what's coming, and can (more) rationally assess if that's accurate. (and if it is, we try to solve the problem).”

 

 

Resources to help you on Park Slope Parents:

 

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