For me, Gov. John Bel Edwards’ March 20 announcement that all schools would be closing for at least three weeks (and likely longer) now feels like it was years ago. Overnight, a new world entered my household and words like “social distancing” and “pandemic” came out of my 7-year-old’s mouth, and we were faced with the prospect of homeschooling while trying to work from home.
The first week – to put it kindly – didn’t go well. The shift in structure and routine to our entire lives was challenging for everyone. What was crazy is that my husband and I, as professors, had worked from home before, and yet we still struggled. Even more, while there were so many resources available to help people suddenly faced with homeschooling, it was nearly impossible to sift through them all and even more impossible to imagine doing any of them. When I emerged from the rabbit hole on online help, I discovered that I needed to step back, make a plan and find resources that were immediately and locally available to me right here in New Orleans.
We quickly felt the days become repetitive and monotonous, which, for kids, is one of the biggest challenges to working as they never feel like they’re “finished.” We created a routine, and the day ends with some sort of family activity or just a walk around the neighborhood (respecting social distancing, of course). We try to get as much done so that no “school” happens on the weekends and we’ve made great efforts to have our weeks maintain the structure they had before.
Part of keeping a routine was also setting up a space where we could all work. For us, that meant finding private spaces to Zoom when we needed and finding a space where I could supervise my first grader; spaces like dining rooms and kitchens that are more open with as few distractions (mainly screens) as possible. We have also found that making a list of the day’s work, crossing each item off when it’s done and giving a non-screen break give the day much-needed structure.
While I have appreciated the multitude of options on the internet to keep kids busy, my biggest go-to resource has been the one closest to home. The New Orleans Public Library has a ton of e-books, e-comics, audiobooks and streaming movies through a ton of different platforms that are all connected via their catalog. If you don’t have a library card, you can sign up for a temporary one through their website (provided you live in Orleans Parish). The library has also begun hosting a Virtual Story Time, and the videos are all on their website, which is very navigable and helpful for parents looking for help and grade-specific content.
For older kids, the Newcomb Art Museum at Tulane University has quickly adapted with online family guides for their current exhibitions, specifically Brandan “BMike” Odums “Not Supposed 2 Be Here,” which is given in a comic format. There are also downloadable coloring pages for Sophie Newcomb pottery as well as a lesson on color mixing with Squiggle Scribble. Outside of New Orleans, the Smithsonian – among many museums nationwide – has gone to great lengths to put as much content online as possible.
What is most important to remember during this time is that whatever you’re doing is better than nothing, and there’s nothing you can do to replicate what your child gets at school, in activities and with their friends. What matters is what you think your kid needs right now and tuning out any other distractions. In the meantime, use this time to tailor your child’s learning to what they need in the moment and what they find most interesting. The rest will happen when it can.
Just the Facts:
New Orleans Public Library (all branches currently closed)
Virtual Story Time
Newcomb Art Institute Online Learning Guides