My experience as a preschool acting teacher hasn’t made homeschooling my three kids any easier. This is what a typical day looks like and why cutting myself some slack is key to surviving this crazy time.

By Holly Rizzuto Palker
May 06, 2020
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Rebecca Hart

I'm the resident drama teacher at a local preschool, and my young students learn best when we're having fun. Whether we're pretending to be zoo animals or cleaning up, we make magic a few mornings a week. Then I go home and try to be a good mom, or at least that was my routine before the global pandemic.

The truth is, this unprecedented time is anything but magical. Like most parents, I'm stressed about homeschooling my children, aged 6, 11, and 14, while navigating their emotional well-being. My husband works full-time, and although he's helpful in between Zoom meetings, most child care and household duties fall to me. While I'm capable of doing these tasks, juggling them into my busy routine in addition to part-time teaching hasn't been easy.

I scrapped a schedule early on because life isn't normal right now. And each day under stay-at-home orders brings real-life issues for me to handle, including a laundry room flood that I caused, a broken water heater, and nerve-wracking telemedicine appointments. After all, my little one had a fever. To top it off, my kids attend three different public schools in our district, and we had to learn each one's distance learning format.

How I'm Trying to Manage Homeschooling

Homeschooling is about finding meaningful moments in this topsy-turvy situation—and that’s not easy. We get through each day by employing a combination of schoolwork and real-life activities. If we remediate emotional breakdowns and we're ready in time for morning Zoom classes, I'm happy.

Since my kids are easily distracted, each one has a separate workspace. My kindergartener is in the kitchen with me demanding constant assistance, but I score when 10:30 a.m. hits because she navigates the teacher meet alone so I can grab a small chunk of time.

Unable to complete tasks because of constant interruptions, I've begged my kids to save up their academic questions, but they still bombard me. Movement breaks work like a charm for my students, so I allow ample spurts for my kids during homeschooling too. Sometimes Dad is the gym teacher, or they play piano in between subjects.

I worry about screens, so I valiantly attempt to collect their phones and disable computer notifications. Still, they often need to communicate with friends to discuss assignments, so I'm flexible. But when education finishes, they're hungry for electronics, which is a dilemma because, many times, they're done by 1:00 p.m. I suggest reading, Legos, or soccer, but mostly, I give in because I'm exhausted.

I'm learning to place the highest value on creating special moments with my kids. No matter what challenges we face, a daily live improv rap with my young one on Facebook and Fitness Marshall workouts with my teenager is like medicine. I can't handle Fortnite but having a heart-to-heart conversation with my son, lets me know he's doing OK.

Getting My Work Done

And then there's work. In real life, I've never forgotten to go to work, but even though I set phone alarms and receive reminder emails, I'm out of sorts and I often almost miss my fixed live teaching segments.

My pre-existing lesson plans don't translate seamlessly on Facebook Live and Zoom recordings, and a 20-minute exercise based on zoo animals that once required five minutes of preparation could now require much more. Preschoolers get bored if I crawl around pretending to be a lion for too long. So, I spend time cutting, adjusting, and creating new activities. The segments are fun, but the interaction was part of my curriculum, and I miss that most.

These days, my 6-year-old is my onscreen teaching assistant. She encourages student engagement through her infectious enthusiasm and stays busy while I work. Truthfully, the days when I teach, her distance learning program is less controlled, but we bond, which is the best part.

Having a standing broadcast appointment gives me and my students needed structure during blurred stay-at-home days. Teaching live also allows parents a glimpse into my relatable life, which is rife with glitches. Sometimes my dog barks, my daughter says embarrassing things alongside me, or my music doesn't properly queue, but I incorporate these blips.

In spite of the wacky new normal, my goal is to recreate the classroom magic. I repurpose paper plates, service spoons, and kitchen towels as props, hoping that the kids follow along. I imagine students on the other side of the screen dancing, and I'm energized because I'm bringing them happiness during quarantine and that's worthwhile.

Giving Myself a Break

The aspects I love most about teaching and parenting are magical moments, so during this chaotic time, I improvise, force myself to remain positive, and accept a neat house is a thing of the past. I've created makeshift zones for teaching supplies, laundry folding, cleaning products, and dry food goods, which equals clutter. Before the pandemic, I was complacent but now I've asked my kids to pitch in and to help clean and fold laundry. I was met with resistance, but they're getting better. Sometimes we family clean to Hamilton and I'm happy they are learning empathy.

There are times I worry I should be doing more as a parent and a teacher, but I'm drained. Accepting my limitations and the imperfections of our situation reminds me that everything doesn't translate the same way during homeschooling as it does in real life.

My daughter's teacher runs offscreen to wake her teenager for Zoom class and I chuckle because I can relate, the same way my parents must smile when my kindergartener says she loves me during our acting segment.

The magic also lies in understanding that we are all faced with similar issues and that we can get through this together.

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