Tamara Prosper is an author, blogger, and aging services professional who recently began homeschooling two of her three children. Born and raised in a Philadelphia suburb, she has lived in New Orleans most of her adult life. Tamara, her husband, their three children (ages 11, 14, and 17), two dogs, and a turtle live in Algiers.
School at Home: A Guide for New Orleans Parents
Several months ago, I planned to introduce myself in the April issue by sharing a story about homeschooling while turning an unusual circumstance at our home into a learning activity. I hoped to offer a unique perspective on the benefits of homeschooling. Then suddenly, all families were forced to have school at home. Now, instead of explaining why some parents choose homeschooling, I’m sharing directions on how to manage education at home while keeping your sanity.
At Holiday and Fiesta
At first, sudden school closings felt like a surprise holiday break. Children were excited and ready to party! Some parents were too. Getting kids up, dressed, prepared with homework and supplies like protractors, calculators, show-and-tell items, P.E. uniforms, permission slips, and models of volcanoes can be a real battle. Now, doing all of that, then getting them to the bus stop, ready for the carpool, or driving them across town is no longer on your to-do list. Yay!
Still, life is out of whack right now. If you feel it, your children are likely feeling it. More than anything, they need to feel as secure as possible. That’s a big ask considering your household’s income may have changed, someone you know may have COVID-19, or you may be unable to practice social distancing in a way that makes you feel safe. Regardless of changes in your lifestyle, activities, religious observances, or health, show your children that there is always hope. Give extra hugs. Listen to their stories. Read together. Have a dance party. Play games. Color. Have fun with them. Try avoiding minor parenting duels. Mismatched socks are OK. Cereal for lunch isn’t that bad. Unmade beds won’t hurt anyone. Focus on helping your children feel secure.
Between Pleasant and Harmony
Does teaching your children worry you? Did you teach them to walk, talk, bathe, use the toilet, wash their hands, read, say “please,” or ride a bike? Then congratulations—you have teaching experience! You once taught family history; now it’s world history. You once baked cupcakes together; now you’re doing science experiments together. It wasn’t planned, but now that you’re their teacher—while possibly still working in your chosen profession—try to remember that from the moment you first held them, you’ve been teaching your children.
In this new reality, you’re providing essential services that benefit humanity by day, and you’re educating your children by night. Now you’re at the table-office-classroom using a pleasant voice on a conference call while making a face that tells your children to quit whining before you lose it. So… how are you feeling?
For many of your friends without kids, self-care might come easier right now. But as parents, we must remember to take care of ourselves if we expect to benefit others. Pedicures, a round of golf, or dinner with friends are currently ill-advised, but there are ways to find pleasure at home. I relax in my garden or on my patio. I walk beside the canal near our house. I pray, write in my journals, and listen to music. I like lighting scented candles or incense and soaking in the tub. I love naps, even just 15 minutes of quiet with my eyes closed. Exercise is great for stress reduction. Just be sure that if you’re exercising outside, you’re in areas with enough space to avoid proximity to other people.
Could someone in your house give you a massage or a manicure? Could you play basketball in your driveway? Could you “meet” friends for a drink using an online platform? Certainly! It’s fine to tell your children to play in your yard or to watch a movie while you read a book or chat on the phone with a friend or therapist. When you feel more pleasant, you can foster harmony at home, at work, or at school—which may all be the same place now.
Abundance, between Treasure and Industry
Remember getting called at work when your child needed something? You stepped out of a meeting, pausing your work to talk to the school nurse. You used your break or adjusted your work schedule to deliver lunch. Now parents are without schools, daycare, activities, libraries, older relatives, or the village that normally helps to manage their children. Large or small, we depend on the treasure we earn. With many industries adjusting, pausing, or coming to a full stop, most of us have uncertainty in common. We also have something in common with our bills. We’re not going anywhere and neither are they. So whether you’re an essential worker, you’re working from home, or you’re now without income, here are some ways to maintain your treasure:
1. If you have a small family and you trust another small family near you, try social distancing as a sort of “pod” together. The adults must agree to only go out for necessities, using all recommended precautions. You’ll then be able to tag-team with child care. One works, rests, or rejuvenates while the other helps children manage schoolwork or assists with housework. Then you switch. I only suggest doing this with a trusted family who will adhere to social isolation practices as ardently as you are—you must remain a closed loop.
2. Ask for help. A supervisor might allow more flexibility in your work schedule. A friend might drop off groceries and school supplies. Your parents might read stories to your children by phone while you submit a report. Help could be an email or phone call away.
3. If you need a new job, TELL EVERYONE! There might be abundant opportunities if you know where to look. Someone you know probably knows someone else that needs help. Tell people what you do and what you’re willing to do. You could even create work for yourself by asking what others need and finding a way to provide it.
Peace, between Arts and Music
For the safety of our community, we’re adjusting. Meanwhile, our children still need us. You may find felicity by being religious, desire piety and independence, or seek peace in arts and music. No matter how, find ways to do so in your home so that your children will have a peaceful place to learn and thrive.
illustration Victoria Allen