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  • Writer's pictureJenny Penland

Livin' CoVIDA-Loca ‣ Helpful Tips for Distance Learning

We're finishing up the first Friday of distance learning and one thing that's become readily apparent is this is a lot of fun for some of us and totally overwhelming for others.

For those who fall in the latter category, let me start off by saying that's okay. In fact, it's totally normal. There's a reason public schools exist and you're part of the majority, here. Do not feel like you are somehow failing your children because the idea of paper mâché gives you hives or imaginative play makes you wanna gag. Do not feel like you have to compete with a quarantine highlight reel of non-stop educational activities and outdoor themed, indoor make-believe. We're in the middle of a pandemic - only the fifth one in the history of our country - and there is absolutely no reason to stress yourself (or your kids, or your partner out) with busy work or overly stringent routines.

I mean this so earnestly: You could literally do NOTHING "educational" for this entire pandemic and your kids would be fine. You could burn your children's take home packets or spend the entire lockdown binge-watching reality tv (even Tiger King) and your kids still will survive! This is especially important for you to internalize if you are now, all of the sudden, working from home - or now, all of the sudden, out of a job - or now, all of the sudden, sick or grieving the absence of a loved one. This is an insanely stressful situation. We are living history, in the making. And it's not your job to keep it all together, all the time.

For myself, let me just say I'm no catastrophist. As a born and bred Floridian, I go into Cat-5 hurricanes with five percent battery and an empty tank of gas, hoarding fixings for a Bloody Mary bar before ever thinking to stock up on bottled water or toilet paper. That said - this whole distance learning thing is my freaking moment. I have a warehouse that's about the size of a three car garage and it's literally filled to the brim with books and craft supplies. So when Governor DeSantis closed the schools and we went to the storage unit to stock up before lockdown, I instantly realized I've been a pandemic doomsday prepper, my whole life without ever even knowing it.

We're officially four and a half days in, but I started lesson planning the beginning of last week. These past couple of days, Kennedy's been working through our first unit, and I should hope the guide will be up on the blog tomorrow (with maybe one or two more done by Monday). If you're looking for easy (or easier) enrichment materials, I'm here to help. You can participate as much or as little as you'd like with your kids - I'm trying to create the guides as "one size fits all;" where your children can take the wheel, if preferable. Don't force them to do all of it (or any of it) if they don't enjoy it. And if there's something else they'd like to learn about, please drop us a line through Instagram, or our contact page - and we'll see what we can whip up.


Tips for Stress-Free Distance Learning:

1. Create a Study Space: The first thing Kennedy and I did was set up a homeschooling space, and if nothing else, I suggest you do this. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate - a lap desk, a corner, even a dedicated drawer in the kitchen will do. But having a place where everything goes will separate free time from school time and create a semblance of routine, without much effort.

American Girl, llama, study space, arts and crafts

We rearranged a little nook that's only about 6x6 feet, and filled a bookshelf with bins for arts, crafts, books, and frequently used supplies. I hung up a cork board and whiteboard to keep track of her vocabulary and art projects, and situated a small dining room table beside it, so K would have a place to focus. We put a daily checklist up for expectations (simple stuff: making the bed, putting toys away, doing her assignments) and a weekly calendar (mostly so we remember what day it is).

I also tried to incorporate some stuff we're missing from the outside world - pins and Funko Pops she's collected at Disney, a llama lamp from her old playroom, a bunch of American Girl stuff she used to love but hadn't used as much lately, before this all happened. Then, I went a little crazy with my Dymo label, and tried to make it manageable, cause I've found we are much, much better at putting things back when they belong to a specific place.

Helpful Tip: I also rearranged a media cabinet and filled it with supplies that she has to ask permission to use. I felt it was best to keep this separate from her markers and craft kits, both because I'm a bit territorial over my Sharpie pens - and because Covid will be the least of her worries if she spills paint on a rug. I'll post pictures of that later (the media cabinet, that is. Not a ruined rug turned makeshift body bag).

2. Create a Loose Timeline: Then, we sat down and decided together on a few books she wanted to read and historical events she wanted to learn about. After that, I had her pull the dates those books were published and set in, which she juxtaposed with the dates of the historical events. Together, we made a big timeline on border poster (ours goes from the year 1650 to 2020) and hung it up on the wall, in her study corner. If you choose to do this with your own kids, using different books or movies than we chose, I strongly suggest you encourage their participation. Forcing kids to learn right now is a knock-down drag-out waiting to happen, but if you ask them and let them direct you - I promise, they'll have a few ideas that interest them, no matter how hair brained.

3. Count Up Chain: Finally, we started a new tradition, to both remember this time and help it pass a little more pleasantly. Using craft paper, we created something I call a count-up chain. Each night, before bed, we've both written on the back of a new link our favorite part of the day, something we learned, or something we're looking forward to, and added it to the chain. Once it's long enough, we'll use it to help decorate her study space - and later, when it's all over, we'll pull them apart and remember the good times, over the annoying and monotonous.

Anyway, we'll do our best to post updates and let you know how Kennedy's little llama space adapts throughout the stay home order. We'd love to see your nooks too, so feel free to tag us on Instagram and Facebook. Happy Quarantine!


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