Living With Remote Learning

Q: As one of the many parents who are living with the new reality of their home being an ocean of tablets, I feel that I’ve become a principal of a new kind of school. I didn’t even know what the term “Zoom” meant, not so long ago, and I still am not so skilled in its use. It’s difficult enough to keep children basically in the house these days, but keeping them seated long enough to learn something can be very challenging. Taking breaks are a constant occurrence. When the teacher focuses on one child alone, my children basically daydream, and seem bored.

I can’t be a 24/7 entertainer, when they do get bored. Some of my children receive therapies with their tablets, only spending more time glued to a screen. Some don’t want to attend their therapy sessions and it becomes a whole issue with their therapists.

Then there’s the whole issue of the younger children who have very little school time. The older children end up resenting that the younger children have “Camp Mommy,” and they don’t. I’ll bake and do arts and crafts and sometimes work with the younger children, so that the older children can concentrate on their school studies. I can see how the older children are annoyed, but there’s little that I can do to change anything.

At least school time does add structure to my children’s day. One of my children prefers this to regular school, as he doesn’t have to deal with classmates teasing each other! I guess that there can be a silver lining in every cloud!

I know that there are no magic answers to this difficult time period. As many still remain in the hospital, a sense of fear still hovers over us, that just complicates everything else. I’m not a robot, and can feel such a deep sense of sadness. Any ideas of how to improve the home front?

A: Most accurately stated, whatever ideas mentioned are clearly “band-aids” in a more overwhelming predicament.

On a simple level, the more consistency and scheduling that you can attempt to achieve, the more sense of security and sanity will permeate one’s daily life. On the other hand, changing one’s daily expectations needs to be a given (in terms of expected daily accomplishments), as changes in our present life circumstance can be a daily occurrence. Changes throw off what we hope to accomplish, and just create feelings of disappointment and aggravation when we don’t live up to our own expectations. Kabbalas hayissurin is a great balancing act.

The desired goal in our present nisayon, in terms of our children, is to help keep things afloat, and moving. The natural response in hearing troubling reports is deep sadness and a feeling of frozenness. After experiencing this reality, one needs to somehow get back to daily functioning, and be a role model of an adult with appropriate coping mechanisms. There is no timetable of how long this should be, and again we all need to daven to have the strength to improve our ability to cope.

On a practical level, this time period is a good time to create positive reinforcement charts for children. Whatever is novel and different in our limited lives now can be most appreciated.

Sitting still for x period of time can equal this reward. Working with a less desirable therapy session can equal a desirable prize. Reward can be playing a board game with Tatty, or something related to quality time with a chosen family member.

The time-tested technique of problem-solving with your children, and trying to create solutions with them, is most helpful. “What can you do when you feel bored?” can be explored.

Can you do a small jigsaw puzzle while waiting? Create a greeting card for Bubby?

In terms of missing out on “Camp Mommy,” a parent needs to be creative in finding ways for older siblings to appreciate special privileges, due to their longer school hours. The same issue occurs when a boy starts to attend yeshivah on Sundays, and is jealous of sisters and younger brothers being home. The desirable commodity will be the reward.

Hatzlachah rabbah!