As parents across Tennessee deal with the challenges of working from home while trying to educate their children, SCORE is bringing you a variety of perspectives on coping with school closures caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. For tips from a former educator, be sure to read Balancing Working And Learning At Home.

Having spent some time as a stay-at-home mom with each of my three children, I have to say that this COVID-19 induced return to that life while also managing the demands of a full-time job are not for the faint of heart. The three words that come to mind daily when my husband and I attempt to successfully navigate the new normal of managing what my daughter calls “The James Academy of Education” are balance, patience, and flexibility.

Each child is in a different place educationally, and their personalities are so different that the needs vary tremendously. Our third-grader is an avid reader and super-smart kid, but he would absolutely choose gaming all day with his friends instead of reading and keeping up with his studies. Our first-grader is a curious and natural learner who seizes the opportunity to educate herself when she’s not distracted by dolls, electronics, and art supplies. Our preschooler thrives best when his environment is structured, socially immersive, high-energy, and fun — all things that the James Academy has not yet achieved simultaneous success with.

To create a more organized and educationally engaging routine for our children, we’ve created a chart to provide guidance and reinforce to the kids that there are expectations of learning while also recognizing their desire to enjoy being at home. We’ve included time for fun, too — we aren’t monsters! We don’t want them bogged down with the daily turmoil of COVID-19 and the challenges that have been placed on us all.

Recognizing that the only way to survive this time is to be as flexible as possible, some days this chart goes by the wayside — especially when our pre-schooler decides his attitude toward the situation is “not today, mom!” It happens. Sometimes the academy fails. But even when we have bad days, remaining optimistic, flexible, and thoughtful in our parenting makes it all even out in the end.

As my family navigates this new normal, our overarching goal is to keep the kids safe, healthy, happy (most of the time, at least!), and encouraged with as much educational engagement as their non-educator parents can muster while keeping the bills paid. My advice for any parents attempting to do all of those things and more: stay encouraged. You are doing your best! At the end of the day, if you have survived this altered reality and the little people who count on you to manage it all seem to be happy, are safe, remain healthy, and are clean (to some extent) that’s a pretty significant win!  

The next phase of our survival effort is to think through what has worked so far, identify what hasn’t, and figure out what we can do to fully engage during this time together as a family. Although crisis parenting has several challenges, I don’t take for granted how fortunate we are to have each other and to be able to work remotely while keeping our family close during such a confusing and uncertain time.

Kim James is SCORE’s grant partnerships manager.