Musings on “Back” to School

Musings on “Back” to School

By Stephanie on August 16, 2020 in WorkLife Balance

As we sit here in WNY in mid-August, thoughts turn to back to school. Other parts of the country are ahead of us for elementary through high school, but we are all pretty much on the same back to college schedule. And as I read the paper and scrolled through social media, I saw so many useful articles and comments that I thought I would aggregate them here – for family, friends, students and work colleagues.

Parents of School Age Kids

Parent magazine published an article “15 Virtual After-School Programs to Keep Kids Engaged When the Learning Day is Done. My sister Lisa has an elementary and a late middle-schooler so I’ve been watching for helpful tips for her. She is already back at school as a HS school nurse. Her kids are also back to school but are 100% remote, with Dad working from home with mega work-commitments.

Here’s two ideas from this article that stuck out as useful for those in her circumstances:

  1. Girl Scouts At Home – the Girl Scouts ran successful virtual summer camp programs and while it isn’t clear that it will continue to have as robust offering for the Fall, it does look like you can register and see recorded events – like this 30 minute one for Grades 2-5 on finding your STEM SparkIt might be enough to fill an “after school” time block and the on-demand nature of it might allow working parents to make a list of some good ones and turn them on to get through a key meeting while they are working from home. 

The home “pandemic learning pod” thing is filled with so much emotion – in our powerlessness to come up with anything better we have moved to a pretty strong judging of those that find that they need to do this and those that feel this drives inequity.  Which of course it does and one way to reduce the inequity is to do what you feel you need to do for you and your child, but add a dose of equity to it – maybe inviting another child from a family that couldn’t afford this kind of support to join.  Along the lines of a pandemic pod, the Parenting article included a reference to this option:

  • Huntington Study Hall – The Huntington Study Hall comes in two forms:  in person (come to a site and do your virtual learning in your school system on your equipment under the supervision of a Huntington tutor) and online (same thing but online). 

Locally, EduKids is offering school age care at its centers around WNY

These options are incremental costs for working parents who usually rely on school to cover a portion of working hours, so the virtual assistance model may be one to watch and see what else pops up.  I am envisioning something like the LogMeIn functionality that helpdesks sometimes use – with a tech savvy agent supporting kids that are old enough to handle the learning in a remote world, but might be overwhelmed by the “OK small people, click upload to submit that assignment and we’ll move on to our next lesson.”  That is the kind of help my sister needs – remote kid friendly tech support for clicking and staying on task in a ratio better than the kid’s classroom 25:1 ratios.  It’s really too bad that our public school system can’t figure out a way to add these kinds of resources to all kids.

Parents of High Schoolers

I didn’t bump into anything particularly helpful for HS students yet this week.  But I’ll keep looking since I have a HS junior and need to figure out something better than spring where we just let everything go wild.

Parents of College Age Young Adults

For college age kids, I found two good articles, both in the Sunday New York Times “At Home” section.  One for college kids staying home. And one for college kids going away. 

The Roommate Down the Hall (college kids living at home) We experienced some of this when both our young adults came home in Spring.  As the article says, some of the friction came from having to “watch the sausage being made.”  I had to remind myself that this wasn’t normal and I was seeing stuff that would be out of sight out of mind otherwise.  This article  had some good tips for that in retrospect so I thought it would be helpful if you are heading into fall semester, particularly first time fall semester, with a kid bunking at home. 

Sending a Kid Off to the Dorms or an Off-Campus Apartment This one really resonated with me since we drive our #3 to freshman year at Stony Brook this week.  The focus was on Should They Stay or Should They Go – the parental worries as we drop them off away from home – where they get the “away” experience that is part of the college rite of passage for many, but with so much that is different.  The big take away here for me was the don’t head out to pick her up if she comes down with it while at school.  The college health offices should be pretty well equipped to deal with it – perhaps better than me and without exposing us here at home too.  Reminded me of the call I got from kid #1’s sleepaway camp when he had an anaphylactic reaction to horses and was taken to the emergency room in an ambulance – he begged me not to come get him, he was fine, he said.   

Another thought I had, although not directly from the article, was that this is her freshman away experience – it won’t be mine or her older siblings – but it will be hers and the growth will happen.  She is lucky, her suitemates are taking a lot of the same classes on the same schedule – so I suggested that maybe they take them remote, synchronously together.  Taking CHEM that way might be better than sitting in Knox 104 with 300 of my closest friends without any significant interaction – if they take it together, they can pause it and goof around without disrupting class.  That sounds better than my PSY101 in Knox at 8am on MWF all those years ago.

Caregivers of Others

My parents are caring for me 104 year-old grandmother at home.  It’s stressful in the best of times as she is 90+% still there mentally but legally blind and not fully mobile and frail (she’s broken her hip twice but it was a broken ankle picking up a cookie that did her in a few years ago). 

I didn’t find anything specific for them this week, but like the high-schoolers, I’ll keep looking.

Caring for Ourselves.

I did find two good resources for ourselves this week – one physical and one mental wellbeing. 

Physical Another NY Times article Sneak in Some Exercise had a few tips I might try – calf raises at the sink, rolling your feet while brushing your teeth (don’t know if that would be like patting your head and rubbing your belly in terms of coordination – so maybe it is a brain exercise too).  The big takeaway though is that maybe Dave and I should just get our act in gear and get up 15 min earlier every day and do something, anything together.  Maybe there are some good tips in there that can get you unstuck.

Mental This article Five Minute Coronavirus Stress Resets (again from the NYT – I’ll try to mix it up more next time and if you aren’t a subscriber and run out of free articles let me know).    Hyperventilating and Box Breathing (a version of it) are in here.  But so is this idea of dunking your face in a bowl of ice water for 15-30 seconds to trigger the dive reflex to reset your breathing and get blood flowing to your brain was a new one. 

I also found (probably read about in the NYT too) the COVID Coach app by the VA that looks really good.   Here is what the VA says about it “The COVID Coach app was created for everyone, including Veterans and Service members, to support self-care and overall mental health during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Features include: Education about coping during the pandemic; Tools for self-care and to improve emotional well-being; Trackers to check your mood and measure your growth toward personal goals; Graphs to visualize progress over time.”   I put it on my home page as an app I am “allowed” to put time in with. 

Comments Let me know if you find something that would be helpful to others or if there is something you need help with. 

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