Tips for At-Home Moms Doing At-Home Learning

May 14, 2020 by Tracey Hecht
Tracey Hecht, the author of The Nocturnals, is holding up two heads of artichokes in her kitchen.

First, let me be clear—I am a terrible tutor, a lifelong resenter of housework, a decent but wildly disinterested cook, and yet I, like many of you, am in week eight of quarantine. But I am surviving! Not thriving, but surviving. Here are my tips:

1. The rating scale has changed. Ladies, in quarantine, any day that hits above a 5 counts as a 10. And really a 3 or 4 is what we should consider a strong showing. Having a 2.5 Tuesday? Well done. Glass of wine for you!

2. You're not supposed to be a great teacher. If you are, snaps to you mom. If you're not, tell your child that teaching isn’t your strong suit and call a grandparent, uncle, or aunt. Set up a regular time for your child to Zoom with them for help. It's nice for your kids, nice for your family members, and it's amazing for you. Well done—another glass of wine for you!

3. Ease up on the rules. In normal times, we get to govern the bookends of the day. Teachers and schools manage the hours in between. It's hard being the toothbrushing police, the put-your-clothes-in-the-hamper police, the handwriting-and-arithmetic police, the chew-with-your-mouth-closed police, the are-you-watching-YouTube-again police. Give yourself a few times a day to ignore what you see. You don't see it when they're at school, so allow yourself to avert your eyes in quarantine at times too. 

4. Finish homework before dinner. In regular life, homework often comes after dinner, but in our quarantine world, it's important to make some distinctions in your day. Schedule your day so that once dinner is consumed and dishes are done, you are all free to relax.  

5. Look at old photos! Go places, remember good times, harken back to the days before. History is always a wonderful teacher and guide. Use your own personal history to give your family a little reminder that things were good before and that they will be good again. 

6. Read aloud. If your child has to read for school, do it with them. You read a page and have them read a page. Or just go ahead and read more than they do. It's ok if you do their reading with them for a few months—they will progress! Stories allow us to escape, and reading aloud is a truly amazing alternative to conversation and screen entertainment. It will become everyone's favorite time of the day. 

7. Create events to look forward to. My friend told me that her family has themed dinners—black tie, summer camp (hot dogs and s’mores over the stove), and so on. In our house, we love movie trilogy weekends. Pick things that are easy and fun and that you and your family will look forward to.

8. Exercise. It doesn't matter what it is, or that you might have to force yourself to do it, but exercise, all of you—the whole family needs to get in on it. Endorphins are your allies, even if you only exercise a few times a week. 

9. Smile. Paste that baby on, even if it's fake. For thirty seconds a day, alone or when you're with someone else, it doesn't matter, just smile. Smiling has an effect like that of endorphins—it alters your psychological makeup. A thirty-second smile will help.

10.  Be Gentle. Reach into the deepest part of yourself and imagine that no matter how bad this is for you, it's worse for your kids. Kids know how to escape from normal life. They go to school and play with their friends and allow themselves to forget pressures and pains. In our quarantine world, they don't have that escape, and it's a terrible thing. Love them and respect them for the strength they are demonstrating. They need it. 

Keep in mind that most of my advice focuses on maintaining mental wellness. This might not be your kids' best semester at school; it might not be your best semester either. That's ok. It's not about As and 10s—we're living in a pass/fail world, and you're getting through it. Well done. A glass of wine for you!