Submitted by Joyce Wilson, TeacherSpark.org
Planning a family vacation can feel daunting during "normal" times, so planning a safe family vacation during a pandemic may seem like an overwheming task for some working parents. The thing is, school breaks can seem overwhelming too if you're feeling stir-crazy, so here are some ideas that can help you plan with prudence and increase your odds of haveing a great time.
How Can You Travel Safely?
While COVID-19 cases waned early in the summer in the United States, they’re now back up now across the country. If you want to vacation safely, you’ll want to consider a few extra things when planning a trip.
One piece of good news is that it’s still possible to stay at a hotel, and hotels are vastly less risky if you’re vaccinated. Risks may vary by location, so be sure to check with hotels ahead of time to make sure they are taking reasonable precautions to protect you from the coronavirus; you may want to ask about their cleaning procedures and mask policies for their staff members.
Another thing to consider is your the vaccination status of fellow travelers. If you're traveling with a group, keep in mind that young children are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. The good news is that if they do get COVID-19, they are less likely to get sick than adults. The bad news is that when they do catch COVID-19, they're pretty good at infecting unvaccinated adults.
RV traveling can be fun for the whole family, while reducing interactions with non-family members. Between April and June of 2020, surveys say RV rentals went up tenfold as people searched for a way to vacation without exposing themselves to too much risk. If you’ve never driven an RV, it's easy to find safety tips online.
Vacationing at Home
Given that risks associated with travel are increased right now no matter how you go about it, one way to reduce risks is to vacation from home. Most people are pleasantly surprised when they take the time to deliberately explore things they take for granted most days.
A movie night at home with the family isn't a new idea, but there are lots of ways to turn a movie at home into a lifetime memory. Consider printing tickets and creating a snack counter. You could even include a budgeting lesson by pricing the snacks, giving each child a snack allowance, and then forcing them to make some tough choices. Or maybe they'll work together to purchase a variety of items to share.
Another idea would be to plan a camping trip in your own backyard. If you’re not used to camping, there are guides you can follow.
If you’re short on ideas for fun things you can do with your kids at home, the Internet offers plenty more ideas and some people have raved about "staycations" that have included putt-putt golf, star gazing, a trip to a local bead store, getting take-out from an unusual restaurant, taking bike rides, picnicing, hiking, painting, ... well you get the idea :) And many activities that you might assume can only be done by traveling, can also be done virtually, such as going on a live African safari.
How Can You Stay Comfortable With Your Kids At Home All Day?
While staying cooped up with your kids might seem inherently stressful, there are ways to make it work. Involving your kids in housework can keep the whole family busy while also making it easier to keep the house neat. If you can’t imagine how you can get your kids to join you on chores, slowly introduce them to cleaning in ways that won’t discourage them, and think about rewarding them with a treat after the project has been successfully completed.
The bottom line is that while the pandemic may prevent you from going on traditional trips to crowded places, it doesn’t mean you can’t vacation at all. With a little creativity, you can stay safe and still have a great time with your family.
Editors note: Our family staycationed one year after my husband had been laid off and we were living off a single income for the first time. We'd taken many nice trips in the past and had started a practice of ranking our vactions each time we returned home from one. Our kids, 12 and 7 at the time, rated the staycation as the second best trip they'd ever taken; they only ranked our trip to Hawaii as higher. I, on the other hand, was feeling sorry for myself and muttered, "The way things are going we'll probably spend a week playing board games in the basement for next year's vacation." Our seven year old son instantly replied, "That would be a blast!" In that moment I learned that our kids valued time with us having fun and they didn't care where it happened.
Many parents are expressing concern about their kids' educations during the pandemic. They fear their kids are falling behind and not learning as much as they need to. They fear they'll never "catch up". Is this fear reasonable? Or is Is it possible that the pandemic is providing unique opportunities for kids to learn lessons that are more important than those they learn in the classroom?
On a recent episode of the 1A radio show, "The Pandemic is the Worst. What Can We Do to Keep Coping?", Shankar Vedantam, commented (at 25:45 min), "Many parents and many educators make the mistake of assuming that education is mostly about what you learn in school ... There has been a lot of research that shows that ... softer skills are in many ways a better predictor of how people will do over the long term than their cognitive learning, than the stuff that they actually learn in classrooms." Shankar goes on to explain how the pandemic is providing great opportunities for parents to help their kids develop some very valuable soft skills.
Rather than worrying about what our kids aren't learning right now, maybe we should focus on the unique educational opportunities that are all around us. Thanks to Shankar Vedantam for reminding us that the learning never ends when we recognize the lessons. He also provides examples of some of the unique lessons that exist because of the pandemic.
Submitted by Couch-Based Biz
If you’re a parent working from home, you might be wondering how to best support your children with remote learning. Figuring out how to structure your days can be complicated, and you may be worried that in order to properly manage your time and get everything done, you’ll have to splurge on expensive services or equipment. Couch-Based Biz understands what you’re going through, and we’ve got some tips on how to handle your workload, help your children with their schoolwork, and do it all without stretching your budget.
Start With Home Safety
While you’re working, you may not be able to keep an eye on your children at all times. Therefore, it’s important to create a safe environment for them in your home. You can make your home safer without spending a dime! Safewise recommends putting away any toys lying around so that no one trips, storing any sharp kitchen objects in secure places, and explaining to your child that they should not answer the door unless you’re in the room.
Plan Ahead for the Week
Use the weekend to prepare for the week ahead. Meal prepping is a great way to save time and money - when you already have meals ready in the fridge, you won’t end up spending on takeout during the week. Delish recommends buying ingredients in bulk and utilizing a slow cooker to make family-size meal portions.
On Sunday, help your children with any homework they haven’t completed. And if your children have assignments they’ve been struggling with, connect with their teacher to see if they can help. It’s best to take care of this before Monday morning!
You’ll have to put in extra effort to stay productive while working from home while your children learn remotely. Work-from-Home Depot recommends establishing a morning routine for your family and blocking off time for yourself in the evening to get some extra work done. It’s also important to set workday boundaries with your kids - let them know when you’ll be busy in your home office and when you’ll be available to lend a hand.
Virtual tools to help you stay on task can be very helpful, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money on pricey software. You can often download free time tracking apps, project management platforms, and even website blockers.
Your child needs a reliable laptop for writing papers, doing research, and tuning in for their virtual lessons. A laptop can be an expensive device, but you can easily find discounts if you shop online. Better yet, wait for seasonal savings on Black Friday or Cyber Monday to get a great deal on a new laptop if you need one.
Invest in Technology
Your child’s teacher may choose to “gamify” learning to help students stay engaged. Perhaps your younger children will participate in an online coding camp, or your teenager will need a virtual reality headset for interactive lessons.
If you need to purchase special devices for these lessons, stick to online shopping, or wait for a sale. Furthermore, you may need to upgrade your Internet connection to something more robust. Talk to your provider to negotiate for a great deal!
Go for Easy
To help keep stress levels at a minimum, look for affordable ways to make life easier when you can. Turn to online grocery delivery to eliminate shopping, dress for comfort (particularly if you’re caring for an infant amidst all of this!), or even hire a reasonably-priced cleaning service. Every little bit can go a long way toward helping you limit stress and anxiety.
The switch to remote work and virtual education has challenged many families. But it’s not too late to get back on track and make this arrangement work for you. These tips will help you perform well at your own job, make sure your child benefits from online learning, and save money while you get it all done.
Submitted by Emily Wright
As time passes during this pandemic, I've had a valuable realization; my six year old son is capable of taking on a lot more responsibility than I've encouraged in the past. And when he does things for himself he feels great about. It builds his self-esteem.
Now that I'm working from home and in the basement, he's pattering around upstairs ... sometimes by himself. He's taught me that he can make his own lunch, get his own snacks, and get dressed all by himself. And he's proud when he completes these tasks.