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Home Office

The new normal began March 16. Maryland’s public schools were closed, and many companies, as well as state offices, sent their workers home to telecommute.

For the average parent, his or her office space may be the dining-room table, real estate that has to be shared with a third-grader working on math or a seventh-grader creating a PowerPoint.

It’s the new normal in a state of emergency declared to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“Everyone is in the same boat, and it’s going to take some trial and error,” says Amy McGinn, a lecturer on educational technology at Loyola University Maryland and a mother two young girls.

Schedules are a must
First, remember that kids are used to schedules, and they are growing up in a world that includes online learning. But they also have shorter attention spans than we do. Even high schoolers can struggle with executive function or knowing what to do when.

These days at home need structure, and that needs to come from the adults, McGinn says. Each day should have time for children and adults to do independent work. Make sure they are set up so that when adults are most busy, kids are doing their schoolwork.

Set a timer for 25 minutes of quiet work, McGinn says. Use an online timer or even your stove or microwave so children can see how much time they have left.

Lower the expectations
Kids will come home with weeks of lessons for this unprecedented school closing, McGinn says, and these lessons may not happen perfectly.”

Remember that our own work may not happen in the 9-to-5. Answer emails before the kids get up and work after they go to bed, she says. “We have to take the time we can find to get things done,” she adds.

Go low tech
Make time for non-tech activities. “Be scientists outside,” McGinn says.

And do the thing they can’t do at school, such as take a 10-minute walk between science and math.

Get help
From your kids, that is. Young children love to be helpers and can staple, file or even bring laundry upstairs. “Take advantage of their energy and excitement,” McGinn says.

She adds that working side by side in these weeks allows kids to see what adults get to do during their workday. And it could give us opportunities we haven’t thought about. McGinn is looking forward to having lunch with her kids every day.

Get bored
“We are so scheduled with our kids these days,” McGinn says. It’s OK for them to be bored for a short period of time and to be challenged to come up with an activity to do on their own.

“That would give them a little bit of ownership and responsibility. And that’s growth and learning,” she says.

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