This post has been sponsored by Connections Academy in partnership with Forward Influence. All opinions in this post are proudly are my own.
For us, the quarantine first hit on March 13th. March 12th was my last time “in public” as my daughter was in a school play that somehow still performed! Other than that, I connected more with my family and with people online. Things have changed in my state, but we’re taking it slow. The kids will not have school in person again, and will not be attending their summer camps. I have learned so much in this time, like that there are schools that operate fully online! Through the experience of teaching my own kids, my perspective has changed. I’m so excited to share what I’ve learned about online school Connections Academy, some tips I’ve learned on social and emotional wellbeing in kids, and how I’ve seen that play out at home – earning silver linings to schooling at home.
5 Silver Linings to Schooling at Home Right Now:
First, the obstacles we had:
Scarlet seems to flourish wherever she is learning, but Des was having trouble with consistency and with focus. It was a problem through preschool, kindergarten, first grade, and now second grade, in that he suffers from low confidence and lack of direction in a big classroom setting at times. There was something about the timing of activities at school, and how some were more structured and some were considered “free choice.” Plus having plenty of classmates for the schools to contend with, and Des would fall behind. He’s such a bright and imaginative boy, and both happily and sadly, he reminds me a lot of myself and my own struggles – past and present. I’m thankful for the time we have together right now. It’s something we will surely never forget.
The Silver Linings!
1 – Although these times have been challenging for many families, including ours, it was important that my kids kept learning. While there have been a few hiccups in our distance learning experience, I’m excited to learn that there are also fully online public schools like Connections Academy. Because they’re built for the online environment, enrolled families have faced little to no disruptions in their schooling. Many families have chosen online school, because it offers a supportive and safe environment for students facing social and emotional challenges in the brick-and-mortar classroom. I’ve definitely seen the benefits to my own children’s mental health by schooling at home. To me, this is a huge silver lining!
2 – Online schooling gives more time together, without limits. I used to take my kids to the bus stop and I wouldn’t see them for at least seven hours, and that was on days without after school activities, which were more rare. Without the transportation there and back and an entire school day away, I missed some of the best parts of parenting. Scarlet lost her first tooth at school! I do love this time together right now. I feel like I always wanted it, but felt like it was only going away more, the older they get.
3 – Kids are learning more independent skills, and also more life skills. There have been many days, in which the kids do their online schooling and reading and chores, and then they help Cassidy in the garden or in the kitchen for hours on end. It’s amazing how good they’re getting at gardening and cooking. Such a bonus!
I’m loving the projects!
4 – Kids are less busy! They have more control of their time, are sleeping in more, are seeing us more, and are getting better at playing together, and apart. I don’t even think we were over-scheduled before this, but mine seem to flourish without having that rush-rush feeling all of the time. And without watching us have that rush-rush feeling.
5 – Kids are getting to slow down. It’s such a rarity these days, truly. I can barely recognize what our days look like now. Did you know that a recent Pew study found that approximately 70% of teens see anxiety and depression as a major problem among their peers? Meanwhile, have you heard about Connections Academy? More on that soon – but only 51% of their teenage students reported anxiety and depression to be a problem among their peers. Let’s talk more about that!
These schools are accredited, tuition-free, online K–12 public schools that give children the support they need to grow academically and develop socially and emotionally. This way they’re prepared to succeed now and as they progress through college, career, and life. Many families have chosen online schools because of social or emotional challenges at traditional schools and Connections Academy is dedicated to raising awareness on the importance of youth mental health. Connections Academy has even partnered with the National Resilience Institute to provide practical ways parents can instill resilience in their own children. Connections Academy offers students and families a safe place to grow and thrive – with schools across the country now enrolling. This is a place for all types of students.
Connections Academy experts offer these 6 tips on improving social and emotional wellbeing:
1 – Instill coping skills:
This is to help your kids develop skills for coping with stress, anxiety, anger, and other unpleasant emotions. It can be as simple as helping them learn and practice positive self-talk, helping them journal or write letters, cleaning, decluttering, and organizing with them, doing a puzzle with them, or cooking and baking. As you know, we’ve been doing a lot of cooking, baking, and gardening. We also just bought puzzles! By spending time teaching Des at home, I have noticed he is prone to negative self-talk and we are working on making it more positive. I’ve seen a lot of changes in two months.
2 – Start a gratitude practice:
Gratitude has the ability to positively impact the brain and wellbeing. Both of my kids have started “Pandemic Journals” and they write down up to five things they’re grateful for. This has shifted their thinking, to always finding silver linings of this time at home. I believe it sets the tone for the day, and it’s contagious!
3 – Practice the “circle of control” exercise:
These times are uncertain, so it helps to teach your kids what IS within their control, to help make them feel safe, centered, and less anxious. What do you do? Simply draw a circle and have your child write within the circle what they can control (their attitude, finding fun things to do, social distancing, masks, etc.) and then have them draw what’s outside their control outside the circle (how long this will last, what’s in stock at stores, what other people do, etc.). Then work with your child to create actionable ideas on what to do within their own circle of control.
4 – Initiate self-care practices:
Self-care is not limited to adults, so I love that we can learn from each other. My kids and I do light exercises every day – like walking the puppy in the woods. We also limit TV time, do timed reading, take bubble baths, and celebrate the wins of the day. This time has shown me that my kids are so good at the celebrating!
5 – Take mindfulness breaks with your kids:
You can set these breaks throughout the days to check in where your kids are mentally. Tell them to stop and stretch, and take cleansing breaths. You can even find mindfulness videos online.
6 – Facilitate safe socialization:
Time at school is about finding time to have fun and socialize, like at recess or lunch. Your kids may be longing to play with their friends again. We do enjoy Zoom, and FaceTime, and have weekly check-ins with family and friends there. My kids love to do virtual field trips to online farms, zoos, and aquariums. We also have found drive through farms locally. We find fun ways to help the community – like through the school lunch program – and also like to drop off cookies at friends’ porches. It’s safe and from a distance!