The Mantra for Parent-Teachers: We’re Doing the Best We Can

… and some days are better than others

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but it’s OK not to focus on academics right now. Actually, I do know who needs to hear it, and it’s all parents, at this time exactly. 

With confirmation that Wisconsin schools will not be reconvening this school year, you may, like me, have felt completely overwhelmed by the long-term challenge of balancing work, home schooling and the emotional stability of everyone at home.

Photo by Chelsea Fischer

My boys, in K5 and second grade, attend a public school in Wauwatosa. Their teachers have been engaged and helpful, their repeated reminders to “do what we can” releasing us from the burden of living up to academic expectations. At the same time, they provide daily lesson plans, virtual book club and class lunches that help keep my kiddos connected and busy. Their effort and care (while also parent-teaching their own kids at home!) does not go unappreciated.

Still… I struggle. I would hardly describe my boys as independent learners, at least not when I am around. This isn’t a classroom — this is home where they are surrounded by their toys, the TV, a tablet full of games. It isn’t a classmate sitting next to them, it’s their annoying sibling who knows just what to say to elicit that ear-piercing scream that runs a chill down my spine.

In the first week we tried a scheduled approach, each morning we broke out the day’s tasks on a large sheet of paper taped to the wall. It worked well at first, but it required a lot of redirection and often got off-track.

Photo by Chelsea Fischer

The second week we started using an agile workflow and sticky notes based on this post. My kids loved it. They had control over what they were working on. The Post-its helped them visualize their work for the day. Bonus! For every three school tasks they completed, we rewarded them with a bit of fun time. Once all tasks — school and chores — are complete, they can do whatever they want. Overall, this method has been successful, except when it’s not. And that’s becoming more frequent. Some days, my youngest ensures all Post-its are knocked to the ground, no matter how many times I put them back up.

As the weeks of home schooling extend, they’ve run the fun dry out of websites like and — it’s just work now. So, I sit here looking out at the six weeks of school ahead that get us to summer break, and I want to make a goal that seems attainable. My boys are in a Montessori school, which appealed to me because of the emphasis on teaching our children to love learning. How can I accomplish that at home?

Photo by Chelsea Fischer

My oldest is gobbling up the Wings of Fire series, reading the fantasy novels as fast as we can bring them home, but at this moment he detests writing. I’m not going to fight it. Read away, little monster. My youngest was crying over his money lesson but spent over an hour counting out his own change jar on the floor. Regular Minecraft play sessions are augmented with FaceTime video chats, keeping them connected to their friends and teaching them important social interaction skills. (Apparently, it’s a big bummer if your friend knocks you from operator to visitor, whatever that means, when you don’t follow the rules of their Minecraft world.) They both learned to ride bikes and are taking a more involved role in caring for our pets. Maybe these things aren’t academics, but it is learning, and that’s what I will focus on.