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Back-to-School Blues 1: How to Set Up Your “Homeschool” (for Success)

written by Liza Bennigson, Associate Director of Marketing and Communications

Last year, on the first day of school, I could practically hear George Michael’s “Freedom” playing in my head; a welcome soundtrack as I bounded up the hill to a friend’s house for celebratory mimosas.

This year, after a summer of no camps, trips to grandma’s or childcare, Pink’s “Leave Me Alone” feels more apropos. I adore my kids with every ounce of my being but this togetherness is getting out of hand.

The worst part? There is no end in sight. Distance learning started this week, with our county on the watchlist and no plans to reopen campus. We’re bracing for an entire year of schooling from home, expecting the worst while secretly harboring a sliver of hope for something better. I’m working full-time out of a closet and my patience is stretched as thin as our internet during dueling Zoom calls. Perhaps the worst part of all is that my kids are sad and miss their friends and are becoming less and less engaged with a life lived online. (I don’t blame them).

One of the perks of working at Children’s Health Council is having over 150 trusted clinical experts and educators as colleagues. What do I do when faced with a personal dilemma in which I’m quite certain I’m not alone? Send an “All Staff” email, of course.

“As we embark upon another long slog of trying to play parent and professional and tutor and IT coordinator and housekeeper and chef and…,” I begin, “how do we keep our heads above water and maybe even bring a little joy to our journeys?” “Asking for a friend,” I joke.

My Outlook inbox immediately starts pinging. I received so much awesome advice that I am able to organize it by theme, with concrete action steps to help ease this bizarre “back-to-school” transition for the whole family.

How to set up your “homeschool” (for success)

Our first theme starts at the very beginning: How to set up your “homeschool” (for success). You’ll notice “homeschool” is in quotes, because the word typically conjures an educational experience that is intentional, organized and thoughtful. The version that many parents find themselves in today, on the other hand, feels haphazard, chaotic and frenzied.

But our CHC experts are here to help! Today’s tips come from Ann Lyke, MEd, CHC Educational Specialist and Valerie Stephens, Sand Hill School Reading and Literature Teacher.

“Homeschool” Tips

  • Create a “work zone” away from distractions like TV and social media. It might help to have a visual reminder that school is in session (e.g., a bright tablecloth or prop on the makeshift dining table desk; a favorite hat becomes a “thinking cap” as a signal that work is happening.
  • Set boundaries. Yes, have fun and laugh but also encourage kids to stay focused. Remember that you are setting the example that learning needs to take priority at certain times of the day—try not to chat on the phone with friends or watch TV while school is in session.
  • Have kids get out of PJs and into school clothes, and sit upright at a designated workspace rather than slouched in bed or on the floor.
  • Create a schedule for the week and set expectations early in the school year.
  • Participate in school program activities transitioning students back to remote learning, school meetings to stay informed, and virtual events to stay involved. Don’t be too shy to ask for support. These are your people.
  • Take breaks.  Everyone’s brains need time to decompress, preferably with something that isn’t screen- related. Get outside and get bodies moving for at least one hour per day.
  • Be patient with this new learning environment, with yourself and with your kids.

Also, this is hard. It’s OK to have good days and bad days. But be alert to signs of depression or anxiety in yourself or your child and seek help as needed. You are not alone! (Literally. Ever.)


If you would like to schedule an evaluation or get advice about your child’s challenges, call or email a CHC Care Manager at 650.688.3625 or careteam@chconline.org. CHC teletherapy services are available now.

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