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Mom Talk: Surviving Virtual Learning

At the beginning of March, when businesses closed their doors and asked employees to work from home, a group sprung up at the George W. Bush Institute called Mom Talk. It’s a gathering of friends, some former educators, sharing ideas, discussing stress points, and— most importantly— providing encouragement.

August 19, 2020 //   5 minute read

At the beginning of March, when businesses closed their doors and asked employees to work from home, a group sprung up at the George W. Bush Institute called Mom Talk. It’s a gathering of friends, some former educators, sharing ideas, discussing stress points, and— most importantly— providing encouragement.

Mom Talk helped us survive those first few months of social distancing.

Tip: If you aren’t able to close the door to your home office, check out the Calm app. It has great music that can help you focus and block out background noise. Plus, meditation seems like a good strategy for 2020.

In August, our conversation shifted from summer activities to managing virtual learning. For some in this group, the first day of school has come and gone. For others, the day is looming. So we did what we have been doing for months: We all turned to Mom Talk.

To help navigate the many Zoom meetings children have, some of the moms are turning their kitchen tables into desks for both their kids and themselves.

Tip: To mitigate distractions, set up a trifold with fun stickers, encouraging words, and the class schedule. Make sure to teach your child how to mute their microphone. You don’t want to be the parent interrupting a Zoom class.

Our children range in age from newborn to middle school. Some of the guidance is serious, while -- typical for Mom Talk— some of the advice gave us all a good chuckle.

Tip: When your kindergartner asks for a midmorning “latte,” use a tablespoon of coffee and a bunch of steamed milk.

Some of the moms shared the questions they were asking their children’s teachers before school officially kicked off. Others told us what they wished they had asked.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You aren’t bothering the teachers if you do it in a polite way. And ask very specific questions. For example, “what exactly is the schedule for my child?” is fine. One mom realized the schedule was never emailed, making the first day of school a bit of a scramble.

Direct questions will set you and your child up for success.

We are fortunate to have the technology needed for virtual learning. We recognize that many parents don’t have the same access to tech that we do. It’s important to communicate with your school and see what resources they have available to you. Programs like Wide Open School may also be useful.

Tip: Test all the technology in an almost obsessive way to make sure that when there are issues, it’s not on your end. When something does go wrong, stay calm. If you are calm in front of your children, they will remain calm. And don’t be afraid to ask questions from other parents or in the Facebook group your school may have.

We have many Type A personalities in the group, and making backup plans can almost be therapeutic for us. Especially in an environment where we rely heavily on tech.

Tip: Have a Plan A through D. You’ll probably need them the first few weeks of school. But don’t be afraid to deviate from your plans.

The virtual-learning environment is allowing us to see our children interact with others. We are watching and learning how they communicate with their friends and teachers.

One kindergartner was too shy on the first day of school to participate. Her mom shared, “It was good for me to see how she interacts so that I can think of ways to better support her.”

Lunch and recess have also provided us with some challenges. How do we juggle their free time with our meetings?

Tip: Pack lunchboxes and snacks the night before. One set for you and one for your child. That way, you won’t have to worry about what to feed your child during the day.

One of our moms has been “quaranteaming” with a few neighbors. Together, they have created “extracurricular” activities for the children, and they have shared responsibilities. The effort has helped address kids’ lack of social interaction.

Tip: Set up a Thursday game night, a Tuesday get-out-and-move night, and a Sunday science day even if you don’t have a quaranteam. Fun schedules like these help kids learn and grow.

We are all learning as we go and facing new struggles— just like every other parent out there. But it’s the sense of community that keeps us moving forward. Mom Talk is good for the soul.