The Unique Challenges of Solo Parenting Through a COVID-19 School Year
Planning for the 2020-21 school year is a new challenge for all of us. Even Solo Moms who have been homeschooling for years may not have the same social and field trip options available in pre-Covid times. Many of us are coping with economic and psychological hardships in addition to health concerns for ourselves and our loved ones. We Solo Moms have each made our way through to today by finding our own blend of tips, tricks and silver linings along the way. And now it’s time to apply our ingenuity to our children’s education. However you choose to navigate the coming months and the entire school year, know we are right there with you - all of us doing our Solo Mom best. Here are some strategies and approaches from our Solo Mom community. Take them as inspiration, solidarity or a starting point to your own unique path. And as always, please share your secrets of success in the comments section below.
Virtual schooling. Many schools throughout the U.S. have moved their Fall instruction online for the time-being. This will be similar to what many students and families experienced during the beginning of school closures in spring 2020 - in all the myriad variations that played out across classrooms, schools and school districts across the nation. Some ideas for managing complicated schedules as a Solo Mom may include any combination of:
• childcare swapping with another family or cooperative of families,
• use of family leave or paid time off if available (even spread out in chunks of one or two hours per day),
• a nontraditional work schedule by moving some work hours to before the kids wake or after they go to bed at night.
These measures can turn a typical solid 8 hour daytime shift into just 3 hours during the daytime school hours - during which your child may be occupied by Zoom calls and other distance learning activities.
Pod-schooling. There are many families working to create cooperative childcare or schooling “pods” or “bubbles” in groups with a few other families to homeschool or facilitate participation in virtual learning in their shared school. People are creating pods with familiar classmates, the families of their kid’s friends, family network, or new friends found through one of the many “pandemic pod” groups online. These groups range from completely co-op style efforts led by parents to groups who create micro-schools and hire an outside adult to teach and lead.
Homeschooling. Some of us might feel that we were thrown into homeschooling last spring - but in reality it was much closer to “crisis schooling” rather than a conscious decision to homeschool. Homeschooling is different from participating in your public or private school’s virtual schooling offerings because you set your own schedule, choose your own curriculum and customize to your own particular child’s learning style. It’s taking complete responsibility for your child’s schooling. Some communities have homeschooling networking groups, park playdates and even co-ops, although some of these options may have changed in keeping with local health and safety guidance and regulations around the pandemic. To officially homeschool, you may need to register with your local government as a private homeschool, however, in some areas there may be options for joining a homeschool charter which can provide registration plus some guidance and funding for your homeschooling efforts. Solo Moms who homeschool and also work full time have made this work through combinations of the ideas listed in under “Virtual Schooling” as well as choosing their own alternative school schedule such as, schooling outside typical school hours such as evenings and weekends - since learning does not need to only happen between 9 and 5pm Monday through Friday. Many homeschooling Solo Moms have crafted their careers and work parameters around making homeschool a priority. A general consensus, and possibly startling concept, among homeschoolers is their children need a maximum of 1.5-2 hours of direct instruction to get through a typical school curriculum.
Forest schooling. Another option is joining a forest school or other all-outdoor program. Forest Schools are held in local outdoor spaces and typically encourage hands-on, child-led learning where “play, exploration and supported risk taking" are encouraged and the meeting place - whether it be the woods, beach, farm, etc - is considered the classroom and learning materials. These groups are typically in a ratio of one adult per six children and were gaining popularity pre-Covid and now are popping up at a much faster rate due to open air spaces being lower risk environments. A similar option that may be available to you is a local after school program or camp if they are open - and these are likely to be held outdoors. Being outside is fitting, after-all - mother nature is a Solo Mom! ;)
Essential worker childcare. Some cities and school districts offer childcare for essential workers who are not able to work virtually and must continue to work outside the home. These programs follow strict public health and safety guidelines and are a huge asset to those of us who need our children to be in a safe place while we work.
Creating an in-home village. Many Solo Moms are moving in with family (nearby or across state or international lines) or finding co-housing options with other families and Solo Moms. If your work is now all virtual - you might not currently be so tied to your location and have the freedom to partner up with people past the usual geographical barriers.
Lifestyle changes. Some more out-of-the box ideas that might be available to some are: taking a sabbatical, making a career change, starting your own forest school or taking your child to work with you. We are being forced to be creative and welcome your ideas!
Regardless of the path you choose, we know that it’s not easy and you are doing the best for your family. In this unique historical moment, it’s not helpful to judge or compare ourselves to others. Solo Moms are uniquely capable of making the most out of our abilities and we look forward to hearing what paths you choose for your family!
Beck List is an environmental scientist and writer living with her five-year-old future comedian in California. She has lived through plenty of her own trials and tribulations—and you can read more tips on her blog, BeckList.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.