For the last two months, I’ve been wearing two hats: Business owner and part-time teacher to a four-year-old. I’ve always loved being Nyla’s mom, but keeping her engaged all day every day while running my own business has been a huge challenge. On top of that, I’m trying to make sure she’s learning the things that would normally be covered in preschool. And, of course, we’re trying to explain the COVID-19 pandemic — including things like why we lived with her grandparents for a month — in an age-appropriate way.
Parents everywhere are navigating this unprecedented set of challenges. If you’re a parent and no one has told you today that you’re doing a great job, let me: You’re doing a great job!
I’ve been running my business from home for more than five years, and I’ve found that a daily schedule helps immensely when it comes to structuring my day. Teachers and childcare professionals also recommended that we create routines for our kids during this time. So, now, Nyla and I share a routine during the week.
Nyla’s Daily Schedule
9 am: Circle time and play time. Nyla’s preschool is practicing distance learning, so her teacher and classmates meet for morning circle time each morning on Zoom. It’s a great way for Nyla to connect with her teacher and friends, and she absolutely loves it.
Once a week, Nyla has an additional one-on-one session with her teacher. The teacher checks in on Nyla’s development, looking for certain indicators and milestones, and gives me a list of things for us to work on in the coming week.
After circle time, Nyla gets to decide what we do. She loves crafts and coloring, so I find most of her play activities on Instagram.
10 am: Snack time and morning yoga. After some play time, we break for a quick healthy snack. Then it’s time for morning yoga. Nyla loves Cosmic Kids Yoga, which is free on YouTube. The 30-minute sessions give me a chance to go through my emails and respond to anything urgent.
11 am: Reading and writing. Our family is big on books, and with Nyla home, I’ve been ordering books on a weekly basis. Nyla and I read together for a little while and then work on her writing. She learned her name, numbers and a few other words earlier this year at school, so we focus on practicing one of those every day.
Noon: Lunch time. I’ve enlisted Nyla’s help in the kitchen this spring. She finds it fun, and although it’s not necessarily faster than me cooking on my own, I can get our meal prep done without finding something separate for her to do.
1 pm: Nap time. I don’t know about you, but nap time was really, really hard at the beginning of our time at home. Nyla was so excited about being home all the time that she flat-out refused to nap. Establishing this routine — nap time is something we do every day after lunch — helped a lot.
I use this time to have client meetings and get some work done.
Like all parents this spring, I’ve had meetings interrupted by Nyla’s questions. I hope other parents are finding their clients and coworkers as generous and understanding as mine have been!
3 pm: Snack time and play time. I’m an Indian mom, which means I’m constantly worried that my daughter is hungry or thirsty (as you can probably tell by all the snack times!). I keep her afternoon snack out in the family room where she plays, so if she’s not hungry right when she wakes up, she can eat it whenever she wants.
In the afternoon, sometimes Nyla colors or does another craft. She also loves Play-Doh.
4 pm: Outside play or a nature walk. I’m grateful to live in Southern California, where the weather is more or less always nice. I’m also grateful to have a backyard. Nyla can release as much energy as she wants outdoors, and I’ve found that usually makes our days better.
Sometimes, I put together a nature scavenger hunt, where I draw pictures of things for her to find in our yard. This is typically a simple list — a tree, three sticks, two birds, et cetera — which builds a learning element into our outdoor time.
5 pm: Math and play time. I’m usually pretty exhausted by 5 pm, so there are plenty of days when we skip math and go straight to play. If we both have enough energy left for math, however, we count out objects in the house and then do simple addition problems that Nyla writes down in her notebook.
After a couple of math problems, I let Nyla play independently while I do a little more work until dinner.
How We Make This Work
Nyla is only four, and she’s experiencing her own emotions around the pandemic. The next episode of Money Checkup will dive more deeply into this, but my husband and I have done our best to explain what’s happening in an age-appropriate way and protect her from our own stress. One way we can make this easier for her is by not putting too much pressure on her. If she doesn’t want to do math or read, that’s OK.
Nyla definitely isn’t doing the same amount of “academic” work at home than she would at preschool — even though she’s so young, she spends a lot of time learning! — because it’s much easier for her to say no to her mom than her teacher. But I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself either. Most days, I simultaneously feel exhausted and like I haven’t gotten anything done.
At the same time, I’m really enjoying the chance to have so much more one-on-one time with Nyla. It’s fascinating to see the world through her eyes, especially as she learns. And it’s a comfort to know that every family is in this together — we’re all trying to juggle our kids, our work, and our own stress this spring.
I don’t always stick to our schedule, but I write it every day on Nyla’s chalkboard with numbers for each time slot. I’ve noticed that she really likes doing the next thing on the list when she can identify it on the schedule herself. It’s almost like it’s her idea rather than mine.
Like many parents, we’re trying our best to limit Nyla’s screen time, but of course that isn’t always possible. I often need to put on a TV show for her to watch so I can have a meeting or cross a few things off my to-do list. Trying not to beat myself up about this is an ongoing challenge, but I’m trying to be as generous with myself as I would be with another parent.
Lastly, we’re scheduling lots of FaceTime and Zoom calls with family and friends. When we have these planned in advance, we add them to Nyla’s schedule so she can look forward to them all day. A few afternoons each week, for instance, Nyla’s grandma calls and we have a dance party. Nyla loves this, of course, and it gives her grandma a chance to spend time with Nyla even though we can’t see each other in person.
We’re all in this together, and that includes our kids. When I look back on this spring, I hope I’ll have some memories with Nyla that I treasure. Whatever those turn out to be, I’m sure they’ll outweigh the day-to-day stress.
If you liked this blog post, you may also like this Money Checkup Podcast Episode:
Episode 36: A High School Teacher’s Approach to Navigating COVID-19