In the early days of the "Suddenly Homeschooling" era, I found myself seeking refuge in my bedroom one afternoon, scrolling through my phone, eager to connect with the outside world.
It had been a full morning of lessons, activities, and lots of snacks, and back then I typically crashed around 1:30, throwing on some PBS Kids and disappearing into my corner of the house.
I had been a fan since reading her book a few years ago and following her on social media. Her writing is grounded, wholehearted, honest, and full of compassion. Nearly every post is an ah-ha moment for me.
So in the wide, overwhelming vastness of resources, I knew that she would be my personal homeschooling guru. And she has not led me astray.
Establishing A Rhythym
That day, she was discussing the value of establishing a rhythm that works for your home, and how it might work better than a schedule that reflects a traditional school day. The Inchworm Rhythm, she said, is great for younger kids, and is defined by being together for a time, then apart for a time, then together for a time, then apart, and so on.
(Cue another ah-ha moment.)
In many ways I had been doing this already. I would do an activity with them, then sneak off halfway through to do a load of laundry, then catch back up with them when they started whining or needed a snack, then sneak off again and try to catch up on email.
But before, it somehow felt like I was doing everything and nothing the whole day long. I was sneaking peeks at my phone during my time with them, hastily drafting work emails. And, when I was away from them, I was worried about what they were doing, breaking up fights from the other room, and responding to more snack requests.
The Inchworm Method sounded much prettier than that, so in the weeks since, I've given it a go.
I call it "Together Time" and "Apart Time" so that the whole family, including the kids, can easily understand what to expect.
What It Looks Like In Our House
"Apart Time" starts for me before the kids get up. I've established a morning routine that helps me feel prepared for the day and allows me to get a head start on my work day before the kids ever wake up.
When they start to stir, our first batch of "Together Time" starts. (Actually, on the advice of a friend, I've instituted a don't-come-out-of-your-home-until-7:00 a.m. rule.) I help them get ready and do their morning chores, and we eat breakfast together. We complete our daily refrigerator calendar, and sometimes I read them a poem from the Other Goose homeschooling curriculum. I put away my phone, look them in the eye, and really connect with them.
After breakfast, I tell them it's Apart Time, and they can play on their own before they start their distance learning. I communicate to them that I will be doing other things during this time. This is when I throw in a load of laundry and do some stretching and exercises. (I used to do this before they woke up, but that quiet time is so precious that I only use it for things that I cannot do while they are awake.) After about 45 minutes of Apart Time, I help them get set up with distance learning.
Facilitating Distance Learning at their age is a mixture of Together & Apart Time. I can't count on this time to get work done because they often need help with the instructions, activities, or apps. At the same time, there are brief intervals where they are completely independent. So I use this time for household chores that can be easily interrupted.
After about an hour of schoolwork, it's Together Time again. My kids love having me read them a story during their snack. Again, there's no phone, lots of eye contact and snuggles, and loads of warm connection.
After snack and story time, it's time for a healthy dose of Apart Time. They've gotten some schoolwork done, they've had a snack, they've had meaningful time with me, and they deserve some play time. I explain that it's Apart Time now, and that I'm going to get some work done while they play. I remind them that we will see each other again at lunch.
Lunch is, you guessed it, a great opportunity for Together Time. We eat and chat without any devices nearby. After lunch, I like to do a creative learning activity with them, either suggested by the school, or something else I've been wanting to do with them.
After our meal and our fun activity together, it's Apart Time again where they have the freedom to play independently, and I have some time to attend to my work.
Why It Works
The exact details of our rhythm aren't the important part. What's important is why it works. The magic is that kids feel safe to explore and learn on their own, because they just had meaningful connection time with you, and they know that pretty soon they'll have it again.
And, you can be guilt-free, attending to the things you need to, because you know you have set aside time to be completely connected to them throughout the day.
Like anything, it takes practice and patience to install in your home. It's not perfect. Your work will definitely still be interrupted at times. Some kids will be more receptive right away, and others will need more adjustment and practice. (Believe me, I know this.)
But this rhythm, when understood and expected by everyone in the family, has great potential to save your sanity in this new world.
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