The Semi-Together Pandemic Parent: Balancing Structure and Choice

Mar 16, 2020

So, amidst all of this uncertainty, a lot of us teacher-types (myself included) are a tiny bit excited to exercise our education muscles and create very awesome homeschool schedules, stations, materials and centers. And different kids and different families need different things. My own children chafe at too much structure – karma!

Perhaps they inherited this from me. You see, I grew up in the woods in a bit of a fringe-y community in rural Maine amongst hippies and homesteaders, so I have a strong, “Let the kids be feral and free” instinct that kicks in. Mostly. I mean, this is from our annual summer trip to the homeland.]

For you non-education types reading my blog for the first time (welcome!), you don’t have to go all color-coded here. Don’t let us scare you. But if a schedule works for your kids – OR YOU JUST HAVE YOUR OWN WORK TO DO – be sure to balance those schedules with a lot of choice.

See below for my own “plan.” This was CO-drafted with the 7-yr old and almost 10-yr old on Sunday morning – for investment and buy-in purposes. The fourth grader was insistent on “work through snack time.” Okay, FINE. Evening screen time was added by the first-grader if extra chores were completed. A star system was created. A Scotch tape and String mandatory evening activity was added.

The kiddos keep them on clipboards and run their own show. They like to be in charge; I support this.

A second page of ideas for Choice Time, but I welcome them to go “off-list.”

Amanda R. in Houston takes this idea to another level with her teenage sons.

Amanda’s choice wall

Petra C. from Houston shares another choice-heavy model, while still providing some structure.

Petra’s checklist

Petra says,

“This is what we are trying this week. Each of my kids (9 and 11) has a checklist they’ll work through in any order and do about 30 minutes in each category. 8am – 3pm will be the ‘school day’ with no TV and video games. We haven’t gotten anything from the school yet, so today we’ll explore some of the free websites and links people have been sharing on here to find stuff to do for math and science. Good luck, y’all!”

The key words in Petra’s note include:

  • Trying “this week”
  • “About 30 minutes in each category”
  • 8 AM – 3 PM will be the ‘school day’

And my non-educator buddy Becky T. here in Maryland has some admirable ground rules.

Becky’s COVID-19 Elementary

I love:

  • Saying “where” the activity should be done. Especially for those of you in small spaces.
  • Clarity on interruptions – “Mom’s Office – open unless she is leading a call or meeting; knock once to talk; twice if it is kind of urgent, and three times loudly if…”
  • And “after school” options listed and encouraged

I will report back on our own experiment as the weeks go on. In the meantime, keep sharing them with me, and I will curate, narrate and distribute as we all muddle through this.

Of course, you all are keeping me amused out there with some Together Funnies, such as Trisha C. from Houston sending along this Together Pandemic Pet.


I know my own instinct is to try to control the chaos that is single-mom-parenting (but with childcare help and a co-parent!), full-time-working, and pivoting my entire model! There are a lot of great things floating around of how people are making it work out there, with a lot of detail paid to individual needs of students and families. More on that tomorrow. . .