Back-to-school this year is unlike any other because of the on-going pandemic. Rather than back-to-school, it's stay-at-home online education. As a working parent of 3 children, remote learning has been a work in progress and a challenge to our adaptability and patience.

To make the most of this experience, here are some things that my family has tried to ease the transition to remote virtual schooling.

1. Reduce computer screen glare: With the children staring at the screen from 8 am - 3 pm daily, glare can cause eye strain and headaches. We're trying several solutions to this problem.

  • Blue light-blocking glasses. There is an abundance of options online in the $10 range. Ask your eye doctor if they have a recommendation.
  • Adjusting the brightness of the screen to minimize glare.
  • Anti-glare screen protector. This is another expense, but may be worth it in the long run.

2. Headphones - choose function over fashion: My kids all initially thought online school was a great opportunity to ask for AirPods, but they soon learned that it was not the best solution. Wearing over the ear headphones are not only more comfortable, but they more effectively block out external noises coming from their siblings seated at the same table.

3. Keyboard and mouse - ergonomics. If possible, use a device that has a proper keyboard or get a portable keyboard. This enables them to make use of their entire screen rather than sharing it with an onscreen keyboard. Also, try to use a mouse and mousepad to lessen fatigue on the tendons of their wrists.

4. Monitor. This suggestion is proving a challenge for me, but if possible, I suggest having a proper monitor. Many teachers are requiring students to know how to split their screen, which then reduces the screen's visibility by half. Having a monitor to extend the display to another screen, in the same way we do for work, will enable your student to work more efficiently and seamlessly.

5. Dedicated space with proper lighting. Whether it's facing the window or having lights, it will illuminate the student and help the teacher see them, rather than seeing a shadow. This will help with teacher-student engagement.

6. Dedicated desk space. I opted for my 3 kids to sit at the dining table as their permanent workspace. They work side-by-side but they have their own space. Other parents have decided to set up their children’s desk space in the child’s bedroom but this did not work for me. Having them together allows me to help them easily. If they were in school, they would have to share the space with classmates, so this was the spirit I have asked them to embrace. The point here is to set them up somewhere with a dedicated space to get them mentally prepared for school.

7. Lean into calendaring. This was a helpful tip from a mom who had younger kids and another mom who is a teacher. They added some reminders on certain events that would help the child be more productive. One example: For the 5-minute break between classes, one added, “Go to the bathroom." It seems so obvious and silly, but more often than not, the younger kids would either fidget the entire class or leave the class and dawdle to/from the bathroom before re-joining.

8. Prepare a “school” lunch and snacks. With 3 kids and 3 different lunch schedules, I’m finding that its best to prepare (or have them prepare) and even “pack” a lunch in advance (the night before or morning). The same friend suggested adding a comment to their daily calendars reminding them what was for lunch (or lunch options) and snacks so they don’t waste their short 30-minute lunch window. This ensures they have enough brain food for their afternoon classes. Initially, I tried to make them lunch on demand but found it to be too much of a distraction to my own work schedule.

While these have helped my family, you may need to adapt these ideas. I would love to hear what has worked for you and your children. Please be constructive. Let’s make the best lemonade we can out of the lemons 2020 is giving us.

All the best to you and your family!

Elizabeth Krauss has been juggling parenthood and being a full time recruiter for over 10 years. She and her husband have 3 active children (grade school, middle school, high school) and a french bulldog (couch potato). Post college, she backpacked through Europe and Asia, taught middle school English in Japan, and volunteered to teach English at a refugee camp in the Philippines. Upon returning to the US, she applied to be a temp at a temp agency, where she got her start as a recruiter when they hired her to be a recruiter!