Many of my fellow med students and Picmonic teammates are parents, trying to navigate the recent Covid-19 situation just like you! We really do get it, and we know it’s not easy. But don’t worry, there are tools at your disposal to help.
Even if you’ve studied from home for years and have the perfect study-at-home setup, your plan probably never included kids being at home 24/7 with you. And since everyone might be at home unexpectedly for weeks, you need a new study-at-home plan, fast.
We’re here to help you come up with the best plan you can.
Don’t expect to sustain your normal capacity.
If you spent 3 hours a day studying without kids at home, it’s likely unmanageable to continue to hit that mark once they’re home. Set yourself up for success by re-aligning your expectations and planning accordingly. Take the to-do list you had for the day and cut it in half.
Create a schedule.
Routines are useful for everyone! Mix up playtime, rest time, free play, learning, exercise, eating, and cleaning.
Here’s an example schedule that makes sure your child stays on track for the day:
- 7:00 – 7:30 wake-up
- 7:30 – 8:00 breakfast
- 8:00 – 8:30 free play – 🧠 potential study opportunity!
- 8:30 – 9:30 outside play – 🧠potential study opportunity!
- 9:30 – 10:00 snack
- 10:00 – 11:30 learning activities – 🧠potential study opportunity!
- 11:30 – 12:00 lunch
- 12:00 – 2:30 nap or quiet time – 🧠potential study opportunity!
- 2:30 – 3:00 show – 🧠potential study opportunity!
- 3:00 – 4:00 learning activities – 🧠potential study opportunity!
- 4:00 – 4:30 snack
- 4:30 – 5:30 free play – 🧠potential study opportunity!
- 5:30 – 6:00 chores/clean-up (Try making it a game!)
- 6:00 – 7:00 dinner
- 7:00 – 7:30 bath and reading
- 7:30 – 8:00 bed
It’s important to then schedule your own study time during the times your child/children are not in need of your undivided attention.
Picmonic Team Tip: “It’s a tough balance between making sure your child gets enough attention and still being able to focus on our own responsibilities, but we’re lucky to live in a world where digital learning is more accessible than ever.” – James Rate, Picmonic QA Specialist
Plan for play and educational activities that don’t require direct supervision.
Creating special activities and events your children can do while you study is something both you and they can look forward to periodically2. Setting up toys, puzzles and games in surprise locations brings forth natural curiosity in your child, and they often will play with their discovery. Better yet, sneak up on them during your study break and jump right in!
When it comes to educational activities, if your school hasn’t set you up with online lessons, there are lots of free options available to you. Scholastic recently released lessons for kids ranging from Pre-K through 9th grade.
Prioritize Kids/Plan Routines.
Plan more intense study sessions during times when your kids are most distracted, or sleeping2. While trying to maintain some semblance of a normal routine during these chaotic times, prioritize care for your kids first and spend dedicated time with them2. If and when they receive the attention they crave, it becomes easier to schedule and perform the tasks needed for academia. Hugs are essential2!
Lean on your partner, friends or family.
Of course, this time of social distancing takes some consideration toward this. It’s a whole lot easier if your spouse, significant other, roommate, or resident couch potato is also isolated within your home.
Working around each other’s availability and responsibilities to employment and home takes planning, but leads to successful outcomes for both parents or caregivers2.
Picmonic Team Tip: “Family, friends, and teachers are a big help. We’ve been lucky to have people who are all willing to jump on a video call and keep our child entertained and on the right track for getting schoolwork done.” – James Rate, Picmonic QA Specialist
Consider AAP Recommendations for Screen Time temporarily waived.
It may be necessary during these trying times to allow your children a little more time with TV or other electronic platforms, especially if you are lacking social support.
You can ensure high quality media is delivered through certain programs, like those found on PBS1. But it’s also important for you to forgive yourself for relaxing standards during these unprecedented times, especially when balancing academic requirements with child care.
To change perspective, consider increasing screen time with video games, television shows and movies as opportunities for your child to enjoy some of the things they love when you are not readily available. This can provide enormous stress relief for you and your child, as they feed the distraction monkey part of their brain (more on this later in the article).
Remember: learning is not confined to a classroom, and can happen through life itself, even electronic media.
Picmonic Team Tip: “I try to find fun educational games for my son to play, so that the extra screen time is more productive.” – Neal Lambert, Picmonic Developer
Play Picmonics with your kids.
I did not realize how entertaining Picmonic can be for children. My three-year-old son sits in my lap, right before bed, and likes to watch and listen to the stories presented with very colorful cartoon characters.
Not only am I dedicating valuable study time to a worthy pursuit, I’m snuggling with my sleepy son in a memorable way.
Maximize your breaks by doing something that’s a fun reward, but not entirely off the topic of medical education.
A personal favorite: 15-20 minutes of a medical drama (mine of choice was “House” when I was studying for the NCLEX in 2009) in between intensive study sessions. It’s inspiring, distracting, yet keeps you engaged enough with some of the content you are trying to learn and retain. Make a point of finding errors within the episode, and go correct those errors during studytimes.
This habit is arguably supported by science, as the human (and macaque monkeys’) brains go through rhythms of alternating focus and distraction states3. We are consistently zooming in and out of attention, up to four times per second3, even when we consider ourselves to be hyper focused on a task. The reality we experience does not consider these lapses in attention, so what we observe and experience is “edited” into a continuous experience of consciousness. The alterations are further organized as two different brain states: one of attentive focus and one of high distractibility3. So, take advantage of our genetic makeup, and ensure you give into the distracted state with an activity not so demanding on your attention.
Picmonic Team Tip: “My wife and I try to alternate breaks, based on what works best for our differing schedules. This lets us both spend some quality time, while maximizing our ability to work from home. Of course towards the end of the day we prioritize spending time as a family together!” – Thiago, Picmonic iOS Developer
Acknowledge it won’t likely go as smoothly as anyone hopes, but we’re all in this together and helping the common good by staying safe and healthy.
Have a tip or two of your own? Send it our way so we can keep building out this list!
- American Academy of Pediatrics. (2016). American academy of pediatrics announces new recommendations for children’s media use. Retrieved from https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Announces-New-Recommendations-for-Childrens-Media-Use.aspx
- Dickson, K., & McDonald, J. (2019). Studying in the child zone. Retrieved from http://counselling.athabascau.ca/child_zone.php
- Leprince-Ringuet, D. (2018, August 22). Here’s scientific proof your brain was designed to be distracted. Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.co.uk/article/brain-distraction-procrastination-science