So, like most people who have school-age kids, I have had to help my son with his distance learning over the past few months while balancing my work (and my toddler).

I’m no stranger to working at home with children, but I have never had to manage educating my child as well. But as a member of the work + life integration nation™, I know I can handle the challenge – with some planning and structure.

I always knew homeschooling wasn’t a good fit for our family (although I have many friends who do it and I have toyed with the idea over the years) and having managed distance learning during the pandemic I can say that my initial instinct was spot on.

That said, I’m preparing to keep doing some form of distance learning into the fall, as there is much uncertainty if the schools will reopen and what exactly that will look like.

I’m a planner and a list maker (and a baker and a candlestick maker, ha! Just kidding. I don’t make candles). It helps me with uncertainty and anxiety. So, I have been preparing for more distance learning while hoping there is a way the kids can go back in the fall. Here are four things I am doing NOW to prepare that don’t – to me – feel like a waste of time if school reopens normally.

1. Set up a better workspace

If your family is like my family, you weren’t really prepared to set aside a place for distance learning and you probably started your kid out at the kitchen table and then had to clean it up every single night. We then moved to the dining room, but honestly that isn’t a great solution either. Long term, my kid needs a space to do homework and other projects (that isn’t my desk where I work!) so we are looking at getting him a desk or some type of table where he can have privacy (I also have a curious, noisy and destructive toddler) and quiet to work. He’ll need it for middle school anyway!

2. Explore online options

Our district has done a good job, but for us, it just isn’t quite enough – and lacks the structure — to keep my son engaged and learning. So, I am planning to devote some time this summer to investigate other online options for school. He could use the extra challenge anyway – especially in math – so even if he goes back to school full-time, we may still use it. There are also options like Outschool https://outschool.com/ that we are looking into that he will try out this summer.

3. Get supplies

We aren’t a family that keeps a lot of supplies on hand like pencils, notebooks, markers, etc. and some of this has been hard to come by during the early days of the pandemic. I am making a list of things that will help us pass the time in creative, messy, active and fun ways!

4. Get more books!

My kid is an avid reader and a fast one at that. So, finding enough reading material has been a HUGE challenge, especially since the library has been closed. We ended up getting a Kindle, which has been good, but it isn’t always easy to checkout the books he wants online either. I’ve been trying other resources like Little Free Libraries, swapping books with friends, buying them second hand on Facebook Marketplace and other resellers. I hope to build a solid library this summer so he has plenty to read if the libraries aren’t open!

As a work-at-home mom who is adding another level to my work + life integration, these are just some of the small ways I am trying to prepare for continued distance learning, either full- or part-time in the fall. Having a solid plan, for me, is a way to make sure everyone’s needs are met and work and school get done.

Do you have other ideas? I’d love to hear them!

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