We all have one big problem right now: the coronavirus pandemic.
It manifests in different ways for different people.
First, the suffering of the victims and their families: this disease is causing tragic loss in every community across the nation.
Second, the frontline healthcare workers: their bravery is unmatched. They’re the heroes of this difficult time.
Third, our businesses and economy: we’re taking an unprecedented hit. But it’s necessary. Without a healthy population, the richest economy in the world means nothing.
Finally, those of us lucky enough to be healthy and employed are coping with the new normal: working from home. And those of us with school age kids – including teens – are managing the whole work-from-home-thing while doing their best to manage the school-from-home thing.
It can be challenging.
And every post you read tells you the best thing you can do for your teenager during this time is this:
Make a schedule and stick to it.
But what if you’ve never made a school schedule before?
We can help.
Virtual School: Two Possible Schedules
Before we offer these suggestions, we have two things to say about schedules:
- You have to try it – really try it – to know whether or not your schedule is any good. That means try it for at least three days. If it doesn’t work, scrap it and try something different.
- A schedule might not be what you need, despite what everyone says. If you’ve never done well with a fixed schedule, and your child or teenager has never done well with a fixed schedule, this is the time to try doing it your own way: as long as you complete your work tasks and your child or teen completes their academic tasks, when you do them does not really matter.
With that said, we’ll now show you a couple of possible ways to organize a weekday for you and your teen. This first schedule is generic and does not include what happens before and after, meaning you won’t find wakeup, breakfast, dinner, evening activities, or bedtime on this first one.
Sample Schedule #1
9:00 – 10:30. Work/School Block One.
Use this block for a challenging subject area in school or a big project for work. Take advantage of your morning energy. Make sure you take a short break at some point during this block.
10:30 – 10:45. Break.
On breaks, do anything but work or school – ideally away from screens, and outdoors. A quick walk to the mailbox or watering plants will do for adults. Kids and teens can do whatever makes them happy – again, preferably away from screens.
10:45 – 12:15. Work/School Block Two.
Use this block to tackle another core subject or another big work project. By the time you’re done with this second block, you should be hungry and ready for lunch.
12:15 – 1:45. Lunch and Free Time.
This is the most important block of the day. Get away from screens. Eat a good meal. Take a nap. Go ride a bike. Go for a walk. Your free time, by definition, should be filled with anything but work or school.
1:45 – 2:15. Work/School Block Three.
Use this block tackle subjects that may not require your mind to be as sharp as those you chose for your morning blocks. This is a good time for reading assignments for the kids, and for catching up on emails for the adults.
2:15 – 2:30. Break.
2:30 – 4:00. Work/School Block Three.
Use this block to finish the day strong. Another challenging subject at school, another significant project for work – you decide. You have an hour and a half to finish your task list for the day.
We like this schedule because it offers parents and students a way to align their work, school, and lunch schedules. You can eat together, take breaks together, and enjoy times of mutual – separate – focus together. This is a tried and true template you can find in many different contexts: school, work, and athletic training programs often use a similar approach.
Now, we’ll offer a specific schedule. This one was written by a thirteen-year-old 8th grader with a 10:30 bedtime and a 7:00 am wakeup. We know it works, because it’s been in practice since early March, with no problems at all.
Sample Schedule #2: School Schedule: Early Teen/8th Grader
8:00 – 8:15.
Transition to School.
8:15 – 9:00.
9:00 – 9:15.
9:15 – 10:15.
10:15 – 10:30.
10:30 – 11:30.
11:30 – 1:00.
Lunch and Activities
1:15 – 2:25.
2:25 – 2:30.
2:30 – 3:00.
3:00 – 3:05.
3:05 – 4:00.
We know not everyone takes the same classes as this thirteen-year-old, but you can use this schedule to plug-and-play the classes your early teenager does take. Pay special attention to the transitions and the length of the lunch period. Those are crucial and set the tone for the entire day. We recommend taking all the transition and break time set out in this schedule. During the activity period after lunch, we recommend things outdoors that do not involve screens. The activity time should not be anything like school: it’s time to refresh and renew.
These two schedules are simply suggestions.
However, we’re not reinventing the wheel here: the first schedule is a standard, time-tested template, while the second one is in use as we write this article.
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.