In normal times, school-aged kids would be returning to the classroom this fall. But things are different this back-to-school season, and many schools are delivering at least part of their curriculum remotely. Many au pairs were asked to support their kids’ at-home learning this spring, and we asked them for their best tips for making it a success. We hope their feedback is helpful for those who will be helping their elementary, middle and high schoolers stay on top of their academics this year!
It’s simple but wise advice—be patient. Be patient with your host kids, their teachers, your host parents and yourself. None of you are experts at remote learning, and you may need a bit of trial and error to find your groove together. German au pair Lea, who cares for a 7-, 5- and 2-year old agrees. “The transition from being in school full-time and then doing school at home isn’t easy. Be patient with your kids and teachers. We all are having a hard time but we’re still trying our best.”
A child’s environment has a big impact on remote learning, so finding a dedicated spot in your host family’s home is important. Bianca, au pair from Austria, cares for a 7- and 5-year old: “I tried to find a place where they had enough space for their school supplies. You can create a box with or use your kids’ backpacks to store the school supplies in and each day. When school is about to start the kids can get the box (or backpack) and are ready to go.” Your host parent(s) should work with you on a good set-up. But if you need to adjust the environment or see a need for additional supplies or equipment, be sure to let your host parent(s) know.
Almost every au pair we talked to mentioned that a schedule was part of their successful remote learning experience. For Dutch au pair Jacqueline—whose host children are 6-, 4- and 2-years old—a schedule was key. “We made a schedule for every day. Besides the classes my host child had to follow and the homework she had to do, we put fun things on the schedule like science projects, arts and crafts, (lots of) outside time and even lunch and snack time. This helped both me and the kids, as we knew what to expect from the day. Most kids need routine and our schedule helped us with that.”
Austrian au pair Annika has three host kids—12-, 10- and 7-year olds—and one of them has a learning disability. Her time is in high demand during the day! She and her host parents created a schedule and sat down to together every Sunday night to review it. “It helped us a lot.”
When you do make a schedule, our au pairs recommend using the morning hours for tougher assignments and saving more fun activities for the afternoon if possible. Jacqueline says, “We tried to do all the schoolwork in the morning so we could do fun things in the afternoon.” Au pair Laura, from Brazil, tried the same approach. She saved activities for the end of the day that “don’t need a lot of time or energy from the kids, like arts, books and crafts.” She adds, “If it doesn’t feel like homework, they will enjoy it more!”
Some kids are independently motivated to get their schoolwork done and others might need a little more encouragement. Au pair Annika gave her host kids a to-do list so they could cross off assignments once they were completed. Bianca wrote notes of encouragement when they did especially well with a certain task. “I added some stickers too, and they loved it!”
Taking short breaks during the day to stretch the body and mind are important. Au pair Lea found her oldest definitely needed a break during the day. “It doesn’t help to keep pushing her to do her homework, when she can’t focus anymore.” A five-or-so minute walk outside, snack and water break, dance party, etc. can help kids regain their focus.
Supporting your kids through remote learning can be a lot of work, so be sure to make time for self-care during the day or once you’re off-duty. Au pair Lea says, “I started to do home workouts. It felt so good to do something just for myself! Sometimes I even did a little yoga session with the kids.” Lea also recommends planning for something to look forward to each weekend: “For example a hike, FaceTime call with my family or ordering from my favorite restaurant.”
According to the program guidelines, au pairs cannot be responsible for homeschool instruction. So, while supporting kids’ online learning and helping them with homework is okay, au pairs cannot be asked to formally teach.
If you feel you are being asked to go beyond the proper duties of an au pair, it’s important to bring it up to your host parent(s). And if you need more clarification, your LCC is a great source of support.
And if you are generally just having a hard time with remote learning, ask for help—either from your host parent(s) or your LCC.
Hopefully, these suggestions shared by fellow au pairs will help you juggle remote learning with your host kids. Brazilian au pair Laura reminds us that, “Most importantly, tons of love is required for everyone. Try your best, nobody is doing better than you.”