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“Cheat Days” may help remote learners and parents

In pandemic times, maybe some rules are made to be broken

In pandemic times, maybe some rules are made to be broken

A so-called cheat day i.e. a day off from remote learning, helps a beleaguered dad help his kids meet expectations.

We’ve all heard of diets in which the dieter gets a “cheat day.”  You abstain from wheat and dairy Monday through Saturday, but Sunday you can eat all the cheese, ice cream, and pasta you desire. For just that day. The notion, of course, is that the promise of what you’ve forbidden yourself helps you stay focused on your goal, and even adds an element of mildly wicked fun.

Writer, dad, and current reluctant homeschooler Clint Edwards  entertainingly applies this to remote learning/homeschooling. Like many parents forced into this new, evolving, and innately stressful paradigm, last spring, when shutdown commenced, he began overseeing the remote learning of two of his three kids – aged 11 and 13. Fortunately for all, he is able to work from home throughout (albeit at reduced output), so unlike some parents who must report to a jobsite, this was an option available to his family.

Edwards cites his kids’ procrastination and heightened emotions as being major problems, as well as his own frayed nerves, tendency toward anger, and exhaustion after having been at this for months, with no discernable end in sight. In a moment of desperation, his daughter asks if they can “just have toast and watch SpongeBob.” After initially saying no, he decides to give a three-day weekend a try.

That Friday, they had “Friday Fun.” “We set up camp in the living room,” he writes. “We selected a collection of streaming shows and movies. Some of them were educational, like The Magic School Bus and National Geographic. And some were just for kicks, like Dennis The Menace, Infinity War, and yes, SpongeBob was invited to the party. We ate toast, and we ate graham crackers, and we broke a hard family rule by having juice boxes and popsicles in the living room.”

According to Edwards, not only were his kids much happier that evening, when they awoke the following Monday, they had renewed energy and enthusiasm for the week ahead.

Because of its negative connotations, perhaps the term “cheat day” isn’t the best way to describe modifying the remote learning schedule. But if it works to make the whole thing more effective and smoother, then… whatever works.

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