When I was in college, my campus could barely offer students working WiFi in our dorm rooms. If COVID-19 reared it's ugly head back then, I don't know if it would've been possible for my school to adapt to online learning and help their students graduate on time. 

Luckily, here in Idaho the College of Western Idaho quickly got a plan together to help their students stay on track for the remainder of the spring semester. While some of their non-traditional students were a little nervous about learning new technologies to attend class and complete their assignments, they were surprised how easy it was to adapt.

Our friend Tehani, a mom of five who's pursuing two degrees and two additional certificates, shares her story of what it was like adapting to online learning and how she organized things like internet connectivity to make sure that the whole family could get their school work done.

If reading Tehani's story has inspired you to really consider going back to school and pursuing a dream career that would provide your family with a little more stability in such an uncertain time, make sure you come back to our website on Monday, May 4. That's when we open the search for this year's Mom's Next Move CWI Scholarship recipient!

Image via Tehani Schnupp

Moving To Online Learning

Just when I thought I was starting to have a handle on this whole full-time student/wife/mom thing, COVID-19 hit. To say that COVID-19 rocked our world is an understatement. COVID-19 kicked our perfectly coordinated schedule in the face.

From the student perspective, I was thrilled with how on the ball the CWI faculty were in presenting a united and calm approach to the crisis. Multiple times a week, students received emails with updates as our state treaded water trying to decide if we were going to be allowed to come back to school after an extended spring break. There was a lot of fear and confusion that seemed to dissipate as the CWI team worked to be present for the students through emails, Facebook Live Events, and postings on multiple social media sites fielding questions right and left.

Image via Tehani Schnupp

Then came the big announcement: classes would be fully online for the remainder of the semester. Within a few hours of this announcement, all my professors reached out to their classes, laying out their plans for the remainder of the semester. These plans included moving on-campus classes to a Zoom platform, professors extending due dates, and CWI offering an immediate pass or fail option for students unable to continue their classes from the online platform. As an older student who isn’t as tech-savy as I would like, this announcement made me very nervous. However, I was shocked (in a good way) by how easy it was to set up a Zoom account and use the app to successfully participate in my classes. The technology side of this ended up being the easiest part to figure out. I was quickly able to see how proactive CWI was in dealing with this crisis as my kids’ schools struggled to move to an online platform.

The mixture of four of our five kids attending school online, my husband working now fully from home, and me doing school online was initially complete chaos. We quickly figured out that our internet was not going to support all of us at once. That meant my husband had to move his office to the guest room at my in-law’s house (who fortunately live very close). Next came the trial and error process of setting up a rotating internet schedule for the five of us still at home. In the end, we had to work in teams of two at a time doing in three hour shifts to successfully manage the wifi challenges. Once we had figured out the wifi, the next hurdle was helping the kids stay organized. For that I turned to the internet for some online template organizational ideas, which really helped my kids stay organized.

Image via Tehani Schnupp

The last element to address was the mental health of my family. My family—like many others—had a constant, nagging sense of fear. When even our neighborhood parks were taped off, the blues really set in. The solution I came up with to encourage the kids to get outside and continue getting physical activity even with the parks closed was a form of bribery (yes, good old-fashioned bribery). I would pick a certain distance that the four older kids had to walk to together (usually about 2-3 miles) and if they did that walk, they could be excused from some of their daily chores. Ironically, this neighborhood march has now become a favorite part of their daily routine. The kids have invented games to play on their walks with each other, and half the time end up walking further then what I ask them to walk because they are having so much fun together. Their iphones have helped me feel safer with them away from the house so I can track their location, and the time they are out has given me full access to the internet and the quiet time I need to do my homework.

Image via Tehani Schnupp

As this new normal has come together, I find myself far more thankful for this time than I thought I would be. Life prior to COVID-19 was running a 100MPH with everyone going in 100 different directions. Although we successfully managed, now it seems like we are all basically running in the same direction. Having all five of my kids home 24 hours a day has built in a whole new layer to our relationships and especially their relationships with each other. Time has slowed down enough that I have had the chance to teach my kids how to cook more complex meals like lasagna, how to make sourdough bread from scratch, rearrange their rooms, and watch a lot more family movies and laugh together. I’ve come to not fight against this time so much as to be so very happy and content in the uniqueness of it. Essentially since the kids were all babies, we have never had so much uninterrupted time together. And at a time when my teenagers are on the brink of graduating and heading out into the world as adults, I am feeling more and more like this time is more of a gift then a curse.

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My greatest hope for everyone in this incredible point in history is that they can take the time to get reacquainted with what the most important parts of their life. COVID-19 forced changes into our life that challenged us far beyond what we were comfortable with. But that challenge has worked more good in our lives than it has bad. It has brought a camaraderie and a truth to our family and our community that I hope last when the current crisis passes. And that truth is that even the hardest circumstances are endurable when they are endured together with a thankful heart.

Here are some tips for self-care during the pandemic: