Have you ever heard someone practicing the drums when they’re first learning? It’s the very definition of cacophony. It’s chaotic. It’s distracting. A sound only a mother could love.

It takes a while to learn to create a beat on a drumset, but once you do, it’s the thing that gets everyone off their feet. A good rhythm sets our feet tapping, starts our bodies moving, and gets everyone dancing to the same beat. But everybody starts out in the learning phase.

We’re all trying to get our families into a new kind of rhythm. We’re syncing up work schedules, school schedules, and individual needs and trying each day to have all of these things play together in concert. I asked some of my Galileo colleagues how they’ve gotten their family rhythm. Here is what they said:

#1: Dance it out and shake it off.

Our way of creating rhythm involves, well, rhythm. Weekdays have to remain pretty scheduled for us because of work and school. My daughter’s first-grade class meeting begins at 9 am, but we start the scheduled activities with a dance party at 8:45 until school starts. My two girls alternate picking the music and the whole family joins in on the fun. There are lots of lifts, spins, and dramatic hair tosses. Even when one of us wakes up feeling grumpy or with the weight of the world on our shoulders, we’re usually able to shake it off and start fresh by 9 am.

—Ashley, Regional Director and mother of two

#2: Pump up the snacks.

We have a self-serve snack bar that grouped by nutritional value. Green snacks are fruits, nuts, and vegetables; yellow snacks are things like popcorn or pretzels; and red snacks are in the chips-and-cookies camp. If my kids want something from the red, they need to eat from the green first. We replenish the snack bar as needed each night so. Basically, anything that minimizes the need for us to intervene or support during the day.

—Diana, VP of People and mother of two

#3: Plan your work and work your plan.

We have shared moments throughout the day to look forward to, which helps keep our kids on task. They start their schoolwork at 9 am, then lunch all together at 12 pm as a family. That time we’ve committed to being free and available to our kids also helps us reset for the afternoon, help open up tabs for their lessons and go over things from the morning they had questions about. At the end of the day, we do a gratitude circle. Usually we go for an evening walk, but sometimes what the kids really need to veg after a full day of school lessons, and that’s okay.

—Diana again, slinging facts

#4: Pen pal it up.

My son does writing practice through a pen pal club with his friends. They write letters to each other and either drop them off at their homes (which also includes a long neighborhood walk), put it in the mail, or send a picture of the letter.  He’s more motivated to write letters to friends then dig deep on the school-based prompts.

—Matteo, Regional Director and dad of three

#5: Get your Mr. Rogers on.

When doing distance learning, I try to keep it fresh by changing my voice. I even take on characters for my younger kids when helping with activities or lessons. My seven-year-old thinks it’s weird, but it keeps it interesting for both of us.

—Matteo again with the goofy voices.

#6: Let kids choose their own adventure.

Build independence by co-creating an activity menu or bingo board so kids can start and finish activities with more independence. You can even have different menus for different kiddos and one for you so you can model choosing an activity. For older kids, their menu can include any online learning that needs to happen that day.

—Danielle, Regional Director and mom of one

#7: Let the kids drop a beat, too.

I give my kids a basic framework for the day but then encourage the rhythm that they create too. My kids have been obsessed with “wrestling” before bed. It’s basically a nightly ritual at this point and was a pattern they created on their own from the need to burn off a little steam before bedtime.

—Shauna, Director of Professional Development & Training and mom of two

#8: Keep it fresh.

Changing the spaces keeps our kids on their toes. We’ll have reading time outside on a blanket instead of at the table where we’re doing all our other school work. We change up the toys that are available, which keeps our youngest constantly delighted.

—Hope, Regional Director and mother of two

#9: Have some green eggs and ham.

We’re reading to our kids more than ever, which is good for all of us. When we need some support in order to get something done, we make a read-aloud date with a family friend or a grandparent, exchange recorded read-alouds with parents of the kids’ friends, or sit down and watch something from a tried-and-true source we know we love.

—Hope again, in the know.

#10: Don’t let Netflix rule the night.

My husband and I started a ridiculous new series. We love it. At the end of each demanding, multitasking, quarantining day, we’d fall into bed and snuggle up with that show. Much too quickly, we found ourselves in season four and decided we needed to “take a little space” from Netflix. We gave ourselves two nights a week where he writes and records music and I write or paint. We feel so much better now that we’re focusing on our arts. We’re upping the number of nights to three now, with the eventual goal of four. We’ll still have plenty of veg out nights, but we’re also spending time on our passions and putting things into the world. That feels right and fulfilling for us both. Plus, they’re way-fun date nights that remind us of when we first met.

—Sarah McDonald, VP of SoCal Operations and mama of two

#11: Bookend the day with love.

I once read that the first ten minutes after a child wakes up in the morning and the last ten minutes before they go to sleep are the most important times in their day. I have no idea if that’s true, but regardless, I make sure to bookend our days with love. When my kids go to bed at night, I tell them how special it was to be around them all day and how it’s my very favorite thing. I tell them I can’t wait to see them in the morning. When they wake up and zombie-walk out of their rooms each day I let my face light up, say something dorky like, “It’s YOU! You’re awake!”  and no matter how much I have to get done that day, I give them ten minutes of cuddling, reading, or giggles. I do and say these things because I know their BFFs at school are usually so excited to see them and they don’t have that right now, but also because it’s all true.

I will always remember this time with my kids as a highlight of my life. It’s hard sometimes, but I have literally gotten to watch them grow. We’ve bonded hard, and I know them better than I did before this all started, and that is more important than anything.

—Sarah again. She’s got your number.

If there’s one thing to take from all of these examples, it’s that they’re all different. We’re all getting something right, and there are parts of everyone’s day that sounds like a 12-year-old in a garage with their first drumset.

Keep on keeping on y’all, no matter how rough this learning phase is. We’ve all got a killer drum solo inside of us.

Curated by Marie McDonald, Galileo’s VP of  Communications & Southern California Operations. When she’s not heading up camp operations, Sarah loves to write, paint, and adventure with her fam.