We’ve struggled as a family to balance learning and working from home. There is a pandemic underway, which is something I try to remember when my frustration boils over. Things changed, though, last week when we created a simple tool and ritual.

It’s a list. Before you stop reading at the banality of my solution, consider what Italian novelist and philosopher, Umberto Eco once wrote of lists: lists “make infinity comprehensible.” In our case, lists are complemented with a daily family practice as well.

In the morning, my wife, son, and I sit around the table and review all the messages and assignments from teachers. Then, we use a customized listing template that allows us to put everything in a place. (You can download a free copy here.) Throughout the day, we ask my son if he has checked off what he has finished and if there is anything new to add. Then, at the end of the day, we review what he’s done AND we print out the list for the next day.

Here’s the key: We transfer the unfinished items to the next day’s list. That makes sure that we don’t lose track of responsibilities, but also helps us take the pressure off if he can’t finish something.

Teachers can learn from this practice too. If students have multiple teachers for a range of subjects, they could create a similar list for families every morning or week. It could be a shared Google Doc that each teacher updates, and that parents can view or print. It would make things infinitely easier to manage learning for students and parents alike.

With all of the unknowns swirling around families on a daily basis, anything that can make the day slightly more comprehensible is well worth a try.