Due to COVID-19, many school districts are closing for at least two weeks. For some districts the close is do to a case or two in the school and in others it is to slow down the spread of this fast moving disease. I am not a doctor with information to share but I am a homeschool mom of 7 years and was a public school teacher before that. Because of this fact I have had a few people reach out looking for advice about homeschooling. I thought I’d use this platform to encourage all of you as you move into your role of temporary homeschoolers.
First let me say that school at home is very different from homeschooling and thus the advice that I would give to new homeschooling parents would be VERY different. There are some similarities though, and after much thought and reflection, I have come up with some wisdom that I have learned over the past 7 years. I hope that this wisdom will help you over the next few weeks at home.
1. Perspective, Perspective, Perspective!
This was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn when it came to homeschooling. If I had a nickel for every time a parent asked me: How do you do it all day? I would shoot myself if I had to homeschool my kids! I celebrate when I put my kids on the bus, it’s the best part of my day!” The key to homeschooling is PERSPECTIVE. If you go into this two weeks like it is a prison sentence then guess what…IT WILL BE!
It is crucial that you go into this time period with with a positive perspective. Think of the next few weeks as an adventure. After all you can do school in your jammies, while sitting on the couch, under the dining room table in a fort, outside on a blanket…the possibilities are endless. If you go into this experience with a positive perspective then that will rub off on your kids. At first they may be resistant to your positivity (especially if they are moody teens) but it will be much more pleasant for all of you if you go in to this with an open mind and a sense of adventure.
2. Rhythm vs Schedule
I know that some schools will be strict about the time your kids need to be online. What you all are experiencing is different then what we homeschoolers experience. However many homeschool experts say that rhythm is best over schedule. I have found when you try to stick to a schedule at home it fails time and time again. There is laundry to do, meals to prepare, emails to answer and many of you will be balancing work with school at home. My advice is take a deep breath, embrace the mess and set up a rhythm.
Our day usually starts around 8:30 (but not always, some days we start at 8 and others at 9, it depends when we are all ready). Before that my kids sleep until about 7:30 or 8 (growing kids need sleep, and I think that if the school schedule allows, let them get the extra sleep during this time). While “waking up” they may read, play, grab breakfast and get ready to start our day. We begin with a family read aloud. I recommend this even if your kids are in High School. This is a great way to wake up and connect as a family before you start your day. After that we will go off and work on our more individual work for about an hour. If you have more than one child that requires individual attention, try to stagger their work so that you can work with one while the other works independently. Audio Books and Learning Apps are great ways to distract the youngest ones who may need more attention so you can help your older children. Here is a look at our Daily Rhythm.
Our Daily Rhythm
Morning Read Aloud Time
Work Block 1
Work Block 2
DEAR TIME (I read too!!!)
Work Block 3 (we often don’t even need this block)
Free Time//Extracurricular Activities
3. No Morning Screen Time
I find my kids (and most people) are less productive and focused if they have started their day with screens. I recommend using screens as the reward for a pleasant and productive day. My children know that they will not earn their screen time if they are rude or do not put their best effort into their school work. Our screen time is usually in the evening so they know not to ask for it throughout the day. We do have a family movie afternoon (usually on Wednesdays). This is a great time to work as a group to fold laundry (my friend Kitty taught me that tip).
I think that during this social isolation time screen time will be important. Online gaming with friends or FaceTime with friends and family should be encouraged. My son has even played card games with his friends via FaceTime. It’s time to get creative with screens!
4. Brain Breaks
Many kids struggle to focus for long periods of time and children with ADD or ADHD really struggle with this. I find that building in breaks into your day helps. When the kids were smaller we had a policy that each person in the family could yell out “Brain Break” once during the day and everyone had to follow suit. Brain Breaks could be putting on a favorite song and dancing around, play leap frog, do some yoga poses, do some deep breathing, jumping jacks…anything to get your bodies moving for a few minutes.
Before you start a Brain Break, make sure they understand that this is to help us focus and they will be expected to return to their work after the fun. Believe it or not, this will help them to focus better when they are finished.
5. Relationships Come First
This role of parent and teacher will be new for most of your kids. There will be resistance, there will be frustration and there will be moments where you want to tear your hair out and run for the border. My advice is to remember Relationships Come First. I write this EVERY DAY in my journal and I repeat this over and over in those moments where I want to yell and scream in frustration.
Please remember that the math assignment is not as important as your relationship with your child. This can be really hard to remember in times of frustration. When your child is acting out there is usually a reason. Do they understand the assignment? Are they hungry, embarrassed, tired, anxious? Often I find a hug, a break and a snack does the trick.
6. Leave Time for Fun!
Fun is the most important ingredient to schooling your kids at home. I know that this role is temporary for most of you but please don’t forget the FUN. Plan a fun activity for the end of the day, let them work in a fort that you built under the dining room table, play hopscotch with your kids outside during break etc.
We homeschoolers are usually on the go and so we will also be feeling the effects of this social isolation. The museums are closed, our activities are canceled and it is time to find creative ways to fill our time when our schoolwork is done. Below you will find some of the fun things that we are planning over the next few weeks.
SOME FUN FAMILY IDEAS
LEGO MASTER FAMILY CHALLENGE--Is your family watching LEGO MASTERS on Fox? We LOVE it and we were inspired by my friend Claire’s LEGO family challenges. We pick a topic for the challenge (Movie Sets, Holidays, Amusement Parks, Vacation Locations etc.) and then set a timer for 15-20 minutes depending on the challenge. We put a big LEGO bin in the middle and we are off. When the timer is up we each take turns explaining our challenge. Then each person has to vote for the build they think is best (you can not vote for yourself). If you are worried about hurt feelings you can skip this part or do a paper ballot vote.
FAMILY OLYMPICS–Another fun thing we like to do is set up a Family Olympics. Each family member picks an outdoor and indoor activity for the competition. We then go through the events and cheer each other on. We have done events like bocce, races, boardgames and Mario Kart. My kids love picking the events and we even have a silly medal ceremony at the end (we don’t have medals but do make a podium with furniture at different levels and play the National Anthem). You could even go a step further and have each family member pick a country to represent in the Olympics and make a flag for your country. Then do a Parade of Nations and play the national anthem from each country before the games begin.
FAMILY BOARD GAMES--This is our go to when we are needing a little family time. Each person comes to the table with their favorite board game. If we can’t make it through all of them in one sitting, we will pick back up with the games we didn’t play the next time. You could also have a family video game night. My son is obsessed with gaming and loves when we agree to play along. We will have a family Mario Kart competition, play Just Dance or break out the old school Mario Bros games.
FAMILY TALENT SHOW--This is another gem from my friend Claire. This year her family has started putting on regular talent shows. They each practice an act during the day and then come to the show ready to present. Some of the acts that they have done are magic, baking, playing their musical instruments and she and her husband did a Sonny and Cher act to I Got You Babe! We are definitely putting this on our list of things to try.
MINI-GOLF–My kids LOVE to create mini golf courses and they have spent HOURS building them both indoors and out. Grab a few putters and golf balls and encourage them to create a 9 hole course that you can play together as a family.
VIRTUAL VACATIONS--There may be a travel ban but that doesn’t mean we can’t still “travel” to new locations. Have everyone in the family research a place they’d like to visit and organize a virtual vacation. Dress up the way you’d dress if visiting that country (is it a beach location, put on your beachwear), play the music of the location, watch travel videos on YouTube, create a dish you might eat there, learn a few words if they speak a different language, play games or create artwork inspired from that culture. Take pictures as you experience each new place and then put together a scrapbook or a family slideshow of your travels. Who says you can’t travel while quarantined at home!
VIRTUAL MUSEUM TOURS--From the comfort of your couch you can go on a virtual tour of 12 famous museums from around the world. Click HERE to learn more.
FAMILY SERVICE PROJECT— It would not be Kids in Service if I did not encourage you to do a family service project while in isolation. Here are some things that you could do while home with the kids over the next few weeks.
- Send cards to the local nursing home. Local nursing homes have reduced the amount of visitors and I am sure the residents would love some artwork and cheer from the outside. If you are sick or have anyone in your home who may be sick, please avoid this activity. We would hate to spread germs through the mail.
- Do a Trash Pick Up of your street. Our streets are littered with trash, especially those of us who just had the snow melt. Grab some gloves and trash bags and head out to pick up trash with your kids. Please use common sense and do not bring your children out onto busy roads.
- Make a No Sew Fleece Blanket for Project Linus
- Check in on your elderly neighbors and relatives-We may be quarantined but we can still use this time to connect with neighbors and loved ones. Call them on the phone, FaceTime if they are able or send cards to let them know you are thinking about them.
- Paint Kindness Rocks
- Start a Gratitude Project-It is important for all of us to focus on Gratitude during these uncertain times. Click HEREto find some ideas of ways that you and your family and focus on gratitude.
- Start making Christmas cards for the Military Holiday Card Challenge.
- Write a Thank You Note–-Have you thanked your parent or care giver lately? Have you thanked your teacher, your coach, bus driver or librarian for all they do for you? Did you recently receive a gift? EVERYONE loves mail! Bless one or more people in your life with a card or note thanking them for all they do to help and support you. This is a project for all ages, as the littles can draw and adults can scribe the note of thanks and gratitude. Make writing thank you notes a regular practice in your home. This simple activity will teach an important lesson in gratitude, respect and connection (not to mention it will help them practice their writing).