Like everything else in modern society, what we are doing at home while social distancing due to COVID-19 is plastered all over social media. Schools are closed across the nation for 3+ weeks and parents are worrying about their children’s education.
It is easy to start to feel pressure and get stressed when some people are posting color coded schedules and a view of their living room turned classroom and you are starting to freak out about how you will be able to work from home with kids running around. Your job may even be in danger.
Why have I decided to not go crazy with homeschooling lessons and schedules? For one, I am just not qualified. Teachers obtain master’s degrees plus credits to be able to teach our children academic lessons. It can take years to perfect a lesson all while remaining in the state curriculum goals for their given grade level.
Even when parents decide to homeschool their kids, months and months go into the research and planning. I cannot pretend to know what I need to do to teach my children literally overnight.
The second reason is that when the kids go back there will be no way to account for who learned what over this extended break. None of us know what lessons they have perfected up until now and where we should pick up. And no one is going to know what the kids have learned. They are all going to start back where they were, or even somewhat before that, to get everyone on the same level.
The final reason is that I am not interested in creating more stress in an already stressful situation. There are households that are now finding themselves with both parents trying to work from home all while taking care of multiple children. There are parents who are in danger of losing their jobs or have already lost their jobs.
This is an insanely stressful period of our lives. Our children are home from school for an indeterminate amount of time. Never in our lifetime has this happened.
I am fully prepared to admit that I am sure my kids will not respect my efforts or listen as effectively as they do for their teachers. If you have children that will sit, without complaining and whining, and follow your lessons for multiple weeks I seriously applaud and envy you. I can tell you that in my house, I would be spending more time coaxing them along and listening to whining before eventually succumbing to the stress and losing my patience.
And then I am going to check my Instagram feed and be discouraged by the posts about how seemingly successful other homeschool operations have been. I don’t need to add disappointment to my list of stressors right now.
This is my personal list of goals that I have put in place during this unprecedented time to ensure my children have all they need, my husband and I can get some work done from home, and my kids are still flexing their brain muscles.
Ten activities to keep your sanity while enriching your children’s lives
1. Get extra snuggles. There’s nowhere to rush off to in the morning. Even those working from home have gained a little extra time between getting ready and commutes to get a little more sleep, which is always needed in life especially when under stress. We are using this benefit to get in some extra morning snuggle time with our kids. They will climb in our bed, even with their tablets, and just relax with us. There will be snuggling for family movies on the couch or just because.
Physical contact has been shown to create positive emotions that lead to lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. We can all benefit from some human contact in this time of isolation.
2. Get out in nature. One of the things that has put a smile on my face is seeing the amount of people out for walks, runs or bike rides. I watch people outside my window taking their dogs for walks or taking a stroll with their friends or partners. As I have made my necessary drives to stores, I have seen more people out and about walking than I usually do.
What better time to go out and be in nature? This provides us with physical benefits from exercise to vitamin D. And it serves us mentally. Exercising outdoors is stress reducing. Being grounded in nature is a technique used to re-center our bodies emotionally.That applies to adults and children.
This is the perfect time to head outside for a hike with the kids. Discuss the animals you come across. Talk about streams and rocks. Have meaningful conversations as you walk along. Talk to them about their worries and use this time to assure them that everything will be ok. Nature is the perfect setting to offer calm during a hectic time. If you have a yard, be grateful for it and use it.
3. Read more Countless studies show that the number one academic activity that can continue to expand our brains is reading. Reading benefits language development, offers a way to learn about a variety of subjects and strengthens social and emotional development.
My children read at bedtime for at least 20 minutes as part of their schoolwork and our bedtime routine. We are adding an additional 30 minutes of family read time. Grab some blankets and add in snuggles as you all read together as a family on the couch. Build a fort and grab some flashlights for an exciting twist. Spread out a blanket in the backyard for family reading time. Pitch a tent and hang out in there. The options are endless and so are the benefits.
4. Practice math. My kids love taking over my laptop and accessing math websites they use at school. These websites make learning fun by incorporating games into math lessons. They love Prodigy and Math Playground.
You can also use card games and board games to practice math facts or to get children to use their brains. Play Yahtzee. They will work on strategy as well as adding. Same goes for Monopoly. Counting and adding currency, as well as managing it will strengthen and reinforce money management. Play war or Go Fish. One quick Google search will offer plenty of options for games that incorporate math. Practice measurements while you let the kids help bake something delicious.
5. Play board games. Who doesn’t love a family game night? Board games are a great way to socialize during a time where even the biggest introverts will need some form of social interaction. Play a funny game that makes everyone laugh Laughter has also been shown to lower cortisol levels.
If you have older children, play games like Risk or Battleship that require strategy. Play Trivial Pursuit or other trivia games to test your knowledge. Have smaller children? Sight word Zingo will get them practicing their sight words and sharpening their reading skills. The possibilities are endless. Most board games have some element of learning, strategy or brain building so don’t focus so much on finding the perfect teaching game as much as focusing on enjoying time playing with your kids.
6. Do puzzles. Lay out a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces spread out and turned over. We do this on a section of our dining room table and as the kids walk by, they inevitably sit and add to it. Or they will join my husband or I if we are sitting there working on it. It’s a nice family project. Sudoku puzzles, word searches and easy crossword puzzles are other puzzles that older kids can work on to keep their brains sharp.
7. Use creativity. On the second day off from school, my daughter and my younger son came upstairs from the garage carrying a pile of plastic containers and cardboard boxes. They wanted to build with them. First, “gross no” came out of my mouth. I caught myself quick and thought “this qualifies as educational”. Using their building skills to construct projects out of recyclable materials. Now that’s a win-win.
Kids can use their creativity in so many ways. Keep paper and crayons and markers on the table at all times. Make slime and homemade playdoh. This checks off the sensory box as well. Bring out the washable paints. Magnatiles, blocks and Legos are all important creative thinking tools. I have an adult coloring book and whenever I sit down and start coloring, at least one child joins me. This is the perfect time to encourage kids to get their creative juices flowing.
Writing is also a great activity for creativity. I bought my kids journals this year for Valentine’s day. I am having them write in them as often as we can. Usually we focus on writing about their favorite part of the day, something they’re worried about, or a gratitude list.
8. Music and dancing. Music is a huge part of my life and it has trickled down to my children. I could not make it through anything if I did not have music. I listen in the car, out for walks, while cooking. Put on some tunes for the kids. You can play classical music in the background to calm and focus them. Have a dance party with some rockin’ tunes. Make music with any instruments you have around the house or double dip with creativity and make some instruments. Music is guaranteed to lift everyone’s spirit.
9. Watch movies. This is the time to tackle that list of movies you’ve all been dying to watch. Switch off giving each person in the family a day to choose the movie. Make popcorn, shut off the lights, grab a blanket and enjoy it. It is not recommended to venture out to the movie theaters right now so use your home to make it an experience. We have a projector, so we’ll take it to the basement and play the movie on the wall. I let my kids have candy and popcorn at the movies, so we do the same at home. Not only do movies offer entertainment but they serve as a perfect family activity.
10. Soak in the family time. I don’t know about you, but we are a very busy family. Boys in competitive sports and a girl who dances competitively keep us super busy, especially in the spring We are just heading into our busiest season which will most likely get even busier making up these cancelled events and practices.
We have no other choice right now than to be home with our families and that is always a blessing in disguise. Everyone in my house is calmer and more relaxed when we have had ample family time. Enjoy it. This won’t last and we will be back to the hustle and bustle before we know it.
Connect with family members, especially our elder family members on Facetime or Skype. Text and check in on family members and if your children are old enough, let them check in too. This is an important time to be connected to our home base so take full advantage.
If you continue looking at social media, choose to acknowledge that what others are doing or claiming to do isn’t necessarily the right choice for your family. Every family operates differently, and every person has the right to choose how they want to get through this time. My own town sent out of a list of OPTIONAL ways to get in learning and reading topped the list. Just know that what you are doing is enough. Focus on keeping your sanity intact and your children feeling your love and comfort because that is the most important lesson plan of all.
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Visit the Centers for Disease Control at CDC.gov or the World Health Organization at Who.int for the latest information on the coronavirus and learn what you can do to stop the spread.
More About Homeschooling Kids:
- Here’s Why I Could Never Homeschool My Kids
- 5 Things I Don’t Like About Homeschooling
- Homeschooling Works for Us, But Not Because My Parenting Is ‘Special’