“Help! I’m suddenly a homeschooler!” This is the cry from parents across the U.S. as schools are shut down, businesses are closed, and kids are suddenly and unexpectedly at home for the foreseeable future. First let me say, I feel you! We weren’t always homeschoolers and I remember the disrupted rhythms, frustration, and questions that often came with sick days, inclement weather, and school closures. And that was only for a day or two-I can only imagine the position parents are now finding themselves in with kids home for weeks or more. I believe that the decisions being made are for the greater good and social distancing protects everyone. That being said, I also know that this can be an overwhelming and confusing time for kids and parents alike. And let’s face it, despite some of the more insensitive comments I’ve heard suggesting that parents are overreacting because this is “no different from summer break,” the truth is that this is NOTHING like summer break. Parents plan for summer break. They expect it. They adjust work schedules and hire sitters and sign their kids up for programs. Our current situation, however, was not planned for or expected. Many parents can’t adjust their work schedules. Daycare and libraries and kid’s programs are also being shut down. And so, while I’m no scientist or health professional, I can offer what I have to the community around me. What I have is experience as a public educator, a homeschooler, and a work-from-home mom. We’re all in this together friends, so let’s stand together (preferably at least 6 feet apart) and help each other out.
Before I share resources with you, there are a few things you should know. First, our lives were disrupted too. We may already be homeschoolers, but our kids are involved in multiple weekly programs and we routinely frequent a number of local museums and libraries. With all programs canceled, museums and libraries closed, and a week of heavy rain forecasted-I am right there with you trying to adjust to disrupted rhythms and canceled plans. Second, I recognize that the ideas I share won’t apply to everyone. I acknowledge that I sit in a position of privilege because I work from home and have a spouse that also supports us financially. For those who are single parents, or who can’t take time off from work, or who are busy looking for other ways to make money due to the lack of work from businesses closing, figuring this season out won’t be easy. Please take a moment to assess your situation and recognize where your privilege makes it a little easier for you to navigate this COVID craziness, and then ask yourself “how can I help someone else?” Maybe you can share resources, babysit for a friend, cover the cost of childcare, provide meals for families who rely on school for one or more meals a day, etc. Get creative with what you have in order to love your neighbor well during this time.
That being said, here are a few ideas and resources for surviving COVID with kids.
- Get organized. Our daily rhythms are a huge factor in our homeschool success. This is also a practice we keep during the summer months too. Daily responsibilities, chores, reading, screen time, schoolwork, outside time-everything goes on the daily schedule. Kids thrive when they know what to expect, and creating a daily rhythm keeps us all from going crazy. It also ensures that I get some work time each day. A few things to keep in mind when developing a family rhythm are to first consider priorities (make bed, brush teeth, do chores, read, etc.) What are the things that you absolutely want your kids doing each day? Knock those things out first. Second, give kids a voice in the process. If possible, let them add some activities, choose their chores, and arrange the day based on their preferences. Finally, consider using this as an opportunity to start some new family habits such as daily walks, devotional time, evening reading, game nights, etc. Perhaps some of your most cherished family rhythms will be a result of this time of quarantine!
- Get Creative. So much of our kids’ lives is structured, planned, scheduled, and controlled…but what kids really thrive on is creativity. What better time to get silly, get messy, and explore new ideas than now? It might take a while to get their creative juices flowing (let’s face it, between screens, hyper-scheduling, and the structure of our education system, creativity is often not developed), but it’s ok to let them wrestle for a bit. As my good friend says, “Boredom is what comes right before the breakthrough.” So get out the paints, playdough, and craft supplies and encourage them to get busy. Don’t have lots of craft supplies on hand? Check your recycling bin. Most of us have a robot just waiting to be made out of the boxes and cans in our recycling. Another place that creativity thrives is in the kitchen. Bake some cookies, let kids make dinner, or just let them mess around and come up with their own new recipes. (And hey-BONUS-they’ll be unknowingly working on reading and math skills in the process.) Or, check out some of these easy science experiments you can do with household items.
- Get outside. So much of our lives is spent indoors these days, from school to work to afternoon programs, that we forget the fact that the world is our playground! Your favorite library, movie theatre, or shopping center might be closed-but nature never closes. Dust off those bikes and skateboards and rollerblades and send the kids outside for some good ‘ol fashioned fun. Better yet, join them! Take a family hike, hop on Pinterest and find a nature scavenger hunt, do some sketching or journaling, splash in puddles, climb trees, make mud pies…you’ll be amazed at how much time you can spend exploring outdoors when your other options are limited. And who knows, maybe my grandma was right when she said that fresh air and vitamin D cures all ails. (Here’s hoping!)
- Get learning. No matter how long your kids are home from school, I promise you they will be ok. Kids are like sponges. They are hard-wired to learn and absorb information, especially when it involves something they are interested in. When was the last time you asked your child what they wanted to learn? Let them read, research, and report back to you. Let them play (research has found that play is a critical factor in cognitive development, especially imaginary play). Let them watch documentaries (you can find tons of great Netflix lists online). And if you feel like you need something a little more substantial, keep in mind that not all learning has to involve textbooks and worksheets. Want to encourage language arts skills? Have them write a letter to a friend or family member. Want to keep their math skills sharp? Hop on Spotify (or your preferred provider) and search for a musical multiplication playlist. Science? Try out some fun at-home experiments (linked above). Social studies? Skip the frozen pizza and test out some new recipes after doing a little research into a country you’ve never visited before. Foreign language? How about a round of Uno, Go Fish, or any simple card game. This is a great way to practice colors, numbers, and basic phrases in a new language. Play games, read books, explore nature, invent a new sport, listen to music-and never underestimate the power of natural education.
- Get online. Yes, I said it. Screens are your friend! As long as, like with all good friendships, you practice healthy boundaries. Every family will have to determine the safety guidelines and time limits that are best for them, but there is no reason that surviving a pandemic can’t include screens. To practice healthy limits, one of our family rhythms is that there are no screens until chores, responsibilities, reading, and outside time has happened. That being said, here’s some of our favorite sites that are visited daily:
National Geographic (kids)
And finally, check out some of the awesome (and affordable) short-term classes offered at Outschool.
I hope this has been helpful to you. Remember that we’re all in this together, so while we’re following health and safety guidelines let’s also be there for each other. Support one another. Love your neighbor well. And have lots of extra grace for yourself, and the awesome kids who are stuck at home with you. Blessings, friends!
If you would like more information on surviving a COVID quarantine with kids please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org