I get it. Extended school closure because of quarantine seems daunting. It’s not like summer, and it’s not even going to allow for a regular spring break. Three weeks (at least) of kids being home, out of their routine, and unable to go do their usual ideas of fun is discouraging.
It’s probably a situation in which you’ve never found yourself. In addition to your children’s schedule being disrupted, yours has been, too. This only adds to everyone’s stress and frustration level. How do we keep the situation from going total Lord of the Flies?
I have seen my community of homeschool moms step up and say, “We’ve got you.” We are in these trenches daily: a house full of kids, things that need to be done, emotions and attitudes that need to be managed, and peace that needs to be kept. And somehow education must happen as well!
Companies and organizations are helping by offering free online resources, too (see the end of this post).
Let me share with you some practical tips, advice, and resources to manage your household, keep your sanity, and prevent your kids from going completely feral during this time.
Implement a Routine
You might have seen the chart floating around Facebook with an hour-by-hour schedule for the kids being home under quarantine. I’m not going to repeat that here, because honestly, we are not that structured. We don’t have an hour-by-hour schedule. But we do have a routine.
Here’s how to make a routine that doesn’t look like something out of the army basic training handbook:
Set consistent bedtimes and wake up times.
Coming from a homeschool mom who consistently (on average) doesn’t have to be anywhere four mornings a week, the success of those three mornings we do have to be up and get somewhere depends on a consistent sleep routine. If we act nocturnal those four days we don’t have outside-the-house things to do, our sleep cycle is wrecked when we need to go to bed early and be up early.
The hope is, at some point, the kids are going back to school. Keep them on a bedtime routine that will make going back to school easier. I’m not saying you still have to get them up at 6:00 a.m. every morning. But if you move their 9:00 p.m. bedtime to 10:00 p.m., they’ll still feel like they’re getting special privileges, and you can let them sleep in until 8:00 a.m. or so. Unless your kids are naturally early risers regardless of when they go to bed, then I’d keep them on the same sleep schedule.
Set consistent screen/device rules.
Kids get moody with too much screen time. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. So regardless if the sky is falling, we keep our screen time rules.
Our general screen time rules year-round are: no screens before school work is finished (on school days) and no screens before 3:00 p.m. on non-school days. Regardless of the day, screen time is over at 6:00 p.m.
Exceptions to this are when screens are needed to complete school work, Wii Fit time when it’s too yucky to go outside, family movie time, and limited pre-approved extra educational screen time. This includes things such as YouTube videos on how to make aerodynamic paper airplanes, art tutorials because he wants to paint like Picasso, and coding practice. Basically, if it’s something that’s going to help him constructively entertain himself, I’ll consider allowing it.
But general Minecraft, Crossy Road, Mario Kart, Netflix, and Disney+ time is limited to the after school 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. rules. It helps him learn to manage his time also. If he spends two hours playing Minecraft but then decides he wants to watch a movie, he’s out of luck. He’s going to, at best, get through 60% of his movie before his time is up.
Serve meals at the same time and set snack times.
This is important because kids who are at home all day long turn into hobbits that want second breakfast and two dinners.
We actually do second breakfast in our house because my son wants to eat when he wakes up, but doesn’t eat much, then wants to snack until lunch time. When he gets up, he has a muffin or some yogurt or fruit. Later I make “real” breakfast for second breakfast. You can also do the opposite and prepare breakfast first, then have a snack-type second breakfast later.
You could also keep a basket of snacks on the counter that contains pre-approved “don’t-have-to-ask” snacks. Kids can eat these when they want a snack so they’re not constantly asking you.
Mid afternoon, we’re usually sitting at the table finishing school work, making art, or doing projects. I’ll set out a smorgasbord-style snack–a platter of cheese and crackers, grapes, apple slices, pretzels, popcorn–anything I have on hand that’s finger-food and not messy. This gives him something to munch on to keep him from asking me, “Can I have a snack?” four times before dinner.
Set a time of the day to be active.
If you’re reading this in Alabama, you know that the forecast for the first portion of this quarantine is dismal at best. Rain, rain, rain. Which is pretty much how all of 2020 has been. So we have a rule: we will get outside time even if it’s wet, as long as it’s not actually raining. There have been several mild days with no rain for a good portion of the day. These days are perfect for being outside, even if everything is wet. Fresh air is important for everyone during this time!
If you can’t be active outside, be active inside. If you have Wii Fit or Wii Sports, those provide some fun options. You can also look up kids’ yoga on YouTube or have an indoor Nerf war. We’ve done those before. Anything to keep from being sedentary.
Designate a quiet time.
This is important if you still have littles at home that take a nap. Set a quiet time for the big kids so the young ones can nap.
This is a great time for everyone to find a comfy spot to read, listen to an audio book, draw, write, and relax away from each other.
You can also use this time to read aloud to your kids. With weeks of being stuck at home, you should be able to finish a great book or three with your kids.
Set aside a portion of each day to do things together.
Give the kids the morning to entertain themselves, then bring them together in the afternoon. Or vice versa. The key is still consistency. They know at this time there will be something to do, and they’ll look forward to it. I’m a firm believer that kids should have time to be bored so they can figure out how to entertain themselves. I also know my son does better when he has some structured time. Often what we do in the structured time gives him an idea of what to do in his free time.
Family Time Activity Ideas
Family Movie Time
Splurge for that one movie on Movies Anywhere or Amazon that everyone has been wanting to see, or pick something from Netflix or Disney+ that you haven’t yet seen. Pop popcorn, raid the candy stash, and pile into the family room and watch it like you’re at the theater.
Take a hike
Public events and indoor spaces are closed but the outdoors are wide open, and you can still practice social distancing while taking a hike.
Family Game Time
Board games, card games, and even digital games (we love the Heads Up! game app) bring the family together.
Read Aloud Time
If you haven’t read to your kids since the last picture book you read at bedtime, you’re really missing out! Set aside some time each day to read to your kids. Here’s a great list of books to get you started. Kids can quietly play with LEGOs, play dough, or anything they can sit and do with their hands. It actually helps keep them engaged in the book when they have something to do with their hands.
Take a Virtual Trip
There are 12 Famous Museums from around the world that offer virtual tours.
Discovery Education is offering virtual field trips in STEM, tech, sports, environment, and more!
The Metropolitan Opera is hosting nightly Met Opera streams at 8:30 p.m. CST. Each stream will be available for 20 hours after airing.
Do Art Together
I know, even as a homeschool mom, I’m generally reluctant to throw complete caution to the wind and allow art messes. But setting aside one day of the quarantine to paint, sculpt, cut, and glue won’t hurt!
Check out this Facebook page that will be posting live art lessons for kids at 1:00 p.m. CST every day.
I could be here all day talking about science experiments. But I’ll let you fall down the Pinterest rabbit hole of science experiments you can do with simple household items. Kids LOVE science experiments. It’s fun and educational all rolled into one. A great one you should start with given the circumstances is this one on the effects of soap on germs.
Get the kids in the kitchen
Baking together is fun, but you can also get them helping with the preparation (and clean up!) of snacks and regular meals. You can even give them complete control of planning and preparing lunch one day.
Keep Up with Education During the Quarantine
There is no doubt that your kids are going to remember these weeks for the rest of their lives. The number one priority should be quality time spent together and good memories made.
You may be concerned about the extended school closure and what it means for your child’s education for the remainder of the school year. When they go back, will they be frustrated by concepts, facts, and skills they forgot over the break? Will the missed educational time hurt them next school year, especially in subjects where they already struggle?
Free Educational Resources
Part of your daily structured time should include educational time. If your schools sent home work packets or have e-learning assignments, that’s great. If not, there are other resources, and every one that I’m about to tell you about is FREE!
- Scholastic has the Learn at Home Hub, a virtual education program created for children during the coronavirus school closures. Pre-K through 9th grade will have access to twenty days worth of lessons in STEM, science, social studies, and more.
- Daily Grammar has free grammar lessons that span a multitude of grades. This is the grammar program we use, and I personally think it’s great.
- Khan Academy should be your go-to resource for math. It’s a complete, comprehensive K-12th math program that’s absolutely free. It has high school math, consumer math, and even AP courses. If you have an older student that needs to keep up with math during the quarantine, this is your site. Khan Academy also offers a grammar program as well as high school/AP/college-level science and history lectures. They also have coding tutorials for all ages.
- Duolingo will help your high school students work on their foreign language skills. You can also use it to help the whole family learn a new language! We’ve been using it for Spanish since my son was eight and recently started using it for Latin as well.
- Typing.com is a typing program anyone can use, and it’s free.
For elementary literacy skills:
For elementary math skills:
- Switch Zoo
- Highlights Kids
- Nat Geo Kids (animal science and geography)
- Crash Course Kids on YouTube, and for older students, check out The Crash Course
There are also a lot of educational websites that are waiving subscription fees during the quarantine!
Enjoy This Time
I hope this list will get you started and get you through this time while the kids are home on quarantine. Above all, just enjoy having your kids at home, especially if you have older kids. When are you going to have a chance to spend two to three weeks with them again without distractions from school, sports, and friends before they’re out of the house?
If you decide you have loved this journey of having your kids home with you and educating them, reach out to your friendly, local homeschool mom. You can also check out HSLDA for how to make this way of life your permanent way of life (minus the quarantine and mandatory social distancing). I promise, we homeschoolers are VERY social! You’ll find that Birmingham is actually a fantastic place to be a homeschooler!
Consistency, routine, and quality time will get us all through this. May the odds be ever in your favor!