This time last year, we were already up to the “F” names for hurricanes as we all watched and waited for the arrival of Hurricane Florence, so I’ve been pretty relaxed up about the current hurricane season, seeing as they haven’t even used 5% of the alphabet! But that relaxed posture has slowly eroded as I’ve watched the slow but steady advance of Hurricane Dorian. With a state of emergency declared, parents across our region are waiting to see what will be cancelled and when – if not for our own safety this far inland, perhaps to accommodate evacuees from the coast.
As a homeschool mom, my kids are home every day, so if school is cancelled, it doesn’t change our immediate lives that much. But I also really do get it, because we do participate in other activities outside our home, and when those (the ones I count on for a break!) have been cancelled, and lessons have given way to hurricane preparation, it can feel a little chaotic.
So here are some things to keep in mind if Hurricane Dorian decides to make a visit to the Palmetto State and we end up with an unknown number of days with kids at home.
Send Them Outside
Okay, not in the middle of the storm. But in these days of the calm before the storm, send them outside to play! Take them to the park! Let them go bike-riding. Burn off that energy now, in case there are at least a couple of days when we will all be stuck inside our four walls.
Keep Them Busy
Give them tasks to do. In the days leading up to Hurricane Florence, we spent time cleaning out gutters and kept our kids involved handing us hoses and telling us if the water was coming through the downspout or not. Over the next few days, I am going to have them help me finish prepping our yard by moving yard furniture and picking up branches that are down. They will help me gather the flashlights and other emergency items that have gotten scattered since our last big storm, and to pack an emergency “just in case” bag.
Welcome to Homeschooling 101! Weather events are amazing opportunities to teach your own children! FEMA has a great interactive game where kids can select items to put in an emergency kit. Hurricane and extreme weather sites abound. Here are a few I have found especially helpful to explain terms to my kids as they hear them on the news and from others. NOTE – check these in advance and, as with all things online, don’t just turn them loose on it. Learn together!
Along with learning about hurricanes specifically, take the opportunity for other learning projects! Give your kids your phone or camera and have them take pictures to document what you are doing to prepare for the storm. Find out what what a state of emergency is, and how they can help storm evacuees, whether before or after the storm passes through. Show them how to make their own anemometer to measure wind speed, barometer to show that air pressure is increasing or decreasing, or rain gauge to measure rainfall.
I like to use our penmanship time to have them copy and memorize some Bible passages about trusting God in a storm (which is good for my heart, too!). You can also spend time learning things that have nothing to do with hurricanes – IXL has tons of practice in math, language arts, and other topics, and is completely free.
Guard What You Say and Do
Are you anxious about the storm? Prone to spending a lot of time checking for updates on your phone or your computer or the TV? I am! But I try to guard that because I know how my own anxiety impacts my children, especially my seven-year-old who is still prone to bad dreams. It is good to let our kids know that we are also scared or concerned, but when they see us obsessing, our own fear gets magnified so many more times in their young minds and hearts. So watch for how you talk about it to them, around them, or on the phone within their hearing.
Limit the Screen Time
It is so easy to hand the kids a device to occupy their time, especially when everything is abnormal and it feels like vacation. But I strongly encourage you to limit that. For one, you need to get them outside (see point 1!). For another, they won’t be able to stay on all the time if/when you lose power, and being used to using them in small spurts will prepare them for that possibility. (At the same time, it is good to keep those devices and backup batteries charged to have one hand for power outages!)
Keep Things as Normal as Possible
As much as possible, stick to normal bedtimes, chore routines, and other expectations. Make a schedule for the days when you will be stuck inside so they know what to expect. Kids thrive on normalcy, especially during times of crisis, and to be honest, so do we.
And when we are doing better, so are they, as they need us to be their anchors, whether in a storm or regular day-to-day life. With a little effort, the forced togetherness from the storm can strengthen your bonds as a family and make memories that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives!