It’s official – schools in South Carolina are closed until the end of the month, and it’s happening all over the country, as states make plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by practicing “social distancing.”
We have been homeschooling for nearly seven years, so when my kids wake up in the morning, it will be business as usual – but I know that my friends with children in public and private schools are dealing with a complete disruption to their plans. Work schedules may need to be reconfigured, other afterschool activities are canceled, and resources like camps that are normally available during school holidays are off the table, too, or what’s the point?
And if you can get all that figured out, there is the other looming question of how to get through the next two weeks – or longer, depending on what happens – without driving each other crazy. Because no matter how much you love your kids, when your normal routine involves being out and about most of the day, uninterrupted time at home together can mess with emotions and your stock of patience.
I get that, even as a homeschool mom! Our activities are being canceled, too, and we will be in each other’s space more than normal as well. But there are things we can all do to take advantage of the time at home, to not only survive but actually thrive as a family!
Here are some elements to include in your “school at home” life for the coming weeks that may just help make life a bit more bearable.
Let’s start here. Do you know how many kids don’t get enough sleep, regularly? Take the next two weeks and help them get what they need. There’s no place to go, day or night, right? I’m not saying they should sleep until noon, but maybe your five-to-twelve-year-olds can get the nine to twelve hours they need each night and your teenagers can get the nine hours that is ideal for them.
I’ve seen lots of suggested schedules for parents suddenly thrust into doing school at home. Some are hilariously strict and others are hilariously realistic (with Whinefest one and two sandwiched in between Distraction one and two). In all seriousness, most kids thrive when they know what is expected, especially when life has been turned upside down – hence some kind of schedule.
What has NOT worked in our home is a strict minute-by-minute schedule. I invariably get off schedule and spend the rest of the day trying hopelessly to catch up, and feeling like a failure in the process. What works for us is what we call rhythms and routines – blocks of times that are focused on several different kinds of activities:
Together time: This is when we do something all together, like a read-aloud or a game.
Mama (or directed) time: This is when I do some one-on-one instruction with my kids. It may be a few minutes or an hour, depending on the day and the subject.
YOYO time: This is short for “You’re on your own,” or independent time. For my sixth grade daughter, this includes subjects that she can handle independently, like math and writing. The YOYO list for my second-grade son includes activities like silent reading and puzzles.
Schole time: Schole is the Greek word for leisure, and the origin of our word “school.” It carries with it the idea of setting your own agenda and pursuing your own interests as you learn about truth and beauty. So this is when my kids do their own thing – learning a skill, putting together legos, drawing, or anything else that interests them.
When I make our schedule, I stagger the YOYO and Mama time activities – Mama time with my son while my daughter does YOYO time, and vice versa (If I had more than two children, I might do Mama time with two at a time while two did YOYO.).
On any given day, we might have time for all four of these blocks, or we might have time for just one. It depends on our schedule. For the next two weeks, I think we’ll have more time than usual, so we may get a lot done!
What I suggest for you is to make a list of the kinds of activities your kids can do during the week and put them into these four categories. Then put them in an order that will work for your kids, making sure you take lots of breaks!
From what I heard from our governor’s press conference, it sounds like schools will be providing some guidance to parents. Take those things and, again, divide them into Together, Directed, YOYO, and Schole time.
If you don’t have any solid direction, consider these basics: Reading, Writing, and Math for little ones, adding in additional topics for your big kids. Reading can be a family read-aloud or an Audible book that you listen to over breakfast. Writing can be as simple as copy work, as creative as keeping a journal about this crazy time in history, or as formal as doing some online research on a topic. Math can be done with a simple workbook from Five Below or form a website like IXL.com.
Watch for some additional articles here with more specific ideas, or read this article.
This is not like when school closes for a hurricane. Unless the weather prohibits it, get your kids outside part of each day! The fresh air and vitamin D will do everyone some good. Practice good social distancing, of course, but make time for outside play each day!
We listen to music regularly in our home! Listen during chore-time, to learn the presidents, as background to playtime. Music lightens the mood!
Did you clear out the Walmart aisle of favorite snacks, only to find out that your kids burned through those in 24 hours? I am trying to aim for healthy snacks in the next few weeks – not that the others are prohibited, but ones that help contribute to a strong immune system are better! Carrots, apples, and oranges are ones that will not spoil as fast if you are trying to lengthen the time between grocery visits.
Honestly, these are sanity-savers in our home – but with limits. It would be easy in the next two weeks to let screens take over, but I don’t think that will produce the results that we want. Use screens as a reward and as a break, and even for school, but not as a constant companion.
Make sure your kids have some time to themselves each day. Are your big kids being given the responsibility of looking after the littles? Help them get a much-deserved break when they can just be alone. That will help keep everyone from getting overly tired of being with family!
At the same time, this is a great opportunity to encourage positive sibling relationships. Making time to play together, in spite of age differences, is a great way to do that.
Do NOT schedule every day for your kids, and don’t be afraid to get off track, even if it is silly. Make time for laughter and just being goofy and blowing off steam!
Our faith is an important part of our family life, and so we make time daily for Bible reading and prayer, and we incorporate it into our school work as well. But when life is busy, it’s easy to let that slide. If that is true for you, this is a great opportunity to reinvest in your spiritual journey as a family.