It might not be the end of the world, but, it’s March and suddenly your kids are at home for the foreseeable future. Not only that, but there are no activities, no libraries, no community centres, no pools, no playdates; it is you and your child(ren).
There is a big difference between loving your kids and being ready to spend all day everyday with them without losing your mind. If you are freaking out about the school closures, you are not alone.
It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent if you’re wondering how you will survive weeks (or months) of teaching and caring full time for your children. It’s normal to be afraid and overwhelmed. Allow yourself a few minutes of panic and then take a deep breath. It’s time to make a plan.
The first thing you need is a schedule. A schedule will make everyone feel more at ease and comfortable (including you). Days are easier when everyone knows what to expect and a schedule is a perfect way of helping to make the transition to learning at home.
Never made a daily schedule before? Here’s some ideas about how you might get started. There is no exactly right or wrong way to schedule your days, but over 17 years of teaching, these are things that I have found work for me.
Be consistent, but not rigid.
For instance, a schedule I might make if my kids are in grade 2 and 4 would look something like:
Math game/word game
You might notice that there are no times attached to activities and this is intentional. The moment you try to break your day into timed increments, you increase everyone’s stress. Learning from home won't be the same as learning from school and it doesn’t need to be.
Let’s go through the schedule in a little more detail so you can get an idea of why I would structure a day of home learning this way.
I would start the day with reading, because I love reading. Reading can be you reading to your kids, your kids reading to you, you reading with your kids or your kids reading on their own. Try to make the reading fun based on what you know about your kids. If you want some concrete ideas to try in order to make reading an exciting adventure, visit this blog I wrote for the Nerdy Book Club.
After reading, your learner should be warmed up to do some of the work that has come home from school. Talk about your expectations with your child before they start to work. Do you expect them to do two pages? To work for 30 minutes? To complete an activity? Clear expectations can help work time be more successful.
Snack time is not to be overlooked if you want your days to be fun and enjoyable. Don’t forget, since your kiddies are at home you can start to teach them about preparing snacks. Washing their hands, cutting fruit, laying out crackers can all be a part of your learning day together.
Healthy kids are active kids and because of this, every day plan should include time outside. I have written simply ‘park’ on my lesson plan, but this can be anything from a hike in the forest to grabbing a soccer ball, frisbee, or boomerang and heading to the nearest greenspace. There are many physical, mental and emotional benefits to getting outside and being active, which is really important in such a confusing and turbulent time. Social distancing doesn’t mean staying inside your house. Getting outside, especially to areas with more trees and less people is good for everyone.
Active play is an important part of how kids learn to solve problems, think creatively and work their fine motor skills. Whether it’s lego, puzzles, hot wheels or my little ponies encourage your child to engage their imagination while you make lunch.
After lunch, your child is all fueled up and ready to show their genius side. Genius time is about letting your learner pursue what interests them the most. This can be researching and testing the best way to grow catnip, learning to play Memories on the piano, or making a powerpoint presentation about environmental disasters. This project time is all about helping your child fall in love with learning. Here’s more info on that Genius Time.
Math games and word games are great ways of reenforcing learning and they are more fun than doing endless worksheets. Scrabble, Boggle, Bananagrams, Snatch It are all great games that work spelling, vocabulary and thinking skills. Math games can be as simple as taking turns rolling a dice and adding your numbers, first to 20 (or 50) wins. Then to practice subtraction, start at 50 (or 20) and the first to 0 wins. If you have a deck of cards there are endless options. For multiplication, deal the deck out between the players, each player turns over 2 cards at a time and multiplies them, the highest number takes everyones cards. The first player to get all the cards wins (you can also play with adding instead of multiplying with younger kids).
More food and more time outside both breaks up the day, gives energy and fresh air.
What day would be complete without a little art added to life? Your own resources and abilities will depend on exactly what you do with your learner during this time, but don’t discount the importance of time to dabble in the creative. What’s your child’s favourite animal? Now’s a great time to learn how to draw it. There are tutorials for just about everything from optical illusions to one point perspective, if you are not naturally artistically gifted, Auntie Youtube is there to help you out.
Don’t forget, at school, a large amount of the day is spent in social learning situations. It isn’t reasonable to expect your child to sit at the kitchen table and work for hours at a time, breaking up the day is essential. If you can find somewhere to write your daily schedule, this gives you and your learners a chance to know what is coming and what to expect.
Above everything else, remember to breathe, be patient and give yourself room to grow. This time with your child(ren) can be a gift and a chance to deepen your relationship. You are on the same team and can share this learning adventure together.