Homeschooling

Help! I am stuck in the house with my kids all day!

A survival guide for quarantined families

As an experienced homeschooler, a week or 2 at home with kids is nothing unusual.  But for those of you who are new to this and have the added pressure to stay in the house all day, let me help you make a plan! Let me be your homeschool coach, even if it’s just a temporary situation. Less stress is good for everyone!

Schedules are your friend!

First, you need a schedule.  This will help you get a variety of activities in your routine to avoid cabin fever! Pick the kind that best suits your family and everyone’s comfort with schedules or spontaneity:

  1. Set times for activities.  You can set alarms on your phone if you want to stick to times a little more strictly.
  2.  You can make a list and follow it in order, not worrying about the clock or if you run out of time…just be mindful about what is last on the list.
  3. You can make a list and check them off all out of order….just be careful to alternate between mental and physical tasks and left or right brained activities.  And maybe decide which one or two should always be saved for last.

Choices are Fun!

Next, give kids choices all day long. You may say it’s reading time, but they pick the book or decide if it’s an audio book or a paper book or if mom reads it out loud. Then ask them where they want to read. Encourage “crazy” choices. Under the bed… Upside down, hanging off the couch, in a tree, in a tent. This is their chance to do something totally different.  When they have school assignments, would they like to stay in PJ’s for a whole day?  Or wear a costume?  How about crazy hair day?  Let them do their math in pink pen (though I suggest erasable pink pen!)  Just find some “rules” to break that don’t matter and make the most of it! If kids have so many choices (even small unimportant ones), you are less likely to feel trapped by not having the choice to leave.

What do we do all day?

Now what to do.  There may be assignments from school, but if you need more for an off week, or because the days aren’t full enough, take some or all of my ideas. I would suggest you might want to list these categories on your schedule and let the kids pick from the list.

  • Morning devotional: Take some extra time to study your faith with your child. You could read the Bible, do a devotional book, or even memorize a short book of the Bible. If you aren’t religious, it still might be interesting to see what others believe or learn some basic Bible stories (creation, Joseph, Moses, Jonah, the story behind Christmas, the story behind Easter, Paul on the road to Damascus, Pentecost) so you recognize the references in literature and movies.
  • House work, chores, and life skills: Find 15 things to donate or hand down to younger sibling. Learn a new household skill–watch YouTube’s and decide which method is best. (If they commit to do the chore for a month, they can purchase a tool online to help with chore). Organize one drawer (consider YouTube’s on how to fold shirts perfectly or new drawer dividers. You can make a shirt folder out of cardboard.) Do daily chores….Consider that because everyone is home all day, there will be more housework needed, so everyone should pitch in and do something extra. Learn to change your parent’s oil and negotiate a fair price for changing their oil. Practice changing a tire.
  • Reading: You can read digital books (often free from the library, even if they are closed!), traditional books, and comic books. Listen to an audio book or parent read aloud. Don’t forget about reading non-fiction books. Create an audio book complete with sound effects and page-turning sounds for younger sibling with a picture book. Find a list of classic books and read one (many are free online with Project Gutenberg). Read books that have a movie made about them and then watch the movie and compare.
  • Math: Play on math software like Prodigy (if you don’t like “magic” search for a different computer math game.) Practice math facts. (I’ll post my favorite game for this in another post soon.) Play a board game that requires a lot of adding for score keeping and let the kids keep score. Play “7 ate 9” card game (you can teach kids as young as Kindergarten if start with green cards and then add blue ones). Practice math facts again (this is me as a math teacher on my soap box!) Make it a goal to be able to answer 3 of the harder facts instantly like 7×7, 8×8, and 7×8. Listen to skip counting songs like this one. Watch a math song YouTube from Jack Hartmann… He has some skip counting with exercises and lots more (early elementary). Practice a math skill on Khan academy or watch their fascinating “doodling in math” videos… They have all levels, including SAT.
  • Other academic learning: Leave this open to each child’s interest… Study history or sciences (don’t forget usual ones like astronomy or Marine biology). Do some nature study (observe a squirrel, draw a cloud, or watch an insect). Learn or practice a foreign language (watch a movie in the foreign language but with English subtitles). Learn art history or music history. Study a foreign culture (geography). Learn about chess, health, architecture, engineering, or psychology. Write, read, or memorize poetry (such as the ones here and on this list.) Do some writing (such as starting a novel or a blog.) Take an online test to discover some good career options and research those. Research potential colleges and majors. You can learn almost anything with Google and YouTube.
  • Learning toys and games: Make a list of your educational toys…. Preferably without batteries or tech. Building toys. Science learning sets like Snap Circuits and growing crystals or magnets. Historical dress-up or toys (read about ancient Rome and then play with Roman playmobil figures). Educational games (count games like Scrabble and Think Fun games…keep an eye out for my coming post on educational games!)
  • THE Arts: Act, sing, dance, paint, draw, sculpt with play dough, crochet, knit, or play an instrument (do you have an old one they can start on? Or did they take piano lessons and haven’t played in a long time?) I would suggest avoiding the kind of craft projects where the parent does all the work and kids get little room for creativity. Free time can breed creativity.
  • Outside time: Remember, kids can play in the rain or snow if they have appropriate clothes. Swinging, spinning, climbing, and playing in the sand develop parts of a child’s brain. Schedule outside time at the most pleasant time of the day, weather-wise. Or get up and watch a sunrise. Have them walk the dog or even the neighbor’s dog! Go outside and draw one thing you see… The observation will build basic science knowledge. Learn to tell the weather based on clouds. Makes a chart about the daily weather. Fresh air and dirt are both good for their health! Garden! Even if it’s too early to plant, they can get the soil ready. Pay them to pull dandelions… Extra money for every root they get (the secret is to get all the leaves in your hand first).
  • Meals: Yes, eat them of course, but all school age kids can also plan, prepare, and clean up meals, though it might need to be simple, like sandwiches with carrots or apple sauce. I have found that making desserts is also motivational! There is so much math (measuring and fractions), chemistry, and health in cooking. Do it and talk about it. Even as you eat, talk about how many raisins they started with and how many they have left. How many fourths of the sandwich do they have left? (Pro tip: Don’t tell the little ones these are fractions…just that that piece is called a fourth.)
  • Service: Each kid picks a way to serve someone else. At least once a week, think about someone outside your home. Write an encouraging letter. Fill bags to handout to homeless people (right now, include a small hand sanitizer!) Do extra chores to earn money and use it to buy food for a food pantry or order groceries delivered to a sick person. During this pandemic, make a plan to keep the household running if the parents are sick! What can the kids do to help?
  • Room time: Rest or play quietly in room for 30 minutes or an hour.
  • Exercise: Keep a balloon off the ground as long as you can. See how far they can jump and try each day to beat that distance (mark with a yard stick and it’s math too!) Learn to do a cartwheel (too easy? Try one-handed!) Sprint across the yard and try to beat your own time. Do yoga (such as Calm Down Kids Yoga). Try a 30 day plank challenge app. Challenge your balance with a balance board or just standing on one foot as long as you can (keep track to see if you can improve your time or challenge your friends to see who can do it the longest and send a video as evidence.) Dance for 30 minutes. Jump on the trampoline for 20 minutes.
  • Electronics time: Educational game or TV show (Magic School Bus is the best!) or perhaps, give them an amount of time earned if all the above are completed and their room is clean (or at least cleaner than yesterday!) Want to go next level? Add time for extra chores and subtract time for bickering or back-talk!

Bonus ideas: Need to get out of the house?

How about a driving tour of your city? Are there historic homes or landmarks? Look up a few details or better yet have your teen do it! Print out a list of items that you are hunting for (search travel bingo) and drive around until you find them all. Work as group, teams, or individuals. The car is out of the house but you can stay in your own space!

In Texas (because I really only know my home state!), it looks like the drive-thru animal park, Fossil Rim, is still open and it seems like you would encounter about the same limited amount of social interaction as a drive-thru restaurant (without worrying about germs in food). If you stay in the car, it’s definitely better than a public playground! What about a drive-in movie? You might want to actually stay in the car and park selectively, but it is possible to keep your distance! A hike in the woods? (You might have to research to find a less used path.) I’m no health expert, so use wisdom, especially given the amount of outbreak in your area, but I’m thinking creatively to get out without seeing people!


Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links (through Amazon) and if you go through them to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something and if you buy it there is up to you.

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