Learning to Stay Home

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Well, we’ve been told to “Stay at Home” for over a month now due to COVID-19.  I have a daughter with asthma, so my family chose to gradually start this without the governor’s or president’s directions.  The first official week was hard, but it seemed to make it a bit easier on my children when they realized their friends were now staying at home, too.

Overall, I think we’ve been doing okay with it all.  We have mostly good days. I’ve had a couple of rough days, not bad days, but not-so-good days.  One was, I think, a drowsy effect from allergy medicine and just earlier this week I had trouble feeling motivated in the morning.  I really felt like I was in the Ground Hog Day movie as I was pushing myself  out of bed. Now academic co ops will be online for the remainder of the school year, most stores are still closed, and our lives are simply different and we don’t know for how long.  There are days that I just don’t want to do another household chore.  I want to go in a store to sniff candles or perfumes.  I want to walk around downtown while my daughters are in ballet and stop in a coffee shop.  I want to make an appointment to get my hair trimmed, maybe in face framing layers.  I want to get my new contacts and glasses from my optometry appointment on March 1st.

It’s when I’m having a gloomier day that I have decided to remind myself to focus on the good things and count my blessings.  My family has been healthy and my husband is still working.  In addition to almost appreciating the break from being a taxi driver for my active children, I have found several other positive things about spending more time at home.

  1.  Better rest.  I seem to sleep better when I’m not worried about getting up to my alarm to get my daughter to her co op classes on time.  I still wake up at the same time, but I have better rest through the night.
  2. Tidy book shelves.  We have a book shelf that was in disarray for a long time.  It was  still the home to games and books the children have not used in three to five years.  I finally took an afternoon and discarded the old items, had one daughter put yarn yarn in bins, and I re-organized the shelves for school books.  Now that we aren’t rushing to put books away to leave the house for the next activity, they are taking their time to put their books away neatly.
  3. Organized plastic ware cupboard.  It has been a disaster for YEARS!  I’m honestly not sure if much has been done with it since we moved in over ten years ago.  One day after lunch, I sat on the kitchen floor, opened the cupboard door and got busy.  We have decided to discard most plastic food storage items due the the toxicity, so it was just a matter of gathering the old things and making a couple of trips out to our recycling bin.  I kept a few in case they are needed for packed lunches or to send leftovers with guests.  I shelved our new glass storage ware in an organized manner which will be easy for my children to maintain when they are putting dishes away.  This project which was several years overdue only took FIFTEEN MINUTES!
  4. Time to sew.  My youngest has been asking me to teach her to sew for several months now and my excuse had always been that we need a good chunk of time.  The first weekend of all this she reminded me that we have a good chunk of time as she cleaned off her desk to make a nice sewing area.  I brought my sewing machine out of the closet, threaded it, and it jammed when I tried a few practice stitches before my attempt to teach her.  We have more time to sew when I find the motivation to figure it out again.  I must do that soon.
  5. Time to paint.  The first weekend I placed an online order from Hobby Lobby for canvases, acrylic paints, and brushes.  A week later when they arrived my kitchen table was occupied for three days as my daughters revisited their inner artists.  I thoroughly enjoy the finished products.
  6. Daily talks with Mom.  I have always talked to my mom two or three times a week, but with this new lifestyle we have I look forward to calling my mom everyday. I’m extremely grateful for my brothers and their wives who live near her and are making sure she has groceries and is well.  I know she is grateful, too.
  7. Walks with my husband.  My husband is fortunate to still be working and two days he gets to work from home.  We go for two mile walks a few days a week.  This is something we haven’t done in years.  I really savor this time with him as we walk, talk, and reconnect.  I hope this becomes a new normal for us. 

I don’t know when things will get back to normal, or the “new normal” as it may be, but I assume it will be a gradual return.  In the meantime, I will try not to focus on the things I miss, rather I will savor this time and what I like about being at home.

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Suddenly Schooling at Home

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At this point on Saturday March 14, 2020 many, if not most, of you find yourselves with your children home from school for at least 2 weeks.  For some, this may be part of a scheduled spring break, but for others this is just time (necessary and somewhat unexpected time) away from their classrooms.  As a former teacher and current homeschool mom I have just a few ideas for how to keep your children academically engaged until they get back to school.

General Routine

Give the kids a day or two to enjoy the break and adjust to the changes happening in our country, while letting them know this is a short break and they will have some expectations as of Tuesday or day of your choice. This also gives you time to gather your thoughts, ideas, and activities.

-Follow a certain wake-up time range daily

-Kids may enjoy the perk of doing academics in their jammies so maybe let them for an hour or so, but have a “must be dressed by time” because too much time in jammies for too many days in a row may lead to the blahs for your child.

-Don’t follow a typical bell schedule, but do follow a routine.  I’ve tried the school classroom schedule at home approach and it was not fun for any of us.

-Specify a certain time for recreational phone/pad/computer use.

Learning Activities at Home

First, if your child’s teacher has sent any assignments or has a website check that first and complete any assigned work.  One student sitting at the kitchen table or family room completes work much faster than 30 students sitting in the same classroom, not to mention the time you have when they would have been at after school activities, so you will have plenty of time left in your day to provide some structure.  You can use the ideas below to give your child assignments, have them read the list and pick assignments, or cut each one out, fold it, place it in a jar and each day have your child pick a new activity.  You know your child best and you know how they will most positively respond to your approach to introducing the activities.

  • Science:  Let your child pick a topic they have studied this year in school and dive deeper into it by using books and internet research.  Prepare a poster, paper, or powerpoint presentation about the topic.
  • Science:  Have them do an internet search for “kitchen science” and have some fun experimenting at home. (Be sure you have baking soda!)
  • History: Let your child pick a favorite historical person and research more about their life.  They can write a research paper, a play , or monologue.  Help them find clothing around the house and dress up as the character to share their research with family and/or make a video to send to friends.
  • History: Pick a time period and location to research about.  Have them make a MineCraft community based on the research.  Or, if you have plenty of Legos, have them build the community with those.  If they stay interested, try both!
  • Writing:  Have children write a daily journal.  They can write about their choice of topic, or you will find daily journal topics by searching their specific grade range and journal topic ideas, pick a PDF to print out and glue in a notebook.
  • Writing: Grow a story.  Find a story starter or make up your own and have each child and family member add a sentence to the story.  (It may get silly and that’s fine and fun!)  Or, if it’s an only child they can add a sentence to their story each day.
  • Math:  Do you have a driveway or sidewalk? Grab some sidewalk chalk when you make your next run to the grocery store for necessities.  Use previous work sheets from school or their math textbook if it is home and write out some review problems to complete outside.
  • Math:  Hide a couple of measuring cups or measuring spoons and have your kids bake cookies.  They’ll need to use fraction and equivalent skills to measure out correct amount of ingredients.
  • Seasonal:  On Tuesday March 17th learn more about St. Patrick and Ireland.  Make a travel brochure.  Bake some soda bread.  Plan a green lunch.  Listen to traditional Irish music by The Chieftains or The Clancy Brothers  (maybe mix in The Cranberries or U2).  YouTube Irish Dancing and maybe try a few steps at home.
  • Life Skills:  In addition to baking fun, have students plan and prepare a well-balanced lunch for the family.  The next week they can be challenged by planning and preparing a well-balanced dinner.  (Depending on age, maybe they just prepare a side dish toward the dinner.  If you have more than one child have each child select and prepare a side dish.)
  • Read a few books.

Take advantage of modern technology to keep some sort of community learning experience.  Children can FaceTime with friends as they are doing some activities, though that may get distracting.  As mentioned above, children can prepare final presentations and exchange videos with friends and family.   (A caution to parents to monitor the video exchanges.)

Most of the ideas can be used for any grade level, but please comment with a question if you need suggestions for adapting anything to fit your needs.

Overall…. stay home, stay well, and have fun learning together!