Suddenly Schooling at Home

eugene-chystiakov-68KqaloJPaU-unsplash

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!

 

 

 

 

 

A Morning Walk

When we decided to start our day with a morning walk I didn’t realize how much learning would actually take place.  I agreed to it out of a need for my own exercise and an opportunity for the girls to cross-train (exercise other than dancing) by walking, running or riding their bikes.  Not to mention, it was a beautiful sunny morning!   No, I didn’t consider the discussion about seasons, observations of birds and even math skills that would come in to play as we walked the neighborhood.

My oldest rode her bike ahead and kept circling back.  My youngest started by trying to run to keep up with her sister, but asthma wheeziness started creeping in due to a combination of spring pollen and over exertion, I guess.  Instead she just walked with me….and learned.

As all kindergarteners do, we learned more about the seasons.  We noticed that fall isn’t the only season to have pretty varying colors of leaves on trees.  She noticed the varying shades of green on the spring leaves, as well as some pinks and yellows.

image

     Oh, the birds!  They were out in full force this beautiful spring morning causing us to enjoy some impromptu nature studies.  First we heard them.  We just listened to their singing.   We heard one that was probably the baby and then what we assumed was it’s mother answering back.  My daughter shared her thoughts that the baby was asking for breakfast and the mother was telling it she’d be right back with a worm.  Then we noticed the different sounds of bird songs coming from different trees.  A little farther on our walk we noticed a bright red cardinal, along with two female cardinals.  As it’s always surprising for young children to learn, I told her that the prettiest cardinal is the male and the others are female.  As we watched them flit and fly from branch to branch playing with each other she decided that maybe the two females were actually bickering and fighting over the handsome male cardinal.  (It seems thoughts of romance starts young these days.  And, no, we don’t spend our afternoon watching soap operas.)

We learned about math as we counted how long it would take her sister to get from the end of the cul-de-sac to the other end on her bike.  It took 6o seconds, which we reviewed equals one minute.  We continued discussing it would probably take an hour if she did it 60 times, because an hour equals 60 minutes.  How many could she do in 15 minutes?  About 15, of course.  She didn’t realize we were having a mini math lesson.

I didn’t realize either, as we were walking and talking, all the things we were learning while putting off school work for a walk in the neighborhood.  It was as we returned home and entered the driveway that it hit me what a productive morning walk we had had.  She asked to stay out a little longer to play with bubbles and I obliged.  Who knows what else she might discover and learn on her own while she stays outside just a little longer!

image

Happiness Does Not Equal Perfection

12/23/2016  I’m reposting this as a reminder to enjoy the peace and love of Christmas with your families as Mary did.  I’m quite certain the stable was not perfect.
I catch myself doing it from time to time;  you know, trying to make a holiday or other special day perfect.  I’m certainly not a perfectionist, but for some reason these ideals creep into my mind around holidays like Christmas or Easter and when I am hosting birthday parties for my children.  I find myself getting so caught up in these ideals that it causes me stress which results in my own unhappiness and grumpiness, and worse yet, it steals the happiness from the people whom I am trying to bring joy.  It’s a vicious cycle.

It was the day before Easter Sunday this year when I started feeling it.  I had not slept well the night before, I had to get the kids to an egg hunt, bake the bunny cake (which was a new thing for us this year, but we were all looking forward to it) and dye the eggs.  Not to mention tidy the house in preparation for my brother and his wife who would be here for dinner on Sunday.   Oh, and finish the routine laundry and prepare a regular Saturday dinner.   My daughter entered the kitchen with anticipation inquiring, “Are we dying eggs or baking the bunny cake first?”  I must have worn the stress on my face and probably didn’t realize I let out a frustrated sigh.  That’s when sadness appeared on her face and she said to me, “Why aren’t you happy?”  Whoa!  What?  Yikes, what am I doing?  OK, I know what I need…a power nap, but there is really not time and I just had a cup of coffee so sleep won’t happen.  I really just need to relax and maybe prioritize.  What is the priority?  Eggs or bunny cake?  Neither.  The priority is to build happy memories with my girls.  It is for them to see the love of Jesus as we celebrate Easter, not the grumpiness of Mommy.  We colored the eggs together and then prepared the cake batter.  Things worked out.  Instead of having a homemade dinner that night, we ended up having Chipotle for dinner on our way back from the grocery store, and that’s okay.  I got some other things done while, get this, they decorated the bunny cake all by themselves.  It looked great and tasted delicious!

image

The very next week as I was getting my daughter’s 6th Birthday Tea Party ready and I started to feel it again….the desire for it to be perfect.  The day before the party my oldest, confident after the success of the Bunny Cake, made and decorated the birthday cupcakes all by herself.  My birthday girl and I set out the activities and filled the favor bags together.  I had put off buying the flowers and balloons until the day of the party so they would be fresh.  The morning of the tea party, I started feeling the frantic feeling again of having things tidy, prepared and perfect.  My birthday girl was cleaning off the coffee table and brought me a bookmark which she thought was mine so I could put it away. “Keep Calm and Pray”  were the words on the bookmark.  That was all I needed for a reality check.  I said a quick little prayer and remembered that ten years from now, or even tomorrow, it won’t matter if I had the fruit cut in cute little shapes to match the sandwiches. The party doesn’t have to be perfect to bring my sweet little six year old and her friends happiness.

Am I cured?  Will I never again stress about an event or occasion?  Probably not.  I do think I will catch myself early enough to keep calm and pray, and remember that happiness does not equal perfection.

image