This morning thousands of kids will suddenly be “homeschoolers” and in the coming weeks there may be 1000s more forced to figured out what-to-do-at-home all day. I’ve seen post after post of parents freaking out that there kids are now at home. And I want to tell you…
It might even be awesome if you give it a chance
And if possible…let school take a back seat.
That’s right. Do only what your schools absolutely require.
First, let’s be real. A lot of school is shuffling kids around and classroom management. They are not learning all day. Second, yes while there are academic benefits to homeschooling, a few weeks or a month isn’t enough time to reap many of those benefits. You’ll still most likely be using the school’s curriculum and lessons which weren’t chosen with your unique child in mind. So do what most homeschoolers I know do, let “school” take a backseat.
Instead, take these next few weeks to connect and spend as much time as possible with your kiddos. Use this time to explore new hobbies. Use this time to start a new skill. Use this time to read new books. Use this time to play more games. And especially use this time to build deeper family relationships.
Two weeks or even a month off of school is not a big deal (for most kids). Trust me.
We once took off an entire year, A YEAR, from traditional school subjects. My oldest kids were 9 and almost 12 at the time. It didn’t “ruin” their academic progress. A few years later they went back to part-time school and they had not fallen behind their peers at all. A few years after that our oldest, Nathanael, earned multiple college scholarships to his first choice school. Our 17 year old, Noah, started college classes as a 10th grader and has maintained over a 4.0 GPA since. So when I say a month off doesn’t matter* (read my caveat below) academically, I know from experience. It really doesn’t in the long run. However, it can be life changing in other ways. So relax and do only what your school is going to require. Let them have a few weeks to learn and play outside the classroom.
Wait you say…this all sounds interesting…but I gotta work! I hear you. My husband and I work from home too. (Albeit, my hours are intentionally limited.) Believe it or not, I’m actually planning to get more work done than usual while we are social distancing. Even though we don’t go to work or school, we still go on a lot of social outings. Taking a break from those will give me a little more time to catch up. Over the years, I’ve learned some practical ways to keep the kiddos busy so I can get some stuff done and I’m going to share them with you.
So slip on your jean jumpers and put that hair up in a bun like any good homeschooling mama, it’s going to be a wild few weeks.
How to Keep Your Kids Busy at Home So You Can Work
Play – Ground breaking advice, right! Give me a second. Play is arguably the most important aspect of childhood. Unfortunately, due to busy lifestyles and academic pressures most kids are not playing enough. Play unleashes creativity, builds problem solving skills, and grows relationships. Letting my littles play is my go-to every single day. It trumps everything…even school because play is education. If they are playing well together I intentionally stay out of their way and let them do their thing. There are days my kids play all day long and I get so much done, much more than if I was having to shuttle them to and from school and activities. So try to stay out of their way and let them, well, be kids. They’ll have fun and you’ll get some work done. (If your kids are constantly fighting give them a chance to work it out before stepping in. If you jump in at every squabble they might see that as a “reward” so as long as no one is getting hurt try to let them work it out. They have been in school and school by design can, unintentionally, create a pecking order by grade. Also they may need some practice playing if you are a non-stop-on-the-go type of family. It may take a few days but I’m confident all children will thrive the most when left to play.
Explore Nature – Sticks are the universal toy of childhood. Go find a quiet solitary spot in the forest away from others and let them loose! If you have to, catch up on some email on your phone.
Read Read Read – Put that library card to use! Most libraries will allow you to reserve books online and pull them for you or, even safer, download books onto your reading device if you have one. There are few things better in the world than snuggling up with a young child and sharing a good book. If you have to work, a huge stack of picture books will keep them entertained for awhile. Audiobooks can be downloaded from Libby. Or swap books with another family who has been practicing social distancing and are certain to be healthy.
Podcasts for Children – This was a game changer for me. I had never thought of letting my kids listen to podcasts. In our house, this is a nearly fail-proof way to keep them entertained if I need to get some work done. Just search children or kids stories in your podcast app. Our littles love listening to stories while playing LEGOS. We actually had to get rid of Alexa because my 5 year old was constantly putting on stories. (We don’t like “too much” of any type of digital entertainment.)
Crafting – We keep a box of craft supplies and pull it out when I need to get some things done. Our 4 year old has nicknamed himself “King Craft” and will spend HOURS glueing and taping random craft supplies together. Sure, it makes a mess but it’s good for him and good for me.
Sensory Play – A bin of rice or beans, water tables, sand boxes, shaving cream, etc. can provide hours of play. My kids also love Kinetic Sand and Play Doh. A few weeks ago we made an “aquarium” with food coloring, gelatin, water, and plastic sea creatures. They loved shaking and squishing the gelatin around. The Instagram account mothercould has a lot of fun easy ideas.
Multi-use Toys – LEGOS, Trio (discontinued but can be found used), magnetic tiles, K’NEX, Lincoln Logs, and Zoobs are just some of the toys that can be used in different ways over and over again. Occasionally I’ll buy a new set of LEGOS just to keep my kids entertained while I work. It’s less expensive than a babysitter and good for their little minds.
Toy Rotation – Speaking of toys, if you haven’t used a toy rotation now is a great time to start. The Little’s toys are organized by types in boxes and stored in a cube shelf. We keep a few boxes on the lower shelves that they can access and the rest get stored at the top, out of reach. In my ideal world, I’d rotate them daily but it turns out I bring them down when they ask or if boredom has gotten out of control. Regardless, it’s like they got a new toy. This system has the added benefit of helping to maintaining a-less-is-more lifestyle.
While it’s not as hard to work with older kids around, in some ways they are more challenging. It’s all too easy to let them hide out in their rooms on their devices. I know. I let that happen more than I care to admit. School keeps them busy. Homeschooling allows for a lot more free time which can be a blessing or a curse. Here are some ideas to fill all that extra time that doesn’t involve electronic devices.
Read – Any homeschooler is going to put this first. It would be heresy not to. Help your pre-teen and teen find interesting books by reading reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. Search the internet for books lists for teens. Homeschooler bloggers are notorious for publishing great book lists.
“Babysit” – If you have littles, recruit the Bigs to play with them. It’s good for them and good for the family. Family life is a shared responsibility. There is no reason mom or dad should do everything. It also helps them to learn patience, compassion, and problem solving skills. Not to mention, it deepens relationships.
Passion Projects – Does you kid have a passion he/she hasn’t been able to pursue due to homework and other school commitments. Now would be a great time to work on that (as long as it doesn’t involve other people).
Cook – Find recipes online or reserve some cookbooks from the library and let your kid make dinner for the family. Not only will they be learning essential skills while having fun and boosting confidence but it will save you some time so you can get more work done. Our son, Noah, has been cooking since he was 11. I’ll never forget how proud he was of that first pot of potato soup. He still loves to cook. The other day we came home to Eggs Florentine for dinner. Trust me it’s a skill you want your kids to have. Now is a great time to have them start if they haven’t already.
Make a Movie – With camera phones in nearly every pocket, the director’s chair is accessible to most. Encourage your teen to write a short script and shoot it on their phone (they may have to wait until we don’t have to social distance anymore). Our friend, Caleb Price, has created an affordable course for aspiring young filmmakers, called Lights Camera Movie. Now would be a great time to start something like this and get that script ready.
Art and Crafts – Painting, drawing, fiber arts, sculpting, pottery, sewing, knitting, photography, etc…now would be a great time to encourage your young maker.
Plan a Vacation – Maybe you are one of the thousands having to cancel your spring break vacation. Why not let you teen plan the next one! Give them a budget and a location and let them plan the itinerary. Not only will they learn while having fun, they won’t be able to complain on vacation. It’s a win-win!
Board Games – Always a great way to have fun and pass the time.
Learn a New Skill – Has your kid talked about wanting to learn something new but not tried it? YouTube has thousands of tutorials. Our oldest son taught himself to play piano using YouTube when we lived in an RV. Back then we had no idea that those hours playing along with YouTube would turn into a large music scholarship. Many libraries offer online classes through Lynda. These classes are often free with your library membership. Sites like Skill Share offer free and subscription based classes on a wide variety of topics. Maybe you have a skill to teach your kids? My husband, Brent, has taught our boys how to work on houses, cars, and create web design.
Exercise – There are so many great free apps that will allow your teen (or littles!) to workout from home. Movement will help keep their spirits up. Not only does working out from home keep your family healthy, it will save you money. (Who knows what’s in store from the economy. Hoping for the best!) A gym membership is a luxury and one you might want (or need) to give up so establishing a home exercise routine might not just benefit your teen’s body and mind but also your wallet.
So instead of dreading the next few weeks this may be a time to make sweet memories. A time to build deeper bonds. A time to learn a little bit more about your kids. A time to try new things. And maybe even a time to ask yourself if a conventional education is the best one for your child. You never know what the future may hold when you keep an open mind and heart. This may be just the beginning of a new family adventure!
You got this!!!!
With love and laughter,
*If you child is in high school and planning to apply for college scholarships, don’t blow off school if it will affect their grades. Those grades will follow them through high school and be used to get into college. Unfortunately, these are the hoops most colleges require prospective students to jump through.