It’s me, Deanna, the teacher with 20+ years experience who, like you, is practicing social distancing at home with my child. I have decided to use my training and experience to develop a daily list of activities for you to do at home with your kids.
As we enter what would have been the restart of school at the end of the March Break in Ontario, I know a lot of parents are going to start looking at schoolwork a lot more seriously. Many are thinking about how they are going to homeschool their kids while they work. I am going to give you a few tips.
Structure is Important but It Doesn’t Have to Look Like School
Children need a structure of some kind. Parents know that when that is upended, children can become upset. And because children have not yet learned how to regulate that emotion, it tends to manifest in a variety of ways, such as acting out or shutting down. Some children will try and get your attention, in any way possible.
There are a lot of schedules that have been posted online to suggest how you should structure your day. If those schedules seem overwhelming, or you have tried them and they stopped working after a day or two, I am telling you to not overstructure the day.
The reality is you can’t replicate school in your home. And here’s something that no one is telling you: you are not expected to replicate it either. Instead, focus on developing a structure that works for you.
In my house, we are using Google Keep. My husband and I create a list of things in a Google Keep note that need to get done that day. This is a combination of academic work and chores. Every time my son completes one thing on the list, he earns himself some free time. Sometimes our day is an alternating cycle of one activity off the list and then some free time, rinse and repeat. Other days, my son strikes three things off the list one after the other to buy himself a longer stretch of free time. And then there are days he gets to take a break, all day. Is it perfect? No. But it is working for us and that’s what’s important.
Most importantly, we are trying to keep our wake-ups and bedtimes consistent. It is easy to slide into a chaotic state of late bedtimes and sleeping in, but doing so would only add to any anxiety that this isn’t normal. Experts are saying that keeping a schedule will help with mental health issues. Admittedly, we aren’t getting up at 6:00 am, but we are not sleeping in until 10 either.
Avoid Worksheets When Possible
In the education business worksheets are often referred to as busywork. There is a place for their use, but worksheets really don’t lead to deeper understanding and learning. (I won’t get into it here, but there is a big discussion happening right now in education on Depth of Knowledge and your average worksheet rates about a level 1.) In many cases worksheets are boring too. And bored kids tend to act out, which is the last thing we all need.
Instead, look for activities that spark your kids curiosity. Do they like dinosaurs? Then challenge them to learn something about their favourite dinosaur from the resources you have in the house or the ones you can help them find online. Are they into hockey? Have them learn about aspects of its history? Or use the statistics to plot trends. Art is a marvelous way to express themselves and explore, let them draw or use tools like Chrome Music Lab or Garageband to make some music.
And the key here is to have them retell that new information they have learned in their own words. They can tell you while you cook dinner or fold the laundry. Or leverage the power of technology and have them call their grandparents and tell them. If a child can retell what they learned in their own words, then the chances are they have understood it and internalized it.
You Don’t Need a Desk
At home, a lot of school work happens at a dining room or kitchen table. But don’t feel that it has too. Remember, you are not trying to recreate school. Let your kids do their word in a comfy chair, lying on the floor or even outside if the weather is nice enough (It is snowing where I am this morning.)
My only two restrictions on how work is happening in my house right now are as follows:
- TV off – Multitasking is a myth. Your brain can really only focus on one thing at a time. So for tasks that require my child to focus, no TV. If watching a video is part of the activity, such as viewing a documentary, then the TV can be on, but when it comes time for my son to demonstrate his learning, the TV is off.
- No work in bed. – As tempting as it is, working in bed can cause sleep disruptions, among other things, so it is better if only recreational activities like reading take place in bed.
Multi-Age Groupings Are Your Friends
If you have children of different ages, don’t feel like you have to run a seperate program for each of them. Instead, try to run an activity that they each get something different from. For example, on your daily walk, your three year old can try and find as many different leaves as possible, while your five year old tells you if the trees you are pasing are deciduous or conifer, and the 8 year-old and you try to identify what some of the trees are with help of an app.
You can also use siblings to work with each other. Older siblings can listen to a younger one’s reading practice. Younger siblings can be the audience for an older one’s dramatic reading.
Real Life Skills
I am going to stress again that one of the best things that can come of this, aside from all of us staying healthy, is bolstering your kids’ life skills. Have them help you with the cleaning, teach them how to fold laundry, let them choose a recipe and then help you make it. You will be helping them develop the skills they need to be independent adults and you will be getting much needed chores done. You will also be building memories and bonds that are so important.
Spend Time With Them
For some of us, our work expects us to work from home. For others, we don’t have the choice but to leave to go to work. But even with all that, we all need to carve out some time to be with our kids. This is a scary time for anyone, but for children who may not quite understand what is happening, it can be worse. Or think of the teen who is reading things on social media that would be terrifying for an adult to process. Your presence can be quite comforting, even if it means you are sitting on the couch, working on your mileage report while they take a break with Peppa Pig. That simple thing can help make this time easier for them. Give them the extra cuddle when they are looking for it, even if they are fifteen.
Tomorrow, I will be back with more of a traditional list, but I really wanted to take today to remind people to breathe. You don’t have to be all things to all people.
If you have made it this far, a quick reminder that today ‘s Neighbourhood Window Walk topic is animals. Make an animal and hang it in a window that can be seen from the street so that families on their walk can see it.