What to do with your kid: COVID-19 – Day 18 – Fake News!

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.

Note: I have been doing more to support teachers in my board as they are supporting their own students. This means I have less time to work on these posts. But feel free to look at previous ones for inspiration. I am also going to start slipping in some suggestions for teachers as I know these blog posts are being shared by teachers.

Reminder: The neighbourhood walk is today, April 1, and the theme is jokes. Write out your favourite pun or joke and hang it in your window. A tip from a teacher, make your letters big and a solid colour. Avoid using lighter colours like yellow.  Or challenge your kids to make a visual pun. Like these ones

Despite it being April Fool’s Day, today’s list is not about pranks. The last thing you need right now is an escalating prank war between your children and the hurt feelings and mess that will come with it. Instead, I want to focus on hoaxes and fake news. In this day and age, the ability to tell the two apart are really important. So important, that for my last few years in the classroom, I spent a lot of time teaching kids how to apply critical thinking skills to what they see on the Internet. Especially on a day like today when fake news stories proliferate on the web.

For younger children, one of the best entry points is Hoaxes. I always started with this page on the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. Read it over and discuss it with them. I would then move on to the Great Spaghetti Harvest. Then let them spend some time at these sites:

Once they’ve done that, ask them if they see any similarities in the hoaxes. What makes a hoax a hoax?  Then have them create their own hoax.

For older kids, especially the ones with social media accounts, spend some time discussing fake news with them. Especially its negative effects. Then have them look at these guides for spotting Fake News:

You can have them use a tool like Google Slides to make their own infographic to help people sport fake news.

And once you’ve done all that, there is the Bad News game. It is a simulation that has the user pretend to be a social media influencer. They try to increase their influence by pushing fake news. The game shows you the techniques that purveyors of fake news use to increase their reach. The researchers behind the game theorize that by playing the game, users will develop an immunity to the techniques used in fake news. I have used this successfully with 11 to 14 year olds and they have gone on to play it after they left my class. 


Deanna Toxopeus is a teacher with 20+ years of experience teaching students from Grade 1 to Grade 8. She is currently an Itinerant Teacher of Assistive Technology with the OCDSB. The opinions she expresses in this blog are wholly her own.

What to do with your kid: COVID-19 – Day 17 – Boardgames

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.

Note: I have been doing more to support teachers in my board as they are supporting their own students. This means I have less time to work on these posts. But feel free to look at previous ones for inspiration. I am also going to start slipping in some suggestions for teachers as I know these blog posts are being shared by teachers.

Reminder: The neighbourhood walk is tomorrow, April 1, and the theme is jokes. Write out your favourite pun or joke and hang it in your window. A tip from a teacher, make your letters big and a solid colour. Avoid using lighter colours like yellow.  Or challenge your kids to make a visual pun. Like these ones

I want to focus on a very important activity you can engage in with your kids: board games. There are a lot of benefits to playing board games. But we all need to find a way to bond and connect with what is going on. You can also try using your favourite video conferencing software to play a game with a friend you are socially distancing from.

Most of us played board games as children and learned to hate Monopoly, but board games have grown and evolved. I am going to recommend some more modern options. I know stores are shut in many areas, but check with online retailers to see about having some delivered. Or better yet, see if your local game store is doing deliveries. In Ottawa, one of my favourites, Kessel Run Games, is doing deliveries and parking lot pick-ups.

Camelot Jr. – A wonderful, hands-on brain challenge puzzle where you play the role of a knight trying to rescue a princess. Or, if you are my son, you play the role of the princess rescuing a knight, because not all princesses need rescuing. Really good for young kids.

Forbidden Island – This is a great co-operative game that you can play together as a family. It is your family against the game as you try to collect the treasures and get off the island before it sinks out from under you.. This might be a good thing after a day of strife. Play together and build relationships as a family.

Apples to Apples – This is a great game where players try to match descriptions to things. It is a game of knowing the other players in the game and playing cards that you think will appeal to them.  Lots of laughs and an opportunity to be really silly.

Prime Climb – A great math game where you try to get 101. Practice multiplication, division, factorization and prime factors. Definitely for your tweens and teens, but it is fun.

Dixit – Is similar to Apples to Apples, but participants have to match pictures to a phrase. The art is stunning and quirky (and could be used as writing prompts, fellow teachers) and there are multiple expansions so you can keep adding new ones to the mix. This is a family favourite.

Dungeon Mayhem  – This is a superfast card game from the people who brought you Dungeons and Dragons. You play as a Barbarian, a Paladin, a Rogue, or a Wizard and try to be the last one standing

Fluxx – A fast paced card game where the goal changes literally each time a card is played. There are multiple versions of the game, but our favourite is the now out of print, Cartoon Network Fluxx

These are but a few that you should try, but don’t forget there are many more out there. You should also check out Steam, the App Store and Google Play for electronic versions of these games and more. Many have multiplayer modes that you can play over the internet with a friend. 

Or have your kids make their own game and then you can all playtest it.


Deanna Toxopeus is a teacher with 20+ years of experience teaching students from Grade 1 to Grade 8. She is currently an Itinerant Teacher of Assistive Technology with the OCDSB. The opinions she expresses in this blog are wholly her own.

What to do with your kid: COVID-19 – Day 16 – Laundry and Parking

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.

Note: I have been doing more to support teachers in my board as they are supporting their own students. This means I have less time to work on these posts. But feel free to look at previous ones for inspiration. I am also going to start slipping in some suggestions for teachers as I know these blog posts are being shared by teachers.

Today we have two “off-beat” holidays: Laundry Folding Day and Take a Walk in the Park Day. So I am proposing two separate activities. Laundry and Taking a Walk.

Laundry

I have been a big advocate through all of this of teaching your children to do chores, to incorporate housework into their day. Today, focus on the task of laundry. Even a young child can help with this. Have your toddler to sort socks by colour. Older kids can find matching socks and you can teach them to roll them.

Older children can be taught to fold and hang laundry according to your family’s preferences. Or, if you want to be adventurous, have your teenager research and apply different folding methods to see which one works the best.

Take a Walk

Many parks are being closed because of people not obeying the social distancing recommendations, but I still want to stress that you need to get some exercise in spite of that. Go for a walk with your family. If there are local parks and green spaces still open, go there as long as you can stay away from other people.

One of the ways we’ve been passing the time away in our walk is by geocaching. Geocaching is a modern-day form of orienteering where caches are hidden in very specific geographic locations. Those locations are then inputted into a website or app. Users can then use an app on their phone to help them locate the past. Now we have not been touching the cache, given everything that’s been going on, but we take pictures of what we find. We make sure to also log those finds on the app. There are lots of caches all across the world, many in easy to get to urban locations. This might be something for your family to try.


Deanna Toxopeus is a teacher with 20+ years of experience teaching students from Grade 1 to Grade 8. She is currently an Itinerant Teacher of Assistive Technology with the OCDSB. The opinions she expresses in this blog are wholly her own.

What to do with your kid: COVID-19 – Day 15 – Canadian History

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.

Note: I have been doing more to support teachers in my board as they are supporting their own students. This means I have less time to work on these posts. But feel free to look at previous ones for inspiration. I am also going to start slipping in some suggestions for teachers as I know these blog posts are being shared by teachers.

Reminder: The neighbourhood walk is today, March 29th, and the theme is flowers. Make some for your window so families going for walks can see the flowers.

Earlier today, I was listening to an episode on the selection of Ottawa as the capital of Canada from the great podcast, Canadian History Ehx. I enjoyed it so much that it inspired me to gather up some of my favourite Canadian history resources to share with you. So why not spend some time in the next few days with your kids learning about Canada’s history.

We need to start at the great Historica Canada foundation. These are the people who have been producing Heritage Minutes for years.  They have a website full of videos, podcasts and radio spots. Spend some time watching some of the heritage minutes with your kids and then discuss what you learned from them. I feel like “Burnt Toast” is a must for this activity. Well it’s called “Wilder Penfield”, but we all know it as “Burnt Toast”.

The Canadian Museum of History has some lovely virtual exhibits that can provide lots of information on various points of history. Of particular note is the Virtual Museum of New France. I would explore it alongside my kids and discuss what we learned, perhaps on our walk.

Secret Life of Canada was a podcast produced by CBC on social history. Often in history, we hear about the “important” people. This podcast looks at the lives of everyday people in Canada. There are some teaching guides to go with the podcasts, if you want them. (Teachers – there are some great resources here to help deepen your curriculum.)

There is also the Canada’s History magazine Kayak for kids. You can access some of their content digitally on their website

There are also a couple of apps that offer walking tours of cities. GPSMYCity and Driftscape each offer self-guided tours of a variety of places around Ontario and Canada. Many cities also offer audio guides and maps on their website. Check and see if yours does. It might be a nice way to switch up your daily walk with some learning about history.

Finally, there is Canada: A People’s History. Originally broadcast on CBC, it is currently available on Curio.ca, a subscription based service that is FREE during the COVID-19 situation. Settle in and watch the documentary. Or use various scenes to start discussions with your kids.


Deanna Toxopeus is a teacher with 20+ years of experience teaching students from Grade 1 to Grade 8. She is currently an Itinerant Teacher of Assistive Technology with the OCDSB. The opinions she expresses in this blog are wholly her own.

What to do with your kid: COVID-19 – Day 15 – Earth Hour

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.

Note: I have been doing more to support teachers in my board as they are supporting their own students. This means I have less time to work on these posts, so this one is shorter than most. But feel free to look at previous ones for inspiration. 

Reminder: The neighbourhood walk is coming up tomorrow, March 29th, and the theme is flowers. Make one for your window so families going for walks can see the flowers.

Today is Saturday, so I hope you are taking a day off with your kids to relax and recharge. It’s okay to take a breath now and then. I have some suggestions for your breaks today.

Boardgames – Play some boardgames with your kids. Drag them out of the cupboard and just play. Or get a deck of cards and play crazy 8s. The point is to relax and bond over something that could become a family tradition. It is also really beneficial for your kids.

Bake – Make cookies, cupcakes or bread. You will make a delicious treat, which will get you buy in from your kids. It is also bonding time.

Chores – Have your kids do some chores around the house. Change the sheets on their beds. Clean their rooms. Something, anything to contribute to the family environment. You’re helping them  develop into responsible adults. Little kids can help too. My son helped me unload the dishwasher at 15 months old. He could stand and reach the lower rack, so he helped. Admittedly, there were times he thought trying to drop things before I could grab them was hilarious, but the dishwasher got unloaded and he helped.

Go For a Walk – Get the kids dressed and go for a walk. Getting outside with kids has a lot of benefits.

One last thing – Earth Hour is tonight. In the lead up to this, most schools have activities and lessons about the environment. What I would do if I were you instead is observe Earth Hour by turning off all unneeded electronics for an hour and have a talk with your kids during that hour about Climate Change and what you as a family can do to lessen your impact.


Deanna Toxopeus is a teacher with 20+ years of experience teaching students from Grade 1 to Grade 8. She is currently an Itinerant Teacher of Assistive with the OCDSB. The opinions she expresses in this blog are wholly her own.

What to do with your kid: COVID-19 – Day 14 – World Theater Day

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.

Note: I have been doing more to support teachers in my board as they are supporting their own students. This means I have less time to work on these posts, so this one is shorter than most. But feel free to look at previous ones for inspiration. 

Reminder: There is a movement to put a teddy bear in the window for today, March 27, so people can go on a “bear hunt” when they go for a walk. 

Today is World Theater Day a day to celebrate the value and importance of the art form “theatre”. So the activities are all centered around theater.

Watch Some Theater

Not in time for tomorrow, but the National Theater will be live streaming a new play every week on YouTube, starting on Tuesday, April 2. Broadway HD is also an option, but they only have a 7 Day free trial, and then it costs money. Playbill has an up to date list of live theater performances and where they will be streaming.

You can also watch film adaptations of plays and (mostly) musicals. Check your favourite streaming platforms and use parent discretion. Here is a short list:

Read Some Plays

Read some plays about with your kids. You can find plays at your local library’s digital service or lots of free ones on the web. Here are a few:

Learn About Shakespeare

Shakespeare was the most influential playwright in history. Spend some time with your kids learning about Shakespere and his influence.

When you are done, the Folger Library has some excellent activities for kids to do after.

Perform Some Theater

This is probably the most important thing you can do with your kids on this day. Have them create and perform their own plays. They can retell a favourite book, movie or TV show. Or they can create their own stories to tell. Encourage them to make props and gather costumes.  Older kids can make a program for the play. Look at this how-to for help. When they are ready, watch their performance.

Watch Some Fictionalized Theater

Theater has been the topic of many movies and TV shows. Have your kids watch a few of these and compare them to their own experiences. As always, use your knowledge of your kids to determine if these are appropriate or not. Check your favourite streaming service or local library for these.


Deanna Toxopeus is a teacher with 20+ years of experience teaching students from Grade 1 to Grade 8. She is currently an Itinerant Teacher of Assistive with the OCDSB. The opinions she expresses in this blog are wholly her own.

What to do with your kid: COVID-19 – Day 13 – Live Long and Prosper

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.

I have been doing more to support teachers in my board as they are supporting their own students. This means I have less time to work on these posts, so this one is shorter than most. But feel free to look at previous ones for inspiration. 

Reminder: today is encouraging words day for neighbourhood walks. If you are participating, remember to put some encouraging words in your windows. If you want something more permanent, there is also a growing movement to put a teddy bear in the window so people can go on a “bear hunt” when they go for a walk. 

Today would have been Leonard Nimoy’s 89th birthday. Nimoy was best known as Mr. Spock on the original Star Trek. In honour of his birthday, today has been designated “Live Long and Prosper” Day. And there are a lot of curriculum connections to be had here.

Math – Logic Puzzles

Mr. Spock was known for being logical and applying logic to every situation. So why not introduce your kids to logic puzzles?

There are plenty of apps and sites that offer logic puzzles for you to do online or print, but the one I want to focus on is the KenKen. The KenKen is a style of logic puzzle that involves arithmetic. It was invented by Tetsuya Miyamoto, a Japanese math teacher, in 2004. 

Why I like KenKen’s is that they involve the four basic operations of math, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The puzzle doer has to practice basic arithmetic to solve the puzzle. This can be a fun way to practice basic math skills. You can print off some at their website or play them online. And, like everything else, there’s an app for that.

Science

Mr. Spock was the science officer of the USS Enterprise, and so this can be a nice link to some stem activities for kids.

Penny science – Mr. Spock had green blood, because the metal in his blood was copper, not iron like ours. Copper when it oxidizes turns green. You can explore this using these cool STEM experiments.

Star Trek was ahead of its time when it came to science and has even correctly predicted many of our advances in science. NASA has a great article about that. There is also a documentary if you want to watch that. If I was doing this activity with my kid, I would then have them do a scavenger hunt through the house looking for things that were inspired by Star Trek.

Language

Star Trek is a classic of Science Fiction, with many episodes dealing with issues that still plague us today. There are plenty of lists out there to pick an episode and watch it and discuss with your kids. Just stay away from Spock’s Brain, Sub Rosa, and Threshold. Another option to ask them about what issue they would make a Star Trek episode and which characters would it be about. Let them play act it out or, if they are writers, let them write a script, short story or picture book.


Deanna Toxopeus is a teacher with 20+ years of experience teaching students from Grade 1 to Grade 8. She is currently an Itinerant Teacher of Assistive with the OCDSB. The opinions she expresses in this blog are wholly her own.

What to do with your kid: COVID-19 – Day 12 – They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard

Hello!

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.

Before we dive in, I want to remind everyone that according to the neighbourhood window walk schedule, tomorrow is the day that we are supposed to put encouraging words in windows. So make sure you set aside some time today to cut out some letters or make a poster.

Also, my work is starting to pick up and I need to spend more time each day supporting teachers so they can provide distance learning for their students. This means I may not be able to keep these posts up to the same level as I have been. I will do my best, but in case these don’t appear as often in your feed.

Now, onto today’s theme. Today is Tolkein Reading Day, a day created by the Tolkein Society to celebrate the works of JRR Tolkein. March 25th was chosen because it is apparently the day that the Ring was destroyed. There are a lot of ways you can tie curriculum into a celebration of this day.

Literature

The most obvious place to start is by reading some of Tolkein’s works. If you don’t own any, check with your local library’s digital service to see if you can get an electronic copy or an audio book.

But you can also spend some time reading Celtic, Finnish, Slavic, and Greek myths. Tolkein was, in part, inspired by these stories when crafting The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. There is also a heavy dose of the Arthurian legends in Tolkein’s work. Even if you’ve only ever watched the movies, have your kids try to figure out what parts are pulled from which myths. (This would be a great time to introduce your kids to the Myths and Legends podcast. Great for long car drives or quiet story time during social distancing.)

For your older, fantasy reading fan, have them spend some time looking at the influence of Tolkein on modern fantasy literature. The could create a mind map or a venn diagram where they contrast Tolkein’s work with their favourite piece of fantasy literature. They can share their findings with you, their siblings or even their grandparents.

Math

One of the great things in Lord of the Rings are the runes that he created. Have your kids use the chart in this document to write secret messages using the runes and then have them decode each others’ messages. Alternately, you can leave some messages around the house for a scavenger hunt. How is this math? It’s a form of code, and codes are linked to cryptography and math.  Cryptography has a great history. Explore other codes and have fun leaving and receiving messages.

History

One of the other things that influenced Tolkein’s work was his experiences in WWI. One of the most obvious is in the relationship between Frodo and Sam, with Sam representing the batman from the British army. This would be an excellent opportunity for your children to learn about WWI. 

DK Findout has a great interactive site on WWI. For older kids, Canada’s History Museum has a lovely interactive site. And of course, you should spend some time with In Flanders Fields.

Geography

Tolkein made some very elaborate maps of Middle Earth. There is an amazing site where you can explore the maps. For older kids, they may enjoy this criticism of Tolkein’s map making which does an amazing job of talking about plate tectonics. This is a great activity on plate tectonics involving some graham crackers and Cool Whip. As a bonus, you could eat some of the experiment. Or break it up over several days to do around snack time. Sometimes lessons in small bits can be wonderful.

This would be a lovely moment to have your kids use what they have learned to look at our world. Print off a copy of the world map and have your kids cut out the continents. Have them then try and put them together like a jigsaw puzzle.  (Hint: Africa kind of fits into South America). When they finish, or if they get stuck, show them this video.

Finally, some fun.

If you need a break and some fun, there is this lovely earworm of a song that you could play for your kids. It would make a nice dance party for everyone. If they are familiar with Tolkein, you can also play this video which posits a different ending for the series. 


Deanna Toxopeus is a teacher with 20+ years of experience teaching students from Grade 1 to Grade 8. She is currently an Itinerant Teacher of Assistive with the OCDSB. The opinions she expresses in this blog are wholly her own.

What to do with your kid: COVID-19 – Day 11 – Fashion!

Hello!

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.

The good news is, at least in my jurisdiction, school boards are beginning to put together learning plans to deal with what is looking to be a prolonged shutdown. And teachers are beginning to reach out to check up on their students. (We really do care for the kids in our classes.) This will take some time though, so in the meantime, I am going to keep making lists.

Today is the birthday of both Bob Mackie and Tommy Hillfinger, two icons of American fashion design, so in honour of that today’s list will focus on fashion, fabric and yarn

Teach Yourself the Fabric Arts

The maker movement has been a huge part of the last few years and as part of it there are plenty of videos on the Internet to show you how to do a variety of fiber arts. Most of us have a sewing kit lying around or those crochet hooks Aunt Marge gave us one Christmas, so why not dig them out and see if your kids can pick up a new hobby. The key here is to watch the videos and then try it yourself.

Sewing – everyone, and I mean everyone, should know some basic hand sewing tips and tricks. My son is learning how to sew by working on his Scouts campfire blanket. There are days it is painful, but this is a life skill.

Knitting & Crochet

If these prove to be too easy, there are literally 1000s of tutorials and pages on the web with projects. 

History of Fashion

Children may enjoy looking at the way in which fashion has changed over the years. 

DK History of Fashion – A nice interactive site that looks at women’s fashion throughout the  20th century.

This site is a timeline of fashion history with articles and information that span from ancient times to modern. Would be great for older kids to get lost in for an afternoon.

Glamour has produced a series of videos entitled Evolution that look at a variety of fashion trends over 100, including boys’ and girls’ fashion ones. Watch them with your kids and discuss how fashion has changed over the years. Have your kids make predictions as to where fashion may go in the next few decades. Even better, have them draw those predictions and share them with a family or friend via video conferencing

If you need a podcast on this, I would like to recommend Dressed: The History of Fashion. Each episode looks at famous designers, the evolution of a particular piece of clothing and the hosts, April and Cassidy are fashion historians, so they know their stuff.

Fashion’s Impact on the Environment

One of the issues that has come to the forefront is modern fashion’s contribution to climate change.

For older children – have them research this topic and present a listicle on how to address the problem.

For all of your kids – look at the trend of upcycling.  A couple of the projects they can do themselves include

Fashion Show

You can certainly take a break from everything and take in the fashion shows from Paris and New York fashion week. Then challenge your kids to make their own fashion show. They can use anything they have in the house. Maybe their stuffies will strut their stuff in the height of social distancing fashion. Maybe it will be their Lego minifigs. Be sure to get a front row seat and don’t forget to wear your shades.


Deanna Toxopeus is a teacher with 20+ years of experience teaching students from Grade 1 to Grade 8. She is currently an Itinerant Teacher of Assistive with the OCDSB. The opinions she expresses in this blog are wholly her own.

What to do with your kid: COVID-19 – Day 10 – Classroom Management

Hello!

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.