The Stay-At-Home Mom Guide to Being Home With Your Kids

 
Thanks to coronavirus school closures and quarantines, a lot of parents are going to get their first experience spending extended periods of non-weekend time with their kids. Whenever I tell people I homeschool I immediately hear “I could never spend that much time with my kids!” Well, folks, you’re about to find out! It’s not that bad. Really. But I have some advice for you about how to not just survive this, but maybe, maybe even enjoy it a little bit. In something resembling an order of most important to least, here are some suggestions:
1) Do not turn the tv on. That counts for tablets too. I know, I know, I sound like a screen time Nazi. Which to some extent, I am. But especially with young kids, it’s going to short wire their behavior. My kids have been known to piss on my couch with the television is left on for too long. And then they start fighting. Their attention spans break. They get cranky and honestly, psycho. You may feel like you’re doing yourself a favor, but you are trading a day of hell for a few hours of peace. Alternatively, set very clear parameters for when the tv can be on, and make clear rules about what happens if bad behavior happens while it’s on or when you shut it off. “You get half an hour before lunch but no more tv the rest of the week if you whine when it goes off,” for example. Avoid screens for the hour or two before bedtime if you want them to actually sleep.
2) Get fresh air as much as possible.  There are obviously considerations here regarding quarantine rules and where you live (this doesn’t work in Milan, of course). But to whatever extent possible, get outside. Research indicates that every feel-good hormone is triggered by sunshine and the outdoors.
3) You are not the cruise director. I repeat: It is not your job to keep them amused all day. Obviously this is different for a two-year-old vs a six or ten-year-old. But a good rule of thumb is: If your kid is potty trained if they can figure out how to go to the bathroom by themselves, they can figure out how to keep themselves out of trouble and occupied too. You can and should give your kids ideas of what to do (they aren’t used to being home during the week either) but this is a very good time for them to learn this skill.
4) Use the time to learn a new skill with them. Maybe get a kids cookbook and teach them how to make a few dishes (my six-year-old makes pancake batter on her own now). Get a cross-stitch kit on amazon and watch YouTube videos.
5) Set a schedule for your day. Kids need structure. Things go off the rails when they don’t have it. They have it in school; create it at home and display it. Here’s a rough outline of what we use when we’re home and healthy:
8-9: Get ready for the day, breakfast
9-10: Craft time, baking
10-10:30: Chores to earn screen time
10:30-11: Screens
11-12: Help make lunch
12-12:30: Lunch
12:30-2: Quiet alone time
2-2:30: Read aloud
2:30-3: Puzzles
3-4: Speaker while coloring or watercoloring
4-5: Help mom make dinner
5-530: Cleanup, set the table
5:30-6: Dinner
6-7: Bath, get ready for bed
7:30: Bed
6) Use the time to set some good habits, like reading aloud (please read this book on why it’s so important!). Stock up at the library or on Amazon if you can. You can read aloud with any age, and it’s such a great tradition to kickstart.
7) Invest in open-ended entertainment. My best advice for toys is this: Don’t have too many out, because the choices become overwhelming (think: diner menus) and switch out what you do have to keep them fresh.  Choose toys that are open-ended and kids can do with them what they want, like blocks, magnatiles or toy soldiers.
8) Along the lines of number 7, get a home speaker like a Sonos. We listen to so many kids’ podcasts (Wow in the World, StoryPirates, Circle Round) and audible books (here’s a list of cheaper audible options).
9) Involve them in chores. If you don’t have a chore chart, this is the time to start one! Have a dedicated time for them to help cleaning a bathroom or folding or putting away laundry. Give them a specific task. It helps the day go by faster when everyone has something to do, and that means you don’t spend your day toiling to keep the household going.
10) Consider instituting a morning meeting. We do it at home in our homeschool (I wrote about it here for my personal homeschool blog) but you can make it whatever you want. Recite a Bible verse or say prayers, listen to a composer, do a short story read aloud, or just go over the news and plan for the day, it’s very much whatever you want to make it.
These have been some suggestions from a mom who has spent several thousand days home with young kids but also, don’t get the impression that it’s easy, not a learned skill, or that our home is without conflict. Over the years, this is what I’ve found works for us, and hopefully, it works for you, too. Good luck out (in?) there!
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  1. Laura Gadbery Coolidge
    Laura Gadbery
    @LauraGadbery

    #3 is imperative. I still have cassette tapes from storyteller Jim Weiss that we used to listen to before the speaker was a thing. Great advice, Bethany. 

    • #1
  2. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Bethany Mandel: 3) You are not the cruise director. I repeat: It is not your job to keep them amused all day.

    So true!

    When I was little, all I needed was a box of crayons and blank sheets of paper.  I wasn’t told what to draw, so coming up with ideas on my own helped me become more creative growing up.

    Chores are a great idea too.  However, my parents put a monetary value on each chore.  This helped me associate earning money with doing work, which helped me understand why getting a job was important.

    • #2
  3. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    There is a new Hillsdale online course about American history.  Watch it with the kids.  Discuss.

    • #3
  4. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    When I was a kid at home, we listened to the entire BBC production of the Lord of the Rings. Fantastic.

    Now they have this kosher internet radio streaming stories and shiurim, etc. Connects them to the rest of the velt.

    Bethany Mandel: 10) Consider instituting a morning meeting.

    We do this on occasion – we call it a “Council of War.” The kids like the sound of that. And everyone emerges with their marching orders.

    • #4
  5. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Great post, BTW!

    It amazes me that some of my kids found their obsessions (from lego to coding to smithing), and others … didn’t. Those with obsessions fill their days. Those without them wasted more time, and were definitely higher maintenance.

    • #5
  6. Kim K. Inactive
    Kim K.
    @KimK

    I read The Read-Aloud Handbook more than 20 years ago. Completely revolutionized how I thought about reading to my kids. I would have never considered reading lo-o-o-ng chapter books to them before reading it.

    • #6
  7. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    There is a new Hillsdale online course about American history. Watch it with the kids. Discuss.

    When they’re older, I would strongly suggest watching The Great Courses with them, then a discussion with Mom following each lecture.

    • #7
  8. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    iWe (View Comment):

    When I was a kid at home, we listened to the entire BBC production of the Lord of the Rings. Fantastic.

    Now they have this kosher internet radio streaming stories and shiurim, etc. Connects them to the rest of the velt.

    Bethany Mandel: 10) Consider instituting a morning meeting.

    We do this on occasion – we call it a “Council of War.” The kids like the sound of that. And everyone emerges with their marching orders.

    We called it “breakfast” . . .

    • #8
  9. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    Reading aloud is great.  Both my parents read books to us.  When I was very young (and before they had 4 kids) they used to read aloud to each other after my sister and I were put to bed.  That way, they could enjoy the same book at the same time.  And they could comment/discuss in “real time.”

    Once, in my early twenties, my father and I were both between jobs at the same time.  We (re-)read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy to each other.  When I was doing dishes or cooking, he would read.  I would read much of the rest of the time.  It was great and probably kept us on an even keel.

     

    • #9