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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
11-12: Help make lunch
12:30-2: Quiet alone time
2-2:30: Read aloud
3-4: Speaker while coloring or watercoloring
4-5: Help mom make dinner
5-530: Cleanup, set the table
6-7: Bath, get ready for 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!Published in