I hope the adjustment to this new normal finds you well! As I focus on the positive, we have been enjoying several aspects of this semi-quarantined kind of life, mainly more quality family time.
With summer officially upon us, I figured I would share how we keep our kids active and engaged, without major or constant parental oversight. See I am the kind of mom who wants their kids to learn and grow as independently as their ages allow. So I tend to provide them with a framework and let them choose how to play and explore within that framework. The framework this summer is a weekly checklist that they use to track their chores and learning. I’ve included it as a free download at the end of this post, just in case you want some ideas.
The kids enjoy using this framework and respond well to the freedom of choices they have. Some days, they finish up their minimum number of tasks quickly (before lunchtime), so that they can earn screentime. Other days they go through it slowly, where every task becomes a gateway to a whole creative world. Either way, they are content and playing and learning, and I am content and working, or guiding them, or doing the million other tasks required of a mother.
Well, our governor closed schools for a 3 week long spring break thanks to the CoVid-19 coronavirus. Tons of fun. Since 3 of our kids are still in our home, I needed to put together a plan for them so they didn’t drive me nuts. Fortunately, I homeschooled for 3 years, so I was able to quickly pull up some older resources and 24 hours later, our home is in a home-learning routine.
Ironically writing this blog post has taken me more time than getting our system up and running. So first, some background, I have no desire nor ability right now to stand over my kids for hours and make sure they are doing what I’d like. So I based my quarantine routine on a checklist system that I put together during my first homeschooled kid’s first grade year. I wanted him to be able to independently know what he needed to do and get done as much as possible without me (this method could be especially helpful for parents who now have to balance working from home and babysitting kids). Then I adapted it for part-time learning, since we don’t yet have remote learning set up from the kids’ schools, and they are technically on an extended spring break. Fortunately, my youngest is in Kindergarten and can read a good deal, so I was able to explain this system to all 3 of my at-home kids, and they are now in the rhythm.
Unfortunately, I’m not as good as explaining things to adults, but I will do my best. I am also including the file I used at the bottom of this post. I’m not charging anything for it, I don’t even get any advertising or affiliate income off of this blog. I just thought that with all the chaos out here right now, maybe I can inject a tiny bit of peace and harmony in some homes.
Let me explain- no, it is too much, let me sum up: I made a list of my priorities, what I wanted the kids to be sure to do every day. I put these priorities on a spreadsheet as topics that they can check off when they complete the task. I set it up so they re-use this checklist every day for a week (to save paper). I also added a short description or instruction for each topic, right now this description is the same for every day of the week, but it can be altered later to focus on a specific subject or lesson each day. With a little Excel savvy, many can tweak this file for their own needs and priorities.
Now we all know that setting up a list of things for kids to do is only half the battle, getting them to ACTUALLY do it can be a bear as well. So I created a system of rewards or incentives tied to completing the checklist in a timely manner. This incentive system was based on a similar system I had to implement with one of my older (not-at-home) kids who has been diagnosed with ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder).
Part of my incentives are set out in the “Incentives” sheet/tab in the file, another part is built into the order of the checklist. The last topic on the list for each day is titled “Brain Work,” this could also be called “Online Learning,” but that doesn’t fit as well. As time goes on, and we transition to remote learning, this topic will expand into 1 or more lines. But for now, they only have to keep up a “learning momentum” as their school calls it. This doesn’t sound like an incentive, but most of the online “educational” resources lately seem to be more game than actual work. So the kids are super-excited to get to pull out their school-issued Chromebooks and spend 20 minutes on PBSKids.org, or other such website. One note here, to keep them from getting too involved in an educational game like Prodigy, I have told the kids to pick a different online learning site each day throughout the week.
Another thing I should explain is what is a “School show” vs. “Candy Bar show.” So we don’t have cable TV, we have Netflix and Amazon Prime, that’s it. So I have had the luxury of previewing each of the shows they watch on the TV. Years ago, I started using the term “School show” for any show that has some actual educational value, like Magic School Bus or Sid the Science Kid. I’ve told the kids that they can only watch this category of show during school hours (awake to 3 pm). Lately, they have been trying to push the boundary of what qualifies as a school show. So a discussion with my 9-year-old a couple weeks ago led to the term “Candy Bar show.” These are shows that have no educational value, like Ninjago or Boss Baby.
Well I’m sure I’ve missed something in my explanations, so feel free to comment. I’ll do what I can to make more sense of it if necessary. So without further ado, here’s the Surviving Spring Break Quarantine Checklist:
So depending on where you get your news and how much time you spend gathering information, you may have realized that the fear is starting to settle in from the CoVid-19 virus, commonly know as coronavirus. So what do you do about it?
Well for our family, I’ve been planning a new twist on the staycation, namely a quarantine-themed spring break (I’ll have to come up with a trendy term for it). And how does one go about planning such a fun-filled week with 3 rambunctious kids, you ask?
Here it is, my plan-in-the-making for our quaran-break (hmmm, maybe):
Plan to not leave the house.
This was implied in the word quarantine, but humans have the odd need to re-state the obvious, so there you have it.
Stock up on essentials.
This is where your prepper skills will win the day. But since not everyone knows where to start, I’ll list my top priorities.
First I should preface my list with a disclaimer, I believe whole-heartedly that our family WILL get the virus. Now that we no longer homeschool, the kids go to school in a HUGE petrie dish. I’ve just accepted that we’ll get it, and I’m moving forward from there. So here’s my list:
Toilet paper – umm, yeah, I would HATE to run out
Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen for children and adults – fever is the number 1 symptom with this virus
Other medical supplies:
Nasal sprays, aspirators
Vitamin C supplements – Airborne, etc.
Homeopathics, oils, colloidal silver – whatever floats your boat (and this may be the time to try something new)
Anything else you can think of to keep you breathing comfortably
90 day supply of any prescriptions
Food and water for 2 – 4 weeks (I could write a whole other blog on this, but so many have – use Google or Pinterest if you need ideas for this)
Hand soap – we use the regular stuff, I’m not sure how well the antibacterial soap would do in this situation, but it never hurts to have an extra store of both kinds
Disinfectants – sprays, wipes, hand sanitizers, etc.
Dish soap, dishwasher detergent, laundry soap, etc. – stuff to get clean
Those are my biggest priorities, please feel free to add your priorities to the comments.
Make it less miserable.
This is where the real planning comes in, no one wants Spring Break to be boring and stuck at home. My husband and I haven’t finished deciding our plan yet, but here are some ideas:
Make it truly Survival Themed – with camping in the living room, low tech games and activities, and survival skill lessons. Just, you know, don’t burn the house down…
Plan a Spring Cleaning Frenzy – get the kids involved in clearing out their rooms, play areas, etc.
Focus on the Family – dig into family history, make family trees, teach the kids about the way their ancestors lived, tell family stories, make your own family story/memory book, have videocalls with your relatives (technology is a wonderful thing).
Ask the Kids – we’ve asked our kids for ideas and here’s what they said: build a fort, board games, crafts, origami, teach us to cook, etc. Basically they are hoping for time to spend with us without distractions.
There are tons more ideas on the web for what to do over the summer with the kids at home, including my earlier post. Do some digging and find something that will work for your family.
How ever you face this plague, keep in mind that a good plan and a healthy dose of faith can turn a week (or more) of misery into a meaningful family-strengthening memory. Don’t let the fear bring you down.
Update 8 March 2020: I am in no way endorsing hoarding, this is not the time to get a year’s supply of anything. But careful and measured preparation will lighten the load on the healthcare systems and local governments. So my updated recommendations include trying to get 90 day refills on your prescriptions and self-isolating if you are in a higher risk group.
I haven’t posted for a while because life happened and it’s taken me awhile to process it. Basically, my husband and I sat down with our family budget and realized that we couldn’t wait any longer for my books, blog, etc. to generate income. So, to do the responsible thing, we would have to sacrifice Homeschooling so that I could go back to work.
I can’t express how much this decision has pained me, but I still have faith that the Lord has a plan for us. Thankfully, my kids have wonderful teachers who care deeply about their education.
This site may end up back on the free WordPress site, but that decision won’t need to come until January. Until I am able to focus on this blog and my books again, you are welcome to follow my activity on Pinterest, where I am still actively pinning.
There’s an old song by Ani DiFranco that runs through my head when I think about my parent’s mistakes. My parents separated when I was 4, and we stayed with my mom. My mom and dad were very bitter toward each other, and my sister and brother and I often felt that we had to pick sides in the war. I was the oldest, so I felt responsible for my younger siblings and my mom. I sided with her on everything and sadly grew up hating my dad. So here are the lyrics that repeat in my head:
growing up it was just me and my mom against the world
and all my sympathies were with her when I was a little girl
now I’ve seen both my parents play out the hands that they were dealt
as each year goes by I wonder how my father must’ve felt
and I just want you to understand
that I know what all the fighting was for
and I just want you to understand
that I’m not angry anymore
no I’m not angry anymore
every time we fight a cold wind blows our way,
but we learn like the trees
how to bend, how to sway and say
I, I think I understand
what all this fighting is for
And I just want you to understand
that I’m not angry anymore
no I’m not angry anymore
This song has taught me over the years to recognize the valuable lessons that both of my parents had for me. And I’m happy to say that in seeking to understand my father better, we have developed a very strong relationship. I love both my parents dearly and am so grateful for the attributes and lessons I have learned from them through the years.
Now as I sing this song, I hope that my oldest son, who lives with his father, can forgive me for my mistakes as a mother and noncustodial parent. I hope one day that he can see me as the strong tree, who did not fall when the rains and snows came, who did not break when the winds of the hurricane howled around me. Though I did have to bend nearly to the ground, and I had to sway and give up much. But I hope that he can see that I worked constantly to stay rooted in his life, to show him my love; to shade him, when he was near, from the heat of the world on his little shoulders.
One day I hope that he can be like the tree, as I imagine Our Savior to be, standing firmly rooted in what is right, and when necessary, turning the other cheek.
Do you struggle to remain Christlike in the storms of life? What have you found that works for you?