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:
The Lord has blessed me in such immeasurable ways, that I cannot begin to understand them all, let alone re-pay him.
I am grateful for my husband, he is loving, considerate, passionate, hard-working, he cares deeply about our welfare and gives his all to provide for us. He is also less-than-perfect in all the best ways for me. Working to overcome my pride and take care of his fragile heart, have made me a better wife and woman in general. I love him so completely.
I am grateful for my kids. I am blessed with three amazing children that I get to watch grow and learn every day. I am also blessed with one brilliant, defiant son from my first marriage who challenges me to grow farther and fastest than I ever imagined. I am also blessed with 5 step-children who amaze me with their capacity for respect and forgiveness. These nine beautiful souls have touched my life and my heart and caused it to grow beyond my comprehension. I love them each so dearly.
I am grateful for my rental home. I am blessed with just the right amount of space to teach my kids and let them be safe exploring outside. We have enough room for all our kids to be comfortable at night, even if they all come visit at once. We are in a good neighborhood and enjoy our neighbors.
I am grateful to have two cars again. It is truly wonderful to be able to go to the library and the homeschool coop while my husband is at work, without having to wake everybody up at 6 am to get ready and take him there. I am grateful that these cars are well-maintained and will last us a good long while, barring anything unforeseen.
I am grateful to have reliable internet service and a computer. I am blessed to be able to have the resources to build a business that I can run from within our home. I love being able to care for and teach our children, as well as hopefully have the means to provide the extra income we need to pay down our debt and save for our own home.
I am grateful for cellphones. I am blessed to be able to talk to my husband and other family members regardless of the distance between us.
I am grateful for indoor plumbing and a hot water heater. I am blessed to be able to drink and cook with clean water, and shower in very warm water.
I am grateful for our refrigerator and freezer. I am blessed to be able to store and preserve foods, so that we may eat healthy food.
I am grateful for our furnace and fireplace. I am blessed that my family can be warm at night, even when it’s 5 below.
I am grateful for many other temporal blessings that the Lord has provided my family and I. Perhaps I will continue counting them another day.
For now, Blessings to You, and Thanks for stopping by!
Our country is shaken and mourning from yet another mass murder at a school. Yet as we mourn, we are becoming inured to the tragedy of it, and turning more to rallies and politics. We are turning away from our homes and children and churches, and turning up our volume and anger and disgust. In short we are turning away from Christ, which is precisely what will contribute to the problem.
If we truly want the answer to the violence that plagues our children, we have to acknowledge that Man does not possess the answer. Nor can Man create any law that will heal our children’s hearts. We need to accept that in order to heal our children, we need to turn to them, and turn them to Christ.
We need to accept that in order to heal our children, we need to turn to them, and turn them to Christ.
Try this, set aside a few extra minutes with your child tonight (or over the next several nights, depending on how many you care for). As you tuck them in, ask them some of these questions:
How did your day go?
Did you have any trouble with anyone today?
Can you think of a way that you can improve your relationship with them?
Did you notice anyone struggling or lonely today?
Can you think of ways that you could show them Christ-like love tomorrow?
Smile at them.
Sit with them at lunch.
Talk to your friends about being nicer to them.
As you have a conversation about showing Love to others with your kids, you will help them become part of the solution. Remember Christ’s words:
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. – Matthew 22:39
Man’s Laws have second and third order effects that we cannot fully comprehend, but God’s Laws are perfect. Love each other and we are all healed.
It’s 4:30 pm in our household, and the school day is over. I’ve planned something quick for dinner, so I happen to have a few minutes to write this post. Today was a good one as far as getting all our school work done (this doesn’t always happen), so I figured I’d walk you through our day.
We started this morning pretty lazily (ok, that was all me). The kids had some new coloring books and other goodies from their visit to the police station yesterday, so they started playing and reading as soon as they woke up. I was still recovering from some very short nights earlier this week, so I half-slept in a bit more than usual.
Once I got going, I asked the older 2 kids to go get dressed while I got myself ready, and my preschooler continued playing on the floor. Then I asked them to set the table for breakfast while I got my youngest dressed.
After breakfast, I asked them to unload the dishwasher. As they did that, I sat down to update our accounts and check to see how our spending was matching our budget (we’re doing much better, but we still need to rein in our dining-out a bit). Realizing it had been more than half an hour and the dishwasher hadn’t been touched, I asked the kids again. They usually do this chore happily, but not today. Once they started though, they finished quickly and we were ready to start school.
We started with a quick lesson from “Manners Made Easy” by June Hines Moore. Then we did a few lessons from “First Language Lessons For The Well-Trained Mind: Level 2” by Jessie Wise. I tend to only do each subject once a week (except Math, which I do twice), so today I taught 5 of the lessons from “First Language Lessons.”
I found early on that I don’t do well teaching the same 5 – 10 subjects every day. So I learned that I would rather have one or two longer lessons, once a week. And my kids seem to respond better to that as well. During this time I gave my preschooler a busy box (or two) so he could play without interrupting. This never goes perfectly, but it does work well enough.
After we finished my 2 subjects, the kids have independent study in Reading, Memory work, and Piano. For the next 3 hours they worked on those and other softer skills, like working together, communicating clearly, and building and creating. All this activity included a break for lunch and recess, during which they proudly built a snowman, without adult help, by working together. I’ve found that sending them outside for recess before lunch works well for me. Today I made soup and hot chocolate to warm them up once they came inside.
Around 2:30 pm, I put my preschooler down for a nap and the other 2 did a little more reading and playing independently. They had already finished their other subjects, so I didn’t mind what activity they picked as long as it wasn’t TV. Realizing that he had finished his schoolwork early, my second grader asked to go on to Khan Academy and practice his computer programming. He’s really enjoying this “extra” schoolwork and gets so excited about his animations.
Now it’s 5:00 pm and I need to get supper going. My husband is usually home just before 6:00 pm, so we’ll eat around then.
I hope your day was great and filled with Blessings!