Are you a parent or a caregiver unexpectedly homeschooling your children now? Amidst the general uncertainty, it can be doubly stressful thinking about how to educate children at home while also simultaneously keeping up with your own work responsibilities.
Anxieties are high, and our children are sure to pick up on them. The absolute best thing we can do for them now is to remain as calm as possible and try to establish comforting and nourishing routines at home to help get us through this tumultuous time together.
Children learn from anything and everything they see. They learn wherever they are, not just in special learning places.John Holt
As for ‘formal’ schooling? You needn’t worry. Children are remarkable in their ability to learn effortlessly — as long as they’re interested and having fun. Rather than trying to re-create a ‘school day’ at home, consider the following ways to keep your kids actively engaged in the weeks ahead.
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1. Prioritize family meals together. Take the opportunity to slow down and enjoy breakfast together. Light a candle, read a poem, look at an interesting piece of art. Create short, but meaningful family rituals that can be continued even after your children return to school.
2. Play board games. ‘Gameschooling’ continues to gain popularity among homeschoolers, and rightfully so! Not only do children love playing them, but board games also foster some incredible social skills: patience, turn taking, and sportsmanship to name a few. You can read more about some of those benefits here. Of course, there’s the added bonus that you can easily find a plethora of educational board games to supplement a child’s curriculum, whether it’s math, geography, nature study, you name it. But most importantly? Taking the time to sit down and play games together creates wonderful family memories that will be cherished by your children for the rest of their lives.
3. Enjoy the fresh air. If you have access to a private backyard or a secluded spot in the woods, do try to get outside as much as possible these next few weeks to avoid cabin fever. Pack a picnic lunch or eat meals on the patio. Organize backyard scavenger hunts. Draw up a treasure map. Take art supplies outside — especially those messier ones that make you uncomfortable using inside. Get a jump start on gardening and landscaping projects for the spring. Ride bikes, fly kites, give wagon rides. Connecting with nature is therapeutic and can help everyone feel a bit better. Your children may enjoy starting the U.S. National Park’s Junior Ranger Program.
Please read the following article if you’re uncertain how to practice social distancing while playing outdoors: Comprehensive Social Distancing Is Difficult and Necessary. Here’s How to Keep Your Family Safe.
4. Snuggle up and read books. Our local libraries have closed, so we’ll be relying on our own small collection of books and re-reading some of our favorites together over the coming month. Don’t forget that audiobooks are wonderful alternatives to screen time and will allow you to get some work done from home while your kids listen. Personally, I highly recommend Scribd, which you can try free for 60 days using the below link. They have a good selection of e-books and audiobooks for the entire family, including some wonderful resources for learning more about homeschooling in general.
Alternatively, Audible has recently made an incredible selection of children’s audiobooks free to stream for as long as schools are closed. You can browse through their collection here: Stories Help.
5. Dedicate time to art and music. Pick a composer to study and select some of their greatest music, pull out your stash of art supplies and materials, and let your children exercise their creativity. I recommend keeping art experiences open-ended for younger kids, but if your older ones would like a bit more direction you can find a plethora of drawing and painting tutorials online. And if you haven’t begun nature journaling, now’s a great time to start! You can download a free curriculum here: Opening the World Through Nature Journaling: Integrating Art, Science, and Language Arts.
Looking for free resources for art + music? Check out these options:
6. Get a head start on spring cleaning and organizing. Do you have any projects you’ve been putting off around the house? Maybe organizing the closets? Washing the windows? Cleaning the basement? Both my kids are still young and eager to jump in and help when I start big organizing projects, so I can’t speak for older ones here. But dedicating a bit of time together every day towards a project can help everyone feel a sense of accomplishment and empowerment in these uncertain times.
7. Pull out family photo albums and learn a bit of history together. Oh, the allure of sifting through family mementos! I still can’t resist looking through my grandmother’s collection of photo albums whenever I return home and visit my mother. If your children show an interest in family history, now’s the time to embark on a journey through time together. Younger children can begin their study of history by making a personal timeline, while older kids can begin researching and compiling their family tree. Encourage your children to call their grandparents to learn more. I highly recommend the book To Our Children’s Children: Preserving Family Histories for Generations to Come.
8. Devote time to handicrafts. Take advantage of this time to learn a new skill or use an existing one to help others in need. Join a group such as the Relief Crafters of America group on Facebook to see if your family is able to help an organization in need.
New to handicrafts altogether? Check out The Ultimate Collection of Useful and Creative Handicrafts for Kids for some ideas and inspiration.
9. Get kids involved in the kitchen. Set aside a bit of time to prepare a snack or dinner alongside your child. In the process of learning a practical life skill, they’ll also reap a myriad of other benefits, including literacy skills, mathematical reasoning, social-emotional skills, fine motor development, planning and organization alongside a dash of creativity. You can read more about the benefits of getting kids involved in the kitchen here.
10. Let the building fun begin. My oldest in particular loves engineering challenges. When the mood strikes, she’ll spend hours completely engaged in them. If you have multiple children, it can be a great activity to help foster collaboration, teamwork, and perseverance. Build marble runs, block castles, train tracks, domino runs, LEGO cities, and huge, towering structures.
Looking for some more ideas? Check out my Pinterest board linked below.
11. Begin practicing mindfulness and gratitude. Encourage every family member to take a few minutes each day to express their gratitude. You can do this formally by writing it down in a journal or keep it very relaxed and informal by simply asking everyone. I prefer to ask my kids at the end of the day as they are settling down to go to bed. Consider asking the following questions to young children:
- Can you describe a moment that made you happy today?
- Can you describe a moment that you wished could have gone better?
It helps if you model this first. Some kids may be more hesitant to share, and that’s okay. It’s important to never force this exercise upon them.
If you’re looking for additional prompts, check out these 120 Gratitude Journal Prompts to Create More Thankfulness in Your Life.
12. Learn something new. Take up a foreign language, a musical instrument, or a new hobby. Ask your kids what they’d like to learn and then seek out additional resources. Child-led learning is always best, so it’s important to follow your kid’s lead on this one. Be sure to honor and respect their interests and not impose your own.
13. Lastly, don’t forget to have fun! I won’t sugar coat it, your house is probably going to be a mess. Things will be strewn everywhere. Kids are a whirlwind of creative energy, moving from project to project. If the mess stresses you out, incorporate a couple times to tidy up throughout the day, but do try your best to say ‘yes’ to these large and spontaneous and fun activities.
Use this precious time sequestered at home to slow down, forge connections, and create memories that your children will look back on for decades.
- Build a giant fort in your living room, complete with flashlights and a stack of books and camp out for the night.
- Make popcorn and watch a nature documentary or two.
- Sort through favorite family recipes and compile a special cookbook, allowing your children to do as much of the cooking and photographing as possible.
- Turn the music up and join your kids for a dance party.
- Organize a concert, but first open your closet and let your kids put together their own costumes before going on stage. Be sure to record their performances and send them to your children’s grandparents who may feel a bit lonely during this time of social distancing.
- If it’s raining, go outside and splash in mud puddles.
- Tell stories. Lots of stories. Encourage your children to do the same.
It’ll be stressful, and it’ll be hard, but you can do this. After all, you’ve always been your child’s first teacher.
Home is the people we love. So do your schoolwork if you must. But remember that learning is a mindset, an attitude, a way of life. Fling open the windows and swing wide the doors of creativity and curiosity. Open your books and hearts with equal zeal during this confusing time for kids and parents alike. Be patient. Be real. Get comfortable. Get outside. Go for a walk to clear your mind. Bake a cake just because. Maybe these next few weeks will surprise us all. Maybe we’ll find ourselves more connected than ever. I hope so. I pray for miracles. I pray for grace. And I pray for peace upon us all.Ainsley Arment, Wild + Free
Are you seeking additional homeschooling support? Please take a look at the following free resources being made available:
- Listen to Simplicity Parenting’s Troubling Times: Anxiety Rising, Schools Closing, and Way More Time at Home with Kids special audio series.
- View Ambleside Online’s Helping Hand Emergency Learning Plan.
- Visit Khan Academy’s Remote Learning Resource Center.
- Do you have an emergent reader? Visit Flyleaf Publishing’s Online Materials Portal to access an entire collection of leveled readers.
- Wild + Free’s Homebound Activity Kit includes 4 free resources available to download: Front Yard Nature Study by Jennifer Dees, Mornings Without Measure by Elsie Iudicello, Bug Stones Tutorial by Tara Rondinelli, and Family Game Play by Zane Kathryne Schwaiger.
- Take a look at 130+ Free Outdoor Learning Activities for Kids Unexpectedly Stuck at Home for some inspiration.
- Foster independent research projects by presenting Maria Montessori’s Great Lessons. Read more about them here, here, and here or grab a copy of Michael Dorer’s book The Deep Well of Time: The Transformative Power of Storytelling in the Classroom to learn more.
- Research classes and curricula for various Life Skills.
- Grab a free month of Earthschooling’s curriculum.
- Sign up for free classes through Outschool.
- Check out 100 Printable Activities for Kids.
- Visit Nido Marketing’s Montessori at Home Resources Center for a free video series.
- And, lastly, please be sure to read Traditional Indigenous Kinship Practices at Home: Being Child-Centered During the Pandemic for a much-needed perspective.