Schools all around the world are closing due to coronavirus.
This isn’t the first time schools have closed down, and it won’t be the last. Whether it’s due to weather, sickness, holidays, or simply having to PCS before the semester is over, educating kids at home is sure to happen at least once in your life. We’ve been homeschooling our eight kids from the beginning. Here are my best tips for keeping kids educated and entertained while also keeping mommy sane.
1. Take a Break From Formal Schoolwork
When schools close, it is tempting to fill our kids’ time with gobs of worksheets. Avoid the temptation! There is no quicker way to stress out everyone involved.
Give yourself permission to take a break from the formal schoolwork and just take the time to enjoy each other. In my experience, worksheets are usually the worst way to learn a concept anyway. Making school fun for all involved will go a long way to help your students learn and keep you from getting too stressed.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule. Some kids totally love worksheets! If that’s the case grab one of those handy grade level workbooks and let them go crazy. Our favorite is the Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills Workbook. Resist the urge to set time limits or assign pages. Just let them work through at their own pace and have fun.
2. Read, Read, then Read Some More!
So how do you learn without formal academics? It’s all about those books baby!
Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, there is so much to be learned from a family read-aloud. Reading a book aloud that your kids may not be able to handle on their own has a ton of benefits. Reading aloud to your children models fluent reading and expands vocabulary. It exposes them to new authors and genres, builds awareness and empathy, and improves their long term reading success.
What if you are like me and hate reading aloud? Audible to the rescue!
We absolutely love playing a book while driving in the car and often switch to our Bluetooth speaker to keep listening at home. Some of my kids’ favorites have been Tom Sawyer, Fablehaven, Dragonwatch, Where the Red Fern Grows, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. And often if you buy the Kindle version you can get a discount on the audible version! This allows kids to follow along with the words while they listen.
Finally, check out your local library website. Most of them have free digital lending for audiobooks as well.
3. Get Active, and Keep it Unstructured
Physical education is just as important for kids as the three Rs. Of course, we all know the health benefits of physical activity. Did you know there are extensive educational benefits as well? Play that involves swinging, balancing, running, and other things that use both sides of the body help to balance the two hemispheres of the brain. Kids who engage in risky play (running, jumping, climbing etc. – not playing with crocodiles or anything crazy) are better in tune with their bodies and find it easier to sit and focus when it’s time to engage the mind.
Free playtime, outdoors preferably and if possible in your area, allows children to engage their imaginations, practice teamwork, and practice stressful scenarios in a safe environment. There is definitely still space for structured activities like sports teams and yoga, but make sure that a little time every day is left open-ended for the kids to choose what and how to play.
If you cannot make it outdoors due to local restrictions right now, try getting movement inside. You can stream yoga and indoor workouts online. If your space indoors is limited, just do the best you can – as we all are.
4. Do Some Arts and Crafts
OK, I’ll admit, I don’t do this one as often as I should. Let’s face it – getting artsy can be messy. The benefits are worth it though.
Art is another activity that helps to connect the two hemispheres of the brain. Plus it can sometimes keep kids out of your hair for HOURS!
I’ve found the easiest and cleanest way to keep art accessible is to keep a good supply of colored pencils and printer paper. Colored pencil is a lot easier to clean off walls than markers and doesn’t have little wrappers to tear into tiny pieces and throw all over the floors like crayons. They are also relatively inexpensive and long-lasting. Crayola and Arteza are our favorite brands of inexpensive pencils. If you have a more advanced or older artist the Prismacolors are the absolute BEST! Watercolors are another relatively easy to clean up art medium and they don’t stain clothes.
You can also check out my post on my favorite art supplies for more recommendations.
5. Take a Break From Technology
No one understands better than I do the beauty of plopping kids in front of Netflix and hiding in the bedroom with some good chocolate. You might be amazed, however, at just how awesome a technology detox can be.
At first, it’s going to really stink BIG TIME! The kids will whine and complain and beg. Stay firm. After just 24 hours of no electronics, I’ve been amazed at how much my kids’ attitudes improve. Less fighting and whining and more cooperative play. The more hooked on the game system your kid is the longer your detox may need to be to see real results. Trust me, it’s worth it.
6. Now Turn Them Back On
As much as a good detox can help, I also think there’s plenty of room for technology in our kids’ education. The key is to keep it under control.
Skip the mindless TV shows and shoot em up video games in favor of wholesome educational programs and games. Take the time to talk about what you just watched/played. You may be surprised at the insight kids are capable of with a little bit of prodding.
For younger kids, I absolutely love The Magic School Bus, the LeapFrog movies, and the Word World series. My older ones prefer Mythbusters, Mysteries at the Museum (some parental screening needed on a few episodes), and nature documentaries. Between Amazon Prime and Netflix there is an endless supply of educational programming.
Also, don’t forget YouTube and Google. You can learn about anything online! Just ask your kids what they want to research. You can find even more viewing recommendations from a fellow contributor here.
7. Try Something New
Shake things up. Go somewhere new (again, if possible), learn something new, or try a new activity. One of my favorite ways to get new experiences is through subscription boxes. My parents got us a subscription to Yum Box and it has been a blast! We not only get to try new foods from different countries, but we also get to learn about those countries.
You can a subscription box to just about anything these days on Crate Joy. They have boxes for gardening, mechanics, arts and crafts, science, and so much more. Careful – once you click, you will get lost down the rabbit hole for a while! Most boxes offer a one or three month trial to see if you like it before committing to a full year or more at a discount.