The Coronavirus has created an unexpected situation for many parents: kids at home. It’s like summer break came early…but it didn’t. Kids and parents are both thrown into a situation they weren’t prepared for. As a stay-at-home homeschool mom of five, I want to pass along some tried and true survival tips. My boys’ ages are 3, 6, 7, 9, and 10. I hope these ideas will relieve stress and help you maintain an environment of peace and productivity (and fun!) in your home during the uncertain days ahead.
1. Schedule. A simple but well thought out plan will protect you from burn-out and make the days speed by. Kids love knowing what’s coming next. Spend the first day discussing a schedule as a family and then hang it up in a place where everyone can see it. An effective schedule will be detailed enough to be productive, but broad enough to be flexible. And be ready to change it! Schedules are not set in stone. Instead of a detailed list, think in terms of time blocks. This will allow you to vary the specifics within each block. It also allows you to keep the same schedule for a mixed age group. Here is an example:
Morning: (After breakfast)
9:00 Chores and get ready for the day
9:30 Read out loud together (ideas: Bible, picture books, start a chapter book, family devotional)
10:15 Snack (and finish morning school)
11:00 Free play until lunch
12:30 Quiet time (on the bed or in the bedroom)
2:30 Free play
4:00 Clean up and screen time
5:30 Free Play
7:00 Clean up and get ready for bed
7:30 Independent reading until lights out
2. Education. During the “School” portion of the day, you might find you want to supplement what your school has sent home for your kids. Here are some of our family’s favorite supplemental activities.
YouTube: Do a search on your child’s favorite topic and gather the clips into a playlist. It’s a great way to preapprove clips and have them play one right after the other. Some of my kids’ favorite educational YouTube channels are: How It’s Made, The Slo Mo Guys, Art for Kids Hub, and Answers in Genesis. (Note: Never let your kids watch YouTube unsupervised.)
Shows: Travel with Kids (Amazon Prime), Blue Planet (Netflix), Families of the World (Amazon Prime).
Deep Sea An amazing interactive ocean exploration. My kids LOVE this!
Mystery Science This site offers video lessons along with printable worksheets and activities. The lessons are excellent. You can pay for a membership, but there are a variety of free lessons. (Note: This is not a Christian website and sometimes portrays a secular point of view.)
Apps: There are thousands of educational apps – some useful, and some not. These are a few that I have found consistently helpful: United States Map Quiz, MathCards, Word Mind, Prodigy, BrainPOP, BrainPOP Jr., First Grade Spelling Words (the same company has all the elementary grades).
3. Independent Play
If I had to entertain my kids all day, I would go crazy. It is good for kids to play independently. Here are some fun independent (or low parent involvement) activities and toys.
Audio books, reading (if you need book ideas, the Read-Aloud Revival has excellent book lists), build a fort, squirt guns, make maps, play a board game, make a board game, bubbles, puzzles, bike riding, card games, make a comic strip, make cards for loved ones, scrapbook, playdough, make a scavenger hunt (older kids make it for the younger kids), have an early Easter egg hunt, color by number (printables available online).
These are some of my kids’ favorite toys. They have stood the test of time. They are all available on Amazon, are all educational, and all have a high play value: Perler Beads, Marble Genius, Legos, Brain Flakes, K’Nex, Magic Tracks, Lincoln Logs, Light Brite, Fossil Dig kits, Rainbow Loom, Magformers.
As parents, our number one job during this season is to maintain an environment of peace in our homes. If your best laid plans fall apart, it’s still an opportunity to model joy and thankfulness in a time of chaos. Life will look different and different is okay. Messy transitions are okay. This can be a beautiful time of growth in unexpected ways – for us and for our kids.
Books by Sara Wallace
Created to Care: God’s Truth for Anxious Moms
“The gospel is the foundation for what it means to be a mother. It is always through this lens that Sara’s wisdom comes shining into our daily lives where joining all the dots can be tricky.” – Kristyn Getty, soloist; composer; hymnwriter; coauthor of Sing!
For the Love of Discipline: When the Gospel Meets Tantrums and Time-Outs
“The culmination of 30 years of evangelical thinking about parenting. Clear guidelines, great illustrations, and very practical. – Pastor Steve, Atlanta
The Gospel-Centered Mom Bible Study
“The Gospel-Centered Mom is a huge gulp of refreshing air for moms who are in the thick of raising kids. It takes your eyes off of your performance and places them on the one who performed perfectly for us.” – Jessica Thompson, co-author of Give Them Grace