It appears that soon we may all be homeschoolers, at least for a little while. This isn’t something that you have planned or prepped for, but here you are. So now what?
Friend, this is what I would do. When the kids are dressed and fed, start your morning together with a devotion. Sing a hymn, read a couple of chapters from the Bible, pray Luther’s morning prayer.
Use your morning hours, when everyone is fresh, to work on academics. If you have schoolwork that has been assigned by your child’s teacher, work through that together. If there is no work assigned, then the world is your oyster! You have the gift of time with your child to learn about whatever topics you choose! Here are some ideas:
- Create some math problems appropriate to your child’s level. Practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division using goldfish, cheerios, grapes, popcorn, or other small snacks. Drill those math facts with flash cards or worksheets.
- Write out a few sentences from your child’s favorite book. Have your pre-K aged child trace the letters (this works great if you write with a highlighter and they trace with a pencil). Have your early elementary aged child copy the sentences. Work together with your late elementary aged child to underline all the nouns in red, the verbs in blue, the adjectives in green, and the adverbs in yellow. Label prepositions and conjunctions too if your child is ready for that. If you aren’t sure about some words, research the parts of speech together.
- Choose an historical figure, event, or civilization to research online together. Find relevant locations on a map. Follow all rabbit holes. Wikipedia and Youtube can be great sources of information under parental guidance.
- Choose an animal, habitat, scientist, or scientific discovery to research online together. Find relevant locations on a map. Follow all rabbit holes.
- Read a chapter book aloud. If kids are antsy, read to them while they quietly build LEGOs, play with playdough, or eat a snack.
- Take a nature walk together. Even residential neighborhoods contain some nature if you look for it. Walk slowly. Pause. Collect things. Bring a notebook and sketch together.
- Help your child write a letter to a grandparent, Aunt, Uncle, cousin, or friend.
- Do a science experiment.
- There may be frustration and bad attitudes. Take a break. Have a snack. Pray together. Remember that life is learning, and relax. A little bit each day is enough, especially in these circumstances.
After lunch, have quiet reading time. You read to children who cannot read. Early readers read aloud to you. Fluent readers read silently on their own. Once academics are completed for the day, here are some constructive activities for kids to do with you or independently:
- Play a board game.
- Paint a picture. Research an artist online and paint a replica of one of his or her masterpieces.
- Do a puzzle.
- Play outside. Everyday.
- Listen to an audiobook. Most libraries have digital content available for download from their app or website. Audible is streaming many titles for free as well.
- Free craft time: lay out an assortment of paper, construction paper, markers, crayons, colored pencils, scissors, glue sticks, and let your kids create. Maybe they want to create a rain forest full of trees, vines, birds, and animals. Maybe they want to make paper dolls and create wardrobes for them. Maybe they want to create lots of different foods and then set up restaurants for their food creations so they can buy from and sell to one another. They will probably need to create some money as well. This game has filled whole afternoons at my house.
- Request a batch of fresh books, both fiction and nonfiction, from your library’s website. The librarians will pull them for you and you can pick them up from the “holds” shelf with minimal personal contact.
- Chore time! Play some music and fold laundry, scrub floors, wash windows, clean surfaces.
- Make homemade playdough. (There are a million recipes online.)
- Have poetry tea time. Serve tea or hot chocolate and a snack, and read poems to each other around the kitchen table. If you don’t have a children’s poetry anthology at your house, you can find poems online.
- Bake something together. Prep dinner together.
- Encourage free play. It is good for kids to experience boredom. Unstructured time gives them the opportunity to create and control their own play.
There are myriad educational resources online, and many companies are offering free access to educational websites and apps right now. A friend of mine has compiled a list of great ideas, some digital and some not, that you can browse. Make good use of the ones that appeal to you! I want to encourage you to limit independent screen time. Really. Your child learns best when you are engaged in the learning process with him or her and available to discuss ideas and observations. This extra time together is an opportunity for enjoyment and connection; make the most of it!
Some parents are facing the difficult situation of needing to work while their children are not in school. Those of us who are stay at home parents or are able to be at home during this time are in a great position to help our friends and neighbors. While we want to limit unnecessary interpersonal contact (now is not the time for playdates), consider welcoming a couple of extra kids into your home so that those friends, relatives, and neighbors who need to continue working, can.
Finally, our God is good. Even in the midst of sickness, we find ourselves showered with blessings both temporal and eternal. The greatest of these is salvation, that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection we need not fear sickness, hardship, or even death itself. May we trust Him, praise Him, thank Him, and be His hands and feet to our neighbors around us, both big and small.
Read that last sentence again. We are the hands and feet of Christ to our children. This work you weren’t planning on doing—it is good, blessed work, worthy of your time and attention. God bless your days together!
**Edit 3/19/2020: If this first week of school closure has shown me anything, it is that the thing many parents must do now is far more difficult than homeschooling. You and your kids are grieving the loss of normalcy. You are grieving the loss of birthday parties, vacations, concerts, plays, and celebrations. The loss of church. You have taken on all of the responsibility of homeschooling, but without the flexibility. You may find yourself juggling the individual online educations of several children; your children’s teachers are doing their best, but they each have a vision for only their student, not for your whole family. You are left with the job of fitting those pieces together into a daily flow that works for your household. Many of you are teachers yourselves, working to educate your students virtually while also educating your own children at home. Many of you are working from home while overseeing your children’s educations. This isn’t homeschooling really, this is survival.
But what I know is this. God gave you these children, and he gave you a command, “Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” The vocation we are given as parents is beyond any of our abilities to execute perfectly, or even well. But God has also given us promises. “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” And this: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” It may feel like nothing about this “new normal” is going well, like all of your efforts are colossal failures. And yet, we are never outside of God’s plan and providence. Rest in his grace. Give your children love and patience. Give them forgiveness. Give them Jesus. He will work this for our good, just as he has promised.
Amanda Moldstad is a co-founder of the Lutheran Homeschool Association. She and her husband, John, homeschool their five children in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.