I found out this past Friday after school had let out and we were sitting down to dinner, that my three children would be out of school (in Massachusetts) for two weeks due to COVID-19. I found out two days later, on Sunday, that they would now be out of school for three weeks, and honestly, I’ll be surprised if they go back at that point in time. The decision, though not entirely surprising, was made somewhat abruptly and did not give our teachers any time to lesson plan or put resources together for our students.
Many of us across the United States and the world find ourselves in this situation. Suddenly home, with our kids, trying to work remotely, trying to figure out what, if any kind of schooling we should be doing with them. Now, more than ever, this concept of balance feels unattainable and out of reach.
So what are we supposed to do? And how are we supposed to go about doing it?
Let me start by saying, there’s no right answer here. Super helpful, I know 😉
I’ve been trying to keep a healthy amount of perspective (instead of wanting to hyperventilate and curl up into a ball and cry a little), and look at this as an opportunity. Many of us are healthy. We are being told to stay home. We are being forced to slow down. To take a collective breath. We are being given an opportunity to re-connect with the ones we love. And by doing so, we can help keep those that are most at risk safe.
Now I know that’s looking at this whole situation through rose-colored glasses. So many are sick. So many have died. So many are scared of what’s coming next. There is an economic impact that’s enormous. As a small business owner, I’m feeling it big time and I know so many others are as well. I know that school being out means lost meals for kids. It means the inability to work for those without childcare which means lost wages and the panic of not knowing how bills/rent/groceries are going to happen. There’s a huge, widespread impact that’s devastating.
So much of this is out of our control and that is unnerving while also forcing me to focus on what I DO have in my control. I can control my breath. I can control (on a good day) how I choose to feel about this situation. I can control my actions. I can control our schedule.
So it is in that spirit that, as the place where photography and parenthood collide here at Hello Storyteller, we wanted to share some thoughts, resources and support with those of you who now find yourselves putting on the role of “teacher” in addition to everything else you do.
Also, a note on online resources – we have compiled a list of free resources at the end of this post, but I would also encourage you to reach out to your children’s teachers for any logins that they might have for programs that your school is subscribed to. I’ve included several great online programs that my children’s school uses that we can access for free through their in-school logins but that are also available for a minimal monthly fee as well.
Last week, sensing that school closure was going to be a “when” and not an “if”, when I was out fighting the 40 people long grocery checkout line, I picked up some school workbooks for my kids. I grabbed these by scholastic. They have a lot of information in them and cover math and reading for my first graders and the fourth grade version also includes reading comprehension exercises too.
It’s important to me that my kids are still getting some formal school instruction. This has to do mostly with their and my need for a schedule and my interest in not having them backslide in the next three weeks and falling behind. Also, my two first graders receive additional support for math and reading, so it’s imperative that we continue to help them retain their skills.
For a brief stint in college (as in approximately one year) I was an early childhood education major. It didn’t stick. And while I would consider myself an educator, we all know that attempting to teach your own children and someone else’s children are two VERY different things.
I happen to have an amazing neighbor who homeschools her three children and I basically signaled a flare from my porch and was like “HELP ME FIGURE THIS OUT!!” and boy did she come through – BIG TIME.
I’m going to share here what she told me, because, honestly it made me feel significantly better and less stressed about the whole thing.
Morning Block (30 min-1 hour)
I would begin with a “morning” time – and that could look however you want it to look. What do you want your kids to learn about? This is an opportunity to learn something new that they may not be able to in school, something important to you and your family, spend more time in the Bible, expand on something in History or Science, or whatever your kids may be interested in, etc. Or, just enjoy reading a great book together. This may be your most “hands on time” of the day – I would pour into your kids, fill them up and then send them off onto the next couple “blocks” of time where you can be more hands off (#momgoals).
Math Block (1 hour)
You could start them all at once, but this can be a lot if they all have questions at the same time, or you could stagger their start time and make them choose from the “Math related” ideas while they are waiting. Once the child has finished their “work” and if they have extra time, I would have a list of math related ideas that they could choose from during that “block.”
Math Related Card Games (Gamewright has a lot – Ratatat Cat, Zeus on the Loose, Qwixx)
Games like: Qwirkle, Perfection, anything really
Legos/Magna Tiles/Building Blocks
Math Flash Cards
English Block (1 Hour)
Like the Math block, once the child finishes their work, they may choose something on the list of English Related ideas.
Reading/looking through books
Listen to Books on Audio
Games like Boggle, Scrabble, etc.
Rory Story Cubes – come up with stories verbally or write a story out
Give them a topic they have to create/write a story about (create a short movie, commercial, etc.)
Let them choose from the list of “Journal Questions” and they can write out their answer (ATTACHED)
Have them choose a topic they will have to “present” to the family at the end of the week
Create a Recipe of your own
This depends on how involved you want to be. The possibilities are endless on this one, you could do all History related things all week, or, could do a History related activity on Monday, Science on Tuesday, Art on Wednesday, etc. Or, you could simply let them watch an Educational show.
Thinking about our day in terms of blocks was super helpful and knowing my kids and their attention spans and how long it takes them to do things (both when they’re focused and unfocused) was key in putting our daily schedule together.
6:45 – 7:15am – Wake up and play quietly in rooms
7:15 – 8:00am – Get dressed/breakfast/brush teeth
8:15 – 9:00am – Morning Block -Reading/Family Book – (Little House on the Prairie)
9:00 – 10:00 am – Math
Pre-selected pages in their workbooks
If you finish early you may do:
10:00 – 11:00am – English
Pre-selected pages in their workbooks
If you finish early, you may do:
Reading Eggs on Chromebook
Look/read books on own
11:00 – 12:00pm – Board game/cards (to re-inforce math skills and critical thinking and have fun)
12:00 – 1:30pm – Lunch/Recess
1:30 – 2:00pm – Music/Dance (I played different songs for them, had them tell me how it made them feel, what instruments they heard, etc..) they also have instruments that they are learning to play, so we’ll incorporate that here too.
2:00 – 3:00pm – Art Class (we did this on our tv via youtube with a class that is live everyday at 2pm EST, it will be linked below), but this will also maybe be a baking time slot, an outdoor adventure, a dance party, crafts, science experiements, etc…
I chose to end our school day at 3:00 p.m. as that is usually when my kids would be coming home from school on a regular day. At that point, they were allowed to each watch a show and I was able to get some work done.
I plan to use this schedule above and switch things out during the week to incorporate spelling, journal writing, baking, art projects, teaching about time and money (my kids are currently making leprechaun traps for St. Patrick’s Day).
I am also creating a school “wall” in our kitchen (primarily for my first graders) that will have the days of the week, the months, their weekly words (you can find a list of grade appropriate spelling words, grammar worksheets, etc.. based on the week of school here) and other items that they’ve told me they have up in their classrooms.
With my fourth grader, I’m assigning him small research projects and teaching him how to write a research paper, explore poetry as well (I knew that English/Creative writing degree and those books I’ve held onto for the past 18 years would come in handy one day!)
I’m also giving myself permission to put work aside from 7-3 and focus on my children. They need stability and routine right now as they are trying to grapple with what is happening in the world around them. My children are old enough that they know the overview of what is happening, but don’t completely understand the overarching impact. But their day-to-day life has been completely turned upside down and as much as I am able to, I want to create a safe, stable place for them.
As I run my own business, I make my own hours, so I have the flexibility to be present and focused on them during the day. My husband has a standard 9-5 and is working remotely, so he is unavailable (for the most part) during the day while I’m with the kids. Once his work day is done, we switch off – (as I write this, he is making dinner and handling the kids and I’m in my office).
Today went well in our house, but I also know that my kids are in a “honeymoon phase” with the idea of homeschool, so I know that 2.5 weeks from now, this whole thing will likely look a whole lot different and I’m okay with that. I know that we might need to deviate from our plan or just take a pj’s and movie day a few times here or there.
Make sure that you are also taking care of yourself; mentally, emotionally and physically. Yoga, meditation, journaling, working out, a new photography project, painting, music, guilty pleasure tv, going to bed early, hiding in the bathroom with a chocolate bar and a glass of wine (no? Just me?) – whatever it looks like for you, DO IT.
We are all under a lot of stress and especially right now, we cannot put ourselves last. In order to take care of others, we have to take care of ourselves first.
We are here to help and support you, so please do not hesitate to reach out with questions, ideas, suggestions or if you just need a virtual hug or high five.
Take care of yourselves. <3
Above is one example of a schedule, but we have others to share too that our admin team is using for their own kids:
8:00am – Breakfast
8:30 am – Recess
8:50am – Spelling
9:00am -Independent Work
9:30am – Snack/break
9:45 am -Computer/reading
10:15am – Free time
11:30am – Recess
12:45pm -Group reading
1:00pm – Quiet time with homework
2:00pm – Screen time
3:00 pm – Chores
9-10am – Spelling and Reading
10:00 -10:30 – Outdoor play
10:30 -11 – Snack/relax
11-12 – Math and Science
1-1:30 – Lunch
1:30 – 2 – Foreign Language
2-3pm – Workbook lessons
8:30 – 8:45 – Journal writing
8:45 – 9:15 – Silent Reading
9:15 – 9:40 – DOL
9:40 – 10:00 – Snack/recess
10:00 – 10:30 – Reading Fluency
10:30 – 11:00 – Math lesson
11:00 – 11:30 – Math follow up practice
11:30 – 12:30 – Lunch and playtime
12:30 – 1:00 – Reading with Mom – Charlotte’s Web – 1 chapter a day
1:00 – 1:30 – Reading follow up activity
1:30 – 2:00 – Social Studies Map Skills
2:00 – 2:30 – Science/Art/Music alternate days
2:30 – Playtime
Workbook resources (available to order online)
Online Educational Resources (All free)
Paid Resources (these are program that my kids use at school that we have logins for, but are available online as well,check with your own school too)