Dear parents who suddenly have their schooled children at home,
A Quiet Place has become one of my family’s favorite movies over the past few years. Anytime we have a house guest, my children’s first question to them is, “Have you seen A Quiet Place?” If the answer is no, that guest had better be prepared to get their pants scared off because my children will force them to watch it.
What can I say? My children are homeschooled and therefore unsocialized—not much I can do.
The movie follows the life of a family after an “event.” Creatures who hunt by sound will kill anything that makes noise, and this family, against all odds, is surviving—and even thriving—in their new, nearly silent, post-apocalyptic environment. Not only do they continue to scratch out survival and stay fed and clothed, but the mother of this family also makes sure her children stay educated.
In one of the scenes of the movie, she is shown quietly whispering with and teaching math to her son. Language arts topics are written on a board behind her. In spite of their dire circumstances, barely hanging on in a hostile world, this family still thought it important to ensure an education for their children.
The coronavirus pandemic is not as bad as the world in A Quiet Place. If you feel like screaming out your window, feel free. Monsters aren’t going to eat you. But what’s happening now is disturbing and frightening nonetheless, and uncertainty looms over all of us.
For those of us who are used to having our children at home every day, there’s been very little transition. But for the majority of families with school-age children, lives are being upended.
The first thing to do is pray. Beyond the spiritual side of things, many are wondering practically what on earth to do with their children at home, children who are supposed to still be in their school terms. This is not summer vacation. Some kids have been sent home with work. Some have not. Most parents likely have no idea what to do.
Take a breath, and stop screaming. Enter your friendly neighborhood homeschool moms. We’re here to help. The following is a list of seven things to do with your children who are home for the next few weeks and possibly beyond:
Maintain a schedule/routine.
Your kids will need it, and so will you. I don’t mean a rigid schedule; this has to be flexible. But we and our children are creatures of habit, and having something regular to depend on can go a long way to lessening anxiety and increasing peace in our homes. Perhaps this will change day to day. Perhaps what looks regular to someone else does not look regular to you. Give yourself some grace. Like the daily offices, a rhythm of routine is helpful and beneficial to both our bodies and our souls.
Have them read (or read-aloud) classic children’s literature.
It doesn’t matter how old your children are. Classic children’s literature is a balm for all ages, especially in a weary time such as this. Scrounge your bookcases, ask your neighbor, use Amazon Prime, try a Kindle if desperate. Ask for a recommendation—every homeschool mom that you know has been waiting for this moment. If your kids can read by themselves, hand them some options. If not, read aloud. If you are too busy trying to work, then audiobooks totally count. Bonus side effect of audiobooks? Your children will develop a slight British accent and start saying “shall” while listening to audiobooks read by famous English actors.
Have them do some kind of writing, any kind of writing.
Ask them to write about what they’re reading. Have them narrate it back to you and get it on paper. Give them a 25-cent spiral notebook and have them write whatever they’d like. Let them make up stories. Have them keep a journal. Write letters to friends, cousins, grandparents, whomever, and mail them off. Too young to write? Have them dictate to you, and you write it down. Young children can practice handwriting with fingers and a sheet pan of rice or even pudding if you’re feeling particularly brave.
Have them do some math.
No idea what math they’re learning in school? Does the thought of doing math with your kid give you even more anxiety than trying to get them to do writing? No worries. Khan Academy is great, and it’s free. Sign up and let them poke around. No flashcards needed. This is one of the few activities online that I recommend. Most parents don’t have math manipulatives in their homes, but that homeschool friend with the library? Ask her if you can borrow some pattern blocks. She’ll probably cry happy tears.
Have them cook or prepare food.
I feel like I should warn you: if they’re home, they’re going to eat all day long. I’m not kidding about that. They will always be sneaking off to the kitchen. So long as they’re in there, they can prepare some food. Older kids can cook whole meals (shocking, I know). In the absence of evening activities that run us ragged, this is a great chance to move a little slower and cook at home or learn to. They’ll burn some stuff, but they’ll learn. My family is grateful for the opportunity to get to eat together every night right now. How does the saying go?: the days are long, but the years are short. The social distancing has been a blessing in disguise in that way.
Have them make something.
We are image-bearers of God, and God created the world. Therefore, we also need to create. Give them Legos. Break out the art supplies. Let them build a tent out of the living room couch and all the sheets in the house. They’ll be more interested in doing their schoolwork if they can set up a miniature world for themselves to get lost in. Ignore the chaos for a bit. It’s also good for the soul. Besides, when was the last time you checked your email from a couch fort, hmm?
For the love of God, send them outside as much as humanly possible.
Is it nice? Send them outside. Is it raining? Send them outside. Are they driving you crazy? Send them outside. Let them get lost. Let them explore. Let them lose their shoes in the creek and discover all the snails and snakes in the backyard. Children don’t get to spend enough time outside anymore, and this unstructured time is the perfect moment to bring back the sweet, sweet anarchy of an early ‘80s childhood. Just tell them to do their best to avoid any ER trips. We’re still trying to preserve the healthcare system.
There are lots I’m missing, like indenturing them for chores and playing games and watching movies and enforcing daily nap time for everyone, but if you’re looking to continue some semi-almost-formal education with your kids, this is a good place to start that about anybody can do. When in doubt, just read more books. Most of all, give yourself and your kids gobs and gobs of grace.
Things will not go smoothly. There will be tears—and not just from you—probably from the kids, too. You’re gonna make it, and you’re gonna be OK.
A homeschool mom with kids who are home all day.