Here we go. Where the rubber meets the road.
I’ve heard from so many of you after my post sharing ideas and tips for bringing kids home from school and doing *school at home* on Friday, and I hear you. You’re overwhelmed, nervous, and trying to wrap your head around a lot in a very short time. I’m so glad my post was a help, a beginning. I’m grateful to all of you that have reached out and shared kind words!
I have a few more tools to share with you – tools that I hope will ease a little of the weight you’re feeling and walk with you a little. And I’ve heard from so many of you with great questions! I’m going to brainstorm some practicals with you in this post. Scan it for what you need, or read through it to find some links to resources to keep your kids rolling.
I’m sharing a set of 4 printables that I created for all of you. You don’t have to login, purchase, or subscribe. These are yours – shared freely. All I ask is that you respect the copyright. These are yours to use, to copy, or modify as you need to, and you can even share them within your communities and groups – as long as they are never mass produced and sold for profit. These are freely shared, and I ask that you share freely as well and point people back to this post for the link to the printables.
Q & A
How do you teach your older kids when there are littles, too? I have 2 kids under the age of 3 years old that need my attention on top of my big kids.
Little people definitely bring a different dynamic to the day! Typically, the younger your child, the needier your child!
It’s about layering your day, staggering your time, and organizing some little people play areas!
First, set up a loose schedule for your day! Littles don’t care if you’ve structured your day in 15 minute increments, so I suggest a VERY loose rhythm for your day so that you feel freedom to move within the parts of your day and handle what needs to be handled.
Your older students can do a lot of work independently – let them! Save your focused time with them for the 15-20 minute windows you will find while the little people are playing. And make use of naptimes!
Moms of littles: right now is the time to sweep through your home and do some quick organization of toys. If you don’t rotate toys yet, now is the time! Grab some bins and whisk away 80% of the toys that are out right now. Put them in a closet, an attic, the garage. You’re not getting rid of them – you’re going to manage them more closely! Now, with the 20% you have left, set them out neatly in little groups – in bins, baskets, whatever you have. Set them out in the area that you plan to do school work with your older kids!
Pro tip – you can make ANYTHING attractive to a child by eliminating excess stuff (excess stuff is distracting) and displaying a toy (or toy group) in a special way! Example: take the blocks your kids never touch and lay out a pretty quilt or blanket (or beach towel) on the floor! Stand back and watch!!! Your kids will find it on their own and will likely play happily for an extended time and YOU will have time to work with your older kids! This works for books, too!!! You may have a shelf of picture books that no one is interested in – take a few books off the shelf, stand them up and display them! I guarantee your kids will be interested.
The idea here is to set yourself up for success by providing small book and toy centers for your little people to visit so that you can have time to check in and work with your older students.
Where do I start? Should I make the kids work together at the same table?
There are a lot of different ways to do this, and a lot of different right answers! Your kids temperaments and needs are going to dictate the best rhythm for your particular family.
I recommend starting in one place to review the day, and show kids their assignments. You need your big kids to know exactly what they need to do for the day. Show them your plans, or the plans your teacher sent home, give them a general idea of how long you’re going to work.
We like to start our day with morning devotions and reading about the liturgical year and a read aloud as well as art, composer/music study, Shakespeare, etc. – all of our “together work” is here. – and then the kids break off to do individual work. Don’t be overwhelmed by my list!! I just want to let you know that some subjects combine across ages very well, and you can make good use of your time by completing those subjects together. Maybe Monday is art, Tuesday is music, Wednesday is geography, etc. See how easy that covers those subjects with all your kids! You can do that at the beginning of your day, or the end! Whatever works best for your family!
Once you’ve reviewed the day though, you have a couple of options (these are the two methods I see most commonly and work for families).
- Keep everyone at the table and start work! You sit and work with one child at a time, working your way around the table. This works best with students 2nd grade – 7th grade. Little people don’t do well if made to sit at a table long, and high school people don’t either. Just keep that in mind! This particular method hasn’t ever worked for our family dynamics, so let me share another option with you…
- Once you set out your lesson plans and review the day with everyone, you dismiss older students to get their bookwork and they go to quiet (nearby) rooms to work. My older kids sit on the couch to read. I’m nearby so I’m aware of them and available if there is a question, but this frees me up to work with my younger student. And when there were babies or toddlers, they played at my feet or nearby with the toy centers I set up. The benefit of this approach is that we’re not disrupting the older student’s concentration, and the kids rotate in and out of our “home base” area to work with me. My home base is my desk, but could just as easily be the kitchen table.
So the best thing for you to do is think about your own family dynamics – how many children you have, their ages, and start with what makes the most sense. Then…adjust!
Help! Our schools closed and my kids don’t have assignments or work sent home. What can I do?
Many of you have shared that your kids are home and have no assignments or work expectations, but an indefinite period off from school. Here is my suggestion:
- Do some work just to give the kids focus and routine.
- Doing some basic work means that when we do get back to normal, your kids won’t have atrophied in terms of their learning progress. This affects younger children the most, and specifically, young children learning to read and kids that are working on basic math concepts.
- I’m sharing resources below that will help you through all of it! There are math resources and some early reading resources, and lots of resources for older kids. There is something for ALL of you below!
Help! I don’t know what to do about my high school student!
Deep breath!! High schoolers are my favorite age to work with because they have OPINIONS!! And lots of them! It’s a window into the person that child is growing into! If your high schooler was sent home with work and assignments, great! Set up a schedule using a planner you have or one of the printables in this post, and check in with your high schooler regularly. Ask them what they are reading? What is it about? What do they think of the characters? Just engage with them! Most high schoolers will happily share their opinions! Build conversations from those thoughts. You do NOT have to be able to analyze the literature they’re reading, or plumb the scientific depths of high school chemistry – all you have to do is engage and ask them, “what did you read about today?”
By the way, that form of assessing has a name – it’s called narration, or telling back. And it’s classical – meaning it has been used by educators for centuries! It’s not just a shortcut I’m throwing you – it’s an actual cognitive skill, and don’t be surprised if it’s very hard for your student to do! That’s because…it’s challenging to read and then recall and tell back. But! It’s also a valuable skill and builds writing cognition – so if you can engage your high schooler this way, know that you’re also helping them build some communication muscle!
How do you balance work and home and homeschool?
My first priority is my family and my children’s education. I build in little pockets of time within my day for my other work. Sometimes those pockets are free for me, and other times they’re not. I go with my priority.
My schedule is layered in blocks so that I have visual priorities on my agenda. I make a daily list on my agenda and that list is a mish-mash of work that I need to accomplish for the day. When I’m re-focusing on time management I color code my list to reflect: school, work, content, home, family. Then I can look at my hourly time blocks and see that this time block is set aside for school or content or dinner prep, and I look at my list to find my tasks highlighted for that block of focus, and complete those tasks during that time block.
When one block is over, I move on to the next block. If I don’t do that, I tend to bulldoze my way through one focus on a given day, and I never look up. Time blocking was a way to help me engage all of my priorities in a given day.
I wanted to share some of my favorite resources that you might find useful during this time, either as a way of supplementing the work your teachers have sent home, or to help those of you with children home and no assignments or books. My goal was to link to free resources, but some may have fees or subscriptions associated. None of them are affiliate links – I am not sharing anything here to make money.
- Enchanted Learning website – many printables, worksheets, and learning resources on every subject! Check out their activity calendar – I use their calendar to set our monthly ! This is one of my long-time favorite resources for preschool and elementary learners! You can build an entire early learning curriculum from this site if needed!
- 12 Museums are offering virtual tours you can take from your couch
- The Kids Should See This
- Khan Academy – we use this site for so much! For those of you with middle school and high schoolers – check out Khan! Math, Science, and so much more! All free!
- Khan Academy Kids app – another excellent resource for you if you have younger students!
- Reading Bear – free online phonics and learning to read help
- Starfall – this site is full of educational opportunities for preschool – 3rd graders.
- National Geographic Kids
- PBS Kids
- Math Is Fun – this is my favorite math supplement site. There are games and activities for all ages, including algebra, physics, calculus, and geometry.
- Math Mammoth – this is actually the math curriculum I use for my elementary students. I print the worksheets they need and use them daily. It prepares them well for algebra and upper level math. It’s also extremely affordable, so I thought I’d mention it for those of you that are looking for some flexible, affordable structure with your math.
- StartWrite handwriting worksheet maker – a great way to incorporate handwriting practice!
- Netflix has many wonderful education programs. Here are a few of our favorites.
- Magic School Bus
- Treehouse Detective
- Disneynature Oceans
- Disneynature Growing Up Wild
- You vs Wild
- and many more!! Just type “educational” or “history” in the search box.
- Amazon Prime is another great resource! My all time favorite Reading Rainbow is available and so is Mr. Rogers – a soothing friend
- Julie Bogart’s Bravewriter writing program has been a perennial favorite of mine and she’s making her daily writing tips free. It’s a great way to support writing while at home.
- 10 sites where you can read books online
- Classic books available online for free
- Online books for older students
- Children’s literature available on audible
Alright! If you hung in there to the end, WOW!! I really do hope this is helpful! I’m sharing educational, scheduling, and time management tips on Instagram in my stories regularly – I’ve shared some video tutorials on planning and scheduling, and I’m saving all of these in my homeschool highlights on Instagram. Follow along there for daily support! Share your questions in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them!
Thinking of all of you and sending prayers as many of you embark on your first week! Remember, it might not be perfect, and there will be bumps! Adjust and keep rolling! You CAN do this!