1. Read a book aloud.
If you are at home with your kids, pick a book from your childhood that you love and read it aloud. If your kids aren’t used to this, I suggest mixing it with another activity like a Lego building challenge or reading it while they eat lunch.
If you are gone all day, buy an audio book for them to listen too, or check out free options. There are a ton of old classics you can access for free with apps like LibriVox.
You can also read a book at dinner. Yeah, now that all the after-school activities are cancelled you will have evenings with your kids, even if both parents are still working outside of the home during the day, you can take advantage of this time by reading a chapter from a book during or after dinner.
2. Use screens.
Yes, I said it. It’s okay for kids to have some extra screen time. There are so many excellent learning apps, great documentaries, and learning channels on YouTube. Our modern world is rich with these opportunities. Take advantage of it.
These are easy to use, whether you are at home all day with the kids and just need them to chill out and learn, or you need to leave for work. If you have to leave I suggest pre-choosing channels and shows, for your kids to watch. Write them down and ask your kids to tell you about them when you get home.
3. Find some great podcasts.
Maybe ones for kids, maybe not. Many of the podcasts for kids make me want to puke. They are just exaggerated garbage. I suggest looking for educational podcasts geared to adults but appropriate for kids. Again, easy to do whether you are sitting next to your kid listening, working from home in another room, or out of the house at the office.
Just pick a show or two, preferably on a topic they are interested in, and tell them to listen to one episode a day.
4. Assign outside time.
Your kids need fresh air, and they need to move, which tends to happen more if they are outside. If your kids are not used to being outside, you may need to go with them to get them used to it. This can be as simple as an evening walk. You can also just encourage them to get into the backyard for half an hour after lunch for fresh air and whatever sunshine is available.
5. Get them moving.
Your kids need to move every day, it is essential to brain growth and development. Make sure that they are getting good exercise, even if you have a patch of bad weather keeping you indoors. Check local dance academies that may provide virtual online classes. You can have push up contests (more effective if you join them), jump rope, have nerf gun wars, or look up a physical activity they enjoy on YouTube and have them follow along with the video’s.
6. Make a routine for them to follow.
Too much unstructured free time is overwhelming to most children. They will get grouchy fast because they don’t know what to do with themselves. Make a list for them to follow. This helps keep them calm because they know what to expect and what each day will look like. (Sample list available at end of this article.)
7. Give them some free time.
While too much unstructured time is overwhelming, especially for kids who are used to having their entire day structured, a little free time can be, well, freeing. Free time is not screen time. Specify that during free time they can do whatever they like, inside our outside, except get on a screen.
I’m not anti-screen. But the deep advantage of free time is that a child can discover what they love. What would they do if no one was looking over their shoulder telling them what they had to do? This experience has become rare for modern children. And if they are on a screen, they will not think about what they want to do.
8. It’s okay to let them have extra screen/game time.
Really, you have a lot of hours to fill. Also, you can use it as motivation. You have a list for them to accomplish each day, and when they are done, they can have double their normal time on video games. (Unless this makes your kid snarky…always adjust advice to your child’s needs.) Many video games are actually full of puzzles or problems that need to be solved and make kids think. (You can also use extra screen time as motivation for your kids to complete their list without whining…they get double time only if they don’t complain.)
9. Assign a chore.
While they are home all day you will find the house quickly turns into a disaster area. Especially in whatever room they spend the most of their time. Think the kitchen is the hardest room to keep clean? Many long-time homeschoolers will tell you the room where they do school is the messiest. Learning is messy. You have to get used to your house not being spotless when it is being lived in 24/7. But you don’t have to let it degrade into complete chaos. Make your kids clean up their own messes and give them one household job to help with the additional workload. While they are home there will be more dishes to wash, the floors with get dirty faster, and the tables will be covered with clutter more quickly.
10. Keep it simple.
If you need to provide structured academic time because your school district is not teaching them virtually, keep it simple. You could just have them use the school books they already have. Doing the next lesson in each book. Or you can use a tool like study.com to individualize their learning. They have basic courses for 3rd -12th grade, and your student can quiz out of content they have already learned. Time4Learning is another popular pick for new or temporary homeschoolers. (Those are both paid options.)
There are many free ways to learn. Khan academy, of course, has free lessons. And if you start looking for free learning resources, the plethora available will soon overwhelm you. So don’t feel like you need to spend any money.
If you have a good home library, you can just pick out books for your kids to read. A science book, history book, and literature book will enrich your kid more than the few chapters of the textbooks they are missing from school. For math, there are many free practice games and apps online. My kids love Hooda Math.
Don’t try to give them 7 hours a day of academic work. Studying on your own is much more intense than studying in a classroom. After a while, they will just be tuning everything out and not learning. Keep it effective by keeping it light and mixing up the mediums used to learn.
The best thing you can do with this time is let your kids explore topics they are curious about and learn in new ways. Don’t try to make your home look like school. Instead, focus on giving them curiosity provoking resources, great books, interesting conversation, and time to explore.
Sample routine for emergency homeschoolers:
(This is designed as a list you can give your kids. Activities you may need to do with them are at the end of the list so working parents can do them in the evening. You can rearrange this as needed. I am only providing this as an example to get you started on your own list.)
- Eat breakfast- Shower-Brush your teeth-Get dressed (Don’t assume they will do all these things just because they normally do them on a school day, you need to clearly set expectations.)
- 2. Math (could be from their schoolbook, a video channel, website, or worksheet you have preprinted for them.)
- 3.History — Documentary or Educational Video.
- 4. Read a chapter of a literature book.
- 5. Science — Documentary or Educational Video
- 6. Listen to a podcast while you each lunch.
- 7. Go outside in the back yard for 30 minutes.
- 8. Free time — This is the screen-free, free time.
- 9. Get that chore done.
- 10. Congratulations-you worked hard today, double your screen time, free time!
- 11. Dinner with the family
- 12. Listen to read-aloud
- 13. Go for a family walk
Sounds idyllic. But it will be messy and chaotic. Freedom always is. Enjoy it.