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Monday, March 16, 2020

Suddenly Homeschool: parenting through school closures

Like many other families around the world, my 2nd grade daughters and I have found ourselves suddenly home all day for an indefinite amount of time. As I know many parents are trying to wrap their heads around what to do all day with kids who suddenly find themselves stuck at home, I thought I would share my plans- how I plan to structure the day, the resources I've found for each subject area so my daughters can continue to explore their interests and stay mentally and physically active, and some general suggestions for making this crazy situation work for everyone.

1. Weekday Schedule

There is certainly an argument to be made for letting go of structure and schedules altogether and just letting kids explore, be creative, and do things on their own timeline. For me and for my daughters, that would most certainly not end well- we all thrive on predictability and routine, and anything we can do to give ourselves some sense of normalcy is helpful in these uncertain times! So we've come up with a schedule for weekdays that we plan to follow during the closure. If you'd like to make a schedule for your family, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
  • Let the children be involved in the creation of the schedule- ask them what "subjects" or activities they want to do, if they have any preference for when and how much time they spend on each, etc.
  • Whatever schedule you come up with, make a visual that everyone can easily read.
  • Don't feel like you have to stick to the schedule exactly once you make it- have a conversation with the whole family from the outset to establish the expectation that the schedule is there when you want it, but does not have to be followed if you choose to do something else.
  • Intentionally build in time that is unspecified- no matter how structure-oriented you are, it's good for kids to learn to come up with things to do without being provided entertainment every minute of every day!
We actually got pretty excited about coming up with our schedule- this was our chance to build the schedule we wish we could have at school! That means art every day, music every day, PE every day, cooking and cleaning... Here's what we came up with:

We're actually pretty early risers, but our scheduled time is starting later to give us time to relax in the mornings. The girls also already cook dinner once a week, so we'll continue that- the rest of the evening time will also be for relaxing, unstructured time as well.

2. Free Resources for Home Learning

With so many families in the same situation, there are lots of amazing resources available for parents to use at home for every subject area imaginable right now! Here are some ideas and resources I plan to use for each subject (all resources are free). My main objective here is to give my daughters time to explore and grow in a variety of areas without increasing screen time too much.

Science: I mostly want to use this time to let the girls a) explore topics they're interested in and b) do some hands-on experiments they wouldn't be able to do at school. There are some fun ideas on KiwiCo, MommyPoppins Science Experiments, Maker Stations, and National Geographic Kids.

Exercise: We'll be dancing to music, practicing jump rope, cartwheels, and backbends (because that's what the girls are into at the moment), and walking/ running/ biking outside if it's nice. There are lots more fun ideas on OPEN Active Home, and GoNoodle is always a good resource!

Writing: My girls love to write, so I don't expect to have to give them much guidance. They were at the end of a poetry unit at school and wanting to write more poems, so I will show them some different types of poems and give them time to come up with their own. They're also excited about writing longer stories. For kids who need more prompts, Scholastic Story Starters is fun!

Art: We do not lack for art supplies in my house, nor do my children lack inspiration for arts and crafts! The whole point is to get creative, so we will mostly just be getting different supplies out and seeing what we come up with: origami paper, glitter glue, markers, construction paper, paint, playdough, beads... but there are some great ideas for art projects on KinderArt if we need more ideas.

Reading: Again, we are blessed to have lots of books at home, so this will mostly just be time for everyone to read what they want. But there are also lots of books available online at Epic and you can find lots of read-alouds on YouTube as well!

Math: My daughters' teachers recommended MobyMax for math, so that's what we'll be using. This is the one place I'll probably have the girls mostly using technology- other free options include Khan Academy and Math Playground. I'm also planning to spend time whenever it comes up talking about money management, since they just started getting a small allowance a couple of months ago and don't yet fully understand the concepts of spending vs saving vs sharing.

Music: Music is a part of our lives always- we're constantly listening to music, singing, and dancing- but this focused "music time" will be mostly for instrument practice since my children take instrument lessons. For more general music ideas and resources to use at home, check out this blog post, where I've compiled lots of online and no-tech ideas to use at home. If you're looking for tips to keep kids motivated practicing an instrument independently, click here for my blog post on helping kids practice at home.

Social Studies: I actually want to use this time to just talk about the world and help them get better oriented with geography and culture. We'll look at our world map and talk about where things are and explore places they ask about by looking up videos from locals in those areas. There are also all of these free museum virtual tours we could explore, and I'd like to spend some time discussing current events around the world with resources like Time for Kids, Flocabulary, and NewsForKids.

Cleaning: I am putting different small cleaning tasks on pieces of paper and we'll each pick one out of a jar each time we have a cleaning session. Cleaning is definitely the first thing to go when I get busy, and this is the perfect time to do some extra cleaning around the house!

The key here is to have a basic outline for the day and plenty of resources on hand so we don't ever get stuck for ideas, but also allowing each of our individual interests to drive what we do- this is our chance to explore and direct our own learning! I hope this helps families as you wrap your heads around this whole situation- if you have other resources or ideas, please share them in the comments!

General Tips

A few other things I've found helpful to consider:
  • Get other families with similar-aged children to share ideas- maybe you each take one day a week to plan a science experiment, or kids could "present" to each other through video conferencing. Maybe you take turns reading aloud to all the kids over Skype. Find ways to share the load and give everyone some interaction!
  • Get outside whenever you can!! Fresh air and sunshine are always good, but when you're feeling cooped up it's good to remember avoiding large crowds doesn't mean avoiding leaving the house.
  • Make extras of whatever you're cooking and put the leftovers in the freezer. Good for if you can't find ingredients later, get tired of cooking, or end up needing to stay in the house.
  • Take advantage of the flexible daytime schedule and do some video calls with friends and family. Don't forget about older people in retirement homes etc who are especially isolated.
Most of all: keep calm and give yourself and those around you the freedom to rest and enjoy one another's company! Staying busy will help keep your mind from dwelling on anxiety, but it's important to also make sure we are resting, physically, mentally, and emotionally.


  1. Do you have examples of successful cooking with kids? Thank you for sharing these great ideas and resources!

    1. Yes! I've done several posts on the topic- search "dinner recipes for kid cooks" or copy this link: