How to Survive teaching your kids at home during a school closing? Well, I don’t suggest day drinking to get through (no matter how tempting it may be).
As a former special education teacher, I am here to share some tips and tricks on how to survive long periods of time stuck at home with the kids. Finding activities that are educational yet entertaining will help keep your children from tying you up and building a fort around you.
This post is geared towards those with younger children – Elementary and Preschool age. Those with older children may still find parts of this article useful but a lot of it won’t apply.
Structure & Routine are the Key to Surviving Your Child’s Time Off from School
I am sure you have seen the color-coded schedules and charts for days at home during the Corona social distancing (including the parody ones – some of them really are great).
There is a reason the charts have gone viral. Creating a schedule and routine will keep you and your children sane. They’re not just pretty to look at; they really will help.
This “downtime” isn’t the same as a random snow day or even summer. Children still require education during their time off or they will quickly lose their skills.
This is one example of a schedule (this was the first one I saw go viral).
Our Example Schedule
I have a preschooler and a first-grader at home. My schedule is based on the needs of my children. Yours, of course, may look very different.
This schedule might be changed based on our plans for the day or might be adjusted as I see needed.
- 8:30 Breakfast clean up and household chores
- 8:50 Morning opening (we say the Pledge, focus on calendar skills, and weather)
- 9:05 Handwriting Practice. My youngest works on his name and letters. My older son is writing important information – our address, phone numbers, etc. We’ll move on to sight and spelling words.
- 9:15 Word Work (sight word practice and letter recognition/skills)
- 9:35 Reading Comprehension activities & writing activities
- 10:35 Arts (crafts, music, drawing, etc.)
- 11:00 Outdoor or indoor playtime (weather dependent)
- 12:00 Lunch
- 12:30 Lunch clean up & setting up lesson materials
- 12:40 Math – a half-hour of one-on-one instruction and half hour independent activity each
- 1:40 Music & Movement break (we use videos from youtube)
- 1:55 Science or Social Studies lesson
- 2:30 Outdoor or indoor playtime (weather dependent)
- 3:30 Quiet reading time
- 4:00 Screen time (iPad or TV) – dinner prep during this time
What Should We Include in a Daily Schedule?
There are many different things you can and should include in a daily schedule to get through the days. Here are some things you could include:
- Quiet reading
- Reading activities
- Math activities and instruction
- Alternate between science & social studies time
- Arts & Creative learning time (including music as well)
- Physical activity
- Downtime! (kids are going to still need downtime)
- Screen time (if you allow screen time for your children)
- Chores (this is one of my favorite additions to the chart)
- Meals (of course!)
To Screen Time or Not?
We could debate forever whether or not screen time is a good or a bad thing. I think that there should be a limit to screen time but I also believe in teaching children to use technology.
Provide Learning Experiences & Play NOT Just Worksheets
Often times people think of learning and educational time as completing worksheets. Learning doesn’t have to just be about written work. Learning can take place in so many different ways – including using play as part of the instruction.
Although many of us still need time to work, try to provide children with items that aren’t busy work and are more educational in nature. Busy work are worksheets such as word searches.
While word searches are a little more beneficial for younger children they become less educational as children age (at a certain point, they truly become just busywork).
Some learning experiences could include but is not limited to:
- Learning games
- Creative writing & writing assignments
- Use of dry erase boards
- Research project
- Book clubs/studies
- Flash cards
- Educational videos
- Read aloud on youtube
- Use of manipulatives
- Use of letter blocks or magnets
- Drawing pictures to represent a story
- Exit ticket (answering a question at the end of a lesson)
- Educational apps
- Flip the role – let your child be the teacher
- Dramatic reenactments, skits, plays, puppet show
- Video making
- Comic strip creation
- Dance, song, rap, etc. writing
- Newspaper or Magazine creation
- Poster project
- Write a letter telling someone what they learned
- Voice record summary of a story or answering a set of questions
- Charts, Venn diagrams, graphic organizers
Creative Materials for Learning
Be creative in the materials you use to learn! Not everyone had a former life as a teacher – I am blessed to have an entire cabinet full of manipulatives, base ten blocks, and tangrams.
I know that I am far from an ordinary parent when it comes to educational materials. You don’t need to be a teacher to have learning supplies. Here are some great household items you can use:
- Goldfish crackers
- M & Ms, Reeses Pieces, or Skittles
- Paper clips
- Playdoh (shape into letters/numbers)
- Salt dough
- Boardgame pieces
- Toy cars
- Dice from boardgames (one of my favorite math tools!)
- Popsicle sticks
- Cotton balls
- Poker chips
- Pom poms
- Dried Beans
- Bottle caps
- Jelly beans
Container Options for Sorting, Adding, Subtracting, Multiplying, etc.
- Tupperware containers to sort, count, etc.
- Ice cube trays
- Cupcake liners
- Playdoh/clay – stick toothpicks, straws, etc. into
- Empty egg cartons
- Mugs & Cups
- Cupcake tins
- Sandwich bags
Consider Selecting a Weekly or Daily Theme
Selecting a theme may help planning your child’s weekly learning activities. By selecting a theme, it will scale down what type of activities to focus on for the week or day.
When you can teach anything and everything, it can be overwhelming. So pick a theme to focus on.
- Select a weekly letter
- Select a set of daily words
- Bugs & Insects
- Your child’s favorite animal
- Germs (fits our current situation!)
I Picked a Theme, Now what?
Once you pick a theme, find books that match the theme. Choose both a fiction and nonfiction book and then one more.
Don’t have access to a lot of books? Don’t forget that most libraries have online access to children’s books. Plus, youtube has so many book read alouds and other websites do as well.
Then, come up with math activities to match the theme. If you aren’t sure what type of activities to do, head to Pinterest and type in your theme and math. For example flower math first grade.
You’ll get lots of ideas! You just may have to look if you aren’t sure what to create yourself.
Creative writing is an easy activity to pair with a theme. Come up with some journal prompts.
Discussions, playwriting, song ly great options to use with your theme.
Consider a Daily Journal or Creative Notebook
Daily journals are an easy way to make sure your child is writing every. single. day.
Reading and math are often times the main focus when parents educate their children. But writing is just as important.
Use blank paper or grab a notebook and have your child start a daily journal.
Life Skills Educational Experiences
Educational experiences can also be taught through every day, life skills at home. Some life skills that can also work as educational experiences include:
- Lawn care
- Chores & Cleaning
- Sorting laundry or toys
- Pairing socks
- Choosing appropriate clothing for the weather
- Learning home address, phone number
- Learning about dialing 911 and emergency preparedness
- Learning fire escape plan & what to do in case of a fire
- First aid and care basics
- Setting an alarm clock and following a schedule
- Managing money and basic budgeting
- Meal planning and writing a grocery list
- How to order groceries online
- Having a phone call with friends
- Writing a letter or card to someone
- Practice manners and mock ordering in a restaurant
- How to read maps and going for a drive following a map
- Voting to make family decisions
Are chores really educational experiences?
If your children don’t do chores, now is a great time to start! Here is a great post from The Happy Housewife with various chore ideas by age.
In my opinion, they are! They are just like having classroom jobs. They require children to follow multiple-step or single-step directions, measure (laundry detergent, dog food, etc), organizational skills, motor skills, motor planning, and more.
Plus, chores teach responsibilities, teamwork, and self-care.
Free Educational Printables from Mom Envy
Before I started Mom Envy, I had a teacher blog. I have been going back and trying to update my old posts to share with all of my readers. Hopefully, some of them can help!
- Tips on How to Actively Read with your Child
- Free Book Tracker for kids
- Sight & Spelling Word Chants and Cheers **My favorite
- Sight Word & Spelling Practice Ideas
- Word Go Fish Game & Memory Game
- Reading Swat Game (Sight Words & Letter Recognition)
- Spin-a-Word Printable Game
- Oh No! Sight Word Game
- Pancake Sight Word Game
- Reading Comprehension Road Map
- Reading Story Map
- Free Swat Game for Math Skills (number recognition, adding, subtracting, money skills, etc).
- Multiplication Songs
Facetime Read Alouds with Family
My Mom had a great idea to provide Facetime read alouds to her grandchildren during this time. It would be a great alternative to quiet reading time.
Plus, our kids are super excited about the idea of Grammy reading stories to them even though they can’t see her!
Educational Websites for Kids
There are SO many free online educational resources. Many companies are offering free opportunities for children during their time off.
Plus, if you’re not finding what you’d like, Pinterest is SUCH an amazing source for free printable worksheets, activities, crafts, etc. As a teacher, is was always a go-to for me.
Someone created the ultimate list of free educational resources. The only issue is that the very large Google Doc is HUGE and difficult to navigate. Instead, I pulled out some of my favorites.
If you have lots of time, feel free to browse the site. But if you’re overwhelmed and ready for some quick help – here are my favorites.
- Teachers Pay Teachers – you can find many free printables just by selecting free under the filter.
- Highlights for Kids – the well-loved children’s magazine has some wonderful resources for all subjects
- PBS – Amazing lessons ready to read, print, & learn!
- ABC Mouse – use the code: SCHOOL7771 for free access
- Educational Netflix Shows
- Storyline Online – celebrities reading books aloud
- Scholastic Learn at Home Program – Scholastic has created a learning program for children while they are home
- Starfall – always free and amazing!
- Learning A to Z – they have 2 free available programs right now. I used to use them when I taught and love their programs!
- Minecraft Math – for your Minecraft lovers
- Math Playground – lots of great math games
- Hooda Math – More math games
- Cuethink (current free trial. Very comprehensive math site)
- Greg Tang Math – Free, original math games
- Cool Math Games – although it has ads, there are some great math games for children. I prefer to use the categories to find games so that they are more educational based vs. random games from the homepage.
Science & Social Studies
- Mystery Science – Science lessons and activities
- Nomster Chef – recipes for kids with amazing photo directions!
- Club Sci Kidz – Daily science experiment or recipe
- Creosity Space – Science experiments for kids
- Virtual Field Trips – Great for both science and social studies
- Cincinnati Zoo – Online educational tours
- National Geographic Online
Arts & Music
- Smart Music – Music freebies are hard to come by and unless you’re proficient in music, it may be a harder area for you to teach. Free through June 30!
- Doodles Academy – Tons of free art project ideas
- Art for Kids Hub – youtube Channel with kid-friendly art lessons
- The Artful Parent – so many great art projects for children
- Sculpey – Clay projects
- Artbar – Wonderful art ideas for kids
- Music Games from PBS
- Classics for Kids – Music lessons and games for kids
- DSO Kids – Lessons to make instruments, informational videos, and more