Your kids’ schools have closed, you need to stay at home to watch them, and possibly you and your spouse are trying to work from home as well. Maybe you can’t work from home, or your employer is temporarily closed. You’re stressed about finances, you can’t go out, and your kids are bouncing off the walls. This is not the Lent you signed up for; this feels more like the end times.
While some bloggers are offering advice on fun curriculum, or how to make your new job as a homeschooler more enjoyable, I wanted to offer some more practical advice for moms (and dads) who, frankly, are not looking forwards to becoming homeschoolers, even temporarily. I understand you may need to get work done. And if you look forward to leaving the house each day, working at a job you enjoy, and outsourcing your children’s education to someone else, being homebound can make you feel upset, anxious, angry, and overwhelmed. I have spent most of the last couple decades home with my children and I’ve got some tips that can hopefully help you strike a balance between being productive and not killing everyone / dying.
First and foremost, have clear rules and expectations. Maybe you’ve never had set rules and consequences before, however, if everyone is around each other 24/7 irritations and annoyances will arise and get out of hand much more quickly. Write up no more than ten family “Quarantine Rules”. Think up several consequences that you are willing to enforce for each broken rule. If your kids follow rules all day at school, they can follow these special rules while school takes place at home. If you hope to complete any work, and see your kids finish any work sent home or administered online by their school, you will need rules and consequences. If your spouse is at home too, work together on this step so you’re not sabotaging each others efforts. More on effective discipline HERE and HERE.
Create a schedule for your kids. Again, they follow a schedule at school so while school is at home, they can follow one as well. It doesn’t need to be an hour by hour breakdown, but it helps to have anchors throughout the day that things are loosely scheduled around. For example, breakfast is at 8 a.m. and lunch at 11:30 a.m. You can either schedule each hour or half hour block, or you can say that school work and chores must be completed during this time with any extra time spent outside playing. If those things aren’t completed by lunch, then there would need to be a consequence, or maybe you’re fine if they need to finish after lunch, but before screen time begins at 2 p.m.
Don’t schedule too rigidly, but keep your own needs in mind. If you need to work, set a wake up time of 7 a.m. and kids can’t get out of bed before then. Put quiet toys and books next to your kids beds for early risers. You can then get up at 6 a.m. or earlier and log an hour of work. Have set screen times every day so you know your kids will be mostly distracted and you can work then. Maybe an educational video from 11 a.m. -12 p.m. everyday, and an hour of Minecraft from 2 p.m. -3 p.m.. You can enforce what channels, shows, apps, and movies your kids watch during this time and save fun, “kid’s choice” type shows as rewards or for emergencies, like an important last minute business conference call.
If your kids nap, make sure they stick with a set nap time, and even older kids can follow a mandatory afternoon quiet time for reading, or listening to an audio book in their beds. This can give you another block of time for working. Use the same strategy and enforce a strict bedtime, even a slightly earlier one than usual but allow more reading in bed, or audio book listening. You can then plan to work more after everyone is in bed.
If your spouse is working from home, or if you have older teens, take shifts with the younger kid so you can each get quiet, uninterrupted blocks of time for work. Make sure the burden isn’t falling on one spouse or teen more than another.
Your house will be messier because you’re ALL home ALL day. Long time homeschoolers still need this reminder (myself included)- your home will be messier than someone whose family leaves every morning. When you’re home all day, there’s a much higher chance of your kids making messes ALL DAY. There’s a few steps you can take to help mitigate the mess, but to some extent, you will just have to be at peace with more mess for a bit. First, delegate chores (and laundry). You don’t need to do it all yourself. Second, consider limiting the amount of toys, books, art supplies, etc. your children have access to. Select a stack of books and toys for the week, or a few days, and put away the rest. Switch everything out periodically. This also helps kids pick up independently; it’s a less overwhelming job for them because there’s fewer items to put away. More thoughts on cleaning HERE.
Create a one or two week meal plan and stick to it. Pick easy breakfast and lunches your kids can fix themselves. Eat at set times, clean up and be done. You will go nuts if you try to find and fix food for your kids every time they mention they’re hungry. Constant snacking, and/or preparing special meals for everyone will also add to the mess around your house. If you want snacks, fine, but again, pick a set time, set out one snack, and then clean it up and they’re done. I also advise not letting your kids wander around the house with food and drink to help cut down on messes. More on meal planning HERE.
Set aside time in the evening to enjoy being a family. Maybe outside activities have kept y’all from sitting down to dinner every night and playing board games. Now is your chance to do that. Eat together and enjoy one another’s company. Plan to watch a movie, play a game, work on a puzzle, or do something else all together. Don’t all scatter after dinner to stare into screens. Try to have fun moments together to balance all the serious time spent during the day trying to get stuff done. Even if it’s only for 20 min. to fill in some Mad Libs together, try to schedule some family leisure so your kids will hopefully have some fond memories of this quarantine period. (I’ve listed some free resources below of things to do.)
- Opera streaming online
- EWTN schedule – watch live
- 40+ games to play with a deck of cards
- Digital Concert Hall
- Virtual museum tours
- Online Mad Libs
- Lego instructions for old sets or Lego challenge ideas
- Online jigsaw puzzles
Consider setting up regular chats with friends and family (especially the elderly who may be in lockdown at a nursing home) via Facetime, Facebook Messenger, or Google Hangouts. Show new artwork, talk about who won a recent family game tournament, read a picture book, or perhaps say a rosary together.
Do you pray together as a family? Now is a great time to start. Focus on prayers at meal times and perhaps a simple evening prayer before bed. You don’t need to try to tackle the whole rosary right away. Consider anchoring your day with the Angelus or have everyone start their day with morning prayers. If you have time, read the Mass readings, or watch daily Mass. Your family time activity could be related to the liturgical year, like saying the Stations of the Cross on Friday, however, don’t stress out about doing all. the. liturgical. things. right now. Use the church’s calendar to help you come up with activities and prayers if you need inspiration, but don’t believe you need to adopt all the spiritual practices of your favorite blogger. If you are “unequally yoked” and have a spouse who’s not interested in introducing a bunch of Catholic stuff into his or her daily life right now, focus on small prayers, lessons, and intentions you and your children can work on during the day. Read a saint story over breakfast, or put on an EWTN show in the afternoon when you need a break. Say a prayer with your child as you tuck them in at night. Keep the peace in your house, but know that your quiet example and prayers are worth something, if only to bring calm and solace to your own soul. (I’ve listed some of my favorite sites for [mostly free] fun faith activities. The EWTN site listed above lists most prayers you may want to recite.)
Lastly, know that your attitude towards this whole situation is going to influence how your children remember all this time together. It will be tough at times, and you’ll probably want to yell and cry and down a bottle of tequila, but remember this quarantine is temporary. Like the 40 days of Lent gives way to the celebration of Easter, so too will these days of being stuck inside eventually give way to a warm, and healthy, spring. Be gentle with your kids, your spouse, and with yourself. Enforce rules to keep order and get work done, but be liberal in your attention and affection in those times allotted for it. Make the fun meals everyone likes. Stay in your PJs for a few days. Let everyone “camp out” in the living room under sofa cushion forts one night. Find the joy in each day and thank God for it. If you mope and complain through the next few weeks, I guarantee it will suck. But if you can find the joy and trust God that everything, even the tough financial issues, will work out in the end, you might be able to even enjoy being stuck at home. Some days will be harder than others, but even if yesterday was a disaster, doesn’t mean today needs to be. Take each day as it comes, and pray for each day’s concerns as they arise.
My prayers are will you all. Any other questions or concerns? Just let me know and I’ll update this post as necessary.