With local schools sending kids home to learn for the next few weeks, I figured there might be some parents who struggle with the transition. Any new routine for a kid is likely to lead to a struggle, so I’ve put together some advice and resources you may find helpful. These would also be helpful during long school breaks, as well.
Transitions Are Hard
Know that transitions are hard. What is novel at first quickly wears off and becomes a little difficult. You aren’t doing it wrong. The kids aren’t doing it wrong. It is just hard to get into new routines, especially when you know they are temporary. If your kid’s school isn’t requiring work to be done, feel free to take a full break or look at the activities suggested here to keep the days from becoming drudgery. Give yourself and the kids some grace.
Creating a routine or a rhythm to the “off” days can help make them flow more smoothly. Breaking up the day into sections, even if they are flexible, will help kids not get bored and also not wallow in misery at the never-ending hours to fill. You can model your day after their school day, or you can make something else up entirely. Even just having a “breakfast time”, “snack time”, “lunch time, “tea time”, etc. can help break the day up into manageable chunks.
Work before Play
If your kids will be expected to complete work on break, as I know many will be, set the habit, from the start, of putting the work first. Once they get into a video game, it can be hard to bring them back out to boring old math work. For us, we don’t allow TV or video games before school. (We actually don’t allow video games on school days at all.) If they want to do something before school, they can read, write, or create art. We try to limit the “fun” stuff before work because work becomes such a drudgery when you feel like you’re missing out on fun things to do it.
Time Is Different at Home
At home, time is different. What might usually take them 40 minutes to do at school may only take 15 at home. There aren’t other kids asking questions. There aren’t ducks to line up before work can be done. You didn’t miss anything just because the lessons seem shorter.
Similarly, it may take longer for some kids at home. They’ve been trained to work in a specific environment in a specific way. It can be difficult to transition from that. Think about being used to working in the quiet of an office and suddenly being thrust into the middle of a busy coffee shop— or vice versa. It may take a kid more time to settle into doing work in a different place with different sounds and smells. If it takes a little longer, you’re not doing it wrong and neither are they. Adjustments can be hard.
You may be fine with letting your kids be a couch potato on break. If you are, cool. Do what works for you and your kids! If your kids are the “I’m boooored” type, here are some ways you can break up your days.
TV doesn’t have to be bad. There are some really interesting documentaries on Netflix and Amazon Prime that can be educational and fun. Definitely check out The Riot and The Dance on Amazon! There are also some fun educational shows like the Magic Schoolbus. Also, some movies that were made from books might be worth checking out. You may have time to read the book and watch the movie. Or perhaps you can choose movies based on books they’ve already read. That comparison is always fun. We’ve also had fun comparing two versions of the same story.
This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we love reading in our house. My kids, even those old enough to read, really enjoy us reading to them. Grab a book and read together. Not sure what to read? What do you want to read? Is there a book you read as a kid that really sticks out in your mind? Maybe read that. Is there a book that has been of interest to you that you haven’t taken the time to read? Maybe read that. Is there a book your child is itching to read? Might be a good one!
Listening to an audiobook while drawing, crocheting, or just sitting and cuddling is a great way to spend some time. Your local library likely has a good selection using the Overdrive or Libby app and putting in your library card number. You can also get some great audiobooks from Audible through Amazon. You don’t have to be an Audible member to buy books. (Nick Offerman reading Tom Sawyer is better than reading the book. Will Wheton reading Ready Player One is better than reading the book.) You can also sign up for Scribd, which is like Netflix for audio- and ebooks. They have a great selection.
Reading books that aren’t for school is a fun way to spend time. My boys love Nathan Hale books. They are historical graphic novels that tell the stories of famous wars and things in a very engaging way. Recently, they’ve also really enjoyed reading the Last Kids on Earth series (which is now a show on Netflix). There are also some Teen Titans graphic novels that are coming out, though currently I think Raven is the only one available. Whatever your kid is into— I’m sure there is a book to pique their interest. Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book and Fortunately, the Milk have also been big hits here.
You may have a kid who loves workbooks and activities that they do in school. I was one of those kids. TeachersPayTeachers.com is a website devoted to teachers sharing the resources they’ve created, and you can buy the PDFs and print them at home! There are some free worksheets available, or you can buy any specific worksheets for any subject. My younger ones enjoy The Moffat Girls worksheets. My older ones have loved the interactive notebooks from Lovin Lit.
You may find you want little unit study type activities for your kids. Check out Chickie and Roo, Firefly Nature School, Twig and Moth, Exploring Nature with Children, Fiddlestick Kids, and Brave Grown Home. They all offer various lessons, cards, and tools to supplement a fun unit study.
It would also be a great time to try out Skillshare. (This link will get you two months free for a trial.) You can take classes on a phone, tablet, or computer on virtually anything. My kids really enjoy the drawing and illustration courses.
There are a lot of ideas on Pinterest of fun, hands-on activities you can do with kids. You can also check out my post on Kindergarten Math Boxes for some ideas of hands-on activities for younger kids.
If you aren’t sick, get outside and study nature. Grab some colored pencils and drawing paper or a notebook. Just learn to observe and draw what you see. The trees are blooming, there are plenty of fun things outside to draw and record. If you have watercolors, it can be fun to break those out and practice getting colors you see in nature onto the page. Not sure where to start? Grab a leaf. What do you notice about it? Can you draw the shape? Is the color even and consistent? What do the veins look like? Nature study is really about capturing what you see and learning to see those things.
Board games and card games are a lot of fun when a parent is involved. I have enough kids that they can manage a full board game on their own. But even still, the fun really ramps up when my husband or I get involved in the game. Dust off the Monopoly, Scrabble, Sorry, Uno, or Candyland and get playing! There are also some new games out there you may not have played that are pretty fun. Exploding Kittens, Unstable Unicorns, King of Tokyo, Munchkins, and Dungeons and Dragons might be fun to learn.
Puzzles are also a fun family event in our house. The littles love puzzles, but when we get a big, complex puzzle, the whole family gets in on the creating. There isn’t a single person in our house who can resist putting a few pieces into an unfinished puzzle.
Bonding and Creating Memories
I know it can be frustrating to have such a long, unplanned break. Especially when there is really nowhere to go during the break. But you have the chance to create some really awesome memories and bond with your kids in ways that wouldn’t ordinarily be possible. How often do we wish for a break in the busyness of modern life and never can find a space to take one? We’ve been given the break. It is definitely not the way any of us would want it, but let’s take advantage anyway! Don’t stress yourself out trying to make every moment perfect and magical. Memories are made in all-day pajama-days, movie marathons, and yelling over Uno. No magic required— just presence.
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