Coronavirus has moved into your country, your city, your neighborhood. If not the virus itself, then the practical, wise practice of social distancing. You are facing your children’s school closing and you are terrified—maybe not about your family’s chances of getting sick, but of suddenly having them home all day. You are now their full-time teacher.

Rest assured you will be OK. You and your family will survive.

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Before I lay out a flexible schedule you can use, please allow yourself to accept a few things. Because if you jump in without addressing your heart, you will be fighting it the whole time.

  1. Being around kids 24 hours a day is truly, stunningly exhausting.
  2. No kid is ever delightful all waking moments, not even your own.
  3. Everyone needs to take their space every day, including you.
  4. You are the leader of your temporary homeschool and permanent home, so make it comfortable for yourself first (think coffee, snacks, music, smells, yoga pants, etc.).
  5. Your kids value your presence eternally more than your curriculum (short term and long term).
  6. Your kids can learn with what you already have in your home.
  7. Pinterest is a great teaching resource.
  8. Don’t do everything with them, hovering, aiming for perfection. Kids at least age 8 definitely know what’s expected at school when they’re told to sit down and work. Do your own work from home or reading for pleasure while they are working. Beside them.
  9. There’s actually no way to mess this up.

Interruptions in the schedule are fun. When I was teaching full-time I learned to be thankful for sick days rather than annoyed because it was a bonus day at home. Time with my girls, reconnecting. Just being together, unbound by schedule or demands.

In terms of what a child needs to be successful adults and successful learners, they need connection with you, their caregiver. (Entire novels and textbooks have been written about this (attachment, Maslov, etc.), so there’s no space to explain the why here.)

Check that box. You care for and feed and emotionally connect with your child. In terms of attachment and their potential to learn, they are set. Now you just get to be on this dynamic, restful adventure with your family. Enjoy it.

Morning

  • Alarm—9:00
  • Wake up, morning routine as usual, breakfast together, MAKE COFFEE
  • God time (If this isn’t a morning practice already, I highly recommend taking 20 minutes to read the Bible and listen. It’s amazing how much more smoothly a day can go. But not always. God time isn’t magic medicine for a perfect day.)
  • 9-10:30—Language Arts
    • 9-9:30—Read Out Loud. I don’t care how old your child is, find a novel they enjoy and read to them for the first 30 minutes. This benefits them in so many ways academically and emotionally. (Research it.)  Give yourself permission to quit a book if you’re not digging it. Lots of books out there are not actually good literature or fun at all to read.
    • 9:30-10:00—Writing Time. Get a notebook and have your child write. They can write about what you read together. They can write about the news. They can write a story. Google a National Geographic picture of the day and have them write inspired by that. If you need to, check Pinterest for age-appropriate writing prompts or reading response questions. We aren’t aiming for perfection. If kids feel like it needs to be perfect the first time on the page, they’ll stop writing. (I would, too.) Encourage spelling mistakes and run-on sentences and all sorts of grammatical ugly. Just let them write. For junior high and high school I would recommend them to write a report on a topic that interests them. They probably have learned how to find good information from the internet and take notes to put into their own words, and then edit to their level of perfection. Let them use this chunk of time to research.
    • 10:00-10:30—Activity. Younger kids will probably need to play. Let them go outside or do a puzzle or just read books quietly on their own. Older kids can keep researching and writing their reports. (It should take about two weeks for a report to be well-researched and written, if given an hour a day.)
  • 10:30-11:00—Break
    • Go for a walk together. Play outside. Plant a garden. Have a snack.
  • 11:00-12:00—Math
    • If math scares you, at least make your child practice basic facts. You can print off endlessly mad-minute-type math worksheets for free at math-aids.com (think addition, subtraction, multiplication, division). They can also play math games for free at sites like Math Playground. Older kids can watch Khan Academy. All children ages 6 and up could benefit from learning coding (also for free) at Code Academy. And while they do this you can drink coffee in the silence. Baking and shopping and family budgeting music are also math activities you could do together.
  • 12:00-1:00—Lunch

Afternoon

  • 1:00-2:00—Quiet Time/ Social Studies
    • We all need this time. Nap. Take space. Let your kid play freely.
    • If you have a child around grade 5 or older you can fire up a documentary on Netflix or a Ted Talk for social studies. Let them watch it and learn informally. They could even write about what they learned the next morning in Language Arts.
  • 2:00-3:00—Art/Science
    • You can easily look up a craft or experiment on Pinterest, depending on your child’s age and interest. Anything STEM or STEAM on Pinterest is awesome. Build LEGOs. Or label and color a diagram. Build a bridge or a diorama or a playdoh solar system. Most of what science is across all grades is learning about nature and all its cycles. So things like food chains, nutrient cycle, photosynthesis, life cycles, rock cycles, star cycles. This is a great chance to go outside and explore the environment you live in. Slow down and observe. Or you could let them ask how something works and find the answer on websites: electricity, magnetism, buoyancy, aerodynamics, body systems, natural disasters, you name it. Learn about what they are interested in. Curriculum is basically cyclical, so many grades learn topics similar to past grades, just in greater complexity. But this is a cool chance to let your grade 2 child learn about atoms and quarks if they are interested. Let them make a YouTube episode or TikTok about what they learned.
  • 3:00—School’s Out! Do not pressure you or your child to be learning seven hours a day. That is not what happens at school. Because of the nature of 20-40 kids in one room doing the same activity to varying degrees, a lot of a school day is given towards social skills and crowd management. You have a 1:2 or 1:4 ratio while homeschooling, not 1:30. Information can be explored and digested much quicker when you are not interrupted by behaviors that aren’t your child’s.

You are suddenly homeschooling—congratulations! You might find it challenging, but it will also be so rewarding. As a parent, what a unique opportunity to connect with your child.

Even if you aren’t a teacher by trade, you absolutely have the capacity to teach.

You know more than your child (even if they don’t think so) and you can share all your wisdom and wonders with them. What a gift this pandemic is, in that it gives you bonus connection time with your children. Remember to enjoy them before they are summoned back to the school routine and regular life.

Erika Rachelle Anderson

Erika is an elementary school teacher, recently turned stay-at-home mom. She and her husband of 10 years have three beautiful girls (ages 3, 4 and 5). She writes about finding the calm in the chaos, focusing on faith, parenting, and mental health at erikarachelleanderson.com