How incredibly strange is it (among a million other things right now) to find ourselves in a season where pretty much our entire nation is homeschooling their children at the same time? We have all been thrown into the same boat, into unfamiliar territory in the middle of an uncharted journey and it's all very . . . unsettling.
I will say, though, that while there is so much very awful news right now and so much uncertainty, there are quite a few things that I am grateful for as we navigate homeschooling, and here they are (and I will offer the disclaimer that I know that many of us are not in the same boat AT ALL - many of you mamas are trying to also work full time or have other things going on that make this season very different with different challenges for all of us):
(1) I have always thought in the back of my mind my kids might enjoy homeschooling - or that I might enjoy it. But I wasn't sure. How fun to get to test this out and see how it goes? We LOVE our school, but it's fun to say we tried this. And while this isn't precisely homeschooling as most do it, I love that I'll get to know what it's like and that I tried, regardless of the outcome.
(2) I personally am loving not being a taxi. I don't have to wake anyone up from naps early to pick anyone up, give anyone exhaustingly long pep talks about how they can get dressed and get to school or make snack bribes to convince a four year old to get into the car when she is exhausted to go pick up big sisters. Also - our evenings are blissfully homework free because we are getting work done in the mornings. And the mornings, oh, the slow, sweet mornings.
(3) Lastly, I'm talking to my kids way more. When my older two were in school all day, it felt hard to have much conversation other than making sure they were dressed, homework was done, arguments weren't happening, etc., but now there is time. Time to listen, time to ask, time to know what is really going on, and it's so good.
So, here is the routine we have been doing. It's not that specific, but I'm sharing it here because honestly it's really simple. There is enough structure that we have a flow, but not so much that it feels stressful. My oldest LOVES a schedule, so there is enough here that she feels secure, but it's loose enough that I don't feel like I'm letting anyone down if things don't go just right.
Here is a little bit more behind the specifics. If you are new here, I have four girls, ages 9 (3rd grade), 7 (1st grade), 4 (in 3 yr old preschool), and 11 months, so we are kind of all over the board in ages, and I'm working around the nap schedule of a busy crawling baby who likes to eat tiny things off the floor and therefore needs supervision when awake.
(1) I'm loving our slow mornings. It's been so nice, and their shared room is actually playing into our favor. Chip has set their clock (they LOVE Mella and act like she is a person!) to turn green at 7:30, so they know not to leave their room before that. They will play, talk, read books, etc. until 7:30.
(2) We do a devotional to start the day. I will read a Bible story or chapter (here is a great devotional if you want one!), and they have a blank piece of paper to illustrate it. They LOVE this, and sometimes I will hang the drawings on the wall, and then we pray to start our day. I have found that this little bit of structure is everything for them; it makes things feel official.
(3) I have discovered that Ellie, my 4 year old, can participate in a lot of what Brigette, my first grader, does. She often watches her lessons and stories, which is so helpful. Everyone has headphones for their online lessons and calls, and I have a splitter so that Ellie and Brigie can watch/listen at the same time. It has been a bit tricky trying to figure out how to keep Ellie occupied while also being attentive to helping Brigette and Vivi, so if I can't get her to just play, she will do some Cosmic Kids yoga (she LOVES it) or she also loves the Mo Willems drawing video (that also has activity pages you can print!!!), which feels a bit school like to her, and she isn't as left out.
(4) It's a short day. Sometimes Vivi has more work to do in the afternoon, and we have some teacher calls, etc. that we need to make happen, but I try to get most of our work done in the morning. We are ALL at our best then, and for the most part, it happens.
(5) Siesta time is everything. This is my time to get things done. As I specified above, I don't clean, cook, do housework stuff, etc. during this time. I have found that daily I need to either do something creative or work out and sweat (preferably both, but I have to do at least one of those things). It's just vital for me to feel like a person and be my best self for my kids and Chip. I think this is SO important. Figure out what brings you JOY (for some of you, this might be cleaning and cooking) and make sure you do that thing daily. In this bizarre time when we cannot see our friends and our people other than our immediate family, we have to be serious about taking care of ourselves, and I don't mean with facial masks and nail polish - but taking care of who you are.
After Marjorie wakes up from her nap about 3:00 or 3:30, the girls turn off shows if they were watching them and go play. I get the kitchen tidied and ready for supper, and we usually eat around 5:30 or 6:00. And then we move on to baths and reading and bedtime. So, that is our day! I hope it helps some of you who might feel overwhelmed right now. Simplicity is absolutely ok.
Lastly, here are some of the things I have that I'm loving to keep us organized. And of course of course of course you don't need to purchase a thing to have school at home with your kids. Many of these things I already had, and it's just working really well - so I'm sharing! The important thing here is finding things that make it FUN for you. Is it glittery pens for you to make notes? Is it a new planner to be super organized? Is it a chalkboard with special chalk to write announcements on? Making it an adventure for yourself will make it an adventure for them, too, so here is your permission to PLAY PRETEND SCHOOL, mamas.
A few notes about the above:
Headphone Splitter - this has been super helpful to have two kiddos using a computer at the same time. Lots of background noise makes me feel stressed, so it's great to not have multiple things playing out loud at the same time - or even one. I can't focus on helping the other kid, and it makes me feel anxious. (Also, a note on this - become self aware of what gives you added anxiety. Is it extra background noise? Do you need to have lunch earlier or have a snack so you don't get cranky? Maybe you have a two year old who only naps in the afternoon, and that would be a better time to do school when you aren't managing all of them at the same time?)
Cart - I have a cart we use for their "cubbies." It's super cute and accessible, and also fun to roll to other parts of the house as needed. It's like a little mobile office, and they love it.
Pencils and sharpener - It brings me childhood joy to sharpen pencils perfectly and then use them. I can't remember the last time I sharpened a pencil to the perfect point. It's amazing and just plain makes me happy. The girls have 800 pencils they have been given as prizes at school, and I enjoy sharpening about 10 of them every morning.
Nametags - I have these from a play school set the girls have. The LOVE setting them out on the table in the mornings. It's the small things, y'all.
Cafeteria Trays - I have long had an obsession for vintage cafeteria trays, and this is the time for them to SHINE. I can't tell you how much fun it is to neatly arrange their little lunches on them with a spoon or fork in the utensil holder and then place a small cup of milk in the drink circle. It's just the best, I tell you. Also, they work really great for crafting - use each little section for different crafting supplies and it is SO FUN and will make you feel like an art teacher whether you are or you aren't in real life (but seriously we are currently all art teachers in real life, right?).
Anyway - I hope that is somehow helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions! Love to all of you navigating this new normal!!