As an entire global community, we are in treading through uncharted territory as the dangers of the Corona Virus continue to change our lives. Many of us are having to rise to challenges we had not imagined, let alone prepared for. One of those challenges is how to bring about a balance between a new work from home reality with children for many who have never done it. As someone who has worked from home for nearly a decade while raising children, I would like to share a bit about how we make things work and our daily routine. I realize there is no one way to go about finding a work and childcare solution, I am simply hoping that for anyone out there looking for ideas this will be helpful. Please feel free to use what you can and leave what you can’t.
I decided to write about our homeschool experiences during the virus outbreak and resulting quarantine because I think most people at home for the first time trying to educate their children probably will fall, like me, into the “doing good enough” category. I am dedicated to helping my children and providing some semblance of a normal routine, yet I’m not a professional educator and I definitely don’t have an abundance of ready to go resources. Things I do know how to do are make a schedule and enforce it and that is where we started the first week the kids were home from school. We woke up at the same time they would if we had to head out for the day and followed our regular morning wake up routine. We eat breakfast, watch a bit of news, drink coffee (me) on the couch, get dressed and brush our teeth all at roughly the same time. Then I allow the kids to have an hour of screen time starting at 8 am. School at home starts at 9 am.
Though I have never been a full-time homeschooler, I would definitely say I have worked over the years, especially during the summer months, to supplement my children’s traditional public school education. Each summer we purchase and loosely work through a workbook. I ask the kids to complete about a half-hour to an hour of workbook time each weekday. This keeps their minds agile, and also provides us all some independent and quiet working time. This is typically the time I use to work on any computer or paperwork related tasks for my art business. Our quarantine homeschool schedule is basically the same, except the time is more structured. Each child works through a combination of grade-level-appropriate resources like the workbooks, online resources and suggestions sent via the school they would typically be attending. My children are able to work relatively independently. My oldest child is in the 7th grade and my youngest is a third-grader. While they are working, I either create in my studio or work on the computer, the same as I would during our summer routine. I am available to come upstairs or pause writing on the computer to assist with any questions.
Since the school district is not currently grading their work at this time, I obviously am not either. I simply ask them to try their best and check their answers if an answer key is provided. I also check their work read through their written answers or responses to writing prompts and watch or look at any additional projects they are prompted to create. My older child also checks the younger child’s work on some subjects, particularly math and grammar, as those are his favorite subjects. To keep us accountable and make sure we are generally hitting all of the basic subjects such as reading/language arts, math, science, geography/civics/social studies, and history I created a really simple chart with days of the week across the top and the subjects down one side. Each day the child works through either a workbook, online or school activity related to each of the subject categories. After they have completed the tasks, they show me their work and give me a summary of the lesson. I then write a brief description in the appropriate box for the day and subject. When they have filled all of the boxes they are done with school for the day and can go read until the other child is finished working or we have lunch. Lunchtime, between 11:30 and noon, is roughly the end of traditional school time for the day.
Along with some of the school provided resources, here is a list of additional supplemental school materials we are using:
- Scholastic Learn at Home
- Summer Bridge Activity Workbooks
- San Diego Middle School English Teacher Mary Moffit’s “Recommended Reading for Kids/Adults who are Probably Pretty Bored Already” (email or DM Ms. Moffit via Instagram @boxcarsewing for the link to materials)
- Help in creating your homeschool plan and philosophy from a veteran homeschooler: Confetti Tips for Crisis Homeschoolers from Rachel Hauser
After lunch, I teach a “class” I am calling “life skills.” Again, we typically do a loose version of this together in the summer. At its core, life skills is a time when I show the kids the basic skills they need to successfully run their household. We do chores of all sorts and basic home maintenance projects together. During the summer we would occasionally talk about the hows and whys, but in the new homeschool environment, we are diving a little bit deeper. Life skills class starts after lunch and a brief break and typically lasts between 1 to 2 hours. For each life skills activity time, I choose a project for the day and we work together to learn about any relevant history, background or science concepts related to the activity. Then we work through the activity together focusing on using any tools or relative materials in the safe and correct way and following any necessary directions or procedures. I answer and discuss any questions or additional concepts that arise out of working through the project. To follow along with an up to date account of our daily projects you can follow my Instagram account @laruedefleurs and go to the Life Skills button saved in my story highlights. I will continue to add to the story as long as we are homeschooling, but I would like to document here in more detail what we have done so far if you are looking for ideas and concepts to teach your children.
Life Skills, week one:
Monday, March 16, 2020. First day of quarantine. Home Money Management.
The Home Money Management Life Skills Class is all about the weekly tasks related to paying bills, budgeting and money forecasting (planning ahead for bills you think or know are coming up). We worked together to balance the checkbook and reviewed the basics of how much money our household spends during the week. Together, we digitally sent out payments that were due and they learned how to write out a check for a paper bill. I spoke about why it is important to limit our consumption of things in the home such as wasting electricity and groceries, as that can affect how much money those items cost over the course of the month and year. We reviewed longer and reoccurring bills such as the mortgage and real estate taxes and how choices on what size home to buy and where you live might affect how much those things cost to support your income. We discussed the importance of saving for both the short and long term and planning ahead for home projects and things like a vacation so you did not put yourself in precarious financial situations to reach above what you can reasonably afford or be prepared for in case of an economic change, such as the Coronavirus outbreak and the resulting financial crisis. I think it helped the kids feel as though we were financially prepared as much as possible and they seemed to get a sense of security knowing these are the kinds of money decisions we have been making for years to set ourselves up to absorb a variety of economic setbacks.
Tuesday, March 17, 2020. The Victory Garden.
Perhaps you learned about the concept of the Victory Garden from the period of the Second World War when families all across the world were asked to plant their own gardens to reduce strain on the food supply. For our Victory Garden Life Skills lesson we learned about the historical relevance of the movement and talked about the general concept of food supply and demand. We typically keep a home garden, so the plot was already to prepare for the season ahead. After measuring the area, the kids and I went through the cool weather seeds we had on hand from the previous season and decided how we would plant them in the garden to best maximize yield. We created a rough plan and set about creating it in the soil. To begin we had to clean out and rake the garden. Each kid worked on a section pulling weeds and raking the straw groundcover into an area we could use as a walking path to get through the garden. After preparing the area, we made rows, planted the seeds and set markers in accordance with our plan. The kids both learned how to properly use garden tools and follow the instructions for depth and spacing when planting the seeds. So far none of our seeds have sprouted, but the kids are already excited to check on their garden each day to make sure.
Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Google Drive Presentation.
When approaching parenting in general, I like to admit that I do not know everything and I can also be taught. I also think the ability to teach others is a great life skill! Since they use Google Drive and all its components in school, they are natural whizzes with all it can do, while I clunk away. Therefore, for our Wed. Life Skills class I asked the kids to be my teachers and show me how to better utilize Google Drive to make the quality of my work and pattern writing better. I submitted a page of questions for them to answer. They had to work together to find all of the answers and decide who would present which concepts to me. In all honesty, this did cause a few moments of bickering, but they worked things out in the end and delivered an excellent presentation. I asked them questions along the way and they seemed genuinely proud to have taught me something! Win, Win!
Thursday, March 19, 2020. How to Make Dinner: Spinach Quiché
We keep a few chickens at home, so we generally have fresh eggs to eat throughout the week. In an effort to use what we cultivate, we eat a few egg-based meals each week, one of our favorites being spinach quiché. For Thursday’s Life Skills I taught the kids how to make their favorite quiché recipe (comparable from allrecipes.com). Again, each kid was responsible for working on parts of the process. I walked them through the recipe step by step and reinforced the concept of cooking safety and proper measurement. Dinner was delicious, but I would say the greatest part about this was that my one child who loves to cook got an experience she enjoyed and the other kid who does not like to cook found a new joy and appreciation for it.
Friday, March 20, 2020. Household Chores.
Being someone who typically works from home, I have a schedule already in place that balances my creative and business work with the household chores during any given day or week. On Friday afternoons I clean the house. The kids are used to this because it is the normal routine. Even during the school year, they are required to pick up anything they have out in the public space of the house on Friday afternoons when they get home from school. During the summer, they help with the basic chores and take out the paper trash, all things they did this week for their life skills. To up the ante a bit, each child was given an assigned chore then asked to work completely independently to complete it while I worked on other chores. Another win, win because the house got cleaned much quicker when we all worked as a group and we were able to take the majority of the afternoon “off” to play.
Monday, March 23, 2020. Week two of quarantine. All About the Census.
Some classes are just born strictly out of my personal to-do list, and Monday’s All About the Census Life Skills class was just such an inspiration. Each of the kids went to the Census Bureaus’ Census 101 for Students page and read a brief history as well as why citizens are asked to complete the census every ten years. I asked them each to write three facts they learned and we discussed the answers. Then we filled out the census online together. I let each kid fill in their own information. A great little civics lesson as well as comfort with filling out and submitting online forms.
Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Summer Seeds Garden Follow Up.
Honestly, this day I felt a bit burnt out and uninspired. Maybe the realization of losing my teaching residency, other live events being canceled or indefinitely postponed and how much the quarantine was impacting my business caught up to me. Going into the garden is usually a great respite for my mind and spirit and I love working in the soil as soon as it starts to warm, so we once again headed outside for a little garden project. Following my regular schedule, I seem to be ready to hit the garden every week. You can follow along with my weekly garden checks on my Instagram stories during the growing season. Look for the button in highlights called “Tue Gardens.” Since we had completed our large Victory Garden project last week, there actually wasn’t much to do in the vegetable patch this week. However, we made a plan for our other gardens and where we could sneak in more vegetables for later in the summer. We used a recycled salad container to plant warmer weather seeds, like pumpkins to get them an early start. The day was really warm and sunny for mid-March, so we remained outside for most of the afternoon getting that much-needed vitamin D and fresh air that are so good for the body and soul.
Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Baking Bread.
Bread baking was the most popular class of Life Skills to date! Together we read from a vintage 1960s baking magazine for teens to learn about leavening agents and types of flour. Then we selected my favorite quick rise white bread recipe out of the booklet that came with my Kitchen Aid mixer. Just as in the other cooking life skills activities, each kid was responsible for parts of working through the recipe. After the dough raised, each kid got half of the dough to shape into their own loaf. They followed the directions from the recipe booklet to shape it and finish the proofing in the loaf pans. I baked the bread before dinner and they each enjoyed a piece of their delicious loaves for dessert. They are each extremely proud of their loaves of bread and remark on their tasty portions each time we eat. We are now considering finding a bread recipe book we can work through to improve our skills in the future.
That’s where we are at so far in our homeschool journey during this unprecedented quarantine time. Tonight, Thursday, I am planning we will make dinner together again. I suppose Friday will be the house chores, per our routine, but switch what each child is responsible for. I am pretty good at self-directed project planning and execution since I have been working from home running my own art business for over eight years at this point. However, I still have days when I throw things together at the last minute or feel uninspired. When this happens, I am just honest with my kids and ask for their input about what we should do. I think that is a life skill just as much as all of the other lessons we are completing together. No one person has all the answers and it is okay always to reach out for help, suggestions, advice, and support when you need it. In the long run input from others builds up your knowledge and inner resources far more than struggling to have all the answers on your own. And it is in that spirit that I write these passages. In times when you are looking for help, ideas, inspirations, I want to share what I have to share. I love gathering bits of inspiration and advice from around the blogosphere and I am eager to add what I can to it.
As for plans moving forward, I guess I know about as much as anyone, which seems to be very little about how long this situation will last. I supposed if we keep going with homeschooling for a while, I will keep going with life skills as well. Perhaps I will create a posting log of what we’ve done every two weeks. I like records and I think this is useful and fun to see all that we’ve done. In the meanwhile, I will continue to take it day by day enjoying these precious opportunities to build skills and bonds with my children I know will last long after this trial is over. I wish you the best in your homeschool and quarantine journeys friends. May you stay sane and healthy during these rough times.
Stay creative friends! Janice
Inspiration and resources are linked where applicable. All written work and photographs are original content and are copyright protected; kindly give due credit by linking back to my website or source website if you use or share.
(©2020, Janice Bailor // laruedefleurs.com)