So, we are literally in the midst of a global pandemic. This includes widespread school closures across the country, and, in some cases, this will require parents/caretakers to assume some homeschooling duties as we practice our social distancing to help flatten the curve of COVID-19.
When you’re in the position of having to tackle some distance learning, it can be tricky to come up with — and stick to — a structured routine. But kids need some structure to thrive, especially those who are new to the homeschooling game.
Luckily for the caregivers that find themselves in the temporary role of teacher, there’s an actual teacher to the rescue. Lily Read, a Massachusetts-based teacher and mother of two, put together a brilliant sample schedule that you can follow to help both you and your kids feel more productive and accomplished, and provide that feeling of normalcy and routine. She also includes valuable links to her favorite resources and activities. (For neurodiverse kids, she recommends this social story, created by “The Autism Educator” Amanda McGuinness, to help them understand what’s going on with COVID-19.)
While these are great, Read stresses that it’s just a suggestion, and that it’s totally okay to pick and choose what parts work for your family. “Kids will not necessarily be able to go into ‘homeschool mode’ easily, and please be kind to yourselves and them — doing more screen time, less structured activities is more than fair,” she says. “Take what you like, build in more time to laze around in your pajamas … do what feels OK to you and your family. We can all only do our best.”
With that being said, here is Read’s go-to homeschooling plan.
6:00-7:00 AM — Wake up
Play quietly until your parent has managed to fall out of bed and slightly woken up. While I joke, keeping a similar sleep schedule can really benefit the kids in terms of mental health. Routine really matters, especially to the younger kiddos.
7:00-8:00 — Breakfast
Mix it up by having your kid have different assignments to help — maybe it’s setting the table, maybe getting the bowls and cereal out, or even helping crack eggs/make the breakfast if they are able to.
8:00-8:30 — Family Circle Time
Include all the kids in this. Go over the plans for the day, then go around and do a quick “check in” with each family member. Go over what the weather is, talk about the different types of clouds in the sky you can see if possible (The Center for Science Education has a great guide to cloud types), ask everyone what one goal they have for the day — and write down those goals!
8:30-8:45 — Family Stretching and Yoga
Movement is really important, especially for younger kids. It is also great to get moving before you get started with the learning for the day. Check out Cosmic Kids Yoga for some great activities; the app GoNoodle is also fantastic for guided fitness activities for kids, and is both on FireStick and iPads.
8:45-10:00 — Learning Time
If you can, set up stations in your house for math, literacy (reading/writing), planning on 20-30 minute rotations. (Scroll down for curriculum links!)
10:00-10:40 — Snack and Recess
If you have access to your backyard, this is a good time to use it; if not, kids can do free play, or you can encourage them to do some online exercises. For a great adult/kid workout, try this. For a short, guided workout for kids ages 3-9, try this. And for slightly older kids, try the 20-minute “20/20 Challenge.”
10:40-12:00 — Finish Learning Rotations
If there is any extra time, have kids read independently. If you have a non-reader, either ask an older child to read to them, or have them do letter coloring pages (like these from TwistyNoodle).
Noon-1:15 — Lunch and Recess
Do these in whichever order you choose! Go nuts! Again, have kids help with lunch to the best of their ability, as it keeps them engaged. For indoor recess, some game ideas are:
-Freeze dance. You turn the music on; everyone dances, you pause it, they freeze. You can get competitive or just “Let it GOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.” (And feel free to use that song on repeat.)
-Play every awful ’90s choreographed dance song and teach those kids: Electric Slide, Cotton Eye Joe, Macarena, The”Train” … there are plenty of ideas on YouTube.
-Make a competition every day to see how many sit ups/jumping jacks/push ups the family can do — and keep a tally for each kid on the wall. See if they can beat the day before!
=Google a form of dance you don’t know how to do, and then google the name of the dance and lesson (ie: merengue lesson) and have everyone learn how to do a cool new dance.
1:15-1:30 — Rest Time
Everyone rest. If by some miracle any of your kids still nap, try to go for that now.
1:30-2:15 — Specials
This is where you do art, music, and/or P.E. activities. (Here are all sorts of fun ideas for things to do, plus additional links below.)
2:15-2:30 — Clean Up
Kids help clean up the daily activities (spot cleaning throughout the day can help!). It encourages social mobility — try listening to music while you do it!
For each specific curriculum subject area, here are the resources — worksheets and projects — that Read finds the most helpful:
(Pre-K-1st grade): This PDF file is a terrific packet from the Amber Charter School.
These websites have a great collections of worksheets and printables. If you do not have a printer, you can have your child view the worksheet on the screen, and write the answers on a piece of paper!
GreatSchools.org is a strong overall site broken down by grade level. You just click your child’s grade level to get started.
K5 Learning worksheets are also broken down by grade, and by topic.
Jumpstart.com is set up really well, and beyond just reading worksheets, has fun short stories to read, there is also some online games/activities kids can do on this one.
Again, K5 Learning has some amazing math worksheets. They are solid grade level practice work. If your child is struggling, have them do review work or the work for the grade level below to help them get back into the swing of things!
Kidzone features both grade-level and skill-based games and worksheets (addition, subtraction, etc).
Helping with Math has printable math worksheets in all topics, for grades K-8.
Tinkergarten’s activities are awesome — they get kids outside and exploring, and are divided into suggestions by both age group and skill. You can also sign up for their weekly newsletter with new activities. If you have the ability to get your kids outside, this is a great resource.
GreatSchools has a ton of printable science worksheets. Not as much here for the younger crowd, but some really good basics.
If you have some seeds and access to soil or dirt, you can plant them and do observations over a few days. Have your child draw a picture of the progress and keep a log!
Not all of these worksheets and study guides from NewPath Learning are free, but many are.
These social studies lessons from Easy Teacher Worksheets are free and good, but only for older elementary school students.
Good Housekeeping has 50 fun DIY projects that will keep kids entertained and engaged.
If quick and easy is your speed, Happiness is Homemade has another list of 50 projects that can be made in under 30 minutes, with things you probably already have around the house.
Parents has an interesting series of how-to kid craft videos.
Classics for Kids has a comprehensive list of music lesson plans, each centered around a particular composer and piece of music.
And no matter your child’s age or interest level, here are some fun links Read suggests with broader appeal.
Links For All Ages:
– Museums are offering virtual tours; they are really neat, and can be fun and interactive.
– While Khan Academy is predominantly for middle and high school, there are some things that can be used for all ages.
– MagicKeys has online illustrated storybooks for all ages.
– FunBrain is an awesome site for K-8 with games, interactive books and stories, and lots of other fun stuff for kids to do.
– The Smithsonian Institution has some fascinating live-streams of animals, and a ton of interesting videos and information.
Navigating the world of homeschool can be a challenge, especially if it’s not something you’ve done before — but as Read reiterates, it’s important to do what works out best for your family. Using this schedule and resources as a guideline, you’ll have a starting point to customize your own plan and hopefully having a little fun.