Tips for Social Distancing Sanity While Homeschooling
Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned for keeping things sane when the whole family is at home. Even if you are used to homeschooling, suddenly having someone “working from home” completely changes the dynamic. Plus, your lack of traditional out-of-the-house activities and options can make everyone feel a little stir crazy.
Expectation management is key to success in life. When we found out Jeff was going to be teleworking we made sure to have a conversation about how things in the house were going to work. Where did he plan to work from? Did he expect that time to be alone or could he supervise some schoolwork while he was working? Was I counting on him to help around the house? We had to find a balance between our normal schedule and our weekend schedule. The jury is still out on if we have found it, but we are continuing to check in on what is working and what isn’t working.
Get Outside Every Day
Whatever the weather, make sure you’re getting some outside time. It’s good for kids and adults alike. We are lucky to have a backyard with plenty of space to play and a neighborhood perfect for walks. Although you may want to avoid crowded playgrounds, find somewhere to take a walk as a family or even an empty parking lot in which to run some relays and soak up some fresh air. Go to a park and sit on your blanket to read or do some school work if the weather is nice. If it’s raining, dress for the weather and go puddle hopping.
I personally like to have our outside time in the morning and then again in the afternoon. The boys all seem to do better the more outside time we have.
When you have the whole family home for three meals (plus snacks) every day, it can feel like you are always cooking. Even though we are home I pack the kids’ lunches every day. Then when the boys get hungry for lunch they can just grab their lunchbox and eat. It also means that I can usually grab some one-on-one time (or even free time) while the kids help themselves to lunch.
I wrote more about making homeschool lunch time easier here.
Everyone Needs Quiet Time
Whatever schedule you decide on, make sure it includes quiet time for everyone. You can get sick of people pretty fast if you’re trying to be together all the time. Our schedule includes 15 minutes of quiet reading time every day for everyone who is home – including Jeff and me. Everyone can spare 15 minutes to pick up something to read, even if that reading is work related.
Our schedule also has some free quiet time where the kids choose their own quiet activity. The only expectation is that they are quiet and spending some time alone. If the kids happen to go into each others space I usually leave it, so long as they remain quiet.
You also need some down time (as does your spouse) so make sure you take advantage of the kids’ quiet time for you as well. (Resist the urge to do too many things around the house during this time, or you will get burnt out.)
Plan to Tidy Up Together Twice A Day
When everyone is home the house can get dirty and messy fast! Plan a big and small cleanup in your house. We like to use our Alexa to assign everyone a chore to do around the house during big cleanings. (If you haven’t started chores with your kids, now is a great time to start.) With five of us in the house all day, every day, things like bathrooms and the kitchen need a lot of attention. During the small clean we just take five to fifteen minutes to get everything that came out today back into its place. This quick tidy also involves moving all dirty clothes to the laundry room and putting away any clean clothes.
Since we pack lunches it helps keep the kitchen from always feeling like a mess. After we make breakfast the kitchen gets a big clean. I literally turn the lights out in the kitchen area. One water glass is out for each family member for the day. The next time we will be in the kitchen is to prepare dinner, since lunches just get pulled out and eaten.
With everyone home, I really value that time after the kids have gone to bed, so I try to move chores during the day, to take advantage of my evening free time.
Jeff has found quite a few small things around the house he can do while he is on the phone and has taken on those chores as his own. He folds laundry and matches socks in the room he has set aside as his work space. When it’s time for the quick clean everyone grabs their clothing and puts it away.
Find Ways to be Social
Yes, you’re largely stuck together, but everyone should find a way to stay social. You will need to be intentional about setting up video playdates and chats. I find for the kids FaceTime is the best, because the kids can show their friends things they have been working on. We’ve even FaceTimed some homeschool activities in the past, so don’t be afraid to let kids work together on assignments using video chatting.
I have a group of ladies I text with daily. I feel very connected to them and love to check in this way. What I’ve had to add though is text check-ins with the friends that I typically see during the week. I reached out to a bunch of these friends that I might only see at gymnastics or my bible study. The conversation doesn’t have to be deep, just a way to fill my bucket with social time.
Find Ways to Serve
In daily life there are so many ways to serve others. Helping those around us, even just by holding the door or giving a compliment, makes you feel good and builds social bonds. You will now need to find ways to serve others.
Consider making cards to send to first responders, medical staff and senior citizens. These groups will be taking on a huge burden during this time and may be mostly isolated. You can make them feel appreciated by writing notes and drawing pictures with your kids. (Plus this opens up the opportunity to talk about community with your kids.)
Look around and see what needs you have in your community. Some needs are going to be hard for people to meet during this time. Are you able to pack a few extra lunches or help another family with child care needs? When we read Little House on the Prairie as a family last year, my kids were struck by how the whole town took care of each other during famine and blizzard. If you have things to share that others need, consider doing that even if it’s picking up the groceries your older neighbor needs so that they don’t have to go out.
Give Yourself Some Grace
Whatever you end up doing, make sure you give yourself some grace. This is a new experience for us all, so it’s going to take a while to settle into your new routine. I think it’s important to know that what we are all doing right now is not normal, it’s exceptional.