Feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and uncertain about what the next several weeks or possibly months might bring? Are you having a difficult time striking that balance between getting work done, helping your children with their new distance education program, and finding some time for personal pursuits? A lot of articles have cropped up on social media about handling remote working and helping with homework, but what about other kinds of education? What are some educational activities for families during this difficult time?
First of all, take a moment and a deep breath and know this: you are not solely responsible for your children’s distance education. In fact, academics during this pandemic are not going to be the same as they would normally be in school, so don’t be hard on yourselves if what you are providing for your kids while trying to work from home is not what it would otherwise have been.
Second, now is the time to teach children all sorts of skills and practical knowledge that they don’t typically get at school, are not based on a curriculum, and can be. Do you like to go on hikes or visit national parks? If you are an outdoors enthusiast like me, you are probably disappointed about the lack of open parks. Why not take a virtual tour of Yellowstone or other parks the National Park Service is offering and plan a visit for when restrictions are lifted? They have pictures, physical descriptions and geological explanations of the park’s attractions, but they also have maps, and now is as good a time as any to teach your kids how to read and use maps (including topographical). Break out a compass and read up on orienteering, then you can plan a fun orienteering activity in your own neighborhood. These are just a couple examples of learning activities your children will not likely be doing in their distance education program.
Teach your kids how to do laundry, wash dishes, vacuum, dust, or any number of household chores. Make it fun by adding incentives to the mix! Have any projects that you finally have time to work on? Have your kids help out while teaching them about what you are doing and, if age appropriate, instruct them on using and maintaining one or more of the tools required for the project(s) – they can apply math and geometry in some cases, which reinforces traditional school subjects. Do you have a musical instrument in the house that your kids have not learned? Teach them how to play it, how to read music, and work on training their ear.
Although it might be convenient and very tempting to allow for more screen time, especially if you are struggling to get work done without interruptions, limit their time sitting in front of a computer or TV to educational programs. Some programs like PBS and National Geographic for Kids are much better than entertainment shows for your children. Some aquariums, zoos, and museums are offering virtual tours and other programs, too. Read aloud to and with your children (see a previous post with site recommendations). Get out and exercise together, whether it’s yoga, going on a walk (or nature hike), or riding bikes – physical activity is a crucial part of daily life and we all need some fresh air to help with cabin fever. How many distance education programs have included suggestions for outdoor activities?
Plan the next day’s activities in advance, include some breaks for everyone at regular intervals so that you can connect with your kids and see what they’ve learned or accomplished. Keep to a schedule or routine. Maybe they worked on an art project or did a virtual tour of an aquarium – use the time to discuss with them what they discovered or created. There are so many free resources available for children at this time, that parents should not have to look hard to find lots of fun activities for their kids. If you want some help identifying and selecting age appropriate materials, check out this helpful website.
Please leave comments with your recommendations for resources you have found to be particularly helpful, so that others can benefit. Stay safe and remember, we’re all in this together!