We’ve been safe at home for a month now and it’s clear that home-school is our new normal for the next six weeks. What I’ve learned thus far- we need a routine!
The first couple of weeks we tried no routine — sleeping in, school whenever — it was chaos. When we don’t limit screen time, I don’t like who my children become. I felt like I couldn’t get anything done. Spring break thrown in the mix didn’t help because any habits we were starting to form went out the window.
With a routine in place we have some sense of normalcy. If you’re maintaining a job on top of having kids home, I imagine you need this too! I find great comfort (and responsibility) knowing that I am the parent and I get to make the rules, which sets the tone for our home. They are sometimes met with resistance, but my kids are living proof that kids really do thrive with boundaries.
Now back in the saddle for six weeks, here is our plan for survival. For reference, I have a son in fifth grade and a daughter who is a freshman in high school.
Workstation: the kids need a designated place to work. My kids share space at opposite ends of the dining room table. They need to cooperate with each other’s noise and activity, just like real life. Why not their bedrooms? They won’t stay on task and I don’t want to feel the need to constantly check up on them. A quite space out in the open ensures when they sit at the table, they do school work. It also helps keep them having some bit of in-person community. Being sequestered from their peers in hard enough. They need other people around. This week she threw a pencil at him. He threw a cup at her. Otherwise it’s working out well. They are learning a life lesson of cooperation here!
Morning: Before the kids sit down to do school work they need to eat breakfast, brush their teeth and get dressed. I don’t care if they put on comfy clothes, but I want them to have a sense of when it’s time to be lazy vs. when it’s time to work. My son needs to be learning 9 a.m., my daughter by 9:30. This allows the cranky teenager to sleep a bit longer while I spend time getting my son prepared for his tasks for the day. We read over his assignments, clarify anything he doesn’t understand and then he begins work. She joins him at 9:30 and we try not to talk to her until she get’s rid of her cranky morning personality.
Food: Even pre-quarantine, I make a tasty, nutritious homemade dinner every night. That said, I make one meal a day for my crew. They are perfectly capable of making themselves breakfast and lunch. Do your kids the favor of letting them learn how to grill a cheese sandwich or make a smoothie. Kids are much more capable than they are often given credit for. And this doesn’t just apply to older kids. Mine have been pouring their own cereal and toasting their own toast for years. And they know how to make sandwiches and bean burritos like a boss. Do I remind them to eat their growing food and eat a balanced meal? Of course. But overall the responsibility is their own. Just yesterday my son asked to make Top Ramen for him and his sister. I later realized the whole thing happened — making the soup, eating it, cleaning up — all without my help. To their future roommates and spouses, you’re welcome. Mom, you do enough for your kids already, I am sure of it. Let go of this one. They will learn life skills, you will get your time back.
Screen time: Before screen time, the kids have a few other tasks to tend to. They each need to spend 20 minutes with Jesus — this means prayer, journaling, reading the Bible, etc. They need to read for 40 minutes (this has always been in place). And they need to spend 60 minutes doing physical activity. This looks different every day. Their activities have included runs, dog walking, yard work, dance and soccer skill practice and workout videos. AFTER all of that, they can watch TV, play (2 hours of) video games, etc. We have never allowed screens in bedrooms or after 9 p.m. With the exception of a family movie night or using the bible app on the iPad, the same rules still apply.
Monitoring: We have set limits and boundaries but they are really on their own honor to complete them. We ask the kids about the progress of the school work, we can see if they read or are active. But we don’t monitor timers. I figure if you want to fib about your time with Jesus, that’s between you two!
Bedtimes: Yep, they still have them. For one, my husband and I need time to unwind. After 9 pm, the kids know that they are on “our time.” My son needs to be in bed by then. Our daughter stays up later, but needs to be in her room. They are terrible at minding this, but it’s important for my sanity and their growing bodies.
The Grown-ups: When my husband and I are in our respective offices, the kids know that we are working and only to be bothered out of real necessity. My husband works the same hours as before with an occasional break for playing catch. I am working less now so I have more time to hangout and interact with the kids during the day. I might make them a snack or cut up a fruit platter for everyone. When I do, the kids are grateful and I love that it’s not expected. Makes it a lot more satisfying to be appreciated!
Other routines we’ve held onto is having dinner together and attending church (from our couch). Is our routine flawless? Nope. Is there still too much Tik Tok and screen time? Probably. But I feel really good about knowing that the kids are taking care of their responsibilities with some order and timeliness. It helps me get my own tasks done and let go of worrying about theirs. This new normal doesn’t call for coddling my children. It calls to show them how to rise to the occasion. Our routine helps us find hope, purpose and vision for the future. We are all less stressed and full of more joy. And that is how I hope my kids remember this time.