UPDATE: I wrote this two weeks ago at the beginning of our school-from-home experience. Since then, the school district has upped their game, mostly subverting my role to tech support for my children. This means we spend a lot of time arguing about usernames and passwords.
Also, I wrote this on one of the days I felt like I had my shit together. Right now, I feel like my shit is very far apart, strewn across the galaxy and into the dark side of the multiverse. (We rewatched Doctor Strange last night, as Marvel movies are the only ones we can all agree on.)
So you can use the ideas I wrote about here, or you can totally hide in your home office and allow your family to assume you’re working when you’re really having virtual brunch with friends and venting.
This morning, for the edification of my lovely young children, we went on a penny hike. This is a simple concept from my own childhood in which you flip a coin every time you get to an intersection: heads, go right, tails go left.
It was a multidisciplinary hike in which we observed bees and ants in their natural habitats (science), discussed the virtues of exercise (physical education), and practiced converting measurements from the metric system to the imperial system* (math). We also discussed probability with each coin flip and practiced our geographical skills with the recognition of landmarks.
Another Way to Describe What We Did
The 9-year-old said, “Let’s go on a penny hike.” We happened across some ants, which we watched until someone stepped in their pile. The kids freaked out when I stopped to take a closeup picture of the bees, and I explained for the billionth time that the bees are not plotting a stinging onslaught upon anyone who gets within 25 feet of them.
When the kids started whining about being tired because leaving all decisions up to chance kept us walking in circles, we abandoned coin flipping and headed home. We discussed how the 9-year-old’s inconsistent flipping habits (sometimes playing it where it lay, sometimes slapping it onto his arm, depending on his preferred coin side) were biasing our results.
As for geographical landmarks, one of them pointed to a house along the way and said, “I think that’s Aiden’s house.” The 12-year-old checked his Pokemon Go app to see how far we walked, and as an afterthought, I asked him to convert the kilometers to miles.
Take it Easy
It doesn’t have to be as hard as it sounds. You don’t even have to plan that much; just look for opportunities in everything you do to ask your kids some questions. You probably already do it without realizing it.
In the classroom, things are uber structured because there is a gaggle of kids and one adult. If you want to plan things down to the minute at home, cool. But if maintaining a rigid school schedule while also trying to get your own work done stresses you out, know you don’t have to.
One night at dinner, we brainstormed activities we could do during this time of social distancing. They ran the gamut: read a book, rake leaves, hike, practice soccer in the backyard, watch something new on TV. Each day, we can pick several things from the list, and all the math, science, language arts, and not-so-social studies will happen naturally. This leaves plenty of time for me to work and for the kids to still have much more free time than they’re used to.
And read. Don’t forget to tell them to read.
*I had to look up what we call our antiquated, arbitrary system of measuring things that I still, stupidly, can’t let go of.