Dear Dr. Lisa,
Like almost every parent in the US, I have been facilitating my kid’s homeschooling during the pandemic. Things are going pretty well, but my kids seem to be finishing all of their work at a rapid pace, which leave huge chunks of time to fill in the afternoons. I fear that as this goes on and the temperatures rise outside that their screen time is going to spike like crazy. Any tips on how to keep this under control would be greatly appreciated!
Dear Exhausted Mom,
Not to worry, you are absolutely not alone in this struggle of trying to keep your kiddos on a semi-normal school schedule. I am also having the dilemma of one of my kids going at a faster pace while the other is sticking to the clock minute by minute. As parents we are faced with this dilemma of wanting and needing our kids to stay on track with learning their school materials while also figuring out how to manage this extra time without having the kids feel like we are already on summer break. Remember, it’s a hard and confusing time for our kids, too! They are in just as much of a transition as we are as parents. Consistency and patience are key in this situation.
What I have tried to remember if that when are kids are in school not every single second is dedicated to intense book learning. During the day they are getting natural breaks in the classroom when they finish a quiz, some days the teacher goes at a faster pace and their classwork is done early, and, let’s not forget, recess time, too! With this in mind you can relax your schedule a tad and add in “extra time” activities for your “students” throughout the day. For example, set aside a designated 15-20 minutes for eating lunch followed by 10-15 minutes of either indoor or outdoor recess. In school they would not be on their devices (I hope) so keep that same guideline at home, too. They can go outside for a walk, jump rope, or play soccer. If the weather is not cooperating keep them inside and play a game of cards (great opportunity for a little math here too) or start a board game like Monopoly or Risk that can be paused as needed.
In terms of fillers during the day aside from lunch and recess, make sure they always have a book or two handy to get in some reading time If they finish their assignments early. There are some great documentary films that are educational as well that would fill the time and provide an opportunity for a literary review to be completed at the end. That is a quick and quiet fix to fill some time. In addition, our family has been using baking and cooking as a kind of “home-economic/science” learning station. Baking bread and learning about yeast reacting with flour and water is some pretty cool stuff, and at the end they can eat and taste the finished product!
Remember, most important is to be patient and to give yourself and your kids a break during this very confusing and stressful time. It is easier said than done, especially when the cabin fever sets in, but take this time to really embrace your family and appreciate this mandatory time you have together. Maybe there will be a tad extra screen time on a few days, but I am sure that the walks, bike rides, reading books, and game nights will outweigh it all in the end.
Best of luck,