Three weeks of spring break with no expectations of schooling, scheduling, or outside activities. If you’re like me, you had a
mild panic attack. This was like summer break, but without the summer, the break, or the prep work that goes into doing “nothing” over summer. So if you’re looking for a few ideas on what, and how to create a schedule for your kids while you’re on break and before your distance learning kicks in I’ve got some below.
First and foremost set your expectations. Set them low. No, lower than that. Still lower. Okay, that’s good. You were already a busy parent juggling work, family, and trying to take care of yourself. Now you’ve been handed an additional full time job of teaching/entertaining/not strangling your kids for the entire day. Hang in there! You got this!! Lower (or get rid of !) your expectations and you will feel way less guilt about the amount, or lack thereof, of structured time your kids are getting. It’s not going to set them back in their schooling, it’s not going to irreparably stunt their capabilities, it’s just another break from school that literally every kid (except maybe homeschooled kids) are getting. Teachers are preparing for this, schools are preparing for this, and it’s going to be okay.
Now, on to the scheduling part. Time blocks are important. Walk into any elementary school and they have blocks of time set aside for each thing they do. And these blocks stay the same each day, too. This way kids know what to expect and it isn’t a surprise. You’re much more likely to get daily buy-in if you have a routine, whether they actually want to do what is scheduled for that time or not. Each learning block should be 30-45 minutes long depending on the age of the kid. Use those leftover minutes to fully stop the activity, clean up from that activity, get some wiggles out, stretch, and drink some water. These extra minutes of wiggles are really important, no matter how old the kid is. Even in high school you have to walk to your next class, getting your blood flowing and your brain a chance to move on to what is next. No-one likes being slammed with information for hours on end.
Get the heavy duty learning done in the morning. Math, writing, and reading, are best morning activities. It’s when we’re the most alert, and ready to absorb the information. But again, make sure they are in blocks appropriate in length to your kid. Here is where those low expectations come in. These are slow learning subjects. They get taught one day, and then you review, and review again, and review again. Then you can move on to the next little step in learning, then review, and review, and review again. It’s boring as heck for an adult, but if you can make a game out of it, it’s a lot more fun. It’s even more fun seeing the lightbulb go on in your kids’ head when they totally understand the concept you’re teaching them.
Once you’re done with the heavy duty stuff and the wiggle sessions, let them play. Go fix lunch, or warm up leftovers but let them play. This gives you some alone time, it gives them some alone time, and you each get a chance to take a deep breath. If they got what you were teaching, or reviewing, great! If they didn’t catch on, they will eventually. Take it nice and slow, and keep your patience. Give them lots of encouragement, and lots of time. Once lunch is done with let them play some more.
The afternoons are the time for “yes” and experiments and outside the box learning. Big in the learning world right now is the acronym STEAM. It stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and math (although I change it in my world to make). Five letters, five days of the week. Pick a science experiment on Monday, technology on Tuesday, engineering on Wednesday, art on Thursday, and make on Friday. Let your kid have a larger part in the doing of this project. This is their fun learning time. It’s going to be a little more stressful for you if you micromanage every little bit of the afternoon project. Let it go, lower your expectations, and find the fun. They’ll learn along the way.
There are plenty of ideas for each of the STEAM categories on various websites. Find one that you can do, and that won’t grate on your nerves too much (remember to lower those expectations!) and let them explore the afternoon. This is also a time where you can let them lead what they want to do. Ask them what kind of science experiment they want to do. Almost anything they want to do can fit into one of these categories. Do they like to play with Legos – that fits under engineering, art, science, math. How about painting – that goes under art, science. Baking cookies is science, math/making, art, engineering. Let the internet be your friend here. There are lots of ideas out there, and, more importantly kids learn from fun. It doesn’t have to be a strict learning session, it just needs to be something to do.
Here is the schedule we follow for my 6, 8, and 11 year olds
- 7:00 Breakfast (play after breakfast until time to write)
- 8:00 Writing Prompt / write letter to a senior or out of state family member
- 8:30 Typing or handwriting (my kids asked to learn cursive)
- 8:45 Math
- 9:30 Reading
- 10:30 Play outside
- 11:30 Eat Lunch (play until STEAM)
- 1:00 STEAM
- 3:30 Clean up a room in the house (I have a schedule for this, too)
- Play some more!!
- 6:00 Dinner
Adjust your schedule as you need to, but once you find one that works, keep to it. Routine is very helpful for you and your kids keeping your sanity. And lower those expectations!!