Hi everyone, Kristin (Youth Program Director) here! As schools and childcare facilities close to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 across the country, many parents and caregivers are finding themselves facing the new reality of having their kids at home full-time. While I’m used to working from home, I’m not used to having my nine-year-old daughter, Sofia, home during my workday too. And I’m definitely not used to facilitating homeschooling while working- this global pandemic is really cramping my style. The first few weeks have been a little rocky on the homeschool front, but we’re gradually getting into the swing of things. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m chaos personified- creating routines and structure are not my strengths and I often rely on Sofia’s school day to provide me with some order. With that built-in schedule gone, I’ve found it necessary to put pen to paper and write out a plan for the day. While we aren’t perfect at following the schedule we’ve created yet, having a touchstone to refer back to has been really helpful. I found this example schedule to be a really great starting place in creating something that works for us.
I know lots of us are feeling unsure about all of the extra screen time our kids may be getting during this time away from school, but it’s understandable that under these circumstances, increased media use is likely, and in fact, may help maximize virtual learning opportunities. The YMN team put our heads together and created a list of various educational opportunities for youth across the span of K-12. From reading, math, and science apps, to virtual museum tours, this list has a little bit of everything to cover your virtual homeschooling needs. Media has also been a fundamental tool for maintaining social connections during this isolating time. My daughter has been FaceTiming, Zooming, and messaging friends, family, and classmates. While this can’t replace the value of in-person interactions, it has been helpful in maintaining a sense of connection and has helped ground and serve as a distraction from the frustration of day-to-day social isolation and cabin fever.
Of course, it’s also important to take media breaks. We all know how whiny, crabby, and sleepless kids get when they don’t have adequate mental and physical stimulation, so we’ve been making it a priority to get outside for walks, bike rides, and fresh air (while maintaining six feet of distance from others, of course!). On days when the weather isn’t cooperative, we’ve tapped into online exercise classes. Last week our Operations Coordinator, Alice Topaloff shared a blog post about taking care of your body while quarantined. I recommend you check it out! We’ve also been taking advantage of board games to stimulate our minds, especially games that require critical and strategic thinking, or encourage using school-based skills like math, reading, and spelling. Some of our favorites are Quiddler, Qwirkle , Quoridor, Bananagrams, and Sleeping Queens.
My daughter isn’t a huge fan of writing. To encourage practicing this skill, we’ve started writing to pen pals. In addition to practicing her writing and spelling, it’s fun and has created new connections and friendships. While I’ve connected Sofia to my friend’s children, there are programs out there that can help get you started. Penpal Schools is one example. PenPal Schools connects students from around the world to learn together! Students collaborate through online projects ranging from human rights and the environment to fake news and robotics, all while practicing literacy, technology, and social-emotional skills.
While there are more resources than I could possibly include in one blog, I hope this gives you some inspiration to create a plan for home. Though I feel it’s important to provide some semblance of structure and normalcy for Sofia, at the end of the day, my goal is to make sure she feels loved, secure, and cared for. I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself to do things “right” or perfectly. If I manage to succeed at homeschooling even a little bit, it’ll feel like a win for me! These are unprecedented times and we are going through a collectively traumatic experience. It’s okay to give ourselves, and our kids, a break. Ultimately, the most important thing is that we give ourselves grace as we learn to navigate these new realities and realize we are all doing the best we can!
– Kristin Thorp