March Madness & Silver Linings

I wrote my monthly post for March on the 5th, but so much in the world has changed since then that I thought another March post might be warranted. Whew. How are you doing? I hope your family is healthy and you are coping with the self-isolation that is so important for all of us right now. We have a high risk person living in this house, and there are many elderly people we know and love who are high risk too not just because of their age but because of their health too. Everyone has the right to live as long as they possibly can, so we’re taking this very seriously.

We are okay right now. As you know, we homeschool and work from home, so not much changes for us on a daily basis. However, it’s spring, and this is the time of year we love to go on day trips with the boys. It’s sad we can’t do that, yet we want to stay safe, and we want to keep others safe. So, we’re willing to do what must be done.

All of our outside lessons have been either cancelled or changed to a remote online (Skype, Zoom, FaceTime etc.) format. Last week was the first time trying that, and it went well. All of my son’s piano events, except for the state competition, have been cancelled. That’s a shame after all the hard work he’s done. The state competition was postponed, and now we’re working on a video to submit for the regional auditions. We’re grateful they are finding a way for the competition to continue, but it’s been a bit deflating as well. We’ve had to find ways to keep our spirits up and make the best of the situation.

For me, that has meant getting outside whenever possible. We’re starting to get spring-like weather, so I’ve been taking long walks and working in the yard a little too. I haven’t had much time these past few years to work on our yard, and I’ve missed it, so that’s a silver lining! As the weeks tick by (and I’m sure they will as this is going to last longer than we think), I’m hoping to find time for some baking, extra lesson planning, and maybe more art projects with the boys. We’ll see. Or, we’ll just stay as busy as we ever were because as I said, not too much changes in our daily routine!

For my 13-year-old, we bought him some new music, which always cheers him up. Now is a perfect time for him to move on to new pieces despite the competition. For my 10-year-old, and for all of us, we’ve been paying more attention to the birds outside and using our binoculars more. The boys are also taking occasional walks or runs with us around the neighborhood too.

Since it’s nearing the end of the year, and we’ve all felt pretty distracted, I’ve instructed my 7th grader to just focus on his priorities now: science, literature and math. He’s done a lot of writing this year already, so we’re slowing down on that, and other workbooks and things can wait awhile. I’ve surprised myself by giving the 4th grader more work to do on his own this year, and he just started using a similar rotation system that my 7th grader is using in order to pace himself and schedule his lessons each day. I say I’m surprised because I wasn’t planning on doing that with him this year, but sometimes things just progress naturally and it feels right to introduce him to stuff. This is the best part of homeschooling — kids usually show you when they are ready for something. That is, if you let them.

Another homeschool surprise that I wasn’t planning for this year: We started watching A History of the United States, 2nd Edition, on the Great Courses Plus, and both my boys kind of like it! (Though I have to explain a lot to the 10-year-old.) It’s really long, so I don’t know if we’ll finish it, and I’m also a little leery that it’s taught by three white guys, but we’re watching it with a critical eye and will be supplementing quite a bit over the coming years! Luckily my husband is a historian, so he’s good at supplementing our study of history, and he prefers focusing on social history more than political history.

Other than this, the 10-year-old and I finishedThe Yearling, and he’s also finished reading all the books in the Shiloh series by himself. He loved those. (Thanks to my sister for giving him the first book in that series!) Now we’re reading The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz together (thanks to my boys’ cousins for gifting us this book!), and he started the first book about some warrior cats: Warriors #1: Into the Wild by himself, and he says he likes it so far.

I’m still reading the James Herriot book that I mentioned in my last March post, and as for my 13-year-old, he’s still plowing through the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Although this is a very difficult time for many people, I hope that after it’s over, there will be many silver linings, such as:

  • people will value their community more and keeping using these new ways of communicating as well as meeting face-to-face
  • working from home will become more standard, especially for those with families
  • online learning will become a more viable option for those who need it and benefit from it
  • people might learn that slowing down is a good thing
  • certain professions will become more highly respected, such as teachers, grocery store clerks, garbage pick up, truckers — all those people who keep our society running smoothly (not to mention our doctors and nurses!)
  • perhaps some families will decide to keep homeschooling because they realize it’s working better for them?
  • and finally….people will learn how to wash their hands properly! (I credit my mom for teaching me to wash my hands every time I return home from somewhere.)

What are your silver linings during this pandemic?

School Closures vs. Homeschooling

Starting on Friday, my little homeschooling blog has gotten a big spike in stats. No doubt this is due to the number of parents who are now required to teach their children at home due to the school closures surrounding COVID-19. I wish I could tell them right now not to worry.  And, this probably isn’t the best time to read my blog. When I started homeschooling, I realized quickly that homeschooling is very different from a regular classroom. Classroom materials, teacher lessons and strategy does not work in a homeschool environment. And kids who are used to the school environment usually need a long time to adjust to homeschooling, so don’t worry, if things don’t start off well.

A lot of homeschoolers may give you advice on how to “deschool” your children, let them do their own thing, let them play, etc. While I think this can be good advice, I’m not sure that’s what you need right now. You just need to get through the next two or more weeks that this is going to last. Unless you think you’d like to try to keep homeschooling after all this over, try to follow your own instincts on how to get through this. What is best for you and your kids?

I’m sure your teachers and administrators are already working hard to create online learning for your child, and they will guide you through it. Having said that, remember that your main job is to try to keep your child from losing the skills they have learned in school, and your online lessons will probably not take as long as your regular school day. It will be helpful to try to keep your regular routine (same wake up and bedtime etc.), but don’t try to recreate school at home.

You can fill in extra time in any way that seems right for you and your children. Read books, play math games, explore your yard, watch documentaries, and play board games together. Ultimately, everything is educational, especially if you are spending quality time together and having conversations. Remember not to push your children too hard, if they can’t or won’t do something easily. Contact their teacher before you get frustrated. (Homeschool parents are not naturally patient! We understand!)

Alternate fun stuff with the work stuff. Enjoy your extra time together. I wrote a post with several ideas that my boys and I enjoy doing together. It may or may not resonate with you, but maybe it’ll inspire you to come up with your own thing.

What it comes down to is that I want to say: don’t stress out or think that this is “too hard.” Homeschoolers have had the luxury of time (sometimes years) to figure out a routine and find the right materials that work for their families. So don’t get frustrated, if you don’t feel you’re doing a good job. I’m sure you’re doing just fine.

Feel free to email me, if you want to ask me questions. I’m always happy to chat with homeschool parents via email (for free), and I’d be happy to do the same for you. Good luck!

Stuck at Home? Need to Teach Your Kids? Try these ideas.

It seems imminent that there will be more school closings, and people will be working remotely as the coronavirus continues to spread around the U.S. I hope that it won’t be too bad. I hope that no one else will die. But we have to do everything we can do to slow it down so that our health care services can work to meet the demand.

My son’s regional and state piano auditions have already been postponed, which is unfortunate after all the hard work he’s put into this, but we’re also grateful for the precaution. I won’t be surprised if our other activities are cancelled. Other than this, my husband works from home, and we homeschool our children. I’m the homeschool facilitator. We are in a good position. Other than needing to go to the store, we are equipped to stay home for a long time, if we have to.

But I know plenty of people who are not used to staying home so much, and for some, it will cause a tremendous amount of stress. Not everyone can afford to stock up on food and other supplies. Some people cannot afford to miss work, or they have long-term projects in jeopardy. I wish I could do more to help alleviate these problems, but I’m not in a position to do that. However, I can offer some ideas on what to do when you are stuck at home that might keep you from going stir crazy, especially if you have kids.

First of all, I’m not sure that it’s a good idea to expect kids and families to work at this time. Some people could be quite anxious right now, and they aren’t going to focus very well. However, some people may welcome the extra time to work. People need to figure out the best way of handling their individual situation. If you have kids, it may be a good time to simply spend quality time together doing fun things, and this may lower your stress levels as well. Surely there been times when you wished you had more time to spend with your family? And many activities are educational anyway.

If you think you’re going to have a problem getting your kids to cooperate, my advice is to make everything a family activity. Maybe it won’t work for every kid, but when you are doing things together (vs. telling your kid to go do something), it can be much easier to get kids to cooperate.

Also, try taking turns picking the activity with your kid. You could do things in 30 minute increments. Maybe your kid will pick a video game. Then you can pick that homework lesson they need to do. Or read a book together. Or bake cookies. And then play a video game again. Making it all fun is key.

Here are a few activities you might want to look into as well:

With Young Kids (or any age, really)

You don’t need any special supplies, if you have a good imagination, and staying at home and letting kids do their own thing for a while is very good for their brain development. You will also have more time to bond with your child, which is always a good thing. To pass the hours:

Storytelling. You may think you’re a terrible storyteller and could never do this, but you will be surprised, if you just try. Have your child pick a character and then follow this formula, which is from Tell Me a Story by Chase Collins:

  • There was a likeable hero
  • who had reason to set out on a journey
  • when a threat occurred
  • from which there was a hero-inspired way out
  • which resulted in a safe return and a happy ending.

If you get stuck, ask for your children’s help. Maybe your children will even come up with a story of their own! You will be fostering their imaginations, and helping them with language arts skills.

Get Crafty. Recycle cereal boxes to make things. With some scissors, glue and tape, you can make almost anything with cereal boxes. If you have some markers or paint on hand, you can decorate them too. Click here for some ideas from my son’s projects

Storytelling and Puppet Shows. Combine the cereal box crafts and storytelling by making puppets and putting on puppet shows of your favorite stories. Click here for my post about that.

With Older Kids (or any age, really)

Nature Studies. No matter where you live, there is nature happening outside your windows. Have you tried to identify what you see? Here are some sites that will help you with identification:

All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Plant Identification Links by BudBurst
Insect Identification (for North America)

Books. If you don’t have a big home library or don’t want to go to the library right now, there are a lot free resources on web that will give you plenty of reading material. No matter how old your kids are, they might enjoy a family read aloud.

Project Gutenberg: Free eBooks : You will find the world’s great literature here, with focus on older works for which U.S. copyright has expired.
Open Library: Open Library is an open, editable library catalog, building towards a web page for every book ever published.
The Literature Network: over 3500 full books and over 4400 short stories and poems by over 260 authors (Although this free site has a bunch of ads, you can use your reader view to have a more pleasant reading experience.)

Documentaries. We’ve been watching documentaries or other educational shows with our kids everyday at lunchtime since they were born (literally). We usually watch 30-45 minutes at a time and continue it the next day. I know documentaries aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but you may be surprised at what kids will get into, if all the family joins in. I have a kept a list of most of the programs we’ve watched in a Pinterest board, but you can find documentaries easily by searching on Netflix, Amazon Prime or any other streaming service.

Other Random Ideas for Anybody

Someone beat me to it, but I’m glad because you can read this article by Travel and Leisure to get links to 12 Museums From Around the World That You Can Visit Virtually.

Also, here are a few topics I’ve written about…

Start a Sketchbook Habit.
Board Games.
Yard Projects that the whole family can help with.
Digital Games — I have no problem with these as long as kids don’t use them all day long.

Resources for School Subjects

For little kids learning to read, there’s My boys loved that.

Of course, there’s Khan Academy, which has many subjects. We use it for math. But we also love

For history, I made a post with several resources that would be good for older kids. But is fun for the younger crowd, and it has much more than history too. You can find science and geography there too.

My son also uses some free science textbooks at, and that site offers resources for all subjects as well.

My kids are musicians, and we love classical music (all kinds of music, really), so I must mention that is a great place to experience all kinds of classical music. For world class music, check out the videos from the Curtis Institute of Music.

If I can think of anything else, I’ll be sure to add it here, so check back later. Feel free to leave any ideas and resources in the comments section too!

Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones. I wish you all good health.