The new normal begins March 16. Maryland’s public schools are closed and many companies as well as state offices will send their workers home to telecommute. For the average parent, his or her office space may be the dining room table, real estate that has to be shared with a third grader working on math or a seventh grader creating a PowerPoint.
This is the day-to-day in a state of emergency declared to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“Everyone is in the same boat and it’s going to take some trial and error,” says Amy McGinn, a lecturer on educational technology at Loyola University of Maryland and a mother two young girls.
Schedules are a must
First, remember that kids are used to schedules, and they are growing up in a world that includes online learning. But they also have shorter attention spans than we do. Even high schoolers can struggle with executive function or knowing what to do when.
These days at home need structure and that needs to come from the adults, McGinn says. Each day should have time for children and adults to do independent work. Make sure they are set up so that when adults are most busy, kids are doing their schoolwork.
Try setting a timer for 25 minutes of quiet work, McGinn says. Use an online timer or even your stove or microwave so children can see how much time they have left.
Kids will come home with weeks of lessons for this unprecedented school closing, McGinn says, and these lessons “may not happen perfectly.”
Interview: Our Washington Family editor talks about things to do with the kids at home in the next two weeks.
Know, too, that our own work may not happen in the 9-to-5. Answer emails before the kids get up and work after they go to bed, she says.
“We have to take the time we can find to get things done,” she adds.
Go low tech
Make time for non-tech activities. “Be scientists outside,” McGinn says.
And do they thing they can’t do at school, such as take a 10-minute walk between science and math.
From your kids, that is. Young children love to be helpers and can staple, file or even bring laundry upstairs. “Take advantage of their energy and excitement,” McGinn says.
She adds that working side by side in these weeks allows kids to see what adults get to for their work day. And it could give us opportunities we haven’t thought about. She is looking forward to having lunch with her kids every day.
“We are so scheduled with our kids these days,” McGinn says. It’s OK for them to be bored for a short period of time and to be challenged to come up with an activity to do on their own. “That would give them a little bit of ownership and responsibility. And that’s growth and learning,” she says.
OK, what about the fun stuff? Here is a list of 13 creative things to do at home while school is out, courtesy of Baltimore County Public Library.
- Make cleaning a game.
- Bake or cook together. Try making something simple the kids can take the lead on, such as deviled eggs or sandwiches
- Have a cooking contest. Give everyone 30 minutes to make whatever they can using food in the pantry or fridge. Give each entry a prize for what makes it unique
- Learn a new language together on Mango Languages.
- Dress up and have a runway challenge. Name a category (fancy, sports, comfy, etc), send everyone to their rooms to put together an outfit and then have a runway show.
- Dance to your favorite music
- Try new exercises as a family, like yoga poses
- Build a fort with all the blankets and pillows in your house
- Write new words to your favorite song
- Write a play, perform it and film it
- Have an art contest. Give an award to each entry for what makes it unique!
- Watch a new unique movie on Kanopy Kids (library product)
- Listen to an audiobook together (library product)