A little over a week ago, schools were shut down for an unknown and possibly ever-changing period of time.
This makes for a scary situation in itself, let alone adding the pressure of educating your children. You already have the role of mom, dad, aunt, uncle, grandma or grandpa, whatever it may be, now we are adding the hat of educator to your list. Nope, you don’t get go to your favorite store and try it on! It’s here, being dropped off on your doorstep.
This is a situation that we can all relate to. As a first-grade teacher for Troy City Schools, as well as a mama bear of three girls — ages 4, 5 and 15 — I am now faced with the challenge of changing my mindset as a teacher and also managing a house of children who are needing my constant attention. After spending a day or two with a lot of anxiety and wondering if I would ever be able to breathe again, I realized that over-stressing was not going to work for me or anyone around me. I needed to use the gifts that God has given me to be the girl for the job!
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Although it may seem easier to just go with the flow, I am here to tell you, after one day of no structure, we don’t have time for that. These situations and changes are really out of our hands, so I’m here to say let’s be in control of something that I know is so important to all of us — our children!
I am hoping to help you by giving you some tips to make this stressful and what many seem impossible situation a great learning experience for everyone involved. We are all in this together.
Take this time to learn from one another and share with each other any chance you get and be the best chaos coordinator you can be. Wear that “Chaos Coordinator” T-shirt with pride!
Here are five ideas from my home to yours to help you get started
1. Let’s set the stage for each day!
Having a schedule that you can follow is going to be the best way to let the kids know this is not four weeks (or more) of Spring Break! Always have them be a part of this, no matter their age, so they feel their input matters. Giving a structure and having expectations will make their day predictable and easier to manage. You could do this several different ways. Make it a daily checklist or a sticker chart, use a dry erase board or even an electronic schedule for all the tech-savvy people out there! However you see it working for your family is how you need to create it! Remember this is the framework for eliminating the anticipated stress and chaos! Once this is done, the fun stuff will fall into place.
2. Make a space for learning to take place.
We all know that we don’t think well or do well if we are feeling uncomfortable or are missing materials. Imagine someone asking you to sit in the middle of two people on an airplane. They hand you a book and tell you to read it and they will be back to discuss it later. Well, that seat, first of all, no thanks! Where’s my pencil or highlighter? As well as a notebook or paper to jot those ideas down, and having two people sitting there distracting me? Yikes! All learners are different. As a teacher, it takes us some time and experimenting to figure that out while at school. But you are the experts now. You know your child. Start by making a space for them to want to go to and look at books. A space with pillows, stuffed animals, bean bags, etc. Put some of their favorite books in a basket or bin and encourage them to add their own over the next few weeks. Next, give them a designated area for writing, math and art activities. These tend to be a bit messier, and you won’t want eraser shavings or crayon marks on your couch cushions.
3. Supplies, please!
Make sure, along with that designated space, you have supplies for them to use. No one wants to be rummaging around in all, yes I said ALL, of the junk drawers to find a pencil and make everyone’s level of frustration rise. You can have them keep their things all together in a fun little supply box or bag (your teacher may have sent these home), a Ziploc, a Tupperware container or even an old plastic cup from Frisch’s. Again don’t overthink it, just make it easy to store and locate.
4. Always use your resources.
Your teachers and schools are always there for you! We also have many available online resources that are now becoming available for free use. A few really good ones that I would recommend are:
www.raz-kids.com: Students can read books at their current level and answer questions pertaining to the text. Once they continue to have success at this level, they will level up!
www.starfall.com: This will give students opportunities to listen to stories, read stories and practice with words. There are also a variety of math practice activities available.
www.bookflix.com and www.storylineonline.org are two of my favorites! Students can access hundreds of books both fiction and nonfiction about varying topics.
Scholastic Learn at Home: This is awesome for a science and social studies link. There are amazing literacy connections with videos and activities on topics that are interesting to children. Right now you can also find many live feeds of animals, community helpers and many more. These are all great opportunities to keep that brain active. Of course, we don't need to be on electronics all day. After reading a book, draw your favorite part and write about it! Write words using different colored markers or gel pens. Use cereal or snacks to make patterns or tell story problems. Use make-believe and head to the beach for a day or read to the stuffed animals at your imaginary zoo! The list goes on and on.
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5. Move your body and fuel it well!
Many of us are feeling sad about missing our activities. Make sure you are setting a time each day for a body break! Make it fun and don’t overthink it. Go for a bike ride, play hopscotch or race around the house. You know what to do! Can’t go outside? Put on some music and dance or practice yoga. Some of your local studios may even be doing some live stretching! Check them out. Along with keeping our bodies moving, we need to be fueling them too! Now that we are home ALL day, my kids think the pantry is like the McDonalds drive-thru, open 24 hours. Instead, schedule in their snack breaks are! It would also be a great idea to let them pick out what their snacks will be for that day at snack time and maybe put them in a little basket on the counter! This way when it’s time, they know right where to go and what they have chosen is already waiting. I know how overwhelming it is, even for me to open the pantry and see all the options. I mean, if the Oreos are there, you bet that’s going to be my first choice. Snack prep and even meal prep, if you’re a risk-taker, is a great way to get them involved. Baking is a fun way to work on numbers and measurements too.
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Of course, the ideas are endless and I encourage you to do what works for you and keep sharing ideas! Remember we are humans, and each day isn’t going to look the same or be perfect. We can take this one day at a time. I hope these ideas help you to feel like it will be easier to turn chaos into clarity! We’ve got this!