Homeschooling during the pandemic has many of us struggling. While our teachers continue to go above and beyond providing resources and assignments, the message for us as parents is to just do what you can.
While some of us thrive on colour-coded schedules, others of us are finding the struggle all too real, in between work demands, our kids’ attitudes to homeschooling, and, oh yeah, our lack of a teaching degree. Don’t worry. This is not forever and your kids will catch up academically, if kitchen-table classes have been a fail.
We’ve compiled a list of real-life lessons your kids will actually enjoy:
1. Bake a cake
What happens to a solid fat (butter or coconut oil) when it’s heated? How do raising agents work? What happens to the batter after it spends time in the oven? As you make a cake with your kids, talk about the science behind the magic. You should also get them to do all the measuring and weighing of ingredients, so they’re working with fractions, weights and conversions. You could even have them prepare a grocery list for the ingredients, sticking to a budget.
Have them read the recipe and follow the step-by-step instructions. Then talk about the nutritional value of the ingredients you use: How apple sauce, bananas or carrots are better for you as sweeteners than just sugar; or how you can bump up the protein by with nuts or nut flours. Last part: Pure joy, as you savour the freshly baked end results.
Life skills: Being able to make food from scratch and budgeting
Academic skills: Home economics, chemistry, math, literacy, nutrition
2. Grow something edible
Nurture your kid’s green thumb by having them plant something in soil or sprout something on damp cotton. You can try fast-growing cress or mustard seeds, or seeds scooped from a fresh tomato, or even an old potato that’s started growing new roots in the bag. Cleaned-out yoghurt tubs or even empty toilet paper rolls make cheap and convenient pots for easy-to-grow seedlings like kale, mesclun mix and endive. Older kids can collect data every couple of days, about the growth and condition of the plants, then you can chat about important variables, like sunlight, shade and watering.
Life skills: Surviving the apocalypse (JK!) and gardening
Academic skills: Botany, environmental science, social studies
3. Learn to relax
So soccer fields, monkey bars and basketball courts are closed for business right now. But your kid can still do something with their excess energy and big emotions at home through yoga. All you need is a little floorspace to lay out a mat or folded blanket. To do a more formal kids’ yoga class, you’ll need internet access too, but really, the most important thing about yoga is learning how to breathe.
You can keep the at-home practice simple, having your kid lie down on the floor with their eyes closed, while you talk them through stretches or tightening and relaxing their muscles, from head to toe. Encourage them to take slower and deeper breaths, with their hand on their belly, so they can feel their abdomen rise and fall. Older kids might enjoy learning about the origins and history of yoga too. Here’s a great resource that explains the basics.
Life skills: Emotional regulation, coordination, self-discipline
Academic skills: Phys. ed., health sciences, world religions, geography
“Audiobooks give us the opportunity to listen to a story together, and they take the monotony out of tasks such as folding laundry.”
4. Drop off donations at a shelter or food bank ― or help a neighbour
With so many people in our communities experiencing income loss and food and housing insecurity right now, a hands-on lesson in human kindness is probably the most valuable thing we can give our kids. Chat with your children about how the pandemic is affecting more vulnerable people, in age-appropriate ways, then do some research together, either online or by picking up the phone, to see how you can help.
You could have your kids earn money doing extra chores, to buy things to give to the charity of their choice. Or you could get involved with a grassroots neighbourhood group that supports frontline health workers, by walking their dogs and dropping off prepared meals. Maybe your kids can check in on a senior on your street who lives alone by videochat, and then chat or play a game together, to break their isolation. There are so many ways to help!
Life skills: Serving others, budgeting and community-mindedness
Academic skills: Research and math (high-school kids could get their volunteer hours too)
5. Fold laundry together while listening to a podcast or audiobook
With all of the additional demands and ongoing stress of the pandemic, sometimes we are beyond exhausted, and reading to our kids or persuading them to read a book might just feel like one thing too much. Audiobooks give us the opportunity to listen to a story together and they take the monotony out of tasks such as folding laundry, turning them into moments for bonding.
Sites like Audible currently offer a selection of kids books that can be streamed for free, as do many public libraries. It’s fun to chat afterwards about what you listened to together. Consider things like how the details of the story were revealed, what the surprises were and what you both thought of the main characters.
Life skills: Marie-Kondo-like folding abilities, multi-tasking and listening
Academic skills: Literacy, media literacy, critical thinking, home economics