We are living in an unprecedented time when social calendars have been wiped clean for everyone. Schools are closed and may or may not reopen this school year. Not only are there no extracurricular activities to consume our spare time, but there are few places to go, and many governments have mandated staying at home. This forced quarantine is a double-edged sword. We can let this temporary hardship break us, or we can face this challenge and come out stronger on the other end.
School at Home
Schools were one of the first closures in our state. Fortunately our high-tech schools are adapting to this new paradigm, but switching lesson plans and teaching styles from face-to-face interaction to virtual classrooms must be quite difficult. Is this model sustainable if schools remain closed until summer break or even into next school year?
To the parents who are suddenly doing school at home I feel for you. You didn’t sign up for this. In addition to teaching your kids, you may be trying to juggle working from home, or you may still be going to work because your job is essential to your community. You’re in the trenches.
From the outside looking in, my homeschool hasn’t skipped a beat. But just like families with kids in typical schools, all of our extra activities have been stripped away by this forced quarantine. Our swim lessons are on hold. That baseball team we signed up our oldest for probably won’t form. Our homeschool co-op can’t meet. Our field trips and homeschool convention have been cancelled. Playing at neighbors’ houses or having friends over has come to a halt. I’m glad our homeschool year is almost over because, even for us, this isn’t what homeschool should look and feel like.
If school at home has you feeling overwhelmed, as much as you are able don’t try to recreate school at home. Yes, your children need to complete the tasks their teachers assign, but they don’t have to “do school” from 8am to 3pm. Let them be kids. Allow them to get bored. They can figure out how to entertain themselves without always turning to screens.
Don’t overwhelm yourself with keeping your kids busy. I’m not crafty, and I hate cleaning up after playdough, glue, paint, and glitter. Thus our go-to craft supplies are copy paper, construction paper, tape, markers, crayons, colored pencils, and scissors. Duct tape is a recent add-on that our kids love. No empty box is safe from their scissors and duct tape. They love it, it’s easy to clean up, and they don’t need my help.
Work at Home
We bought a fixer-upper last August, and now that our family of six is self-quarantining like the rest of our state we’re grateful for the additional space. Multiple levels mean my husband has a fighting chance at having a conference call without too much background noise. Thankfully he had already started turning a spare room in the basement into an office space.
Being able to work remotely is a huge blessing, but it is an adjustment. No in-person meetings mean lots of conference calls, and those can be quite frustrating as this parody reveals. Our basement is currently LEGO central and also houses our Wii, so the kids will have to adjust their use of the space during work hours.
I think the hardest part for my husband will be not getting to leave the house each day. I know he needs time to himself to recharge. Whereas he normally has a 20-minute commute each way and a lunch hour, now he’ll be with us 24/7.
Try to keep this change lighthearted. I texted my husband on his first day working from home to ask what time he thought he’d get home from work. When he said he’d be leaving soon, I replied that I hoped the traffic would be light. Then I met him at the top of the basement stairs to welcome him home.
Savor the extra time with family. Not everyone has the luxury to work from home during this forced quarantine. Eat meals together, but don’t feel like you have to do this for every meal. I usually don’t have breakfast with my kids because I need my own quiet time before I’m ready to greet them and the new day.
Community at Home
Although I’m a self-proclaimed homebody, I still crave community. Church fellowship, community group, ladies’ nights, homeschool co-op, extended family, and friends have been lifelines for me over the years. I would not be who I am today without the support of my community.
Stay connected to your church. If you don’t have a church, now is the perfect time to check out churches in your community by watching online like everyone else. We all need an anchor in this storm.
Use social media to stay connected, but don’t be consumed by it. Video chat, text, call, or email friends and family. When the weather allows, walk your neighborhood and talk to your neighbors. A few of us gathered in a cul-de-sac recently while maintaining social distance. Not only was the conversation a welcome break, but getting outside in the fresh air was also wonderful.
Quality Time with Family
As a homeschool mom it’s easy to think that time spent doing school takes the place of other quality time with my kids. My to-do list is often so full that it can be hard to take time to stop and enjoy my kids. This forced quarantine has thrown families back together full time and removed many of the extra activities that cause us to lament about how busy we are.
Draw Closer Together
Use this quarantine to get to know your family better. Spend quality time together and try not to be on screens any more than you would if you weren’t under quarantine. Play board games together. Enjoy the outdoors together. Read aloud to your kids no matter how old they are. If eating together as a family has been lacking, place special emphasis on this time.
Become a Better Team
Are household chores weighing you down like they do me? I’ve been wanting to teach my kids how to take over more responsibility around our house, but I haven’t felt like I have the time. With our homeschool year wrapping up soon and an empty social calendar, now is a great time to help our family be a better team.
I’m not sure exactly what this will look like for our family. We purchased Skill Trek and were just waiting for the school year to end to begin using it. I’m hoping it will help us begin to fill in the gaps not only for chores but also for skills that we may have forgotten to teach.
Learn New Things
I bought a video cooking class for my kids almost two years ago, but I haven’t yet had a free summer to dig into it. They’ve been begging to learn to cook, and I could definitely use their help in getting dinner on the table. This forced quarantine is the perfect time for me to finally teach the kids to cook. Hopefully I’ll still be able to procure the necessary ingredients.
My father-in-law created a 100-question trivia challenge about himself. All three sets of grandchildren have a week to answer as many questions correctly as possible for a cash prize. Our children know some answers from listening to “Pappaw stories.” But there are many that my husband doesn’t even know. Not only has this trivia challenge brought some added excitement to our kids, but now they have so much more that they can learn about their grandfather.
Before we were officially under forced quarantine but were already practicing social distancing, I had a loud, ugly cry in my kitchen late one night. I couldn’t get my dishwasher to close and attempts to fix it only made it worse. As I filled our sink with warm soapy water, my mind warred within me. I was thankful that I could wash dishes by hand, but I was frustrated with everything around us getting cancelled. I cried harder than I have in a long time. Then I prayed – not my typical kind of prayer but one with great emotion and unabashed authenticity before God.
The next day I felt better and was able to talk about my fears and frustrations with my husband. I also spoke to our oldest son about it. He needed to know that it’s okay to be angry and frustrated about this massive change in our lives. I needed him to know that I understand when he feels upset because he can’t play with the neighborhood kids.
Be authentic with your family. This, too, will draw you closer together.
My Story: Drawing Closer Through Hardship
When I was a little girl, my dad worked long hours managing a catfish farm. When he was home, he worked hard maintaining and improving our seven-acre homestead. I loved my dad, and I knew he loved me, but I didn’t really know him well.
My mom stayed home with us girls many years, but when we decided to move several hundred miles to be closer to family, their work roles reversed for a while. I began to get to know my dad since I was around him so much more.
Because these events occurred before Internet was available to the average American, my mom actually moved first. She stayed with family while she worked, searched for job opportunities for my dad, and found a house for us. I know I missed my mom dearly during this time, but I am grateful that this temporary hardship forged a lasting friendship between my dad and me.
This forced quarantine is hard on us all. But I do believe that our families, our communities, and our nation can be stronger when this is all over. Overcoming hardship matures us and gives us empathy for others. May we come out of this with respect for our freedoms, our health, and the worth of every person.