COVID-19 has left many families struggling to strike a balance between maintaining their child’s education and keeping their career afloat while working from home. Below is a suggested schedule to keep a school-like routine at home, with activities that require minimal input from the working parent. Of course, younger children will require more attention and help for almost any activity, but with clear expectations and boundaries even a five-year-old can learn to work independently for short periods of time.
I would suggest creating a visual schedule so that your child knows what to expect from her day, and going over the schedule together every morning. For young children, it might help to write the subject and then draw a symbol to illustrate the subject.
Get dressed, brush teeth and wash face
8:30-9:00 WARM-UP ACTIVITY
A maze, a word search, a crossword puzzle, printing practice, handwriting practice, a sudoku puzzle. Check your local dollar store or big box store for age-appropriate puzzles or work sheets, or print something from the Internet. A warm-up is not necessary but I find it a nice way to ease into the day. If you need to, set a timer to mark the transition to the next activity.
9:00-10 LANGUAGE ARTS
Write a journal entry. The first half of the hour could be used for writing, the second half for illustrating her journal entry. I suggest providing a writing prompt, like “If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?” Google ‘Journal Prompts’ for lots of great suggestions. Set an expectation for number of words or sentences. Encourage your child to ‘sound out’ the spelling of words rather than ask you for help, and have her underline words she thinks she may have spelled incorrectly so that you can help her with the correct spelling later. Write the journal prompt in her journal so it is ready to go, and she can just open up her journal in the morning and get started on her own.
The finished product should be something your child is proud of. To keep things different day-to-day, switch up the colouring materials. Eg: Crayons on Mondays and Wednesdays, pencil crayons on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and markers on Fridays.
An alternative, relatively independent, activity to journal-writing is story-writing. First, have your child create a draft (probably several days’ work), then help her edit it, and on the next day or two have her write out her good copy in her best printing. Lastly, have her illustrate her story. It is a good idea to do a sample story together first so your child knows what is expected. Teach your child that stories need a beginning, where the characters are introduced, a middle where there is some kind of problem, and an ending where there is a conclusion to that problem. If she doesn’t know what to write about, you can give some suggestions: write an Easter story, write a story about friendship, write a story about family, etc.
Either have something ready to grab from the fridge, or take the opportunity to check in with your child and share a snack together. It might be a nice idea to ask her to read you her journal entry at this time.
If you need your child to be independent while you get your own work done, let her play math games on ABCya.com or prodigygame.com, or have her practice her times tables with flash cards (pick some up at the dollar store). If you have more than one child, consider having them play a strategy game together like chess, backgammon, or cribbage. Playing Battleship is a good introduction to graphing and finding coordinates. Younger children can play Go Fish to help with number recognition.
You can always print out math practice sheets online as well, or buy math practice books from places like Walmart or Staples.
Measuring can also be done independently. Give your child a list of things you want measured and a measuring tape, and have her write down the answers. Eg: How long is the table? How high is it? How wide is it? Have her write out her answers in inches and in centimetres. Ask, what is bigger, an inch or a cm? If something is four inches, would the number of centimetres be greater or less than four?
Baking is also an excellent math lesson because it begins to teach about fractions (1/2 cup, 1/4 cup, etc.). Take the opportunity to ask questions like, how many quarter cups would it take to fill up one cup? If your child has no idea, have her dump four quarter cups into the one cup measure to learn that there are four quarters in a cup. Do the same with 1/3 of a cup and 1/2 cup, and see if she understands these concepts. You can also use a kitchen scale to help teach about weight measurements. Have her estimate by asking questions like, how many oranges do you think it would take to make one pound? Then have her try it to find out.
1:00-1:30 QUIET READING
Creating a comfy reading nook could make reading more appealing. Graphic novels can help get reluctant readers interested in books. Have her record what book she read, how many pages, and what it was about.
1:30-2:30 GENIUS HOUR!
Let your child explore a dynamic question that is very interesting to her. Eg: Why are bubbles round? What gives flowers their colour? Why is fire hot? Have her take notes on her findings, and have her continue to explore her question over a prolonged period. Alternatively you could use this time for a research project or a science project. Let your child know that in the end she will have to show her learning. Some suggestions: doing a video teaching about the subject, creating a poster, giving a presentation to the whole family, etc.
You could also use this time for an art project, for free play, or for doing yoga (check Youtube for kid-friendly yoga channels). You could also have her do guided dancing or mindfulness activities using GoNoodle.com. Pinterest has great craft ideas for kids, but this will require some advance planning and preparation. You could also put on an educational documentary, have your child take notes, and get them to share what they learned when the show is over or at the end of the day.
There is lots of room for variation in this schedule. You can even incorporate chores into your child’s day (eg. dinner prep, like peeling carrots or washing potatoes, or feeding the cat, walking the dog, doing dishes, checking the mail, etc.).
When the day is done, make a point of asking about your child’s learning. Read her journal or her story. Point out things you are proud of, and also show her how she can improve next time. Don’t overwhelm your child with things she needs to work on; instead, give one suggestion at a time and once she’s mastered that, focus on another area.
Good luck, parents! These are uncharted waters for us all, but with time, patience, and practice, we will make it through.
Bronwyn Moser is a teacher and former journalist who lives in North Pine.