Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve heard the national response to the outbreak of a new virus amongst our population, COVID-19. As the government imposes ever increasing restrictions, shutdowns, and even a few state-wide lock downs, more and more people are finding themselves displaced from their normal work or school setting. People are being told to go home and stay there as much as possible, keep to themselves, and not gather. Major sporting events are cancelled along with anything that is likely to draw a crowd of more than 10. There is not an aspect of life it has not impacted at this point, as everything from work and school to travel and entertainment has been hit. As we all settle into a home-based life, lacking in places to go, people to visit, and things to do out in the world, its going to be really important to stay sane and reduce our stress level. No matter what risk you feel COVID-19 poses, the complete change of our society from public and social to home bound nearly over night is likely to be causing you a fair amount of unease. Not to mention the stress of everyone suddenly needing to work, do schoolwork, and carry on with normal household things in the same space. To say that the normal day to day has been disrupted is an understatement. Normal, whatever that was for you, has been flipped on its head, given a solid spank and sent to its room for…well, we aren’t sure why, but it seems it may remain in time out for a while yet.
As we settle in for the duration, its important that we peel ourselves away from the 24hour disaster stream on the news and social media and begin to normalize life inside our own four walls. Especially if we have kids, they are worried, the fear is everywhere, they need us to show them everything is still okay. The best way to do that, is to begin to do things that will lead to thriving during this event. We’ve been in survival mode, something any field mouse can tell you is unsustainable, eventually you either have to stop running and get eaten by the fox or dash through a knothole and carry on for another day. It’s time to find that knothole. To begin to settle in and establish a little bit of routine (or not if that is your thing, it’s mine too 😊 ), to look at your family unit and brainstorm together the things you can accomplish as a unit, to make the most of this time together. Someday we may even look back at these days with fondness as the days that forever glued our family together. After all, hard times create tight bonds. Let’s get on with the bonding. The following are a few things you might consider doing to change survival mode to thriving mode during the COVID-19 shutdown.
Get creative with your spaces-
The first thing I realized when I learned both my college student and husband would be coming home to do their work with myself and our homeschooling younger son was that we were going to have to get creative to make this work. Living in a small home means we are already using the main areas for homeschooling during the week, generally not a problem as its just the two of us here at that time and we can spread out and be as loud as we want. Believe me when I say homeschooling is not a quiet endeavor. More on that in a bit. 😉 So, we found some space for a home office for hubby and resolved to make it work. Day one we discovered his need to conference call makes our setup not ideal. Nothing a little recalculation and relocating of the chattering homeschooler can’t solve. Luckily, his classroom is very mobile!
The bottom line is you have to find a way for everyone to be able to do the things they are obligated to get done. Workers need to work to keep the world moving and cash flowing. Kids need to learn, or at least be entertained if there is any hope at all of work getting done inside that space too. If they will be continuing their normal schoolwork, its important for them to have a space for study that suits them. For some that means a quiet space, for others noise and activity is better. All of that must be balanced with the other normal day to day things that happen inside a home like laundry, cleaning and cooking. The show must go on, we just need to adapt to the new setting.
Get ready to facilitate learning-
For the majority of students, schools have closed. In most cases students are being given work to take home so their education can continue. This is very good news for anyone suddenly staring down the barrel of having to homeschool to pick up the slack, most of the work is being handled. No need to hunt down the right curriculum, answer keys, tests, worksheets, etc., it’s all in the teacher packet, Phew! All you have to do, is help them through it and be sure they are getting things done. You may feel a little stressed, having struggled with math homework (haven’t we all?) that you will not know how to help them, trust me, between you and google, you can figure it all out. You may even refresh some old knowledge or skill you’ve forgotten in the process.
Speaking of knowledge and skills, if your child has gaps, this is a great time to work on those. You’re going to find that the normal schoolwork load doesn’t take nearly as long to get through when it is one student and not 30 doing it. One on one lessons and work are much more efficient for most types of study. This will easily leave a few minutes a day to focus on a rusty skill. Maybe they could use more time reading or writing, perhaps their math facts need a polish, or their pen control and letter formation is wobbly. The internet is packed full of games, worksheets and apps to practice school skills. Look at your child’s gaps and see what you can do to fill them.
Now that the plan for schooling is sorted out, its time to talk a bit about the realities of doing school at home. This isn’t a classroom. In many ways that is going to be beneficial. If you’ve visions of your student sitting tidily at their desk until they get work done, quietly, and without input from you, throw those out. They aren’t going to help, they aren’t real. Ask any teacher, that model student is one in a million. Kids are noisy and distracted, they avoid the things they don’t like and get hung up doing the things they love. They are just mini humans. Noisier, smaller, humans. You’ll save yourselves both a lot of frustration if you build movement breaks into the academic portion of your day and resign yourself to being okay with tangents. A student who has questions about what they just read, or something they think may connect to it, is a problem solving and learning student. Embrace the tangents, the worksheet can wait.
If yours is one of the schools that did not send work home, embrace this break from the norm. Build reading time into their day, dig out the art supplies, encourage them to pursue their hobbies. Play games that require thinking, counting, adding, and problem solving. Keep those brains busy and thinking. No need to print worksheets or gather curriculum (unless you’ve decided to homeschool from here on out.) Think of it as a summer break, or winter holiday break, and embrace the time to playfully learn and gain skills.
Alright, so once the plan for everyone being home for work and school has been sorted out, life can begin to settle into a rhythm. You will likely find that all this time at home, with no after school activities, dance classes, music lessons, martial arts, gym time, errands, appointments and all the other things that keep us busy is going to be, well, boring. We are used to having full, busy schedules. Many of us have gotten fairly bad at being bored. We’ve also gotten pretty bad at utilizing downtime. We tend to turn to things that distract us, like social media and tap games, rather than finding something productive and fulfilling to do with that time. Take it from a frequent shut-in, you’ve now got way more time on your hands than you can fill with that stuff. Don’t worry, there are plenty of other things you can do while you’re stuck at home.
It’s officially spring! Use this extended time at home to get a good, deep spring cleaning done. Enlist the help of your entire family and split tasks up between them. Don’t worry that the five-year-old has never vacuumed before, or the teen doesn’t know how to wash the floor, this is going to be a learning experience. As adults, they are going to have to clean, now is a great time to teach them how. So, tell them how, show them how, and then let them do it. And don’t go behind them to fix it! I know, it may be tempting because, well, did the 5-year-old actually get the entire carpet? Probably not, but they did their best work for you, don’t send the message that it was not up to par by doing it again. If you must reclean something assigned to a child (or husband) who didn’t do the job the way you would, wait until you can claim it’s time to do it again.
While you clean, purge. It’s a perfect time to reevaluate all the “stuff” in your home, especially anything seldom used. If it’s not seasonal or sentimental, and has not been used in 6 months, consider giving it the old heave-ho. Gather the things someone might be able to use for donation, toss the rest. With everyone at home, having the house clean and clutter free, will help everyone’s sanity and comfort. You may even find some forgotten down-time entertainment in your search. Perfect, because we definitely need more than cleaning as a distraction.
Play makes the time fly-
Play is beneficial in so many ways in a time like this. It reduces stress, promotes feelings of happiness, and best of all, it helps the time fly by. Dig out the cards, dice, and board games for some family game time. Make sock puppets together and put on a puppet show. Let your children lead you on an adventure through the jungles of their imagination. Be a pirate, a mermaid, a princess, an astronaut. Embrace imaginary play, dig out the toys and games and just be a kid for a bit. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel after. This is a great time to build memories with those cuties, don’t be too busy to join in the fun.
Tackle a project together-
If your house is anything like ours, you probably have a project or two around that you have been meaning to get to. I’m not talking home improvement (unless, of course you do have the materials on hand for that, in which case, rock on!) I’m talking about those project kits we buy the kids that then join the stack of things we’re going to do when we have the time. I call it my rainy-day pile, and boy, is it raining now! It’s a perfect time to build that model, explore that volcano kit, learn about motors together, create friendship bracelets, or whatever else you may have hanging around waiting to be discovered.
Dig out the art supplies-
Nothing is much more immersive and distracting than art. One of the few activities that tends to capture all but the smallest children for good chunks of time, art is a great way to pass the time. Dig out those paints, crayons, clay, whatever you have on hand will be great. Gather discarded paper towel rolls, jars, egg cartons, and other materials for some fun recycled art projects. Pinterest has millions of ideas. Pop on over there for some inspiration if needed.
Dust off that old hobby
Maybe you used to sew or knit, perhaps you once loved spending your time wood burning or tying flies. Whatever that hobby is, now is a great time to get it out of retirement. Being creative helps time pass and keeps us busy and engaged in something positive. This is also a great time to pass those hobby skills on to the next generation. Share your love of crafting/creating/ railroads, whatever your “thing” is.
Learn something new
With plenty of time to fill, its also a great time to delve into something you’ve always wanted to know more about but have not had the time to investigate. Binge on documentaries, scour the internet for information, seek out courses online, reach out to someone who is an expert and pick their brain. Try to do something you haven’t before. Think about hobbies you’ve wanted to try, can you get what you need to try them out? Now is a great time to work the kinks out of a new skill.
Dance, sing, or play music
Many households have a discarded musical instrument stashed somewhere. Pick that guitar up and play, refresh those old music skills or learn some new ones. Play music in your home on the radio or your favorite device. Have a dance party in your kitchen with the entire family. Music and dance are wonderful ways to lift spirits.
Enjoy nature together
It is no secret that fresh air and sunshine are an important part of any healthy lifestyle. Did you know they also reduce our chances of becoming sick? Vitamin D, created by our bodies when we are in the sun, is vital to proper immune response and has been shown to reduce the duration of many viral ailments. Spend some time outside, look at the plants and animals around you, learn their names and how to identify them. If you don’t have a field guide, there are apps for that, most of them free if you don’t mind ads. Spend time strolling, watching, and just enjoying the natural world. Because we are practicing social distancing, be sure to stay in your own back yard or stick to less frequented areas. Despite the myth, germs can be passed outside, the breeze and space we tend to give each other in outdoor spaces simply makes that less likely, not impossible. So, get out there and spend some time enjoying the other animals that share our world for a bit. You may discover neighbors you never knew you had.
Read a good book
Every bookworm will tell you, the absolute best way to lose chunks of time and escape from the world is in the pages of a great book. Now is a great time to tackle that want to read list, or to start reading a great book with your kids, or both. Start a reading competition in your house, see who can get through the most books before life returns to normal. Times like these, are when bookworms are born. So, dust off that stack of books you’ve been meaning to get to, scour the kindle library, or one of the many free resources for e-books and sink into a great story.
With a little creative use of space and a mind determined to keep spirits high and life filled with laughter, you’ll be well prepared to whether this storm together. You may even make a few new family traditions while you are at it. Those family dance parties and hobby sessions may, with a bit of luck, continue long after life returns to normal. Try to enjoy this time you have together. Once the kids are grown and out on their own, you will all be blessed to have the memories of these close days together. Someday you’ll share the story of the time you thrived at home together when the world shut down, may it be the story of the glue that strengthened your family bonds.