I never imagined my life would be where it is today. When you become a parent even before your child is born all you want to do is protect your child from the world. You do everything you can to prepare your home and your world just for them. You read the books, you consult with the doctors, you seek guidance from your own mom and make mom friends, etc. All the preparing and advice in the world could not have prepared me for parenting during a pandemic.
Parenting During the Pandemic
I have juggled many positions since starting a family. I’ve been a working parent and I have been a stay-at-home-parent. Just last year I even considered homeschooling our second child. Now I have been pushed into doing all 3! I’m currently working from home and homeschooling our 3 children. I like to think I’ve adapted quite well to the many challenges we’ve faced throughout the last few years. Prior to the Pandemic of 2020 if you asked me what was the hardest adjustment I’ve made as a parent I would tell you going from 2 kids to 3! That could not compare to this.
Our youngest child just started Pre-K this past year. He was learning and adjusting to school with a structured schedule and making new friends. Our daughter decided this year she was going to try out for softball. Our oldest son was in a gifted program that provided the enrichment he so desperately needed to keep his very active mind busy. Like so many parents across the world, our lives changed almost instantly. We knew the quarantine was coming and had anticipated what was to come. We didn’t know how we’d adjust or just how it would affect us. Suddenly we were all home and had to find a new normal.
Adjusting to Life at Home During Covid19
For the first few weeks my husband was working from home. The struggle of working in a home with 3 children proved to be a huge challenge. I had arranged our dining area into a space just for learning and homeschooling lessons while he would work from our bedroom. It was a well-thought out plan but just didn’t work out the way I hoped. I found that I had to move my ‘classroom’ outdoors on most days just so he could make work calls.
Teaching my kids was another challenge. Look, I have taken early childhood education classes and have worked in a daycare with a structure much like a preschool. I’ve had friends and family tell me I should have been a teacher or at least sign up to be a sub. The thought did cross my mind. It’s still not out of the question for the near future. When it’s your own children, however, it’s a completely different ball game. If you’re a well-seasoned parent then you understand where I’m coming from when I say this – your children are not the same around other adults as they are with their parents. I’m lucky if I can get through an hour of school time and learning without one of my kids asking for a snack, getting up from the table, or complaining about their sibling breathing on them!
Then there are the extra curricular activities. Prior to the pandemic we would visit the library once a week for the kids to check out new books or do research. Our city park just so happens to be located right behind the library so we would spend some time there as well. The kids would see their friends from school and it gave them a break to just unwind and exhaust their energy from being in a classroom all day. Field trips were something else we looked forward to. It provided out of classroom learning opportunities that were fun. I’d often chaperone for some of my kids’ field trips and enjoyed these experiences with each of them. The weekends were our time as a family to do things together. We enjoyed attending events or birthday parties, visiting with family and close friends or going to the movies.
With the libraries and so many other public places forced to close due to the pandemic many of those things are no longer an option. Don’t get me wrong, we still do things together as a family, but our options are limited. Date nights are something I desperately miss! We may have had a date night once a month, but it was a much-needed break to spend with just each other. It didn’t have to be fancy or special, just a kid-free evening to be a couple and not just mom and dad.
Socializing has posed its challenges too. My kids all miss their school friends and I miss visiting with relatives I would regularly make trips to spend time with on weekends. Before social distancing I would go and visit with my parents once a week and took shopping trips with my niece. Thankfully social apps and smartphones have allowed face-to-face chats. The kids’ teachers have arranged zoom calls to chat with students and classmates. It’s not quite the same but it helps with the strain we are all feeling being socially distant from everyone.
Homeschooling During a Pandemic
Adjusting from a traditional school setting to learning at home has certainly posed many challenges for all of us. I’m thankful to have access to so many resources now that were not available when I was in school. I already had a list of websites and various resources I’d use during summer breaks for the kids to continue learning. Social media and communications with the school boards have helped in providing additional sources for parents to teach material at home they would be learning in the classroom. There are many subscription services like ABCMouse.com that have offered discounted rates or even free subscriptions through the school’s accounts temporarily for online learning.
The struggle for me is incorporating a schedule we can all stick to and trying to divide my time with each child. I have a 5th grader who can pretty much work independently on her lessons; although there are areas she needs a little assistance with. Let’s just say she isn’t the only one getting schooled! This new age math is all Greek to me. I’ve found CommonCoreSheets.com a helpful resource to provide review worksheets she can practice with in various subjects. These also have answer keys that make it easier to check her work and ensure she’s understanding the problems. We also use www.Ducksters.com which provides informative selections she can read then test on.
Then there’s my oldest son who is also able to work independently for the most part. He still requires some guidance and constant reminders on what he should be doing. If you recall I mentioned earlier he was also in gifted classes! His intelligence is pretty remarkable for a 7-year old, which poses its own challenges in teaching him at home. He has online courses provided by his teachers and the instructors from the gifted program that help provide additional learning at his intellectual level. In his classes, however, they worked on hands-on projects such as robotics and technology. Incorporating STEM activities at home has become something we’ve all taken participation in.
My youngest is in Pre-K. His learning needs are much different from my other two and requires a great deal of guidance. He’s in the stage of learning and recognizing his letters, shapes, colors, numbers, the typical pre-kindergarten basics. He’s achieved most of these at this point so activities are mostly for review and retaining these concepts. He is also in the stage of enhancing fine motor skills he needs to master by kindergarten. In school he would be practicing tracing his letters, coloring sheets, counting objects, and cutting and pasting crafts. He would also be learning letter sounds and identifying objects that start with a specific letter. Here’s how we are doing this at home.
Having our home classroom outdoors on most days when the weather is permitting has presented its own fun way of learning. For my older two I’ll create scavenger hunts they can do that coincide with what they’re learning. For my daughter who is learning plant biology she will have a scavenger hunt for different types of plants and identify their parts. We also search for examples of food chains through insects and animals we find outside around our home or neighborhood. For my son we will do scavenger hunts for items that start with a certain letter or color.
Building Fine Motor Skills
Preschool children are learning how to write. To accomplish this they must build and improve their fine motor development to hold a pencil properly. Activities we do at home include coloring, cutting with scissors and stringing things together. Running yarn through pasta noodles or thin string through beads with large holes are great stringing activities. My daughter also enjoys this activity to make necklaces and bracelets. We will use specific shapes or colored beads to create patterns.
Lacing is another great activity for building fine motor skills. You can make a picture for them to lace by outlining an image and poking holes along the outline to lace yarn through. Use a piece of cardboard such as cutting out a cereal box or even card stock paper. Outline an image or simple picture. Poke holes with a hole puncher or use a pencil and space out the holes just enough for yarn to be strung through.
Participating in activities that combine science, technology, engineering and math is particularly beneficial to young learners. Acquiring strong skills in these areas are crucial to life-long skills that can help in career advancement, performance, and critical thinking. We’ve incorporated these activities at home to enhance their learning experience in a way that’s fun and more hands-on.
We have the advantage of having science and chemistry sets the kids received from Christmas and birthdays. These are definitely worth looking into and can be ordered online. We’ve used excavation kits that contained ‘fossils’ in blocks of clay the kids would have to dig out. Some come with information cards about the fossils. We’ve also done the habitat kits that come with a habitat and specimens which kids can watch metamorphosis in real-time such as caterpillars into butterflies.
There are many cool experiments, however, you can do at home with materials you currently have. For instance, making slime can be achieved without glue and presents a cool and fun experiment using different combinations. Watching different elements like liquids combined with something sticky come together to form a substance they can hold, mold and stretch is a great example. A much cleaner alternative if you’re not a fan of slime – making your own lava lamp using oil, water, food coloring and an effervescent. Watching the reaction of different substances separating invites a learning experience about density. Add oil such as vegetable oil to a glass or clear plastic cup. Next add a small amount of water. It will stay at the bottom staying separate from the oil. Add a few drops of food coloring. Last add the effervescent tablet and watch the show.
Building creates a great engineering activity and we have plenty of toys to incorporate these. Using LEGOs we did a challenge one week – each day I challenged the kids to build something. Day one would be something simple like making a building. The next day it would be to build a piece of furniture. The next day was a vehicle of some kind (by the way – a space rocket counts).
My daughter had an assignment that presented a great building and engineering opportunity from one of her teachers. She had to think of an invention she made up on her own that would help in some way to improve her life. She used LEGOs to build her design. My son put his Knex sets to use for this assignment. He built a machine with moving components and a creative imagination to give function to his idea.
We’ve had to get creative over the last few weeks but it’s been fun and interesting turning everyday experiences into learning activities. We’ve also had many trials, minor mental breakdowns and maybe a few tears through the process. Adjusting to life at home during a pandemic has not been easy. It has been a learning experience for all of us that has proven stressful but also rewarding. One example of this is starting our own garden. We have taken great appreciation in watching the fruits of our labor grow, literally!
Amid the widespread panic the COVID-19 has caused with people stockpiling necessities like there’s no tomorrow, I have seen some positive outcomes. More people are becoming resourceful. There have been massive shortages on PPE, hand sanitizers, face masks, disinfectants, and paper products. While many are taking this as a sign of doom I find some reprieve in seeing the many ways others have found resourceful ways to make do. Being able to be resourceful with what you have or what you CAN obtain helps a great deal in alleviating some of that stress.
The experience has definitely inspired creativity. The reality of having to provide face masks that fit a child was something I never imagined having to face. Although we’re following stay at home orders and social distancing there are still circumstances that have required trips. We’ve learned how to make our own face masks using cloth material, bandanas, and materials we had on hand for filters. I’ve had to brush up on my sewing skills which are less than perfect. For the kids we found several variations of no-sew face masks that were easy and provided effective protection.
Being quarantined at home has brought us to focus on prioritizing daily activities. We used a magnetic dry-erase board to create a schedule and carve out blocks of time specifically for school-work, fun activities, games, lesson planning, and household chores. Oh yes! With 5 people living together 24/7 that means regular household chores have multiplied starting with dishes. Typically I’d give my kids chores to do on weekends such as putting their clothes away and picking up their toys, etc. That has changed with the increase in dirty dishes and foot traffic in the house. We have a chore chart with tasks assigned accordingly by their age. Some of these tasks really are a chore to have them complete but to my surprise there are many things they actually get excited about. Vacuuming is one chore they practically fight over because they each want to do it.
It’s easy to get caught up in trying to ensure they are all on task with their school work and lessons assigned by their teacher. I have reserved mornings as our primary time for learning time. By the afternoons they are more than ready to be released outdoors where they can get out their pent up energy with minimal destruction. The afternoons are also our time to do something fun together like arts and crafts or building a blanket fort. Since we can’t go anywhere to do fun activities we’ve also improvised with virtual field trips through videos. We researched various sources to find virtual tours of museums, aquariums and different places that would be fun to visit.
Another aspect we have to plan accordingly is our shopping trips. Sure, we made planned shopping trips to cover the majority of our household needs prior to the pandemic. The difference now, however, is it’s not so simple to run to the store for a couple of items I need last minute or in between our big shopping trips. Most grocery stores have remained open, but with restrictions in place to abide by social distancing. There are also purchase limits on essentials like paper products to avoid the mass buying. We have to plan our trips to get the basics we need while minimizing shopping trips as much as possible to stay safe. This also requires meal planning for everyone for the week ahead to ensure we have the groceries needed. Last minute take out isn’t quite an easy go-to option anymore. I have used grocery pickup services before the pandemic for convenience but that’s become very difficult these days. With the massive increase in consumers using these services orders have been backed up for weeks and supplies are extremely limited.
With summer break approaching we will have a more relaxed schedule. Hopefully the stress and anxiety will have a break too. It’s uncertain at this point what our future holds for the next school year. There is still anxiety about the uncertainty of the pandemic and how long it will last. There are many things we’ve learned adjusting to life during a pandemic that we may have not learned otherwise. We have found a new appreciation for things we took for granted.
I feel a little more confident about building my children’s independence through this experience. Our daughter has learned how to prepare a few dishes through her dad’s guidance while cooking. My 5-year old son can fold his clothes. They’ve each had to learn how to instill patience and compromise through various challenges. Our lives may not be the same once things do return to normal but it isn’t all bad.