As school districts close across the country to try to halt the spread of COVID-19, many families are grappling with suddenly having their kids home all day. But for nearly two million students, learning at home is normal, and homeschooling families have a lot to teach those who suddenly find themselves teaching at home out of necessity due to the virus.
Bethany Mandel homeschools her family of four – kids ages six, five, three, and her youngest baby. I asked her for some tips and tricks.
IWF: Pre-coronavirus, what was a typical Wednesday like, and how has the outbreak affected your routines, if at all?
Bethany: “We actually start with a community art class in the morning – not happening now. My plan is to fill the space we used to with an activity with being outside. Right now, we’re at a nature center. It’s important not to go stir-crazy inside.
What it’s going to look like now, we’ll do morning time in the morning, spend an hour or two outside – dependent on weather – and then continue with school.
School time is 70 percent reading aloud, and then we use a math curriculum, and one for Hebrew, copywork, and piano instruction. Hoffman Academy comes highly recommended for piano, it’s one of the only computerized things we do. You don’t have to sit them in front of a computer.”
IWF: You have four kids, all different ages and with different interests. How do you balance those?
Bethany: “The good thing is that my kids play nicely with each other because they’re used to be at home together; it’s normal for us. They’re used to imagining games and picking out things to do.
I do morning time with all three older kids, which involves saying a prayer, listening to a song, and doing recitation, which is where I read the same passages to them every morning until they have memorized them over time. And we look at the calendar and determine what we’re doing that day, all four of us together.
I save the rest of the schooling for when my younger son is napping. My middle son gets 40 minutes of YouTube videos of people playing Mario brothers – usually our only screen time. He enjoys it! It gives me time to work on school with my eldest.”
IWF: What are your biggest suggestions for educational activities at home?
Bethany: “Practically, my suggestion is go to Michaels and buy a lot of their crafts. You can find tutorials on YouTube. My eldest daughter and I will probably get some cross-stich kits soon and learn to do it together. Go to Amazon and buy the supplies to set up an art station with colored pencils and markers, it makes for a great self-directed activity.
And get outside! Hiking doesn’t close, gardens are open. If you have a backyard, invest in some outdoor play equipment; I get a lot of my work done while my kids are playing in outside settings.
My biggest suggestion is don’t try to recreate their regular school at home. That will just add anxiety to a time that already has plenty. Instead, embrace this time to teach them things they wouldn’t learn at school, like crafting and cooking.”