Families all over the country are now finding themselves as surprise homeschoolers! Here is how to set up a basic daily rhythm that allows for a great balance of learning time, free play, and even work time for the parents.
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We are all homeschoolers now thanks to the coronavirus and the call for social distancing. Schools are closing, and at least for a season, mothers and fathers who never saw themselves as homeschooling parents now find themselves at home all day with their kids.
THIS IS A BIG DEAL! I know that completely changing up your routine and basically cutting out everything extracurricular is a huge adjustment. So the first thing I want to tell you is that you ARE very much up for the task! I know it seems daunting right now (trust me, it can still be daunting all the time to full-time homeschooling parents too!), but this is something you CAN do with a lot of grace and a lot of flexibility.
I am LOVING how much everyone is rallying together to help each other out during this time, providing resources for free and offering helps of all kinds. Honestly I considered not even writing this post, but I’ve already been talking about our daily rhythm on Instagram a lot recently, and while I know I may not help the masses, if I can just help a small group of people during this time, it will be worth it.
We have been homeschooling for several years now, and one of the biggest encouragements I can share with you is that you do not need to try to recreate the public school at home. Not the rules. Not the schedule. Not even all the lessons.
Use this time as a chance to explore new subjects, learn new skills, watch new shows, and fall in love with new books.
What you will find in this post is how to set up a basic rhythm for your days at home together. Too little structure is just as overwhelming as too much structure, so this is just a basic flow to your day. I have explained each of the elements of the daily rhythm, then put them all together into a convenient printable.
I have also compiled a huge list of free curriculum, resources, educational games and shows, books, and more at the end of this post.
Save this post to refer back to during your quarantine homeschool, and please consider sharing it with friends (tag me @thispilgrimlife)!
How to Set Up A Daily Rhythm
Y’all. This is one of the BEST things about homeschooling! Embrace the slow mornings. Let your kids get as much sleep as they can, and then trickle out to quietly play, read a book, or even start the day with a little screen time. Depending on your kids ages, they can get their own breakfast when they wake up too.
How we do it: I wake up before my kids and use the early morning hours to get a little work done. My kids wake up one by one and come out to the living room, where they have about an hour of screen time (so I can finish working). Then my older boys take turns making breakfast for themselves and their siblings.
START THE DAY TOGETHER. YOU SET THE TONE, MAMA.
When you’re ready to start the day, do it all together at the table, on the couch, wherever you decide. You can call it your family meeting, morning time, or another name, but just remember that this is your chance to set the tone for the day. This is a great time to lay out expectations for the day, tell your kids about something they can look forward to in the day, and/or start the day with family goals/mottos, etc.
This time together in the morning is often referred to as “morning time” (for obvious reasons). It’s a great time to spend on things not typically covered in the “three r’s” of academics. A few options would be to read a poem a day, listen to classical music, read a picture book together, memorize a Bible verse or learn catechism type questions, do a nature study (which can be as simple as making observations out your window each day), and so on. You can find an entire post about our favorite morning time resources here.
How we do it: After the kids eat breakfast and do their morning chores (which includes getting dressed for the day), we gather together at the table. I have a stack of books to read– definitely not all in one day! We read from our Norse myths book and then they narrate back to me (tell me what was read in their own words). And then we do the same from the Bible, a kids theology, a nature book, a picture book, a poetry collection, (again, not all in one day!).
Narration is a central aspect of our homeschool life. It is a simple and effective way for kids to learn to pay attention, order their thoughts, and recall information. We do it without specific questions, just an easy “now tell me what you heard”. Kids all ages can do this, and do it better and better with practice. (More on narration).
EDUCATIONAL TIME IN THE MORNING.
Following a short time together in the morning, you can transition to some focused learning time. BUT, I would highly recommend NOT trying to recreate the public school method at home. This is a great opportunity to experience some of the freedom and wiggle room that comes with homeschooling. I know this can be easier said than done, but I would encourage you to try to stay flexible and open to trying different things until you find what suits your family.
Remember that just like it takes public school teachers a lot of training to do what they do well, it also takes homeschool parents a lot of trial and error to find a working routine. Please don’t expect everything to go perfectly smoothly— because it definitely doesn’t for seasoned homeschoolers either! Give yourself the freedom of scrapping what isn’t working, and taking plenty of deep breaths and needed breaks.
Okay, back to educational time. You may have work sent home that needs to be completed. Swallow the frog and get that out of the way first. If you don’t have any suggested work to do from the school, it’s a great time for some interest-based learning! Ask your kids what they want to learn about and then provide them with some books and resources to dig in. It’s amazing what all can be learned naturally without a lot of adult-intervention.
I’ve also listed some wonderful curriculum companies and online teaching programs that are offering their resources for free during this quarantine time towards the bottom of this post.
This chunk of time in the morning is generally the best time for subjects like math, literature, etc because our minds are fresh and alert.
How we do it: We have curriculum that we go through for my school-aged children (currently a fourth-grader, second-grader, and kindergartner). Everyone sits at the table and I direct traffic as they complete their copywork, phonics lessons, reading assignments, and math (lessons on the computer). This time typically takes us an hour to an hour and a half.
WHAT TO DO WITH THE TODDLERS?!
Some parents like to do “room time” and let their younger children play independently in a separate area from the school lessons. However, in my experience, my toddlers want to be “included” and with the rest of the family, so they are either at the table doing an activity, or playing in the same room.
Here are some of our favorite ways to keep the toddlers happy and engaged:
- pattern block puzzles
- counting bears
- play-doh with tools
- blocks (unifix cubes, magna-tiles, kapla blocks, duplos, etc)
- paper + pencils + scissors
- play foam (this one comes with a great storage case)
- magnets & oil drip pan
- snacks! (check out this huge list of healthy snack ideas)
TIME OUTDOORS WHILE MAMA MAKES LUNCH. (EAT OUTDOORS WHEN THE WEATHER ALLOWS).
After a set learning time (set a stopping time and stop then, not when everything is finished), the kids need some time to stretch their legs and play! If the weather is nice, send them outside to play and explore. If they cannot go outside, let them play independently inside. (If there’s not a good place to get energy out, consider turning on a kids’ yoga video for them to exercise and move).
If kids haven’t been used to a lot of free, unstructured play, they may balk at first and claim boredom. However, persevere! Encourage (i.e. insist) kids to push through the boredom and find something to do. It’s not your job to entertain them all day just because they’re home. It may take some time to adjust, but all that natural learning and free play could turn out to be one of the best parts of the quarantine!
How we do it: After our morning school time is complete, I send the kids outside or to the basement to play. This gives me the chance to clean up a little from school and from the toddlers, and then the chance to make a simple lunch or do a little prep for dinner or another day. This is old hat for our kids who are used to ample free time to play. They make up games, ride bikes, jump on the trampoline, build forts, and so on. I do not intervene unless I hear excessive screaming. (We all know the different between “I’m mad at you” screams and “I’m hurt” screams!)
AUDIOBOOKS DURING LUNCH OR PLAY TIME.
Audiobooks are an excellent way to increase reading and learning time during the day. We use them both for entertainment (good books are fun!) and as part of our curriculum (more good stories, living history books, etc). You can find audiobooks for free through various library lending apps, or you could sign up for Audible and start building a lifetime library of audiobooks (first two books are free).
Turn on an audiobook while the kids eat, or during play/creative time. I included a list of our top ten favorite audiobooks in the resource section below. (I cheated, technically, because some are entire series. But the great thing about a series is you hook them with the first book and then you have their rapt attention when story grip hits for the subsequent books!)
How we do it: We have been Audible members for several years and have a large collection of books at this point. We are currently listening to several different books at different times of the day. We are listening to a British history book and a collection of short biographies as a part of our curriculum. Pippi Longstocking is always an entertaining favorite and my kids will just tell “Alexa” to play Pippi when they want to listen. And my 3yo is currently listening to Peter Rabbit while he goes to sleep at night.
Basically, you can hear audiobooks in the background often and daily in our home and car.
AFTERNOON SCHOOL TIME. INDEPENDENT REVIEW & GAMES.
After lunch is a great time to transition to another thirty minutes to an hour of learning time. Turn on some music or an audiobook and let the kids do puzzles, math flashcards, games, arts and crafts, quiet toys, etc. Some of our favorite educational games are listed below.
If you have older kids who need to complete extra work or who want to do lessons on the computer, this would be a great time for that. Again, you can find a variety of online lessons and resources available for free during the quarantine in the resource section below.
How we do it: This is a time we use for science lessons, history audiobooks, crafts, and any extra lessons or reading we want to do. It’s also a great time for educational games, arts and crafts, and online lessons/courses.
AFTERNOON SCREEN TIME DOUBLES AS REST TIME. (AND ADULT WORK TIME).
Following a period of learning time/craft time in the afternoon, a period of screen time is great way to let the kids chill and relax for a while. It’s especially great for toddlers and preschoolers who really need some quiet downtime in the afternoons, but who may no longer take naps.
I’ve listed a LOT of educational shows for all ages in the resource section of this post. But, that’s not to say that our kids only watch educational shows. There’s plenty of PJ Masks, Spirit, Duck Dynasty, and so on also being watched around here.
How we do it: Unless my kids are just super engaged outside or busy at play inside, afternoon screen time is a sure thing in our house. My toddlers don’t nap, so I use it as a rest time for them, as well as a time I can be alone to rest or work as well. They can either pick a movie they can all agree on, or take turns picking a few different short shows.
EVENING OPTIONS: INDEPENDENT READING TIME IS GREAT FOR SETTLING DOWN OR INDEPENDENT PLAY TIME WHEN THE KIDS NEED A BREAK FROM EACH OTHER.
After being together all day, chances are good your kids will be happy for a break from each other. The evening time before dinner is a good time to go back outside or play independently in bedrooms. If kids need help settling down, it’s also a good time to snuggle up with a good book in bed or a comfy chair.
This time just before dinner is also perfect for evening chores and a general clean-up of the house.
How we do it: After the tv goes off, the kids have time to play together. If they bicker too much, then they play independently in their rooms. If they are too wild and crazy, they read in their beds. This is also the time I begin to make dinner, which usually means the toddlers are right with me helping as much as they can/I let them. Our kids do also have evening chores, and everyone works together to make sure all toys and clutter are picked up off of the floor and flat surfaces are clear as well.
PRE-BEDTIME READ ALOUD.
The quiet time before kids go to bed is perfect for a family read-aloud. Now that you don’t have to prepare for school the next day, or maybe don’t have to go to bed quite as early, you can try reading a good book together before sending everyone to bed and finally having the house to yourself again.
How we do it: My husband and I alternate who is currently reading aloud. He just finished reading Hatchet again recently, and so now I am working my way through the Betsy Tacy series. I typically start reading while my kids are still brushing their teeth and getting pajamas on, then everyone settles down near me in the living room to listen.
PRINTABLE DAILY RHYTHM
I created a printable version of everything I just took you through. The idea is to provide enough structure to the day without setting a hard-and-fast schedule that feels restrictive or constraining. You’ll notice that I did not include any times in the rhythm. You can set your own basic times (again, keeping it a general “rhythm” to the day instead of a schedule to follow).
Print out the rhythm and discuss it with your kids and your spouse (if also working at home during this time). Keep a positive attitude and be excited about the chance to try something new during this time!
Don’t forget to share these tips, printables, and ideas with friends if you find them helpful.
Homeschooling Resources for Quarantine School
I’ve put together a list of PLENTY of resources, books, and videos to keep your family occupied during this time. NO GUILT for doing more (screens) or less (lessons) than you hoped or planned. This is such a crazy time and everyone (kids included) are all topsy turvy. These resources are just meant to help you have ideas for what to do when your brain is tired and you’re just at a loss!
Free Curriculum & Resources (during the quarantine)
- Other Goose (free for the next 3 weeks, ages 2-7)
- Terra Arts (free art classes starting Monday)
- Free piano tutorials from Hoffman Academy
- Kahn Academy
- Free Typing Lessons from Typing.com
- Emergency Learning Plan from Ambleside Online
- Art for Kids Hub
- This list has even more ideas for companies offering free lessons during the school closings.
Our Family’s Top Ten Favorite Audiobooks
Sign up for a 30-day Audible trial and get 2 free books. (We loooooove Audible and have been members for years).
- The Little House on the Prairie series (any and all of them, read by Cherry Jones)
- The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkein
- Pippi Longstocking and Children of Noisy Village, Astrid Lindgren
- The Wingfeather Saga (4 books), Andrew Peterson
- The Green Ember Series
- The Princess and the Goblin, George MacDonald
- Little Men, Louisa May Alcott
- The Adventure Collection (especially White Fang), 5 books for one credit
- Ramona Quimby Collection, Beverly Cleary, 8 books for one credit, (not my personal favorite to listen to, but my kids love it)
- Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis, 7 books for one credit
Game School Ideas
Award-winning games that inspire fun and learning!
- No Stress Chess (ages 7+, 2 players)
- Spot It Jr. Animals (thinking and recognition, ages 3+, 2-6 players)
- Bananagrams (spelling, ages 7+, 1-16 players)
- Tenzi (math, ages 7+, 2-6 players)
- Zingo (language and matching skills, ages 4+, 2-6 players)
- Mad Libs (parts of speech, ages 5+, 2+ players)
- Otrio (strategy ultra tic-tac-toe, ages 6+, 2-4 players)
- Boggle (spelling, ages 8+, 1+ players)
- Boggle Jr. (spelling & word recognition, ages 3+, 1+ players)
- Math War (multiplication facts, ages 8+, 2 players)
- Settlers of Catan (strategy, ages 8+, 2-4 players)
- Race Across the USA (US geography, ages 8+)
- Continent Race (2019 game of the year, world geography, ages 7+, 2+ players)
- Rangerland (like CandyLand, but with National Parks, ages 4+, 2-4 players)
- Wild Kratts (Amazon Prime)
- Magic School Bus Rides Again (Netflix)
- TumbleLeaf (Amazon Prime)
- The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That (Amazon Prime)
- Baby Einstein Animals Around Me (Amazon Prime)
- Brainchild (Netflix)
- Smarter Every Day (YouTube) science & generally cool stuff
- Mark Rober (YouTube) science & engineering
- Cody’s Lab (YouTube)
- The Great British Baking Show (Netflix)
- Planet Earth, Human Planet, other nature documentaries (Netflix)
- Ken Burns: National Parks (Amazon Prime)
- Smithsonian Secrets (Amazon Prime)
- Chill with Bob Ross (Amazon Prime)
- Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (Netflix)
Books Turned TV/Movies
- Chronicles of Narnia (rent on Amazon Prime)
- Little House on the Prairie (Amazon Prime)
- Wonder (Amazon Prime)
- Bridge to Terabithia (rent on Amazon)
- Anne of Green Gables (DVD box set)
- Where the Red Fern Grows (Amazon Prime)
- Black Beauty (Amazon Prime)
- Little Women (BBC series version on Amazon Prime)
- The Hiding Place (Amazon Prime)
- The Yearling (Amazon Prime)
- The Treasure Seekers (Amazon Prime)
- A Little Princess (Netflix)
- White Fang (Netflix)
- The Little Prince (Netflix)
I will be sharing more ideas, especially easy ways to feed your family while you’re quarantined and shopping from your pantry, in the coming weeks. Go ahead and make sure you’re following along on Facebook and Instagram so you don’t miss new posts and videos.
Also, feel free to email me with questions at email@example.com or message me on social media. I’m happy to help you navigate these weeks in whatever way I can!
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