Note: If you want to see the checklist of how to find your zen as a homeschool mom, during lock down or not, skip to the bottom of this post to the numbered list. If you want to read the backstory of how I came to write the post, read on.
I had to laugh when one of my homeschool mom friends shared a statement via social media that was something like: “When your quarantine life is the same as your normal life.” I laughed a lot at that! I hear people talk about quarantine life, like how they now have to homeschool, they can’t go out to a restaurant for date night, they can’t go to concerts or the theater, they have to cook from scratch, and they have to use Zoom, etc. I thought, umm, wow, that already is my normal life, LOL! Yeah, my regular pre-COVID-19 life was pretty boring to most people. As a budget-conscious, homeschooling, stay-at-home, middle-aged mom, I don’t have anything in my life that most people probably would see as exciting, or even remotely close to their normal, everyday life.
First of all, we’ve been on a pretty tight budget, working the Ramsey Baby Step #3 so eating out, concerts and theater outings are rare events, unless they are free. (We got debt-free/finished Baby Step #2 last summer, so yay!) Second of all, I haven’t had any kind of long-term job outside of the home in over two decades. I homeschool because I got a vision for it at age 14. So ever since I quit my job as a research technician at a med school laboratory in 1993 when I was 38 weeks pregnant with Baby #1, I’ve been home. I’ve had decades of practice at finding discipline, purposeful joy, and meaning from unpaid mundane work at home, surrounded by little people, helping them to do the same thing. Yeah it does sound boring, I admit! Sometimes the biggest highlight of the day is what comes in the mail, LOL.
I do have a rich life, if you look below the surface. It’s full of homemaking, homeschooling. and creating. It involves some cleaning, some cooking and baking, teaching, mentoring, learning from podcasts, books, videos, talking to people, blogging, writing, studying, interacting with my children, and learning about human nature from them and through my homeschool group. I’ve been connecting with people beyond my own church group and neighborhood for years. It has been chiefly through homeschool groups, in person and online. I have also connected using Zoom for years as a mentor or just to reach out to people because I moved far away into the boonies from long-time friends. Not to mention finding joy in marriage.
So yeah, my regular life is a lot like quarantine life. So, despite that funny statement by my friend, I do acknowledge that things have changed a bit since the pandemic erupted. The biggest changes are:
-I save almost two hours a day because I don’t have to drive into town twice a day for seminary class (religious instruction) for my two teens in the AM and track practice in the PM.
-we can’t go to the public library, sob! 😦 I love this post by a fellow homeschool mommy blogger, because it sums up my feelings pretty much 100%! I just blogged about two alternatives to the public library during this lockdown, and beyond, here.)
-we can’t go to our weekly homeschooling co-op 90 minutes away, instead, we’ve been meeting online
-we haven’t been gameschooling with our regular gameschool friends in person, instead we’ve met online but it hasn’t been daily. We have been gameschooling as a family on almost a daily basis to make up for it.
-the flip side of the above is that I have been playing games with our extended family and friends as they have been forced to navigate Zoom and learn how to use it for work. I’m no longer the strange one who is the only one wanting to connect via Zoom.
Also, I’ve been able to get more sleep. I do have days where I wake up and it takes a bit of time for me to register what day it is. I also confess that as I have had to get up early on some days, like 4 AM to pack a lunch for my husband while he showers and gets ready to go off to his job, with an erratic schedule, I then go back to sleep and sometimes sleep until 11 or noon. OK that was only one day I think. Other days I’ve slept until 8 of 9. It is nice not to have to get up at 6 AM every day to get to seminary at 7:30. I’ve definitely been getting more sleep.
Anyway, when the lock down first started, the days had been blurring into each other because the normal landmarks for the days of week of going to church, church youth night, homeschool co-op, book club, and other church meetings all disappeared. I know, It’s so tempting during this time to just stay in PJs all day, not paying attention to hygiene, and binge watch my favorite shows. I hear from other homeschool moms that motivation is really low right now because the end of the year events that are typically looked forward to and worked towards are gone.
A few weeks ago I realized that I didn’t want our family watching a movie every night. This quarantine wasn’t going to turn into a however-weeks-or-months-long-sleepover party. It feels better to get dressed every day as if we were going out in public and do some intentional work that looks towards the future. I am intent on thriving, not just surviving this time. We do still have a future beyond the pandemic. We have been assured by our prophet President Nelson that the temples will open again. To me, that means other things are going to open as well. President Ballard also stated that we will win the war against COVID-19. With those messages of hope I feel encouraged that life in lock down isn’t going to last forever.
So if you are looking for some structure, even zen or joy, as a homeschooling mom during this strange time I offer these suggestions of things to do each day. These will work after the restrictions for the pandemic lift as well. This in no way a “must-do” or “have-to” list. Just take what works for you and leave the rest, as they say in La Leche League. This is what is working for me. I’m ok with some bingeing during this time, of food and movies, but I’m fully treating this crisis mostly as a metamorphic, chrysalis time of domestic work, to emerge transformed for the better, and not letting myself go, with no structure whatsoever.
1. Morning Devotional
2. Schoolwork (the three Rs)
My kids do mathusee for math, Getty-Dubay handwriting for handwriting, and then read from their current assigned books for our co-op school or books they have chosen on their own to read. That’s what we’ve been doing for years, lock down or not. The teens have their scholar project work as well for writing and more reading and creating. This past year these three youngest have had some other online resources to use as well.
3. Chores/Family Work
We believe in kids doing work! They do all the dishes, putting groceries away, laundry, bathroom cleaning, dusting, and vacuuming around here. They also help with most of the meal prep, especially dinner.
4. Read Alouds
I have a set of books I read aloud for certain times of the day. These times are: dishes clean up and bedtime. Right now we are reading The Tuttle Twins, Mathematicians are People Too, a new book to defend creationism, called The Days of Darwin Truthseekers book, the ValueTales series my mom gave me years ago, and picture books I find digitally on Libby and Scribd. Those are my two online substitutes for the public library during lockdown.
I also have audiobooks on Scribd, Audible, and YouTube for when I can’t be reading aloud or want to rest my voice. For those right now we are doing The Van Der Beekers, and Under the Egg. On Sundays I have them listen to gospel-based talks by Hank, John, and Meg at Our Turtle House, during kitchen cleanup.
Playing a board/card game a day and reading at least one picture book really turns an ordinary day into an extraordinary day. This is all part of my commitment to reading aloud and gameschooling.
They are such easy, low-investment energy things that bring a lot of joy to me.
We’ve branched out to playing games online with different groups of people beyond the older kiddos who live out of the nest (who we’ve played General Conference Jeopardy! with a few times): homeschool friends, cousins, me with my sibs and parents, some family friends, and my husband and I with other couples for date nights.
If you want to try some online games over video chat, here are some suggestions.
6. Kids Free Time (and Mine too!) to explore their (and my) own interests
7. Get sunshine/nature/grounding (siting or walking outside with your bare feet touching the earth).
I currently use the Trim Healthy Mama Workins kit. Twenty minutes a day, four days a week, and boom, that’s a great workout, without leaving the house.
9. Read on your own and encourage “sustained silent reading,” (SSR)/ family chill and read time, away form screens. That means cozying up on the couches with blankets and books, digging into some great reads.
10. Create time to connect with others outside the home using video chat or phone
a. for your kids
b. for yourself as a mom
I get together once a week over zoom or phone to connect with two dear girlfriends I have known for 24+ years, for at least an hour. This connection is so refreshing for me. During regular life it was nice, but now, during the lockdown, it is vital!
11. Night-time themes. This is what I came up with after realizing I didn’t want every night to be movie night.
- Monday: Family Home Evening
- Tuesday: watch some online course as a family, like Kent and Amy Bowler’s Revolutionary Youth webinar class or the webinar Constitution Classes at Patriot Academy, from the Rick Green family.
- Wednesday: Family Chill-in Reading Night, Family Game Night or Parent Mentor Date Night.
- Thursday: Parents’ Webinar Night watching the Bowlers’ Revolutionary Parents’ class, or some other online course, such as: Dave Ramsey’s finance courses.
- Friday: Parents’ Date Night (game or movie) or Family Movie Night
- Saturday: We do either a parent mentor date afternoon or night, depending on what happened on Wednesday night, or an Extended Family Game Night, a Family Movie Night or Parents’ Date Night depending on what happened on Friday.
- Sunday: family phone calls/video chats with extended family, or inspirational, faith in God promoting, family movie night.
We’ve been doing this for over a month now and I love it! It has some anchor points as well as flexibility to move things around as other opportunities come up. One week we played the Cashflow board game three nights in a row. Another week the kids’ youth group from church met online so we didn’t do a Revolutionary Hero class that night. If the boys get too restless during the webinar nights I have them bake cookies. My daughter is happy to just draw and listen. They aren’t allowed to go do their own screen time during the webinars. I also bribe them to listen to the webinars by saying we will watch some Dry Bar Comedy afterwards if they listen to the webinar while doing crafts, drawing, or baking cookies. They can eat the cookies during Dry Bar and then we have leftover cookies for the next Family Game Night.