Keeping Kids Active and Focused While Learning at Home
April 01, 2020
Keeping Kids Active and Focused While Learning at Home
Family outdoors in sunshine

As a parent, maybe you’ve had times thinking how nice it would be just to have the kids home on a school day. No rushes through breakfast. No frantic “I just remembered I promised to bring cookies to class!” No “The dog must’ve eaten my homework!” No “Did you wash my favorite t-shirt?”

But now that those days have arrived, you’re probably looking for ways to keep your kids amused, entertained and engaged. Most schools have made or are making assignments, either through the internet or phone calls. But those activities certainly don’t take up all those hours.

With that in mind, we’ve come up with some ideas. Do take to heart, though, that kids don’t need to be scheduled every second. And if you’re doubting your homeschooling skills (or, in your mind, lack thereof), remember this: A lot of learning takes place that has nothing to do with books and rulers.

As Jennie Weiner, an associate professor of educational leadership and mother of third-grade twins, wrote in The New York Times, “Out of respect for their amazing teachers, I’m making a good-faith effort to get my kids to do the work that’s been sent home, but that does not come anywhere close to filling what would have been a school day. After accomplishing the bare minimum, the agenda is to survive and watch too much TV. We are eating cookies and carbs and hoping for the best. We are loving one another and trying not to go insane.”

And this, posted on Facebook by a mom who’s been homeschooling for 12 years: “Please don’t expect (your children) to spend six to eight hours of school per day. Let them sleep late; it’s good for their immune system. No need to get dressed. Let them talk about what they want to work on. Include one hour outside. Spend one hour reading.”

Former Richardson resident Laura Wilgus Reese, a mother of three now living in Estes Park, Colorado, finds such words comforting: “I am grateful for the work teachers have assigned and we get that done, but beyond that, we are just enjoying the time together and being thankful for what we have,” she says. “We’ve built Legos with Daddy, baked cookies, played in the snow. Maybe this forced slow-down is a good thing.”

Read on for some ideas:

Remember your ABCs

North Texas mom Mary Dunklin and her 10-year-old daughter Lily are going through the alphabet with activities. On the second day of no school, in keeping with the second letter of the alphabet, they baked banana bread and made bracelets. Here’s Mary’s Facebook post for days seven and eight:

“G is for Geology, which really only means we painted rocks. We did put inspirational “G” words/phrases on them though. H is for Hiking, which is something we’ve been doing a lot of lately! Finding lots of hidden trails off the beaten path.”

Mary does offer this caveat: “Keep things age-appropriate. Lily is 10 and she self directs what we do for the alphabet each day. If I had a 4- or 5-year-old, I would pick simpler things for them, or maybe just do one thing a day.”

Rethink TV

Though you obviously don’t want your kids to spend all the livelong day staring at the screen, a little TV of the educational variety can be a good thing. And what better place to find that than PBS? Its local affiliate, KERA, has changed daytime formatting to offer learn-at-home options. Watch them on Channel 13 or stream them on

Make up a nature scavenger hunt

This can vary depending on the ages of your children, but you might have them decide on and find two examples of opposites: a smooth and rough rock, for instance. Or a wet chunk of dirt (a.k.a. mud) and a dry clump. Or let them pick five letters of the alphabet or maybe five colors, and find a nature item to match each one.

Teach some stuff they’ll use forever

True, many math equations or science words learned in school will be lost to the ages once the semester ends. But not tasks like sewing on a button, or doing laundry, or making spaghetti or baking cookies.

Write letters

Want to make someone’s day? Write a letter, a real letter with a pen and paper and drawings of flowers in the margins, if you’d like. Let kids write to their best friend, whom they probably haven’t seen in weeks. Or to their piano teacher or homeroom teacher. Or to a grandparent.

Lynn Brink is the activities director at The Village at Mapleshade, an assisted living facility in Plano. Social distancing and mandated precautions are keeping residents isolated, and they’re lonely, she says, and they’re lonely. Lynn posted on Facebook, suggesting to parents that they ask their kids to write letters.

Similarly, set aside five minutes a day for journal entries. What did the kids do today? How are they feeling? What and who do they miss?

Create a chore list

Let the kids decide on the chores — raking leaves, unloading the dishwasher, folding towels — and enlist their help writing the duties on a big poster board, with a place for giant checkmarks or gold stars.

Have fun

When was the last time you did a jigsaw puzzle together, or played Monopoly, or rode bikes around the block, or put the couch cushions on the floor and napped in the middle of the afternoon? Cherish this time; eventually, it will be over … and you’ll be left with an empty house and lots of happy memories.

Want more? Check out these websites:

Scholastic Learning at Home

Virtual Museum Tours

Printable worksheets:

PBS for Parents

National Geographic for Kids

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