When school closed in March, I created a schedule for our weekdays to accommodate school at home. I, personally, thrive with a schedule. I knew that my boys were used to following a classroom schedule at school. I agree with the opinion that structure brings freedom. Our days might be predictable, but the flow we’ve created is important. The boys know what to expect and what it is next. The schedule is a guideline. It’s not household law, not written in stone. It is flexible and adaptable. I’m certainly learning as I go!
A month into our time at home, I decided to give Graham more structure to his schoolwork. Up until that point, I’d been printing busy work to keep Graham occupied while I focused on Owen’s kindergarten work. I ordered Graham a preschool workbook and was surprised to see him dive into it with enthusiasm. He has impressed me with his attitude and aptitude. Graham’s workbook is bright, colorful and easy because it’s for a preschooler. However, it turns out it’s also extremely distracting to a kindergartner who is working on black and white worksheets. For two weeks, I struggled with Owen being distracted by Graham’s work. I would stop to explain something to Graham and Owen would just freeze. He’d quit doing his work and just start watching Graham. It was perplexing to me that Owen went from being able to do his own work in a classroom of twenty-one students to needing me to watch him write every letter or number. The second I stopped watching him, he stopped working. Why? I have no clue. I’ll be honest, my frustration level rose. I wasn’t doing well teaching two learning levels at the same time.
This led me to make a change. I rearranged our homeschool schedule to allow for one-on-one time at the table to do age specific work with each boy. Our day starts together on the rug in the living room – we talk about the date, the weather, say the pledge of allegiance, we pray together, and we sing and dance to worship songs on YouTube. Then we divide up to do table work. One child gets alone time to play while the other gets one-on-one time to do schoolwork. There is value in giving individual attention to each boy. There is also value in giving space so they can have time alone. In a season where we are together a lot, this new structure adds two elements that have been missing. After we’ve worked at the table, we come back together on the couch to read books and do 10 minutes of educational apps (IXL or ABCmouse). We close our school time with a craft or science activity and play a board game. All of this happens in less than two hours a morning.
This was our first week with the new flow and it worked well. I told the boys if we had four good days of school in a row then they could have a special sleepover in Owen’s room on Thursday night. They did a great job rising to the occasion. The reward at the end of the week helped them to embrace the change with positive attitudes. Throughout this process of schooling at home, I’ve made changes along the way. I often wonder about what my boys will remember from this time. I’m doing my best to make sure it’s as positive as possible. The sleepover reward at the end of the week was a major success and they are already hopeful that they can earn another sleepover next week.
We are also celebrating another reward becoming a reality in our household. Owen has been saving money since the beginning of the year. At the beginning of April, he latched on to the idea of buying a fish. He worked hard to do extra chores around the house and prove he is responsible. We told Owen that he wouldn’t be able to go into a pet store until May and that he would need to work hard and be patient. With the announcement that the stay home order is extended through May 31st in Washington State, we knew our six year old would have a hard time waiting until June to go to the pet store.
I started to explore a way to get Owen his desired fish by sending Jeremy into a pet store and then video chatting with Owen so he could select his fish. After calling multiple pet stores, I soon realized that most aren’t carrying live fish at this time. It was a shocking discovery. Owen was concerned, but I’ve been impressed with his readiness to accept current conditions. He knows that things are different right now. After talking with three pet stores, I finally found one locally that had betta fish in stock. So to stimulate the local economy and for the mental health of our six year old, we went fish shopping. Jeremy video chatted with Owen so that Owen could have the joy of selecting the exact fish he wanted. We got a new tank, some fish food and took off for home with Benny the Betta in tow. I’ll keep you posted on the new adventures of Benny (may he live long and prosper).
It seems like each week brings change to process. The world is different these days and we are adapting. While I’m usually not a fan of change, I am thankful for how rewarding these changes can be. We are working hard, doing the best we can, and celebrating the wins as they come!