5 Ideas for the Reluctant Home-Schooling Parent

I expected to be on a beach in the Dominican Republic at this time for Spring Break. Instead, I am trapped inside, attempting to work from home and keep my four children entertained, if not educated. I fully realize that I am very blessed in that I am still employed, I have the ability to work from home, I am healthy, my family is healthy, and we have plenty of food, water, and electricity. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t challenging. 

The stress level in our house grows proportionally to the number of days we are cooped up together. The kids are antsy, bored, confused, and scared. I’m antsy, bored, confused, and scared. But, we’re getting by and trying to find the silver linings in this gargantuan storm cloud.

Faced with a few weeks (or months!) off school, I feel obligated to provide some semblance of educational activity. I lack the patience and creativity to be a teacher, so carefully structured schedules of instruction are out of the question. I am managing to keep the kids occupied with some enrichment however.

Thus, I present to you, 5 Ideas for the Reluctant Homeschooling Parent. (Spoiler: The winning formula is a video followed by an activity. Or just a video!) I hope these are helpful for you, as now more than ever, we are all in this together.

  1. The Driftless Region Explore the unique geological features of the area to the west of Madison by watching Mysteries of the Driftless (26 minutes). If you’re willing to venture out, you can take a field trip by visiting a state park such as Blue Mound or Governor Dodge, or just take a drive west and see what you notice.
  2. Banana Bread Science Learn about the chemistry of baking by watching The Science of Banana Bread (2 minutes) and then baking a loaf or two. Add chocolate chips if you know what’s good for you.
  3. Writing Letters Practice letter writing skills and learn how our postal service works. Watch USPS Systems at Work (9 minutes), and then have your kids write a letter or draw a picture to send to someone. Consider someone who is by themselves during this time of isolation. I had my kids write to their great-grandparents. You could also choose a Madison-area retirement community, since they are forced to restrict visitors at this time. Show how to stamp and address the envelope and put it in the mailbox.
  4. Bubble Science Discover the science of bubbles by watching Bubbles: Fun and Science (6 minutes) and then … blow bubbles! You can find some bubble recipes online, or do like I did, and use the ready-made stuff.
  5. Census 2020 Multi-task by filling out your 2020 Census with your kids! There are a ton of educational resources on census.gov broken down by age group, so you can get as ambitious as you want to. We just watched The 2020 Census Challenge video, but you can delve in deeper, especially with older kids. (Note: You can also create a “lesson” around the April 7th primary in Wisconsin, especially if you have an absentee ballot.)

Finally, a bonus idea that takes no effort at all, watch Our Planet on Netflix (or another scientific series) every day or every other day. That gives a little educational content between viewings of Frozen II.

Try incorporating these activities here and there, but don’t feel like you need to replicate the school day. The most important lessons we all can learn now are love and patience.

I’d love to hear your lazy home-schooling ideas! Hang in there, friends.

Jennifer Seeker Conroy worked for ten years as a reporter, anchor, and producer at television stations in Missouri, Iowa, and Oregon. In 2009, she moved back to her home state of Wisconsin and went on to earn an MBA from UW-Madison. Jenny now works in product management at CUNA Mutual Group and lives in Madison with her husband Tim, three sons, a daughter, two cats, and a dog. She's an avid runner, reader, and writer, and is passionate about supporting causes that benefit women and girls.

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