With the recent announcement from the UK government of the closure of schools for all but essential workers, we know some parents are dreading the practical implications of what this will mean for their family. While I am sure some parents will be delighting in the prolonged holiday together many parents are wondering how they can help keep their children’s education moving forward and continue working from home as well.
As a parent who works from home and who has also schooled our children at home over several years I hope the following will be of help.
1) Don’t panicIn times of uncertainty it is easy to panic as we try to work out how things will work. Our attitude should not be one of panic, but one of trust and faith in God. He will bring us through this time stronger and more ready to bring His kingdom to the world. When you take this attitude, your children will pick up on it and find the same strength in the Lord.
It would be easy to let the days slip away accomplishing little, with everyone growing increasingly frustrated with each other in the home as cabin fever sets in.
Here is a structure that we have found works well to help us all focus and be productive:
08:30 Morning devotion as a family
09:00 School work
13:00 Afternoon activities
I have given some more details and ideas on each of these sections below.
Children Can will be producing a daily thought for the day for families during this challenging time. Our resource Give Me 5 also has loads of great ideas that you can use to meet God together.
b) School work
Many parents first thought is what work should I get my children to do instead of school? Hopefully your child’s school will help by providing them work to do in this time. However, if they don’t or if you feel it is not sufficient then we would recommend finding some workbooks that your children can work through. For example, those produced by Schofield and Simms or CGP.
By having a set target for each day, your children know how long they have to work for before they can get on with the rest of the day. We insist our children do their set work for each day. Depending on the age of your children they may be able to
c) LunchOkay, so we know what lunch is, but why not encourage your children to make food for the family.
The government advice is changing daily, so the following reflects current advice, though it may change in the near future. Assuming no one in your home is sick and you do not have another reason to self-isolate, then aim to go out each afternoon.
Take your children out to some wide-open spaces to run around, get some fresh air and burn up energy. If you have a trampoline, let them bounce, if you have bicycles go for a ride, if you have a forest near you go exploring. The options are endless. As a friend of ours says there is no inappropriate weather to go out in, only inappropriate clothing!
Let this be guilt-free time together as a family. Don’t worry about your other responsibilities from work (more on this below), but treasure the time you have together.
3) A new work life balanceThe above structure can provide structure to help you work from home as well if you need to. In the morning you can sit round a table together all getting on with your work. Then in the afternoon take a couple of hours off to be with your children before making up the hours in the evening to continue your work if necessary. These are extraordinary times and we do not expect this to be the new pattern of life for the long term, so don’t miss out on that precious time with your children while you can.
a) For younger children
Younger children will clearly need much more supervision and can’t just be left to get on with things. As such, we recommend you look at ways you can ‘job share’ with another adult, allowing you some focussed time with your child and some undistracted time doing your work. In our home my wife and I had set times to watch the younger children while the other could get on with work. This kind of teamwork makes it possible to accomplish much.
While we are aware that electronic devices provide a great distraction for children, allowing us as parents to get on with what we need to do, I would encourage you to put very specific boundaries in place to restrict the use of electronics in this time. Without clear boundaries it would be very easy for the next four months of your child’s life to be wasted on electronics, to the detriment of their own development.
For the boundaries you may want to consider, no electronics before 3pm (or whenever you return from your family outing). At this point you can get on with some more of that work that needs to be done. Watch episode 10 on series 2 of At Home with God to hear more about this.
c) Engaging projects
This is a great time for your child to develop interests that they would not normally have time to do. Discuss with your children projects that interest them that they can do in their spare time.
· Arts & craft
· Learn a musical instrument
· Take on a construction project in the garage
· Sorting out their room
· Labelling drawers in the play area
· Creating a ‘dream for the future’ mindmap
· Decorate their bedroom
· Read a book – now would be a perfect time for them to read our series, God’s Generals for Kids.
We will come through this time. It will end. Let’s see the positive possibilities in this season and make the most of them. Let’s aim to be stronger and closer as a family than when it begins. Let’s put God at the very heart of our homes and turn to Him in this time like never before.