Week five over. Or is it week six. How many weeks are left? Honestly, I’m at a loss for a sense of normalcy at this point, and those memes about it being Blursday the fourteenth of Julcember are really hitting home with me. When the school first announced that they were going to honor school vacation, I had so many emotional reactions. Most of them negative. However, now that we are in vacation week, and I don’t have school work to look over, Zoom chats to facilitate, or schedules to define, I have to say this was a great decision.
There is a downside however. The location hasn’t changed, though the day to day has, and that can be a little confusing to the tiny ones. I find we are all missing the comfort of the schedule, which is however still written in erasable ink. There’s a lot of free time right now and we are running out of puzzles. Having been a participant in pseudo homeschool for the past few weeks, however, I find that just looking around our daily life, we are all incorporating some learning in now matter what we are doing.
My eldest son is researching the care and keeping of pigs in Northern New England, in the hope of convincing his father to raise pet pigs. He is coming up with a list of care needs, mapping out the space needed, and figuring out how to look after farm animals in the winter.
My middle son has raided my scrapbook paper and is working on a thousand and one art projects. He is making his own puzzles, making and destroying his own “Coronas,” he is even writing teeny tiny letters to everyone in the house.
So while homeschool is in recess, the learning continues, and I am left a moment to breathe and ponder a few things saving my sanity right now.
Animal Crossing New Horizons. We purchased this game for the switch just as the quarantine in Maine was beginning, and it has been a game changer. Each member of the family, from four to thirty-eight, has a profile, and we each get a little game time each day. We get extra time for extra school work done, or chores completed. It’s a way of turning off our brains, but still engaging with each other. It’s the first time we’ve ever played a game like this together, and it is way more fun than I thought it would be.
See My Feelings Mirrors. We received these mirrors to review for GeekMom and I am shocked at how useful they have been for this period of homeschooling. A full set includes four mirrors, each with 6 different feelings tabs that flip out to the side. The workbook comes with some exercises to help kids identify what their emotions are and how to deal with them. While the activities are great, we have found them to be exceptionally useful for a family that is currently living on top of each other. If one of the kids is having trouble expressing how they are feeling, they grab a mirror, flip up the appropriate tab, and show it to the person they are trying to communicate with. If they feel like they are not being understood, they likewise grab the mirror. This helps them communicate, and helps the person they are talking to understand that they need to stop and listen with their ears. The biggest usage for us right now, however, is with fraying tempers. When frustration starts to build, the kids (and parents) are encouraged to grab a mirror and flip it to the angry face, and hold it high. This will tell everyone around them that they are angry right now, probably not feeling reasonable, and that a calm, listening body is needed to walk through this situation. We laid out some ground rules early on, and this has been an invaluable tool for our teeny, tiny living space right now.
Frixion Erasable Markers. Honestly, I have been a fan of Frixion erasable pens for years, and have tried out all possible offerings from the company. But the erasable markers have proven to be most useful for pseudo homeschool. You can buy a small set at Target, or the giant pack through Amazon. We started with one and ended up ordering the other. We use these for everything. I write out the schedule with them, we add and remove daily tasks with them. We use them during art work. We use them when designing our own puzzles. We use them to write letters to friends. My kids love the variety of colors they now have, and they love that they can make mistakes that aren’t permanent. Yes, I know that pencils can accomplish the same thing, but these pens are just so cool.
Wisdom From Mom. In full disclosure this was written by GeekMom’s own Jenny Bristol. When I find that my personal stores of common sense are running low, I can pick this up, read a couple of pages, and get instant perspective. When I was growing up, the mom’s rule of law was always things like, don’t talk to strangers, don’t drink hot tea through a straw, don’t go out with wet hair. Jenny gives us things like, “Things are meant to be used, so use the things you love,” which is how we’ve had so much fun playing with my stock pile of washi tape over the past few weeks. She gives us, “You have a unique perspective on everything; don’t bury that.” It’s also full of timely wisdom, given that Jenny is a voluntary homeschooler: “In the end, it’s your responsibility to make sure they get the education they need.” I’m finding Jenny’s pearls of wisdom provide me a moment of sanity when I start spiraling. It’s also a great tool for high schoolers, and I plan on sending each of my kids to college with a copy, especially my eldest child, who has yet to master the art of common sense!
My Address Book. Honestly my kids have appalling handwriting. It’s genetic; their dad has the same handwriting now that he had in second grade. With so much to work on at school, it’s not exactly a focus of the core curriculum. But it can be in homeschool. Every day we write a letter to someone; we even have a schedule for that. Monday we write to their classroom teachers; Tuesday we write to a friend; Wednesday we write to a family member in England; Thursday we write to a family member in the U.S.; Friday we write to someone from church. We have a cheat sheet on how to write a letter, so they don’t get hung up on what to say, and we have fountain pens to teach proper pen control. The kids are enjoying it, the recipients are enjoying it, and their handwriting improves a little each day. It’s a personal goal of pseudo homeschool to send my eldest son to middle school this fall with readable handwriting!
Vacation in pseudo homeschool may be a little light on schedules, but it’s still heavy on the basics: we read, we play games, we go fishing on remote islands with our flimsy fishing rods and pray that we catch an oar fish not a boot. We are not yet running out of toilet paper, just patience with the singing of Happy Birthday, which my eight year old will not exchange for anything else. Now if someone could send Thai food to this delivery-free area of Maine, I think I’d be ready for next week.