An alternative title could be “Coping or thriving with kids around 24/7”. Making a conscious and lifestyle decision over eleven years ago to home school our kids means that I am used to having my kids around me 24/7. Plus, with no extended family support, meant that our kids were with me for medical appointments, shopping, and during ministry times. Not always ideal. Not always enjoyable. But somehow, we made it work.
You too can make this work.
- The attitude and atmosphere you contribute.
Early on, I realized that one of the most important things to ‘make it work’ was my attitude. How I approached it. The ‘atmosphere’ and attitude that I had always seemed to rub off on my kids. If I thought it was a hassle, they would pick up on that and seem to be unruly. If I brought peace and calm, then they adapted to the atmosphere I created.
Thus, if you see this as a time to be fearful and having the kids around is a hassle, be prepared for it to be an unsettling time with your kids emotionally. Temper tantrums, grouchy attitudes, misbehaviour, etc. If I was tired and grumpy when I got up in the morning, they picked up on that and seemed to make the morning worse. Therefore, watch your attitude and what you are bringing to your family!! read more here about how you can change the atmosphere in your home. Read here about how you are the ‘cultural architect’ in your home.
- Enough structure.
Kids need boundaries and structure. Yes, they need free play but not endless free play. They need boundaries of the major moments in the day – bedtime and meals, (wake-up time is a different story. With my teenagers, I allow them to sleep in a bit longer as I find that teenagers and toddlers need heaps of sleep as they are going through major growth spurts. Teenagers getting enough sleep helps not only their learning but also their disposition.) They need you as a parent to provide that structure. Now is not the time to allow endless bedtimes and staying up late every night. One-offs are fine if they are one-off for a special occasion eg family movie night, but not every night. Tiredness does not help create the positive atmosphere you want in your home.
Kids also need a bit of structure to their day, depending on their age. The younger they are the more important and tighter the structure needs to be. Older kids and teenagers still thrive with structure though. One of the most helpful decisions you can make is to implement a rest period early afternoon. A time when everyone goes to their bedroom or quiet place and sleeps, or plays quietly, reads etc. It is an important and valuable skill for everyone to learn to amuse themselves and play on their own plus to be quiet and not interrupt others for a certain period of time. For the very young, an hour maybe too long.
To have a visual reminder of the key ‘rocks’ in place during the day is ideal. If you fill a jar with sand and then try to add rocks, the rocks won’t go in. Put the rocks in first and the sand easily pours in around them. Work out your ‘rocks’ in your kid’s daily life and make up a chart to they can see that at 10 o’clock, they do ……, lunch at 12.30 pm etc. Trust me, you will thank me for the ease of your family life when your kids know there is a structure in place and what they need to do next.
It is school holidays here in Victoria and we usually take a break with formal schoolwork during this time. Instead, I ‘sneak’ schoolwork in using other methods. When they were younger, I made up a chart every school holiday’s where they could earn points. When they reached 1,000 points, they could choose a new book or a toy for $10 etc. Activities included: saying times tables – 50 points, reading to a younger sibling – 50 points, doing a jigsaw puzzle – 20 points, playing a card game or board game – 50 points, cooking – 100 points, writing a letter – 100 points, reading a non-fiction book – 100 points etc. In other words, I looked at those activities I wanted them to do that could help them in developing their learning in fun ways with math, English, history, geography and science. I also added extra chores like washing windows etc. Click here to see how to implement it. One family we know sets their teenagers’ creative projects each school holidays – read about it here.
When we know what is expected of us, it is easy to then do what is required. Kids need you to tell them upfront and not keep changing the playing field. To keep disciplinary measures in place, to know the consequences of misbehaviour, to know when they can interrupt your working from home, what they can help themselves to eat, to know when their next meal is likely to be etc.
- Time with you
In times of uncertainty, kids need to know their parents love them and are there for them. They need appropriate physical touch, especially at this time. They usually need extra hugs, extra time spent with you focussed on them. Make time in your day to play a board game with them, to sit and chat, to snuggle up on the couch and read a book together.
Kids need to hear laughter and have fun. Tell silly jokes (have a competition for the best joke for the day), do something fun together. I ask myself “when was the last time we heard laughter in our home?” Sometimes you may need to make the fun. Google fun activities to do every evening as a family after dinner eg getting in pairs and making the tallest tower using straws and blue-tac, lego creation competition, find ‘junk’ around the home and create something together.
- Physical activity
Kids, and parents, need to have some exercise. Get outside and do something fun and strenuous each day. For younger kids, this may be printing off a scavenger hunt for the neighbourhood or backyard, cycling around the block, taking the dog for a walk etc. Burn off that excess energy from being cooped up all day in the house.
Most family members can contribute in some way to the running of the house. Chores are a natural part of life. Now is the time to start to implement chores for each family member if you haven’t already or to look at the extra chores that need doing with everyone at home all day. Now maybe the ideal time to teach your kids to cook or vacuum or iron clothes etc. Sure, teaching them takes longer initially, but there are important life skills they need to learn. This is a fabulous opportunity to start or extend their skill level.
- Limit Screen time
Sure, you want your kids to remain connected with their friends and this may only be by technology at the moment but beware of extended screen time taking over their day. Put boundaries on when and where they can use their devices. We found that by limiting screen time, the kids were more creative, fought less, and the home was heaps more pleasant. Read here about our tv experiment when the kids were younger and here about the effects of too long on screens.
- Don’t try to home-school
If you don’t normally home-school, don’t try to do school at home. Sure, the kids may have homework they need to do. That is a priority. But don’t try and sit them down from 9 am until 3 pm to do schoolwork. That is not beneficial, and that is not how homeschooling works. Find creative ways for them to learn. Read books. Play board games and card games. Have geography competitions. Act out a story from history.
- Be kind to each other
Before your family starts to get ‘niggly’ and becomes frustrated with each other, implement a kindness challenge. Look at both kindness within your immediate family unit and also kindness to others outside the family. I find that implementing kindness with the family unit works best when we begin by pulling names out of a hat of a family member we have to do secret acts of kindness to the following day. Then the next evening, we guess who the person was that was intentionally kind to us. Here is how we implemented this.
When we turn our focus off ourselves and help others, we become less self-centred. Encourage each family member to look for a way each day to show kindness to someone outside of the family.
We have used this time for our evening meal to each share how we have been kind to someone outside our family that day and three things we are grateful for that day. When we express gratitude, it changes the atmosphere. It helps us refocus on the positive.
You can thrive during this time. Your family can thrive and start to implement some new practices that will be helpful for many years to come. Enjoy the process!!