School’s Out Forever

Thank you, Alice Cooper.

The quarantine has been difficult, but also exhausting a bonding experience. Since kids’ lives aren’t jampacked with sports, piano lessons, school clubs, and 36 birthday parties a month, they have time to ride their bikes and play together (if they’re siblings or stay 6 feet apart). They also have time to beg Mom or Dad to play soccer/baseball/chess/Texas Hold ‘em/Mario Kart with them every 12.4 seconds.

Nestled quietly in their couch cushion fort, the kids have settled into the routine of sleeping late, eating actual breakfasts (instead of a granola bar as they run for the bus), and not going to school. Sure, you can let the older ones loose with their laptops and the school’s online curriculum, but when it comes to the younger kids and the ones who need a little supervision, you’re going to have to teach them.

Don’t panic

As Douglas Adams wrote, “Don’t panic.” You can do this. After all, you went to school — 47 years ago. And you’ve been teaching your kids since birth, right? To help you cope with the addition of teacher to your already immense job description of parent, launderer, cook, scullery maid, dog walker, cat box cleaner, referee, dance partner, confidant, and medic, we’ve compiled some handy tips.

Here are a few things to consider when homeschooling your kids. Some are dos; some are don’ts. Some just are.

Geography:

  • That country across the pond is called the UK (United Kingdom), not Britain, Great Britain, or England — I think.
  • There are 7 or 8 continents, depending on who you talk to. One of them may be partially submerged.
  • Panama owns the Panama Canal.
  • East Germany is no more. Remove it from all punchlines, Dad.
  • It’s Istanbul, not Constantinople.

Math:

  • Demonstrate subtraction with the help of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. It’s math, but tastier.
  • Tangrams never fit back in the box the way they came out.
  •  Draw shapes and turn them into robots, creatures, or just silly designs. It’s a great way to learn and drawing helps some kids learn better. It’s also fun to watch.
  • Speed quizzes can be a fun way to keep kids on their toes. “What’s 4 + 7?” is a great way to wake up a sleeping child.
  • Are the kids annoying you? Dumb question. Roll a pair of dice and have them run around the house (outside) that number of times. Bonus: They get fresh air and you get quiet.

Science:

  • King Phillip came over for good spaghetti = Kingdom/ phylum/ class/ order/ family/ genus/ species
  • My very eager mother just served us nine pizzas = Mercury/ Venus/ Earth/ Mars/ Jupiter/ Saturn/ Uranus/ Neptune/ Pluto?
  • You can learn how to make a tornado in a cup on YouTube.
  • It’s not a Brontosaurus. It’s probably a Brachiosaurus, unless it’s an Apatosaurus — or a Diplodocus. Psst, Jurassic Park is on somewhere.
  • For the relentlessly inquisitive, tune in to the Science Channel and watch How It’s Made. Seriously, watching them make bulk chocolate, topographical maps, or pantyhose can be mesmerizing. It’s better than an in-home hypnotist and you might even learn something.

English:

  • Mad Libs are a fun way to teach parts of speech. Your little ones will love picking silly words to fill in the blanks and you’ll all have a laugh. Warning: Be prepared for fart jokes.
  • For older kids, find writing prompts online or make some up yourself and let them write stories of their own. Add art class by asking them to illustrate their tales.
  • Ask them to read a book. Bonus: It’s quiet. Short stories are ideal for short attention spans. And for the reluctant to read? Comic books count.
  • Find all the small words in a big word.
  • Think of all the words you know that start with T or D or (fill in your favorite letter).

Miscellany:

  • Find an online foreign language dictionary and write the names of household objects. Tape them to the window, shelf, dog, or hamster, and practice Spanish or German or French. There’s also Rosetta Stone or Muzzy if you’d prefer the kids DIY it.
  • The Animaniacs have a great video where they sing all the nations in the world. It’s on YouTube.
  • Learn the 50 states and capitals. The capital of Oregon is Oregon City, right?
  • Learn the parts of the body. If you have a Halloween skeleton, use that. You can get more detailed with older kids. Ankle becomes metatarsal, and so on. Label the parts — in Spanish.
  • Name that tune! Play the beginnings of songs and let the kids guess. Bonus: Play songs they don’t know and give them the wrong answers.
  • Reinforce measuring skills by asking your kids to make dinner. Biiiiig win.
  • Jigsaw puzzles are great spatial exercises. Start small and work your way up to a 1000-piece all-white jigsaw, if your kids are super puzzlers or you want to punish them.

Some of these ideas may seem cruel, but so is working full time, keeping house, doing yard work, and breaking up fights, all while teaching your kids… every day… with no end in sight.

Buy wine.  

Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash

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