Learning from Home: Establishing Routines

"It may not seem like it right now, but this time together is a gift. Use it well."

SOCIAL DISTANCING & SELF-QUARANTINE WITH KIDS —
Now what do we do all day?

Did I ever think I would be writing a blog post to help parents deal with a global pandemic? No, I did not. But here we are. With Coronavirus spreading and schools all over the world shutting down, many parents are finding themselves suddenly at home with young children and nothing to do. Some schools are closed just for a couple of weeks. Others have shut down indefinitely. My own daughter’s school has closed for the next 4 weeks, possibly more.
 
I am so lucky that this won’t affect our family too much. I work from home in my spare time, and I am used to home-educating and caring for young children. I don’t have to suddenly find childcare or take an unpaid leave from my job. I honestly don’t know how families with two parents who work outside the home [or families with single parents] do it — so I’m going to try to make it easier for you.
 
I asked for input on Instagram to find out what I could provide to help you along in these next few weeks. Most people asked for some kind of daily schedule to follow or activities to do with their children. There is no one schedule or set of activities that will work for everyone, so I will be sharing several different options that you can look through to put together something that will work for you.


Keeping a consistent schedule during COVID-19 social distancing:

The main thing children will be missing when they are suddenly taking several weeks off of school is having a consistent schedule each day. Consistency helps young children to feel safe — they know what to expect at all times because it is the same every single day. Coming up with a general schedule to follow can help as you suddenly find yourself at home for weeks on end — for your children, as well as for your own sanity!
 
If you have children in Kindergarten and above, I highly recommend developing a schedule with your child’s input in mind. This will make it more likely for you child to be willing to stick to the schedule and help her take ownership of it.
 
I already have a general schedule that we follow at home since we do Montessori homeschool preschool year-round while my oldest daughter attends elementary school. We are going to be using the same general schedule while her school is closed. This is what we do:
 
  • 7-9:00am: Eat breakfast, get ready for the day. The girls get their own food, eat it, unload their clean dishes from the dishwasher, and put their dirty dishes into the dishwasher. Then they get dressed and brush teeth.
  • 9-11:30am: Homeschool Preschool Time. We head up to our Homeschool Preschool Room for a work cycle. My 4-year-old is in this room most of the time and it is set up for her. She will continue to choose work as she usually does. Now that my 6-year-old will be joining us for a few weeks, I will add a few materials that are at her age level. She will also be invited to conduct her own research projects using reference books and other materials we have while she is home from school. Her school has not sent materials to work on during the closure.
  • 11:30am-12:30pm: Make and eat lunch. The girls will make their lunches and eat, then put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher.
  • 12:30-2:30pm: Quiet Time. The girls will each go to their rooms and read or play quietly by themselves for a bit. Sometimes, my 4-year-old climbs into bed and takes a nap. This is when I work from home in my office.
  • 2:30-5:00pm: Outside Time. If it’s not raining, we try to play outside during this time. Luckily, this coronavirus pandemic has reached us just as the weather is starting to warm up. If we cannot go outside for some reason, this is free play time inside — the girls usually build with blocks, play in the dollhouse, or make art.
  • 5-6:00pm: Eat dinner. We eat dinner together as a family. The girls put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher.
  • 6-7:00pm: Showers and quiet playtime. The girls take showers and do some artwork or play quietly until it’s time for bed. If we have any screen time during the day, it would probably happen here.
  • 7-7:30pm: Bedtime for the 4-year-old. We have early bedtimes in this house! This is because my girls wake up very early naturally. When we have school the next day, my 6-year-old will also get ready for bed at this time.
  • 7-8:00pm: Quiet reading time and bedtime. When there is no school the next day, my 6-year-old can read until she is tired — until 8:00pm at the latest.
 
That’s our daily schedule, but that might not work for you! Here’s a way you could do it if you have an elementary-aged child who is suddenly home from school for a few weeks:
 
  • 7-9:00am: Eat breakfast, get ready for the day.
  • 9-11:30am: Schoolwork. If your school sent home some work to complete during the closure, do that here! If they didn’t, allow your child to conduct her own research into a topic using reference books or the internet (with your supervision). You could also use some of this time for educational screen time — I will link my favorites a bit later on in this article. If you are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can get some work done now.
  • 11:30am-12:30pm: Lunch.
  • 12:30-1:30pm: Quiet reading time. If you are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can get some work done now.
  • 1:30-3:30pm: Outside playtime. Go for a walk together, or just watch the kids play in the backyard. Get some fresh air. If you are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can take your work outside with you.
  • 3:30-dinner: Free play. Stay outside a bit longer, go in and get some chores done, or let your children play with whatever toys you usually have available. You can follow your regular after school routine here, sans extracurricular activities.
 
Or you may have younger children who are home from daycare or preschool due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Here’s a simple routine you could use for younger children without school work to do:
 
  • 7-9:00am: Eat breakfast, get ready.
  • 9-11:30am: Free playtime. Set up some “stations” around your living room with different activities your child can complete independently so you can work from home if necessary. Activity ideas will be listed a bit farther on in this article.
  • 11:30am-12:30pm: Lunch.
  • 12:30-2:00pm: Nap or quiet time. If you are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can get some work done now.
  • 2-4:00pm: Outside time. Go for a nature walk. Play in your own backyard. Dig in the dirt. If you are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can take your work outside with you.
  • 4-dinner: Free play. Stay outside, or head inside to get some chores done. You can follow your regular routine from here.


What activities can we do while we’re practicing social distancing?

The whole point of social distancing is to stay at home, away from other people, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and make it easier for hospitals to handle the influx over time. That means you are going to be spending a lot of time at home with your little ones. What do you do with all that time?

Quality Time Together

There are a lot of formal activities you can do together, but first I want to encourage you to make the most of this unexpected time with your children. Have fun! Bake cookies, read books together. Have a random dance party in the living room just because. Clean your home together. Cook something new for breakfast every day. It may not seem like it right now, but this time together is a gift. Use it well.

Written by Angela Chang, MOMtessoriLife.com 


CONSISTENCY & ROUTINES

Consistency leads to the greatest success. Children thrive with routines. They’re some of our favorite words. While children are still creating self-discipline and an inner sense of order, it’s up to us to keep things consistent and follow a routine, to help children along the path.
 
But what about when things don’t work? What then?
 
It’s a balance, as so many things are. This isn’t a cop-out. We all wish we had The Answer, all the answers, all the time. But even Maria Montessori called her work with children an experiment. We can set up conditions for success, but they’re children, not computers, and it’s parenting and guiding, not coding, and they have the right to choose to follow their own will, not the requirement of adherence to our will. We can’t always predict what’s going to happen.
 
We are consistent and we follow a routine. There are ups and downs, easier days and more learning-ful days, but are things moving in the right direction? Are we moving toward success and independence?
 
This isn’t regimented. We don’t continue with something when it’s not working. We observe, what are the children showing us? What do they need? Time, modeling, a change?
 
Consistency and routines help a child with success, that doesn’t mean every day is going to be seamless and easy, that doesn’t mean the routine will never change. Sometimes the routine needs to change. The children will show us what they need. Sometimes things don’t work. Sometimes we set up the conditions for success — the modeling, the resources, the time, the patience, the assistance — and it still just doesn’t work.
 
We don’t keep at it. We look at what’s working, what isn’t. It’s not the children’s fault, it’s our opportunity. The highest consistency, is our own, looking for what we can do to help the children more effectively.
 
Consistency and Routine doesn’t mean sticking to what doesn’t work. It means consistently looking for what will work, and sticking to it until it doesn’t, and then trying again.

Written by Charlotte Snyder, Baan Dek Montessori


ORDER

All children go through a sensitive period for order from birth to age five. This means that they are naturally inclined to work towards and crave order in their lives — for routine, consistency, predictability.


So how
do you get your kids to clean up after themselves, even as toddlers?

  • Make it the expectation: It’s just one of the family rules. If you get something out, you need to put it away before you get anything else out. Be consistent in enforcing this rule.
  • Limit the number of pieces in each work: Do you really need 1,000 Lego pieces in the bin, or will 50 do? Too many is intimidating when it comes time to clean up, so you are more likely to run into resistance.
  • Model it: If you want your child to follow the family rule of cleaning up after yourself, YOU need to follow the rule as well. Don’t throw things across the room into the right bin at the end of the day. Model the way you want your children to do it — carry things with two hands, walk slowly across the room, place items gently into bins and on shelves.
  • Connect it to song: When you finish using a work, sing a consistent clean-up song (we like the old school one from Barney, but you can sing anything you want!). Songs make rules and expectations easier to remember, and you will find your child singing the clean-up song to herself after a few weeks without any prompting by you.
  • Count objects: If your child is resisting cleaning up, sit with her and start counting the pieces as you put them away. The repetition calms the child and makes it like a game. Usually, by the time you get to four or five, the child wants to join in and starts putting the pieces in with you. Continue counting.
  • Clean up objects by color/size/shape: “Hmm… let’s put all of the purple pieces away first!” Ask your child which shape she wants to pick up first. Ask if she can find all of the big pieces.
  • Hand-over-hand: If you are still having a hard time getting your child to clean up her work, stop talking. Take her hand in yours, put it over a piece, pick it up, and guide her hand to the bin. Repeat. Do not talk. After a few repetitions, the child will usually want to continue by herself.
  • Natural consequences: If your child is continuing to resist and nothing else is working, walk away. Tell your child that she may not choose another work until she cleans up the first work. Follow through with that statement. If she gets up and tries to get something else, guide her back to the first work and remind her of the expectation. If she needs more of a “why” answer, explain that if she leaves her work out somebody may step on it or you may lose some of the pieces. [I would not use this step until about 18 months].
Know that expecting your child to clean up after herself is not an unreasonably high expectation — it is perfectly in line with natural child development and actually works to fulfill her inner need for order and predictability. Your two-year-old absolutely can be expected to clean up her work EVERY TIME, no matter where she is.

Written by Angela Chang, MOMtessoriLife.com 
 

CONSISTENT BEDTIMES

If what the experts say is true, none of us are getting enough sleep. This is especially problematic for preschoolers who need 11 hours of sleep daily. Relaxed schedules and extended outdoor play with daylight savings time makes it difficult for children to fall asleep early.
 
Children thrive on consistency and established routines. Working backward from the time a child needs to get up in the morning, dress him or herself, eat a healthy breakfast, and gather belongings for the day before heading out the door, establish the time your young child needs to be in bed nightly to get the recommended eleven hours. For many children, that time is 8 p.m.
 
Try room-darkening shades or curtains to set the stage. And start your bedtime routine earlier to calm your children and prepare them for sleep. Take a bath, brush teeth, read a story? Create a consistent routine that fits your family.
 
The peak learning time for young children is said to be about one and a half hours after sunrise. Make sure your young child is well-rested and ready for learning early in the day by getting them to bed on a regular schedule.

Written by Lynn Fisher, Founder and Former Head of School, West Side Montessori
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