Coronavirus Quarantine: Survival Tips From a Homeschool Mom

If your state is like mine, school has either been cancelled due to the coronavirus, or will be soon. Suddenly, we are facing the next few weeks of life spending copious amounts of time with our kids. 

Friends, this is my life. My kids and I have been together 24/7 for the past fifteen years. I don’t say that to elevate myself to the status of perfect parent, martyr or saint. It’s just our reality. I love it…most of the time. 

But if you’re like the millions of parents who either put their kids on the blessed yellow school bus or drop them off at a brick and mortar school each day, the immediate future might appear like some type of slow torture for everyone in your household. 

allen-taylor-PW3vhdyIcYA-unsplash

Let’s change that. Let’s make the next few weeks filled with fun and memories, without losing our sanity or damaging relationships. Let’s come through this stronger together and better for what we’ve been through.

Here are a few ideas that have served me well over the years:

 

  • Develop a flexible routine. Kids thrive on routine, and it can be especially helpful during unsettling times. Set a routine that will work for your family, but don’t be a drill sergeant! Leave room for life’s unpredictabilities, and throw in a few of your own, just to keep things fun, like backwards dinner (dessert first!), wear pajamas for a day, living room sleepovers, binge watching Dude Perfect, etc.
  • Teach life skills. This is an amazing opportunity to teach kids life skills! Take turns making dinner, or allow your kids to come alongside you and learn some kitchen skills. Teach them how to do laundry (my kids have been doing their own laundry for years, and let me tell you – it’s a game changer!). 
  • Switch out the toys. This was a favorite strategy that I learned from my mom when my girls were little. Divide the toys in half. Leave half of them out, and put the other half away, out of sight. Switch them out every week. It keeps the clutter down and keeps kids from getting tired of their toys!
  • Turn housework into games! We are a game-loving family – and not just board games, but turning life into games. Need to pick up the house? Do it for 15 minutes, and then take a 15 minute video game or reading break, and repeat the cycle until the house is clean. (Okay, I admit, this is the method I still use for myself as an adult!) Mop the kitchen floor wearing damp, old (clean!) socks! Pick up items with one hand behind your back. Work on cleaning up a room together, but you have to keep a balloon airborne at all times. Sure, rooms may not get cleaned to your usual standard, but hey – there’s always tomorrow…for real!
  • And don’t forget the board games! This is a great opportunity to pull some classic games out of the closet. Sometimes I get so caught up in finding the latest and greatest games that I forget about the classics. Pull out chess, checkers, or my personal favorite – Scrabble! Don’t forget Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Rummikub, SkipBo, Uno…the list is endless. For more ideas of great games, check out one of my favorite lists here
  • Take lots of breaks. My kids have always needed frequent breaks – whether it is brain breaks or activity breaks. It clears their minds and helps them reset their focus for whatever task is next. Our breaks come in many forms – snack breaks, music breaks, breaks to go swing, breaks to do a little online shopping, breaks to play with pets, and breaks to snuggle with a parent. 
  • Above all, implement mandatory down time!!! I cannot stress this enough, as you’re going to be together…A LOT. My mother-in-law shared this nugget of wisdom with me early on in our parenting journey, and it has been the single, best element that we have consistently incorporated into our daily routine over the years. Every day, without fail, we have “rest time.” For an hour and a half, we hang out in our own rooms (I hang out in the living room, normally). During that hour and a half, my kids read for 45 minutes and then play their device for 45 minutes. And during that hour and a half…I REST. It sounds indulgent, maybe, but being with my kids 24/7, I needed (and still need) that daily break. Sometimes I read, sometimes I surf the internet, and sometimes I nap. I try my best, though, to consciously set that time aside for a reset and not use it to catch up on housework. Interestingly, even though my kids are now both teens, they still request this down time every day. They need it just as much as I do. 

Friends, we’ll get through this. Let’s commit to making the next few weeks unforgettable for all the best reasons. Let’s be smart, not create an atmosphere of fear, and set our families up to thrive and make beautiful memories during an unpredictable season of life. 

Find Your Sunshine

This morning, I laid down directly in the sunshine and soaked in it’s warmth for about 15 minutes…on my living room floor. In February. Trying to protect my space from being invaded by sunshine-seeking felines.

church-of-the-king-e6ZlCzBnGWI-unsplash

It’s not exactly a Florida beach, but it’s about as close as we’re going to get on this sub-zero Wisconsin winter day.

It’s easy to complain about the weather. We’ve just about run out of places to pile our snow. We’re weary of yet another six a.m. shoveling session. The temperature isn’t even going to break single digits today.

But there’s still sunshine.

I have a mountain of laundry to fold in my bedroom. Boxes of less important items from our move beg to be unpacked. There’s a plethora of productive possibilities in any given room of our house.

But I choose to lie in the sunshine.

Because it is good for my soul. I know the vitamin D absorption, indirect and minimal as it may be, is balm for my sun-starved body. I know that lying on the carpet and just being – not scrolling through social media or trying to accomplish anything purposeful – is a good break for my ever-churning brain. And quite honestly, it’s good for my children to see that you can take a break to enjoy the sunshine, even when you are an adult.

Today, I encourage you to find your sunshine. If you are lucky enough to have actual sun rays shining into your house today, bask in it. Lie on the floor. Let your little ones pile on you as you soak in the warmth of the sun and their little bodies. Cuddle with your pet. Share the space with a loved one in companionable silence, or just enjoy a few moments of having that little sunny spot all to yourself.

And if the sun isn’t shining where you are, seek it out in other ways. Marvel in the brilliance of new snow, a stormy beach, a favorite smell, or the coziness of a favorite blanket. 

Find your sunshine, and allow it to nourish your soul.

Freedom from Busyness: Part 1 – Know (and Respect!) Your Limits

It was auction day at work. I needed to leave extra early that day to make sure that I had time to park in a field far from our office, catch a shuttle, and still be at my desk on time. The thing was, I was already late. Habitually, I would sleep until the last possible minute, throw myself together, and careen out the door at a time that would get me to the office at exactly 8 a.m. No sooner, no later.

I sped along our country highway for approximately two minutes before I saw it: the telltale flashing lights of a police car in my rear view mirror. I was doomed. I knew the speed limit was 55 miles per hour. I knew I was going well over that speed limit. Now I would not only be late, but I would also most likely be issued a hefty fine for breaking the law.

auto-automobile-blur-532001.jpg

I knew my limits, blew right past them, and paid the price. 

Although I haven’t had a ticket since that long ago experience, I have spent much of my life living in a similar manner. I knew my limits – what I could handle while remaining healthy physically and mentally, but that wasn’t enough. I always needed to work harder, take the project to the next level, squeeze that extra event into the day, say “yes” to another commitment…the list goes on. In the end, someone would end up paying the price, whether it was myself dealing with tension headaches and exhaustion, my kids dealing with an exhausted, snappish momma, or my husband taking on extra work for an overextended wife.

The hustle and bustle of the average American life was not healthy for me or our family. I felt overwhelmed by our schedule and exhausted by the many demands on my time. I needed room to breathe, space in our schedule to go for a leisurely stroll or bike ride, and time to sprawl out on the furniture together watching a show. I needed change.

One of the first steps that I took toward a slower and simpler life was to know and respect my own limits. The old “oxygen mask” adage rings true in this situation: I needed to put on my own mask (in this case, respect my limits and take care of myself) before I put on my family members’ masks. I needed to establish boundaries as to what was healthy and manageable for me as a parent, chauffeur, employee, and all the other hats I wore every day.

How does one go about setting limits, though? What does that look like? Here’s where it gets a little tricky, because everyone is wired differently. As an introvert and highly sensitive person (HSP), my personal limits may look much different than those of an extrovert. However, there are some general questions that everyone can ask themselves when it comes to setting healthy limits:

  • Do I feel overwhelmed and exhausted much of the time?
  • Am I able to consistently spend time in God’s Word?
  • Am I spending quality, unscheduled time with my family on a regular basis?
  • Do I have time to pursue my interests?
  • Do I have time for those relationships that are important to me?
  • Do I have time to practice self care?

Take some time to think through those questions. Jot down some thoughts on areas where you would like to see change – more family time, more time to practice self care, etc. Next week we will start to tackle the nitty gritty on how to simplify your schedule and create room for a healthier you and a slower, simpler life!

 

 

 

A Few of My Favorite Things: February

February is here, and with it comes the reality that winter is still very much with us, as well as the hope that spring is just around the corner. Somehow, the anticipation of warmer weather seems to make February that much longer and the weather that much crueler around here. Fresh snow makes us sigh instead of smile, the delight of hot cocoa by a warm fire is wearing off, and even cold sunshine seems like a rare and wonderful gift.

In light of the doldrums of February, here are a few little things that are making this dreary month a little more bearable for me!

pexels-photo-274778

  1. Darn Tough socks. There is nothing like warm socks to combat cold weather. My husband has been wearing Darn Tough socks for a year or two now, and I was so very excited to receive multiple pairs of them for Christmas so I could start building my own collection! They truly keep my feet warm, come in an array of cute designs, and have the most incredible lifetime guarantee (we have used this with great results). Check them out here!
  2. Rereading Little WomenI received this beautiful edition of Little Women for Christmas, and although I had read the book many times as a teen, I had never read it as an adult. I picked it up recently and Oh. My. Goodness. Reading it as a parent rather than a teen was a completely different experience. Rather than just enjoying the story line as I did during my teen years, I was struck by the amount of real wisdom that Louisa May Alcott tucks into the pages and surprised by the depth of emotion it invoked in me.
  3. Percolated coffee. I had been a French press coffee girl for years, but grew tired of the somewhat tedious process of making it every morning. (Mornings are hard, people!) Thus began the search for a coffee-making device that offered the convenience of a traditional coffee maker without sacrificing the smooth, rich flavor of the coffee. Oh, and it had to be fairly inexpensive, too. Enter the electric percolator. I can prep it the night before, plug it in when I wake up, and within minutes I have a delightful, smooth cup of coffee.
  4. The First 5 app. Again, mornings are hard, and I have struggled for years with developing a consistent quiet time with God in the morning. The First 5 app is perfect for me right now – it gets me in the Word and shares practical life applications related to the reading, and it is all right there on the app. Because even opening books and turning pages is sometimes beyond me in the morning…
  5. This Is Us. I am completely hooked on this show (and I am not normally a TV watcher). The plot line, the depth of the characters, the unexpected twists and turns…Jack’s death (a mystery no more!). It is all SO. GOOD.

So, those are a few things that are taking a little out of the “brrr” in February for me…I would love to hear what a few of your favorite things are right now, too!

Hitting the Pause Button…

Earlier this week, I was reminded of an important truth through my own current situation, and I feel the need the hit the “pause” button to share it before moving forward with this Freedom series.

I recently had an appointment with my wellness provider to discuss doing a “system reset” for my body. I walked out of the appointment with some great supplements, a list of “approved” foods (low carbs and no sugar), and the assignment of meeting with a personal trainer to set up a strength-training regimen. Oh, and don’t forget to do yoga, too. And I need to reduce my stress. Oh, and you should get this all done before we meet again in three weeks.

Needless to say, about a week into these assignments, I found myself completely frustrated and reaching for the M&Ms even more than before. I poured out my frustration to my husband one evening, wondering why I had zero motivation to work out, eating healthy was overwhelming, and I was more stressed out than ever.

My husband, in his wisdom, had the answer:

Their solutions and expectations don’t fit your current life situation.

He was absolutely right. From their point of view and in their current life situations, the things they were asking me to do were completely doable. However, I am in the thick of raising and homeschooling two tweens, running them to their activities, working, blogging, and everything else that comes with running a household. My cup runneth over, proverbially speaking, without adding in a complete lifestyle change.

I have been mulling over that truth all week, and as I continue writing this series on freedom, please know that I understand that it is not a “one size fits all” solution. We all have unique life situations, and what works great for me is not going to necessarily be the best solution for you.

However, moving forward, my hope is that you can glean a helpful bit here and there that you can apply to your own life, or adapt an idea to incorporate it into your life situation. After all, the goal is FREEDOM, and how can we be free if we are stuck in the bondage of systems that aren’t practical for us? So, ignore what doesn’t work for you, and adapt upon what does.

I will be doing the same with my health assignments. They are all great goals, but tackling them all at once is an insurmountable task, combined with daily life. So, I am going to tackle them bit by bit, doing what is feasible, and giving myself permission to cast aside what is impractical in my life right now. My first goal? Get more sleep. Right now, I can completely handle that challenge. 🙂