This is not the post that I intended to write this week. But, looking at my editorial calendar now feels like looking at a document written by someone else, ages ago.
Lent is certainly not going as I had anticipated. Life is not going as I anticipated. I feel that I am for the first time understanding what St. James meant when he said,
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business, and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow!” (James 4:13-14)
And so, I am trying to adjust to this new reality. To spending all day at home with my family. To going out into the world rarely. To watching streaming services. To planning ways to teach my fourth graders remotely.
I thought that I would share a few things that are working so far for our family in this new reality. They may not work next week or the week after that. And, that’s ok. But for now, they are helping us adjust.
I share in the hope that you may find something that encourages you or an idea to try. I absolutely do not want to cause any stress or pressure, so if something doesn’t appeal to you, don’t try it. There are just some ideas. May God bless you as you help your family during these times.
What Is Working For Our Family in Social Distancing
1.A Super Flexible Routine
As a teacher, I know that kids thrive on structure and routine. As a Type A person, I know that I thrive on structure and routine. But, I also know that I set myself up for failure if I try to impose a strict routine on myself and my family.
So, all of those pretty sample schedules that you see floating around Instagram and Facebook right now? Not really my thing.
Instead, our day has general patterns, not set times in which to accomplish a task.
For example, our mornings look something like this:
-Up, dressed, and at breakfast table
-Eat breakfast and divide up chores on today’s chore list
-Family Chore Time
The amount of time for any given activity varies, but the order tends to stay the same.
2. A Chore Chart
On the plus side, my house has never been this clean! As a work-outside-the-home- mom, cleaning is often the lowest priority on my daily to-do list.
Since we are all home together, though, I just add chore time to our schedule.
This weekend I made a list of chores for each day.
For example, Mondays are focused on the children’s bedrooms, and so the chores are things like: tidy bedrooms, dust bedrooms, vacuum bedrooms, vacuum upstairs hallway and staircase, etc.
At breakfast, each child chooses two chores from the day’s list. Chore time happens immediately after breakfast. I supervise and help out as needed/ do another chore in the same area. If my husband is at home, he helps as well.
Super simple, and it takes us around 30 minutes each day. Just in case you need some inspiration, here is my basic schedule for cleaning:
Wednesdays–Parents’ Bedroom and Living Room/ Dining Room
Thursdays–Kitchen and Entryway
Fridays–Basement (which is our den)
Saturdays–Touch up house (vacuum high traffic areas, wipe down bathrooms, etc.)
3. Streaming Music
I have found that the entire attitude and atmosphere of our house is helped by streaming Ancient Faith Radio. We do this for much of the day, though we may switch to classical music or to a Disney soundtrack at various points in the day.
4. Daily Readings and Saint of the Day
Another of the upsides to being home all day is that we have no excuses now for not focusing on our spiritual lives.
The kids are often working on writing during this time, and then we talk about the passages afterward. Very simple. Very helpful.
5. Checking in With Family
We live far away from our extended family, so we have been using some of our time at home to connect with them. Here are a few ways we have done this or anticipate doing so:
-Kids are writing letters and making cards for cousins
-Letters to aunts and uncles
-Phone calls to grandparents
-Zoom conference calls with cousins
-Birthday cards for relatives
6. Getting Outdoors
I firmly believe that time spent outdoors is a necessity for humans, and especially children. So, we’ve been outdoors as much as possible. We have an outdoor time in our morning schedule and in our afternoon schedule.
Here are a few things we’ve done/ plan to do:
-go on hikes in state parks, nature preserve, and parks near us
-climb trees in the yard
-dig in the dirt
-make trails in the woods near us
-make nature “soup” (take a bowl and put anything in it that you find outside, add water, stir, and pretend it is soup)
-take pictures of beautiful things that we see or find
-carve items from sticks and wood found near the house
-have a simple scavenger hunt
-start a rock collection
-research birds in our area and look for them using binoculars
-use sticks to make words and letters
-use our imaginations
Many of these activities are kid-directed and take little or no parental involvement. Those are the best kinds of activities because they help children build their imaginations, their social skills, their attention, and their confidence.
7. Quiet Time
Mandatory quiet time. What beautiful words! Every day we have 1-2 quiet times in our schedule (depending on attitudes, sleep needed, etc.).
I send the kids to separate rooms, direct them to stay on their beds, and tell them what time they may come out again. Since we’ve been doing this for years, there is no argument.
Then, I try to get some of my writing and work accomplished. (I’m writing this article during quiet time!)
My kids generally read, draw, do word searches, or play with Legos during quiet time.
We don’t know how long this will last. We can’t know how long we will have to practice social distancing, how long we will need to watch services via the Internet, or how long we will be working and attending school from home.
And, quite honestly, I have a really hard time not knowing. I find myself getting anxious throughout the day, and especially at night. I want to have control over my life, and this pandemic has clearly shown me that I do not.
I have found myself often thinking of the words to an old Protestant hymn that was sung at my grandparents’ church:
“Many things about tomorrow,
I don’t seem to understand.
But I know who holds tomorrow,
And I know who holds my hand.”
May we all hold tight to the hand of God, knowing that He is holding on to us.