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Thoughtful Ideas for Structured Time at Home

Updated: Apr 2, 2020

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8

Do not fear or be dismayed. Those words may be hard to act on at the present time. Things are changing quickly. We're all struggling to keep up with closures, making sure we have enough food and toilet paper for our family, taking care of high-risk family members, and trying to guide our children through schooling at home. This may be the first time you've schooled at home and you are trying to juggle your own schedule with keeping your children on task and occupied with something other than a computer screen. So first of all, remember, you do not need to fear or be dismayed. Why? Because it is the Lord who goes before you and He will always be with you. When I first began homeschooling I was so thankful for women who had "gone before" me in the area of homeschooling; who had experience and were willing to share helpful tips with me. I felt like the Lord sent His messages of hope and practical advice through these women. And so, I hope that the following suggestions are a blessing to you and your family.

My first suggestion is that you begin your day together as a family. We call it table time. The purpose is to unify us before we all begin working on our individual tasks. We begin with a devotional or just reading through the Bible together. We talk about it and pray together. Next, we always have a family read-a-loud going and we will read a chapter (or two). Then we discuss what we learned, loved, laughed about, etc. We love this time together. It doesn't have to be long, just whatever your schedule allows. But starting the day together like this gives us all something to share and talk about throughout the day.

My next suggestion is to create a schedule or routine that everyone in your home can follow. Terri Maxwell recently wrote in one of her blog posts that the schedule can become the parent. (I can't find the actual blog post I referenced, but here is a blog post of hers about scheduling.) She meant that when everyone knows what they should be doing at any given time during the day, it frees up the parent to accomplish tasks other than just managing the children. So, prayerfully look at what needs to be accomplished each day. Do your children need to be attending online classes during certain hours? Then block that time off on their schedule. Do they have assignments that need to be done outside of the online time? Will they need your help? Or can they accomplish those on their own? Whatever the case, make a schedule on one page for your entire family, then block off times when they need to be attending their classes, when they need to be working independently on assignments, and when they need to be working with you. If there are subjects that they can all work together on, make sure to have them scheduled at the same time for all of the children. Be sure to include breakfast, lunch, snack, and recess time. Chore time with specified assignments can also be included on the daily schedule. Once all of that is on the calendar, you may realize that there is still a lot of time during the day that your children will need to be occupied.

And so, my final suggestion is to have plenty of ideas for how your children can spend their free time. You can put these ideas on their schedule. For example, if they finish all assignments by 3:45 and you need to be working until 5:30, then assign them one or two of the following fun assignments.

  1. Build something from science or history with legos (or any type of building toy)

  2. Memorize a song or poem (you can tie this to the historical time period they are studying or somehow relate it to the Bible lesson for the day). Have them recite/sing it for the family that night (or at the end of the week if it's a longer piece).

  3. Scripture memorization

  4. Learn a new hand-craft (knitting, crocheting, calligraphy, needlepoint, cross stitch)

  5. Have all the children do nature study together. Have them go outside and find an interesting bug, flower, plant, or bird. Ask them to identify the object, draw a picture of it, and record a few interesting facts. This may need some parental guidance if they need to research the object on the internet.

  6. Make cards for family members, nursing home residents, service members, etc.

  7. Ask the children to work together to create a board game that they can play.

  8. Draw maps. These can be historical maps, current maps, local maps (their neighborhood, city or state). They can also be imaginary maps. For example, if they are reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, have them create a map of Narnia.

  9. Draw pictures. Again, if they are reading a book, have them draw their favorite scenes. They can also draw events from history.

  10. Look at a picture and write a story to explain what is going on in the picture.

  11. Work together to write a skit to perform.

  12. Create a timeline. This could be a timeline for the historical period they are studying or it could be a timeline of their own life. It could also be a timeline of a book they have read. Have them include names, dates, and draw a small picture for each entry.

  13. Build a fort. Let them use old blankets/sheets and build a reading fort for the afternoon.

  14. Build a box fort. Let them use all of those Amazon boxes you have laying around to build a fort and then have fun knocking it down.

  15. Create an obstacle course. If you have play equipment in your yard, create a crazy course using the equipment. For example, start at the base of the slide, run up the slide, climb down the stairs, do two cartwheels to the swings, sit on the swing and swing five times, get off the swing and army crawl under the fort, get up and run around the entire set three times, climb up the stairs and slide down the slide to finish. Time them and see if they can improve.

  16. Listen to an audio book: Adventures in Odyssey, Jonathan Park Adventures, or Your Story Hour.

  17. And I know this is screen time, but let them build something from their history studies on Minecraft (obviously, a parent needs to pre-approve the Minecraft server and ensure that it is safe and child-friendly).

These are all activities my children have enjoyed over the years. I think one of my favorites was seeing my children work together to create a Star Wars board game and then play it together. If you need more suggestions, I have found the information at Simply Charlotte Mason to be very helpful. You'll probably recognize more than a few of my suggestions there.

I hope these suggestions bless you in some way.

Shannon Benton

Enrollment in the Distance Education Program for the remainder of this school year (ending July 9). We have reopened enrollment at this time as a temporary service to families in need and will consider potential partnerships with all parents who meet our partnership criteria and whose children can learn successfully in a distance education space. Click here for more information. All application criteria and tuition details apply.

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