Accidentally Homeschooling?

Here’s some notes/suggestions on ideas for those of you who have suddenly been thrust into homeschooling while working from home, or homeschooling while someone else is working from your home.  Our four kids are 9, 8, 4, and 2 years old. We’ve been homeschooling since our oldest was in Kindergarten and we’ve done it with Kevin working from home in 2016.. We use a purchased curriculum as a basis for our home instruction, but none of that is included in these notes.  Neither do any of the activities require 10 gallons of glitter glue, 14 paper plates, black construction paper or a 3D printer. The idea here is you aren’t homeschoolers, but you now need to both entertain and educate your children for a few weeks. Clearly you have to decide what your kids need and what works for them and you! But I hope this provides some insight into how we are able to all work, learn and live together with a 30 year age span (I’m still learning too!).  Some important life notes to remember, just like when you first became a parent and people told you completely useless advice like ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ and ‘the house can be dirty for a few weeks’. You are the keeper of your sanity, if a clean house makes you happy, make that a priority, but recognize that there are more people there now, so some lenacy is also necessary. Remember too that if you are feeling overwhelmed by the new routine, so are your kids. Give everyone some extra ‘Space and Grace’.  Lastly remember that no matter the age, if your kids are grumpy it can usually be solved with 1. Food 2. Water( shower, bath, hot tub) or 3. Going outside. And lastly but not in any way the least important – TALK. Talk about what is and is not working, talk about how something didn’t work and how it can be made better tomorrow, talk about someone’s favorite part, so you can include it again tomorrow! Just talk.  

RK & Dman reading on the couch
RK and Dman free reading on the couch


Schedules are important for everyone. But not the color coded ones you see floating around everywhere right now.  You need to make a schedule that works for your house (and that’s everyone in your house!). 

Naps: No one naps in our house anymore. But if you have a younger sibling who naps, use that precious time for activities that can’t be done with a younger “helper”.  A game with tiny pieces, read aloud a book that a toddler can’t follow the thread in, learning a new skill (knitting, cooking, coding?)

House volume: In our house the volume level for K’s client meeting schedule & team planning meeting times are protected much more than say… a one-on-one with someone about how to access something. Find out what times need the most attention for kids to be quietly entertained and start there- No point in making a schedule with “Dance Party Break” happening at the same time as a client pitch.   

Exercise: Young school age kids just went from gym and recess regularly to being stuck at home.  Older kids went from walks to a new class every 40 mins and extra-curricular activities to being confined.  Everyone needs exercise. Inside or outside, figure out how to get everyone moving (little kids can get moving by picking up toys, older kids can replace those classroom transitions with laundry switching duty).  

Food: Hangry kids and adults are no fun for anyone.  Build in snacks and meals to your schedule- but remember you probably don’t have a home chef, so in addition to “meal time” you need meal PREP time. What are you going to eat? How much prep time is involved? Do you eat turkey sandwiches for lunch everyday, but your kids won’t eat turkey? Or Sandwiches? Also since you probably don’t have a water fountain the kids stop by 4 times a day, make sure there’s easy access to water, dehydration is often a problem when kids (and adults) transition to home.  Did you have a water bottle you sipped on at the office, but never thought to use it at home? You use to walk to the coffeeshop after you 10 am meeting- make sure you’re getting that exercise and your liquid even if the coffeeshop is off limits for a while. 

Screen Time: Screen time is not the enemy.  It is not the answer to all problems either.  Try to use it to your advantage. 

Our Approach:

We often laugh when we have “extras” around that our homeschool approach is more like “summer camp” than public school.  We have generic themes where kids, of various ages or skills, can participate at their own levels.  

To plan a week- look at your schedule constrictions- which day and times have NO NOISE blocks- if there is an adult available at those times maybe that can be your “outside time” (Pro Tip: Start out early, a kid screaming because they can’t wear their dinosaur socks with their Elmo boots isn’t very silent!).

Look the weather!  “Outside play time” only works if it’s not 106 degrees or thunderstorming or blizzarding. 

Preschool Subjects:  

Because we often know what math looks like in 3rd grade (multiplication) but not to a 3 year old.

Math: counting, sorting, patterns, shapes, lines

Science: Magnets, color, light, chemistry, physics (block stacking & falling over), animals

History/Social Studies: maps, cultures, environments

Reading/Writing:Letters, words 

Arts: Singing, Dancing, drawing, painting, gluing “just a dot, not a lot”

Here’s what making a schedule for March 17, 2020  might look like: 

No noise 1-2:30, Lunch needs to be before 12 or after 1, 

St.Patrick’s Day, Need to prep Corn Beef for dinner, No rain, cloudy


Alexa, play children’s st. patrick’s songs

Jars of change collecting on dressers

Cosmic Kids Yoga:  a great kids yoga YouTube series

Any picture of rainbow (homemade or from say a game of Candyland)


Breakfast: Green eggs, and golden potatoes

Lunch: Yogurt- dyed green? With a pot of “gold” aka granola to pour on top. 

Dinner: Crock Pot Corned Beef

(Youngest gets carrots & potatoes and brings them to counters, middle 2 kids peel them, oldest chops and measures seasonings) This is a scheduled group activity instead of something I have to figure out how to do while they are entertained. 

Snacks: sort fruit loops by color, organize by number, place in rainbow order.  Anything green! Food coloring in white milk is almost as fun as chocolate milk, Celery with ranch – (Remember you are surviving not being a pinterest champion- you’re kids will be just as receptive to a bowl of fruit loops as they will to eggs cooked into pepper “shamrocks”!) 

Toddlers & Preschoolers: 

Math: Counting: “bring me 5 carrots”, “eat 7 fruit loops” “How many colors are in the rainbow?” “7 is lucky”, Sort stuffies by color. Select green clothes to wear. Sort money by color? By size? Stack them, which stack is taller?

Science: What colors make green? Experiment with food coloring, markers, crayons, paint, etc. 

History: Ireland, leprechauns, rainbows, cabbage, gold pots

Reading: If you don’t have leprechaun books, Select books where the spine’s are ROYGBIV, “7 is lucky and the Rainbow has 7 traditional colors” read those 7 books, books on rainbows (think baby’s first colors, Duncan’s crayon’s books, etc.).

Arts: Play St. Patrick’s Day songs while coloring pots of gold, making rainbows with colored pencils, watch and repeat Irish Step dancers on YouTube, 

Mindfulness: Cosmic Kids yoga

Games:  “I spy” find something Red, Wear something Orange, Eat something Yellow, etc.

Young Learners (4-7):

Math: Chop the carrots into 6 pieces or make sure each potato is chopped into an even number,  learn denominations of coins or sort out $1.77 in coins using only 1 quarter, etc. How many pennies are there in “preschoolers” pile? How much change is that?

Science:  Make and label shades of green: teal, aquamarine, olive, hunter, etc., use all the markers, crayons, colored pencils etc. (copying the names from the utensil is perfectly acceptable!)

History: How big do you think a leprechaun is? Size of my coffee, cup? Okay, let’s measure my cup: with a ruler, with a paper clip, with your fingers.  Who was St. Patrick?

Kilts are usually more scotish than irish, but feel free to have fashion shows with kids in skirts.. Girls and boys can have laughs at wearing mom’s or sister’s skirts with long socks (dad’s?). 

Reading: Maybe an older kid can read the preschooler’s selections, Draw a picture and then tell a story about what they would do if they found a pot of gold? 

Arts: Color wheel lessons, Break out your childhood crafts- remember cootie catchers, teach your young learner to fold and those, color and make st. patricks day “fortunes”. Have a game scrabble? Make a list of St. patrick’s day words and see if your learner can make them intersect using the scrabble letters. Make a theme picture using only fingerprints (no need for ink pads, crayola markers colored on fingers will “stamp” onto paper, grab wet paper towel or baby wipes to clear between colors)

Mindfulness: Same as preschoolers, Cosmic Kids butterfly one has a rainbow background

Games: Candyland, Any color match type game you might have

Late Elementary School Learners (8-11yrs)

Math: Help read the recipe for corned beef, learn proper meat handling properties, identify spices correctly.  Count the total value of coins, maybe they get to keep some if they are right? Today is 3/17? How many months/days until your birthday?  

Science: Select a green object in the house, use yellow/blue medium (watercolors?) to create that exact shade.  Shine pennies (a small dish with vinegar and salt will remove the oxidation and make pennies shiny). Relate that to the Statue of Liberty looking green, and the time/energy to make her copper shine. 

History:  When learning about St. Patrick, discuss more about the traditions, or how they can be recreated. (Banishing of snakes? Maybe you can banish something from your house? What would it be?)

Reading: Artemis Fowl is a good late elementary read that includes leprechauns.  Additionally, at this age the reading doesn’t have to be topical. Independent reading on any topic is important. Let them pic something to read, while you focus on the littles… or laundry??

Arts: Similar to the early learners, starting with a picture and then WRITING the story of how the leprechaun found the gold, or what it did when your child stole the pot of gold?! Child resistant to writing? Have them make their picture 3D, folded paper popups, arched colored strips to have rainbow stick up, glue your newly shined pennies to their pot, for gold! Branch out on the mediums with these kids, Minecraft lover? Build your “scene” in creative mode. Lego fanatic, let’s see those 3D pots of gold and rainbows! 

Mindfulness: This age is still usually good with Cosmic Kids, although they are often able to start directing their needs better by this point and may opt for more reading time, shooting hoops alone or more time to build something with legos.  The idea here is not that there is no- structure, but that they can do something to recenter and focus on themselves (even if they don’t know it. 

Games: Topical Games for this age are usually best a) made up, b) physical and c) completely ridiculous!  Can you toss a penny into a pot from across the room? Can you protect your rainbow that leads to the gold (make something to block the light path from a flashlight? Play a favorite game but add the theme “rules”.  Play solitaire with flips of 7 instead of 3. Game of Life, spin a 7 get a free turn. Monopoly: get $200 extra dollars every time you roll a 7, or make the GREEN properties require donations to the ‘Community Chest’. 

Mostly remember your homeschooling adventure doesn’t need to require special subscriptions to online schools, it doesn’t require bizarre materials or massive amounts of worksheets to be fun, engaging and provide the kids with copious amounts of education.

It’s the First of the Month

Captain’s Log, day 1 of a new month. July.

About a year ago we started monthly shopping.  Monthly shopping requires, among other things, monthly meal planning.  So, about a year ago we started monthly meal planning.  This works for us.  It may not work for you.  I don’t think it would have worked for us a few years ago (remember the year we gave up going to the grocery store?!). But right now, this works.  First — in line with our intentional living we have strived to include the kids in our eating habits.

Sidebar: Many moons ago, before kids, K & I had dinner at a Sushi restaurant in Rehoboth Beach, DE  while we enjoyed our meals in a carefree kidless manner I can barely relate to now, a young couple sat with a toddler who pleasantly ate sushi with their parents.  K&I remarked how we hoped to have a child(ren) that would eat more than mac n’cheese and chicken fingers.  How cool would it be to have a toddler who ate sushi?  Flash forward more than a decade- tonight I fed our 14 month old  sushi at a hibachi restaurant.  All four of the EFffffing kids enjoy sushi (the youngest two stick to veggie rolls).  Don’t get me wrong, they eat plenty of mac n’cheese too- but usually the homemade crockpot version and not the Sysco kids’ menu version. We won that round of parenting goals. Sushi eating kids – ✔️.

This inclusion, for us, looks a bit messy to most people.  We meal plan, food prep, cook and eat all our meals TOGETHER!  The six of us sit at the table together for 3 meals a day, nearly every day.  This is a time to check-in with each other, to plan the day -or next day, to regroup, wipe the slate and start fresh or just make silly faces.  This is a HUGE commitment! In theory we are like the Kennedy’s- elegant meals complete with political conversation- in reality… meals are more akin to that scene from ELF where he puts maple syrup on spaghetti. This post however, isn’t about the meal consumption or even preparation (the kids cooks regularly) it IS about how we meal plan.  I’ll save the shopping for another day, because we don’t actually plan and shop on the same day.

Step 1. Give me all the calendars! We use google calendars to manage … well life.  If it’s not on the calendar, it’s not happening.  Work, school, appointments, birthday parties, sport practices, meetings, playdates- they all go on the calendar.  You know what else goes on our calendar? Our menu! But before I can meal plan for the month I need to know what days we need meals cooked and if it needs to be a quick n’easy meal because R&D have soccer practice or if K has a late meeting so we need to have something that will hold on the stove until he can join us.  We also don’t meal plan our weekends usually.  They tend to fill up with errands, playdates, and day trips.  We pack meals these days, use up leftovers or use up leftover ingredients… what can we make with penne, half a box of strawberries and some left over spinach? Same goes for lunches- while we DO plan to eat lunch everyday, I don’t assign specific meals to specific days.  If a science project takes us to 1pm I don’t want a lunch that requires 20 mins of prep, likewise I don’t want to feed them yogurt & granola (a quick staple in our house) when I have time to make a cooked lunch.  So, knowing your calendar is the absolutely the most important step in successful meal planning.

Step 2. Have a plan

Looking at a blank calendar trying to plan 3 meals a day for 3o days (or 22 without weekends) is daunting for anyone! In our house breakfasts repeat for the month-this month Monday’s are pancakes, Tuesday’s are oatmeal etc.  The variety may change but the basic product is on repeat.  Same goes for dinners; Monday’s are for Italian meals, Friday’s are for grilling.   In the beginning it helped to have a list of meals for each category; a list of 6-8 items in each category including 1 new recipe and 1-2 easy prep meals.  This step is the most important step to include the kids.  There’s no sense putting a meal on the menu that is having complaints 30 days in advance.  It’s just not worth it.

Step 3. Mix & Match

Look at your calendar and match up your meals – can you reasonably butterfly the chicken before basketball practice? Will you be able to let your dough rise for 45 minutes before you start to cook?   If a kid is in charge of a meal, I need to make sure the kitchen is clean before they start, while I can pull that 1/3 cup measuring cup out of the sink and wash and reuse- it’ll wreck havoc on my 6 year old’s dinner preparation plans when that measuring cup is “missing”.

That’s it.  No, really.  That’s all there is to it.

I’ve tried a variety of meal planning methods and calendars – I have a stash of templates and files I’ve tried to make work.  In the end a blank calendar usually works best – with a copy of our google calendar open on a screen next to me.

This month I did a super simples google sheet:

x-axis: Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner, Conflict, Chef

y-axis: Sunday July 1… July 30

Meal plan Screen Shot
Meal plan Screen Shot

*It’s worth noting July starts on a Sunday, we are shopping on July 1 so our ingredients and meal preps fit neatly but you may need to meal plan into the next month a few days to make sure you’re covered before you head back to the store.

Tomorrow we go shopping!

Rainy Day New Recipe

The rain and the humidity have me running though recipe ideas looking for a no-cook option that has some redeeming nutritional value.  It’s worth noting we generally shop for groceries monthly, but due to traveling this month – we took the oldest two to Alaska for a week-we opted not to shop this month so the food options are limited to what the kids and I bought for $100 on Monday.  Today’s lunch experiment was admittedly a saved recipe from my Facebook feed; Strawberry Spinach Penne Salad  from Creme de la Crumb.  We altered it slightly – I’m still dairy-free so the yogurt was an optional add-on at our table and the cranberries sat neatly on the counter instead of in the bowl (aka I neglected to add them to the salad, oops!). Everyone ate it and the only cooking I did was boiling the pasta. Now the pasta boiling definitely didn’t help the humidity in the house, but  less than 15 mins for a pasta salad that was a one-dish hit with the family was worth the added sticky!