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As much as we love to be fully engaged with our kids during the day, sometimes it’s just not possible. Maybe a child is sick, or YOU are sick. Perhaps you have a day where you have to get something done like packing for vacation or working on a home project. You may work part-time (or full-time) and need to get some time-sensitive work done during your typical school day. How can your kids keep learning when you can’t teach them?
We’ve been educating at home for the past 9 years, and during that time I’ve had two surgeries, cared for aging parents for multiple days in a row, and I’ve had seasons where I worked part-time. Throughout these times, we’ve still been able to structure our days so our kids still learned. They’ve still been able to engage their brains and not be zoned out in front of a screen.
Below are 7 ways kids can keep learning when you’re not available to teach. While we don’t use each of these every day I’m not 100% available, we’ve used all of these consistently. Take a look and see what may work for your family!
We love audiobooks in our home! We use them in the car on road trips and while running errands, but we also use them at home. We borrow most of our audiobooks from the library through an app on my phone. I pair my phone to our Amazon Echo and play it through our Echo, which has much better sound than my phone.
While listening to an audiobook at home, our kids will play quietly, color/draw/paint, or sometimes just sit and listen. I’ve written about our favorite audiobook series, and I also get a lot of inspiration for audiobooks from readaloudrevival.com.
Related Post: 24 Ways to Use Amazon Echo in Homeschool
Free play is a great way to learn! Playing allows for creativity, imagination, and teamwork. I’ve written an entire post about educational toys, but these are our top 3 favorites:
Go outside! The logistics, obviously, depend on your circumstances. Our kids are old enough to play in our yard without me, so that’s often a good option. If we’re all healthy, we’ll go to a park or nature center for some time outside on the trails. If I have work to do, I’ll bring my laptop and find a picnic table to work at within view of the kids exploring or sketching nature.
Reading is mandatory in our house, every day, no exceptions. Our elementary kids read a minimum of 45 minutes daily, and our middle schooler reads 40-50 pages per day outside of her reading for various subjects. They typically read in the afternoon and that gives us all a peaceful time to rest and reset.
Again, we borrow most of our books from the library. We just adore our local library for more than just books! I’m always looking for more books to add to our lists and have found some consistently great sources from readaloudrevival.com.
Believe it or not, game-schooling is a thing! Kids learn spatial reasoning, strategy, spelling, logic, and more through playing games. Based on your children’s ages, encourage them to play a game together without your participation. This will also encourage interpersonal skills like taking turns, sharing, sportsmanship, and patience.
We’re a big game family, and here are some of our favorites that also develop critical thinking skills:
Some subjects may need to be put on hold during illness or other life circumstances. For us, we tend to ease up on history, science, geography, and art.
However, we try to keep our core subjects going as consistently as possible. For us, that includes math, writing, and problem solving. Here’s how we make it work:
We’re fortunate to have an older child who can help our younger kids when they have questions about their math. Teaching is one of the best ways to really internalize a concept, so we see this as a win-win for all our kids.
If that’s not an option for your family (and sometimes our kids are just not able to get along — anyone else’s kids have days like that?), we’ve also used flashcards and online games like Math Blaster or PBS Kids for math practice.
We believe good communication is important for any endeavor our kids may do in life, so we try to have our kids write every day.
Our youngest (1st grade) does copy work, handwriting practice, and writes basic sentences.
Our oldest (7th grade) writes everyday in her independent work, whether it’s summaries from her history, reading, or creative writing. She also writes based on our crazy pictures and sometimes with writing prompts that interest her.
Our kids alternate between two different problem solving books. They’re available for various grades and allows them to practice logic and problem solving. I sometimes see our oldest working through her books “just for fun.”
Yes, watching documentaries is screen-time. We make every effort to limit screen-time (we did a screen-free summer last year!), but sometimes it happens.
Find some nature or history documentaries on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Borrow some DVDs from the library. Find some videos on Khan Academy that align with what they’re learning in history or science.
I hope this helps relieve some pressure! Every day doesn’t have to be the Instagram-worthy scene of your perfectly curated lessons. Life happens, but learning can still happen, too.