CHILDREN, RANDOM MUSINGS

Stir Crazy?! Distance Learning & Activity Suggestions for Grades 7-12.

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Coronavirus madness is hitting hard and people are scrambling to figure out some sort of new normal to navigate their days. As a mother and an educator, emotional anxiety, loss of instruction and break in routine top my list of worries. The fate of our academic year is certainly up in the air as districts take their cues from the state and work to figure out what distance learning might look like for the foreseeable future.

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I have no concrete answers for my students, but I did want to reach out to them to give a little reassurance amidst the uncertainty. I also wanted to provide them with tools and resources to keep their minds working and emotions flowing in the most positive and productive directions possible. Here’s hoping these suggestions might prove helpful for your children as well.

ESTABLISH A ROUTINE

Most districts closed down about the time schools were readying for Spring Break. Practicing social distancing in the house is definitely no senior trip to the beach or traipsing around Disney World. So it is important that we actually allow kids to have that break. Though it may be tempting to try to enforce routine right away, they need time to process what is happening around them and to take their minds off academics for a bit. I offer suggestions on how to do that below.

Once that week is over, some sort of structure will become very important. It is very likely districts will be moving to full distance learning to complete the academic year. In order to receive the most out of that situation, young adults need to stick to a routine and be accountable for their learning. Most of us are familiar with the “summer setback” in which many students experience a loss in reading and math skills. Students need to do their part in participating in whatever remote learning their schools establish. The best way to do that is to stick to your normal routine as much as possible.

distance learning

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES

Until your school district reaches out with a concrete plan for distance learning, there are many ways to accomplish learning on your own. You can also use these ideas to supplement their days once firm plans are in place.

  • BrainPOP – A wealth of short animated movies for grades K-12. It covers all subjects and even includes quizzes and other materials.
  • Khan Academy – Personalized learning in all sorts of incredible courses along with test prep.
  • PBS – Bringing the world to you with incredible programming in all subjects.
  • ReadWorks – Boost your reading comprehension with content appropriate for grades K-12.
  • Quill – Become a better writer practicing mechanics and usage.
  • VirtualNerd – Need a math refresher or extra help in understanding something that flew right over your head in school? VirtualNerd has got you covered with video support.
  • Duolingo – Always wanted to learn a new language? No better place to look than Duolingo.
  • National Geographic – Go see the world with National Geographic!
  • Smithsonian Learning Lab – Take field trips right from your house with the Smithsonian!
  • Library of Congress Visit the largest library in the world.
  • EdX – Explore free online courses from the world’s top universities.
  • DocsTeach – Check out thousands of primary sources throughout history.
  • Take virtual tours at some of the most famous museums in the world!
  • Are you a Broadway lover? Here is a list of where you can find over 15 musicals and plays to watch from home.
  • Check out NASA’s incredible photo gallery to explore our solar system.
  • Take virtual tours through our country’s amazing national parks.

EMBRACING THE DOWNTIME

My students frequently gripe that homework and extracurricular activities get in the way of them enjoying any real free time. Well, guess what friends!?? The world has just handed you some serious downtime. The question is – what are you going to do with it?

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  • Practice your sports skills! If you play on a sports team, your practices and games have likely been postponed. Touch base first with your coach to see if he/she has any drills or directed practice you can be working on. If not, you can stay active in a myriad of other ways. For baseball/softball players, work on your hitting and pitching with this practice net, hitting stick, batting tee, weighted batting balls, softballs and baseballs. Find the nearest basketball hoop, or use this opportunity to put one in your driveway or basement, to practice your shots and dribbling. Football players can do the red zone football challenge, practice their accuracy with this net or do some speed and agility training. Golfers can get in the swing of things with this practice set. Lacrosse players can practice with this rebound net. Tennis players – grab some balls and hit up your local tennis courts for practice.
  • Get outside! Go for a long bike ride, take your dog for a daily much-appreciated long walk, go exploring on a nature walk with your younger brother or sister, take up jogging, create a scavenger hunt using the app Goosechase (adhering to proper social distancing of course!), rake those leaves your family didn’t have time to get to in the fall, start designing an amazing container garden, create driveway murals with sidewalk chalk, check Pinterest or Google for the best flowers/shrubs for your home and try some landscaping, play catch with your siblings, engage in some competitive foursquare, play Spike ball, go old school and create homemade bubble mixture with a homemade wand, etc.
Photo by Tom Morel on Unsplash
distance learning
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  • Take up knitting! Youtube has a plethora of videos that can teach you how to knit. Buy the book How to Knit, or How to Crotchet, both intended for absolute beginners. Don’t forget the tools of the trade and some fabulous yarn in assorted colors or Feels Like Butta yarn in colors like grey, taupe or blossom. You might just have your holiday gifts ready to go by May!
  • Gamers Unite! There is nothing I can tell you about this. Gamers have been preparing their whole lives for this moment. Live it up!
  • Start a virtual book club! Consult with book lovers for your next book on Goodreads. Enter in your favorite genres and have free ebooks and awesome deals emailed to you daily from Bookbub.
  • Hone your photography skills! If you don’t have a fancy camera, no worries. iPhone cameras are amazing these days! Follow these tips to use your iPhone camera and then do this challenge.
  • Break out your inner diva! There has never been a better time to sing your heart out or dance like no one is watching. Every star must have lights and this microphone will allow you to belt out your favorite tunes. Check out this list for Youtube’s best dance videos and work up a sweat breaking it down. Do you have a guitar or piano sitting around that you’ve been wanting to learn how to play? Google instructional videos or check out this how-to-play guitar book or how-to-play piano book. Both books offer online video resources as well. Are you hoping to audition for a play sometime soon? Check out this list of the top monologues for auditions. And how about these free online theatre and drama classes?!
distance learning
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  • Work on your culinary skills! Help your parents out and get ready for the real world by honing your culinary skills. It’s not all just cereal and PB&J’s my friends! The Food Network has amazing shows – both traditional cooking and competitive – that can provide inspiration and recipes. Pinterest is a wealth of wonderful recipe ideas. You can also check out my article on my baking favorites in addition to some of my favorite cookbook recommendations.
  • Do-It-Yourself Away! Sucked into the HGTV greats and wanting to renovate a la Chip and Jo? Have at it! Start small by doing a thorough cleaning of your room – it’s spring cleaning time after all. Purge what you don’t need and put away for saving what you can’t bear to part with. Then rearrange your furniture (make sure to get help with anything heavy) and make your room perfect for the current you! While you’re at it, I’m sure your parents might have a list of things you could help with around the house.
  • Makeover Central! Learn how to do amazing braids or fancy updos with youtube tutorials. Perfect that smoky eye or learn how to contour your face with makeup videos.
  • Exercise! This is a great time for powerwalks or runs, but for those of us who only run when being chased, there are other options too. Check out Beachbody on demand for hundreds of programs (Insanity, P90X, 21 Day Fix), etc. This is the program I will be forcing myself in front of daily. I love the workouts and now I have NO EXCUSE. Visit Peloton for yoga and HIIT training. Hit up Pinterest for tons of ideas. Check out Bikini Body Mommy for a great workout program. There are also countless DVD’s on Amazon, one of my favorites is Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred. Many programs can be done with bodyweight, but if you need some simple equipment, check out: weights, resistance bands, a yoga ball, core sliders and a yoga mat.

EMOTIONAL SUPPORTS

This is an unprecedented time for our country. It’s confusing, overwhelming and scary. There are seniors who might not get to walk at graduation or dance the night away at their prom. There are elementary students who desperately want to see their friends, go to specials and figure out what’s next with fractions. There are children who count on school for routine and normalcy as that might be the only place they get it. Not to mention all the children who need school for hot meals or a sense of safety they might not feel at home.

My community is rallying around those children as best we can, from a distance. Please do what you can in your communities to provide food if you have the means, make a phone call just so a lonely grandparent can hear your voice or set up a Google hangout for a cousin playdate that spans multiple states. Below is a list of other ideas for those of us needing more emotional support.

  • For those of us experiencing anxiety symptoms: practice breathing techniques (the simple in the nose until you cannot breathe in anymore, then exhaling through the mouth until all air is pushed out has always worked best for me), learn the tapping method, exercise, sleep, use visualization techniques and schedule a worry session every day. This may seem counterproductive, but some medical experts believe that approaching our worries purposefully and mindfully might ease their overall effect.
  • For those of us struggling with our faith: check in with your church or use this opportunity to find one. Most churches have now moved to streaming services and offer prayer and advice remotely. I am constantly moved by the message and music offered at my church, Christ’s Church of Mason.
  • For those of us struggling with our feelings: journal! Get those feelings out whether in a notebook or digitally. If you better express yourself through art, draw what you’re feeling. Create a vision board using Google Slides showcasing your headspace right now and then one for where you hope to be soon.
  • For those of us struggling with social isolation: Call your friends and family! FaceTime is also wonderful and you can do that with a group of people as well. Set up a virtual playdate via Zoom or Google Hangouts. Play games with your siblings, have a family movie night or create a virtual date with your boyfriend/girlfriend. None of it is ideal, but some interaction is a heck of a lot better than none!

These times are scary, there is no doubt about that. But this is also an amazing opportunity to reconnect with your own children, learn things you haven’t had a chance to, explore the world from the confines of your home, go outside and embrace the “olden days” (as my children like to call it when I tell them about my childhood) and to do the things you’ve been wanting to but have put off for another day.

Don’t forget to allow yourself and your children to feel – to be scared, curious, angry, sad and every emotion in between. Stay strong, practice social distancing and wash those hands. Here’s to coming out stronger and smarter on the other side.

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