Today is officially day 1 of our Screen-Free Quarantine*. The boys were with their father over spring break, and that lulled me into a false sense of calm. Kasie’s college closed down last week, and I brought her home, but she’s so easy to have around, I didn’t really even notice her. Even though she was sick and ended up needing antibiotics for a sinus infection.
I felt calm enough about this whole pandemic thing that I made several commitments to myself about family life, including that we would remain committed to being screen-free as much as possible during this ordeal, so as to protect our kids from becoming infected with screen zombie disease, not COVID-19. Another commitment I made to myself with respect to my children was that I would take this opportunity where other children and families are hunkering down with Netflix and a big bowl of beans and rice, to improve my children’s education. I will resist screens of all kinds unless required to by the school system (or unless I get sick and then everything goes out the window), and focus on hands-on learning, and old fashioned books to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. We will also focus on learning the Bible, as Bible classes are some of my fondest memories in grade school.
When the boys arrived home from more than a week at their father’s, they were not at all too pleased to hear that I would not be allowing them to spend the next month or two of their “vacation” in front of the television. And when they heard I had a plan to educate them, well, let’s just say, they wanted to borrow my phone to call their Dad and request that he turn around and pick them up immediately!
The day started off well. Both boys slept late, and Mike and I got up early and began working. We’re both lucky to be able to work from home and our employers need us, at least for now. Daniel woke up first, and he helped me make pancakes for breakfast. It was so enjoyable, I actually took a photo.
When the dishes were cleared, I showed the kids my schedule for the day. I don’t even know where it is now, because they only remembered the schedule when I needed to take a work phone call and it required me to divert from our plans. If they wanted to finish their “schoolwork” early, they had no idea what the schedule said that they should be doing.
Initially, I set up their schoolwork in 2.5-hour blocks. WRONG!
Tomorrow, I will set it up so they work for 50 minutes at a time, taking outside breaks in-between. They didn’t get outside near enough today, although we did all take a 1-mile walk together (except for Mike, who was still working). Later we had dinner out by the bonfire.
Kasie is doing her college classes at home, which is also a challenge. Mike and I have an office, but his work requires him to be on phone conferences quite a bit, and then I receive calls and have conferences. Of course, the kids want to be right next to our office, even though I’ve set up a table away from our office for their schoolwork. So we need to figure that out.
And Kasie being at home has caused her some struggles because being at home puts her into a more “relaxed” frame of mind. She’s having a hard time adjusting to the fact that she has to work as hard at home as she does at school. I’m sure she’ll figure it out though.
One the virus front, I was able to do a Shipt order today, but the store was out of bread, almond milk and many other items. They had French fries though. They were out of ginger. Amazing how many people know that ginger is an antiviral. Go figure.
The kids don’t understand our lingering concerns about food supply. Could it really get so bad that we run out? Will the stores close? Will Amazon close? We really don’t know. That makes us nervous.
Some notes on what worked for the kids today:
- I found an online cursive worksheet generator. I plugged in a Bible verse and had them write it for cursive practice/Bible study. We did Galatians 5:22-23
- The library is still open! I did an online request for a bunch of books about keeping chickens. I gave the children reading assignments and they had to take notes to prepare for an oral presentation on why we should or should not keep chickens. Daniel had to learn about what to feed them, and Jacob is studying about their eggs. I can’t wait to hear all about it.
- Since we’re committed to keeping the kids off of screens, I can assume that this means I will need to purchase some textbooks. The school sent out surveys that lead me to believe that all of their materials will be accessed online, and I’m just not okay with that. There are plenty of studies out there that prove that children retain knowledge better from books. So, I will be looking into good old textbooks for my children.
- A winning moment from this afternoon, before I got grumpy and lost my cool: During lunchtime, I decided I wasn’t going to let them sort through our supplies and eat what they wanted. So, I wrote up a short Lunch Menu and let them choose. They could have salad, peanut butter and jelly or noodles with butter and cheese. They had strawberries for appetizers. I pretended to be their waitress, and somehow they found a bell and would ring it to get expedient service. At the end of their meal, I presented them with a bill, and they drew fake money to give to me and even tipped me! I told them not to expect this kind of service every day, but it was a fun treat.
What didn’t work:
- Long periods of school-work time. Since Mike and I need to work, they need to do their work unassisted for the most part. This doesn’t really work for my wiggly little boys. So, tomorrow, I am going to try setting the timer for 50 minutes. If they interrupt me in that time, I will start the timer over. I work. They work. And when the time is up, we can all do something together for 30 minutes. Fingers crossed that works.
- I need to make sure I keep my patience (I knew we all needed Galatians 5 today!) even when the day begins wearing on me. There are 5 of us in this house now, 24/7 and I need to make sure I don’t leave unfavorable memories in my kids minds about this time.
- We are normally REALLY good about chores, but I ran out of time today and decided that I would rather them go to bed at a decent hour so I could get the rest of my work done. Tomorrow, I will make sure to include their chores before evening playtime and/or dessert. Chores are super important. Especially at a time like this, because they need to understand the extra work that goes into keeping things clean and sanitary, and organized in case one of us gets ill.
Mostly, what I realized today is that no matter what happens with this outbreak, we are making history. There really is nothing in modern history that compares to what we are doing right now as a society, and as a global community. It is very likely that my kids will look back on this time, and I want them to remember it well. I would very much like them to realize the effort that Mike and I are putting into bringing them up out of even adversity with knowledge …not only of worldly things, but also of the spiritual things that matter the most. I feel very deeply that this time where we are all coming together in our homes for days, weeks or even longer, can be used to make our kids better thinkers, better servants and better people – better prepared for an unknown future.
Whether this “Screen-Free Quarantine” lasts for a month (because our schools are canceled until April 15) or more, I will be here. I promise to post back as much as I can. I am going to spare you from my promises to post daily, although that IS what I intend. But, if you want to see how this goes, if you want to find out if and when I will break down and sit them in front of a movie (hint: I will, and it will probably save their lives), stick around. I will be sharing more tips and tricks on how to wrangle low-tech kids in this alternate reality that I am now calling the Screen-Free Quarantine!
PS: Please forgive crazy writing, typos and run-on sentences. I’m seriously running on empty here, and it’s only day 1. I’m going to put tomorrow’s coffee on now, ya’ll.
*A note on the Screen-Free Quarantine: No, we are not showing signs of the virus. We are not currently infected (we don’t think, anyway). We are not under quarantine, nor do we intend to poke fun at anyone who is under Quarantine. We are practicing social distancing in order to protect our loved ones and the at-risk population and to follow the guidance from our government. But it FEELS like a quarantine, for sure! My husband and I made the choice four years ago to remove screens from our young children’s lives. The changes that we saw in our children and in our family life as a result of the removal changed our opinions on screen exposure, and we remain committed to minimizing screens in our kids lives. Does this mean that they are never in front of a screen? No. They will do whatever school work is required by the district, and in these unsure times, I don’t know what that will mean, especially since the school district announced that all learning will be done online at least until April 15. It also doesn’t mean our kids never watch movies with us. We occasionally watch movies together as a family, but it is really the exception, not the rule. Our lives revolve around doing things together, being with each other, and experiencing the world around us. Our commitment will definitely be challenged by these new circumstances, and I am looking forward to sharing the journey with you. Good and bad. I hope that parents everywhere will realize that even a small reduction in screen time can lead to huge benefits…both for children and parents. Also, I hope that you will learn that it’s never okay to criticize yourself for falling short of your goals. Dust off those knees and get back to work, parents! Please subscribe to my newsletter to keep up with the Screen-Free Quarantine.