I’ve been through many situations similar to this one before (see my previous post “How to Deal with Limbo During COVID-19”) but none have been so hard to shelter the children from. In the past I was always able to shelter them to a large extent and allow them to live their blissful and peaceful childhood while I worked the “front lines” and filtered life through to them. But not as much this time. The wide-spread nature of COVID-19, as well as the almost universal lockdowns have made it impossible to keep everything from the kids.
So how can we still protect their spiritual peace?
My method is to provide them with factual information, give them a sense of control over the situation in some way, and to keep a sense of humor going strong. And while we are doing it, why not integrate it into our homeschooling schedule? In some of the ideas below you can teach one lesson that will integrate history, literature, philosophy, and the current event situation of COVID-19) – I would call that a power packed lesson!
Here are some ideas you can use during the lockdowns to combine current event awareness with education. Keep in mind that you will need to choose what is right for your family, age of child, and situation. Not everything will feel right to you. These are the things that work for us. Pick the things that work for you and share more ideas in the comments.
- Keep a sense of humor: Perhaps use a bit more humor in your homeschooling than you usually would. For example, here is a good riddle that is perfect for those kids who have just learned to read and write and are working on spelling and grammar:
Riddle: “I am the beginning of everything, the end of everywhere. I am the beginning of eternity, the end of time and space. What am I?”
Answer: “The Letter E”
- Literature books on Epidemics: Take time to read some good literature about epidemics. This is appropriate for any child who is in 6th grade and up. This is where the importance of literature in history can really be brought home to the kids. Do you have kids who ask, “Why study history? It is in the past.” If so, then these books will bring to light some reasons why history is so important, as well as help kids feel like they are part of a bigger historical and universal event. They are not alone – they are experiencing this with others around the globe and through history.
- Arrowsmith (Pulitzer Prize winner) by Sinclair Lewis (4th grade and up if reading aloud to the student, 6th grade and up if reading alone – covers literature, geography, science, and history)
- The Masque of Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe (7th grade and up – covers literature and history in one lesson)
- A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe (6th grade and up – covers literature and history in one lesson)
- The Plague by Albert Camus (High School Age, covers philosophy, literature, and history in one lesson)
- Sew masks: In 8th grade students learn how to make a “market bag” as part of their introduction to the sewing machine. So any child in 8th grade or up (and younger ones can help cut material and organize) can sew protective masks for people in need or for the family.
- A free tutorial and pattern for personal use from FreeSewing.org: https://freesewing.org/docs/patterns/fu/
- A free and very easy to understand pattern with photos for medical use. Created by our very own Unity Point Health here in Iowa! https://www.regmedctr.org/webres/File/OlsonMask_wPattern_v3-USE%20THIS%20ONE.pdf
- Early Childhood Wisdom? Someone posted an interesting note on Twitter last week that had me nodding my head. You know some of the traditional rhymes we sing in early childhood circle time? Like Ring-a-Round-the-Rosie? They pointed out that as humans we have always found a chance to make trauma into “memes” and “rhymes”. This is one way that humans deal with trauma – by making it into a harmless and playful song or by making it into a funny meme (like we do today) – it can help alleviate feelings of panic. It doesn’t mean that we are not taking it seriously, and we are definitely still practicing safe distancing rules. But the memes and songs do help alleviate that all-encompassing feeling of dread that can take over when a person is surrounded by bad news every day or stuck indoors. “Ring-a-Round the Rosie”, which is now a popular children’s rhyme that children often sing unaware of the references, actually referred to a red circular rash common in some forms of plague. The posies would have represented the different flowers and herbs people carried to ward off disease. The “ashes” and falling down was supposed to mimic sneezing and eventually dying from the disease. The point being made is that humans have always and will always find ways to defeat diseases – physically AND mentally. So if your kids make up songs or share a lot of memes – don’t worry – it is normal. And for older kids, maybe take some time to explain some of the older songs to them. They remember singing them as kids. Now you can let them know where they came from.
- Create no-sew masks for family use: Kids in first grade and up can practice their handwork skills by making these new-sew masks:
- Make a doctor-approved homemade hand-sanitizer: The recipe is very simple: 2/3 of rubbing alcohol, 1/3 of aloe vera gel, 5 drops of essential oil, and distilled water. For the essential oil part you can even use something like tea tree oil or any of the citrus oils which are natural anti-bacterial and antiviral oils. But 2/3 WHAT you say? That is the beauty of this as a useful product as well as a useful learning tool. In 4th grade students are learning fractions and math through cooking so this is the perfect lesson for anyone 4th grade and up (younger ones can also help). The formula is given in portions so this is a good time to explain how portions work. You can make the portions in cups, ounces, or whatever you want. Distilled water is just added to give it the consistency you want.
According to Dr. Jenell Kim, “The CDC says that the most effective ingredient to use is ethyl alcohol. And they actually say 60 to 80 percent is when you actually get effective. Other antibacterial ingredients such as vodka and witch hazel can be used instead if that’s what a user prefers, but ethyl alcohol is the better option for killing viral germs.”
- Expand Vocabulary and Language Studies: There are some new words being thrown around that even us adults have had to look up. So how about delving deeper into some of these words for some fun language lessons? I have to admit my minor in college was linguistics and I happen to love words but I think many other people would find word exploration fun as well! For example, how about this one? The word quarantine comes from quarantena, meaning “forty days”, used in 14th – 15th century Venetian language because this was the period of time all ships were required to be isolated before passengers and crew could go ashore during the time of the Black Plague. (Another relatable history tie-in here too!)
- Make some herbal elixirs: This is the perfect activity for the third-grade gardening block, fifth-grade botany, or really, any age because it involves nature “crafting.” Throughout history people have used herbs to help keep them healthy. A fun educational activity can be to make some herbal elixirs during this time. They have many benefits for well-being and are nutritious. The one I’ve been making a lot this past month is one with echinachea, turmeric, and vitamin C. However, you can use whatever herbal tinctures you have on hand that have some of the same properties. I have a bunch of little glass bottles I got from Amazon (about the size you would use to carry salad dressing in a lunch box). Since these won’t be stored for too long you could also just use mini plastic cups from the grocery in a pinch. However, they will stain (even when they are clean). To make my mixes I just lay all the jars out on a cookie pan (to catch spills). I then empty a powdered vitamin C capsule into each one, add one dropper full of echinacea, add one dropper full of turmeric, and five drops of zinc. We then put the lids on, wipe any spills, and shake each little bottle. I keep them in the fridge and drink two each day until it is time to make more. It is a fun healthy little drink to keep on hand. Hint: Use glycerin-based herbs for kids
- Space Clearing! Are you stuck inside a lot more? Twice a year at Earthschooling we do an official ‘space clearing’ of our space. This is educational in so many ways and is a great way to feel re-energized! You can see complete lessons for this here.
- High school students can learn about the science of viruses. Here are some great choices below…
- The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – And How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson
- Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature’s Most Dangerous Creatures by Carl Zimmer
- Beating Back the Devil: On the Front Lines with the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service by Maryn McKenna
- House On Fire: The Fight To Eradicate Smallpox by William H. Foge
- The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry
- Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World by Laura Spinney
- Virus Hunter: Thirty Years of Battling Hot Viruses Around the Worldby CJ Peters and Mark Olshaker
- A Planet of Virusesby Carl Zimmer
- Mud Creek Medicine: The Life Of Eula Hall and the Fight for Appalachia By Kiran Bhatraju
- Polio: An American StoryBy David Oshinsky
- The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind For 500,000 Years by Sonia Shah
- Polio: The Odyssey Of EradicationBy Thomas Abraham
- Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World EatsBy Maryn McKenna