The upside to 'Mom School' during coronavirus? Tailoring your kids' lesson plans

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Stuck at home teaching your children during the growing coronavirus pandemic, could there possibly be a silver lining? Yes, some say: creating a schedule that actually suits your child's interests. 

Some say now is the time to teach your children that family recipe you've always wanted to share, the craft you've always wanted to do or even chores. Your child loves art and drawing? You can regularly incorporate that into his or her day.

Across Metro Detroit, parents are adapting schedules for their children, trying to create a sense of order to their days and sometimes putting very specific interests in them. Some found schedules through social media; others made their own, incorporating personalized tasks like walking the dog or chores.

Linda Garfield, a teacher at a senior center, switches roles and is helping teach her grandson, Nate, 4, at his family's home in Bloomfield Hills during the coronavirus pandemic.

One Royal Oak mom planned to teach her sons some old family recipes during the long time out of school; another planned to start the morning with yoga. And a family in Walled Lake with three daughters created a schedule with baking planned for every afternoon.

Lauren Herrin of Bloomfield Hills looked at some of the schedules floating around social media and then made her own for daughter, Olivia, 7, and son Nate, 4, which they started Monday. It incorporates everything from math, science and reading to chores and sharing. Her daughter already loves it.

"She loves that I'm her teacher and helped me convert the toy room into a classroom," said Herrin. "She even wrote out a list of questions for me yesterday, including 'Can I call you Mommy?'" 

But whatever you do, say some teachers and homeschooling experts, don't be too rigid with your schedule and certainly don't feel need to plan every minute of every day. Be flexible, roll with your child's natural rhythms and don't be afraid to dig deep into some of your child's interests to find something they really like doing at home.

More than 1 million Michigan school kids are out of school until at least April 6 after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer closed schools late last week as a safety measure against the spreading virus. And while some Metro Detroit districts have adapted distance-learning programs for their students, it varies from district to district.

Sarah Ross, a Berkley mom of three who also is a learning specialist in Royal Oak Schools, created more of a task list for her kids than a schedule. It includes math, science, even virtual visits to different places like the San Diego Zoo. 

"I feel like the overly detailed schedules fall apart, " said Ross. "I’d rather give them the freedom to be self-led and get it done."

Even celebrities with kids out of school are adapting schedules for their children and posting them on social media. Actress Kristen Bell, a Huntington Woods native, posted a picture of her "Camp Quarantine Activity Options" on her Instagram account Sunday that included a long list of both individual activity options -- practice penmanship, watch a TED talk, write two letters -- and family ones. She said she borrowed the list from a friend, Jen Levin.

"I'm sharing it with you all in the hopes you steal it and it keeps you sane too!" Bell wrote. "I’ll amend on Monday to include mostly work and schoolwork but still some other things to keep us sane. Welcome to Camp Quarantine!"

Suzie Griffith of Chesterfield Township knows what it's like to teach your kids from home. She home-schooled her son Adam, who is now in 6th grade at L'Anse Creuse Middle School, for a year before he returned to regular school. She suggests taking a few days to get to know your child's natural rhythms, when they're most energetic, before really digging into a schedule. 

"Notice what activities they gravitate toward with all this free time -- Legos, books, video games, being outside, TV, music, art, etc," writes Griffith in an email. "And use what you learn about them this week to develop some realistic homeschool goals."

And if you want to really develop a schedule tailored to your child's specific interests, use the tools around you, suggests Griffith -- such as Google.

On Google, there are "tons of free places to download articles, worksheets, art project ideas, skill practice," writes Griffith. "You just have to look for them. Use keywords like 'curriculum' or 'crossword puzzle' or '4th grade level' with whatever topic you're searching." 

But go slowly, Griffith suggests. Don't print everything for your child's interests at once.

"What you need for a day or two at a time is plenty," she said. "With one-on-one instruction, kids often pick up concepts faster and don't need as much practice as you may think they do."

Back at the Herrin household, even Lauren's Dad, a history buff, may get involved in the kids' homeschooling. 

"Between my sisters and I, we may have him do some history lessons on Zoom or FaceTime with all the grandkids across four cities," said Herrin.

Free Educational Resources

Need help finding content for your child while school is out? Check out which includes links for different learning websites. There's also a Facebook Group. Log in to Facebook and search for "Free Educational Resources."