For years, my husband and I have had this running joke about homeschooling…he says something cute like, “maybe it’s time to homeschool,” and I laugh hysterically and then we both just laugh and laugh. Now, here we are in this crazy situation, which I totally realize is not actual homeschooling. This is something out of an alternate universe that no mother was prepared for.
Do you know who else wasn’t prepared for this? Grandparents. Favorite aunts. Crazy uncles. People who love our children and see them regularly were not prepared for this. They miss our kids like crazy. And, they want to help. They know most of us moms are struggling to keep up with day-to-day working from home and house chores right now, and homeschooling is another, sometimes grueling, task on the list.
There are so many ways not only to stay connected, but to enlist help. When grandma and other loved ones say they wish there was something they could do to lighten our load, invite them to try one of these creative virtual connections.
Put Together Educational Power Points on the Globe
When my mom casually stated that she was sorry she couldn’t help from afar, I jumped on it. I told her that just spending 30 to 60 minutes one-on-one video chatting with my kids would be amazing. My mom is also a semi-retired teacher, so I suggested she could even come up with a short lesson for them. And, whoa, did she ever! In fact, it turned out so cool that we added our cousins to the call and we now enjoy weekly virtual connections through this one scheduled class.
First, each child studied the globe to find a place they would like to learn more about. My son chose Iceland for his first lesson. Then, my mom put together a PowerPoint presentation which she shared using Zoom’s screen sharing feature. (To do this without PowerPoint, screen shots and slide shows work.) Included were simple facts about Iceland such as: size compared to Michigan, time it would take to fly there from Detroit, currency, a few words from the language, common foods, etc. She even invited family members who had visited Iceland to share photos and fun facts as well. Remembering who her audience was, she kept the lesson simple, interactive, and, a bit silly at times.
Set Up Live Tutorials with Talented Family Members
Think of a grandparent or loved one who has a talent. Does grandpa make the world’s best sloppy joes? Maybe grandma has been wanting to teach the kids how to sew or knit. Surely there is a crazy uncle who would love to jump in and teach someone how to beat box. In our case, grandma is a former sales director (and five-time car winner!) for Mary Kay, so we set up a Zoom call for her to do a makeup tutorial with our tween. My daughter was beyond excited! Grandma even took that tutorial as an opportunity to learn what supplies my daughter was lacking and had a special delivery sent her way.
The key here is to plan ahead. Be sure both parties have the necessary supplies set up and ready to go. This can be a bit frustrating when grocery pickups are a week out and Amazon shipments have slowed to make way for essential deliveries. Have patience, plan it out, and relish in the free hour these virtual connections will buy you.
Send Them off on Virtual Tours Together
When I first started researching virtual tours as a homeschooling tool, I thought, great, something I can turn on and walk away. Am I right? It turns out, these things don’t run themselves, and, in fact, are not very enriching without a little bit of interaction. In regular times, it’s usually grandma and grandpa who love to take our kids on excursions to the zoo or children’s museum, so why not let them make these into virtual connections?
I set my kids each up on a computer in a comfy spot, made sure they had snacks and water bottles handy, and sent them off with their grandparents. Grandma turned on her screen sharing and had some tabs set up, ready to start exploring. As I was getting other tasks done, I loved hearing the chatter in the background as grandpa explained where this museum was in relation to his house, and grandma asked engaging questions to keep the kids interested. I heard lots of laughter, oohing and aahing, and grandma got some good tips on what to prepare for next week. This is a really simple way to keep those virtual connections going with only a little effort. For some great ideas on where to take your next virtual tour, check out our guide to Virtual Tours of Zoos, Museums and More.
Mail a Share Box to Enjoy Virtual Connections
I absolutely loved this idea from my friend Angie and her mom! Grandma sent her granddaughters a tea party in a box, complete with homemade sweets and savory snacks to enjoy together virtually. How cute is that!? The activities you could do together by sending boxes in the mail are endless. And, you know what? Mail goes both ways. Send some extra legos and challenge grandpa to a building contest. Grab that pile of construction paper and mail it off so a favorite aunt can get in on art hour. Maybe the kids really want to share their goodies with grandma instead of the other way around. Do it! Our special loved ones are missing those kids like mad right now, and the arrival of a special box and invitation to a virtual party would certainly brighten their days.
This is so easy to do without leaving home, too. Did you know you can order Priority Mail boxes and envelopes for free? Then, use Click-N-Ship to print and pay for your label, and schedule a pickup from USPS at your house. I love the Flat Rate boxes because you can load them up without having to worry about weight. A little ingenuity will go a long way when using the mail service to maintain connections.
Take Note of Lessons Learned
It seems like centuries ago that my husband and I were laughing about homeschooling. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s how difficult the job really is. Nothing is more uplifting than bringing special teachers into the classroom– making virtual connections and doing things we would never have considered before we were all confined to our homes. Let’s continue these connections long after life returns to normal and the schools take over the teaching. After all, there’s no place like home.