Ideas for Structuring Your Home School

Although I home schooled our kids and loved it, it’s been about 15-35 years ago, so times have probably changed a lot. Still, kids don’t really change that much, so I thought it might be worthwhile to share how we organized our days just in case you’re struggling to keep your kids channeled between now and the end of the school year. Of my five adult children who are married and have kids, all of them—those who live from Belgium to California—are now in school systems that are closed between now and ?? probably the end of the school year.

So, what did I do with my seven? (Alan, as a physician, was out early and home late, but he almost always made it home for dinner and some fun with the kids afterward.) For the kids and me—who were homeschooling together—Monday-Fridays looked something like this:
*Everybody got up, got dressed, made their beds and brushed their teeth
*Breakfast got made, eaten, and cleaned up with the help of some of the kids (We made a list of chores each week and kids helped self-assign themselves to which ones they wanted to help with . . . or else got assigned.)
*Family devotional time, which included Bible reading, prayer, memorizing one verse each day, and a short devotional lesson. (We used Keys for Kids and Our Daily Bread or other Bible story books and/or devotionals over the years.)
*Calisthenics: Fifteen minute routine that we all did together; stretching exercises mostly
*School work, which didn’t usually take the kids more than about 2 hours (3 hours max). You’d be surprised how fast kids can work if they know they’ll get free time when they’re done. 🙂
* Lunch, again aided by some of the kids in prep and clean up
*Rest time. I could never seem to make it through the day without a break, so I needed to rest even if the kids didn’t, although I think it was good for the kids too. Our “Rest Time” usually lasted one hour, and the kids could sleep, read, write, draw, play legos, or otherwise occupy themselves BY THEMSELVES, but creatively, not by watching videos, video games, or internet. Any unfortunate kid who hadn’t finished his school work could finish school during this time too, although my kids were usually setting their watches and timing themselves to see if they could shave off minutes, so motivation wasn’t an issue in our home.
*Snack time or “Fruit Break” as it was commonly called. One of my kids named their plush monkey “Fruit Break” in honor of this cherished tradition!
*Free time (roughly 3:00-5:00 in our family, but every family is doubtless unique). During this time, the kids could play together or separately, including video games or videos. When our kids were little there weren’t amazing YouTubes of everything under the sun, nor did we have Disney on Demand, Netflix, or Amazon Prime. We intentionally didn’t allow T.V., so the kids were definitely “behind the times” on their knowledge of cultural trivia, but some of them still don’t have T.V.s in their homes 30 years later, and none of them are big fans of T.V., so I think it was worth the effort. Instead, the kids were constantly challenged to be creative and do fun things together, such as making crazy home movies and all sorts of imaginative games.
*Dinner Time, including cooking and food prep (all but one of my kids are still great cooks) and clean up.
*P.E.—Probably one of our favorite times of day! After dinner and the dishes were done, we’d all play some sort of family sport with Alan too, such as touch football, volleyball, ice hockey (on winter ponds or iced rinks Alan would make), soft ball, bike rides, swimming, hiking, whatever! When we lived in neighborhoods with lots of other small children, we’d often incorporate neighbor kids, although after we moved out of town and the kids got bigger, we’d usually have enough for a couple of scrub teams of whatever seasonal sport was going.

Truly, this routine was so fun that we kept at it until our youngest went off to college.

All the kids graduated from various colleges and went on to graduate and professional schools afterward, so don’t be afraid to home school your kids for the next few months! In fact, you might discover what I discovered 40 years ago . . . that homeschooling is so much fun that nobody will want to go back to traditional school next fall! 🙂

I have more understanding than all my teachers:
for thy testimonies are my meditation” (Psalm 119:99).

Adventures in Home Schooling: Pepper COVID Science Experiment

Here’s an easy experiment my daughter shared with me to help kids visualize the importance of washing their hands with soap to cleanse away COVID viruses. Sprinkle pepper over a bowl of clean water. (Tell your kids that the pepper represents COVID-19 viruses.)

Dip one dry finger into the bowl, and notice how the pepper clings to your finger.

Next, dry off your finger and coat it with liquid dish soap.

Now gently lower your finger into the water and see what happens. Not only does the pepper no longer stick, it’s repelled! You can almost chase the pepper around the bowl with your finger, and the pepper ends up as far away from the soap as it can get, at the bottom and edges of the bowl!

There are other good applications for this lesson, as you can imagine! If we are spiritually dry, sin will stick to us like pepper on a dry finger! On the other hand, if we are protected by the “soap” of God’s pure word, sin won’t stick to us but will instead be repelled!

Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me” (John 13:8). “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

The Importance of Stress Relief: Meditation and Looking Unto the Hills

I wrote a few years ago about attending a lecture at Harvard’s Annual Intensive Review of Internal Medicine on the importance of daily meditation as one of the medically verifiable “best practices” for Mind-Body health. In our world of frenetic activity, meditation has almost become a lost art, but I want to stress (??) the importance of this ancient practice and encourage all of us to pursue meditation, particularly during our time of world crisis.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” ( Psalm 121:1-2).

According to the gurus from Harvard, even twenty minutes per day makes a statistically significant difference in a person’s emotional/physical health. A healthy immune system is our first line of defense against COVID-19 (and myriad other infections), and long-term stress and fatigue clearly reduce the human body’s ability to fight off infections. SO, we not only need to practice “sheltering in place,” but we also need to eat right, sleep enough, exercise, and as much as possible reduce stress and learn how to relax.

The Harvard research group studied the health benefits of meditation on people from various religious persuasions, but because I am a Christian, I am going to explain meditation from a Christian perspective, which has been my personal approach for the past 55 years. Meditation, by definition, is contemplation on a subject. Unlike some Eastern religions, which teach that people are to clear their minds and “think about NOTHING,” Christian meditation has as its goal to focus our attention on God and find our rest and peace in Him.

Yesterday I got a note from a dear friend who returned from visiting India (her homeland) recently with double vision. Mayo Clinic was able to determine that her problem is caused by a palsy of her sixth cranial nerve with no “pill” to ameliorate the symptoms. She has to wait six months to see if her nerve will heal spontaneously, but if it does not, she will need surgery by a neuro-ophthamologist. Meanwhile, one of her friends recommended that she practice an ancient Indian Ayurveda exercise called “Trataka,” where the person sits quietly, intently focusing her gaze on the tip of a candle flame. After doing this exercise for a few days, my friend feels like this is actually helping!

This is a perfect example of spiritual mediation on God and His Word. As we focus intently on God, our blurry, double spiritual vision becomes clearer. God instructs us to meditate daily on the Bible: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8). Want a promise to cling to in this troubled time? I’ve been clinging to this one since I first learned it!!

How does one meditate? I usually try to memorize a verse or passage on which to focus, and as part of that process, I pray and ask God to teach me what it means for me at this time in my life. As a girl, I was taught that meditation is like cogitating on a thought the way a cow ruminates on its cud. The cow chews its food, then swallows it, where it is fermented by microbial activity in a specialized stomach before being regurgitated as a “cud.” The cow continues to chew on the cud for a while before eventually swallowing it again (and so on) until it is finally digested.

This is what God wants us to do daily! Jesus taught us in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” The Bible is our daily spiritual bread, and God wants us to munch on it . . . chew on it . . . think and rethink on it . . . focus on it . . . feed on it, until it is absorbed into our very being to strengthen us! Meditating on the truths in the Bible feeds our spirits! (It also helps reduce stress and relax us as we’re able to trust God to help us with our burdens.) My girlfriend who’s been struggling with double vision has a lifetime mantra that she also passed on to me: “Feed your faith and your fears will starve.”

Feeling fearful and stressed under all the pressure? I am! Let’s lift up our eyes and focus our hearts and minds on the flame of God’s love. Let’s meditate on our heavenly Father, who is our creator, our sustainer, and our help!

Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Prescription for Health by Martin Luther

Perhaps you’ve already seen this wise, practical approach to dealing with a plague. It was written half a millennium ago by Martin Luther to his friend, Reverend Dr. John Hess, while Europe was still trying to recover from the Black Plague that swept Eurasia during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, killing an estimated 75-200 million people. Luther’s letter is entitled “Whether one my flee from a Deadly Plague.” I think the advice is still as useful for COVID-19 as it was 500 years ago:

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1529 (Public Domain)

For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth . . . that my name may be declared throughout all the earth” (Exodus 9:14,16).

Let’s Talk About Food

First, by way of reassurance, the FDA says there should be no long-term shortages of food and toiletries, although there are short-term problems in some communities right now because of hoarding. So, if you’re hungry, keep trying. Call around. In Orlando, where one of my sisters lives, three of her closest grocery stores have closed down (at least temporarily), but there is food out there, so don’t give up the search!

Second, there’s been no proven connection between food and the spread of COVID-19. Most cases are linked to clusters of people who have met in a group, and it is thought to be spread most commonly by droplet transmission from coughing and sneezing. Coronavirus is said to be fairly fragile and destroyed by hand soap, disinfectant wipes, and cleaning solutions, although a report just in from studies on two cruise ships found live viruses after 17 days of rest. Typically, respiratory viruses reproduce along the respiratory tract, which is a different pathway from the digestive tract, so the theory is that you can eat food with respiratory viruses on it without becoming contaminated even though you can’t safely inhale the viruses.

Should we be using anti-bacterial soaps? COVID-19 is a virus, not a bacteria, so anti-bacterial soap is not necessary to break it down and wash it away. Viruses are protected by a lipid membrane that can be dissolved by any soap that will cut grease, so just make sure you wash well with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds.

Is it more dangerous to eat take out or do your own shopping? So far, the infection seems to be spreading from person to person contact more than through eating contaminated food. The main risk factor is proximity to other people, so inasmuch as you have a higher chance of coming in contact with other people outside your own home, picking up food is a higher risk than having it delivered or cooking it yourself. That being said, I plan to shop for myself when we need food, although they say to make fewer trips for more supplies, so I’m keeping a running list and don’t plan to go out until I find a critical shortage of something vital.

Our local Meijer has now closed from 10 pm until 8:00 am at night for deep cleaning and restocking, but it has also started having special hours for essential service workers and senior citizens: Monday and Wednesdays essential service workers can shop from 7:00-8:00 am (before the general public), and Tuesday and Thursday senior citizens have a special 7:00-8:00 am shopping time. My oldest brother, who is now 80, said he felt a little flattered to be carded to prove he’s actually 65 or older in California, where they have a similar policy. SO, if you go early on Monday or Wednesday, be sure you can prove you’re an essential worker, and if you go early Tuesday or Thursday, be sure you can prove you’re at least 65! If you’re not sure there are any special hours where you live, call and ask!! Keep 6 feet away from any other shopper. At Meijer, I hear that they’ve taped lines on the floor to keep shoppers 6 feet apart.

Hand sanitizers (if you can get them, which I can’t!) aren’t necessary at home, but they are useful when you’re in public to use after touching a screen, using your credit card, handling shopping carts, and before re-entering your car or house. I’ve only been out once, but I wore rubber gloves and used a disinfectant spray to sanitize everything I had touched: keys, steering wheel, door handles, touch screens, credit card, driver’s license, etc.

What about preparing your food after it comes in through your door? For that matter, what about mail, or even people? The general wisdom is to treat everything as potentially contaminated. Disinfect your keys, steering wheel, and door handles. Let non perishables (like mail, packages, and canned goods) rest for several days before processing them. Wash your hands after carrying in groceries and supplies, sanitize packaging if you can or transfer fresh produce to clean containers after washing and drying them carefully. I’ve read this rule of thumb: “Clean, separate, cook, chill.”

What about the cooking process? Wash your hands before, during, and after cooking. So far, there’s no peer-reviewed article that gives time and temperature standards, but the suggestion at this time is 149°F (65°C) for 3 minutes (FOR YOUR INTERNAL FOOD TEMPERATURE, not your heating source). There is a “danger zone” for all foods generally: Bacteria thrives between 41°F-135°F, so no food should be kept between those temperatures for more than 4 hours before eating.

This isn’t about food, but I thought it was worth adding as a P.S. since Alan and I have both been quite sick, and I’m guessing some of you have been too. How long are you or your loved ones still considered contagious? According to the CDC, if you’ve had classic flu symptoms that include fever, coughing, sneezing, congestion, or shortness of breath but haven’t been tested for COVID-19, then stay home for at least 72 hours after your fever clears and for at least 7 days from the first sign of symptoms. This has been the case for both Alan and me, and there is not available testing in Michigan unless you’re so ill you probably need to be hospitalized, which has (very thankfully) not been true of us, although we’re into our second week, and our symptoms also included bad headaches, achiness, bronchitis, extremely low energy, and diarrhea (for me).

If you have tested positive for COVID-19 but haven’t been hospitalized, then the CDC recommends home isolation (i.e. staying in a designated sick room in your home with minimal contact with other people) until your fever and symptoms have cleared and two tests taken 24 hours apart both return negative results. I’m not sure where in America we have the luxury of such testing, but that’s the theory! By these standards, Alan and I are still both possibly contagious, either to share our flu or COVID-19. Before too long, there’s a rumor that they will be able to test retrospectively to see if a person has antibodies for COVID-19, which would indicate that they did have COVID but have recovered. That will be helpful for those who are trying to keep our civilization in tact while the old and infirm are still trying to shelter in place and the young people are trying to keep the economy from collapsing!

For a more detailed discussion of food concerns, this website was very helpful in my research: was

And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them” (Genesis 6:21).

Adjusting our Attitudes: A Testimony by Charles Spurgeon

Although this Covid crisis is the greatest global challenge of my lifetime, I think it helps to remember that our world has suffered more deeply—and recovered. It’s just that we weren’t around during the Spanish Flu of 1917-18. We didn’t personally survive World War 1—or the Great Depression at the end of the 30’s, nor did we live through the horrors of World War 2. Now we are facing the possibility of our world—as we’ve known it for our lifetime—coming to an end.

Not long ago, I memorized Psalm 91, and in the process, I came across this reassuring story by Charles Spurgeon (known as “The Prince of Preachers” among western European Protestants):

“In the year 1854, when I had scarcely been in London twelve months, the neighbourhood in which I laboured was visited by Asiatic cholera, and my congregation suffered from its inroads. Family after family summoned me to the bedside of the smitten, and almost every day I was called to visit the grave. I gave myself up with youthful ardour to the visitation of the sick and was sent for from all corners of the district by persons of all ranks and religions. I became weary in body and sick at heart. My friends seemed falling one by one, and I felt or fancied that I was sickening like those around me. A little more work and weeping would have laid me low among the rest; I felt that my burden was heavier than I could bear, and I was ready to sink under it. As God would have it, I was returning mournfully home from a funeral, when my curiosity led me to read a paper which was wafered up in a shoemaker’s window in the Dover Road. It did not look like a trade announcement, nor was it, for it bore in a good bold handwriting these words: ‘Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.’ The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passages as her own. I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation of the dying in a calm and peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no harm. The providence which moved the tradesman to place those verses in his window I gratefully acknowledge, and in the remembrance of its marvelous power I adore the Lord my God.” (The Treasury of David by C.H. Spurgeon, commenting on Psalm 91:9-10.)

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling” (Psalm 91:9-10.)

More Ideas for Boring Days

Here is a list of ideas that you may have already thought of, but I hope maybe one or two will be novel and helpful for you if you or your family have some extra time on your hands. Many of them would work just as well for adults as for children:

Write stories or poems, keep a journal about this “special” time at home

Coloring, drawing, painting

Origami; all sorts of YouTubes on how to paint, draw, etc.

Free printable coloring pages can be found by googling a subject such as “large format, free printable images of cats” (or whatever else)

YouTubes on animals and plants

Skype with friends and/or cousins

Free online course on typing for children

Organize your very own “homeschool!”

Make a star chart for your kids: make bed, brush teeth, pick up room, memory verse

Subjects each day? Devotions, prayer, and memory work

Memory work: Bible verses, poetry, songs

Games: treasure hunts, variety shows, share memories from years gone by; look at photo albums and tell stories about what you remember from past holidays or family vacations

Read books aloud or to one another (let kids draw while listening)

Check out these sources for reading materials:

Hoopla library app

Cooking together; pass along recipes to one another

Nature hunts around yard. Google what you find

Color a picture and then cut it into about 20-30 pieces to make a puzzle

Bird stories (I have written a bunch on Summer Setting under “A Few of My Favorite Birds”)

Make cards or write e-cards to elderly friends and family

Picnic in unusual place around house

Build fort with blankets or sheets

Math practice: use playing cards, dominoes, cooking

 Let kids use exercise machine while watching videos

Air Force Exercises: look online and help kids exercise together as a family

Music class: what have you got? Learn instruments, make up and share songs

Tell stories: Have one person start and go around the room taking turns adding

“Art for Kids Hub”: lots of resources for artwork

Kids’ programs that can be found online:

Adam’s Answers (You Tubes made by a friend from Grand Rapids)

Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood

Sesame Street

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Surviving Covid-19 with Couped Up Kiddos

Are you or your kids bored now that the world is supposed to be practicing social distancing for the next 2-8 weeks? Obviously, enterprising senior citizens can use the time to clean their closets and organize their homes better. But, what about kiddos? I have a young friend in Indiana who said her kids are driving her nuts . . . to the point of making her depressed. I get it! While our Chicago kids were home last week on spring break (before everything shut down), Gerlinde and I put our heads together to come up with some ideas for what to do (especially with little ones) during the interim. So, if your kids are going crazy, consider some of these ideas:

  • Organize. First and foremost, we need to become unified under God within our individual home units. Children thrive on order and routine, and regularity makes them feel secure. What about starting with a family-wide prayer meeting, asking God for direction, help, and wisdom?
  • Call a family meeting. Explain what’s going on as best you can. So often children are left out of the loop on the theory that this will relieve their anxieties, but in fact, nothing relieves anxiety like honest, open communication. Hardship can either drive a family closer together or further apart, depending on whether or not you get everybody to sign on to working together to overcome the challenges.
  • Allow your kids to express the way they feel without criticism. Let them voice their disappointments and insecurities. Reassure them where you honestly can; sympathize with their losses and frustrations; encourage them to be patient and hopeful while we all wait to see how this crisis is going to play out. Keep calm and prayerful.
  • Brainstorm as a family: Create a few guidelines and goals that everybody can sign on to together. Ask each person what they need to feel loved and secure during this time. What can each person do that will help contribute to the harmony and health of the family community? What would people like to do for fun? Perhaps older children could help younger children learn their lessons, babysit, or help with routine housework. You may know this already, but many young children can be very helpful in the kitchen, and most kids respond well to working with a beloved parent. Do you have a fun-loving child? Maybe they could be in charge of organizing games or evening fun times. I had one enterprising 6-year-old who was happy to be paid $1 per hour to babysit his younger sibs (with the understanding that his 12-year-old brother would be available in case of trouble).
  • Here are a few ideas from Gerlinde:
Free virtual museum tours

I’ll try to come up with more ideas soon, and please feel free to add links to educational resources that you find in the comment box below if you can. Thanks!

Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40).

On Second Thought: Covid—19 is Effecting Young Adults Too

According to a report that came out yesterday by the CDC, nearly 40% of those who are sick enough to be hospitalized from coronavirus in America are under age 54. This is a game changer for our work force. If it’s any consolation, 80% of the deaths are occurring in the 65+ age group, so even though Covid-19 is more dangerous to young people than first thought to be, it’s still not nearly as deadly for those who are young and healthy.

How does that change anything? Well, it should be a wake up call to the spring breakers flooding our sunny southern beaches, and for all those who’ve felt free to come and go as they please on the basis of their youth. Young people are not immune. Those who are continuing to work should be extremely careful to protect themselves and others.

Here are a few additional safety measures I’m putting into practice today:
* Pick up incoming mail with gloves and delivering it to an empty box in our garage to let the mail “rest” for three days before processing it. I have three boxes for three days’ worth of mail. The theory so far is that the virus dies after 3 days (not perfectly sure how long it can stay on plastic and steel, but 3 days is sort of the hope).
* Give each member of our household their own set of dishes, cups, and silverware. When I wash up, I’m putting their dishes on their dishtowel for drying, leaving the usual drying rack for community pots, pans, and serving dishes.
* Practicing a certain amount of social distancing even from fellow family members so that we’re limiting physical contact and giving a little bit more breathing room. Alan pointed out that we need to cover BOTH our mouth and our nose completely anytime we cough or sneeze, so we’ve taking to carrying micro cloths with us, since both of us are presently sick with what we hope is just the flu. Our youngest son is still living with us, and he’s been sick, but not as sick, so we’re definitely wanting to protect him. Thankfully, both my husband and son are able to work remotely from home for the next while.

Somehow it makes us feel good to be able to do something, but everything we can do is not actually enough. My mother instilled in me what she called “the pioneer spirit,” meaning that somehow we should/would find a way to survive. After becoming a believer, I embraced this plan: “Pray like it all depends on God and work like it all depends on you.” There is definitely something comforting in the hand-in-God’s-hand approach, and I am a total believer in seeking God’s will in everything, and then doing whatever I believe He’s directing me to do. In an overwhelming crisis, however, I think it becomes a matter of simply looking up to the one who is older and wiser than all the rest of us: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). This was Jesus’s response on the cross, and I think this is the response that God wants from each of us today as we stare into the eyes of an uncertain future. Have you surrendered your heart to the One who is all knowing, all wise, all powerful, and who loves us all? He can do for this world what none of the rest of us can do.

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).