Surviving social distance: Start with what you know


This morning, I opened the curtains to my favorite morning view. The sun was just pulling itself up the horizon, all pink cheeked and warm from sleep, and it all looked so… normal outside.

Unfortunately, we all know the world is anything but normal right now. Self quarantine, social distancing, no school, no church, no restaurants, no gatherings, every activity cancelled. I’ll spare you my commentary. It’s nothing you haven’t heard before.

What I *hadn’t* heard before was this.

“So, Mrs. Riebe, what are we doing for school tomorrow?”

My daughter, in all her earnest, goofy seriousness jumped to the next idea quickly when I told her the governor cancelled school in Minnesota for the next two weeks, with likely more to come.

“We’ll figure that out, sweetheart.”

That’s what we’re all doing, after all. Figuring this out, one day at a time. Taking in the news. Staying home. Surveying our pantries. Watching out toilet paper supplies diminish. Trying to reassure ourselves that this moment in time will not last forever.

In the last few days, I’ve spent copious amounts of screen time reading the news and going around in circles with home school options and activities. Sunday night, I surveyed a few online day planner schedules, wrote out a slap-dash version of one I thought would work, and collected our workbooks and learning activities.

Game on, home learning.

I started with something I knew. Bread. Sweetbread vs. Pizza dough, to be exact. One has sugar, one doesn’t. One gets crazy puffy, one goes dormant in the fridge. (Until tonight, when it’s PIZZA NIGHT!) It’s not rocket science, but it doesn’t have to be. I had everything on hand, it did double duty as snack and meal prep, and it was a fun, interactive way to get four kids doing the same thing.

So friend, here’s the part where you ask yourself, “What do I know? What favorite memory do I have of working alongside someone? What skills do I have that my kids/spouse/fiancee/friends not know about yet?”

Start there. 

Now if you’re in the same boat as me, and this is at all helpful, here’s a quick recap of where we started with a preschooler, two kindergartners, and a second grader for our first day of school.

  1. Devotional lesson and art project on producing the Fruit of the Spirit, found in Galatians 5:22-24. If we’re going to be in close contact at home, we need some solid reminders of how to love another and what that love looks like.
  2. Math time: worksheets for my second grader, shapes review with my kindergartners, and some random adding/subtracting game I made up with playing cards.
  3. Phonics: Letter flashcards for the preschooler, read out loud time for kindergartners and second grader.
  5. Cooking/Science Time: Making bread in a bag. This website, Little Bins for Little Hands was a huge help. We talked through their questions, wrote observation sheets, and learned about how yeast eats and what it produces. Bonus. We had bread for afternoon snack. (This was our main guided activity for the day.)
  1. Lunch
  2. Outdoor play time
  3. Naps/Quiet Reading to self
  4. Music time
  5. Art projects

There are people out there who make some pretty awesome graphic printables and seem to have this whole thing figured out. I’m not one of them. Sorry folks. But what I need to remind myself of is this: we are operating in emergency mode. It doesn’t have to be perfect. One day we might start school at 7:30, another we might start at 10:00. One day might feel calm and manageable, and the next might start with a storm of emotions. We’re going to do it right, and we’re going to do it wrong. And that’s something we’re going to have to accept, gracefully, and keep on going because we have no choice.

The good news is,  we’re in this together. Separate, but together. And if ever a world was equipped to handle physical social distance, it’s this one. Last night we Google duo’d and Facebook videoed and Marco polo’d for a good hour, checking in with friends, sending messages, laughing at silly faces, and generally trying remind ourselves that we are not alone, even though it feels that way.

Today is a new day. And if you’re not sure where to start, that’s OK. Take some time to plan. (Heaven knows we have ALL THE TIME right now!) Brainstorm with your family members about things you can do together. Make lists. Figure out what they want to learn. Make a schedule. Break it whenever you want. Eat pantry staples and get over not having the perfect ingredients for every recipe. Do basic. Find the teachable moments in legos, in chores, in crafting, in outdoor exploration. Make up games. Love one another in ways that show honor and respect.

Power up, friends. We can do this.



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