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Back To School, Pandemic Style

Autumn is just around the corner and it's gonna be weird. In the spring countless parents, caregivers, educators and kids were plunged into sudden homeschooling/virtual school shepherding and survival. And a whole lot of you will have to pick it up again (because #covidsucks but please #letsstayalivetogether). I have a gorgeously wide variety of parental and educational friends from my many different layers of life lived that I've connected through Facebook (even though #facebookkindasuckstoo) and I hit them up for some ideas. I was willing to bet that every single one of them had to come up with at least one hack to make distance learning survivable - if even just for a day. Something that made it just a little more bearable for everyone involved.

I thought, what if everyone just trying to make it work on their own could swap some ideas? And those ideas could be shared as widely as possible so that anyone could find a new one to help buy them a little bit of sanity this Fall. 

That list is below. Thank you to all who have contributed and to all who will contribute. I want this collective creativity to be a living document for any who wander by to benefit from, so I plan to keep updating it as new ideas come in. 

Do you have a hack to share? These ideas are intended to create sanity (maybe even a touch of joy?) amidst the chaos and uncertainty. I believe every idea that benefits the child also benefits their families, and vice versa. No idea is too silly, small, or crazy. Illegal ideas may or may not make the cut. Reply here or send me a note to



The Great Big List of Distance Learning/Homeschool Hacks To Bring You an Ounce of Sanity, 

or just THE LIST:


Schedules: This sanity creator made a lot of sense to me, but no one was suggesting anything crazypants. Here are some ideas - 

  • Create a schedule for each child. You can even put it in a plastic sleeve so it can be checked off with a whiteboard pen as they work their way through it. When the day is done, erase and start over the next morning.
  • Things that schedule could include: breaks, lunch, PE/outdoor chore block, the actual Zoom lessons they are required to take, dance breaks, pet the cat breaks, quiet reading time, don't bother mommy and daddy time (aka independent play time), and oh so much more.
  • The idea of work first, play after came up a lot.
  • Start the day with circle time: singing, story, weather, prayer, whatever it takes to create a routine and excitement for the day that works for your family.




  • Parents, you should love this one that came up repeatedly: CHORES! They seem simple but unlock a significant number of achievements: Life skills learned (time management! This will serve them every day of their lives). All their future roommates will be unknowingly grateful and your kid will be able to feel confident in the kitchen, the laundry room, the shed where the lawnmower is stored…you get the idea. And here’s a brilliant suggestion: have them do their chores first so that sitting down for the learning part of the day feels like a sort of reward. Need help selling your kids on the idea of chores? Here’s a couple ideas: chores are the pathway to adulthood and are a way they can contribute to their world right now by making life in their home run smoother. Also, bribes and allowance never hurt.
  • For the really little, focus on those itty bitty but necessary life skills: how to cross the street safely, how to climb into their own carseat, buckle their own seatbelt, how to wipe their mouth and hands after eating, how to set the table and clean up their own mess, etc., etc.

  • BrainQuest workbooks
  • Fun Dance type activities on YouTube to burn some energy
  • Head out to the backyard on breaks
  • Watch nature (in the great outdoors or on screen).
  • Gonoodle breaks.
  • Stories, stories, stories! For all ages – virtual or in person. Have your kids read to you while you make a meal. Have them read to their grandparents over Zoom. Write stories together or give your kids a story prompt to start them off. Draw stories. 
  • Build something new with recyclables (who doesn’t have a couple toilet paper rolls laying around? Mechanical engineering anyone?).
  • STEM projects with twigs, twine and hot glue. Give your kids an assignment like build a bridge that this remote control car can drive over, or build a mechanism to move this rock up to the seat of the chair.
  • Jetpunk quizzes.
  • Arts and crafts are always solid choices in life – they develop all kinds of delicious skills like language, fine motor skills, colors, counting, creativity, self expression, etc. etc. If you have ideas for projects, that’s grand, but it’s 10,000% okay to outsource the creation of ideas. What that could look like lockdown style: watching Creative Galaxy on Amazon Prime (great for young kids). Watch an episode, then try the craft (modify as suits you and your child and what you have around the house).
  • Homeschool lapbooks. I had to look this one up: a lapbook is basically a file folder containing hands-on mini books on a particular topic (the link has a much more thrilling description than mine). There are all kinds out there, they are free and provided by various homeschool sites. You can google any topic like free shark lapbook, wolves, hummingbirds, etc. etc.
  • Neighborhood scavenger hunts. Take these next level and tie them into something you’re studying.
  • Old fashioned Monopoly (not the electronic kind) is great for basic math and reading practice.
  • Draw your feelings exercises, join a live Draw Together with WendyMac class (or watch something from the archives).
  • Download free kids ebooks on Amazon Prime. Search for “free ebooks age 2-4” for instance (there may be a limit on free downloads per month).
  • Pinterest for free worksheets, coloring pages, learning numbers, etc. 
  • Gardening! Have some dirt to get little hands into? Inside or outside works depending on what you have access to. Plant seeds, regrow veggies from scraps (celery root, carrots). Soil is so good for our hearts and our brains. 
  • One of the massive benefits we are all getting out of this strange time is access to programming in places we may never get to visit in person (or that are just next door but closed for now). For instance, San Francisco's Exploratorium has both online learning activities and live events, as does the California Academy of Science. They are super nerdy good fun. 


Hacks while Zooming:

  • This won’t fly with every teacher (some need video on to confirm your presence), but one wise child suggested to turn off your Zoom video so the teacher doesn’t ask why you look sad when you’re actually just bored :)


Additional Resources:

  • I have a friend (with the loveliest Instagram feed) that has homeschooled her kids for a bajillion (okay, fifteen) years and she has offered her time up for consults if desired. Let me know if you are interested and I'll connect you.
  • More resources to come as ideas arrive!


Finally, above all else: be kind to yourself and give yourself enormous grace. Be kind to your kids and give them enormous grace. Be kind to their teachers and give them enormous grace. This may be the weirdest, hardest Autumn of our lives no matter what your circumstances. But it can have pockets of beauty and sanity too. 

Got an idea to share? Reply below or email me at



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