What we’ve been doing with our kids

We have two children:  DC1, age 13 and DC2, age 7.

DC1 is in high school and has plenty of homework to keep hir busy all day.  Zie has also been binging on mostly terrible WWII movies for extra credit for history, which zie needs thanks to a low test grade earlier this quarter.  As is typical of teenagers, DC1 seems to be mostly fine entertaining hirself.

DC2, on the other hand, is an extrovert who thrives on attention and has a ton of energy.  If DC2 spends more than a couple of hours watching shows, zie gets super grumpy.  There’s also a limit to video games and screentime overall before grumpiness sets in, but the line isn’t as clear cut.  Usually we send DC2 to daycamp or after school care where zie can work out a lot of that extra energy.  We cannot do that during a quarantine.

So here’s what we’ve been doing instead.

We’ve been letting DC2 sleep in and haven’t been policing sleeping time.  Hir no more screens time is 7pm and hir lights out (except hir personal lamp which zie uses as a nightlight) is 8pm.  Zie will stay up reading comic books or Harry Potter or whatever zie is into well past 8pm if we don’t police this even though zie isn’t supposed to.  We have not been policing it, which means zie stays quiet in hir room after 8pm not sleeping and then sleeps in until 10 or 11am.  This is fantastic given that we don’t have to get hir up to catch the bus at 6:50am.  (This is pretty terrible when school is in session and zie has to get up.)

Add to that, we are on a system of weekend chores.  So, that means that instead of half an hour of violin practice, DC1 has to do a full hour.  DC2 has a full load of workbooks instead of just Singapore math.  We also started Hard Math for Elementary Students during Spring Break because the other stuff was getting finished too quickly and DC2 was bouncing off the walls, so we needed a challenge.

DC2’s current line of workbooks (amazon links are affiliate links) is:

Brainquest Grade 3 (I would recommend this series to anybody, gifted or not– it’s just a really thick really good series of workbooks for each grade with additional summer books as well– try barnesandnoble if amazon is out of the grade you want)
Primary Mathematics 4A (this is Singapore math, not an affiliate link)
FlashKids Writing Skills 3 (this is because zie was having trouble “letting go” with English assignments back in like October, so we added a series of English workbooks, I can’t find a link to grade 3, but here’s grade 2)
Easy Spanish Step-By-Step (I ordered this off Amazon last week because I thought we could use it for the summer if hir school didn’t shut down)
Hard Math for Elementary School (for this you need 3 books:  workbook, textbook, solutions manual)
Coloring by note music coloring book (from piano teacher)
We used to have a handwriting practice book instead of Spanish, but zie finished it and has pretty decent handwriting, so we didn’t see the need to replace it with another.

On Sunday evening, we talked with both DC1 and DC2 about how school was closed for at least a week but mommy and daddy still need to work, so DC2 needs to ask DC1 for help first before Mommy and Daddy.  They were both understanding.  #blessed

DC1’s schedule:
Get up around 8am, goof off for a bit.
Take shower, brush teeth. Eat Breakfast.
Work on homework.
Sometime before lunch: Do piano practicing.
Sometime around 11 or 12: Eat lunch. Put away dishes from dishwasher if asked to.
Work on homework, help DC2.
Squabble with DC2 after DC2 has finished chores and screentime.
Get kicked out of house for bike ride with DC2.
Terrible WWII movie or more homework.
Put away dishes or laundry.
Whatever DC1 does in the evenings.

DC2’s schedule:
Get up around 11am.
Eat Breakfast. Brush Teeth.
Zoom through homework books. Ask DC1 for help except sometimes ask mommy or daddy.
Gripe about lunch options. Eat lunch. Put away silverware from dishwasher if DC1 is putting away dishes.
Piano practicing.
Screen time! Usually an hour of videos and an hour of slime rancher or stardew valley. Sometimes minecraft if DC1 isn’t using the computer.
Squabble with DC1.
Get kicked out of house for bikeride with DC1.
Watch Magic School Bus in Spanish because we only have that and Harry Potter in Spanish or Try not to watch terrible WWII movie unless it’s something like Indiana Jones or Captain America.
Complain about being bored. Refuse to clean room.
xtramath (almost done with division) or Encore reading from school
Write Bad Kitty Fan Fiction or do drawing tutorials on YouTube or play with calligraphy set from Christmas.
Hang out with Mommy and/or Daddy. Do crafts with Daddy. Do chores or read or watch twoset/tryguys videos on the couch with Mommy.
Put away silverware or laundry.
More hanging out with parents.
7pm: Showertime!
8pm: Bedtime!

In a couple days we will ask DC2’s best friend’s parents if zie can Facetime with DC2.  We all facetimed with my sister on my sister’s birthday.  Poor Auntie being socially distanced on her birthday.

Here’s somethingremarkable asking for tips on how to keep a 7 year old occupied.

Here’s an old post of ours on how to keep a gifted kid challenged.  Here’s another set of old posts on (mostly educational) apps that our kids have enjoyed at various ages (strong recommendation for all the dragonbox games).

If you have kids, what are you doing to keep them occupied while you work from home?  Have you seen any good posts with suggestions or have other links?  (I’ve been digging the Gen X latchkey generation stuff on twitter because yeah, that was me.  Don’t bother mommy when she’s working unless you are bleeding.)  Any recommendations for videos in Spanish besides Pocoyo?  (Any anime suitable for a 7 year old?  Spanish dubbed/subbed anime used to be easily available on youtube, but they seem to have cracked down.)


33 Responses to “What we’ve been doing with our kids”

  1. Steph Says:

    I’ve seen a lot of scientists/teachers volunteering to chat with kids for 20-30 minutes about their area of expertise, to keep them occupied. I don’t know how this is being organized, but the posts were all over twitter a day or two ago and I can search more if you want.

    I love that Brainquest is still around – we had these smaller quiz things from them growing up, they were thin cardstock pages that spun around a pin at one end.

  2. Minneswiss Says:

    Thanks for sharing all of this–very useful!

    5yo DC is in year 1 of violin and has to practice holding the instrument with only hir chin for 30s intervals; I get bored counting, so I started counting by skip numbers. Ze loves this! We turned skip counting / number sequence patterns into a dinner game, and hir whole face lit up as we played. I also demonstrated double digit addition the other day, which was well received. Net: I will be going deeper into your archives for more younger kid math exploration tips!!

  3. middle_class Says:

    I know this is not what you’re asking for but thanks for the GenX #latchkey twitter link. Hilarious and true!

  4. nicoleandmaggie Says:

  5. middle_class Says:


  6. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    A Twitter friend, Moriah (https://twitter.com/OurTable4Two/status/1239621077539708928) can do tutoring sessions, I might take her up on that for a short session of math just to see how it goes and to break some of the monotony.

    A dear friend scheduled a couple of video calls to talk with JB this week to help us break it up, and we might schedule a lesson swap with another homeschooling friend if I can come up with something to offer. I’m mostly being relaxed about it but it will help to break up our activities with social interactions, JB needs it a lot more than I do.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Thank goodness for video calls. Hard to believe I used to think they were useless and audio was good enough. (To be fair, I still prefer work stuff on to just be audio…) But thank goodness for any kind of long-distance communication, really.

  7. SP Says:

    We only have one kid, age 1.5 (and a high energy dog who is also a bit like a toddler at times!). We don’t have a schedule, although I guess LO does – basically naps/food with playtime in between.

    I’m a bit anxious worried about how to entertain her. We have gotten by without many things because daycare has them. In particular, we have no outdoor play toys (e.g. slide / small toddler climber). Our yard is not well suited for it (no grassy area or similar soft area), but we probably could figure something out, with a few hundred dollars of investment. :(

    So far it is a competition between the toddler and my own anxiety for which is keeping me from working productively.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I am shocked at how little I have been getting done. I think a lot of it isn’t due to my kids or anxiety, but just that I am used to working at work and not working at home. I really need to set up another work station someplace to build a new habit. Maybe once my classes start next week that’ll bring some normalcy back to me. I don’t know. :/ I’m starting to miss (admittedly fake– I haven’t missed a “real” final deadline yet, but if I don’t get stuff done I will) deadlines which is very unlike me.

      • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

        I’m very used to working remotely and I am still not nearly as productive as I should be, nor can I bring myself to care too much. Mine is definitely partly anxiety because things are really WOWZ right now in CA. I’m not loving this uncertainty.

  8. teresa Says:

    I remember those brainquest things from growing up too
    No kids personally but I had been trying to think about what I could send my math-loving turning-8-next-week nephew to occupy him while out of school and just sent the hard math from elementary set and some brainquest grade 2-3 books and cards (B&N still had them)- so thank you for the ideas!

  9. First Gen American Says:

    I am honestly struggling with this because it came upon us quickly in MA. Thursday they said they aren’t canceling school. Friday they cancelled for 2 weeks. Monday they went up to 3…and I am not confident it will end there. Also, as of now, the state of MA will not count remote work towards the 180 days so the kids have no assigned homework from their teachers.

    I ordered a bunch of MCAS test prep workbooks as a start but they won’t get here til Saturday. We hit the library before it closed and took out a mountain of books. The kids have lots of chores but they don’t take up the whole day. My #2 kid is like yours. He blows through his chores and project work super fast so he can have more time to game or do other stuff while the other one sleeps late and works at a much slower pace. Sometimes I feel like I should limit total game time for #2 and I do to a certain extent, but even if I have a much bigger list of chores, the younger one just gets up earlier to get them done..and I don’t necessarily want to penalize that he’s efficient because the other one is the opposite. I also what them to remember thus time off as a fun time.

    There was a cool how to build a combustion engine kit on Amazon along with some wooden model kits like building a clock or marble run that I was considering buying.

    1000 piece puzzles, learn to cook something new (not that good for self directed), take something apart, do chemistry experiments (we already did most of the safe ones), one of our friends is making their kids do elaborate Ukrainian egg decorating. I am making up stuff like..research your favorite wonder of the world and tell me about it. They’ve done a lot of enrichment stuff all along…I mean they’ve taken blacksmithing classes for god’s sake, so a lot of the resources I keep finding I’m like, “been there, done that.” Now I am regretting them not playing an instrument.

    There is a huge list of websites I got from a teacher friend on:
    But I found this site overwhelming and not very easy to narrow down what’s good for us. It was much easier to just google what we are interested in.

    I may have them do typing classes again if I can find a program behind the beginner phase.

    Our parent group was also talking about doing a remote scrabble game or magic tournament via Skype.

    I also had them go up the attic and find stuff to give away or sell and they did start pulling out toys they haven’t played with in ages so I haven’t lost all hope of their ability to entertain themselves.

    Love you idea of watching tv in their second language. We are totally stealing that.

    Love to hear what others are doing too. I am going to take some time off in the coming weeks so we can do things together but this week was already packed with stuff.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We have two different marble runs and several catapult kits and a flying man (both aunts love giving these wooden kits). The music box has still been the most popular by far. I will dig up the link later.

      Typing of the dead is really popular if you can find it.

      Thanks for the ideas! I’m also thinking about having them weed the herb garden.

    • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

      I’m being really lenient for JB too for the same reason: I think we’ll survive this better if they think this period is at least as fun as going to school. We might need a marble run or a magnet builder kit for next week.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Oh I meant to say: our kids loved the marble run they made out of old cardboard, painters tape, and toilet paper tubes WAY MORE than either of the two fancy kits we have.

  10. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Today is a great day to call your senators and reps to ask them to condemn John Cornyn’s racist comments against China. Yes even if they’re Republicans. Yes even if they’re Democrats.

    Since I’m in a university town, I have a lot of friends who are Asian immigrants. The ones on WeChat have been organizing to donate their N95 masks (bought when this first started in China months ago) to local hospitals where there is already a shortage. All we’ve done to help anyone is give money to the local food bank and stay bunkered in. Immigrants make our nation stronger and we don’t need xenophobia on top of a pandemic.

    • Katherine Says:

      One of my friends and her husband are both out of work due to the virus, and he is currently in the immigration process and thus not eligible for unemployment. We sent a grocery gift card, but wish we could do more concrete things to help!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        It’s hard when one’s first response is to want to make a casserole and you really can’t. Grocery gift cards are very useful and concrete!

        I really want to just give our favorite restaurants money to help them stay in business (without actually buying their food), but with all the students gone I don’t think we have enough money to make up for the deficit. (These are small mom and pops that don’t have gift cards, and once they’re gone they won’t be replaced.) :(

  11. Cloud Says:

    I don’t have any good Spanish video suggestions, but my kids both use Duolingo to practice Spanish. My 12 year old tells me you can take a test to place into the proper level if you aren’t a beginner.

    Our kids (10 and 12) both have homework from school, but the 10 year old doesn’t have enough to keep her busy for a full day. She likes history, so we’re working on finding some appropriate things to do but haven’t come across anything good enough to share yet. I’ve got a list of links from the school district and a friend who is a teacher and going through them will be a weekend activity.

    One thing we started doing yesterday that has really helped our 10 year old was that we set up a Zoom call with some of her friends. They were all so excited to see each other! We’ve got another one set up today and will be reaching out to some other friends to set up more. The 12 year old had already set up a daily video call with her friend group without our help.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Good ideas!

      That reminds me– my colleague told me that if you pay for duolinguo you can get rid of the parts DC2 hates (I can’t remember exactly, something competitive). I should pay for duolinguo because we can afford to throw money at problems. DC1 has activities from the high school Spanish textbook that zie can do online so zie has been doing those instead.

      DC2 set up a facetime call with hir best friend yesterday, but turns out hir best friend’s mom is an extrovert so the conversation was really with the mom instead of with the kid(!) And I had to listen in because DC2 kept being inadvertently rude, which I would not have cared about at all if it had just been with the kid and not the mom…

      • Cloud Says:

        I think there is a leaderboard and some other gamefication nonsense. I ignore that stuff. But if you pay you can turn off ads so I’ve been tempted.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I think it’s actually something about not being able to move on without getting the right number of stars or maybe there’s something timed. I’m not sure. Whatever it is DC2 hates it but giving them money lets you disable it according to my colleague’s daughter who had the same problem.

  12. RBOC | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] mean that we don’t have stuff for DC2 to do.  Zie is still doing hir full set of weekend workbooks every day except Monday.  On Monday zie does schoolwork.  Tuesday-Sunday are the weekend […]

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