On Thursday, the Yebernetsky family of Frederick County was planning to visit North Dakota from their kitchen for an evening of steak and potatoes.
Part of a nightly ritual of world travel that started on Monday, Audra Yebernetsky said her family also plans to visit Mexico and Madagascar in the next few days.
“It’s been fun,” she said on Wednesday. “Yesterday we were in Haiti.”
There, she, her husband, Ben, and children — 7-year-old Drew and 2-year-old Raelin — enjoyed jambalaya and listened to music from the island nation.
It was an idea her husband had last week after schools around Virginia closed because of the COVID-19 virus.
People have also been asked to practice social distancing and families have started looking for ways to not only entertain their children at home but also find ways to help educate them.
In Woodstock, where stay-at-home mom Sabrina Schneibel is managing five children between the ages of 2 and 17, she’s choosing to view the situation as “a blessing in disguise.”
“They seem to really be enjoying the family time,” she said. “They’ve even stopped playing with their cellphones.”
It isn’t all fun and games, but although her four oldest are out of school, she said they’re learning in various ways.
TikTok videos are being called “music class” and lessons in baking bread from scratch with their mom have been termed “home ec,” she said.
“There are tons of ways to learn things,” said Schneibel.
Around the region, families are find creative ways of managing their schedules while parents and children spend more time at home working and learning.
At Megan Russell’s house in Stephenson, she and her young daughters have been enjoying Cosmic Kids Yoga and other YouTube videos.
“We kind of have a loose structure to the day,” said Russell. “We try to do the same routine every day so we still have some sort of normalcy.”
Though Russell said the impact of having her kids out of preschool might not be as drastic a change as other families are feeling, it still affects her day.
A work-from-home mom, she said preschool gave her time to operate her business as a part-time knitting instructor.
“It was my mental health break,” she said.
Because of social distancing, she’s put her classes on hold for now but said her students have been understanding.
She and her kids take more walks these days and spend time in the backyard, but not having options like area playgrounds and museums has been difficult.
“It’s a weird thing because you’re a lot more isolated,” she said.
Grace Croson, of Stephens City, has also been isolating with her daughters, Kyleigh, 2, and Mackenzie, 5, while she’s going through chemotherapy and has a weakened immune system, but she sometimes takes them to Lake Frederick and tries to get them outside often.
“We have a fenced-in yard,” she said. “They like to pick flowers and just run around. They play soccer.”
Mackenzie’s kindergarten teacher at Bass-Hoover Elementary School has been supplying lesson plans and video interactions that Croson said help her daughter through the disappointment in knowing she’ll spend the rest of the school year at home.
On Tuesday, as part of their class’s Spirit Week, they were given the challenge of taking a selfie with a pet or stuffed animal.
“She gets really excited to see the video of her teacher every day,” Croson said. “I think the hardest part is they’re not able to see their friends and their classmates.”
A sixth-grade English teacher at Skyline Middle School in Front Royal, Croson has plans to help her students through online learning opportunities that they can do on their school-provided Chromebooks.
“There’s a lot of stuff that they already do online,” she said.
Still, she said keeping herself and her daughters healthy between her cancer treatments can be a challenge.
“I have someone that drops me off at the door and then picks me up when it’s done,” she said.
“So far it’s still going as planned.”
For Yebernetsky, the experience of homeschooling her son last year has helped prepare her to help him manage the information packets his teacher at Legacy Christian Academy in Stephens City has been sending home.
“It’s a challenge for sure,” said Yebernetsky, who works from home as a writer.
Like other parents trying to juggle her children’s education with other commitments, she said she’s been adapting her son’s lessons to also entertain her daughter’s curiosity.
“I have a felt board with little colors for her,” said Yebernetsky. “She wants to do exactly what he’s doing.”
After morning lessons with a break, she said, “We usually finish up by noon.”
Keeping to a schedule has also been working for Woodstock photographer Kodi Wright, who was already homeschooling her teenage sons before schools closed.
“We have sort of a routine, which helps,” she said. It can “feel like you’re falling into an abyss without a plan.”
She said social distancing is having an impact on how the family interacts with people in their church and around their neighborhood.
“My kids now carry sanitizer in their pockets,” she said.
Their friends on the street have been playing badminton as a way of maintaining social-distancing recommendations of staying six feet apart.
In trying to figure out ways to maintain her photography business while limiting contact with others, she’s considering doing a series of front porch photos that she’s seen other photographers do.
“I would love to kind of implement something like that here,” she said. “I think it would be kind of a cool way to document what’s going on at this time.”
Despite the challenges, Wright and Schneibel said they both see the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to work with what they’ve got.
Schneibel said her family has been realizing an appreciation for jobs they previously took for granted, such as truck drivers.
“I think we all gained a little bit of humanity out of this,” she said.
Wright said the situation of social distancing lends itself to various ways of spending time as a family.
When it’s over, she said, “It will all have changed us for the better.”
To be part of the front porch photo series, email firstname.lastname@example.org.