Homeschool: 2 Months In

Hello Out There! 

We’ve been super focused on settling into our homeschool routine since the New Year and it’s hard to believe we’ve been at it for two months already! Time really does fly. 

Both Little Bear and I have learned A LOT in the last 8 weeks and I want to share some of the helpful tips and wisdoms that have helped me on this journey. 

Routine + Time Management 
Our school schedule has done wonders for my personal time management skills. I struggle with routines but our school schedule helps simplify our day and helps me be more aware of how I spend my time. Working from home can make it hard to keep my boundaries clear and some days I feel like I’ve been too focused on work. But blocking out time for school every day ensures that Little Bear and I get enough one on one time, even if in my head, it doesn’t seem like it. This really helps alleviate the mom guilt I now so many of us struggle with. 

a look at our weekly activity planner. it gets messy, but it keeps our days running smoothly.

Planning
Planning is going to become key if you want to homeschool your child. Your life will become a cluster fuck if you try to homeschool without doing sufficient planning first. I plan my curriculum on a monthly basis, then on Sundays I review my plans for the week, gather materials and prep as much as I can. Nightly, before bed, I check out the schedule for the next day and complete any last minute preparations. That way when the morning comes I’m ready to go, no hesitation. Even with advance prepping, sometimes things go awry. It’s important to plan your day so it runs smoothly but it’s more important to be flexible to your child’s needs.

Letting Your Child Lead
As adults, when we make a plan, we try our best to stick to it, thats the point, right? Well for kids thats not really the case. They don’t need a plan, and sometimes sticking to your plan rigidly can make life unnecessarily hard for your little one. I’ve found that with our homeschool activities, it’s best for me to follow Litle Bear’s lead on how we engage with the activities. Say I bring out paint and paper, but my little one would rather paint on his skin than on the paper. The goal of the painting activity is not to make something beautiful that you frame and keep forever. Would that be nice, sure, but the point of this activity is to 1. Expose your child to different experiences, 2. To encourage hand eye coordination and motor skill development through using a paint brush and 3. To allow your child the opportunity to be curious, explore and understand at their own pace. If you’re hyper focused on getting your child to paint a line on their paper, you could both miss out on all the other opportunities for learning that activity offers.

this was supposed to be an ocean themed sensory bin but when I asked my sister to supervise so I could jump on a work call, I came back to Little Bear fully inside the sensory bin, soaking wet, but having the best time with his tools and toys.

Getting help + Not Losing Your Head
You’ve heard the expression ‘it takes a village’ well, as i’m learning raising a child, really does. So it’s important that you have a support system and the tools you need to be successful. We don’t all have an expansive support team, and that makes things much harder. But that doesn’t mean that you’re alone. The internet and apps like Clubhouse and Facebook are making it easier than ever to connect with like minded people and grow real, meaningful relationships. People meet their spouses online, there’s no reason you can’t make a legit friend who could support you in real life, online. 

Another area where I needed support was in my planning materials and resources. I have a background in education, so iI knew going into homeschooling, what the back end work was going to look like for me. I’m a chronic overplanner so I knew I needed a robust system to help me figure out what homeschooling was going to look like. I wanted our curriculum to be cohesive, not just on a daily and weekly basis but on a monthly and yearly basis too. I needed support in knowing what kind of subjects I should cover and a system that would help make sure we were setting and meeting learning goals and keeping our activities fresh and engaging. I was able to find a very robust planning program that offered that materials I needed and aligned with my educations style (we do montessori in our home). I would highly recommend compiling planning resources and utilizing the resources offered by more experienced homeschoolers when you’re starting out. Even if you’ve worked in education, homeschooling is a different beast entirely, and it’s worth tapping in with an experienced homeschooler before you get started. 

What are some helpful tips or ideas you’ve found most useful on your homeschooling journey? Let me know in the comments or connect with me on Instagram and let me know! I’m always looking for new friends and new ideas.

Good Luck Mama!

featured image by Ketut Subiyanto

Guilt Free Screen Time

Welcome! We’re so glad you’re here, and we hope you’re hanging in there. We’re rooting for you!

These days, odds are, your kids probably getting more screen time per day than they normally would. You’re working from home, they may be doing teleschool via zoom, then zoning out afterward so you can get some work done. We get it! As long as you’re mindful about what your little ones are actually watching, screen time can be an awesome way for kids to learn, explore new ideas, gain a little independence, and give you some time to get sh!t done. Here are a list of some of our favorite ways to use screen time:

Wild Kratts

Why we Love It: Some millennial moms and dads may remember the spunky original that took kids all over the world, exposing them to new environments and amazing animals all from the comfort of their own homes. The reboot is actually better, with a plotline that carries the show and creates the framework for exploring how and why animals are so important. The cast is decently diverse for a seven character crew, with two women of color, Aviva and Koki holding down key roles as the group’s inventor and computer scientist/mechanic, respectively. The ladies are often called to the rescue of the bumbling but well meaning Kratts brothers. The show focuses on themes of animal activism and environmentalism, but leans heavily on concepts of teamwork, perseverance and doing the right thing.
Ages: 6+     Network: PBS Kids


Garage Band

Why We Love It: Great for older kids who enjoy music and don’t mind the challenge of a complex user interface. The app is similar to the Mac version and allows users to create and save high quality audio recordings., this app lets users create and save original melodies and music.
Age: 10+     Network: iOS


Sesame Street

Why We Love It: The Sesame Street many millennials grew up with has undergone a mild facelift. Despite the changes, the core values are the same; acceptance, kindness, community, self love, and a love for learning. Each episode features a mix of educational elements and social development tools to help your little one get ready for school. Creators have never been afraid to push the envelope, despite their tender audience, with landmark storylines and characters addressing death, marriage, world hunger, incarceration, military deployment, and even a character who is HIV positive (4). In recent years, the American cast of characters has expanded to include the Spanish speaking Zoe and Julia, a little girl with Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
Ages: 3+     Network: PBS Kids


Mighty Mike

Why We Love It: Mighty Mike is a great choice for breaking up content heavy educational programming for your kids. The show follows the antics of an overzealous but well meaning animated pug as he tries to defend his home from troublesome critters (namely, raccoons) and win the affections of his next door neighbor-dog. The show relies heavily on physical comedy as it has very little dialogue, so things do get a little wreckless for Mike sometimes, but issues are usually resolved and everyone is safe by the end of the episode. The lack of speaking characters is a source of comfort, as parents won’t have to worry about inappropriate themes or questionable commentary aimed at more mature viewers. In addition, the show helps strengthen your child’s social development skills, as they rely on social cues from the characters to follow the story (5).
Ages: 7+      Network: Universal Kids


Motown Magic

Why We Love It: A charming and upbeat tv show set in the pretend city of Motown, an obvious nod to Detroit, the follows it’s protagonist Ben, a helpful and creative boy who loves music and doing the right thing. Using classic Motown tracks to arc it’s stories, the show has entertainment for parents too, who won’t be able to stop from singing along. The characters throughout the series have surprising depth for a kids show, overcoming some serious challenges and maintaining a strong sense of both self and right and wrong through it all. Motown Magic encourages positive development, through themes of self esteem, creativity and community. As if that wasn’t enough, the show gets an A+ for diversity both in casting and representation, obvious homage to the rich cultural diversity of Motown’s Detroit.
Ages: 4+     Network: Netflix


Breathe, Think, Do With Sesame

Why We Love It: This delightful, and meaningful app from the makers of Sesame Street helps little ones to understand and work through their frustrations. The game guides players through five everyday situations that can cause them to get upset. Children help their monster avatar to calm down by taking deep breaths and selecting a solution to their problem, before moving on to the next scenario. As a bonus, the app is full of resources for parents to help their little one’s develop coping skills and cultivate mindfulness.
Ages: 2+     Network: IOS + Android


How It’s Made

Why we love it: How It’s made is a show on the science channel that follows the production of different everyday items we all use everyday. The show is filmed and narrated with a rhythmic quality that is both soothing and captivating to young children. The abstract nature of the show means that you don’t have to worry about mature themes or images popping up unexpectedly. Seeing the visual process of assembling the items will peak your child’s interest and help with the development of their hand eye coordination, creativity and problem solving skills (2).
Ages: All Ages     Network: Science Channel


Super Simple Español

Why We Love It: Studies show that it is easiest for a child to learn a second language before the age of ten (3). Children under ten can absorb information much easier than teenagers and adults. Super Simple Español is a youtube channel that features popular nursery rhymes and other educational songs to help children learn Spanish while also learning about the world around them.
Ages: All Ages     Network: Youtube


Super Simple Songs

Why We Love It: Super Simple Songs is just as good as Super Simple Español, but in English! Help your little one learn colors, animals, letters and numbers, foods and more, all while developing a love for music and dancing. They even create convenient video playlists that you can put on for your little one without worrying about weird commercials or queuing up the next video.
Ages: All Ages     Network: Youtube


Disney Music Videos

Why We Love It: Music videos are much shorter, tell a more condensed story and provide your child with more sensory stimulation than traditional tv shows or movies. The musical element stimulates their language, motor skill and social-emotional development (1). Plus you can sing a long too, which your little one will love.
Ages: All Ages     Network: Youtube


PBS Kids

Why We Love It: PBS Kids is focused on creating quality educational entertainment for children. In addition to their programming, they have a website full of videos, games, songs and more fun activities to help your kids learn while they play. Unlike other online programs, PBS Kids is free to access and create an account, as are most of their apps. Most shows on their network have a corresponding app, each with unique themes and activities, most of which are free to download and use.
Ages: 4+     Network: Online, Free to Access


ABC Mouse

Why We Love It: ABC Mouse built its reputation on the claim that they can accelerate your child’s learning by unprecedented margins and those claims are backed up by teachers and educators who use ABC Mouse in their classrooms and as a resource library. It’s a paid service, but at $60 for the year, it’s easily worth the price, if your child engages with the program willingly. You can set learning goals, track your child’s progress, and focus on areas of improvement with a paid subscription and you can start them with a free 30 day trial to make sure the platform fits their needs.
Ages: 3+     Network: Online, Paid Subscription


Workout Videos

Why We Love It: workout videos are an often overlooked #momhack, especially if you’ve got children who require high levels of physical activity. Workout videos allow your kids to move their bodies in fun new ways, follow along with a group, and relieve some of that boundless energy. Youtube has tons of great options to fit every age and skill level and there are channels tailored for little ones, if the adult version is too intense. (Although, the idea is not really to get a proper workout, and more so to get some energy out and have some fun). A word of advice: set them up to do this activity in your backyard if you can, or make some room if they’ll be doing this inside. It’s a silly activity and can get kids worked up, so accidents may happen from time to time when we’re kicking too hard or not watching where we swing our arms, for example.
Ages: All Ages     Network: Youtube


Mega Machines

Why We Love It: This engineering and mechanics docuseries details the inner workings and day to day jobs of some iconic and monster sized machines.  Viewers get an inside look at how many different machines are built and how they run, including helicopters, boats, planes, trains, roller coasters, and other futuristic feats of engineering. This show appeals specifically to viewers interested in building or things that go vroom, but appeals to viewers of all ages, genders and backgrounds, making it a great option for the whole family (5).
Ages: 8+     Network: Science Channel


Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth

Why We Love It: Here We Are… is a short animated movie from AppleTV based on the book of the same name by Oliver Jeffers. The story follows a family as they celebrate Earth Day at a museum and learn more about the Earth than they ever dreamed, exploring far off places and learning about the wonders of our world. Themes include environmentalism, conservation, the bonds between families and the importance of instilling a love of learning in children,
Ages: 5+     Network: AppleTV


The Magic School Bus Rides Again

Why We Love It: Another updated classic many millennials will remember fondly, The Magic School Bus rides again follows the next generation of Frizzle as she leads the next generation of young scientists and explorers! The crew rides their magic bus all over the universe exploring the world through broad scientific ideas. The show emphasizes the importance of curiosity, taking chances and trying new things, and addresses social themes like honesty and taking responsibility for your actions. Science concepts are explored in broad terms so as not to overwhelm younger viewers, while still getting them excited about learning.
Age: 5+    Network: Netflix


BORD, Drawing Pad, Procreate

Why We Love It: If your child is a budding artist, consider allowing them to explore the world of digital art. Art is therapeutic and educational and can be a window for expression and exploration. There are options available for all age ranges, with BORD, imitating a classroom chalkboard, all the way to procreate for more advanced artists. 
Age: 2+    Network: iOS + Android

We used Common Sense Media’s comprehensive reviews to help us curate our list. They’re an amazing resource for parents to get detailed reviews on the media their children are consuming. Age recommendations for each activity reflect Common Sense’s recommendations.

What are some of your favorite screen time activities? Share them with us in the comments, and check out Common Sense Media for important information on what you’re child is watching. Looking for more ways to keep your kids entertained inside? You need our Indoor Survival Guide, packed full of games, activities and supplies you’ll need to keep full of activities for all ages and supply lists for kids of all ages!

SOURCES:
1/ https://www.brighthorizons.com/family-resources/music-and-children-rhythm-meets-child-development
2/ Construction Play – Benefits For Children & Early Yearsnewbyleisure.com › blog › 2018-09-06-construction-play-benefits-fo…
3/ What’s The Best Age For Learning A New Language? | Tech …www.techtimes.com › Home › Science
4/ https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/team-sesame-street-created-character-autism-180967218/
5/ https://www.commonsensemedia.org
6/ FEATURED IMAGE VIA KIDSSCREEN

QUARANTINE TIPS: Work From Home Edition

Hey All You Cool Cats and Kittens

LOL. Have you seen it yet? We’re obsessed. Please message, comment, email text or call us anytime, day or night if you wanna dig into to this hot mess.

Ok, but for real tho..

One of the most difficult adjustments for some parents during the covid-19 outbreak has been learning to work from home. For many people, working from home is a dream life, but if you have children, and don’t have help or a designated work space, this can seem like an impossible request. Work, from home? Yea right.. 

Don’t worry, we got you. We’ve been working from home to some degree since college, with anything but a designated work space, and we’ve gathered some essential tips to help you be your most productive while you work from home.


Don’t fight it.

This is the most important tip, but also the most nuanced. You don’t really have to do much physically, but there is a lot of mental work involved in this step. Especially as moms, we are conditioned to push through, to go after, to fight for what we want for our families. Pursue your goals, please, and don’t ever stop! But get it out of your head that you have to fight for things. When we fight, there can only be one winner, and inevitably, a loser. But that doesn’t have to be the narrative here. Consider shifting your perspective from one of fear and fighting to one of perseverance. We will overcome this obstacle as a nation and world, and you will overcome the obstacles it’s bringing to your day to day life. Some days will be better than others. We will fall, but we will get back up. Each day that passes we are one day further from where we started and one day closer to the end of this pandemic. Learn to accept the realities of working from home: you’re not going to get 8 hours of undisturbed time to work. You’re not even going to get four. You’ll be lucky if you get two. But you may get 30 minutes here and there. Use it! Try not to fight your reality too hard right now, it’s only going to burn you out and make you feel more out of control.

Develop a New Routine

Children need routines, and adults can benefit from them also. Obviously, our lives have changed drastically, and our routines will too. Once you feel you’ve adjusted, start by carving out a general routine. You can keep it loose, you don’t need to have every second planned out. With my little one, I try to leave room for flexibility. Things happen. They’re tired, they feel grumpy, they take their nap a little later. The more rigid you are in your routine, the harder it is when you hit a speed bump. Below is a sample of our daily routine to give you an idea of where to get started

I leave big parts of our day flexible. For example, some days, we skip our bath and watch a movie instead. Sometimes we’ll play outside a little longer if we didn’t get enough physical activity for the day. It’s a lot easier on your mental and your family if you allow for flexibility in what you expect. The general boundaries of your routine will help things from feeling out of control when you decide to go with the flow, if thats a struggle for you. Your kids may have been rowdy today, but because you allowed it, they were able to get their energy out, and are ready and waiting for bed when it’s that time.


Productivity

Break big tasks up into smaller chunks: Because you’re not going to get the time you’re used to to work, you’re going to need to find a way to get things done with the small chunks of time you find throughout the day. One way to do this, is by breaking larger projects or tasks up into smaller more actionable steps you can complete in a shorter time frame. This will keep you meaningfully productive which will help reduce your overall stress.

Learn to be ok with distractions. This can be a very tough adjustment to make. For some of us, being called from one complex task to deal with something unrelated can be one of the most mentally challenging parts of working from home. But it’s going to happen, without a doubt, so the best plan of action is to figure out a way to make peace with this inevitable occurrence and learn to work with it. Writing an email and the kids start going at it? Let them go for a minute and finish your thought. If you already know what you want to say, get your thoughts out of your head and into your email, even if it’s just quick notes. Then, when you step out to play referee, you’re not distracted trying to remember what you were writing, and you’re not lashing out with aggressive punishments because you’re irritated for the 18978423 time today. The kids are still going to be there, probably still screaming at each other, whether you run to them immediately or make them wait 90 seconds. You may even find that giving kids a little more time and space to work out their issues by themselves results in increased independence, problem solving and communication. Big wins.


Time Management

Block out time in your day to focus on your kids: As working moms, this is one of the biggest hurdles we face: feeling like we’re not giving our little ones the attention they need and deserve. It’s tough to find extra time when you work full time, commute to and from the office and have daily chores to complete. But working from home can give us a unique opportunity to control our schedules and prioritize what’s really important to us. Studies have found that children need as little as 15 minutes of focused one on one time to feel happy and secure, and research suggests that a child’s attention span is only about one minute long for every year they’ve been alive (1). This means your two year old only really needs your attention for a minute or two before they run off to something else (1). Once you have a solid understanding of your child’s realistic needs, it’s easier to build time for them into your day. According to parenting expert Annie Pleshette Murphy, it’s the first few minutes we spend with our little ones that really mean the most (1). The first few minutes in the morning, after school or when you get home from work are crucial to building strong connections with loved ones. The more days you spend working from home, the more you’ll grow to understand your child’s specific needs. Your kids need way less one on one time than you may think, so even if all you have is five minutes at a time, rest assured that’s enough to start building strong and meaningful connections with your little one.

Use Your Time Wisely: This may seem like a no brainer but chances are, even the hyper productive mom who always gets through her to do list, could be using her time more wisely. This looks different for every mom and every family, so only you know what’s best. But in a time when essentials are our focus, it could pay to simplify your home life down to just the essentials as well. What does this mean? In a nutshell, it means simplifying your life. Eliminate tasks that stress or drain you and aren’t life or death; declutter your home; spend less time on social media and dead end activities on your phone; take advantage of downtime like naps and bedtimes, block out time for yourself for things like exercise and reading, and invite your little ones to participate (bonus points for bonding + modeling self care); consume less media, spend more time outdoors. Focus only on the things that matter; your family, your work and setting the tone for how your family will overcome these challenging times.


Have Some Fun

When we get too caught up in all the ‘work’ we have to do, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Work from home. Home school our kids. Don’t leave our house!! But guess what, we’re not the only ones who are overwhelmed right now. We have it good because we have the skills to express ourselves and some measure of control over our life. Our children are lacking both of those things. They’re also not able to see their friends, play with their peers, move their bodies or do many of the things they loved before. Be gentle with them, and try not to direct your existential frustrations at them. They’re just as scared as you, and it’s got to be scary to see all the grown ups around you panicking and acting weird. Liven up their days any time you can! Can you get away for a few hours in the outdoors away from people? Do you have a yard to play in? Use it to create an inviting and interactive space for them. Build a fort in their rooms that they can keep up until things go back to normal. Adding elements of fun will bring a spark of magic to both of your lives. There is still lots of magic left in the world, we just have to learn to bring it out.

Be Kind To Yourself

Don’t beat yourself up! This rule is a really important one, because it can take a huge toll on your mental health and will most definitely affect the rest of your family. It’s important, everyday, but especially when we are being pushed to our limits, to remember to give ourselves grace and space. Grace to bend where we need to under all this pressure and space to reset when we need to. If you’re kid watching a little more tv than they normally would, that’s ok! It doesn’t make you a bad mom or your child a bad kid to watch television. T.V. can be a source of comfort, bonding, education and entertainment and who doesn’t need a little more of that these days? Maybe your house isn’t kept the way you would like it. Well I wouldn’t be surprised we literally haven’t been allowed to leave them since March! The point being, if you’re doing your best, and your family is getting their needs met, it’s ok if things get a little wild in the meantime.


If you read this far, you may have noticed that most of the tips are about how you relate to your new reality. Keep your head clear, focus on one thing at a time, don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go exactly as you thought they would. Reconnect with your family, keep some sort of structure to protect your sanity, and try to have a little fun. For some fun ways to entertain your family indoors, check out our Indoor Activity Playbook!

Are you working from home right now? How has your experience been? Please share any productivity tips for mams working from home!

And stay tuned for our round up of Guilt Free Screen Time Activities. For those times when you just need to get some work done, we got you.

Sources:
1/ https://www.mother.ly/child/connecting-with-your-kids-why-the-first-5-minutes-matter-mama
2/ featured image via M_A_Y_A via Getty Images via Women’s Day