Must-Have Home School Visuals for Young Learners

About halfway through Crisis Learning this spring, I realized our “home school room” was not superconductive to learning. It had the space for G and L to do their work. It had supplies. But as I was trying to help L with writing practice, it dawned on me that a big piece of school was missing from this space: visuals.

Makeshift Homeschool Room during Pandemic
dining room turned distance learning room

It was a real, “DUH!” moment for me. What elementary school classroom doesn’t have the alphabet up on the wall, or posters relating to their curriculum? When L began asking me how to spell certain sight words, I realized that he was probably using the decor on the walls to help him spell words.

Now that we have opted for the boys to do 100% distance learning this upcoming year, I am trying to re-think our home school room set up and part of that is hanging up some fun visuals to help the boys with spelling and math. I’ve been favoriting a bunch that I’ve come across on Etsy and am sharing my favorites with you today!

Must-Have Visuals for Home School and Virtual Learning

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Girl pointing to letter on alphabet poster

There Are No Great Options: Going Back to School During a Pandemic

I’m one of the millions of parents with the daunting task of deciding how my children will learn in the 2020-21 school year. 

Our school district gave us three options:

  1. Hybrid: Students will be split into two groups. Group A would go to school Monday/Tuesday and Group B would go Thursday/Friday. The days kids weren’t in the building would be distance learning days. Wednesdays would be a deep-cleaning day and teachers would use the day for professional development, coordinating lessons, and “office hours” to speak with parents. 
  2. 100% Distance Learning: Our superintendent said several times that this wouldn’t be “virtual” learning because of the number of kids in the county who do not have internet access. Teachers would need to figure out other ways of getting materials to kids. Plus, he knew it wasn’t good for students to be on the computer for hours at a time. 
  3. Pull your kid out and homeschool.

None of these options felt quite right. But going back to pre-COVID19 school definitely wasn’t.

apple sitting on top of books on a desk Going Back to School During a Pandemic facebook image via muddy boots and diamonds blog

The night the school board voted on these options, they also voted to make the first quarter of the school year virtual. To address equity issues, a few schools in parts fo the county that do not have internet access will open. No instruction will take place; students will be able to sit in a building to do their work vs a car.

Parents had to submit our decisions last week, and I know I don’t have to justify anything, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts leading up to it. Both for posterity’s sake and in case it might help someone else.

Spring was a mess

There was no consistency when it came to how information was presented to us. Would I get assignments at 9am or 10:30? We were told that work wasn’t graded, but then the music teacher appeared on a Google Meet and made us feel otherwise.

G did fine with Crisis Learning; he was quick to figure out Google Meet and was good about doing his work (though he rushed so he could get back to playing sooner).

L…L was a different story. He’s never been one to do work when I ask him to; he does much better in a classroom away from me. It’s always been like that with him. Plus, his speech regressed because he wasn’t in a classroom working on reading and listening to others speak. Wondering if he might need to repeat a year if we keep him home weighs heavily on me.

I don’t know a single teacher who feels safe teaching in-person

Not wanting to return to work due to safety reasons does NOT mean not wanting to work. Sometimes I think we’re missing that mark during the return to school discussion. All of my teacher friends want to get back to teaching their students in-person, but they don’t feel safe. We might think our kids are angels and will follow the rules, but it’s a different story once they enter the school building. Teachers see it. They know it. But they feel left out of the conversations being had about teaching in a classroom during a pandemic.

We have defunded education for decades, leaving school buildings with outdated HVAC systems and overcrowded classrooms. Teachers have to buy their own supplies and depend on donations because their counties can’t even supply them with copy paper.

I mean, if we don’t have enough PPE in the country to supply our doctors and nurses, do we really have enough to supply our teachers and students who forget their mask (or need a new one because theirs got dirty/wet?).

The death rate doesn’t bother me; it’s the response to a positive case

I keep hearing that kids don’t die from this. I keep hearing that the flu is more deadly.

Fine.

But what are we telling people to do if they test positive? Quarantine for two weeks. What are we telling people if they have been in close contact with an infected person? Quarantine for two weeks.

If a teacher gets sick, then a substitute will need to be brought in. That means kids are going to have to adjust to a new style of teaching. And for how long? Back in March, it was assumed you’d be feeling better in two weeks. Now, more and more people are speaking out about their experiences and telling us that they’re taking longer than that to recover. 

Depending on the situation, an entire class/school might have to stay home and be quarantined. Learning can still continue online, but it’ll mean scrambling to find childcare and rearrange schedules so parents can help with education.

How often would this happen? I have no idea, but it’s a real possibility that it would happen more than once during the school year. As someone who doesn’t like abrupt changes (like March), this unknown would constantly be nagging me.

My family will only be as safe as the least safe person

Sending my kids back into the classroom means that everything we have been practicing since March will be moot. We’ve stressed mask-wearing and that won’t matter. We’ve stressed staying six feet apart from anyone outside of our home and that won’t matter.

We haven’t gone on vacation, but we know people that have. We haven’t eaten inside restaurants, but we know people that have. We’ve worn masks and painted them in a positive light, but we know people who think they’re useless.

And it isn’t just a classmate’s family I’d be concerned with. Some of my teacher friends are participating in activities I’m uncomfortable with right now as well. What will my kids’ teachers be doing on the weekends? We know adults can spread the virus.

Our national response to this pandemic has been horrible

I had hoped we’d have a national response to fight COVID-19. Instead, we seem to be fighting each other. 

We could have taken what we learned from the Spanish Flu pandemic and applied what worked then to what we’re experiencing now. We could have looked to other countries as a blueprint to flatten our curve. But no.

The lack of leadership shows in the way of case numbers, deaths, and over-run hospitals. Not only in the country as a whole but in individual states as well.

Infected individuals have gotten younger

It really wasn’t that long ago that we were told the elderly needed to stay home.

Then we were told that people in their 40s and 50s needed to be more careful.

Then people in their 30s seemed to stump medical professionals.

Two weeks ago our governor went on TV to remind young adults in their 20s to stay vigilant because cases in their age group were rising.

As of today (July 30, 2020), the group in Virginia with the most cases so far is 20-29, followed by mine (30-39).

Now, the elderly are definitely higher risk for dying; data undeniably points to that, but I kept coming back to my point about our reaction to a positive case. Who makes up people ages 20-39? College students (student teachers and interns). The workforce. Parents. Teachers. It doesn’t matter if our kids don’t get sick or can’t spread it when the adults responsible for their education, care, and wellbeing aren’t there or are too sick to be there for them.

Four months ago we were told that older people were most at risk. But this summer has proved that might not be the case. Who is to say that we’ll open schools back up and realize that kids aren’t as immune as people want to believe?

Protecting my kids means protecting myself

I have no idea how COVID-19 would affect me. Would I get an extremely mild case or would I need to go to the hospital for oxygen? Who would take our kids to school? Who would help with schoolwork? A hospital stay of any length is a disruption; Mr Boots would need to stay home, requiring him to stake time off work — something he doesn’t have the PTO for. And what if Mr Boots and I both get too sick to care for our kids? Everyone we’d trust to care for them are either elderly, have pre-existing conditions, or want nothing to do with this virus.

And people in my age group have died. It’s a minimal chance, but I can’t be there for my kids if I’m dead.

Homeschool

How much fun would my kids really have at school?

Wearing a mask most of the day. Possibly not getting recess. Having to stay seated at a desk most of the day. Not getting to work in small groups. A teacher whose face they can’t read. Not getting to sit next to their friend for story or circle time. If they got to eat in the cafeteria, having to eat six feet away from their friends at lunch. 

Is that any better than being stuck at home where my kids can move around and eat meals together?

This is a new virus

We are learning new things about COVID-19 on a frequent basis and we could have so much to learn over the next year, and beyond. What are the long-term effects on the body? Are kids really as immune as we believe? How long do antibodies last (right now the longest suggestion I’ve read is six months). 

I’m a stay-at-home-mom, I could keep them home

I acknowledge my privilege here. Keeping my kids home keeps us in the bubble we have created. It would also make it a little safer for teachers and other students. I could keep the boys home and not feel horrible if an outbreak was traced back to our family (Mr Boots works in hospitals after all, and we continue to go to routine medical appointments).

I mean, I don’t want to keep them home. I’d much much MUCH rather my kids be at school, even for a day or two. The idea of keeping an eye on a rising first and third grader as they do schoolwork while chasing a toddler around isn’t how I want to spend my week. I haven’t had a break since February and I’m struggling. But….I wanted to stay home so I could be there when/if my kids needed me. Like, say, during a pandemic.

***

As I watched our district’s school board meetings (hours and HOURS of them), I began a list of Pros and Cons for sending my kids back into the classroom. As I listened to speakers voice their opinions and written statements from teachers being read, my Con side became pretty full. It also drove home how heartbreakingly impossible it is to come up with a solution to Return to School that truly benefits ALL students.

Our decision ultimately came down to this:

We had to make a decision before our most important questions could be answered.

I needed to know if masks would be enforced for my rising third-grader, and how. I needed to know if meals would be eaten in the classroom. I needed to know if my kids would be in a classroom with desks three or six feet apart. I needed to know the steps and precautions they are going to take to keep my food allergy kid safe. Would my kids get recess? Would windows be open, possibly triggering L’s asthma? I wanted to know just how old the school’s HVAC system is.

Our school board members also had specific questions and the answer was nearly always this: schools need to know how many students plan to return to the classroom before details can be figured out. Even our principal emailed us to say she didn’t have the answers to the questions other parents had been asking, essentially asking parents to please stop emailing her. 

If I don’t have information to make an informed decision, then I can’t in good faith send my kids back into the building. We opted for 100% Distance Learning for the 2020-21 academic year.

Chalk drawing of Earth with words Choose Kind written above via muddybootsanddiamonds.com

This is NOT what I wanted.

When parents were asked to take a survey back in June, we were hoping to choose a hybrid option. I love the hybrid plan our district decided on. But, the more I listened to teachers and the more I watched the cases in Virginia, the more I felt uncomfortable with that option. I listened to the school board meetings and came away feeling that at the end of the day, our district does not have enough money to do what is really needed to keep their teachers and students safe. 

The decision wasn’t made lightly. I’ve agonized over it. I’ve second-guessed myself since submitting it. I’m questioning how much I’m hurting my kids socially and emotionally since they’ve rarely seen anyone outside ourselves since March. We don’t have a “pod” of like-minded people to hang out with and their sports/activities have been canceled or shut down. 

But now that our decision has been submitted? A certain weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I can begin preparing for my kids to learn at home. I don’t need to worry about sudden changes because we’ve found ourselves going from Phase 3 to Phase 2 or have been told to quarantine. If it’s truly awful, then we can ask to be moved to the hybrid option for the second half of the year.

Nothing about school in the 2020-21 academic year will be the same. It won’t matter if our kids go back in-person five days a week, or two, or stay home. Every choice we’ve been given carries a risk of some sort. At the end of the day, you have to make the choice that is best for your family. That’s not going to look the same as mine. There is absolutely no good option this year.

Earlier in the week, I watched this video by a pediatrician. In it, she talks about making the decision on what to do about school in the fall. It resonated with me and made me realize my anxiety over this is really due to the unknown. No one can know the future.

Still. I honestly hate this for all of us.

 

Sharpened Pencils in wire Pencil Holder School During a Pandemic pinterest image via muddybootsanddiamonds.com

 

Looking for some homeschool tips and ideas? Check out my Homeschool board on Pinterest!

12 Shirts to Celebrate Pride Month Every Month

As my kids have gotten older, they’re taking more notice of events they’re hearing about on the news and radio. They’ve seen Pride Month highlighted in commercials during their favorite TV shows, which have also taught me a thing or two about why it’s celebrated and the history behind the symbols:

Some Pride Month Facts

  • The original Pride parade organizers chose June to pay homage to the Stonewall uprising in June 1969 in New York City.
  • The first Pride parade was organized by Brenda Howard, a bisexual New York activist nicknamed the “Mother of Pride,” to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall uprising.
  • The Pride flag was designed by Gilbert Baker. It gives a nod to the stripes of the American flag but drew inspiration from the rainbow to reflect the many groups within the gay community.
  • The original Pride flag had eight stripes, which symbolized:
          • Hot pink = Sex
          • Red = Life
          • Orange = Healing
          • Yellow = Sunlight
          • Green = Nature
          • Turquoise = Magic/Art
          • Indigo = Serenity
          • Violet = Spirit

Sources and more good information: Parade and CNN

two arms holding hands in front of Pride flagJune is Pride Month, but Pride something we should really celebrate and continue to advocate for all year long. Today I’m sharing some shirts I came across on Etsy that can help you do just that all 12 months of the year!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links from Etsy. This means I earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through one of the links, all at no extra cost to you! For more info, please read my disclaimer.

Shirts to Celebrate Pride Month Every Month

Happy Pride!

 

Pride Shirts for Every Month of the Year pinterest graphic via muddybootsanddiamonds.com

Always Eat After 7 PM – One Month Follow Up

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by “Always Eat After 7 PM.” The opinions expressed below are my own.

For the last four weeks, I’ve been following the advice in the book Always Eat After 7 PM: The Revolutionary Rule-Breaking Diet That Lets You Enjoy Huge Dinners, Desserts, and Indulgent Snacks—While Burning Fat Overnight by Joel Marion. My goal was to start losing the weight I put on when I was pregnant with Baby J.

Because I’m still nursing, it wasn’t recommended that I skip breakfast completely. I would drink my lemon water and eat a small portion of something healthy if I woke up feeling especially hungry. Water first thing definitely helped set the tone for the rest of the day.

The idea was to follow the Always Eat After 7 PM diet plan, pay attention to what I ate, and begin working out on a regular basis. Life threw me a big curveball with the pandemic. After the first week of starting this challenge, I had to reassess my plan a couple of times.

RELATED: Why I Chose the Always Eat After 7 PM Diet Plan

Fitness

I wanted to train for a 5K and get back into pole dancing. A new gym opened up that had spin and dance classes that looked like a lot of fun — and it had childcare for Baby J so I could work out while G and L were at school!

But the pandemic put a major damper on those plans. Having my kids home with me all day and gyms closing has made finding the time to exercise harder.

My husband is an essential worker and cannot work from home, so finding the time to go on a run hasn’t happened yet. I’ve gone on a few walks with the kids, but I can only get so far before the older two are whining about being too hot or their legs hurt.

I’m still trying to figure out what at-home workouts I like best and fitting them into our new schedule. I do so much better in a class-type setting so a fitness routine hasn’t really been established (yet).

Failure is Feedback; Listen To It quote by Lewis Howes via muddybootsanddiamonds.com

“Failure is Feedback”

I definitely fell off the wagon more than once this past month. Having gone from over 20 months of eating whatever and little exercise outside of walking to changing my diet and incorporating fitness takes a lot of willpower.

Every time I set myself back, I kept Chapter 6 in mind. This is where Joel talks about adjusting your mindset to be successful with the Always After 7 PM plan. He says:

“If you make a mistake, if you screw up, if you don’t achieve the desired outcome, analyze why it happened and how you can avoid the cause next time.”

One of the biggest challenges I took note of was towards the end of two weeks when our food supply begins to dwindle. This is the time when it’s more challenging to figure out a meal plan, I find that produce hasn’t lasted as long as I anticipated, and I’m just so tired of cooking that ordering a pizza is way easier.

“When things don’t go as planned, don’t get discouraged—get analytical. Figure out the cause, and plan to avoid it in the future. Failure is feedback; listen to it.”

I’ll be sitting down and thinking about what I can do to stick with the plan better. More frozen fruit and veggies and preparing freezer meals will definitely help when we get closer to grocery shopping days. Meal planning was a little tricky because some ingredients were hard to find in my grocery store due to the pandemic, so I’ll be thinking of substitutes to add to the grocery list just in case.

Weight Loss

I started this journey at 153lbs – the heaviest I’ve ever been not pregnant.

By using the Always Eat After 7 PM rules of intermittent fasting, I was able to get down to 145!

I know if I had added workouts the results would have been a little bigger. But I’m pretty happy with my result after one month, considering the ups and downs I’ve had since I started this challenge. I’m going to make changes where I can and continue to get back on that wagon 🙂

Based on surprising science, Always Eat After 7 PM debunks popular diet myths and offers an easy-to-follow diet that accelerates fat-burning and allows you to indulge in your most intense food cravings: Eating the majority of your calories at night. 

The Always Eat After 7 PM plan consists of: The 14-day Acceleration Phase to kick-start the program and see rapid results, The Main Phase where you’ll learn exactly which foods to eat when in order to achieve your weight-loss goals, The Lifestyle Phase to keep the weight off for good.

Always Eat After 7 PM: The Revolutionary Rule-Breaking Diet That Lets You Enjoy Huge Dinners, Desserts, and Indulgent Snacks—While Burning Fat Overnight by Joel Marion is now available to purchase. Learn more about the book and how to purchase it here.

Disclosure: In case you missed it, this post is sponsored by “Always Eat After 7 PM.” The opinions expressed below are my own.

Always Eat After 7PM One Month Update pinterest image via muddybootsanddiamonds.com

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How to Beat the Three H’s This Summer

Hazy, Hot, and Humid. It can be difficult to beat the summer heat when you hear those three words in the weather report. I remember hearing them often to describe the heat waves we’d get in Northern Virginia. My mom generally gave us two options to stay cool during the summer: play in the pool or play in our rooms. Whatever we did, we needed to stay out of her hair. (Something I can totally relate to now.)

We’ve just endured our first heatwave, with temps above 90 for three days. It’s felt more like July or August versus the first week of June! It’s gotten me thinking about activities that we can do to beat the summer heat this year, especially with the pandemic still going on.

Cartoon Pineapple wearing sunglasses How to Stay Cool This Summer social media image via muddybootsanddiamonds.com

Hazy, Hot, Humid: How to Beat the Summer Heat

Check out more ways to have fun this summer:

Teal thong sandals with text overlay: Beat the Heat Summer Pinterest Image via muddybootsanddiamonds.comHow do you and your family plan to beat the summer heat this year?