Halloween Scavenger Hunt Printable

With COVID-19 still a huge problem in America, Halloween is starting to look a little different for kids this year. The CDC has already recommended that we skip trick-or-treating and a few cities have attempted to ban it this year. Now, families are trying to figure out how to keep the Halloween spirit alive while possibly skipping the most iconic part of the holiday.

We haven’t decided what we will do about trick-or-treating; Mr Boots and I are not in agreement on the subject. But I’m determined to give the boys a fun Halloween 2020 despite the pandemic no matter what we decide.

Our neighborhood has a few houses that go all out for Halloween. I thought it would be fun to create a Halloween scavenger hunt for the boys. We can either walk up the street or drive around the neighborhood after dinner so they can look for the items on the list.

Halloween Scavenger Hunt Free Printable pin via Muddy Boots and Diamonds

I’m sharing this latest project with you! You can grab your own copy of the Halloween scavenger hunt by clicking the link at the end of this post 🙂

A thing about my printables:

This worksheet is 8.5×11 inches. If you’d like to use this for yourself, feel free to download it and print a few out. But please….

  • This printable is for PERSONAL USE ONLY
  • You MAY NOT resell, redistribute, or claim the original as your own
  • If you post this on the internet, please give credit to this blog, Muddy Boots and Diamonds, and link back to this specific post so others can obtain the resource.
  • I’d love to see how you incorporated this scavenger hunt into your Halloween plans! Feel free to tag me (Twitter: @bootsndiamonds or IG: @muddybootsndiamonds) when sharing your photos!

Download your Halloween Scavenger Hunt here!

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

This post contains Etsy affiliate links. This means I will receive a small commission should you buy something after clicking through the links -- at no extra cost to you!

Guess what?

When you shop with your Mastercard on Etsy, you’ll have a chance to win $5,000 each week during the month of August! To enter for a chance to win, just make your next Etsy purchase using your Mastercard. Easy peasy! (click here for Official Rules.)

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!

I’m a Mommy Blogger: Parenting is Political

I grew up in a very divided household when it came to politics. The fights my parents would get into over presidential candidates is still something that sticks with me. I grew up wanting to avoid politics as much as possible.

That changed in 2015. When I found out that a bully was moving into the White House, I became vocal.

I’ve tried over and over again to give our current president the benefit of the doubt, but over and over again, he has shown us who he is. He’s a bully. He’s racist. He does not care about anyone but himself.

I cannot stress that last sentence enough.

I am a mommy blogger and parenting is political pinterest image via muddybootsanddiamonds.com

Leading up to November 2015, I applied for blogging campaigns that asked: “Do you talk about politics on your platform? Please explain.”

I hated that question. I felt brands were looking for influencers answering “no” so they could remain apolitical.

I couldn’t say “no.”

I’m a mommy blogger and parenting is political.

Parenting is political when there is a possibility of bully becoming President of the United States. Aren’t I supposed to be teaching my kids that bullies are bad and they don’t win?

Parenting is political when politicians refuse to listen to scientists on ways to keep citizens safe.

Parenting is political when a group of politicians wants to rescind the ACA, which protects kids with pre-existing conditions, provides breast pumps to mothers and allows for allergy testing.

Parenting is political when politicians won’t pass common-sense gun legislation to protect our children in schools.

Parenting is political when our kids don’t have clean water to drink.

Parenting is political when food labeling regulations are changed by the FDA and we no longer trust the food we feed our kids with food allergies.

Parenting is political when bills that have passed with bipartisan support in Congress pile up without discussion in the Senate. Legislation that includes an increase the minimum wage, which would make it easier for parents to provide for their families and background checks on firearms, which can prevent child deaths.

Parenting is political when families don’t know how they will pay their bills or put food on the table because lawmakers cannot agree on how to fund a wall.

Parenting is political when the President of the United States threatens to withhold federal funding from school districts that do not fully re-open in the midst of a poorly-handled pandemic.

There’s more. Godfuckingdammnit, there’s so much more I could add.

Every time I see a well-known parenting blogger speak up about injustices, someone is quick to say “stick to kids, I like you better when you aren’t political.”

But how can you not be political when policies are being put in place that harm children?

You can’t. At least it doesn’t seem like it here in America.

I grew up wanting to avoid getting involved in politics. But as long as people pass laws that hurt children and their families, I can’t avoid it.

Parenting is political. Becoming a mom taught me that.

Mom wearing Raising Future Voters baseball shirt
I’m selling these shirts. You can find them in my Etsy and Redbubble stores.

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