My daughter loves cats. Loooooooves cats. We don’t have one currently, so she and my son “borrow” the neighbor’s cat, who loves to come and play with them on our front porch. Needless to say, my daughter was thrilled to read these adorable new picture books about cats! They are fun and funny, plus they also teach concepts like counting and the alphabet.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Adorable Picture Books About Cats
Enjoy these adorable picture books about cats with the cat lover in your life!
123 Cats: A Cat Counting Book is part of a pair of books (see below) that use simple text and charming illustrations to teach young readers early concepts. In 123 Cats: A Cat Counting Book, we count along as we are introduced to new cats (and all their antics). The illustrations are so sweet, and I love that the book actually goes up to 12 instead of just 10, as this is often hard for kids to learn. After all, cats come better by the dozen!
ABC Cats: An Alpha-Cat Book covers all kinds of cats from A-Z, including an “Adorable cat with eyes of gold” and a “Baby cat just two weeks old.” My daughter loves poring over these illustrations, and she’s started to use the terms to describe cats that we meet. (“That must be an unusual cat just like in the book because it likes swimming!”) Although the book is designed to reinforce ABC learning, it also challenges children with its elevated vocabulary. The Dreaming cat doesn’t just snore, it has a thunderous snore. Cats are elegant, finicky, and hefty. The Rowdy cat has a piercing yowl, and V is for a Voracious cat.
This pair of books are wonderful for very young readers as well as older kids who love cats.
Atticus Caticus is a joyful read about a cat who loves to play. The book is so fun to read aloud because of all the plays on his name, like splat-a-tat-taticus and tummy so fat-ticus. Cat lovers will recognize all of his mischievous behavior, such as drinking from his owner’s glass or attacking him as he walks down the hall. The illustrations are just as fun as the text, with playful drawings that capture the energy of this spunky cat.
It’s summertime, and everywhere we look we see flowers! Here are some of our favorite new children’s books about flowers that also help teach life lessons about patience, determination, and generosity.
Children’s Books about Flowers
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. I received complimentary copies of some of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.
Enjoy these children’s books about flowers! What are your favorite blooms?
Oscar’s Tower of Flowers is a wordless picture book, so it’s great for sparking conversations with your child. When a loved one must go away on a trip, Oscar copes by focusing on growing flowers to share with his neighbors. He patiently waits for them to bloom, filling every nook and cranny of his apartment. Then, one by one, he takes them in his red wagon to each neighbor in the building to share the bounty. By the time his loved one returns, Oscar has learned the principle that we can help ourselves by helping others. The book also demonstrates the power of beauty and nature to lift our spirits and bring people together. My favorite illustrations are the end papers, which show the transformation of the apartment building thanks to Oscar’s flowers.
Sweet Pea Summer is another book about the therapeutic nature of gardening. A young girl stays with her grandparents while her mother is in the hospital, and gardening with her grandfather helps her to keep her mind off worrying and missing her mother. But soon she discovers that her sweet peas aren’t thriving. With determination, she works diligently to solve the mystery. Once she discovers the problem, can she save the flowers in time for the flower show? A sweet story with a happy ending that is sure to spark an interest in these beautiful flowers.
Little Dandelion Seeds the World is the only non-fiction book on this list. Ever wonder why there are dandelions everywhere you turn? This lovely book explores all the different ways that dandelion seeds travel: on the wind, in water, on clothing or fur, even in bellies! They are so successful that they bloom on every continent – yes, even Antarctica! This book shows how children around the world enjoy these playful flowers and help them seed the world.
Lucy’s Blooms also features dandelions, as a young girl learns what it takes to keep her favorite blossoms happy. With her grandmother’s help, she tends to them patiently, adjusting her methods each morning as she sees how they fared the night. Just like Sweet Pea Summer above, this is a wonderful book to teach children the science of carefully monitoring plants to see what they need to thrive. I also love that Lucy’s Blooms shows love to the often underrated dandelions, which are so cheerful and hardy, but which, as Lucy discovers, don’t win prizes. Lovely twist ending, as Lucy decides to give her beloved dandelions their own prize as Most Loved.
Raising bilingual kids is a lot of work, but it can also be fun! These easy activities can be done with a range of ages and are a fun way to practice Spanish. Best of all, most require little to no prep time, so they are perfect for busy families.
Practice Spanish with These Easy Activities: Bilingual Kids
Disclosure: This post was created in collaboration with Spanish Safari. We received complimentary access to this app for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.
Try these easy activities to practice Spanish!
1. Take a Picture Walk
Choose a book with a lot of colorful and realistic illustrations. Look at the pictures and talk to your child about what you see in the images in Spanish. It’s a great way to introduce new vocabulary.
2. Choose An Outfit Together!
Help your child pick out an outfit for the day (or you can work ahead and pick out tomorrow’s outfit!) Use Spanish to give your child instructions and also to describe all the choices your child makes for clothing.
3. Cook Together
Cooking is such a sweet activity to do together, and a great way to practice Spanish! It’s also a wonderful way to celebrate your heritage or learn about other cultures, like with this Cuban Mango Milkshake.
4. Play I Spy
Known as “veo veo” in Spanish, I Spy is a classic game that’s easy to play no matter what your language level.
5. Jump Around
I have one child who simply can’t sit still. So any chance I get to introduce active games like the one below, I take it! Movement can also help “activate” the vocabulary in the child’s brain. Just take two or three related words in Spanish and shout them out randomly for the kids to act them out! The faster you go, the harder it gets! You can also take a look at this jumping game we did with chalk.
8. Have Fun with Clay Most children love to finger paint. It’s just so much fun! But, clean up can be a hassle. Instead of supper messy paint, tear up small pieces of colorful modeling clay and spread the clay around cardboard pieces to create wonderful works of art. Talk in Spanish about the process, the colors, shapes and what they are making. You can also check out this vocabulary-building activity we did with play dough.
9. Animal Antics Make a list in Spanish of different animals. Choose an animal and you and your child can move and make sounds like the animals. Be sure to label all of the actions you take in Spanish.
10. Create a Group Story
Sit in a circle and start a story in Spanish. After you start, go around the circle, asking each person involved to add to the story.
11. Draw a Picture
Another fun way to practice Spanish is by drawing a picture! I often describe a scene to my children using our new vocabulary and ask them to draw a picture. You can make it as simple or complicated as appropriate for your child.
12. Play Online
My kids love using the Spanish Safari app, designed for kids ages 3-9. Kids are swept away to an immersive world with adorable animals characters, including monkeys who serve as guides. I love that the app is narrative-based, so language learning happens in a very natural, intuitive way. Lessons are designed to engage those that already know some Spanish as well as those that are just getting started.
You can download it for free to try it out, though I really recommend the full version, which gives you access to large number of lessons and mini games. I also love that with the full version I can set up separate profiles for my kids, so they can have age appropriate materials.
If you are visiting San Francisco or live in the area, be sure to include Alcatraz on your itinerary! It is a fun trip to do with your kids, and really brings history to life. Here are our top tips for visiting Alcatraz for families.
Alcatraz for Families: San Francisco with Kids
Alcatraz is most well known as an infamous prison, but it was also a military garrison as well as the site of one of the most significant political protests of the modern American Indian movement. In addition, it is a spectacular way to experience San Francisco Bay.
Here are our tops tips for visiting Alcatraz for families:
Alcatraz for Families: Top Tips
Be careful of parking! Choose your parking lot/garage wisely. We parked very close by, and after we had already paid a large sum for all day parking, a bus driver took the time to flag us down, honking at us and warning us to be careful of thieves (!) We moved our car to the middle of the lot, took all our valuables with us, and hoped for the best, but when we returned in the evening, we did see two cars on the perimeter of the lot that had their windows busted out. Next time, we will probably choose a parking garage, even if it means a bit more walking.
Don’t worry, there are bathrooms on Alcatraz and on the ferry! There are also plenty of bathrooms at the dock back on the mainland, which is really convenient if you just drove in from outside the city.
Buy your tickets ahead of time.
Tours of Alcatraz sell out weeks ahead of time, so buy your tickets early. You will find plenty of companies offering tours: We chose Alcatraz Cruises because they are an official vendor with the National Park Service. You can find all the most up-to-date information about the tours on their website.
Plan on 3-4 hours.
There is a lot to see on Alcatraz, so allow for plenty of time on the island. The ferry ride takes about 20 minutes each way, and you need to queue up 20-30 minutes ahead of your departure time. (You won’t miss the boat if you get in line later, but you may not have a place to sit). On Alcatraz, the main attraction is the tour of the cells, plus there are special exhibits and gardens to see. We arrived on the 1 pm ferry (easy to do if you are coming from Sacramento, as we were), and left on the 4:25 pm ferry back to San Francisco. From there it is an easy walk to Pier 39, where you can have a bite to eat, look at the shops, or (if it’s the right season) see the sea lions.
Food and beverage (other than water) are not allowed on the ferry or most of the island, but they are allowed at the dock. Since you’ll be spending several hours at Alcatraz, I recommend at least packing snacks. (Keep in mind that as of this writing there isn’t any food for sale on Alcatraz either). We packed a light lunch and ate it on some of the benches looking out over the bay. It is a nice place to take a breather and enjoy the view.
San Francisco is notorious for its changeable weather, which can be quite cool even in the middle of summer. We were there in July, and it was cold, especially on the island! The best thing to do is wear layers. If the sun comes out, you can always shed a layer or two, but you are going to want some good jackets for most of your time on Alcatraz.
Wear good walking shoes.
There is a lot of walking on Alcatraz, and most of it involves hills. My husband and I didn’t have any problems (except I wished I had brought my real sneakers instead of my cute ones), but the kids needed to have some breaks in the walk up to the main cell block.
Everything on the island is wheelchair accessible. They even have a special shuttle service for those with mobility issues, but this does not include those with small children. So if you have little ones, be sure to bring a stroller or carrier.
Don’t miss the audio tour.
When I asked my kids what their favorite part of Alcatraz was, the audio tour of the cells won hands down. You can either use the devices available there, or download the app on your phone once you arrive. The tour really brings history to life, as you walk down the corridors and peer into the cells (you can even walk into some!) hearing the voices of former prisoners and guards.
Summertime is for playing outdoors and enjoying time with family – not for sweating it out in the kitchen! These no bake desserts are a cool treat when the weather is hot, so you can get back to enjoying what you love. Which one will be your favorite?
No Bake Desserts: Summertime Treats
Enjoy these no bake desserts! What’s your favorite summertime treat?
Summer is the perfect time to enjoy these ocean books for kids. They make great reads for the beach – or for when you’d like to be at the beach! These picture books are a great way to find children’s curiosity about the ocean. They include fiction and non-fiction books.
Ocean Books for Kids: Beach Reads
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Enjoy these fiction and non-fiction ocean books for kids!
Ocean Lullaby is a beautiful bedtime read, perfect after a long day at the beach. The illustrations are dream-like, with soft colors yet realistic details. The lilting text adds to sense of being soothed to sleep with the waves. Young readers will love seeing the ocean creatures like dolphins and whales also settling down for the night.
Sophie’s Seashell Scramble is an adorable board book for the youngest readers. As the adorable Sophie the otter collects seashells, children sharpen their matching skills by recognizing shapes and colors. Little hands will love exploring the shaped pages and all those wonderful flaps to lift. There’s even a Sophie’s Seashell Scramble Game to go with the book!
Ride the Wind is an emotional journey set off the coast of Chile, about a young boy who has recently lost his mother. One day he finds an injured albatross and, against his father’s wishes, he secretly nurses it back to health. His empathy for the bird parallels his grief for his mother, and he cares for the bird as he wishes he could have cared for his mother. It is a story of redemption and hope, of a father and son torn apart by grief then reminded of what is really important. The watercolor illustrations are so evocative of the small fishing village, and the stormy skies reflect the emotions of this moving tale.
For kiddos that want to dive deeper into the science of oceans, Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas is a fascinating book they will want to read again and again. It gives an overview of the ancient history of the oceans and how the creatures there evolved. The illustrations are wonderful, and there is so much scientific detail, yet all presented in a very accessible way, such as the timeline running at the bottom of the pages. I love how it compares the ancient creatures to those that can be found today. To be honest, I’ve spent a lot of time poring over this book myself!
June 22, 2021food, SummerComments Off on Healthy Summer Dessert: Greek Yogurt Trifle
When the weather gets hot, it’s a great time to make this healthy summer dessert! Even better, this Greek yogurt trifle is loaded with fruit and other ingredients you can feel good about serving to your family. Imagine your kids’ faces when you tell them they can have this dessert for breakfast!
Healthy Summer Dessert: Greek Yogurt Trifle
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Enjoy this healthy summer dessert! I love no bake treats like these in the summer, when I really don’t want to turn on the oven.
We just made our Greek yogurt trifle in a large serving bowl, but it would look really lovely to serve it in a trifle bowl!
The great thing about this dessert is that it’s so adaptable. I’m listing below the amounts we used, but you can adjust it to your tastes and preferences.
3 ripe bananas, sliced
2 cups strawberries, sliced
6 cups plain Greek yogurt (you can substitute regular yogurt, but the pudding layer won’t be as firm)
1/4 – 1/3 cup peanut butter
honey, to taste
10 large rectangles of graham crackers
Add a layer of chocolate chips!
Add an extra banana or two in the pudding to pump up the flavor and add more natural sweetness.
Substitute another favorite fruit for the strawberries.
Add cacao powder to the pudding (as shown here). We used 4 T of cacao powder. Be aware that because the cacao is bitter, you will need to add quite a bit more honey, which makes the pudding layer much runnier. The taste is great, though!
Crush the graham crackers into small pieces. Do not crush into a powder, or it will be absorbed completely into the pudding layer. Adjust the size of the pieces by how much crunch you would like.
Mix the yogurt, peanut butter, and honey in the blender until smooth. (If using cacao powder, add now).
Layer the trifle in your bowl as follows:
Repeat layers, ending with the strawberries.
Chill several hours and serve.
This Greek yogurt trifle was a big hit! My oldest gave this healthy summer dessert a “100, on a scale of 1 out of 10”! What are your favorite summer treats?
Books are a wonderful tool to help children see the world in new ways. This collection of new picture books will help you in teaching values like kindness, inclusion, and compassion to raise good humans. It’s not easy to raise the next generation of world changers, but together we can!
Teaching Values: Picture Books to Raise Good Humans
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click thorough and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Enjoy these new picture books that help with teaching values and raising good humans!
A key element to build a kinder, more just world is empowering kids to be world changers, through teaching them to be kind, loving, and confident. That is why I love this new collection by The Be Books, dedicated to raising a generation of self-confident, caring kids that are focused on BEing their best selves. These books, such as Be Who You Were Meant To Be, Love Grows Love, The Light Within Me and Every So Often A Zebra Has Spots, inspire children to help create a better future by seeing the light in themselves and others.
Another wonderful ABC book is The ABCs of Black History. It’s easy to get kids excited about history with a book like this! Learn about icons of Black history like Alvin Ailey and Toni Morrison, as well as holidays like Juneteenth and Kwanzaa. In this ABC book, letters of the alphabet stand for concepts important to Black history, like E for Education and V for Vote. This is a book that doesn’t shy away from difficult topics like enslavement and discrimination, but it also recognizes that Black history is so much more than that. More than anything, The ABCs of Black History is about empowerment: R is for Rise and B is for Beautiful, for example. A must read for every child.
One of the most common experiences among children of immigrants is the struggle between wanting to fit in and wanting to honor their heritage. For so many young children, this conflict comes to a head in the school cafeteria. In The Yuckiest Lunch Box: A Children’s Story about Food, Cultural Differences, and Inclusion, Nari is so excited for her first day of school, but when the other kids see her traditional Korean lunch, they laugh and turn up their noses. Nari is humiliated and asks her mother to pack her a “normal” American lunch instead. In this tender tale, we see as Nari not only grows in confidence but learns to stand up for another new student and his “weird” lunch. There is so much I love about this book, especially that in the end Nari herself becomes a force for change and shows the way to other students.
How to Apologize is a sweet book for young readers to learn that important skill, how to apologize. As the animal characters make plain, everyone makes mistakes, but what’s important is to say you’re sorry. I love that this book gives examples of how to apologize, which is so important when teaching values. What does an apology look like? What makes it a good apology, and not just something you say because you know you should? Kids will love these adorable characters as they learn this valuable lesson.
Making friends is also a skill, one that many of us need to brush up on after the pandemic! Let’s Play! A Book About Making Friends shows children how to do just that through the story of Sukie, who has just started at a new school. Soon she learns to pass on small acts of kindness and form genuine friendships. I love the emphasis on celebrating differences and standing up for one another. A wonderful book for children starting back to school.
FREE is a lovely book about loving and letting go. When a boy and his grandfather care for a sick bird, they make the difficult decision to let him go once he is better. But each time they try to set him free, the bird returns. The boy hopes this means the bird can stay forever, but his grandfather helps him understand that the bird will be happier out in the wild. And so they set off on an adventure to take the bird back into the mountains to its home. This magical journey helps the boy understand that even though it’s hard to let go, when we love someone we want what is best for them.
Thoughts Are Air is a beautiful picture book that teaches children the importance of turning their ideas into action. Thoughts are like air, but if they are put to work, they can power your plans. Young readers follow along as a group of children decides to help save a tree that needs some extra love. They turn their ideas into action and soon get the neighborhood involved. A lovely book to inspire children to transform their big ideas into reality.
Want to help your kids make better choices? Now there’s a fun way to do just that! The cool new book What Should Darla Do? Featuring the Power to Choose has 8 stories in 1! Young readers follow along as Darla, a self-proclaimed astronaut in training, faces everyday dilemmas that kids confront all the time, such as whether to ask before using someone else’s toys and how to handle jealousy among friends. In each situation, kids help Darla choose what she should do. Based on that, they turn to the corresponding page to see how that decision works out for Darla. It’s a great way to help children think through the consequences their own choices and learn to use the Power to Choose!
Summer is the perfect time to reignite your child’s love of reading! If you are hoping to boost your child’s second language or just starting to expose them to one, you won’t want to miss these fun bilingual books for kids! Some are fully bilingual, with the complete text in both languages, while others are primarily in English with Spanish mixed in throughout.
Fun Bilingual Books for Kids to Learn Spanish
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Enjoy these fun bilingual books for kids, including picture books and early readers.
Nothing says summer like paletas (popsicles). Paletero Man is a tribute to these cool summer treats as well as to the generosity of the Paletero Man that sells them. This new picture book is filled the vibrant colors and flavors of paletas, including so many that we love (cherry, melon, and strawberry!) and some I didn’t know (corn??) We already love the music of Lucky Diaz, who has won multiple Latin Grammys and has been nominated for an Emmy six times. (See my review of his band’s last album, Buenos Diaz, and watch for their next one, Crayon Kids, releasing soon!) The book is also a love letter to the diverse neighborhoods of Los Angeles, where Spanish words and phrases are sprinkled into conversations, just as they are throughout this book. Highly recommended.
Another beloved Spanish-language musician branching out into children’s books is 123 Andrés, the Latin Grammy-winning duo responsible for wonderful albums like Canta Las Letras (read my review). We were already big fans, so I was excited to see this new venture. Ten Little Birds / Diez Pajaritos is a board book based on a popular counting song from 123 Andrés. (We got to see them perform it live a few years ago!) This adorable book, told in both Spanish and English, helps children practice their numbers in Spanish, as they see birds fly away and then return to a city rooftop. Watch the music video, too!
Happiness Street – Calle Felicidad is a lovely picture book that celebrates summer and family. In it, a child looks back on her summer at grandmother’s house by the beach. That magical place truly is “happiness street,” as the children have named it. The paintings of the book are gorgeous. The bilingual version is a great opportunity to practice colors in Spanish! The story concludes when Mother comes to take the children back home, and they experience the bittersweet emotions that come with the end of vacation, though it is tempered by the promise of next summer on Happiness Street. A lovely way to celebrate the transition from vacation.
Meet the great luchador El Toro and his friends! This early reader series, including Training Day and Tag Team, is a fun way to get kids reading, all the while exposing them to Spanish. The graphic novel format makes it appealing even to reluctant readers. The mix of Spanish and English is great even for those with no Spanish knowledge. The book is primarily in English, with a heavy dose of added Spanish (though all these phrases are also given in English). I love that these books are a celebration of Mexican-American culture and particularly wrestler (luchador) culture. And of course, parents will love the themes of teamwork and working hard to achieve your goals. The illustrations are wonderful, with so many fun details to explore, including lots of captions in English and Spanish.
This new series is a spin-off series of the picture book ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat by Raúl the Third, for which Raúl was awarded the Pura Belpré Youth Illustrator Award.
Un Cubano in New York is a fully bilingual book (text in both English and Spanish) about a boy caught between two worlds, feeling like he doesn’t quite fit into either. His Spanish isn’t good enough for his Cuban relatives, and even though he is “white passing,” he is self-conscious about being different from his American peers. It is organized by sections, such as food and language, with the author’s reflections on his childhood. A wonderful book to understand what it is like to grow up as a child of immigrants.
Un Cubano in New York is a part of a collection of similar works (the fifty/fifty collection), including Un hȃfu à Paris, a French-Japanese book about a child of mixed heritage living in Paris. It also includes Little Yabani in Beirut, a memoir from a Lebanese-Japanese author. They give wonderful insight into growing up with mixed cultural heritage.
June 3, 2021Education, parentingComments Off on Balancing a Home Business and Homeschooling
I’m so excited to have this guest post from my good friend Jen Fischer. We have worked together for many years through Multicultural Kid Blogs, and I’ve always been impressed with her thoughtfulness and dedication to making the world a better place. Here she tackles a topic on many of our minds, especially this past year: how to balance a home business and homeschooling.
Balancing a home business and homeschooling presents many challenges any time, but those challenges increase during a pandemic when many of us (myself included) are sheltering-in-place with our children. Some of the normal outings or programs that could aid us in our efforts to balance everyone’s needs suddenly are no longer available. For my family, creative problem solving came to the rescue.
Tools and Tips for Balancing a Home Business and Homeschooling
COVID completely turned our family’s life inside out. My partner and I already worked from home, running our own business. Previously, though, our children were at school. All of the sudden all of us were at home, all of the time, and when the new school year began last Fall, we were in a new home, new city, new state and decided to homeschool our children ourselves. Our company is a media company with an arts education division. Thus, my partner and I have substantial teaching experience: filmmaking, digital arts, music, etc. We felt confident we could handle this transition.
My children thrive in the homeschool setting, so the shift benefited them immensely. Yet, covering their comprehensive schooling needs (Math, Science, Social Studies, English, Computer Science, P.E., the Arts, etc.) while also running our home business stretched my partner and I thin.
In the fall, we took too much upon ourselves and often felt like we were drowning. With the new year (and the Spring semester), we made some pivotal shifts. These adjustments made homeschooling and running a home business not only more manageable, but also more enjoyable for us all.
We quickly realized that both our mental health and our business needs would benefit if we didn’t try to do it all ourselves. Additionally, our children needed connections (virtual) to other students and teachers. We outsourced in two ways: through our extended family and through virtual classes.
My mother was an English teacher for decades before she transitioned to a new career. English Language Arts (ELA) is my younger son’s least favorite subject and doing ELA with me was like pulling teeth. So, we set up zoom sessions with G’ma twice a week and saw his ELA interest soar. He looks forward to these sessions and is open to learning from her because of who she is. Additionally, my sister is a Buddhist translator so she does weekly meditation sessions with both the kids via zoom, and my brother (who lives 30 minutes away) often drops off woodworking projects for them. My kids have strengthened their relationships with their extended family through these schooling experiences.
We found online learning experiences that worked for our kids. Specifically, we’ve used Outschool for socialization opportunities for my younger son and found some fabulous Black Studies courses for my older son (Black History and Black Innovators). We also love WorldOver International School because of their project-based approach. Plus, they offer things we can’t teach, like Japanese. Our kids are taking Japanese and Coding classes and earlier this year my younger son enjoyed a Math Bake-Off class, which combined baking and math, bolstering his hands on understanding of fractions, measurements and fraction-to-decimal conversions.
My sons are in 4th and 5th grade this year. With middle school approaching soon for them both, we know that managing a project, seeing it through and organizing their own time as they work toward completing a project are important skills for them to master. Additionally, self-directed learning projects mean my partner and I can focus on work items for our home business. We check in with them on these projects on Monday and help them set a list of tasks and a schedule for the week based on the tasks they hope to accomplish that week.
Honor Play and Creativity
Children learn through play. This is an undisputed fact. Pediatrics (the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) states: “Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development.” Being flexible with our school schedule and honoring play makes our day run more smoothly. Our general rule is to never interrupt outdoor play because of our learning schedule, unless the kids have a virtual class or friend meet up that was scheduled. Often, this means their recess after lunch becomes an extra hour of outdoor play for them and an extra hour of work time for me.
An essential aspect to honoring play and creativity includes setting the stage for this. Our backyard features many “loose parts” (wood, rocks, pebbles, tools, recycled materials, etc.) The benefit to loose parts play is that it is child-led and involves lots of tinkering, which means children are solving problems, thinking creatively and learning a lot in the process. Often, loose parts play is associated with early education, but I’ve seen the benefits of continuing to prioritize this type of play even as my children approach tween and teen-dom.
Engage Children With Your Home Business
Since my partner and I do work that is of interest to our children, we often include them in that work in ways that enhances our home business and that provide our kids with opportunities to connect with us around our work. For example, my partner is currently developing a virtual reality learning space for WorldOver International. Our children are able to experience this space, test it out and offer feedback. He even shares the coding with them to show them the “inner workings” of how such spaces are built.
Learning Through Film
Since my partner and I run a media company and one that emphasizes social impact film and gaming educational tools, we firmly understand and believe in the power of film as a tool for learning. While the kids are watching a film, my partner and I know we can schedule in valuable uninterrupted work time, but always with the understanding that the film will truly enrich their learning experience. Sometimes, it’s comparing a book they’ve read with the film version of that book. At other times, we select a nature documentary that compliments their science lessons.
Journeys In Film is a nonprofit that creates standards-based curricula and discussion guides for films. All of their materials are free. I love how comprehensive the materials are. Many of the materials are more appropriate for children older than mine, but I found that I could easily pull out parts of a curriculum or discussion guide to utilize with my sons. Our favorites from their library were The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and Hidden Figures, which we used as part of our science and social studies curriculum this year. I highlighted my favorite films for global learning available through Journeys In Film on Multicultural Kid Blogs.
Organize and Prepare
Organization and careful preparation make everything more manageable. We have a school schedule that helps us keep track of their online classes, zoom learning with family members and zoom hangouts with friends that we also include in their schedule from time to time. We print this each week and make sure it is posted for everyone to see and reference.
We also pack lunch! Yes, the children are at home. Yes, I am at home with them too, but I don’t always want to stop to make them lunch. They can make some items themselves, but still sometimes need help. So, we often pack lunch the night before. I’ve also worked with them to think through healthy eating so they can make good snack choices without anyone else’s help.
Another essential component to successfully balancing a home business and homeschool is organizing my own time effectively. My partner and I alternate “teaching days” and “work days.” Even on our teaching days, we still manage time for our home business, but it’s helpful for the kids to know who the point person is for them if they have questions. I schedule “deep work” and meetings on my partner’s work days. If you don’t have a partner to alternate with, then try to use virtual classes, family member zoom lessons and movies as opportunities for you to do work that requires intense focus or utilize that time for meetings. On days when I am “on” or more likely to be interrupted, I schedule work that is more conducive to interruptions, like social media, responding to emails, scheduling upcoming meetings, etc.
The most beneficial thing I’ve learned in balancing a home business and homeschooling is the value of taking deep breaths and reminding myself that “it’s fine.” In the U.S., in particular, education is often discussed in terms of children being “ahead” or “behind,” but in my two decades of experience working with children in a variety of settings, I’ve learned that this just isn’t true. If my children are loved, are safe, are reading, exploring, growing, then they are fine. I’ve taken the pressure off myself and have decided that we should enjoy the process of life and learning.
Has COVID changed your homeschooling or home learning style?
What tools help you balance your life?
Jen Fischer is a writer, film producer and teaching artist whose work focuses on highlighting shared human experiences to cultivate empathy and understanding. Her films have screened across the United States and abroad and have been featured by NBCLatino, ABC, Univision, Fusion, NBCBLK, Vice News, etc. with her film “THE wHOLE” premiering at Amnesty International’s 50th Anniversary Human Rights Conference. Her essay “Coffee Can Change” was published in It’s Not All About You: Young Adults Seeking Justice, edited by Julie Richardson Brown and Courtney Richards, published by Chalice Press. She has an essay forthcoming in What is a Criminal? to be published by Routledge press in 2022. Her essays have also been featured in Ms. Magazine, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project and others. She holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and enjoys playing the piano and creating unique educational experiences for her two children. You can find her on Twitter @IndieJenFischer.
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