Posted in about me, motivation, parenting

We accidentally hit the jackpot: badges

A week or so ago, a few small factors combined into something amazing.

The whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s been like discovering the combination of chocolate and peanut butter.

Unless you’re allergic.

Anyway.

Off and on for years, I have been doing puzzles at sporcle.com. (I like the logic puzzles the best!) The Climbing Daddy has started puzzling there in recent weeks and has become invested in the badges he can earn.

The Kid has been doing puzzles with him and became equally invested in the badges.

At the same time, we were training for a virtual 5k. The Kid is not a huge fan of running but wanted to get the medal—do you see a pattern?—and was quite whiny when running.

While we were out running one evening, I told him that if he kept running, he would earn a badge. He didn’t believe the badges would be real; I told him I’d make them.

Now. I’m not super-artistic. I enjoy making and drawing and creating, and I do a solidly OK job. (And I’m good with that, as I don’t want to put in the time and work to be better … and because I’ve gotten a lot better at embracing “good enough”—but that’s all for another time.)

But I also knew I didn’t want to be making and cutting out and keeping track of a bunch of little badges. Or worse, big badges. (Have I mentioned that this child keeps everything? What’s that? Yours does, too?)

So I decided just to draw them all on a piece of card stock (paper would have sufficed). He chose the shape. I guided that decision, because there are not many shapes that I can somewhat consistently draw. Or that I was willing to draw repetitively.

He asked: could there be a picture in each? Sure.

You can see my high-quality drawings. But you know what? He loves them. And “I refuse to do it because I feel like I suck at it” is not something I want from him, so I’m not going to model it.

I covered the page mainly because I didn’t want to have to draw more later. That turned out to be great, because now he’s excited to fill them.

I had planned on just doing exercise badges, but The Climbing Daddy had an idea for a not-exercise badge (the one for sanding*—he did good work learning to use the sander when they made a table a few weeks ago), so two sections: one “exercise” and one “other.”

*The two-sided tape is beyond my level of “good enough.” The Climbing Daddy had cut it out and not glued it down yet, and The Kid was thrilled to have the great idea to use a piece of double-sided tape. Deep breath. Not my badges.

In addition to the badges we started with (and the couple that we figured at that point would get added soon) we keep adding more.

He loves them.

And it turns out, I can throw out nearly anything “for a badge” and it’s worked so far.

The other day, for example, he chopped up chard for dinner as his “kitchen skills” activity for the day. The meal that was going into—chard with chickpeas over rice—is one that we’ve eaten often. He’s helped prep and cook it many times. Everything else was already prepped (rice and chickpeas made, red onion diced). I was reasonably sure that with minimal help, he would be able to make it.

So I told him it was his job to make dinner, we would help a little if he needed, and he would get a badge for it.

And he did. He was nervous—what if it’s not good?—but he didn’t fight it.

He loved getting another badge. Maybe not as much as he was proud of preparing a meal.

7-mile bike ride? Check. Running in the morning? Check.

I’m sure there’s a limit somewhere, but we haven’t found it yet.

Also, I’m not offering badges for normal day-to-day things, which probably helps them to maintain their awesomeness and makes them different than your typical sticker chart.

“Mom? What happens when I fill all my badges?”

I’ll get another piece of paper and make more? It’ll be the expansion pack.

He’s so tickled now at the idea of an expansion pack.

I have no idea how long this will last (or for how long I will be able to think of new but still attainable feats), but for now, it’s been fantastic!

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, education, parenting, tips

Things that are working for quarantine schooling and living

I’ve seen three people just today ask “What are you doing that’s working?” with regards to the kids being home. Here’s what’s more or less working here.

Disclaimer: This is not meant to tell you what to do. Our situations might be entirely different. This is just what we’re doing that’s working (or that we tried that didn’t work). Take what resonates. Modify what almost resonates. Leave the rest.

Also, it’s not homeschooling. It’s not entirely online distance learning. It’s a weird emergency unplanned hybrid of a lot of things.

So. What’s working?

Well … I have the advantage that my working from home is very flexible. This gives me the space to help The Kid with his life in a fairly hands-on way.

We’ve known for a long time that he doesn’t do well unscheduled. So we made a schedule immediately, even though there was no school stuff yet. It wasn’t rigid, and it included lots of things: meals, snacks, exercise, play, math/ELA/science, Spanish, music, creative, mindfulness, chores, kitchen skills. Within those categories, he had a lot of flexibility.

Bedtime got wonky which made wake up time wonky, and the schedule fell apart. So this is what we’re doing now (the last two weeks) and it’s been working well. (If it stops working well, we’ll go back to a more structured schedule.)

We made a list of All The Things. It currently includes: math, reading, writing, science, creative, Spanish, music, exercise, chores, kitchen skills, typing, mindfulness. I need to add playdate.

It’s in a picture frame; you can use dry erase markers on glass the same as you can on a white board. Because he has school work now, and because that list is pretty extensive, we agreed that over the course of two days, we’d hit on all the things. He uses a dry erase marker to mark the ones he’s done, and we reset it every other day.

It’s not a perfect system, and it’s working. Some things he does more than every other day (he reads nearly daily, for example), and that works. It allows us to make sure things aren’t falling through the cracks.

I have a little white board that I brought home from work. (If I didn’t have this, I would use another picture frame with blank paper inside for a clean background.) Each day, I put the full date on it and make a list of things to do that day.

For example, today, he has a live lesson, so I wrote the subject and the time. Otherwise, today is Day 1 of the two days on his list, so he can do pretty much whatever. He has school work to work on, so I just put “school work.”

He is stressed about his school work. (Because he has at least a couple of days to complete each, his list of assignments feels long.) We printed an April calendar, and as he receives assignments, I write them on the due date. (His writing is not small enough to do this task.) He’s able to look at it when he’s going to work on the more generic “school work,” see what needs to be done, and work on it. I am helping him with this.

(He’s still a little freaked out by assignments on the calendar, but we’re talking about spreading out work on a project so it’s not overwhelming. Life skills right here. Hopefully also helping me hone this skill for myself…)

We have been getting school work all done in the mornings, so afternoons and evenings, we can do fun stuff. Or chores. But either way, not school.

What else is helping?

Breaks

He had a half hour live lesson yesterday morning. During it, they had a few minutes to go collect some materials that he already had with him. He took those few minutes to jump on his trampoline, and he was in much better shape for learning when he returned to the computer.

When he started to frustrate with his writing assignment, I suggested he leave it for tomorrow (it’s due the end of next week) and go play outside for a few minutes.

That’s another help.

Sun

Getting out of the house is so important (for all of us—not just the kids!). We’re fortunate for now to live in a location where the weather is nice almost all the time. (Talk to me again in two months…) We’re also fortunately to be in a house with a yard. He can go out back and play. And run around. Which brings us to…

Exercise

Normally, he would have recess at school to run around and play. He would have time after school. He would, on some days, have taekwondo.

And while he does go outside and play, it’s not the same without other kids to run with.

We’ve done a few things to help him to move more.

One: he either takes a walk or a bike ride every afternoon with The Tall Daddy.

Two: While I’m not usually a fan of virtual races, we registered for a virtual 5K. This one has a medal that I thought was excellent, and it supports the National Parks. He could only register (and get a medal) also if he agreed to train. So on several of my solo afternoon walks around the neighborhood, I’ve mapped out routes that are at or a little over 5K. I showed him the maps, he chose one, and we’ve been running parts of it. Will piece it together in the couple of weeks we have left. (You can join here, if you care to. I don’t get any kickbacks, I just like the organization…and the medal.)

Three: on nights we don’t run, the three of us lift weights, go for a walk, or take a bike ride. His longest ride so far was six miles.

So he’s getting out to play in the morning, out with The Tall Daddy in the afternoon, out with us in the evening. And, as always, there is the trampoline in the living room. And I often agree to requests to wrestle. It’s not as good as playing with friends, but it’ll do.

Playdates

He has been using the Marco Polo app to keep in touch with a few friends. We have had virtual playdates with friends via FaceTime. He’s played Battleship and Guess Who and has just talked and fooled around and been silly.

Novelty

He’s learning how to play trumpet, because I am able to teach him and have an instrument available. I don’t know or care if he’ll still want to play when life returns to normal.

We have some toys and things in the closet, picked up on impulse and saved for a proverbial rainy day. It’s proverbially raining.

We’re baking things that we never bake. Bread. Cookies. Pretzels. He was astounded that I bought sugar.

There’s an overwhelming number of resources of things to do available online. We’ve chosen a few.

He and The Climbing Daddy built a table.

We have books and toys and activity things that he’s had and not looked at in a long time. Those things are coming into the rotation. (And the ones that still aren’t interesting are going into the donation box.)

Tidiness

With The Climbing Daddy working from home, he’s taken over the office. My computer is now in the living room. The house is out of whack. In order to have my work and his school all in the living room, we need to be organized and tidy. If it was a mess, it would be stressful. So his school things have a place. My school things have a place. Things get put away right after we use them so we aren’t moving around in clutter. While that is always what we do in theory, in practice, it’s more hard core right now. The living room must.stay.neat.

That said, he built a fort out of a sheet and the couch. It has stayed up for a week or more now, and it’s OK. We have other places to sit, and he likes to go in there and do his work or play or send Polos. He’s been sleeping in there most nights. It’s working.

What’s working for you?

Posted in audience participation, connections, mental health, parenting, socializing, thoughtfulness, tips, vulnerability

School. Virus. Sadness. Self-care. Hope.

Here in Arizona, the governor recently announced that public school buildings are closed for the rest of this school year. (Schools aren’t closed; the buildings are closed.)
Teachers and principals are still working.
I’m sad for all of the kids and teachers and parents who had something in the fourth quarter to look forward to. This is many seniors (remember: not everyone likes high school, so for some, this is a relief) and others moving up a level. Performances, dances, ceremonies, awards. “My last ____” just disappeared.
I’m sad for all the kids who go to school to get structure, to get love, to get consistency who are now looking at five or more months at home (spring break plus fourth quarter plus summer).
I’m sad for all the kids who are now working manual labor to try to help their families make ends meet. (Yes, that includes elementary-aged kids.)
I’m sad for the parents who are stressed out about trying to make their kids do their schoolwork (when really, love and connection and emotional safety are way more important — now and always…though those are different than “do whatever you want; another post for another day).
I’m sad for all of the lost birthday parties and quinceañeras and bar mitzvahs and  playdates and baby showers and weddings.
I’m sad for all of the people whose anxiety has shot up.
I’m sad for all of the people who have lost someone (virus-related or not) and can’t seek comfort in community.
I’m sad for all of the people who are separated from loved ones who are hospitalized (whether because of the virus or not).
I’m sad for all of the people who continue to mingle with others because they are so unwilling to accept their own vulnerability.
Stay in touch with people.
Do things at home that make you feel good.
If cleaning the house is a “should” and creating art is a “want,” create art. There’s enough to do that needs to be done (work for some, dishes, cooking, dishes, keeping other people and animals alive, dishes, laundry, dishes … so many dishes). When you have time outside of the needs, spend time on the wants. The shoulds can get done later.
Truly.
(If cleaning the house feels good, then do it! I know sometimes cleaning is a drag, and every now and then, a cleaning bender is mysteriously inspired. Wait for inspiration. And if you’re never inspired … it’s OK.)
Play.
Create.
Soak up beautiful things.
Take advantage of so many arts being available online (performances, galleries, etc.).
Turn on some music and dance and sing in the living room. (And make a house rule that no one makes fun of anyone else for how they look or sound doing it—emotional safety is important and “harmless teasing” erodes emotional safety.)
Get outside. Not socially, but sun is good for you in a myriad of ways.
Read. (Books, magazines, whatever. We were pounded with what “counts” as reading when we were in school, and it was bullshit. Read whatever interests you.)
Exercise. Go for a walk or a bike ride or do yoga or weightlifting or aerobics in your living room or your yard or on your patio.
Support the people around you and let them support you. We’re in our own little cells now, but we can still reach out and stay connected. Talk on the phone. Talk via video chat. Text. Email. Write letters.
So when it all passes and the fear settles and the anxiety reduces and we can gather again, we have changed the world for the better in the mean time.
In the mean time … stay home.
Posted in connections, ebb & flow, mental health, mindset, parenting

The kid way to process life

Kids work through stress and unfamiliar situations through play. (This is why play therapy is very effective with littles.)

The last play date we had (two weeks ago?), the kids were playing “corona zombies.”

Since play dates have ended, The Kid was playing a robber/spy game by himself where he had to steal and avoid a virus. (I don’t know how to do both simultaneously, but it’s his game. Not my place to “fix” it.)

He jumps on the trampoline A LOT (thank goodness that became part of the family before all this started!). The Climbing Daddy has a spiky ball for rolling underfoot. (Intentionally. Ideally while seated.) The Kid puts it on the trampoline and tries to bounce it off. It’s the virus (because they look similar) and he’s trying to get rid of it.

This is normal. This is healthy. This is how kids process stuff.

This is also informative.

If you’re seeing and hearing stuff like this come up in play, let them play it out. Of course you can have a conversation about it, but please don’t stifle the play.

(Likewise, if you hear them playing out other real-life-ish scenarios that raise red flags, be gentle, but have a conversation.)

As far as life without playdates?

He’s been using Marco Polo* to talk to friends and has had a few virtual playdates via FaceTime. I got tipped off that Battleship and Guess Who can both be played via video chat without adaptation, and they’ve enjoyed playing.

*I didn’t know much about this app until a week or two ago, but it’s been a lot of fun, for me and the kids.

We’ve made drawing and typing and foreign language learning part of our daily routine. He needs some structure and routine, and I don’t want all schoolwork. These are things he’s enjoying (so far) and are good for him and he doesn’t do in school.

Finally, one of my principals shared this with us.

choose connection

 

Deep breath. You can do this.

Posted in education, parenting

Free online resources for kids at home

Schools across the country are closing in an effort to help contain the pandemic.

This post is intended as a living resource for parents and other caretakers for online learning resources for kids.

They should all be free or temporarily free.

I have not checked every one. If you find any of these to be in error, let me know and I’ll edit.

If you know of others, let me know and I’ll add them.

All links should open in a new tab.

Online learning and classes through sites

Storyline Online

PBS Kids

Go Noodle

ABCya

BrainPopJr

Vooks Storybooks

Prodigy (math)

Ivy League courses online

ABC Mouse (use coupon code SCHOOL7771)

Scholastic

Mystery Science

Switcheroozoo.com

NatGeo for Kids

Into the Book

FunBrain

Starfall

Highlights Kids

The Basic Band Book

SciShow

Crash Course

Khan Academy

Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems

 

Online learning and classes through YouTube

Dr. Selfridge Music

Science Mom

Music lessons

 

Online learning and classes through Facebook

Art lessons through Facebook live

More (different) art through Facebook live

 

Ideas for other things to do at home

These aren’t online interactive things but are lists of ideas.

30 Days of Lego Play

Little animal drawing tutorials (not video; through Facebook)

 

Virtual field trips/performances

Collection of “over 30” virtual field trips with links

Virtual museum tours

Plays and musicals

National Park Tours

Musical Instrument Museum

Center for Puppetry Arts

Metropolitan Opera

 

Art at Home

 

Kidsactivities.com seems to have a giant list, with loads of other stuff as well. If you’re not prone to overwhelm and want lots of options, head over there!