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My 1-year-old son, Sam, sat on my hip as my 3-year-old daughter, Wren, ran around the backyard before the oppressive Texas heat settled in for summer. Squatting on the ground to investigate a flower and the bee crawling on it, Wren turned her face to me and asked excitedly, “Mom, how do the bees do what they do?"


I stared at her, unsure of what she was actually asking me. How do bees what? Pollinate? Fly? Sting? No matter the question, I had no answer, so I tried to fake it.

“Well, um, bees use pollen, or make pollen, or nectar…they for sure make honey and that's good. They die after they sting you, so whatever they do, they don't do it after that."

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Wren gave me a halfhearted smile before turning back to the flower she was observing. Suddenly, I doubted everything I thought I knew about what it would be like to homeschool, brought to my knees by the curiosity of a three-year-old.

I wasn't homeschooled, but I knew from the beginning of my life as a parent that I would be a homeschooling mom. Now my qualifications seemed shaky at best. There was so much I didn't know but needed to, and that day I started grasping in the dark for answers.

Here are 10 things I wish someone had told me before I started my homeschool journey.

1 | Homeschool parents don't have to be experts – they just need resources.

No teacher has all the answers to every question, but the good ones know when to seek help. That's the key to teaching a child how to be a lifelong learner: be the example.

Be a model of curiosity, exploration, experimentation. Avoid developing the habit of reaching for a predictable teaching tool or another worksheet. Instead, model active learning by asking questions, trying out ideas, and making adjustments.

2 | Teaching a child to read is 90% of the battle and 100% of the solution – but don't rush it.

Focus on not rushing this basic, vital part of learning. Rushing equals struggles, and can take the joy out of reading and writing. So lead your child gently with lots of read-alouds and playful explorations of the letter sounds and shapes.

Once a child can read, they'll find books and information on topics that interest them. Before I knew it, my kids were teaching me about squirrels, Mars, and why the Headless Horseman couldn't be real because they read up and learned themselves.

3 | Socialization isn't going to be an issue.

When people think of homeschooled children, they tend to imagine unsocialized outcasts who lack people skills. This simply isn't the case. Socialization takes place in a variety of settings, not just at school.

For parents who want more support in the socialization realm, Homeschool World offers a way to search for homeschool support groups by area. The lists are extensive and include co-ops that offer everything from book clubs to weekly playdates. In fact, the only problem a parent will have is information overload.

There's also nothing like Meetup.com to connect with like-minded individuals. Homeschool groups abound on the site, but parents should make sure the group they join meets the needs of their family. Some of the Meetup homeschool groups are extremely structured, while others just offer a place for kids to hang out and play.

Sports leagues are another great way for kids to make new friends and learn about sportsmanship. Children will interact with kids who are homeschooled and public schooled in leagues, and this will help them understand the other side of schooling.

4 | Playtime is brain food.

In fact, many schools are adding more playtime throughout the day to let kids work off fidgety energy so they can focus on learning. When the kids spend time engaged in imaginative games in the yard, that's school.

The key is to give kids mini breaks throughout the day. Instead of expecting them to sit for hours and hours and then receive one 15-minute break, let them get up and play after 30-45 minutes of work or when you notice they're distracted and having trouble sitting still.

Play is a way to refill their cup and bring them back to the learning table ready to focus. Also, don't use play as a reward. Make it a part of the everyday homeschool plan, an essential part of learning and exploring.

5 | Start the day with a loose plan.

It's not necessary to micromanage when homeschooling, but it is a good idea to start each morning with a written list of what is to be accomplished during the day. To make sure these expectations are realistic, sit down the weekend before and look at the calendar. How many playdates or field trips are planned for the next week? Are any visitors coming to town? Are there holidays or special events that will interrupt the normal flow of the homeschool week?

Once all of this is taken into consideration, use index cards or a weekly planner to sketch a plan for each day. If something doesn't get finished on Monday, move it to Tuesday. If much more is accomplished on Wednesday than expected, make sure to note it.

Daily planning can become a learning experience for your older students. Give them a planner of their own and show them how to make a checklist to organize their day or their schoolwork. Check things off and create a new list the next day.

6 | On the hard days, decide what it's worth.

Kids will have days where they get out of bed and knock out all their work quickly. Other days will feel like a struggle from start to finish. This is normal. The upside is that homeschool parents have the chance to decide whether to push forward on the hard days or to let their child run in the backyard and make up the difference tomorrow.

7 | Teaching children at multiple academic levels is possible.

Though it takes work and planning, teaching children who are different ages and doing different levels of work is possible. This plan will change throughout your children's development, but here's an example of how it works for a mom with three kids – a toddler, a kindergartener, and a second grader:

  • For the toddler, make sure the child has a sensory station with kinetic sand or water that he or she can play with. Whatever keeps the toddler happy for the longest period of time should be offered.
  • Move on to working with the child who is the most self-sufficient, probably the second grader. Take some time to review information or cover a new skill before letting this child work independently until they need their work checked.
  • Finally, move to the child who needs the most guided help, such as the child who is just learning to read or properly trace letters (around kindergarten age). You'll need one-on-one time to dedicate to helping this child develop essential skills that are the foundation of his schooling.

It's also possible to purchase curriculum that is designed for multiple ages and includes activities based on grade level.

8 | Borrowing vs. buying resources

Some libraries have STEAM kits that offer hands-on math work and materials for science experiments. While there is usually a waitlist and we only get to keep the kit for a designated amount of time, we have the opportunity to sample tons of different items without purchasing.

There are exceptions. If a child loves math manipulatives and will work on math more willingly with them, then invest in manipulatives to enhance the learning experience. It will be worth the cost.

9 | On creating a “real school" vs. a living homeschool

There are parents who like to segregate home and school within the homeschool environment. They want their children to be in school mode and see them as only a teacher during certain times of the day. They may even set up a classroom-style area in their house complete with school desks.

For me, this didn't work, but it could have been because of my prior teaching experience. As a former teacher, I needed to actually pull away from what I thought school was supposed to be to open myself up to all homeschool had to offer.

In our house, it's always home and it's always school, so everyone feels free to discuss science experiments at dinner or to talk about problems with a friend during math lessons.

10 | You don't have to teach every subject every day.

History and science are great, but elementary-aged children don't have to go over those topics every day. Math, reading, writing, and play are the daily essentials, with focused history and science lessons on the agenda two to three times a week.

Once kids master reading and other basic skills, it's much easier to fold in other subjects. Plus, children inadvertently study science every day. All those questions about where the earth came from, why slugs come inside when it rains, and what life is like on the moon? That's science, and kids never stop asking questions.

••••

The afternoon of the bee question, we went to the library and grabbed books. Wren and I read them during Sam's naptime and then looked at videos and pictures of bees on the internet. Wren fixated on the notion that bees communicate by dancing.

As the sun began to set that night, my daughter led me outside. She put her two index fingers straight up over her head, shook her bottom, and made a raspy noise from her throat.

“Do you see them?" she asked.

“Who? The bees?"

“Yes! This is how they tell each other where the pollen is, remember?"

I put my fingers on my head, shook my bottom, and buzzed back at my daughter. I'm not sure if the bees ever arrived, but it didn't matter. We laughed and learned together, and I realized we were going to be just fine.

Oak Meadow partnered with Parent.co to sponsor this piece because they strive to keep the wonder and excitement of childhood alive and to spark each individual's passion for learning.

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

Recent studies found that a large portion of individuals with coronavirus are asymptomatic, meaning even those who eventually develop symptoms can transmit the virus before showing symptoms. It's hard to know how to truly protect yourself and others so the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends individuals use cloth face coverings if you have to go out in public.

Of course cloth face coverings are not surgical or N-95 masks by any stretch, but in an effort to reserve them for health care workers and other first responders, it's a great idea to create your own.

According to CDC experts, "cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure."

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There are so many DIY mask options, whether you have a sewing machine around or just a pillowcase—there's something for you, regardless of your skill.

Keep in mind that cloth face coverings should not be placed on children under age two, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. It's also worth noting that creating your own mask does not replace the necessity of maintaining social distancing guidelines. It's also equally important to limit trips outside your home and wash your hands often.

Here are step-by-step instructions for how to make fabric face masks with a sewing machine, a needle and thread or materials you have around your home:

How to make a face mask with a sewing machine:


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If you're a pro at adding buttons, zippers and piping then you're well-suited for this advanced sewing project. Plug in your Singer and go!

What you'll need:

Instructions:

  1. Cut material and interfacing to 12 x 9 inches
  2. Iron interfacing to material (adhesive side to back of material)
  3. Once ironed, fold fabric in half with interfacing on the outside
  4. Cut two pieces of elastic—each 7 inches long
  5. Pin and sew 1/4 inch from edge leaving a 2 inch gap in the center
  6. Put elastic band on each corner, inside the material and pin to keep in place, making sure the elastic is not twisted. Pinning in center as well
  7. Using the pattern, mark locations of pleat lines and add pins on both sides
  8. Fold three pleats. Sew around the entire perimeter of the mask, this holds the pleats in place, and closes the 2 inch gap

Mask from JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores.

How to make a face mask without a sewing machine:

youtube

If you can't sew, don't stress, mama. Try this DIY mask from the CDC that can be created with pillowcases, scarves, hand towels, and even old t-shirts you have laying around the house.

All you need is fabric and two rubber bands.

What you'll need:

  • An old scarf or bandana
  • 2 rubber bands or hair ties

Instructions:

  1. Place the scarf or handkerchief facedown on a flat surface.
  2. Fold the top half down to the midline of the scarf, then fold the bottom half up to the midline.
  3. Flip it over so that the seam faces down.
  4. Fold the new top half down to the midline, and the bottom half up.
  5. Flip it over again so that the seam faces up.
  6. Loop a hair tie over each end of the folded rectangle.
  7. Fold the free sides of the rectangle in toward the middle, layering one side over the other.
  8. Flip it over and loop the elastics over each ear to wear, making sure the mask covers your mouth and nose.

Mask from CDC.

How to make a face mask with needle + thread:

Maybe you don't own a sewing machine, but you aren't afraid of a needle and thread. If so, this step-by-step guide from The New York Times is perfect for you.

What you'll need:

  • Basic sewing tools (needle and thread, etc.)
  • Scissors
  • Pins or clips
  • 20 x 20 inch fabric
  • 4 strips (cotton shoe laces are great!) for ties

Instructions:

  1. Create your mask by folding your fabric of choice in half. It should measure about 10 inches x 7 inches.
  2. For your ties, cut four strips 18 inches in length and ¾ inches in width.
  3. Fold your ties in half lengthwise, and sew to reinforce and neaten edges.
  4. Pin your ties down at the corners of what will be the outside of your mask.
  5. Rest the excess tie material inside of the rectangle.
  6. Place the other layer of mask material on top of the first mask layer. You will be sandwiching together all of your ties.
  7. Sew around the perimeter of the mask, leaving a small ½ inch gap at the top. Make sure you sew the ties down and reinforce with several stitches.
  8. Use the 1/2 inch gap to turn the mask inside out.
  9. To help the mask fit your face better, fold pleats in the top layer. Pin them down, and sew in place around the perimeter.

Mask from The New York Times.

Lifestyle

With schools closing, events being canceled and new information about the coronavirus circulating through news and social media, it's only natural for parents to feel anxious about protecting their children from this unfamiliar disease. But for parents of premature babies and other medically fragile children, isolation and "social distancing" is all too familiar.

When our son was born at 23-weeks gestation, my husband and I were thrust into a medical world that taught us more than we ever wanted to know about germs and the human body. But when we were discharged from the NICU four months later, we found one of the challenges of caring for our baby at home was educating the people around us about his vulnerability to illness.

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The preemie journey doesn't end when the baby comes home.

It's easy to assume a preemie discharged from the NICU is now a healthy full-term baby, but that's not the case at all. In reality, NICU discharge means the baby can now be cared for at home, but this care often includes many of the trappings of hospital life.

Our son came home with oxygen tanks and a nasal cannula (a machine to monitor the levels of oxygen in his blood), breathing treatments and five medications. We had a nurse come to our home every day to help with his care and monitor his health. It was December—right in the middle of cold and flu season—so we were also under strict orders to keep our son out of crowds, limit visitors and maintain many of the same hygiene and disinfecting practices we'd had to follow in the NICU.

After months of watching our son struggle to breathe in the NICU, we lived in constant fear that one of us would bring home an illness that would land him back in the hospital on a ventilator.

Preemie bodies don't work like the bodies of full-term babies. A very common piece of advice parents hear is, "You need to expose them to germs—that's how they build up their immune systems!" And while there is some truth in this advice, it's actually a lot more nuanced than that.

Preemies start at a disadvantage in terms of immunity because they miss out on some—or in our case, all—of the third trimester of pregnancy, which is when a mother passes her antibodies to her unborn child. There's also a misconception that premature babies are simply "finishing their gestation outside the womb," but in actuality, a baby's development proceeds very differently after they are born. So their organs are likely not functioning the same way they would be if the baby had been born on time.

Particularly, lung development is stunted by premature birth, and this can be exacerbated by ventilators which cause damage to delicate lung tissue. It can take years for children who were born prematurely to outgrow these shortcomings in immunity and lung development, depending on how early they were born.

Our doctors have told us to expect our 23-weeker to be vulnerable until he's at least 5 years old, and that's if we can protect him from dangerous respiratory illnesses. So even though he's 3 years old now, no longer our tiny baby, we've still been advised to keep him isolated while COVID-19 is spreading, because his body may not be strong enough to fight it off if he does get infected by it.

This isn't the life we imagined for our family.

When we first got pregnant, we pictured ourselves enjoying the fun parts of family life: visits from friends and family, outings with the baby strapped to our chest, family gatherings where our kiddo would join the already bustling crew of munchkins running around. But that's not exactly how it panned out for us.

We still feel the pain of that loss, even three years later. So while it may be disappointing for you when you can't meet the new baby in your family or friend's life or when they cancel plans and skip events because they're nervous about germs going around, please know—they're not overreacting and they're not excluding you because they don't love you. They're just trying to protect their child, and trust me, no one is sadder than the parents this is necessary.

And if you are the mother of a preemie or medically fragile child trying to navigate this scary new world where the coronavirus exists—you are not alone. Millions of Americans are with you, virtually, at home, too.

Life

On Friday President Trump announced that the Centers for Disease Control is now advising people to wear a cloth mask if they need to go out in public in a place where social distancing would be hard. The CDC is not asking people to wear masks all the time, just when you're going somewhere public like the grocery store, the pharmacy or using mass transit—places where it may be hard to keep your distance from others.

What the CDC says about cloth face masks:

The CDC says it's recommending cloth face masks because recent studies show that people can have COVID-19 while asymptomatic, meaning they feel fine and because they don't know they are sick they might still be going about their daily routine in their community.

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Basically, masks don't protect the wearer as much as they protect people from the wearer (who might not know they are sick) by blocking respiratory droplets "So it's not going to protect you, but it is going to protect your neighbor," Dr. Daniel Griffin at Columbia University, an expert on infectious diseases, tells NPR.

CDC experts are "advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure."

They say if you're going somewhere where it's hard to maintain the proper social distance of six feet, like a grocery store or a pharmacy, then it's a good idea to wear a simple cloth mask.

"The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance," the CDC states.

"You may need to improvise a cloth face covering using a scarf or bandana," the agency notes on its website.

A DIY cloth mask is an extra layer of protection:

The CDC still says that staying home and practicing good hand hygiene is the best protection against COVID-19, but a cloth mask would be an extra layer of protection if you must go out to get food or unavoidable medical care.

According to Dr. Scott Segal, chair of anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, certain types of fabric are better than others when it comes to making a mask. While he CDC says improvised bandanas or scarfs are better than nothing, Segal says DIY mask makers should aim a little higher for the masks to be effective.

"You have to use relatively high-quality cloth," Dr.Segal, who is researching this topic, tells NBC News.

According to Segal you don't want to use a knit fabric (like an old T-shirt) but rather a woven fabric. He suggests a double layer of heavyweight cotton with a thread count of at least 180 (like quilters cotton). If you don't have a cotton with that high of a thread count, line it with flannel.

For more tips on how to sew a fabric face mask, check out these instructions from Kaiser Permanente.

No-sew methods:

If you're not a sewer you can still fashion a mask, and there are plenty of no-sew tutorials online showing you how. Use heavyweight woven fabric like Segal suggests and make one of these without a sewing machine.

How To Make a Pleated Face Mask // Washable, Reusable, No-Sewing Required youtu.be

Should kids wear masks? Talk to your doctor.

The CDC says "Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance." Babies' faces should not be covered, they should not wear masks.

For older kids, the CDC is not recommending masks if you're just going for a walk around the block or playing in the backyard (which is the extent of most kids' outings these days). The masks are more for grocery runs, which many parents are opting to do alone these days.

But solo parents and those with partners who are in the military know that leaving the kids behind isn't always an option if you're the only adult in the home. If that's your circumstance, choose delivery options when possible to avoid taking your children to public places like grocery stores and pharmacies (the kinds of places the CDC recommends masks for).

If you are concerned that you may need to take your child somewhere where a mask would be required, call your pediatrician for advice on whether a mask is appropriate for your child's age and circumstances.

If you have no one to watch your children while you get groceries and cannot get them delivered try contacting your local government, community groups and churches for leads on grocery delivery help. They may be able to put you in touch with someone who can fetch groceries for you so that you don't have to take your children to the store with you.

The President says it's not a rule but a recommendation.

"It's really going to be a voluntary thing," President Trump told reporters Friday, contradicting the CDC recommendation. "I'm not choosing to do it."

First Lady Melania Trump is urging others to do it, howeverm tweeting, "I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously. #COVID19 is a virus that can spread to anyone—we can stop this together."

[This post was originally published April 3, 2020. It has been updated.]

News

Last month Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom announced some big news: The engaged pair are expecting a baby!

Perry announced her pregnancy when the music video for her single, "Never Worn White" showed her rocking a bump and this weekend she announced she's expecting a girl...by posting a photo of Bloom's face covered in pink frosting.

She geotagged the photo "Girls Run the World" and captioned it "💕 It's a girl 💕."

Clearly, this man is thrilled about becoming a #girldad.

Perry is due in the summer, as she previously noted on Instagram.

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"Let's just say it's gonna be a jam packed summer..." she captioned her original pregnancy announcement.

"OMG, so glad I don't have to suck it in anymore," Perry tweeted after the big news went public.

"I am excited. We're excited and happy and it's probably the longest secret I've ever had to keep," Perry explained in a live stream with fans.

Of course not long after Perry announced her pregnancy the world changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Because of the pandemic, Perry and Bloom have postponed their wedding, according to People and are pretty much just laying low at home trying to enjoy Perry's pregnancy as much as possible during this difficult time.

Perry recently told Stellar Magazine that the wedding is about more than throwing a big bash, so while it would be totally normal to be disappointed by having to postpone it, the mom-to-be seems to be in a good place regarding her nuptials.

She told Stellar: "It's not about the party. It's about the coming together of people who will hold us accountable when things get really hard. Those are just the facts when you're with someone who challenges you to be your best self."

The little girl Bloom and Perry are expecting will have a lot of people to love on her. While this is the first child for Perry, Bloom is already a dad to a 9-year-old boy who will soon be a big brother.

Congratulations to Perry + Bloom!

News
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