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My best homeschooling tip? Teach your kids valuable life skills

We can strive to optimize joy, togetherness and potentially an expanded view of what learning and education mean for our families. Here are a few ideas we are experimenting with.

boy playing during homeschool

We are living through hard times right now. Period. My own struggles around juggling work, homeschooling, self-isolation (once I developed a fever) and taking care of the house is hard, but the pain of the world around me is harder in so many ways. I miss my old life and I miss the peace and stability that my fellow humans had. (Or felt like we had.)

With all that's going on, including the newfound pressure of teaching my children at home amid school closures, I've decided to expand my definition of homeschooling in an effort to make it easier, more enjoyable and definitely useful for all. So, our school now includes a life skills course.

Yes, children need to learn and continue to hit their academic milestones—but there is also a lot more room to involve children in the everyday runnings of a household that will lighten the load on ourselves as parents and will also give our children more to learn beyond their worksheets and Zoom calls. Getting a kindergartner and preschooler to chop vegetables isn't the most efficient way to get dinner ready, sure, but many of us are in a collective season of life where efficiency doesn't necessarily need to be our number one priority of every minute right now.

We can strive to optimize joy, togetherness and potentially an expanded view of what learning and education mean for our families.

Here are a few ideas we are experimenting with:

1. Conflict resolution

I'd be lying if I told you things have been exactly the same between my husband and myself since the outbreak. While we are finding our rhythm, there was definitely a period of adjustment where we were arguing more than usual.

At first, I had a bit of shame around what I was modeling for my kids. But the other day, right before I had to jump on a call, I could sense my kids were on the verge of an argument. And instead of giving them their devices, I said, "Kiddos, remember yesterday when Mom and Dad had an argument, what we did? We didn't hit or call each other names but we took a deep breath, we spoke about our feelings and our needs. Can you both try practicing talking through things if there is a problem?"

Now, I can't tell you that everything worked out perfectly, but it was a great teaching moment to model healthy conflict resolution.

2. Cooking

Children can learn to try out new foods, hone their fine motor skills, learn math and patience, understand new cultures and build memories for a lifetime. My kids love olive bread and since we can't get it from our local farmers market right now, we are hoping to bake it next (once I am out of my self-isolation!) where we can discuss all things yeast, including why and how fermentation occurs.

3. Chores

I will be the first to admit that my kids don't like to do chores (and frankly neither do I). But, this season has been a great opportunity to practice "working together" on cleaning up. The other day, they had to do 45 minutes of chores before they could watch their favorite show and voila!—the kids' laundry was all put away.

Give children a chance to pick their chores, freedom in when they get to do it and then try your best to bring humor and fun into the mix hoping that it'll work, and knowing it might not.

4. Car cleaning

I am still fascinated by how much the kids like to clean our cars and the sense of agency and ownership they have over this activity. Maybe your kids would like this one, too! And if not cars, I bet your kids have some other activity that could be a win-win for everyone to practice more of.

5. DIY products

We just ordered bath bomb molds to make bath bombs in our kitchen. In the past, we have made our own body butter and lip balm, too. The kids love the mixing, the pouring and of course—the final products at the end.

6. Giving back

The other day we sat down and made thank you cards and wrote small checks for our cleaning lady and our mother's helper. Next on our list is showing support to our local community by buying gift cards to our favorite local restaurants.

Most importantly, the fact that our kids are around us almost 24/7 right now means that "how" we are living our lives is the most impactful teacher at this time. The way we manage our anxiety and fears will have a bigger impact on what we tell them. Our food and entertainment choices and how we talk about them while we're around them will be teaching our children a lot about living a meaningful life.

I've explained to my kids before that when I take time out of my day to write I often write stories about our lives. Sometimes, I even read my words out loud and explain to them what I have written thus creating a meaningful moment of connection and teaching with them.

So, this weekend, try to sit down for a few minutes and make a list of what truly matters to you as a family. Ask yourself—What are your core values? When your kids are on their first date in college and are talking about their family and childhood, how do you want them to describe it? Then think of actions and activities you can plan that coincide with those values.

We are in a very overwhelming moment in time and most of this likely feels very foreign. We are simply trying to survive. I too, sometimes just want the kids to sleep so I can escape my reality. But then, there are other moments and days, where a little bit of intention and a little bit of planning brings much-needed purpose in an otherwise unpredictable and uncertain world.

Most importantly, remember to model compassion and kindness for yourself. We, and our children, need it more than anything else in the world right now.

14 sweet 'just thinking of you' gifts for every mama

A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs.

Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.

$70

Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.

$65

Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.

$45

Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!

$23

Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.

$30

Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.

$39

'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."

$35

Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.

$24

Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.

$22

Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!

$25

Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.

$32

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.

$105

Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.

$17

Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.

$68

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This incredibly soft comforter from Sunday Citizen is like sleeping on a cloud

My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

When it comes to getting a good night's sleep, there are many factors that, as a mama, are hard to control. Who's going to wet the bed at 3 am, how many times a small person is going to need a sip of water, or the volume of your partner's snoring are total wildcards.

One thing you can control? Tricking out your bed to make it as downright cozy as possible. (And in these times, is there anywhere you want to be than your bed like 75% of the time?)

I've always been a down comforter sort of girl, but after a week of testing the ridiculously plush and aptly named Snug Comforter from Sunday Citizen, a brand that's run by "curators of soft, seekers of chill" who "believe in comfort over everything," it's safe to say I've been converted.

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This viral post about the 4th trimester is exactly what new mamas need right now

"We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing."

Artist and teacher Catie Atkinson at Spirit y Sol recently shared a beautiful drawing of a new mom crying on a couch—leaking breasts, newborn baby, pile of laundry and what we can only assume is cold coffee, included. Everything about the image is so real and raw to me—from the soft stomach to the nursing bra and the juxtaposition of the happy wallpaper to the palpable vulnerability of the mother—I can almost feel the couch underneath me. I can feel the exhaustion deep in this woman's bones.

My heart feels the ache of loneliness right alongside hers. Because I remember. I remember the confusion and uncertainty and love and messy beauty of the fourth trimester so well. After all, it's etched in our minds and bodies forever.

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