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How I’m prepping for the hardest school year ever

Part of it means I need to prioritize myself.

Mom and daughter

There's a ton of speculation around what education will look like come Fall; for me personally, I just found out that my daughter's four day school week will consist of two days in person and two days at home. While we have some clarity as a family, there's still a lot of unknowns that come with hybrid learning and definitely an uncharted territory for most.

I've struggled with how exactly to guide and support my daughter as she looks ahead to her first year of Middle School. What should be an exciting milestone for her has now been tampered with the current confusion of how hybrid learning will work and if it will be a successful solution.

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On top of worrying about how this is all affecting her, I've also been struggling with how I will be able to manage juggling my career and daily life stressors, as well as being her—for lack of a better word "instructor" for two days out of the week. Ironically enough, the one advantage I may have is that I'm the CEO of an EdTech platform focused on promoting parent-teacher engagement, but believe me, talking about it and being appropriately engaged the way that teachers expect are two separate things. But I am learning every day, and certainly trying to figure out the best way to help my daughter succeed in the year ahead.



Prepping for what lies ahead

As parents, none of us were prepared for what happened just a few months ago, jumping head first into distance learning and drastically adjusting your role in your kids education. What a feat that was to overcome! Now that I have an idea of what distance learning looks like, I'm going to use this time to see how I can improve; Can we make suggestions to teachers? Can we ask for help from teachers and school districts on how to be more involved? Are there learning materials or summer reading lists that would be helpful to prepare for hybrid learning?

While I may not have all the answers right away, I might just be able to stay ahead of the game if I use this time to prepare now, so I'm not scrambling come Fall.

Keeping my kids social skills intact

Over the last few months, it's been extremely difficult for my daughter to cope with the fact that she can't see her friends or plan playdates or birthday parties and all the fun things that make up a childhood. I started thinking about how being outside of a classroom and around kids her age would start to affect her social skills and her overall adolescence, and quite frankly began to worry.

Now that she'll be returning to school part-time, it definitely takes some of my fears away, but also makes me think: how do I make up the time that she lost? Maybe I can't, but with school out for summer, I've started to do fun activities and projects as a family —whether it be going on hikes in Upstate New York, biking in Central Park or working on her idea of writing a book together. While these activities are focused on physical and mental focus, it's also mostly about ensuring her social skills are stimulated; for example being able to follow the rules of a game, not getting overly competitive with another family member or close friend and communicating and collaborating for a common goal.

These small things, things that you'd probably be proactively doing even without a global pandemic, are activities that will ensure you're keeping your kids social skills moving forward and intact so that it's not a huge culture shock for them come the new school year.

Making time for myself

Beyond education, there's a lot going on in the world—socially, politically, economically. Sometimes it's just not possible to give your all, and that's okay! Between running a company, keeping up with my daughter and staying on top of household chores, I often find myself just barely keeping my head above water. My key is to try and find balance.

In order to find balance, I had to cut down the long list of things on my plate that absolutely don't need to get done. I look at my tasks and meetings and critically assess if it can be delegated to other team members or handled at a later time. Similarly, I look for more efficient ways to simplify or cut down time on some chores at home. Can you afford to hire a cleaning service? Or maybe see about involving your kids more.

Now that some businesses are reopening, I escape the house for an hour or two and browse through a store, or take a walk around my neighborhood. Allocating just 1-2 hours to myself everyday, even as the new school year begins, will be so important to making sure that I can be the best parent I can be on a daily basis.

At the end of the day, taking care of myself and organizing my daily life will not only make life easier, but will also help me be a better support system for my child as they transition to whatever the back to school season brings. Lastly, it's important to know that we (you and me) are not alone! Millions of parents around the country and the world are adjusting just like we are. So we have to lean on our friends and family; they could have some other best practices to share, because after all… it takes a village and we really need our village right now.

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    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

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

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    [Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country. This essay reflects the views of one mother—we invite you to also read As a mother, I'm voting for Joe Biden.]

    Confession #1: I didn't vote for Trump the first time.

    Confession #2: I'm old enough to remember what our country went through during the sexual scandal of President Clinton. So in 2016, in the spirit of not repeating history (coupled with a multitude of other reasons why I was not a Hilary fan), I couldn't vote for Clinton. But, it also didn't seem right to vote for a self-proclaimed "p***y-grabbing" Tweet-assailer. I was told he was the epitome of all that is evil in the world and would be the reason for the premature ending of the world. Ultimately, I voted Independent.

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    But the 2016 election nevertheless served as a significant turning point for me as it was for many others. I felt the need to dig deeper.

    Let's back up. Had I read the 2016 Republican Platform before casting my ballot? Sadly, no. But as Maya Angelou wrote—and as I now regularly tell my kids—"When you know better you do better." So this year, I decided I would do better; to delve into learning what each candidate believes in, why they do and what the best and worst possible outcomes are.

    Have I now read the 2020 platforms of both candidates (Republican and Democrat) this time around? You better believe it.

    Moms want to leave a better world behind for our kids. I do, and I bet you do, too. I believe the Trump-Pence administration will continue to do exactly that. They stand for the parts of American culture that has set America apart from every other country of the world: the American Dream; American exceptionalism; that the Declaration of Independence affirms the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all; that government must be limited in its power; that we as Americans seek friendship with all nations, but we also recognize that evil exists in this world, and we will defend against it; that freedom is an essential ingredient in every area of our lives.

    Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, I hope you'll read this with an open mind. I also hope that the Biden supporters reading this who have somewhere along the line conflated all Republicans to be racist-climate-change-denying-xenophobes, will feel the twinge of some ice melt between our parties, however small.

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