To the mom who didn't expect to be homeschooling her kids right now

A note of encouragement from a homeschooling mama.

woman reading to child

Dear mama whose child's school just closed,

When you learned that your young child's school would be closed it probably felt like a daunting proclamation. Closing schools has many far-reaching implications—it affects a parent's ability to work, it affects the lives and salaries of the people who work at the school and it strongly affects the children who rely on school meals for at least one consistent meal a day.

For many parents, though, closed schools mean you now find yourself in the position of 'homeschooler' (or even just needing to keep your child occupied throughout the day). Which can feel intimidating, especially if it's not anything you ever wanted to do previously.

The good news is that you are already so much more equipped than you think.

I started homeschooling my 4-year-old (then 3-year-old) last September. I made this choice purely out of my privilege to do so—I work from home, and it was what I had planned to do for several years before my daughter was ready for preschool. Little did I know that this chance decision would leave me strangely equipped for these strange times.

When we first began, I felt a lot of trepidation. Sure, there were certain subjects and topics I felt more than proficient on, but did I know how to teach them? And what about the subjects I felt less confident about, like math? (Or *shudder* fractions?)

But the thing is, when you start homeschooling, you get to learn with your child. You both get to grow in confidence—and you don't even need a high schooler's understanding of fractions to start teaching basic math skills. (Promise!) You quickly realize that anything can be a lesson because there's so much more for your child to learn.

To the mama just beginning her homeschool journey—for whatever reason—I am not a homeschool expert. I haven't even finished our first year! But, like so many aspects of motherhood, you can and will learn a lot in a short amount of time.

Here are five lessons I've learned in the last few months that I hope will help you tackle home education with confidence (because you've got this, mama!).

1. It's so much simpler than you think to educate a young child.

I will readily acknowledge that parents of teenagers and older kids will have more on their plates here. (Though, even for you mamas, there are so many online resources, and hopefully your schools are making use of the myriad telecommunications platforms available.)

But to the mama of an elementary or younger child, I urge you not to overthink this. So much of preschool and kindergarten is play. Read lots of books, do puzzles, take walks, color—every single one of these activities engages different parts of the brain and creates a foundation for bigger, more challenging skills down the line. And, odds are, both you and your child will naturally know what to do with your time even without an official syllabus.

2. Turn simple activities into "lessons."

I learned this trick from my best friend, who is arguably one of the most natural homeschooling moms I've ever seen. The idea is to take a simple activity and blow it out into a lesson by asking questions and making connections. Sounds simple? That's because it is.

Here's an example: As you read through your child's favorite book, pause on each page and create an activity or thought-provoking moment. "How many birds do you see in this picture?" "Is the dog on top of the car or underneath?" "Why do you think the boy is looking at the boat?" "What do you think will happen when she gets there?" "Let's look up this city on my phone. Did you know…" "This reminds me of what we learned about the water system…"

With a single book, you can engage abstract thinking, encourage math skills, broaden vocabulary, touch on science and art and tie in current events. (Not bad for your 700th reading of Go, Dog! Go!)

3. Don't underestimate the value of practical skills.

Children like to be involved in what you're doing throughout the day, and even the most mundane activity can help develop motor skills and teach foundational skills that connect to what they learn in school.

Let them help sort laundry, help make and measure recipes or dust and tidy around the living room. Fill a little squirt bottle with a water-vinegar solution and let them clean windows and the fronts of cabinets. (My daughter will do just about anything that involves a squirt bottle!) You'll be keeping both their bodies and their minds active, and sometimes that's all you need to get through the afternoon.

4. Think in themes.

The idea of creating a curriculum is daunting—after all, people get Master's degrees in this kind of thing! But it's actually simpler than you think to create your own lesson plan. Start by thinking around a theme that your child is already interested in. (Like farms, the ocean, trucks, trains, snow, the beach, etc.)

Then, get creative. Look for educational YouTube videos for kids on the topic, pull out any books you already own, download free coloring sheets online around the theme, practice acting it out or dancing to music that relates, draw the letters that spell out the theme—literally anything can be a lesson when you're thinking creatively.

5. Remember, not every lesson will be a homerun.

I literally repeat this mantra to myself at least once a week. But just like every other aspect of parenting, it's important to remember that you won't get everything right. Or maybe you will get it right, but your child won't be ready for it. Or won't be interested in it that day. Or maybe you'll both just have an off day. Truly, though, this is the beauty of homeschool.

Instead of trying to force yourself to stick to an ideal lesson plan or curriculum, remember that you and your child get to set the tone. Not feeling the math lesson? Do a mini "workout" and count hops and jumping jacks instead. Your little one zones out of the fun science video you found? Put them in the bathtub and let them practice pouring water into different cups (hello, foundation to physics and engineering!).

And if you're both just exhausted or overwhelmed, skip whatever you had planned and go for a walk, play a game on your phone or watch a movie. (Seriously, it's tough times out there—be gentle with yourselves.) Tomorrow is another day, and you can always try again later.

Above all else, keep it simple. Your child is still so new to the world, virtually every experience means learning something new. So don't worry if something "doesn't feel like school." Don't worry about worksheets and lectures and performance—focus on exposure and keeping learning fun.

You can teach math by cooking together or by grouping together objects and then dividing them into groups. You can teach language arts by reading and occasionally identifying letters and their sounds around you. You can teach science by digging in the garden or showing them how to make a rainbow with water from the hose.

The truth is, you've spent their entire lives teaching them. So don't psych yourself out thinking that learning has to change just because they're technically "school age."

Trust your instincts, and trust your child. It's all going to be okay. Because you've got this, mama!


A fellow newbie homeschool mama

In This Article

    The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

    Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

    Conz Preti

    Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

    This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

    Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.

    Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:

    Belly oil


    Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.


    Belly mask

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

    Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)


    Nipple + lip ointment 

    HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

    Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.


    Belly tattoos

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

    A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!


    This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

    The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

    We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

    All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

    And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

    Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

    Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

    Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

    When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

    Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

    Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

    You've got this.

    Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

    The Motherly Birth Class


    Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    This post is sponsored by BABYBJÖRN. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

    So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Secret Agent play set


    This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


    Stepping Stones


    Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.


    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


    Sensory play set


    Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


    Foam pogo stick


    Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.




    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.


    Hopper ball

    Hopper ball

    Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.


    Pull-along ducks


    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


    Rocking chair seesaw


    This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.


    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    15 stylish back-to-school haircuts for kids

    Give them back-to-school confidence with a fresh new style.

    Jetta Productions Inc / Getty

    With a fresh haircut, your child can get a major confidence boost in time for the first day of school. With back-to-school season in full swing, book those hair appointments soon in time for classes to be in session. Whether your child wants a simple haircut, an intricate hair style, or even hair dye for kids, there are plenty of options to consider before school starts.

    Boost confidence for the first day of school with one of these hair cuts for kids.

    1. Fringe

    An easy way to create a whole new look is to add fringe. Piecey bangs over the forehead can give your child extra confidence as they prepare for the first day of school.

    2. Fade

    For shorter styles, the fade is a popular haircut for kids these days. Plus, with summer's high temperatures still in full swing during back-to-school season, this hairstyle will also keep kids cool.

    3. Bob

    Another cooling option, the shorter bob style offers a lot of versatility. Go for a short bob with a length that lands around the ears, or keep it long for a "lob" that hits just above the shoulders.

    4. Hidden undercut

    This hairstyle involves shaving the hair around the bottom half of the back of the head. It usually often includes shaving a pattern. With hair left down, you can't tell this cool feature is there, but pull hair up into a ponytail or bun, and the pattern is an artistic addition to any hairstyle.

    5. Braids

    Try out classic braids in natural hair for a protective style that is also long-lasting with easy maintenance. Add beads or bows for a cute addition that will complement any first-day outfits, too.

    6. Mohawk

    For a spunky look, shave hair into a mohawk that is longer on top and shorter on the sides. Use gel to style the mohawk, including in the iconic spikes that stand straight up.

    7. Faux hawk

    If your child isn't quite committed to shaving the sides of their head, you can also try a temporary faux hawk by pulling hair taut along the sides of the head and pinning it into place with longer pieces on top. This also works great with curly hair.

    8. Crop

    The crop is a simple, straightforward hairstyle that will look fresh for the first day of school and will also be easy to care for each morning. That's right—finally, no fights about brushing the hair before the bus comes!

    9. Hair dye for kids

    If your child is more experimental, you might try temporary hair dye for kids. Let them choose their favorite color, and add a few stripes throughout their hair for a bold but school-appropriate hairstyle.

    10. Quiff

    The quiff features a long, side-swept top with shorter, often faded sides. It's an on-trend look that isn't overly fussy, although a little gel or pomade in the mornings can help keep the longer hair on top stay in place.

    11. Deva cut

    You love those perfectly curly ringlets in your child's hair, so take care of them with the proper haircut! The Deva cut is designed especially for naturally curly hair. It involves the stylist cutting dry hair, so they can better shape hair to the natural curls. The result? Full, bouncy curls that will give your child all the confidence they need for heading back to school.

    12. Pixie

    A tousled pixie haircut for kids will look stylish and refined with minimal effort. Plus, it's a shorter style that will keep kids cool as they run around outside for recess.

    13. Asymmetrical

    An asymmetrical cut will offer a unique, interesting style that plays well with a variety of different hair textures and thicknesses. Plus, you can easily accessories with various clips or bows on one side.

    14. Buns

    As far as hairstyles for kids goes, buns can be as easy or complex as you'd like. Pull all the hair back into one chic, effortless messy bun, or add braids and hair accessories for a more formal look.

    15. Crew cut

    The classic crew cut will offer an adorable and timeless look. It's an especially great style for kids with thicker hair.

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