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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.

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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!

Love,

A fellow newbie homeschool mama

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

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're 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 toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

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.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden 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.

$120

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.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop 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.

$100

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.

$40

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.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

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.

$33

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.

$88

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

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

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

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Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

When Chrissy Teigen announced her third pregnancy earlier this year we were so happy for her and now our hearts are with her as she is going through a pain that is unimaginable for many, but one that so many other mothers know.

Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post, Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.

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"We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we've never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn't enough," she wrote.

She continued: "We never decide on our babies' names until the last possible moment after they're born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever."

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