Our Top Home Learning Hacks

So you are going about your merry way and along comes a global pandemic that derails your life! Welcome to life with COVID-19!

Life has changed for many of us in ways we never thought possible. Lysol is now a rare commodity. Right after checking for our keys and wallets, we now check for masks and gloves before leaving home. A cough is a dreaded sound in a crowd of people. Yes, life is truly different as opposed to 2019. More to the point though are the changes many parents are being forced to make – the transition from brick and mortar school to virtual or homeschooling.

What is the Difference?


Homeschooling is private schooling by a parent or other full-time instructor. Curriculum can be supplied by an outside source, paid or free. The options are endless! In most states you will need to be enrolled in an umbrella school. Your base requirements for schooling will be determined in large part by your umbrella school.

Virtual schooling for our purposes is public schooling done from the home of the student. A learning coach is responsible for checking that student assignments are completed, keeping the student on track with assigned lesson plan, logging daily attendance and more. Curriculum is provided based on the state the student is enrolled in. Teachers are assigned to each grade or subject by the school but may not be as accessible as one would hope. Learning is online based. Programs utilized my vary from state to state & from year to year.

Our family has had experience in both of these learning platforms. So we refer to both collectively as home learning. Each have their pros and cons. However, there are some specific techniques we applied to both that has allowed for us to have  a good measure of success. This took lots of trial and error! Seriously, mistakes were made! Our mistakes however do not have to be your own.  Although we do not profess to be experts we do want to share what we have learned over the years in hopes that it can be of benefit to you and your family. So here are our top 5 hacks to home learning!

Remain Structured


If your kids where previously enrolled in a brick and mortar school then this is something they are already accustomed to. It is, however, up to parents to maintain this structure. This will require a measure of self discipline for all parties involved, particularly the parents. If you are a working parent this will be particularly difficult but it is possible. Set designated start and stop times for school. At our home we begin each school day by 8 a.m. On an average day, assignments are completed by 1 p.m. If not we have a hard stop time of 3 p.m. This prevents mental exhaustion of student and teacher. Trust me, once you’ve reached that point nothing good results!

Get dressed for school. It may seem simple enough but it is easy to allow our young ones to stumble out of bed, grab bowl of cereal and report to their desks in their pajamas. I mean, who’s going to see them – right? True; but consider this. Our attitude is reflected in the way we dress. Why do we dress professionally for interviews? We want our potential employers to see a confident responsible person so we dress as such. As a result we feel self assured and will likely ace the interview. It’s no different with school. If your area requires school uniforms you may try that each day or you may create your own dress code. At our home a button down shirt or a polo style shirt with slacks or jeans is acceptable.

Accountability


Accountability is defined as “the fact or condition of being accountable; responsibility.” Every school has a code of conduct. It outlines the rules and clearly defines the consequences if said rules are not followed. You likely already have house rules. Create a code of conduct for your home learning as well and consider it an addendum to the house rules. Follow it consistently. This may take much energy in the beginning but as everyone becomes adjusted to their new routine it becomes easier. In our home hubby serves as the “principal”. If we are having issues that I as the teacher cannot resolve with the kids, they get sent to the principal’s office. This rarely happens! Just knowing that it can is more than enough to keep the kiddos on the straight and narrow. It isn’t that you are running some military training school but there has to be a measure of order in the environment for it to be conducive to learning. The students must understand that there will be consequences even though they are at home. You will find things going much smoother throughout the year with applying this one hack!

Take Frequent Breaks


This is something that breaks the norm of conventional schooling but it pays huge dividends! Taking breaks refreshes the brain and emotional state. You can decided when and for how long but be sure to incorporate these particularly during your struggle subjects. For us these are History and Mathematics. We take 10 – 15 minute breaks. As a parent and homemaker I usually take this time to do do a quick chore like taking meat out to thaw for dinner or making a business call. Our kids will do anything from walking the dog to taking a quick power nap. We find that the ratio 1 hour of work to 10 minutes of break is much better than banging our heads against the wall! Often times when there is a problem we can’t seem to figure out, we take a break, come back and the solution just jumps out! Invaluable!

Play Background Music


One of our children has ADD. Quite sometime ago we began to play nature sounds music or some type or orchestral music. He was so young that if he recognized the song he would stop and sing along. This created even more struggle because the class was immediately turned into a concert! Thus the instrumental music. As he got older we migrated to music more pleasing to his tastes. Even throughout college he continued this practice with jazz tunes. This sets a mild and calm mood setting mind and emotions at ease to tackle the day. Studies have shown that “background music may improve focus on a task by providing motivation and improving  mood. During long study sessions, music can aid endurance.

Have Fun!


While these are difficult times make the most of the extra time you have together with your young ones. Their minds are now in your hands. While proceeding with caution don’t forget to have some fun too. YouTube some fun Science experiments on the current topic of class. Do some fun physical activities together. Create a crazy recipe that even the dog won’t eat. Laugh!

Since your child maybe feeling more and more isolated you now also have to factor in his/her socialization. We have made use of the Zoom app and had family game nights with friends. Also though the kids have created links and invited their friends to hang out & play games. Please consider age and adult supervision accordingly. Our young ones need an outlet to express how COVID-19 has changed their lives. As parents we want to be there as much as humanly possible but a real friend is also a good source of comfort. The emotional support they get from each other goes along way towards making the school day more bearable for them and you.

In conclusion, be patient with your children and yourselves. Rather than view this change as yet another complication of COVID-19 look at it as a new adventure, a new chapter in the book that is your family. Prospective is everything! Your students will mimic your negative attitude much quicker than a positive one. So even when there are screw ups and failing grades try to have a good outlook and remember there is always tomorrow!

These techniques and suggestions are from the outlook of the parent. In our next series we will interview the kiddos and see what suggestions they have to offer. That should be a real treat. I’m honestly scared!

Happy learning – from our family to yours!


Journey to a Healthier Me – Sodium Recap

More than a month later, how have we done with our Sodium intake? Let see.

I used the free version of the MyFitnessPal app for a week or so and quickly realized this would be easier if I had the paid version. So I enrolled in a free trial for the purposes of this specific leg of the journey to a healthier me. As I analyze the information, I’m pleasantly pleased with the results.

Week 1:
This week was meant to provide me with a baseline for what my normal Sodium intake was. Out of these 7 days I exceeded my weekly goal of 2,300 mg of Sodium only slightly. On 3 days I exceeded the daily goal. One of these days we ate out as a family and the other 2 we had processed foods for lunch or dinner.

Week 2:
I used 1,928 mg of the 2,300 mg. I quickly learned that eating out was something to be done with much caution. Fast food in particular is saturated with Sodium! Drinking water throughout the day helps alleviate the cravings for fast food. I found that the days I drank my 64 oz were the days I was under my caloric requirement – word to the wise. My energy level remained about the same which is better than it was prior to the start of this journey.

Week 3 & 4:
The last two weeks were gravy. I went horribly over the Sodium on one day only – date night. I had a headache later that night. My body was mad at me! Lesson learned.

Once we work hard to develop good eating habits it becomes easier to make even better choices. Something I did notice was that my Sugar intake was way over the top – followed by Fats and Carbohydrates. I do love me some bread! However, I recognize the need to eat less of it while replacing with more vegetables and hearty grains. With Summer fast approaching, delicious vegetables such as Okra, Squash, Tomatoes, & Cucumbers – OH MY- are becoming available.

This will make healthier eating even easier. In the meantime, for my next healthier me journey I will be focusing on this high Sugar intake! This is really a serious matter for me, especially considering Diabetes runs rampant on maternal and paternal sides of my family.

I hope you will join me! If you have up to this point, inbox us and let us know how its going.


Jouney to a Healthier Me – Sodium

Health consciousness leads to many benefits, one being a life with more vitality. This is something I have personally experienced when actively applying the healthier lifestyle practices. The thing is, we already know what to do. Many of us even know how to do. The problem lies in finding the motivation to do!

Last month you followed me on my water adventure. I’m proud to say that since that blog I’ve only missed a few days of drinking 64 oz of water. In fact most days my intake is higher! My motivation was and still is the desire to have more energy and to be an overall healthy individual. Where I was too aggressive though, is in thinking I could tackle one new thing a week. NOT! I quickly assessed that was too much for me with my current limitations and packed schedule. So let’s try monthly.

This month I’m working on sodium intake. This is fitting considering water follows sodium, even on the cellular level. So you can drink all the water you want but if your sodium intake is excessive, instead of flushing your system you may still end up with edema (swelling), hypertension, and heart disease. Those are the things we are trying to avoid. So, what is the recommended amount of sodium for the average adult? The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 mg a day and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. So for my personal goal I will be attempting stay within those numbers.

The best way I have found to track this is by means of the MyFitnessPal app. I was originally introduced to this app a few years back. I downloaded it and was happy that the part I needed was free. At the time though, I couldn’t wrap my head around logging my every meal, snack, even water! Being older & wiser, I now see the benefits. I began actively using the app in 2017 when attempting to lose weight for a big vacation. I was shocked to see how foods I thought were healthy, were loaded in sodium and sugar. I made adjustments to meals based off the feedback I was given from the app. Within 2 months I lost over 10 lbs! No fad diets, just making diet adjustments and exercising regularly. So back to the app I go. This time I have better goals in mind. The paid version of course breaks it down in more detail. However, since we are focusing on Sodium intake, this version is sufficient.

Search for the item you ate, add to your meal, and the app basically calculates the caloric content and nutritional facts. Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Stax are my ALL TIME FAVORITE. Depicted is my entry. If the food item entered is high in sodium, MyFitnessPal will warn you saying, “This food is high in sodium”. Yes, they throw a flag on the play. This is good since this alerts you to foods you need to avoid eating on a regular basis. Based on my weight-loss goals, the app allows for me to have 2300 mg of Sodium however my goal is to stay below. For the next few days I will merely track my daily sodium intake then based on the findings, I will make adjustments.

Sincerest apologies for taking so long to get this blog out to you but I hope you join me on the new journey to a healthier me.


Journey To A Healthier Me – Water

As far as water goes, everyone knows how important it is to the Earth and our human bodies. I’ll spare you that lecture. I was once the person that drank the recommended amount of water a day. It wasn’t even something I even had to monitor it was just a part of my life. 20190301_141147Somewhere between the birth of our second child and the rest of life, I lost it. Looking back I can see that many of my poor dieting choices began because I was not drinking enough water. Instead I drank sugary drinks, teas, and supposed fruit juices that really were loaded with sugar which in turn led to me craving more sugar to which I turned to junk food! This realization is why drinking the recommended amount of water daily is my first step towards a healthier me. I’ve taken this past week to focus on this area. Below you will find a break down of how it went. During the course of the week I will not allow myself to drink anything else besides coffee – because I must have coffee – until the 64 oz are completed.

  • Day One February 28th: I am so gun-ho about getting the water in. I start the day optimistic but after 24 oz and 6 bathroom trips, my optimism slowly begins to fade. I pull up my big girl pants (literally) and keep at it. I lose count of the number of trips to the restroom but I made it. I didn’t complete until bedtime so no sodas for me! I’m sure I will be going to the bathroom all night long!
  • Day Two March 1st: Nothing feels different today besides an hour or so less sleep. I begin the day not quite as enthusiastic as my first day. I had forgotten it would take my kidneys a couple of weeks to adjust to my water intake only then would I notice a decrease in urination. Or at least that is how it went the last time. Again I’m finding it a struggle getting anything done with all the trips to the restroom. Thankfully since I’m supposed to be resting up from an injury, there isn’t much to do but I can not imagine having to work and do this! Today I’ve managed to complete the water before 6 p.m. so I  hope for a more restful night.
  • Day Three March 2nd: The night was not anymore restful. Since I do not fall back to sleep quickly or easily, this is costing me precious hours of sleep! Looking at the day ahead of me in the light of the restless night – this day is entirely impossible! It is now the weekend & this is the first real day I’ll be going out on my own since recovering from a nasty fall. I have things to do for the farm & supplies that need to be picked up. Gauging by how the previous two days had gone, I am not confident that I can drink water while I am out and about so I’m making a calculated decision not to. This resulted in me drinking only 32 oz of water today which is 8 oz more that I’d customarily drink before this week started. No drinks for me again today.
  • Day Four March 3rd: Slept in today, however that didn’t put me as far behind as you may imagine. I conveniently placed a full water bottle on my bedside table before going to sleep. Today too proved to be busy so I only downed 50 oz. I know what you are thinking. I cannot continue to  use being busy as an excuse. You would be right! That is never an excuse to not take care of yourself. As my body does adjust, however, I will require lest restroom visits and let me tell you – that is a welcomed time! Public restrooms are so disgusting! No sugary drink for me today again. That’s gotta count for something!
  • Day Five March 4th: I woke feeling super energized today – before coffee! I thought today is going to be awesome! Maybe my body is finally adjusting? NOPE! Today my body chose to detox. I am going to the bathroom EVERY SINGLE HOUR, SOMETIMES TWICE AN HOUR! My friends over at Hawkins Homestead Farm can testify to this fact. It made it really hard to get planning done for a future event. (More on that in a different blog.) I did complete my water goal this day! I was super proud of myself since I have completed it by  4 p.m. and I am rewarding myself with ice-cold Pepsi! Mind you, this is the first soda or beverage besides coffee (just assume I always drink coffee) I have had in 4 days!
  • Day Six March 5th: Life is starting to feel more and more like life and I’m starting to feel like the me that gives up when things get annoyingly complicated. I hate complicated. Busy again today but I’m not going backwards. I make myself drink water every hour and in a timely manner I have all 64 oz in! Pepsi for me! Strange thing happens, the Pepsi makes me crave more water. Stop the presses y’all! Today I drank 72 oz of water!
  • Day Seven March 6th: After the great accomplishment yesterday I woke thinking today would be a breeze but it hasn’t been at all. While restroom visits have decreased slightly, I’m not craving water as I had hoped. Maybe I am just tired of water. I keep going and I finally get it done! Literally as I am typing this blog! Tomorrow will be a struggle for sure but I do not want to start this adjustment phase all over again by no means!

That is the last seven days of my life in a nutshell! I’m hoping it will pave the way for many more days of healthy life choices. As I have posted on Facebook about this, many of the public are already in a good pattern of drinking water. That is amazing! Keep up the good choices! For those of us that lost their zeal for water, it isn’t to late to rejuvenate that love; it just takes some effort.

Drinking water is one of many things I need to improve on, starting tomorrow I will add a second area in my journey to a healthier me! Stay tuned!