How I’m Helping My Kids Stay on Track for Homeschool During Quarantine

This is a picture of what I’m doing today to keep my youngest girls motivated to stay on task with their school work (it matters to me that they’re motivated, rather than forced, otherwise it’s miserable for all of us!) This has been the best strategy so far.

You don’t have to be an artist to create these simple charts to help track & visualize tasks

You don’t have to have a fancy print-off, just trace their hands and be clear about which actions earn a sticker (or just have them color each finger or fingernail as they earn, if you don’t have stickers). You can be super specific or not. Just keep it fun! The girls don’t have 10 jobs each, we are just breaking bigger tasks into several smaller tasks here.

I threw in a little bonus for Lydia when she earned 5 stickers for the first hand, and the girls will earn a manicure from Mommy once they’ve adorned all 10 fingers. This system is better than what we were doing before, because it visually displays how much they’re progressing overall, rather than receiving micro-rewards for each step in the right direction (or enduring the push-pull cycle!)

Traditional weekly fill-in-the blank charts were doing nothing for us, because they proved to be too abstract. Of course, a chart will never “do” anything for us. We have to refer back to it frequently, we are the ones to do the “work”. Strategies fail quickly when we don’t apply any effort. Having a visual strategy can really enhance those efforts, though!

My kids are self-paced, which has its own challenges, but I imagine visualizing a “countdown” could also be useful for those children who seem to have endless Zoom meetings.

I have a bonus tip which I’ve shared with some of my younger clients: Make tally marks as you listen to online lectures. Use two categories, label them something like, “Stuff I already know” and “Stuff I didn’t know before” ~or~ “New” and “Review”. This gives your brain something to scan for, and scanning requires a lot less effort (and motivation) than active listening does. Think of it like when you’re in an environment with a lot of background noise and you hear your name; suddenly you’re at attention! Your name is something your brain is programmed to scan for, without conscious effort.

Depending on the subject, your brain can be somewhat casually scanning for “novel information or application” in order to try to add up tally marks, which may be used to gauge how well you were listening. Extra credit if you actually write down what the new information IS!!

Have a better day!
Love,
Janina

To Anyone Who Still Feels Like This isn’t Happening…

Just before the great Tsunami hit coats off the Indian Ocean in 2004, the ocean initially receded and many people wandered out to explore, unaware of the danger. 

Off the coast of Phuket, Dec 2004 [link to source]

Some wise leaders knew this sign meant to get as far away from the beach as possible, and thanks to them, entire villages were saved!  Of course, the wave we are currently up against looks a little more like this:

Total world case count as of Mar 20, 2020

I hesitate to post graphs like these, because they can sometimes stir up panic, which isn’t what I want. I’m not asking you to panic. I’m just begging you to move to high ground; the safety of your own home. This has been a difficult transition for some, because they were not given the opportunity to make the decision for themselves. You can regain some sense of power by accepting or choosing to be in your current reality, rather than fighting and resenting it. What are some strategies you can use to make the best of it?

Staying safe for most of us means avoiding something that looks completely harmless, like a beach at low tide, or a good friend that appears to be perfectly healthy.

COVID-19 spreads silently. That’s why leaders were reacting with relatively “small” numbers of confirmed cases. Not to mention, confirmed cases are a gross underestimate of actual cases. Do I say that to scare you? I only wish to inform you. This is validated by plenty of legitimate data. They are doing what they can now, so early on that many or even most people weren’t yet convinced of the problem.*

I am trying to focus on the positive, feeling grateful to have all my social obligations cancelled for the moment, including non-essential doctor’s appointments. What we need now is for all of our community members to also do all they can. You can cooperate without getting hysterical. You can distance yourself while still being respectful to others. Perhaps you could consider it your patriotic duty to protect your fellow citizens. Maybe we can become united in our isolation. 🤗

During WW1 & WW2, US citizens pulled together and showed their patriotism by gardening to be more self-sufficient. Image source: docsteach

You can help. Share the message. Stand up for social distancing and support it even when it’s awkward or super inconvenient to do so. I have seen a lot of shaming going on around social media. Be an example, helping normalize it for your community of friends. They don’t need your judgment, let them see how you’re managing, so it doesn’t feel so scary and weird to them. Staying home (as much as possible in your circumstance) could save a life, even if it’s the life of a stranger. Self-isolating isn’t something I’m doing out of fear, I’d like to think I’m doing it out of love. ♥️

Lives that can be saved by preventing the spread early on. Image source, NY Times

If you don’t get it, you can’t spread it. #bekindstaybehind

In 2004, scientists on the other side of the globe saw the signs and quickly realized a tsunami would be its way. They tried frantically to get in touch with the right officials, but try as they may, they had no way to warn everyone. Since then, things have changed, and the tsunami warning systems are much better. Now if a tsunami is likely, people can know about it hours in advance and take action to stay safe. In the case of the current “wave” coming our way, we are even more fortunate. We in the Western hemisphere have been given days, weeks, even months of advanced notice, with analysis by experts and scientists. Everything may look pretty normal at the moment in your neck of the woods, but don’t wait for that wave to be within sight before you react. Get off the beach, folks. Please. You’ve already been warned.

Original image credit: https://www.sms-tsunami-warning.com

*PS, Still wondering what all this fuss is about the Coronavirus?

Continue reading To Anyone Who Still Feels Like This isn’t Happening…

How to Ask for Help When You’re Suffering

Author’s note: The bulk of this article was originally written for a stranger who had shared their struggle with suicidal thoughts, but I would give this same advice to anyone who struggles with mental health …or even just really big emotions! It doesn’t have to be extreme before it’s worth paying attention to what’s going on inside us.

It’s important to have someone you can be vulnerable with, even if they are anonymous. Everyone needs someone they can trust to tell their fears to. Many times the people we love feel uncomfortable when we share, so they don’t know what to do. They feel like their only options are to try to fix you, or to protect themselves from feeling so deeply, because it hurts so much. It takes a lot of strength to be with someone who is suffering and just allow it to run its course, even though often it’s the best thing they can do.

When you need to share your anxiety (and you need to) first tell the person what they can do for you. Preface the conversation with something like, “Can I share something with you? It’s awkward for me, and very personal, but I feel like I need to tell someone…” You might even add, “You don’t have to try to fix it or make it go away. All I really need is somebody to listen and be there.” (Or, if you know your Love Language, you could say that you just need a shoulder to lean on, or some words of encouragement, etc.)

This step of getting “permission” can save you from heartache and embarrassment. It prepares them to be there for you, and by answering affirmatively, they have committed to it. You can often gauge from someone’s reaction whether they are interested or cannot be trusted. It’s probably normal to see fidgeting, or even lack of eye contact (they might just need a moment to adjust to the intensity), but someone who scoffs, shakes their head, changes the subject or just plain walks away isn’t ready yet. On the other hand, someone who can maintain their focus, or even increases their attentiveness when they hear your words, is preparing themselves to be there for you. The same people who might seem cruel when they don’t know what to do with themselves have the potential to be good to you if they have enough clarity (and if they aren’t surrounded by negative peer pressure).

Keep in mind you are more likely to get a negative response if the person you are planning to talk to is the person who is causing the problem you’d like to talk about. Sometimes, when you’re feeling stepped on our disregarded, you just need someone else to speak up to them on your behalf. A third party could also help you find the words to be assertive, yet kind. You might share with your trusted confidante that you’re not trying to make anyone look bad, but you would like guidance on how to gently work out the situation. (PS, coaches can be good for this, too!)


The important thing is not to wait until you are near the breaking point. It’s important to tell someone at the first sign of trouble, so you have time for several “failed” tries to share your troubles if you realize you either can’t trust someone, or they aren’t emotionally ready for you. By searching for help right away, there is still time to keep trying until you find someone who understands that you need someone who cares, long before you’re at your breaking point. This is a skill. You will get better at it, and so will they.

Another note: Often adolescents don’t understand how to get our attention, and if you have a very angry adolescent on your hands, consider taking the time to teach them how best to get your attention, rather than just reacting badly when they start badly. Often when they’re being a problem, it’s because they’re having a problem. When you’re prepared, you can respond to them in a helpful frame of mind, you won’t accidentally dismiss a problem or get defensive and start a whole new problem. It is one of the best lessons they can learn, because it helps them get the help they need, now and into adulthood.

I am an avid student of interpersonal communication, and I believe the way we get someone’s attention is every bit as critical as the thing we have to say. Believe that the other person wants to help you. Help them help you.

I pray you will find a trusted confidante. It could a be a sister or brother, maybe you haven’t communicated with in a while. Get their permission before you disclose, and it could be nearly anyone you’d expect you could trust. Be a strength to them, too, when they fall on hard times, as well as when they need someone by their side to celebrate life’s good moments. Happiness isn’t as joyful when you have no one to share it with. Share the joy they have to offer. ♥️