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 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 hand-drawn charts to help track & visualize tasks for kids who are homeschooling.

You don’t need any special print-off; just trace their hands on a paper and write which actions earn them a sticker to put on each nail – or just use crayons if you don’t have stickers. Be as vague or specific as you need to be. Just keep it fun! The girls’ tasks here are divided into things like worksheet pages, 15 minutes at a time on math, reading a short book, as well as simple chores changing into their day clothes or clearing off their place at the table.

Ten is still a pretty big goal number, so I gave my littlest a bonus prize when she earned 5 stickers for the first hand, and the girls will each earn a manicure from Mommy once they’ve adorned all 10 fingers!

Traditional weekly fill-in-the blank charts were doing nothing for us, because they proved to be too abstract for a 5 and 7 year old. Then again, I can never expect that a chart will “do something” for me. Strategies fail quickly when they aren’t backed up by effort. Reminder charts have to be referred back to frequently so they get a chance to remind us to do the work. Having a visual strategy with short-term goal setting did really enhance their efforts, and the girls were happily referring back to these charts on their own!

This system is better than what we were doing before, because it visually displays how they’re progressing overall, rather than waiting all day for any benefits as they go through the mental list (usually I would just end up enduring the push-pull cycle!) This is also preferable to receiving little rewards for EACH step in the right direction, because they’re still getting some delayed gratification.

My kids’ school allows them to be 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 other young clients who have to endure back-to-back zoom meetings: Make tally marks as you listen to lectures. Use two categories, labeled “Stuff I already know” and “Stuff I didn’t know before” (or “New” and “Review”). This simple system gives your brain something to scan for, and scanning requires a lot less effort (and therefore requires less motivation) compared to the expected task of active listening. Think of scanning like when you’re in an environment with a lot of background noise and you hear your name; suddenly you pay attention! Your name is something your brain is programmed to scan for, without conscious effort. Depending on the subject, your brain could be casually scanning for “novel information” in order to try to add up tally marks. You might count your tallies 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…

I Need to Declutter & Here’s a Glimmer of Hope

Admission: I have spent several months with one foot in my business project, and one foot in being a stay-at-home mom (that was my full-time gig up until this year when my youngest daughter started preschool – now it’s only most of time!) I find myself not really being able to give my heart to either very effectively in the moments that I need to. Over the years I’ve become anxious of taking the plunge into ADD-hyperfocus mode, which has kept me just short of finishing some fabulous ideas which are sitting at about 90% done. I want to do more.

Today I started a Skillshare class, and it is REALLY good, you guys! It’s by motivational speaker and life coach TJ Walker, and he calls it How to Organize your Home Effectively. I knew I would get more motivated to tackle the house if I watched it listened to something on the subject. One of the important questions he asked is for us to define our “why?”

My why: I want to feel unburdened so I can start my blog/business without all the guilt. I’ve heard that clutter is a result of indecision, and I’m finding clutter also creates MORE indecision, since I can’t decide whether to work on the clutter or something more meaningful to me.

So now as I approach decluttering, I’m thinking it’s actually best for me to cultivate a mindset, not motivation and willpower and focus, or determination and endurance. I need to just get in the mindset of being decisive. I don’t even need to feel “inspired”. I don’t even need to do it for very long at once.

Being decisive doesn’t mean I know I’m making “the right choice”. It means I’m able and willing to handle the consequences of whatever choice I make. It’s kind of like being… Confident.

There you go, a little motivation for both of us and a blog post written in only 30 minutes! Write YOUR “why” in the comments; in other words, the reason you want to do this hard thing, whatever is staring you in the face, then go do it! 🥰

Update: Important realization – I still had to get myself used to the idea of doing it even once I made the decision. Once I started, I gradually gained momentum. Nowhere near where I want to be, but I can’t expect to do it all in a day (maybe that’s why I keep hesitating? Is that my unrealistic expectation?) I am glad to have the advice from any geniuses out there with suggestions for keeping up on papers!

Ever Feel Like a Hypocrite When You Only Post Your “Best”?

Imagine with me: An artist you know and admire has a big gallery showing. After a successful opening evening, she laments privately to you, “People see my art and they think I’m great, but in reality I make a LOT more half-hearted doodles than I make masterpieces. Some of them are so terrible I just throw them away! My studio is a mess, I constantly forget to clean my brushes or prep my canvas… Last week I was totally late on delivering an order; I’m just a terrible artist! I present only my best to everyone, and it looks as if I’m always nailing it -I might even make it look easy- but it’s not the truth. If people knew the real me, with all my do-overs and mistakes, they wouldn’t be impressed at all. I’m really just a fraud.”

Would you empathetically nod your head and agree? Would you feel disillusioned and think she’s a fake after hearing this? No way! Most likely you would be completely shocked and say, “WHAT!??”

The idea of having such a lowly view of ourselves and backward expectations like the example of this artist seems ridiculous, yet are you doing this to yourself?

Do you give yourself a Pinterest-perfect standard where you aren’t allowed to leave cups on the table and crumbs on the floor (or books layered with crayons and banana peels, depending on your stage of life)? Does your internal voice seem to be saying, “Better Homes and Gardens could pop over any moment for a photoshoot, and girl they are judging you!” I would love to encourage you to have a more authentic standard where you allow yourself to be imperfect, but if you’ve ever cleared off just one corner of the table to take a clean photo of the cute cupcake you made, at least don’t feel guilty about THAT! Go ahead and celebrate what you accomplished, because life is hard enough without stressing about the details you cropped out of the picture.

Was Thomas Edison defined by the fact that he had 999 failed inventions? No, he was praised for his persistence and admired for his success! Baseball players strike out more than they hit home runs. A radio announcer doesn’t always talk in his radio announcer voice (I would hope) in social situations; he needs to be able to relax his voice and and focus more on what he’s saying, not only how he’s saying it. A therapist can’t be expected to practice dedicated therapy with everyone she interacts with, every moment of every day, carefully balancing empathy with impartiality; that would be emotionally exhausting! Remember, Olympic runners still walk from one place to the other way more often than they run. You have to do that, too.

Good parents are still not perfect parents every minute of their lives. It would be fabulous if we could always be an amazing beacon of patience and wisdom and creative memory-making!! The reality is, sometimes you get distracted or irritated and wish you could be doing something else. Children often fall apart after coming home after a long day of barely holding it together, because they are with their family and they feel safe. Sometimes you need to check out and take a break, too, or you’ll burn out and lose your cool. Keep in mind, when you do lose your cool, it doesn’t undo ALL those other moments when you gave it your whole heart. Earlier I used the analogy of a runner; I believe a runner could permanently lose the use of his legs, but he’s still a world record-breaker and Olympic medalist for the rest of his life.

There is hope in being able to create strategies to get to a high performance level more often or more easily, but as humans, we can’t expect to perform all day all the time, then beat ourselves up over an occasional lapse in judgement or performance. Nobody can run at 100% capacity for 100% of the time.

Look at what you’ve created, you should be proud of it! Consider any mediocre efforts as “practice”. We all need practice. Maybe you make doodles and sketches a lot more often than you have masterpiece moments, but that doesn’t mean those moments don’t count.

From bright ideas to dark days, when you have lifted someone else’s burden, or you’ve needed someone else to lift yours, try to accept all those wonderful, complicated parts of yourself. Your impact, like ripples in the water, echoes on and on, first within your circle of influence, then your community, and continues on through time to people unknowable.

Sometimes you may feel like a fraud, the only one hiding your frail humanity, but you’re not alone. You think you’re struggling against the odds to do any good at all, but don’t define yourself by your doodles! Maybe it’s our nature to characterize ourselves by our most undesirable qualities, but if you could take a step back, I wish you could see; You are more than a work in progress, you’re already a masterpiece.