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How to Create the Best At-Home Learning Space

Aug-07, 2020

girl, at home learning space, homework, working on laptop, home office, organization

As we discussed when we made our ultimate back-to-school checklist, every child needs their own space, whether they are doing a full day of remote learning or just a few minutes of homework. A good at-home learning space provides your child with a peaceful area within the home dedicated to their education. How can you maximize the efficiency of your child's at home learning space? Let's go over some pro-tips.

Avoid Distractions

Your kid's learning space should feel separate and under their control. Try to find a space in your home away from tv's, gaming consoles, and other distracting devices and toys. If your child's learning space is in their room, consider an out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach, and make sure all items that could potentially distract are put away in bins or even moved to another area of the house entirely. Also, avoid highly trafficked areas in your home like the kitchen. While a kitchen island may be a good place to work on homework together, it can break a child’s focus when cooking is happening and they are trying to work. Also consider how sharing a home office may affect your child if your work requires making frequent phone calls. Consider the kind of working environment you feel most productive in and try to duplicate.

Get Organized

We all do our best work in an organized space. Identify all the items your child needs daily and have those within arms' reach. Items that are used occasionally should be stored close by but not directly on the desk or table to avoid clutter. If utilizing a file cabinet or larger storage container, try to find a way to break up shelving into smaller sections with baskets or dividers, and use labeling. You don't want your child to be digging through stacks of books and papers or large dumps of supplies to find the one thing they need, especially during a live teaching session.

Incorporate the Natural World

Try to find a place in your home with lots of natural light. Sunlight for children is more important to their health and development than you might think. In the normal school environment, they may not have the chance to soak in sunshine, so take every opportunity you can! Also consider a small plant or two for your child to care for if you have room. Plants bring joy to a house, and are the perfect companion for a child working on their studies. We forget sometimes that plants are living creatures just like we are, and unlike a pet which may bother your child for attention and maintenance, a houseplant will provide silent support throughout the day.

Purchase Supplies Secondhand

While we may be tempted to go all out and create a Pinterest or Instagram worthy at-home learning space for our kids, the truth is that organizational supplies can be very expensive, and highly marked up in price specifically if they are cute or trendy. Consider shopping secondhand for your supplies. Many local teachers host buy-sell-trade groups online where they sell supplies to one another. If you buy from them, you're being fiscally responsible, supporting sustainability, and helping out a teacher in your community who, let's face it, deserves it more than anyone!

With these tips, you can turn any corner of your house into the perfect at-home learning space to set your child up for success!

 

Want more help for your kids this school year? You can get homework help, math, and language arts instruction from real teachers at an affordable monthly rate by checking out our link!

Tags Study Tips

Navigating the Pandemic as a Working Parent

Aug-07, 2020

mom and kids, annoyed mother, working from home, parenting

While working from home has been an aspiration for many, these were definitely not the circumstances anyone dreamed about. What started as a new challenge with many pros and cons has evolved into what may be a way of life for us for the foreseeable future. Factor in differences of opinion between key decision makers in various administrations, the mental fatigue of living through a crisis, and the uncertainty of our future health and financial prospects, and you have a recipe for extreme stress and a temptation to completely shut down.

While the working parent can comfort themselves with the fact that they are still able to have a job during the pandemic, this cannot combat all of our negative emotions, alleviate all of our worries, or solve all of our problems. So how do we navigate the realities of the pandemic as working parents? Let's take a look.

Form a Pod

First of all, let's learn from the spring of 2020 - we cannot do it all ourselves. Many working parents reported high stress and anxiety as their children began to come home with their supplies and devices to support remote learning provided by their schools. Juggling transitioning from the regular office to the home office while supervising kids 24/7 proved a tough task. This year, if kids are not returning to school, get out ahead of their back-to-school date with a solid plan. Is it safe for a family member to visit your home, or for them to supervise kids at theirs, even for a few days a week or a few hours each day? Can you partner with neighbors in a similar situation? This kind of group quarantining is known as "pods," and forming one may be an essential component of daily life for a working parent.

Get Serious About Your Boundaries

When things feel uncertain, the comfort of a routine can be extremely important. By now, you have a very good grasp on your own schedule, whether you work from home or go back into an office setting. Build your child's routine around yours. Throwing yourself and your work into turmoil will not help anyone. If you're up at 5 or 6 am, try to keep your kids to the same schedule so they aren't trying to stay up late when you need to sleep and souring the end of each night. If your day starts later, theirs can, too. That way they aren't tip-toeing around the house early in the morning, creating stress to start their day and potentially shortening your sleep.

It's also important to set up dedicated spaces in the house for everyone to do their work. If it's convenient, dedicate part of your home office as a learning space for your child. We've spoken before about how to create the perfect learning space for your child or children. The most important thing is to find a space where all supplies can be gathered in one area, and you don't need to interrupt your work to be fetching supplies. Your children's office set up should be just as detailed and well stocked as yours for maximum efficiency.

Don't Forget About Recess

Just because our kids have to stay-at-home, doesn't mean we are trapped in the house. As a working parent, it may sometimes feel like you're not giving your children enough. But kids have incredible imaginations, energy, and a capacity to be flexible. A great way to keep everyone in the family's morale up is to embrace recess. Now might be the time to invest in some nice bicycles, a sandbox, an inflatable pool, or other outdoor gear. Sitting and staring at screens for hours on end can be very detrimental to our health, so make sure to factor in plenty of fresh air, physical activities, or even 1-minute dance parties!

We hope that with this advice, navigating the pandemic as a working parent will be a little easier. If you want more support at home, considering enrolling in Best Brains. Many centers are offering daytime learning, where your kids can connect face-to-face with real teachers from the US and Canada who lead children through fun activities, homework help, and learning exercises. You can get started here.


Virtual Learning Advice for Stay-at-Home Parents

Aug-07, 2020

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While people might initially assume that the current COVID situation has not affected stay-at-home parents very much, this could not be further from the truth. Between school aged children now being required to be at home all day, after school activities canceled or moved online, and partners either working from home or not working at all, things have dramatically changed for stay-at-home parents.

A major aspect of this change has been stay-at-home parents taking on the role of teacher as well as caretaker. While being used to provide support and assistance to their kids, this extra expectation has become a source of added stress. We've compiled some tips so that stay-at-home parents can navigate the current situation and flourish!

Take Time to Connect

One of the major challenges facing stay-at-home parents has been loneliness. When partners and children leave the house every weekday, the stay-at-home parent is left behind. This can cause major feelings of loneliness and separation, which can lead to depression and resentment. While many stay-at-home parents maintain support groups to share feelings, vent frustrations, or simply to socialize, they can't always replace the attention and togetherness of family.

Now that kids and partners are home-based, there are still separations that occur. Children still need to do the majority of coursework on their own to make sure they are learning independently. When not doing school work or after school studies, they may want to play in isolation with tablets, computers, or gaming consoles. And while partners may be physically present, they are still on the clock and not able to engage. Having people in the home but not being able to connect with them can be incredibly frustrating for a stay-at-home parent dealing with loneliness.

We advise that families in this situation embrace family time as a means to combat these feelings. While everyone's mental well-being is important, it is vital that the rest of the family embrace and support the stay-at-home parent as loved, needed, and appreciated. Use family dinner an anchor point to keep everyone connected.

Share the Work

As the stay-at-home parent, you are probably the primary caretaker for not only the kids, but the entire family. Your family is probably not used to seeing what you do all day to keep things running, and probably don't notice the extra cooking and cleaning generated by their constant presence in the house. A lot of stay-at-home parents feel an obligation and a sense of pride from taking on the caretaking, but in extreme circumstances you are not expected to be superhuman!

Taking on the added time and effort to help your child with their virtual learning means that some things are not going to get done the way you and your family are used to, and that's okay. Having kids help you with the chores or making lunch is a great way to break up their day, get them away from screens, and have bonding time. You can even incorporate elements of the work they’re doing in school into the tasks. Little kids can count out how many grapes go on their plate. Use laundry as a way for slightly older kids to practice their multiplication tables ("If there are 2 socks per bundle, and there are 4 bundles, how many socks are there in total?"). We've discussed in our blog before the benefits of chores for our kids, so embrace it!

Also, if you do have a partner or other family members at home, now is the time to involve them with the running of the house. While you may under normal circumstances be embarrassed to reach out to them, circumstances are anything but normal. And who knows? They may be waiting for you to reach out and ask for help, and don’t offer for fear of hurting your pride or making you feel embarrassed. Just like we teach our children, be honest and open about your feelings, and don't keep it inside.

Seek Help from Others

If stay-at-home parents were meant to be teachers, we wouldn't have schools at all. But the truth is that, especially now, there is so much to learn and so many distractions and hurdles that get in the way of that learning. The current situation is just the latest and the largest.

Being a kid in the 21st century is not easy. Many parents today were kids themselves in this current century, and as millennials we are still navigating how expanded technology, social media exposure, and ever-increasing divides between groups affects us on a fundamental level. Fortunately, there are places to turn to when you need help, particularly when it comes to assistance with virtual learning.

Solutions like private tutors or pod learning, hiring a full-time teacher to offer in-person class for a group of 3-6 kids hosted out of a home, may be out of reach for many. An affordable option many parents have turned to is signing up for online learning through Best Brains. Their staff of certified teachers has gone fully online, offering weekly sessions in Math and English once a week to keep kids on track. They also offer homework help for normal classwork, so stay-at-home parents have someone they can turn to for difficult math questions, organizing research projects, or crafting essays. Plus, unlike many online learning companies that have only opened in the last few month, Best Brains has been an established brand for almost a decade.

Whether you've been a stay-at-home parent for years or have been made one by the current situation, know that you are not alone. There are resources out there and plenty of people whose job it is to support you and your family through this difficult time. Together, we will get through this better than ever!

 

Want to sign up for online learning with Best Brains? Let's get started!


Creating a Family Calendar

Jul-27, 2020

family, kitchen, busy family, making dinner, family time

Soccer practice, swimming lessons, after-school tutoring, dinner with the in-laws, dance recital, and the list goes on and on!

If this sounds like the narrative constantly running through your head, then it might be time to invest in a family calendar. Maintaining a family calendar takes a little bit of time, but saves so many headaches for busy families on the go. When designing your calendar, you have a few options to choose from. Let's take a look.

The Digital Calendar

As our lives have moved more online, technology has evolved to help us organize. Hence, digital calendar apps and time management services were created. These digital calendars are great for high tech families, families in which every member uses an email address, or families who live in separate locations. Here are some recommendations for the best calendar apps to suit your family's needs.

The Physical Calendar

With a physical calendar, you have a tangible way to keep track of all the events and to-dos in your life. Physical calendars can come with lots of stickers and tabs for easy organization. They're great for low tech families, as well as families of younger children who do not use apps beyond streaming video. Plus, physical calendars can be a little more specific to help you focus on individual goals and pursuits. Here are some recommendations for the best physical calendars to match your lifestyle.

The DIY Calendar

This is for creative families who want a project to work on together! With a DIY calendar, you get to decide your layout, the colors used, and the way entries are made. It's all yours! Plus, it can become a fun piece of décor. Children of all ages can interact with a DIY calendar, and it can evolve with you as your family grows and changes over time. You can find some great inspiration to create your DIY calendar here.

We all could use some help getting organized and maintaining that organization. You can always find resources for you and your family to make scheduling your lives a little easier. Maybe you can even pencil in some time to relax!

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How to Make a Balanced Meal

Jun-29, 2020

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When it comes to nutrition and our kids, it seems like everyone has an opinion! Fortunately, there are plenty of qualified pediatricians, nutritionists, and food scientists studying children’s nutrition every day and providing us with good advice. As a parent, creating a healthy relationship between your child and food is a high priority. So, let’s take a whole plate approach to our children’s nutrition.

Calories vs Servings

When it comes to your toddler, a serving-based approach tends to be better than counting calories. Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, so keeping track of the categories of food they eat is much healthier than just trying to hit a number goal and potentially loading them up on sugary, salty snack foods. A typical serving for a toddler tends to be between a ¼ and a ½ cup, or 1-2 oz. Avoid over-feeding little stomachs, and pace meals and snacks throughout the day. This avoids battles during mealtimes and the expectation to clean the plate.

Food Groups

We all remember the food guide pyramid from our school days, and the wisdom of eating from different food categories hasn’t changed much since. Every food group contains different nutrients needed for healthy development, and eating a wide variety of foods eliminates the need in most cases for supplemental nutrition like multivitamins or fortified nutrition shakes. Of course, if they’re doctor prescribed, they should be integrated into your child’s meals. So how much of these food groups should our kids be eating? When it comes to grains and vegetables, between 4-6 servings of both groups each day is ideal. Milk, fruit, and meat should all be represented between 1-3 times per day. Remember, serving sizes change as kids grow up, so adjust accordingly.

Combining Food aka A Well-Balanced Plate

When it comes to combining food, there are a lot of myths. But science tells us that eating any combination of foods has no negative effect on weight or health. In fact, well-rounded meals which combine carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are essential, not only for our enjoyment, but for our nutrition. Since we process carbs faster than fats and proteins, eating a well-balanced meal can give us the boost of energy we need, and continue to sustain us comfortably until we get hungry again. So, get creative with your kids in creating cool, colorful, and eclectic meals. Here’s a couple of our favorites!

The Californian

  • 1 serving of soy-garlic marinated boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 serving of guacamole
  • 1 serving of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 serving of pita chips
  • 1 clementine or half an orange

The Toast with the Most

  • 1 large piece of multigrain toast (or oat nut toast for older kids)
  • 1 serving of nut butter on the toast
  • Sliced banana to cover nut butter
  • Drizzle of honey on top, cut toast into planks
  • Serve with 1 egg mixed with sautéed spinach and chopped broccoli on the side and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese

The Not-So-Square Roots

  • 1 serving of sweet potato, beet, and parsnip hash
  • 1 serving of orange juice glazed pork
  • 1 serving side salad with sliced radish, carrots, and a lemon vinaigrette

What kind of balanced combos can you make at your house today? Let’s get cooking!


How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?

Jun-22, 2020

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Sleep is important at any age. But how much should we let our kids sleep? Is going to bed and sleeping the same thing, health-wise? How effective are naps? Let's learn more about how much our kids need to sleep.

How does age effect sleep?

Newborns and infants need a lot of sleep. Children under the age of 2 should be getting between 11 and 17 hours of sleep depending on age, with newborns closer to 17 and 2-year-olds closer to 11. By preschool ages, 3-5 years, aim for 10-13 hours of sleep per day. School-aged children should be getting 9-11 hours of sleep. Teenagers, despite their busy schedules, also need a full night's sleep. Kids ages 14-17 years should still be getting 8-10 hours of sleep per night. We all know as adults how beneficial 8 solid hours of sleep can be, so it's even more vital that older teens are allowed that time to rest and recharge.

How important are naps?

Turns out, napping is an important part of a child's sleep schedule. For parents, the goal becomes transforming the sleep patterns of a newborn over time into a reliable nap schedule, and finally a normal sleep schedule. By the time children reach preschool age, naps should be built around their school schedule. No naptime in kindergarten? Make sure your child is getting extra sleep at night to make up for the adjustment. These are the years when it is important to create an optimal sleep environment. Try to avoid nightlights if possible, opting instead for white noise machines to comfort a young sleeper. Just being in bed and actually sleeping are two different things, so avoid sending kids up to bed with their tablet or phone.

What makes a fussy sleeper?

Believe it or not, research shows that a fussy sleeper and a fussy eater can go hand in hand. The key seems to be structure. Enforcing routines with plenty of small indicators is the best way to keep children on a schedule that works for them. Have rituals and routines that lead up to sleep and meal times so that transitions are not jarring. Another tip for fussy sleepers: they might be too hot! Ditch the flannel pajamas, heavy blankets, and bed warmers for a simple sleep shirt, turn on a fan (bonus white noise), or turn up the AC before bedtime. Children tend to sleep better when they are on the cool side, so see how that works for your child! For children with Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD, going to bed can be a real struggle. There are many steps you can take to ensure a good night's sleep for your SPD-effected child.

Science-based tips!

It's rare for anyone to sleep through the night, and this includes children. Kids may wake up several times in the night, and that’s okay. Teach kids how to deal with waking in the night without having to get up from bed, thinking it means they can't sleep, or sneak out for a snack. Encourage drinking water, stretching muscles, and changing position before laying down again to fall back asleep untroubled. Also, it's very natural for children to want to sleep near parents, in safe spaces, or with one another. Having a positive attitude to this impulse helps soothe anxiety. Being understanding of your child's natural tendencies also makes sure your child is getting the sleep they need and keeps your relationship with your children strong.

Bedtime resistance is a very common problem reported to pediatricians, and can affect your entire day with your children. Being patient, paying attention, and creating a solid plan for your kids is the best way to transition them into being good sleepers who are healthy for years to come.