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Naya Rivera Made Us Feel a Little Less Lonely

Naya Rivera - Boston Moms
Photo credit Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

With the recent death of Naya Rivera, this month in Hollywood was a tough one for me, which is a sentence I can barely type out because it’s so utterly unlike me.

But this one is different. 

I grew up in a small and exceptionally homogeneous town in the 90s. I went to school with the same 100 or so kids from preschool until high school graduation. I can’t say I had a wonderful experience there. As I got older, I started to understand that there were deeper reasons why I didn’t feel like I fit in with my community — one of them being my sexuality. My whole life, but definitely during my teen years, I had “crushes” on both males and females — something that was unheard of, and definitely frowned upon, by just about everyone in our small town. In short, there was no “room” for me there. 

What could my angsty teenage self do except bury those feelings all the way down… and then hide them under a rock just for good measure?

When the show “Glee” premiered, I was almost ready to graduate from the small Catholic college I attended. For reference, I spent my college years working hard to make sure everybody thought I was solidly heterosexual, and most of them still believe I am. At the time, I was thankful “Glee” wasn’t a show my roommates liked to watch because I was so paranoid of “outing” myself accidentally. 

The show got more and more popular (beware: I’m about to go full on GLEEK on you) and the relationship between Naya Rivera and Heather Morris’ characters blossomed in a relatable, messy, and sometimes heart-crushing way. It took several seasons until we finally started to see Santana’s shroud of shame and fear dissipate, which depicted the journeys of so many of us. We felt her refusal to celebrate herself and perform “Born This Way,” we understood the callous but defensive words she used to protect herself, her “just for show” relationship, her fear and refusal to label the real relationships in her life, and the desire to move to a new place and just start over so she could finally be herself. In so many moments, her feelings and experiences mimicked my own. In her character, I felt seen. 

When I became a parent, the choice between being my authentic self to help teach my children to be their authentic selves and keeping my “secret” hidden to protect them from certain ridicule became an agonizing one. It brings me right back to the high school “shroud of shame,” wanting to protect myself from experiencing judgment and exclusion among my fellow mom peers. In the end, it feels so very similar to the heartbreaking scenes of “Glee” when Naya’s character is so afraid to come out that it’s hard to even watch them anymore. At this point, I feel a little “too” seen. 

The often forgotten hero, though, is Naya herself.

While there were a handful of lesbian and bisexual characters on TV by that time, the rawness of Naya and Heather’s characters made the “Glee” storyline unique. Naya’s character required so much depth and understanding from the perspective of an LGBTQ+ character and a Latina, a rarely televised combination even now in 2020, and in every way, she got right to the heart of it. Naya and Heather pulled us, the people who were living a closeted life, right in. They validated our fears, nightmares, and quiet sobs at prom.

In fact, for a few moments at a time, our grief almost felt OK.

In short, Naya’s ability to touch the souls of so many of us struggling to come out was nothing short of brilliance.

In her book and through her character, Naya truly made us laugh, cry, and feel everything in between. In her, I felt seen — and it made me feel just a little less lonely. 

Thank you to those who encourage us to be, and love, ourselves. For all you LGBTQ+ moms out there who are also feeling loss, fear, and sadness in your hearts right now — I see you.

You can read more about being an ally to moms in the Boston area here

Old Fashioned Field Day :: Games for the Whole Family!

After all of our summer activities were officially canceled and I was done feeling sorry for myself, I sat at our (very messy) kitchen table to brainstorm.

As I worked my way down the rabbit hole, I recalled my mom telling me how her family put on “family field day” every year when she twas growing up, and it was usually the highlight of the summer. 

I started thinking about what kids used to do during the summer before weekly summer camps, extracurriculars, lessons, and tutoring.

I was struck by how much unstructured time for FUN they had.

I’m sure there were plenty of drawbacks, and I can think of so many reasons why this lifestyle isn’t feasible for our family, but we can shift our focus back to having some “old fashioned” family fun this year, without the frills.

There are the obvious suggestions: sack race, tye-dye, egg race or toss, relay races, pie or watermelon eating contests, wheelbarrow races, and varied forms of ring toss.

Along the way, though, we found some new favorites to add to the list that we’re dying to try!

We may or may not choose to have our own dedicated field day with our preschooler this year, but we will undoubtedly try all of these activities at some point during the summer.

Water Balloon Toss

Materials:

  • Sponges or water balloons (or eggs, if you’re really adventurous) 
  • Sidewalk chalk, tape, or pool noodles
  • Buckets

Objective:

Much like an egg toss, you must be the last surviving team that has the most cumulative throws in the end.

Directions:

  1. Using sidewalk chalk, make markers for two lines, as if partners were going to line up for an egg toss.
  2. Have partners line up, standing across from each other. Make sure the lines are even!
  3. Fill up the buckets with water, and place one next to each participant. 
  4. Tell contestants to soak the sponges as much as possible.
  5. Have contestants throw the sponges at the same time, to their partner. If their partner doesn’t catch it, the pair is out.
  6. You may ask participants to take a step back before the next throw.

Sponge Darts 

Materials:

  • Sponges
  • Buckets
  • Sidewalk chalk

Objective:

Receive the most points at the end of the game.

Directions: 

  1. Make a chalk diagram of a dartboard on the ground, and draw a line the participants have to throw from.
  2. Wet a sponge, and throw it at the target until the participant has thrown the desired number of times.
  3. Add up the points (record them if necessary) as you go, and the player with the most points at the end wins! 

Bucket Relay

Materials:

  • Squirt guns, cups, or sponges
  • Buckets

Objective:

Move all your water from bucket 1 to bucket 2 before the other team, using the “water transporter” of choice.

Directions:

  1. Fill up bucket 1 with water and put it at the starting line. Put bucket 2, which should be empty, at the finish line. 
  2. Give participants a method to transport the water (cups, sponges, large squirt guns). When they’re instructed to start, each person in the line fills up the “cup” and runs it to bucket 2, then runs back and passes the “cup” to the next person in line. 
  3. The team that fills bucket 2 first is the winner.

Cup Pyramid

Materials:

  • Squirt guns
  • Table
  • 6 (or desired number) plastic cups
  • Buckets

Objective:

Be the first to knock down your tower of cups with the squirt gun.

Directions:

  1. On the table, set up a pyramid of plastic cups toward the end of the table (to allow them to fall off easily)
  2. At the start, have the participants fill up their squirt guns and shoot at the cups until they are all knocked over. 

Squirt Gun Cup Race

Materials:

  • Squirt guns
  • String
  • Cups
  • Scissors

Objective:

Move your cup to the end of the string by squirting water into it before the other players.

Directions:

  1. Cut a tiny hole in the bottom of the cups, and set up the strings so the cups can easily go across. 
  2. Put the (full) bucket to refill the squirt guns at the start line. 
  3. At the start, the participants will fill up their squirt guns and squirt the inside of the cups so they move down the rope.

Bean Bag Toss

Materials:

  • Bean bags
  • Large paper plates or hula hoops

Objective:

Receive the largest number of points by the end of the game by throwing the bean bag into the targets.

Directions:

  1. Mark large paper plates or hula hoops with the number of points it represents.
  2. Throw the beanbags a desired number of times, and add up the total. Record on paper if necessary!
  3. The person with the greatest number of points at the end is the winner.

Crab Soccer

Materials:

  • Large beach ball
  • Tarp

Objective:

Use your feet to kick the beach ball into the other team’s goal to win the most points.

Directions:

  1. Lay the tarp on the ground to create a playing field that has a clear “out of bounds.” You can also draw with chalk, make lines in the sand, use cones, etc. 
  2. Make a marker down the middle to divide the field.
  3. Blow up a large beach ball. 
  4. Use your legs to kick the ball from one side to the other, trying to score a goal. 
  5. The first team to get to the desired number of goals wins.

Pass the Cup

Materials:

  • Two buckets
  • Cup (or sponge, for smaller hands)
  • Water

Objective:

Get the water in the cup into the bucket at the end of the line by passing the cup over your head. This is a group game, but it can also be played in two teams, or a winner can be identified as anyone who is still dry at the end.

Directions: 

  1. Have all participants sit or stand in a line, facing the same way. 
  2. Have the last person in the line turn around and sit facing the opposite way, so that their back is touching the back of the second-to-last person in line. Place an empty bucket in front of them. 
  3. Fill up a bucket, and set it up in front of the first person sitting in the line. 
  4. The first person in line fills up the cup, and passes it over their head to the person behind them. The cup moves down the line until it reaches the last person, who dumps it in the bucket and sends it back up the line. 
  5. Repeat until all of the water is in the bucket at the end of the line. 

Water Balloon Dodgeball

Objective:

Don’t get hit by a water balloon while trying to hit the other team.

Materials:

  • Buckets
  • Water balloons
  • Cones or boundary markers

Directions:

  1. Make a center “line” with boundary markers, and place several buckets filled with pre-made water balloons on it. Make sure there are “out of bounds” boundary markers also.
  2. Teams will race to the center to get water balloons from the bucket, and then try to hit the opposing team with the water balloons. 
  3. If someone is hit with a water balloon that breaks, they are out. If the water balloon doesn’t break, or if they catch it before it breaks, they are not out. 
  4. The last team standing wins!

*Obviously, there are many ways to play dodgeball and plenty of ways to modify all the other games on this list to fit your family size and needs. Don’t be afraid to change up the rules or add or substitute items to make them more fun for you!

Code Wiz :: Roblox and Minecraft and Learning, Oh My!

Boston Moms is thrilled to work alongside Code Wiz Arlington to bring you this information. While this content is sponsored, the experiences and opinions are all our own. Use code bostonmoms50 for $50 off your first month membership or a camp!

After taking a trial class with Code Wiz Arlington a few months ago, it was all my boys could talk about. All. The. Time. They wanted more! Not being a gamer myself, I questioned whether a class longer than an hour would really hold their attention, especially since we have definitely eased into the relaxed days of summer over here! Their enthusiasm wore me down, though, and we decided to take the leap and give it a try.

Roblox

My 12-year-old son Ashton loves Roblox. (Read: He is obsessed and would probably move into the little worlds they play in if he could just figure out how to squeeze his body into his tablet.) So it was a no-brainer which class he would be taking when we saw the possibilities listed on the Code Wiz site!

My fears about the class holding his attention for the full two-hour time span went right out the window as soon as class began. Within minutes, Ashton and his game coach, Austin, were chatting about their favorite aspects of the game and what they would change about other people’s creations if given the opportunity. Needless to say, Ashton was overjoyed when Austin revealed he would be guiding him through the creation of his own world. 

They decided Ashton would combine his love of gaming with his love of baseball and use the class to create a baseball field for his characters. Over the two hours that followed, Austin taught Ashton how to build walls, fences, bleachers, bases, and even a zoom track between bases to make the characters run faster. They worked together to create a NPC (that is a non-player character if you are a clueless mom like myself!) that would tell guests where to go and what to do once they entered the world. It was exciting to watch his dreams come to fruition!

To my surprise, at the end of the class Austin taught Ashton how to make his world go “live” — meaning other players could actually play in it! Once we set it to a “friends only” setting, Ashton’s Roblox friends were able to sign in and enjoy his hard work. It was very exciting and piqued his interest in coding for the future! 

Minecraft

Throughout quarantine, my 14-year-old son Damon has been playing Minecraft online with his friends. He was quite excited to see that there was a Minecraft mod class available! 

We had some internet connection issues during our first attempt at taking this class, and Damon’s gaming coach, Kat, was more than accommodating with our need to reschedule! Once we were actually connected and rolling, our class was fantastic. 

Kat taught Damon that because Minecraft is its own entity, creators use sites like learntomod.com to bypass and alter their own games. In this way, creators create commands and functions to adapt their own gameplay.

With Kat’s guidance, Damon was able to create a server through Minecraft launcher, which is similar to the worlds Ashton created in Roblox. Once in their own server, Damon was able to place command blocks and make a mod to spawn and create fences and shelters. He learned to use an entity to spawn animals and coded functions that were used to direct a drone to move and place the objects he created. It was fascinating to watch! (And I hope I explained all of that correctly, because my kid and his teacher were having such a fun time chatting away that this mom had difficulty keeping up!)

By far, Damon’s favorite part of the class was when Kat guided him through creating a fireball wand mod. He created the weapon himself and coded it to throw fireballs when he left-clicked and shoot a fireball to where the cursor was pointed when he right-clicked. He was able to transfer this weapon to his own Minecraft game, and he uses it in his current gameplay. To say this mama is impressed is an understatement!

If you are looking for a way to mix educational content into your kids’ love of video games, Code Wiz classes and camps are the perfect place for you.

Class content is individualized and honed toward the personal interests of the student, and the pace is self-set. Coaches are enthusiastic about gaming and knowledgeable about the “behind the scenes” aspect of creating game content. My kids would have happily continued after the two-hour class was done, and they have been happily using the skills they gained during class in their gameplay! 

Our Coronacation :: Making the Best of It

Coronacation staycation - Boston Moms

Three years ago, we went to New Hampshire. Two years ago, we went to Walt Disney World. Last year, we went to the Azores. This year… we are going nowhere. It’s a summer-long staycation. And while it’s somewhat disappointing (especially because I was hoping to visit one of my dearest friends in Los Angeles), it’s also kind of a relief.

Traveling with little ones is… colorful.

The time that goes into packing, checking, repacking, and planning for the unexpected is exhausting, as is the actual traveling with little people who are wholly dependent on you in an unfamiliar location. Yes, when we’re at home those two little princesses are still dependent on me, but at least I know where the tablets, TV remotes, paint, and Play-Doh are immediately (most of the time). And when all else fails, there’s a trip to Target to distract them from the summer heat.

But really, now that our plans have been canceled and I’ve been home for longer than my usual 2.5-month reprieve from school, I’ve had to get a little creative during this COVID-crazy time.

In order to make our coronocation as lively, fun, and memorable as possible, I’ve been trying new activities and sticking with some fail-safe favorites. Way back in April, before we really knew what the summer would entail, I ordered one of those inflatable pools on Amazon. I didn’t realize how fortuitous this early purchase was at the time. I also ordered a jumbo-pack of Crayola sidewalk chalk and large jugs of bubbles. Those three items have ruled our summer. My girls love taking a dip when the sun is scorching and chasing bubbles when there’s a sweet summer breeze. Plus, my mom has become quite the chalk artist and loves taking the girls in the driveway to create pieces of art while I teach my remote summer school classes each morning. 

To mix things up a bit, I also purchased an annual zoo membership for Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island. Stone Zoo and Franklin Park Zoo have reciprocal memberships, which is an added bonus. Even with social distancing guidelines in place, visiting the zoo is a magical experience for my two animal-loving angels. Another bonus to the membership is discounted rides on the carousel at Roger Williams — it wasn’t open for our first visit, but it is now, so you know we’ll be riding in circles and munching on popcorn during our next visit!

The thing is, while my oldest knows about COVID-19 and understands that’s why we wear masks in public right now, she doesn’t know that we aren’t having the fun we were supposed to have this summer — she just knows we are having fun. And that’s what I have to remember when I start to feel bad about being “stuck” at home.

We’re not stuck; we just need to get a little more creative with our time and space. As far as my girls know, this is already the best summer ever, just because we’re having fun together. As long as I keep moving forward with staycation fun like slime experiments, swing set obstacle courses, and tie-dye creations, they’ll never realize it was supposed to be any different — and that is pretty awesome. 

Books I’m Taking a Break From

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I’m a pretty voracious reader. Ever since I was a child, I have always had a deep love of books. Fiction, mysteries and thrillers, biographies, science fiction, non-fiction, even silly chick-lit — I will read anything if it sounds promising. An eye-catching cover always helps, too. It’s my favorite way to unwind and destress after a long day of working and parenting.

That said, with everything going on in the world right now, including a global pandemic and civil unrest in the U.S., there are some books that just don’t feel right for me to read now. With the world in such a heavy place and the struggles of parenting mid-pandemic, there are some genres I need a break from.

True crime

I used to love reading about unsolved mysteries, cold cases, and true crime. One of my favorite books in this category is “The Skeleton Crew” by Deborah Halber, which details how amateur sleuths are solving cold cases via the internet. Earlier this year I finally read “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote, which I could not put down. But now? The thought of picking up a book about a serial killer or unsolved murder makes me so anxious I need to breathe into a paper bag.

Memoir

Who doesn’t love an underdog story? The narrator overcomes unfathomable circumstances and a tragic upbringing, and not only is the story compelling, it’s also based on real life. “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls is one of those books that has just stayed with me, even though I read it years ago. But a common theme in a lot of these books is really crappy homes and questionable parents. In a pre-COVID life, this would make me feel validated by my parenting choices. But having been at home with my child for the past three and a half months with little to no break, I’m paranoid that every choice I make feels wrong. And then I start thinking I could very easily be the 21st century Mommie Dearest. I don’t need that on my conscience right now.

Young adult fiction

This one isn’t all-encompassing. I’m a little bit judicious about which YA novels I’ll read these days. “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas is excellent, and I would read it again 10 times over if I wasn’t currently working through a mile-high pile of books at the moment. A lot of the sci-fi and fantasy series are great too. But some of the romance or slice-of-life novels are just not my cup of tea anymore. I no longer find enjoyment or can root for some snot-nosed protagonist yelling at their parents, “You’ve ruined my life!” because they have to move away. You don’t even pay your bills yet, kid. Stop being so obnoxiously overdramatic.

So what have I been reading these days? Books on anti-racism, plays because live theatre isn’t happening anytime soon, and some fun fluff novels to help balance it out. I am hopeful that one day I can add true crime, memoir, and YA fiction back to my roster. But for now, I have plenty of other books in my queue to keep me satisfied.

Dearest Husband, Some Days I Kind of Resent You

Photo Credit: A. Zingaro Photography

Dearest, beloved husband of mine,

Spending all this time together during COVID has been teaching me a few things about you and me and our relationship. And so I thought, why not share that with thousands of my closest friends?  

First, please know that I love you more than anything, and I’m not going anywhere. But I have to tell you honestly:

Some days, I kind of resent you.

See, you finish work, throw your stuff on the floor, leave your lunch dishes on your desk, and are three kids deep in a wrestling match before I can even manage, “How was your day?” By that point of the day, I’m done with their humor and repeated jokes, but before I know it, all four of you are repeating them to me as if they are fresh and actually funny.  You laugh with a big belly laugh and chase them around when all I want is for them to calm down and finally sit still. Tickling matches ensue on top of the unfolded laundry, which none of you notice.

Sometimes, at the end of the day, it feels like I have four kids rather than three. And sometimes I kind of resent you.

But when I stop stewing for just a minute and I see you wrestling and tickling, not noticing the dishes or the laundry, laughing at their jokes with your authentic laugh, I have to confess something deeper to you:

Some days, I’m kind of jealous of you.

Some days, all I can see is the laundry and the messy dishes and the chaos I have to manage all day long. And some days, I find I don’t laugh nearly often enough at their ridiculousness because I’m too busy managing everything. And then I see you wrestling and tickling, not noticing the dishes or the laundry, laughing with your whole body, and I wish I could be more like you.

I wish I could greet my kids with the same delighted enthusiasm that you always do, not the end-of-day exhaustion I often feel. I wish I could let go of all the things that have to be done and just roll in the clean laundry. (Metaphorically, of course, because mama hates folding laundry and I’m not gonna do that twice.) But I envy the relationship you have with our kids, and sometimes I kind of want to let loose and just be like you.

But the real moral of this story is this:

All days, I’m so very thankful for you.

As I watch you tussle with our kids and laugh at their jokes and chase them in circles over scattered LEGOs and formerly folded laundry, I think to myself, “Wow, you are different than me.” And yes, sometimes it really does feel like having four children rather than three. And yes, some days I do really wish I could be more like you. But I don’t have to be exactly like you — because our kids have you. 

They have a dad who adores them and is delighted to greet them every night when he “comes home” from the bedroom “office.” They have a wrestling-tickling champion who doesn’t find their squeals too wild and doesn’t try to tame their crazy (until later). They have a daddy who isn’t distracted by to-do lists but is 100% present to them. Because you’re you, I get to step back and let you roll into the chaos with gleeful delight. I get to grab my tea and let the pots boil and just sit on the balcony for five minutes of total silence. Which, just like you, is a gift to me.

I cannot imagine parenting through COVID, or life for that matter, without you. So I guess what I really want to say, in front of God and all these internet witnesses, is that I am so very grateful that you’re you and that you’re with me. Also, thanks for (re)folding the laundry — after 9 years of marriage, I feel so very known.

With all my love always,
Me

husband - Boston Moms
Photo Credit: A. Zingaro Photography

Boston Moms Guide to School at Home

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school at home - Boston Moms

Whether your children are attending school in person, online, at home, or a combination of all three, Boston Moms has got you covered!

This resource is here to help Boston-area and Massachusetts parents learn more about virtual education, homeschooling options, and associated resources. We will continually update this resource as new information becomes available.

Boston Moms is happy to present you with this comprehensive list of resources made to assist families as they navigate a much different school year than we’ve ever seen before. Boston Moms is proud to support ALL parents in WHATEVER choice they make for their children’s education this year.

A reminder: The choice you make for YOUR family is the RIGHT choice. We support you and we are cheering you on!

How to use this guide:

Each image leads to a parent-friendly “school at home” resource. Click on an image to find more info, or take your time scrolling through to find the information that best suits your family.

DON’T FORGET to enter to win an HP Chromebook courtesy of Boston Moms! Scroll to the bottom of this page to enter!

CLICK AN IMAGE BELOW TO READ MORE

school supplies - Boston Moms
COVID-19 return to school - Boston Moms

This guide is brought to you in part by Code Wiz Arlington!

Code Wiz Arlington offers year-round, highly personalized tech classes with rolling enrollments. They’re perfect for the beginner, with options for the more advanced kids! Code Wiz offers flexible timing and class options!

Use code bostonmoms50 for $50 off first month of membership or a camp. 

This guide is sponsored in part by Rafi Nova!

Owned by two Boston parents, Rafi Nova is a local business that has pivoted to providing masks to parents, teachers, and children! Whether your child needs a mask for in-person school attendance or just for general use, we encourage you to purchase from Rafi Nova. 

Most simply defined, homeschooling is the education of children at home, typically by parents or guardians. The seven main approaches to homeschooling children are: classical, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, unschooling, school-at-home, unit studies, and eclectic education methods.

Maybe you’re using COVID as an excuse to pursue your homeschooling dreams, or maybe you just can’t handle one more Zoom meeting for your kindergartener. But either way, it’s important to be aware of the laws that regulate homeschooling in Massachusetts. You can read the full resource here.

The short of the Mass homeschooling law is that families have the right to school their child at home but must submit an Education Plan, and often a letter of intent to the superintendent or school committee for approval first. It is the parent’s responsibility to demonstrate that the homeschool proposal meets the requirements in thoroughness and efficiency as the public schools in the same town.

If something goes wrong and your request to homeschool is denied, you have the right to a meeting, with witnesses, to discuss and defend your proposed plan. You also have the right to revise your proposal and remedy its inadequacies if it’s rejected for any reason. You can find more information here

So, what should you include when formally requesting to homeschool your child for the 2020–2021 school year? According to the case laws, these are the things the superintendent and school committee should know/have access to:

  • A statement of competency of the parents teaching the children and a listing of academic credentials or other qualifications. (Note, the parents are not required to have college or advanced academic degrees.)
  • A copy of the textbooks, workbooks, and other instructional aids the children will use for learning, plus a copy of the lesson plans or teaching manuals used by the parents. This should only be used to compare the curriculum provided to that of the public schools; it should be returned to you. 
  • Proof that spelling, reading, writing, the English language and grammar, geography, math, drawing, music, history, civics, health education, and physical education will all be covered. The school committee may also require other subjects be covered in accordance with the Massachusetts State Curriculum Frameworks.
  • A plan of evaluation.

There is no one correct way to begin homeschooling! Each family will progress in a manner that is right for them. Some steps to take include:

  • Formally withdraw your child from school. It will be helpful to acquire their records at this time.
  • Review the laws for homeschooling to ensure you feel comfortable following them.
  • Choose a goal. What do you and your child hope to accomplish through homeschooling?
  • Choose a method and a curriculum. Make sure to involve the whole family in this process so that the best options for all are chosen.
  • Map out your schedule.
  • Designate a space for schooling and acquire the supplies you will need for your homeschooling journey!

There are many things to consider when you begin your homeschooling journey. A few questions to consider are:

  • What is your child’s learning style?
  • What is your teaching style?
  • What method and curriculum will you follow?
  • Are you planning to completely self-teach or are you looking to join a homeschool co-op or charter?
  • Where in your home will you conduct educational activities? Will there be a designated space?
  • What will your homeschool schedule look like? 
  • What extracurricular activities will your child partake in?

The good news is that there are a TON of online schooling options out there for students of all grade levels. Perhaps you are even following an online learning option from your own school district!

If you are choosing to go with a fully online school option, it is a good idea to compare it with your child’s current school on the Massachusetts Department of Education profile website. 

So how do you go about choosing?

The state of Massachusetts currently has two public online schools. The fact that they are public schools means they are free to students and families and do not require tuition. These schools are required to follow the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks and have profiles on the Massachusetts Department of Education (DOE) to be held accountable with all the other public schools. Additionally, teachers are required to hold a Massachusetts teaching license in order to teach. Both are fully accredited.

TEC Connections Academy Commonwealth Virtual School

Massachusetts Department of Education Profile
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 774-315-5123

TEC Connections Academy Commonwealth Virtual School boasts a challenging curriculum and more one-on-one attention than traditional public schools. Their flexible schedule allows students to learn at home with the support of a learning coach to help keep them on track. Setting goals and communicating regularly help personalize a student’s learning program and establish curriculum modifications to meet their specific needs. TEC Connections Academy also offers elective courses that support career and technical education. 

Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School

Massachusetts Department of Education Profile
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 413-475-3879

Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School is self-described as a leader in online personal learning and allows families to choose which kind of learning module (traditional classroom style or flexible learning). The traditional classroom-style learning features live classes and a schedule that mimics the traditional school day. The asynchronous school program is designed for students who need a more flexible schedule and excel without a traditional school structure. There is also a dual-enrollment program with Greenfield Community College for high school students who wish to participate in both high school and college courses. 

Massachusetts prides itself on being a leader in education that provides rigorous standards for all learners. These standards have been created to offer a school environment that cultivates academic curiosity and confidence for every grade level. Basically, to support these standards, every student should engage with grade-appropriate text and meaningful real-world problems every day, and in scientific conversations using data every week.

The Department of Education website lists family guides, which provide learning standards for students. These standards help families to understand what students are expected to know and be able to do by the end of each grade. These short, accessible resources are wonderful for every family, whether you homeschool or not! The resources, divided by grade level, can be found here.

Which leads us to… what the heck are “Curriculum Frameworks” anyway, and what purpose do they serve?

When you look at the Curriculum Frameworks, you should read the beginning information before you find your child’s grade level. At the beginning of each Curriculum Frameworks, you will find information about the subject in general that is relevant across grades pre-K through 12. These are “bigger picture” goals (often called “guiding principles”) and are helpful to keep in mind. 

The “smaller picture” goals are divided up by grade level. The “Curriculum Frameworks” is the name for the big documents listed above. Each subject has one Curriculum Frameworks. The Curriculum Frameworks are made up of individual “standards” or “learning outcomes” that are found within the document, divided by grade level, and then again by sub-topic. Basically, you can look at each standard/learning outcome as one goal, using the phrase “by the end of this year, my child will know _____.”

Massachusetts also has more comprehensive state standards for each subject, which outline what should be learned at each grade level. The Massachusetts frameworks have been recently re-written to include the Common Core standards.

You can find them broken up by subject:

Mathematics
Science, Technology, and Engineering
English Language Arts and Literacy
History and Social Science
Health Education
Foreign Languages
Arts
Computer Science and Digital Literacy

  • A helpful suggestion when working through the standards is to print the beginning forward and then your child’s grade-level standards within the Curriculum Frameworks. The standards are much easier to look at and digest if you’re looking at them in print!
  • If you are already following a homeschool curriculum and not creating your own, there may already be references within the teacher planning materials.
  • As you go along planning your lessons, highlight the learning standards as you go. It may also be helpful to use them to categorize your student work documentation, which you may be required to present to the superintendent at the end of the year just as a public school teacher would.
  • Do your best not to get discouraged! It takes a lot of time to digest and feel comfortable with the format and content of these frameworks!

It’s important to find the right resources, as you will need a number of supplies during your homeschooling journey. While there are many different homeschool shops, these are some of our favorites!

General Homeschool Supplies

Lakeshore Learning
Discount School Supply
School Specialty
Oriental Trading
Scholastic
Highlights
Michael’s 

Textbooks

Pearson
Houghton Mifflin
McGraw Hill

The best part about homeschooling is that it can happen just about anywhere! However, a certain amount of planning is required to be successful.

The first thing you should do is identify your “style” of homeschool. Maybe you prefer a traditional feel, with individual desks and a whiteboard. Or maybe you prefer to have a little bit more of a “freestyle” approach. Either way, it may be helpful to think about the following things when you organize your homeschool “classroom.”

  • Where do you plan and organize YOUR “stuff”? You will need a place to put workbooks, textbooks, games, and toys that are primarily for homeschool. Where do you plan to prep your materials and keep them organized? Where will you keep and organize their portfolios?
  • Where will your students organize THEIR “stuff”? All the supplies you would send with them to school should be easily obtainable and in an organized space. A cart, set of drawers, table, or desk are all good options. 
  • Where do you expect your “main classroom” to be? In an ideal world, this space should be clear of clutter, easy to clean up and organize, and child friendly. It should be an inviting and comfortable place to sit, work, and explore. Try to have space for a chalkboard or whiteboard, artwork, and incentive charts, if possible. Don’t forget, it should be comfortable for you too!
  • Keeping an open mind, where would other learning occur? Is there a particular space outside that could be rearranged and utilized for a learning space? Is there another room that contains tools for sensory breaks?
  • Easy cleanup is a must — add a trash or recycling container, cleaning spray, sanitizer, and roll of paper (or cloth) towels to your space for quick cleanup or change of activity. 
  • Adding plants or a small pet to take care of and learn about in your homeschool routine is fun if you don’t find it to be stressful.
  • Most importantly, let your kids have some input!

Because the virtual learning territory is so new for us all, there aren’t many specific resources targeted toward students learning at home with the aid of school districts — yet! When those resources become more readily available, we’ll be sure to add them here.

The following groups and co-ops are traditionally geared toward fully homeschooling families, but many are welcoming hybrid learners at this time.

State Wide:

AHEM (Advocates for Home Education in Massachusetts) Networking Forum

A common space for independent, family-based homeschoolers to network, share resources, plan face-to-face events, classes, and get-togethers.

Homeschooling Special Needs in MA

A support group for parents homeschooling their children with special needs.

MASalamHSers

A support group for Muslim homeschoolers in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Homeschool Organization of Parent Educators (MassHOPE)

A Christian ministry encouraging home educators across Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Home Learning Association (MHLA)

An advocacy and education organization endorsing home learning as an alternative to public or private schooling. Serving all of Massachusetts.

Specific Areas:

Amesbury MA Homeschoolers Community Group

A homeschooling support group for families in the Amesbury area.

Attleboro Area Homeschoolers

Serving many communities in southeastern Massachusetts and northern Rhode Island. 

Berkeley Area Homeschoolers

Serving Berkley, Dighton, Taunton, and surrounding areas. 

Berkshire County Homeschoolers

A homeschooling group supporting families in Pittsfield, Lee, Lenox, Lanesborough, Stockbridge, Great Barrington, Housatonic, Adams, North Adams, Williamstown, and Dalton.

Berkshire Mountains Homeschool Co-op

A secular homeschooling group in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

Billerica Homeschooling Association

A group supporting families in the Billerica area.

Coastal Free Learners

A homeschool group serving families living in the coastal towns of Southeast Massachusetts.

Essex County Inclusive Homeschool Group

A homeschooling group open to all homeschoolers in Essex County, Massachusetts and beyond.

Family Educators Resource Network (FERN)

An informal networking group for home educators in the areas of Columbia, Rensselaer, and Albany counties in New York and in Berkshire County in Massachusetts. 

Hamden County Homeschoolers

A group supporting homeschooling families in the Hamden County area.

Haverhill Area Homeschoolers

A homeschooling group supporting families in the Haverhill area.

Hub Homeschoolers

A support group located in the Boston Metro area.

Living and Learning

Providing support for homeschooling families in the greater Milford area.

Metrowest Homeschoolers

An inclusive group for homeschoolers throughout the Metrowest area of Boston.

Moms In Real Life

A support group and play date group for home educating moms.

Newton MA Homeschool Group

A group for people homeschooling or considering homeschooling in Newton

North Shore Inclusive Homeschoolers

A homeschool group for families who are currently or considering homeschooling on the North Shore of Massachusetts.

Nuts About Learning

A group of unschoolers who are seeking real-life connections with others in the Northeastern MA/Southeastern NH area. 

Pilgrims Progress Home School Association

A Christian nonprofit organization that offers support to homeschooling families in the Duxbury area as well as the South Shore.

RI Homeschool Teen Scene

A place to share info on in-person hangouts, events, classes, and opportunities for homeschooled teens in RI, MA, and CT.

Salem (MA) Homeschooling Association

A homeschooling group supporting families in Salem and surrounding areas.

Sharon Homelearners

A group for homeschooling families in Sharon and the surrounding communities.

South Shore Home Learners

A group of South Shore families who share similar values regarding education and parenting.

South Shore Homeschoolers
A place where home educators from Braintree to Plymouth can meet to share events, field trips and resources.
Tri-County Homeschoolers

A support group connecting homeschooling families in the counties of Norfolk, Middlesex, and Worcester.

Western Mass Whole Life Learners

A welcoming community of homeschooling families who live in the Pioneer Valley in Western Massachusetts. Supporting learners of all ages.

Worcester Home Educators Network

A group for Worcester, MA area home educators who meet for support, activities and discussion. This group is open to anyone interested in homeschooling in the area.

We all have our strengths and our weaknesses! This applies to every aspect of life, including homeschooling. So, what is a parent supposed to do when they are lost in the world of algebra but still need to educate their kid? There’s a co-op for that!

In a homeschooling co-op, families can reach out to other homeschooling families for help educating their kids in certain subjects, and vice-versa. So, if you are great in history but not so great in algebra, you can swap your time and help educate small groups of homeschooling kids! These types of co-ops and classes are also wonderful ways to make social connections between homeschooling children.

There are many homeschool co-ops throughout the state. Below, you can find a list of some helpful ones!

General

Voyagers, Inc.
North Star: Self Directed Learning for Teens
Good Company Tutorials
New Hope Courses for Homeschoolers
Harvard Museum of Natural History
The Miler School
Parts and Crafts

Writing and Literacy

Literacy Owl
Writing Classes with Miss Lorraine

Technology

CODEMAKERS
Circuit-Lab
CodeWiz Arlington

Science

Chemical Education Program Essential Elements Workshops
New England Science and Sailing

Arts

Waldorf School at Moraine Farm
The Makery

Math

Studio of Engaging Math
Lexington Singapore School
Mathnasium of Hanover

Language

One World Language School
Fun World Language Academy

Preschool

Boston Outdoor Preschool Network
Tinkergarten

Extracurricular activities provide students with social, emotional, and physical benefits. In Massachusetts, local districts are able to decide whether homeschooling students are eligible to participate in extracurricular activities and athletic programs run by the district.

If your child is interested in participating in activities run through a public school program, families are asked to submit a proposal based on the particular activities their child is interested in to the district for consideration. 

If your student is interested in athletics, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association guidelines can be found here. The Massachusetts high school athletic association has passed by-laws that allow homeschoolers to play on public school sports teams.

Transitioning from classroom learning to home learning can be difficult, no matter what the situation!

Many students will be starting this school year by attending a hybrid school model, where they attend school in person a few days a week and perform school activities at home on other days. Some will continue remote learning, and still others will begin fully homeschooling for the first time. Boston Moms has compiled some helpful hints for remaining focused on education in your new schooling environment, wherever it may be!

  • For younger kids, pick one place where they can consistently do virtual classroom calls (like Zoom). Routine can really help!
  • Free the space from major distractions. For example, having another child in the same room watching television would detract from the learner’s experience.
  • Have all the materials you need “ready to go” in one classroom space. Think about your child’s desk at school — they have crayons, pencils, erasers, glue, etc. Not having to search for these things every time your kiddo needs them is a huge time saver.
  • Invest in headphones. Ideally, for younger kiddos, headphones should have a “maximum” setting for volume control.
  • Add plants and a rug. They may seem like silly details, but they really help absorb some noise and create a comfortable environment.
  • For older kids, consider setting a boundary that they need to “check in” their phones before they sit down to attend a virtual classroom session. Teachers in some schools have strict phone policies because they’re so distracting. Even though I know they can “just use the device they’re on” to communicate with their friends, at least they’re only looking at one screen!
  • A “wiggle seat,” fidget toys, or sensory items that can help wiggly fingers, bodies, and the nervous system in general.
  • Plan for needs only — not what looks nice on Pinterest! Quiet learning spaces should be just that — quiet. 
  • Declutter, declutter, declutter! 

If you think about a student’s desk or locker at school, it usually has all the necessary items for learning (or it should, anyway). Maybe your child has a desk at home you can organize, but you can also use a portable supply container or cart that can easily be transported to the learning space. Over-the-door shoe organizers are also very helpful in organizing school supplies — each item can have its own pocket!

Obviously, this depends on grade level, but here are some common items you should consider having in your learning space! 

  • Pencils
  • Pens
  • Paper
  • Highlighter 
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Stapler or paper clips 
  • Markers
  • Crayons
  • Colored pencils
  • Scratch/scrap paper or index cards
  • Water bottle 
  • Required books, notebooks, binders, and technology

At this point, we’ve probably all experienced it. Your eyes glaze over, you’re not paying attention to a single thing going on in the meeting you’re “attending,” and you just can’t stand to stare at a screen for one more second. Unfortunately, our kids feel like this too. Although the “virtual” part of virtual learning is necessary, it may feel like a totally new beast to tackle. 

If you notice your child is struggling to “tune in” to Zoom sessions, they may be suffering from “Zoom burnout” or “Zoom fatigue.” The good news is that it can be reconciled, even though it will take some experimentation. Try some of these easy tricks to start!

  • Establish “screen breaks.” Everyone needs a break from staring at a screen at some point — work these breaks into your day as best you can!
  • Hide “self-view” in whatever app you’re using.
  • Avoid multi-tasking — especially if you’re constantly using your phone and computer at the same time.
  • Prioritize calls, meetings, and classes to establish what is absolutely 100% necessary and what can be skipped.
  • Schedule breaks to step away from your desk. Leave the room, and try to go outside if possible!
  • Talk to the teacher about opting in to an audio-only format.
  • Use different color pens to take notes with (and actually take written notes!) if you have back-to-back virtual classes so they don’t all blend together.
  • Set up your learning space near a window or some other kind of natural light.

Maybe you just made it through the 2019–2020 school year and are fearful of how your family is going to handle another year of virtual schooling. Or maybe you’re anticipating how much longer you can handle parenting while also working. We understand that things are super tough right now. 

Parenting burnout may look like:

  • You feel so exhausted that you can’t get out of bed in the morning or can’t stay awake all day.
  • You feel detached, numb, or distant from your kids.
  • You enjoy parenting less than usual.

If you’re feeling burned out, you may find the following strategies to be helpful:

  • Divide tasks into “things that are essential,” “things that are ideal,” and “things that are non-essential” to make parenting feel more manageable.
  • Encourage independence, and mandate chores.
  • Write down one good thing that happened today and one good thing you did as a parent in a journal.
  • Go outside!
  • Make sleep a priority.
  • Call a friend — maintaining social connections are incredibly important while socially distancing.
  • Remember you can say “no.” You can say “no, thank you,” or “I would love to, but it doesn’t fit into my schedule right now,” and even “I wish I could make it work, but right now is challenging timing.” 
  • Reach out. Find a therapist, friend, family member, member of your religious community, or doctor to support you.

Most importantly, if you feel hopeless remember that the Suicide Hotline is open 24/7 and always accepts calls. You can reach them in both English and Spanish at 1-800-273-8255. 

Regardless of what your policy was pre-pandemic about screen time, chances are it’s changed since COVID. Let’s face it, now that school is online, it’s a necessary tool for learning. 

Tech frustration is arguably the worst part of online learning, so we have compiled a list of helpful technology options that hopefully can make everyone feel a little less stressed. 

Many school districts have technology available for students to borrow. Before purchasing new equipment, check with your district to see what their requirements are and if they have devices students are able to use. If no technology is available, “phoning in” to a Zoom or Google classroom meeting is always an option and can be discussed with your child’s teacher.

Chromebook

Most often the best bang for your buck! They start at $149 and function (with WiFi) as a mini-laptop. 

iPad

Another good option for learning. Although they are generally more expensive than Chromebooks, iPads can be used in a variety of ways to enhance distance learning and are very multi-functional. 

Other Options

There are a variety of other options that are more than adequate, including the Amazon Kindle, Microsoft Surface products, and Samsung Galaxy tablets. Make sure you do your research and confirm your tablet, laptop, computer, or phone will be compatible with the virtual classroom technology your school has committed to using this year. 

Internet

Comcast
Comcast has a program for low-income households called Internet Essentials that can be as low as $10 per month, with two months free due to the coronavirus emergency. 

T-Mobile
T-Mobile has a variety of offers for students that also start at about $10 per month. 

For homeschool, getting kids to focus is all about design. The more organized and well thought out a lesson (or day in general!) is, the better the chances are that you’ll have a positive result. First of all, remember that homeschool learning does not follow the same timeframe/schedule as classroom learning. You should aim to homeschool between two to four hours each day. The most important thing to remember is that learning can happen in the kitchen, outdoors, in the car, and just about any other place you can dream up.

In virtual or hybrid school, sometimes helping your kiddos focus is about what happens in the “in-between” times that they aren’t on Zoom. First off, a visual schedule for the day and week may help immensely (using words or pictures). You may want to add on to that and utilize a visual timer. Try to utilize tricks that elementary teachers use in the classroom but can’t do virtually, such as prize boxes and sticker charts.

The rule of thumb is that while planning an activity for your [neurotypical] child while homeschooling, you can roughly figure out how long he or she can focus by multiplying their age by 2-5 mins. So, if my kiddo is 5 years old, I can expect her to focus for a minimum of 10 minutes and a maximum of 25 minutes. Activities that are longer could very well be a recipe for disaster. Keep it short and positive.

For virtual or hybrid schooling, this can be harder because Zoom sessions are often set at a specific time. However, chances are that you will still have some control over the timing of various aspects of their day and can use the recommendations listed above. Additionally, if you feel as though your child has hit their time limit with an assignment or Zoom session, make sure you’re in contact with the teacher who is there to support you as best they can. 

Observe when your child naturally learns the best. Some kids are more active in the morning, while some tend to be better learners after lunch or in the evening. If your child isn’t engaging in the lessons you’ve prepared consistently, consider changing the timing of your homeschool day!

Brain breaks are one of the most important parts of learning. Children’s brains need time to digest and decompress, just like ours do as adults. Chances are, if we tried to sit still through six hours of virtual learning with only a 25-minute break for lunch every day, we wouldn’t be successful either. 

Brain breaks should contain two things: food or drink, and movement.

The first is easy! If your body is hungry or thirsty, it’s distracted from learning. This isn’t to say that kids should have a snack every 25 minutes, but having a few sips of water can really go a long way.

Movement breaks can help your child’s learning be more efficient by sending oxygen to their brains. This has the added benefit of easily redirecting negative behavior patterns.

Brain breaks don’t have to be long, but they should be used liberally.

Ideally, they should happen before your child gets that “glazed over and no longer paying attention” look in their eyes and should last several minutes at minimum. In an ideal world, movement breaks would happen outside.

These are a few YouTube channels that are guaranteed to get your kiddo up and moving!

Go Noodle
Cosmic Kids Yoga
Debbie Doo Kids TV
Move To Learn
The Learning Station 

If you’re looking for a way to quickly incorporate movement breaks without technology, we LOVE these “brain break” movement cards on Teachers Pay Teachers:

Fall Winter Spring Summer Movement Cards for Preschool and Brain Break
Brain Break – Active Movement Cards and Printables
60 Brain Breaks Cards plus Cards for the Socially Distance Learning Classroom
Brain Breaks Movement Cards Ocean Under the Sea Theme

  • Use music while doing quiet work. Utilize headphones or noise-canceling headphones if necessary.
  • Set up a tri-fold poster board for an extra quiet space.
  • Use a fidget toy or a fidget seat/wiggle seat.
  • Make sure your workspace is free of visual distractions.
  • Use a visual timer.
  • Make a visual schedule.
  • Make sure their sleep schedule is giving them enough rest time.
  • Increase the amount of physical activity or exercise.
  • Limit “connected” (phone, TV, internet, etc.) time during homeschool “hours.”

Whether you’re homeschooling or doing virtual/hybrid learning, it will only work if you take care of yourself first. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure you prioritize the “little” ways you can stay sane!

  • Be open — find a “tribe” (big or small!) of other homeschooling/virtual learning parents you can share experiences with. Even if these are virtual interactions, they are important just the same!
  • Take advantage of days when you’re feeling “good” and “positive,” and give yourself grace on days that are hard.
  • Try to end activities or lessons on a positive note, and make sure you take breaks in between activities to reset and regroup.
  • Let go of traditional timelines and remember this is a tough time for everyone. Do the best you can, with what you have. If you’re working with teachers, be upfront with them about how things are going with your family.
  • Identify what your family’s needs and limits are, and respect them. If you can’t provide instruction or participate in Zoom calls on Wednesdays, that’s OK. Remember homeschooling and virtual can be flexible, but always communicate with your children’s teachers to make sure you’re on the same page.
  • Go outside! For homeschool, learning can happen anywhere, and it’s important to find (safe) places you can homeschool outside of your actual home. For virtual learning, try to make time for a five-minute break in between periods of screen time to just sit in the fresh air.
  • Structure can be helpful for everyone. Try to use a visual schedule with words or pictures.
  • Finally, remember that we are experiencing a worldwide pandemic. Adjust your expectations accordingly, and remember that all students are experiencing some form of non-traditional learning this year!

Social-emotional learning is feeling SUPER hard right now, especially as we’re isolated from peers for longer periods of time. The good news is that there are social-emotional curriculums available for homeschool and families that are learning virtually! When you look for a social-emotional curriculum, it’s really important to make sure it’s age appropriate and we’re not expecting too much from our little people.

Here are some to check out and see if they’re right for your family!

Big Life Journal

Big Life Journal is awesome in almost every single way. They have several book/journals, PDF files, and a podcast! It’s a great curriculum that builds resiliency, confidence, and a growth mindset. 

Emotional ABCs

The Emotional ABCs program is a great tool to help kiddos who are struggling with impulse control and emotional regulation. They have wonderful activities that help kids learn to self-regulate and identify and validate different kinds of emotions.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

Much like its predecessor, Daniel Tiger is based on a social-emotional learning curriculum in general. This app for parents allows you to easily utilize the songs and examples from the show in a user-friendly format.

Click the image below to view & purchase these Boston Moms recommended products!

school supplies - Boston Moms

This guide is brought to you in part by Code Wiz Arlington!

Code Wiz Arlington offers year-round, highly personalized tech classes with rolling enrollments. They’re perfect for the beginner, with options for the more advanced kids! Code Wiz offers flexible timing and class options!

Read more about how Deanna’s kids loved their experience with Code Wiz!

Watch us interview a Code Wiz Arlington coach and see an example of a Code Wiz camp!

There are many options for enrichment for our littlest friends! The following sites are great for preschool, pre-K, and kindergarteners:

ABC Mouse
Scholastic
Outschool
Muzzy
Hooked on Phonics
Little Passports
PBS Kids
KiwiCo 

From languages to math to computer science, there are a ton of great online learning resources for the middle school-aged crowd! 

DuoLingo
Rosetta Stone
Museum of Science
Kahn Academy
Lexia
Outschool
Miacademy
DOGO News
MetKids
ICivics
Math Snacks
HippoCampus
Science Buddies
Pixar in a Box
KiwiCo
Illustrative Mathematics

High school-aged kids have access to many different online learning resources! The list below contains a few of Boston Moms favorites!

Virtual High School
Outschool
MasterClass
DuoLingo
Rosetta Stone
ICivics
HippoCampus
Thirteen.org

Did we miss any great homeschooling resources? Let us know, we would love to add them to our list!

2020 Back-to-School Essentials :: Mom Tested and Approved!

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All products featured are specifically selected by our team. When you purchase something through our retail links, Boston Moms may earn an affiliate commission.

Back-to-school shopping definitely looks different this year. If you’ll be embarking on the adventure of homeschooling, virtual learning, or hybrid learning, you’re going to need some new school supplies! We’ve polled our team to bring you a list of must-have items for school at home.

Did we miss something important? Leave a message in the comments and we’ll be sure to add it!

school supplies - Boston Moms

Tabletop Timers

Dry-Erase Pockets

Rolling Cart

Workbooks for All Ages

Teach Your Child to Read

Whiteboards

Magnetic School Calendar

Tabletop Storage

Mathlinks

Chromebook

Kids Headphones

Kids Mouse

Coming Clean About My Double Life… as a Working Mom

working mom - Boston Moms

When I started a new job last December, I debated when, or if, I would mention to my colleagues that I had an infant at home. After all, I would be working remotely, with a team spread all over the country. I could hide in my home office (coincidentally, just off my son’s nursery), do my job, and everything would be fine. Sure, there were other parents on my team, but I certainly wouldn’t want them to see me, an all-business engineering type, with an infant on her hip, hair in a messy bun, and a cold coffee in hand.

As an engineer in a male-dominated field, I learned early that there were parts of myself I needed to keep away from work if I wanted to be successful. Even after having my son and officially becoming a working mom, I thought the best way to build my career would be to keep work and family as separate as possible. Working remotely made this even easier. Or so I thought.

So, I just… never mentioned it. That is, until COVID-19 happened.

I had been in my new role for just about three months, working from home half the time and on the road for a few day trips each week. My son had just turned a year old and was going to daycare every day while my husband and I worked. All at once, my travel was canceled, daycare was closed, and I found myself negotiating a full schedule of conference calls and sharing weekday toddler-care duties with my husband, who was also working from home.

The juggling was tough. Our days revolved around who had conference calls when — a perfectly timed relay race of toddler handoffs throughout the day, then a game of email catchup each night. This wasn’t sustainable; I needed the help and support of my team.

It was time to come clean and reveal my “double life” as a working mom.

This pandemic has certainly blurred the lines between work and home life, but in doing this, it has made working parenthood so much more visible. The kids-in-the-background Zoom call moment is no longer a meme but a reality. We’ve all seen it, and it turns out it’s not the end of the world.

Seeing that my colleagues, customers, and even executives were going through similar challenges made me realize I had nothing to be afraid of. So I let it happen. On our weekly team call, we share photos of what we have been up to, and I shared a photo of me and my son playing in the back yard.

There I was — working mom. Two parts of me, finally in one place.

As I started to be more open about my role as a parent, I was surprised at how much my colleagues opened up. My manager and other members of my team were in similar situations with their young children. I quickly recognized the hesitation I had wasn’t because I was ashamed of being a mother — it was because of a fear that I would be treated differently.

After so many years of feeling like motherhood would hold me back from career success, it turns out I was the one telling myself it would. Even a full year after having my son, I was still struggling with my identity as a new mother AND a working professional in a new job.

It took a pandemic for me to realize it was OK to be both.


 

3 Easy Self-Care Practices for Moms on the Edge of Burnout

self-care mom - Boston Moms

Boston Moms is thrilled to share this guest post written by Sarah Harmon, a licensed mental health therapist, a certified yoga and mindfulness instructor, and the founder of The School of MOM.


There is a strong need for education, support, and tools for women to learn how to take better care of themselves and, more importantly, to actually do it. As a mom to two girls, a therapist who works with moms, and the founder of a company called The School of MOM (mothering oneself mindfully), I’ve seen burnout — I know this on a personal and a professional level.

COVID-19 hit our routines and families like a freight train. Stress and unknowns are at an all-time high, and access to traditional self-care practices and stress-management outlets are limited. This new reality is not short term, so it’s CRUCIAL for moms to focus on self-care strategies to stay grounded and prioritize our mental, emotional, and physical health.

Let’s get clear on self-care so you don’t roll your eyes and say to yourself, “Great… another article about self-care that I can’t actually do.” Self-care doesn’t need to be “big” events or practices. Think snacks vs. meals. We all know how important snacks are! I define self-care as an umbrella term that encompasses everything from the smaller practices (three deep breaths) to the bigger events (spa weekend getaway with girlfriends).

Here are three accessible self-care practices under my umbrella that I teach to my therapy clients and students in The School of MOM to help women avoid burnout and stay grounded.

1. Change your story.

Start with discerning between facts and thoughts. Our minds are very good at making up stories based on one initial fact. For example:

Fact: My kids’ school is going to be remote.
Thought: This is going to be the worst year ever.

Most of the time, we’re caught up in an unconscious STORY that leads us to feel overwhelmed, stressed, and hopeless. When you notice you’re feeling a challenging emotion, pause and write down your thoughts. Try to get back to the initial fact and then try choosing a different story.

Continuing the example above:

New story: While this is not ideal, we are going to take it one day at a time.

Notice how the new story may make you feel more at peace. Try coming up with alternative narratives with your mom friends.

2. Have a tantrum.

If you have a toddler, you know about big feelings. Remember that we all have a toddler in us, and we can experience big feelings too. My recommendation here may seem silly, but it is this: Give yourself permission to have a full-blown tantrum. If possible, you could try to tantrum at a time/place where you can fully unleash and be unencumbered. If you need to have it in front of your kids, it’s a great lesson in showing our kids that we have big feelings too.

Jill Bolte Taylor, author of “My Stroke Of Insight,” says we have a neurological process that she calls the 90-second rule. In a nutshell, this rule states that emotions have a 90-second shelf life if we allow them to move through us. It’s our thoughts/stories/judgments (see mind tip above) that block this natural flow and result in emotions getting backed up and stuck.

So if you are too deep in the thoughts and past a point of discerning fact from thought, let your big feelings flow. Have the tantrum. Hit a pillow. Yell at the top of your lungs in your car by yourself. Ride the 90-second wave of whatever it is you’re feeling. Feel free to set the timer for yourself and observe how you feel after 90 seconds of truly feeling your big feelings.

Bonus tip to help you ride the wave: Try narrating your experience — I’m feeling SO ______ (angry, sad, frustrated) right now!

3. Ask your body what it needs.

While we can practice self-compassion in many ways, I encourage you to start with your body. When you are in the midst of a struggle, what would being kind to your body look like? Going to bed early? Getting outside? Saying yes to a glass of wine? Saying no to a glass of wine? Taking three deep breaths with your hand on your heart? Choosing rest? Choosing movement/exercise? Think of your body as your number one resource to get you through this time. Continually check in with your body and ask what it needs.

Try out these accessible self-care practices for a week and see if you feel more grounded and at peace during these challenging times.


If you’re interested in learning more about The School of MOM and/or would like a free meditation to help you take care of YOU, check out www.theschoolofmom.com. For ongoing tips, follow @the.schoolofmom on Instagram, and feel free to reach out at [email protected].

Sarah is a mom to two girls, a licensed mental health therapist, a certified yoga and mindfulness instructor, and the founder of The School of MOM. She is passionate about providing women with the education, support, and tools they need to become the mindful, resilient, patient, and compassionate humans they want to raise.

Supporting Our Kids as They Return to School

COVID-19 return to school - Boston Moms

Boston Moms is thrilled to share this guest post written by Rita Morris, a local parent coach, certified life coach, and licensed mental health counselor.


Who could have ever imagined we would be living through a pandemic in 2020? COVID-19 has meant different things for all of us, but one thing we can all agree on is that it has brought challenges beyond our imaginations! Now we are about to face another… the return to school! For some of us, school will be in person; for others, it will be virtual. Some will do a combination. The one common denominator is that school will be quite different than ever before.

The return to school is a big step for all of us and will likely be met with mixed emotions for parents and children alike. Some will be relieved and excited; others will be sad, reluctant, and anxious.

How can we best prepare and support our kids through this transition?

Check in with yourself and your kids

First, we need to take care of ourselves. How are you feeling about the return to school? Process your own emotions so you don’t impose them on your kids.

When you are ready and can maintain a sense of calm, have a conversation with your kids. Ask them how they are feeling about going back. What are their thoughts? Each child will have their own unique set of feelings about it, depending upon what this time has looked like for them. Listen to your child, hear their concerns, validate, normalize, and acknowledge their feelings.

Be armed with information

The more information you have, the better prepared you and your children will be. At this point, most districts are preparing for three possible scenarios — all virtual, a partial return, and a full return. Share this information with your kids and let them know school will be different this year. They may need to wear masks, seating arrangements may be different, etc. Giving your kids this information will help them understand and comply with the guidelines in place.

Limit the amount of news your child is taking in — there is a lot of misinformation out there. Choose one reliable source, and together educate yourselves about the virus. Remember knowledge is power.

Discuss strategies to adapt and manage worries

Reassure your kids, but be careful not to overdo it — too much reassurance perpetuates the anxiety. Instead, listen, ask your kids what they think will help, and focus on possible strategies. Ask them how they adapted to staying home, to online learning, virtual visits with friends and family, etc. What helped them adapt, and how can they utilize those skills and coping mechanisms to help them now? In this way, your kids recognize their ability to adapt, manage their feelings, and adopt a growth mindset.

Remind your kids that things could change, depending on surges of the virus. Knowing the situation is fluid may present its own challenges. Help your kids to be aware of a few things they know they can count on — they will be in school in some fashion, they can connect at least virtually to their friends, Friday night is family pizza/game night, etc. This way, when/if things do change, they have their go tos.

Create a worry box, decorate it, and be sure to secure the lid so that you cannot open it. When you or your children get anxious, write your feelings down on a scrap of paper and put that paper in the box, as if you are putting it away. Ask your kids if their worry were a color, what color would it be, what shape would it be? Ask them to visualize the color getting lighter, and the shape getting smaller, as if their worries are too. These are things that can be done repeatedly whenever you or they become overwhelmed.

Take care of yourself — and ensure your kids are, too

Be sure everyone is taking care of themselves, physically and emotionally. Eating well, exercising, and getting adequate rest will help with keeping anxiety in check and keeping immune systems strong. These things can serve to give a sense of control, which always eases anxiety.

Above all, keep the conversation going and remember that transitions are an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Be kind to yourself and be patient with your kids — these are unprecedented times that require a little extra TLC!


As a mom of two kids with ADHD and anxiety, Rita Morris has struggled on this journey of motherhood. It is her struggle that inspires her learning, and her learning inspires her coaching. She has always believed her children are her greatest teachers.

Rita has a master’s degree in education and is a certified life coach and a licensed mental health counselor. She spends most of her professional life as a parent coach. Before she came to understand the impacts of anxiety and ADHD on her own kids, she was full of fear and worry and felt so unprepared for the challenge. As we moms do, she went on a mission to educate herself so she could parent her kids to the best of her ability. This knowledge was so powerful that she began to investigate professional possibilities. She completed some training and launched her parent coaching career

Rita is a Pilates lover, an audiobook junkie, an avid crafter, and could shop for days. Above all else, she adores being with her family and friends.

My Preschooler Showed Me Our Terrible Day Wasn’t So Bad After All

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terrible day perspective - Boston Moms

“We’re having a great day!” 

“We are?”

My question back to my 4-year-old’s declaration was posed with exhaustion, defeat, and total surprise. It had been a rough day. Make that a rough week. Make that a rough month!

This past winter, our family of four was getting over a stomach bug that was preceded by a severe cold the two weeks before. The sickness had thrown our kids’ sleep schedule way off, and since then they’ve been having trouble sleeping past 5:30 in the morning.  

To make matters more interesting, my car battery died the day before my husband left to work out of town. Along with physical fevers, we were also suffering from cabin fever as we were stuck at home until my husband returned from his business trip. 

But this day in particular, my kids and I had been cranky from the get-go. The day had been filled with sibling quarrels, beginner scissors being used to cut through a sock, one child refusing to eat anything but snacks while the other demanded to eat every hour. Four (count them) loads of laundry were waiting to be put away, and the floors could surely have used a good vacuum.

Over-tired tantrums came from all three of us, if I’m being honest. 

My daughter’s opposite reaction to the day challenged me to pause and look at things differently. I asked her, “What was great about today?” She enthusiastically responded, “We got to color! And do yoga, and watch TV!” She bounced up and down with each highlight of her day, and her face beamed as she shared her joy with me.

The pure excitement in her eyes as they looked into mine told me my perspective of the day was missing the bigger picture. 

She was right. Despite the hard points of the day, there were so many innocently sweet victories I did not want to forget. The couch snuggles, make-believe play, an indoor picnic, playing on the floor, making a healthy dinner, and keeping the kitchen clean — which should always be counted as a major win. 

The work of parenting is hard. The days can be frustrating. You might even feel like a failure some days.

But you’re not.

You are most likely much harder on yourself than your children will ever be. If you don’t believe me, just ask your kiddo what was great about today. Feel the truth to their answer and learn from their perspective as they wrap those chubby little arms around your tired neck.

The goal each day is not perfection. Exhale. Tomorrow, we start fresh.


 

5 Car Seat Safety Regulations That Are Commonly Overlooked

car seat safety - Boston Moms

It seems like car seat regulations and guidelines change with each kid I have. I know the basics of car seat safety, and I think I am following the correct guidelines. But honestly, I know there are some things I have slacked on.

So I asked my friend Alyssa Cooperider for help — she’s a child life specialist at a Boston-area hospital and a child passenger safety technician.

Here are her top five car seat safety guidelines that are commonly overlooked or simply not followed.

1. Rear-facing is the way to go.

Children should remain rear-facing in their car seat AS LONG AS POSSIBLE — at least until age 2 and ideally up until age 4.

2. Use the top tether.

You must use a top tether in a front-facing car seat. The top tether keeps the top of the child’s car seat back an additional 4-6 inches in a crash and limits the forward motion in a crash, which means the child is less likely to suffer head and neck injuries.

3. Use the LATCH or the seat belt.

NEVER use the LATCH system and seat belt at the same time to install car seats. It is like wearing contacts and glasses at the same time. It does not amount to greater safety. You choose one or the other. Most LATCH systems actually have a weight limit, so it is best to check your car seat manual and switch over to a seat belt install when the weight limit has been reached.

4. Car seats have expiration dates!

Most of them expire about six years after the manufacture date, but always check the date printed on your seat. If you can’t find a date on your seat, check the owner’s manual. So yes, it is time to chuck the car seat that is 10 years old!

5. The position of the shoulder straps is crucial.

For rear-facing seats, the shoulder straps must be threaded through the slots that are at or below your baby’s shoulders. For forward-facing seats, the shoulder straps should be at or above your child’s shoulders. The chest clip should always be at armpit level.

          

For more detailed information about car seat safety, visit the CDC’s child passenger safety page.

Thinking About Renovating Your Home? Watch This Video First!

Boston Moms is thrilled to partner with NEDC to bring you this valuable information!

Are you thinking about renovating your home or perhaps building in the future? Join us as we chat all things Design-Build with David Supple, CEO of NEDC!

NEDC practices a complete planning system that allows for families to understand the complete cost and process prior to starting any construction. Using a design-build method, and spending a considerable amount of time planning out every aspect of your project — including the budget, the schedule, design, and materials — NEDC creates an end product that is both aesthetically beautiful and fits the needs of your specific lifestyle.
This impeccable attention to detail, unmatched services and trust, and the mission to lift spirits with spaces are the reasons Boston Moms encourages you to seek NEDC for your design and construction needs.
Watch the videos below to learn more! 

More from NEDC

My Favorite Apps for Preschoolers :: Tested and Approved

In our family, the policy regarding screen time is blurry, at best. Pre-quarantine, we spent a LOT of time in the car driving, and even though we often use this time to talk and bond, some days we need to use it to decompress. On those days, I allow my almost-4-year-old to use the (insert gasps of horror here) iPad. 

If your family doesn’t believe in screen time for children, I completely respect your decision and I hope you choose to leave all the mom-shaming at the door. What’s right for my child certainly isn’t right for all children.

When my husband and I first agreed this was going to be our rule, we decided we would only allow educational apps to be used during this time. I browsed the app store, thinking it would be easy to find the top apps for preschoolers. What I didn’t take into account, though, was the number of apps labeled as “educational” that actually didn’t contain appropriate educational content at all! 

I have to admit, it took a lot of trial and error. I’ve paid for and played more preschool iPad games than I care to disclose. Thus, here we are, with a collated list of my favorite apps for preschoolers (best suited for children ages 3–5). 

Our subscription services

We use two different subscription-based educational apps, which we pay for monthly. These include: 

ABC Mouse

apps for preschoolers - Boston Moms

ABC Mouse is an all-time favorite, and we swear by it for academic growth and FUN. My kiddo loves all the apps included in the package, especially the ABCMouse Learning Videos. For kids between the ages of 3 and 8, this app is a wonderful learning tool. 

Hooked On Phonics

apps for preschoolers - Boston Moms

Hooked On Phonics is a recent subscription for us, which we use mostly for homeschool. There are some elements that my kiddo can play by herself, but this app mostly requires adult support or supervision. This app definitely isn’t right for every preschooler, but I would recommend it for letter sounds and reading. 

Non-subscription paid apps

Little 10 Robot by Talu

apps for preschoolers - Boston Moms

Little 10 Robot has a variety of apps for both preschoolers and older children. Their brilliantly engaging apps teach literacy, math, and writing. These bundles have no in-app purchases, which I love, and are always age-appropriate (in my experience). We currently (frequently) use the following apps by Little Robot:

  • AlphaTots Alphabet
  • TallyTots Counting
  • Goodness Shapes
  • Gappy Learns Reading
  • Gappy Learns Writing

Monkey Preschool Fix It

There are a few Monkey Preschool apps that are similar to ABC Mouse, but without the subscription. We personally have only tried and love this one — Monkey Preschool Fix It. It teaches basic problem-solving skills and reinforces academic concepts like shapes, letters, colors, and numbers, but it brings a unique spin by using these concepts to help “fix” something.

Curious George

Curious George by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has a series of cute and engaging apps that serve a lot of purposes, and I have to say some of them are my go-to favorites. They do have apps that read the traditional Curious George books, which are great for long car rides. They also have exploratory and educational apps that include letter writing/tracing, exploring the zoo, shapes, and, our favorite, Curious Letters. There is a new subscription app available that seems to encompass the information in all the apps, but we have no personal experience with it.

Learny Land

This creator is a new addition to our collection! The graphics are top-notch, and in our experience, all of these apps for preschoolers are super engaging and fun to use. They have the great benefit of presenting intricate academic concepts (dinosaurs, space, geography) with fun audio for non-readers and friendly graphics that make the material fun and accessible. I highly recommend them! Although there are many, we have only used:

  • My First Atlas
  • Dinosaurs Like
  • What’s in Space?
  • Pirates
  • How It Works

Sesame Street

Sesame Street has both paid and unpaid apps, and all of them are 100% worth it in my opinion. I can always trust Sesame Street or Sesame Studios to provide quality, educational, age-appropriate entertainment. The general Sesame Street app is definitely our favorite. It has cool games and a combination of both old and new videos. We also love the following:

  • Elmo Loves ABCs and Elmo Loves 123s
  • Breathe, Think, Do
  • Elmo’s World
  • The Monster at the End of this Book
  • Sesame Street Music

Daniel Tiger

Daniel Tiger is my go-to parenting resource for just about everything, a fact that I’m not ashamed of even a little bit. The free Daniel Tiger for Parents app is used frequently in our home as a resource. We purchased the bundle of all the Daniel Tiger apps for my kiddo as our first app purchase, and we love every single one. They are our go-tos for tough or uncertain moments, sensory meltdowns, and tired after-therapy car rides. 

Free apps

Duck Duck Moose

An affiliate of Kahn Academy, Duck Duck Moose has an incredible variety of free apps that teach both younger and older kids. Although sometimes they can be a little glitchy, it’s well worth the download. Our favorites are Fish School, Moose Math, and Princess Fairytale Maker. When my kiddo was a little younger, she enjoyed the interactive nursery rhyme apps, especially the Itsy Bitsy Spider.

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Guide To Boston

Boston Moms Guide to Apple Picking :: 2020

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Crisp fall air is entering New England, and that can only mean one thing — it's apple picking time! Apple orchards are speckled throughout...