How We Are Using Online Learning as an Opportunity

I’ve grumbled about the challenges of Jack attending school 100% online before. However, due to both myself and Jack being considered high-risk for COVID, we are trying to be as careful as possible. Our school system has been alternating between 100% online and a hybrid model since the start of the year; however, students have the option to stick with the online format.

So yes, there are challenges. I’m working from home full-time right now, while also overseeing all Jack’s online classes. Luckily, as the months have gone by, he has gotten more and more independent. One thing that has been a HUGE help is my “genius” trick that I shared with you back in October of getting Jack his own cellphone. It’s not hooked up to any service, but it allows me to set his online school alarms.

Rather than me keeping track of when he needs to get back to his laptop after each break, the alarm will prompt him throughout the day to log into his different classes. This has been a lifesaver for me, since I may have Zoom meetings at the same time that he should be logging in. Instead of depending on me, once that alarm rings he knows he needs to log in on his own.

Life. Saver.

When it comes to classwork, each teacher assigns an online assignment to be completed after the live portion of class. I’ve found that it works best if Jack completes the assignments throughout the day, rather than waiting until the very end and doing them as ‘homework.’ Of course, some days it all goes to crap and he has a bunch of work to complete at once, but we are all just doing our best.

Over the years, Jack has fallen behind in the areas of ELA – reading and writing. He’s had reading intervention helpers work with him in the past and we read every night at home, but he still needed some extra help. I was very concerned with him falling behind this year since he has no extra reading help, so we decided it was time to hire a tutor.

A co-worker of mine actually recommended his mother for the tutoring, which was one of those right place-right time kinda of things. His mom is a private school teacher in a nearby county that specializes in ELA tutoring. Crazy, right?! We started Zoom tutoring sessions back in November and most weekends he has a one-hour session on both Saturday and Sunday morning. It’s hard for him to give up his free time, but we’ve implemented a sticker earning system which mostly keeps him motivated (he still has some days that he just isn’t into it at all, but for the most part he is engaged). And frankly, if that morning is not working, we will reduce the session time so we aren’t just torturing the poor kid.

His tutor is AMAZING. I am in constant awe of her knowledge of the areas where Jack has learning holes and how she is working with him to solve them. She has devised a number of games to keep him engaged and competitive and within the past month and a half his skills have grown in leaps and bounds.

Part of me wishes we had done this earlier; however, online schooling really has worked as an opportunity in this case. Rather than dropping Jack at before-care at 7:30 am, having a full day of school until 4ish and then hanging out in after-care until 6:00 pm when we could pick him up, he’s home. He gets ‘down time’ to watch TV, play videogames, or build something with his LEGOS throughout the day, so when class starts, he’s more refreshed and ready to learn.

Because we aren’t running around like crazy all week long, when the weekend comes fitting in a 1-hour tutoring session isn’t the end of the world. Instead, it’s just one more little thing to check off the list before he’s free to play.

And the best part, by looking at online learning as an opportunity to bring in some supplemental help, I finally feel like this isn’t the year that he’s going to fall behind due to online school. Instead, this may be the year that he’s finally going to catch up!

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Organizing Frenzy: Jack’s Room

Jack’s room has seen many, many changes over the last 8+ years. First, it had a crib set up. Then, we switched that to a toddler bed. Then, a twin bed. And THEN a queen bed. At one point we had a rocking recliner. Then, we had a chair and ottoman in the corner. Finally, we added a desk a couple months ago for online schooling. Basically the only thing that hasn’t moved is his dresser.

So yeah… it’s been quite the work in progress.

Which brings us to updating part of his room. Here is the before:

When we added his desk to the wall, we kept the leather chair and ottoman even though it was obviously too big for the space. I typically shove the ottoman over to the desk so that I have something to sit on when we work on homework each afternoon.

Next to the chair/ottoman is a green nightstand that I thrifted and painted when I was pregnant. The paint is starting to chip, so I was already thinking I needed to either repaint it or replace it.

But what I really wanted was more storage! We currently have an absolute crap-load of LEGOS in what is now the playroom/workout room. However, our plan is to turn that room into a new master bathroom + walk in closet (MY DREAM!!). So, I’ve been slowly but surely purging and purging the toys out of that side of the room. It has actually been relatively easy, since an 8-year-old plays with a lot less STUFF than a toddler does.

I was really looking for something that would let me move the playroom stuff to Jack’s bedroom… without making it into a huge mess.

So, my fingers did a little walking on the Target website and here’s what I bought:

I bought 3 fabric storage bins and 2 baskets, bringing my total cost to: $64. I also added a previously thrifted rug to the space, but everything else was already in his room.

And here is the after:

To be honest, the storage organizer is a bit smaller than I expected. Also, NOT the best quality. It seemed a little flimsy until I secured it to the wall. I would not recommend this for a younger child who would be tempted to climb on it. It does a great job of storing all his stuff though… and it keeps everything looking relatively neat too.

Jack insisted on posing for this photo:

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the room upgrade. Especially for just $64. I’m sure as Jack continues growing, his room will continue to see many more changes.

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AR Workshop: Jingle Box

If you are related to me, maybe don’t read this blog post…

I loved the AR Workshop Harvest box so much (you can read about it here), so it took me less than 5 seconds to decide to buy the Jingle Box when I saw the announcement. This time, I bought a Jingle box for myself AND I bought one as a Christmas gift for a family member.

Once again, the contents of the box were a total surprise. However, much like the fall Harvest box they announced that it would contain a mix of handmade and retail seasonal goodies with an exclusive DIY kit and items from local makers. The cost of the box was $95 with a retail value of over $150. When I ordered my box to keep, I was hoping for a couple items that I could pass on for Christmas gifts and also some that I can keep to enjoy… and I’m very pleased with what I received!

Let’s take a look inside my Jingle box:

(Once again, if you’re related to me… turn away now because I ordered one for a gift too!)

First, check out this gorgeous wrapping job and a peek at what I saw when I opened the box:

Unlike the Harvest boxes, which were unwrapped, each Jingle box was beautifully wrapped so you can put them right under the tree!

These first three items from my box are items that I am planning to pass on, which worked out perfectly for me. There is a soft plaid scarf, a pretty mug with a hot chocolate bomb, and a holiday oven mitt with butter cookie mix inside. All three of these are perfect for gift giving (or keeping!) and I’m planning to pair the oven mitt/cookie mix and coffee mug/hot chocolate bomb for a work friend gift. I’m not sure who is getting the scarf yet, but it is awfully pretty!

This next grouping is items that I am thrilled to keep for myself. I love the handmade ‘Tis the Season’ tray and it’s perfect to sit on an ottoman in my den to hold my coffee cup and kindle on lazy weekend days. The candle smells fantastic and the ‘Baking Spirits Bright’ kitchen towel was immediately added to my kitchen.

And here is the project that they included in the Jingle Box! It is a DIY Classic Wood Ornaments set and it came with three pieces of wood, sanding paper, stencils, paint, foam brushes, ribbon and hooks. Jack and I completed the project over the weekend and it was a fun project to do with a kid, or to do on your own in a burst of creativity!

Once again, the AR Workshop knocked this box out of the park and I LOVE it so much! I’m hoping that my family member also loves it… because I think it’s a great gift for the holidays!

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored.

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