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How to Optimize Your Space (and Prepare Your Kids) for Home-Schooling

Bring the classroom home.


little girl studying by the window
One thing is certain in these uncertain times: Self-isolating and shelter-in-place directives are begetting many challenges for parents with school-aged children, who are now unexpected to take on the teacher’s role while schools are closed. While resources and online learning tools exist, it’s a lot at once. Parents with little or no teaching experience are now facilitating remote learning while also coping with the stressors of a very different lifestyle (for some that could mean working from home, for others it might be a loss of income—all while trying to stay healthy) and a tense global climate during a pandemic.
To help families manage—or at least give both parents and children some constructive ideas for navigating this new balance—we tapped Tara Martello, M.S. to lend her expertise. The founder of Grow Thru Play, Martello is an occupational therapist with over a decade of experience treating children with attention difficulties from birth through adolescence in hospital, clinic, school and home environments. She shared tips for how to talk to kids about what’s going on (when we aren’t even really sure ourselves), as well as how to optimize your home—no matter how large or small it is—for online and at-home learning. At the end, we also included plenty of links to additional resources for low income households and families with any intellectual challenges.

Stick to a Daily Schedule

The transition from school to home may be exciting and painless for some kids and more glaringly challenging for others, but one common denominator is novelty. Martello emphasizes that kids’ cognitive associations with home are often tied to relaxation, fun, and family time; their behaviors are different in this familiar and comfortable space as opposed to the more rigid classroom environment. Understanding and empathizing with this is essential to exercising patience, and will also help parents reset boundaries to reflect the activities and expectations at hand.

Because children function best with a certain degree of structure, maintaining as much of their preexisting routine will be incredibly helpful. Though the backdrop is obviously different, doing little things like setting up a schedule similar to their school’s (even if it has yet to assign a new curriculum) will help keep their minds active and disruptions and transitional anxiety to a minimum. See a sample below, and adjust the timing and activities based upon your children’s needs and ages. You can also make it more specific to the assigned curriculum if that helps them.

coronavirus quarantine sample schedule for families

Set up Desks

First and foremost, Martello urges parents to “minimize distractions. That means no noise at all,” either from you, the television, vacuuming, or whatever. (Or, she says, if your children focus better with some background sound, play soft music or turn on a white noise machine. It might take some trial and error to decipher whether this helps them while they do schoolwork.)

“For the smallest space, even just a table is enough.” —Tara Martello, M.S.

It’s also important to set up an actual surface space for them to work on: Any table clear of clutter where they can sit upright will be just fine. If possible, Martello recommends a chair-and-table situation that allows for the 90-90-90 angle rule: knees bent at a 90-degree angle as well as hips and posture at a 90-degree angle and feet firmly on the floor. And good task lighting! In households that only have one table for the family to work from, try to assign different seats and sections to each family member. “The more designated, the better,” she says, as structure is essential.

To keep siblings focused on their work instead of playing with (or annoying) each other, consider sitting between them while you do your own work. If that doesn’t work—or if you can’t be in the same room with them for whatever reason—try the folder fort trick: Divide their separate spaces with folders to create mini cubicles. You could even turn folder decorating into a makeshift after school activity so they feel like it’s a fun, personal place to learn. Or, if your children are old enough and have their own rooms with desks, they might be able to better minimize distractions there.

Take Advantage of Digital Resources

A bright side: There are tons of great apps and online resources that’ll be especially valuable for learning at home. For example, if your kids miss their friends, coordinate with other parents to organize a virtual hangout with House Party, a video-based social networking app (unless, of course, they’re old enough to facilitate it themselves).

Additionally, says Martello, there are more and more free, live-streamed kid-friendly classes and activities popping up, from painting to yoga, story-time, and more. Browse IGTV for options or download Zoom to see if any of the programs and instructors have moved their sessions online so your children can still learn from them remotely. Documentaries and podcasts are also great options. Keeping them busy for a while will also hopefully free up some of your time. Do your best to reframe their perspective so they can see it as opportunity to slow down, talk and connect to loved ones, play with siblings more, and explore their more creativity.

Encourage Breaks From Screen-Time

While ideally, Martello says, children’s screen-time should be limited to two hours a day (as it can overtax their nervous systems), that’s trickier when everyone’s inside all day. At the very least, “Take breaks from the screen,” Martello says. “All work and screen time shouldn’t exceed 30 to 45 minutes at once.” So, every 30 or 45-minute learning interval should be followed by a 10 or 15-minute break.

If your kids can get outside while still practicing social-distancing, great! If not, try to move “recess” to a sunnier space by a window. What’s important is making sure the kids are active in the home before and after work time to break things up. Of course, this definitely won’t look or feel like “business as usual”—and that’s okay. Definitely expect some meltdowns from toddlers (and even college-aged students, and, probably yourself).

two girls doing homework at kitchen island

Open Up the Conversation

How you approach this will of course vary depending on your kids’ ages and maturity levels, but Martello’s general advice is to “help them identify what’s happening for them” emotionally. The key is to get them talking about their feelings, as that will help you see how you can best meet their emotional needs.

little kid playing with dollhouse

It probably goes without saying that this is not going to be a simple, one-time conversation, but rather an ongoing one that will change as the circumstances do. But in general, it’s a good idea to share how you’re feeling to get the conversation started. For example, if you miss your friends, Martello recommends saying something like, “I’m sad I can’t see my friends either.” This approach can validate their new emotions and make them feel less alone in the experience. If they ask about coronavirus specifically, Martello says to explain it as simply as possible. For example “this is a new virus that makes everyone feel different. Sometimes it looks just like a cold, but for other people, it makes them very sick and that’s why we have to stay inside for a while.”

It’s okay if they’re curious, just make sure to inform yourself as best as possible when providing them with answers. If your kids are older, you can explain that these are preventive measures we’re taking collectively as a community to ensure our hospitals don’t overcrowd. Be prepared for some complex questions—when the “school’s out” mentality wears off, “they will have questions about safety,” too, says. When appropriate, a little sense of humor can go a long way.

Look After Yourself, Too

With all these new stressors comes a variety of material consequences and emotional reactions for parents, no matter how well-adjusted and prepared they may be. When you’re anxious and overwhelmed, work through it the best you can before interacting with your children, Martello says. That can mean talking about it with a partner, friend, or therapist, going outside for some exercise if that’s an option, reading a comforting book, journaling, doing a guided meditation, crying it out in the shower, cooking, really whatever it is that centers you most.

Martello’s primary advice is to avoid oversharing or projecting your concerns onto your children. “When you use your children to process, that’s when it becomes unhealthy. Deal with your emotions and worries first so you can then help them handle theirs,” she clarifies.

Checking in with both yourself and your loved ones should become a regular part of your routine—a little morning, midday, and evening vibe check, if you will. “When we’re worried about our resources, we have to look within,” says Martell0. “We have our breaths. [COVID-19] is affecting our lungs and breaths. If we have it right now, let’s find that inner breath and calm and reach out,” Martello says.

More Resources for Families With Children

Super informative article from House Beautiful.  Here is their website:

Conversation Questions April Fool’s Day



  • What are some tricks people play on April Fool’s Day?
  • What is the background of this day?
  • Do you have the same tradition in your country?
  • Do you play tricks on April 1st?
  • What sort of tricks do you play?
  • Have you ever tried fooling your family on April Fool’s Day?
  • Do you always look forward to April Fool’s Day?
  • Have you ever been tricked on April 1st?
  • Are you mad if someone play tricks on you?
  • Do you know anyone that got married on April Fool’s Day?
  • Did someone play a trick on you? What was it?
  • Have you ever been fooled on April Fool’s Day?
    • If yes, how did you feel then?
  • How would you feel if you were being fooled by your dearest friends

A Part of Conversation Questions for the ESL Classroom.

100 Art Therapy Exercises

_100 Art Therapy Exercises

By Shelley Klammer


Deal with emotions like anger and sadness through these helpful exercises.

  1. Draw or paint your emotions. In this exercise, you’ll focus entirely on painting what you’re feeling.
  2. Create an emotion wheel. Using color, this activity will have you thinking critically about your emotions.
  3. Make a meditative painting. Looking for a creative way to relax?  Have trouble sitting still to meditate?  Meditative painting might be just the thing you’re looking for.  No painting skill or experience necessary – only a desire to relax and become more creative.
  4. Put together a journal. Journals don’t have to just be based around words. You can make an art journal as well, that lets you visually express your emotions.
  5. Explore puppet therapy. Puppets aren’t just for kids. Make your own and have them act out scenes that make you upset.
  6. Use line art. Line is one of the simplest and most basic aspects of art, but it can also contain a lot of emotion. Use simple line art to demonstrate visually how you’re feeling.
  7. Design a postcard you will never send. Are you still angry or upset with someone in your life? Create a postcard that expresses this, though you don’t have to ever send it.
  8. Create a family sculpture. For this activity, you makes a clay representation of each family member– mother, father, siblings, and any other close or influential family members to explore emotional dynamics and roles within your family.
  9. Paint a mountain and a valley. The mountain can represent a time where you were happy, the valley, when you were sad. Add elements that reflect specific events as well.
  10. Attach a drawing or message to a balloon. Send away negative emotions or spread positive ones by attaching a note or drawing to a balloon and setting it free.
  11. Draw Your Heart. Draw your feelings in a heart formation.

Remix ThisMandala 100 art therapy exercises

Art therapy can be a great way to relax. Consider these exercises if you’re looking to feel a little more laid back.

  1. Paint to music. Letting your creativity flow in response to music is a great way to let out feelings and just relax.
  2. Make a scribble drawing. With this activity, you’ll turn a simple scribble into something beautiful, using line, color and your creativity.
  3. Finger paint. Finger painting isn’t just fun for kids– adults can enjoy it as well. Get your hands messy and really have fun spreading the paint around.
  4. Make a mandala. Whether you use the traditional sand or draw one on your own, this meditative symbol can easily help you to loosen up.
  5. Draw with your eyes closed. Not being able to see what you are drawing intensifies fluidity, intuition, touch and sensitivity.
  6. Draw something HUGE. Getting your body involved and moving around can help release emotion as you’re drawing.
  7. Use color blocks. Colors often come with a lot of emotions attached. Choose several paint chips to work with and collage, paint and glue until you’ve created a colorful masterpiece.
  8. Let yourself be free. Don’t allow yourself to judge your work. If you think your paintings are too tight and controlled, this collection of tips and techniques to try should help you work in a looser style.
  9. Only use colors that calm you. Create a drawing or a painting using only colors that you find calming.
  10. Draw in sand. Like a Zen garden, this activity will have you drawing shapes and scenes in the sand, which can be immensely relaxing and a great way to clear your mind.
  11. Make a zentangle. These fun little drawings are a great tool for letting go and helping reduce stress.
  12. Color in a design. Sometimes, the simple act of coloring can be a great way to relax. Find a coloring book or use this mandala for coloring.
  13. Draw outside. Working en plein air can be a fun way to relax and get in touch with nature while you’re working on art.


More therapies on self, trauma, gratitude, inside the mind and more at:

April 1, April Fools’ Day

Although April Fools’ Day, also called All Fools’ Day, has been celebrated for several centuries by different cultures, its exact origins remain a mystery.

Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563.

People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes.

These pranks included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as “poisson d’avril” (April fish), said to symbolize a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person.

READ MORE: 9 Outrageous Pranks That People Actually Fell For

Historians have also linked April Fools’ Day to festivals such as Hilaria, which was celebrated in ancient Rome at the end of March and involved people dressing up in disguises.

There’s also speculation that April Fools’ Day was tied to the vernal equinox, or first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, when Mother Nature fooled people with changing, unpredictable weather.

April Fools’ Day spread throughout Britain during the 18th century. In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event, starting with “hunting the gowk,” in which people were sent on phony errands (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, a symbol for fool) and followed by Tailie Day, which involved pranks played on people’s derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them.

In modern times, people have gone to great lengths to create elaborate April Fools’ Day hoaxes. Newspapers, radio and TV stations and Web sites have participated in the April 1 tradition of reporting outrageous fictional claims that have fooled their audiences.

In 1957, the BBC reported that Swiss farmers were experiencing a record spaghetti crop and showed footage of people harvesting noodles from trees; numerous viewers were fooled. In 1985, Sports Illustrated tricked many of its readers when it ran a made-up article about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a fastball over 168 miles per hour.

In 1996, Taco Bell, the fast-food restaurant chain, duped people when it announced it had agreed to purchase Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and intended to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. In 1998, after Burger King advertised a “Left-Handed Whopper,” scores of clueless customers requested the fake sandwich.

Finland: The Happiest Country On Earth!

By Aaditi P, Writer  for Youngzine



City of Helsinki in Finland; Image Pixabay/tap5a

What better occasion to announce some happy news than these grim times that we are pushing through?

Just in time for the UN’s International Day of Happiness on March 20, the World Happiness Report announced a listing of the world’s happiest countries – with Finland emerging as the winner for the third year in a row!

The runner ups, which also happen to be European countries, are Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway.

Many Finns are confused at the idea that they could win the award for the happiest country when they are simply content with their lives. Let’s take a look at how the happiest country is determined…

How are the Rankings Determined?

Image DW/World Happiness ReportIt may seem strange to imagine happiness as something that can be measured.

When asked about how a country can be the “happiest,” John F. Helliwell, one of the editors of the report, explained that happiness does not depend on a counted number of smiles but on the trust and confidence that people have in each other.

The editors of the World Happiness Report used data from the Gallup World Poll to rank the countries. Additionally, they looked at six factors: levels of income, life expectancy, generosity, freedom, social support, and trust.

This poll that people in countries around the world answered includes a set of yes/no questions about their lifestyle and emotions. The survey also includes questions like one where the respondent was asked to rank their life as if they were on a ladder (0 on the bottom to 10 at the top) and the happiest life was at the top.

The results of the survey and an examination of the factors ranked the happiest countries in the world, along with the least happy. The countries that are at the bottom of the list in terms of happiness are Afghanistan, followed by the African countries of South Sudan, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and the Central African Republic.

Finns and their Lifestyle

Cricau Festival; Image WikipediaSo what exactly in the lifestyle of Finns makes them stand out? As mentioned before, trust is a key part of a healthy and happy life. A common theme that many of the lower-ranking countries on the list shared is the people’s distrust and fear of their government.

However, according to the survey’s results, 91% of Finns are satisfied and trust their president, while 86% trust their police.

Not only does Finland have a smooth, trustworthy democracy, but also a progressive education system and almost perfect gender equality. One of the biggest factors of the Finns’ content lifestyles, however, is due to their universal healthcare system.

All in all, it is the community and trust that boosts Finland to the top of the happiest countries list. So, although it may be a time of stress and fear, experts say that this is also a time to increase our overall happiness if people come together to support each other.

Some Good News for a Change

There’s still a lot of good in the world — and a lot of reasons to be hopeful. (Even when it doesn’t always feel that way.) Here is some good news for you.

Article by Best Life


14 Germy Things at Home You’re Definitely Forgetting to Clean

Article by Lynn Redmile, Carolyn Forte, Good Housekeeping Institute

In an effort to keep your family healthy overall, it’s smart to ramp up your cleaning routine now, especially when family members are spending more time at home. Here are some tips and common household items that the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab recommends you include in your cleaning routine.

Slide 4 of 17: Considered one of the dirtiest items in a hotel room, household remotes get passed from person to person and rarely get cleaned, if at all.To clean:Remove the batteries, but replace the battery compartment's cover.Dampen a cloth with 70% isopropyl alcohol or with an alcohol or disinfecting wipe, go over the remote, paying special attention to the spaces between the buttons.Dip a cotton swab in alcohol, squeeze out the excess, and use it to clean the narrow areas and grooves, being careful to not let any liquid drip into the remote.Use a toothpick to gently nudge grime from the button crevices.Wait a few minutes for the alcohol to evaporate, then dry the remote with a lint-free cloth and reinstall the batteries.

Check out all the items on the GHI list of things to clean, and how to clean them at:

Here Are the Things I’ve Stopped Wearing, and What I Wear Instead

I Write About Fashion for a Living:

  • Copy By: Madeline Galassi
  • Feature Image By:@slipintostyle

A couple of weeks ago, our Social Media Editor, Abigail, sent our office a picture of a purse that was sold out and asked if anyone knew of anything similar.

Immediately, my mind went through an inventory of five different nearly identical ones that are available right now—there was one at Topshop, one at Nordstrom, one at Mango that was similar but not quite the same size. It took all of 30 seconds for me to find an almost exact replica of the nude, boxy, top-handle bag.

My point? Half of my mind consists of fashion and trends and what’s on the market and what’s dwindling out. I spend my work days researching trends and writing about them and styling outfits based on them, and I spend my after-work hours scrolling through Instagram and seeing even more content surrounding it.

All of this obviously affects how I dress too. While I definitely pick and choose which seasonal trends I’m going to go all in for, there are some consistencies I’ve noticed in things I used to wear, but now consistently avoid; it hasn’t happened overnight, and they aren’t items that are necessarily considered strictly out of style either. All of my has-been go-tos just couldn’t hold up to updated, similar versions that came along.

These are the pieces I no longer wear, and what I’ve replaced them with instead:


I’m the first to admit that sometimes I’ll see someone in ballet flats and think they look chic as all hell, but when it comes to what’s in and what’s not, other flat shoes have undoubtedly taken the reins. (It’s also hard to put a pair of ballet flats on my feet and not reminisce about wearing them every day of middle school.)


What I Wear Instead: Loafers

Loafers are kind of like ballet flats half-sister, but they’re the successful business-woman sister running into Thanksgiving late because she had a meeting she had to fly out for last-minute instead of the cute, innocent one making the pumpkin pie. Both have their strong suits and admirable qualities, but time and time again, I choose the former—especially for my day-to-day life.

Sam Edelman

Loraine Loafers

Dolce Vita

Halee Mule


The Alex Loafer

3 colors available



I wore skinny jeans exactly once over these past six months, and they made me feel … wrong.

There is absolutely a time and a place for skinny jeans. They can easily tuck into boots and are tempting to wear with tops that are more oversized to balance out proportions, but there are other jean styles that have taken over our lower halves over the past couple of years.


What I Wear Instead: Straight Jeans


A straight-leg jean can do something to your outfit that skinny jeans just can’t. They somehow make everything look more intentional and thought-out and make an outfit look like, well, a look, rather than something you just threw on. There are a million shapes and fits and lengths of straight-leg jean options available, and with a little bit of trial and error, you can find the perfect pair for your body (and once you see the wonders they do for your booty, you won’t look back).


Curve Love Straight Jeans

These are hands-down the best straight jean option for anyone who considers themselves a little fuller-thighed—they’ll still look “straight” without pulling or tugging.

Oh yes, fashionistas.  There’s so much more to see:
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