New School Year in the Pandemic Prism

Education at home can be a beautiful mess

August 23, 2020

Palm Beach County, Florida

Tomorrow our county, considered the 10th largest school district in the nation, will embark on its Covid-19 pandemic inspired educational journey for many parents/caregivers and children as they log into their e-learning platforms.  There are some who have prepared to take their students into the select private schools that are offering in-person instruction with smaller classes and new physical distancing measures.  My hope and prayer for all my fellow parents is that the teamwork between you, teachers, and your children be strong and inspired by the hope of a new school year with so many new things to be learned for everyone. 

My personal Bean homeschooling plan is to start my students fully in the first week of September as I have in the past. For the last couple of weeks and going forward, my mornings are busily spent with the children doing small lessons, reviews, and cleaning out our educational areas.  My bed has been the staging ground daily for organizing countless piles of papers and projects.  If you find that your home is a mess in preparation for your children’s first day of school at home, it will get better and yes it’s normal.  If, however, your home is completely spotless then I sincerely applaud you and would love some tips on how to do better in this area.

Approaching the Big Horn mountains from the west after leaving Yellowstone

My second podcast for CEO of the Home was recorded and released in late July and then I took off on a sabbatical by myself—it entailed me driving from Florida to Wyoming and back.  In my haste to pack up and leave the household in good hands, I forgot to post it online for anyone interested.  Simply put, it’s a small primer on how to approach a “multi-schooling” methodology should it be an option:

Episode 2: https://ceo-of-the-home.simplecast.com/episodes/how-to-multischool

My sabbatical was 2 weeks in duration and afforded me the chance to let my mind rest from the constant barrage of COVID-19 news coverage, contentious social media platforms, and our local frenetic pace of life here in south Florida.  I deleted all my social media apps and news alerts on my iPhone so that I wasn’t tempted to scroll through during the quiet moments that this trip gave me.

Yellowstone National Park has a great trail ride available at Canyon

Also, I needed to rekindle my own love of learning.  Wandering about in Wyoming gave me the opportunity to seek out new adventures like driving to a privately owned quarry outside Kemmerer and chiseling ancient rock for fish fossils.  Picking up my paintbrushes to paint while sitting at scenic points in Yellowstone National Park gave me a renewed inspiration for playing with colors on paper.  I’ve ridden horses but only through flat forests and swamps, mountain trail riding was a brand new experience for this flatlander.

Along with the silent hours I spent alone, I was able to think about what new things to weave into my children’s educational experiences moving forward.  I had the blessing of commiserating with other parents who were traveling in Wyoming—it turns out that challenges my fellow Floridian parents have with this pandemic education prism are the same for other parents nationwide.

Tonight I also recorded my third podcast and I touch upon why I took this long break.  What I didn’t address in it is that although I took this trip during a pandemic, I had weighed the risk and knew that my mental health was of utmost importance as I’m getting ready for another school year. 

With that, I share my latest episode of CEO of the Home, Sabbatical and the New School Year:

Episode 3: https://ceo-of-the-home.simplecast.com/episodes/sabbatical-and-new-school-year

I wish you all the best as our respective school years begin this month and next!

In service of Love,

R.V.S.Bean

A Floridian Wanders in Wyoming During a Pandemic

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Today is the end of a 4-day drive to come back to south Florida after leaving Wyoming on Thursday, August 6th.  That departure date marked 2 weeks since I had left Palm Beach County, by myself to make the road trip out there in 3 days.  While my body is somewhat fatigued from the endurance of the driving feat, my spirit is invigorated and refreshed.

Sabbatical During a Pandemic

Are we still in the “pandemic” stage?  I’m not trying to argue with anyone because on Thursday, July 23rd, I deleted all social media and news apps off my phone so that I could take a mental break as I broke away physically from my family and state of residence.  I’ve just turned them back on today and it seems I’ve got a lot to catch up on unfortunately.

I packed most liquids and snacks I would need so that the only stops I made when driving was for gas, restroom usage, and to stay in lodging.  Driving through several states, it seemed the consensus was that masks were encouraged inside buildings and I acted accordingly along with a cleaning ritual each time I re-entered my vehicle.

It turns out that I made an attempt to journal my trip as it unfolded, so here are some excerpts to share with you as it’s my humble intention to encourage others to take a sabbatical even if it’s only for an afternoon or evening during one day of the week.  

There were times I was with others but most of the time I traveled away from home was on my own. There is a great healing and productive reconstruction that can occur when we get to be alone especially if we’re always with others.

Thursday, July 25th

Palm Beach Gardens, FL

A blessed sign from above that all will be well+

Awoke with a clear mind in the pre-dawn hours as I shifted under the sheets in bed.  Today was the day I’m leaving on my sabbatical.  What had begun as a trip planned months ago as a family getaway has now been reduced to me going away by myself to take a mental and physical break from all this COVID-19 year has brought us. 

I got up early to finish a couple of more cloth masks at my sewing machine.  As I ran the fabric through the sewing needle going up and down, I felt my heart pinch and sink with every heartbeat at the thought that I was actually leaving my husband, children, and a grandparent at home soon for just over 2 weeks duration.

Distant thunder rumbled and there was a part of me ready to just scrap the whole plan to travel.  As I finished up my sewing work, I walked outside and saw a double rainbow in the sky along with lightning flashing behind it.

I somehow knew in that electrifying and beautiful moment that I was making the right choice to go on this trip.  Shortly thereafter the children also came outside to see me and witness the beautiful sky and although they knew I was leaving, they didn’t dwell on it too much instead giving me hugs and relishing in the moment of that glorious sunrise and rainbow near an uncertain storm.

Friday, July 24th

Signal Mountain, TN

Left Signal Mountain, Tennessee around 5:30am. As my body awoke around 4:53am, most of my physical body was all about just staying in bed and sleeping but I knew that I had at least 11-12 hours of driving ahead of me today. Today was my longest leg.

On my way out, I dropped a note to the children in the post office box off the side of the road on the mountain.

Yesterday the drive from Palm Beach County of Florida to family in Tennessee was largely uneventful except for rain and a vehicle fire off I-75 in Georgia.

Much of the morning I spent listening to the playlist that Thomas loaded onto my phone for me.  My favorite currently is listening to the Hamilton soundtrack and the song “I am not going to miss my shot”…

In the afternoon I had a meeting on zoom with my UF MBA team colleagues and one of our professors to work on one of our projects and ask questions.  Although it was surreal to conduct business in my car as I drove through Missouri at 70+ mph, it was well worth it knowing I was making good travel time.

Arrived safely at the Arbor Day Lied Lodge and was able to take a walk after the long drive in their forest trail and hazelnut rows. 

Saturday, July 25th

Nebraska City, NE

Awoke bright and clear around 3am (central time)…tried to go back to sleep but no such luck. 

So got up and readied myself—got my bearings for my upcoming MBA class later today and then checked my maps once more. Today I make it to Wyoming.

As I pulled out of the lodge area, I had to take a couple of roads to reach a state road that would eventually lead me to interstate 80 westbound.  “Pitch dark” is an understated term in this remote corner of Nebraska.  It was like driving in a black flannel blanket if that were a thing.

When I reached the state road, there was a semi-truck that I pulled directly behind and it happened to be the only truck or vehicle on this road for at least 45 minutes or more.  I was running low on gas and knew I’d have to stop soon. Made the mental note to not forget fueling up at the end of each driving leg during the day instead of waiting for the mornings.

I gratefully stayed at a safe distance behind the truck as the driver used their high beams and we drove in tandem up and down the rolling hills for about 40 miles until we reached Lincoln, Nebraska.  I used this opportunity to stop at a well-lit gas station and there was a police car there—giving me an added sense of security.

Once I left Lincoln, I caught up with I-80 and began the long trek westward across Nebraska.  As the light of dawn began and the plains rose higher upward, my body surged with excitement and expectation—as well as the effects of elevation increasing.  Finally, the digital map in my car’s front console showed the red arrow near Wyoming.

Made it in safely to Cheyenne, Wyoming in the late morning and checked into my hotel.  A full day of MBA online graduate classes and an exam was awaiting me. 

Sunday, July 26th

Cheyenne-Kemmerer-Jackson Hole, Wy

Recently renovated state capitol building, first state to afford women the right to vote!

Day began with the quiet recognition that I needed to get up promptly for my MBA class sessions starting early because they were at Eastern Standard Time and I was now on Mountain Time in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

My dreams had been fretful and filled with episodes with my children and hugging them.  When I awoke I felt guilt again that I was not at home to help with the morning routine of helping with everyone.  The demanding school schedule this morning helped me focus on proceeding with my classwork instead of dwelling on my misgivings of being gone from the children.

It was a bittersweet set of class sessions because our cohort does miss each other as we used to meet in person once a month in Gainesville prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. But at least one of our professors was doing a great job of trying to help us be more productive by putting us into virtual breakout rooms where we got to work with each other more intimately and fulfill our assignment requirements.

I had to check out of my hotel, however, as I was due to be in Jackson Hole by sundown.  Once our first class finished I was in the car again without a beat and was hurtling down I-80 westbound once again.

It was a little awkward logging into the Zoom class session from the road but thankfully except for a couple hiccups the Wi-Fi connection in the car worked well.

On the way to Kemmerer, I had to stop in Rock Springs at a Walmart in order to pick up a new camera since the one I was borrowing wasn’t working.  I was still logged into my class on my phone and so just went in, with a mask no less and purchased a camera and still listened in to class. Ah, technology. 

By the end of class I was pulling into Kemmerer and able to take a photo of the J.C. Penney mother flagship store in town and then make my way to a private fossil quarry where I was able to find some slabs of rock with complete fish fossils intact.  I got a little woozy driving up and a down a gravel road at 7000 feet to get to the quarry–once I was parked and walking on the ground of that particular quarry, I had a fun time breaking up rock with a metal chisel and hammer along with the bruises and scrapes to boot.

Stopped afterwards to enjoy a short trail in the Fossil Butte National Monument nearby and then started the drive up to Jackson Hole and made it in town before sundown to check into my lodging for the next couple of days.

A messy affair, but quite cathartic to chisel away at rock
Outside Kemmerer, no buildings for miles on end

Wednesday, July 29th

Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful 

My spirit continues to wander and I don’t know much about how to tame it.

The wild mountains, meadows, rivers, and countless other wonders I’ve seen here at Yellowstone today have me wanting to let my soul wander free as well.

Thursday, July 30th

Yellowstone National Park, Canyon Lodge

The day flew: it began with trying to get my laundry done at the Canyon campground area and then heading to my horseback ride nearby. 

The ride went relatively well—although I was pretty tired physically having already endured a half day mountain trail ride on a horse earlier in the week while in Jackson.

I realized just how sore I was in an acute manner when the horse was going downhill and such.  It was then I also thought about the fact that I don’t want to really go through the physical duress of another mountainous horseback ride next week when I’m near the Bighorn Mountains.  If I were fresh, maybe, but not now.

Had some conversation through my mask and bandanna while riding, turns out there were a couple of families from Texas along with me the Floridian. Weren’t we the coronavirus hotspot misfits in this corner of Wyoming?

Although I’m thoroughly enjoying my time here at Yellowstone, I feel terribly guilty after finding out there is a hurricane brewing offshore Florida and husband is having to deal with work duties accordingly.  Of course, I leave on a rare sabbatical and there is a storm threat, thanks 2020.

As much as I feel this is where I want my spirit to be, I feel tugged to go back home and take care of everyone again.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Johnson County, Wyoming

Amazing. Here I have made it to the other side of the Bighorns and all I want to do is have a bison burger and a whiskey drink to take the edge off of a crazy day of road travel.

Began the day around 6:00am and driving out of Yellowstone.  Didn’t like that I had to part with my in-loves after spending a couple of days together hiking around YNP.

As I rolled out of the Canyon Lodging area, I saw Dad Thom Bean walking on the side of the road for his early morning walk.  Was grateful that I was able to give him a final hug goodbye.

Afterwards I took the left at the stop sign to head toward Yellowstone’s Fishing bridge. There was heavy fog but at a particular clearing where there was a great stag with large antlers. Most beautiful animal I have seen in my life this far because there it was in its powerful presence and behind him the fog was lit up by the fiery orange of the sun rising.  My iPhone couldn’t do it justice, it was incredible in person as I had “quietly” pulled up with my car and put my window down. At least I used my new Canon camera and it seems that it may have captured this rapturous moment of a stag in his solitude as the sky behind him was awash in passionate colors of the rising sun.  

The drive out of the park started smoothly, although I keep forgetting how steep the grade is going through and downward from the Sylvan pass for the east gate of Yellowstone.

Stopped at the Pashuka(sp) tourist shop to pick up some trinkets for the children.

Cruised through Cody and headed toward Powell and Lovell. Passed the Heart Mountain area where Japanese Americans had been interred after the Pearl Harbor attack in the 1940s.

When I was approaching Big Horn Canyon, I stopped in to check with the park ranger there because I was feeling nervous about my plan to head up to the Medicine Wheel on Medicine Mountain. Not familiar with this pass and northern part of the Big Horns, I asked Austin the park ranger if he thought the drive was alright. Enthusiastically he remarked that he’s driven up there himself and tried to prepare me that there would be a “bump” or two as the construction signs would indicate. 

Armed with a few more maps and Austin’s tips, I started on the road up…and up..and like super up.  Like “up” on crack and steroids at the same time. The speed limit never went beyond 20-30 mph, another clue that this was a steep climb.

I felt like a horse that has blinders on as I purposely didn’t look around because as I kept going up each switchback—whether it was long or short didn’t matter the reality is I was aware of how very high I was going.

When I finally seemed to clear the climbing part – I realized that I was back in a place where doing 50-65 mph was acceptable and safe. 

Kept looking at my navigation and saw that the Medicine Wheel turn should be coming up. Sure enough, before long it was time to turn left and I was relieved to see the sign. What I wasn’t prepared for was the secondary sign to the right that told me the actual parking spot was still another 1.5 miles up, as in UP the gravel, rough road ahead that had no guard rails and above there was the large spherical FAA radar dome –no Medicine Wheel entrance in sight.

Resigned, I thought, “I’ve made it this far, I can go up this road at the very least.” Unfortunately, as I continued up the “hill” my body began to tense up worse than it had already been for the past hour or so of the climb up these damned Big Horns. It was near impossible to block out the fact that here I was climbing up this mountaintop—literally.

The open space on both sides expanded so far and wide with nothing but sky.  There was finally a space to the left to pull out and so I pulled over and a pickup truck was coming up behind me and passed on area and parked further up. 

After a couple minutes I went ahead and pulled out to follow where the pickup truck went and parked again and put on the emergency brake. I was still so shaky and just broke down in disappointed tears—I just could not go any further. It was solid. There was no way I could keep going.

Truth be told, I was nearly frozen solid in movement. Literally wouldn’t drive any further. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was wondering if I shouldn’t just call 911 and ask the dispatcher if the state troopers there could be sent out to come rescue me and drive me down this mountain. I guess 9,000 feet plus in elevation with no trees around magnified the altitude in full effect for my Floridian sensibilities.

So I sat there for a few moments and cried tears of frustration and despondency since I really wanted to visit this Medicine Wheel archaeological site but it was clear that I wasn’t going anywhere. For more information on this site you can google it or check out: https://www.summitpost.org/medicine-mountain/451567

Thankfully was able to text back and forth with someone and it helped me gather the mental courage and strength to say to myself that it was time to head down the gravel road back to the main road and head for the other side of the Big Horns. 

When I finally made it down to the Burgess Junction I took a right turn and evidently went through Granite Pass and didn’t even know it—that’s how steep that previous climb had been.

Thankfully the rest of the drive was pretty uneventful—especially as I was getting adept as using my lower gears to shift while driving downhill.

Saturday, August 1st

Johnson County, Wyoming

Today I ventured out to check out the parade in town in celebration of the end of the their week with the Johnson County Fair. I had my scarf and a mask at hand in case it was needed, thankfully most folks were staying spaced out and I only used it when someone came to speak to me in close proximity.

Went to the rodeo later and had fun watching the various events displayed, only the 3rd rodeo I’ve witnessed and have to admit that I’m hooked.

On the way back to the cabin I’m staying in for next few days, took the car through a drive-thru car wash—all those mountain passes in the past several days have definitely dusted up the vehicle!

Monday, August 3rd

Johnson County, Wyoming

It has been a wonderful day of lounging in to sleep late in the morning, especially given the full moon last night gave me little ability to rest well.  

Once I was up with some tea, coffee, and pancake in a cup ready—went outside to set up shop again with my paints and canvases. It is almost impossible to convey how peaceful it has been to just sit and listen to the Clear Creek, drink, and paint at my leisure.  I’ve even snuck in a couple of mini Romeo y Juliettas mini cigars to puff my cares into oblivion. 

Tuesday, August 4th through Thursday, August 6th

The last few days in town have been a blessed blur.  Knowing that I must gather up my paintbrushes, supplies, clothes, and spirit (or at least what I can salvage), it’s time to get ready and rest up for my drive back to Florida.

Grateful for the time away even with the COVID-19 taint on everything. Although the idea of leaving all my responsibilities was terrifying, I know I feel refreshed and strengthened with the days I spent out west and ready to tackle what’s ahead back in SoFla.

R.V.S.B.

One of many musical earworms: https://youtu.be/V5YOhcAof8I

Let’s Talk: My Podcast Launch and Why Education Continues Despite COVID-19

The Podcast

The Setting

Here in Palm Beach County, Florida, the last couple of weeks have been an unfortunate whirlwind of hot and humid weather coupled with dizzying numbers being reported with positive COVID-19 cases in our state.

Historically late July is the time when many of us Floridians have fled for vacation in cooler and drier weather elsewhere and are soon preparing to come back for the back-to-school rush of activity that follows in August.

Instead, I’ve fielded many texts and calls this month as our local public school districts have been unable to find a peaceful resolution on how they will conduct the education of over 170,000 children in our county for the 2020-2021 school year.

The How

Every state in our nation is grappling with this question: Do our students come back to school in the fall?

Despite the answer, their education continues even at this moment as we’re in the throes of a national debate on the matter of whether it’s safer to conduct classes in-school, hybrid, virtual, online, and so forth. We’re all learning every single day, our youth are doing so at an accelerated pace.

The trend I’ve noticed in my own social circles is that many parents and caregivers are taking matters into their own hands by making decisions to transition to virtual learning, homeschooling, transferring to private schools, creating learning co-ops, and other creative solutions to mitigate the collective chaos surrounding our American education system.

As a multi schooling mother of three children for over a decade, I’ve been happy to share my resources and whatever advice I can lend to others as they navigate what their children’s education plan should be for our upcoming school year. I’m also thankful to be part of organizations like the Junior League of the Palm Beaches as our women members focus on helping our community, especially those with the lack of financial resources to be able to help students grow.

The Why

Today I launched my first podcast, CEO of the Home, after years of thinking about it. Why now? Frankly, why not. Although writing out my CEO of the Home blog has been my way of sharing with others what adventures I’ve experienced or lessons I’ve learned, this frenetic paced world needs talk too. So before you hear me talk, perhaps I should give you some background on what I’ve done.

In my undergraduate years at University of Florida, my first academic love was Telecommunications and I enjoyed working radio hours as a production assistant and weekend disc jockey. I graduated with a B.A. in English and some education classes under my belt instead and worked in schools. After the attacks of 9/11, I began another career serving in Washington, D.C. as a congressional aide to a Florida congressman covering education policy and then a political appointee for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Jr. during President George W. Bush’s administration. I began pursuing a Masters degree in Education that was cut short when the U.S. economy took a severe downturn and with a newborn son in tow, my husband and I left D.C. to stay with family in Florida in 2009.

I worry, as does any loving parent, whether I am doing enough for my children or am I screwing them up. My intent with this podcast is not to tell anyone how to manage their life, rather I want to offer hope, options and encouragement to make the choices that are best for them and their families.

R.V.S.Bean

A Hybrid Education: My Tidbits from a Decade of Experience

Many COVID-19 closure weary parents, caregivers and educators haven’t recovered from the late 2019-2020 school year crash due to lockdowns across the nation.  As many try to find a summer routine in the abyss of continuous coronavirus restrictions, school districts are having to formulate plans now for this upcoming school year 2020-2021 amid rising pandemic cases.  

The new buzz word is “hybrid” model.  I had no idea that my personal style of home education for our three children these last several years would be considered the new normal for some.

What’s a Hybrid Education and Will My Child Thrive In It? 

Every school district has their own specific models but they generally follow something like this: a couple days in the classroom, a couple days at home, and possibly more virtual learning sessions.  

Breathe in, breath out.  While it’s preferable that all our students can return to their pre-COVID school routine, the reality may be that a hybrid model will work in lieu of that routine even if only temporarily. 

The consensus by most parents (going forward, “parents” also includes caregivers/stewards) trying to facilitate their children’s learning during the last months of the 2019-2020 school year was that online learning doesn’t work.  My heart sank when I heard this over and over again as I understood their frustration and yet was sad for their lack of imagination.  What do I mean by that last part?  

Let me start by acknowledging how difficult it’s been for everyone to adjust to the rapid changes that occurred in all manners of our society.  The last thing many parents have been able to do is “embrace the moment” and try to participate in their children’s excitement for what each day brings.  Many are trying to survive whether because of their jobs or have simply not stopped to actually participate fully in their kids’ learning each day.  It is all-consuming to do so, there’s no way to sugar-coat that fact.

Whether we as parents like it or not, the COVID-19 pandemic has altered most of our regularly scheduled lives and that includes our children’s education routine. This amounts to a nearly total upheaval of what daily life was like for children and parents alike.  This is no small matter.  This is unheard of at least for the last century or so.

For a home-schooling parent like myself, nothing really changed for my own children’s daily schedules except for the fact that suddenly many of their peers now were joining them in this wide open expanse of learning possibilities outside of the “brick and mortar” school institutions. Granted, our extracurriculars were gone like swim team, dance, gymnastics, and Greek school.  Suddenly I wasn’t alone either, many of my mom friends were now on the “front lines” of their children’s educational needs and curiosities—and it is EXHAUSTING.

If your child is going to spend time at home again as part of their education going forward in this school year especially due to COVID-19 pandemic precautions, I want to share with you my experiences in the hope that you’ll be able to navigate this “new normal” in the short term until such time as the regular school program is back or if you may find that your child(ren) thrive in a new educational paradigm.  

The good news is that most of you should be able to use your current school’s distance learning or hybrid school options if your school district is not having students in session physically this fall. Also, as I’ll share later, there are so many educational resources to pull from as supplemental material for your children.

Please understand that this is what has worked for me and my family but it should only be seen as a source of ideas as you formulate what works for yours.  For instance, some families have found fellowship in co-op learning groups.  Although I’m a member of a local homeschool group for support and field trip opportunities, I’m a loner per se when it comes to curriculum instruction.  However, my children are enrolled in a Greek school that takes them (pre-COVID) physically to a school a couple days a week.  Again, this educational adventure is particular to your household needs and capacity.

Typical Bean Kid School Week

It has taken me years to refine the following schedule and every new school year I have to make certain adjustments as deemed necessary by the children’s maturity levels and interests.  This is how a typical school week went for us most recently in 2019-2020:

  • The Costume: As a personal rule, I wear a special suit jacket when it’s time to start our “school time” each day, along with funny glasses and my clogs or short heels to indicate that my school teacher uniform is now “on” and therefore I’m no longer just the children’s mama.
  • Monday – Thursday from 8:30am – 2:30pm.  Friday: Music lessons offsite w/teacher, local library visit, and Greek school.
  • Mon- Thurs, from 8:30am -10am: This time period is like our homeroom time when I start the day routine with the students.  In our particular case it’s the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer, and some songs.  Then we introduce the day/weather/announcements.  Given I have three students of different ages, I will have a topic of the day that I’m able to pivot from for the various grades in our home. For instance, if that month we’re focusing on daily themes that study plants and earth sciences, then we have age appropriate instruction for each student.  This past school year 2019-2020, I had a 6th grader, 3rdgrader, and kindergartener respectively.
  • 10am is Snack, Exercise, and Nature Time:  I have a physical bell I ring as it indicates it’s time for the kids (and the dogs) to go outside in the backyard and take a break from studies.  I take this time to prepare a snack for them in the kitchen if I haven’t already—I also treat myself to a coffee, tea, or even a cookie, etc in order to reward myself for making through the first 90 minutes or so of an intense homeschool day!
  • 10:30 – 11:00am is the time frame that I start calling the children back in.  When COVID-19 restrictions went into place, this was also the time I did a P.E. workout with them typical of elementary and junior high complete with a jog and exercises like jumping jacks and leg lifts.  Again, I adjust to each child’s level even during break.  The younger ones will linger with playing in the dirt and I’m okay with that as it helps their cognitive development.
  • Post-11:00am:  For our family, this is the time frame that I have the older students log into their virtual academy classes through Scholé Academy.  Many states like Florida also have virtual public school offerings.  For those students who aren’t in an online class, then I’m with them helping teach and moderate their basic curriculum work like spelling workbooks or a math exercise.
  • 12 Noon – 1:30pm: this is a rolling lunch sequence, meaning if a child just got done with their online class after break, then it’s a good time for them to have their lunch.  I keep a lunch menu list on our announcement board in the kitchen to show the kids what their choices are and they typically will make their own lunch unless they need help for safety reasons.
  • 2:00 – 3:00pm:  Depending on online class schedules is when our school day typically ends.
  • 3:00pm onward:  Pre-Covid pandemic, we typically would do dinner prep as we got ready to go to afternoon swim team practice or Greek school which is usually around 4pm until 6pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Each child is given one night as the chef where they have to pick the menu and execute it (with Mama as sous chef of course).
  • Wednesdays is STEAM, STEM, and all things SCIENCE: I typically reserve each Wednesday as our science lab experiment day.  It is a messy and yet necessary affair to conduct these science experiments and exercises with the students so I find it helpful to have a day dedicated to it for set-up and clean-up purposes.
  • Thursdays: Art day.  Thursdays are the days we start out with an art instruction and project/exercise first.  In my case, I was educated heavily in the arts and am an amateur artist in practice.  I believe the visual arts are very important for students and if a parent doesn’t feel capable, there are many art teachers/tutors and art centers around to delegate that instruction if needed.
  • Friday Fun Day: Perhaps it’s a throwback to when I was working in offices all week long, but I like to celebrate the end of the week with the children and so I reserve Fridays as the day for them to see their piano teacher (or FaceTime now in pandemic mode) and hit our local library to research, return, and check out new books.  Also, personally it’s our second day of two days of Greek school where we drive 45 minutes to their classroom with other teachers and students (again, pre-COVID).

Refrain of Love: We as Parents/Caregivers are Our Children’s Security, Even in Education

I have heard from and read about so many who feel inadequate to “teach” their own children.  

I get it.  

There is not a day that I don’t go to bed and wonder with some degree of anxiety as to whether I was able to meet our children’s educational needs during the school year.

In fact, each year in June, I have to meet with a Palm Beach County district school teacher who reviews my children’s school year work and portfolios in order to make sure that they are progressing satisfactorily. If so we are given the green light to close the books on our school year until we start again at the end of the summer.  I’m thankful they’ve “passed” every year up to this point.

That said, for my husband and me, we revisit our education choices for our children every year.  Most asked question of us is “Are you going to homeschool them through high school too?” 

I have no idea.  

I repeat, we analyze the progress of our children every year and if they are thriving then we keep going on the same course with adjustments like new online courses or curriculums. This is probably similar to when parents decide that their child should be transferred from one school to another in their best academic interests.

Curriculum, Materials, and Resources

Like toothpaste offerings in the drugstore, there are so many things out there for educators whether they are working in a public school district or simply a CEO of the Home mama like myself.  

My personal choices for our children are a la carte when it comes to things like mathematics and sciences.  I lean toward classical learning when it comes to children’s literature and grammar. In other words, my overall curriculum is tailored from various sources to each child’s needs during that particular school year cycle.

Yet, that may not work for everyone, there are also box kits from places like Mother Goose Time for preschoolers or others like Charlotte Mason website that give families a one-stop shop when it comes to formulating what curriculum they’ll use.

Below is a short list of resources I’ve personally used in the past and present.  If you know me personally, I also invite you to reach out to me so we can find a time to chat about any more questions or concerns you may have as you figure out what’s going to be the path forward for your children in the short term.

R.V.S.Bean

Catalogs, Materials:

Curricululms and Online:

Note:  For those reading this who don’t know me personally, this is a short background note.  After attending both public and private schools growing up, I began teaching while an undergraduate at University of Florida in the late 1990s as part of the federal program America Reads. I had the honor of teaching a small cohort class of 2nd and 3rd graders in Bannockburn, IL during 2000.  9/11 occurred and my husband and I decided to help serve in our U.S. government in Washington, DC where I logged experience working on legislative priorities for a Florida congressman (including education issues) and time as an appointee at the U.S. Treasury with the George W. Bush administration.  In 2008 I was reborn as a mother in this world when we welcomed our first child.  It’s 2020 now and we have two sons and a daughter, ages 12, 9, and 5 years old respectively.  I began homeschooling nearly a decade ago as we lived with and looked after aging grandparents.  Today I follow a hybrid model with all three while also finishing my MBA degree at UF this December.  The following article is meant to help others by sharing my current experience and some resources to help you on your journey if you are exploring alternative methods of educating your children—especially given the temporary uncertainties ahead with the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

I Can’t Breathe 2020

Can’t breathe.

They told us to stay home

because COVID-19 patients,

they can’t breathe.

Can’t breathe.

It’s horrific and scary

if you get this virus,

you could die alone.

Can’t breathe.

CDC recommended masks

because this coronavirus is 

so contagious.

Can’t breathe.

Complaining and fretting

because we can’t do

all we want when we want to.

Can’t breathe.

A couple months have passed,

hundred thousand took

their last breath.

Can’t breathe.

“I’m not wearing a mask.”

The public pushes back,

they don’t like it.

Can’t breathe.

George Floyd in Minneapolis,

He was trying to say

“I can’t breathe.”

R.V.S.B.

Pandemic Pause on America’s Education System

De-cluttering Looks Different for Everyone, Including Education

As many American citizens have been purging their dresser drawers and closets in these past several weeks, a de-cluttering process has begun in America’s education system as stay-at-home orders have included the widespread closures of private and public schools alike.

There is a silver lining, however, even with the reports that “distance learning” doesn’t work or that students and their parents are suffering in the absence of “brick-and-mortar” institutions.

What if this COVID-19 pandemic pause has helped de-clutter in a matter of weeks what has taken decades for educators and administrators alike to bring to our attention as parents and caregivers of our American students?

To encourage more discussion on this topic of the decluttering of our American education model, I’m drawing on my own experience as an educator and federal government worker along with some of my colleagues who are currently active in schools across the country.

For the sake of this argument, I want to distinguish upfront that I’m not referring to the unfortunate segment of students who attend our American public schools and come from homes who are unable to feed, clothe, and equip their dependent children properly. Although it is a legitimate concern, it requires its own space and careful analysis to help formulate solutions going forward from this coronavirus crisis of 2020. In fact, the one benefit from the exposure of this societal ill is that many more citizens are aware of how fragile the economic balance is for many students and their families — hopefully that conversation will continue as to how to address those issues including have to hand out meals to students because school is not in session.

In the weeks since our nation woke up to the COVID-19 pandemic, countless parents and caregivers have found themselves floundering to figure out how to balance the needs of their children suddenly at home all day. What happened to everyone’s schedule that centered around their students’ school hours? It was gone indefinitely and with it came a vacuum that appeared to threaten students’ ability to continue to learn and thrive in their respective grades.

The good news has been that veteran teachers and homeschool parents extended their expertise to friends and local communities via social media and news outlets to help out immediately during late March and early April. Thankfully other public centers of learning like science museums, educational websites, and celebrities such as children’s author Mo Willems offered virtual classes and online educational sessions free of charge to homebound students. Even at this writing, virtual story times are being offered by local libraries or by beloved public figures such as former First Lady Michele Obama. These lifelines help flustered parents who have had to balance work at home and are to log their children into these free programs available while waiting for their respective schools to initiate distance and online curriculums in a matter of days. The “virtual village” stepped up to help raise our children during an unprecedented pandemic on America’s soil.

Then came the next phase of the stay-at-the-home educational process with the schools catching up and launching their virtual learning processes. The methodology varied from state to state, district and towns with one uniting factor that students would continue the course of their students at home without the familiar surroundings of their classrooms and teachers. While this virus has the medical frontlines occupied, America’s households became ground zero for our children’s education.

Reneé Flowers, a veteran teacher at Tullahoma High School in Tennessee writes, “While this situation is crazy — I also love it for multiple reasons: 1) the parents are involved at a level that they may not have been before and they get to see exactly what their children know and don’t know, 2) the communication between home has become more important than ever, and 3) these circumstances illuminate the need for data-driven decisions for students on an individual level.” Additionally, federal programs like “No Child Left Behind” and “Common Core” were trying over the course of decades to address issues that in a matter of weeks have come to the forefront of many American homes in a way that parents and educators alike couldn’t have conceived.

For other education workers, they have realized that being removed from the busy school environment has helped free up their time to focus on their students, whether they’re teaching curriculum or serving mental-health needs. Some faculty members may also be finding that they can better balance their own household’s needs. All the while also attending to their students in their respective locations using technology platforms such as Zoom or Google hangouts and such. Leslie Sporré, a guidance counselor who works in the Connecticut school system, shares that she is finding that this stay-at-home time is helping her know her own children better: “My first grader can work for 45 minutes and, in teaching him at home, I can give him frequent movement breaks and outdoor time so he is the most efficient and actually excited to learn. With all of the family time and physical activity and breaks built in, he is thriving!”

Again, it is worth mentioning once more that we should take a collective look at the gaping holes that we also see in our educational system when it comes to the ability of some students to thrive while others barely survive. A colleague of mine teaches in the St. Lucie county district in Florida and is reporting that out of her 20 students, only 12 are actually logging on for her online class session every day. “My students are so little that they rely on help and guidance from an adult to be able to participate in online school…when I finally get the parents on the phone, they tell me all their drama, toxic chaos and excuses why they can’t help their own child.” For this teacher, this moment in our American educational history has exposed the direct connection that can exist between home life situations and educational success. Children may be sharing even more of what their fractured homes are like when able to finally speak with their teachers whom they miss very much during this time of separation due to the novel coronavirus.

My hope is that this COVID-19 Pandemic Pause of 2020 will help generate some data and academic results to help both educators and the families of our American students find out how we can better serve them in our public and private educational processes. I’m sure most Americans can agree that this crisis has helped generate an untold amount of gratitude toward all educators of students that have had their school experience up-ended temporarily.

Final Note: Congratulations to the class of 2020, you are graduating during an incredible time and whether you can see it now or not, you will be stronger for it in years to come.

R.V.S. Bean

www.ceoofthehome.net

My Multi-Schoolroom at Home, Sometimes Cluttered

United by Exhaustion: Divided by Dysfunction

Brief Reflection: South Florida

Day 30 of our self-isolation here at the Bean abode and although our household has been apart from everyone else physically in our Palm Beach County community, we feel as though we’re close to so many others given the collective circumstance we’re all experiencing during this COVID-19 global pandemic.

The first time I wrote on this subject of Covid-19 and most U.S.  students’ lives being drastically changed we were having a full moon here —last week we had another full moon, and so life continues for the planet even while it seems it’s in an uncomfortable stasis.

Looking Around

Based on what I read in the news and social media coupled with communication between family and friends, it seems we are all in a fog of recognition that a great deal of change to our behavior has occurred in most everyone’s lives in the last several weeks in our American Republic.

Our social media feeds include random posts of photos to help distract, memes for medicinal laughter, media links to help educate, invitations to gather virtually—and then sometimes, for some of us like myself, we end up turning off our phones and other electronic devices to just take a break from it all. 

Right Now: April 15, 2020

Wacky Wednesday…time to clean out the bathroom!

It’s Wednesday, “hump day”, the day that most workers during the week would herald as one to push on through and afterwards enjoy the “downhill” slide to the end of the work week.  Today Wednesday is the day that most parents and caregivers woke up and could hardly see straight or move their broken bodies to keep up with the frenetic pace that their little ones (or even teenage ones) began this day with–ah, to be young again.

As a homeschooling mother of three children: respectively aged 11, 9, and 5 years old, I would like to take a quick moment to tell you that if you are a parent/caregiver to any child(ren) during this time and are having to deal with having them home when usually they would be at school: You. Are. Amazing! Please, give yourself grace and hug them as much as you can every day.  This is a temporary period and there will come a day when the old routines will return.

Truly, there is no playbook for what is happening these past few weeks, and no matter if you have a background in education or have kids at home for your own curriculum or virtual school anyway— this collective arrangement is completely new to us all.  It’s an overwhelming, bittersweet blessing in some ways and we cannot judge each other for however we manage our homes over the matter.

It’s Tax Day too. Good thing there’s an extension for those who haven’t filed yet!

Trying to Look Ahead

No words…

Our nation is united in a state of suspended grief and continuous exhaustion.  We’re all trying to find our new normal after altering our habits.  It’s said that it takes humans about 30 days to break a habit and about 30 days to make new ones—so here we are.

Unfortunately, as the coronavirus fatigue wears on, our federal and state elected officials are having a challenging time with how to coordinate efforts to help our healthcare and first responder workers along with trying to balance the adverse effects on our economy as a whole.  

There is article after article citing the difficulties that American families are facing economically, mentally, and the long-term effects expected for our children.  How can we as parents/caregivers see straight some days as we collectively squint ahead on what our new normal routines will be going forward?

There is a feeling of helplessness that can take hold and yet thankfully we can take stock of our immediate surrounding as well as our greater community to see if there is anything we can do to help.  Obviously, staying put has been most helpful in areas trying to “flatten the curve” as we’ve all learned—but we need to be more active and there are ways we can do more with all the 21st century tools we have.

No Time for Politics and Yet It’s Time for Politics

Old girl learning new ways to work to help others…

For those of you reading that know me, I have worked for congressional Republicans on Capitol Hill in the past.  For my last paying job before I gave birth to my first child, I was honored to serve as a political appointee in the George W. Bush administration as a worker for Secretary Henry Paulson’s office.  Watching from afar the respective Obama and now Trump administrations has been a rollercoaster ride for folks like me who were once part of the inner-workings of our federal government.  

I’ve often defended both Democrats and Republicans in the various federal offices because I trust that many mean well for our nation, even if I don’t necessarily agree with their political stances.  Then there are moments like this Covid-19 global pandemic that serve to fleece all those in elected positions of power and reveal who among us are the compassionate leaders and who are the consistently inconsistent ones that voters need to re-examine closely should they run again.

Joe Biden is the presumptive nominee for the Democratic party in the run for President of the United States this year.  Both Senator Bernie Sanders and former President Barack Obama have come out publicly to endorse him in the past week or two (hard to keep up during coronavirus timeline).

I have made tentative predictions in the past when it comes to presidential elections and although they’ve not been popular ones with some of my Republican counterparts, they’ve stemmed from my assessment of where the American public seems to be emotionally.

Where are Americans now emotionally-speaking?  

94-year-old Granddad Bean, WWII mentality during Covid-19, walking daily while self-isolated…

We are united in fatigue.  We’re fatigued from the constant bickering between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration from the moment he was sworn in as President of the United States.  We’re fatigued from the media’s energies and tax-payers’ money spent on investigating hacking from foreign sources like Russia when it comes to how our 2016 presidential election played out.  We’re fatigued from the conspiracy theories that the Earth may actually be flat and that former President Bill Clinton had an active friendship with now-deceased Jeffrey Epstein.  Finally, 2019 closed with impeachment hearings and votes by the U.S. House of Representatives and a drawn-out affair in the Senate that yielded no true outcome in President Trump’s “impeachment”. All while Covid-19 had likely already reached our American shores and sickened many without knowing what it was.

If Joe Biden wins this upcoming fall over President Trump, it will be most likely attributed to how tired the American psyche is as a collective and particularly because of who Biden agrees to have surround him in governance beginning with his selection of a running mate—preferably a female for his Vice President selection.  While I grant that I’m biased as a woman myself, I don’t believe that women need to run the world entirely, rather that a balance in governance must be struck. 100 years ago, this August we’ll recognize when our federal government said women can vote (but that unfortunately didn’t include women of color). We need both men and women, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents…we need everyone to find a way to balance having constructive debates and at the same time keep our states and nation as a whole moving forward with productive compromises to thrive and grow as the United States of America.

Divided by Dysfunction

There’s no point in my writing about what we’ve all been witnessing as the Covid-19 crisis has unfolded in the last month or so here.  Most of us have had much more time to read, research, and simply watch press conferences daily from all sorts of sources.

My prayer and hope as a private citizen today is that we can overcome our division by dysfunction and continue to work toward a better future for our nation and to leave a legacy that our next generation can build on.

In the meantime, I wish good health to anyone reading or a safe recovery to anyone still battling this virus or any other illness for that matter.  May we all find ways to make the most of this bittersweet “Pause of 2020” due to the Covid-19 crisis and be able to move forward filled with hope for better days instead of fearing days ahead.

R.V.S. Bean

Busy hands make hearts happy…


Some of my past related blog shorts:

https://ceoofthehome.net/2020/03/10/the-true-corona-nightmare-what-if-youre-cooped-up-with-children-and-covid-19/

https://ceoofthehome.net/2016/11/01/united-we-vote-and-slump-clinton-or-trump/

https://ceoofthehome.net/2016/03/16/fog-lifting-america-may-be-ready-for-trump-or-not/

https://ceoofthehome.net/2013/07/15/the-education-revolution-perception-possibilities-and-parents-prerogative/

To All New At-Home with Schooling Parents/Caregivers: You are Amazing!

      

A Comical Meme: Author Unknown

Welcome to Friday of the first week of homeschool, online, virtual, or whatever new form of school you and your children just completed. This short blog piece is intended to congratulate and encourage you on your new journey as our American nation pulls together to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on those vulnerable in our population.

And, truly, I mean it when I say you’re amazing as this first week of alternative site schooling ends. We now have the rest of the school year to get through this “new normal”.

From a Homeschooling Veteran’s Perspective

When all this unprecedented school closures started occurring in my corner of the world here in south Florida, I felt the anxiety of all my friends and fellow parents/caregivers here and wanted to help with any weblinks or advice I could lend.  Last week is now a fuzzy memory of what our normal lives were as this week is like we’ve all stepped through Alice’s Looking Glass to a new dimension with the same characters but the landscape feels so different and otherworldly.

As this first week unfolded, I was impressed by the creativity of various parents/caregivers with setting up their school spaces versus their work-from-home spaces.  Some were able to carve out spaces from their living room or kitchen areas.  Others adopted the notion that where each student was comfortable worked well even if it meant sitting on their bed or in a cozy reading nook.

Also, I would like to thank many other moms who inspired my own program by sharing ideas of how to help others like having students write notes to those who are stuck in nursing homes without visitors or encouraging cards for the medics who are on the front lines of dealing with those suffering from the severe effects of COVID-19.

Even though I’m a mother who’s been doing the home- and multi-schooling thing for several years, I can get into habitual ruts and found this past week to be invigorating when reading about other households and how they approached this new world of blending school and work into the domestic home front. The comic relief shared between family and friends has also been a priceless and necessary help for our collective mental health.

Author Unknown: Favorite Meme of this 1st Week

Yes, Learning Can Be Messy

At risk of offering more unsolicited advice, I feel the need to tell parents and caregivers to not be too hard on yourself when you look around at the “school” area in your home and realize it’s devolved into a messy affair.  This may be mostly true for those who have elementary school and younger children in their midst.  However, it can also occur for those who are older and perhaps are having the opportunity to create and experiment in ways they were unable to in the conventional school setting.

Again, you’re doing great and perhaps having a mess is a nice visual to help us all honor our school janitorial staffs even more. Another inspiration for me this week was how many parents/caregivers started giving their children “life lessons” right away in how to help clean up in the home itself.  I will start applying some of those ideas in my own school area as I’m certainly not a good janitor.

As for the inevitable bickering that can occur between siblings, I’ve applied the same mantra to my own as maybe many of you have this week.  I remind my students that whether it’s their brother or sister is irrelevant, the conflicts they practice with them will come back again with their friends, future romantic relationships, work mates, and so on.  It helps to diffuse the current frivolity by presenting a vision of what the future holds for them one day.  Conflict resolution is a constant life skill that we can help our students recognize today.

Bean Homeschool Project Table

You Must Do What Works for Your Household

What’s truly new about this experience for many is that your children are now at home and not in the fold of the school building.  They’re now in your building.  The stress for everyone is at a level I’m not sure we can measure at this point.  Many others like myself would like to take this moment to say that you must do what works for your household.

If that means Spring Break starts this week, then so be it.  If that means your school meets on the living room couch, so be it.  If that means you let all your elementary school-aged kids out into the backyard for a few hours a day instead of sitting at a desk, by all means so be it. If that means no screens, great but if it means screens everywhere then so it shall be.

If there is anything I can share in terms of advice from my perspective as a homeschooling mother, it’s that having students at home means being flexible and ready to change the lesson plan and schedule as quickly as our kids have their growth spurts and mood swings.  We are receivers in a way and can only respond to help nurture and calm at times.  The school curriculum can wait if a snuggle or a rest period is in order.  

In short, you make the call on what works for your household and the students therein and no one is grading you but you.  Please give yourself grace. Remember that not only does it feel like your home is in a state of chaos, outside at the regular grocery store we see a surreal sight daily:

Publix Supermarket in Palm Beach County, Florida – March 16, 2020

We’re All in This Together

School districts and the various private schools have spent this week scrambling together their efforts to rewrite and create a new path forward for how they will decimate your students’ curriculum for the rest of this 2019-2020 school year.  We’ve all had to exercise patience under the most stressful of circumstances that our population has known, save that of the WWII generation.

In the meantime, it has been heartwarming to witness how parents and caregivers have pulled together to share ideas, information, and simply recognize what an incredible job school teachers and faculty have every day under normal circumstances.  I appreciate the sharing of ideas through social media of how to help others, online school and learning ideas, and groups with chats online to help parents and teachers alike.  Thank you all for what you’re doing to help not just those new to the homeschooling/virtual schooling arena, but also assisting us homeschool veterans.

In these abnormal circumstances, may we continue to remember that we’re all in this together. 

It’s also more important than ever to share with each other if anyone is struggling and needs financial assistance, help with new ideas for homebound activities, and just commiserating with sharing photos of our respective cups of tea or glasses of wine to celebrate the end of each week:

Whether it’s water, coffee, tea, smoothie, a glass of wine, or G&T
-do celebrate the end of each week!

I cannot applaud everyone enough as you navigate what works for you and your household as you figure out what facilitates your children’s learning at home—especially for those of you who must also delicately balance having to work from home, still leave home for work, or in some cases having just lost your paying job.  

Good strength to us all.

R.V.S.Bean

Some Random Links to Share:

http://www.marinelife.org

Another helpful article

https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2010/12/12/stress-and-the-high-school-student/the-home-school-advantage

The True Corona Nightmare: What If You’re Cooped Up with Children and COVID-19?

IMG_1141
“Worm” Full Moon in South Florida March 9, 2020

March 13, 2020

COVID-19 Quarantine: What If?

As the World Health Organization deliberated earlier this week on whether to upgrade COVID-19 from an epidemic to pandemic, I sensed another collective wave of anxiety rising in parents and caregivers throughout the United States: What if I have to quarantine myself and my children? What if my job forces me to stay home at the same time my children’s school (or glorified daycare) shuts down and moves to an online format? What if I must be a “stay-at-home” with no end in sight?

Hope and Experience Reigns

Having personally logged more than a decade’s worth of “homemaker” status experience complete with a full range of infant/pediatric care for three children and geriatric home care for octogenarians/nonagenarians, I feel this is a good time for me to share with the online community some quick tips of how to survive and thrive in a possible quarantine situation with little or big ones at home.  My tone is intended to offer hope and inspiration for ideas should you find yourself stuck at home with children.

Being a teacher-caregiver with three home/multi-schooled children, I’d also like to add some levity to the topic by dispensing my humble tidbits with an acronym description for COVID-19 using CORONA as the base word.  At the end of each vignette I’ll try to provide some weblinks when able to help you research your own home plan of action. Thankfully Google and other search engines like talking with your family and friends still exist to help you brainstorm your respective paths.

C is for Correspondence Courses, Creativity, and Calming Continuity

IMG_7929
Materials from http://www.mothergoosetime.com

The good news is that in 2020 most Americans have access to a wealth of resources both online and in print at home when it comes to helping educate students of all ages.  If your children are enrolled in a traditional “brick and mortar” school, chances are your school district or the institution will also provide links and virtual options should you be in a self- or mandated quarantine scenario.

Take this opportunity to declutter and disinfect your home dwelling, in the process carving out an area for your students to conduct their studies.  Comfortable and clear options for seating help your children find a cozy place to read, write, and create new ideas in your home abode.  If you own books, consider congregating them in one room or area.  One of my favorite places as a child was that space made in the children’s area of the public library that silently invited children to come and have a seat and open up the physical possibilities in a book, magazine, or today a “tippity-tapping” or swiping of the screen.

A few of my personal favorite websites to consider using for both digital and print educational materials: www.education.com, www.teacherspayteachers.com, www.ctcmath.com, www.ancient.eu, www.welltrainedmind.com, www.loc.gov, www.congress.gov, www.kumonbooks.com, http://www.scholeacademy.com

O is for Opportunity, Order, and Operations Management

IMG_1025
Found on Facebook, meme author unknown

While staying at home is not for the feeble of spirit or faint of organized, there isn’t any true template of what the order of things should look like in your space.  If recent political news is of any sobering indication, it’s that we Americans say we want change and yet are slow to accept changes in how we accept stereotypical roles.  We say we want more racial, gender, and age diversity in positions of government power and yet the U.S. Presidential field is now down to the likes of Senator Bernie Sanders and former V.P. Joe Biden to face President Trump in the fall elections.  This slowness to adapt change is especially true when running a household with children.

Somewhere along the line in our social evolution following the Industrial Age, the onus fell on the woman of the household to be responsible for the cooking, cleaning, and all other chores regulated to the “homemaker”.  When facilitating the education of your children at home, your workload more than triples because it is a full-time job alone to help students with their school studies—let alone teach them yourself.

IMG_1128
Motherhood is messy with little helpers sometimes, but tasty!

If delegation is king in the outside working world, then it is most imperative at home.  I recommend devising a list on a visible chart for the household to see helping divest the household chores that needed to keep everyone clean, healthy, well-fed, and in turn happy.  If you have been managing the home without much help from your dependents, consider the opportunity to alleviate those daily stresses and help foster more responsibility in your children.

In my home, the older children have certain nights they are assigned planning the dinner menu and must fold their own laundry (at age 10 you get your own hamper and clean your clothes too!).  Lunchtime is their own responsibility, however, I do provide choices that within their respective age-appropriate ability. For instance, an 8-year-old can reach the sliced bread to apply both peanut butter and jelly for their sandwich.

There are numerous resources online for tips or printables for devising a list of responsibilities for your household. Consider reading books to the younger ones that cover taking care of the home or cooking.  For the older kids, be honest and discuss what your concerns/needs are and what are they able to consider doing to be a beneficial working part of the household.  Again, consider finding a template list that works for you as guidance, one of my favorites: https://livingmontessorinow.com/montessori-monday-age-appropriate-chores-for-children-free-printables/

R is for Rest, Reset, and Review What’s Really Important

fullsizerender-19-2
Personal back portrait from days gone by

The old writings in various cultures and in my personal reading of Christian scriptures often repeat the adage that when faced with an unexpected circumstance in life that could be deemed unfortunate, there is good that can come out of it eventually if not immediately.

So, you’re suddenly stuck at home with children and your job whether it was inside or outside of the home. This combination can be depression-inducing or at the very least aggravating.  Also consider that your children are having a difficult time with this unforeseen set of events.  More often than not, your children will absorb and in turn react to however you’re feeling and acting in this situation.  Your default reaction may be either free-fall into this experience without much organization or swing to the other extreme of trying to exact complete control over every minute of the day with your children—both of these extremes can produce unsavory results.

I mention “rest” and “reset” in this section because for many of you, this may be how you try to approach the school break times in your children’s year.  If the summer is their big vacation time, the first few weeks are a decompression time for your students before settling into a new routine.  If this concept is foreign to you, again, there is no true template for you and your children but consider this to be a time to review what’s truly important.

Not unlike adults, children and teenagers need routine to help them grow and flourish.  They also need rest and reflection within that daily construct.  Being at home for extended hours every day may be something your entire household is not used to with jobs, school, extra-curriculars and the like.  Remember that the opportunities to learn are not regulated to your students, you have a chance to learn alongside them and realize what amazing souls reside in your children when not stressed about running from schools to practices in traffic every day.

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Lakeside park in North Palm Beach

O is for the Outdoors

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Trail in Signal Mountain, Tennessee

The fact that I may have to consider lecturing anyone on the importance of the outdoors for both children and adults is disturbing.  Yet many Americans have simply lost touch (physically especially) with the outdoors and what raw nature can teach us.  No amount of screen time with educational applications can replace what the interaction of the human and Earth can yield in terms of creativity, philosophical reflection, botanical and zoological education, and an overall appreciation for the organic mechanizations that make our daily life on this planet possible.

As mentioned before, there are countless digital and print ideas for how to approach “field trips” outside with your children.  You may be able to simple open your back or front door to investigate.  For avid readers, consider downloading or checking out from your local library the following book: “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv.

Our household is blessed with a backyard that’s allowed me the freedom to create planters with herbs, fruits, and vegetables with my children.  I’ve also allowed them a space in the yard to literally dig into the dirt and create and recreate their own worlds, complete with a hose running water through it.

My children’s world they named”Tai-rang”

Although this may overwhelm anyone with germaphobe tendencies, there is a lot of scientific research still coming in that points to the benefits of us interacting with nature, i.e. playing in the mud.  What good is teaching our children about the environment in schools if they don’t have the opportunity to physically walk, run, and play in it?  You never know, the extra time taken to go outside with your child this week may help inspire them to find a calling in a profession that would help the environment in the future.

www.nps.gov, www.stateparks.org, www.arborday.org, www.nationalgeographic.com

N is for Nesting, Neighbors, Not Saying “No” So Much, and News

 We usually think of “nesting” as a term reserved for the woman swelling with expectancy of her child’s birth.  In the case of a quarantine situation, it may be the first time you’ve had an extended period to sit in one place and really assess what does your home look like?  I personally went through a phase years ago where I researched “feng shui” for ideas on how to work with what I had in our home: https://www.thespruce.com/easy-steps-to-feng-shui-living-room-1274493

Neighbors: remember them?  Maybe you have great relationships with the people immediately to your right and left—or maybe not.  This may also be a season of learning who and what are in your local community and how you may be of help to each other during a possible COVID-19 outbreak in your area.

When dealing with circumstances beyond our control, we often resort to trying to control what we can.  If you’re a parent you also know that being at home with your children often involves many questions an hour and therefore innumerable ways to say “no”.  The trap for us becomes evident when we’re trying to exert more control in our home life and start replying in the negative more often than actually necessary.  Again, if you need more ideas as to how to respond more positively, there are many articles and blog entries online covering the subject or ask your local tribe of family and friends what their strategies are in communications with their children.

News may be a tap or a click away for most Americans, but when you’re stuck in the house this medium can get old very quickly.  It so happens that many publications still provide subscription materials at home these days.  In my home we have a 94-year-old and children under the age of 10 who especially benefit from the print medium.  Perhaps call your local paper or check in with your favorite magazine sources to see if you can enact a short-term subscription to have the publication(s) delivered to your door.

A is for Art Therapy, Appreciation, Adventure, and Amazon

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R.V.S.B. original art, acrylic on canvas, circa 2002

If you are a parent or caregiver of little ones then you know their affinity for drawing and coloring.  As an educator, I’ve noticed that the older children get it seems the less likely they are to participate in the visual arts unless they’re taught.  While I understand this may be subject matter out of your league, try to open your mind to the possibility that participating alongside your student in an artistic endeavor may benefit you too.

A time of quarantine at home with children may seem as inviting as hunkering down in a hurricane with them (I’ve been there too), but I focus on looking at the bright side for both parties to better appreciate each other.  This may be the first time you really get to pause and read through what coursework your children are doing at school and understand why they may be so detached and cranky at the end of a stressful school day.  In turn, your children may learn more about what you actually do at work during the day and how those responsibilities can drain you to the point of having a short-fuse temper if they make a mess on the floor when they’re home with you after school.

At risk of being redundant, adventure lies in the unexpected and a quarantine may afford the only “pause” time in your relationship with your children to seek out a new way of looking at things together.  If nothing else, this time together helps demonstrate to our children that life is filled with unplanned occasions where we simply need to press forward and make a positive outcome of it.

Amazon: need I say more?  At this time, we have the opportunity to have things delivered to our door via humans.  If they get short-staffed due to COVID-19, then the drone technology will likely get some quick updates.

Corona Closing

While we can all debate ad nauseum about novel this virus concern is, we are finding that government authorities around the world are taking unique measures that we’ve not seen since the likes of America’s travel security aftermath in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  As a home caregiver and educator, I’d like to impart the idea that staying at home with your children may be a life-changing opportunity offered during this temporary season. Although you wouldn’t have planned it this way, it may be priceless in its yields for both of your futures as parent and child.

R.V.S.Bean

About the Author: Current caregiver and education administrator at home and MBA candidate at University of Florida’s Warrington School of Business, her past life prior to children included work as a political appointee worker for President G.W. Bush at the U.S. Treasury Department, Legislative Aide for former Congressman Mark A. Foley, and reading teacher at Bannockburn Elementary in Illinois.

My Humble Reply to Miss Greta Thunberg: Who is Responsible for Climate Stewardship?

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September 25, 2019

Quick Answer: Everyone.  Literally, everyone on this planet.  If we’re to scold anyone when it comes to how we humans have conducted ourselves in relationship to our Earth, then we’d have to do it toward ourselves and every household, nomadic tent city, unique compound, homeless camp or any other type of setup that we homo sapiens respectively keep our residence.  Please make no mistake in understanding the state of our world’s climate; this planet will be able to continue with or without us.  Truly, it’s a matter of what we’re comfortable with and able to accept based on our lifestyles as we know it here in the 21st century.

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Long Answer: The following is my succinct personal story in recent days of trying to love the Earth, fight for a new mindset on a bipartisan basis, and coming to raw terms of reality especially when it comes to environmental politics.

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It’s been nearly a week since I traveled to Washington, D.C. for the second time this month.  The first time was to attend the Bush-Cheney administration reunion held for those who served in various agencies and roles back during those years—it was surreal to be in the company with those whom, along with myself (I was a political appointee in Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s office), had given of our time and talents to serve an administration during what already has been documented as a historically poignant time in our country’s history.  We were able to share an audience with former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney as they reflected on those years and shared encouraging antidotes for the present time.  I personally took a time-out after serving the administration to give birth to our first child, followed by a few more pregnancies that sum totaled in three wonderful children while also helping elderly in the home we’ve had the blessing to live in south Florida for the past decade.

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My second D.C. visit came by way of invitation to attend the Environmental Defense Fund’s Fly-In last week and to take the opportunity to visit with offices of Florida’s congressional delegation to share my heartfelt inclinations about the importance of pursuing legislative goals of environmental solutions for our state as well as nationwide.  Ironically, as I traversed Capitol Hill on foot last Thursday with a few of my like-minded colleagues, our U.S. Congress was also receiving the most recent public comments from Miss Greta Thunberg of Sweden.  While I carried copies of my children’s illustrations and short comments about our stewardship of the Earth to my state’s various congressional offices, Miss Thunberg was testifying that our nation was doing little to nothing to help assuage the seemingly accelerating effects of our contribution to our planet’s climatic cycle. In the past couple days, Miss Thunberg also addressed the United Nations in New York City by repeatedly saying “how dare you” in regards to the idea that this global governing body entity looks to the youth for hope and yet fails in action.

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Rewind to earlier this year: I took the time out to track our household’s trash habits for a couple of weeks.  This included taking note of the packaging that we deal with when purchasing goods and how we dispose of those items as well as pre-existing goods in the home.  The results of this personal audit almost sent me into a full-fledged depression swing similar to the post-partum blues I had experienced in varying degrees with each of my children born.  It was embarrassing to recognize just how much waste we deal with in this home and although we try to diligently sort our trash into as much recycling as we can—then we’re faced with the dirty secret in most of our nation’s municipalities that much of our recycling isn’t actually recycled, rendering this conscientious ritual of sorting our garbage in the house a moot matter.

My personal trash inventory and revelation, along with a shared vision with friends, gave me the inspiration to seek more avenues to help effect change in my city and county in the interest of cleaning up our act when it came to household habits and waste processing.  It also highlighted to me that it is a harsh reality to face our personal habits when it comes to how we travel, purchase and process goods, dispose of our trash, and use our resources like water and energy sources.  It is this message I believe that needs to be conveyed to the world’s microphone so to speak.  Although as a mother and educator I wholeheartedly support the notion of a 16-year-old having global attention when it comes to helping influence change in funding, legislation, and other environmental mandates needed to assist a “clean-up” of our habits, I dislike our collective avoidance of the real problem we face in terms of our interaction with our planet’s climatic cycles: ourselves.

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There is so much more to write on this subject today, probably redundant in nature given how much has already been written and shared in digital spaces such as the Twitter social media platform.  If there is anything I desire to share and encourage in this discussion regarding our climate stewardship going forward, it would be that the most effective course of action would be to cease finger-pointing to entities such as governing bodies and business corporations.  If we have any hope of dramatically changing our habits, we must take personal responsibility and ask ourselves if we’re willing to re-think how we transport ourselves, purchase and utilize goods, sort our garbage, and overall make those hourly decisions to make a difference in our human footprint on Earth.

R.V.S.Bean

“We are given substance, nurtured, and sustained by family. Kinship goes beyond family and is the connection we feel to the world at large and everything in it.  Given the concept of family, it isn’t difficult to understand the idea of kinship with other forms of life—everything was of the Earth. We all came from it one way or another and returned to it when life was over. These were the unalterable realities that connected us to everything around us.”–Joseph M. Marshall III, The Lakota Way

Some favorite sources:

www.edf.org

https://www.wsj.com/articles/saint-greta-spreads-the-climate-gospel-11568989306

www.marinelife.org

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/24/how-greta-thunbergs-rise-could-backfire-on-environmentalists.html

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Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"