With most schools partially open or following a hybrid schedule parents are now the ones who have to guide their children throughout their academics, which is a lot of added responsibility in the midst of an already anxiety-ridden pandemic. Luckily, if you're having difficulty keeping your kids on task and engaged with their work, there are some strategies straight from teachers that can help make virtual schooling easier for them.
Establish a Schedule
If your child's teacher has not already provided one, DeDe Alexander, an elementary school Spanish immersion teacher, says that creating a schedule can help kids stay on track. "Kids like a routine even if you aren't a routine person," she says, explaining that schedules are especially great if you want your child to work more independently. Plus, this takes some of the stress off of you by setting a specific structure for your kids to follow.
For those with multiple children at home, Ms. Alexander says you can also try breaking up your kids' days by class, so that everyone is working on the same subject at once (math, history, science, etc). This will help you stay in the know, and you can even add fun breaks and rewards for additional incentive, especially if your child is feeling unmotivated.
Let Your Child Explore
Although it can be tempting to step in whenever your child has a question, Kirsten Tobin, a third-grade teacher from Arizona, says that sometimes it's better to give young students a moment to work the problem out themselves. "Kids learn best by exploring," she says. "It might take them a bit longer, but chances are they will figure it out without direct parental interference."
The other great thing about encouraging your kids to try things themselves is establishing that you're not going to do everything for them (which would be exhausting). If they're still having difficulty with the material after a few honest tries, that's when you can get more involved.
Repeat After Me
If after trying their hardest your child is still struggling with an assignment, Ms. Alexander suggests doing a practice problem together and then having your child repeat it by themselves afterwards. This helps them engage with what they're learning and these kinds of exercises can also help you identify the places where your child is getting stuck. Once they've successfully completed the problem on their own, they can then move on and try other problems without as much assistance.
Do Some Check-Ins
When it comes to online learning, Ms. Tobin says that it's a good idea to schedule check-ins halfway through the week, so that your child doesn't accidentally fall behind and have to cram last minute. She says these check-ins can also be "a great opportunity to talk to kids about procrastination and advocating for themselves when they feel stuck."
Ms. Alexander agrees, saying, "Very rarely do you have a kid who's going to be able to do this on their own without check-ins." This is another way to encourage your child to do their own work, while still keeping them focused and teaching them the skills they'll actually need for their next year of schooling.
Be Real About Managing Stress
In these chaotic times, parents and kids alike are dealing with a lot of stress, but emphasizing that your child is not alone can help them feel better about any obstacles they may encounter during online schooling. In fact, it could even be a good mantra to repeat to yourself when you start to feel overwhelmed. Ms. Tobin and Ms. Alexander also stress that teachers are great partners to turn to if your family needs extra support. After all, sometimes the best thing you can do for your child is to just take a deep breath yourself.
Try to Keep Up With the Texts and Emails
Should you ever feel completely lost about what your child is supposed to be doing, Ms. Alexander suggests double checking the texts and emails sent from school faculty. It can be a pain, but for quick clarification and information about assignments, this kind of communication can be useful.
Texts and emails from your child's teacher may also contain details about any special programs or software that the class has been using, since you may not be familiar with everything yourself. After that, the only hard part will be getting your child to remember their username and password.
Have Them Read Their Writing Aloud
For reading and writing assignments, Ms. Alexander says that having your children read aloud to you can help them edit their work and become stronger writers. This is also a great chance for you to hear what their reading and writing skills sound like, and they'll be so excited to get to share their work with an attentive audience. Try this at night time or whenever you like to read together to help your kids feel proud of what they've accomplished.
Remember You Both Can Do This
At the end of the day, most assignments should still be doable, even from a virtual classroom. If your child is consistently struggling with the material, or you're having to intervene an excessive amount, it's a good idea to turn to the professionals. And if motivation is the bigger issue, here's a list of ways to motivate your child at home.
Most importantly, know that your family is not alone in all the recent schooling confusion, and that there are plenty of resources available if you need them. According to Ms. Tobin, the best lesson kids could learn right now is how to roll with the punches. "I'd take this as an opportunity to watch my kid develop some grit, teach them some strategies for managing stress, and let it all ride out," she says. And that's something everyone should take notes on.
The podcast universe was having a relatively quiet start to the year before, well, the coronavirus threw everything into a tizzy. Before then, the one ambiguous head-turner was a viral standalone episode from an already popular podcast about a song that may or may not exist. Since then, after the lockdowns started kicking in, a good deal of podcast output reorganized itself around that reality — there were a great many podcasts about, inspired, or catalyzed by COVID-19, and then there was everyone else, who had to figure out how to push through and get by somehow.
Now, it feels like podcasting is leveling back out a bit, even as the actual pandemic is far from resolved. For now, though, let’s take a look at some of the year’s best podcasts that have come out so far across this strange and harrowing time.
Articles of Interest season 2
Avery Trufelman’s deep dive into fashion returns, and her trademark genuinely loving but interrogative approach has never been sharper. This season trains its focus on objects of luxury — perfume, high fashion, diamonds, suits — subjects that sit squarely within the force that seems to most drive Trufelman’s critical eye: the tension between beauty and capitalism. The episodes are fun, curious, and filled with fascinating detail, but they also carry the burden of a melancholic question: how do you love something that can be hard to love?
The Cam Chronicles (The Ringer)
A sports documentary that’s well worth your time. Cam Newton, the former Carolina Panther quarterback and newly minted Patriot, is an almost mythologically interesting star athlete. He’s prodigiously talented, but has never won a championship. He aspires to be an icon, but repeatedly courts controversy. The Cam Chronicles is a shrewd and empathetic account of Newton’s legend, closely tracking the QB’s journey from his Atlanta roots to his murky present, ultimately telling a story about the burdens of being an intensely public, wealthy, and prominent Black athlete in America. The series is also noteworthy for the talents of its host, Tyler R. Tynes, who breathes electric life into the work of narration. Energetic, opinionated, funny, and free, Tynes’ approach offers an appealing window into what podcast narration can, and should, be.
Around the turn of the millennium, Connor Ratliff was cast on the critically acclaimed HBO drama Band of Brothers. It was a small role, but for a working actor, all roles are valuable. But before Ratliff could make it to the set, he was called back to re-audition for Tom Hanks, who was an executive producer on the project. He ended up losing the part — later, he would be told Hanks thought he had “dead eyes.” Decades later, Ratliff would create a podcast about the experience. He had pulled together a decent performing career by then, and in the podcast, which he calls Dead Eyes, he sets out to revisit, unpack, and explore that early-career incident, which had left a big impression. The podcast is fascinating and excellent, essentially functioning as a vessel that explores the emotional experience of building a life in show business. Part interview show, part memoir, Dead Eyes is an innovative take on a familiar genre.
Written and hosted by Vann R. Newkirk II, The Atlantic’s revisiting of Hurricane Katrina and the botched federal response that followed is a genuinely illuminating piece that holds extra weight and resonance in the current pandemic context. Beautifully written, deeply reported, and further elevated by outstanding music and sound design, Floodlines is the best audio documentary to come out this year so far, hands down. It can be a really hard time for many to pick up this particular story, but it remains a worthwhile exercise, if one is able, to stare into the abyss, as it can serve as a guide for what’s to come.
When life gives you lemons (or pandemic-induced quarantine), make lemonade (or a podcast about quarantine cooking). Life under lockdown has predictably inspired a considerable number of new COVID-19-related podcasts. Many are news-oriented, dedicated to keeping you up to date on the latest developments. Some, meanwhile, are more unexpected … and perhaps, more welcome. One of the finest from this latter batch is Home Cooking, a quarantine-cooking advice show hosted by Samin Nosrat, the chef and famed food writer, and Hrishikesh Hirway, indie-podcast-producer extraordinaire. Breezy, playful, and rich with puns, Home Cooking is a delightful companion to figure out the puzzle of your pantry. It’s really short, though, playing out across four hour-long episodes that wrapped up in early May, but it’s jammed packed with genuinely helpful tips and ideas that are evergreen.
My Year in Mensa (Independent)
Let’s say you have an exclusive, insular, and somewhat known group whose membership is defined by “unnatural intelligence.” What would you expect from the group’s internal social dynamics? From the way it views itself? You’ll get those answers from My Year in Mensa, an endlessly fascinating four-part podcast from comedian and writer Jamie Loftus. A semi-adaptation of a sporadic column series, Loftus uses the podcast to recount her year-long experience successfully gaining admission into Mensa, the largest “High IQ society” in the world, and skeptically moving through the community. What results is a vibrant critique of what can be described as “intellectual supremacy,” and the kinds of thinking that can foster. “My Year In Mensa” is ultimately an unsettling story, but it’s told in such a gloriously bold, funny and personal way that you just can't forget.
Oh, Hello: The P’dcast
Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland continue to be at large. Nick Kroll and John Mulaney’s geriatric testaments to failed New York creative ambition reached true heights with its Broadway iteration a few years ago, which was also distributed as a Netflix special. Now, under quarantine, they’ve reprised the characters for a new podcast that gives you basically everything you’d want from the act: mis-emphasized pronunciations, delusions of grandeur, dense rapid-fire joke delivery, tuna — and then some. It’s exponentially more enjoyable for podcast fans, since, as with the Broadway show, the duo mischievously plays with some of the medium’s most common tropes.
Planet Money has many distinctions: arguably the first “true” NPR podcast, longtime stalwart of accessible stories about complex economies, a truly sustainable operation that’s been able to maintain a consistently high quality level even as its actual stable of talent has changed over the years. It also has fascinating roots, originally coming into being off a joint This American Life–NPR reporting venture that covered the 2008 economic crisis. These days, of course, we found ourselves in the depths of another economic calamity — quite possibly the worst ever experienced by this country. And Planet Money has stepped up to cover this new crisis with reliable gusto, in result producing some of the best work that the show’s ever done, almost twelve years into its existence.
Reply All’s “The Case of the Missing Hit”
Obsession runs rampant in this instantly legendary episode of Reply All, already a show with quite a few of them. In “The Case of the Missing Hit,” the team is contacted by a filmmaker looking for help to track down a song that may or may not exist. That song is thought to be a distinct artifact of the late ’90s and early 2000s, a sugary mix of U2 and the Barenaked Ladies, but it simply couldn’t be found in the infinite repositories of the internet. What transpires is a glorious and unexpectedly thrilling caper, one that brings listeners along a wild ride as the filmmaker, supported by Reply All co-host P.J. Vogt, tries their very best to figure out the truth behind the spectral single … all as the song turns into an earworm that deepens its hold in their brains.
Staying In With Emily and Kumail
Staying In is kind of a classic hangout podcast, albeit one with added gravity given how we’re all mostly forced to keep indoors as much as possible under quarantine conditions. All that said, Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani are lovely hangs, and the podcast is a pure pleasure. As they note at the outset, Gordon and Nanjiani are no strangers to isolation, or the feeling of being trapped and helpless. You might know this already if you’ve seen The Big Sick, the semi-autobiographical 2017 film that the couple wrote and Nanjiani starred in, which is in part based on Gordon’s experience with a rare disease that nearly killed her and left her immunocompromised. The situation is such that they’ve occasionally had to self-isolate for her health, even before all this. All that background is baked into the feel of Staying In, which comes with a relaxed semi-diaristic quality — there’s a lot of processing in real time — that’s reminiscent of older styles of podcasting. Indeed, it’s actually a return to podcast form for Gordon and Nanjiani, as the two had previously hosted a video game–ish podcast called The Indoor Kids. Some things have carried over. Like The Indoor Kids, Staying In is charming and funny, and it’s reminds us that we’re all in this together.
By the time mid-summer rolls around, us gardeners are looking to enjoy the fruits of our labors. We put in those long hours in early spring to prep, shop, and plant, and now it’s time to kick back and enjoy the season. The veggie patch yield is increasing daily, containers of annuals are established and thriving, and the perennial garden is… well, yikes, it looks kind of tired and needs some help!
With hot, harsh sunlight and dry conditions, mid- to late summer can be tough on our gardens. Many plants suffer from heat stress and struggle without adequate moisture. To avoid the late season, colorless doldrums, choose from our list of the best perennials to add vibrant shades to the late summer garden. Many of these plants are North American natives, and others come from around globe – but all seem to flourish when the heat is on!
ANISE HYSSOP (AGASTACHEFOENICULUM) Anise hyssop, also known as butterfly mint, is a fragrant perennial with upright flower spikes that bloom from June to September. Traditional varieties have blue, lavender, or purple blooms, but new ones include bold colors such as orange and red. Native to the plains and prairies of North America, anise hyssop is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9. As a perennial, it spreads by rhizomes, and in colder climates it can be grown as a self-seeding annual. It grows easily in soil of average fertility, full sun, and medium to dry moisture conditions. Drought tolerant once established, it’s also deer and rabbit resistant – but very attractive to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. You can use cut flowers in fresh and dried arrangements, and the plants make attractive additions to beds and borders, butterfly, herb, and cottage gardens, or in naturalized settings like meadows or wildflower gardens.
AUTUMN JOY STONECROP (HYLOTELEPHIUM ‘HERBSTFREUDE’/SEDUM SPECTABILE ‘AUTUMN JOY’) Blooming from August to October, ‘Autumn Joy’ stonecrop is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial with large, flat heads of tiny, rosy red flowers. Upright stems grow 18 inches to 2 feet tall with succulent, fleshy leaves. Buds first appear pink, change to red as they open, and finally turn a coppery shade as they die. Stonecrop are drought-tolerant natives to Asia, Europe, and North America, hardy in Zones 3-8, and get their name from their habit of growing in stony ledges and rocky outcrops. ‘Autumn Joy’ prefers soil of average to poor fertility, dry to medium moisture, excellent drainage, and full sun. Attractive to bees and butterflies, ‘Autumn Joy’ can be used in the front of beds and borders, grown in alpine or rock gardens, planted en masse, or grown in containers. Left in place, they also add interest to fall and winter gardens.
BALLOON FLOWER (PLATYCODON GRANDIFLORUS) Balloon flower is an eye-catching, clump-forming perennial that gives a cheerful display of color to the late summer garden. Mature clumps grow from 1 to 2.5 feet tall, and young buds swell like balloons before bursting into bell-shaped flowers. Eye-catching in shades of blue, pale pink, and white, they flower from June to August. A native to the slopes and meadows of East Asia, balloon flower is hardy in Zones 3-8 and enjoys a full to partial sun location. Aside from average soil and medium moisture requirements, it’s largely self-sufficient and requires little maintenance. Balloon flower also makes addition to the cutting garden, and it’s deer resistant as well. Use it to best effect in borders, containers, edging, and rockeries.
BEE BALM (MONARDA DIDYMA) Bee balm, or wild bergamot, is a tall, attractive perennial with whorls of tubular flowers that add a bold punch of color to the late summer garden. Fragrant plants grow 2 to 4 feet tall with sassy, mop-top blossoms in colors of burgundy, lavender, pink, red, and white that bloom in July and August. Hardy in Zones 3-9, it’s endemic to moist bottomlands, woods, and streambanks of eastern North America. Bee balm prefers humus-rich, well-draining soil with medium to wet moisture levels in a full to partial sun location. Deer and rabbit resistant, it’s attractive to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Striking when massed in drifts, plant in borders, cottage and rain gardens, and in naturalized plantings.
BLACK-EYED SUSAN (RUDBECKIA HIRTA) Black-eyed Susan is a cheerful wildflower renowned for its showy, daisy-like flowers in shades of orange, red, or sunshine yellow. Floret petals are anchored with a chocolate-brown center disk, and flowers bloom from June to September. Indigenous to central and eastern North America, black-eyed Susans grow best in well-draining or sandy soil enriched with organic compost, medium moisture levels, and a full sun location. Drought resistant once established, they’re hardy in Zones 3-7 and grow from 1 to 3 feet tall. Perfect for the cutting garden, they’re deer resistant, attractive to butterflies, and small songbirds enjoy the seeds in fall. Use their bright color to best effect in beds and borders, cottage or wildflower gardens, large containers, or in mass plantings.
BLUE CARDINAL FLOWER (LOBELIA SIPHILITICA) Blue cardinal flower is a clump-forming, herbaceous perennial with stiff, unbranched stems 2 to 3 feet in height. The stems are topped with terminal racemes of tubular flowers in shades of light to dark blue that bloom from July to September. Native to moist low meadows, woodlands, and stream and spring banks of central and eastern North America, it’s hardy in Zones 4-9. It requires a full sun to part shade site, humus-rich soil, and medium to wet moisture conditions. Deer resistant, blue cardinal flower is well-suited to beds and borders, rain gardens, perennial beds, native and woodland settings, and moist areas, like beside ponds or streams.
CHRYSANTHEMUM (CHRYSANTHEMUM) For reliable late season performance, chrysanthemums are available in a huge selection of colors, forms, and sizes. Blooming from August to November, flowers have ray florets, with numerous cultivars bred for multiple rows of florets in different shapes – from tubular to fringed. Colors are almost unlimited and come in shades of lavender, orange, red, white, and yellow. A native of China, this herbaceous perennial has been cultivated for millennia. It grows best in fertile, humus-rich and well-draining soil, with consistent moisture and full sun exposure. Hardy in Zones 5-9, mums appreciate a winter mulch in colder regions. Chrysanthemums attract butterflies, and are deer and rabbit resistant. They are most effective in mass plantings, at the front of mixed and perennial beds and borders, and in containers or windowboxes.
DAHLIA (DAHLIA) Dahlias are tuberous rooted perennials with a large variety of colors, shapes, and sizes ranging from 1 to 6 feet tall. They flower from July to September. The pinwheel-shaped blossoms are categorized into 10 different groups to distinguish among the many flower types, such as cactus, decorative, pompon, and waterlily. Sizes vary greatly as well, from compact patio cultivars to ones with huge, dinner-plate-sized blooms. Native to Mexico and Central America, dahlias are hardy in Zones 8-11. In colder regions, the tubers need to be dug up in the fall and stored, then planted in the spring and grown as annuals. Dahlias enjoy full sun with some afternoon shade in hot regions. Plant in well-draining, compost-rich soil, with a medium moisture level. Dahlias make an outstanding option for cut arrangements, and are well-suited for beds, borders, containers, and window boxes.
ECHINACEA / CONEFLOWER (ECHINACEA PURPUREA)Echinacea, also called coneflower, is a clump-forming perennial with purple, daisy-like flowers that put on a showy display from June to September. It grows 2 to 5 feet tall and reblooms readily, with blossoms forming on stiff, multi-branched stems clad with broad, dark green leaves. Indigenous to eastern North America, echinacea is hardy in Zones 3-9 and easily grown in well-draining soil of average fertility, dry to medium moisture, and a full to part sun location. However, this plant is wonderfully adaptable and tolerant of harsh conditions, including drought, heat, humidity, and poor soil. Echinacea is a good choice for freshly cut or dried flowers. Deer and rabbit resistant, it’s also attractive to butterflies and other beneficial creepy-crawlies, and migrating songbirds will visit seedheads in fall and winter. It makes an attractive addition in mixed and perennial beds and borders as well as native or naturalized areas, and is stunning when planted in masses with yellow black-eyed Susans.
HELENIUM (HELENIUM AUTUMNALE)If it’s vibrant, warm colors you want, helenium produces masses of daisy-like blooms in rich shades of orange, red, and yellow. Sun lovers, these erect, clump-forming plants that are also known as sneezeweed grow 3 to 4 feet tall, adding terrific interest from August to October. Native to Central and North America, helenium grows best in soil of average fertility amended with organic material, medium to wet moisture, and full sun. Hardy in Zones 3-8, it is intolerant of dry soils. It also benefits from being cut back in late spring to encourage branching and more flowers. Helenium attracts butterflies, and winter birds enjoy the seedheads, but deer avoid it. Use it in mixed and perennial beds and borders, cottage gardens, naturalized areas, and in areas with moist soil.
It's no surprise that kids are always begging to play a game on their parents' tablets or cell phones — adults are always on them! That's why tablets for kids exist: so you don't have to worry about handing them your precious iPad, only to find that it breaks the second they drop it. These kid-friendly tablets are often similar to regular versions, except they're often more durable and come with educational apps for kids.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends avoiding digital media for kids under 18 to 24 months. If you let kiddos watch videos or play games, be sure to do it with them so that they can learn from you. As for kids ages 2 to 5, the AAP recommends limiting their screen time to one hour per day.
The best option for toddlers ages 1 to 3 is Fisher-Price's Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Tablet, because it has three different levels so it can grow with your child. It's not a real tech "tablet" since you can't download more apps, but it does the trick for the little ones. Our top pick, the Fire HD Kids Edition Tablet, is best for kids ages 3+.
Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet
With a Fire Kids Edition Tablet, your child can play games and watch videos without the need to worry about it breaking the 10-inch display since it comes with a durable case in either pink, yellow, or blue. If you're looking for something similar but with a smaller screen, you can opt for the Fire HD 8.
One of the best part about these tablets is access to all of the content on FreeTime Unlimited. With it, parents can also set goals and limits — you can even choose to allow specific content down to the episode. It normally costs $3 per month, but you get a year for free with this tablet.
Storage: 32 GB
Battery life: up to 12 hours
Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet
PSA: You can get the seven-inch version of the Fire tablet for half the price of our top pick. It has a slightly smaller screen size, lower battery life, and lessened storage capabilities, but this version of the kids tablet still has many of the same features we love about the Fire HD 10 tablet. Plus, you'll still get the free year-long subscription to FreeTime Unlimited. With these Amazon tablets, your kids can also access audiobooks and over a thousand pieces of content in Spanish.
Storage: 16 GB
Battery life: up to 7 hours
LeapPad Academy - LeapFrog
This LeapFrog tablet is a great option if you want to make sure your kids are ready for their next year of school. The educational device comes pre-installed with over 20 apps for kids, with subjects ranging from reading and writing to math and coding -- you can also download more games and apps since this tablet has an Android operating system.
You also get a three-month free trial of the brand's learning program called LeapPad Academy, which features tons of other content. It's built to be super kid-friendly, so you don't have to worry about the screen shattering (especially since it has a bumper and kickstand).
Storage: 16 GB
Battery life: up to 7 hours
Galaxy Tab E Lite 7
This 7-inch Samsung tablet is another great option for little ones since it's lightweight and comes with a protective case. It comes pre-installed with kid-friendly content (over 20 apps with STEM lessons and Sesame Street content). There's also the option for parental controls, so mom or dad can monitor learning progress and set limitations on what their kids can access. Bonus: it automatically blocks ads and in-app purchases.
Storage: 8 GB
Battery life: up to 9 hours
iPad (Wi-Fi, 32GB)
There are two situations where an iPad might be the best tablet for your kids: 1) you want a device that can be used by the entire family, or 2) you already have an iPad in your household and want to give it to your child as a hand-me-down.
This iPad equipped with Touch ID and you can enable parental controls by using a passcode for certain apps. Just note that iPads don't come with a protective case, so you'll want to purchase one to make it more kid-friendly.
Storage: 32 GB or 128 GB
Battery life: up to 10 hours
Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Tablet - Fischer Price
This "tablet" is more of a toy, so choose it as your child's first tablet and it can stay with them until they're 3. It's equipped with the brand's Smart Stages technology, meaning parents can switch between three different levels of play as your child grows. Each app is actually a button that plays phrases, songs, and other sounds to introduce a variety of concepts, like the alphabet, animals, and colors.
Battery life: uses three AAA batteries
Pixel Slate Tablet - Google
For older kids in high school or college, the Google Pixel Slate is like a mini computer so it's great for homework. It has a 12.3-inch screen and weighs less than two pounds, so it won't feel too heavy in their backpack. Plus, it comes built-in with Google Assistant, so they can ask questions and get answers. For even more computer-like capabilities, you can add on a keyboard and stylus.
Storage: 8GB or 16GB
Battery life: up to 10 hours
8.5-Inch LCD Writing Tablet - Boogie Board
Although this isn't your typical tablet, the eWriter is a great tool to help your kids practice writing letters, numbers, and shapes. You can't store anything on it, and LCD screen erases with the press of a button so kids can start over with a blank canvas whenever they want. It also comes with a stylus, but if you lose it you can still use a similar object — or even your finger!
Battery life: up to 50,000 erase cycles with the included watch battery