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9/16/2020 9:23:09 PM
How I’m Getting Out of Bed in the Morning and (Mostly) Keeping it Together During the Pandemic
Note: I do not own, operate or benefit financially from any of the organizations mentioned here and am not responsible for their actions. Please do your own research and/or consult medical professionals when appropriate before proceeding with any of these activities.
After I sent out the newsletter a few weeks ago asking how I
could help during the pandemic, some of you replied, requesting that I share
anything that might help you get up in the morning or get through the day.
This is such a strange time we’re living through, and we’re
really not built for it. Studies show, over and over, that we’re social animals
who need relationships and human interactions in our lives in order to feel
Many people who didn’t have depression or anxiety to a
serious degree are now having trouble getting up in the morning, are drinking
more (and earlier) in the day than they used to, or feel riddled with anxiety
I didn’t need a pandemic to put me in this zone. It’s
something I inherited that has gotten worse over time, so I’ve been struggling
to find ways to cope for a while. This may sound strange to you if you’ve read
my books, which tend to include a lot of humor. However, after reading many
memoirs and listening to a lot of podcast interviews, it seems that most
comedians suffer from depression, too. The humor gives people like us doses of
positive brain chemicals to boost our moods. If only it would last longer!
Here are some free and paid ways that I keep myself
functioning. They may not be exactly what you need, but I’m hoping you can at
least find some ideas and inspiration from the list:
*If you are a younger person, you probably already know
how to find podcasts, so you can skip down to my list of favorites.
A podcast is similar to a radio talk show, only you get to
choose when to listen to it. For several years, I kept hearing about people I
was interested in having podcasts, but I had no idea how to find a podcast. I
would ask members of my family and they’d say things like, “Oh, you can get
them all kinds of places.” (Not helpful.)
Finally, my husband showed me that I could get them from the
Spotify app on my phone. Many (maybe most?) podcasts are available on several
different apps, so if you tap the App Store icon on your phone and type
“Podcasts” into the search field, you’ll see: Spotify, Stitcher, Apple
Podcasts, and others.
Once you’ve got a podcast app on your phone, you can search
for specific podcasts or people. For instance, if you’re a big fan of particular
celebrities, when you type the names into the search field, you may see a bunch
of different podcasts where they were interviewed or you might find that they
already have their own podcast. Tap on the episode and listen. I often find my
new favorite podcast because there’s an ad for it during the podcast I’m currently
Nowadays, I use them to help me get out of bed in the
morning, which is when I feel the worst. Instead of getting up immediately, I start
listening to some of my podcast “friends” talking. They make me feel better but
don’t expect me to answer them first thing in the morning like in-person humans
do. (Mr. Nina is one of those dreaded morning people who wakes up happy and
chatty, but, luckily, we are on different morning schedules right now.) I also
use podcasts and audiobooks to keep me from getting anxious or angry when I’m
in the kitchen. (I REALLY hate cooking.)
My Favorite Podcasts
Armchair Experts-Dax Shepard and Monica Padman are
interested in a lot of different things, like I am. They are very open about
their own life struggles and often go deep with their guests, while still
maintaining their senses of humor. They have some celebrity guests, but they
also have really interesting authors, academics, and scientists on the show. It’s both entertaining and informative.
I also love the
familial relationship they’ve developed. Monica started out as nanny for Dax
and his wife Kristen Bell, then became Kristen’s assistant. Now, they’ve all
adopted each other as family. Dax and Monica sometimes get mad at each other as
family members do. They often confess their bad behavior or thoughts on the
podcast and apologize to each other, which I like hearing. I guess I feel like
there isn’t enough apologizing in the world, considering how often people act badly.
Regardless of the topic, these two usually cheer me up and make it easier for
me to start my day.
Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend-This podcast brings me a
lot of joy. It’s often hilarious, especially when the guest has comedy improv
experience. I wasn’t a particular fan of Conan’s TV shows, but I love his podcast
because there’s so much more time to get into interesting and/or hilarious
conversations with interesting and/or hilarious people.
Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell- Rather
than having guests, Malcolm Gladwell has a well-researched, well-produced true
story to tell you about things in history that were overlooked or
The Michelle Obama Podcast-WAIT! Before you
pass this one up, let me clarify that it is not about politics. Michelle
Obama hasn’t ever been into politics, except when she had to be. The mood of
this podcast is very calm and optimistic. It’s new, but, so far, I love it. For
instance, the episode with Conan O’Brien where he and Michelle talk frankly
about the challenges of marriage, and she admits that, during an argument, she
actually took off the ring Barack gave her and threw it. (Yes, she’s human, too.)
I also loved the episode about working women with Valerie Jarrett, who had some
really important things to say about being a working mom and about mentoring others.
I also sometimes listen to No Stupid Questions, The
Happiness Lab, and even Anna Faris is Unqualified, in which Anna and
a celebrity guest attempt to give advice to callers.
Some podcasts are ongoing, while others are a miniseries
about a particular topic. Search some names or words that interest you and see
what you find.
Besides podcasts, I often listen to fiction and nonfiction audiobooks
when I’m doing things around the house. These are not usually free, but they do
help distract me from the drudgery and keep me from having negative
thoughts. You can get audiobooks from
iTunes, Kobo, Audible, Google Audiobooks and others. Tap your App Store icon
and search “audiobooks.”
Note: Malcolm Gladwell, who I mentioned in the podcast
section, has some interesting non-fiction books in audio.
For me, the best booster—the one that can often make the
rest of my day better—is exercise. A number of brain researchers,
psychologists, and psychiatrists I’ve listened to on podcasts emphasize that
aerobic exercise can create positive brain chemicals. The difficult part is
that, when you’re depressed, your mind tricks you into thinking you have no
energy in your body.
It helps if I plan things the night before by putting my
workout on my calendar and setting out the clothes I’m going to wear to workout
in. The next morning, if I can make myself wrestle my way into my exercise bra
and get dressed, I almost always workout. If I get dressed and still feel like
I can’t make myself do anything, I start with a YouTube video and do what they
Note: If you are not used to working out, please be
careful! I’ve known people who
finally got up the gumption to exercise only to overdo it and injure themselves immediately,
rendering themselves unable to exercise for months. Be aware of how your joints
feel and don’t go overboard. Start small. Watch a video and just stand there
and do the arms the first time. If that feels like exertion, keep doing it for
a few days or longer, until it feels easier, then add the leg movements. Always be careful
with your joints and back. It’s normal to feel muscle soreness from a good
workout, but you shouldn’t be in joint pain during it or feel like you were in a car
Keep in mind, you may need to try different types of
exercise to find workouts you can stand to do. I have learned that, regardless
of what kind of exercise I’m doing, I need music with a good beat, and I need
to do the exercise to the beat. If it’s to the beat, as long as there
isn’t complicated choreography for me to follow, I can do all kinds of
things—high and low impact floor aerobics, kickboxing workouts, step
aerobics, weights and squats—but it must be done to the beat of good music.
When it isn’t, I get progressively angrier as the workout goes on.
enjoy a very different kind of exercise, like stretching or tai chi. Search for
things you think you might like on YouTube and you will almost certainly find a
couple (or a million) videos about it.
My Favorite Workouts:
Bollywood workouts from BollyX on YouTube-Once I get
my clothes on, if I still don’t feel like working myself out, I go to the
videos below to get me started. The music is joyful, the people look like they
are having fun, and the moves are exercise inspired by dance, but not hard to
follow. And it’s free!
This one has 3 songs. It’s
usually the first video I do. If you are new to working out, do the low-impact
moves. (In other words don’t do any hopping while you’re exercising.)
This one is just one song,
but it’s led by an adorable girl that makes me happy every time I see her.
So far, every time I’ve done these workouts, I’ve felt
better and often want to go on and do more, so I move to my other types of exercise.
If you don’t know how to work yourself out, try going to YouTube.com and searching “exercise” and “workout”
and see if anything strikes your fancy.
POUND Rock Out Workout:
My daughter and I are very different, but one thing we agree
on is that we both LOVE taking Pound classes. We have been doing them virtually
through Zoom since Covid-19 started. While the internet isn’t the most ideal
way to take a class, it can make it easier for you to try out because you don’t
have to turn your camera on and let other people see you if you don’t want to. You
can also turn it on to say, “Hi,” then turn it off for the workout. But even if
you leave the camera on, in Pound, you don’t have to be concerned about doing
it just right. The instructors tell you not to worry about messing up because
you are a Rockstar and you should consider it a drum solo.
You can try this out using regular drumsticks if you have
them around or whatever stick-like thing you can find. One friend held chopsticks
in her hands to try it out until she could get some Ripstix. Or pretend to use drumsticks
and find out if you like this type of class. You can buy Ripsticks for around
$20 on Amazon (generic versions are even cheaper) or the PoundFit.com
website. (Ripstix look like drumsticks, except they are bright green and
weighted ¼ lb. each.)
I want to say more about Pound because I feel like it saved
my life in a couple of ways. I couldn’t exercise much for several years due to
a weird migraine condition that was triggered by light, motion and a number of
After we moved to the Seattle area, I found ways to calm the
migraine situation down, and I decided I was ready to start looking for a way
to exercise. The combination of the music and getting to hit the Ripsticks
together and on the floor was awesome! I started to gradually lose the weight
I’d gained, then Mr. Nina was diagnosed with cancer and Pound became my
lifeline, allowing me to pound out the extreme stress I was under.
My daughter has never been flexible, so when she started
Pound, she couldn’t squat or lunge low enough to hit the floor/yoga mat.
(Instructors encourage you modify the exercise however you need to.) Now we’ve both lost over 15 pounds and she
can do ALL the moves.
Different instructors choose different music so if you try
Pound and like the general idea, but aren’t crazy about the musical choices,
try another instructor. Some instructors are teaching virtual Pound for as
little as $5 a session since the pandemic started. Go to PoundFit.com Find a Class page. Next to “Find a Class” you’ll see
the “Virtual Only” toggle. Switch it on. Then type in a city and state. You can
try an instructor near you (so you can continue post pandemic) or try one
somewhere else. My daughter and I do virtual Pound twice per week with an
instructor we already knew. We are also trying Pound classes in different
states or countries for fun. (I think we’ll be working out in Mexico City this
Note: While you can find some promo reels with examples of
Pound online, they often don’t have the real songs on the videos because of the
specifics of music licensing agreements. However, in class, you get real rock,
pop, R&B and other music you’ll probably recognize.
Think back to when you were younger, before you had the
responsibilities of work and/or kids and/or spouses. What did you do to get rid
of that teenage angst?
For me, it was music. As a teenager, I sang in choirs and
sang and danced (barely) in our high school Madrigal Singers group. I harmonized
with music in my car. At home, I often lifted myself out of a funk by playing
my guitar and singing. I would start with a song that matched my downer mood
and as I felt better, my set would turn more uplifting.
For Christmas, Mr. Nina got me a karaoke setup that I enjoy
using, but it’s not necessary to have a microphone to enjoy singing. YouTube is
full of music videos, practice videos, and karaoke videos with lyrics you can
sing along with.
I also used to feel better by writing down what was
bothering me in a spiral notebook. Now, sometimes when I get upset, I write an
email to the person involved, but I don’t send it that
day. The next day, when I see it again, I often realize I was over-reacting
and I don’t need to actually send the email.
Is there something you used to do that made you feel better?
Did it get lost in the shuffle of your life?
Does crafting or knitting or needlepoint relax you? (They tick
me off because I’m terrible at them, but this is about you.)
How about doing cartwheels across the yard? (This also ticks
me off because I was the only one in 7th grade P.E. who couldn’t do
a cartwheel, but, again, this is about you.)
Did you used to enjoy ballet or some other kind of dance? (I
took a semester of modern dance in college and it was one of the most
humiliating experiences of my life. The instructor gave me a pity “C.” But, really,
this is about you.) You can search YouTube to find dancing to watch or to try.
Or maybe take an online Barre class, which is exercise based on ballet. There
are lots of videos for this on YouTube.
My daughter is excellent at finding enjoyable (to her) ways to fill her time
outside of work. Besides online Pound classes, here are some things she’s doing:
Needlepointing Hogwarts (She and her friends often craft
together via Zoom.)
Studying advanced Spanish grammar
Watching YouTube videos to learn how to make paper flowers
to use as decorations.
Using the HelloTalk phone app to interact with a texting pen
pal in Costa Rica.
Using the Duolingo app to work on beginner Chinese.
Learning ASL (American Sign Language)
Facetiming with friends who are struggling with being lonely
during the pandemic.
Remember, between phone apps and YouTube, you can learn to
do all kinds of things for free. I find it’s harder to stay in a negative
headspace if I’m really engaged in something.
Service to Others:
According to researchers in the psychology field, one of the
best things we can do for our mental health is being of service to others.
While it is important to donate to causes when you can afford it, the data
shows that more personalized service (helping a specific person or family that
you know of) is best for you, psychologically, and much longer lasting than giving
randomly. People who’ve donated kidneys to others have the most lasting
emotional benefit, although I’m not suggesting you need to go that far.
If you have tried everything within reason and are still
struggling, you many need to involve a professional. Whether it’s a lifelong,
inherited problem or because of trauma you’ve suffered, or from the current
situation—2020 may be the worst year, globally speaking, in my lifetime—don’t
give up on yourself before reaching out to a psychiatrist, psychologist or
In my case, there is a strong biological issue that I
realized I needed to try to address. When I was younger, I managed to turn a lot
of that anxiety into energy. I believed it helped me in my overachieving. But
some of these genetic issues can get worse as you get older and that’s the
situation I’ve found myself in. Although all of the things I’ve mentioned above
help me get up and get through the day, I need more than that.
Yesterday, I had an online visit with a psychiatrist. This
is something many people are not comfortable sharing but I wanted to say it
here so you’ll know this is not a generic “seek help” statement.
It’s hard to seek help when you are anxious and depressed.
The anxiety makes it difficult to decide who to contact and hard to make the
phone call even after you identify the professional you want to speak to. The depression
can suck away your energy to the point where you don’t have it in you to find
someone, or it can make you feel your situation is hopeless.
In some ways, it’s
easier now than it ever has been to see a professional because so many are
offering online appointments during the pandemic. And there are websites and
apps like BetterHelp.com, TalkSpace.com, and Online-Therapy.com,
where you can have appointments through video, phone, or chat.
But nothing is easy when you are suffering from anxiety
and/or depression. Over the past year, I researched mental health professionals
online several times, but was unable to go through with contacting them until now.
If you try and can’t make yourself follow through one day, try again until you
can manage it. If you can’t, for a while, don’t think of it as failing or
cowardice. Just think of it as not quite being ready.
If you’ve been isolating at home alone during the pandemic (or
with people who stress you the hell out), talking to a therapist here and there
may be all you need. We’re not built to live like this. Even my author friends—many
of whom are introverts—are struggling to get words on the page because they’re
concerned about loved ones or overwhelmed by what’s happening in the world.
Struggling does not equal weak. Depression does not equal
weak. Anxiety does not equal weak.
My conclusion during my 5 decades on the planet is that the
human brain is an amazing, resilient machine, but the human psyche is
surprisingly fragile. Maybe it’s just that 200 years is very short in evolutionary
time, yet, for most of us in industrialized countries, our lives are vastly
different than those of our ancestors.
We don’t need to move around constantly to gather or grow
food to survive, so we’re not automatically getting exercise every day. And,
surely, we weren’t meant to know about every tragedy and horror that happens throughout
the world, like we do today. It’s a lot for minds that were mostly focused on simple
survival for millions of years.
Regardless, well-meaning friends and family who tell you to
just snap out of it or act like you’re weak because you are succumbing to
emotional/mental problems don’t know what they’re talking about. If you start
looking into it, you’ll find many people we’ve touted in history books as heroes,
geniuses, and great talents suffered from depression and/or anxiety during
Is there something you’re doing that’s helping you get up
and get through the day? Feel free to mention it in the comment section. Then, feel
good about it because you may be helping someone else.
9/4/2020 11:57:35 PM
Where can I find learning materials for my preschool or elementary school student?
I’m writing this post in the middle of the Covid-19
pandemic. Some of you still have jobs and may be trying to work from home. Some
of you have lost your jobs, through no fault of your own. Some kids are in
school, some are doing online school. Some are being homeschooled.
It’s a weird time.
I’ve included a variety of materials and ideas, paid and
free, to help give you some resources, whether you’re trying to keep a
preschooler busy while you work or trying to homeschool your elementary-age
child yourself because your state is having in-person school and you don’t feel
safe about it.
I’m sure some parents are concerned their kids will fall
behind this year. Others may be realizing for the first time that there’s an
issue with their child’s learning because they’re working with them personally.
If either of these statements ring true to you, read my other education posts so you can feel better, then form a plan of
Note: When a child is struggling across the board in
school, the first thing I check is reading. If you can’t read, it’s hard to
succeed in anything besides art and phys ed. Because of this, I’ve written 2
reading blog posts, one called Teaching Reading the Right Way and the other is a quick phonics assessment to find out if your child has
a good grasp of phonics.
For other subjects, there are many places to find workbooks,
worksheets, and videos for various grade levels. However, I would not advise
you to start putting workbooks for other subjects in front of a struggling
reader without trying to fix the reading problem first.
How to get workbooks:
Workbooks covering the various school subjects and grade
levels are easier to get to than ever before, thanks to the internet.
You can simply type the subject and grade level into Google
or Bing or an online store’s search field and see a number of options. With the
exception of phonics workbooks (which I talk about extensively in my other
posts), almost any workbook your child likes is a good workbook. I like it when
the online store shows me pictures of the inside of the book so I know how
engaging it looks.
For instance, I typed “2nd grade science
workbooks” into the Amazon search field and found a workbook that looked good.
I clicked on the pictures to see the inside pages and the illustrations looked
cool. I almost wish I had a second grader to buy it for! The book was out of
stock, expected back in October, which would still be fine.
However, I scrolled down and saw that it was made by School
Zone, a family-owned education company that makes some really nice products. I
plugged the name of the book--Big Science Workbook Grades 2-3--into
the School Zone website. And there it was, available now! This is
just one example. There are workbooks and videos for many subjects and grade
levels. And, if you can afford it, don’t forget to add on a puzzle book. All
kinds of puzzles, from jigsaw to crossword, are good for critical thinking
skills and fun to do.
I bought various kinds of puzzles and puzzle books for my
daughter over the years. She also loved messages that were in a “secret code”
she had to apply to read the message. Eventually, she graduated to sudoku. (I’m
terrible at it, so she didn’t get it from me.) When we went on trips, she and her
stepdad Mr. Nina would grab the airline magazine and compete for who could finish
the sudoku first. The day she beat him was one of her most glorious.
I really like School Zone, so if you don’t want to feel
overwhelmed by the choices a typical search engine will give you, see if you
can find what you need there.
First, let me just say, video learning is good!
People have been demonizing TV, and practically anything you
do on screens, for decades. But I found TV, and later videos, to be educational
for both me and my daughter in different ways. Videos can also be helpful for
kids with reading problems, dyslexia, and other issues so they keep learning the
other subjects while they are working on overcoming their disability.
I quit watching cartoons very early and moved on to live
action television. When I was in 1st grade, watching reruns of
Dragnet taught me my Miranda Rights. You’d be surprised at the number of times
I managed to work “You have the right to remains silent. Anything you say can
and will be used against you in a court of law…” into conversations over the following decade. Around
the same time as Dragnet, I was watching Perry Mason reruns. From those, I
learned what the prosecution and the defense were as well as terms like
“objection,” “sustained,” and “overruled.” I also learned what evidence was and
what judges and juries did. And, when I wasn’t reciting the Miranda Rights, I
was often making my friends “swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth.” (If you think I was a weird kid at this point, you
don’t know the half of it. Mr. Nina gets a chuckle of the mentions of my
childhood, especially the parts involving bongo drums and a ventriloquist
My daughter went a different direction. She had no interest
in grown up things, but she loved all the kids’ programs on Nickelodeon,
Disney, PBS, and a few things on the cartoon network. She had a little TV in
her room. I would walk in and find her taking notes while watching Blues Clues
or making finger puppets from some crafty kids’ show.
However, it was a cartoon that was responsible for my
daughter making her first pun at age 5. We were outside in Texas, and I noticed
the dreaded fire ants were building mounds again. “Oh no! There are fire ants
everywhere,” I said.
“It’s an ant-astrophe!” my daughter cried.
My heart beat faster. Had it happened? Had my little girl
made her first pun? No. I couldn’t let myself get too excited, in case I didn’t
hear what I thought I heard. “Where did you get that word?” I asked.
“You know, ‘cat-astrophe’?” she explained. “This is an
“Where did you learn ‘catastrophe’?” I asked.
“The Power Puff Girls!”
I was so proud.
Anyway, I realize that some of you are struggling to do
your office jobs from home with young children underfoot. If you have a TV or
computer or iPad or phone, don’t feel bad about using it as a “mother’s
helper.” Just set things up in a way you can feel good about.
First, if you’re concerned, have yourself and/or your child
use headphones so as not to disrupt each other and position the screens so you
can glance up and see what your child is watching at any given moment.
YouTube is full of educational videos for kids. You can
search for various subjects at all different grade levels. Young kids can learn
almost anything if it’s presented in a fun way. My daughter understood what fractions were as well as nouns, verbs,
adjectives and adverbs when she was 5 and she enjoyed the “Identify the Part of
Speech” verbal games we did in the car. Here’s a video I like for learning
Here are a couple of fun videos for introducing short and
long vowels to preschoolers or to use in reinforcing what students learn in Explode
the Code 1,2, & 3. (See my reading blog posts for details about ETC.)
Long (silent E) vowels
Those are just examples. There are many more educational
videos, just put your child’s grade level in the YouTube search. You can get the Kids' YouTube app or use it on your computer. Set up
a Kid’s YouTube account and use their parental
controls to make sure your child doesn’t happen upon anything inappropriate.
Next, make an educational YouTube playlist for your child
beforehand by clicking the plus sign under each video you want to use. You can
make up a name for each playlist. Remember: You don’t necessarily need a new
playlist every day for preschool and early elementary schoolers. As long as it’s
something engaging they can learn from, young kids typically don’t mind
watching things over and over again. They learn with repetition. If you can
find a block of time on the weekends, make several playlists of videos and rotate
them over the next couple of weeks.
If you’re swamped during the day, try to remember to ask
your child about the videos at dinner time or bedtime. “What did you learn?
Which one is your favorite?” etc. Pay attention. It might give you clues that
will help you choose videos and workbooks later.
If you are way more organized than I am, you can make your
child a schedule (let your child help set it up with you so he has some
ownership) and put it on a list on the fridge or taped to the wall. Give her a
colored marker or order some special stickers and let her put one next to each
activity as she does it. (If the child doesn’t enjoy this, there’s no point in
forcing it. You’re trying to ad validation and positivity, not something to
For instance, a schedule for a 4-year old might be:
-4-6 pages of Explode the Code, Book A (or more if he can
-Kids YouTube playlist 1 (For this age, maybe a mixture of preschool
and Kindergarten videos. Don’t overthink this. You’ve got enough on your mind. Videos
don’t have to be exactly on grade level.)
-Lunch with your kid’s favorite movie (Ask me how many times
I heard Hakuna Matata in 1997). You could keep working through lunch if you need
to or join your child for part of the movie while you eat together.
-Kid’s choice of shows on channels approved by you in the
afternoon. This is a good tiem to put out a coloring book, too.
Another website option to put in the calendar for
preschoolers is Education.com’s interactive videos where
they can practice counting by making pizzas, practice recognizing letters with aliens
and spaceships and other cool stuff.
There are many places on the internet where you can download
free worksheets for the various subjects and grade levels. To find what you’re
looking for, you can search by grade level and/or subject with the word “worksheets.”
However, if you want to narrow it down, Education.com is
good for this, too. There are lots of worksheets—labeled by grade level and
subject—that you can download for free. You can print them out, but if the
sheet was in color, and I didn’t have a color printer, I think I’d rather let
the kid look at the cool color images on a laptop, iPad, or phone and write the
answers on paper. Or print out the black and white version to write on, but let
them look at the cool color version on a screen, if possible.
Note: If you have no spare screens, your child will not
suffer irreparable damage from using black and white handouts. That’s all most
of us had in school. If you don’t have a printer, you can check with your local
Kinkos or your local mailbox business. They can often print things out and make
There are a lot of people like me who haven’t been hit as hard by Covid
who do want to help if they can. Be honest when you call. For example, “I’ve
got a 1st grader at home that I need to print out 20 worksheets for. My job
hours were cut, but I’ve managed to gather $3.00 in change from the bottom of my
purse and my car. Can you print them out for that?” If one place refuses, try
another. Don’t be embarrassed. Many of us know what it’s like to have children, and I know lots of well-off people who struggled at some time in their lives. The
time I spent as a single mom was scary and stressful. A lot of people get it. On the other hand, please
don’t do this if you are not in financial peril because most of these places are
mom and pop shops.
Another Note: I just typed “3rd grade science” into
Education.com’s website and found all kinds of cool stuff like colored diagrams
of the inside of a volcano, the solar system, the water cycle and tons more.
Using the site is free, but there’s also a premium version for $15.99/mo.
(as I write this, it’s on sale for $8/mo.)
Other educational things my daughter enjoyed doing:
-At ages 3-12, she would repeatedly choose to go back and practice
Muzzy Spanish and Muzzy French. Not only did she love it, but when her cousins
or friends came over, they wanted to sit with her and do it. At the time, the
DVD sets were very expensive. Now, Muzzy is online (subscription) and has apps
you can use.
However, if that won’t work for you, you can typically find Muzzy
language DVDs for sale on Ebay.
-There are also lots of cute cartoons on YouTube where they
are speaking and singing in different languages. Even if your child enjoys the
visuals and doesn’t know what’s being said/sung, I believe it helps to be exposed
early, so language sounds don’t seem so foreign when they’re trying to learn them later.
-Keyboarding. My mom bought my daughter a Lion King
keyboarding DVD on a half-price sale when she was 4 or 5. She loved it! When I
showed her how to turn the letters she’d typed into different colors, she loved
it even more. Years later, when other kids were learning keyboarding, she was
already a good typist. Nowadays, she’s superfast. There are a variety of ways
to learn keyboarding now. Here’s a list of a few.
-Books. Have books around the house to whatever extent you
can afford. Covid-19 has made us more careful, but when you feel it’s safe to
go to the library, take your child, get him his own library card, and let him
pick out books for himself. Or sit with her and search for books online.
Another way to do it is to listen to what your child is
interested in and do a search for books or online articles about the topic. Or
do searches like “chapter books for 5th graders” or “picture books
for preschoolers” and have your child pick some from the list.
This is where you may want to examine your family culture
and see what you spend your money on (assuming you have any to spend). If you’ll
spend lots on sports equipment, sports camps, etc. or Starbucks every day, but
you tell your child books are too expensive, you’re brainwashing them in a
certain direction. Most successful people I know (regardless of which way you
measure success) had parents who saw the value of knowledge, education, and
reading, and made sure their kids had books to read one way or the other.
My teacher mom would always ask the librarians at her
schools to tell her when they were going to throw books away. We had shelves
and shelves of books at home. When I felt like reading, I’d go peruse the shelves.
Mr. Nina had extremely frugal Chinese immigrant parents, but the one thing they
regularly splurged on was books. They would take the kids to the bookstore and buy absolutely any book they wanted. You can’t argue with the
results. They now have two surgeons and a software architect in the family.
Note: Typically children will treasure and reread books they
Can’t go to a library and don’t have money to buy books or
Try looking for a “Buy Nothing” group in your area. Go to
Facebook and search “Buy Nothing Seattle” (but put in your city instead). In
these groups, you can give things away free or request things you need or want.
People often give books away in our local group. Don’t be afraid to let others know what’s going on. For instance, “I’m a single mom working from home. I need
to keep my preschooler busy. I’d appreciate any books, puzzles or ____ (whatever
your kid likes) you can give.”
Don’t underestimate coloring and play time. Activities like
coloring or building with blocks can be good in several ways. It can be a time
to relax (kids get stressed and overwhelmed to). It can be a time when kids
reflect about what they learned or daydream about what they want to do someday.
If you have time to join them it might be relaxing for you, too.
My daughter loved to color and do crafts. Ever so often, I’d
find her coloring paper towels. I’m so unobservant, I’d never even noticed the
paper towels had dotted patterns in them. She would color in the patterns and
come up with some awfully pretty paper towels. Later, she would color on them
with markers, then crumple them and get them damp. When she opened them up,
they’d be “tie-dyed.”
In the end, try not to be too stressed if you feel you’re
not handling your child’s education perfectly or you don’t have a lot of money
to spend. Just do what you can do.
And, honestly, the most important thing is attitude about
learning. I’ve watched children who were blessed with well above average IQ’s
crash and burn as teens and adults because their parents weren’t interested in
their education. If you are going to the trouble of reading these blog posts,
you're not that kind of parent. Be proud of yourself.
Other education blog posts published or currently in the works:
-READ THIS FIRST: Educating at Home: Deciding What to Do and How to Do It
-READ THIS SECOND: Getting the Most from Your Child
-Reading: Quick Phonics Assessment
-Reading: Teaching Reading the Right Way
-Where to Find Learning Materials for My Preschool or Elementary School Student?
-Creating Real-life "Opportunity Learning" Moments
-Preparing Your Infant and Toddler for Success
9/1/2020 9:56:49 PM
Quick Phonics Assessment
Note for parent:
If you haven't read the post: Teaching Reading the Right Way, please go there first.
Look at the key at the bottom of this assessment before you test your child so you know what you're looking for. The student should either breeze through these quickly and correctly OR pause and sound them out correctly. If the student can't get nearly every word correct in a section, start on the Explode the Code book that goes with that section.
Most kids who have already been to school, know the consonant sounds well. (Consonants are all of the letters other than a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y. ) If your child is learning from scratch or doesn’t know D says “duh” or V says “vuh,” for instance, start him on Explode the Code Books A, B, and C that come before Book 1.
Instructions for parent:
Point to each word and wait for the student to pronounce it, then move on to the next word. Do not try to coach your child during this assessment. Let him/her answer, then point to the next word. You can use this online or copy onto a Word.doc and print it out. (Answer key is below the assessment.)
Read aloud to child:
“Most of the words below are
not real words, but I want you to pretend they are and pronounce them like you
would if you saw them while you were reading.”
dat det dit
vat vet vit vot vut
jat jet jit jot jut
kat ket kit kot kut
flab fleb flib flob flub
glab gleb glib glob glub
clab cleb clib clob club
dram drem drim drob drub
snamp snemp snimp snomp snump
balp belp bilp bolp bulp
pate pete pite pote pute
bate bete bite bote bute
jate jete jite jote jute
vate vete vite vote vute
peat poat pait peet
deat doat dait deet
leat loat lait leet
veat voat vait veet
An older child who has a solid
foundation in phonics will breeze through nearly all of these correctly, despite the
fact that most are not real words. A younger child who has learned phonics may need to stop and sound them out more slowly, but, if he pronounce nearly all of them correctly, he knows phonics. If a child misses 3 in a section, I'd start with the appropriate book for that section (see below) to make sure the information is solidly planted in her brain.
*Helpful hint: If you were
not taught to read phonetically or if English is not your first language, you
can go to merriam-webster.com, type in the words below (for example, type in “cat,”)
and click on the speaker symbol to hear the pronunciation. **And please teach
your kids to use online Dictionaries and Thesauruses so they are empowered to
make themselves smarter whenever they want to. Apps are also available for your phone.
Group 1 contains only short vowel sounds. When your child
pronounces these, each word in column 1 should rhyme, each word in column 2
should rhyme, etc.
Below are the real rhyming
words to compare with in each column.
cat bet bit cot cut
If your child is pronouncing some
vowels short and some long (or any other way), he hasn’t learned phonics, probably
because he wasn’t taught phonics at all or, at least, not in the best way. Start
on Explode the Code, Book 1.
Group 2 contains consonant combinations. Make sure the child
is pronouncing both consonants together in each word, like “flab,” for
instance, not “fab,” or “lab.”
The vowels should all have the short vowel sound like the words in Group 1 above.
If your child is not
pronouncing the consonant combinations correctly but is still pronouncing the
vowels right, then start
with Explode the Code Book 2.
If your child changes the
pronunciation of the vowels from short to long, once the new consonants are added, start with Explode
the Code, Book 1 to make sure she really understands the rules.
Group 3a contains long vowel “words” that are made long by the silent E at the
When your child pronounces
these, each word in Column 1 of Group 2 should rhyme with the first column below,
Column 2 should rhyme, with column 2 below etc.
date mete site dote lute
If he pronounces the vowels
short or some short and some long, start on Explode the Code, Book 3.
Group 3b contains long vowel “words” that are made long by
having a silent second letter. Here are the real words that your child’s answers
should rhyme with:
beat boat wait feet
If she pronounces the vowels
short or some short and some long, start on Explode the Code, Book 3.
If your child breezes through
all the groups of words on the assessment, start him on Explode the Code,
Book 4. It gets into two syllable words in a way that breaks them down and
makes them easier to figure out. Also, much of the content in Books 4-8 may not
be taught specifically, even if your child’s school is teaching some phonics.
Note: If you are teaching a younger child, he or she may not be ready for the last few books yet.
Another Note: Learning phonics doesn’t need to be
a painful process. These books are super user friendly. With my daughter, I kept
them in the car where she had nothing to do. She would happily pick them up and
start working as I drove from one place to another. With the kids I tutored, I
kept it light. Getting something wrong was no big deal. Getting things right
was awesome. Try putting a snack in front of a restless or tired child to see
if you can get more work time out of him. (My daughter and stepson both appreciated
it when they were doing homework and a plate of sliced apples appeared in front
Feel free to post questions
in comments or email me at NinaCordoba@NinaCordoba.com.
Other education blog posts published or currently in the works as of 9/2/2020:
-READ THIS FIRST: Educating Your Child at Home
-READ THIS SECOND: Getting the Most from Your Child
-Reading: Teaching Reading the Right Way
-Reading: Quick Phonics Assessment (This post)
-Where Can I Find Learning Materials for my Preschool or Elementary School Student?
-Creating Real-life "Opportunity Learning" Moments
-Preparing Your Infant and Toddler for Success
Copyright 2020 Nina Cordoba