Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

10 More virtual school success tips

More ways to set up for virtual school success

Affiliate links are used in this post, if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

Back in August, I shared virtual school success tips that we’d learned from spring until fall. Now, we are just over halfway through the school year and, as a family who has chosen to virtual school this school year, I have even more tips to share!

We’re in this for the long haul, and we know it. That’s a nice change from when virtual school was sprung on us in March 2020. We are also blessed in having an awesome school that gives us great virtual learning options for our second and fifth graders. We don’t have to come up with the curriculum but rather keep everything organized and running smoothly.

1. Use your phone alarms.

I love my phone alarms. When my kids were in school in-person, I had an alarm set for each day for when I needed to get ready and leave to pick them up.

This school year kicked that up a major notch. My son, our second grader, has a variety of Zoom calls throughout the day connecting with other virtual learners his age. Some calls are only on certain days and some are every day. He uses a few different Zoom meeting rooms for his calls. So, I set recurring alarms for the appropriate days that go off five minutes before each call. The five minutes allows us to finish what we were doing, get out his needed supplies and dial into the call.

My daughter in fifth grade is more independent and spends most of her day Zooming with her classmates who are both virtual and in-person. I don’t have to set alarms for when her calls start, but I do have other alarms set for her. I use an alarm for when she needs to head back to a call after lunch and gym a couple of days a week.

Speaking of lunch, I even set a daily alarm to start making lunch. My daughter, especially, has a more limited lunchtime.

2. Use your calendar.

This may sound like overkill, but I use my phone calendar and my paper planner. My phone pops up with reminders 10 minutes before calls start, but I have those same times written down in my planner for each day so I can easily see them if I’m scheduling something for us.

Honestly, using a calendar (or two) is one of my best virtual school success tips. With so many schedules to organize, including my own work schedule, having it all in one place is so helpful.

I set calendar appointments and reminders for just about everything in my life!

3. Prepare for calls.

My son’s teacher usually posts the day’s assignments around 6 a.m. each day. One of the first things I do when I get up is check what he has going on that day. It helps me plan in my head for times he needs help and times he can work independently.

But as we get our day underway, I also take that information and organize supplies and assignments for the day. We have different colored folders for each subject. So I make sure the papers he needs for each subject are in the correct folder for that day.

The prepared folders are great to pull out as he is logging into a Zoom call. He’s quickly and easily ready to go. And he isn’t scrambling around looking for what he needs and missing instructions or making his classmates have to wait for him.

4. Have a spot for storing extra and seldom used supplies.

In the previous post of virtual school success tips, I told you how we use baskets for each kiddo and their related school supplies and materials. We still do that and absolutely love it!

But we also needed somewhere to store extra supplies (hello, glue sticks and pencils!) as well as supplies we don’t use as often. I had an extra portable file storage container, so I just used it. You can use whatever you have on hand or even a cabinet.

Ours has some gym supplies, music supplies, extra school supplies (glue sticks, pencils, pens, markers, etc.) and even an extra math book we’ll need when we finish the current one.

The nice part about having a specific spot for extra and seldom used supplies is that we know where to go when we need them and can find them quickly. Our day doesn’t get interrupted searching all over the house to remember where the extra glue sticks are.

Our basic art supplies go in two drawers in our kitchen because we use them more often. That includes crayons, markers, watercolors, colored pencils, white art paper and construction paper. My son’s pencil box has twistable crayons, scissors and glue sticks as well as his pencils. And both kids have a stack of white paper in their art folders.

5. Communicate with the teacher.

I’m an introvert. And to boot, I’m also a bit on the shy side and don’t want to pester people. But, another of my top virtual school success tips is communicating with the teacher.

Virtual schooling is basically a partnership between parents and teachers. Our teachers have communicated well with us, but questions and problems arise. Sometimes one quick email can make all the difference on how well an assignment goes.

6. Communicate with independent learners.

My daughter works well on her own, but communicating with her is still important. If you have a kiddo who is older and working solo, check in with them regularly to see how things are going.

I love that we have lunch together and I can get updates about how things are going. We have navigated a few issues that have come up this year. As a fifth grader, my daughter has continued to work well independently. If that weren’t the case, she would have more oversight.

And my final thought on communicating well with independent learners means a certain level of trust between you and your kiddo. Even within that, stay on top of messages from their teachers to ensure work is turned in and completed as it should be. I have our school account settings so that messages my kids get from their teachers also come to my parent account and alert me on my phone.

7. Sometimes an attitude adjustment is necessary.

Working together all day every day means that you’re going to have grumpy moments — and so are your kids. My attitude directly affects my son’s attitude. If I’m grumpy and short, so is he.

I do my best to keep a good attitude as we are working. If I’m struggling, because some days are just hard, then I call break time. Recently, on a long school day, my son and I hung out on the stairs petting our pooch for a few minutes. We needed a school break to regroup.

And other times, I tell my son that I need him to change his attitude. We aren’t fighting each other, we are working together to get school done. Sometimes we all need that kind of reminder!

8. Ask for help when you need it.

Virtual schooling is often busy and overwhelming, especially if you are also trying to do work as well. Pay attention to what exactly you need help with and then work to figure out the best solutions.

My husband also works from home, so we’ve talked a few times about what I need for my own wellbeing. Earlier in the school year, he encouraged me to go to our bedroom and shut the door to get a break when I was overwhelmed and needed some quiet to regroup.

Now my biggest need is having time to get my own work done as my son’s work has gotten more involved and some of my work has gotten busier. So right now, we are having my husband take over schoolwork after lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That gives me a few hours in the office to get work done.

9. Set realistic expectations all around.

As an adult, I want to hit tasks hard in the morning and work until they’re finished. That’s not what works best for my 7-year-old. He has to have brain breaks. Sometimes that means I set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and he takes a complete break or we switch to something like an art project.

Another one of my best virtual school success tips is to set realistic expectations for yourself and what you can get done. My productivity level is lower while we are virtual schooling than when my kids are at school in person. (Go figure!)

To keep frustration at bay, I adjust my expectations for what I can do from household chores to work tasks.

10. Take care of yourself physically.

After the first week of school, I spent the weekend on the couch with horrible hip pain. While I have hip pain normally thanks to my fibromyalgia, this was above and beyond. I realized it was from how I was sitting while we were doing school.

My son and I sit at the kitchen table for school. Our table is counter height, so my feet were tucked a bit behind me on the rung of the chair all day every day, and it made my hip very angry. So, I moved a footstool under the table and that helped tremendously.

When I dealt with a sciatica flare, I realized sitting on the hard kitchen chair all day long wasn’t doing me any favors. I got a seat cushion and love it! Now I don’t feel as compelled to try and move school to the couch or somewhere more comfortable to sit.

The final thing I do to take care of myself is wear shoes all day. My low back and hips have been so much happier! I got a new pair of Brooks Ghost running shoes on the recommendation of my physical therapist. I only wear them at home, so I don’t have to worry about tracking in dirt or germs all over the place. Considering I’m home 99% of the time right now, it’s not so hard.

With virtual schooling, I am on my feet more often throughout the day than usual. I’m constantly getting up and down working with the kiddos. I spend more time on my feet even at lunchtime now that I’m making lunch for all of us rather than just for me. Since we don’t have carpet anywhere in our house except the stairs, the hard floors were doing me in.

The other bonus to wearing shoes is that it also makes me feel more serious about what I’m doing. I seem more purposeful somehow. And some days, I really need that!

Find more virtual school success tips here!

How to refresh yourself

Simple ideas to refresh yourself emotionally, physically and spiritually

Affiliate links are used in this post, if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

We all have problems with it. Whether we have crazy parents and siblings, or just a lot to do and think about, we will all at some point have a little trouble cleaning, dumping and renewing our mind.

Here are some ways I’ve found to renew and refresh yourself spiritually and physically.

Pick the right time and space.

First, I figured out what time of day I’m most at peace with myself. For me, that’s night.

Then, I came up with a space in a room that I could be alone in (my bedroom) and tidied up the area. I have a huge pink fluffy rug in my room with a beanbag chair and curtains that light up.

Since the area you’re in affects how you feel, I try to make sure the area is clean and I’m surrounded by items I enjoy. (Fun stuffed animals, slinkies, books, pictures, etc.)

Refresh yourself emotionally.

Next, one of the things I do that refreshes me is to write in a journal. For me, I actually write in multiple journals. One has writing prompts, one is a journal with my mom, one is a journal for blog posts and ideas for you lovelies, and one is for whatever else I feel like.

I choose a journal to write in and just do it. Sometimes, if a thought is playing in my mind, then I write it down. Or if I’m bored and tired, I simply fill out a prompt. Sometimes I read my Bible and then decide to listen to music and give y’all a post.

Refresh yourself physically.

After I write in my journal, I go and grab some water. I’ve been really into insulated cups to keep the water icy cold.

Then I put my thick hair in a ponytail to get it out of my way. I spend a few minutes doing some stretches and yoga in my room. Yoga isn’t physically difficult and relaxes my body. It calms my mind as well as helps me breathe and get ready for whatever I do next.

Refresh yourself spiritually.

Once I’ve refreshed emotionally and physically, I move on to spiritual matters. I read my devotion book and/or Bible. Usually, I do a section a night. I read the book of Esther in larger groups though. Currently, I am reading and comprehending the wonderful gibberish that is Job.

After I finish my reading, I open the window (just a small crack in cold weather!) for a couple of minutes and just breathe in the fresh air to help me unwind from the day. Then I’m ready to settle into bed.

Having this time is incredibly important because it gives me time to breathe and unwind. I also get to pray and be in the presence of God for an entire hour.

Remember to unwind and stay healthy, my lovelies! Good day/night!

Girls with Grace, a tween blog written by a tween girl, has new posts on Tuesdays two to four times a month. Find out more about Girls with Grace:

Valentine’s gift ideas for him

Sweet Valentine’s gift ideas your guy will love

Affiliate links are used in this post, if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

Valentine’s Day is coming. My husband and I have spent more than two decades celebrating Valentine’s Day together. Yet, I can still have trouble coming up with Valentine’s gift ideas for him.

I want a Valentine’s gift that’s sweet and not something generic or usually even something I’d get him for Christmas or his birthday. I’d much prefer to come up with Valentine’s gift ideas for him that have more meaning and less price tag.

With that in mind, I went in search of gift ideas that were a good amount of sweet as well as things guys would actually like and use.

Get cozy

Since Valentine’s Day comes during the winter (at least here in the U.S.), cozy blanket can be great Valentine’s gift ideas for him. And it’s even better since the two of you can snuggle beneath it to stay warm! But you don’t want to give him just any boring blanket. Consider a weighted blanket, which is super popular these days.

Or go for something fun and cozy like some of these unique throws.

This fun throw would certainly keep your guy toasty on cold days. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

If you’re married to a gamer who grew up in the 1980s like I am, these next two gaming throws would be a hit.

Game together

If you and your husband like playing games, couples-themed games are great Valentine’s gift ideas for him. It’s like two gifts in one. First you give the gift of the game and then you get the gift of time spent together playing it!

Picture this

Photo gifts are pretty fun, no matter how long you’ve been together. Find a photo (or a few) from a favorite memory, put it in a frame and you have a great Valentine’s gift!

Write it down

Take your Valentine’s card a step further by writing a book for your husband! With one of these fill-in-the-blank books, you can pretty easily write a sweet and sentimental book. And, unlike a card that’s easy to toss out, he can keep the book and go back to it time and again.

Laugh together

I have to be honest and tell you this final gift idea actually came from my husband. This is a book he got me for Christmas based on a series of comics that often remind him of us. Even better, he wrote on the inside cover a sweet note along with which comics reminded him most of us. It made me swoon!

Looking for more ideas on how to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your husband? Check out the easy Valentine’s tradition I do for my husband and kids to help them feel loved!

You aren’t living a fairytale

Finding your true happily ever after

“And they lived happily ever after.”

You and I have both heard the usual fairytale ending many times. However, what is our happily ever after? Believe it or not, it’s not in a castle with a fairy godmother and a prince. And that’s actually good news, because that happiness is only temporary.

When I was little, I heard many fairytales. I wanted to be a princess, doctor, ballerina or teacher. But, being a princess was never going to satisfy me. Only God can do that.

The difference between fairy godmothers and God

Did Cinderella’s fairy godmother fast for 40 days and resist the temptations of the devil? Did she die and save all of us from our sins? Could she? No, no and no.

Psalm 103:2-5 (NIV) says:

Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Our God is love. He is peacemaker. The Lord our God is better than all good things.

Why God is better than a prince

We have established the fact that we have more than a fairy godmother. Let’s talk about princes. Do we need a prince? No. We don’t need a prince and will not ever.

You aren't living a fairytale: Finding your true happily ever after

I would much rather have God over Prince Charming any day.

However, the Lord will not be angered if we do have a prince. That is love, and the Lord Himself is love.

Knowing who we are

As I was writing this, I thought about the song “Sit still, look pretty” by Daya. It tells about the fact that we are strong. While it isn’t Christian music, it does make a good point. It says, “I don’t know what you’ve been told, but this girl right here’s gonna rule the world.”

We are strong — each and every one of us! Not all endings will be happy, but each closed door will open a new one. We don’t need a fairy godmother or to wait for a prince, because we have God.

(However, if we happen to run into a handsome prince on the way, the good job, and have a nice wedding!)

God loves us regardless, and so I love you all regardless as well.

Have a great week, lovelies!

Girls with Grace, a tween blog written by a tween girl, has new posts on Tuesdays two to four times a month. Find out more about Girls with Grace:

A positive new year

Tips every girl needs for living a positive new year

“New year, new me!” I know you’ve heard it, but did you ever try to live up to it? If so, did you succeed? Maybe you did, but it is just as possible that you didn’t. However, living a positive new year is still possible, whether you know it or not.

Some people will tell you to just do this unlikely and impossible stuff, and you will be like that “perfect” girl on Instagram. Others will tell you things you understand, but aren’t sure how to go about. Then, maybe you have found something you think you can do. I happen to have some tips I think are accomplishable.

So here are my flexible, possible tips to help you live positively. Improving on your self maintenance, self care and mothering yourself are great ways to live a positive new year.

Let’s start out by establishing that self maintenance and self care are two totally different things. And both are important in living a positive new year. Self maintenance is taking care of your physical appearance. Self care is taking care of your spiritual and mental self.

Self maintenance

First up is your body. All of us at some point (even me, the girl who could be prancing around the school hallways chicken dancing in a large neon tutu screaming that monkeys are cute with a large eagle hat on my head and not care) can feel insecure about the way we look.

For some of us, this may be the way our legs or stomach look, and for others it may be our teeth or hair. For your legs, or stomach, you may want to get into shape by exercising or eating healthier, but, you are still beautiful the way you are, and please don’t change for anyone except your self.

Now, for teeth and hair, we could try strips to make them whiter (teeth, not hair, I’m not trying to make my hair white, nor do I need to be an old lady quite yet) or talk to the dentist.

For your hair, try going to a salon or maybe try a new hair style. However, only do this if you want to change it, but also only do so for you and you alone. Don’t do it for that perfect picture to share or because you don’t look perfect, because no one actually does. You change for you, and that is enough.

You may also want to try and take care of your self by keeping your skin nice or keeping clean. For your skin, this varies a lot. Honestly, everyone’s skin is different, just like their whole bodies. We are all unique, but just keep your skin clean and hydrated as much as possible. Maybe even take a nice, long bath and relax for a while. Have a mini spa day. But make sure you relax. This is where we cross to self care.

Self care

Self care is all about your mental and spiritual self. This means connecting with the Lord , staying happy and also staying healthy. Lets start with positivity!

The first thing I want you to do is bask in your thoughts. Don’t act upon them, just think. Whether your thoughts are negative (like maybe you’re annoyed with your weight), confused (like do you like that one boy in your math class) or happy (like you really love your eyes), think those thoughts.

Next, try an exercise where you address those thoughts and what you can (or can’t) do about them. Using the three examples above, I came up with a plan for each.

1. Weight insecurity: You could try to eat more veggies and do yoga everyday.

2. Do you like that one boy in your math class: Think about it and decide what you think. Maybe even talk to your family or friends about it.

3. You love your eyes: You could wear colors that make your eyes stand out, which you want.

The point is for every thought, do something about it!

Also, work in time for meditating, praying and just breathing. These are all important parts of self care. Ultimately, you must take time for yourself as you strive to live a positive new year.

Mothering your future self

Mothering yourself is important. Basically, you do something now to take care of your future self. Whether it is a few hours or a few decades, you will be thankful for your previous mothering and have the situation under control.

A good example would be if you are going out (I wish, #Pandemic) and you know you won’t want to wash your face when you get back. You could mother yourself by having everything you need out and ready on the counter. Doing that simple, quick task can make life easier for your future self to wash her face when she returns home.

Have a great week, lovelies, and stay strong in the Lord this new year!

Girls with Grace, a tween blog written by a tween girl, has new posts on Tuesdays two to four times a month. Find out more about Girls with Grace:

Introducing Girls with Grace

A blog for tween girls by a tween girl

For the past couple of months, my 11-year-old daughter, Lexi, and I have been talking about some writing projects we want to do together. One of the projects she’s been excited about is blogging. We decided 2021 is the year we kick off Girls with Grace!

Girls with Grace

Lexi is the mind and creativity behind Girls with Grace. In fact, she is the one who even came up with the name. For now, Girls with Grace will run new posts in a category all to itself on the Families with Grace blog. The posts will usually go live on Tuesdays.

Our plan is for her to have two to four new posts a month, because that seems manageable with her schoolwork and such she has going on.

To say that I’m proud of my kiddo is an understatement. She’s done some awesome things already in her 11 years. Working on Girls with Grace together has allowed me to get additional insight into her heart and mind that has been such a blessing. I know you’re going to be blessed by her heart and ministry as well!

Share Girls with Grace posts with the tween girls in your life and read them yourself. I let her take over today’s Families with Grace post to introduce her and let you hear what she has on her mind. This kiddo is wise beyond her years — and yes, I am totally partial!

Families with Grace: Why do you want to write a blog?

Lexi: I really enjoy writing and I enjoy God. I enjoy sharing. I enjoy blogs. I think it would be helpful.

I hope to help people who need it. I want to reach out to preteen and early teen girls. I want to help them in their walk with God by writing about it. There are lots of blogs saying to read your Bible and heres a schedule, but that feels like it’s too much. It doesn’t work well for everyone. I want to give practical tips for how to connect with God while still living your life.

FWG: What are some ways you’ve found to connect with God in the midst of schoolwork and friendships?

Lexi: I could talk forever about this! Every night when I can, if it’s not like 20-degrees or I’m not half asleep when I go up to my bedroom, I grab my Bible. Right now I’m reading Job. I didn’t go through the Bible in order. I found when I started doing that, some stories I already knew and some I wasn’t keen to re-read because I didn’t enjoy them very much.

Girls with Grace

I have a Bible where everything is split up into sections. I read one section a night for about five minutes. I meditate or pray. I get some fresh air and try to clear my mind and then go to bed. I’m finished with my homework and have no other distractions. I’m free and have time to just devote that time to God. It’s also incredibly quiet at night and easier to focus on the Bible and what I’m reading.

FWG: What advice so you have for other preteen girls who are working to find their place in the world and grow in their relationship with God?

Lexi: Don’t go searching for what your place is. It’s going to happen. You’re going to figure out what your place is with God. Go with what you think is right and what you think He would want you to do in your situation. You’re not going to just find your place in the world quickly and easily. You’ll find it eventually. It’s going to change, too. In different phases of life, your purpose can be different.

Naturally you will find what your supposed to be doing. Even if it seems like you figured it out to late, God knows when you need to know your purpose most because he knows what it going to happen the next day, and the next, and the next, and so on.

If you search for your purpose continuously, you aren’t going to have a nice childhood or great friendships. Live with and for god, but whilst you exist, you shouldn’t forget to live.

FWG: What is your favorite Bible verse? Why is that your favorite verse?

Lexi: I actually have a passage of verses that are my favorite.

“For no one is abandoned
    by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion
    because of the greatness of his unfailing love.
For he does not enjoy hurting people
    or causing them sorrow.”

Lamentations 3:31-33 (NLT)

I was looking through my Bible. There was a wall I had dedicated to Bible verses. I had a hole and needed to find a new verse to go there. These verses really stood out to me. I think it sums up a good amount of the Bible really well. It reminds us that the Lord is always with us and even if things seem bad, He still loves us. He is always with us and it’s not going to be bad forever. God doesn’t enjoy our pain. That isn’t what He wants. He wants us to be happy. But sometimes to be happy, we have to get hurt first.

One of my favorite quotes that goes right along with this is, “It’s OK to be a glow stick; sometimes we have to break before we shine.”

Another one of my favorites is HOPE: Hold On Pain Ends.

FWG: Share a little bit about your faith journey. When do you first remember being aware of God on a personal level and not just someone your parents or Sunday School teacher talked about?

Lexi: One of the first things I really remember when I felt like God was in my life was when I was 4 or 5 and felt like I needed to start a food pantry ministry at my church to help a local food pantry.

We had donated to food pantries a couple of times. I used my giving money of my allowance to buy some food. We decided to go to a food pantry that was out of a local church that we hadn’t been to before. We learned they gave away food once a month and were dedicated to doing so, even when they didn’t have a huge amount of food.

They didn’t have the word about it out very well. I’m not sure what it was about this church that really spoke to me, but I knew I needed to do something about these people that couldn’t get their food. I didn’t have anything, but I started talking to my mom. We decided to do something at church. We can’t run our own food pantry, but we started a food collection at our church. We had bins and made an announcement. The food pantry collection is still going on now about seven years later.

Fun Fact: When I told my mother about the food pantry, I started with ” I have an idea…” which is the same exact way Girls with Grace came to life!

FWG: What is your faith history?

Lexi: I can’t remember a time I didn’t go to church. I can’t remember a time I wasn’t learning about God. I don’t think I can say there was something that stuck out to me without teachers.

I’ve been ministered very well from a young age. Since before I could walk or talk, I’ve learned about Jesus. I’ve read a children’s Bible and knew half of the stories of the Bible by heart by the time I was in kindergarten.

FWG: What have you done so far in your life that you’re most proud of?

Lexi: Last school year, I did a food drive in my grade for the food pantry. We were able to bring in a lot of non-perishable items for the food pantry.

FWG: What are you looking forward to about working on Girls with Grace?

Lexi: Honestly, I’m just excited to write. I’m excited to take these things that I’ve learned — because I’ve learned a lot — and write them down. I’m happy to explain my lessons so that you can learn from somebody else. Some of them were great things and then some of them weren’t so great things. I’ve dealt with anxiety during school years. I’ve learned from both the good stuff and the bad.

FWG: Do you have anything else to add?

Lexi: I could talk for years on making people happy. It doesn’t always go well, but it’s something I try to do. I don’t need to make people. It’s not something you should spend all your time trying to do or else you’ll make yourself miserable in the process. I have tried anyway and I’ve learned from it.