As the days grow shorter and we creep toward autumn, parents eagerly look forward to the time-honored tradition of sending their kids back to school. With kids finally out of the house and accounted for, maybe there’s even a little bit more time to linger over that last cup of coffee in the morning. Unless you’re in the midst of a global pandemic. In which case the longest commute your child will most likely have this fall is downstairs to the breakfast table. Yes, parents, students, and educators find themselves in the midst of remote learning once again. It’s Zoom calls galore, at-home work sheets, projects and three-square meals a day all in the confines of your home. So, in an effort to mitigate some of the stress this scenario will undoubtedly bring, we’ve put together a list of things to make your house more conducive to at-home learning.
Before even determining the space you or your kids will use, make sure everyone has a clear idea of their daily schedules and routines. Everyone should get up and get ready as if they were leaving the house and know what each hour will bring. Something as inexpensive as a dry erase wall calendar from Target can do the trick. Additionally, desk organizers or files can go a long way in keeping students motivated and on task.
Create Usable Space
Your pre-pandemic home improvement punch list probably looked a bit different than it does today. Perhaps you dreamt of a bathroom rehab or kitchen facelift. But with everyone tripping over each other, functional space is at a premium. Fixing up lower levels, spare bedrooms and sunrooms has become essential. And while rehabbing an unfinished attic or basement might be a little more costly and time consuming, it can ultimately provide more sharable space while adding long-term resale value to your home. If you’re not up for a major overhaul, small enhancements can do the trick. Bookshelves can offer more space for storage while also dividing up a room. Wayfair offers several affordable options.
Let There Be Light!
Are you adequately using the natural light in your home for yourself and your newly minted e-scholars? Are bedroom desks placed near windows? Are shades lifted during daylight hours? Maybe you have some heavy drapes that are blocking natural rays and confining space. Smith and Noble can offer a quick fix for custom window treatments, allowing you to spruce up your space while getting a little more vitamin D as the days grow shorter and kids are outside less.
Call The Help Desk
The one thing you’ll be most dependent on in your new role as proctor is, without a doubt, technology. Make sure your router is up to date and you’re getting the best service and deal from your internet provider. There are a bevy of plans and packages, so do your research. If you have internet dead spots in your home, look into internet boosters that plug in to electrical outlets and improve signal strength. Also consider noise cancelling headphones for Zoom calls or to block out ambient noise (Might we suggest getting yourself a pair as well?).
This may seem basic, but you’ll probably find the need to stock your fridge and pantry a little more generously than you would during a ‘normal’ school year. Keep healthy snacks that are easy to reach at eye level – string cheese, yogurt, individually packaged Goldfish. A lovely bowl of fresh fruit is a welcome addition to any kitchen countertop and allows kids to easily choose a healthy pick-me-up.
Although the 2020-2021 school year is shaping up to be rather unconventional, the kids are alright. Patience and humor can go a long way to maintaining your sanity. And once those classroom doors do open back up and your schoolhouse is vacated, pour that extra cup of coffee, put on the noise cancelling headphones, close those window treatments and dance like no one is watching. Because finally, they won’t be.
With several weeks of social distancing under our belts, many of us have already tackled boredom-curing activities like spring cleaning, exercising, baking, and doing puzzles. We’ve previously shared ways to keep the kids amused, but we couldn’t forget about the adults! From organizing a virtual murder mystery party to learning how to bartend, here are nine activities you can enjoy now.
Host a Game Night
Organize a virtual Jeopardy! night with friends using an online template. You can build your very own game with custom questions or use templates created by other people. All you have to do is share your screen with players on Zoom and keep track of their scores. Rotate who hosts each week, and you’ve got yourself a standing game night.
Attend a Virtual Event
Join a virtual festival, watch a live comedy show, or learn about wine from the comfort of your couch. Businesses and leaders throughout Chicago are hosting an array of virtual events that give you the opportunity to meet new people, learn something new, or just be entertained. Checkout Choose Chicago’s roundup of upcoming events here.
Grab your sleeping bag and tent and head to the backyard for an evening under the stars. If you do not have outdoor space, convert your living room into a campsite. Set the ambiance by streaming a campfire on your TV or phone, and don’t forget about the s’mores, which you can easily make in the oven.
Become a Better Bartender
Miss your favorite bartender’s perfectly crafted cocktails? Bartenders across the country are helping you up your at-home bar game by teaching you all the tips, tricks, and recipes you need to elevate Happy Hour. When all else fails, you can always order a cocktail kit from a local restaurant or bar.
Take a Tour
Your travel plans may be on hold for now, but Google Earth still has your back. Tour dozens of national parks and see some of the country’s best views and natural landscapes without leaving the house. Take note of your favorite spots and start planning a future in-person trip.
Learn Something New
There is no time like the present to learn a new skill or subject. Whether you want to take on a new language, master the art of stand-up, or become a poet, there are plenty of online resources to help you take advantage of your free time. Learn from the best of the best in acting, writing, photography, leadership, entrepreneurship, and more from classes taught by the likes of Robin Roberts, Serena Williams, Annie Leibovitz, and Sara Blakely on MasterClass.
Catch a Live Show
Although our favorite music festivals have been cancelled or postponed this summer, you can still take in some live music courtesy of Lollapalooza’s Lolla From the Vault. Streamed on YouTube, Lolla From the Vault brings a different iconic performance from past years’ festivals every Thursday at 7:00 pm CT. You can also check out live performances from the Millennium Park Summer Music Series and Ravinia Festival.
Organize a Murder Mystery Party
You can’t invite your friends over for a murder mystery party right now, but you can use Zoom to experience a thrilling evening of mystery and crime with the help of Red Herring Games. Pick from Red Herring’s many, and often hilarious, storylines such as “The Great British Bump Off” and “Death Actually,” and choose the virtual option when you download the game. From there, assign characters to your participants, and you are ready to go.
Netflix and Enjoy Together
Take movie night to a new level by downloading Netflix Party, which synchronizes everyone’s videos so you and your friends can watch your favorite films or shows at the same time. Netflix Party even adds a group chat feature so you can easily express your “oohs,” “ahs,” and “no ways!” throughout your viewing.
Wishing you and your family a safe and happy Memorial Day as we remember and honor those who have given their lives for our country.
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Chicago goes through a sort of metamorphosis as winter takes a firm grip over the city, bringing cold weather and incredibly short days. But don’t feel bad making runs to the local convenience store in sweatpants and slippers — during the coldest winter days, it takes a lot of motivation and sheer willpower just to leave the house. When not hibernating, Chicago residents can be seen digging their vehicles out from snow drifts and ice, meeting up at corner bars, or even jumping into a frozen Lake Michigan.
With winter officially here, we thought it was only fitting to highlight a few noteworthy Chicago traditions that mark the season. Keep reading and let us know your favorite winter traditions in the comments.
Try to picture hundreds of people clad only in bathing suits running and fully submerging themselves into a frigid Lake Michigan during the coldest period in Chicago. Sound like fun? That’s basically what the Polar Plunge is. Each year towards the end of winter, the event takes place to great fanfare — even sometimes featuring surprise celebrity guests (think Jimmy Fallon and Lady Gaga). And it’s all for a good cause, as proceeds from participant entry dues and their funds raised go to support Special Olympics Chicago.
There’s no local tradition more polarizing than parking dibs. For the uninitiated, the idea is simple: residents claim, or call “dibs” on a street parking space for a few days to upwards of a week (or sometimes longer) after clearing that spot out after a heavy snowfall. When not parked in that space, the dibs participant will place a chair, a traffic cone, or some other item in the spot to signal to others that it has been claimed. Let’s just say some people get particularly creative with the items they use to claim their territory.
One of the greatest things about the holiday season is the wonderment of lighting displays throughout the city’s neighborhoods and cultural attractions. In particular, the ZooLights installation at the Lincoln Park Zoo is a dazzling experience that excites the senses for people of all ages. For over 25 years, the recurring event has been free to the public, showcasing 2.5 million lights throughout the zoo.
Getting into a neighborly spirit
While the jury may be perpetually out on parking dibs, one theme that can be identified as a positive force is that of neighborly camaraderie and unity during cold snaps. We look out for each other during storms and dreaded polar vortex periods. Checking in on neighbors, helping shovel neighbor’s sidewalks, and generally being affable and available towards friends and neighbors is something Chicagoans do. It’s not only a point of pride, but one more reason why Chicago is a great place to call home.