Gear Up for Prime Day 

By Tracey Dowdy

Amazon Prime Day 2020 is just around the corner – mark your calendars for October 13 and 14. Amazon has already posted a host of early bird deals you can take advantage of now, and you can get notified about personalized discounts on the mobile app. The app includes features like voice-powered search and shipment tracking and is available for Amazon Fire, Android, and iOS. 

Here’s your need to know for Prime Day 2020:

College students get a free six-month trial. Amazon has partnered with Sprint to offer college students a free six-month Amazon Prime trial. Students get free delivery on over 50 million items, exclusive deals, unlimited streaming of Prime movies and TV shows, unlimited photo storage with Prime Photos. 

You can shop Prime Day even if you’re not a Prime subscriber.If you’re not an Amazon Prime member, you may still see sale prices on many items, but they may not come with the free one or two-day shipping for Prime members. Some products will be for members only – think Amazon-branded items like Kindles and Echos – there’ll still be plenty of discounts and available for non-members. 

Look for Wait Lists. Many of the best Prime Day Deals are available in limited quantities, so they sell out fast. Sometimes, customers put an item in their cart but then change their mind, and others take too long and Check-Out times out. The good news is many of these items feature a “Join Waitlist” button that’ll put you in a queue to grab it if it becomes available. 

Check Your Cash-back Options. Sites like Rakuten and TopCashback offer cashback on your purchases not just from Amazon but other retailers like Macy’s, Overstock, Winc, Rothy’s, Glossier, and Old Navy. If you’re good at paying off your credit cards every month or shop on Amazon often, consider their no-annual-fee Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card that comes with a $100 Amazon gift card at sign-up. The card pays you 5% back on just about everything you buy from Amazon and Whole Foods. 

Do your homework. Be careful you don’t get caught up in the urgency or excitement of Prime Day. Items go on sale every day, and many of the deals offered on Prime Day will be on sale again within a few months. I recommend installing CamelCamelCamel, a site that tracks Amazon price histories or browser plug-in Honey, which instantly notifies you if any third-party sellers have the same product at a lower price. 

Remember, Amazon isn’t the only game in town. Other big-name retailers like Walmart and Target have announced big sales of their own, so check out what they have to offer before hitting that “complete purchase” button. 

Of course, if you’re unsure if you want to sign up for Prime, you can always try Prime free for thirty days – just remember to cancel your membership after 29 days to avoid being billed if you decide it’s not worth it.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Managing Virtual Learning for Kids with ADHD

By Tracey Dowdy

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that teaching, particularly homeschooling, is not for the faint of heart. For many parents, work/life balance is as impossible as life on the surface of the sun, and we can finally agree that whatever teachers earn, it’s not enough. 

Parents of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder face unique challenges. Consider that teachers are trained in classroom management, studying for a four-year degree, passing state exams, then applying for a state license. “The special education teacher wears many hats. Unlike other teachers who focus primarily on academics, the special education teacher serves as an educator and advocates for students with special needs. His or her schedule is divided among planning, instruction, assessing students, and managing their individualized education programs (IEPs).”

ADHD stems from underdeveloped or impaired executive function and self-regulation skills, so parents of children with ADHD aren’t the only ones overwhelmed and struggling. Students with ADHD often find switching to virtual learning at home complicated and even chaotic, so staying on-task for more than a few minutes is a monumental challenge.

Minnesota, says these students benefit from traditional school settings’ structure and routine. “What’s happened with Covid-19 is we’ve shifted from having that infrastructure and support from school,” she says. “And parents have had to pick up a lot of the things that can’t be provided with virtual learning. And maybe they don’t know how best to help them because they haven’t been trained in that particular area of need.” Because parents have had to shoulder that responsibility while still trying to manage their duties, keeping a student with ADHD focused has become twice as hard. 

If your child is struggling, Nordmeyer suggests the following strategies to help keep your student engaged and minimize everyone’s frustration. 

Mimic the school environment as much as possible. 

For kids with ADHD, the struggle isn’t merely paying attention. It’s maintaining focus and concentrating on the right things. Anything can pull their attention from something as simple as a family pet walking through the room to a favorite toy or game within their eyeline. If possible, set up a space that mimics a classroom and is within your sight so you can redirect when necessary. Working in their bedroom may seem ideal because it’s a quieter place, but remember that for most children, it’s where they go to relax and play, so it may not be conducive to learning. 

Structure each day and stick to the schedule as much as is possible. 

When trying to structure your child’s day, parents should practice structure, not micromanagement, Nordmeyer said. Try starting the day with your version of “Circle Time” or a “Morning Huddle” to run through assignments, Zoom meetings, and break times. Nordmeyer recommends the Pomodoro method – available as an extension for Google Chrome – that sets a 25-minute timer for work, then gives a five-minute break for play. Looking at everything that has to be done can be overwhelming for any of us but breaking it down into segments makes the day seem less daunting. If 25 minutes seems like 25 years to your child, break it down into shorter increments. While a schedule is valuable, it’s not as important as supporting your child. The goal is success – not just survival. 

Get up and get moving. 

Sometimes the best way to get your child back on track is to go off-track. If they’re melting down, off in another world, or distressed, take a break. Let them run around the backyard like a golden retriever, walk around the block, or take a dance break. Some children with ADHD are hyperactive and have a kinetic connection to how they learn and process information, so fidgeting often helps them pay attention. Sitting at a desk for long periods is physically and mentally exhausting for them. “Exercising really counteracts that and [can be] a normalizer when it comes to those neurotransmitters, which means that students, after exercising a lot, can concentrate better,” Morgan said. “The children again feel like they’re a little bit more in control,” says Anabelle Morgan, head of school at Commonwealth Academy in Alexandria, Virginia.

Offer social and emotional support.

If your child is defeated and starts every day anxious, talk to their teacher, school counselor, or principal for ways you can better support your student. Many are willing to meet for a virtual one-on-one to discover the source of the frustration and provide both of you with the tools you need. Remember, your child’s educators and chose education because they’re invested in your child’s success too. They want your child to become life-long learners and to reach their full potential. 

Go with the flow. 

Going with the flow sounds counter-intuitive for a student that needs structure, remember that it’s not a competition and no one wins if homeschooling becomes a power struggle filled with meltdowns and tears. If your child is coming to the end of their rope, take a break. Don’t chastise, don’t rebuke, and don’t tell them to calm down – have you ever felt calmer after someone told you to calm down? Instead, practice self-calming techniques with them – chances are you need to settle your emotions too. 

Take inventory and ownership. 

At the end of the day, over dinner, or perhaps at bedtime when things are quieter, talk to your child about the day’s hits and misses. Thorn, Rose, Bud, is an excellent option for evaluating the day and setting tomorrow’s goals. Thorn is somewhere your child can acknowledge they fell short, like “I wouldn’t put down my Legos when it was time to go back to work.” You follow with, “I wasn’t patient with you when you were struggling to focus while the teacher was giving instructions.” For Rose, have your child tell you something they’re proud of, something they did well that day like “I did all ten math problems before the timer went off.” You follow up with something you’re proud of them for, like, “You did a great job transitioning from your lunch break to social studies.” Bud sets a goal for the next day. “Tomorrow, I will do my best to write out my spelling words without complaining.” You follow with, “Tomorrow, I will do my best to be patient when you’re struggling to stay on task.” 

My daughters and I used to do “Best thing? Worst thing?” every day after school. Sometimes the best thing was lunch; some days, it was acing a spelling test. Some days the worst thing was indoor-recess; some days, it was a bully that made them cry. Either way, it gave me a window into their day and insight into what they were struggling with. 

Above all, remember to give your child and yourself the grace and mercy you need. You and your child are not the only ones struggling. This season, like all seasons, will end. Your child’s teachers are just as ready for your child to be back in the classroom as you are. Don’t stress over skills your child may be falling behind on or what you perceive as a lack of progress. When kids start kindergarten, the teacher faces a room full of children at varying skill levels – this will be no different. Together, you’ll work to fill the gaps, celebrate the successes, and help your child get back on track. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Thursday, September 24: Making the Most of Mobile Gaming

Making the Most of Mobile Gaming

When: Thursday, September 24, 2020
6:00 – 7:00 pm ET
3:00 – 4:00 pm PT
Smartphones and tablets have inspired millions of people to start playing video games. And now with the arrival of 5G, the speed, quality and popularity of mobile is reaching unprecedented heights.
Join host Marv Dorner (@bebizzy) and the team at 6 pm ET (3 pm PT) on Thursday, September 24 for the #GameOn Twitter chat, as we explore our fascination with mobile gaming and look at some of the latest trends like multi-player gaming an augmented reality!
We’re giving away a $250 Amazon Gift Card AND a Samsung #GalaxyNote20 5G smartphone so be sure to RSVP!
Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. (You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)
To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: GameOn) indicating your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: https://bit.ly/2ZYvZ9A
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#GameOn) on Thursday, September 24 between 6:00 – 7:00 pm ET.
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

Top iOS 14 Features

By Tracey Dowdy

Apple’s September 16th release of iOS 14 is one of Apple’s biggest iOS updates yet. The update features Home screen design changes, updates for its existing apps, new features, improvements to Siri, plus a host of tweaks that include – finally – Widgets to streamline and customize your home screen.

Here are some of iOS 14’s best and already most popular features.

Custom Widget Stacks – Apple has finally added widgets for your Home Screen in iOS 14 – something Android users have had for years. Users can pull them right out of Today Center and onto your main iPhone display. iOS 14 also features Widget Stacks, so you can create one widget space on the Home Screen that houses multiple widgets you can swipe between.

Improvements to Siri – Siri just got smarter and can answer even more questions, and users can now use Siri to send audio messages.

Picture in Picture – iOS’ new Picture in Picture mode allows users to watch videos or talk on FaceTime without exiting another app. Your FaceTime call or a video will continue playing in small window users can resize or drag to any corner of the iPhone’s screen.

Approximate Location Sharing – Plenty of apps want to know your location, whether or not it’s relevant to the functionality of the app or not. In iOS 14, users have a new privacy option that lets us use location-based features while hiding our exact location.

On-Device Dictation – In iOS 14, dictation improves over time as you use your device with all of that learning done directly through your phone’s hardware rather than through Apple’s servers. Plus, all processing is now done offline, so when you dictate a text message, note, or email to your iPhone, it stays on your device.

Redesigned Apple Music – “For You” in Apple Music is now “Listen Now,” offering better than ever suggestions for what you might like to listen to. Search now provides recommendations based on genre and mood, and your playlists now feature animated artwork. And, to further improve your listening experience, Apple Music now includes Continue Playing that will seamlessly transition from one song to the next with music in a similar style, so there’s no dead air.

App Library – App Library allows users to find any downloaded apps in the App Library. It lets you eliminate Home Screen pages and hide apps providing users with a much more organized iPhone interface.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Turn Off Political Ads in Your Facebook Feed

By Tracey Dowdy

Did you know there’s a presidential election coming up in just a few weeks? How could you not? Everywhere you look, there are ads, campaign signs, and reminders to register to vote. 

Most of us don’t need a reminder, and I, for one, am done with the relentlessly combative tone of this particular election season. Thankfully, there are ways to block some of the content coming at you on social media, particularly on Facebook and Instagram. 

Facebook, who also owns Instagram, now allows users to turn off all political ads on both sites and apps ahead of the November 3 election. 

It’s all part of Facebook’s efforts to encourage voting, including its goal of helping 4 million people register, the largest voting information effort in US history. Their new voter center gives individuals information about how and when to vote, voter registration, voting by mail and early voting, and information on their efforts to prevent election interference

Both apps allow users to block all electoral or political ads from candidates, anything regarding social issues, and Super PACs or other organizations with the “Paid for by” political disclaimer on them from showing up in your feed.  

You have two options if you want to turn off political ads on Facebook and Instagram. 

Here’s how.

Facebook:

  • Go to Settings & Privacy > Settings > Ads > Ad Preferences. 
  • Tap Ad Topics > Social issues, elections, or politics.
  • Tap See fewer ads about this topic. 

If you scroll past a political ad in your feed, there should be a tag that says Confirmed Organization in the top-right corner of the ad. When you click on that tag, a window will pop up at the bottom of the screen. From here, choose from three options: Who paid for this ad? Why am I seeing this? See fewer ads about this topic. 

A new window will open. Tap to confirm that you want to see fewer ads about social issues, elections, and politics in the future.

Instagram

Go to your account settings. Select Ad topics and then See fewer ads about social issues, elections, and politics. 

Alternatively, if you see a political ad in your feed, tap where it says Paid for by and then select See fewer ads like this. 

Currently, these options are available only in the US, but Facebook has plans to roll out the same features to countries where they can exercise enforcement on ads about social issues, elections, and politics.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Thursday, September 17: Aging Gracefully

Aging Gracefully

When: Thursday, September 17, 2020
3:00 – 4:00 pm ET
12:00 – 1:00 pm PT
September is Healthy Aging Month. And let’s face it, no matter where we are on life’s journey, we are all getting older! The exciting news is that advances in science, medicine and technology make aging something to be embraced rather than feared.
Join host Sandi McKenna (@SandiMcKenna) and the team at 3 pm ET (12 noon PT) on Thursday, September 17 as we offer tips and share resources for Aging Gracefully!
RSVP and attend the chat for a chance to win one of TWO $250 Amazon Gift Cards!
Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. (You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)
To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: CareSmart) indicating your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: https://bit.ly/3iAe7ZQ
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#CareSmart) on Thursday, September 17 between 3:00 – 4:00 pm ET.
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

Apps that Double as Math Tutors

By Tracey Dowdy

Sooner or later, it happens to every parent. One day you’re helping your child learn their multiplication tables, the next, you’re elbow-deep in quadratic equations and sinking fast. Don’t get me started on the sorcery involved in Common Core math. Do I look like Professor McGonagall? 

When that day comes, don’t despair. If an in-person tutor isn’t an option, these websites and apps can act as an online tutor, so your child doesn’t fall behind or figure out just how much smarter they are than you – at least not yet. Keep in mind that some of these options will solve the equation for them, so watch for cheating to ensure your child is learning, not just having the site do their homework for them.

Khan Academy will always be at the top of my list. It’s a free website and educational app that includes thousands of educational videos aimed at self-paced instruction, so if your child doesn’t get it the first time around, there’s no pressure to push ahead. The site offers tutorials from early learning through college-level courses with an almost unlimited library of practice exercises, organized by topic, providing students with instant feedback through a personal dashboard that tracks their progress. Most videos are short, and content is both user friendly and engaging. 

MathPapa – Algebra Calculator walks students through algebra problems step-by-step. The free version functions as a calculator: Students simply enter their algebra equations, including variables, and watch as the solution is worked through. The paid version includes algebra lessons and additional resources. The site does all the work, so you may want to monitor homework assignments to prevent cheating. The paid version is $9.99 /monthly or $59.98 a year.

Course Hero allows students to ask a tutor questions by submitting a photo of a problem or describing via text. A subscription is required, but a selection of downloads and questions are given for free. The site is peer-supported (content submitted by other students), giving users access to notes and materials for a range of courses — primarily for upper-level high school and college. Course Hero offers a Basic Membership for free with online tutors access at an a la carte price. Premier members may unlock up to 30 documents and/or User Questions and access all Textbook Solutions and Explanations in Course Hero’s library and receive up to 40 Questions. Paid plans start at $9.95 a month. 

yHomework is designed for students and teachers. Enter the math problem and, in one click, get a complete step-by-step solution, including explanations and the answer, in all methods of solving. Content covers multiple levels and topics, including basic math and arithmetic through pre-algebra, algebra 1, trigonometry, and pre-calculus. Students who struggle with multistep equations and reverse numbers or make minor calculation errors will benefit from the detailed explanations. Again, keep in mind that yHomework will solve students’ equations, so keep an eye out for cheating on homework assignments. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Tuesday, September 22: Back to School Amid the Pandemic

Back to School Amid the Pandemic

When: Tuesday, September 22, 2020
8:00 – 9:00 pm ET
5:00 – 6:00 pm PT
The global pandemic has drastically changed our normal routines – the way we live, work, play and learn. Whether we’re returning to a classroom or learning from home, transitioning Back to School Amid a Pandemic is particularly challenging, and having reliable #AlwaysOn Internet is more important than ever.
Join host Marybeth Hamilton (@BabySavers) and the team at 8 pm ET (5 pm PT) on Tuesday, September 22 as we discuss the challenges of back to school, and offer tips and advice for making the transition as smooth as possible.
RSVP and attend the chat for a chance to win one of TWO $250 Amazon Gift Cards!
Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. (You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)
To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: AlwaysOn) indicating your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: https://bit.ly/3kdvfFd
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#AlwaysOn) on Tuesday, September 22 between 8:00 – 9:00 pm ET.
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

Smartphone Photo-Editing Apps For iOS and Android

By Tracey Dowdy

With all of us spending more time at home, things that we’ve said we’d do as soon as we got the time are suddenly getting done. If going through the pictures on your phone is on that list, these photo-editing apps may be enough to salvage photos otherwise headed for the trash. 

Adobe Lightroom has long been the industry standard for professional photographers, and the mobile version is designed with the same high-quality tools. Images sync in the cloud so you can start on one device and seamlessly switch to another. 

Available on iOS and Android – some functions available for free, or $4.99 per month for full access. 

 

Photoshop Express offers many of the features you’d find in Lightroom but cuts out some of the pro tools and cloud syncing found in Lightroom’sLightroom’s paid version. You’ll still have access to editing tools, including exposure, contrast, and color editing options, plus a selection of filters and overlay textures. You can also create photo collages, so though it’s not as extensive as other options in this list, you can’t beat the price. 

Available on iOS and Android – Free. 

 

Prisma isn’t your basic photo editing app as it’s filters transform your photos into art. Many of its effects are inspired by artists such as Salvador Dali and Picasso to create bold, painting-like images. Not every filter will work with every photo, but you’ll enjoy tweaking and playing with the effects. 

Available on iOS and Android – $7.99 a month or $30 a year.

 

Google-owned Snapseed is robust enough for serious amateur photographers, but its easy-to-use controls make it accessible for beginners. The toolbox includes exposure and color tools and filter options from vintage to modern styles, as well as HDR looks. 

Available on iOS and Android – Free. 

 

PicsArt offers a wide range of editing tools, from exposure and contrast to cinematic color grading plus a collection of dramatic filters to transform your images into painting-like artwork. You can even morph the tone and shape of your face in those not-quite-right selfies.  PicsArt also offers an Instagram-style social sharing element so you can show off your creations.

Available on iOS and Android – limited functions for free or $48 a year for the complete suite of tools.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.