Between remote learning, working where you live, taking on new roles, doing all you can to protect your loved ones, and actively self-isolating, to say 2020 has been a challenge would be putting it lightly. This year hasn’t been a walk in the park for anyone, and parents especially have quickly adapted: morphing into teachers, caregivers, and remote coworkers overnight.
Although the situation was jarring for fashion editor and stylist Kahlana Barfield Brown and her husband Dwayne at first, the two have taken on these new challenges with grace and optimism. Now, they’re conquering this unsettling time and forging ahead into their latest unknown — the 2020 back-to-school season.
Kahlana and Dwayne already have a 4-year-old daughter named Dylan, but with another little one on the way, they’ve been especially cautious during this time. “Dylan’s going into pre-K, and as of right now, we’re not comfortable with the idea of her going back to in-person classes in the fall,” Kahlana said. As a result, the Browns have transformed their home into Dylan’s classroom.
“Between my husband and I trying to balance our own work schedules, we’ve had to switch off with teaching Dylan," Kahlana said. "In the spring, each day differed so greatly. Some days she was excited and ambitious, and other days she’d have full-blown meltdowns. It’s difficult, but also beautiful. In a classroom setting, it is general education; but when it’s a one-person class, we can tailor each lesson to exactly where she is at the time. We have chalkboards, dry-erase boards, pencils, books — you name it.”
Kahlana and Dwayne even invested in an Elevated Learning Binder filled with lessons that provide a structured curriculum they can easily follow. “We have always worked with Dylan on her education outside of school, but now assuming the role of her teachers, we feel even more invested in her learning,” Kahlana explained. “It has also been a blessing to be able to weave subjects into her daily curriculum, like Black History, that are important to us as parents.”
Aside from ensuring Dylan has all the learning tools needed to continue her education outside of the classroom, Dwayne and Kahlana are making sure to prioritize physical comfort as well — for both their daughter and themselves. “Comfort is key for us,” Kahlana said. “We wear loose-fitting clothing and sweats at home to stay comfortable, but we find comfortable pieces that also look stylish, which is where H&M comes into play.”
"Being at home every day, getting dressed, and putting together an outfit is key to shaping your mindset."
In fact, getting dressed has become an essential part of the Browns' routine. It’s one task they can rely on to feel put-together and express creativity. As a fashion editor, Kahlana has spent her whole career curating and styling outfits. And now, she gets to do it for her daughter! “Being at home every day, getting dressed, and putting together an outfit is key to shaping your mood,” Kahlana explained. “Whether you are getting work done, teaching classes, or taking meetings, getting dressed as though you were physically going to that activity helps shift your mindset out of being at home and establishes a sense of normalcy.”
H&M has always been a go-to shopping destination for Kahlana and her family, and now more than ever, they’re relying on the brand to help prepare them for the upcoming school year. “I’m completely against spending an arm and a leg for newborn and toddler clothes because they grow so fast, so I love that at H&M we can get cute and stylish pieces for affordable prices,” Kahlana said. “Dylan’s favorite leggings are H&M, so I’ll definitely be restocking those for her this fall — especially as we prepare for a potential year of at-home learning. I think the thing I like the most about shopping at H&M is that I can stock up. I know the pieces I love, so I like to buy them in bulk.”
Bike shorts, a tee, and a stylish jacket will be an everyday combo for Dylan during the school year. “It’s the kind of outfit I’d wear myself,” Kahlana said. “We’re New Yorkers living in Brooklyn, so all-black is our uniform. The moto jacket, neutral white tank, and biker shorts are comfortable, but have an edge.” A simple but beautiful dress is also a must have for Dylan — especially on busy mornings.
“This white dress is something Dylan can wear to church or to school," Kahlana said. "As a mom, having a complete outfit for Dylan in one piece makes my life so much easier. Since it’s still summertime, we paired this with sandals, but as we transition to the fall, I would style this dress with sneakers and socks for utility and to balance out the femininity of the piece.”
While this school year will undoubtedly look different for every family, Kahlana’s words of wisdom for other parents are simply to “go with your gut.” “I have friends who are much more comfortable sending their kids back to school than I am," Kahlana said. "That’s a decision that only you can make for yourself. If you do decide to homeschool your child or children, the biggest piece of advice I can give is that patience is key. Patience and structure.”
Expanding further, Kahlana explained that Dylan doesn’t like to get anything wrong, and with her parents teaching her, she wants to show that she knows the answers. “A friend of mine gave me a great tip about how to phrase my questions and responses when teaching Dylan,” Kahlana said. “While I celebrate when she gets an answer right, I’ve shifted my language from ‘you’re so smart’ to ‘you are working really hard.’ That way, when she gets an answer wrong, she’ll understand that learning is a process and it’s about working hard.”
Despite the uncertainty and, at times, the chaos that this year has brought, Kahlana stresses that there are always things to be grateful for. “I think the most beautiful thing has been knowing that there will never be another time when I have the opportunity to spend 24 hours a day with my family," she said. "There is so much beauty in that. It has reminded me how blessed I am to have a home, to have a family, and to have this time to be able to spend with them and appreciate it. I have been trying to stay in the moment, slow down, and recognize what really matters to me.”