Our Homeschooling Year So Far

1418382_75461860This is my first year keeping to any kind of homeschool schedule. Last year when my daughter was 3 we tried it, but when my son developed food issues (both weight gain and food allergies) that took precedence so we just did what we were already doing, lots of free play, read-alouds, and the occasion circle time. I first discovered the Wee Folk Art curriculum almost two years ago. It looked like so much fun. I was especially excited because it was a loosely Waldorf based curriculum, which at the time was what I thought I wanted. (more on that in a later post, but for now just let me say, homeschooling is not looking at all like I expected it would).

I began slowly, the first year just doing the read aloud’s and not much else. Then last summer, shortly after my daughter turned four, I decided to try again, this time trying out the summer curriculum Ponds and Puddles. We did some of the crafts this time and a couple of field trips. But when fall came, I wanted to be a little more structured.

We typically homeschool two or three days a week, more if my daughter wants to. We mostly focus on doing the suggested read-alouds, both the fiction and non-fiction. We’ve mostly been able to make do with the library as our book source, which occasionally requires substitutions. We’ve begun working in the activities and field trips as we are able.

The big additions to our year have been adding Get Ready for the Code books, Games for Math and Come Look With Me: World of Play for art appreciation. My daughter’s interest is entirely unpredictable. She seems to hate math games, so I don’t push them. She goes in spurts with Get Ready for the Code. Some days she loves it, but she seems to struggle with her fine motor skills so I think writing is a long way off yet, so while I will suggest that we work on her writing, I let her decide if we are going to do it, at least for now. But I’ve discovered that just through reading aloud some alphabet themed books (with have a set with a book for each letter) and playing with fridge magnets, she now seems to recognize most of her letters and some of her numbers. I will give some credit for that to the kids Pandora station and They Might Be Giants. Their number album, Here Come the 123’s has made numbers so much fun for Thea and we sing the songs often. I may have to put it on my supply list for later this year.

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She loved the weaving activity as part of last week’s theme of sheep and wool.
She loves Come Look With Me, which surprises me because I thought that it seemed to mature for her. She asks dozens of questions about the pictures, most of which I can’t answer, but she is fascinated. The curriculum includes a poem or long rhyme to memorize each month. The first one she seemed to like and knew within days. But she is fighting the second one. I think she actually knows it, but doesn’t want to recite for me for some reason. She has a great memory, she just has to care enough to use it. (Can I just tell you how much other flotsam she has memorized including ridiculous songs off of Pandora and common phrases I use, both flattering and unflattering)

Our co-op started out with a curriculum we liked, only to discover after we purchased some of the materials, that they are public access only for individual families, not groups. While I realize that we are five families working in virtual isolation, we felt that the ethical thing to do would be to either stop using the curriculum or buy a license. The co-op license costs more than any of us are willing to spend, so we have decided to start using the Wee Folk Art Harvest Time curriculum with our co-op as well. This will actually produce less work for me, and I’m hoping make my daughter more excited by some aspects of the curriculum, like memorization.

So far so good, I’ve enjoying the journey and my daughter seems to love learning, as long as I don’t make it a chore for her. She also seems to have realized that learning and school can go on anywhere, from the car (we do some narration and reading comprehension questions while en route places), to our kitchen and living room or the local park. I love that she is realizing so early on in life that learning isn’t and shouldn’t be confined to a desk in a classroom.

So homeschoolers out there, how is your year going so far? What is your favorite part? What is your children’s favorite part?

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Moms and What Else

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Lately I feel as though I’m on a quest to remake myself. I can’t exactly put my finger on why. Maybe it’s because that as the mom of two kids, I’m feeling part of myself slip away Perhaps because my husband and I have made the conscious decision that I will staying home at least until our family is complete, though we haven’t defined what that means, and likely until our children are grown and out of the house. Even though I already knew that, somehow the decision has sent me into high gear in an effort to pursue my identity. I’ve begun to guard my self-care time zealously. Nap time /quiet time is a necessity. I’ve begun to invest in myself in ways I only did sporadically in the last four years.
But there are pitfalls to that task of caring for yourself, suddenly you begin to wonder if you are stylish enough, cool enough or even good enough to do this job of motherhood. If maybe this was all a mistake and you were never meant to have children at all. I’m still walking the journey toward finding out who I am as a mother and in addition to being a mom. That’s right, I said it. I am more than just a mom.

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Much of who I am is tied up in being a mom, and I agree with Lisa Jo Baker when she says that no one is just a mom, but I think the point is that there are parts of me that are innate and would still exist even if I hadn’t become a mom. I have talents and passions that may be enhanced or muted by my motherhood, but they are still part of me. Elements of these passions was infuse themselves into the way I parent and the kind of mother I chose to be, but they are not directly tied to my role as mom.
I am a writer, one who has spent the last ten years battling with pen and paper, keyboard and screen, but mostly with myself in self-doubt and frustration. But in the last couple of years I am finally willing to identify myself as a writer without needed to add “but I don’t write as much as I’d like.”  How much I do it doesn’t make it more or less of who I am, it is part of me. It is something I love and feel passionate.
I am trying to make an effort to take better care of myself by getting dressed in clothes that make me feel great, training for my first 5K, and investing a few hours each week in pursuing my creative passions, like my writing. But I need to be sure I really doing those things for myself, not because I’m proving anything to anyone.
I don’t need to prove to anyone, except maybe myself, that I am more than just a mom. Of course I am more, and there is no “just.” None of us is just one thing, we are an amazing combination of talents, passions, abilities and roles that make us truly who we are. And nothing except our own opinion of ourselves, can make us any less.

 

Frumps to Pumps: Dress Differently, Act Differently

Frumps-Pumps-Draft-350-231x300 I already talked about this last week in my Know Your Why post, but I really do notice that this is true. No, getting dressed is not a magic pill to make me an easy going, always patient, never frustrated mom. But I am more likely to respond to conflicts with my children in a positive way if I’m not quietly resenting them because I’m still in my pajamas. When I was working full time outside the home, before I had kids, Saturdays were a time to wear sweatshirts and jeans to just enjoy bumming around the house. Now it’s the opposite. Saturdays are the days when I have the time to get ready and we’re usually out of the house all day running all kinds of errands so I can check things off my list. So how can I produce that kind of energy during the week so that I don’t burn myself out every weekend?

 Inspiration I’ve gathered

As much as I hated wearing a uniform to school, studies show that wearing a uniform improves concentration and attitude. So consider getting dressed to be donning the uniform of the day, the way a doctor would getting ready to go into surgery or a lawyer into the court room. You are starting the day off right as you get ready to be mom, wife, household manager and all the other things you do and are. So when I get dressed, I’m setting the stage for a positive, successful day and telling my kids that mommy is ready to do her job. When I stay in my pj’s too long my daughter now asks if I’m feeling OK, and why I’m not dressed yet.

Challenges I’ve pursued
What is the biggest hurdle to my getting dressed in the morning and how can I avoid it? While it doesn’t always work and in certainly won’t work in every season of life, I try to get up before my kids, even if all I do is wash my face, brush my teeth and do my hair. They can wait a couple of minutes, even if it requires fussing, while I do that. I’ve also found that laying my clothes out the night before can help so I don’t have to think about what to wear. I suggest reading The No Brainer Wardrobe, which will help you to build a simple capsule wardrobe so that getting dressed will be easy but exciting.

Suggested Additional Challenges: Make your kids part of the challenge. Make it a game where you all get dressed together, perhaps even a race. This helps teach them valuable life skills and helps keep you motivated as well.

Next – Frumps to Pumps: Prophesy Hope Through Accountability

Just joining us? Get caught up

Week 1 : Join the Challenge

Week 2: Know Your Why

Trust Your Instincts, Read the Instructions: 4 Grown Women, 1 Dead Car Battery

Booster cables (12V, 50A, 3mm², 3.5m)
Booster cables (12V, 50A, 3mm², 3.5m) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had an interesting adventure last week. As our small, outdoor, homeschool co-op was leaving the park, one of the mom’s cars wouldn’t start. This had already been a stressful afternoon, our first attempt at an afternoon meeting. We were discussing a curriculum change to avoid the expense of additional licensing fees, and our children were melting down. (Seriously, almost every single kid was crying. There were 8 kids, and four newborns. It was not a pretty picture). After all of this, one mom successfully departed and the other four of us were loading up the kids when one mom couldn’t get her car to start. Obvious solution: jumper cables, of which we had three pair between us.

I should preface this next part by saying that we are all intelligent women, several of us with advanced college degrees. But none of us have ever used jumper cables. Seen them used, yes, but never actually done it. So we did what came logically, we read the instructions that are attached to the jumper cables. My logic said that it should be as easy as positive to postive and negative to negative, on both cars, starting with the car that was running. But the instructions said something about attaching three of the connections but making sure the last negative connector was placed as far from the battery as possible. With no idea what this meant, we reached one of our husbands by cell phone. He said that the cables should be attached in a particular order, so we removed them and reattached them in the suggested order and then attached the final negative connector to the negative contact on the dead battery, just as our logic concluded should be the case, but the instructions seemed unclear. The car started immediately, no one was electrocuted and we were all able to make it successfully home.

Things I learned from my little adventure:

Always Read the Directions.
Instructions don’t always make sense, but they will at least point you in the right direction of the proper procedure to solve your problem.

Trust Your Instincts (at least to a point).
If we had followed out instincts we would have been out of there much faster, but given that it involved electricity it was probably best that we consulted someone who knew more than we did.

Don’t Be Embarrassed to Ask for Help
It felt a little ridiculous that none of us had ever used a set of jumper cables before, though we had each carried them in the back of our cars almost since we could drive. But rather than risk injury to ourselves or damage to the vehicles, we asked for help. Sometimes that is the shortest way to solve your problem, and the safest one too.

In the Future, Self-Educate for Better Self-Reliance.
This taught me that I need to learn a little more about cars. There are basic things like changing a flat tire, using jumper cables and other tasks that I’ve never done and while I probably could figure them out using my owner’s manual, it would give me more confidence in an emergency if I educated myself a little bit better about car maintenance.

Have you ever been stuck in a situation where you were out of your element? How did you handle it, read the instructions, trust your instinct, ask for help or some combination thereof?

Frumps to Pumps: Know Your Why

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If you are just joining us for the Frumps to Pumps Challenge, read the opening post here.

This week’s challenge focused on knowing why you get ready. I know that may sound silly but it makes all the difference. For a long time I didn’t bother. You want to know my logic? No one sees me but the kids. My husband says he doesn’t mind. (Thought I’m not sure if I fully believe him). I have nowhere to be. No one cares how I look.

Can you see the mental downward spiral into self deprecation and depression? We all have a reason why we should get ready in the morning. It won’t be the same for each of us. I get ready because I want to set an example for my kids. For months my daughter would barely ever get out of her pajamas, and I realized I wasn’t setting the best standard for her. I noticed that she was a happier more active child when she didn’t just wear pajamas all day. The same goes for me. I wanted to be a happier and better mom. For me, part of that entails getting dressed. I also do it because it makes me feel good to know that I look good. I can be more spontaneous because I don’t need a 20 minute warning so I can quick get ready.

My husband is another factor. I love this man with all my heart and he has seen me through many difficult times. He deserves to come home to a wife who looks like she is happy with her life. I can’t keep the chaos at bay very long in our house. I can’t stop the kids from making messes, always get dinner ready on time or make sure the cute outfit I put on doesn’t get smeared with something while cooking (though I’m beginning to embrace aprons and realize why they wear a staple wardrobe item of women in previous generations). But I can show him that I’m making an effort. If he came home to find me in the same clothes I wore to bed, glassy eyed on the couch cuddled up with my laptop and headphones while the children ran around in circles, that makes it look like I don’t value or enjoy my life. I’m not talking about the occasional bad day, I’m saying an everyday pattern of low self-care and low interest in my daily life.

I don’t always love my stay-at-home mom life, but I’m grateful for it. I don’t relish every moment with my children, but I realize how blessed I am to be able to stay home with them. Dressing myself is my way of saying, yes, this is the life I’ve chosen, not the life I got stuck with. I’m choosing to make the best of the difficult days and try to provide a ray of sunshine, just by taking a few minutes each morning to focus on myself. That is why I get dressed.

Inspirations I’ve imbibed

Know your why. This is a hard one for me some days, especially when I don’t want to get out of bed and face another day of dishes, laundry and screaming kids. But ultimately, I know that I am here for a reason. I am the best mom for them. Why kind of mom do I want to be? I know that I feel better about myself when I get dressed, I am happier and more positive. This in turn makes me a more patient and joyful mom. So, in part I get dressed for my kids. But I also get dressed because I like to feel good. When I feel good I am more energetic and efficient. I like getting to check all those items off my to-do list and feeling like I really made some kind of progress in my day. I know that is unlikely to happen if I don’t get dressed. I’m also getting dressed as a way of honoring the God who made my body. He has great works for me to accomplish, even if it seems like I’m just a mom. How can I be available to him if I’m not dressed and ready?

 Challenges I’ve pursued:

Getting dressed everyday. Morning exercise helps with this. After a run, I’m so gross that a shower and change of clothes aren’t really optional, so it’s not much work to pick real clothes instead of glorified pj’s.

Suggested additional challenges: The book suggests writing down your “Why I Get Dressed” and put it someplace you will see it as you get ready. This may be as simple as a post-it or index card on your bathroom mirror. But if you want to get crafty with it, go ahead, Pintrist away. Make a collage, create a graphic image, frame a favorite photo and write on the glass. Anything that helps. Just don’t let your excitement distract you from getting dressed.

 So how have you done with this challenge so far? Are you getting dressed everyday? When you don’t, what are the obstacles that keep it from happening?

Next – Frumps to Pumps: Dress Differently, Act Differently

Catch Up Here:

Week 1 : Join the Challenge

 

If I Can’t Have It All, Why Do I Keep Trying?

I’ve always believed that you can’t have it all. Life is filled with limited time, energy and money each of which motivate how we use the others. That being said, I haven’t quite made peace with that in my own life. I’m always striving to do more, be more and try to make it all fit in.

Some days I feel like I don’t do anything more than laundry, dishes and cook meals and sometimes I can’t seem to even manage those. But other days, I get excited about the potential for new projects and personal enrichment. I go all J on myself and create list after list, scheduling and rescheduling my time, determined not to waste a second, looking for ways to efficiently multi-task. Never go up and downstairs empty handed. Read articles while I fold laundry. (Though I still haven’t figured out how to read while I do dishes). But mostly I end up spending more time planning to do things than actually doing things.

I’ve been meaning to review Tell Your Time for a while. I really appreciated the proposed exercise she set up to help you determine how to fit activities into your life. The problem is I can’t seem to delete anything. I know that there are only so many hours in a day, but I just keep looking for more.

I am a stay-at-home mom who wishes she was a work-at-home mom, or a part-time working mom. I am a writer, a blogger, a knitter, beginning sewist and gardener. We are planning to start homeschooling this year, at least in a slightly more formal manner than in the past. I am a dancer and the head of our dance ministry team at our church. I am publicist for our MOPS group and I’m wishing I could start a mid-week kids program at our church (like Awana, Pioneer or Journey clubs).  I’d also like to start an Etsy store, monetize my blog, finish my Lenten devotional, and start promoting my Advent devotional for the upcoming season.

Our budget is limited so I spend more time than I would like researching and looking for deals before making a decision about any kind of expenditure. I make most of our food from scratch, and often have to create multiple meals due to our son’s food allergies. (That doesn’t include the time I spend encouraging my husband to write and cajoling him to exercise at least once a week when I know it should be two or three).

I realize that I am totally nuts. I have far too many things that I like to do, and the ones that I don’t like doing, I can’t afford to stop doing. Sure, if I had the money I would happily hire someone to do the cleaning and maybe the cooking too. (Though I don’t mind cooking, as much as the cleaning up afterwards. Somehow one hour of cooking seems to produce two hours of dishes. I call it my kitchen time warp). So instead of just giving up one of the activities I love, I try to schedule really creatively, as if just manipulating the calendar will solve the problem.

Being a mom is an exercise in constant interruption. I finally sit down the write and suddenly the baby needs a diaper change. I get my kids breakfast and then sit down to eat my own, and the kids are already finished eating and need more to eat. My daughter’s appetite alone is mystifying. I’m looking forward to teaching her to wash her own dishes so that she can wash and reuse the same couple of dishes all day so she stops going through 4 bowls, 3 plates and multiple other cups a day, sometimes per meal.

So what do I cut out? Do I do it all but spend less time on each? Do I keep the activities that produce income (which at the moment isn’t really any of them) and delete others? Do maintain my useful hobbies like knitting and sewing? Do I become a writer before all else, focusing only on honing my craft? Or do I primarily focus on being a blogger and spend my time building my platform and building social media presence? I had having to choose and I’m not sure I can.

What have you given up to make time for other things that need to be done or that you love to do?

My Daily Prayer: Lord Have Mercy

Another morning run, pushing myself mile after mile. Wanting to give up, wondering why I try at all. I beg my legs to take me just another mile, even though it’s up hill, even though my strength is gone and my legs are burning. Drenched in sweat I walk the last few blocks and sigh with relief that it’s over for today. In the house I am greeted by dishes undone, laundry waiting to be folded, and the sounds of life stirring upstairs. Usually I would launch into a mental list of complaints. Last night I had my own little whine fest about all the things about our life that I thought would be different by now.
Today I try again. Start over. My mind washed clean by the early morning. Lord, have mercy.
This is my prayer. When I don’t think I can make it one more step, Lord, have mercy.
When I can’t stand one more fight with my daughter over things I cannot change (like the weather, what day of the week it is) and pray, Lord, have mercy.
When inspite of our economizing my husband’s continued hard work there never seems to be enough money for what we need. When the children’s increasing needs in size and appetite outpace our resources; Lord, have mercy.
When I don’t want to cook one more dinner and watch my daughter refuse to eat it. When I’ve changed my third poopy diaper before 10 AM, when I just wish I could go back to bed. When I need a vacation and know it will probably be years until we get another one. The one who holds the power of life and death in his hands hears my complaints and petty concerns.
Lord, have mercy on me. I don’t deserve the blessings I’ve been given. You deserve more gratitude than I could ever offer. I ask for the strength to get through the challenges of this day and beg your sustaining grace as I look to the future.