Let Wisdom Replace Doubt: Five Minute Friday

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I was raised with a very strong sense of duty. You show up on time, keep your commitments even if it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient. I recognized early on in life that there are lot of things you do because it’s right and good, not necessarily because you want to.

Then enter parenthood. Suddenly the list of shoulds became huge and sometimes they contradicted each other. Baby should sleep in bed with mommy vs. Baby should never sleep in bed with mommy. Children need to play independently especially outside vs. Children should never be left alone outside for any period of time.
Other times the standards set felt insurmountable. Children should rarely, if ever watch TV, have sugar, wear clothing made of two kids of fabrics. (Ok, I made that last one up.) Being a mom meant a world filled with new levels of obligation and oceans of new guilt. With every decision I made, there was enough evidence and social pressure from the opposite opinion that I doubted myself constantly. Staying at home, homeschooling, the list went on. It wasn’t that I was too overwhelmed to make choices, just that I was almost never confidence I was making the right ones.

Sometimes even when I was unhappy with the course I’d set, I felt powerless to try and change it. Why put in all that extra effort if it wasn’t necessary, I was still going to feel guilty and tomorrow a study will come out to suggest that my original choice was right all along?

It took me a long time to silence the voices of duty. Honestly, they are with me still. But quieter whispers now instead of demanding shouts. It is easier to ignore them and try instead to replace them with words of truth. Not that I don’t fulfill my responsibilities, I’m just more deliberate what I commit myself too. But I haven’t yet learned to quiet the murmurings of guilt when I read another article or see another volunteer need.

Sometimes I let them become quite loud, and they drown out the beauty and the wonder of this life that I am both carefully chosen and yet accidentally found. (Because so much of life with that strange combination of intentionality and serendipity).

But I’m working hard to pray for mercy instead of cling to impossible standards and ask for wisdom instead of being wracked with doubt. All my shoulds and oughts were covered by the blood at the cross, and that doesn’t exclude my parenting ones.

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The One in Which I Admit The Good of Social Media

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I both love and hate social media. I joined Facebook several years ago in an attempt to connect with other moms. It seemed like I was always missing out on fun meet ups and other last minute stuff because I wasn’t part of it. But then I quickly realized the dangerous world I had been sucked into. Social media (especially Pinterest and Facebook, but others too) is great fodder for comparison. Because no matter how good my life is, I can see someone else’s perfectly filtered version of their day, and it usually looks better than mine.

But I also saw the potential for it to be a tool to build community. I’m on a number of private forums for homeschooling, fitness, mom stuff, etc. People that are strangers but still take the time to support each other with genuine comments and encouragement. I’m lucky to be part of a couple of groups that are virtually drama free, which I love. But in the last several months I’ve been seeing how amazing and online community can be first hand.

It started with our homeschool forum for the curriculum I use, Five in a Row. It’s a fun place to share ideas and ask questions. Earlier this year I asked if anyone knew where I could get some traditional Japanese wooden clogs in a child’s size. We were reading The Red Clogs and my daughter really wanted a pair. Amid the suggestions, someone chimed in and said she’d found a pair at a local thrift store. I offered to pay her, or at least cover the cost of shipping, but she insisted that she just wanted them to go to a good home. A few weeks later, a pair of wooden clogs arrived at my door with a sweet note all the way from Texas. (We live in the North East, so that wasn’t a cheap shipping bill).

Then last week, I got a note with a generous monetary gift from a member of the fitness forum I’m part of. (Fit2B Studio, which I’m discovering is about so much more than fitness). The note itself was so encouraging. She had read a post I’d shared about a difficult day with my little ones and my frustration with lack of progress in my body. So she sent me a gift and told me to treat myself to a dinner out or a new outfit that makes me feel beautiful.

I was floored for the second time. These people don’t know me in real life. But then I realized that the sign of a good online community is where you can share your frustrations and joys and receive genuine encouragement and support in return. While this will never replace face to face friends, an online community can be a wonderful asset and a huge blessing. While there are many downsides to the technological age, this is one of it’s positives. We don’t have to live down the street, to listen (or in this case read). Good advice and kind words can traverse the miles, across oceans and continents at times. Prayers know no distance.

So if you are like many of us, and social media is a part of your day, use it well. To build up, rather than tear down, to give rather than take and to surprise the world when it seems kindness is in short supply. Better yet, don’t just hit like, do something.

(If you are interested in Five in a Row or Fit2B Studio, feel free to click through and find out more. Some of these may be affiliate links. Thanks.)

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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?