Tag Archive for homeschooling

Thoughts on being scared to death of homeschooling, and thoughts on the thoroughly educated child

I’m entering my 17th year of homeschooling.

If you’ve read here for more than two minutes you know I favor the Charlotte Mason method, have an artsy/crafty bent, emphasize music and poetry, read a lot, and tend to be rather eclectic.

What you might not know is that I feel totally unqualified to do this job.

I’m not musical. I was an average student. I didn’t like to read. I’ve not mastered higher math or science, so how could I ever teach it!?

(I am artsy and that’s about it.)

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I’ve always known that I could not give my children the kind of education they need.

This has been the cause of a lot of fear in my life. I love my kids and didn’t want them to suffer because their mom was a bumbling idiot who thought she could do a better job than an actual teacher. I’ve always realized that if I messed this homeschool gig up, my kids would be the one to suffer in the long run. No pressure there.

I decided early on that the best course of action would be to attend a local homeschooling conference. For me, it was overwhelming and seemed to confirm what I already knew–“I’m not cut out for this.” Walking the aisles, eyes scanning the mounds of curriculum (too many choices!) I literally feel dizzy.  I was afraid that someone might try to strike up a conversation with me about what curriculum I’ve been using, and recognize me as the homeschooling fraud of a mom that I felt like.

I didn’t benefit from a homeschooling conference, but I did greatly benefit from an experienced lady at our local support group, Debbie. She listened and gave feedback. She encouraged me although she had a gazillion other things to do. She talked to me about all of the different ways people homeschool. She just gave me courage.

As I took each step, I also learned another truth: God had gone before me and was there to help me each step of the way. He was walking my homeschooling journey with me. He knew before the foundations of the earth that I’d be doing this job that I felt totally unqualified to do and that half the time I thought I’d lose my sanity performing. (You’re with your kids 24/7, ya’ll. That can be oh-so-good and bad.)

When I asked for guidance, He gave it. When I seemed lost, He helped me find my way through the advice of a friend or by information on the internet.

I learned that knowing my own limits as a teacher and understanding my personality mattered tremendously because I couldn’t be someone who I was not. And learning the personality of each child was crucial to understanding their learning style.

I devoured For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School and A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning and Educating the WholeHearted Child  and realized that I was drawn mostly to the Charlotte Mason method.

I connected with Charlotte Mason’s respectful ideas about children:

  • that they are not creatures to be molded/created but were already born a person;
  • that adults should not abuse power or use fear/manipulation to make a child learn; (all I can think about is Mr. Gradgrind in Dickens’ Hard Times!)
  • that the mind of a child thrives on quality knowledge.

I appreciated that she taught that children should be kept clean, taught good manners, never demeaned (this during Victorian England when children were to be seen and not heard).

In short, children are capable and deserve respect. You don’t teach them how to learn—they already have that capacity. You provide excellent resources.

I realized that I don’t have to be an expert on anything to read my children excellent books and to expose them to the lofty ideas and beautiful language of people more intelligent than I.

I try to lead a “beautiful life” (cultured) with my kids. Much of this comes by adding music, art, literature, and details to our surroundings during the day. For instance, I might add flowers or a candle to our school room. I display the artwork of one or two artists per month on my fridge to familiarize them with that artist’s style. We read the poetry of one or two famous poets per month.We bake and craft.  We take nature walks to enjoy the creation. We have tea and cookies in the late afternoon in the fall/winter. We enjoy local produce and do seasonal excursions. These are all things that anyone can do. I’m trying to raise kids who notice and appreciate little things because education is more than taking in information.

To be truly educated, you have to care about how you fit into the grand scheme of life. Knowledge has to change you for the better and move you to action. You have to appreciate beauty simply for the love of it. You have to be curious about the inner workings of that concept you don’t quite grasp.

A truly educated person cannot be indifferent to the suffering of others no matter how “insignificant” they are on the social scale. I don’t care how much my kids know book-wise if it doesn’t cause them to be better neighbors. 

I think as a society we’re satisfied with a shoddy definition of education. As moms, we have to make sure that we don’t confuse taking in information with being educated or advancing through school with understanding knowledge.

We need to see our kids as whole people–education being a small part of who they are.

They need to know that they were created for a relationship with God and that outside of that relationship, nothing else makes sense. Their minds need to be informed and infused with the mind of Christ.

As I enter another year, I am confronted yet again with my own lack: lack of expertise, energy, and knowledge. And I know that though homeschooling can be lonely, I am not alone; God has gone before me and will be with me (and you!) as we start this new year.

 

 

 

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DIY Spring Bird’s Nest Tutorial

Even though we still have two feet of snow on the ground, I’m working on decorating my house for spring. Today my goal was to finish decorating my mantle.

I made this bird’s nest for the mantle and thought I’d share how I made it. It’s kind of a no-brainer, but if you are not crafty, maybe this will help you to try your own. I just LOVE bird’s nests in general, so this is one of the sweetest crafts in my opinion.

DIY bird's nest

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You need two grapevine wreaths, one bigger and one smaller. The smaller one should fit inside the larger one. I found these at the Dollar Tree.

Using the larger grapevine wreath as the top of the nest and the smaller one as the bottom, wire the two wreaths together. Then form a bottom of the nest by weaving the wire like a basket. It’s okay if it’s a mess. It will all be covered. You want the basic shape of a nest or a bowl. Wire it to death if you have to to get the rounded shape.

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Next, I used a glue gun to add moss to the outside. I found the moss ribbon at Jo-Ann’s Fabric for $3.99. I pulled the moss so that it looked loose and sparse and not “ribbonny.” I wanted it to look natural.

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After I line the outside with green moss, I added some to the inside of the nest. I then stuffed the bottom with a good sized handful of Spanish Moss, also from the Dollar Tree.
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After the basic nest is done, you can pretty it up by hot gluing small flowers, berries, or leaves around the perimeter.

Finished DIY Grapevine Birds Nest

Finished DIY Grapevine Birds Nest

I filled mine with five little eggs (for my 5 kids). The eggs were also at Jo-Ann’s. Other years, I’ve used the nest as a candy dish, placing a shallow dish inside and filling it with Cadbury Mini Eggs, which look adorable. I’ve also filled them with yellow Peeps for Easter.
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Here’s the finished mantle. I used things I had around the house: an old Ball Jar filled with moss, one of my favorite antiques, a signed Wallace Nutting print entitled “The Coming Out of Rose”, some galvanized buckets filled with greens and a few natural elements from some potpourri I had around the house. I hope this inspires you to try your own nest. Send me pics if you make one!
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Hey, What Are You Looking At?

It’s that time of year.

We began our homeschool year this week and as I evaluate where each child is, the old tendency to compare surprises my heart yet again. Comparison is always a cruel tormentor:

Maybe we should have done that curriculum all along. Why is she struggling with these math facts? Did I use the wrong method? Did I not spend enough time with this child laying foundations? 

Panic creeps in as we compare our “right now” to some dreamed up version of what life must be like in the Joneses house.

The snare of compare. (pdf here)

Sometimes I wonder if the Lord feels like calling to me, HEY, What are you looking at?! Get your eyes back on Me!

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Where He Leads me, I will follow.

Do you ever feel this way? Maybe you don’t homeschool, but do you wonder if you should perhaps be feeding your kids all organic food, or decorating your home like so and so, or maybe you should try the child raising techniques that the Joneses seem so enthusiastic about?

It’s easier to follow other people’s methods than to follow the Lord.

It’s easier to take our cues from flesh and blood, from what can be seen and measured, from the confident homeschooling mom who seems to know just what she’s doing, than it is to walk by faith.

There are no glaring advertisements when you walk by faith. No printed confirmation tickets to where this ride is going to take you. No money back guarantees if you didn’t enjoy the ride.

But the just shall live by faith. Even in matters of child raising and education.

When we look to Him and set our gaze on His Word, peace ensues.

The comparison ceases as we step-step-step gently in the path He’s provided for us.

The glorious truth is that Jesus will lead us if we are willing to follow.

And although it’s fine to ask for help and wisdom from seasoned women who have had great results, we have the promise of generously, “liberally” given wisdom, to anyone who asks in faith.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

I know from experience that it’s easier to hop on Google than it is to sit and pray.

I know it’s easier to talk to a friend than to pray.

It’s easier to try to do more and be more in the pursuit of excellence, but what God wants is your faith, and with that faith, He’ll perform for you. Do you believe this? Do you believe that God can take your humble efforts offered up in faith and multiply them and make them powerful for His kingdom?

When our eyes are gazing on Jesus, we can be confident that He’ll guide us through prayer and His Word.

I will let you in on a little secret: Jesus can answer your child raising questions. I can testify to this many times over. I can remember needing practical life wisdom for several issues with our kids. I would pray and ask the Lord to make His will clear and let us know how to deal with this child. I remember kneeling by the side of my sleeping stubborn toddler’s bed. I was to the point of a near break down after a particularly bad day, and I begged God to send me answers. I can tell you that He always did either through a book, or wisdom from an older woman. And once I prayed about it and left it with the Lord, I was in “wait and see” mode. I was expecting answers, and He never disappointed. We have an open ended invitation to ask God for wisdom any time we lack it. It’s one of our BEST resources. God loves your kids more than you do, after all!

My encouragement for you is to follow God on the path He has prepared for you. Keep your eyes on Him. Your life, home, ministry, and family dynamics may look totally different than mine. God has made us all unique, and He’s leading us, by His grace, to the end He has planned for us. Our job is to trust Him, obey His word, live a life of holiness and FOLLOW.

Don’t try to make your path match the Joneses. Follow Jesus.

 

 

In Praise of the Pensive Child

One of the best ways to validate your children is to accept them for who they are.

There is a huge tendency to push our kids into what we love or what is currently pushed by society. Peter has often said that “what you praise, you produce.” For instance, a school that is constantly praising and showcasing sports and promoting their athletes will produce more athletes, because children want to please and mankind grasps for mutual admiration.

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In the Christian home, if we praise virtues like thankfulness and faithfulness, versus “outcomes” like straight A’s, we’d be more apt to have hard workers and less apt to produce kids who’ll obsess or even cheat for the A.

Although this post is not theological, I believe that God has given us gifts and talents–we were fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator– and to stifle that gift in a child defies the God who gave it and is extremely cruel.

The world needs a variety of personalities to make it interesting. Imagine a world where everyone was a visionary, a conqueror, a leader, an entrepreneur, a pusher-to-the-topper, a warrior. Certainly we need these, but we also need the beauty created by poets, writers, painters, philosophers, and musicians. We need to value those who stop to think really long and hard about a topic and research it rather than just spouting off the first thing that comes into their head, because we need more depth and truth seeking in a world stretched thin with information.

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The world needs the pensive child.

In a blaring, media-filled, message- saturated, lights blazing, get-your-moment- in-the-spotlight-and-be-famous Kardashian world, we need to encourage the pensive child.

They’re not seeking spotlights. They may even avoid crowds. They don’t want attention drawn to them and they don’t appreciate being forced to perform by pushy parents.

And please don’t mislabel them as directionless or lazy because they haven’t started the college application process by age 10.

The pensive child is an evaluator of life. She considers her place in this moment of time. She thinks before she speaks, if she ever does.

You see, she’s learned that not everyone appreciates this beauty that she sees, so she stifles her sharing, fearing the labels: “out there” or “weird” or “space-y.”

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In truth, she doesn’t mind quietly enjoying beauty alone or with a special friend, because appreciating beauty and living with eyes wide open has its own rewards: inner contentment and happiness. She may secretly feel badly for those who choose not to see. Those who’ve been consumed by the tyranny of the urgent and of electronic worlds.

She’ll lumber on, steady, intentionally, writing, drawing, observing, painting, composing, practicing.

So moms of the pensive child, readjust your expectations and encourage your child. Don’t equate thoughtful and slow to unmotivated or air-headed. And for heaven’s sake, don’t assume that because your child is not a born “goal maker” or “go getter” that he’ll never amount to anything.

While you may be caught up in the busyness of life, they are busy studying the shapes of clouds and noticing how most of the colors of the spectrum can be seen in a sunset. They are wondering how to translate that exact green of that spring leaf into their painting. They noticed the ripples on the water and wondered how to paint them. They noticed how one ripple affects the entire pond, though only seen for a moment.

They live life differently than you, maybe,

but they feel deeply and appreciate much and stop long enough to wonder. And to wonder is where real education begins. Self- education. 

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Boys, especially, are encouraged away from quiet pursuits. Poetry is seen as effeminate and painting isn’t as manly somehow as sacking someone in football.

Imagine a world without the great painters and musicians of the past. Imagine if Bach’s mother told him to head outside and play with the real boys and discouraged her son from what he was clearly born to do. Just imagine no Bach.

Whatever your child’s bent, when you embrace it, you’re loving that child where he or she is. Not trying to change to fit your ideals. Just loving and nurturing and encouraging.

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That is one of the best ways to really reach the heart of your child. It’s not hard. It’s loving them—not loving who you want them to be or who you think they should be to make you feel validated– but truly loving them.

The pensive child is relational and as a parent, you must, must, must enter their world and relate to them where they are. Show them by listening that  you love their music, that you appreciate that insight or poem. They’re sharing a piece of themselves with you.

If you don’t completely understand your pensive child, ASK them questions about what they are thinking and then just listen. Then appreciate their little insights and tell them so.

 

 

DIY Watercolor Bird Silhouette Art for Kids

I’m teaching a great group of homeschoolers simple watercolor techniques, and today I thought I’d post our next project as a tutorial that you can use for your kids.

Silhouette art is popular right now, and is super easy to create.

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Supply list: 

  • Watercolor paper, 140 lb.
  • Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketchers Pocket Box Set (This set fits in a child’s pocket and is perfect for nature study outings!)
  • Watercolor brushes– a flat wide 1″ brush and a medium fine tipped brush. (buy brushes that are specifically for watercolor and come to a point in the package. If they are blunt topped with NO point, your kids won’t be able to get detail.)
  • water
  • paper towels
  • 8″X10″ bird silhouette of your choice. Check google for bird pictures.

First:

Transfer your bird picture of choice to your watercolor paper.

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If you have graphite paper, you can use that, but for my art kids, we simply rub pencil over the entire backside of our image print out, then trace it. Know what I mean? You are scribbling with pencil all over the back of the bird picture you chose. Then place it on your watercolor paper and trace firmly, transferring the image.  That’s the DIY New England way. :)

Second:

Use your flat paint brush to paint your picture with WATER only.

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Third:

Mix cobalt blue or whatever “sky-ish” blue color you have and a little water and dot in the sky while your paper is still wet. This allows the paint to “spread” and makes the clouds look realistic. Allow to dry completely before continuing. If you are impatient like I am, use a hair dryer to speed up your process.

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Fourth:

Using a smaller brush, mix ultramarine blue or your darkest blue with sepia brown or your darkest brown. Don’t over mix. Allow the colors to separate. Your mixture should not be super watery. You want a dark mixture. Watercolor dries at half strength, so use color that is darker than you think it should be. Fill in your outline and allow to dry. You’re done.

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This can be used for any silhouette, obviously.

You can use the same technique to make this picture with 3-5 year olds, except after you transfer the image on your watercolor paper, you COLOR the silhouette outline with a white crayon. This is called a wax resist. Then, once your silhouette is colored in white, you watercolor the background. Easy peasy art project for your kiddos.

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Watercolor is a wee bit intimidating if you’re not used to the medium but here are a few things to remember about watercolor:

  1. You need to DRY your work between steps or you’ll end up with a hazy soup.
  2. As much as possible, mix only two colors at a time. Anything more gets muddy.
  3. Use the best quality materials you can afford. Investing in a small artist quality palatte, like the Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketchers Pocket Box Set is better than using Crayola Watercolor from Walmart. Your kids will get a much better result.

ENJOY!

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Thanks.

Five Questions Every Homeschooling Mom Should Ask Before Choosing Curriculum

We are almost to the end of our homeschool year, and this is NOT the time that I want to be thinking about next years curriculum, but alas, the MassHope Convention is in town and instead of checking out and heading to the beach, I guess responsible mother’s everywhere are talking standardized testing and choosing curriculum. {ahem}

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SOO, in order to not be a total derelict mother, I humbly offer you some things to consider when choosing curriculum each year for your kids.

As far as curriculum is involved, I do believe that you can learn no matter what you are using if you want to. There is no magic curriculum. We have used nearly everything under the sun in the past 14 years of homeschooling. My oldest daughter just finished her first year at Bob Jones University and has done extremely well. In fact, she made the Dean’s list. :)

These questions are more “self awareness” questions than curriculum questions, but I think they’ll help you determine what you are looking for.

1. Figure out your personality and find a curriculum that works with it.*

Most likely, you are NOT a teacher by trade, but have found yourself teaching for whatever reason.

Be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. This is half your battle.

Are you extremely structured, or do you follow a loose schedule?

Are you high strung or laid back?

Will you use real life as a teacher or books only?

Will you be home all day, or do you envision yourself visiting local resources and using hands on learning?

2. Think about your life stage and plan accordingly.

Are you in a time of transition (new baby, illness) or are things status quo?

Do you work from home and have a flexible schedule, or are you working around someone else’s time schedule?

Will sticking to a rigid lesson plan stress you out or give you a sense of security?

Does flexibility motivate you or hinder your performance?

3. Think about your family interests. Your time will be heavily weighted toward these interests and it will affect your school year. 

Expect that you’ll invest more time than other families in these areas and be okay with that.

Then, when you hear that one family grinds their own wheat and makes all their own bread from wheat they grew in their back yard and milled with a mortar and pestle, you will understand that their interests are heavily weighted toward those things and there is no need for guilt or comparison on your part.

Do you all love history or politics? Do you value art and music?

Know your interests and realize that they may change over time as your kids grow and express new interests.

4. Decide what you want from education. Begin with the end in mind.

Do you envision your kids as Harvard Grads?

Are you looking to develop the child as a whole: mind, body, spirit?

For us, we wanted to be sure that our kids did not reflect our current culture. We were appalled by the norms of young society/pop culture and realized that you can’t send them into that for 8 hours a day and have it not effect them.

We wanted our kids to love to read and be life long learners, so our choices reflected our long term goals.

5. Decide what is reasonable.

You cannot do everything, so decide what you can teach well and plan to get help with the rest. Kahn Academy, the internet, DVD’s, tutors, co-ops and other helps are readily available for home schoolers. Don’t feel bad about using them!

This generation has seen a shift in education since the rise of the internet. Today’s education is more about self education than ever before and part of teaching kids to be successful in the modern world is teaching them to know how to use the internet as a resource.

In our day, when you needed to research a topic, you trudged to the library unless you were lucky enough to own an entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica. It is different today. They don’t look to teachers as sources of knowledge like they did in our day. Good teachers teach them where to look. :)

 

I know that this list is incomplete!  :)

Your turn! Please share any other self-awareness questions that you have found helpful when determining what curriculum to choose for your family? Feel free to share in the comments or to link to an article that you have written on the subject.

*Note: Just for clarity and communication between “adjoining nations”:  Hmschlers tend to use the word “curriculum” to mean the actual tool you’ll use to teach a subject that needs to be covered. So when I say I will use what works for us, I mean that I will choose a publisher who teaches the topic in a way that works for us as a family; I do not mean that we will pick and choose what we need to learn w/o regard for state law.  State and local laws DO set the norms for what is to be covered as a whole, which is what public school systems understand the word “curriculum” to mean. Mkay? 😉

Creative Ways to Beat Winter Boredom With Little Ones

Winters can seem L-O-N-G when you are a homeschooling mom of little ones. I think it is because we tend to hunker down and plow through our schoolwork with little to no regard for how long it takes. We all get tired of being inside and of school in general. {yup. I know you think that homeschool mom’s  LOVE teaching, but that is not always so!}

So, here are a few ideas to help you change up your day with your little ones and perhaps help beat those winter blues that we all face before spring.

1. Go out for a snowy walk. Bundle up and just go. Bring a Thermos of  hot chocolate with you if you like. The winter air perks everyone up.

2. Do a winter sport. Go ice skating. If you don’t have any frozen cranberry bogs nearby, then look for a rink that has public skate available. Organize a sledding party and meet up at a great sledding hill. The kids sled, the mom’s talk and sip warm drinks. It is a win-win!

3. Visit the library. We frequent our little town library, but every once in a while we make the trek to a bigger library in our area to see what resources they have available. You’d be amazed what the library offers now.

3. Learn a new hobby yourself. Take up painting, knitting or crocheting. Do something creative. For kids, try Sculpey, beading kits, big bendy pipe cleaners, an airplane model, etc…

4. Have an indoor picnic. Little ones like opening a lunch bag when they are not used to a packed lunch like traditional school kids. Spread out a blanket and let them play.

5. Blow bubbles in a pan. You know that Williams Sonoma three piece cake pan set you got for Christmas? Fill the bottom  pan with 1/4 inch of bubbles and give your kid a straw. Let them blow bubbles in the pan to their hearts content. (I have no idea why they love doing this, but they do. And your WS pan suddenly becomes worth more as a bubble base than as a cake base. Trust me.It is an investment in your sanity. he,he)

6. Cut paper snowflakes and hang them on the windows. Add glitter to them for some extra sparkle.

7. Make a “house” out of cardboard boxes for dolls, or a garage for cars for boys. The kids can cut windows out of them and decorate them with markers.

8. Make cards using pretty paper, fancy edged scissors and pretty pictures from a magazine or old calendar. Send a note to a grandparent, a sick friend, or an nursing home resident.

9. Combine your toy sets. Block, matchboxes, Playmobil, etc…can be more exciting when they are used together. Blocks become the city that the cars drive through. Give the kids your  aprons and let them “cook” with wooden beads, cut up paper and a wooden bowl to play house and make a paper soup. (can you tell I have 4 girls?) In our house, this usually works best under our kitchen table which is covered by a blanket to make a “house.”

10. Visit a museum. Libraries often have passes to local museums to keep costs affordable for all families. I have rarely paid more than $5 per person using a pass.

What other fun things do you do to change up your wintery days?

Home School Daze

Well, I had intended to rest after our long trip to SC. But, things have been a whirlwind of planning around here, and there has been precious little time to rest when there is laundry galore, and so much to do before school starts! My head is spinning! However, we did manage to squeeze in a baseball game with the kids last night. 😉

Yes, I am wrapped up in a blanket like an old lady.

The kids caught 4 balls and got their picture with this guy.

Many of you have asked what we are using to teach our kids this year. So here it is:

Holly and Hope:

  • BJU Math @grade level
  •  Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind
  • aBeka Grammar
  • Writing with Ease,
  • Story of the World
  • Daily Geography/Hillyers Geography
  • Reason for Writing- I love using this handwriting series. At the end of the week, the kids write out a verse with a picture around it, which we color and bring to one of the widows in our church. They love having the colorful verses on their walls in a nursing home or on their refrigerator.
  • Apologia Zoology 1 and 2
  • Health and first aid

Matt and Emily

  • Teaching Textbooks, Algebra II (Matt) and Geometry (Em)- can’t say enough good about this series. Love them!!
  • a Beka Grammar-because you gotta have grammar. 😉
  • Fundamentals of Literature, BJUPress plus various classics to read
  • Chemisty online via BJU Distance Learning
  • History of the Ancient World (Em) and Medieval World (Matt), by Susan Wise Bauer
  • Health and first aid
I am very willing to throw out anything that does not work for us. I refuse to struggle with curriculum that doesn’t meet our needs, so this is what we intend to use. What we actually use depends on how this all works.
I know I’ve told you before that over the years I have  ordered a scandalous amount of merchandise from Timberdoodle for our home school and have always loved their recommendations and customer service. I love how they use to send free Mrs. Grossman’s  stickers with their orders. ( I am a huge fan of stickers. Being a home schooling teacher is my excuse to buy them. )  Well, I was just recently offered a chance to review a few of their items in exchange for “doodle dollars.” So my first choice was to review “Piano for Quitters,” a course intended to teach piano drop out’s like me some basics. I’ll let you know how it goes. :)
Other plans:
music lessons
bimonthly co-op
art/watercolor instruction
lots of reading aloud as a family.
I am loving the last few days of summer, but it is feeling fall-y here, already and  soon it will be harvest season! Can’t wait for Matt to help bring in the cranberry harvest with his grandfather! My father’s cranberry company was featured here at La Tartine Gourmande in an article entitled “Cranberry Harvest in New England.” You can also see some pics of the  harvest, my dad, uncle and son, Matt.
Linked to Courtney

A Little Trick I’ve Learned By Homeschooling

Because I have five children and home school them all, I have learned a little survival trick in life. This trick is called “zoning out.”

Incase you are not a “zoner”, let me tell you how this works. My kids will be incessantly talking to me or trying to show me something (usually two of them at a time) while I am already doing a gazillion things at once. To the untrained eye, I appear to be listening, nodding now and then and giving an obligatory “ah-ha”, but in truth, I am in the zone…zoned out, that is.

I have to tell you that I really hate this about myself.

I want to be all there for my kids.

Children need attention, and relationships are built on times of undivided attention.

I love my kids and want them to know that I am their biggest cheerleader, but somehow when I am “in the zone” I am sending them the message that they are bothering me, just plain boring or worse, that I am totally uninterested in their little lives.

I am my child’s first teacher. Their first impressions about life and their worth come from me. The way that I respond to them verbally and non verbally sends LOUD messages about their value to me and  as a human being. And sometimes when I am not thinking,(aka zoned) the messages that I send are not the messages I want them to learn.

For example, say your little guy runs up to you with a fist full of your geraniums that you planted (and really did not want picked bare.)  Your response/reaction sets a tone for your relationship. When you are “in the zone”, you would most likely just react. You  scold. But most likely this little human being was expressing affection and was  looking for a warm response in return. Of course, you would have seen that if you had been “all there.” He was  relating to you and sharing with you. You can replace a geranium, but you may not ever be able to recover the heart after sharp words are spoken. (Direction and instruction about not picking planted flowers can come later.)

The atmosphere of the home should be warm, welcoming and accepting of the whole child, and this does not happen when I am zoned out.

Zoning out sends the message that we are uninterested when we should actively  encourage creativity, even at an early age, by praising their little attempts and  by telling them how much we appreciate the fact that they shared it with us. We should listen to their stories and ideas. Listening to and caring about what your child values endears you to them and sets up an atmosphere of trust in the home.

Does your child feel free to try something new and fail? Do you hover over your child’s projects to make sure they “do it right.” Mistakes should be expected. None of us are perfect. If failure is a big deal with mom, they will not risk it.  Anytime your child shares with you, either a thought or a project, they are relating. They are looking to you for love and acceptance.

“Mommy, look at the paper dolls I made.”

“Mommy, listen to this song I learned on my violin.”

“Look at how high I can jump in these sneakers.”

“Do you like my picture, Mom?”

“Does my hair look all right?”

“Does this shirt look okay on me?”

The response that you give and the tone in which it is delivered speaks volumes.

“OH MY, those dolls are lovely.”

“What a smartie you are on that violin.”

“Wow, that IS a high jump!”

“Creativity needs an audience, some appreciation, the response of another human being.” Edith Schaeffer.

No matter how dumb the project or thought, a child should never be told they are stupid. Insulting or humiliating a child could close a door to that child’s heart that may never be opened to you again. (And if you do say something that hurts your child, by all means, ask forgiveness. Restore the relationship. They have feelings too!)

“The human being looking for understanding needs to find it at this moment. The need for sharing …needs response. The spark must meet another spark or the fire dies out and dark discouragement can flood in.”

Edith Schaeffer

If you are a distracted or zoned out mom like I can tend to be, let me share how I regroup and refocus:

  • Place reminders for yourself around the house, on the fridge, or near the sink where you wash dishes.  Mine currently say “ Only speak words that make souls stronger.” and “Every day is a little Life.”  and “Speak only what builds others up, and ministers grace to the hearer.”
  • Think of not having your child. We don’t have any guarantees, you know. Then thank God for the day that you do have, and live it fully with your child.
  • Realize that someday you will be alone in your house with all the quiet your heart can take…but for now, invest in your kids hearts.

Disclaimer:

There ARE times when a mother needs quiet time for herself! I am not talking about being totally child centered to the point of exhaustion and neglect of the mother.

When the kids were little, and I couldn’t get out as easily, we use to sit on the couches with books and all read or do puzzles quietly for a half hour. Other times Peter would watch the kids so I could go out and have some “sanity time.” I would go to a coffee shop, antiquing or out to lunch with a friend. My little time out and about made me a better person all around and I was refreshed and ready to jump back into life. I was ready to be all there for my kids again.

A Little Secret for Moms

The beautiful Gerber baby!

This is a post dedicated to mothers of young children–babies and toddlers, to be precise.

I have a little secret to tell you…

Being a mother is hard. It is the hardest job you will ever do.

Babies don’t come with manuals. Sometimes the “maternal instinct” that you hear about is slow to kick in.

Sometimes you can’t differentiate between their cries. Sometimes breastfeeding is a nightmare. Sometimes you can’t get them to nap, to try new foods, to stop taking tantrums, to stop hitting or pulling hair, or to potty train. The list could go on!

It is easy to enter despair mode.

Here are five suggestions to keep you from loosing your mind:

1. Keep your eyes open for a Mom who is doing it right in your opinion and ask for help! Most older mothers are happy to empathize with and encourage a younger mom who wants to do things “right”, but lacks the self confidence or know– how. The time spent with another mom can only encourage you and sharpen your parenting skills!
2. Evaluate your goals. Your kids will not be perfect! Children are not “self-parenting” and this is why God gave kids parents. :)

Kids will throw tantrums and will need your intervention. Kids will bite and pull hair and need to be told “No!”  It is easy to think “We just went over that!! Why isn’t this kid getting this?’”

Instead, think “Assembly Line Parenting”, and expect to do the same thing over.and.over.and.over again in order to cement principles and teach. :)

3. Do not live for your child. Your child is a wonderful addition to your world, but should never be the epicenter of it. Make time out with friends, and plan for dates with Dad. If you can’t get out, nap time should be your time of solitude. Time alone with your thoughts in quietness is essential to evaluate where you are going and how you will get there.

4. Don’t neglect your Bible reading and prayer time. Even if it is ever so short, something is better than nothing. Can you spare three to five minutes? Get a devotional for busy mothers and take care of your soul.
5. Don’t seek security in methods. Each child is so different. Be consistent, seek God’s word and humbly ask for help!  “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” “If any of you lack wisdom, let Him ask of God, who giveth liberally…”  God will give you the grace to do the job He has called you to do!!

Older mothers, what advice would you add to this list?