Home and Family, Parenting

Sleep? I’ve heard of that.

I have decided being tired is a constant state of being.  As a high school student, I worked like crazy to get a scholarship to college. At the university, I took classes, worked on campus, and enjoyed social time with my friends.  Somehow sleep wasn’t on the priority list.  There would be time for that later.  When I left school to get married, I thought things would settle down and sleep would become my friend.  Enter an unexpected (but welcomed) pregnancy and motherhood.  While I would never trade any of my children, I will admit that I had no clue how tired you could be until I had my first baby.  Three more came within the next six years.  Tired became a normal state of being.  What have learned through all of this?

I have learned you can be tired because you have well-behaved, well-cared-for children who are a joy to you and others, or you can be tired because your children are out of control and you are always running after them.  Good kids DO NOT fall from the sky.  Some are easier to teach than others, but they all require time, effort, focus, and patience.  I had four highly gifted children.  They simply didn’t require much sleep. (I have since learned that trait is common with giftedness.)  My daughters have gifted kids, and one of my grandsons also has additional challenges.  Sleep is a friend whose visits are way too few and far between.  Spend time with your children regardless of how tired you are, and the joy in your life will increase exponentially.

Naps are your friend if you have multiple children.  Sleep only comes when you can actually take the time and lie down, so give yourself permission to lie down.  We had quiet time each afternoon during which the kids could read, sleep, or play quietly in their rooms.  Mom got a nap.  Dinnertime was much more pleasant after we had all taken some down time!

My eating habits affect how well I sleep, and how well I function when I am awake.  Sugar eaten immediately before bed will keep me up for a while longer.  Chips and salsa or popcorn is a better snack.  Too much processed food during the day messes with my entire body.  Cooking from scratch and using fresh ingredients make a remarkable difference in how I feel.  My body expends less precious energy processing food if I am careful about what I eat.

Have a bedtime routine for your children and for you.  We had baths, prayers, and story time each night so that the children could unwind and get ready for the idea that it was time to stay in bed.  If sleep didn’t come immediately, that was okay.  They could read.  But they knew bed time meant they were to stay in bed.  I am the last one down.  I take time to watch something calming on television, read my scriptures and pray, and do a final quick tidy of the main living areas.  Then I head to bed and read a bit more.  Taking time to wind down allows my brain to let go of the stresses of the day and sleep will come more easily. (Yes, I have read everything I could on improving sleep habits for me and my children.  Didn’t work.  I have decided to let it be.)

One of the hardest, but most helpful lessons I learned is that complaining and focusing on how little sleep I got depleted my limited energy than anything else I did.  Once I accepted the reality of living on bits of sleep as they came, I was happier, enjoyed my children more, and felt more capable in all areas of my life.  Instead of expending energy on the negative, I learned to enjoy the small victories and give thanks for what I do have.

I am still tired (now its fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue), but that’s okay.  I am also highly blessed and if I had to pick from life’s challenges, I can’t think of anything I would trade for more sleep.  Life is good.

May your sleep be blessed!

Home and Family, Homeschooling

Life is better with great music in it!

A day or two ago, I turned  the classical music playlist on as the boys were here working on their academics.  M looked up and said, “I know that song.  I love this!.” One of the songs from Beethoven’s Wig was playing.  Later, one of the twins (15 months) was grinning, swaying, and bouncing back and forth.  A Sousa march was playing.  While my family may not know all the composers by name, they certainly know what they like!  I am still grinning!

Musical education does not require special training or talent.  You can provide a diverse education for your family with a little creativity.  Some ideas include:

Study composers one at a time.  Use books such as Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers by Patrick Cavanaugh.  Read the stories and listen to the referenced compositions.  Listening to a variety of any composer’s music can help develop a familiarity for their work and, potentially, love for certain composers. Or they find they prefer a certain type or genre.  Fugue, sonatas, ballads, or symphonies.  If so, look for those types of compositions  from the various composers.

Study music by creative period.  Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical and so on.  Each period of time has its own style and characteristics.  Some is orderly while other music is more playful or dissident.  The study of music along with history can assist in developing a “feel” for the time in which it was written.

Have fun with music.  Find recordings such as Beethoven’s Wig I, II and III.  Look for nonsense song books or recordings.  Find “kid-friendly” music.  Wee Sing has produced a series of CDs that cover many types of children’s music in an easy-to-listen-to format.  Brite Music also has great CDs for children with positive messages.  Marches, lullabies, and songs with finger-plays can all give them exposure to the wonders of music.  If you have a strong ethnic tie to a specific genre or instrument, introduce it to your children as you learn about family history.  (Our family has strong ties to the Celts on both my side and my husbands.  A pipe and drum corp has been known to bring tears to my eyes.  Now we take the grandchildren to hear them as they play in local venues, and joy as they grin and can’t help dancing.)

Formal lessons in instrumental or vocal training tend to be more successful when started at age 7 or later.  My own teaching experience and many music teachers I asked expressed the concern that children younger than 7 often lack the discipline and drive to “stick with it”.  Practice is required if mastery is the goal. If you are uncertain about your ability to help your children in their musical endeavors, look for the book Raising Musical Kids by Patrick Cavanaugh.

I was raised in a home where music abounded!  My mother is a trained pianist and accompanist, my father was a trumpeter in the Air Force Band and played in a number of bands when he was younger.  We watched musicals, went to concerts, sang in choirs, and listened to a wide variety of musical genres and performers. Each of my siblings took lessons on at least one instrument.  I was a music major at the university with a focus on strings and vocals.  My own love of music stems in part from the opportunities I was given as I grew up in my own home.

Music can seem intimidating.  Don’t let it.  Just go out and expose you and your family to what life has to offer.  However you choose to approach it, experience music as a family.  Listen to a variety of genres live or on CD, go to musical theater, acquaint yourself with religious and cultural music.  Watch dance from around the world.  You’ll love some, and some may not be to your liking (I still am not an opera fan).  Make it an on-going voyage of discovery.  Enjoy!

Home and Family, Homeschooling

We love the library!

We attended story time at our local library yesterday morning.  The librarian read three Easter books to the children.  We sang songs, and even got a take-home craft.  Then we chose some books to bring home to enjoy at our leisure.  Some of my best tax dollars at work!

The public library is one of my “happy places!”  I can go and sit quietly in a corner and plan a meal from the wall of cookbooks, work on curriculum in the non-fiction section, find new ways to get organized, or even find a book to read just for fun.  Where else can you get a CD of your favorite music to play as you clean house, pick up a book on CD for the car ride this weekend, and get travel ideas from the internet, newspapers, or magazines?  When I go by myself, I can spend hours just exploring.

They also offer book lists for reading ideas, family programs for free, town hall meetings, and you can look for something new for your family library at the book sale.  You may find a reading program which awards prizes for reading.  Often sponsored by businesses, you can possibly earn fast food, small amounts of cash, books, or other things as an incentive for reading.  This can be especially helpful for reluctant readers, or to simply keep things fun.  Sign up as a family!

Librarians are a gold-mine of information.  They can help you or your children search out favorite topics or find a new fascination.  You can get help locating a much desired book locally or through inter-library loan.  (Not sure what that is?  They can tell you.)  They are well-read, and often more than happy to work with children who are well-mannered.  *True story-when my eldest got her driver’s license, the next person she wanted to show after Grandma was the local librarian, Rosemarie.  When Rosemarie retired, we were all sad.

Just a few things to keep in mind when you go:

  • Learn and practice library etiquette.  Soft voices, no running or chasing, keep the books off the floor, return books to their appropriate places, etc.  It is habit that will help your children for years to come.
  • Leave technology at home.  No need for anything requiring earplugs.  Turn your phone off (or at least put it on vibrate), and take conversations outside.  Enjoy the world of hard copies!
  • The library is not a museum.  If there is a book you really like or refer to regularly, buy it.  The inventory will change according to public demand.  If you are the only person who checks that item out, it may be weeded out to make room for more popular titles.
  • Pay your fines!  Everyone has them from time to time.  I hear librarians often have them too.  Think of it as a donation to the library.
  • If you check out an item and find that it is damaged, bring it to their attention as soon as you can or the next time you are there.  They will appreciate it, and it will save future frustration for someone else.
  • If it is a nice day, take snacks.  Eat them OUTSIDE the library.  Children are generally better behaved when fed.
  • If you use the computers, remember you are in a public place.  Keep any passwords or account numbers hidden and fully exit any browsers you use.
  • We would often try to visit the library when it was fairly empty.  If you avoid story time and go when school is in session, you will often have the children’s section almost to yourself.

When my children were school-aged, we established a routine for the library.
Everyone helped return books coming back, then they could look for what they were interested in finding IF they told me where they were headed.  I required the following: a chapter book (if they were 8 or older), a science book, and a history book they had not read before, and a book just for fun.  If they wanted to check out more beyond that, they could.  I always checked the piles before we left for anything I was unwilling to take home or allow them to read.  The librarians aren’t meant to be censors; you need to be.

The public library can be a wonderful place to spend time as a family, or on your own. If you haven’t been there in a while, go see what you are missing.  If you attend frequently, good for you.  There is always something new to discover!

Cooking, Homeschooling

Using the newpaper to the fullest

I recognize that newspaper subscriptions are not as common as they were before the advent of the internet, smart phones, and other new technologies.  Such a shame.  We used the newspaper in so many different ways as I was teaching my own children, and I still use it as I work with young people today.  Here are just a few ways it can supplement your academics:

Discovery learners (explanation in my post on Feb. 26, 2013)

  • Have them identify letters and numbers from the large print.
  • Cut apart the lettering in the headlines.  Have them create their spelling words, or simply assemble familiar words from the letters.
  • Look for the pictures which accompany the stories.  Cut out various pictures which can then be categorized into different emotions.  If you use images from throughout the paper, you may be surprised at the variety of feelings caught on film.
  • Give each child a length of print and have them look for the most commonly used letters.  Make a graph or a chart with tally marks.  Look at other print media.  Do your findings match there as well?
  • Later discovery learners can look for the most important or persuasive words in an article.  Why did the journalist choose those words?  Which other words could they have chosen?
  • Put together a family newspaper.  Have your children play reporter/journalist.  Call extended family members and gather information about each person, then try and write articles that are informative and interesting.
  • Find the weather report and track what is forecasted as well as the actual weather happenings.  How are they the same?  Different?  What other information is included with the forecast?
  • Many papers offer an educational page or insert each week.  Look for them.  They often have games, and activities to make your studies more interesting.  Can’t find one? Call your local paper and ask.

Analysis learners- many of these will work for application learners as well (explanation in my post on Feb. 27, 2013)

  • Give your teen an amount of “money” to invest.  Have them choose stocks to purchase, and then follow the stock prices in the economy section to see how well they did.  Watch the stocks for two months or more to get a clearer picture of what happens with the stock market.  Graph the results.
  • Have your youth clip coupons and use the ads to put together menus and the shopping list for the week.  Go to the store and see how well they can stay within the family budget.
  • Have your student copy a sentence or two from an article of their choice.  Have them diagram it.
  • Look for recipes that feature foods your family likes or would like to try.  Organize them into a three-ring binder.  As you make them, make a note of which ones you enjoyed, what worked well, what might be a way to “tweak” them, or just toss the ones which you wouldn’t make again.  (Often the recipes in the paper are taken from the latest cookbooks.)
  • Look for unfamiliar words to use in a vocabulary list.
  • Read an article looking for a specific part of speech.  Circle or underline the nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, etc.
  • Cut out or copy a comic strip.  Put white out over the text in the thought bubbles/spoken words.  Have your students write their own text.
  • Read the editorials together.  Do you agree?  Disagree?  Why?  Can you find a flaw in the argument?  (We did this daily for years.  My entire family became much more competent at putting a well-worded argument together, and were able to discuss current events intelligently with those around them.)
  • The local section of the paper often lists upcoming events.  Plan a field trip as a family.
  • Track your favorite sport or team.  Learn to analyze stats, memorize players and their numbers, or look for the ways injuries, weather, playing fields, or fatigue affect the game.

Application learners (explanation in my post on Feb. 28, 2013)

  • Use the classified ads to look for jobs requiring different levels of education.  Using the salaries listed, have them look for housing, food, transportation, and other living expenses to put a budget together for a month or more.  (You will have to provide utility costs.  Those aren’t in the classifieds.)
  • Keep a notebook of clipped articles dealing with a current event or social issue important to your family.  Watch for changes as time passes, or look for the various biases of different reporters.  After you have taken time to examine the issue more fully, write a letter to the editor explaining where you stand and why.
  • Keep reading the editorials together.  Consider having your young adult write a paper on an issue which they find concerning.  How does it affect them as they move into adulthood?  How might change be accomplished?  What roadblocks would need to be overcome?
  • Look for recent quotations or famous sayings to put in their quote/penmanship books.  Why did they choose what they chose?
  • Do the crosswords puzzle, or at least attempt it.

The newspaper is not as popular as it once was and yet it can assist us in the most challenging part of home schooling- using different media in order to avoid academics from becoming mundane.  It can enlighten, challenge, and shed light on a considerable number of items in our lives.  This list is just the beginning.  Take a minute and spend time in your local paper, and see how many different ways you can use it in your own home!


Garden science with the boys

Botany is not often regarded as an exciting area of scientific study for early discovery learners.  I would invite you to rethink that idea.  This week we began our botany unit with my oldest grandsons, ages 7 and 5.  Before we had finished the first day’s work, the three-year-old was right in the middle of it!  What were we doing?  Looking at seeds.The boys learned the difference between a monocot seed, and a dicot.  (A monocot has a single cotyledon; a dicot has two.)  We dissected seeds, talked about how they grow, and what to expect from each.

What did we learn?

  • Botany has some odd sounding terms, especially when coming from a three-year-old.
  • Bean seeds can be difficult to split unless you soak them first.
  • Cilantro seeds divide in half beautifully with very little encouragement at all.
  • We had more types of garden seeds that are dicot.
  • Most importantly, we learned that looking at things differently helps you see what you had initially missed.  Isn’t that the basis for all academic study?

Currently, there is a wet paper towel with six different types of seeds resting on my kitchen window sill.  We will check on their progress daily to see which type sprouts most quickly.  That will lead to a discussion of germination dates and, eventually, harvest estimates.

I realize they will not remember half the vocabulary we used (but they do have more words to pull from if they so choose), but I do expect that they will spend the next six months trying to split seeds and observing more closely how plants grow.  And that is exactly what I am hoping to see.

Today’s plan?  Roots!  Carrots anyone?

Home and Family, Homeschooling

Celebrate Holy Week!

Yesterday was Palm Sunday.  Holy Week has begun.  As we teach our children about the three R’s, we ought to make room for the events surrounding Easter as well!  Some ideas to do this include:

Each day this week, read a New Testament story about the Savior.  Discuss the miracles, the compassion, and the teachings of the Master. You can do this before the beginning of your school day, in the evening before bed, or around the dinner table.  If you have pictures of the stories you discuss, post them.  Place quotes from Christ around your house; memorize one or two.  Attend church as a family.  Teach the symbols of Easter.  Find ways to incorporate Easter themes and vocabulary into your studies.  Spelling/vocabulary words, historical readings, pictures and art study, music, and so much more can be incorporated into each day’s work.  (Just remember to keep it age-appropriate.  Do not discuss the specifics of crucifixion with young children.  Those details can be saved for when they are teens.)

Small children love to learn of Him.  For the young ones, focus on the easiest understood lessons- the Beautitudes and Lord’s Prayer from Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), the story of Nicodemus (John 3: 1-10), the calling of the 12 Apostles (Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 1:16-20), the importance of children (Matthew 18:1-6, 19:13-14), Christ walking on water (my favorite version- Matthew 14:22-33,  and the Easter story at the close of each of the Gospels.  Read from the Bible.  Find storybooks that retell events of His life.  Have an egg hunt.

As your children get older, read each of the four Gospels together.  Discuss His teachings, His example, His love, and His centrality in our lives.  Delve a bit more into the multitude of lessons in the parables, the stories of His life, death and resurrection, and the importance of learning who He is.

Some of the symbols of Easter are familiar; others are less commonly known.

the Palm Tree: represents the palm branches lain on Palm Sunday as Jesus entered Jerusalem.

the Cross: signifies the Crucifixion of Christ, and universality of His love.

the Tomb: the symbol of the Resurrection of Christ.  It portrays the true meaning of Easter, and the reason for our Joy in Him.

the Ass: recalls the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

Robin:  legend tells us the robin plucked a thorn from the forehead of Christ, staining his breast red.  To this day, all robins have red breasts.

Egg: the emerging of the chick symbolizes the Resurrection of Christ.

the Whale:  the story of Jonah and the whale in the Old Testament is a type, or symbol, of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

In all of the teaching we do in our homes, the religious teaching is the most important.  Of all the religious teaching we do, the most important is this: He lives!  And because He lives, we will live again!

Home and Family, Homemaking, Organization

Spring cleaning

Its that time of year again.  The tulips and daffodils are poking out of the ground, the trees are budding, and everyone is ready to get outside and shake off the cobwebs of winter.  Just remember- your house could use a good airing too!  We don’t need to go the extremes of a century ago, (they dismantled and cleaned even some of the furniture) but it is a good idea to clear some things out, and make sure you have a house that will make the coming-and-goings of warmer weather simpler.

Basic items you may find useful include vinegar, cheap shampoo, baking soda, your favorite essential oils (we love grapefruit and eucalyptus),  a good non-toxic  cleaner,  cleaning rags, garbage bags, music you like to listen to,  boxes or bags for donations to charity, and a feeling of abundance.  (If you can recognize the multitude of blessings you have, you will think more clearly and be more objective about what you truly ought to keep and what is excess.)   This project is not just for Mom.  Get the entire family involved.  Little ones can refold and sort linens, use a whisk broom, help carry smaller items as you clear, or wipe down lower surfaces.  Once they can read labels easily, allow them to organize things by size, color, or type.  (No toxic substances should be handled by young children.)  Bigger kids can learn to scrub (even in the corners), clear, and sort.  Everyone in a family should be a participant in maintaining a clean and tidy home!

Start in the room that needs the least amount of work.  (If your bathroom needs a good scrub, and a few shelves straightened, start there.)  The more quickly you have one room sparkling, the more motivation you will have to keep going. Do the next area that is not too bad, and so forth.  If you can do a drawer or two, or a closet, or room a day, you will get done fairly quickly without being chained inside when the weather is good. Set some goals, and get to it!

In the bathroom, use the vinegar (with essential oils added if you desire) on shiny surfaces and tile.  Buff glass dry with crumpled newspaper; use cotton rags for anything else.  Cheap shampoo is great for anywhere body oils collect.  Clean your tub, your combs and brushes, even ring-around-the-collar with it.  If you need something with just a bit of a gentle abrasive, baking soda is your friend.  It also is a great deodorizer.  Pour about half a cup down your drains followed by a cup or two of vinegar.  Stand back and watch the action!  The foaming will help clear your pipes, and freshen them. Polish the hardware.  If your toilet bowl needs a good soak, use good quality denture tablets.  Let them sit overnight, swish in the morning, and most stains under the waterline will be gone.  Sort your linens.  Clear and wipe down any shelves or cabinets.  Check your medications for expiration dates.  As you finish, take a minute to enjoy what you have done!

Clear out one cabinet or closet as a time.  Touch each item long enough to decide if you need/want it.  Does it fit?  Do you use it?  Do you hate it, but it was a gift?  Keep the good.  Donate the unnecessary.  Toss/recycle the trash.  Have a day when you gather the toys, games, and other playthings.  Mend the boxes.  Do you have all the pieces?  Put all the Legos/blocks/toy soldiers in their own container.  Doll stuff needs a central home.  Are there games you just never play?  Puzzles you have never put together?  Schedule a time to do so, or donate it!

As you dust, take EVERYTHING off the surface.  Clean it.  Then put back your favorite things.  Only re-place those things that add to the look of the room or serve a purpose.  If you had too much on there to begin, don’t put it all back!  What would look better somewhere else in your house?  What items need a nice box or basket to be stored neatly?  What do you no longer need, or which items are not adding anything to your life?  Donate them.

As you clean, have a box or basket for items you need, but they belong somewhere else.  Whatever lives in a different room, put in the box.  Don’t leave where you are currently cleaning; you may never finish the job.

Paperwork can be the most time-consuming and frustrating part of any organization project.  If you have file folder, a sturdy box, a recycling bin, and a way to shred or burn anything with personal information, you can take an afternoon and just plow through it.  This may be the one area where family help is not a good idea.  Put a system together for paperwork, finances, etc. so that it can be maintained.  I have five file drawers where all of my household, school-related, financial, or personal paper lives.  Give your older children and teens a box of their own.  Help them create a system for papers, certificates, pay stubs, letters, etc.

Your children can, and should, help you go through their rooms.  What do they no longer need?  What have they stashed under their beds, or in their drawers?  Clear it out.  Sort it.  Put back what really matters.  Help them share in the excitement of having created a clean, organized, fun place to be; help them learn to share their excess with others who need what we take for granted.

If money is tight,  take not needed (but still nice) clothing, toys, or other household items to a consignment shop for resale, or box them up and hold a yard sale this summer.  If you talk with your extended family, neighbors, or friends you will often have enough to create a good-sized, therefore better attended, sale.  (Just be sure to have a system to keep track of how much money goes to each family.)

We do not need to have a professionally decorated house, or a lot of money in order to live in a pleasant, inviting space.  Clean it up.  Clear it out. You can fashion a refuge from the outside world where people want to be with a little elbow grease and lots of love.  Happy cleaning!