Home and Family, Homeschooling

Just keep going!

It’s official.  Cold season is upon us.  One daughter’s family had just kicked their coughs and sniffles, and now at our house the 5 month-old has been coughing for a few days, and it is spreading to the other kids. We went into the doc to verify it wasn’t anything more concerning than a normal cold, and he told us not to worry….but to be aware that everyone seems to be catching it.  (Translation-if you’re lucky enough to still be healthy, don’t go anywhere, meet with anyone, or leave your house.  Goody.)  Time to make sure each family has what they need from the store, and revamp school plans (slightly).

The plan:

Mom has been up for a few nights with the baby who isn’t sleeping, but the other five children are awake at their normal time to begin the day.  Hmmmm. Time to simplify. What does school look like with one eye open in between yawns?  Group time will involve less reading aloud (Mom is getting a sore throat), but more art and hands-on activity.  Individual work will utilize more learning/tutoring DVDs and less individualized verbal instruction.  Snacks now include spiced cider (for everyone’s sore throats), less dairy, and more fruits/veggies.  Breaks may happen at unusual times; if the baby goes to sleep, so does Mom.  Naps are allowed for whomever needs one.  But the basics get covered.  Outside time is still fun.  And we press onward.

Even if things turn for the worst (flu, bronchitis, etc.), we can continue to do something.  Charts of who had which med when, graphs tracking hours of sleep or fluid intake, learning about the science of the human body and infection fighting, and history/science/art/Schoolhouse Rock videos are waiting in the wings.

Life is a school, and when life changes, we may need to adjust.  We keep going as best we can.  And we do it with a smile and as a family.  If our children can learn that, everything else may be simply icing on the cake!

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Homeschooling

Let’s DO school!

It’s that time again.  Homeschool conventions, curriculum fairs, and planning.  Lots of planning.  I remember worrying as a young homeschool mom that I wasn’t doing the right thing, or enough (or too much?), or that I didn’t have everything I needed in order to truly teach my children the things that would best serve them for their future.  Now I watch as my daughters and friends do the same thing.  When I began our homeschooling journey in 1991, there were few resources available.  Scraping curriculum together took time and hunting.  Fast forward 24 years. There are so many options available now, it is enough to make your head spin!  Two thoughts I have had in the last few weeks as I watch this dance happening around me:

First-There is no such thing as a perfect curriculum.  Often we think we have failed, when the failure is in the book…or box…or file.  There are very few prepackaged kits that I would regard as safe bets for just about anyone, and often those will still need tweaking a bit depending on the child.  Stop looking for perfection; consistency is what can make the difference!

As plans are made for the upcoming year, take time to DO things.  Math often makes more sense with manipulative use.  Grammar seems plainer with diagramming if you have a visual learner.  Science is more easily remembered, and more enjoyable, if you get out there and experience it rather than expecting facts to be absorbed by simply reading a book. Go to the zoo.  Dig for rocks.  Lie on the ground and observe the night sky.  Experiment in the kitchen.  Go on field trips to make your studies come alive.  Take regular breaks and get the whole gang moving.  Run up and down the stairs as you drill math facts.  Take a walk and practice observational skills.  OUr children need to learn to cook and do laundry as well as diving into academic studies. Jump on a mini-tramp between subjects for a quick brain break. Role-play or act out history lessons. Duck walk as you review spelling lists or phonics rules.    Doing wakes up the brain, increases retention, and the ensuing giggles aren’t bad either.

As you spend time exploring the world and all its wonders, remember to keep active verbs in the mix.  Do. Try. Experiment. Observe. Move. Fail. Laugh. Create things: messes, meals, and memories for a lifetime.  And cut yourself some slack.  It’s not up to you to find the perfect books, or be the perfect parent, or have the perfect family.  The only perfection we will ever attain will not come from us.  It comes from He who wants us to succeed.  Lean on Him, and go DO something!

Home and Family, Homeschooling, Parenting

Help them see what is right!

When was the last time you marveled at the antics of a nine-month old?  Or laughed at the silliness of a three-year old?  Or cheered on the nine-year old at sports, or scouts, or piano?  Children come to us ready to explore, learn, and utilize every ounce of enthusiasm they possess in everything they do.  They are joyful, or distraught, or anxious, but whatever they are, they are that thing ALL THE WAY!  They learn and grow and lose some of that….and that’s sad.

When was the last time you lost your patience at a small child for being a small child?  Why do we expect them to be big when they’re little?  And why, in heaven’s name, do we teach them to look for what they did wrong, rather than what they did right?  If they are struggling with learning to tie their shoes, do we remember how freeing it was when they could finally dress themselves?  If they got 90% correct on a spelling test, that means they got 9 out of 10 correct!  When they want to shoot baskets rather than practice piano, do we encourage their love of sports and praise them for not being couch potatoes?  Perhaps they can shoot baskets and THEN practice. If they love spending time with people, and struggle with studying in a quiet room, okay.  Put them in the middle of the action and see if it improves their spirits and scholarship.  Finger-spell their spelling lists.  Create games to help them review.  Run laps while you drill “boring facts.”  Match their studies to the way they learn best.

So the next time your child shows you a nearly-perfect paper, hug them.  Smile.  Throw a “nearly-perfect” party!  Let’s celebrate what they do well, and spend less time worrying about the rest.  Give them the gift of being “enough.”  That is all we can be, after all.

 

Home and Family

What legacy will you leave?

I have a shelf (or two) filled with books dealing with finances, thrift, homemaking, and such.  One book was recently added by financial guru, Jean Chatzky, “Money Rules.”  The book lists 95 very basic rules for dealing with money throughout the seasons of life.  I was reading, smiling, and just basically thumbing through the book…then I read rule number 88.  Spend more time building a legacy than an inheritance.  What’s more valuable: leaving $20,000 to your kids, or instilling in them a work ethic that lets them earn an extra $20,000 a year?

I have come back to that page a number of times, and spent even more time rolling the thought around in my mind.  Are we leaving inheritances or legacies?  Or more specifically, am I leaving inheritances or legacies?  What would I gift to my descendants if I could wave a magic wand? A few things.

Hopefully, they have all  developed a solid work ethic in temporal things.  Have they developed the same work ethic in mental, emotional, and spiritual things?  God is real, miracles do happen, and prayer has real power, but work is required.   Relationships add richness and joy to our lives, but require commitment and effort.  Education is the gateway to growth and success, yet it cannot be acquired half-heartedly, or through force-feeding.  Self discipline and consistency must be applied.

Will I be successful at leaving a legacy of service, duty, enduring well?  Or will they simply remember isolated conversations about the importance of those things?

Will home be a place of inherited “stuff” or will it be filled with love, peace, and acceptance that they can claim as their own, and carry with them where ever life takes them?

And, most important in my eyes, will they have received a legacy of faith in God, belief in His scriptures, and a desire to be with our family and Him forever?

What legacy are you hoping to leave to those you love?

 

 

 

Home and Family

Back in the saddle again

When I looked up the origin of the idiom “back in the saddle again” I found it came from exactly where I thought it did, and so it is the perfect title for this blog because I’m BACK!  It was originally applied to cowboys and jockeys who were returning to work, riding on their horses again, after taking a break or recovering from an injury.  (http://www.thisdayinquotes.com/2010/06/back-in-saddle-again-autry-whitley.html)

While not a cowboy, I am returning to work(ing on my blog) after an extended hiatus due to illness, three family households relocating in two weeks’ time, surgery for my sweetie, a new grandson (read-bed rest pregnancy for my daughter), a child’s heart surgery, the holidays, and life generally exploding… and while my desk chair is more comfortable than sitting atop a horse, it could be considered my saddle.

The good news is that the surgeries went well.  The moves are done, and everyone is close to settled and fully unpacked.  (The new housing situations are much better, and so worth the nightmare of the last five months!)  Mom and baby are doing well, and he’s an absolute joy! The illness still comes and goes, but if that is the worst thing happening….I’m in great shape!

What have I learned?

  • I am not, have never been, nor will I ever be “supermom”…and that’s okay.
  • Homemade bread is best…for my budget and my health.
  • I am surrounded by people who are willing to help at the drop at a hat.
  • Who you choose as a realtor makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE!
  • My homeschool mom friends are wonderful sanity-savers.
  • Teaching children to work at a young age can translate into walls getting painted, boxes getting packed and carried, and order being re-established more quickly.  My grandchildren ROCK!
  • My grandchildren can handle just about anything when the adults in their lives are happy, and they can find their favorite toys/games.
  • We live in an amazing day and age when medical challenges that would have been devastating fifty years ago can be addressed, repaired, and life can resume.
  • A written list of priorities can keep your ship from sinking.
  • A sense of humor is an absolute must to survive the ups and downs of life!
  • Prayer is very real power, and miracles happen everyday!

And so I’m back.  With a head full of thoughts, ideas, and new connections made in the last number of months.  I hope this finds you and yours blessed, happy, and growing each day!

 

 

Homemaking, Homeschooling

Sometimes school doesn’t look like school…

I had a discussion with a young homeschooling mom this week about curriculum planning and development.  After exploring her daughter’s interests, strengths, struggles, and individual quirks, it became apparent that traditional seat work was not the best method for her.  She is active, personable, bright, obsessed with animals and art, and generally delightful!  Spelling, language, and science worksheets are of no interest to her, and cause the family school time to be uninspiring and, ultimately, discouraging.  She needs art, geography that is associated with the natural world, spelling that involves her whole body, and tons of experiential learning.

One of my favorite parts of the day was when Mom looked at me, and expressed that what she was looking for (without realizing it) was permission to allow her daughter to be herself, and throw away the mold!

While I am NOT a fan of allowing children to lead out in their education, nor do I advocate beginning the school year without a plan, I do wonder how much more we would all learn if we accepted who we (and our children) are, how we learn, and focused on our strengths rather than the areas which need work.  Math, science, language arts, geography, manners, etc. need to be taught, and even the least favorite subjects are required, but if we spent a bit more time looking around for methods that effectively teach, reinforce, and encourage our children, their love for learning would increase, and they would retain more!

Here are just a few ideas to keep it fun!

  • Allow them to make lists, diagrams, or charts rather than writing a paper with complete paragraphs if they are inclined to do so.
  • Use role play, games, and field trips more often, in order to make connections that might otherwise be missed.
  • Use music or art media to express and explore what you are learning.  Memorize or write a song, or create a logo which applies to the unit you just finished.  Construct a game or map.  If they can recreate it, they have learned it.
  • Use more manipulatives, and oral answers for math time-especially for the young ones.
  • Allow more movement.  Finger-spell.  Run laps while you drill. Get out the Legos or crayons for quiet activity while someone else reads aloud.  Our magnificent bodies were created to MOVE.  Don’t just read or write about things…DO them.
  • Collections are wonderful.  Learn to classify, organize, label, display, and enjoy things.
  • Find things to write that matter.  Family newsletters, journals, research papers,  interviews with those who have experience in what you are studying, etc.
  • Volunteer.  Get involved.  Make a difference.  Connect with those around you.

Remember, we don’t generally live in “model homes” or have a “model schoolroom.”  That’s okay.  Fill your homes with other models…love, activity and exploration, creative expression, lively discussion, and laughter.  Focus on the gifts your children have and are.  They will surprise you with what they can become.

 

Home and Family, Parenting

Babies are a joy!

A new little sweetheart entered my life this last weekend.  Her dark hair, dark eyes, and sweet spirit reminded me why I have chosen to make motherhood and home the center of my life.  She was born in the wee hours Saturday, and watching my youngest son support his wife (who was a champ!) during labor, and then hold his daughter for the first time was one of the most moving experiences of my life.  His parents will be amazing; they are committed to doing all they can to care for, teach, protect, and encourage this new life.  It is never easy, but they’ll do just fine.

Nothing compares with the joy to be found in home and family.  I love being a grandma!