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!

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

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!

Home and Family, Homeschooling

Are you a people person? Or not so much?

As I have been preparing for a workshop I am giving on Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory, I am also running across the terms “introvert” and “extrovert.”  They aren’t new lables; most people have at least heard them, or even used them to describe themselves or someone else.  I have.  But I have been so thoroughly intrigued, I have veered my study off-course slightly to investigate.  Fascinating.  The more I learn, the more I realize we need to stop trying to “fix” people to fit them into our comfort zones.  We need to embrace each others’ hard-wiring and move forward together.

My husband and our oldest daughter are extroverts.  Big time.  They can become buddies with folks they met an hour ago.  Come-over-for-dinner buddies. They say hello to every new neighbor as they move in.  They are comfortable welcoming each new face in our church congregation.  They can strike up a conversation with the other person in the same line at the grocery store (especially if that other person is another extrovert).  And they smile for all the world to see.  They are able to seem interested in everyone, and love to spend time with others…working, playing, just visiting, whatever.  I watch them and marvel at their ease.  Parties, meetings, and get-togethers are so invigorating for them.  True story: the vast majority of the decorations for my daughter’s wedding reception, which were lovely and more than we could have put together for her, were loaned to us by a sweet woman who shopped at the store where my daughter worked.  They had struck up numerous conversations, and found commonalities.  When Elly announced her engagement and they got talking about wedding plans, this woman volunteered the decorations (which were in just the right colors).  Then, as we stood in line at her reception, I noticed a familiar face come in the door which I was having a hard time placing.  Who was it?  Turns out Elly had given an invite to the teller at our local credit union.  Of course she did.  Really?  I was flabbergasted! And even more shocked that this gal came.  She greeted us as I would expect an old friend to do, and I realized that this is what she and Elly were.  Two extroverts who saw each other on a regular basis, in other words, friends.

I am an introvert.  While I can enjoy the companionship of others, I recharge most easily by spending time with me.  Alone.  Filling my bucket can involve reading, watching a documentary, listening to music, cooking, or quietly filing papers in the office.  It just needs to be just me.  By choice, I have few close friends (but I know I can depend on them when the chips are down!), a number of people with whom I am friendly, and lots of acquaintances.  I’m not looking to greatly expand my circle; I like it this way.  Needing to make small talk with someone I have never met before is my idea of purgatory.  While I love teaching and presenting ideas and skills I have learned with others, I find that too much time surrounded by others makes me tired.  Edgy, even.  And if I want to send myself into a full-blown fibromyalgia flare, all I need to do is say, “yes” to every request made by every person with whom I rub elbows.  This not is not only hard physically, it wipes out any energy reserves I may have managed to save up.  Our younger daughter is much like me.  She has a few close friends, and a love of quiet, books, and time to think.  We can sit and share opinions, thoughts, memories, and quiet for hours.  Or take a nap.  We’re good at naps.  She and her husband may end up in a cabin in the woods raising cows, pigs, and produce and they’ll be happy as can be.  They’re both introverts.

Extroverts are enlivened by people.  They often find joy in the energy of a crowded room, or the opportunity to welcome a newcomer.  They work well in groups, can be easily distracted and spontaneous, and tend to be easy-going and fun to be around.  New experiences and opportunities are stimulating, exciting even.  Extrovert children need people, group activities, stories about people and adventure, time to ask questions and discuss what they’re learning, and breaks from the norm.

Introverts need solitude to recharge.  People drain them, and while they can be great listeners, they aren’t comfortable listening or sharing of themselves all the time.  While they have been accused of being self-absorbed, they simply want time to think about what they have learned…about others, about themselves, about life.  Joy comes from understanding and exploring the world inside, then they can move outwards.  Introvert children enjoy a distraction-free school experience.  Routine, minimal unplanned adventures, and time to think about what they are learning.

I must admit, I am duly impressed by the extroverts in my life.  (There are quite a few of them.)  They help me want to look up and see what lies over the horizon.  My fellow introverts help keep me centered, and content with where I am now.  We all need a bit of both around us.  I guess that’s why the Lord gave us each other.