Saturday, September 27, 2014

Reevaluating My Homeschool


Sometimes I think the hardest part of homeschooling is knowing when to change courses.  I am constantly watching my children and trying to decide to push through something that is hard or to slow down and try a different approach.  

My oldest has really been struggling with handwriting and math.  He will close his eyes and drop his head on the table anytime he sees me get out his copywork.  Math is fine until he gets to something that takes work to figure out.  At that point, he starts falling on the floor or going to the bathroom a hundred times.  I wonder if he is putting his head down during math and handwriting because he's bored or because he's too challenged.  I wonder if I am explaining it clearly.  Do I need to be harder on him or more understanding?  I really don't know. But this week, I was able to gain a bit more clarity.

I have been teaching a preschool co-op class once a week and during playtime, I get some time to talk with the other moms.  We're always swapping ideas, frustrations and breakthroughs and it's opening my eyes to new possibilities.  One of the moms does not used a boxed curriculum and worries more about the long term goals.  She gets a check list of everything she wants them to learn that school year and works backwards.  But here's my favorite thing - She asks them to tell her what they want to learn about and spends a month on each topic.  

I started thinking about the boxed curriculum I use.  It's filled with wonderfully enriching books and I love that aspect.  But the kids don't have any input and, frankly, neither do I.  I'm just following my checklist and feeling mounting pressure to "get done" every day.  So I decided to change my approach.  I will continue to read them great books but we are going to take a unit study approach and focus on one topic each month.  I decided to run this idea by the boys.

"We really get to pick!?" my oldest said.  "Let's do trains!  And clocks!  Can we take some clocks apart and see what's inside?" 
"Sure!  What about you, Drew?"
"Airplanes and cars and volcanoes and tv's!" he answered.
We were off to a good start but I still had one more concern.  "I've noticed you've been struggling a bit with math and handwriting.  Is it too easy or too hard for you?  I can't really tell," I asked my oldest.
He slumped his skinny long body down on the couch and said in a muffled voice, "I'm really bad at handwriting.  I get my b's and p's and d's all mixed up and I write my s's backwards!  It's so hard!  And I don't know the answers for math.  I think I do but then I'm wrong and it's so embarrassing.  I hate getting the answers wrong."
I paused for a minute and said a silent prayer to get this right.  "Could I show you something?" I asked him.  I went to our school book shelf and grabbed his Kindergarten handwriting book.  "See this page?"  I showed him a page of ten squiggly A's.  "This took you a full half hour a few months ago.  Now you can do this," I said as I showed him the paragraph he had written that morning.  "It's really hard work, I know.  But you're doing it.  You are really and truly doing it well."
"And look how bad those A's are!" he said giggling.  

I learned this week that they have the answers if we only ask them.  We don't have to guess and we don't have to hold firm to a tactic that isn't working.  If we come to them with understanding, they will be open and honest with us.  And that honesty will help to guide us.  

Are there any parenting tactics that you use that seem to have "stopped working" for you?  Take some time to reevaluate - Maybe even ask your kids what they think of your new ideas.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Enjoying the Moment

I carry my iPhone everywhere.  I take pictures of my kids almost every single day.  I see a cute moment and I grab my phone out my back pocket and try to capture it.  But today, I accidentally left my phone at home and it was a very different experience.

My sons were having lunch with my dad so I had some special time with my baby girl.  We grabbed a picnic at the grocery store (pureed sweet potatoes for her, sandwich for me) and headed to the park. I wanted her to try out the swings for the very first time and started telling her all about it as we made our way to the playground.  "You are going to love this," I told her.  "We'll go nice and slow at first and you tell me what you think."

I lifted her up and dropped her little michelin man legs into the holes of the baby swing.  She looked at me with uncertainty then realized she could hang on to the chain that held the swing in place.  Her eyes met mine and she broke out into a huge grin.  I reached for my phone and realized it wasn't there.  At first, I was upset.  This was a "first" after all.  I wanted to capture it.  But then I realized that her eyes hadn't left mine.

I decided to focus all my attention on her - A true rarity - And enjoy this moment to the fullest.  I pushed her gently and tickled her little legs.  I kissed her each time she swung toward me.  I laughed and smiled with her.

Here's what I didn't do.  I didn't take a picture of her then take a few minutes to decide which one was best while I pushed her absentmindedly.  I didn't review my Facebook feed or upload a picture of her.  I didn't send a "quick" text to my friends.  I didn't feel the pull of the emails that were sitting in my inbox.  And I didn't miss any of her smiles.

While I love my collection of pictures, I loved that time with her more.  Sometimes my phone becomes a distraction.  I get lured by the escape of Facebook, blogs, texts and emails for longer than I'd like to admit.  After today, I think I'm going to put it down a little bit more.  I'm going to see their smiles with my eyes rather than through the lens of my camera.  I'm going to relax and really be in that moment.


Friday, September 12, 2014

I Love You


"Drew!  You hold this end of the jump roap and I'll hold this end!" my oldest said as he climbed into the van after co-op.  "If you hold it, it means we are buddies!"
Drew grabbed ahold of the rope and a small smile passed over his lips.  Buddies.  He liked the sound of that. 
"Let's pretend it's a phone!  And we can talk to each other!  Even though I'm in the back seat!" my oldest continued.
"Okay Luke!"
"Okay Drew!  Let's try it!  I love you!" he said into the jump roap handle.
My little one paused for a moment.  "Oh, thank you Luke.  I love you too," he said tenderly.

They put on their headphones to listen to Curious George stories and finished the ride holding on to their buddy rope.  

Maybe they say "I love you" to each other because they hear it so often.  Maybe they said "I love you" because they missed each other during their co-op classes.  Or maybe it was just in their hearts at that very moment.  Whatever the reason, it was a reminder to me.  

It was a reminder to never forget the importance of telling someone I love them.  No matter what conflict life throws at us, or how busy we are or how much we have happening in our lives, we need to say I love you every day.  We just never know how much someone needs to hear it.

Who can you call today to say, "I love you"?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Can She Tuck Us In?

My sons adore their baby sister.  They spend most of their day vying for her attention by making silly faces, kissing her cheeks or dancing until she giggles.  She, in turn, adores them.  She cannot crawl but she will roll across the carpet as many times as it takes to get close to them.  As they talk, her eyes twinkle with delight.  They are perfect in her eyes.  And she can't seem to get enough of them.

I am sure she needs her afternoon nap around noon but she begs to differ.  Even though her eyes are red rimmed and she can't stop rubbing them, she fights her nap.  Each day I read to her then gently put her in her crib.  Her eyelids are heavy as she pulls her blanket up and rolls onto her side.  Then, without fail, one of the boys peaks in and says, "Mommy?"  The moment she hears their voices, it is over.  Her face lights up with a smile and she's ready to go again.

I have tried to remind her that it's night night time and replace the binky but her smile is too broad to hold it in her mouth.  If I leave, she protests loudly until I get her out of her crib and back with her boys.  I eventually give in and bring her out to read books with us and she will not settle with snuggles from Mommy.  She hurls herself off my lap to sit next to her brother of choice and leans against their chests as we read.  Even though she kicks the pages of the book and tries to eat their shirts, they indulge her.

When it's time to go to bed, they always ask if Rosie can tuck them in.  I lay her down in each of their beds so that they can have "special time" with her.  They hug her, kiss her and lately she has begun to hug and kiss them back.  They tell her she's cute and that they love her more than their brother.  And then, finally, everyone is ready to rest.

I take her back to her crib and she falls asleep with a gentle smile on her face.  She's sure that she isn't missing anything now.  She is sure that she is loved.

How do you see your children loving one another?  Is there anything more pure and sweet in the world?  I don't think so.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Not So Quiet Time

Quiet time is the invention of mothers like me who can't bear the thought of naps being over.  While the younger children sleep, it is my hope that my five year old will sit quietly on his own and read, draw pictures or even sleep.  This works well on most days.  Last week, it did not.

I put my daughter down for her nap and went downstairs to read for a bit.  I had gotten all of them to rest at the same time and I began celebrating my good fortune.  Anything was possible for the next hour!  And then I heard the thumping of little footsteps.  I let it go at first - One of them probably had to go the bathroom.  I went back to the book I'd been wanting to read.  A few minutes later I heard, "thump thump thump" again.  "They must be going right back to bed!" I thought and I silently praised myself for raising such well mannered children.  And then the thumping began again.

"Luke?  Drew?" I called up the stairs.  "Are you guys still up?"
"I just had to poop!" my oldest yelled down.
"Okay - You've been in there awhile.  Are you alright?" 
"No!  I got poop on my hands!!  I tried everything to get it off!" he said with frustration.  "It didn't even come off when I wiped it on the walls!"

Do you know those moments of parenthood where time stands still?  It starts with disbelief.  "Did he really just say he wiped poop on the walls??"  It moves to anger.  "I have to clean poop off the walls when I just wanted to read a book for ten minutes!!"  Then you end with acceptance.  "Let's get this over with."

I trudged up the stairs, still in the anger phase.  "Luke!  Tell me why you thought it was a good idea to wipe the poop on the walls!"  I asked.  Seeing my intense displeasure, he began working his defense. "I tried everything, Mommy!  Toilet paper and wipes and everything!" he exclaimed.
"Lay down while I clean this up.  I love you but I'm very mad about this mess."  I said

As I scrubbed the wall that was literally covered in poo, I began to move to acceptance.  I didn't want to clean it up but this is part of the job. He was trying to solve a problem even if it was a terrible way to do it.  I walked out to the living room where he was pretend sleeping on the couch.  "Hey buddy," I began.  "Next time that happens, try washing your hands in the sink okay?" 
"Oh that's a great idea!" he exclaimed.  "I probably should do that now...Look, there's a little more right there."  

Parenthood is gross.  No two ways about it.  But it is also hilarious.  This story will forever live in our family and I guarantee that it will always give us the giggles.  

What are some of your funniest/grossest moments of parenthood?  Share them tonight (after dinner, of course) and have a little laugh together.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

First Day of Co-op

We were all ready for our first day of co-op.  I had gotten all their supplies and the t-shirts they needed to wear.  I had gotten up early to make sure their backpacks were packed and their snacks were ready to go.  I tucked my lesson plan under my arm and grabbed my bagful of preschool books and games to load into the car and we were off.  Kind of.

The moment we entered the highway, I noticed that traffic was a little more dense that usual.  I figured it was rush hour and I was glad I had left an extra 15 minutes to get there.  But then traffic stopped completely.  The cars were not moving at all.  "Why did we stop, Mommy?" my oldest asked.  "Aren't we on the highway?  Shouldn't we be going fast?  Are we going to be late, Mommy?  Can you just go around?" he continued.  
"I'm not sure what's going on, love," I said hoping that he would give me just a minute to think.  No dice.  
"What are we going to do, Mommy?  Oh look! There's a car transporter!  Drew, did you see the car transporter?  I have to pee, Mommy.  I have to pee really really bad," he said.
Of course, there was nothing I could do.  As the minutes ticked by, my anxiety increased.  The thoughts rushed through my head - "I was supposed to be teaching these kids!  I needed to be there early!  I can't let them down!  Will this child please stop talking for the LOVE OF GOD!" I thought.  
"I really really really have to pee!" my five year old persisted.  
"I need to peepee too, Mama," my three year old said.
I said a quick thank you that I had left the baby with my mom.  She probably would've needed a diaper change.
"Okay, guys.  I will get off the highway as soon as I can.  I can't do anything about it right now," I told them.  I grabbed my phone to text the administrator and the other preschool teacher so they knew I would be late.  We had already been in the car for 45 minutes.

As we inched along, I checked the reason for the traffic.  Apparently a tractor trailer driver had fallen asleep at the wheel and crossed three lanes of traffic.  The highway was closed and all traffic was being redirected to back roads.  I stopped in my tracks for a minute.  I was so stressed about being on time that I forgot to think about the people that may have been hurt in an accident bad enough to close a highway.  I said to the boys, "Let's pray for the people that may have been hurt in the accident."
"Okay.  Then can I pee?" my oldest asked.  Nice.

We finally made it to co-op a full hours after we left home.  I'm proud to report that both boys made it there without peeing their pants and I managed to keep my sanity.  They loved their classes and I loved mine.  And mostly, I got a big reminder that some things are just out of my control.  

We can control what time we leave, what supplies they have in their backpacks and what they have for snack but there are a million other things that are way out of our control. All we can do is be patient, take deep breaths and know that our only move is to roll with the punches with a lot of grace.  And if you mess that up?  It's okay to take a little grace, too.

Has anthing happened this week that made you feel out of control?  How do you get yourself back to center?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dada

Our little lady is very very verbal.  She tells entire cooing stories when I tuck her into bed at night complete with hand gestures and facial expressions.  She grabs the phone out of my hand to tell her Aunt Tess everything that is on her mind.  And she complains loudly when I try to feed her something she finds unpalatable like carrots or peas.  But she had yet to say her first word.  At least until yesterday.

I was getting ready to take the boys upstairs for a bath and she was having special time with her Daddy. This usually consists of watching baseball or football while she snuggles on his knee.  Every few minutes or so he will pick her up and kiss her to make her giggle.  Last night was a bit different.  He laid her on the floor to talk to her while she kicked and he started coaching.  "Dada...Say Dada, Rosie Rose.  Da....Da," I heard him say over and over.  Smiling inwardly, I walked into the bathroom and started the water.

A few minutes later, my husband walked in with his iPhone.  "Watch this," he said.  And there it was - Her first word.  Dada.  He was beaming.  "I think I love her even more than I did five minutes ago," he said.  "I can't stop watching it.  She's so cute!" he gushed. I had to agree.

Both of our boys said, "Mama" first so it's only fair that his little girl said, "Dada" first.  I wouldn't have traded the happiness on his face for anything in the world.

What was your baby's first word?  Think back to that moment for a minute and hold it in your heart.
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