Monday, September 22, 2014

Written By Mom

    Today I opened my mailbox and found two contributor copies of next month's Highlight's Magazine for Children. The article I put so much time and work into two years ago is finally in print. I brought it inside and told the kids what it was. Jane wanted me to read it to her. So I did. Then, of course, I took some pictures to commemorate the occasion and put them up on facebook. It's not real until then, right?

    I got lots of great responses, congratulations, I'm so proud of you, that's so cool. And my favorite from my grandma, "I am so proud to be the grandmother of a published author."

    Published Author. Those words feel really good. They sound really good. You know what? They sound impressive. Published Author. Say it with a british accent. It's even better.

   But you know what? After a few minutes of celebration, I fed my children lunch. And at the table, Jane and Max were full of questions about suns, stars, and planets. So we retreated to the computer to look at pictures of Outer Space. We talked about the Milky Way. And which stars are bigger than our sun? Can we see them at night time? When will our sun run out? Will it get big and red? Why on earth did they name a star Betelgeuse? What's a black hole? Could one suck up our sun? How do stars die? Do they kill each other?

   And in that moment, I did something even more important than getting published. I was a mother. I was a teacher. I loved someone with every fiber of my being and held them close and shared with them a passion. I took a question and replaced it with wonder and awe and understanding. I helped little human beings grow just a little closer to being adults with reverence and knowledge.

  The truth is, a lot of people will see my name by that article. Very few people will know about what I did after writing it, before writing it, inbetween revisions, on the way to the post office to mail it, during the long months of waiting.

   I was a mother. I am a mother.

   Today I felt successful. And it felt good. It always feels good to put your heart into something and have someone tell you it is good. Heck, to pay you for it!

   The world puts little real stock in motherhood and what I do day in and day out. But I want you to know that I know it's important. It's most important. I love what I do. I chose it over many other good options. I was "successful" before today because I have invested in the people around me, friends and family. I put my heart out there every day. I strive to make my home an emotional safe haven. I love my children, and worry about them, and care for them, and teach them. I work and improve and evaluate and try again. I forgive and offer grace to myself and to others.

    And that alone makes me successful.

   I don't need a tag line for that.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Verses for chores and transitions

I've been having a bit of a hard time getting Max to follow instruction the last week. However, I dove back in to some of the Waldorf parenting and education stuff that I love so much and refreshed my memory on some good techniques. One of these is easing transition times through song. A lot of what I saw as failing to follow instructions was partially just not wanting to transition from playing to whatever else. But in the last two days when I've begun transitions with singing, things have been so much smoother. Max stops what he's doing and comes out smiling and knows what is coming. Sometimes he still takes a bit of prodding, but it is much more peaceful than before. The singing probably helps me be more patient as well.

I think the other secret to this change in our household dynamics is that I've made sure to do everything with him. Instead of just telling him to clean up the toys, I sing the verse and begin to do it and have him help me. This is much better than telling him and telling him and then finally shouting "PICK UP YOUR TOYS!" He's still only four after all. This also applies to transitioning to outside playtime. The kids are much easier to get out the door when I'm heading that way too. I've been reminded how important modeling is with young children, and let's be honest, it's hard to get angry at someone singing and smiling and inviting you to join them.

So here are some verses I've made up and started using for different parts of our day. You can make up your own tune. I have mine that I use (although some I'm still toying with). If you're really stuck on tunes, let me know, and I'll post a video.

For making beds
(I've found that somewhere around 4-5 children are able to start making their bed themselves. It isn't super pretty, but it's made. Until that age, make it with them. Right now I'm able to make my bed and Jane and Max each make their bed.)

To keep a tidy house,
We all must make our beds.
So smooth the covers out.
Tonight we'll rest our heads

For putting laundry in the hamper

Toss in the shirts.
Toss in the skirts.
Toss in the dirty pants.
Get them off the floor
So we can wash
And wear once more.

For setting the table
(You get the kids knowing this one well enough and you can sing Do you smell the food? and they'll reply Mmm, it smells so good! It's like instant  compliments whenever you want!)

Do you smell the food?
Mmm, it smells so good!
Let's get the table set,
and we'll be eating yet!

To Go Outside
This one can be easily revised to reflect the weather. Don't be afraid to do so. (Or to go outside in all kinds of weather!)

The sun is shining,
Grass is green,
So come outside with me.

Bathtime To the tune of "Let's Go Fly a Kite"

Let's go take a bath,
Oh how we'll splish and splash
Let's go take a bath,
And then start snoring.
Up where the water's clear,
We know that bedtime's here.
Oh, let's go take a bath!

Post-Bath baby Song 
Okay, I don't know how well this will work for anyone else. You can try it with your baby's name. My baby is so wiggly now that singing a song and playing games are the only way to keep him still enough for diaper and dressing.

Oh my baby, Tommy-tum,
Let's put a diaper on your bum,
Then we'll give you pj's too,
And say goodnight to you!

Monday, July 14, 2014

G week

G week was super fun! Even though, I probably won't have much to put here.

We learned our g signs, and continued memorizing our poem. We located Greenland on a map. We made geoboards and the kids played with them for hours every day. Jane finished her letter g quilt square. I need to come up with a new stitich for her to master. I think this week I'm going to show her how to do a lazy daisy.

We studied "Boy with a House of Cards." Practiced writing the letter g. Had a drawing and writing lesson everyday. Did 2-5 pages of math every day. We continued to learn about flowers and gardens. We tried to have garden olympics, but my plaster of paris didn't work out. We'll try again this upcoming week, but maybe with a different event not involving plaster of paris.

We've stopped planting flowers for each letter until the fall. There's no good place in our new house to really grow them. They get enough sun to sprout, but not enough to get strong and grow leaves. But when we move them outside, they burn up. So we need a little bit more forgiving temperatures first.

Jane added another page to her alphabet book. The letter b. She drew a book, banana, etc.

We made clay G's and baked them.

Other than that, we really just did a lot of reading. Jane is starting to really enjoy longer books and stories.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

F Week

F was for France, folding, fables, and flowers

F week was super fun and productive. Like always, we had circle time every day.

Scripture Story: Lehi's Family
Picture Study: Roman Girl at a Fountain
Poem: Farewell by Charles Kingsley first verse
Country: France
Song: You're a Grand Old Flag
F Signs

We did math in our workbooks every day. Jane worked on her quilt square.
She also started making her own alphabet book. Her page this week was the letter A.
We made modeling clay and formed upper and lower case letters A-F and baked them. We'll paint them this next week and add G.
We played "Roll a Flower" and talked about the different parts of a flower and what they do, including pollinators.
We read Madeline several times and matched the illustrations of the sites in France to pictures of the real thing and learned their names.
We learned how to say hello, goodbye, please, and thank you in french.
We learned origami (folding). Origami whale and crown.
Handwriting practice
We learned about fables and read 3 or 4. It was fun to talk about the "lesson" afterward and hear what the kids thought the lesson was.
Finished reading Magic Tree House #4

Signs for G Week

garbage can
get dressed
get up

Monday, June 30, 2014

Modeling Lifelong Learning

The credit union we use has a really neat statue in the entrance. I wish I had a picture of it. It's a mother and her two children all holding hands and wearing caps and gowns like they are all graduating. I love it. It seems to sum up so much of how I feel right now as I embark on this homeschooling journey.

As I teach my children, I learn so much myself. Not just facts that I pass on to the kids, but about child development, learning styles, educational philosophies, etc. It's wonderful to be a budding scholar alongside my children. It has reminded me of the important habit of modeling.

We all want to pass certain things on to our children. We talk about instilling a passion for reading, a lifelong love of learning, healthy habits, creativity, imagination, etc. We discuss endlessly how best to do it, but frankly, the best way to raise happy, healthy, creative, thriving adults is to be one yourself.

Children will desire and do what they see their parents doing. That's why there is study after study about how children need to see their parents (both parents!) reading for enjoyment in order for them to more readily do the same. A recent study basically said that boys don't read because they don't see their dads reading.

I want children who are knowledgable in their head, heart, and hands. But am I modeling that for them? Do I create throughout my day? Do I read and learn more every day? Do I actively try to listen and empathize with those around me? These are all things we can do more of each day. A fulfilling life does not stagnate. A whole-hearted person continues to learn and grow and try new things. You've never "done it all."

Maybe it's time to start learning again. College may be over, but you can still be a scholar! Here's some ideas to get you started.

Read, read, read (obviously)
Decide to learn something, anything and then do it. Really dive in. Maybe it's photography, politics, soccer, etc. If you let passion drive you, you won't get bored.
Learn a new language! I've been using duolingo. It's a website and an app. I love it! I do a little bit every day and I'm definitely learning spanish! If we're facebook friends, you should join and add me for some healthy competition!

Maybe you need to improve in the heart category. For this one I can't recommend Brene Brown's "Daring Greatly" enough. But here are some other ideas.

Get outside and enjoy the perfection and beauty of it.
Get into a spiritual groove. Even if you don't have a specified religion. Find faith in something and nurture it.
Set out on a journey to discover your purpose and follow it.
Unplug and talk with the people in your life.
Serve your fellow men.

What about your hands? Are you learning to create with them? This encompasses so much. Cooking, gardening, music, art, crafts, dance, building, repairing, the list could go on and on. Working with your hands nourishes the soul. Don't stop at what you already know how to do, try something else. The internet is abounding with tutorials, you can literally learn how to do anything you want (although mastering it is never a guarantee.) Let your kids see you develop talents old and new. Try and fail and try again. And you will fail. Make no doubt about it. But don't let that scare you!

My tips for this are start small. So you want to get better at photography? Don't go out and buy a huge expensive camera just yet. Learn all you can with what you have or the cheaper options and then move up when you've reached your limitations. The same goes for most endeavors. Learning to sew? Start on a basic machine. Garden? A small plot or a few pots will keep you plenty busy.

Be artistic even if you aren't "good." There is something healing in art, whether it's music, writing, painting, dancing. Whatever it is that fills your soul, do it, and then try something new. You may surprise yourself!

To me, living a "wholehearted" or soul-filling life requires a constant desire and effort to progress in all three of these areas. What have you done today? Did it fill your soul? Did you learn something new? What are your actions communicating to your children about what it means to be an adult?

I know I wrote this blog post like I was telling you to get to work, but really this is for me. These are the thoughts in my head. The things I keep reminding myself. Head, heart, hands. Head, heart, hands.