Learn Something New

Well, we’re almost half way through January.  Did you make a new year resolution?  How’s it going?  Have you kept your new year resolution?  I have no intentions to cause feelings of guilt or shame as I didn’t even make a resolution! I tried to do the word thing.  You know, come up with one word to live by for the year.  I didn’t get far with that because I couldn’t think of a word.  A few days into January, however, I did come up with a phrase. Inspired by my mother, who is 80 years old and has just started taking swimming lessons in the past year, I’ve decided on a phrase for 2019 which is “Learn Something New”.

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Each month I will learn something new which I have not done before.  I actually decided this would be a monthly endeavor as my daughter was teaching me how to knit.  While my girls were using their Hobby Lobby gift cards, I picked out this pretty, soft, ballet pink yarn to make myself a scarf.  As you will see in the photos, I’m trying something new, not trying to PERFECT something new.  I’ve been enjoying knitting this month and even bought another color of yarn as I anticipate some snow days and extra time for knitting.yarn

I’m making myself a list of the months and ideas of what I will try each month. I’m blogging about it because I think it’s a wonderful idea to share, and maybe I’m searching for some suggestions and accountability. (Also, I haven’t blogged in a very long time and this is very fitting with the title of my blog.)

January- knitting

February-  lettering or calligraphy

March- learn a beginner Reel or Jig

April- geocaching

May-

June-

July- paddle boarding

August-

September-

October-quilt sampler

November-

December- Make Ukranian Origami Stars

Feel free to make suggestions of new things for me to learn in 2019, or join me in this modified resolution to learn something new!

An Elementary Intro to Shakespeare

Provide an early introduction to Shakespeare when your children are young and they are likely to learn more deeply and efficiently when they meet him again in high school literature. Teaching Shakespeare early may seem daunting, but don’t worry. As classical educators we merely begin a brain file now and then as the children mature more information is learned and stored in that file. Some ways to include Shakespeare in an elementary curriculum include memorization, literature and real life theater experiences.

Memorization

How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig is a book for parents to use as they teach even the youngest children passages from famous Shakespeare plays. You can provide your children with rich language experiences, exposure to quality literature and the joy of success as they recite lines of the Renaissance Period. Consider this book to grow with your child, or to be family friendly for students at of various ages, as it advances from memorization to further explanations and helps students to understand the writing of Shakespeare.

Literature

Young Readers can enjoy the plots of Shakespeare’s written works in modified versions appropriate for their age. Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare by Usborne is a good choice. I have dancers, so Ella Bella Ballerina and A Mid Summer Night’s Dream is a favorite. Also, introduce different genres to your new readers with the Who Was William Shakespeare? biography from the Who Was series of young chapter books. DK’s Eyewitness Shakespeare is a biography enriched with visuals and detailed pictures.

 

Theater

While it may not always coordinate with the schedule of your studies, look for local schools performing plays or ballets. You may want to inquire if they have a children’s day. They are often a lower price if your group is big enough and they may provide additional educational discussions before or after the production. You could do this after your reading and memorization to provide more meaning to their work, or it could be the kick 0ff as a motivation for new studies.

You can use these resources and suggestions within your History and Language Arts programming, or make it a summer unit. Whichever you choose, relax and enjoy getting acquainted with William Shakespeare.

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Staying Balanced

We are well into January 2017 and I’m happy to say I’ve been creating a more balanced schedule for my little family.  Not only do I verbalize that our priorities are God and family,  we are walking in it day to day so far this year.

It tends to happen every fall that we become consumed with our outside activities as the girls prepare for The Nutcracker and Southern Region Oireachtas (a regional Irish Dance competition).  One of the dance schools is an hour and a half commute so in addition to practice time, add three hours to every time we go, which had been 3-4 times per week, 15-20 hours per week including several Sundays.  The time spent being an Irish dance mom is equivalent to a part time job! The fall spins and spins until we have 3 weekends in a row of big events in December:  Oireachtas, then The Nutcracker and then a piano recital.  Becoming concerned that by supporting their involvement in these activities I was warping their Christmas memories, I suggested to the girls that next year we not participate, instead just relax all of December and see if we like it.  They rebounded with a unison,  “No!  These are part of our Christmas traditions!”   The week of Christmas and New Year we do slow down to reflect on our Savior’s birth with other traditions and enjoy times with family.   To be honest I can’t imagine going a year without The Nutcracker or hearing them prepare for the Christmas piano recital, and, my daughter has worked so hard over the years in Irish dance and is on the verge of making a goal that I can’t take it away from her now.

However, Christmas break and quality time at home helped me to recognize how far I had let us stray from keeping our family priorities.   As I started making our January activity schedule, I focused with two things in mind – God and family.

I know there is more to being a Christian than attending church and I can understand missing occasionally, but missing was becoming the norm rather than the exception for us this past fall. We will not be missing church or relying on their online video service,  when we only live 20 minutes away, to make sure a daughter can attend a required practice.

Having lost my father at an early age, I can’t purposely keep my girls from spending quality time with their dad as they grow.  Research has shown benefits to eating nightly family dinners.  While due to his work schedule we can’t do it every night, we will eat together more often than not.  We will not be out at activities while my loving husband, their devoted father, is home alone eating dinner.

Will this negatively impact their achievement level in activities?  I don’t know.  Time will tell.  (There are benefits and life lessons to be gained their chosen arts, but that’s a topic for another time.)  I do know that years from now if I have a Sugar Plum Fairy or a Championship dancer, it means nothing if they have not grown closer to God or if they have missed out on sharing their daily lives and routines with their Dad.

Please wish me well as the year continues.  I know next fall will come and I may have to say no to extra team activities due to scheduling concerns.  I know there will be times I’ll need to be a little more flexible,  but overall, I’ll need to keep the big picture in mind and stay balanced.

 

An Unexpected Lesson

Today I was a little surprised of what we learned as we followed up on an experiment which was in our chemistry reading yesterday.  We didn’t do it yesterday because we didn’t, and usually don’t, have soda (aka “pop” to my Pennsylvania friends) in the house.  We hot glued 8 Mentos together and dropped them in the 2 liter bottle of diet coke.  You can see the results in the video below.

We briefly reviewed the topics of chemical reactions and physical reactions.  (Yes, it is a Saturday, and no, they didn’t mind at all.)  It also turned into a realization of why we as a family do not drink soda, and are trying to minimize candy.  What happens inside of your body when you consume these things together?!?   We take a classical approach to education, so it shouldn’t have surprised us that the subjects of health and chemistry blended together.  I guess it was unexpected because I hadn’t thought of a healthy habit tie-in earlier and it wasn’t  planned.  So, what unexpected lessons did you learn this weekend?

(Please know I am not preaching to or judging those of you who drink soda.  It is just our preference for our family.  I’m just sharing how much learning is done out of school time and how we have to be open to straying from the focus topic from time to time.  You would likely disagree with our Hershey Kiss intake. 😉 )

Time to Create

imageWe all focus our attention to academics, and making sure our children are active in organized sports and structured activities.  With all of these concerns and commitments, are we allowing  our kids to just be creative?  A little over a year ago, I let go of the morning resistance to get our school work started.  I was realizing that after breakfast (sometimes even before breakfast) was the time my girls seem to get caught up in their own ideas and creations.  Sometimes it was Lego constructions or bead work.  More recently it is drawing, painting, crochet, or even acting, videography and photography.   It was last year that I embraced this time and instead of demanding their obedience to get dressed and sit at the table to do school work, I gave them the time to create.  Within reason, I allowed them time to complete the project they had started.  They understood that the next thing to do was begin their school work.  Yes, it’s also beneficial to incorporate their talents and interests with the academic lessons, but I think the unstructured time without imposing expectations of the end product is also necessary.  Allowing this time to get their creative juices flowing and to express themselves in the mode of their choice made our academic times even more enjoyable and productive.  Currently, I see this optimal creative time of day changing for one and I need to be sure to work with it instead of against it, and allow her the time to create.

They Didn’t Earn It

One week in March my two daughters brought home a total of six award ribbons and two medals.  I’m not bragging. I’m actually expressing frustration.

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One daughter did earn two of her four ribbons and the youngest did earn one of her two ribbons.  They both entered artwork in a community art show.  As their mother, of course I liked their art and a few of the pieces will be hung on a wall, not just the fridge.  I’m proud of the ribbons they were given for actually placing, but I am annoyed with the” honorable mention” ribbons they brought home just because they entered the show.  Every piece of art, for all who entered had a ribbon  placed on it.

Oh, and the medals?  They were given them because they were in a parade!  No, they did not receive a performance award in the parade.  The organization they were representing handed them out just for being there.  When I was young the opportunity to be in a parade was exciting enough.  I certainly didn’t need a medal to feel good about it.

As a family we try to avoid activities which award kids for meeting minimal expectations for a few reasons:

1)  Lessons can be learned in losing.  If you see someone else carrying a trophy or wearing a medal and you are not, you will develop a desire to work harder to earn said award.

2)  Kids begin to expect a prize or award for everything they do.  They become too extrinsically motivated instead of developing the intrinsic motivation, the desire which comes from within themselves.  We want kids to do well because it feels good to them, not because of something someone hands to them.

3)  It minimizes the achievement to the kids who put in the hard work and preparation to win.  Is it right that one who reads about the activity, practices the activity at home as well as in organized practice, and who puts for their best efforts in practice (not just there to socialize) walks out with the same award?  I don’t think so.

I hope our family stance on this will provide positive outcomes for our children.