Learning to Stay Home

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Well, we’ve been told to “Stay at Home” for over a month now due to COVID-19.  I have a daughter with asthma, so my family chose to gradually start this without the governor’s or president’s directions.  The first official week was hard, but it seemed to make it a bit easier on my children when they realized their friends were now staying at home, too.

Overall, I think we’ve been doing okay with it all.  We have mostly good days. I’ve had a couple of rough days, not bad days, but not-so-good days.  One was, I think, a drowsy effect from allergy medicine and just earlier this week I had trouble feeling motivated in the morning.  I really felt like I was in the Ground Hog Day movie as I was pushing myself  out of bed. Now academic co ops will be online for the remainder of the school year, most stores are still closed, and our lives are simply different and we don’t know for how long.  There are days that I just don’t want to do another household chore.  I want to go in a store to sniff candles or perfumes.  I want to walk around downtown while my daughters are in ballet and stop in a coffee shop.  I want to make an appointment to get my hair trimmed, maybe in face framing layers.  I want to get my new contacts and glasses from my optometry appointment on March 1st.

It’s when I’m having a gloomier day that I have decided to remind myself to focus on the good things and count my blessings.  My family has been healthy and my husband is still working.  In addition to almost appreciating the break from being a taxi driver for my active children, I have found several other positive things about spending more time at home.

  1.  Better rest.  I seem to sleep better when I’m not worried about getting up to my alarm to get my daughter to her co op classes on time.  I still wake up at the same time, but I have better rest through the night.
  2. Tidy book shelves.  We have a book shelf that was in disarray for a long time.  It was  still the home to games and books the children have not used in three to five years.  I finally took an afternoon and discarded the old items, had one daughter put yarn yarn in bins, and I re-organized the shelves for school books.  Now that we aren’t rushing to put books away to leave the house for the next activity, they are taking their time to put their books away neatly.
  3. Organized plastic ware cupboard.  It has been a disaster for YEARS!  I’m honestly not sure if much has been done with it since we moved in over ten years ago.  One day after lunch, I sat on the kitchen floor, opened the cupboard door and got busy.  We have decided to discard most plastic food storage items due the the toxicity, so it was just a matter of gathering the old things and making a couple of trips out to our recycling bin.  I kept a few in case they are needed for packed lunches or to send leftovers with guests.  I shelved our new glass storage ware in an organized manner which will be easy for my children to maintain when they are putting dishes away.  This project which was several years overdue only took FIFTEEN MINUTES!
  4. Time to sew.  My youngest has been asking me to teach her to sew for several months now and my excuse had always been that we need a good chunk of time.  The first weekend of all this she reminded me that we have a good chunk of time as she cleaned off her desk to make a nice sewing area.  I brought my sewing machine out of the closet, threaded it, and it jammed when I tried a few practice stitches before my attempt to teach her.  We have more time to sew when I find the motivation to figure it out again.  I must do that soon.
  5. Time to paint.  The first weekend I placed an online order from Hobby Lobby for canvases, acrylic paints, and brushes.  A week later when they arrived my kitchen table was occupied for three days as my daughters revisited their inner artists.  I thoroughly enjoy the finished products.
  6. Daily talks with Mom.  I have always talked to my mom two or three times a week, but with this new lifestyle we have I look forward to calling my mom everyday. I’m extremely grateful for my brothers and their wives who live near her and are making sure she has groceries and is well.  I know she is grateful, too.
  7. Walks with my husband.  My husband is fortunate to still be working and two days he gets to work from home.  We go for two mile walks a few days a week.  This is something we haven’t done in years.  I really savor this time with him as we walk, talk, and reconnect.  I hope this becomes a new normal for us. 

I don’t know when things will get back to normal, or the “new normal” as it may be, but I assume it will be a gradual return.  In the meantime, I will try not to focus on the things I miss, rather I will savor this time and what I like about being at home.

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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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Do Something Great

It was mid-Christmas day, my husband and I were sitting together on the love seat in the tree room while he was setting up my new MacBook and he whispered to me, “Do something great.”  Simultaneously, our youngest skipped into the room unknowingly interrupting and started telling us how she was going to program her new robot to dance.  We both joined her conversation, watched the robot dance, and nothing was ever again mentioned about me doing something great with my new laptop.

Yet, I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  He met me when I was doing my part to make the world better place by teaching in schools for children who had severe behavior challenges and taking classes towards my master’s degree.  The year we met I was awarded Teacher of the Year at our school and a couple of years later completed my master’s degree.  Several years after that, early in our marriage, I became a special education coordinator and helped to open a new school in the county.   During that season in my life I felt that I was doing great things.

Currently, as a stay at home-homeschooling mom my efforts are focused on our daughters’ academics and activities, preparing healthy meals, doing laundry, and then keeping a neat house. They were listed in order of importance (to me).  I’m often driving my girls to activities so you can imagine everything doesn’t get done.   And, I admit I tend to dwindle the little time I do have for myself on social media.  I’m doing things, but not sure how great they are.  The girls are doing and learning great things.

My husband is fully supportive of homeschooling.  In fact, it was his idea.  I know he is pleased with what the children are learning.  I know he recognizes the importance of their activities outside of the home.  I think he also recognizes that I have more to share as an individual.  His whisper was motivation to discover and develop my personal strengths again.    While he knows that my time and energy are poured into our girls (not so much the house, but he is usually patient about that); I think he sees that I have put my own learning, activities and striving for personal success on the back burner.

I’m  not sharing this to make a declaration of a new me, but to encourage myself and some of you who may be in a similar position of focusing so much on our children that we are losing ourselves. Who will join me?  We can still prioritize efforts on our children and their education, but let’s be sure to make time for our own interests and learning.   What better time than the ending of one year and entering a new one to do some personal goal setting?  Isn’t a new year a great time to take some steps to learn something new or return to a previous passion?   Wouldn’t it set a wonderful example of lifelong learning for our children?  I have no idea yet what it will be, but I’m going to carve out some time, weekly or daily, for myself this year and do something great.

A Morning Walk

When we decided to start our day with a morning walk I didn’t realize how much learning would actually take place.  I agreed to it out of a need for my own exercise and an opportunity for the girls to cross-train (exercise other than dancing) by walking, running or riding their bikes.  Not to mention, it was a beautiful sunny morning!   No, I didn’t consider the discussion about seasons, observations of birds and even math skills that would come in to play as we walked the neighborhood.

My oldest rode her bike ahead and kept circling back.  My youngest started by trying to run to keep up with her sister, but asthma wheeziness started creeping in due to a combination of spring pollen and over exertion, I guess.  Instead she just walked with me….and learned.

As all kindergarteners do, we learned more about the seasons.  We noticed that fall isn’t the only season to have pretty varying colors of leaves on trees.  She noticed the varying shades of green on the spring leaves, as well as some pinks and yellows.

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     Oh, the birds!  They were out in full force this beautiful spring morning causing us to enjoy some impromptu nature studies.  First we heard them.  We just listened to their singing.   We heard one that was probably the baby and then what we assumed was it’s mother answering back.  My daughter shared her thoughts that the baby was asking for breakfast and the mother was telling it she’d be right back with a worm.  Then we noticed the different sounds of bird songs coming from different trees.  A little farther on our walk we noticed a bright red cardinal, along with two female cardinals.  As it’s always surprising for young children to learn, I told her that the prettiest cardinal is the male and the others are female.  As we watched them flit and fly from branch to branch playing with each other she decided that maybe the two females were actually bickering and fighting over the handsome male cardinal.  (It seems thoughts of romance starts young these days.  And, no, we don’t spend our afternoon watching soap operas.)

We learned about math as we counted how long it would take her sister to get from the end of the cul-de-sac to the other end on her bike.  It took 6o seconds, which we reviewed equals one minute.  We continued discussing it would probably take an hour if she did it 60 times, because an hour equals 60 minutes.  How many could she do in 15 minutes?  About 15, of course.  She didn’t realize we were having a mini math lesson.

I didn’t realize either, as we were walking and talking, all the things we were learning while putting off school work for a walk in the neighborhood.  It was as we returned home and entered the driveway that it hit me what a productive morning walk we had had.  She asked to stay out a little longer to play with bubbles and I obliged.  Who knows what else she might discover and learn on her own while she stays outside just a little longer!

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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. 😉 )