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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Suddenly Schooling at Home

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At this point on Saturday March 14, 2020 many, if not most, of you find yourselves with your children home from school for at least 2 weeks.  For some, this may be part of a scheduled spring break, but for others this is just time (necessary and somewhat unexpected time) away from their classrooms.  As a former teacher and current homeschool mom I have just a few ideas for how to keep your children academically engaged until they get back to school.

General Routine

Give the kids a day or two to enjoy the break and adjust to the changes happening in our country, while letting them know this is a short break and they will have some expectations as of Tuesday or day of your choice. This also gives you time to gather your thoughts, ideas, and activities.

-Follow a certain wake-up time range daily

-Kids may enjoy the perk of doing academics in their jammies so maybe let them for an hour or so, but have a “must be dressed by time” because too much time in jammies for too many days in a row may lead to the blahs for your child.

-Don’t follow a typical bell schedule, but do follow a routine.  I’ve tried the school classroom schedule at home approach and it was not fun for any of us.

-Specify a certain time for recreational phone/pad/computer use.

Learning Activities at Home

First, if your child’s teacher has sent any assignments or has a website check that first and complete any assigned work.  One student sitting at the kitchen table or family room completes work much faster than 30 students sitting in the same classroom, not to mention the time you have when they would have been at after school activities, so you will have plenty of time left in your day to provide some structure.  You can use the ideas below to give your child assignments, have them read the list and pick assignments, or cut each one out, fold it, place it in a jar and each day have your child pick a new activity.  You know your child best and you know how they will most positively respond to your approach to introducing the activities.

  • Science:  Let your child pick a topic they have studied this year in school and dive deeper into it by using books and internet research.  Prepare a poster, paper, or powerpoint presentation about the topic.
  • Science:  Have them do an internet search for “kitchen science” and have some fun experimenting at home. (Be sure you have baking soda!)
  • History: Let your child pick a favorite historical person and research more about their life.  They can write a research paper, a play , or monologue.  Help them find clothing around the house and dress up as the character to share their research with family and/or make a video to send to friends.
  • History: Pick a time period and location to research about.  Have them make a MineCraft community based on the research.  Or, if you have plenty of Legos, have them build the community with those.  If they stay interested, try both!
  • Writing:  Have children write a daily journal.  They can write about their choice of topic, or you will find daily journal topics by searching their specific grade range and journal topic ideas, pick a PDF to print out and glue in a notebook.
  • Writing: Grow a story.  Find a story starter or make up your own and have each child and family member add a sentence to the story.  (It may get silly and that’s fine and fun!)  Or, if it’s an only child they can add a sentence to their story each day.
  • Math:  Do you have a driveway or sidewalk? Grab some sidewalk chalk when you make your next run to the grocery store for necessities.  Use previous work sheets from school or their math textbook if it is home and write out some review problems to complete outside.
  • Math:  Hide a couple of measuring cups or measuring spoons and have your kids bake cookies.  They’ll need to use fraction and equivalent skills to measure out correct amount of ingredients.
  • Seasonal:  On Tuesday March 17th learn more about St. Patrick and Ireland.  Make a travel brochure.  Bake some soda bread.  Plan a green lunch.  Listen to traditional Irish music by The Chieftains or The Clancy Brothers  (maybe mix in The Cranberries or U2).  YouTube Irish Dancing and maybe try a few steps at home.
  • Life Skills:  In addition to baking fun, have students plan and prepare a well-balanced lunch for the family.  The next week they can be challenged by planning and preparing a well-balanced dinner.  (Depending on age, maybe they just prepare a side dish toward the dinner.  If you have more than one child have each child select and prepare a side dish.)
  • Read a few books.

Take advantage of modern technology to keep some sort of community learning experience.  Children can FaceTime with friends as they are doing some activities, though that may get distracting.  As mentioned above, children can prepare final presentations and exchange videos with friends and family.   (A caution to parents to monitor the video exchanges.)

Most of the ideas can be used for any grade level, but please comment with a question if you need suggestions for adapting anything to fit your needs.

Overall…. stay home, stay well, and have fun learning together!

 

 

 

 

 

Homeschool Changes

Are you ready for the new school year?  New school years often come with changes, even for homeschoolers.  Perhaps you’re changing curriculum, trying a new activity, or maybe changing co-ops. Maybe your kids are venturing out to public school.  Whatever changes you’re making, I’m sure they were decided with the best intentions for your children in mind.  Others may judge your decisions, but be sure to prayerfully do what is best for you and your family no matter what others say.  Even still, changes can be difficult.

Last year we changed from a group we had been with for eight years.  I had considered the change in other years, but last year I just knew it was best academically for my children.  We don’t have any regrets, but we do have some lessons learned that I’d like to share:

  1.  You’ll likely lose some friends.  It was hard for both my daughters and me to miss the people we had been growing with for the past several years.  Just because we weren’t at their weekly meeting days doesn’t mean we didn’t care about them. My girls aren’t on Facebook, so they lost complete touch with many families.  I tried a get-together or two in the form of a small math games group, but it didn’t stick.  I have two or three moms from the other group with whom I have stayed in touch.  We all have active kids and it’s hard to make time, yet a simple text let’s someone know you are important to them until you are able to see them again.
  2. It may take effort at your new group to get to know people.  Arrive early and give yourself time to stay a little late.  As the mom, get involved and volunteer with the new group. My daughters have told me that they feel more connected if I am more involved.
  3. Give it time.  You’ll definitely need a full semester to decide if it’s a good fit.  A child may feel they don’t like something just because their best friend isn’t there.  Yes, friends are important, but remind them they can focus on what they are learning and make an effort to make new friends.  Be sure to help them stay in touch with the friends they are missing.
  4. Keep some constants.  While we changed co-ops, my daughters still had the same dance schools.  They really enjoy their time with their dance teachers and dance friends.  I would suggest that you don’t make too many changes at once.  (Well, unless you’re family is relocating of course.)
  5. Focus on the positives.  “Instead of staying in one room, we get to change classrooms.”  “We get new books to use.”  “We get to learn how to follow a syllabus.”  etc.  Let your kids honestly mention any negatives they are experiencing, but don’t dwell on them.  Help them look for the positive aspects of their new environment.

Yes, change is inevitable.  Even after last year’s change we made an academic change for my oldest again this year.  They both have made a change by stopping an activity they once loved and participated in for nine years. I have a friend, who has been fighting cancer, and is in the middle of the change to send her girls to public school so she can focus on her health.  Whatever changes you are making, for whatever reasons you are making them, I’m confident that you have given it prayerful thought and consideration.  Bravely face your changes and have a wonderful school year!

Children First

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I started learning about person first language as a freshman in college.  As a special education major we were immediately trained to look at the child as an individual, not as a label or disability.  Instead of using the words “the autistic boy”, it is respectful to say, “the boy with autism.”   Or, instead of saying the “emotionally disturbed girl”, one should say “the girl needs emotional support”.   I embraced the concept immediately and used person first language throughout my career.

Yet, as a parent I realize I haven’t been giving my own children the same respect.  If I look back at Facebook posts I see I have referred to my daughters as my Irish Dancer, my ballerina, my quiet girl, my artist, my little scientist, my musicians, etc.  Are they positive?  Yes.  Are they hurtful?  No.  Is it necessary?  No.  Is it detrimental?  Maybe.   I have labeled my young children based on their gifts and interests.  At times, it seems I forget that they are not the product of their activities and accomplishments, but they are my children.  They are individual people first, who happen to enjoy dance, piano, ballet, art, science, and so much more.  They also enjoy playing and occasionally bickering with each other.  They are children first.

What if they begin to identify themselves as one of the labels I have used?  What if they experience a setback or a failure?  What if their interests change,  or something happens and they are not feeling they are living the label?  Maybe they will feel unsuccessful.  Maybe they will feel that they have not lived up to expectations.  Maybe they will struggle to know what their true qualities are if they do not fit the label I have used for them. I would like to think that they are strong  and resilient enough that these concerns are irrelevant and the words would not negatively impact them.  But, if person first language was deemed important enough to learn as an education major in college, I think it is important enough to at least consider as a parent.  I will continue to cheer, support, encourage (and chauffeur) my daughters in their various interests, however, I must try to remember that they are children first!

 

Joyfully Thankful

It has been  a custom in our family to try to avoid all things Christmas until after Thanksgiving dinner.   We don’t wear Christmas themed clothes or sweaters until after Thanksgiving.  We don’t listen to Christmas music until we put up the tree the day after Thanksgiving, which is our tradition instead of joining the craziness of Black Friday shopping.  The girls are not to start talking about what they want for Christmas. (This never sticks, and as the  main gift shopper a little discussion about this early on is helpful.) Even I would do my part by not ordering a Peppermint Mocha or buying Peppermint Bark until after Thanksgiving!  My husband and I made this effort with the best of intentions to be sure our girls were filled with gratitude before joining in with the commercialism “I wants” of the Christmas season.

This year seems different. When the girls weren’t with me, I admit, I have already had a few Peppermint Mochas while enjoying conversation with friends.  A few days after Halloween I heard  Christmas music coming from upstairs.  I went up and the oldest quickly turned it off. With a smile on my face I told her she could leave it on, but while pointing my finger told her to keep it in her room.  Guess who decided to stay in that room with a Pandora Christmas station playing and help her put away her laundry?!?!  My little one excitedly played her favorite Christmas CD in her bedroom.  A few days later we were listening to Christmas music in the family room and in the kitchen.  It’s not constant.  It’s not frequent.  It does bring joy.

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I don’t think it’s completely wrong to experience a little early some aspects of the wonderful, miraculous season that is Christmas. My husband isn’t even complaining about it or expressing concern that we aren’t taking time to be thankful first.  The girls seem to know how to minimize their toy catalog gazing and discussions.  When they do discuss, because I have asked for planning purposes, the conversation is about a gift they want for the two of them to SHARE. They have favorite traditional carols which remind them of Christ, the true gift of Christmas. They are thinking ahead about what gifts to give to others.
Why has it changed this year?   Nothing has changed for the girls other than I am not stifling their Christmas spirit. What has changed for me?   I think it has something to do with the events over the past few months in our national and world news.  We are all in need of the extra joy and love the Christmas season brings. We need Christ every day, but it seems as a society we naturally think of Him more at Christmas.  We need to keep our focus on Him in these trying times of our world.

We have not forgotten Thanksgiving.  We take time to give thanks every day.  Instead of the children feeling like we are getting through Thanksgiving before doing anything related to Christmas, this week we will joyfully prepare for our family Thanksgiving.

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Take Time

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Take time to smell the flowers.   Honestly, we took time to look at a dead lady bug, under a microscope no less.  I’m sure you all have priorities to keep and tight schedules to follow, I know I do.  Just the other morning we were reading about Chemistry and decided, reluctantly for me, that we’d do the suggested observation.  I was really considering skipping it that day and just moving on to math, outlining for the new writing assignment or studying for Memory Master (which is like preparing your Baltimore Catechism for First Holy Communion in the 1970’s, but for six academic subjects).  Of course, we want to cover all of our academics before we leave for dance class in the afternoon.  Something nudged me to get the microscope out of the box and look at the salt up close.  As I boiled the salt and let the water evaporate the girls continued to look at EVERYTHING under the microscope.  They looked at coins, an avacado smear, a leftover toast crumb, my engagement ring, an emerald necklace, and fish food.  I let them explore as I monitored the boiling salt on the stove.  At this point I was realizing this was good quality learning fun, and not just something in the way of what really needed to be done. Then I heard it.  Enthusiastically, my 5 year old declares, “Let’s look at a dead ladybug!”  Sure enough they found one.  (We have ladybug issue from time to time in our house.  They say the are good luck, right?  But are they good luck if they are dead?  I digress…)  I realized what a love for learning I almost let slip by because it wasn’t what I had scheduled for the day.  And get this, once we put the microscope away, they joyfully continued with the regularly scheduled assignments. So, whether you homeschool or monitor homework in the evening, please learn from my almost mistake, and take time to look at dead ladybugs.

Are You Being Fruity?

For the past week or so my daughters and I have been reading about Galatians 5:22-23 in our daily devotional. We decided among ourselves that when one of us was not living out the Fruits of the Spirit instead of nagging, yelling or tattling we would kindly ask, “Are you being fruity?” As the day went on I did find the need to ask it a few times.

“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23

As the week went on I was asking myself “Am I being fruity?” several times both at home and out in the community. I needed to show more love while I was replying to an email and a child wanted a hug. I needed to show joy while doing housework. I needed to demonstrate peace while getting the girls out the door and into the van to go to an activity. I needed to show patience with kids talking out of turn and off topic in our homeschool group. I needed to show patience when my own girls were fighting. (Yes, I know I listed patience twice.) I needed to show kindness and goodness when discussing a recent change of dance schools among friends. I needed to show faithfulness instead of expressing worry. I needed gentleness and self-control while discussing stressful and sensitive topics with loved ones. I needed self-control when I yelled at one of my children for not doing what she was told when she was told. (Again, I know I used self- control twice.) Wow! I’m not too proud, but I do consider myself to be kind and strive to be a good Christian woman. I guess the key word here is strive. I guess that is what we are expected to do. We aren’t expected to be perfect. Christ died on the cross for us because he knows of our sinful nature.  We, in return, try to live a virtuous life.
The Holy Spirit produces this fruit in our lives and we must make the conscious effort to practice using it until it becomes an automatic part of us. I believe a fruitful life is contagious. I am blessed to have “fruity” friends and family. I feel more at peace when I am with them and the more time I spend with them the more fruitfully I live out my life. I emphasize I am striving and this is a work in progress for me as well as my children.
How can we help each other be more fruitful? What have you been learning about yourself as you teach* your children?

*I am not just speaking to homeschooling parents. Parenting is teaching, so I’d like to hear from all parents.

Mom Blog

I’ve been contemplating starting a blog. I have been reading several blogs… Blogs about homeschooling. Blogs about dancing. Blogs about faith. Blogs about politics. I’ve tossed the idea of starting my own, but then tossed it right out again……until last month. For some reason, I can’t let go of the idea of starting a blog. I actually voiced the thought a couple of days ago and my husband was very supportive. He immediately started looking for the best blog program to use. Surprisingly, my daughters were excited about the idea, especially my 9 year old. When my husband told me to write what I’m passionate about, my oldest daughter immediately said, “Write about being a mom!” (Good to know she realizes I’m passionate about being a mom to her and her little sister.) She proceeded to give me more suggestions: “Write about being a homeschooling mom, a dance mom, a crafty mom, a mom of creative kids, a teacher mom….” We jokingly stole an idea from Disney’s “Dog with a Blog” to title mine “Mom with a Blog”.  Then one evening my oldest was at the computer acting very secretive and told me she had a surprise for me…..MOM BLOG!

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How can I NOT do this? Look at the encouragement and motivation I am receiving from my family!  What if the girls rejected me when I encourage and motivate them rise to the occasion to learn new school material, dance, play the piano, or just try anything new? So many times lately I hear them play the piano, see artwork or watch them on stage in amazement, and I am somewhat envious of their abilities and dedication. They have inspired me. I have to respond to their encouragement in a positive forward motion. I will do this to let them see that you are never too old to try something new. You are never too old to step out and take a risk.  A topic of my blog?  Well, it will be about things I love and things we learn. It may change from week to week, but most of the time I will blog about being a mom and the many things moms contemplate as we continue to love and learn with our children.

Please follow me on this new adventure!