Thursday, April 30, 2009
So last night I took a good look at our schedule and decided on a few changes. I am shortening our school week to just three days a week. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday will be school days. On those days we'll just stay home... no car usage (unless dh is home and has plans). There is a park in our neighborhood we can walk to, we can find time for the nature study I have been trying to incorporate, and we can have time at home to just do nothing.
Tuesday and Thursday are our park days anyway, so they will be days off from schooling. J has capoiera on Tuesdays, and once K is done with her ballet recital, she wants to switch to capoeira. So I will only have one "class" to drag kids around to. Any errands can be accomplished on Tuesday or Thursday, or else saved for the weekend.
It all sounds good in theory. We'll see how it goes.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The library rocks! The limit of books you can take out from our library system is 50, and we are almost always at the limit. We have been reading all kinds of neat stuff, some school related, some not so much. We finished reading Little House in the Big Woods. We are reading Little House on the Prairie. We are smack in the middle of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Augustus Gloop just got sucked up the pipes, giggle). I am reading a few parenting books, the kids have books they are looking over, and all of this glorious bounty of books came completely FREE! YAY!!!!!! I love love love love love the library!
And one of our most favoritest things from the library are books on CD. Audio books are just terrific... and a great blessing for a momma who has been spending so much time in the car. Most of the books we get on CD we have read outloud first. It's neat to hear the kids' opinions on how good of a job the narrator has done. We have a few abridged books on CD that I got at the Dollar Tree... nicely done versions of Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Robin Hood, Tales from the Jungle Book, Riki Tiki Tavi, and Brown Wolf. In makes my heart happy that the kids would rather listen to these than to the radio.
But the library opens up whole new worlds of audio book enjoyment. Unabridged versions of so many wonderful children's books, all on CD! We are in the middle of The Wind In the Willows (read by Jim Weiss, he is just brilliant). Previous favorites have included Charlotte's Web (read by EB White himself), Stuart Little, A Little Princess. Shorter read along books are a big hit too (thought he kids prefer to listen without the page-turning signals). And we just borrowed the first two Little House books, and a few other Jim Weiss titles that are literature tie-ins to our history book. I can hardly wait (well, I CAN wait to get in the car AGAIN, but I am excited about listening to new stuff).
I know this whole post is long and rambly... but I really just love the library that much... I get so excited about the thought of new books to read and stories to listen to that I can barely contain myself!
I am seriously thinking of overhauling our whole schedule to try to keep all appointments, playgroups, out of the house commitments etc. to just one or two days a week. I think I will make it a personal challenge to just not use my car a few days a week. Hmmmm.... still mulling this one over. Anyone have words of advice, wisdom, reality check?
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
We finally had to move J to a booster seat.
Here is the backstory. I am a self-described car seat safety freak. I am fairly laid back about lots of things, but car seat safety is MY issue... the one thing known to drive me crazy when others are lax, the one issue I will stay up at night agonizing over. How hard can it be, you ask? Try fitting three kids in the back seat of a Saturn VUE. Not an easy task, my friends! Especially because two of those kids were already riding in Britax Wizards... which are huge. Add to that the fact that you want to keep all kids in 5 point harnesses as long as possible (the Wizards go to 65 lbs) and that you want to keep the baby rear facing (RF) as long as possible (J and K stayed RF til almost 2 years old). Suddenly, the situation looks a bit more complicated!
So after hours of agonizing, measuring seats, researching car seat boards, etc, when W came along we had to forgo the baby bucket (otherwise known as the infant car seat) and go straight to a Radian 80 because it has such a narrow footprint. The beauty of this is that the Radian will keep a child in a 5 point harness up to *80* pounds!!!!!! So off we roll with three car seats, forward facing (FF) Britax for K, RF Radian for W, and FF Britax for J.
Fast forward a year and a half... J is now six and a half, and tall. Just about too tall for the Britax. And too big of a boy for the narrow bodied Radian (which would hold him to 80 lbs but his shoulders don't fit). W is by far the heaviest of all my babies, and is now almost too heavy for the RF limits on the Radian. So now we have to move to plan B.
So, to make a super long story short(er), after literally two hours of wrangling car seats, installing, uninstalling, trying various configurations, we are now ready to roll out again... in a FF Britax for W, a FF Radian for K, and a Graco highback booster for J.
My little owls seem to be getting bigger all the time, and it feels like the end of an era and the beginning of the new one, now that I no longer have any little RF babies riding around in my car and one of my little ones is officially in a booster seat (yes people... I KNOW he is six).
Monday, April 20, 2009
An eventful time for us it is. His first light sabre W received. Now, Trainer of young padawan learners I am.
Man, if you think it is hard to try to type a blog post like this, I challenge you to teach a reading lesson while talking like Yoda!!!! That's what I had to do the other day! Try Not. Do or do not; there is no try! :) And did you know there is a wiki for Star Wars.... Wookieepedia! How cool is that!
And if you are bored, or (like me) you are stuck with a child on your lap who will only sleep if you remain within .0001 mm of him, here is something to entertain you: Rubber Yoda Face
But, since we have finished week 5 of our new schooling program, I feel like it's time to take a break from the deep parenting thoughts (there are more.... I seem to have an endless supply of them, but I'll hold off on posting them) and focus on some school-y stuff for a few minutes. I still love having a lesson plan, even if we don't follow it strictly. For the rest of this twelve week term, I would like to find ways to stick a little more closely to the schedule. I am also hoping to add in a few things. Here are the things that are working well (I will make a bulletized list, because then y'all can admire how neat and orderly I am, lol... it's all just a front people):
- I have stopped thinking that there is any possibilty I can teach the kids Spanish. I don't speak Spanish. I was a Classics major, folks. Dead languages only, please. So, we are focusing on some cute books that are in English with a few Spanish vocab words sprinkled in. These make nice read alouds, and give the kids a few vocab words in context. We like these books by Ann Whitford Paul and Ethan Long.
- We're enjoying the really short reading lessons in Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Both kids are making a great deal of progress and aren't hating the process. YAY!
- School first thing in the morning is great! On days when I think we will save school for the afternoon, we just never get around to it. Since what we're doing is so literature based, we just snug up on the couch and get to it. Nice. We keep the basket of school books on the end table.
- For composer study, we finished with Mozart and now we are learning about Beethoven. The kids are really enjoying Beethoven Lives Upstairs from the Classical Kids series. This is a reading of the book by the same title, set to Beethoven's music. The kids ask for it over and over in the car. I love how very literary it is, weaving facts about the composer into a very interesting and engaging story. We are also listening to this. (we've been in the car so much lately, we may as well make use of it) This CD is nice (especially since I bought it for a penny plus shipping) but I do wish it had the 9th symphony on it.
- For artist study, we finshed up with DaVinci (J LOVES DaVinci) and we are learning about Monet. I have a few postcard sized prints we have looked at, but mostly I am again trying to keep it literary. We have read a few cute books about Monet, and the kids are able to recognize Impressionism. I am reminding myself that this is really only meant to be an introduction, so I am trying to keep it fun for them.
- We have really slowed our pace for History. We are reading through Story of the World, but taking more like two weeks per chapter, instead of one. This is giving us lots of time to think over the topic, and to include lots of related literature. J especially is enjoying this, and really living the material so I think we'll stick with this slower pace for awhile, even if we don't get through the whole book this year. I am happy to see him excited over learning about the first people, and about ancient Egypt (so far).
And now for the list of things I'd like to work on... more bullet points... YAY!
- I can really see the value in doing a weekly, Charlotte Mason-styled nature study, but I just can't seem to fit it in. I need to brainstorm a way to make this happen.
- I have already mentioned that I would like to stick to our lesson plan a bit better. This isn't just for me, just so I can see us making progress. I think the kids need the structure, too! I think it is important that they see that education is something we value enough to put a priority on. Now if only we could get done with all these appointments... SIGH! I think we will be finished by the end of April.
- Memory work: I would like to have each of the kids learn a poem by heart, and then recite it at the end of the term. We are reading through A Child's Garden of Verses and haven't really been inspired by anything. We may just break out the Mother Goose. J, in an effort to avoid work, made up his own poem... it never ceases to amaze me the lengths to which he will go in an effort to NOT do what is asked! :) But for those of you who are reading this and are my IRL friends, be forewarned... you will probably be invited to the end of term recital.
- PE: My kids are very active creatures (I know some of you are laughing because that mght just be the biggest understatement of the year) but I would like us to do an activity each day that is mom-directed. Something where all of us are doing the same activity at the same time. We have plenty of outside toys and games, it is just a matter of prioritizing this.
Well, that fairly well wraps up my summary of where we are after 5 weeks and where we are headed. I can't promise I'll have more time to post... I am trying to be more emotionally present to my family and those two things seem to be mutually exclusive.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Monday, April 13, 2009
Attachment parenting (AP) with a new baby is easy. Now before some of you AP mommas throw things at me, hear me out. In the midst of it, especially with your first child, it can feel anything but easy. Trust me, I know. But think about it. As a new momma, attachment parenting seemed to me to be pretty straightforward. Babywear, Breastfeed, Bed close to baby (otherise known as cosleeping) on through the list of what Dr. Sears called the Seven Baby B's. It's a neat and orderly checklist. If you are ever feeling doubtful, or guilty, or overwhelemed, or any other "mom" emotion, you can just review the list...
Am I nursing my baby on demand... check
Am I cosleeping.... check
Do I wear my baby... check
Whew! You can begin to relax into a sort of self-satisfied state. Your guilt eases just a bit as you remember that even if you are messing things up, you're still doing better than the mom's who aren't trying.
WHAT?!?!?! Did I just say that out loud? In those days of newborn-induced sleep deprivation, thoughts like these can be all that keep you going (or maybe it really is just me... I could totally be projecting here)
Gosh, there are so many issues wrapped up in that whole scenario. First, when did mothering become a competitive sport? I was the most obnoxious first time mom... completely convinced that I knew the way and completely intolerant of anyone who disagreed with me. The good thing was, folks seldom disagreed with me. No one wants to pick a fight with someone as passionate as I was about any number of hot topics... extended nursing, cosleeping, etc.
I was a total control freak about my baby...
I didn't want other people to hold him. I was never going to let the evil chemicals of a disposable diaper touch his pristine baby bottom. Nothing but organic, whole foods would ever be good enough for him. My child would never cry himself to sleep alone in his own room. I was never going to let him cry or hurt, and certainly never at my hands. And of course, I knew the way. I had the list!
Now, before I get hate mail, I do still value all of those things. I now have three children, and we are still a cloth diapering, cosleeping, extended nursing, babywearing family. I still try hard to feed my kids organic healthy whole foods. I struggle every day to be the gentle parent I believe they deserve. I am pretty sure I am still just as passionate about all of those things. I am just much less obnoxious and much more tolerant (for those of you just meeting me, YES... this IS the less obnoxious version... consider yourself lucky). And I do realize that there is a whole lot more to AP than "the list" (see APIs 8 Principles)... all about being responsive and reading your baby and all... but with a new baby... it really seemed to me that "the list" held the magic key to doing those things.
But really, my original point was meant to be that, while I think attachment parenting with a small baby is (relatively) easy, it feels dang near impossible with my older kids. And that is partly because there is no list. It is much harder to me to meet the needs of a six year old than of a baby. A six year old's cries can't always be solved with a cuddle or a clean diaper or something to fill his belly. Sometimes his cries are because the boy that he looked up to at the playground told him, "I hate you". Sometimes his cries are because he is worried about war, or strangers, or death. I feel woefully unprepared for this. And now, wants and needs are no longer the same. A baby is hungry and wants milk. This is a need. My four year old is hungry, and wants candy for dinner. This is not a need. But maybe it feels like that.
I have had to venture out from "the list". I have had to step away from the neat and orderly checklist to a place where I have to rely on my own instincts. I am now working in the realm of faith, where I have to believe that I am doing the best job I can to connect with my children; Where one solution does not apply to all children, or even to the same child all the time; Where I can no longer check boxes but have to check my heart and be honest about whether or not I am really doing what I believe in.
Because I believe that my children are people, that their feelings matter, that they have value. I believe in creating a family-centered, rather than a child-centered environment. I believe in a child's inherent dignity as a spiritual being. I believe that peaceful, non-coercive parenting is possible. I believe that it is really hard, and that I may never really reach that point. I believe that my struggle to reach that point is valuable. I believe that my children are worth that struggle.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
"You don't know who Jesus is? Jesus is God. When he died he made himself come back to life because he is God. That's Easter. No, she's not God. She's Little Mermaid."
What if it doesn't matter at all what parenting method you choose? I can probably rest assured that no matter what philosophy I subscribe to there will still be conflict, there will be the inevitable differences of opinion that arise between any two (or more) people who live under one roof. So the question for me then becomes whether it's worth the effort to choose the seemingly harder path of peaceful conflict resolution.
I do think that in many ways it would be easier to be a very authoritarian (authoritative? I can never keep those straight) parent. It is tempting to set up a system where the kids JUST LISTEN. Sometimes "Yes Ma'am" seem like the most beautiful words in the English language. But then my next question is always, at what cost? I DO want my kids to listen... to ME. I don't want them to follow others blindly, to be afraid to question, respectfully of course, those who are in authority. I want them to feel free to have their own thoughts and opinions, and to never think it's okay for someone to hurt them.
Which brings me around to the next thought. How could *I* be the one to hurt them? Because spanking or other physical punishment is hurtful. My anger is hurtful. My yelling is hurtful. But so is ignoring their needs in favor of my own when it has just been one of those days. But where is the line between letting them run wild, and stifling them into conformity? Can I say yes more without making them feel entitled? How important is conformity, anyway? How important is forcing MY agenda as compared to theirs?
That is another key aspect for me. How can I keep my own ego out of the way? I have a tendency to want to pick a parenting philosophy, absorb it fully, and do it "right"... to follow someone else's instructions without considering my own kids. Somedays it does just seem easier to follow directions. Is this a constitutional weakness? It's exactly the kind of thinking that I want my kids to avoid. Or maybe it's just desperate grasping... a hope and a prayer that if I just do it right, if I follow all the rules as laid out by someone who has never met me or my children, then surely we never have any further conflict. But then, didn't I start this off saying conflict was inevitable?
Friday, April 10, 2009
After the dental visits we had this past week, both big kids will have to go in for MORE fillings. I can't figure out what else I can do to keep them from getting cavities... we brush, floss, use the special stuff the dentist gave us... what else is there. And now this means we are looking at a further rearranging of our schedule because we need to fit the appointments in before the end of the month. We're going to end up doing most of our "home" schooling in waiting rooms and in the car.
I am so frustrated because it feels like these things are beyond my control, and I LIKE being in control :) And with the chronic sleep deprivation, I am just irritable. I am cranky, and whiny, and not patient AT ALL. It's my own attitude that I am bringing to the situation that is the biggest problem. But especially since I just posted about loving our schedule and lesson plan so much, I feel the need to stay honest and say that the schedule isn't being used much at all. The lesson plan, however, is still helpful :) At least I can see where we are supposed to be on the map, even if we're taking a detour.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
And the best score lately was a pair of skates for K for $2. Look how cute my little girl is!
J also used his allowance to buy a toy for himself, and one for K too! I love the sweet sibling moments.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
And so we began our homeschooling adventure in earnest this past fall. I was in love with the Well-Trained Mind, and the philosophy of Classical Education. So that is what we set out with. I had beautiful binders laid out for each subject, everything neat and organized waiting to be filled with proof of my children's superior education. The problem was, what should we fill those binders with? I had no idea what lessons to cover when. I found that for all my rebellion and free-spirited resistance to structure, I really really needed someone to boss me around and tell me what to do! And not in a broad over-arching kind of way, but in a day to day, minute to minute kind of way!
So after floundering awhile, then taking a long schooling hiatus, we recently began again. We are using the Ambleside Online curriculum. And the best part about it (besides that it is free) is that there is a lesson plan. YAY! Someone to tell me what to do so I can tell the kids what to do! It is narrow enough that I know what we are doing and where we are headed. But broad enough that I can schedule our weeks the way I need them to go. I really can take the best of it and make it work for my family. Hooray! I love knowing what we need to acomplish this week. And being able to use the weekly checklist I made up to be sure we haven't forgotten anything. You can view our weekly plan here.
Now, in all honesty, I probably could have done this myself with the Well-Trained Mind guidelines. But it would have involved many man-hours (mom-hours?) that could be better used doing other things. Like sleeping. The lesson plan frees me up from last minute scrounging around trying to put together something cool for the next day. No more late nights planning out cool projects that the kids ultimately don't want to do anyway. Now, I don't have so much of my ego tied up in it, which is probably better for all of us. When they reject the cool things on our schedule, it is ME personally that they are rejecting. And I love not being overwhelmed with too many choices. There is no super-long debate with myself about which book might be better on anyone particular topic. It's all laid out for me. And I know we're actually making progress toward the bigger picture. This is important since I have a tendency to get lost in the minutiae... the whole "forest for the trees" issue.
Here are a few highlights of what's working so far:
- The kids are thriving with short lesson-times. We do focused work for a short amount of time. And you know what, they are really remembering what we have covered. And we moved on to a new subject before they get totally fried on what we were doing. Part of the problem I was falling into before was that I figured if some were good, more must be better. We were trying to do WAY too much at a time in any one subject and everyone was burning out. Especially the momma who was losing her patience trying to get through "one more" of whatever we were working on.
- We are also really focusing on narration. Because my schooling kids are young (6 and 4) we are keeping the narrations short. So after we read a passage, or maybe a few paragraphs of a longer passage, we take a break and they tell me back what just happened. This really does seem to increase their comprehension, by helping them to really own the material.
- Shorter lessons means school is over in a timely fashion so we have lots of time left in our day for play, impromptu get-togethers, and spontaneous trips to the park (yay for spontaneity, says the free-spirited momma).
- I still feel happy with the eclectic assortment of things we have added into our homeschooling days. So even if I am using a lesson plan, at least I can still claim to be eclectic. That's one less box for me! :)
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Don't they look pretty?! (oh, our dozen is one short because I cracked one trying to rinse it out)
After the cascarones, we decided to make an Easter present for Grandma. So we made handprint lillies. Each of the kids made two, one from each hand. I think they are just beautiful. No pictures though since my camera is acting funny. I think we'll put the paper flowers in a vase and buy Grandma an Easter Lilly too. But shhhhh.... don't tell her.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
I think sometimes I have it in my head that my kids are somehow little beings that need to be managed. Like I need to work extra hard because I am not only doing my own thing, but controlling all these other people, too. Yesterday was one of those days that reminded me that my children are actually little people, not projects, and you know what, they're good company, too! I was able to just relax, give up my illusion of control, and really enjoy hanging out with three interesting people.
I'm feeling rather inarticulate this morning, and this post isn't coming off quite as eloquent as it was in my head. It's hard to capture the emotion and the meaning in something as simple as taking the kids to the zoo. But that's okay, too. Because I'm realizing that it really isn't all about me anyway.
Here are a few pictures I took with my phone during our little adventure.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
But man, am I tired. I had to be the activity director ALOT the first few days. This is where it was nice that a chunk of our mornings at least are taken up with school work. And thank goodness for the nice spring weather we've been having since the rain of last Thursday.
Overall, I am really excited we've made it this far. I have this crazy love-hate relationship with TV viewing for the kids. J didn't watch any TV at all until K was born. And then, it was like the flood gates opened and we had a TV free-for-all. And we've been trying to stem the tide ever since. At one point, it had gotten so bad that J (4 at the time) would lock the door to our temporary apartment when I was walking the dogs, so that he could scam a few minutes of watching PBS (we didn't even have cable at the time) while I hollered and fumbled with my keys in the ice and snow, trying to let myself back in. Ahhh, those were the days.
But since we've made it a week, I know we can make it another week. And then another. We'll see how long we can keep it going. My blog posting may suffer, but it's all for the greater good, right?
For a fun read about going TV free, check here.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
We have had a few people recently comment on our light switch extenders. We LOVE them! K is on the shorter side of small, and still can't reach any of the light switches, even on her tippytoes. So these have been great for letting her be able to turn lights on and off (an no longer have to pee in the dark). And now W is almost tall enough to reach them too. The best part is that they are totally clear and aren't very noticable at all.
We have these... the company has excellent customer service, too!