Fridays keep coming and going before I get myself together to finish a Homeschool Mother’s Journal post. This Friday, I was determined to post one before midnight. So, I took advantage of many of the pauses between the chaos of life in order to complete it. The result? A marathon post to share the richness of the past three weeks.
Now, I know if your life is anything like mine, time for reading long posts may be limited. Thus, I take no offense if you simply click on from here. At the same time, though, I invite you to stay a while if you can. Read about what we’ve been doing and thinking. Then, share your own thoughts, questions and tips in return. For, as it says in the sidebar: whether you join us for a moment, a mile or more, we appreciate your company along the way as we journey to train happy hearts in our children and ourselves.
In my life over the past couple weeks…
was a balance of all my roles, including that of Citizen. Yep, I was called for jury service in mid-November, which afforded me time to sit in blessed quiet for a number of hours while waiting to see if I would be empanelled. For this mommy of three little ones, that was a GIFT!
Ah, quiet. I recall the days when it was something I hated. During my single life, I almost always had music going or chattered away aloud. Now, I relish the peace.
Having a few consecutive hours of quiet as I awaited jury empanelment highlighted for me how vital such time can be. The experience of breathing out time is a perfect antidote to the go-go-go of modern life. A pause in life to let one’s mind wander seems to be just the tweak needed to ensure maximum performance when the brain must remain revved up for a while. A moment of relative stillness can be so healing.
With this in mind, I have been consciously seeking to savor moments of quiet for myself and my family at home since. A few minutes of quiet before jumping out of bed to get on with the day’s tasks, afternoon lulls when I recall the lesson I learned when our camera took a bath, times spent snuggled on the couch or on a blanket outside while doing some of our Advent reading…Yes, I have been aiming to add more and more such times to life at home during this season.
In our homeschool since …
my last Homeschool Mother’s Journal post on November 11, we have been doing everything and nothing. I put it that way because we have not been spending long hours in our learning room doing lesson after lesson. Thus, by some folk’s standards, what we are doing might not be considered “schooling”. I disagree. Learning has been woven into almost everything we have been doing. I constantly note evidence of our children meeting both state-sanctioned learning standards and my personal beliefs about what I think toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners should be exposed to, exploring and discovering.
Some highlights have been:
Observing Advent with our ABC plans has been rewarding thus far. Although we have not stuck to the letter of the plans (and I never expected we would), we have been focusing on stories, sensory activities, service and love – all the while growing in our understanding of Salvation History and the true meaning of Christmas.
There have been some very warm moments during story times. In fact, some of Luke’s comments one day as we read together while our in-home Behavior Specialist visited not only elicited a heartfelt “awww” and pat on Luke’s back from her, but made my heart smile with a “he gets it”. He is spending more and more of his free play time enacting interpretations of stories we read, as well as the Christmas story itself (as is happening in the picture below with Luke “Joseph” leading Nina “Mary” on a “donkey). This, in turn tempers some of his more impulsive, destructive and aggressive behaviors. It just goes to show how powerful picture books can be!
And, Nina? My baby girl who could have cared less about sitting intently to be read to from books some years ago is definitely gone. I adore having the preschooler that took her place cuddled against me, completely enraptured in stories. I also smile when she applies the examples of virtues and love that we read about to daily life and play. She is such a compassionate child – often going to Jack before I do if he cries and always getting quiet to pray when she hears or sees and emergency vehicle. Seeing her innate concern for others develop balances the moments when her age-appropriate (but no less grating) tattle-taling, whining and overtired tantruming rear up. So does her love for Mary! She almost always chooses the “hail Mary” when it is her turn to lead prayer and she likes to put blankets on her head to enact Our Mother, too. I wonder if both her GG’s prayers from heaven might have something to do with this. They both turned to Mary often as well.
And Jack? He is still quite young to demonstrate his growing faith, but is always an example to us of God’s plan. Not a day goes by when I don’t recognize our “surprise” child as a testimony to the importance of being open to life. As I watch his little hands at work when he gets into activities meant for his older siblings, such as the soap carving pictured above, I marvel at his purpose. Often, I pause, unable to imagine our family without the gift of Jack. There is such beauty to in his being.
I adore the simple, treasured moments of witnessing Jack’s development. Just this past week, he has taken to sitting in my lap as his sibling sit on other side of me during our read aloud time. There, he smiles, points distinctly to different objects in the pictures of each book and makes sounds. Donkeys, in particular, captured his attention the other day as he captured mine and his siblings. With his cheerful personality, I do not doubt that he will one day carry any burdens he faces in life with little complaint just like this animal can.
Nina constantly requests to play Phoneme I Spy when we are driving in the car and is enjoying learning her letters though games like “Slap” as we build our hallway Advent alphabet.
Luke spells words all on his own with letter blocks (and evidences his obsession with 39 Clues, a book-on-CD that his co-op friends turned him into that stars Dan and Amy Kahill.)
Luke is getting stronger at reading phonetically spelled words. And he and Nina are becoming quite adept at coming up with words for specific onsets.
Nina likes to spend free time working writing muscles by cutting paper up into bits and writing messages on it. She also enjoys just making crosses and o’s on paper.
Luke constantly sketches things and has taken to labeling them with inventive and phonetically spelled words, such as “pupe dog Luke” above.
The children have been learning concrete math concepts through cooking with me. I hope to reinforce some literacy along with this by making more cards like the Crock Pot Recipe Cards I shared a while back.
Luke and Nina explore concrete addition and subtraction of numbers up to ten with a block stacking game we made up.
Games like Pajaggle, which we reviewed, have also been providing hands-on math and fine motor practice.
The children used group-time and art skills, as well as practiced gratitude, while making our annual cornucopia of thanks.
Despite having stacking blocks and stacking cups, Jack prefers the real thing. See what he gets up to, working his sensorial and coordination skills while Mommy does dishes!
Science Lab experiments led by Daddy keep inquiry-based learning and discovery going.
Luke, Nina and Jack practiced their manners and turn taking while being wonderfully behaved and quite inquisitive at a recent Creative Kids Co-op field trip to a vet’s office.
Luke was excited to try out Science equipment.
Nina was not afraid to ask questions and get answers.
Even Jack got in on the hands-on learning!
With out other Co-op some good heavy work in, helping to push the big boys on the tables while cleaning up from a delightful homeschool support group Thanksgiving luncheon we attended, which came complete with crafts, games and good food. It was followed by a long stretch of friend-time at a local playground, which ended in me cracking up as Luke told me he liked playing with one particular little girl because, “she is cute” and Nina asked me if we could “have a date” with the girl’s family soon.
Who says homeschoolers miss out on socialization? Our children consistently spend “school time” sharing experiences with folks of all ages – age-similar peers and children and adults at home, at co-ops and within our community. I think this perfect socialization for real life when they grow up.
The kids also experienced their first “substitute teacher” while I fulfilled my jury duty service. During this time, the kids enjoyed Grammy-as-Teacher of the regular substitute-teacher silliness syndrome, but with all the love, learning and smiles that I hope they can always approach both change and learning with. Together, they enjoyed being read chapters of Devotional Stories for Little Folks; Luke proudly read some Bob Books to Grammy; both children completed some Handwriting Without Tears practice sheets and pages from the Calvert Kindergarten Math Supplement Book; and everyone had fun. (Big thanks to Tiffani, from Our Journey thru Autism, for passing along HWT and Calvert to me. Although we are not always box-and-workbook curriculum types, these resources are wonderful and come in quite handy for when Grammy plays substitute homeschool teacher.)
Helpful Homeschooling Tips to Share
Purposely leave lulls in the day. It is during such times that children often consolidate and expand upon their skills.
I was amused one day this past month when Nina made a cut-and-tape person which now sits on my bed. It not only evidenced her increasing skill at handling scissors, but also her knowledge of body parts, her creativity and her imagination.
Likewise, when Luke began making letters from homemade playdough and forming those letters into words while acting out extensions Leapfrog video scenes, I smiled at his initiative and increasing literacy skills.
Always, when I catch a glimpse of Nina, Luke and Jack engaged in cooperative, peaceful, yet exuberant play, it makes me smile to think about the habits or the heart that are forming.
No one can force love of learning or one another. Each of us can, however, provide tools and allow time for it. I am glad the Spirit has moved me to prioritize offering my children “alone” time and space. (I put “alone” in quotes because, in reality, they are often not alone, but with each other, and, always, with me just a few steps, a room or a floor away when such time and space is offered.)
I am inspired by…
God’s design. In children, in the rhythm of seasons, in the unique properties of everything I see, taste and touch.
Sometimes, I pause to really savor something through my senses and mind and, when I do, the everyday becomes awe-inspiring. How anyone can think that there is no God is beyond me. The design of our universe and the things in it are simply too amazing to be coincidence, as far as I am concerned. I am so glad a Masterful Creator shaped it all for us.
Places We’ve Been Going and People We’ve Been Seeing
One Saturday, we got back into the habit of going to the Lowe’s Build and Grow clinics. These free clinics are a great way to spend some time as a family while working fine motor skills and doing handicrafts. Plus – bonus – we sometimes come away with practical tools for homeschooling, as was the case with the simple Science Labs we made, which the children have been enjoying.
We checked out WWI Memorial Park in North Attleboro for our Family Day one Sunday. What a great place! Animals in a petting zoo, several playground areas, a “beach” sandbox and – the favorite of the day – a mega slide in Julia’s Garden. Such fun it was to zoom down that slide! (And, how special that Julia’s family chose to honor her memory by creating the delightful Julia’s Garden. May Julia smile down from heaven as she witnesses so many families enjoying the garden and may her own family be at pace, knowing Julia is with God and that their memorial to her is helping others appreciate the gift of having their own children nearby still.)
The weekend before Thanksgiving, we enjoyed family time at the Plymouth Thanksgiving Parade and related events. The highlights for our children were crafting at the kids tent and exploring the Revolutionary War through World Wars encampment, where they got to participate in a Scavenger Hunt and games.
We enjoyed a family Thanksgiving at Grammy and Grampy’s. While everyone was gathered there, we also celebrated an early extended-family birthday for Daddy, Luke and one cousin. Ever since, Luke has been stomping and running to light up the glow-sneakers he so badly wanted and received. And, I have been lit up over the fact that our extended family prioritizes time to get together with one another, even if only for “special days”. Continuing the tradition of family that I grew up with is something I value.
This past weekend, we had fun hiking the Blue Hills, where Luke designed an experiment in his head which he tried out later in the week. After that, we checked out Marbles: The Brain Store, live and in person. It was hard to tear Luke away from this place and, when we finally got him out of the store, he literally skipped away saying, “Can we go here every day?” That boy loves his brain games! We will certainly be putting some of the games from the easy-to-navigate Marbles website on our holiday wish list. (See the side bar for a discount button to click through if you’d like to do the same.)
We continue to enjoy our local library for story hours as well as just time to browse, play and socialize. This past week, while Luke and Nina shared some time on the kids computer at the library and I caught up with a friend we bumped into, Jack took it upon himself to crawl up into a chair to “read”. It was so cute! I was glad I had a camera in my bag to try to capture the moment. Key word being “try” since by the time I got the camera out, the chance for the cutest shot had passed, but I got an okay one just to remember the moment with anyway.
Plus, there’s the usual errands, appointments, classes, etc.
My favorite thing over the few week was…
Jack waving “bye bye”.
At 17 months old, Jack is still without understandable spoken words, but he is certainly not without communication. He clearly shakes his head “no” at times, points to things he wants, takes another’s hands and leads them to wear he wants to go, engages others in laughter and play, etc. It has only been in the past few weeks, however, that he has begun to use gestures such as waving “bye bye”.
Every time he has done it since late November, my heart has swelled with joy at seeing him mastering this step towards further communication with others.
And – wow – when he patted a seat on the couch next to me to indicate that he wanted his brother, who had one of our Advent reading books in hand, to come and sit with us, I melted!
A close second to it was celebrating the new church year as a family – simple party hats, noise makers and chocolate fondue with dippers made this a tradition I want to continue.
What’s working for me…
is prioritizing quiet times for my husband and me to think, write and create and for our children to play, snuggle and create as well. Yes, this sometimes means progress on our house remains at a standstill or that rigorous homeschooling is delayed, but it also means we all feel happier and healthier – more relaxed, balanced and blessed. At the end of the day, that is far more important than any “urgent” tasks as far as I am concerned.
Trust me, though, it takes a fair amount of “work” for me to allow for such quiet times. I am an ultra-task oriented person. Sitting and “doing nothing” are not in my nature. So, I have to keep in mind that the apparent “nothing” is actually “something”. I find myself constantly self-coaching about letting creativity, quiet and peace unfold when they can instead of moving us along to the next thing I had on my list.
Of course, once I get this down pat, the next step will be re-layering productivity atop the pauses. Balance can be an elusive concept for this momma, but I am getting closer to it, I think.
Thoughts I Have
Books, blogs and business ideas have been dancing in my head recently. Some are ones that I thought about when I was still a Singleton. Others are ones that Mike and I mulled over shortly after becoming Marrieds. Still others only began to take shape in my mind once Motherhood arrived. Many of them will never come to fruition, but all of them have been pirouetting through my consciousness again over the past few weeks. I am not sure why.
I am sure that NOW is not the time to pursue such things. So, I am trying to just acknowledge the ideas, jot a few thoughts about them down and move on with what NOW is the time for – mostly mothering and educating my children.
I have been praying that the Holy Spirit guides me in all choices and that, if any of the ideas in my head are ones I should act on, the Spirit informs me WHEN and HOW to do so. Of course, I’d appreciate hearing from others who are going through (or have been through) similar periods of prioritizing parenting and projects and would love tips and resource ideas you might have to share.
Things I’ve been Working On
Homeschooling, decluttering, cleaning, organizing, writing and making a habit of personal prayer time with Mommy’s Retreat basket at hand are all things I continue to work at.
I also spent a fair amount of time making An Alphabet of Plans for a Literature-Based Family Advent Rich in Sensory Input and Special Activities, which the kids and I have been enjoying all week.
Mostly, though, I have just been working on being real with myself and others and taking advantages of the pauses of life. While getting real offers me perspective, the pauses offer peace. However, as I mentioned before, letting life unfold is something I really have to work at.
By nature, I am a task-oriented person. The part of my elementary school report card that I took the greatest pride in getting good marks in was “uses time wisely”. For years, I have equated “wise” with “accomplished”. Keeping busy with things to do and things done is how I roll. So, learning to roll with the both impromptu and intentional pauses has been difficult for me. It’s a choice I am obviously glad I am making, though.
So are my children, as you can see by Nina’s joy-filled face during a restful picnic at a park.
I’ve been reading…
among other things:
Handwriting Without Tears Teaching Guide, which was generously passed along to me by my friend Tiffani from Our Journey thru Autism. As I read the guide, I am impressed with both the theory of the program and also the suggestions and tools for putting it into practice.
From Chaos to Calm: Effective Parenting for Challenging Children with ADHD and other Behavior Problems, a book that both confirms existing knowledge and ideas I had about dealing with children who are wired differently and suggests some new strategies. I had to return the book before finishing it and letting all its ideas sink in, but plan to get it again sometime and would definitely suggest that others challenged by “less easy” kids pick this book up from the library to browse.
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, which is a rather large book with small print and lots of information, so it’s a slow read for me, but one I have been finding interesting as I seek to understand how best to nourish our family. For me, a vegetarian of many years who is just beginning to add meat back into my diet, it is a particularly interesting read.
lots of books from Future Horizons, which I am again beginning to dedicate time to review and share about here. In the meantime, please remember that you can get a 15% discount at Future Horizons by using the code HAPPY when you check out. By doing so, you will not only receive 15% off the total cost of whatever you purchase, but also FREE SHIPPING (in the continental US only.) Details about this offer can be found at my post about discounts for you for Future Horizons Materials and Conferences.
more and more according to weekly menu plans that I create. Yes, I have been getting better at making and sticking to these one again . I find that the investment of time to do so really pays off, especially when I feel brain-dead. Using menu plans, we are eating healthier, with a bit more variety. Plus, I am getting ahold of our food budget again.
Helps in planning our meals each week include Everyday Gluten-Free and Special Diets for Special Kids, Volumes 1 and 2 Combined: Research and Recipes. The recipes I select from these are all a part of getting us ready to go gluten-free in the new year.
I’m grateful for…
my parent’s help. Without them, jury duty service and having cars at the shop recently would have been far more difficult to manage. I appreciate that they willingly look after our children and lend us vehicles when we ask them to do so. I hope to be an equally there-to-serve parent when my grown-up children need me to be one day.
I am also grateful for each moment of quiet that I have savored since remembering how powerful these can be.
And, I am still smiling over an incident at a gas pump the other day, where a woman unexpectedly gifted my children and me. I want to dedicate a whole post to that when I can. Keep an eye out for it.
I’m praying for…
many intentions, as usual, but especially today for:
- fellow homeschooling mothers, that we may hear God’s word and act on His will through both the mundane and the marvelous moments of our callings.
- all who need a little extra love and help this season.
- anyone who needs to take a pause. May the Spirit move them to find stillness and quiet, if only for a moment. May grace and restoration be theirs.
A Photo to Share
This is Jack popping his head out of the window of a playground train he and his sibling were playing on during one of our Sabbath family days. Every time I look at this picture I remember that even when life seems to be barreling down its tracks, it is important to stop to breathe in its goodness.
Pop on over to The Homeschool Mother's Journal to find many (briefer) journal entries from hoemschoolers.