Friday, November 11, 2011

A Homeschool Mother's Journal: October into November

A Break on the Trail
Happy Veteran's Day!   If you'd like some sensory-friendly ideas for celebrating the day with youngsters, please check out Observe Veterans Day with 10 Sensory Ideas, which I wrote over at OJTA.  Then, click back over here, enjoy a pause and tell me: Have you ever meant to record observations of your children’s learning and development, hoped to remember the little things in life or wanted to capture the “now” to reflect upon later, but neglected to do so?  Well, let me assure you that you are not alone!

My last Homeschool Mother’s Journal entry was posted over a month ago and my draft box is littered with incomplete entries I have written since.  Why have none been finished?  Well, among other reasons, I’ve been hoping to get photos in order to go along with them.

You see, last month we had a significant camera mishap (which I plan to blog about once I – hopefully – retrieve the photos from the memory card in the camera that took a bath).  We also had teething, sickness and some computer woes to contend with.  So organizing and uploading photos took a proverbial “back seat”.  Call me silly, but I like visual images to go along with what I am able to capture in writing.  Thus, my lack of journal entries.

Today, I still don’t have all my photos sorted, but I was able to get a bunch together to post at last.  More importantly, I want to capture “now” and “recently” before it becomes too clouded by time slipped by to do so.  So, without further ado:

In my life for the past month or so… 

was a renewed sense of acceptance and an “I-Can” attitude
Anything Can Be Scaled One Step at a Time

I had been feeling increasingly “behind”, discouraged, overtired and incompetent.  Yep, Nasty Negativity was weaseling its way back into my daily demeanor.  Then, God sent me the gift of my 19 year old self.  I’ve been listening to her ideas, especially about praying and, when I remember to, about smiling, and things are turning around.  Peaceful Positiveness is making a return.

Taking a few minutes to put together Mommy’s Retreat Basket has brought hours of feeling strengthened and guided.  Tackling some small to-do’s has gotten the ball rolling on conquering bigger clutter in our home.  Spending time just being with my kids – especially outside – has renewed my spirits.  Getting almost adequate sleep again has been a big boon, too.  

I am accepting the limitations of my calling and also trusting that God will help me meet it well.  I cannot pursue all I want to, but I can endeavor to do what I need to well – throwing in a good portion of “want to” as life allows.  I recognize that getting my home in order, my kids trained up, my marriage growing and myself improving is enough and everything else is just extra.  Also, doing these things is not a sprint.  It is a marathon journey.  As long as I am taking steps and allowing grace to do its work, a good finish awaits over time.

In our homeschool over the past month or so…

Sketching a Natural Scene
I accepted that the Mommy-side of our learning space/office has become too much of a disaster for me to be comfortable having the kids in there to enjoy Workboxing and Montessori shelves, but also recognized I was becoming equally uncomfortable with the Unschooling approach that I fell into again as a result of clutter, appointments, lack of sleep, teething, colds, etc.  So, I opted to concentrate mainly on our Core Four

Even though I am well aware that preschoolers, and even Kindergarteners, really need nor formal studies to learn and develop, I feel more comfortable getting us in a "study" habit so it doesn't come as too much of a shock when Luke hits first grade age.  So, while we are on our Workbox and Montessori shelf break, I have been phasing in almost daily 15-30 minute “formal” sessions for Reading or Math, integrating writing and pre-writing into daily free time activities and continuing to peg faith formation to many parts of our day (albeit more casually than I used to do.)  Everything else just happens naturally.  Children really do learn almost anything they need to just by living each day richly.

Helpful Homeschooling Tips to Share:

Earning His Way to the Door

If you have an early reader and have not found Don Potter’s site yet, click on over.  I use many of the free materials there as the basis for, or a supplement to, much of the work I do as a tutor with early readers.  I also use Word Mastery as a classic phonics reader for my own children and a resource for words I want to practice with games such as our The CVC Chalk Word Jump Game: A Classic Outdoor Approach to Early Phonics with Sensory Diet Heavy Work Thrown InRead and Run: A Movement-Based Activity for Early Reading and Sensory Diet all in One and Earn Your Way (post forthcoming.)

I am inspired by…

Joyce Meyer’s Starting Your Day Right: Devotions for Each Morning of the Year, a book that cyberspace friend, Tiffani from Our Journey THRU Autism, kindly passed along to me around this time last year.

I had begun the devotional with enthusiasm soon after receiving it.  Then, it got misplaced.  I was thrilled to rediscover it just after making my Mommy Retreat Basket and have since been hearing God with greater clarity I think as I enjoy Joyce’s brief, but powerful messages.

Places we’ve been going and people we’ve been seeing…

run the gambit from doctor visits and therapies,

where Nina was delighted to have Luke work to earn her and Jack time in the ball pit, which she had been coveting

to family days apple picking

going to the beach

to hiking

to asking questions at a local Open Farm day

to playing impromptu games of stick hockey at local conservation lands

 to enjoying the pumpkin patch with Grammy, Grampy and cousins

to learning and playing at homeschool co-ops with friends

 to decorating pumpkins at Grammy and Grampy's

to celebrating All Saints Day with st. Jerome, his lion and St. Gianna 

 (or sleeping through most of the festivities in Jack's case)

 and hosting a Halloween party

to all the rest of life savored instead of sped through.

My favorite thing this past month or so was…

the great outdoors!

We are infinitely blessed with the world God has created for us and my family has been lucky to explore small corners of it over the past weeks.

I cannot emphasize enough how important I think time outdoors is for all people – young or old.  We may not all be living in Eden, but our own yards, local parks, nearby shorelines and tiny trails in the woods can certainly bring a renewing paradise to us for moments here and there.

What’s working for me…

is pausing!  Pausing to pray.  Pausing to regroup so I act, not react, with my children.  Pausing to take a moment of “me” time.  Pausing the hubaloo of schedules to play hooky from life for an afternoon with the kids.  Pausing to embrace life as it is right now.

Thought I Have:

Enjoying the Sticky Moments
On those days when I am about to pull my hair out over the kids, the house, homeschooling and all, some Spirit-sent person comments to me about how precious my children are and how I should savor this period of life as it will be gone before I know it.   Those folks are right!

As Jack goes from baby to toddler, Nina nears kindergarten-age and Luke starts to read more and more, I cannot help but to see how quickly time is already going.

I want to savor it.

I want to simplify.

I want to slow down.

I want to live more intentionally.

Every day, I am given the gift of 24 more hours to do just that.  Some days, I don’t see the present amongst the clutter, but other days I recognize how truly precious it is and – ahh – relish it.  Here’s hoping such days increase for me – and for you, too!

Things I’ve been working on include…

Math Computations with Rocks
offsetting the groaning “uck”s of life with renewing smiled breaths of “ahhh”.  Refocusing on prayer, positive communication with my husband, time spent outdoors, appreciating my children and counting blessings, instead tests and trials, sure does make an incredible difference in life.  I am not sure why I keep having to re-learn that lesson, but I sure am glad God is a patient teacher!

Also, obviously, I am working on carving out some “me” time, which is largely taken p these days by checking things off my blog task list with BloTaAcMoI’d love some company as I do, so please feel free to link up at the bottom of my initital BloTaAcMo post with your own blog accomplishments this month – whether they be posts you’ve been meaning to write or things you’ve learned about blogging.

Other things I have been delighting in daily are:
  • carving out devotional time for myself (and my children!) with my Mommy Retreat Basket.
  • ensuring my family keeps our commitment to making our Sabbath day a family day with such things as snowy hikes where we got lost and sunny hikes where we scaled rocky trails.
  • decluttering and organizing in small pockets of time with greater daily frequency.
  • ensuring that “schooling” happens everyday, even if it simply happens out in nature – counting, adding and subtracting with rocks at the beach – or on the front walkway, where Luke earns his way back into the house.  (Post to come on that!)

I’ve been reading…

lots as usual, in bits and pieces.  

Among the stacks of books piled on so many surfaces of my home, I just finished re-reading parts of Home Learning Year by Year: How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum from Preschool Through High School, a succinct and helpful source for getting and staying on track with what children should be learning from pre-k through high school.

And, on my computer, I’ve been loving the e-book Montessori at Home. I sort of wish I had read it at the start of my homeschooling journey as it is such a practical, encouraging, straightforward and complete resource and, perhaps, with it as a guide I would not have gotten as lost and discouraged as I did at times.  I am certainly looking toward the e-book now to help me better mesh my desire for following Montessori principles with the realities of following my children with where we are at in our homeschool journey.

I’m cooking…

more and more from scratch with increasing amounts of whole foods and GFCF food.  

Making GFCF Muffins
Mike and I have long felt that the typical American diet is not ideal and have wanted to retrain our own palettes, and to develop our children’s, into ones that crave and appreciate whole, healthy, healing foods.  I have made forays into this before, such as when I served no cereal for breakfast for a month.  However, it always seems that the busyness of life interrupts our efforts and convenience supersedes conviction.  We slowly start buying more processed foods, allowing more treats and falling back into habits that we are trying to break.

Now, I am budgeting time and money to avoid that backslide again.  We are spending a bit more on whole, healthy foods each month at the store and I am also allowing more time each day to be in the kitchen.   In order to sustain this effort, though, I know I am going to have to figure out how to feed my family healthy, homemade, relatively whole meals without cooking three or more times a day.  Tips are welcome!

Also, as we increase our commitment to eating better, we are getting closer to becoming a truly GFCF family.  I believe some of my eldest son’s issues might improve with a GFCF diet and that the rest of us have little physical quirks that could also be quelled by such a diet.  So, I have been slowly weaning us from casein and gluten.  We’re pretty much there with casein and gluten, I hope, will be “all gone” soon after the holidays.

Devouring Everyday Gluten-Free Pancakes
A big help in our GFCF eating has been Everyday Gluten-Free, an awesome cookbook that I reviewed recently and one that has earned a permanent place on my kitchen shelf!  We’re also in the midst of reviewing Special Diets for Special Kids, Volumes 1 and 2 Combined: Research and Recipes, published by Future Horizons.  As such, we’ve begun testing out recipes from that book and should have that review up within a few weeks.  In the meantime, if you’re interested in this cookbook or any Future Horizon products, you can use the code “HAPPY” when ordering it at Future Horizons to get 15% off your entire order.

I’m grateful for…

Along Our Nature Hike the Other Day
this moment.  This day.  The day before it.  All the days before that and each day yet to come.  

Too often, I fall prey to negative though-habits.  I just want to get through a day.  I wish there were more hours in a day.  Ican’t believe how early another day is beginning after what seems like not enough sleep.  Or, I am a bit too glad (for the wrong reasons) when a day is done.  However, when I take a moment to reframe my brain, life is so much better.

I recognize the grace I am showered with even through the challenges of a day.  I understand that God has allotted the perfect amount of time to each day and that with Him as my guide I can manage that time well enough to give everything the attention it requires.  I see that God is good to offer me a new morning every morning – no matter what time I wake to it.  I benefit from the restoration God grants us through whatever amount of sleep we are able to get after we fall into bed each night.  In short, I know He is in me, with me and all around me and that all I need to do is be aware in order to be overflowing with thanks!

I’m praying for…

Joy-Filled in the Day that the Lord Has Made
Oh so many intentions!  Among them:
  • The repose of the souls of relatives, friends, friends of friends, relatives of friends.
  • The healing of a neighbor who has recently had surgery.
  • Ease of life for a friend who remains amazingly strong through sickness, multiple moves, financial challenges and a plate that is as full of hard things to swallow as it is the rich delights of parenting two wonderful young lads.
  • All the souls awaiting birth in the bellies of friends.
  • Peace and balance for those leading one of the homeschooling groups I am involved with.  They do so much for all of us and I know it is difficult to manage while also excelling in their calls as homeschooling mothers.
  • All those who are calling out to God for help, solace and understanding, plus those seeking to praise Him.
  • All those who have turned away from God or have yet to come to know Him at all.
  • 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 folks and their families whoa re serving or have served for our country.  
  • That children (and adults!) everywhere will shine with grace-given joy.

A photo to share:

This is what Jack looked like the other day on the way home from a wonderful impromptu homeschool excursion to the beach after some appointments.  Yep, he is fast asleep in his new-to-him, big boy, front-facing seat now that he’s grown out of his infant car seat.  Looking back at him and knowing how much he has been growing, and how soundly he sleeps when the kids and I have just had a gloriously full afternoon of being together – learning, loving and breathing in the best of life – makes me confident that whatever I am doing “wrong”, there is so much more that is “right”.  I am ever-grateful for this.  Life is blessed and good!

I am linking this post to my BloTaAcMo initiative, as writing this post has been on my task list for weeks.  Please feel free to link any blog tasks you accomplish this month at my initial BloTaAcMo, too.

to find many examples of encouragement, reality and hope.

Also sharing at Hip Homeschool Moms


Judy @ Contented at Home said...

I too have had those frazzled days when everything seemed wrong--just one positive comment can really help put things back in perspective! Our children do indeed grow up so quickly.
Thanks for visiting Contented at Home!

Unknown said...

I agree..there are times when you just don't know if you can keep up and then one note of positivity sends you singing!

flmom said...

I haven't figured out the whole cooking thing either. I am grateful my spouse enjoys cooking, so he generally prepares our dinners giving me more time to get other things done and some baking (especially muffins, quick breads, waffles, pancakes, etc. into the freezer for future breakfasts). He's been working long hours as of late, and I am frazzled with everything else then falling on me. I've slipped in the kitchen and have been buying pre-made granolas, etc. It's just plain hard when 24 hours in a day aren't enough. I finally learned to stop letting all the "wonder woman" blogs I visit bother me so much. I realized most are ladies who are retired with no children at home or ladies who have lots of older children who help with many things around the house.

Jade Clark said...

Sounds like things have been going well for the most part. Your kids are precious - wonderful photos! We have to live for those GREAT TIMES and spend less time worrying and fussing over the times when things don't go our way. 'Cause there will be those days no matter what, we just can't dwell on 'em.

Found you via the HMJ, you can find me at!

Beth ( said...

We too love the book by Rebecca Rupp. It sits on my desk as a referene. I wanted to invite you to link up to my TGIF Linky Party -
Beth =-)

Eileen @ Ordained Praise said...

I love your life. It is beautiful. My kids range from 21 to 5 and it does go fast. Keep cherishing your time with the kids while they are young. One question - Does Montessori take a lot of resources and planning time? I love the method. The little religion class my five year old is in uses Montessori. There are a great many 'manipulatives.' (If this is the word for them).

Becca said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog and thank you for your prayers for my friend, Cody.


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