Ideas for Helping Kids With Daily Routines

“Routines involve repetition.  Repetition involves predictability. Predictability involves stability. Stability involves security.  Kids crave routines because routines make kids feel safe and secure.” – Maci Elkins

When I was a new mom I read “Baby Wise” which is a book about getting your little bundle on a schedule from the beginning. I quickly learned that that approach would NOT work for me. I am the messy mom. Laid back is my middle name. Just call me The Messy Laid Back Mom. Actually, don’t call me that.

The fact is we have had to be flexible because the past 3 years of our life has demanded it. On the other hand, as my babies get older and more independent I realize they require more routine to help them navigate through this unpredictable world. So this week I have been focusing on the topic of routine and structure, but sometimes (or in my case most of the time) that concept is easier said than done.

The other day my friend Tiffany posted this question-

What do you moms do with your kids after school? In my house, there’s just a lot of fussing, boredom, and people complaining about doing homework. Would appreciate your ideas. THANKS.

I already shared our morning and afternoon routine, but that isn’t even half the battle. You can schedule your day down to the minute but how do you get a rowdy bunch of little ones to go along with your plans? In Tiffany’s case this means 4 kids, including 2 year old twins and 4 and 6 year old boys. There is certainly no easy answer to that question, but I can tell you what has worked for me and share some other ideas that I found online.

For my family, it’s all about the timer/alarm. I have about a dozen alarms on my phone that go off throughout the day. These alarms are set for everything from just waking up to reminding me to go get the kids from school. All of those things that I listed yesterday are all alarms on my phone.

 

 

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Granted, if my volume is down or my phone is in the other room I may not hear it, but I usually have my phone with me and these are activities I am anticipating anyway so the phone is more of a backup.

My oldest son made the system a little more fun last year by adding emojis and special ring tones. This was totally his own doing by the way. He also added more alarms that said “Too late” or “Really really late!!!!” with little screaming emojis… which I deleted. He knows us too well.

I love the alarm sound options. I use the ducks for bath time and the robot for when it’s time to leave (my mom mentioned that it sounds like it is saying “beep-ba-beep Time To Go” and now we sing along when it goes off. Also, the crickets are a great signal that it is time for bed. As a bonus the kids love it when they have a day off school and my alarms are still going off because they are set for every weekday. They love to laugh and joke about it, “Uh-oh. Time to go to school- NOOOO!” It’s a fun reminder of the responsibilities that they are off the hook for on that special day.

So the kids get some visual and auditory cues that times up and we are moving on to the next activity. It’s even a sensory tool in some ways because the phone vibrates and at times I have had to bring it up to my daughter with hearing loss to let her feel and see that the alarm was going off. Last year I wrote a post called The Magic Kitchen Timer . I talked about how the timer is a great alternative to just nagging and screaming because a machine is not an emotional being. It can’t be offended or manipulated.  The routine becomes more about the clock and less about you just being mean. Your kids will still whine and protest, at least mine do. And you will still have to nag at times. For me though, I feel so much more prepared and armed when I have my timer to blame. Hey, the timer said times up, not me!

*I repeat, this has not eliminated all struggles in our home. Some days are better than others. Long term results have definitely been positive though or I would not have kept it up for the past three years .*

Here are a few links to some other schedule incentives that I thought looked promising. 

Pill box reward tool by The Inclusive Church. 

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Having treats for every little thing might be overkill on a daily basis, but this system was designed for special needs kids in a church program and for those situations it seemed pretty cool.

 

For older kids you could just hang up a list. This printable schedule by Smashed Peas and Carrots reminded me a lot of our routine.

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I thought this clock looked like a great idea to give kids a visual.


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The fussing, boredom, and complaining that Tiffany mentioned is not in any way unusual and unfortunately somewhat inevitable, but hopefully these ideas can help.

Maybe you have a creative solution of your own. Please feel free to share it in the comments. It might be just the thing another mom needs to hear!

 

By | August 27th, 2015|Parenting Tips, Schooling, Special Needs|5 Comments

Carter’s Size 8 and More!

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Carter’s. The opinions stated in this review are genuine. 

When I mentioned that I was doing our back-to-school clothes shopping at Carter’s you all responded with “I love Carter’s” “Carter’s is the best!” or “Us too!”

So maybe I’m not going to tell you anything that you don’t already know, which is that Carter’s clothes are adorable, affordable, convenient, and comfy. But did you know that they now offer a size 8?!

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This is really exciting for my family because Z turns 8 in like a week and he’s starting to wear size 8. So when I went to the Carter’s store a couple of weeks ago it was so convenient. I was able to shop for all 4 of my kids at Carter’s and left with a bag full of bargains.

That’s right, I said all FOUR of my kids because this pregnant mama stopped dead in her tracks when she saw the baby clothes at the front of the store. I couldn’t resist doing a little shopping for the little one coming in 3 months!

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Then I moved onto the size 5 girl clothes because SJ needed some new leggings and a first day of school outfit. There were so many options and I get nervous with this cutie pie because she is by far my pickiest dresser. She came with me though to choose what she liked. Carter’s makes shopping with little ones so easy thanks to their helpful employees, a nice clean layout, and even a little play table to keep the tiny shoppers entertained.

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We both fell in love with the “Shine Like a Star” ensemble.

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I loved how easy they make it to mix and match. I got the whole outfit for 50% off and even stocked up on some cute accessories. SJ rocked this look on her first day of Kindergarten.

Z was due for new shoes, new jeans, some back-to-school tops…the works!

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I found everything I was looking for at Carter’s thanks to the new size 8 and size 3Y shoe options. The adjustable jeans are the best thing ever because growth spurts do happen! He looked stylin’ in his back-to-school clothes and he entered the 2nd grade with confidence.

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Lastly, I also had to pick up a matching outfit for Ezie.Ezie

He really looks up to his big brother and they are still at an age where they love to match so how could I resist.

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I scored all of these items and more at such a great price and I even got $20 worth of coupons at the end (which I already spent by the way).

Now is a great time to stock up on awesome fall fashion sets for your kiddos because the deals are so amazing! First of all you can use this printable coupon or promo code to shop at your local Carter’s store or online and get 25% off your purchase of $40 or more.

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On top of that right now and through the end of August they are running the #CountMeIn Sale with many items up to 50% off and doorbuster savings like $6 leggings, long sleeve tees, or boys terry pants when you buy 2 or more. Then get ready because Labor Day weekend the entire store is 50% off! That’s my kind of a sale.

I already loved Carter’s , but some of these latest improvements have just made me love them that much more.

onthegoAre your kids closets ready for fall? Head on over to Carters.com or the Carter’s store to stock up on the styles you and your on-the-go-gang are sure to love!

By | August 24th, 2015|Babies & Toddlers, Frugal Living, Schooling|7 Comments

First Week of School 2015

I have felt really optimistic about this first week of school until it all came crashing down today. J has had to take over car pooling/kid watching due to me having a fever and barely being able to breath or sleep. So I went to the doc and everyone agreed I need to be on antibiotics now. Even though I don’t love having to take meds (especially when pregnant), I am grateful for the relief I should soon be feeling.

We started this week off with a practice run complete with our first day of school clothes (brought to you by Carter’s) and then took off for a photo shoot of the snazzy ensembles.IMG_9243

I will be posting more next week for the Carter’s Count Me In campaign. I have some sale information and a coupon that I know you are going to love so be on the look out for that. 
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Tuesday we did another dry run because I have become really militant about our schedule now that school is back in session so all week long we pretended to go to school. I’m talkin’ wake up, get school clothes on, and get out the door on time. We even drove to the school itself to see how we did on time.

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Then we went to a park before the fog had lifted and most children were at home with their sane mothers enjoying their final day of sleeping in.

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We even practiced packing a lunch and carrying our backpacks.

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Sometimes I think I have lost my marbles with how hard core I have been. Then other times I realize how much it has paid off. More on that later. I’ll plan to spill all of the details of my latests OCD school schedule next week because although it’s only been one week, I am a believer.

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Wednesday was the real deal for SJ. She is officially a Kindergartener.

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Photo courtesy of Ohio Valley Voices

She was so excited. When I dropped her off and picked her up all I saw was a gigantic grin from ear to ear. She has two main teachers. One focuses on speech while the other is more of the academics teacher. Both of them are amazing and she has worked with them before so it should all be smooth sailing.


The best part about SJ’s first day was how talkative she was afterwards! She told us about her school bus craft. She told me she ate all of her lunch (naming each item) and said she liked her food.

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Photo courtesy of Ohio Valley Voices

She said she played with all her friends (and named each one).

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Photo curtesy of Ohio Valley Voices

This time last year we would have been limited to yes or no questions. She really couldn’t articulate any of the days events at all, so now I’m the one grinning from ear to ear. I am just thrilled with the progress she has made. This is going to be the best school year yet!

Z had Meet The Teacher on Monday.

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So far it’s all been great. I’m already extremely happy with his teacher. This guy is passionate about reading, challenging the students, and also working on good character. I have loved Z’s female teachers, but I’m pretty excited about him having a male influence to say that learning is cool and fun!

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Z has a new cast, new glasses, new shoes, new supplies, even a new haircut. We are in a tight spot right now, but the Lord has provided all of the things that we need. Every. Single. Thing. I am so grateful for His many blessings!

As for Ezie, he is feeling the effects of being the little guy. He wants to wear a back pack so we let him carry Z’s old one.

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He even has Z’s old lunch box inside it. He talks about school and asks about his brother and sister frequently. He’s a trooper though. Only three more months and then he won’t be the only child at home anymore.

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I’ll admit I am having a little too much fun getting that fluttery back-to-school feeling. I guess it reminds me of my childhood and the fact that my kids are still  really interested and happy about school certainly helps. There are so many things I love about this season, especially knowing that fall is right around the corner!

Do you have any school age children? Have they started school yet?

By | August 21st, 2015|Lifestyle, My Life, Schooling, Uncategorized|5 Comments

Free Signing Time Video

I have great news for you all today! Signing Time has a released a  FREE Back to School Video Download. It’s hard to believe that one of the stars of the show (little Leah) is now going off to college in real life! She was 4 when they started the series and so this free download is in celebration of that wonderful milestone.

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This video is perfect timing to prepare your little one for school while teaching 30+ signs as a bonus. I want to do everything I can to spread the word because I love Signing Time so much and if this video reaches 500,000 new families by October 1st then they will realease a second FREE download.

Downloads are great because sometimes you need that a quick movie available on your phone or tablet when you don’t have wifi access (like on an an airplane). Some of you moms of littles know what I’m talking about!

Just to give a short personal background story, the Signing Time series has been very instrumental to my family and will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only have they helped all three of my children to learn some of the foundations of ASL, but there was a season where I watched the videos over and over, pausing and rewinding parts until they stuck when SJ was first diagnosed deaf. My husband, my parents, and I would all gather around for our Signing Time lessons and we are adults! That was a big part of how I was able to final speak with my baby girl for the first time.

I won’t go into all the details but SJ wasn’t diagnosed until she was 2 and she didn’t get hearing aids until she was 2 1/2 and even then they didn’t help. It was a year before she began to hear via use of cochlear implants! So the first three years of her life sign language was how we communicated.

If you are interested in your child being exposed to sign language for any reason at all (and there are many benefits by the way) then this is a great time to check out Signing Time because the video download is absolutely free. There is no obligation to buy anything and it’s really fast and easy to get on your computer or other electronic device instantly.

Our family owns several Signing Time videos, we also have checked them out from the Library for ones we don’t own. We’ve seen Rachel and the gang on Nickelodeon and PBS as well as Netflix, but coinsidentally the school episode is one that is NOT on Netflix and we don’t own it. SCORE!

If I had to give one critique (it’s not really a critique at all, it’s just a personal difference). We use all the signs from Signing Time except for some of the finger spelling ones. For example there is a video where they teach the sign for “Toy” and they finger spell it “T-O-Y”. I own a signing dictionary and have local deaf friends that sign it the same as “play” but with the letter “T”. That doesn’t mean that finger spelling it is wrong AT ALL, I’m sure it’s more accurate to some degree. ASL is complex in that there are many different regional dialects and acceptable variations.

For SJ we used sign language as a practical bridge for communication and she still is not at a place where any fingerspelling has worked for her. So we are more likely to use what is called a “home sign” before we would learn a bunch of fingerspelling words. From what I understand this is not uncommon for young deaf children the same way hearing children have variations of words that they use before they are able to articulate. I mention all of this because the “Back to School Video” finger spells “Glue” and “Pen’.

Sorry, I’m rambling now, but I really do believe in this program and I’m thrilled to share this awesome deal with all of you. Again, the full length video is “Signing Time Back to School” and you can watch it instantly and download it to keep as your own. Just go to

www.signingtime.com/free-video

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Oh, and don’t forget to share this special offer with all of your friends.

 

 

 

 

Are Unexcused Absences Ever Excusable?

I take school and academics very seriously, but I am not opposed to missing a day every once in a while even when the reasons aren’t related to death or illness. Maybe you’ve seen some of the headlines in the news lately.

Mike Rossi is a dad who wrote a very passionate letter to the school’s principal which then went viral. The letter came as a response to the disapproval of him taking his kids out of school to watch him run in the Boston Marathon.

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Then there was a mom, who was also a substitute teacher that was ARRESTED because her 10 year old honor student had too many unexcused absences. He was allowed 6, but had 12. Some of those were excused with a doctor’s note, but the mother, Julie Giles, claims they were all illness related. Giles says:

“The truth is, l cannot afford a copay every single time they are sick, but I never want to send them to school when they feel bad or could possibly get others sick,”

No doctor’s note, no excuse. Sometimes your child is too sick for school, but not sick enough to have to see a doctor. I completely understand what that’s like! On the other hand there are always two sides to every story. I do realize the importance of rules and protocol, but it’s like Mike Rossi said in regards to his children’s Boston Marathon absences

“Zero tolerance equals zero common sense, and in this case, they made this blanket rule and say, no exceptions? It’s silly.”

Thankfully I haven’t run into this problem with our schools. My children have missed school for various reasons, including trips and family events. I know their classmates have too. I haven’t heard or experienced any backlash from this.

When my husband J was wrapping up his last semester he wanted to bring Z to his college campus to see a project he had been working on. J had spent months working to perfect a Tic-Tac-Toe game. I know that might sound ridiculous for a grown man who is in college, but maybe a little less silly when you realize he was programing software that would enable a robot to play Tic-Tac-Toe. J had been sending updates and videos to Z every step of the way and now that it was finally complete he really wanted Z to be able to see it in action. So I emailed his teacher and told the school exactly what was going on knowing that this was technically an unexcused absence. His teacher and the faculty were extremely supportive. Z was able to be a part of invaluable learning opportunity visiting a college campus and playing Tic-Tac-Toe with a robot in 1st grade! Not to mention the priceless memories with his dad.

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I really hope these irrational standards for school attendance are isolated incidences and that the majority of our schools really do support the families they are serving.

So, let’s chat.

Did your parents allow you to miss school for certain events when you were growing up? What about your children? I think you know how I feel.

By | May 28th, 2015|Schooling, Uncategorized|16 Comments

Pinewood Derby

The Pinewood Derby race is one of the biggest events of the year for Cub Scouts and this was Z’s first year to participate. With help form an adult, the scouts are expected to build their own car out of wood. Sure you start with a kit, but it’s more than just something you would find at Ikea with minimal assembly required. They actually have to carve, drill, nail, and paint the thing. 

I was so happy to see these two working as a team. J and Z have a wonderful relationship, but I know J hates how much he has to be away since being in school full time.

The pack has a tune up meeting the week of the race to weigh in and make sure your car meets all the specific qualifications. 
They expect a lot out of these little Tiger Cubs. It’s not just about assembling a car to roll down a track. They are expected to craft it in a way that will improve the performance level. So they are not only learning basic carpentry, but they are also implementing lots of scientific components like momentum and aerodynamics. You would be surprised at how much goes into these races, unless you have been a part of Pinewood Derby. In which case, none of this surprises you at all. 
The track is on a slope like this. 
They line up 6 cars at a time and all of the names of those on deck show up on a big screen. 
That’s Z’s batman car in the middle. At the end of the track is a timer that shows the speed and rank of each car. They race multiple times and at the end they average all the times to find the winner.

I was worried about Z not ranking very high. They put so much effort into all of it and I knew he would be disappointed if he lost, but I just wanted him to learn good sportsmanship. We would always pray about the upcoming derby day and I would try to really emphasize “Help Z to do his best” “Let your will be done on the race track” “We commit to having a good attitude and to be a light no matter what happens with Z’s derby car”. You might laugh at such a silly prayer, unless you have been a part of a Pinewood Derby. In which case, again, none of this surprises you. 
In the end Z actually got third place, so he did get a trophy and he was super proud. This isn’t one of those everyone gets a trophy deals. Plenty of 6-10 year old boys were in tears over defeat that day. I am sure I will be wiping those tears away for another competition. We’ve been there before, but this time he beamed. 
His grandpa and dad were by his side for whole thing and I am sure this is a moment he is going to remember for a long, long time. 

Z has never participated in any sports or competitive activities yet, so I am really glad he got to have this opportunity. This quote taken directly from pinewoodderby.org really sums it all up. “At the heart of this event’s success is the process itself- bonds are strengthened as the Cub Scout partners with a  parent or adult mentor to design, carve, paint, weigh, refine, and race the car.”

Win our loose, this was priceless bonding time for a dad and his first born son. It doesn’t get much better than that.

By | January 23rd, 2015|My Life, Schooling, Uncategorized|8 Comments

Thank You Teachers

I have now met all of the new teachers including a full blown information night tonight at Z’s school. I really do think this is going to be another great year for them. I loved their teacher’s from last year and I will never forget all that they did for my kiddos. I have wanted to share the love and show the two thank you cards that we made at the end of last year, but I never got around to it. I know this is the worst time to spark ideas for end of the year thank you cards since school has just begun, but I figure it’s better late than never. Here goes…


For SJ I used her recent portrait from her 4 year session and customized a Thank You message to be printed out on a 4×6. I found an endless amount of chalkboard fonts online and for the chalkboard background I went with the one from this link. I picked up some clear party favor bags from Target and filled the bag with dove chocolates.

I was so happy with how they all turned out. By all, I mean several. Z had one teacher to say thank you to. SJ has an entourage of therapists, teachers, and other team members that we want to show our gratitude to.

 When I went into SJ’s school this year I saw that the secretary had her thank you card displayed on her desk and it made me smile. 

For Z we took a different approach. I made a little book out of all the decades that he dressed up as throughout the year. I can now see that I blogged about 50’s day, 70’s, and 80’s day, but I don’t think I ever did a post about when he dressed like he was 100 years old!? What a shame. Here are some photos of that.

I can’t believe I never posted these! Anyway, back to the thank you card. This was the cover which was a phrase that was significant to the whole class.

On the inside there were a couple group photos from the Christmas party and field trip and it said 

Mrs. Baker was my Kindergarten teacher.

Then a couple photos of Z dressed in 1950’s attire (for the 50th day of school) and it said “thanks to her I had many HAPPY DAYS”. Then along with the 1970’s photos it said “she made school GROOVY”

Turn the page to the 1980’s and you’ll see that she was also “TOTALLY AWESOME”, and lastly for the 100th day when he dressed like he was 100 years old it said “Now I feel wise beyond my years”. 
I know it’s not the most polished booklet. It was just a simple little token which cost next to nothing, but I was extremely flattered by his teacher’s response. She said it was the best thank you card she had ever received and had planned to laminate it. I’m so glad that she liked it because she really is an amazing teacher. 
In fact I would like to say thank you to all the teachers that might be reading this. I have had lots of friends who taught over the years and I had some pretty great teachers growing up, but I never understood just how invaluable teachers are until my children started school. From that point on I became eternally grateful for all that you do for our children and for our future! What a calling. Whether you just started, or are about to, best wishes this year. 
I am going to try and do some link ups more often so today I am partying with
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By | August 29th, 2014|Schooling, Uncategorized|3 Comments

Kindergarten and Common Core

If you somehow stumbled upon this blog post looking for a deeper understanding of what Common Core is, I am not your gal. I still don’t totally get it. I was told it was the new national content standards and not a curriculum, but it seems like there is curricula attached to these new content standards in some form or another. 

When I went to meet the teacher night at the beginning of the year I am pretty sure that Z’s Kindergarten teacher talked about it, but I just remember her saying that they were going to be expecting a lot more this year and they would be packing a lot of information into a short amount of time. I personally was excited to hear that because I wanted Z to be challenged. 
I admit that I had some issues at the beginning of the year regarding Z being in Kindergarten instead of 1st grade, but now the school year is almost over and I haven’t regretted the decision to place him public school at all. In fact, I have felt like he has had private school treatment. I won’t go into all the details right now, but one reason I know that they have customized his assignments is because the first week I showed up for the parent orientation night they had these projects hanging in the hall and while all the other children dictated “David’s instructions” Z wrote his out himself.  
It’s hard to see because it’s in pencil, but his is the 2nd down on the right column. At the beginning of the year Z was tested on some basic kindergarten skills and he exceeded the year-end goals in every area. Even then, he still has learned so much more than what he went in with! Here I was concerned that he would become stagnant or bored, and it turns out that I had nothing to worry about. When SJ is mainstreamed she will have an IEP which will include some pull-out sessions. So she need special attention as well, but in a completely different way. Needless to say I have a vested interest from both ends of the spectrum, believe me. 
As far as Common Core, I have heard a lot of controversy. I don’t even watch the news, but it’s kind of hard to avoid the viral math problems that have been circulating. Z’s school had a seminar for parents to attend and learn more, but it was on a night that I could not come out. Fortunately they had a webinar later which included participation via live messages. I was impressed that the school would facilitate an option like this and I tuned in the entire time and I did ask a few questions. I still don’t understand the ins outs of both view points regarding the political hot button, but it’s boiled down to one thing for me, my children. When I see things like this on the internet I cringe. 
Then I read one article after the other of parents choosing to take their kids out of public school because they suddenly started doing poorly. If it was just here or there I wouldn’t think anything of it, but there must be a legitimate cause if it is happening at an alarmingly increased rate across the nation.  
But at the end of the day my son is excelling and he has a very loving teacher that makes learning something to get excited about. I don’t know what this means for each and every public school, but I don’t have the energy to fight for the all of the students of the nation today. Although, I am grateful for those that do. I consider myself an involved parent that makes informed decisions to the best of my abilities and I have not seen any evidence of this controversy having a negative impact on my son’s education so far. In fact I saw this homework assignment posted online under the title “Epic Fail- Parents Reveal Insane Common Core Worksheets” 
The complaint in this case was that common core homework makes it necessary to keep a supply of brass fasteners on hand. The funny thing is, my son had the exact same worksheet with a brass fastener taped to the front. People are circulating these so-called atrocities that really have more to do with individual teachers, schools, and even students, but not necessarily a reason for a revolt. I am not saying that there is nothing wrong with the system. I have seen red flags myself, but I am completely satisfied with how Z’s school is handling everything at this point and I have been assured that they are using local curricula and teachers are teaching with the same liberties they have had. 
With that said, I am prepared to keep tabs on everything, but I am also pleased to announce that we have had a very successful first year. I am grateful that Z is getting started now because by the time he is doing some of those wacky math problems hopefully they will have worked out all of the kinks. Anyway, I know plenty of people that didn’t have their child’s first year go so smoothly so I consider myself very blessed to be in this place at this time. What a relief. 
By | April 19th, 2014|Schooling, Uncategorized|2 Comments

Healthy Outlets

We all have different ways of letting off steam. Some people de-stress by knitting, others like to take it to the gym. I personally have always found writing to be therapeutic (surprise), for J it’s playing guitar. Not that it’s limited to one activity, but I think it’s important that we find ways to connect with our emotions and clear our minds every once in a while.

Z has been at an interesting stage lately. He still has meltdowns, but he’s the only one I don’t have to worry about throwing an uncontrollable fit when it’s time to leave the park. It’s a beautiful thing to watch this level of control develop. Some days are better than others, but it won’t be long before he catches up to J in terms of temper tantrums (okay, I’m kidding). Besides just managing emotions, I have noticed something else. He is finding his own unique way of self expression.

Several months ago (Just before Z turned 6) he began to secretly write some of his frustrations out on paper when he was mad or upset. I know a lot of children do this, but as far as my observation among my friends it’s especially common for girls. The one that made me cry was when his grandparents were in town. It was time for them to head back to Texas so we walked down to their mini van and said our goodbyes. Z seemed totally fine, but after a while of not hearing a peep out of him I peeked in his room. I noticed he was drawing and I asked him about it.

He showed me a picture of the family crying in-between the van and the apartment building. I said, you miss grandma don’t you? That’s when the big tears that had been forming became too heavy to hold back anymore, and he just broke down. We called grandma and she suggested he count down the days until our Christmas trip to Texas and mark them off daily.


November-February were taped together like a calendar on his wall.

Z responded well to that idea. Later we printed December off the computer and he drew a car on the day that we were leaving and returning and put happy faces on the days we would be there.

 This wasn’t the only time he used drawing/writing to express his emotions, but it’s not always this sweet. Sometimes when Z is mad at me he will disappear to his room and write something like “I wish I was never born” or “dad is bad” or one time I found the words “I don’t like mom” crumpled up on the floor after we had a big argument. I picked it up, flattened it out and read it, but he very defensively said he was joking. I told him that I didn’t believe that and I was sad that he felt that way, but if he was ready we could talk about it. Then he said “Well, I didn’t mean it. That’s why it’s trash.” We talked about it and everything was fine. Even when it is hurtful I encourage this type of outlet because we all have to vent, and he is finding a healthy way to decompress at a very young age. How awesome is that?

I get it, because it is JUST LIKE ME. I received my first journal when I was in 2nd grade. It was a Secret Garden journal from my aunt in California. I got it for Christmas and it even had a lock and key! Then when I was in high school I started writing poetry. I have a little notebook full of pages of poetry. Poem after poem of all of my hopes, fears, and pain. Some of them were really dark. Thank goodness I used journals to cope instead of drugs right? Actually, I was never offered drugs. Still, I like to believe I chose to stay away from them (wink wink).

Yesterday after being told he was done playing the wii for the day, and then throwing a monstrous baby fit about it, he was sent his room. Moments later a paper airplane crashed just short of me with a message on it.

With broken spelling it said “If you treat me that way then I guess you don’t care about me and I see you don’t love me either” on the back it said “read and then sign here _________”. So I signed it and wrote “I will always care about you and love you no matter what, in good times and bad”. Then he signed it and wrote “thanks for the note” We had a talk about whether his behavior was respectful or disrespectful and he recognized his poor choices and that was our big melt down for the day. It was dramatic for sure, but a lot of maturity has happened in the past two years.

Z showing off the first time he tied his shoes.

I mention this because Z, as the first born, has been quite the pioneer in teaching me when to expect what as far as age appropriate development. When babies are too young to talk we understand that they are frustrated because they cannot communicate with us. Then around two, three, four (you know that blissful  stage of cooperation) they can talk and so all should be well, right? First of all we are always a work in progress so there is never a certain point that you arrive and no one ever has to deal with your crap anymore, but beyond that let’s go back to the first paragraph. How do three year olds de-stress? How do they cope? They can’t blog, they can’t go shopping, or go for a hike. They can jump around and scribble. I am sure that helps, but my point is, what if the the thing that they were inherently born with that allows them to feel a sense of relief and self gratification is not developed or discovered yet. It makes it a little easier to sympathize with them instead of just getting frustrated that they are so frustrated so often. I know there is a lot more to it than that, and I am no psychiatrist, but in the mean time I can have some grace and patience for these little bitties (and bigger kids too). In the same way that I don’t demand that a 10 month old “use their words”, a can’t expect my two year old to have a mature sense of self expression.

I would encourage you as your child gets to be around the age of 5 (according to The 5 Love Languages of Children) to see if you can recognize what activity, hobby, or interest is their healthy outlet. What can you do to nurture that God given desire in them? Or maybe you are still in search for that thing yourself. Either way we all get cranky, we are all progressing, and we all need grace.


One of Z’s first stories- The dog is red. The sky is blue. The sky is cool blue. The dog is red. I love the dog. He is my pet. The end.

By | April 10th, 2014|Schooling, Uncategorized|3 Comments

Hope For Homeschooling In Small Spaces

 One of the things I have learned along the way in this journey is how you can homeschool in a very small space. When we had to pull Z out of school last year I just began working with him in the parent lounge in the upper level of SJ’s school, and I was amazed at what we accomplished.

 It made me realize that you can homeschool almost anywhere.

If I had to share one tip for someone homeschooling with limited amount of “classroom” space I would say to become best friends with your local library.

 

I know every library is different, but even the most basic of branches have books, that much I can guarantee. This is a great way to get some free resources and not have to keep them stored. Just use, learn, and return. Our library even had “learning packs” that you check out according to themes like rhyming, manners, music, etc. Each big duffel bag included toys, games, flash cards, books, videos and more that were all focused on that one subject. It was awesome.

Now, I am not a homeschool expert by any means. I just happen to be curious about it and interested in learning more. So I asked some friends of mine to share their input about homeschooling in small spaces.

Jen and her husband have 4 children and have lived in a variety of different apartments and rental properties which all would qualify as small. She is the one that sent me the poem that I posted yesterday and she is the first one I asked to help me share tips on homeschooling in small spaces.

Her number one piece of advice was to keep things simple. When it comes to supplies and curriculum Jen likes to make sure she is using what she has and if not then get rid of it. She also says that their family table is multipurpose. They use it as a dining table, but it is also where they do school.


With three small boys at least one of them has to be running around half naked right? 

Jen not only tolerates having a smaller home, she actually appreciates it. She says “Everyone has varied reasons for homeschooling. However, usually a common denominator regardless of reasons is a desire for togetherness. Small spaces certainly provide that! Yes, some days are hard, but I wouldn’t trade it. I like being able to hear and see what is going on from my perch in the kitchen and I like that it gives us ample reason to choose an intentional lifestyle.”

Lastly Jen pointed me to a great blog resource, Raising Life Long Learners (which has tons of info on homeschooling in small spaces), and Philippians chapter 4 (an encouragement for moms in the thick of this stuff). I will definitely be checking those out.

I also want to introduce you to another friend of mine. 
Andrea is the lady I called up when I began teaching Z. She has tons of helpful advice, especially when it comes to homeschooling boys, because she has 6 of them.
That’s right, SIX! 
Andrea and her husband made do with 1,600 square feet for the longest time. They did eventually add on, but she said there is still not a ton of room to work with. I can imagine. When I asked her advice about homeschooling in small spaces she talked about using the dining room table too.
She likes to buy educational place mats (including the ASL alphabet, which makes me grin), she then covers the table with a clear table cloth she buys by the yard at Hobby Lobby.
Andrea has lots of little organizational tips like keeping art/school supplies in an over the door shoe pouch hanger, or having a “locker’ for each child which she uses crates for.
One thing I thought was neat about both ladies is that they are not trying to duplicate the traditional school environment. If you want to have a desk or a locker in your home then that might be fun, but I like the idea of learning in the home environment and just embracing that.
Let’s talk about one more friend. Ashley and her family are always on the move because of her husbands job. 
This pic of Ashley has nothing to do with homeschooling. I just wanted to show it because it’s cute.
This means small and temporary living quarters. 
It would be difficult, or impossible to switch school districts non stop, so they have chosen to homeschool on the go and it’s worked out extremely well. They use an online program called k12 which brings the virtual classroom to the student, and because it is a charter school it is completely free!

Her boys have been able to learn about the world while traveling through it!

If you are waiting for the ideal space and the perfect situation to start taking charge of your children’s education then consider some of these stories. Homeschooling isn’t for everybody, but if it is something you desire then be encouraged that there is lots HOPE, even for the littlest homeschool.
Check out my index page for more of this series
By | October 29th, 2013|Lifestyle, Schooling, Simple Living|35 Comments