Tuesday, September 11, 2012

change is good =)

For the first time in my homeschooling career, I feel like I'm in a good groove. Schoolwork and housework are going fairly smoothly (considering my circumstances of 2 kindergarteners, a preschooler, and an infant, lol).  We're following somewhat of a schedule now, which was painful for me to begin, but it’s working out well for us!

I’ve always been a “go with the flow” kinda’ gal when it comes to schooling (and housework). If everyone was in a good mood, we’d do some fun school stuff. If not, we’d wait till later. Sometimes specific school activities would be in the morning, sometimes evening. That’s how we operated for preschool…it was a blast, much of our learning was through our natural environment and woven into our days.  NOW, we’re doing kindergarten. Unfortunately, it can’t be as laid back (maybe we can reevaluate again after everyone is reading? Haha). I’m teaching two boys how to read, write, and do math.  YIKES!!!!!  I needed some structure and a plan, STAT!  I used to be amazed by the scheduled people in my life and couldn’t even begin to wrap my mind around the steps involved to get to that final product….a structured day.

There’s this book, “Managers of Their Homes”, by the Maxwells, which does just that...it helps you to create a schedule by using many small steps which help you evaluate your time and goals. After many days of evaluating my time and my goals for my household (including school, chores, personal time, etc), I FINALLY came up with a schedule. To be honest, I think I got more out of the “process” than the final schedule itself. I discovered patterns in my day that could make things flow more smoothly. So here are a few examples of some changes we’ve made…keep in mind that every household is different, this is just what worked for us. =)

#1 I am waking up before everyone else to start my day off with the Lord…even if I stay in the bed, I try to get in some reading and prayer before everyone wakes up. For 5 years now, I’ve stayed in the bed till I hear the pitter patter of little feet coming to crawl in bed with me. That can be anywhere from 700-830. I used to always say “I wish I could get up earlier…I could accomplish so much more…but I need my sleep.”  BLAH BLAH BLAH.  I was going to start getting up at 6am so I could have time to read, get dressed,  AND do some housework, but because of some chore training (discussed later), it wasn’t necessary to get up so early. So far, it’s working out well. By starting my day off in the Word, I can tell a HUGE difference in how I conduct myself throughout the day. And because of my attitude, I can tell a difference in the kiddos as well.

#2  Chore training: I must say that caring for 4 kids 5 and under keeps me busy. There are always dishes to wash, laundry to put away, things to be picked up, meals/snacks to prepare, etc. Before you know it, the day is gone. So many things are left undone, and I’m left feeling defeated. These days were becoming more and more common, to the point that I was getting down in the dumps. I felt helpless. But while reading the book I mentioned above, I realized that I was skipping an important step in my day: chore TRAINING.  I don’t expect my children to do major chores, but they’re never too young to start assuming some responsibility for their messes.

Ssoooo, we started with my biggest pet peeves: shoes and dirty dishes.  As soon as they walk through the door, I remind them to put their shoes in the shoe basket. Eventually, this will become a habit. But reminding them BEFORE the shoes are missing all over the house saves me some stress. I despise looking for shoes when we’re getting ready to go somewhere and I’m certain I can’t be the only mother alive who has threatened to make their kids go somewhere barefoot. LOL.

As for dishes, part of the solution was to keep the dishwasher emptied after dishes were clean. So we load our dishes into the dishwasher throughout the day. I remind the kids after each meal to put their dishes  and trash where they belong. At the end of the day, I wipe down the counters, the kids wipe down the table, and I turn on the dishwasher. It gets unloaded in the morning when I get up…sometimes I do it, and sometimes I have the kiddos do it. Doing this has saved me a tremendous amount of stress…a messy kitchen brings me down. Keeping the dirty dishes in the dishwasher throughout the day and wiping down the counters when a mess is made has made me a happier mama. J That means I don’t have to stare at a messy, embarrassing kitchen every day. The kids are taking responsibility for their dirty dishes so it’s a win-win situation. J

#3 Laundry….i’m back to putting away at least one load a day. This keeps me caught up, there are no piles of laundry messing up the house and stressing me out every time I walk by them. It only takes 10 or 15 minutes tops to do the laundry if it’s just one load (and the kids help)…such a small segment of time is much easier to find than an hour devoted to a MOUNTAIN of clothes. Speaking of small segments of time…

#4 I am the type of person who likes to start a task and see it through till completion. With 4 kids 5 and under, 3 of which are being homeschooled, I don’t have large chunks of time to work with. It took a lot of effort for me to fight my natural instincts on this one. I would purposely not work on something because I knew I didn’t have the time to see it through to the end. So the whole day would pass and it would feel like I didn’t get anything accomplished…yuck. Now, I have finally discovered the value behind those 5 and 10 minute breaks that just happen to fall into my lap. Rather than calling someone, checking email, reading, or whatever else floats my boat at the moment, I try to work towards my daily goals. If I devote 5 minutes to the bathroom here and there, it will likely be clean by the end of the day. If I wait on that huge chunk of time to arrive for me to clean the whole thing at once, it will never get cleaned.

#5 When scheduling school, I try to do the main subjects in the morning. If they’re not taken care of before lunch, we might as well leave it for the next day. No one’s head is in the game beyond noon.  Through working on my schedule with the book I mentioned in the beginning, I realized a pattern…my kids do best right after they’ve inhaled some sort of food and right after expelling a bunch of energy. Ssooo, we fell into a nice routine after noticing this pattern. We eat breakfast, school, break, snack, school, break, eat lunch, and then we’re done. Any unfinished work is done after *dinner*, one on one with me while Joe keeps an eye on the other kiddos. As long as they’ve either just ate something or just expelled some energy playing, I am pretty much guaranteed to have their attention.  Let me just say that this isn’t how it happens every day, but this is the ultimate goal. LOL J

I am very thankful for that book, and also thankful to Amanda for letting me borrow it. She’s helped me out so much in this large family/homeschooling journey. J 

Now my current goal is learning how to homeschool with more of a meek and quiet spirit.  The Lord is working with me on this continually, and with much prayer, I have come a long way. I want to be the same with my children always…regardless of where I am, public, at home, church, on the phone, in the middle of schooling, etc. Think about it, are you always as meek and quiet at home with your children as you are in the store? Unfortunately, I’m not…but thank God I serve a loving Savior who will forgive me and whom I can lean on for the strength to press on. I fall short daily, but the important thing is that I recognize my flaws and am continually working to better serve Him through all aspects of my life.

All of these things are just that…THINGS. As Christians, we must use every aspect of our lives to serve our Lord.  For me, the changes I’ve made have been guided by Him. I must allow my roles as a wife, mother, teacher, and homemaker to reflect my faith. 
Proverbs 31: 25-28 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.  
Titus 2: 3-5  The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

creativity at its best

Wow, I *really* shouldn't let so much time pass between my posts. hehe. Four months? Really?? Oh well.

In the past couple of months I have been brainstorming ways to make the most of my time with my kiddos...ways to encourage more creativity...ways to get to know their heart more...ways to have more one on one time with them...discover more of their individual strengths/weaknesses...and well, you get the idea. Since I've mentioned before about some of the books and blogs I've been reading, I thought I'd share some of the changes that have taken place in our home as a result.

One of the main things is the TV. Between the fact that it's white noise that's rarely actually watched and the fact that much of it is just nonsense and a waste of time, I decided to start making a special point to leave it OFF as much as possible. We're not getting rid of the cable or anything like that, but I did start making our tv time more purposeful. More importantly, I wanted them to spend more time using their imaginations. If they were bored, I didn't want them to walk by and get caught up in what was taking place on tv. I wanted them to get creative. And boy did they EVER.

I put washable crayons and markers, glue sticks, scissors, hole punchers, tape, and a stapler in a caddy and left it sitting on their big school desk. Phew, sounds risky I know. But they now have full access to these items at all times. This has been one of my favorite and most rewarding changes. My children have shown me things on paper that have given me yet another glimpse into their hearts...what's important to them, what makes them smile. =)  I cannot believe how many boxes of washable markers we have gone through and how much paper. Oh dear...the paper. There isn't a day that goes by that my office floor isn't covered in scrap paper. Anyone know where I can get the best deal on plain white paper?? (Seriously!)  haha.

Who needs to pay for decorations when your kids are constantly surprising you with different pictures scotch-taped to the walls. Now I can't imagine sleeping without Spiderman and the Incredible Hulk staring at me. haha. JK. The kids know that daddy loves to watch tv at night so they even tape pictures around his tv now.

Benjamin is notorious for his houses...I bet the kid has drawn HUNDREDS of houses in his short time of being able to draw. haha. He always comes up with new ways of drawing them too. He also loves roads, mazes, and rainbows. There are times that he's combined them for really cool drawings as well. He melts my heart. =)  Below is also the first time Benjamin ever wrote his name backwards. :P He often makes his "N" and "J" backwards so when he wrote his entire name backwards, those letters were "right". ahahaa. Anyhooo, this pic was his happy place....houses and rainbows. lol. =) The other pic was a "rainbow road".

Isaiah loves to draw random things that pop into his brain.....skyscraper, ferris wheel, and train are 3 that come to mind. He also likes to draw things and THEN decide what they are. Example: One day he drew a "watermelon attached to a pumpkin". That was the response I got when I said "It's awesome, what is it!" LOL!!! Then he asked me how to spell it so he could write what it was on the picture to give momaw Sandy as a present. :P  Just incase you can't read it, the pic on the right is raindrops, a blueberry tree, and a train with coal in it.  His imagination cracks me up.

Gracie loves to color entire pages with different colors so that there's no white left. She's like Isaiah in that she'll often scribble something and then name it. She also loves to draw pictures of mommy....which are "special". =) Each picture of mommy always has one extra scribble which she says is my "bottom". I find this disturbing and amusing at the same time...her sweet innocent mind doesn't think anything of it. And it's no big deal to her at all....no more than me having eyes, nose, and mouth. LOL!! I just don't draw any attention to it and act like it's no big deal...she'll outgrow this, right? bahahaaa.  Below is a "spider" pic...then there's a pic of me. She says the brown things are all hairbows?  =)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

why we homeschool

Homeschooling is on the RISE....the number is increasing dramatically each year. People are choosing to homeschool for many different reasons, so I thought i'd share why WE have chosen this path for our family. =) 

So why did we choose to homeschool?  Why not? Up until a couple of hundred years ago, the public school system didnt even exist. As with everything else,  we get looked at like we're crazy if we choose to do something that's outside the box. But I want our children's education to have roots in two things...God and family. These things are being lost.....lost to the hustle and bustle of "life"...lost more and more with each generation.

Our children will learn how to deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly of civilization, but it will be when they're mature enough to handle it.  Right now, they just need to be kids. Their minds are not ready for the filth of this nation at such young ages....they shouldn't have to hear about the immoral behaviors taking place around them at the ripe old age of 8.

We decided that this is what's best for our family...does that mean we think everyone should homeschool or that we think less of those who don't? No, not at all! (although some people automatically take the defense when they find out we homeschool).

I love that I can weave bible truths and character training into nearly every lesson we do. I love that we can strive to keep God at the root of our learning. I love that we can simply TALK about God in our "school" and maybe even , *gasp* say a prayer mid-studies.

It makes me uncomfortable when people automatically assume I'm the most patient person in the world just because I homeschool.....I'm just as impatient as the next mama down the street. And I honestly believe that having children is just as much "character training" for US. Each day is a test for me...a test of my patience, a test of my priorities, a test of faith....faith that God can give me the strength to deal with the 4 year old attitudes that are trying to chip away at me. We as mommies are being watched...how we deal with bad times...how we deal with stress...how we deal with loved ones in our lives. And we are teaching them every single second that they are around us....and for us homeschooling mommies, that's ALL THE TIME! Talk about an overwhelming feeling! Some days are harder than others, but it's all worth it!  Do I fail these tests???  Daily!!!! But I'm a work in progress.

I'm selfish. Time is fleeting. I want to be with my children as much as possible. Our children are small for such a short time.....I don't want to give up my time to some teacher, no matter how great he/she may be. These are my children and I'm confident that the good Lord will give me everything I need to educate them and enstill a love of learning. Sure, I need my breaks just like everyone else. And yes, I have a stack of projects a mile-high that could be accomplished in no time if I had a few free hours every day. But I do not like the idea of sending my kids to school for the day, working on homework for hours, doing bathtime, bedtime routines, and BLINK, time's up. Do it all again tomorrow....that just isn't enough time for me to bond with my kids. I WANT MORE!!  I want to have my morning snuggles. I want to teach them responsibility with chores with time left over for more fun stuff. I want them to help eachother learn a new idea/concept. I want to see their lightbulb moments when they finally get it.

I want to tailor their education to their interests. It's a proven fact that we learn best (and retain) when we're learning about something we're interested in. If they become obsessed with frogs, I can tailor their science, math, reading, english, and handwriting lessons to something pertaining to frogs.  I don't have to fit their love for frogs (or whatever interest it may be at the time) into weekends or the short amount of time during the week that they're not either eating, bathing, spending time with the family, or doing homework. I wonder if this whole concept of tailoring education to interests is why there are so many homeschooled kids who grow up to become entrepreneurs?

I love the flexibility. There's no alarm clock in the mornings...the kids sleep as late as they want (well...my cut-off is 930 but they usually start waking around 800'ish). We're not bound to vacations during peek seasons. We can have shorter homeschool days and school all year IF we choose to (who can stand to play outside when it's 90+ degrees outside anyway). I like the idea of a continuous education and not having to spend time reviewing from 3 months "off".  We haven't decided what our schooling timeframe will be, but at this point, I'm definitely leaning towards schooling all year.  If we want to schedule a playdate in the middle of the week with other kiddos (obviously homeschoolers, otherwise they wouldn't be available midday) we can just not do school that day. There's no need for a rigid structure. We can do it all in the morning or do some of it in the evening with daddy. Learning doesnt have to take place behind a desk for hours and hours....It doesn't take 7 or 8 hours of "schooling" to cover all of the needed information. A couple hours and you're done. The rest of the day can be spent exploring interests. I keep hearing of the hours of homework that my friends' kids are coming home with these days.....and I cannot imagine having to spend "my time" with "my children" doing all of that homework after having them away from me all day!!!

I want to teach my kids in whatever style they learn best. I don't want them stuck in the mold....you know, the public school system mold of how "most kids" learn best. Sure, they try to tap into all sorts of learning styles, but if you're excelling in one area and a little slow in another you're out of luck. At home, extra attention can be given to the problem areas to get caught up.  And if you need to go up a grade-level to be challenged, then go for it. I want my kids to have a custom-education...whatever is best for each of them!!

Many people wonder about the "socialization". That's the biggest misconception about homeschoolers...that they're weird and don't know how to socialize (okay, so for some this IS true, but it doesn't have to be). There are sssooooo many opportunities for my kids to socialize with other homeschoolers around here (moreso in kanawha/putnam counties than boone at the moment, but still, opportunities nonetheless). There's actually so much stuff to be involved in that it would be easy to become over-extended. lol. I've just been waiting for that magic age of 6 months for Levi to be old enough to take meds (if he were to get sick)...we're almost there and I'm ready to get out more.

So anyhoooo.....all of this is just to give a little insight into why we are choosing this path. We in no way think less of people who choose different paths. We might try to talk you into homeschooling because of how much we love it, lol, but we don't judge. It's not for everyone....and it's not easy....but the rewards are endless!!!