We’re Homeschooling.

After many tries at making this post into some beautifully written piece, that would spiderweb out to the masses because it is just *so* well put, that it might help make others struggling with the same decision see which direction they should go, that they could dicern for themselves and their families the path chosen for them.

It just ain’t happenin’.

Sorry folks.

But I can do a list! (Truth be told, I can ALWAYS do a list)

Top #10 Reasons We’ve Decided to Homeschool

1. I am a teacher, I’m just not credentialed. I got my degree in Liberal Studies with an Early Childhood Education Option when Big was 22 months old. I never became credentialed because I never needed to be.

2. When I think of how impressionable my children are, I ask myself, “who do I want impressing upon them?”. The answer is simple: ME.

3. Big will have a teacher:student ratio of 1:1, not 1:32. Homeschooled children learn the same amount (or more) than non-homechooled children in less time because of this.

4. I’m not really sure why, at 5 years old, society-at-large decides we are no longer capable of teaching our own children, even though birth-5 years is an incredibly important range for building foundations.

5. No one is more invested in my child’s success in learning than I am.

6. We will be able to live by our own body rhythms. No more barking at Big to eat her breakfast, get dressed, stop asking questions because “we’re late”.

7. We can teach those pesky life skills, like how to do laundry, plan a menu, and common sense with money.

8.  We sent our kids to a play-based preschool because we see a huge value in learning through play, which Big only gets in the form of 2 recesses a day.

9. Our kids can learn at their own pace, and in a style that they enjoy. I have a feeling my house will be FILLED with arts and crafts.

10. When we look to retire in 6ish years, we are free to move wherever the Lord takes us. Big is a fiercely loyal child, and I’ve always figured the move would be hard on her. This way, she will be able to take her school with her!

So, there you have it. Our big, life-changing news. Wasn’t that exciting?

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Raw Parenting

Raw Parenting is being real with your kids.

I’m not talking about saying sorry to them when you screw up (though it’s a great thing to do so), it’s about not sheltering them for the very real, the very rawness, the very brokenness that is our world. Before I get into it, you need a little background:

Middle is a resistant eater.

If it *might* be too spicy, she won’t try it.

If she can’t identify the “mystery green”, she won’t try it (it’s usually some kind of herb).

If it’s too hot, she won’t try it, even 10 minutes later, when it’s starting to congeal.

If it’s got anything “foreign” on it (dog hair, human hair, a brown spot, etc.), she won’t try it.

Last night, I threw away an insane amount of food. It broke my heart, mainly because the fam had eaten a pretty decent amount, even praising the food! (“this is REALLY good, Mom!”.)

I’m pretty good at only dishing up as much as my family will eat, and saving the rest for leftovers, but a pre-dressed salad doesn’t exactly translate to “leftovers” well. You know what else doesn’t translate well to leftovers?

BANANAS

Middle asked for a banana. “Not a whole one, just a half. I’ll share with Little. And I want it like a monkey” (peel still on).

After “filling her order”, she went on her merry way to the family room. Suddenly, I hear “AAAAHHHHHHRRRRRGGGGGGGG!!!! There’s HAIR on my banana!”

I usher her up to the counter, so she can eat in a more hair-free environment. But she just stares at the totally untouched slightly touched manhandled-by-a-3-year-old-but-unbitten banana and proceeds to throw a fit. I’m talking massive tears, splotchy skin, and snot trail galore.

Now, here is the Mom Dilemma. EVERYTHING you read tells you to not make a big deal about food because it encourages eating disorders and general craziness in regards to food. It eats away (pun not intended) at me every time I nag my kids to eat.

But she ASKED for the banana. I served it up exactly as ordered. She chose to take it to the hair-pit that is the family room. But still, I’m left throwing the banana away. (actually, I ended up giving it to Little. I’m pretty sure she thinks hair is extra protein).

I calmly sent Middle to her room, because I didn’t want her to see me give Little the banana she refused to eat. She went, making sure the world knew she was unhappy about it.

I’m at a loss. How do I not create issues for her in the future? How do I make her understand that she should be thankful for the fresh fruit I am able to give her, hairy or not? How do I parent her through this?

So I turned to the Google Machine.

I didn’t Google “How to get my 3-year old to eat a hairy banana” (though, now that I type that out, I am curious what the search would yield).

I googled “starving child”.

Once I found the picture that I thought would be understood the most (ie, the most like HER) I took the picture in to a screaming Middle. Before showing it to her, I talked to her. I asked her why she didn’t want the banana (“I want a plate”). I asked her how she felt when she was really really hungry. (“not good. I feel bad.”).

I told her about children that eat off the ground because they have to. I told her about children that have never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a quesadilla, or pasta with cheese. I told her about the children that feel “not good” all day, every day.

She stopped crying. She stared at me. Like I was kidding.

Then I showed her the picture.

I didn’t throw it in her face. I didn’t wag my finger at her. I just explained that this hurting is in our world and that we are extremely blessed to have food, clean water, doctors, and to “feel good” most of the time.

I’m not sure she “got it”, but I know I did my best at presenting it in a way her 3-year old brain could understand.

Sure, I want to protect my kids, but shelter? No thanks.

Behavior Modification In A Sassy Kindergartener

Big is 5.5. Generally speaking, she’s obedient, loving, kind-hearted, and great with The Littles. However, at 5.5, she’s learning new things at school and on TV (now that it’s not just Blue’s Clues and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse) that I’m not comfortable with.

My mom gracious took the two Bigs for an over-nighter at her house, leaving us with one blissfully simple 7-month old to deal with. At some point in the day, Big didn’t like that Nana and Middle were playing bubbles outside. She had been invited, but refused to put her shoes and jacket on. Rightfully so, Nana told her she couldn’t come out until she did. (Good job, Nana!). As a result, Big was less than pleased, and took to putting her new writing skills to task. She wrote Middle a letter:

“Dear Middle. I hate you. I don’t like you.”

SAY WHAT?!?!

Nana saw the letter and told her she would have to tell Mommy and Daddy, which Big wasn’t super pumped about (*shocker*). But I’m glad she did. Big had told Nana she learned this type of talk from “a movie she saw at [her friends] house a long time ago” (names have been omitted to protect the child’s mom from feeling guilty about it 😉 ).

The hubby wanted to turn the car around and immediately drive the 30 minutes (at 7pm, with a cranky baby in the backseat) to pick Big up. I was able to finagle him into waiting until the next day, allowing us to talk reasonably about a fitting punishment consequence action to take.

In our house, we try our best to talk kindly to each other. We don’t always reach the mark, but we certainly don’t tell each other that we “hate” them or anything close to it. We encourage kind words as often as possible, and I really felt like we should encourage that, instead of laying into Big for her actions, when really, she was testing the waters of what is acceptable in our family (and just how much she could get away with at Nana and Papa’s house!)

We decided, rather peacefully, to take the following course of action:

1) Big cannot watch TV for 1 week because she learned the language from TV.

2) Big must write down 10 things on index cards, each day of her TV restriction, that she loves about Middle. She must write down two extra for every time she asks to watch a show or throws a fit when she isn’t allowed to. Not only will it put loving thoughts in her head about her sister, it also gives her a chance to work on her penmanship.

So far, she has the following (spelling corrected to spare you the brainache):

1) Middle is cuddly

2) I like Middle. She gives me hugs and kisses.

3) Middle is the best.

4) Middle is nice to me.

5) Middle is happy when we get together.

6) Middle can keep up with me.

7) Middle is helping.

8) When Middle is still, I can do her hair.

9) Middle is sharing.

10) Middle is loving

I went to the $.99 Store and bought 200 index cards and 3 plastic index card holders. I’ll be decorating each box for each kid, and it’s going to be their “Things I Love About You” box. I think it’ll be neat to open it up on occasion and be reminded about all of the things we love about each other!

 

 

 

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep…

Like so many other families, we have our fair share of bedtime struggles. When Big was a baby, we’d fallen prey to OBS (Only Baby Syndrome). We had a hard time hearing her cry, and made sure she was completely asleep before putting her in her crib. We’d sneak out of the nursery, hoping our bodies wouldn’t betray us with a knee or an ankle crack, because it meant we would have to start at the beginning. Or the world would betray us with a large truck driving in front of our house, the dogs barking, or our neighbors bringing in their trash cans. How dare they.

As Big grew, so did her bedtime routine. It wasn’t just a bath, teeth, PJs, potty, stories, songs, and kisses. It was a fresh cup of water. It was a song from her Music Dolls. It was 2 songs from her Music Dolls. It was THREE songs from her Music Dolls. It was BunBun, BunBun’s blanket, and BunBun’s lovey. Once the Bigs shared a room, it was Middle talking. It was Middle climbing the ladder of the bunkbed. It was the Enya music was too loud/soft. It was the light was too bright/too dim.

It’s always been *something*.

My beef isn’t so much the fact that there is always *something*. It’s that the *something* always happens after we’ve tucked in, kissed, and closed the door. Sometimes she (they) would come out, and sometimes she (they) would just holler from their beds. Sometimes the holler would turn into crying. I’d gotten so fed up, that I would sternly open the door and just say “THAT’S ENOUGH. GO.TO.SLEEP”.

I didn’t like the fact that the last image they had of me before going to bed was Angry Mommy (I’m sensing a theme here….)

So, I’m doing something new.

Ideally, my kids would

  • eat a good dinner
  • neaten up the house
  • take care of their hygienic needs
  • put their dirty clothes in the hamper, not stuffed in a drawer or back of the closet.
  • go to bed peacefully without the up and down or hollers.

So, for the past 2 nights, I’ve been rewarding them for the good behavior that I want to see (what a concept!). I picked out 7 bedtime appropriate books (semi-short, bedtime themed, and/or a good message.) For each good behavior, they can earn a book from the bedtime box! Since our biggest issue comes after all of the “chores” are done (staying in bed and not hollering/crying), they can earn a book for the next night if they go to bed peacefully. That book can’t be taken away (though The Hubby doesn’t agree with this. I think it would backfire if it could be taken away because then the incentive isn’t as effective, IMO).

For the first time, both of my kids have cleaned their plates at dinner two nights in a row (I’ve been trying really hard to make things they’d enjoy and giving them appetite appropriate portions. They can ask for seconds), and not fought when cleaning up the house. I asked them to clean up the family room while I put Little down for bed, and came out to find that only Big did the work while Middle sat on the couch, so Middle didn’t get a book for that one.

They each get their books read to them separately, too. So, not only do they get some good reading time in, they also get to pick whatever they want to read (as long as it’s from the bedtime box), and they get one-on-one time with Mommy and Daddy. When Middle is getting her books read to her, Big is in the bath and brushing her teeth. When Big is getting her books read to her, Middle is in bed and calming down a bit before her sister gets in bed. It works out really well!

Big seems to be highly motivated to do a good job with her “duties” so she can get lots of books. We used to only read 1-2 books, so SIX books on a really good night just blows her mind!

Middle woke up this morning asking for the “Teddy Bear Book”, which is the book she picked out last night as her reward for having a good bedtime. I gave her a big hug and told her I was super proud of her good bedtime last night and was looking forward to reading her the Teddy Bear Book tonight at bedtime because of it!

Right now, I’m just verbally telling them what will earn them books and as we sit down to pick the books from the box, we count them on our fingers again. In the very near future, I’ll have a picture chart so they can be self motivated to get things done.

Another thing that’s been helpful is that I don’t care what order things are done, as long as things get done. They can clean up before dinner. They can brush their teeth before or after they get dressed. They can clean up the house after their baths. It just has to get done before the books get picked.

Two nights of successful bedtimes and staying in bed until 7am (for the first time since the time change) is a good start, wouldn’t you say?

 

36 Weeks

I’m officially in “the home stretch” (in so many ways, but that’s not what this is about…)

My past two labors were natural labors. With Big, I went into it thinking my body was made to birth a child. I kept saying I was just going in to it with one expectation: Healthy Baby and Healthy Mommy. If that meant medical intervention, so be it. While I had no pain meds, I did opt for pitocin to kick-start labor. I was a first time mommy and I was anxious to meet my baby, to say the least! And I was naive. I had NO idea what I was in for. I asked for drugs three times. Twice in the throws of a contraction (to which my nurse told me she wouldn’t give me drugs if I asked while having a contraction) and once more immediately after the contraction that she had said that to me ended. But it was too late. On came another… and another… and another. And then BABY.

I had Middle three years later. After laboring at home for 30 hours, I had an acupuncturist come to the house to “stick me”. 5 needles and 10 minutes later, I was RUNNING out the door to the hospital. I was in check-in for what felt like an hour (what’s the point of the pre-admin forms you are supposed to fill out, I ask??), in triage for an hour, and in my room for a whopping 30 minutes before I was holding Middle in my arms. I remember very little of that labor process except for asking the Hubby, whilst still in triage, “Why am I doing this naturally again??”, to which he answered “because you can”. If you ask me how Middle’s labor was, I’d answer frantic. I felt out of control. I felt rushed. I felt scared. I felt panicked. I rarely think of the frustrating 30-hour pre-hosptial laboring.

And now I’m approaching my third, and final, labor process. I’m scared in a hopeful way. This go around, I’m a devoted Christian, and I know God will take care of my fears. He will comfort me. He will be my Healer, my Coach, my Protector, my Guide. He made this body of mine to birth a child, not to be carried away in the pain of it (thanks, Eve). In my Bible study, we are talking about expecting God to act. If you ask, expect results. It shows the greatest amount of faith. Having gone through the immense pain of childbirth twice before, I pray that God gives me patience, strength, perseverance, and understanding of my body, which He wonderfully made. I pray that I can feel Him in the room, though I’ll only have the medical staff and the Hubby in physical presence. I pray that I can honor Him when my basic nature, the one that He put in me, takes over my mind to welcome my child.

 

 

A Tale of Two Schools

Big is officially enrolled in our Neighborhood School to start Kindergarten in the Fall!

There is just one little problem with this… Every time I drive past Neighborhood School, my heart sinks.

Strike #1: The school grounds. The playground is dinky and often sports graffiti. The grounds seem dingy and unkept. There is always trash littered around the playground area and the water fountains only spout off a small trickle Ummm…hello. When you were thirsty as a kid, you didn’t care what you had to do to get some agua, including encompassing the spout with your whole mouth. Don’t try to pretend like you never did it. As a parent, this act gives me the heebie jeebies, and though I’m Type-A, I’m not a germaphobe. But seriously. Gross.

I’m totally judging a school by it’s cover. I’ve never been in one of the classrooms. I’ve never spoken to any of the teachers, except to thank them for their time when Big went through the Kinder assessment (what a joke that is, BTW).

Strike #2: The Left Hand Doesn’t Know what the Right Hand is Doing. Registration Day, I head out with Big and Middle in tow and Little in-utero. I’m there, as per usual, before the doors open, so I can be in and out. I don’t pack much of a snack for the kids, since I have almost all (see Strike #3) of my paperwork ready to go and I’ve heard it’s a pretty easy process. They open the doors a few minutes before they are actually ready to help people. When I walk in, I approach the two ladies behind the table. They tell me they are the Parent Committee (ie PTA) and not the registration people. They tell me to have a seat since they aren’t ready to help folks. I do.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m now getting antsy, as are my kids, because it doesn’t appear to be starting. I’m watching the table, and while there are occasional conversations, nothing looks official. Turns out, those occasional conversations are people signing their names to a list. For registration. At the other end of the table. Hellloooooo, PTA ladies… you couldn’t have pointed in their direction when I was the second one in the room?? Now I am at the back of the pack, no snacks, no water, two cranky kids, and a *very* testy pregnant lady. There are a good 15 people in front of me. Awesome. TWO HOURS later, we’re finally on our way home.

Strike #3: Disorganization. A Type-A’s worst nightmare. When I registered Big for school, I had all the paperwork except for her immunization report because we already had an appointment with the pediatrician for Middle’s 18 month check up but it wasn’t until the following week. I was told I could just bring in to the office at a later date. Like any diligent parent would, I took the report to the office the next week, had it photocopied, and bid the office lady adieu. Two months later, I get a letter from the school that says Big can’t be enrolled until they have her immunization report. *sigh*

I’ve had the second immunization report in my car for months now and I just can’t seem to bring myself to drop it off. Again.

So, that’s Neighborhood School.

Then there is the Back-to-Basics school. (I swear, angels sing and the sun shines brighter when I say that.)

The B2B school holds high academic expectations, parent involvement, and responsible student behavior. Hmmm… sounds suspiciously like what we strive to do at home!

The B2B school has a long wait list (sometimes 2 years, depending on how many siblings enroll for Kinder, since they get first priority), but I’ve got to say. They’ve got their act together! You are allowed to drop off your wait list application between 1:30 and 3:00pm on one day each week. The process, though strict in it’s time availability, is completely painless, as they know how to get people on their way. You sign a contract stating you understand what is expected of you, your family, and your student, and that, should you not adhere to the rules, you will be asked to attend another program.

When I dropped off the application today, I got my first glimpse of the grounds. Clean. Cute murals in the hallways. No obvious trash nor graffiti. Beautiful spring flowers blooming and the grass had more actual blades of grass growing than dandelions or those little white weedy flowers. The yellow line that kids are supposed to walk on while in the halls is still visible, even after a year of being trodden on by grammar school kids! I knew in my heart that this was a good place for my kid to learn.

The Neighborhood School website leaves *much* to be desired and doesn’t appear to have been updated at all in the past year, but the B2B website is thorough, updated, and appealing to look at. Silly to be so drawn to a website as a “win” for a school, but in an age where computers are so prevalent, I want to pop onto my kid’s school’s website to check for important reminders and announcements, or the cafeteria’s menu for the month. (On a related note: when did schools start serving breakfast too? Can you say AWESOME?)

Since I only just got Big on the wait list today for the B2B school, chances are that she won’t be admitted for Kinder. Luckily, her wait list status gets rolled over to the next year, so attending for 1st grade has a much better outlook. I had considered putting her on the wait list when she turned 3, as per their rules, but I put it off and put it off and put it off until it was too late. I’m not sure I’ll ever stop kicking myself for not going with my gut on this one.

I’m sending some special prayers to God to put us in the right school for our family, and that, should we have the chance to transfer schools next year, that Big will make the adjustment well.