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?

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!

 

 

 

Praying With Your Kids

I’m about to confess something…

We’ve only been praying at bedtime for about a month.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’m also happy that we’ve made it a part of our routine.

In the past, I’ve prayed with and for my kids when we’ve had rough times. I haven’t been perfect about turning to prayer, but Ive been known to on occasion.

Big has started seeking His guidance on her own! She lost a book given to her for her Kinder reading club. We’ve looked everywhere, except for where it is! After an hour of looking, she tells me, “I prayed to God to find it. I hope He does!”

Begin the lesson of God’s Perfect Timing.

Yesterday I let Big stay up from her Quiet Time. Normally, she gets an hour or two of peace in my room. She rarely sleeps, but it’s pretty evident when she doesn’t get that QT. Bed time is filled with drama. She cries at who physically puts her in bed. She cries because she’s lonely (nevermind that she shares a bunkbed with Middle). She cries because her music is too loud. She cries because her music is too soft. She cries because she doesn’t have her “Cry Bear” and the 40 other toys on her bed won’t suffice.

Drama.

Now, Big is the last one we tuck in. By her bedtime, I’m done. My brain is melting from the day and I want to spend a little time on the couch watching Tosh.O and cringing at his crassness.

Last night, the drama started to get to me. I found myself getting frustrated and angry at Big’s loneliness and tears for what I felt was inconsequential.

Then she said the ONLY thing that would make me stop in my tracks.

“Mama, would you pray for me?”

It caught me so off guard that I just stood there, fists clenched, and breath heavy.

Then I put my anger aside, which took everything I had, and I asked her what she wanted me to pray for.

“My attitude”, she quietly tells me.

So I take a deep breath and hold her close. And I prayed. Outloud. For her. For me.

When I was done, she said “thanks. I hope it works, and I hope God finds my book.”

Ahhhh, 5-year olds…

Teachable Moments

We had such a wonderful weekend, celebrating my mom’s 66th birthday, starting our 4th Financial Peace Class (that has 3xs the number of people of our largest class to date!), and hanging out with friends to watch the Super Bowl (I was rooting for the Pats, since Tom Brady is cuter than Eli Manning. Had it been Peyton Manning, I may have gone that direction, cuz he’s one funny dude.)

I woke up early yesterday morning and didn’t really know what to do with myself. I thought of the million and a half things I *could* do, but nothing felt like it had any meaning, nor would it give me the right start I wanted for the day. So, I sat at my computer and just started watching videos I’ve taken with my phone.

I used to treat Big SO differently. I know that her age (5) has always been a difficult one for me to deal with. The sassing. The independent thoughts. The wanting to do everything for themselves even though it takes 10xs longer. It’s just rough for me. Now, Middle? I could listen to her 2.5 year old rambles for hours, more or less.

But I’m harsh with Big. I expect a lot of her, not just because she’s older, but because I know she is capable of doing the things I ask of her. I don’t think about the fact that things are taking her 10xs as long to do, so she has this seemingly never-ending string of “mommy needs…” that she is being asked to tend to.

Watching those videos, I am struck by how patient and understanding I was of her trying so hard to do things. And 5 is NOT a grown-up. I really need to stop acting like it is.

I’m starting to lead a small book study with a group of girlfriends today on the book Spiritual Parenting by Michelle Anthony. One of the things it says is that it’s not our job to manage our children’s behavior, but rather to put them into the path of the Divine with “teachable moments”.

Well, no wonder managing their behavior is so exhausting! It’s not my main purpose in parenting! And I now recognize that I was embracing Big’s teachable moments so much more when she was younger (and I didn’t have two other kids needing near constant attention).

The first step to change is acknowledging a problem.

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?

 

The Anatomy of a Mean Mommy

Big’s tantrums usually last about 5 minutes. 10, max. Not, bad, right? What’s my secret?

I usually go in for the kill after about 5 minutes. I put on my “Mean Mommy” face and extremely sternly say “THAT’S ENOUGH!” Add in a couple of Scary Mommy head spins, some Angry Mommy fire coming from my mouth, and PO’ed Mommy steam coming from my ears, and I’ve scared the tantrum right out of her!

I hate it.

I hate turning into the head spinning, fire spitting, screaming lunatic Mommy. It’s not what I want my kids to see nor is it what I want to model to them. AT ALL.

But, being Compassionate, Understanding, Caring Mommy, always came with a price. Or so I had come to believe.

We’ve, once again, picked up the Love and Logic book to deal with behavior issues. Today, I spent 4 solid hours doling out choices and listening to the ensuing tantrums that resulted from the kids picking one choice with their mouths (“would you like to stop crying and get to keep your stuffed kitty…”), but choosing the other choice with their actions (“…or would you like to keep crying and not get to keep your stuffed kitty?”)

FOUR HOURS.

Big screamed through her entire 1.5 hour quiet time (but oddly found time to make my bed for me). Middle cried for half of her quiet time, only settling down for the last 30 minutes because Big was done with her QT and already eating dinner.

Dinner. At 3:30.

I was DONE.

I’ll spare you the details of the longest 4 hours of my life, but suffice it to say, straight Love and Logic just isn’t going to cut it for my girls. The sing-songy tone and the constant choices seemed to rile them up more, not to mention they had NO idea what to do with Compassionate, Understanding, and Caring Mommy. The calmer I was, the more worked up they got.

However, I think we can ALL do without Mean, Scary, Angry, Po’ed Mommy.

I’ll have to focus on introducing them to Firm and Loving Mommy. I like her best.

Top 5: Why I Want to Be Big

(Big as in my eldest daughter, not Big as in totally awesome 80’s movie starring Tom Hanks)

5) She wakes up ready to tackle each day with such zest and zeal! The girl can wake up at 6am (not my favorite habit these days), dress herself, and emerge from the safety of her room with great anticipation of what her day holds. She doesn’t crawl out of bed needing caffeine. She doesn’t stand at her closet and wonder what to wear (more on that in a minute). She certainly doesn’t wake up anticipating what things will upset her in a day. Not to mention the fact that she runs from one room to another, like a little speeding train that has a schedule to keep. Our house isn’t big enough for her to get behind schedule!

4) She thinks good conversation is a perfect substitute for a healthy meal. The number of times we’ve had to say “I care about what you have to say, but now is time to eat”, and “BIG. EAT”, because she is so wrapped up in telling us about the characters on her sister’s sippy cup (yes, it’s still a poodle…. Mommy’s poodle growing up was named Annabelle… yes, I remember seeing a black poodle walking that ONE time… no, I don’t know what that dog’s name was… BIG.EAT). But she girl is growing relationships right before my eyes. She’s bonding with her sister. She’s connecting with her parents. She’s discovering the world (and as I type this, she is making her “hair fly”. BIG.EAT).

3) She could rival Lady Gaga Bjork in the fashion department (no meat suits here, but I could totally see her fawning over the swan dress). I admire her uniqueness and I pray that she stays true to her own vision in so many aspects of her life, not just clothes. I’ve let her pick her own outfits since she was about 2 year old, and she comes up with some ah-mazing outfits. Long-sleeved red and green velvet Christmas dress  with hot pink argyle knee socks in June? Par for the course. Spaghetti strap sundress and flip flops in December? Nothin’ wrong with that! A bright red white and blue flowered shirt and pink, brown and white polka dotted pants? Yup. At least she’s safely made it out of the I-like-to-wear-diapers/underwear-on-my-head phase. That went on for quite some time.

2) She’s a wonderful judge of character. Day one of her preschool career, she found “the one”. She and her best friend, I’ll call her Punky, became inseparable after Punky was having a hard time with her parents leaving and Big approached her and said “It’s ok. You can hang out with me”. At dinner we’d ask her what he favorite part of school that day was she she’d always answer “Punky”. I swear, you’d think Punky was the only other kid in her class. I’m sure the rockin’ attire Punky often sports was one of the reasons Big admires her so. Punky is as sweet, as sensitive, and as loyal as Big is, making them a powerful duo. It’s been incredible to see her choose her own friends, not just kids of my friends, because I’m proud of who she identifies with. They aren’t rough-and-tumble. They aren’t blatantly disrespectful. They aren’t bullies.

1) She is capable of new mercies every day. Talk about amazing. I could be spitting fire at her all day and she still wants to snuggle with me at the end of the day. God’s mercies are new every morning, and I have no doubt that He is showing me that it’s possible for my mercies to be new every morning through my Big.

Thank You, God.