Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Staying Sane in the Homeschooling-Small-Children Game

So we're at the end of September. Our fourth week of getting back in the grind of school and it hasn't been completely terrible.

It's had rough moments, moments of chaos, moments of terror (like when someone cut several inches off Nora's hair), moments when everyone needed to have a nap -- including me. And really, it's basically what I've come to expect from September because September is just a tough month of transition from summer to school, and if you're homeschooling your kids a month where you've got to get things back on track in every direction. It can feel a bit like a giant wave is taking you far, far out to sea and you need to grab on to something or you're just going to throw in the towel. Just back float until someone finds you.

I've got some tips on making that transition, not that I'm an expert, but I feel like an expert on small children wrangling, the homeschooling bit gets a little hairy now and then but I feel like I'm making some strides. So if you're just starting out homeschooling, and have really little kids underfoot who you're trying to ward off from learning children then you might find something to agree with here. If you're not, you might enjoy the laugh.

Aim for routine, but know the routine will need to be adjusted.

I'm saying this mostly to myself because in my head I still want the day to go according to how I want it. 

Which means babies should nap when I want, kids should listen when I want, etc etc. Lots of dreams going on.

But in actuality, although we as the moms have to put the effort into making the routine happen consistently, we're dealing with unpredictable little people. Babies may need to nap at different times, or you may need to move your teaching time to when babies nap. You're going to have to wiggle and jiggle your daily routine until things flow as best as possible. 

Also; your kids who are learning are going to take time to adjust. A couple days, a couple weeks, may not have them settled into the routine of facing a school day and tackling school work with a happy attitude. They may need more time for things to settle in so try to stay as consistent as you can so they can learn from you that learning is happening every day.

It may never get perfect. Actually, if you've got small toddlers and kids you're trying to teach I can probably guarantee that it won't be perfect. Actually, homeschooling will never be perfect at any point. But that's ok, your kids are learning anyway, you're living your life as a family anyway. It's really a good thing. 

Give your kids and yourself time to settle into a curriculum. 

Sometimes different curriculum or subjects need to be tackled in different ways for them to work the best for you and your kids. 

Last year I was trying to cram in all the kids subjects in the morning, while trying to deal with two toddlers who were climbing the walls and screaming and generally driving me nuts. It didn't go well but somehow I thought I had to get everything done before the clock struck noon.

I then changed math time to right after lunch when the babies were usually happily playing downstairs or outside for a bit and had a lot more patience to deal with math with the three older kids.  The math program we use seems to need a bit of mom time to get them started and doing this after lunch when I was refreshed meant I taught better and the curriculum seemed less overwhelming. 

I know reading religion with my kids can be done one on one when someone is out of sorts and needs a refresher. Or maybe your kids like talking science in the afternoon during nap time. Whatever it may be if you feel stuck by a curriculum or subject try changing up when and how you fit it into the day before scrapping the curriculum completely. Although I totally understand needing to scrap curriculum entirely, it happens, no big deal.

Babies can enjoy "quiet time" by themselves and not be scarred for life.

I know, I'm probably the meanest mom on the block but every day my 2 year old goes down for quiet time in the morning for about 30 to 45 minutes while I do hands on phonics and reading with the older kids. She's been distracted and played with by this point for a good long while and just wants to cause a ruckus. She gets to sit and chill out with some books in her crib for a while and she comes out a much happier girl.

We've done this since the beginning and even when she stopped actually sleeping during these times I just kept putting her down. So far I think she's free from physiological problems and she's safe and out of my hair for a bit.

Do not feel bad about giving yourself some toddler-free time! Do not!

Trust me, I am considering having those two sentences tattooed on my body somewhere scandalous.

Wine and Mom-time are good too

Remember when I wrote about how I take a lot of little breaks in the midst of our school day? I do it to maintain a certain level of patience and it helps a lot. I think if I made myself plow through all work at one sitting I'd be completely ruined. It's just so hard to keep up with little kids from a mental point of view for that long myself, let alone their own attention spans. It helps.

But we've also got to take bigger breaks and more refreshing time. It just needs to happen especially if you've got a bunch of kids...or just one,who am I kidding?!

If you can fit in some time while the kids are at an activity: great! If you can get a babysitter or drop them off with the grandparents for a couple hours: awesome! If you need to lock yourself in your bedroom after your husband gets home with a glass of wine, Netflix, or a good book: wonderful!

You got to and need to.

Take the Long View

Life with little kids, including homeschooling small kids with smaller kids below that, changes quickly even if we can't tell. It's really easy to look at a couple days or a week and think it's all going terribly.

But take the long view -- working on your daily routine will pay off, your kids will learn much more than you realize even if they're not learning it all in a day, and you've got to take care of yourself every week if you want to homeschool for a whole school year, not just when you can fit it in.

These are really all common sense things --really, to remind myself when I'm feeling overwhelmed. Homeschooling isn't easy, it's not neat, and it has a lot of ups and downs.

But if you feel like you and your family are called to it, your children are learning and becoming better people for it, then you're on the right track even if the day has gotten away from you. You can do this, even with little kids.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Seven Quick Takes vol. 129

Joining the Philly-loving Kelly today for some quick takes, head over there for all the news of the WMOF!


Guys, I say this every week, but I truly mean to blog more than once a week! What's happening to me?!?! Actually I know what's happening to me, it's September and we've been firmly enmeshed in trying to get back on track school wise. Man, homeschooling is so pesky about the mom being all self-disciplined and in charge and stuff. So I've been really trying to go hard on making everyday routines stick, and making sure we get stuff done. You know, kicking ass and taking names. Or; in my case, teaching small children their ABC's while keeping smaller children from dismantling the furniture. So glam.


Yesterday was the quintessential fall day here. The leaves are turning golden, the air is still warm even though the sun sets early and there's frost on the ground in the morning. It's just dreamy. The leaves are on fire right now as I write this at sunset, and I wish that the leaves lasted more than the week they usually do. September is a really beautiful month. (I'm choosing to completely disregard the other day where the high was 5 degrees and I could barely send the kids out....lalalalala)


I've become a complete Pope nerd this! Actually, I've always been a Pope nerd since my World Youth Days, my reading of encyclicals for fun...yeah, pretty nerdy. But this week has been so exciting to watch the Holy Father on his visit to America. I really wish I could be there because that excitement in seeing the Pope in person is really incredible. I still remember crying as Saint John Paul II cruised past me. I just love hearing what he has to say, and honestly I love watching the side show that is the media. It's really fascinating to watch all sorts of media reactions and make something out of nothing or nothing our of something.


I did however have to bite my hand off as I saw him alongside politicians that I think are so contemptible and completely devoid of integrity. I know, they're people. I need to respect them. They have immortal souls that deserve to be blessed by the Holy Father. God loves them. But still....holy hand biting, Batman! 


I really liked the Pope's address at the White House even though it was a bit disjointed and focused a bit heavy-handedly on climate change. But the first paragraph is what I really loved:

"American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty."

I felt defended! Catholics aren't intolerant! We want justice and to treat people equitably! We want to work together for a better society! 

After the summer of brow beating, it felt good to be defended in that way, to say to America and the West what Catholics are about by Pope Francis who is so easily beloved by main stream media. Maybe that's just me blowing something out of proportion, but it really struck me and I appreciated it.


I'm glued to the tv today for the Pope's address to the UN and am really looking forward to his statements at the World Meeting of Families. I think they're going to be important, still subtle and personal to his style of public speaking, but important. 
I'm also loving following Kelly as she hits up the World Meeting of Families, make sure you check in with her!


In other non-papal new...we had a terrific episode of the podcast air this week in which Mary Lenaburg shares the powerful conclusion to her daughter Courtney's story. Mary shares the initimate moments of being with Courtney as she died, and it really brings to light the power and importance the journey of death is. I really hope you get a chance to listen to it as it's really amazing. Part 1 of the interview was here.

Also; in case Facebook refused to show you, I guest posted at Jenny's last week talking about abstinence in marriage and why we never talk about it. So cheery topic! I'm going to also publish it here in my archives in case you ever want to find it again. Or you can email me if you wanna talk.

Happy Fall weekend everyone - drink a Pumpkin Spice Latte for me! (I'm still enduring the Whole 30)

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Why Getting Your Hair Cut and Going to Spiritual Direction Have in Common

It's already the middle of September and I'm just now barely -- BARELY! -- getting back into the groove that is homeschooling, and being organized, and remembering that homeschooling and a clean house cannot co-exist at the same time. It takes a while to get back in the saddle as you know.

But as I'm crawling back up to optimal performance levels from a summer of differing routines and holidays, I've found that two things that I neglected over the summer have a lot more in common than I thought. Those two things are getting my hair cut and getting to spiritual direction. I know they seem on opposite universes but they are both pretty important to my overall well-being and mental health. They're two cornerstones of "self-care"(why do I hate using that term?) that I need to keep up with but over the course of the summer I just let them both slide.

First, my hair. I complained about it over the summer as it got frizzier and frizzer. It would be uncontrollably voluminous one day, flat as a pancake the next. By August no straight iron, hair dryer, or curling wand could make a dent in the ferocious mane. I was stuck with top knots and a variety of boring with a side of boring ponytails. And yet I was still questioning why my hair was so bad. I wanted my hair to still look good approximately four months after having it cut. I'm not super high maintenance, nor is my hair, but at the length it is right now my hair just won't look cute anymore after about 2 months post haircut. But still I didn't clue in really to the fact that because I wasn't really maintaining my hair and maybe that had something to do with the sorry state of my spilt ends.

The same thing has happened to making time for my bi-monthly spiritual direction appointment. Things would come up, my weeks never looked the same, babysitters were on vacation, I just didn't make the appointment for over four months. And yet over the summer I wondered why I kept coming up against the same issues of anxiety, the same inability to see which choices would be best to make, the same habits of anger that I wouldn't even think to pray about.

Just like my hair being unmanageable and full of split ends, I was seeing split ends in my prayer life. I wasn't making time for small moments of prayer. I felt unguided in prayer, I would just look for the easy top knot of prayer, go through the motions, and not bother going farther than that. It just wasn't working for me and suddenly it dawned on me that I hadn't visited my spiritual director in months and maybe that's why I was getting sidetracked and bogged down in my own head. What a concept! What an epiphany! These things that I think I can put off indefinitely have direct consequences that build and build until I'm really in the weeds when it comes to looking half decent, and having a functioning prayer life.

This isn't an epiphany to you, I know, but I thought I should spill the beans on how a really wonderful, busy, fun, memorable summer with the kids and living the happy-go-lucky, carefree, off-from-homeschooling summer made me lazy when it came to making time for myself. The hardest part is making the appointment and putting it on the calendar, and since I've done that with both it's amazing how much better my hair looks and how much easier it is to put a little time and effort into praying everyday.

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Seven Quick Takes vol. 128 - I'm Hosting This Week!


Welcome, everybody!
As you can see you're not in Kelly's hood anymore but I'm thrilled you're here!
 I can hardly believe that I'm hosting the illustrious Seven Quick Takes today -- I've been joining SQT for years and have apparently done this 127 times before so I at least have some experience to call upon since Kelly called me into action. Thanks for stopping by my little piece of the inter webs!


My children -- who don't believe in looking at cameras.

For those of you who are checking in for the first time I'm the stay at home mom to 5 little-ish people whom we homeschool up here in northern Canada. I'm a lifelong Catholic who was also homeschooled for almost the entirety of my schooling career so I've got a bit of experience when it comes to spending time at home, hanging out with crazy kids all day, and not worrying getting everything done on a "lesson plan" -- all of which are things that are kind of the hardest parts of actually homeschooling. This year three of my kids are going to be learning and although things are often crazy with two younger toddlers running around the house with wild abandon while we try to learn phonics, we're giving it another kick at the can starting Tuesday.


We also sorta live in the middle of nowhere. Which is a big part of why we homeschool, and a large part of what makes me want to blog and write at all. We're about 16 miles from the nearest town of 1000 people, and 100 miles from the nearest city with a Starbucks and a Costco. And while I'd like to be uber-trendy and claim we "homestead", we really live on my parents cattle ranch and reap all the rewards of their organic raised beef, pigs, and chickens. So far it's worked out well in that I don't have to clean out a barn full of hens all winter, but my kids still get to chase chickens everyday. 


I'm a huge G.K. Chesterton fan and am usually reading something of his at any given time and this week I read this quote that I found so right on the money:

"One of the chief nuisances of our time is a swarm of little things, in the form of little thoughts...the buzz of dull flippancy...the omnipresence of the insignificant."
(Illustrated London News, Oct. 22, 1932)

"Dull flippancy" can describe so much of what takes up our time on social media. We're so caught up in the swarm of little trending topics that we completely miss the world changing headlines like the destruction of ancient temples by barbarian terrorists or the deaths of innocent refugees. And I know I say that as someone part of the problem, but I wish it was easier to not get so caught up in our time of omnipresent insignificance. I can't believe G.K stated this so well over 80 years ago.


Since I'm Canadian I don't really have to deal with the absurdity that is the US presidential election, and yet I just can't turn away! Every day I am still shocked that actual human beings think Donald Trump can be President. I mean, it's crazy that someone can make Arnold Schwarzenegger look like a statesman of Winston Churchill proportions, but there you go! Now I'm not saying Canadian politicians are brilliant, well adjusted, qualified, and/or interesting people, but...Donald Trump! Reading Archbishop Chaput's statement this week was a breathe of fresh, common sensical air.


This is what my life has come to everybody: My boys went on a "boy camping trip" with my husband for a couple days, while my oldest daughter went to the city to stay with her aunt, which left me with just Nora our 2 year old for the day and a night. And do you know the first thing I did? I cleaned the house, washed the floors, and cleaned windows just so that I could enjoy the most time I possibly could with a clean house. And I am soaking it up let me tell you! Did I wake up suddenly 100 years old that I get so much pleasure/excitement out of a clean house? Apparently so. But it feels glorious I tell you....glorious!


My happiness in my clean-for-more-than-ten-minutes-home became complete when I listened to Stephen Colbert's reading of Flannery O'Connor's story "The Enduring Chill." He reads this story so marvellously. His southern accent is, of course, perfect and his renderings of the characters are spot-on. Not to mention it is such a humorous story with the usual Flannery signature powerful ending. Really amazing.

Thanks so much for stopping by today while Kelly enjoys her road trip - I look forward to reading your posts and finding great new blogs! Happy long weekend!

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