Posted in Education, Family, teaching

Kind of-Sort of-Unschooling

Unschooling seemed too out there for me when I first read about it. To be fair, homeschooling seemed too out there when I first thought about actually doing it. But unschooling was waaaaay out there. I read two or three articles about it and just went on my way. No curriculum? No lesson plans? No schedule? I can’t function like that, how would she even learn?

After a few months of homeschooling in the traditional sense (ie curriculum that mirrors traditional school) for my five-year-old, I am now thinking more about the theories behind unschooling and why they could be helpful for us. I have become a huge fan Sir Ken Robinson over the past few months and have done a lot of research for my continuing education on our public education system. That alone made me question why I was breaking up our learning the way that I was…because I was trying to copy what traditional school was doing. But why? Is that really the best way for them to learn? Who says? (more about that in my book *insert shameful plug here*)

One book about unschooling I enjoyed—>

I had planned our curriculum for the year by August. I had broken it down weekly. Now I wish I could have those two weeks of my life back. It’s been quite the road of frustration and learning on my end. Some of the lessons and ideas Gigi clicked with, others she didn’t. She does have special needs so I try to be as flexible with the timing of things as possible but I wasn’t caving on what we were learning. Maybe I should be? That’s the point of homeschooling in a broad sense is to cater better to your child’s educational needs.

For those of you who may be thinking about it, or just curious about what unschooling is, here’s what I’ve gathered and what I’m concerned with (maybe experienced unschoolers can correct any misconceptions I have):

Interests lead learning- this part makes sense. My daughter digests lessons that she’s picked out better than ones that I do. That seems like a no-brainer. If she’s interested in something she will want to learn, therefore she will learn.

So we are starting to implement that. I’ve left my type A, list making, yearly schedule on hold and asked her what subjects she wants. I had everything planned in the order I assumed she’d be learning at public kindergarten. Plus some extra stuff just for fun. We finished up mammals and we’re going to move to birds. She said no, she wants to learn about frogs. So frogs it is. Frogs and nutcrackers are our focus for December. We will see how the learning develops as we paint nutcrackers, watch the ballet, and maybe go frog hunting if it’s not freezing.

Subjects shouldn’t be divided- The idea is that is all subjects can stem from one original interest. This is not as concrete but as I continue to learn about the concept it is understandable.

For example, one of the first things my daughter said she wanted to learn about was Native Americans. Timing wise that worked out perfectly since we started in October and ended in November. Using videos, books, and worksheets we learned about the Woodland Indians. We learned geography studying a map of America and where their tribes were. We learned science by reading and discussing how they grew crops, the seasons, and the animals in that area. I left out the whole slaughtering of millions of people post the first Thanksgiving and how sordid our history really is. Maybe first grade…

This seems to flow well but the fact that I can’t track what we’re learning ahead of time is something I will have to adjust to. For the purposes of portfolio reviews (every state/county is different but where I live you do two a year and they have to approve your learning milestones) I will have to at least in retrospect try to document what we’ve covered.

Reading and math- My biggest pause with unschooling is the way a child learns to read. Unschooling philosophy says that children will pick it up as you go. Which basically means unschooling uses whole word learning applications. A child learns to read by being read to and then eventually, they will remember words and letters they see and piece them together on their own. Whole word learning isn’t wrong by any means but as a librarian, I feel like the mixed method approach is the best. Maybe? Learning phonics is just as important, at least I’ve always thought so.

Same goes for math. I get that you learn math everywhere- grocery store, counting flowers outside, counting clouds. But what about multiplication? Evens and odds? I get that some mathematical concepts can be a very natural learning process but some may not be so much.

These are the only two areas I think I will continue to try using worksheets and books. To be fair, my daughter does not like writing some days but she really wants to read. We are doing whole word applications with books that she picks out from the library. This has given her the reins on what she is learning to read. We also read My World books or BOB Books.
Are they exciting? No, but I explained to her those books break it down so that she can recognize the words when she sees them again on her own so she asks for them now during our reading time. They do work.

 

Phonics and spelling we will continue to use ABC Mouse, Brainquest, and Scholastic. I use the mix because they all have a different approach. As long as the time we spend on them is not long (like not past ten to fifteen minutes) we can usually get through a letter or sound without any pushback. That was another lesson for me being a first-time homeschooler. I was used to teaching in 45-minute blocks. At home, with one ADHD child with other stimuli around, ten minutes. Get it or get out.

The conclusion to all this is I still am learning the best way to homeschool a special needs child. Our schedule has not been consistent because of my job but that is ending in the next few weeks. I hope to be able to offer her more freedom and more creative learning utilizing her interests. So far, I know we will have to change the spring and summer curriculum I developed. Instead of learning things chronologically to mirror the traditional kindergarten classroom we will be:

A) Doing much more baking and cooking. Gigi loves baking and wants to open her own business. We are going to start writing down our recipes, creating new ones, finding places to bake for (ie nursing homes, her co-op group, family), and how to create more healthy recipes. We have even talked about creating a logo for “business”, she has a thing about logos. This way we are learning math, science, and writing.

B) Gardening/garden planning. We are creating a better play area outside this spring. Part of that play area is going to contain an edible garden. She is going to help with the planning, mapping, design, planting, monitoring, and then cooking with our ingredients. We will be learning geography, science, math, reading, and writing. Also PE!

C) Camping. We tried going camping when Gigi was three and I think my husband and I are still scarred from it. However, I think it may be a field trip idea for this year. Camping provides AMPLE learning experiences.

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After this year is over hopefully I can update you with how it went using her interest as our guide as opposed to the standard instruction of our area. We are basically working off of a very broad schedule of topics. Each month I have two to three main lessons (i.e. phonics, addition, counting to 40) type of goal and then a list of five to ten topics. If she has one of her own that I don’t have then I’ll add it in there as we go. If she doesn’t I will ask her what she’s interested in and we’ll try to steer our learning that way. I think for now it’s a good mix that will allow us more communication together about her education, give her more motivation, and allow me the satisfaction of knowing we are hitting markers and I’m able to report everything that I need to. Since I do still really like schedules and with her diagnosis schedules work well for keeping her anxiety down we will still have a daily schedule. I will post it once I figure out which one works best. We are also adding personal hygiene and life skills in her learning.

Unschoolers with feedback or success stories are welcome to comment 🙂

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Posted in Mental Health, parenting, Uncategorized

It’s Easy to Feel Alone

It’s Easy To Feel Alone 

The HIE Help Center site is a great resource for parents with children who have mental illness or delays. While they specialize in articles about HIE (hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy), the information and coping help can be used for multiple disorders.

I had this article published in June 2018.

Posted in Family, Mother's Day, parenting, Uncategorized

Tangled: A love/hate story about hair

I knew something was amiss. It was too quiet.

I heard in the sweetest voice “mommy, where do you want me to put my craft scissors?”

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Oh no.

  1. She shouldn’t even have her craft scissors
  2. She never cares or asks where I think she should put anything
  3. If she is asking it’s because she wants me to know she indeed has said scissors
  4. She wants me to know and wants to get caught because that’s a thing now

A little breadcrumb trail of blue and purple hair led from the dining room into the playroom, then up the stairs where she ran to when she heard me get up from the table.

At first that was a relief, she just cut up her doll again, no big deal. It was her troll doll and that makes me sad, but whatever.

But as I got closer to her room I saw the bundles of long blonde strands sporadically sprinkled in.

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Sure enough, her mini bangs that had just started to finally get long enough from the last scissors incident were again mini and spiky. Her hair line now looks like an M.C. Escher painting with snips here and pieces missing there.

Every kid is going to cut their own hair. I had a bowl cut in the second grade because of playing barber shop with my cousin and failing miserably.

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(Note: This is not me, this kid is actually pulling the bowl cut off better than I did)

HOWEVER, this is the ninth or tenth time we have had this conversation. No scissors, no hair, no cutting hair, no cutting your brother’s hair, please for the love of God stop getting sharp objects. Again, this is an impulse control problem that I know we will continue to deal with.

So, we are cutting her hair. Her hair is down to her waist almost and all it does is cause us pain. She screams when it’s time to brush it, no matter how gentle and soft you are. She never keeps it up or keeps in barrettes to get her bangs out of her face. It’s a knotty mess most of the time and now I can’t get her to stop cutting it. So off it goes.

Well she was not happy with this decision to say the least.

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(Note: This is a real note from my real child on a real door)

Hair cut is happening this weekend. Hopefully we both make it through the ordeal.

Posted in Family, Opinion, parenting, Uncategorized

Explaining Death to Children

Not the best topic in the world for a blog post by any means, but thanks to some unfortunate circumstances in my life I have been thinking about this a lot lately. How to explain death to a child. Some children unfortunately experience it early on, some don’t

until they are older and arguably more able to deal with it. Some people like myself, don’t lose anyone close to them until they are an adult. Everyone grieves differently and everyone processes the idea of death differently. Kids included.

Having a five year old that I have to explain this concept to is not something I am super excited about. You can’t really avoid the topic of faith and spirituality on some level when death becomes a point of conversation. For someone like me (I’m sure some of you can relate) who struggles constantly with their faith, it becomes even harder sometimes. I know what I need to say in so many words but how? and what do I leave out?

I know her little inquisitive mind is not going to be okay with “well he’s in heaven now”. “Where in heaven? How do I see him? Can he see me? Can he hear me? Should I yell louder so he can hear me? What if wants to come back? What if he gets lost? What if he’s not there? What if…how come…when does…”

I can’t answer all of her concerns honestly and I’m a terrible liar trying to make up the answers as I go.

I did find some good resources I wanted to share in case anyone else might be going through this situation as well:

How to Talk to Kids About Death

 

Posted in Family, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, Uncategorized

Why so serious (mom and dads)?

It’s amazing how loud pots are when they are being beaten together by little hands. It’s amazing how mud seems that much more impossible to clean when your toddler comes inside caked in it. Craft supplies can seem daunting to get out because every craft requires a mess. Every water play activity requires mopping after. Every play bath requires at least one outfit change on your part.

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Having fun and playing with your kids can sometimes lose it’s spark. You can get more concerned with the aftermath than the actual play time. My daughter asked me the other day if we could make a craft, which she loves to do, and I said “no honey I just wiped off the kitchen table”.

Wait what? We can’t craft because I wiped off a table? What kind of logic is that?

Sometimes it’s hard to drop what you’re doing and say yes! Yes we can. Screw the laundry, who needs clean plates, my pants will wear another day…probably. For me it’s even harder to not dread the aftermath, as mentioned above. But kids don’t grow up and remember having a spotless home, they grow up remembering when you played super heroes together in the backyard. They remember trips to the ice cream shop and visits to the zoo. But you can’t live in a pig sty either. Cleaning and chores kind of have to happen. Sometimes you have to be the grown up and be serious. So how do you balance it all? I honestly don’t know.

I got called a Pinterest mom the other day and at first I was insulted just because I didn’t really know what the hell that meant. But then it was explained that I do things you see on Pinterest but never actually do with your kids. Then I was flattered but I felt a little like a cheat because there is plenty I don’t do, that I should. So, how do you become a not so serious, Pinterest, fun mom? Again, I don’t really know, but here’s the best advice I can gather for that question.

Step one: stop being so serious

My daughter is that special stage of life when she knows exactly what not to say, and that she has the ability to say it whenever she wants. That age when I feel like a 13 year old is trapped in my 4 year old’s body. That oh-so-magical age where I hear “we aren’t friends anymore, you’re mean” at least four or five times a week. We just had a long discussion about what a mortgage was the other day when she decided she was going to run away. More on that later.

I find, the best way to handle a little bit of sass, is to make fun of it. I make fun of how silly she sounds when she’s having an attitude. I put my hands on my hips and shake my head and say “does this look nice to you? or does this look like someone who is not going to get what they are asking for?” I exaggerate her movements and voice enough that usually, it causes laughter. Laughter leads to happiness and happiness leads to no more attitude. At least for the time being. This is not to say that I do that or think it you should look over blatantly bad or disrespectful behaviors. Just pick and choose your battles.

It’s the picture frame argument my husband and I have. When a kid draws on the wall you can a) freak out, b) quietly find a magic eraser and start erasing, or c) frame it. I choose to frame it.

Step two: have family time

This is the step I struggle with because this is the step I want more than anything else. As a working mom I really feel like I miss out on quality time with my kids, and even my husband. We all know that complaint, but it is a valid one. Sometimes family time is also errand time. Like grocery shopping or running into town for a certain bill that needs to be paid. I try to turn these moments into family time. My daughter and I go to the farmer’s market at least twice a month together to get our produce in the spring and summer. It’s always fun to walk around and see the flowers and pick out a special treat for later.

Image result for kids at the farmers market

It’s important to make the distinction between quality time and quantity of time. Just because you might be with your kids all week if you stay home, doesn’t mean you were actually with your kids all week. You probably plopped in a movie or two or maybe three. You probably found some coloring books or crayons and pushed them into a corner somewhere. You did chores, you worked, you prepped dinner, you did things you have to do on a daily basis, which means it probably wasn’t quality time. Not saying there’s anyway around that, just make the mental note that ‘yes, I with baby girl today but we only played together for twenty minutes after lunch’. Then you can try to fit in my quality time at the end of the day or the next day.

Step three: Us Toys

Not Toys-R-Us, Us Toys have saved my relationship with my daughter in a lot of ways. Without going into her anxiety and other issues, the book Growing Up Brave is a great read for any parent that is struggling with a child with emotional problems. It is geared for anxiety but I think a lot of the tips and ideas mentioned would work for a variety of disorders.

Anyhoo, one of the things I took away from that book is “Child Led Play”. For ten minutes, everyday, you play with your child but you let them lead the playtime. Now this may sound easy and like something you already do, but I assure you if you really start listening to yourself while you’re playing, you will hear a person you didn’t know was there. During your child led play it’s good to have a box or bag filled with stuff just you two play with. Ours was a mermaid dress up game, two Barbies, a sticker book craft, and some art supplies to start. Now we usually just do a craft together because her father isn’t very “artsy” and that’s our special thing to do. They do puzzles or blocks. So you get it, you have something that’s just for you two, you pick a place where you won’t be bothered by the other parent, siblings, phone calls, anything.

Completely uninterrupted playtime that they lead. Don’t interrupt them, don’t correct them, don’t even give them ideas to a certain extent. It’s their party for ten to fifteen minutes. Try it for a month and I’d be surprised to find someone it doesn’t help your bond with your kid.

Posted in Family, Opinion, parenting, Uncategorized

Mighty Minimalism: Step 1, the bedroom

Things have the taken the world over. We have so much stuff, most of it we don’t even

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need or use. Most of it, we wouldn’t even notice if it were gone. With the holidays creeping up on us this is the time of year consumerism is at it’s prime and more things enter your home.

 

I don’t really care if I have the newest phone (not that I could afford an iPhone X anyway). I don’t have a kitchen gadget that does something I can do with a knife. Half the time I don’t even use a strainer when I make pasta because I don’t want to dirty another dish (you just tilt and turn to get the water out, it’s a very precise system).

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However, my weakness is collecting items that relate to a memory. A napkin from that weird bistro in New York, or the rock from the bank of a river in the Shenandoah Valley, or movie stubs, or concert tickets, or trinkets- those kind of things are what make me somewhat of a clutter bug naturally. It’s taken a lot of hard work to change that way of living and focus on the memories, not the stuff.

One of my first projects on this road to minimalism has been to condense my closet to only 50 items. That may sound like a lot to some and not enough to others, but to me it’s a good sweet spot for now. I have to dress nice for work and I barely get out of my sweat pants at home so I can’t have a simple capsule wardrobe like those I admire on Pinterest. Maybe one day when I work from home I can throw out all my dress pants.

I then expanded to the whole bedroom, which is a small bedroom by most standards. As I looked around I realized on a daily basis we always had stuff on the floor. Books, clothes, kids toys, shoes, jackets; always something. It started to drive me nuts now that I was focusing in on it. So my overall goal became- declutter and minimalise my bedroom.

When you start to Google image search you come up with many cold looking rooms. Modern furniture with bare walls and no color scheme to speak of. This, to me, is not comfortable. Not in the slightest.

Very comfy

Then came Hygge. It’s a new craze (well not really new but starting to get around more) that is kind of minimalist at it’s core, but cozy. They use the word cozy a lot. It’s basically minimalism with scarves, fluffy blankets, and a hot beverage. All the things that make you comfortable, and nothing else.Image result for hygge

 

 

Minimize your bedroom:

A) The Closet

B) The Furniture

C) The Art & Knick-knacks

D) The Books & Work

 

 

Posted in Family, Holidays, Opinion, parenting, Uncategorized

In bed by 10; Halloween has really changed

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Halloween.

Just saying it gives you a feeling. Or at least it should I think. Every time I say it I feel this overwhelming sense of mystery and warmth. I feel the cool autumn breeze and smell the dead leaves on the ground. I see the lights of all the decorated homes, and taste the candy and Halloween inspired shots (don’t mix the two). And I mourn a holiday that is so much different now.

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Before kids, I looked forward to Halloween all year. Ever since high school, I started planning my costume in July. I prepped and prepared and made them from scratch (I don’t sew so the “scratch” thing may be a little misleading). Image may contain: 4 people, people standing and indoorI picked which parties and bars to attend on which nights because just one night wearing my costume was simply not acceptable.

 

 

This year, there will be no shots. There will be no hangover. There Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, selfie and closeupwill be no loud music and slutty costume contest. We have tried to have both and I fear that we failed, miserably. In the past few years, even after becoming parents, we tried to rally for all nighters on Halloween. Did the costumes, found a sitter, and saved up a little bit of drinking money. Lets just say, it didn’t end well and nursing a hangover around chocolate and screaming kids is not my idea of a good time. We did trick-or-treating, we went to the pumpkin patch, and we let the kids stay up a little later

Image may contain: 3 peoplethan usual. That was much more entertaining than throwing up at a gas station (no need to point fingers at who). (It was me).

 

This year, we are doing the family things. We are going to the Halloween parties, the Trunk-or-Treats, the pumpkin patch. We’re going trick-or-treating and celebrating at my library’s Halloween maze. We may need to skip the “adult Halloween time” for a yeImage may contain: 4 people, people standing, sky, shoes and outdoorar or two. Image may contain: 2 peopleNot something I ever thought I’d hear myself say but the time might be here that I need to hang up my witch’s hat by 10 instead of 3am. Is that bad? I don’t know, maybe. Maybe in a few years I’ll be craving the excitement of going out on the town for Halloween. But for now I’m looking forward to taking my bugs out, watching them get excited by all the costumes and decorations, and just hanging out with family. Not to mention the two weeks of horror movies, that needs to still happen or why are we even doing this?