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, 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 DIY, Family, Opinion, parenting, Uncategorized

The Closet- Minimized

closet

This smattering of clothes and piles of random items was my closet. It’s embarrassing how bad it got but I have to show the disarray in order to show the difference that downsizing can make. In this picture, our master bedroom, we had two dressers (one for each- mine is on the other side of the room), a closet (not walk in but not too small), and a mess of shoes, hats, and misc home stuff on the ground. We don’t even have doors on the closet so I have to look at this every morning. Not a great way to start the day.

This post contains affiliated links that help me survive, apparently I’m supposed to say that now.

  1. The dresser

Why do I need a dresser? Do I need somewhere fancy to store t-shirts and underwear? Do socks need a whole drawer to spread out in? Not really.

I went through my dresser first and did it in steps. First, I made all my foldable clothes fit into one drawer as opposed to three. I had an affinity for funny shirts and graphic tees in high school and college and wore them much longer than I rightly should have (let’s be real I still do at home).



After sorting through those and saving some for a future quilt (yeah I know), I was able to get everything into two drawers, then one. This took a few times of sorting. I really felt like I needed a pair of sweat pants for every day of the week. But I wear the same three over and over again. Once the dresser was out of my room and gone and I saw the open floor I was addicted.

2. The Closet Planning: Capsules

Then came the more fun part: capsule planning. Now for some people that probably sounds “so bored” as my daughter says, but this was my favorite part. I got to go on Pinterest and plan my wardrobe. There are sites that you can pay and they will help you but I wanted to do it myself. Also, I am using “capsule” very loosely. For many people who have a real capsule wardrobe of 30 pieces I still look like a lush. I still want to downsize some more but right now I’m at a good point (I have about 55), and I’m not buying anything else to add so there’s a win.



Some things I learned from capsule planning are:

Pin outfits you really like. Don’t worry about if they would actually look good on you at this point just find stuff you like. Look for patterns. If you see a lot of tanks with maxi skirts than there’s a good bet you should have that in your closet. If you don’t see a lot of flowy tops but you have four of them hanging up, maybe time to get rid of them. I even printed out my top favorites and made a visual list of items that I should have to create the outfits I like. I have never been the most fashionable person in the world so this step was kind of new to me.

Selecting a few colors really does help. I had a lot of pretty bo-ho tops that I never wore because the colors made me look ill. I had a lot of colors that just plain didn’t match as well. I narrowed mine down to neutrals (white, black, gray, and navy) and accents (blush, yellow, teal, and olive). Anything not primarily in those colors I took out of my closet and boxed them up. I didn’t throw them away right away I just removed them to see how I would feel.

Duplicates need to go. I always though I needed like ten black shirts. They all fit different, I argued. I now have two, one loose and one tight, and that’s all I need.

3. More perks of less clothes

I have gotten a lot of compliments in the past few months about my style change and I think creating this “capsule” really made that happen. It takes half the time to get ready in the morning and I’m not saying I feel great every day I walk out the door but what I’m going to wear doesn’t consume as much time as it did.

I still have a ways to go but I managed to get rid of enough clothes that my husband was able to build a book case in the closet. That was a HUGE motivator for me. I have more books than anything else probably and wanted storage for them, even though I am still minimizing and getting rid of some. It’s a long process.

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Last thing I would like to point out is when you are minimizing your closet/wardrobe make sure you gather ALL your clothes. From the laundry, from the car, from your work, everywhere. Don’t just do the clothes in your room.

Hope this helps some of you out there! I had a few emails about the bedroom so please send me your thoughts I love hearing them.

Posted in DIY, Family, health, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Safety zone: Child’s bedroom

There’s a lot out there on moms and dads having “me time”. It’s super important, I’m not denying that. I am however advocating the kids need “me time” too. Time to reconnect, time to calm, time to be bored. The best place for that is outside, and if you’re lucky enough to have a space outside for your kid to play alone than use it! However, second best is their bedroom.

Their bedroom should be their safe zone. They should want to be in there. Don’t force your decorating aesthetic on them. I want my whole house in Harry Potter decor but it’s just not going to happen because my kids haven’t even seen a whole movie yet (I know, it’s on my list).

My daughter decided she wanted a flamingo bedroom when I told her she couldn’t share a room with her brother anymore. It was kind of a sad day but after she started picking out some things for us to use she pepped up pretty fast.

Perks:

  1. More likely to stay in there during the night and during bedtime: if you have had issues with this you know how big of a deal that is.
  2. Has a place to go when needs to cool off: again if you have had issues with this you know how important this is too. We have a small house so it’s crucial my kids feel comfortable in their bedrooms to diffuse.
  3. Gives them a place to play quietly when quiet time is needed: if you have more than one child, or one but you do work from home or something else that requires quiet, having a safe zone room is crucial. Before we made over my daughter’s room getting her brother to nap was super hard. She would want to be out in the living room with us or playing in his room. Now, she has a craft/reading area in her bedroom that she will play with until he’s asleep and we can play together.
  4. Gives them a safe place: kind of goes with the cool off one, but also for other intense feelings. Sometimes kids just need to cry or scream or vent. Sometimes they need to do that alone before you try to intervene and make them talk through it.

But how?

Well for one, ask them what they want. There’s almost no theme or idea that you can’t tweak to make you both happy. Unless, of course, it’s Dora (again yes). Also, we did not have a “moving to a new bedroom and need decor” budget in our savings. So, we took things we already had and made it work for the room. I think total I spent about $45 bucks on paint, new sheets, and one stuffed flamingo (optional).

We painted the hutch that a friend was getting rid of, the mirror from Walmart, and the green shelves that were currently in her brother’s room but had nothing on them. I put the dresser in her brother’s room that now had more space with her bed gone and moved the bookcase into her room since she is the one who is using the books more.

The princess netting was over her bed in her brother’s room but we decided to use it over her reading area to give it more of a separation. Additions have been a lava lamp for calming down at night and an oil diffuser.

 

Posted in Family, Opinion, parenting, toddlers, Uncategorized

15 weird things I enjoy as a parent

There’s so many blog posts and vlogs about exhausted parents hiding from their children and moms pulling their hair out because they’ve heard “mom, mom, mommy, mama, mama, hey mom” about 296 times that day. But what about the good stuff? Not the precious moments “my child is a joy to the world and a gift,” yeah that’s all good and well but what about the perks? The weird things you enjoy about being a parent that maybe you didn’t think of before?

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  1. I never have to set my alarm: okay probably a lame one to start with but it’s more true than anything else I will ever write most likely. I still do set it but I don’t know why since I hear my youngest twenty minutes before it goes off. He can smell the noise coming.
  2. Viable excuse for lazy dinners: yeah we just had pancakes again, or nachos, or sandwiches. And not because we’re a lazy young couple who would rather go out than actually put effort into a meal, it’s because we have kids so…there’s that. Image result for hide and seek gif
  3. Hide and seek: I didn’t realize that not all parents play hide and seek in public until I was stopped by a security officer at the mall while playing on the indoor play set with my son. I do, and he laughs, and it’s amazing.
  4. Hearing your child use sarcasm or tell a joke: whether they use it correctly or not hearing your child try to make a joke is one of the funniest things you will ever hear. Image result for kid telling jokes
  5. Being the one that soothes them: probably a little sappy for this list but when your kid is just off the chain and yelling/screaming/crying/parkouring/whatever and you’re the one who can get them to settle and snuggle up; that feeling can’t be topped, like ever.
  6. Talking to yourself in public: I’m not talking to myself I’m talking to my baby, yes I know he can’t talk back but he’s a great listener, don’t judge me old lady at the grocery store.
  7. Toy shopping: is much more fun than it should be. I miss the giant Sear’s catalogs though…
  8. Teaching your child things you liked as a child: my daughter has started to become really interested in gardening, which I love, and it’s led to some talks about ditches, and fort making, and mud pies. Then I think about the laundry after and I’m like ehhh…still worth it.
  9. You can bail and not feel guilty: I know that one is on other lists as well but it’s a good one.
  10. Being complimented: Okay now I’m feeling super selfish but for real when you go out somewhere and you have your kids with you and hear the “aww he’s/she’s so cute” you smile. Don’t lie, you totally do.
  11. You become more lax: and that is a fact. It took two for me to get to this point but I have definitely become much more open to whatever is going to come. Image result for same movie again
  12. Disney and other movies: I am actually one of those weird people who will still watch the same 20 movies over and over and over. So while most parents cringe when they’re kids pull out the movie you watched yesterday I’m like “alright, but I’m singing this time”. Unless it’s Dora…
  13. You can get an honest opinion about your outfit: if your children are in that ripe age of having no filter and not understanding the importance of white lies, you always have honesty. “Mommy why does your legs look funny in that?” “Because these are leggings for skinny people honey and now mommy must go throw them away.”
  14. On the same note, you get complimented on things you didn’t know you were good at: same age range. “This macaroni and cheese is yummy!” “Yes sweetie, all homemade” (it’s not homemade).
  15. You’re good at something: I never really had self-esteem growing up, and there are still times I struggle with it greatly. But when I see my kids succeed at something I’m like “yeah, I kind of did that. At least helped.” It’s a great feeling.

What did I miss?