Everyday Life, Parenting

My One Answer for How to Homeschool with Littles

Taking a break from writing about books and book culture in our homes to answer this frequently asked question:

How do you homeschool with little ones always around?

Wait, I should be the one asking this question, right? I’m the new homeschool mom with little kids!  This is our 5th year homeschooling and my brain is finally catching on: “Ohhh. I should know this now…” Up until this point, my answer has been so unhelpful. A shrug and a “some days are better than others!” is all I’ve mustered because (1) I hate to sound like I’ve got it all figured out and (2) I don’t have it all figured out! But I do know this: We want to instill in our children a love of learning, the ability to learn for themselves, and the strength of character that comes through hard work and good relationships. Our ideal for our homeschooling days may be full of warmth and beauty, but the chaos that comes with babies, toddlers, and/or preschoolers wages war on our ideal. How can this ever work?

This is about what our homeschool life looks like every day. There are crumbs on the floor, a babbling baby at the table, and a conglomeration of papers, pencils, and crayons scattered everywhere. We are all together the whole time, from youngest to oldest, either at the kitchen table or at desks in our schoolroom, like a crazy one-room schoolhouse in 1858. How in this madness do we (a) learn together and (b) still like each other?? How do you homeschool with littles in the mix? I’ve thought and thought about how to answer this question, and I keep coming back to one over-arching practice in our family. I wish it were a quick fix, a busy bag solution or a magic scheduling technique, but it’s nothing very pinnable like that. It’s totally uncool because the word “longsuffering” comes to mind. But let’s leave out “longsuffering” and use the word commitment.” My one answer to homeschooling with Littles is an everyday commitment to practicing togetherness.

So fun and snappy, I know. And what does it even mean? Well, after Day One of my homeschooling career, I realized my ideal of one child doing schoolwork with me while one child played quietly with toys and another napped was never going to happen. That just doesn’t fly in the world of kids under age 5 who have to be touching me/each other all day every day or spontaneously combust. Right away, I could see there would be no separating small children from our schooling. But if these tiny people expected to be included in the homeschooling fun (and they did), they would have to also expect to BEHAVE. No interrupting, no whining, no singing songs that sound strangely similar to Benny and the Jets out of tune incessantly under their breath. I guess the idea became if they wanted to be treated like students, they would have to behave like students. It’s crazy to expect this from a two or three-year-old, right? Maybe, but after weeks of consistent (and sometimes frustrated) training, an amazing thing happened – they behaved. They could sit and listen to our read aloud, they could color and be quiet during history, and a lot of times they could even answer many of the same questions about the lesson that their older sibling(s) could. I was floored.

I’m not really sure in those early days if I had an epiphany about setting schooltime behavior standards or if it just sort of happened out of necessity, but I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you’re plunging into homeschooling with little ones in your home, or you’re already wading through it, maybe practicing togetherness—welcoming the younger children into the experience along with setting standards of behavior—could change your days as much as it changed mine. Separating them from our homeschool life certainly didn’t work for me! To make our home the peaceful and loving place I envision it to, I have to keep practicing this togetherness of welcoming the small ones into our school environment.

Crazily enough, now I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think having someone like my four-year-old involved actually enriches the experience. For one thing, she is hilarious, and laughing is good for our souls. But more importantly, our family culture being built on shared narratives and histories gives us a lot to talk about and imagine further as we learn it all together. But that never would have happened if we hadn’t set some expectations at the beginning!

So that’s my answer, my one big homeschooling with Littles discovery – if you expect great behavior from them and teach them how to do that…well, some day, it might just happen. =) I realize so much of it has to do with what personalities I’m dealing with and my own upbringing (I was the oldest in a homeschool family). But because it’s worked so great for me, I figured I would give sharing it a shot, and finally give a straight answer to that frequently asked question!

And now for some more fun and snappy side notes I’ve learned to stick with along the way ~

  1. Keep hands busy – drawing, playing with play-doh, building with blocks, or other quiet thing will stretch an attention span beyond your wildest imagination. In fact, some studies show that busy hands make brains learn more easily! My oldest now likes to stay focused while she’s listening to lessons by taking notes, but up until this year, she was sketching or molding dough along with the others.
  2. Take it outside – literally, take all of it outside any chance you get. Little people are happier out of doors. Fact.
  3. Snacks are golden learning opportunities – while many homeschool families do their ‘morning time’ or cultural studies first thing, I find that a 10:00 gather round the table with a snack works best for us. We have a snack, read some poetry or listen to a composer/hymn or study a piece of artwork, do some literature or geography, read a Bible passage, and the whole time the little people are (relatively) happy because they have their little hands busy and bellies full.
  4. When you have a breastfeeding baby, find a favorite educational show. I know, I know, TV is a crutch, but some babies don’t eat well when there’s a lot of action around them. A 20-minute Wild Kratts or Wishbone gives just the right window for giving the baby a good feeding in the mid-morning, hopefully followed by a nap, and that  100% makes the rest of the morning go better.
  5. Share some responsibility – There are some things we just can’t do all together. During these times, we trade responsibility. One child is responsible for keeping the baby happy, while the other student is taught by the parent, and then we trade off. This works best if I set an expectation for how long and why I need one of the kid’s help, so that they can understand the important role they’re playing in our family and so that they don’t get frustrated with being asked to help when they feel like they should be having a break.

Family dynamics are unique and ever changing, but I’m pulling for you as you figure out what works best for your amazing family in your homeschooling journey. And if you have any epiphanies about what works for you, please share!

Children's Books, Uncategorized

Favorite Picture Books, September 2018

Hey friends! We’re battening down the hatches in the path of Hurricane Florence here, but we’re well inland and so our  concerns have more to do with adequate reading material and flashlight batteries. I hope any of you who are on the Atlantic coast are safe and sound at this point! Here’s some picture book ideas for you and the children in your life based on what my children are loving lately.

My kids and I have read Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still over and over since getting it from the library and we all love it. Gray’s succinct yet descriptive and exciting writing is perfect for telling this story to young audiences and Davenier’s whimsical illustrations put life and movement into the words on the page. Being a former gymnastics coach, I enthusiastically showed three of my children (ages 4, 7, 9) the videos of Comaneci’s perfect 10s in Montreal after reading the book, and even now with the heightened difficulty of today’s gymnastics, her routines are breathtaking. I’ve never done a study of Comaneci’s life as an adult, but now I am thoroughly interested! 

For preschool ages (and beyond, of course), Bear’s Bicycle is a hilarious picture book with very little text that had my four-year-old thoroughly amused. The illustrations of Bear’s expressions as he gets into increasingly bad biking situations are just perfect. We all give it two thumbs up.

For the board book readers, we recommend Bunny and Bee’s Favorite Colors this week and 18-month-old Lydia wants to read it over and over again. It’s one of those books that suspends reality entirely…why are two little toddlers dressed up in animal costumes, wandering the forest and living by themselves in a tree house?…but it’s cute and the illustrations are colorful and fun. There’s a fair amount of text on each page, but for Lydia there is enough to look at in the pictures for her to wait until I’m done reading each page before she eagerly turns to the next. We’ll be looking for more in the series on our next library trip!

Those are our recent fave picture books! Happy reading!

Quick Lit, Reviews

The Book You Need on Your Fall TBR (and a few other ideas, too)

Hey friends! Welcome to Quick Lit, where book loving bloggers come together mid-month over at modernmrsdarcy.com to share what we’ve been reading lately.

I read a few great books this summer, but there was one that stood up and said to me as I was reading it, “As wonderful as I am now, I’m really an autumn book, you know.” The book was “Dear Mrs. Bird,” and I adored it. It’s historical fiction, set in the middle of World War II during the London Blitz. The plucky heroine Emmeline Lake leaves her day job in pursuit of becoming a war correspondent. She finds herself shoved into a back office of a dying magazine as an assistant to the fearsome Mrs. Henrietta Bird, a once popular advice columnist. Emmy’s war effort takes on its own type of intrigue and danger as she attempts to do her part for England. Emmy is one of those characters who is an unquenchable friend, loyal and kind, and also drives her friends crazy with her impulsive actions. The book is both humorous and moving, compassionate and light but with the realities of war woven through it. The way A. J. Pearce wrote a book that is both modern and true to the 1940s time period is incredibly rare and special. I’ve read several books written in England during the war years, and Dear Mrs. Bird strikes just the right tone to fit in with books actually written in 1940-45. (And because sometimes it’s nice to know, this book is about a PG/PG-13 level when it comes to adult content – fairly clean, with some mention of adult themes, some language, and of course the war themes). I think this book will appeal to you whether you like new releases or classics or just love a good cast of characters.

A few other ideas for your Fall TBR:

If you like middle grade novels: The Orphan Band of Springdale is a new release that is very good. I would argue that it has themes that put it more in a 6-8th grade range. It’s one of those “children’s” novels that anyone can enjoy.

If you like vintage books set in England: Merry Hall has me in stitches. The narrator is terribly funny in a sarcastic, witty way and his observations, though bogged down with gardening tidbits in my non-gardener’s opinion, are on point. I’m reading this rare book for free here. Internet Archive is a goldmine.

If you have a baby in the house: My baby (17 months) loooves the book Who?: A Celebration of Babies.

If you like non-fiction: I’m both laughing at and moved by Jennifer Fulwiler’s book One Beautiful DreamIt’s her story of how she came to realize that pursuing her passions and callings while raising a young family was actually something she needed to do. I’m hoping she’ll explain how she does that, too, because there are only so many hours in a day… and can I just say that the cover of this book kind of makes me cringe, and I think that was the intention? Fulwiler’s honesty about her real life starts even on the very cover. I admire her courage to put that on her book instead of choosing a cover that would be more Insta-worthy.

If you’re looking for an important and insightful addition to your fall reading, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of Family and Culture in Crisis is eye opening and informative. J.D. Vance writes about his upbringing among the working poor of America. Ideas about how the American dream has come and gone for certain regions in America were especially fascinating.

I’m putting Kind is the New Classy by Candace Cameron Bure on my Fall TBR because her interview with Jen Hatmaker on the For the Love podcast had me very interested in Bure’s ideas about moving our outrage culture towards a kinder culture. I’m one of those strange people who didn’t actually watch much of Bure’s television or movie career develop, so I can honestly say I feel compelled to read her newest book based on the premise of the book alone.

So that’s what I’ve been reading lately and plan to read soon! Our homeschool’s first day of is today, and I’m both excited and nervous about going deeper into this home educating journey with a fourth grader, second grader, Pre-K-er, and toddler. Any ideas on good books about long term vision in homeschooling? I’m all ears.

Happy reading!

Everyday Life, Parenting

Thoughts on Leaving the House in the Morning: A Meme Story

Made my first meme today. It’s brought to you by the moment when I leave the house in the morning. Pretty much every time I leave home, I look around at the utter chaos and disorder, and say to tell myself:

If I arrive somewhere looking like I just barely made it out alive? It’s because I did. It’s like a bank heist gone wrong, a calculated plan poorly executed that doesn’t have as much to do with not tripping sophisticated alarm systems but more with getting the dishes done and beds made before exiting the building. (Although, a one-year-old??? Talk about a sophisticated alarm system. Do NOT take that Tupperware lid away from her).  This is especially true when we’re going to be gone for most of the day and we’re packing picnics, leaving dishes strewn across the counter and drawers and cabinets open everywhere, forgetting to put away hairbrushes, toothbrushes, pretty much everything. Why not just stop to clean it up? We’d be a good hour late, maybe two, and I’d be hoarse from all the “come back and put away!”-ing.  Better to call it a morning and pick up the pieces of dismissed outfits and twelve water bottle lids when we get home. The silver lining? A wrecked house to clean up is a good excuse for making an afternoon cup pot of coffee.

Related image

So, yes, we need some better leaving the house practices. It’s definitely a delegation issue at this point in my parenting. But for now, may the coffee be strong, the afternoon productive, and the evening full of something similar to if not necessarily Chick-fil-A.

Everyday Life, Nonfiction, Quick Lit, Reading, Reviews

A Quest for Sustainability – Summer Reading 2018

A snapshot of my current reading pile on this mid-summer day made me realize that I have a pretty clear theme going on in this season:

Apparently I’m not gravitating towards titles with words like “revolutionize” or “begin” or even “new.” No za-za-zing or va-va-vroom hear, please! No, I’m checking books out that are about “ordinary” and “everyday” and “the middle.” Somewhat unconsciously, the theme of this summer has become the pursuit of sustainability. What good things can I do and keep doing? How can I keep doing the things I must and do them well while also keeping the joy and fun in life? This quest for sustainability is really uncool, very boring-sounding, but I’m drawn to it like a tired person is drawn to a plain white duvet and a familiar pillow. I’m weary of the fads, I’m figuring out some things about what doesn’t work, and I want to be faithful in the seemingly monotonous places in life. I don’t want to struggle along anymore in the everyday, ordinary parts of life. When the summer ends, I want to be ready for doing the school year well. I’m not itching for new– not a new house or a new career or even a new baby (and I treasure my babies) – I’m longing to get the house I currently have fit for a productive and full life, I’m settling into this homeschooling/homemaking/writing/so-much-more career, and I’m trying to squeeze every last snuggle and game of Uno out these four babies that are already here. So on that note, here’s what I’ve been reading this summer:

Everyday Holy is a collection of short devotionals, good for gently waking my brain up a bit in the morning. This is the third devotional I’ve read this year, which is…surprising. I used to dislike the idea of devotionals, but there are times when self-directed study gets hard…when you’re super busy or groggy from lack of sleep or simply a bit apathetic and you need a starting point to get you thinking in the right direction. I always appreciate Melanie Shankle’s blend of humor and honesty, and her constant grappling with the mundane, circumstantial elements of life that can numb us to the life believers are called to and graced with in Christ. My current morning reading practice is half a chapter of Proverbs (I spent the first six months of this year in Psalms and now I’m moving on!), a day or two from Everyday Holy, and a chapter of The Liturgy of the Ordinary or Give Them Grace. (Yes, I read a lot of books at once. No, I do not have ADD).

The Liturgy of the Ordinary is mostly about worship during the mundane chores and tasks we do each day. We fight in this culture against constant entertainment and a fear of the ordinary. Tish Harrison Warren explains in her book how she’s reconciling the ordinary with the sacred and coming to view them as not so separate after all. I liked parts of the book, though I don’t agree with all the author’s viewpoints. On finishing it, I’d give it 2.75 stars. I think I’m going to need to dig into The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris next, because this book quotes it often! My biggest yet most unimportant beef with  The Liturgy of the Ordinary Day is that the text is constantly interrupted with bold main points. Listen. I know this is a common practice in non-fiction publishing right now, but I hate it. I already read that sentence, and you’re interrupting my train of thought to read it again??? No. Put it off to the side in the margin if you must, but here’s a thought: maybe you should trust your readers to read the page of text and gather the main points on their own, intelligent selves? This may come as a shock, publishing world, but we are capable of drawing conclusions and recognizing the heart of the message. Thank you, rant over. (But don’t get me started on back and forth, present to future viewpoints in historical novels…gah! Hate it. (See, told you I don’t have ADD. What’s the opposite? Complete focus at the expense of all else? Tunnel vision? I have that)).

Now, onto the cookbooks! I may have mentioned three or three hundred times that meal planning and prep is the bane of my daily existence. This summer, I’m out to conquer my struggles by keeping simple meals on repeat. Usually what happens is I swing from an uber-healthy eating phase to an “I’m sick of all this food prep give me pizza” phase. I stay in the second phase for quite a while before swinging back, but I feel nagging guilt about it all the time, so I end up avoiding buying “unhealthy” foods because I know they’re poison but then I don’t have the energy or forethought to provide my family with healthy foods and my grocery shopping is all a muddle…and then the week is suddenly a disaster. No, I’m not being dramatic. That’s why I was drawn to Eating in the Middle: A Mostly Wholesome Cookbook. Sustainability? Balance? Yes, please. I have yet to cook anything from it, but the Breakfast Egg Salad and Greek Yogurt Pancakes are on this week’s menu! I haven’t made it out of the breakfast section yet…the photos are beautiful. I have tried two recipes from Smitten Kitchen Everyday: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites and they were winners, especially the Chicken and Rice Street Cart Style. Have I ever gotten chicken and rice from a street cart? No. But I will be making this recipe again and again.  One of the best parts of these two cookbooks is the authors are not just good cooks but excellent writers; I actually want to read all the text and introductions to each recipe. Not sure how I became a person who reads cookbooks (or a Goodreads friend whose shelves are cluttered with cookbooks…) but I’m pretty sure it has to do with the pursuit of sustainability, haha.

The Baker's SecretOn the fiction side of things, I haven’t been hitting the novels very hard. I love being outside in the summer, running around with the kids, doing house projects, swimming, so the cold winter months are really when I do the bulk of my reading. I did read The Baker’s Secret,  and really enjoyed it, though there were definitely depressing parts (war novel). If you like WWII historical fiction like The Plum Tree or The Nightingale, you’ll like this book. I also finally got Ronia, the Robber’s  Daughter off my to-read list, and mostly enjoyed it, though it was much darker than I was expecting. I won’t be reading it to my kids…it’s more of a YA book, in my opinion.

Now homeschool planning for the coming year is heavy on the brain, so my reading habits probably won’t pick up til September or October, but I’d love to hear what your summer reading is looking like! Happy summer! And head on over the Modernmrsdarcy.com to see more of what readers have been reading this summer on the QuickLit feature!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...