24 December 2012

Nothing Ever Goes As Planned

I've written before about how we are huge Disney fans. Last Saturday, Hubby, the Agents, and I set sail on the Disney Fantasy bound for the Eastern Caribbean. We booked this trip back in January. Yes, as in twelve months in advance. We may have been a tad excited about it. This would be our second Disney Cruise, having sailed on the Magic last summer. 

Of course, we try to have reasonable expectations for traveling with the Agents. And, this was not our first experience with battling illness while vacationing. (There was that whole Julia puking in Siena, Italy incident.) 

This time, Agent A came down with a very bad cold and ear infection (his first) and a couple of cold-related nose bleeds. Once we got some antibiotics in him, he was a new man within 12 hours. (I wish we had taken him in a day sooner.) Then Agent J caught his cold, and it triggered her asthma cough . . . the never-ending, barking, horrible-sounding, Agent J Signature Cough. We finally got her some meds that worked, and after a couple of nebulizer treatments she eventually moved on to normal I-have-a-bad-cold coughing opposed to I-sound-like-I'm-dying coughing. 

Meet and greet with Snow White and Dopey
Folks in close proximity to Agent J had one of two reactions: They either looked on in horror, thinking she was carrying some sort of plague, or nodded sympathetically and said she sounded like their asthmatic kids when they were younger. Guess which ones I hoped we ended up on the elevator with.

It helped that we didn't have to worry about driving anywhere, or preparing meals, or even so much as cleaning up after ourselves. Hubby and I spent a significant amount of usually rare one-on-one time with the Agents (in the room with the one not feeling well, or out-and-about with the other). We missed out on some things, but in general still had fun, even Agents J and A. (Agent E had the time of her life. And promptly came down with the same illness once home.)

Still, I would be lying if I said it wasn't at least a little disappointing. We completely missed the port visit to San Juan, Puerto Rico, because that was the day that Agents J and A overlapped in really feeling bad and we all stayed on board. Only Hubby and Eva got to partake in Pirate Night. Agent J had to miss out on a few days of activities at the kids' club, and we cancelled our special date brunch at the "adults only" restaurant because even once A felt better there was no way we would leave him with anyone while he had a cold and just wanted Mommy Comfort.

(Can I just mention how glad I am to have a nursing toddler after that week? A refused food and water for nearly three days, but he still nursed. Otherwise, he would have been completely dehydrated and way worse off. Now I'm even more unsure about this whole weaning thing.)

However, we still saw lots of characters, ate tons of good food, met Princesses, got all dolled up for formal night, and had fun at the aquarium and at the beach. We even made it to three of the theater shows (Agent A slept through all of them) and by Friday everyone felt well enough to hit the pools and ride AquaDuck. A pretty good week after all.

13 December 2012

Interest-Led Learning

The thing I love most about homeschooling is the freedom we have to choose our own path.
While a more structured course of study might work for some, just as having none at all might work for others, we fall somewhere in the middle. Our school at home tends to be (mostly) child-led and we create much of our “curriculum” on the fly by following our current passions.

We’ve discovered that interest-led learning is . . .

(Kind of an obvious one, huh?) When you were in school did you ever wish you could skip all the boring parts and get to what you love? Of course I have a vision in my mind of the things I’d like her to know as she grows. However, for now we focus on what gets her excited about learning. We let her enthusiasm guide our overall choices of what to learn about as well as our day-to-day activities.

The result? She thinks learning is fun. She wants to do “school work” at all hours of the day, whenever the mood strikes her. The distinction between “learning time” and “other time” is blurred.
If someone asks, Eva will say she’s in first grade. And in many aspects she’s right on target for a typical six-year-old. Much of what we study she would also be learning if she attended our local elementary school. Yet when it comes to reading, she can easily read second/third grade level books.

She often wants to study things not covered in the typical first-grade classroom (e.g., multiplication, cursive writing, Spanish) and we accommodate that. Other times she wants to review things (puzzles, games, worksheets) that come easy to her because she finds them enjoyable. Other topics we skim or even skip.We follow her lead.
I was not one of those people who always knew they would homeschool their children. Truthfully, I found the whole notion crazy. We had two years of preschool under our belt and the Kindergarten registration was long completed.

About six weeks before the beginning of the school year, the thought popped into my head quite randomly: What if we didn’t send her? Now, just a year and a half later, it would not be an exaggeration to say my entire worldview of education has been altered. It’s not just about school at home. You begin to see everything as a learning experience because that’s what life is. I used to worry we’d have trouble coming up with ideas; now our list of potential topics overflows.

11 December 2012

10 Tricks for a Clean House

Publishing a post on keeping a clean house makes me giggle a bit, especially if you could actually see what my house looks like at the exact moment I'm drafting this. Best of intentions here, people, best of intentions. I will try really hard to follow my own advice on this one. :-) 

1. Just say no to clutter. The fewer things you have, the less you have to clean/work around. Simplify. Take a look at what you have out. Do you really want to move/clean this stuff on a regular basis? Related to that . . .

2. Make the best use of space. One thing I love about our current house is the plethora of potential storage areas. (Especially after coming from Italy, where apparently they have a thing against closets.) If you don't use it all the time, don't leave it out. Another popular version of this is "a place for everything and everything in its place." This works, too. Sort of. I find this to be a never-ending project.

3. Clean every day. Yes, every. single. day. Even if it's just your must do list (see #10). I also try to spend 5-10 minutes each evening walking from room to room looking for obvious issues (e.g., snack bowls in the play room, rugs out of place, books knocked off shelves, hand towels that need replaced).

4. Enlist the kids' help. Capitalize on the fact that young children love to "help" with everything. Give them a dust rag and tell them to go at it. Teach them how to fold laundry or empty non-breakables from the dishwasher. Have them clean the bathtub. Worried about exposure to chemicals? Well then . . .

5. Use green cleaners. Truthfully, I'm more likely to clean now that I'm using vinegar and water almost exclusively and I'm not as worried about what I'm spraying around the Agents.

6. Have a plan . . . or not. For some things I like having a set time to do them (e.g., run the dishwasher and clean up the kitchen after dinner). Other cleaning jobs might be done on the same day each week. (I realize some folks might find the idea of scheduling cleaning insane.)

7. Work toward a deadline. I always have an idea in the back of my mind of when I'd like to have something "done." Usually it involves a date I know Hubby is coming home. Not that I'm cleaning to impress him, per se. He knows the real us. :-) It's just more of a goal-setting technique.

8. Clean a clean house. This one is so obvious, yet hard for me to grasp. The only way your house is going to stay clean is if you clean it on a regular basis whether it "needs" it or not. I find this especially true concerning the kitchen and bathrooms. Just do it. Don't wait until it's a complete disaster and you begin to think it would be easier to just move. (Not that I speak from experience. But I speak from experience.)

9. Know what you can let go. Personally, dust on shelves doesn't bother me. Changing the sheets can almost always wait a few more days. If the play room isn't picked up, eh. Concentrate on what matters to you. Which leads me to . . .

10. Pick your daily battles. For me, it's dishes, laundry, and vacuuming. I aim to have these three things under control each day. Someone not at home during the day might not create as many dishes. A home without pets and small children might be able to get by with vacuuming less frequently. But for us, this is our "thing."