31 January 2013

The One Where I Contradict Myself . . . Again

Parenting is an exercise in completely contradicting myself at regular intervals. Blogging allows me to illustrate this in a public forum. Case in point: Child care.

About three months ago, I wrote a piece called Babysitting Will Be Provided, which basically outlined the reasons I disliked short-term, temporary child care situations and rarely utilized them.

Guess what has happened since then?

We started attending a new church where—you guessed it—the Agents began going off to their individual children's church rooms and loving it. (They cannot wait to go each week, even willingly getting out of bed earlier than usual each Sunday morning to make it on time.)

I started taking the Agents with me to a new women's Bible study offered by said church where—you guessed it—the Agents hang out in the next room while I go off and do "Mommy stuff" . . . aka, grab a coffee and chat with other women from the congregation and then discuss a few chapters of our current book and then chat some more. (They tell me, Ms. Wendy's house is so much fun. Can we go there again?)

I followed up on a lead for a sitter (a college sophomore at a local university) and—you guessed it—set up a regular gig with her coming to the house while I "disappear" for about two hours every other week. (After the first time she came over, Agents were asking when she was coming back before she made it out of the driveway.)

Are you noticing a trend here?

It turns out, my children actually love these times and consider them just another adventure in their day. Maybe I underestimated their ability to handle the separation? their desire to do their own thing? how situations like the above were just as much of a positive experience for them as for me?

Now, Agent A still waffles a bit, and I respect that. Sometimes he hangs with Momma at church or the Bible study instead. I'm sure it's just a little more difficult for him to adjust than the girls because of his age. Which is fine. He can be Momma's little boy and stay with me as long as he wants. 

Because sooner than I think, he's going to be the one pushing me out the door.

25 January 2013

Agents Visit the Salon (a Photo Post)

As I shared in a Facebook status earlier today, this morning I took all three Agents to get haircuts. 

And it went about a thousand times better than expected.

I'm totally serious. I know, I know . . . this sounds just like the sort of event that would have proven disastrous. (And believe me, that definitely would have been post-worthy as well.) However, it actually turned out fabulous.

I have to admit, in the car on the way there, I kept thinking to myself, this is going to end up being one of those ideas that sounded a lot better in my head. But they all did great! And we have photos to prove it! So, without further ado . . .

Agent J was the only one who agreed to a wash

Let's get this party started

Wait . . . you mean you're gonna make me do this, too?

Agent J's 'do in progress

I'm wearing penguins and eating a lollipop . . . this can't be too bad

May live to tell about this after all

Agent E showing off her green lollipop tongue

Cute girls with cute curls

Agent A . . . the finished product

Post-adventure McDonalds treat

What was the last thing you did with your children where the results surprised you . . . in a good way?

The One With All the Doubts

Sharing this one as part of the Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

This week someone on a homeschooling page I follow asked about assessments. Several folks offered information about free, online assessments for elementary-age students. I took the bait, and signed up, and had Agent E take one. 

Then the "whys" came. 

Why did she only score one grade level above on math and reading? Why did she not know how to complete xyz? Why didn't I teach her more about [fill in the blank with random knowledge other first graders apparently know].

The "whys" were followed by the doubts.

I'm doing it wrong. This child-led unschooly c-r-a-p is for the birds. I need a curriculum. I need a plan. I should have taught her more about . . . um, everything? My child is only six and I already suck at homeschooling.

Whew. Deep breath, Momma.

I'm embarrassed to say it took me a few days to realize that a 30-minute evaluation, a completely arbitrary hodgepodge of whatever skills this one particular guide deemed important, is not an indication of my daughter's intelligence or my teaching ability.

Then I started thinking: Had she scored way above grade level, or done awesome on every single section, would I have thought this assessment was great? 

Um, probably.
My favorite first grader

Sooooo . . . . what have we learned today, folks?

1. There is no way I will ever ever ever be able to teach my children everything. 

2. Even if they attended school, or even if we followed a strict curriculum, this would still be true.

3. My children are smart, capable, and learning new, wonderful things every day.

4. I should probably write out #1-3 on a post-it and plaster it to my head.

Have you struggled with doubts in your homeschool this week? How did you get past them?

19 January 2013

Too Comfortable?

Recently I went through all of the Facebook pages that I "like" and "unliked" a significant number of them. Nothing personal, really . . . it was just starting to become overwhelming. And, I never saw updates consistently anyway. If I knew I very rarely commented on the page or read what they posted, or if I couldn't remember exactly why it was I liked the page in the first place, I let it go. My goal is to get down to fewer than 100 pages I enjoy reading and interacting with. Again, I'm all for showing support to fellow bloggers and pages, but honestly it's just too much to try to "like" every page that comes through my newsfeed that makes an interesting point, comments on one of my posts, or likes my page. So, I'm parring down considerably and trying to be active with the pages I do visit with some regularity. On a related note . . .

Received the strangest e-mail this week, possibly ever. A fellow blogger whom I've been following for a while sent me a message that basically said, "you don't seem to be agreeing with everything I say anymore; why are you still here?" I was completely taken aback, 1. because I do tend to agree with what this writer says probably 90% of the time, and 2. even when I disagree, I never thought it came across as anything other than polite. At first it made me sad, but then really I just kind of thought WTH? I wrote a brief message back, but never heard from her. (I did "unlike" the page and remove it from my favorites list on my blog home page. I mean, what else would I do at that point? Now commenting would just seem weird.) But this did get me thinking . . .

Do I expect my readers to agree with me? I guess to some extent if folks didn't align at least a little with my philosophy they probably wouldn't have been drawn to my page in the first place. As a general rule, I'm not confrontational at all and I prefer to play nice. I don't post (or share) controversial things simply to draw attention to my page or stir the pot. In fact, I don't even click on links about certain topics because I know they will make me batty and I don't want to get sucked up into the drama. Which brings me to . . .

Am I only reading other bloggers that I agree with? And more importantly, is that a problem? Is narrowing down my list of reading choices so specifically just keeping me all cozy in my little cave of conformity here? Is that a bad thing? Where is the line between not getting out of your comfort zone and feeling like a troll because you want to counter everything you read? 

Thoughts, readers (and fellow writers)?

12 January 2013

Our Homeschooling Week: Dinosaurs, Planets, and Apps (Oh, My!)

Linking this post with the Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Every week I think I'm going to get better, but I am horrible with doing these weekly posts at all, let alone on time (aka, Friday when the link-up goes live). It's not that I don't know Friday is coming. I just . . . ah. 

Anyway, here's a quick-y summary of what we're doing right now . . .

Dinosaurs. Our first focus for the current "semester" (we use that term loosely around here) is dinosaurs. We're having fun perusing the Dinosaur Train website field guide and printing all the cards (we're about half way through the 75 on the site). E likes to have a visual in front of her when we talk about something, so these little cards are awesome. She can color them, hold them, read them, alphabetize them, and organize them (by dinosaur size, what they eat, what time period they are from). It really helps her to remember things, and she has great fun doing it.

Planets. Our second focus for right now is space. We're enjoying learning about the eight planets. (Don't even get Agent E started on the older books that still refer to Pluto as a planet instead of a dwarf planet.) As we did with our study of the 50 states, we're taking out a few books at a time from the library on each of the individual planets.

Here, little pigeon . . .
(Side note: While Googling for new dinosaur and space study ideas, one of the links that popped up was for the Natural History Museum in London, which we visited last March. I had bookmarked the site back then, but never realized all the cool links for kids they had on there. Of course, Agent E is loving it. We also went back and reminisced with some of our photos from that trip, including Agent A's first pigeon chase.)

Apps. I think there are officially more apps (and books) on my Kindle for Agent E than for myself. In addition to apps dealing with dinosaurs and space, we've also added quite a few math games recently. I've had my Kindle for almost seven weeks now (I will never forget when it arrived, because I wrote everything down that day) and so far we've only downloaded free things. I'm sure eventually I'll break down and make a purchase. Possibly the full version of Where's My Water? or Where's My Perry? A certain six-year-old is pretty much addicted to both.

What are you doing in your homeschool this week?

10 January 2013

Six Steps To a More Relaxing Day

Every mom has heard the advice to take care of yourself so you can be better equipped to take care of your children. But what comes to mind when you hear the words self care? A large block of uninterrupted time like a spa day or girls' night out? A long bath while Hubby takes over the bedtime routine? Regularly scheduled "me time" away from the kids? 

Personally, I prefer to think of self care in terms of small ideas I can implement daily to help stay relaxed and focused. Because when I remember to do these simple things, I feel better and it shows in my mothering. 

1. Go to sleep. As tempting as it is to stay up well past the Agents' bedtime (and they are night owls), I make it a point to have lights out no later than 11:00. For the most part, the girls sleep all night without incident. Agent A will wake up two or three times, but because we are co-sleeping it's not that big of a deal.

2. Get out of bed first. No matter what time we all go to sleep, I aim to be awake first. Even just 15-30 minutes is enough time to make coffee, read a chapter of my Bible, and check e-mail without someone climbing on me. It's such a small thing, but it makes all the difference in the world.

3. Eat and drink. Obvious, no? But I cannot tell you how many times I'll get to lunch time and realize when I made breakfast for the Agents I failed to eat any myself. Or conclude at 5:00 p.m. that I haven't had anything to drink all day except my morning coffee. As you may have guessed, this does not exactly put me in a good mindset for dealing with any afternoon craziness that may arise.

4. Talk less. I have found that most of the time when I am frustrated with my children, it's because I don't know when to stop talking. I go on and on with my reasoning when really I intended to make a simple request. Or I turn something into a much bigger issue than it actually is by verbally overanalyzing it. Or I spout off some "consequence" that I know is never going to come to fruition because I don't know what else to say or do in the heat of the moment (*cringe*). 

5. Slow down. Other than church (which we don't attend consistently) there really isn't anything we do with a strict time constraint. Oh, we need to make it to the Y within the parameters that the child care is open, and we will occasionally make plans to meet another family at the park and want to show up approximately when we said we would, but . . . for the most part our time is our own and we have no reason to be in a such a hurry. For instances when we do have a "time sensitive" event to consider, we allow way more time than we need so we don't feel rushed.

6. Breathe. I tend to be very future-oriented. Sometimes I need a reminder to help me remain in the present and not obsess about things that haven't even happened yet (or for that matter, may not happen at all).

What little things do you do each day to help stay calm and centered?

This post was also shared at Connected Mom.