3.14.2017

new year resolution update!

Start running again. I haven't started running yet, but y'all, I can feel it in my bones! My legs are practically aching to get out there! I miss running so much. The only reason I haven't is because I want to get a check up before I do, but since I hate making phone calls and I hate going to the doctor's, I haven't done this and probably won't. I'm a fairly healthy human being, but I've been really fatigued lately and want to check that out. I need to just start running anyway. 

No Facebook during the day. Ugh, goodness. I was good about this for maybe 3-4 weeks... maybe a month. Then Facebook took control of my life again. I gave it up for Lent, so I haven't been on it at all since the beginning of March, but slowly it's being replaced with Reddit and interesting online articles. I think what I need to do is make a no hopping on the internet while my kids are awake rule. And possibly a no using the computer before I've read an actual book or spent 20 minutes writing or drawing rule. Sigh. I am a child.

Eat like I love myself. I am really thrilled to say that I have been doing this fairly well! Yay! We got in such a bad habit of eating fast food over the summer during our move. I couldn't cook for about two weeks before we moved, and then on the 8-day roadtrip from Washington to Pennsylvania, practically all we ate was fast food. Then there was the whole unpacking my parents' house... moving to our house 3 months later... it was just a nasty circle of nasty eating habits. I really fell back on the convenience. So I made the resolution to completely stop eating fast food, and I have stuck to it. I've eaten fast food twice that other people picked up for me, and we've eaten at Chick-fil-a twice on our own accord. And that's it. I'm very happy. I have completely stopped buying cookies/chocolate/candy (I get bad about this over the holidays) though I have succumbed to my biggest weakness several times -- breakfast cereal (though I haven't bought any in about three weeks, because I really am trying to eat it less. It's crap, there's no way around it). I've been making bread and broth again, and trying to incorporate more of the healthy foods that we used to eat regularly, like grass-fed beef, grain-free sweets, etc. I feel really good about how we've been eating, and though it's not perfect, it's a slow, uphill climb. 

Keep a budget. I did this for about a month. And while I haven't been writing every purchase down, I gave up frivolous purchases for Lent as well, and intend to stick with it after Easter.

Read a lot, at least two books a month. I am not reading as much as I want. I don't know why I am having such a hard time with this. My attention feels strained and stretched. I sit down and within a few sentences, my mind is wandering. It's not for lack of good books either, my brain just feels in a frenzy. I need to get back into the habit of reading. My brain needs to chill tf down.

Drink water. Great start, then it tapered. I am consistently dehydrated. It's bad.

Be in bed at a reasonable time. I have been going to bed at 11 every night. This is HUGE. I have always been a night owl. I can't believe I'm actually going to sleep at a reasonable time every night. I don't know what else to say except that I may finally be an actual adult now, so that's cool.

Don't nag. I kinda forgot that I included this, so I can't update on it. Will work on it now. Heh.

Create. I've been drawing more! But not as much as I'd like. Honestly I think it's because I have so many damn dishes to wash every day I don't have time for anything else. I'm only kidding a little.

Take a photograph a day. HA! *slinks away* I have been better about taking photos, though.

Start blogging again. I really have missed blogging and writing. I'd like to make my goal once a week. I'm getting there.

Embrace imperfection. I have been telling myself this daily, and it really does help. I am a recovering perfectionist. I am done, done, DONE letting perfectionism rule my life, stop me from doing even the littlest things, and paralyze me with fear.

2.28.2017

why we chose to homeschool : part one


The story goes -- the one I've told and heard so many times -- that my mom began homeschooling me in first grade when the military moved us in the middle of the school year, and discovered I didn't know my letter sounds, much less how to read. Within a few months, I was reading on a third grade level; that's when she decided to keep me home, and went on to eventually homeschool her three younger children. My step-mom also homeschooled her two children, so it has simply been a way of life to me.

The idea of sending my kids to public school was challenging and frankly, a little scary. Before we were married, John encouraged me to consider the fact that all children are different, and that we might have a child who would flourish in a public school setting. I was stubborn. I wouldn't consider it. Homeschooling my children one day was important to me; however, that was a pivotal conversation that planted a seed of curiosity and submission to God. I realized if I idolized homeschooling and would not consider even praying about other options, I might be resisting God's plan for our family. So I began to pray. 

Through searching and praying, I considered the many wonderful people I knew who grew up in public school; surely if their parents could raise such great human beings, I could too if this was what God called us to! I thought also of the amazing teachers who were friends of mine, who obviously loved what they did and made an impact on the lives of the children they taught. 

When I was pregnant with our third child, I couldn't see myself trying to homeschool with a brand new baby to care for -- the decision was made. River barely made the age cut to start kindergarten by a few days. He could stay home and start the next year when he turned six, but I figured sending him to kindergarten for the majority of the day would make the transition to three children a little easier. We went in with these thoughts: if public school worked out, then he would continue on to first grade. If it didn't work out, it wasn't a big deal; we would pull him out and I would homeschool him, which had always been the plan anyway. I knew my friendly, outgoing boy would love being around other children every day.


We really lucked out with River's teacher, a kind woman who got to know each child individually. Our philosophy of education was similar, and she shared in our concerns about the changes in public education, and how much testing and seat work was required of even the youngest students. When I hesitantly brought up the possibility of River having ADHD, and that I was thinking of homeschooling for first grade, she was surprisingly supportive. 

"I think that's a great idea!" she said. "River is bright. He's a problem solver and he thinks outside the box. He's full of energy and he learns by doing things hands-on; his ideas are abstract and he asks questions other kids don't think to ask. I'd be afraid that a traditional school setting would hold him back and discourage him as he gets older, but he could thrive with the freedom he'd have at home." She also shared her concern that being in a classroom setting, other teachers might push medication for his hyperactivity as he got older, but that it could probably be easily handled at home without going that route if we preferred not to. I appreciated her honesty and insight, and was overjoyed to hear these encouraging words about my sweet, curious boy!

Our experience with public school was overall a positive one. There were some things that came with the territory that were outside of our control. School lunches were awful -- there's no gentle way of putting it. I missed River more than I realized I would. Drop off and pick up time became more stressful with a newborn; I can't tell you how many times I had to wake Chase from her nap and bundle her up to get River at the bus stop! It was a disruption to our natural rhythm. The evenings were a whole other story: we would get home at 3:45, then it was a flurry of homework, make dinner, eat, bath, and bedtime... at the end of that ordeal, we were tapped out. River's teacher told us several times that he was so exhausted during the day and he needed more sleep, but he was already going to bed at seven, the earliest possible time.



John and I grappled with the lingering question: should we homeschool? What was the right choice here? I felt like there was no obvious answer. It would be so easy if River hated public school, or if I did. And there are no perfect situations -- I knew that if we homeschooled, there would be hurdles in that, as well. Perhaps the evenings would be slower and River would have more time to just be a kid, but anyone knows homeschooling isn't a walk in the park. It would take a lot more energy and preparation on my part, and was I ready to commit to that? I felt entirely ill-equipped. Considering all this, the few negatives I'd counted against public school were not enough to convince me that we should pull him out. Still, my spirit felt so restless. I wanted him home, but I couldn't make this decision based on my emotions.

I trusted that God knew. He knows River better than I do. He knows his future and the kind of man he needs him to be someday. He knows what he needs in life, education, relationships. I couldn't make this decision on my own. So I prayed a very specific prayer: please let something happen to make it loud and clear that we should pull him out and start homeschooling. Protect him, but make it obvious. 

Oh, yes. I prayed that. I trusted that God knew what I meant... he doesn't play games. He lifts us up when we have faith in him. I believed that he would take my prayer seriously and show me what needed to happen. I would take silence as the answer that public school was the right decision. I prayed that prayer so many times for about a week, and then I got my answer, loud and clear.



Part two coming next week! I really didn't want to leave you with a cliffhanger, but I also didn't want to give you a 3,000 word blog post... so I guess it worked out? 



2.22.2017

5 things that help me to be more productive

I'm going to be honest, it's almost laughable that I'm writing a blog post about how to be productive, because there are many days when I feel like the least productive person in existence. But with three little kids who are reliant on me for some stability in their lives, I have to organize my days so that there is some framework, and not guesswork, running the show. That means staying on top of a lot of different things at the same time so that they don't crumble and fall apart... which happens very easily when you get behind a day or seven on laundry. Here are some things that I do to ensure our household runs smoothly! For the most part. *cough* 

1. Learn to say no. One of the reasons I tend to get overwhelmed and start procrastinating is because I have too much on my plate. I realized a while ago that I need to respect myself and my priorities by saying no sometimes, even if it's to something that I would enjoy doing, or if it's to someone who needs something. While I always want to help out and hang out with people I love, I can't be the best mother, wife, and woman if I am so overwhelmed that the things that really need to get done aren't done. For me, this also has to include things that cause anxiety. Sometimes I want to do something, I might even have the time to do something, but my nerves just can't handle it. I love leading worship, but the last time I was doing it regularly -- lugging three kids to the church and then watching them running around the room like crazy people while we did rehearsal and not getting home until an hour after the youngest's bedtime -- it really worked against my sanity and became something I dreaded, as much as I wanted to do it in my heart of hearts. I had to tell the worship team that I was stopping, which felt awkward and gave me another reason to feel unnecessary guilt, but once I did it, it was like a weight had been lifted. It's important to know how far you can stretch and respect your limits! It's also totally okay that different people can handle different things -- maybe you've made a commitment to something that you realize is outside your gifts or what doesn't realistically fit into the dynamics of your family. We as a society love to be busy, but it's not always healthy. And if you have children, understand that many seasons of motherhood are simply (or not so simply) seasons of survival or waiting. That's okay.

2. Put lists throughout your home. This is something that is so simple that I can't believe I hadn't thought of it before! Throughout my home, I have permanent lists that I glance at several times a day. I tend to be pretty scatterbrained and I'm easily distracted, so checking a list of things that should be done in my day to day routine really helps. It might seem silly to have "take the meat out to thaw," in my daily checklist, but you would not believe how many times I go to start dinner around 4 o'clock and realize the chicken is still frozen solid in the freezer. Or the number of times we are out the door and buckled in the car and I realize I didn't put a brush to Austen's hair. One of the most helpful lists is the one on the door. I look at this list whenever I leave the house to make sure I have everything I need. If I don't check the list, you can almost guarantee I will forget my phone, or a change of clothes for Chase, or heck, even diapers and wipes! Obviously, I won't need all of these things, but if I'm going to be out all afternoon I can take a quick glance to remind myself to bring snacks for the kids or a book.



3. Visually prioritize your to-dos. If I make a general to-do list, I get overwhelmed by the amount of things that need to be done; so I've started by taking off a lot, and by sorting what remains as Must Do, Should Do, and Could do. Must Do are the things that absolutely need to get done that day -- things with deadlines, and often things that I need to complete for others, like design work or scheduling an appointment for one of the kids. Should Do are often home tasks that don't get done as often, like mopping, or things that need immediate attention that I tend to forget, like a load of laundry or taking out the bathroom trash. Could Do are things that I'd like to get done if I have time, but aren't priorities -- things that would give my day a sense of contentment -- like finishing the last few chapters of that I've been reading, starting a new sewing project, or editing photos of the kids. I don't have an extremely busy life outside the home, so you might think that a planner wouldn't come in handy, but I've found that they are very helpful for keeping a daily or weekly routine! Especially as a homeschool mom.

4. Create pleasant morning and evening rituals. Mornings are so hard for me; I have to drag myself out of bed no matter how much sleep I get. I am just not one to leap out of bed bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to start my day. A morning ritual helps a lot -- not only does it help me start the day off on the right foot, but I have something to look forward to. I think this is so important if you are not a morning person! It can be something small -- like doing a quick, five-minute yoga routine or programming the coffee pot to start at 6 am. If you know that the moment you wake up you get to do something you enjoy, it will be easier to get started.

In a way, nights are hard for me too, because I'm night owl and could easily stay up until 2 or 3 am, even if I'm exhausted. By the time I'm ready to go to bed, I don't want to go through the whole process and I'm feeling too wired. Having a routine where I put on my PJs, take out my contacts, brush my teeth early in the evening before I start to feel tired or even before I sit down to relax will make it easier to go to bed earlier and get a good night's sleep.

5. Start without the intention of finishing. You might think I'm crazy and that this goes against all the inspiring, motivating self-help talk you've heard that mentions intention and purpose and being fully present, but I'm telling you -- it works. Research shows that if people start a chore or activity without the intention of finishing that often they will end up sticking to it and seeing it through. No, I can't point you to a source here... I know I read it somewhere, but I scoured the internet and couldn't find an article to back me up. Give it a chance anyway -- try putting it into practice in your daily life and watch the magic. Even if I end up not finishing, doing half the dishes is better than not starting on a mess at all, and getting a jump start on editing a batch of 400 photos is better than letting it sit and my anxiety build up over all the work I have ahead of me. I can't tell you how often "just 15 minutes" turns into an entire hour of hard work.


2.20.2017

thoughts at night

Conscious of my thoughts
like wind whistling past
barely noticed.
Trickling down my ear canal
tickling my brain stem

How do I decipher the words spelled out
like ink in water

What words are these that demand in whispers
They come at every side,
a constant stream of consciousness
or is it unconsciousness?

2.17.2017

homeschool room tour


I finally have what I've always dreamed of: a homeschool room! When I say "always dreamed," I mean that this dream goes back to when I was eleven years old and my parents were looking to purchase a home in San Antonio. While looking at one house that had two living areas, my mom exclaimed, "This would be perfect for a homeschool room!" and thus, the dream began. I knew I wanted to homeschool my own kids someday (yes, at eleven, I already had plans to someday have many children and teach them at home) and I've always been someone who likes homes and spaces and finding beautiful, functional ways of doing things in those spaces. I loved viewing model homes with my parents, and to this day I rearrange my furniture just about every six months. I blame it on being a military brat.

In the back of my mind, probably in a corner labeled Dreamy, Yet Unattainable, were visions of a room full of shelves and globes and maps and old, dusty books. A table for sitting down with my morning coffee, a place to recite Bible verses and continents and math facts, to read aloud Charlotte's Web and Peter Pan and Jame's Herriot's Animal Stories, a place of my own where my children could complain about my coffee breath as I lean over their shoulder to help them with handwriting, just as I did complained to my own mother. Ah, memories. A homeschool room for a real homeshool mom, slippers and coffee breath not optional.

When we first moved into this house, I thought about turning our extra room off the dining area into a homeschool room, but we have so much music equipment and art supplies crammed in there that it became more of our home office/creative space. (That's putting "creative space" very lightly... it's a mess right now and not really conducive for creating much of anything!) Slightly disappointed but otherwise understanding, I turned the bottom of my grandma's hutch into our "school cabinet," and that's what we've been using for the past 5 months.

For those five months, we've done traditional text-book schooling. Pennsylvania has a wonderful charter school available to homeschoolers, using the Calvert curriculum, and they sent us everything we would need -- even a laptop! So for a while, we didn't need much space. It was a tight squeeze, and with my aging, almost-thirty-year-old eyeballs that have never been all that reliable in the first place, sometimes it was hard to see what I was reaching for in the recesses of the Homeschool Hutch, but it worked. Then my mom said, "Hey, I've got a ton of y'all's old picture books and school books down in the basement if you'd like to take them home!" and that led me to rethink our approach to homeschool all together... but I'll leave that for another post!


After several visits to my mom's that ended in returning with one or two or three armfuls of books each time, I realized I didn't have anywhere to store this beautiful collection. What's more, I wanted them to be accessible downstairs, where the kids spend most of the their time, not up in their rooms stuffed in their already over-flowing bookshelves, never to be enjoyed by the whole family. One afternoon, after staring at our dining room for several minutes trying to come up with a plan, I realized we had the perfect place for a long shelf, right under the window! I scoured IKEA for the perfect shelf, and found this one for just over $100.


What's In Our School Room

After lovingly filling it with all of our school books and living books, I decided to bring down some toys for Chase to occupy herself with during school hours. These puzzles and sets of toys had been up high in the kids' closets, because when I can't keep an eye on every little toy my children take out in their room throughout the day, toys with several pieces just end up being huge mess makers. But down here in our homeschool room, I can make sure she takes out one at a time and encourage her in the habit of cleaning up after herself. I love this memory game I found at a thrift store, which features adorable pictures of children from around the world. Another favorite was a gift from my sister, a word game called Very Silly Sentences. This is more for River and Austen's age, and I highly recommend it! It makes language and grammar fun and interesting. For Chase and Austen, I also have several wooden puzzles, pattern blocks, lacing beads, and in the hutch is plenty of paper, crayons, watercolors, and playdough... lots of activities to keep a toddler occupied, and we have more upstairs that I can switch out when need be.




As far as actual school supplies, I keep flimsy lesson manuals and work books in a basket so they don't fall over and clutter the shelves. All my books on childhood development, education, and teaching different subjects, and well as our informational books and story books are now easily accessible in the shelves. River is reading pretty well now and I see him pick up books he's never been interested in before, simply because they are available! That's so exciting to me. I hope to raise voracious readers.



Also kept in baskets are flashcards in individual baggies, and some math manipulatives, and in the middle basket I have replaced those things with copy paper, writing paper, construction paper, and a few notebooks. Finding out a way that works best for us is trial and error. If I think I've found the perfect storage solution for something, I won't really know until I've had it set up that way for a few days and see how it fits into the flow of our school day. For instance, I had the paper stored in the hutch with the crayons, which made logical sense to me, but I found myself having to get up several times a day and walk around the table to search for paper that hadn't already been scribbled or painted on. It wasn't easy to keep it all separate and organized in the hutch. Now that it's in the basket, I can turn in my seat and grab a page, and paper that has been turned into artwork goes into the hutch. I still have to come up with some way to sort all of the artwork my kids create! So much paper...



I love this space because everything is in one place, and that makes all the difference in the world to how our days go. It's easy to clean up after lessons and set the table for a meal, and I love how things are sort of hidden in the shelf, because I've never been a fan of having a bunch of kids' toys out in plain view. I do love beautiful spaces, and this way, it's functional for myself and for the kids!


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