Monday, August 26, 2013

Words to live by

"Always remember, Son, 
the best boss is the one 
who bosses the least.
Whether it's cattle, or horses, or men;
the least government
is the best government."

~Little Britches, page 80

I like this so much.  It is very similar to my parenting philosophy.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Laminator Pouches!

For those of you that have a laminator, or those who still need one, now is the time to stock up on 100 laminator pouches for a GREAT price! (How does 43% off sound?!)  If you have Amazon Prime, all the better, because these will ship to you fast and free!  The Scotch laminators are still at a great price of only $24.97.

Although this photo shows a box of 200, the deal on the site is for 100 for just $13.99!

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Month With Fancy Hands

So I've already told you twice about my love for Fancy Hands.  My first month with them is now complete and I wanted to tell you how it all turned out.

My first month was half-price (you can get a half price month, too, by clicking here!) so I got 15 tasks for $22.50.  Here are some of the things I had them do for me:

Researched 2 business services I was wondering about and didn't have time to deal with.

Made a printable list of low glycemic foods for me.

Called around to some dentists about a specific service I was looking for, found out if they take my insurance, etc.

Helped me plan my anniversary, which also gave me a ton of other great ideas for future activities and dates with my husband.

Did some research for my son's birthday.

Researched several different potential trips and day destinations for us.  This gave me many ideas I didn't know about, and saved me a bunch of time by checking on the areas I was interested in and the budget-friendly items I was looking for.  I now have a file of info on visiting Nashville, NYC, the Carolinas, Cinci, Washington DC, and more!

They did several tasks to help me get the info I need for a business project.

They did all the legwork for me to find out about dual credit options at several area colleges and universities.  Each school will be sending me a packet of information that I need to help my teens.

All-in-all, I am very happy with all the help I got and I think it would have been worth it even at the regular price.  Some of the tasks were short, but several ended up being rather lengthy, and for the most part I was really, really happy with how it was handled.  The service was quite fast, and in the case of the ones that took a little longer, my assistant kept me up to date on what was going on, what they had done, and what they were waiting for to complete the task.

By the end of the month I was really straining to think of things for them to do, but I didn't want any of my tasks to go to waste (unused tasks don't roll over) so that's why I ended up having them do so many trip research projects.  For my second month I'm only going to have 5 tasks and I'll see how that goes.  If I get to the end of the month, I have a few non-urgent items that they could do for me while I use up the remaining tasks.

I can see how this would be great for homeschool moms to have.  Fancy Hands could help you:

--find curriculum options
--find scholarship leads
--research colleges and college-related info for you
--track down or create learning tools that you need
--schedule appointments/find new medical providers/make calls to customer service
--help you plan field trips or educational trips
--find household help/repair people
--do the legwork in calling places like bakeries, caterers, etc. for anything you're planning, from birthday parties to homeschool events
--plan weddings or special events
--track down Christmas or birthday gifts or other special shopping needs

Now if I could find something like Fancy Hands that would come to my house and do things like "Please change that lightbulb" and "please hang up this picture" and "could you find my binder of calculadder?" that would be even better!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Do You Laminate?

I love my laminator!  Things I use it for in our homeschool include:

--laminating our presentation cards for CC.  They are super-sturdy, and therefore I can save them and re-use presentations from year to year.  (I have a whole Presentation Box where all the stuff goes after we use it.  Now I just have the kids pick from the box most weeks.  Sweet!)

--making easy game boards by printing onto card stock and then laminating

--you can give anything a dry-erase surface by laminating it.  Great for task lists, check lists, maps, etc.  Your kids can use a dry erase marker, wipe off, and be ready to do it all again when you laminate!

--Your kids can make sweet little gifts for friends and relatives, make your own bookmarks out of scrap book paper or original artwork, etc.

Today is a great day to get a laminator since it's on sale at Amazon.  I've had mine for almost 3 years now and feel it was a very worthwhile tool to add to our home.

Monday, August 5, 2013

P.S. to my day filled with doubts and fears

One of the sweet moments of my day was when two of my sons noticed that I was looking a little deflated.

"What's wrong, Mom?"

I honestly told them, "Well, I'm just really feeling overwhelmed by everything there is to do and I don't know how I can do it all, and I just feel like crying."

They both hugged me and said, "Mom, you're doing a great job!  Look at all this stuff you've already done with us today!"  as they pointed out the array of binders, copies, 3x5 cards, textbooks, and more.

My son that is beginning the Challenge program said to me, "Thanks Mom!  You're the one that got me all the way to Challenge.  You did it!"

And right there?  That sort of thing.  It keeps you going.

Even without all of the variables being perfect, when you see that your kids have thankful, kind, loving hearts, you know that you're building a good thing.

A Day Filled With Doubts and Fears

Today has been a day plagued with doubts and fears.  

I don't see how it is possible to accomplish all of this.

I don't think I can do it.

Have I made a huge mistake?

Are my kids going to be able to do all of this?

Should I have chosen a different curriculum?

Can they get as good of an education if I don't use this curriculum?

Can they get a good education if I'm overwhelmed by the curriculum we're using?

Will we enjoy this?  Will there be any joy in our days?

Are we setting out into a school year filled with drudgery?

Honestly, I don't recall any school year feeling this overwhelming and hopeless and intimidating and miserable as this one feels on Day 3.  Frankly, I'm a little terrified.

We've had a tough year.  The first half of 2013 was solidly marked by The Unknown.  And Hard Stuff.  We took off June and July from all school work to have time to rest, recover, and experience joy.  I thought we were all set and ready to go.  And yet here I am, freshly plunged into the icy waters of the new school year, with a panic attack lurking just below the surface.  

So what is a homeschooling mother to do?

I am reminding myself that....

We may not get it all done.  But we will get a whole lot of it done.  And since we are aiming high, wherever we land will be ok.

It might be a "mistake."  That's ok.  It won't kill us.  It's a curriculum/program choice, for goodness sake.  I am free to employ an additional observation point through this school year to evaluate and inform my decisions for the next year.  We'll stay the course for this year and see what we think from there.  Because you never know when PMS or stress or lack of sleep or being over-informed might mess with your head and whisper scary stories in your ear while you try to carry on through your school days.  One thing I have learned well in almost 2 decades of homeschooling is to Ride It Out.  See what the consistent, long-term thoughts are.  Don't make any big decisions based on sudden bursts of extreme feelings.

Can they get a better education elsewhere?  Sure, probably.  There are always other paths that could have produced other outcomes.  We all have our journey, which includes all that we experience, and excludes everything else.  No educational setting can give a person everything.  What I *hope* to be able to give is a love of learning, and an understanding of how to learn.  I hope to give them the tools they need to do whatever they want to do.  I'm pretty sure we can accomplish that with whatever curriculum we use.

I don't know if my kids will enjoy or thrive with their programs this year.  Just like I never know if they will like brass band festivals or celtic music or a particular kind of art or new recipes or going to a theatrical performance or a trip to the zoo.  I keep giving them a variety of experiences and then see what happens, because I believe you never know what will inspire a person.  So, the same applies here.  While one child may have discovered a passionate hatred for geography, another might find that he is extremely interested in cartography.  You never know.

Will there be joy?  Yes.  Because I couldn't survive without it.  We have a family culture that is fun and playful and chill, and not even the rigors (man-oh-man if I see the words "rigorous education" one more time today I am going to scream!) of Latin or Logic can take that away from us.  If we have to make up jokes and crazy dances and raps about ad hominem attacks or 5th declension noun endings, we will.  You can find us acting like crazies in the kitchen.  Count on it.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Real Life Personal Responsibility: What I Could Have Done to Make Our First Day of School Better

Yesterday I shared about my belief that most disappointing behaviors we observe in our children can be traced back to a downfall on the part of the parents.  Today I'm going to give you a simple example.

Thursday was our first day back to school.  I had been doing a lot of thinking about how I wanted things to go as far as a schedule, goals, etc.  However, the only thing I told my boys was that school was starting the next day, and I would probably be waking them up at 9am.  (We are spending the first week+ easing into our schedule.  We'll eventually be up earlier.)

First glitch of the day:

I woke up earlier than expected, so I woke up the boys earlier than they expected.  And I had one person who was, justifiably, bleary-eyed and asking, "Why are you waking me up now?  I thought I could sleep til 9."

Yes.  He's right.  And I apologized for the surprise earlier waking time.

Things I could have done to make it better:

1.  Been less specific about the wake up time.
2.  Chosen to not wake him til 9, since that is what I originally said I would do.

My kids are flexible, but they like to sleep in, too.  :)

Second glitch of the day:

I wanted the boys to follow a specific schedule that included some chores before school time.  This is not how they have been doing things for quite some time, so they did not expect it.  A couple of the kids were not happy with my expectation that they would do chores right after breakfast, and one child in particular got pretty frustrated about it because his area was already pretty clean, and he was already getting sidetracked into the wild and wonderful world of Legos.  There was a not-nice interaction between this kiddo and me, which, when boiled down, was a clash of expectations.

What I could have done better:

1.  I could have explained my new schedule goals with my boys before it was Day 1.  (Why didn't I think of that?!)  If they had fully understood the how and why to my plan, they would have been ready to go without much (if any) resistance.

2.  I could have been more patient in taking time to help my one especially frustrated child.  His room was already pretty nice, and he was not really sure how to take care of the one area I pointed out to him.  I had chosen to try to spend the chore time actually doing my own chores, and so I didn't take the time to lead my child, and he needed it.  It would have been better if I had set aside my own wish to straighten up my bedroom, and instead helped my son in a kinder, gentler, more productive way.

What I did:

After lunch I did take some time to talk to the boys about my wish for our schedule, about how well this approach had worked for us in the past, and the benefits I felt it would provide for us.  We talked about some chore specifics, and ideas for additional things to do in their chore areas when the regular-and-obvious things were already done.  They were all perfectly agreeable to the plan, and I'm pretty sure that things will go more smoothly now that they know what the goal is.

What do you think?  Do you have a real-life situation that you need help figuring out how this would work?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Asking Yourself: What Could I Do To Make This Better?

It is tempting, in the world of parenthood, to see something that one (or more) of our kids does that we don't like, and start thinking things like, "What's wrong with him?" and, "Why does he act like that?"

I'm not sure how many years ago my thinking on this evolved or how it came to pass, but I started to experience these small disappointments with my kids, and rather than the old thought patterns, I would instead ask myself, "What could I have done that could have avoided this?"

It's revolutionary, really.  Because when you are willing to look at *yourself* you can find a solution.

Let's break it down with an example:

So, your children have left the lunch table and there is all manner of plates, cups, food items, crumbs, etc. left all over.  

You could fuss and scold, or you could ask yourself:

What could I have done to avoid this?  What can I do to not have this outcome in the future?

The answer, if you are honest with yourself, might be:

If I had stayed at the lunch table and eaten with my children instead of eating my lunch in the other room in front of the computer, I could have provided leadership that would have avoided this.

If I had not been distracted by my phone/trying to do laundry/the baby I could have been there to coach the children through the steps to clear their spot/put away the leftovers/wipe off the table.

Or your answer might be something else.  That's not the point.  The point is that for whatever your kids have done that you didn't like, there is probably *something* you could have done differently to avoid, provide for, change, or help.

Now that you have honestly answered your question, you are in a position to bring about a solution.

What you are NOT supposed to do is stomp your feet and fuss and yell and snarl at your children about this job not getting done.  That just junks up your relationship with them and pollutes what could be a sweet atmosphere in your home.   It's also lazy and kind of dishonest.  If your kids are leaving the table a mess (or whatever else they do), it is because you have failed to make it happen.  Whether by example, by your presence, by training, by oversight, by foresight, or whatever.  Kids are kids and they don't want to do housework any more than anybody else.  Don't be surprised when they prove this to you.  Instead, embrace the concept of Personal Responsibility, and start walking the pathway to solutions in your home.

You might need to commit to eating your meals with the children, and not taking the opportunity to mentally check out during lunch.  (though I am sure there is a whole chorus of moms who appreciate your felt need to do so!)

You may decide that your felt need to mentally check out during lunch is worth spending 5 minutes on your own cleaning the table yourself after your lunch break, or kindly calling the children back to the table to join you in a group cleanup.  (and that's ok, you know!)

You may need to commit to consistent training for your children on how to clean up after they eat.  

Maybe you will make a sign for the wall that will tell/show them the steps they should take to do this job properly.

Maybe you will assign one of the children as Table Captain and have them be in charge of helping the other children remember what steps to take to get the job done nicely.

Maybe you need to have a reward system (here's mine) in place to motivate and encourage them to remember and feel appreciated.

My goal in finding a solution would be to provide leadership, kindness, and simplicity.  There is no need to yell, spank, fume, get angry, or anything else.  You are the leader, and if you are willing to lead by example, lead sacrificially, and lead consistently, you can have success.

Tomorrow I'll share a real-life example of what I could have done better to make our first day of school go more smoothly.

What do you think?  Are you willing to observe issues with your children and choose to look at yourself and take personal responsibility for how to provide a solution?

Thrift Shop Thrills

Pop Quiz:

 If a homeschool mother/CC tutor stops at the local thrift shop to make a donation, and ends up finding a Continental Congress ice bucket and a Midnight Ride of Paul Revere insulated mug, should she walk on by?

No.  No she should not.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Back to School Time

Ready or not, the time has come! For us, today is the day we start back to school.

No, I did not feel ready.  My To Do list is never-ending.

I did not get everything done over the summer "break" that I had hoped to.

Some friends suggested I put off getting started.  But you know what?  I wouldn't be any more ready in a month than I would be today.

And so, we begin.

First, the fun stuff:  How about some cute printables for the first day of school?  Print 'em out, hand 'em to the kids, and snap a pic.  They'll thank you in 20 years when nobody knows which year it was.  For us, we will always want to know which year was the year that our kid decided to try out being a bottle blonde.  :)  (This site also has Last Day of School printables, so you can plan on that, too.)  (Making note to self to schedule a post for May 1 to remind us all, because....YOU KNOW what will happen, don't you?)

Here are my four sons that are homeschooled.  I love how each picture captures their individual personalities.  Also, it is handy that my school supply organizer will also double as a measurement of their height!

My fresh new blonde son commented that he felt like he was posing for an arrest photo, so we had to get profile shots too:

Today (by 11am)  included:

--first hissy fit (by me)  (If I told you what brought it on, you'd be on my side.  I promise.)  ;)
--first child negotiating for less work to do
--first child tearing up over frustrating school work
--first physical altercation between brothers
--first fantasy of expelling a child from homeschool

But it also included:

--a successful grammar lesson
--everybody learning the ropes of our basic schedule
--everybody getting one or more math lessons done
--chores done
--out to lunch to celebrate Back to School
--and some unexpected thrift store finds!

It is now after 3pm and we are done.  I have been reminded of several things I could have done to make this morning go more smoothly and I will be writing about that soon.  Even (especially?) on the days that are not ideal, there is much for MOMS to learn about how we could help facilitate more peace, joy, and love in our homes!

One way or another, it's gonna be a good year!