April 1 First Day of Homeschool (No Joke!)

We have made the plunge into homeschooling, and I am now home educating our two sons, ages 7 (“JRun” on this blog) and 5 (“ARun” on this blog). I’m sure I’ll write more about the backstory of our decision to homeschool at another time. At least for now, we are taking more of an unschooling approach, with a focus on plenty of unstructured free time for them to be active and engaged in their own ways. They need this time in order to “forget” about being jaded about and resistant to more structured school-like academics.

Our guiding educational philosophy at the moment is: Learning is happening all the time, and everything can be learned through anything. When there is trauma or emotional issues at play (we’ve dealt with bullying this year), learning cannot happen deeply until the person is feeling safe.

Here’s a Day in the Life log of how our first official homeschool day went.

7:40am- ARun got out breakfast for everyone of his own accord. We listened to Story Party while eating. The story was about tricksters like Coyote and Brer Rabbit.

8:30am- Boys started a chess game together while I paid bills and made a phone call. There was some breaking of pinky promises and hurt feelings, but since we are homeschooling, we now have all the time we need to deal with the feelings, and the time to do the work of building up the boys’ relationships with everyone in their family (especially their brother), instead of just rushing on to the next thing.

9:00am- We ordered our live Painted Lady butterflies together, and built 3D wooden butterfly puzzles. Talked about the three parts of the butterfly body: head, thorax, abdomen. Listened to “But Why?” podcast about amphibians (didn’t find one that talked about insects or butterflies in the moment, but we did find one later!)

10am- ARun served chocolate chips to us for table time. Aran wrote a few sentences for a thank you card to his grandma and drew a picture. Then he was thrilled to death about the fact that he could write “poop” and it counted as writing practice and he wasn’t getting in trouble for it. He even figured out how to write “poopoo” all by himself. (Sorry, Grandma, for so many “poops” on your thank you card!)

I was attempting to make table time last for awhile, and we made it until 10:50am. ARun was silly after the first ten minutes. JRun worked on writing an ad for a game partner to play Stratego and Chess with him. He’ll place the ad in a nearby Common House of an intentional co-housing community within walking distance of our house. He strongly resists writing, so we filled in the words of the ad where I had left blanks for him.

10:50am- They were ready to let loose and be free. They went upstairs together to make a blanket fort. I’ll let them play freely for up to an hour as long as they are peaceful with each other. They moved onto playing a game with a big yoga ball.

11:40am- Another conflict about physical safety came up between the boys. One boy has a heightened reaction to what he perceives as a physical threat. In reality, it’s something like Brother holding out his pinky for a pinky promise, halfway between their bodies, a good eight inches from the face. But, that action feels “like he was gonna jab me in the eye with his pinky, so I pinched his hand.” (That was the 8:30am conversation). This time, we talked about fight or flight reactions and heightened perceptions of danger, especially after someone has been bullied or hurt by people. I’m trying to give him language and an understanding of what is happening for him, while at the same reinforcing that it’s never ok to hurt someone on purpose, even if it’s because of a fight or flight reaction. Both at 8:30am and at 11:40am, both boys felt heard and like their feelings and experienced were important. Booyah.

11:50am- ARun did MathTango (addition and subtraction) on iPad so JRun and I could play Stratego, which he had been waiting for all morning.

12:30pm- iPad put away, we ate lunch and talked about hows dinosaurs died, the universe, black holes, meteors, and tornadoes.

12:50pm- I cleaned up the lunch things and kitchen while they did MathTango and LightBot Coding for a few minutes. JRun read for ARun inside the MathTango app.

1pm- Errands. Drive-thru bank deposits, grocery shopping with boys (they did awesome– I gave them each individual items to shop for one at a time as I went through the store). Listened to a But Why? podcast about astronomy in the car.

2:30pm- ARun pediatrician appointment. JRun did LightBot coding while he waited.

3:20pm- Unloaded groceries. While I did that, J and A unpacked a foot pump that had been delivered, and together figured out how it worked and how to blow up large pool inflatables that J had picked out at Costco the week before.

3:30-5:30pm- Went to the library. J talked to the librarian and got help looking up something he wanted to find. Then we enjoyed Minecraft Monday at the library from 4-5pm. JRun was his friends from school and had a good hour of social time with them doing what they love doing. ARun got to explore Minecraft and sit next to me, which is just what he wanted to do.

5:30- Back home, J and A spent more time figuring out on their own how to work the manual foot pump and get the inflatable pool loungers inflated. Good problem solving and teamwork happening. Zero involvement on my part! They got it working! I made dinner during that time.

6:00pm- Family dinner. Boys talked about things that happened in their day, which NEVER would happen after a day of public school.

6:30pm- ARun wanted to make sugar cookies in the shape of hearts (“for Mama”). Since the dough had to chill anyway, we had enough time to mix up the dough and clean up the kitchen before bedtime.

7pm- Bedtime. Reading aloud to boys until 8pm (for ARun) and 9pm (for JRun) is already part of our daily routine.

9pm- Both boys asleep.

2016 in Review: Breathing

Geesh.  It’s been a year.  J turned five this year and A turned three.  This year saw the end of diapers in our life, and the end of breastfeeding. Our family’s theme for 2016 was “Breathing.” It’s hard to live with a child who constantly squawks and seems to have no volume control, who seems to have no idea how his noise-creation impacts other peoples wellbeing. Well, it does.  Life with two people under the age of six is hard.  But that’s our life, and it’s also beautiful and full of joy.  I am so PROUD of my children, and when they rise to the occasion and surprise me with their manners, their initiative, their grace and generosity, I get a glimpse of my success as a parent.  We’re doing a good job.  It’s not always pretty, it’s rarely easy.  But it’s us. And overall, it’s working.

So, breathing is what we focused on this year.  We wanted to remember to breathe when things start spiraling out of control, when we start losing our cool.  We wanted to teach breathing techniques to cope with anxiety and anger to our kids.  We wanted to remember to be in the present moment and be connected mentally and physically with what’s happening in the moment. It was a great theme for this year.

9 Months Postpartum

I feel like something has lifted, some sort of ease has entered our family life that was missing since the baby joined us. Perhaps it’s a new level of maturity in the now-three-year-old, or perhaps it just always takes this long.  Nine months adjusting to the fact that a baby is coming, and nine months adjusting to the fact that the baby is here.

Medically, the postpartum period is limited to the first six weeks after birth. That’s the time it takes for involution to occur; the uterus returns to it’s pre- pregnancy size. Most moms find that the transition time after giving birth is much longer, sometimes even up to a year, or beyond. I’m telling you now that this is OK. It takes as long as it takes. To heal, to adjust, to settle. Take your time and be kind to yourself. 

Onward: Intentions for 2015

It’s already the third week of January, so I suppose I’m a little late to the party, but it’s time to state my intentions for this next year.

1. Produce more useful gifts and things for sell/trade

2. Follow my calling–Support postpartum mamas

3. Learn three new skills

a. Embroidery/cross stitch

b. Build a Little Free Library

c. Write a kids book and illustrate it

4. Do a better job of composting and recycling

5. Less coffee, more tea

What intentions are you setting for this next year?

2014 Recap: I Must Have Been Busy!

Well, it’s been almost a year since I last posted here. My journey of motherhood has been very much hands-on for the last year. I’ve not been so interested in having a virtual life on the interwebs when my two little suns (concentrated balls of energy and light–yup! That’s my boys!) are so very much PHYSICAL, and ALIVE. My desire to be present with them (because I believe that if children need anything from their parents, they need their REAL presence) has forced me to reevaluate my online life and my own screen time. We’ve been going on walks, playing chase, reading books, swimming, taking baths, doing laundry, eating food, raking leaves, and laughing. We’ve been doing other things. Anyway, here I am feeling like I need to justify why I haven’t been writing anything on my blog the past year… REALITY CHECK! I’ve been parenting. I think that sums it up just fine. Moving on…

Last year I wrote that my intentions for 2014 were to go outside, make more music, be available to myself and others, grow, and do less surfing (online) and more writing.  Since the year has turned yet again, it’s a good time to reflect on my success at following the trajectory of those intentions.  On all accounts, I added more of these things in my life than in previous recent years, except for the writing (hence, my absence here).

1. Go outside. I was definitely outside a lot, although I would still like our family to be in the woods more than we have been so far. We’ll get there. We certainly were at the coast a lot, and despite two boys with very different sensory needs, we found a sweet little spot south of Newport (Ona Beach) where both boys could enjoy playing in dry sand.

2. Make more music. This was an important one to me because once upon a time I was a singer-songwriter, and music has always been a primary part of my life. While music-making is still a much smaller presence in my life than it was before kids, B and I both made an effort to bring live music into our lives on a regular basis. We took both boys to a Kindermusik class, I took my guitar and fiddle out of their cases and now they live on hooks on the wall, always available for playing, which both J and A love. We sing as a family all the time. J and I often will “read” Rise Up Singing and learn bits of new songs from it. We now have a family ukelele and a child-size guitar, both always available for the boys to play.

3. Be available to myself (and others). I learned some important lessons about self-love, community, and reliance this year. I learned more about saying no to things beyond my top priorities so that I have the resources and energy available to devote to those things most important to me (this year it was parenting our sons well, and fostering good mental health for myself and my partner). I’m not just talking about outside commitments and activities, but also saying no to expectations and assumptions my mind likes to make me think are important. I’m proud of the ways I stayed true to this intention in 2014 and I’m looking forward to carrying what I learned into 2015 and continuing to hone the balance of energy between self, family, and community.

4. Grow. I am saturated with information and knowledge (we all are), but what have I LEARNED? How am I GROWING, and what is causing it? Is the information I’m consuming actually helping me to grow in the ways I want to? In 2014, I’ve thought a lot about the ways I use technology and social media.  It’s one of our parenting goals to limit the time the kids see us using screens to a bare minimum.  That means that by the time they are asleep and there’s just a wee bit of the day (and my energy) left to squeeze out before I collapse from exhaustion, scrolling blankly through Facebook or marathon-binging on an instant streaming TV series are attractive and tempting activities because I *think* they will be relaxing.  But I’ve made an effort to bring these choices to a more conscious level this year.  If I only have those few hours before I fall asleep available to myself and to my partner without distraction (i.e., the kiddos), how do I want to spend them?  They are so precious! It’s so easy to go on autopilot and automatically check Facebook, but half the time I do that, I’m too tired to actually read anything or comment on anything. The more I try to bring my use of social media to a more conscious level, the more contempt I have for it because of the way it makes me feel. Sure, there are the great things about it (blah blah blah, we all know what they are), but it’s also such a time-suck and an energy-suck, not to mention a very clever tool of capitalism and thus, specifically designed to make me feel like my life is inferior and incomplete in a multitude of ways. So what does this have to do with growth?  Getting better at making conscious choices for my life, I guess, and being comfortable with what I choose because I’m getting better at being my own authority in my life.

5.  Less surfing, more writing.

Obviously, these last three are really all tied together. Beyond what I’ve already said, I’ll add that I definitely did less internet surfing than I’ve ever done in my adult life, and it felt good. Yes, I probably missed some important things (like “the news”), but to be honest, there is no dark void in my life because of it.  I’m a big fan of voluntary simplicity, and beyond material simplicity (which I’ve already worked on, continue to work on, and think I’ve hit pretty close to the “sweet spot.” Something that gets overlooked a lot, I think, is mental clutter. I used to always listen to public radio programming in the car. I used to watch Democracy Now! every morning, follow various critical blogs, keep up on what movies were coming out, keep tabs on climate change activism, and track which environmental disaster occurred where this week. Do I still care about these things? Yes. But I want to become less of a consumer of information and more of a creator of the world I want to leave for my children. To do that I need to focus my efforts, my mental space, and my heart to my *actual* sphere of influence–my relationships and my local community.  And I’d be willing to bet that even though I’m barely aware of the news, I could tell you the gist of what’s getting reported and I’d be pretty damn accurate.  If I want to be a good parent and a good partner, those things take time, energy, and mental space.  I also need time, energy, and mental space for myself. Something’s got to give.  What gives in your life?

While I didn’t do nearly as much writing as I dreamed of doing, I’ve got some pretty exciting ideas that were planted and fertilized in 2014, and I think that 2015 is going to be fruitful, grounded, and productive.

Coming up in my next post: It’s already the third week of January, so I suppose I’m a little late to the party, but it’s time to state my intentions for this next year.