Monday Mindset: Parenting with Einstein

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Monday Mindset

Because sometimes, a shift in perspective is all you need.

Parenting with Einstein

During our morning read aloud time this week, we enjoyed
On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein.
And as with  all great picture books, it contained a nugget of truth.  In this case 5 sentences.  That's it.  Just one short page, but it got me thinking.  My mind went off in one direction while my lips continued to read the remaining pages.  I was re-evaluating my perspectives on parenting and how they are made visible in my daily life of raising children. 

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Do I treat my children like that?  Do I squash their questions and minimize their ponderings?  Do I welcome their wonder or am I guilty of casting it aside as childish thought? 

And if I go deeper...am I open to their individualism or do I try to fit them into a mold?  Am I brave enough to let my children be who they really are?  And what does that mean? 

It's rather easy for us to read this story about Albert Einstein and see that his teachers were the ones whose behavior needed changing, not Albert.  We have hindsight and history on our side. 

Our perspective is rooted in the outcome. 

Can we hold the vision of our children's futures in the same esteem without yet living them?  Can we be brave enough to allow our children to be who they are even when their quirks are opposite of ours or go against the grain? 

 What if Einstein's parents had not supported his idiosyncrasies, and therefore his brilliance?  What would have happened? 

Perhaps then, we are asking the wrong questions.  Instead, we should be asking, who are we to stand in the way of our children being their true selves?

So this week, think of Einstein when you look at your children, and let them be who they really are.

 

 

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Monday Mindset: A Balanced Life Is NOT What We Think It Is

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Monday Mindset

Because sometimes all you need is a shift in perspective.

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For so many years, I believed that the secret to a happy life was balance.  But I think I misunderstood.  I thought that meant that each day would be a perfect blend work and play, time together as a family and time alone with my own thoughts, a bouquet perfectly arranged.  And in striving for this perfection, I was missing the point; the joy of a messy life.

You see, I didn't realize that spending an entire day guiding a seven year old through his angry feelings toward his brother was part of the balance.  I mistook the sleepless nights and days of laundry mountains as days of being off-balance.  And because I felt that spending more than a "balanced" amount of time on nature walks or visiting the zoo or travelling would set us off kilter, I kept these enriching activities to a minimum.

I don't think there is anything wrong with this, as it worked for us at that phase of our life, but now I see things differently.

I see that all of these moments strung together, like pearls on a necklace, create a life of balance.

It's not just the snapshot of the day that I need to look at, but the whole week, month, year, or longer.  It is only over time that we can see the true balance of our time.

Recognizing this relieves me.  I don't have to feel guilty about spending an entire spring in the woods or hurried on the days when everyone just needs to lay around and listen to me read aloud or watch another documentary about the lions in Africa.

I don't have to do it all, all the time. I can so some things, some of the time, because that is a balanced life.

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Thank You, Sarah Mackenzie!

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     Thank you,Sarah Mackenzie!

The other day I was reorganizing my files and came across a piece I wrote about 8 months ago and NEVER shared!  Rereading it, I saw the truth it contained and decided it needed to make its way here.  I hope reading it blesses you as much as it has me.

Next week my baby turns two. The approach of her birthday doesn’t feel as difficult as it did last year. But boy, the past two years have been tough! This little girl is full of spunk, and toddler, through and through! When the natural curiosity of this little lady is combined with her preschool brother’s natural mischievousness, we have a recipe for mayhem. All. The. Time. J I’ll save you the gory details and just say that the antics (some adorable, some not so much) on any given day have made homeschooling our 4 school-age kiddos much more challenging, and many days just frustrating!

We’re pretty relaxed homeschoolers at heart, but I was feeling like we weren’t getting to even a sliver of what we wanted to. And when we did get to something, I felt rushed, my mind not able to stay focused on the task at hand. I was always thinking about all the things I wasn’t getting to, all the things left undone. It’s awful feeling as though my efforts aren’t enough. It was well into the little one’s second year that I came across that quote from Robert Louis Stevenson, “Don’t judge your day by the harvest that you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

It was also around this time that I discovered The Read Aloud Revival Podcasts, hosted by Sarah Mackenzie. I distinctly remember listening to the first episode. I remember standing there after it finished playing, just standing still, a rarity for me. I remember wondering how I had forgotten how much I love reading to my kids.

We had always read aloud. Day after day, we would spend an hour or two reading together. I had looked forward to snuggling in with a cup of tea and my favorite book lists every Sunday afternoon. I’d read over the lists, get a preview online if I’d never read it before, and reserve a boat load at my local library. I had been intentional and generous with our read aloud time. But with the birth of baby #6, I had lost my balance and finding it seemed out of reach.

So, standing there in the glow of inspiration of the conversation I had just heard on the podcast, I felt that spark again, that feeling of excitement about witnessing the education of my children by sharing great books together. As I write this, I realize that reclaiming our read aloud time wasn’t just about educating my children. It was about reclaiming our family culture. It took Sarah spelling that out for me to remember what I had set out to do in the first place. I am forever grateful because sometimes a weary, sleep-deprived mama just needs a reminder (and a swift kick in the pants :-). So if you haven’t had the privilege of listening to Sarah’s podcasts over at the Read Aloud Revival, go! Just pick one and start listening. You’ll be glad you did. No matter what the topic is you’ll find yourself energized and inspired!

Monday Mindset: Start a Fire

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Monday Mindset

Because sometimes all you need is a shift in perspective.

It’s November and the honeymoon of the “new” school year is over. Many of us are questioning, “Why did I want to homeschool again?” Whatever your reasons were at the beginning of your journey, they may have been overshadowed by the day-to-day nitty-gritty. And we often find ourselves uninspired, at best, or worse, just plain burnt out. If you find yourself here, take heart! You are not alone! After 8 years of homeschooling, I have started to see the patterns of the year and how enthusiasm wanes to boredom. The good news is, with a shift in perspective, (and some practical tools to help), you can regain your inspiration and rediscover your joy in homeschooling.

This is one of my favorite quotes and my “instant mindset mender”. Whenever I get bogged down in the myriad of details that it takes to craft a quality home education, I read this and remember that there is more to learning than memorizing math facts and understanding grammar. Don’t get me wrong, these are fine endeavors and often necessary, but if we lose sight of the bigger picture, nothing else matters. So I ask you, are you lighting a fire or filling a bucket?

One of the biggest concerns I hear among homeschooling families is that their children aren’t interested in a particular book/project/curriculum. So the parent asks, “What can I do?” Over the years, I have been faced with this same situation on countless occasions. This makes sense given that each member of my family is constantly growing and changing, including me. That each one has his or her own preferences and dislikes. That each one has his or her own learning style, which changes too.

Over the years, I have taken note of the questions I ask in self-reflection, when I am faced with a discrepancy between a learner and a learning activity. I have learned not to take it personally and that a lack of enthusiasm in my kids is not a sign of disrespect but a signal to me that their fire is flickering.

So, I ask myself these questions…

  1. Am I inspired by the book, project, etc? If not, my kids are probably picking up on it. If I am, how may my view of it differ from theirs?
  2. What are my goals/hopes/desires with using a particular book/learning project?
  3. Is there another way/book/resource to meet the same goals that may be more engaging?
  4. Are they really ready for what I am asking them to do?

There are no right or wrong answers here, but if you respond honestly, I think you will reconnect with your own inner wisdom about what is best for your family. Making the necessary changes to regain a love of learning may be challenging but they are worth every ounce of effort.

Ironically, or rather serendipitously, I came across another perfect quote as I was reading the first chapter of Julie Bogart’s A Gracious Space, Fall Edition. (If you have not had the good fortune of “meeting” Julie yet, you must! Catch any of her Scopes or replays or check out her website! Your day life will be blessed by her wisdom and non-judgmental support on your homeschooling journey!)

Julie says, “What makes your children’s education unique isn’t how well you systematize all the subjects. It’s how well you share your enthusiasm for life, learning, art, literature, the power of math equations to create quilts or build forts or sell cookies, the excitement of politics, volunteering in your free time so that your kids learn how to share themselves with others, and most important, your enthusiasm for each of them.”

So, in one word…Enthusiasm.

Be the joy of learning.

How will you light the fire of learning in your family this week?

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Monday Mindset: Don't Forget the Figs!

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Monday Mindset:

Because sometimes, a shift in perspective is all you need.

Don't Forget the Figs!

It’s Monday morning and you’re tired from a busy weekend that came after a busy week of raising kids, running errands, and relentless laundry. You may have been less than patient with your kids, your spouse or even yourself. You may have even thrown in the towel on Tuesday and decided that the task of the week was to make it through, not really knowing what that really meant. So now, you’re faced with a new week. Seven brand new days ahead of you. You want to make the most of it, but you’re still tired and not altogether convinced that this week won’t turn out like last week. Sometimes what we need is a shift in perspective. A reminder of what we value and a plan to make those values visible.

Enter…the FIGS! Don’t worry. If you don’t like figs, you don’t have to eat them to be the parent you want to be. These figs are more for the heart than the body.   F. I. G. S.  Here's how it works...

Forgive

You can’t move forward with the weight of last week’s shortcomings on your back. When you look back on your week, there may be things you wish you had done differently. Maybe you wish you had spent more time reading with your kids. Or getting outside for a walk to enjoy the fall weather. Or listening to your child more intently rather than checking your email. Whatever you wish you had done differently, forgive yourself! It’s done. Does carrying the guilt serve you well? Let go. You did the best you could. Period.

Intention

Now that you’ve done the hardest step of forgiving yourself, it is time for a small step on the path of intention. This path is yours, and yours alone. Stating your intention isn’t just wistfully wishing it into being. It is a mindful statement about what you value. For example, my intention for this week is to be present in a meaningful way with each of my children everyday. Just by putting this into words, it becomes a beacon for my week. A way in which I will bring consciousness to the decisions I make based on my values. In this example, I value individual relationship and connection with each of my children.

Goals

Stating an intention gives us focus and helps us to regulate our mindset, even when challenging situations arise. And creating simple, action-based goals helps us to make our intention tangible. Using my example of being present with my children, my goals may look like this.

  1. Limit my own screen time, and close any screen if a child comes to talk to me.
  2. Make a plan (and implement it) for spending time with each child. Snuggling at bedtime, playing a game together, reading a book, inviting a child to help make dinner or a snack. Knowing what is important to each of my children will help me to make the most of my time with them. Being open to spontaneous moments of connection is key but making “appointments” with each child will help to ensure that each child gets what he/she needs. It sounds somewhat contrived, but it is the same as planning a date with my husband. By setting aside time, I am sending the message that each child is important. 

Stamina

Stamina may be the second hardest part of “eating figs.” As the week goes on and the day-to-day threatens to swallow up your intention, hold on. Make time for what you value. Take an honest look at what is getting in the way of you living out your goals.   Are the obstacles within your control? If they are, be creative. Find a way to work it out. If they’re outside your control, be creative. Your goals may need to be tweaked but your intention, your values, don’t. You value what is important to you. Stick with it. And don’t forget to forgive yourself when you don’t. You’re an amazing person and you’ve got this!

 

Why Your Baby is NOT Lost

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Why Your Baby is Not Lost

On May 20, 2015, I gave birth to my seventh child. In my bathroom. My husband stood outside the door asking if I was ok, and I kept saying, “Yep, I’m fine.” I was……and I wasn’t. I needed to be alone. To birth this tiny baby on my own. I needed the space to allow my body and my heart to open up and release. That baby was just 11 weeks old.

And just like I had done with all my full-term babies, I held her body and cried. There were no words, no coherent thoughts, no logic to describe what had just happened. All I knew was that this tiny one was my child, my angel baby, and my love for her was (and is) immense.

At first, I didn’t want to talk to about it with anyone. And then I wanted to talk to everyone.

I wanted to tell them what had happened. Wanted them to know that there were more members of our family than you can see piling out of our suburban. Most of all, I wanted to validate the life of our baby and her place in our hearts.

There were close family members and friends who acknowledged our little one’s life and the impact she had on ours, but there were others who simply said nothing. I don’t blame them. Grief and loss are hard, and often there are no words, but the silence can be misunderstood.

No matter where your personal belief lies as to when life begins, this child that I held was my child. She was life formed from the love my husband and I share. She was life ended too soon. She is a part of our family.

The lessons I learned from this child, whom I only held for a brief moment in time, are as countless as the stars that now surround her in the heavens. She reminded me of who I am, of who I want to be. Of who we are as a family and just how important family is to us. She reminded us why we choose this crazy life with a passel of kids and why we hold that life so dear. She reminded me of my faith, and resting in that gets me through the times when I go to retrieve baby clothes for a friend from the bin packed up in the basement, and the dam breaks and I sob for the child I will never watch grow.

I question why. I plead for an answer, and then realize I have answer enough.

This tiny child taught me so much in her short life and even more in her death. More than I could ever capture in words. It is as if her pure soul spoke to mine and pushed me forward out of the self that I once was and into the self I always was. She reminded me to love and to be love.

I am sometimes asked the question, “Do you think you’ll try again?” And to that, I do not have an answer. Only a tangle of emotion and thought emerge. None particularly logical nor illogical. In not welcoming another child, does that mean I did not want the one gone too soon? And does inviting another child into our life mean we are replacing our angel baby? Neither of these are the reality, but grief seldom makes for logical sense.

The true reality is, even when you have six children and one is in heaven, no child is just another child. Each child is a gift. Unique and precious. In life and in death.

So I encourage you. Talk about your babies in heaven. They are a part of you forever. A part of your family. Celebrate them even in the midst of the heartache. The sadness will not go away, for someone whom you love has left this earth.

But your baby is not lost. Because your love for one another remains.

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Learning to Trust with Boys & Baseball

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There's a Book for That, Day 10:
Boys & Baseball

Allowing learning to unfold naturally is a tightrope walk between anxiety and trust. At least it has been for me. I have often questioned my own notion of learning, and often done so multiple times in an hour. What I have learned is that whenever I allow trust to win out over the fear and anxiety, the result is beautiful. Always. The process is not always neat and orderly. Actually, it rarely is. But beauty and blessing can be found in every corner of trusting enough to respect your child’s voice in his own education. That’s the lesson all six of my children teach me daily. And among my children, there is no better teacher than our eight year old. This boy has pushed me out of my comfort zone in splendid ways that I thank him for.

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So when his love of baseball happily threatened to take over every aspect of his waking (and most likely dreaming) hours, I made the conscious decision to welcome the passion. Thanks to Julie Bogart over at Brave Writer and Lori Pickert over at Project-Based Homeschooling, this decision was easy. I suggested to my boy that he come up with a project about baseball. His enthusiasm for this ideas matched that of Christmas morning. Not only was he going to immerse himself in learning all about baseball, but he got to take the lead and he got quality time with me sharing his passion. All of these are immense benefits, but the latter is what this parenting gig is all about. Nothing says ‘I love you’ to a child more than spending time together focusing on what they love.

So now, on to the books….

These are just some of the books we read together. We also watched some YouTube videos documentaries about different baseball players and baseball history. And this boy amazed me every step of the way. He was focused and attentive and persistent. After some brainstorming, he decided he wanted to write a book. And he doesn’t mean just a little, easy reader book. He means a BOOK, and he is prepared for it to take him all year to do it.

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This is the result of trusting my boy and being his partner in learning.  As recent as a few months ago, he did not want to learn to read or write.  Now he is doing both, with enthusiasm!

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Throughout the process so far, he has learned how to read and spell several dozen words. He has learned how to paraphrase and re-tell what he has learned. He has learned how to ask questions and seek the answers. And he has learned how to go through a video or book with a fine tooth comb a second, and sometimes third time, to make sure he got the facts straight. And above all, he has learned that he is a reader and a writer. So if you ever  When you come to the fork in the road where you have to choose the path of fear or the path of trust, choose trust. Let’s make it the path more traveled.

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Reading Aloud: Comfort in a Crazy Day

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The thing that I love about books is their ability to calm a stormy day. The mesmerizing language of authors who have mastered their craft pulls in even the most reluctant listener. Even as I open a picture book that I intend to read to my littles, once I begin, it is inevitable that my biggest boy will curl up nearby to soak up the story. Maybe it is the closeness that sharing a book brings. We sit close. We share space. We snuggle. We listen. We laugh.
We hold our breath waiting to find out if Marty will get to keep Shiloh.

On the days when I feel like nothing is going as planned and everything is going awry, the one thing I know that can bring us back to our center is reading together. If the toddler is too fidgety, we listen to an audiobook, but we still share a story. We immerse ourselves in another world and somehow our brains and our bodies relax, our breathing slows and we are there.  Present. Together.

When the days turn into weeks of chaos and questioning just how I can keep up with this crazy, grace-filled life, we return to the basics. It always includes lots of story-time, often only leaving home for a library visit, filling the bags to overflowing. It is a common occurrence for all eight of us to leave the library with 50 or so books. All to be savored in the week ahead. Some have been chosen by me with the idea of sparking some interest in a topic, but most of them are chosen “just” for the sake of reading. Everyone has their favorite authors, even the little girl who’s not yet two. They find them on the shelves and peruse the books on display, always willing to hear something new.

So when I question myself…Am I giving them enough? Educating them well? I just step back and look at what we have built together: a family culture around books. When I set out on this parenting gig, the one thing that I was absolutely clear on was that I wanted my children to love books, not reading, but books.
I have a few who are definitely capable of reading books independently, but they still prefer to be read to. When any one of them is sick, forget movies or tv shows. Give them a great audiobook and a warm bed. They’ll be there all day long. And even if they’re not sick, sometimes I have to remind them that the CD player has a pause button:)

Reading together is not just a single thread in our family tapestry. It is the weft and warp, the threads that intertwine with each other to create the beauty that is the tapestry.

The benefits of reading together are greater even than the quality time we share as a family. Hearing the language as fashoined by professional writers, our minds and our own language are permeated with it loveliness. We begin to articulate ourselves with greater clarity and grace.

Just the other day, my oldest two children were having a discussion about which would sound better when asking a question about the price of an event. “Will it cost money?” or “Will there be a cost?” We ended up having an interesting discussion about how there are many ways to say the same thing, but the words we choose can affect how they are perceived. I think that the fact that they were able to appreciate the subtlety of these differences is due in large part to the countless hours that we have spent reading together.

So I leave you with this. Reading together is a gift. Where in your day can carve out even 15 minutes to be together? It will be worth every second, and you may find that 15 minutes just isn’t enough:)

If you need more inspiration, check out The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma, and the series of podcasts, The Read Aloud Revival, by Sarah Mackenzie. They are all worth the time, but even if you can only listen to just one podcast, I bet you’ll be inspired to get reading!