Monday Mindset: Choose Trust

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Monday Mindset

Because sometimes a shift in perspective is all you need.

This is a re-post from October of last year because sometimes we need a reminder to trust, especially when it is the path less traveled.

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....read the rest here...

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Please Be Gentle with My Bruises

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Please Be Gentle with My Bruises

I’m about to lay bare my heart...because I don’t want this space to showcase just my glamour shots. I want it to be real. Authentic. My life in all its messy glory.

So here it is. Yesterday was awful. Just plain bad.

It was more than the typical disruptions, sibling disputes, and toddler tantrums. It was way bigger.

The arguments were battles of brothers with fists flying and fire shooting from eyes. When I stepped in to mediate, a fist or two was raised toward me. Just as it seemed the storm was passing, another one reared its ugly head and we were caught up in its spinning winds again. No one was hurt thankfully. Well, at least not physically, but the wounded hearts are the real story.

There were tears. So many tears. From my boys and me. Sobs of the unfairness and frustration and rejection. Some were mine. Some were my boys. With all this emotion hanging in the air, our home was a heavy place, and I was at a loss as to how to make it better.

Being a parent is hard. There are days that completely knock you down and you wonder just how you’ll find the courage to get back up.

Even on a good day, when all six of my kiddos are seemingly angelic, and we’re out at the grocery store, someone will ask me, “How do you do it?” I’m never sure if they want an honest answer or just a smile and a chuckle, but I always choose honesty.

“How do I do it? I don’t know.”

This answer usually makes people uneasy and they reply with the smile and chuckle. Of course, it’s not my intention to make anyone uncomfortable, but the truth is, I don’t know how I do it. I just do. Somehow. Each day is a challenge and gift. New twists on old arguments pop up like rain clouds threatening to ruin a sunny day. The truth is I don’t have it all figured out. I don’t have to, and neither do you.

As I reflected in the day with a longer than long shower and some chocolate, I made three conclusions.

1) My default mode must always be love and calm. Responding in anger will never help. In the midst of their own big emotions, my children need me to be the eye of the storm. That place where they can stand while everything else swirls around them and feel safe.

2) Parenting is hard and we need to support each another. There’s no need to hide the challenges of parenting from each other. We all know how difficult it can be. Pretending that it isn’t only alienates us.

3) Let go when it’s time to let go and hold on when it’s time to hold on. In the midst of my boys’ arguments, I needed to hold on; to them, to my own emotions, to love. I needed to love them through it. But when it was over, I needed to let go. After hearts were heard and hugs shared, it was time to let go. I had to resist the urge to talk about it just a little more in my attempt to ensure it will never happen again. As they were joking with each other and playing tag at the end of the day, I had to bite my tongue, when all I wanted to shout was, “All of that arguing and now you’re acting like nothing happened?!” I had to let them be. To soak in what they were able to learn from the situation for where they are individually. This is the hardest part. As their parent, it hurts to see them hurt. And angers me to see how they treat each other. But I cannot control that. All I can do is model love and compassion. The rest is up to them. But man, that is so hard!!

So there it is. My imperfect snapshot. Bruises and all. So hang in there! You’re not alone.

Monday Mindset: What's Your Word?

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Monday Mindset

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

Happy 2016!

With the opening of a new year and the closing of the old, we can’t help but hope. We long for new beginnings like a feast after a famine. We look over our shoulders at where we’ve been and gaze ahead longing for a path to be made clear that will lead us to the goals we set.

What if we can light our way, calling upon lessons learned and striving ideals? Not through resolutions as we are accustomed, but through thoughtful intentions? And what if the light we seek is within us? I believe that it is, and for this reason, I have taken to choosing a word or short phrase to be my beacon throughout the year. Something I can use to evaluate whether or not my actions and decisions are in line with my priorities.  In years past, my intentions have been things like Stubborn Joy, Love, and Trust.

This year I choose diligence.

There are so many areas of my life that need me to be just that, diligent. And diligence encourages me to be present and faithful in all that I do. It is a audacious word, full of courage. My prayer is that I meet this challenge with all the grace and strength it requires.

What will be your word, your phrase, for 2016?
  Leave me a note in the comments so I can cheer you on!

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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. 

beam of light text

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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Homeschooling Translated

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Homeschooling Translated

Ever feel like you aren't doing enough in your homeschooling?  Maybe it's outside pressure or your own internal dialogue, but often we doubt that what we are doing with and for our children is enough.  I know I do, until I slow down and examine just how naturally full of learning our days really are.

Julie Bogart of Brave Writer was talking about this very idea the other day is this scope.  She was talking about how we already do so much learning our children, even though it may not look like what schools would consider education. She expanded on this saying that we can give ourselves credit and calm the “ghost of public school past” by putting what we already do into what I like to call “teacher-speak,” that language that educators use to compartmentalize and quantify the learning being done.

Though I know many are intimidated by this task, I have always found it kind of fun, maybe because I love writing and am always trying to think of new ways to say the same thing. But also because I used to teach in public school and know that the teaching and learning done in a classroom has nothing on the authentic learning that can be done in the home and the world around.

So I decided to take one day from our week and put it into teacher-speak to illustrate this idea and hopefully give you some encouragement that you really are doing a lot already!

Below I’ve listed some of the activities we engaged in. And below that is a list of the subject areas and topics covered in “teacher-speak.”

Our Day

Poetry teatime:

  • Making treats and peanut butter cocoa
  • Reading poems-learned about e.e. cummings and the use or dis-use of capitalization in poetry
  • haiku-which lead to discussion of syllables and counting them and spontaneous, improvised lines of poetry,
  • Poetry art project-this would be completed later in the day, but in preparation, we discussed verbs, nouns, and adjectives, listing some to be used in a poem about autumn leaves

Nature hike:

  • Read the map and followed trail markers.
  • experienced the crispness in the air juxtaposed with the warmth of fall day, collected various leaves and later looked up a few that we did not recognize
  • physical exercise, fresh air
  • time with friends

After our hike:

  • Looked at each individual leaf and described it recalling adjectives, nouns and verbs. Wrote words on leaves, arranged them in various ways to make a poem, typed the poem, dipped leaves in beeswax and hung them up to dry.

Translation

Language arts: poetry appreciation, reading, grammar, capitalization, syllables, penmanship, keyboarding skills

Math: fractions, measurement, comparing

Social Studies: Map reading, compass rose

Science: botany, leaf identification

Physical education: hiking

Recess: socializing with friends

Art: 3-D sculpture, photography

 If you add in the music we listened to on the way and the time my older kids practiced their violins, we covered every subject area. The best part is, I was there, present and engaged with my children. We weren’t bogged down by workbooks on this beautiful day in November. We were living a full life. And what I realized along the way is that the best learning is the learning that you’re never too tired to pursue. The learning that even though it may not be during your “school” hours, you are still excited to experience. Because that’s just it! Learning is an experience. A never-ending, journey of discovery.

Give it a try.

Can you take just one experience that you have shared with your children lately and put it in “teacher-speak”?

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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The Simple Guide to Enjoying Shakespeare with Kids

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Enjoy Shakespeare.

For many this statement seems like an oxymoron. Their feelings about Shakespeare are on par with having a tooth pulled without the anesthesia. Why is that? Why is Shakespeare so well-known and yet so feared? I am willing to bet that the biggest reason is unfamiliarity with the language of Shakespeare. I think one could argue that it is a foreign language all its own! With that said, I am going to share with you ways to enjoy Shakespeare with children of all ages!

Start with re-tellings!

The stories of Shakespeare really are inviting once you break the barrier of the poetic language. The best way our family has been able to do this is to listen to and read re-tellings! Our favorites have been from Jim Weiss and Bruce Coville. Both of these authors and storytellers have a way of capturing the beauty of the story, seamlessly merging original lines from Shakespeare into their re-tellings. So not only do we better understand the story but the poetry of the language is gracefully maintained.Another path to enjoying Shakespeare, and simulatenously expanding our view of his works, is to read a book like Shakespeare’s storybook: Folk Tales that Inspired the Bard. This book shares 6 folk tales and a little history and insight about how each one relates to the works of Shakespeare. The best part is that it comes with 2 CDs so that you can listen to them on the go. I can’t say enough about this book! And I can’t help but smile when my kids say, “Can we listen to Shakespeare? Plleeeaaase?”

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Find your guides!

Gather some resources about Shakespeare that work for your family.  These will end up being as much for you as your kids. They’ll be your go-to when you want to dig a little deeper or get some fresh ideas! My favorites are linked below. Having them on hand has helped me to be consistent with making Shakespeare more a part of our family culture, rather than just a story we read once.

Listen, read and watch!

Shakespeare is poetry and play. It is meant to be heard and seen, both on the written page and on the stage. But I have to confess that I am terrified of reading Shakespeare aloud to my kids. Not so much that I will mispronounce words but that I will lose the beauty of the language and kill any chance of my kids enjoying the experience. So, I got creative! I bought several copies of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a story with which my children are already familiar. And I purchased the audio version. So we have options. We can listen. We can read. And most preferred, we can listen and read along at the same time! I am still on the look-out for a well performed screen or stage production of Shakespeare plays, but that is on my to-do list before the year is through. So if you have any favorites to share, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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So that’s it! 

Simple strategies. 

Gather some resources. 

Start small and jump in.

You will gain confidence as you go.

You may even find that you and your kids enjoy Shakespeare!

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