Efficiency has no name

As someone who loves to learn and practice efficiency, motherhood has no room for it. Efficiency has no name in the great game of motherhood. Efficiency has eyes only, it need not whisper a word.

There is no rushing of children, of their emotions, of their learning and development. There is no fitting children into a box or molding them to some predetermined platform, because God already gave them their mold and their platform. We mothers and fathers are to learn to see it, honor it and help them honor themselves in being who they were created to be.

The sanctity of motherhood is held in a mother’s ability to see. If we can see, we can hear. If we can hear, we can respond.

Of the many things I enjoy about motherhood, one of them is how children don’t apologize for the way they process the world. They take it all in, and they react. That’s all. They let you know how they feel on a visceral level… it all spews forth from their gut. And they demand you responding in a way that honors their feelings.

I suppose there are those parents who try their best to ignore and suppress those feelings, but that never helps anyone. I’m not for permissive parenting. I’m for training a child in the way he/she should go. But there is enough space in the day for honoring the feelings in both of you – this is child training, and this is future-adult training… and isn’t that healthier?

I’m not saying I’m a pillar of perfection here… quite the opposite. God gifted me with a highly outspoken sensitive firstborn, and I work really very hard everyday to walk the line of grace and discipline together. Our desire for control makes us rub elbows together everyday, so I’m on this tightrope and I’m at God’s mercy to show me how to step so I don’t squash, and I don’t squelch, and I don’t regret being too lose either.

If we held each other in this view, this view of expressing and honoring each other’s feelings, wouldn’t marriages stay together, children grow with greater desire to please, and enemies make space to cross the bridge to friendship?

If the sanctity of motherhood is held in our ability to see, then you must ask, how do I see better? Put on your glasses and read your Bible. Pray to the living God that He would be merciful to show you the underlying conditions of the stress and tantrums, the naughty behavior, and the needful things in your hearts… this goes for everyone under your roof, including yourself… and it goes for the people who aren’t under your roof too.

Relationships hold no place for efficiency. When it comes to your relationships, throw efficiency out the window and work towards quality. This means you should look for resolution, honesty, and understanding. Throw efficiency out, and strive towards peace and hope. Strive for knowing. Learn how to see. Learn as I learn.

How to do a Classical Conversations Book Haul, Cycle 2, weeks 11-14

I enjoy sharing my book hauls so you can gather some ideas for your next library visit. We are well embedded in the grammar stage of classical learning, which means we are focused on the who, the what, the when. Sometimes we learn the how and why, but I don’t necessarily embellish for topics for things that are complex like things of historical nature. Rather, we make indulgences in science to learn the why or how of things, listen to more music or look at more art. More often we are just out exploring nature and the things around us.

Let’s get into the book haul now.

We happen to have the timeline cards for classical conversations, and the science cards. We also have a science encyclopedia. But when I approach a new section of learning for CC, I look up about three weeks of information at a time. This happens one of two ways:

Method one. Online in my library’s online catalogue… in this case I ask the library to reserve the books for me and set them aside. This allows me the flexibility of picking them up from the check out area at anytime, kids in tow or not

Method two. At the library either by myself or with the kid’s librarian’s help… in this case I need my husband’s help focusing on my kids while I search

Before I go searching and compiling. Before I use either pick up method, I just make a list of the upcoming topics covered by CC. In this case, it was weeks 11-14. I just literally handwrite a list starting with the timeline, history, science, math, English and geography topics. And in that list, I look for overlapping subjects, so I can consolidate the books I need if possible.

I also look up the book list from Half A Hundred Acre Wood’s blog online. And the kindergarten, preschool, and picture books lists from my local library, including early readers. And note any upcoming holidays.

Back to compiling my books. If I’m using method one, then while I’m logged in to the library’s catalogue I write down call numbers and sections where I will find the topics I want to cover. Then I literally go hunting, comparing a few books from each section to make sure I have one appropriate for my young Kinder-aged son. I have a heavy preference for cartoon books, comic books, picture books, story books or rhyming books if I can find related ones. Next, a heavy preference for simple explanatory books. We may not read every one word for word. Sometimes I summarize. Sometimes we soak in the pictures if the book is very advanced but that’s all that was available.

I may have to ask the librarian for help if certain books are missing. See how not everything is crossed off my lists? That’s okay!

Here’s how my lists end up looking before I go hunting.

If I’m using method 2, I look at user ratings to help me decide which ones to pull.

My kids also get to pick books at random that they’d enjoy.

This is what we ended up with for weeks 11-14 for Cycle 2 of classical conversations.

In my last book haul, you’ll see we covered Week 11 already. I don’t mind doing weeks over again, whatsoever. We have a break week due to Thanksgiving, so we can take advantage of that buffer.

This is where the type A in me halts to a grand stop. We read twice a day, before rest time and bed time. We read four or five books… or if the books are long, a chapter… or if the books are really long, a page. We “dog ear” where we left off and pick it up again whenever we feel like it.

As our three weeks comes to an end we either return the books we’ve had enough of, or renew the books we want more time with.

We are discovering so much this way! My son’s favorite book from the last haul was called “Plagues, Pox, and Pestilence”. I never would have guessed that he’d be so into that! And on our drive today he proclaimed “I really love Buzz Aldrin” and asked me if I knew about Vostok missions.

Here’s one more view of the book haul for weeks 11-14 for Cycle 2 for you.

There’s no way around the fact that this is time-consuming. Method one takes a solid hour and a half for me to cover three CC weeks. Method two takes me a good two hours. But we are finding the benefits are innumerable.

I didn’t include the silly books my sons picked this week or the early readers, since I am focusing on how you can do a CC haul.

We are in the grammar stage, but my young Kindergartener wants to know what he’s memorizing, so off we go every three weeks to fill in some of those learning pegs with a little meat.

While some moms have impressive book collections, we don’t have the space or money to purchase all these books every week, and I’d feel gridlocked if I did it that way anyhow. I do, however, prioritize making the time.

I hope this helps some of you enjoy CC more!

Cycle 2 Weeks 8-11 Book Haul

Here’s my book haul for K-3rd for Classical Conversations weeks 8-11 for Cycle 2. I take account upcoming holidays too.

We like very hands-on math activities. Here’s a little space puzzle for skip counting 14’s. I found the image by searching space images in google. I glued the popsicle sticks with elmer’s glue on the back of the image. Then I used a kitchen paring knife to carefully slice through and divide the popsicle sticks on a cutting board. My son didn’t want to do it until I walked away and acted like it didn’t matter if he did it or not. 5 minutes later he “surprised” me, and asked me for help with the last few pieces which weren’t numbered.

A Day in the Life of a Homeschool Mom

My kids are 5 and 2 years old. Both boys. I thought it would be fun to post a day in the life of our home. Our schedule is more of a routine than it is a schedule, meaning we follow patterns over being gridlocked by timing. That said though, there are regular things we do each week and month.

This morning both boys were up at 6:30am. I got up and put on praise music, and made a quiche for a ladies’ gathering which was meeting at 9:30am this morning, and heated up two pieces of quiche that I had made from two days ago for the little one and myself. My older son doesn’t like quiche, regardless of what I call it: egg pie, egg cake, egg pizza… he will have none of it. Thus, we all enjoyed hot cocoa and peaches for breakfast, and either muffins or quiche.

Then we got on to our morning symposium. This is our Bible story, and as of right now, a Young Peacemaker’s “sliver” of a lesson. We are reading from the Bible I had growing up, because my oldest son is finally ready for this one. It’s Paul Hamlyn’s Children’s Bible in Color. I say we do a sliver of a lesson in Young Peacemakers, because that’s our attention span right now. My son is fully grasping the concepts, however, so I am grateful that I’m meeting the purpose instead of feeling some false external insane time-bound pressure.

Right after our Bible time, we go on to our reading lesson in “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”.  I wrote about how we do this reading lesson here, but I will add that I started numbering the lines of the long stories. It puts my son in control of his ‘reading guide’ and enables him to have the book right in front of him instead of closer to me. As I become more pregnant, I am having trouble scooting up close enough to the table anyway.

After reading, we do math. We are using Singapore Math Kindergarten Book A. At the time I didn’t realize I ordered the Common Core Edition. I don’t think there’s any difference between regular Kindergarten math and common core kindergarten math, though, so I don’t mind. My son does well in math, so lessons are quick. I do the book more so he can practice writing. We don’t do formal writing yet, for many reasons.

After that, I consider it break time. During that time, the little one who is 2, is either running through the house, or sitting down with his own drawing notebook (a composition book) to draw, scribble, paste and do dot art. Every time he sits down to draw, I write a ‘the next’ capital and lowercase letter on the page, so when we go back through his notebook to admire his drawings we can practice the alphabet.

Today we headed out to a Bible study. The kids play and the moms get some much-needed reflection time. Some moms bring a treat to share. Like I said, I brought quiche. Our whole morning lesson took an hour. Sometimes if my son is really focused, it could be faster, but we’ve literally covered the core pieces that I care about already, all before 9am.

It took me 15 minutes to rally them into the car and do a double check that I had all the items I needed to lead the study, bring the quiche and plates/cups etc, and diapers/wipes, etc. I should pack the diaper bag the night before every night, but sometimes I’m tired.

We got there on time, and I find these women revitalizing and enjoy their company. What a blessing they are to me!

We left at 10 after noon after helping clean up toys a little and picking some fresh lemons from the hostess’ tree. What a fine treat!!

On our 11 minute drive home I caught up with a friend, and lagged in the street talking because my tot fell asleep in that short time.

We had to try nap time twice today. But in-between nap time, I fed this crew some Annie’s mac and cheese mixed with last night’s fresh lemon cilantro parsley zucchini and carrots – mac and cheese day is an indulgent treat. During our lunch, we reviewed our new material for Classical Conversations (CC). It took only 10 or 15 minutes to do that.

Feeling big and pregnant, I let us watch a show. It was a lovely show about house cats that we found on Netflix. Then we read stories, and tried nap time again. Nap time didn’t work. So we got up, my tot decided to go #2 in the potty for the 2nd time (yay!!!).

Then we played stacking cups which is just making towers out of solo cups. We also played the old game that magicians play sometimes, where you hide something under a cup, and rotate three cups around to try and guess where it is in the end. <— these two games make great CC review games by the way. We tried balancing cups on our head and walking while reciting our math squares song for CC. This is how I fit CC into our day in a fun way. I’ve found that every single game under the sun can be a CC game. A few times doing this, and my son will have the whole week down. He already knows the science for this week, and I didn’t feel like I really taught it to him. Part of his knowledge comes from the books we choose. I’ll post another reading haul again in a few days, for Cycle 2 Weeks 9 to 12. I also put on CC music during my older son’s rest time, but it’s mixed in with about 2 hours of other music too. Much of that music is Bible verses sung outloud to beautiful music, and then your standard Kindergarten music. Also in that mix, is relevant Story of the World chapters.

After that, I put the tot on my back for a piggy back ride and played chase older brother through the house. And then older brother decided he’d delight me with brushing my hair. How wonderful! We also rehearsed our notes rhymes that tell us how to memorize the notes on a staff line while we played.

This is our homeschool day! It’s as simple as that, and it’s fun! If you’re thinking of homeschooling, don’t let anyone intimidate you away from it. Homeschooling is awesome. It gets more complicated as children get older, but that’s why we start young. Just remember to keep it fresh.

That’s our day today! On other days, we’ve followed similar routines, but portions of the day may be pushed later in the day because we’ve gotten an earlier start. And often on those long days, I’ve plunked my kids in a loooong bath to decompress… to the tune of an hour long pruney-fingered dunk.

I hope this encouraged some of you to keep it simple, and take it slow! Do what your children need, and put God first.



Chores for littles

By request, I’m writing about chores today. Let’s break this down into three parts:

  1. Why are chores important?
  2. What chores can my kid do?
  3. How do I teach kids how to do chores well?

Chores matter because it’s an integral part to teaching kids responsibility. Responsibility matters because one day, you’re going to send those young birds out of your nest to fend for themselves in a relatively unforgiving and competitive world. You don’t want them to wonder how to clean their own laundry, do the dishes, and even how to cook a meal. You want them to know how to pay their bills, budget, and balance a checkbook. You need them to know how to save money for the future, and what the fruit of hard work looks and feels like. You want them to know how to run their own households. Start building good work ethic by training them in these skills from the very beginning.

There are so many lists available on the internet that outline what kids can do by what ages, but one of my favorites is this one: http://lifehacker.com/the-chores-kids-can-do-by-age-group-1689862131. Mind you, only use someone else’s list to get you started. You know what your kids are capable of, and what your family needs. I’ve observed that large families do a better job delegating and training their kids in doing chores well out of necessity – moms and dads are just out-numbered! This means the parents of smaller families need to make delegating and training kids to do chores “feel” all the more important to them (the parents). And remember, it’s mom who ‘generally’ sets the stage for this kind of work. Mainly, because moms operate the home.

Training your kids to do chores well is a three-step process which I’ll come back to in a minute. Let me tell you what’s going to happen as you introduce each new chore. In the beginning, you’re going to get a some, or a lot of, resistance. Because. Chores. Are. Hard. Don’t you remember how making your bed when you were young was so hard, because the sheets were so long compared to the size of your body and your arms, and you could only fluff a pillow so much? Plus, your attention span was that of a gnat… or it seemed that way to your parents. To you, you just remember something else glimmered in the corner of your eye and so you went to it like a moth to a flame… and the next thing you know, you were in trouble for not listening to your parents. Granted, the level of resistance you get from each child depends on his or her personality, age and attitude. Use chores as an attitude-tuning tool. In our home we say “How do we obey? All the way, right away, and with a cheerful heart.” We’ve also found the need to start teaching my strong-willed first born to obey us first and ask questions afterwards, lest we fall into the trappings of an argument.

Children need some motivation. And all children are motivated by something different. As someone who used to do behavior therapy, I was taught there are some broad stroke categories of rewards that kids respond to: positive and negative reinforcement. This could be positive or negative attention; access to items like food, activities, toys, money, or motion; pain or attention avoidance, and sometimes self-stimulation (this could be like rocking, or hand flapping). When you think about your kid, you’re trying to understand the ‘why’ that underlies whatever behavior you’re seeing. You’re trying to figure out how to motivate that child to act or behave in a certain way. At the same time, you’re training their minds through your dialogue with them to process certain outcomes in a particular way. Here’s what I mean:

  • ‘I’m really proud of you. Hard work pays off. I’m going to tell [insert loved one’s name] how well you did today’.
  • ‘You worked hard on that. How do you feel now that you’ve learned a new skill?’
  • ‘You see how your father and I have to wait for to finish some things before we can do other things? Why do you think that is?’
  • ‘After you do this ten times, you’re going to be a pro, and you can take a turn to teach me how to do that better. Once you can teach me, we’re going to go [insert reward].

Of course, with a child who is a toddler, you don’t engage them with all those questions. You just fill their minds with phrases and consequences to form those associations as you want them:

  • ‘Yay!!! You did it! You put your toys away!’
  • ‘You’re so big! You did pee pee in the potty!’
  • ‘Great work! Let me give you a hug and a high five!’

Figure out what motivates your child by testing their response to various reinforcements. The best reinforcers will lose their salience over time, and you’ll have to constantly go back to the drawing board anyway. Depending on your child, and their level of competency and competitiveness, you will also ‘up the ante’ for receiving their reinforcers over time. You could do that by increasing the number of times he or she completes the chore before receiving a reward, or increasing the skill with which you child completes the task. Ideally, both of these requirements will increase over time until you consider your child a master of that chore. Once your child masters a chore, either he or she becomes totally responsible for the chore in your home (even on a part time basis), or then is responsible to help train the next child in your home who is ready to learn that chore.

Now let’s return to that three-step process of training your child how to do chores. It’s simple, and it’s complicated at the same time.

  • Step 1: Model the chore how you want it done. Show your child how to do the chore. Give the chore a name. Call it the same name every time. (i.e. cleaning the bathroom, dusting, cleaning the floors). Include the same steps to completing the chores every time. Break a multi-step process down into smaller steps (You don’t give a two year old a 5 step process, you give them one task. You give a five year old two or three tasks, depending on his or her ability. Keep the task the same until your child does that one thing well. Then add the second task.) Cleaning the bathroom (for a teenager) might look something like the list below, but put it in check list form so they can keep track of where they are. You always want to give a child a review time after completing a task that includes what he or she did well, and what you want him to focus on doing better next time:
    1. Reminders
      1. work from top to bottom
      2. have a cheerful heart
      3. your reward is this: ______________
      4. your goal is to finish this in [insert time]
    2.  Prep
      1. gather white vinegar, microfiber rags, a toilet brush, cleaning spray (we use water, white vinegar, and essential oils), whatever knock off brand of magic eraser you could find for cheap on Amazon… because they exist for cheap on Amazon, and some good music
      2. put away countertop and bathtub clutter – organize drawers and cabinets if necessary
      3. put baking soda and white vinegar in the sink, toilet and bathtub to let soak (remember to plug the drains first)
    3. Top
      1. dust the corners of the ceiling
      2. dust the light fixtures
      3. dust the window frame, clean the window panes, dust the window sill
      4. dust above the bathroom mirror, clean the mirror
    4. Middle
      1. clean countertop with spray
      2. clean sink faucets and shower/tub fixtures with spray
      3. clean sink basin with spray
      4. dust sink cabinet sides and doors
      5. clean back of toilet tank, sides, toilet lid and top and bottom of seat, toilet basin and flush, and then finally the toilet base all the way to the floor
      6. clean sides of shower walls with spray and that fake magic eraser
    5. Bottom
      1. clean tub basin with spray and that fake shower eraser
      2. wipe down baseboards
      3. sweep (always start farthest away from the door and remember to go behind the toilet)
      4. empty trash, put in new trash bag
      5. mop (this usually requires some work on your hands and knees, unfortunately, to achieve a really clean bathroom floor)
  • Step 2: Guide while he or she is doing the task. You want to show your child how to do the task, and then let him or her take turns doing it for you. You will offer mid-course corrections along the way, and stay with the child to ensure success. You may even place your hand over your child’s hand to show them how much pressure you want them to apply. Please do yourselves a favor and keep this a positive experience. Watch your tone, your words and your body language. Keep track of your facial expressions. Give honest feedback. Don’t sugar coat what you’re feeling. Ask your child for feedback. Ask specific questions. Monitor and correct your child’s attitude along the way. If you cut corners or take over doing the task because it’s easier for you in the short-term, watch your child cut those same corners later, or put up a fuss because he or she knows you will allow him or her to escape the activity. Be persistent, kind and supportive.
  • Step 3: Let your child complete the task without you hovering, and come back to offer feedback once your child is done (or a certain amount of time has elapsed). When you have feedback to give, have your child go back and correct items that aren’t done.

If you want to be very thorough, you’ll keep track in a journal somewhere how well your child is doing on various aspects of the chore. That way you’ll see patterns emerge and be able to address them. Be aware of your child’s physiological or neurological handicaps too, please. If you’re child has vision problems, memory or hearing problems, don’t penalize them for something her or she can’t help. Help him or her figure out ways around those issues. Some children pay better attention to detail than others. Some children are natural people-pleasers. Some children simply lack the physical strength for certain tasks. In that case you’ll have to teach the child ‘hacks’ like using the weight of their upper body so they can scrub better, or finding the corner of the top sheet of the bed and walking it up towards the pillow instead of trying to shake it out like he might see you doing.

If you’re child can’t read yet, make simple picture charts. Your child will gain a certain momentum or inertia if he or she does the new chore more often and consistently in the beginning. If you’re teaching your child how to dust, find something for him or her to dust every day at a certain time of the day, like before lunch.

I hope you’ve found these instructions helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to post comments for me.