Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Just one piece of pie

I promised the boys this morning that they could enjoy a piece of pumpkin pie at lunch. They really wanted it at breakfast. Or should I say Jonas really wanted it then. Jack had made two pies the other day and two pieces were left in the first one. So when lunchtime came around and specifically dessertime, I put a nice slice with a dollop of Cool Whip on each boys' plate.

He looked up at me and said, "But Mom, I wanted that piece," pointing to the remaining whole pie sitting on the kitchen counter.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Boys Adrift

I just read the most fascinating book by the author of Why Gender Matters, a book I raved about to everybody I talked to for weeks after reading. And this one--I can't stop talking about it either. Whether you parent boys, teach boys or have any interaction with boys in any way, you gotta read Boys Adrift. It's an intriguing exploration of the five factors Dr. Leonard Sax identifies as causing the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys. You know, the whole "failure to launch" phenomenon beginning in childhood and clearly evident in young men.

The following is a brief summary taken from the book's website:

The Five Factors Driving the Decline of Boys

  • Video Games. Studies suggest that some of the most popular video games are disengaging boys from real-world pursuits.
  • Teaching Methods. Profound changes in the way children are educated have had the unintended consequence of turning many boys off school.
  • Prescription Drugs. Overuse of medication for ADHD may be causing irreversible damage to the motivational centers in boys’ brains.
  • Endocrine Disruptors. Environmental estrogens from plastic bottles and food sources may be lowering boys’ testosterone levels, making their bones more brittle and throwing their endocrine systems out of whack.
  • Devaluation of Masculinity. Shifts in popular culture have transformed the role models of manhood. Forty years ago we had Father Knows Best; today we have The Simpsons.

For those who have daughters only, this is still something I would put on the required reading list. Afterall, those girls interact with boys and I would suspect you'd want her to be involved with young men living up to their full potential. I think it's quite telling that Dr. Sax dedicates this book to his own young daughter.

Such a interesting book. I'd love to hear anybody's comments on this.

Present for God

Owen, who just turned 6 a few days ago, took one of his leftover helium birthday balloons outside and let it go.

"What are you are doing?" I asked. I know that he knows it's gone for good and we won't suffer through the tears of a lost balloon like we would if his little brother had done this. So I was wondering if he liked watching how high the balloon would go, how it would travel through the air currents, stuff like that.

"I'm giving it to God," he replied.

Friday, October 3, 2008

An aaaahhhh moment

I was handing out kisses last night on my way out the door to my monthly book club meeting. Owen said something that just made my heart go all gooey.

"Good night my sweet and cuddly Mommy."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A true devourer of books

Of course, we'd love for all our children to be lovers of books and little Annaliese appears to have a head start.

I left her on the floor surrounded by her toys for a couple of minutes while I went to attend to her big brother elsewhere. When I returned I found her happily gnawing on my book.

A good inch of the bottom right-hand corner of my paperback cover was gone.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This is why I homeschool

Check out this article in Newsweek about struggling school-age boys. Interesting stuff about their emotional and behaviorial issues. Really, go click on the link. It's worth it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

First day of school

Well, we did it. We not only survived, but thrived, on our first official day of homeschool.

We've been talking about this a lot trying to build up some excitement for Owen. His attitude toward school has been somewhat lackluster. When people ask, as they always do, if he's excited about starting kindergarten, his response has been, "Um," hanging head, shrugging shoulders, "I dunno know." I am happy, nay thrilled, to report that now he's saying, "I looooove school!"

So what did we do? We read lots of stories, we worked on our memory verse, we sang and danced to "Six Little Ducks," we wrote letters (surprisingly a big hit!) we colored a picture, we counted how many ducks were in the pond and how many ducks were not in the pond and how many ducks were there altogether, we found China on the map, we saw the Yangtze River (where one our stories is placed) and figured out that it would take four times as long to drive the length of the river as it does to drive to Grandmom's house, we ate Chinese food with chopsticks, we talked about how hard it would be for someone used to eating with chopsticks to use a fork and spoon, and we worked on some phonics. We did all this while still doing our regular, everyday stuff of fixing meals and feeding children (including a nursing baby) and changing diapers and doing laundry and picking up around the house and even squeezing in a doctor's appointment somewhere in there.

A good day, a really good day.

Friday, August 22, 2008

This just in

I had to fire up the laptop after I just put it to bed (on my way to bed) to post this one:

While taking out my contacts in the bathroom, my bleary-eyed Jonas walked in. The cute as humble pie one.

"Mom, I'm thirsty."

I take a quick survey of the counter and see, as I suspected, no cup, no glass, no container of any kind.

"I don't have anything to drink with in here, Honey. Could you use your hand?" We do the hand-becomes-cup thing often after teeth-brushing. No, we're not proud.

"How about my mouth?"

Oh. Yeah. Why didn't I think of that?

Humble, no. Honest, yes

Jonas came around the corner dressed up in his red plastic fireman coat and hat. A priceless picture that I wasn't able to capture while I was trying to comfort a 6-month-old cranky from vaccinations.

"Do you know how cute you are?" I said.

And Jonas replied nonchalantly, "Yes."

Friday, August 8, 2008

When you eliminate twaddle

Your mother will say, "You have such different books," when reading bedtime stories to the grandchildren.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Quiet thoughts

Since having children I crave quiet. I relish those moments when the kids are asleep or playing quietly in another room. The silence is peaceful. And restful. And very much needed for my soul.

It's funny because when I was single I would turn on noise. I never drove anywhere without music playing. I either had music or the TV on at home. I may even have been in the next room changing sheets but hearing the voices on the TV helped me feel not so alone. I was alone enough that I sought out activity and people and noise.

Now with a husband, three kids and a dog, I've reached my fill. I find myself turning off the radio in the mini-van. Choosing not to turn on the TV. And pulling out puzzles, Play-Doh or crayons when I've come to my zenith of boy-generated busy-ness. Even the sounds of the dishwasher, washing machine and dryer are too much at times. I'm constantly looking for moments in my day for quiet, alone time.

Yet, I admit, there's great fun in noise too. I love the loud laughing of my kids. The exhuberently told stories of the day. I love Legoland just as much as the kids do. And a great piece of music will get my feet moving, my voice singing, and my heart pumping. I still love the noise and commotion, but I get enough of it without having to seek it out now.

It seems that when I don't get enough of something I crave it. Maybe it all comes down to balance. A wise friend once told me that humans are always seeking balance in life. I keep pondering that and keep coming back to the truth of that statement in so many aspects.

As Madeleine L'Engle says, "We need both for our development: the joy of the sense of sound; and the equally great joy of its absence." Yes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A mother's version of 1 Corinthians 13

Love in the Home

If I live in a house of spotless beauty with everything in its place, but have not love, I am a housekeeper–not a homemaker.

If I have time for waxing, polishing, and decorative achievements, but have not love, my children learn cleanliness–not godliness.

Love leaves the dust in search of a child’s laugh.

Love smiles at the tiny fingerprints on a newly cleaned window.

Love wipes away the tears before it wipes up the spilled milk.

Love picks up the child before it picks up the toys.

Love is present through the trials.

Love reprimands, reproves, and is responsive.

Love crawls with the baby, walks with the toddler, runs with the child, then stands aside to let the youth walk into adulthood.

Love is the key that opens salvation’s message to a child’s heart.

Before I became a mother I took glory in my house of perfection. Now I glory in God’s perfection of my child.

As a mother, there is much I must teach my child, but the greatest of all is love.

--Author Unknown

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Um, why yes I do

"Mom, don't you wish you had Lightening McQueen underwear like me?"

Thursday, July 3, 2008

It's a two-fer!

While driving the boys to their friends' house, Owen popped up with "3 plus 3 equals 6 and 4 plus 4 equals 8."

"Very good," I say, trying to remember if we had covered these particular equations before.

"Give me some other ones Mom."

I'm thinking this is too cool and I give him other addition questions up to 10 as we're driving along. I look at him through the rear-view mirror and notice him looking all around the mini-van without saying a word. If you know this child that's quite something because he's quite the talker. So with the next math problem, I say, "Wow, how did you know the answer?"

"I count the windows."

Then he added, "And I didn't talk so I could think."

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

After three kids, I'm still amazed...

... that a 3-month-old knows to lift her pudgy hips when I change her diaper. (I was going to write about this last month but then I dislocated my elbow and I got a surge of freelance editing and daily swimming lessons for the boys and, well, I was swamped. So now this child is really 4-months but it's so much more amazing when one is 3 months don't you think?)

... that a baby can actually explode more poop up her back than what remains in the diaper.

... how much stuff a tiny baby can spit onto you, causing you to change your shirt three times a day, causing you to wash those same three shirts daily so you have something to wear and wash the next day. Of course, the smart thing to do would be to have more than three shirts that fit but you're nursing and you're trying to lose weight and you're trying to save money so you can drive places and you're now babbling and you need to go change your shirt again. By the way, the stuff spewed forth and what it looks and smells like--you never want to eat cottage cheese again.

... by the bodily noises that infants can make. My one little princess is decidedly unladylike; the sounds erupting from her can make everyone in an entire room to turn, stare and stifle their giggles. Frankly, she's much louder than either of her two big brothers were. Hmmmm, is that a sign of what's to come?

... how early personality traits show up. Annaliese will squeeze her face tightly together and scream shrilly enough to break glass when Jonas pushes her too fast in her baby swing. Go figure, the boys' motto has always been the faster the better. I have a feeling this child won't like the roller coasters.

... how completely enamored a grown person can become with a itty bitty sweetie petitie munchkin pumpkin bobo bobo baby.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

What our waiting room reading tells you about us

While at the orthopedic's office the other day, Jack and I didn't pick up the Sports Illustrated or In Touch magazines flung around the room. We're the types that take a book with us wherever we go. Our picks that day:

Me: Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Jack: How Am I Smart: A Parent's Guide to Multiple Intelligences

6/15/08: I recommend my read but Jack had some criticisms of his--didn't like the organization and thought it was too simplistic. He liked the subject; however, he's going to the get the original work from Gardner, actually so am I.

Mangled Mama

On Monday, I got the kids dressed in their casual finest, which means cute shirts and shorts with no holes or stains (and as any mama knows that's a feat in itself), and rushed them into the minivan to head to the mall to get some photos taken of the three of them as a surprise for Jack for Father's Day. The orange fuel light was shining when I turned on the ignition so I had to make a quick stop at the gas station.

At Arco I swiped my debit card, pushed the button for regular unleaded at $4.11 a gallon (yikes), put the nozzle into the tank and . . .

Took a trip to the ER.

Jack likes the version that I saw the price of gas and fainted, which gets a chuckle. But in reality I stumbled over the hose, fell on the asphalt and dislocated my left elbow.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Thanks Honey

Thanks Honey for putting aside your plans for your day off and taking care of the kids, feeding them, dressing them, changing diapers and reminding at least one of them many, many times to go potty. Thanks for doing the laundry, cleaning out the closet and mopping the kitchen floor. Thanks for reading lots of stories, and not the ones you picked out for your pleasure. Thanks for doing this without me asking. Thanks for letting me run away for a few hours. Thanks for forgiving me. Thanks for loving me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Where has the year gone?

I just realized that I've been blogging for a year now. So, of course, I had to go back and reread my first post. That's my life. That's still my life. Plus a new baby, plus homeschooling, plus potty training, plus habit training, plus...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

This is something a friend emailed to me and I was struck by the truth and commonality we that are moms share.

Before I was a Mom
I made and ate hot meals.
I had unstained clothing.
I had quiet conversations on the phone.

Before I was a Mom
I slept as late as I wanted
And never worried about how late I got into bed.
I brushed my hair and my teeth everyday.

Before I was a Mom
I cleaned my house each day.
I never tripped over toys or forgot words of lullabies.

Before I was a Mom
I didn't worry whether or not my plants were poisonous.
I never thought about immunizations.

Before I was a Mom
I had never been puked on
Pooped on
Chewed on
Peed on
Or pinched by tiny fingers.

Before I was a Mom
I had complete control of:
My thoughts
My body
And my mind.
I slept all night.

Before I was a Mom
I never held down a screaming child
So doctors could do tests
Or give shots.
I never looked into teary eyes and cried.
I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin.
I never sat up late hours at night watching a baby sleep.

Before I was a Mom
I never held a sleeping baby just because
I didn't want to put him down.
I never felt my heart break into a million pieces
When I couldn't stop the hurt.
I never knew that something so small
Could affect my life so much.
I never knew that I could love someone so much.
I never knew I would love being a Mom.

Before I was a Mom
I didn't know the feeling of having my heart outside my body.
I didn't know how special it could feel to feed a hungry baby.
I didn't know that bond between a mother and her child.
I didn't know that something so small
Could make me feel so important and happy.

Before I was a Mom
I had never gotten up in the middle of the night
Every 10 minutes to make sure all was okay.
I had never known the warmth
The joy
The love
The heartache
The wonder
Or the satisfaction of being a Mom.

I didn't know I was capable of feeling so much before I was a Mom.

--Author unknown

Saturday, May 10, 2008

And this is why I struggle to keep my house clean... and I have young boys

Your Personality is Very Rare (INFP)

Your personality type is dreamy, romantic, elegant, and expressive.

Only about 5% of all people have your personality, including 6% of all women and 4% of all men

You are Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Guess how much I love you--an expanded edition

For those of you who are familiar with the children's book, Guess How Much I Love You:

During our goodnight hugs and kisses, Owen said, "I love Annaliese all the way to God."

And Daddy said, "I love Annaliese to God and back."

Butterfly pets

We have been having so much fun raising butterflies vicariously with my friend Elizabeth Joy and her children. The boys and I enjoy looking at the beautiful and detailed photos of the various stages of life these butterflies are going through.

When Owen saw a picture of Emily Rose holding one of these beauties he wanted to try to do that too. So today, Owen had his chance. He happily presented me with a butterfly he caught with his bare hands. (I can't be sure because I am so horrible at identification, but it looked suspicously similar to the Painted Ladies Elizabeth Joy's family is raising). Unfortunately he caught it by it's wings, pinching them together, and damaged it. The poor thing couldn't fly away.

So I guess Owen's reflexes must be quick. This same child smashed a fly with his hand the other day. I couldn't do that to save my life. I hope it doesn't sound as if he's going around cold-heartedly killing insects. The butterfly was an accident but the fly. . . well he's seen me attack them with my flyswatter if they dare to come into my house.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Yes, delight in knowledge

"The getting of knowledge and the getting of delight in knowledge are the ends of a child's education."
--Charlotte Mason

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Our little leaguer

We have entered a new phase in our lives. Today was Owen's first day of t-ball. And he had a ball!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Ain't that the truth!

Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.
--Phyllis Diller

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Our favorite picture books

I'm always on the lookout for good stories to the read to the kids, so I thought I'd share some of our favorites:
  • "Miss Rumphius," by Barbara Cooney
  • "A House is a House for Me," by Mary Ann Hoberman
  • "Stellaluna," by Janell Cannon
  • "Make Way for Ducklings," by Robert McCloskey
  • "Blueberries for Sal," by Robert McCloskey
  • "Flotsam," by David Wiesner
  • "Whistle for Willie," by Ezra Jack Keats
  • "The Story of Ferdinand," by Munro Leaf
  • "The Little Engine that Could," by Watty Piper
  • "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," by Eric Carle
  • "Time for Bed," by Mem Fox and Jane Dyer
  • "The Adventures of Peter Rabbit," by Beatrix Potter
  • "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel," by Virginia Lee Burton
  • "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom," by Bill Martin, Jr., and John Archambault
  • "Stone Soup," by Marcia Brown
  • "Bread and Jam for Frances," by Russell Hoban
  • "You are Special," by Max Lucado
  • "Where the Wild Things Are," by Maurice Sendak
  • "Frog and Toad Are Friends," by Arnold Lobel
  • "Winnie-the-Pooh," by A.A. Milne (the original, not the Disney version) Although I wouldn't classify this a picture book, it's a great introduction to chapter books and my 3-year-old listens well to these stories.

Of course, these are the highlights. I only listed our absolute favorites by one author (with the exception of McCloskey--I couldn't decide which of those two were our favorites). Once you find an author you like, look for other books by them to find other potential jewels.

A few years ago when I felt that I had exhausted all the pictures books we had or that I remembered as treasures from my childhood, I asked our local librarian for a book listing great books to read to my kids. She gave me a blank look and said to just look at all the books in the children's section. Hmmmm, not what I expected to hear.

Since then, I've found what I was asking for. They are:

  • "Honey for a Child's Heart," by Gladys Hunt
  • "Books Children Love," by Elizabeth Wilson
  • "The Read Aloud Handbook," by Jim Trelease

Thursday, April 3, 2008

My "gentle start to school" plan

When I began this blog I wrote in the sidebar about myself that I’m beginning to homeschool kindergarten this fall. And it’s still there. So you may wonder have we been homeschooling since September or are we beginning this fall? Or have we been beginning all this time? Or can I just not make up my mind?

Truthfully, it’s all of those.

Since Owen (and Jonas when his turn comes) has a fall birthday and since the cutoff date to enroll in school in our state is December 2 and since he must be registered the year he turns 6—whew—I have to decide if I should place him in kindergarten or first grade.

Of all the curriculum and educational philosophies I’ve researched, I’m most interested in following a literature-based approach. I’m very interested in Ambleside Online’s curriculum. It’s a free, literature-based curriculum based on Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy. The good people at Ambleside volunteered their considerable time and experience to create this curriculum that anyone can use for free. You simply need to acquire the books somehow, either purchase them, borrow from the library or find the text online. We’ve been loosely following their recommendations for preschool/kindergarten and I’m debating whether Owen is ready to move on to Year 1 this fall or to continue what we’ve been doing but be more intentional with the 3Rs. Kind of like making this next school year a kindergarten/first grade. Which wouldn’t be a problem except that when I register the child as a homeschooler this fall, I have to declare a grade level to the state.

I think the decision I’ve come to is to do a gentle start to school (keeping in mind that we’ve been “schooling” since the day Owen was born). I’ve gotten rather lax on his phonics. We were going great guns for awhile and then my energy failed while my belly got bigger (due to pregnancy, not chocolate—well, maybe a little chocolate). So, I’m going to get back into phonics and reading. Of course, I've been doing lots of read-alouds all along that I'll continue. We play lots of games that involve math concepts and I'll add a kindergarten level math curriculum. I also want to add history, nature study, art, music, health and life skills (these aren't completely new, but I want to be more concrete with my plans, a regular time rather than just whenever I think of it). My plan is to follow Miss Mason's recommendation for short lessons and I'll implement only one subject at a time until it becomes a habit in our daily routine. I’m going to read a selection from each of the books in AOYR1 and gauge Owen’s readiness by asking him to narrate short passages to see if he’s comprehending the material well and his attention span is where it needs to be for that level.

I guess what I’m saying is that we’ll do kinder now, as we have been, but be more deliberate with weekly goals. We'll go through the summer as we plan to school year-round so we won't waste time relearning stuff come September. I’ll reassess where we’re at again in the fall when I need to register him and state a grade level.

That’s the beauty of home education—you make it work for your child. If I enrolled him in a traditional school he’d either be the oldest or the youngest kid in his class. He could be required to do work that was either too easy or too challenging. This way, we’ll do what works for his ability and readiness.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Babysitting or sit on baby?

A young friend at church who loves babies (she herself is still a babe, being around 18 months) was completely enthralled with Annaliese. She didn't even want to tear herself away to do her favorite activity--craft. I jokily asked this little girl if she would like to babysit someday. She said yes and tried to sit on the baby. She looked quite perplexed when her mother plunked her in her lap and we mothers shared a hearty laugh.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I Love You the Purplest

Thanks to an anonymous reader who commented on my Baby Fears post, I got a tip on a great book, I Love You the Purplest. The timing couldn’t have been better for reading this to my boys.

It’s a story of two boys who take a twilight fishing trip with their wise mother. The brothers are quite the opposites yet share a competitive gene. Sounds like my boys. Sounds like most boys. Throughout the evening the brothers compete on who dug up the most worms, who is the best rower and who caught the most fish. Their mother, thanks to the thoughtful author, Barbara M. Joosse, answers them more wisely than I can summon on the fly. For the worm answer she says that one boy's worms are the liveliest and the other's worms are the juiciest. One rower took the deepest strokes while the other's strokes were the fastest. So on she goes to addess each brother's questions reassuring them of how much she values each one.

When it comes time for bed, the boys ask the ultimate question, “Mama, who do you love best?” Mama thinks for a moment then tell them that she loves one the bluest and one the reddest with poetic, beautiful descriptions for each. You must read it to see what I mean.

Accompanied with lovely watercolor illustrations, this is a wonderful book to show your children that you love them equally yet individually for who each is. It's time for me to stop renewing this book at the library and go buy my own copy.

Friday, March 7, 2008

California judge declares homschoolers must be credentialed teachers

I just learned that a California court declared last week that homeschooling is illegal if the parent is not a credentialed teacher. The judge made the ruling that now affects not just the family that happened to be in court, but the thousands of other families homeschooling in California. This decision affects the estimated 166,000 children being homeschooled in the state.

The ruling is being appealed. You can sign a petition to support the appeal at the Home School Legal Defense Website www.hslda.org. Also, you can read more about the case and the ramifications on their site.

Friday, February 29, 2008

She's here!

This is our precious little girl that we have been anxiously waiting to meet. We adore Annaliese (her online nom de plume). Every morning Owen comes into our room and wants to hold "my baby." Both boys frequently come up to give her a big smooch on top of her head. Although they obviously love her we're definately seeing evidence of a "Very Big Change" in our house, as I'm sure we will for a while.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A proud mother moment

This morning at church a mother came up to me and said, "You must read the Bible every day to your kids."

"Oh no, I do read Bible stories to the kids, but I can't say we do it that frequently."

"Well, Owen was able to answer all the questions about the story of the woman at the well." I had been in Jonas' class so I wasn't there to witness this.

"Really?" I replied, searching my memory if we had read this story recently, or even at all.

"He just pipped right up and answered every question."

"Did he get them right?" Owen is such an extravert it's no surprise to hear he spoke out, but to answer the questions correctly, I wasn't sure.

"He did."


Later, as I marvelled about this with Jack, who had been in class with Owen, I said, "I'm not sure I've read that story to him yet. How did he know the answers?"

"They read the story and he just listened well."

Good enough for me!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Nature journals for the 5 and under set

Following my last post, my friend Elizabeth Joy wrote about nature journals in the comments section. I thought it would be great to open up this topic to others.

What books do you recommend about nature journals?

What kind of success have any of you had with doing nature journals with children age 5 and under?

How do you make them work with pre-writing/pre-drawing kids?

I would love to hear from any readers that have some tips. Thanks so much!

A perfect afternoon

The boys and I did a couple of errands right after lunch and it was such a beautiful day--sunny and warm, in the low 70s here (I know, I know, it's rough)--I just didn't want to go home. So, I impulsively decided to visit a botantical garden I recently heard about at a nearby university. How had I missed this place! Truly an oasis in a sea of cities, highways and congestion.

With 40 acres, four miles of trails and more than 3,500 species of plants, the boys and I enjoyed traipsing through the garden and walking up the winding switch-back trails to the top of a hill overlooking the city. When we arrived at the top, Owen exclaimed, "We're almost as tall as the trees!" Then he ran back to me and flinging his arms around my bulging nine-month pregnant belly said, "Thanks, Mom!"

That certainly made my huffing and puffing to get up the hill worth it.

I LOVE that my kids enjoy the simple, beautiful and profound things of life like our afternoon spent in nature. I didn't grow up that way. I admit, I spent way too many hours indoors in front of the TV. But somehow I still loved to read and to learn, and still do. I've only been learning a love for nature as an adult.

It's funny, when I compare this idealic afternoon with an outing to Chuck E Cheese with a friend the other day, today seemed more special. The boys were just as excited, or even more so. Owen didn't run exuberantly to me to say thanks and give me a hug at Chuck E Cheese. I was certainly more relaxed and at peace today since I was not worried that they would find a game that was too mature or violent for them or worried that they would get lost in the crowd. At the botantical garden they were able to run and explore and observe and just be. The park provided a bingo sheet with pictures of plants, insects and such for young kids to find. The boys had great fun looking for things like a cactus, a bird, a spider's web, and an acorn to cross off their list.

Charlotte Mason recommends visiting one or two specific nature spots that you get to know intimately. A place that you go to in all seasons to observe the changes. I think I've found our spot.

Later, while we, or rather I, was resting on a bench in the garden where no sight or sounds remind you that you are in fact in the middle of a huge metropolis, Owen climbed on some low-lying branches of a tree. He made up a song on the spot that I just have to share:

Trees, trees, trees
Treetops are taller than we

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Charlotte Mason carnival

Check out this carnival full of interesting articles related to all things Charlotte Mason.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Why I like Charlotte Mason

In my research on education, I have discovered a kindred spirit in Charlotte Mason. She was an innovative educator in England in the 1800s. Of all the philosophies of education I've read, her's fits the best with my ideas of how I want to raise my children.

Key points that I like:
  • Love and nurture your children as individuals. This doesn't seem radical to us, but at the time of her writing children were to be seen and not heard.
  • Have your kids play outside as much as possible where they'll learn about nature, science, observation, creativity, independence, joy and God. All that good stuff.
  • Read, read, read good books, which are those that are well-written with excellent language and imagery, great stories and themes. She advised to avoid what she called "twaddle," books that are dumbed down and insult children's intelligence. You know, those silly, poorly written children's books you find at the grocery store that are a bore to read and completely unimaginative. They're like feeding your kids a diet full of sugar with no protein or vegetables.
  • Read "living" books as opposed to textbooks to learn about practically all subjects--history, philosophy, science, social studies, art, music, etc. Living books are history books, biographies, novels, nonfiction books about the subject written by the primary source or learned researchers. Textbooks are shortened synopsis compiled by committees and aren't able to provide the whole picture. When I think about this, the best book I ever read that taught me about the Civil War was "Across Five Aprils," a historical novel for kids. That book made the horrors and complications and issues of the Civil War real and vivid for me, much more than any textbook I had to read for school.
  • Avoid busy work, such as worksheets, and rely on real-life applications instead.
  • Short lessons, like 15-20 minutes per subject, for the early years. Whets the kids appetites for the subject without boring them or overdoing it. It should provide them with enough interest that they'll want to study more the next day.
  • Alternate hard and easy subjects. For instance, do math then nature study outside then reading then art, etc.
  • Do habit-training with very young children as a way of discipline. When you start when they are very young and make things into a habit, it will be easier for them to behave as they get older. She advocated gentle redirection and redirection until they got it; give them attention when they do it well and ignore them when they don't. Actually, it's a lot like Parenting with Love and Logic, a modern discipline approach that I like.
To learn more about Charlotte Mason and her ideas on education, read the following books:
Of course, read the original Philosophy of Education, by Charlotte Mason to get the info straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. Since she wrote in the 1800s, her writing style is dictated by the times and is a bit difficult to read by our modern standards. Ambleside, www.amblesideonline.org, is a wonderful resource for information about Charlotte Mason, how to implement her ideas, and a free, online curriculum. They have a modern paraphrase of Mason's writing for free online, which is what I've been reading. I can't say I agree with everything she taught (some of the practicalities are difficult in this day and age), but her overriding philosophy of education and parenting is excellent.

Baby fears

"When the baby comes, you won't have time for me anymore," said Owen.

"Sure I will. I'll still be able to play with you, read stories and do lots of other things with you." I promptly replied.

"But I won't be as special as the baby."

Ouch! That your older children may feel that is what every parent fears about having another child, second only to the baby's health. Of course, I reassured Owen that I would still have time for him and that he is very special. But I admit, it caught me off guard.

All our previous conversation about the pending arrival of a new baby had me convinced he was OK with the whole thing. He seemed understanding and realistic. When people ask him if he's excited about having a little sister, he replies, "I don't know, I haven't met her yet." Knowing how this child thinks, I took that as quite a logical answer. He honestly did fine when Jonas was born, and as long as I continue to give both of the boys individual attention, I pray, it will be fine again.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Java jive and lie

The other day, I treated myself, my very tired self, to a frappachino. When my back was turned, Owen snuck a sip. Now, I had told him before that coffee is just for grown-ups and he knew full well this was coffee.

"Owen, you're not suppose to drink coffee." Then it happened. It just flew out of my mouth without thinking. I blurted out one of those lies parents tell their children that I hate. "It will stunt your growth."

I could see the wheels turning in Owen's head.

"If I drink water, will it reverse the coffee."

"Um, yep."

Monday, January 7, 2008

Gift From the Sea

I've been feeling the need of late to refocus on myself and, as a result, be more of what I want to be for my family. During this final trimester of pregnancy, I've been having trouble getting to sleep. So, of course, during the day I'm low on patience and energy. I have a long list of things I want to get done in the house before the baby arrives. I've been snapping at my children, neglecting my husband and at a loss of who I am in the few quiet moments I allow myself. I haven't been taking the time to refuel myself. Definitely in need of an interior makeover.

Partly because of this, I choose the classic Gift From the Sea by Anne Murrow Lindbergh for our book club pick this month. At the time she wrote this book, Anne was a busy wife and mother of five. She went to the beach for a couple of weeks vacation by herself and mediated on what the different types of shells she collected on the shore illustrated in a woman's life and roles.

This little book is packed with wisdom for women of any age and time. In fact, the first time I read this book I was amazed that a book written fifty years ago was just as applicable today. This is one of those rare gems that you glean new insights each time you read it. I want to share a few highlights that particularly resonate with me at the moment.

But I want first of all--in fact, as an end to these other desires--to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact--to borrow from the language of the saints--to live "in grace" as much of the time as possible. I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. I am seeking perhaps what Socrates asked for in the prayer form the Phaedrus when he said, "May the outward and inward man be at one." I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace form which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God (pg. 17-18).

When one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others (pg. 38).

Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone. The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray. But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves (pg. 44).

But neither woman nor man are likely to be fed by another relationship which seems easier because it is in an earlier stage. Such a love affair cannot really bring back a sense of identity. Certainly, one has the illusion that one will find oneself in being loved for what one really is, not for a collection of functions. But can one actually find oneself in someone else? In someone else's love? Or even in the mirror someone else holds up for one? I believe that true identity is found, as Eckhart once said, by "going into one's own ground and knowing oneself." It is found in creative activity springing from within. It is found, paradoxically, when one loses oneself. One must lose one's life to find it. Woman can best refind herself by losing herself in some kind of creative activity of her own. Here she will be able to refind her strength, the strength she needs to look and work at the second half of the problem--the neglected pure relationship. Only a refound person can refind a personal relationship (pg. 60-61)