Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Staying Sane in the Homeschooling-Small-Children Game

So we're at the end of September. Our fourth week of getting back in the grind of school and it hasn't been completely terrible.

It's had rough moments, moments of chaos, moments of terror (like when someone cut several inches off Nora's hair), moments when everyone needed to have a nap -- including me. And really, it's basically what I've come to expect from September because September is just a tough month of transition from summer to school, and if you're homeschooling your kids a month where you've got to get things back on track in every direction. It can feel a bit like a giant wave is taking you far, far out to sea and you need to grab on to something or you're just going to throw in the towel. Just back float until someone finds you.

I've got some tips on making that transition, not that I'm an expert, but I feel like an expert on small children wrangling, the homeschooling bit gets a little hairy now and then but I feel like I'm making some strides. So if you're just starting out homeschooling, and have really little kids underfoot who you're trying to ward off from learning children then you might find something to agree with here. If you're not, you might enjoy the laugh.

Aim for routine, but know the routine will need to be adjusted.

I'm saying this mostly to myself because in my head I still want the day to go according to how I want it. 

Which means babies should nap when I want, kids should listen when I want, etc etc. Lots of dreams going on.

But in actuality, although we as the moms have to put the effort into making the routine happen consistently, we're dealing with unpredictable little people. Babies may need to nap at different times, or you may need to move your teaching time to when babies nap. You're going to have to wiggle and jiggle your daily routine until things flow as best as possible. 

Also; your kids who are learning are going to take time to adjust. A couple days, a couple weeks, may not have them settled into the routine of facing a school day and tackling school work with a happy attitude. They may need more time for things to settle in so try to stay as consistent as you can so they can learn from you that learning is happening every day.

It may never get perfect. Actually, if you've got small toddlers and kids you're trying to teach I can probably guarantee that it won't be perfect. Actually, homeschooling will never be perfect at any point. But that's ok, your kids are learning anyway, you're living your life as a family anyway. It's really a good thing. 

Give your kids and yourself time to settle into a curriculum. 

Sometimes different curriculum or subjects need to be tackled in different ways for them to work the best for you and your kids. 

Last year I was trying to cram in all the kids subjects in the morning, while trying to deal with two toddlers who were climbing the walls and screaming and generally driving me nuts. It didn't go well but somehow I thought I had to get everything done before the clock struck noon.

I then changed math time to right after lunch when the babies were usually happily playing downstairs or outside for a bit and had a lot more patience to deal with math with the three older kids.  The math program we use seems to need a bit of mom time to get them started and doing this after lunch when I was refreshed meant I taught better and the curriculum seemed less overwhelming. 

I know reading religion with my kids can be done one on one when someone is out of sorts and needs a refresher. Or maybe your kids like talking science in the afternoon during nap time. Whatever it may be if you feel stuck by a curriculum or subject try changing up when and how you fit it into the day before scrapping the curriculum completely. Although I totally understand needing to scrap curriculum entirely, it happens, no big deal.

Babies can enjoy "quiet time" by themselves and not be scarred for life.

I know, I'm probably the meanest mom on the block but every day my 2 year old goes down for quiet time in the morning for about 30 to 45 minutes while I do hands on phonics and reading with the older kids. She's been distracted and played with by this point for a good long while and just wants to cause a ruckus. She gets to sit and chill out with some books in her crib for a while and she comes out a much happier girl.

We've done this since the beginning and even when she stopped actually sleeping during these times I just kept putting her down. So far I think she's free from physiological problems and she's safe and out of my hair for a bit.

Do not feel bad about giving yourself some toddler-free time! Do not!

Trust me, I am considering having those two sentences tattooed on my body somewhere scandalous.

Wine and Mom-time are good too

Remember when I wrote about how I take a lot of little breaks in the midst of our school day? I do it to maintain a certain level of patience and it helps a lot. I think if I made myself plow through all work at one sitting I'd be completely ruined. It's just so hard to keep up with little kids from a mental point of view for that long myself, let alone their own attention spans. It helps.

But we've also got to take bigger breaks and more refreshing time. It just needs to happen especially if you've got a bunch of kids...or just one,who am I kidding?!

If you can fit in some time while the kids are at an activity: great! If you can get a babysitter or drop them off with the grandparents for a couple hours: awesome! If you need to lock yourself in your bedroom after your husband gets home with a glass of wine, Netflix, or a good book: wonderful!

You got to and need to.

Take the Long View

Life with little kids, including homeschooling small kids with smaller kids below that, changes quickly even if we can't tell. It's really easy to look at a couple days or a week and think it's all going terribly.

But take the long view -- working on your daily routine will pay off, your kids will learn much more than you realize even if they're not learning it all in a day, and you've got to take care of yourself every week if you want to homeschool for a whole school year, not just when you can fit it in.

These are really all common sense things --really, to remind myself when I'm feeling overwhelmed. Homeschooling isn't easy, it's not neat, and it has a lot of ups and downs.

But if you feel like you and your family are called to it, your children are learning and becoming better people for it, then you're on the right track even if the day has gotten away from you. You can do this, even with little kids.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Seven Quick Takes vol. 129

Joining the Philly-loving Kelly today for some quick takes, head over there for all the news of the WMOF!


Guys, I say this every week, but I truly mean to blog more than once a week! What's happening to me?!?! Actually I know what's happening to me, it's September and we've been firmly enmeshed in trying to get back on track school wise. Man, homeschooling is so pesky about the mom being all self-disciplined and in charge and stuff. So I've been really trying to go hard on making everyday routines stick, and making sure we get stuff done. You know, kicking ass and taking names. Or; in my case, teaching small children their ABC's while keeping smaller children from dismantling the furniture. So glam.


Yesterday was the quintessential fall day here. The leaves are turning golden, the air is still warm even though the sun sets early and there's frost on the ground in the morning. It's just dreamy. The leaves are on fire right now as I write this at sunset, and I wish that the leaves lasted more than the week they usually do. September is a really beautiful month. (I'm choosing to completely disregard the other day where the high was 5 degrees and I could barely send the kids out....lalalalala)


I've become a complete Pope nerd this! Actually, I've always been a Pope nerd since my World Youth Days, my reading of encyclicals for fun...yeah, pretty nerdy. But this week has been so exciting to watch the Holy Father on his visit to America. I really wish I could be there because that excitement in seeing the Pope in person is really incredible. I still remember crying as Saint John Paul II cruised past me. I just love hearing what he has to say, and honestly I love watching the side show that is the media. It's really fascinating to watch all sorts of media reactions and make something out of nothing or nothing our of something.


I did however have to bite my hand off as I saw him alongside politicians that I think are so contemptible and completely devoid of integrity. I know, they're people. I need to respect them. They have immortal souls that deserve to be blessed by the Holy Father. God loves them. But still....holy hand biting, Batman! 


I really liked the Pope's address at the White House even though it was a bit disjointed and focused a bit heavy-handedly on climate change. But the first paragraph is what I really loved:

"American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty."

I felt defended! Catholics aren't intolerant! We want justice and to treat people equitably! We want to work together for a better society! 

After the summer of brow beating, it felt good to be defended in that way, to say to America and the West what Catholics are about by Pope Francis who is so easily beloved by main stream media. Maybe that's just me blowing something out of proportion, but it really struck me and I appreciated it.


I'm glued to the tv today for the Pope's address to the UN and am really looking forward to his statements at the World Meeting of Families. I think they're going to be important, still subtle and personal to his style of public speaking, but important. 
I'm also loving following Kelly as she hits up the World Meeting of Families, make sure you check in with her!


In other non-papal new...we had a terrific episode of the podcast air this week in which Mary Lenaburg shares the powerful conclusion to her daughter Courtney's story. Mary shares the initimate moments of being with Courtney as she died, and it really brings to light the power and importance the journey of death is. I really hope you get a chance to listen to it as it's really amazing. Part 1 of the interview was here.

Also; in case Facebook refused to show you, I guest posted at Jenny's last week talking about abstinence in marriage and why we never talk about it. So cheery topic! I'm going to also publish it here in my archives in case you ever want to find it again. Or you can email me if you wanna talk.

Happy Fall weekend everyone - drink a Pumpkin Spice Latte for me! (I'm still enduring the Whole 30)

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What Getting Your Hair Cut and Going to Spiritual Direction Have in Common

It's already the middle of September and I'm just now barely -- BARELY! -- getting back into the groove that is homeschooling, and being organized, and remembering that homeschooling and a clean house cannot co-exist at the same time. It takes a while to get back in the saddle as you know.

But as I'm crawling back up to optimal performance levels from a summer of differing routines and holidays, I've found that two things that I neglected over the summer have a lot more in common than I thought. Those two things are getting my hair cut and getting to spiritual direction. I know they seem on opposite universes but they are both pretty important to my overall well-being and mental health. They're two cornerstones of "self-care"(why do I hate using that term?) that I need to keep up with but over the course of the summer I just let them both slide.

First, my hair. I complained about it over the summer as it got frizzier and frizzer. It would be uncontrollably voluminous one day, flat as a pancake the next. By August no straight iron, hair dryer, or curling wand could make a dent in the ferocious mane. I was stuck with top knots and a variety of boring with a side of boring ponytails. And yet I was still questioning why my hair was so bad. I wanted my hair to still look good approximately four months after having it cut. I'm not super high maintenance, nor is my hair, but at the length it is right now my hair just won't look cute anymore after about 2 months post haircut. But still I didn't clue in really to the fact that because I wasn't really maintaining my hair and maybe that had something to do with the sorry state of my spilt ends.

The same thing has happened to making time for my bi-monthly spiritual direction appointment. Things would come up, my weeks never looked the same, babysitters were on vacation, I just didn't make the appointment for over four months. And yet over the summer I wondered why I kept coming up against the same issues of anxiety, the same inability to see which choices would be best to make, the same habits of anger that I wouldn't even think to pray about.

Just like my hair being unmanageable and full of split ends, I was seeing split ends in my prayer life. I wasn't making time for small moments of prayer. I felt unguided in prayer, I would just look for the easy top knot of prayer, go through the motions, and not bother going farther than that. It just wasn't working for me and suddenly it dawned on me that I hadn't visited my spiritual director in months and maybe that's why I was getting sidetracked and bogged down in my own head. What a concept! What an epiphany! These things that I think I can put off indefinitely have direct consequences that build and build until I'm really in the weeds when it comes to looking half decent, and having a functioning prayer life.

This isn't an epiphany to you, I know, but I thought I should spill the beans on how a really wonderful, busy, fun, memorable summer with the kids and living the happy-go-lucky, carefree, off-from-homeschooling summer made me lazy when it came to making time for myself. The hardest part is making the appointment and putting it on the calendar, and since I've done that with both it's amazing how much better my hair looks and how much easier it is to put a little time and effort into praying everyday.

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Seven Quick Takes vol. 128 - I'm Hosting This Week!


Welcome, everybody!
As you can see you're not in Kelly's hood anymore but I'm thrilled you're here!
 I can hardly believe that I'm hosting the illustrious Seven Quick Takes today -- I've been joining SQT for years and have apparently done this 127 times before so I at least have some experience to call upon since Kelly called me into action. Thanks for stopping by my little piece of the inter webs!


My children -- who don't believe in looking at cameras.

For those of you who are checking in for the first time I'm the stay at home mom to 5 little-ish people whom we homeschool up here in northern Canada. I'm a lifelong Catholic who was also homeschooled for almost the entirety of my schooling career so I've got a bit of experience when it comes to spending time at home, hanging out with crazy kids all day, and not worrying getting everything done on a "lesson plan" -- all of which are things that are kind of the hardest parts of actually homeschooling. This year three of my kids are going to be learning and although things are often crazy with two younger toddlers running around the house with wild abandon while we try to learn phonics, we're giving it another kick at the can starting Tuesday.


We also sorta live in the middle of nowhere. Which is a big part of why we homeschool, and a large part of what makes me want to blog and write at all. We're about 16 miles from the nearest town of 1000 people, and 100 miles from the nearest city with a Starbucks and a Costco. And while I'd like to be uber-trendy and claim we "homestead", we really live on my parents cattle ranch and reap all the rewards of their organic raised beef, pigs, and chickens. So far it's worked out well in that I don't have to clean out a barn full of hens all winter, but my kids still get to chase chickens everyday. 


I'm a huge G.K. Chesterton fan and am usually reading something of his at any given time and this week I read this quote that I found so right on the money:

"One of the chief nuisances of our time is a swarm of little things, in the form of little thoughts...the buzz of dull flippancy...the omnipresence of the insignificant."
(Illustrated London News, Oct. 22, 1932)

"Dull flippancy" can describe so much of what takes up our time on social media. We're so caught up in the swarm of little trending topics that we completely miss the world changing headlines like the destruction of ancient temples by barbarian terrorists or the deaths of innocent refugees. And I know I say that as someone part of the problem, but I wish it was easier to not get so caught up in our time of omnipresent insignificance. I can't believe G.K stated this so well over 80 years ago.


Since I'm Canadian I don't really have to deal with the absurdity that is the US presidential election, and yet I just can't turn away! Every day I am still shocked that actual human beings think Donald Trump can be President. I mean, it's crazy that someone can make Arnold Schwarzenegger look like a statesman of Winston Churchill proportions, but there you go! Now I'm not saying Canadian politicians are brilliant, well adjusted, qualified, and/or interesting people, but...Donald Trump! Reading Archbishop Chaput's statement this week was a breathe of fresh, common sensical air.


This is what my life has come to everybody: My boys went on a "boy camping trip" with my husband for a couple days, while my oldest daughter went to the city to stay with her aunt, which left me with just Nora our 2 year old for the day and a night. And do you know the first thing I did? I cleaned the house, washed the floors, and cleaned windows just so that I could enjoy the most time I possibly could with a clean house. And I am soaking it up let me tell you! Did I wake up suddenly 100 years old that I get so much pleasure/excitement out of a clean house? Apparently so. But it feels glorious I tell you....glorious!


My happiness in my clean-for-more-than-ten-minutes-home became complete when I listened to Stephen Colbert's reading of Flannery O'Connor's story "The Enduring Chill." He reads this story so marvellously. His southern accent is, of course, perfect and his renderings of the characters are spot-on. Not to mention it is such a humorous story with the usual Flannery signature powerful ending. Really amazing.

Thanks so much for stopping by today while Kelly enjoys her road trip - I look forward to reading your posts and finding great new blogs! Happy long weekend!

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Seven Quick Takes vol. 127

I'm going to be really quick today - I promise Kelly!


I am going to be really quick today because I feel like I have no thoughts. We just had a nice, lazy, quiet week around here. It's been nice to have perfect weather to lounge around outside not doing much at all. The kids have been running fairly wild which I don't mind at all, but they are needing a bit more nudges to be creative outside - I think all this nice weather has bored them into summer complacency. 


Summer weather here means last Friday it was so cold we had to turn on the furnace and our zucchini and pumpkin plants got frosted in the garden. The pumpkin and zucchini are still alive and growing, but their top leaves are now all black. It's so early for that it makes me want to cry a little. Last night we had a terrific thunderstorm at around 1 in the morning and miraculously not one child woke up. What?!? I don't even know how that is possible, let alone how it happened to us, but I was lying in my bed listening to cracks of thunder and waiting with baited breathe as to who would start crying first...but nothing...


We finished the first season of True Detective last night and whoa - that show was intense. I officially take back all my previous negative comments concerning Matthew McConaughey's acting abilities, because he's amazing. Also; my husband is now terrified of Louisiana. 


Now we need a new show because Canadian Netflix refuses to give us new seasons of the shows we know and love, so hit me with the ones my husband won't abhor because I've already got Grand Hotel covered!


I was cleaning my floors this mornings and as I was doing it I was trying to remember if I ever had standards for cleanliness? I cannot even remember a time when I would get riled up over spilt oatmeal on the floor and immediately clean it up. Entryway hasn't been swept or vacuumed in weeks? Did I ever really care about that? It's not that I like filth and dirt, and we try to stay on top of things, but things just aren't really clean for that long. And I just don't really care. When did this happen? Have I just always had a million children??


We've been playing croquet all week in the evenings with the kids. I grew up playing croquet because apparently I was an anglophile from birth or something, but this is the first time we've pulled our set out of the basement for the kids. It's surprisingly kid friendly, and the kids really like it. I really recommend picking up a set if you've got more than a postage stamp size backyard. You'll feel extremely civilized while playing!


I'm planning on doing a Whole 30 type diet starting in September because I feel like I've gotta crack down on my bad habits and I'm curious as to what I'll feel like if I give a concerted effort towards my eating. But I'm also a bit scared it may, in fact, kill me. I make fun of Whole 30'ers out of fear you guys! I've also been cramming myself with all the gluten, sugar, and alcohol this week in preparation. I'll need an extra Whole 30 just to work off what I've eaten to prepare for the Whole 30. I'm a health all-star. Pray for me.

Happy Weekend guys, I'm going to be emptying out my cupboard of all San Pellegrino and tequila so that I won't be tempted a week from now...because....thinking ahead!

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

What I've Been Reading Lately

It's been forever and a day since I had some quick lit book reviews for you - I don't know what summer has against time going at a normal pace, but summer really zooms by doesn't it? Here's what I've got this time:

The Temperament God Gave Your Kids: Motivate, Discipline, and Love Your Children by Art and Lorraine Bennett

This book was a great read! We all know our kids have unique personalities, and once you start having 3, 4 and 5 kids you see it even more. I really liked learning about the strengths and weaknesses of each temperament because it's true that some things are just more difficult for different temperaments while some things come much more easily for others. The ideas for discipline were also really great, and I feel like I'll come back to this book again and again as my kids grow. After reading I've got some questions for the authors that I'd love to hear them answer like: what happens when a child demonstrates traits from two personalities? What if a child of a certain temperament doesn't respond to the discipline you recommend for that temperament - is he really another temperament or is that discipline just not working for him?

Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by C.S. Lewis

I talked about this book in depth on an episode of the podcast, and it was a good one to both read and discuss because of the different ways Lewis brings about the ideas of love, being honest with oneself, and ideas of sacrifice and heaven. Just so many ideas and metaphors are explored in this book that is so well written you're pulled into the story so quickly that it takes a while to unpack how great it really is. I think this is a novel that you could return to again and again and keep finding new ideas that make sense to you for the first time. Probably my favourite Lewis novel that I've read. You should probably read it.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I reread this in preparation for the release of Go Set A Watchman (which you've already seen me write about), and it was even better than the times I've previously read it. This book still makes me cry, still surprises me with it's delightful writing of childhood and family, and still hits you with the injustice of racism. It's really an almost perfect novel to me in it's construction, prose, atmosphere, and of course, characters. Atticus Finch is the greatest.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

This was a Modern Mrs Darcy summer reading pick and I needed some summer reading after these heavy hitters. This book felt fairly fluffy but it's entertainment value - and chick lit value - just wasn't there for me. It was fine. If you want a book that's romanic, but clean, talks about flowers and the South with a bit of domestic drama thrown in then you may enjoy it more than I did. Definitely not terrible chick lit, just not great.

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos

More summer chick lit -- and I may be risking my internet life here in saying that this wasn't the greatest chick lit to me either. It didn't really pull me in or make me want to keep page turning, even though it ticked all the family troubles/unexpected romance/quirky main character boxes. I am just really hard to please when it comes to chick lit I think. And yet...

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

...I keep reading chick lit! This one was a chick lit hit for me though! So high praise. I may be a huge royal loyalist and devoted daughter of the commonwealth so I may be a bit biased towards this piece of Will and Kate fan fiction. I found it quite well done, and I think they took more from Princess Diana's story in a lot of ways than from Kate's. It's pure fun and it delivers. That's what I'm looking for in some easy reading!

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Seven Quick Takes vol. 126

Getting back in the groove with Kelly, because she never loses hers!


How we spent our 5 summer days. ;)

Wow, I just had to check when I last posted a quick takes and it's been almost two months. I honestly don't get how fast time flies. But I'm glad to be back with a quick note to check in with what I've been up to. How's your summer been? I want to see all of your summer bucket lists checked off! Wait, you don't do that either? Good, glad it isn't just me!


I spent most of this week getting organized for the school year. Oh yeah, because when I see all the crazy Americans going back to school at this ungodly time of year I finally start to think about preparing for our school year. I had to fill out a bunch of program plans for the government -- boo hiss! -- which is of course a barrel of fun, and I made Amazon go boom with a giant school order. I might as well spend that government money right? We actually have most of our core curriculum already because my kids seemed to finished what they were doing in the middle of last year so I just bought the next grade up so we can really pick up any time we want. I'm aiming for after Labor Day!  


I also got a lot of other annoying, chore-ish things done this week that I have been putting off all summer. I don't know why it feels good to finally get those things done but it really does. I also always make a list of things to get done in the summer and I always end up doing all of them during the last week of summer. I'm currently organizing books and bookshelves and the only solution I've come up with is I need more books and bookshelves. Which really isn't a solution. But for both those things I need a bigger house. 


I need a bigger house? But didn't I just write about living with a bunch of kids in a small house? Why yes I did! If you haven't checked it out it was over at Theresa's last week writing about it - the whole series was really great, check out all of them!


I've also been other places this summer writing a guest post for Jenny at Mama Needs Coffee on living the faith here in Canada. 

And I wrote about a month ago for Patheos and the great blog Love Among The Ruins about the comedy The Last Man On Earth. I don't think I ever mentioned it here on the blog, so if you missed it on Facebook you may never have known - what a shame!


We went on a little summer holiday for a couple days to the mountains last week and had a really great time! We just love being in the mountains. But it was especially nice to stay at a gorgeous cabin on an even more gorgeous secluded lake. The kids were able to swim on the hot, hot, hot days and then when it dipped to single digit temperatures on the last day we were there we could run around different trails almost by ourselves. (Because apparently the cold temperatures really put a damper on non-Canadians going out of doors...I dunno...maybe...weird...)


It's still hilarious how much attention we garner going to tourist-y sites with five kids. It really shouldn't be such a big deal but there are plenty of stares and "Are they all yours?!" Oh, yes they are or else I wouldn't have gotten in the same car with them for 6 hours! Actually the driving went better than expected and at this rate we may be able to drive with them on a decent road trip for more than 3 days in about a decade. Give or take. I just can't not picture travelling with my children as not being utterly exhausting. Even now are kids are getting bigger but it still requires so much work to get them there, so much work while we're there, and still major disruptions to sleep. I'm getting a bit better at accepting it, but I still feel like low-acheiving mom that I don't love and want to travel with them all yet. Just a dose of mommy-confession for you. We really did have a great time and even though it was just three days it was completely worth it and everyone loved it. There's nothing like seeing the excitement of your sweet babies as they experience new things for the first time. Even if they occasionally get a little freaked out over bears and heights! 

Hope you all have a lovely summer weekend -- I may even get crazy and start blogging next week...for real.

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