Posted in home education

To the New Homeschooling Mama

Today I saw a woman who encouraged me during my first “holy guacamole, what did I get myself into?” day of homeschooling. I had, at the time, four kids under the age of six. I was maybe two months in after pulling Gabriella and Hayden from school. A sweet friend of mine told us about a homeschooling day at the library. It was our first time attending any type of homeschooling event.

It was one of those morning I just muscled through to get us up and out the door. I wasn’t feeling amazing and had lost a baby just a month before. I was irritable, hot, (Because October in Texas is still hot.) and worried about how my kids would behave. Would they decided to redecorate the bookshelves? Would the sit and listen, or would they get up and show off their track skills?

I was acutely aware of every little move and noise they made. All of the other kids were able to sit through the story! None of the other kids had to use the bathroom three times! Ryder was still just a toddler and wanted to touch everything, and didn’t understand how to use a quiet voice. Lylah was three, and didn’t care at all about anything that was going on.

I just wanted to “fit in”! This was possibly the new community I would become a part of, and even though the kids were just being kids, and not doing anything out of line, I was frustrated. And hot. I remember being hot.

The truth is, my kids probably weren’t being as ‘bad’ as I remember.

Halfway through the activities the whole group got up to move to the other side of the library to use the tables  and I used the shuffle to duck out. I, as discretely as possible, (which is not at all with four small children.) snuck out the side exit.

Before we could even make it into the parking lot my friend and the sweet, sweet woman I had just met caught me. I was doing everything possible to hold back the tears of frustration that were swimming in my eyes, and trying to remind myself of all the reasons why we chose to pull the kids in the first place.

My friend sympathized with me, and asked me to come back in and the amazing woman I’d just met touched my shoulder and told me the kids were fine. That they weren’t disturbing anyone, and things weren’t as bad as they seemed to me. She told me that when she saw me walk through the door with my hoard of small children that the Lord had told her to pray for me and to encourage me on my journey.

 

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I honestly don’t remember if we went back in. I think we did, but that was kind of a turning point for me. It was the moment I realized that my homeschooling (turned unschooling) journey wouldn’t ever look like another. That having other mama’s to turn to when things get rough, or just for random conversation to fill your cup is important. And being able to admit that you’re having a rough day is just as important.

Just because you have a bad day doesn’t mean it’s time to ship your kids off to school. It doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for the job. You love being a mother, but you don’t love having a bad day. That doesn’t make you a bad mom. Same for homeschooling. One bad day does not define your journey.

Bringing your kids home after being apart from them is something that’s not often talked about. Being with anyone all day every day, after spending hours apart is challenging. I even have moments of frustration with my husband when he stays home from work for an extended weekend or holiday. (Haha, no judging!)

If you’re new to homeschooling, especially if you’ve pulled your kids out of school to keep them home, find your people. You will need them. And please know, you are not alone. Your kids are not as wild as you think, and if this is what the Lord has called you to do, you’ve made the right decision.

We always tell our kids no one is perfect, but sometimes forget that includes us. We’re not perfect parents, spouses, or friends. We can correct our kids until we’re blue in the face, but at the end of the day they’re still just kids. Tiny people trying to find their way. And, if they’re new to being home with you all day, there’s a chance it’s going to be a challenge for them too.

The subtle changes can be just as hard to navigate as that first leap of faith. But you can, and will make it. The point is, give yourself grace and find others who do as well. ❤

 

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Posted in At Home, home education

No Means No: Teaching our children about consent

Have you ever tried to hug someone and they stuck their hand out for you to shake instead? Or, are you the one who offered your hand? Most of the time, as adults, we respect that boundary. But with kids, it’s different. Someone tries to hug a child, the child refuses, and parents will push their child to accept the affection. Sometimes because they’re close to the person, sometimes out of pressure or embarrassment. “Hug your grandma! Give her a kiss!”

Relationships are built over time. As a family member, if you’ve built a strong relationship with a child and they willingly give you hugs and kisses, you’ve earned that! But, if you’re long distance, or your paths don’t cross often, there is no reason to force affection out of, or on to a child.

I’ve been that mom. I’ve told my kids, “give your uncle a hug! He’s your uncle!” Or, “go give everyone a hug goodbye!” I’ve taken my comfortability with family members and pushed it off on them. Just because I would hug someone goodbye doesn’t mean they’re comfortable doing so.

I have one child that is comfortable giving people hugs. The rest of them would prefer to wave, verbally say hello, or shake someone’s hand. Which, I’m totally okay with. I think there’s a line, for sure. It’s definitely rude to walk into someone’s house and ignore them, but I think it’s appropriate for them to verbally greet people or wave hello.

Teaching children that their consent starts in these situations gives them the confidence to know that it extends to other situations as well. I don’t remember ever having intimate discussions with my parents about consent. I do remember a doctor teaching me about which parts were “private parts” and I remember being surprised. I didn’t realize before there were parts of our bodies that we shouldn’t touch on others, or allow others to touch. I don’t think it was intentional or that they didn’t feel it was important to have intimate discussions, it just never happened.

It’s important to go beyond the bounds of your personal comfortability for growth, but consent should never, ever leave the realm of comfortability.  No one should feel uncomfortable being touched or saying no.”

When I was in fourth or fifth grade I had my first real discussion about consent. It was with a friends mother. They lived a few houses down and across the street from me growing up. Some of the boys in the neighborhood had taken to spanking me and popping my bra strap on a regular basis. I was too embarrassed to talk to my parents about it, and worried I’d somehow end up in trouble, so I never did. But, my friend spoke to his mom.

I was terrified when he told me she wanted to talk to me, so I got on my bike and took off down the road. Y’all. This woman got on hers and followed me. When I sat down in a random front yard, she did too. She told me that it was never okay for someone to touch me without consent. I cried because it was the first time I’d ever been told that- even though I knew- and I cried because I honestly thought I was going to get in trouble. She didn’t have to do that, but she did, and she gave me the confidence to speak up.

Learning that you have consent over your own body starts young. It’s not just about teaching children where their “private parts” are, or that people shouldn’t touch them where a bathing suit is worn.

It’s about teaching them that their hands never have to touch someone/something they’re not comfortable with.

It’s about teaching them that someone rubbing their leg or shoulders can be wrong, even if it’s not a “private part”.

It’s about teaching, no matter how difficult, that their mouths too, are their own. It’s about teaching them that hugs and kisses are not a required action when saying hello or goodbye.

It’s about teaching them that it’s okay to say no.

And, it’s about teaching them that when someone else says no, it means no. That it’s just as important to respect others boundaries.

A couple of years ago I created a PDF to help teach your children about consent. You can find it here. Holidays are the perfect time to learn about consent. It’s an opportunity to show our kids that even if the intentions are good, it’s still okay to say no. Not every woman or man touching or hugging a child has bad intentions, but if they feel uncomfortable, it’s okay. It’s important to go beyond the bounds of your personal comfortability for growth, but consent should never, ever leave the realm of comfortability.  No one should feel uncomfortable being touched or saying no.

How do you teach consent in your home?

Posted in home education, Uncategorized

Introducing Us Part Two: Meet Gabriella

Six, almost seven years ago a nurse handed me a tiny baby girl. I put her into the crook of my arm, and that wrinkled baby raised the back of her hand to her forehead, let out the most pitiful cry I’ve ever heard and turned her face into my chest. Oh, the drama. Gabriella- more often referred to as Ella- has lived up to her first introduction to the world.

Meet, Ella. Our sassy, soft-spoken, sensitive, shy, sweetheart. (Did Y’all catch my unintentional use of alliteration? Save your applause for later, folks.) She loves books, babies, hot tea, cooking, and baking. She’s wise beyond her years and the worrier of the family. She’s the “mother hen” of our crew; always making sure her siblings are well cared for and listening… especially to her. She’s the best kind of challenge when it comes to homeschooling.

Ella attended Pre-K at the local public school for only a few months. There was never any indication she wasn’t succeeding in school, nor did she have any serious issues with being there each day. She had excellent, attentive teachers, and enjoyed her time at school for the most part. She would occasionally tell me she didn’t benefit from the amount of time she spent at school, that it “took too long” for her to come home each day. That would pull at my heart-strings. My girl missed me!

I’m not a public school “hater.” Herman and I both had somewhat enjoyable experiences in school. I’m also very much aware of the necessity of public education for some families, because of work or just Mama’s sanity. Public school teachers are real-life superheroes who deserve a cape, a large cup of coffee, and an endless supply of dark chocolate. But, once again I found myself thinking there had to be a better way. Who guides us? The social norm, or God?

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Romans 12:2

Ella has always been quiet. She enjoys playing alone and is the exact definition of an introvert. She got that from Herman, which is evident if you know anything about me. Until recently, when she would speak to me while driving, I would have to pull over and turn off the ignition just to hear her! In a crowded place? Forget hearing anything she may have to say.  After starting Pre-K, these things became much more apparent. Almost like she was exhausting all of her energy at school, and when she came home, there was nothing left. She’s still pretty shy in social settings but has come a long way.

She was only a month past four when she started Pre-K. She was not ready. Hindsight is always 20/20, right? Ella is an unhurried learner. I won’t use the word slowly because learning isn’t a race. If she’s not ready to learn something, it just won’t stick no matter how many times you go over it, and that’s okay. When I started homeschooling the kids, I immediately made the decision we wouldn’t push for any type of structured learning for her or the younger children until six. You would be amazed at the information children pick up just through play!

Unfortunately, after we were home for a while, I kept falling into the trap of comparison. What if she’s behind? This question always led to me trying to teach her things she just wasn’t ready for and frustration from us both. So of course when she turned six I started her on the DVD-led curriculum right away, and she learned NOTHING! It was discouraging, and I began praying for answers. Even though I was initially on the right track with helping her learn, I was again allowing the world to influence a situation I had already given to God.

Something I continue to cling to is advice given in the book Homeschooling: what to do when you want to quit. Michelle Cannon writes: “When someone calls me to say they feel behind, the first thing I ask is, ‘behind what, or whom?’ …” (Follow the link to take a look, or grab a copy!) The title of the book almost kept me from reading, but it’s a book full of encouragement for all situations, not just for those who feel like quitting. Once we dropped the academy-style learning, she began to flourish.

Currently, we’re putting emphasis on reading. Within the last few months, she has picked up the ability to recognize all of the letters in the alphabet, and the sounds they make. This is a tremendous feat for her, and the pride in her eyes when she can recognize something makes my heart happy and helps me remember this is not a race. For a while, I was concerned that she may be Dyslexic and starting therapy would be necessary. Seeking outside help is always an option in our family, but for now, we’re just taking our time, and it seems to be working for her.

Here’s a sample of what a typical day at home looks like for Ella:

  • Wake up and eat breakfast, usually, watch cartoons
  • Complete any chores
  • Letters and sounds instruction for 15-20 minutes then complete work ~1 hour total
  • Play/free time
  • Lunch
  • Quiet time (This is time spent alone in a room for approximately 1 1/2-2 hours. She usually does self-guided penmanship practice and workbook pages to fill the time.)
  • Math instruction 15-20 minutes then complete work ~1 hour total
  • Play/free time

There are things we don’t limit in our home that fall under the category of her play/free time. We don’t restrict the use of puzzles, making easy-reader books, workbooks, crafting and art projects, spending time exploring nature, and reading books. This means my house is usually covered in glue, glitter, and scraps of paper. If you’ve ever been over to my house, there’s a chance you’ve witnessed the endless crafting first hand. She will occasionally use some of her free time to practice math, watch science, history, and art videos on Khanacademy.org, or play on abcmouse.com. Our adventure days, as Hayden refers to them, are days spent learning organically, usually outdoors somewhere. Science and art are easily explored on these days. Her current fascination is learning how to sew. Project Runway, here she comes!

Reading to her, I think, has been the most helpful part of her early learning. It’s taught her that reading and writing are always left to right, something she’s struggled with and that there is always at least one vowel in every word. She has started to recognize simple words as they repeat in a book, which shows me she’s able to follow along. Most of all, the stories give her the drive to want to learn. Which is the number one goal in our home.

Our style of learning is definitely not for everyone, but it’s what works best for us. I’ve had to let go of a lot of unnecessary worries, and pride to get where we are today. It’s easy to quiet the voice that tells you to follow your own path when the world is loudly screaming you’re doing it wrong. That’s always a struggle anytime you go against the grain.

Ella needs a lot of breaks, and to always be hands on. Out of everything she has taught me since we’ve started our homeschooling journey, the most important thing I have to remember, is her need to always take her time. It’s a humbling lesson in such a fast-paced world.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heavens…”  Ecclesiastes 3:1