Saturday, January 24, 2015

Another Life Lately

Life Lately ... again

We've been working at moving around rooms in the house. Is that normal? Or do we have too much space and time on our hands? I could just be restless like that. I seem to torture my husband continuously with moving things around. Anyways, our "front room/dogs room" is now becoming space for books crafts and my computer. I have to say it looks and feels great. You know how when you walk into a room and the atmosphere is just, hell yeah! This room has got it going on! The kids have been really enjoying it, playing the board games and using crafts. I think it is just more welcoming to them.

One set back... We have to set up an appointment to get a new connection in the room for our internet. Dish stole the line for our tv? Switched it outside at the box as opposed to setting up their own... I'm not very amused.  

My office is becoming a play room. We're going to try out not having toys in kids rooms and see how it works out for them.

In continuing to work on donations/minimizing/liberating from our bursting at the seams house we tackled our closet, my clothes and my husband's. Apparently I "squirrel away" things in the closet. I found an unopened box of contact lenses, which means the eye appointment I've needed all month is getting pushed back. I also found long lost leggings, too many belts, and multiple children's teeth. I'm not going to know who's teeth are whose... does that stuff even matter? Do people keep kids teeth? My son has informed me that he thought that I just threw them away. Maybe that's a sign?

With cleaning up, cleaning out, and moving around the house I have other plans in mind as well. The girls room is getting a full make over. I'm excited to get to it and I think they will love it. My son's room will be getting a lift as well but his will come next.

After 9 months of embracing a vegetarian diet and a few long conversations we've decided to include meat in our diets again. I don't have excuses for such a decision. It really just seemed like the best option for our needs, dietary and otherwise. I still fully support vegetarian and vegan diets/lifestyles, no ifs ands or buts about it! I've always played a fairly neutral role with these sorts of decisions because it is so personal. We spent the last week enjoying the meals and meats that we had missed. Rachel - the very worst aspiring vegan. 

I have been reading about the Whole30 and I believe I will be setting a start date in the near future. It kind of eliminates all those extra terrible things(sugar, grains and legumes) that have taken over my diet lately or made me feel awful.

That's life lately for us.
How are you? What have you been doing? Do you have any projects this year?Are you on a new diet in this new year?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Long Post On Organizing and Minimizing

With every new year comes change and change is inevitable. I decided to take this change a step further and really tackle some things around the house.
I first started with organizing craft supplies. Let me tell you they were everywhere!

This mess of stuff became this ...

 The containers are now very full as I took the time to gather sources of creativity from all through the house.

In the drawers to the left there are general craft supplies in the top two drawers. Miscellaneous things like poms, pipe cleaners, tissue paper, stickers, oil pastels, hot glue guns, cutting mat, and any other things that don't have a category. The bottom drawer holds paper of all kinds and paint chip cards.
In the drawers on the right there are soap making supplies in the top drawer. I have some candle making supplies in the attic to add but the drawer is too full already, oops. In the middle drawer are some old shirts, fabric, plastic canvas and needles, cross stitching supplies(which reminds me I have pattern books in the attic) and a few odds and ends. I am calling these "tinker tools". The bottom drawer is all fabrics.
The goal here is so that our supplies are more accessible to little children. I want them to feel comfortable and able to open up a drawer and start a project.
Between the drawers is a bin for Playdoh and a metal box that is currently empty but I think I will put magazines in it since we seem to have a growing collection.

This was phase one of organizing. 
Minimizing Clothing! 

In phase two I have combined organizing with minimizing. 
You see my children have WAY too many clothes. Make that had, because I did some serious sorting yesterday and the piles of clothes were insane. These are the clothes that belong to my 5 year old, Arayla.
I narrowed this down to 3 pairs of pajamas, 4 pairs of jeans, 3 comfy pants, 2 pairs of leggings, and 7 shirts. This all fits into one drawer. She has 1 jean jacket, 1 sweater, and 3 casual dresses in the closet. Also there are 4 dresses for special occasions or for dressing up as girls often do.
Her reaction was "Mama! .... There is something messed up with my dresser." Since the bottom drawer is completely empty.
She went on today to tell me that she is upset it won't take very long to put her clothes away. And what if she wears them all. And what if I don't wash them. We'll have to be more open about clothing needs and also with putting them into the basket for washing. I'm excited, I think this is going to work well overall. Here is the after dresser picture.
She does have a full summer wardrobe too that consists of 3 dresses, 2 skirts, 5 shorts, 7 shirts and 3 pairs of pajamas. Again it will only fill ONE drawer.

Next kid is my 8 year old Cambria.
She doesn't really have attachments to things which is amazing and a wonderful quality to have. All of her clothes before sorting. 
 Clothes remaining after sorting. She has 3 pairs of jeans, but none fit properly, she has 2 pairs of 10s and 1 pair of 7s and she is right between sizes. So we will have to find some good sales and soon. she has 6 shirts, 1 pair of comfortable pants, and 3 pairs of pajamas.

I think it is much easier to go crazy with kids wardrobes because of a few different things. For one thing, kids are always growing and there seem to be a surplus of clothing being handed down. Another source are grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends. I know many parents who buy almost no clothing at all for their own children because relatives are always handing them down or buying for them. Which is absolutely a blessing! Although sometimes this is done in such excess the children simply cannot properly wear them all, let alone wear them out before they grow out of them. Which is great for the next kids who get them!
I'm making it a point to try to only keep what will be used and loved. This is going to spread outward in all areas of our life and our home.

I have one more kids clothes to go through but his won't be nearly so drastic. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

To err is human...

I am not a perfect mother. I make mistakes. Just in case you had the wrong idea about me, I'm a total mess up some days. Actually, at least once a day I do something that reflects badly on who I am. What can I say, oh a quote, "To err is human..." 
Really it always seems to boil down to the little things. You know when you finally flip your lid, lose your temper, fly off the handle, or what have you. It seems to be a small thing that keeps popping up that really just makes you lose your shit.
Too often I lose my temper and yell when my kids have done something usually something small and probably for the 15th time. But it happens with a compilation of things happening in a short period of time. Today for example headaches, off and on all day. Kids were having off days with their tempers on high and emotions too. I finally reached that point in the day where I was going to get to be alone with my thoughts. Then the child who spent two hours crying about this and that before falling asleep wakes up again and starts crying some more, about this and that again. One thing leads to another and I'm yelling about things that shouldn't have happened with another kid. I have excuses or reasons if you want them. But to get to the point, I was having a hard time and reacted badly to my emotions toward situations out of my control. I behaved like a jerk.  For what reason? Previous guidelines were set and not respected resulting in a situation that was a disaster because I wasn't listened to. That had no consequences for the child but demanded me to fix it, again. I got mad and yelled and hurt said child's feelings. 
I have work to do. Lately I've been thinking about things that I can change and do better as a parent. Then I go and do the opposite of course, because that makes sense in opposite world.
There always seems to be a last straw and a tiny little heart attached to it. Something worth being mindful of. I cannot forget that my choices and reactions have consequences. This really is the stuff of life, connecting with others and forming good relationships.
Thankfully I can admit fault, explain myself and apologize while moving forward and trying not to make the same mistakes. But also making sure that children fully understand why guidelines are there and helping them to make better choices.
"To err is human to forgive is divine"
Lets talk again about this...

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Restaurant Menus Through History

I am so excited!
We are planning a history submersion day for Tuesday. All day we're focusing on the 1920s and experiencing it to the fullest.

This morning I found a website that linked me to the New York Public Library online that directed me to menus from restaurants with dates for each. There was also an option to look at dishes served by year and by popularity. Now I can plan the meals for our history submersion day based on home cooked or restaurant style.

We can even make up fun little menus and even plan for daily spending with play money. That would put things into perspective!
I couldn't help but share. For the foodies, for the people who love history and culture, for the people thinking up cool ways to to get their children excited about learning.

Here is the link!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Little Dominoes

I've become elusive. You see, I've been struggling lately.
Like big hole, dark place, sadness.
With visiting moments of relief and contentment.
I'm alright, I have some healing to do.
I have improvements to make.
"We were all little dominoes in a cruel joke knock down one and we all fall." - I said that. 
See now, I'm writing this book. This life changing heart crushing book. The quote above from this book, explains it all. When I write I open it all up I live it again, I remember more and it hurts. Like sorrowful pain to the core at times.
I can't do this too often or with too much detail. But when I do, I have to go at it all at once. Allow myself to feel it all and then close up again until I feel strong enough. Strong enough to feel, to remember, to string words together like music or like a mad man pounding on a piano to later come back to and lessen the blows with gentle words and metaphors.

I haven't decided what my intentions are with this writing. If I'll keep it safely tucked away or twist it into something a little more beautiful or a little more cruel. 

 I haven't been able to shake the emotions off yet from this last go of it. I'm hoping for a brighter better day tomorrow. But if I'm not back tomorrow maybe the next day. Perhaps this is an emotional purge, the end of something and the beginning of something new. Perhaps I'm entirely too hopeful that this is going to get easier.
I'll think about some other angles, maybe that will do.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Whole Life Learning - Unschooling - All The Details

Why we do what we do and what it actually is.
          We do not homeschool in the sense of "school at home" with our children. They were not pulled from public school so that we could force learning in ways we did not find to be benefiting our children.  We choose to take a more organic approach to learning with them. This is our homeschooling philosophy, whole life learning. We believe that children learn best when they are fully engaged and excited. You cannot force a child to get excited about a topic because you have some kind of need for them to learn said topic.
          Many children waste their time memorizing (not learning) facts to regurgitate them for tests only to forget them more quickly than it took to memorize them. We do not test our children. Testing is a system put into place for teachers to assess and gauge a child's learning because they cannot focus on each individual child in the way that a homeschooled child is attended to. I'm sure it is very helpful in a classroom setting for a teacher who has to keep track of all those children and also for parents who want to know how their children are doing based on a system of measure. But you see my kids do not need to be tested because they are learning in ways that tests simply cannot measure(more on that later....) and when they know something I know that they know. There is no use for tests aside from samples for end of year evaluation and test scores are not a great portfolio sample anyway. Project based samples are more thorough and have a better feel about them, with more creativity and personality involved.  
          We choose to unschool our children this means that they seek out things they are interested in and they learn because they are engaged in that particular topic. This is precisely how adults out of school and university learn. When you want to learn something new what do you do? Do you go sign up for a class because the only way to learn something new is by listening to lectures and taking tests? Or do you seek out the information you desire and the experiences required to fully understand the concept that you are curious about? I'm willing to bet that you consult with Google or a book store more often to learn new things than you realize and most certainly more often than you find yourself signing up for classes. Also, learning things in a class might be absolutely perfect for the way that you learn (there are different learning styles and this is important as well). In addition to classes being a great way to learn they can prevent you from making some big mistakes and also promote a healthy lifestyle such as with yoga or spinning. Classes that teach pottery making, homesteading skills, or how to quilt are also beneficial and a great way to establish a hobby and relationships with other people. You also learn much through conversations with other people and working together. You learn through trying new things. To stop learning is to stop living they are one and the same.
          Please note that unschooling our children does not mean we are hands off. If anything it is far more hands on. We present ideas to our children, topics they might like, and books they might enjoy reading or having read to them. Yes, even when they can read chapter books to themselves. Do you remember how comforting it was to be read to, to allow your mind to just fly away with the words, to close your eyes and day dream it all in your head? We're not stopping that around here and especially not at the expense of a child not realizing how much they love literature. We are "book people"(in that we love books, reading, libraries, book stores, you get the picture) and we want to share that with our children. We buy the tools to learn and seek out the experiences to facilitate their interests. They learn all the time. We talk about nutrition and budgeting when meals are involved. We round numbers to estimate the cost of the items in the shopping cart before we get to the check out. We talk to people we don't know and wish them well (and sometimes rude things come out of little mouths but this too offers the opportunity to learn and to improve). When talking about people we talk about culture and religion too. When we clean together and do home projects we instill responsibility in our children. I am in the process of making all of our craft and art supplies more accessible to them so that they can initiate their own activities and be able to clean up after themselves too(This stems from the fact that I love some of the Montessori approaches to home life and education.). I'm also planning some fun history submersion days in the new year that I think they will fully enjoy. They got an awesome microscope for Christmas along with a slide making kit and petri dishes. They received good for the environment soy crayon rocks and rubbing plates focused on botany and fossils. It is all about facilitating and making an amazing life for our children and anyone can do that!     
That thing I said about tests.        
          I mentioned that our children learn in ways that tests cannot measure and it is true. While a test can measure the level of comprehension attained through a story it cannot measure the personal influence. Short of assigning written essays that are more for defining writing and grammar ability than for establishing the impact of literature on a young student, these are the aspects that fall through the cracks in traditional schooling methods. Discussions directly with your young reader in which you're actively engaged and asking questions are a much better and more sincere way to really see through his eyes how much a story has impacted him.
          A test does not measure personal character. I don't know about anyone else but raising my children is far more about the kind of people they  are and much less about how quickly they can complete math problems. Kind of like The Tortoise and The Hare, as long as you're reaching the destination you need to be at. We spend time every day with our children working on life skills, how to treat others, and how to care for themselves. That last one is far more detailed than you'd think at first. It is important for children to be able to assess their needs on all levels; mental, physical and emotional health are all important parts of taking care of ourselves and children need our guidance. They also need to continuously work on building relationships with family, friends, and people in their communities. With that, it is imperative that they move towards establishing themselves within these groups. They need to know that their presence is always important and valued even as children. If we do not raise them to feel important now but suddenly dump it all onto their shoulders with expectations and a lack of instruction when they turn eighteen, what more can we expect, than for them to not know how to handle such responsibilities and social positions? Raising our children to be strong speakers, to have their own opinions, and to stand up for themselves is important to us. We do not request that they blindly follow our words because who's advice will they follow when we are not around? They have to learn to trust themselves and their judgment.
          A test cannot measure the passion they feel for topics that excite them. While a test can tell me that my child is remembering many facts and details about a particular topic it does not reveal to me how much she loves to learn about it. A test could easily mark the end of a learning endeavor and wouldn't it be a shame to cut her excitement short because a lesson simply ends here? Instead I will encourage and facilitate learning until her brain is satiated and she wants to move on to another topic. Which, guess what... might not happen right away! The level of learning my children experience from reading and enjoying the things that they love to learn about has been much more thorough than weeks of lessons on subjects that bore them. But, yes it does sometimes take time for them to become excited about a new topic when the last has passed out of their lives. Sometimes they say they want to know more about astronomy and change their minds just after you've printed pages of information and bought a telescope. I always trust that someone will get use from these dropped interests even if that person isn't any of us.
This is the way we live, please respect us.
          It is fairly apparent that unschooling isn't just about education but it is also about how we live. Maybe it is even more about how we live than it is about education. The way that we live allows for whole life learning. When asked about school our kids will often claim that we're not doing it, that they're not learning, or they will avoid the person quizzing them. When they honestly claim that they do not know something and then are told of this topics (*ah hem* arbitrary) "importance" but not in ways that are applicable to their current lives the entire conversation is pointless. Unless of course the goal is to confuse, intimidate, and belittle a child, in which case you've succeeded. I understand that others feel that they need to know that the children in their lives are doing well but that is their personal situation and one should use caution when coming from a place of fear or judgment. This means that often we push our ideals on others in ways that are not helpful but instead hurt others without our realizing it and there are better ways to communicate. Perhaps it would help everyone involved by asking questions like "What books are you reading?" or "What fascinates you most about the planet we live on?" or any number of other awesome questions for kids like:
"What would you like most about being a jelly fish?"
"What is your favorite animal? Why?"
"What do you like most about having dogs?"
"What are you good at?"
"What is the best thing about being a kid/(or the age they are now)?"
"What is the hardest thing you've ever had to do?"
"What is your favorite word? Why?"
          You can simply strike up conversations in almost the same ways you would with adults. You can share information that you think is interesting and see if they share in your interests. You can ask them their interests and see if you know anything about those topics that you could share with them. Sharing knowledge and experiences is wonderful. Over sharing and stressing the importance of topics in arbitrary ways is not conductive to a good relationship. Again, building good relationships is something that we're working on teaching our children about but also something that so many adults seem to skim over as though it lacks any kind of significance at all especially with those who are young and know not what they know.
More of that philosophy thing.    
          They learn from you/me/them/us(get it?), you learned from the people before you. This is how we all learn and change and grow and choose new things. You can help change cycles worth breaking; you can influence the next generation. You can "be the change" you wish to see, if you see a change worth making. If the parents of these children are working toward something different, something you may not quite understand, respect and an understanding attitude go a long way. Relatives and friends, help the people in your life to facilitate the life(whatever life that may be) they desire not the life you may think they should have or standards you thing they should be living up to.
          We're not radical in the sense of electronics and have set times for the entire family for use of electronics daily except for clearly educational uses/consulting Google for questions. I know, these are useful learning tools. But they are also time suckers so we choose to live more conscious of our electronic use by limiting it and establishing routines that help to balance all aspects of our lives.
What do we do all day?      
          We like to maintain a daily routine because it helps us all function. I have one child who likes to rise early, one who wakes with me, and one who wakes later than us all. We stager our morning activities, eat when we are hungry, and start our day in whatever way feels true to ourselves and what we need or need to get done. This does not mean we cannot get up and get out of the house when we need to be somewhere. This means that when we have morning plans we go to bed at the time that waking demands. In the mornings we read, write in journals, work on art, play board games, complete any fun/educational activities I have planned or they have requested, and sometimes watch educational films. We break these activities up with household responsibilities as they become apparent. Lunch is also served when our stomachs need it and with a range of options since we have different demands and expectations nutritionally. In the afternoon we clean up morning messes, start planned activities educational or otherwise, play outside, run errands, the kids sometimes play with friends, more reading happens, and playing with each other. Snacks are encouraged up until the time that dinner is cooking, then kids have to wait. After dinner the kids can use electronics for whatever they like, watch television, and taking turns playing video games. I have found that I like keeping a bedtime for myself and my kids understand that they each have different sleep needs and meet those needs accordingly. They go to bed between 10 and 11 and I go to bed around midnight.  This is what daily life looks like for us.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Just a Kid and her Xbox

This here has got to be one of my favorite pictures lately.

That is all.