Monday, August 29, 2011

Challenge: Maximize Your Mornings


"For those of us who are mothers, the fundamental idea is to stop waking up TO our children and start waking up FOR them"

I'm signing up for this 3-month challenge.  I'm participating via Facebook and my check-in time is 6:00am.  I've been getting up around 6:30-7:00 when the littlest one wakes me up so hopefully this is not completely unattainable.

This SO-NOT-A-MORNING-PERSON mama needs all the help she can get!  I can sometimes manage to get up before the kids and get my day off to a good start.  It always sets us up for a better, more peaceful day.  I just can't seem to do that consistantly or for more than a short season.  Self-discipline is not one of my strengths but hopefully this will make my morning routine more of a life-long habit.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

School at Home

In less than a month I am officially homeschooling my oldest boy! 

This is a strange realization.  I was homeschooled for (most of) my elementary and all of my Jr. High years.  To be honest I didn't see myself jumping into this lifestyle again.  Maybe I was just in denial.  ha!

I have been reading up on curriculum and philosophies and trying to get some goals in mind.  I figured this would be a good place to put it all down.

Back Story:
I know enough to know that I should never say "never."
I know that different things work for different families and there are seasons for everything. I truely believe that the one right way to educate your children is what works best for your family, and that might change from year to year.

Last year I joined the local homeschool email loop and a co-op in a neighboring town for some preschool experience.
I wanted to see what was out there.

I have some misgivings about the public school system from my years as a teacher.  (Not to say I didn't have some awesome coworkers who were doing great things, 'cause there were some quality people there.)
With a very active, just-turned-5yo boy I just didn't see the traditional school model working for my son right now.

Philosophy: 
There are so many ways to do school at home!  It can be overwhelming at first.  There are basic summaries of different philosophies here and here.

Personally, I am drawn to the Charlotte Mason method.  From what I've seen so far, her views on children and education match up with my own.  Her focus on short lessons and plenty of time outdoors feel like a good match for my child's temperament.  I also love the learning-by-doing approach of Montessori and will likely be pulling activities from that method.  (Here's a good site.)  I can see how I might incorporate some unschooling ideas and in-depth unit studies if I'm still doing this when they are older.  (Five in a Row, see below, is considered a Unit Studies method.) 

I still need to read up some more and will likely have a more solid philosophy after a bit of on-the-job training.  (Did I mention that I studied educational philosophies in college too? ha!)

Curriculum:
We used Before Five in a Row last year for a casual pre-school curriculum.  (It's not really a curriculum though, more like a book of literature based ideas.)  I love the approach and am using Five in a Row this year as the basis of our school work.  You read the same classic children's book each day for a week. (Five days in a row, get it?)  Then you choose from the activities suggested in the book to tie in content areas.  Of course their site explains it more in depth.

We have been slowly working through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and will continue.

I think Handwriting Without Tears will give us a fun place to start with writing.

I'm hearing wonderful things about Math-U-See so I will probably be introducing that next quarter. 

I will be keeping the NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards in mind as I check our progress.

Socialization:
Of course whenever you mention homeschooling, the old "socialization" question pops up. 

I'm not saying that there aren't homeschoolers who stay home all day and only have their siblings for companions, but I would say that is the exception and not the rule.  Most homeschoolers I know are involved in many community activities throughout the week, from dance class to playing sports to volunteer work to youth groups to co-ops and play groups with other homeschoolers.
(Not to mention that peer interaction isn't the only valuable opportunity for learning social skills.)
   
In our area there are sooo many options!
We are planning on attending the weekly playgroup for kids pre-k to early elementary, monthly nature classes at the nature reserve, weekly Awana's meetings at a local church, weekly story hour at the library, plus the usual playdates and trips to the children's museum.  I am sure some field-trips will pop up too.  As you can see, our social calendar is the least of my concerns.

I have to say, I'm now excited to get the school year going! 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Happy World Breastfeeding Month

August is World Breastfeeding Month!  Also the month when my first born joined our family and I started breastfeeding.   I couldn't let it go by without a post.

I am almost 2 for 2 here... meaning 2 years nursing each of my 2 boys. 
It is a special relationship.  Like any relationship, there are sweet, easy times and times when it's a struggle.  I always viewed breastfeeding as "normal" and just assumed it was the way I would feed my babies. 

The first two weeks were hard... He cried. I cried. 
But we persevered.  Just like a new mom, I didn't understand the complex emotions and hormones I'd be dealing with in those early weeks.  Not to mention the physical changes.

When my first babe turned out to be fussy/colicky/high needs/whatever label that means they are basically unhappy all the time and let you know about it, I felt like nursing him was the one thing, and sometimes the only thing, I could do "right."

By six weeks we both knew what we were doing in this deparment, though he was still a super cranky dude.  I hoped to make it to 12 months, but really couldn't envision nursing beyond that.  The closer we got to one, I didn't see the reason to stop.  At about 10 months in, I started attending La Leche League to get some more support.  Turns out there are lots of benefits for extended nursing (beyond a year) too.

Fast forward a few years and I am currently nursing my 23-month-old.  I've learned a lot on this journey and don't regret a single minute.  I encourage any new or expecting moms to educate themselves, find good support and give it a shot. 

Here are some of my favorite links:

* 101 Reasons to Breastfeed

* What are the Booby Traps? "Women are being pressured to breastfeed but set up to fail!"

* KellyMom.com is my most favorite site for late night trouble shooting and reference.  The Normal Course of Breastfeeding info is a must read for any mom preparing to breastfeed or a new mom just getting started.

* La Leche League - Use the dropdown box at the top to find LOCAL support.  Nothing beats in-person support from a group of moms who have "been there done that" and who want to see you succeed.  It's amazing to think this international organization started with just a handful of moms who got together back in the 50's to support eachother and share information.  Mother-to-Mother support really does work. :)
photo from about.com