Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Imagination

 "If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." ~Albert Einstein

I always tend to feel inadequate about almost everything, but most lately I've struggled most with being a homeschool teacher because that's my main job these days.  I put so much pressure on myself because I'm their example and so much of their life is riding on what happens now. If I can't get it together then how are they to learn to be consistent or diligent or (dare I say) patient.  I often feel lost and confused in the sea of schedules that most teachers find comforting and solid, and there are so many voices of what to do or what not to do.  The fear is always there of wondering when or if they will ever like to read and if I'm teaching them enough math, yet being afraid of bogging them down at such young ages with TOO much of this stuff because I don't want them to be burned out before they even begin.  I've read so much information about the best way for children to learn and it goes against our cultural norm, but it can be hard going against the grain (at least for me.)
Why does everything look so much more amazing in pictures?  This is my desk that I've been working on more and more to find that right balance of order and "schedule" as a teacher.  To me it feels like trying to stand on top of quick-sand or trying to hold water in my hand that keeps trying to slip through my fingers.  The children grow and change more quickly that I can figure out what I'm doing.
  I remembered recently though that it's not about me or what I'm doing or not doing.  The best of parents or teachers can turn out terrible children or students, so what is it really about?  We do our best, but in the end we need to just trust all of that to God.  He's taught me to live in His daily grace as a Christian, then as a mother, but I guess I needed to learn it in this area too.  We can't get to everything every day and I'm going to be stumbling along this path of parenting and teaching, but that's actually okay.  Just like the other times when I learned this, it's not about what I can do, but rather what God can do through my weakness.
The colors are to remind me of the mood of the day.  Notice that red is at the "wake up" stage of the day and purple is at the "bed time" place?  The afternoon is green because I'm supposed to rest during that part of the day.  I'm still not great at taking my own time when I need to.  My own projects are ignored and I've been standing up far too much now that the little one isn't nursing all the time.  Anyway, the colors are helpful because all the words can bog me down when what I really need is a reminder of the general flow of that time.
 So what if schedules scare me and I have to color them in crayons to not have a panic attack about them, right?  God made me this way and gave me the children that I have and some how he's going to take all the good and bad and ugly and turn it into something lovely in the end. 
Part of adding more structure with the workboxes has been helpful and creating some posters for the girls is especially fun for the two younger ones, though the oldest likes to help her little sister with them.  (You just get two posters from a dollar store or something and then cut out all the pictures and put velcro dots on them.  I used clear ones so that the pictures would be more visible.)  I was having a hard time finding a time to do the workboxes and then decided to tie it to when I make breakfast.  I always make a big breakfast every morning so why not get them going while I'm working on breakfast!  It totally works and then it's easier to move on to other parts of their school (which is usually my reading books to them and playing a game and then maybe doing a project.  They do art projects and play toys on their own.)


Today I was reading a book about "healing stories" and the author was explaining how important stories and the imagination are and also how adults have a weakened imagination muscle.  I remember the moment when I suddenly became aware that I wasn't as imaginative as I'd been (when I was shifting from child to adolescent) I remember thinking at the time how sad it was.  You know what though?  You can work that muscle out more and more and get an imagination back!

Not only is it the most helpful for my kids growth and intelligence to tell them stories and be imaginative with them, but it's also really fun!

It's finally been cool enough for the girls to play outside.  For about 5 months out of the year we have pretty bad cabin fever and are trapped inside by the heat.  It's even too hot to SWIM during the middle of the day, people!  This is a view of the girls outside of my kitchen window.  They like to play on the little strip of grass by our apartment there and around the air-conditioner outside that is fenced in because it's almost like a little fort.  Grace (2) calls it her "house"

They are finally not begging me to let them go back inside because it's too hot!  yay!  They had so much fun this day finding worms and playing under their umbrellas.  Still warm enough to go bare foot.

Today was the first day that really felt like Autumn.  They actually had to wear socks with their shoes and hats and jackets.  We took a few walks around the apartment complex parking lot today.  First outing was with our travel mugs of chi and the second was after lunch to gather leaves for an art project.  Grace and I made up the one above.  We pretended that the leaves were very sad that they had to fall from the trees but THEN they turned into fairies and started dancing around in the frost.  She said that the little fairy was her and the big one was me.  Some times being imaginative with them is as easy as that.  :) 
Tonight when I was trying to put Grace to sleep I told her about my imaginary friend as a kid (starting when I was 3.) I folded my favorite blanket like a little hood and said that there was a little friend inside of it.  I told my dad and he said that there was a little "fellow" in there.  I had no idea what "fellow" meant but thought it was a good name so called him "feddow" from that moment on.  I told Grace about the little invisible blanket people and asked her what she would name her blanket person.  She instantly called it "Hoadle" and later said that Hoadle was a princess.

I love how quickly little ones can imagine things.  She said that the blanket people were in the clouds and on the roof tops and I continued with how they look for little boys and girls who make little hoods in their blankies for the imagination people to come and live in.

She was so delighted that a PRINCESS blanket person chose her.  I told my older girls what Grace and I imagined and they loved hearing about Feddow and the Blanket people.  Pretty sure this is going to turn into a childrens story - stay tuned on that one.  Maybe I'll publish on Kindle like my husband.  If I do though I'll need to actually finish the illustrations (which tends to freak me out for some reason.. probably more feelings of inadequacy.)
Renna (5) named her blanket person "Star"

Lily (7) didn't name hers, but she kept saying how she loved "Feddow"

Cutest little snuggle face ever.  :)

So, what is this all about?  I'm just still trying to make that mental shift in what is important and what balance our family needs.  I feel like most of my teaching goes towards breaking up fights and training them to respect each other (if she says "no" about your getting in her area where ever that is, you need to listen.)  The "no" from the little one turned into screaming when the middle one wasn't listening and then pulling and pushing and everyone crying and the middle one getting hurt and then the Daddy trying to pull them apart which caused more crying.  The drama can be exhausting.  But I need to take pictures and write my thoughts to see those little moments, the bright spots that make it all worth while.
My oldest makes models with her beeswax clay for over an hour (at least) every day all on her own.  She just loves to do this and often is inspired by something we talk about or read about or see on a show (Wild Kratts is a favorite) and with the picture above she asked me how many legs ladybugs have so she could make her model accurately.  She could even lift the outer shell to show the wings of the ladybug.  I'm always so impressed with everything she's come up with.  I've taken a lot of pictures of what she makes and need to print them out for her!

This bee-hornet is a pretty recent example of her skills.  The pictures never do them justice.
 Amidst the drama and tears from one girl not getting to wear the fancy velvet dress to Pioneers club tonight and the two year old screaming (playing, but just way over the top loud) in the car as I'm navigating home in the crowded city traffic, and the difficulty in getting them all in bed and asleep every single night, and trying to make three meals a day on a really tight budget with allergies and varying tastes, and just the overwhelming feelings of not doing enough for their school, and dealing with a shy baby that has yet to be baby-sat by anyone, missing the relief and quiet the mountains and pine trees bring and missing the company of my favorite people back at home.
---- I'm continually trying to remind myself to focus on the good things.  The things that I like and the things that I can put into place to enjoy.  Getting old musicals from the library has been super fun because I get to hear my 2 year old say how much she loves "singing in the rain" and I get to hear my girls laugh about and enjoy the shows I always loved as a kid (like "seven brides for seven brothers")  I can do origami with my 7 year old as part of our school and teach her how to make friendship bracelets.  While I feel like I'm starved for close friends where we live right now, and rest in general, I need to just keep reminding myself of the blessings I have (exhausting blessing perhaps, but blessings still.)  Too often I focus on something that is missing or "wrong" instead of focusing on what I can change and what is good.  It's too easy for me to regret instead of staying in the moment.
This morning I noticed that the flowers my husband got me from the other day (when I'd been feeling really depressed and he wanted to cheer me up) were drooping a bit.  What to do?  I hate to throw flowers away, so showed the girls how we could float them in water in this pie pan with a candle in the center.  And "ta da" a lovely autumn arrangement that we all enjoyed.  Pretty good picture-metaphor for what I need to be doing in our life right now.
I'll leave you with something totally not serious at all.  I've been watching a lot of Tim Hawkins on YouTube recently and getting some VERY needed laughter!  And one of his jokes was this, "You never see Atheists homeschool because if they did they wouldn't stay atheists for long.  After a few days they'd be like 'Lord help me!'"  Which is so not as funny written down.  Check some of his stuff out.  :)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ap38V6zwcZ4