Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Our usual unusual days

This day the girls happened to watch a "Magic School bus" in the morning that mentioned dinosaurs and I took the opportunity to pull out our book about Dinosaurs and the Institute for Creation Research.  I read to them while they painted anything they wanted.  My oldest painted pictures of Dinosaurs.
 I always struggle with our "schedule" or how to plan things because our school (right now) has a lot of open activities.  They (or I) will pull out something that sparks their interest and that something can be short lived with a lot of clean up or it can go on and off all day.  This particular day my oldest (8) pulled out the Marble run set that I got them last year.  I had one as a kid and remember how good it was for me to figure out how to set up the pieces logically so that the marble would roll well.  They hadn't played with it in a while and since I've been trying to be more "there" for the girls instead of setting them up with something and letting them do whatever with it, I decided when my daughter asked for help building something that I'd sit and help her.  I didn't have a time frame and wasn't trying to hurry my own part.  I just sat and enjoyed building with them.  Enter the "peace" I talked about earlier.  The only hard thing when doing this is to be careful to not overtake the project.  Some times it's okay to have a plan and build it a certain way, but it's much more important to follow their lead if they want to change the plan or use a certain piece that I was going to use.  Also, if you are working with your kids and they are learning (this is important when doing puzzles together too) don't say, "No, not that piece." for instance.  Give them the opportunity to try and fail on their own and gently point them in the right direction, "Maybe if you turn it around it would fit?"  Basically if you talk to them respectfully like you would another adult or friend but add to that the guidance of a parent (for instance, give them the right piece to try and let them try on their own and turn it and move it and try to make it fit while you gently encourage) then you will really be doing well.

And, let me tell you.. I'm not naturally a patient person, but I'm encouraged to know that patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit - "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."  It's not something we make happen in ourselves, we have to get stuff out of the way so that God can grow that fruit in us.  But more on that later.
This was about the tidiest the house was all day.  Marbles and colored plastic was built and ruined about 4 times through out the day.

And this was the scene to the right of the last picture.  I sweep 2 to 3 times every day and the floor still always looks messy, but it's something that I just need to accept.  If you homeschool you will probably have to accept a certain amount of mess and clutter as "normal life" because there is always someone doing something, and that is totally what we are wanting!  Yes, celebrate the mess!  And when you can't.. leave the house.  ;)

The girls had fun laughing at how interested the cat was as the marbles went down the runs.
 I've been trying to practice being okay with dropping whatever I was trying to get done to sit with them in their project and really give them a bit of time.  The dishes can actually always wait, and I'll eventually get to folding the clothes (one of these days) but the moment when they ask me to help them build something or play with something or look at something they've just worked on is fleeting.  That moment cannot be "put off" like my own plans.  Even an hour or a day to a child is forever.  Do you remember that?  I remember that feeling of time being so totally different than it feels now.  Time moves so quickly (it feels) to me than how it must feel for them and I need to be sensitive to that.  Too often I'm not, and I tell them to wait.... and then sadly forget that I'd told them I'd be there in "just a minute." 
The tallest one yet with multiple starting points and only one ending point!  I was impressed to see today how the almost 6 year old (on the right) was starting to "get" how to put the pieces together on her own and create her own marble run for real this time.  Much improved from even 4 months ago.
A little bit of our "toddler school"
 You can see in the background of the above picture some shelves that are a bit empty, and I was working on loading them up with stacks of things for the little one to do with me.  I know they develop skills and that's all great and whatever, but I mainly just wanted some fun activities for her and I to do together so she has some good Mommy time since the older ones get to do school time with me at different points in the day.  My older girls thought this activity was pretty neat and tried it out later.
The almost 3 year old is using chopsticks (with a little helper rubber thing to hold them together, so they are like giant tweezers) and picking up pieces of necklaces that I'd cut up from the dollar store (so they are all different lengths) and she's sorting them into those little cups.

As we both worked on this (I had a regular pair of chopsticks) we talked about them and pretended they would zap us if they touched anything but the chopsticks and some were "nice ones" and some were "mean" and she talked to the little bead strings.  I think this activity lasted about 20 minutes or so?  Pretty long compared to a lot of things we try.
My advice with 4 and under "school" type activities or play time is to just go with the flow.  Don't have an agenda.  If they want to do something themselves then let them.  If they do it "wrong" then that's the way it is and you can adjust how the "game" works.  There were a LOT of the green bead strings so we kept adding more cups for them to go in.  Be aware of frustrations that your child my have.  Remember that it's okay for them to work through frustrations.  Everyone gets frustrated and encouraging them and helping them when they want it smooths those frustrations over.  Two of mine throw some pretty big fits when they are upset and the third child puts her fingers in her ears each time this happens.  We are definitely used to hearing some screaming in our house (I know it seems like my life is so simple and quiet and we just play all the time with twinkle lights glittering in our wake, but that's not the case.)  I needed to make those little adjustments and changes so that I could have the energy and patience to deal with the screaming and frustrations in a calm manner.  They learn by watching me the most, so I need to make sure I'm all here.

If your 4 or 5 year old is really interested in doing real "book work" type school a great place to go is with these early learner books  they aren't the typical reading readiness/learn your alphabet sort of books.  They actually help to develop the child's memory in a fun way and fine motor skills in other ways than copying letters and numbers and so forth (which is great because you can only work on that for so many years and it's better to do it when they are older and actually ready to learn to read for real!)  Anyway, that book was in her first work box
 I've talked about our workboxes before, but right now we haven't been doing them every day.  Some days we spend a lot of time building or making things like we did with the marble works, and some days I sit with the girls individually as they go through their workboxes.
To help me stay available for my child without getting impatient, I've started knitting again and can do this while reading to them or just to keep me busy and sane, but not too distracted.  Reading a book or being on a phone or texting or anything like that would be too distracting.  I might do some drawing later, but right now the knitting fits the bill

We can talk while she works.  She said, "oh a hen.  Or is it a rooster?"  Perfect opportunity to chat about hens and chickens and "Hens lay eggs and look, there's an egg under the chicken."  (Note:  I'm just talking about chatting with them, not lecturing.  How would you talk to someone you respect?)  A good tip here might be to remind people that our job as parents and teachers isn't to constantly quiz our kids.  She knew that hens laid eggs and roosters didn't, but probably forgot.  How dumb would she feel though if I turned our nice chat about the picture into a quiz about chickens?  -- yep.  That would make me feel dumb too.  No, part of teaching is to model conversation.  I feel like I'm pretty terrible at this skill in general with most people, but I work so hard at communicating well with my girls that hopefully when they are older we'll still be able to talk and laugh about everything.

Her third drawer (we only do three a day when we do it because I fill the rest of our time with projects or baking or lots of read aloud books) was doing a spiral doodle.  I held it down for her to do, but it was good practice for her to work through frustration and persevere and see how pretty the designs were at the end!

The cat wanted to join in with the knitting since I had so much fun yarn. ;)

Then it was my oldest daughter's turn.  Just a few pages of handwriting here.

Which led to talking about cursive and she expressed her interest in learning to write her name in cursive which led to this practice.  I love having less boxes to get through because of things like this.  I want them to truly soak things in and be interested in what they are learning rather than trying to just get it over with.
 The day of the marble works and after we'd done the workboxes we were outside for a while making a chalk design on the other side of our house.  We haven't gotten outside much lately with the colder weather and the sickness that we were fighting off, but this day we spent a long time outside and when I went back in to get the mail key or something I saw a good INCH of water all over our dinning room floor.  WHERE was it coming from?

The water heater was leaking!

Enter a frantic grab for towels and my running to the office to tell them what was going on.  The manager came and turned it off so it would stop leaking, but there was still tons of water all over the floor.  So, yeah, imagine that much water and every towel in our house soaked and dripping and still an inch of standing water and me trying to pick everything up off the floor (fortunately only one book needed to be blow-dried) and all the marble-work pieces all over the carpet and then I had to pull out all the christmas tubs from under the stairs where the water heater was.  I managed to save most of the carpet and the carpet guy was impressed with how proactive I was, but the already normally messy house turned into craziness from 5 till 7 that night.
The guy that came to replace our water heater and turned off the fuse for my dryer and stove too (I don't think he knew for sure which was for the water heater so he turned more than that off) but I just went with it and made sandwiches for the girls and put a sheet out in the living room for a picnic and a cartoon. 
My oldest was super helpful and mopped up a lot of the water, the middle one cracked me up by putting on her swim suit and "helping" to clean up in the dinning room, and the little one just acted like this was totally a normal thing to have happened for our typical atypical days.

1 comment:

Youssef Sleiman said...

DefinItely a full and good answer to that awful question: What did you do all day?
I'm so impressed with how much you focus on your internal struggle as well as meeting their external needs.