Friday, March 28, 2014

Comma, Comma, Comma, Comma, Comma Comedian

My daughter has been writing a story, based on her favourite characters from the Gregor the Overlander book series by Suzanne Collins. Every so often, I will sit down and help her edit her work. This morning, I tried to show her how to know when she needed to add a comma. Her dialogue needed quite a few commas. After adding several to just a few phrases, she protested, "We're going to run out of commas!"

Her older brother looked under the keyboard and declared that she had three commas left. She decided she had better use them wisely.

I love laughing and learning together.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Even if they're dumb as posts

Since we started homeschooling in September (really, since we started considering it in January of 2013), we have had academic excellence as one of our goals. My husband and I both did well in school, receiving Bachelor's degrees in our respective fields, and we expect our children to have the same desire and success in learning that we had. It makes sense then that I am enjoying setting catalysts before them these days to enhance their learning.


I have finally fully realized what I suspected all along: Our experience as a homeschooling family reaches well beyond academics.

A year ago my children were in public school, following the schedule and routine of a typical school day.
They would wake up and start fighting.  They'd push and bicker and be anxious to leave the house so they could see their friends at school.

... Now my children wake up in the morning and hurry to each other's rooms so they can start playing before they have a chance to think about breakfast. On the rare occasion that only one is awake he sits and reads until he hears footsteps signalling a conscious sibling.

A year ago my children would trudge home from school at 3:30 pm, begging to play with their friends (the ones they just spent six hours with) and then complain at me when I reminded them that they needed to do chores/work/piano before playing with friends.

... Now my kids hurry to finish their work so that we can meet back on the couch in the afternoon to read a book together.  Eventually, around 3:30 or so one of my kids might ask to play with a neighbourhood friend. I usually am able to say yes since my child already got all her work, chores, and piano done for the day.

A year ago I would have dreaded Saturdays because those were the days of trying to figure out how to keep my kids occupied without listening to them tear each other apart.

... Now I look forward to Saturdays because my kids have all day to explore the games and activities they've been planning through the week.

A year ago we had a lot less family time that we could spend talking about things that really matter.

... Now we take as much time as we need to, sometimes putting off our French lesson until tomorrow, because what really matters is this time that we have to nurture each other, right now.

A year ago I chose homeschooling, expecting academic excellence.

... Now I know that even if my children come out of this as dumb as posts, we are all better off for it!

(And I sincerely hope and expect that my children will continue to thrive academically... not be dumb as posts.)

I've said to many friends recently, and I think they are starting to get annoyed, that I am kicking myself for not doing this sooner. It is so much more work for me, and it's exhausting some days, but it has made such a huge difference in the way our family functions. We know how to love each other. We are learning to work through our problems. This makes it all worthwhile!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pie Are Squared

I was going to wait and share this tomorrow but:

Since I know you like to plan for these things...

And you'll kick yourself if you don't do it...

This is the post for every person with a mathematician in their lives.

Tomorrow is March 14.  That is Pi Day.  Because Pi is a mathematical number that begins "3.14" and March is the 3rd month.  And tomorrow is the 14th day.  So it's Pi Day.

Anyway, since everyone knows that, at least on March 14, Pie Are Squared, I made a Chicken Pot Pie...  in a square baking dish.  If you follow suit, your local mathematician will go crazy.

(My crust recipe is at the bottom of the page.  The inside is just cooked chicken, veggies, and gravy.)

It'd help if you made a circular pie too.  That way he/she can calculate the area of the pie.  Or just eat it.

My current favourite crust recipe:

Use a pastry blender or a couple knives to cut 2/3 cup shortening into 2 cups flour and 1 tsp salt.  Add 3/8 to 1/2 cup cold water. Mix and roll.  This is enough to cover a 9x13 baking dish, which you really don't want since you're using a square dish (right?), so put the rest in a zipped up plastic bag and freeze it for next time.

Figure it out!

Can you take the plastic wrapper off? Can you untie this? Can you zip this up?

My newest favourite phrase to use around here these days is, "If you were stuck on a deserted island and I wasn't around to help, how would you do it?" Usually, miraculously, the kids figure out how to get it done.

It's not that I don't want to help my kids. I think it's more a matter of me helping them too much lately. They're starting to rely on me to do things without being innovative enough to figure it out for themselves.

Really?  While I'm driving?  You want me to take off the wrapper around the juice boxes?  Maybe you could figure that out for yourself.

I've only been using it for a few days, maybe a week, but when I start saying it now, they smirk at me because they know what's coming.

Am I the only one whose kids do this or has anyone else gone through this?  How do you force your kids to be innovative and figure things out for themselves?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Share and Share Alike

(Reposting from April 17, 2013.  My original post is getting too much spam traffic and needs to be removed.)

I saw a segment on a morning show today where they were chatting about a pre-school that has a no-sharing rule.  The children are allowed to play with a toy until they are done with.  Even if it takes all day.  Even if seven other kids have been wanting to play with the toy all day.  You can read more about it here.

When I read it I thought that it was a bit silly.  I understand the thought behind it, that it teaches the other children, the ones who want to play with the toy, a sense of entitlement.  They'll start thinking they can play with whatever toy they want whenever they want.  But if you swing the pendulum too far into "not sharing" then you're rearing children who do not understand about, well, sharing.

The video that I saw showed a daycare facility with multiples of the same toy, just to make sure the kids didn't argue about who got to play with that toy at any given time.  Coddle much?

I like what we've done in our house.  My rule has always been that when someone asks to play with a toy, you can either say "Yes" or you can say "In a few minutes."  It's good for the kids to have the freedom to play as they wish and it's good for kids to understand that they are not the only people in this world.

Simon says: What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine!
What do you think?  Should kids be forced to share?  Should kids never have to share?  Is there a happy medium that you've found for your family?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Getting over the Five Love Languages

Let's be fair and truthful... I really do appreciate the discussions around the Five Love Languages. If you do not know about them, you can learn more here.

Despite that fact that I have a fairly fantastic marriage and am typically happily enamoured with my husband, I read the Love Languages book. I gave my hubby the verbal CliffNotes, after which we each took the test to discover our own love language. We determined that my love language was "words of affirmation" (which means that I like to give verbal declarations of appreciation and love) and that his was "acts of service" (which means that he likes to show love by doing things for people.) We set out to speak each other's love language. I looked for ways to do things for him and he tried to compliment me more.

It didn't take long for me to become disgruntled. He told me, truthfully, that compliments don't come naturally to him and that he thought they sounded forced and fake, even though they're true. Compliments were a foreign language to my husband but suddenly I wanted him to speak that language fluently.

In reading other Bible-centered materials I realized that the change needed to start with me. So I started doing more Acts of Service... Making sure everything was picked up before he came home from work. Making delicious meals. Cleaning windows more often. Cleaning floors more frequently. When he didn't notice and didn't compliment me on it, I quickly became resentful. My Acts of Service were not producing the change I wanted to see in him. "If I'm speaking his language, why isn't he speaking mine?"

After a time, I deduced that he couldn't see my Acts of Service to him because he was at work when they were happening.  Perhaps if he saw them when he was at home, then that would spur him on to speaking my language. So I made sure he saw when I did the dishes after supper. I folded laundry in the evening when he was around. I told him about the different things I did through the day so he would understand how busy I was, "doing" for him. And still, my efforts produced no change in him (at least none that made me satisfied.)

I went in and out of happiness, misery, and contentment until I learned two important truths:

I should look to change myself, not others. Typically, actions on my part that are intended to produce change in someone else are selfishly motivated. Look back up at what I've already written. I chose to do more acts of service to manipulate my husband into telling me nice things. I used my love for my husband to motivate me to do those things, but ultimately, my goal was to prompt him to change.

Realizing that I needed to focus on the change within myself brought me to the second realization:

I can choose to be happy or miserable, despite the actions of any other person. When I make my husband responsible for the way I feel, I put an impossible task on him. He can jump through one hoop one day to make me happy and that same hoop might make me miserable the next day. But it's not the hoop or his actions that determine my happiness or misery. I am the sole moderator of my emotions.

So, here I am, an imperfect person, married to another imperfect person. I have decided that I am not going to hold my husband hostage to learning a foreign language.  I choose happiness instead. I see him washing dishes or shoveling and I see love. And when he tells the kids that "Mom always makes such great meals for us, doesn't she?" I smile and know that he really is speaking my language. But even if he didn't, I would still love him, and I'd know that he loves me.

None of this is meant to say that the Love Languages are bad to learn.  I think it's great to know how the people around you feel most loved. But it's also important to trust that when someone says they love you, and they show you that they love you, they really do love you. Don't look for them to perfectly fill the void in your heart. They can't. They won't. They're just as broken and imperfect as you are.

Jesus said it best when he pointed us to the source of perfect love. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” —Matthew 11:28-30

He is my perfect source of peace and love and rest.

Everything else is just gravy.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Another First - March Break?

Another First has come and gone.  Today, out shopping, two different cashiers greeted the children and I with, "March Break starts today, eh kids?"

The first time it was said, my kids looked up with that half crooked querying gaze at me.  I gently laughed and said, "We homeschool.  We're taking March break in a few more weeks."

It happened again and I said the same thing.

I always think of the best thing to say just after the fact.  So I'll stick this one in my back pocket for next time.

"It's March break, eh guys?"

"That's what they say...  But it seems like they've been home for months already."

Another first come and gone.  Now I'm prepared for next time.