Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Occupying Preschoolers

Over the past sixteen years of homeschooling, I have had to occupy my share of preschoolers. In fact, it remains a daily joy! (I typed "challenge" and realized though I might feel challenged at times, I love my preschoolers and am savoring the very few years I have left- unless God has other plans. I am counting it all JOY!) With a three year old, and another who is five, I am often pulling ideas from my mental file to engage (not just busy) my younger ones while I finish proofing a high school essay or grade a Geometry lesson.

Knowing many of you are in the same boat, I wanted to share a link to an article I wrote for Homeschooling Today. It originally printed in the July/August 2009 issue.

Friday, September 11, 2009

This Week's Learning...Not At All What I Expected!

This week's learning took a different path than I had envisioned. I planned math lessons, phonics, an audio book, and several read-alouds from varying content areas. But here is what actually happened...

Monday was a holiday. All eight of us had breakfast together. Then our college sophomore worked on a paper, our high schooler caught up on some math, and the girls planned and packed for Nanny's. All eight of us went to Nanny's to enjoy dinner with extended family, the girls swam. One of the girls told an older brother she loved him! The boys headed to a youth event.

Tuesday was the day I thought we would jump right into the school week. As we finished cleaning up breakfast dishes, I overheard, "Let's make melt beads and sell them!" Well, okay? I listened more intently and heard furniture moving! Peeking around the corner, my living room had been rearranged by those who had managed to sneak away from breakfast duty. "You be the seller. I'll be the buyer. Then we'll trade. Let's use the cash register and those old gift cards. We'll have a whole store!" I had a choice to make: my plan or theirs? We took a break for lunch, sat for individual reading time with mom (while the others continued to work on their inventory), mom took the high schooler to baseball, returned to make dinner, and read a few books to the girls about small mammals, comparing eating habits and living preferences. Mike and I surprised the girls with a treat.
Wednesday we spent the morning caring for our cousin. It was amazing! The girls played with her, painted with her, made play dough sculptures with her, and encouraged her emerging vocabulary. Each daughter had individual reading time with mom and worked on math. My older daughter worked eagerly sewing several aprons she had sold. In the evening we read several books about seasons and small mammals and the older ones joined Mike and I to watch the President's speech on health care. We discussed the contents and answered questions until it was way past bedtime.

Thursday the girls drew a city on the driveway. Someone had the ingenious idea to make parking spaces and charge rent. Out came the cash register (again!) and profits were calculated. I spent time with the high schooler reviewing Chemistry. Later, the the art easel came out, accompanied by thirty brushes and twenty paint colors. One of my favorite moments was the three year old leaping onto the lap of our college student (he commutes) and giving him a huge kiss. I worked with the girls individually with reading and math. My older daughter orchestrated baking chocolate chip cookies with her sisters (I reminded myself the time they spent together was more important than the flour that was mounding on the kitchen floor). In the evening we went to the library.

Friday...that is today. We just finished pancakes. Makes me want to read our favorite pancake book and go maple sugaring. That would require a vacation in Vermont. Guess books will have to take us there. It's raining. Perhaps we will play in it. Our cousin arrived. We'll nurture her. The high schooler needs my help with school. New books from the library..YEAH! A church event this evening. I have an article deadline tomorrow. Can't wait to meet each event of the day.

Why am I sharing my week's events with you? Several reasons. As moms (yes, that includes me) we have a horrible habit of comparing ourselves with others. If the First family completes 5 lessons of math one week, we try to complete at least 5, maybe 6, the next. If the Second family fills their week with field trips and excursions and their children burst with joy, we try to pack our coming week with field trips and excursions. The same can be said about co-ops, art classes, sports, theater, dance, horse riding lessons, and on and on. There's one problem: their kids are not your kids. Their family is not your family. Some Dads have to travel. Others work at home. Every aspect of family life is different for different families. God made it that way. He gave us our kids, in the order He gave them, with the gifts He fashioned, for a purpose. It does us no good to compare what we should be, could be, or will be doing during any given day. Chasing after other's successes never gives us joy! It makes us frustrated and tired.

How does this all relate to why I wrote about my week's events? Because many times I was tempted to stop whatever was happening (the melt bead store, the development of parking spaces, the baking of the cookies, the sewing of aprons, etc.) and pull out all four levels of the math book, the phonics book, the science book, the journal, the health book, the whatever we were "supposed" to be doing. Had I interrupted the process, life lessons would not have learned, relationships would not have deepened, and previous learning would not have been applied. For me, in those moments on those days, I had to make choices, not based on what other people thought was right, but on what was needed in our home.

The other reason I am sharing this is more personal. I need to remember Who orders my day. I make plans, but God orders my steps. Plans are good, flexibility is a must. I have no doubt my children learned something this week, and in some regards more than I could have envisioned. Yes, they learned and practiced academic skills, but more importantly they initiated getting along with one another, allowed one another to take turns, worked out conflicts, built vocabulary and conversational skills, asked questions, pondered answers, communicated with people older than they, built a city (if only in the driveway), took care of the dog, worked together to accomplish a task (emptying the dishwasher)...the list is endless.

Am I happy about how the week unfolded? Absolutely! And, it wasn't at all what I expected.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Must-Read Blog: Best Books for Boys

A dear friend, knowing how much I love books and encouraging others to read, sent a blog to my inbox. Holy Experience is the blog of Ann Voskamp. Today she penned Best Books for Boys: A Booklist Compiled by a Boy. What an inspirational read! I hope you find it as intriguing as I did. Thanks, Ann! (and thanks Virginia for sending it my way)