Life Updates & Homeschooling!

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We’ve had a lot going on since school started!  We decided to start homeschooling with our oldest, to give him more freedom and a better environment to learn through adventure and doing.  His grades were excellent, all A’s and one 89 this last 9 weeks, but only getting to have 20 minutes for recess (which was sometimes not even outside if it was a little wet or cold), 25 for lunch, and sitting there for hours and hours just wasn’t working, he was starting to strongly dislike school – even though he was good at it!

I spent some time looking online to find if there were other boy moms who had solved this issue of their boys needing more time to play and learn through movement (and less teacher criticism), and found this woman’s amazing blog Building Boys!

Having 3 boys herself, Jennifer Fink intimately understands that being in the typical school environment, with all-female staff who sometimes don’t understand themselves how hard it is for boys and label them “problem children,” can break a boy’s spirit and make him not even want to try at academics in the later years.

Perhaps needless to say, spending seven hours in a day an environment that squelches his natural instincts and disrespects his interests has not exactly engendered a love of education in my lad.

Two years ago, his re-entry after winter break was so tough for him – and so heart-breaking for me – that I wrote a Washington Post essay worrying about the effects of school on his spirit. I wrote:

Re-entry after winter break has not been easy for him. The rules and restrictions of school – Sit Still. Be Quiet. Do What You Are Told, Nothing More, Nothing Less. – have been grating on him, and it shows. His teacher recently emailed me; she’d noticed a change in his behavior (more belligerent, less likely to cooperate) and wanted to know if there was anything going on at home.

My guess, I said, was that he was upset about having to be back in school after break. I was right.

The lack of movement and rigid restrictions associated with modern schooling are killing my son’s soul. (Read More Here)

On that note, switching to homeschooling has been AMAZING.  It’s like a night and day difference, too, with his attitude and emotions at night (he was starting to cry a lot, not wanting to go back the next day – just heartbreaking for us as parents not knowing what to do)!

But now his classes only last until lunch!  He gets to do a woodworking class that’s part of the curriculum I chose in which his OWN DAD is his teacher (he’s so stoked)!  He gets to actually learn an instrument in music class, instead of having to stand there for 45 minutes listening to a lecture and singing what he called “baby songs” (they really were nursery rhymes).  We even went on our first field trip this week as a family to the planetarium since we were studying about the earth, sun, and moon in our sciences classes this week!

And the best part???  Absolutely NO HOMEWORK!!!!!  No more having to do an hour of homework after he’s already been in school for 7 hours.  That hour, having to help him and sometimes re-teach him what they learned during the day so he could do it, was sooooo hard for our family.  The baby would often be screaming and wanting to be picked up or play with her oldest bubba, and our 2nd son would also be trying to play and distract him.  They love him so much, and just wanted to play with him a little before dinner.  Now, they get to play with him so much more, and it’s beautiful to see the creative games they’re coming up with that incorporates all of them together.

It’s also solved our problems with my husband’s schedule in that he was only getting to see our oldest for 1 hour in the mornings (he works afternoons through evenings and comes home after their bedtimes).  NOW our son gets to see him for 6-7 hours a day, and have him as a teacher!  The flexible and relaxed feel of teaching my own son is just incredible, how different from feeling pressured and anxious in having to force 20+ students to understand math concepts and move all at the same pace – I’m not sure how teachers handle that.

If anyone reading this has experience with homeschooling, please let me know!  I’m currently reading a couple of good books that are teaching me how to make it the best experience I’m able to, but I’d LOVE to hear from other families how it’s been (or even not) worked for them.  The good and the bad issues, what to expect in the future, etc.

Thank you for reading!

Stephanie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Leaf-ing a Legacy

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This start to the new school year has been so nice and calm, and very welcomed!  Even though I have moments of missing the relaxing summer days – and moments where I can’t believe it went so fast!! – it’s still nice to be able to get back into a stricter routine and learning and everything that comes with Fall ❤  I love all the seasons, but each year I still feel like this one is my favorite.

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Baby in a Cupboard

I love all the school supplies, too 😀  The new pencils, the erasers, the notebooks, the binders – it all actually gets me excited… as nerdy as that sounds!

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She thinks this is her “house!”

I also love this time of year, because it means I organize the early school preparation for our kids, and our second boy is old enough now to really get into practicing letters, numbers, counting, hand-writing, and learning about the world – for 3 years olds 😛  I have no idea why this makes me so happy – I didn’t train to be a teacher or anything, but somehow helping him learn and do his “classwork” is SO fulfilling and fun for me.  It was the same with our oldest, too.

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I like starting early with our kids, at age 3, which I know sounds super early, but I found it really helped our oldest be prepared for the scholastic environment of sitting for certain periods of time, doing work at a desk, and focusing for that long.  Especially for boys, it’s important they’re able to handle the environment to do well in school and beyond.  It was good that he was able to go into kindergarten already knowing how to write, spell some words, read 3-letter words, and do basic addition and subtraction.

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Our second son does his work while listening to classical piano music.  We’re musical eclectics in this house 😉 and depending on the time and mood, we listen to many different kinds of music 😀 .  With the timeless music flowing through the house, it feels so peaceful and just transcendental.  Both my parents played piano ❤ so there’s probably that element that makes me feel at home with it on as well.

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Homeschooling for toddlers is pretty easy.  I usually copy pages from 3-4 different books for kindergartners on writing the alphabet, numbers, shapes, matching exercises, and sometimes easy word “problems.”  I copy them so that our other children will be able to use those same books 🙂 .  Saves money, and allows for each child to have their own personal “notebook” of the work they did from 3-5 years old ❤ .

 

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Hopefully he’ll learn all his numbers and be able to write or recognize them by Christmas, that’s the plan for Fall.  And then in the Spring semester he’ll probably start on sounding out 3-letter words, copying short sentences for his writing class, and adding and subtracting as a primer for mathematics.

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We do art classes sometimes, too, nothing too big, but today we made things out of molding clay that my parents brought this past weekend.  He made a bowl with a textured design inside.  I’m actually really excited to see how it turns out once it dries and he can paint it!!  And our little one made a beautiful hand impression ❤  Love doing things like this!

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He’s using a real bowl lined with plastic to allow his pottery to dry in the bowl-like shape.

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Sometimes it feels like the days are endless streams of Groundhog Day 😀 but I try to trust the process that the little things we’re doing now will hopefully sink into their hearts forever.  They’re my legacy ❤ and I hope they’ll know they’re treasured.

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I’m in a book club this year for moms and we’re going through “The Mission of Motherhood,” by Sally Clarkson.  The book’s focus is on how to make our children feel cherished and loved, with a call to go back to biblical and traditional motherhood.  I haven’t read past the first chapter, but it sounds good so far, and encourages women to stay home to raise their children, at least when they’re young.

Seeing how fast our oldest has grown (**major tears**) makes me treasure the baby stages even more so!  I cannot believe how fast time flies by – it’s almost not fair in way, but of course they have to grow up and grow into adults.  I want them to know that home is ALWAYS here, and that they can always come back and feel loved and cherished and encouraged in their futures.

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It’s harder to find time to read online or write these days, but I love how the days are filled with SO much to do, and maybe the school year makes me feel more productive in that way.

Hope all you readers are having a wonderful start to the fall season!  Eat lots of seasonal foods and drink some delicious fall drinks, please!

Stephanie

 

Feed The Birds – Kid Friendly Bird Feeders

This past week has been very interesting, with literally one strange catastrophe after another for our family.  But we’ve made it through (!!!!)… and have persevered to Easter weekend (somewhat) unscathed.  I’m so glad we’ll be able to celebrate Purim tonight and Easter.  I love Purim… and how wonderful is it that Queen Esther’s faithfulness in spite of her fear and intimidation will be celebrated the same weekend as the Hope of Easter!

Holy Holidays are so special to our family.  I wish you the best this weekend as well, whether you celebrate them or not.

 

If you’re looking for a fun and sweet project to do with your kids to celebrate Spring, making bird feeders is a fun option – and there are a variety of ways depending on what you have around your house to use or what you save.

We listened to this Mary Poppins song, and sang along with it, replayed it.  Corny, yes, but really touching at the same time.  Apparently this song was Walt Disney’s favorite song, he’d have the man who composed it, play it for him on Friday evenings when no one was there in the office.  The man kept playing it even after Disney passed away.

My older son LOVED it, and the baby liked it too 😉

 

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The were easy to place over thin branches or on the fence posts with a simple rubber band.  In hindsight, pinecones would have been perfect for this because you can easily tie a string around their stem or even the end part of their body, and hang them so that they dangle down!

But these worked just as well, and the birds were happy, so all was well!

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One of our beautiful resident doves.  My grandfather loves hearing doves whenever I go to see him and we take him outside.  His health and alzheimer’s is continuing to decline, but even on his “bad” days, taking him outside and letting him feel the warm from the sun and hear the birds cooing, changes his entire mood.

Birds and nature are just beautiful.

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So it took a day or so for our birds to find the feeders, but eventually, even our resident red bird couple found it together.  They are so sweet to watch, always with each other, wherever he is, she is not too far.  And the male sings so beautifully, you can actually sing back to them, and they just might answer you back!

We were ELATED to see them eating off of the feeders…

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Where she feeds him some of the birdseed.  Seriously… they are so romantic!

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And these pictures below were taken probably around 20-25 years ago, by my father… who also was a bird lover, and an amateur photographer 😉

I miss him taking pictures.  He was so good.

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Teaching Our Children to Care for Others

One of the things we successfully did as a family in 2015, and that I’d like to see us do more of in 2016, is spend time showing our kids (really our oldest) how important it is to reach out to others.

It’s not enough for us to just live our lives in our relatively safe, convenient homes and neighborhoods, and think we’re good people because we love God and go to church on Sundays.  If we love God, we will obey His word and proclamations of what we are to do with our time here.

God’s word announces in several places the importance of giving and caring for others, we are called to live outside ourselves constantly in His word,

If anyone thinks he is religious, without controlling his tongue but deceiving his heart, his religion is useless.

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

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I honestly haven’t been the best about this in the past couple of years.  Early in our marriage, and even when our oldest was very little, I would make it a point to take care of the material needs of those God put in our path.  We had SO little, sometimes barely even enough to afford food!  But somehow, even during those extremely hard financial times in our marriage, we still had surplus of material items we didn’t actually need, and God would mysteriously bring people into our lives that we could give them to… even though we were barely making it financially, we were STILL able to give out of the things we DID have.

God is mysterious, that is hands down obvious to all who know Him.  How we had the specific items that people needed when we met them during our financial poverty, I have no idea, but it was a blessing to me to be able to still give what I did have to give, and be able to meet REAL needs of the people God brought into our life.

The funny thing about being a good steward over what God’s given you, it doesn’t matter if you have very little, He can STILL use that little you DO have to bless others.  When we’re faithful with the little He’s given us, He often gives us more to take charge over – but with this, comes a greater responsibility, because He’s trusting us to use it wisely.

So in 2015, I made it a very conscious effort to do more, I wanted God to open my eyes so that I could see the people that might need help, and give our money, time, and material items to meet their needs.

We were able to help meet the physical needs of the officer I wrote about in Malicious Joy, the one who was hit by a drunk driver.  It’s one thing to hear about what happened to him, but it’s quite another to get my boys out the door, drive across town and physically meet his material needs.  Going to see him, taking him goodies and food items my son helped me pick out for him, almost every week, was such a blessing – particularly for my son!  The young man was alone, not married, and his family lived hours away… so offering to get things for him, helping by bringing him big meals, were things that he really needed.

It also took the form of visiting elderly people at a nursing home, talking to them, singing them Christmas carols, making them hot chocolate or tea, letting them enjoy my children – having the joy of holding our baby boy.  Many of them don’t get visitors, feel forgotten, and are some of the most interesting people with the most interesting things to say.  This may have blessed them, but I honestly think that me and our boys received an even greater blessing of getting to meet these people, listen to them, and even laugh with them.  We will do more of this visiting elderly people in 2016.

Giving from what we had also took the form of financially meeting people’s needs that God would place on our heart or in our path.  A young blind woman who had been abused in every way, was taken into the wing of an older woman at our church.  She had grown up in foster care homes, and many people that were supposed to have cared and looked out for her, had taken advantage of her and ultimately, left her alone in the world.  Her most pressing need was that she needed money to be able to obtain a seeing-eye dog, and my husband gave me the okay to give a significant amount for us, to meet her need.  Talking with her, showing her that people saw her and cared about her well-being and future, explaining to my oldest son the importance of what we were doing for her, was a huge blessing to get to participate in.  It was an honor for us… and she’s now gone on to decide to give back in her own way.  She decided to start a ministry in our church for people like her, so that she can give out of what she’s been blessed with!!

Giving this past year also took the form of lending our time and emotions to visit families who have lost their police officers, and bring them Christmas cheer… for me, this is something I wanted to run away from, the pain of these wives, the pain of their young children.  As a police family, we live in a kind of constant denial of the reality of what could happen, visiting these families, seeing them in pain, bursts that blissful bubble of denial.  This is NOT something I was particularly excited about, but it was SO needed, and blessing them, loving on them, hugging them, in return, gave us a sober blessing of treasuring our life together, and not taking any day, any moment for granted.

Come Thanksgiving time, we were going to serve a meal to young women and girls who live in a safe house in our city.  Police regularly deal with sex abuse, and reaching out to these young girls and young women, from the standpoint of being a police wife, is showing them that we care about them from a humanity standpoint.  These are girls usually around teen age, who are usually pregnant or with small children, and many times this is from sex slavery or by their own fathers.  Many of them came from Latin American countries.  Their children also live there with them, and so our team of wives decided to target loving on them this year.  Because of the nature of their circumstances, this was something I was not going to bring our children to so that I could serve more easily… but my childcare ended up falling through, and we missed this opportunity to serve.  I was disappointed because I was really looking forward to reaching out to these girls and women and their children!  But God showed me another way to bless them, I put small boxes together with little gifts and trinkets inside to drop off for them for Christmas.  This was maybe even better for us, because my oldest son was actually able to participate in helping me pack the boxes and drop them off for the girls!

So overall, we did pretty good, but 2015 care opportunities seemed to just happen for us, it wasn’t something that I deliberately thought about much or planned and acted on.

For 2016, I want it to be a deliberate thing.  I want to see the lost, the broken in the way that I used to when we had so little.

 

So excited about the New Year and the blessings to come, may this inspire you to think about how YOU and your family can bless others with what God’s given you!

Cleaning with Little Ones Around the House

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As a mom of two, it doesn’t surprise me that I often hear moms complain that it’s too difficult to keep a house clean with young children… I understand 😀  especially when you have little ones who delight in pulling all their clothes out of the drawers and playing with the clean laundry!

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But I discovered a post by a Grandmother, author and blogger, Mrs. Sharon White, titled Cleaning House with Baby, and fell in love with the wonderful way she embraces keeping her home, even with little ones to entertain!  I thought you might be encouraged in hearing her words as much as I was!

From Sharon:

It is certainly a challenge to keep house, when there are babies and small children around. But these are the loveliest times of all for the homemaker.

Babies often look on curiously at all the work we do in the home.  They are shocked by the noise from the blender, the vacuum, and the washing machine. 

One day last week, I was making a cake.  I had baby in the carriage.  He watched as I brought down the large mixing bowl (to his level), and used my electric hand-mixer to stir the cake batter. He loved it!

I have put him in the walker while vacuuming the carpet.  It is easy to play fun games with baby, when one is cleaning.  He enjoys seeing all the action going on at Grandmother’s house.

We garden together, hang clothes on the line, wash dishes, sing hymns, sweep floors, and wash the high-chair tray!  Well, I do all those things while baby watches.  (Much like when I am helping Mister with his stuff, He does all the work, while I stand nearby.)  It’s really the being together that is wonderful.

Part of playing with babies and children most certainly happens while we are living our normal, daily life.  We just bring the children along in our activities, making our work and our days delightful.

Blessings
Mrs. White

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Since we want to have more children, it’d be nuts for me to wait until they’re older to figure out how to keep the house cleaned and organized… here are some ideas that help us in our household to enjoy cleaning, but also enjoy playing together:

  • Use their messes they make in their playtime as an opportunity to teach them the proper way to clean up.  If they get all the clothes out, help them learn that it’s nice to put them back in the drawers.
  • Help them to remember to put away toys they have gotten out that they are no longer playing with.
  • One of the best things I’ve learned to do, is to spend about 15-30 minutes every evening just tidying up the entire living room area and game room.  Our oldest boy joins in with me and takes this time before dinner to put back all his toys he’s gotten out.  It’s great to get to relax in a calm, quiet living room after I’ve tucked them both in bed, instead of having to run around putting his toys back myself, or tripping over action figures and blocks.
  • One of my favorite things to do, and something my husband teases me about, is that I love to put on music when I clean, especially with the boys doing their own thing.  Our oldest smiles and dances with me, the baby smiles at us in the most delighted way, and claps his baby hands.  Music is the great mood-changer, and if you don’t necessarily like cleaning and organizing, at least you can do it with a great song in the background!

Teaching Tots

For past few weeks, I’ve been training to be a Nursery Teacher each Sunday – I love children of all ages, but there is something special about 12 months to 2 years.

They are so innocent, so cute, so openly cuddly – being in that room for an hour makes me long for another baby!  I absolutely love playing with them, I get a high from loving on them, teaching them.  Who knew??  Of course I love my son, I love playing and teaching him, but to me that’s different… he’s mine.  I had no idea I’d feel the same way about other children – children I’ve never met until that moment.

When I was an ambitious & determined, full-time working mom in the research industry only a few months ago, every time I’d go to my son’s school to pick him up, the 3 and 4 year olds would surround me and talk to me, stare into my face and tell me I looked “preeetty,” that they loved my hair.  Some of the little girls would actually reach out and touch my blonde hair and play with it, or pretend to brush it.  I love children.  Maybe I missed my calling lol.

Fast forward to now, being my son’s “teacher,” he loves having me all to himself.

When I started this home-schooling thing with him a couple of months ago, he laughed and decided I was his “Miss Mommy.”  When I was just a little older than him (4 or 5?) I remember clearly thinking my parents were robots – there for me and me alone.  My son isn’t that way at all!  He’s completely aware of the fact that I’m human, he’s known my name now for almost a year (he asked when he was a little over 2 1/2)!  I didn’t know my parents were real people, much less that they actually had names.

My son & I LOVE playing the most ridiculous songs and dancing around the house – it’s impossible to not have fun when you’re teaching a child.  Or when jamming out to one of my favorite fellow Jews, Sacha Baron Cohen’s I like to Move It, if you have kids you MUST have them listen to this!