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Toddler Language Learning Fun

Lately, my littlest one actively tries to participate in homeschooling. Many times, I get out the Play Doh, felt books, or toddler games with her. A lot of times, I get the drawing supplies for her to use as well. However, my husband has been going through our vast collection of books and found our Polish-English toddler friendly board book dictionary. I thought this would be a great opportunity to introduce her to Polish sounds.

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Through my own studies and experiences living abroad, I have had the opportunity to study four other languages other than English, Polish being one of them. I really want my children to learn at least one foreign language. Currently, my kids can say the word for “butt” in several languages, compliments of all of our exchange students. Thanks guys and gals! (I still love my exchange students, and they know my secret…which is that I curse in Polish and Serbo-Croatian in the car.) Through studies, I also know that children hear sounds in other languages that adults do not hear. It is one of the reasons why I have exposed my children to other languages at an early age. In fact, when I was in labor with Crankles, I played music by Darko Rundek. He is a Balkan singer, and I absolutely adore him.

The fun part about doing this too is that it helps me retain some of the languages I have studied over the years. Between my brain injury issues and lack of speaking, sometimes I get a bit rusty. Nonetheless, I would like to continue learning. I also want my kids to learn as well.

Board books with simple words in other languages and music from other countries is a great way to introduce your child to their first foreign language. It is also a great way to learn about the world around them. I strongly encourage it to all parents. You may even learn something too!

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When Mama Needs to Re-Fuel

Right now, I feel I am running on fumes. I have things to do. I have things I WANT to do, and I feel I am sitting in a parked car that has run out of gas.

This year, I have really tried to get my shit together. I write things on my calendar. I then put the same things in my smartphone calendar. I have a schedule for the kids for homeschool. I have a sign in/sign out sheet for them for their independent work. I have a set time when I would like to work because I run two blogs, and I have so much I want to say and do with them both. However, life keeps getting in the way.

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photo by PublicDomainPictures

The kids seem to bring every single germ home with them. I haven’t had the kids this sick since pre-school. In fact, I thought this was one of the perks to homeschool. However, we have had EVERYTHING come through this house. I kept getting sinus/respiratory illnesses all fall. I have been doing better with that since I started taking all my allergy meds again. However, I have also been having TBI issues lately too, and it is really stressing me out. TBI stands for Traumatic Brain Injury for those who are not familiar with the term.

For me, right now, I have a couple good days and then a couple bad ones. I am getting new doctors in order, which is stressful in itself because I want to make sure I am the right ones. I had a bad experience with a neurologist after my relapse, and I want to find someone who can help and not just throw meds at me.

My family is still trying to re-adjust to my husband going back to being an oilfield geologist again. He is home more with this company, but when he is, there is always so much to do.

I find myself saying no more these days, which I hate to do. However, when we are running on fumes, we really should be taking better care of ourselves instead of adding more to our plates. I hate being reminded of that. I just feel so overwhelmed some days, and I don’t know how to re-fuel right now.

For the moment, a lot of the things I really want to do are taking a backseat so I can focus on the kids, my health, and the adjustments to our family dynamic. I keep trying to remind myself that it is only temporary. However, with the issues I have had since my TBI relapse a year and a half ago, I feel sick of telling myself that. I am trying to focus on healthy diet and sleeping more. I am hoping it will help me get more energy and have more good days.

However, some days, like today, I am really feeling the burn out. My youngest awoke early this morning with a fever and has been clingy all day. My older two have decided that chores are for chumps and have not been doing them most of the week, and well at some point tonight, Mama lost her shit. My husband called to find me bawling into the phone. It was not pretty, but it is what happened. It is what happens when we are running on empty. It is what happens when we are stressed and need a reprieve. It is real life. As a mom, you will find that you need to find ways to make time for yourself and that you will get frustrated with your kids. You will lose your shit and probably on a regular basis. Then you need to find a way to re-fuel. Better yet, it is best if you find a way to get back on track before you lose your shit. However, that does not always happen.

For me, writing is my best outlet. I actually feel better now that I have been writing this. Also, I will be taking a nice warm bath before bed tonight. I will most likely take it easy and try to clear most things from my calendar tomorrow that are not critical so that I can breathe easy once more.

None of us are perfect, and we all end up running on empty or losing our shit now and then. However, it is imperative to find ways to get back on track, to make us happy, to find balance, to move forward. Motherhood is not easy, and we are all doing the best we can. If you find yourself running on empty, having a bad day, or losing it, just know you are only human. What are ways you try to fill your tank again when you are running low?

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Homeschooler Day at Lehman’s

Lehman’s in Kidron, OH hosts homeschool days every Tuesday now through March! At Lehman’s, your homeschooler can learn about a more simpler time and do the following:

-Churn Butter

-Peel Apples

-Learn all about Aladdin Lamps

-Wood Carvings Presentation from local artist Paul Weaver

-Treasure Hunt

-Taste Test funny-flavored sodas

For more information, see their event on Facebook or register on Eventbrite!

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Put some fun back into homeschool

It is that time of year where we get pre-occupied with holiday parties and get togethers, and our kids start to get a little bored with homeschool. It is very easy to want to take a break for a while, but instead of giving into the break, maybe you should step back and find some ways to add life into your homeschool day once again.

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Have you done a lot of field trips? If not, take a look at your list of field trip ideas. You can also see what new exhibits local museums or zoos have and tie it into your lessons. My kids and I recently got a family membership to a zoo about an hour from here, and we are looking at getting a membership to the natural history museum as well. Part of the reason for doing this is that both places have reciprocal memberships with other zoos and museums giving us options for field trip days. Sometimes we can find places that have events or exhibits that complements our lessons for the week.

Make sure you stock up on craft supplies. Right now the weather is starting to turn where I live, so we are not spending as much time outdoors. When you start getting frustrated, take a breath and get a project for the kids to do. Then you can go back to the lesson later.

If lessons are getting hard to push through, maybe this is a good time to take a look at your teaching methods and/or curriculum. I am not saying to change curriculums. Sometimes, you just need to change the approach, be creative. After all, that is what homeschool is all about: the ability to be flexible. Recently, we decided to delay the start of the next book in our history curriculum so we could focus more on 19th and 20th century history. Another book we are using discusses it, and the kids want to learn more. Again, it is about being flexible.

Finally take a look at your munchies! What are you serving for lunch and snacks? Is it getting boring? Then mix it up a bit! We started doing bento boxes recently because the kids have been having fun doing different themes with them. We are also trying to tie in foods to our lessons. This week we will be having a Boxcar Children lunch with dried meat, brown bread, butter, and blueberries. The kids are looking forward to it. When we are all happy, our homeschool day goes better.

I hope you find these tips useful, and if you are having the mid-year blahs, I hope you can breathe life into your homeschool day once more. Do you have anything to add to the list? If so, please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below!

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Taking time for yourself

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As a homeschool mom, blogger, and former party planner, I used to run myself ragged. In fact, I am pretty sure that my lifestyle choices helped with everything that sent me to the hospital last summer. Since then, I have been trying to put things back together in a way that I am not overly stressed, like I used to be.

Like most moms, I want to be a great mom. I used to think that I could just do everything after the kids went to bed or when the baby took a nap. It really did not work so well. I just ended up being overly tired, and as for working while Crankles napped, well there were too many other things to do during that time, like homeschooling with the kids or housework to keep me from having time for me or for the things I really wanted to do, like blogging. (That is probably a big run on sentence there. You may diagram it at your convenience to see for yourself.)

Anyways, I was looking at our daily schedule. It is kind of a rough draft for our daily lives…or more of a way to say, “Hey, you’re bored! Check what the schedule says.” It really works for that. However, I realized even with that, I am excluded from that schedule. Then I would get frustrated because while I wanted to blog or read an occasional book or something, I could not do so because there was no time for me in the schedule. With my husband now being home and not on the road, I wanted to keep nighttime for us because time with my spouse is important, especially when he has been more or less out in the oil patch for seven years. That left me staying up really late and then being a grumpy mommy in the morning because I have a toddler. It means I get up in the middle of the night sometimes still, and I wake when she wakes to nurse (because I still do that too).

I chose something that works for all of us and doesn’t require me to sacrifice sleep. The kids do better at doing school work in the afternoon, so the morning is playtime. All three can play, watch educational videos, enjoy the backyard. During that morning time, I can drink a hot cup of coffee, get anything organized that day for school work, make phone calls, pay bills, or write blog posts. I don’t get every morning as we do have a few days a week that we are out the door by 10am, but it is nice to be able to count on those days so that I can start doing the things I need to do without sacrificing time with my husband or time I should be sleeping.

It seems to work for us. As it is, it is late afternoon, and the kids have finished with schoolwork. They decided to go back outside, so here I am writing. However, I had this post in my head this morning. I am caught up on other things as well, and I am in a fairly good mood because I am not stressed out.

Putting too much into our schedules does not do us any good, but it is not great for our kids either. Happy mommies homeschool better. We are more cheerful, and our kids benefit from having all of us instead of burned out versions of us.

I know it is difficult to balance life. However, it is something in which we need to be more mindful. How do you stay balanced? How do you take time for yourself?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or feel free to start a conversation on Facebook!

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Recitals, Activities, and Managing Balance

One of the issues that homeschooling parents face is the dilemma over what extracurriculars to allow our children to participate. Sometimes things sound like fun, but then we get going and burn out halfway through the year because we are over-scheduled. I think the balance issue stems from the stigma that our children do not get enough socialization. For my family and most of my homeschooling friends, this is such a non-issue because we have so many things to choose from in way of co-ops, sports, and clubs that it is hard to figure out which ones our kids really want to choose.

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My big kids are dancers. Sissy started at age 2 in a Mommy and Me class, and Bubby started at age five. Dance has a way of taking over our lives…especially in the late spring with pictures, costume fittings, and dress rehearsals leading up to recital. This year has been especially challenging because my kids are attending different dance studios. Each studio is excellent and provides the kids what they need right now. However, the initial scheduling was a bit tricky, and it sometimes makes for an extra cranky Miss Crankles. Luckily, the recitals took place on different weeks, and the nice thing for the big kids was that they got to sit in the audience and watch each other perform. However, in order to make it all work, we scaled back on a few clubs this year. They attended a homeschool theater class this year and started at a new co-op. Sissy took an extra homeschool combination dance class for the first part of the school year, and I enrolled Miss Crankles in a play class so that she didn’t get lost in the shadows of the big kids. I told the kids that to keep us from burning out, especially since we just moved and have still been exploring the area, I wanted to keep it to one activity per day. This worked rather well because we could fit our school work into the day easily and still have time to have playdates with friends or play at home or the park.

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Getting through the last few weeks of recital rehearsals, pictures, and recital itself has been a challenge. Add the fact that I still have some anxiety issues probably didn’t help matters any. However, we all got through it. Crankles’ schedule was disrupted some, so we are taking this week to get her back on track and rest from everything. While co-op and some of the other activities are over for the summer, I am not eager to start scheduling things for the summer. The big kids will be taking some dance classes later in the summer, but for the rest of this month, we are taking the month off from activities to focus on being a family, catching up on schoolwork, and organizing the house a bit since we still haven’t finished going through everything from the move (yeah I know it has been 9 months).

The balance issue is a huge deal for me because I have been unbalanced in the past. I get caught up in the whole notion that I shouldn’t be idle. I have a hard time saying no, so I end up volunteering for things or letting the kids do this activity or that workshop. Before I know it, I am burned out, and so are the kids. One of the joys about homeschooling should be a focus on play time. Kids really need to be able to play. If I allow my kids or myself to get caught up in involvement in too many activities, then we don’t have time for play or to explore and imagine. This year that I have taken off from blogging, volunteering, party planning, and everything else has really shown me that I have been missing out on enjoying those activities with the kids. The past few years, I have been feeling old, and with good reason. I have been over-scheduled and not enjoying much of anything. I don’t want to be that unbalanced anymore, and I don’t want to push that lifestyle on the kids either. I want the kids to know that while we have responsibilities, we need to have balance to our lives and enjoy them.

So while I resist the urge to put the kids in lots of camps this summer and try not to let them overdo it with their activities during the rest of the year, I know that I am also allowing the kids to have time to be kids. Balance lets us be able to enjoy the activities in which we participate, and it gives us time to be able to focus on being a family and enjoy playtime and our studies too!

 

 

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The things that people say… and what I want to say to silly questions

In case you are just tuning into my blog, I have three kids. There is a pretty large age gap between the last two. While we were not going for a large age gap, our last child was planned. Between this and homeschooling, we sometimes deal with some ridiculous statements. So I thought I would list some of them for those of you who may have had to deal with the same thing, along with some fun responses that I want to say but don’t.

1. “Are they all yours?” Okay, so this one I sorta understand because for years I have been getting confused with being the older sister rather than mom. Part of it is because I look younger than I am, which is a blessing and a curse. The other is probably because I like to wear things, like video game shirts…and then there is my collection of funky hats. I also take in exchange students, which adds to the confusion. I am often tempted to say, “Dangit, I don’t know where they all come from. They just keep following me around.”

2. “You are really embracing that homeschool lifestyle, aren’t you?” Okay, so what is THAT supposed to mean? I know homeschooling families that are big AND small. I know public school families that are big AND small. Family size is a personal thing, and one that each family should decide for themselves. I came from a family with four kids, and two of my step-brothers have larger families. It’s great. However, when I am asked, I often want to say, “Yeah, I ordered the homeschooling kit, and it comes with extra kids. My denim jumper is coming soon. It was on back-order.”

3. “Well, you just shot yourself in the foot, didn’t you? Now you will NEVER be alone!” Actually, that was kinda the idea. When we decided to have one more kid, we were thinking of maybe having another after that. I kinda liked the idea of having kids in my house until I have grandkids to spoil. I like kids, even though my kids drive me absolutely bonkers. Thing is, they still drive me less bonkers than most adults do. Plus, I work with kids! I honestly don’t know what to say when people say this one. It just sorta irks me.

4. “I seriously hope you are done now.” Why? What business is it of yours if I have one more or five more? I am the one taking care of them. Well, my husband helps obviously, but yeah, we kinda like the little buggers and enjoy them (most of the time). I often respond with “We’ll see.” However, I would like to say usually, “It’s none of your business.”

5. “I don’t know how you do it.” I don’t know how I do it either. I don’t know how any parent does it. We just do. It’s crazy, and our kids are sometimes difficult, but we get through. Some days and stages are easier than others, but I wouldn’t trade any of it. My kids drive me insane sometimes, and there are days I lock the bathroom door and cry. However, I don’t know what I would do without my crazy bunch…the three that are mine…the 12 I have hosted through the years. I usually just shrug my shoulders. This statement isn’t meant to be malicious usually, but I do hear it often. I am sure some of you do as well.

My crazy bunch!

My crazy bunch!

So…what statements have you heard since having kids? Which ones annoy you? Feel free to share yours in the comments below!