Category Archives: Parenting

My Experience With Working and Homeschooling

For two years I worked as a physician (as a hospitalist, if you know what that is) and homeschooled. It was a crazy time of life for me, and I didn’t like the chaos. Some of my best friends with kids say that working keeps them sane. Or that it makes them better parents. I kind of wondered at first what was wrong with me. Why wasn’t I a happy and working mom? Or a happy working and homeschooling mom? Was I somehow weak or flawed? Was I just not capable of being a modern woman?

Nah. I know I’m as capable as the next man or woman. But I didn’t want to do it. Homeschooling, “mommy-ing,” and working concomitantly didn’t make my heart happy. It didn’t add to my life. I don’t like frazzle. I don’t like chronic chaos. I don’t like being spread thin. And, notably, I could not make the transfer from work to kids. In some ways, I feel more “man” in this regard than my husband (who is what I call “all guy”), who can walk in the door and be fully vested in us, granting hugs all around.

Not me! Me? Point me to the nearest man cave! After a 12 hour day of work back in the day, I was like, “I’d prefer it if I didn’t see anyone until the Queen (me) has bathed, fully supped, checked her written correspondence, and then, perhaps then, she’ll grant kisses on chubby little hands on their way to bed.”

WHOA! Who wants that woman for a mom? WHO wants to be that woman? Not me! I didn’t like that me! I’m a good, kind, loving, and compassionate mom, and I needed to create the environment that allowed the real mommy-me to shine.

So when people ask me, “Can you work and homeschool?” My answer is, “Of course you can! I don’t want to, but you sure can!” I thought I’d share myself as a case-study for those exploring this question for themselves. Perchance, by seeing some of yourself–or NOT seeing yourself–in me, you’ll be better prepared to answer the question with awareness of yourself.

Yes, this helps…

First let’s look at the properties of my life that allowed me to feel comfortable homeschooling and working for a while:

  • An exceptionally supportive husband
  • Very flexible hours
  • Kind co-workers
  • Only homeschooling one child at first, who was in her early years (kindergarten through about second grade)
  • I kept the curriculum basic and felt 90% free to adapt it to how she learned (which wasn’t how I wanted her to learn…).
  • Living in a warm climate which allowed lots of outdoor time
  • Good friends already in place for my kids to hang out with on weekends and evenings (These friends went to school and were not homeschooled.)
  • A strong homeschool co-op for activities as we wanted them and where we could (and did!) meet new friends when I wasn’t working
  • I sent one younger sibling to a wonderful morning pre-school which she loved, leaving just the baby who still napped, so we could homeschool during morning nap time on my days off.
  • My daughter was young enough to cooperate with some weekend and evening work if we didn’t get things done.
  • My female doctor friends from medical school encouraging me to follow my heart

Mmm. That doesn’t sound pleasant…

Now let’s look at the other side which really began limiting a positive homeschooling and life experience:

  • I was tired all the time and very forgetful. I physically felt bad and wondered what was wrong with me.
  • The part of me that needs alone time to recover was battered, raped, and abused.
  • Work called more and I could give less. I felt guilty because my co-workers were good people who worked too much themselves, and here I was telling them “no.”
  • My kids needed me more and I felt guilty.
  • My husband wanted me and he was last on the list.
  • Physical messes in my home affect me greatly and with me gone working, there were more physical messes.
  • The schoolwork started requiring more time and effort.
  • It just didn’t feel like there was time for the refrigerator to break, the air conditioning to need fixed, fleas to get in the house, doctor’s appointments, sick days—-in general, no time for life to happen.
  • Schoolwork didn’t happen well without me there to guide it or push it along. (I had a recalcitrant student who has now blossomed incredibly.) A sitter or grandparent just didn’t have the same effect as mom.
  • I had a toddler. Toddlers are very demanding.
  • I had a nursing baby.
  • I was perpetually irritable.

Why do I need this?

When working and homeschooling became more than I wanted to piggyback, then I stopped and looked at WHY I wanted to work:

  • I had loans to pay off.
  • Because I had put SO much effort into getting where I was at! Twelve years of my life and tons of delayed gratification!
  • I liked being a hospitalist doctor a lot. Taking care of hospitalized, acutely ill patients is usually very rewarding.
  • Work offered rhythm, constancy, and community. When I walked into the hospital, I knew exactly what to expect. (Yes, each day and patient was different! But the rhythm of the system was the same.)
  • It worked a whole different part of my brain than child rearing and housework, and that felt good. Kind of like a back rub for the brain!
  • To provide a sense of equality with my husband in our household. (I’m a wee-bit competitive.)
  • I felt respected and well-liked.
  • I felt it was a service still being asked of me by my God.
  • I didn’t want to be “just” a stay-at-home mom.

Maybe if…

I often sit around, just for fun, and wonder what would have allowed me to homeschool and work. I think maybe I could have done both if:

  • I had immediate family living in the same town
  • Someone else would have been as good as I was at getting my daughter to do her work
  • If external chaos didn’t faze me so strongly
  • If my life situation necessitated it
  • My husband had a knack for teaching young children
  • The kids weren’t so young
  • I could have lowered expectations in all areas of my life
  • Monkeys flew and unicorns swam

Closing

Many people find my little spot here when they are searching about homeschooling and quitting work. I liked working as a medical doctor, but once I had kids, the same overachieving, perfectionist, benevolent tendencies that allowed me to succeed in medicine are the exact same traits that demanded me to achieve success my way in motherhood. I wish I could have it all: work, kids, homeschooling, a happy me, a happy marriage, exercise, three real-food-meals a day, friends, a clean and tidy house, sleep, a well-decorated house, church, a new kitchen, a dog, a blog, flying monkeys and swimming unicorns.

But I can’t. For me, I decided I didn’t need professional satisfaction or resting on laurels. I did need to keep learning and sharing (so I study and write little articles for this blog on alternative health). I needed to know I could work if necessary or desired (so I keep my licenses up). I needed to know that I was providing safety, security, and a strong psychological, emotional, educational, and spiritual core for my kids (and me!!!!). I needed to have time to foster a relationship with my husband. I needed some semblance of order.

No matter what—I don’t need aeronautical primates or aquatic, horned equines that just don’t exist.

Good luck to you! It’s a “live, studio audience,” so feel free to ask questions or leave comments on your experience.

Terri

Photo attribution:  Sonarpulse. origenal:Huji [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Questions My Husband Asks Me

postcards2cardsnewyearsresolution1915So, how’s the family togetherness stuff going? Insanely ready for school (and work) to start again?

Here? We’ve had more family togetherness time here, too. Meaning, dad’s been around loads more. And boy, has he interrogated the heck out of me. This man is full of parenting questions.

I hope today’s post makes you smirk and smile as you head into the new year with kids and a spouse. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

On kids and socks:

“Put your socks on! You can’t go without socks! Does your mom let you go without socks? Honey, do you let them go without socks!?”

Yes, sweetie. Socks are optional. I mean, I wear socks. You wear socks. But if my kids don’t want socks, then who needs socks? Five people times two socks per person equals 10 socks. I can’t keep track of that many feet. And they’re wearing snow boots, for heaven’s sake! Tsk. Tsk. You really shouldn’t have married outside your social class if you wanted your kids to wear socks.

On kids and sleep:

“Its 9 o’clock in the morning! They’re still sleeping! When do you make them get out of bed? I mean, how are they going to learn that in the real world you have a job and responsibility?”

They were spontaneously up at 5:15 am on Christmas morning. How early does it need to be for you need to feel reassured they can pull themselves out of bed with an alarm clock? Come on! Parenting 101: Never wake a sleeping child.

On kids and getting ready:

“It’s 10:30 in the morning now. Kids, go get out of your pajamas! How long do you let them stay in their pajamas!?”

Babe, you have four girls. Sixteen. Just remember the word “sixteen.” Mirrors. Make up. Flattening irons. Sweet sixteen. Your girls will get out of their pajamas. I promise. They don’t stay little forever.

On a homeschooling mom still in her pajamas:

“Well, when do you get out of your pajamas? You wanna’ go change?”

I receive friends, plumbers and electricians in these clothes. I teach grammar and algebra in these clothes. I cook gourmet lunches in these clothes. No. These clothes are fine. Thanks. I’ll change when I have time.

On getting kids out the door:

“It’s time to go. Why aren’t they down here? I told them five minutes ago it was time to go! How’s come they can’t get into the car? Don’t you make them get into the car?”

Never. I found it’s much easier to stay put in the house and be weird recluses. No, no. I’m joshing. We actually follow the “Three-Yells Process.” First yell means nothing. Second yell means move downstairs. Third yell means, you got it—- go to the bathroom! When the house is silent that means mom’s in the car backing out of the garage shrieking about being late—and you’d better get out there shoes in hand if they’re not on your feet already.

On kids and forgetfulness:

“That one forgot her book for violin and that one forgot her shoes for basketball. Why can’t they ever remember their stuff?  Do you always take them their stuff? I never forgot my stuff. My mom didn’t just pop in and bring me my stuff. I had to remember it.”

Good. That’s all I say: “Good.” Dead-pan flat. (This is a good technique for touchy subjects. One word. Dead-pan flat. Try it. It won’t work if you have any reaction, though. You  have to be flat. Think flat.)

But, if I’m pressed, I use the nose picking explanation. Kids forget stuff. It’s what they do. Just like little kids always pick their nose. No parent wants their kids to do it, but they do. We teach them patiently how to do things differently, and slowly they conform.

On spouses wanting a warm welcome home:

“Why don’t you hug and kiss me when I come home early from work?”

Just be glad I didn’t hand you the diaper, the spatula, the craft, the math, and the toilet plunger. I’ll be happy to give you a hug and a kiss, but you’re fifth in line. Stand over there till your turn.

On coffees and play dates:

“You’re having another coffee and play date?”

Did you really want to play Candy Land again?

On taking on too much:

“I thought you said you had enough to do! Why did you tell her ‘yes’?”

Glare.

On family movie time:

“Honey, we’re watching a movie. What are you still doing up here? I thought we were going to watch it all together. We’ve been waiting to start it.”

Aaah. Family movie time. My husband has the kids held captivated in one spot. What a good time for a peaceful bath. Oh, yes. I’m coming. I’ll be there. Just a minute. Go ahead and start it without me…

Closing

Happy New Year to you! I’m going to go get people out of their pajamas! And scrounge up some socks. At least in 2017 it’s socially acceptable for them to not match! When I was a kid, I was ostracized by a clique for not wearing matching socks. I can still hear the words, “Your socks don’t match.” Oh, the times.

Family life is joy. Find the humor in the situation. Face each new day, and yourself, with a bit of laughter and a smile. Blessings on your 2017.

Terri

Image source: Wikipedia. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Year’s_resolution) Attribution: “By not known; one on left is published by “Chatauqua Press”, as stated near the bottom of the card in tiny type [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons”

 

Tips So Kids Don’t Waste Meat

2048px-foodmeatIf you want your kids to eat meat, then you’d better give a little effort to make it look enticing.

This Christmas, my husband roasted the best tasting roast beef. I usually frantically try to plate my kids’ food for meals, not because I’m a control freak, but because observation has led me to see they don’t eat unsightly plated food as well as attractively plated food. So foods they might not eat so well, I work extra hard to make look tempting and plate for them. Sometimes presentation alone gets them to eat things they normally wouldn’t.

Well, I wasn’t the one to plate their food this time around. And that perfectly prepared, rare roast beast dribbled juicy, pink trickles linearly in each direction–and that “don’t fly” with most kids. That, to kids, is blood. I could have been reliving my childhood:

Eat that meat.”

What’s wrong with that meat?”

“There’s nothing wrong with that meat.”

“That’s expensive meat. Don’t you waste it.”

“Here, give me that meat.”

Oh, my dad would get so mad at me as I stared at my plate, pushing food around with my fork.

Meat is a valuable source of easily absorbable zinc, vitamin B 12, and iron. Certain kinds and cuts are rich in DHA and vitamin D3 and different amino acids. I’ve noticed among my four kids, one will eat meat like it’s candy. One will stare at it like it’s still alive on her plate and I’m making her eat it. The other two are kind of in the middle.

We are an omnivorous family, and to make life more simple, the kids need to eat what’s for supper. Sometimes it’s centered around meat. And sometimes it’s not. But I don’t like it to be wasted, particularly meat. It makes me super sad to waste meat.

Tips so kids don’t waste meat:

  1. Cut it into bite-sized pieces for them.
  2. Give them the most savory pieces.
  3. Serve them with flavorful, attractive drippings. (For example, when I roast a chicken, I drizzle a little of the drippings over their cut pieces, being careful to keep it right over the chicken itself.)
  4. Important: Sop up any unpleasant looking trickles, dribbles, or pools before giving them the plate, so you don’t have to answer the “Is that blood?” question.
  5. If you know they don’t like a particular meat, then don’t give them more than 3-5 average bite sized pieces.
  6. Get them to eat it while it’s still hot.
  7. Have them try it with a bite of something else that complements it.
  8. Sauces, sauces, sauces.
  9. Explain that meat has vitamin B 12, a nutrient that is very important for our brains and nerves to function. A nutrient difficult to get anywhere else.

Closing

I wish you the best in leading your kids toward eating real, whole foods. Some people feel best eating a meat-rich diet, while others can’t tolerate it. I see all sides from a scientific standpoint. You don’t need to defend your stance to me. But please try to eat real, whole food. Avoid chicken nuggets breaded with maltodextrin and milk protein and fried in vegetable oil. Avoid cold meat laden with potato starch. Try to steer towards unprocessed meats and include a broad range of cuts so your kids are getting the best array of amino acids. Don’t just eat the muscle meats.

And so important: Include an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables!

Let’s encourage our kids to eat real and try not to waste! So, what tips do you have that I left out?

Sincerely,

Terri

The Christmas Victim

2002_blue_room_christmas_treeEven though it’s Christmas time, lately I’ve been noticing how everything is all about me.

Me. Me. Me. Me. Me.

Which is strange, because I feel like all I do is give, give, give, give, give.

Not too long  back I read a book which discussed how certain patterns are maintained in life because someone is hanging on to their victim role. I thought about this. “Nope, not me. I don’t walk around victimized. I’m a ‘doer.’ I don’t take things sitting down. This is not me.”

And I skipped happily along.

Along comes a dream

Then, like in a movie or good book, I had a strange dream. I don’t have many strange dreams. (Thank God. I don’t want strange dreams, and I don’t want strange voices.) What was strange about this dream was that I woke up abruptly from my dream right as I was saying, “We’re all playing our own victim role in life, I guess…” Hmmm. Okay. Not so strange. I hear you. We all talk in our dreams. And notice, it was my own voice. So I’m safe still. Not hearing strange voices.

But what was strange was how I went from hyperdrive, lightspeed dreaming to an abrupt, hard stop, with complete awakeness and those words literally reverberating, echoing in my head. Like one of those balloons they used to make when we were kids. Remember those? The big, tough balloons with long rubber bands attached, and you’d sit there and bounce the ball back and forth: boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. That’s how the words were in my head, until they died off slowly, like the sound of a freight train chugging away from me in the night.

In the loud, dark silence, I grabbed my pen, and I wrote those words down. Scribble. Scribble. Scribble. You’re supposed to write your dreams down, they say. So I wrote it down. I never turn the light on. I just leave a pad by my bed and scribble big, hoping it will be legible in the morning. It rarely is. I don’t know why I bother.

“We’re all playing our own victim role.”

Then the magic happened. Over the last, oh, I don’t know, six months since I dreamed that dream, I’ve seen it!  Watch. Do you see it too?

“Why is it so cold? This weather sucks. Nobody should live in -37 degree F  (-38 degrees C) weather.”

“Why are you up so early? This is my time! No, I won’t read you that book. This. Is. My. Time.”

“Target and Office Max didn’t have the gift I needed. Now I have to go to Wal-Mart. Kill me now.”

“I have four kids I’m homeschooling. Does she really think I have time to talk on the phone an hour? Does everyone think homeschoolers just sit around and read all day?”

“Where is my husband? He said he’d be home early today. This is not early.”

Did you see it?

The victim. I’m playing the victim role. All day. All day.

The weather is the weather. It’s NOT out to get me.

Kids wake up early sometimes. They do. (Remember when you were a kid and you woke up so early on Saturdays that all that was on TV was the screen with those stupid colors? And the ear-splitting, high-pitched, strident sustained tone? Oh, maybe you had cable. I only had an antenna to pick up three stations: Indianapolis, South Bend-Mishawaka, and Ft. Wayne.) My kids aren’t out to get me (yet).

Wal-Mart didn’t send me an invitation. The phone didn’t walk up to my ear. And my husband didn’t go break that kid’s arm so he’d have to operate on it and eat a cold dinner.

I made myself the victim in all these simple, daily situations.

I’ve shared this victim idea with my husband, kids, and some friends. We now have fun walking around poking out each other victim roles. “Oh, you’re such the victim.”

Besides moms like me, kids love the victim role too:

“I didn’t do it.” “It’s not my fault.” “You always blame me.” “She always takes over.” “She pushed me.” “Why does she get to, and I don’t?” “You always take her side.” “She never helps.” “I didn’t have time to practice. I had to go to my sister’s dance show.” “Why do I have to do so much math every day?”

Of course, husbands are good at it too. And friends. And bosses. And really, just about all of us. Especially at Christmas.

We didn’t get the cards out; we just had so much to do. My gifts shipped to the wrong place; I was being rushed out the door while I was typing in the shipping address. Don’t the radio stations know this is the only time of the year to play Christmas music? Why are they playing that stupid song instead?

Or– I don’t even celebrate Christmas, the stores are so busy, and all I want is a flipping loaf of bread. People are so stupid and needy and trashing the earth with all this crap they buy to feed the need. The music offends me. The words “Merry Christmas” offend me.

Find the victim in the feeling

Me. Me. Me. Me! You see it! We’re all playing our own victim roles. Think about it. Let me know what you think!

Is there a victim hiding behind our anger, fear, irritation, and/or overwhelm? Is there? It often takes me a while to see it when I’m irritated, but then when I step back, I am learning to see that I have placed myself as the victim being acted upon. Sometimes it’s my headache acting on me. Sometimes it’s my kids. Sometimes it’s the weather. Sometimes it’s even the radio station not playing Christmas music.

Yes, there are times that people truly are victims, like abusive relationships and war. Perhaps the feelings that the victim role bring about were placed in us to help prevent us from being placed in situations where we are dangerously victims. I don’t know.

All I know is that for me, the victim mentality is not a necessary piece of my life. I will not accept it.

Well, from my heart to yours, here’s to a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or just a great December 25th. Embrace the season. Embrace every single bit of it. The late cards. The lines. The weather. The stupid radio DJ’s. The UPS. The different cultures and sub-cultures screaming to be heard. All of it.

They make movies we love about this stuff! It must be worth something! God have mercy on us.

The best to you,

Terri

PS: The book I read with a section on this was called The Loving Diet, Jessica Flanigan.

12 Math Tips For Teaching Non-Math Minded Kids

Saxon MathNumbers are not my thing. In fourth grade, I couldn’t understand why they were telling stories in math. In sixth-grade, the teacher called my mom in to tell her it was time I stopped counting on my fingers. In seventh grade, math meant counting the minutes till I could bolt out of that classroom and start talking again, preferably to the blue-eyed basketball hunk coming out of the classroom across the hall. And my senior year, business math blew my 4.0 in high school. Business math.

Just because your son swears he’s going to be a missionary, your daughter swears she’s going to be the first US female president, or your kid can draw like Michelangelo is no reason to skip math. If my dad had said, “Math isn’t your thing. Go fry an egg,” or my teacher would have said, “You’ll never get this stuff. Stick to hairspray,” I would have persevered with my plan to be a beautician instead of a pharmacist then medical doctor.

So how can a non-math minded student be helped to succeed in math? For three years of high school math, I had an amazing teacher by the name of Mrs. Jackson; she determined my career course by teaching this air-headed girl advanced math. I’d like to share some tips I use in my homeschool today that I learned from her. Most of them will work for parents wanting to help their traditionally schooled children as well. Please, look at their math papers.

1. We’ll start off easy. First, teach kids to use their paper properly. This is no time to be saving trees.

  • When kids transition to using lined paper, teach them to fold the paper in half lengthwise (skinny-wise). Have students work problems vertically down the left half first, using the red line as their margin. Then, they work down the right-half column, with the fold-crease functioning as the left hand margin. When that side is filled up, flip the paper over and carry on.
  • Teach students to take AS MANY LINES as they need to show all their work. NO SQUEEZING or smooshing stuff in. If one algebra problem takes 3/4 of one side of the paper, then that’s what it takes.
  • Leave at least one space between problems, including long division problems.

2. Math needs a plumb-line. Enforce meticulous lining up of addition problems, subtraction problems, and decimal points.

  • Places must be lined up exactly under each other. Ones’ places under ones’ places. Tens’ places under tens’ places. Hundreds’ places under hundreds’. Not a hair out of line.
  • Decimal points must be perfectly aligned one under the other. Not a hair out of line.

3. To erase means to erase. Please–show some good erasing effort, and for Pete’s sake, never do math in pen.

Stray marks can look like decimal points or negative signs and cause errors.

4. Misery loves company. Show them how it’s done.

Mrs. Jackson always taught the new lesson on the chalk board. When she worked a problem, she never skipped any steps. She never worked it half-way and said, “Oh, you get it from here.” Never. Ever. I believe this was important for two reasons, First, when kids learn new concepts, for some reason, they tend to lose focus of older, easier concepts that they should know. Secondly, sometimes kids make it through topics with knowledge gaps. Showing all steps of the problem, including the easy, mundane parts, helps reinforce any gaps that may persist (such as canceling, reducing, dividing fractions, and so on).

She also didn’t skimp on the number of problems she did with us on the chalk board. I’d say she did about 5-10 problems a day on the board with us, mostly the new topic but also a little bit of the old ones as well.

Can you hand kids the book and a CD-ROM and say, “Go.”? Yes, you can. But I have my doubts that non-math minds will flourish this way. If you can’t teach it, I suggest finding a lively friend, tutor, local high school or community college, or a live internet class (and verify the teacher is kind and available to offer help before signing them up) who can.

And lastly on this suggestion, I’ve taken to using our chalk wall to teach math. It has been very helpful.

5. Have them copy the original problem down nearly every time.

6. Don’t allow skipping any steps when solving a problem.

Kids buck at this one, especially when the answer is obvious or if they’re especially math-minded, but Mrs. Jackson was firm. No skipping steps. (As they advance in math, eventually yes, more steps are skipped.)

7. Teachers and parents, remember, we have done more math problems in our lives than we’ve eaten meals. Don’t be condescending. Don’t let your frustration show. Encourage. Encourage. Encourage.

Twelve times twelve is not at instant recall for kids. Long division sucks. Do not become angry when the kids can’t seem to get it. When they make the SAME mistake over and over again, like dropping a negative sign or adding fraction denominators. It is VERY easy to call it lazy, careless, stupid, etc. I wouldn’t do it. Okay. I’ve done it. But I always apologize, call hard to my inner child to help me remember what it was like, and then encourage. No child ever wants to fail. And all your belittling and criticism does is lead them to anger and/or feelings of failure. Is that really what you want?

8. Calculators don’t come until you hit real algebra I.

9. Check their work daily and give feedback.

10. Math must be done regularly.

11. Math takes from about one to two hours a day.

Don’t try to rush it. Yeah, that’s a long time, especially for a homeschooler who thinks school should be done by noon.

12. Push students to their edge, and change it up or slow down when you meet resistance (meaning they think it’s too hard or they start missing too many problems). How can you change it up or slow down? 

  • Spend two or three days on a problem set instead of one.
  • Skip mundane, easy-for-them problems.
  • If they keep missing the same kinds of problems, then find supplemental problems for them to work on instead of moving forward in the book.
  • Do math only 2-3 times per week for a while.
  • Take a week off or two.
  • Do lots of problems on the chalk board together. Maybe see if they can do the work on their paper faster than you can on the board. Or have them do the work on the board while you watch.
  • Somehow expose them to other kids doing the same kind of work. Often, homeschooled kids who take extra-curricular activities can hear their public school comrades complain about math, and somehow, this make the homeschooled kid feel better.
  • Give them a test.

Closing

You don’t have to view your kids’ education as your job. You don’t. Throw your hands up in the air and say, “Enough’s enough. It’s not my problem. Nobody needs algebra in the real world anyway.” But take it from someone whose non-college educated parents gave it all they had to make sure that their daughter was doing as well as she could in math. How parents handle their kids’ education leaves a lasting impression. How will your kids remember you on this matter? School is the BIGGEST part of their lives right now. Are you showing them you’re interested in it?

Non-math minded kids can succeed at advanced math. And I feel they contribute such a unique aspect to the science and medical fields. So get them going!

Terri

A Letter To My Kids About Food

Dear Kids,

I love you so much. I see all the amazing things you are going to do and all the amazing people that you, as amazing people, are going to touch. I see all the brilliant, creative, and even practical ideas that you daily produce and will continue to produce for yourselves and the world. You are each precious to my heart. I often wonder how God can love each one of us human beings as special entities–and yet none more special than the next–and here, in my heart, I feel a meager bit of that bottomless capability. When compared to each other, you are each so different, but in my heart, you are loved with the same love.

What I want for you is to live boldly and freely, living up to your potential. Over the last four years, I have learned that for me to do so I must eat a real, whole food diet adjusted for some food sensitivities I have picked up (or maybe I was born with, I don’t know). You know how persistent I have been in keeping our diets clean, real, and whole. I do this because I see the effects it has on our allergies, our headaches, our stomach aches, our bowel control, our joint aches, our asthma, our skin rashes, our immune systems, and even our moods and concentration.

In essence, I persevere because I know now that what we all eat contributes to how well we can participate in life. And I want you all in.

Dear daughters, I want to tell you what I have told myself as I feed you to go do your work in life. Maybe it will help you when you have your own kids. Maybe it will help you now.

 

    Encourage and provide tons of vegetables and fruits.

Pay attention to which ones the kids like and how they like them prepared, making sure to keep those in the food line-up, while introducing new ones to stretch the taste buds.

Make it a goal to not buy pre-packaged foods. Give extra effort to buy whole foods without labels.  

I’ll admit we almost never reach our goal of “no labels,” but having this goal makes us very aware of our purchases and motivates us all to read labels. I love it when you pick up something packaged, and then put it down, saying, “Oh, we can make this. We don’t need to buy it.”

Don’t keep a lot of snack foods on hand other than nuts, vegetables, and fruit (seaweed is fun too), but respect kids’ needs for snacks.

I know the human liver was designed to certainly give three to four hours’ worth of glucose streaming in with no trouble. Perpetual snacks are not necessary in a healthy individual doing regular activities. However, sometimes, lunch was too small. Or supper not to the liking. Or volleyball camp consumed extra energy. Or friends are over. You name it. A well-placed snack is a good snack. But constant, mindless snacking is no good for the body.

Most kids like sweet stuff.

I’ve noticed you eat much better overall when you don’t feel deprived. I’ve also noticed you love a good smelling kitchen. Keeping you on track is easier when I prepare a dessert or sweet every now and then. How often? I honestly can’t say. I watch cues, and I know.

On vacations and certain occasions, step out of the way, letting kids enjoy the moment and the time with family and friends with abandon.

Sure, in the long haul, if a kid never ate ice cream or birthday cake or drank a soda pop, it’d be healthier. And there are probably some kids who will strike that path because of their parents’ rules. Then, there are kids who will just sneak it. Eat it with guilt and shame. Or break free at 18 from all the confinements. You can lie to your parents, but you can’t lie to the body. So eat some, then let it rest. For most people (not all), the body can handle an occasional gluttonous feast.

Do not equate food with body size or self-image. At the most basic level, food is eaten for the body to work right. (Most of the people we love most aren’t skinny.)

It seems like no matter what, somehow, everyone wants to bring it back to size and fat and how you look. I’d be lying if I said society doesn’t care about that. I try not to lie to you. But think about it. Most of the people we love the most aren’t skinny, so love and skinny can’t be equated. (It’s okay, you skinny friends. We adore you too!) Function is the most important, and whole, real food provides nutrition to keep those we love hiking and walking with us—and the processed foods keep them from doing exactly that.

Model real, whole food eating as a parent.

     Sometimes, you just have to say no.

One pediatrician I trained with always told parents, “If they’re told ‘no’ at 2, they’ll accept it at 16.”

I’ll tell you, once Halloween hits, the sugar bliss doesn’t want to stop until after Easter. I’ve seen the effects of all that stuff on your skin, stomachs, and noses. Sometimes, I have to be the meanie and say no.

Realize that even “healthy” things aren’t healthy for all people.

Food sensitivities are everywhere. For some, dairy is very health-promoting; for others, it flares up asthma. For some, whole grains lead to great energy; for others, grains, including whole grains, lead to listlessness and headaches. Sometimes, a parent will tend to think that how they eat is best, which may not actually be best for everyone, including their children. You know that I have a daughter who thrives on meat. I have another who doesn’t. Forcing one into one pattern and the other into another pattern could be highly detrimental to your lifelong eating patterns and health. Best to encourage you all to keep it real, not processed, and as fresh as possible, with awareness of food sensitivities.

     Teach what you know in the kitchen about cooking and actually talk about nutrition.

Life is not about food. It’s about living with your whole heart.

Love,

Mom

 

When Homeschooling Goes Bad

sign_slow_15_mph_000_0080Is your homeschool havin’ a bad, bad day? Every day? I’m not going to say it’s okay or that you should just be calm and relax about it. I don’t relax much about anything. Ha! No way! I’m a constant problem solver.

But I am going to say, “You’re not alone!” Oooh, doesn’t that feel nice? You’re not alone! I’ve had my share of bad homeschooling days. All of last year was a bad homeschooling dream. I remember Googling homeschooling blogs to see what other moms did when they had a toddler underfoot. What I walked away with was, “It’s okay, Sugar. Your kids will learn. Being together, happily singing, babysitting, and doing housework is more important than fretting.”

Just like I can’t sit with too many bad homeschooling days, neither can I chill like that. Here’s my top five suggestions for dealing with a homeschool gone bad.

1. Change up the curriculum: It’s not “the best” curriculum, but it works for us.

Who has TIME to use Susan Wise Bauer’s First Language Lessons? Or Charlotte Mason’s “living books” idea to teach?  I think it was another life (the vision is cloudy, but more like ten lives ago, actually) when I cozied up on the couch with two little angels (er, maybe it was another universe) flanking me on either side to read aloud. Twenty lives ago we used to cut and paste crafts and lapbooks. Maybe that wasn’t me at all! Maybe that was some pretty dream I had thirty lives ago!

With four kids, our curriculum needs have changed. Whether I like it or not, whether the kids like it or not, we have to move towards each child, young ones included (you should see our baby clean toilets!), doing more independent work. I feel like some of my homeschooling ideals have been compromised because I teach less, but since my top ideal is a lifelong love of learning, we’re safe. That’s intact.

I’ve had to mostly ditch my self-designed, teacher led spelling curriculum for my third daughter, who is an exceptionally motivated young student. My choice? An Evan Moore spelling workbook. Is it “the best” workbook? No. Is it “the best” spelling program? No. Will she be a fine speller? Yes. And I don’t have time to do all that spelling jazz, nor does she need me to.

We’ve ditched Institute for Excellence in Writing for a time, maybe a very long time. I just couldn’t get read up on the lessons anymore to assign them their work. So I found some journal writing prompts on-line and now they write these several times a week, while I check it for grammar. It’s my Institute for Sanity in Writing.  (Interestingly enough, this has been lots of fun! Their creativity has taken off, and they often let me be privy to some very deep, personal thoughts and dreams!)

Other things I’ve done in our curriculum include: not trying to do too much grammar and writing at the same time, taking breaks from Saxon math for focused worksheets, covering less subjects at a time.

2. Put your third hand down: The phone. The phone. The phone is on fire.

The phone. The phone. The phone. You know it. I know it. We’re both looking sheepish. The phone must go. Set it on “do not disturb” and check it at set times each day. Yes, it feels good to be needed. It is fun to get hot news off the press. Heart lifting to hear from an old friend. But I’m pretty sure the phone has killed more grooving homeschool lessons than there are dust mites in my pillow. (That’s a lot. Since we have allergies, we use dust mite protective cases, wash them on sanitize, and dry them on hot. Unrelated. Sorry. My husband says I always share too much information…but maybe it will help you?)

3. Schedule appointments in the afternoon: “No. I can’t come to that appointment! Do you have a three o’clock?”

I’ve finally accepted that any appointments need to be in the afternoon. That was bitter for me to swallow, because I like to get the early appointments when the doctor may still be on schedule. I thought by getting the appointment in the morning, we’d get it over with and school would rock on. It never happened that way. I’ve found it best to keep our morning schedule (that’s when we do “the hard stuff”) the same and fiddle with the afternoon schedule. School goes well that way, and we get our appointments in.

4. Find some childcare or housework help: “Get the baby off the top of the refrigerator!”

Last year, I struggled through the year with a toddler. It was not a new experience for me. I have four kids; I’ve taught with a toddler underfoot before! Of course, I didn’t like it then either, BUT at least then I was not trying to teach algebra, long division, and more advanced writing skills.

My toddler can be so loud and obstinate when she knows what she wants. And she wanted her sisters! This didn’t work well for my distractible child, who couldn’t focus with the toddler’s screaming, or my bleeding heart child, who hated to hear the screaming from the pack-and-play (where the toddler goes when she won’t stop fussing). I just couldn’t win.

It wasn’t working. Not for me. Not for the kids. Not for the toddler. So I got help this school year. I know we can’t all afford help, but any help will do. If you can find a way for someone to keep the toddler busy so you can teach the others for even an hour without an interruption, you’ll feel so much better! A woman from church? Another homeschooling pre-teen? Swapping kids back and forth with a homeschooling friend; she takes your littles one day so you can teach the bigs and vice versa. Or even having someone come in and do a load of laundry for you or prep some meals.

With the help, our school is feeling nice again. I actually have time to print off some worksheets from the internet. I have time to write down a lesson plan. I have time to drill flashcards. If you can, get help. Then, you can breathe. Breathing helps. Breathing is good. Trust me. (And here you’ve been wondering why you’d been feeling so bad… 🙂 )

5. Get some real help: You can’t do it alone and there’s a lot at stake!

Sometimes, more than you need help with laundry or impetuous, climbing, dangerous-to-themselves toddlers, you need help understanding and relating to one of your emerging older children. The anger outbursts, the seemingly laziness, the insolence–it’s overwhelming you and completely impeding learning. (Read here and here and here for my take on dealing with adolescents. Oh, and here when they say they hate you…)

Sure, sending them away to school is an option. It’s the option of least resistance, which does NOTHING to change coping mechanisms that are being set FOR LIFE.  Or does nothing to change your mechanisms which have been set and need changed so your family can live harmoniously together. As much as we like our friends and we need them, it is the family unit which all so much crave to have intact and at peace.

Don’t be afraid to get professional counsel. Alcoholics, borderlines, depressives, manic depressives, abusive adults—they don’t happen overnight. They happen with the pressures of life. Give yourself and your kids a chance to learn new coping skills when you see they’re needed. Ask a pastor or counselor for professional help!

Conclusion

You can do it! I ran out of time for more, but leave your best tips in the comments for others to learn from!

And also, if you decide you simply can’t do it, then don’t be silly and beat yourself up! There are tons of things you can do that I can’t! It’s what makes life fun! Do your best and learn when to let go! Now, go hug your kids today. Mine are milling in the kitchen, so I’m off this box!

Terri

Image credit: This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Betacommand. Found on Wikipedia.