Five Baby Steps To Getting The Family Outdoors

We all know by now how important time spent in nature is for our health, and especially the health of our growing children. Not only is fresh air and exercise essential for healthy bodies, more and more studies are linking time in nature with mental and emotional health.

Unfortunately getting out is one of those things we often strongly believe in, and yet don’t quite manage to do. I know. The commute is killing your evenings, and soccer is eating up your Saturdays. You don‘t know where to go, and when you get there the kids melt down. Then there’s the mess when you get home.

I had all those same issues keeping us from getting out as often as we knew we should. Finally I had to decide that getting outside was as essential as food and water and build bridges over the hurdles keeping us from making it happen.

1. Clear Time

We are in a over-scheduled season at the moment and it is making outdoor time harder to accomplish. For future planning purposes I intend to keep each kid to one activity at a time, and be very selective about my volunteer time. But for now one thing I’ve done to get us out is to make a morning walk part of our homeschool checklist. That way even if we can’t clear time later in the day, we’ve had some fresh air and a bit of nature first thing after morning chores. It’s not quite enough time for my taste, but it’s better than an hour in front of a screen any day.

2. Gear Up

As the old saying goes, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes”. Last winter I gave up trying to squeeze into my old snow gear and finally bought the right size. Suddenly taking the kids out sledding didn’t seem like such a chore. Having the right gear for whatever Mother Nature throws at you will keep you comfortable and enjoying your outdoor time much longer. At a minimum you’ll want to dress in layers, wear sturdy shoes, and a carry a backpack for snacks, water and a first aid kit.

When it comes to sporting goods, I’d recommend renting gear for your first season so that you can decide whether the new activity is going to stick before you shell out your hard-earned money.

3. Pair Up

If you don’t live in an area with easily accessible open spaces it may be that you are uncomfortable getting out because you are unsure where to go, and when you do get out you are on unfamiliar turf. It can be helpful to find an outdoorsy friend to show you the ropes until you get your legs under you. Another option is to join a nature study group or an outdoor education club such as Scouts or Camp Fire. If there is cell coverage where you venture, bringing a phone can also give you a sense of security.

4. Start Small

If you’re new to getting outdoors with the family you won’t want to jump right in with a full-on hike in the woods. Instead find an out-of-the-way corner in a nearby park, and ease into the dirt, bugs, and weather with short initial visits. As you get more comfortable being outdoors you can try a short jaunt to a good picnic spot, and then a day hike before taking on longer treks, or over-nighters.

5. Just Be

When you’re decompressing from a hyper-scheduled lifestyle it can feel like you should be doing something at all times. For that reason it may be good to have a scavenger hunt or a nature journal with you for your first few visits to the woods, especially if you are bringing children who are accustomed to fully regimented days. But part of nature’s wonder is the peace it can bring when you are able to let go and just be. Eventually you’ll find yourself ditching the crutches and letting your senses fully engage with the sights, smells and sounds surrounding you, while the kids get engrossed in watching bugs or clouds.

Getting out isn’t always easy, but I’m more and more convinced its absolutely essential. Taking these baby-steps will get you on the path to more time outdoors and all the good it can do for your mind, body and spirit.

For those who already regularly get out, what baby steps would you add?

To The Twenty-Something In A Thong Bikini

Free Stock Photos for Blogs at picxclicx

Hi there. I’m a homeschool mom. I haven’t quite gone over to the denim jumper side, but I’m pretty modest. I think it’s more a mom thing than a homeschool mom thing. I only bring up clothes because I took my kids to the water park the other day to commemorate the end of summer, and take advantage of the short lines, since public school started backup. While we were there I noticed my kids snickering at something, and following their gaze I saw you. I saw a lot of you.

Oh. My. Gosh. Becky!

I have to admit my first instinct was to put on my McJudgy britches and look down my nose at your complete lack of modesty, or at least join my children in giggling at your naked buttocks. And I also have to admit that if you had been Brazilian Butt Lift perfect, or airbrushed clean of any hint of cellulite, I probably wouldn’t have resisted the urge to scoff at you. That is a failure of my character, and I’m working on it.

But you weren’t bikini model perfect. Don’t get me wrong. You have a better body than my mirror has seen in the last decade. Still, I could tell you don’t deny yourself the occasional carbohydrate. Maybe your desk job has taken a little toll on your figure. But there you were. Wearing whatever-the-heck you wanted, and not worrying about a few extra pounds. You were laughing and splashing with your friends. I even saw you eat ice cream, and you didn’t seem worried about it.

You were so confident!

Now I have never been one to let my weight dictate how much fun I’m going to have. Life is too short for that. So I’ll jiggle my thighs all around the water park, plop down in the wading pool with my two year old, and eat the damn ice cream too. But I do think it bears mentioning that I do this while brushing aside worries about how I look and wearing a bathing suit that is basically a dress with a built in girdle.

Physically that bathing suit is not what I would call comfort wear. It actually feels a bit like steel-plated armor. But it is emotionally comfortable. I don’t know if that’s a good thing.

I remember being you.

I remember a trip to Hawaii, in my late twenties. We didn’t have kids yet, but I had put on weight and certainly wasn’t an airbrushed looking 19 year old anymore. But I wasn’t going to go to Hawaii and NOT wear a bikini! In fact I bought two new ones just for the trip. I wore them pretty much the whole time. I climbed up a waterfall confident of my body in a stringy blue slingshot I called a bathing suit.

Where is that girl? I haven’t seen, or even thought about her in ages.

She got buried in mundane tasks, and heavy decisions, and big ol’ cotton granny panties.

You reminded me of her.

Of myself.

A self I need to find again.

So I want to thank you. Thank you for reminding me that, while I’m doing okay in the fun department, I need to be a little kinder to myself in the confidence department.

Motherhood has changed my modesty settings. I’ll probably never wear a bikini again. But I am definitely going to loosen the ratchet straps on the girdle of my soul.

All because you wore a thong bikini to the water park.

The Prayer That Changed My Life

When each of my first two babies (not babies anymore, but my babies still) was new, in those sleepless, bleary-eyed first months I would lay awake at night, listening to my husband snore, and eyeing the baby monitor, suspicious of it’s silence.  Exhausted, barely managing to breastfeed, self-feed, and generally function as a human, I would lay awake and pray the same prayer every night, over and over and over.  Read More at Her View From Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homeschool expenses 2017/2018

This is less a blog post than a list I’m keeping for my own information. But it may be useful as encouragement for those of you who either want to homeschool and think it will be too expensive, or are homeschooling and wondering where all the money is going.

It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, thanks to hardworking homeschool parents who have gone before (such as the lovely Ambleside Online advisary) and are willing to share what they have pulled together and make it available FREE online for you and I.

As I make purchases I’ll add them here and tally it all up when we finish next spring.

I haven’t included the cost of any materials we are carrying over from last year. There are quite a few, and I don’t want to do the math. As each expense comes up I’ll just count it to the year we bought it.

I also won’t include any activities or services we would have paid for even if they had been in public school. So while gymnastics, internet, and the reading tutor definitely count toward their education, I don’t consider them homeschool-specific expenses.

2017-2018

Art Study Prints…………………………….$7.72
Joan of Arc, Diane Stanley…………….$6.00
Handbook of Nature Study…………..$24.8
AO Year 2 Poetry Anthology…………$2.99

Big Spender!!  Let’s see how much damage I can do buying spiral notebooks at the back to school sales!

How I Plan For A Year Of Homeschool

Oleanders and Books, Vincent Van Gogh Image courtesy of Wiki Art

Can you believe it’s already July? I can. I’m about done with Summer to be honest.

We finished our 16/17 school year way back in May, and the lack of structure is starting to get to me. Thank goodness I plan to start us back to school August 1.

I originally intended to do a modified year-round schedule wherein we would school six weeks on/one week off and take the entire month of July as well as six-ish weeks off from Thanksgiving to the New Year. But since the girls were itching to start school early last year, and then we also forgot to take a couple of our scheduled weeks off (which I think speaks volumes about this lifestyle…we forgot to take a break from school…more than once…chew on that a minute)  we finished early this spring, which led to us having extra weeks off in early summer. (Although we’re still doing reading and Math…shhh, don’t tell the kids it counts as school…suckers!) It hasn’t been as structured as I need for my sanity though, so I think it’s time to ease us back into a Charlotte Mason Summer schedule, and then start back to AO in full force August 1.

That means it’s time for Mama to start planning and get some ducks in a row.

The first thing I do is set the dates for our school year.  I like printing free year at a glance calendars from Anny Studio for this.  I start at Thanksgiving and count back six weeks, then cross the 7th week off for a scheduled break.  Then I count back another six, cross one off and so on until I get to August 1.  Then I go to the New Year and count forward six weeks, cross one off etc. until I get to July.  Sometimes it works out to not quite six week intervals, but that’s okay as long as you get your 36 weeks in all.  (Or however many your state requires–find out here.)  We ended up with 37 scheduled last year, which gave us plenty of wiggle room.  Joy of homeschool in Washington State–we don’t have to report our schedule, so as long as it works out in the end I don’t worry too much about shifting dates, or taking time off as needed.

We follow Ambleside Online for our spine curriculum, so my next step is to print the book list and 36 week schedule for the year.  AO years don’t necessarily correlate with public school grades, so at this point I’ve chosen to keep my girls in the same year.  They still do Math and Language Arts at their own level.  More about that later.

Next I go over the book list and see what I need to buy.  Ambleside uses public domain books as much as possible.  Many are available free for Kindle, or as e-texts from Project Gutenberg, or audio books at Librivox.  They also provide alternative suggestions for the books that must be purchased.  Between what we already had on hand, and what I was able to get for Kindle, I will only need to purchase three books for the upcoming year!  I do prefer “real” books over ebooks, so I am always keeping my eyes open for quality hard copies of the Kindle books.

At this time I also take a look at Ambleside’s composer, hymns, folksongs, and artist studies for the upcoming year, so I can have prints made (public domain images can be printed on card stock by Walgreen’s or Office Depot very inexpensively) and create or find youtube and prime music playlists, and decide if I want to sub anything out.  I make note of these right on my 36 week schedule so that I don’t have to keep looking up what I’m supposed to be singing/looking at each term.

I feel like we floundered a bit with Math last year, mainly because I couldn’t decide on a curriculum.  I wanted something not too teacher intensive, like Teaching Textbooks, but the cheapo in me couldn’t spend the money for it.  We tried, Moby, and Kahn Academy (both free) but I didn’t feel like either of those was linear enough.  The girls would do their work each day, but the progress graph never seemed to change, so I was never sure if they were making any progress.  With a workbook, they bring it to me, we go over whatever might be incorrect and I can physically see where they are.  But I keep hearing such wonderful things about Khan Academy that I am giving it another trial for summer, just to rule out the possibility that the problem with it wasn’t my own lack of understanding on how it is set up.  This year I will likely get them some basic grade level workbooks and also use Khan Academy as a supplement/evaluation tool.

I’m also considering pre-planning this year’s copy work (This is the beginning of language arts in a Charlotte Mason style education) and scripture memorization, so that I don’t have to come up with those as we’re going along.  Last year we did it off the cuff, choosing whatever we liked best from what we were reading, or looking up inspirational quotes and scriptures.

Finally I plug everything into a Course of Study, to be sure I’ve got all my bases covered.  This wouldn’t really be necessary if one were to purchase a complete open and go curriculum, but since I’m pulling resources from several places, I like to lay it all out in one place so I can see how I’m meeting each of my states eleven required subjects.

Now all that’s left is daily and weekly planning.  For this I simply take 5 minutes each Sunday to look at the week ahead’s scheduled readings, as well as a look at any appointments etc.  I put a M, T, W, TH next to each reading selection, two or three each day. Again, I just scribble right on the 36 week schedule.  For Math we just do the next thing, so I don’t pre-plan that with the exception of giving errand days lighter workloads.  I leave Friday open for catch up, field trips, Nature walks etc.  This works well because the kids feel like we don’t have school on Friday, but I know that what we’re doing “counts”.  Once that’s done I just sit down each evening and write out a checklist including the next day’s chores, reading, math and copy work for each kid in her spiral notebook.  I leave these on the kitchen table with sharp pencils so they are ready to go first thing in the morning.  I really liked having most of the written work all in one place last year.  Minimal paper-clutter that way.  The notebook checklist also allows the kids to be largely self-directed in case I need to be out of the house or otherwise busy.  I wrote about our average day here.

That’s it!

Reading back through all that it sure seems like it would be easier to open a box and do the next page of the workbook, but that’s just not my style!  If I wanted to follow someone else’s plan to a T they’d be in public school.  😉

Are you doing any planning, dreaming or scheming for the upcoming school year?

 

The Dark Side of Homeschooling: 3 Things Nobody Is Talking About

Homeschooling isn’t really a new sensational thing anymore. It’s almost mainstream. Everyone knows someone who homeschools.

Look, you don’t need me to tell you about all the wonderful benefits of individualized education, more family time, or marching to your own drum.

You need me to tell you what can go wrong.

What?!!

That’s right.  It’s not all lap books and tea time over here.

There are some real issues starting to crop up as we finish our first year of homeschooling, and they’re things NOBODY told me.  I never read a single word about this dark underbelly of the homeschool movement.

I won’t keep you in suspense any more.

Personal Hygiene has hit an all-time low.  

This goes way beyond doing school in our pajamas, and BO.  I was pretty surprised that my oldest had a couple cavities at our most recent dental visit.  But after some thought I totally know why it happened.  We don’t get ready in the morning.  Brushing teeth, washing faces, combing hair, were all part of the “getting ready to leave the house” routine.  And now we don’t get ready to leave the house until late in the day, if at all.  So here I sit in the same ratty sweats that I sweated in yesterday, nursing another cup of coffee instead of brushing my teeth to head out the door, and I don’t even know where the hairbrush is.  The kids do the same.  Yikes.

All the clothes have become play clothes.

This follows the hygiene issue.  We decided to go to church a few Sundays back and sadly discovered nobody had anything really appropriate to wear.  Thank goodness we attend a come-as-you-are church.  (I was brought up with Sunday Best, so that’s hard for me, but now I’m starting to warm up to it.) When you rarely go anywhere fancier than the grocery store or sports, (which solve their own clothes issues with gear/uniforms) it’s so easy to overlook how the kids clothes are looking slightly too small and dingy if not outright ruined.  And my best sweats are about to blow out.

We are using, like, quadruple the amount of toilet paper.  

No joke, and the youngest one isn’t even wiping consistently.  I don’t know how often the kids were visiting the restroom when they were in public school, but if toilet paper usage is an indicator it was a lot.  No wonder public schools need more money.

You know what, though?  It’s worth it.  

Even with the warts exposed, homeschooling has been a great fit for us so far.  The grooming issues are just things were going to have to add to our daily check list going forward, and the toilet paper usage is something I’ll just have to allow for.  Goodness knows I wouldn’t have them cut back.  I don’t need another laundry issue.  😉

If you homeschool, what is the dark side for you?

 

Mother Culture Monday #5

Finding Time

How about writing the final post in my Mother Culture Monday Series a week late at 7:40 pm?  Sounds like someone has her act together, huh?

Honestly, that is exactly the point.  It’s EASY to let little demands and big demands, (even joyful demands on time are demands) get in the way of taking time to grow our own bodies, minds, and souls.  As I’m writing this, I’ve already stopped twice to read to my two year old.  If we are deliberate about taking time when we can, all the little times we can’t take a break won’t stack up and weigh us down.

I know there are a LOT of those little things waiting in line, and it can be hard to put them on the back burner, indeed some things simply CAN’T be set aside for later.  (insert 20 minute break to put the kiddos to bed) 

Here are a few suggestions for finding time to read, think, pray, exercise or whatever it is you need to be your healthiest, and incidentally most effective, self:

CAUTION: You will be tempted to use the time you carve out to catch up on chores.  Unless the chores being undone causes you physical distress, DO NOT use this time for laundry, dishes, or cleaning out the closets, or at least do so extremely sparingly, and only in preparation for actually being able to relax next time.  

  • Set a bedtime for your kiddos.  Make it one to two hours before you are ready to drop dead, and guard it fiercely.
  • Enforce a daily quiet hour/nap.  (My big kids read, sleep, daydream, or pray, the baby naps)
  • Instead of raptly watching your little athlete at practice, either take a walk, a class of your own, or just read in the waiting room.  (Honestly I’d feel bad about this one except that the waiting area in my kid’s gym has a terrible view of the gym floor, so even if I watched I’d only be catching glimpses of my budding gymnast.)
  • Swap half an hour a day (or two hours a week—whatever you can manage) with a neighbor mom.
  • Send big kids out to play.  My Bigs were shocked last summer when I told them to explore the neighborhood for half an hour while the baby napped.
  • Send the kiddos out for a walk with Dad.
  • Take Grandma up on the offer of an afternoon off.
  • Set up a safe play area where you can let the kids play while you are nearby, but not necessarily “watching”.
  • Hire a teenage Mother’s Helper to entertain the kids for an hour while you read or soak in a bubble bath (or both!)
  • Get your family on a routine, so that they aren’t shocked by your daily “Mother Culture Minute”, but stay flexible and willing to snatch a minute when the opportunity arises.

Thanks for taking time to read and ponder Mother Culture with me.  I hope this series has got you on the path to taking better care of yourself, as a soul, as a human, as a woman, and as a mother.

What would you add?  Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, or catch up with me on Facebook.

 

 

 

Mother Culture Monday #4

Can I be honest for a minute? I’m having a hard time replacing “time wasting” with Mother Culture. But that is exactly WHY I need to be more deliberate. The nature of my time wasting habits (internet/facebook) is definitely making my brain dull. I don’t want a dull brain. Today I took the proactive step of removing email and facebook from my tablet, so that when I’m using it for a legitimate reason (homeschool math, reading kindle books to the kids, playing music) I don’t get distracted by the time-wasters. This way I’m not bringing the distractions with me when I step away from my desk, and into my role as a human and mother.

Now, onto our final definition for (Mother) culture from Merriam-Webster.

5
a : the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations
b : the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life} shared by people in a place or time popular culture
c : the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization
d : the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic

That is a lot to chew on.  There are so many ways to be a mother, and more yet, to be a “good” mother.  I suppose for the purpose of our discussion we can default to those things which all mothers have in common; The Culture of Motherhood.

Get a group of mothers together, no matter what religion, socioeconomic status, or nationality and you’ll find that we all desire that our children be healthy, well adjusted, and smart.  We all hope our children know how much we love them.  We all hope our children will grow into respectable adults.  We are all trying hard, and we all worry we’re falling short.

We may speak different languages but we’re saying the same things:

Quit pulling your sister’s hair!

Brush your teeth!

Eat your veggies!

I love you!

Isn’t that idea kind of edifying?  You are not alone, and that “pinterest perfect” mom at story hour, is probably just as tired and insecure as you are.  Perhaps you could strike up a conversation.

Having a good group of Mothers to fellowship with does MUCH for the mother’s soul.  Whether its your own mother, your sisters or a local mom’s group, I can’t say enough good things for spending time with other mothers, hearing their stories and sharing yours.  I know that I always walk away from visits with other mothers with a full cup.  I hope that I can fill theirs in return.

The one caveat to all this motherly fellowship is that you need to be sure not to compare, and critique yourself too harshly against mothers who appear to be doing it better.  In truth they may be have it all together today, but maybe yesterday their kids had frosting sandwiches for lunch, (points to self).  Do borrow the good ideas other moms share with you, but don’t use another mother’s public persona as a checklist for your failings.

You are the mother your children need.

 

Well, I’m all out of Mother Culture definitions for you, and I think by now we’ve all had a good chance to mull over what it means and how it can help in each of our homes.  Next week I’ll move on to some nuts and bolts of how I get a few minutes to grow myself each day, even with a busy toddler in the house.

 

 

Mother Culture Monday #3

Welcome to Mother Culture Monday #3

How did you do carving out a few minutes for yourself this past week?

I did some time wasting, but for future reference, I’d like to be more intentional about my “Mother Culture Minute” and do something that really feeds me. The goal here is to do something to grow on, not just to take a break and space out, or worse yet, put energy into something that isn’t a benefit to some aspect of your being. (ahem…I will be the first to admit I have a little Facebook problem, which does have some benefits, but is mostly just a drain on time and energy)

Let’s take a peek at Merriam-Webster’s third and fourth definitions of “Culture”.

3. expert care and training (beauty culture)

4. enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by intellectual and aesthetic training :  acquaintance with and taste in fine arts, humanities, and broad aspects of science as distinguished from vocational and technical skills (a person of culture)

The word “training” comes up more than once.  I take that to mean that culture can refer to education.  In this case it can be self-education via reading, listening to lectures, practicing new skills, or for those of us who are really good at carving out time, taking a class.

What specifically should we be reading, listening to and practicing?  Well that depends on your lifestyle, and values, but here are some thoughts.

“The mother cannot devote herself too much to this kind of reading, not only that she may read tit-bits to her children about matters they have come across, but that she may be able to answer their queries and direct their observations. ”  Charlotte Mason

The above quote is in reference to Nature Studies, (which I highly recommend even if you are not pursuing a strictly CM education for your children) but I think it can be applied across the spectrum of your family’s interests.  To paraphrase Miss Mason, your children will adore you for knowing what they want to know.

“The wisest woman I ever knew–the best wife, the best mother, the best mistress, the best friend–told me once, when I asked her how, with her weak health and many calls upon her time, she managed to read so much, “I always keep three books going–a stiff book, a moderately easy book, and a novel, and I always take up the one I feel fit for!” That is the secret; always have something “going” to grow by. If we mothers were all “growing” there would be less going astray among our boys, less separation in mind from our girls.”     The Parents Review Vol, 3 no. 2

I think it’s important to not only read and practice things that fill our “Mothering Toolbox”, but also things that fill our own cups.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Read scripture
  • Read inspirational fiction
  • Read inspirational non-fiction or biographies
  • Take up a handicraft in which you make something beautiful
  • Write in a journal
  • Write REAL letters to friends
  • Garden
  • Exercise
  • Prayer and meditation

As to reading, one note for myself is that I want to lean back toward hard copies rather than Kindle versions.  The feel and smell of a real book adds to the experience for me, aside from the dubious effect of too much screen time.

What will you do to fill your cup this week?