Introverted Unschooling

Introverted Unschooling

It’s not that we don’t enjoy visiting and going out, we do, it’s just that we enjoy staying at home too.
Late morning and my 9 year old is reading a novel beside me on the couch and my 6 and 3 year old are playing quietly in the play area with the marble run. The 4 week old is sleeping on my chest and I’m typing this out on my phone. A bit earlier the 3 bigger boys went outside while I sat on the couch with a sleeping newborn listening to podcasts (this position is the one I hold most of the time lately). The afternoon will probably look very similar, though I’ll get a nap in and maybe finish folding that basket of laundry I started with yesterday.

 

Our trips outside the home this week included about an hour to town for a chiropractor appointment for me and visiting friends Friday morning. That’s truly it. We didn’t go to church last Sunday and didn’t need to do groceries this week. We don’t have classes or co-ops or more than one playdate per week. And our home is filled with an incredible peace.

We don’t have classes or co-ops or more playdates. And our home is filled with an incredible peace.

Jamie from Simple Homeschool wrote a great post with 15 resolutions for being an introverted homeschool mom that I printed out at still refer to regularly. Her third resolution is about honoring the person God created you to be. I think that unschooling lends itself well to being an introvert because I don’t need to pressure my kids to do things and my main job is to facilitate and observe. My role is to learn about my children so I can parent them in the way that they need.

What is one thing that have been adding to your or your children’s schedule because you feel you “should” be doing it? Are you brave enough to let it go?

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Unschooling Reading Resources

Unschooling Reading Resources

I’m always on the lookout for good unschooling reading resources. The big question to consider when strewing any resources is how do your kids learn? I’ll be upfront and say that I do very little actual teaching to read and my biggest role was to offer the boys opportunities to learn and then sit back to let them choose what works best for them.

My three older sons all learned their letters and letter sounds around two. (The newborn obviously isn’t reading yet.) My eldest started reading just before his 7th birthday and now, 2 years later, is reading far above grade level. My second son, age 6, is reading some words and, if he decides to sit and practice more regularly, will be well on his way to above grade levels within the next year. My 3 year old is practicing writing letters and pretending to read by sounding out words.

These are some of our favorite reading resources:

Letter Factory DVD

Tad the frog goes to the Letter Factory and Professor Quigley lets him sit in on the lessons as the talking letters learn their sounds. My boys have all loved the characters and Leap Frog has done a fantastic job in making each letter and sound memorable. For example, a “monster” walks into the “A Room” and all the little A’s scream “Aaahh!!!”. Don’t worry, it isn’t a scary monster, just the professor in a fuzzy purple costume. The “P Room” is always a favorite as the P says “P” and pops like popcorn. I recommend this to every mama (or grandma) that I know who wants to introduce their child to letters in a fun way.

Letter Factory Flashcards

We bought the DVD and Flashcards as a bundle and these cards have been played with a ton over the last 8 years. They’ve seen better days but, by some miracle, we have managed to keep all 26 together. The kids love to ask their littlest brother what each letter says and the older two build words and ask each other to guess which word it is. The only downside with word-building is that we only have one of each letter, which limits the amount of words. But they are still a great tool to introduce letters and beginner reading.

Talking Words Factory

(Can you tell that we love Leap Frog? They didn’t even need to pay me for this.) This show came with our initial purchased bundle and shows the Leap, Lily, and Tad going to the Talking Words Factory. I think some of the talking letters must graduate to this factory because it is all the loved letters from the previous show, except this time they go through the “word whammer” and get stuck together, along with the icky, sticky letters (vowels). This is the movie that has gotten both of my older boys interested in building words and all I have to do is hit “play” while I’m making dinner.

The big question to consider when strewing any resources is how do your kids learn?

Originator Apps

These Apps are available for Android and iPhone. We have installed Endless Alphabet (vocabulary words), Endless Reader (sight words), Endless Wordplay (spelling/word building), and Endless Numbers (counting and early arithmetic). The Android version (not sure about the Apple store version) has a few words or levels as a free sample and then you can buy the rest as packages. As of this post, I have not purchased any of the expansion packs for three reasons: I can’t figure out which app I should buy an expansion on (which one the kids would get the most out of), I don’t know if the expansion packs will work with my Google account or if I will have to purchase the pack separately for each tablet. They aren’t cheap, if you move beyond the free versions, but the letters and words make fun sounds and are simple enough for even my toddler to drag and drop. Plus it is really cute to watch my 3 year old kinesthetic learner imitate the goofy motions of the letters!

Reading Eggs

We started out with the free 4 week trial that they offer new users. Then got an email to extend the trial for two weeks… then another few emails. We ended up getting quite a bit of free time playing this game. The boys ended up liking it so much that I bought a subscription. The jist is that the child does a lesson full of games and catchy songs and fun characters to guide them, and then they get to hatch an egg with an animal in it (or they hatch an acorn if they are doing a Mathseed). They boys love figuring out which animal they will  get at the end of the lesson and get excited every 5 lessons when they get a new map.

 

My eldest had issues with the timed lessons so I often sat beside him to turn off the ticking sound and would cover up the timer and tell him we would just practice a few times. He now realizes that the timer is irrelevant and he has learned to turn off the sound and ignore the visual. A great lesson for him to learn how relax enough to think under pressure.

 

I like that it lets you redo the game as many times as they like, though some of those silly songs from lessons the boys did a couple years ago are still stuck in my head! (1,2,3,4,5, once I caught a fish alive. 6,7,8,9,10, then I let it go again.) I have also figured out how to skip lessons (hint: change the lesson or map number in the address bar of the browser) which comes in handy when some of the buttons are too small to hit or my son really understands the info and just wants to move on.

 

My eldest has finished all the maps in Mathseeds and Reading Eggs and isn’t interested in Reading Eggspress (too much boring reading and questions is what he decided). My 6 year old loves to cruise through 4-5 lessons in one sitting and then doesn’t touch it for a couple weeks. I don’t force him to sit down but I did put a box on his sticker chart. He does his “morning high-5” and then gets to hatch an egg or seed. Again, I’m not super strict about it and give him the option to do it or not. He often decides that he wants to and I have learned to be okay when he doesn’t.

 

Books, books, and more books

The final resource that has helped my kids with learning and loving to read is to surround ourselves with books. I’m partial to non-fiction books with lots of vivid pictured but I do keep a good stock of quality fiction stories around too. My husband reads a chapter of a read-a-loud every night and I read a lot, both for myself and with them, so reading is just a normal part of their lives. My 9 year old has even started reading a bedtime story to his brothers every evening. I know that the library is ideal for getting fresh books but I love to get books from the thrift store to fill our own shelves. They are super cheap and then the kids can read them over and over again. I also often have a book on hand regarding whatever topic they’re interested in. They don’t have to wait until we make a trip to the library and can delve into that book for however long they want. (Though I have noticed I have a gap in my home library when it comes to geology. Guess I need to make a trip to the thrift store soon, yay!) Sometimes they pull a book of the shelves and get interested in a new topic that way. While I agree that libraries are handy, they do not replace a home library.

As you can see, we love both technology as well as old fashioned paperbacks when it comes to reading. We don’t do phonics lessons, or forced reading assignments and probably never will (unless a child asks for it). My goal is for my kids to grow up thinking reading is a normal part of every day life. We love Leap Frog and also purchased a LeapReader Pen and LeapPad a couple months ago. So far they are well loved and I believe they will both contribute to the boys’ growing love of books and reading.

What are your favorite ways to foster a love of reading in your children? In yourself?

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6 Tips for Surviving When You Feel Like You’re Drowning in Motherhood

6 Tips for Surviving When You Feel Like You’re Drowning in Motherhood

Exhausted, brain not thinking clearly, no time or energy to do much of anything so you’re overwhelmed and behind. Parenting is sometimes like that, isnt it? Sometimes it is because of a round of sickness, sometimes it is a season of busyness, maybe it is cabin fever after a bout of bad weather. For me right now it is a newborn.
Those on my email newsletter or who follow me on Twitter may have read my announcement that our fourth son entered the world just over a week ago. As I type this out, he is sleeping in my arms as I sit on my couch. Other than getting up to change a diaper or get a cup of milk for the 3 year old, I have been doing next to nothing since he was born. By noon my brain has turned to mush and having a complete intelligent thought is nearly impossible. (I don’t think I was ever this bad with the others!)  I felt like I was in a similar position after a round of a stomach virus hit us last winter.

By noon my brain has turned to mush and having a complete intelligent thought is nearly impossible.

Here are some tips for surviving when you feel like you’re drowning in motherhood:

Stay hydrated

We all know the benefit of drinking enough water yet many of us still have a hard time doing it. Find ways to make it easier on yourself. Set a timer to remind yourself to have a cup every couple of hours, have a big cup first thing in the morning with breakfast and have your regular coffee afterwards, use mason jars or water bottles and commit to when you want to finish them, remember you don’t have to drink just water. (I have fallen in love with the Takeya ThermoFlask Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle. We found it at Costco a few weeks ago and it is everything the description says it is. My husband fills his with ice water every evening when he games and he was totally surprised and impressed when he filled it for the second evening and there was still ice in it from the night before! I try to drink 2 of the 40oz bottles each day, in addition to a coffee, milk, and sometimes tea. Sometimes I throw a lemon wedge in there too.

Sleep

Go to bed early. Nap. It is critical to health and sanity and we all know it. Yet so many moms refuse to do it. I understand you want to have some kid free quiet time in the evening but you’ll find that it doesn’t compare to the sanity gained by an adequate amount of sleep. Napping gets a bit tricky when kids get older and no longer nap but lock the doors, throw on a show or pull out the playdough, and doze on the couch, within earshot. (One of my most popular posts has some more tips on how to survive on interrupted sleep.) Even 20 min of resting your body and mind can be very rejuvenating. My current bedtime is around 9:30pm. Sometimes I go to bed earlier but never later. I sacrifice time with my husband (he does bedtime routines for our older 3 at 8pm and comes back downstairs around 8:20 on non gaming nights) but he and I have been through this stage before and know it is only temporary. Even when I am through the exhausting newborn phase, I still rarely go to bed after 10:30 and set an alarm on my cell phone if I find I’m making excuses to stay up later. And the older boys have learned they are to stay in bed until 7am. The 3 year old sometimes wakes up at 6 but he is still in the side-carred crib, next to my husband, so they snuggle until 7am. Teach them how to read a clock young.

Easy Food

Hit up the frozen meals aisle. I normally prefer to cook from scratch (or mostly scratch anyway) but during this season I’m relying on frozen lasagnas, frozen pizza, canned soup, and easy prep foods and snacks like toast, cereal, yogurt, grilled cheese, noodles, precut veggies, and bananas. Even my 3 year old can prepare himself a simple breakfast and my older two can start the oven and pop a meal in. I’ve also been blessed with an amazing church family and friends who have dropped meals for us.

Maintain Peace

Sometimes this means allowing your 3 year old to have a chocolate chip cookie during breakfast. This may mean using technology more than normal. Or using it less, as it goes in my house. Sending kid to separate rooms for a portion of the day when squabbles get heated. Part of my peace comes in the boys clearing all the toys out of the living room before supper. I have barely looked in the playroom but I breathe a little easier when my main room has some semblance of order after they go to bed.

Housekeeping

Ignore the mess. Truly. Yes, you’ll get behind and yes you’ll feel overwhelmed when you are finally able to catch up but you will catch up, step by step. The only one putting pressure on you is you. All you really need is moderately clean dishes (there are no housekeeping police saying you can use breakfast’s toast dishes for lunch’s grilled cheese and a veggies and dip snack) and moderately clean clothes (no housekeeping police here either so wear the same jeans all week and make your kids do the same and don’t worry about folding and putting away for the time being).

Enlist help

More often than not, our spouses are willing to help out. They just aren’t always good at seeing how much we need or what they can do about it. Let him know you feel like you’re drowning and that you need him to rescue you. And give him bite sized and practical solutions. Don’t say the housework is overwhelming, can you clean the house? Tell him the dishes are stressing you out and can he please fill and run the dishwasher. Or the laundry needs to be switched over, or gathered from bedroom floors and tossed in. And be honest with him (and yourself) about what is most important. If the toilet isn’t bothering you, don’t ask him to clean it. If you still have clean clothes, don’t ask him to do laundry. Kids can do the same. They are often more capable than you give them credit for. Be honest with them about the need to come together as a team to keep the household running.

Some seasons of parenting are harder than others.  There is no way around that. But you also don’t have to drown. So take care of yourself, let go of the housework, and focus on relationships and teamwork within your family. I know that I will get through the newborn hazy days, and I know that you will get through the tough seasons too.

Do you have any other tips to get through the tough seasons? I’d love to add them to my list. I’m sure that there will come a time when all 4 of the boys will get sick at the same time and I’m not looking forward to that!

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Dealing with Worries as a Mother

Dealing with Worries as a Mother

Fevers and illness, daring activities that lead to injuries, potential kidnappings, government interference… there are so many things that we worry about as mothers. It’s so easy to spiral down into those worries and start to panic.

As an INTJ, my typical response to worries is that I make a plan to deal with it and imagine myself coming through the other end. I like to plan out the alternative paths the particular concern could take and my potential responses to it. Usually that helps bring me some peace about the situation and puts things into perspective to remind myself that it isn’t the end of the world and that, no matter what, we’ll make it through to the other side (even if the interim is unpleasant, to say the least).

 

After plotting out all my potential conclusions, I remind myself that my kids are not my own. They belong body and soul to God the Creator. And as much as I love my children, God loves them more. I give them, and all of my worries surrounding them, back to Him and to His master plan for them.

As much as we love our children, God loves them more.

Moments like that are a good reminder that we aren’t in control. Which can be scary but, if you really analyze it, is actually a good thing. You and I don’t know everything that is happening or how everything in this world intertwines to affect each other. It’s a good thing that God does. All knowing and all powerful. It doesn’t mean that things will always make sense to us. It just means that we can trust that He really does know best and have our ultimate best interests at heart. Worrying is a sin. It shows that we lack trust in God’s power and love.

I read a great quote a while back: “We just think we are in the land of the living and that we are going to die, but when we believe in God the opposite is true. We’re in the land of the dying and because of Jesus we’re going to the land of the living. The land where there is no more pain, no more tears, and where we’ll be with Christ for eternity.” (The Kissing Bridge by Tricia Goyer) As Christians, we can find comfort in the fact that this isn’t our world. It’s easier said than done, especially when our worries seem very big and legitimate, but it’s the plain and simple truth.

We act like worrying is a natural part of mothering but worrying is a sin. It shows a lack of trust in God’s love for us and His ultimate power over this world. I need to give my kids back to God every morning and every evening. I had been daily giving my pregnancy and my birth plans to God. A few weeks ago I had a scary incident that resulted in an ambulance ride (for myself, at 35 weeks pregnant) and a couple nights in the hospital. With no answers as to what happened, that’s one I give to God anytime it crosses my mind. I have some chronic health problems that made me worried I wouldn’t be able to hold my baby properly to nurse and cuddle when he arrived (which was 4 days ago, St Patricks Day, by the way. Stay tuned as I plan to share his birth story in the next month). So many things I could dwell on! I’m learning to trust Him more every day. So today, and every day, give your worries to God and trust that He’s got this. I know it’s easier said than done and this is a sin that many of us struggle with on a regular basis.

What worries have you been holding on to lately? Feel free to share them in the comments so we can pray for you. Or just say a prayer right now to give them to God. And give it back to Him every time you find yourself spiraling. Regular prayer time is critical to our walk as Christian mothers.

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How Can Kids Learn About Money Without Allowance?

How Can Kids Learn About Money Without Allowance?

At this point, we don’t give our children allowance. Partially because our budget doesn’t allow for it and partially because we don’t see a need for it.  The most common objection we hear regarding this decision is “But how can  kids learn about money without allowance?”

Before I had my first son, I was in the financial services industry for several years. I taught people how to make and how to save money and sat down with a lot of people to help them figure out budgets and retirement plans. It was right up my alley as I had been tracking my own cashflow from the time I was able to count. I was pretty particular as a child and it seems to have paid off in the long run.

 

My husband began working outside of his family farm when he was about 13 or 14. He borrowed his dad’s quad and worked for various neighbors. He learned quickly the importance of financial planning as he wasn’t the most responsible with the quad and ended up spending a lot of money on repairs. Instead of driving saner (which would have been my first choice) he started saving a portion of his income for quad repairs so he was always prepared. He eventually saved up enough for his own quad and, a couple years later, his own brand new car.

 

When we got married, we had somewhat different outlooks on the final purpose of money (I was more of a hoarder saver and he was more of a spender) but we both understood the importance of budgets and paying bills on time and not spending money you don’t have. We may have been only 19 at the time but we set up our retirement plan and monthly budget within a couple of weeks of our wedding. That attitude has served us well over the years.

Our parents chose to talk about finances when kids were around so we heard a lot of things growing up that helped us understand how money works.

How does this roll into our parenting journey? Dinner table conversations. Our parents chose to talk about finances when kids were around so we heard a lot of things growing up that helped us understand how money works. They talked about which bill to pay when and how to make sure there was enough in the bank at harvest time to pay custom bills. We overheard conversations about whether it was best to continue fixing the old tractor or invest in a new-to-us tractor. Our parents talked about whether it was better to go into debt to invest in livestock which would make the farm money or whether we should wait until we could pay cash.

 

Our kids now hear many of the same conversations. As they become older and more capable, they’ll be invited into the office to help pay bills. They’ll learn how to write cheques, read balance sheets, make budgets and cashflow projections, reconcile bank accounts etc. They’ll also learn the difference between good debt and bad debt and how to figure out when to go into both. They are already around when we meet with accountants and have seen us discuss financials with my parents (whom we farm with). I know that our eldest hears everything because sometimes he asks very specific questions after our business meetings. Just yesterday he sat beside me and asked questions as I went through my weekly financial review.

As someone who has seen the financial state of many young families and the lack of understanding when it come to basic principles of money management, I’m reminding you to please involve your children in your finances from a young age. The best way for them to learn is to witness those principles applied in real life situations. It may feel unnatural to involve your children in something that many feel should be private, so start small. Perhaps they could stuff envelopes at bill paying time. If they are older, you could show them how to pay bills online by letting them read the statement and enter the numbers. Maybe you could put your children in charge of recording expenses. However you start, you will never regret teaching them how household money flows.

Do you have any other tips or stories to share about how kids learn about money without allowance?

Introverted Unschooling

It's not that we don't enjoy visiting and going out, we do, it's just that we enjoy staying at home too. Late morning...

Unschooling Reading Resources

I'm always on the lookout for good unschooling reading resources. The big question to consider when strewing any...

How Can Kids Learn About Money Without Allowance?

At this point, we don't give our children allowance. Partially because our budget doesn't allow for it and partially...

Do We Need a Common Skillset to Live in Society?

  How do you establish a common baseline as what skills are necessary to survive and contribute to society? Also,...

Normalizing Birth for Children

Normalizing Birth for Children

My eldest son witnessed his first birth around 1.5 years old. He stood with his little rubber boots on the fence and held on to the cable and watched as the calf emerged, feet, then face, then a wet body slipping out onto the bedding pack. I’d like to say it was a beautiful and life changing moment for him, but it wasn’t. He didn’t think there was anything much special about it. He saw calves of various sizes every day and he must have just realized that the life of a calf has to start somehow. So when I told him that the mama cow was pushing a calf out of her body, he took it as a perfectly normal occurrence.

Over the years, he (along with his brothers) has witnessed numerous births. Thanks to YouTube he has seen elephants, giraffes, horses, dolphins, and several others. Births he has witnessed live include numerous calves and kittens as well as the births of his younger brothers. Yes, you read that right: he witnessed the births of his brothers. And he will likely be present when our newest baby makes his or her appearance earth-side in a few weeks. (If you are interested, the story for the unassisted home water birth for my third son.)
I have been asked by friends and care providers whether I was concerned about traumatizing my kids by having them at their siblings’ births. I explain that I do some prep work including talking about the process, reading stories about birth, and even watching birth videos online. Sometimes this convinces them that it’s “okay” for me to have my kids present (as if I need their permission) and other times they remain skeptical. Inwardly, I’m reminded of how warped most people’s opinions of birth are.

Birthing a child is not a medical disorder or event any more than conceiving or carrying that child is.

My eldest’s attitude toward birth hasn’t changed from the first time he witnessed it: it’s a normal process that has been happening since the beginning of time. Birthing a child is not a medical disorder or event any more than conceiving or carrying that child is. It’s a time that requires privacy, love, and intimacy, much the same as the event that created that new life in the first place.
I believe that farm life has allowed our children recognize that birth is a natural process and not something to be feared or managed. Through farming research and experience, my husband knows that cows labour better if they are left to their own devices and we have a much lower intervention rate than on farms where farmers intervene or manage births within their herd. That was the number one reason why he shifted his mind on human birth (yes, he compared me to a cow, and no it wasn’t the first or last time).
I enjoy research and statistics and all of the research shows that birthing is largely influenced by the mother’s mindset. Speaking from an evolutionary standpoint, women have been birthing since the beginning of time and, therefore, must be properly suited to such a task. From a God standpoint, women were designed to birth and God doesn’t make mistakes. While I’m grateful for the availability of medical intervention when necessary, most women don’t need it and their birth experience is only aggravated by it.
This evening my eldest, nearly 9, asked me why his friend’s sister was born at a hospital and through surgery. I told him that was the mother’s choice based on the information she had received. He told me it seemed silly to need a hospital and surgery for something a simple as having a baby. I agree son. May you keep this peace and trust regarding birth when it comes time for your own wife to have your children.

What are your thoughts and/or experiences with children attending birth? 

6 Tips for Surviving When You Feel Like You’re Drowning in Motherhood

Exhausted, brain not thinking clearly, no time or energy to do much of anything so you're overwhelmed and behind....

Dealing with Worries as a Mother

Fevers and illness, daring activities that lead to injuries, potential kidnappings, government interference... there...

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My eldest son witnessed his first birth around 1.5 years old. He stood with his little rubber boots on the fence and...

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These cloth diaper tips were written for a new cloth diapering mama, by a mom who has cloth diapered 3 little men over...

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