Aug 25, 2014

Hunkered down

The world seems to be in chaos does it not?  I don't watch the news, but I am far too addicted to other social media sites and it just seems that the bad news keeps on swinging every time I open the computer, app or phone. It's made me hunker down lately and change up my routine of life which is very unusual for me.
I'm kind of a creative, head in another world deeply pondering, kind of soul. Sometimes I often seem to float with no anchor or feet on the ground in my thoughts as I ponder theology, world problems, creative ideas and lofty ambitions.  I'm an odd one I know when it comes to my thought life. It's hard to explain how mundane tasks in the real world don't always reach my mind and I don't always notice messes or care about great meals and housecleaning. I deeply notice people, emotions, conversations, colors, impressions, stories and get caught up in projects and ideas. It's as if the basics of life (cooking, cleaning, even eating) don't always register on the scale of importance to me though I always wish I could do much better at all of that.
But you know, the basics of life, anchor you.  There is something to be said for an honest days work in your own home.  From creating a meal from your own hands.  From mopping floors, laundry, scrubbing dishes, dressing children, putting away messes.  It clears the mind.  It can anchor you in the basics of life.  The building blocks that tie every person and culture together on this planet.  We all eat. Sleep. Care for our families and home.  We have the same physical desires for food, clothing, rest, safety, and companionship.
So though my natural tendency is to care very little about messes and cooking, I have been a homemaker lately.  It's been clean and picked up.  Better snacks and meals have been regularly made.  Laundry has been done.
I've enjoyed my yard and my morning cup of coffee more than usual.  We've slowed down, gotten into our homeschooling groove, we've been home and in a routine.  We haven't scurried around from this place to that place.
It has kind of always seemed to me (oddly) that because I have been blessed and am living richer than much of the world, I should be doing something bigger with my time.  It has felt selfish to sit and enjoy it, and rather subconsciously, I have felt guilty to focus much on it for just myself.  So I have had people over a lot, I had arranged my house to fit our guests rather than for those of us living here, and I have just plain not focused much on making the housekeeping part of my day-to-day living.
I know about stewardship.  That I should take care of what I have been given.  And I have, but I would not say keeping up my home has ever been a strong point for me.  I am not sure that it ever will be.
However, I am learning that keeping a home is also lofty.  It is not selfish to enjoy what you have been given.  It is ungratefulness to not enjoy a gift.  I am learning to get my feet on the ground and that mundane, daily, continual tasks are where some of the biggest tests of character and resolve come into play.  My response to bad news and chaos is usually to spin my wheels. I begin to feel more ungrounded and desire to do something bigger. My mind spins and I'm more distracted.
This time, I have hunkered down.  I have decided to enjoy what I have been given while it has been given to me.  I have chosen to focus on the day to day.  Not as a sign of disregard for the ache of the world, but as a sign of gratefulness.  Gratefulness for a chance to serve my family.  Gratefulness to God who is God of all. 

Aug 21, 2014

In full swing

We are in school now, full steam ahead.  I've taken a few photos of our first couple of weeks and am posting them.
This year we are learning all things zoology for science.  I found this clock that plays a different bird sound every hour (not too obnoxiously loud) and the kids have been enthralled with it.  It's hard to hear when there is much noise going on, but they literally come running and shush each other to hear the sounds every hour.  It's been a big hit.
I've also put a new laundry system into play.  So far so good.  The laundry room is to the left, the kid's rooms are to the right.  This fits perfectly at the end of our L shaped hallway.   There is a big laundry basket next to the washer and laundry door just out of view here that all the clothes get thrown into when they are dirty. I wash a load or two each night and sort the clothes into the the three baskets.  Each kid has a color.  In the morning as part of their morning chores and independent work, they have to fold and put them away.  They all can easily handle this and I can handle just one load a night and put away our own clothes.  By the way, I have a check off chart on the fridge with their morning chores and independent school work that they have to complete each morning on their own to begin the day.  It's a serious lifesaver to me.
The reason it's a lifesaver? I'm a slow starter.  I leisurely get my coffee, and do a few things that I need to do before I'm ready to start school with the kids.  This usually happens around nine when we all join up at the table to do work together.  And possibly even 10 am some days.
  
This is the spot where we do our school.  All the books are sorted by child into plastic bins nestled in the basket on the floor.  The metal bins on the wall are for all of us.  They hold science, history, Bible, readers, and teachers manuals.
They each have a spot on the window sill for their school supply bins and Tessa has her pocket chart there which we use almost everyday.  In between my apron collection - which doesn't have near as much function until fall when it finally cools down enough to do a lot of baking.
I made playdough.  I daily thank my lucky stars that my hubby put in laminate flooring through the main area of the house.  This floor is a daily disaster.  Somebody is always busy doing something usually messy while I work with another sibling and they wait their turn for instruction.

Since we started school a good two weeks before our public school friends, our "no electronics" (TV, video games, computer games) rule during the week was in force.  So neighbor friends that came over weren't allowed too much video game time to their disappointment.  Funny how they decided to stick around anyways and do something "old-fashioned" like board games.  For hours.  And hours.  I was shooing kids out the door daily at dinner time.



The calendar's up.  But since I put it up halfway through August, I was lazy and skipped straight to September.  The 2nd is my birthday so maybe I'm just eager for cake.

Copious amounts of books have been read already.
This little area for busy work, creating and crafting is in full use.
I just love being back into a regular schedule and being home.  I was feeling so scattered there through the summer.  We didn't have time to get on any sort of rhythm at all.
Let the daily shenanigans commence.  This picture is supposed to be of reading time before bed.  Hmmm.

Lets embark on new adventures this year, shall we?

Aug 7, 2014

Fostering healthy sibling relationships

Lately, I've been running across adults who are trying to foster close family relationships while sadly sighing that they didn't get to develop a relationship with their own siblings growing up.  It wasn't that it was discouraged, but rather it wasn't an intentional goal of their parents.  Welp, I'm a homeschooler.  If we aren't intentional about fostering sibling relationships, then this house is going down in a blaze.  We are all up in each other's grills all the time. We had better learn to like each other and be able to spend lots of time together.  But I'm telling you, lots of time does not quality relationships make.  Luckily, I grew up in a family where all four siblings were encouraged to be close friends, and you know what?  We still are.  But that didn't just happen because we were told, "You WILL like each other so there."  If only it were that simple (though that phrase definitely has it's uses at times).  

There were very specific strategies that my parents used that fostered that closeness. I'm using them myself.   I would like to share some with you.
 1.  TIME   I know, I know.  I just said that lots of time does not a good relationship make.  But you have to start with it.  As I look around at the kids that my kids are friends with, it seems to me that parents are frantic and over-scheduled.  "Too much time in the house breeds trouble" seems to be the popular way of thinking.  Personally, I tend to think it's the opposite.  Not enough time in the house breeds trouble.  Kids need time to just BE.  Playdates seem to be a huge culprit.  I don't let my kids have too many for days on end.  Nor do I schedule one everyday.  Which seems crazy to have one everyday, but I know a lot of people who feel like they should all summer long and every weekend during the school year.  Kids need space to think, be together as a family, and figure out how to not be constantly entertained by someone else.  This means that their sibling is their only option and their own ideas are the entertainment.  Don't be afraid to leave space for boredom.  Boredom breeds creativity.  It also gives the children responsibility for their relationships.  They'll take initiative to play with their siblings if the sibling is their only option.  Sometimes the neighbor kids will knock, and we are home and doing absolutely nothing, and I'll still say that we aren't playing today.  If we haven't had enough "home" time, then nobody comes over. To the complete disappointment and howls of my children.  They get over it.
 LAUGH:  Often and much.  Tell jokes, be silly, have inside jokes.  Humor pulls relationships together.  A sense of play and light-heartedness draw families together.  Parents have to take the lead on this. The kids will follow. They'll be delighted. Usually I find that it's the jokes I've started/told/created that the kids continue on with when they talk to each other.  Then they get old. Fast.  But kids will kill a joke until they learn the patterns and nuances to create their own.  It's part of how they learn. So suck it up and hear that one joke about the duck for the millionth time. We model everything for our children so learning to have a sense of humor in relationships starts with us as well.  However, I will give one word of caution: Jokes that pit one sibling against another or are at one child's expense will tear them apart faster than anything.  I am not talking about mean humor.
 CREATE COMMUNAL SPACES IN YOUR HOME:   You know, we don't really have a "boys" area or a "girls" area.  Doors to rooms are not allowed to be closed unless you are sleeping or getting dressed.  No room or toy is "mine" or "off limits".   We share pretty much everything.  The girls even share underwear.  I'm thinking that one day it'll dawn on them that maybe that is taking the communal spirit too far, but so far it's shares-ies.  They have no idea this is awkward yet,  but I will enjoy reminding them when they are teens, heh heh.  However, the communal spirit definitely fosters the whole idea that we are a family and one unit caring for each other.
 RESPECT EACH OTHER:  Having said nothing is off limits as far as ownership, we do respect each other's need for space.  For example, if Hunter wants to read quietly in his room alone, we respect that.  If Ainsley has set up a really cool doll house arrangement, it is not OK to destroy it and make another without asking.  We also do not encourage pitting kids against each other; and saying anything mean, even in teasing, is not done.  We respect each one for what they bring to our family, and our differences are not something to tease or put down.  We are all a little bit quirky with our own little oddities but that's what makes us the Plumb family.
ALLOW THEM TO FIGHT:  Allow your kids to fight on their own.  Don't encourage tattling unless there is something going on that is dangerous.  Encourage them to work out their own problems without jumping in.  This SO tough to do, because it's easy to hear a shriek of anger and quickly decide yourself how it should be handled and bark out an order.  However, kids do better when they can figure out their own problems with each other.  It gives them ownership and responsibility for their own problems which helps them in all relationships.  I prefer to not tell them how a problem should be solved.  I say things like, "You need to figure out how to both play with that.  If you cannot, I will take it.  When you have decided how to play together, I will give it back."  Sometimes they will have to be separated for a few minutes while they each think about a solution.  But encourage a solution of their own, though you might have to talk them through the thinking process.
TALK A LOT.  PLAY A LOT.  This goes without saying.  You should just probably do it.  Strap on those  nerdy bike helmets and bike around the block.  Find something that you all love to do together.  We love to boat.  Hours and hours of our family time is spent on the lake.  Just us.  Sometimes I don't always want to go, but I'm never sorry once I'm out there.  Just get out there.  Make memories together.  Don't always divide up into the guys and the girls.  Some families do that.  The dads always take the boys out for "man" stuff and the moms take the girls out for "girl" stuff.  Of course that's fun too, but don't always do that.  Save that for rare occasions, and for the most part, go out together.  It's messier.  Someone will probably not start off happy, but don't let that deter you.  In fact, it's good that way.  It shows that everyone's here because we move and play as a unit and everyone is important, and it's good for kids to figure out that entertainment and playtime is not always about them, but about the community they are in as a whole.

So did any of that surprise you?  Give you food for thought?  What do you do?  I'm always game for new ideas too!