Friday, July 29, 2011

Mother West Wind

You know when you find something you just think is awesome and you just have to shout it from the mountaintops? I've found something and since I live in a valley with only the sight of Mt. Hood, blogging about it will have to do. So a little bit about this week. It was AWESOME! The theme was Water World and finally the temperature cooperated and we actually were able to have some water fun. We also learned a great deal about the water cycle, about how essential water is to all living things (including our chickens) and about the many animals that live in water.

The weather was so nice today that we literally spent the entire day outside. We did our art projects outside, we had a picnic lunch and instead of rest time on a mat indoors, we stretched out on a blanket with the warm sun on our backs and the cool breeze in our hair, and I read to the kids. We had finished The Secret Garden yesterday and I don't like to start chapter books on Friday, so I grabbed my trusty Kindle and started reading, Why Peter Rabbit Cannot Fold His Hands. It's a wonderful story from a collection in Mother West Wind's Why Stories by Thornton W. Burgess.

"Instead of hurrying home and getting to work himself, Mr. Rabbit stopped a while after each call and sat with his arms folded, watching the one he was calling on work. Mr. Rabbit was very fond of sitting with folded arms."

Each story begins with a question. The forest critters then go to Mr. Frog to get answers. Mr. Frog is quite old and knows a great many things. Each story has moral. I love that these stories are not like modern books that try to teach morals, books with titles like; No Hitting or Why We Shouldn't Tell Lies. Those books don't engage children they just preach to them. Children need something to think about, something to ponder. Mother West Wind's Why Stories are perfect character building stories. These stories are so wonderful that I would pay a pretty penny for them, but fortunately they are free through the Gutenberg Project. Check them out and let me know what you think.



Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Most things in life require a leap of faith. Life is fluid and ever evolving. You could know a person for years and at some point you choose to keep things the way they are or take a leap of faith and marry them. I know couples that took things slow and steady. Couples who got to know each other over years and still their relationship ended in divorce. I know couples that took a leap of faith just months after meeting and they are still together, going strong. I also know couples where the opposite is true. People will say it didn't work out because they jumped into their relationship or because they married once the relationship was stagnant, they had know each other for too a long time. Truth is, we never know how things will work out or why some things do work out and other don't. In the end, you either take a leap of faith or you stop growing.

Home schooling requires a huge leap of faith. I love teaching my kids, but as much as I love it, I struggle with having faith that I am teaching them what I'm supposed to be teaching and that they will learn what they need to learn. Anyone else on this boat with me? I struggle so much with it, that it has become the theme for this year. Last year my fear of not teaching the kids what they needed was so vast that I enrolled them in a virtual school. I have no complaints about the school, except that I am so used to having my own curriculum that I felt their was stifling. What I learned was that some things presented were completely new to my kids. I had never covered it. Most things however were will below their cognitive level. I'm not saying that my kids are particularly intelligent, but I do think that by allowing them to be curious, by giving them one on two attention, by linking learning to real life experiences they really get to know their stuff. You would think that after that experience I would have tremendous faith that this road I've chosen for my kids is the right one, but you'd be wrong to think so.

"Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother."
Khalil Gibran

I often write about trusting the process and I think it's time to start following my own advice, but how? That is always the tricky part isn't is? Well I have a plan. It's simple, it's straightforward and it will work. I've always worked with a foggy plan. Since it was not my intent to actually home school my plan was lacking. It was written down, but it never felt serious. It never felt like I was a teacher. Things changed a bit last year when I opened the preschool. For the preschool I have a definite plan. I have a rhythm, a mission statement, policies, a degree and I'm licensed. I'm a real teacher for young ones. This year I'm also a real teacher for my kids. The e-course I'm taking through Fairy Dust Teaching is awesome. It's taking me step by step in organizing my plan. It takes into a account state standards (which I has never done before), there is a theme, there is the putting all together in a notebook. It's perfect. There are however a few more things I need to work on to make this year successful.

I need to practice having faith. I have deep faith in God, but sometimes it's difficult to let go of the reins, even when I don't know where I'm going. This year the route (plan) is clear and I'm handing the reins over to a greater power. I'll do the work, but I'm not going to be responsible for the outcome. I promise to be present, to work hard and do my best. My kids need to be present and do their part. I have to have faith that the results will follow. I need to trust the process and that my kids, whether home schooled or in a brick and mortar setting will get the knowledge they need to be successful. In case I forget I posted the following quote on the front of my curriculum notebook:

"There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever."
~Mahatma Gandhi~

Friday, July 22, 2011

Choose Wisely

Two must haves for me when I started to home school were a book of Grimm's Fairy Tales and one of Aesop's Fables. Einstein said that if you wanted you kids to be smart, to read them fairy tales. Who am I to argue with Einstein? The problem came one day when I perused the book and found to my great horror that these fairy tales were quite grim indeed. (That pun was corny and totally intended.) Turns out the step-sisters in Cinderella cut off their heels and toes!

"...but the mother, reaching a knife, said, 'Cut off your toe, for if you are queen you need not go any longer on foot.' The the maiden cut it off, and squeezed her foot into the shoe, and, concealing the pain she felt, went down to the Prince."

These are definitely not Disney. How could we read such horrid tales to our children? In fact, fairy tales should not be read to very young children, unless you leave out the more graphic parts. This is best done, by not reading and just telling them the stories. As children get older, however, fairy tales become a wonderful way to teach all sorts of virtues and point out the consequences of vices. Fairy Tales are filled with noble, loyal and loving characters. They can teach children to be brave as they face fear, to be loyal even when it would materially behoove them to be disloyal. It teaches them to be truthful and kind. It also teaches them that evil exists. That they are consequences to one's soul if you stray from a noble path.

Children need to process these truths slowly and within a realm that they can understand. Fairy Tales are perfect for this. When you tell a story or read to a child, the child will process what he can, as opposed to a movie (especially on a big screen) where they are bombarded with imagery that can be scary, even if it's not to us adults. I remember taking my daughter to see Ratatouille. She was about four years old. There is a scene where the rats are going down a sewer pipe. The visual is fantastic from an adult perspective. The water is tumbling rapidly, you see the rat go under, you see him tumbling in the water, he briefly comes up for air and then gets dragged down again by the current. I was enjoying it tremendously when I felt a tug on my arm and I looked over at my girl. She was horrified. She had tears streaming down her cheeks and had a tight hold on my arm. Young children have no filters. She had no way to processes what she was seeing, but she could feel it with every bit of her body. What a wake up call for me.

Now at age seven, we read fairy tales and I've even started reading some of the gruesome parts, but we still don't watch very many movies.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fairy Tales

This week we are focusing on fairy tales. The first one we read was Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It's one of my favorites! There is repetition and somehow the bears are not scary like the wolf in Red Riding Hood. In fact, in the one I read it states that the bears are polite and very well mannered. I love any book that gives me a chance to talk about manners. After reading the story each child drew and colored a picture of a bear. In the afternoon the kids put on a play! We used our housekeeping and reading corner furniture for props and used the napping mats for the beds. One girl was Goldilocks, one child was papa bear. He carried a stuffed teddy baby that was baby bear. One child was mama bear and the rest were the audience. What fun. It was a good way for me to see how much of the story they remembered and understood. Later in the afternoon, they organized and put on their own play. They made some changes as some of the kids had gone home, but all in all it was a wonderful production.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Space: A New Frontier

This week the theme was Space. What fun! The kids made this which is proudly hanging in the classroom:
This was a great project all around. The "Sun" is a wreath purchased at Dollar Tree. It was painted with yellow tempera paint and sprinkled with glitter. Lots of glitter! The planets are different sized styrofoam balls also from Dollar Tree. I purchased them last year, knowing I wanted the kids to do a mobile at some point. Much to Isabela's relief the day finally came when I said, "Yes you can open the bags with the styrofoam balls!" The kids tore different colored tissue paper. They sorted (a math skill) the planets according to size. Mercury is small, Pluto is tiny, Jupiter is huge. Then they decided what colors to do each planet. Earth is blue and green. Mars is red and Uranus is green due to the gases, Neptune is blue because the gases are different. (That's what I was told by the kids. They used problem-solving skills to come to an agreement, reasoning and deductions to come to their conclusions) The kids used big brushes to spread thinned glue onto the balls and covered them in tissue. (motor skill) We had to let the sun and the planets dry for a couple of days. (Patience) Then we used a screwdriver to put screws into each planet and someone suggested adding glue around the edge of the screw to make it extra secure. (Fine motor skill) Finally with some help from me, the silk thread was tied to each planet and I hung them from the sun as the kids called out the order. We even had a discussion about whether or not Pluto is in fact a planet. So much to learn from such a fun, simple project.

The kids also painted these:

The one above is our Solar System painted by I who is 7 years old.

This one is a star going Supernova painted by L who is 8 years old.

This one is a galaxy painted by D who is 7 years old.

The fun, exploring and learning didn't just happen while doing arts and crafts. I managed to save some pretty big boxes and the kids made a really cool spaceship! Unfortunately it was destroyed while re-entering the atmosphere. Who knew it would be raining in Oregon in July? Finally our hula hoops served as costumes. Each child pretended to be Saturn and see how fast they could make their ring spin. According to the kids, the rings around Uranus must spin faster than the rings around Saturn because it's easier to spin the hoops vertically around your arm than it is to spin horizontally around your waist. We also check out this site.

I love watching the kids get excited and love that they are eager to learn. I can't wait until next week. Stay tuned for Fairy Tales old and new.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


I was speaking to a young lady about all the wonderful things that are going on at Ivy League-West this summer. She was very excited and told me how her sister was majoring in child development. She went on to tell me how much she's learned from her sister and how now she sees parents at the grocery store and just wants to walk up to them and tell them how wrong what they are doing is.

I smiled. I remembered being 18 and working at a preschool with women in their 60's who still, to my dismay, referred to themselves as baby-sitters. At staff meetings I raised my hands eagerly with bright eyes to share all the things I had learned that they could not possibly know. Did I mention they were in their 60's? I blushed. I remembered being 21 and doling out parenting advice like it was going out of style to parents who had not requested it. I sighed. I remembered seeing, perhaps the very parents she's referring to and feeling like handing them my business card and telling them that parenting doesn't have to be so darn difficult.

I looked at this young girl and confronted what I do every day. How can I correct her misconception without stifling her enthusiasm. This is what I told her;

"Well yes, I've been there too. I see parents struggling at best, being completely inappropriate at worst and I too sometimes want to speak up, but then I remind myself that I'm looking through a very tiny window in what is a small part of the day and I don't know what this day has been like for that parent. They could have just received some terrible news or they could be dealing with an illness or they could be doing what's best at that moment for their child who may have a need that I am not aware of. There have been moments where, even with all my training and knowledge, I've snapped at my kids in public. These are moment where I am not at my best. They don't happen often, but if you happened to see me at that moment, you would judge that I was not a good mother, and I am a good mother."

She asked me if I had ever said anything to a parent.

"Yes, actually. If the parent is being inappropriate when they come to pick up their child, I will go over our policies with them and make an appointment to assess if they should continue to bring thier child to me. If it happens while I'm out and about and I don't know the parent, I say a prayer for both the parent and child because it is at moments when we are at our worst that we need God's grace the most. Everyone is doing the best they know how and I just remind myself that that's all anyone can do until they learn to do and be better."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

This House is a Mess!

My goodness it's not easy keeping a house neat and tidy when you have kids. Those toddler years especially are challenging. There is no secret to a clean house. There is no getting around it, at some point you just have to clean. Don't despair however, there are a few tricks that seasoned mothers like myself have learned.

Have I said this before? The less you have the easier it is to keep clean. I remember living in a roomy three bedroom apartment that became a crowded three bedroom apartment a few month before the birth of my son. Babies come with a lot of stuff. My suggestion to mothers that are expecting is not to open and unpack everything. Some things you may find you don't like or don't need. You may be able to return them and get more diapers. Secondly, don't buy all the hype. A mobile is really unnecessary and so temporary. You are going to have to take it down the minute your child can pull himself up. Most of the time he is in his crib, he'll be sleeping (hopefully), so it's not going to stimulate him visually. There is plenty to stimulate him visually in his natural world. Be choosy about the things you have in your home. If it's not useful or beautiful (in a way that makes you feel good and doesn't cause stress) , you probably shouldn't keep it.

  • Start with a clean home.
If your home has been neglected, you need to clean it, there is just no getting around it. Buckle down and clean. My suggestion would be to clean, but not organize at this point. It'll become overwhelming and it won't get done. Get yourself a box and put everything that is not in it's place in the box. Get everything off your floors and mop or vacuum them. Get everything off your counters and shelves and dust and wipe. Once your home is clean, floors mopped, dust bunnies cleaned up, everything dusted, then you can slowly begin to organize.

  • 30 minutes a day
When you get up in the morning take 15 minutes to clean up, even is it means getting up 15 minutes earlier. Make your bed. After you use the bathroom and brush your teeth, take a wipe (I love Kirkland baby wipe from Costco, but the Clorox wipes work well too) and wipe down all the surfaces of your bathroom. After breakfast, put everything in the dishwasher and wipe down all the counters, sweep the floor. Before going to bed, take 15 minutes to put things back where they belong, including your clothes and shoes. Vacuum your carpets. Have your kids get into this habit by helping them put their toys "to sleep" before they get ready for bed.

  • Once a week
Once a week clean your bathroom, kitchen and dust the furniture. Instill your child's help if he is old enough (even a toddler can help wipe down surfaces, especially if you are using baby wipes).

  • Let it go
Understand that there are times when cleaning has to take a back seat. If you or your child are sick. If you just had a baby. If it's the middle of the day and your kids are making forts with the couch cushions. In times like these, you have to put cleaning aside and sometimes even accept the help of family and friends. I know your sister doesn't fold towels the way you like or that your friend doesn't know where your pots and pans go, it's okay.

Life is sometimes a mess and then you feel better and you clean it up and you go on your way. Your house will be like that too.

Happy Cleaning,


p.s. If you need some serious help, check out The Fly Lady.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Very Special E-Course

I am just in awe of the connections that I've made through the internet. No, Sergio and I did not meet in a chat room. Do those even exist anymore? I have found a wonderful network of like minded women and men, teachers, mentors and new friends. I'm excited to have opportunities to learn new things in my own time and in the comfort of home. I've taken a few e-courses and participate in a several tele-classes. I have not been disappointed. I have also never been as excited about an e-course as I am about this one. I use Fairy Dust Teaching as a resource for both the preschool program and my home school enrichment programs. Sally does such a great job of illustrating the concepts or projects step by step. She's creative and her enthusiasm for teaching comes across in each post.

The Dash of Wonder E-course begins on July 10, 2011. I just can't wait!