6.22.2010

True Confessions of a Planner

I am a planner.                                                                               

Planning makes me happy.

I have a feddish with schedules.  Any kind.  I loved planning my college classes back in the day, making everything fit like a puzzle.  I'll admit that I was even planning my future family at the age of ten . . . names and all!! 

In all honesty, I would rather spend time planning than actually following through with the plan! 
                                                                                
                                                                         Picture courtesy of marthastewart.com
With that said, I have been thinking a lot about structuring my time.  I'm getting rid of many activities next year and find my schedule looking a bit blank.  Which is good.  This leaves me with more time with which to plan!  A good thing, yes, but how structured do I really need to get, right?  And, though I love to plan, I've become recently annoyed with the constant questions, "Mom, can I . . .?" and "So, Mom, what's the plan tonight?"  Can't they just be?  No, because I've always had everything planned for them. 

I just watched  a great movie the other night.  Leap Year.  It's a silly (but very clean!) romantic comedy.  I had an ah-ha moment watching this movie.  The leading lady, Anna,  was in a plane during a turbulent rainstorm.  The pilot's voice comes on over the intercom, "We will need to land in Wales on account of the storm."  Anna begins to panic, not for fear of dying but because, and I quote, "I'm on a schedule!"  Ahhh.  Thus is my life.  A scheduled, planned, perfect (not) life.  I should know by now that I am really not the one in control, but I still keep trying.  :-)

Why do I have this yearning to plan?  Better yet, why do I expect everyone else to follow my plan?  I pondered these questions last night as I read an excellent talk on patience and I found ten definitions of patience throughout the talk:

* the ability to put our desires on hold for a time
* active waiting and enduring
* staying with something and doing all that we can
* staying with something until the end
* delaying immediate gratification
* reining in anger
* resisting evil
* accepting that which cannot be changed, facing it with courage & faith
* willing to submit all things which the Lord seeth fit
* firm and steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord

Now, you may be asking what this really has to do with scheduling and planning?  It has everything to do with it!  Another scene from the movie:  While travelling to Dublin, Anna and her travelling companion, Declan, find themselves trapped by a herd of cows in the road.  Declan takes out an apple and sits, ready to wait for the cows to move on.  Well, Anna wants nothing to do with it!  She proceeds to yell at, clap at and push the cows along.  All the while she's saying, "Yeah!  That's how you do it.  That's how you get things done." 

Connection?  I'm getting there!  Sometimes we want to herd the cows along, so to speak.  We want to keep things moving.  Even without transportation, rather than waiting Anna is determined to walk the whole way to Dublin (in high heels nonetheless!) rather than sit and wait for the next available ride.  When I am scheduling and planning each detail of my life, I leave very little room for patience.  I leave very little room for more direction from the Lord.  Quoting from the talk mentioned before,  "Patience is the process of perfection.. . . without patience, we cannot please God; we cannot become perfect."  Profound words.  Bold words.  And then he says this, "If children are ever going to mature and reach their potential, they must learn to wait."  How do we teach them, by waiting ourselves. 

So today I gave myself a challenge.  I didn't plan anything!  Well, okay, I did plan to take the car into the shop and to get at least most of the laundry done.  But aside from that, I didn't plan.  I followed my kids' time table.  We went on a bike ride, played a few games, I got some reading in and some church business taken care of.  They swam while I did some cleaning and reading.  We read together, went to the library and then used their free ice cream coupons at McDonald's.  Then they wanted to go play on a big hill.  And so we did.  It was a lovely day.  We had our general schedule of cleaning, dinner preparation and whatnot, but for the most part I allowed myself to take their lead.  I don't think we'll be able to do this every day, nor do I think we need to.  I simply had to give myself permission to stop planning, just for a day.  And in the process of not planning I had the opportunity to sit and wait, to learn the art of patience with myself and my children.


"Patience is a Process of Perfection."

6.21.2010

A Glimpse of Charlotte Mason

I went to my very first homeschool convention this weekend.  It was really great!  Aside from the classes, spending time with a bunch of women on a 4 hour road trip (each way) and in a hotel room . . . you can't go wrong!  I did learn that I'm not as young as I once was . . . it's taking me four days to make up for the 4am bedtime!!  (sigh)

Before talking Charlotte Mason, I want to share this site with you.  I met the Human Calculator!  I went mostly because my 10yo son is completely immersed in the Guinness Record books and so I had to get this guy's autograph.  I'm so glad I went to this class.  He blew me away!!  He's started a new math website as well to help kids think the way he thinks.  Check it out.

For next year I've been thinking a lot about what I'm going to do with my girls.  My oldest will be entering the public school world for a year and I'm going to have some valuable time training my girls.  I'm really excited for this opportunity!  One of the things I wanted to do more with all of my children, but especially my art-minded daughter, was art appreciation.  I've always leaned more toward the Charlotte Mason ideals, but I haven't studied them enough or implemented them enough to really be affective.  I went to a couple of classes based on the CM way and got even more excited about reading her original writings.  The best part I learned was how to teach art appreciation the CM way. 

*  Take 6 prints of one artist.  Have a "lesson" on one print each week for six weeks. 

*  For about ten minutes show the kids the painting, collectively and then individually. 

*  Then take the picture away and have them tell you what they observed in the painting  (start with the youngest to give them a chance to get the easy stuff out of the way). 

That's it!  I guess the goal was to expose the children to 30 artists in 9 years! 
Simple.  Amazing.  Effective.

The goals in doing this excercise are for your children to
1) learn the power of observation
2) develop a sense of beauty and power to appreciate
3) get direct contact with great art

The speaker told us that oftentimes we get so excited to teach the technicalities of art that the kids actually lose interest and that love for learning.  I so needed to hear that!  

One of my other goals next year is to make sure I get out into nature more.  This year I did a little more than before, so I'm just hoping I can increase that year after year.  I'm going to use this same approach on our nature hikes.  I'm just going to have my kids sit for 10 minutes and then share what they've observed.  If they want to draw or write in their nature books, that's great too. This exercise isn't only going to be great for the art and nature appreciation but I hope it will also teach my children how to be still.   I think we can all use this lesson!!



"Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth."
 - - Psalms 46:10

6.16.2010

TIME: Part III

Time For Relationships

I am big into relationships.  I once read the term "Save the relationship" from a lady who I highly revere. And then reading early on in my motherhood I read several books by Linda Eyre and Leo Buscaglia.  I instantly was drawn to the prinicple that we need to put relationships first in our lives.  When first deciding whether to homeschool or not, the idea hit me that by doing so our family would draw closer together.  Of course, homeschooling is not the answer for all families.  In fact for some, homeschooling may have the opposite affect!  No matter our situations, it is important that we prioritize our time so that relationships can be top on the list.

Value our Time
Charles Darwin has been known to say, "A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life."   I'm still stuck on the idea that time is the one commodity in life we can't "earn back."  This doesn't mean we run frantically from moment to moment trying to fill every second with hurried purpose.  Busyness does not mean successful.  It is amazing to me how Jesus fulfilled the greater part of his mission in a few short years, and yet he was not in a frenzy.  It's just the opposite for Him in fact.  When I read the passages of His life I see each moment about the relationship between Him and those he served.  What better example can we follow?

About a year or so ago I  read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.  In brief, he was a college professor who received news that he only had something like six months to live.  And so he used that time to write his "last lecture."   His words taught me a lot about time.    Pausch said this, "Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think."   What would you do with only six months left to live?  I, for one, would want to strengthen my relationships. Why not do so now?

It's Your Choice
Another woman I've chosen to learn from is Dr. Laura Schlessinger.  She taught me this, "We have two opportunities for a quality parent-child relationship, the first one we were born into, the second one we chose!"  Oftentimes we say or hear how frustrated we are with one particular chlid (or multiple all at once).  I remember years ago having a party at my house.  I had two or three very small children at the time.  It must have been the first day of Spring break for the schools or something because one mom walked in and said, "Oh! It's only the first day and they're already driving me crazy!"  I was sad at that thought.  Believe me, I've had days when I've wanted more than a couple of hours of peace, but we must remember that we CHOSE this relationship.  If we chose to have the relationships (whether it be with husbands, children, etc.) then we still have the choice to make that relationship all we need or want it to be.  Some relationships are more of a struggle than others, true, but all relationships are important

Say NO to Overscheduling
I have five children.  With each child in only one activity at a time that is still 5-10 activities outside of the home that we need to drive to, wait for and participate in.  Add church activities on top of that and we now have 5 more activities to attend each week.  Add school functions, social gatherings, lessons, work parties, etc...etc...  and we suddenly find ourselves saying, "Where has all the time gone?"  It's so easy to say, "Oh, it's just once a month."  Those 'once a months' suddenly add up!

In Einstein Didn't Use Flashcards, Pasek & Golinkoff stated, that "children are just passing through our lives.  They come into this world as unique persons who require from us both nuturing and enjoyment.  Parents are not omnipotent.  At best, they are wise partners accompanying their children through the labrynth of development. "  How do we nurture our children if we're constantly rushing them from one activity to another?  There are those precious 10 minutes here and there in the car, but we need to be sure this is not the only time we're giving them our undivided attention.  We need to especially watchful as our older kids get naturally get involved in more things.  It's then the younger siblings we need to protect making sure they are getting the same time at home as our older children did. 

Time for the Greatest Commandment
Above all, to help our earthly relationships more enriching, we must make time for strengthening our relationship with the Lord.  "Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all thy heart, and with all they soul, and wil all they  mind (Matt. 22:37)."  Set aside ample time daily to strengthen this single most important relationship.

Relationships are tricky!  Some more than others.  I'm finding that when I finally have a solid relationship with one child, another relationship starts to struggle.  I'm personally trying to make a conscious effort to leave more time for building those strong relationships (especially with my girls right now).  From now on I'm going to add relationships to my schedule, time with each child.  It may not be like "1:00 play legos with Joel."  It will be more open so that I can see and feel what each child may need.  If I'm rushing, I'm not being attentive to their needs . . . or my own. We all need to take time for our relationships.

Finding Joy in Life

I stumbled upon a most beatiful quote this morning and had to share! 

"Do you take time to discover each day how beautiful your life can be? How long has it been since you watched the sun set? The departing rays kissing the clouds, trees, hills, and lowlands good night, sometimes tranquilly, sometimes with exuberant bursts of color and form. What of the wonder of a cloudless night when the Lord unveils the marvels of His heavens—the twinkling stars, the moonlight rays—to ignite our imagination with His greatness and glory? How captivating to watch a seed planted in fertile soil germinate, gather strength, and send forth a tiny, seemingly insignificant sprout. Patiently it begins to grow and develop its own character led by the genetic code the Lord has provided to guide its development. With care it surely will become what it is destined to be: a lily, crowned with grace and beauty; a fragrant spearmint plant; a peach; an avocado; or a beautiful blossom with unique delicacy, hue, and fragrance. When last did you observe a tiny rosebud form? Each day it develops new and impressive character, more promise of beauty until it becomes a majestic rose. You are one of the noblest of God’s creations. His intent is that your life be gloriously beautiful regardless of your circumstances. As you are grateful and obedient, you can become all that God intends you to be."

6.09.2010

TIME: Part II

Schedules & Planning

I LOVE planning.  I LOVE scheduling.  Putting activities in compartments of time is like putting a puzzle together for me!  I'm even weird enough, I'll admit, that planning my college schedule was one of my favorite parts of the university experience!  It's the same thing for me now when I want to plan the next year's activities and classes.  I just thrive on making schedules! 

Now, I'm also one to stress out when trying to follow a too-scheduled schedule, if you know what I mean!  :-)  I like to have control over the general schedule of the household, with room to change as needed or desired.  However, Randy Pausch, college professor and author of The Last Lecture has said, "You can always change your plan, but only if you have one."

Here is a taste of our own family's daily schedule. We basically break the day up into "Compartments of Time"  (I will put actual times here for the sake of giving you an idea of what we do, but keep in mind that the events generally stay in the same order but the times vary according to our needs and interest levels).

6:30am Mom wake up, walking and/or gospel study time (kids do likewise if they wake up)
7:30am Kids wake up, Mom gets ready (shower, etc.) while kids clean rooms & get ready as well
8:30am Breakfast and Devotional
9:00am Family Work Time  (see below for exact plan; if done before others, work on individual studies)
10:00am Group Learning Time (see below)
11:30am Lunch time/Mom works on her 'to do' list (phone calls, emails, etc.)
1:00-4:00 Free Learning Time
4:00pm Cleam up activites, prepare for dinner
5:30pm Dinner & Clean up, Evening activities (vary by day)
8:30pm Bedtime


Our NEWEST Family Work Schedule (I'm loving this)
Thanks to my great friend, Jessica, I rearranged our family work into quick clean jobs and deep clean jobs.  Still, I was finding our cleaning time to take way too long in the mornings, resulting in too many melt downs and a lot of leisure time wasted.  So, I revamped and came up with this plan.

Each child has a room they are in charge of each month.  Each day they are to do a quick clean of that room.  Each room also has a list of deep clean jobs.  I will choose a child each day with whom I will help clean their deep clean jobs.  For example, if the bathroom is in need of deep cleaning one day I'll tell that child it is their day to do the work with my help while the others simply do their quick cleans.  I have found this to work wonders because a) it is not too overwhelming for the kids and b) I get some quality one-on-one time with each child throughout the week as I clean with them (and I'm not trying to race from child to child the whole cleaning hour). 

Family Room
Deep Clean: wash banister on stairs, vacuum stairs and family room, dust/wash TV and center, wash walls as needed.

Front Room
Deep Clean: Dust piano and table, vacuum rug, wipe down couches as needed, wash windows & sill, wash wood floors and entryway, wash doors & walls as needed.

Bathroom
Deep clean: toilet, mirror, sinks, cupboards, floor & walls

Kitchen
Deep Clean  (choose one or two each week):  microwave, stove/oven, dishwasher & cupboards, fridge, mop floor, wash windows.

Learning Times
Group Learning Time:  This is my time to teach the children what is mine.  This may be a history or science  lesson, reading from our family read aloud book, going on a nature walk or hike, taking a field trip, running errands, playing games, or whatever I feel the kids need to do with me that day. I usually have themes for each subject.  I love unit studies.

Free Learning Time:  This is when the kids basically have time to play and/or work on their individual studies. I try not to monitor this time too much but the simple rules during this time are no computer/video games and no movies.  This is when I will read with individual children or help the kids with their own work (math, writing, etc.).  Also during this time I do my best to create 1-2 hours of time for ME to work on my own studies or get some good reading in! 

Again, this schedule is flexible.  If a neighbor is in need and it's family work time, I'm not going to say, "Oh, sorry, it's family work time, I can't help you."  These time compartments are easy to shift around.  And if something gets pushed out one day, it's not going to be too detrimental!  So, be flexible and make time work for you rather than the other way around!  With that said, I firmly believe that by scheduling our time we can strengthen relationships, give our children a sense of consistancy and stability, and end the day without being overly exhausted.

For Public Schoolers:  This "Time Compartment" scheduling can work for you, too.  Especially as summer nears and your kids are coming home, figure out what works naturally for your family.  Next year, as my oldest enters the public school rhelm, I may have new stuff to say here!  So, stay tuned.  :-)

6.07.2010

TIME: Part I

 My Theory on Time: Work & Leisure

One of the best quotes I heard was from Kevin Miller, a Covey respresentative.  He said, "You cannot manage time, you can only manage yourselves."  That was an ah-ha moment for me!  Unlike money, we all have the same exact amount of minutes to use.  Similar to money, however, we have the power over how we use those minutes.  How we choose to fill those minutes is within our power.  I think the toughest part of managing ourselves with the limited time we have is balancing work with leisure, both being as important as the other. 

Value of Work
After Adam and Eve were sent out of the Garden of Eden, the Lord's instruction to them was this, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread (Gen. 3:19)."  The Lord also told them that "the ground shall be cursed for thy sake," and in Timothy we read that "they shall be saved in childbearing."  One implication of these verses is that the Lord knew only through hard work could Adam and Eve (and therefore us as well) truly obtain the blessings of eternal life without the sacred responsibilities of work given them  (see Strengthening Our Families, Dollahite, p. 178). 

In a work of "quick fixes" our modern society has begun to see work more as a curse than a blessing.  Many of us seek the Garden-like atmosphere rather than putting our efforts into the tasks placed before us.  Family work is sacred work. Believe me, there have been many times in my life when I have wondered if this really was true.  Was there sacredness in my girls arguing every morning when cleaning their room?  Is there sacredness in the mountains of laundry that need to be done weekly, sometimes even daily?  Lately I have been able to see the sacred nature of such experiences and tasks.  There was complete sacredness in the creation of the earth and as I pattern my home after the work of the Lord's plan, I too can find sacredness in my work.  As I catch that vision, I can pass the joy onto my children.

How do we do this? That is the real question! I have come to discover three vital ways of teaching my children the value of work.

1) Delayed gratification.   I was just talking to a friend about how letter writing has become a lost art.  She said something I'd never thought of.  I'll paraphrase, "With everything being instant these days, I want my kids to have that sense of having to wait for something."  You remember when you were a kid, just waiting for the mail to arrive hoping there would be a letter from your penpal or grandma or someone!  Randy Pausch has said, "Hard work is like compounded interest in the bank. The rewards build faster." Teach the children about delayed gratification.

2) Family work.  There will be another post soon about family work, so I won't say much here.  Oh how I remember the hours of yard work done by my father's side (or at least by his instruction!).  My dad loves and understands the value of getting your hands dirty.  Because of this love and understanding, he can create an oasis out of desert.  Our kids can learn the value of hard work best by working by our sides.

3) Challenges within their grasp.  Don't do for your children what they can do for themselves.  Give them the confidence that they can do anything!  Just the other day I asked my son (10yo) to change the lighbulb of our family room light.  At first he exclaimed, "I don't know how!"  My response was, "You've seen Dad do it.  I bet you can figure it out."  And guess what, he did.  Just today my 2yo wanted me to put some flippers on.  I told him, "You put them on, if you can't do it, you don't wear them."  Well, he figured out how to put them on and wore them with pride!  Giving our kids challenges within their reach gives them confidence that they can do anything, thus learning the value of work. 

Value of Leisure
Kathy Hirsch-Pasek & Roberta Michnick, authors of Einstein Didn't Use Flashcards believe that, "the concept of downtime seems to be a kind of heresy in the current cult of acheivement."  Do we value leisure time as much as work for our children?  One of the greatest realizations I've had is that leisure is not the opposite of work. It  is work combined with leisure that leads to the good life.  Aristotle once said that the ultimate purpose of leisure is "thinking or using our minds (Strengthening Our Families, p. 194)."  Thus when our children are young, playing is using their minds as they are capable and know how.  As we get older, our minds mature and we need to be inspired to think and use them accordingly.  Aristotle continues that there are four types of "ethical leisure:"  intellectual activity, creative activity, meaningful activity, and moral behavior. Planning our "free time" with these four categories in mind, our time can be better spent.

Again, here are a couple of things I've observed in my own little family on how to better value our leisure time:

1) Schedule and Plan for leisure time. We need to make blocks of time in  our days where our children are free to think and use their minds.  It is important to put it on the schedule just as a lesson or doctor appointment would be.  If your children aren't used to this kind of time, let them be bored.  Eventually, they'll catch on that Mom isn't going to schedule anything for them, they're on their own!  This is scary because we think if they're bored they'll turn into bums later on in life.  After a lot of turmoil on this myself, I have come to realize what a fallacy is that thought.  We still need to provide the tools or the boundaries during that time, but it is in that "free time" that their minds can blossom and grow into who they really are to become. 

2) Plan wholesome recreational activities with the family.   Try not to fall back on the "family movie night" every week.  Go outside.  Talk together.  Cook together.  Take a hike or a walk. Dump out all the legos and build stuff together.  Play a game.  Read together.  I think adults need to allow themselves a chance to step into the child's shoes for a day.  I had a friend who told me that she had played legos with her son all day.  This was in my more naive years of motherhood and I remember thinking,"What a waste of time," but for that son, it was probably one of the best days of his young life. 

3) Don't overschedule the family.  It is so common and easy to fall into the pattern of signing our kids up for multiple activities.  Or signing up for too much ourselves!!  One report says that "Among many measures of this disturbing trend [of overscheduling] are the reports that structured sports time has doubled, but children’s free time has declined by 12 hours per week, and unstructured outdoor activities have fallen by 50 percent (see here, footnote 2). Whether our goal be to get them ahead of the pack, keep them busy, or to create well-rounded children, we need to be careful to balance those seemingly worthy goals with that all-too-important time alone and with family.

In conclusion, a quote from one of my favorite books, "People are so foolish, they waste their time even though they have so little of it (Search for Delicious, Babbit)." Let's fill our time with leisure and work, both serving an equally valuable purpose. 


** To read another great article on this topic, see "The Joys of Doing Nothing."

6.01.2010

Your Mission in Life is Now

How many of you saw this article in the Ensign this month?  My favorite part was where she talks about three principles in discovering our mission:

I found one way to recognize it by understanding three elements that were already part of my life:

      
       • A unique set of personal gifts.
       • A unique set of personal challenges.
       • Specific needs in the world that the Lord
            wants me to respond to.

Simply put, we fulfill our mission whenever these three elements intersect and we choose to act.

This summed it up in so many words I couldn't say!  I loved it!
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