10.29.2010

Cirriculum Choice of the Week

Our current order from Amazon.com showed up a couple of days ago. Yay!  New stuff!
I have to say that we are LOVING the Draw Write Now series.  The kids are sprawled out as I type, working on their drawings.  Even JW, yesterday, got in the car after school and said, "I want to go home and do Draw Write Now!"  I'm sure the novelty will wear off eventually, but for now we're raving about this!

10.21.2010

Back to Excellence

"Can you know excellence if you've never seen it?" - - The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

I just re-read one of my favorite Newberry Award winning books and was struck by this statement.  How do we expose our children to excellence?  If they don't see it in our home, can we guarantee they'll see it outside in the world?  I don't think so.  We can hope.  We can surround ourselves with greatness and let it filter down to our children.  But ultimately we need to show immerse them in excellence in our homes.  How can we do this?

I recently read this quote from Arthur Henry King on another blog I freqently visit:


Every single object in a room is of relevence to our education and to the education of our children...Children are affected from the beginning by what they see and hear within the walls of their home. Their environment creates their taste"

I like that, "Their environment creates their taste." 

Elder David B. Haight once said that every home should have three things:  a piano, great books, and love.  That's it!  How do we expose our children to greatness? 

Beautiful music.  Uplifting music.  Sometimes in our home we're in the mood for good ol' dance music.  Other times we need the classical works of Mozart.  On the Sabbath we particularly enjoy listening to spiritual music  (i.e. the Mormon Tabernacle Choir).  Thanks to Pandora, we are blessed with all these types of music in our home.  We also love the Suzuki piano CD's.  Something else I would put in the beautiful music category are the great musicals of our time:  The Sound of Music, 7 Brides for 7 Brothers, State Fair, Annie Get Your Gun, Singin' in the Rain, etc.  We also just recently watched The Magic Flute performance, exposing my children to the sounds of opera.  So many ways to bring in greatness through music!

Classic literature.  There's always so much out there about classic literature.  From another post I read a great description of why we need to read classics, and what constitutes a classic.  She wrote:

EVERY TIME I read [classics] I am recommitted to ... principles.... So, I may be wrong, but I think truly to be a classic it must not only change us because we learn, grow and have a different perspective, BUT we must truly come closer to God by reading it. The book must give us courage and strength and righteous desires, and virtue, knowledge and ability to BE better. To be more like God is. It should help us see ourselves and others for who we truly are and who we truly must become. It should leave us wanting more...not because we wish the story would not have ended, but because we have been spiritually edified.

Note:  I do believe there can be great modern literature that could be placed in the classics category.  Classics do not only need to be those "difficult to read and understand" works of literature.  :-)

All they need is love.  One of my favorite quotes, by Avi, says, "If you can convince your children that you love them, you can teach them anything."  We can expose our kids to all the greatness in the world, but what greater lesson than teaching them how to love.  One of my favorite sciptures, my motto scripture as mother is found in Mosiah 4:14-15:

"And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.  But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another (bold added)." 

So.  These are the things I think about when I try to surround my children with excellence.  Music.  Literature. Love.  How hard can it be?  :-)

10.20.2010

Boredom

"The water you touch in a river is the last of that
which has passed and the first of which is coming. 
 Thus it is with time present.  Life, if well spent, is long."
 - - Leonardo da Vinci - -

I believe in letting kids be bored.  In my house growing up we were not allowed to say, "I'm bored."  We called it the "B" word.  This wasn't a bad thing.  We had a home with a learning environment with plenty of time and resources to make ourselves useful and creative.  I have mostly kept up that same motto in my home, "If you're bored, I have plenty of work for you to do!"  But I'm changing my ways (as with so many other things in my life).  I'm no longer wanting to turn to chores to "cure" their boredom.

Before JW started public school, he would practice the piano for 1-2 hours every day.  Not all in one chunk, of course, just minutes here and minutes there. It's just where he went when he was bored.  Since starting school, however, he comes home almost deflated.  He wants to use his few hours of free time playing with siblings and relaxing.  Can't blame him.  But I hate to see his love for piano dwindle simply because of the time factor. 

Similarly, our home schedule has changed and with a more unstructured schedule, my kids have plenty of time to get bored.  Several times throughout the day I'll notice their state of boredom and pull out one of my planned activities for the day, or we'll simply read some books aloud.  I'm noticing, however, that B has been having more spurts of boredom than the younger kids.  Results?  My "I'm not a reader" child picked up a book and read it in one day.  Why?  Boredom. 

In today's world, everything is structured for our kids.  They go to school.  With the few hours between coming home and going to bed we cram in music lessons, organized sports, and dance classes.  If it's not one child, it's the other, leaving the rest of the family in the car during transportation. 

President Uchtdorf's recent conference talk rang true to me.  We need to SLOW DOWN.  He said, "If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most."  

I miss JW's continuous music throughout the day.  I'm loving our new schedule that is a little bit more conducive to my children using their creativity.  Kids need time to explore, to explore the world and to explore themselves.  Now when my kids say the words, "I'm bored,"  my response is not longer, "Get the chore list."  Instead, I will respond, "I'm sure you'll think of something great to do.  Do you need my help to get the ball rolling?"  

"Life is to be enjoyed, not simply endured"  (President Hinckley).  That's my goal for myself and for my children.

10.13.2010

Mentoring Mothers Meeting: Relationships

It's that time again!  Time to report on our Mentoring Mothers Meeting for the year.  It was fabulous!
Today we were still focussing on the Core Phase.  This is the phase where we want to strengthen relationships, establish natural schedules, train our children in principles of right and wrong, use work and play as the tools of learning.  This morning we specifically discussed our relationships.  And if you listened to General Conference, I'm sure you heard President Uchtdorf's talk on simplicity wherein he mentioned the four crucial relationships: family, God, yourself, and your fellowmen.  We did not focus on those same relationships today, but that talk is still worth reading again.  :-)  And remember, we're going through our own personal journey through the phases, not just what we expect our children to do during each phase. :-)

YOUR PARENTS

We opened up first by talking about what we gained (strengths and weaknesses) from our own parents. Leo Buscaglia, author of Living, Loving and Learning (see previous post) was the King of Quotes today! :-) I love that man. Anyway, he said, "You can't keep blaming your parents unless you're still a child."

We can change the negative patterns and continue the positive patterns set by our parents . . . in a healthy manner. I, for one, had to make an almost literal "cut of the apron strings" only recently and it was hard!  For me it has been hard to make that conscious change of pleasing my husband rather than pleasing my parents (even if I was doing so subconsiously).  Others in the group, however, were able to recognize along the way that there were some things they wanted to change when they created their own families.  Dr. Laura has said, "You have two chances at parenthood:  the first one, you don't choose;  the second one, you do."  Take some time to think about the many wonderful things your parents have done for you in your life.  How have them helped to get you to where you are, to who you are?  Then, take a briefer moment to find a thing or two that your have gained that is not in accordance with who you now want to become and learn from that. 
M. Catherine Thomas has said, "You were placed in your family, with their strengths and their weaknesses, so you can become who God needs you to be." 

PARENTING
We then shifted to our own parenting. Oh, boy! I can't even remember all we talked about because it was so great, and there was so much, and it went so fast!! The main thing we discussed really were EXPECTATIONS. Again from my friend, Leo:

"We also try to create models of perfection. We spend our lives trying to make the outside world fit our notion of what is perfect. We relaly do! And, what is, for example, the idea of a perfect day for us? A day that meets all of our needs, that goes just as we want it. And what is a bummer day? A bummer day is one that doesn't quite come out the way we wanted it. Well, tough for us! That's too bad if the day doesn't turn out the way we want it. The day was perfect - - it's we who were tampering with perfection. These expectations reinforce themselves. They shut out all possibilities of anything new coming at us which doesn't meet our addictions."

An interesting word there at the end, "addictions."  That's exactly what our unrealistic expectations can become. 

The question was raised, "We talk about not having them meet our expectations, but we need them to still do stuff. How do we balance that?" We basically came to terms that we do need to make sure our expectations are not too high for them to reach. We need to be clear that our expectations are not simply our addictions or views of perfections, but reachable and attainable expectations. In this we talked about, then, setting boundaries and having natural & logical consequences for our children. We still need to have those limits set, but not only based on our idealistic expectations.


A couple of other Leo quotes.
"90% of what adults say to children is talking at them, not with them."

"Perhaps [the definition of] love is leading you gently back to yourself."
This of this with parenting our own chidren. We are leading them to themselves. That is love.

MARRIAGE
Last, but not least by any means, we discussed the marriage relationship.
We talked about how you can't go 50/50, you need to go all the way. Because if you only go halfway and sit there expecting him to come the other half, you're both going to be disappointed. My husband recently reminded me of this. I was telling him that we needed to be sure we hugged every time he came home from work, you know, had some physical contact. He said, "That's true. I will work on it. But you can't be sitting in some other room waiting and expecting me to come and find you." I had to agree. How many times had I thought, "He knows we were going to work on this, why doesn't he do it" instead of me being the one to go to him. It's got to be 100% both ways. :-)

"If you love someone, your goal is to want them to be all that they are and you will encourage them every step of the way." - - Leo Buscaglia

In this discussion I really wanted to go a step further than what we've already known and been taught from church leaders, talks, books, etc.  I wanted to talk about having real intimacy with our husbands. No, I do not mean sexual intimacy alone (although, that is important, too), but having those moments where you really look at each other. Where you are truly seeing one another.We get so caught up in being parents together. In running a household together. In our different & defined roles and responsibilities.  And though it may be working fine and you're mostly happy, without that intimacy between one another, then you're really just going through the motions of having a good marriage instead of making it the BEST marriage.   We can talk about going on dates together, but even those dates can become a "check off list" item or a time for the wife's "deep discussion agenda" to come out on the table!  STOP deep discussing and just BE together.  ENJOY one another.  LIVE LIFE TOGETHER!  Allow and encourage your spouse to be who he/she truly is meant to be! 

CONCLUSION
 In my opinion, this topic is the MOST important part of the CORE phase. MOST Important! And our relationships with one another cannot be neglected.  One of the most neglected relationship is the one you have with yourself.  Are you the best example of who you want the world to be?  Or your home?  Here's Leo's last thought on that:
"A wonderful realization will be the day you realize you are unique in all the world. There is nothing that is an accident. You are a special combination for a purpose - - and don't let them tell you otherwise . . . You are that combination so that you can do what it is essential fo ryou to do. Don't ever believe tha tyou have nothing to contribute. The world is an incredible unfufilled tapestry, and only you can fulfill that tiny space that is yours. 'Oh, God, to have reached the point of death,' says Thoreau, 'only to find that you never lived.'"


Books to read:
Love & Logic series
Magic for Early Childhood (I think this is part of the Love & Logic stuff??)
Living, Loving and Learning - Leo Buscaglia
Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands - Dr. Laura
In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms - Dr. Laura
Boundaries

My Friend, Leo!!


Book of the Week!

I read this years ago and remember loving it.  In preparation for our Mentoring Mothers Meeting today (see next post) I decided to pull it out and read it again.  Amazing the second time around, too!  This man is full of those one-liner (or paragraph) gems that you want to ingrain in your mind for forever.  I'm sure those at the MMM were sick of who I fondly call, "My Friend, Leo."  :-)

Basically, his whole purpose is to teach others how to truly love. How to love one another.  How to love your parents.  How to love your spouse.  How to love learning.  How to love life.  And he exemplifies it in his speeches, it's amazing.  As you read you can just hear this passionate, Italian man telling you to get off your duff and start living your life. 

As a glimpse of who this man is, I want to share what he calls his "Essentials:"

1. Right Knowledge, to supply you with the tools necessary for your voyage.

2. Wisdom, to assure you that you are using hte accumulated knowledge of hte past in a manner that will best serve the discovery of your presence, your "now."

3. Compassion, to help you accept others whose ways may be different from yours, with gentleness and understanding, as you move with them or thorugh them or around them on your own way.

4. Harmony, to be able to accept the naturla flow of life.

5. Creativity, to help you to realize and recognize new alternatives and unchartered paths along the way.

6. Strength, to stand up against fear and move forward in spite of uncertainty, without guarantee or payment.

7. Peace, to keep you centered.

8. Joy, to keep you songful, and laughing and dancing all along the way

9. Love, to be your continual guide towards the highest level of consciousness of which man is capable.

10. Unity, which brings us back to where we started - - the place where we are at one iwth ourselves and with all things.

10.05.2010

Getting Comfortable without Structure

I was just reminded again the other night about just how structured I am.  I have been very proud of myself the last couple of weeks in being a little less so structured.  I realized that being so structured was actually inhibiting my daughters' love of learning.  I also wasn't feeling like I was getting "my time" in because the kids always needed me duirng the two hours they weren't supposed to need me!  So, if you've read my schedule for the day you can see that I do like to have structure to my time.  But our days really don't look like that anymore.  This is what we do:

Breakfast and Devotional
Chores in the morning
Free Learning Time in the late morning and all afternoon

That's it. 

I will plan a few activities to use throughout the day. Usually a math game or activitiy; a reading activity or some sort; and then a history, science, art or music something or other.  Then, when I  notice the kids are getting bored with playing, I pull out an activity or we do some reading aloud.  This time they are much more resonsive to what I have to teach them.  I have heard virtually no complaining, whereas a couple of weeks ago it was, "Do I have to?"  Yesterday my 5yo son asked if he could do some math pages on adding and subtracting.  My 9yo daughter, who has claimed herself a nonreader picked up a book I'd gotten at the library and read the whole thing!  I have been trying to teach A the concept of adding ten to any number without any success.  Yesterday we played a fun game and the concept clicked in just a few minutes!  And I'm not feeling interrupted during "my time" because I snatch my time in between while the kids are playing so happily together. 

So, as much as I thought I would hate being so unstructured, I'm actually finding that I love it!  I'm also better aware and able to give more to my children.  I can actually stop and play a game when my 5yo asks.  I am noticing that B is really entering in the love of learning stage but doesn't really know what to do about it (I will be having an interview with her to get her steered in the right direction).  I'm just excited to see that this change is giving me the results I was so desiring a couple of weeks ago!  Love it!
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