An Exciting New Phase of Parenting

Those sweet big brothers! They try really hard!

Alan and I have reached an EXCITING new phase of parenting!

Some of our nights are still hard. Last night, Alan was up until 2 am working on finals. I had to get up in the middle of the night for over an hour with J.D., and then Daniel woke up too, and they both insisted that they were starving….at 3am. I did remember that we had had a hurry-up dinner of leftover chili at 5pm that night. The baby didn’t touch his, and Daniel had barely eaten any of his. After that,  there was the evening Christmas music special at our church, and then they had all eaten cookies at the fellowship afterwards.

Once I finally fed them, they easily returned to sleep. Don’t worry. That is an unusual occurence.

Rough nights are a very common occurence.

That’s why this new and EXCITING phase of parenting is so incredibly special.

Morning dawns, and guess who wakes up early in spite of the interrupted sleep….the little ones….but ALSO….the BIG ones!!  haha! By big ones, I am referring to our seven and nine-year-olds.

As a team, on a rainy morning, they are WONDERFUL. Caleb gets the baby out of bed and closes our door. Joshua gets them all breakfast. They all played nicely downstairs.

I know!!!

Alan and I slept until 8:30.  8:30!!!!

Moms of only young children, hang in there. Don’t listen to the people who tell you it never gets easier. It DOES! They just don’t remember.

You only have to do the all pre-schooler thing once. Even when you have two little ones all over again, it’s not exactly the same because now you have helpers. Last night, I had to be at church early. I’m in the choir. I asked Alan, as I left, “Do you want me to take Joshua and Caleb with me?” I couldn’t take the babies because there’s normally no nursery.

Alan said, “No. No. Leave them here. They can help get them things and keep them out of trouble.”

Around 8:30, JD finally snuck past them and made his way to my bed. The big boys had started a game of Pokemon cards, in the BATHROOM, with the door shut, “so the babies couldn’t mess up the game.” I figured that was okay, after all, they had earned that after their good work.

Daniel came running to me, broken hearted because they had left him out of the game. I went downstairs and appealed to Joshua to deal Daniel in, which he did. Eventually, Caleb and Daniel couldn’t get along, and the game ended. Joshua tried really hard to intervene on Daniel’s behalf though. I’m just so tickled with Joshua this morning.

There are clear parings among our boys. Caleb does best with J.D. because he doesn’t pester the snot out of him by picking him up too much and tickling him, like Joshua does. Joshua does much better with Daniel, because Caleb and Daniel are too close in age and, of all our children, have the hardest time getting along. Is that 3.5 year age gap the worst, or is it just their personalities?? I don’t know, but they are a tough pair to manage!

I’m feeling optimistic today. I need to think of something good to do for these boys for being such great morning helpers!

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”   Luke 2:14

“See it how I see it.”

Do you ever get messed up in how you see things? You work, and you work, and you work, but you are never done, and after awhile the sky seems to be falling, you’ve forgotten to take time for fun, and suddenly all of the joy that should be in your heart is snuffed out like a candle on a birthday cake.

Well, that’s been me for…well, since we moved, I guess. I just keep telling myself that if I just make it through this year, things will get better.

I love my children. I enjoy teaching them. I don’t even mind cooking dinner, but there is one part of this whole stay-at-home, home-schooling, blogger-mom gig that causes me very great stress.

Housework.

Where the school day ends, the house work begins, and with a house of 6 people, that “career” is enough to keep me busy all by itself. Then there’s the whole question of dinner. I’m out of the habit of making realistic dinner plans, so I’ve been pulling that together at the last minute.

Plus, every where I turn, we have another ant invasion. That’s right, our whole neighborhood has the most insane ant problem I have ever seen in my life. There are lines of them, eating-I can’t-figure out what in all of our bathrooms. With the rain, they have come into our home in record numbers.

Basically, around 3 or 4 everyday, I feel so completely burned out and defeated, that what I truly wish to do is get in my car and just drive until I find a restful place to stop.

The other day, in the depths of feeling as melancholy and hopeless as ever…

(I get that some of you have no idea why I would feel that way. Well, I’d take pictures of my house to explain it, but I’m afraid that would cause me to be judged by others of you, so I will be sharing no such pictures at this time.)

My messy house makes me want to cry. It sucks the energy out of me. People think of me as laid back, but I’m totally not. I’m actually a polite, high pressure, control freak that smiles a lot. There I said it.

Today I had 20 or so things on my mind, I was desperate to get out of the kitchen and escape somehow for a minute, and just as I thought I might go sit on the love seat and pout for just a second…Daniel spilled juice all over himself and the kitchen floor. At that EXACT SAME moment, JD knocked over a BOX of vanilla wafers, which at the bottom of the box, was more crumbs than wafers.

Did I mention that I had JUST swept and mopped the floor, not 30 minutes prior to this incident?

Did you also know that JD is so tall–almost freakishly so–that he can reach the kitchen countertops?

Somehow I didn’t manage to find all the crumbs to sweep up, so the floor is wet and crunchy. Daniel, Caleb, and JD are all taking a bath. That sounds nice, except I’m going to have to summon energy from SOMEWHERE to get them all dressed again.

When I say that I want to cry every single day, that is a gross understatement. I actually do cry most days. I have no idea how to catch up on all of the housekeeping, so I’ve taken to keeping one room of my house completely immaculate. I just started this a week ago.

It makes me feel like I have some sort of control over SOMETHING in my life. What room did I choose? The smallest room in the house: the laundry room. I’ve been working so hard on that room this week. It’s all I have time for! The washer and dryer are crud and dust free. The floor is spotless. The shelves are dusted. Nothing is in that room that doesn’t belong there–well, except for those photos that I haven’t hung yet.  But seriously, when?? When will I hang pictures?

So if you can’t find me……that may be where you will find me. NO, not hanging pictures, but cleaning my laundry room, so that I can feel like I’ve got something under control.

Do you think this is an awful lot of whining about house cleaning? It is! The cleanliness level of my house directly affects my mood–even if that should not be so.

Wednesday, as I was laying flat on my face, crying and whining to God in my prayers about how hard it is to teach these boys, never leave the house, and whoa whoa whoa whoa wheaaa wheaaaa wheaaa wheaaa wheaaaa….. I said, “I should just go get those boys right now, and put them back to work. Lord, what in the world should I do?”

“See them how I see them.”

No, don’t worry, friends, I do not hear the audible voice of God, never have, but I promise that he speaks to my heart.

I went to the boys’ window, and looked down at my three biggest boys, on the trampoline. JD toddled along beside me.

There they were. They each sat on a different side of the trampoline, Indian style. They appeared to be having some sort of meeting.

“Oh, right,” I thought, “They are just darling little children. I’m so thankful they have each other.This time on the trampoline together is good for them.”

I need not destroy the magic of their childhood with my own anxiety problems. Yes, I put too many demands upon myself. That’s not their fault. They are just children. 

So I have a goal, a very important goal. I am going to ENJOY the trip to Alabama this year. I’m not pregnant or breastfeeding, so I have that going for me. Yes, I have to fly with four children, but at least this time Alan gets to go with us.

I’m going to try to enjoy the plane ride and visiting the way that the children do, because normally I don’t, and that makes the trip less fun for everyone else.

Is this phase of homeschooling while also taking care of a toddler and a preschooler the hardest thing I have ever done?  YES. Aboslutely YES. I did home school Joshua in K4 and part of Kindergarten. That is  not the same at all as home schooling three different ages. Joshua and Caleb are so big now, that I don’t want to mess this up.

The really sad thing is that I’m letting all of these  pressures that I put on myself steal my joy. Why? I want everything to be perfect, and that is not an achievable goal.

Who likes perfect people anyway?

I’d better go take the boys out of the bathtub, remind myself to see them how God sees them, and try not to rain on everyone’s Christmas. 🙂

I feel like I’m giving my Eeyore-self a pep talk!!

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'”            James 4:6

 

 

Teaching my “ADD” Son

strategies for teaching ADD

 

I love how homeschooling has allowed me to cater to the boys’ individual gifts. I want to share with you what we’re doing to meet each boys’ gifts and challenges, so today we will focus on Caleb.

I realize home schooling isn’t for everyone, it isn’t even possible for many, so maybe you can apply some of these tricks to your regular-school-kid too! 🙂

It never ceases to amaze me how completely different all four of our boys are! I’m still waiting to see how JD will turn out. For now, we just know that he is go-go-go and clingy-clingy-clingy. We also know that he has some sort of sleep disorder that is destroying my outlook on life, but we are not here to talk about that today…

Let’s just focus on school.

Caleb is your classic Billy from Family Circus ‘boy’. He does the stereotypical stuff. He begs us for a pet, he finds snails and brings them to me, he pretends to dislike girls, and he’s always wiggly. Oh, and he loves to take things apart. He can also fix things that I cannot. If I want a chore done quickly and effectively, I call upon Caleb.

Spelling, memorizing facts, and sitting still are his nemesis. His Sunday School teacher recently referred to Caleb as “quiet and shy.”

???

That’s right. My children have one personality at home and a totally different one at school or Sunday School. I was quiet at school when I was a child too, only I actually am shy, whereas Caleb is definitely NOT shy.

The hard thing about teaching Caleb in the school setting, is that it feels like he isn’t participating. He NEVER answers questions, in a large group, and he talks and sings so quietly that you can’t tell if he is doing so or not. It looks as though he is completely disengaged–not at all like any of the other kids in the class.

As a parent, this is frustrating to watch.

I would love to design a school that caters to little “ADD” kids like Caleb–and guess what! I am doing exactly that this year–here at our own little home school!!  I have TWO ADDish boys, though even the way that ADD is displayed is different in each of them!!

Here is what is helping with Caleb so far:

1. Fidgeting is 100% REQUIRED!!!

If I am going to be teaching something new, or going over memory work, Caleb absolutely HAS to have something in his hands to work on. For example, if Alan is teaching a Bible lesson to the boys, we say, “Caleb, go get your puzzle!!!” Caleb fetches his U.S. puzzle and works on it while Alan teaches. Suddenly he becomes interactive Caleb with questions.

How did I figure this out? Classical Conversations. After the agony of watching my smart little boy act as though he doesn’t know anything all morning, we went outside to paint. Thankfully, it was a laid back painting day. The kids were allowed to use whatever colors they wanted–kind of a big deal for Caleb.

Meanwhile, Caleb’s tutor opened up her science book and started teaching from it. Suddenly, Caleb became interactive Caleb, asking questions, and looking happy.

The key seems to be that Caleb has to be working on something with his hands to pay attention. I totally get this!!  When I was in school, my notebook was always FULL of doodles. I do the same thing in church. Normally, I dislike drawing, but I just have to have something to do with my hands when I am in the school setting.

And what do we typically tell small school children, during instructional time? Everyone clear off your desk, and no fidgeting. HA!!! Perhaps that is best for most kids, I don’t know. I don’t have ‘most kids,’ I just have these kids, and I want to do whatever works to make school easier and more fun for them.

2. Frequent breaks.

Caleb completes a subject, then he has a break–sometimes a drawing break, sometimes a full-jump-on the trampoline recess. With all the rain we are suddenly having, he plays in the garage a lot. I would much rather knock all that school work out at one time, but that leaves Caleb looking like a whiny lump in the floor, so I get about an hour of work out of him at a time.

Caleb’s Basic Day:

Math Worksheet (A Beka 2nd grade)  He is excellent at this–straight As, and he thinks it’s easy.

Spelling

Notebooking: writing, copy work, etc.

BREAK–Full 20 minutes

Grammar/Phonics/Guided reading  We are really enjoying the A Beka readers now. They are full of sweet stories that almost all have wonderful life lessons. Love. Love. Love. Caleb also grasps grammar rules with swiftness. Phonics has been a struggle, and he’s still improving in reading. Thankfully, he loves Treasure Chest. He recently finished reading Pinnochio in that reader.

Review Memory Work (Science/History/math/grammar)

BREAK  a long one, while I work individually with Joshua

Math Speed Drills

LUNCH

Teacher Reading (where I read one nonfiction science or history story, followed by one fiction story or chapter or two)

Handwriting–Caleb’s favorite subject with Drawing (Most of the lessons in PreScripts include a drawing lesson.

Geography–We have now graduated to actually drawing the maps, rather than just tracing. I can’t tell you how challenging, but fun this is!

Go over whatever else we missed during the day, and then I NEVER let school run past 3pm. Usually we are done by 2:15.

Why does it take me so long, when I only have three students??  Well, let’s not forget this guy:

 

Our school comes with a TON of built in distractions, but that also makes it more fun.

I am fortunate. Even though we are always at home, the boys still have three friends to play with all the time:

 

 

 

That’s right. Sweet Dan can also do a mean scowl.

Joshua picked out his and J.D.’s clothes, and then they all decided to dress alike. They were a little disappointed that J.D. would not cooperate for group pictures.

When you have big brothers, you learn the back arch fit extra early.

 

 

 

 

 

3. Experience Learning: I think with anybody, ADD or no, actually going out and experiencing things is much better for learning than just reading about it.

What did I set out to teach the boys in these photos?

You might guess table manners or ocean life, but that wasn’t really what I was thinking. I set out to teach them about Black Friday. 🙂 Joshua, Caleb, Daniel, and I hit the mall and a restaurant in honor of America’s favorite day to shop. We scored an awesome deal on Daddy’s present.

We also got the bonus of getting to watch the ocean waves while we ate our lunch. Science. 🙂

experiencing the beauty of California at a local ranch

More science. These are harvester ants. They are all female. They only produce a male when they wish to reproduce. I guess they don’t realize how funny boys are to have around.

Proverbs 6:6-8 (KJV)

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:

Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,

Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

Did you catch that?? Don’t miss it! Solomon is known for the wisdom God gave him. The Bible is the inspired Word of God. They called EVERYTHING “he” or “him” back then.

What did they call the ant??  HER

Don’t miss that. The Bible is CHOCK-FULL of wisdom that is way before its time.

Isaiah also wrote a verse that showed inspired wisdom about “the circle of the earth”, back when we’re told they thought the earth was flat.

21Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.   Isaiah 40:21-22

4. Let’s talk about memorizing. 

Unfortunately, I have not unlocked that padlock for Caleb yet. He does well with the truly catchy songs, the Bible passage, and the things that I have managed to go over a gazillion times, but I want to find a way to make it easier. I have learned ALL of this stuff fairly quickly, without going over it a gazillion times, and I am old. Some of it was completely new to me too: like the Latin….and the specific Appalachian mountain ranges. I would love more memorization tips for my little guy who hates memorizing!!!

I think part of the problem is that he thinks it’s boring, so perhaps what I SHOULD be asking tips for is how to make it more interesting to a 7 year old.

5. Focusing on the GIFTS

In order to keep Caleb happy about school, I have to praise, praise, praise every thing he does well. He leaps up the stairs to come to Handwriting, Art, or Math Speed Drill time because those are things that he has received lots of praise for.  Caleb is so creative. It’s so easy to praise him for his arts and crafts achievements.

Obviously, I need to praise him more on memory work!! I was really impressed today with his excellent Latin translation skills. That was all thanks to how well he learned John 1:1. The boys are currently memorizing John 1:1-7 in Latin. Caleb has already done a pretty good job of memorizing it in English. Caleb was actually able to teach this week’s Latin to Joshua. Now THAT was exciting!

What helped him learn John 1:1-7 so well? I made him copy it during notebooking time. That lets me know that Caleb learns through writing things down, which makes a TON of sense, since he learns through fidgeting!!!

Hmmm…I need to employ more of that!

6. Trampoline Memory Work

This is my next idea!!! Maybe trampoline spelling and trampoline math drills too!!

7. It’s really all about the one-on-one.

ADD kids need one on one attention more than their wired-perfectly-regularly counterparts. That’s where home-schooling is paying off BIG TIME.

You may be tempted to think ADD is not a “real” thing. As a psychology grad-school drop-out, let me assure you that IT IS INDEED A REAL THING. In the old days, they may have just said, “That boy ain’t quite right.” Haaaa!  The thing is now we know why. Our brains don’t all work the same.

Aren’t you glad they don’t?  😉  I bet some of the greatest creatives of all time were ADD.

8. Teach to the level of the child. 

This is another benefit that I have. Even some public schools do this. Where my children went to school last year, they divided the whole 2nd grade up into spelling classes. Some kids in the second grade were spelling hop, shop, pop. Others were spelling shook, shake, shriek, or whatever. You get the idea.

At the beginning of the year, both boys almost cried while working on material that they were not ready for, and school felt like a battle. As soon as I switched the curriculum to their actual level, they began to learn without tears. This is the best thing I’ve done for them. In the long run, they will actually be better at these subjects, since they took their time, and learned it step by step, rather than feeling lost all year.

Teaching to their level made my life so much easier too. I don’t have to battle them on any of our subjects–other than just “Can we be done now?” Gone are those first few weeks of, “I can’t do this!! It’s just too hard!!!” Okay, occasionally they still say that, but only when they are lazy or in need of a quick break.

I always wondered why home schoolers got that deer in the headlights look when you asked them what grade their kid is in!! It’s because at any given time Child A may be in 4th grade spelling and reading, 5th grade history, geography, and science, mid-2nd grade math, and 3rd grade grammar and handwriting…..but yeah…he’s in 3rd grade.  LOL!!! That’s the awesomeness of the one-on-one.

Anyone else have any good ADD tips?? I know there are plenty of teachers out there that could help us!!!

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