Friday, September 30, 2011

No School On the Weekends

Our family is leaving today on vacation for a week.  So here's your homework...

Look back through the past two week's of activities and try something new with your little ones.  Or are you looking for a refresher on the benefits of spontaneity?  Click on the Notes Page above.  Already tried some of these things or have some of your own you'd like to share?  I'd love to hear about them!

Even though we're on vacation, I am taking my Teaching Your Children Joy book along with me.  We'll still be doing a daily activity and invite you to continue doing them as well.  Each day next week my posts will be short and simple-just the activity for the day.  I hope you try a couple and have a ton of fun!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Popcorn Popping...

I've tried today's Teaching Your Children Joy activity before.  It's one of my favorite childhood memories and I tried to re-create it about a year ago.  It went disappointingly wrong...

"Pop popcorn without a lid."

See, the first time, I sent my husband on a wild goose chase to find the exact popper I remembered as a kid.  It had to be round and the lid needed to turn over into a bowl.  My mom used to turn ours on in the middle of the living room floor and let the popcorn kernels fly...it was always a huge party!  With my idyllic childhood memories, what could go wrong, right?  A couple things, apparently.

I followed the normal popcorn popping directions: 
    1.  Put oil in the popper and then add popcorn.  
    2.  Turn on and wait excitedly for the popping.
I added:
    1. Leave the lid off the bowl.
    2. Put my child close enough to hover over the popping machine.

When the corn started popping it was as exciting as in my memories...for about 2 seconds.  After that the oil started spattering and spraying a hot mist around the room and onto both Beck and me.  He was terrified (though it wasn't enough to cause any danger) and went running away, and I was saddened to have ruined a great experience through my own bout of not thinking.  

So, it was with great apprehension that we tried this activity again today... 
 It was everything I'd hoped a year ago that it would be, but please learn from my mistake: 
 It works 100% better without the oil in the bottom of the pan!

video




Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Getting More Specific

It looks like the Teaching Your Children Joy activities are now starting to move away from the abstract ideas we've been working with the past two weeks.  Today's activity was very specific.

"Finger paint with shaving cream"

Oh, boy, does that sound messy.  I just couldn't do it.  Instead I took the suggestions about using it as a color mixing lesson, and got out the watercolors with Beck during school time.  That was fun and we did it just as long as he wanted to.  Then while he ate his snack I motivated myself to make a batch of sidewalk paint.


Is it a requirement for mom bloggers at some point to put a recipe for sidewalk paint in their posting history?  There are seriously hundreds of recipes online.  I've looked at them dozens of times and always had hesitations.  What if it stains clothes (or the driveway), what if I don't have the ingredients?  Today I called my neighbor for the parts I was missing and finally did it. If you've been holding out like me, let this be the recipe that sets your brush in motion...

Homemade Sidewalk Paint
1/2 c cornstarch
1/2 c COLD water
Food Coloring

~Simply mix the cornstarch and water together until smooth
 (the key is COLD-it will make your life much easier)
~Divide into separate bowls and add food coloring until reaching desired color.
(I loved not having to count out 22-ish drops)
~Add paint brushes and paint away!
(The paint will need occasional stirring, which kids are good at.  If it thickens too much, just add more water.)


To answer the staining question, don't worry.  The paint dries like chalk.  It will wash off the driveway easily with a hose and if your baby decides to paint his jeans it will brush off.  Just try to get to him before he brushes up against your sofa...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Physical Joys: Spontaneity: Fun & Unexpected Results

Today's Teaching Your Child Joy activity was merely to do things that bring about fun and unexpected reactions.  It reminded me of a day last summer when I stripped the boys down to their skivvies and sent them out for painting in the yard...

This weekend Beck got new markers at Ikea that have a stamp on the top end.  Today for school he started out stamping and coloring on paper, but quickly decided he wanted to decorate himself.  With the understanding that it meant he'd have to take a bath tonight, Mom consented and he happily got carried away.  The last time I checked on him, both arms and both legs were amply covered in stamps.
 And to continue with our Autumn theme, we adapted a cute idea I saw this morning (sorry, I can't for my life find the blog I saw it on).  Using lentils, split peas, kidney beans, and wild rice, we made our own changing colors leaf.

Friday, September 23, 2011

No School On the Weekends

We have cousins in town so we skipped school today to have fun with them. 
Today's activity was supposed to be:

Do things that are silly and show your kids it's okay to have fun doing them. 
Shirt Crazy Dancing Kids
Why not try it this weekend and come back to let me know how it goes!

New Surprises In Old Things

Today's Teaching Your Child Joy Activity was to "put new surprises into old fairy tales."  I wasn't going to do it (are you sensing a theme here?).  After an afternoon playdate I was prepared to call school off for today.  With Peyton taking a late nap, I hoped Beck would just entertain himself while I finished the laundry (or checked my email).  What Beck wanted to do instead was play a game.  I put down the dirty clothes, turned off the computer, and said, "Sure, why not."


I AM SO GLAD I DID!

Beck wanted Risk, but we compromised with Candy Land.  He chose the blue and green guys because they match and gave me the red and yellow guys because they match.  He laid out the board and I removed the rubber band from the cards.  This is the point where student became the teacher and Beck surprised me.  Grabbing the rubber band, he wrapped it around all four playing pieces and exclaimed, 
"Now they can move together and we'll all get to the King's Candy Castle together!"
 He amazes me.  I amazed myself this evening...

Eating out as a family, Beck got a little antsy and then just quit listening.  After enticing distractions quit working I gave appropriate warning and then stuck to my word.  Beck and I went to the car with his food still on the table, my husband and Peyton staying to finish their meal.  I was irate!  Beck was horrified.  We sat in the car with him crying and me trying not to scream.  Then today's activity came back to mind.  I let Beck crawl into the front seat and started telling him "Goldilocks & the Three Bears Meets Little Red Riding Hood."  With a few last tears running down his cheek, he started listening, threw his head back, and started laughing uncontrollably!  We finished that story and then moved on to "Hansel & Gretel Meets Three Little Pigs."  And when we were rejoined by the other half of our family, we re-told our hybrid stories again.  (Warning:  Your little ones will remember your new story in far more detail than you will...Pay close attention to the tale you're spinning.)

The point I'm trying to make today is that in this little project I've started, it's my behaviour that is beginning to change.  My boys are perfect creations of their Heavenly Father who just need guiding and time to reach their divine potential.  While teaching them, if I also allow myself a little growing and learning, we might just all turn out okay.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Everybody Likes a Present

Today's Teaching Your Children Joy activity:
"Open Packages"
A present arrived at our front door today
 and Beck & Peyton got so excited.
 I let them rip it open; it was a only a book, 
but they were jumping up and down.
"It's beautiful, Mama!"
Lessons in motion.

This activity would also be fun to do with your child's toys.  Let them guess what's inside and watch their reactions as they make their discoveries.

Autumn activities we've worked on this week:
Leaf Puppets

and
Colored Pasta Landscapes

I'm In

What I'm learning about parenting is this:  You have to be all in.  Children grow up whether you're intensely involved or not.  The opportunity we have is to be a part of that during the short amount of time we have with them.  And we choose the degree of intensity.

During the past four years I've had ups and downs-periods of complete attention and periods of viewing from the sidelines.  The last year I'd evaluate as fairly well checked out and the results are there to prove it.  Beck and I argue like he's a teenager.  Indeed I look at him and can see exactly what 14-year-old Beck will be.  But the good news is that that's true for the good times too!  I've noticed before, and I'm seeing it now...when I'm anxiously engaged in being mom to my two boys, they smile and laugh and want to be anxiously engaged with me.  It's a lesson worth learning, and one I'm sure I'll need to keep learning again and again.

Today's Teaching Your Children Joy activity was to "make spontaneity a high priority."  Be open to letting it happen anytime and anyplace.  It's hard to get past the point when you holler "No," or "Stop," "Sshhh!", but when you do it makes the world more interesting for both you and your child.

So try it.  Let them splash in a puddle.  Follow the direction of their pointing fingers and over-enthusiastic shouts of "LOOK!"  Clear the way and let them spin the kid cart while walking through the grocery store.  They'll be happier and you might just find yourself barefooted squishing mud between your toes.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Still Practicing Spontaneity

Today's Teaching Your Child Joy activity was pretty simple: Continue doing spontaneous things together.  Again my inclination was to skip it.  I was gone over the weekend and needed to run errands today.  Beck and Peyton were still reeling over the weekend with Daddy and were less than enthusiastic about joining me.  With all three of us grumbling, we piled in the car and headed out for the day.

Heading first to the library, I was thinking about a picture book we checked out recently called Subway.  In the story it is raining in New York City and the father decides to take his two kids for a day-long ride on the underground trains.  Making a U-turn, I decided to take my two boys on an adventure of our own.  Instead of running errands, we drove north about half an hour and hopped on our local light-rail train.  Beck and Peyton were both so excited, and I even got excited when we transferred onto one of the newly opened lines we'd never ridden before.  Our favorite thing on the train is to hear the electronic lady say, "End of the line, as far as we go."  We got to hear it twice today as we rode to the end of the new line, and then back to our starting place.  (Sorry, no photos-I wasn't expecting a photograph-able adventure, remember?)

Beck got a second dose of spontaneity when his dad came home while we were finishing up with preschool. Having to make an unexpected work trip up into the mountains, he stopped to pick up Beck and take him along for the ride.  They hopped in the work truck, fixed the problem, and then stopped at an abandoned train siding to play a game of "coal cars loading up at the watering station."  (I don't know what that is, but my husband said he took my lead and just went along with whatever game Beck had in his head).

What we did in school today:
Beck really wants to start learning about Halloween, but I'm just not ready so this week we're focusing on Autumn.  We collected leaves in the yard and then started this picture where we'll add a new leaf each Monday to study the changing colors...
 
and then made this leaf collage to hang in his room...

What spontaneous things have you done with your kids recently?

Friday, September 16, 2011

No School On the Weekends

Beck and I are definitely not doing school on the weekends, so I think I'll share a link that fits in with the activities we worked on this week...

A great article about letting kids be kids on a great blog 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Playing Games (and a little math)

Today's Teaching Your Children Joy activity-
Play surprise oriented games

Today we got Peyton (my 18-month-old) into the action with a great game of peek-a-boo.  We were playing at the park when he started covering his face and waiting for us to notice.  Pretty soon we were all laughing while Beck and Peyton covered their faces together and Peyton got me to play by smothering my face with his hands and then not understanding the part about ever taking them off.  The game got even more fun when Peyton started walking around the corner of the restroom building and then peeking his blonde head out sideways with a devilish grin.  By the end we were all laughing uncontrollably.

Last night Beck and I were playing his version of a game a toss-and-catch game we own.  We chased each other around, racing to get to the ball and scoop it up with our hooks.  It was after we'd been running and laughing and were out of breath for quite awhile that the real thought came to me, "I'm playing with my son!" I usually only play begrudgingly and as minimally as possible, pushing that responsibility off on my husband.  I am astounded at how much my priorities and motivations are changing already after less than one week of focusing on teaching my children joy!

Today for school we worked on counting:
Counting chart using foam number and dried beans

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Not A 1/2 Hour Lesson

Spontaneity, it turns out, is not something you can teach once during naptime and be done.  It's a life skill we need to keep doing over and over again throughout the day.  Today's Teaching Your Children Joy activity was to

"Help them relive spontaneous joy moments by remembering."

We, of course, talked lots more about the praying mantis along with other silly things.  I think a great way to do this activity would be looking through family photos.  Children's stories become their histories.  

For school today we made this school box to hold our supplies

and Lemon Buddies for a delicious treat

Monday, September 12, 2011

Physical Joys: Spontaneity (and a Praying Mantis)

Today was the first day of our "B & Mom School" and the first section of the Teaching Your Children Joy book is on the Physical Joys.  With my faded memory of glancing through the activities over a year ago I thought we were going to start out with learning about the body and all the great things it can do.  Instead, Chapter One is all about spontaneity.

"Nature never makes haste."

My first instinct was to skip right past Chapter 1 and get a good jump into the next set of activities.  I feel like I, myself, am a fairly spontaneous person, and assume that rubs off on my children.  I'm not a creature of routine and will drop everything if something fun comes along.  Random is a well-used word in my vocabulary-we are always doing completely random things.  But that's not what the spontaneity activities teach.  For me being spontaneous often means escape.  For children, spontaneity means being 100% involved in their surroundings.   

"Get excited with children."

Today's activity was all about listening, watching, and following; having equal and active interest in what B and P were doing.

    Equal:  Get down on their level and see what they are seeing
    Active:  To teach them they have to be able to reach you.
                        (My BIG weakness is responding without paying attention.) 

What We Did:

1.  Shopping.  Normally I would put both kids in the cart, but today I let B walk.  The challenge for me was not rushing along.  He wanted to look at everything. "Look, mom!" "I want to see that, Mom."  "Whoa!  Mom, how does that work?" "Can we do this, Mom?" I lifted him to see what was up high, he got to touch and feel, we talked about what we were seeing.  It was very eye-opening. (So nobody thinks I'm perfect, impatience did creep in before we were finished.  But at least I was aware of myself hollering, "Come on B" & "Let's go, B)

2.  I let B pick one of his new purchases for today's school activity.It was random, but he was so excited to make this Shrinkie-Dink Saturn and hang it in his window.


3.  Mom's A+ for the day:  B & Peyton were playing outside when all of a sudden B started screaming.  I came running to find B hiding and Peyton inches away from picking up a praying mantis.  Moms, let me tell you-praying mantis' are UGLY bugs!!  But I could see that both boys were curious.  Against all my girl-y instincts I sat right down with them on the porch and we watched that praying mantis for 20 minutes or more.  We saw it's belly moving while it breathed.  We watched it stretch out it's legs and lift it's  body.  It jumped, explored, and then came back to it's original resting place.  We saw how it's arms look like they're folded in prayer and that it's head is a triangle.  We guessed what praying mantis like to eat and B said he wished all the mosquitoes and praying mantis' would go live on another planet like Jupiter. I was one second away from shrieking everytime it moved, but after awhile I just couldn't look away!

video

Being spontaneous is a little exhausting, but
I can't believe how much Teaching Your Children Joy is already teaching me...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Inspiration

"The preschool years are not the time to teach reading or math.  We should use life's most impressionable years to teach life's most important lesson-how to be happy!"
-Linda and Richard Eyre

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My husband and two little boys once went to the grocery store and came back with a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  They made me close my eyes so I would be surprised.  When I looked at my husband in gratitude he shook his head and told me our 4-year-old had asked to buy them.  He thought they would make me happy and then I wouldn't get frustrated with him anymore.  

Being a mother has not come easy to me.  I lose my patience and lose my temper.  I overreact and criticize.  I watch my husband being goofy and attentive and slap myself on the forehead thinking, "Argh, that's the way I need to be!" It is time to step back from the busyness I've created in my life and make my four little boys one of my highest priorities.

  
When my oldest was younger we participated in an unofficial Joy School where parents prepared and taught lessons and activities for their preschool-age children.  It was a wonderful experience for all of us.  At the start of new school years everyone I knew asked if I would be putting him into preschool. With very little question, I decided not to enroll him into a structured preschool class.  There would be decades of structured school environments ahead and I wanted to give him the chance to simply be a kid for as long as he can be. 

eatingthenibblybibs


One of the mothers from our class wanted to start an actual preschool.  Her focus was going to be heavy on learning to read, teaching math skills, learning foreign language words, and other extremely school-centric lessons.  While my oldest loved letters and learning, I didn't feel like he needed to feel pressured to learn those things so soon.  It was hard to say no, but I'm still proud for sticking up for what was right for my boys.

And so, this is how we got started on our homeschooling journey:

Using the quiet of afternoon naptime with younger siblings I focused on precious life skills kids need to always find optimism in life.  The purpose of this blog is to share how we continue working towards that goal each day.  Starting out, that looked like this:
  • Use the book Teaching Your Children Joy by the Eyres as our base.  Packed full of activities and divided into 13 sections, we worked on an activity a day, making our way through the book at laid-back pace.  Occasionally we supplemented activities from other books and websites as well.
  • Working through a variety of preschool curriculum workbooks, but with a fun, low-pressure pace.  Some phonics, some math patterns and counting, a lot of motorskills activities.
  • Art, playtime, games, and more.  A wonderful opportunity for me to get down to children's level and play without interruption.  The kids need that, but I need it, too.  
  • Storytime.  My husband and I both love to read.  It touches me deeply that our boys show such an intense love for books and stories.  Their creativity and imaginations are strong and I want to continue building a connection between a story on a page and the way that they play. 
Eatingthenibblybibs

I want to always see my boys smiling and happy.  I want them to not feel like they have to shower me with flowers so I will be nice to them (although that's not such a bad life-lesson, is it ladies?).

It has been 4 years since we started out on this journey, with many ups and downs, but our decision to homeschool is solidified each day. There's a lot to tell since those early days, but my guiding principles are still the same...

 We have precious little time to show our children they are the center of our lives,
 to be close to them and to build the confidence they will need
 in the future to find happiness within themselves.


Look for joy in what they are doing every single day!

Want to learn more about Teaching Your Children Joy?

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