I Homeschool, But I’m Not Super Human

I Homeschool But I'm Not Super Human

                        Do you see me among these superheroes? No? It’s because I’m not one.

Yup, that’s right. I don’t homeschool because I’m super human and homeschooling hasn’t given me super human patience either.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, well duh! You homeschool, you weren’t bitten by a radioactive spider. However, I’m writing this post today because I often get comments like, “I could never homeschool, I’m not xyz enough.” Usually patient, but sometimes other things as well.

But let me let you in on a little secret. I do not have some super patience skills. I am not some superhuman human or parent. No, I’m just an ordinary parent. I’m just like the rest of you. I have my parenting struggles. I have my bad days. My kids can be a handful and some days I feel like why go to the zoo when you already live in one.

Now, I don’t write this post to make you feel like you should be homeschooling, because I don’t believe that at all.* This is not to say that I don’t think that you could homeschool, just that I don’t feel like you have to homeschool if it’s not the right fit for you family.

I’m just writing this post because I don’t want to be put on some pedestal. For one, that’s an awful lot of pressure to put on myself and I don’t do well under those circumstances. For two, because I’m really much more ordinary than people think. For three, I don’t want people to think I’m someone I’m not.**

So, if I’m not superhuman, why do I homeschool anyways? Because it’s what Nick and I feel is best for our family. I find that all parents have the remarkable ability to do hard things when it’s what they feel best for their children. Parenting is a hard thing and every day, we all find ways to get through it and to raise humans who are pretty awesome. We put aside the things that we think limit us and do the hard things because we want our children to grow up to be decent human beings. We all do that, whether or not we homeschool.

So I’m not any better or any more because we homeschool. I haven’t been dosed with extra patience or born with extra arms (though that would be handy). I’m just an ordinary mom. And that’s perfectly okay with me.

Do you ever feel like you’ve been put on a pedestal because of something you do? Do you ever look at other moms and think they must be super human because of the things they manage to do that you don’t? 

*I feel like I’m always saying that another post is coming soon, but another post is coming soon on that subject. I just have a lot of ideas guys. 

**I don’t think you can really say for two and for three like that, but I said it anyway. 

Haba Palette of Pegs Review

Haba Palette of Pegs collage

Disclaimer: I received this product free of charge from Timberdoodle in exchange for my honest review. As always, you can expect me to be truthful and honest here on my blog.

I am so excited today to bring you our review of Haba’s Palette of Pegs. Haba’s Palette of Pegs, as you can see from the pictures, is a bright and colorful open ended STEM focused toy aimed at kids ages 2-6.

When I first took this out, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Unlike some things, it didn’t come with a use of suggestions or anything. This may surprise some of you, but I feel better with instructions.

Haba Palette of Pegs

But that’s kind of silly because my kids never fail to find creative ways to use things, far beyond what I could come up with. And using the Palette of Pegs was no exception to that.

When we started out, I just wanted to work on naming the colors. My youngest, Allen, is two, and knows the names of his colors. However, he still has a hard time accurately identifying what color things are. I don’t really like flash cards at Allen’s age or anything really heavy handed, so an activity like this is great as it gives us a natural way into talking about colors. “I see you have the red peg.” or “What color is that one?” This is also great because there are a lot of near shades which make it more challenging. I can’t take credit for that. My friend Janet pointed it out to me when she was visiting. 

Allen loved it. He wanted to play a game with it, so he made up a game where we would take turns matching the rings to the pegs of the same color. We played once with the pegs in the order they came in. Then, I took them all out and mixed them up to be in more random order to make it a little bit harder.

What surprised me the most was how interested Dominic (5) was in this. I know that he is within the age range for it, but I didn’t think he would be that interested in it. However, he found lots of interesting ways to use it. He figured out that if he put a peg in the middle of two rings, for example, he could roll it. He also discovered he could stack them into a tower – which is trickier than it looks. This is where some of the STEM skills come in as it can encourage that outside of the box thinking and building.

Haba Palette of PegsOverall, I think Palette of Pegs is really great! I’m planning on leaving this out for my kids to work with. I do better with instructions; however, I appreciate open ended toys for my kids to encourage their creativity. I also appreciate that it feels like a lot of care went into designing and making this. The paint is solvent free – which is great if you have a kid that still puts stuff in their mouth. (Allen still does way more than I would want lol). The bottom of the board has pieces on the corner to keep it from sliding around. That is great because the last thing that you want is for it to slide around. Sliding around can frustrate kids and ruin their concentration. But this does not slide! All in all, a quality product, but I would expect no less from Haba and Timberdoodle.

What is your favorite Haba toy? Do you have Palette of Pegs? What other color matching activities do you enjoy? 

How Sleep Training Worked for Us

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As I wrote about previously, when I started parenting I very much fell into attachment parenting. You can read more about it there, but if you read it already or don’t want to read it, the long and the short of it was that I had become convinced that it was the only way to raise good kids and that doing anything else would be a failure. So how does someone who is very much AP (attachment parenting in internet speak) go from that to someone who used sleep training methods?

When I had a dream sleeper – and I mean a dream sleeper – it was very easy to be an attachment parent. Attachment parenting is easy, I thought, why doesn’t everyone do it? Of course, my son was sleeping 9 hours through the night at 2 weeks old and could be put down to sleep anywhere (and I mean anywhere – there are pictures of him sleeping on an ottoman at a retreat and on a table at my friend’s wedding – carefully supervised with me right there so he didn’t roll off of course). In my naivety of being a first-time parent, I credited this to my awesome attachment parenting skills. People who used sleep training just don’t know what they are doing, my ultra smug self thought. (I regret thinking this and being so smug. Grace and learning, right?)

Oh, I could not have been more wrong! It is humbling to write this on my blog for who knows (and everyone) to read, but I was so very wrong. I would come to discover that this was because of who was my kid was and not because of anything magical I had done.

And I had come to discover that it would all change, very suddenly.

You see, around 6 months, things changed. What I know now and understand to be the development of object permanence and my baby becoming hyper vigilant, I did not know then. All I knew is that my child screamed in my arms, for every nap and bedtime before falling asleep. Sometimes over an hour. And trust me when I say, nothing, nothing, made me feel more helpless than to have my son screaming in my arms and me trying every. possible. thing. to get him to sleep and to comfort him without luck. I felt like a complete and utter failure time and time again. These crying sessions would routinely last for over an hour before he fell asleep. I’d hold him, he’d cry, he’d act like he’d want me to put him down, I put him down, he’d cry and act like he wanted me to pick him up. It was torturous.

I remember one time – to tell this story I have to back things up a little. When I was in college, I was heavily involved in my church then and after we got married, Nick became heavily involved too. Because we were often involved in the music and the AV, we were usually there like an hour before church. And one time, Dominic would just not stop crying. People were suggesting things to me and I was trying them, but none of them were working. I tried feeding him, but he wasn’t having it. I tried rocking him. I tried everything until eventually, he fell asleep. That crying lasted for over an hour and (hopefully) no one else remembers it, but I felt completely mortified. And broken. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t get my child to stop crying? I felt I had failed as a mother. I handed the sleeping Dominic to Nick and even though church was going on, I slipped out the back and sat on the back steps crying because I felt so defeated. What kind of mother wasn’t a comfort to her crying child?

I turned to the attachment parenting groups and resources I had come to believe would help me and I got not a lot of great answers.

It’s just a phase – wait it out. Well, I tried this but I found myself being utterly crushed over and over again by the fact that he would just cry so much in my arms. My little boy who had been the happiest baby now seemed beyond miserable.

Try co-sleeping. And even though it went against everything I believed in (even though I was AP, we did not co-sleep because I did have concerns about its safety), we tried it. He only slept marginally better and I slept absolutely terrible. I move around a lot in my sleep, but with the awareness of the fact that there’s a baby there, I felt unable to move and I just couldn’t sleep that way. Plus, it didn’t prevent the long cry fests before he fell asleep, just helped with a few of the night wakings.

It’s teeth. But despite giving him medicine that was supposed to help with teething, nothing changed. (And I have since learned that teething is probably not as painful as we think.)

I couldn’t handle this anymore. Finally, in desperation, I said, well, if he’s going to cry anyway, I may as well try sleep training him. I couldn’t handle those feelings anymore. I turned to one of the only people at the time who I knew who had done some sleep training. She told me about “Ferberizing,” which is what they had done and I thought, okay, let’s try this.

I’m not going to lie, it was terrible listening to my son cry. All I could think was everything that attachment parenting had fed me. How I was ruining my son and how he was never going to be attached to me.

But when he finally fell asleep, I was so relieved. And, he had cried less time in the sleep training before falling asleep than he had in my arms! On the very first night!

And what’s more than that, my grumpy boy, had turned into a happy boy again. While I had worried that he was teething, he was actually just overtired. Once he was getting proper sleep again, his mood shifted back to the happy kid he had once been. I was relieved. But I still struggled with residual guilt for a long time. I worried that I would see the signs or something when he was older.

Well, he’s older now and I see no signs.

Now, I’ve had this post on my list of post ideas for a long time. I was too chicken to write about it. I was worried that I would get mean or negative comments, like the ones that people have said to me before. Because people have said deeply hurtful things to me about the fact that I sleep trained my kids. And those words will probably stick with me forever.

Because you all love my selfies so much - our sleep training story and my wonderful friend Alexis' book Precious Little SleepBut, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about a new book that just came out that my friend Alexis Dubief wrote. I got to know Alexis through her online community based off her website Precious Little Sleep. I became an admin and because of that, I got to know Alexis not just as an awesome human being, but as a friend. I have watched her put blood, sweat, and tears into this amazing book which I wish was the baby sleep guide that was around when I was a kid. Precious Little Sleep is a resource for you whether or not you want to sleep train, as Alexis has really worked hard to put a lot of research backed solid options into this book and it’s funny. You can’t beat that. So, check it out! I was not paid for that opinion, by the way. Alexis doesn’t even know I’m doing this. I just believe in her and her book so much that I wanted to share it with you.

Anyways, that story was really the beginning of the end to attachment parenting for me. I hope you recognize how hard it is for me to come out and share this story. I think I have two really wonderful and amazing kids. I don’t regret sleep training and I am, in fact, glad to have done it. That’s my sleep training story.

What is one thing you said you would never do when you started parenting that you did and it turned out to be something good for you? 

The Importance of Scientific Literacy

I think most people would agree that literacy – knowing how to read and write – is important. But, I think there is less agreement/acknowledgment/awareness that scientific literacy is also important.

Scientific Literacy is important - and helped us go to the moon! What is scientific literacy? Well, I could tell you my own definition, but I rather like this one:

Scientific literacy is the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity. It also includes specific types of abilities. . . . .

Scientific literacy means that a person can ask, find, or determine answers to questions derived from curiosity about everyday experiences. It means that a person has the ability to describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena. Scientific literacy entails being able to read with understanding articles about science in the popular press and to engage in social conversation about the validity of the conclusions. Scientific literacy implies that a person can identify scientific issues underlying national and local decisions and express positions that are scientifically and technologically informed. A literate citizen should be able to evaluate the quality of scientific information on the basis of its source and the methods used to generate it. Scientific literacy also implies the capacity to pose and evaluate arguments based on evidence and to apply conclusions from such arguments appropriately.

Individuals will display their scientific literacy in different ways, such as appropriately using technical terms, or applying scientific concepts and processes. And individuals often will have differences in literacy in different domains, such as more understanding of life-science concepts and words, and less understanding of physical-science concepts and words.

Scientific literacy has different degrees and forms; it expands and deepens over a lifetime, not just during the years in school. –National Science Education Standards (1996)

Is it worth it to buy organic? Can an amber necklace really be an effective pain reliever? Does that politician know what he’s talking about? Are microwaves safe? Is it a good idea for our community to get involved in? What does the data say?

Because don’t get me wrong – while data is not the be all and end all of everything – it can certainly help us to make informed decisions. In this day and age, literally, anyone can put anything on the internet. I, myself, have been putting things on the internet since I was 12 (man, that’s almost 15 years of internetting!). But, you can’t treat all sources equally. Some sites are more reputable than others and understanding how science works or knowing to look for people to cite their sources can help you distinguish between credible ideas and not-so-credible ideas. Along with that, the scientific literacy definition mentions “understanding articles about science in the popular press.” This is very important, in my opinion, because often times the popular press picks something up and runs with it in a way that’s not actually factually accurate. As it says in the next line, understanding this science we see in the media will allow us “to engage in social conversation about” it. To talk and discuss like intelligent people.

The “capacity to pose and evaluate arguments based on evidence” is another important factor. Arguments that are just opinion, they can go round and round, but I feel the way that we can have intelligent conversations is not just to think about our opinion, but to really dig deeper and get behind the why of things.

To me, it’s important to raise my kids to be scientifically literate – and it’s important for myself too. I used to think I hated science. However, now that I’m older, I’ve come to realize what an important tool science can be. How it can be one tool in my toolbox. And just how neat and cool science is. I don’t think science is the be all and end all, but it has offered us many important things. Knowing how germs work lead to handwashing which lead to a decreased rate of mortality, for an example. Vaccines for another example. How to clean our water from dangerous pathogens, for another example. Science allowed us to go to the moon! Science is not perfect, but it has allowed us to make many advancements. I think that being scientifically literate can be very useful as well as allow you to be a good citizen.

Two days ago, I wrote about chemicals and a long time ago, I wrote about evaluating scientific studies. But, beyond those two links, for further reading/additional resources, I recommend:

As my little science obsessed boy reads a book about storms nearby, I am reminded that he still thinks science is cool. I am also reminded that it is up to me to give him the tools that will allow him to grow up into a scientifically literate adult. I take this job, like all my jobs in raising kids, seriously.

Do you feel you are scientifically literate? Do you feel this is an important area to keep growing in? Do you feel this is an important skill to teach to our children? 

I Like Chemicals

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Today, I’m writing this post in defense of chemicals. Why? Because I like chemicals.

In this day and age, there is a big push to “go natural” and to be “chemical free.” If you google (or Swagbucks in my case – referral link) you’ll get a plethora of hits. They promise things like chemical free living and a chemical free home. Chemical free personal care and chemical free mattresses. Chemical free cleaning and even chemical free paper. Chemical reactions - an important part of the chemicals I like

But, these things are simply impossible. If you really had something that was chemical free, you would have literally nothing.  Everything that you can taste and see and hold is made up of chemicals. The air we breathe is made up of oxygen (and nitrogen and a few other stuff), but thankfully that chemical oxygen is there to keep us alive.

And let me tell you about my favorite chemical of all.

Dihydrogen Monoxide.

Without this chemical, we wouldn’t be alive. I am personally grateful for a tall refreshing glass of dihydrogen monoxide during the hot summer months.

Dihydrogen monoxide, you see, is just another name for water. But it sounds scary. And it sounds like a chemical. Well, that’s because it is a chemical. Chemicals are everywhere around us and there is nothing inherently bad about them. Yes, there are chemicals that harm you, but there are also lots of chemicals that we need for living.

However, clever marketers have played on people’s fears and introduced to them the idea of chemical free. That certain things must be better because they contain “no chemicals.” What they usually mean is that they contain only things found in nature. But the idea of those things not being chemicals is 100 percent false.

I mean, there are inherent problems with nature/natural equaling good and better for you, but I’ll discuss that in a different post.

But the bottom line is that “chemical free” is a misleading marketing ploy designed to get you to buy into whatever they are selling you that is supposedly “better” for you. So don’t fall for it! Do your research and find out if those “bad things” are really all that bad or if those “good things” are really all that good, but don’t worry about whether or not it’s made up of chemicals or not. Spoiler alert: it is! Even if it claims to be chemical free.

For further reading I recommend What Is – And What Isn’t – A Chemical and The “Ingredients” in Organic, All-Natural, Fruits & Eggs Are Not What You’d Expect.

Are you afraid of chemicals? What’s your favorite chemical? 

photo credit: Tom Simpson A delightfully gruesome reaction! via photopin (license) No changes made.

Recovering from Attachment Parenting

Sometimes a selfie is all you need - recovering from attachment parentingI have two things to say right off the bat before I start this post. First, it has taken me a long time to write this post because I’m so afraid of people’s reactions, so please be kind. Second, I have friends and know people for whom attachment parenting works beautifully and I love that it works beautifully for them! This is me sharing my experience with it, as promised in the parenting buffet.

So, let’s dive in shall we?

When Dominic was born, I sort of fell into attachment parenting. It was a pretty easy thing to do. As you are probably aware by now, I am the kind of person who researches and reads everything. So, when I was pregnant, all of my research lead me to attachment parenting as “the best” way to parent.

Attachment parenting promised me wonderful things. Your child will be securely attached, it said, and have the confidence to go out and explore the world. It painted all other methods as causing insecure attachment, where your child will be clingy and too afraid that you are leaving to have confidence. It paints attachment parenting as the way that children are meant to be raised. So of course, with all these good things, it is hard to go against.

Actually, I read the Dr. Sears discipline book (copyright in the 1990s, though there must be newer editions by now – which may or may not claim the same things) and he promises such wildly outlandish things such as if attachment parenting had been practiced earlier, the Holocaust never would have happened. And that attachment parenting can prevent ADD/ADHD. I don’t know if later editions promised such things, but this early one certainly did. I wish I had saved pictures but I already sent the book off on Paperbackswap (referral link) before writing this post. Actually, I may have taken pictures, but I have so many pictures, it’s impossible to find them without remembering approximately when I took them.

Anyways, I digress, I don’t want to get into too much of the problems with attachment parenting, which I think I will save for another post.

No, in this post, I want to focus on how attachment parenting made me feel. I also want to talk about why I describe myself sometimes as a “recovering attachment parent.”

For me, personally, attachment parenting brought me one thing.

And that thing it brought me? It was guilt. And fear.

It brought me fear that if I ever for a second did any of the things that attachment parenting said was bad, that I would ruin my kids. That they wouldn’t love me or be securely attached to me. And the guilt them came hand in hand with that. When I left Dominic, I felt enormous guilt when I left him. I felt as if my leaving him for a few hours could undo all of our attachment. This was part of the reason that I didn’t leave him with anyone other than Nick until he was 5 months old. It was the fear that leaving him would break our attachment and he would be an insecure and anxious child.

There is more that I’ll get into in later posts. But, short story: eventually, I realized that attachment parenting wasn’t right for us. Sure, I still took some things from it (I still babywear Allen! for an example) as part of my parenting buffet, but I no longer identify as an attachment parent.

So, why do I call myself a recovering attachment parent? It’s because the guilt and fear stuck with me for a long time. It’s only in the last year that I’ve been able to move beyond that in a real and meaningful way. I can see that my children are securely attached to me. I can let go of a lot of that guilt and fear. Though, to be certain, it still comes from other places occasionally.

I feel, however, that if I had not believed so strongly in attachment parenting at the outset that I would not face so much fear and guilt. Attachment parenting blogs and facebook groups had me convinced, convinced, that to do anything else would ruin my children. So when I realized that it wasn’t a good fit for me and my kids, it was hard to let go. I still had the feeling that somehow, I was ruining them, even though I could see that I was not. It has taken me a long time to undo all of the ways that it had gotten into my head.

Anyways, there are more posts coming on this subject because I have strong feelings. However, like I said, I didn’t write any of this to people who find that attachment parenting is working well for them. I mainly wrote this for myself, as a way to process. I also wrote this for other people who might feel the same way I do, to let them know they are not alone. Again, this is only my experience, as I know for some people attachment parenting is great.

Please recognize that I am making myself vulnerable by putting this out there. In light of this, please be kind if you choose to comment. This is me eating a big old slice of humble pie that I should have eaten years ago. I’m also sorry for everyone I judged when I thought that attachment parenting was the only right/good way to parent. That was wrong of me. I know that now.

Have you ever got caught up in something you regretted? How do you feel about attachment parenting? (Can of worms, that question right there, I know 😉 )

Lessons from Our Time as a One Car Family

As many of you know, we were a one car family for six years! It’s only recently, less than a year ago, that we’ve become a two car family. As you may imagine, I have a lot of thoughts on being a one car family. Well, I have a lot of thoughts on most things, but today this is what I’m talking about.

Because, to be honest, there are pros and cons to having one car. Yes, there are actually things I miss about having one car. In the end, I still feel the benefits to two cars outweigh the benefits to one car, but that was a simpler time I do miss.

So, here are the things I miss about being a one car family.

It was easier to say no.

There are so many awesome and amazing opportunities nowadays. Especially living in a big city, if I wanted to, I could be doing something with the boys every single day of the week. This, however, is a recipe for burnout. Even if all those things are good things. Saying no to the good things was easier when I thought about how much of a time commitment it was to take Nick to work. Was doing something for 20 minutes worth the extra time taken out of my day? Which overall was just under 2 hours. Often it wasn’t. So having only one car really did help me to weed out the difference between things I wanted to do and things I felt obligated to do. One car family

Dedicated talk time

In the car, there’s not a whole lot of options for what to do. This is especially true for me since I get car sick if I read or do things on my phone. So I would often talk to Nick or the boys. When we picked Nick up from work after a co-op day, the boys would get to tell Nick all about co-op. I do sometimes miss this time where we could just talk without anything else going on, with fewer distractions.

My kids are really good in the car.

Okay, so I can’t prove that this is the case because I’m aware that correlation does not equal causation, but my kids are pretty chill in the car. Even though we often had to wake them up early to get in the car, they never once complained about it. I was the one doing all the complaining. They seem to take riding in the car in stride and while I definitely can’t prove that it was because they were frequently in the car, I am sure that it didn’t hurt.

On the flip side, here are things that have improved since we have had two cars.

I have less anxiety.

I don’t know how many of you know or remember this, but when I was in college I was involved in a car accident. I fell asleep at the wheel and rolled my car. It was terrifying and traumatic and even though that was 8 years ago, I still have some underlying lingering anxiety about driving, especially driving while tired. Now, don’t get me wrong, my anxiety has gotten a lot better. But, when we were a one car family and we were having to be in the car so early in the morning (when Nick started work at 7) and then I was doing so much extra driving because I had to not only drive to and from wherever we were going, but to and from Nick’s work as well, I was having a lot of anxiety about it. On nights when I had to be up early to take Nick to work, I would often have trouble falling and staying asleep because I was worrying. Since having a second car, I’ve noticed my anxiety has decreased a lot. I’m sleeping better and this makes me a better mom, parent, and person.

It is easier to say yes to things.

This is the flip side to the one above, but before, saying yes to things required a massive amount of coordination. I could never just say yes to something. I had to think about the schedules. I had to think about if the thing coincided with Nick’s work times. Even if someone was picking me and the boys up, I had to make sure that car seats got out of the car before Nick left for work. Saying yes to anything took a lot of pre-scheduling on my part and I could almost never be spontaneous. Now, I can be.

I have more time.

We didn’t take Nick to work every day. However, on the days we did, that was a serious chunk of time out of my day. Almost two hours. There are a lot of things that I can get done in two hours. Not to mention, it disrupted the flow of the day often. I’d have to wake the boys up, either from night sleep or from napping. We’d be in the middle of something and we’d have to drop it. Things like that. It has been so freeing to have that time back. Of course, one could argue we filled it with other things and to some extent, that is true. However, I still like to think that I keep a good level of balance between going out and staying home.

So, these are my pros and cons of being a one car family. Do you have experience with being a one car family? What was it like for you? Or, what are some reasons you would never consider being a one car family? 

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