Yesterday was one of those days. Everything went "perfectly"; everything flowed. So I want to remember it.
I've been thinking lately about how important it is for me to have somewhat of a plan for the day and week. It reminds me of my teaching days. Planning was not my forte. Some weeks I would panic midway through - what was I going to do, how was I going to fill the classes?? I had an awesome friend who also taught the same level science and we would chat at lunch about our plans for the week. He had been around for many years and I was a "newbie". So he would offer me an activity, or a film strip, or a Bill Nye about whatever it was we were teaching and suddenly I would have a plan for the rest of the week and I'd breathe a sigh of relief.
I think homeschooling (and in particular Unschooling) can be intimidating to people because it seems so loose and free - and we aren't used to that feeling (especially those of us who grew up in the school system and have had most of our lives scheduled).
There have been stretches of time when I really understand that feeling. Like last summer when Marisol woke up every day and asked, "What are we doing today?" before I even had my morning cup of coffee. (Groan!) Routines and rituals are very helpful to keeping the "flow" of life and creativity going. I looked forward to the fall when she would have classes (CCD, dance, and gymnastics) that would "scaffold" our week. (I simultaneously worried about how all of the activity would affect Gerry - none of the classes were for him and it wouldn't be his choice going to them. Well, we made it through the year - but that's another post I guess...)
I also know how much value there is to having free, unscheduled time. I know how wonderful it is to have a day that is completely unplanned and watch it unfold beautifully before your eyes. There have been many times when a friend or neighbor drops by and we have a wonderful visit or impromptu play date and I am so glad that we were actually home to receive them. However, we can't just sit around waiting for things to happen every day. So what is the magical formula?
Yesterday is a great example of a day I had planned that ended up flowing in a completely different way. It also exemplifies why I LOVE unschooling so much.
So here was the general plan for the day:
In the morning: Go shopping for some things for Marisol's birthday party. It's not for almost 2 more weeks, but we are going to be away this weekend. Also, we want to try and get a couple of things in the store instead of ordering them online, and I want to be sure we can find them. I'm like, trying to do things a little bit in advance! It's pure craziness.
I also wanted to put together a lasagna to deliver to a mama who just had a baby.
In the afternoon: Go to our old neighborhood. Marisol wanted to visit the most adorable puppy that our friend just adopted. I could deliver the lasagna to the mama I mentioned. We could play with the kids' good friends and I could also visit with another friend with young children.
Here is how our day actually unfolded. I walked Yoshi to her friend, Ginger's house. Marisol woke up right before we were leaving and decided to come with us. This has become our regular weekday morning routine - it is a short walk and then Yoshi gets to run around and wrestle off leash. I just need to be back to the house before Mike leaves for work. Yesterday we had extra time because Mike had a dentist's appointment and therefore left a bit later.
When we got back I warmed Marisol up some of her "special" pancakes (oats, eggs, cottage cheese, and vanilla - put them in a blender. Voilà - pancake batter!) I like to make a big batch and then they last for several days. I knew that I wanted to get the lasagna made that morning AND that we wanted to go shopping so I knew that there was no time to dawdle. I got busy in the kitchen.
I think this is why having a plan can be beneficial - it gives you purpose and gets you moving. Pretty quickly though, our friends' nanny texted me letting me know they would not be at our old neighborhood park - instead they would be playing at her house. She invited us over to jump on her trampoline.
Now, the kids getting to see their friends was a pretty crucial part of the day, particularly for Gerry who really loves playing with his buddy, Ezzy. Marisol probably still would have been happy to go to our old neighborhood and play because she could have seen the puppy.
I started to shift our plan. I told the kids that we were invited to Amabel's house and that she had a trampoline. They were happy about this. I also told Marisol we probably wouldn't see Truman (the puppy) again this week. She was ok with that.
So now what about my lasagna? I wouldn't be able to deliver it. I decided to make it and I could either freeze it or we could eat it and I'd make a meal for my friend another time. (Luckily I had not told her I was doing this - it was going to be a surprise!)
Gerry decided he wanted "regular" pancakes - he doesn't like oat ones. So now I was making pancakes and boiling lasagna noodles. Marisol also wanted to make more puppy treats, but I told her I had a lot going on in the kitchen at the moment, and I also wanted to make her smoothie (which includes her remedies) first.
Marisol wanted me to help her with some writing. The kids had received notebooks and pencils at Ezzy's birthday party the day before. She dragged our little rocking chair to the kitchen and I helped her spell things while prepping food. Gerry was watching "Inspector Gadget" (thank you Arlington Public Library for the free nostalgia!) and playing with his toys.
The rest of the morning consisted of eating, food prep, and playing. We sharpened pencils by hand and I helped Gerry write numbers (1-14) for the first time in his new notebook. All of that was initiated by him. We also wrote his name - my hand over and guiding his. Marisol and I used our "system" to help her drink her smoothie - we play a game on her iPad and then she takes a big gulp.
It became clear pretty quickly that Gerry wasn't on board with shopping. It was also pretty obvious that it would be a time crunch to fit it in with all the activity we had going on. At first Marisol protested with this change - she really wanted to go shopping, but we did some research online on where we can buy some things and got Mike to order one thing that we really need for party prep and she was happy.
Plus she made another batch of her famous doggy treats - this time substituting hot dogs with bacon. Did I mention we were busy in the kitchen??
So after all of that morning cooking and activity I had to get us fed and packed up to go play. A good lunch and snacks to go are keys to a great afternoon. We were out the door about 20 minutes later than I was aiming for - not too shabby.
The afternoon was perfect summer bliss. The kids jumped on the trampoline for a while and then put on swimming suits so Amabel could aim the sprinkler at the trampoline. Best. Idea. Ever. Those 4 kids jumped the afternoon away - only taking a small break for snacks and to warm up. And I got to sit, soak up some rays, and socialize - Mommy Nirvana.
The super-bonus was that Yoshi, our puppy came with us too and wore herself out!
So last night I had 3 tired puppies in our house and I had dinner ready to go into our oven when we got home. Seriously, this day could not have gotten any better. Even though the day didn't go "according to plan" at all, I still think the plan was a crucial part of it's success - That and my willingness to let it go and embrace each new moment as it presented itself.
Letting go of plans is hard sometimes but with practice we can get better at it! It's worth it every time.
Today Marisol said that kids will never learn from punishment because it just makes them feel worse. So simple. So clear to her young, uncluttered mind.
I read this whole article tonight:
Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime?
It is worth the read. But be warned: it will break your heart.
These two things are related. Time out and jail time. Yes, they are related. And of questionable necessity in many cases.
I took Facebook off my phone for the past few days. It was a great decision. Then I put it back on today and this evening I've been overwhelmed by what I read. So I took it back off again. Sometimes it's difficult to maintain faith. Sometimes we need to put filters in place so we can be our best selves. (Which is why I question even sharing articles like the one above. But I guess I feel the good outweighs in this case, because it is a lesson in compassion. One that we can all learn and re-learn. Again. And again.)
Today was a really good day in my little corner of the universe. Maybe tomorrow I'll have some time and energy to share and write about it. But for now, it's to bed.
ps Yes, I took the Facebook App off my phone again - Now I just have to resist signing in on the web browser!
I've heard my mom talk about how she "did everything wrong" with me when I was a baby. She's usually giving a pep talk to a new mother, such as myself, and her point is that even if you think you're screwing up big time, if you love your kids things will generally work out. (I'm her living proof!)
But what if all of those "wrong" things were actually "right"? Like letting me nap in my baby swing? Or nursing your baby 24/7? Or letting your toddler into your bed night after night?
Anyone see a trend here? Yep. That word "letting". Or following your kid's lead, needs, desires - however you want to look at it.
Here's a great article about why it might be a GOOD IDEA not to make your kids eat their greens. And here's another about why maybe it's better not to make a big deal about your kids saying Please and Thank you.
Parents, and especially mommies, feel guilty about just about everything these days: what their kids eat, how much "screen time" they get, being "too easy" on their kids, spoiling kids with too much stuff. But what if most of the things we feel guilty about, things that we think we are letting "slide" are actually things we should feel really great about?! What if most of those things are opportunities for generosity and connection? How amazing would that be! I know it doesn't seem possible - like I'm proposing a huge oxymoron that is way to good to be true. But I don't think it is. I actually think that a lot of guilt is just plain Moronic. And the more you let it go, the more you can embrace living joyfully with your loved ones.
What things do you feel guilty about? How would it feel to let one of them go? Are you willing to try?
I was a great example of the traditional public school "working": Valedictorian, accomplished musician and athlete, somewhat popular with other students. What more could a person (or parent!) ask for?
And yet as my children are grow up, quite literally before my eyes, it is getting easier to see how the system "that worked" (or did I "work it"?) failed me. It seems remarkable to me that at 36 years old I am just feeling comfortable about a lot of different things. That I'm really hitting my stride as a human being. So many of these "Great Truths" are completely "duh" in nature. As in - of course they are true - how could it possibly have taken me this long to get it?
Let's get more concrete. Yes, I was valedictorian - "ranked" #1 in my class based on my GPA. Yes, I enjoyed that fact. I liked getting good grades, getting 100% on tests, I liked feeling like I was good at things and that I was successful. What I didn't like was the competition - that when other people "beat me" on an exam it was cause for great celebration. I mean, I understood why they were excited, but did I enjoy it? Not one bit.
I didn't enjoy the attention or sarcastic remarks. I didn't enjoy not really being understood by my classmates (for instance when I cried because I didn't perform up to the standard I liked to. I was (am!) a sensitive one too - ouch!)
After graduating from the University of Rochester I was the graduate assistant basketball coach. I was paid very little in actual money, but instead was able to take classes tuition free. I took more science classes so I could pursue a teaching degree. I had a teacher for Chemistry that really stretched me - his tests were really difficult to get a good grade on. But I started to understand what he was looking for - he wanted us to be critical thinkers. He didn't want us to just memorize and regurgitate facts. It took that long for me to feel like I was good at thinking outside of the box - POST GRADUATING COLLEGE (mind you I graduated magna cum laude with a grade point of 3.93.)
My point is not to show you how freakin' smart I am. No, my point is that the system has some serious flaws in it.
My daughter also hates competition. My own mother has pointed out that it seems like she dislikes it because she wants to win. I don't deny that. She does want to win, because it feels good to *be good* at something. We largely decide how good we are at something in our culture by comparing. Marisol has a love/hate relationship with our wii game system for this very reason - it frustrates her. We even tried out the wii fit, in which you just exercise by yourself. Well, the system ends up *comparing* your profile to others after you are done with a workout - instead of just showing you how you are improving! Oh boy, did that make her mad! And it didn't make sense to either of us - what a great way to take the joy out of something!
One thing that I really love about homeschooling is that I get to see all of the important things my daughter is learning. Most of these things have nothing to do with the "3 Rs". No, she is learning about people and relationships and how to handle her feelings. She is learning about communication and jealousy (a feeling she is very familiar with already) and how to address others when they are unkind. She is not yet a fluent reader but this does not worry me for two reasons. First, I know she will learn to read in her own time. She is intelligent, capable, and motivated - there is no reason that she won't. Second, I believe the lessons she is learning right now are way more important than any academics ever will be. She is learning how to navigate "the real world" - where people and animals and plants live, where neighbors ring your doorbell everyday whether you are tired or not, little brothers break your stuff, and you find out that even your BFF can annoy you. It's intense, but we're finding our way together.
So yeah, I guess that you could say the public education system "worked" for me - I went to a great University, I made good friends, met my husband, learned lots of hard lessons (of course, the hardest ones were never in the classroom). People always ask "why" we decided to homeschool - especially when you are in a "good" school district (if you're in a "bad" one, they are more likely to understand!) I try to always emphasize that I was not "anti-school" and that I actually enjoyed school. I just want more for my kids and I'm hoping that maybe they'll hit their stride before their 36th birthday. Because once I caught a glimpse of living this way I just knew it was the way for us. It's really that simple.
June 5th 1978 - the day my awesome mama birthed little ol' me. A day I am very grateful for. I often forget my birthday is coming in the weeks leading up to it - Marisol's dance recital is the weekend before and we have Grandparents visiting, so I'm usually busy and focused on other things. Somehow the day always comes though, and it is always special. So here are 36 ways to make ANY day brighter, Birthday or Not!
So there you have it! 36 ways to make ANY day brighter. And yes, I actually did all of these today! I could have looked at today as just another hum-drum day in my life with a few gifts and cake (and FB birthday wishes!) thrown in. But a little change in perspective can make ANY day into a magical day.
And here is a bonus for you. #37 = Laugh. At yourself when you are silly or foolish, with your kids when they are being their funny selves, with your friend when she calls and says "Happy 29th Birthday!" (Forever 29 - yeah! Because our "age" is really just a number but says very little about us or our lives.) Laughter keeps us young at heart and brightens even the darkest days.
I hope you enjoyed my Birthday Post! If you want to give me a present, I would love any comments or if you'd share any of your favorite posts that would be awesome (and remember - you can search for them now! Just type in a key word up above - because I really stink at keeping up with tagging my posts so a lot aren't listed under the appropriate topics - and you'll be able to find it.)
And now I must call it quits and head to bed. Thanks for reading. :-)
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.