I am so excited because I just won a free consultation with Donna Ashton, an expert on creating sane, productive rhythms in the home! And she is an expert by way of having twins whom she home-schools, while also running her own business from home. How does she do it?!
Well, maybe I will find out. I bought Donna's 4 Steps to Rhythm earlier this summer and have made some good progress, getting a better flow on the days when I am home with my four year old son. It makes such a difference when he knows, that I know, what we are going to do next. I can just look on the fridge and say, "It's play-time for you now, while I'm working, and then we will have lunch." Sometimes I set a timer so he feels there is some outside accountability as to when we will move to the next part of our plan.
Now don't get me wrong, we are following a flexible rhythm, not a set schedule. The time when things happen can float, and there is room for some spontaneity. (I love being spontaneous - probably why I need a schedule, right?) But with my new rhythm, I notice I'm able to give more attention to my child, and get more work done. I feel less frustrated at the end of the day.
Here is the daily rhythm I've been working with recently:
Brush Teeth, Comb Hair, Dress
8:00 Outside chores, walk
9:00 Inside for planned activity time (1 hour) Circle time and Craft
11:00 Little at self-play, Mom works till 12:30
1:00 Quiet time (1 hour)
Mom works 1-2pm
2-2:30 Chore time, Little helps and plays
3pm Snack and dinner prep
4pm Play till 5 pm, usually outside
Mom finishes work/chores
5:15 Dad home
5:30 -6pm Supper time
Pickup Toys Time while dinner is being prepared. (15 min.)
It's still a work in progress, so I'll let you know how I change things after the consultation. If you want a glimpse of Donna's homeschool rhythm with 8 year old twins, click here.
I just have to share this great resource that my family has been enjoying all summer. When my son needs some help getting into quiet time, and I need a little distraction so I can get some paperwork done, we've been turning to Sparkle Stories.com.
I bought a subscription, and each week new stories are ready to download. There are several story line subscriptions to choose from for different ages. I love that these are created by a homeschooling dad who used to be a waldorf teacher, because I can trust that the stories carry the values that I want to share with my child. Listening to stories is so much better then TV, and sometimes even better then picture books, because we have to create our own pictures in our minds, which strengthens the imagination muscle. And listening inspires me to be a storyteller too!
This week there is a free story available on the Sparkle Stories Blog - just click here.
There are also free sample stories to listen to on their website.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” - Albert Einstein
All over the USA it will soon be the first day of school for the 2012-2013 school year. Do you remember as a child (or adult), how stressful the first day of school can be? Not knowing who will be in your class, what your teacher will be like, but knowing you will have to behave well, and fit in, or life will be very uncomfortable. And do you remember the stress of homework and tests? Do you remember all those facts you were tested on? Probably only the ones you used repeatedly, like spelling and math facts, and then a few science or history things that you found interesting. Why? Because it has been proven that learning can not enter our long-term memory when we are under stress. I've been looking into this more and here is a breakdown of what I've found.
It's been proven over and over (just do a google search) that long-term and short term stress can impair brain cell communication. How? Well, learning and memory take place physically at the synapses, which are junctions through which brain cells communicate. These synapses are located on specialized branchlike ridges, on neurons. For information to be processed in the brain, neurons must communicate through chemicals and electrical signals across synapses in a process called neurotransmission. When we experience stress, hormones such as cortisol (and others) can flood the brain, affect neurotransmission, and limit the ability of synapses to collect and store memories. (psychcentral.com/news/2008/03/12/stress-affects-learning-and-memory)
Catherine Warner, a researcher from the University of Maryland who studied the effects of stress on over 10, 000 first grade students had this to say. "Our findings indicate that stress in the classroom environment affects children’s likelihood of exhibiting learning problems (difficulties with attentiveness, task persistence, and flexibility), externalizing problems (frequency with which the child argues, fights, disturbs ongoing activities, and acts impulsively), problems interacting with peers (difficulties in forming friendships, dealing with other children, expressing feelings, and showing sensitivity, or internalizing problems (presence of anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, and sadness in the child). These findings suggest that stress — in the form of negative classroom conditions — negatively affects the way children pay attention in class, stay on task, and are able to move from one activity to another."
Our various school systems may (or may not) have improved over the last few generations, but in many ways they have changed very little. School is still a very stressful place, in a society that has increasing, chronic stress triggers all the time. The pressure that teachers feel over lack of school resources, crowded classrooms and standardized testing contributes to stress in our students lives. And a record number of students are enrolling in american schools, as population and enrollment rates continue to increase. In particular, more prekindergarten and kindergarten students were expected to enter U.S. public school systems in 2011 than ever before. About 1.1 million children attended public prekindergarten last year and kindergarten enrollment was projected to reach an all-time high of approximately 3.8 million students. (National Center for Educational Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=372)
We want all these students to learn well, right? They are the future, and will have real problems to solve. So we owe it to them and ourselves to figure out ways to take the pressure off. (This includes home-schoolers too, as we all know home life can be stressful too.) Learning must happen in a relaxed environment of creative exploration. And I'll have more to say on this shortly, as I just finished a week long course on how to provide such a learning environment that truly strives to meet the needs of healthy, curious children.
I went to a beautiful baby shower this weekend. I hadn't been around so many first time moms to be in a long time. Probably since I was pregnant with my first child. I remember after that first baby was born I felt like I had joined a new club. The Motherhood Club. And there was so much that I had not expected!
It got me thinking, "What advice would I want to share with these new moms?"
My quick response would be, "Relax and enjoy babyhood. Go slow and stay home as much as possible the first year."
And then I'd highly recommend these two books for the first year:
The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley
And Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron
Welcome to the Club!
I was recently reminded how powerful a tool singing can be for parents with children of all different ages. Of course infants love to hear you singing, even if you are off key. A song can relax and entertain the young child and singing can also release tension for the adult who may be stressed by baby's crying. Singing has been part of my little one's sleep routine since the first days.
I talk to myself quiet a bit and somewhere I read a helpful hint, that when we are home with toddlers and even older children, chattering aloud with our inner thoughts, talking to ourselves to put order to things, we may be adding nervous energy to our child's experience. Our chattering may interrupt their play. Instead we can sing those thoughts to ourselves, creating a calming effect and also allowing the child to distinguish that we are not talking to them.
But song can also be helpful when dealing with teens. The other day in the car, my 16 year old son was getting upset because the day was not going as he would have liked. He had two to appointments and then had to wait for me to do errands. I tried to be understanding, but as he talked about his upset he got more frustrated, and I started to feel stressed too. Then from some unplanned inspiration I made up a little ditty; singing " The world does not revolve around me, the world does not revolve around me. Oh how I wish that it did, but I know that it won't, no the the world does not revolve around me." This little song broke the tension. My son gave a sideways smile and then was able to continue his day with out holding a grudge.
Insights into nurturing the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual wellbeing of our children.