Students At Home

For Everyone Who Learns at Home

Sometimes You Have To Say Yes

I talked yesterday about the importance of saying no.  But isn’t it important to sometimes say yes?

Yes to marrying one man and remaining faithful to him.  Yes to housecleaning and creating a clean, organized and welcoming space for your family.  Yes to serving your family a nutritious dinner and making them eat veggies and fruit.  Yes to playing Legos and tea party with your children, with lots of laughing. 

As much as possible, I want to say yes. Yes to life, love and the pursuit of happiness, right? 

I have to think today about balance or moderation. 

Sometimes, my students at home need to hear yes.  Yes, we can eat lunch before you finish math.  Yes, you can hold the kitten instead of reading.  Yes, you can ride your bike before we practice sight words.  Yes, you can help me mix cookie dough.  Yes, we can have chicken legs for dinner.

Sometimes, my students at home need to hear no with a positive thrown in along the way.  No, we can’t skip school today (but if you work hard this morning, we can be finished before lunch).  No, you can’t leave your toys all over the floor (but I can help you clean them up).  No, you can’t hit your sister (but we can play Twister or run around the house if you are feeling energetic).

I want to be a “Yes” mom while balancing the times I need to say “No”.  I don’t want to stifle my children’s natural curiosity, talents or desires by constantly saying no.  Let’s face it, sometimes the most loving word is “no”, but as much as possible, I want to say yes.

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Sometimes You Have To Say No

A friend and I talked the other day about food, nutrition and dieting.  I mentioned my attempts to increase the amount of veggies I eat and decrease my ice cream consumption (after a solid week of eating Mint Moose Tracks after dinner–yum!)   She looked at me and said, “Every night?  That was fun, huh?”

I looked at her, speechless.  Yes, it was fun!  But I had never heard anyone describe eating as fun.  Food has always been the enemy, from chocolate brownies to blue cheese.  Like nearly every choice I make, I critique myself instead of embracing them.  I say, “I should not eat this, say that, etc.

I’ve been thinking about her comment this week.  Food isn’t the enemy:  God made it all, and it’s good, right?

These thoughts led me to wonder when it’s okay to say no.  By nature, I am a pessimist so I pressure myself to say yes as often as possible.  Yes, we can watch a movie after school.  Yes, we can eat popcorn for breakfast.  But sometimes, I have to say no.

It’s not okay to harm my body with junk food, even if it is mint ice cream.  It’s not okay to say hurtful words, even if I am legitimately angry.  It’s not okay to speed, even if I am late.  Saying no can be a good thing, bringing freedom and setting protective boundaries.

I vow to say no more often, for the health and wellbeing of my body, mental health and future.  Additionally, my students at home  need to hear me say no sometimes.  Boundaries keep them safe and teach them values, morals and healthy habits.

While I would prefer to be a “yes” parent, sometimes my job description requires me to say no.  That’s the loving thing to do. 

Sometimes, you just have to say no.

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My Baby’s Sick

What a day.  My little guy had a tummy ache yesterday, and he was still not feeling well today.  He cooperated with his hour of speech therapy and attended his online phonics class, but his tummy was rumbling and grumbling all day.  In the past, he has been so sick that even simply sitting up is impossible, let alone attending class.

I hate seeing him suffer.  We’ve been dealing with tummy issues for over three years, and I can’t find the solution.  Our primary care physician sent us to a gastroenterologist who couldn’t find anything conclusive.  It’s not an allergy to dairy or wheat.  It’s not necessarily a food sensitivity either, although we don’t know for sure.  It could be stress or lack of sleep or nearly any other cause.  So we’re back to questioning the cause and working on a solution.

Many families choose to homeschool because of health problems.  Food allergies, numerous doctor’s visits, compromised immune systems and other medical issues cause some students to miss days of school at a time.  Becoming students at home allows these students to receive a quality education and stay safe.  In cases, traditional brick and mortar schools can be death traps for ill or allergic children. 

I am an advocate for parents to educate their children as they see fit.  Whether they choose traditional options or unschooling, each family holds the responsibility to educate their children.  Because of our unique situation, I am grateful for our online school.  On days my son feels too ill to do school, we can relax and focus on getting him better.  That’s a good school day, in my opinion.

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I Not Happy With You, Mommy

Before my little grandson’s birthday party today, my son and I got into a fight over sneakers.  He insists that his sneakers have wiggle room for the toes, and the only shoes that fit his rigid specifications have holes in the toes from heavy use.  I know we need to shoe shop for my growing son, and I plan to do that this week.  In the meantime, I wanted him to wear a nice pair of shoes from our shoe bench.  The pair I had in mind fit his feet but don’t give him the voluminous wiggle room he wants.  In the end, I let him wear the shoes he wanted, mostly because I wanted to end the screaming session we had fallen into. 

On the drive to the party, we all discussed the shoe dilemma.  I promised we would buy new shoes this week, we talked about ways we can avoid fighting in the future and my son and I apologized to each other.  We arrived at the party ready to celebrate the birthday boy.

During the party, the birthday boy said to his momma, “I not like you, Mommy.”  She and I chuckled over that comment and discussed how this statement defines motherhood sometimes.  Our children do not always agree with us or appreciate our rules, requests or guidelines.  In fact, we sometimes want to respond with, “Mommy not like you either right now” when our little ones do things that we do not like. 

Conflict happens in any relationship.  What do you do when your child, whom you love more than life itself and would die to protect, declares that he or she is unhappy with you?

As the adult and a mom, I have to put aside my emotions sometimes and choose to practice what I preach.  Patience, self-control and calmness must define my behavior when my son expresses displeasure at something I say or ask him to do.  In addition to shoes and clothing conflicts, we sometimes argue when I tell him he has to read for school, attend his online class, write his letters starting on the top left corner, or cannot ride his bike around the block when we are ready to leave for an errand run.   Some days, it feels like we argue from son-up until son-down.   

On these days, I have to pull out my arsenal of tips that help deflect the conflict and restore peace.  Some of my ideas include

1.  explaining that I need a time out then walking away for a break (my favorite time out spot is my closet where I can sit on the floor and cry, scream or journal for a few minutes until I can calm down),

2.  changing the atmosphere by engaging in an enjoyable activity like turning on music, starting a tickle fight, reading a book or playing with him and his favorite toys,

3.  relaxing and asking myself if the fight is worth it (I don’t want him to think he can get his own way just because he whines or says he doesn’t like me, but sometimes I need to reassess my demands or requests and give him more reasonable tasks or help him accomplish what I need him to do.),  

4.  taking time after we calm down to discuss how much I love him, and

5.  being thankful that my child feels comfortable expressing his emotions.

While I cannot make my child happy with me all the time and I cannot always be happy with him, I do try not to take his displeasure personally.  In fact, I am probably doing something right if he does not always agree with me.  After all, my job is to be his mother not his best friend or his clone.  By nature, our relationship will experience moments of conflict.  As a family, we all benefit from learning how to resolve conflict at home in our controlled environment.    

That being said, as soon as I finish writing this post, I’m sitting down with my son to look online for sneakers.  Hopefully, the pair we find will include plenty of wiggle room.

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How to Handle Transitions

My husband took off work early today so we could travel to a Monster Truck show.  After paying a highway toll, paying to park at the venue and walking half a mile to the entrance, we learned that the cost of purchasing tickets at the location (as opposed to online) were more expensive than we anticipated.  I turned to him and asked, “Are you sure we should do this?”  We stepped out of line and discussed the options.  As a single income family, we try to spend our money wisely.  Would this afternoon show be a wise investment?

After a brief discussion, we decided to pursue a more affordable family activity.  After driving through a local town, we ended up driving back to our hometown where we landed at the miniature golf course.  Hubby instructed our children on the proper stance for hitting the ball and how we need to wait for everyone to finish the hole (somehow, the most impatient person in our family putted first, and Mom was designated to putt last). 

While we missed out on an adventure we were all looking forward to, we found an even greater blessing as we spent quality time together.  I felt proud of my children who willingly agreed to a change in plans.  

Unfortunately, not every plan change goes as well.  I have learned the hard way that my children need advance warning before an unexpected change in plan.  I have to warn them before transitions.  For instance, every school morning, they hear, “Five more minutes until school starts!”  I also try not to plan our day in detail.  I tell them the subjects we need to cover, but I leave plenty of time for unexpected bad moods, play dates, errands, calls from family members or a myriad of other interruptions.     

The timer is a great tool we use throughout the day.  It marks the start of play time, the end of online game time, the start of class time and the end of clean up time.  And we all love the timer that signals cookies are finished baking!

While I cannot guarantee every transition goes smoothly or that every disappointment ends in smiles, I know the personalities of my children.  This knowledge heIps us adjust to unexpected changes and bumps in the road.  With the tools we need to navigate change, my students at home are learning an invaluable life skill that will benefits all of us.  

What techniques have you learned for handling disappointment?  How do you transition your family between activities?  Here’s hoping your transitions go smoothly and your family smiles at every change in plan.

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How to Motivate a Reluctant Reader

As an enthusiastic reader, I long to share my love affair with my students at home.  While my daughter loves to read, my son struggles to even recognize the letters of the alphabet sometimes.  Despite regular practice and a daily online Phonics class with his kindergarten teachers, he still struggles to differentiate between P and T, G and J and B and D.  Yesterday, he read the word “can,” and two words later he stopped in frustration, unable to put the sounds together.  

Our reading journey has been one struggle after the other.  After countless tears from both the teacher and her son, I found a new approach. 

 Today, I hid two sight word flash cards around the house.  I told him he could earn one M & M for each word he finds and reads to me.  He couldn’t wait to find each word and earn his reward.   Candy motivates my son.  I know it’s not necessarily a healthy approach, but he responds to this motivational tool. 

During my six years of homeschooling, I have heard of other moms finding innovative ways to motivate their children.  A friend takes advantage of her son’s enthusiasm for outdoor exercise.  She tapes several capital letters to one tree and the corresponding lower case letters to a second tree.  Her son runs from tree to tree matching the letters.  

Another home schooling mom teaches her daughter to read by accessing her daughter’s passion for color.  With brightly colored markers, her daughter colors large bubble letters from a coloring book.  As she colors, mom reads a story that reinforces the letter’s sound.  

My son is not super interested in reading.  He would rather be riding his bike, fixing bikes or playing cars.  I’m hoping he learns many more words and becomes a confident and enthusiastic reader, thanks to the power of a tiny piece of chocolate.        

If you happen to be the parent or teacher of a reluctant reader, I encourage you to persevere.  Find what motivates your student and create a positive work environment.  Read interesting stories to him or her.  Smile often.  Offer praise for each correct sound.  Model a joy for printed words.  

I welcome your success stories or reading struggles.  What motivators work for your children?  What tricks have you found for helping your reluctant reader find success?   The journey is challenging for reluctant readers and their teachers.  We can help them reach success when we practice patience and find effective motivators.

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We Are Moms, Hear Us Roar

As I explained to my children, for the fourth time, that I wanted them to clean up one area in the play room, I heard the volume increase.  With each request, I grew louder and my children grew less cooperative.  I finally heard myself say, “Is anyone listening to me?  Do you think I am talking just to hear my own voice?” 

My husband picked that moment to walk into the house.  With shame and embarrassment, I realized that my attitude was totally unnecessary.  Would I have felt the same way if there were no adult witnesses?  Yes.  My precious children do not deserve or need a mommy who yells at them.

So what’s the solution?  What tips can I give to help myself calm down and to help my children learn to control their temper, anger and words? 

1.  My daughter enjoys a song that instructs her to Count to Ten when she feels angry.  That works…if I catch myself before I say something I regret.

2.  Relax.  In most cases, I feel anger and frustration when I place unnecessary expectations in my children.  By relaxing my standards and letting them be kids, we enjoy each other more.

3.  Peace and joy flourish when I have fun.  Have you noticed how even boring or frustrating tasks get easier when a friend helps you?  The same can be said of school work or clean up chores.  As we turn challenging tasks into a game, everyone wins.

4.  Rushing to get just one more lesson done or pushing my children to learn a new topic often leads to frustration.  When tensions rise, I can slow down, step back and re-evaluate our next step.  A simple break or a tickle fest often lightens the mood and energizes us to persevere.

5.  Whisper.  By making a conscious effort to speak in a quiet voice, I calm down and give my children a reason to listen closely and follow my lead.   

What tricks work to help you hold your tongue?  How do you respond after you say something you regret?  How do you encourage your children to speak with kindness?  Share your ideas as we journey toward less roaring and more enjoying.

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Balancing Two Homeschooling Children

For my friends with more than two children, you will probably laugh at this post.  For my friends with no children, you probably will not get it.  Several months ago, I talked with a pregnant mom of a toddler.  She wondered how she would meet the needs of her son after her daughter is born.  I encouraged her that she will learn to adjust, and indeed, she is learning.

So what do I, as a homeschooling mom, recommend to other moms who juggle the schedules of their students at home?

First, I plan the day.  A weekly printed schedule in my planner includes the mandatory lessons my children must attend for their online school, our weekly lesson goals and personal commitments.  Each morning, I consult the planner and see where we’re at for that day.  

After breakfast, I give my children a verbal overview of the day’s events.  They appreciate being prepared, and I need to hear what the schedule is so I don’t forget anything (I’m a visual and auditory learner).   This time also prepares us for additional stuff we may need to do like errands or a library run.  We can take time to organize our books and activities depending on the time schedule for each day.  

I start my son with his online classwork while my daughter commandeers the laptop for spelling word practice.  After his class, he takes a break, and she goes online for class.  We take turns all day until the work is done.

I must admit, I miss the cold weather just a bit.  The sunny days we’re enjoying this week make us all antzy to get outside.  Instead of enjoying history class or storytime during lunch, we’re pickincking on the patio. 

On second thought, maybe I do like the warm weather after all.  🙂

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“No Coffee” diet

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m an addict.  The thought of percolating coffee in the morning motivates me to leave my warm bed and race to the kitchen for my favorite mug.  After lunch, when school is over and my children are ready for their free time, I savor a mug of warm coffee mixed with plenty of milk.  Instead of pigging out on chocolate every night, I make myself a warm cup of decaf or herbal tea to prepare me for restful slumber.

So why in the world would I sign up to test a diet with a “no coffee” clause??

In short, $$$$, but cash does not accurately portray the entire motivation behind this seven-day venture.  I also struggle with my weight and thought that maybe this diet would give me the kick I need to eat better or eat less.  I did keep my new year’s resolutions to drink at least three glasses of water every day and dance for five minutes after lunch with my children, but my weight has not changed since last year when I started working as a freelance writer. 

Today, I finish day four of the diet trial.  I have eaten more vegetables in four days than I ate during the entire last week of February.  While I feel better and fuller after eat meal, I sometimes crave that warm cup in my hand. 

I don’t know if I will continue this diet after the week trial is over.  I hope I will continue to eat more veggies and exercise more, but I’m not sure my motivation will remain as high when I know I’m not getting paid.  

I know I definitely will not continue the coffee fast.  Face it, that warm mug of addiction wakes me up, calms me down and provides a comfort no vegetable can produce.

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Raising Responsible Children

Recently, I heard excellent advice from a more experienced mother.  She recommended that children be required to perform as many tasks as they can do by themselves. 

My daughter took this teaching to heart today as she prepared lunch.  She was hungry for bagels and proceeded to plug the toaster into the outlet, tear apart the bagels and place them into the toaster.  She spread cream cheese on the toasted masterpieces before serving herself and her brother.  While I was supervising the process,  I talked with them about the importance of doing activities for themselves.  Now that she has mastered the toaster, she will be in charge of toasting future meals.

I could easily have done this task by myself.  The point isn’t that I want to get out of work or am too distracted by other responsibilities to care for my children.  What good will it do them if they leave home to attend college or start families of their own and are unequipped to cook a balanced meal, clean a house or balance a checkbook? 

As parents, we have the privilege and responsibility to train our children to be productive members of society.  I willingly prepare them for their futures by starting to train my young students at home.

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