Advice, Thoughts, and Ideas Needed- Montessori Homeschooling?

I really like the Montessori method. I have been reading and researching, as I tend to do, and I am absolutely sold on Dr. Montessori’s system. I love the product- a whole, compassionate, self-confident, deep-thinking individual. I love the process- hands-on, self-motivated, rich experiences. I am fascinated by the way the children can use the materials to self-correct and the intrinsic learning of higher concepts happening with even the most “simple” of the materials is mind-blowing. Come on, a tower of pink blocks?!?!?! Genius. I could spout sonnets about Montessori education, and I don’t even know that much about it yet.

So. I decided I want to use it for homeschooling. However, I am running into several difficulties and I want to know if ANYONE has any ideas about how to get around these issues.

  1. I am not trained as a Montessori instructor. And training takes time, people. Like, it would take about 2 years of courses for me to be able to teach Hula Girl at her current age bracket. Montessori education includes an infant/toddler age group, 0-3 years; a preschool age group, 3-6 years; a child age group, 6-9 years; and an older child age group, 9-12 years. Hula Girl would be five by the time I am ready to teach the preschool age group.
  2. Montessori education is mainly about the social and emotional development of a child. Classrooms, or communities, are divided by age as listed above. Hula Girl and Gelato are not in the same age bracket, and will rarely cross over. Also, we would need more children to really have a community. Two kids and a mom is not the same as 25ish children, a teacher, and an aide. 2+1 ≠ 25+1+1
  3. Because of the aforementioned issues, Jonathan and I talked about how we could possibly squeeze our budget in order to find the means to send our children to a Montessori school, even just a few days a week, while we maintain a Montessori style in our home: making the playroom natural, organized, and filled with high-quality materials;  landscaping the backyard in a natural way (more on this in a future post); creating child-friendly routines and spaces throughout the home to include small tables in the kitchen for food prep, stepladders in the bathrooms for easy sink access, lower shelves and rods in the closets for hanging up and putting away clothes, etc.
  4. But. #3 is probably not feasible because our town doesn’t have a Montessori school. At all. The closest one is about 45 minutes from our house. We don’t even have a Montessori homeschooling co-op (and let me tell ya, a LOT of people homeschool here. All our middle schools are rated 6 or worse on the “Great Schools Rating Scale” so you can probably guess why people homeschool).
  5. Although, I don’t really mind the drive… Driving to another town is possibly doable once Gelato drops to one nap- I might be able to drive up a few days a week for the kids to go to school while I… shop? Read a book? See friends? Visit Gramma? Take online classes? Volunteer?

I actually kind of like option five. But it’s kind of not affordable unless we’re making some extra dollaz somewhere. I am considering doing something that would bring in some cash each month. (NOT anything like Mary Kay, 31 Gifts, or anything like that. For those of you who know me, home parties are my worst nightmare. Forced fun is NOT fun. Forced fun plus the expectation of actually spending money you don’t have?! You’re killing me, Smalls. I only attend these when I really really really need a break from the house.)

A suggestion I have received is that I should just do a Montessori-esque style in our homeschooling, rather than focusing so much on the REAL Montessori stuff. But you guys. I can’t do it. I can’t know that there is better out there and NOT achieve it for my children. I am struggling with this so much because I feel, for the first time in my life, that my lack of education is holding me and my family back from the best we can have. If only I had trained for Montessori in college or when I just got out! If only my college hadn’t looked down on Montessori and made it abundantly clear that Montessori schools are just higher-cost daycares!!! I wish I had known sooner that real education happens in these schools.

The thing is, I don’t really want to send my kids away at all. I want to be the #1 influence in their lives, especially in their formative years. That’s my most important reason for choosing to homeschool in the first place! Now I feel like in order to give them the best education, I might need to step aside. And that kills me.

So what are your thoughts? Any experiences? Any ideas on how to make this work? Anyone know of some other option I’m unaware of (especially those of you who live near me)? ANY input is welcome.

He used the Potty!

Yep, my kid is 12 months old and he went potty all by himself (kind of) today.

We have had a little potty seat in our living room just for him ever since he was mobile at all. I wanted it to be a big part of his life- a normal but big part. He and Hula Girl climb all over it and use the foam part for a crown. He sits on it every now and then and has a good time.

He likes to watch the rest of his family members use the toilet. He will follow us in and say, “Peepee? Potty? Peepee? Potty?” He loves to help flush!

Today he was playing with his trucks in the living room with me when he started booking it toward his potty, saying, “Peepee! Peepee!”

I followed and took off his diaper. He climbed up on the potty and sat there, swinging his feet, and said, “Book?”

I got a book and started reading to him, and he sat there and WENT PEEPEE.

Then he got down, crawled toward the bathroom, and said, “Fush?”

I took the little bowl, emptied it, and he flushed. Then we washed his hands. And he went back to his trucks.

Sorry to devote a whole blog post to this, but WHOA.

Gelato Is One!

Here’s the long-overdue 1-year-old update post! I’m actually kind of glad I waited since he’s just started doing a lot of really cool things in the past week or so, and I would have missed talking about them in real-time if I had been on my game. Yay for procrastination! To be fair to myself, I did choose to wait because we couldn’t book his appointment until today. So yay for back-to-school checkups??

Anyway, before I proceed, here’s my OLD post describing Hula Girl at the same age. So fun. But let’s get on with it!

Current Schedule:

6:45 up, nurse (he wakes anywhere from 5:45-6:15 but plays in his crib until it’s actually time to wake up)
7:30ish breakfast, then play
8:45 go for walk in stroller
10:15 nap
11:00 up, nurse
11:15-11:45 independent playtime
11:45 walk
12:15 lunch, then play
2ish nap
3:30 up, nurse, play
5:15/30 dinner
6:15 bedtime routine (bath, lotion, jammies, nurse)
6:45 bedtime

Sleeping:

Naps:
Gelato has become a napping extraordinare! After months and months and months of crazy naps, it is nice to see him sleeping a nice long time for both naps. I can count on 90 minutes, at least, for every nap. Ahh. He still likes his room to be nice and warm and he naps in fleece jammies with a t-shirt and diaper on underneath.

Nighttime:
Gelato is a bit of a touchy night sleeper. We live in a duplex right now and anytime our neighbors move or breathe he startles awake, whines a bit, and goes back to sleep. I might be exaggerating a bit, but he has always been like this. I wonder how long after we move he will stop waking in the 10:30-11 time frame (usually when our neighbors get home and open their garage door, which is almost right under his room). Other than this normal disruption, he sleeps through the night every night with no issues.

Nutrition:

Nursing:
Still nursing 4 times per day, with no end in sight. He has broken the skin a few times, so we’ve had to get creative about nursing positions. Otherwise everything is normal.

Weaning:
Ha! Boy will never wean. Maybe. Or maybe I will finally lose it and MAKE him wean. I am pretty done, myself. He made it this far, and I’m ready for the freedom of going to IKEA with my mom for a day. He does drink water from any kind of cup or bottle now, which is encouraging. Maybe we’ll get somewhere this time around. Last time I tried introducing milk in a cup, he drank about a half an ounce and then smiled at me. We’ll get there. We’ll get there.  I mean, we’ve gotta get there. Right?!?!?

Eating:
He’s a good little eater. No complaints. Faves: bananas, peas, plums, cheese, and eggs. Dislikes: nothing.

Milestones:

Locomotion:
Gelato learned how to walk walk in the past few days. He toddles across the whole room, leading with the right side of his body like a tall crab. He puts his little fists up next to his ears, squinches up his nose, and smiles while he goes. Devious little look, actually!

He is a climber. Much more so than Hula Girl ever was. Jonathan was a climber, too, and man, it’s TIRING. Gelato is constantly climbing on anything he can scale- couches, chairs, me, shelves, the stairs, you name it. Yesterday he climbed on top of Hula Girl’s picnic table outside and fell off, landing on the top of his head on the rocks. He didn’t even cry more than about 10 seconds. Then he got up and went and climbed the chain-link fence that’s around the backyard.

Gelato does not stop moving, ever. Ever. And he’s speedy. And brave. It is a lot of work to monitor his movements, especially since our house is not 100% baby-proof (intentionally so- I like to train my kids to obey when they hear “no”). Fortunately, Gelato has a big sister who likes to watch and tattle just a lot bit. 😉

Language:

Gelato is a talker. He is not a listener. But he learns a lot, too. I think he’s a great example of a child who absorbs information without being explicitly taught, but who is also self-confident enough to really interact with his environment. Things don’t happen TO him- he makes things happen. That kind of kid. A lot like his Daddy, actually- gregarious, funny, charming, and very outgoing. 

I have recently detailed his talking and a lot of the things he likes to say.

I almost forgot to mention something else that’s so adorable- Gelato LOVES to sing! If Hula Girl and I are singing a song, he will join right in! Lots of “Yaaaa, baaaaa, daaaaaa, maaaa, dadada!” So adorable. Hula Girl’s ballet music includes a song with the words, “Ho, ho, ho, here we go, galloping and galloping away we go!” Gelato loves that song and sings, “Ho, ho, ho, eeee, yaaaaaaa, go!” He wavers his little voice to try to match pitch and his tone isn’t half-bad. It’s really cool to see him love music and singing the way he does.

Interests:

 Gelato’s favorite activities include:

  • playing under the dining room table- if he finds a few crumbs, score!!!! snack time!!!!
  • pushing the back door open and shut
  • walking around the house pushing his walking toys or boxes
  • tossing balls all around the room
  • clambering from one  end of the couch to the other
  • munching on rocks, leaves, sticks, and grass outside
  • swinging (any time he sees the swing, he gets a really sad puppy dog look on his face and says in a sad voice, “Wing? Wing?”)

Doctor Visit:

This morning’s checkup was pretty ho-hum, in a good way. Nothing to be concerned about, nothing abnormal. Gelato is actually on the very small end of the spectrum for boys his age. He’s in about the 10th percentile for all three measures. He’s gaining appropriately for his age, so we’re not worried.

We discussed possibly starting him on goat’s milk instead of cow’s milk. The doctor suggested soy milk for him, and I said, “Um, I wouldn’t ever give soy to a boy.” She thought I was nuts.

We also turned down vaccinations again (I’ll do a post on this soon), and the doctor (thankfully) didn’t push the issue this time.

She reminded me to keep him rear-facing until “he squirms and kicks and throws a fit about it.” I told her we rear-face until the weight limit is reached and that our carseats’ weight limit is 45 pounds. She was delighted.

Having a boy is so much fun. It is way different than having a girl, but neither is better. Gelato is such a sweet guy- always happy, always laughing, always talking and singing. I am so grateful for his little self and I can’t wait to get to know him better as he really develops in the next year or so! 

Talk talk talk talk talk!

Is it just my kids, or do everyone’s kids go all day every day in Jabber-Mode?

Oh my goodness, they never stop talking. Except when they sleep. When the monitors finally fall quiet in the evening, Jonathan and I look at each other and pass an expression that says, “Don’t you start talking right now and spoil the first quiet moment of the day.” We give each other about 10 seconds and then we discuss whatever landscaping or furniture arranging projects that have crossed our minds that day.  We sure do value the quiet. 😉

Gelato has some very favorite things to talk about right now. He is still extremely fond of buttons, so he talks about them a lot. He also likes to talk about bananas. And doggies. But he’s been really impressed with himself lately, so his new thing has been saying, “Wow!” a lot. He’ll walk across the room, look at me, and say, “Wow!” Or he’ll drop a ball and say, “Wow!” Or he’ll take a piece out of a puzzle and again, say, “Wow!” Lots of wows in our life.

He has also been working very hard to communicate everything he wants. It’s kind of funny to see the ways kids try to communicate and how they’re all so different. Hula Girl knew how to sign “help” at this age. Gelato can’t be bothered. If he wants something, he will look at it, say, “HI!!!” and wait for us to understand that he really wants to hold the object of his greetings. Sometimes, if he knows the word, he might name it. For example, if he wants his truck, he will say, “HI!!!! Tuck!” Or if he wants a ball, he might say, “Ball? HI!!!!!”

I find it interesting to see how language develops along different but similar routes. For example, Gelato has stopped naming facial features, except for eyes. He no longer points out noses or hair or ears. I remember Hula Girl doing something similar and freaking out because I thought she was regressing. Nope, just already mastered it, so why keep on doing it?! 🙂 Gelato’s mastery right now is causing him to repeat seemingly random words all day long: “Up, up, up, down, down, down. Book, book, book, hat, hat, hat. Mama, mama, mama, eye, eye, eye.”

He does stop talking so much when naptime is approaching- this is his tired cue.

Hula Girl… well, if you’ve followed me long enough or you know our family at all, you will know that Hula Girl is about the most verbose child you’ll ever meet. Period. But only if she’s comfortable with all the people she’s around. Unlike her brother, she clams up in front of people she’s not extremely familiar with. We’ve had a babysitter coming twice weekly since May, and she’s just finally getting to the point where she’ll say hi to our babysitter at church.

Hula Girl is capable of some incredible thinking. She is always asking questions that blow me away, mixed in with a million billion “WHY?!” questions every hour. For the past several months, we have been working on having her just say, “Yes, Mommy!” whenever I give her directions instead of asking why.

“Hula Girl, please put on your shoes. We are going out for our walk.”

“Why?”

“Yes, Mommy!”

“Yes, Mommy! Why do I need to put on shoes?”

“We are going out for our walk.”

“Why do we need to go out for our walk?”

“We go out for our walk every day at this time.”

“Why do we go out for a walk every day?”

“We need exercise.”

“Why do we need exercise?”

“God made our bodies to move and explore. No more questions.”

“But Why…”

“No.More.Questions…. Because I said so.”

…and repeat. Three is exhausting.

To be or not to be: Healthy

Good news! I made it through the summer without so much as a sniffle. Almost.

Last Monday night I went to Bible study, and started feeling pretty bad right toward the end. Actually, I think I was feeling bad on the way there, but I had just hit and killed a BUNNY and I thought I was just all jumpy and stressed about that. But as the evening progressed I started feeling worse and worse. Sorry for the TMI, but it felt like a continual labor contraction.

By the time I got home, my entire abdomen was just in pain. Per usual when I am feeling sick or hurt in any way, I whined to Jonathan that I was going to die, and retreated to bed as soon as I could get my teeth brushed. I lay there curled into the tightest ball I could get myself into and just tried to think about other things. It didn’t work. I kept waking up all night long with pain in my stomach. Like, above my belly button, in the middle. Nothing that would indicate appendicitis or anything normal. But a whole lot of pain.

The next morning I woke up still in pain. I am a huge believer in sleeping everything off, so I was truly surprised that I was still in pain. And it wasn’t like it was going away- it was getting worse. I haven’t been to the doctor in about 10 years (whenever it was last required for a physical for high school soccer). Really. I don’t ever need to go to the doctor. Plus I don’t like it much. But I would much prefer a doctor to a dentist. That’s a whole other story. Aaron, if you’re reading this, solidarity, brother.

Anyhow, I called and made an appointment. Jonathan stayed home from work. The whole nine yards. I lay in bed all day until my appointment, by which time I felt pretty good. Pain level back down to about a 3 from a 7. So I was worried that nothing was wrong and I was breaking my nondoc streak for nothing. Fortunately for me he believed that something was actually wrong. When the doc pushed on my stomach, it hurt- but not where I thought it would. Nothing above my belly button was tender/sore at all. I felt nothing when he pushed there. At all. And then when he pushed below my belly button it hurt in the middle above my belly button where it had been hurting all along. Weird.

I had to go have blood drawn. Yuck.

The next day the nurse called me and said the doctor wanted me to go for an ultrasound based on some of my blood work. She mentioned something about elevated levels and such. And she threw in the word gallbladder. We went ahead and scheduled the appointment for the following morning. And Jonathan took even more time off work.

Of course, I felt absolutely fine the next day. Not even pretend sore to the touch. Nothing. I’m sure you know how that goes. We decided I should go in anyway for the ultrasound just to make sure we didn’t miss anything. And that is when the ultrasound tech informed me that I have perfect organs and a textbook aorta. She compared me to the man she’d seen the day before whose aorta was so globbed up she had a hard time finding it. But mine was a clear wide path straight through the screen. Yay. And do you want to know what else? My gallbladder was completely clear (from what I could tell- I’m no ultrasound expert).

It took four days for the doctor’s office to get my results back to me. I figured we were all good by then. If I were dying of something, I suppose they would have called me a bit sooner. I was right about my gallbladder. It is completely clear. So now I get to go back for more blood work tomorrow to find out whether my elevated levels were normal for my body or not.

It’s hard to know what to hope for. On one hand, I hope for perfect health so we can just continue on. On the other hand, I hope for them to find something so I don’t seem like a wimp who couldn’t tough out a tummy bug. One thing is for sure: I am thankful for whatever God is doing and I know He is working it out in whatever way is best for me and our family.

 

Schedules, Goals, Organization, and Such

I am so disappointed I missed out on blogging last week- it was a big week for our family.  Alas, I will have to catch up in list format for now and then go back and do some more detailed posts later on.  ‘Cuz I want to include a lot of other information in this post, and I want to do last week’s events justice.

Last week,

  1. Gelato turned one.
  2. I learned I have a textbook aorta.
  3. I decided to use a Montessori style for homeschooling my kids and started doing a ton of research and got really excited about all the materials I’m asking my dad to make!
  4. Jonathan and I drew out several ideas for play spaces for our kids.
  5. My inner teacher mode kicked into high gear and I wrote out several goals and organizational ideas for September.

I will be writing detailed posts about all the above, as detailed above. 😉 For now, we will focus on #5.

I go through vaguely repeating patterns of contentment and discontentment, mixed in with planning and executing. I’m sure everyone does. I’ll be happily trucking along, doing the stuff, cooking the food, wiping the bottoms, cleaning the grime, watching the Dance Moms. Then discouragement will start to creep in and our bedroom will start to show signs of neglect: a sock without a match that sits on the top of the dresser for a week; a nightstand that could really use a dusting; a bed that remains unmade for a week at a time. Once the bedroom is lost, the upstairs hallway disappears under baskets full of clean but unfolded laundry.  Then the laundry room/kids bathroom is buried under dirty laundry (how do they make so much laundry?!), bottles of shampoo, and various hair accessories. Once the upstairs is sacrificed, debris begins to collect on the staircase. Need to move it upstairs but don’t want to go all the way up right now? Leave it on the third step. Third step full? Move it to the second. And so on. Eventually my kitchen, my last bastion of order, surrenders to clutter and crumbs.

At this point, I cry to Jonathan and whine, “Why do I have to do everything around here by myself?!?!” I don’t really have to do anything by myself. I have a 3-year-old helper for all my chores during the day, and Jonathan pitches in without even asking what needs to be done every night. I’m just a whiner.

So then Jonathan will work really hard and get one area clean, and that usually gives me the boost I need in order to finish the job. Usually. After I get everything cleaned, I switch into organization mode. I set up lists and schedules and I tend to go about it from a whole-day point of view. I make sure my kids’ sleep schedules get tweaked and fine-tuned, I adjust roomtime and learning time and outside play time, and I even write down all my chores and decide on which days I will (idealistically) complete them.

This time, however, I haven’t gotten everything cleaned. Every effort of Jonathan’s is very much appreciated but I just can’t bring myself to do it! We’re moving soon, and I have a hard time motivating myself to keep anything clean because I know it’s all going to be packed and then deep-cleaned anyway. So this weekend I went straight from depths-of-filth-depression-mode into post-squalor-purge-mode and made myself a brand spankin’ new, shiny, upgraded, fully-loaded, heckuva organizational plan…to be implemented in two weeks. I am giving us two weeks of “when did that milk cup get stuffed behind that couch cushion???” and “what’s that gunk on the baseboard over there?” while we pack and organize.

Please note that my kitchen will stay clean. I do not serve food out of a dirty kitchen.   

 So without further ado, here’s an overview of my household chores and organization methods in our fast-approaching life-to-be:

1. Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Chores (for all three of the contributing members of the family)

2. Monthly Budget Meeting (parents, doy)

3. Monthly Freezer Meal Cooking Extravaganza (probably just me)

4. Bi-Weekly Toy Rotation (Daddy’s on it)

5. Weekly Receipt Entering and Paper Filing Festival (me- note the two that have exciting sounding descriptions are just me. I like to try and keep myself motivated.)

And I made a list of goals in four areas of my life: Relationships, Personal, Household (yes, I need to make a goal to follow my organizational system- step off), and Teaching. And guess what else?! I planned out a sticker chart for myself. Juvenile? Hardly. Who doesn’t like having physical evidence, no matter how small, to prove to oneself that the job is accomplished?! Of course, if we could afford it, you know I’d be trading in my gold stars for lattes.

As far as schedules are concerned, well…

Hula Girl is at a point where I am almost unsure what to do about her schedule. I am trying to keep her on an age-appropriate nap time and bedtime, but it seems whatever I’m trying to do is just slightly off somehow. And Gelato is actually getting really consistent. Go figure. They gang up on me, I tell ya. “You be off this week and I’ll be off next week! Then the week after that let’s BOTH be off. That’ll really do her in.” But I’m thinking we’re leaning toward something like this:

7:00 G up, nurse, get dressed

7:15 H up, milk, get dressed, storytime

7:30 breakfast

8:00 walk/outside play

8:30 reading/SSR

9:00 G nap; H chores

9:30 H learning time

10:15 H free play

10:45 G up from nap, nurse, roomtime; H roomtime

11:30 lunchtime

12:00 outside play

12:45 H individual reading; G free play

1:15 H nap; G learning time

1:30 G individual reading

1:45 G nap

3:15 up from naps, milk/nurse, snack

3:45 outside play

4:30 H table activity; G kitchen assistant

4:45 G table activity; H kitchen assistant

5:00 supervised sibling inside play

5:30 dinner

6:00 family activities

6:30 bath; G bedtime routine

6:45 G nurse; H dry hair, get in jammies

7:00 G bedtimeH read, massage, talk about her day

7:45 H bedtime

Obviously we will be tweaking and shifting as kids get older and need different things in their lives, but as far as I can predict, this will be our life when we move. Add in some time reading the Bible, exercising, blogging, and cooking, and you’ve got my whole day right in front of your eyes!

I sure can’t wait to get going on our new system!!!

 

Reining her In… Advice Welcome!

Hula Girl has been engaging in some age-appropriate-but-exaggerated-beacause-of-a-lot-of-changes naughty behavior lately. I have been trying to figure out what is the best way to give her the support she needs to feel safe and secure but to downplay a lot of the defiance. Jonathan and I have brainstormed, searched our parenting books, read through the archives on several blogs and groups I’m part of, asked our moms, and prayed for wisdom. We feel like we’ve got a plan now.

First of all, I want to make it clear that Jonathan and I are extremely cautious about any and all discipline tactics we use. He is a therapist, after all! 😉 We do not use spanking, and time out in our house is a very untraditional sort of thing. I generally use a lot of gentle physical touch and tons of empathy when talking Hula Girl through her rough spots. But when the entire day is rough, my tolerance for her childishness just gets lower and lower to the point where Jonathan has to take over completely for a few minutes when he gets home just so I can regain my composure.

I also want to point out that Hula Girl is a very compliant child by nature. Her wildest temper tantrums have been due to overtiredness or low blood sugar, without exception. She is generally happy, eager to please, and very very smart! She does not have to be told more than once not to engage in any particular behavior. Her age, however, puts us in the prime time frame for battles of the will, if I should choose to engage in such things (I don’t).

The last clarification I want to make is this: because she is only three years old (and a young three), Jonathan and I try very hard to balance age-appropriate expectations for her with her actual abilities. For example, she can remember things freakishly well. She remembers people she has met once, a year ago, by name. Sometimes she will ask me about a random person and she will have to explain when and where we were when we met that person before I have even a clue what she’s talking about. And yet, she remembers exactly what color their eyes were and what kind of shoes they had on their feet. This makes me and Jonathan believe that she will remember a rule we set in place for a long period of time. So our constant question becomes, “How much of this behavior is childishness (age-related), and how much of this is foolishness (choosing to do the wrong thing even when she knows the right thing to do)?”

I took the kids swimming at the YMCA on Thursday. They had closed the pirate pool, so my only option was to hold Gelato while Hula Girl floated and splashed around in a life jacket within an arm’s reach in the big pool. It actually worked out quite well, especially when another 3-year-old little girl came over with a pool noodle for Hula Girl to play with. The two of them kicked, paddled, and dunked around for a while, and all was well. I gave Hula Girl the typical warning that we needed to leave soon and asked her to choose whether she wanted to leave in two minutes or five minutes (this is a Love and Logic tactic). She, of course, chose five minutes. I gave her a 2-minute warning. Then when our time was up, I said, “Do you want to swim to the steps or have me pull you on your noodle to the steps?” She chose for me to pull her. But then she wouldn’t get out.

I reminded her that she had chosen to stay five more minutes, and that five minutes was up. I even offered her two choices on how she wanted to get out of the water (like a horse or like a dragon). She refused again. I looked into her eyes and said, “I can see you’re having a hard time leaving right now. It’s hard to leave when you’re having so much fun.” She agreed. I continued, “We are leaving now because it’s time to go home for dinner.” She grudgingly took my hand and we walked over to our towels.

I had to fumble around with our towels and swim bag for a few seconds, and before I knew it, Hula Girl was walking back toward the pool. I was shocked. She has never tried to leave my side before. Ever. I called her, and squatted down to her level. She said, “Yes, Mommy?” I told her to come back. She said no, turned around, and walked to the edge of the pool. I freaked out. Yes, she had her life jacket on. But she has not had swim lessons. This was a huge safety issue on top of her blatantly defying me.

Instead of panicking on the outside, I calmly walked over to where she was and took her by the hand. I got down to her level and told her, “You do not have the freedom to disobey me. It is unsafe for you to play near the pool alone. You will come with me now because we are leaving.” She came back with me, to my absolute relief. I asked her to stand with her back against the wall while I got out our towels and wrapped Gelato and her snugly. We changed our clothes and headed to the car.

While we were changing, I told her that it was not okay for her to disobey the way she had done. I restated the fact that it is unsafe for her to play near a pool without an adult nearby. I told her that because she had disobeyed, she would be getting a consequence. I told her that I would need to discuss her consequence with Daddy because I wanted to make sure it was appropriate. Then I told her not to worry about it (another L&L tactic).

We decided her consequence was that she could not take toys into her bath for a week. She loves water play, and since she disobeyed at the pool, we figured the closest meaningful consequence was to un-fun her bath. (Jonathan actually suggested taking the whole family swimming this weekend and not letting her participate, but I nixed that idea because I don’t like the thought of one of us having to sit out WITH her! Why make the consequence for me, too?!)

After the pool incident we had a busy day on Friday- filled with a 3-hour drive to a wedding, then the drive home that night. We arrived home at midnight. Needless to say our whole family was tired on Saturday.

And then Sunday happened.

Before church on Sunday, Hula Girl peeled and ate paint off her wall; licked fingernail polish; colored on Gelato, the wall, a chair, a door, and some furniture; and cut her hair. And it’s not like she’s not supervised. She was just using whatever tactics she could use to tell us she was feeling wildly out of control. She needed us to just take control back so she felt safe and secure. She was out of her routine, out of her sleep schedule, and just wonky all over. Plus her behavior has been deteriorating for some time now, so it was just the right time for a huge change in her life.

So now, here’s where we are:

  • We removed all toys and books from her room  in an effort to encourage her to stay in bed rather than getting out of bed to wander and play. We hope this will yield about 30 more minutes of sleep per day.
  • Hula Girl is under a strict “3-step rule.” She is not allowed to go more than 3 steps away from me or Jonathan at any time, unless we give express permission. This keeps her away from Gelato (she had started being more physical with him than I would like- not kicking or hitting, but rough hugs and some gentle pushing- enough to make me nervous) and it keeps her within my eyesight/arm’s reach at all times.

Of course, I am still doing plenty of superfun things with her and allowing her LOTS of freedom when we go outside. I don’t maintain her “3-step rule” outside at all. I am still interacting normally with her. It’s not like she’s being emotionally punished. I think the closer proximity is actually better for both of us as it encourages a lot more interaction and eye contact throughout our day.

While we have reined in her freedoms, we have also upped our talk of trust. We told her that trust means we believe she will do what we ask her to do, even if we’re not there to watch. We told her that she needs to earn our trust by doing what we ask her to do while we’re watching her. We will be stepping down our interventions incrementally over the next few weeks.

Do you have any other suggestions or thoughts about this particular age and how to handle some of these behaviors? Is there some fantastic article or book you’d like to recommend? We’re open to exploring lots of options!

 

OH MY GOODNESS.

JANET LANSBURY READ AND COMMENTED ON MY BLOG.

I feel like a fourteen-year-old who just went on a ferris wheel ride with the boys from One Direction. Totally giddy and starstruck. Had to share.

 

Garden (Jungle?) 2013

It’s time for a garden update! With pictures! Basically, we’re going to talk a lot about this today:

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And this:

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And this:

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As you can see quite clearly, Jonathan has a green thumb. Heck, he has a green hand. Two of ’em.

We have been practicing with different gardening techniques since 2011; this was our third garden. Jonathan has got some kind of natural gift for gardening that I surely don’t have. I think a lot of it has to do with his perseverance and his ability to observe. He notices when creepy crawlies start to invade, and he works hard to do what it takes to get rid of them (non-pesticide). He is much more patient than me. I start getting all worried each year around June, freaking out when things haven’t started to grow yet. He just laughs at me and tells me to wait. So I weed and do my part to contribute but mutter under my breath about how it’s going to be a failure this year. By the 4th of July, however, everything is green and lush. Funny how that works out.

Anyway, this year we decided to incorporate a lot of things we’ve not done before in a garden, and we’ve been quite pleased with the results. We used beneficial insect-attracting flowers. We used pest-repelling flowers. We planted less peas and green beans and more watermelon, corn, and kale. (Mmmm, kale chips. I need to pick some kale for tonight’s dinner! I think kale chips would be a great accompaniment for crock pot macaroni and cheese! Who’s with me!?) We ordered all organic seeds from my aunt’s seed company in Willits, CA. Here’s their website.

And do you know what? We learned even more about ourselves and our gardening needs and wants. But that will be another post. For now, let’s take a peek at what we’ve got growing out there! Jonathan takes pictures almost every morning. Here are some of my personal faves, mixed in with some food shots, just to keep it real. And don’t forget my gnomes.

Sunflower! Isn't the center detail insane?

Sunflower! Isn’t the center detail insane?

 

Cinderella's carriage- not quite ripe yet!

Cinderella’s carriage- not quite ripe yet!

 

Mint blossoms. Yes, we know you're not really supposed to let your mint flower. But we have about 20 mint plants (not exaggerating), so we figured we'd let the one in the hanging basket do its thing. Pretty!

Mint blossoms. Yes, we know you’re not really supposed to let your mint flower. But we have about 20 mint plants (not exaggerating), so we figured we’d let the one in the hanging basket do its thing. Pretty!

 

Oh, Fumwallikin. Gettin' old.

Oh, Fumwallikin. Gettin’ old.

 

These flowers are really cool. See how the petals start out as small spiral-shaped spears poking out of the center of the flower?

These flowers are really cool. See how the petals start out as small spiral-shaped spears poking out of the center of the flower?

 

Then they start to open up and a new set of petals pushes its way out...

Then they start to open up and a new set of petals pushes its way out…

 

Then more petals, and these pretty yellow star-shaped stamens...

Then more petals, and these pretty yellow star-shaped stamens…

 

And they just keep on going! Petals after petals after petals! They are SO lush to behold; from the sides they look like soft pink pinecones!

And they just keep on going! Petals after petals after petals! They are SO lush to behold; from the sides they look like soft pink pinecones!

Zzzzz.... introducing our newest gnome! He has yet to be named. Hula Girl suggested calling him "Counter" but I countered. I'm thinking "Lolly" might be part of his name.
Zzzzz…. introducing our newest gnome! He has yet to be named. Hula Girl suggested calling him “Counter” but I countered. I’m thinking “Lolly” might be part of his name.

 

Watermelon!

Watermelon! Don’t you just love the curly curly vines?

 

Festivity corn! This stuff is pretty tasty, and the kernels are super cool. They're a mix of red, blue, and yellow . Quite festive!

Festivity corn! This stuff is pretty tasty, and the kernels are super cool. They’re a mix of red, blue, and yellow . Quite festive!

 

Good ol' peas.

Good ol’ peas.

 

Aren't these pretty?

Aren’t these pretty?

 

I think I'm going to have this one blown up on canvas for my bedroom. It's just beautiful.

I think I’m going to have this one blown up on canvas for my bedroom. It’s just beautiful.

 

Lookin' good, Elmwinkle.

Lookin’ good, Elmwinkle.

 

 

 

 

She Dances!

Hula Girl started pre-ballet in June, when she turned three. She attends once weekly, on Thursday mornings. Her teacher is a wonderfully patient woman who just loves teaching ballet. She is so very kind to the girls in the class.

There are three little girls in the class- A, B, and Hula Girl. B is exactly a year older than Hula Girl, which means Hula Girl is the youngest in the class by at least a year. This is not a bad thing. Hula Girl is quite tall for her age, so she is just barely shorter than the other two girls. She is less talkative than the other girls. Some would call her shy, but I say she’s slow to warm up. She and I talk about how she feels nervous sometimes and it’s okay, but she does need to say hi to her teacher and her friends in class. She does this well now.

Hula Girl is great at listening and following directions. She keenly observes everything Miss S. does, and tries hard to do the same thing, even to the point where Miss S. puts on her glasses and Hula Girl mimes the same movements. Hula Girl hasn’t quite figured out how to put her hands on her hips. They end up wrapping around her little belly most of the time. It’s pretty cute.

She is very serious about her dance and tells me that she adores ballet all the time. (She uses the word “adore” because she has heard it in Fancy Nancy books. Love those books.) Her love of dance is apparent. She spends at least an hour a day practicing, singing the songs from class, and insisting that Jonathan and I watch her doing the same steps over and over. Of course, her little 3-year-old body is nowhere near perfect when it comes to technical skills yet, but she really knows what she wants to accomplish and she is dedicated. What I love most, however, is the way she lets dance invade her life at all times. For example, we were walking through the mall the other day and she cried out, “Mommy! Stop!” I thought something was wrong. I asked her if she was okay, and she said, “I just need to practice my demi-plié.” Then she put her little hands on the sides of her tummy, shuffled her Crocs into first position, and opened her knees into the telltale diamond of a demi-plié. Once she did it a few times, she said, “Okay, we can go now.” Well, there ya go.

Beyond the technical skills of dance, pre-ballet has its benefits for a very sheltered daughter of a crazy stay-at-home-mom like me. Hula Girl has had to experience being under the direction of a teacher and has had to listen to a different voice of authority for the first time in her life. Her previous storytime and swimming lessons experiences still involved parents as authority figures; this summer Mommy has been on the sidelines. It was terrifying for her at first. But today she took Miss S.’s hand and walked right into the studio without even a backward glance. I am glad I’m homeschooling so I can smile at this blossoming independence rather than feeling like it’s the beginning of a new era!

Socially, Hula Girl is still a bit awkward. Part of it is her age. A year is still a big gap at 3-4 years of age. The other girls are much more interested in each other than Hula Girl is. She looks at them like they’re crazy when they have trouble following Miss S.’s directions perfectly the first time. I know that part of this is that she’s very obedient by nature, but it cracks me up to watch her silently scolding her friends (she would never dare to speak out of turn in ballet!!). She is also meek and therefore loses out to the louder, more opinionated voices of the other girls. For example, today she arrived first and Miss S. seated her on the middle tape mark. B arrived last, and was therefore placed on the end. When I peeked into the class midway through, B had taken over Hula Girl’s tape spot, and Hula Girl was standing behind her, silently willing her to move over so she could get back to the place assigned by Miss S. Finally B turned to her, pointed to her old spot on the end, and said, “I’m here now. You can go to my old place.” Hula Girl obliged because a new dance was starting and she wanted to participate in their “ballet marches, right in place!” I am very interested to see how her social skills develop as we continue on with dance!

I wasn’t sure we’d be continuing with dance past the summer, but Hula Girl really loves it. I did not expect to find something she loved this much until a bit later in life, and I don’t expect it to be a lasting love, but as long as she is interested, I will keep taking her. She has also expressed an interest in gymnastics, but those classes are offered at 2:30 on Fridays (in the middle of naptime!) so we will be holding off on those until next summer at least. We will be adding real swimming lessons (with an instructor, not Mommy or Daddy) this fall or winter. This is not something she has really expressed interest in yet, but I want to feel more comfortable taking both kids to the pool now that Gelato is walking. I will need to be VERY attuned to him, and I want to know she could make it to the edge if she needed to.

Anyway. I couldn’t be more proud of my beautiful little ballerina. Seeing her dressed up in her pale pink leotard, tights, skirt, and shoes, with her wispy blondie hair up in a special ballet bun (reserved for Thursdays), makes my heart swell with happiness for her every single week. I just know she’s doing something she loves, something which makes her feel proud of herself, and something she can use throughout her life.

And you guys. I do NOT want to be a “Dance Mom” ever, but if this is her dream, you know I’m buying a Bedazzler.

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