Letter 28 – Compassion

Happy 2020!  Welcome to this new year and this new decade!

Welcome to any new readers.  I am a veteran homeschool mom with more than 24 years of homeschooling.  I have 2 homeschool graduates and my youngest daughter is completing her final high school year.  I love to encourage other homeschool parents on this amazing adventure which I am currently writing as a series of letters to my younger self.  Here is the next letter to my younger self — Letter 28 ~ Compassion

I believe that compassion is the most wonderful gift you can give yourself and your children!

Compassion can be expressed as acts of kindness, caring, and support that relieve the suffering of others and ourselves.

My dearest younger self,

Do you remember those first years beginning homeschooling your young toddler together with two other moms and their children?  Everything seemed so exciting, an adventure!  But as soon as you started to homeschool all three of your young children on your own, you became uber-intense, focused, earnest and disciplined.  You became a teacher-at-home trying to meet everyone’s expectations and afraid of all the new and unknowns of homeschooling.  You lost your compassion towards yourself and this spilt over towards your young children.  The results were feelings of anxiety, fear, criticism, judgement, pride … an awful mix and mess.

Mom, have compassion for yourself!  You will learn the most important lesson in homeschooling — let your children lead you in their interests, abilities, passions, struggles and strengths.   Eventually, you will realize that you are meant to be your children’s facilitator and not their teacher.  Your homeschooling role is rather as a planner, a tutor, and a helper.  Remember that homeschooling is a journey of learning and discovery of yourself, of your interests, passions, strengths and struggles too.  Be kind to yourself in this journey.

Be compassionate towards your children when they struggle.  Their resistance and refusal and their tears and tantrums will cause you to have serious self-doubts and fears.   You may even consider giving up. 

Learn to use the word “YET” and encourage yourself and your children to say “I don’t know how to …. yet …”  and give yourselves the time and space and grace to learn and overcome.  

Allow your children to be different and unique.  They are to become themselves and not a clone of yourself.  They may shock or embarrass you and you may wish they were different, but you are the perfect parent for this incredible person with all their flaws, faults, failings, fears and fabulous uniqueness. When you find yourself in this situation, ask the Lord to show you your child through His eyes.  He will reveal the amazing person that they are!  Learn to love this wonderful individual with compassion, not fear.

Learn to never compare!  Comparing your child or yourself with anyone will always be negative because you will either become proud or feel depressed.  You will always find someone better or worse than you or your child, so this cannot be a measure or bring any security.  Be brave to accept who and what you and your children are and focus on their strengths rather than weaknesses.  This is compassion.

Most parents that are unable to accept the ugly or unattractive qualities in themselves will struggle to be loving and gracious to a child who displays similar traitsMom, have compassion for yourself so that you can love and accept your children without judgement.  When something in your character no longer serves you and your family, it is time to work on it and find another way.  Be kind to yourself as you release these issues and work towards becoming a more whole and healed person.  This will take a lifetime, so be compassionate. 

Homeschooling is simply the tool the Lord is using to bring these things to light.  Trust Him to help you work through your faults and failings.  Only then can you help your child.  Your new living way offers a new way for your children.  Invest in this personal growth as it equips you as a parent to grow your children.  This is where having an older woman or mentor can really help. 

During those days when you feel like giving up or giving in, you will cry out to the Lord for grace and wisdom and He will come through for you and your children time and time again. 

The Lord is your comfort and strength.  He will show you another way, a new beginning, a fresh hope.  He is the God of lovingkindness and compassion.  And with the same comfort that you receive from Him, you will be able to share with others.

With compassionate and tender love, Nadene

I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Would you share yours in the comments below?

In case you missed any of my previous “Letters To Me” in this series:

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Cultivate Curiosity

Have you ever watched a toddler play?  They are naturally curious, engaged, and motivated to explore.  But what happens when we push them, persuade them, or pressure them to learn things?  Quite often we quench this natural, inbuilt learning model.

Sadly, most young moms feel that they have to buy expensive programs, educational toys and books and DVDs to keep their children motivated and learning.  Moms, you can relax.  Your child will learn so much if you give them opportunities to explore, discover, and encourage them to learn in their own way.

Provide them with some simple elements and they will be happy for hours ~ let them play outside in nature, play with sand and water, offer them things to pour with or carry, play with playdough, keep a container filled with bottles, empty tubes, etc.  Give them a large sheet to make tents or forts.  And read to them every day.

When your young child learns, they love to repeat, and repeat and repeat the activity.  Once they have mastered that skill or activity, they will move on.  If they are not interested, they will move on.  Follow their lead.

Ask them questions and let them discover … what happens when you put this in the water?  Which objects will float?  How can we pour this into that?  Which object will fit on top?  Hint ~ don’t be a teacher!  Simply behave as a curious and eager participant.

Facilitate their curiosity with new experiences and this will lead to their learning, and be there with them to watch them explore and learn.  E.g.: Spray a blob of shaving cream low enough for them to reach on a large window and let them play!  Put a blob of shaving cream on a plastic table and let them discover how they can make marks, patterns or simply enjoy a sensory experience.  (Although it seems messy, shaving cream wipes off with a damp cloth and smells lovely!)  Let them play with rice in a little paddle pool (so that the mess is relatively contained) and let them fill bowls, bottles, pour into funnels, through cardboard rolls, spoon into cups etc.

What kills a child’s natural curiosity?  A young child’s curiosity withers away with competition, comparison to others, constantly needing or receiving praise and approval, punishment or shame, testing or a sense of a fixed/ right result.  Avoid groups or schools where this is disguised as “motivation”.

Socialization  for young children is important, but does not mean that your preschooler must join a group.  Meet once a week with one like-valued family with children the same ages and this more than enough for your child.  Once a month arrange to go out on a picnic,  or outings to the zoo or petting parks,  or take a ride on a bus, or meet at the local library, or watch puppet shows, etc.  Remember the golden socialization ratio  for young children = their age plus one = your three-year-old can only really cope with 4 friends at a party or group, so don’t overwhelm your young child with too many friends, play dates or groups.

Moms these days are under so much pressure for their child to perform.  Please, don’t do too many other classes (such as music, play ball,  horse riding, gymnastics, ballet, etc.  Please, these are all fine, but not all at once, and not all for a young child ).   I don’t know about you, but my stress levels shoot through the roof when I need to get everyone into the car and arrive somewhere on time everyday!  I would recommend your preschooler takes swimming lessons, but don’t fill your week with endless trips to classes and activities.   When you have several children, watch out for conflicting schedules, or where the whole family are endlessly bundled in and out of cars for one child’s activities.  You should not feel like a taxi driver everyday!

A good rule to guide your junior primary child in joining extra-curricula activities is to choose one sport and one cultural activity for that season.  Some activities are year-long, such as ballet, so then allow one more activity that is compatible with your existing schedule.  Ensure you have at least 1 free day where you can stay home, take your time, be leisurely and relaxed in your schedule.  This freedom encourages curiosity.

When starting your preschool homeschooling, please don’t feel that you need to be formal, strict, and precise in your approach.  Apart from reading aloud together every day, simply create variety in your weekly schedule which may include some of these activities:

  • Learn and sing nursery rhymes and Bible songs
  • make music
  • play and climb
  • time in nature
  • make-believe games and dressing up
  • learning meaningful life skills such as washing up, sorting washing, setting the table, feeding the cat/dog, dusting and polishing furniture, emptying dustbins,
  • reading aloud from well-illustrated Children’s Bible and classical children’s stories
  • Provide short little lessons where they can sort, group, thread, stack, cut & paste, count, learn their alphabet through phonics, etc.

I hope that these ideas encourage you to relax, trust and enjoy your young child’s natural curiosity.

(Photos of my granddaughter Emma on her first birthday, and with her dad on her second birthday)

Blessings, Nadene

Homeschooling a toddler?

Many new homeschool moms seem totally stressed out and A.F.R.A.I.D.  Most the questions I read on my  Facebook groups seems filled with anxiety and nervous excitement.  Just take a moment and R.E.L.A.X.  You are going to do fine! And despite your best and worst efforts, your child will learn and grow up to be really capable and educated!

Especially for your child’s early preschool years you don’t need to buy a curriculum or do school-at-home.  Don’t think “lessons”, but think “life-learning” and aim to focus and facilitate where your child is most enthusiastic.
Recently a reader wrote and asked ~
“Dear Nadene
Last year August I decided to stop teaching and take care of our toddler.  I wanted to know if you did ‘preschool’ home schooling with your toddler or if you only did primary and high school with them?”
I thought back to my precious early years of homeschooling and wrote ~
Like you, I stopped teaching to be with my young child.  A few friends from our little church group started to meet one day each week for play dates with our young toddlers.  They simply played together.  Every now and then a mom introduced a fun activity like shaving cream or finger paint or play dough.  It was short, just a few hours in the morning, and included a little snack or lunch before we all went home for naps.

Over the years, we developed a very informal, yet precious preschool-type approach.  During our weekly get-together we planned our next week.  Each mom suggested an activity or volunteered to lead an activity.

During our weekly homeschool/playdate we would teach them a song, read a Bible story, do an arts or crafts activity, play outside, introduce ball or jungle gym activities, go on outings and play games.  It was a very special time in our homeschooling journey.  Our focus was to “teach” for a very short while and then let the kiddos play!  Again, it was just a short visit, from about 10:00am to 12:00.

Image result for sorting and countingI began regular preschool sessions when my daughter was about 5 years old.  We would sit together and read aloud.  I would then spend a few minutes to teach counting, phonics and/ or one other activity spread over the week such as matching, sorting, fine-motor activities, gross-motor games, creative play with different materials and art mediums.
You do NOT need not purchase any curriculum for preschool!  I used some educational games I had already and gradually added a few more each month or so.  There are tons and tons of ideas on the Internet!  You could spend a few hours looking for games and activities!  Don’t get overwhelmed!  Be careful whenever you hear “should have”.  Simply do what you can, as you can, when you can.
You may find a list of skills a child should manage at each age a good prompt for the kinds of activities and skills you may introduce, but be led by your child’s readiness and your lifestyle.  Read some ideas here, here and here.
Do be careful not to try “do school at home” instead of naturally flowing with life and learning, following your child’s nature delight to learn and learn!  They love repetition!  They want the same songs and stories over and over!  They love to redo a skill until they master it, so don’t rush on to the next thing.
Take your time.
Enjoy the small moments.
Live life fully with your child and don’t be under any pressure to “do” the “right” things.
Wishing you every blessing in your precious journey with your child.
Blessings,
Nadene

 

Practical Tip – Busy Bags

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~

Busy Bags

A question new homeschool moms often ask veteran homeschoolers is,

How do I keep my toddler busy while I teach the older kids?

Most moms of toddlers, trying to homeschool older children, find themselves constantly diverted to direct or keep toddlers quietly busy while older children work and find themselves frustrated and exhausted.

Busy Bags are the answer!  These toddler activity bags are wonderful for other times too, like travelling, church, doctor’s waiting rooms and restaurants.  May I add that grannies or babysitters can enjoy pulling out a busy bag when toddlers come to visit!

Having a stash of busy bags in rotation can bring some calm and sanity for at least some of the morning.

Here’s some tips ~

  • First find some suitable ideas.  Pinterest and Google searches will provide endless ideas for every age group.
  • Vary the type of activity.  Sorting, colors, arranging, grouping are very similar.  Try include activities for all senses, new skills like threading, counting, creative play and pre-writing skills.
  • Pack away bags!  These are for formal learning time and not for general play.  They are your focussed homeschool time.  If toddlers play with them when ever they chose, they will be bored with them at school time.
  • Rotate bags every week.
  • Share your resources with another mom or your group.   This will provide a wonderful variety and collection in a very short time.  If there are 3 moms in the group, each mom makes 3 copies of each activity.  Then at the next get-together, give a quick demo and swap and share with the others.  Sometimes these meetings provide  new, additional concepts or applications for the activity that we could use or adapt.
  • Store busy bags in a basket high up on a shelf, or in a box, or drawer and take out the bags for the day.  See examples at Small Potatoes and  All Our Days
  • Train your toddler.  Show them where to sit and how to do the activity.  Importantly, teach them to pack away everything afterwards before taking out the next bag.
  • Toddlers love repetition.   Don’t worry about their request to do the activity over and over.  They love the feeling of mastery.  When they are done, they usually have learnt the skill and are ready to move on.
  • If the activity doesn’t “work” or “fit” your toddler’s ability or interest, gently and quietly pack it away for a few months and try again later.
  •  Similarly to the workbox method of preparing activities for each child for the week, busy bags  can be adapted for older children when they are finished their work and are waiting for mom’s attention.
  • Older children’s activity bags could include recipe card and ingredients, science experiment equipment with instructions, sewing, beading or craft kits, memorization cards, project or hands-on activity instructions, maths drills or something simple and fun!

Hope these tips help you in your homeschooling!

Blessings, Nadene

 

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