Monthly Archives: April 2016

PPDearthday

Preschool Playdate: Earth Day

Theme: Earth Day
Inspiration: International Celebration of Earth Day on April 22

— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)
— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)
— Discussion of theme: why do we need to take care of our planet
— Storytime: I am the Earth

STORY TIME
This book was gifted to our children – what a perfect share for Earth Day! From the I Am Foundation website:
“I Am The Earth: Positive Affirmations for Loving Our Planet is dedicated to our children and future generations, to enable them to become great stewards of this planet. This book builds an awareness of valuing, appreciating, and taking care of our beautiful world. For every I Am The Earth book you order from The I AM Foundation for donation, we plant a tree via The Arbor Day Foundation. ”

Available at http://www.iamfoundation.org/home.html

Available at http://www.iamfoundation.org/home.html

LITERACY CENTER
I found today’s activities on THIS blog – the mama offered several ideas for Earth Day in her free printable pack.

Level 1: for the younger set I printed out tracing pages – they love writing with the dry erase markers!!

Level 2: I printed out the Letter Sound Matching. I wrote in the words in one set, and left the other as it was with the pictures on the left and the letters on the right.

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MATH CENTER
Today’s activity was also printed from THIS same blog as the literacy activities. Since the matching numbers would have taken up a whole page for just five numbers, I used our left-over cardboard from our Arts+Crafts activity to make the matching numbers.

Level 1: Match the number cards

Level 2: Write in the correct numbers

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DISCOVERY TABLE
This was a sensory/math activity. I used leftover green and blue eggs from Easter and split peas to go along with the blue/green earth day theme. This gross motor skills activity was inspired by THIS image.

In addition to the egg match for the numbers, I also pulled out our bumblebee clothespins that we made during our A.A. Milne playdate to have the kiddos talk about the importance of bees to the ecosystem, and have them pick up the flowers with the clothespins to work on fine motor skills.

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The second sensory activity today was planting a bean seed. The kiddos got to pack the dirt, plant their seed, cover it, and then water the seed. We can’t wait to hear how their seeds sprouted this week!!

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ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
This was a two-part craft!! As the children arrived, we had them paint their blue earth. Once we broke for centers, we mixed the shaving cream+glue+food coloring concoction we learned to make for our Black History Month playdate and this time, we turned the cream green so that the kiddos could make green land on top of the blue water and create their own planet Earth.

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We finish our Preschool Playdate with a sharing time: each child that wants to share gets to say what (s)he enjoyed the most about the morning.  We close with a good-bye song where children are welcome to give hugs.  It helps to set a formal end to the time together so that parents have a clear reason to insist that it’s time to go if they have somewhere to be afterwards.

I hope you and your sweet peas had a fun time celebrating Earth Day! Join us next Thursday when we share our Space Exploration playdate!

 

Growing your motherhood

I want to preface this post by acknowledging that this is a very mommy+me post. My husband is a huge part of our family dynamic, so I want to be sure to give him huge props for being an amazing co-parent and involved part when he is not at work. When I talk about our children, it just happens to be a relationship that grows when he is at work since I am a stay-at-home mom. When he is home he is hugely involved. However, our family dynamic is one of me doing most of the childcare from 7 am – 4 pm

One of the great joys of teaching childbirth classes is having students return for future pregnancies. It is an honor to walk this journey with them after they have been initiated through the birth journey and parenthood.

When we do a 12-week series that I like to call the Bradley “next” class, we talk a little bit about sibling preparation every session, instead of breast feeding basics that we would do with a class full of new parents.  It’s a nice way to introduce ideas about parenting multiple children, and have the couples dialogue about what their new normal might be like when they are parents of 2+ children.

One of the most common questions mothers have is similar to the one I had: How will I love the next child?

For we will never have the singularly devoted time, the energy moving in one direction; it will never again be “just the two of us” plus your co-parent. We give so much to our first-borns – some of us wonder if will we ever be able to give enough to the rest of the children.

One of the ways we prepared Puma to be a big sister was to read her some sibling books about welcoming a new baby. I  remember sobbing every I time read her a book where the mother is home with the two children, and the big sister is adjusting to life with a new baby. I am so grateful to that illustrator for drawing a tired mom and a messy house, and a family that eventually finds joy and a new normal.

BigSisNow

Image source: Amazon

It gave me hope, and it gave both of us a reference point when we needed to have a conversation about “the baby”. We could talk about the family in the book and then talk about how that might look for our family.

Now, I had the grace of having a toddler as a big sister…due to a miscarriage between Puma and Night Owl, they are almost three years apart. I had it easy in some ways, because Puma was at the age when she was happy for a little independence and relished her ability to do something, but not the baby, “they’re too little…” Some of our students are welcoming sweet peas 15-18 months apart, so the older sibling is still very much a “baby” compared to where we were.

Here is one thing I do want to share, because no matter how far apart your children are, this may resonate with you:

You are enough. You will find a way.

You may need to ask for help. You may need to lower your standards. It is possible to have multiple children and still have time every day for meaningful time with them .

One of our student’s mom shared this nugget of wisdom with me. She is the mother of six children, and this is what she told me: Every time we brought a baby home, we lowered our standards a little bit more. Now they are all gone, the house is perfect, and I miss them all.

This is what I do know as a mother to four children:
The emotional hurdle from being a mother to one child to two children is a huge one. For many of us, it’s hard to wrap our mind around the idea that our first born is graduating to be a big brother or big sister. Maybe you are asking yourself how you will possibly be able to give the best of yourself when you are being pulled in more directions.

The beauty is that our love doesn’t just double. Our heart grows exponentially, and there is so much love you can’t always hold it all! Our new children need us in a new way, sometimes a different way, and that stretches us in our motherhood.  And all our children (and your partner!) will benefit from this new mother you are growing into.

While we may grieve the loss of giving everything to our first-born, without oue other children we might be tempted to stagnate. That isn’t much of an option when you add to your family, because each new soul is going to ask something new of us as mothers. And you will rise to the occasion, again and again.  You will find yourself with more resources, more knowledge, more confidence than you might be able to imagine right now.

Reflecting back, I can tell you that it was good to cry those tears, and grieve the loss of our only-child status. It helped me be emotionally ready for the next birth. It let me turn the page to the next chapter.  It allowed me to embrace my new normal once I found it.

It was messier, louder and a little more chaotic at first. However, we all adjusted and I am actually sad that Otter will never get to experience the joy of being the “big” in our family…but seriously, we had to stop having children at some point!

If you are in your last days or weeks as a mother of one before you welcome your next Sweet Pea, I invite you to celebrate your only-child earthside status between between/through/after the inevitable tears. Do one special thing every day, take pictures, talk about all the things your first-born can imagine about being a “big”. Celebrate your motherhood and your relationship with your first-born, while still taking the time to point out all the big brothers and sisters while you are out and about. It will help both of you adjust to the idea of the new baby :)

I hope your motherhood journey will continue to inspire you and grow you in rich and wonderful ways <3

More about Sibling Preparation on Sweet Pea Births HERE

You can also check our archives here on SPF for blog posts both Cassandra and I have written about sibling preparation.

PPDhavealaugh

Preschool Playdate: Have A Laugh Day

Play date: April 14, 2016
Inspiration: “International Moment of Laughter Day” Read about it HERE

This theme took a little creativity – once I latched onto the idea that clowns make most of us laugh, planning got a little easier.

— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)
— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)
— Discussion of theme: What kinds of things make us laugh? Why is laughing good for us? What is the difference between laughing with someone, and laughing at someone?
— Storytime: The Day the Crayons Quit, Drew Daywalt (author) + Oliver Jeffers (illustrator)
— Unsquiggle activity
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers

No time for our unsquiggle or poem since the Sweet Peas sat enthralled and listened to the whole story!!!

As a preparation for this day, we invited each of the children to prepare a joke to share with their friends.  Here are some of the ones the children shared:

From Zootopia:
What do you call a three-humped camel? Pregnant.

From Home:
Knock know.  Who’s there? Mooo. Moo who? Mooo. The interrupting cow.
(The teller interrupts the listener during these words)

One of Charger’s inventions:
What did the bat take on his trip? His bat-pack.

One of Puma’s inventions:
Why doesn’t the lollipop have any friends? Because he’s a sucker.

STORY TIME
My sister, who is an eighth grade English teacher in NYC, painstakingly selects each of us a new book every Christmas. This book and it’s sequel, The Day the Crayons Came home, are not loved just by Otter, for whom they were intended, but the whole family!  If you haven’t read them yet, please check them out.

I chose this book because it is a Laugh Out Loud funny book – the parents were laughing right along with the children when I read it. Funny voices may or may not make it even funnier.

CrayonsQuit

 

LITERACY CENTER
I had two printables for the sweet peas to enjoy at this station. One was a pre-writing activity to have them practice making different kinds of lines and move their hands across the page. We set this out with some dry-erase markers and it’s always a big hit.

The other activity was a word family sorting activity.  Both of the activities are from THIS free circus printable pack via homeschoolcreations.com.

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Level 1: Parent reads the words out loud and has child identify the matching rhymes.

Level 2: Child reads the words and sorts the rhyming words into the correct group.

MATH CENTER
I had two activities for this center as well.  The first one is a counting activity for the parent/child to enjoy together.  The other activity was a puzzle the children could complete by ordering the numbers across the top of the image. I intended to add in the number words before I laminated…and I forgot. Oops.

IMG_5828Print your own worksheet HERE from first-school.ws

IMG_5829Puzzle is from THIS free  circus printable pack via homeschoolcreations.com

DISCOVERY TABLE
Years of dance classes have yielded one clown costume plus several others that were close enough.  The sweet peas got to play dress-up and be silly!
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ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Playtime exploration
Today’s craft activity was an opportunity for the sweet peas to get a little gross and fine motor skills practice as they explored their creativity. I printed THESE play dough playmats from the Picklebums blog, and set up four stations complete with a playmat, modeling clay, and some crafting staples: beads, feathers, wiggle eyes…and here is what happened:
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The Make+Take activity was a clown coloring page this week – print your own HERE from first-school.ws

 

We finish our Preschool Playdate with a sharing time: each child that wants to share gets to say what (s)he enjoyed the most about the morning.  We close with a good-bye song where children are welcome to give hugs.  It helps to set a formal end to the time together so that parents have a clear reason to insist that it’s time to go if they have somewhere to be afterwards.

Join us next Thursday when we share all the activities we do today in celebration of Earth Day.  Find some good ideas HERE since Earth Day is tomorrow :)

SPFMissingOut

fear of missing out.

I am so pleased to welcome back Cassandra as a guest blogger today. I so treasure her introspection into her own motherhood journey. Her thoughtful approach and consideration continues to inspire me in my own motherhood. Thank you so much for contributing today, C.O. <3, K.B.

I have major FOMO (fear of missing out) within my current role as stay at home parent and full time care taker of my young children.

I will preface this post with the fact that everyone’s family dynamics are very different and my situation is fairly intense right now. My 15 month old daugher was exclusively breastfeeding until very recently when she began eating solids. She currently can only eat a handful of foods and I can only leave her for ~1.5 hours (possibly 2) at a time, and really only with my husband/her dad at this point.  She only sleeps 45 minute stretches at night (but has had a couple 2 hour stretches recently though so… hope!) and it is pretty much all me, all of the time. We do not live near family or close friends and my 4 year old son does not attend any kind of school, he is also solely cared for by me during my husband’s fairly long working hours and then by both of us when my husband is home.

This FOMO could be attributed to starting my motherhood journey young, I was 22 when I became pregnant with my son, but there was a lot packed into those years prior to that. I got married, graduated college, got a job, bought a house, traveled to Europe 3 times, yet my heart is constantly aching for all of the things I feel like I am missing out on. While I am in bed nursing, on the couch nursing, walking around my neighborhood for the 3rd time that day, cleaning up the same mess every night, washing the exact same loads of laundry over and over and catching glimpses of myself in the mirror (after I have cleaned and groomed and fashionably dressed my children) only to be caught off guard that I may in fact seriously start being mistaken as a homeless person – I think about all of the fun “out there” that is being had and start getting seriously worried about parts of myself that may never actually exist again.

 

Yes the internet is a glossy place where everything looks better than it really is and yes I am immensely grateful for every single second I have with the healthy, tiny humans that have literally come into existence & remained alive from the cells and blood within my body but LOOK AT ALL THE FUN THINGS ALL OF THESE OTHER PEOPLE ARE DOING.

Maybe I should go back to work so I don’t feel like I am missing out on a career?

Maybe I should move closer to family so I don’t feel like I am missing out on helping hands?

Maybe I should never talk to any adults that do not have children so I don’t feel like I am missing out on what it would be like to not have the incredible weight of responsibility that is a helpless human’s life?

But really I don’t want to do any of those things. And I know children grow and they won’t be entirely helpless forever. These are some of the hardest years and everything is always changing. My daughter won’t be nursing on demand forever (although it very well could be a really, really long time). I know my husband and I will spend time together, alone, again at some point, but there are still some things that are just not going to happen, for me, for us. They just aren’t.

After years of this burden I have been carrying around of all. the. things. I can’t do right now and might not get to do and want to be doing coupled with the, at times, overwhelming fear of never being an autonomous being again, I recently had a very inspiring moment of clarity.

It is all a season. 

My season to accomplish outside of the home, to travel, to spend more time on self care than will ever be necessary, to reconnect with my passions, will come. But it is not about waiting, no not at all. It is about experiencing the current season for all it has to offer.

Recently on Bunmi Laditan’s Facebook page  (who will never fail to make you actually LOL & possibly wake the children) she mentioned in a post something along the lines of a friend with one very easy going child who thinks he understands how to influence’s children’s behavior positvely and offers advice ya da ya da and how it doesn’t bother her and she doesn’t say anything  because “life will be his teacher.”

This could not be more true of my experience the last five years since becoming pregnant. I now do not believe that I know much of anything, I am not in control and I actually am simply here to learn and grow as much as I can. My children are here to teach me. This season is here to teach me, to stretch me, lengthen me, make me uncomfortable and make me better.

So instead of living in fear of all of the things I may not ever get to do I am adjusting my focus to LEARN ALL THE THINGS. But seriously, to focus on growing myself – can I have more patience today than I had yesterday? Can I take a couple of moments on this walk to completely clear my mind? Can I enjoy myself right now even though I feel uncomfortable with the state of my kitchen or I don’t actually like this game my son wants to play? This is what my season has to offer and I want to get as much out of it as I can!

 

I should also probably delete Instagram, Facebook, Bloglovin’ & the like off of my phone and block all of my childless friends from texting me too 😉 What season of life are you in? What does it have to offer??

PPDhealthday

Preschool Playdate: Health Day

Playdate: April 7, 2016
Theme Inspired by World Health Day

poster-eat-healthyposter-be-active

 

 

 

 

 

Print your own posters HERE

— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)
— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)
— Discussion of theme: used the posters from WHO to introduce the two aspects of diabetes prevention: eating well and staying active. Also used some food pictures to introduce the idea of “sometime” and “anytime” foods.
— Storytime
— Unsquiggle activity – part of storytime!! You have to download the book :)
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers – ^^^ :)

The story and the activities were all from THIS great health website, offered in conjunction with Sesame Street.

STORYTIME:
This is a downloadable book from the above link.  The sweet peas had fun playing along with Elmo as we talked about Sometime and Anytime foods, and activities that are good for a healthy lifestyle.

HealthDayBookCover

Print your own book HERE – look for the link on the right side for the “Get Healthy Now Show”

LITERACY:
I chose the literacy activity to reinforce the “eat healthy” concept.  We emphasized letter recognition in this sorting game. Sweet Peas would look at the food card, then name the item and tell the first letter of that word. Then they would sort the food into the correct cup. I prints the food group names in bold letters. Next time we do this I will be sure to underline the starting letter.

This was a good reinforcement of the position concept we worked on last week.
image2 (1)Find and print your own sorting activity HERE

MATH:
I chose the math activity to reinforce the “be active” concept. This was a fun way to do math and get the sweet peas moving. First they rolled the die that showed the physical activity. Then they rolled the number die to find out how many times to do that action.
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Find and print your own cubes HERE

DISCOVERY:
We used our Touch+Feel box for today’s activity. I chose bumpy and smooth produce so that we could also do some sorting. The activity was to reach into the box and see if they could figure out what they were holding without looking inside. These kind of sensory activities are so beneficial for little ones!! Plus, they all had fun sorting! We also talked about all the heart healthy “anytime” foods and the “sometimes” snack in the box.
image4Find the instructions for the “Mystery Food Box” HERE

ARTS+CRAFTS:
This activity emphasized the sometime/anytime concept introduced in the book.  I thought it made a great distinction that we will continue using with our sweet peas so that there is less of a struggle when we say “no” – it’s okay to say no because we all agree it is a “sometime” food. Sometime foods are fatty, sugary, or salty…so we only eat them sometimes. Isn’t that great?

For today’s craft, we made good use of all the circulars that come in the mail!! We had some pre-cut food pictures ready, plus some complete circulars and scissors for the older Sweet Peas that wanted to cut out their own pictures. Once they picked out some pictures, they sorted their foods into “sometime” (fatty, sugary, salty) and “anytime” groups and made a collage to take home.
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We finish our Preschool Playdate with a sharing time: each child that wants to share gets to say what (s)he enjoyed the most about the morning.  We close with a good-bye song where children are welcome to give hugs.  It helps to set a formal end to the time together so that parents have a clear reason to insist that it’s time to go if they have somewhere to be afterwards

This week the fun activity was making the anytime/sometime food chart. I even got a picture of a sweet pea enjoying her chart in her play kitchen after playdate…so glad that these ideas resonated!!

SPFApril11

Date Night Playdate

Today’s post was inspired by the answer I got when I asked a friend, “Is there anything else you want to do before your baby comes?”

Date Night Playdate
Parenting is many things. Couples who are committed to a healthy relationship know that time together to nurture that relationship is an integral part of the long-term viability of the partnership.
So what to do when time and/or finances might be tight?? Here is an idea: Date Night Playdate!!
How it works:
We probably all have 1-2 families we trust with our children. Talk to them about this and see what you can work out.
First of all, you have to make sure they are willing to trade childcare for date nights.
Things you might want to hash out:
Who provides the snacks? Does the host provide meals or do you pot-luck? Is it a sleepover or just an afternoon or night out? Are your parenting principles in alignment (Time-outs? Time-ins? etc.)? I am going to guess they probably are if you would leave your children in their trust – check for your own peace of mind if necessary.
Then, agree to trade at least one time. You might pot-luck for dinner and then one set of parents goes out on the town (or home for kid-free time!) while the other set of parents entertain. Then you switch next week/month/year…however it works out for your crew.
Some families may do better with a drop-n-go to minimize separation anxiety. And some trades might include 2-3 families so that four sets of eyes are watching the kiddos; and then all grown-ups get a little adult conversation, too.
Before you leave, clearly state that the adults in charge have permission to correct behavior if necessary, and that you will be back to get them at “xx:xx” time. Tell them you hope that they will have so much fun on their playdate, and then hit then hit the road. (If your children are time-driven, by all means pick them up on time, barring extenuating circumstances.)
Then go out – or go home!! Whatever suits your budget. You can make a nice meal together and rent a movie for a fraction of the cost of dinner at a restaurant and a movie at the theater. Or go for a walk…ride bikes…play at the park…those are free! Maybe you want to get some grocery shopping done without little hands to watch. Whatever works for you and that gives you time to check in and share affection with your partner – plan it and then do it!!
I would love to hear what works for you and what kind of creative date nights you come up with. Or maybe you are already doing this and have some encouragement to share. Please leave a comment with your thoughts – can’t wait to read what you have to say!!
Here are three different idea lists for “date nights in” and/or “date nights on a budget” – enjoy!!
10 ideas via mom365
10 ideas via the bump
Cheap Ideas via Valley Parents
PPDbutterflies

Preschool Playdate: Butterflies

Playdate: March 31, 2016
Theme inspired by Learn About Butterflies Day

— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)
— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)
— Discussion of theme
— Storytime
— Unsquiggle activity
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers

STORY TIME
Here is a sweet story that follows a caterpillar through the spring and metamorphosis. It’s a pop-up book with a puffy caterpillar that weaves through the center of the pages…and then a pretty pop-up butterfly on the last page.

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by Susan Hood, Claudine Gévry

 

LITERACY CENTER
I found some images of butterfly gardens on the internet, and then printed up THIS butterfly life cycle. I printed up a list of position and direction words as a reference list for the parents.

My favorite way to use this is to take turns with your sweet pea. You ask them to place one of the figures around the picture, and then have them tell you where to put the figure. It helps teach them the concept of how things relate to one another…read more about that HERE.  I find it an important idea for them to be able to learn things such as reading and math…it’s important to understand how letters and numbers relate to each other according to their position to each other.

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MATH CENTER
I created this center using playing cards from a Hungry Caterpillar Game.

Level 1: Match the number on the card to the number on the reference picture.

Level 2: Start teaching your sweet pea about the days of the week.

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DISCOVERY TABLE
This incorporated two ideas – the line of symmetry and color blending.  The sweet peas put dabs of red and yellow paint on one side of the paper, then folded it in half to transfer the paint.  Where the colors blended, they got to see that red+yellow=orange. I love 2-for-1 activities :)  This one might count as 3-for-1 since it could also be a craft!!

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ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
This was the “official” craft activity.  We used water-soluble markers to draw on coffee filters. Then i let the sweet peas drop water on the filter by using water trapped in a straw by air pressure (mini-science lesson built in!).  Once they dried, we attached them to the popsicile stick prepared the night before.  The pipe cleaner is glued on with hot glue; it serves as the body when you twist it at the top, and then turn the ends into the antenna.

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This activity works best with fresh markers that are full of ink. Ours were a little dry and not enough color transferred to the coffee filter – the butterflies were more colorful when I brought out new markers.

We finish our Preschool Playdate with a sharing time: each child that wants to share gets to say what (s)he enjoyed the most about the morning.  We close with a good-bye song where children are welcome to give hugs.  It helps to set a formal end to the time together so that parents have a clear reason to insist that it’s time to go if they have somewhere to be afterwards

Next week: check out the activities we enjoyed on April 7th in honor of World Health Day.

SPFApril4

Doing it all…or not.

I am so honored to have been invited to do a homeschool mom feature on the Homegrown Adventures blog – I am so inspired by that mama on a weekly basis! While I work on completing the interview questions Irina sent me, one in particular really stood out.

Her question that really got me thinking, and I want to write about it today…”How do you do it all?”

My answer is…I don’t.

Number 1: My husband is incredibly supportive of the homeschool journey. Although he isn’t doing any instruction (yet!), he gets the value of what we are providing our children, as well as the importance of activities outside of our home. He makes it possible for us to offer our children individualized instruction, while also providing them with the opportunity to interact with larger peer groups.

Number 2: We are blessed with outside help. The only thing I really have to do in our school day is teach our children. We have ladies that come in 4x/week for a few hours to help with the housework and meals. The days they are not at our home, our Sweet Peas are old enough to help out now. They take turns helping to prepare meals and clean the kitchen, and we have a chore system that works when we use it – LOL.

Number 3: My daily priorities are flexible, and evolving!! This has been a learning curve for me – actually relinquishing the standard of “doing it all” and taking more of a “wait and see” attitude. My “all” meant that I tried to instruct our children and do every activity every day, keep up with all the groups I was in, establish myself as a blogger, and also take the lead in event organization…it was too much. Crazy Mama was showing up far too often. Suffice it to say I do not like her. She yells too much and she forgets that the people in front of her are children. She is also a very short-tempered wife – none of us like her very much.

Once I adjusted my expectations, Peaceful Mama was free to show up and remain present. I took a day to myself to make a list of what was really important to me. No surprise: my family came out on top.

As far as the school day, I had to decide what my absolutes were…what did I **have** to get done every day in order for our children to progress in their learning and growth? And then, what was the fluff…the subjects that are nice to have in our schedule, yet no one is going to fall completely behind if we do not do not complete them every day? And, beyond that, recognizing that we homeschool…so we can be flexible. If it didn’t get done today, we can catch up later in the week.

The best thing I learned to do a few years ago was to plan “catch-up” weeks into the year. I also schedule “reading weeks” every five weeks. A “reading week” means that all our children have to do is keep up the math and reading schedule…everything else takes a break. It is nice to have a week with less pressure and more playtime – it helps keep the focus consistent throughout the whole year, instead of taking 2-3 week breaks because we are all brain-fried, and then taking another week or so to ramp back up to our full schedule. Our consistency has been hugely improved since I adjusted my expectations for our school days.

What about the rest of the day? Ideally, schooling is only 6 hours per day for the five children I homeschool. Sleeping, so that I can make room for Peaceful Mama, is my top priority. Next, I try to prepare our school day before our Sweet Peas wake up. If we can start early, we finish early. They get to play and I can take care of emails and writing/editing during the day so that I am not up late at night.

The third part of that was figuring out that I don’t have what it takes to be a top blogger. I am not willing to “bleed on the page”, so to speak, and reveal all my dirty secrets and/or private life on the internet, I don’t have the time or energy to court sponsors and deal with the paperwork/taxes, nor will I spend the time it takes to interact with a large audience because our children hate it when I am on the phone or computer instead of interacting with them. Besides, it’s part of practicing what I preach. If I am limiting them to two hours a day of screen time, then during their waking hours, I want to hold myself to the same standards. Releasing that freed me from the pressure of “I have to post daily”. So what if I miss a day when I usually post?? No one is going to complain about it…so no big deal.

And finally, I made the decision to step back from so many birth groups. I have the desire to be at every meeting every month, and attend groups in other areas so that I can stay connected and be a force for change in the birth community. I had to come to terms with stepping back…realizing and accepting that the world is not going to end if I missed a meeting. Yes, I do miss seeing some of my favorite people. However, being present for our children is my strongest desire: they are only in our homes for such a short period when you consider the length of a lifetime.

I stopped attending one group altogether, and adjusted my expectations so that I didn’t fret about missing a meeting here or there. What a huge relief it was to focus on attending only two consistently, and then leave the others to a “wait and see” outcome. If all the stars line up for me to attend, I go…if not, then I don’t and I enjoy the time with our Sweet Peas.

Since our children are onto a new season of greater independence, I am able to do volunteer work again. They attend classes for two-hour stretches; they don’t particularly care if I am sitting outside the door waiting for them. Their father is able to do it, so he does. Doing volunteer work fills my cup just as much as attending birth-related groups, and I can do that without the Sweet Peas feeling like I am cheating them on time when I go out at night.

Now comes the task of compacting all of these sentiments into a shorter answer for Irina’s blog feature. For today, I figured that writing it out and sharing my journey with our crew of faithful readers was a good first step to finding a shorter answer.

I do want to take a minute to thank all of you that are regular readers. It has happened a couple of times…just when I think about giving it all up, one of you will send me an email that encourages me…so here I am – still – three years later for our family blog. I appreciate those of you that take the time to read and interact…it’s great to know I am not writing into the great void. Thank you.