Thursday, August 25, 2011

Conspiring to Teach

I've seen both sides of schooling this week.  Monday, Miss Monkey went to Homeschool Connection all day.  What a nice break I had!  While Toddler E was sleeping I had some very real time to myself, quietly paying bills, making phone calls, showering without accompanying peep-eye and sometimes sibling induced squeals.  It was nice.  I could totally see why moms all over are so relieved for school to start's an easy way to get some time to myself while I choose to be reasonably sure she's learning something (although what she might be learning could be up for debate, no?).

Then Wednesday this week.  We signed up for the Denver Botanic Gardens' homeschool days.  Four days this "school year" when we get to go to the gardens practically free of charge.  From 10-2 they have activities tables ready with manipulatives for kiddos to learn about habitat, adaptations, food chains, etc.  This time it was Colorado Ecosystems.  We were a little late 'cause certain of our party needed some attention before we left.  We cruised through the gardens, to each table, Miss Monkey participated fully and exuberantly especially at the pond study table.  It was really pleasant, and eventually we left and arrived home mid-afternoon.  I didn't have to match my schedule to some beaurocratic idea of what children should be doing, we went our own natural pace.  A lot of learning and none of it was boring, plus we got to be outside most of the day (granted it's pretty warm around here lately, there was plenty of shade, better out than in no matter what weather).  In a word, freedom.  While it can be taxing at moments, I would much rather take the freedom of "homeschool" over the controlling world of typical public school.

The evening after the gardens adventure I met up with 3 other mommas to get a plan in place for our little homeschooling co-op-ish.  Sitting there listening to the excited conversation about what we "think would be neat" I thought, "I wonder what our kids would think of us all sitting here conspiring to teach them something."  Thus far we've some science in a monthly pond study, music, drama, and story writing.  We've worked it out that we'll each take a Friday for a couple of hours and match a virtue to our activity for the day and let the kids learn at their pace--which is incredibly fast when they're having fun.

I'm thinking I might start referring to it as "worldschooling" instead.  I'm excited to have received in the mail my Enki Foundations Guide, now I really need to study up and get some more curriculum purchased!

Monday, August 8, 2011


My Papa's Shirts Dress II
My Papa's Shirts Dress I

My [partial] Papa's Shirts Dress III

Beach Dress

Jelly Fish Dress

Halloween Mermaid 2009
I had help, seamstress mentoring, so to speak, for most of these.  The mermaid costume being the most intense.  So grateful for the tutoring, I recently made a lovely little cape and an apron for two birthday boys (pictures coming soon).

Successes and Backfires

This weekend was a great learning weekend for Miss Monkey.  The delayed consequence of her antics at the zoo were no pool all weekend.  After being totally obnoxious and uncooperative on Friday, The Man and I let her know that she had until 1pm Saturday to pick up the playroom and put her clothes away in the bedroom.  Simple.  So, Saturday morning I had a grand time designing and finishing 2 gifts for the boys' birthday party we planned to attend that afternoon.  Miss Monkey was super excited now and then, kept asking about when we were leaving, to which we replied "We'll talk about that later."  All the while watching the clock.  I resisted urge after compulsive urge to remind, nag, insist that she must get her chores finished if she wants to get to the birthday party.  I had even surreptitiously aided a bit by picking up the baby's toys (but only those toys I knew Baby E left out).  As the hour approached my grin got bigger and bigger.  The Man asked if I would be okay, "Sure!  I'm great!"  When I asked him if he was okay a few moments later, "I dunno, it just feels so mean."  "Oh, but it's not. It's follow-through, be strong.  We can do it."
While I was in the shower getting ready to leave with the baby, I heard him deliver the news to her.  
OH, THE HUMANITY!!!  She screamed, and cried, and whined, and tried to make deals.  We were so empathetic, and I found and was able to show, for the first time, a very real empathy for her sadness.  Big hugs, kisses, and "Oh, man!  it's so, so, sad, I know.  I love you, this must be so hard for you!"  Over and over again we repeated various versions of these phrases, because over and over she repeatedly cried, whined, and tried to make a deal.

THEN, oh, my goodies-goodnesses!  I got to have a mini-yard (patio) sale Sunday afternoon.  What was it I was selling?  Why it's all the things I got to pick up for my dear daughter over the past weeks, stuff that had been taking up space in my closet that took us that long to decide what to do with it.  The story, Miss Monkey had a choice of time to pick up her room, she did not. I picked it up for her, everything is off limits until she chooses to earn it back with chores, it'd been two weeks and no chores done though we'd talked about what she might undertake.  After some discussion, The Man and I decided that as we might send it to consignment anyway, or have a yard sale, then I might as well make the yard sale a reality.  It came off beautifully.  I wish the woman that was going to purchase the watch would have followed through---she chickened out when F started caterwauling.  The woman uttered something about how "it's not her job to teach other peoples' kids lessons", to which I replied quietly, "well, I'm the one teaching the lesson, not you."  Ms. RandomNeighbor bought a child-size broom and hightailed outta here quick-as-could-be.  In the end there were a bunch of clothes pushed into garbage bags to donate (sad 'cause a lot of things in there she's worn and enjoyed and would still fit for coming seasons).  Interesting to see though what she sees as important vs. what I thought was important.  Everything was liquidation priced to sell, easy enough for her to purchase whatever she liked with her allowance money.  Lesson learned---for both of us.  Next time, us parents have agreed, as painful as it might be to give away things we've lovingly purchased, we won't go to the effort of a garage sale.

Move into Monday morning, and they've been up before us, something we'd like to avoid, but short of drugging them not sure how to accomplish this.  After breakfast it started with the dolls, of course.  Baby E wants one, F doesn't want to budge on taking turns with it.  There's screaming, and a lot of it.  "Uh-oh! Bedroom time, I love you, see you when you're sweet and calm!"  Baby E doesn't get the concept of "leave sister alone, she needs some time" yet.  And while standing too near the bed of isolation was fwapped with the blankie hard enough that I could hear it downstairs.  Feelings hurt she starts bawling.  There are scratches on her back.  More bedroom time...all in all almost an hour, then recovery time, and talking it out.  The door is still broken from exhibition tantrums a long while ago (she paid into repair from allowance).  There is no real way to separate them---though now that I think of it I could break out the baby gate again.  And here's the backfire, if she's to have the consequence of staying home, then I have to stay home as well, 'cause kidsclub at our gym would constitute a reward.  I called a couple of people who are Love & Logic versed, so that Miss Monkey might pay for the sitter with a toy.  It's a reach though, as we don't have family nearby to take advantage of, I'm stuck.  Another strategy session with The Man and we decide we'll have to eat the price of 1 gymnastics session today.  Not going to the pool when she wanted to didn't seem to affect her, maybe it did though.  So we'll delay consequences until a little later when it's time to get to gymnastics.   Currently mentally prepping myself for the theatrics to come.  Change can make things worse for a while before it gets better.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Well, today I feel like I won something.  I'm positive that many people at the zoo thought my daughter should've been thrown to the lions.

It began with her less than friendly demanding behavior, it culminated when she fought with her baby sister, couldn't work it out.

I let her know, "I think we're going to have to leave the Zoo, sweetheart."  She screamed and ran to the play area, took some time to herself with her umbrella.  I waited for a bit.  My friend, whom I had been looking forward to chatting with on this leisurely afternoon at our lovely Denver Zoo, offered to attempt to coax her back into good graces.  But I know this:  I have warned her once, very clearly, very quietly, very firmly.  If I waffle, she'll continue to dance on the boundary and see just what she might get away with, making a most miserable afternoon for me and the rest of our party.

"Oh, my, it's so sad. We have to leave the zoo."
"NOOOOOO!!!!  I. DON'T. WANT. TO. LEAVE!!" thunderous, she's gotten everyone's attention in the small pavilion near the seals & sea lions.
"I know."
"Hey, I think you're more creative than that."
"NO!" she's crying and caterwauling.
"Hey, that's pretty good. I think you can scream louder.  Show all these people what an actress you are?"
She's pushing the dolly stroller, holding her umbrella, in her long dress she was insistent to wear...she stops.  "Will you be bringing the stroller along?  Or leaving it here?  I know I can carry you, if I do though the stroller has to stay here."  
Crying and caterwauling she starts moving again, "I DON'T WANT TO LEAVE!!!"
We make a little progress to the exit.
"NOOOO!!!"  screaming.  She stops again.  "I'M NOT LEAVING!!"
"Oh?  That's an option.  How will you get home?"
She pauses, then starts moving, "YOU'RE DUMB!!"
"Maybe so, I still love you."
"Nice try (chuckling), I still love you."
"I know. It's so sad to leave the zoo, it's a total bummer!"
Getting closer to the Feline house, I ask her if she needs a hug.  She nods.  Then we continue slowly making our way to the gate, intermittently she yells lamenting, "I don't want to leave, though!"
And I respond with, "I know."

In these situations, it's not me that's embarrassed.  I'm not the one losing my mind in front of strangers---thank goodness I've got more parenting tools at my disposal now!

Eventually we made it to the car, loaded up, and had a lovely, silent, cool, ride home...and me grinning all the way.

P.S. Since we've a membership at the zoo, it's easy to leave knowing I haven't wasted "all that money" on entrance, etc. If we didn't have a membership, though it would've stung the wallet, and the resentment would be challenging to let go, I'm positive the follow through would feel wonderful next time we're at the zoo and she does behave.