The Great Winter Escape!

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Last year, after spending 3 years in Southern California, where winter means 20’s at night but 65 during the day, my kids ranted and raved about how awesome the winter season is! They would spend hours outside everyday, all bundled up and waddling around like a marshmallow trying to catch a cream puff. Snow was the most magical creation on earth and they enjoyed every second in it!

I’m going to assume the novelty of cold and snow has worn off. Well, although it is quiet a bit colder this year than it was last year, my kids want nothing to do with the outdoors. Nada. They will brave the ice, sleet and wind chill if we require it, but go out into a life size freezer for fun? No thank you!

I find it all quite humorous, they will sit inside and stare out of the windows, in their shorts, and oooh or ahhhh over the beauty of the winter wonderland. Yet they refuse to actually go play in it! They will pretend that the stairs are ice covered mountains filled with yetis and ninjas fighting against the pirate kings and princesses while donning robes, pjs and slippers but balk at the idea of protecting their fortress (the playground) from the ice. Little G has even told me that I need to make Alfred some hot chocolate because it’s too cold in his batcave (a portion of the woods behind the house) only to refuse to take the chocolate to Alfred (don’t worry he can just send it to him from his special watch).

So how on earth am I supposed to get in their daily outside time, let alone nature study! I am sure by now your quite aware that we practice a hybrid version of Unschooling and Charlotte Mason principles when it comes to school. One of my favorite concepts from Charlotte Mason is the idea of nature study as a spine for science and plenty of time outdoors in actual play. Normally this is one of the kids favorite subjects and I have no problem getting them to participate…except when the polar vortex has taken over North America apparently (and it’s been mellow out here in Maryland!).

We have a local man made lake on base that we enjoy weekly. However, the drop in temperature (as well as the holidays) has kept us away for almost two months!

That doesn’t mean science lessons have stopped. We have made our own observations and hypothesis from our everyday routine in order to keep up some form of it all. For example, the kids absolutely loved piling up on the couch under three blankets while daddy blew bubbles that turned to ice when it was -10 degrees outside. Daddy was a trooper and lasted three whole frozen bubbles before giving up (and chasing the kids around the house with cold fingers)! The kids also placed a glass of tap water and filtered water outside and timed them from the window (again under blankets) to see how fast they froze. All fun and warm as well as educational but this week we decided it was time to make a break for it and go back to the lake!

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We lasted 15 minutes in the cold. Only 15 minutes and it was worth every freezing second!

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The sun was shining off the snow fractals and crystallized ice patterns, the lake was almost completely frozen and we found dog tracks in the snow on top of the ice. Rocks were thrown to see how solid everything was (this was the children’s first experience with a frozen lake), and they were shocked when their rocks bounced (they had hypothesized that the ice was too fragile and would break under the force of a rock…or rather G did and his sisters agreed) . We found deer tracks in the snow and met up with our (yes, my kids have adopted the lake Canada Geese as their own) flock of geese.

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We found a small puddle that had been frozen solid… It became our own personal ice skating rink. Each child took a turn falling on their bums and my youngest took three before she realized she didn’t like ice.

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It was a short trip but the children spent the rest of the afternoon talking about it and asking questions! They became so curious about winter and the animals that live in that habitat that now they want to study it. So we have a full winter unit, pirate unit (because really you can never know enough about Edward Teach…according to my 6 year old!) and read as many fairy tales as possible (because my big girl is all about princesses and fairies right now!) over the next few weeks, because the children are curious!

The Great Winter Escape turned out to be more of an embrace and maybe, just maybe we will be able to face our fears and brave it a few more times before the thaw of spring!

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Motherhood is Insane

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“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

If insanity is indeed doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results, then motherhood is the epitome of insanity!

There are the phrases that you could easily put on a recorder and just press play several times in order to save your voice for special occasions.

I cannot even count the number of times I tell one of the kids to “pick that up” or “put that away” or “stop yelling, we are inside!” I always expect them to listen, but then within five minutes I have to say it all again!

The actions you do throughout the day that make you feel like your living in a constant déjà vu loop.

Like picking up the same pair of shoes off the stairs every time I go upstairs. Finding the same Lego in the living room, on the floor, in the same spot every time I walk through. Always finding that one random cup hiding in the corner/bed/toys right after I finished washing all of the dishes!

The chores that NEVER end… Seriously is the twilight zone?! The sink is never empty. The laundry is always piled up no matter how many loads a day I do. The carpet needs vacuuming right after vacuuming. The trash…the toys…it never ends! Maybe my house is made out of Mary Poppin’s carpet bag…

It is almost as if life is set in repeat during motherhood and your responses never change yet you are constantly expecting today to be the day when the family just gets it.

Or maybe we are insane. After all it takes a certain amount of crazy to put the needs of these small selfish creatures ahead of everything else you once thought important.

Or maybe it is the twilight zone.

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Good Morning

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Mornings are evil. My warm bed tempts me to stay hidden until the sounds of little feet come rushing with noises that rival the bays of wild, hungry hounds.

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The bitter cold outside scares away even the mighty sun, on these dark winter mornings. My soft pillow allows for the comforts of a King in an otherwise humble abode.

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These little faces smile so sweetly. Their hands and feet work tirelessly as they climb the mountain that is mommy’s bed. Giggles and tears flow simultaneously as they greet the new day. Ready and willing to take on whatever may come.

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I know all to well the myriad of responsibilities that await my presence. I have two choices…ignore it all and lay in bed until the absolute last minute or rise unwillingly before the littles have a chance to wake.

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Every morning my husband’a alarm shatters my lovely sleep. Every morning I wage war with myself while my house and husband lie quietly unaware.

Most every morning my lazy and rebellious side win. It’s lovely to stay in bed until almost 8, but then I feel rushed as the hungry children demand sustenance. The rest of day is a game of catch up and I often reach naptime exhausted both mentally and physically.

However, on the off chance that my responsible and dutiful side win, the story is quite different. I am able to wash a load of dishes and clothes, make a pot of coffee, have a conversation with my husband before he rushes off to work and breakfast is not rushed.

It’s such an idyllic morning that I often wonder why I don’t force myself to do it more often. I’m still tired by naptime but I am not exhausted beyond belief. I still tackle the same responsibilities but starting off with that quiet me time really does make a huge difference!

Alas, I am a lazy woman and as much as I try to fight it, I will always be battling my internal sloth. I used to be a night owl, I still get all of my greatest ideas at night, but adulthood and children have kept me from embracing the freedom of life in the moonlight.

So here I am, nursing my coffee, writing, and laying on a couch covered in the softest throw I own while my happily stuffed munchkins are watching cartoons and playing with blocks. Today was an early morning, maybe I’ll be strong willed enough to win the battle tomorrow as well…or maybe I’ll cherish my sleep, only tomorrow knows.

I definitely hope for a Good Morning.

Pirates, Faeries and Tea

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Want to know the secret to how things work for us? The answer is a simple, tea!

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I do not like fighting for attention. I do not like yelling and forcing my children to sit down and listen. It is one of the main reasons that I started Unschooling. However, just letting the kids do their own thing all the time scares me. It feels like I’m not doing enough to ensure that they are learning at appropriate levels, which is why I have incorporated some Charlotte Mason philosophies to our child led day. The most important of which, is living books.

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I start each unit with requests made by the kiddos. They choose two subjects that they want to know more about and then we hit up the library. We find movies that fit in, documentaries and cartoons as well and make a list of them together.

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Everyday we choose a few of the books…

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We choose our tea…

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And we get comfy!

The kids drink their tea, eat their snack and I use the moment of silence to read books and start discussions. When tea is done the get free play time, which almost always ends up being based entirely on the topics we just read. They naturally “narrate” in their own words through pretend play and usually they ask to make props that fit in with the topics as well. Most times those props require writing or research and often our discussions explore the less obvious sides of the topic. Then in the evening with daddy our TV time is focused on one of our listed shows.

The learning is so organic that they think “doing school” is just tea time!

For math we are switching things up and introducing a real curriculum because I feel that it is too important to be whatever about, but that’s another post entirely!

In the meantime their concept of school will stay at less than an hour of sitting and paying attention, because that is what they can handle and what I can handle. So back to the world of Pirate stories and Faerie Tales, our newest units of study!

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Imagination Station!

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These kiddos are down right creative! Most days I can’t get a word in edgewise because of the intricate worlds they have created. As they are growing into their own unique personalities I am finding that we live in a house with multiple gifts!

I thought I understood this whole gifted thing and asynchronous learning after going through everything with little G man but I am learning quickly that gifted looks very different in other kids!

Miss Jo is throwing me for a loop! She is insanely creative, addicted to details, a natural problem solver and her understanding of mathematical concepts far exceed her brothers at this age! She is sensitive and intense, she expect perfection from herself and is her own harshest critic. She lives in an alternate reality yet loves hearing stories about the past. She is silly yet sometimes mature beyond her years while also temperamental and demanding.

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I want to help her see her strengths yet she focuses on her weaknesses. She is stressing herself out over an in ability to read (she will be 5 in 2 months) regardless of how much we reassure her that it’s ok. She has decided that she needs to be able to read and in her mind that’s all she needs. It doesn’t help that Ana Banana is starting to recognize letter sounds either.

That’s a whole other child throwing me for a loop! She devours books… Or rather has an unending love affair with being read to. Ana Banana sleeps with books taking over her bed as she creates her own stories to go along with the pictures within the pages.

Her quiet nature in public is juxtaposed against a wild explorer when home. She creates plays and puppet shows. Has a different voice for each character, build homes with blocks, yet she has a hard time with writing and drawing.

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To say that her emotions are intense is an understatement, this child wears her emotions on her sleeve unless she is manipulating the situation, which she does with ease. She reads people as easily as she reads books. I’m often shocked at her understanding of emotions and situations.

At two she often told us she couldn’t use the potty because “I’m just a toddler” and now that she’s three her reasoning behind refusing to potty train is “I don’t need to, if I get messy you will clean me.”

>:/

How do you respond to that? How do you handle a perfectionist four year old? A six year old who speaks his own made up language (Hutsu)? A one year old who can’t speak but tries to change her own diapers and can work any electronic in her path?

For now I focus on praising their strengths and gently guiding them through their weaknesses while working on character traits but one thing is for sure, there is no shortage of imagination in this house or questions!

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Ninja Study!

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After months of watching Ninjago on Netflix the kids started asking questions about real ninjas. So in a true Unschooling fashion we turned finding the answers into school!

After a trip to our local library to raid their small stash of ninja books we broadened our horizons and checked out a whole slew of books on Japan as well.

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We studied Samurai, kami, Torii Gates and anything we could find. The kids ate ramen, curry, sushi and tonkatsu cutlets. We explored the make believe world of Studio Ghibli and Naruto. Manga was introduced along with kanji. For two weeks we had fun learning about one of mommy and daddy’s favorite cultures and it was a blast! I should have taken more pictures but I guess their impromptu Torii Gates made of blocks and haiku will have to do!

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