Mama’s Moodlifters Cards: review

Mama’s Moodlifters Cards: review

Disclaimer: I was given a set of cards in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Do you ever have one of “those” days when everything explodes into chaos? No, me neither. But if you ever were in need of something to lift your mood, these cards are the cutest.

Mama's MoodLifter Cards review

 

Mama’s Moodlifters are a set of cards with fun play ideas to shift the mood of your day. Each card has a super cute play idea—wrap your baby like a burrito and gobble him up, make funny faces, create funny “toasts” to each other, dance the “blues” away, and more—plus an inspirational quotation. Let me just say, I was sold with the idea of a baby-burrito. What could be more fun than throwing pillows and stuffed animals on a blanket and rolling your toddler (or 7 year old) up into a blanket burrito and pretending to eat him!

Mama's MoodLifter Cards review

Or for those days when I’m really scrambling for a moment, just one minute to regather my scattered thoughts, I’ll send them off with one of the ideas. It does lift my mood to hear them hysterically giggling in the bathroom as they make funny faces in the mirror. Then, of course, I get to see the “prize” faces, the funniest faces they could come up with, and we all get a good giggle.

Mama's MoodLifters review

It’s such a cute idea, and a real help. I’m not always good about thinking of creative things to play with my kids, but another reason I love them is that they help me to embrace my kids in those hard moments rather than push them away. They also make great “rainy day” ideas!

A set comes with 32 cards—32 fun ideas and inspirations—in a cotton drawstring pouch for $17. They are a fun gift idea for moms, too, especially with Mother’s Day approaching (*wink*). Visit the website to read more about the cards or to purchase your own set.

Disclaimer: I was given a set of cards in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. You can read my disclosure policy here.

Implementing Charlotte Mason, baby steps

Implementing Charlotte Mason, baby steps

Classically inclined, Charlotte Mason inspired homeschooling

We’re applying Charlotte Mason in our homeschool these days, implementing some of the methods in baby steps. And since I’ve waxed super philosophical lately, I thought I’d take a break for some practical thoughts today.

The nice thing about CM is that it is a method not a curriculum, so I’m really not making huge curriculum changes mid-year. I’m using all the same materials; I’m just using them differently.

Short Lessons

I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but this has been #1 on my list of changes. In order to require strict attention to lessons, short lessons are recommended, before your child’s attention is lost. What does this look like?

We still do A Beka Math. We still do Logic of English (Foundations B for Middlest, Essentials for Oldest). We still do Tapestry of Grace. However, I’m making intentional decisions to keep each individual lesson no longer than 15-20 minutes. For some of our Tapestry reading, that means that we may come back in an hour to read some more, but my kids get the brain breaks they need. For some Essentials lessons, that means it may take us more than a week to get through a single lesson. That’s okay. He’ll actually learn more by doing less.

Copy Work

We’ve started doing copy work lessons 3-4 times a week. Copy work reinforces good handwriting, spelling, and mechanics as the kids copy passages from quality books. What does this look like?

Implementing Charlotte Mason

Well, for Middlest I cheat and actually have her writing the sentence that is a part of her Foundations lesson. It’s a start, and she is only kindergarten after all. For Oldest, I downloaded the free copy work lessons from the AmblesideOnline yahoo group. Even though he’s technically 2nd grade, we are just starting copy work, so I have him copying from Book 1. The passages he’s copying are from a favorite book of his that we read earlier in the year; he loves it. And on the days we are not doing copy work, I let him illustrate his copy work page. It’s a win for both of us.

This takes us 5-10 minutes. That’s all! I know some kids may take longer to write, but I was blown away by how little time it really took us to implement some of these things.

Living Books

I’m much pickier about our books, even our “Tapestry” book selections. I’ve seen the difference between fact-filled books (even the ones with all the cool pictures—think Usborne and DK Eyewitness) and really, truly living books—books that have a storyline and an enthusiastic author, books that make the facts come alive with people and narrative and ideas. What does this look like?

I double-check my book selections through the SimplyCharlotteMason.com bookfinder. If it’s not on that site, I find an Amazon preview and read a few pages. I’m getting better at detecting the good stuff. And IF I get a book from the library that is not living, it’s only for the pictures. The kids can look through those pictures while I read the living books. The difference is that my son tries to steal these books to read on his own; he devours them. The other kinds of books sit on my shelves, unless someone’s in the mood for pictures.

Narration

I’ll probably delve into this a little further in future posts; it’s a huge part of both classical and CM, though the technique is a little different in each method. For the Susan Wise-Bauer method, you ask specific questions to elicit a specific answer. You’ve chosen the key ideas you want your child to retain. With the CM method, the child retells the story back to you. He does the mental work of remembering, of selecting the points that resonated with him, of putting that information in order. It is the process of composition, but it occurs in the child’s head. What has this looked like?

I’ll be frank—Oldest has resisted this a little. The open-endedness scares him because he’s used to giving me what I want. That, and he’s not much for change. But I’m sold on this aspect of the CM methods; I totally see the value, especially as preparation for composition later on. So I’ve mentioned the value of what he’s doing to him, and then reassured him. The reassurance is gradually drawing him out. And I’ve been creative with how we do it. Sometimes, he retells. Other times, I’ve let them draw pictures or act out the stories. And though I have not required anything from Middlest (because she’s only 5), she has whole-heartedly jumped on board with it.

That’s it. That’s all we’ve changed right now to make CM a part of our homeschool. It’s nothing scary, nothing drastic or expensive or traumatic. But it has been revolutionary. I can sense it changing not just how we do things, but who we are. And I love it! I feel like a caged bird set free.

Freedom with Charlotte Mason

Embracing Solitude

Embracing Solitude

Monday Motivation

Perhaps it’s the introvert in me, but certain times of the day I absolutely crave solitude. And with three lively {loud} children filling my halls and both levels of my house with their whoops and hollers, I especially crave silence with that solitude.

So I carve out a space in the afternoon, a quiet time that is rigidly observed. It’s a time for Littlest to nap and the older two to choose creative activities that aren’t as noisy (coloring, drawing, reading, legos). And as the echoes of screaming chaos fade into the bliss of afternoon stillness, I sink into my favorite chair to savor the moments. But, oh! does that time seem short, even more so as Littlest is now in a big-boy-bed and his naps are consequently shorter.

But I’ve recently discovered that my habits for my time may not be the best use of my solitude. Am I really allowing myself to be alone?

Here’s what I’m getting at. My first moments of stillness consist of immediately connecting to the world-wide-web of people and information. I turn off the noises in my house, and open immediately to the “noise” of email and facebook. I am not “alone” but simply surrounding myself with a different group of people, a wonderful group of people but people no less. And so, rather than using these precious few moments to really nurture myself and connect with the One who can renew my strength for the last lap of my day, I distract myself.

Am I ditching the internet? No, I need those connections and friendships with people. But I also need to steward them well, to keep those connections and the internet in check.

It’s much easier to fill my life with noise (even good noise) than to be still before the Lord and delight in His presence, to sharpen the creative gifts He’s entrusted me with, and to rest.

Trying to find more solitude and serenity for your own life? Check out these 52 other ideas that are inspiring me.

Planting Habits, Reaping Character

Planting Habits, Reaping Character

One aspect of my Charlotte Mason research that I have loved is the great advice on habits or character-training.  Her advice is phenomenal.

  • It begins with prayerfully considering what character trait to work on with your child—just one at a time.
  • The next step is a conversation with your child to discuss the harm of his/her current behavior and the character trait that will be the solution. This is not a lecture, but rather a healthy conversation to engage the will of your child in this effort and to position yourself as your child’s friendly ally in this endeavor.
  • During this conversation with your child, discuss some strategies that you will use to help remind him/her until the habit is established: a question you will ask to help the child think about his/her behavior and a nonverbal cue to strengthen the child’s will and remind him you are their to help. The idea is that you do not want to nag or command. You want the child’s brain to be doing the thinking, charting a new neural path for this habit.
  • The last step is patient vigilance; new habits aren’t made overnight. Be vigilant as you hold your child accountable for the new behavior. But then, provide reinforcement as well—a Scripture verse to encourage, a biography of a person learning or exhibiting this trait to inspire your child.

So how do habits coexist with the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the Spirit? Is this my work or His? My son and I recently had this discussion, and I illustrated it this way: I can plant a seed in good soil, water it, provide just the right sunshine and nutrients, but only God can make that seed grow into a plant and bear fruit.

Habits are prepping the soil and watering the seed. I can teach good habits and encourage right behavior, but I cannot change my child’s heart or inject character into his life. That’s the Holy Spirit’s work. Habits may plant the seed, but only God gives the increase.

I cannot recommend these free resources enough! They have been absolutely invaluable to me lately. For more on habit training and parenting, download Smooth and Easy Days, Masterly Inactivity, and The Way of the Will.

Filling my cup

Filling my cup

Monday Motivation

There is a very sobering and humbling reality to answered prayer, a moment of awe when you see your answer and realize that Someone was listening to you. Of course, I know He listens to me, but seeing the reality of that before me is an emotionally moving experience. It causes me to “be still” and realize He is God.

I’m not even talking about the huge miraculous answers to crisis, but more the quiet prayers for strength that you pray about mid-day, the prayers that only God knows about. I’m talking about the “answers” that speak to your spirit as only God would know to speak.

Lately, I have had some answers to prayer that were so perfectly and exactly what my soul needed, that I don’t think even I could have articulated that need as well as God answered. Do you know what I’m talking about?

For our homeschool and parenting, that answer has been the ideas of Charlotte Mason, and a call to simplify what we do.

Another answer, for homemaking and my own spiritual journey, came through this series: 52 ways to more serenity in your life and home.

In the “behind the scenes” of my life, God is filling my cup, even as it is daily emptied and slopped and spilled  through the day’s activities. Just when I think I’ve emptied the last drop, I find He’s filled me to overflowing once more.

The sun comes up. It’s a new day dawning. Time to sing Your song again! Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes.

~10,000 reasons

How We Do—Mornings

How We Do—Mornings

How We Do series

I’ve been putting off sharing this post, but I finally feel like we’ve settled into our new routine enough to share it with you. As you may recall, I shook up our whole schedule after Christmas in an attempt to find a fit for everyone, including Littlest.

In addition to accommodating our toddler, our life has some late nights for the kids;  many nights have the kids getting to bed at 9 or later. Which makes the next morning rough on everyone if I enforce a strict “traditional” schedule.

So, after a long, drawn out battle with myself, I’m finally allowing our natural rhythms as a family to dictate our schedule.

I have always tried to be up hours before the kids. But my husband and I are often up late as well (11 p.m. or even midnight). Rather than fight this, I’ve started sleeping in, too. Instead of 5 or 6 a.m., I now get up around 7:30 or 8, about the same time as the kids. But all of us begin the day with some quiet Bible time. If they finish before me, I give them morning hugs and gently remind them that Mommy needs time to finish her time with God and send them back to their rooms to dress and make their beds.

Enjoying our "Song Theatre," as Middlest termed it.

Enjoying our “Song Theatre,” as Middlest termed it.

We ease into our morning with breakfast at around 8 or 8:30, followed by “daily hygiene” (getting dressed, brushing teeth, and the rest) and lots of time with Littlest. I’ll play our favorite Family Favorite Tunes for some “jumpin’ and a dancin’” and banging on our rhythm instruments. Littlest loves this (as do the others). And it has helped get wiggles out for everyone. Or some days, Littlest prefers to read some books. Either way, this is my time to spend with him. The others may join in with Littlest as they finish their chores.

I finally purchased a baby gate, which has made a tremendous difference in our day. I could never have guessed how much it helps to limit his chaos to just one floor of our house rather than chasing him out of no-nos on both levels. (Highly recommend a baby-gate!)

We begin our school day about 9:00 or so with copy work and memory chants, and I’m really holding myself accountable to short lessons. Copy work and memory chants both take us 20 min. total.  Littlest usually joins us for this, dancing to our songs and waving his arms around to the motions of our timeline.

Homeschool ScheduleAfter 20 min., I spend time with Middlest on her math and reading; Oldest begins his independent work (a math worksheet, mapwork, and sometimes other activities). Littlest is often playing on his own in the living room, sitting in his high chair with his own coloring page or craft, or having a snack. He also enjoys playing Connect Four in my lap while I teach Middlest. Again, we spend 20 min. here and that’s it. Even if we aren’t quite done yet, Middlest will pick back up on her lessons the following day and Oldest can finish his independent work a little later on.

The next 20 minute segment varies each day. Some days it’s a read-aloud; other days it may be our Latin DVD (we’re doing Song School Latin 1) or Kinderbach. Occasionally, if I need the break to finish something, I’ll let everyone watch Oldest play his Reflex math while I finish a chore.

Another 20 minute segment finds us listening to our Story of the World audio (our core history source for Tapestry of Grace this year) and coloring the pictures, or reading a read-aloud if we haven’t gotten to that yet. We read aloud together for at least one subject every day, and most days Oldest will read some, too.

We don't do everything here. I cover 1 or 2 story problems, the Thinking Cap, and 5 or 6 Oral Combinations.

This is my A Beka Math teacher guide. We don’t do everything here. I cover 1 or 2 story problems, the Thinking Cap, and 5 or 6 Oral Combinations.

Oldest then works with me for 30 minutes. Notice this time, I’m spending 30 min.: that’s 15 min. of math and 15 min. of Language Arts. This segment of time has been a real eye-opener. I can’t believe how much we get accomplished in this time frame. In 15 minutes, I check his math page, review his new concept, give some critical thinking problems and oral problems for him to solve, and complete a speed drill. And yes, this is A Beka math. (Notice also, no flashcards! Reflex math replaces all of that for me.) Then, we move on to Essentials. I choose a few exercises from each lesson; we work for 15 minutes and then pick up with more from that lesson on the following day. Yes, it may take us longer to get through the LOE book, but otherwise we’d burn ourselves out. (There’s so much in one lesson! Spelling, grammar, dictation, composition, vocabulary/roots/prefixes/suffixes. It just has to be done incrementally.)

The rest of the morning is spent finishing up the little details we might not have completed yet, or enjoying the fun stuff—another read-aloud, some art, some nature study, or just enjoying a beautiful day outside.

Tapestry of Grace

Tapestry of Grace

We’re done by lunch, or on mornings when we all slept a little more than usual, we’ll finish shortly after lunch. It’s been such a freeing routine, and one that allows us to live the life God’s given us.

How do your mornings roll?