Incorporating Art in Learning

Incorporating Art in Learning

I love art. All of it. I’m not picky. So it’s always been important to me to incorporate art into my kids’ experience. Not necessarily making artists out of them, but equipping them with a desire, an appreciation, and some basic skills if they want to pursue it at some stage in their life. I guess to me, art is an avenue of worship, taking time to pause and appreciate the beauty our Creator has placed around us.

In the past, I’ve included it as a formal subject in keeping with the Classical Education model, and I think that worked well when they were really little. Now though, I’ve streamlined the essentials of our homeschool, what we must get done, and let art become a fluid part of our life.

Learning to Draw

The one remaining “formal” aspect to our art is artist study. But even this is trimmed way down in Charlotte Mason style of “less is more.” We studied two artists from our history time period this year: Winslow Homer (for most of two terms, 24 weeks) and Frederick Remington (for our last 10-12 weeks). And by “study” I mean I have 4×6 prints that I either bought from Dover (artist post cards) or printed from online resources. We spent about 5-10 minutes a week on this, either reading the artist’s biography or admiring his pictures. Then, I tacked the picture to a gallery of the artist’s pictures on our window. That’s it. Next year, I plan to take the same approach with Norman Rockwell and Kandinsky.

Less has really proven to be just as effective (and much less stressful) than more.

Otherwise, art is an option for “play time” and “quiet time” activities. Art supplies are rewards they can earn with their chore point system. Personalized sketchbooks are birthday presents. And I peruse The Artful Parent resources for ideas to stimulate their creativity, when the moment presents itself.

Toddler Art

Then, I set an example. I pursue art myself. I’m playing with Zentangle and card-making. I’m bringing out my calligraphy and using it again. I’m teaching myself to paint. I practice sketching.

Learning to Paint

The perks? Art is fun. It’s not a task that I have to do or that I feel guilty about not having gotten to on the lesson plan. I can’t get “behind” in art. And my kids get to pursue what truly inspires them. My “messy” artist gets down and dirty. My OCD child gets to keep his hands clean with sketching. My toddler gets to do it all! And learning new skills becomes a life-lesson, not just a class activity.

Incorporating Art

Investing in progress

Investing in progress

Word of the Year: Invested

My “word for the year” for 2015 has been “invested,” connected, focused, and present in the moment God has me in. It’s been a wonderful journey, and I’m seeing progress in several areas of my life for the first time in a long time.

My Planner

On the Go PlannerI have always done much better when I have a planner. I’ve attempted a few different planning systems: apps and devices, command centers, etc. But the most effective for me is the sit down and write it out kind. Last summer, I purchased an “On-the-Go” planner from Well-Planned Day. I loved the planner and discovered a lot about what does and doesn’t work for me. The vertical format combined both to-do checklists and a separate appointment section for each day. It was fantastic except for one thing—I didn’t have nearly enough room for everything I needed to keep track of.

Plum Paper PlannerSo for my birthday, I splurged and bought a custom Plum Paper Planner on etsy. I love it. I finally have room for everything: appointments and to-dos, routines and habits, prayer requests and ideas, and daily gratitude.

My Routine

My first goal for the new year was to establish a morning and evening routine. I knew I couldn’t try adding exercise or anything else to my life unless I had a routine to anchor it too. I have around five tasks for the morning and five tasks for the evening with a set time to wake up and go to bed. This is a guide for me. It’s not a schedule where I’m doing my Bible study from this to this time, but rather an order of things to do. I’m not in bed on the dot by 11 p.m. every night, but at least I’m there more or less by that time.

And my goal was to create habits, I check off each task each morning and evening as accountability. And because I’m a list-checker. It motivates me.

My Progress

Each month I plan a single goal with action steps, accountability measures, and rewards. For instance, one month the goal was to set a regular wake up time and to be consistent with that throughout the entire month (establishing a habit).

Finally, I’ve added that exercise goal, anchored into my morning routine. Not a set time that I exercise, but a particular order of the day: after Bible study and before breakfast. Sometimes that is 8 a.m. and sometimes it’s 9:45 a.m. It’s definitely not rooted as a habit or lifestyle yet. But it’s in the making.

How has all this helped me to be more focused, present, and connected?
  • When I write a task or event in my planner, I don’t have to hold it in my head and dwell on it. My planner helps me focus on one day at a time, one need at a time. It helps me to remember to pray for the job interviews and surgery dates of people in my church family.
  • My routine helps me to be centered on the priorities for my day; my mind and heart are settled before the chaos of the day unfolds. And my evening routine helps me to be better prepared for the following day.
  • Single goals help me to be more focused each week and month and less stressed out by defeat. I’m buoyed by the progress, however little or imperfect it may be.
  • Exercise gives me strength and energy to be connected with my active kiddos and my daily tasks.

It’s imperfect progress for sure. But I’m grateful for it, and grateful for the grace to take those small steps forward.

What imperfect progress are you working toward this year? Any prayer needs you’d like me to add to my planner? Leave me a comment below or feel free to email me through the link on the sidebar.

Update on our Tapestry changes

Update on our Tapestry changes

I mentioned at the beginning of the year that I totally overhauled Tapestry of Grace curriculum. I arranged our year by topics rather than by week (think of the Unit Study concept); I arranged our year into 3 Terms rather than 4 units; and I only did history the first two Terms (our last term branches into more science and biographies of scientists and inventors.)

The update is that this year has been a roaring success. Amidst all of this year’s challenges—our ADHD diagnoses, potty training Littlest (for the third and last attempt), and my husband’s second back surgery in roughly a year—homeschool has gone incredibly smoothly.

Modifying Tapestry of Grace

Modifying Tapestry

I’ve loved the freedom of studying by topic, moving on when our books are read and our projects are done. It was a little scary to remove the deadlines and assignment dates. There was a fear that we would not get everything done. But what happened was that some topics didn’t take as long as I planned, while others took longer, and in the end it all worked out. And I loved the freedom of never being “behind” in our work.

I loved working in 12-week Terms rather than 9-week Units. It gave me the freedom to plan our breaks when we needed them, and to plan them for as long as I needed them to be. It also gave us margin, the white space to catch up on life when we needed it. For instance, we took the whole month of December off. It was lovely!Homeschool in the Woods Time Traveler Pak

And I love feeling like we’ve finished when I need to feel that way. Any homeschooler will admit that February/March is the hardest time of year. It’s burnout time. It’s the time when you are ready to be done; mommy and kids feel it. To have that last term totally different is absolutely a breath of fresh air. And it’s time to get out in the fresh air. The weather is getting beautiful and there’s an itch to be out in it. I’m embracing that itch.

What else has worked well? Relaxed mornings and hard-core lessons after lunch. Around 10:30 or 11 we meet for our read-aloud and projects, break for lunch, and start on math and language arts after lunch. We finish at 3 or 3:30. On co-op days, karate days, and other busy times, we skip the read-alouds and just tackle our core subjects. Even so, we’ve read everything on our list, completed every project, and finished both Terms on schedule. This schedule has been a life-saver. When mornings are totally over-run with parenting and “character training” (if you know what I mean), I don’t feel behind for dealing with hearts and having those long, unplanned-for conversations.

Modifying Tapestry of Grace

Modifying Tapestry of Grace

Our projects fit us perfectly; both kids love it. It’s easy for me to plan for supplies and print what we need. And Praise God! my older kids are finally at the age they can cut their own projects out. Hallelujah!

Not all my changes worked. And the ones that weren’t working were quickly scrapped. But overall, this has been a year of incredible grace as we found the margin we so desperately needed and found the learning pace that fits us.

Everyday Challenges with ADHD

Everyday Challenges with ADHD

Over the last few months since our family’s ADHD diagnoses, I’ve been counting my blessings and learning, always learning. I’ve read three books and countless magazine articles and blog posts. I’ve scoured forums and help groups. Yet the hardest part of this life-altering reality is not the disorder itself but the criticism of others.

It’s hard to read and hear from others that ADD is a made-up disease, or that bad parents put their kids on drugs instead of parenting behaviors. It comes up on nearly every parent page or homeschool forum I visit. It’s implied in numerous conversations from well-meaning friends. Those comments and stigmas hurt, even though I know none of it is true. I’ve seen the challenges my dear ones face everyday, and I’ve seen how medicine has helped them to cope with and overcome these challenges.

A person with ADHD can’t just try harder; and a parent can’t just discipline it out of them. It’s not just a child who’s got the wiggles.

Don’t get me wrong. High-energy is part of the package, but only part of it. Anxiety, anger, and depression are also part of that package. Sensory processing issues are another huge part of the package. Distraction when you want to focus and, on the other hand, an inability to break your focus (hyperfocus) are other issues.

So what does that look like? My child’s tearful claim that he just can’t think when he’s spent an hour staring at 10 minutes of math that I know he is capable of—it’s legitimate. As are the claims that the truck driving by on the street outside is just too much noise, or that the pen scratches wrong on the paper, or that his fingers are sweaty and keep sliding on his pencil and distracting him. And his complaints night after night of not being able to sleep because his brain just keeps going. They aren’t excuses; it isn’t defiance. It’s all legitimate. His race car brain with bicycle breaks CAN’T just try harder. And when he goes into a violent rage at his own inabilities and failures, he can’t just calm down. It’s not my parenting, and it’s not my child. It’s the ADD.

And when my child has chewed on the collar of her shirt until it is soaked and stretched out, plus eaten the end of a pencil, plus chewed her rubber band bracelet in two, and gotten out of her chair 7 times in the last 5 minutes, and is now actually sitting on the table (all in the same morning). She’s not doing it to push the boundaries or to intentionally irritate me. She’s not making excuses when she says she has forgotten what I have literally told her 1000s of times not to do. She honestly has no idea she’s even done it until I call her attention to it. And when she goes into an absolute melt down because it’s too hard to pick her sweater off the floor, or has disproportionate anxieties about going places, talking to people, or performing certain tasks, it’s not always laziness or defiance. It’s not poor parenting or a “bad kid.” It’s legitimate. And it’s the hallmarks of the challenges someone with ADD has trying to process their environment.

Now, put all of that together and then add on a toddler who rips through my house like a 3 foot tall tornado (stuffing felt Sir Topham Hat’s into my laptop disk drive and removing his diaper contents) there are days when I think I’ll lose my mind.

But you don’t tell a child who’s having trouble seeing to just squint harder at the chalkboard. You get him glasses. And you don’t tell a diabetic that he doesn’t really need insulin. Try all I want, my thyroid is not suddenly going to start working. I’m going to need some medicine most likely for the rest of my life. We live in a fallen world. We are a broken creation.

Am I worried about their medicine? No. It has been an absolute gift from God. Because I see my children functioning happily. I see their personalities and servant-hearts shine through that fog. I see my daughter, who would have countless melt-downs over putting her shoes away, excitedly giving me a tour of her room she just cleaned by herself or secretly surprising her brother by doing his chore, or delighted to show me how she organized the dishes in the cabinet. I see her joining in conversations and talking to people when normally she would have panicked and withdrawn. I see my son succeeding where he thought he was just stupid. I see him healing his relationship with his little brother and others.

Does that mean all of the challenges disappear? Oh, no. But they are brought down to size. We still have days like what I described above, but it’s not everyday. And I no longer ask myself “What is this child’s problem?” I know what it is, and we face it together.

My children are smart, happy, mostly well-behaved, and energetic—“wide open” as they would say in North Carolina. They are normal kids, who can really struggle processing the stimulation around them at times and managing the rip-roaring speed of their brains.

So if you tell me that this ADD thing is all in their heads, I’ll totally agree with you. But we will be saying two different things.

2015 Word of the Year: Invested

2015 Word of the Year: Invested

For my fourth year now, I’ve chosen a word of the year. It seems to be quite the trend now, although I didn’t realize the trend when I began. But perhaps it’s trending because of it’s effectiveness. I’ve loved choosing one word, one theme, one verse to meditate and focus on all year.

All of my goals and “resolutions” stem from this one perspective. In my personal Bible study, I often find the Lord revealing things to me about the specific area I’ve prayerfully chosen. And looking back, I’m humbled and inspired to see the year truly characterized by that word.

Which in one way, puts a lot of pressure on you to select the right word. I had a long list of possibilities this year. It was tough to choose. So what I ended up doing was looking through my list for words that were, in essence, the same idea. I found a single word that incorporated as many of these words as possible. And that word…drum roll…was Invested.

Word of the Year: Invested

My goal, hope, prayer for 2015 is to be less distracted and more invested in each moment. To focus, to connect, to be present in the SINGLE most important thing for that moment.

The busyness of life often forces us to multi-task, but what I’ve found is that a lot of my multi-tasking comes from anxiety over the next moment, and truly distracts from the moment I’m in.

Instead of half-mindedly listening to my children while I do something else, I’ve begun either stopping my task, or asking them to wait until I can give them my full attention. I’ll say something like, “I really want to hear what you are telling me, but I can’t give you the attention I want to give you right now. If you will wait just a moment, I will be able to listen to you better.”

Instead of running over plans and lists and to-dos and what I will say next, I focus on the one thing most needful. And TRUST that God will help me with the problems of the next moment when it’s time.

Life is so short. Moments so quickly vanish. I want to be invested in each one.

What’s your word for 2015? Comment and tell me all about it!

Ending the Year with Longing

Ending the Year with Longing

My word for 2014 was “satisfied.” But as the end of the year approached, ironically the idea God was laying heavy on my mind and heart was that of longing.

Longing is, in many ways, the opposite of satisfied; but it’s also the beginning of satisfied. I can’t feel satisfied if I’ve never felt longing.

But longing is a feeling we try to escape. It’s a feeling we never want to feel for long. And so we stuff ourselves with cheap substitutes to make the feeling go away. For instance, if I’m hungry, I don’t voluntarily allow myself to feel that way for long. I want that knawing to go away, even if I satisfy it with a snickers instead of a real meal. I have to give in to that longing.

Sometimes that longing is loneliness, sorrow, anxiety, or a feeling of being overwhelmed with life. Maybe it’s a longing for hope, for justice, for the way things should have been before the Fall. Maybe a painful tragedy, broken relationship, or a hurtful remark triggers that longing.

Do I despise that longing and seek to eradicate it, or do I see my longing as a gift drawing me closer to God?

I’ve been reading Hosea in my personal Bible study, and one truth that has stood out to me is that the Lord talks of stripping Israel of everything—naked, hungry, destitute—a state of absolute longing, so that Israel will long for God once again.

Longing is uncomfortable, even painful. But blessed are those who hunger and thirst, who are longing, for righteousness. They will be satisfied.