Thursday, February 28, 2013

Scream-free Parenting

I'm sure you've all come across the concept of scream-free parenting. In essence, it discourages yelling and encourages finding other ways to deal with your children. Here is a brief explanation, direct from the Scream-free institute:

Emotional reactivity is behind every bad pattern, bad decision, and bad relationship. Whenever we get reactive — whether by screaming, cutting ourselves off, overcompensating for others, or taking things personally or defensively — we operate out of our anxiety and, ironically, end up creating the very outcomes we were hoping to avoid. ScreamFree Living takes this reactivity very seriously and stresses that the number one step toward creating the types of relationships we truly crave is learning to calm down.
ScreamFree Parenting offers a revolutionary new option by inviting parents to focus on themselves, grow themselves up, and calm themselves down. The ScreamFree Parenting principles will lead parents of all ages (with kids of all ages) to create and enjoy the family relationships they've always craved starting now.

 I've come across scream-free parenting many times and thought that, while it was good in theory, it was practically impossible in practice. Apparently not; I recently came across the Orange Rhino, a blog by a very fun lady who got busted by her handyman for yelling at her boys. Realizing that she yelled more than she liked, she resolved not to do so for 365 days. She is now well past that 365 day goal, encourages people to take up the challenge themselves, and has a lovely blog full of great ideas to help people stop yelling.

Now, I don't claim to be a scream-free parent myself. In fact, I just finished yelling at one child for being the cause of some major pain to the other. My crazy girls are always causing bodily harm and huge mess and it is sometimes difficult to keep cool. So, yes, I yell. However, I can tell you that I have discovered our home's secret weapon for reducing yelling by at least 90% - THE WARNING BELL.
"The Warning Bell" is basically our system of letting the children know that they are grating on Mommy's last nerve all all hell may break loose if it continues. For us it's just a simple bell from a set of  Schylling Musical Handbells. They were once a toy of the children's so you would think they wouldn't elicit much of a response when used as a threat. As it turns out though, for some strange reason, "...don't make me ring the bell..." is essentially as terrifying as if I had threatened to skin them alive! I don't really get why, but it works. And guess what - manically ringing a bell when you're upset is even more therapeutic than yelling, with none of the associated guilt!

The effects of me not yelling are also pretty impressive. To my surprise, less yelling has actually resulted in BETTER behaved children. I also have more peace of mind because I am being kinder to my children. As an interesting side benefit, it seems everyone else in the house now yells less as well. Overall, it's been a great success.

So, why not give it a try yourself? Any bell will do. Maybe you will find yourself with a clearer conscience and a less hectic home!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I've noticed most frequent post topic is, "I should really post more often". Well, here I am to say it again! I actually really love blogging; I like sharing what I've done in the hopes that it will help someone. However, I somehow just don't manage to fit it in! I'm going to try though - really, I am!!

To update those of you who don't know us in real life, we are a family of SIX now! Beautiful, lovely, even-tempered Dahlia was born in September and we are loving our little family of girls. Very frequently, I get messages on Facebook from friends asking how I fit everything in, what I do for homeschooling, etc. Today I'm going to give you my generic response that answers a lot of the questions people ask me, but feel free to ask more specific questions and I'll try to post answers! So, here we go:

I don't know where you're at in terms of information for homeschooling, so I'll just start from square one; I can tell you what works really well for us and you can go from there!

If you're interested in following your province's standards, you can do a Google search for “ curriculum standards”. I do make sure that we're at least meeting our provincial standards but, as a homeschooer, it is usually up to you what you cover and at what pace (depending on the laws of your particular state or province). You might want to slow it down so you can go more in depth or you may opt to go through the material faster and then mix in special interest units. I like to look at the curriculum standards for some of the states as well as our province when doing my planning, as they seem to be higher. I also try to follow the interests of the children, to some extent. If we're in the middle of a unit and something sparks their interest in another area, we may deviate from what I had planned to explore. 

For keeping children motivated, I find a lot of hands on activities, music and movement, technology integration, and engaging reading material to be a winning combination. I also find for my children (who are younger) that having a routine keeps them excited and motivated (i.e. they know that our science class with other homeschool friends is on Tuesdays and look forward to that).

I'm very excellent at planning things out, down to every last detail, but not very good at executing such a rigid plan. If you are good at “sticking to the plan” I would recommend taking some time over the summer to figure out what you would like to cover in each subject and then making yourself a year-long plan for each subject and then a weekly schedule (I can send point you to some examples if you'd like to take this route).
If you're like me and work better when you have a bit of “fly by the seat of your pants” in the mix, you can plan out what you would like to cover in each subject and then pick what you will do each week. For example, I know what units we would like to cover for the year in science (five sense, simple machines, animal adaptations, air, etc.) but I don't plan out in what order we will do them. We then host a homeschool science class each week and I plan what topic we will cover only a week or two in advance and do all of the prep the week of our class. Of course, there is no limit to the amount of planning you can do in advance; it certainly doesn't hurt, even if you don't use it right away!

If you're curious about the balance of schooling, keeping the house clean, getting healthy meals on the table, and working from home - it can be done! Well...sort of. There are days that you will just have to accept that you need to choose between keeping your house clean and educating your children. It happens, so be okay with it. Which you choose, ultimately, is up to you. Aside from that, here are the things that have worked for me:

- Always leave a room cleaner than it was when you entered. This is actually a surprisingly effective way to clean! It will start as just picking up little things and putting them in their proper spot. Soon, however, you will run out of things to pick up and you'll have to start dusting, washing surfaces, and deep cleaning if you want to stick to the rule.

- Square foot cleaning: When you have a big, messy area to clean, break it up into sections (one or two square feet) and clean one section at a time. Just keep going until you have done the whole room and remember to not move anything into a “square” that you've already cleaned. Just think – if you did a while room this way and all you did was move the mess from square to square you would still end up with 99 clean square feet and one messy one!

- Get the children involved with cleaning, no matter how old they are. Even our barely-two year old helps to empty the dishwasher. If you're feeling really motivated, make a chore chart and have a rewards system for the children completing their weekly chores. I like to have chores that they MUST do and “extra” chores that they can choose to do and get paid for.

- I'm big on lists, so it helps me to make a list of the tasks that I need to complete for the day (sometimes I do this the night before, sometimes early in the morning, and sometimes in the middle of the day if I've forgotten!). I often even “schedule” my day in 15 minute blocks. I don't always follow it exactly, but it gives me a good guideline.

- Try to have meals ready in the freezer. If you don't have a whole day or weekend to cook up enough meals for a month (seriously, how do people take a whole weekend off to cook?) you can make double or triple batches of your supper and freeze the extra servings.

- Have some ideas for very quick healthy meals that you can fall back on when you feel like you want to order take-out. For me, it's things like “Lemon Dill Baked Fish with Curried Rice and Steamed Veggies” or “Pasta in Red Sauce with Chickpeas and Vegetables” (less than 5 minutes of prep). When I feel like ordering take-out, I remind myself that I can make a cheaper, healthier meal in almost as little time as it would take me to call and order food!

- Find a school organization system that works for you. I think, for most people, workboxes are best. Here is a post from my blog that shows how we have used them -

- Vary learning methods to keep your kids engaged and well-rounded. We do activities outside of the house (dance, gymnastics, skating, etc.), in home group activities (science class, music and movement, drama, etc.), computer activities (I have a HUGE list of resources that our kids love), hands on learning activities, and traditional book work.

- When it comes to working (photography, glass work, writing, art), I try to do almost all of my work activities after the children are in bed or, occasionally, when they have another family member to watch them.

This isn't an exhaustive list but I do find all of the above helpful in my day-to-day routine.

I have many resources that we love (some free and some not) that I will try to share. If you let me know in the comments what subject you are interested in covering from the following, I'll try to base my upcoming post on that:
Character Study
Language Arts
Foreign Language

I also do a science class each week and will share some of our resources as we go along. We'll also be doing woodworking workshops, sensory playdates, and a "Let's Create" class (combining drama, music, dance, and art) after March break.

I'm sure this is just touching on the basics – if you have any specific questions, feel free to ask and I will answer to the best of my ability and/or find someone who can.

So, there you have it - the very basics! Hopefully today will be the jumping-off point for more regular blogging. Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I'm Baaaack...with Middle Eastern Recipes!

Wow! Apparently Miss Rosalee is a blog-blocker; I haven't made a single post since she came home! In fact, I bribing her with a cookie just so I can write this! Well, here I am, still alive and well, and expecting another baby! I really have to change my avatar - we're missing a couple of family members...

So, I'm here to post a few recipes from last night's supper, at a friend's request. the menu was baked falafel, cucumber and tomato salad, middle eastern potato salad, and cumin raisin couscous. Now, anyone who has come across my recipes before will have seen my disclaimer; *I DON'T MEASURE!* - there, you are warned. I typically get my list of ingredients my looking at several recipes and adding whatever else I think would work and then putting it all together in the amounts that seem to taste right. I will, however, take a good guess at what I used:

The falafel is easy - I used this recipe from Taste for Adventure:

Now, of course, I didn't actually measure to make sure I had the same amounts as the recipe, but it was somewhere in the ballpark and it was DELICIOUS! To go with the falafel (which we ate as patties instead of in a pita) I made this sauce:

Garlic Tahini Sauce

1/2 C tahini
1/2 C water
3 tbsp lemon juice (I really like tangy, so you might want to adjust for taste)
1 tbsp minced garlic
Salt - to taste (we don't use much salt in things - other people might want more)

Combine all ingredients and whisk together.

As sides we had:

Tomato and Cucumber Salad

2 large tomatoes, diced
1 large cucumber, diced
1/2 bunch green onions, chopped
2 tbsp oil (you can use EVOO, but I used flax seed oil)
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt (or less)
1/2 tsp pepper

Mediterranean Potato Salad (OMG, this was so good!!!!)

5-6 medium red potatoes, cubed and boiled (you could use any kind - the red's just looked pretty!!)
1 bunch green onion, chopped
3/4 C garlic tahini sauce
1/2 tbsp cumin
1/2 tbsp coriander1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp mint
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt, to taste
*Note* These spice measurements are truly an approximation. Just play with it until it tastes right!

Cumin and Raisin Couscous

2 C couscous, cooked
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/4 tsp cumin
Pinch salt

Unfortunately, none of the food lasted long enough for me to take photos of it, so I will update with photos next time we make it!

As an important side note, leftover Cucumber and Tomato Salad and  Cumin Raisin Couscous = YUM!

As a bonus, I also made Chocolate Brownie "Larabars" yesterday (though I made them into little balls for the girls). They were FABULOUS, though you will need a vita-mix (or maybe a really good food processor) to make them. I just made mine up, but Chocolate Covered Katie has a very similar recipe that you can check out here.

I hope you enjoy your Middle Eastern menu (and special treat)- we sure did!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Welcome Home Baby!! (and a freebie!)

Hello everyone!

Sorry for the extended absence, but there is good news...Baby Rosalee is happily with us at home!

On Wednesday, February 23rd, I woke up at 5:30 with a contraction. I continued to do so every ten minutes until I finally gave in and got out of bed at 8:00. I was positive that it was "Baby Day"!

I called hubby to warn him that he might expect a call to come home sometime through the day. Luckily, that gave him enough time to prepare for someone to cover his classes, but I didn't have to make him skip out! I worked through contractions getting steadily closer and stronger until 7:00pm when we finally got our things together and headed for the hospital.

After only 4 hours at the hospital (compared to 40 with the first and 14 with the second) we had a sweet little baby girl with us!! At 8lb15 and 53cm, she was right between the sizes of her two sisters at birth.

We were fortunate enough to get a fantastic doctor who, being from Egypt and working at a VERY busy hospital, had delivered over 20,000 babies. 

We had a good stay in the hospital with no complications, no recovery pain, and a visit from big sister (other big sis had a cold and stayed home). 

So now, as a thank you for reading about our newest addition, here is the printable I made while in labour! It's a set of ABC exercise cards/Dramatic play cards. Very exciting! Open them up and you'll see what I mean...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mommy to the Rescue!

To Whom it May Concern:

I am not indestructible. I am not Super Woman. I don't get nearly as much done in any given day as I would like to. I'm now almost 38weeks pregnant and at almost any given moment I can barely keep my eyes open.

But there is good news...


Yes, that's right, my mother comes on the 16th to rescue me from my crazy tiredness! Nanna to the rescue. I couldn't be luckier. I have such an awesome Mommy. She is coming on the 16th and staying for several weeks while we have the baby and get through the first little while.

Thanks, Mommy!

On another note, all of this being insanely tired has got me thinking again about how I can be more organized. See, my problem is that I'm REALLY good at planning - not always so good at execution. That has been getting better, but there is still room for improvement. The other problem is that I often try to take on too much at once, so my new plan, which I have been implementing slowly, is to add one or two things at a time.

Here are some of my future plans to keep the house running smoothly and as we would like it:

1) Stick to my routine of doing our calender time and workboxes each day.

2) Continue doing my learning goals for the girls.

3) Have a system by which hubby and I do other fun things together in the evenings besides "watch TV" and "watch more TV".

4) Get some music organized so we have a variety of music to listen to throughout the day (Christian, world music, classical, etc.).

5) Start doing "Once-A-Month-Cooking". Seriously. No matter how hard I try to plan my menus, I fail terribly at sticking to them. I think that taking one day out of my month each month would be MUCH more convenient. I mean, would I even be able to cook a meal every night with three under 30 months?!

I'm sure there are LOTS more things I could be doing, but those are the ones that pop into my mind right away.

So, what are some things that you do to stay organized and on top of things?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Workbox Wrap-up!

This post is a little late, but better late than never!!

As  previously mentioned, we started workboxes last Monday. It was such a great success that I wish we would have had them for the first week of our Polar Regions unit as well!! We got SO much accomplished in one week and I am please to announce that we reach almost every one of our 68 learning goals for a two week period (the ones we didn't were my fault for just not introducing them.

For anyone who doesn't know what workboxes are, it's basically a homeschool organization tool by which you place 12 activities in boxes each day and that's your day's school work. It keeps things on track, helps you to vary the content, and helps the student visually see the end nearing. There's a lot more to it, I'm sure, but there it is in a nutshell. is a peek into our workbox week:

Here are two of our days worth of workboxes. Just to give you an idea of what a day looks like, day 1 had:

- Coloured Paper Camoflauge game
- Arctic/Antarctic animal flashcards
- World Geography cards (for use with the large wall map)
- Bears on a Balance activity
- Sorting Bags
- "at" family initial sound matching game
- "The Caterpillar" poem basket
- Arctic Animal sight word game
- Chinese and French picture books
- Artist of the Week Painting Flashcards
- Candyland
- Stamping with Samll Stampers and Inkpad

And here are some random snippits from the week's activities:

 Lily sorting seashells by type of shell. We also sorted bears by size, animals by species, toys by color, etc.

 You can't see it well here, but this is Lily doing her camouflage activity. I cut out animals from various colours of paper and Lily matched them to the place the would camouflage best after a discussion on what camouflage is.

 Lily doing her Canadian map puzzle. I got this at the Dollarama and I swear it's the best two bucks ever spent!! She LOVES it and will do it many times in a row!

 Violet playing with the worms she scoffed from Lily's sensory bin. Why worms? We haven't changed our bin since Halloween!

 Violet entertaining us with a little guitar music while we work.

 Lily doing her "The Caterpillar" poetry basket. I got this idea from Counting Coconuts.

 Lily learning to collage with scrap paper. This was actually an improptu activity after doing an activity from her "I Can Paste!" book. She wanted more and I just couldn't say no! Look how intense she looks!

Doing balancing/Weight prediction activities with Daddy.

There were LOTS more activities during the week, but I don't intend to make a mile long post every week. Some of our other favourites, however, were:

- Camoflauge I Spy: I made an all white scene with all white animals hiding in at an laminated it. Lily then had to find the hiding animals. 

- Fabric Strip Sequencing: I made various lengths of cut scrap fleece and Lily sequence them by length. She was obsessed with this. She wanted to do it every day.

- Secondary Colours Experiement: We mixed together the primary colours to get the secondary colours. Great fun! Especially painting with the coloured water on coffee filters afterwards!

So, that was our week! This week we're on to birds and we have lots of fun things in our boxes!! Do you have workboxes too? What fun activities are in your boxes this week??

Does "Beans and Wieners" Count?

Yet another edition of Menu Plan Monday!!! (though wait, it's technically Tuesday by a few minutes...I'll just pretend I'm in Alberta...Anywho...

Last week turned out really well. Where I do have to admit that I made some substitutions based on how I was feeling that particular day, having a menu in place actually help ensure that there was a meal on the table everyday. Well, except that day that we had corndogs for dinner. I can't, in good conscience, call that a meal. But we just won't talk about that, k? Oh, and then there were the "Beans and Weiners" that I laced with ten tonnes of veggies. But that was a request from hubby. By the way, I have NEVER made beans and wieners. Ever. It's a miracle it tasted good- I threw everything in there!

I hope to have similar, or even greater, success with the menu plan this week, so here's my plan:

Monday: Leftover Spaghetti
Tuesday: Jambalaya (This recipe isn't exactly how I make it, but still extremely delicious!)
Wednesday: Baked Ham, Mixed Vegetables, and Extremely-Mushroom-Heavy Scalloped Potatoes (mushrooms were on sale and Lily LOVES them)
Thursday: Thai Peanut Chicken
Friday: Roasted Garlic and Potato Soup and Tomato Avocado Sandwiches with Vegan Mayo
Saturday: Leftovers
Sunday: Veggie Burgers

As you can see, I was still not brave enough to add in lunches and breakfast. Maybe someday. Maybe.