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!