Sunday, December 30, 2007

I should have seen it coming...

My oldest daughter, the Pillowfight Fairy is very fond of art. She loves to color and draw, but painting is a special treat. Even so it surprised me about a month ago, when she brought up the subject of wanting to paint her fingernails like other people do. My first reaction was that I had not ever thought of that as painting, but I guess it is. But, as I thought more about it, I realized that she would find it a treat to be able to paint her fingernails. So I picked up some fingernail polish for her for Christmas, thinking to myself that my daughters are getting introduced to makeup earlier than I would have chosen.

You see I don't like make-up. I don't wear it. I used to wear makeup some when I was a teenager. But as I grew up, I started wearing less and less until the point that I would have to dig in a drawer to see if I have any left from bygone days. I just don't wear it. I don't like the feel of it on me. I don't like the time it takes to do. My husband fell in love with me without my using makeup. Why use it? I think people use too much of it as it is. Their self-esteem and self-identity seems to be wrapped up in it more than seems healthy to me. That isn't what I want for my girls.

But, my daughter sees makeup (or at least fingernail polish, the rest will come eventually) as another way to express her artistic nature. So what's a Mom to do? Well, this Mom decided that if they were going to be introduced to makeup (starting with fingernail polish), then they were going to have Mommy doing the introducing. So, the day she opened up her polish we took some time to do up our nails. She chose her color. She chose a color for her sister. She chose a color for Mommy. Yes, that's right, for the first time in years Mommy put on fingernail polish too. This time around Mommy applied the polish for us all. They experienced having to wait while the polished nails dried and then having the second coat applied. They experienced having to have a nail redone because it smudged. After it was done, they were very pleased and would show anyone they met.

You may wonder why I put the polish on myself if I don't like it and they were just wanting it for themselves. Well, I am a good bit older than my daughters. I had my first child at age 35. By the time my girls are twenty, I will be 55. They didn't know me when I was a teen and young adult wearing makeup. I don't want my daughters to see my hesitance to wear makeup as a fear of something. I sort of feel like I did my time doing makeup in my younger years and would rather spend my time doing other things. But if I kept to that, I can see my daughters looking back on their life with their mother and coming to a different conclusion that would be a distortion of the truth. They could very easily come to the conclusion that Mommy didn't wear make up because she just didn't. They might assume that I was ignorant about it. They might assume that I thought it was morally wrong. They might think that Mommy was just so out of touch. They might assume any number of things. But by participating with them I can open a dialogue about what is and is not important to me. I can show them that it is just another part of life that Mommy doesn't usually do, but might do for a special reason. Such as the reason that it is something they want to do for fun.

As a result, my husband has seen me with brightly colored painted nails probably for the first time this week. I think he was a little bit surprised. He knows me as a very pragmatic person. Somehow bright pink nails is a little more flamboyant than he is used to. Besides, he knows how much I dislike pink. Maybe I can convince my daughter to let me try the blue next time.

Maybe I can keep them from noticing the prevalence of lip color around them for the next five years. They like lip balm. That could work for a while. During the winter with the dry air we use that a lot. The Adrenaline Junkie will ask for it by saying "I need some yips!" She still has trouble pronouncing "L."

Well, that's all for now. I'll try to post a little more frequently now that the big rush leading up to Christmas is over.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Birthday thoughts

The Adrenaline Junkie turns three years old tomorrow. We had her party today. There were several things that caused me to pause and think. Of course in a whirlwind of activity, there isn't much time to reflect. I'll do my reflecting here.

This is a particularly busy weekend for us. We had a week where we had appointments or other scheduled things to do every single day. We had my parents come to visit partly for the Junkie's birthday and partly to free up Mommy and Daddy to take care of an important appointment without kids in tow. In addition to this, tomorrow is an extra busy Sunday with meetings, practices, church, and packing for an out of town trip we need to make. I feel like I haven't had much time to sit and relax. But, I am proud of the fact that I still managed to finish nearly all the Christmas shopping, make homemade Christmas presents (can't say what... don't want to spoil the surprise!), rake the leaves, and trim Happy Boy's hair (which was getting extra fluffy lately). Oh yes, I've also been fighting a cold that may keep me out of the Christmas musical this year. I don't feel so bad, but my voice is completely unreliable right now and I have a constant cough that is triggered by the slightest tickle in the throat.

With all of that said, If I can make it through the next week, I think I might actually enjoy the holidays. What do I have on schedule next week? Spending the week with my parents (again!) while my husband goes through some job training. The kids will be completely spoiled. They have high hopes of going to a park with swings every day. And the Happy Boy will probably be so motivated by their non-child-proofed home that he will start walking. After that we come home to the Christmas musical final practice and performance.

So with this whirlwind in my midst and anticipated, what were the things that gave me pause today?

1. Kids don't need fancy decorations for a birthday party. We made very festive ones from colored construction paper. spiral streamers hanging from curtain rods, doorways, and ceiling fans had kids bouncing off the walls and gazing in awe (especially when we turned on the ceiling fan).

2. Clothes are packing material to a three year old. The junkie was tossing aside clothes left and right with nary a care. The only one to stop her was the princess dress costume (and the frog blanket that can be worn). But, lest family think that she doesn't care, let me assure them that later she brought me some of those same items she cast away so easily, asking to wear them.

3. When buying for a kid, keep their interests in mind. The Junkie was very pleased by getting pretty dress up things and also the toy cars. Not all girls like assessories and wheels. The Junkie is showing signs of wanting a pink motorcycle when she grows up.

4. Sometimes it is OK to let kids play outside in dirt and mud even when they are wearing dresses. It'll wash out.

5. When kids play make-believe, everything is a toy.

6. Three year olds can skip naptime as long as you feed them dinner before they fall asleep. The Junkie missed dessert at dinner time because she was so tired she was about to fall into her food. She didn't make one complaint about being carried to bed for a nap.

7. It was nice to have a very short and simple agenda for the day. That left a lot of flexibility. People were able to come and go as they needed. We could get things done without a lot of fuss. I highly recommend simple plans for birthday parties (or any party for that matter). The more you put in your plan the less likely you are to stick to the plan, and the less likely people will enjoy themselves.

8. 10 month old babies think that colorful boxes and bags are their rightful possessions and will raise quite a fuss when they are prevented from exploring among them.

9. Wagons with seatbelts and cupholders are extravagant. But we are happy to have it even so.

10. If kids had their way, every day would be a party.

That's all for now. I need to go finish up some laundry and clean the kitchen.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

How school is going lately

It has been a while since I have done a post about how the homeschooling is going. The last time I mentioned it, The Pillowfight Fairy was about to finish up her current spelling workbook. She has finished it now and we have transitioned to what I am calling vocabulary practice.

This involves working our way through a short dictionary that was in her spelling workbook. Each day we do five new words. Most of these are words that she already knows. I have her copy each word, read the definition and a sentence using the word (provided as an example), and then I have her make up her own sentence and write it out. On Friday we do a bit of review by having her copy all of the week's words and then pick out about four of her favorites with which to write sentences. Since she writes the sentences on the back of the paper, this also works as practice at spelling the words from memory.

This is by far her favorite part of her schoolwork (excepting art). I have found that letting her create a sentence, and at the end of the week letting her choose which words to spend more time on, is like a treat for her. She feels like she has a say in what she gets to do for her schoolwork. From my perspective, it also exercises several different skills. She is practicing shaping her letters when she writes. She is practicing writing words correctly. She is becoming familiar with the format and use of a dictionary. She is using her creativity to compose a sentence of her own. She is practicing writing down this sentence without forgetting it or losing focus. She is learning to capitalize the first word of the sentence. She is learning to use punctuation to end a sentence. As I said above, she is getting some practice at spelling some of these words from memory.

All in all, she is doing well with it. I have noticed a couple of things in doing these new exercises. First, she has a fondness for adjusting her "font" to make her letters prettier. I suspect that she will like learning cursive when the time comes for it. Second, she is a little fuzzy on the concept of what makes something a sentence, even though she enjoys making the sentences. I had purchased a lesson book for teaching grammar that I hadn't planned to start until next fall. Watching her good progress with these lessons and the frustration she has when she doesn't come up with a sentence on the first try, I think that she may be ready for the simple grammar lessons the book provides. I think it would help eliminate her frustration, when she understands how words go together.

In addition to this vocabulary work, she has reading practice, math work, memory work, drawing lessons, and piano lessons. My husband has been doing an occasional post on her progress with piano lessons. Since that is his responsibility and area of expertise (music that is), I will leave that to him to discuss. I will simply say that she is making progress and she doesn't hate the piano yet. If anything, she is more interested in playing our many instruments than she used to be.

I have been giving her drawing lessons from a book called "Draw Write Now," which is designed to use art to prompt kids to write. I originally purchased it thinking that she was reluctant to write and doing writing with art might be more interesting to her. In hindsight, she was reluctant to write because I was only having her do copy work, which is admittedly boring. She enjoys the art and doesn't mind writing about her pictures at all. Within just a week or so of using this book, I knew that I had misjudged the issue. She has written profusely in her free time since then (mostly without accompanying pictures). She also likes to type on the computer and print out her creations. She prefers to do creative writing. Art can be a starting point to get her to write. But, just as easily, her writing can be a starting point for what she draws. I think she needs a meatier drawing curriculum. So I am going to soon be doing a close reading of "Drawing With Children" to get ideas about how to progress from here.

I have been having her do memory work where she learns poems from the first McGuffey Reader. She seems to like this, and I recently discovered that her sister, the Adrenaline Junkie, is learning them too. In addition to this she has been practicing her Bible memory verses from her Sunday School class at church. For her age they do one simplified verse a month. She has been learning her verses in a week and then acts bored whenever I mention practicing them again. I think she is ready for either longer memory verses or more frequent memory verses. I am nearly out of poems from her reader. Next I think we will get some poems from "A Child's Garden of Verses". She already has a few favorites from that book.

She is halfway through the Kindergarten Math curriculum we use. She seems to be catching on to the new ideas quickly, but they are more of a challenge than they used to be. Which brings me to the latest schooling issue we are dealing with.

Sometime around her fifth birthday in October, she has gone through a bit of a transition, during which she wants to challenge the status quo. She has to test all the boundaries again. This is calming down a little and has now become a general complaint against anything that isn't either what she chooses or what is easiest. If things aren't going her way, she complains that she is too tired to do what her parents tell her to do (not tired enough for a nap though). Or if anything takes the slightest bit of effort (or doesn't come easily to her), she complains that it is too hard. So I have had to spend some time telling her that she doesn't always get her way and sometimes life is hard. It is so hard to get a kid to understand that as they learn, the hard things get easier until they wonder why they thought it was hard. I've been hearing a lot of complaining lately. I do try to incorporate fun things into the schoolwork. And I try to break up the monotony with a little variety. I also employ jealousy on occasion by doing some kind of "school work" with the Adrenaline Junkie to lure the Fairy in. However, I am of the opinion that some hard work that feels like hard work is character building. The Fairy learns some things easily. Because of this, she is in danger of thinking that everything should be easy for her. I would be doing her a disservice to let her continue thinking that.

So is homeschooling going well right now? I think so, but it is a bumpy ride right now. I've heard many other homeschoolers say that the first year is the toughest in many ways. I consider this my second year, but it is the first year of trying to follow a set schedule with curricula to be followed. She and I are both trying to find our way on this new path. But, even through the complaints, I see the progress she makes. Yes, the results speak for themselves. It is going well.