Homeschooling with Perimenopause

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Oh, my life.

If you are going through this too, I SO want to hear from you in the comments. Maybe we should start a Facebook group for us. This is HARD.

I have always been an emotional person, prone to perhaps overreacting a bit. But I also have always been a very positive person. My husband was always the pessimist while I was the eternal optimist. There was very little in my life that could knock me on my butt once I made it out of adolescence and my emotional 20s. I was pretty rock solid. Usually. My mom’s cancer, my dad’s car accident, that sort of serious stuff would knock me for a serious (understandable) loop…but in general, my life was pretty consistently stable emotionally.

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The look on my face when I’m trying to keep my grip on reality!

NOT so anymore. Thanks to perimenopause.

I feel like I’m losing my grip on reality these days, guys! So much time spent down in the dumps, stressed, depressed, anxious…EVERYTHING freaks me out and this constant low-grade feeling of stress is wearing me DOWN.

It is making homeschooling damned near impossible.

Stressful situations that I would probably in the past have taken in stride…I was usually pretty good at handling stuff like that…are now seriously knocking me on my butt in a big way.

And I know this is totally hormones and not normal for me. And I know this won’t last forever. But it doesn’t help knowing that.

Hubby & I at the Magic Kingdom last week
Hubby & I at the Magic Kingdom last week…happier times

It doesn’t help that lately I have some really serious stuff going on with pretty much every member of my immediate family. From my husband, each of my children and both of my parents…everyone has serious stuff going on that keep alternating and worrying me and some of them even freaking me out…the latest and most serious and scary with my mom….who had triple bypass surgery 2 months ago, a heart attack a week ago, and just a few days ago during our Disneyland vacation was taken by ambulance from the park to a nearby hospital because of totally separate heart issues…long story but she ended up eventually being fine and we got her back home (only after some major drama at the hospital, ay yi yi) and she again had problems so as soon as we got home we had to take her to our local hospital where she stayed overnight til they got her straightened out. GOOD GAWD, enough with the drama!! This was just this past couple days! It’s been a ROUGH week! I haven’t yet fully recovered emotionally. But I know that’s my hormones holding onto things.

And her issues are the most serious, but there’s other stuff that is happening with other loved ones as well and other stuff in MY life as well… that I won’t go into (though nothing else is life-threatening, thankfully, but VERY stressful)… the list is pretty long…that cause me to be in a constant state of stress nearly 24/7. We make it to a calm place for a bit and something else will happen. Because most of these things are ongoing. ARGH.

I KNOW others have it worse. I KNOW this. But that doesn’t lessen MY stress or make my emotions any less difficult to deal with.  If you’re like me and feel guilty for feeling overwhelmed because you know someone that has it much worse–DON’T. I’m giving you permission right now (and myself) to FEEL WHAT YOU FEEL. Because just because someone else has it worse than you doesn’t make what you are feeling invalid!! And don’t let ANYONE tell you otherwise!!

So…homeschooling…hasn’t really been happening as planned lately, needless to say.

We’ve talked about homeschooling during chronic illness on the Savvy Homeschool Moms show…but I’m starting to wonder if we should maybe do a show about homeschooling during times of extreme stress. Because my entire life has been this way for MONTHS now, and I don’t see an end in sight…not with perimenopause whipping everything that happens into a tizzy for me. THANKS PERI! (Although, admittedly, a lot of this stuff actually is pretty serious, so it’s understandable.)

If you follow our show, this is why our show hasn’t been happening lately. I just can’t. I’m just trying to hold it together right now. Being on the verge of a breakdown regularly is all I can handle right now. Keeping it together and trying to function for my kids.

It’s perimenopause, I KNOW it’s the hormones making everything worse than it really is. But DAMN.

I have a local friend going through the same thing, and is also homeschooling…so I think it’s time for more girl time with her. We take comfort in each other, I think. Misery loves company.

Also time for another doctor’s appt to see if there’s something more that I could be doing to help myself.

In the meantime…I’ve always found that writing helps me. So I am blogging here today and I will also journal more intimate things. And music. Need more music in my life.

And I also find that nature is a big healing thing for me…so it’s time for me to take my kids out on some nature hikes. Especially now that it’s FINALLY cooled down here in the Central Valley.

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My son in the green/yellow kayak.
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My daughter kayaking recently.

 

We did go on a short kayaking field trip recently…so that was fun. We need more of that.

 

 

I have found that, for me, homeschooling takes a back seat during times of extreme stress. I just have to handle the immediate issues and emotional health of myself and those around me…and focus on us. Math can wait. I just cannot handle too many things at once and I’m just trying to find a happy place again right now for myself and my children.

My kids & I getting ready to go "under water" on the Nemo ride at Disneyland
My kids & I getting ready to go “under water” on the Nemo ride at Disneyland

The kids seem to be doing ok, but I do need to check in with them this week and see what they need because this Disneyland trip was a mixed bag. Fun and stressful.

Perhaps we all need a good cry and go sit out under some trees and just be with nature for awhile. My (newly) 16yr old will need to draw, my 11yr old will need to run and play with friends. I just need to have quiet time to calm down and new, happy things to distract me.

tinasadventureslgThankfully, I do have a new source of joy in my life: my new business, Tina’s Adventures. Fun field trips for homeschoolers. I started it so I could earn some money to finally get my kids out of the house and take them cool places. And so far I’m really enjoying pulling it all together and all the logistics of it. I like doing this sort of thing, these sorts of details of planning group trips…so that will be where I will focus my attention to bring myself the joy I need right now. Get my attention away from the hormonally enhanced anxiety and depression. It helps.

And somehow I have to get my kids back on a schedule this week. THAT will be “fun”. As an ADHDr, I’ve always been schedule challenged…so…it’s always a struggle. So I’ll be looking forward to that challenge…NOT.

At least our homeschool charter program is doing some fun stuff this week, so that will help, I think. Less for me to have to do.

My birthday is this week, on the 11th. I’ll be 46. I’m like 50% grey at this point and showing my age and embracing it. I am totally cool with being this close to 50 and ready for whatever is next. If I can just make it through perimenopause, I think I’ll be ok.

I’m sure most of you out there are dealing with your own levels of stress in your lives…how do you deal with homeschooling while dealing with all these emotions and stress? I’d sure love to hear your techniques! I’m still trying to figure this whole thing out for myself.

I know that what DOESN’T work for me is a super busy schedule. That makes things much MUCH worse for me. So I try to keep our lives as simple as possible. Less stress.

So for me: SIMPLIFY THINGS is a big help. Also nature, fresh air, etc. And journaling. And talking it out with friends and family when things get really bad. And music.

What do YOU do to help your homeschooling and mental stability during stressful times??

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Multitasking is not a Badge of Honor

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multitaskingThis post was inspired by my (at the writing of this) 10yr old son. I wrote this post several months ago and for some reason never hit publish. Since then I got offtrack with all that I wrote here. Today I rediscovered this post …at a time when I really needed to remember what I had written here, and rededicate myself to my quest to change my life in this way. I am publishing it now to remind myself of all this post contains and how important it is to me…and in the hopes that it might help others as well. I really needed to read this today, when I’ve been spinning out of control for weeks, months, and at all time lows, deep in the throes of perimenopausal hormones and fighting to learn how to work with, not against, my ADHD self.  If this post rings true to you as well, I would love to hear about it in the comments.

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novasciencenowI don’t remember what started the conversation, but the subject of multitasking came up in the car recently and my son started quoting me the facts he learned in an episode of Nova ScienceNOW (a favorite show in this house…), where they talked about how multitasking is bad for your brain.

My 10yr old son really made me think about my multitasking and how it’s affected not just my life, but his.

just-when-you-get-used-to-pmsthey-tell-you-youve-got-perimenopause-82179I’ve been doing a LOT of thinking lately about my life and how I feel about it. At 45 and a half years of age, I’m in the throes of perimenopause and all the hormones and emotional roller coaster that entails, which has caused a lot of self reflection…How I feel about my life, my stress level, my busyness factor, my inability to follow through on any sort of regular daily routine (a lifelong problem), and ESPECIALLY: the multitasking ridiculousness of my life due to my drive to always be accomplishing something because of that NEVER.ENDING.TO DO LIST!!

Not long ago I finally started to really face what some things are doing to my life.

So I took the Facebook and Facebook Groups apps off my phone (to stop the constant compulsion to check my feed and the inevitable distractions that causes), and I’ve started making a conscious effort to cut back significantly on much of my multitasking, and instead FOCUS on tasks and people, ONE.AT.A.TIME. At least, as much as possible…and for the most important stuff.

There is, of course, some multitasking that is relatively harmless. Listening to a podcast while doing dishes, for example….Or watching tv while folding clean clothes….some things just don’t need you to really focus. But a lot of things are done significantly better when my attention isn’t divided, I’m learning. And PEOPLE, deserve undivided attention.

I’m only just beginning, so I’ve not gotten very far yet. Babysteps. But I can already feel a difference. The removal of Facebook from my phone alone has been HUGE. The rest is going to have to be slowly, but surely. It’s a tough habit to break. I don’t even realize I’m doing it half the time. But I DEFINITELY was feeling it. I just didn’t realize what it was until now.

That constant NEED to be doing something, but then never really feeling accomplished, never really feeling like I am successful…always feeling like a failure because my to-do list never seems to get smaller and the things I try to accomplish never feel up to par.

Now I know why. Because they CAN’T be up to par, when I’m dividing myself to the level I was. And on some level I guess I knew this, because I haven’t been able to feel truly happy. Sure, moments of it…but in general, overall with my life…that constant low level unsatisfactory feeling like I am reaching reaching reaching and just NOT getting it!

And I thought the solution was to TRY HARDER. WORK HARDER.
DO.MORE.THINGS.

It’s not.

I have started to realize the cost of the frenetic life. I’m starting to realize that the solution isn’t to work harder, but to SLOW DOWN.

So I’ve started forcing myself to sit and reflect and journal again each morning, like I used to always do, prior to motherhood. Back when my life was less chaotic. Back when life was slower. (Although I didn’t realize it at the time.) Because this was always a very meaningful thing for me…and I had forgotten it’s impact on my life. The importance of quiet time to sit and reflect and JUST BE, cannot be overstated. I am finally realizing how huge an impact it’s had on my life…my neglecting this for so long.

My emotional life has been less than fulfilled for some time, (due to my never ending quest to be successful at all things, yet sabotaging myself every step of the way with bad habits like multitasking)…but with the onset of the emotions of perimenopause, I’m reaching a critical junction in my life where something has to give. And I’ve finally realized that it’s time to make some major changes.

I’ve always rejected the insane pace that is the norm in our culture these days.

I have never had my kids involved in a multitude of activities, driving them to and from events on a daily basis with little time for anything else…nor have I had myself involved in organizations or groups that involve tons of meetings and activities on a regular basis that would keep our lives so full that we constantly have no time to be home or spend time with friends and family.

I have absolutely refused to live that life. It is part of the reason that I homeschool, to keep that madness from my children’s lives…that work schedule that the public school forces on the children, overloading them with homework and the culture to fill their after-school time with extra-curricular activities.

But I’ve since learned that it’s not just the public schoolers living this way, as I do still see this same crazy over-filled schedule in many homeschool families.

It’s our country’s modern culture. You see articles on the web daily about how childhood is gone, children are no longer allowed down time, and free play and boredom (both extremely valuable things) have been practically eradicated in our modern society. I’ve prided myself in not allowing this lifestyle into my children’s childhood.

And yet…I’ve somehow allowed my own daily life to be equally as stretched through multitasking.

We all do it. Women are renowned for our excellent multitasking abilities. We pride ourselves on it!! We see it as a badge of honor, we brag about our abilities! But I have long been reading here and there about how multitasking is not necessarily a good thing…I’ve been reading that  when you do many things at the same time, you do none of them well. Oh you may THINK you are, but you are kidding yourself.

Recently this has been coming up again and again for me because this is a huge topic in the business podcasts and Periscopes I listen to and watch. Multitasking is a big no-no if you want to make it big in business. You HAVE to focus HARD if you want to get anywhere in business. You need to CONCENTRATE your energy at the task at hand and give it your UNDIVIDED ATTENTION so that you are doing your BEST.  Otherwise, you are just doing half-assed work.

HO.LY. CRAP. If this is what they say about multitasking while working with writing articles for a blog post or social media or working on creating content for a product…WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT MULTITASKING WHILE RAISING A HUMAN BEING????

HOW CRAPPY HAVE I BEEN DOING THINGS AS A MOM???
AS A HOMESCHOOLER???

All these years….multitasking my mothering….my homeschooling….only half-assing it, only giving partial attention to my children most of the time, as I’m constantly busy with all these THINGS I am constantly trying to get done…which are constantly pulling my attention away from them!

I’m not suggesting that we should devote 100% attention to our children 100% of the time. That’s simply impossible, and we do deserve our own time. But I’ve long read about the value of setting aside focus time for separate things. Time for the kids, time for the work, time for the projects in your life, etc. I am starting to see the value in this.

Today my husband forwarded me this article. This article is very eye-opening. No WONDER I was feeling drained all the time, constantly feeling compelled to check my Facebook feed all the time and being pulled into article after article, and thread after thread….constantly being distracted. And NO WONDER I’m never able to maintain any sort of a routine with those distractions constantly!

Here’s another article: “Why Multitasking is Bad for your Brain.”

And here’s that video of Nova SciencNOW that addresses this issue again, in case you missed it above. It’s really an excellent and eye opening segment, I highly recommend checking it out. I have the link set to start right at the multitasking part of the show.

And here’s the article that is mentioned in that show, “Is Multitasking Bad for Us?

Here’s a quote to think about from that article:

“Do two or more things simultaneously, and you’ll do none at full capacity.”

And, what they learned from research they conducted:

“They put students through a battery of tests designed to measure their cognitive capacities when not multitasking. What they found, Nass says, was shocking.

High multitaskers were bad at filtering irrelevant information from relevant, something that, one might suppose, a multitasker should be especially good at. High multitaskers also had diminished powers of mental organization and extra difficulty switching between tasks.”

And this is an article linked to in that article that is good as well (in case you missed it.): “Why the Modern World is Bad for your Brain”...In this article, I found this quote particularly telling:

“Once we start multitasking, it’s hard to stop. Each time we complete a small task—sending an email, tweeting, etc.—our brains are blasted with a dose of the reward hormone dopamine. It feels good, which means we’re likely to keep bouncing back and forth between tiny, unimportant goals without getting anything major done.”

It’s like a drug! I totally have been feeling that. And breaking that cycle is hard.

And:

…(our brains are) “not wired to multitask well… When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.”

Now this is REALLY interesting, I think (emphasis mine):

“…a neuroscientist at Stanford, found that learning information while multitasking causes the new information to go to the wrong part of the brain. If students study and watch TV at the same time, for example, the information from their schoolwork goes into the striatum, a region specialised for storing new procedures and skills, not facts and ideas. Without the distraction of TV, the information goes into the hippocampus, where it is organised and categorised in a variety of ways, making it easier to retrieve.”

And:

MIT’s Earl Miller adds, “People can’t do [multitasking] very well, and when they say they can, they’re deluding themselves.”

This article also talks about how shifting your attention back and forth with multitasking  causes your brain to burn up the fuel (oxygenated glucose) it needs to stay on task…which leaves us feeling exhausted and disoriented. And multitasking effects decision making and impulse control. Well HELL. Maybe I’m not ADD, I am just suffering from information overload and I just need to stop multitasking! Sheesh, I am starting to really see where my problems lie now! (Though, I do still suspect I am ADD….I don’t think multitasking to the degree I have been doing it has helped me one bit.)

So….the little changes I’ve made….I’m already feeling in big ways….

Since I took the Facebook apps off my phone, I do still plug in to Facebook via my laptop, but I’m much less compelled to sit at my laptop all day. It doesn’t pull me in like my iPhone does.  And now I feel much more motivated to get things done daily around my house when I don’t have those apps pulling me in from my pocket every minute of every day.

I’ve already felt more at peace. Not just from the slowing down, but also, because there’s been SO MUCH negativity on Facebook lately, especially in the news. So I’m not being bombarded so much by it. PHEW.  In fact, I’m finding that now that I’ve had a break from it…I don’t WANT to plug back into Facebook very often. I’m even going most of the day some days without checking it…I suspect I may get to the point of going days without it even.

I’m not anti-Facebook, though. I do see the value in it, and will not completely unplug from it. But I feel like I’m on the right track here. This is a much better way for me personally to interact with it.

And … I’m getting much more done around my house and with my kids!

And…where I used to start my day lost down the rabbit hole of my Facebook feed…checking back all through the day while trying to accomplish other things (and getting lost down the hole again, inevitably)….now I’m sitting and journaling and having quiet time in the morning to reflect on my feelings…and it is making a change in my emotions as well.  Instead of getting caught up in the waves of emotions that all the news on my Facebook feed and dramatic threads in Facebook groups pull me into….I am now getting control of my emotions and how my day goes by making a conscious effort to limit my time on Facebook and focus on tasks at hand, instead of constantly dividing myself. And instead I am working through MY emotions and life in my journal, and having a time of peace to reflect and sit and just BE. Which always benefited me greatly, years ago when this used to be my regular routine. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to remember this.

Another thing that I’ve recently unplugged from is podcasts/audiobooks. I had this serious compulsion to multitask by plugging in podcasts or audiobooks while I work around the house, so I could feel I was getting MORE DONE. Always with sound pumped into my ears. Never time to just think. I have stopped doing this as well. And it’s really weird, going back to being alone with my thoughts instead of trying to get through more podcasts at 1.5x speeds, so I can cover more business info and learn how to further my biz. Or learn something educational to share with my kids.

I’ve realized that there is great value in being alone with my thoughts. And maybe the podcasts can be saved for other times…for a focused, allotted podcast listening time…but for now, I need the quiet, thinking time more. I’ve really missed that. I hadn’t realized how extremely valuable that time was to me until now.

I feel like my whole body is just starting to go AAAAAAAHHHH, thank you. Finally, she’s slowing down. And my relationships with my family members are improving. Because when you’re plugged into a device or staring at a screen, or trying to accomplish a million things at once all the time…HOW do you find time to focus on BEING with your children or your partner? When I would realize I couldn’t remember the last time I looked in my children’s eyes, I realized that I needed to slow down. I’ve been struggling with this for some time…this is not a new revelation for me…yet that compulsion to constantly keep so many plates in the air and multitask to accomplish MORE all the time…I just couldn’t let go of that. It’s taken my 10yr old pointing out the research saying how bad it was, for me to go in and FINALLY really read it and watch the video he referred to and really READ what the research says (do a Google search yourself: put “multitasking bad” into a search a see HOW MANY articles come up!!)

And finally I have had my lightbulb moment that it is time to make this change to our lives, to our homeschooling, to our home. It’s time for me to lead by example and teach my children how to focus on the task at hand, to unplug from everything else and FOCUS. On tasks, but especially on PEOPLE.

Because plugging my earbuds in to listen to a podcast at every available moment so I don’t miss any opportunity to learn another biz tip….or watching videos on my phone all the time….or having the tv on all the time….or constantly browsing through my Facebook feed or chatting with friends…or sitting at my laptop constantly….that doesn’t teach my kids how to prioritize or how to focus and get things done.  And it certainly doesn’t make them feel how important they are.

And in this crazy information age, with things coming at you from all directions ALL.THE.TIME…people skills and the skill to focus on tasks at hand are things they really need to learn. And the first step is to model it. And just about every single person we come in contact with in our lives these days is certainly not modeling it….face in screens, 24/7 multitasking…..No, that’s my job. They learn the most from me, the mom who is home with them and teaching them every day about all the academic things that they need to learn….and life lessons are part of their learning. This is important.

Time to get down to business and go focus on my kids now! 🙂

One more article before I go:
Don’t Multitask: Your Brain will Thank You

 

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I reject your reality and substitute my own

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i-reject-your-reality

I feel like I am living this….Everything around me is running a zillion miles an hour and I HATE that lifestyle with a PASSION…and find myself, sometimes unconsciously, sometimes consciously, rejecting this lifestyle. Things speed up around me and I often find a way to slow things down without even trying…many times unconsciously.

That go-go-go lifestyle that is so common in our culture? EX.HAUSTS.ME. I want a slower lifestyle, and I am so exhausted from fighting our culture and the tendency to keep piling everything on top of everything. Even in homeschooling!

Many days, I would rather just stay home and veg.
And we do.

Don’t get me wrong…there are plenty of things out of the house that I want to do…travel, explore nature, have fun with friends/family, that sort of thing…I am not a total homebody.
I just prefer a slower pace.

My family is much like me. They would rather stay home and veg, or create things or enjoy a lazy day together. NOT run all over the place every friggin day!

slow-down

I’m so tired from fighting this lifestyle…to keep things off of OUR schedule, and hoping friends will find time in THEIR busy schedules for us. Even among homeschoolers it’s quite common.

As homeschoolers we have the opportunity to slow down and let our kids set the pace (I suppose some kids would set a hectic pace, but I tend to think most kids would not, if given the chance…) and yet so many homeschoolers continue our culture’s break-neck speed, just with home education instead. I suppose if that works for them, more power to them.

For our family, we’ll pick and choose our activities very sparingly, as we feel inclined. We are not hermits, we do like to get out and about.

I am turning 46 in less than a month and am in the throes of perimenopause and all the ups and downs of hormones, so I am finding that I don’t deal as well with all these threats to our family peace as I used to. I’ve become the grumpy one…wishing the world would slow down and enjoy life more.

I just started a homeschool field trip business, “Tina’s Adventures” to host field trips for homeschoolers in the Central Valley, CA… and that will be a lot of fun, I think, because I can pick and choose all the destinations that I want our family to experience…*I* will be the one in control of the schedule and destinations. This works for me. And I can get my kids and husband involved in the decision making so it works for them. Seemed like a good way to get us out more, yet on OUR terms, vs being pulled in multiple directions by all the stuff going on around us. I can create the life I want, and invite people along (and make some much-needed money in the process!)  🙂

I listened to a podcast recently and one of the hosts talked about her “Year of Nope“. Just saying no to things, to keep her family’s schedule manageable. Yep, that’s my life. Not just a year of it…I think I’ve done this always. Not always consciously. But I have 4 people in my family (every single one of us), that just don’t like to be BUSY all the time. I don’t think it’s healthy, and *I* just hate it. Short stints of it when necessary, sure…but not as a lifestyle. NOPE.

I reject that reality and substitute my own, slower pace. 

 

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Enjoying Nature with My Kids

Enjoying nature with my kids

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SCICON Outdoor SchoolYears ago, I worked as an intern at SCICON Outdoor School (aka “The Clemmie Gill School of Science and Conservation”) in the foothills of eastern Tulare County, CA. In fact, it was where I met my husband, Adam. It was a FANTASTIC experience. Seriously life changing.

For one school year I worked 10-12 hour (or more) days, hiking around in the woods, leading instructional trails, teaching 6th grade kids all about science and nature by putting them in contact with real live, hands-on learning. It was a BLAST! And I was never in better shape, both physically and mentally! You can’t help but be that healthy when you are hiking that much every day and your backyard is the woods and a robust gurgling creek and your neighbors are a wide assortment of wildlife! It was A-MAZ-ing.

Scicon Outdoor School entrance
Front entrance to SCICON Outdoor School, on a cloudy day

But don’t get me wrong…it was also VERY HARD. Did you notice I said 10-12 hour days of WORK? Yes. And often longer. Because the program went into the night. The trails…Skytrail/plant & animal communities, quartz mine/geology, birding, aquatics, astronomy/planetarium, and more…ended before nightfall but then the evening activities began. Campfire, Night hikes, Astronomy, Folk Dance, and Cabin Challenges filled our evenings…not to mention when you had the duty of being the “Village Chief”, in charge of an entire village full of cabins full of children for 24 hours during weekdays (usually 100-150 6th graders plus a dozen or so teen counselors…and yes, there were occasions when you were awaken at night by sick or homesick kids.)

Nearly every night of my 10 months at SCICON I would fall, exhausted into my bed…especially when it was my turn to be “Skytrail” guide….skytrail

Skytrail was the toughest trail: an all-day trail because it was 2 and a half miles one way, gaining 1500 feet in elevation! But it was SO worth it as the view from the top was amazing! (And you got to see the hermit’s cabin and flagpole…the stuff of legends! All the kids raved about it!) And then you still had to come back down!! Imagine doing that with a trail group of 10-15 whiny kids and a couple teen counselors! Yeah…not an easy task, lemme tell ya! skytrail2

My first Skytrail trail group, at the top!
My first Skytrail trail group, at the top, near the hermit’s cabin.
Skytrail trail group, at the top, near the hermit's flagpole
Skytrail trail group, at the top, near the hermit’s flagpole. (I’m the one on the left, in the white hat.)

And as Skytrail guide, you did that 2-3 times a week! We loved it but it was HARD! (I even had some crazy friends that did half day trips and did double Skytrail days where they did 2 runs in one day sometimes! They were NUTS, I tell ya!! LOL! But we did have some series nature freaks in our group, LOL!)
I canNOT say enough about this program! I LOVED it. And learned SO MUCH! About myself, about teaching, about nature, science, and especially about leading. It forced me out of my comfort zone in so very many ways. I am very grateful for my experiences there.

ANYWAY…this year SCICON had their first ever reunion of interns and staff! It was SO MUCH FUN!! For 4 days we got to hang out with people I’ve not seen in nearly 20 years! And meet people that worked at SCICON from so many years, all the way back to the 70s!! People traveled to the reunion from all over the U.S.! Friends of mine came from Colorado, Idaho and Alaska! Other people came from other states…and I even heard of another woman there that came all the way from Argentina! That’s how much SCICON means to people! We all are bonded by our deep connection with this AMAZING place we all love!

2016 SCICON Reunion: Some of the 1990s interns and staff and families
2016 SCICON Reunion: Some of the 1990s interns and staff and families. I’m in the Doctor Who tshirt behind the lady in the purple jacket in front. My hubby is right behind me. My kids are higher in the tree.

It was so neat to reconnect with people I worked with at SCICON and meet their families!  We had SO MUCH FUN!! They did a lot of the same fun activities that we used to do when we all worked there…campfire, night hikes (sadly, we got there too late the first night to participate in this), folk dance/line dancing, hermit story, and hiking! Of course we hiked! We even went up Skytrail! Well…my daughter and I did…my son got sick just as we were getting ready to head up…and my hubby was already not feeling well so they stayed below and my 15yr old and I made it to the top. Great workout! We were quite sore afterwards, but it was a good sore! Hiking in nature never feels like a chore to me, not like exercising at home.

Below are the pics from our FANTASTIC adventure at SCICON!! I seriously hope they do it again because it was SUCH an amazing experience that we all were saying that they HAVE to do it again!

My kids definitely benefited from being out in nature. They transform every time we are able to get out of the city and out into nature. It reminds me every single time we are able to do it that I NEED to do this more. I need to make time to get them out of our concrete jungle and out to explore nature, out to breathe in the fresh air and climb trees and play in the water and find the crawling critters and identify the flying things, and marvel at the adorable critters and wonder at every rock and plant…because THIS is what learning is. THIS is how to feed your soul. And we don’t do it anywhere near enough.

My soul was definitely fed during this return to SCICON, as it is every time we visit. And my children just love exploring nature, just like their mama. Definitely education at it’s finest.

I still have such warm fuzzy feelings…from the nature experience and from the time with friends, old and new. Can’t wait to do it again!

 

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Research says to delay academics

Research says to delay academics!

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Research says to delay academics

CC image courtesy of Leslie Show on Flickr.
Recently articles about this Stanford research keep popping up in my news feed. It says we’re sending our kids to school too early. And that it is possibly why we have such a huge amount of attention deficit disorder later.

And they talk about how this isn’t the case in other countries, where kids aren’t sent to school until later.

Denmark is one example. And they make mention at the end that kids in Denmark have access to “reasonably good pre-kindergarten” (Denmark’s universal preschool)…and that this is “woefully lacking” in the U.S. This was interesting to me as preK in the U.S.,  more often than not, tends to include academics. So I looked up what Danish preschool is like.

Guess what? Danish preschool is play-based. Not what we see in the vast majority of U.S. preschools.

From that article:

Scandinavian preschools are heavy on the play and self-directed learning…

So Danish kids are nearly all in preschool from an early age…but it’s play based, developmentally appropriate…and they don’t start school until a whole year after our kids in the U.S. do…and they have significantly less issues …possibly because of it.

At the end of the article:

One interesting hypothesis is posed: did attending school later allow kids more time to develop through unstructured play? Developmental psychology research emphasizes the importance of imaginative play in aiding children’s emotional and intellectual self-regulation. “Children who delay their school starting age may have an extended (and appropriately timed) exposure to such playful environments,” the study noted.

(Emphasis mine.)

If it’s true that the extra time for unstructured play is what is causing the huge difference in numbers of attention deficit…it appears that Denmark, and countries with similar practices, really GET child development. The U.S….not so much.

teacher

So the research again and again says that it’s a mistake to push academics early…And yet our nation keeps pushing kids into academics earlier and earlier. What we adults learned as children is being taught in younger and younger grades these days! We’ve all noticed it.

And so some of us homeschool.

And then what do we read ALL. OVER. Homeschool groups. On social media. EVERY. FLIPPING. DAY??
(No joke. Just about every day!)

“What’s the best curriculum for a 3 year old?”

(Or insert some other inappropriately young age for academic work.)

Or some other similar question about getting started on academic work with a toddler or preschooler.

Formal academics are NOT age appropriate yet.

Let me say this again.

Teaching young children…2, 3, 4, and yes even 5 year olds…
Formal, structured academics are
NOT DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE.

This drives me absolutely BONKERS, how common this question comes up and how many many MANY responses come in with resources to curricula and printables to use with littles. Mountains of it. Because there’s a huge market for it. Because parents don’t get how inappropriate it is.

Don’t believe me?

I have a Bachelor’s in child development, and this stuff was DRILLED. Into. My head. Throughout. My education. But don’t take my word for it. Do your own research on early childhood development.

img484459333ddaba8eEspecially check out the foremost authority on early childhood education…the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). They rock. They were our gurus when I was in college, getting my degree.

Their website is stuffed with info, so a bit overwhelming…I recommend clicking on the “For Families” link at the top, which will take you to the section geared towards families with young children. Lots to explore there…I especially recommend the section called “Topics,” lots of great articles there.

But make sure to check out the “What to look for in a program” link. Also the “Signs of quality” link. They talk about what a quality preschool program looks like. This can give you ideas for what you can create in your home.

naeyc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice there is NO MENTION of lots of academic work. No worksheets or workbooks, no seat work, no structured academic curriculum. NONE.

Because guess what? No matter how cute and fun the worksheets are, and no matter how enthusiastic the child may be about them…Worksheets are just not appropriate for early childhood. Read that article if you don’t believe me. It’s an eye opener.

The curriculum NAEYC advocates for early childhood is PLAY BASED. Hands on, enriching, life learning, because THAT is what is developmentally appropriate for this age group. And their website is chock full of ideas for how to appropriately fill your child’s life with age appropriate, quality learning, so DIG IN!! Check out the teacher sections for activity ideas too!

Here is an excellent article by NAEYC that you really should read. It’s all about how academic rigor in early childhood looks very different than later on. Developmentally appropriate practice explained for preK teachers so they can use it to explain to others…but great read for you as well!

My point is this…

STOP LOOKING FOR A CURRICULUM FOR YOUR PRESCHOOLER!!

Unless it’s something play based, it’s not going to be developmentally appropriate anyway!! So save your money!!

What IS appropriate?

  • First and foremost: Play with them
  • Take them on walks
  • Talk with them constantly, about everything you see and do!
  • Read, read, read…then read some more! If you do nothing but play and read good books, you’ve done an EXCELLENT JOB at preschool!
  • Do chores around the house together
  • Run errands together
  • Have lots of play dates with friends
  • Go to the park
  • Play in water
  • Play with animals
  • Walk in the woods…get out into nature regularly if you can!
  • Dig in the backyard
  • Get dirty!
  • Go on lots of field trips: farms, zoo, kids museums, aquariums, behind the scenes tours, outdoor concerts
  • Go swimming
  • Travel
  • Sing lots of songs
  • Do lots of open-ended (very important they are open-ended at this age!) art projects
  • Cook together
  • Have picnics
  • Take drives
  • Go to the library regularly
  • Watch tv together (sparingly…but let’s not demonize tv…it’s a great tool and it’s here to stay! Moderation is the key here.)
  • Play on the computer together (same as tv…used sparingly with little ones, it can be a great tool!)
  • Play with letter and number magnets on the fridge
  • Play card and board games
  • Look at clouds
  • Watch the sunrise and set
  • Look at the stars and moon
  • Go bird watching
  • Draw with sidewalk chalk outside
  • Climb trees together
  • Ride bikes together
  • Draw together every day
  • Paint together
  • Build things with loose parts (pipes, blocks, rocks, wood, sticks, cardboard, etc)
  • Make forts!
  • Play in a stream
  • Make and play playdough
  • Play in a sensory tub (check Pinterest for lots of sensory activity ideas for preK)
  • Glue things together
  • Break something apart (old toasters or other appliance…thrift stores are great for this!)

And THEN, maybe learn how to write the letters of their name. And after that is accomplished…then work on building their name in the correct order with those letters. But do it as a game…Maybe start with the fridge magnets. Sidewalk chalk outside…you writing their name on their drawings and paintings. Keep it casual. No direct instruction, just FUN! No correction if they try and do it wrong. Leave it be.

Your goal for the early years should be to fill their life with ENRICHING EXPERIENCES for them to draw upon later…which will later lead to them having a frame of reference as they dive into academics when it IS developmentally appropriate!

No, I don’t mean, lecture them every step of the way…just let them experience it and soak it all up with them! Ask appropriate questions here and there…NAEYC has great info on that sort of thing. They have a book called Powerful Interactions: How to Connect with Children to Extend Their Learning you may want to check out.

They also have an article, “Tips for Talking with Children“, which starts on pg 8 of that PDF.

And another great thing I learned, which Bev Bos is a huge advocate of (early childhood guru and NAEYC member, based in the Sacramento area where I went to school) is to frequently carry a clipboard and ask your child to “Tell me your story.” Have them dictate their many stories they will have inside them. This promotes early literacy, and shows them how important their words are, and the value of writing them down, as you can read them back to them for years to come!

Also have them tell you the stories of their drawings. Maybe not every one…but as often as they feel inclined. Write it right on the drawing, with their permission.  Always ask permission…it shows respect for their work. And ask where is ok to write it. They may prefer it on a separate sheet of paper. That’s ok too. Follow their lead.

Speaking of Bev Bos…you have to watch this video of her. She has some truly excellent things to say about young kids:

Some great quotes from the video:

Interviewer: When we talk about child development, what are the basics?

Bev: People talk about reading, and writing and arithmetic being the basics. [shaking head] Those are very complex processes…and they have to be based on the basics. You have to have the basics first! Then you can do what people call the basics. The number one basic for everybody on this planet is wonder. Children are born with it….Then, the second basic is discovery. Everybody needs to discover it on their own. That’s an environmental issue. We need to establish environments where kids can do the discovering on their own…The experiences have to be real and they have to be authentic.
(emphasis Bev’s)

Also:

If it isn’t natural, relevant to the child and physical…we forget ’bout 99% of what we just learned.

And:

Interviewer:  When you look around your school, what are the most important things you look for?

Bev:  [No hesitation whatsoever] It’s experience. Experiences to attach words to. And your own experiences to attach words to. You know, experience is not the best teacher, its the only teacher!

Talking about things we need in an early childhood learning environment:

Kids need to make their own dolls, they need to make their own things. They need loose parts. Pipes….rocks and stones. Water. Things to manipulate. Blocks. All math concepts are worked out in blocks.

And:

The other thing that I think is so infinitely important about young children…what we have to understand about them is that when they’re young, learning is like this [arms wide] they have to use too much! It has to be way out there. Too much paint before they can narrow it down and paint a picture they have to have too much paint. Too much shaving cream. Too much of everything. Things have to run over.

 

So, as you can see…there’s no place for worksheets and force-fed learning. It’s all about hands-on, REAL LIFE experiences for this age group, or they aren’t getting anything out of it. For real.

For early childhood, play IS their curriculum.

It’s how they learn. 

So stop stressing about whether they know their colors, their shapes, their letters, their numbers, and on and on and on…they’ll get there. This stuff isn’t rocket science. And unless they have some actual developmental delays, I guarantee they’ll learn most if not all of this as they play anyway.  So STOP. STRESSING!

Just enjoy the play stage!

Because soon enough you’re going to be up to your eyeballs in reading and math curriculum and you’re going to truly miss the days of just building forts and making mud pies! TRUST ME!!

And comfort yourself in knowing that what you are doing IS DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE!!!

It really is! I’m not pulling your leg! Read all the articles I’ve linked above! And if you need more proof, here’s some more:

No More Worksheets

How to Let Go of Letter of the Week in 5 Easy Steps (This requires you to enter your email for the pdf download…but the article is worth it! Excellent read!)

Do Worksheets Belong in Preschool? And here’s the brochure they link to in the article…their link is broken, so I found it on the net elsewhere.

Play-Based vs Academic Preschools

And here’s a fantastic article by a homeschool mom about what preschoolers should know, just to make you feel better and know that you ARE doing enough!:
What Should a 4 Year Old Know?

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Relax, you’ve got this. Just enjoy your baby. And remember they really are just a baby still.

Trust the experts and the research, set up an enriching environment and daily routine, and JUST PLAY!

I’m not kidding…PUT. The curriculum. DOWN. Right now. Put it down.
Stop Googling preschool curriculum….close that web browser….and go outside and play in the dirt with your kid.

Do it. NOW.

Don’t make me use my stern voice.

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