Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Ten Thoughts on Homeschooling from a Beginner

1. I wish I had purchased the 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum last year. I recently decided to order it and it arrived yesterday. I have only been skimming it so far but I am greatly impressed. I know my words as a homeschooler aren't worth much salt yet but this book is for a total newbie just like myself. This will give you a starting direction and help see where you need to go.

2. I am greatly anticipating attending the 2012 MACHS Conference. There will be workshops and vendor tables. I am going there with a plan of attack. I am going with checklists. I am going prepared to learn.

3. I NEED STRUCTURE! While for the most part I love our free living lifestyle I NEED something to keep me on schedule and on track. I need long range plans with short term flexibility. This will suit both my needs and my children's needs. I am a classic procrastinator and having guidelines keeps me in check. I know that is a weakness of mine. Knowing that is a major part of our planning.

4. Choosing and researching and wading the waters of curriculum is confusing. In a big way. With all the various approaches and styles and philosophies there really is something for everyone. BUT, finding it is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Therefore SEE #1.

5. Stigma sucks. I don't have a lot of support regarding my decision to homeschool. I feel that much of the stigma regarding homeschooling is to blame. I need to grow a back bone where this is concerned though. People can think and feel how they want to think and feel. Still though, stigma sucks.

6. Invest in bookshelves and storage systems. You are basically operating a classroom out of your home. The materials available in an average classroom are more than likely going to need to be available in your home in some way. Where do you keep this stuff? Books, crafts, toys, manipulatives, worksheets, projects................

7. Gathering time is the best part of our day. I like to begin our homeschool days with a routine that consists of: O Canada, reciting the Our Father, reading a devotion, two minutes of silence and reflection, morning/welcome song, calendar/weather/season/moon, fun/activity song and stretches. Then we are ready to learn.

8. It can be very overwhelming. Not a day goes by that I don't question or second guess myself a little bit. Whether it is the excessive complaining that day or my own insecurities or a whole variety of factors there is always something to make feel inadequate as a homeschooling parent. I just remind myself of why I am doing this in the first place and that together we will overcome new challenges every day.

9. It is work. While there is a lot of fun there is also a lot of work. This goes for both the children and me. The preparing and carrying out of lessons and activities can be exhausting. Being a parent is hard, being a stay at home parent has challenges and then I have gone and done added another whole big piece of something to my plate. Again though I take it a day at a time. I am learning when to back of and when to push something.

10. Seeing my children learn and grow and develop every day makes all the stress and stigma and work worth it. Choosing to homeschool is something that I do not take lightly. It is something I will not ever regret doing. It is  a path for our family that I plan to continue on for many years to come.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Weighty Frustrations

Recycling the same five pounds.

Yo yoing.


Up and down.


Whatever I refer to it as it does not change what it is. FRUSTRATING.

I am at an odd point in my weight loss. I seem to hit a similar point at this weight every time. I am so close to surpassing a major hurdle and I can't quite get over it. It isn't even a physical hurdle either. This is all mental. It is all in my head. I am psyching myself out.

Perhaps it is because on the other side of 200 lbs lies territory I have not seen in a long time. The new/old territory will bring along some definite challenges. Am I afraid of it? Maybe not afraid. Intimidated? That is maybe more accurate. I can't get away with the same diet flub ups. As I lose weight my caloric needs reduce and I have to account for that. I am going to have to become more strict with myself. Even add some exercise.

Exercise. Yes. That is certainly something I need to do. To my credit I did a day of the Jillian Michael's 30 day shred yesterday and OH EM GEE am I sore today. I really should have powered through another day of it today but could not. If I wanted my legs to make it up and down the stairs of my house to do laundry Jillian was just going to have to weight. Haha. I meant wait. How is that for a Freudian slip?

In regards to exercise though I have been able to get away with losing 30+ lbs and not actually had to really exercise. I am living proof that weight loss is something like 80% diet and 20% exercise. What exercise does do though besides burn those calories is motivate you to eat better in order to not have to burn as many calories. At least that is what I am hoping. I want the effort I put into exercising to inspire me to eat better. Not just less calories but better food overall. Healthier food.

In regards to eating. Normally I am pretty decent at staying within my daily weight watchers points range but lately I have been bad at tracking. Either not measuring or saying to heck with it and not tracking at all. Now, while I stay in range when I am being a good girl the food quality isn't necessarily the greatest. I know all about clean eating principles. I make my kids great snacks and meals. Why is it so difficult to do it for myself? It isn't even that hard.

What has spurned this post into being is that today was weigh in day. I weighed 204.4 this morning. Which is 1 lb down this week but so not where I pictured myself 2 months ago. Two months ago I saw myself already in the high 180s by this point. I went off track a bit, partially my own doing, partially out of necessity. Getting back on track has been hard. Even in this round 3 of biggest loser I am only 1 lb down from staring and we are a number of weeks in. I have little to show for it.

I'm hoping to kick this complacency's ass this week though. Today was a good day. Tomorrow will be better. I keep hoping to be at the 175 mark for summer. If I want that I have to work for it. I have to want it.  And for the record not just 175 but a fit and toned 175. I want to get these flabby arms and legs leaner and stronger. Perhaps with summer activities I can lose the remaining 10 for a final goal of 165. These are not lofty goals. They are realistic and attainable. I will attain them.

I have several weeks left in the biggest loser challenge. I don't know if there will be a round four. Many of the participants have gotten to where they want to be. I really need to work on establishing a good program for myself now so when that support is finished I can still go on. Although I really hope our group stays together. They have been such a wealth up support and inspiration.

Now that I have said these things I feel that I can move on with the next stage. Get over whatever is holding me back and go full force. I know the force is with me.

May the force be with you as well.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Discovering Tea

I have always enjoyed a nice cup of tea. I started drinking it as most do, as a child. I drank what my mother had on hand. As I grew older I dabbled in a few basic loose teas and then settled on liking earl grey. My preferred choice. On occasion a chai would be nice as well. Sadly my loose tea connection closed down and regular bagged tea became the norm. Today that is no longer the case.
Enter in my friend Erin. She introduced me to a whole new world of loose tea. Erin also happens to be a tea genius. She knows A LOT about tea. What she doesn’t know she will be sure to research it and let you know. I look forward to her weekly videos on everything from How To Make Matcha to Proper Cookie Dunking Technique. I highly recommend that anyone with an interest in tea check her out and be sure participate on her highly active Facebook Page or even find her on Twitter.
Now, back to tea. It began with a nice stash from Davids Tea (where Erin opened my eyes to the ways of the loose leaf). I have also recently added some Teaopia. I am hoping to try some Tealish soon and if I’m feeling saucy I’m going to order in some pricy teas from Bellocq (a place I read about in the most recent issue of Martha Stewart Living).
Needless to say I have been doing a lot of experimenting and sampling. Finding what I like and what I certainly do not like. One of my recent experiments was purchasing the Kids Tea Pack from Teaopia. My children have already enjoyed many of the teas I have tried so I thought getting them some tea just for them would be nice. I mentioned it to Erin who asked me if I would like to review them for her blog. Without hesitation I said yes. 
The last few days have been filled with taste testing four different flavors marketed as kids tea. We tried them as hot tea and also as iced tea. 
I will say here that while my intention was tea for the kids I may have found some new flavours for myself as well. If you would like to read my full review please head on over and visit my friend Erin and check it out.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Instinctual Parenting

Don’t let his sad look fool you. “Puppy” is quite happy in his FuzziBunz.
In addition to wearing cloth diapers, Puppy has also been carried in a wrap style carrier, swaddled and breastfed. All of this has been done by my 5 and a half year old son of his own devices (imagination). Well, I put the FuzziBunz on the stuffed dog, but he asked for a diaper and a busted snap FB was all I had.
What this shows though is how much of an impact our choice in parenting styles can have on our children and possibly how they choose to parent. In the classic monkey see monkey do style my children are following in my steps (and sometimes right on my heels). I certainly hope they pick up a few tricks from me and they won’t be saying to their spouses “can you believe my mother did............”. I also hope that they make their choices informed and not just because it is the status quo. 
We seem to be in a social shift where parenting is concerned. Old ideas and new products are both beginning to co-exist in harmony. Some of these seemingly new parenting ideas are old school and I mean ooooooollllldddd school. Some are cultural and are making their way into more mainstream society. 
Just for the record and to put it out there here are a few of the things that I do:
Breastfeed (because it is FREE)
Baby Wear (because it works for us)
Co-Sleep (its called survival people)
Cloth Diaper (because it is cute and the investment pays off down the road)
Delay Vaccination (because I forget to make appointments and get behind)
Swaddle (because it works for Evelyn)
Use a Stroller (having 3 kids means carting around lots of crap)
Baby Led Weaning (I’m too lazy to feed with a spoon all the time)
Purees (because I like puddings and yogurt and applesauce too)
Homeschool (because that is what our lifestyle and feelings dictate)
In addition to those things I am trying to become more aware of preservatives and additives in food as well as chemicals in household products. In a way I am trying to green us up a little bit but it has more to do with health than the environment. I am also learning more about alternative medicine which I believe has many advantages however I am not opposed to some good old big pharma when it is called for. 
For how I choose to do things there are a variety of terms but none of them seem to fit quite right. Some of these things are termed as “attachment parenting” (AP) however there is sometimes confusion between a physical attachment being required in order to form an emotional attachment. I don’t like to say “natural parenting” either as that can bring up the green parenting movement as well. 
In most cases any of these schisms within the style itself are created by narrow-mindedness. The formula feeding mother looked down upon by the AP crowd or the disposable diapering parent being rejected by the green group. It takes many different folks to make the world go around and not one person can do everything. I don’t have to ban vaccines to be a natural parent and I don’t have to ditch the stroller to be an attachment parent. Don’t even get me started on the hairsplitting terms in the pregnancy and birthing world. Oy vey. 
Perhaps what I will call it is Instinctual Parenting. The things we do that feel most right to us as mothers. The things that our babies guide us to do as what is best for them. Using our instincts, common sense right? I may have some smart aleck reasons for why I do what I do but at the core it is all about instinct. 
Tough thing is though that many of these common sense and instinctual ways of parenting have been taken from mothers and turned into parenting philosophies. A revered professional  or celebrity  will write a book about said common sense. Saying this way is right and that way is wrong. Then before you know it you have bestseller written all over it and mums everywhere questioning if their choice is the right choice. Ferber, Sears and Spock anyone? 
Read all the books you want but be willing to pick and choose. Don’t pigeon hole yourself. I’ve always been a middle road and moderation kind of gal so why should my parenting style be any different. Sometimes a situation calls for one way or another. I have to be adaptable. I have to use my instincts. Then when you have more than one you are thrown another curveball because what worked on your first may not work on your second (eg. the boys were neither swaddled or had soothers but baby girl can’t get enough of either).
Whatever parenting choices a person makes though please keep in mind that the choices you make today can affect the choices your children make tomorrow (both figuratively and literally). I can only hope that I am raising understanding and supportive fathers and strong and confident mothers. 
Viktor doesn’t breastfeed Puppy anymore, apparently he is eating real food now. Whether that is a point in his development (realizing he can’t breastfeed) or just seeing that Evelyn is feeding less and eating more, I don’t know. Either way I could only assume that Puppy is going the baby led weaning route mixed with some purees. For now Puppy also co-sleeps.  I think Puppy will be co sleeping for a while yet. No word though on the potty training but once puppy doesn’t need that FuzziBunz anymore I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it. I doubt it will be covered by warranty. I’m sure by that point though Evelyn will have a doll or two in need of a cloth diaper. 

Until next time, regardless of how you parent, be happy and confident in the choices you have made. I know I am. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

De-stash to Re-stash

A while back in the fall you may recall that I decided to start cloth diapering (if not you can catch up here). I had a fairly decent strategy in place. I would try a bit of this and a bit of that and then stock up on the things that I liked best. In addition to that I would try to keep the pricier diapers in gender neutrals and the less expensive covers in the girly prints. While the latter strategy proved to be a bust (there are just too many dang cute girl prints out there) the former certainly has proved to be useful.

I actually use that strategy with a lot of things. If I am trying something totally new I get a sampling and see what I like. I do it with tea, with body products or cosmetics and many other things that don't require a massive investment. Since cloth diapering though does cost a lot in start up many places do sampler/trial packs but for me that wasn't an option. The way I did it allowed me to try exactly what I wanted and now I can sell the ones I don't want to pay the way for more of what I do want.

I have come a long way in my preferences for diapers in the last few months. On my initial review of my then stash I had tried maybe half of what I have tried now. Things I liked then have been beaten out by stronger opponents and there have been some complete and utter failures. Please keep in mind though that these are MY preferences and what works best on MY baby. Others may have completely different experiences.

I would like to share with you a bit of where we are at now:

Top Fav
1. TotBots
2. Bumgenius Pockets
3. Charlie Banana
4. Happy Heinys with snaps

Bottom of the Class
1. Grovia AIO
2. Fuzzi Bunz
3. Softbums Omni

The Fuzzibunz and the Softbums while they are fantastic diapers just weren't for us. They are both great quality. It's more of a fit thing. Each diaper sits differently and tightens differently so some just don't suit all babies. The Fuzzibunz specifically is a fit thing on my part. I find them hard to stuff but luckily with the new Elite I do not have that problem. I am happy with those. I am sure the Grovia are fantastic to some too but so not for us. I find they do up awkward and are rather leaky.

Honorable mentions: Grovia Boosters. Thirsties Inserts. Blueberry Wraps. Kangacare Wetbags. Fuzzibunz Cloth Wipes.

So now I am in the process of deciding prices and getting pix ready to post them online to sell. I am planning on using the proceeds from the destash to add a few of my favs to my remaining stash. Believe it or not there are even still a few things I would like to try. There are a few custom places that I am waiting for some friends to weigh in on and I would also love to try Kawaii or Sunbaby. Those will have to wait however until I can stock up on the winners.

Also in cloth diapering news...we have a dryer again AND a diaper sprayer installed!!!! If I liked it before I certainly am continuing to enjoy it now. Yeah there is extra work, yeah spraying poop isn't the most glam thing to do but it is all worth it for the fluffy bum.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Practice Makes Perfect

When I was a little girl taking piano lessons I always hated the phrase "practice makes perfect". While I enjoyed playing I hated having to do endless scales and practice boring songs over and over again. Through the course of the year's lessons my hours of practice would eventually pay off in the form of passing that year's Royal Conservatory Level and perhaps even winning a few awards in the local festival. Several performances and recitals later I was a better pianist, vocalist and musician. See practice does make perfect.

As I got older I honed my practice skills. I became a more efficient student of music.  I focused on the trouble zones. Pulled them out and ran through them until they were perfect. No sense repeating the parts I already knew. Oddly enough I even enjoy running through some scales now. Turning the metronome up a notch. Challenging myself to go faster each time.

There has been a lot of music practice in our home the past month and a half. Lots of piano, guitar and singing. It's been quite nice actually. Fewer games. Less movies. Way more music. It's a place I am really happy to be in.

We have a few different musical projects that require focus and discipline and have brought on this onslaught of practice. First and foremost Daddy has been accepted as a guitar player for a band that acts as 3 cover bands and an original band. The band leader needed a kick ass guitar player and that is where Daddy came in. Therefore, I have been hearing tons of Blondie, Cyndi Lauper and Ramones as well as original music from the band. This particular project is quite exciting as there seem to be some interesting prospects involved. I have heard the terms booking agents and international touring in serious conversation.

For a taste of how the band rocks check out this video on youtube or the CD clips available on kellyfairchild.com and on iTunes.

In addition to that we are also working on our own original material for our God Rock duo. There is a lot of material to go through and right now that means a lot of arranging and perfecting. Even still there are parts I have to pull out and go over and over to get them just right. A few of the songs are tight enough that the next step is getting parts recorded followed closely by securing more opportunities to play out. I've even gone so far as to apply for a SOCAN licence.

With all that being said there is a lot of perfecting and practicing going on here. However, that phrase I once despised applies to all areas of life. Whether you are writing a new song, studying for an exam, prepping for a job interview or learning a new language. Practice. Go over and over in your head.

Even children need to be told that constantly. They are learning so much and those skills need to be developed. Practicing their letters, numbers, sight words, math skills...Growing up we were never even allowed to say "I can't". I have even heard myself telling my children not to say that and of course saying "practice makes perfect".

It's only a matter of time now before that simple at home practicing becomes jam sessions and then full out rehearsals.

And on that note, it is time to go practice.