Soul Searching Sunday – Happiness

Soul Searching Sunday

Welcome to my new weekly Sunday session. I am wanting to have space on this blog to contemplate and reflect on the deeper aspects of life. To me, a person’s soul is very important. It is the core of who we are. Sunday is a day of the week that I set aside to nourish my soul. It really is a day for soul searching. It is a day I examine how I’m handling life, how I can get better at what I’m doing well and how to improve in the areas that I have failed, because fail I do. Regularly.

Sundays are the perfect day for doing an inventory on what I have to be grateful for and it’s a day that I will most often spend with family and friends. Enjoying one another and becoming better together.

Because I am a Christian, often God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit and the Bible feature in my soul searching. I find my faith keeps me centred and my reliance on a higher power keeps me humble and inspired to keep improving and living my life with passion and purpose. I want to share some of this revelation during a regular Sunday blog post. I know many of my readers may not be Christians, and I hope that this is still a section that you will be able to read and get something out of. Spirituality is expressed in many ways, I hope my soul searching can aid your own soul searching, in whichever way you connect with your soul and spirit.

I thought it would be fitting to start this inaugural Soul Searching Sunday post talking about Happiness. I think being in touch with your soul is a happiness creator. That’s not to say it’s easy and full of laughter all the time. There is a joy that is present when you are being real with yourself and examining the issues and tackling the problems that will make you a better person or help you to maximise your effectiveness in this life.

SUNDAY
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When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about the future.
Ecclesiastes 7:14

 It is so easy to be happy during the good times in life. Sometimes we can feel guilty for feeling good. Maybe I should be taking life more seriously? I find it reassuring that God wants us to be happy. In fact he explicitly says to be happy. He also recognises that there are going to be bad times. Life cannot be filled with only happy moments. If we have a belief that God is still in control, he is still in charge during the bad times, it can bring reassurance. Happiness is wonderful, bad times have purpose. We don’t know why as we walk through those difficult days.

I think back to the days I struggled with infertility. The crippling disappointment when I would have a period signalling yet another month without a child. The intense pain when I would hear another person I knew was pregnant and I still wasn’t. The hoping, the wondering, the pain and the grief. I was not to know in the future I was going to be fortunate enough to have five children. How much easier those would have been if I had discovered my future. Yet because I did walk that road, when I have increased the intensity of happiness while watching my children grow before my eyes and listen to their ever so cute conversations and cuddle them in my arms. I know how abundantly blessed I am, and I never take this opportunity I have been given to be a mother for granted. It helps me get through the hard days like the rainy day with triplets I described earlier this week.

It’s amazing as I reflect back on my life that the getting through the hard times have made me a happier person in the long run. I have a depth to me that I would not have without those hard times. I have a greater perspective. Depth of character and perspective built into me during the hard times of life really does increase my happiness during the good times.

 

Has there been times in your life where you have walked through the bad but have made you a happier person later?

 

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Wordless Wednesday – Trampoline Jumping

I love our trampoline. So do the kids. It has been such a good investment. It allows the children to burn off excess energy the healthy way. It’s not uncommon at the moment for all five kids to be jumping on the trampoline together, which is just beautiful to see them all interacting and playing with one another. OK, so they don’t do it perfectly, and there’s normally some crying from someone, but this is a learning opportunity also. Siblings force each other to develop patience, kindness, respect, self control, long suffering and the list goes on…

The other day Trent was being delightful on the trampoline learning some new moves. He was so proud of them, unashamedly so. “Oh wow, did you see that? Did you get a photo?” “Oh man, that was AWEsome.” Huge giggles. “Oh man, I’m getting so GOOD!” There’s no need for humility when you are five and jump on the trampoline like a boss.

Child Jumping on a Trampoline

 

Happiness on Trampoline Clever boy on trampoline Flips on a Trampoline Jumping on a Trampoline is childhood

Before long Trent was no longer alone. He was joined by his younger brother who has a love of nudity.

Do you get good value out of a trampoline? Have you ever replaced the netting and cushion covers? Where did you source it? (Needing help here people – and SOON! My heart has been palpitating)

Joining Wordless Wednesday.

My Little Drummer Boys

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A Rainy Day with Triplets

Rainy days can be challenging for children and parents. Rainy days with twins, triplets or beyond, as in all things with multiples, can present another level to some parents challenges.

Rainy Day Triplets

Friday was such a day for myself. Currently there are cyclones sandwiching Australia. We are mindful and praying for those who are effected by the devastation that cyclones bring, especially those in Yeppoon who bore the brunt of Marcia’s Category 5 force. We are not affected by the cyclones at this stage, but Cyclone Marcia may graze us as a Category One cyclone before it heads out to sea. What we have been experiencing is A LOT of rain.

This has resulted in cyclonic conditions WITHIN our house. Three year old triplets are indeed a destructive force and being cooped up indoors on multiple rainy day has increased the level of mischief they are getting into.

On Friday, after the rush of getting the big boys off to school, our day at home started with the slam of a screen door. The triplets are supposed to ask before going outside, so I instantly went to investigate. We had a sudden downpour of heavy rain, and the triplets were all standing on the edge of the carport watching the rain. Being a fan of rain watching myself, I was happy for them to continue watching the rain, so they stood there chattering excitedly and reaching out their hands to feel the drops plonk onto their little hands. While they were doing this, I took a phone call. As I was talking, I decided to start cleaning the back door with a rag that was in my hand. When I turned around. This is what I saw.

twins discarded clothing

Of course, this meant only one thing. Sure enough, it didn’t take long to locate two small boys in muddy puddle.

twins in mud

During that time, the small girl had returned inside and I could see her nose pushed up against the screen window and she was yelling at the boys to get out of the rain. I told her they were fine and would she like to jump in muddy puddles? She said, “No thank you”, but must have changed her mind because after a little while she appeared in her swimming togs and gumboots. She didn’t really jump in the puddles very much because the boys were making far too many dirty splashes! The boys continued to have a marvellous time, including sitting in the puddles. Ugh.

Triplets in a muddy puddle

As I carried the boys into the bath, the mischief reached another level and for the rest of the day I felt like I was chasing my tail. I never caught that darn tail.

While I was carrying boy number 2 in, boy number one went to the toilet and sprayed wee everywhere. As I cleaned the toilet, the splashing in the bath became too enthusiastic and the floor got wet. As I dressed the boys, the girl got into glue and flooded it over the table. As I cleaned up the glue, the boys tipped buckets of toys out in piles. As we cleaned the toys I noticed the small girl had disappeared. I found her in the pantry helping herself to a second breakfast.

Small girl getting into mischief

This became a theme for the rest of the day for Little Miss. I found her several times hidden behind locked doors eating. Cake. Cucumber (at least that was a healthy choice), her father’s box of chocolates.  She also has a fondness for playing with liquid soap at the moment and has been so engrossed with pump packs. We have had many containers completely emptied by her (the boys also have been culprits at various times). The kids now only have a cake of soap to wash their hands with. Obviously this wasn’t enough fun and I discovered that Miss Im had deposited a bottle of baby massage oil down the basin. So naughty.

Throughout the day if I tried to get anything done, I was constantly being interrupted to break up fights and patch up broken hearts and bodies that had suffered the wrath executed by their sibling. (Three year old triplets can be particularly vicious to one another.) One of the triplets had an enormous bruise on his forehead by the end of the day and I had no idea how it happened.

We did have some lovely calm moments when I decided to get them to make puppets and try and calm everything down. They’ve been preoccupied with The Big Bad Wolf at the moment, so I thought we could perform Little Red Riding Hood in their little puppet theatre. The kids didn’t want to use textas but requested paint. I was sitting with them, so thought there would be no harm.

Three year old triplet painting

It was a valiant attempt of mine to halt the mischief. Toby, who is not as academic as the other two, (Painting counts as academia when you are three), abandoned the project, but was playing peacefully in the playroom.

Three year old with Duplo

It was all so calm. However, then Miss Im. needed help going to the toilet and while we were gone, Master J spilt the paint water everywhere and rolled his picture into a sodden ball.

We had 10 adults and 13 children coming around for dinner that night. It was such a scurry by the end of the day trying to get the house in order. Thankfully dinner had been prepared in the slow cooker the day before so I just needed to heat it up. The end of the day also included the challenge of getting the five children bathed. I don’t know why I turned my back on her, but the desperation to get the stinky toilet clean (Again. Boys are gross.) before guests arrived had me my preoccupied with disinfectant. When I came back into the shower the small girl had emptied two large containers of bubble bath down the drain. I have locked away all liquid soap, but because the triplets normally have baths, I had forgotten I had let the big boys leave their special Christmas soap in the shower. Unluckily the big boys discovered the misdemeanour at the same time as I did. This (and rightly so) because a great source of consternation. Eventually the girl was firmly scolded, the big boys and settled down and I finished cleaning the toilet to the tune of another basket of toys being upturned in the playroom as the first guests arrived. Smile and wave Caitlin. Smile and wave. (I don’t think I masked my exhaustion well.)

Even when I thought I could finally relax after the children were all in bed and the adults sat down together, it was not to be. The triplets are delaying their bedtime every night by turning on their light and playing with one another. It finally seemed like they had settled down when one of the parents told me that my girl was up still and had turned the light on again. When I went down to the bedroom, I was frowning at her as I walked in the room, switching off the light and demanding she get into bed. She seemed to be frozen and refused to move. In the dark, I patted the bed as I told her to get into bed. There was something soft and squishy. I thought it was vomit. I was starting to feel sorry for my little girl thinking I was getting mad at her and she was actually sick. I yelped and switched on the light. (Woke one of the sleeping boys by doing so.) No, it wasn’t vomit thankfully. But it was a large pile of moisturiser deposited on her quilt and over her sheets. My little darling had gone into a room (occupied by another child), had opened a drawer, cleverly bypassing a child lock on the drawer, (ah, that’s how she obtained the baby massage oil earlier…) and had helped herself to a lotion. Of course I was delighted, (insert sarcasm) to miss out on adult conversation and change a set of sheets at the end of a long day.

Did I sleep well that night? Sadly no. How on earth did I have insomnia after a day like that?

It wasn’t even over the next day. I was trying to write this post Saturday morning while Daddy was around. Well Daddy disappear, didn’t her and while writing this, my identical boys filled a bath tub with two litres of moisturiser. (I had hidden all the soap, so they have moved onto the next liquid. Why did I not think of this!!!) I broke up numerous fights. While breaking up one fight, a child squeezed into a small spot behind me and smashed my full cup of tea. While I was sweeping up this mess, one of the triplets did a wee all over the kitchen floor. It just continued…

I’m eight and half years into this parenting gig now. I’ve learned that these busy times that are full of disobedience, mischief and mayhem surface regularly. The thing is to keep your calm, well actually, I fail regularly at keeping my calm, my temper is fast and furious. It is ideal to remain completely calm, but more than that, I mean you need to remain steadfast. Know that these seasons will pass. The weird thing is that once they do, there will be a tiny part of you that misses certain aspects of the hard parts of life. For instance the baby years have passed in our family. The baby years are difficult, but even though I don’t miss interrupted sleep, I do miss late night snuggles with my beautiful little babies. I miss that my breasts no longer nourish a small life. I miss the utter dependance on precious little human relies on you for even though I am grateful for the new levels of independence my children keep demonstrating at each stage of development.

I find that survival during these early years of parenting (and I suspect that this is in fact a life long survival technique) comes from remaining consistent keeping in mind the bigger picture that one day these little children will be adults changing the world and in the meantime finding the silver linings and cherishing your blessings. Yes there was mess and dirty little bodies to clean and pandemonium to recover from. I deal with the troubles one by one and guide the child’s heart to be repentant of their errors and build a desire in them to do the right thing. During my own tiredness, I choose to delight in the innocence of their exploration of life and how despite the work they are creating, how these little people I love so dearly and just so darn cute! If you are a Mum who has been struggling with rainy days, take a deep breath in, look at your little ones dimples and soft skin. Drink in their big eyes and their chubby cheeks and keep on soldiering on.

Triplet's muddy feet

 

Linking with Essentially Jess for I Blog on Tuesdays.

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Why Do Little Girls Like Unicorns? (Like Thelma the Unicorn)

Last week Scholastic Australia gifted us with a lovely new book by Aaron Blabey, “Thelma the Unicorn”. I was excited to see the book, because our family had really enjoyed his last best seller, Pig the Pug, so my expectations were high. Even with such high expectations, I was astonished how Imogen fell in love with the book the moment she saw the front cover.

Thelma the Unicorn

She immediately gasped, grabbed the book declaring she loved it and demanded I read it instantly. It may have been that the title is featured in glitter. My girl doesn’t mind a bit of bling. I suspect that perhaps a small pink obsessed girl may have instantly been attentive because the cover also featured “her colour”. God help us if someone drinks out of the pink cup in our house. Princess over four brothers, she has a self proclaimed entitlement to all things pink. I have protested in vain that pink is everyone’s colour, it is not a girl’s colour. The four boys and little mademoiselle disagree and ignore my attempts to make colours gender neutral.

What I did not expect was the instant endearment she felt towards unicorns. The small girl has no exposure to unicorns up until this point. Yet after meeting Thelma she is besotted with them. How did that happen, I ask you? I mean Thelma was not even a real unicorn! She was a plain little ordinary pony who stuck a carrot on her nose and was fortunate enough to have a truck full of pink paint and glitter lose control and deposit the contents on her, making Thelma an overnight sensation.

Thelma immediately felt that she was special, and I have to say that my daughter agreed.

Thelma the Unicorn

I am still perplexed. Why? Why are unicorns special? Truly, horns really aren’t that attractive are they? After all, it is a live bone with a coating of keratin and proteins. I know that unicorns have all sorts of magical abilities, and I can see that there can be an attractiveness with the myth. But my daughter fell in love with a pretend unicorn instantly!

I’m not sure whether Immy has altogether picked up the greater message in this book that to be happy with who you are is far more worthy than fame or celebrity. I’m hoping so, because it’s a message that all children, but particularly girls need to hear.

(I’m also hoping that this early exposure to the cruelties of fanatical fans and relentless media might discourage her from this young aged to never be a deranged stalker fan or loathsome paparazzi. You know, it’s always good to get some of those subliminal messages in there!)

In any case, even though this has opened my little girl’s eyes up to the perplexing beauty of unicorns, this is a darling book, and I think if we keep reading it. Not that I have a choice, she insists we reads it. She will get the real message in time! Interestingly, when I read to all the children, the boys instantly liked Thelma’s plain old mate Otis. They didn’t really get what the unicorn fuss was about, and were truly happy for Otis that Thelma decided to ditch the horn and become content being herself.

Linking today with Essentially Jess for IBOT.

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Simple Ways to Celebrate Valentines Day as a Family

Simple ways to celebrate Valentines Day with your Family

As a family we celebrate Valentines Day together. Why should we not? It is a day to celebrate love. Love is not always the manifestation of romantic love. Families are mostly the first place children receive love and where they are loved and learn to love. It doesn’t need to be a huge fanfare, it can be simple but sincere. Celebrating Valentines Day can be a great opportunity to build security, pride and belonging into the family.

1. Giving Gifts

My husband and I give gifts to each other most years – we’re not religious about it. Sometimes only one of us will give the other a gift, sometimes both, sometimes none. It’s not an expectation, but we view it as an opportunity to do something to physically demonstrate our love. I’ve started doing something little for the children. A small car or little lollipop, maybe wrapped up or placed at the dinner table when they aren’t looking. (Last year I popped a chocolate at their place setting when I thought the kids were pre-occupied with something. They have a sixth sense for these sort of things and within a minute the chocolate was sussed out, the word had spread and the two year old triplets were doing their best to eat all chocolates at the table and there was a very (unloving) battle brewing in the defence of uneaten chocolates. They might be a year older, but immaturity still reigns I think I will re-think my strategy this year! (Plus three year olds are always spoiling for a fight. Another reason to encourage love!)

Place setting chocolate on Valentines day

This year, when I mentioned to the children that it was Valentines Day tomorrow, spontaneously three of the children disappeared doing a craft activity for a gift. “Because,” my sensitive little five year old project leader told me, “I wove you and evweyone in our family vewy much Mummy.” Cue heartmelt.

2. Demonstrating Physical Affection

Mum and Dad, have a kiss and cuddle in front of the kids! This doesn’t gross our kids out yet, but if/when it does, we’ll continue doing it anyway. Because no matter what they say, there’s a sense of security that children have when they know their parents are in love. If you’re not particularly demonstrative it doesn’t need to be a big deal, but just try a new little romantic gesture. It’s kind of nice.

This is also a great chance to get affectionate and cuddly with the kids. A snuggly cuddle for the little ones or a loving embrace for an older child. It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and forget to be demonstrative with our love. Let Valentines Day be a reminder to reassure your child of your love for them.

3. Speak Loving Words

Valentines Day can also be a great prompt to speak words of love to your partner and children. Think of specific things you love about each person and find a moment to tell this to each member of the family. Alternatively, write some loving words into a note or a card. Even if you feel cheesy doing it on this particular day, loving words that expressed sincerely will always make an impact. During a family meal talk about what you love about your family unit and how we make one another feel love. Make your children proud of growing up in a love rich environment!

4. Craft Activities

Doing some simple craft activities with younger children is a great way to talk about love to the children while physically doing something. It gets it into their vocabulary and it sets the scene for later celebrations.

5. Food

There are so many fun ways to present food on Valentines Day. Do some baking and present it with a heart shape. Find heart shaped sprinkles or try to theme your food as red or pink. Cook a special dinner that the family all enjoy eating. Set the table particularly special. Light candles. Children love candlelight eating! (I’d recommend advising the children before the meal starts what the action plan is for blowing out candles. Otherwise you may be re-lighting them all night or dealing with meltdowns over who blew what out!) Use this opportunity to teach children how to think creatively to set the table for a special occasion. Pick flowers together or make place settings or table decorations.

 

So Happy Valentines Day to you and your family! I hope you all have a loving day!

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Should Children Do Homework?

Should Children Do Homework?

The children of Australia have now returned back to school. For most students, return to school also means the return of homework. It seems that most parents I talk to are not overly enthusiastic about homework. Some, like my sister,  are passionately defiant that homework should not be given to children. For some lucky parents homework is never a big deal. These parents normally have self motivated children, who quickly and independently finish their homework. I have occasionally heard a parent comment that a struggling child likes homework, even though it’s not easy. I have noted that these children are also normally easy going and compliant children. Then there are the children hate homework as much as a cat likes a bubble bath. Homework time in such houses is very rarely pleasant.

My views on homework as a parent and a teacher are mixed. Well, quite frankly, they are quite conflicted.

As a teacher, I assigned homework. I taught years 1-3, and I am a big believer in play, so I tried not to set too much homework. I was also clear that I did not expect children to spend more than 10-20 minutes on their homework and immediately pardoned homework being incomplete if there was a note explaining they had used the allocated time or listing some other reason. The main homework I would assign was learning spelling word and drilling basic facts. Every Friday these two areas would be tested and it was normally very obvious when a child had done their homework. If for a variety of valid or invalid reasons, a child was unable to spend much time doing homework, the test results were significantly lower than previous weeks. There was a collection of students who were exceptionally bright who parents told me spent hardly any, if any time on homework, yet still achieved good results. There was also one or two students in each class of average ability who never did homework, and their results did not reflect their capability.

The thing is, I did used to drill number facts during the school day. I did get children to learn their spelling words during the school day. However, the curriculum is crowded, and there is so much to fit into one day. Things that you seriously do not want to leave out of your child’s education. Setting homework allowed the children to keep developing basic skills that required more time to cement than I was able to offer inside the classroom.

I would particularly find that children who found accuracy difficult in spelling and number facts made significant improvements when parents spent some quality time with their children. I was inspired by the faithfulness and commitment to homework of these parents and the outcomes I saw in their children’s results.

I wanted the same for my children when I had them. I had grand plans in my head about how I would do homework with my children. Years before the children came along. I had ideas of how FUN homework was going to be. Games. So many games that would make homework a delight. Kinaesthetic opportunities lavished upon my children that cater for different types of learning. The image of my child and I laughing as we explored spelling patterns and the excitement of building speed as we fired out answers to math sums. It was a delightful vision.

The reality, my friend, is different.

I hate homework.

My child hates homework.

Laughter is not a common sound as we complete homework.

The sounds of a battlefield might be a more apt description of homework in our home a lot of the time. There is wailing, there is anger, there are arguments and refusal. Not all the time. But it is common.

I used to listen to parents complain about homework, and I did empathise with them. I tried wherever possible to make it easier for them. I don’t know why I thought I would defy the odds and make homework such a fun time. I guess it was because I saw my students having so much fun when I used to complete the spelling and homework tasks in class.

I found my relationship with my students is on a totally different level to my relationship with my child. Your students have to be there. They have to be in a classroom, there is no choice. They have to do the work you present to them, so they are highly motivated to do this work in the most fun way possible.

For my child, homework is an interruption to his personal schedule.  It interrupts his all important play time. And that makes him angry. Angry children do not work very well.

(And let’s face it, playtime at home is a lot of fun. And has its own list of benefits.)

My attempts to make homework ‘fun’, are not appreciated because in reality sitting 5 metres away is the ‘real’ fun.  One day when I was getting him to write his spelling words out and then roll them into snowballs to throw them around the room, then pick them up, open the paper and read the word then spell it again, he just sighed and snappily retorted, “Mum, I just want to do my homework the quickest way.” And so, at his request, he sat down, scribbled out the spelling word three times, pushed back the chair and ran outside as though he had just escaped being caged with an ungracious gorilla.

I sat watching him outside, digging enthusiastically in the sand, chatting conversationally with his brother and taking time to direct his younger siblings as they created a road winding around the sand for their plastic trucks. I watched them tire of the sand pit and start running around the yard, jumping, tumbling and laughing. I watched his eyes glisten with pleasure and looked at the way his four younger siblings looked up to him in adoration as their unsteady legs followed their big brother around the garden.

I gave up trying to make homework fun.

Not completely. I still would suggest fun ways to do homework. Sometimes he would take me up on the offer, often he wouldn’t and we would just go through the motions of writing the homework out in the quickest way possible.

should children do homework
One of the less painful homework session. Much easier when there is a friend around.

I will always be a teacher. There will always be the teacher side of my brain that operates. But mostly these days the Mum part of my brain is stronger. It has to be. It needs to be, because instinctively the Mum side of me knows what is best for my child, and sometimes what is best for my child in that moment is not the best for my child educationally. I have to trust my gut that by doing the best for my child in the moment, in the long run it will educationally be more beneficial to him.

I still believe in the power of homework. I will never forget the difference it made in my students life when caring parents took the time to complete homework with their child. I love the memory of parents who would come in asking home their child did in the weekly test, and the way the children’s eyes would shine with the accomplishment of  a good result and the glow of pride in the parents eye as they high fived their efforts or jumped up and down in excitement because they knew how much work had been invested in that result. I would see these children become more confident in other areas of their school work, writing better because their spelling improved. Finishing math pages on time (if not before) because with stronger computation skills all of a sudden maths became easier.

However, I also know that in family life, homework is not always beneficial in the complexity of living everyday. There are parents rushing home late from work that are stressed by homework, and stressed parents might get the job done, but in doing so, tension has increased in the household. This has an effect on learning as well.

There are babies and toddlers in homes who interrupt children trying to do homework. There are mothers who are trying their best to help their school kid, but she feels inadequate because homework needs to be done in between dirty nappies and the homework book need to be wiped clean of baby vomit.

Last week as I was trying to do homework with my eldest, one of the triplets managed to retrieve a aerosol suncream from a high shelf (we shan’t go into details how) and proceeded to coat the floor in suncream spray and then spray his own eyes. Homework assistance was halted to a screaming child, and then I needed to mop the floor at least a dozen times before the stickiness was removed.

I know the feeling overwhelming of trying to stay calm when your child does not have the logical ability to reason that if he just sits still and gets it over and done with, it will be all over and he can get back to his own agenda.

The struggle of helping your child when you are existing on four hours sleep from the previous evening.

The rush of doing homework in between swimming lessons and soccer practice.

Myriads of other reasons why homework is just not easy.

There are benefits for doing homework.

There can also be consequences when homework is done.

What does homework time look like at your home? Do you love or abhor it? Or are you strangely indifferent? Is your child an independent learner who can do it without assistance or do you need to spend the time with them to ensure that he/she is actually learning? What are your best strategies for getting it done? Please share with us the good, bad and the ugly!

 

Linking with Essentially Jess.

 

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Should Children Do Homework?

Should Children Do Homework?

The children of Australia have now returned back to school. For most students, return to school also means the return of homework. It seems that most parents I talk to are not overly enthusiastic about homework. Some, like my sister,  are passionately defiant that homework should not be given to children. For some lucky parents homework is never a big deal. These parents normally have self motivated children, who quickly and independently finish their homework. I have occasionally heard a parent comment that a struggling child likes homework, even though it’s not easy. I have noted that these children are also normally easy going and compliant children. Then there are the children hate homework as much as a cat likes a bubble bath. Homework time in such houses is very rarely pleasant.

My views on homework as a parent and a teacher are mixed. Well, quite frankly, they are quite conflicted.

As a teacher, I assigned homework. I taught years 1-3, and I am a big believer in play, so I tried not to set too much homework. I was also clear that I did not expect children to spend more than 10-20 minutes on their homework and immediately pardoned homework being incomplete if there was a note explaining they had used the allocated time or listing some other reason. The main homework I would assign was learning spelling word and drilling basic facts. Every Friday these two areas would be tested and it was normally very obvious when a child had done their homework. If for a variety of valid or invalid reasons, a child was unable to spend much time doing homework, the test results were significantly lower than previous weeks. There was a collection of students who were exceptionally bright who parents told me spent hardly any, if any time on homework, yet still achieved good results. There was also one or two students in each class of average ability who never did homework, and their results did not reflect their capability.

The thing is, I did used to drill number facts during the school day. I did get children to learn their spelling words during the school day. However, the curriculum is crowded, and there is so much to fit into one day. Things that you seriously do not want to leave out of your child’s education. Setting homework allowed the children to keep developing basic skills that required more time to cement than I was able to offer inside the classroom.

I would particularly find that children who found accuracy difficult in spelling and number facts made significant improvements when parents spent some quality time with their children. I was inspired by the faithfulness and commitment to homework of these parents and the outcomes I saw in their children’s results.

I wanted the same for my children when I had them. I had grand plans in my head about how I would do homework with my children. Years before the children came along. I had ideas of how FUN homework was going to be. Games. So many games that would make homework a delight. Kinaesthetic opportunities lavished upon my children that cater for different types of learning. The image of my child and I laughing as we explored spelling patterns and the excitement of building speed as we fired out answers to math sums. It was a delightful vision.

The reality, my friend, is different.

I hate homework.

My child hates homework.

Laughter is not a common sound as we complete homework.

The sounds of a battlefield might be a more apt description of homework in our home a lot of the time. There is wailing, there is anger, there are arguments and refusal. Not all the time. But it is common.

I used to listen to parents complain about homework, and I did empathise with them. I tried wherever possible to make it easier for them. I don’t know why I thought I would defy the odds and make homework such a fun time. I guess it was because I saw my students having so much fun when I used to complete the spelling and homework tasks in class.

I found my relationship with my students is on a totally different level to my relationship with my child. Your students have to be there. They have to be in a classroom, there is no choice. They have to do the work you present to them, so they are highly motivated to do this work in the most fun way possible.

For my child, homework is an interruption to his personal schedule.  It interrupts his all important play time. And that makes him angry. Angry children do not work very well.

(And let’s face it, playtime at home is a lot of fun. And has its own list of benefits.)

My attempts to make homework ‘fun’, are not appreciated because in reality sitting 5 metres away is the ‘real’ fun.  One day when I was getting him to write his spelling words out and then roll them into snowballs to throw them around the room, then pick them up, open the paper and read the word then spell it again, he just sighed and snappily retorted, “Mum, I just want to do my homework the quickest way.” And so, at his request, he sat down, scribbled out the spelling word three times, pushed back the chair and ran outside as though he had just escaped being caged with an ungracious gorilla.

I sat watching him outside, digging enthusiastically in the sand, chatting conversationally with his brother and taking time to direct his younger siblings as they created a road winding around the sand for their plastic trucks. I watched them tire of the sand pit and start running around the yard, jumping, tumbling and laughing. I watched his eyes glisten with pleasure and looked at the way his four younger siblings looked up to him in adoration as their unsteady legs followed their big brother around the garden.

I gave up trying to make homework fun.

Not completely. I still would suggest fun ways to do homework. Sometimes he would take me up on the offer, often he wouldn’t and we would just go through the motions of writing the homework out in the quickest way possible.

should children do homework
One of the less painful homework session. Much easier when there is a friend around.

I will always be a teacher. There will always be the teacher side of my brain that operates. But mostly these days the Mum part of my brain is stronger. It has to be. It needs to be, because instinctively the Mum side of me knows what is best for my child, and sometimes what is best for my child in that moment is not the best for my child educationally. I have to trust my gut that by doing the best for my child in the moment, in the long run it will educationally be more beneficial to him.

I still believe in the power of homework. I will never forget the difference it made in my students life when caring parents took the time to complete homework with their child. I love the memory of parents who would come in asking home their child did in the weekly test, and the way the children’s eyes would shine with the accomplishment of  a good result and the glow of pride in the parents eye as they high fived their efforts or jumped up and down in excitement because they knew how much work had been invested in that result. I would see these children become more confident in other areas of their school work, writing better because their spelling improved. Finishing math pages on time (if not before) because with stronger computation skills all of a sudden maths became easier.

However, I also know that in family life, homework is not always beneficial in the complexity of living everyday. There are parents rushing home late from work that are stressed by homework, and stressed parents might get the job done, but in doing so, tension has increased in the household. This has an effect on learning as well.

There are babies and toddlers in homes who interrupt children trying to do homework. There are mothers who are trying their best to help their school kid, but she feels inadequate because homework needs to be done in between dirty nappies and the homework book need to be wiped clean of baby vomit.

Last week as I was trying to do homework with my eldest, one of the triplets managed to retrieve a aerosol suncream from a high shelf (we shan’t go into details how) and proceeded to coat the floor in suncream spray and then spray his own eyes. Homework assistance was halted to a screaming child, and then I needed to mop the floor at least a dozen times before the stickiness was removed.

I know the feeling overwhelming of trying to stay calm when your child does not have the logical ability to reason that if he just sits still and gets it over and done with, it will be all over and he can get back to his own agenda.

The struggle of helping your child when you are existing on four hours sleep from the previous evening.

The rush of doing homework in between swimming lessons and soccer practice.

Myriads of other reasons why homework is just not easy.

There are benefits for doing homework.

There can also be consequences when homework is done.

What does homework time look like at your home? Do you love or abhor it? Or are you strangely indifferent? Is your child an independent learner who can do it without assistance or do you need to spend the time with them to ensure that he/she is actually learning? What are your best strategies for getting it done? Please share with us the good, bad and the ugly!

 

Linking with Essentially Jess.

 

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Square Eyes

Square Eyes by Craig Smith

Square Eyes is a great little book extolling the virtues of doing a host of screen free activities, getting outdoors, exercising and enjoying life.

It’s all about a panda and his friends who sit inside on the couch all day, glued to the TV screen or multi-screening with tablets, so in a fun song, (CD included with the book), singer/songwriter Craig Smith encourages them to get up, get outdoors and exercise!

Square Eyes Craig Smith, Scott Tulloch

Craig Smith is of The Wonky Donkey and My Daddy Ate An Apple. This book has his trademark funny lyrics with a slightly ‘naughty’ edge. (Although I suspect my children may say that more toilet humour could have been applied in this particular book compared to others. I’m OK with the lack of toilet humour this time.) Teamed with the delightfully funny illustrations by Scott Tulloch, this really was a book that my children enjoyed.

Mind you, in the first few pages, my children got far too excited that the Panda and his friends were watching TV and playing on a phone. We work hard at reducing the amount of screen time our children experience. It’s fun to do in moderation, but we find that if a child is around a screen too much it not only makes them more lethargic, it also negatively effects their behaviour. Of course research has shown there are numerous reasons to limit a child’s daily screen use. It’s been so good to find a fun children’s book that endorses this message. To be truthful, my kids are not supportive of my reduced screen campaign, so they did approach this book with skepticism. The illustrations really did win them around along with the catchy little tune though.

I love the last page of the book. I think all parents would agree that it depicts one of best spin offs of active screen free children!

Square Eyes

Tired, sleeping kids!!!

 

*This book was gifted to me by Scholastic Australia.

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Happy Birthday Mum!

Today is my mother’s birthday. Happy Birthday Mum! I know I can say that here because unlike some other family members, Mum actually reads all my blogs. (And laments on my foolish grammar and spelling errors.) She is that type of Mum. The type of Mum that is involved and/or interested in all that I (and my siblings) do.

Mum, Jonty and I
Mum, Jonty and I

Mum has been the one cheering us on at all the sports carnivals, even though that may have been one of her least favourite jobs, she draws the line at attending grandkids sports days! Although being the hands on Grandma that she is, the children will happily report their progress to her and she will respond enthusiastically. It’s funny how a mother’s advice never leaves you. I can remember her telling us at sports day to always stay the course, to run as hard as we can, to push ourselves forward and use the last bit of energy we had to finish as strong as possible. Even when finishing last. Which is normally where I finished in sports carnivals. Mum knew that placing didn’t matter, because there is something about sports carnivals that build character, whichever place you finish.

Mum has been the school tuckshop mother and the help in the classroom Mum. When I was much younger, I used to love it when Mum came in to help. Then as I got older I used to cringe on those days. Mum is not a pushover, so she would be strict when necessary, so there was a healthy dose of fear respect for her when she was on classroom duty. Especially naughty boys. They were her speciality. Now I have four naughty boys of my own. Grandma can still instil fear in them, and get them to do her bidding. Although they do not fear her. They love her unconditionally because her love is active and proven towards them.

She was the tuck you in at night Mum, clean the vomit Mum as well as the clean your room Mum. (She had limited success in that area.) Mum is a tidy person. As you know, I am not. Oh the despair the state of my bedroom brought her over the years. For all her triumphs, teaching tidiness was not one of her crowning glories. She hasn’t given up trying though. Which I’m glad of. Because as much as my messy tendencies bring her grief, I am not comfortable with them either and it’s a constant battle to improve. When Mum has been in my house for any length of time, you can always tell, it’s so much tidier. And as she tidies she gives little tips. Gently and not forcefully. And I continue to work on this bane of mine convinced that one day I’m going to be able to pull all my mother’s advice and become just as tidy as her. It’s a worthy ambition!

Mum used to always make us novelty cakes on our birthdays. A tradition that I now proudly continue for my children. Oh the joys of looking through the Woman’s Weekly Cookbook and choosing the cake. And always the complete confidence that my Mum could do anything. We also got to choose our own meals for our birthday. I can remember looking through a recipe book as a teen, wanting to choose a ‘fancy’ meal and asking Mum if she was able to cook something that I thought was very complex. Mum just glanced at it and said, “Caitlin, I can learn anything if there is a recipe or instructions.”

My Third birthday with my little sister and castle cake.
My fourth birthday with my little sister and castle cake.

Mum self taught herself how to make fruitcakes for wedding and special celebration occasions, decorated in royal icing and delicate lace work and edible flowers. She learned this with the ambition of one day making a cake for her 4 children on our wedding day. Unfortunately I neglected to tell this to my husband and once we were engaged he came in and saw me looking at a cake book and asked what I was doing. I of course responded that I was choosing a wedding cake and he remarked incredulously that whyever would we have a fruitcake (the word was said with such disdain) when we could have chocolate cake at our wedding. Even more unfortunate was that my mother was in the room. She said something to him very angrily and flounced out of the room. It was then I told my shell shocked husband that we were most certainly having a fruit cake because my mother had been training for this occasion for about 14 years. To his credit he very quickly abandoned the chocolate cake idea and went cap in hand to Mum and said he didn’t realize that fruit cake was a family tradition and he would be honoured for her to make the cake.

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Unfortunately again it didn’t go smooth sailing from there. I decided that the delicate flowers and lace work she was accustomed to creating wasn’t modern enough for my taste and assumed my mother could do anything so chose a cake with no pillars in between the layers, icing in the form of patchwork on the bottom layer, hearts drawn onto the middle layer and an intricate bow tied on the top. I realized my error when I walked into the kitchen one afternoon and there was my mother stabbing the cake viciously, hacking it to bits. I yelped and yelled at her to stop but she kept stabbing muttering, “This is not good enough for my daughter.” Upon realizing that I had chosen a design that required different techniques to her skill set, I begged her to make a traditional design, but she stubbornly maintained, with all the love of a mother that he daughter needed the cake she ‘had her heart set on’ and wouldn’t believe that my heart was quite willing to change at that point. Of course my wedding cake looked wonderful, and I loved it. My sister got married later in the same year, and my big sister advice to her was to choose a traditional wedding cake. (Which she was planning to do anyway. My sister is more traditional than I.)

Wedding Cake made by mother

Mum loved dabbling in all types of crafts. More recently she has been a mad keen into scrapbooking all our family photos.  Right from when I was a baby she used to do Artex in the 70’s – does anyone know what this is? (A primitive form of fabric painting.) I still have my artex Christmas stocking Mum made me for my first Christmas and then filled every year after that until I left home and was married. I can remember her doing a lot of macramé also in the 70’s and early 80’s. We had an enormous ceiling to floor hanging plant holder with glass shelves that Mum made that use to hang in our house for years. Even with four babies in the house. We were all trained to not touch the macrame or the delicate glass swans that used to sit on it. Definitely before the days that everything was locked down tight with child safety locks.

Perhaps the craft I most associate with Mum is crocheting. For years and years Mum would crochet granny square after granny square making blankets for every bed in the house and then blankets for the beds of close friends and family. Most nights she would be crocheting away in front of the TV. Whenever she had a spare moment or if she was waiting to pick us up from all the functions that teenagers do she would normally have her crochet hook working busily while she sat in the car. Once grandkids came on the scene she even started learning how to read patterns and would crochet beautiful babies blankets for each of them.

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My eldest son’s blanket was made by my mother about three years before my son was even conceived. Alex and I had been trying to have children for about two years. We decided to fast and pray over a week, just asking our Father God for the blessing of children. During that week, my mother prayed for us while she made his blanket. Every stitch is soaked in prayer, and considering she made four more blankets after this for subsequent children of mine, I think the investment of her work and prayers paid off.

Mum has been a wonderful grandmother also. She has continued to be an active part of their life. My children adore Grandma days where they get to spend precious one on one time with Grandma. They will come back with little craft activities they did with Grandma and lots of stories of how Grandma spoiled them. Mum is unashamedly invoking her right to spoil her grandkids. And oh my, don’t they love her for it! There is something so special with seeing kids faces flush with the delight of being spoiled and indulged and knowing that it is because they are so very loved. Little sweets and treats are always being passed their way. And presents, did I mention presents?

Grandma knows exactly what gift to give to get a five year old to smile this wide!
Grandma knows exactly what gift to give to get a five year old to smile this wide!

Mum has always been exceedingly generous and thoughtful when it comes to presents. Christmas and birthdays are always special for every member of the family and Mum buys the most wonderful gifts. Of course they are from Dad too, but we all know that it Mum who goes to the effort of thinking and planning the gifts and then buying and wrapping.

All the grandchildren have been taught a rule since they were babies that when they first see Grandma they must always first give her a Grandma cuddle. Sometimes the little ones pretend to run away and she hunts down her cuddle. As the children get older, sometimes they will look bashful as they give the expected cuddle, but at the same time they do it with a security that they are loved by her.

There is no deeper contribution you can add to someone’s life than giving them the knowledge that they are unconditionally and deeply loved. This is Mum’s greatest legacy that she has inputted into my own life and the life of my siblings, and children. And my Dad’s. I’m so proud of how deep and rich the love of my parents is.

So Mum, Happy 60th Birthday. I love you forever from the bottom of my heart. It is you that first made my heart happy in those first moments we shared together that I cannot remember, but you always will, and those memories have only woven a richer tapestry of love into my life.

Mother and Baby bathing in 70's
My Mum and I – and rubber duckies in the 70’s!

 

 

Every moment after that, every fun thing you did with us, every selfless act you have done and continue to do, it makes me who I am and is always who you are. You are the woman I most aspire to be. I love you.

 

 

Because I am extremely thankful for my mother, I’m joining Sarah at Creating Contentment and linking up with Thankful Thursday.

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Starting School: Tips to Help your Child to Adjust

Helping Your Child Adjust to School
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On Tuesday morning, he bounced down the hallway with an enormous smile on his face. When he saw me, the smile only got wider and he started jumping up and down on the spot. It was his first day of school. My little boy was ready to start school, so ready. I gave him a cuddle, exclaimed loudly how exciting it was that it was school day and scolded him for growing up. I keep telling the kids that they need to stay little. They always ignore me. He giggled and puffed out his chest proud of the fact that he was now such a big boy. He declared that today all his dreams were going to come true. He was going to big school!

First day of School
Trent’s First day of school

He proudly dressed himself in his uniform and went to grab his bag to leave. “Hang on”, he said, and ran into the bathroom, stood on a little stool and gazed at his reflection. “Yep,” he declared, nodding. “Just right”. Then he picked up his bag and scampered out the door and into the car. His big brother followed, a little more reluctantly. School isn’t his favourite thing in life. “But it’s OK Mum,” Jonty said, “I’m kind of looking forward to going back to school now. I want to play with Noah and Corinne every day again.” Social life is the most important aspect of school after all.

Trent has now completed his first week of school. I’m so proud of him. He has blitzed it with flying colours. He’s a confident little man and has settled in wonderfully. Mind you, there was one source of consternation when he arrived home after his first day of school. “I can’t read.” he sighed with disappointment, “I’ve been to school, and I can’t read. When is that going to happen?”

Sibling Photo First Day of School

Despite his easy transition from Kindy to Big School, there still is an adjustment period for little ones to get used to school life. Jonty also is having a period of adjustment from holiday mode back into school mode. Here are some tips to help your child get back into a school routine or adjust to full time schooling.

1. Serve Healthy Foods

Serving your child the right type of food will aid concentration, maintain stamina and increase alertness. Make sure your child starts the day with a healthy breakfast. My boys particularly love oats. Trent normally cooks his own porridge. He needs help getting the quantities and turning on the stove, but he will sit stirring it until it is ready. Jonty is a big fan of raw muesli. Jonty summed up why it is so good for them to eat a slow release food such as oats yesterday when he told me, “I like eating muesli better than cereal now because when I ate cereal I used to get hungry before morning tea, and then I would be sitting in class thinking, ‘When is morning tea?’ But now I don’t even think about it and we have break time, and I eat and I’m not hungry again until lunch.” It’s not vanity to admit when he said that I was giving myself an inner high five, is it?

2. Ask questions about their day. Be interested.

For some children and/or parents this will be easier than others. I find with boys in particular, I need to deliberately ask questions about their day in order to get dialogue happening. And even then, Trent has given me the “I forgot” response on 3 out of his 4 school days! I then find it useful to ask very specific questions to obtain answers. Some examples of questions I ask are:

Who did you play with today?
What was your favourite thing you did today?
What did you do in (subject) today?
Did you find something tricky at school today?
How did you fail today?
Did your teacher do something funny today?
Who is kind in your class?
Talking about your child’s day sometimes isn’t easy, I find they are not always forthcoming with answers. I find around the dinner table at night Alex and I always ask each child something specific about their day. Besides getting to know what your child does while away from you, being interested in their day communicates buckets to your child that you care about them and what they do. It is also setting yourself up for a lifetime of communication with your child.

3. Visit their old Kindy/Daycare

Trent had half days at school this week to ease. (He cried when he found out he needed to leave at lunchtime.) On Thursday we went to his old Kindy and he delivered her a letter and showed her what he looked like in his new uniform. Oh my, this was such a special moment. It brought tears to my eyes, and to his Kindy teacher! It was also nice to give the Kindy teacher and aide feedback on how he adjusted to big school. I know the Kindy spends so much time preparing them for big school, it was so nice to report back that their hard work had been worthwhile. You should have seen the size of both of their faces when they heard Trent’s tale that the teacher said that Trent and a former Kindy friend had been the best listeners that day. There were High Fives all around! The adults all beamed with pride as Trent explained how he learned the “b” sound chuckled as he seriously told his Kindy teacher that, perhaps when she become a Prep teacher when she grew up. I love it how children often categorise their Kindy teacher’s as one of their own.

Kindy Teacher
On Trent’s last day of Kindy last year with his teacher.

 

4. Get to Bed early!

To be truthful, my problem here wasn’t getting the children to bed. The greater challenge was encouraging the boys to go to sleep once they were in their rooms!

Having a good night’s sleep will greatly assist your child to be alert and engaged in learning the next day. Set an early bedtime, particularly for younger children during the beginning of school. They use large reservoirs of energy during their school day, well rested children often will achieve more during their school day. You want to set them up to succeed!

5. Start establishing a morning and afternoon routine.

Routine  is so important for children. It gives them stability and predictability. When a child is secure and knows what is expected of him/her and when, it eliminates worry and helps them to focus on end results instead of worrying too much about process.

In the mornings, set your routine up so their is a breakfast routine. Teach your child to be responsible for packing the bag with everything necessary for the day. If you wish your child to do any chores before school, also establish this routine now during the start of the school year. In our house the children are expected to Make their bed, tidy their rooms and clean their teeth in addition to packing their bag and getting dressed. I generally do not get them to do too much more in the mornings, because it is always my goal for children to exit the home as calm as possible. Extra jobs would increase the morning rush for us, but may work for other families.

It may take a few weeks for you to work out the perfect routine for your family. Each year this plan will most likely need tweaking. Some parents find they need to let their child play immediately after school, others plunge straight into homework and other activities and then the children can have uninterrupted play for the rest of the afternoon.

It will be less work for you throughout the year, if you spend extra time during these first weeks

Explain to your child upfront if you are experimenting with what works for the best for your family, and let them give you feedback on what how they like to complete tasks and unwind. (Although they also need to know that you have the final word in routine application. You have a lot more considerations to factor in that they may not be aware of.)

6. Don’t plan too much. (After school and Weekend)

Your kids do a lot at school. Make it easy for them to have R&R after school and on the weekend, especially in these first weeks back at school. We are making sure that the pace of our weekend enables the children to recover from their first week back. So even though we are socialising, it will be laid back and low stress. I also limit after school activity. Normally I only allow for one extra-curricular activity per week. I knew this would be too much for Trent though, and pulled him out of after school activities until March when his little body may not get as exhausted from learning new routines.

7. Expect Back to School Tiredness

Both boys were mentally and emotionally exhausted by the end of this week. I’m so relieved they only had a four day week to begin!

It is common for a child to have little emotionally break downs during the first week of school. Be patient and understanding with them. It takes a lot of energy to be well behaved at school all day, recognise that little meltdowns when your child gets home is also because he or she feels emotionally safe not to hold the tension in anymore. Of course you need to teach your child to be respectful still, but allow them to release their pent up emotion. Give them lots of cuddles and reassure them that they are doing well and it’s OK to feel overwhelmed, but give them strategies to overcome any problems they might be worrying about.

Giving your child a chance for physical release is an excellent way to assist an emotional child. Giving time in the backyard to play or kick a ball, stopping at a park on the way home or packing swimmers and dropping in at the local pool might help curb the temper and let them release energy through play and activity.

 

Did you have children starting school this week? Any first timers? What strategies have implemented to help the transition from holiday mode back into school routine?

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