fun, home life, school, working

Taking It Slow

This was the first week of school with students, and I was worried I would be stressed out and overwhelmed and rethinking my life choices.

Instead, I’m zen.

Ok, not completely. There were several nights where I wanted to fall into bed at 8 o’clock but couldn’t, because: kid, dishes, bath time, bedtime stories, prep for the next day, reading to relax, having time to breathe, etc. The essentials.

But I managed. And I don’t feel confused or uncertain right now. I know I made the right choice in taking this job (not that I could have ever said no, it’s pretty custom-built!) and putting my kid in this school and refocusing my priorities – for now, anyway.

I did get a little frustrated on Tuesday night. I had so much to do – prep for work, housework, work for my volunteer duties with YALSA, a podcast to record… not to mention the major project I’ve conveniently been putting out of my mind or else my body would seize up in stress. It was too much. I couldn’t do it. I was overwhelmed. I started writing a list of things I could cut out of my life to simplify and give myself more time for… anything.

I was going to delete Twitter, because I only use it for promo/re-tweeting and rarely interact there anymore. I used to have great friends on Twitter, and our morning back-and-forths were better than that first cup of coffee. But Twitter has changed, and my relationship with it has changed. Same with blogging, actually – so I could delete my blog, too. This one, and We Are Storytellers, and if I was deleting that blog I could delete its Instagram, too. That would definitely simplify things. No more creative blog posts or pictures to post. No more podcasts to record. The only Instagram account I’d have would be #bookstagram, and there was no way I’d have trouble posting there!

Wednesday, someone emailed a piece they wanted featured on We Are Storytellers. A great piece. And I thought… hm, this is becoming the community I wanted. It won’t be all on me forever. And I love podcasting – just because I don’t want to do it this week or don’t feel inspired doesn’t mean I should shut it down, because once I do – I’ll miss it. It’s happened before, hence my podcasting “career” stopping and restarting.

This one email, one shared Google Doc, helped me put it all in perspective. So I recorded the podcast – short and sweet, but I did it. I’m sticking with it. I do these things – these blogs, podcasts, Instagrams – because I enjoy them. Just because my time is crunched now and I’m too exhausted to have passion doesn’t mean I won’t in the future. I have ideas for all of those outlets, and I don’t want to stop them completely just because of a mood.

Since then, I’ve been taking things slowly. Not stressing about the extras on top of my job and home life. I am trying to pause more during the day – at work and home – and take notice of all I have. Take it slow. Enjoy what I have. Appreciate it all.

home life, reading, school

The Importance of Reading

I love real life learning. I love learning as you’re doing something. My kid can spell and write his name and I’ve never taught him how. I’ve just read to him since he was… well, born, probably! I hated reading aloud and having people listen to me before he was born, but he was just a baby, so it was easy to force myself to push past that and read aloud to him all the time. He learned how to properly hold board books when he was several months old, and turn the thick pages. He memorized a short book when he was 2. I’m not saying he’s brilliant, but… haha, kidding! He is very smart, and I’m sure some of that is genetics, but a lot of it is just exposure to books.

Every night we read three stories before bed. He loves this time so much that I can use it to help keep his behavior in line. Attitude, whining? “No stories tonight…” “No, I want stories!” And the attitude goes away (usually…). There have been nights where stories were revoked and he gets really upset about it and I want to give in and read to him because… it’s reading! But usually he straightens up and we get to enjoy stories together.

He loves helping “read” stories he knows well, or filling in words based on the pictures. He can write and spell his own name, and identify those letters on pages, but we’re still working on reading. Well, actually we’re not. I don’t know how to teach reading, so I just read to him as much as he’s interested in it, and hope that exposure will be enough. I’m sure his school will teach things a certain way.

I don’t remember how I learned to read, do you? I remember having my parents read to me all the time, even after I could read to myself. But I don’t remember learning. I don’t remember the first book I read myself. It just seems like something that happened naturally, and I’m sure it did – I went to kindergarten when it was still a lot of real-life play in kitchen spaces, and sharing in circle time. Now from what I’ve seen, kids are supposed to be well on their way to reading and writing when they start kindergarten so they can complete worksheets and help schools hit those all-important statistics.

I’ve read some good ideas online about still reading with your kids even after they can read. Of course most people like being read to even as adults – think about audiobooks! But I also read about a mom who has a “book club” at night with her kids, where they all read their own books in her bed, together but silently. I love the importance and enjoyment this adds to reading together, and look forward to being able to do that soon!

home life, money, school, working

Montessori School

I have a lot of thoughts on the public school system, from my memories as a student (skewed, I know), to being a teacher, to being a prospective parent. I’ll try to not get too… opinionated here, because I know every school system is different and the more specific I get to my district, the less helpful my insights will be to others.

I worked in an elementary school in a middle class area; the school had high ratings and incredibly high enrollment – there were over 860 kids there when I was there. We were understaffed, even if no one would admit it or no one could fix it. Classrooms pushed 30 kids, and that was way too much. I worked as a librarian so I saw all of these kids on a rotating schedule, and I always dreaded the 30-kid classes. It’s too much.

My son went to an inclusive preschool three days a week, mostly for socialization. They learn a lot there, but the pace is different since there are so many kids with different abilities. He used to go to a different school 5 days a week, full days, when I worked full time. He fit in there and learned a lot, including Spanish. But it seemed like he was on the road to behavior problems, because he always acted out with one friend. Those behaviors disappeared once he was in a classroom with kids ranging from 3-6, and with drastically different abilities. I loved this preschool because he saw so many differently-abled kids and worked with them on their levels. He has told me about some of his friends and it makes me happy that he has this understanding and compassion from a young age.

Now he is going to a Montessori school. Well, right now it is the school’s summer camp. I got a dream job at the school so I am prepping my classroom this summer while he attends camp. I think Montessori is perfect for him because he loves to learn, and has specific interests, and wants to be able to learn at his pace and on his level. Again, he will be in a class with 3-5/6 year olds. I think this is great because he will see older kids as role models, and can strive to be a good role model for those younger than him.

I was so anxious about putting him in public school. I detest our system as it is, and while I know he would adapt and socialize and fit in, I didn’t want that. I don’t want him to become a cookie cutter kid when he is so smart and curious. I want him to move around and pick his tasks and learn practical life skills from school, instead of being pushed to read and write and do worksheets in kindergarten.

I really wanted to homeschool him, but couldn’t find a way to make it work. When I was working from home, I was working 15 hours a week while he was in childcare. If needed, I worked some at night after he was asleep. And I loved working from home, and wanted to continue to do it for the flexible schedule. But now, I will be working in the same place as him. I will know what he’s learning and how. I’m still learning about the Montessori method, but I know some from a previous job at a learning center and really agree with the approach. I think this is the best compromise to homeschooling – being near enough him (no worries with drop off and pick up times at school coinciding with my work schedule!) and knowing he is learning in a method that will encourage his growth and individuality. Plus, as I said it’s a dream job for me, and teaching there means a discount on tuition. I was looking forward to public school being free, but if that’s the only perk to an education, it’s not a perk at all!

I’m eager to keep learning about Montessori as it applies to me as a teacher and parent, and I’m eager to see how he reacts to it. I’ll definitely be sharing more as I build my classroom and curriculum.

 

home life, natural living, school, working

Zero Waste

I mentioned the Zero Waste Home on my Inspiration link up, but only wrote a blip about the site. When I discovered it back in 2010, it really affected my thinking and my lifestyle. I was really into blogs back then, following friends and personal blogs and lifestyle blogs, and I even followed some fashion bloggers, believe it or not! These were more alternative bloggers who bought from thrift stores or had capsule wardrobes or did 30 day challenges… Attainable fashion, basically. Even those sold out, though some have come back pretty level-headed. But I digress.

The Zero Waste Home made me conscious of what I used and how I disposed of it. Since then, I have noticed how much trash I bring home from the grocery store in terms of packaging. And how much paper schools waste with busy work or “art” just to have something to show, to keep the kids busy, or to hit numbers and create “meaningful” data. It’s all pretty disgusting, but it’s hard to keep it away.

I wrote about Valentine’s cards and how I thought they were wasteful, but what can you do? Everything about consumerism and waste is so mainstream, so ingrained in everything, that it’s hard to break free. I sometimes still feel societal pressure about things as an adult, so I certainly don’t want my son to feel uncomfortable or mocked because his mom hates recycling the art papers that are sent home with him, or anything along those lines.

Going Zero Waste within the home is easy enough – we are keeping track of our trash vs our recycling and seeing how much we get rid of each week. We are trying to cut down on what we bring in in the first place. And I think it’s important to speak up and tell others we don’t want what they are offering us, like a free plastic toothbrush at the dentist when we buy our own compostable toothbrushes. But in a setting like school, or the workplace, things get a bit harder.

Do you have this problem with your workplace or at your kids’ school? How do you work around it? Are you vocal and just hope your kids go with it? Do you consider working at home and/or homeschooling your kids as an alternative?

Let’s get deep on the last letter of the alphabet, hm?

fun, home life, money, natural living, school

Nature

Nature is beautiful. And interesting. And so much fun to explore.

And, it’s FREE.

There is nothing better than to take your restless kids outside and see what they do.

My son loves to be outside. He will run around in the yard. He will ask to go on walks. He will swing on our porch swing. He will hop up and down the steps. He will blow dandelion fluff. He will pick up rocks. He will dig in the dirt. He will ask to plant flowers. He will pick flowers and present them to me: “I found something beautiful for ya.” (He will melt my heart.)

I am lucky that my kid is full of imagination. He will go outside with nothing and be playing in no time. He will amuse himself, which is great because I love being outside too. But when I’m outside, I’m usually doing something. I am taking care of the yard or the garden. I am hanging clothes on the clothesline.

Or I am taking pictures.

Nature photography is probably my favorite, right up there with portraits. I love capturing people’s personalities in portraits, but I also believe it’s possible to capture nature’s personalities, too. I submitted some daffodil photos (not the one above) to a competition and laughed when I saw one of the categories was “Portraits”, but it makes sense…

I love being outside. I love being outside with my kid. I love taking a break from those chores I mentioned, and putting my camera down, and taking a deep breath of fresh air, and appreciating nature.

fun, money, reading, school, working

Library Love

(Double letter score!)

If you know me at all, you know I love libraries. I have always wanted to be a librarian. I have always loved to check books out from the library. I’ve had a library card as long as I can remember, and it’s usually maxed out (25 books at a time is not enough!).

Libraries are awesome because they are becoming community centers. You can go and get books for free. Most libraries offer ebooks for free, and you don’t even have to go to the library! I can’t count how many times I have finished a library book at 9p, gotten frustrated about what to read next, then reached for my Kindle to check out an ebook and start reading it immediately. Plus – if you want a book and the library doesn’t have it, they’ll often order it on your suggestion!

Libraries have movies and music for rent – often free, sometimes not, depending on your system. A lot of libraries are eliminating fines, because accruing fines prevents a lot of people, especially poor people who need the library, from coming back.

Libraries have events and programs. I was a Teen Services Librarian and loved planning programs with the teens to get them into the library after school and just have fun with them and connect with them. I’ve gone to a lot of library programs and events, ranging from learning new things to hearing a speaker or an author.

Our Central library has an awesome CLOUD 901 center for teens, and a lot of larger libraries are offering media centers like this. Even rural libraries are offering diverse programs (I wrote a STEM curriculum for special ed high school students to be held at a public rural library).

If you don’t visit your local library or know much about it, check it out online and in person and see what it has to offer.

holidays, money, school

Standing Your Ground

It’s hard to be zero waste sometimes. In my house, I have complete control. I can package things in glass containers and reuse them. I can recycle. I can pick what I purchase and make sure it’s economical financially and environmentally. But out in the world, it gets a little harder.

I mentioned Valentines before, those little paper slips every kid hands out to every other kid in their class. Every Valentine’s Day, from preschool to middle school. That’s a lot of waste. My son’s preschool has different kids come on different days, so he had two Valentines parties. We sent one batch of Valentines, thinking the kids who were there on the first day would get theirs, and the kids who only attend on the other day would get theirs at that party. My son came home Tuesday with Valentines from his classmates, and on Wednesday he came home with more – some from the same classmates.

I felt embarrassed and cheap. “Was I supposed to send another set of Valentines for the second party?” I asked the teacher. She assured me it was fine, but another teacher was looking on with an expression that made me feel like I should have sent more.

But I hate them! (To be fair, some are cool. Some are just gummies with a note on the wrapper. Some had sticky hands attached, and those are always fun. But most were just slips of paper.) Why was I so worried that I had done something wrong, when I didn’t really want to do it in the first place?

I don’t want to be seen as cheap. But honestly, I guess I am cheap. I’m not stingy – I will buy things for fun for my kids; I will splurge on a nice dinner or treat a friend to coffee. But I felt cheap for not sending a second batch of paper Valentines. Why?!

How do you deal with standing strong in public? I have yet to take glass containers to the store to buy granola in bulk. I usually forget to take in my canvas bags, but when I do, the baggers always seem a little taken aback. I have no problem explaining why I think and do what I do, but sometimes it’s hard, and I feel the pressure from society to just conform to consumerism and waste. Does anyone else feel this way? How do you react?