Mess or Masterpiece?

So I turned away for just a second…

That’s all it takes. He was using a pot of glue. The kind with a stick inside the lid you can spread it on whatever you are gluing. In his case he was gluing cut out paper shapes his grandma had given him in an envelope.

I turned around and saw….

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I took a deep breathe…and let it out. I shrugged to myself and handed him a BIG tub of glitter. He already made a mess. Why not have fun with it? I’ll have to clean it up either way.

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The final result?

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My Epiphany

I had another blog for less than a month. It just never really fit my vision. My posts were all over the map. Everything was sort of blurry. As I was trying to redo my blog I discovered something shocking and the name just popped into place. I immediately ran over to GoDaddy and bought the domain for The Delight Driven Life.

Why? It’s very nice but what does it mean?

I discovered I was actually an unschooler! “Delight driven” is another way to say “unschooling”. It exemplifies the concept perfectly and also my life. I strive for a stress-free, fun, flowing life.

I decided very early on to homeschool my son. Before he was a few months old. I had this picture in my head of how it was going to go. I thought it was just a natural extension of the way moms teach their babies. I planned a whole curriculum to start preschool. I bought thousands of art supplies and a few workbooks. I even bought a preschool microscope from Amazon. I put lots of other workbooks in my cart. I had a whole mind map filled with plans. Monday we would do reading, Tuesday we would do Math. Etc.

I have felt so guilty because we have only opened the workbook twice, and not once have we sat down and had a “class”.

Instead we have been outside playing in the yard, going for walks, playing with the dog, building with Legos and blocks, drawing, painting, gluing. We read books, sing songs. I even got him his own tablet. (Gasp.) We spend a lot of time running errands.

If he asks questions we talk about it. We sometimes Google images and watch YouTube videos of things he wants to know more about.

As it turns out, I am not lazy…ok, well maybe I am, but not when it comes to his education. It turns out I have been “unschooling” my son. (Read more about it HERE)

The amazing thing is that he is learning.

When you look at our days through the eyes of an unschooler you can see a difference. Take one activity from above; playing in the yard. He is learning about bugs and nature and life cycles by playing in the yard. Grass, plants, gardening, how everything is connected. He runs, tumbles, jumps and rolls down the hill getting physical education. He rides his bike building motor skills and confidence. I give him chalk, a play kitchen, and big box of mud to run his cars in.

He learns through play. I provide opportunities to learn and guide him. I ask questions and let him come up with the answers. Sometimes we look stuff up. I am always there for him when he wants to learn.

One day he told me, “Everything I need is in your brain.”

We are so much happier. No more pressure. No more feeling like a failure for not having a formal education.

We are “delight driven”.

Christmas Traditions for Your Kids

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I know, I know. Thanksgiving isn’t even over yet. If you are starting traditions you want to plan ahead right?

I love Christmas. I love everything about it. Especially now that I have a kid. I love making it magical. Starting traditions.

Here are some traditions you can start with your kids or even as a couple really. It doesn’t matter how old your kids are. Some of these you may have seen before but hopefully you find my spins on them unique

1. Christmas Movie Night

Okay, you have probably seen this one before. I like it a lot though. It is easy to tailor to the age of your kids. You can even do it as adults. You can do it any time and it requires hardly any money. You could do it for free really.

For a different spin on it you could combine it with other traditions like hot cocoa while you watch, or maybe popcorn. You could decorate Christmas cookies beforehand or make Chex mix and then sit down and eat it while watching movies.

2. Candy Cane Cocoa

As a kid we would pile the whole family into the car and drive around looking at Christmas lights and then come home to drink hot cocoa. It was too hot for us when were little so we would stir it with candy canes.

(Be careful because as they melt they turn into pointy shivs. LOL.)

Anyway, it would cool and taste like mint or whatever flavor you like.

3. Christmas Morning Breakfast

You could find a way to make Christmas morning special by making a fun breakfast every year. (I like my breakfasts. Have you seen my post on The Family Breakfast tradition?)

You could make a snowman pancake or reindeer or snowflakes. See how creative you can be. Use a frosting kit, a plastic bag with a tiny hole, or a squeeze bottle to make your shapes.

You could also use metal cookie cutters to make shapes.

My dad makes me Eggs Benedict every year for Christmas. (Even the year he had Cancer in his throat.)

4. Gingerbread Houses

I love making gingerbread houses. I use the kits though you can buy all premade and just get right to the decorating. For older kids/ bigger families maybe you could have a friendly competition. For little ones you can make them out of graham crackers.

5. Neighbor Gifts

I am planning on making cookies and/or putting together a box from the dollar store and putting by my neighbors’ doors when they aren’t home so they find them and have no idea who did it. I want my son to help and then we will hide and watch them find it and giggle etc.

I think it will teach him to give without expecting anything in return or getting “credit”. The true meaning of Christmas.

I’m curious about your traditions. What do you do in your family? Maybe you had some when you were a kid? Tell me in the comments.

ASL (American Sign Language) as a Second Language???

Why am I teaching my son a second language?

More and more colleges and universities are accepting ASL in fulfillment of foreign language requirements. The University of California system (all campuses) will soon accept ASL in fulfillment of foreign language entrance and graduation requirements. Harvard and Yale are among some of the schools which are investigating similar action. Recently, we have witnessed tremendous activity by state legislatures to support the teaching and acceptance of ASL as a foreign language. Many states now recognize ASL as a foreign language for the purpose of meeting high school graduation requirements.

From <http://www.unm.edu/~wilcox/UNM/facts.html>

Besides college, which is a long way off, there are a lot of benefits to learning a second language. Any language.

Bilingualism of any languages (whether signed or spoken) is a great booster for brains. It enriches and enhances your cognitive processes: higher abstract and creative thinking, better problem-solving, greater cognitive flexibility, better listening skills, greater academic achievement, and more! It also promotes cultural awareness, literacy, and other intellectual benefits.

Not just bilingualism, but also why not bimodalism too? Bimodal, that is using visual-spatial medium, expands your visual-perceptual skills: spatial awareness, mental rotation skill, visual sensitivity, and more!

From <http://www.handspeak.com/learn/index.php?id=11>

Is ASL even really a language?

Yes it is, actually.

“Because of its signed modality, people often assume that ASL is fundamentally different from spoken languages, or that it is merely a contrived representation of English. In reality, ASL is a fully developed, natural language. It is not a derivative of English; ASL contains structures and processes that English does not (Klima & Bellugi, 1979). ASL is a complete language with its own unique grammar (Fromkin, 1988). It is a true human language, with all the features of other human languages. An abstract concept can be expressed in ASL as easily as in English, Spanish, Navajo, or any other spoken language.”

From <http://www.ericdigests.org/1992-4/asl.htm>

It is important to realize that just like most other languages, when you translate the syntax is different. The order is different sometimes and you can speak faster because there are signs for concepts and phrases. It is interesting to note that there are even different “dialects” and “accents”.

When looking into sign language as a foreign language credit, it is important to know that there is a difference between learning signs in an English word order and learning American Sign Language.

American Sign Language, or ASL, is a unique language with its own set of grammatical rules. It is not universal, and it is very different from English and other international signed languages!

From <http://www.babies-and-sign-language.com/home-school-homeschooling.html>

Why did I pick ASL?

I learned some as a teen and really took a liking to it. I learned some Italian once and tried to teach myself French once upon a time. I can’t remember the French and a tiny amount of Italian. The signs I learned as a teen I can still remember.

Everyone kept telling me to teach him signs as a baby but he was such an early talker I didn’t bother with it. The more I see about it the more interested I am.

It can help teach your toddler to learn to read. Toddler sign language helps a child connect the word gestures with printed letters. Signs help preschool children increase their vocabulary. Because the word is spoken while signing, phonetic sounds are taught.

From <http://www.babies-and-sign-language.com/toddler-sign-language.html>

Early benefits to signing with a child include stimulation of speech and language development, as well as earlier communication and decreased behavioral problems.

From <http://www.babies-and-sign-language.com/home-school-homeschooling.html>

Sign language reinforces auditory skills by adding visual and kinesthetic input. Signing also stimulates connections in the brain and provides a secondary avenue for conceptual understanding to occur.

Sign language also improves spatial skills that are important for solid reasoning. There are so many cognitive benefits to learning sign language!

From <http://www.babies-and-sign-language.com/home-school-homeschooling.html>

Also I figured I’d have to learn with him. You know how people are always saying if a child is going to master a language they need to learn it as early as possible? Not a problem with sign language. I learned Away in a Manger this morning.

Okay, but your child is a hearing child…

Studies have shown that hearing children who are taught sign language as a part of their reading instruction score higher on standardized reading tests

From <http://www.signingtime.com/sign-language-for-kids/

It doesn’t matter if your child can hear or not. The career choices are nearly endless.

Respect for and understanding of Deaf culture should be cultivated in the classroom. Some of the Deaf cultural mores and behaviors that can be taught include introductions, leave-taking, conversational turn-taking, language code-switching, criteria for acceptance or non-acceptance in the culture, folklore, group norms, identity, and so forth.

From <http://www.ericdigests.org/1992-4/asl.htm>

How are we learning it?

We started watching “Signing Time” on Netflix. It’s amazing. I learned a lot from it even though it’s a kid show. They show you signs and then immediately put them into a song and conversation. Warning: The song will get stuck in your head. Guaranteed. LOL.

Lifeprint.com is very helpful.

I will post links as time goes on and when we learn Away in a Manger we will post video.

I’d love to hear from you. Are your kids bilingual?

The Family Breakfast

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Every Saturday my son and I try to have a family breakfast. He is still little and it’s just me and him but I try to make it special. I want it to become tradition as he grows.

We usually just do quick breakfasts on the other days but on Saturdays we make things that take longer to make and eat such as omelets or waffles. Sometimes I make Eggs Benedict. My favorite. We are making it this Saturday.

It is part of creating a family culture. (More on that soon.) I don’t use my cell during this special family time. He gets to help me create food too so it is truly special bonding time. We use fancy napkins sometimes too. Anything I can to make it special.

As he gets older we will keep doing this and it will be our time to connect and share about our lives. I sort of feel like it is a bank account and every time we have a family breakfast I am investing in the ones we will have when he’s older. I will use this time to teach him to cook too so maybe someday he will make me omelets.

Do you have any family traditions like this?

 

13 Free or Cheap Homeschooling Resources for Beginners

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Are you just starting out homeschooling? Maybe it’s your first year like us. I made a list of resources I personally use to teach my preschooler son, but you can use for all grades. This is not everything. You can order curriculum online and even find free curriculum online so you can save your money for fun stuff!

1. HSLDA

Please, please go to HSLDA before you do anything else. They will tell you your laws for your state. You can get updates about new laws and other developments related to homeschooling.

They have a TON of resources and information and have people who you can call with questions about anything. Even curriculum.

The most important reason though is that if there is a legal issue related to homeschooling such as a custody battle or something where homeschooling is the main reason they will send someone to support you and stand up with you if you have to go to court.

2. Easy Peasy

Now that we talked about the serious stuff, go to Easy Peasy All in One Homeschooling. No matter what grade you are in. It is free and well, easy. I have only looked at the early grades but it goes all the way up. She does all the work for you. A whole curriculum and you can pick and choose what you want to use and you can add to it.

The preschool stuff is all about the alphabet and has the cutest little stories about each letter. Such as Abraham the Alligator who is afraid of everything so is always saying, “AAAAAAAA!!” When we started I didn’t have access to a printer for the coloring pages etc so I found my own but I mostly just did the alphabet stories. He learned his letters sooooo fast!! I highly recommend it!
You can find Easy Peasy HERE on YouTube and then just watch the videos if you’d like…

3. YouTube

…Which brings me to my next resource…YouTube. My son is in preschool (at home right now) so we watch videos about EVERYTHING. He will ask a question and I will find him an answer usually on YouTube. We can watch polar bears walking on ice and then a polar bear cub “walking” on a kitchen floor and having no traction. His feet are made to walk on the ice. we watch whales breaching, and a time lapse video of a plant growing. We watched a group of people who poured cement in an ant hill then excavated it. Have you seen that one?

We can watch videos of volcanoes erupting, and rockets launching. This is something that people could not do a long time ago. You had to be satisfied with what you could show them a picture of in a book…and you probably had access to five books.

4. Netflix

Speaking of videos, how about full length documentaries? Netflix has it all. Your kids could watch stuff without even knowing they are learning. You can also set it to each person in the family’s own personal account so they watch what is appropriate for them. My toddler watches educational kid shows as well as some documentaries, but at his age YouTube is better for his short attention span.

I limit what and how much he watches, (more about that later) but my favorites he watches are: Daniel Tiger (An animated Mister Roger’s Neighborhood spinoff), SuperWhy, Peg + Cat, Little Einsteins, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, and all sorts of LeapFrog videos. One nice thing I enjoy is…no commercials. I hate seeing the commercials now because they are raunchy. They also break up the shows and mess up their little brains.

5. Google Earth/Street View

 

With Instant Google Streetview and/or Google Earth you can take your kids on virtual field trips anytime. I played around and saw the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore. I explored Jackson Harbor, NSW Australia and then Uluru which is my favorite.
You could check out another country you are studying and see how their homes are different than yours. How are the trees different in Africa? How much snow and ice can you see in Antarctica? Actually, with Google Earth you can see the same place at different times in Earth’s history. Maybe you can watch the ice caps melt…

I also looked at SeaWorld’s orca tanks. It is sad. I found six whales in one tank smaller than the swimming pool for humans. (I am very anti-cetacean captivity.

Maybe I’ll write about it someday…Prob not.)

6. Your Local Library

 

This seems pretty obvious, but actually I know two of our local libraries have a homeschooling section. It wouldn’t hurt to tell your librarian that you homeschool. Mine had information about other families in the area who also homeschooled.

7. Local Dollar Store

This one seems obvious too but when I started I had NO IDEA the stuff I would find there that could be educational. I found a whole school section with classroom posters, play money, an alligator who grows in water. (A leg broke off so we put it under our microscope and compared the cells dry vs wet etc.)

8. Pinterest

If you aren’t sure what to buy at the dollar store etc. check out Pinterest. Try maybe “homeschooling dollar store” and see what you find. If you have not discovered it please check it out. You can totally blame me when you are addicted and no one ever hears from you again because you are just sitting in the dark pinning various unit studies, lapbooks, recipes, craft projects, preschool themes, interior decorating,…..and on and on. I have seriously three accounts…probably more I forgot about. I AM ADDICTED TO PINTEREST.

9. Amazon.com

Ok. So you would be amazed how many things I can buy there. Search add on items. School supplies. Science supplies. I have ordered the strangest stuff. I ordered live shrimp for a shrimp tank. I ordered the coolest microscope. You can order pre-made slides for a real microscope with bacteria and algae, scales, feathers, I don’t even know what else.

10. Your home town

We live in a tiny hamlet with no car so we walk everywhere. Look around your town and explore it like you just moved there (which we did.) Ask the firemen if you can get a tour. Ask the police if you can get fingerprints done and learn about safety. Maybe you need a group to do that. Don’t have one? Start one. Put up fliers all over town or Facebook.

11. Your Village

They say it takes a village right? Well who is your village? Who do you have in your life that you allow around your child? What do they do? If you look close enough you have a wealth of knowledge in your friends and family.

Your friends and family have jobs, hobbies, and skills right? Do you know someone who is knowledgeable about cars? Have them teach your kids how to service an engine, check the oil, or change a tire. Do you have someone who works at a factory? Perhaps they can arrange a tour or can talk to your child(ren) about the product they make from start to finish. Maybe you have a friend who is an exeptional cook. Or has a different way of life than yours. Maybe they went on a trip. I have a friend who just came back from Jordan to visit her family. I could have her tell my son all about her trip and how life is different over there.
You probably have someone in your life, or can find someone, who lived in a different time period. They would probably LOVE to tell your child(ren) all about how it was different “back then”. They probably have momentos to show you too.

Use your imagination. Look closely at your “village”.

12. Kindle

I use Kindle a lot. I am cheap so I always search for free books. Try each subject you are looking for and then refine your search to “Low to high” and you will find a zillion free books. Keep in mind that most books do not stay free for long. It is usually a promotion so check often and “order” them early.

You do NOT need a Kindle device to use Kindle. You can download the app for whatever device you are using. Go to Amazon and search for your device. “Kindle app Windows 8” etc.

13. The Earth

 

No. I mean the real Earth. Go outside. Lie in the grass. Watch bugs crawl. Talk about what you see, smell, feel, touch, and hear. Go on nature walks. Have a scavenger hunt. Give your kids a place to dig. I live in an apartment so my son has a tote with dirt in it for his trucks.

There is really no reason to spend a ton of money on homeschooling. Especially if you are doing preschool or kindergarten. Sure, as time goes on more books are needed. More supplies. Just look around you and use what you already have access to first. You don’t need a classroom. Isn’t that why we are homeschooling in the first place?

How about you? What is your favorite resource you could not live without? Please comment. I would love to hear from you.

Creating Love Rituals in Your Family

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“I love you, I love you. Do you know I love you? I love you, I love you. Do you know I love you?…” I sing to my three year old boy.

“No.” He giggles and his blue eyes light up.

“No?” I feign a shocked look. “Then I guess I’ll have to kiss you until you know it.” I make my eyes wide and he squeals as I grab him and plant kisses all over his face and neck until he finally stops laughing and says, “Ok, ok, I know it! I know it!”

Usually he makes me sing it again or he will sing it to me. Each time it is something different. Tickling. Nibbling his toes etc. We do it a lot and don’t know why I started it but I love it. It has become our special thing.

When I started it I had never heard of love rituals but that is what is. It is a ritual we do quite a bit. Nearly every day. Sometimes several times a day. We do it when I feel I haven’t spent enough time with him. Sometimes we do it when he is getting tired or I sense a tantrum is coming. Sometimes I look at him and am just overcome with love for him and he is growing so fast. Someday this will embarrass him.

Why Do Love Rituals?

“Your unanticipated love is like a special treat that your children didn’t expect and, in the surprise, is especially sweet.” – Jim Taylor PhD Use Rituals to Send Love to Your Children Psychology Today.com

According to consciousdiscipline.com “In just minutes a day, these powerful rituals:

  • Promote learning and literacy
  • Increase attention span
  • Decrease power struggles
  • Increase cooperation
  • Enhance self-esteem through
  • permanent brain chemistry changes
  • Integrate the brain”

Wow. I had no idea

Can You Give Me Examples?

Why sure I can.

  • It can be as simple quiet snuggle time before bed. You just have to do it every night for it to become a ritual.
  • You could make up a secret code or signal so only you know what it is. This especially important if you have older kids who would die of embarrassment if their friends saw. (Hand signals, bumping elbows, random code word, even a number code.)
  • My family had a weird one. My grandpa always gave me a box of cereal all wrapped up for Christmas. He is gone now but every so often someone will get a box of cereal for Christmas. We know what it means.
  • I think most of us have someone, usually a grandparent, that says, “I love you/I love you more.” My grandpa always made up new ones. “I loved you first/I’ll love

It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you both know what it is. It has to be repeated a lot for it to become a ritual.

Do you have love rituals in your family?

Please feel free to tell us what they are. Maybe I’ll even add them and your name to my list.