Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Learning Everywhere

When do humans learn?

I have always thought that humans learn everywhere, all the time. Humans learn the good and the bad - learning how to treat others and how to live life. Little humans learn to think about themselves and interact with children and adults. We adapt to societal norms and take caution in new surroundings.

And that is just mimicking behavior. Some of my biggest life lessons came not from books, but from experience. Not even "work" experience - just interacting with strangers, watching the news, looking at my children. If I think to my core, what I believe about life and society, I did not directly form those beliefs from "book learning."

And then studying to be a teacher, research reiterated the idea that students would learn indirectly from teachers (from your habits, your tone, your attitude, your organization, etc.).

I never realized that some people think what people do during their "down time" is not teaching something.

I wonder if humans learn all the time, aren't we learning a lesson by what we choose to spend spare time doing, and by what those activities directly teach us?

Our minds never shut off. Every opportunity presents itself to teach, or to learn. I'm not thinking algebra or phonics either - just a moment to reinforce that we are fair to all people, or that we treat others with respect.

Or am I wrong? Do people believe that teaching, not just book lessons but life lessons, starts and stops at a certain time?

Aren't we always learning?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Organized SAHM: Organizing

When you have kids, organization is a journey - not a finished product.

Back-story: My friend J sent me an email asking questions concerning common SAHM concerns. Her email didn't focus much on organization, but it was an underlying issue. You can read part one and part two to catch up. This post is what I've learned about keeping a home (ahem) organized. 

One time, my home was neat. Dishes placed on clean shelves. Vacuumed carpets. Polished mirrors. The bed was not always made, but a surprise guest didn't phase me. My house was ok.

Note that I said "bed." That is because my husband and I inhabited our home. That's it. Then we brought Ty home from the hospital.

At first our house was spotless from my nesting instincts and we kept it neat with our new little person who did not move around and destroy. I remember that first year with him and thinking that a clean house was manageable. I worked, but he still took naps. I worked, and we could afford a cleaning service periodically. His toys were pretty simple and I kept them in a tiny little container.

The downfall started, slowly. The family took small naps together rather than cleaning. We left a few dishes out. We never caught up on sleep though, and Ty had his own ideas about the house. He had his own room that he threw his toys around while "napping."

Clean and vacuumed carpet. No toys hidden under chairs.
Then we had a series of events that went something like this: Ty learned to walk, Christmas, Ty's first birthday, morning sickness with Za. And it was over. We had a ton of toys, and I was too sick to care or clean.

And I want to tell you the organization situation at my house is better, that I figured it out. I didn't. I won't. The only message I can give other SAHMs crying because their house no longer looks post-wedding-esque is that once I accepted my house was done looking like that for a good twenty years, I felt better.

Feel better, because you are not a magician, you are a parent raising little humans. I know my house will not be organized all at once right now, and I will not have that "finished feeling." I do involve my kids in cleaning though, because:

1. I am not a maid.
2. they made the mess.
3. they have to learn responsibility.
4. like all humans, they like the feeling of accomplishment, or a job well-done.

I make my kids pick up. They bring me their plates when they finish eating. They put toys in boxes. They put books on shelves. They put away crayons. They recycle. My house is still messy though. They are learning to clean, and sometimes when they are learning, I remind myself that learning is messy even if the lesson is about cleaning.

I attempt to organize, a closet or a shelf at a time. Some days I only accomplish going through the mail. I remind myself that they are this small once and tomorrow they will be in college and again, I will return to my house from work, and it will be spotless. 

I chip away at the mess daily, and I do not feel defeated at the end of the day (ok, most days) because I can say, "I accomplished ____ today." Even if it is loading the dishwasher I know that with little kids, tending to their needs is a full-time job, and no matter how boring or discouraging, I will keep at it tomorrow.

My house is not a finished product, an organizational masterpiece. Organization with kids is a journey, a constant process.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Non-Toys

My children play all day, often with non-toys.

The next time I go to a baby shower, I am going to give the mom-to-be a bag full of kitchen utensils and copy paper. Expensive toys? I try to make learning "every day" so my kids have found every day toys as well:

Expensive magformers: meet the microwave, screwdriver, odd magnet, scissors, paper bind, and shoe polish container.

Don't buy paint. Give your kids the crummy, almost gone bottles of nail polish.
Za replaces the baby doll stroller with couch cushion "mountains" for her animals.

Even babies know: give a baby a "taggie" toy with built-in tags, and the baby will rather play with the actual tag.
Happy Financial Friday! Here's to not buying your children toys!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

That Jealous Feeling

You know how it happens, so simple, doing an innocuous part of your day.

I took Augie (our beagle/pointer/mutt) outside this morning. I was shivering and watching him do his business when a car slowly drove by us. I looked up, only to see a pretty lady applying lipstick with a steady hand and manicured nails. She had on a dress coat. Her hair was stylish. Of course that is all I could see, but I imagined the rest:

She wore pantyhose, a skirt, and high heels. She was on time for work, she was well-rested, and probably had an expensive briefcase on her well-vacuumed seat next to her. Before she went to buy her morning coffee (black, no cream or sugar), she would slip on gloves that matched her coat. She would head to work, have important meetings, and send emails people would hurriedly answer.

Of course this is just my nonsense running away. I don't know this woman.  

I've returned to work and gone back to being a SAHM.I have been in the trenches in both worlds. I accurately can depict the positives and negatives from both experiences. Why, then, do I get jealous when I stand in the front yard, a whole day of snuggling my kids at home unfolding, when I see others going off to work?

I believe the work of a SAHM (or dad) is important. When I taught I saw so many kids who hated to learn, hated to read, hated to study. They had no desire to be a life-long learner - a trait educators will tell you is needed in such a complicated world. I felt the best way to work with my children was to stay home with them. It's been a long, thought out decision!

So why did the woman bother me today?

SAHM successes are important, and their value will show in our children.  (Or at least how we handle our trying experiences).

Monday, February 11, 2013

Using The Eight Intelligences With Your Child

Why do teachers incorporate Gardner's Eight Intelligences into lesson plans? Why should parents care about this learning theory? 

When teachers make lesson plans, one aspect they consider is how to incorporate ways that students learn. They do this with the Eight Intelligences, a very common educational theory. Knowing about this theory can help parents:

1. understand why teachers have their students do a variety of activities, and
2. notice ways to help their children learn.

Many "theories" can explain how children like to learn, this is just one.

Howard Gardner's Eight Intelligences is only one possible explanation of how students learn. Just like any other idea in education, teachers and administrators have different opinions about it.

This is a popular theory though, and many children (and adults) like to learn a learn a certain way. I like to read material, and I need to write it down if someone is going to speak to me. I know that about myself, and although I wish I was a person who could listen and remember, I am not. It helps that I know that when I need to remember information for a class, or go to the grocery store.

When working with your own children...

One aspect I love about children is they are not "set in stone." My children may lean toward a certain intelligence, but by working different ones, they may become stronger in a different area, or at least think of an idea in a new manner.

For instance when we read a longer story, I always try to do an enrichment activity. The kids and I are reading, but we also sing or dance out a part from the story, draw a scene, or research the science from the story.

Teachers will spread these intelligences across a unit or lesson, and parents naturally do a variety of activities with their kids too. People learn in different ways, and it benefits children to work their brains in new ways.

The different intelligences are below, and I attempt to label kids activities I put on this blog with intelligences I hit with my own kids, to show other parents how easy it is.

Logial- Mathematical
Verbal- Linguistic 
Bodily- Kinesthetic

Monday, February 4, 2013

Organized SAHM: Saving Money In the Kitchen

I still have no idea what I'm doing.

Recap: My friend J wrote me an email, asking for advice because she's a new SAHM and wanted advice. This is my second attempt at sharing my wisdom. Last time I emphasized that I don't have an accurate picture of what I do as a SAHM. Today I emphasize that again, but share what ideas I have acquired about saving money.

A few years ago, I wrote about saving money before you quit your job.  A little after that, I graded myself on saving money as a SAHM, in general. Today, I present some tips on saving money in the kitchen.

1. Think healthy. Chopping fruit and vegetables and making meals from scratch is extra work, but fresh foods are cheaper than packaged or frozen.

2. Think about specials. I still dislike reading the newspaper flyers. What I don't mind is flipping through coupons and sales on my smart phone. My local grocery store has a shopping app, and it shows the current flyer, along with coupons I can add to my shopper's card. I still organize my paper coupons, but this app helps. It even has space for my list. Very convenient - and when I buy specials, often in bulk, I use my deep freezer. 

3. Think combination. Tons of recipes are on the Internet. Most of them are delicious. Most of them also want special spices, and fancy pasta.

My kids, and probably yours, enjoy most dishes with a side of ketchup. Some day you will have time to travel to different grocery stores and discover new spices from other countries. I don't have time now.

What works for me is making one dish, a combination dish. Some kids may not like it, but mine do not mind if I throw peas, noodles, chicken, and cheese all in one casserole. What makes this approach inexpensive is that I  can substitute corn for peas, chicken for turkey. (I also have a hunch this is what leads to beloved family meals that kids come home from college to eat. Let's hope I create one).

4. Think like a school lunch lady. You remember wising up to those school cooks. One day you have "breakfast for lunch" complete with sausage and eggs. Yum. The next day - sausage pizza.

Working all the time, my household once trashed tons of food, mostly leftovers. Use those leftovers. Add cooked vegetables into a cheesy rice dish. Create pulled chicken/ any meat sandwiches. Turn spaghetti meat sauce into the base for a homemade pizza. I do this (at least) twice a week, which means I am not "buying big"- so I'm saving money.

Those are some simple ways that I save money in the kitchen. Any additional tips SAHMs? Share in the comments!

Update! Part Three is up, about organizing time as a SAHM!

Monster Jams Review

I apologize for not posting sooner! Some days I play and work with the kids all day and when I get a break I often think, "I should go write a blog." And then I don't - and I rest or read a book. Part of the mom-job.

As my readers know, I had four tickets to give away for Monster Jams, and I had four tickets for my kids to go. Since C.J. is tiny, we did not take her. Ty and Za went, and they had fun and lots of questions.

They had to wear ear protection, and Za was grumpy about that aspect. Besides concern for their ears, they also asked questions about the smell in the arena.

Both of them had fun, but Ty was giddy for most of the events. My little guy loves monster trucks, and plays with them most days. Seeing them live was a big deal - and he's gone before to this event.

Most of the kids' questions came after the show, when they wanted to know about all the products advertised during the show. For instance, they both would like to fly to Vegas for the largest Monster Jam show of the year. Ah, a lesson in commercialization, and marketing.

Seriously, the kids watched intently and we shared a nice family night.