Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Gearing Up for Homeschool 2017-What We're Ditching/Adding/Trying

(Over the next couple weeks, I hope to not only dive back into regular blogging, but I plan to answer some of the homeschooling questions I've received recently.  I hope that these homeschooling posts help you to feel encouraged and more at ease if you are considering homeschooling or are new to homeschooling.  If you have questions/topics you'd like me to cover, please send me an email!)

It's summer! And for this homeschool momma, that means a little break from our normal homeschool routine and a lot more time for fun activities! It also means planning ahead for the new school year.  While I am still intentional about learning through the summer (my goal in homeschooling is to create life-long learners who seek out learning opportunities everywhere), we mostly reserve any of our "book-work" learning for the more traditional school year.

Anyway, we are trying some new things this school year, ditching some old curriculums, and learning more and more about who our kids are, how they learn, how I like to teach, and what works for OUR family. We are four years in (we've always homeschooled, and my oldest is now 9), and I feel like we get a little more comfortable and look a little more like "us" with each year of homeschool.

So what are we ditching...

We gave My Father's World: Exploring Cultures and Customs a try this year.  I had heard many great things about this curriculum from friends, and so I gave it a try.  I really liked that I could conquer many subjects all at once with kids of varying ages.  This is how I had been operating anyway with our A Beka Science and History curriculums, so I figured having a resource that was intentionally designed this way would be helpful.  Unfortunately, I honestly found the curricula itself hard to follow.  I'm not sure what it was, but it was really challenging for me to sort it all out.  HOWEVER, all of the books that go along with it were FABULOUS!  Both my kids and I enjoyed reading aloud a good majority of the books that went with it. I decided that while the curriculum was not for us, we would reference and use some of the books that go along with it in the future since we enjoyed them so much.

A Beka math has slowly been dying in our home.  I really do like it for the younger grades, but it is just so intense at about the third grade level and on.  Read below for more about why we're ditching this one and what we're trying instead.

What we're adding/trying...

The further we get into homeschooling, the more I realize that I love Charlotte Mason style learning.  We read aloud A LOT and tend to gravitate towards living books instead of text books.  Half the time, I find myself crossing out tons of math problems in our A Beka program (because holy smokes...A Beka is crazy intense on the math end), and I want something that is set up in a way that meets both my kids' math needs AND doesn't make us feel like we were going crazy doing math all day.  I stumbled across a Facebook review of a Charlotte Mason style math curriculum and it looked so enticing.  After a little more research, I decided to jump in and give it a try this year.  We are using Math Lessons for a Living Education by Master Books for all three big kids this year.  Hopefully it works out well for all of us!  This will actually be the first time not using A Beka for my younger grade kids.

Tales2Go...technically, we added this last school year, but it was at the very end of the year, so I'm going to tack this on here.  I was able to participate in a homeschool co op buy of Tales2Go, which is like an Audible type program (audio books).  While it's typically $100/year, I was able to get it for $10/year in the group buy.  And let me tell you, we already LOVE it.  My girls listened to all six books in the American Girl doll series' for at least 6 different dolls.  When they'd finish a series, we'd print some free lap books online and we'd review whatever was of interest for them-the time period in history, the culture, home life, etc.  We studied WWII this way (the doll Molly is in the WWII time period), as well as immigration (Kirsten was a Swedish immigrant), and a variety of other topics.  The best part?  They listened to these books at bedtime as they were falling asleep.  It was passive learning and didn't add any extra time to our school day.  I'm excited to explore other books within the Tales2Go app and see how access to audio books transforms our homeschool.

We will be returning to the A Beka History books this year.  My oldest (9 1/2) simply LOVES history.  And she really doesn't seem to mind textbook style learning for this subject.  Since she enjoyed A Beka's history books in the past, I think we'll plan on adding these books back into our regular reading.  We don't utilize the full curriculum (again, it's just not our learning style), but she loves to read through them and talk about it.  Fifth grade A Beka history is ancient civilizations (she is already a few chapters in), which just so happens to be about the ONLY thing I ever found interesting about history when I was in school.  I may be a little excited about this.

Something I've learned over the years is that it's okay to not like a curriculum.  It's okay to ditch something that isn't working, but it's also okay to hold out and see if it will just take some time.  It's okay to love a program everyone else hates, or to be the odd one out when everyone seems to love a particular curriculum but you don't.  Find what you love.  Ditch what you don't.  Change when you need to.  Your kids will appreciate your flexibility in finding what works well for them, and you will be much happier when you are teaching in a way you both enjoy.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Our Favorite Preschool & Kindergarten Toys from Melissa & Doug

With my daughters getting bigger, I have found that I have to be even more intentional about our preschool and kindergarten aged boys having adequate and purposeful learning time.  I can easily dive into the higher math and language lessons my girls need, and totally forget that Levi has been very curious about learning his numbers.

Fortunately, we have a good foundation of play activities, toys, games, and more that we have used for all our children and are still in great shape for our boys.  We do not stick to one particular style of study, but I do have a love for Montessori learning (and a general hatred for cheap plastic crap).   So Melissa & Doug products generally make me really happy.  Plus, many of these items that were purchased earlier on have lasted through all four children.  Others are newer additions to our home and are finding an enormous amount of use from both boys.

I wanted to share some of our favorite Melissa & Doug products (and why we love them) with you!  

1.  Puzzles. Our oldest and most loved Melissa & Doug products are our puzzles.  We purchased or received as gifts many of these when our girls were little.  We have a variety of them- the alphabet, animals, numbers, and colors.  All of these focus on matching, fine motor skill development, and letter/number/color/animal recognition.   The letters puzzle also works on letter-sound recognition, as each letter has a picture underneath. When the kids get a little older, they'll use the letter puzzle pieces to spell words, or the number pieces to create larger numbers ("can you build me the number fifty-two?"). 

2.  Clock puzzle.  Another puzzle we love is also used for math!  This cute clock not only has a variety of shapes and colors for the numbers of the clock, but it has labeled minute and hour hands, as well as minutes by the 5's written on the inside, too.  While my little 3 year old moves the hands to match up with the number he's currently placing, my 5 year old will match the hands up to particular times that I ask him to show me. 

 3.  Toy car parking garage.  I bought this for my 3 year old this past Christmas and he absolutely LOVES it.  He already loved cars, but this has so much more for him.  He loves matching up the cars to their proper color, and then running his finger along the numbers and saying each one.  Or, he'll even count backwards from 10 using the numbers as a guide.  He really enjoys watching the cars fall down the ladder as he pulls one out from the bottom, too.  

 4.  Pizza Kit.  We all know young children love imitating real life.  My 5 year old really enjoys creating pizzas and serving his customers.  He'll often walk around the house asking for your order.  I love how he is practicing his question-asking skills, as well as his listening skills as he prepares the correct types of pizza slices for his customers.  

5. Car and Truck Carrier. My littlest just loves all things that "go." This car and truck carrier is another perfect toy for imaginative play and fine motor skill development.  This has been a well-loved toy by Levi for the past year.

Basically, Melissa and Doug products are super awesome.  I love them.  I love that they're made from wood and totally aren't crap.  These are just some of our favorite products from M&D that help in our homeschool, but really, you can't go wrong with ANY of their products.

Do you have a favorite Melissa & Doug product that you use in your home for intentional learning?  What are your favorites?

(Some of the links in this post are my referral/affiliate links.  Read my disclosure policy HERE.  Thank you for supporting the continuation of this blog by using my links!)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

How to Save Money on Groceries When You Want to Eat Organic Foods

Once upon a time, I started this blog as a response to so many people asking HOW I could possibly keep our grocery bill so low, how I used coupons to pay just pennies on the dollar, and how I fed our family with so little.  At the time, our finances were so tight that I kept our entire grocery and consumables budget (i.e. food as well as toilet paper, shampoo, dog food, etc.) to just $400/month.   We had three small children at the time.  Organic went out the window in favor of just simply feeding my family.  I had mastered the use of coupons, and would often walk out with bags of groceries from Target for just a few dollars. People wanted to know how to do it, and so this blog started as a response to those questions.

Fast forward four or so years, and our finances are drastically different.  We've been able to go back to eating mostly organic and natural foods, which has always been a priority for me.  But now I have four bigger kids, one of whom eats more than I do already at the age of 5.  And it's become increasingly more and more difficult to keep our budget in check.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, a family of our make up (6 total people, with children ages 3, 5, 7, and 9) in the "moderate cost plan" spends an average of $300/week.  Even under the "thrifty plan", the average family my size spends $185/week on groceries.  This chart does not factor in non-food consumables like I do, however.  My current weekly grocery budget is a whopping $200/week, but it does include things like shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toilet paper, medicines, dog and chicken food, etc.  Some months our budget does go as high as $1000 for the month.  So....now that I'm feeling sufficiently better about my (crazy high) food costs in comparison to the rest of the U.S. families like mine, here are my tips for keeping costs down while eating as naturally as possible...

1.  Shop in bulk. There are several parts to this one point.  It is by far the most helpful tip for saving money, but there are many ways to do it.

*Shop bulk bins.  Depending on where you live, you may have a store like Winco that offers a bulk bin section.  You fill your own bags with exactly what you need, and can truly save a tone of money.  I have found the most incredible savings when doing this for spices.  Winco does offer some of their bulk bins as organic, but most of them are not.  Still, this is a great way for you to buy your raw ingredients for making food at home at a huge discount.  Winco also offers some big-bag bulk purchases like Costco.  We buy our oats in a 25 pound bag here and save a bunch of money (they do sell organic oats).

*Buy full cases at places like Whole Foods and receive a case lot discount.  Often times, natural foods stores offer something like a 20% discount when you buy a full case of an item.  If you know you'll use all of an item before it goes bad (think shelf stable items or items that everyone will eat through quickly), spring for it all at once and get the discount.

*Costco is great for bulk shopping, and they now carry a surprising assortment of organic products.  We regularly purchase lettuce, spinach, rice, bell peppers, bananas, and more from Costco, all at great prices, and almost all organic.  If you have a big family, bulk produce doesn't even stand a chance to go bad.  So 6 heads of organic romaine lettuce for just $3-4 is a steal!

*Buy items in larger sizes with lower prices per ounce.  Instead of buying 4 regular sized bottle of kombucha, spring for the giant sized bottle with a lower price/ounce cost.  You can always portion it out or pour it into your own jars if you need to take it somewhere besides your home.

2.  Shop local. This one can actually go with the shop in bulk tip, as well, but I thought it needed it's own space because it's so awesome.  We purchase our local honey from local farmers by the gallon for a huge savings.  We also purchase a naturally fed and raised cow, usually in increments of 100 pounds at a time which truly saves us a lot of money.  When averaged out among all the steaks, ground beef, tri tips, roasts, etc., the cost is currently only $4/pound!!!  For reals!  And it's good quality beef, which is super important to us.  We also do this with local pigs for all our pork.  Just make sure you have a freezer big enough to handle all of your meat!

3.  Shop around.  It may go without saying, but every store sells items for different prices.  Between Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, and Trader Joe's, some items can fluctuate by as much as several dollars depending on the store.  Pay attention the prices and make a mental note of which stores to shop at for which items.

4. Plan ahead. Planning ahead is a life saver when it comes to saving money on groceries.  If you don't think about dinner until 5:00 at night, there's a good chance you'll be running out to the store for ingredients.  All those little trips for "just one more thing" usually yield many more things, raising your budget significantly over time.  If you want to be able to eat organically, keeping the unnecessary purchases at bay will help leave you with the budget to do so.  Know what is on your menu for the week, and stick to it.  Have a plan!

My favorite way to plan ahead is to crock pot freezer cook.  Essentially, you spend a chunk of time one day to prep a bunch of meals for your freezer.  Each day, you just pull one out, pop it in the crock pot, and have a hot dinner at night when you come home.

5. Reuse and recycle. We made the switch to alkaline water within the past couple months.  I would buy it by the gallon from the store, which would run me about $3-4/gallon, meaning I really couldn't afford to do it all the time.  We ended up shopping around (tip #3) and found a great local place where we could bring our bottles in (reuse and recycle) and fill them up with alkaline water for just $1.50/gallon.  By not needing to buy a new bottle every time, I'm saving a ton of money.  Plus, I get to support a local family in the process.

Another way to save by reusing is to bring in your own bags when you shop.  Some stores offer a monetary discount (usually only 5 cents or so) for each bag you reuse. It's small, but it adds up.

6.  Share with a friend.  Sometimes when we need more meat but don't have enough saved up for a full pig or portion of cow, we will go in with a friend, splitting the cost and the meat.  We still get the great price for purchasing in bulk from the farmer, but our out of pocket expense in the "now" is much lower.  Find a friend who also wants to buy good quality meats and make the purchase together!

In the end, if you want to eat organic and natural foods, you will have to pay more money than conventional foods.  But if it's a priority to do so, try some of these tips to help reduce your overall costs so that more of your budget is freed up for the types of foods that you want to feed your family.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Three Best Things I Did for Myself Last Year

The older I get the more I realize the need to invest in and take care of myself.  I'm super high energy and can multitask like you wouldn't believe, so I've always had a million things going at once.  I had four children while in my 20's, which meant by necessity, I was always fast-moving and on the go simply because they were.  It was easy to forget about taking care of my needs because I was constantly caring for four small people who needed me to do everything for them.  Life could sometimes be crazy, and my personal health and development often took a backseat.  But now that I'm 30 (gasp! I know, still not really that old, but some days it feels like it), I am realizing how being intentional about caring for myself is SO important.

And so this past year, I really worked at taking care of myself.  I am shocked at how much better I feel now that I take care of myself as a priority, not just an afterthought.

Here are the three best things I did for myself this past year:

1.  I "Hired" a concierge doctor.  When you straight from your pediatrician at age 18 to an OBGYN at 21 (never had a doctor in between), and then have babies and nurse for seven years straight, you tend to forget that you need a regular doctor.  When things would pop up, I'd hit up the good ol' internet to let me know if I was dying.  If not, I'd ride it out.  At some point it dawned on me that I really should have a regular doctor who is looking after my healthcare needs...I do after all have small children and I'd like to be around for them for a long time!  And so I bit the bullet and got myself the most amazing concierge doctor EVER.  Seriously.  I tell everyone about him.  He knows all about my health, is available by text (usually within minutes), and is great about informing me that many things are not a huge deal, and that I'm not in fact dying.  Knowing I have someone who is keeping up on my health, regular tests, issues, etc. has given me great peace of mind.

2.  I found a new sport.  I have had a gym membership for a long time, but it was awfully boring.  I loved swimming but hated that I couldn't multitask, so I usually ended up on the treadmill so I could read books at the same time.  Still, it was boring, so I didn't make much progress.  BUT, then I discovered a new love in martial arts.  I fell in love with learning something new, have been developing these super cool things called muscles, and even lost about 14 pounds when I first started. I am slightly obsessive when it comes to things like this, so I go often and try to soak up every possible thing that I can while there.  This is totally for me, though again, it does have an affect on my children.  A by product has been new friends-and we all know us extroverts are always looking for more friends!

3.  I learned Konmari and allowed myself to be a minimalist.   For years I struggled with feeling bad for getting rid of stuff or for not feeling sentimental over getting rid of things others would save or for not having lots of clothing in my wardrobe.  And then I discovered Konmari, which led to me discovering how freeing it is to just let things go and keep my house as clutter free as possible.  It also led to me finally figuring out that I actually LIKE having a small, super simple wardrobe, and that this was perfectly fine for me.  Truly, reading this book changed my life.  I now Konmari areas of our home quite frequently (where the heck does all this stuff come from? I'm constantly dropping off donation bags), and I stick to a capsule wardrobe of just basic pieces that I love and can mix and match.  It's simple and I love it.

(Runners up would be that I said "no" to a ton of homeschool things this year...whoever thinks that homeschoolers are not "socialized" is sorely mistaken.  We often do WAY too many social type things, that I spent time upgrading my home (this is something Ben & I both love and do together), and that I went on way more dates with my husband.)

Between these three things, I feel like a new person.  These three things have helped me better care for my over all health, given me something new to strive for and learn, and saved my mental sanity.  I am learning to better care for myself and make me a priority.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Don't Give My Kid That Medal

I think I grew up in the first generation to really be a part of the mass distribution of "participation awards".

I was a soccer player from the time I was 4 1/2 until the time I graduated high school.  I have a distinct memory of sitting on the front walkway of these apartments where we lived when I was maybe 5 or 6 years old, and lining up my soccer trophies so that anyone who walked by could see them.  And you know what?  I was SO proud of them.  I really was.  When I first started playing soccer, I was a hysterical, crying mess.  But my parents kept taking me and I eventually fell in love with the sport.  And each and every year, I received another trophy.   They were cool, but I stopped caring so much about them over time.

By high school, soccer trophies just for showing up had ceased, but I now had shelves full of look-alike trophies from my younger years.  They began to lose their awesomeness, and I cared about them less and less.  Medals began to show up now, which we only received when we placed well in tournaments.  These were special to me.  High school soccer seasons ended with awards for "top scorer" or "most inspirational" or "best whatever", none of which ever seemed to grace my hands.  But that was okay, and it didn't disappoint me, and I had learned to be sincerely happy for those who did receive them.

When I finished high school and got married, I left my trophies behind for my parents to deal with.  I'm sure they got rid of them, and I certainly don't care that they did.  I hung onto a couple paper awards that I was especially fond of from academic achievements, but otherwise, I let it all go (it's important to note that I'm totally a minimalist and in no way, shape, or form am I sentimental).

Fast forward to having kids of my own.  As a new mom who knew every thing about parenting (ha!), not letting my kids have participation awards was up there with never homeschooling (we all know how that turned out).  Buuuuut.....I found that for my little 5 year olds trying out a new sport for the first time, a trophy or medal at the end of the season made their little hearts so dang happy.  And there was no way in hell that I'd ever tell them it didn't mean anything other than they showed up and played soccer for a full season.  Heck-they rocked it.  Tried something new.  Got over their fears.  Got hit in the face with a ball.  They totally needed that cheap little trophy at the end of the season.

But now I have a child who is actually competing in a sport.  Ellie is 9 and just finished her second gymnastics meet.  I find myself back at the "don't give my kid a medal just for showing up" place once again.  This is not a recreational gig, this is a competition.  We greatly focus in our home on just doing your best.  Whether you "win" or "lose", you do your best.  Beat you score from last time.  Nail something that you were unsteady on last time.  Cheer on your teammates, and smile even if you don't get called up for an award.
Competition #1- She did it! 
Ellie's first competition was met with medals for every place.  If there were 9 girls in a division, they placed each event up to the 9th place.  And so, Ellie received 5 medals, even though two of them were last or second to last place.  But this was her first competition, and we were so proud of her for going out and doing it (and heck-she had to compete against 13 year olds for some reason).  We never even mentioned to her that some of those medals were technically last place.

But she knew.  She even mentioned it to us after a few days.  And I wondered if her medals were worth slightly less in her mind now that she figured out that everyone got one no matter what. But of course I didn't ask her about it.

Competition #2
Competition number 2 was this weekend, and while the podium was a large one (up to 8th place), they did NOT give participation medals.  You either earned your way up there or you didn't.   And I was so relieved.  No parent wants their kid to miss out on earning a medal in a situation like this, but at the same time, I am the parent who doesn't want my kid to get one just for showing up.  When everyone gets a medal in a competition, it devalues the medals that were actually earned. The kids who receive the "last place" medals know that they just got last place.  I want my child to know that if she earns an award/medal/trophy that it has meaning and value.  I want my child to know that sometimes we try our hardest and still don't "win" anything.  And that's okay.  I want my child to find value in her accomplishments outside of just getting a medal, and to feel a sense of pride in her work, regardless of what anyone else might say.
4th place on bars

Ellie mentioned how these medals were cooler because she earned them.  She totally gets what's going on.

So don't give my kid that medal.  If she earns it, go for it.  But if it's for last place, please don't.  She'll be fine even if she doesn't get one.  Because in her words, "I'm proud of myself because I overcame my anxiety and fears about competing and I did it...even though I got last place in that event!"

Friday, January 6, 2017

My "Not New Years" Goals

I've never been much of a New Years Resolutions kinda person.  I have occasionally set a goal or two, but rarely have I kept up with them.  I think that far too often our goals are too big or too boring or too far outside our normal, current lifestyle, that we just can't keep up with them.

But those of you who know me personally know that I am a planner.  And I do love goals.  And Excel spreadsheets.  And notebooks.  And journals.  And Kanban goal flow boards.  And sticky notes.  And, and, and.....

I actually really enjoy setting goals, but I have found that to be successful with my goals, they need to be bite sized, and typical New Years Resolutions seem to just be big things, without the baby steps.  If I want to set a goal to workout 6 days a week, it usually has to start with setting a goal to regularly exercise two days a week, then to bump it up a day, and so on and so forth.  If I want to read aloud one new book each month to my children, I start with something like reading aloud for a few minutes twice a week.  Bite-sized baby steps to the rescue.

I think my hesitancy to set New Years goals lies in the premise that there is something magical about a certain day or month of the year for starting new things.  It communicates that goals are to be made in January, and not March or September.  It communicates that if we "fail" at our goal, it's probably not the right time to redo our goal and keep pushing...because it's not the new year.  It communicates that we should only specifically look to improve our lifestyle, health, habits, etc. one time a year.

We miss the mark sometimes (okay, a lot of times).  Our lofty goals may have been too big or not right for us and we fail.  And there is NOTHING wrong with failing; it's how we learn.  But if we keep our minds set to only create new goals and try new things once a year, we may let failure end at failure.  We may not do anything with our failure, or adjust our goals, or try again.

So no New Years' Resolutions for me.  Instead, I'll let you know the goals that I'm currently working on, as well as the goals I'm setting for myself in the near future.

Here are a few of my current goals:

*Work out 5 times per week.  I'm crushing this because I found something I love that motivates me to get up and go (see my previous post).  Not only do I go five times a week, but a couple of those days I go to both an afternoon and evening class.  A mini goal within this is to attend 1 Brazillian Jiu Jitsu class each week (this is newer to me, and not my favorite compared to the Mixed Martial Arts, but still fun and I can learn some great skills here). Considering how six months ago I *maybe* worked out twice per week, and I now work out 5-6 days a week, I have had some awesome success with this goal.  I attribute success with this goal to 1) finding something I love and look forward to doing, and 2) great trainers and friends to train with.  It's made this goal one in which I don't even have to "try" to accomplish anymore.

*Meal Plan more effectively.  Those of you who have followed my blog for a long time would be shocked to find out how poorly I've been doing at meal planning lately.  It's especially awful since we are often out late at various martial arts classes or gymnastics classes and then come home to no food.  So....I am currently working at being just a little bit better at meal planning.  One of these mini goals is to keep things like cooked rice, chopped lettuce, and other quick-meal type stuff my family likes in the fridge.  But really, my crock pot misses me.  And I miss it.  So back to meal planning we go!

*Read two books aloud to the kids each month.  Okay, so this one took some major baby stepping.  Also, I had to have grace for the times when my kids just really weren't interested in the book at hand.  Last month we read Peter Pan and The Little House in the Big Woods, and we are currently almost done with The Three Musketeers.  For some odd reason, I have found that I feel especially "accomplished" with our homeschool day if I've spent time reading aloud to the kids.  Not sure why.  You'd think that finishing Math and English would leave me feeling accomplished, but nope-it's reading aloud.  And so, that's why this goal is an important one to me.  It's good for the kids but also gives me as a homeschooling mom a sense of accomplishment that I so desperately need sometimes.

*Read more personal enrichments books.  Notice how I don't have a set number for this...it's because I've been there, done that, and it never works.  So now I just keep on my mind that it's something I value and want to regularly do.  I am currently reading through both Rich Dad, Poor Dad and The Millionaire Next Door, both of which I find incredibly eye-opening and interesting.  Following these books, I'd like to read Wired to Eat by my new friend Robb Wolf, who is a health expert and author of the New York Times Bestselling book, The Paleo Solution. Also, he is super awesome and is super nice when he kicks my butt at jiu jitsu. We don't eat Paleo in our home, but I'm becoming more aware of food and its affect on my body, and am really wanting to learn more.

So, there they are...a few of my current, "not New Years" goals.  They aren't resolutions, and they don't start or end on a certain day. They are things that I believe will enrich and enhance my life.  No New Years Resolutions for me!  And I'm perfectly happy and fine with that.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

I'm a Homeschooling Mom, and I'm Choosing to be Selfish

I've been a homeschooling mom for four years now, and I'm pretty convinced that people believe that makes me selfless and amazing and all-consumed with my children all at once.  And I won't lie, I'm the first person to tell another homeschool momma that she totally rocks, because frankly, being around your kids all day every day CAN lead to some rough days and it takes a lot of patience.  AND, it's true that there is a lot of selflessness in homeschooling-giving up any free time you might have had while the kids are at school in favor of schooling them yourself and having your little ducklings tagging along everywhere you go.  It has its hard days.  But the good days far outweigh them.

I have four children.  I've spent 36 months worth of carrying and growing humans inside of my body.  I've spent an additional 62 months nourishing and nursing and keeping small humans alive through the use of my body (check it-that's 8.2 YEARS of humans relying on me to keep them alive and my body not being my own).  Having a baby is an incredibly selfless act.  It's hard.  You have no space.  You get "touched out" from having little people all over you all day. But it's also rewarding and such a blessing.

A few months ago, I decided that with children no longer growing inside of me, being nourished by me, or even needing diapers changed by me, that I was going to be selfish.  I was going to do something for ME.  I was going to invest in them by investing in myself first.  That I was going to give them happier mom by feeding MY soul, and not just focusing on theirs.  I fell in love with a mixed martial arts program, and I also do fitness classes at the same place, and Brazillian Jiu Jitsu classes once or twice a week, too.  I actually do a lot of classes each week now...all with my kids in tow.  They are often there for 2 hours a day with me and another hour for their classes. They generally hang out on the bleachers next to the mats, and depending on the time of day, they'll do their independent school work, a craft that I packed for them to do, eat their lunch, or watch a show/play games on an iPad. The big girls help with Levi (3), and they really do an amazing job all hanging out together.

My friend Erin and I at our belt test! NEVER thought I'd be doing this as an adult! 
But you know what?  I felt guilty at first.  I felt like I was taking away their time (probably because the past few years have seemingly been all about them anyway).  I felt like even an hour a day was far too much time for me to give to myself and let my kids be "bored" or watch a show.  But the more I stuck to it, the more I discovered how much better of a mom I was to them.  I was happier, healthier, and had new goals for myself to achieve.  And the funny thing about this is that my five year old suddenly had a strong boost in his work ethic at martial arts.   Suddenly he wanted to get to karate early.  He had a million questions about how he can do things better.  My dedication to my health had a direct impact on my child.  It wasn't like at the "boring" gym where I'd drop them off at the childcare, do my work out in peace, and then pick them up.  Here, they actually see me work hard.  And it's making a difference in their perception of work ethic and who their mom really is as a person.

Belt Test #1: Me, Coach Darien (this guy's amazing), and my inspired little 5 year old ninja

It's not always easy.  There are days that they are difficult or make poor decisions, and there are always times when I need to jump out of my class to take my 3 year old to the bathroom.  I have to be flexible to help them, correct their behavior, or be there if they need me.  But for the most part, they enjoy hanging out together and having their own "down time" to just chill and watch a show or get ahead on the day's school work.  They enjoy sitting with other friends and talking or playing games.  Not having me to entertain them has been really good for them.

So, yes, I'm being selfish.
No, I won't stop anytime soon.
Yes, my children are well loved and cared for.
No, our family life doesn't need to revolve solely around them.

My kids' health is important...so is mine.  I'm happy to show my kids that I care about my health in the same way that I encourage them to care about their own health.  I'm leading by example.

Belt Test #1: I'm still a baby in this world, but I'm a baby with an orange belt...so there's that.
So for any other moms feeling guilty about taking time for YOU to feed YOUR own soul, (in whatever way that may look)...go for it.  Figure out something that you love and refreshes you, and DO IT.  Your kids will learn valuable lessons, and you will likely be a happier momma when you are caring for yourself as a priority instead of an afterthought.  Homeschooling moms-your whole day doesn't have to be about the children.  Real life is never only about ourselves anyway.  Teach them to value caring for themselves and encouraging others to do the same.  It's so worth it.

Side Note: My husband has always been good at this.  And I secretly was always bothered at him for being so "selfish" since I didn't prioritize myself like he did.  Now, I get it.  I totally get it.  And I'm so glad for his sake that he figured it out long ago.  Dad's need time for themselves, too.  I should've followed his lead sooner!


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