Memories to remember

Some sweet and funny comments from my precious kids (Prince age 6/7, Princess age 4).  Enjoy!

Prince, after I kissed him goodnight, “You know, Mommy, girls are quite in style to me now.”

Princess, while watching me weigh myself: “Can I see how much MY feet cost?”

Prince: You know, Mommy, I don’t even know who I’m going to marry, yet!
Me: No, but God does. You should make sure you choose someone who loves God and will be a good mommy for your children.
Prince: Yep. I think I will go to town to choose my wife. I will ask everyone in town, ‘Do you love God?’ and if one says yes – I’ll choose her!

The beginning of Prince’s prayer on Friday morning at breakfast: “Dear God, thank you for this lovely day. Thank you that we are not having vegetables for this meal…”  (Oops!  I guess my vegetable passion hasn’t been passed on yet…)

Princess looked down at her feet while running in the park, and exclaimed, “My feet are going faster than I expected!”

Love these sweet and funny kiddos!

Love these sweet and funny kiddos!

Prince, learning about capital cities: “Which ones are the lower-case cities?”

Princess, on family night, picked up a chip from her bowl and exclaimed, “This chip is as flat as a pig!”

Walking home from swimming, the kids & I played ‘I Spy’. It was Prince’s turn:
Prince: …something beginning with ‘M’.
Mommy & Princess make some wrong guesses.
Prince: I’ll give you a clue – look all around you.
Mommy & Princess give up.
Prince: Molecules!

I asked Princess to give me a long kiss on my cheek (so that Daddy could catch it on camera). She looked at me sadly and replied, “I can’t, Mommy. Because one time when you and Daddy did a long kiss you said I couldn’t do that.”

Princess, praying before bed one night: I pray, Father Lord, that you will help me to love other people in a way to show them that I love them more than just princessey things.

Princess, writing a card at the table, spies Prince sleuthing in the hallway with a Nerf gun, and calmly comments: “Prince, I know your excellent plan is to shoot me.”

Prince, putting his arms around my neck and pulling me close:  Mommy – you’re my favourite of the physical things.

Princess came after a long and quiet period outside…
Princess:  I’ve been trying to rescue a snail from a spiders web.
Prince:  Princess, that’s very sweet.  But you should just leave it – that’s nature!  Just let nature do it’s thing.  You shouldn’t change nature.

Princess:  Who flushed that toilet?!
Prince: Me!
Princess:  Oh – I thought it was an invisible person.
Prince: There are no invisible people!
Princess: Except for the people who are…
Prince: Yes – like pick-pockets.

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Vege-table

Here’s a tidbit of info about me: I love vegetables! And I love it when my dinner table is a vege-table.

Princess helping prepare our favourite fish salad.

Princess helping prepare our favourite fish salad.

Being a homemaker, I delight in cooking tasty, healthy food for my family, especially when I can do this on a budget. Vegetables are great in summer and winter, and I enjoy soups and salads all year round. Everyone knows they’re full of vitamins and minerals, but it’s not always easy to find yummy, easy recipes to incorporate them into your diet. So – here are two of my FAVOURITE vegetable recipes, which can be easily added to your repertoire of delicious vegetable meals.

I hope you enjoy using them to turn your table into a vege-table too 🙂

~

Super Quick and Easy Tomato Soup

INGREDIENTS:
1 Onion
6-8 Cloves of garlic
4 tins chopped tomatoes
Handful fresh rosemary (or about 2 tbsp dried)
Salt & pepper to taste

METHOD:
Chop onion and garlic. Fry onions in a large pot. Add salt, pepper and chopped tomatoes, bring to boil and let it simmer for about 10-15 mins. Turn off heat. Wash and finely chop rosemary. Add garlic and rosemary to pot. Blend with a hand blender. Serve and enjoy!

~

My Granny’s Best Fish Salad

INGREDIENTS:
Large tin salmon or other fish
Canned beans (optional)
1 small onion (red is sweeter, though I personally prefer white)
3-4 small/medium potatoes
Various salad vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, sprouts, cucumber, apple, etc.)
Mayonnaise and natural yoghurt
Vinegar (red wine is my favourite)
Olive oil
Piri-piri sauce or shake (optional for extra heat!)
Salt & pepper to taste

METHOD:
Chop potatoes into large bite-size chunks and boil (or cook whole and chop afterwards). Meanwhile, dice or slice the onion and put into a large salad bowl. Sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and add two or three tablespoons of vinegar. Next, chop and add your vegetables except tomatoes (and tinned beans, if using) to the bowl. Add the tinned fish, drained, and about 1/4 to 1/2 cup (in total) of mayonnaise and yoghurt, (also add your piri-piri if using). Mix this all together. Now add the potatoes and tomatoes, sprinkle again with salt, and with pepper, and pour over about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Mix again. Lastly, cut up leafy vegetables (fresh spinach and rocket is a favourite here) and add to the bowl. Don’t mix them in until ready to serve, then toss and serve.

The window to your heart

“And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. And the tongue is a fire.”
James 3:4-6

Words. Many lessons have been written on the power of words. The tongue has been called the strongest muscle in the body, and the Bible speaks of its power in the book of James, likening it to a rudder which can steer the whole course of a ship, or a fire which can cause devastation.

wordsAs a homeschooling Mama my kids hear a lot of my words! We talk about everything from history, to meals, to Lego, to toilet habits… I’ll stop there 😉  Being with my kids more than your average UK parent has made me think carefully about how I speak to them. I have noticed that it is easy to slip into the ‘I’m busy but I’ll nod and say “uh-huh” even though I have no idea what you said’ mode of conversation.  There are plenty of comic strips and Facebook images which joke about this. It seems to be a universal Mom thing. But it’s not funny. Now I know that you and I are busy people. But what do our conversations tell our children about our hearts… and their value?

When we speak to our children, we are showing them a little of our heart. Our words are a window. Not just our words, in fact, but our tone of voice, eye-contact, expression, and all those other non-verbal communication attributes. If I am staring at my computer and say the glazed “uh-huh” when Prince comes to tell me about how the latest GUP is the coolest thing, what are my words and actions telling him?Here’s a list off the top of my head:

  • I am selfish
  • I value other interests above him
  • I have no self-control
  • His effort is unimportant
  • He is not interesting to me
  • He is not high on my priority list
  • Computers are a god
  • It’s okay to ignore people

These are pretty shocking messages. Even more scary is the fact that even if I was doing something REALLY important, he is still getting these messages. As I see it, if I don’t want him to get these messages I have two options: 1) Put him first whenever possible: Stop, look at him, smile, appreciate, ask more questions (rather than hoping he hurries up and finishes talking), hug him, praise him. OR 2) if what I am doing is pressing and important: Stop, look at him, explain “I’d love to hear what you’re saying, but I’m just in the middle of something urgent. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can, and you can tell me all about it, OK?” Now he knows that he is valued highly, but sometimes other issues need to take priority for a time. (Side note: we should balance this advice with make sure our children learn the importance of not interrupting, that they are not the only thing in the world which matters, etc. But in my experience this is a far less common problem, and what most of us really need to work on is giving the message of love and value.)

The busy mom syndrome is just one example of the way we talk to our children, but here are some other messages that our words & non-verbal signals may be telling our children:

  • I don’t like you
  • I’m impatient
  • I value obedience more than a right heart
  • I am inconsistent
  • You are stupid
  • You are insignificant
  • You should be perfect
  • My desires are more important that yours
  • You don’t deserve love
  • Anger can be expressed without love
  • What you do is not important
  • It’s okay to be rude
  • Self should be valued above others
I want to be my kids' best friend!

I want to be my kids’ best friend!

Again, a shocking list. And again, it’s even more scary when you stop to think that it’s not just the ‘bad’ parents out there giving these kind of messages. It’s us. We need to stop and take a good look at what we say and how we say it when we talk to anyone – but especially our children. We must not assume “they know that I love them”, but rather SHOW this in the way we talk. We must let our kids know that we respect, like, love, and appreciate them. How many kids would choose to be friends with someone who preferred the company of Facebook over them, who lost their temper with them on a daily basis, who expected them to be perfect and never thanked them for a job well done? I sure want to be my children’s best friend. And one step to this I believe is learning to speak to them in love all day long, as a friend, mentor and mother.

Our words are a window into our hearts that our children look through each day. Sometimes this window may not reflect accurately what is inside, but it is still what our children see. And sometimes this window is more accurate than we like to admit.

Behind the Scenes

Seven is a really big number.

Seven is a really big number.

I’ve recently started a new schooling system. With the advent of my Prince turning SEVEN (shock, disbelief) I have felt the need to take my relaxed, interest-led, natural learning method a notch up the formality rating. Whilst I still absolutely believe in the benefits and necessity of keeping learning fun, relaxed and relevant, I also have found that some days my kids need a little prompting. With their limited world view there are some things they don’t learn about, simply because they don’t know about it. This is where I come in! I see my role as ‘Chief Instigator and Inspirator‘. (Yes, I know that’s not a word.  But it should be.)

When I let my children learn naturally, I am usually surprised at how much of what they do would be classified as ‘official schooling’ if I had instigated and formalised the learning which happens. For example, yesterday Prince saw a French book lying around so he picked it up and began reading. Sitting next to him, I peered over his shoulder and pointed out that if he read the helpful translation lists at the top and bottom of the pages he would then be able to understand the cartoon strips. With a little help he then read two pages of French conversation, practicing pronunciation and extending his vocabulary! This is my ideal:  unprompted interaction between kids/parents/tools produces effective learning.

But natural learning is not what this post is about.  Why?

Whilst I see first-hand the benefits of learning as opportunity and desire present themselves, I have also seen that there are some things I’d like my children to know which don’t come up in our everyday life very often. Also, there are some days when I feel we have done very little learning of any kind, and although I am comfortable with this every now and then, I desire to foster a habit of industrious activity rather than laziness. SO! Here is my new and improved ‘Natural Learning with a Structured Twist’: It’s very simple really. I started by drawing up a Monday – Friday timetable. Under each day I put in topics that I think are important to make sure we hit from time to time. Over a few weeks I tweaked this until I ended up with this:

My super-secret, under-cover Spring '13 timetable!

My super-secret, under-cover Spring ’13 timetable!

Now, I know how formal this looks. But looks can be deceiving. The key to keeping this natural is this: KEEP IT SECRET! I don’t let my kids know that behind the scenes of our seeming unstructured day is a chart which prompts Mommy to casually say, “Hey guys!  Let’s play ‘Flags of the Word’ together!’ on Tuesday. Or that when I start playing a French computer program on Wednesday, and they just happen to be sitting close by, I am actually taking advantage of their inability to stay away from electronic media, and capitalising on the attention I know they immediately pay to All Things Computerised.  As they listen and – usually – come and join in with me, they are absorbing new words, better accents and French sentence structures without any idea that they are ‘being schooled’. When I write maths problems on our activity board for ‘fun’, this is exactly what they think it is – little do they know that it is actually Friday’s ‘Basic Skills’. In reality, this is not a timetable for the kids – it’s for me.  I am kept accountable through the structure, then implement it through life in as natural a way a possible.

Another key to the natural flow of this new system is flexibility.  One of the joys of home education is it’s flexible nature, and I never want to lose this.  If we don’t get to History on Monday – never mind.  We’ll pick it up on Tuesday… or next week.. or we’ll do double another time… or we’ll forget about it.  Since we don’t break the year up into terms and holidays, but rather school throughout the year (and indeed, the days and weeks), there is no pressure to make sure we cover every thing, every day.  If we miss something, I can always put it down to an inset day 🙂

Reading is Princess's newest learning passion!

Reading is Princess’s newest learning passion!

Lastly, I hold to my belief that children learn best when they are self-motivated and interested. If a child is showing a new passion for music, then take time to indulge that for a while, even if it means cutting back on writing. If, as happened to us, a recent trip to France sparked an enthusiasm for French, then this is a great time to become immersed in French books, programs and conversation. If science needs to take a back seat for a while, so be it. You can always come back to those subjects you left behind, but you can’t always recapture the spark of excitement which lives in your child temporarily.  Don’t miss it – nurture it!

I know that formality, structure, and curriculums are the favourite choice of many home-educating families. But if you’re looking for something a little more natural, then maybe you want to create your own Behind the Scenes timetable.  And maybe you have some other great ideas for keeping the balance between structure and freedom?  Please share them with us all 🙂

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