Wednesday, August 29, 2012

NOT Back To School, A Preview Of Our Year To Come

Hi Friends. :) Most of you know that we are homeschooling. Last year, we loosely followed Wee Folk Art's Preschool/Kindergarten Companion Guide. We really enjoyed all the books, recipes and crafts. I highly recommend it if you have a child between the ages 3-5 and are looking for a gentle, loosely Waldorf inspired curriculum to follow. I recommend checking out the books (or a similar book) from the library instead of buying all of them. Two books a week, all year long adds up!! I was able to find many used through amazon and a few through a lovely friend of mine ready to pass them down. 

We experimented with strictly following the guide as well as trying out a unschooling approach to our life. Sugar Bear and I enjoy unschooling, while right now Rainbow Girl wants to "do school". 

After much research, we have decided to use the Oak Meadow First Grade curriculum this year for Rainbow Girl. Although I do not agree with all aspects of the Waldorf philosophy, I understand them. That is another plus major of homeschooling. You can take what works for yourself and your child and leave everything else. 

Over the summer, I have been working hard to simplify our lives after reading Simplicity Parenting. The book told me many things I already knew, but went in depth in some areas I needed to hear. Simply put, in order to reduce the craziness and stress in our lives, the "muchness" of our lives needed to be reduced. "To much, To fast, Too soon" is repeated many times. My children are very loved individuals and to add to that, I like to keep everything. Those two things combined makes for tons of "muchness". Payne has excellent ideas on how to eliminate all of the stuff. Throwing away all broken things and only keeping very well made toys or toys made of natural materials were very helpful to me.  He goes into narrowing down toys, books, clothes, everything! It is a very inspirational book. 

I went from having a large toy organizer in my living room  to having a bin of wooden blocks that I made and a small basket of a handful of treasured toys. The kids are much more calm with less choices and actually play with the toys with limited arguing. I have tried to integrate this into all of the rooms in the house. 

The school room went under the largest transformation. We had hundreds of toys arranged wonderfully on these fantastic shelves that I had made in the room's closet. I also had many, many textbooks on the upper shelves. I always thought if it fits, it can be in the closet. I had ten, large shoe box sized bins full or organized toys in the closet, as well as three or four large toys on the lower shelves. I eliminated all but a couple plastic toys. We now have a wooden bowl full of wooden turnings, a few wooden stackers, a wooden tow truck with cars, a few empty baskets for sorting, beanbags I made, basket of dress up things, a wire toy, box of alphabet blocks, farm, and a box of musical instruments. It still may be too much, but for the time being, it is working well. I also moved all the books that we aren't currently using this year to my teacher's closet in the arcade room. You'd think a child would react badly to the majority of their toys disappearing, but my kids reacted very, very well. "Mama! My shelves are so clean!"

Before simplification.


Once I get to my dream point of simplification, I'll post more pictures on that topic. :)

We decided that this year, we needed a chalkboard. We have been making due with a small dry erase board in the kitchen for our daily plans, but a large chalkboard was needed. I researched and scoured ebay and craigslist. Large chalkboards are pricey!! We decided that the best option for us would be to paint a wall of the school room with chalkboard paint. 

I first patched the holes in the wall and then sanded the entire wall to a smooth finish. Then I primed the wall with grey primer. After spilling primer on the carpet crushed my spirit, my wonderful dad (expert at everything, and paintbrush whisperer) came over to help me paint the chalkboard paint. 

Although the paint dries to the touch in under an hour, it needs to sit for three days before use. After the three days, you prime the wall by chalking the entire surface, and then erasing it. The wee ones were very helpful in completing this job!

Dry chalkboard surface.

Beginning to chalk the surface.

Chalking, chalking, chalking.


Drawing our house and slide.

Unassisted ABC's.

Oh! It's raining outside! Puddle time!

Crazy adorable kids the next day on the way to the park.
We have also begun to maintain a nature table. Here is the beginnings of our first (end of) Summer Nature table. There is a basket of freshly collected acorns. a wooden flower, painted clay birds in a nest, leaves glued on paper, a wooden goose, a painted rainbow and our candle holders.

Our nature table.

Light table boxes under the water table.

I plan to write a weekly blog on our homeschooling adventure this year, if only for our records. We start Monday!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Potty Training

Many folks have asked me my "method" for potty training. How did I get my 20 month old son to start using the potty? What is my magical, wondrous method you say? Its ridiculously simple.

Give up diapers. Completely. 

That it. That's my magical method.

Put the child in underwear. Having pants on too helps. Always have a wee portable potty in whatever room in the house you are in. Suggest trips to the big potty. Always bring the child with you when you go potty and suggest they go as well. Always bring wee potty in a bag on outings if child prefers to peepee on it. For the first few days, possibly weeks, there will likely be accidents here and there. Always bring a couple pairs of extra clothes on all outings.

Give up diapers completely? Even in bed? Yes. If you continue to put the wee one in diapers, they will tend to save all their output for those times. "Oh boy! It's naptime! I'll get a diaper and I can finally poop!" Have a waterproof liner and or disposable blue pads on the bed. Many folks put down a waterproof liner, fitted sheet, another waterproof liner and another fitted sheet for quick changes in case of an accident- just strip the top layer off.

In response to accidents, do NOT demean or berate the child. They will likely already be embarrassed. Respond by gently reminding the child that "We go peepee/poopoo on the potty" while bringing the child to the potty. Suggest that they sit even if they don't have anything left- but do not force them to sit.  Sugar Bear quite liked helping clean up after an accident.

My Personal Experience
Rainbow Girl always liked to sit on the potty, but never really did anything on it. I would replace her diaper, and regularly, she would then peepee. It was frustrating, but I didn't want to clean up peepee off the floor- so diapers it was. Once I decided to give up diapers (It was in my life before cloth and I had run out!), we never looked back! She was two and a half. I put her directly in big girl panties, she had one accident- did NOT like how it felt having wet pants, and has never had another accident.

Sugar Bear was a different story. I was cleaning out Rainbow Girl's closet one day and took out her little, pink, Baby Bjorn potty. Sugar Bear spotted it, took off his diaper, sat on it, and went peepee. Wow. That's what I call potty readiness. We never put on another diaper.

The first couple days, I let him run around bottomless. He had two very tiny accidents per day- usually on the way to his potty, or while very distracted. Then I put him in underwear and pants. He had much fewer accidents clothed. It's uncomfortable to have wet pants! On the third day, we had a trip to Target. We went peepee when we got there, and went again before we left. No accidents!

On the fourth day, he pooped on my parents rug. Hey, accidents happen.

He has had a few night time accidents here and there, but since getting through that first few days, he has very much enjoyed being a big boy and using the potty.

This method will not work for everyone. I am not, by any means, a potty training expert. Just sharing my experience. Several folks I have shared with have had success. A big factor in potty training success is potty readiness. If baby is not ready, they're just not ready!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Doll Ring Sling

Rainbow Girl absolutely adores her Waldorf doll, Mary. She has taken her practically everywhere since  Mary's "Birthday". Very soon after receiving her sweet doll, she said to me, "Mommy, I need a ring sling to carry Mary so that I can take her everywhere to see the world!" How could I deny that request!?

We have quite a stash of fabric at home, but none that really looked good on both sides of the fabric- a must for a ring sling. We went to the fabric store together and Rainbow Girl picked out a blue fabric that we decided we could use for both her sing sling as well as one for Sugar Bear. Then we went to my personal favorite section of the store- the remnant pile. <3 That is where I found this beautiful Swiss dot with embroidered flowers fabric. $3 for 1.25 yards. Score. Later, Rainbow Girl decided on this fabric to use for her sling.

I ordered my rings from Sling Rings. These rings are size small pink rings with an inner diameter 2" and an outer diameter 2.5". I also ordered Sugar Bear some black rings for his sling.

My fabric was roughly 4ft long (1.25 yards) by 60" wide. I began by cutting it in half length wise, so I had two lengths of 1.25 yards by 30".
My next step was to fold over and iron down (or don't iron if you're too cool for that) all the raw edges.

Then sew over all the raw edges.

Using one of the short ends, make an accordion with the fabric. I made mine about 3.5 inches wide. making it much smaller would make it difficult to sew over and bulky to wear.

Thread the accordion through your two rings and spread out the front of the sling slightly before sewing it down. I did a straight stitch as well as two passes of zig zag stitches. Possibly overkill, but no dollies will be harmed in this sling due to the negligence of it's fabricator.
I am not super pleased with the spread of the pleats, and I wish I curved the stitching slightly.

I woke up Rainbow Girl from her slumber to try it on. Can you tell that she is pleased?

Happy doll mama.

She was SO very pleased to be able to wear her baby the next day at the Big Latch On at The Capitol in Richmond. She even asked if I would please wear my baby in our ring sling so that we could match. Of course my dear.