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‘Children’ Category

  1. Dinner Will Be Late

    November 4, 2012 by 25hoursadaymom

    A few months ago, I mentioned Exhibit A – a person in my life who thinks the children should not do work in the home. Unsurprisingly, there are other philosophical differences between myself and Exhibit A, a fact that was recently brought to my attention when E.A. harassed me…err…I mean, mentioned to me that I should have dinner ready for Miss Magnificent at 5:30, presumably moments after she gets home from soccer practice.  Well, now, for starters, this is logistically impossible. I am her ride home from soccer practice, which means that it would be rather difficult to stir-fry chicken while I’m on Marriottsville Road. Besides that, I’m at college two nights a week at that time.  If those two reasons are not enough, I also have two other children and one other parent who are leaving for soccer just as Miss Magnificent is arriving home.

    One rarity that I have gone to great lengths to preserve in my family is a family dinner.  Yep, that’s right. Five people sitting at a table in the actual Dining Room, eating off of ceramic plates and not drinking Coke. Also talking, laughing and being nourished, body and soul. We eat family dinners together the great majority of  the time – a practice I fiercely protect. But, let’s face it – this is hard to do with modern schedules.  I can appreciate the fact that there are some family structures where it is literally impossible more often than not.  However, for many, it’s more a matter of not considering it important and therefore, willingly relinquishing the quaint family meal.

    Since I do consider it important, though hard, this means dinner will be late.  Some nights, by most people’s standards, we eat absurdly late. 8:00. Nine, even. On the weekends, when our evenings are unencumbered by sports and activities, I still have not the slightest desire to get dinner going before perhaps 7:00.  I don’t like having to get busy cooking early, only to have this dead spot of inactivity between dinner and bed-time routines. Besides all that, if I eat so early, I just get the munchies by 9:00 and ruin my diet.

    So – that’s how I do it.  I honestly have no idea how families can eat at 5:00 or 5:30 if they do have kids in any activities or how this works with work obligations. I guess this is why so many eat fast food or non-meal foods, and why the notion of the family meal seems so antiquated nowadays.

    My friend, E.A. never did relinquish her view that I am simply wrong and dinner “must” be served well before 6:00.  I’m not really a fighter (well, I just passive-agressively prove her wrong on my blog), so I didn’t go far to convince her that my way is perfectly fine, but…it is. I’ve heard that most Europeans think Americans eat dinner absurdly early, so maybe I’m just having a flare-up of my European ancestry. I will not let my precious family dinners die out without a good, hard fight, so I’m doing it come hell or by crockpot, even if that means the kids can have Nutrigrain bars at 5:00 to tide them over until the pork chops can be ready.

     

    -Danielle


  2. Homeschooling: Fantasy vs. Reality

    August 7, 2012 by 25hoursadaymom

    I have the good fortune of having a “bonus” room in my house, which I currently use for our homeschooling “schoolroom.” (Though you need to lose any idea that we pledge the flag at the back of the room and line up to use the water fountain.) This time of year, I am getting my new curriculum for the upcoming year and organizing it and cleaning up the schoolroom.  In my fantasy, it looks pretty much like this:

    Homeschool Room Fantasy Homeschool Room FantasyHomeschool Room Fantasy

    It does look like that today, but I bloody well know how reality goes. Want to see what it looked like before I started cleaning and organizing it for this fall?

    Homeschool Reality Homeschool RealityHomeschool Reality

    I’d like to say I staged some of the messy room photos, but I didn’t; it really was just like that when I took the pictures. The reality of homeschooling is that rooms don’t stay terribly neat when there are kids using them several hours a day. (Several hours a day is another point I’m going to get to in a minute.)

    For practical advice, I’ll tell you a little bit about what makes the difference in these pictures. What did I do to make the messy room turn into the fantasy room?

    1. I gave away or sold some of the books and materials that were sitting unused and cluttering up the place.

    2. I set up new binders for the coming year. I placed any summer work they’ve done in the binders.

    3. I put all the new curriculum for this year into their desk drawers or on the bookcases.

    4. I put away anything that was sitting out in the middle of nowhere, like the vacuum cleaner and a dress in a bag. I folded up the craft table and put away all the crafters stuff.  I threw away some old projects, like a large poster board display of Ancient Rome. I had my husband chuck the broken drawer that goes to the crappy toy cabinet. (I would not be sad to burn the whole cabinet, but I’m settling for throwing away the one broken drawer for the time being.)

    5. I took down all the piles of stuff sitting on top of the bookcases and cabinets. I now only have NOEO science boxes on top of one cabinet.

    6. I vacuumed and dusted. In a perfect world, I would buy and hang curtains that would go on the door at the far end. Currently there is a white sheet hanging on them, by thumbtacks. Redneck design ideas for the do-it-yourselfer. I hung the sheet because there are two hamster cages sitting there and I did not want them to fry from the afternoon sun. So I rigged it up. I recognize this is not going to make it into Better Homes and Garden magazine.

    Okay. So – the room you homeschool in can look better, but it’s probably not going to look spotless all the time. If you require that, homeschooling is not your friend. While I’m on a roll, let me just dispatch a few more homeschooling rumors you might have heard. Newbie homeschoolers almost always think these are true. I did.

    1. Homeschooling is so fast and easy, you’ll be done in two hours a day.

    This is a complete myth, except for perhaps Kindergarten and First Grade with one child. Or perhaps if you have one teenaged homeschooler who works well independently. Or if your main aspirations are that your girls learn to sew and make a good meal, which I hope is not the case, but I’ve heard of it, so I’m allowing for the possibility.

    If you have high standards on what you want your kids to learn and you plan to do it through active teaching (i.e., not unschooling), expect to spend several hours a day working directly with your kids. Part of this will depend how well your children work independently, but even if they do, you can’t just hand them a DVD and consider your part done.

    2. The children will be geniuses, simply because they are homeschooled. (AKA: All homeschooled kids are better off than any schooled kid, by virtue of merely being homeschooled.) 

    This is not true, either, and it partly goes with the “work two hours” myth. There are plenty of homeschooled children who are stone cold average and *gasp* some who are below average. Sometimes, there are organic reasons why the children struggle.  Sometimes, the reason is the parents have not taught them. Some parents don’t teach them on purpose, feeling it is better for the children to learn “naturally.” Whatev. I don’t concur. High standards are one reason I homeschool in the first place. If I can’t be bothered, they are better off in school.

    I do think that higher-IQ parents are more likely to homeschool than lower-IQ parents and they are more likely to have bright children genetically. So, that is one factor that explains the brainy homeschooler image. Also, someone who is sacrificing a lot to teach the kids at home usually values academic excellence. This also explains the preponderance of bright homeschooled children. BUT – they are not going to be super-bright simply because they are learning at home instead of school. Sorry. You don’t get something from nothing.

    3. Homeschooled children are always good friends with their siblings.

    Okay, this is not a total myth. I do think being home together, rather than separated in different school classes all day gives kids more opportunity to be close to their siblings. BUT – just like the bright kids thing, this is not an automatically guaranteed outcome. Some children just clash with their siblings. Some parents don’t manage the children well and it surfaces in sibling tension. The bottom line is, it will be work just like any other positive outcome you hope to have.

    So there you go. Three fantasies many new homeschoolers think are true that veteran homeschoolers think are laughable. Four, if you count the fantasy schoolroom. Don’t get me wrong – I love homeschooling and I think it’s a great way of life. But go in with your eyes open. Sooner or later, reality comes to roost.

     

    -Danielle


  3. Train the Kids to Be Self-Sufficient

    May 28, 2012 by 25hoursadaymom

     

    There are two schools of thought regarding how much help to expect from your kids around the home front. There is somebody in my life, Exhibit A, who believes the children have their “work”: Do well in school and their extracurriculars. Exhibit A believes that the parents’ jobs are to provide the environment necessary for the children to eat and remain in clean surroundings, while also bringing in the literal and figurative bacon to sustain the operation. The children are freed from the burden of maintaining household cleanliness as well as from creating food for themselves or the family, so they can focus all their efforts and energy on their own “work” of getting a 4.0 at school and doing well on swim team.

    Then there is the other school of thought, where the parents believe that all members of the family contribute according to their ability to keep the household in order, secure food and prepare it, bring in an income if possible and still do their best in whatever their occupational “work” happens to be – school, employment, infant care, homeschooling, college or other.

    I subscribe to the later. I guess that makes me Exhibit B. There are 3 main reasons why I believe children must do some of the work around the home:

    1) It trains them to be self-sufficient

    2) It trains them to consider the needs of others

    3) More skills are always preferable to fewer skills

    First, it trains them to be self-sufficient. It is never far from my mind that I’m not just raising a bunch of babies, I’m growing the future adults of the world. I think any typical 13-year-old should be able to competently make a complete meal from scratch and with a fair amount of complexity.  But I don’t expect them to wake up the day they turn 13 and be magically able to do so.  They learn first, when they are 11 and 12 (or younger) how to make cookies, how to make a salad, how to prepare vegetables, how to assemble a sandwich.  By the time they’re 12, they are on their way to being able to make an easier meal – say, spaghetti dinner – with little help and advising. I keep helping them until they can comfortably make a main meal with a couple of sides with little more than a cursory glance from me from time to time, or a suggestion from the wings on how to chop more efficiently, or how much olive oil to use, say.

    I don’t want my kids to enter adulthood with no idea how to put together a meal or make a thing in the world that doesn’t pour out of a can or come in a microwavable tray. By the same token, I want them to have good skills for cleaning up the same kitchen efficiently and well. (Although the “treat” in my house is that if you make the meal, you are excused from clean-up duties.)

    Second, it trains them to consider the needs of others. In my opinion, Exhibit A is training the kids to grow up thinking that their work is all that matters, that what keeps them busy excuses them from extending a helping hand to a spouse or a roommate who might be doing quite a lot to keep the household running. Now, I will grant you, it’s entirely possible that kids growing up with Exhibit A’s school of thought will still manage to get a clue as adults and will in fact, not turn into self-centered loafs. Human behavior is never simple. They might marry straight-shooter spouses who will tell them to get their two good legs in the kitchen and help clean up. Or maybe they’ll find God or Buddha or a Cosmic Being who reinvents their mind and makes them want to help out because they’re just so full of loving philanthropism. One never knows. But – generally speaking, you are training them when they’re little in what to expect when they’re big. If the message they hear for 18 years is, “Gee, Johnny, your Algebra and European History and All Star game is so much more important than anything I’m doing to put clean clothes on your back and provide edible meals for you every day that I’ll just manage all the grunt work of life so your way will be clear to do spectacular things,” how are they likely to think when they’re grown? As Stephen Covey says, Begin with the End in Mind.

    Third, aren’t more skills better than fewer skills? I mean, wouldn’t you prefer to be confidently able to clean a bathroom, whip up some French Toast, and mop the kitchen quickly and well, rather than sitting helplessly by, hoping you can stretch your meager budget to cover pizza and a cleaning lady because you’re inept? Hey, in a perfect scenario, sure, I’d probably like to be so wealthy that cooking and cleaning are completely moot. I’d have a personal chef who makes me awesome dairy-free, healthy dinners at a moment’s notice, and a stout British nanny who slips soundlessly into the bathroom before I wake, such that there are fresh roses by my vanity and a fluffy organic cotton towel hanging on a heated robe rack, ready for me to shower whenever the thought happens into my mind…sigh. Yes, that would all be very well and good, but here on my regular-people street, all the cooking and cleaning happens (or doesn’t) on my own watch. Fortunately, my childhood left me with no illusions that I was the center of any universe. I’m giving my children the gift of many skills; should they not need them eventually, well, bully for them, but since there’s a good chance they will, I’m happy to equip them.

    So, I say, equip the little buggers. They’re probably going to need it when they leave the nest and in the meantime, it gives you 30 minutes to put up a blog post.

    -Danielle


  4. The Despoiling Project

    December 28, 2011 by 25hoursadaymom

    So, how did the kids do with Christmas? Did you strike that happy medium of introducing just enough Wow Factor so they would feel Christmas (or whatever you celebrate during winter) was wonderous and special, yet with enough restraint that they didn’t storm angrily around the room, lip jutting out and arms crossed, declaring imperiously, “Not Zelda Twilight Princess! That’s from last year! I said Zelda Skyward Sword!” Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration.

    Or maybe it’s not.

    I did hear a report or two from friends who witnessed evidence that their precious progeny have had it a little too good for a little too long. (Don’t worry; I won’t “out” anybody.) Luckily, this is pretty fixable if your kids are still young – or young-ish.  Here are some thoughts on what you can change to reverse the spoilage:

    • Do not buy regularly
    • Put them to work
    • Eat meals together
    • Delay
    • Demonstrate
    Let’s examine each in depth:
    1. Do Not Buy Regularly.  How often do your children get a little extra something from you? Do you buy toys, game cartridges, DVDs, iTunes, stuffed animals, meals out, a box of donuts, PopTarts and so on on a regular basis?  I would encourage you to really think hard through this. Make a physical list if it helps, or go through your credit card statement. All of these extras should be rare. Give them an allowance; there is no better way to curb constant asking for things. Don’t give them an allowance that is so hefty that there’s really no need to delay getting anything they want. I have heard as a rule of thumb a dollar for each year of their age, per week. I think that is too much! By that measure, my 7-year-old would be $28 richer every month. That would defeat my purpose, because he would not have to wait/save for more than a few weeks to buy a fairly expensive game. So I keep it pretty small.
    2. Put Them to Work.  Even if you live like the Trumps and you have live-in servants to fold every towel and make every bed, I still contend that every child should work and assist around the house. Don’t connect this to the allowance! The allowance is training in using money. The household assistance is training in caring for the home and being self-sufficient. When people connect household work with allowance, the spoiled little children who have tons of stuff anyhow often decide that they don’t particularly care if they get their allowance or not and then they won’t help in the household. They do not have this option! They cannot opt out of household work because they aren’t really hard up for dough and if you break the first commandment and buy them things every time they blink, they won’t care about earning money.
    3. Eat Meals Together. Strange – why did I put something about eating meals together in a post about spoiled children? Because I believe that eating as many meals as a family as you can possibly manage decreases food pickiness exponentially. Fix a good meal and then expect the kids to eat it. Don’t make Chicken Nuggets for Connor, that he gets to eat while watching Toy Story in his bedroom, Uncrustables for Maddie in the kitchen and Pizza Rolls for Zack, who is on Facebook and can’t be bothered to come to a family table. I know it’s hard to get everyone together for dinner, but try, damn it, try hard. And when everyone is finished? They have jobs to do for dinner clean up.
    4. Delay. I know you know this one. Part of the trouble is that as adults, we don’t really delay much anymore. Remember Lay-Away? Remember when you had to pay a little bit for several weeks to own something in the near future? No one-click buying, no (GASP!) Book-In-60-Seconds, no Buy Now, Think Later?  Reinstate it. For yourself; for your children. Delay buying something for at least a little while. Consider if there is another way to have it without buying it. Consider if something else that you already have can meet the need (want?). Absolutely make your children wait to have something, especially if it is big and important.
    5. Demonstrate. Delay leads me right to demonstrate. Part of why some kids are spoiled is because their parents are. Do you always have to have the exactly, perfectly right or best thing? Or can you live with second-best, not exactly right, cheap, free or borrowed? They see what we do. Do you get a new phone because there’s a new phone to be gotten? Did you go LCD TV because you can? Thinking about getting a new car for no real reason but that this one is “old”? The kids do see that. They hear. They learn. If your kids constantly whine for upgrades, look first at the apple tree standing right here. (Not the Apple tree, as in iGreed.)

    Despoil the children (and maybe yourself) for 2012. It is a project that pays both physical and emotional dividends for years to come and sets your kids on a path that I am positive you do want for them. Not one disadvantage could arise from taking on a despoiling project. (Well, they might not like it much, but that’s because they’re spoiled.) You will be happier, richer, have better relationships and a cleaner house if you stop spoiling the kids.

    Something to consider, anyhow.

    -Danielle