Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Brave Grown Spaces

Lately around here I've shared a lot about what my kids are doing or what they're learning, but I haven't shared about how my approaches are evolving & what I am learning as we continue this homeschooling journey.  When I saw the Brave Grown Spaces back-to-school photo challenge prompt list, I thought it would be a great opportunity for some introspection.  With a prompt each day, it gave me something to really ponder what my brain space was like in that area of being a wife, mother, & teacher. I shared my thoughts on Instagram, but I also wanted to share it in this space for y'all, of course, but also for myself to look back at.  This was a great challenge to do right before school started so that I was facing the new year with a fresh set of eyes. Brave Grown Spaces- Life with the Hawleys
School Room. This corner of our schoolroom is my favorite place in our home. I love all of the reading that happens right here.Instagram_darbyhawley_1533738517648
Supplies. As much as I love neutral colors, my kids like bright bold colors much more; their pictures are filled with brightness. I pray that that is a metaphor for their lives & that it is just filled with brightness and joy.Instagram_darbyhawley_1533738491964
Planning. I know that there are a ton of really great planners available but I am super "old-school". I use a legal pad & a pencil. All of my lesson plans are made that way & that's how I brainstorm. I always use pencil because I need flexibility for change. My approach is, what I would call, a hodgepodge: a combination of Charlotte Mason & Montessori. I tend to lean more towards the natural side as far as units & manipulatives. I typically choose natural fibers over plastics or sounds. I like to leave a lot of room for the imagination to blossom. And, of course, I turn to books and I schedule in a lot of time for reading. So friends, that is how I approach planning for our homeschooling.Instagram_darbyhawley_1533738472685
Technology. If I have said this once, I've said it a thousand times, I have a love-hate relationship with technology. I love it (I promise I do), but I don't want to make it an idol or too appealing for myself or my kids. It's a very thin line I walk and I'm very purposeful with exposure for my kids because I know how tempting it is for me. During the day I have my phone shut in a kitchen cabinet, and I always have notifications & sounds off. I try really hard to not use my phone while my kids are awake. I have used it lately in our schooling as a timer for our reading sessions (the kids like to check to see how much time we have been reading) & to play music from Pandora (our favorite station lately is Elizabeth Mitchell). I definitely don't have a problem with others using technology in their schooling or with their kids (I know you know your kids best and you too want the best for your kids & I respect your decisions) I just know how careful I have to be with it for myself, so firm boundaries are helpful for me to be my best self.Instagram_darbyhawley_1533738458099
Mother Culture. Over the past couple of years I have been learning that there is "always more" than what we can see; His plans are greater than ours. Sometimes He may not reveal His purposes in order to keep us humble & dependent so that our confidence is in Him, not in the self (Eph. 3:20; Isaiah 55: 8-9). I have learned that there is more strength, patience, endurance, and love when I press into Him. I am a better mother, wife, & teacher when I rely on Him and receive the MORE available to me through Him. Instagram_darbyhawley_1533738433546
Wall Art. I love hanging our projects up. I want my kids to have tangible ways to see progress & to be proud of their work, but it's sometimes hard to find pretty ways to display that work. With a little baker's twine, empty spools, & clothes pins, we have 2 lines hanging in our school room. I empty it at the end of every unit (2 weeks in our home) & send them to our family (we live long-distance from all family) as a way to try & stay connected. And honestly, who doesn't love snail mail from kiddos?!Instagram_darbyhawley_1533738413969
Bible or Character. These two books just arrived, & I can't wait to start these with the kids tomorrow!Instagram_darbyhawley_1533738573577
Book Stack.  I wanted to model reading for my kids, but I *struggled* finding time to read.  In addition to read-alouds, for the past 2 months we have had quiet “Book Time” in the morning before lunch.  We all collect our books, gather around a bowl of popcorn, & read through our own book stack quietly together.  I mentioned the other day that I try to avoid all technology, but we do use my phone during the day as a timer for Book Time.  How does this work? When we all have our own books, I set a timer for 10 minutes for quiet reading time.  When the timer goes off, if we’re all still okay (with our little wiggles) we keep going.  When I first started this I did small 5 minute increments (because, toddlers), but now we do 10-15 minutes, and usually go up to about 50 minutes of quiet reading together.  We do this about 3x a week.  I like this because I actually get to read, my kids get to SEE me reading, & they get quiet time to flip through their own books.  This has worked really well this summer, & I hope to carry this out throughout the fall. Instagram_darbyhawley_1533690914181
History. I have always thought that some of the most captivating moments in history have surrounded discovery & change. We love flipping through these two books just for that purpose.IMG_20180809_144901_100
Thrifty. Getting creative & using what you have (in today's case seashells for counting to 100) is part of the adventure, right? That's what I tell myself hehe IMG_20180810_152619_584
Art. In so many ways I am like a child. Beautiful illustrations captivate me & draw me into the world of books. This is one of my new favorites, "Ocean Meets Sky".IMG_20180811_163023_031
Mom's Stash. I think, at least I hope, I'm not the only mama who has a secret stash of chocolate for tough days.IMG_20180812_082904_647
Bookshelf. Remember this bookshelf we got when I was pregnant with Dutch? It was our boardbook bookshelf for the past 4 years. Well, over the weekend, I pulled out all boardbooks and starting converting the bookshelves. We needed the book space & we just don't spend a lot of time in boardbooks anymore. Bittersweet moment for this mama.IMG_20180813_120354_941
Language Arts. Every now & then I have to switch things up. I just get bored & if I'm bored I know my kids probably are too. We've been doing A LOT of beachy themed activities lately & it's getting stale, so I thought this afternoon we'd pull out If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (a family favorite here) for our language arts subjects. We practiced our cvc words, sight words, spelling, matching, phonics, handwriting, comprehension, and even math...and no one was bored today :-)IMG_20180814_134522_498
Outdoor Exploration. One of the things that I have come to love about homeschooling is the gift of time. Now I certainly don't mean more time so much as the flexibility of time. We can do school work in the evenings or on Saturdays, or at the park, like we did today. We can still have rigor but on our own timeline, and that works really well for our family. Many public schools in Houston started back today & that meant that the park was nice & quiet for us to explore and apply all that we learned this morning.IMG_20180815_135526_038Nature Study. We're taking a couple days at the lake for some hands-on learning: swimming, fishing, different rocks, hiking, & some awesome mini golf ;-)IMG_20180816_171619_487
Organize. I've shared how I organize my homeschool closets & room before, but I think it's so interesting to hear how people organize their bookshelves. Do you do it my subject? Colors? Title? I have a basket of books that I'm reading to the kids in the living room that are rotated. I have a basket in our school closet that I pull out for school that are aligned with our current units. I have a couple stacks in the kids room that are before bed books. I have 5 big boxes that are books reserved for future units that I have not shown the kids yet to keep them novel. And then I have these 2 shelves. The tall shelf on the right are board books that are being phased out. The big book shelf here is by subject, season, & difficulty. Moving lt. to rt. & top to bottom: character building, nonfiction (religion, nature, seasons), fire fighter and early readers, chapter books, character building & growth mindset, early readers, fall, & Christmas. How do you organize your books?IMG_20180817_141918_419
Memory. Does anyone else feel that since having children their brain has gotten worse? I feel that way all the time, and since beginning to's even worse lol! I have so many post-it notes, reminders, & calendars just to make sure I can remember everything I need to remember. But, there is one thing that I want to make sure that I, not only remember, but I also focus on continuously is: Why am I doing this? Why am I trying so hard? Why am I trying to live with purpose? I keep this note card as my own personal mission statement right next to the kitchen sink. I see it soooooo many times a day and it reminds me to keep going. To keep my focus on intentional parenting & teaching even when it's hard, I'm exhausted, & weary. The Lord will provide for those who are called, and when I cry out for more grace, more patience, more strength, He delivers.IMG_20180818_162804_635
Home Tending.  Isn’t this every parent’s struggle: when to clean? We certainly haven’t perfected this, but we’ve found a rhythm that works well for us (always subject to change, of course). We clean our home 3x’s a day; our kids clean all 3 times.  We have trained our kids from a VERY young age to take responsibility & restore their own environment.  We think those are very important lessons to learn.  I set the timer for 5-10 minutes & the kids have to clean up all of their toys, before school, dinner, & bed.  They know that whatever is left on the floor when the timer goes off will be donated. We take a minimalist approach as far as toys are concerned & each kid only has a single basket of toys.  We don’t think kids really need a lot of toys.  The majority of our toys are wooden, don’t make sounds, leave a lot of room for the imagination & have to fit in the basket. Honestly, the kids have always beat the timer.  After the kids are in bed, I clean & wipe down all counters, empty the sink, set the coffee pot, vacuum/sweep, & lay out school for the next day.  This way I can enjoy a clean house in the evening, & I don’t feel flustered in the morning; I can just drink my coffee & read my Bible before the kids get up.  We save the deep cleaning for the weekends when the kids are napping & we do it together.  This is our system that has worked for several years now.  What do you do?IMG_20180819_151810_055
Manipulatives. I am a total sucker for fun seasonal hands-on learning. These are some of my favorites right now that we use the most. We use these for so many things, like markers, counting, bingo covers, syllables, math, comparisons, more vs. less, graphing, sorting, etc. I find everything at Hobby Lobby & Amazon. I store all of these in ziplock bags in a basket on a shelf in our school closet. There are many more than pictured here but they're all stored the same way.IMG_20180820_165644_101
Math. This subject is definitely one of our favorites. We, both of my kids, love all of the different aspects of math and find it really engaging, and even, dare I say, entertaining IMG_20180821_141230_393
Incentives. With a doctorate in neuroscience & psychology, I am very cautious with incentives. Food is never used as a reward to encourage behavior because I don't want to enable an unhealthy relationship with food. Also I don't want to initiate a token economy where my kids are only doing behaviors (or not doing) for a reward/punishment. Anyone can be trained to say something, but does that change their heart? Usually not. According to the Bible, our behavior is an outpouring of our heart, so we have A LOT of conversations in our home to ensure our kids learn right from wrong and develop internal motivation. So that my kids can see progress, we have used tickets before, but we are currently using a mason jar & popsicle sticks.  The more sticks in the jar, the better.... and more colorful. They can earn sticks with good behavior (and mouths) obedience, and respect. I take sticks away for poor behavior. They can earn special activities with a lot of sticks. We usually collect sticks for an entire week and then Saturday morning we do something, like a field trip, feed the ducks, etc. I don't really count the number of sticks; I'm just looking for a lot of colors and a fuller jar. Oh, I also get the kids to put their sticks in or pull them out, because I want them to know that this is all about THEIR behavior and they need to take responsibility for their own actions.IMG_20180822_135440_765
Science. I think it's pretty safe to say that science has always been one of my favorite subjects because science evokes so much curiosity, creativity, & critical thinking. We do a lot of hands-on activities for our science lessons around here. Last spring we were learning the letter 'I' & I thought that would be the perfect time to learn about insects. And ever since, we have continued to talk about insects and the things that we did in the spring. The curiosity & memories from those lessons has carried over with deeper learning & solidified those topics in their minds. Science brings curiosity and with that curiosity brings rehearsal, retention and lots of fun. I feel safe saying that my kids love science just as much as I do :-)IMG_20180823_073133_009
Simple Solutions. I know I'm not the only mother who struggles to find quality time, but the only way I know how to do it is to be intentional & purposeful by scheduling quality time with each of my kids. I want them to have one-on-one attention every day, to expect it, & to know that it's my heart's desire to make time for them. Every afternoon at 3:30 Ellis (2.5 years old) & I have tea together. We use the fine China everyday, we read books, & we just talk. It's really nice that we both can depend on that 30 minutes to just be together and talk. It really is such a simple solution to have that quality time as a part of our routine; it is also a really relaxing moment in the day together. I hope to be able to carry this into her teens, & by establishing communication now I hope we'll grow our mother-daughter relationship. As a side note, Dutch (4) & I have tea together every Friday and have done this for over a year to practice manners and read books together. I don't think this is a gender specific activity; I think anyone could do this and enjoy it.IMG_20180824_173138_575
Music. Raised with music and dancing being such a huge part of my life, it's something that I can't help but share with my kids. IMG_20180825_113342_787
Staying Sane. I don’t think I have always been an introvert, & I don’t think I will be one forever; however, in this season of my life, while homeschooling my children, I am an introvert. I don’t get a lot of time alone where I can refuel, & I really need it.  In fact, while the world is awake, I am being emptied.  The only time that I have found to refuel is when the world is sleeping. So I stay up late. Like really late.  I would rather be sleep-deprived & sane, than rested & crazy. (sidebar- I attribute my ability to work on little sleep to doctoral grad school). I see bedtime as “second morning”. I stay up late because I want to zone-out, to read a book, to be creative & write a blog post, to mindlessly scroll through Facebook, to enjoy the silence, to prep the next school day in peace, because I always have, to refuel, to connect with the part of me that isn’t just a teacher, mother, or wife, but “mostly, I stay up late because it is one way I stay sane in this very intense life of mothering young children. This quiet, uninterrupted time to myself fuels me in a way sleep can’t right now.” IMG_20180826_182007_353
Calendar. I am the queen of "Roll-over" when it comes to scheduling. I'm not a procrastinator by any means. When I have a task, I tackle it. My downfall is that I'm overly ambitious (read: unrealistic) for the amount of time I have; therefore, I have a lot of things that "roll-over" to the next day. I always have tasks that "roll-over"; I never finish a to-do list. That doesn't upset me, instead it kind of motivates me. Being the queen of "roll-over" I know to only write with something that I can erase. I never use pen when I'm scheduling; I always use pencil, chalk, or dry erase because I know that I'm going to need to "roll-over" this whole list that I created for today for tomorrow. And I'm totally okay with that :-)IMG_20180827_231014_812
Brain Breaks. Our brain breaks always seem to involve throwing these jumbo dice lol We throw them at the front door, run to see what they say, run back to do that activity, move that shape, or graph that image. My kids love this and I love that it helps with the wiggles. Win. Win.IMG_20180828_130909_667
Together Time. We have a lot of together time & I love it. The gift of time is one of things I am most grateful for with homeschooling. During the day, our morning basket activities are definitely my favorite of the day.IMG_20180830_150650_878
Fun Extras. Children fidgeting is a sign that their brain is working. They don't have to sit still to learn. In fact, many times they learn much better if they have something to do with their hands while they are listening. They can learn if you read to them while they are playing. Sometimes during read-alouds I will give them the Hexicus (plastic hexagon set) and they will quietly build things as I'm reading. I highly recommend this set because, not only does it help with comprehension as I'm reading, but it also allows for strategic, critical, & creative thinking as they build and listen. This is one of Dutch's creations from today as I read "The Family Under the Bridge."IMG_20180830_151813_903
Favorite Corner. All of the late night rocking, stories read, lullabies hummed, mugs of coffee consumed, lessons taught.....If this corner could talk, it would tell you that much has happened right here and it is my favorite spot on earth. I always choose this spot. It is light, bright, surrounded by books and children. My happy place. And ironically enough, this was my very first entry in my Brave Grown Space journal.... full circle heheIMG_20180831_080342_885

This was a great challenge to encourage me to think about specific roles of my life and how I'm evolving in those areas.  I honestly really enjoyed this, and I hope I can do this again next year :-)
xoxo Darby

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