Life With a Preteen Daughter, by Nakia

 

My oldest daughter was a joy from the time she was born. She was always strong-willed, yet rational and easy to parent.

Until she turned 11 and suddenly wasn’t.

Almost overnight she turned from the child I just described into a sobbing, raging, hormonal preteen. Some days I didn’t recognize her; days I could not believe the child who yelling and throwing things was my sweet first-born. That strong will had turned from a blessing to something I dreaded to greet every morning. There were days I threatened to send her to school. There were days I threatened to run away from home.

Over the course of 18 months, we struggled and we cried, but we survived. And in the midst of it all, we thrived and learned so much about each other.

I’ve found over the last couple of years that many moms struggle more with the preteen years – or as a dear friend calls it, the “ten-age” years- than they ever do with teens. If you have a preteen, perhaps you are struggling with some questions of your own. “Who is this child and where did my sweet baby go?”  “Can I do this?” “Will we survive this?”

I suggest asking yourself these things:

  • What are your goals?

  • What are your expectations?

  • Are you expecting enough? Too much?

  • Is your child getting enough sleep, exercise, and healthy food?

  • Are you building up or tearing down?

One of the most important things, I think, is to find people who have been where you are. I strongly suggest finding other parents who share similar beliefs and have made it through the same struggles. There will be times when you simply cannot handle what is going on with your child and your family, and having someone to turn to who has been through the fire will be invaluable. You must recognize when to seek professional counseling. Enlist the help of your church, your child’s pediatrician, or a local counseling center. This is not a failure. This is helping your family be the best it can be.

Realize that the problems you are facing are not a product of homeschooling. They are a product, most often, of hormones. On the other hand, do not expect homeschooling to cure bad attitudes in your children—or you. Being a parent is hard. Adding homeschooling to that will not automatically make everything easier. Home education will present its own unique set of challenges. It is hard to separate your parenting role from your role as teacher. Be sure to set aside time each day to focus on your tween as your child and not as your student. Take school out of the equation as much as possible so that you can face the root cause.

Do not fight with your child. I’m a fighter by nature and grew up in a “yelling” household. I never wanted that for my family. Unfortunately, we ended up there. Some of the best advice I ever received was “Do not engage!” When she realized I would no longer engage in warfare, my daughter de-escalated much faster.

Let your child talk. What they are going through right now is a BIG deal to them. It might seem silly to you. You might be able, as a 40 year old mother, to look back on your preteen/teen years and see that your attitudes and actions “back then” were silly, but your child is living it now. Let them live it. Talk them through it. It’s okay to tell them “This too shall pass,” but do let them know you are listening and that their feelings are important.

Have clear boundaries/rules. Good parents know that children thrive with healthy boundaries, and preteens are no different. They will sometimes hate every limit you give them. It’s okay stick to them. It’s also okay to sit down with the child and look at those boundaries (rules) and sometimes recognize that one is too tight or rigid. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can discuss and adjust and watch what happens when you do.

Know when to apologize. That might be the hardest part of this whole parenting gig. I’ve yet to meet anyone who liked to admit being wrong, especially to someone under their authority. But we must show our children that we are human. Let them see you recognize your errors and apologize when necessary. A heartfelt apology will earn respect, and it teaches your child how to do the same.

Let your child make some decisions about school. I found that when I gave some of the control to my daughter, things went so much better. For instance, I printed off blank lesson planning sheets and let her fill them in. She knew what she needed to do each week, but with a little help from me, she was able to schedule it in daily plans. I let her pick whether she would start her day with math or science. This gave her a sense of responsibility and made her feel like I wasn’t treating her “like a child” anymore.  Another example might be letting your child pick a topic of study. My daughter loves horses, so I let her do a unit study from Beautiful Feet on the history of the horse. She loved it, and it gave her a sense of ownership since she had picked herself. Developing autonomy was not an overnight process, and we are still working on it.

As a Christian, I believe my greatest help is my faith. I never before spent so much time in prayer as I have as a mother. The thing I prayed over and over as we worked our way through my daughter’s preteen years (and still now that she’s a teen) was, “God, I know her personality is not a mistake. She will do great things in Your name.” I believe that with all of my heart. I encourage you to lean on the Lord and pray blessings over your child! Speak encouragement to them and about them!

Now my second daughter is a “ten-ager,” and I have one more right behind her. I’ll be printing off this post and hanging it on my fridge to remind myself that we made it through once and we can do it again.

Nakia–Nnakiaakia is a Southern girl, born and raised in North Carolina. She is married to her high school sweetheart and is in her 9th year of homeschooling her three wonderful daughters. She works part time as a nurse and loves photography, thrift shopping, baking, and autumn in the mountains.

Advertisements

Finding Joy Amidst the Chaos

wake-up-call_0006

by Kristin

It’s 2:00 a.m. when I hear the pitter-patter of little feet on my bedroom floor. They are getting closer. I hear my son say, at a decibel that is far too loud for 2:00 a.m., “Mom….” I quickly wave my hand in an effort to shush him and get him out of my room as quickly as possible. I can already hear the baby stirring. Nothing good can come of this.

I throw the covers back. I’m sweaty from the night’s sleep, what little I’ve gotten, and as the cool air of my bedroom hits my skin I’m covered in goosebumps. I grumble a little under my breath. I’m tired. WHY is he up? I drag myself to the hallway where he stands waiting for me. Doesn’t he realize that lack of sleep and Mom do NOT get along? I grumble something about it being too early to be up and send him back to bed. He tries to protest, but I shut him down and he reluctantly heads back to his bed.

I breathe a sigh of relief. I can hear my pillow calling me just feet away. I slip back under the covers ready for sleep only to hear the crinkle of the pack-n-play mattress next to my bed. The baby, he’s still stirring. I roll over, my back to his bed, and convince myself that he’ll go back to sleep. He has to. I’m too tired to get up again. Nope. Baby is awake.

I drag myself out of bed, again, this time reaching for the baby. He feels like he weighs a thousand pounds. I was not cut out for this. I need my sleep. I carry him to the couch and settle in to nurse him back to sleep. Twenty minutes pass by and he’s still wide awake. Thirty, forty, fifty minutes, then an hour have gone by. I decide to lay him back down in bed. Surely he’s tired and will go back to sleep. Nope. He begins to fuss. I’m afraid he will wake my husband, or worse yet, my son. I take him back out of bed and attempt to nurse him to sleep yet again.

He kicks and flails, his little hands grabbing and patting my face. Doesn’t he know that it is now 3:30 a.m.? I’ve been up for an hour and a half. My patience has run thin. I lay him next to my husband with an exasperated sigh. The good man that he is, he smiles at the baby and says, “Let’s go out to the living room,” and then promptly takes him from the bedroom. I breathe a deep sigh of relief and allow my head to fall into the pillow and my eyes to close. Sleep.

I manage to sneak in a quick hour of sleep before my husband texts me to tell me to come get the baby. He’s finally sleeping. Once again, I drag myself out of bed, each step taking more effort than the one before it. I transfer the baby back to his bed in hopes of a few more hours of sleep. One measly little hour later, I hear the click of a doorknob. Boy Number One is back up again. This time, there is no convincing him to go back to bed. I guess it’s a 5:30 a.m. wake up call today.

I’m tired…..so tired. We go to the living room. I turn on the TV. Cartoons and breakfast. Maybe I can sleep a little on the couch. No, he wants to talk. Soon, it’s time to wake up the girls. We have a to-do list a mile long today. I realize that if I’m going to get everything done, I need to start now. You see, we have to bring lunch to a friend at 10:30 this morning. Homemade macaroni & cheese, her request.

I start the water for the noodles and prepare the pan for the cheese sauce. I can’t find the shredded cheese. It’s missing. I had just purchased it the day before, how could it disappear? We spend several minutes searching for the cheese only to find it in the sack, on a desk chair. Of course. It was left out overnight. I take a chance and dump it into the pan. The water is taking too long to boil. It’s not going to be done before I have to take Son Number One to preschool. I instruct the thirteen-year-old to watch it while I take him.

I return back home only five minutes later to drain the noodles and mix them with the sauce when I realize that I’ve forgotten to buy a disposable pan to bake it in. That’s okay, CVS is just a few blocks away. I’ll run there. Baby is back awake. I hand him off to the thirteen-year-old and run to the store, promising to be back quickly. They don’t have what I need. Figures.

It’s now 9:30 a.m. I still have to run to the mall and pick up a gift for my friend that I had dropped off for engraving the night before. I don’t have time to run to another store for a pan. It’s okay. I’ll just use my regular glass dish. I open the junk drawer and dig for a Sharpie. It’s not there. Why would anything be easy today? I send the six-year-old on a hunt for the marker. She finds it, I’m not sure where, but I quickly write my name on the pan and put it in the oven. My macaroni and cheese takes 30-40 minutes to bake. I’m running out of time quickly.

I spend the next little bit getting the six-year-old ready for the day and putting the baby back to sleep again. The thirteen-year-old agrees to stay with the baby while the six-year-old and I run to the mall and to drop off lunch to my friend. Six-year-old and I were gone only thirty minutes before the oldest calls to say that the baby is awake again. What is with these kids? Sleep: It’s good for you! I beg her to handle him for a bit. I’m running late. It’s 10:30 when we leave the mall. I have a ten-minute drive to get to my friend’s house.

We drop off lunch and chat for a little bit before leaving to pick up the four-year-old from preschool at noon. We arrive back home to find an exasperated thirteen-year-old. She isn’t exactly a kid or baby person. She manages okay, but doesn’t enjoy it. I take him from her. I’m exhausted. All I want is a nap. Time to nurse the baby. He falls asleep. I lay him down and start lunch for the rest of the minions. Can you believe that? They expect me to feed them!

It’s now 1:30 p.m. I have 1.5 hours before the oldest has to be at school for show choir. I gather the troops for a little school. It’s always harder with the four-year-old home. The six-year-old is about as distractible as they come and spends the next hour bouncing back and forth between school and conversation with her brother. I’m tired of redirecting. I’m tired of attempting to keep her on task. I’m tired of arguing with the thirteen-year-old about how much she has to do. I’m. Just. Tired.

The baby sleeps most of the afternoon and I have to wake him to take the oldest to show choir practice. I want to cry. Exhaustion has consumed me and I no longer have control over my emotions. Frustration pours from me in everything I say and do. I need sleep. I’m quite certain that I cannot continue the day, yet somewhere I find the strength to keep going. I suppose because I have no choice.

Dinner time comes and goes and it’s time for dance classes. I drag myself to the studio, now with a raging headache. Why do I always get headaches when I’m tired? The baby is tired too. He fusses. I put him down to play on the floor. He doesn’t want that and begins to shriek. I place him on my hip. He squirms and fusses, arching his back. My arms are on fire from fighting him. Is it time to go home yet? The four-year-old is pulling on my arm to get my attention. I restrain myself from letting every ounce of frustration from the day break free on him. He’s bored. He wants to go home. Me too, buddy, me too.

Once home again, the day winds down with baths and bed. Jammies for the kids, sweatpants for myself. I nurse the baby to sleep again, hoping it’s for the night this time. The house is quiet and I finally allow myself to relax. Sleep. It’s hitting me hard and fast.

Chaos. It’s everywhere. It is the summation of my life with four children and a husband who works long hours and attends college full time. I’ve never handled it well. When my life feels like it’s spinning out of control or I have too much on my plate, I get overwhelmed.

But recently, I had a large dose of perspective. The friend I brought lunch to? She lost her son, a twin, just a little over a month ago. He simply did not wake up in the morning. We’ve all said, thought, and been told to live life to the fullest, because you just never know what tomorrow holds, but never has it hit so close to home for me. My dear friend will never hold her baby on Earth again. He was just seventeen months old with beautiful blonde curls and the sweetest smile. I know she would give anything for the chaos that is my life if it meant having her baby back. She would stay up for hours each night, if only she could rock him one more time.

I now look at my children, even through exhaustion, with joy. I choose to be thankful that God entrusted me with their care on this Earth. Every moment I have to spend with them is a gift. It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos of every day life, to get frustrated with the messes and lack of sleep, but I now choose to look at those moments as blessings, not curses.

Hold your children close and embrace each moment with love. Everyone is tired or crabby? Math can wait another day. Snuggle on the couch under a blanket and read a book or call it a movie day. You’ll never regret the love you share with your children, but you may regret NOT sharing those moments with them. The chaos that comes with having a family is a blessing…..embrace it each and every day.

vinnie-j

In the Beginning

by Briana Elizabeth

There’s always chaos in the beginning. The universe, Genesis says, was formed out of chaos. It’s no different with homeschooling. So, if you’ve decided to homeschool, I congratulate you on your life changing decision. It is still a brave and wild thing to do, and, because I want you to succeed, I’m going to lay some tough love on you.

First, I will tell you that I was the most disorganized person ever, and if you had told someone twenty-two years ago that I would have seven children and be organized, they would have split their face in half from laughing so hard. I was also the least patient, and cared not one whit about making a home, let alone homeschooling. So, I’m going to begin with some bold truths as I’ve learned some hard lessons, and I want to save you that pain.

Homeschooling will exacerbate your family’s problems. It’s like a magnifying glass, and you need to expect this, so that you know it’s not the just the decision to homeschool that’s made you all feel the pressure of close quarters. You need to know this upfront and really look at your family life and parenting style truthfully. If you are a yeller, there will be even more yelling. If your house is disorganized, you will become even more disorganized. If you lack habits of timeliness, then you will fall behind and be late even more. If dinner time comes and every day you are staring into the fridge, wondering what you will feed the family, that will now happen with every meal, because now you will have them all home for every meal.

The good news is that the good habits and virtues will also be brought to the forefront, but since you have all of that under control, I’m just going to give you the pointers I wished I was given those many years ago.

 The first rule of homeschooling in our house is “Begin with the End in Mind.” Now, that can mean planning, as you start with what you want your child to achieve by their 12th grade year and work yourself backwards with a schedule, or it can simply be a way to make sure that you have controlled what you can control during the day so that your day ends in peace, thus promoting household harmony and good feelings about homeschooling. You are going to have to do this school thing day after day, year after year (perhaps), and when you start going to bed hating the fact that you have to get up the next morning and teach your children again it will be impossible to maintain any sort of peace.

Look, God took chaos and ordered the universe. We are not God, and our universes are much smaller, but we can order our homes, especially with His help. If I, the most disorganized (yes, ask my mother) yeller can learn to keep a home that is reasonably clean and ordered with some ‘pretty’ thrown in for good measure; if I can learn to bridle my tongue, I know that God works miracles and can do the same for you. But, a warning, things may look worse before they get better.

So what can you do to manage the daily chaos that will happen when your family is together most hours of the day, most days of the year?

Like all famous generals, you need to have a plan.

Homeschool is about order and wonder. Without order, there can be no wonder. That is not my idea, it’s a very old idea, but it’s a very good one so I’m bringing it out and dusting it off.

The biggest piece of wisdom to share with you about the ordering of your homeschool is that teaching is a full-time job. Meaning, you can’t stop your teaching to go dust the living room. You will then pick up a basket of laundry and end up on the second floor, putting it all away, and then you will find another thing that has to be done and there will be no schooling done the rest of the day. So, rule # 1 is that during school time, no chores get done. Obviously, if you have one child in kindergarten, your hours of schooling will not be like mine, which run from about eight-thirty in the morning until about four in the afternoon with a lunch break.  So, if you adopt that rule, you can automatically see how everything needs to shift to accommodate the time you are schooling.

dscn1801

Beginning with the end in mind, you need to get the house under control so that you are just maintaining order once school is done for the day. If your kids are old enough to help and aren’t helping, this is the time for them to learn how. Their future mates will thank you for these habits!

If you have children that are old enough to fold laundry, then by all means, show them how. Fifteen minutes of folding before school starts in the morning is a lot of work done. If another is old enough to learn how to use the washer, again, by all means, show him how. They are not incapable, and you underestimate their ability if you don’t give them the privilege of helping the family in such a fruitful way.

Now is also the time to teach them how to load and unload the dishwasher. In our house, the dishwasher is run three times a day and that job cannot go to me all the time or no teaching would get done.

It is a grace and a blessing to teach your children to serve each other this way. Charity begins in the home. The bonus is that when they leave your house for college, they will know how to do their own laundry. Call it home economics and give them credit for it, even.

Now is also the time to wrangle the household schedule. I’m not talking about who has karate or soccer or piano, I’m talking about how you order your day. Don’t worry, I didn’t have a schedule, either, when I started, but this is easy to accomplish.

I start out the night before by making sure my coffee maker is ready in the morning, so that all I have to do is hit the button and go back to bed while it brews. If you have a timer on yours, bonus! Really, the day just is nicer when you aren’t waking up to have to clean the coffee pot, and work around a huge sink full of dishes.

When I get up to get some coffee, I stop at the washer and throw in a load. My reward for this first task is coffee.

As I sit and drink my coffee, I look over my planner and see what’s to be done that day. I also check my menu and before I even make breakfast for everyone, I make sure I have everything I need for dinner. Did you get a little scared there? Don’t, this is the easiest part, but the part that matters the most in the ordering of your day.

My second golden rule of homeschooling is to make sure you know what is for dinner by 10:00 a.m. The application of that rule has saved me from more catastrophes than I would want to list. How do I do that on a daily basis? I make a weekly menu with the weekly sales flyer in hand, and I shop by my menu. That way everything I need is in the house, because another “time suck” is running to the store to get last minute items. That happens occasionally, we’re human after all, but I cut the chances of that happening with a menu.

 So, drink coffee, look over the day, and start dinner. That sounds crazy, but think of this: If you were leaving the house at 8:00 a.m., and would be walking back in the house at 6:00 p.m., what would be the first question from everyone in the house when you got home? “What’s for dinner?”  And you’d learn quickly that you had to have a plan for dinner for when you got home. This is the same. The kids are going to wake up, the day is going to start, school will be rolling,  and before you know it, school will be over and you will be tired. The kids will want to go off and play, and you will not want to haul yourself to the store or think about what you are going to make. This way, you finish school, you roll right into dinner, and everything is under control. Chaos is kept at bay. Then dishes get done, people relax, and you’re ending your day on a peaceful note, which makes your getting up and doing it all over not such a grueling task.

 Which brings us to my third rule of homeschooling: You must read their books. You can skate by a year or two when they’re young, but the snowball effect will start and by the time they hit high school and if you haven’t read one book on their list (begin with the end in mind) you will hardly be able to catch up with them. How do you have a conversation about a book if the book hasn’t been read by both parties? Yes, there are all kinds of shortcuts around this, curricula made so you don’t have to read them, but you didn’t get into homeschooling to shortcut, did you? Look, this is the education of your children, and these books that they will be reading will shape them. They can fill out questions and write paragraphs or papers about them, but the real learning is when two people discuss the book. Not only will the book become a treasure to them, but sharing it will build your relationship. And that is priceless. Add to that when the siblings read the same books and say, “Oh, wait until ninth grade and you read The Once and Future King!” That stuff is magic. The conversations that happen after a few children have read the stories, and the anticipation of joining the familial club of those who have read the story. Truly, it is the magic of family and life and of people who love each other. So, at the least, stay a full year ahead of them so it gives you time to ponder the books and the ideas contained within. When you connect ideas and authors, you don’t leave their education to happenstance and formulas. They will get the best they possibly can from you if you do this one thing alone. That’s not to say it will all fall to pieces if they have to fill out questions on some books because there was a family crisis, but don’t let that become the norm.

knitting

My final rule is to find friends and carve out some time for yourself and your mate. Take up a hobby. Make sure you take time to reconnect with your spouse. Homeschooling is a lot of sacrifice, and the payoff is far off. Your marriage and your self cannot be left to rot as martyrs to homeschooling. Education is about instilling a liturgy of life and a culture of learning that will hopefully be passed down through generations of your family. This is heady stuff. You can’t give what you don’t have, so the cultivation of your own life cannot be left as an afterthought. You also can’t place the weight of decompression from this on your mate. I mean, yes, by all means, they are a parent also, but you don’t want your spouses arrival home to nothing but a litany of offenses of the day and complaining. And you will complain because homeschooling is hard. Parental discipline and decisions are a shared responsibility, but your spouse who also has worked hard all day and dealt with disappointments doesn’t deserve to be the sole bearer of your venting just because they are also parents. This is where friendships with other homeschooling parents are so valuable. It may take time to find them, and now a days we sometimes find these friendships online, but don’t stop seeking them out. And the friendships online can be just as, or even more valuable. You need them, and they need you.

You can do this, really. There are tons of us out there doing this now, in all walks of life. If I can, you can. I remember when I was going to take the test for my driver’s license, and I was terrified, my mother said to me, “There are terrible drivers out there. If they can get their license, so can you.” Truly, if I can do this, so can you, so take heart, adjust the sails, and start forth on this incredible, life changing, utterly fulfilling journey.

Briana Elizabeth is a wife, mother to seven children ages 23 to 7, and caretaker of one Amazon parrot, two dogs, and two cats. When she’s not planning lessons or feeding people, she paints, knits, and writes. You can follow her blog at www.justamousehouse.blogspot.com