Maybe the most important thing (when you’re considering teaching your kids)

 

This post originally ran last year, but I still think about this ALL THE TIME. with my kids. You don’t have to know it all. I promise.

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Do you remember that episode of Arrested Development when Michael asks George Michael, “What do we always say is the most important thing?”

“Breakfast,” George Michael responds.

“Family.”

“Oh right. Family. I thought you meant of the things we eat.”

This post isn’t about breakfast or family, at least not directly, but it is about what’s important, maybe most important, when you’re considering teaching your kids:

Realizing that you don’t have to know it all.

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You can’t. I don’t care if you graduated top in your class. I don’t care if you have multiple doctorates.

I don’t care if you have The Intersect in your brain.

Somewhere, you have a weakness.

Maybe it’s art.

Spelling.

Math.

Maybe it’s sitting on the floor and playing with trains with a pre-schooler.

We all have places where we come up short, and that’s OK, because we all have something else. Something amazing — we all have the ability to learn.

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I so often hear people say that they want to homeschool — would love to homeschool — but they can’t because they don’t know how they would teach chemistry, English, sewing …

But as long as we want to find out new information; as long as we want to grow; as long as we’re willing to give things a shot — it will be OK.

I first learned how much I didn’t know as a newspaper reporter.

I loved my job and all the surprises. As a general interest reporter, I covered whatever landed on my desk.

Too many dead fish in the nearby stream; chemicals leaching into the ground from the abandoned factory behind our office … One day, a guy ended up in the morgue with a shoe print on his forehead.

“Subdermal hematoma.”

“What’s that mean, exactly?” I asked the coroner.

“Somebody kicked this guy in the head.”

(As a journalism major, this was officially more science than I had studied in years, and always facing a 10 p.m. deadline, I had to become a very quick learner.)

The biggest lesson that reporting taught me was that you don’t have to know the answers — you just need to know where to find them.

Sometimes, it’s the Internet. Sometimes it’s a person.

Sometimes to get the answers, you need to go somewhere, look around, ask questions.

Sometimes, you need to stick your head in a book and not come out until you get it.

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I feel so lucky to have worked in newspapers before my kids were born, because I feel like this is a lesson I can share with them each day.

When they were little, they so often had smaller questions: How do you spell blue? Can penguins fly? Where is Germany?

I  had quick answers.

But as they grow, and as their questions grow with them, I often find myself at a loss.

I just don’t know.

(We can’t always know. Not everything.)

So instead I consider: Where can we get the answer, together.

Can we go to the library? Can we go online? Can we find an expert?

Do we know someone who loves birds or calligraphy? Where is the closest museum with a geology display?

How do we figure it out?

I’m not a perfect homeschooling mom. I have places where I fall short, and places where I overcompensate, and places where I’m just making it up as I go along, frankly.

But what I try to teach my kids is to not be intimidated by the unknown and instead, to focus on where to go to get the answer.

That isn’t always easy or immediate.

But often, I think it’s the most important thing when it comes to creating a lifetime love of learning.

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So don’t let what you don’t know hold you back.

Let it get you started.

Together.

A little tip for helping early readers

Psst. Come closer.

I have something to tell you.

So here’s the thing: I was kind of scared about teaching my daughter to read.

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I never taught my son. He just figured it out, and when I ask him how he did it, he shrugs his shoulders and says that it just made sense to him. He would sit on my lap and look at the words as we read together, and it clicked.

This is wonderful, but it was not comforting back when my daughter started expressing an interest in learning to read.

I would cuddle with her on my lap and wonder how to recreate the magic. Say some fancy Latin words? Clap three times?

And then last year it happened — she learned how to read — without phonics or Bob. She did read to dogs a lot as part of a library program. I think that helped.

It was different than my son, but the result was the same. Another child who essentially figured it out.

Wahoo. My work here is done. Kara OUT.

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Except not really.

I remember when my son was young that our biggest challenge was finding age-appropriate books for him. He LOVED reading, and was able to read pretty much anything, but of course, that didn’t mean he should be reading anything.

He went through a Magic Tree House phase and an A to Z Mysteries phase. He loved reading about Andrew’s adventures.

But after that, it took a lot of time to find books that were challenging for him, but not too dark, too scary, too middle school …

He was 5. It was like a part-time job, but hey — homeschool!, right?

My daughter’s particular challenge with reading right now is that she is so ambitious. She wants to read the BIG books. The really big books.

She reads Magic Tree House and A to Z Mysteries. But she also wants to read books that are a bit more complex — and she kind of wants to read them ALL.

I love this. She brings home so many books from the library each week. She is so excited.

It’s like the world has opened up to her and she just can’t get enough.

But sometimes, her reading can’t quite keep up with everything she wants to read.

And so I was really happy to read a tip from Anne recently.

Her tip was to purchase the Audible narration when you buy a Kindle book, which allows you to switch back and forth between the Kindle version and listening to the book.

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So for instance, the book Pie (which is great, by the way):

We recently bought it on sale for $1.99. We added the Audible narration, which is discounted when you buy the Kindle version. (It was $3.49).

My daughter was able to switch back and forth between the two, and loved it. If her eyes got a little tired, or she needed a break, she could listen.

When she was ready to read again, she could pick right back up where she left off.

She still brings home stacks of books, of course. But she’s getting a lot of encouragement from being able to finish more books and larger books.

I love how this method is helping build her confidence to continue tackling the harder stuff.

Do you have any tips you’ve been using to encourage your new readers lately? I’d love to hear about them!
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Clear that plate. (Because life should not be all green beans.)

“Whenever you say yes to something, there is less of you for something else. Make sure your yes is worth the less.” ~ Louie Giglio

I said no this week.

I said it politely:

“I would love to, but I can’t right now. Thank you so much for the offer.”

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I watched the money drift away like autumn leaves on a windy day.

It’s hard in those moments to remember that you are clearing the way for opportunity.

Because everybody needs shoes.

That’s why I almost never say no to a writing assignment.

We can’t afford it, I tell myself. We can’t afford for me to turn down anything, and yet in saying yes, my family often pays the price in entirely different ways:

I’ve never believed that clean underwear means “I love you,” because I just say, “I love you.” But when I am overextended, it affects my family in so many ways, because it affects me, and how I act.

It makes me the kind of person I don’t like being.

And so in the last 3 months, I’ve said no 3 times, to 3 different assignments. (And yes to many more. I am not on strike; I’m just trying to find balance.)

And guess what happened? I was offered a brand new opportunity — one that it far more in line with who I am.

One that feels like a perfect fit.

One that will allow me to step off the crazy train for a few months and feel the breeze again, as opposed to the kind of wind that blows my hair everywhere and sticks to my balmy lips; gets in my eyes and keeps me from seeing where I want to go.

~::~

I’ve started to visualize this sort of saying no so I can say yes as “plate clearing.”

I’m making space.

I’m moving aside the green beans and making room for the cake. (There’s nothing wrong with green beans. I like them. I need them sometimes. But life should not be all green beans — you can quote me on that.)

I’ve started to consider that maybe I try too hard to do all the things.

I want to be the best mom, and the best homeschooler and the best writer and the best wife and the best organic gardener and the best knitter and the best cook and the best …

It’s all wrapped up in perfectionism and it’s a minefield, I tell you.

Because you can’t be the best at everything.

You just can’t.

Have I told you about our friend Ken? At our baby shower, our friend Ken, who was in his 90s gave us some advice:

“Some things gotta give.”

He wrote it down and put it in a box with all the other tips for the parents like “never wake a sleeping baby,” and “remember to make time for each other!” My husband and I stared at the slip for a while.

“Maybe it’s a movie recommendation?” he asked.

But the older I get, the more I realize that it was brilliant life advice.

Because some things do.

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I tell myself I am trying to do all the things for my family. I don’t buy chicken nuggets because they aren’t as healthy or as budget-friendly as a whole chicken.

I plant seeds because it’s the most cost effective way to get fresh, organic food.

These things keep me busy and make me feel like I am “doing” for the people I love.

But a lot of it stresses me out, and too much of it makes me feel like I am just failing all over the place, when the seeds don’t sprout, when the bread doesn’t rise …

Sometimes you need to get rid of the extra, the noise, the distraction, in order to make room for what you really need.

It’s a leap of faith.

I’m not going to tell you it isn’t scary.

Here are some things I am clearing off my plate in the months ahead:

  • I’m not going to plant seeds. I never do this right, and they never sprout, and I just end up feeling like a baby plant murderer.
  • I’m not going to even try to grow a perfect garden. I think I will plant tomatoes and herbs, because those things make me happy.
  • I’m not going to try to finish all of our homeschool curricula by the end of May. (More on that soon!)
  • And I am streamlining this cooking business.

My friend said something to me a while back:

“I endeavor to cook one really beautiful, lovingly prepared meal a day for my family.”

Boom.

The rest of the time, it’s easier food — mac and cheese or leftover spaghetti; banana bread baked over the weekend and and some fruit.

No one goes hungry. In fact, they like it more.

Why didn’t I think of that?

Why didn’t this occur to me when I vented a few years ago to another friend about trying to cook 3 made-from-scratch meals every day.

“Why would you even try to do that? Who is asking you to do that? Honestly, that just sound ridiculous to me. Buy some chicken nuggets.”

We’re back to the nuggets.

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It’s just so easy to get swept up.

Many years ago, in a time of Waldorf Madness, I decided that the best moms make little knitted things for their precious acorn children.

I had been trying to learn to knit for years and finally gave myself a lesson for my birthday.

I learned how to knit hats, which was really all I ever wanted. (Hats are complex enough to not be scarves, and yet simple and quick enough that I can make them while watching Netflix.)

But somewhere I got the idea that they weren’t enough — that I must challenge myself.

I made three sweaters and one sock.

Those projects felt like performing heart surgery to me, and I found myself not really enjoying my hobby.

{I’ve never worn a shawl in my life. Why am I trying to knit one?}

I haven’t picked up my needles in a year.

But then last week, I went to a luncheon to raise money for abused and neglected kids, and I sat there wishing I could DO something. Something besides just writing a check. And it occurred to me — I should knit some hats.

And maybe make some of my famous square blankets.

And put them in bags for these kids who have nothing and no one.

Those things are not fancy, but I am really good at them.

They bring me joy, or at least they used to. They are a small way to share love.

~::~

This post meanders, so let us regroup:

Life should not be all green beans.

Some things gotta give. (Open to interpretation.)

Stop trying to do all the things.

Instead: Do what you love, and what you’re good at.

Buy some chicken nuggets. Or whatever.

Clear that plate, mama. Good stuff is waiting.

Have  wonderful week,

Kara