Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Cease to be idle..."

I  have no tolerance for laziness in myself and in my family members.  I should have been born in another time period when people had to work day in and day out just to live.  We have too many conveniences these days that have made us very prone to laziness.  Being idle is actually contrary to the teachings of the gospel.  In Doctrine and Covenants 88:124, it says, "Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated."  This is actually a seminary scripture, one of those scriptures that students of our LDS seminaries are instructed to memorize.  My seminary class in Texas called this scripture the seminary scripture because it talks about not sleeping "longer than is needful" and we had early morning seminary.

I have always believed that work is a necessary part of life. It really, really bothers me when people are lazy simply because they can be (the people I'm thinking of, though, are mostly people that I am around every day, like members of my own family, although it does bother me to some degree to see random people in society acting with such laziness, especially teenagers).  There is always work to be done, but they think, "it's my day off, I can be lazy."  True, we are allowed a day off from our labor, but that is the Sabbath, during which we are admonished to still remain productive.  I recall my parents teaching that even on Sundays, the day of rest, we shouldn't just spend the entire day sleeping.  It is unproductive.  Taking a nap is fine, but sleeping all day is just lazy.

This is also why it's wise to "retire to thy bed early", so that we can get enough sleep to feel rested and not be so tired the next day that we are wanting to sleep in.  Growing up, I had a curfew of 10 p.m. on weeknights, even in the summer months.  That meant I needed to be home then, but I usually tried to be in bed by then as well.  Because I'm a person who learned very early in life that I do not function well with a lack of sleep, I had no trouble keeping to this curfew.  There were occasions where I was allowed to stay out later, but I always regretted it the next day when I still had to be up early the next day.

I take this scripture to heart and very sincerely try to live it.  There are occasional days where I succumb to laziness and I always feel bad later because I allowed myself to be so indulgent and unproductive.  This is probably why I prefer to have my children do chores, piano practicing and schoolwork when they first get up in the morning on summer days.  "Work first, play later" has always been one of my mantras.  I do try to spread out the work so that I do have time for play because I also believe what Brigham Young said about dividing our time wisely between work, recreation and sleep (wish I could find the exact quote, but I can't seem to find it).  However, I've found that often when you indulge first in recreation with the intention of working later, the work rarely gets done, or if it does, it doesn't get done to the quality that it should. 

*image from Google images  

I rather enjoy being productive.  I enjoy seeing the fruits of my labors.  I enjoy feeling as if I've accomplished something, even if all I've accomplished is keeping my house clean, getting my family fed, and maintaining some order while doing it.  I hope to instill this value of work into my children.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Childhood, Then and Now

Yesterday evening as I was driving back to my house with all my kids after dropping off something to my husband at work, I saw a car cross the intersection in front of me.  It was a convertible and the people in it appeared to be a father with his tween-age daughter and her friend.  It was early evening, around 5:30, so it was still light and warm.  I had a serious flashback to when I was about that age and I went to spend the night at a friend's house.  We went to dinner with her dad and he took us in his convertible.  The memory was so thick that I had a bit of a hard time returning my focus to the road; it took someone honking behind  me to remind me that I wasn't one of those young girls in the convertible but just a mom with a minivan full of kids trying to get home in late afternoon traffic to eat some dinner.

Lately, I've been having these types of memories of childhood.  Not all of my childhood, just the part of my childhood that I spent living in Texas.  I had some really great experiences there as a kid and then again as an early teen.  I lived there from the age of four until I was almost nine, then we moved away for almost three years (Connecticut for a little over a year and Utah for a little over a year).  We moved back the summer that I was eleven and were there until after I turned sixteen.

I yearn for those days.  Not that I want to repeat them necessarily, but I wish that my children could have the same type of childhood I had.  These days it's a huge feat if you can let your kids go to the park alone, but back then, we played outside all day, riding bikes all over the neighborhood and all the other kids were outside too.  We had a creek behind our house and we would walk the creek as a shortcut to get to the neighborhood pool.  We would spend hours every day in the summer at the neighborhood pool without our parents, playing with all our school friends and hanging out.

I loved too how the school we attended had a strong arts program--we went to art class once a week and studied influential artists from history and the elements of art.  We made pottery and painted with watercolors.  We went to music class once a week and learned about rhythm and beat and how to sing, like really sing.  We also had P.E., real P.E. where we learned the rules of the different sports and practiced skills pertaining to the sports.  Now, kids are lucky if they even have P.E. and usually it consists of games or little exercise routines.  The only way the kids can learn sports these days is by signing up and paying money to play it through a city or community program.  No more sandlot baseball games or playing soccer after school at the school field.

I think this is why I try so hard to work with my kids during the summer months.  We go outside and play soccer, baseball, basketball, and football.  I've already tried a couple of times to organize a kickball game with all the neighborhood kids (although "kickball" here in Utah now is a weird game that they play with two lines facing each other and kicking the ball back and forth, not the kickball I grew up playing).  I haven't yet succeeded in generating enough interest, but one of these days, I'll get it done.

I just wish my kids could have some of the same great experiences I had growing up.  I know they'll have some great ones of their own, but I guess I worry that because of the way the world is now, where kids are so sheltered (sheltered from the good and real experiences, but exposed to a lot of crap they shouldn't be exposed to) and lots of adults don't think kids are capable of much, that they won't have the same types of opportunities that I had.  I know I need to stop worrying about it and just let them live, but when I think back to those golden years of my childhood, I can't help but feel like they are missing out on something.

 My youngest brother and I when I was about fourteen and he was about six.

 Youth Conference in Texas, me with three friends.  (I'm the one in the orange shirt, in case you couldn't tell)

 Me with my best friend from church right before a stake youth dance.  Those dances were the best.  We had one tri-stake dance each Saturday for three Saturdays every month, rotating stake centers.  We tried to go to every single one, too.

Me with two of my friends from school--the one in the polka dots was my best friend from school (she was the one whose dad had the convertible).  This was the last week of eighth or ninth grade, I can't remember which.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Our Summer Learning

I promised that I would post about our summer routine and what we do for summer learning.  I love summer especially for this learning time.  I am thankful that my children attend a good school where values are still taught and expected and the community where I live reflects that.  Our state does not have set requirements for what children need to learn in music and art and even science in the lower grades.  Our school's teachers do try to incorporate these subjects with the core curriculum as much as possible.  However, I see that these "extras" are lacking in some areas.

For example, in art, they mostly do craft projects.  They haven't learned about the elements of art, like color, line, movement, balance, etc.  They know nothing of art history or influential artists from history.  So I take it upon myself during the summer months to teach them these things.  I have a little bit knowledge in art myself having taking a few courses and really loving that subject area, so I'm able to teach them what I know and research what I don't know.  I do this with music and science and cultural studies as well.

I am a very structured person, so it's pretty easy for me to formulate a summer routine of chores and summer learning with my kids.  First of all, I determine what subjects they need to review during the summer and which ones I will teach them.  They need to read every day and it's good for them to review language arts and math.  I also like them to practice their handwriting in the summer months because they tend to get sloppy by the end of the school year and they need that constant practice.  So each day they do some practice pages in these areas, either in a workbook I have found for them or pages that I have printed from the Internet.  We alternate days, doing language arts twice a week, math twice a week, and handwriting one day.  Fridays are for art, science, social studies, and music and any other non-core-subject learning.  Every day we also have a piano lesson (each child has a different day for their lesson) and the rest of them practice the piano.  We do all these things before they can have their freedom to go play.  Also, once a week the older boys have karate and the younger two (not the baby though) have gymnastics.  Starting next week we will focus on a foreign culture for a week, learning history and culture and ending the week by having a meal from that culture.

Here is our basic routine:

6:30-7:00 am      Wake up, make beds, say morning prayers, get dressed

7:00 am    Family Scripture Reading and Prayer (this is the main reason we get up early even in the summer.  We like to have scripture reading and prayer at the beginning of the day otherwise it usually doesn't happen.  We have to have it before Daddy goes to work, and he leaves at 7:15 am.)

7:15 am    Eat Breakfast/Brush Teeth/Reading Time (about 20-30 minutes, starting with personal scripture reading)

7:45/8:00 am    Learning Time--Piano lessons and practicing during schoolwork time; Monday and Wednesday are for Language Arts review; Tuesday and Thursdays are for math; Wednesday there is also a handwriting page.  Later in the summer we will probably do some creative writing as well.  I do one child each day for a piano lesson Monday through Thursday and the rest do practice time after the lesson is over, taking turns.  On Fridays, we do Music Theory together instead of a lesson and then they take turns practicing.  We also do art on Fridays.  Starting next week, after everyone has done their individual reviews and piano practicing, we will do a mini lesson on a foreign culture.

9:00 am    We are usually done with all learning time by 9:00 am. This is when we have a snack and run some errands or have some free time.  The baby goes down for his morning nap.

10:00 am    Tuesdays gymnastics for two of the kids, Wednesdays karate for two of the kids.
Wednesdays there is playgroup at this time and sometimes there are things going on at this time  for the other days as well.  Mornings are busy.

12:00 pm     Lunchtime, then baby's nap.  After lunch the kids will often play the Wii during the baby's nap.  
They earn their Wii time by earning tokens from their daily routine.   They pay me one token for fifteen minutes of Wii time and are limited to 30 minutes of Wii time each per day.  I set the timer for them.

1:30 pm      The rest of the day is free time until dinner.  They play outside, blow bubbles, bake, play with Legos, play at a friend's, have a friend over, etc.  Sometimes we'll take a family bike ride or go to the park.  When we join the pool for a month in July we'll go there almost every day in the afternoon.

Of course, some days we don't follow this exact schedule and we vary it up.  Like yesterday, after morning learning time, we took one of my kids to a doctor's appointment that happened to be near the zoo, so then we went to the zoo when the appointment was done and spent the morning there. 

Here is a copy of our daily routine, for which they earn tokens:

They earn one token for each set of activities that is surrounded by a black box.  So they can earn three tokens a day and can use two tokens a day for playing the Wii.  The chores vary depending on the week, as we have a weekly rotating chore system.  The Saturday chore and the level of chore changes too.  This is our first week of using this system for their daily routine.  Two of my kids are eating up being able to check off boxes and earn tokens and two of them don't seem to really care about it at all.  So we'll see how it goes this summer as this is the first summer I've implemented such a structured routine.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Keeping My Kids Busy

Often I am asked how I keep my kids busy in the summer.

When I was a kid, my mother did not keep me busy in the summer and I have actually grown to think that this "how to keep the kids busy all summer" is a relatively new concept that falls in line with the new method of helicopter parenting and mollycoddling your kids so they develop no independence or imagination of their own.  If we said we were bored, my mother put us to work doing some horribly loathsome chore, like cleaning out the garage or weeding the entire garden, so we learned to never complain about boredom.  When I was a kid, we spent our summers playing with each other, reading, going for bike rides in our neighborhood.  Sometimes we'd all go swimming as a family but in one of our houses, we got a membership to a neighborhood pool and back then, kids were allowed to go without a parent as long as we were eight years old or older and passed a swim test. The swim test consisted of swimming a certain amount of laps (I think it was three), treading water for one minute, and diving from the side of the deep end of the pool to retrieve something at the bottom of the deep end.  Once we passed, we got our own little pass to the pool and we could come without our parents.  My brothers and I spent every day, all day, at that pool the summers of 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993.  It'd be interesting to find out if they have such a swim test now.  If they do, I'll bet the age has changed to older, but I'd honestly be surprised if they have such a swim test now, given the hysterical paranoia of many of today's parents. 

Since I obviously can't send my kids to the pool on their own (and even if they had a pool around here that had the same regulations only one of my kids would be old enough to go on his own), and in today's world, we can't just kick them out of the house at 9 am and tell them to be home for dinner at 6 pm, it does end up falling on our shoulders as parents to keep them busy.

I'm lucky that my kids have been independent and entertaining themselves since they were little.  I attribute this to the fact that I'm not the coddling sort of mother--I kind of have a bigger personal space and never really wanted my kids climbing on my lap and bothering me, so from the time they were walking, I've been telling them to go away and find something else to do.  Very nurturing, I know, but when it comes to summer break, I really don't have to do much to keep them entertained.

They like to create works of art and stories galore.  My oldest will spend hours piecing together instruction manuals for Lego sets that he creates out of the Legos we own or he'll make a book of facts about dragons that he comes up with on his own.  Then he'll take his books and get the other kids together and they will use the information to build a giant Lego city or to track and hunt dragons.  Lately, they're obsessed with Indiana Jones (courtesy of our Wii game, Lego Indiana Jones) and they found some cheap Indiana Jones-type hats at Hobby Lobby.  They'll spend hours playing Indiana Jones, using the rope that I got when I made Jedi costumes for them a couple of summers ago as a whip.  So really, them needing me to entertain them isn't really an issue.  Oh, and I also let them play outside unsupervised, so that's another thing they do all the time--ride their bikes and play Indiana Jones outside.

I do actually have a routine that I stick with and some expectations for them regarding summer learning and chores and things, which I will share in another post, but I like to make sure they have lots of free time to stretch their imaginations.  I think that is a really important part of childhood that a lot of parents forget about or don't think is very important anymore and lots of kids end up so scheduled with structured activities that they never develop this ability to entertain themselves and be creative.  This is one of the reasons I love summer--my kids have more time to do this than they have during the school year.

Monday, June 4, 2012

10 Reasons I LOVE Summer

This is a direct reaction to this post over at Mormon Mommy Blogs. 

1.  I love not being tied down to a schedule.  While I don't care to indulge and sleep in every day, and my kids certainly make sure I never get to anyway, I love that I don't have to get up and get ready.  I don't have to  make sure the kids are up and dressed with backpacks packed and lunches made and breakfast eaten.  

2.  I love being able to make my own schedule.  I am a structured person; I thrive on structure and routines.  I think it makes it easier to manage a household of children as well.  I love being the one calling the shots in our daily routine.

3.  I love sunshine.  Long, cold winter months and fickle springs make me anxious and annoyed.  I enjoy heat and sunshine.  I need both of them to keep my sanity.  That's perhaps why I dealt with less depression in Arizona, as I had both of them for long periods of time.  I could live a happy long life if I knew I'd never have to face another cold winter.

4.  I love swimming outside.  I am not an indoor swimming person.  I loathe the smell of chlorine that is trapped inside and the lack of sunshine pouring down while swimming.  I love being able to get out of the pool and go to my towel and dry in the breeze.

5.  I love summer learning.  I like being able to set up learning programs for my kids to keep them learning in the summertime.  Tracking their reading for a prize at the end of summer, practicing handwriting and math, teaching them music and art and science.  Family field trips to the zoo, the museum, the farm, the park.

6.  I love family bike rides.  Another reason to hate winter, being trapped inside all the time.

7.  I love just hanging out with the kids.  Doing what they want to do.  Playing outside and teaching them kickball or four square or learning how to catch and throw the baseball.

8.  I love the temptation of a vacation.  Of being able to jump in the car and drive four hours north on a random Tuesday if we want to.  Or to decide last-minute that we need to see the grandparents, both of which who live a 12 hour drive away.  That's something we have to plan in advance during the school year but in the summer, we can just drive and we don't have to deal with bad weather to drive either.

9.  I love Popsicles, snow cones, ice cream cones, ice cream bars, and walking to the nearest place that sells these things on warm summer evenings.  I miss not being able to do this during school because it's too dark too early, too cold, and they have school in the morning.

10.  I love rodeos.  My kids love rodeos.  I love how in Utah in the summer there is one rodeo after another it seems about every weekend.  We don't make it to all of them, only a couple usually, but just being able to go makes summer fun.  This goes for all other fun summer events as well.  Where we live, all the little cities and towns around have their own festivals and "town days" and there are lots of free, fun activities that go along with these.  I love all these events.

I just love summer.  I think I love it mostly because I'm just a warm weather person.  I'll take 100 degree heat over snow and ice any day.  I do enjoy the end of summer and the start of a new school year, as I talk about in this post here.  But summer, to me, is the feeling of sweet freedom.


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