Disconnected… Kinda

I deleted Facebook off my phone shortly after our vacation started. Anyone who knows me, knows this is a big deal. Not because I particularly love Facebook, but because a bunch of the programs I run work because of Facebook. So deleting it also meant letting go of it all for a short bit of time. Now I did ask friends to let me know if I was needed in those groups, but so far so good!

I also tucked my cell phone into the diaper bag (or the husband’s pocket). I can’t hear the alerts and only specific ones are sent to my smart watch. This was a necessary step for me to truly relax and enjoy a vacation with my kids. It’s amazing what one notices when their phone isn’t buzzing in their pocket constantly. And trust me when I say my phone buzzes All. Day. Long. Such as…

How much Pip observes when he doesn’t seem to be paying attention. Even when it appears he’s lost in his imagination, he still notices people and needs around him in the “real world” and comments on them to me.

How Liv is realizing people comment on her looks, and how it drives her crazy. She wants people to ask her about her age, her favorite color and all the things she knows. And she becomes very frustrated when too many people call her cute.

How they are finally turning the corner on car trips. Instead of needing a dividing line to stop wars, the giggles and songs from the back seat are now almost deafening.

How really really blue the ocean is here. The adorable white terns bobbing in the air when we were out on our whale-less whale watching tour. Olivia, the sea turtle, enjoying the waves splashing into her while she slept in the cove we visited. And so many rainbows.

Now, I’m not saying I’d miss all of this if I had my phone buzzing in my pocket. But I would miss some of it. And to me, some is just too much. Liv turns 3 in a few days, Pip just turned 6. And it’s already going by much too fast.

So, fellow mama, tuck the cell phone away for a while today. Notice what you hadn’t noticed before. And love on those kiddos big and small.

The Weather Outside is… Delightful?

It’s been quite the week of weather here in Colorado. It started in single digits and broke 60°F yesterday. We definitely are experiencing all the seasons this week!

To kick off the New Year, we’ve been paying particular attention to temperature. We enjoy looking over the day’s temperature changes using this site. Then we mark it down! Pip and I are each tracking the weather in our own ways.

I found this chart for Pip. Every night, before I go to bed, I place a line at the day’s high. In the morning, when he wakes up, he colors it in. It has started a lot of really fun conversations and learning experiences!

I have, ambitiously, started a weather blanket. So far I am really enjoying it! I may not make it all 365 days, but right now it’s a great way to unwind at the end of each day. And Pip loves checking in to see what color has been added!
Tara

Porch Swing Views: Bikes and Struggles

Today’s temperature has climbed to a gorgeous 64°F. As we left the co-working space we love, I promised the kids a picnic on the lawn and bike riding. I texted O on the way home to let him know the plan and he sweetly pulled out Pip’s bike.

Only to discover both tires were flat. Ug.

Thankfully we live ridiculously close to the library, where there is a bike fix-it station! We drove the two minutes up there to wait in quite the line for our turn. Apparently everyone had plans to enjoy the beautiful weather!

It struck me as interesting that some people would accuse us of not “doing” school today. But, in addition to music time at our co-working space, my kids were learning all day long. And pumping up the tires was just another learning experience. I showed them the parts of the bike. They helped me located the stem on each tire. We studied each tire to find the recommended PSI and then watched the dial as we pumping in the air to make sure we didn’t over inflate!

We returned home and I worked on some personal projects on the swing while the kids traded off between bikes. That is when the big lesson came. You see, Pip wants to learn to ride a two wheeler. And for any of us who can remember that long ago, that is sometimes a tough lesson. Today he became extremely frustrated with his seemingly minimal progress in this endeavor. He came up, rather defeated, to the porch where I was seated. We discussed frustration. What it feels like, what our brain might tell us and some options. He could stop for today. And that would be just fine. Or he could continue practicing. And that would be fine too. But only he could make the decision.

Hear me loud and clear. Every bone in my mama body wanted to rescue him. I wanted to swoop in, save the day, change the plan and bring back rainbows and butterflies for this sweet boy.

But, as much as my heart wanted that, my brain knew better.

I know, from research and my career, that struggle is important. Crazy important. Struggle teaches really important things. Like confidence, problem solving, “smartS” (IQ), emotional IQ and grit. (read more here)

So, I reminded him of his options. I gave him words for his feelings. And I let him know he was accepted with either decision. But I didn’t save him. I didn’t tell him what to do. I kept my bum firmly planted on that porch swing.

Now, I would love to tell you he ran back to his bike, hopped on and rode off into the sunset. But this is the real world folks. He didn’t master the two-wheeler today. He might not master it tomorrow. But he did choose to get back on that bike and try a few more times. And my heart, silently, bust wide open.

Just my view from the front porch swing.

Tara

Gameschool: Outfoxed

Word has spread in the family – a perfect gift for us is always a game!

Children learn so many fantastic things through games. Beyond just turn taking, patience and problem solving. You can target history, geography, math, critical thinking and more! Gameschooling itself it a huge movement in the homeschool community for good reason.

One gift the kids received for Christmas (thanks Nana!) was Outfoxed. Now, we are huge Gamewright fans, so we knew this one was going to be awesome.

Getting through the directions was a tad cumbersome, I’m not going to lie. But our little family of four figured it out and had a blast. Even though we lost!

Yep, “we” lost. It’s a fantastic cooperative game where it is players against the game. I love these games for my clients who a struggle with competition and/or anxiety. And cooperative games make it easy for the 2 year old to play with the 5 year old in our home! While Pip played mostly independently whole exercising his problem solving skills, Liv enjoyed rolling and learning how to move around the board, even if she didn’t understand the critical thinking aspects yet!

The game reminds us of Clue mixed with Guess Who, but in a simplified cooperative way! One of the foxes has committed a crime and you have to figure out which one is guilty! You are given pictures of all your suspects and clues hidden around the board. All the clue relate to what the suspects are wearing. It’s really quite ingenious.

Our group loss was clearly on Pip’s mind. When I woke up, I walked into the family room. Pip had the whole game set up, ready and waiting for our rematch against the foxes! Haha!

Round two was much more successful! We weren’t Outfoxed in round two!
Tara

A Folksong Dilemma

Pip and Liv’s curriculum has them learning a new hymn and folksong every month. I make a Spotify playlist out of their songs and we keep building it over the year. We’ve learned “Cockles and Mussels” and “Green Grass Grows All Around” before switching to Christmas music for November and December.

But I continue to run into a dilemma. The amount of folksongs around the topic of death. “Cockles and Mussels” caught me off guard. It was recommended by their curriculum so, in a complete mom fail moment, I didn’t pre-listen.

Trust me.

I have not made that mistake again. But every month I am having to search for our own songs, as the curriculum list continues to discuss death! For example…

October: Freight Train by Elizabeth Cotten (1905)

When I’m dead and in my grave,
No more good times here I crave,
Place the stones at my head and feet,
Tell them all that I’ve gone to sleep.
Freight train, freight train, run so fast,
Freight train, freight train, run so fast,
Please don’t tell what train I’m on,
So they won’t know what route I’ve gone.

When I die, Lord, bury me deep,
Way down on old Chestnut street
Then I can hear old Number Nine
As she comes rolling by.
Freight train, freight train, run so fast,
Freight train, freight train, run so fast,
Please don’t tell what train I’m on,
So they won’t know what route I’ve gone.

Err… ummm… Pass.

January: Minstrel Boy

The minstrel boy to the war is gone
In the ranks of death you’ll find him
His father’s sword he hath girded on
And his wild harp slung behind him
“Land of Song!” cried the warrior bard
“Tho’ all the world betrays thee
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard
One faithful harp shall praise thee!”

The Minstrel fell! But the foeman’s chains
Could not bring that proud soul under
The harp he lov’d ne’er spoke again
For he tore its chords asunder
And said “No chains shall sully thee
Thou soul of love and brav’ry!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free
They shall never sound in slavery!

Seriously. No. Let’s skip ahead to February?

February: Walk That Lonesome Valley by Mississippi John Hurt (1924)

You got to walk, that lonesome valley.
Well, you got to walk it for yourself.
Ain’t nobody here, can walk it for you.
You got to walk that valley for yourself.

My mother had to walk that lonesome valley.
Well, she had to walk it for herself.
Cause nobody here could walk it for her.
Yeah she had to walk that valley for herself.

Oh yes, you got to walk that lonesome valley.
Well, you got to walk it for yourself.
Cause nobody here can walk it for you.
You got walk that valley for yourself.

My father had to walk that lonesome valley.
He had to walk it for his-self.
Cause nobody here could walk it for him.
He had to walk it for his-self.

Oh, Jesus had to walk that lonesome valley.
He had to walk it for his-self.
Cause nobody here could walk it for him.
He had to walk that valley for his-self.

Oh yes you got to walk that lonesome valley.
Well, you got to walk it for yourself.
Yes nobody here can walk it for you.
You got to walk that valley for yourself.

Oh my word. I. Just. Can’t.

So we’ll be learning An Acre of Land for January. I can explain that one clearly!

I am totally open to Folksong recommendations… without macabre themes, please!

 Tara

Reading Together: Why, What and What is Next?

Reading aloud is important in our home. I have vivid memories of my mom reading aloud to me as a child. She would come into my room in the evening and we’d curl up together reading Madeline L’Engle books such as A Wrinkle in Time. I have read to my own children since they were babies and in the past 2 years we’ve made the switch to chapter books. Pip and Liv love listening to chapter books, whether audiobooks in the car or physical books I’ve found on family member’s shelves or in lovely used bookstores. I recently posted our first audiobook series for 2019 on my social media and was flooded with questions. So I’ve decided to answer some of them below!

Why Do You Read Aloud?

Research has shown us, time and time again, that reading is vital to child development. Reading aloud to a child exposes them to diverse vocabulary, develops imagination and teaches listening skills. And it helps develop lifelong readers! Even once your child has begun to read, it is important to keep reading aloud with them by selecting books beyond their reading level but tied to their interests. By reading to Pip and Liv, we are modeling reading for enjoyment while demonstrating how to read. Left to right, top to bottom, inflection, character voices and emotions like suspense, surprise and sadness!

What Books Do You Pick?

There are so many book lists out there. Some put out by libraries, authors, bloggers and more. The Read Aloud Revival has recently received a lot of press and I very much appreciate her exposing parents to the idea of reading to their children. While I have some hesitations with her book list, it is a fantastic place to start for many families.

There are some specific things I look for when selecting chapter books to read with our children. While it is hard to simplify it, here are the first three things I look into…

  1. Not Twaddle: Twaddle is “trivial or foolish speech or writings”. We look for books that teach character, written with “literary power” and expect intelligence from our children. A great explanation of this can be found here.
  2. Simple Drawings: Ask my poor husband, I will spend hours in a used book store flipping through multiple copies of the same book. I’ll request different versions of the same book through the library system and return most of them to the cart without ever checking them out. I don’t want a book that provides brightly colored pictures to my children. This takes away from their imagination’s job! I love a book with simple pen drawings in black and white. Enough to help them if they’ve never seen the story’s topic, but which leaves out most of the image for their minds to fill in.
  3. Engaging: There is a good chance that, if the story bores me, it will also bore my children. I look for books that we all find interesting. Not only does this keep my children loving our read aloud times, but it makes me more prone to pick the book up and excitedly start the next chapter.

What Did You Read in 2018?

We had so much fun reading chapter books in 2018. Many we were gifted by my husband’s aunts and some came from his grandma. They were older book with that wonderful “book smell” and simple line drawings. Here is a list of the ones we completed before the stroke of midnight last night:

2018 Reading List for Pip and Liv

  1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  2. Stuart Little by E.B. White
  3. The Francis Collection by Russell Hoban
  4. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
  5. Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne
  6. The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
  7. Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus
  8. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  9. The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum

What Are You Reading in 2019?

Pip and I talked about a new reading goal for 2019. We had set our goal for 10 in 2018 and just missed it. Failure is ok in our house, we actually celebrate it! We love learning from our failures and talking about them openly. Despite our shortcoming this year, we decided to aim a little higher for 2019. We are going to try for 12 books this coming year! We are wrapping up a few from last year still while making a “wish list” for 2019. There are more than 12 books on the list because, well.. we like options!

2019 Reading List for Pip and Liv

  1. The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White (started in 2018!)
  2. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
    1. Mary Poppins Comes Back
    2. Mary Poppins Opens the Door
    3. Mary Poppins in the Park
    4. Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane
    5. Mary Poppins and the House Next Door
  3. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  4. Burgess Animal Stories by Thornton Burgess (started 2018, a huge series!)
  5. Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  6. My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
  7. Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
  8. Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
    1. We plan to continue through this series – there are 14 Oz stories by Baum, another 26 put out by other authors and even more “related works”
  9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S, Lewis

Let us know if you are reading these too – my children love to talk books with their friends!

Tara

Forest School 2017: Day 3

As we pulled into the parking lot this week, Pip spotted his “guide” and shouted greetings to her as soon as he was free of his car seat. He was greeted with smiles and friendly greetings. As a mom, that means a lot! The teachers for our forest program prefer to be known as guides. They aren’t sitting them down with a lesson plan of what each child will learn. Instead, they are guiding them through developing their own interests, learning lessons from their own curiosity and being safe while pushing them from their “safe zone”.

It always fascinates me to see what each child gravitates towards when they first arrive. Pip has newfound confidence in climbing EVERYTHING, so he is usually racing to the top of the closest boulder or trying to find a tree ascend. Liv, ever the adventurer, noticed the paints this week and painted a beautiful piece of artwork. On herself.

Forest School Day 3 | www.oliverandtara.com

This week’s science experiment was painting with glue, salt and paints. The older children tested different mixtures to see how they differed and made observations to the group! Pip was proud to bring his home. It may never dry…

Forest School Day 3 | www.oliverandtara.come

Liv took advantage of the older children climbing and enjoyed the class tarp all to herself!

Forest School Day 3 | www.oliverandtara.come

Her hiking skills continue to improve weekly – and she gets more adventurous each week. She’s learning to steady herself and navigate the uneven paths. Never the helicopter parent, the thought of a helmet crosses my mind regularly.


Forest School Day 3 | www.oliverandtara.come

This week I was flying solo, as O had some meetings and couldn’t attend. Can we all say a ‘thank you’ for baby carriers?! Liv does GREAT for the first half, but wears herself out quickly. When daddy is along he takes her down the path and back to the car for a nap. Just mommy and we have to keep trucking!

Forest School Day 3 | www.oliverandtara.come

The children had a particularly exciting tool to try this week… and a very detailed lesson along with it!

As soon as Pip arrived home he told daddy “I used a BOW SAW!!! WE CUT WOOD! A DEAD TREE!!! … not a live one.” Haha!

❤ Tara

Gameschooling: Do you?

Gameschooling | www.oliverandtara.com

So ,what is Gameschooling?

Gameschooling is teaching school subjects through game play – board games, card games, etc. So teaching geography through Ticket to Ride, colors through Candyland… you get the idea!

Why would one Gameschool?

Games teach so many fantastic skills and, if selected carefully, can teach great educational subjects at the same time! In addition to the obvious skills of turn taking, sharing, cooperation, learning to win/lose… there are some additional developmental skills games can help! My favorite executive functioning skills of self-regulation, perspective taking, problem solving, working memory and planning are involved in almost every game out there. Games can also grow creativity, social skills and both verbal and non-verbal communication abilities! Plus, let’s be frank. As parents, we can often lose sight of having FUN with our kids. Life demands are no joke! Intentionally planning game play into your day can be a welcomed respite and time of connection.

Do you Gameschool?

There are some people who only gameschool, which fascinates me! While we aren’t 100% gameschoolers, it is an intricate part of our homeschooling. We’ve played games with Pip since he was very young, and Liv is already wanting to play Pip’s games with us during the school day!

Current Favorites…

Because I know the question would be asked… here are some of our current favorite games!

  • Robot Turtles (Pip)
    Early introduction to coding, but no technology involved! I’ve seen Pip’s ability to plan, problem solve and navigate increase exponentially since we began playing this game!
  • Cariboo Island (Pip) – discontinued
    Really, any of the cariboo versions are great, but all are discontinued. So check with local moms, thrift store and consignment sales! This fun “hidden treasure” game let’s you work on letters, numbers and shapes! It’s quick with a built in reward system.
  • Koala Capers (Pip)
    My mom found this one on Zuliliy, but even on Amazon it’s really decently priced! This one allows for a lot of adaptations to make it easier and harder. You are trying to find the most outfits for your koala by rolling the dice and matching the pattern and clothing item to one of the many combinations out! What is also fun is that all the outfits are from different areas of the world. So we get a lot of geography and occupation talk in too!
  • Shelby’s Snack Shack (Pip)
    Think of this as the modern day Hi Ho Cherry-O…. just with a dog and bones! Spin to try and dig up bones, then spin to see how many you can get. Watch out – you might lose a turn, lost your bones, or steal some from a neighbor. MOM NOTE: Don’t put all the bones out if only two of you are playing. It will NEVER END. We typically only put out 20!
  • Hidden items activities (Liv)
    Not a purchase-able game, but just the game she’s into currently. Hiding anything (even family members) gets her excited! And it’s doing a great job of teaching her waiting, turns, and stamina! Plus her giggles are infectious!
  • Hungry Pelican (Liv)
    Pip actually picked this game out as a Christmas present for his sister! It’s a lot of fun to drop the food into the pelican’s mouth and it appears in the stomach! We put all different things in the mouth, not just what came with the toy! It offers a lot of funny vocabulary, wh questions and surprises. Plus, it’s a game even Pip gets in on, so they are learning to play together too!

Want to read more?

Some great blog posts out there on gameschooling include…

❤ Tara

Another day in nature

Today was day two of Forest School/Nature School (we use the terms interchangably). Some cute photos and takeaways.

Liv is always so excited to arrive at Forest School! Especially when she also gets to wear brother’s hat.

For science, they learned about butterflies and then disolved sugar into water to make sugar plates.
We didn’t see any butterflies, but we did catch a praying mantis who stopped for a drink!

From being hesitant to climb anything week one, to trying everything week two!
He knows the rules to call out “climbing” and wait for an adult to respond “climb on!”

This increased confidence translated to the first tree he attempted to scale independently!
(He did need some help, but his height was a slight disadvantage!)

He wasn’t the only one scaling everything – though she be little….

Today we painted in our journals. For brushes, the children had to search nature!
Liv loved the flowers, her brother preferred his fingers! Haha!

She’s become fascinated with birds lately, and today we “dressed up” as one!

After observing a chipmunk eating these seeds, Pip decided to try some too!
I just love his curiosity… “I do not think they are very good!”

Always the little helper…

I just love how much growth I’ve seen in both kids after just two weeks. This is just a small snapshot of our three hours today! Each week their teacher adds a few more structured activities for them to “opt in or out”. This week we started journaling, next week we begin Yoga. Pip always opts in, Liv usually does as well. We are also soaking up the warm weather. Forest school is all weather, so we will be out here in the rain and snow soon!

  • Tara

Forest School 2017: Day 1

I had learned about forest school via world wide web. I’d show videos to my husband and told him how much I wish we had one near us. It was pure chance that I found our local forest school!

A mom had posted on a local homeschooling group about the activities she was enrolled in and asked what others were doing this year. One activity was forest school! I couldn’t click that link fast enough! Thankfully, my children have some awesome grandparents that encourage their homeschooling and help support their extra-curriculars ❤️

Day one of forest school came and O was actually able to attend with us! Pip was so excited and had so many questions. His number one question? “Will there be mud mommy?”

After a week of daily rain, he definitely had mud! He was so excited! His excitement was clearly contagious, because soon he had company….

This little girl had her hands covered in mud and loved it!

Soon, the son of our leader came running through the mud barefoot. Pip’s mouth dropped open. He looked at me as if to ask “can I do that?!” With just a bit of encouragement from his leader (whose bare feet you can see) and me…

Soon the leader invited the children to join her in a group for a science experiment. She brought out canteens and poured some contents into each child’s cup. She asked them to hypothesize, wonder and notice. They discussed color, temperature, smell, flavor… And enjoyed sitting quietly drinking tea together on their first day of Forest School!

Soon they moved on to storytime, where they learned about “being present” and what that means in a group. And it physically involved a move as well. Up onto a boulder!

We moved our entire class to another location within the park to continue exploring, trying new games, and learning safety. We discussed what to do if they see a snake, finding support when they want to climb high and respecting physical boundaries for our play space. Liv loved this new space and boldly followed the big kids around exploring.

Pip watched some of the other boys ascend the large boulder. He gave it an attempt, but left discouraged. He soon because engaged in a game of “1-2-3-Where are you?” but continually looked back to the boulder and watched the more experienced boys climb. A short while later he ran over to his leader and called out “Miss Erin! Climbing!” She smiled, and called back “climb on!” (which meant she was ready to spot him). The smile on his face when he made it to the top made my mama heart explode. He stayed up there for 20+ minutes!

A quick lesson on how to find a good throwing rock helped transition the boys to the closing, which involved throwing said rocks over a ledge and telling everyone their favorite part of school.

He was sad to go, but completely exhausted! We can’t wait to return to the beautiful views and the adventure of exploring!

❤️ Tara