Lit Mama Has Moved

Dear readers, if you’ve coming here looking for more advice and encouragement from the Lit Mama, you are now coming to the wrong place!  I am so thrilled to announce that I am now self-hosted and you can find all my old posts plus all my future posts at www.litmamahomeschool.com.  If you have been left behind in the move, simply follow the link to the new site and resubscribe to continue receiving post notifications in your inbox.  Please take the time to do so!  I don’t want to miss your smiling face for a moment.🙂

Preaching Against Prejudice

What are we teaching our children? Stop and think about this right now. What kind of little jokes have been told in the presence of your littles in the past week that, at their core, are prejudice? How many political speeches (can you say Donald Trump?) have had an underlying prejudice theme? How many television shows, websites, or comics have made some throw-off racist remark just to make people laugh? In the last week. In The Last Day.

There is nothing more abhorrent than prejudice. I have called it the Worst Human Flaw Ever, and I always will. It is the opposite of love. When you laugh at, belittle, or hate someone because they are different from you, you are killing love. Dead. Why would anyone want to do that?

I thought I was tired yesterday. Then I finally gave in and went to the store to get dish soap. Turned on NPR in the car, because that is what I do. Heard the news about the church shooting in Charleston. Wept. And wept. And wept. Racially motivated mass murder… WTF? How is it possible that this is still happening in the world? People from 26 different countries read this blog. They are not all like me. They do not all have the same color skin, the same sexual orientation, the same beliefs.  They are not even the same size.  I welcome their differences. I want to learn all about the Whole World, not just my little corner. I am honestly flummoxed that this kind of thing still happens. When we have more opportunity today to learn about and understand each other than at any other time in history, we should be learning about and understanding each other. We may end up not liking each other, but at least it will be based on something real.

When we talk to our littles about the Charleston AME Church shooting, it should not be our first conversation about racism.   It should be one in a long line of sermons against prejudice that we have given our children since birth.  Teaching our children tolerance should be one of the first and most important lessons we teach.  Let’s not get bogged down in the gun debate, that is the government’s job.  Let’s remember and teach against the true crime: hate.

“I’m here to shoot black people.”

Think about that.  Think about how horrific that sentence is.  Insert any other ethnicity.  And ask yourself why.  This monster was younger than Big.  He didn’t learn to hate ‘black people’ all by himself.  He is still a child.  He hasn’t had enough grown-up experience yet to make informed decisions.  His information still comes from his background.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming his parents.  I don’t know them.  In fact, I have read nothing about them.  I am merely trying to make the point that if we are not teaching tolerance in our home, refusing to give in to the pressure to find prejudice remarks funny, introducing our children to other cultures, and making sure they judge people on an individual basis, we are perpetuating the crime.

My beautiful husband wrapped his arms around me last night as I cried and admired my big heart.  There is nothing here to admire.  I simply don’t mind letting my Littles see how the tragedy of prejudice impacts me.  It tears me to my core.  The people who died in that church were husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers.  According to their peers, they were all kind and giving.  They did nothing to deserve Dylan Roof’s hate.  From what I understand, he didn’t know a single one of them.  Each victim was a human being, just like me.  Just like you.  Just like your children.

Please.  Look at your children today and remind them that the world is very small now.  That they will meet white people, black people, Asian people, Latinos, Europeans, Russians, Australians, Africans.  Straight people, gay people, transgenders.  Thin people, fat people, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Pagans, Taoists, atheists, agnostics.  Tell your children that it’s okay to love all those people until unless they prove, individually, that they are unworthy of love.  Remind them that hate takes a lot of energy and that they shouldn’t waste that energy on people they’ve never met.  That even in countries where our soldiers are fighting for their lives, each of the humans involved is an individual who just wants to live.  They have the same hopes and dreams, joys and sorrows, that we have.  They have the same right to life.

I read a quote last night from pop singer Solange Knowles (whom I happen to adore): “Where can we be black?”  In my house, Solange.  In your house, dear reader, too, I hope.

It has to start with us.  We have to teach our children how wrong prejudice is.  If we do that, we have a chance in this world.  As people.  To stop hate crimes.  To stop all the anger.  To let everyone live.

Let’s not let this turn into a gun control debate.  Because that much hate could have come out in any way.  Knives. Bombs.  House fires.  Stay focused, and teach your littles about hate control.  Because that is the bottom line.  We are a family of hunters. I spend many, many hours every November and December hunting meat to put on my family’s table. I am a full-on believer in our Second Amendment rights. I think it’s one of the things that keep our country strong. But we are only as strong as our weakest link. And our weakest link is prejudice. Hating each other. For no reason. Killing each other over our differences.

Our differences are what this country was built on. Differences populated this country. Differences make this country great. But we have to embrace them. We have to teach our littles to embrace them.  I implore you to talk to your children about it.  Every day.  Because change has to come, and it has to start with us.

Despite it all, I still believe, with all my heart and soul,

Love wins,

KT

Exhausted Mama

Dear Beautiful Blog Readers,

Some days I get tired.  Some days the overwhelming overwhelming-ness of being a mother (to both an adult and littles), a wife, a homemaker, an entrepreneur, a chauffeur, a supportive friend, a farmer, a homeschooler–a Woman of Many Title–is downright exhausting.  Sometimes there are so many things to be done in a single 15-minute period that I am literally flitting from one place to the next, one thought to the next, one Me to the next.  When I really want to do is close my eyes, have complete quiet, shut off my brain, and Just Be.

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For half an hour.  Just be.  Just be KT.

Who has time for that?  I decided to write to you about it, because I have a feeling I am not alone in this.  I see posts that give suggestions such as Make Time For Yourself, Don’t Overschedule, Get Up Earlier To Have Quiet Time (or Go To Bed Later).

Um, I can’t make time.  It is humanly impossible.  Goes against the laws of physics.  I don’t really even get to make my schedule.   These things need done. They are not going to go away if I don’t schedule them into my day.  They will still need done tomorrow, and chances are I’ll only be piling on more for tomorrow if I skip something today.   Also, I already get up between 5:30 and 6:00 every morning and can barely keep my eyes open till 10.  So…

My blog is meant to encourage other moms and dads who are on this journey.  But sometimes I don’t feel encouraging.  Sometimes you don’t want to be encouraged.  Sometimes, we just need to commiserate.  So here’s the thing.

I am having an exhausted week.  That’s honest.  Here’s a pic of my kitchen counter Right Now.  IMG_20150618_145652239_HDRThat’s honest.  I should be doing those dishes, but the truth is I ran out of dish soap this morning and I don’t have the energy (or the hour it would take) to go get more.  I haven’t worked on next year’s curriculum this week.  At All.  I haven’t been able to find the time.  My Littles are having so much fun with their summer science class that we are doing extra work every day, and even though it’s easier than any class we’ve ever done (since I didn’t have to write the class first), it is cutting into my chore, blogging, and business time.  I’ve barely spoken to my best friend this week.  I want to.  I just don’t have time.  I’m too tired to sleep.  I’m too tired to stay awake. You know that feeling, don’t you?

I don’t have any words of encouragement.  Let’s just commiserate.  We are parents and it is exhausting, and that is okay.  Tomorrow will be better.  It always is, isn’t it?  But for today… Let’s just own the exhaustion.  Let ourselves be overwhelmed.  There comes a time when we have to stop the denial.  For an hour, maybe.  Because denial (haha) is often what keeps us living this crazy, wonderful, beautiful life.  I’ll put on my big-girl boots in the morning, I swear.  But today, my friends, I Am Owning It.

I’m tired.  Are you?

Love wins,

KT

Teaching Kids Financial Responsiblity

It’s funny how the universe works sometimes, isn’t it?  Last evening, the Littles and I had a short conversation about allowance.  Now, we don’t give them allowance though they do have chores.  What?! You may ask, aghast.  But here’s the thing.  A household is a large and difficult responsibility to run, especially if you have a farm with animals and gardens and the like to care for.  I am not giving my children chores so they can earn money.  I am giving them chores because they are part of this household and I don’t want them growing up thinking the cleaning fairy is going to come to their dorm room/apartment/house and take care of everything magically while they are out having fun.  I don’t want to raise men who expect their wives to do all the housework or who can’t take care of themselves if they don’t have a wife.

Also, I want the Littles to learn, just as Big did, that a household is a team.  Teamwork is an important lesson to learn when you’re young, and ensuring that your littles get that they’re part of the family team means you are teaching them how to pass the ball when they need to and how to go for the goal when it’s their turn.  So they have chores.  It is part of their job as a team member.  I do not get paid for doing a load of laundry.  They do not get paid for folding it.

So I explained to them that I don’t really believe in allowance.  I believe if they want extra money they can come and offer to do a job equivalent to the amount they need and we will work something out.  But their daily chores are just part of life.  They get it.  They weren’t asking for allowance, anyway.  They aren’t spoiled, but Martin and I tend to go without luxuries so the Littles can have a good childhood, so they feel ‘paid’ enough.  They were really just trying to understand the concept.

Here’s where the weirdness of the universe comes in.  I am a big NPR nerd, and I listen to it whenever I am in the car, no matter what program is playing on our local station.  Today while I was running errands, the Diane Rehm show did a feature on teaching financial responsibility to young adults.  How–creepy–is it that I was just talking about financial responsibility to my kids and then heard a program about it?  In love with that.

Anyway, there were three experts on the panel, and one was a college professor who believed that financial responsibility should be added to public school curricula.  I remember learning to write checks and balance a checkbook in a high school class, but that was more years ago than I’d like to admit… Do they not teach it anymore?  A second expert said that he was loathe to add another burden to the already overburdened public school teacher.  At first, I was a bit miffed.  Isn’t teaching kids how to live in the real world part of their job?  I  mean, yeah, personally I feel that is the parents’ job, but if you’re sending your littles to public school to learn about the world, shouldn’t they be learning about the world?

Then I thought of all the teachers I knew when I was working in the public school system.  The harried, hurried steps to make yet another common core meeting.  The frustration of knowing they had to leave some students a little bit behind in order to keep their classes ‘average.’  And yeah, maybe that guy was right.  Maybe teachers don’t need another burden.  They’re having a hard enough time making sure all their students can read.  And that’s not their fault, believe me.  It’s the fault of the system.

So it comes to us as parents to teach our kids how to be responsible with money.  The experts on the radio show had a lot of really good ideas.  Put aside three money jars for each kid.  Label one ‘save,’ one ‘spend,’ and one ‘give.’  When your child gets money from allowance, birthday gifts, what have you, have them divide the money up into each can.  When they have enough in the spend jar to buy something they really want, let them buy it.  When they have enough to make a decent donation to a worthy cause, take them to donate it.  Make them save the money in their save jar until they are ready to move out on their own.  Not too shabby an idea.

One of the panelists suggested having your teen get a job and give a percentage to you out of every paycheck for rent, groceries, etc.  That way they won’t experience culture shock when it’s time to move out on their own.  I had never really thought of it that way, but it actually isn’t a bad idea.  I was lucky that when I was a teen my parents did not buy me a car but helped me find a job and then get a loan to buy my first car myself.  I can’t thank them enough for giving me that opportunity to learn about making payments on time before I had to make rent.  They taught me that buying a child a car does not necessarily help the child–it certainly doesn’t teach the child financial responsibility.  So when Big wanted a car, he got a job and a loan and got his own car.  And he paid it off early!  He paid his own insurance and gas money.  We didn’t take a percentage of his check for room and board, but he learned about making his payments and what it means to owe money before he moved out of our house.

That’s something every child should learn in some way before they leave home for good.  We may think we’re doing them a favor by providing for them and not letting them worry about such things until they have to.  We’re not.  It is such a struggle (remember?) to suddenly be responsible for All the bills and All the cleaning and All the… everything.  It takes most people up to a year to get the hang of it once they get out on their own.  They go into debt because they don’t realize that credit cards aren’t free money.  They end up with bad credit because they don’t understand the minimum payment thing.  They sometimes even lose their first apartment because they just don’t understand why they can’t pay their rent a little a lot late.

Another fantastic suggestion was to have your littles sit down with you while you make out your monthly budget and pay your bills.  Let them see how much you have coming in, how much you have going out, and where it’s going.  I know some parents want to hide such details from their kids, but really, what good does that do them in the long run?  If they think your food, electricity, internet, and water come magically, or that your debit card is a magic money tree, they will not understand when they get out on their own why they should budget.  It might give them a worry-free childhood, but it sets them up for disappointment as adults.  Besides, if they get a grasp of where your money is going and how much of it is actually spent on them, they might start asking less for extravagances.  Win-win.

Teaching your kids while they’re young what it means to make on-time payments, how to save and be patient, how to recognize when they have a little extra to give to someone who is in need… These things will help the transition from ‘mom’s house’ to ‘my house.’  Maybe they won’t make the same mistakes we did.  Maybe they’ll have a better grasp of reality.

As for my Littles, at least they will know how to take care of themselves.  The shock of actually being the person who has to sweep and vacuum won’t be so hard on them.  And if I play my cards right, they will have a firm grasp on what it means to be financially responsible.  I have to do some more thinking on this room-and-board thing… What if you told them it was room-and-board and secretly put it into a savings account for them?  That’d be a nice surprise when they have to come up with first & last month’s rent plus deposit.🙂

Do you have any ideas for teaching littles how to be responsible with money?  Share, share, share; I’m sure we could all use that advice.

Love wins,

KT

Sweet Summer Time

Our summer science class this year isn’t very outdoorsy.  The whole reason I initiated summer science four years ago was that I wanted the Littles to be able to get some Hands-On, Outside, Science Stuff Experience.  It has served us well over the years, making summer school seem less like school.  And even though it seems just as un-school-like as ever this year, that’s because they’re talking about and playing video games.  Screen-time science.  Important, I know, if they want to be able to function in today’s world.  But how am I to get them outside for some screen-less lessons when we’re studying code?

Well, the perfect solution is a backyard camping trip.  We did this last year, and it was so much fun we are still talking about it.  We took a Saturday and I set it up like a summer camp, with crafts and activities and a tent set up on the trampoline (because Mama’s back wasn’t up to the cold, hard ground).  This year we have a camper we can sleep in for our summer camp because the trampoline may actually have been worse than the ground!

Last year’s itinerary was so fun I thought I’d share my ideas with you.

First of all, the summer solstice was on the weekend last year, so we picked that date for our camp day.  We set up a temporary awning in which to do crafts and the like because even though we are surrounded by woods, the backyard doesn’t have a whole lot of shade in the heat of the day. It turned out that we really, really needed it, so I’m glad I thought of it beforehand.  So the date was set, the yard was prepared, and we were ready to go!  Here’s what we did:

Food:

We had prepared “Sun Bread” the day before as a sweet breakfast treat.  It ended up lasting through the day, so we just munched on it whenever a sweet tooth moment hit.  I made it from monkey bread recipe, but rolled the dough to look like sun rays and, of course, made a ball on top for the sun’s nose.  Then I poked the eyes and mouth into the dough with a kabob stick before popping it into the oven.  I’m in love with the way it turned out.

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Any ol’ monkey bread recipe will work for this.  I made up my own biscuit dough, but you could probably do it with canned biscuits.  Just maybe buy a couple of cans to make sure you have enough.  Also on the foods list were, of course, hot dogs (shudder) for lunch and s’mores for the campfire.  It was not a day to worry about healthy eating.  It was a day for fun!

Crafts:

Make a sun with colored pasta

Since we were celebrating the solstice, I thought it appropriate to do a sun craft.  Easy peasy, since I always have colored middle sun craftpasta on hand.  Just pick any type of pasta you want to use, put about a cup in a bowl or sealable bag, mix together 1/4 cup Littlest sun craftrubbng alcohol and 10 drops food coloring (or more if you want more vibrant colors).  Stir or shake, then leave in the bowl or bag for a few hours, stirring or shaking occasionally.  Lay the pasta out on wax paper or foil-lined cookie sheets and allow to dry overnight. Whammo!  Colored pasta.  I always make extra and keep them in their own jar in the classroom.

For the sun craft, I simply got out the colored pasta and Elmer’s glue, gave each boy a paper plate, and told them to make me a sun.

Make amulets from found things

082For this craft we simply walked through our woods gathering moss, seeds, grass, a snakeskin (great find!), flowers, etc.  I have a tub of wood shapes in the classroom, but any flat surface will do for an amulet.  We used stars because we didn’t have any suns, and the solstice includes the shortest night of the year, so why not celebrate that, too?!  We added the bells to attract fairies. :-)  Simple and fun, making an amulet from nature requires only a short walk, a flat surface, some glue, and a string or ribbon.  I still have mine in a little box in my room.  Can you guess which one it is?

Make a birdhouse

086For this idea, I grabbed some of the empty breadcrumb cans I had saved for a rainy sunny day.  They’re shorter and squatter than Pringles cans, but Pringles cans would definitely work.  Other supplies included yellow, white, and black construction paper, pipe cleaners, Kabob sticks or dowel rods, and google eyes.  Oh, and scissors and glue, of course. We cut the construction paper into 1-inch strips and glued it around the body of the can.  Then we took the lid off and cut one bird-sized hole in the plastic and one hole for the kabob stick. We put the lid back on before we glued on the googly eyes and pipe-cleaner antenna.  Then cut some ovals out of the white construction paper for wings and glue them on.  Add a string to the top for hanging, and you’ve provided a new home for the birds.  Just make sure you hang it somewhere where it is protected from the weather.  The cans Are made of cardboard, after all.

Make a castle from outdoor things

085Seems pretty self-explanatory.  Have some fun with it.  Bring the Legos out if you must.  Let the littles use their imaginations.  Even if, at the end, you can’t really tell what they’ve made.

Make glow lights.

For this project, I simply picked up some cheap glow sticks at the dollar store and fished out some old jars.  Some sea salt or rock salt is the only other supply you need.  When dusk started to settle, we filled our jars about halfway with the salt, curled up the glow sticks in a circle and pushed them down into the salt.  The salt diffuses the light, making the whole jar look aglow.  We slept with them in the tent.  It was pretty neat.  You can also fill your jars with water and just drop the glow sticks in and cap them–it has a similar effect.  For some reason I didn’t take pictures of this awesome craft, but while searching for one online to show you, I found a braver type of glow light at The Gold Jelly Bean that involves actually cutting the sticks to get the liquid out.  It looks pretty amazing, too.

Activities

Scavenger hunt

Kickball

Croquet

Ring toss

Bean bag bowl toss

Going on a bear hunt

Blow bubbles

Flash tag

Tell scary stories

look at constellations

swim

catch lightning bugs

soak thyme in olive oil and lightly anoint eyelids to see fairies

Nearly all of these activities can be done on the cheap.  For the bean bag toss I filled colorful buckets full of water and let them get splashed as they played.  I actually had them use the things they found in their scavenger hunt to make their amulets.  We waited till dusk–after we made the glow lights–to anoint our eyelids to see the fairies, then we made s’mores.  While Daddy took care of the fire so we could sleep safely, we lay on the trampoline outside the tent and picked out constellations until we were tired.  Then we took our glow lights in and went to bed.

Summer camp 2014 was truly one of the best experiences of my life.  I’ll never forget how great it was to spend a whole day just having fun with my littles, no pressure, no outside worries.  For it to work, we all had to stay completely unplugged.  I think this year we’ll do summer camp closer to autumn when we can make scarecrows and have pumpkin treats.  Or maybe we’ll do it this weekend.  Because, you know, the backyard is always there.

Love wins,

KT

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