Monthly Archives: December 2013

How much to ask kids to help

littlechefs[1]I was interviewed for an article in Binah Magazine last month about how to introduce a new baby to the family.  During the interview, I shared with the writer my strong feelings about being careful not to ask too much of older kids.

It’s very valuable for kids to be included in the maintenance of the home and to help with younger siblings – it can build a sense of responsibility, competence and teamwork.  Our kids need to know that all the family members are part of the same team and everyone works together to make things happen.

lady+washing+dishes[1]

At the same time, we can start asking too much and then lose those advantages when the kids become resentful and overburdened.  It’s easy to become dependent on the help of our older kids and to ask too much of them.  And sometimes mothers start to treat their older kids as if it’s their job to do things that are really her job.  I’ve done it at times and I think most of us have.  It’s not doing it sometimes that’s a problem.

I don’t have a problem with delegation and asking an older child to help out as long as the child still has most of his free time to use at his discretion.  It’s when a child has to routinely give up things that are important to them – time to do her homework, to get together with friends and getting enough sleep and time to renew herself that this reaches an unhealthy tipping point.

I spoke to a father last week who told me that he and his wife work full-time jobs and are starting a new business.  He told me that they delegated the basic cleanliness of the home to their kids (four kids ages 7 – 13), and created zones that each child is responsible for a month at a time, at which point they rotate.  The youngest child isn’t asked to do that much but they want her to also learn to help out so she’s given a zone as well, albeit much smaller.

I know of another situation in which the oldest daughter isn’t doing well in school because of her excessive home responsibilities that include home management and child care for her siblings.  Sometimes parents simply have no idea what’s reasonable to ask of their kids.   Your child shouldn’t be running your home on an ongoing basis,  no matter how tired you are and how competent they are.  They shouldn’t have the primary care and responsibility for their younger siblings.

It’s a balance, no question about it.  In both of these situations the kids complain about what they have to do.  If kids complain or if it’s more than what their peers are expected to do isn’t what makes the critical difference – most kids aren’t going to be smiling with delight when asked to clear the table or sweep the floor.  I’d also rather do something other than that!

Here are some ideas I’ve found helpful for myself in finding that balance.

  • I think it goes without saying that help shouldn’t be demanded but requested in a respectful and reasonable way.
  • When there’s work to be done, doing it with your kids makes it a totally different experience for them than if you’re consistently sitting around with your feet up while they’re working away.
  • If you have several children, make sure each child is pitching in. Don’t leave it for the most competent and agreeable child to pick up the slack for everyone else.
  • Set a time limit for how much a child is helping daily, so that they have enough time for homework, friends and extracurricular activities.  (I personally try to stay under an hour total but if you have kids in school, then this may be too much.)
  • Even if you’re physically out of commission, find a way to show them that you’re emotionally taking responsibility for running the home.  When the kids know that you’re still emotionally present even if you’re not doing all the work, it takes an emotional burden off of them.

Please feel free to add your tips and experience!

Avivah

My scary walk through Damascus Gate

20121120_Damascus_Gate_jeruslem_LARGE[1]Almost three years ago, I visited Israel and together with my two older daughters went on a tour of the four quarters of Jerusalem’s Old City. When the tour was over, the guide left us near the outside entrance of the Arab market.  From there I knew how to get to the Jewish quarter, but decided to go through the Arab market instead.  Why?  Because I was so afraid and I felt I had to face my fear instead of give in to it.  I had just been through there with the tour group so if there was any time I was going to feel more comfortable, that was it.

My girls pleaded with me not to do it but I ignored them and strode through.  Once I did it, I felt I had overcome a fear that needed to be put into perspective.  By walking through I had proved something to myself and now had no need to ever do it again.  (By the way, last week I apologized to dd19 and last night to dd17 for making my need to overcome my fear more important than what they were feeling.  Neither of them have a strong memory of it and they readily forgave me.)

Yesterday I went to Jerusalem to spend the day with a very close friend who’s here leading a group.  She’s based in the Old City, so when figuring out my plans to get there, I was deciding if I should take the train or a bus.  Dd17 said it’s very easy to get there by train and I told her it makes me uncomfortable nervous because I don’t want to be anywhere near the Arab quarter.  She said it’s a bit of a walk from the train through until Jaffa Gate and everyone does it and it’s fine.

This was the first time I ever took the train, so when I got to the stop I confirmed that it was going in the direction of the Old City.  The woman said yes, but it’s a bit of a walk from the station.   No problem, I was expecting that.  We got on the train together and later motioned to me that my stop was the one coming up.  When the train announced the next stop was Damascus Gate, I thought there must be a mistake, but I looked at the woman and she nodded again to confirm it was the stop for the Western Wall.  At that instant the thought flashed through my mind: I’m going to stay on this train until the end of the line, get back on the other side to go back to the central bus station and take a bus from there to the Western Wall where I know where to get off.  It looked to me like an Arab neighborhood and I just couldn’t get off there.

But then I told myself to be reasonable and stop letting my fears overcome me.  I had a very limited amount of hours with my friend, and I was going to spend up to two more hours traveling when I could be there within fifteen minutes?  If dd17 could do this, so could I.  This is how everyone goes to the Western Wall and there are always a lot of Arabs in this neighborhood so I told myself to stop seeing danger where it didn’t exist.

I felt more comfortable when I saw a religious Jewish man get off at that stop, and asked him for directions.  He gave me some quick directions, telling me it was really simple.  I started walking but then told him I would rather follow him. This ended up being a very good thing, since dd17 later told me I had gotten off a stop too soon and this is where people are warned not to get off.

I don’t know my way around there at all so it was no surprise that nothing looked familiar to me.  I expected as we walked towards Damascus gate to turn aside in the direction of Jaffa Gate.  No.  We went right in.  I chose to continue to follow him since he knew where he was and felt confident, and the option was to go back on my own to the train where I had no idea where to go or what to do was even scarier.   As we walked through wherever we were in the Arab quarter, there wasn’t another Jew or tourist anywhere in sight (until we got to the very end of the Arab market close to the entrance to the Jewish quarter).   As I walked through crowds of schoolgirls in their headdresses, women in long black chadors and groups of teenage young men that I felt frightened to even look at, I was so uptight I couldn’t even take a deep breath to try to relax.  There was a young Nigerian woman who had asked him for directions right after me and so we followed single file after him, walking fast to keep him in sight as we wove through the crowds.  At one point I noticed an inscription on the wall commemorating a young Jewish man who was stabbed to death in that spot.

As we were in the beginning of our walk, I was thinking, ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’.  As we got further in, I started to feel really anxious and started repeating in my mind, “On my right side is the angel Michael, on my left is Gabriel, in front of me is Uriel and behind me is Refael”, a spiritual statement to form a protective barrier around you on all sides.  This was a hard walk for me, and I can’t tell you how long it took – to me it felt very, very long though it can’t have been more than fifteen minutes.  It took at least ten minutes after reaching the Jewish quarter that I was able to begin to breathe normally and start to relax the muscles of my neck and shoulders.  Just thinking of that walk even now in the safety of my  own home makes me tighten up all over my body.

So I met my friend and we chatted and went to lunch and went somewhere else for dessert and then she said, “So how about we go to the Arab shuk and see if we can find some jewelry?”  I was like, you’ve got to be joking.  I accidentally ended up walking all through that area this morning and I certainly don’t want to repeat that for fun!  So she said that I must have been deep in the Arab quarter but she’s not thinking of going there, just to the beginning section where there are lots of tourists and Jewish locals.  She thought it would be fun to look for jewelry together but didn’t want to go if it wouldn’t be enjoyable for me.  So I took a deep breath and in the bright light of the Jerusalem sunshine – which makes it easier to be brave – said, “Feel the fear and do it anyway!” and off we went.

Can I honestly say this was relaxing for me?  No.  But I did enjoy being with her and some of her relaxed attitude slightly rubbed off on me and I breathed normally most of the time.  It was much less frightening than my morning walk but not somewhere I would let down my guard.  Aside from security issues, I don’t recommend anyone shop there – I buy my own jewelry wholesale so I know their prices are grossly inflated – but we did find a pair of earrings for each of us, though we both agree that the pair she got for me is more awesome than the pair she got for herself.  :)  

I was glad to be out of there, though.  And there’s no way I’ll make that mistake at the train station again, no matter how many people tell me it’s the right stop.

Avivah

Give your child space to do something new without trying for a repeat performance

y and e - dec 2013Yesterday, Yirmiyahu was playing on the floor with ds7 – ds7 was on his hands and knees in front of him, and Yirmiyahu pulled himself up by holding on to ds7.  Nothing new about that, he does it all the time.  What was different this time is that ds7 moved away, and Yirmiyahu stayed standing!

I was right next to them and said something intelligent like, “Oh, my gosh, Yirmi’s standing all by himself, look, look, look!”   I expected him to fall right away but he stayed standing a surprisingly long time.  Yirmiyahu was watching me watch him and his look clearly said, what’s the big deal? He’s been very stable for a long time when standing and usually holds on just barely to something in his vicinity, and he didn’t seem to be aware that this time was any different.

y and d

The kids were very excited – dd13 ran in from her room to see but he wasn’t standing by that point anymore.  So then everyone wanted to get him to do it again, and they kept moving away when he was standing next to them.  Of course he sat right back down.  I told them to leave him be – we know he can do it and he’ll do it again when he’s ready, and to push him at this point will put him back rather than move him forward.   I don’t want to intimidate him by asking him to perform and do something he’s not yet ready to do more of.  He’s only going to repeat it when he feels secure and ready, and if we push too soon it’s going to negatively impact his feelings of security and readiness.

y - 17 moAfter I told them this, it reminded me of something I read recently in Anat Baniel’s book, Kids Without Limits.  I went back to look it up so I could quote it here for you.  She said that “we want a child to feel and perceive differences and to focus on his own experience as it’s happening,” and when we ask a child to do repeat something he has just done for the first time, the demand “will often short-circuit the process in the brain of forming the new skill.”  She goes on to explain that when a child does something for the first time, he usually didn’t do it intentionally; he knows what it felt like on the inside but not how to reproduce that, and what he needs is time to focus inward on what he did, not be asked to focus outward and repeat.  She cautions parents that a new skill can seem to disappear when children are pressured to repeat their performance and often that inhibits the child and makes it much harder for him to do it again.

sh and y - 17 moThis is a common learning pattern of children (and maybe us adults, too!) of all ages.  When they do something new, they often don’t feel the need to do it again and again right away.  More commonly they build up to it bit by bit until they’re really comfortable with it.  And then they do it all the time!

I had this situation – also yesterday – with ds11.  He told me how much he loves reading and that he’d like me to help him get more ‘hard’ books.  This enjoyment of reading hasn’t come quickly – as an auditory learner that’s no surprise – and though I’ve watched his ability and enjoyment of reading steadily growing, I chose not to point it out to him.  I felt that bringing it to his attention would make him focus on his perceived lack of ability before he felt confident about his reading.  Instead I kept my observations to myself, and that gave him the opportunity to really know inside him that he’s a strong reader without me saying a word.

This can seem counter-intuitive; there’s a tendency to think we can make something happen by focusing hard on it and repeating things again and again, or by constantly praising and complimenting our kids.  Sometimes that helps. But often organic growth just isn’t like that – it can’t be forced, only encouraged.

Avivah

 

 

Snow in Karmiel

D - snow 2013By now, most of you have probably heard about the huge snowfall that blanketed the Jerusalem area and shut down buses and everything else for several days!  In Tzfat they had a similar situation – Israel really isn’t well prepared for snow and that means that everything stops when it snows (kind of like the south in the US).   We were able to see the mountains surrounding our city dusted with snow – a beautiful sight – but my  kids kept asking, when are we going to get snow?

I love our mild climate here and we didn’t get snow, but not to worry.  Thanks to the busy minds at the city municipality, the children of Karmiel weren’t deprived of the sensory pleasure of snow play!  They had snow trucked in and piled high next to the municipality!   We were fortunate that one of our kids happened to be passing by and noticed it; it was evening when I found out but I knew we better take our opportunity while we had it, since the next day it was likely to be melted.  So we bundled everyone up and went out so they could play in the snow before it disappeared.

Ds4 feeling nervous about being pelted

Ds4 feeling nervous about being pelted

When we got there, we saw lots of boys between the ages of 8 and 12, but no parents.  My little kids were a little intimidated by the snowballs flying at high speed and the older kids running around seemingly without awareness of our younger kids’ presence, but eventually they warmed up and enjoyed playing on the huge pile of snow, even ds4, who was the most reluctant.

werner kids snow 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

b snow 2013 D - snow 2013snow 2013 - 1

Yes, all that excitement and fun from one big pile of snow!

Sometime in the middle, ds7 found an iphone, which gave us the opportunity to do

Yirmiyahu, 17 months

Yirmiyahu, 17 months

the mitzva of returning a lost item.  That wasn’t so easy since even though I went around to all the boys asking them if they lost a phone, no one was missing one.  I called the ‘Mommy’ listed on the phone and told her I’d found her son’s phone.  She said he was still there but as she was telling me what his name was, the line went dead and I wasn’t sure what she said.  So I went around once more to each group of boys – this time I had more luck since I rattled off several names that sounded like what the mother might have said, and we were able to return the phone on the spot.  Once that was done, I headed home with Yirmiyahu and we had some time to play in the quiet house together before everyone got home.  

dancing dec 2013

Ds14 missed the fun in the snow but he brings fun with him wherever he is, and as soon as he came home the next morning, he danced with ds7, ds6, ds4 and Yirmiyahu all together.  He’s an awesome big brother – at the park yesterday a neighbor informed me about how amazing ds20 is, as well – she said her kids get so excited when he comes home that he’s like a superhero to them – and our kids are lucky to get so much love and attention from their older brothers.  And our older boys are lucky to get so much love from their little brothers!

The snow is gone but the kids’ warm memories remain!

Avivah

‘Brave’ – song with a powerful message

 

A couple of months ago, dd19 mentioned a song that she really liked the message of.  I asked her to send me a link so I could listen to it.

 

It turns out I had heard it before but since I didn’t pay attention to the lyrics, I didn’t think much of it.  This time I looked up the lyrics and listened carefully and wow! – it was very powerful.  It was a message that I really needed to hear right then, a few days after having been hit by a car and feeling powerless and victimized.

So here’s the song – Brave, a remake by the Maccabeats of the original by Sara Bareilles.  (Dd wanted to make sure I realized this isn’t a Jewish song, though it’s sung by an Orthodox mens’ acapella group and I’m passing this info along to you.)

And here are the lyrics:

“Brave” – by Sara Bareilles

 

“You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if youSay what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be braveWith what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be braveI just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be braveI just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be braveEverybody’s been there,
Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear
And done some disappearing,
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, just stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

And since your history of silence
Won’t do you any good,
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave.”

 

I have a couple of favorite phrases in this song but the entire message to me is something lots of us need to hear – have the courage to say how you really feel.  Don’t keep everything in because you’re afraid of what people will think of you, or because you’re afraid they won’t hear you.   It takes courage to find our inner strength when we’re not feeling strong.  It takes courage to to take off the mask that we put on because we think that’s what others want to see, be vulnerable and to say how you’re really feeling.

Avivah  

“My husband is so weird! What can I do?”

>>My husband is a wonderful person. The challenge that I have in our marriage however is a big one. When we have deep and meaningful conversations he is all there and responds beautifully. He has helped me tremendously with personal challenges that I have had. However, on a day to day basis I am not able to communicate with him. Almost every conversation/encounter that we have during the day leaves me frustrated. The main source of frustration is his weirdness. He is SOOOO weird. For example, if I share with him that my supervisor came to observe me at work, he would reply, “Your supervisor? Supe supe supe go have some soup”. At that moment I feel like a deflated balloon with no interest to share any further. (I would simply like him to say, “Oh how did it go?”).

We have been married for about seven years. By now, I have no desire to share or discuss most things with him. So when he asks me about my day I just say, “Good” and in general I became very quiet around him, unenthusiastic and even a bit withdrawn. This has been a process. It started seven years ago but over the years I think has gotten worse.
After about two years of marriage I gathered the courage and spoke to him about it. When we spoke I was crying. He saw how much it meant to me and he said he will try to work on it. I know he loves me, and I know he is a great guy. I can’t understand it, but he cannot change this habit! I brought it up a few other times but although he listened and cared at the time we spoke about it, he couldn’t change. At a certain point I realized that I need to accept him the way he is and be grateful for what I do have. I stopped nagging him about it and just accepted that this is what he is like.
Last year I listened to a series of classes on marital happinesss. I learned about the importance of becoming close to our husbands, speaking in a way that will bring upon closeness, and doing acts that will create closeness I realized that I am greatly lacking in this area. I took a close look at myself when I am around him and I found that I am emotionally removed when speaking to him, unenthusiastic and withdrawn. For a while I wondered what was wrong with me. Why can’t I act lovingly towards him? I thought it was due to the way I was brought up. I kept on trying to change but it was difficult, I felt like I was facing a brick wall.I was even considering therapy to help me figure out how to open up and be more loving and enthusiastic.
 
I don’t think I can change him, but how can I change the way I feel about him and act towards him if he doesn’t stop acting weird? Can a woman come to behave in an emotionally open and enthusiastic way with a husband who is constantly acting weird around her? If yes, how? I am really desperate for guidance! (and so is my husband, he is so hungry for my love but I am just not feeling emotionally there to be able to give it)<<

First of all, big hugs to you.  This sounds like such a difficult situation!  It’s natural to want the person you’re married to to be emotionally supportive and healthy.  And as kind and well-intended as your husband is, his responses aren’t typical.  How do you love someone who isn’t what you want them to be?

These are big issues and there are ways to address that but before going down that road, the road you asked me about, I have a different direction I’m going to ask you to explore.  I’m assuming if your husband was like this when you were dating, you wouldn’t have been able to overlook it, so this behavior must not have been so prevalent then.  You mentioned that it’s gotten worse over time.  This leads me to wonder if there’s a biological component here that needs to be assessed.  A clear diagnosis can be worth gold if it helps your husband get the help he needs.

Perhaps there’s medication that will be helpful.  Perhaps there are other ways for him to address these issues with trained professionals.  Is it possible your husband has Aspberger’s or something along those lines?  If so, there will be specific ideas that you’ll be given at that time if you raise these questions about how to deal with your husband’s unusual way of communicating.

I hear in your letter that you’re a person who is willing to work on herself, who wants to have a good marriage and wants her husband to feel loved.   And I think that it may be easier to love and accept him as he is, if you realize his quirkiness is coming from somewhere.  Often when we are able to put our expectations aside, it gives us room to see the person for who they are, with their strengths and without excessive focus on their weaknesses.

Avivah

Update on Yirmiyahu’s growth – good news!

From the time Yirmiyahu was eight months until he was fifteen months, his weight and head circumference hardly budged.  He wasn’t big to start with and I, the mother who has never paid any attention to growth charts, was getting increasingly concerned that his numbers just weren’t moving up.   The nutritionist and pediatric allergist said he wasn’t growing because I didn’t feed him enough, though after his caloric intake was counted up, the nutritionist admitted that he was getting plenty of calories.  When I asked his pediatrician about it, she told me not to worry: “Kids with Downs’ are all small.”

That irritated me even though it was supposed to be reassuring and I know it was well-intended, because if a baby who didn’t have T21 came into the doctor with the symptoms I was describing, believe me, they wouldn’t be telling the parent not to worry about it. They would have been running all kinds of tests to figure out what was wrong.  But for Yirmiyahu, it was acceptable for him to be small and weak because he has T21.

So the last two months have been very empowering.  At that time, after extensive research and a lot of anxiety, I decided to begin a protocol for cerebral folate deficiency (CFD) – this is treated by taking your child off of dairy and supplementing with high doses of folate.  I took him off dairy formula when he was eight months old, and started supplementing for CFD when he was 15 months old.  Currently he’s taking 5 mg of folate daily (a mix of folinic acid and 5MTHF, see the info at the site linked for an explanation of why we’re using both if you’re wondering); when he’s eighteen months this will be increasing.  Results?

Increase in head circumference – 2 weeks after starting the protocol, Yirmiyahu’s head circumference had increased to the -3% for infants his age, a huge jump from from a percentage that was very far down off the charts, suitable for a baby many months younger than him.  This was very important for me because if the head isn’t growing the growth of the brain is limited, too.  Two months into the protocol, his head circumference now measures 2% on the typical growth chart!  That might not sound impressive but it’s a huge leap and it means he’s finally in the range of age appropriate.

Weight increase – after 7 months of no weight gain, Yirmiyahu has gained 1.1 kg in the last two months.  Within two or three weeks after we began supplementing, people consistently started commenting on how much older and bigger he seemed and this has continued until now.  That was anecdotal, but after so many months of people telling me how petite and tiny he was, it was a noticeable change.

Energy – when he was younger, we all thought of Yirmiyahu as an active baby.  As he got older, he became more passive (but supposedly ‘babies with Downs’ are slower” so this worried no one but me and my older kids).  By the time we started supplementing, he was frequently laying his head on our shoulders to rest even at times it seemed he shouldn’t be tired; he wasn’t crawling much even though he had the physical ability.  It was worrisome when we contrasted what he had been like months before to how he was at 15 months.  Now?    He’s like the Energizer bunny – he just keeps going and going!  He’s crawling all over the house, cruising holding on to things, loves to bounce when held on a lap and is so energetic!   He still loves to snuggle into the person holding him, but it feels different – you can tell it’s because it feels cozy for him, not because he’s so tired that he needs to rest.  He’s sleeping much less and is much more awake when he’s awake.  This isn’t something you can track scientifically but it’s a relief and a joy for me to see his true personality being able to be expressed again, not being held back by nutritional deficiencies that supposedly didn’t exist.

Jaw structure – when Yirmiyahu’s bottom front teeth came in, they came in vertically rather than horizontally.  Over the last month, they’ve been getting straighter.  He was born with an extremely high palate, and his osteopath last week told me it’s coming down (ie expanding).  I asked her why she thinks this is, and she said perhaps it was due to specifically this supplementing.  (She hasn’t worked on his palate in the last couple of months so she didn’t think it was connected to craniosacral work she’s done with him.)  It makes sense to me that if his head circumference is increasing it might be affecting his jaw.

I’d like to get some follow-up bloodwork done so I can track his lab values.  I don’t anticipate continuing with therapeutic doses of folate long term; this is to address his serious deficiencies and as his numbers improve, I’ll be cutting down on this.  So I need to see the lab values so I can cut down appropriately.  I also am hoping I can get more thyroid bloodwork done (this is much more easily said than done!) to see how flooding his system with folate has affected these numbers – the hypothyroid symptoms I was concerned about have dramatically improved and I’m anticipating big improvements in his lab values.

I’m so grateful for the internet and the ability to do research and connect with others who are also looking for answers.  Without this it’s painful to think that Yirmiyahu would be suffering with unaddressed medical issues, and the doctors would continue telling me- and I would believe them! – it was because he has Down syndrome instead of addressing the real issues.

Avivah

Inner contentment from the alignment of values and actions

Most of us start off homeschooling with a lot of trepidation, excitement and a vision of something beautiful, something we think we might be able to have if we make this choice that we wouldn’t otherwise have.  And at first it’s exciting because we can remember how life was before and the contrast makes us grateful.  But then sometimes we get stuck in the day to day and lose sight of our long term vision along with how things used to be.  You begin to take for granted what you have – you doubt what you’re doing, the house isn’t clean enough, the kids aren’t learning enough, you don’t have enough time for yourself and you wonder why you thought this was a good idea!  (Yes, I sometimes have those feelings, too!)  We just lose perspective.

When I recently received a lovely email from a homeschooling mom, I asked her permission to share it with you.  It’s been over five years since I shared a letter like this, so I figured it’s time for another one!  The last one was from a mom in the US, this one is from a mom in Israel.

>>As for homeschooling, in case I needed the validation, my sister told me yesterday that her daughter, who lives here, told her that homeschooling was the best thing we did for our family and ourselves. She said she sees our contentment and inner peace — ours and the kids’ — even though she knows it’s not a perfect utopia all the time. And she’s right; I would describe us the same way.

There are so many things I love about homeschooling, it would be impossible to list them all but at the top of my list would be learning along with my children. Not just learning information but learning about each other, about life, about how to do homeschooling. I love learning with them that the process is at least as important as the product, and this applies to every area of our lives. There is so much more, but if I continued I just wouldn’t stop :)

I want to thank you again for your guidance and inspiration. You’ve helped us look at things in a whole new way and opened up a whole world of opportunity to our family.<<

Contentment and inner peace – those are the same feelings I have about homeschooling when I take the time to step back from the day to day busyness and reflect.  It’s not specifically homeschooling that causes this feeling; rather it’s a result of when a person aligns their values and their actions.  Every day we’re faced with choices in different areas of our lives, and when we can align them with our higher values, it’s incredibly empowering and inner contentment is a natural result.

Avivah

When to stay with something and when to move on

It’s interesting how comments and questions on certain issues seem to often come as groups.  This has happened recently with the topic of making a change – I was asked the same question by three different people in close succession: when is moving toward change positive and when is it running away from a problem.  Interestingly, all three were in situations in which a change would be beneficial, which made me wonder if it’s the people who have a tendency to stay in difficult situations who phrase the question in this way.

The most recent person to ask me about this was my dd17 when she was home for Chanukah vacation.  She’s living with an elderly woman which provides her with a place to live and a salary and she’s studying in an Israeli seminary – where she lives and where she studies are both difficult situations.  She’s not happy but told me she’s not sure if she needs to stick this out.  I told her, “If you’re a member of this family, your issue isn’t going to be running away from problems but staying in a non-suitable situation too long and trying to see the positives.”

Being positive and looking for the good in life is important, but you can’t let that keep you from acknowledging when a situation needs to be changed.   I suggested that first step is for her to be honest about how she’s feeling, not to rationalize or justify staying where she is because she doesn’t know how it can work out financially to do something different – just to acknowledge to herself how she’s really feeling and be willing to say, ‘I’m not happy’.  Then after getting in touch with that feeling – which doesn’t take too long once you clear away the mental clutter – to ask herself: “Is this situation supporting me and the life I want to have?  If not, why not?  What would be more supportive of my needs?”

So she did that and we talked quite a bit about what this means for her.  This week she gave notice to the family of the woman she works for that she’ll be leaving in a month, is interviewing with another family as a possible place to stay, and contacted the principal of an American seminary here in Israel to see if a mid-year transfer is possible.  I asked her how she felt and she said it all feels good.

It seems to me that most people get stuck on one side or another of this question when they have to ask themselves the question about if their current life situation serves them or not.  Many people stay with situations that aren’t supportive for too long, not believing that anything better is out there, thinking that they don’t deserve for things to be good or blaming themselves for the way the situation is.

Others go to the other extreme, moving from place to place, job to job, relationship to relationship, always blaming others for their situations and searching for that elusive happiness in the next place.  When a person is having a hard time in life because of who they are, they carry that with them wherever they go.  Someone who hosts a lot of people checking out her community told me she can tell right away who is a good candidate and who isn’t by asking why they want to move.  She said when people start complaining about everything that is wrong with where they’re currently living, she knows they’re going to miserable in her community, too.

So how can you tell when you objectively would be better off in a different life situation?  When are you running away from something instead of putting in the effort and time to make things work, and when are you moving forward towards a better and more fulfilling life?

This is a really individual situation and sometimes for the same person, it can look very different in different situations.  If you’re in an abusive situation, generally the faster you get out, the better.  Aside from that, we have to remember that all beginnings are difficult and time takes time.  Don’t give up on your current situation too soon – think about what specifically is missing for you, and what you can do to make it work for you.  If you’ve put in time and effort and after a reasonable amount of time things aren’t improving, you probably are seeing the reality of the situation and it’s time to think about making a change.  Don’t blame yourself for being where you are right now; it is what it is, you learned something from where you were and now you can move on.

Since we can’t be objective about ourselves, it’s very valuable to get feedback from someone outside of the situation who is willing to listen to you without projecting themselves onto the scenario.  At times when I’ve grappled with choices of this sort and spoken to friends, it’s been interesting how obvious the answer to my question was to them!  People outside the situation can often see things more clearly since they aren’t fixated on all the tiny details that our minds can get tangled up with.

If you’ve determined that change would be beneficial for you, have courage.  Trust that life is meant to be good, that you are worthy of good and that you will overcome the initial challenges the new situation is going to present you with.  Making a change like this is an act of self-value and self-love; we can’t have better things in our lives until we recognize that we deserve better in our lives.

If you’ve grappled with decisions of this sort, please share how you recognized when it was time to make a change or stick things out!

Avivah

Funnix math and reading programs – free until Dec. 20

Funnix has a free offer of their early reading (kids approx. 4 – 7) and beginning math program (approximately kindergarten).  This morning I ordered both.  Click here to see the details of the offer.

I tend to be cautious about computer based learning because while there is so much potential learning online, there are disadvantages and online time has to be carefully moderated.  Computer learning can often make skill acquisition easier when the material is presented in a fun and engaging way.   Too much screen time is unhealthy for kids so any computer learning should be used sparingly.

Years ago I noticed that even after 30 minutes on a computer learning game, my kids were more edgy and irritable for a period of time afterward and at that point I cut out just about all computer games as a result.    Now I use computer time in small bite sized pieces and this has been pretty effective in minimizing the negative effects, of being too zoned into the computer and too zoned out of human connection.

Avivah