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Big Mouth Strikes Again…

I’m listening to The Smiths right now who are one of my all-time favourite bands. While “Bigmouth Strikes Again” is a cool and iconic song (take a listen if you’re not familiar), it reminded me that, so far, my new year’s resolutions are going well. One of my major family goals is to drastically reduce – or better yet, eliminate completely – yelling.

animal bear big blur

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Believe me, I know that yelling isn’t terribly effective or good for anyone. But shouting at kids is different than shouting at another adult.  Obviously no one yells for fun or to get their kicks – it’s generally out of exasperation, overwhelm or frustration. It’s learning to stay calm when we’re stressed and not resort to yelling that’s the tricky part.

I’m reminded of an interview I did with Erin Flynn Jay about mothers’ work during economic downturns. Through her research, she discovered that child abuse increases during economically difficult times. Children might sense a parent’s stress and then act out, causing the parent to feel the need to yell or strike back. It’s unfortunately a vicious circle.

white and blue crew neck t shirt

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Now, none of this is meant to stress anyone (including me) out. But it is a good reminder that our actions and reactions to things do impact our kids – even if we don’t realize it or it doesn’t seem obvious immediately.

One of my other new year’s resolutions is to “think small.” I know that sounds like an oxymoron but, really, it’s meant to celebrate the little things in life. When it comes to parenting,  in my view, we need to pat ourselves on the back more and acknowledge that even small successes are still successes – especially when it comes to our or our children’s positive mental health.

If you made any, how are your new year’s resolutions coming along? I’d love to hear about ’em.

Peace,

Lisa

Merry and Bright? Dealing with Holiday Stress

Let me guess…You’re finding the holidays stressful?! Either your kid(s) are driving you nuts, you’re trying to buy gifts that you can’t afford or don’t know what to get, you forgot to pick up something for your neighbour/coworker/boss/niece/cousin/dog, or you feel like everyone’s invited to all of these fab holiday parties except for you.

Me? My kids are getting older and would rather hang out with their friends for the most part. That, coupled with the +9 Celsius weather (!) today, makes the holidays feel rather “meh” at the moment. In my family, we celebrate Hanukkah and, if I’m honest, I am just not in the latke-frying/menorah-lighting mood unfortunately.

close up photo of star of david ornament

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I remember when our kiddos were little and everything seemed new and exciting. We celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas and, although that meant extra work and wrapping, travelling, and buying and baking, etc., it was still a lot of fun. This year I haven’t done a darn thing so far except buy some holiday gifts and also birthday gifts for the great many people I know whose birthdays fall in late December.

No matter what you celebrate, there is a lot of pressure on people at this time of year i.e. “What are you doing for Christmas? Have all your shopping done?!” (Um… if you’re not Christian/don’t celebrate Christmas/don’t have a big budget this can be an awkward question to answer!)

What else can feel awkward this time of year…?

  • Kids are happy to have two weeks off school but that may mean finding childcare alternatives or taking time off work
  • Your partner (if you have one) may have a different (or no!) holiday schedule then your own
  • Your kids may have big expectations for foods or gifts or outings that you’re not prepared for
  • Your own mental health issues may prevent you from doing what you feel you should do (or what you feel everyone else is doing)
  • Your children’s mental health may mean not attending certain parties (or not being invited to parties!) or leaving early before they get upset or too tired or too hyper
  • The weather may prevent you from doing what you planned – for instance, here the snow is melting rapidly so no tobogganing or skiing or snowshoeing will work at this point
  • Perhaps you or your kids want to invite someone over or get together over the holidays but you’re worried that the parent has heard something negative about your child and doesn’t want them to play together or be friends
smiling boy holding sliced cake sitting near girl holding whip cream

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Although intentions are usually good, this can be an arduous time for many people. So, feel free to take a break and just go for a walk or go out for a cheap & cheerful dinner or head to the movies.

I know one woman who, though she has two weeks off of work, is still sending her toddler to daycare every day. I don’t necessarily agree with her decision but perhaps that’s what she needs to do in order to feel rejuvenated, rested and refreshed. It can be hard to parent at this time of year – especially if you don’t have family around to assist you or your child experiences any form of mental health challenge.

I wish for all of us a peaceful and zenfilled holiday season – full of minimal family fighting, decent gift exchanges, a few walks in the woods and one or two nights of restful sleep.

Yours in good holiday spirits,

Lisa

Educational Options for Your Child, Part 2: Homeschooling Continued

Good morning! I apologize for the delay in posting – I was on a much-needed vacation last week. I also apologize for the font changes in this current post: I tried to do some adjustments behind the scenes but it looks like two different font styles still appear.

A few weeks ago, a fellow blogging associate, Heidi, kindly provided info on how and why parents might decide to homeschool . Until recently, this was an area of parenting/teaching/education that I had known about for some time but didn’t fully understand. Homeschooling is chosen by families for a variety of reasons. For this blog, we discuss it from a mental health/learning disabilities perspective.

woman reading book to toddler

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Another fellow blogger, a successful business owner, parent and home-schooling expert, also agreed to answer some burning questions that may help you decide if homeschooling is right for you and your kids.

Dana is the owner of Train Up a Child Publishing.  The information on Dana’s site/blog is extremely helpful and may assist you in understanding the ins and outs of homeschooling as well as the various methods and philosophies involved.

Here are a few of her answers. I will add a second part to this post soon – she provided such important and detailed information that I can’t fit everything into one post!

Question 1: From your perspective, what’s the criteria for homeschooling? For instance, do you feel it’s best in all cases for both parent and/or child?  

There are many circumstances and possible criteria for homeschooling. I don’t feel like homeschooling is best in all cases. Regardless of the criteria, if parents aren’t committed, willing to invest time and money in curriculum/supplies/and possibly tutors, and willing to make homeschooling a priority in their lives, it’s probably not a good choice.   
 
From the parent perspective, they might feel homeschooling would be better for their child because: 
  • They disagree philosophically/religiously with some of the content of what is taught. For example, the school policy changes you may have heard about in California that have literature that talks about many genders. Many parents that this area should remain within the realm of what parents would teach in the home, rather than in their first grader’s classroom.  
  • Their children may have been diagnosed with epilepsy, or other medical condition that require closer medication management/health care than may be possible in the public/private school system
  • Their child(ren) may have been diagnosed with ADHD or are on the Autism spectrum and have or have had difficulty coping with a typical public or private classroom. Parents who homeschool these children can provide them an environment that better suits their needs:
    • a less distracting room for homeschooling, without every inch of wall space covered with colorful things, like many elementary classrooms, particularly
    • the opportunity to give children their own quiet space to learn and focus, complete with a bouncy ball or other soothing/tactile objects
    • hands-on and other customized lessons that appeal to their student
    • customized therapies and methods that parents have found to work for their child at home because their school systems aren’t able (or perhaps willing) to implement them in a classroom situation
    • more frequent opportunities for breaks, more easily incorporate movement into studies
    • can take the time and provide mentorship in teaching their child relational behaviour — one to one. I’m sure this would be impossible for most teachers because of the teacher to student ratios, even in special ed classes
  • They feel as though their child would be safer at home from bullying, school violence, etc.
man wearing black crew neck shirt reading book

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Question 2) What would you say to a parent who is considering homeschooling due to their child’s anxiety, depression, bullying, etc.?
 
I would tell them what it’s like to homeschool and give them places to research it further in their state/country. I’d suggest they visit and get plugged into a local homeschool support group, ask lots of questions and maybe shadow a homeschooling family or go on a field trip or park day with a homeschooling group. If parents are strongly considering homeschooling, it would be good to bring their child into the discussion. 
 

I’d let the parents know to look for a support group that met together regularly with activities for parents and for kids, went on field trips, provided a co-op or group classes, etc. (With ours, we had yearly school pictures, a yearbook, a prom, lots of field trips and small classes in many academic and enrichment areas, from writing classes to Taekwondo.)  

Question 3) What are some characteristics of successful homeschooling parents/teachers? What are two or three things that must be in place? 

Homeschooling parents must be committed to homeschooling at the start. That doesn’t mean they have to do it forever, but they need to be committed to at least a year at a time.
They have to be willing to spend money as necessary for their child’s curriculum and activities, and they have to be willing to make homeschooling a daily priority for at least one parent. That doesn’t mean the homeschooling parent can’t work parttime, but homeschooling has to happen daily in spite of the job. Sometimes homeschooling happens on the weekend or at night — it doesn’t have to look the same in all families and nor does it have to look like public school. 
 
It works best if parents have taken the time to train their children to [listen] when they were small.  Mutual respect between parents and children makes it a ton easier. And it’s easier to start with that in place, although it’s never too late to develop.
 
As I said, at least one parent has to assume the responsibility for homeschooling and make it a priority in their life.  Also, most homeschooling parents have to be willing to take the time to learn along with the child. They have to commit to at least weekly planning time, they have to be able to grade papers or get help from someone who can do this if they need help.  Sometimes moms change kids — one who did well in math might teach math to her child and mine, and maybe I teach writing to my child and hers, for example.  
accomplishment ceremony education graduation

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Thank you so much, Dana, for your insightful views. Again, please visit Train Up a Child Publishing to learn more.

I was doing some further research on supports for homeschoolers: If you are in Ontario, Canada, the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents looks to be an amazing resource. I am very impressed with their site and how user-friendly it is to access.

Let me know if you find this information useful and if you have other advice or resources to share. I’d love to hear from you.

Lisa