Miranda’s Birthday

Our family has a number of birthdays in August and September, and as I was thinking about blogging about some of those, it occurred to me that I actually never wrote my blog post for Miranda’s birthday this year! At the end of April, Miranda turned seven, which seems like such a big age for my oldest child!

We spent the weekend celebrating, starting with gifts from her brother and sisters and relatives from afar and a visit to Orange Leaf, a local frozen yogurt shop that has many topping options and is thus much beloved by our children!

Matt’s and my big gift to Miranda this year was one of our best gifts ever, I think. I came across the idea on Facebook and suggested it to Matt, who was shocked that I’d be on board with something like that, but I actually thought it looked amazing! And in particular for Miranda, who is a sensory-seeker, especially when it comes to proprioceptive input, it seemed like it would be such a great tool. But of course it was Matt who actually built it. The girls’ room now has climbing walls in the little alcove leading to its dormer window!

Miranda can often be found climbing on it and choreographing climbing shows to perform for the rest of us, and when she’s having a hard time, I’ll sometimes suggest that she go climb for a while. She really enjoys it, and we’re so glad!

This year was a big milestone in that it was the first year Miranda had a birthday party with friends. I am not in any way, shape, or form anything that remotely even resembles a Pinterest mom. I know some people love hosting parties for their kids at their house, the cleaning and the decorating and the theme and game planning, and that’s great – it’s just not me. That would stress me out to no end. Instead we paid to have a birthday party at the gym where the girls have done gymnastics, and it was perfect (from this mama’s perspective!). We got an hour of our group having the whole gym to ourselves and then an hour upstairs to have cake and open presents.

It really was a perfect set up for this crew! And even our littles got to enjoy it, as well 🙂

We really had a great time celebrating Miranda and her birthday! And the benefit of writing this post a few months after her birthday is that I can say with some certainty that this 7-year-old year is a big one for her. She’s growing academically, yes, progressing with reading and math and her knowledge of science and history, but even more than that, we have been working hard on character growth. Miranda is passionate and intense, which serves her so well in some areas – there is no end to her creativity, and she’s a natural leader. But she’s also been working hard at learning how to harness that energy, how to self-regulate when her big feelings threaten to take over, and how to manage the grays of life. I’m so proud of her for all the hard work she’s been doing and all the growth we’re seeing. These last few months have been big ones, and I expect these coming months to continue in that pattern. I think God has big plans for this girl, and it is a privilege to be her mama and get to live out this adventure of life with her!

Homeschooling: It’s Not All (or Mostly) About Academics

Today’s post is a follow up to yesterday’s post with our mid-year update on our homeschooling year. At least in our house, homeschoooling is not all – or even mostly – about academics. We’ve found that the opportunities to address and build character are plentiful – generally more plentiful than we’d like. More than we want them to learn academics, we want them to grow as people.

This morning was no different. One of my girls needed to do a math lesson. The actual work of the math lesson would take her less than 5 minutes. However, from the time we got started on it until the time it was done, an hour and 15 minutes elapsed. Most of that was taken up with addressing issues of personal growth, in particular emotional growth.

A big thing we’re working on with our girls is emotional development. Specifically, we’d like them to be able to identify and self-report their emotions, and we’d like them to have healthy ways to self-regulate when they are dysregulated – when their more negative emotions are feeling overwhelming. We’ve found that the movie Inside Out is a great tool for us in that endeavor.

Today the daughter with whom I was working on this particular task drew two pictures for me as we were working through this situation. This was the first.

Here, Sadness is in charge of the control panel, and she’s giving a speech. Anger is throwing bricks to build a wall to keep Joy away, even though she is still in the control center. Joy is calling to Sadness to help her, but Sadness wants to listen to Anger, so she is saying, “Joy, stop talking!”

As my child and I talked through the situation, she told me she was ready to draw a new picture, and this is what she drew.

Now Joy has broken down the wall, about which Anger is not happy. Joy is running back to the control panel, telling everyone else, “Get out of my way!” Sadness is letting her take over again.

After that picture, we were ready to have another conversation about tackling her math work. When we’d first started the morning, she’d asked if she could have one minute to play a game of tic-tac-toe with her sister before she did math, and we’d made an agreement that that was fine, but she then needed to start math right away. However, once the game was over, she wanted to cut out their game and glue it onto another paper before doing math, and I’d said she needed to honor her agreement and get started on math, but she could cut it out as soon as she was done. That was what aroused some strong emotions and prompted our opportunity for pursuing some growth.

In our conversation after we had worked through some of those emotions, I told her I realized it was important to her to cut out the tic-tac-toe game, and I wanted to help her get to a place where she could do that. It was important to me, though, that we get started on math, since that was what our agreement had been. Perhaps we could make a compromise, though – she could do half of her math exercise right away, then cut out the tic-tac-toe game, and then finish her math. She countered with a proposal that she do only a quarter of it, but I showed her what the math exercise was and how quickly she’d be able to do it, and she agreed to do a full half.

Then it took less than five minutes for her to do half her math exercise, cut out the tic-tac-toe game, and then finish her math work.

And this mama was exhausted and told the big girls they could have a Wii bowling break before lunch, and we’d do more school after lunch!