May 27, 2014

the preschool problem

As the school year comes to a close isn't it the perfect time to talk about NEXT year?! Haha! If you're an over-planner like me, than YES! It's almost too late to plan out what you will do next year! :-) 

So, over the last few months I've had several people ask me about Ransom's schooling. As I've mentioned previously, this last year Ransom has been attending a little "Pre-K 3" class at a private Episcopal school near our house twice a week in the mornings. We made the decision for him to attend "school" this year mostly because he had gone to "school" ( I use the word school but its more like mother's day out when they're this young...) when he stayed with family during our Tabitha Year, and he loved it, and ALSO because we'd just moved to San Antonio and I knew that the routine/sameness of school plus the added bonus of making a few friends ( hopefully!) would be good for him as we got use to our new city.

That being said, our plans for this next year were a little less easy for me to decide. Ransom is turning 4 in August and so he could technically enter into the official "preschool" territory. I had tons of questions to answer and I'll try to cover all our options here for those who are interested.

1. When to start School ( as in the real, "let's learn some stuff" school)? Ransom is young for his year group. As in, he barely makes the Sept 1st cut off with his August birthday. I read endless articles about maturity and socialization and if your interested I can point you in some directions ( though I honestly didn't bookmark many of them). I also talked to teachers and parents. In fact, it was my go-to conversation with just about anyone. It probably got boring. But, you know what? In the end it boiled down to watching my own kid. And isn't that how it should be? I know studies and experience is really valuable and I know it definitely educated our decisions, but every child is different and we should treat them as such! I watched my kid with his little classmates and I watched him with kids at the park and the library. He gravitated towards the younger kids. His best friends at school? One turns 4 in June, the other doesn't turn 4 till next October. Kind of an interesting coincidence! Sure Ransom has a pretty impressive vocabulary and he's on the tall end so he keeps up with those older than him well both physically and acedimically . But the bottom line is that he'd still rather play, and when he is playing he gets intimidated easily by his older peers. He cares very little about learning to write his name, or even coloring within the lines. And while those things might not necessarily change with time, I'm still happy to give him one more carefree year before we start to seriously buckle down with academia. And hey! If this next year he decides he wants to learn some more sight words or how to write more letters than BONUS! I think a little more maturity socially will go a long way with his future schooling.

2. Private/Public/Homeschooling? Whew! Here's a real hot topic! First of all, let me just get the private school thing out of the way first....we're a one income family. We will probably remain as such for the foreseeable future ( until I become a chart toping author. boom.) so private school is not really in our budget. However, we did love Ransom's schooling experience this past year so much that we're actually waiting to see if we will be able to attend again next year-with a hefty amount of finical aid** But, let's say you're middle class, English is your first language, your children do not have any huge learning disablilties and you aren't military. Than you actually CAN'T attend public preschool in a lot of states because you don't meet the criteria! Craziness! But, honestly, you should be ok with that, Parents! Let's not rush our kids into school, OK? Let them be little!!! They are going to be in school for basically the rest of the time they are at home, so take a chill pill!
But, lets say you do feel like you kid needs some outside the home structure, or maybe a little extra socialization, or maybe you think your kid is behind in some basic learning milestones ( recognizing their name, basic phonic sounds and ABCs etc. ) and you don't feel up to the task of taking those things on at home. Than great! Private/public school may be for you! Bottom line: Please free yourself up of the pressure of outside sources! Friends, I know that as the years continue my question of whether to send my kids to school or homeschool them will only be more complicated. But, if I'm honest many of those complications will come from feeling pressure from the various parenting camps. Why can't we all just agree that homeschool and outside the home schooling both have benefits? Why can't we agree that sometimes those benefits will lean one way or the other for different children at different times? I hope that Brett and I will have the clarity of mind to decide each year for each child what will be best for them with the resources and understanding that we have for that upcoming year, and for all the things that we can't see we will rely on the Lord to direct us. And above all, so HELP ME if I'm ever judgmental toward someone else's parenting choice! Sure, here I am telling you what we've done on my blog, but I HOPE that you never feel like I'm telling you what YOU should do!

**After much prayer we couldn't decide whether to keep Ransom out of school this next year and start doing some homeschooling the next year for PreK ( or even just start doing a little this year and maybe do a combo two-years type deal) OR if having him in an actual school environment was something he would really need for this next year. ( we still don't have a ton of friends). SO in the end, not being able to afford his current preschool was a blessing. Our finical aid request is our metaphorical fleece. If we get it, then great! Ransom will benefit from the outside the home interaction and structure of another year of preschool. If not, than great! I've got library days, children museum art times and park outings planned to fill our days with the outings, socialization and stimulation that I think he will need.

3. How do I pick a school? So, let's say you've decided that sending your little precious angel off to preschool is the way to go. How do you go about picking said preschool?  Now in some places your choices are limited. As in, ONE OPTION. In some ways, I really envy you! hahah! Then all you have to decide is if that ONE place is right for you and if not Homeschool it is!! Sweet! BUT let's say you've got a bunch of schools to chose from? Public schools ( if you meet the criteria-we did because we are military! Score!), charter schools ( same criteria), and private schools ( cost plays a factor).
I started by going online and going solely on location.  Then once I'd found all the schools in my area I looked up all their rating and reviews that I could find online. is a good place to start, but even your basic google search usually reveals some reviews. Now, I don't take my reviews TOO seriously! BUT if all 50 reviews say that the principles never listen to the parents than that MIGHT be something to consider! After, I've read everything I can, I do a scheduled visit. You can call and make appointment and then be shown around the school in style. They will tell you all the wonderful things about the school and will try and highlight all the good things. You will want to ask questions like, "what learning styles do you uphold to?" And with preschool it either is "we are free form" ( aka you're paying for your kids to play) or "we follow such-and-such curriculum".  Ask about tuition, parent involvement, do they do field trips/special events, teacher to student ratio, and are other "classes" such as another language or music extra or offered?
If you like a school you may want to go back and do a "pop in" visit unexpected to see if teachers still seemed fully engaged, if things differ depending on the time of day or the day of the week etc.

And, then, if you're like'll barely pay attention to any of the above criteria. Instead, you will pay sole attention to how you feel about a certain school.  Sad but true. I follow my intuition above the facts pretty much every time.

So, what about you? What things do you find really important in deciding the best schooling decision for your child? Did you do preschool or just go straight to kindergarden? If you child did preschool, what kind of preschool was it? I'm dying to hear your thoughts!

May 15, 2014

Good Morning!

Hey, ever wondered what a morning routine is like for a mom of an almost 4 year old and an almost 1 and a half year old?

At around 7ish Tabitha wakes up, I hear her and roll around in bed willing her to go back to sleep. ( she never does). So I get up and go get her. Change her diaper and then we go sit on the couch together. She watches either Little Bear or Daniel Tiger* on Amazon Instant. ( free with Amazon Prime) and I read my bible.

This happens until around 7:30 ( Ransom has this rockin' clock in his room that lights up and I set his for 7:30...sometimes he'll sleep through the light, sometimes he wakes up before the light and has to wait until it turns on before he can call for me. That clock is a LIFESAVER). Either way its around 7:30 when he joins the day.

Ransom settles onto the couch next to his sister and I get moving in the kitchen. My kids get 45 minutes of TV time in a day ( two episodes of LB or DT) -thats on a normal day, sick days and awful days happen to everyone and those don't count- and maybe a movie night once a week so you've gotta use the time wisely!!

Breakfast in our house is pretty much the same every single day 365 days a year- per my kids request. I try to do something special and its like a HUGE HORRIBLE DEAL. How DARE I deviate?! So, yeah, instant oatmeal for everyone ( I use plain oatmeal and then add a little fresh local honey-this helps with their allergies BIG TIME, and adds the needed sweetness factor). So, I start making oatmeal and then I start making coffee. This is a KEY INGREDIENT of a mom of minis. If you skip the coffee step then I really have no words of wisdom for you. I have NO IDEA how you're surviving.
At this point in the morning I also let Ransom know that I'm "putting my oil in my mouth".  ( if you're curious this is the post that got me started oil pulling). I need twenty minutes of "quiet time" to swish my coconut oil around in my mouth and that's basically an ETERNITY to a little boy so I have to give him a heads up that I won't be open to his endless questions of "Then what are we gonna do?" . Luckily, TV plus breakfast is enough of a distraction to get this part of my day over with!

I put both kids oatmeal in the freezer for quick cooling and then cut up some fruit. Usually both kids are chomping at the bit for their breakfast so they eat fruit while their oatmeal cools. They can both see the TV from the table so we finish up our TV quota for the day as they finish breakfast, while I drink my coffee ( usually my twenty minutes are up by then!) and make snacks/lunches pack up bags for whatever activity we've got that morning.
When Ransom finishes his breakfast he must bring his plate to the kitchen and then is sent off to the Potty. ( going potty was a HUGE fight right when he got up, so even though it seems CRAZY that he'd still be holding it from ALL NIGHT LONG, having him up for about 30 minutes before sending him off to the restroom seemed to cut out the drama.). I will then clean up Tabitha and help her finish up her oatmeal ( she's still learning how to eat with a spoon and things are a bit...ummm...messy right now).

TV time is usually up by then and Ransom will come into Tabitha's room and play on the floor while I get her dressed. We then head into his room ( with a stop in the bathroom to wet down hair and comb down both of my kids Rockin' cowlicks) where we wrangle him into some clothes and then all three of us tromp into my room where I throw something on. That's right. THROW.
I now fully understand all the jokes about Mom's appearances. By the time I've dressed and brushed the hair of two other humans NO ONE has the time or patience to let me be meticulous about what goes on my body. Yesterdays clothes don't seem too gross! Let's wear those! ( it's happened!). Black leggings again today? Don't mind if I do! I do own 5 pairs, after all!
By then the clock is getting close to 8:30 and it's time to head out the door to preschool. Or if its a non preschool day we will have taken our time with a few of those tasks and it's closer to 9:30 and its time to head to the library for story time, the museum for art time, or off to some morning errands.
For pretty much ANY trip outside our house I must have two things ready: sippy cups and snack cups. I put these name bands on my kids sippy cups so that they can keep them straight no matter what cup they are drinking out of that day. ( even when they can't read their name they can understand colors). I get mine from here and they look like this:

And they are great if you're kid is in childcare at church or goes to school or daycare. 
And then we also have snack cups like this

And I usually fill these puppies with gold fish or Annie's bunny grahams or cheerios- something munchy to keep away the grumps, the possible car-naps ( the worst kind of 5 minute nap that means no naps later) and the "I'm hungy"-ies that inevitably happen right after breakfast. 

Luckily now that my kids are a little older the only other things I have in my bag is one little zip bag ( that I talked about in this post) with a diaper or two for Tabitha and an extra onesie. A package of baby wipes, an extra bib for Tabitha and one of these awesome disposable placemats, and then two match box cars for when we have to stand in line too long or have too long of a wait getting the oil in the car changed or something. Thankfully both my kids like to play with cars. ;-) 
YAY! Giant diaper bags are finally a thing of the past! 

So there you go, a typical morning at our house! Seems pretty easy right?