To Snow Day or Not to Snow Day...
At this point in our homeschooling career, this problem is rarely a big deal. I didn't notice it at all until about 3 days ago. There we were, going about business as usual when I noticed that my son was spending a bit more time texting with a friend than normal during the day. This friend happens to attend public school. I'm not sure of the exact count for our local schools, but I know quite a few in the surrounding areas have been out for at least the past 8-10 days due to weather conditions. If buses can't safely navigate the roads and schools can't stay warm, public schooled kids get the day off... Homeschoolers aren't that lucky. Snow drifts don't block the route to their desk. Unless our power is out or our internet is down, we are up and learning. This creates a dilemma for homeschooled kids with public schooled friends.
Although I now expect my (mostly) grown child to handle his schedule and social needs with an eye toward personal responsibility, I thought I would share how my family dealt with this problem in the earlier years. I hope that you find my plan helpful in solving your own snow day conundrum. Take what you can use, change what you need to, and best of luck dealing with those "It's not fair!" moments!
To begin, I ALWAYS gave the first good snow a day off. We used that day to sled ride and build snowmen. We guzzled hot cocoa. We got red cheeks and cold toes. We celebrated the wonder of nature! Typically we had a lot of the area kids sliding with us because we have an awesome driveway for it! It was a great reset and me and their dad got to be the big heroes. Trust me, it is a very worthwhile morale booster.
Once the big First Snow had its day, I would print up 5 Snow Day Certificates for each of my kids. I used these certificates as rewards for staying on schedule, spending the extra time to do a really great job on a project, high scores on hard tests, or other rewards. The boys did not have to use their certificates on the same day. They also didn't necessarily need to have snow on the ground to use them. They were simply the promise of a day off. When they were young, they both tended to cash their certificates in when it snowed so we could all sled ride together, but as they grew they would occasionally take a day on their own. Sometimes they would wait for snow and explore the winter wonderland by themselves or spend time with friends who were off school for the day. Sometimes they would just use their certificate to take a personal day.
I worked these 5 days into their 180 day state requirement, so our yearly schedule actually ended on day 186. We did not discuss the fact that public schools can get a waiver for that count depending on how late in the summer they would be required to attend. Their attendance is simply not something we need to be involved in on that level.
So, that is how we handled the snow day dilemma at our house. Please share how you handle yours!
Since Father Dragon is the Forest Adviser, many of the creatures that live nearby come to ask his advice each day. With winter here the number of forest neighbors coming to talk to Father Dragon is even higher than usual. Everyone talks and laughs together as they wait in the clearing for their turn. Fiddlebug, who sometimes goes to the clearing with Father Dragon, was watching everyone in the crowd rubbing their hands together and moving around more in order to stay warm on one extra chilly day. He watched clouds of breath puff out when any of the forest creatures laughed too. Since Mother Dragon had packed Fiddlebug a thermos of hot cocoa, the little dragon didn't feel near as cold as some of his forest neighbors looked! This gave him a great idea for a Good Deed! When he told his parents about his plan they agreed that it was a wonderful idea. Fiddlebug then told Craig and Bart who thought it would be a whole lot of fun too! The three friends gathered their supplies, and with the help of Mother and Father Dragon they set up a hot cocoa stand in the clearing for the next Forest Advisor Meeting. The forest neighbors who had come to talk to Father Dragon loved their surprise, and everyone mentioned how much warmer they felt after they took their first sip of creamy cocoa.
Fiddlebug, Bart and Craig all wanted to share their cocoa recipe with you too. They know that even if you aren't waiting in the clearing to talk to Father Dragon a good cup of hot cocoa is something that will make just about anybody smile!
What you need:
One box of unsweetened cocoa powder
Sugar (or Splenda)
A big bowl
A strainer (optional)
A large spoon
Airtight containers to keep your cocoa mix in when it’s mixed
Your favorite mug
Milk (soy, almond, coconut or rice milk are great too!)
Whipped Cream or little marshmallows (optional)
What you do:
1) Put your strainer inside your bowl.
2) Dump the cocoa powder into the strainer. Try to do this gently, cocoa powder puffs out into the air and makes you cough if you don’t!
3) Fill the cocoa container with sugar and pour the sugar into the strainer on top of the cocoa. Fill the container with sugar again and pour it in as well.
4) Gently lift the strainer and jiggle it so the cocoa and sugar mix goes through. Break up any lumps that can’t make it through the holes.
5) Stir the mixture really well!
6) Fill the airtight containers with the mixture.
7) When you want a cup of cocoa, have a big person heat a mug of milk for you. Add 3 spoonfuls of cocoa mix and stir it up. You can add whipped cream or little marshmallows too!
I've been trying to come up with a good post all week. I'd like to say something cheerful. I'd love to share a witty couple of paragraphs about something fun. I'd even settle for "interesting". Alas... I've got nothin'. Well, that isn't exactly true. I've got a lot of ideas. I've got a whole bunch of things to share. I've got big dreams of world changing projects. I've got... stuff. It's all right up there in my nugget waiting to get out. There's so much of it, in fact, that it's all jumbled together with pieces of trapped stories and unpainted pictures. It refuses to form up into sentences and paragraphs that work together. I blame the weather.
It's not that today isn't full of beautiful blue skies and bright sunshine, because it is. It's that it's February - our most weather challenging month and the point in the season where my brain stops seeing the beauty and narrows in on the shivering. We have a foot of snow out there. It was -10 at 7:00 this morning. We are expecting another foot of snow tomorrow with the possibility of cold, icy rain ushering it in. If this happens, we are likely to still be chipping our way out of the snow drifts in April. *sigh* I'm tired of winter and of being cold. It makes me feel dreary on the inside.
I've moved my laptop to the living room where the fireplace is because my office is chilly. It's easier to feed the fire from here. I've even gotten ahead on a rather large project. The problem is that I have now been working from the couch for days and am starting to feel like a tick that has burrowed into the fabric. It's simply not a very inspiring position.
So, excuse my lazy week. I'll try to shake something useful loose before next week rolls around.
Winter can only last so long...
Bart the Bat stopped by and brought me a great idea for this week’s project. Since he goes to night school and both of his parents are teachers it should be no surprise that books are important in Bart’s world. Bart knows how hard it can be to remember what page you were on if you have to close your book, so he came up with a really cute idea to make a “snowman” to help him hold his reading spot. If you would like a bookmark just like Bart’s here’s all you have to do:
What you need:
1 large craft stick
1 cotton ball
1 piece of ribbon
What you do:
1) Glue the cotton ball to one end of the craft stick about ½ inch from the top.
2) Fold the ribbon around the craft stick just under the cotton ball to make a scarf. Glue it in place.
3) Cut a hat shape out of your construction paper and glue it to the craft stick above the cotton ball.
4) Cut eyes and a nose out of your construction paper and glue them onto the cotton ball to make a face for you snowman.
5) Once your new snowman is dry, let him help you watch over your book and remember your spot until you can come back to the story!
Bart wanted you to know that he named his bookmark Fuzzy the Fluffman. He is also thinking about making a whole family of these guys and putting on a puppet show for his friends Craig and Fiddlebug just as soon as he’s done reading his new book!
For the past few of years I have been involved with a lovely state-wide non-profit writing organization here in West Virginia called West Virginia Writers, Inc. whose members work hard to support writers of all levels. They aren't even picky about where you may live. If you want to be a part of our group, we are happy to include you. It's nice. I began as a member, then held a seat on the board, and then moved into a position as regional representative for 4 counties. Trust me, this is not me tooting my own horn. I just wanted to give you a little background so you can get a good feel for today's subject. You should also know that I tend to be a bit reclusive when left to my own devices and didn't learn to control my shy side until my last two years of high school (Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Coia!). I tend to stick my foot in my mouth with great regularity and am awesome at forgetting people's names. I get butterflies when calling people I don't know well. I babble when I'm nervous and groups make me nervous - especially when I have to speak in front of them. I am "alternatively organized" and my desk occasionally gets lost under "stuff" making planning things interesting. So, you might ask what I do in my position. Well, do you see all of those things that I just mentioned as personal challenges? Yep, I do those. Talk about a Personal Growth Experience!
The last several months has been filled with the details of a big upcoming event. West Virginia Writers, Inc. (my region) will be working with Alderson Main Street to pull off one heck of a reader centered authors' event complete with evening entertainment. (Lions and Authors and Books... Oh My!) Before this, the biggest thing I ever planned was a birthday party that included under 10 guests. Thankfully, I have a lot of help and support during this process. I would simply be unable to do it without the enthusiasm I continually encounter from participants, my helpers, and the community in general. Even so, I am typically a bag of nerves *laughing*.
Why am I telling you this? That's easy. It's because I think you should find your equivalent activity and go do it. Don't TRY to do it. Don't half-halfheartedly do it. Really throw yourself into the process and amaze yourself by accomplishing something that isn't really in your routine. Important things are not learned when you are overly comfortable. They are learned when you are challenged. The trick is to find something that is challenging in a positive way. Being miserable is easy and should be avoided whenever possible. Your goal is to find something just outside of your comfort zone, preferably with activities that make you a bi bit nervous, and then take that step into the activity.
You will learn all sorts of things. Some of them will be about yourself. For instance, I learned that I am pretty good at conveying the mood I am striving for when I explain the day to interested parties. I also learned that while I may never be actually comfortable talking to a crowd, I can do so with confidence provided I believe in what I am saying. I also learned that I am probably never going to like asking for favors or soliciting help, but doing so with honest intentions and a well defined idea of what is needed will not make me shrivel up or look incapable. I also learned that I can organize well... when I want to. I've learned that I simply love offering support to others and cheering them on. Most importantly, I have learned that I am capable of exactly what I put my mind to and that is invaluable.
As a parent, I hope that I have always encouraged these challenges with my own children. I hope that they look for good opportunities to step outside their bubble and explore their capabilities. I hope you encourage your children to do the same. If we raise ourselves and our offspring to constantly be reaching for the next level of ability and positive effort, this world will have no choice but to improve.
Will there be failures? Well, yes. There will. That is a growing time too. Learning to pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and get back to the process is outside of just about everyone's comfort zone. Look at being human as the ultimate experiment. Sometimes the product is beautiful. Sometimes you need to duck and cover. Everyone once in a while there is even an unexpected moment of amazing. If you don't risk the bad, you will never achieve the great.
As I get back to mixing this concoction of events and writers in the hopes of a day that is just a little bit magical, I hope that you will begin a search for your own challenge. I also hope you will pass the practice on to your children and your friends. Let's all take a nice big step out of our comfort zones and into our own potential. We may just amaze ourselves.
Mother Dragon and Fiddlebug have a great game that they have been playing for quite a while. The game is a little like hide and seek only the seeker isn't looking for someone, they are looking for something. It’s the same thing every time no matter whose turn it is to seek so no one has to worry about forgetting what they are looking for. The seeker’s turn can last a few minutes or hours, days or weeks. Hints are allowed (and sometimes make the game that much more fun!) if anyone gets stuck. It’s an ongoing game that promises to bring a smile each time the object is found and hidden again. Best of all, you can have more than two players – you just need enough objects to have one for each team. Fiddlebug decided to share the directions this week. The object that he and Mother Dragon take turns hiding is a heart to remind them of how much they love each other and are loved in return. Fiddlebug calls it the Hide-a-Heart Game!
What you need:
One piece of red felt
One marker that will write on felt (glitter glue is a great option too!)
A great imagination!
What you do:
1) Fold the piece of red felt in half.
2) Have your big person help you draw half of a heart shape on the fold so once its cut out you will have a whole heart. You can make it as big as you want. Bigger hearts are easier to find.
3) Your big person can help you cut the heart out if you have trouble.
4) Use the marker to write your name on one side of the heart.
5) Have your big person write their name on the other side of the heart.
6) Decide who will hide the heart first and make sure the seeker doesn't peek to see where it’s hidden!
7) Once the seeker finds the heart it is their turn to hide it. Make sure you tell each other each time the heart is found so you both know whose turn it is!
As the author of Fiddlebug I wanted to add a note of my own this time. I have been playing a version of this game with my oldest son for at least 5 1/2 years. We use a little plastic snake (because I’m not fond of snakes and he thinks it’s funny to keep me looking for one) instead of a felt heart. My son is 19 now and just moved away to go to college. I made sure to hide the snake in his things. He called me laughing when he found it and promised to hide it here when he comes to visit. Now you know why I love this game so much! ~Brittney
When the year rolled over into 2015, I seriously considered how to handle the annual resolution issue. I, like most other people, wanted to start out the year with some magnificent goal that would lead to improvement throughout the months and a hefty pat on the back for my eventual accomplishment at the next turning of the year. There is just one problem: I get bored. I admit it. If I set myself a goal in January, by the time spring brings it's flowers and warm breezes I'm pretty much over whatever I thought was going to be my focus for all twelve months. On one hand, it's good that I know this about myself. On the other, it's a real motivation killer. Why set myself up for failure, after all. You can see my dilemma.
So, this year I decided to choose a theme instead of a goal. I figure this gives me a lot of maneuverability as far as handling goes. I chose one word: CARE. Care is a good word. It is important not only on a personal level, but it can make a huge difference in the world as well. After I chose my word, I broke it down by letter and chose three words that began with each letter that I felt related to the word as a whole. I've been busy cycling through those words on a weekly theme basis since January. So far it's working pretty well for me. It forces me to get creative with how many ways I can use each word as a goal each week. It lets me look at my To Do List a bit differently. It offers a LOT of variety. Granted, spring isn't here yet, but there is hope that I may stay the course; more hope than last year's goal of getting dressed in actual big people clothes every day. What can I say, I love my pj's and it saves on laundry.
I've already cycled through "create", "achieve", "educate", "correct" and am now up to "adapt". The rest of my cycle includes "rewrite", "elaborate", "celebrate", "art", "reduce", and "emerge". Then the cycle repeats. I know, you are now asking yourself why I'm telling you this. Well, it's because of my current word. Adapt is something that we, as humans and as parents, need to do daily. We adapt our schedules to fit around extra curricular activities. We adapt out TV preferences around young children. We adapt our work day with each phone call and e-mail because the importance of tasks shifts. We adapt our commute around the weather. But here's a big question: When was the last time that you adapted your day, week, month to include something that you are passionate about? If you are still considering that question, it has probably been too long.
Making time to pursue your own personal aspirations is important. Not only does it allow you to nurture your inner growth needs, it sets an example to your children that they should always set aside a bit of time to pursue their own dreams. When you add personal time to your routine in order to restore a vehicle, play tennis, take a cooking class, study astrophysics, or write a story, you are supporting the idea that being a well rounded individual is vitally important. Showing your children that you are more than just Mom or Dad encourages them to always see themselves as more than simply their title as well. If you are lucky enough to be supporting yourself in the pursuit of your passion and not simply sacrificing your time for a paycheck, showing your child that you love other activities may help them expand their talents as well.
Yes, this is a difficult thing. With work weeks far exceeding 40 hours in many cases and both parents often working, finding "me" time can feel selfish. The trick is to find a balance. Even if you can only dedicate 30 minutes to your dream every other day, do so. You will be happier for it, and your happiness will leak over into everything else you do. Working with a happy, energetic attitude can only improve any situation.
So, this week, why not try adapting your schedule to include time for one thing that YOU love. Find a creative way to work it into the day. Better yet, use it as a homeschooling lesson on time management and help your little one pursue a dream as well!
Fiddlebug, Bart and Craig saw a picture of the snowman who was watching over my yard. They have never seen snow and don’t know that snowmen are always white. They thought he was pretty neat, but said that maybe he could be more colorful. They came up with a great idea to bring some springtime colors into the bright white of winter where I live. If you want a colorful snowman too, this is all you have to do:
What you need:
One nice, white snowman
Some squirt guns, water bottles with a squirt top, or spray bottles
What you do:
1) Have a big person help you mix the food coloring and water in whatever container you are using. A lot of food coloring should be used since you want really bright colors on your snowman. Remember, food coloring stains clothes and skin, so be careful!
2) Squirt or spray your snowman all over. Make sure to do blotches here and there so the colors mix together and spread to cover all the white parts.
3) If your snowman starts to fade, no problem, just go back out and squirt him with colors again!
Being a homeschooling parent for 13 years and an independent author/illustrator makes a person learn quite a bit about a lot of things. Now it's time to pass it on!