It’s February – Time to start thinking about school for next year

It’s that time of year. Christmas is behind us, spring seems so close and yet so far away. The winter doldrums have set in and we all feel restless. We want to shake things up. We want to breathe some life into the dreary surroundings. We want things to feel fresh and new rather than bleak and stagnant.

There are two things I always do this time of year – not intentionally, just as a result of a natural internal prompting. The first is to makeover my house. In the last couple of weeks I’ve bought a new (to me) couch, a new (to me) ottoman, a new rug, new (to me) lamps, a new shower curtain, and I’ve picked out paint colors and fabric swatches and on and on to spruce up my space. I love home makeovers on the cheap. The process revives me, and I always seem to go at it full force in January and February.

The other thing I always do in February, and I know I am not alone here, is rethink my home school. My oldest is in third grade now, and this is the first year this rethinking has not included the process of browsing local school websites.

I know lots of homeschooling moms come to February and start to think, “What am I doing? I am totally screwing this up. There is no way I’m teaching him everything he needs to know. We fight all the time. How do I know he’s learning what he needs to? I’m so tired of the daily battles! This isn’t what I thought homeschooling would be!”

I have so been there. And I will be there again, no doubt.  But since I’m not in that space at this exact moment, I want to share some encouragement for those who are – and for myself when I return there in the future!

So here are my words of encouragement to you, and to future me.

  1. You’re doing awesome. The sacrifices you are making for your children right now are huge and important and good. Homeschooling is an amazing gift you give your child even when it’s not perfect.
  2. School won’t fix it. Whatever “it” is, if your true desire is to homeschool, you can find a way to fix “it” at home. You may need to find more social opportunities – or cut back on social stuff for awhile. You may need to “buckle down” a little more with formal work – or you may need to take a break from the formal book learning and try a more relaxed, less schooly approach for awhile. You may need more discipline, or more fun, or more outside help, or to tune others out and listen just to your own voice for a bit.
  3. Sending your kid to school will not end the battles over learning. It will simply transform them into battles over homework. Do you have friends with kids in school? Do you know how much homework they have? Do you know how many projects they have? Do you know how many parent/teacher conferences, and back-to-school nights and socials and fundraisers and etc., etc., etc., you will have to attend?
  4. Even if you’re a bad teacher (and I promise you, you’re not, because if you were, you would never even have tried this whole experiment because you just wouldn’t have cared enough to suffer the headaches and heartaches), but even if you are a bad teacher, your kid is getting the benefit of one-to-one instruction. Do not underestimate the value of this! Do you ever feel torn because your’e trying to meet the need of 3 different kids? Imagine a teacher who has to meet the needs of 30 different kids. And then, in an hour, gets a whole new batch of 30 kids she has to teach. Think it’s easier because they’re all supposed to be learning the same thing? It’s not, because every single kid is different. And nobody knows your kid like you do.

If you want to homeschool, you can. You can. If you don’t want to homeschool, that’s fine. There are great schools out there! I’m not one to tell you that your kid will be forever damaged if you send them to school. I know school works for a lot of families. But you chose homeschooling for a reason. Probably for lots of reasons. If those reasons haven’t changed, and you still want to homeschool, don’t give up because you don’t think you’re good enough! You are good enough! You may need to change something, maybe just your thinking or your expectations, but maybe a new curriculum will help.

Almost certainly you need to be kinder and gentler to yourself and step back and realize that you’re doing an amazing job. Take a few minutes to write down everything you do with your kids and everything they’re learning. You’ll be amazed. Because you are doing an amazing job. I’m going to say it one more time. You are amazing. Because if you weren’t, you would never have even tried this insane experiment.


What to do with Screaming Toddlers

That's my daughter at 18 months. She was a great screamer.

A friend recently confided that her toddler’s screaming is making her crazy. He screams when he doesn’t get his way, when someone sits too close to his mama, when someone tells him “no.” She described it as a “high pitch ear deafening scream.”

Sound familiar?

If you have ever had a toddler, it probably does. Toddlers love to scream. But why? And what, if anything, can you do to stop it?

Why all the commotion?
Let’s look at a few of the reasons a toddler may scream.

  1. It makes them feel big. To be so little and make such a big noise can be really empowering.
  2. They don’t have the words to adequately express what they need to say. Screaming is faster and easier than trying to say “That’s my mama, and I need her all to myself right now.”
  3. They can’t yet make sense of their really big feelings. Disappointment is hard for adults to deal with. For toddlers, screaming is sometimes the only way they can think of to let people know that they really feel awful.
  4. They have no perspective. Toddles have no sense of time. They believe that the present moment is the only moment for all of eternity. If they feel awful right now, they don’t know that life will be okay in just a few minutes. This is the same phenomenon that leads to a toddler laughing happily before the tears are even dry on his little face. Because when they feel good, they don’t remember feeling bad. This is a skill that develops throughout the toddler and preschool years.

Make it Stop!
Great. So we have some ideas about why they scream, but how can we make it stop? You probably can’t completely stop a toddler from screaming, but there are some things you can try to help keep the screaming to a minimum.

  1. Give them the words they need. Baby sign language can be a big help for toddlers – even those who have started to talk. Signs for “help” and “please” and “more” can give them an effective way to ask for what they need without screaming. When your toddler is screaming because he dropped something and can’t reach it, say “Oh! You need help. Say ‘help!'” While modeling the sign. Don’t expect your toddler to stop screaming and sign help. Go ahead and help him. You can work on getting him to actually use the word and/or sign another time when he’s not freaking out.
  2. Help them label the big feelings. Labeling emotions is the first step is learning to regulate them. If your child is screaming because you took something away from him, say “You’re mad! You’re mad and disappointed because you want mommy’s phone!”
  3. Compassionately acknowledge his negative feelings. Don’t tell him he’s okay. Don’t tell him to stop being mad. Let him know you understand why he’s upset. “I’m sorry. You want mommy’s phone. Mommy’s phone is cool and you want it.”
  4. Help him move into the next moment. While you want to let your kid feel what he feels, you don’t want him to get stuck there. Once you’ve acknowledged why he’s upset, see if you can help him move past it. Distraction is a good tool for the younger child. Maybe you can find an acceptable substitute for the desired object. A more verbal child might benefit from a game of fantasy play where you magically grant his wish – “I wish I could give you 100 phones just for you! What would you do with all of those phones?”

Toddlers lack the maturity and self control necessary to gracefully handle upset and disappointment. If we react compassionately and patiently and teach them the skills they need to manage these challenging situations, we are doing our future society a favor. With our love and guidance, today’s screaming toddlers can become tomorrow’s peaceful, well-adjusted adults.

Have some experience with screaming toddlers? Please share your tips for stopping the noise!

Challenge: Month of Love


One of the articles in this month’s Colorado Parent magazine is a 7 Day Challenge to Show Show your Child More Love. It offers 7 ideas for for showing your child just a little extra love. For example, one day you’re supposed to do one of your child’s chores for her. Just because you love her. Another day, you’re supposed to focus on responding immediately to his requests for your attention, as opposed to, say, shouting “just a minute I’m trying to finish this blog post!”

I love this! I feel like so much of the parenting advice I come across is focused on controlling children rather than on recognizing them as actual little people that we are living in relationship with. I love to see articles that say, you know what, it’s okay to be a softy sometimes. It’s okay to bend the rules or do something nice for your kid without trying to teach them any other lesson than “I think you’re an amazing human being, I’m glad you’re in my life, and I love you!”

So I thought it would be fun, for the month of February, to take a minute each day to think about an extra little way to show our children we love them that day. If you “Like” Razzbelly on Facebook, I’ll offer an idea there each day. And I’d love to have you share your own ideas and how you executed your love challenge for the day.

So who’s in?

Listening to Your Heart

Photo Credit: xurde via photo pin cc

Yesterday, in order to make the arduous monthly chore of bill paying less, well, arduous, I was listening to a lovely podcast fromThe Sociable Homeschooler. If you homeschool, you should check it out. She’s very soothing and encouraging and I love her accent.

Anyhow, she was interviewing Hannah Keeley who, if you don’t already know, is this insanely awesome super mom who has her own “lifestyle” TV show, writes books, and home schools her 7 kids. She’s kind of who I want to be when I grow up.

Not surprisingly, Hannah said something that really caught my attention. She was talking about the day she woke up as a parent and started to ask herself, “What am I supposed to do?” Not, “what is the culture around me telling me to do?” but “what am I supposed to do?”

In Hannah’s ah-ha moment, the answer was “love your baby to sleep” as opposed to “leave her in her crib to cry it out.”

The way she phrased this question made me stop to think. I’m so often overly concerned with the “right” way to do something. As I learn and grow as a parent and a person, more and more I’m finding that there is no “right” way. How could there be? There are 7 billion people on the planet and each one of us unique.

You are not supposed to do what I am supposed to do. And though I joke that I want to be Hannah Keeley when I grow up, I am not supposed to do what Hannah Keeley is supposed to do.

Each of us has unique mission and purpose in life. Each of has unique gifts, talents, weaknesses and strengths. Each of us is living in community with other individuals to make up unique families with unique joys and trials.

It’s so true that we need to keep our eyes on our own work. My children were given to me for a reason. And I was given to them.  If I worry too much about what everyone else is doing, and about what others might think I should be doing, I will miss what it is I am supposed to do.

Photo Credit: xurde via photo pin cc

Toddler Tool Belt

I had a great time last weekend with the parents at the Toddler Tool Belt class. A big thank you to Amy at Giggling Green Beanfor making her amazing store available for classes. There is some seriously cool stuff in there. And next time, I’m going to have to save time to have lunch at the Comfort Cafe a couple of doors down. What a neat concept for a restaurant!

If you missed the class last weekend, you’ve got another chance to catch it on Saturday, February 18 at 1pm. You can register here.

Curious about what to expect? Well, let me tell you a little about it!

I spend a lot of time in the class going over a toddler’s emotional and cognitive development. For example, we discuss why toddlers are so. . . persistent? You know the old saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?” From that point of view, toddlers are certainly insane.

Except, it doesn’t really apply to toddlers. Because even though the first eleventy million times they tried it they fell down, they kept standing back up and trying to put one foot in front of the other. And one day, they walked!

That drive that urges them to try again and again despite failure allows them to do crazy things like stand up and walk across a room. It also allows them to make parents crazy when they go for the light socket for the eleventy millionth time. But, just like every time they try to take a step they get a reaction from you, every time they go for that light socket they get a reaction from you. So they figure they must be on to something!

This is one of the many toddler motivations we cover in the class.

Once we look at the emotional and cognitive forces driving toddler behavior, I give you a formula for evaluating some of the more trying behaviors your toddler may present you with. It’s a method that takes into account your needs and desires as well as your toddler’s needs and desires and then tries to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs.

The class is not about controlling your child. It’s also not about letting your child control you. It’s about finding a balance that recognizes each member of the family as an individual worthy of respect and dignity while honoring the developmental realities of your toddler.

It’s also a great opportunity to chat with other amazing parents about life with a toddler. So come join the fun!