Thursday, April 28, 2022

Ambleside Year 1 Thoughts

In just three weeks we will be done with Year One from Ambleside Online, the curriculum we used for 1st grade.

This is a general post on my thoughts, what I learned, what I would change, what we liked and what we didn't. 

I was very apprehensive about Ambleside Online before I started. I was scared I couldn't do it because of my chronic illness. I was worried I was too stupid, that it was too hard. In fact, I was so worried I actually started out in August of 2021 doing my own "curriculum" and thinking I would put off Ambleside for another year but it wasn't...working. Reuben was six, and he was ready. I decided to jump right in and started full Ambleside in September of 2021. 

my two sillies

I'll be honest. We fell right in love. It is not hard, it is not confusing, and it takes about an hour a day, 4-5 days a week. Ambleside is rich, the readings are life-giving; the books are rivers of living water to the parched American soul. The current 6-year old American soul is being fed a steady diet of Disney plus, ticktock, and 60 second board books. The books in the Ambleside curriculum are living in every sense of the word. I might have known what a living book was in definition, but I know now what a living book is because I myself have been nourished from them. And I will never be the same.

I needed to read Trial and Triumph and Parables of Nature just as much (or maybe more so) than my son did. It filled some hole in my soul I wasn't aware that I had.

During term one, we did not add in any foreign language. This was the only thing we "dropped" from the curriculum. Every other scheduled reading we did as assigned. I just wasn't ready to add in a foreign language yet--it was enough for me try to figure out nature study, picture study, and music study! For term one, Reuben's favorite book was Trial and Triumph (T&T) and his least favorite was the Blue Fairy Book. He also loved Just So Stories. I think my least favorite was Burgess Bird-- mostly because I always forgot to do the prep work in advance (print off the coloring page and find a picture of the bird we would be discussing/ load the video beforehand). Also, teaching a subject I know almost nothing about was very challenging. I know what a bird is, but beyond that... however, now at the end of year one, I know a few birds by sight! Reuben can recognize Robins--we have a family of them who live in some trees in our backyard. It is amazing to hear the birds twitter and recognize them as friends. 

I think my favorite book is Island Story. Learning the history of Great Britain from such a beautiful book has been very fun!

I thought since Reuben is very sensitive he might be afraid of some of the more sensitive readings (like Trial and Triumph) but he was not. He may not be able to watch television because he gets really afraid at any sign of suspense; but apparently living books are not scary. I hope my son never faces anything like the things the brave Christians faced in T&T but hopefully these stories will give him courage. Reading Trials taught me that every age faces some kind of persecution. We, in the 2000s, are not perfect, and each age will face trials. We need to be watchful, wary, and in the word. 

I got through term one while battling serious autoimmune issues and also doing two co-ops (yes I am insane). We dropped one co-op. And caught Omicron in December. Reuben and Brian were sick for three weeks. It was a really hard time. I started term two of Ambleside a week later than I expected because of illness recovery, but I give thanks to God that I have learned so much, and come so far. 

We finished term two mid April, and are on week 27 of term 3! Hopefully (baring any illnesses) I will make it to week 30 before our summer break. I plan on finishing up the last six weeks of term three in August, and staring on Year 2 in September. 

Some notes on our choices (like math/ learning how to read)

For Math, we did Masterbooks Year One. I loved how it taught math through storytelling, and how short the lessons were. I did not like the way they taught numbers, but I got over it. They use "houses" (like a 10s house and a 100s house) to teach place value, and it got to be a little much using beans and the such to count. I would rather have used an abacus---and many times we abandoned the place value village they use and just used our abacus, so meh. Reuben actually just finished the year one book, so I picked up Masterbooks Year Two and we have started on that this week. 

For reading lessons, we did the delightful reading kits from SCM. We did the first kit, which I loved, for half of kindergarten and through term 1. When we started term 2 we started the second delightful reading kit. I liked this one less. It comes with letter cards that you have to sort through each time you do a lesson and they are extremely annoying. I feel like I spend 10 minutes trying to find the correct letters for the short 5-10 minute lesson!! We just quit using them and started using a white board and that helped my frustration a lot. I will save these kits to do with Becky when she starts school! 

What didn't I like? I am not a fan of A Child's Book of Poems by Gyo Fujisawa. For term one and term two, the poems are delightful, and all by the same author (term one is Robert Stevenson and term two is A. A. Milne). The book for term three is filled with poems by so many different authors that, to me, it does not have the same endearing continuity that the first two terms have. Reuben does not seem to have an issue with it, at least he has not said anything (and I keep my thoughts to myself about his curriculum, I don't want to influence him). In fact he LOVED the poem we just read about Winkin, Blinkn and Nod, and he always begs to read more than one poem (and I usually oblige him). 

In term two we also added in some light Spanish language--we are using short videos from this channel. I need to pick an actual curriculum I guess? Perhaps I will find one over the summer before Year Two. We also added in a Timeline in term two--just one of Reuben's own life, starting the year my husband and I were married. It's been fun. We added his birthday, his sisters birthday, and the start of covid-19 to his line. What history he has seen in his short six years!

Another thing I love about Ambleside is maps; I printed off a map of the area of study (there are links in the Ambleside forums for maps) at the beginning of the term and placed a map in each book so we can look at it as we read. It is awesome to see and trace the very place he just finished narrating about on tangible paper. 

We did all the free reads. I read all the books to him except for the Red Fairy Book. After slogging through about 1/4 of it I switched to the audiobook and I have never been happier. Now we listen to 1-2 stories from the Red Fairy Book every 2-3 days. Those stories are so long and I would get so tired reading them!! I would say, collectively, Charlottes Web and Little House in the Big Woods were our favorite free reads. We even read half of Charlottes Web over again! I did not quite understand Pinocchio or the King of the Golden River, but Reuben loved them so I kept reading.

And that was year one. Now near the end, I am doing very well health wise, and looking forward to a nice summer break and Year Two free reads. 

How are you? If you did Ambleside--I would love to know your thoughts! I didn't talk about narration, and I am sure I missed other things; let me know if you have any questions. Goodnight and God bless.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

I quit all my diets

For the past eight years I have been trying to heal myself with food (and supplements, but mostly food). I use food as medicine. 

Well...I have taken a break from "diets" once before (when I was pregnant with Reuben) and also had a six month stint of healing in 2019 where I was able to eat mostly normal; but for the most part I have been restricting some part of my menu. For eight years.

I ended up very depressed over my food choices and the rules I had given myself. My husband was concerned. He kept asking me what was wrong but I didn't know...I just wanted a donut! I just want ice cream and enchiladas, I thought, but I couldn't have them. Or, could I?

Rashly I thought why not quit? What is the worst that could happen? I could be in pain; but I am already in pain. Nothing could happen. Everything could happen. I could eat regular for a week and go back on a diet if it doesn't work. 

So I quit.

Four years of Paleo. 18 (ish) months of keto. Weston A Price diet, on and off. Gaps. All have helped and taught me a great deal about my body, discipline, and food. 

It has been about a month. The first week was great. I ate all my favorite foods. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Ezekial Bread. I buy that bread for the kids and you know what? It is absolutely delicious and did not give me a stomach ache in the least. I have always wanted to try it! I made my favorite wild rice and kale salad (haven't had rice in at least two years?) and ate potatoes. I even went out to a restaurant and ordered food and didn't have to ask for a special menu or worry about if something was gluten free. I just enjoyed a nice date with my husband and kids. I made hummus from scratch and ate gobs and gobs of my sourdough bread. 

It was food heaven. I tried to avoid sugar when I could, and eat gluten free if it wasn't sprouted, because I know those are my two biggest triggers, but I didn't want to make any "food rules" after so many years of restrictions.

I had a bit of bloating, but I ignored it and just focused on eating what I craved.

The next two weeks were really hard, which totally took me by surprise. I started feeling a lot of guilt over eating what had previously been "bad foods" for me. I also begin to worry and obsess over gaining weight. On the gaps diet, I lost a lot of weight (it happens when you only eat soup) and was down to my pre pregnancy (with reuben) weight of 145 pounds. I thought I looked great and I also felt great, but one cannot eat soup forever. 145 pounds is about 10 stone, or 66kg. I had not been this weight in seven years and I felt really good about myself when I hit that number!!! (ugh. beauty is not a number but for me after gaining so much pregnancy weight it really made me feel less ugly) For the first time in a long time I recognized the person in the mirror, I looked like myself again. And it felt good.

I am still struggling today with negative thoughts over weight gain, but I am trying to let go and love my body through this new stage. I have indeed gained weight but my clothes still fit and I am trying not to let it get me down. The scale says I weigh 155 today. However, I am active, exercise, and this is a new experience for me so I need to just roll with it for awhile. I do yoga 3 times a week for 20-30 minutes each time, and I also do HITT twice a week for thirty minutes. I go on walks with my kids and garden and also sit in a chair and read books. And I enjoyed donuts last week from a local donut shop that were beyond delicious and I also had some ice cream a few nights with my husband after the kids went to bed. Food I have not had in over 6 years. I went six years without donuts! (okay, I do remember having a few gluten free ones but come on....do those really count???) 

I have also struggled to come to terms with what is healthy. Before, healthy was me adhering to all my diet rules. Healthy was the paleo diet. Healthy was my keto diet. I had a list and I stuck to it and...sometimes it helped. I didn't go into these diets trying to give myself an eating disorder or to make dieting my identity but slowly, I see where I have erred. 

I gave up my diets to the Lord. I do want to heal, and I want to abide in Christ, but I don't want these changes I am making to come between me and God and joy. 

Don't even get me started with trying to figure out how much I can eat!! I feel like a little baby learning things all over again.

One of the main reasons I wanted to quit dieting is for my kids. They have lived with me through all these diets. Reuben is six now, and I want him to see "regular" food for the next few years. I don't want him to have ideas about "bad food" and "good foods" (we can have the talk about preservatives later, because are those even food?) but you get the idea. I want us all to be able to eat the same thing and for meals to be easy, fun, and honestly affordable. Have you seen the price of food lately? How are people making it? 

We needed a reset as a family. So badly.

And, how am I doing? I have been bloated. I know the sourdough bread, unless I fully ferment it for over 8 hours does give me a stomach ache. I had one time where I ate something and I had gall bladder (at least where I think my gall bladder is??) pain. But I have had no other issues! I checked my blood sugar and it has been fine. It's amazing. Look at what God has done, look at what I get to enjoy. Every time I eat I marvel at his goodness and feel so in awe that this is my life now. I am praying I can get over the hurdles that doing a complete 180 in my food choices and that this can just become my new normal. I want to be as many others are; living my best life, growing and cooking my own food, eating fermented veggies and the occasional donut and moving my body as much as possible in this technicolor world God has made. 

I feel free. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

what I would tell myself as a new mother

I was thinking today what a crazy whirlwind the last seven years of child raising has been. Two (or three?) chronic illnesses, two babies, six miscarriages...it has been a lot. And how fragrant has my Lord become to me due to the trials I have endured!

What advice would I give to new mothers, whose wombs are full of sweet first flutterings of life? Oh, how I wish I could go back and bestow some wisdom on myself. 

I want to write a motherhood book, but there are too many on the market today and I don't have time. Yet I always write here. 

So here I am. Mulling over all the things, and what would I choose to speak on if I had thirty minutes uninterrupted from sticky fingers and probing questions and potty breaks.

I would start with the trials. Oh, dear new mother, I would say...you are about to undergo some discomfort. Western life is all about comfort and ease, and the I-can-get-it-now mentality. Two day amazon shipping? Check. Netflix binge with Chinese take-out every Friday? Self care culture, mani-pedis and bubble baths. New clothes, new shoes, new you every year. Most women I meet have not endured many trials. They (like me) floated through a life that was all about them and their accomplishments and interests. But motherhood is new, unbroken ground. Suddenly there is a lot less time for yourself and your dreams. Suddenly you are holding a squirmy, ungrateful child and scrubbing floors for a man who doesn't understand how hard you work and how demanding parenting is. You wake up (and go to sleep) "on the clock of motherhood". There is never a moments break; many moms have no help and babysitters are either too expensive or hard to find. 

Motherhood is slow. It isn't easy and there is no quick gratification. You are about to be uncomfortable for quite awhile, and I am not only speaking of labor and delivery. Motherhood is messy. There are no promises. Your child may grow up to be a Yale graduate or he could end up homeless and sleeping on benches in NYC. He could die at six from choking on an apple, he might turn 18 and tell you he hates you as he packs his bags for Japan. There are no assurances for perfection or love, only the Bible and the promises of God--that is all you and your fragile heart have to cling too. And cling you must, because mother's hearts are easily broken. 

There is nothing dazzling about changing a poopy blow out diaper at 2 am after only sleeping for 1.5 hours. There is nothing to cheer about when your precious snowflake is caught cheating, lying, stealing and fornicating. 

What I am saying is you (and your husband) are about to have all your buttons pushed for weeks, and maybe years, on end. And that is just the young years! 

Be easy on yourself. Don't have the hard conversations when you are burnt out, sleep deprived, and tired. Make time to laugh. Eat cake, cuddle the babies and take turns getting up with them at night. Live guilt free. Screen time, take out, and locks on the bathroom door were made for a reason. Be diligent with how you feed your children (and their minds) but don't punish yourself if they watch Daniel Tiger for three hours while you cry in the bathroom and text friends. Try and read your bible while you cry; definitely pray.  

Realize no one is going to save you. This was big for me. There is no knight in shining armor that is going to swoop down and rescue you from tantrums, three year olds who hit, potty accidents, spills, mud, broken or torn things, sisters who give the baby a impromptu hair cut, sharpies on faces...extended family drama in the middle of a sleepless night, fridges that break, crying children and piles of dirty laundry. Clean up your own mess and train those children. If you don't do it, no one will. 

Your husband is not a knight and he isn't there to liberate you from all the discomfort and pain that child-rearing brings, especially if he is working long hard hours too. He needs a break just as much as you do! Don't try to pin that saviors robe on him. Jesus died so you could go to heaven, not to rescue you from orange juice spills and sleepless nights. Run to Jesus in these weary days of motherhood, he will be your rest. Point your husband to God and remember the promises of the Bible.

Don't despair. God created motherhood to draw you closer to him so you can abide and rest in the comfort of his loving embrace. Support other mothers you know. We are all exhausted and a little help (a meal, a text, a card, some cute stickers, a dinner out, a matcha latte in the park...) goes a long way. Be the village you want to live in.

You can do it. God believes in you, or he wouldn't have made you a mother. His plans for you are good! 

That's what I would tell new mothers. What would you add?