A 2020 Kind Of Pregnancy

First of all, I want to say thank you for all the kind words and well wishes concerning our baby news. We really felt the love and appreciate everyone’s support!  I noticed a few days ago when I had a quick second to sit down and read through some messages that there were a lot of questions about pregnancy related topics so I thought I might share a little more about the experience of this 2020 pregnancy so far.

I know everyone got a good laugh out of a mother of six saying this was a total surprise, but it was! I have prided myself for years in being Mrs. Fertility Charts and thought I was immune from surprises. Well, nursing Indy for longer that I had in a while, combined with age related changes, led me to seriously misinterpret some symptoms. I actually only ended up going to the Dr. because I was experiencing some scary symptoms I thought needed to be checked out. As silly as it seems now looking back, I did not for one second think that a baby could have been causing all of this! So, when they ran that ultrasound wand over my belly to reveal a wiggling tiny human, I ripped off my mask and yelled, “No Way”! (that’s the G rated version). I had never been so surprised in my life.  I was further along than I had ever been in finding out I was pregnant. Even after seeing this little person, I continued to have scary stuff happen for weeks after which made it difficult to feel free in letting my guard down to be excited. Much like the rest of the world, I was in a holding pattern.  

            It won’t surprise you that as a mother of many, I have experienced loss. Some more painful than others (a story for another time) but anyone who has experienced any kind of pregnancy loss knows you are never really able to freely enjoy the news you are pregnant the way you can before loss, it robs you of that innocence. The weeks rolled on and as in most of my pregnancies I spent the first trimester in bed or throwing up or trying to eat the loaf of bread I was carrying around day and night. It was rough. This is where the pandemic flow came into play. I felt like I had worked so hard to try and rewire my family to continue to function well with all the change in the world. We were exercising, eating and studying together. I was a general on a mission to lead my troops successfully through the battle. Then this. Talk about a setback. The general was now a sick, tired, pregnant lady. And chaos ensued.  Or at least it felt like it to me. I look back on some of the seasons where I have felt overwhelmed and unable to be the kind of mom I want to be, and even though when I am in those moments it feels hopeless, if I pull back the camera a little bit, I feel like my children have grown during those times, maybe in ways I couldn’t teach them except by stepping out of the way a little. Knowing this doesn’t make it easy, but I am grateful for my years of experience giving me perspective.

            One question that was asked several times was “Have your pregnancies been different or similar? “Yes, and no. I have some similar physical symptoms that have been around each time, and for the most part all of my pregnancies have been healthy and uneventful. But at the same time, each one has been completely different, and those differences have much more to do with external factors than with the baby itself. I’ve rejoiced over planned babies that seemed to fill a spot just waiting for them. I’ve had pregnancies where I didn’t know until the last minute if Taylor would be home for the birth. I’ve had larger spaces where I was a little out of practice, but able to nap. I’ve had babies back to back with all the cuteness and fatigue that comes from double stroller life. Each pregnancy has been different, each birth has been a little different, and each one has gifted me with hard learned lessons on life and love.  It’s too soon to tell all that I will learn this time around, but I can already see glimpses of insight I have yet to experience until now, so thank you little number seven. We’re waiting for you.

How Do You Teach Reading?

This is another great question! I am sure there are many more qualified people than me to answer this, but I’ll tell you what I have learned from my little at-home education experiment. First, learning to read has happened at a different pace for all five of the children I have taught so far. With some, they are so receptive and eager that repetitive reading of favorite books and a phone app have been enough to do the trick. For those that need a little bit of a push, my next step is Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. If that doesn’t make things start to click, I add in practice with phonics and sight word memorization. But here’s the catch, if you have a child with reading issues, none of this may seem to make a bit of difference, especially in the time frame you were expecting. If that is the case, take a deep breath, it is all going to be ok! I can say that now as the mom of teenagers, some of whom threw every book I tried to read with them across the room until they were almost ten! Yes, ten! But guess what? They read now. They read well. They even like it sometimes.  Teaching my reluctant readers has been my biggest struggle as a homeschooling parent. It is also been the one that has taught me the most.  Among the many lessons I have taken away from our adventures in reading is, when it comes to learning, there is more than one way to skin a cat (or to peel a potato, sorry, PETA) . I am often asked about what homeschooling wisdom I’ve picked up from Taylor’s parents, and this is one area where I’m so grateful for their encouragement. I’m sure they saved me from several panic attacks over my children’s reading abilities. Years ago when I expressed some of my concerns over the matter to Taylor’s mom, she said, “You know, humans haven’t always been able to read, it’s a fairly new skill over our evolution, there are other ways to get the information in them.” I had never thought of that!  With this new information, I started to take a new approach with my reluctant readers. I decided I wouldn’t let their reading abilities stand in the way of their understanding and absorption of information. I started reading more and more out loud to my children. I would also spend more time talking through the comprehension of a subject, rather than have them write everything. It wasn’t easy, and it was often much more time consuming than dealing with my easy readers who I could throw a book to, and they could figure out the rest on there own, but it worked. Through all of this, we didn’t neglect the practice of language arts completely, but I did make it less of a gatekeeper to all other abilities. We all know reading issues are common, but based on how traditional learning occurs, it is difficult to not equate reading problems with so many other things.  Taylor’s mom also told me, “Don’t worry, when they are really interested in something, they’ll read it.” This scared me as a teaching philosophy when I was started out, but lo and behold, she wasn’t wrong. My most reluctant readers are teenagers now, and when they want to read something, they do. It still feels miraculous when I think back to my earlier panic.  I was raised with the idea that “Readers are Leaders!” and growing up I was an avid reader, so it took me longer than I wish it would have to see who my children were and to stop believing that being a book worm was the only way to be successful. I’ve edited that phrase to “Learners are Leaders”, and I am beyond thankful for the empathy, wisdom, and understanding I have gained through homeschooling these precious, unique babies of mine. 

Here are some of my favorite reading resources :

Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons

Overcoming Dyslexia

Homeschooling with Dyslexia

Visit to the Lost Kingdom

The other day TulsaKids posted a reminder of the educational resources available from the Tulsa Zoo. I’ve got one or two hardcore zoo devotees that I knew would be into this! There are plenty of lessons to choose from on the education page of the zoo’s website. We went with one of the more simple projects and printed out a coloring book that specifically connects to the Lost Kingdom exhibit. This gave us a chance to do some research on the animals ahead of time, which never fails to make seeing them a little more exciting! Also, a hidden benefit of this little lesson was streamlining our zoo visit! I won’t name names, but one of my children comes to the zoo with a map and very loooong checklist of things to see. What can I say? The man likes a plan. Keeping our focus on the one exhibit made everybody feel satisfied without having to hike the whole zoo. I love that our zoo membership lets us come and go without the pressure of having to squeeze everything into one visit. The zoo is also only doing advance reservations right now to prioritize social distancing which made our visit even better, Not a crowd of humans in sight!

#2020

How I Handle Teaching Multiple Ages at Once

I was so overwhelmed with the response to my call out for homeschool questions the other day, that I decided to expand on a few of the most frequently asked here on the blog. Now before I go any further I want to say, these answers come from my own experience and may not be the solution for everyone. Homeschooling at its core is a relationship, just like friendship or parenting or marriage. You can read all the books on tips of how to best handle it, but it is going to look a little different for every family.  These answers are about what has worked for my family, so take from them what you will.  

How do you handle teaching multiple ages at the same time?

This topic seems to baffle many of you so I’ll try and explain a little about how I have handled this through the years. First, one of the top goals of our homeschooling is to teach my children to be autodidactic. This means that hopefully the older they are, the more they are able to be trusted to take initiative and handle things on their own as much as possible. I’ve said this before, but I think the culture of homeschool makes children take ownership of their education a little differently than most people are used to seeing. So basically, I spend the most time with the younger ones, usually first thing in the morning. Their lessons take less time so I can give them focus while the older ones start on things for which they don’t need my constant supervision. After I let the younger ones loose, I turn my focus to the older kids and check in to see where they need my help . Sometimes they don’t need much, and other times certain projects can monopolize my afternoon. If I see a pattern of someone needing so much help that I don’t feel like I’m able to give the others the focus they need, I will work out some sort of schedule so everyone knows when I’m available specifically to them. Sometimes I’ll send a child or two with dad to help divide and conquer. As far as managing little ones, it can be cute and great one day and chaos the next! One nugget of wisdom that comes from having little ones for eighteen years is that the phases are so short, so mentally I’m able to deal with them a little better than I used to, and just figure out what works for right now, knowing it’s not forever. Right now, Indy does great most days just playing beside me while I work with the younger kids, then napping while I focus on the older ones, but I’ve done all kinds of things to manage this through the years. There have been seasons where we have done a Mother’s Day Out program a couple days a week. At one point, when I had more tiny people I had a helper come a couple hours a weeks to just fix lunch and entertain the little ones.  Just like everything in life, it’s not perfect, but the best times have been when I am honest with myself about my limits, and take responsibility for managing things before I get to the point of jumping in the van and driving into the sunset.  You can’t expect your kids or partner to draw those lines for you. I hope this helps! I’ll be answering a few more here soon 🙂

When You Suddenly Need to Homeschool

Tips for when you find yourself unexpectedly homeschooling!

I reposted a meme the other day that made a joke about everyone becoming homeschoolers and I was shocked by how many messages I received asking for actual advice on the topic. I realized this was a real thing for many of you! So, I tossed around a few things I would say to a friend who found themselves in the position of unexpectedly homeschooling for a time. Here are some of my thoughts, which I hope can help spark some fun at-home learning for you all.

Enjoy the Bright Hours. One of the secret joys of school at home is spending time with your children at the beginning of the day, as opposed to the end.  When I began homeschooling, I realized the kids I woke up with were different people than the ones I was seeing mostly just from 4pm on, when they (and me) were tired. My morning kids are calmer, more focused and able to handle challenges. It’s a special treat to spend this part of the day with them. Take advantage!

Try Interest-led Learning. This is a perfect time to let loose on some interest-led, rabbit hole chasing, learning freedom! As homeschoolers we know that this can be one of the best ways to ignite learning, but even we have schedules and benchmarks we are looking to meet, and don’t always feel completely free to chase passions. Your brief stint as a homeschooler is perfect for this. Just ask your kids if there is anything they want to learn about, and go for it!  

Let them own their education. A short break from the classroom setting can be a great time to remind your student that learning isn’t about just doing the thing that leads to the next thing. This can be a chance to let them feel ownership over their learning, and to talk about the “why” behind all the work they are putting in at school. Engaging in learning without a classroom of peers brings out a different energy of self-discovery.  Maybe ask them about some things they might want to do when they get older. Then together you can try learn about what things are important to focus on to be successful in those fields.  One idea I like, that I heard from Michelle Obama, is to avoid using the phrase “what do you want to be when you grow up?” because we are all really more than just one thing as we grow, so try to use language that avoids putting any restrictions on future interests. 

Honestly, if you just take what you like to do together, and add to that an attitude of purposeful learning and discovery, it’s amazing what can happen. 

Happy homeschooling, and stay healthy out there!

Love,

Natalie

St. Louis

I just wanted to share a few pictures from our recent day in St. Louis. We had the best time seeing the show at the Stifel Theater and taking in a little of the city.  It had been a few years since we had explored St. Louis and it was great to be back! 

We visited the Museum of Westward Expansion which is underground at the Arch Visitor’s Center. I had been years ago and remembered how much we learned about the west and the complex functioning society that was in place long before St. Louis was even a part of the United States. It covers the history of the area in a way that seems to get skimmed over in general U.S. History study. The museum has had a recent expansion and there are lots of new exhibits!

Trying ALL the fudge flavors at the cute little store at the exit of the museum. Thank you St. Louis!!

The Hermitage

Since we had to make a quick stop in Nashville to allow Taylor to finish up some work on the new String Theory album, I jumped at the chance to visit the home of Andrew Jackson, The Hermitage! Being Oklahomans and growing up with the story of the displacement of the Native Americans so close to our hearts, taking time to learn about Andrew Jackson brought about meaningful conversations regarding history and how things are never as simple as they seem, and how “history” is a story of mankind that like any story will be told differently from different perspectives. We had a chance to really talk about what it means to be a good historian, and in all things to question what you know and never stop listening and learning.

The Hermitage land is beautiful and well-cared for and we enjoyed skipping around the grounds!  Something we have done before, but didn’t do on this visit, is the wagon tour that takes you all over the farm and tells more about the lives of all the people that lived at the Hermitage. It’s a fun way to see the whole place, especially on a hot day. The house tour isn’t too long and is appropriate for all ages. Some on the highlights are the original wallpaper in the entry way, and the beautiful portrait of Rachel Jackson that hangs in Andrew Jackson’s bedroom.

A museum tour pet peeve of mine is when the docent seems too scripted and uninterested in the information they are offering.  They have such a chance to inspire as they speak life into these places it feels like a waste when they fail to exude a little enthusiasm! Well, this was not the case on our tour of the Hermitage. We were lucky enough to have man named Jim Sharp who is an educator at the Hermitage filling in for one of the regular docents who called in sick. Listening to him speak about Jackson and his library with real interest, and with thoughtful answers to people’s questions made it all come to life! The kids all agreed after the tour that his part was the best because authentic interest is contagious!

Speaking of education, the Hermitage website has really good resources for pre-visit planning and school lessons HERE. I think there is a great benefit, not just for teachers, but for anyone taking children to a museum to take advantage of these types of resources to enhance the ability to connect with the information presented and retain it after your visit.

Thank you Viggo for being who you are and always keeping us from getting lost!

I feel I must explain what is happening here, which is all of her siblings are positioning her in order to get the perfect “I’m petting a Pokemon” shot 🙂

The money shot.

Baby!!

Taylor and I and all the children are so excited about the new family member coming this December! More than ever I realize how time flies and every moment with these people counts. I thought I would use this space to share a few more pictures with you and tell you a little more about what’s going on with us this year! First, a special thanks to our friends Matt and Joanna for making these photos happen. Real friends take pictures of your kids AND make sure their noses are wiped and hair doesn’t look cray!  These friends also happen to make drool-worthy camera straps and bags like the one Penny’s holding.Check them out!

This fall, Hanson is doing a series of special shows with symphonies all around the country. The shows are beautiful and unlike anything they have done before. It almost feels like a musical because of the way they weave their songs together to tell the story of dreaming, achieving, fighting, and carrying on. It lifts my spirits every time!

Because of the timing of these shows and everything going on with us, we decided now was a great time to stick together and do this as a family. So, we are back on the road! Its been awhile since we’ve had the whole crew with us full time and its crazy to think how little they were in years past. Now we have these big kids who are so cool and fun and help out big time. So all you parents of little ones out there, hang in there! It gets awesome!  Being full time on the road means #roadschool is back in session and so far so good.  Once again our dynamics have shifted so much since everyone was small and even school feels like much more of a team effort.

I look forward to sharing some of our journey with you all!

Natalie

 

 

 

Afternoon in Oak Park

We spent yesterday in the beautiful Chicago suburb of Oak Park checking out a few FLW sights and strolling around the neighborhood. There are so many beautiful houses and lawns there it feels as if you are transported back to the turn of the century.

Tay and I had been to Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio over ten years ago, but this was the kids first time and it was fun to share it with them.

We did a combination tour of the home and studio,  then an audio tour that walks you through some landmarks in the neighborhood. I was worried how the second part would turn out, as I was still recovering from a particularly frustrating experience at a museum in France with an audio tour where the kids acted so overwhelmed and lost. That led me to steer clear of them for a while. However, this one turned out to be our favorite part of the day! Willa and Viggo particularly took that map and speaker and led the tour like it was their job. (control issues ftw!)

We are all enjoying being on the road with dad so much. It is really great for the kids to see up close all the hard work and collaboration it takes to make things happen. The traveling alone requires a level of flexibility and self-control not normally exercised and I am proud to say everyone is stepping up in those areas in order to make it all work!

Also, I want to say thank you to everyone suggesting places to see in your hometown as we come through! I really appreciate it and look each one of them up to see if we can make them happen. Keep them coming!

 

Atlanta History Center

I wanted to share a few pictures from our visit to the Atlanta History Center!  It was so fun to teach the kids a little bit about my family and their Georgia heritage. My family has lived in Georgia a long time and the stories told in the museum all felt really personal to my mother and me. My grandfather went to elementary school on Luckie Street, right down from where I would meet my future husband almost 70 years later. Her great aunt was killed in the Winecoff Hotel Fire which is covered pretty thoroughly in the exhibit hall. The main building and the grounds of the History Center are quite stunning and served as an inspiring setting to tell the children so many stories. One particularly fascinating project happening there right now is the move and restoration of the Cyclorama.  My cousin and one of my history heroes, Elizabeth Edmondson, was the historian for the Cyclorama and donated much of her time to its preservation.  I know she would be proud to see its still being cared for by the History Center.  I was hoping we might get to see the original Pink Pig, but apparently it was there only as a temporary exhibit and is owned by Macy’s now.  I think a few things sunk in with the kids, although all they really said was “everyone here sounds like you, Mom!” ha!

I had to exert some gift shop self-control!