Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tackling the Pool with multiple Kids {a post on summer time}

Today the Babywise Friendly Bloggers are all blogging about various topics on summer! You can head on over to our pinterest page to see everyone's posts!

Last Summer I had a 5 year old, a 3 year old, an almost 2 year old- and a newborn. Needless to say, going to the pool was not an option for us. Besides giving my everything to nursing a brand new baby at the time, I was scared that someone would die if I took them to a pool by myself. I was overwhelmed and terrified at the sheer thought. So guess what? Besides splashing in a tiny blow up pool in our back yard, my older girls did not get to swim. I really had wished differently, but at the time, this was all I could wrap my mind around when it came to going to the pool. So I did the best I could (tiny blow up pool) and tried to forget the rest. We did not even do swim lessons!

I decided this year was going to be different. For safety purposes, I was not going to skip out on swimming lessons for the oldest 3 girls. I was also determined to let them swim in a real pool. I have so many wonderful summertime childhood memories that involve swimming, and I want for my girls to be able to say the same thing one day.

So as the summer approached, I kept thinking about how I could safely take my 4 children 6 years and under to the pool.

I live in a small town, and there are not a lot of pools available to frequent. We have a large aquatic center- that is big, and extremely crowded. Also- expensive for a family our size to go on a regular basis. The aquatic center is really the city's only option for a public pool- other than a pool in an area of town I am not really comfortable taking my children too.

I had a few friends who were members of our city's Country Club tell me about how amazing the pool was there. They told me that it had a 1 ft deep kids pool and two slides. One slide is for tiny toddler types, and the other one is bigger, and winds around and drops into a small area of 3 ft of water. Above this kid friendly area is a larger, lounge pool. This pool is 5 ft deep at its deepest area.

I felt like this was the perfect solution. So we jumped in.

I chose a pool that was not crowded. Too many people in one pool can be dangerous, and honestly- isn't any fun for anyone. So you can see why this was important to me. I wanted for us to be able to swim freely and be able to enjoy age appropriate/safe pool play, and this really is just that.

I chose a pool that is child friendly, and appealing. There are slides, and even a tiny waterfall falling over a large rock that they can splash under. There is a giant octopus and two fishes that spout out water (think splash park) that the kids can play in. It's a beach front entry, so the kids can ease their way into the water or smaller kids and babies can sit right down in and play with toys or under the sealife spouts and splash in. It really looks like a giant playground- just with water!

I also chose a pool that I would enjoy myself. I wanted to be just as excited as the kids to pack up and go! I love playing in the kids pool, and helping them with their skills in the larger pool. It's just as fun for me as it is for them!

I do have several rules that allow me to be safe and still be at the pool with all 4 babes.

1. Life jacket at all times for my 3 oldest if I am not physically in the water with them- even in the kids pool. (Yes, I will even sit out of the pool, with Wynn in the stroller next to me while the 3 big sisters stay in the kiddo pool and I eat lunch with friends) if I am out of the pool- life jackets are on (and guys- these things are incredibly effective!) and they can only stay in the kids pool. If Wynn is not in my arms she is in her flaotie and right next to me.

2. If we go the larger and deeper pool, they must wear their life jackets- unless I am working with one of the older two on swimming. In this case- only one of them can be without their life jacket- and I have to be totally focused on every move they make. So, I will have Wynn in her floatie that keeps her upright- and I keep my finger on it- while either Anslee or Kensington is practicing swimming back and forth to me. Then- they will switch and the other will be free to play near us in their life jacket.

3. We all stay together (for the most part) the exception being if I have a friend there who is willing to keep an eye on one of mine while I take the others with me to the lounge pool. Life jacket on- always.

My older 2 (Laynee has too,
But she is still so little that she stays in her life jacket the entire time we are at the pool) girls have been taking lessons twice a week all summer long- and they have done great. Since I have been taking them to this pool and allowing time for practice with me, I can really see the strides they have made. This is why if I am working with one at a time I will let them swim for a little while to me without their life jacket.

Being able to be at the pool was something I really wanted to make happen this year, and I feared it would just not be possible. I am so thankful we found the perfect pool, made some reasonable rules, and have worked on our skills enough to make this possible!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Balancing Academic with Relaxation in Summer {guest post}

I have recently teamed up with a group of amazing women in a Babywise Friendly Blog Network. We post guest post on each other's blogs from time to time.

Today I have the honor to introduce to you all Valerie Plowman. She is a mother to 4 children and has been blogging and helping mothers map out the ins and outs of parenting for several years. Her blog has been a resource to me for over 6 years now, and to so many more. You can find her at

by Valerie Plowman

A very common, and very legitimate, concern many parents have during summer months when school is out is how to avoid a summer setback. A summer setback is when the child returns to school in the fall and finds he/she is not at the same level he was when school let out for the summer. When you avoid a summer setback, you avoid a loss of skills.

Despite this concern over summer setback, we are conflicted as parents. We have this opposite pull that makes us want to have a relaxed summer. We want to give our children a break and give them the chance to worry about nothing but being kids for the summer. We want a more relaxed schedule and a shorter to-do list. I know that as my children have gotten older, I have wanted summers to be less and less structured. However, that doesn't mean I want my children falling behind themselves over the summer.

So how do you balance?

You can do some academics each day without turning each and every day into just another school day. One thing you can do is simple math facts and/or math worksheets. Math fact pages can be found all over the internet. Doing a short sheet of addition problems, multiplication problems, or division problems can be done in 10 minutes or less. It can a be a post-breakfast or post-lunch activity. Doing this daily (or as close to daily as possible) can significantly help your child to be on top of math when school resumes in the fall. You can also check out this post for more ideas to help avoid summer setback in math.

If you ask any teacher how to help your child during the summer, she will encourage you to read, read, read. Reading is the simple answer, and there are simple ways to fit reading into your schedule each day.

Reading programs are a fun way to stay motivated to keep reading up during the summer. Check with your local library to see if they have a summer reading program. If you can't find one, you can always plan your own goals and reward system for reading milestones through the summer.

One of my favorite things to do in the summer for reading is called Sustained Silent Reading (SSR). This is when you all sit in the room together and read whatever you like for 30 solid minutes (including the parent). You don't talk; you just read. We do this in the afternoon right at the time my toddler goes down for a nap. I like the afternoon because it is the middle of the day. It is a time the kids can all take a break from their play and relax a bit. It is also a break from the heat of the day and a chance to cool down. All of my children really enjoy SSR.

Another way to help with reading is to read to your child each day. If you read stories before bedtime, keep it up during the summer (if you don't, I encourage you to start). Read aloud to all of your children, no matter the ages. During summer, bedtime can really creep up on you. Do what you have to to ensure there is enough time to keep bedtime stories as part of your routine.

Plan regular visits to the library through the summer. How often you can go will depend on your proximity and circumstances. We go once each week. I let each child choose 3-5 books for the week (I don't want too many books to keep track of). The children enjoy having a variety of books to read. Having a new book keeps them interested.

Find unique ways to get reading stories or reading practice in. I have my six year old read me a book each day while I do her hair. She is able to finish a book in about the time it takes me to do her hair. This is a consistent time of day that we can remember to fit this reading practice in. The other night, our ten year old read from Oliver Twist to my husband while he did landscaping. You can also do reading in the car, have your child read to you as you make creative.

Summer often involves time spent in the car while traveling near and far. Something we love to do is listen to books on CD as we drive. It is a great way to get extra reading in while still being able to go do your fun things.

While you want to do what you can to prevent the summer setback, you still want summer to be relaxing. You can allow down time. You can spend a relatively short time on the learning stuff each day and leave plenty of time for play and rest and relaxation.

It is important to remember that for children, play is work. Play is more to children than what it is to us. For adults, play is fun and relaxing. For children, play has learning attached to it. My daughter's Kindergarten teacher sent home a paper of things to do this summer. Along with reading and simple math problems, she stressed the importance of play for children. To read more on the benefits of free play, see this post. Do not feel bad about giving your children time to be creative and have fun playing.

Another great thing to do during the summer is fun learning ideas. This can be a good time to try out some of those fun pins decorating your Pinterest account. There is so much learning that can happen through fun activities.

Television, movies, computer time, and video games can be okay at times, but be careful to not let that time overrun your child's time for free play. Limit the time allowed with electronics each day or each week. Make sure you are not letting electronics suck up your play time.

What you don't want is to panic two weeks before school starts with either 1)Ack! My kids haven't done any sort of learning for 2 1/2 months! or 2)Ack! We haven't done anything fun this summer!

Sit down and make a list of things you would like to see happen this summer. What kinds of learning things do you want to happen? Write out how you can work those into each day and make some goals you can keep.

As you are making your list, write down some fun things you would like to see happen daily and throughout the summer. Essentially, make a bucket list (but a reasonable one). A bucket list doesn't have to be a list of highly amazing things. You might want to go for a few bike rides. Go swimming a few times. Try some new parks. Go to that new splash pad. Write out your ideas and pencil them into your calendar for the summer.

With a little bit of forethought and effort, you can make sure you have time for play and time for learning throughout the summer. You might also enjoy these posts I have written on the topic:
Avoiding Summer Setback in All Areas, Summer Planning and Preparation, Summer Fun At Home, Summer Structure, and Occupying Children During Summer.

Valerie is a mother of four, ages 2-10, and blogs at

Monday, June 1, 2015

What I learned about being a "School Mom"

So very quickly our first year as a family with a child in school full time came and went. I have been so overcome with emotion and feelings from the beginning to the very end of this school year. A real learning journey it has become for our family, really, for me.

Anslee meeting her Teacher, Mrs. Hall and teacher aide Mrs. Jones

Someone told me that your "parent age" is just as is the age of your child. So I just graduated my kindergarten year of parenting, as Anslee graduated her first year. A kindergartener is she is no more, and we are both entering 1st grade now.

First Day of School, August 25, 2015

I wanted to document some of the experiences/thoughts/feelings I have had over the past 9 months. I did not know what to expect, as you could understand, as this was my first school mom rodeo. I learned so much. Anslee learned so much. Overall we had a very bright experience, but here are some of things that learned and that I was surprised by

Every Monday Anslee's school began with an assembly. They would give awards. This was the First Monday award she received on the 2nd week of school.

Fridays were meant for cheerleading uniforms to be worn to school during football season

The classroom is the teachers terf. Not yours.
And this is ok. This is wonderful. Do we not want our children to learn that in life they will be under the authority of many other that of yourself and your spouse. I feel like it is an important life skill to allow for them to learn to follow someone else's rules. They are quite capable of reaching the expectation level of the teacher, principal, lunch lady - and they need to know that they can do that all while coming home and following the rules you have set for them there. This does NOT mean, though, that you can't team up with your child's teacher to have common ground of rules and that you as a parent have a full understanding of what is expected from your child while they are under someone else's watch. I enjoyed open dialogue with Anslee's teacher this year. She was always available to answer my questions and keep me clued in as I needed to be. I encouraged Anslee to keep her teacher's rules each and every day, and I could count on her to reinforce our rules at home, too. Mrs. Hall told me at the beginning of the year that if Anslee is doing great at home with behavior, school work, attitude/motivation, etc. to let her know so that at school she could praise her for that. I was so glad that she wanted to be on my team in that way

Kindergarten Star Students for the 1st Six weeks of School (sorry its fuzzy, it was the best I could do)

Kensington came along for Anslee's class trip to the Brown County Stock Show

I also learned that if she did things different than I did, that was ok. I found that it was important that I respect her and her choices - even if they were different than my own - because at the end of the day, she had my child's  (and every child) best interest at heart.I learned that maybe MY way IS NOT always the BEST way. Maybe, just every now and again (hehe) someone else's way will work just fine. You have to in a way trust the system. Its not a perfect system, but its a system that is always being evaluated and strengthened as time goes on. So we trust it. We trust that we will see growth and gain from believing in the school and its precious, hard working, invaluable teachers. You have to find a comfortable balance between being a true champion for your child (by helping pave the way for great opportunities) without becoming the mom who pushes their child's way to the top for them.
Anslee's class made gingerbread houses for a winter activity. Kensington was thrilled when they let join in!
I got to be the "reindeer" to toss rings onto at the Christmas party!

Their Kindergarten is NOT your kindergarten.

There is nothing more true than this! Kindergarten now is a place where real learning and progress is made. You know what I learned in kindergarten? I learn how the letters of the alphabet. I learned how to tie my shoes. I learned how to play at centers with my friends. We had stories read to us. Now, when they leave kindergarten and enter the first grade they: read (and quite well), know what a noun, an adjective, and verb are and how to identify them in a sentence, they add and subtract double digit numbers. They are evaluated and tested regularly throughout the year. They do all this while they also learn the social side of being at school - playing appropriately with their friends, respecting their neighbor, following a schedule. Here is the thing. They CAN do it. They CAN handle it. They actually really like going to school at this age, so its amazing  to see how when they are motivated what they can really accomplish. So was my generation totally underestimated? Huh. I don't know.

homework time!

Sisters don't let sisters do homework alone!

Anslee's Valentine Mailbox. She was so proud of her hard work!

Be Available. Be involved.
When you are able, get yourself involved in your child's classroom. Be the teacher's extra set of hands on field trips and special party days and celebrations. They sure do appreciate parent involvement, and your child will light up at the sight of you at school. Volunteer some time when you can. This year, I have 3 small children still at home while Anslee is at school but I was still able to make myself available for all the special events and field trips. You don't have to be up there each and every day (trust me, I was not), but I think Anslee's teacher knew she could count on me on the days where extra effort was needed to expose the kids to fun and exciting new things. I served on the PTO (parent/teacher organization) and tried to do my part in helping where I could as well. I look at this as investment in Anslee's education. I feel like if she physically can see me serving at her school she will understand how much I value her learning and growing through her education. I am hopeful that this will eventually turn into HER valuing her education as she grows and begins building her own value system.

Anslee's class after participating in Jump Rope For Heart!

Kindergarten's Got Talent participants! Anslee did a combination of gymnastics skills to music
Easter Egg hunt at the park with all of Kindergarten!

Kinder trip to the Train Museum here in town! They also went bowling this day as well.

Kindergarten Rodeo! They branded a block of wood, learned to lasso, and raced their Hobby Horses!

Mrs. Hall's and Mrs. Jones Kinder grads!
If you are involved, you are more informed. You know more of what is going on. You know how things work, and you can help reinforce classroom rules/values/efforts at home. I was able to help Anslee better with her homework after I talked to the teacher and learned her language and the techniques she used with the kids. I would use the same techniques and word phrases at home when I was supervising her doing her homework. It made things click quicker and stayed more fresh in her mind. Ask how to help your child at home. Also, being up at the school from time to time made for my having a better understanding of what all was going on at the school, even outside of Anslee's classroom. I was able to go to the 3rd grade musical with Anslee, because I knew that was happening! I felt like being involved was just a good thing all around - and I wasn't even up there THAT terribly much. A little involvement goes a LONG way.

Anslee had a great year. She learned and grew and enjoyed every minute of doing so. We are so proud of all the amazing things she and all her classmates accomplished this year. Something that NO ONE told me was that the last day would be harder than the first day was. I got so emotional thinking back on the year and realizing how far she had come. I was sad to leave her teacher, as she became safe place for us. The first day was teary for me, but the last two days were way more weepy on my part! Who would have known? We look forward to a great 1st grade year ahead and we hope that the learning for BOTH of US continues.

obligatory 1st day to graduation day comparison picture

The Bible I will give Anslee the day she graduates High School in 2027. From here on out I will have her teachers through the years write her a note on the inside of it. I hope it will encourage her, and also be a visual reminder of her growth - and how we will always want to continue on growing in the Lord.

We are officially on Summer break and are looking forward to a more relaxed structure and schedule. Lazy days, fun days, and lots memories are ahead for us!