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Let’s be real….

This a little bit of a rant, so brace yourself.  After a very interesting (and frustrating) conversation with someone close to me yesterday I was reminded of something that I have often thought about, albeit in a fleeting manner. The following verbal vomit is the result of some less fleeting, more focused thinking on the matter:

SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT REAL.  I think that on the surface we are aware of this.  But when we follow our friends and our non-friends, celebrities, pseudo-celebrities and a whole host of other veritable strangers on instagram, facebook, snapchat, blogs blah blah blah, we can lose sight of this critical fact.  While some people use social media to further their own agendas (think politics… or celebrity image…. or marketing of products and ideas), some of us are also using it as a way to keep in touch, as an outlet, or even with the hope of helping others.  It actually doesn’t matter what the original intent is, as long as we can remember that SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT REAL.

My blog, instagram and facebook accounts all reflect true experiences in my life.  But as a whole they are a fantasy.  I don’t post a lot of instagram photos of me crying in my bedroom with a glass of wine in a coffee go-cup (so that the dog doesn’t judge me and so the kids don’t think that drinking is an appropriate coping mechanism…hypocritical, I know), and a bag of chocolate that I would NEVER let my kids have because it is absolute trash.  I don’t post them because I don’t actually photograph these moments.  And I’d actually prefer not to remember them. But perhaps I should.  I don’t post on facebook when someone says something shitty to me that makes me want to punch them in face, nor do I post when I say something shitty to someone and hurt their feelings.  I don’t post about how I didn’t talk to my husband for 3 days because neither of us have figured out how to find balance in our lives and so we sometimes unwittingly sacrifice our time together or the times I pretended to be asleep because I was too tired to…. I’ll let you fill in the blank on that one.  I don’t post about my bad parenting moments (you guys DO NOT HAVE TIME to read about all of them…they happen at least hourly most days).

I have had friends and acquaintances tell me they admire me, or that I’m a good mom, and that they couldn’t do what I’m doing.  While I do think I’m a good mom, and I try really hard to be great (some days…some days I say eff it, and grab the coffee go cup…).  But I wonder now, when those people are looking at my facebook, instagram or this blog, do they think my life is really like what is reflected online?  And do they feel worse about themselves because of it?  If so, I hope you are reading this now.  We are a normal family with a consistent ebb and flow of joy, anger, sorrow, yelling, hugging, laughing, door-slamming, stomping, chatting, nagging, eye-rolling, frustration, contentment and discontent.  I think most adults can reconcile this with some conscious effort.

Here is what worries me.  My daughters use social media.  A lot.  My dancer follows Tate McRae (Calgary dancer same age as McKenna who is currently the likely winner of So You Think You Can Dance), and if that’s all the context you have about Tate, it looks like she never has a bad day, loves every second of her dance training, has a perfectly happy and supportive family who are always smiling, never feels disappointed, never is exhausted and just wants to go to bed, never has a fight with her friends.  Multiply this by the 10s or 100s of social media accounts my kids follow, and I wonder if their perspective is altered by these ‘real’ people and their perfect lives.  Do my kids look at their friends and celebrities and think their own lives pale in comparison?  It’s a bit like how magazines used to be the evil that convinced us our bodies were not good enough, multiplied by a gazillion.  It’s no longer a few supermodels airbrushed in magazines.  It’s everyone.  Absolutely everyone.  And they all seem to have perfect lives.  Avi follows a YouTube family.  This family records moments of their lives and posts them weekly on YouTube.  Once again, a real family.  But NONE of the bad stuff.  The time mom and dad had a huge fight about money – nope, not on there.  The time the brother closed-fist punched his snotty little sister because she was being a PIA…Nope, edited out.  IT IS NOT REAL.  But for 11 & 13 year olds, who have grown up in the social media era, can they really reconcile this?  Or do they just look at themselves, and find themselves lacking?

I have ABSOLUTELY no idea what to do about it.  I limit the time the kids can spend on technology, which in turn limits their time on social media.  I’d love to take it away altogether, but I know they will just create secret accounts (if they haven’t already) and then I’ll be in a worse position.  All we can do is talk about it.  And I am going to use myself as the example to illustrate it to them.  They know the realities of living in this house.  So we are about to engage in a family project where we look at my social media accounts, and compare them to the reality.  Maybe that will help promote some understanding of how all social media (and regular old media, for that matter) only tells one small part of the story.  Looks like Berrik isn’t the only one getting some homeschoolin’ this year.

Homeschool Math (aka baking muffins)

After my earlier post with the muffin recipe, Berrik and I set off to make the muffins.  It turned into a major math lesson, with Berrik none the wiser about doing school work!  Here’s some of what we did:

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Preheating the oven.  In Math this morning Berrik was learning about number placement on ‘decimal’ street, including 100s, 10s, and 1s.  We used that learning to preheat the oven to 350F.  Simple stuff, but nice reinforcement of what we were doing earlier.

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Preparing the pan.  I asked Berrik to estimate how much coconut oil he would need in order to grease all 12 muffin holes, and then had him spoon the amount he though he would need into the little glass bowl.  When he was done greasing the pan, he realized he had overestimated the amount and said he would use less next time.  We talked about whether he thought he had used 1/2 the amount of coconut oil, or less than that.

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Measuring the ingredients.  The bananas allowed for a review of simple addition and subtraction.  We did both, which I think is so good to promote understanding that addition is just the opposite of subtraction.  This was easy for him, but always a good review.  After I quizzed him on a couple, he was then supplying the equations and answering them himself.

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The rest of the ingredients.  Talking about the difference between 1/2 cup and 1 cup and physically being able to see that 1 cup is double the amount of 1/2 cup is a great way to promote understanding of fractions.  Measured with teaspoons as well, and then estimated the right amount of cinnamon.  More addition and subtraction with the eggs, but generally decided that learning how to crack the egg was more important than the math.  Egg cracking is a life skill.  Everyone should know how to crack an egg.  🙂

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Chocolate chips:  Berrik identified the pattern he wanted to use and wrote it on a sheet of paper to help him remember it.  Then he followed through and created the pattern 3 times.  I had him figure out how many times the pattern would repeat before he started, and while it took him a little bit to figure it out, he was able to get the answer.   When he finished he confirmed that his pattern repeat guess was correct (and sounded pretty surprised that it was correct, which was funny).  He also informed me that he would eat the 5 and 4 chocolate chip muffins and McKenna and Avi were welcome to the 3 & 2 chocolate chip muffins.  Definitely my kid!img_6775

We put the muffins in the oven and set the timer.  I made him read to figure out which button said ‘kitchen timer’ and then punch in the amount of time.  His concept of time isn’t great, but he thought that 25 minutes seemed like a perfect amount of time to play outside to ‘get a good appetite for eating muffins’.  I’d love to spend some time inside his brain.  It’s so funny and busy in there.

And finally once the muffins were baked, we discussed more math using word problems. If Berrik ate 2 and mom ate 1, how many would be left for McKenna and Avi?  What if McKenna and Avi each had 1, how many would be left when Dad gets home for dinner?  If Berrik ate all the 4 & 5 chocolate chip muffins, how many would he have eaten?  I had to repeat these a few times (processing word problems is a real challenge for Berrik), but we used the muffins as manipulatives and he was able to figure out the answers.

#learningbydoing is still trending in our house….

Back to School Muffin Recipe

coconutbananamuffinsThe girls are off to school…Berrik doesn’t ‘officially’ start until next week, however we have been doing school all summer so it’s not quite the same level of drama and excitement as it was for the girls.  Berrik was up bright and early today and he’s best when he’s fresh, so we got through some language arts and math work including some desk work, so we’re both glad to have that out of the way.  We’re about to do some baking (more math, with measurement….and the way I bake there is plenty of estimation as well…). And on that note, I wanted to share the recipe we are using today.  It’s essentially sugar free (naturally sweetened with fruit), high fibre and high protein.  Perfect for kids as a convenient breakfast if the morning is rushed, a ‘dessert’ in their lunch, or for us, a quick snack for when we are on the go.  All three kids love it, and I feel good about them having one to help get them through choir, dance, karate or whatever other activity they’re involved in.

Coconut Flour Banana Muffins

6 ripe bananas, mashed

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup sunflower seed butter (you can use almond butter, peanut butter, or any other nut/seed butter here…. sunflower seed butter keeps it nut-free which is handy for school).

4 eggs

1 cup coconut flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional, and can be substituted with raisins or nuts if you like).  I use stevia sweetened chocolate chips or dark chocolate chips, but again, whatever type you like will work fine.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Prepare your muffin pans.  I use coconut oil and grease the pan with a little pastry brush, but you could use nonstick cooking spray as well.  My preference is for stoneware for baking…I just find it cooks more evenly. Regardless, watch the muffins closely as baking times may vary – I use convection when baking, so that is likely to reduce the baking time by a bit.

One of my kiddos does not like banana chunks in her muffins (pretty sure anyone who knows us can guess who!!!) so I use my Blendtec blender (Vitamix would work too), but you can use a stand mixer or hand mixer as well.  I love using the blender for baking – just one thing to wash at the end. Downside is no beaters to lick though!

Throw the bananas, nut/seed butter, and vanilla in blender and blend until smooth.  Add eggs and pulse a few times until they are blended in.  Dump in coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and blend until just combined. You can fold in chocolate chips or other additions here if you like, or if it’s going to be a math exercise like it is for us today, you can have your helper count out the chocolate chips and make patterns on the top of the muffins before putting them in the oven.

Pour muffin batter into muffin pan.  I like to fill them up pretty full as these muffins don’t rise as much as wheat flour versions might.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  The centers should be firm and springy when they are done.  Let them cool in the pans.  They will hold together well once cooled, but can sometimes come out of the pan in pieces if they are too warm.

Enjoy!

 

Homeschooling…. Here we go!

When Berrik was a baby and the girls were just entering school, I may have said I would NEVER homeschool.  Not because I really had anything against homeschooling per se, but more because I thought I would not have the patience or the ability to do it well, and I couldn’t forsee the need for it.  When Berrik was a toddler/preschooler, I recall saying I would consider homeschooling as a last resort if things were really dire…. I wonder now if I subconsciously knew that Berrik would not experience school and learning in the same easy way the girls have.  He was experiencing speech delays at that time, so there were certainly some signs.

But, even as recent as this past June, when I took a year off of work to ‘help’ Berrik get on a good path for learning (whatever that means…I knew generally what I wanted to achieve, but truthfully I had no real solid sense of how the heck I was going to do it!), I was still thinking he would attend school and I would volunteer frequently in the classroom to provide him support and help reinforce what he was learning.  I actually said, I don’t want to homeschool him… I wouldn’t know where to begin….easier to just volunteer in the school with him…

And then came Sound Connections.  After several weeks of seeing Berrik absorb the material like a little sponge, and respond so positively to the multi-sensory style of learning along with the very ‘Berrik-specific’ methods (ie: using mini-sticks hockey games or any sport with a ball as part of the teaching)  I started to say to my mom…hmmm I wonder if I should homeschool him…he would do so much better this way, we could achieve so much more.  And look how confident he is getting.  This was a huge shift in thinking for me and it took a few weeks of researching homeschool boards, reading literature about learning disabilities, early intervention, homeschooling, and really just soaking the idea into my brain before I could decide.  The tipping point was when I came across the Phoenix Foundation homeschool board.  Their philosophy of learning seemed to match closely with mine, and the resources and support felt like a good fit.  Like so many of my life and parenting decisions, I had that ‘gut feeling’ that homeschooling was best for Berrik this year, and that Phoenix was the school board we needed to register with.  So with that, I drove down to their school and registered.  Done.  That was late in July.  Here is a video that describes my favorite thing about Phoenix – their Creation Studio: Phoenix Foundation  Berrik will attend some classes and participate in field trips with other homeschooling kids…and we will also do a bunch of work at home. Plenty of opportunity to engage with his peers, but the advantage of picking and choosing what will work best for Berrik, and the ability to continuously adapt.

The thing that I think I love best, is how inclusive and supportive this board is.  Perhaps they all are, I have no idea.  But regardless of learning disabilities, cognitive ability, whether kids are on the autism spectrum, have ADHD symptoms or are neurotypical, the school is set up to support kids to success. It’s not a special needs school, but they seem to truly recognize the value of teaching the way kids learn, rather than shoving square pegs into round holes.  High school kids have an option to participate in a mentorship program where they receive training and support, and then are ‘hired’ to mentor kids who may require extra support in the classroom.  This means Berrik can attend classes with some one on one support, and it means he can experience time with his peers, without mom hanging around.  For a kid who typically needs instructions given twice (or more), and who tunes out as soon as he gets behind, having an older teen sitting with him will make a world of difference.  This is what we couldn’t get in regular school.  Teacher plus 27 kids made it impossible for someone to keep tabs on whether Berrik understood the directions and/or followed through on them.  And while I could also do this for him, I feel it’s important for him to have some time independent of me.  Stay tuned to hear how well this works…his first day of ‘classes’ is Sept 13.

This past week all 3 kids took a break from their ceaseless social and activities calendars and spent a week in Oyen with my mom and dad.  This allowed me to plan Berrik’s learning and get prepared for the next few months.  I feel ‘ready’ now and am excited to see where this journey takes us.  As always, the support of my parents is endless and so critically important to our family.  Berrik got in another week of swim lessons, did his homework daily with mom or dad, and the girls even kept up with their math summer work (both girls find math their most challenging subject, and while they get good grades, I wanted them to keep practicing to build confidence – math is one of those subjects that you need A before you can do B, and if you are strong at A & B, then C & D will be easier….). Perhaps most important, the girls got some downtime to just chill and spend time with grandma and grandpa, and with each other.  I hope when my kids have kids, I can be as supportive to them as my parents are to me.