When my first child was born, I was so scared of him that whenever a diaper had to be changed, I pushed a button for the hospital nurse.
The day I was discharged from the hospital was the scariest day of my life. Chopin’s funeral march was playing inside my head as we walked down the hallway. Each step felt like a step in the wrong direction. I asked my husband, “Are you sure insurance won’t cover just one extra day in the hospital?” Weighted down by the baby in a car seat, two pillows, and three overnight bags, he only grunted in exasperation.
Once we got home, life without a nurse button proved to be as topsy-turvy as I feared. I felt as if somebody had thrown a bomb into my hands and said, “You have 60 seconds to figure out how it works. Otherwise, we all will blow up!”
Too much uncertainty, responsibility, chaos.
I was living in a rocking chair in our upstairs bedroom healing from a C-section with a helpless baby in my arms who always wanted something. My mom was in Russia. My mother-in-law was in Wisconsin. My husband went back to work two hours after we got home. (Okay, it actually was two weeks, but it felt like two hours!).
“Oh, I know,” said my friend Natasha, “why don’t you put some wine in a baby bottle to help him sleep better. That’s what my mom did.” Baby bottle? I almost swooned at the thought. Hadn’t she heard of nipple confusion? My other friends were just as childless and as clueless.
So I did what I always do when I need to clear my mind. I got out my yoga mat. Doing yoga a week after a C-section doesn’t seem like the correct thing to do, but it got me what I wanted. With my mind clear and in tune with the present moment, I realized that the best way out of this crisis, just as with any other crisis, is a clear plan of action.
First, I created a Baby Needs chart that outlined everything the baby might need—nursing, a clean diaper, shhh-ing and rocking, or a walk. Then I created a Poop/Pee chart so that I could check it against the doctor’s recommendations and know my baby was doing well instead of worrying about the baby doing well.
When the C-section healed, I made a laminated checklist of productive things I could do while the baby napped. I also created a Chores Chart, Baby Education Chart (to ensure an equal rotation of peek-a-boo, this little piggy, tummy time, and listening to nursery songs while bouncing on my lap), and Weight Loss Chart (I hate not being able to wear my favorite clothes).
And you know what?
Life didn’t seem so unpredictable and chaotic anymore.
When the baby was unhappy, I methodically moved down the Baby Needs Chart, trying each thing in turn until I stumbled upon the correct one. Every diaper change seemed to have a purpose because I needed to mark it on my Poop/Pee chart. When the baby took a nap, I was super productive, moving energetically through my checklists, alternating between tasks that recharged me (reading a book in a rocking chair) and tasks that got chores done (loading the dishwasher). When the baby was awake, I provided him with enriching and loving experiences that fostering our bond and made me feel good about my developing parenting skills.
Making a few charts didn’t change my situation, but it changed the way I think.
From chaos and clutter, I created a predictable and sensible routine that worked for my baby and for me. From a scared, helpless first time mom, I morphed back into my usual cheerful self.
Two kids, three kids, four kids.
I took every task, challenge and responsibility thrown my way and broke it down into its simplest form.
And then something crazy happened! We decided to homeschool our children.
Homeschooling was never on my radar. Quite the opposite, in fact. When my kids were still very little, I had a playdate with a nice lady who casually mentioned that she was planning to homeschool her two boys, and I thought, “She looks so normal.” I never had a playdate with her again, reckoning she was more mentally unstable than she looked.
For me, homeschooling was something that very slowly evolved out of watching my children learn.
Day by day, minute by minute, I was witnessing the power of kid’s minds in action.
It was amazing.
They would go for a walk with a soup spoon and bang it on every surface—tree, fence, telephone pole, and playground swing—tilting their heads to the side thoughtfully. What were they learning? They would spend hours absorbed in a project of their interest – building a swimming pool in our backyard, tying sticks together to build a house of sticks, constructing a complex system of pulleys to transport their muddy clothes from the back door up to the laundry room without touching them once with their hands. That complete absorption and unwavering dedication came easily, naturally. It was fun.
They were learning boldly, experimentally, passionately.
That’s what I wanted for them.
Homeschooling introduced a whole new set of challenges and responsibilities. Lesson plans, curriculums, reading lists, enrichment studies, physical education … x4 children.
But I’m a problem solver.
Homeschooling my children means working harder than I have ever worked in my life. But it also involves having more fun than I’ve ever had before because watching my children learn is the most exciting thing in the world!
I started Kid Minds as a way to share what works for us and to inspire you to challenge conventional notions about learning and education!
I believe that when you combine the science of how children learn with the power of kids’ minds, you unleash the true learning.
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