I can honestly say that this has been the most successful start of a school year that we have ever had. I know there are tough days to come, but usually my first "I can't do this anymore!" moment of the year comes within the first week of school. We have well surpassed that milestone, and we are all enjoying the flow of our days! Wow, I am so grateful.
Want to hear what changed? I know you do! Read on for our first day of school, and my wonder schedule for this year.
It is unbelievable to me what a change this small adjustment made in our entire day! The music began and, within seconds, I heard footsteps pounding down the stairs. I didn't have to say a word. Amazing! And besides, even if I had been crabby already that morning, who can listen to Jamie Grace without cracking at least a little bit of a smile?
Once we were gathered at the table, we did a quick four-step focusing exercise to get everyone ready to learn, followed by our revised morning prayer. Instead of attempting to gather and recreate a shortened version of our family's night prayer (which has been in place for years and has always been more or less successful), I finally realized that morning prayer didn't have to be complicated. Now we simply sing the Doxology together at the school table and then dive right into our work for the day. What better way to start our learning than to praise and thank God together for everything He has given us? I feel a difference in myself when we begin our days this way, and I think the kids do, too.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost
Talk about adding a bit of beauty to our day!
On our first day of school, we began with our tradition of opening our school supplies, followed by the donning of crowns and a trip outside for first day pictures. Here's where things got a bit dicey, but I believe that our new way of beginning gave me the strength and grace to not fall apart when I may have done so in the past.
I'll clue you in, all of the craziness revolved around my very strong-willed two year old. I have since put into place some helps to make school more possible with her around, but Day One was trial-by-fire, to be sure. First, while we were still working on gathering, Edith discovered the wrapped school supplies and decided that they were all hers. To her defense, she did just recently have a birthday, so in her mind all things wrapped basically have her name on them. After a deafening meltdown, she got to take a break in her room while the rest of us got ourselves off on the right foot. During gift opening, she was allowed to rejoin us... and she just barely held it together as she learned she could only open one quarter of the available gifts! Oh, the injustice.
Then as we went outside for first day pictures, she let me know in no uncertain terms that she would NOT put down her watermelon snack or put on ANY clothing for her photo. Thus the adorable watermelon-drenched, crown-wearing two year old in our school pictures this year... such is life!
After photos, we gathered back at the table to begin talking about St. Francis of Assisi, our patron saint of the year. We read a biography and colored a picture, read a few of his prayers and discussed the virtue of gratitude. It went beautifully! And then I realized that Edith had been quiet for entirely too long. Nervously, I went upstairs to find her in the hallway, diaperless, playing with the contents of her dirty diaper on the carpet.
Now we have a rule that Edith must have her diaper duct taped on during school hours. Does this make me sound like a bad mom? I am not a bit ashamed. I have since cleaned up four such messes, one for each time I have forgotten to duct tape her diaper. The little stinker.
Amazingly, I was able to take care of the disaster without turning into a blubbering mess, and rejoin the other kids who were quietly working on their coloring pages. We then began our first attempt at individual time with Mom. Each of the boys gets fifteen minutes to work with me on reading, writing or math, while the other works with Audrey on an activity of their choosing. Often it's a worksheet or reading a book to her, and mostly they decide on their own what they want to do. I usually have a list of ideas if they don't have a plan. And it has been working! The boys love the feeling of being an authority figure, and Audrey loves the attention from her brothers.
After awhile, the girls wandered away to play, followed shortly by Lucian. Then Max and I continued to work until he felt done. This year has been a 180 degree shift from last year in his ability to focus for long stretches of time! They say that third grade is a game changer, and that has proven to be very true in our case. He seems like such a mature big kid now!
|Audrey insisted on carrying the first day of school gifts into the restaurant|
The first day festivities continued in the evening, with pizza at our favorite joint, Tommy Chicago's, with some of our favorite people, Grandma and Grandpa R. and Uncle Ben. The kids received their first day of school books from us, as well as gifts from Grandma and Grandpa. We scarfed down our pizza and topped it off with ice cream from Coldstone. It was a delicious end to a wonderful first day.
And now, for our yearly updates:
|Max, Grade 3|
Favorites: Art, reading, discovering new things, asking questions, Pokemon, legos, swimming
Goals: To act in a play, to learn the Olympic theme song on piano
Things to remember: Max has turned into a voracious reader, so much so that I can't keep up on what he has read! He has begun telling me all kinds of interesting facts that he has learned from books I didn't know he had picked up.
First Day of School book: The New Way Things Work, by David Macaulay
|Lucian, Grade 1|
Favorites: Soccer, cooking, the Olympics, legos, playing outside
Goals: To become the best soccer player, to become a fluent reader, to cross the slack line
Things to remember: Lucian has become a great helper this year! He likes to help me get Edith dressed and chase her down for diaper changes, he loves helping with dinner, and he even likes to help me with chores... sometimes.
First Day of School book: Frog and Toad are Friends, by Arnold Lobel
Favorites: Ballet, Michael Phelps, Newsies, playing "house", "neighbor girl" and "school"
Goals: To learn to print all of her letters, to learn to ride a bike without training wheels
Things to remember: Audrey has become a bit shy this year around strangers, but after she warms up, her smile lights up the room. She has also taken to putting on dance concerts for anyone who will watch her, and I must admit she's got some pretty good moves!
First Day of School book: Tallulah's Tutu, by Marilyn Singer
|Edith, age 2|
Favorites: Pete the Cat, strawberries, chicken, going diaperless
Goals: to learn to use the potty, to drive her sister crazy
Thing to remember: Edith has become quite a handful since turning two, but with the craziness has come a huge vocabulary and an ability to entertain her family to no end. We could just sit and listen to her talk forever!
First Day of School book: The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown