My September Happiness Project: Parenthood (Be Present)
September is my favorite month of the year. Besides it being my birth month, I love the slightly cooler but still sunny weather. There is football, back-to-school excitement and lots of get-togethers with friends. While I miss having my husband home for the summer, I am also relieved to get back to the more structured schedule of the school year days.
I was especially excited for this school year to begin because we were planning to start incorporating preschool activities into our daily schedule. Since my son is still very young (just turned three), the plan was to use this school year as a light test run. I have recently realized that I have a big desire to homeschool my kids. Homeschooling is something that even just a couple of years ago I would have never considered. Besides the fact that there are many factors that could very likely make homeschooling not possible for our family in the future, I am also not so sure I am cut out for the job. My husband is the calm and patient teacher type. I am not.
September seemed like the perfect time to focus on my parenting goals for my Happiness Project. For homeschooling, I wanted to focus on keeping our lessons manageable, stress-free and environmentally-friendly. I know very well that in order for homeschooling to be a success, I need to work on a few personal parenting goals as well. One of my major personal goals is to be more present. In other words, I need to put my darn phone down. The other goal I decided to focus on was simply to underreact. This is an element of the Peaceful Parenting approach that I know I can definitely benefit from learning to practice.
My September Happiness Project Resolutions:
Preschool (Low-Waste Homeschooling)
Be Present (Technology Detox)
Underreact (Peaceful Parenting)
Preschool (Low-Waste Homeschooling)
After joining a few online communities, I realized that homeschooling activities can get overly elaborate as well as extremely wasteful. I get the impression that many homeschooling parents feel pressured by social media to out-do each other with the excess (maybe just for the sake of getting that Instagram worthy photo). I know this is not just a homeschooling trend but a problem in our societies approach to education in general. My teacher husband is horrified by the wastefulness he witnesses every single day in public schools. I came up with some guidelines for myself to help keep our lessons simple, stress-free and low-waste.
Don’t Buy Any New Supplies – I am making use of anything I can find that is already around our house. This includes scrap paper, items from the recycle bin and miscellaneous office supplies that are probably from all the way back when I was still in school. I was even able to get children’s safety scissors and a few other craft supplies from my neighborhood Facebook Buy Nothing group. We are also using what we can gather out in nature. Food items are the only exception to this rule (for eating and making play-dough).
Plant-Based and Package-Free Snacks – Snacks are essential for maintaining my son’s attention and positive attitude. This is why most of our lessons are rotating around learning where our food comes from and how to prepare snacks. By sticking to whole-food snacks, we are learning life skills while avoiding proceeded sugar, toxic additives and garbage waste.
Use The Library – We go to our city library at least once a week and come home with a mountain of books each time. I search our county’s library system website for age appropriate books relating to our lessons and request the ones we want to check out. The books are pulled, sent to our neighborhood library and ready for us when we get there.
Avoid Printing – I am leaving all curriculum, recipes, calendars and lesson plans in digital form on my computer. The worksheets and art projects for preschool level are so simple that I can easily draw them myself on the back of recycle paper or cardboard as needed.
No Laminating! – Teachers LOVE to laminate everything. The idea is if something is laminated, then it will last longer and save on paper or other resources. The problem is that a laminated item will last FOREVER. A plain piece of paper would eventually breakdown or could be recycled. Once that paper is laminated it can never be recycled and it will never compost. It will simply breakdown in to harmful micro-plastic pieces that will be wreaking havoc on this planet until the end of time. Mounting paper on a piece of recycled cardboard, like a cereal box, is a great alternative to give it more strength and stability.
If you are a homeschooling parent or teacher and interested in learning more about what you can do to create a more environmentally-friendly classroom, check out this awesome zero waste classroom blog for inspiration.
So far, our homeschool preschool experience has been really great! The lessons give us something fun to look forward to each day. On days when we are busy and I decide to skip our lessons for the day, my son asks if we can please “do school”. I think I’ve been learning just as much as he has. For instance, I now know how to make homemade bread and jam!
Be Present (Technology Detox)
In my attempt to limit my own screen-time, I came to the scary realization of just how addicted I am to my phone. Long story short, I completely failed at this resolution. Here are the phone rules I set for myself:
Phone is to stay in its “parking spot” when we are home during the day.
No checking social media if kids are awake and present.
These are simple rules and should not have been a big deal to stick to. Yet, I couldn’t do it. I discovered that I am constantly picking up my phone out of habit. I don’t even realize I’m doing it until it’s too late. The thing is that I don’t even really care about most of the content I’m looking at on my phone. Or, I care too much and I find what I am seeing and reading to be upsetting. So, why do I feel so compelled to keep going back?
My babies are growing up so fast, yet I waste a significant amount of my day looking at my phone rather than observing and engaging with my boys. I am frustrated and annoyed with myself. I know if I can break my phone and social media addition, I would be significantly more happy, and so would my family. I have recently checked out the book How To Break Up With Your Phone to hopefully help me. I will do a follow up blog post soon on my phone “detox” journey.
Underreact (Positive Parenting)
I tend to be an anxious, stressed out kind of person more often than not. As a stay-at-home-parent of a three-year-old, learning how to channel my own inter-calm is vital. Remaining calm is not only important for my own survival, but providing a calm environment is also essential for the healthy brain development of my children. My own struggle with stress and anxiety is a result of my upbringing and I so desperately want to break the cycle and spare my own children from that fate.
My resolution was to simply underreact to my children and to situations that arose throughout our days. The goal is to avoid getting flustered or overly emotional. To avoid overreactions and regrettable responses on my part. I want my children to that they can depend on me to be a constant source of stability and support when they are feeling overwhelmed by their own big feelings or not in control of their lives. Ideally, I will be able to provide the necessary guidance and enforce boundaries gently without dramatics (at least from me).
Our poor baby has been in full blown teething mode for what feels like several months now. Due to the teething, he had been having a real tough time sleeping for any decent length of time. In other words, I am horribly sleep deprived these days. My current exhaustion has made my resolution to underreact with my children extremely challenging, yet even more imperative during this season. I have definitely had more slip ups than I would like to admit to, but I’m continuing to work on it. I keep reminding myself that “little kids equal little problems” and I am slowly retraining my brain’s initial responses.
I find it very challenging to keep a healthy perspective when I am sleep deprived, feel like I wasted all day cleaning up other people’s (and dog’s) messes and just want five minutes to myself. The reality is that I have it pretty dang good and this phase of my life will pass quickly and will desperately miss my little babies.