Category Archives: Parenting Techniques

A BIG, Big Girl Bed

Sometime last February or March, the nightmares really revved up and Emily was soon spending every night in our bed. It escalated until she simply refused to sleep in her own. I could have put my foot down and insisted … Continue reading

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Step Back…and Hold My Tongue

I think that for me, one of the hardest things in the world to do is to step back, say nothing, and let my daughter learn a lesson on her own. I’m one of those people who are hard-wired to … Continue reading

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Herding Cats – Can Homeschoolers Ever Be On Time or Organized?

For S.A. – because we are so alike in this! I am a rather organized person. I’d better be, I run an organizing business! And while my own home often falls by the wayside, the papers collect on my desk, … Continue reading

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Memorization? Or Real Understanding?

I was visiting with my neighbor the other day and she said proudly, “Can you believe my son has memorized the Preamble to the Constitution? I couldn’t believe it when he rattled it off!” This stuck with me for a … Continue reading

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HA Hijacked by TFB

I woke up at 1am this morning and could not go back to sleep. So…plenty of time to come up with a homeschool post, right? I checked Facebook and saw The Feminist Breeder had posted an update, the birth, to … Continue reading

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When Kitties Go to the Vet

One Hurt Kitty On Sunday night we discovered that our white kitty, Einstein, was hurting and not doing too well. One his right flank was a large patch of missing fur and what looked like puncture marks. On his left … Continue reading

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Who Needs Toys?

Our bed was stripped of sheets on washing day, the blankets and pillows piled on the floor. I heard Emily quietly singing to herself near the window, as she pulled on the blankets and pillows.

“Whatcha doing, baby?” I asked.

“I’m building my house,” she answered, “Come and help me, Mama, I need a roof.”

“I have the perfect roof for you, Emily, and it will have skylights!” I pulled the curtains over her and the pile of blankets and pillows and warned her not to pull hard on the ‘roof’ lest she pull the entire assembly down from the wall.

Emily's "House"

“Perfect!” she chirped and requested clips to help hold her ‘door’ shut. Several minutes later she was all set.

I fell for the learning toys gambit twice – with both my girls. I bought the learning games and the Dress Me dolls that have the snaps and buttons and zippers, because if I didn’t, how would they possibly learn about doing these important tasks? The joke was on me…neither child ever liked their Dress Me doll and learned just the way every other child learns, by seeing it done, wanting to be more independent, and eventually trying and trying until there was success.

Right now, at four, Emily watches our hands intently whenever we tie her shoes. I dread her asking me to teach her, because somehow I just know, I don’t necessarily know how to teach it. Perhaps she will just start doing it, just as she has done with buttons and zippers and snaps.

It constantly surprises me just how little our children actually need to learn. In some ways, I wonder if it isn’t better that they have almost nothing. Their focus can then be on the living world around them, interpersonal relationships, and even crafting their own toys and activities.

When I was young, I loved to play “Store.” I would pull out a folding stool, stack cans on it, and set up shop. I remember too that my dad would let me ‘cook’ at the kitchen table while he was busy cooking in the kitchen.

Long walks through the high mountain forests of Flagstaff, Arizona, or the damp foggy streets of San Francisco filled my childhood and adolescence. Usually with a dog by my side, I explored nature, playing in streams, poking at fallen logs, and digging into rocky outcroppings. I [ahem] also stole and ate apples from my city neighbor’s backyards…but really, there is no need to revisit my lawbreaking youth now is there?!

So I guess my point is this. If you have your phone in hand to call and order that set of Baby Einstein videos, or the latest and greatest (100% satisfaction guaranteed) Pillow Pet, or whatever…stop.

Do they need it? Will it change their lives? Will it help them understand life, improve them in some immeasurable way, or is it just another piece of stuff to move aside when its time for bed?

I look at my daughter’s room – which is a wreck of toys strewn about as well as far too many that creep out into the rest of the house – and I think, “This is way too many toys.”

Especially when you consider her interests – time with us, playing board games or hide and seek, playing out of doors with her friends, and being read to at night. Most of the things in her room are simply overkill.

Really…who needs toys?


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Take Time for Training

The plugged toilet, at a cleaning client’s house no less, said it all. I could get as mad as I wanted to, but Emily’s plugging the toilet was my fault, not hers.

Here we were, at a client’s house, one of my many clients who graciously allow me to bring my preschool-age daughter along with me when I clean, and Emily had just caused the toilet water to rise to an alarming level, a huge mass of toilet paper and…well…crap, swirling about.

I cursed quietly under my breath and went to find a toilet plunger, hoping they had one, because otherwise, it would end up being my hand in that mess, something I was so not cool with.

As I cleared the toilet, Emily stood and looked on, “I think you should wipe me, Mama. Then the toilet won’t get clogged.”

Toilet trained since she was 2 1/2, and wiped for another 1 1/2 years after that whenever it was #2, I was done with wiping. Unfortunately, I had not taken the next obvious step…training. I had simply assumed that she saw what I did and could do it herself. And Emily, with as many poo issues as her dad, was determined to wipe, and wipe, and wipe, and WIPE until clean. This apparently manifested itself into tremendous amounts of toilet paper…and resulted in several overflowed toilets before I got the message loud and clear – I needed to train Emily better.

At home, with her dad in earshot, I said, “Okay Emily, from now on, whenever you go poo, your dad or I need to supervise your wiping. You will do the wiping, but we will supervise.” Emily, who seems to really like to involve us in her visits to the bathroom (I don’t understand it, it must be a preschooler thing!) was amenable. This is a kid who gives us blow by blow updates on just how much poo or pee she has managed to produce will sitting on said throne, so I’m sure she was thrilled with the idea of our presence there in the bathroom!

As she would head to the bathroom we would ask, “Pee or poo?” If she indicated the latter we would tell her, “Let us know when you are done.” Perhaps she will be a game announcer, because it’s never as simple as that, constant updates, thoughts and musings on the status of poo are broadcast through our house as she conducts her business. Finally, it would be time and one of us would head in. “Okay, count off four pieces of paper…now fold it, and fold it again…now wipe…okay…now fold it and wipe again. Great. Get another piece…(rinse and repeat).”

A few weeks later and all is well. No more plugged toilets, no more frustration, and we aren’t blowing through an entire toilet paper roll in one attempt or going about unwiped – so it’s a win on all sides.

Whether it is a plugged toilet that gets your attention, or untied shoes, or a scorched pan – taking time for training not only makes sense, but it reduces stress and resentment. What may seem like a no-brainer to us, might not translate to our kids, and it is important for us to keep our eyes and ears open (and our patience broad) for those times when it is obvious we have given the training short shrift.

More times than not, our kids want to do the right thing and they want to learn. It simply doesn’t occur to them to ask for help in learning how to do something. Or should I say, they ask, but sometimes we simply aren’t listening!

What are some of your memories of your own childhood, or of raising your own children, where taking time for training might have helped you avoid a frustration situation?

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And Then There Were the “Downs”

There are moments in this house when nothing seems to go smoothly. All I want to do is clean the house or do a little bit of writing, and all Emily wants to do is play…or be entertained…by me. It … Continue reading

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Kid ‘isms’ – Baby Talk or Just Plain Cute?

I love them, the just between words that children utter from the time they first begin to speak until they are four or five or so. From both of my daughters I have some favorites…

Danielle, now 22, would point to a plane in the sky and scream “Wahgah” at 15 months. It was adorable. So much so that her dad, who was into designing and flying R/C planes, created one and named it Wahgah in her honor.

Later, as her language developed, two more kid ‘isms appeared: Spaguito and Justappeared. To this day I cannot hear that first word (mosquito) without thinking of a vicious spaghetti noodle with a dab of marinara sauce hunting for its next victim. The second word, justappeared (disappeared) became a joke, “So if it just appeared, where is it?”

To which my tiny daughter would shrug expressively, eyes round and say, “I dunno, it justappeared!”

At four, Emily’s kid ‘isms are quickly vanishing. When she first began to speak, ‘kitty’ became ‘kiki’ and even we referred to the cat as such.

Later, much later, Emily became enamored with firefighters. Perhaps some small memory remains of them crowding into our house, all five of them, when she was 15 months old and had gotten into a bottle of Excedrin.

These days, when asked what she wants to be, Emily says, “I want to be a fighter fighter, a doctor, and a mom!” She usually says ‘firefighter’ these days, but when excited, the ‘fighter fighter’ just jumps out first.

The other day she had a play date with one of my client’s children, a little girl just a few months younger than her. At the end of the visit, the little girl kept slipping and calling Emily “Lemily,” which I and her mom found terribly cute. As we cleaned up after blueberry muffin snack, the mom repeated it, smiling.

Which made me wonder, what is the difference really between baby talk and kid ‘isms? I questioned myself for a moment, was I deliberately encouraging my child to not know the right word? How many times have I said ‘fighter fighter’ because I found it cute?

Both of my children have always displayed ahead of the curve speech patterns. From a young age, they impressed strangers with how well they could speak, and the telegraphic speech patterns (what a child uses first – “Me want cereal” instead of “I want a bowl of cereal”) disappeared quickly and were replaced by full sentences early on.

I credit a great deal of this to always talking to them in what I would refer to as ‘full human speech’. Yes, I did let the kid ‘isms slip in, but I would also say the correct word at the same time. It was an internal battle for me, the battle of pragmatism over cuteness, and often the cuteness won. No one ever babbled at them or made up ootsie cutsie wittle wordsies. And language flourished as a result.

A few months ago, Emily spent most of a week with a little 21 month old who was just barely learning language and didn’t say much. The language of the day was still grabbing, pointing, and crying.

When your own kids progress past this point you quickly learn to forget how frustrating it can be to suss out what another child is trying to convey. I had a tough enough time of it, but Emily apparently took it as a cue to get more attention. She must have figured it kind of like this, “If I act like a baby, and just use one word sentences, Mama and Daddy will pay more attention to me and ask me questions and try to figure out what I want.”

Sorry kid, but your plan was flawed. We knew her better and could usually tell right away what she wanted at that age, than a child that was just visiting. And the startling reverse in verbal abilities was just plain frustrating. Three months later we are still dealing with the vestiges. Now when she begins to act like a baby and point or use one word answers I say, “Full sentence please or I’m off to do other things.”

I guess I have essentially answered my own question. Baby talk is what adults sometimes do with babies and toddlers, which does not serve to educate or prepare them for speech. Baby talk is also what kids do when attempting to retrograde themselves back to the ‘good ole days’. Kid ‘isms are what children do by mistake, and adults do out of humor and love for their children and their special little quirks.

I would say that kid ‘isms, if used in conjunction with the real world equivalent, are perfectly okay to use. In many ways I consider it a bonding experience.

I would love to hear of other kid ‘isms – anyone have any favorites they would like to share?

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