Friday, August 26, 2016

Our Homeschool Curriculum for 2016-17 (with a 9-year-old and 6-year-old)

This post is the third in my Back-to-Homeschool Series for 2016.
 
Although we homeschool year-round, each August we officially start our new school year. It is a fun and exciting time when we dive into our new school supplies and books. This post will detail our curriculum and resources for the 2016-17 school year.

Building Good Character

One of the most important aspects of our homeschool curriculum is the focus on building good character. I believe that teaching my children to be honest, responsible, kind people is more important than the acquisition of academic knowledge, so I focus quite a bit of my efforts on character development. My recent post about Core Phase delves deep into this subject and gives lots of examples of how I work to develop good character in my children, so check out that post for more information about how I purposely work on character in our homeschool.

Individual Interests

An important part of encouraging my children to love learning is in allowing them to pursue their own interests. This is one of the biggest advantages of homeschooling: that my children have as much time as desired to follow their passions. I'm supporting my children's current interests as follows:

9-year-old daughter Alina
Alina is now several years into having her own chicken egg business. As she is getting older, she is getting to take part in more aspects of the business, such as planning the long-term goals for her flock, making decisions about managing the health of the flock, and learning about profit margins (or, in this case, learning about how far we are from actually turning a profit). Having her own business has taught her much about raising and caring for animals, handling and saving money, the value of hard work, and long-term commitments.

Alina has also been highly interested in horses for the last couple years. I support her interest in horses by taking trips to see horses nearby, by paying a portion of the fee for monthly horseback riding lessons (she pays part of the fee with her egg earnings), and by helping her find books, videos, and documentaries about horses. 

6-year-old son Ian 
Ian is very interested in cars and machines. I am supporting him in this interest by taking him to job sites to observe machines in-action, taking the time to look at classic cars and machines we see around town, and allowing him to explore the innards of old broken machines and gadgets. I help him find books, videos, and documentaries about machines and cars, and I am also supporting his interest by helping him learn how to use different machines in our home. He is immeasurably excited when he gets to use the steam-mop, Cuisinart food processor, and shop-vac.

One curriculum resource that supports Ian's interest in machines is Snap Circuits Jr. Electronics Discovery Kit. Both of my kids love doing the experiments in this kit, and Ian especially loves learning more about how electricity works.

Academic Subjects

I do not push my children academically, but nonetheless I do give them exposure to plenty of academic subjects and pursuits.

Reading
I help set the stage for reading proficiency by reading aloud often. We read chapter books and picture books with beautiful language, engaging storylines, and memorable characters.  Through reading aloud, I am able to show my children just what a wonderful world is hiding between the pages of books. My children participate in a Read-Aloud Classic Book Club, wherein the children discuss books with their friends once a month. I also make a point of reading on my own frequently; children naturally emulate their parents, so it is important for them to see me engaging in reading and discussing books as part of my own lifelong education.

My 9-year-old daughter is an advanced reader who reads voraciously, so I no longer do anything in particular to help her with reading. She does periodically ask to do a "reading lesson" wherein she reads aloud from a McGuffey Reader.

My 6-year-old son is in the early stages of learning to read. Besides finding opportunities to practice reading in our everyday lives, he also asks to do reading lessons using either Storybook Treasury of Dick and Jane or McGuffey Readers.

Writing
We don't use a formal writing curriculum. Instead, I encourage my children to write in the following ways:
  • I make sure that my children see me writing in my own notebooks on a regular basis. This makes a huge difference in the amount of writing that they choose to do themselves.
  • Since their writing skills lag behind their composition skills, whenever they ask I will write or type poems, stories, or songs for my children.
  • When we do Nature Study, my children have the option to write in their Nature Notebooks.
  • My children have Pen Pals in Nevada and Canada. My children love receiving letters in the mail, so this has been the biggest motivator for them in practicing their writing frequently. Most often, I will type the letters for them in an appropriately-sized printing font and then print out the letters for my children to trace.
  • After seeing me write in my commonplace place book over the last several years, my daughter decided to start her own commonplace book. She uses this book as a place to copy down her favorite poems.  
  • My children each have their own calendar, which they use to keep track of upcoming events of their choosing. 

Math
I am not using a traditional math curriculum for my children. Rather, they are learning math in the context of everyday life, through games, and through math read-alouds. For more details of how I teach math without a formal curriculum, check out this blog post.

In addition to the resources mentioned in that previous blog post, this year we are also using the following new math resources:
  • Math and Magic in Wonderland - This delightful book tells the story of two sisters and their magical adventures with math. We've only begun this book recently, and both of my kids were clamoring for more. I love that the language in this book is beautiful, that the storyline is interesting, and that the math problems are designed to elicit curiosity instead of boredom.  The math problems thus far have been too advanced for my 6-year-old son to participate much, but my 9-year-old daughter enjoys them.
  • Bedtime Math: The Truth Comes Out - Last year, Bedtime Math replaced Life of Fred as my children's most-requested math read-aloud.  Each page includes a short blurb about a random topic, and then there are a few related math problems of varying difficulty-level.  After we work through the problems, my kids and I like to watch a few short videos on youtube about the random topic from the book. For instance, last year we watched videos about subjects such as pole vaulting, lego designers, and short-order cooks as supplements to Bedtime Math. We finished the first Bedtime Math, so we will be working our way through the second book in the series this year.
  • Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter and Sir Cumference and the Viking's Map are our new Sir Cumference books for this year. These engaging picture books cleverly wind mathematical concepts into the stories. Whenever we read Sir Cimference books, we usually end up spending another 30-60 minutes exploring the concepts from the book. For instance, last year we made paper models of the different geometric shapes used in Sir Cumference and the First Round Table, and we learned how to create paper cones to simulate the cones from Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone.
  • 5 Games for Building Logic - This PDF from Math Inspirations details 5 new games that we will be incorporating into our math studies this year. I love that the PDF includes variations for younger players and an emphasis on discovery rather than repetitious arithmetic. The games in this PDF will make use of other math resources we already have, such as Cuisenaire Rods and Uno.  
World Culture and Geography
What began as a small idea to take a virtual world trip during the summer has turned into a semester-long project that my children are loving. Each week, we visit a new country through books, art, music, coloring pages, and recipes. So far, we've visited Africa, Europe, and South America. We still have North America, Australia, Asia, and the Middle East to go. Our world trip will last through the rest of the Fall semester.

The following resources are aiding in our exploration of world cultures:


History
When we finish our world trip, we'll be ready to dive back into our history curriculum.  I am using a 4-year cycle for History and Science which originated in The Well-Trained Mind. (I don't recommend following the overall schooling methodology laid out in The Well-Trained Mind as that is what led us to have total school burnout, but I do still like to use some of the ideas from that book.)




The cycle starts with 1st-4th grade, and then gets repeated again from 5th-8th grade and again in 9th-12th grade, with more detail and rigor each time. This school year will be my daughter's second time studying Ancient History, and will be the first time for my son. We will be using the following history resources:
  • Story of the World Volume 1: Ancient Times - We are using this book as our history "spine".  The audio version of this book offers a great option for turning driving time into learning time.  Because we have used this book once before (4 years ago), I know that I prefer to follow a different order for the chapters in the book. Instead of following chronological order as in the book, I prefer to focus on each ancient culture individually.  (I'd be happy to share the order of SOTW chapters that I use if anyone is interested.) 
  • All Through The Ages: History Through Literature Guide - This excellent book is a great resource for me in finding picture and chapter books to supplement Story of the World. Whenever either of my children seems particularly engaged in a topic from SOTW, I use All Through the Ages to find more books on the subject at our local library.

Science
Our science studies for the coming year will be centered around Animal Science, Human Biology, and Nature Study. We'll be using the following science resources: 

  • Animal Science
    • The Animal Book: A Visual Encyclopedia of Life on Earth - This book is a feast for the eyes that includes full-color photographs of all sorts of insects and animals. We will use this as a "spine" that can lead to further explorations about specific creatures that pique my children's interest.
    • The Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia - This intermediate-level book has a detailed section about the animal kingdom that will allow my 9-year-old daughter to go deeper into learning about animal science.  
    • 7 Specimen Dissection Kit - This kit includes 7 animals and tools for dissecting. The animals are frog, perch, crayfish, grasshopper, earthworm, clam, and starfish. We will be dissecting one animal each month.
  • Human Biology
    • First Human Body Encyclopedia - This engaging book is loaded with pictures and interesting facts about the human body. It is a great book for helping young children become acquainted with the human body's marvels.
    • The Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia - This intermediate-level book includes a large section on the human body that will allow my 9-year-old to dig deeper into learning about human biology.
    • Ultimate Visual Dictionary - My daughter loves poring over this book which shows detailed pictures of pretty much anything I can think of. The human body section is fabulous.
    • Amazing X-Rays: The Human Body -This cool book is fun to look at with the kids and gets them excited to learn about the human body.  It includes 16 X-rays which can be looked at with the built-in light box, as well as a small book that includes other information about the human body.
  • Nature Study
    • There is a detailed post about how we use Nature Study here. It can be as simple as collecting and studying Fall leaves, working on our family garden, or paying close attention to the changes in our yard throughout the seasons. We also take nature walks and hikes, looking at the flora and fauna in our own yard and desert landscape. The following resources aid us in Nature Study:
      • Each of us has a Nature Notebook, where we can write about our observations or draw pictures of creatures and plants we encounter.
      • We make frequent use of our National Audubon Society Field Guide and Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America in our Nature Study.
      • Project Feederwatch is a very enjoyable way to integrate math and science into our home school. To participate, we observe the species and numbers of birds in our backyard about once or twice a month. In addition to reporting the number of birds we see, we are also required to report the weather conditions (low/high temperatures, precipitation, etc). Both kids love participating in this program.

Spanish
Both of my children have expressed an interest in learning Spanish, which is spoken by many in this part of the country. Rather than using book-based Spanish resources (which have not worked well for us in the past), we are using Pimsleur Spanish CD's.

These CD's focus on teaching Spanish in the same natural way that people learn their first language while they are babies, which is through just listening and speaking. There is no book to accompany the CDs; rather, we just practice speaking Spanish along with the CD.  Most often, we listen to the Spanish CD's while we do our morning routine (getting dressed, doing chores, etc.).

Workbooks
Although we don't use specific curricula for many subjects in our homeschool, my children do enjoy having some workbooks to use at their leisure. These are the workbooks they are using for this year:

Workbooks for 9-year-old daughter


Workbooks for 5-year-old son

Beauty and Creativity

I think it is important to focus on beauty and creativity in our home school, so I make time weekly for the following activities. 

Circle Time
Once a week, my children and I have Circle Time, where we sing, dance, and read poetry together. Our poetry book is Favorite Poems Old and New: Selected for Boys and Girls (which is a great compilation of poems about a wide variety of topics including childhood, the seasons, and family). You can read more about our Circle Time here.

Arts and Crafts
I try to make sure that at least once a week my kids have the opportunity to do arts and crafts. Examples include freeform painting, simple sewing projects, and holiday decorations.


Besides the usual construction paper and markers, our arts and crafts supplies for this year include:



Art Appreciation
For over a year, we've been enjoying an ever-changing art display of 6 pictures in our living room for Art Appreciation. Once a week, I change out one picture, and the children and I study it together, telling about what we see in the picture. Over time, we study the works of different artists and cultures. The kids love this, and I love being able to enjoy so many different styles of art in our living room.

Music Appreciation
In conjunction with Art Appreciation, my children and I are learning about the lives and music of great classical composers. We are working through the Music Masters CD's, which tell the story of each composer as well as demonstrate some of their music. This is a great way for us to make use of driving time, and we are all gaining a great appreciation for classical music.

My children and I also attend music concerts. These range from classical music concerts to A Capella concerts to Christmas concerts.  And once a year, in December, we have a small family music recital which the children are welcome to participate in. Through these concerts and performances my children are able to gain first-hand experience with the beauty of music.

Free Play
Play time is hugely important in brain development. Though we do school work throughout the week, I make sure that there is plenty of time for my children to just play every day. Through their play time, they are able to engage their curiosity, develop their creativity, and learn much about how to interact with each other and their environment.


What changes have you made to your homeschool for the coming year?



Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site!



Monday, August 15, 2016

Core Phase of Childhood Education: Age 0-8, and Always Thereafter

This post is the second in my Back-to-Homeschool Series for 2016.

As described in my previous post, there are three phases of learning in childhood and the early teen years and the prevalent conveyor belt model of schooling can hinder the advancement through these phases. The three phases are:
  • Core Phase, which focuses on character development and typically lasts from age 0 to 8 (or 9 in boys), 
  • Love of Learning Phase, which focuses on giving the child the opportunity to fall in love with learning and typically lasts from age 8 to 12 (or 13 in boys), and 
  • Scholar Phase, which focuses on the child studying a wide range of topics with increasing ability and commitment, and typically lasts from age 12 to 16 (or 17 in boys).
In this post, I will discuss Core Phase in more detail.

The Foundation For All Other Phases

Core Phase is the foundation upon which all the other phases are built. In Core Phase, the
"curriculum" is essentially the development of good character. This is accomplished through:
  • focusing on and improving family relationships, so that children feel loved and supported as individuals and know that their parents are "on their side",
  • participating in family work and responsibilities, wherein children learn how to be responsible and the inherent value of a job well-done,
  • being immersed in a home culture that demonstrates what it means to have good character, and
  • exposure to great books, music, and art in an environment where learning is celebrated and unpressured.

     

    Academics in Core Phase

    Academic pursuits are to be freely explored and enjoyed in Core Phase, without any pressure. This sets the stage for the following phase of learning, which is Love of Learning. Core Phase does not include forcing children to accomplish academic tasks such as reading, writing, and math.

    To readers who may feel panicked or uneasy at the idea of kids "falling behind" if they are not forced to do schoolwork at a young age, I would recommend these articles:

    Examples of Core Phase Activities

    To help readers get a better idea of what Core Phase looks like in practice, below are some examples of Core Phase activities.
    • Focusing on family relationships:
      • Spending lots of time together in daily home life as well as enjoyable activities such as playing games, circle time, going for walks, and visiting the zoo
    • Character development:
      • Being surrounded by people, and specifically parents, who demonstrate good character and an earnest desire to continually improve themselves
      • Giving the child lots of unstructured play time, wherein they have the opportunity to explore and understand who they are as well as the world around them
      • Exposure to books, audio books, and media that propagate good ideals and examples of good character
      • Discussing virtues while reading aloud books, such as when characters make poor choices or have tough decisions to make
    • Family work and responsibilities:
      • Working alongside each other to accomplish tasks such as dinner preparation, kitchen cleanup, and yard care
      • Teaching age-appropriate responsibilities such as getting dressed, feeding pets, and brushing teeth
      • Doing service as a family, such as helping an elderly neighbor, providing clothing to a homeless shelter, and helping at an animal rescue organization
    • Unpressured exploration of academic pursuits:
      • Following the children's interests, wherever they lead, with no pressure to continue when they lose interest
      • Helping children create a homeschool compass every 3-6 months
      • Making trips to the library, wherein the children are allowed to select picture books about a wide variety of topics (such as animals, vehicles, planets, etc.)
      • Enjoying nature study together, using things such as nature notebooks, microscopes, and field guides to encourage exploration
      • Playing math games such as Uno, Yahtzee, and Sum Swamp
      • Reading aloud math books such as Anno's Magic Seeds and Bedtime Math
      • Parents setting a good example by focusing on their own educations, reading, writing, etc. 

     

    My Experience With Core Phase in Our Homeschool

    I started out homeschooling with an intense focus on academics when my daughter was just 4&1/2 years old. By the time she was 6, she had lost her joy in learning. I had felt like there was such an urgent need to push the academics that I didn't have enough time to work much on her character development, because I didn't want to be pushing her all day long. Our relationship was suffering because of our interactions surrounding school work.

    Then I found Leadership Education.  It was hard for me to let go of the desire to keep pushing my daughter academically, but yet I knew that something needed to change. I started implementing Core Phase into our lives, and things started to shift. Being able to focus so much more on our relationship, and on building good character, resonated deeply for me. 

    It took a leap of faith for me to really stop pushing my daughter academically, and numerous other times when I had to re-commit myself to that principle. The conveyor belt mentality was so strong because I was raised within that system of education myself, and we are surrounded by it in this culture.  But, inch-by-inch, we made headway as I was able to change our priorities away from academics and onto improved relationships and character development. 

    The results have been amazing: my relationship with my daughter has improved, she has more time to enjoy her childhood, she loves home school, and she even loves math now. More importantly, she is a kind, sweet kid who has great character and fulfills her household responsibilities. She's 9 years old now, and she transitioned into the next phase (Love of Learning Phase) about a year ago.

    My son is now 6 years old, and still solidly in Core Phase. He has had the benefits of Core Phase since well before being school age, so he loves school, has good character, and is becoming increasingly responsible. He's right on track.

     

    Core Phase is Life-Long

    Core Phase does not end when the child transitions into the next phase (Love of Learning Phase).  The lessons of Core Phase, such as having good character and being responsible, are foundational to all other phases of life and learning. As described in Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning, "Core Phase is always part of any other phase, and its neglect negatively impacts the student's whole education and life."

    When there is a pattern of repeated issues involving poor character (such as lying, shirking responsibilities, disrespect of parents, and unkindness), a weakness in the Core Phase is a likely cause. No matter how old the student is, revisiting the Core Phase is good starting place for correcting issues such as these.

    Parents transitioning from using the conveyor belt model of education into following the phases of learning should also start back at Core Phase, regardless of the age of the children. Once the foundation of the Core Phase is laid, the child will naturally transition into Love of Learning Phase. I will discuss Love of Learning Phase in more detail in my next post.

     

    Resources for Learning More About Core Phase

    Want to learn more about Core Phase? Check out these resources:

     

    Have you heard of Core Phase previously? Does it resonate with you as it did for me?



    Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site!

    Sunday, August 14, 2016

    Improving Children's Education with Phases of Learning

    This post is the first in my Back-to-Homeschool Series for 2016.

    Do Children Learn Differently Than Adults?

    There has long been a debate about whether 1) children learn just the same as adults do, or 2) children progress through phases of learning that should ideally be taken into account in their educations. The first view has led to the development of our public school system, which essentially operates as a conveyor belt wherein all children are expected to learn all of the same things on a specific schedule.

    The second view of children's learning, wherein it is believed that children progress though different phases of learning, has been promulgated by psychologist greats such as Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget. This view of children's learning is at the heart of the Leadership Education philosophy. As described in Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning, in this model of education it is affirmed that "children, youth, and adults actually learn differently and that this must be taken into account in the setup of their educational environment and in the approach of their parents, teachers and mentors."


    My Experience With Both Views of Childhood in Our Homeschool

    I started out our homeschooling trying to replicate the conveyor belt model of education, and focused on my daughter acquiring as much knowledge as possible, as early as possible. I was using a rigorous, classical schooling method within the framework of modeling our school after the conveyor belt-type school that I grew up with myself. After several years, this schooling approach led us to homeschool burnout, resulting in a 6-year-old daughter who no longer liked math or writing, and a mom who was wondering where it had all gone wrong.

    I started implementing the Leadership Education model into our homeschool 3&1/2 years ago, including its emphasis on honoring the different phases of learning throughout childhood. This model of education is leading us to much different results than the conveyor belt model of education did. Through my focus on making my educational methods and environment be appropriate to the phases of learning of each of my children, my kids are thriving in our homeschool. They love our homeschool so much that they both excitedly chose not to take any summer break in our schooling. My now-9-year-old daughter has had a complete turn-around in her attitude towards school, and I am feeling blessed to have found this method of schooling.

    What are the Childhood Phases of Learning?

    During the childhood and early teen years, there are three important phases of learning. When the phases of learning are respected and purposefully developed, they are:
    • Core Phase, which focuses on character development and typically lasts from age 0 to 8 (or 9 in boys), 
    • Love of Learning Phase, which focuses on giving the child the opportunity to fall in love with learning and typically lasts from age 8 to 12 (or 13 in boys), and 
    • Scholar Phase, which focuses on the child studying a wide range of topics with increasing ability and commitment, and typically lasts from age 12 to 16 (or 17 in boys).
    These phases of learning do not happen on their own. A child does not move from Core Phase into Love of Learning Phase into Scholar Phase just because they are getting older. Rather, these phases must be purposefully developed in order for the progression to happen.

    How the Conveyor Belt Schooling Method Hinders the Phases

    The prevalent conveyor belt model of education actually hinders the advancement through the childhood phases of learning because it often instills in the student a hate of learning instead of a love of learning. Even when there is not an overt hate of school or studying, students educated in the conveyor belt model typically come out of that system having learned to do the bare minimum required to pass tests, having killed their own passion for their own interests which they were never given the time to develop, and having bought into the mistaken idea that their own self-worth is tied into how well they perform in school and whether or not they get a "good job".

    I learned those same negative lessons in my own conveyor belt education, and they led me to an impressive career that was wholly unsatisfying to me. What was the point of being a NASA aerospace engineer for ten years, when engineering was never actually a true passion of mine? I suddenly realized what true passion felt like when I became a mother, and henceforth did everything in my power to enable myself to leave that illustrious career that I had worked so hard for.

    I want my kids to have a different future than the conveyor belt model leads to. Instead of going to school with the ultimate end goal of getting a "good job", I want their educations to support them as individuals, to enable them to develop their own unique talents, so that when they go out into the world they are able to follow their passions and find their own life missions. One big component of reaching that goal is honoring my children's phases of learning as they grow up.

    Want to Learn More About the Specific Phases?

    You can learn more about Core Phase here.

    I'll be writing more about the other two childhood/early teen phases of learning (Love of Learning Phase and Scholar Phase) over the coming weeks. 



    Have you heard of the Phases of Learning? Do you have any experience to share about kids and how they learn at different ages?



    Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site!

    Friday, August 5, 2016

    Dressing For Positive Body Image - Including Before and After Pictures

    This is the final post in my series on positive body image.

    I've never been much into fashion, makeup, and jewelry. I never really liked clothes' shopping, as it always seemed so hard to find clothes that fit my petite-yet-curvy proportions. Often, I'd end up buying clothes that fit fine, but that I seldom wore. Part of my underlying body image dissatisfaction was the feeling that finding the right clothes was hard, and that some styles that I admired on others never felt quite right on me. But I didn't know why.

    A couple years ago I ran across the "Dressing Your Truth" program, which is designed to help people dress according to their energy type. It includes guidance for clothes, hair, makeup, and jewelry for each energy type. This was intriguing to me. Could it be possible that the reason I never liked fashion was because I was going about it all wrong? Could it be that there was value in such a program?




    Spending Money on Learning How to Dress?!?


    I've blogged a few times about how energy typing has greatly improved my marriage and my parenting skills. Well, it all started with me finding the Dressing Your Truth (DYT) program. I took a headfirst dive into learning about the energy types and found so much value in being able to better understand myself, my family, and friends.

    Yet I vacillated on whether or not to buy the Dressing Your Truth program. I didn't want to spend the money; what if this program didn't work for me? I was skeptical about whether it would work, but I had found the energy type information to be so valuable that I kept wondering about DYT. Since I was on the mailing list, I finally received an offer that the DYT course was on sale for $99. My sister-in-law was willing to split the cost with me (since we are both Type 3's).

    So I finally bought the DYT Type 3 course. That $50 has been one of the best purchases I've ever made. It would have been worth the $99 price, too. (And probably much more, but I could never stand to spend hundreds of dollars on something as inconsequential as "fashion".)

    Now for the Before and After...

     

    Before Dressing Your Truth







    After Dressing Your Truth

     



    Life After DYT


    Dressing for my energy type has been life-changing. Shopping is easier because I know exactly what I'm looking for. Getting dressed is easier because, even though I have fewer clothes than I used to, I love everything I have. And best of all: dressing for my energy type makes me feel great. I actually feel more energetic when I am dressed for my energy type, and I can really tell a difference when I am not dressed for my type as I feel sluggish and "blah".

    When I am dressed for my energy type, I don't feel dressed up; rather, I just feel like I'm being myself. This has helped my body image, too, because I feel content with the clothes and style I'm wearing. Dressing as a Type 3 with a secondary Type 2 just suits me!

    Life after DYT is also different in that random strangers will complement my appearance. That is not something that used to happen. Several people I know have said that I look younger, and I have seen the same in friends who have are also dressing for their energy type with DYT. One friend summed up the change in my appearance by saying she just thought my life must have been going very well lately, because I seemed different.

    DYT has been so tremendously beneficial for me that I recommend it to everyone. It is such a wonderful resource for being true to ourselves and reflecting our true selves in our outward appearance.

     

    More Resources About Dressing Your Truth

    Want to know see more Dressing Your Truth makeovers? Check out these videos and articles:

    Type 1 Makeover
    Type 2 Makeover 
    Type 3 Makeover 
    Type 4 Makeover 
    Free Energy Profiling Course to Determine Your Type
    Dressing Your Truth Course
    3 Live DYT Makeovers of Grandma, Mom, and Daughter

    Have you heard of Dressing Your Truth? Do you feel content with you style and fashion?

    Sunday, July 24, 2016

    Promoting a Positive Body Image in My Daughter

    This post is the second in a series about positive body image.

    I think there is way too much emphasis in our culture on physical appearances. Already overly-thin
    models are airbrushed to make them look even thinner and yet with larger chests. Normal events such as aging take on a dark cast, as we are told again and again that the normal processes of aging such as wrinkles and gray hair are not okay. It would be a rarity for a girl to grow up in this culture and feel completely content with her own appearance.

    Having grown up with my own insecurities about my appearance, I want things to be different for my daughter. She is now 9 years old, and just coming up on the age when I first became self-conscious about my own body. I want her to accept herself as she is, to not be overly fixated on her appearance or judge herself as inferior just for looking the way she was made. I may not be able to prevent appearance-related insecurities altogether, but I'm certainly going to keep trying to make it happen. This post is about the steps I'm taking to allow my daughter to grow up feeling content with her appearance and yet not overly focused on her appearance.

    Don't Focus on My Daughter's Appearance

    One of the most basic ways I am teaching my daughter to not be overly focused on her own appearance is by not focusing on her appearance myself. I'm sure I have told my daughter she is pretty perhaps a handful of times in the 9+ years of her life, but this is not something I comment on regularly with her. In her book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, Meg Meeker MD writes about the damaging effects of focusing on a girl's appearance. When we repeatedly focus on our child's appearance (whether through positive or negative words), the child gets the message that their appearance is very important, and that their intrinsic self-worth is related to their appearance. This kind of thinking can be a huge factor in the development of eating disorders. I choose not to propagate the message that physical appearance is important with either of my children, instead focusing on traits such as honesty, kindness, and perseverance when I want to praise them.


    Don't Talk About My Own Appearance in a Negative Light

    For good or bad, whatever my kids see and hear me do repeatedly, they will be likely to do themselves. If I talked abut my own body and appearance in a negative tone, I would likely start to hear my kids do the same. I have seen this happen numerous times with mothers and daughters: mothers who frequently berate their own appearance have daughters who do the same. I purposely do not talk about my own appearance in a negative light. This benefits my own self-esteem as well as my daughter's.


    Limit Media and Exposure to Commercials

    Our society's preoccupation with appearance can be seen very clearly in video media, internet ads, and especially commercials.  Through those outlets, we are clearly told that we need to correct ourselves to look more like the "beautiful" people, through things like hair-dying, anti-aging products, dieting, tooth whitening, and the like. Repeatedly exposing ourselves to those messages serves to undermine any attempts at being content with ourselves and our appearance.  I purposely limit my children's (and my own) exposure to these influences so that we do not become overly preoccupied with our looks or judge ourselves harshly.


    Guard What is Coming Into Our Home

    Even checking the mail afforded opportunities for my children to become overly focused on appearances. A few years ago, I ordered undergarments from Victoria's Secret, only to then start receiving catalogs in the mail on a regular basis which were filled with images of scantily-clad, overly thin models. Something inside me revolted when my young daughter went to check the mail and returned carrying a VS catalog, which of course she had looked at on the way back from the mailbox. So I searched for the not-easy-to-find place on their website where I could unsubscribe from all mailings, and I will have to do so again in the future if I ever order from them again. 

    I also purposely do not read magazines that propagate the messages that we must be beautiful in a certain way. I know that anything I bring into the house would certainly be looked at and read by my children, so I purposely do not read those types of publications.


    Home Schooling

    One of the unfortunate aspects of the school environment is the focus on appearances.  During my own childhood, I remember kids at school (including myself) becoming overly focused on appearances and what others were wearing. Kids were teased for looking different or for wearing clothes that weren't "cool". This would likely be exacerbated nowadays with the current bombardment of appearance-related images and videos that we can all be exposed to. 

    While this is not the primary reason that I homeschool, it is certainly an added benefit that my kids are not being exposed to the school culture that includes such a high focus on appearances. My kids do have friends that they socialize with regularly at homeschool group activities, but I've never heard any of the kids talking about appearances in a negative light. The closest I've seen to any focus on appearances was one child admiring another's shirt.

     

    Discuss Appearance Issues At Opportune Moments

    As we go about our normal lives, opportunities arise when I can talk about body image with my children.  I purposely take time to discuss this with my children at those times. For instance, in reading the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, we talked about how absurd it seemed that as a young girl Laura was jealous of her sister Mary's blond hair. In the later books, as Laura moved into young adulthood, she complained of her own appearance and longed to be more long-and-lithe like some of her friends.  My children and I discussed this, as well.

    In these discussions, I make the point that there are things that we can change about ourselves and there are other things that just are as they are.  For instance, we can work on learning to control our tempers, on learning to persevere when things get tough, and on choosing to serve others instead of ourselves.  But the overall shape of our bodies, the color of our hair and eyes, the color of our skin: these are things that are just part of how we are made, and choosing to be dissatisfied with those is pointless and can even be damaging. My hope is that these discussions will help my children keep a healthy perspective on themselves as they grow older.

    Creating Contentment

    My goal in all of this is to help my children be content with themselves, and to learn that there are much more important things to focus on than their appearances. There may be more challenges to this as my children grow older, but with this foundation laid I hope that they will have a more positive experience in adolescence and early adulthood than I had myself.  I will continue to find ways to promote positive body image and less focus on appearances as the years go on, because I think this is an important aspect in teaching my children to be kind to themselves and others as they mature.

     

    Do you have any tips for promoting a positive body image in children? Or have any experiences to share?

     

    Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site!

     

    Thursday, July 14, 2016

    Cultivating a Positive Body Image

    This post is the first in a series about positive body image. 

    8th grade - I hated looking younger than everyone else







    A Pattern of Discontentment

    From adolescence onwards, I was never quite satisfied with my body and appearance. In the early years, it was that I was too short and looked too much like a little child. I was a "late bloomer" in that I didn't start menstruating until just before I turned 15 years old. Combine that with being younger than most of the kids in my grade, and the stage was set for having body image issues.

    As I moved on into adulthood, I could still always find plenty to be dissatisfied about in my appearance: my freckles, my lack of 6-pack ab muscles no matter how much I worked out or how slim I was, the gap between my front teeth, my different proportions compared to the "ideal". And after becoming a mother, I could easily find ways to be discouraged in my appearance, with my new stretch marks, bigger hips and abdomen than before pregnancy, and an overall different shape than pre-pregnancy.
    2008 - early motherhood

    Although my negative body image was never severe, and never caused me to do anything drastic, it was like a splinter wedged under my skin, that inexorably kept poking me for over 20 years. Did I really want to let that splinter keep festering for the next 50 or 60 years?

     

    Deciding to Change

    A couple years ago I had an epiphany: I could just decide to let go of being dissatisfied with my body.  I could decide to be content with being as I am, knowing that I take good care of my body by eating a healthy diet and getting a good amount of physical activity. Rather than continuing to be unhappy with my appearance for the rest of my life, I could just decide to let it go!

    This was a big shift for me. I made the decision to stop the internal self-criticism of my appearance, and promised myself that I would be happy to be just as I am. It was a tearful, sweet moment when I looked in the mirror and told myself that I was fine, just as I am. That I am just as I was made to be. That I would love and accept myself, just as I am.

    Content to be me in 2016

    Settling in to Contentment

    Making the decision to change how I viewed myself has been one of the best self-care steps I have ever taken. Although there have been a few times when I have seen myself shifting back into that old negative thought pattern, by reaffirming my decision to accept myself, I have been able to quickly shift back into being content. Making the conscious choice to change this aspect of myself really has worked and allowed me to live the last couple years feeling happier and more whole.

    In future posts in this series on body image, I will share how I am actively promoting positive body image in my daughter and the life-changing system that has revolutionized my wardrobe and appearance.

    Do you harbor negative thoughts about your own appearance that are keeping you from finding joy?  What has helped you overcome negative body image?

    Monday, June 27, 2016

    Book Review: The Child Whisperer

    In the 9+ years that I've been a mother, I've read many parenting books. Among the parenting books I've read in the last few years, one stands out far above the others: The Child Whisper: The Ultimate Handbook For Raising Happy, Successful, Cooperative Children by Carol TuttleOver the last two years since I read this book, it has really improved my life and my relationships with my children.

    What Is Unique About This Parenting Book?

    Most parenting books provide one-size-fits-all guidance for raising children.  The Child Whisperer is different. Instead of giving guidance that can be applied to all children, it seeks to give parents an understanding of different types of children.  By focusing more on understanding each of the different types of children, this book lays a strong foundation that can be used for parenting children who are very different from each other. 

    One of the things that really surprised me as a parent was how different my son and daughter are.   They move through life differently, they need different things, and they react to corrections differently. Techniques that work for one of them often do not work for the other. The Child Whisperer has finally given me the framework to understanding my children, and how they are different from each other as well as myself. By knowing more about who they are as individuals, I am able to parent them each uniquely, and am better able to meet their needs.

    The Different Types of Children (and Adults, Too)

    The Child Whisperer describes four energy types that apply to children as well as adults. For children, the four types are summarized as follows:

    image from http://thechildwhisperer.com/getting-started/

    One thing I love about using Carol Tuttle's four energy type system is that it is much bigger than just a personality profiling system.  When determining a person's energy type, a person's body language and facial features are actually used in addition to personality and tendencies. This method seems to really capture the essence of each person, and that allows for a much greater understanding of each other.

    Practical Tips for Each Type

    Once the foundation of each energy type is laid out, The Child Whisperer includes tips for parents in supporting their children by gender and at different ages (Baby, Toddler, Pre-schooler, School Age, and High Schooler). The Child Whisperer provides insights into the learning and developmental tendencies of each type, and provides guidance on how to help each type develop their own unique gifts. One of my favorite sections in the book is the list of the Top 10 Things each type needs from their parents.

    Understanding My Children

    Understanding my children's dominant and secondary energy types has allowed me to finally
    understand them at a much deeper level so that I can support them as individuals. Previously, I would often get frustrated at certain aspects of both of their personalities, mostly because they were different from myself and the way I do things. Now I am able to look at them from a perspective of understanding who they are and how they move through life, and that makes such a huge difference in having a happy, well-functioning household.


    Here are some examples of how The Child Whisperer has made me a better parent:
    • I am a Type 3 with a secondary Type 2 energy. With my dominant Type 3 nature, I tend to move through life with swift determination, and love getting things done. With my secondary Type 2 nature, though, I am emotionally sensitive and love connecting with family and friends.
    •  My daughter is a Type 1 with a secondary Type 2 energy. I used to get frustrated with the fact that she would start a gazillion different projects, but finish hardly any of them. I would often tell her that she wasn't allowed to start anything else new until she finished her other projects. Well, it turns out that Type 1's have a gift for ideas. Ideas are the Type 1's gift to the world! I was imposing my own nature (that naturally wants to finish things) onto her; in doing so, I was stifling her own gift for having many new ideas. Now, I allow her to start as many different projects as she'd like, and instead of trying to make her finish them all, I help her learn to determine which projects are important enough to her that she would like to finish them. 
    • My son is a Type 2 with a secondary Type 4 energy.  Before learning about the energy types, I would very often tell him to hurry up, and would get frustrated that he seemed to take so long with tasks such as getting dressed, eating, getting buckled into the car, and many others.  After learning about the energy types, I realized that my son naturally has a much slower movement than I do. That doesn't mean that either of us is "wrong"; we're just different. Now I make sure to give him plenty of time for tasks, and I make sure to find other things to do while I am waiting for him so I don't get impatient and keep hurrying him.
    • With her fun-loving Type 1 nature, my daughter likes to turn everything into a game. With my own get-it-done mentality, I was often frustrated by this aspect of her personality, and would tell her to stop messing around. Now that I know about the energy types, I try to give her more freedom to find her own fun ways to accomplish things. I definitely still have some room for improvement with this, but I'm trying to support her nature. 
    • With his Type 2 nature, my son naturally plans things out in advance. His plans are very important to him, and with his Type 4, more serious secondary nature, he does not take it lightly when his plans are interrupted. Obstructed plans were the main cause of many of my son's emotional upsets, but I didn't quite understand that until I read The Child Whisperer. Now I can respect his plans, and let him take part when those plans need to change (often after giving him some alone time to process that there needs to be a change). This has made a tremendous difference in the number of emotional meltdowns.
    These are just a few examples of how The Child Whisperer has helped us. It has been a real game-changer. Our relationships are better and I am now able to help my children overcome the challenges unique to each of their types, instead of trying to mold them to be more like myself.  I can't recommend this book enough!

    Have you read The Child Whisperer? What is your favorite parenting book?



    Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site!