Simple Gentle Parenting Tool Kit

When I was a new parent, a well meaning older mother gave me a bit of unsolicited advice. She told me to be sure and always keep some things in my “parenting tool kit,” that they would be needed almost daily and easy access was key to success. She told me to always keep these things on hand, whether in a basket at home or in my purse if we were out: something to spank with, a notebook and pen for making check marks to tally bad behavior, a water bottle (this was in case the child had been crying), and the Bible (I am a lover of the Bible, but in the context this mama was using it, I was not a fan).

I never followed her advice. I knew for sure that I was not that kind of parent, though I didn’t yet know what type of parent I was. So I ignored her tool kit and did my own thing. As time went on, my husband and I discovered and embraced the type of parents that we were, and as more time went on, we began to guide other parents on their journeys. Then I remembered that tool kit. And it made me sad. So, I decided to create my own, a gentle parenting tool kit.

Anyone can build a gentle parenting tool kit and I promise, it will be a worthwhile addition to your family. This tool kit can be used to continue peace or to promote it. Instead of using harsh punishments to change behavior, calm a tantrum, or reconnect,  use the tools that work best for your children in this tool kit (and of course, add your own as you see fit). You simply need:

  • Cozy blankets – we have a large pile of blankets in our living room; afghans, quilts, fleece. Coziness and comfort is one of the top things that helps to settle troubled hearts. When my kids are worked up and crying or yelling, gently wrapping them up in a blanket helps them to get their bearings back. The added benefit is the big hug from mama that happens when they get the blanket wrapped around them. I know this seems overly simplistic, but I’m telling you, a cozy blanket works wonders.
  • Fave books – Books work best for connection in down time or re-connection after a tantrum has ceased. Although they can be a great distraction from a tantrum for toddlers. When the little dude is yelling and hitting as we all know two year olds can, I can typically sit him on my lap, grab one of his board books, and start reading. Usually by page three he’s chill. For the bigger kids though, a book doesn’t typically stop their emotions. It does promote the cozy atmosphere needed for re-connecting after emotions have run high. You can also add the Bible in here as a rebuttal to the other mom’s tool kit. While she included the Bible in order to reprimand and bring guilt, I would read the Bible with the kids in order to promote grace, forgiveness, and unconditional love.
  • Water – another simplistic tool. You’ll notice this one was also in the other mom’s tool kit. There is a double purpose to water in the gentle parenting tool kit. One purpose is that if the child has been throwing a fit, they will need water once they calm down. The other purpose can be to help them calm down. One of my kids gets so lost in themself when they are upset, that they just keep crying until something stops them for just a second. Water works wonderfully for that quick pause. I offer water to her, she usually takes a sip. That few seconds of sipping water causes her to come back to herself, and afterwards she is levelheaded and ready to talk and re-connect.
  • Calm-down jars – You can read all about these on L.R. Knost’s blog, but I will simply say they are an easy and very effective tool for calming tantrums in your little ones. It’s another distraction that helps them get ahold of themselves after they’ve worked through those big emotions and are ready to move on.
  • Art supplies – another tool for working through emotions. Not necessarily effective for calming a tantrum, but very helpful for walking through the aftermath. Also a great activity when redirection is necessary.
  • Books for mama and papa –  I am the kind of person who needs constant affirmation, encouragement, and support for my endeavors, so I always have a great parenting book in my current reads pile. Many books I have read over and over again. It’s a sort of coaching and encouragement to me, and helps me to have ideas at the ready when I am at a loss for how to proceed. Some of my top picks are The Gentle Parent by L.R. Knost, The Awakened Family by Dr. Shefali Tsabary, The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Sandahl, Parent Effectiveness Training by Thomas Gordon, The Soul of Discipline, and Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne.
  • doTERRA’s Emotional Aromatherapy Diffused or Touch Kit – This is such an important part of the tool kit and has been a total game changer in our home. Not only do I know what to diffuse during the day to maintain a relative peace, but I am able to change what is diffusing to address any needs that arise. The touch kit is incredibly helpful when the kids are in the midst of tantrum or frustration. A little Peace to the back of the neck or Console on the temples and there is an immediate calming effect. I have begun recommending either the diffused or touch kits to my coaching clients because I can’t really imagine parenting without them at this point. I even offer a huge discount on the diffused kit because I am that passionate about it.
  • Smart Phone – I’m not even ashamed. When all else fails, or when I’m out and have nothing else with me for some reason, this little beauty does the trick. My top choices for helping my upset kiddos with a smart phone are nature videos and train videos, though sometimes a toddler puzzle or coloring app does the trick.

You’ll notice that some of these tools are used for connection and working through issues, while others are for calming and helping during tantrums or melt-downs. Both are important, both are necessary for gentle parenting. You can’t reconnect or work through an issue while the child is in the midst of chaos manifesting on their outside, you need to weather that storm first, and then walk through the cause together.

These are some super simple things you can start building your gentle parenting tool kit with right this minute, and begin to add peace to your home and family. What else would you add to your tool kit?

 

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Simplicity Parenting Online Class

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I will be hosting a Simplicity Parenting Online Class via Zoom and Facebook beginning Friday June 15 and running through July 27. The course will include 7 live sessions and continual support and community.

Each class will have a different theme:

  1. Why Simplify?
  2. Soul Fever
  3. Environment
  4. Rhythm
  5. Scheduling
  6. Filtering Out
  7. Simplicity To Go

Participants will receive their own 91 page Parent Handbook to help walk through the various exercises and activities.

Enroll by June 1st for an early bird price of $150. After June 1st, price is $200. Both parents may enroll for the price of one. If you have any questions or to sign up for the course, email me at hughesamy74@gmail.com or by using the contact form here.

 

Simplicity Parenting

“As parents we also define ourselves by what we bring our attention and presence to. This is easy to forget when daily life feels more like triage. By eliminating some of the clutter in our lives, we can concentrate on what we really value, not just what we’re buried under, or deluged with.” -Kim John Payne, Simplicity Parenting

A Simplicity Parenting class consists of seven gatherings where we will explore the topics  laid out in the Simplicity Parenting book.

  • Why Simplify?
  • Soul Fever
  • Environment
  • Rhythm
  • Scheduling
  • Filtering Out
  • Onward, together!

You will learn ways to simplify and slow down your home environment, create predictable and connecting rhythms, simplify your child’s weekly schedule, and find out the benefits to filtering out the adult world.

We will work together to create a plan utilizing small, doable changes that will help to bring peace and value back into your family.

Please contact me to let me know your needs. Would you like to join a 7 session local gathering? Set up one on one coaching sessions?  Or join an online 7 session class with other parents from around the world? To create change, you have to take the first step. To bring peace, you have to create an environment that is conducive to it. I would love to help you on this journey.

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it’s not good parenting, it’s bullying

It’s a common tale. Child picks on other children, parent punishes child, child resents parent and continues to pick on other children. There’s more punishment, more resentment, and nothing is ever accomplished. Even if the child eventually changes their behavior, the root cause is still there, along with a rift between parent and child.

The problem lies in dealing with bullying by means of punishment. The behavior of bullying stems from a lack of empathy, compassion, and a desire to dominate someone. These are learned behaviors, often learned from the parents themselves. These same parents who turn around and punish their children for behavior that they actually use on their children, and with a punishment that looks an awful lot like bullying.

Take for example the recent viral video of a dad following his 10 year old son in a car, his son running in the rain, in front of the car, all the way to school. The son had been kicked off of the school bus for bullying, and so instead of driving the child to school, the dad makes him run, recording a video for all to see and praise his “wonderful” parenting. Um. So the dad is using his size and power to dominate over his child and force him to run to school in the rain. Sounds quite a bit like bullying to me.

Instead of reaching out to his child who is clearly going through something inside (because remember, that’s what bullying is, it’s an outer behavior that is a symptom of a problem within) and helping him through it, offering him a hand and guidance to heal whatever hurt is causing him to hurt others, he just says “I’m going to make you pay for this,” in the end causing this child to resent his father who punished instead of helped, and to continue to learn the example of domineering, no compassion, behavior.

And of course this father didn’t reach out and help his child. Because it is very likely this child learned this behavior from his father, that his underlying pain is due to a lack of empathy, kindness, and compassion from his father. Because hurt people, hurt people. And the bullied, bully. I realize this is overly simplistic. I know there are numerous other personal, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects that go into one’s decision to bully or not bully.

BUT. But I also know that the number one way we learn is through example. And I do know that as there is an obvious lack of empathy for this child based on his father’s punishment and dialogue in the video, and that this has very likely been a habit for the ten years of this child’s life. A continual example of a parent dominating his child and lacking compassion and empathy, which in turn will produce many negative behaviors in the child, and that can include bullying.

So am I saying this father should have just driven the child to school and ignored his behavior? Of course not. But what I am saying is 1) a pattern of disrespectful, domineering, and authoritarian parenting looks an awful lot like bullying and is going to continue to perpetuate the cycle of bullying and 2) the way to help this child stop bullying is kindness. KINDNESS. Show this child what to do. Give this child what he needs to give to others.

What does that look like in practice? Let’s just say that at this moment, when his son was kicked off the bus, the father decided to do something different. To get to the root of the matter and actually HELP his child. He could have done any number of things, starting with “Hey bud, what’s wrong? How can I help you? I want you to know I love you and I’m here for you.” He could have acknowledged his own behavior and recognized a mirror of himself in his son. “I know that I have treated you with a lack of respect in the past. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. You are a person and worthy of being treated like one. Just as the people you were hurting are. Let’s make a promise to work on this together. I will be more respectful of you and treat you with the kindness you deserve, and you do the same for others. We can hold each other accountable. When you feel I am out of line and not giving you a voice, nicely remind me. And I will ask you every day how you are treating others, be honest with me. We’ll work on it together when you’re having trouble.”

The father could have taken him out for ice cream and had this conversation with him there, building their relationship and showing his son that he mattered. If the father even felt it completely necessary for his child to experience walking to school after being kicked off the bus, he could have walked with him, father and son, talking and bonding along the way, showing his son that making bad choices can have consequences but that he was there with him, walking beside him no matter what. There are so many ways that this father could have helped his son and built their relationship, instead of punishing, shaming, and bullying him, only to cause resentment to build up. This father may have stopped his son from bullying people on the bus, but he definitely didn’t stop his son from having the hurt and pain that causes him to want to hurt and dominate others. In fact, he’s only solidified it.

Remember, hurt people hurt people. And it’s KINDNESS that leads to repentance.

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Join my team!

READ ON IF YOU CARE ABOUT PEACE AND FREEDOM AND WANT THEM FOR YOUR FAMILY.

i have two words that i think of on a daily basis; freedom and peace. These two words guide my choices, set my focus, and remind me to change my circumstances when I am lacking them.

FREEDOM. PEACE. Guys, these two things are so important to my family life and I continue to seek ways to make them a reality. And so, alongside my parent coaching, I am going to be offering doTERRA essential oils. But this post isn’t about buying these amazing, life changing oils.

This post is about finding some friends who are serious about peace and freedom, who want to join me in creating a life where dreams do come true. I am looking for 5 passionate, creative people who want to work alongside me, who are ready to step up and out of the daily grind and focus on creating a life of freedom.

If you’re interested in talking with me about this opportunity, fill out the contact form on the contact page or email hughesamy74@gmail.com. I’m so excited guys, and looking forward to working with you!
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I call bs

Someone’s walking by the open windows, staring as my 15 year old daughter is loudly demanding I listen to her point of view. I’m tired, my feet hurt, the baby is crying from the Ergo on my back while I unintentionally burn dinner, and from another room two children are screaming at each other. I sigh because I know we must sound utterly chaotic, that this stranger out the window must be thinking we are completely dysfunctional, and I’m just tired of feeling judged. I know what they’re thinking; how we need to ground that teen that’s having an argumentative emotional outburst, to spank the young ones that are screaming at each other, to put the crying baby in a crib, in a different room, behind a closed door.  I know behind that glare they’re blaming me for the downfall of society, for the entitlement “problem” they feel is raging in our culture. And yet, as the sound of demonic hordes continues to reign from our windows, I stand, remedying dinner, handing the baby on my back a piece of cheese, keeping an ear tuned into the sibling fighting of the twins to make sure they work through things and don’t require intervention, all while actively  listening to the heart cries of my teen daughter.

If you want to know how most of America feels about people who parent like we do, read the comment section of any article on parenting, children, or juvenile delinquents where you’ll hear opinions like, “The world would be a better place if all kids were spanked,” “Sure, spanking is a choice. So is raising entitled brats with no life skills or coping mechanisms,” “The ‘I am my child’s friend’ mentality is much more detrimental to a child than a rap on the backside,” and “The lack of spanking is why this generation lacks respect.”  Physical authoritarianism reigns as the parenting style of choice in our culture, and yet it is also this culture that rages about kids these days and their sense of entitlement. I call bs.

When I was a fairly new parent, we went to dinner at someone’s house. They had three children and were very authoritarian in their parenting. During the few hours that we were at their house, we were consistently bombarded with the underlying message this family lived by; that children were less than adults. Steak and hot dogs were barbecued, and when it came time to eat, adults were served while the children waited. When it finally was the children’s turn to get their dinner, hot dogs were placed on their plates. My daughter said she wanted steak instead and was told by our host that steak was for grown ups, she could have a hot dog or nothing. Kids were consistently treated as a nuisance, told to be quiet if they tried to join a conversation, to leave and play elsewhere when adults moved into a new room, and reprimanded for every childish behavior. At one point in the night, an argument over what game to play broke out between two of their children, and they were immediately scolded, spanked, and sent to their bedrooms. The look on my kid’s faces when they witnessed their friends being hit on the backside by their father was unforgettable. They just could not understand what was happening or why.

After the spanking incident and my children’s obvious disturbed reaction, these parents with years of experience on us turned the conversation to child rearing. They explained the importance of spanking and the “proper” way to do it. The dad ended the conversation with something I will never forget. He said, “If a day goes by where I haven’t spanked at least one of my kids, I have failed as a parent that day.”

I was appalled. I went home that night wondering if I was the worst parent on earth for not parenting my children this way. Maybe I needed to put my foot down. Maybe we needed to implement the concepts that “what I say goes,” and “because I’m the parent and you’re the child.” I held my twins, rocking them to sleep in the old wooden rocker that squeaked softly, whispers of comfort from mamas to their babies down through the years. Their little eyes began to close, lips slightly parted as they tend to do when sleep creeps in. My children just a wee bit bigger sat nearby looking quietly at books, giggling here and there. I cried imagining spanking them, their little faces turning to tears at my hand delivering pain instead of gentleness and comfort. It was not a picture I ever, ever wanted to imagine again. And so I took the concept of adult superiority and the philosophy of authoritarianism, and trashed them.

We determined to treat our children as human beings, deserving of respect. We determined to let them have their voice. We determined to set an honest example of imperfect humans, talking through things with our kids, changing our minds if they were able to present a valid case, apologizing when we screwed up. We looked at ourselves, at what we positively and negatively responded to as people, and determined that harsh authority and negative feedback were harmful to us, only causing us to pull away from the negativity, and thus decided to guide our children the way that we would receive guidance and advice from others; positive reinforcement, gentle guidance/advice, help through decision making, honest discussion about cause and effect, simplicity of life, and more than anything, positive, healthy relationships to turn to. These things motivated us, as adults, to do better, make necessary changes, choose right, and we were convinced that children, as smaller people but people just the same, would respond the same way. That building an atmosphere of fear and inequality would not raise kids up to be strong, compassionate, kind, determined people, but building an atmosphere of trust, security, and love would.

Over the years we have walked alongside our children, communicating every step of the way. People are almost always under the wrong impression about this; they see one thing, a surface behavior, and think that we are being passive, permissive, push overs. The problem with this is that they’re missing the underlying philosophy, the day to day, the behind the scenes conversations. It looks a little like this: At an event I am having a conversation with some friends when one of my kids comes up to me and asks me if she can do something. My initial response, without much thought, is no. She whines a little bit, then gets ahold of herself and tells me why she wants to do this thing and why she thinks it would be fine. I listen to her and decide that what she is asking is fine, her explanation makes sense, and that I had no reason to deny this to her. So I change my mind and tell her that she can. The people I was conversing with only see me tell my child no, then give in when my child whines and asks again. What they miss is the philosophy that permeates our family that everyone has a voice, that sometimes mommy and daddy make the wrong decision, that we can kindly and calmly converse with one another, sharing thoughts, feelings, ideas. What they miss is our hug and conversation when we get home about how they did a good job communicating their wants, but to remember to do so without whining first next time, that mommy and daddy will always listen, even if they don’t change their minds, and so the whining is never necessary. What they are missing is the trust in our home, the understanding that there will be no arbitrary “no” answers, and the simplicity stemming from that; our children try to be accepting when we say no in finality because they know that if we are firm in it, we have a reason, they trust because we will listen and change our minds if it was arbitrary at first. As most people focus on outside behavior when dealing with children, they only notice the surface of what is happening with us and are quick to judge.

While the idea runs rampant that kids these days are filled with a sense of entitlement and void of any sense of respect and responsibility, parents like us often find themselves being blamed. There’s no logic behind it; they say most kids have this problem due to a lack of discipline, and yet 81% of American parents still spank their children. They say the Millennial generation is a bunch of spoiled, entitled adults and are a reflection of the “lax, no discipline” parenting that they were given, and yet an even larger number of Millennials were spanked and traditionally parented as kids. It’s bs.

Where does the child get this idea to put their own needs before those of others, where do they learn to entertain themselves and shun hard work, where do they learn to grasp for power and ease in their own lives while showing disdain for the lives of others, where do they learn to put on a show of kindness and obedience for certain company? I venture to think that if so many of today’s children and young adults have issues in areas of entitlement, disrespect, and laziness, this comes from the predominant parenting style in America, authoritarianism, and the way of life that is flaunted as most desired, which stems from consumerism and materialism.

When parents are serving themselves the best food and offering less than to their children, they are teaching their kids to look out for themselves first.  When they are forcing their kids to clean up after meals while they sit and watch television, they are teaching them that others should work while they enjoy themselves. When parents want kids to stay out of adult conversation or to leave the room adults are in, they are teaching them that children are not as important, that the little guy, the minority, anyone who doesn’t fit their mold, is not as important as they are. When they are imposing their will and not giving a voice to their kids, they teach them to do the same to others. When they hit, shame, or otherwise punish their kids, they teach them that outer behaviors are all that matter, to put on an appearance of goodness out of fear, and that violence and cruelty to others solves problems. In fact, if you take the time to consider how each lamented behavior reflects what authoritarian parents typically do to their children, you would probably be shocked at how similar they are.

Children are people, and it has been proven time and again that people learn by example, not by punishment. That working alongside someone, listening to them, building trust, teaches them and encourages them to do their best, succeed, work hard, and to treat others well.

There’s no perfection or absolute bliss from parenting in an intentional, mindful way. In fact it can get loud and be incredibly difficult. When you have a house full of opinionated humans who are all respected and all given a voice, there will be disagreements and many times of chaos. Because ideas conflict and wants butt heads, because someone has their feelings hurt or kids can’t decide who gets what toy, and instead of silencing every conflict with a spanking or sending people away, we delve into it, let people express themselves, talk and listen until we get to the root of things and work something out. It’s a lot of tiring work, this business of talking to your children and letting them be people. A lot of work. But so incredibly worth it.

I’m standing in the kitchen, the stranger outside has moved on. Just like most people, he doesn’t see the ending, he doesn’t see the process. He has only seen the chaos, the moment when we look crazy. The wind is blowing gently in and with it, a calm has settled. The baby is quietly eating cheese in the Ergo, the twins have resolved on their own whatever disagreement they had and are now giggling loudly from their bedroom, and my teen daughter is thanking me. She is thanking me for listening to her, for allowing her a safe space to vent and say what she needs to say. We are laughing over something one of the kids says and she is grabbing cheese off the cutting board and eating it, then offering to grate more for me. There is a peace in our home and relationships are good, and I think of that stranger walking in the darkening evening, judging us. I decide it’s okay, I’d rather be judged and not understood, I’d rather be torn apart in a comments section, than to not have these beautiful, open, respectful relationships with my kids, and to not be raising strong, independent, compassionate humans like I am.IMG_4544IMG_4578IMG_4766

Simplified Homeschool, Peaceful Homeschool (and six great curriculums for minimalists)

Homeschooling is one of the things that adds beauty to the simple family. While definitely not a necessity, it’s just one of those extra choices that can help a family to slow down, embrace each moment, and draw near to each other. I hear so often though how people come  to homeschooling imagining this beautiful, togetherness experience, and end up with stress, overwhelmed, and way. too. much. stuff. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the “stuff” of homeschooling, just as it is with everything in life. These mamas buy loads of curriculum, art supplies, manipulatives, set up a classroom, more curriculum, then more curriculum, and just when they are sure they found the perfect curriculum, they buy more. They stress themselves out thinking they have to do dry brush painting in nature journals at least once a week, read aloud daily to children who are breakdancing on the floor and don’t seem to be hearing a thing, and feel guilt if they use too much technology. Where’s my peaceful homeschool and why do I feel so overwhelmed all the time, they wonder?

I have long espoused the concept of simplicity homeschooling, or as my friend I’ve never met (thank you social media!) Jane over at Salty Tribe Co has coined, minimalist homeschooling. Our homeschools are just another area of life where we can simplify, strip things down to the bare bones, find what brings us peace and joy and USE ONLY THAT. Only two things are needed when you simplify your homeschool; atmosphere and tools.

Atmosphere

What I consider to be the most important aspect of a homeschool, atmosphere is literally the environment we create in our homes for living and learning. Mamas are uniquely capable of creating atmosphere, and honestly, it rests on our shoulders. We decide what we want learning and life in our homes to look like, and we make it happen. If we are not diligent, the atmosphere we desire fails. In my home, we look to the philosophy of Charlotte Mason for our atmosphere, a philosophy which embodies the simple and lovely. Great literature, artwork, music, handwork, chores, poetry, working together, having discussions, spending time on nature; these things make up our atmosphere. We spend our days surrounded by that which matters to us, creating the perfect environment for us to live and learn. There is no stress in trying to force something that we think we should do but doesn’t fit us, there is merely the choice of what we value and want for our family, and the implementation of that.

*To help create your atmosphere, name three adjectives that describe what you want for your home, family, and life. Then, figure out what you need to let go of in order to bring these adjectives to fruition and then, actually let them go. Determine if there is anything you need to add to help in creating your atmosphere and implement it.

Tools

Second to atmosphere comes tools. Tools are the physical objects we use for learning in our home. For some, their main tools are curriculum, while for others such as unschoolers, tools are whatever is needed for their current learning path.

While looking to simplify our homes and homeschools, we seek to only utilize the best tools for our family, accumulating as little stuff as possible, and ridding ourselves of that which 1) we don’t use 2) we don’t like 3) doesn’t fit our chosen atmosphere.

To my knowledge, the best curriculums for a simple little homeschool are:

•A Charlotte Mason curriculum such as Ambleside Online, A Gentle Feast, or Wildwood Curriculum. These are great for a simplified homeschool because many of the books used in the curriculums are in the public domain and so you will be able to download for free on a tablet instead of adding to your bookshelf (although, I know, if you’re like me, adding to your bookshelf makes you happy). Other work can just be done in composition books. The guides that go along with A Gentle Feast are PDF and can just be used off the tablet or computer. Artists, composers, even nature study resources can be found online.

Easy Peasy All-in-One Curriculum. Most everything is online but the content is lovely and user friendly.

The Robinson Curriculum. While I don’t necessarily endorse the actual curriculum (the creator had some very interesting ideas and lifestyle rules), the concept is very simple and very helpful. Read, write, math. All other subjects learned through reading. Reading is done for hours a day, from mainly older books which would all be in the public domain and free to download on a tablet. You can find the booklist he uses in his curriculum online, or make your own booklist choosing from Ambleside, Wildwood, and Robinson. Other materials would be composition books and math books.

The Good and the Beautiful. This is an amazingly beautiful curriculum designed by Jenny Phillips. Not much is required other than the course books and (few) materials that go with them. Many subjects are combined; the Language Arts course includes literature, grammar, composition, art, and geography. They are very affordable (some are free!) and some of the most beautiful, high quality curriculum I have ever seen. You can watch Jane’s TGATB reviews here.

In our home, we combine all of these curricula in our own way, utilizing the tools that work for our family, bolstered by the foundation of our atmosphere. Things run smoothly and simply, we work together and individually, and all of our materials for 6 kids (including art and handwork supplies) fit in four small baskets and three drawers. We have a rhythm to our days, weaving the usage of our tools throughout, focusing on the simple, gentle, lovely things in life.

Homeschool really can be simplified, materials minimized, and life made peaceful. Create your  atmosphere and use the tools that work for your family.

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A simple life, an abundant life

 

I was raised with everything I wanted. A lawyer dad married to an incredible woman, and a mom married to an optometrist who owned his own practice. If I wanted something, I asked for it and typically received it. I didn’t feel spoiled or overwhelmed, in fact I never really contemplated my stuff much at all. What I did know was that I liked having the things I wanted, I liked being comfortable, I liked life. So when I became a parent at the age of 19, I knew three things… 1) Don’t spank. 2) Be nice. 3) Buy things for your kids as much as possible. Fifteen years into this parenting gig and I still wholeheartedly believe the first two, but number three, well, that idea was retired.

My husband was raised completely differently, and yet, when we married, he had come to the same conclusions. He was the youngest of four children with a single mom. His family wasn’t close and they had no money, or at least, he never saw the fruit of any money. Never getting new shoes or Christmas presents, having electricity turned off in the middle of winter with snow on the ground, having to scrounge for his own food at the earliest age, he determined to have his own family one day and to give his children everything they wanted. He felt lack of care and attention, he didn’t know comfort, and he imagined that gifts and things would show a love and care that he never knew.

So we began our family and began to buy things as much as we possibly could. We accumulated. And as child after child came into our lives, it was like this invitation to accumulate more.  Fortunately we discovered simplicity and minimalism around the time when we were feeling consumed and drowning. It was this obvious, eye opening thing; my husband felt anxious at home, my twins were having difficulty controlling themselves and communicating, and everywhere around us was stuff. There was nowhere to go to find peace, there was nowhere in our home to breathe. It was finally enough.

We went through and continue to go through the usual process, the piles of things, the sorting, the consideration of purpose and joy. Little by little, we are creating an atmosphere of peace. With nine people under one roof there is plenty of chaos, and the stuff was just adding to that. Slowly it is calming. Slowly we have found a new way.

My husband still gets feelings of guilt. He doesn’t want to deny the kids things, he doesn’t want them to feel as he did growing up. I am constantly reminding him 1) You are not keeping things they need from them, merely limiting the excess, the unnecessary. 2) You are an amazing, loving, attentive parent. You were not only denied material items as a child, you felt a lack of love and care too. You are giving them the most important thing.

He’s not alone in feeling the guilt. Society teaches us that giving things to people shows them you care and that getting things from people shows you that you are cared for. When we remove that aspect of relationship, we have to take a step back and start over. We have to find other ways to show care, and we have to remind ourselves that a listening ear from someone shows us they care for us.

Creating a simple life for our families does not mean lack, in fact it’s the exact opposite, it means an abundance, but an abundance of what really matters; love, peace, consideration, time, room to think, freedom to grow, a place and relationships where you can simply be.

Stick around at the Simple Little Life blog, follow me on Instagram @simplelittleamy, and I hope to inspire you in your journey towards a simple life for your family.

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