Stuff I Reluctantly Learned from Homeschooling, Vol. 5


Can you believe that it’s almost September and that I’ve been back at homeschooling for three weeks already? And that I’m actually starting on a second year with TWO kids that I’m homeschooling as well as a new baby arriving in about a month’s time?

Sometimes, I think I have actually lost my proverbial mind. Who voluntarily does this to themselves?

Only sick people, my friends. Only sick people.

And now, I bring to you, my reluctantly learned homeschooling lessons, edition August 2016.

1) Slow Down.

For this year, I got the feeling that The Universe was telling me to slow the fuck down. Like for realz.

One of my preschool teachers for Glow Worm decided to take the year off so she could spend more time with her ill father. Some other random circumstances conspired against me and I finally decided to NOT schedule every second and minute of my three kids because, HEY, NEW BABY IS INEVITABLE.

So, this year, I’ve decided to pull back a lot – which when I think about it, we are still doing quite a LOT. There just seems to be a lot more space and I will have to resist the urge to fill everything up entirely.

It’s really difficult for me. I loathe empty space.

2) If the kids are having trouble understanding a concept, it’s usually my fault.

I swear, every time I re-start teaching my kids after a hiatus, I have to re-learn the lesson.

I got so frustrated with Cookie Monster to the point of screaming at him and him crying for forgetting how to do borrowing as well as word problems in subtraction. (Yes, yes, yes… excellent teaching method and great for learning new things.)

After stopping myself from devolving into a worse spiral (took at least 15 minutes for me to STFU), I realized Cookie Monster was having trouble because he fundamentally didn’t understand the concept of borrowing and what it actually represented, nor did he understand the concept of ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands.

So, once I realized that, I made him use manipulatives instead of doing math problems in a workbook.

I started super simple with unifix cubes and then moved onto the Base Ten Blocks that come in units, tens, and hundreds. (I don’t have the thousands, but I am thinking of buying them.) (Amazon affiliate links used.)

It helped a lot and we eventually worked up to the workbook problems. (I even used our whiteboard!)

I then decided to not push the workbook as much and just work on reinforcing the concept of borrowing and word problems to Cookie Monster over the course of the next few days to really hammer home the concept and then go back to the workbook pages.

And once again, I realized that Cookie Monster wants nothing more than to please me by picking up a concept quickly and feeling smart and validated. But if he isn’t answering correctly, it’s because he fundamentally doesn’t understand something – and that’s MY FAULT because I am the teacher.

So, if I am mad at someone, it should be ME.

3) Teach kids one at a time.

I know this. Yet, I fall victim to all the kids wanting to learn something at the same time (including Glow Worm who doesn’t want to be left out). And it drives me insane because how can one person possibly explain three separate concepts to three separate children at the same time?

They can’t. That’s why I was frazzled and cranky.

So, I was quickly reminded to have firmer boundaries.

4) I actually have to prep ahead of time.

Gone are the days that I can just wing it and do whatever and just do the next pages in Singapore Math workbooks.

The concepts are a little harder now so now that I know that I totally missed Cookie Monster not having fundamentals down and only focused on how many pages he finished that I was doing him a huge disservice.

So, I started prepping for the week and listing loosely what concepts I wanted him to grasp that particular week.

This also applied to Chinese reading comprehension. I had to be more strategic in what I had him read and when. This year, I am emphasizing both reading with zhuyin as well as testing his reading comprehension by using different workbooks and textbooks. On top of that, I also want to up his new character recognition.

And, because I should technically learn from my mistakes, I am also being more thoughtful with Gamera’s curriculum even though she’s way ahead of where Cookie Monster was at her age and personally, it doesn’t really matter what she does this year because she’s only in TK.

But, why waste a year? So, she gets to benefit from my mistakes with Cookie Monster. I get to make all new mistakes with her.

I’m going to go slower with her in terms of math and reading and focus more on mastery and comprehension vs. finishing pages or learning new characters.

Also, instead of working with her for 30 minutes per subject, I’m only going to work 15 minutes with her. She doesn’t have the sustained concentration for any longer.

5) Mastery over progress.

I think the previous point already explains this in detail, but it is good to have it be its own point.

Mastery over a particular subject is far more important than how quickly we are progressing. There is no race. With whom are we competing?

 6) Take a hint from preschools and pull out 3 activities for the children to focus on each morning. 

Obviously, the kids don’t have to play with the toys that I bring out, but it’s nice for them to see the stuff they could play with instead of defaulting to the iPad or what they naturally gravitate to.

Alright, perhaps it won’t do much to fend off the Almighty iPad, but when I eventually kick the kids off their screens, they have things they can do.

Plus, it rotates my toys in and out of their consciousness.

Thus far, they have enthusiastically partaken in the activities – even if it isn’t for long. I think most important part is that they remember they enjoy playing with our toys so they even bring out more toys.

7) Rearrange fridge and pantry to be even more kid-friendly.

This year, because I will soon be occupied with a new baby, (I am hoping that the more I mention it, the more it will actually sink into my brain. I’m still quite deeply entrenched in denial.) I want to train all three of my kids to be even more independent.

But, in order for them to do that, the pantry, fridge, and drawers need to be arranged in a clear, easy to access manner.

So, before I left for Taiwan, I purged my pantry, fridge, and several of my cabinets. I am determined to refuse to give into the urge to fill all the empty space. (There’s that recurring theme again.)

Instead, I make it very easy for my kids to see what food items we have, have all the foods they can fix for themselves at a level they can reach (including in the fridge). Thus everything for the children is on the lower three levels of the side and center of the fridge.

8) Rearrange books in a kid-friendly way.

In the same way that the pantry and fridge will be more utilized when the children can clearly see the food items and can easily reach them, so with books.

The incomparable Guavarama came over one night and rearranged all my Chinese books in a way for both me and my children to easily find books, understand what we are getting, and put them away.

She arranged all the picture books together (books that either require me to read to the kids or for them to read by themselves), and then arranged all the other books by levels.

Thus, if I wanted to, I could easily just go down the line of my bookshelves and go from Left to Right and Cookie Monster and Gamera would be assured of reading books appropriate to their abilities and gradually upping their difficulty level.

Very exciting.

I even labelled the shelves. (I mean, how else was I going to remember how Guavarama arranged things?)

9) Sometimes, it’s cheaper just to buy new workbooks than to laminate or use pouches for reuse. 

I bought a bunch of cute and fun Chinese workbooks (for math, general fun, etc.) for the kids for about $2USD per book. I made the executive decision that since I will be going back to Taiwan next summer, I don’t need to worry about re-use and just buy them again next year.

Because quite frankly, the materials I would use to laminate or put in sleeves cost more than the actual workbooks (not to mention the time it wastes).

10) Amazing what my kids will do when I turn off the screens. 

Seriously, why do I never remember this?

I think this year, I really want to emphasize valuing empty space (including in the schedules and iPads).

At any rate, this has done wonders for their playing with our other toys, playing with each other, and just figuring out what things to do when they’re bored.

Cookie Monster gets bored a lot. I have offered to give him more homework. Somehow, he doesn’t seem to appreciate that very much.

Anyhow, those are some of the lessons I’ve bumbled and ruined for August. It’s been exciting (and humbling) to see how even though it’s our second year of homeschooling, I’m still making the same mistakes.

Clearly, I learn from past experiences.

Have a great Monday, friends!

Stuff I Reluctantly Learned from Homeschooling, Vol. 4

Okie dokes! It’s another edition of my reluctantly learned lessons and quite frankly, even though these were mostly for the month of March 2016, since I did nothing for April  and May 2016, they get lumped into this group as well. Yay for efficiency!

So, because I’m on a rare brevity roll, let’s get straight to it!

1) Homeschooling can withstand a LOT of “nothing.”

Ever since I got pregnant in February, the life energy just got sucked out of me and all I did for the first trimester was lay on the couch and not move much except change the channel on the TV.

This, of course, rightly concerned Hapa Papa, but honestly, I wasn’t too worried. Cookie Monster was up to 3rd grade math. He knew all his letters and I wasn’t going to teach him to read in English this year anyway. And he finished Sagebooks earlier than I anticipated and I was OK with coasting.

So, we coasted. For months. It has worked out just fine.

2) Classes help when you feel awful.

It’s fantastic that I am a lazy sort of person in general and outsourced most of our homeschooling anyway with classes. Thus, even when I dropped off the face of the earth, it’s not as if I were teaching a ton of subjects at home to Cookie Monster, anyway.

So, I continued shuttling him to all his classes and he still learned math, science, Chinese, Chinese calligraphy, art, kungfu, soccer, and basketball. This child was NOT deprived. I’m pretty sure he still ended up learning stuff.

3) Cutting screen time increased play time.

This seems so obvious once you type it out, but I am amazed at how often I have to re-learn this tidbit. Yes, yes. We all hear how screen time is the devil incarnate and we should cut it out. Blah, blah, blah.

But I always worry that the kids won’t know what to do with themselves. And always, it’s a baseless worry.

Here’s what my kids did with less screen time: they played.

A lot.

With toys. With each other. With Minecraft swords and light sabers. With dolls. With sand and play dough. With art. And stickers. With friends. With dress up. With fighting. With whining. With books. With pillows and couch cushions (to my never-ending dismay). With the outside. With chalk. With blocks. With Magnatiles. With cars. With trains. With EVERYTHING they ignored for years.

It was beautiful.

I just took away the screens and gave them zero options and they would come back and forth to the kitchen to graze on fruit or snacks I left out. They would whine. And then they would proceed to beat the crap out of each other.

They are really into beating the crap out of each other.

Then they would play some made up game they learned from watching Minecraft or YouTube videos and all three of them would alternate between screaming at each other in frustration and then joy.

It was awesome.

4) Use real life circumstances as teachable moments.

Truly, I hate the term, “teachable moments.” It’s so trite and stupid. However, it is useful so I guess I’m using it.

Anyhow, once I told the kids I was pregnant, they were very curious how the baby could grow and live in my tummy. So, I found YouTube videos that show the baby growing from conception to birth. The kids were fascinated and still remember. And now they know how babies grow.

Yay, internet!

Alright. I will likely take a break from this series until we start up again in August/September. This time, with Gamera officially starting TK homeschooling! Whoooo!

Stuff I Reluctantly Learned from Homeschooling, Vol. 3

Man, it’s a good thing that I keep a notebook with notes on what I want to blog about. Otherwise, there is no way I could remember what I learned in February (however reluctantly). I mean, I can’t really recall what I did yesterday so casting back to February 2016 would have been an exercise in futility.

So, without further ado, here are some of the lessons I learned in February 2016.

1) It’s OK to quit things.

Cookie Monster was super discouraged at swimming because it took him over two months to earn the last sticker he needed to get a ribbon (something about arm strokes) and even after several extra private lessons during the winter break, he still didn’t get his ribbon so making him go to swimming lessons every Monday afternoon was starting to break my poor boy down.

Wow, that was quite the run-on sentence.

He would cry after every class and sit dejected in his car seat. He begged to stop going. For months, he begged.

Finally, I told him he didn’t have to continue swimming lessons after the winter session ended and his whole face lit up. Even now, he still doesn’t want to re-start swimming lessons for the fall. I told him he wouldn’t have to take lessons again until the start of January 2017.

For a long time, I made Cookie Monster go to the lessons because hey, I already paid for them and persevering through things that are hard is good for you. That’s a huge lesson we’ve been teaching him for the last year through kungfu classes, different sports classes, and piano lessons.

But after a few months, I realized that yes, persevering through hard stuff is a good thing. However, it’s also okay to quit things.

Knowing when to stop and take a break is also a lesson that needs to be learned. And knowing that you’re not a bad person or a failure despite quitting, that is also a good thing to learn – especially early in life.

After all, isn’t life just a fine balance between saying Yes and No to different things until you somehow muddle into the life you have now?

Obviously, I don’t want my children to quit at the first sign of difficulty. But I don’t want them to stay and continue in things they don’t enjoy, aren’t good at, and are making them feel like utter crap just for some arbitrary notion about “quitters being losers,” either.

2) I put some Mandarin posters up at eye-level for my kids and it made a big difference. You can read more about that here.

3) I started the Read 100 Challenge for Cookie Monster to motivate him to read for Minecraft minutes. We’ve fallen off the wagon since then, but it was fun at the time. You can read more about that here.

4) We stopped doing Singapore math and I know we really need to re-start that up. Mostly because like all things, if you stop practicing, you forget. (And this has definitely happened to Cookie Monster.)

I didn’t end up re-starting math in February. Or March. Or April. I kind of restarted in May, and I will post more on that later.

Alright. Short post because guess what? Since I got pregnant, I’ve done almost zero “homeschooling.” The only reason my children are learning anything is because I outsource a lot of their education and have them signed up for a lot of classes.

Ok. That’s it for today. Short but sweet. Don’t get used to it (unless it’s for these Homeschooling Lesson posts specifically. Because again, laziness.)

Stuff I Reluctantly Learned from Homeschooling, Vol 2

homeschoolingThis week, I talk about the lessons I learned from homeschooling my kids in January 2016. How’s that for lack of a rambling introduction? Don’t get used to it, people. I just happen to be tired and lazy today.

1) Rearranging a room makes a HUGE difference! Both to productivity as well as usage of things!

I changed the configuration of our front room so that the focal point became the work space. Then I moved the art supplies into easy reach (as well as a bunch of other stuff). This allowed the space and supplies to be used a LOT more (almost every day!!) and made the room far more useful.

I would show you better before and after shots but you all know I hate taking and editing and posting photos. So, you’ll just have to make do with these. Mediocrity has its perks.

Before 1

Homeschool Room Before 1

Before 2

Homeschool Room Before 2

Before 3

Homeschool Room Before 3

Homeschool Room After

Homeschool Room After

2) Learn from preschools and set up activity centers.

My house is crammed full of stuff – both educational and otherwise. However, my kids tend to play with the same things over and over again. Not because they don’t enjoy playing with other stuff. It’s just not top of mind for them.

So, if I want my kids to play with their Magnatiles or stickers or sensory bins or logic games, I cannot wait for them to tell me. If I do that, I will be waiting until I die.

I have to bring the stuff out. I know this. And yet, it seems I have to constantly re-learn this lesson.

3) Just like with the previous point, sheets and sheets of stickers (or mounds of dress up clothes and shoes in a bin) is incredibly overwhelming.

img_6599I kept getting frustrated that I had so many awesome stickers that we bought at the Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Factory tour, but my kids didn’t really enjoy playing with the stickers even though I know they LOVE stickers. I recalled having the same frustration with those huge Melissa & Doug Sticker sheets.

Then, one day while at the kids’ swim class, I noticed how the stickers they kids get to use for their passports (they earn achievements and get stickers for each level or skill they accomplish) were cut up – and often in whatever odd shape to accommodate the actual sticker itself. But the kids LOVED to riffle through them and carefully chose their stickers.

img_6598So, I decided to go home and cut up all our sheets and sheets of stickers into either individual stickers (which I stuck in a used take-out container), or cut up the sticker strips into quarters so the sticker sheets were now a lot more manageable. Then, I put them all in the center of the table, gave the kids a bunch of construction paper, and told them to play.

They went to town.

The corpses of sticker liners were EVERYWHERE. I was so pleased. FINALLY!

Likewise, the dress up clothes and shoes were easier for the kids to play with when I put items on hooks, shoes in a shoe holder, had separate bins for scarves and accessories, etc. So, I AGAIN, rearranged the dress up closet (aka: the Harry Potter closet since it’s under my stairs).

Dress up closet 1

Dress up closet 1

Dress up closet 2

Dress up closet 2

Dress up closet 3

Dress up closet 3

This also worked with crayons and markers. Instead of having a huge overwhelming assortment of crayons and markers, I would only bring out a few at a time. Then the children were no longer bombarded with choices and had a much easier time using crayons and markers.

4) What’s the point of having stuff if I don’t use it?

This is a constant problem I have. Although I am much better than I was before, I still have to physically squash my horror when I see my kids (and my friends’ kids) careless blow through those expensive Rainbow Colors Scratch Paper thingies (affiliate link). I have to remind myself that if the kids don’t use them, then that’s really when my money is wasted.

Also, I have tons of art supplies, but I never remember to use them. And when I do remember, I consider them too “precious.” I cannot tell you how long I had those Scratch Papers. I want to say I had them at least two years before I finally brought them out this month.

All these supplies are worthless if they aren’t used.

5) Boundaries are important. So is mindfulness.

It took talking to my therapist to figure it out, but she finally told me to be mindful of when I was getting frustrated or angry at Cookie Monster and Gamera.

Often, it was because Cookie Monster would want to do math workbooks while I was making dinner, and then because Cookie Monster was doing it, Gamera would want to do her math workbooks, too. And then, because neither of them can read English, I would be answering all their questions – sometimes simultaneously – while I was busy trying to make dinner. Did I mention that Glow Worm would often be cranky because he was hungry or wanted me to pay attention or wanted to see what I was making for dinner and he would also be bothering me?

Gah. Just thinking about it makes me wince.

Anyhow, I started to tell the kids, “No.” Or, “Later.” Or I would tell them that I was starting to feel annoyed or crazy and that I didn’t want to yell at them. Did they want me to yell at them? Of course not. So let’s wait until after dinner or tomorrow to finish these pages. Or I would ask them to take turns asking me questions and wait. Or to do something else.

Once I was aware of this dynamic, it was much easier for me to gauge my mood before even suggesting they do an activity.

I also knew I would get super mad at Cookie Monster when he was practicing piano. And I knew that I didn’t want to be that way because I didn’t want him to associate anger and screaming with piano lessons. So, I stopped sitting next to him unless he specifically requested me to. And often, even when he wanted me to, I would ask him if he was sure.

Usually, I would only play his pieces for him or sit with him on the first day he practiced. After that, I would no longer even be in the same room or make suggestions. He did things much faster and was much happier. So was I.

Boundaries are awesome.

Alright. Those are the main things I learned for January. (Most of them were things I already knew about education, child-rearing, and life. But hey, I never said I was a quick study.)

Thanks for reading – and I hope they proved useful and transferable even outside of homeschooling. I have found that most of the lessons I am learning while homeschooling are actually just life and character lessons that I should have learned when I was a kid.

I guess it’s a good thing I have three kids to practice on. Too bad for them, though!

Have a great Monday!

Stuff I Reluctantly Learned from Homeschooling, Vol 1

HomeschoolingAlright, friends. Because you know that I cannot resist turning my life into fodder for blog posts, I’ve decided to start a new monthly series about my homeschooling experiences. (Hey, it’s hard to come up with topics sometimes – especially three times a week! I know. #bloggerproblems and other nonsense. Cry me a river, right?)

As much as I enjoy reading other people’s posts about their lesson plans, their children’s progress, and curriculum, (and quite frankly, usually only those of my friends), the thought of writing those posts makes me stabby. However, I do want to talk about the things that I am learning about myself, my kids, and the whole process of homeschooling.

Instead, I decided I would model my posts after Amy Sneed Heinz’s Everyday Lessons Series, as well as Larissa Mark’s monthly Life’s Lessons. (When you get the chance, please go check their sites out. These are always my favorite posts of theirs. Amy is funny and wry and moving. Larissa is deep, spiritual, and reflective. They are both awesome.)

So, without further preamble, (oh, who am I kidding? We are not even remotely done preambling.) I bring you some of the lessons I have reluctantly learned from homeschooling. I say reluctantly because it’s not as if I went on this homeschooling thing to learn things about myself or to grow my character or anything. FFS. I did it because I’m a rebel and anti-establishment and non-conformist and badass!


Ok. Now, I bring you the lessons I have inadvertently learned (and sometimes re-learned) for the months of September – December 2015:

1) Homeschooling Cookie Monster really means that I am also homeschooling Gamera.

I should have seen it coming. After all, Gamera wants to do everything her big brother does. So of course she would want to have the same math workbooks and read the same Chinese readers.

2) In the same vein, Gamera got very upset that I was spending so much time with Cookie Monster. Even though it was “school,” it still seems fun and it was still a lot of one on one attention I gave Cookie Monster at her expense. Glow Worm also got a lot of attention by virtue of being the baby, so she started suffering severely from Middle Child Syndrome.

Once I realized what was going on, I started to spend more focused attention on her. (Buying her her own set of math workbooks and going over the Chinese readers helped a lot.)

3) I dropped everything except learning Chinese and doing math.

Don’t get me wrong. I still had Cookie Monster in a bunch of classes (math, Chinese, art, sports, etc.), but I dropped all the stuff I wasn’t personally teaching except going through Sagebooks and Singapore math.

I had lofty ideas of Cookie Monster watching science videos and playing logic puzzles, etc. But that didn’t turn out to be the case. I’m sure if I cared more about enforcing things and having more regimented days/schedules, we could have kept things up. But I didn’t care enough.

IMG_44184) Choice is important. Especially at the beginning.

I would have Cookie Monster choose from a wall of pictures of tasks (he can’t read so I took pictures of his subjects and activities) that he had to finish by the end of the day. He really enjoyed the sense of control he had over what we were doing. Of course, he would choose the things he liked first, but as long as he did everything by the end of the day, I didn’t care what order he did things.

5) Cookie Monster is motivated by unfinished tasks. He really, really wants to “finish” things – be it moving all the pictures from the “To Do” side to the “Done” side, or finishing a math workbook. He is his mother’s son!

6) Although we no longer do the Picture To Do list since we dropped so many other things and he got a better sense of how things worked, it was very helpful at the beginning to both physically represent a To Do List, as well as have him physically move the pictures from the “To Do” side to the “Done” side.

As a result, abstract concepts of open tasks became concrete.

7) Schedules are helpful, but accounting for every second drives me insane.

I prefer loose schedules. I like having some scaffolding (Cookie Monster and Gamera’s  classes) around which I can structure my day. But I do not enjoy scheduling what I’m supposed to be doing every free minute. That makes me feel trapped and stuck and rebellious.

I want to be able to go on a playdate with my friends even though we’re supposed to be working on math this morning. Or go on a sticker factory tour because unexpectedly, we have the day off from classes and our friends can go, too.

Schedules are made for me. I am not made for the schedule.

8) Practical life skills are empowering.

I don’t know why I waited so long to teach/force Cookie Monster to do certain tasks for himself. Quite possibly it’s because he is the first child. But I now know I could have taught him even at Glow Worm’s age because Glow Worm has picked up many of those practical life skills I only just now taught Cookie Monster (and by default, Gamera).

Some examples of life skills Cookie Monster and Gamera, and to a lesser extent, Glow Worm, have learned how to:

– Pour their own glasses of water/milk
– Get their own snacks
– Dress themselves
– Use the EpiPen Jr and AuviQ on both themselves and someone else (Cookie Monster and Glow Worm have serious food allergies)
– Buckle themselves in their car seats
– “Tie” their own shoelaces (I replaced their shoelaces with LockLaces affiliate link)
– Wipe their own bottoms after pooping
– Soap themselves when showering/bathing
– Lotion and clothe themselves after bathing

Now, several of these items required I rearrange our kitchen pantries and drawers so that kitchen utensils and snacks were at their level and in containers they could open or lift. But that was a small task for the freedom I now have.

9) I am mean.

I mean, we knew that already. But holy shit, I am mean.

There were times Hapa Papa would be staring at me from across the room with his mouth agape in complete, utter disbelief that I would get SO angry if Cookie Monster couldn’t master a new concept quickly enough. I would scream and yell and Cookie Monster would cower and cry and apologize for not getting something quickly enough.

I felt horrible.

I eventually had to take a break from helping Cookie Monster with practicing piano. We also took a break from learning how to tell time and how money works. I am pleased to say that at least as of January, I have gotten much better.

10) It helped when I finally realized that it wasn’t fair to be angry at Cookie Monster for not understanding something the first time he was exposed to a new concept. (Especially music theory, notes, time, money, and carrying numbers.) It especially wasn’t fair when the reason he didn’t understand something is because I failed to explain the concept well – or in a manner that he understood.

Once I realized that, and then realized my true frustration was at myself, I felt better. I also immediately apologized to Cookie Monster and explained that I was mad not at him, but at my inability to explain something well to him. It took some time, but he eventually felt better. I apologized for not explaining well and told him that it was okay not to know something. That new concepts take time to master. And that maybe we should take a break so that I could figure out a better way to explain things.

Often, that was all it took. The next time we covered those subjects, I would be more mindful and aware that this particular subject would be hard for me to explain.

Whew! I can’t believe that I didn’t think I had anything to say on the subject! But as usual, I am incapable of brevity. Ah well. It’s in the tagline of the blog so you can’t exactly say you weren’t warned.

Anyhow, tune in next week for my Things I Reluctantly Learned in Homeschooling for January 2016. Have a great Monday!

Parenting Myself

Sometimes, I think the lessons I teach my children are really for myself. I don’t know why I am always surprised at having to teach my children these lessons – even though I barely learned them through my own life experiences. Of course I would have to teach them to my children. How else would they learn them? I suppose I could be a dick and make them figure it out on their own – but that’s not always guaranteed. Shoot, even explicitly pointing out the obvious is not guaranteed to stick. Might as well increase my chances by being clear and direct.

Here then, are a few of the “lessons” I’ve been teaching my children (especially Cookie Monster since a lot of these lessons come up while we are homeschooling). I only wish I were half as good as following my own lessons as I am at “teaching” them.

1) By the time you’re done arguing or making excuses, you would have likely finished what you were supposed to be doing anyway. So, let’s save everyone the trouble and crazy-making and just do what you need to do already.

The other day, Cookie Monster was being a bit rebellious while homeschooling (a very rare occurrence). He kept refusing to listen and do what I asked of him. Instead of just playing a song on the piano again (10 seconds), or re-reading a sentence (2 seconds), he would argue and cry and get upset (5-10 minutes) and still be forced to play or read.

Sometimes, it wasn’t really that important and I would let it go. But other times, I would insist he do something (because practicing is important – I’ll get to this one in a second). I would remind him that the longer he took to do things and complain, the less time he would have to play Halo or watch iPad. (Hey, we’re pretty busy some days so there is limited time to rot his brain.)

Of course, that reasoning didn’t work until I told him it takes 10 seconds to play his song and then he’d be done. But instead, it’s taken him 10 minutes just because he won’t stop crying about it. He stopped in his tracks and asked me how long the song would take to play again. I repeated that it would take him less than 10 seconds and wouldn’t you know it? He played it and that was that. He could co off and do something else now.

Hopefully, that lesson sticks. (Although I doubt it. It certainly hasn’t stuck to me!)

2) It’s okay not to know how to do something. After all, if you knew how to do something already, we wouldn’t be taking a class for it!

Cookie Monster has the tendency not to try things if he doesn’t think he will be good at. It took him at least a month’s worth of private kungfu lessons before he and Gamera were willing to try the group class. Now, he loves kungfu and even got his white belt recently.

We always try to remind him that when he first started playing Halo, he couldn’t even shoot and maneuver the game at the same time. Hapa Papa had to hold and maneuver the controller while Cookie Monster hit the “shoot” buttons. Now, he’s better than Hapa Papa, knows all these neat tricks, can out shoot and react faster than Hapa Papa, talk a ton of smack, and knows everything there is to know about Halo.

3) Practicing isn’t fun but it is the only way to get better. 

I try to tell Cookie Monster and Gamera all the time that I used to be really good at piano and Chinese but because I never practiced, I forgot a lot of my Chinese and wasted a lot of my piano potential. (The perils of being a great sight reader but incredibly lazy person.)

When the kids get older, I will likely start quoting my mother who always emphasized practicing correctly because practice makes permanent. It does you no good to practice doing something incorrectly.

Side note: I’m noticing that most of these lessons for Cookie Monster come up when we are practicing piano. Who knew?

4) Use it or lose it. 

As another corollary to #3, if you don’t use something, you will forget it. That’s why we practice Chinese and piano over and over again.

I tell my kids that I used to be much better at Chinese and piano but since I didn’t use it, I forgot a lot of it. I also give examples of language all the time using either Hapa Papa or people we know. I try to hammer this lesson as much as possible (particularly in the area of losing language skills) because I want to brainwash my children early. (They need to FEAR losing Chinese, dammit!)

5) Even if you didn’t make the mess, you can still help clean up. 

After all, this is my entire life: cleaning up messes I didn’t make. Yes, I want them to not be enablers but within reason, we’re a family unit (and in life, they will be in multiple team situations) and they will not always be left to their own responsibilities. Sometimes, you have to clean up shit that ain’t yours.

6) You don’t have to like it but you still have to do it.

Again, I’m just preparing my kids for real life. I mean, this is pretty much my entire life. (This sounds unnecessarily bleak, but you know it’s true. I can’t imagine liking doing laundry or cleaning the house. But I do like the results. Clean clothes and a clean house are good things!)

It’s a hard lesson (and seems unfair) but hey, that’s being a grown up. And isn’t that who I’m ultimately raising? Future grown ups?

7) Read the instructions. Follow them. 

I cannot tell you how many times I have told Cookie Monster to stop and listen to me read the instructions first before he starts working on a page. I don’t know if it’s just because he can’t read yet or because he is almost six but it drives me insane. 

There’s something to be said for trying something your own way, but it works better after you’ve mastered some basics first. Plus, life is full of tests where you fail because he answered the wrong question or didn’t read the instructions right. No need to fail due to carelessness. 

8) Slow down. 

This goes hand in hand with #7. Often, Cookie Monster gets stuff he knows incorrect because he went too fast and either wasn’t reading carefully or completely made something up. 

I know he zooms ahead because he is impatient and smart and thinks he knows everything. And sometimes he is right. But more often than not, he is wrong. 

Usually, I give him a not so gentle reminder (because I am fully exasperated by this time), and when he finally does slow down, he fares much better. 

Honestly, I thought I had a few more than eight but I’m okay with it. I’m sure I’ll remember more right after this post hits all my friends. But then again, even if I only remember these eight lessons (and only taught my children these eight), that wouldn’t be a bad thing, right? They are all worth knowing and knowing well.

What lessons are you teaching your kids that you find are timely reminders for yourself as well? Let me know in the comments.

Embracing My Inner RBF and Other Lessons at Type-A Con

Welp, I’m back from Type-A Con in Atlanta and I have mostly recovered from lack of sleep (although, I’m screwing myself over again by staying up way too late tonight). I had a good time and really enjoyed having quality conversations with friends – especially my lovely roommates, Lizz and Jacqueline.

Anyhow, here are a few of my thoughts from the weekend:

1) I’ve always known that my face hurts (specifically, my jaw) at conferences (or any type of networking thing) due to a lot of smiling and generally trying to look friendly and inviting. This weekend, I finally made a connection. My jaw hurts because I normally do not smile all the time. In fact, I probably don’t smile a lot while I go about my day unless I mean it as an honest reaction.

Why, then, did I feel compelled to be super-smiley all weekend?

I mean, I know why.

Women are constantly told to smile and seem friendly and approachable. In fact, so much so that telling women to smile more is considered a form of street harassment. But you know what? Men aren’t told to smile all the time and when I finally figured what I had been doing this weekend, I told myself to stop.

Yes. I actually had to remind myself to stop smiling while at a conference – even in the midst of meeting and connecting with new people.

It felt weird.

But, hey. Men don’t smile all the time and are still considered friendly and approachable, so fuck societal gender expectations.

I decided to embrace my inner Resting Bitch Face.

2) Even though I am an extrovert, I need alone time. Rather, I need time away from “smiling” and large rooms full of people I don’t know. I want to say that I am pretty good at inserting myself into conversations and joining groups, as well as starting conversations with strangers. However, I still find it draining unless I am having a conversation with people I know a bit better.

I was surprised at how often I retreated into my hotel room, opting for the peace and quiet of my hotel room vs the wheelings and dealings of the conference.

3) I really do not enjoy loud parties.

I mean, I knew I didn’t enjoy the clubbing/bar scene because it’s not conducive to actual conversation, but it’s been so long since I’ve gone to a dance party (except, I suppose, since the last Type-A) that I forgot. Well, since there are so many parties at Type-A, I had ample opportunities to remember.

Give me a good conversation any day!

4) I missed my children.

I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing myself when I am away from the kids, but since I had just gone to a girls’ weekend to San Diego three weeks ago, leaving again so soon for Type-A was much more difficult than I anticipated.

In the future, I will have to remember this and not schedule events too close together.

5) I am ambitious but afraid.

It sounds so cliché but alas, it is so.

These conferences spark so many awesome ideas in my mind, but then I’m terrified of doing anything or pursuing any of them for fear that I will fuck it all up. And I don’t even mean that I will fail (although that does worry me). I am more afraid of committing to or trying something but then having my inner lazy/mediocre person come out and abandon the idea because hey, life happens.

It reminds me of my senior year at UCLA when I got one of the lead roles in a musical. I ended up turning it down because I somehow convinced myself that God wanted me to spend more time ministering to people on my floor. I “heard” it while doing listening prayer. But truthfully? I think what I heard were my fears about being one of the leads and being unable to memorize all my lines.

I do not quite know what to do with this information about myself.

It’s one thing to know and admit this to myself, but another thing to apply it to my life. Does that mean I should try everything that I think about to prove to myself I am no longer afraid? (Or at least, I could be terrified but am pushing through it?)

I really don’t know.

This point could be its own post, but I am tired so I will likely just talk to Dr. T about it and procrastinate posting about it.

Those are the main lessons I learned about myself. As I recapped stuff to Hapa Papa, I also realized that this past year has been one of major self-discovery. I’ll write a post about that, too. But until then, have a great day! (I’m finally off to sleep.)