Wednesday, July 17, 2019

That's so Montessori: Preparing your house the Montessori way

That's so Montessori: Preparing your house the Montessori Way
As a Montessori trained teacher, I notice things that are "so Montessori" in my every day environment. 

I was a Montessori parent even before I knew what that meant. I'll break down what that looks like in detail in later posts, but for today, I'll give you a little overview of what it means to bring Montessori into your house.

You'll find that it's likely not much different than what you are doing now. The difference is intentionality when setting up a Montessori environment at home. After all, the primary principles of Montessori theory are "follow the child" and "the prepared environment." 

Seems simple enough, right?

The conscious component of creating a Montessori environment at home is about making sure you are providing real life opportunities for your children to practice specific skills. For example, if your child is interested in learning how to use tools, your first thought might be to go and buy a plastic toy tool set or a child-specific set of tools. In Montessori, you skip this and jump right to the real thing -- real nails, a real hammer, and real wood. You show your child how to safely use the tools (sometimes reinforcing safety over and over), and then you give them space to practice. When the activity is over, you don't tuck the materials and tools away in some out of reach place, but rather, you make them available and you ensure that your child -- who know knows how to safely use the tools and materials -- can hammer something in the future.

Another way to look at this concept is to think about learning to cook spaghetti. You don't get out a plastic pot and plastic food to do so. While toy food and toy pots and pans (we have a toy kitchen in our house!) can be fun, they aren't really preparing your children for the real life tasks of actually cooking food. You may be worried about your child burning or cutting themselves or totally screwing up in some way, but in reality, you are teaching them the skills to avoid such problems. Once you've shown them how to safely and properly use their tools (a knife, a stove or oven, etc), you can monitor their progress and help them practice their new skills. 

Sometimes, you have to rein in the chaos and start over when showing your children a new skill.

Sometimes, you have to abort the lesson or plans and say, "We'll try again another day." 

But, you never fully take the reigns completely and take over the task as your own.

You don't learn math by someone else calculating every problem for you, and the same is true of most lessons your children should and will learn. So, how will your kids learn life skills if they aren't allowed to try and allowed to occasionally fail? 

I understand that teaching many life skills can be time consuming and messy, and we can often easily do these tasks faster and much more efficiently ourselves. But, that's not the point. The point is teaching your children the skills they need to be successful in life. In Montessori theory, this is called "Practical Life".

I've allowed my own children to use real knives since they were old enough to sit at the kitchen table with us. Neither thinks of knives as toys or weapons as a result because they've been taught to use them properly and know exactly the purpose of these tools. In fact, today, my son said that he was hungry and got up and made his own quesadilla on the stove. All I had to do was check on him and make sure he had the stove at the right setting, but otherwise I was totally hands off. 

This was my son's rodeo, not mine.

I used to be afraid that my son would burn himself on the stove, but I have also taught him well and I know he is also smart enough to know when a pan is hot and to not put his hand on it. Does that mean we've been totally without little incidents here and there? No, of course not, because these are skills learned through trial and error. 

I'm not a free range parent by any means, but I am also a realist and want my children to be able to learn and grow and to be able to things independently.
If you aren't comfortable with your kids using a stove, never fear! You can still prepare areas of your kitchen where your kids can prepare food for themselves using real kitchen tools and materials. For example, peanut butter (or other "butter") and jelly sandwiches are great starter items! Make sure the ingredients are all in close proximity to one another and within reach of your children and then let them go for it (after you've shown them or guided them through the steps, of course!). 

Really, these principles can be applied to any task anywhere in your house. The keys are to make sure the tools and materials necessary are in reach, preferably grouped together, and that you've given your kids some basic instruction in safely handling the items and completing the tasks at hand.

I have also shown my children how to start the bathtub, where to find towels, and what the bathroom should look like after their baths are done. Now, when they are ready for a bath, I can say, "OK! You know what to do!" I still help wash hair and to pour in fancy bubbles and so on, but overall, they know what to do for themselves! 

Of course, it is important to make sure tasks are age and maturity level appropriate. For example, while her older brother is able to handle the stove, I would not let my six year old daughter make her own quesadilla. That said, she's much better at putting together a snack tray than her brother. He's too timid to take bigger risks, but my daughter will gladly wield a hammer or a saw by herself and go at a construction project!

You know your child best and what they are capable of. 

So, you see none of this is really rocket science, but rather common sense and knowing your children's abilities and maturity levels. And, it's about intentionally providing opportunities and materials for your children to learn to do tasks for themselves.

I'll break down how to set up your house room-by-room with Montessori principles in later posts and also share some my favorite Practical Life jobs that I utilize in my classroom and home year round. 

For now though, I challenge you to set up at least one task that your child can do completely on their own. It could be a small cooking job, laundry, watering the plants, or anything else that fits or that they seem interested in. 

Leave a comment and let us know what tasks your kids do at home and how you support them in growing and learning independently!

Saturday, June 29, 2019

End of the Year Wrap Up: A Teacher's Perspective

End of the Year Wrap Up: A Teacher's Perspective
As I write this, we have 8 days of school left in our year (although it'll be summer break by the time you read this).

We began our year by counting the days we've been in session, and it's somehow morphed over to the ultimate countdown to summer. I look at this dwindling number with both excitement and pangs of sadness. My time with these little students--my charges for the school year--is almost up.

Since I teach at a Montessori school, there is a high probability that over half of my class will return to my care next year, but the 3rd graders will not. They'll be moving on to the world of Upper Elementary where there are no more birthday circles, homework is abundant, and independence is the key to success.

As I write this, I'm taking a break from filling out report cards. It is exciting to see the measurable data in student progress. Looking at beginning, middle, and end of the year test scores can sure make me crack a smile! However, the things that you can't measure--and no one else can really see--are the most valuable to me. Too bad it's the least important data for a report card.

Report cards don't capture how many hugs we gave (and received) this year, how many times a student stopped what they were doing to help a friend, who participated in class discussions or the several times we completely got derailed in order to stop and appreciate each other.

I value the academic accomplishments and am so proud of my students, but I really want to highlight some of the biggest milestones we had this year.

At lunch one day, one of my most reserved students felt safe enough to respectfully advocate her perspective on adopting animals. She did it in such a mature and kind manner that I was completely taken aback. I emailed her mom to let her know how proud I was of this young girl.

I also had a student who is so shy that he hardly ever speaks in group settings. He has gained some confidence this year, but I was completely blown away when he nailed his solo part in our class play! He sang his little heart out on stage. I was teary eyed watching him and again while writing this.

I have a little first grade boy who demonstrated to the class what grace looks like during a puzzle contest in which he challenged me. He's an expert puzzle master (but so am I) and all year he's asked if we can do a "puzzle challenge." With 20 minutes on the clock, we both frantically scrambled to put a 100 piece puzzle together in the classroom in front of our biggest fans (my other students). He's good enough that I couldn't let my guard down and I ended up winning (barely). Instead of sulking, he stood up and gave me a high five and said, "Ms. McKenzie, thank you for doing that with me." His reaction speaks volumes for his character.

Report cards also don't measure the fact that this year one of our classmates passed away. It doesn't show the compassion these kids were capable of, the tears that were shed, and the projects that were sprung into action to memorialize a good friend. It doesn't show that we lost instruction time because we were too sad and confused to go on. Or that I now have a huge stack of books about the loss of a child and my class has every one of them memorized. 

Report cards don't show that their little hearts had to go through so much.

They don't show the times that I asked students to just pitch in and help me get things done and the little sleeves that rolled up instantly. They don't show the coffee that was delivered, the lunch that was shared or the times that we all belly laughed together.

My favorite memory of this year happened right after we returned from winter break. Our classmate passed away while we were on break, and I was distracted and foggy one day and stood in the lunch line holding up 3 fingers instead of our usual 2 finger peace sign. One student said, "What are you doing Ms. McKenzie?"

I immediately snapped to it and felt myself getting embarrassed and turning red. They must have noticed because they all sprung into action saying, "That's OK, Ms. McKenzie! It just means extreme peace." I looked around and all 23 little hands were proudly holding up 3 fingers to save my pride. I started crying, of course, and proudly displayed my 3 finger peace sign the rest of the way to the lunch room.

To this day you'll find my class holding up 3 fingers instead of 2, 99-percent of the time. It's a special memory that only this particular class will ever really understand. I know that five years from now, if we run into each other in the halls and hold up 3 fingers it will be like our own little secret language.

So, while I value data and understand the importance of assessments, I also value life experiences just as much. While I'm writing report cards and inputing numbers, I'm also reviewing our year together. If your student didn't get the highest points on a math assessment or isn't reading at the desired level, remember that doesn't mean your child isn't successful. I can guarantee that your child's teacher can rattle off a hundred special memories from their year together that would demonstrate what type of person your children are much more effectively than any data driven report card can.

So my little birds are getting ready to fly the nest.

I'll send them on their way and wait for some of them to return to me next year. For those that won't, I'll check on them (secretly of course) and wait for the opportunity to hold up 3 fingers next time I see them in the hall.

How did the year finish up for your kids? What are you looking forward to for summer and next school year? Leave a comment and let us know!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

End of the Year Class Performance....Tips and Fails

How to FAIL at hosting a class play
For many, the end of the school year is fast approaching, and mine is no different! As my school is getting ready to wrap up the year there are so many festivities going on! We've already had Spring Break, an art festival, and a Mother's Day celebration. So, why not add more to the chaos? 

My class is performing an end of year play.

That's right, a play. At the very end of the school year. As things are more chaotic than ever.

I knew it was coming, so I ordered the play ahead of time. I researched all of the options and finally settled on "Character Matters." I chose this play because it includes fairy tale characters that my students will know and also seemed to fit the age group that I teach.

I had grand plans for how this play would go off. We would read it through a few times and the the students would go home and memorize their lines and we'd only have to do a formal rehearsal the week before the play.

Nothing could go wrong, right? I mean, I had a plan in place!

Part of our play backdrop.
Let me just tell you how wrong I was!

Not only did I not account for the fact that not all of my first graders can read, but I also didn't expect my more outgoing students to be so shy when it came to performing on stage. 

Before you ask why some of my first graders can't read -- I teach at Montessori school where reading expectations and pedagogy are slightly (sometimes dramatically) different than in your standard elementary school system. This includes reading. And, my class is actually a first, second, third grade combined class!

We ended up reading the play at least 5 times before we even settled on parts. Then we had to buddy up poor readers with strong readers. Once we had decided on roles and began to practice I saw how little I had accounted for regarding the actual "acting" part of putting on a play.

So, we got down to basics.

We practiced facial expressions, how to make big movements, how to walk on a stage and what a microphone is.

After spending several days of acting lessons, we were ready for our first play practice.

I use the word "practice" loosely because what it really looked like was a bunch of cats 

running around the stage, bumping into each other, screaming into a microphone, and yelling at each other for forgetting lines.

Back to basics we go.

My teaching assistant took time out of her already busy schedule to practice with students in groups and help them to feel more comfortable speaking, singing, and acting on stage. We perfected their skills in small groups. By now, surely, they were ready for the big stage!

Nope, nevermind.

This time students decided that they would add their own lines (without even saying their actual lines) and it became a free for all on stage.

I tend to be pretty easy going with many things, but when my class's on. I'm a perfectionist when we do something collectively, and you should have seen my face.

Four weeks of practice and we're still running around like caffeinated crazies, sometimes standing too far away from the microphone and sometimes putting the whole thing in our mouths.

After some stern warnings and more practicing the basics we decided to try one more time on the big stage.

This time we invited some audience members hoping that would give some extra motivation.

My students got up on stage and sang their little hearts out, acted like professionals, and nailed their lines.

The mishap this time? Totally my fault. I decided to save money and buy only the physical music cd to go with our play and, of course, it started skipping -- I guess that's what happens when you play a CD over and over approximately 2 million times ,but it happened at the worst possible moment! 

Luckily, Bad Wolf Press (where I purchased the play) is amazing and I was able to purchase and download the digital version right away. 

Lesson learned -- buy both the digital and physical copy of your play music!

We're now one week out from our big performance. I've gone from seriously regretting my decision to take this class play on to I can't wait for parents to see it! I know the kids will be amazing and the parents will be thrilled!

Two dress rehearsals this week, lines all memorized, costumes in order, and our backdrop is made! We'll be sharing pictures on Instagram after the play -- the kids haven't seen it yet and it's a big surprise!

All in all, I'd definitely do a class play again, but in this situation, the teacher became a student too. I learned that acting is not intuitive and I could have saved myself time and anguish by starting our play preparations with basic lessons on acting, composure, and expectations.

More of the play backdrop.
Our final performance is this Thursday, and I can't wait to see the parents faces when they see their little ones belt out a solo or nail their lines. I know I'm going to cry too -- I always do when I see my students succeed after working hard.

So after about 500 hours of play practice, 100 hours of acting lessons and many "reminders" we're finally ready for our big day!

I think this is a great way to end our year on a positive note and it definitely taught my students (and myself) that when you work hard you can conquer your fears and be successful!

What are your experiences with class plays and end of year projects? Drop us a comment and let us know!

Big City, Small Chickens – BOOK REVIEW: City Chickens by Christine Heppermann

Big City, Small Chickens – BOOK REVIEW: City Chickens by Christine Heppermann
Please note: This book review is cross posted at Caffeinated While Reading.

Title: City Chickens
Author: Christine Heppermann
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Year published: 2012
ISBN: 978-0-547-51830-5
Genre: non-fiction; children’s literature; agriculture; lifestyle

Cluck, cluck, cluck!!!! That’s the sound of the lady chickens in that urban backyard you just walked past.
Wait, what? Chickens in the city?

YES! Urban chickens and urban homesteading are becoming more and more common, but that doesn’t mean life is always clucks and feathers for chickens. City Chickens by Christine Heppermann is all about the plight of many chickens in urban areas, but more specifically in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She traces the story of a husband and wife in the city who have devoted their lives to rescuing chickens (among other animals) and finding them new homes.

The book is part biography, part fun and informative story, and part social awareness. 

This is a great, but very honest and real, look at what happens to many chickens and how their lives are improved by kind rescuers. I highly encourage you to read this book with your kids or in your classroom, but be forewarned that there are a couple of disturbing photos of chickens who have been used in cockfighting and who are kept in chicken cages. These disturbing situations are described as well, but not in too much detail, in order to bring awareness to how chickens are abused and how they should be treated instead. The book is mostly about how great chickens are and how fun they can be to keep and care for when rescued and taken care of properly. 

In addition to profiling the owners of Chicken Run Rescue in Minneapolis, the author also profiles a adolescent Abigail and her rescued chicken, Billiam, as well as other chickens and their rescuers. I think young readers in particular will like that there is a profile of a young person and that other children are also featured in the book. The very back of the book also offers a list of resources for learning more about chickens, including how to include lessons about chickens and life cycles without hatching chicks in the classroom – a large reason why many chicks are abandoned. 

City Chickens also talks about keeping chickens healthy and some of the health problems that abandoned chicks often suffer. The author notes that if you keep urban chickens, it is important to find a veterinarian that is able to provide proper chicken care which may not always be easy to find in an urban area. 

I loved this little book, and I think you should pick it up to read with your kids or in your classroom. My son and I are planning our own little homestead and urban oasis (we’re moving from the country back to the city!) and want to raise chickens for their eggs, as pets, and also as insect control in our garden (all of which are noted as options in City Chickens), so I headed to the library to find books about chickens. Most of what I was found was far beyond what I was looking for which brought me to the children’s section and City Chickens

As with many of the books I review, I found City Chickens Christine Heppermann at my local library. However, you can also find it on Amazon HERE.

Do you raise chickens? Have your kids participated in chicken hatching projects at school? Drop a comment and let us know!
Please note: Links may be affiliate links. We may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you for any purchases you make through such links. Thank you!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Three Ways to Manage Holiday (or any day) Stress

Mom2MomEd Blog: 3 Ways to Manage Holiday Stress
The holidays are fast approaching, and already I'm starting to feel holiday specific stress creep into my daily life.

How about you?

My to-do list is growing.
My budget is straining.
Old family tensions are, sadly, rearing their ugly heads.
Travel plans need to be finalized.
Gifts need to be bought.

I truly love winter and the associated holidays, but I also find this time of year to be trying and stressful. This year, I'm trying something new. I'm using three methods to help control my stress levels going into Thanksgiving and Christmas.

1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Lately, I've been tired. Exhausted even. And, the more tired I feel, the more stressed out I get. It occurred to me recently that I'm not drinking enough water. I pound back coffee all day, but hardly ever reach for a glass of H2O.

Last week, I started making it a point to begin my day with a tall glass of plain water, to have another at midday, and yet another while I'm preparing dinner. I may not necessarily hit the daily recommended 6 to 8 glass per day, but I'm getting a lot more than I had been.

And, I'm feeling a big difference! When I'm hydrated, I have more energy. When I have more energy, I can get more done. And, when I can get more done, I'm a lot less stressed!

2. Stretch!
Along with not being well hydrated, I've also felt tight in my shoulders and joints. That tightness gets worse as I get stressed out which in turn increases my stress and then increases the tightness. It's a vicious cycle.

So, after I drink my big glass of morning water, I stretch. I just do a few simple moves--reaching to the floor, stretching overhead, flexing my feet and hands, and stretching and rolling my neck. It takes hardly any time at all, and it makes me feel so much better!

A good stretch at bedtime--or when I feel stressed or tired--also helps me to sleep better, and sleep is essential!

3. Manage my sleep habits
You can't function well without enough sleep and lack of sleep directly impacts your stress levels! When I'm tired, I'm cranky. I'm stressed. I'm frazzled. Everything seems so much harder! I've been working on my sleep habits for a long time, and a few specific bedtime habits are starting to stick and I've noticed the payoffs with better quality, deeper sleep. That, in turn, has led to more energy and a better attitude during the day.

The biggest game changers for my sleep habits include:
  • Using an eye mask
  • Using light blocking curtains
  • Putting my phone across the room
  • Using an air filtration system next to my bed
The eye mask and light blocking curtains have helped to create a cocoon like feel in my bedroom and allow me to limit bits of light that I might not be fully aware of but that keep me from sleeping deeply regardless.

And, we all know what a sleep-drain having your phone near the bed can be!

The air filter provides both cleaner air and a steady, noise canceling hum.

These habits are particularly important for managing my stress during the holidays, but they also are useful all year long.

What habits help you to manage your holiday stress levels? Any tips you've found to be tried and true? Or, what have you tried that has been an utter failure?

Here are some of the products I like best for improving my hydration, for stretching, and for getting a better night's sleep:

If you buy the air filter, you can get replacement filters on a subscription basis from Amazon! It's so easy to just set up the subscription schedule and forget about it. No need to remember to replace the filters or put it on your calendar since they are delivered directly to your door on a schedule you choose. Because I have three dogs and a cat, I change my filters every other month, but if you have no pets, you could replace yours far less frequently.

This post includes affiliate links. Purchases made through these links may result in a small commission to us at no extra cost to you.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

A teachers perspective on safety drills

Mom2MomEd: A Teacher's Perspective on Safety Drills
Back to school is upon us and a lot of parents are worried about safety -- there have been far too many school shootings (one is too many) in recent years, and thus safety concerns are very real.

When I was a kid, we worried about a rabid dog, a swarm of bees, possibly a homeless person wandering onto campus.

We heard the fire drill, and happily marched to our assigned spots on the blacktop.
We stood quietly until all was clear and then returned to our classrooms without a second thought. It doesn't matter how I feel about guns...these shootings are happening now and they're not going to go away tonight. 

As a teacher, I typically know when our drills are going to occur. I mentally plan how to work our day around the time it will take for us to line up, walk out, and then return to class. Only we don't get straight to work. No way--I teach Kindergarten! My students need to process. After a drill, they are loud, so very loud. Drills are out of the norm, so far out of the norm. 

We have a process. We line up, I grab my safety vest, walkie-talkie and class binder. Someone grabs the class turtle. Yes, we plan to rescue our turtle! We walk quickly to the blacktop and face the trees. I quickly count the children and then hold up my green binder as a sign that we're all here. Then, we wait. Sometimes, the drill is over quickly, and sometimes it takes a bit longer. When the drill is over, we about-face and return to class.

I hear a lot of questions:
"Ms. McKenzie was that a drill?"
"Is there a fire?"
"How come you didn't tell us there was a drill?"

I answer the questions the best that I can, and I talk about why we need to practice--it's important to know what to do in case we ever have a real emergency.

Yet...sometimes we don't have fire drills. 

Sometimes we have lock down drills.

These can be to prevent smoke and other airborne toxins from coming into our classroom. We lock our doors, close our blinds, and carefully place rugs in the gaps under our doors. Then, we wait, quietly going about business as usual. 

It's confusing. Why are we doing this?

We talk about it and we process. We come up with reasons why this is important. We laugh that we have to whisper, and sometimes we just sit close to each other and wait.

Other times, we practice for an active shooter. The kids don't know this, of course, but I do. 

During these drills, we lock our doors, close our blinds, push tables and chairs in front of our doors. 

Then, all 26 of us cram into two itty-bitty kindergarten bathrooms that smell like pee. I tell my students not to talk--these are 5, 6, and 7 year olds. Not talking while smashed together in a tiny space? Yeah right! 

I stand in front of them. There is nothing more powerful than a mama protecting her cubs, and for eight hours a day these are my cubs.

I am ready.

Then, we process. 
They are in Kindergarten. 
They don't need to know exactly why we are doing this.

My young charges understand that bad things happen, but they don't need to worry about this happening to them.

Every once in a while, a child will chime in and say, "My mom told me people shoot kids in schools."

My heart sinks. Yes, kids have been shot in schools. I'm wracking my brain about how to talk about this. I refuse to lie, but I'm not also willing to tell the truth. Ugh, I pull things out of my hat, like, "Remember how we practice for fires? Well we also need to make sure we know what to do if someone who doesn't belong on our campus tries to come to our class."

Did it tell them enough to answer their questions, but not enough to scare them?

I spend the rest of the work time watching them.

Is there anyone who seems emotional? Scared? Maybe needs a hug? Do I need to do another processing session to make sure that they are all OK? How can I make this better for them?

As a parent, I know you send your child every day to school, hoping they are safe and well cared for. I know you don't want to picture your child standing in a bathroom with 24 other students not making a sound. It's really a awful thing to have to do. But, we do it. We do it not because we think it's fun to scare kids and make them do uncomfortable things. 

We do it because knowing what to do gives them a fighting chance.
Because we know that if they are all together in one space we can better protect them.
Because, unfortunately, we have too.

Rest assured parents...when your child is practicing these drills that no one wants to have, in front of them stands a teacher. A teacher who will protect those kids like they are their own. A teacher who in his/her mind is thinking, "I dare you to try to come in here."

A teacher who cares.

I've heard some mumbling among my friends and fellow parents lately about concerns about these drills. Some have suggested space age type pods that keep children safe, jugs of rocks to throw at intruders, and so on. Please don't assume that we want to do this. Teachers aren't the enemy. Honestly I'm not really even sure what is. I just know that my job is to keep these kids safe and I'm going to do it in any way possible. If that helps you sleep even a tiny bit better at night, you're welcome.

How do you talk to your kids about these types of safety drills? Do other teachers have tips on how to address children's concerns? How do you ensure that everyone feels safe?

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Keeping the Balance: Parenting and Teaching

Keeping the Balance: Parenting and Teaching
Whoa, life has sure been flying by fast! 

It's been a while since our last post.

Guess what? We're still here! We're not dead. At least not yet. 

It's the end of the school year, almost summer, and the weather has warmed up in the Northern Hemisphere. I've been spring cleaning, reorganizing, and trying to catch up on all of the things I've been procrastinating.

I've also been drinking too much coffee, eating too many sweets, and staying up way too late. Can you relate? Anyone?

Parents know how crazy the end of the school year is with kids. Teachers understand how crazy the end of the school year is with wrapping it all up and sending their students off with hopes for success.

But, what happens when you are a teacher and a parent? Well, you pretty much go straight into auto-pilot, pack some seriously crappy lunches the last few weeks of school, eat too many convenience foods, and let your kids stay up a little too late just to avoid the battle. Your kids may or may not take baths on a regular basis.

Your students will never know the crazy you feel.

You go into work each day with a smile on your face, and you say, "Good Morning."  You show patience and love all day long. You respond to calls of "Ms. McKenzie!" as lovingly as possible. You try to cram in a bunch of memories that you want to make before you send these little guys off onto their own into the world of "big kid" classes. You stay late in your classroom because you want it just so for the next day. You send emails to parents late at night because you want them to know you are available and care. You print worksheets out on your own printer because you can't stop thinking about the one student that just needs a little more time.

You drive home, and you are exhausted. You've been patient and kind and loving all day. Your own kids are the ones who get the tired mommy. The "I'm out of patience. Just please, go clean your room" mommy.  The "I can't do another art project or I may poke my eye out with a paintbrush" mommy.

It sucks.

How do you do both and do both well? 
How do I make sure my own kids get the best of me too? 

I'm only in my second year back to work after staying home with my kids. I often miss the days of staying in our pj's and doing art, going for nature walks, holding hands, snuggling, and cooking together. I had to remind myself this weekend that those days are gone whether I work or not. My kids are both in school all day. I can't keep them home to myself any longer. While the days of no where to be are gone, the days of big kids are here. 

Those days are pretty darn cool. 

My kids can now pour themselves a glass of milk, make their own beds, get a snack, turn on the TV, and do a million other things that only big kids can do. They still love to snuggle, read with me, cook with me, and go for walks. Only now, they get it. I can tell them that I'm tired or need a minute and they get it. They don't just take from me anymore, they now give too. They rub my feet for me; my daughter brushes my hair and brings me a glass of water. They're big kids, and they are pretty darn cool. 

Honestly, I've been really emotional this week with the year ending. My daughter starts Kindergarten next year, and my son will be in second grade. 

Wasn't it just yesterday that I was writing about the stress of finding the right Kindergarten?

I also have 24 more little hearts that I love like my own. I have to say goodbye to them in just two short weeks. I worry about them just like I worry about my kids. Did I teach them enough? Did they feel safe and loved today? Did they have enough to eat at lunch? Am I giving them my best and showing them how to give theirs?

Did I do enough?

Is it ever enough? Aren't we always second guessing ourselves? Isn't that a sign of a self reflective parent and teacher? I don't really know. I do know that I love my job as a mommy, and I love my job as a teacher, and I'm doing my best to make sure all of the children in my life know that they are loved and cherished. So, I'm going to say that just may be good enough.

Our pencils are tiny.
Our erasers are flat.
Our glue is all empty.
Our folders are fat.
Our crayons are all broken.
Our rugs are rolled neat.
Memories last forever.
Our year is complete!

Moms who are also teachers can you relate to any of this? Do you have any tips for other working moms on how to feel like you're giving your best to your family and your students?
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