Guest Post: Raising a Toddler by Chrissy Lyons

Guest Post: Raising a Toddler by Chrissy Lyons

Hi there. I’m Chrissy from www.lyonessandcub.com. Today, I’ll tell you about how I am raising a toddler. My Lyons Cub. He’ll be four in two months, so toddlerdom lies behind us now, and I congratulate myself on my preschooler.

All of you who have toddlers will know them—the terrible 2’s and even 3’s. I once had the faintest hope it would get better at the age of three, but no such luck… I had the chillest baby you could possibly imagine: Leander was so laid back; he hardly ever cried (maybe he didn’t have the strength, because he was born a preemie with IUGR, weighing only 3 lbs and spending the first three weeks of his life in the NICU). He didn’t suffer from colic or reflux, slept through the night most of the time, was friendly towards strangers, and smiled and giggled a lot. My friends told me back then that the sweetest babies make the wildest toddlers. They would be right…

Picky Eaters: Baking with Your Toddler to Stimulate Their Appetite

My son needed fortified breast milk to gain extra calories. So, I became an exclusive pumper, feeding him every three hours, including at night, for the first year of his life. This was tough, but we made it (and I rewarded myself with beautiful breast milk jewelry). I even used a pumping app to keep track of my daily output and his daily input. When my son turned five months old, we started with baby food. From the mom forums and blogs I was on, I heard about baby-led weaning and wanted to try it. However, my son mostly just smashed his food and played with it on his high chair. He seemed to enjoy the sensory play, but he also gagged and spat out a lot. So, I often wondered how much really went into his tummy. He gained a little weight, though, and reached the normal growth when he was nine months old.

Eventually, he developed into a picky eater, still loving his milk (we used Holle goat milk after he was one year of age). He preferred fruit and rice puffs to meat and veggies. I soon noticed when he was allowed to help prepare the food, he seemed hungrier and more eager to eat. Specifically, he liked to bake brownies, cookies, and cake. Although it was quite messy, I baked with my toddler whenever I got a chance. We used the floor to have a large space where he couldn’t fall or drop anything (no worries, I cleaned thoroughly before and after!). I remember the fun he had when he baked a Very Hungry Caterpillar cake with a mold I had found at ALDI’s. For Christmas, we build a gingerbread house every year, which is my German family’s tradition. He can hardly wait to pluck the candy off it!

Montessori Education: Child-Centered with Freedom of Choice

Although it was quite expensive, I chose Montessori education for my son. When he was 18 months old, he joined Amare Montessori. The children had “directresses” (you don’t call them “teachers” in Montessori language) who helped him help himself. That means he dressed himself proudly (and sometimes came home wearing his pants back to the front and his shoes on the wrong feet), harvested his own tomatoes, and prepared his own salad. The children flourish in a prepared environment with child-sized shelves full of beautiful Montessori materials they could choose from freely to satisfy their inner teacher. They also had a big garden to grow flowers and vegetables, with outdoor musical instruments hanging on a wooden fence, sticks for building tents, and mud kitchens.

Being outside in nature is emphasized strongly in Montessori education. Some kindergartens even have animals, so the children learn to care for them and cherish them (my son got to experience and to feed his aunt’s chickens). His little tasks were called “work.: Every day I received a short, written report with successes like, “he did the banana cutting work today,” or “he did the orange peeling work.” One day, I read, chuckling, “Leander painted a lot today, including himself.” That was true! I had a “Blue Boy” like the one from Picasso when I went to pick him up. He became very self-efficient as a consequence of this educational philosophy. However, the downside turned out to be that he doesn’t like my explaining and showing things to him; he wants to explore them by himself and doesn’t listen. We are still working on “following directions.”  

Since I had become widowed unexpectedly during the year I was pregnant after our IVF journey, I needed a nanny to have support with my baby while I was working full time. Luckily, I found a great nanny through care.com, who was on board with me to raise Leander the Montessori Way. Her husband helped me build a Montessori house bed for my son, and I got a Pikler triangle, arch, and ramp from Etsy. Initially behind with gross and fine motor skills and needing Early Intervention, my son developed into a fast, sportive, strong boy who loves hiking through the forest and going swimming.

Outdoor Activities for Extremely Active Toddlers

This leads me to the next point—what to do with overactive, never tired toddlers, who seem to have everlasting energy? This is one tired mommy!! (Well, I have as excuse that I am “AMA,” or “advanced maternal age” or a “geriatric mom,” meaning a mommy over 35.) My son is now high maintenance, as he needs constant entertainment. When we are inside, we often play the piano, as I educate my son with classical music (his late daddy was a professional pianist and composer). He also loves to build with LEGOs and Duplos and to create elaborate race tracks for his battery-powered cars.

As nice as it is to play indoors with playdough, clay, marble runs, etc., he cannot stay cooped up for long. He gets cabin fever. I am a little hyperactive myself. The best thing for us is to get out of our four walls, breathe fresh air, run around on a green meadow, and play in the park. We are lucky to have great parks in our neighborhood. One has awesome climbing animals to explore with children, as well as a training parcours (developed for seniors, but enjoyed by the kids of the area) with lots of exercisers like a huge outdoor gym. We spent many summer afternoons there with grandma.  

One of the highlights for my son is the animal park, where he gets to pet and feed alpacas, deer, goats, sheep, and watch otters, porcupines, seagulls, owls, and plenty of other animals. There are vending machines for pelleted animal food, because the visitors are not allowed to bring their own food. My son has lots of fun letting the goats and sheep eat the pellets of his hand. There are educational boards everywhere that talk about the animals, what they eat, how they live, what sounds they make, and other curiosities. When it gets too much for my son, he enjoys the big playground with the tire swings and the climbing tower.  

We also have a zoo close by, where Leander got to admire pelicans, deer pigs, elephants, a brown bear, macaws, penguins, seals, etc. At home, we read up on those animals and answer his questions. We also watch them on YouTube, so he can learn more about them.

Bilingual Education

My son was born in Clarksville, TN. We moved to Germany in 2020 due to the pandemic, to be close to my relatives. If you are a mixed family like ours, use this wonderful opportunity to raise your child bilingually. It will be beneficial to him/her in school and later in the job market. My son speaks German and English, and for an almost four-year-old, he has a great vocabulary and sentence structure. I spoke German to him from the beginning, and his nanny and the directresses and kids in kindergarten spoke English, of course.

Additionally, we read a lot of books together. Reading to your child is so important! Every evening, he goes to bed with one German and one English book. His favorite books at the moment are those that deal with hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes, or the solar system, and he also likes The Pout-Pout Fish series, Der Grüffelo (The Gruffalo), Wo die wilden Kerle wohnen (Where the Wild Things Are), Der Tag, an dem Louis gefressen wurde (The Day Louis Got Eaten), and Peter und der Wolf (Peter and the Wolf). Grandma speaks only German. We Skyped with her almost daily, so he got used to talking to her in German even before he met her in person. He grows up with songs and games in both languages. If you feel inclined to learn German from a toddler, check Leander out saying, “Stoffel stolpert über einen Stein.” That’s a tongue twister. Good luck!!!

Learn about Christian Missions in Your Homeschool

Learn about Christian Missions in Your Homeschool

Disclaimer: I received this product for free and was compensated for my time. My opinions are honest and true to my personal experience with this product.

Modern Day Missionaries

I was thrilled to discover Growing Up Wild by Wild Brothers Productions. This Christian missions focused curriculum shows the daily life of the Wild family. Mom, Dad, and four brothers (Morgan, Hudson, Kian, and Asher) live in the remote jungle of Papua, Indonesia with the hope of spreading the Gospel. We spend a lot of time learning about different counties and cultures around the world in our homeschool. I want my children to have a vast knowledge of God’s creation. You can read more about our goal of having a world view in our homeschool here.

The Curriculum

Growing Up Wild consists on five DVDs and Activity CDs. Each DVD contains 3 episodes of various aspects of daily life living deep in the jungle of Papua. We learned how the Wild family built their circular home, gather water, harness solar energy, and so much more! The narrator then offers several activity suggestions to connect your learner to the life of a missionary living in a remote area. Each episode speaks to the wonder of God and encourages learners to go out an explore God’s creation for themselves. I really appreciated all the activity suggestions to connect the life of the Wild family to our family living here in America. Sometimes it is hard for children to visualize people living differently from themselves. Growing Up Wild does a great job to overcoming this challenge. Also, my own children really enjoyed seeing the life of another homeschool family.

Mama Wild holding baby in Papua

Why Learn About Christian Missions

I fundamentally believe it is of utmost importance to expose children to people and places that are different than their every day norm. Furthermore, when we are exposed to people and places whom we consider “other,” we automatically fall in love with the entirety of God’s creation. Both people and places. Therefore, we can’t help but become Kingdom focused when we take this approach. I love how the Growing Up Wild curriculum brings these morals right into my own living room. Furthermore, children seeing others actively spreading the Gospel empowers them to do the same. This curriculum does a wonderful job of showing day to day life of being involved with christian missions. However, I do with the family went into even more detail on the specifics of their work.

Wild family engaged in a family Bible reading in their circular home.

Seeing Christian missions through the work of the Wild family has blessed and enriched our family and homeschool. Additionally, I hope their story encourages you and your children as well. Please click on any link in this post to learn more about Growing Up Wild and the Wild Brothers Productions.

Homeschool Room Tour

Homeschool Room Tour

Intentionally Well: Living on Purpose with Purpose Every Day

We are very lucky to have a dedicated homeschool room in our house. We converted a downstairs office to a space strictly for learning. Today, I wanted to give you a little tour of this room. Here’s the thing, I don’t live my life for social media. You’re not going to see the perfect Pinterest or Instagram space. However you will see a space that is practical and perfectly functional for our family.

I love having a separate space for our homeschool room. My children do their school work all over the house, often working on math in the living room for example. But, it’s nice to compartmentalize a little bit. I like walking out of the homeschool room at the end of the school day and closing the door to my teacher self.

Let Me Show You Around

I love our big table that has room for all of us. My kids sit here to do art or listen to me teach if I am using our white board. I love these wall filing shelves. I like to keep lots of colorful paper here for easy creative access. There is also a little turn table storage container to store our crayons, markers, and glue. Then, of course, we have a. bulletin board to hang up their creations.

I recently bought this cube storage shelf for my girls to store their textbooks. Last year, we used plastic storage boxes stacked under the table, but we moved a toy box upstairs to make room for this shelf. I really think it is going to work beautifully. Each school aged child gets a cubby. The baskets on the bottom will store our read-a-loud books, headphones, charging cords, and other miscellaneous things we use often.

My favorite thing that I have added is this little fidget station on top of the shelf. My children love to have something little to play with throughout the day, and I have already caught them playing at this station throughout the day.

On the opposite side of the room is this comfy chair that I love. I sit here often and read while my children are working independently. I love how it is positioned next to the windows. This rug is another favorite of mine. It provides a lot of texture and warmth to the space without being scratchy. The little wooden rocking chair is a favorite of my middle child. It actually belonged to my dad when he was a little boy, so it is extra special.

A you see, I don’t have rows of bookshelves. Honestly, I don’t have the room. This is both a good and a bad thing. Good because I have to really consider space when deciding how many books to buy. Bad because I have to consider space when deciding what books to buy. Ha! It is so easy to fall into the “give me all the books!” mindset when homeschooling. There are so many good ones! But in our homeschool room, I really only have these two long shelves for extra storage. They came with our house when we purchased it three years ago. Here is where I keep all my teacher manuals, flash cards, inflatable globe (seriously, don’t spend money on a real globe that takes up lots of space), and manipulatives for my preschooler. I also keep the spines for our social studies curriculum on these shelves.

There You Go

I hope you enjoyed this homeschool room tour. I hope this encourages you to use your space intentionally without feeling the pressure to make it look perfectly Pinterest approved. You do you, bestie. Create a space that is functional for your family and real life.

Torchlight and Having a World View

Torchlight and Having a World View

Teaching my children to have a world view has always been a priority to me. When we first decided to homeschool back in January of 2020, I did what any mom would do. I joined as many local homeschool Facebook groups as I could, so that I could learn all the things from other moms who were actually doing the things. It was in one of these groups where I first heard about the curriculum I want to talk to you about today. It’s called Torchlight, and it is our social studies and geography curriculum. Guys, I love this thing so much. It’s my favorite thing we do, and I am learning just as much as the kids are some weeks. What’s that? You’ve never heard of Torchlight? I’m not surprised. It seems to be a newer curriculum, that is also secular. Let me tell you about it.

Teaching from a World View Point

Torchlight is in the Charlotte Mason lane. You learn through books. The author (a homeschooling mom!) grew up reading with a flashlight (torchlight) under the covers every night after she was supposed to be asleep. Her heart is for kids to love books. This is what first peeked my interest. I want my kids to love reading. Up until earlier this year, books have kind of been take it or leave it for them. That broke my heart, because I love reading, and I want my kids to also love reading. The next thing that got me really excited about this curriculum was that it covered everything except math and language arts. That meant I could use the same level for both of my children, even though they are two grades apart. Torchlight covers literature, science, geography, cultural studies, and art. We are nine weeks into using the curriculum and have decided to not use the science aspect, but that is only because my kids had some specific unit studies they wanted to do (more on that later).

Geography and Culture

Let’s talk about the geography and cultural studies aspect of this curriculum, because that is what sealed the deal for me. When looking at other curricula, I honestly found a lot of them to be very ethnocentric and white washed. I don’t mean that to sound harsh, but it is just a fact. And let me be clear, I do not judge anyone for choosing a different program for their kids. Seriously. We all have our own priorities, and different things are important to different people. This is something that is important to our family. It is important to us that our kids realize that we live in a great big world with billions of people who all live and believe differently. For example, when we learned about the formation of Central Park in New York, we also learned about Seneca Village. Have you ever heard of it? I definitely hadn’t. When we learned about Nepal and Bangladesh, we read a story about a little girl who worked and saved all her money to buy an oil lamp for her home, because her family didn’t have electricity. Furthermore, if you are wanting to ad a Christian perspective, you can check out this resource.

Choosing Your Own Pace

I chose to do Level K with my kindergartener and second grader. Torchlight tends to run older in its themes and books, so this is a really great fit. I can scale things up and down as needed for each child very easily. For Level K, we learn about a different country or small group of countries each week. Last week, we learned about Congo (DRC), Zimbabwe, and Zambia. We read various books about the country and its people. We also do an art project and read a piece of literature, usually an early chapter book. It has been so.much.fun.! Next year we will start learning ancient history with Level 1. I really like the idea of teaching to have a world view, then diving into the actual history of the world.

The fact that Torchlight is a secular curriculum is a nonissue for us. Before homeschooling, our kids were enrolled in public school where they were receiving a secular education. We are also doing our own Bible routine, which you can read about here: https://intentionallywell.org/2020/08/12/our-bible-curriculum/

Sending My Child to Preschool

Sending My Child to Preschool

I will be sending my child to preschool. But wait a minute….Didn’t I just write a whole post about our decision to homeschool? Yes. Yes, I did. We are homeschooling are kindergartener and second grader. However, we decided that our almost three year old will still attend his preschool this year. He will be going to school two mornings a week starting mid-August.

What Led to This Decision?

There was a lot that went into this decision, and it wasn’t easy given the current state of the world. Some of the reasons I’m sending my child to preschool are acknowledging that what’s best for one child in our family might not be the best choice for another child. And that is okay. Our preschooler needs consistent opportunities to be around a group of peers. He needs to learn that he can have fun with other people rather than just mommy and daddy and sisters. He needs some more practice in following rules in a more structured environment like a classroom. Are you catching a theme? We really feel that the social skills he will gain in preschool this year will be a huge benefit for him. Teaching those types of social skills at home can be really difficult (although, definitely not impossible). He also has a minor speech delay. We are confident that preschool will continue to propel his speech forward. And lastly, he LOVES his preschool. He loves circle time and singing songs and dancing and all the things. He thrived last year in his little class, and I have no doubt he will do the same this year.

Dealing with Doubt

Now, what about the Big C? The Corona? This is where I am just going to have to trust and rely on God. I have His peace right now. If something changes, then we can always reevaluate. The school is putting procedures in place to keep staff and the kids safe, without being too over the top. Kids will still be able to be kids. Our family has already had Covid19. And even though the whole immunity situation is still a big question mark, we are confident that if/when we are exposed again, that our bodies will know how to fight the virus.

We’re All Just Doing Our Best

There are no easy or clear answers for anything these days. We are all doing the best we can with the information we have. And that is okay. Our kids are going to be okay. Mama, your kids are going to be okay! What is best for us this year might not be what we choose for the following year. Just like everyone else, we will take things day by day, week by week, and month by month. Tell me more about how your kids will do school this year. Are all of your kids on the same path? Or are different kids doing different things? Do you have peace about your decisions?

Our Decision to Homeschool

Our Decision to Homeschool

We have made the decision to homeschool our children. Like every other family in America, school is going to look different for us this year. However, our switch to homeschooling was not a reaction to the Coronavirus. Homeschooling has been on and off our hearts since forever. When we lived in the south, I had many friends who homeschooled (how many times do you think I will type this world out in this post? haha!). I was so intrigued by it. But my oldest is an extrovert, and I felt like our personalities clashed often when I would try to teach her things or switch to “school mode” at home. So, I doubted myself. I doubted my ability, even though I taught preschool before kids.

But Then Things Changed

Fast forward a couple of years, and our kids were thriving in their preschools. They were learning, having fun, and I was enjoying those few hours of separation (having littles is tough, guys). Every time homeschooling started to creep back into my mind, I would push it out with all these positives. Then came Kindergarten for my oldest. I was dreading it. It was SUCH a long day, and I knew a lot of that time was filler. She wouldn’t get home until about 4:00 and would be utterly exhausted. And that’s exactly what happened. I really felt like the long school day was stealing our family time. Because my husband works in ministry, our weekends are often busy. Homeschooling, again, started to weigh on me, but I put a pin in it.

Then came first grade. We loved her teacher, but the school wasn’t meeting some specific needs my child had. When I would bring this up (over and over again), I was met with a lot of explanations but also a lot of resistance. My middle was in pre-k, and the thought of her having to deal with the long day of public school kindergarten made my brain hurt. And so in January of 2020, we once and for all decided that public school was not working for our family. We knew then that we would be homeschooling the following year. We told the kids our decision (they were so excited!), and I started dabbling in researching homeschool methods and curriculums (curricula?).

The World Came Crashing Down

And then the world as we knew it came crashing down. When schools closed in March of 2020, my oldest was sent assignments to do at home, and she would upload her work for her teacher to see. It was here that I got a really good sense of how she was being taught, and I was like no wonder! Neither of us had much fun with this e-learning. It was a chore. I had already ordered some homeschool materials, so we withdrew our oldest 2 kids from their perspective schools and started our homeschool journey right then and there.

It was so great! Even with having to take breaks as I recovered from Covid, the kids really learned a lot. Best of all, we saw them grow closer as siblings and have FUN with school. We did school until the end of May and took a break in June to enjoy the summer. It was really nice to have those weeks to slowly ease into what homeschool would look like for our family.

Looking Ahead

The week after the Forth of July, we officially started our new homeschool year. I have a second grader, a Kindergartener, and a toddler (who will still attend preschool two mornings a week). We are about three weeks in, and so far so good….I think. Just kidding! It’s good. We are learning new rhythms and routines. Learning to give and receive grace. Learning when to push through and when to take it slow. Learning how to balance all the things and not feel stressed or overwhelmed. I’ve loved all of it. I love seeing my kids learn new things and know that I was a part of that.

School is going to be different for everyone this year. Some families are making the decision to homeschool, some are choosing virtual school, some are choosing in person school (as much as the districts will allow). There are no easy or clear answers for any of us. I am here for you. I support you. I’m actually going to be sending my youngest to preschool! What works for our family might not work for your family, and that’s ok! Share with me what you and your family will be doing this fall in the comments.