Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Calling all Moms and Women

First let me start by saying that I am not paid to endorse or promote i-mom, they do not even know who I am.  I have simply found that they are a great resource and I would like to share.

Have you heard of iMOM?  I first heard of i-mom last year at the MOPS Convention.  When I got home, I decided to check them out and I was amazed!  There are all sorts of resources on their website.  They have parenting ideas (from creative forms of discipline to chore charts - with lots of printables), they have marriage  ideas (from resolving conflict with your spouse to romantic date night ideas), they have organizational hints and tips, cooking & recipe ideas, etc.  It is called iMOM and when you are looking for ideas for your children, they have ideas for children of all ages (pre-school to teens), but with all the organization and recipes ideas, etc. it's not just for moms.

One of my favorite parts of iMOM is the Espresso Minute.  It is a short, get your day started e-mail (you can have it delivered to your inbox or you can check it out on-line).  Today's Espresso Minute was titled Top 10 Habits Your Family Needs to Break.  It really made me think.

iMOM is Christian based so the values that you see on the website are good and wholesome.  It even tells you about children's movies so you can decide before you go to the theater (no surprises).  For example:  it has a rating system on how much sex, language, violence, drugs, nudity, other might be in the movie.  If it is rated with a 1 for language, it will then have a note below giving a little more detail (ex:  childish name calling such as stupid; Holy Crap), so you know what words it uses (Holy Crap) or how words are used (name calling).  It will give you a brief synopsis of the movie and the message that it is trying to convey.  They are not trying to push their values on you, they just tell you how it is so you can make an educated decision based on your values.

If you haven't checked out iMOM before, check it out and tell me your favorite part of their website.  (If you have checked out iMOM before still let me know your favorite part.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

More on Finland's Educational System

O.k. I am having trouble getting off my soap box.  Yesterday, I talked about Finland's educational system (you can read about it here).

I know that a few years ago, we received a new principal at the elementary school where my children attended.  That new principal decided that the children would learn better if she took away one of their recesses and they had more instructional time.

I was furious.  While in theory that might look good on paper most people know...not everything that looks good on paper is good when put into practice.  At the time my oldest two boys were in first grade and Kindergarten.  My first thought is..."They are children.  Let them be children.  They grow up so fast already."  Then I tried to reason her thought process.  O.k.  I had trouble with that because I am a mother and not a principal or a teacher (however, my mother was a teacher, my brother was a teacher and several of my sisters-in-law are teachers, so I do get quite a bit of feedback from them).

So, as a mother of boys, I know that my boys have lots of energy that needs to be used up.  As a mother of boys, I did not feel that my children (especially a Kindergartner and first grader) would benefit from loosing recess time.  I think that my children would not get any more instruction from less recess and more instructional time.  They would be full of energy and would not be able to keep their focus on what the teacher was saying.  I felt this was very detrimental.  I also feel that it is unfair to the teacher to try to teach children who were not capable (due to age) of having that long of an attention span.  The teacher could get frustrated (and the children would pick up on that), my guess is that she would spend most of the instructional time trying to get children to settle down and pay attention instead of actually instructing.

Finland's school system does not start children until they are 7 years old and they have lots of play time.  Finland's schools are ranked with the most successful.  The teachers in Finland have minimal homework for students, spend less time in the classroom and fewer hours at school each day than American teachers.  It is also rare for a Finnish student to be held back.  Finland also has a large amount of immigrants (some who don't speak any Finnish) and still they are ranked among the most successful.  

Here is a quote from the Smithsonian article (read the full article here)...

"Finnish educators have a hard time understanding the United States’ fascination with standardized tests. “Americans like all these bars and graphs and colored charts,” Louhivuori teased, as he rummaged through his closet looking for past years’ results. “Looks like we did better than average two years ago,” he said after he found the reports. “It’s nonsense. We know much more about the children than these tests can tell us.”
Why can't American educators learn that these are children and not statistics.  There are more to children than their test scores.

Finland does not seem to have any advantages that the US doesn't and the US doesn't seem to have more disadvantages than Finland, so why the BIG difference in the quality of education?

Here is a quote...
...said then deputy principal Anne Roselius. “We are interested in what will become of them in life.”

Did you get that?  "We are interested in what will become of them in life."  Not how well they will score on a test this year (because my pay rate is based on my students scores this year and next year they will be another teacher's problem - not mine).  Again not blaming the teacher - it is the system, the system is what has caused this.  In all honesty, if I were a teacher I would probably do the same.  I have to feed my family, I have to keep my job and get paid at my job to feed and clothe my family.  I have to have good test scores to keep my job and get paid for my job in order to feed and clothe my family......

After war time (you should read about Finland's History) they decided...

In 1963, the Finnish Parlia-ment made the bold decision to choose public education as its best shot at economic recovery. “I call this the Big Dream of Finnish education,” said Sahlberg, whose upcoming book, Finnish Lessons, is scheduled for release in October. “It was simply the idea that every child would have a very good public school. If we want to be competitive, we need to educate everybody. It all came out of a need to survive.”...

...“We have our own motivation to succeed because we love the work,” said Louhivuori. “Our incentives come from inside.”...
...Heikkinen admits. Then he added: “But we are always looking for ways to improve.”
In other words, whatever it takes.
I love this great country that we live in.  I am proud to be an American, but we are not perfect people and we do not have a perfect system.  We need to learn and grow.  If we try something and it doesn't work, go back to the drawing board and start over.  For some reason, we just keep trying to fix big problems with little band-aids and wonder why the bleeding won't stop.

We can learn something from Finland.  I feel that children can be a nation's asset or demise.  Children are something that need to be invested in.  They are our future, but most importantly they are our children.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Reading and Education

I was at an Usborne Books At Home Open House last night.  The UBAH Consultant asked a very interesting question:  "What country's children are the best readers."  (I am paraphrasing, can't remember the exact quote.)

There were all sorts of guesses and Asian countries were mentioned several times (just a little note:  the US was not even mentioned - and since we live here, I think that is really sad).  Do you want to know what her answer was?

Drum roll please.......................


Are you surprised?  I was.  (O.k.  Did the flag give it away?)  Well, that took place last night and then this morning I ran across this article here about the success of Finland's schools.  The whole article is very interesting, but this is one of my favorite parts...

"There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town. The differences between weakest and strongest students are the smallest in the world, according to the most recent survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “Equality is the most important word in Finnish education. All political parties on the right and left agree on this,” said Olli Luukkainen, president of Finland’s powerful teachers union."

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/Why-Are-Finlands-Schools-Successful.html#ixzz20ylVUmd7

I have often thought that people try to run things that they know nothing about.  For years I wondered why government tries so hard to control education (they are politicians - they should stick to politics, educators should stick to education, etc.)  In a simplified example, would you want a non-French speaking person to teach you and/or your child French before you go on a trip to France?  Not the best idea right?  You look for someone qualified, a French teacher/instructor, a friend who lived in France for awhile and is fluent in French.  Or best yet:  a native born, lived in France his whole life, person to teach your French.  And if you can get someone who lived in the exact area that you will be visiting is even better.

Now, I will get off my soap box (because I could go on and on about it).  I just thought the article was very interesting.  The fact that I had never heard about Finland's successful school system before yesterday and in less than 12 hours I have seen/heard about it twice caught my attention and I thought was worth mentioning.

Please go to this link and read the rest of the article.  It talks about how the drop out rate is substantially lower than the US and they spend less per child on education than the US and yet still more children go on to higher learning after High School than the US.  They say that they prepare children to learn how to learn, not to take tests.  That is one MAJOR problem that I have with our school systems here.  Our teachers teach to the test (I'm not blaming the teachers because it comes from higher up, much higher up and trickles down).  It is a real pet-peeve of mine.  I cannot stand that my children are being taught to take standardized tests and are not being taught.  This is the main reason that I have considered home-schooling.

I do not currently home-school because I think there are other benefits to the school system, but those are quickly disappearing.

Finland, I salute you on your education system and what you are doing for your children!!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Winner of book give away

The winner of this book is Melanie & Josh.  Congratulations!  I will be contacting you about getting the book to you soon.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Are you a member of the GMC?


Are you a member of the GMC (Guilty Moms Club)?  Just about every mother I know is.  For some reason guilt comes with motherhood.  If your child has an ear infection, "What if I laid him down too soon after drinking his bottle and the fluid backed up in his ear canal?"  If your child falls down and scrapes his knee, "What if I had been watching him closer?"  We tend to blame ourselves (guilt) for things that we cannot control.

Another common emotion (for lack of better term) for mothers is failure.  If your child brings home a bad grade, "I didn't stress enough the importance of school and grades."  If your child gets caught in a lie, "I wasn't teaching him enough about honesty."  When our children fail, we feel that we fail.  Failure is a part of growing up, learning, etc.  Our children need to fail sometimes (they will learn from that quicker than the lessons that we teach them).  Our children's failures do NOT reflect upon us.

At our MOPS Steering Team Retreat a few weeks ago, our very wise coordinator said (and I am paraphrasing), "God is The Perfect Parent and look at how often His children fail."  Tamara, thanks so much for your words of wisdom.  That brings me comfort.

Our children are not puppets.  We cannot (and should not) control everything our children do.  We (and I am including myself in this) should relax a little and enjoy our children more (even their mistakes - it's a process).

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Morgan Freeman

"First thing that always pops into my head regarding our president is that all of the people who are setting up this barrier for him … they just conveniently forget that Barack had a mama, and she was white — very white American, Kansas, middle of America. There was no argument about who he is or what he is. America’s first black president hasn’t arisen yet. He’s not America’s first black president — he’s America’s first mixed-race president."   Morgan Freeman

Friday, July 6, 2012

My Big Bottom Blessing - Book Review and Giveaway

Note:  This give away is now closed.

My Big Bottom Blessing by Teasi Cannon is a book about body image and self-esteem.  This book starts out very strong.  It is humorous, touching, and something that most (if not all) women and girls can relate to.  We have all experienced or know someone who has experienced the feelings that Teasi Cannon talks about.

The middle of the book was a little repetitive to me.  I felt like she said the same things over (just in a different way).  However, the book has a strong and powerful ending.  I was glad I read the book.  It made me look at my physical self in a new light, God's light.

We as a society constantly compare our bodies to other women's bodies.  Bodies that the media say are beautiful (too skinny, perfectly airbrushed, etc.).  Instead of looking at how magazines say our bodies should be, we should read the Bible and see what God says our bodies should be (and let me give you a hint - they are not the same).

I feel that Teasi does a great job at trying to get women to change their focus or at least their measuring stick.  She does say that you should still be healthy (she's not saying to let yourself go and harm your health), but you don't have to be perfect or super skinny (which by the way is also unhealthy - the media won't tell you that).

This is a good read for women and girls in general.    I recommend this book to all women (or men that have women in their lives dealing with body-image issues), especially if you or someone close to you is struggling with her self-image.

Worthy Publishing was generous enough to give me a copy to give away.  So if you are interested in reading this book, leave a comment below and tell me how you think the media negatively impacts our self-image.  I will choose from one comment and that lucky person will receive a copy of Teasi's book, My Big Bottom Blessing.  You have until July 14 at midnight (CST) to enter.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Laundry Room Cleanup

I have been a crafter ever since I can remember.  I usually crafted on the kitchen table and then had to clean up to eat and then get it back out to finish the project.  If company was coming, again I had to clean up (because crafting is messy).  I always wanted a room of my own to craft in.  When we built the house I told Frank that I wanted a craft room.  We had a budget that we were trying to stick with so the only way I could get my craft room was to combine it with my laundry room.

I had a dream kitchen picked out and when I showed it to Frank, he said the house wasn't big enough for that kitchen unless...I was willing to give up my laundry/craft room.  I gave up my dream kitchen before I gave up my craft room.

It is next to the kitchen just down the hall.  It has a door that I can shut when I am working on a project so that company doesn't see the mess and I don't have to constantly put it up and get it out.  When the boys were younger I could craft while they were napping and when they woke up I could just shut the door and I didn't have to worry about them getting hurt on my crafting supplies or worry about them making a mess.

This also became a problem.  If I had unexpected company, I would throw everything in the laundry room  and shut the door - I would put it where it belonged later.    I had good intentions, but you know by the time company left it was time for me to start supper and then it's bath time and then bedtime.  Well, I was tired - I'd get to it tomorrow.   This problem got worse and worse until I just had a path to my washer and dryer (which set immediately to the left of the door).

We refinished the basement a couple of years ago so that the boys would have a place to play in bad weather.  Do they do that?  No.  It now feels like that was a waste of time.  Frank suggested that I make a crafting corner in the basement.  I have lots of cabinets in the laundry room to hold my supplies and I didn't have storage in the basement.  I did move my sewing stuff downstairs and left my other crafting supplies upstairs.  That helped with my laundry room clean up.

Well, I did not take before pictures because (in all honesty) I was embarrrassed to show you.  I worked on it for days and now I am proud and want to show you.
I don't remember the exact measurements (and Frank isn't here for me to ask) but I'm guessing it is about 
6' x 12' room.  The picture above are the cabinets to the right of the door.  That whole 12' wall has upper and lower kitchen cabinets.  With under cabinet lighting (helps to see my crafting projects better).  The counter top is perfect for folding laundry (see picture) or for crafting (see Cricut - lots of room for it).  I even have spools of ribbon that I hang under my cabinets for easy access, visibility and to keep my ribbon organized (which is hard to do with ribbon - I have mine color coordinated).

The larger cabinet (to the left of the photo) has my vacuum cleaner, carpet steamer in the lower section and more crafting supplies in the upper section.  Hanging on the door are over the door hanger organizers.  I just hang my gift sacks (that I reuse or new if I find a good sale and purchase ahead of time).

This is the same counter as the previous picture (taken from the opposite side of the room).  It is the section that is behind the door (that's where I keep my laundry baskets - so if the door is inadvertently left open company doesn't see my dirty laundry).  On the back of the door I have a hanger for rolls of wrapping paper, cross-stitch fabric, etc.

This is my washer and dryer (in case you couldn't tell) to the left of the door.  There is a little nook where they sit.  The nook was created by the closet in my boys' room on the opposite side of the wall.  To the right of my dryer I stack my broom and mops.  The cabinets above the washer and dryer are for cleaning supplies (and a few crafting supplies too).

Same space from a different angle (from the door), now you can see the mops and broom.  In the lower right corner you can see the pet food containers that I talked about in a previous post.

This is a close up of my ribbon storage (the left side of my cabinets, just above my Cricut).

This is more of my ribbon storage (the right side of my cabinets, just above the laundry baskets).
I used self-adhesive velcro to attach the measuring tape.  I can hold up ribbon or fabric and measure it where it is or I can take it down if necessary.

That was a tour of my crafting space.  Where do you craft?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pet food containers

I have had opened bags of pet food (dog, cat and chicken) sitting in the corner of my kitchen.  I didn't know what to do with them, don't have cabinet space to store them in and it was convenient (just sitting by the door).

After I cleaned up my laundry/craft room, Frank said that I had plenty of space to put the pet food bags there.  (I guess it was bothering him, but he was such a sweetie he never said anything until then.)

Since I had just cleaned that room, I didn't want to start cluttering it up again and opened bags of pet food looked like clutter.

I went to Dollar General and bought 3 medium sized trashcans (with lids).  Used my Cricut to label the trashcans, I used navy blue vinyl and cut out the letters then put them on the trashcans (white trashcans w/ navy blue lids were all they had in the size that I needed).

I am pleased with how they turned out.  I think now it wouldn't look so bad in the kitchen corner, but I did put them in the laundry/craft room (hope it makes hubby happy).  I wish I could have gotten different colors to match my laundry/craft room.  I could probably buy spray paint for plastic and change it, but I was not up to that kind of project at this point (after cleaning the room for several days I just wanted things back in order as soon as possible - that may (or may not) be a project for another day).
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