Thursday, March 24, 2011


A few conversations and emails I've had lately got me thinking I should write up this post. 
(Just a cute randome picture of my kiddos...that TOTALLY shows their personalities.)

I was chatting a month or so ago with my friend Lisa.  (Lisa has a new blog at Lily and Oak, but we were real-life friends in we lived within a block or two of each other for somewhere around 5 years and hung out all the time.)  Her oldest is about 2 years older than Firecracker, and being two years behind in the parenting department, I've been super impressed with the things Lisa did to get her son reading.  She had researched different early reading and preschool materials, and she helped organize a weekly preschool co-op.   Lisa is one of those friends who always seems to know the best place to go to get the best deal for everything, so when I wanted to start doing early reading things with Firecracker, I went to her for a list of recommendations...among them BOB books and Happy Phonics, both of which we've loved.  Fast forward 5 years to now.  While chatting online with Lisa about the upcoming Read-Along, she told me she'd never really felt successful at getting her oldest to read, and he hadn't REALLY caught on to reading until he got an amazing first grade teacher.

I'll be honest...I was REALLY surprised...shocked almost.  Not because it had taken a while for her son to really get good at reading, but because we'd hung out face-to-face almost everyday...for years...and I hadn't realized it was such a struggle with her son.  Maybe I'm just a terrible friend and listener...but I don't think I'm that bad.

So what this brings me to is that things aren't always what they appear, and we tend to compare ourselves to someone else's best.  If Lisa and I hung out everyday and I still didn't have a clear perspective of the struggles she had teaching her son to's even harder to have a clear perspective of someone else's life you only know through a blog.  I'm not saying that blogs are fake, just that you have to take them for what they are.  For the most part, you see the best of my parenting, teaching, pre-schooling, crafting, creativity, etc on this blog. I tend not to post about my moments of failure (of which there are many) as a parent...not because I'm trying to hide them, but because they're not inspiring, and I like to focus on my successes to keep myself upbeat and hopefully inspire others. So while my blog is a REAL glimpse at my family, please know that it is a REAL glimpse of my family at it's BEST.

If you ever get the feeling reading my blog (or someone else's) that "I could never be like that," just remember that I'm not as good as my blog makes me sound...certainly not every minute of every day (although it would be nice.)  I'll be honest, it's actually a little embarrassing to me that people I REALLY know read my blog, because they know what I'm really like.
So in the effort to keep it real...

I've never really come up with a good name for what I do with my kids involving books. We call it "pre-school" at our house...but it's nothing like the organized preschool that many of you do in your homes, and we don't follow any particular curriculum.

ANYBODY CAN DO THIS...once in a while...sometimes!

I "do pre-school" with my kids as much or more because I enjoy it as I do because I think it's good for them.

I have ambitions to focus on particular pre-school themes for a week or two.  I think this would be great because it would give my kids a deeper understanding of a topic...but that never seems to happen because:
  1. The books come in at different times from our library.  Sometimes it takes a few weeks.
  2. I see a book that is just SO awesome that we have to do it NOW.
  3. I'm just not in the mood to do the activity I planned.
  4. I don't have the materials I need yet...and it will be a week or two or three until I go shopping.  (We live in a tiny town.)
  5. If I waited until I had all the "winter" books and supplies I needed to do a "winter" week...winter would probably be over.
  6. I have a lot of other responsibilities that don't involve books, crafts, or blogs.
Okay, if I'm not going to put together a whole week with a theme...then I have ambitions to have get our book and activity ready the night before...but I usually don't because:
  1. I'm worn out from the day.
  2. I'll do it as soon as I'm done with __________...but I'm never done.
  3. I'm busy blogging about something else.
  4. The table or whatever work surface I need is too dirty...and I'm worn out.
  5. I have NO CLUE what book I want to use for the next day, so how could I get an activity ready?!?
  6. I'm working on some craft project which is not educational in any way for my kids, but I'm having fun and don't want to stop.
  7. Did I mention I'm worn out from the day?
Okay, if I'm not going to get it ready the night before, then at least I can commit to doing a book and activity with my kids EVERYDAY...but I don't because:
  1. By the time I get the house clean enough to do an activity, the kids are fried and need to take a nap.
  2. We have too many errands to run and by the time we get home, the kids are fried and need to take a nap.
  3. I have absolutely no idea what book we should read (even though there are tons on our shelves).
  4. I'm really NOT in the mood to get the paints out.
  5. I didn't get enough sleep last night, so I'm tired.
So there you have it, I don't have themes, I almost never get ready the night before, and while I do read to my kids everyday (it's part of bedtime), we don't "do preschool" (meaning a book with activity) everyday.

I know this post is forever long...but one more thing before I leave you hanging...I got an email a while ago from a mom trained in Montessori techniques asking for Montessori advice for her 12-18 month old daughter. She'd been getting discouraged that her daughter didn't seem interested, and she loved my blog and wanted some ideas.  Okay...this was super flattering to get, but I don't know anything about Montessori.  Everything I know about teaching my kids has come from word of mouth from other moms.  We emailed back and forth a bit.  I think I may have been able to help her a little...although I'm sure my advice was not what she was expecting, and she may have been a little disappointed with it. 

I think it was great advice though...and I'll give it to you in my next post...because I really should be doing housework instead of writing this this one is already too long and you probably haven't read this far.  But if you did read this far, go ahead and leave me a comment, so I'll know how many people are actually anticipating my awesome advice.

If you're just now joining us, be sure to visit our Read-Along Archives to see the books we've already read.


  1. I read the whole thing. I enjoyed it because I have often thought the same thing. I think Satan tried to pull moms down and uses anything he can to do it, even twisting something positive (like Mom's sharing great ideas and know how) to do it. When we get up in to morning, my 3 year old watches tv while I get going (eat breakfast, read some blogs and emails, shower, etc.) For the longest time I felt bad about this guess I didn't have a reason other than I thought a "good" mom wouldn't let her kids watch TV at all, let alone first thing in the morning. I was beating myself up over an hour and half movie in the morning but not counting the hours at the park, or reading the same book for the 5th time that day, or cutting the PB&J sandwich just the way he likes it. I guess we need to remember that there isn't a "motherhood scoreboard." It's not us against me, or us against them. We are all doing the best we can and sometimes the best we can is cuddle with them on the couch with popcorn and have a movie day. (Yesterday was one of those days for us) I have decided I don't need to feel guilty for this. I'm not saying I never do, but I sure try to put it all behind me.

    Sorry for the rambling, but I have had similar conversations with my husband. I appreciate a blogger being honest of how things really are going. You do great work! I also love all the book recommendations this last month. We have gotten a lot of them from the library. Thanks again and sorry to bore you. :)

  2. I am eagerly waiting. My son is only 6 months old, but I'm trying to gather ideas for "pre-school" activities. Thanks for your blog!

  3. this post was perfect. i'm a new blogger, and going through a ton of life-changes just now both personally and as a family. but i dont really want the blog to be about constant struggle. though there is certainly a place for that. i think you do a great job of being a real person in your posts, and i'm thankful for the great ideas you've shared.
    as far as not being perfect goes... who is? and through seven kids and homeschooling and not homeschooling... the best i can say is do the absolute most you can while maintaining balance. plan some things, but be able to pull something off on the fly when you need to. don't sweat the off days, and when you're with them, be all there.

    :) glad to be getting to know you and your beautiful family,

  4. I think you're awesome even in real life. I think worrying about doing the right thing and trying your best is what a perfect mom does.

  5. Loved the post. I was supposed to be planning lessons for next week (my teaching job) but it was fun to procrastinate a bit.

  6. I read the whole post :)...and I think it's awesome that you are being real! Blogs usually make things look so perfect...nicely wrapped in a little box with ribbons on, but it really isn't like that!! I also love to only share good stuff on my blog and I LOVE to present it beautifully, but life can be very messy and disorganised...I just don't want to blog about that. As you so rightly say, that wouldn't be very inspiring!!

    As I write this I literally have two children hanging over my shoulder, so it's time to go :)


  7. Great post Polly! I think it's an excellent reminder to be inspired by each other not discouraged when we compare our worst to everyone else's best--not exactly fair to ourselves.


  8. I read all of your thoughts too and I actually think you do a fantastic job of keeping it real (Nutella, anyone?) :) My son is close in age to your Sweet Pea and being a first-time mommy I really appreciate the books and preschool activity suggestions you present because I know they've already been battle-tested with your kids. Just wanted to say thanks for all you do on your blog!

  9. Polly I love this post. It's so...true! Awhile back (before I started my own blog and realized you only blog your best) I was amazed at all the things great bloggers seemed to accomplish - not only did they do fun, great, wonderful things with their kids, but they even had time to take pictures and post in detail about them! It made me feel like a second class mom for sure.

    We certainly have our days around here. The kids fight with each other, I lose my patience, the baby eats something from the dog's food bowl (whoops), the house looks like it exploded...but the important part is to try to find the good in that or to just remember that every day is a new day to try again. And most importantly, that none of us are perfect and what works for one family, may not work for another.

    I'm totally rambling now. Just wanted to say that I can relate to what you posted and appreciate you putting it out there. :D

  10. Love you Polly, I blog the best moments in our family because those are the only moments I want to remember. When you access a memory you seem to alter it each time to some degree. (according to a neurologist I know) So when I blog I love to capture the moment with pictures, but I realized I want to include more details.

    Besides when I look back on this past month of what I did with my life who wants to remember the 7x vacuming, 32x emptying/loading the dishwasher, etc. I would rather remember the funny jokes my kids said at the dinner table or the pillow bear toss when dad came home. I blog to print a book which is the version of my life I want to remember. Sure I have a messy house most mornings, but maybe my kids won't remember it. :)

  11. So you don't plan or super-prepare your "preschool". So What! The most important thing is that you spend Time with your children. By spending Time with them they have learned they are important to you and that you love them. It is so important that children know they are loved. They will always remember that.

  12. Haha. That was a funny way to end the post. :) I can definitely relate though. :)


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