Sunday, 2 June 2013

The Great Lego Debate

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This morning, Tully and I started the day with The Great Lego Debate. Do you empty the entire bucket onto the floor (Tully's preference) or do you fish around in the bucket for the piece you're after? (my preference)
It wasn't a very nice way to start the day. The kind of start where I end up saying he can't leave his room till it's all tidy and go drink my coffee on the back verandah, while he wails in his bedroom that he can't do it on his own.
While overlooking my garden, I started to wonder if this was just going to end up one of those horrible days where I have to follow through with what I've said, even though I didn't put that much thought into it, and he spends the whole day trying to get out of it. It made me wonder what I actually wanted him to learn, and us to achieve together.

The last two weeks I've been doing Rachel from Stitched in Color's Homeschool Handmade course. We plan to start homeschooling 'officially' in the new year. Aside from clarifying what style of homeschool I wanted to create (a decision that has overwhelmed me for sometime), I've found it so helpful to think through my goals for our home. Can I share them with you?

Order: Not in the strict boarding school sense, but in the peaceful rhythm sense. I want to make some (flexible) decisions now about our weekly rhythms so I'm not making little decisions all day, every day.

Shared Family Responsibilities: I've mostly tried to include my kids in the running of our home, but now I want them to know we all contribute to keeping it going. Tully is now Vacuum Boy, a super hero who wears a Buzz Lightyear costume and vacuums the lounge room floor each morning. A finished activity gets tidied up before the next one begins, except for special projects that are going over a period of time.

Free time: I've often felt a quiet, nagging sense of guilt about how much time I spend intentionally with my kids. It's not that I spend no time. It's just that I hadn't defined or examined my expectations, so I always suspected I was failing. A couple of days ago when the kids snuck away from the dining room table to eat their lunch together on the trampoline, I realised (again) what a treasure it is that they get on so well together and play so independently. I wondered if it was actually my job to let them create these special moments, rather than always feeling like I should set it up for them. It confirmed for me that I don't want to take Tully away from this 30 hours a week, and that I didn't want our days packed out with activity.

Holistic learning: It's important to me that my kids learn skills, and not just information. I want us to be learning together how to approach tasks we don't really want to do, how to take responsibility for our actions, how to treat each other, and ourselves, with respect and kindness. And I want to make time for creativity and things we love.

So with this in mind, I went back into Tully's room and pulled him up on my lap. We talked about how I didn't want him to empty the lego everywhere anymore. We talked about how he might find it easier to create on a tidy floor than one covered mess. Then I told him I still wanted him to tidy up the lego, that our days are full of things we don't really want to do, but we can find ways to motivate ourselves to do them. I asked him what would make him feel more like tiding up. He suggested listening to Brooke Fraser (one of our favourite 'tidy up' albums) might help. I suggested thinking up something he wanted to do after that would help him get excited about finishing. We talked about breaking up the mess into sections and doing one at a time. And then he decided to race against the music, trying to have it all tidy before the second song finished.
An hour and a half of fuss and turmoil, was all cleared up by a breather, a 10 minute conversation and 5 minutes of happy tidying.

I am so thankful for this journey we're on. One where I know I'm just learning too, where we can learn and grow together, where we can bear patiently with each other in our different stages.

Rachel's Homeschool.handmade is still available as a private blog till the end of June. If you're considering homeschooling, and want to think through your family's goals, personalities and needs, and read others' reflections too, I really recommend it.



  1. Its always a difficult thing deciding on exactly what your boundaries are with children. You have to constantly reassess as they grow. My boys are now 20 and 17 and it seems to have worked now that I'm almost out the other end. I found sometimes I had to stop myself saying 'No'automatically and stop and think 'Why not'. Then at least I knew I had a valid No and that if necessary I could share that with them. Sometimes the answer ended up being 'Yes' instead and everyone was happy! You're on the right track with getting children to understand life isn't just about what we want do but also about what we have to do. When you start young you find you'll have less issues as they get older, particularly in the teenage years. Just wanted to say I think you're on the right track and keep going!

  2. Jodi, I just loved hearing about the way you dealt with this! I can so relate to that feeling of a situation getting more and more overwrought and wishing I had thought through my request/consequences harder before opening my mouth. I found this so helpful and hopeful. Thanks!

  3. Thank you for this post, it's nice to hear another point of view on how to handle things. My oldest son is at the stage where one thing gets pulled out after another and he fights to not pick anything up! I'm going to try the race to the music and see how it goes :)

  4. But Jodi! The Lego, c'mon! Of course they have to be poured out on the floor (I speak from my own experience!) the piece you need is always missing or hiding at the bottom. The trick is you pour the Legos out on a sheet so they can then be easily picked back up and poured into their original container. :-) :-)

    1. This is exactly what I was going to suggest! When I was a kid, we had a mountain of Legos (I have three brothers) and picking them up used to result in tears every time. Until my mom figured out that it's far easier to play with them on a blanket, then pick the corners and pour them back into the bucket when we finished! :)

    2. Aha! Thank you! I have seen this, of course, but didn't think of it yesterday. I think that's a very good compromise. (though still not my preference! ;) )

  5. I am with you and Bec, sometimes in my frustration I forget to think through my words before I say them and it so quickly gets out of hand, especially with my Sensitive little miss. She doesn't respond well to loud voices or threats and I know that deep down but when she is having a hissy fit sometimes she pulls me into having one too (not really the mature adult response I know). I learn so much from you and Bec about the mum I want to grow up to be and the ways I can be that person more and more each day & for that I am so grateful.
    Thanks for sharing :)

  6. I really resonate with this: "I've often felt a quiet, nagging sense of guilt about how much time I spend intentionally with my kids. It's not that I spend no time. It's just that I hadn't defined or examined my expectations, so I always suspected I was failing." I've also felt a bit of that guilt, since as a product-oriented working mom, I can get on the work train and not want off. I appreciate your reminder to set expectations. We are one month into summer break. The last week there's been a lot of sibling bickering. These things go in waves, but today was so different. I did some "school" with Liam - just a bit of Explode the Code until he wanted to stop, while Aria did the same of her own accord. I think that starting out day with focused time together helped both of them feel more loved by me and filled and able to go on and be kind together, playing without me as is good and right. Anyways, like you said, thinking about my expectations for myself during summer is a first step. I don't like having "nothing" planned to do with them all day.

  7. There is Lego everywhere at our house too. I tip it out onto flat plastic lids so it can be easily looked through and moved, is easy to pack up and is then not lost and vacuumed up. Going through full vacuum bags is no fun at all. I like your idea of thinking of something fun to do next after the tidying up. I'll have to try it.

  8. I was a teacher for nine years before I had my girls. Parents used to tell me how amazing I was with kids, and my administrators always loved how respectful, happy, and well mannered my students were in my classroom atmosphere. And then God gave me these three little stubborn, opinionated, fireballs...and suddenly I don't know the first thing about raising children. Seriously, I thought I had a head start on this whole parenting thing with all that experience under my belt. Now I look back and I can't believe how naive I was about the whole thing. I'm learning, learning, learning every day how to love and help my girls grow. It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, but I know it's the most important thing too.

    I'm homeschooling my girls but using a structured dvd program -- A Beka. It's not for everyone, but it works for us and I've been able to adapt things here and there as needed, especially for my middle daughter. Biggest thing to remember: no one knows your kids and their needs like you do, so do what's best for YOUR family.


I so love your comments! I read all of them and reply when I can. If you don't hear back, I'm lost under a mound of scraps or outside jumping on the trampoline with the kids. Jodi. xx