Social/Emotional Well-Being

Facing Your Fears

I thought he was a stuffed animal.

But then I reached out to pet him and he moved, sending me hollering!

I was three years old and my mom had walked in the door with a tiny, black puppy- my worst fear at the time.

She purchased the puppy to help me overcome my fear and Wesley (yes, named after the character in The Princess Bride) lived a long, happy life.

Fast-forward a few decades and I came to learn not only was I allergic to dogs but at least one of my daughters was, too. We haven’t owned a pet as a result and it’s obvious in the way my girls respond to animals: fear.

I really wanted my girls to experience both the joy and responsibility of pet ownership. Owning a pet is a wonderful learning opportunity for empathy. It can hardly be substituted so I started researching pets that might fit our family. After months of consideration and a few trips to our local farm, we decided on a Holland Lop rabbit and welcomed Oreo to our family in late May.

At first the Littles would never leave him be while my eldest, also the most fearful, kept her distance. Over time, however, the Littles have learned that animals, like us, have feelings and needs and that gentle handling is imperative. But perhaps the greatest outcome of pet ownership has been the developing relationship between our eldest and Oreo.

This child who has never had an affinity towards an animal of any kind adores our bunny rabbit, Oreo, and he, her. She will sit in place petting him for twenty minutes or longer, something she did not risk attempting the entire first month he lived with us.

Aurora has many fears but facing this fear and surviving it will only help her to recognize that, ultimately, she is capable of overcoming. That she is in control of her feelings and emotions, not vice versa.

Couldn’t we all benefit from this lesson? For months I have feared even the word “homeschool”. Afraid for my sanity, afraid for my kids’ happiness, afraid of the stigma, afraid of failure. What I have discovered, though, is that my biggest fear actually resided in the decision itself. Once I had made the decision (likewise, once Aurora knew the bunny wasn’t going anywhere) I settled in and focused on taking the next, small step.

There is uncertainty in the unknown. Too often, I find myself wanting to know it all before I’ve had the chance to live through it. The prospect is daunting but what if we didn’t let that stop us? What if, instead, we dove in and discovered reservoirs of knowledge and strength we knew not possible? What if instead of focusing on the bad, we allowed ourselves to revel in the possibility of the good?

If only we could give ourselves the permission to face our fears, perhaps we’d all find an Oreo happy ending like Aurora did. The prospect is just too good to not give it a shot :).


I Caught You!

As a previous elementary school teacher and mother of four children, I am no stranger to misbehavior or cries for attention. My third-born has been testing my patience for the last 20 months. I have lost my cool with her more times than I care to count and attempted multiple methods to help her to not only learn how to reign in her outbursts but also to prevent them from happening in the first place. Here are some of the methods we have used to help:

The Gift of Time

I instituted one-on-one mommy/daddy/daughter dates. Each month our girls opened an envelope with a destination/activity inside they could choose to do solo with either mommy or daughter. As a family with four children, this allowed our daughters to have that precious one-on-one time with a parent of their choice. Bonus: they got a double date with mommy and daddy during the month of their birthday!

Homemade Photo Books

From thunderstorms to going-to-school jitters to daily routines and even overcoming a fear of dogs, I have created homemade photo book with each of my girls. It’s very simple to do:

  • Print photos of you, your child/and/or subject material (i.e. school building, dogs, etc.)
  • Get 4 or 5 pieces of paper- light colors can make it more inviting
  • Sit down with your child to write the book together, making it up as you go! Allow them to decorate so they feel they are a part of the book
  • Read and reread the book together. You will find this becomes one of their favorites because they get to see themselves in a book!

I Caught You Making a Good Choice!

I’ve tried the three strikes and you lose your treat method but only because I was desperate and exhausted. It never felt good to induce fear in my children so I decided to go for the positive reinforcement route. My second-born came home with a new pair of frozen jammies that my third-born dripped with envy for. I capitalized on her life-dependent need for those jammies and created a sticker chart for her. Every time I caught her either making a good choice (sharing) or taking deep breaths to breathe her anger out rather than lashing out with her fists or her voice, she receives a sticker. Once she fills the chart, she gets those jammies! She has since earned more stickers than this picture and I have to admit that the pride she feels when I “catch her”, is worth 1,000 Elsa jammies!

Side note: I was careful of my verbiage- instead of “I caught you being good” which assumes she is otherwise bad (let’s be real- her behavior is at times, ATROCIOUS) I used the phrase “I caught you making a good choice!”. Her behavior choices are frequently bad- but it doesn’t mean she is 🙂

Here’s to hoping a combination of these three things help!


Moving Beyond the Page

Chances are, if you are a parent of school-aged children, you have been faced with some tough decisions concerning what to do with your children this coming school year.

I struggled and found myself unhappy with all of the options: virtual learning, in-person learning during a pandemic, or homeschooling. For me, it came down to picking the least worst option using the resources I have available.

Full disclosure: before deciding to stay home to raise my first born, I had received my Masters in Elementary Education and taught fourth grade for Virginia Beach City Public Schools, so this isn’t my first experience with teaching.

Also, I have the privilege of being a stay-at-home-mom, whereas others are working full-time and trying to figure out how in the world to manage a job while simultaneously educating their children.

Ultimately, I decided to homeschool because it was the one option that I felt I had control over, versus being at the mercy of our government/school district’s decisions. Homeschooling provided my children with the most normal, consistent school year, given the constraints of the pandemic.

Before coming to my decision, I spent weeks joining national and local homeschooling Facebook groups and researching the literally thousands of curriculum options available.

My intent is for my children to return to public school once (Lord willing) life goes back to normal (starting to wonder if that is ever actually going to happen . . . ) so I wanted to select a curriculum that aligned with state standards.

I also am a mother to a 2, 4, 6, and 8 year-old and don’t have a lot of extra time nor the desire to piece together a lot of different programs. I wanted something that was all-inclusive for my first year. A program that said, “Here. Do this.”

I found that in the program Moving Beyond the Page. It is a literature-based curriculum that covers language arts, social studies, science and math. I purchased ages 4-5 for my daughter in Pre-k, ages 5-7 for my rising 1st grader and ages 7-9 for my rising 3rd grader. The cost of the program initially gave me pause but when I stopped to consider all of the things we won’t be doing this coming year (ballet, gym membership, live shows), I realized it all comes out in the wash.

The program includes hands-on projects of which they send you all the materials you need down to the number of cotton balls in particular units for the 4-5 age. I LOVE this- that I don’t have to go searching around for a bunch of random materials; instead, everything is already organized and labeled by unit so that I can just grab and teach!

Once I shared the news to my daughters that we would be home for the 2020-2021 school year, I shared the examples and videos of the curriculum that we would be using. They were so excited the day the curriculum arrived, meeting the UPS driver in the driveway!

Once we had the materials, it was time to get them organized. Out with the couch and in with the giant super desk! I wrote about the transformation of our homeschooling space here if you’d like to check it out!

I will continue to share our experience with Moving Beyond the Page throughout the year so make sure to click the “follow” button to add your email for our updates!


Welcome to our Homeschool Space!

It has taken a couple months of researching, dreaming and building, but we are finally finished with our homeschooling space!

This playroom used to house a couch and a bookshelf (that I found 6 years ago on Craiglist for $200 and spent 22 hours painting it white!) containing all of our board games.

I knew I wanted to have all of our materials organized in one space so that I wouldn’t have to go running through the house to find this and that to complete an assignment. By moving the board games, it provided a large open space that I could fill with necessary materials.

Next up, the workspace. I give all of the glory to Erica Arndt of Confessions of a Homeschooler who graciously shared her IKEA “super-desk” idea on her blog, going so far as to provide a Room Tour. After a few measurements and negotiations with my husband I was off to IKEA to purchase the materials:

My husband purchased four brackets from Home Depot to secure the two tabletops together.

And voila! I filled the game room space with bins of materials for each of the three grades (Pre-K, 1st and 3rd) I will be using to teach the first 15 weeks (I stored the materials for the remainder of the year in separate bins in a closet upstairs) and plopped a Classroom Craft Keeper in the middle of the desk for each access to frequently used items such as crayons, pencils and glue.

It will likely never look this put-together again, as they’ve already claimed it as another imaginative play-place but we are still glad to have it ready for learning in a few weeks!