Embracing Motherhood Tools of the Mind: A Play Centered Approach to Learning

Tools of the Mind: A Play Centered Approach to Learning

Although hardly new (created in 1993), there is a revolutionary way of teaching preschool and kindergarten that is more successful that just about any other curriculum out there. It is called Tools of the Mind, and it centers on one of the most basic and fundamental aspects of childhood: play.

Created by Dr. Elena Bodrova and Dr. Deborah Leong in conjunction with the Metropolitan State College (now Metropolitan State University of Denver), Tools of the Mind centers on Vygotskian-based teaching methods in preschool and kindergarten classrooms. The essential belief is a cultural-historical theory of psychology where children are active participants in their own learning and construct meaning from interacting with their environment and the people in it.

In the chapter, “Can Self-Control be Taught?” from their book, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explain how one of the most important components of the Tools curriculum is the element of play, but not just any play. The Tools curriculum teaches mature, multidimensional, and sustained play that helps children to develop self-regulation and other executive functions of the brain.

Proof That Tools of the Mind Works

During the pilot testing for Tools of the Mind, ten kindergarten teachers were randomly assigned to teach the Tools curriculum. The student population was largely of a lower socioeconomic status, had limited English proficiency, and was basically starting kindergarten a full year behind.

The following spring, when the children took national standardized tests, the students in the Tools classrooms were almost a full grade level ahead of where they should be. In a district where only half of the kindergartners scored proficient, 97% of the children in the Tools program scored did so.

The pilot program was supposed to go for two years, with half of the teachers using the standard district curriculum as a control, but the principal didn’t want to deprive the other classes of the curriculum providing superior results, so they implemented it school-wide.

In another study conducted in New Jersey where 70% of the students were English language learners, they saw similar success. But it wasn’t just the students’ scores that were impressive, it was their behaviors as well. The students in the control group being taught the standard curriculum had extremely disruptive behaviors (such as kicking a teacher, biting another student, throwing a chair, and cursing) on a daily basis. But these kind of reports never came from the Tools classes.

So what is the Tools curriculum and how is it superior? There are many different components of the program, but the most distinguishing feature is the element of play.

Tools of the Mind in Action

When you walk into a Tools classroom, you will know right away what the make believe theme is (pet store, fire fighters, hospital, space, etc.).  You will see props such as signs, banners, and pictures created by both the students and the teacher around the room, and there will be a buzz in the room as children are deeply engrossed in what they are doing while using language to describe their roles and actions. The teacher can be found interacting with the children by helping them to stay in their role, modeling language, and explaining concepts. One of the major components of the Tools classroom is mature make-believe play.

Components of Mature Make-Believe Play

  1. Scenario: If the theme was “fire station”, the students would first learn all about fire stations by reading books, watching videos, and maybe even taking a field trip. Then, the teacher would organize the room into different areas such as the fire station, a house that needs saving, the 911 operator station, and a fire training camp.
  2. Roles: Before children begin playing, they tell the teacher their chosen role (pump driver, 911 operator, fireman, family that needs to be rescued, etc.).
  3. Play Plans: Then, the children draw or write about what they are going to be and what they are going to do in that role. If kids can’t write they draw a picture or use the sound maps around the room to try their best.
  4. Extended Time Frame: As they play, children stick to their plans and stay in character for a full 45 minutes. If they get distracted, the teacher will gently remind them, “Was that in your play plan?” On different days of the week, children choose different roles in the scenario.
  5. Language: Children use language extensively as they discuss who they are each going to be and what will happen during the play. During play, they adjust their speech depending on their role.

Other Components of the Tools Curriculum

All of the components of the Tools curriculum work together to create children who are not merely behaved but self-organized and self-directed. Here are a few additional components of the curriculum that help to foster the executive functions of the brain.

  1. Calendar: Instead of a typical calendar, there is a straight line of days on a long ribbon of paper. This gives children a linear sense of time.
  2. Sound Map: Instead of the alphabet being organized A to Z, it is sorted into clusters of consonants with similar sounds (c, k, q) and vowels called a sound map that children use to help them sound out the words they are trying to spell which fosters independence in writing.
  3. Buddy Reading: The children face each other and one holds up a sign with a pair of lips and the other holds up a sign with a pair of ears. The child with the lips flips through the book telling the story he sees in the pictures while the other child listens, and then they switch. This is an excellent pre-reading strategy that teaches kids about listening, retelling, and self-control.
  4. Simon Says: This game requires restraint and teaches self-control.
  5. Graphic Practice: The teacher puts on music and the children practice drawing spirals and shapes. When the music stops, the children have to stop their pens. This is another example of teaching self-control.
  6. Talking Out Loud: When children learn how to write, say the letter c, they’ll say in unison, “Start at the top and go around” as they start to print. No one ever stops the kids from saying this mantra out loud, but after a few minutes, the chorus lulls to a murmur and children simply mouth the words to themselves. This private speech is a form of self-reflection.
  7. Letter Checking: When a teacher writes the letter D on the board, she’ll write four versions of it and ask the children to help her decide which is the best D. Then children do the same thing with their own writing and with each other’s writing. This teaches self-analysis.
  8. Clean Up Song: Children know to start cleaning up when they hear the song. They start to realize how long they have to clean up based on the where the song is and this is another example of teaching self-regulating behavior.

Why Tools of the Mind Works

During mature, multidimensional, sustained play, children are developing the pre-frontal cortex of their brains, which is the region that governs executive functions such as planning, predicting, controlling impulses, persisting through trouble, and orchestrating thoughts to fulfill a goal.

  • Abstract Thinking: Almost everything in a classroom requires that children understand the connection between reality and a symbol. The letters of the alphabet are symbols for sound and speech, the map on the wall is a symbol of the world, the calendar is a symbol to measure the passage of time, words on a piece of paper represent actual things, and so on. During play, when children are using some desks and chairs as a fire engine and when their play has interacting components using different symbols, they are holding multiple abstract thoughts in their head and stacking them together. This is very challenging and stimulating for the brain.
  • Self-Reflection: Having an internal dialogue that engages a thought conversation within the mind is the exact opposite of an impulsive reaction and something that students in the Tools curriculum do on a regular basis through play and other activities. After playing, children reflect on how well they followed their play plans. During writing, they circle the letter that they made the best. While making their letters, they say little chants together. They also check their own work or a buddy’s work. All of these things support metacognition (thinking about how we think).
  • Planning: By making a plan for what they are going to do during their play time, children are creating a situation that doesn’t rely upon impulsive responses. This is the very beginning stages of goal setting and sets them up to persist through difficulties.
  • Engagement: Trying to get young children to sit still and listen to the teacher during lecture times is very challenging for the students who just can’t seem to stop moving, but in the Tools program, children are so thoroughly engrossed in what they are doing, that they stay focused and do not get distracted. Being able to attend to one thing for an extended period of time is training their brains for longer and longer engagements which is one of the key hallmarks of learning.
  • Intrinsic Motivation: Children aren’t distracted because they are in control of what they are doing. They are empowered by their ideas, and they are motivated by their own desires. In their book NurtureShock, Bronson and Merryman discuss Dr. Silvia Bunge, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkley, who explains that, “Motivation is experienced in the brain as the release of dopamine. The motivated brain, literally, operates better, signals faster.” So In the long run, this type of motivation is something that will strongly outweigh the motivation of a child just trying to please the teacher.
  • Self-Control: As children are engaged during sustained imaginative play and given the opportunity for self-reflection, they are learning how to practice self-control in a way that makes sense for them, not to please someone else. This constant feedback and self-analysis leads to children being able to govern their own thoughts and actions in ways that best fit any given situation.
  • Confidence: If you ask a child to copy something from the board, he might feel intimidated thinking that he won’t be able to make his handwriting as good as the teacher’s, but if you hand him a pad of paper during imaginative play and tell him he needs to write down the order for the pizza shop, he’ll just start writing, even if he’s not making any real words. Because the action is important to him, he sees beyond it to the function rather than just the action itself.

In Conclusion

Tools of the Mind is a very successful preschool and kindergarten curriculum that is taught nationwide. (To see if there is a Tools school near you, click here.) But even though I am a huge advocate of it, I still don’t think it is as good as what I can provide at home. (Click here to read my blog about how I use the Tools model to encourage creative and imaginative play at home.)

Basically, I love using the Tools curriculum as a guideline for how I structure my time at home with my little ones and to justify the tremendous amount of time I dedicate to encouraging their development in creative and imaginative play, but I only get to have them with me for a little while before they venture off into the world, and I guess I’d just like to prolong it as long as possible. 🙂 I hope that when they are older and they think back to their childhoods, they will have the fondest memories of fantasies, far away lands, adventures, discoveries, and most of all…fun!

Embracing Motherhood The Importance of Creative and Imaginative Play

The Importance of Creative and Imaginative Play

We often think of play as a break from learning and something that kids desperately need to give their brains a rest, but for young children, playtime is not just a break, it is a critical component of development that prepares their brains for more complex learning.

I love spending a part of each day teaching my children the fundamentals such as the ABCs, the joys of reading, basic math functions and concepts, and vocabulary, but the majority of each day my little ones are engaged in the most important aspect of childhood: play.

Research is showing that play is so important in fact, that it has become the foundation for a wildly successful preschool curriculum called Tools of the Mind. In the chapter, “Can Self-Control be Taught?” from their book, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explain how when children are engaged in this mature, multidimensional, sustained play, they develop self regulation and other executive functions that lead to impressively high levels of academic success.

Tools of the Mind: Taking Play to the Next Level

The way that children play in a Tools classroom occurs in a way that takes play seriously…because that is the way it is structured. In preschools around the country, children have played firehouse. But after about ten minutes of holding a pretend fire hose and putting out a fire, children often get bored and distracted and move on to the next thing. In a Tools classroom, however, children are engaged for sustained periods of time.

Bronson and Merryman explain how,

“Play has a joyful randomness, but it’s not sustained. In Tools classrooms, by staging different areas of the room as the variety of settings, and by asking kids to commit to their roles for the hour, the play is far more complicated and interactive. The children in the house call 911; the operator rings a bell; the firefighters leap from their bunks; the trucks arrive to rescue the family. This is considered mature, multidimensional, sustained play.”

Tools of the Mind is based on the Vygotskian Approach where the belief is that the most important things children can learn aren’t facts and skills, but are instead a set of mental tools…tools of the mind. 🙂 Vygotsky believed that the most effective learning happens when the new skills and concepts being taught are just on the edge of emergence, or in the zone of proximal development. He also believed that children need scaffolding, or gentle guidance, during this time to help them reach the next level of understanding.

For a young preschool aged children, the most important thing in their world is play (and it continues to be very important as children get older as well), and with a little gentle guidance, we adults can help our children take their play to the next level. (If you want to learn more about the Tools of the Mind curriculum, including how, why, and proof that it works, read my blog here, and if you want to see if there’s a Tools school near you, click here.)

Play Time at Home

As much as I love the Tools curriculum and as much as I know my kids would thrive in it, I still don’t think it’s as effective as the preschool experience I can provide at home.  While I don’t facilitate a certain theme, I do have little areas set up all over the house that are designed to encourage creative and imaginative play.

I also don’t have an entire class of students, but I do have three children at home and one in kindergarten. We all follow a pretty basic daily routine, regardless of what day it is and who is here, where the children have to do their morning routine (eat breakfast, get dressed, etc.) and then do three activities before having any screen time. Sometimes we plan out our activities and sometimes we just let one lead to the other, but almost every single day consists of building with legos, reading huge stacks of books, playing with flashcards, doing some sort of coloring or art activity, playing imagination games, and playing outside.

Tips and Tricks for Encouraging Creative and Imaginative Play

Nothing makes me happier than seeing my children involved in elaborate games of imagination with each other. My older ones, who are now four and six, love creating intricate worlds of imagination that entertain them for hours. My two year old loves watching them and getting lost in her own little world of learning, and our ten month old, who is just starting to crawl, is always a part of everything!

When I was a 3rd and 4th grade teacher, it always baffled me when I would see kids on the playground who had no idea what to do with themselves. I remember how much I enjoyed playing imagination games with my younger brother when we were both little, and I always thought it was something that just happened naturally, but now I’m seeing that it works best when it’s gently scaffolded. Here are the things that I enjoy doing with my kids that have fostered creative and imaginative play.

1. Involve Kids In Your Day to Day

I’ve noticed that a lot of the elements of my children’s play is about reenacting our normal daily routines and activities. I just love overhearing them role playing or playing with their little figures as they go through the steps of doing chores, cooking food, shopping, going to the bank, being naughty, getting a punishment, going to bed, and so on. By involving my kids and talking to them about what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, and why I’m doing it, they are gathering information to use during their imaginative play time.

2. Provide Scenarios

I love channeling my inner child and just playing with my kids. Sometimes we play dress up and sometimes we use little figures, but together we create these creative and imaginative worlds that can transform a mundane day into something extradonary. Children will sometimes spontaneously create these scenarios on their own, but with all of my kids, I feel like I have had to really help them get the ball rolling in this area.

As I see it, there are two types of scenarios. The first one is just playing something like playing fire house, or pet shop, or grocery store, or house. In this type of scenario, kids are acting out the different roles and performing the duties that coincide with each role.  The next type of scenario involves a problem and a solution, and is a more sophisticated form of imaginative play usually (but not always) involving toy figures.

When my kids were old enough and started to seem a little bored with their standard imaginative play, I introduced a few problem and solution scenarios, and the kids really took off with them. The scenarios are typically set in the whole good versus evil theme, and they are pretty basic. There’s usually a bad guy of sorts, like an evil wizard, a hungry dinosaur, a super villain, or a thief, and they want to something evil like kidnap someone, steal something, destroy some place, or put a spell on someone. My kids are then the good guys (or one is good and the other is evil) and they have to evade the bad guy(s) or gal(s) and save the day. To help drag this out, I might say that they bad guy left a string of clues throughout the house or they are under some terrible magic spell and must collect some specific ingredients to make an anti-potion.

3. Give Prompts

If I notice that the imaginative play is starting to fizzle, I like to casually listen for a few minutes to see where I can provide some prompts to extend the action for a little while. Just like the teacher in the Tools classroom, I am there to gently scaffold them to the next level. Many times, my prompts are just questions, “Why did so and so do that? What is he going to do next? What about this one?” and that is usually enough to encourage another round of play.

4. Role Playing

Role playing gives kids a chance to step outside of themselves, and it gives them the courage to say and do things that they normally wouldn’t. As they’re testing out these different personality traits, they can even find resolutions to things they may be struggling with in their daily lives. I like encouraging my children to really become their imaginative characters, and so I’ll model a variety of different voices and character traits. Once my children are “in character”, I like to ask them questions that helps to define their character’s motivations and plans for action. “How does he/she feel about that? Why is so-and-so sad, mad, happy? What are you going to do about it? ”

5. Props

Playing with props is one way to really help kids become deeply involved in their imaginative play. Whenever it’s Halloween season, I love to go to thrift stores and stock up on costumes to fill our costume closet. I’m always especially on the lookout for different types of hats. Putting on a full costume can take a bit of time, but kids can quickly put on a hat that immediately transforms them into someone else. I also have an assortment of magic wands, swords, pom-poms, hooks, claws, boxing gloves, and a horse on a stick that are within easy reach. The hats and costumes are hung on sturdy hooks that the kids can easily reach in a location that’s accessible to everyone.

6. Favorite Characters

We don’t watch a lot of TV in our house, but when we do, we encourage our kids to watch the same movies or shows over and over (based on their interests) so that they can bring their favorite characters into their imaginative play. For example, our youngest daughter, who is 2,  is really into Dora. She loves playing imaginative games with her Dora toys, reading Dora books, and learning Spanish. Our four year old son, Elliot, loves anything that has to do with superheroes, dragons, Godzilla, and monsters. And our six year old daughter, Ruby, loves Digimon, My Little Pony, princesses, and anything that has to do with Miazaki. (You can read here why we don’t believe in banning screen time for children here.)

When she’s home from school, Ruby is usually the one leading the imagination games, and she is REALLY into Digimon these days, so her and Elliot will play Digimon outside for hours and groan when it’s time to go inside and get ready for bed. The other day, I printed out all of the Digimon characters on card stock with their names printed below, and after Ruby cut them all out and arranged them in the order of their transformations, her and Elliot used the printouts like little figures and played with them for hours. We followed another one of Ruby’s ideas and made sugar cookies and some butter cream/cream cheese frosting sorted into bowls and dyed every color imaginable so that she could make a Digimon cookie for each character. I just love the way her mind works!

7. Little Figures

When children are involved in role playing, it can get loud, messy, and really take over the house, but when they make their little dolls and figures come to life, it can be a very calm and contained activity. My kids have not really seemed motivated to play imaginatively with their little figures much until they have been three and older, but I’ve noticed our two year old daughter Ophelia playing with My Little Pony figures imaginatively in our Batman house from time to time.

I am always on the look out at garage sales and thrift stores for any type of dollhouse or other similarly compartmentalized structure. We currently have three really big doll houses, a Batman cave, a few Little People farm structures, a tree house, and a castle. Next to each play house, I have a little basket of figures that I keep sorted separately from the other toys. Instead of having all of our toys in one playroom, I like having them tucked around the house so that they have something to play with in every room.

8. Puppets

You can make any little stuffed animal come to life and talk to your child, but puppets are really great for teaching children about imaginative play. My ten month old, Julian, loves chewing on the eyeballs of our Kermit the Frog puppet while I make him talk in a funny voice, and he laughs every time I make Kermit try to bite his finger, and Ophelia, two,  loves it when the puppets tickle her and talk to her. As kids get older, they can engage more and more with the puppets and have conversations with them. Sometimes talking to a puppet about a problem they are having is a way to elicit more information than if you would just talk to them directly.

9. Imaginative Toys

We certainly don’t ban toys with batteries or anything, but I have found that the less a toy does on it’s own, the more a child can do with it. We have little baskets or boxes throughout our house with toys like big brown blocks, small colored blocks, alphabet blocks, wooden train track pieces, Lincoln Logs, K’nex, big Legos, small Legos, puzzles, stacking cups, sorting bins, and more that encourage sustained imaginative play. To encourage children to play with these toys, I like cutting the flaps off from my large flat Amazon boxes and use them for storage bins. I have found that children really only like playing with the toys that they can see, and so I try to spread them out as much as I can.

10. Arts and Crafts

Nothing sparks the imagination quite like a little arts and crafts session. I have a place in our house called our “home school table” that has markers, crayons, pencils, coloring books, activity books, blank paper, colored paper, scissors, fancy scissors, tape, glue, stickers, and more all within easy reach. I organize the materials on the table or in the nearby bookshelf with boxes and bins all neatly labeled. I also have some really nice cupboards full of supplies that I can have easy access to and one whole cupboard with board games and puzzles.

11. Environment

I spend a lot of time organizing my home to appeal to children and to be practical for adults. As a busy mother of four, I have a lot to do around the house to keep things up and running, and so I like having my home set up so that the kids can be engaged in creative and imaginative play and/or learn something (ABC videos, etc.) while I fold laundry, prepare food, or clean. To read more about how I set up my home in a way that encourages independent, creative, and imaginative play and learning, click here.

12. Routines

Having routines in place really helps me to be able to meet the basic needs of my kids (sleep, food, love), and when their basic needs are met, they are in a great place to play independently, use their creativity, stretch their imaginations, and learn something new. Check out my blog about creating a summer routine that helped all of us to be productive here.

13. Sustained Attention

Anything that helps children to stay actively engaged for long periods of time is extremely beneficial. When you think about an adult who is able to focus for extended periods of time on a difficult task while problem solving, that is pretty much the epitome of success. Training kids to be engaged and motivated on an activity of their choosing for increasing amounts of time is something that doesn’t just happen overnight. It starts in small amounts when they are very young, and it gradually increases over the years to result in a well rounded and balanced individual who is capable of being self-directed, intrinsically motivated, goal oriented, organized, and a problem solver. As I work with each of my children who are all at different levels, I always try to keep the goal of sustained attention in mind.

In Conclusion

In my experiences as a classroom teacher and now as a parent, there are a few things that stand out to me as being some of the most important aspects in the development of a child, and play is one of those things. My husband and I have learned that it is more important to slow down in life so that we can really listen to each of our children and provide them with the necessary scaffolding to grow than it is to run around going from one activity, one group, and one destination to the next.

Children need an extended amount of time in a warm, safe, and nurturing environment and that is why we are both so fortunate that I can stay home (finally) with our little ones. (Read more about my journey to become a stay at home mom here and how I’ve found happiness as a stay at home mom here.) By giving value to play and by treating it as the important developmental step that it is, I am confident that not only are we giving our children the tools that they will need to be developmentally and academically successful, but we are filling their childhoods with what being a kid is (should be) all about: play.

*Click here to read my blog that goes into more detail about Tools of the Mind.

embracing motherhood how to raise children who want to read by surrounding them with books and cuddles

How to Raise Children Who WANT to Read

Teachers, librarians, parents, politicians…we’re all guilty of saying it. Our intentions are noble and so we say, “Read, read, read!” Or, “The more you read the better you’ll get!” But it’s not about setting a timer to read for 15 minutes every day, it’s not about filling up a monthly reading calendar to get a prize, and it’s not about reading because someone told you to. It’s about igniting a passion within your children for reading so that they will be inspired to read because of their own intrinsic motivation. It’s about getting them to choose reading on their own because it is something they want to do.

In order to build a positive relationship with reading, we need to create memories of reading that evoke emotions of love, joy, and happiness. By following these steps, you can ensure that your child will build a positive relationship with reading.

1. Start Young

As soon as they are old enough to hold their heads up, stick a book under them! I started doing this with my not even three month old, and I was flabbergasted when he started to smile and look at the book. I use the same two or three books when he does tummy time, and he loves it!

3 month old baby looks at a book while doing tummy time

3 Month Old Julian Looks at a Book

Babies are definitely ready for some real reading routines by six months old. (Check out my blog :How Children Really Learn to Read to see how you can teach your baby to read.) We have always enjoyed incorporating story time before bed at around this age. This is also when we really start talking about letters, watching word videos, playing with ABC toys, and sitting them on our laps for story time. (Check out my blog Oral Language Development…More Important Than You Think to learn about one of the biggest precursors to learning how to read and Tips, Tricks and Resources for Teaching the ABCs to learn about how to give your child the foundation of reading.)

2. Go to the Library

It is very interesting to me to watch other families at the library who don’t share the same love of reading as we do. They come into the library with a very specific agenda, they let their child check out two books, and then they are out of there as quick as can be. With us on the other hand, going to the library is a special event! We get comfortable and enjoy the library atmosphere by playing with the magnets, using the chalkboard, playing with blocks and puzzles, and snuggling up in the chairs to check out a few favorite books. (Our library is VERY small, but we still enjoy it to its fullest!) Meanwhile, I am combing through each aisle finding books that I know my children will love.

Ophelia Playing with Magnet Letters at Our Library

Ophelia Playing with Magnet Letters at Our Library

Elliot is Busy Searching for Books

Elliot is Busy Searching for Books

Ruby Reading at Our Library

Ruby Reading at Our Library

I like to find short books that will appeal to all the kids for bedtime reading, longer books to read while snuggled on the couch, and books for all levels and interests of the readers in our house. When my children are ready, I help guide them towards picking out their own books. I teach them how to look at the spine for the title, how to choose interesting books based on the cover, and how to flip through the pages to make sure it’s a “just right” book. When our bags are full of the maximum number of books (35, but sometimes they let us go over), we check out. Also, I’m not afraid of a few late fines or lost or damaged books; it’s a small price to pay for such a wonderful service.

3. Build a Library of Books

Going to the library is fun in order to get some new books to read, but even better than that is having an eclectic collection of books at home that you can read over and over again. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming to start a home library, but you have to start somewhere! My favorite place to get books is at thrift stores and garage sales (that way you don’t have to worry if they get ripped, damaged, or torn…which they will). I love it when I can find garage sales where the people are transitioning away from younger children and are getting rid of everything in one massive dump. Getting piles of quality books for 10 cents each is the best, and I totally stock up! The collections you’ll find at thrift stores are more hit or miss. It definitely helps to have an agenda and know what you are looking for here, but sometimes you just want to add a little “bulk” to your library and this is a great place for that.

bins of books for children

Building a Home Library Full of Quality Books

Once you know what kind of books really intrigue your children, you can start building Amazon wish lists for birthdays, Christmas, and anytime you have a few extra dollars. You can even buy used books on Amazon that are in pretty good shape. (Although I’d recommend staying away from the used books if they are the lift the flap kind, I haven’t had the best luck in this department.) For some book suggestions, check out my Amazon stores: Best Books for Babies, Best Books for Toddlers, and Best Books for Kids.

4. Make Books Accessible

Once you have books, you’ll want to make them easy to access! I love having books on bookshelves, but those are easier for storage and for adults to access. Kids like to see books displayed in a way that makes the books easy to see and easy to reach. My favorite method of storage is baskets. Here are the wicker baskets that I like to use. They are a nice way for me to keep the books organized with the covers facing out, and then I can strategically place them in places where the kids like to read. I love putting baskets next to little chairs and couches, near their little potty chairs, by their beds, and at little coffee table reading stations throughout the house. I’m pretty sure that every single room in our house has baskets and piles books!

toddler reading to herself from a bin of accessible books

Making Books Accessible

I have also screwed gutters (found at Lowes or Home Depot) onto the walls to store books. They looked really cool, but didn’t get used as much as I thought they would. Plus, the kids would sometimes pull or hang on them and they weren’t super sturdy, but if put a tacking strip behind it and found some studs, it would probably hold up really well!

Using Gutters as a Bookshelf

Using Gutters as a Bookshelf

gutters as a bookshelf

3 Year Old Elliot Loves His New Bookshelf

There are also some cool book storage racks that display the book covers all facing forward. I liked having things like this in my classroom when I was a teacher. You’ll have to find the perfect way to make your books accessible based on the needs of your children and the design of your home.

5. Make Reading Time Special

During the day, we love snuggling up on our big soft couch to read piles of books. I store new library books in our coffee table and I keep baskets of books nearby. But I will usually set up a little pile of their favorite books that I know they will want to read before I sit down. Then I track down their silkies, pacifiers, and anything else they like to snuggle up with. Sometimes I’ll grab some milk and cookies or some other tasty treats before we begin reading. Then, we all snuggle up close together and enjoy some fun cuddles and special reading time.

reading cuddled up with mommy and baby

Reading Time is Special

Before bed at night, we always read books in our oldest daughter’s room. We have a big full size mattress on the floor that is covered with blankets and stacked with pillows. There are baskets and piles of books strategically placed nearby and we all enjoy cuddling up at night while Daddy reads stories.

Bedtime Reading Routine

Bedtime Reading Routine

I have some old Christmas lights stapled near the ceiling that create a nice soft glow perfect for night time reading. After that, we read to our older children (or they read to us) while they are tucked into bed, and then we read to our littlest ones in rocking chairs before putting them to bed.

Reading Rocking Chair

Reading Rocking Chair

6. Carve Out Time for Reading

I am always ready to drop everything and read books when my children are ready, but I also like setting aside special reading time during the day. Either mid morning or after lunch are my favorite reading times. I like to read after my kids have eaten, had play time, and are changed, dressed, and ready for the day. We enjoy cuddling up for nice long reading time and it’s really fun. I know that our days can get busy, but I think that just like we make time for eating every day, we need to make time for reading every day too. If you always read books at bedtime, you’ll always have reading as at least the end part of your day. Reading before bed is one thing that we never ever skip. If we’re in a hurry, we have a basket of little mini books that we can read in a hurry, but we never skip reading time.

7. Pick Interesting Books

When you sit down to read with your children, start by reading the books you KNOW they will enjoy rather than introducing something new. After you’ve read a few favorite books and you’re in the rhythm of it, then you can introduce some new books.

Each of our children have been into different types of books at different ages and stages. Our babies have really liked Sandra Boynton, touch and feel, ABC, and lift the flap books. When both of our girls were younger, they REALLY liked Dora books, and our son has always enjoyed books about superheroes and anything funny or gross. Whenever we know that our children are really into a particular type of book, we look for it at thrift stores, garage sales, Amazon, and the library, and we keep those favorite books stocked nearby. These are the books they gravitate towards and start to read independently. The cutest thing is seeing our toddler picture read the books we have read over and over.

8. Have Fun With It

If you get books that you really enjoy and really truly have fun while you read, your little ones will be able to tell, and it will make it a fun experience for them too. When I was taking classes while in pursuit of my teaching degree, I had one class about teaching reading that really stuck with me. The teacher did something truly remarkable and seemingly unorthodox…she read to us! And she didn’t just read the words on the page, she made them come alive. It felt so strange to sit in a class with a bunch of young adults and have a children’s story read to us, but I felt myself getting lost in the story as she read using different voices for the different characters and read with lots of expression and passion. Ten years later, I still remember the first book she read to us. It was Buzzy the Bumblebee. I bought that book, a nice hard cover copy, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it to my class and then later to my children. Because I love it and read with lots of expression, they love it too.

9. Involve Your Children

Children love to be involved in reading. Before we start reading a book, I like to spend a minute looking at the cover. We read the title, look at the cover illustration, and make predictions about what we think the book will be about or what will happen in the book. As we are reading, I like to involve the children in little ways by having them help me turn the pages, lift any flaps, or point out simple things that they notice in the pictures. For more of a challenge, I ask the them open ended questions about what they think will happen next, why they think a certain event happened, how they think the character is feeling, or if the story reminds them of anything that has ever happened in their lives.

I also like to involve my children by getting them to read parts of the text whenever I can. One of my favorite ways to get them to do this is with books that we’ve read over and over. I pause at certain words I think that they’ll know or at the last word in the sentence (especially if there is a rhyming pattern) and let them fill in the blank. This is a gradual release to the time when they will be reading independently.

10. Be Silly

Most of the time, we read the books as they are written, but sometimes, it’s fun to make the book silly. We do this by making up words to make the story silly. Potty humor always gets a big laugh (Poophead!) and so does saying the opposite word that will give the meaning a silly twist. We also like making songs out of some of our favorite books and using silly funny voices. Our kids beg Daddy to read books the “funny way” especially when it’s bedtime; using humor is a great way to get through any tired fussy moments.

11. Don’t Force It

The worst thing you could do is treat reading like a mandatory time of the day that you must “get through” in order to reap the benefits of the results. If you’re not feeling it one day, skip the reading. If you’re skipping the reading every day, figure out what needs to change in order to make it a fun part of your routine. Are you feeling uncomfortable and unsure of your reading abilities? Don’t worry! Your children won’t judge you, and the more you do it, the more comfortable it will feel. Are you having a tough time getting your children to sit still long enough for story time? This happens with my rambunctious son from time to time, and so I have found that he LOVES it when I read books with interesting figures like these Basher Books and make them “come to life”. I kind of skim and scan the book and make the characters talk to him and he interacts with them. This even carries over into his imaginative play. Do whatever works for you!

In Conclusion

If you make reading a priority in your life, and if you make it fun, your children will grow up having a love of reading that will last a lifetime. I think it’s also really important for kids to see that you enjoy reading as well. My husband really enjoys fiction and he’s always introducing our kids to his favorite books. Right now he is listening to The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe with our oldest daughter on their way to school every morning.

I personally like reading nonfiction and doing research for my blog, and I love sharing what I am learning with our kids. Reading is an amazing and wonderful skill, past time, and family event. If you help teach children how to read (Check out my blog: How Children Really Learn to Read) and show them how fun it can be, you will be amazed to see what they choose to do with their love of reading as they grow. One of my favorite things in the world is seeing our children choose to read on their own. When you see this happen, you know you have succeeded!

toddler reading to herself

Ophelia Loves Reading

3 year old reading to himself

Elliot Loves to Read

5 year old reading to herself in bed

Ruby Loves to Read

Check out my blog Oral Language Development…More Important Than You Think to learn about one of the biggest precursors to learning how to read and Tips, Tricks and Resources for Teaching the ABCs to learn about how to give your child the foundation of reading.

Embracing Motherhood How to Make Flower Hair Clips

How to Make Flower Hair Clips

My six year old daughter Ruby and I have learned how to make these fabulous flower clips together. We really love doing crafty projects together and these have been really fun and fairly easy to make.

I have to give a big shout out to my brother David’s fiance, Mae Belle, for making them for us for my brother Jarrod (check out his handmade one of a kind wooden earrings and such at BramblesWoodwork) and his new wife Francesca’s wedding recently and then for teaching me step by step how to make them myself. Isn’t she fabulous?

Mae Belle Wearing her Fabulous Flower Clips

Mae Belle Wearing her Fabulous Flower Clips

I felt like Mae Belle’s hair clip took my basic black dress ensemble to the next level. I felt super beautiful and fancy and got lots of compliments on this lovely accessory.

Wearing Mae Belle's Flower Clip at Jarrod and Francesca's Wedding

Wearing Mae Belle’s Flower Clip at Jarrod and Francesca’s Wedding

I’m always looking for fun and creative things to do as a stay at home mom with four young children, and when Mae Belle showed me how she made her wonderful hair clips, I thought, I can do this! Once I got all of the materials, it was easy to just start cranking them out. You can check out my Etsy shop if you’d like to purchase some that Ruby and I made, or you can follow the directions below to make your own!

Materials

  • Fake Flowers: I found mine by clearing out my local thrift stores. Look for the colors that you’d like to play around with and go for a variety of sizes and shapes. I tried not to spend more than a few dollars for each bundle. I have also found some great fake flowers at dollar stores like the Dollar Tree.

    Fake Flower Bundles

    Fake Flowers from the Thrift Store

  • Hot Glue Gun: You can pick one up at your local dollar store, or get one here.
  • Hot Glue Sticks: I ordered a big bag of 100 of them here. You’ll go through them surprisingly quickly! It probably takes about one glue stick to do two flowers. I’ve also found some even cheaper ($6) at Walmart in the craft section.
  • Clips: I like using these metal clips, but you could also get some that are shorter or some that have teeth.
  • Leather or Jean Fabric: I got some jean fabric for the backing because it was what I found at the thrift store. Mae Belle used soft leather. For my next batch, I’m using some cream colored canvas.
  • Melted Marbles, Beads, Buttons, or Jewels: These are for the center. You can go for more of a festive look with the jewels, an eccentric look with the buttons, or a subtle look with the clear melted marbles. You could even use the centers from the fake flowers. There’s a lot of room for creativity here!
  • Extras: Mae Belle likes using feathers as accents, and I think this looks really great! I’ve also saved some of the green petals from my fake flower bundles that might look nice. If I get really adventurous, I might use some of the little accent flowers that I’ve found in my flower bundles.
  • Paper Cutter: This is much easier than cutting all of the fabric rectangles by hand, but a pair of scissors will work just as well.
  • Small Toy: You just need something to use to push down the petals after you put on the hot glue so that you don’t burn your fingers. Whatever you use will get ruined! I used a unifix cube and it worked really well.
  • Large Book: You’ll need this to press down the petals after you glue them together. You might want to make a paper bag cover for the book because it may get ruined depending on how sloppy you get.

Directions

  1. Take Apart the Fake Flowers: This is the least fun and the hardest part of the whole process. First, pull off the heads of the flowers. They should pop right off. (Save the petals for accents if you’d like.) Then, take out the center of the flower. This might take a little wiggling. (Set these aside too.) You can choose to gently peel off any remaining plastic on each layer, or leave it on to make the petals a little stiffer. I personally like to peel off all of the plastic so that the petals will lie flat. *Some fake flowers had fake water droplets. Some of them peeled off easily, but with others it started to rip the fabric, so I left them on.

    Taking Apart the Artificial Flowers Embracing Motherhood

    Taking Apart the Artificial Flowers

  2. Sort and Arrange the Flowers: I like keeping all of the original flowers stacked together and then put all of the same colored flowers into large ziploc bags. When I’m ready to get to work, I like to spread all of my flower options out on the table, and then when I’m done, everything goes back into the plastic bags.
  3. Pre-Cut Fabric: Using your jean, soft leather, or canvas, cut 2½” x 2″ rectangles (2 per flower clip). I like using my paper cutter for this, but you could just use scissors too.
  4. Create a Design: There are lots of different ways to go about this. I like using about 3-5 flower petals, and I like to create a color theme with similarly based or complementary colors. But you could use only one color and stack lots of flower petals for a ruffled and elegant look as well. This is the part that is really fun! Get creative! I like to lay out my entire design before I start gluing.

    Flower Design Embracing Motherhood

    Flower Design

  5. Bottoms Up: Start with the bottom flower and hot glue the back of it to the piece of fabric. Always start with as little hot glue as you can. It dries quickly and too much will ruin the look of the flower.

    Gluing the Bottom Layer Embracing Motherhood

    Gluing the Bottom Layer

  6. Press It Down: After you attach the petal to the fabric, you’ll want to press it down with something. This is why I suggested gathering a small toy. I used a unifix cube because it’s what was close by, and it worked great.

    Pressing Down the Glue with a Unifix Cube Embracing Motherhood

    Pressing Down the Glue with a Unifix Cube

  7. Layer all Petals: Next, you’ll center your next petal on top of the first. Each petal has a circle in the middle that you can line up. Mae Belle told me that she likes to run a piece of wire inbetween all of the holes to keep all of the petals centered and together. I tried this method and it just didn’t work for me, but it might be something that you want to try.

    Layering the Petals Embracing Motherhood

    Layering the Petals

  8. Press Under a Book: I sometimes do this after every new petal that I put on depending on how much it’s sticking up, but you’ll at least need to do this once at the end. Whatever book you use, the cover will probably get covered with hot glue. So either make sure it’s a junky book or cover it with an old paper bag or something.
  9. Attach the Clip: This part is a little tricky. You want to position the clip so that the handle part is facing up. (When you position the clip this way, it will easily go in and out of your hair. If you put it the other way, it will get stuck and rip out a bunch of hair when you try to take it out, and that’s no fun.) Open the clip and set it against the piece of fabric, outline the fabric on the edges and underneath where the clip will go in the center with hot glue, set the clip on the hot glue (Keep it open!), and then quickly put another piece of fabric on top. Press down firmly until it dries.
    Keep the Clip Open as You Put on the Hot Glue Embracing Motherhood

    Keep the Clip Open as You Put on the Hot Glue

    Place the Second Piece of Fabric on Top Embracing Motherhood

    Place the Second Piece of Fabric on Top

  10. Center Piece: Try playing around with some jewels, beads, or melted marbles until you get the look you are going for. It just takes a dot of glue to hold it down. You could do this part before putting the clip on, but it’s hard to press it down flat once the jewel is on.
  11. Finishing Touches: Looking from the top down, make sure all parts of the petals are securely attached. Add any more dots of hot glue as needed. Add any feathers or other special accents that you’d like.

    Finished Product Embracing Motherhood

    Finished Product

In Conclusion

When you first start wearing these clips, you may feel eccentric and pretty darn fashionable. But after awhile, you will get used to people complimenting you constantly. As you do, make sure to refer them to this blog if they’d like to make their own, or to my Etsy page if they’d like to bypass all the fuss and just buy one that Ruby and I have created!

Embracing Motherhood The Story of How I Became a Stay at Home Mom

The Story of How I Became a Stay at Home Mom

I worked full time until my children were 6 and 18 months old, and choosing to be a stay at home mom was the best decision I ever made. I often wonder and regret why I didn’t do it sooner, but I did it nonetheless. Here’s my story.

I’ll always remember what it felt like the first day I went back to work after spending a glorious three months uninterrupted with my sweet first baby girl, Ruby. As I walked down the long hallway to my classroom, I was greeted with hugs and sympathetic sentiments.

One teacher said,

“It’s okay to cry. I cried at first too.”

And I thought, yes I probably should cry. But oddly enough, I didn’t feel any tears. I wondered what was wrong with me that I wouldn’t be crying at the mere thought of leaving my sweet, precious, exclusively breastfed little infant in the arms of someone else.

I mean, it was my mom watching her, but still…

So, as I stood there in my classroom, all set up and ready for the students that had been waiting patiently with a substitute during the first three months of school for me to return, and I tried to see if I could cry.

But before I could get at my true feelings, I had to peel back a few layers that were covering them up.

First, I peeled back the excuse that I had to do this because we couldn’t afford to make ends meet any other way, then I scraped away the sentiments that she was in good hands with my mother, and finally I sloughed off the guilty feelings about how bored I sometimes felt being home without any adult interaction, and how hard it actually was to be a mother.

What I found buried underneath was a very fresh wound that was very sensitive to these probing thoughts.

Just poking at that wound brought back a sudden flood of memories. And as I stood there remembering what it felt like to hold her the moment after she was born, the way she was always happiest to lay inbetween us cooing early in the mornings, the sweet smell of breast milk that was always on her skin, the softness of her little fingers as they would grasp at my face, and the way her eyes would widen and how she would reach for me desperately even when she merely glanced at me from across the room…

I suddenly felt like I couldn’t breath and the tears started to flow noiselessly in a stream down my cheek.

I was just about to start heaving and sobbing when I heard the shuffle of footsteps in the hallway. As I looked at the clock, I noticed that I only had a few more minutes to pull things together before I needed to greet my students for the day.

So, I took all of those memories and all of those feelings, and I buried them deep down into the pit of my soul.

Then I packed all of my excuses back on top until the feelings of pain became but a vague memory. And I felt something grow within me that would only grow stronger as time went on. It wasn’t really a feeling of anything, but the absence of feeling. It was a numbness that allowed me to focus on the tasks in front of me while burying an instinct that I just couldn’t let out.

A teacher who saw me crying ran in for a quick hug.



“Don’t worry,” she said expertly. “It will get easier.” And she was right. It did get easier.

With each passing day, I got better at burying my true emotions, and the painful wound of our separation began to heal into a weird disfigured scar. Every time I would hear my sweet precious daughter cry as I slipped out the door to go to work in the morning or back to work after nursing her at lunch, I would pack more excuses like a salve onto my wound.

Everyone that watched her at our home during the rest of the school year would always tell me,

“She always stops crying a few minutes after you’re gone,” as if that was supposed to console me. But it did.

I knew she was in good hands and that she was being loved and cared for. My mom would even bring her into the classroom for me to nurse her during every break that I had and would even hang out for hours in the back of the room playing quietly for the first month that I was back to work. But they weren’t MY hands taking care of her, and that was a fact that gnawed at me constantly.

When the family was done caring for Ruby and she had to be put into daycare, it really was the best possible scenario. A coworker’s mother in law did day care one mile from where I was teaching, and I was able to go and breastfeed her to sleep during my lunch break every single day. But even though Ruby was happy there and well cared for, I felt like I was missing out.

I would try to linger after dropping her off just to be able to spend a little more time with her, but the pressures of work were calling me, and I had to go. She still cried every day as I left, and it never stop hurting to leave her.

At the end of the day, the eight hours we were apart were summarized in a few sentences.

As I got a report of what she ate, whether or not she pooped, and any other milestones she accomplished, my mind was really only half listening because all I really wanted to do was just whisk her away so that I could be with her as much as I could for the remainder of the day. But there were always errands to run, dinner to prepare, and things to do around the house, and it just felt like there was never enough TIME.

After a tough and emotional return to work, I decided that a position utilizing my Master’s degree in Language Acquisition at another school would allow me more flexibility and freedom to be a better working mother. In my new job as ESL Coach the following year, I found that it was definitely a better blend of my two worlds.

But little did I know that even as I was interviewing for this new job, I was pregnant with our second child, and he was about to change everything.

Elliot was born peacefully in front of the fireplace of our little one bedroom condo in December, and after only four weeks of maternity leave (we couldn’t afford to have my pay docked like we had with Ruby), I went back to work. (Did you know that every other industrialized nation except for America mandates full paid maternity leave? Go figure.)

Elliot was quite different from his independent, happy-with-anyone big sister. He was born ten days overdue, but he probably would have preferred to stay in there indefinitely. Even after he had been earthside for over a day, he still didn’t want to open his eyes and preferred instead to bury himself in my bosom and nurse constantly.

If a little bit of me died having to leave Ruby behind, leaving Elliot behind almost destroyed me. He needed me so much and my only consolation was that he slept most of the day and was up with me to nurse constantly throughout the night.

I almost didn’t even want to sleep inbetween feedings because I just wanted to hold on to each moment where the two of us could be snuggled up together soaking in the feel of his skin against mine and feeling his little body rise and fall with each breath.

Just as with Ruby, we had an onslaught of family visitors who moved in with us and helped take care of Elliot during my first six weeks back at work. After that, I only had to put him in day care for three months until the end of the school year. Throughout it all, he was always really close to my work and even though he would never take a bottle, I was able to go to him and nurse him every four hours.

Right up until before he was born, I had assumed that he would be taken care of by the sweet grandmotherly lady who lovingly took care of Ruby. But due to some unforeseen hip problems, she told me that she wouldn’t be able to take care of a new baby after all. That left me scrambling at the last minute to find someone else. I thought I found the perfect place right next to the school with a busy day care mom who had room for both Ruby and Elliot. I was sad to take Ruby out of her current placement, but happy to have both of my kids together.

When I came to nurse Elliot (10 weeks old) on my first break during their first day at this new place, I noticed that Ruby (17 months) was in her high chair eating food. I thought nothing of it until I came back at lunch only to see her nodding off, still in her high chair. When I came back at the end of the day, she was STILL in her high chair.

I was very upset, and the day care mom tried desperately to console me saying that she fell asleep there and had only just woken up. I was just like,”Why didn’t you put her in bed after she fell asleep in the high chair?” but she had no response.

The next day, I knew that I couldn’t take Ruby back there again, so I called Ruby’s sweet grandmotherly caretaker in tears and asked if she could take Ruby for the remainder of the year. She graciously agreed, but reminded me again that she wouldn’t be able to take care of Elliot too. Elliot seemed to do fine with the busy day care mom because he pretty much slept all day, and I had no other options, so that was that.

I’ll always remember the African lullaby songs that I would listen to every morning as I first dropped off Ruby, then Elliot to a parking lot near his drop off home where I would nurse him. When I hear that cd to this day, it brings tears to my eyes.

I was desperately trying to juggle having a career, being a mom, being a wife, and taking care of myself, but I never had enough to give to everyone and so it felt like I was failing in all areas of my life.

When summer break finally came, I was in total and absolute heaven! I could finally be with my sweet babies all day and all night without any interruptions. We got into a nice little routine, and I really started to feel like not only was I surviving; I was thriving!

Instead of just worrying about our basic needs, I could actually spend time each day thinking of new ways to arrange our little house for the best play and learning opportunities, I had time to cook healthy meals for everyone, I could sleep when the kids slept without worrying about a clock, and most importantly, I could nurse my 6 month old Elliot on demand. He was VERY happy about that!

When we traveled back to our Michigan stomping ground that summer, we fell in love with being a family and being surrounded by family. When we came back to our Colorado home and our third floor condo with no air conditioning in 100° F weather, it just didn’t feel right. It felt empty and lonely, and I just couldn’t imagine what it would be like trying to get through another year while working. When we looked at our finances and saw that with two kids in daycare, it was hardly worth it for my husband to work, we made a big decision to have him be a stay at home dad and take care of the kids while I continued to work.

After those wheels were set in motion, and with the start date of my next school year quickly approaching, I just woke up one day and knew I couldn’t go back. Elliot was just getting used to me being around all the time, and I couldn’t bear to be apart from him again.

It felt like my heart would most certainly break into a thousand pieces if I couldn’t continue breastfeeding him on demand.

And then there was my sweet little Ruby who was already growing up so fast! At 18 months, she knew all of her letters and numbers and she was already starting to read. I wanted to be with her during every milestone, every cuddle, every naptime, and every tear. I wanted to be there for both of them, and I wanted to ENJOY my time with them, not just get through it.

After I made the phone call resigning from my position, I felt giddy with excitement! I was so happy to have finally made the decision to be with my little ones and set up a new life as a stay at home mom, but this in itself is another journey with its own story. 🙂

While we waited on the short sale of our condo, we packed up all of our things, said goodbye to the beautiful state of Colorado, our family there, our friends, and what had been our home for the last 6 years and moved into my parent’s house in Michigan.

After a few months, Scott got a job as a computer tech in a little rural town we had never heard of. He commuted over an hour every day until we finally accepted that even though it was a little farther from family than we would have liked, it was still a heck of a lot closer than Colorado, and it was really a great job in a nice location. So, we moved there. Now, we own an amazing house on a nice piece of land that’s much much cheaper than our condo in Colorado, and with two more kids, we couldn’t be happier!

I’ll always be a little bit sad about the times that I lost with Ruby and Elliot, but it was all a part of my journey and a part of our story, and I am so proud of how far we have come and what we have become.

At first, we tried to make our kids fit into our lives, just like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. But now that we have centered every aspect of our lives around our children and me being a stay at home mom, I couldn’t imagine a simpler, happier, or more fulfilling way to spend these years.

Our babies are only babies for a short little while. Why is there so much pressure and such a hurried rush for women to “get back to work”?

Now, I totally understand that the life of a stay at home mom isn’t for everyone, and I am completely and totally fine sharing the same arena with mothers who choose to work or have no choice but to work, but

I feel like the voices that are out there cheering on the working mothers are MUCH LOUDER than the voices cheering on the stay at home mothers.

When I was struggling as a working mom, I got A LOT of encouragement from co-workers, family, friends, strangers, and the internet that what I was doing was ok, that it was hard but it would get easier, that my kids would be fine, and that I would be fine.

Only one brave soul, one of those grandmothers who become a mother again due to unfortunate circumstances, told me the truth.

“You never get those years back,”

she said to me one day. I felt offended and angry that she would suggest something that I felt at the time was impossible, but her words haunted me and were possibly the catalyst for me leaving my job to begin this wonderful career as a stay at home mom.

Comments like, “I could never do what you do.” or “Don’t you feel like you’re wasting your Master’s level education?” are sentiments that my husband and I have heard on more than one occasion. But worse than the negative comments are the absence of comments.

At times, my voice is soft, too soft perhaps, because I don’t want to offend anybody. We live in an age where everyone is fighting for women to have equal rights and equal pay, but who is fighting for the moms who want to stay home and raise their families?

We are looked at as ancient relics from our grandmother’s era, something that our progressive society has tried to do away with.

But I don’t want to be silent anymore. I want to shout from the top of a mountain (or at least blog through the channels of the Internet) that it’s okay to be a stay at home mom.

I’m not saying it’s better than being a working mom or that all moms should be stay at home moms, I’m just saying that being a stay at home mom isn’t a step down, or something we all do because we couldn’t do anything else. I see it as a privilege, an honor, and the best career move I could have ever made, and something I will never ever ever regret.