Home Therapy

Child playingRecently having tea with a friend our conversation automatically turned to our children. On this specific day were where talking about how individually each child develops and how as a society we have begun to mark and check off their milestones as a content billboard to see that all is well. The irony is that they are in-fact who they are regardless of who we want or hope them to be.

We do however all want the best for each and every one of our children and the reality is that to keep up in this fast paced lifestyle we lead we do sometimes have to give them a nudge to help them keep up with the pack. This is something we all see and acknowledge but what happens when the resources – time and finance  – don’t stretch far enough? Is there still hope for our children who are struggling?

I do believe that there is and that you as their Mom or Dad play a vital role in assisting your child in reaching their full potential. Most of the common difficulties young children face at school are those of settling into sitting still and paying attention as well as fine motor difficulties. There are also a number of children who battle with their speech, which in turn hinders their ability to learn to read. Though interestingly I have often found that as a child learns to read this does in fact improve their speech.

However the point here is that if your child is facing these difficulties and you are unable to offer them the support they need there are many things that can be done by you at home to help improve their overall schooling experience.

At shcool IIILet’s look at the child battling to concentrate – again and again I see that children have never been taught the skill of paying attention. We live in such an instant, fast moving world that their thoughts skip and breeze from one topic to the next. As parents we can play a vital role in developing this skill simply by adjusting and tweaking a few of our expectations. Make a rule that you will only speak once and if they don’t listen there will be a consequence such as 10 minutes off any television show for every time you need to repeat yourself. Stop and look at each other in the eyes when you talk to one another. Ask them on the way home from a day out to recall fine details such as what the best joke was that they heard that afternoon or what the name of the ice-cream shop was. Read to them. By this I do not mean Disney books instead read the original Winnie-the-Pooh, Tom Sawyer or Anne of Green Gables. If you don’t have the books download the librivox app onto your phone and you can listen to all books in the public domain for free. This is especially fun if you have other activities such as house hold chores or art work you are wanting the children to do whilst you are all listening. After your stories ask your child to recount their favourite scene or the most surprising part of the story. Expect your children to remember many different things from poetry to reciting your shopping list. Slowly day by day train their mind to slow down, focus on the task at hand and to do it well.

The child suffering from fine motor difficulties is probably one of the easier ones to assist – simply because there are so many ideas online to aid you. This often involves the children needing to work on their finger activities and small hand-eye movements. So daily work together on a project involving their hands. You could play with playdough, knead bread, thread necklaces, do art, write letter to friends and family, sing songs using hand actions and so the endless list continues.

Working on a child’s speech is not always the easiest task to be done at home but it is something that one can attempt. I would suggest meeting with a speech therapist to obtain some idea where the difficulties lie and give you some guidelines on how to begin assisting your child.

So many people are in the same boat today – all desperately wanting to help their children but often not knowing how to possibly afford it. The truth is that your child’s teachers and the therapist are on your child’s side too – so team up. Maybe you can meet once a term to put together a program or plan that is worked on at home. Don’t loose hope, any input is better than nothing and honestly above all they will just love and thrive in that extra time you are going to spend with them.

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Let the Children Be

In the great words of William Henry Davies “What is this life full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.”

A hundred years ago or should I say as little as 30 years ago no one had a problem with a 7 year old being a 7 year old.  They spent their mornings at school and the occasional afternoon playing an hour of sport. After this they were free. Free from instruction, training and meeting another’s expectations. Free to simply be…. To dream, climb, think, run and simply play. No one thought anything of them spending hours on end in the sand pit or up a tree. A card board box became a car or sailing ship and an old sheet anything from a cape to a tent.

Looking about one today however we must admit that for these little ones we have created a life full of care! A life so stressful that 7 year olds are having panic attacks. One could understand this if they were living in a war raging era, concerned each day for their safety. Instead these panics are taking place in classrooms and homes throughout the country. Based not on a fear of death but rather in a fear of failure! Children simply lack the confidence to be themselves, as frankly presenting themselves for who they naturally are is seen as not being good enough! By simply arriving and just being themselves, we as a society, keep telling them that they not good enough.  They are too loud, too busy or too dreamy, they work too slowly or too fast. Try as they may to get it right, we doctor them with medication and counselling, in their little eyes they are not able to meet our expectations they as a person are a failure!

For parents the race is on.  From conception patents begin fretting about what classical music to play in utero and soon after birth – no matter what the disposition of the child will be in future years – the child is on a waiting list for the best day care, top preschool, most successful primary school and so it goes.  Their days determined, the course plotted and at all costs the child needs to make this thing work. Like a monkey upon a leash dancing before his music box we have these tiny tots dancing to a tune way beyond their years.

We bemoan the fact that children cannot entertain themselves and throw the blame at technology.  However from the day they could walk, or before, we have been entertaining them.  If not with some form of extra mural tutoring then with play dates and television.  These on their own are not a bad idea but a 3 year old spending each afternoon at swimming, music, ballet, karate, gymnastic or maths lessons does leave little time to “stand and stare.”

According to James Hall a survey conducted amongst 1500 children in Sainsbury between 5 and 11 years of age revealed that their favourite summer pass times were not computer games, going on trips or watching movies. Instead they included playing in the park or in the garden making mud pie-making, climbing trees and feeding the ducks.

It was upon a break from his studies, whilst relaxing under a tree in a contemplative mood, thinking on the notion of gravitation that Newton saw an apple fall and hence solidify his thoughts on the workings of gravity. At the age of 16, whilst Einstein was imagining catching a sunbeam that he laid the foundations for his study of special relativity. At the age of only 15, Louis Braille – whilst on school vacation – and fiddling with his father’s awl in his leather shop, he devised the braille system which is still used throughout the world today.

In our pursuit of educational excellence and perfection are we in fact depriving our children of the one pure ingredient that grows thinkers, dreamers, creative and ultimately great men and women of the future?

So I ask yet again, “what is this life full of care if we have no time to stand and stare…?”

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Mirrors of Me

Deep in conversation with my 7 year old, my attention was suddenly diverted to my ever busy 2 year old.  She was suddenly unusually quiet and standing dead still.  Oh my how  we laughed.  She was standing between my 7 year old and I with her arms crossed imitating the exact posture of her big sister. What an amazing teaching opportunity arose for me to demonstrate to my older daughter that little people will copy us whether we like it or not.

Recently I have been hearing more and more stories of children displaying behaviour which includes the children using sarcasm or humour but the underlying message results in them becoming really mean to others, not only to their peers but to their parents as well. Yes there are many times when the root of this behavioue is obvious.  The child has been bullied or is working through a difficult period in live such as a divorce or death in the family.  Yet there are times when parents and teachers are left baffled, pondering where this attitude – that often comes across as cute in a 3 year old but as something very unpleasant in a 10 year old – could possibly have arrived from?

I will never forget when as a new mom I was deeply concerned about my 7 month old son.  He had just cut his first two teeth and he kept biting his lip. With these tiny munchers he managed to cut his lip quite badly. The clinic sister adviced what cream to use but we were at a loss how to stop this habit he had formed. A few weeks later, whilst driving to work, I looked into the rearview mirror and what did I see? I was biting my bottom lip!  Oh my, without knowing it the stess of Mommyhood had been kept well under tap and yet it was leaking out in this new habit and our baby boy was copying it!

If we begin dig down into the archives of  our memories and dust off the cobwebs, looking back at the life of a child. You will recall that when only a few weeks old, your baby mimiced a tongue being stuck out. By a few months they would copy sounds that you made. They smile when you smile and clap as you clap. Your child will learn to speak the language you speak, dress how you dress and will usually participate in the religion and social activities such as sport or music that their family values.

Again and again I have heard of a child who is adopted or lives with a step parent  be told how much they look like this parent. The reality is that they often don’t look any thing alike instead, the child so closely mimics the adult’s mannerisms that it actually presents itself as the parent and child looking a like. Humour, vocabulary, a gait, attitude to work and all other behaviours are not born with but instead learnt from those around us. The way we walk and talk was not chosen but rather picked up over years and years of subconsciously immitating those around us.

Looking back at our sweet, little person who is developing this nasty streak that has baffeled parents and teachers alike. Could the cure lie not in psychology or medication but instead a good look at who they are spending time with? It may well be other children – often older than themselves – books they are reading, computer games they are playing or movies they are watching. Or it may even be coming from home.  Most of us consider our homes and especially ourselves as being no threat to our precious little people.  Yet as I learnt with our baby boy, they are watching us all the time. Often we mean no harm and yet a simple expression of our stress, a reaction to a car driving too slowly or the irritation with the morning routine, is infact instilling within our children attitudes and habits for life. They don’t understand or appreciate that we are in a stressful situation or that our sarcasm is simply a form of humour.

So as difficult and as unpleasant as it is, when our children begin displaying distasteful behaviours, attitudes, reactions or mannerisms – before we start pointing fingers let us take the time to look at ourselves and see if infact a few adjustments in our attitudes or habits need to be honed. They see and hear all that we do and as much as I tell my children to do as I say and not as I do, they just keep copying me!

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AAAAHHH – My Ears Hurt

A quiet moment snapped between the craziness of life. A moment of pure uninterrupted thought. A moment, a mere spell of seconds or maybe an hour – until Mom is once again on call. Who would have ever thought of the pure blissful joy of meagre silence, of a consecutive string of orderly thought, being a sanctuary of sanity?  Silence – coherent and my mind fully attentive upon the task at hand I can breathe, once again finding a glimpse of myself!

Before becoming Mom, I had known the stress and strain facing a parent. The sleepless nights, homework, paying more to dine out, as well as being responsible for another person. Never however had I realised that my biggest parenting hurdle was going to be the many little voices in my head. The voice needing some milk, the one telling me they need the loo, the voice arguing over a toy, the voice wanting to know where they left their jacket. So often….. aaaahhhhh…. STOP! My ears – they hurt.

Parenting and raising these little people takes us by surprise. The surprise of our greatest difficulties and strains – the least of which we would have considered and the surprise of the joy discovered in learning to tie a shoelace or noticing a flower in the breeze. Or the pure bliss of silence.

A silence that feeds one deep into the spirit, a silence that warms the soul and draws one out, empowers one to look up and see the warm rays once again. The silence that equips one to breath long and deep, long and deep…. raising one back to your former self. Equipping and enabling one to once again rise up and take up the baton of Mom.

The solitude clears the fog, washes clear the perspective. It enables one to once again hear through the clutter of the needs and wants to the pure, undiluted, “I love yous.”

So Mom when all the little voices are briefly silent, for that brief fleeting moment, grasp the silent reprieve – drink deep, breath deep – fill your Being. Then once again the voices bombard but in them you are able to hear. Hear with clarity not only the need and want but the truth. “I need YOU, I want YOU. You are my all. I love you Mom.”

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Madgwick Life May – June 2015

I can’t believe how the year is running past and that our little Riley is now 5 months old! She is such a delight to us all. She just smiles and smiles – sometimes so much that she starts to cry!

This last month has been a busy yet fun one. In prep for our pending Kruger trip we have been learning about SA history – a great deal of which I had never been taught or knew about so I think I have been left more educated than the children and quite shattered by our heritage! Non the less a dear friend offered to make our girls these Voortrekker bonnets.  They have been a great hit and were even worn to church and the shops a few times.

A great feat this month has been Lily-Grace and Nate both finally becoming competent on their bikes. This has made riding to soccer and ballet so much more fun and a great deal less stressful for me. I think it’s finally time for me to dust off my bike now too so that I can ride with them.

For 12 years I have wanted to haven an awesome sandpit for the children and finally it is completed. Well we have had it for a while but the children kept filling it with water to make a pool during summer but it finally has sand in it! What an amazing asset this has been.  I wondered the other night busy how dark it would need to get before the girls realised that they should in fact come in. Well they never even seemed to notice until the bats were out and it was getting really cold!

A few Saturdays ago I was working on the balcony when suddenly all was quiet and I saw the little guys lying on the lawn, with their umbrellas reading and I realised that for the first time since September last year we had finally finished moving and building and that we can now just be! Being more relaxed at home I have asked Kadin to take in the other 3 children as his music students.  They working through the piano wizard programme and he is sing a great job. He has also begun giving some violin lessons. I still stand in awe at his musical ability and easily he understands and can teach it all.

The Children have also finally all really settled in our new home. A highlight has been having rabbits, pigeons and chickens to play with and love.

 And Maisy! Well she keeps us on our toes from morning till night there just is never a dull moment when this 2yr old going on 7 is in the room – or should I say especially when she’s off quietly somewhere out of sight! Lily-Grace has also become our in house hairdresser and Amber-Mai loves all the extra attention she is given having her hair styled!

 This month seems to have flown by and yet it has been the first time in a long time that we have finally felt really settled and have really enjoyed just being.



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School Alive

So it was said all those 10 years ago that if you homeschool using living books, read about heroes and give then freedom to play that you will see what they learn filtration info their lives.  Well I will say we have had discussions about topics and sometimes seen a game reflect something they have learned. But never have they become absolutely engrossed – without our input. Then last month we decided that for the boy’s birthdays, next month , we would fulfil their life long dream of going to Kruger National Park.  Well, oh my, suddenly the children are leading all our learning. For handwriting is a South African poem, geography maps of the park and historical places and for history we have been learning about the history of South Africa. We have all sat enthralled as we have read about so much history we were unaware of.  Our hearts have been stretched, pulled, ached and rejoiced. We have climbed mountains, hunted, fought wars and pulled wagons with people long forgotten. It has truly been an amazing term with the children leading and asking for more and more. This reached a climax this week when we asked a friend to sew the girls some bonnets for the dress up box. Oh what fun these have been! The boys soon caught the fever and last night we were greeted at the dinner table by a group of “voortrekers.”

The children instructed us that we had to have baked potatoes and meat for supper – so that we could be like the voortrekkers and we had milk tart for pudding. This was followed by a play that they had created that told the whole story of Dingaan and the Voortrekkers.  Out of a few dress up clothes and a simple meal such a fun, memorable evening emerged

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A Moment in Time

There are those moments – you know them – those ones that never seem to fade but are instead defining, enlightening – often annoying yet always life changing. They are not planned and yet they sever through the mist of the mundane bringing a ray of clarity.

One such moment happened about 11 years ago… I was a stay at home mom, living in a small flat, with no car, in the middle of a busy part of town daily trying to entertain a very demanding 1 year old. I had taken time to try set up different areas to keep him busy. A little splash pool on the veranda, a tiny slide in the lounge, books and toys in his room and a small table for art and drawing. In one corner he had a small chalk board. My moment of enlightenment happened after a busy morning of trying to juggle cleaning, entertaining him, preparing meals and so on…

To keep my boy busy I had given him some chalk soaked in water to draw on black paper. Suddenly everything was very quiet and I realised he had taken the wet chalk to his chalk board – now having been a teacher I was very aware of how difficult it can be to clean wet chalk off a board, especially red chalk! It was in this moment that I found myself say, “Don’t you dare use that chalk on that chalk board!” As the words flew out my mouth, he whirled around bewildered at this bizarre comment – I could only begin to smile. What had I just said? Chalk was made for a chalk board and in reality what was a little wet chalk on a chalk board when other families were dealing with drug abuse and chronic illness?

As I let the reality of the situation and my life sink in I realised that it was time to let go! Let go of my expectations for myself, my home and my children, time to let go of meeting others expectations, and instead create our own personal reality. A reality that worked for our family.

Little did we know that this would set the foundation for what the future held. As after not falling pregnant for 3 years after our first son we went from 1 to 5 children in 2 years! Had I not learned to let go those 3 years before I would be a wreck today! So with a houseful of little people we now only have 4 rules:

1. No one gets hurt (this includes emotionally)

2. Nothing gets broken – you look after everyones things

3. You put away what you took out – before taking something else out

4. We work as a team

I have also set certain parameters for myself such as either we have certain tidy up times each day or we only going to tidy at 5pm. This gives me the freedom to give the children freedom to just be. Hubby and I have also realised that the reality of spending every evening together is something that will need to wait for retirement – so we have had to let go of our expectations in this area too. In the mean time we organise date evenings. We were often short on cash and couldn’t leave very little people with a sitter so we simply decided on a R30 budget and each take a turn once a week to organise a date at home once kids are in bed (we aim for 7pm.) This maybe as simple as hiring a movie, having dinner without the kids, buying a special pudding or playing a board game.

After 15 years of marriage and 7 children later I finally have a lady who comes and helps me clean and a dish washer. But up until now we made it through. Yes there were many tears, many months without luxuries such as cheese, many times we couldn’t join in as the time and money didn’t stretch that far and many days we wore creased clothes or stayed up very late washing a whole day’s dishes but as I learned to let go and as time went by I was able train my children to take control of their own personal domains, cook meals, fold washing etc. So today as I sit holding my 6th baby I know my 9 year old son can bath and dress my 2 year old, my 12 year old can hang the washing and do the dishes and my 7yr old twins can make an amazing salad and set the table. Had I panicked all those years ago I would have rushed out  back to work, only to fund creche and hired help and I would never have had time to train these beautiful children to work alongside their mama. And what fun we have working together!

Who would have though a little wet chalk, 11 years ago would have such a profound impact on the direction that one family would take.

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7 Kids – Are you Nuts?

Birthing your sixth child is not something one does regularly.  It’s not something to which many people can relate or something that people happily accept. It is rather something of an enigma, a point of discussion and debate. Something beyond our comfort realm that reaches into the corners of morality, ethics, philosophy and religion.

Realising I may yet again be pregnant was something that I would not, could not let take hold of my reality. The faintest suspicion was expelled to the furthest corners of my consciousness.  Honestly – who has 6 babies and in our case this in total amounts to 7 children!  Who does that sort of thing and why??

Well I can tell you this – not us!

Yes we can be a bit extreme… We try to eat organic food,  we don’t have a TV, we homeschool our children but so do lots of other people. But 7 children – um no!  I mean we discussed this at our pre-marriage sessions – “how many children… “I’m pretty sure that was thrown in there along next to working out a budget, which side of the bed you sleep on and how you going to choose where to spend Christmas. I’m not sure what we decided then but I do know the answer was not 7! We could have pushed 3. But 7 was never part of the reality,  the plan or what we imagined to be our life.  Yet here we are today holding the miracle of our 6th baby!

So why have another baby, why choose to wander along this path less traveled, why take on all this controversy when you can choose not to?

Well as I lie here looking at this 6th little baba…  reflecting upon the last 12 years…  What has been and what could have been…. all I hear wafting through my thoughts are the words of the old hymn writer, “This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long..’”

Having 6 babies doesn’t boil down to a debate at to whether this is the right or wrong way to live or if having a big family is a good or bad thing – instead it simply boils down to that this is Our Story, Our Song – our path that needs to lead to none other than simple daily praise of our Savior.

As with all stories and songs they have good parts and bad parts, pieces that flow in perfect harmony as well as discord and sadness. Parts are often clear, perfect and beautiful but other times they are murky and ugly. So why 6 babies? Honestly – I can’t give an answer -  instead all I can say is that this baby girl is an integral part of our story and song, which exists for no other purpose than to sing praise to our “Saviour all the day long.”

Gone is the head light terror that wrapped itself upon my soul at the realisation of yet another little person.  The fear of family and society,  the fear of finance, the fear of health and well being have all faded into simplistic, undiluted awe.  An awe beyond our wildest dreams.  An awe in which another little treasure has mysteriously found her way into this world.  A baby girl that brings with her our next chapter but also her own story and song.  One of which is still to be written but we have already seen the prelude to.  What an honour,  what a privilege to be apart of this tapestry that so often looks messy and incomplete. A jumble of confusion filled with dirty clothes and dishes,  left over toast, arguing children,  burnt supper and frazzled patents  -  and yet each of these threads are pulling together. The radiant happy yellow, the fear of red, trouble of brown, glow of pink rosiness – becoming intertwined, wrapped together,  creating one picture on one page in the story of our world, a page dedicated to our family,  our story and our song.  Stepping back only then does one see just how clearly, altogether the patterns intertwine into something that will sing the praise of our Savior all the day long.

So yes 7 children it is! Not planned but instead predestined by the master designer.  A plan bigger than ourselves,  stretched beyond our intentions or expectations, a plan marked out before our conception. So this may seem messy and unrehearsed. Filled with moments of hysterical laughter and blistered feet.  But walk with us as we live this story and song that is being written not by us by one who holds the script close to His heart, revealing to us only one scene at a time….

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Reaching Out

This morning began with a flurry of baking at 6am – just because this Mama ain’t so organised to have her cookies baked before ;) By 9am we were dashing up the highway and by 11:30 we were heading home with hearts full not only with having blessed others but knowing our gifts had been used to bless others.

Today our group of homeschoolers got together to partake in our annual “reaching out” to the elderly day. It is such a simple concept that as one old lady said to me as we walked out, it allowed her “to live again today!”

We simply make a time to go to an old age home and each child performs a simple item. It maybe a poem, song, dance, musical piece or anything they’d like to do. We then hand out little packets of biscuits that we bring along for each resident. So simple and yet so life giving to these people.

I was so proud of my little people for all they did:

Kadin played his violin 20141003_095811

Nate recited “Ozymandias”

Joy-Summer recited “Shall I Compare thee to a summers day”

Lily-Grace sang “Joyful Joyful” 20141003_100334 (please click on this link was just too sweet!!)

and all 5 of them sang “Little boxes”

No it was not perfect, yes they forgot words and went out of tune BUT that was just it! Today was NOT about us and how well we could pull off a show it was simply about blessing someone else by stepping out and sharing a little bit of what makes us who we are with those around us! The result being that not only were they blessed but every child came home feeling that bit more confident, proud that they were able to share a bit of themselves with someone else!

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Eternal Spring Flowers

Looking for  a fun, easy yet effective spring craft… I stumbled upon se7en’s cardboard spring flowers.

They were so simply and we had such fun making them.

We simply had to outline on cardboard with a permanent market, paint in the spaces,

Cut them out and stick a kebab stick on the back.

And voila we had a beautiful bunch of happy flowers!

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