Keeping the Obligation Out of Tradition

Written by contributor Sarah Small of SmallWorld at Home

I am a great lover of family traditions. In fact, my entire master’s thesis was built around the theme of tradition and legacy. I love the stories that are passed down from generation to generation, the bits of family legend, as well as the tangible items: our grandmothers’ china, the old grenade and bayonet from World War II, Aunt Mabel’s jewelry, old books inscribed in elegant handwriting, and threadbare quilts with my mother’s old dresses.

In our own family, my husband and I decided early on in our marriage to deliberately cultivate traditions. We had one or two of our own before the kids were born and then added to them yearly. We have collected a solid stash of them in these 20-some years, from candlelight dinner every Saturday night, to the bedtime reading ritual, to taping numbers all around the house each birthday eve in celebration of a child’s new age.

Most holidays have their own traditions: decorating Christmas cookies, doing a Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt, hosting an annual October soup-and-pumpkin party. (If you are looking for some amazing ideas for family traditions, check out 10 Ideas To Get You Started at Simple Mom.)

Tradition anchors us. We take joy in unpacking the beloved ornaments each year and comfort in knowing there will be hashbrown casserole and cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning breakfast. Human beings, especially the very young and the very old, are naturally creatures of habit and order.

 But what happens when our kids outgrow the traditions, or just don’t want to take part? It will most likely happen, friends. Those of you who are just beginning this journey may find it impossible to believe that your wide-eyed little angel will someday be a 15-year-old who won’t want to sing Christmas carols around the piano or go with you to the annual performance of The Nutcracker that you have always attended. Together. As a family.
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Sarah’s Biggest Homeschooling Mistake: Not Traveling More

Written by contributor Sarah Small of SmallWorld at Home

One of the things that really aggravated me when our son was in public school in first grade was being told that we shouldn’t go on trips that would make him miss school.

Really? So being in a classroom is more culturally valuable than going to a Greek festival? So he’ll learn music better if he’s jingling bells than if he is at a symphony? History is more likely to come alive for him within the four walls of school than at Gettysburg?

When we decided to homeschool, I knew that much of my children’s education would consist of hands-on learning that included going lots of places. I imagined us taking the Civil War trail along the East Coast, following Lewis and Clark’s adventures out west, digging up dinosaur bones in Utah, ogling masterpieces at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I even had it calculated that my husband would be eligible for sabbatical when our oldest was in high school, so we would spend six months somewhere far away (and per my husband’s career, botanically interesting), like Australia or South Africa.

The best laid plans, eh?

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Seeking a Professional: Our Speech Therapy Journey

Written by contributor Sarah Small of SmallWorld at Home

We really thought he would outgrow it. Eventually he’d start saying “right” instead of “wight” and “guitar” instead of “guitah.” He’d eventually master his sister’s name — Laurel—which is a nightmare for kids who struggle with the L and R sounds.

Both of our boys were born with ankyloglossia, a condition in which the frenulum (that little band of tissue that connects the bottom of the tongue to the floor of the mouth) is too short and tight, thus restricting the movement of the tongue. In other words, they were tongue-tied.

A generation or more ago, it was a common procedure for a doctor to clip a newborn’s anchored tongue.  But for various reasons, frenectomies fell out of favor in recent decades, including the years during which my boys were born.  My sons were born seven years apart in two different states, and both pediatricians maintained that tongue-clipping wasn’t done anymore and that “they’ll grow out of it.”

Our older son had trouble with his L and R sounds, but by age seven, he mastered the sounds completely.  Most likely, his frenulum stretched out on its own. But our younger son continued to struggle.  We regularly modeled correct speech for him in our home, but he just couldn’t seem to imitate our sounds.
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High School, Take Two (2011 Curriculum Fair)

Written by contributor Sarah Small of SmallWorld at Home

Ages of my children: 14, 10 (and college sophomore, 18)
Educational Philosophy Influences: Literature-based, Eclectic, College-Bound

In August our daughter will begin high school at home. This is our second time homeschooling a high schooler; our older son just finished his freshman year of college. As we enter high school again, we naturally consider what we’ll do the same and what we’ll do differently.

Our son’s input was tremendously helpful. At the end of the year, I asked him what boiled down to: how did we do? I’ve been relieved at his answers. He didn’t have a list of “Things I Missed Because I Was Homeschooled.” He basically had two items on his “wish list.”

  1. That we had talked more about literary elements like symbolism, imagery, etc. and that we’d analyzed more poetry. (You might have guessed that he is an English major.)
  2. That he had taken a language through dual enrollment at the community college rather than using Rosetta Stone at home.

I can definitely correct those two issues! But there are other places that we’ll tweak according to the differences in the two kids themselves and a few things I wish I’d done differently.

One major difference is that we will have more time with our daughter. Our son wanted to finish high school in three years, so we packed a lot into those years. She’ll take four years, allowing for a more leisurely pace.

For our kids, high school consists of a combination of home, co-op, and community college. Why this mixture?
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Decluttering 101

Written by contributor Sarah Small of SmallWorld at Home

My grandmother was a packrat. I’m grateful she saved letters written by my great-great-great grandfather during the Civil War and that she saved a sampler handed down through a dozen generations to me.

But those stacks of magazines and drawers filled with miscellaneous utensils? When we moved her out of her home, she was living in just one room of house. The rest was filled literally to the ceiling with junk.

We’re all far from that extreme, right? But what about those boxes of clothes we’re saving for someone, the worksheets from our daughter’s first-grade year, and the puzzles with missing pieces? Do you ever feel cluttered inside because of clutter in your home?

I have one word for us all: declutter. Get rid of all the junk, and then keep the clutter down.

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