I have realized over the years of parenting that from the time they are born and so far through our homeschool years certain things define the way we parent, teach and interact with our kids. Some themes that seem to continually reoccur over time. Blogging has helped me realize a lot of those themes because I tend to write about similar things often.
We read to them all the time. We encourage them to read. We demonstrate to them how much we read. Reading is definitely a central theme in our family. We are readers and we are raising readers. We all spend a good portion of our days reading. We read books, magazines, comics, websites really anything. We talk about what we read, we talk about what we want to read, we read after dinner as a family. I think they will all grow up remembering reading.
Exploring, discovering and enjoying nature is an important part of our family. We spend lots of time outdoors but also indoors at locations like nature centers, zoos, and arboretums. We hike, we camp, we geocache, we bike, we play lawn bowling and frisbee together. We often just walk together as a family around our neighborhood and around different area parks. We really encourage exploring and loving nature like Ciaran's love of frogs, Sirah loving owls and their desire to touch and examine all of nature around them. We encourage nature note booking and free exploration.
We are raising our kids with a strong faith. We try to live out our faith, we try to give them examples of what that means and to model it for them. We teach them about God and morality. We do our best to live according to our beliefs, we offer them materials to learn from and experiences and activities that support and encourage their own faith. We answer tough questions and are trying to raise them to have a faith of their own not just a "because my parents said so" faith. Our faith is often expressed and lived out in the small everyday details of our lives.
We try to offer a lot of experiences to our kids. Our favorite family saying "One never knows what this crazy clan will do!" We bring them along with us to a wide variety of places and to meet a variety of people. We take them campaigning and to political rallies, to the art museum and book signings, to the orchestra, Irish and Scottish festivals, caving, to all the museums (not just the zoo and childrens), petroglyphs, farms and skyscrapers. Basically if we would go there they will go there with very few exceptions. And we take them to all the possible crazy places you can think of to take a child on a field trip. We always try to make it fun and often, though not always, educational. If we have read about it I will try to find a way to bring it to life for them in a more tangible way.
We travel a lot. We have family scattered throughout the country and many in wonderful vacation spots such as New York, Maine, Chicago and Southern California. We take them to visit relatives and see the sites. We take them places we want them to experience. I think if we were suddenly to become millionares this is the piece that would increase the most. When we were learning about the pharaohs and we talked about the exhibit in Texas Rhiannon asked if we could go there on a field trip as if it was around the corner. Ciaran piped up and said wouldn't it be better to just go to Egypt? How nice it would be! Ciaran and I have an agreement that when he is older we are going to travel to the rainforest and jungle together even if no one else comes with us. Sirah really wants to go to London because that is where her special bear is from. Rhiannon would love to visit Rome and Ireland. All of them want to go explore caves around the United States and the world. I suppose we have taught them to dream big and that travel is a wonderful thing. I did however sit Rhiannon down the year she was 7 and explain that this is not "normal" life to get to travel to the beaches of Southern California, New York City, Walt Disney World and the retreat of Maine all in the same year. We talked about how privileged we really were. I think we have given them all travel bugs much like our own since we have not stopped traveling because we have kids.
We have a love of history and philosophy. While they may seem an odd mix in a lot of ways they are not. If you looked at our home collection of books you would see a ton of philosophy, history and political books, along with a smattering of science books. Serona has a passion for philosophy and I have a passion for history. We will watch family movies and documentaries that show this love along with our love of nature. We take field trips and family outings to places of historical significance or places that bring alive history. We talk in ways that promote philosophy, logic and argument. We even are beginning to see it in the communication and choices of our kids. This has led to a lot of inquisitiveness in our kids and that is a wonderful thing even as we answer Why or How for the millionth time. Those two subjects I think really inform us of who we are and how we got here both in experience and in our minds and choices. I am glad that is an important theme for us.
We all have an appreciation for music and Serona can play music. Music is a part of our daily life. We often listen to some classical music, show tunes but mostly now we are listening to Christian music we all like as a family. We have music streaming on our computers, the kids each have their own cd or mp3 player in their room, we listen in the car and on the go. We sing songs together, we in general enjoy each others music and we all like listening to it. Music has been a unifier for our family and given us yet another area of shared experiences as a family both for educational and mostly just for fun purposes.
8. Video Games
This one is harder for me to admit but it is reality - we are a video game family. I grew up playing video games. I have more limited taste in the types of games I enjoy. Nintendo Wii is a good fit for me personally and for our family. We also have an Xbox 360 system that Serona mostly uses. We play together as a family, the kids play together and Serona or Ciaran will play alone. I used to be really hesitant about this screen time but I realize how many more hours in a day my kids really have with homeschooling, they really do have more free time and when chores, school, reading, outside/exercise time is over if they want to play video games that is fine by me. So they get more video game time than people might think they would get in our house. It is social and fun for them and sometimes even for me. I really am a fan of the Wii system - it is a great family console.
9. Board Games
Not only do we enjoy video games but we play lots of board games. We play as a family and often I play with the kids. The kids will play certain games on their own as well. We have a TON of games, card and board games and I do manage to purge every few years but I amazed at how many different games we really do play. We have certain favorites we come back to time and time again but in general we play a lot of games. I see Ciaran have my competitive nature and Rhiannon having Serona's "It's just fun to play" attitude which sometimes makes it difficult to play all together a game like Blokus. I like that we play games together I think it promotes a lot of good things and offers lots of great life learning experiences.
We are an activist family in a lot of ways. We have been politically involved as families and individuals for a long time. We try to stay on top of important issues and participate in the ways we can. We are raising our kids to see the importance of being an involved citizen and they get to see the frustrations that go along with that involvement as well. We are volunteers in different areas of our lives, advocates in others and activists in still others. The commonality of this is teaching our kids they need to be aware and informed of what is going on in the world around them. They also need to be ready to stand up and defend their beliefs and those things that are important to them. We are trying to equip them with the necessary tools to be an involved and active citizen in all areas of their lives by teaching them and demonstrating them for them.
Together these themes often come out in our parenting and homeschooling choices with our kids. While they don't encapsulate everything about us and we are not consitent that we live all of these all the time - they give you a fairly good picture of the way we exist as a family and some of the things important to us all.