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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: summer reflections- thoughts to ponder

Although I have almost a month left of school, I'm starting to see posts on Facebook and hear from friends who are on summer vacation now (and, not gonna lie, it's making me a little jealous!). While I make it a point to take some time away from work and give my brain and heart a break from the classroom, I also value the time I have in the summer to reflect on my teaching practice and come up with strategies for improvement. Today I want to share some prompts that I find helpful in reflecting on the previous school year, and preparing for the next, in a constructive way.

1. What are my favorite memories from this school year?

It's easy to get caught up in analyzing the nitty-gritty or stewing over systemic problems out of our control. Intentionally spending some time remembering those really great moments has really helped me focus on the positive and on what really matters- the real, human, amazing moments we have with kids.

2. What am I most proud of from this school year?

Did I take the initiative to get some extra professional development? Did I lead a committee or organize an event for the wider school community? Did I get an award or recognition? Did I get a shy kid to dance with wild abandon in my classroom?

3. What did I do differently this year that worked?

Hopefully, as teachers, we are constantly changing and adapting. Sometimes we try a new initiative, program, lesson, or teaching strategy (by choice or otherwise) and it is a total flop, but sometimes it turns out that this new way was better than our old way and we improve!

4. What did I do differently this year that didn't work?

OK, so what are the things that flopped? Let's make sure we learn from those and don't repeat those mistakes.

5. What were the biggest stressors this year?

We can all remember times that we were stressed out. What was it, specifically, that made us feel stressed?

6. What can I do to minimize those stressors next year?

If the stressor was a district policy change, how can I adapt my teaching to make the new policy less stressful? If it was a coworker, what can I do to improve the relationship? If it was the workload, how can I prepare now so that the work is not as overwhelming? Even if the stressor is out of our control, there are ways we can control the impact it has on our work and well-being.

7. What new ideas do I want to try next year?

Back to the changing and adapting concept- what are some new lessons, behavior management strategies, organizational methods, professional development opportunities, or teaching methods I want to try next year? I find tons of inspiration on teacher blogs, Pinterest, and my colleagues' classrooms!

I hope these prompts help you as you reflect on your year and prepare for the next. If you have other questions that you have found helpful, please share! I would love to hear them and I'm sure other teachers would benefit as well. Happy summer!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Mommy Monday: chores for 3 year olds

With only one grownup and two toddlers in the house, I have been highly motivated to get my girls to help out in meaningful ways around the house. The beauty of giving toddlers and preschoolers chores to do is that they actually love it! Because independence is so important to them, giving them ways to contribute in a meaningful way to the running of the house and their daily living is beneficial for everyone. I started consciously giving my girls ...ahem... tasks to do was when they were around 2 years old. Since then I have gradually added things as I realize they are able to do them or find ways to make it easier. Here is the list of chores my girls currently do on a routine basis (the photos link back to previous blog posts where I have described my setup in further detail):

1. Set the table
          They love picking out the color dishes they want to use and the chair in which they will sit!

2. Clear the dishes after a meal
          I keep their dishes in an easily accessible cabinet so they can get out and put away dishes on their own. They recently got tall enough to reach the counter or kitchen sink so they can help clear the table.

3. Put their dirty clothes by the washing machine

4. Put away clean laundry
          I have a stacked washer and dryer in a small closet off of my living room, so the girls just dump their dirty clothes on the floor in front of the closet. It makes it easier for me to just pick them up and dump them in the hamper (in the closet next to the washer) or straight into the machine. Their clothes are in easy-to-access bins in a closet so they can put clean clothes away on their own.

5. Make their bed
          This is the latest addition. They only recently started really using their blankets, so it has only recently been something that even needs to happen, but it took me a while to figure out how to do it. One day I hit on an idea and so far it has worked- I tell them they need to "tuck in" their dolls so they can sleep while the girls are away. They put their dolls (they each have 3 small ones in their beds) on their pillow and fix the blanket so just their heads/faces are peeking out. I sometimes have to help them get the far edge by the wall straightened out but they can mostly do it on their own and they enjoy doing it!

6. Put away their toys
          Having their toys and games easily accessible in bins has made this another easy process.

7. Put away groceries
          My girls LOVE going to the grocery store. They are also very good at knowing exactly where everything goes in the fridge or pantry, and they absolutely insist on putting groceries away themselves.

8. Clean up most spills
          I keep a pile of rags in the corner of my pantry where they can easily access them. Since they started potty training (around age 2) I have had them at least attempt to clean up spills on their own by wiping it up with a rag, although I often finish it up myself or spray some cleaner on it before they wipe.

9. Wash out little training potty after use
          Their caregiver (who watches them in her home) actually got me started on this- the girls empty their training potties into the "big potty" in the bathroom after they use it. Lately they use the training potties and the bathroom toilet interchangeably, but whenever they use it they empty the training potty themselves (unless it's really messy!!). When they were potty training, they took a lot of pride in doing this because it gave them a chance to show off their prize before dumping it out!

10. Personal grooming- get dressed, brush teeth, comb hair, wash hands
          I don't know if this counts as a chore but it sure felt like a chore when I did it for them! For the most part, the girls brush their own teeth, comb their own hair, wash their own hands, pick out their clothes, and dress/undress themselves. Some shirts are still hard for them to get on and off themselves, and I do still help them with their hair, but this is another area where they would much rather do as much as possible on their own anyway. Keeping their clothes, brushes, soap, and faucet accessible makes these tasks more doable at this age.

Do you have any other chores you have seen 3-year-olds have success with? Should 3-year-olds have any chores at all? Share your thoughts in the comments! :)

Twinkly Tuesday

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: drum circle lesson ideas

If you missed it, make sure you check out my previous post on the logistics of setting up, organizing, and running a drumming circle in your classroom. Today's post is focused on my favorite lesson ideas and activities to use in the drumming circle. These basic ideas have worked well for me with students in first grade all the way up to eighth grade (and I'm pretty sure they would work with high schoolers too!). I'm listing them here in the order that I usually introduce them to my students.

1. Basic techniques and vocabulary

I intentionally start the drum circle with an activity that requires the students to hold the drum without playing it, just to make sure everyone is focused and understands that I really mean it when I tell them they will sit out if they play their drum, even by mistake, when it is not their turn! We start off by going over how to hold the drum, and the names of the different parts of the drum (rim, head, body etc). I also go over the parts of the hand (heel, finger, knuckle, palm, side) that we will be using to play the drum. From this point on, I try to only use the specific vocabulary when I am describing what to do. I introduce each playing technique by giving a brief description (1 sentence max!) and then demonstrating. I then use that one technique to play different 4-beat patterns and have them copy it back. Here is a demonstration of some basic playing techniques you can use on most drums (I wouldn't use this video with students- too much verbal explanation etc- but it is a good model if you are working on it yourself before leading the group):

2. "Let's All Play Our Drum"

This is a great way to really get students to focus on listening, and also get some practice on the basic playing techniques. Basically you say the phrase, "let's all play our drum", and everyone plays their drum on the word "drum". I usually specify which playing technique they should use so they can practice different ones throughout the exercise. Say the sentence at different speeds and see if they can play at the right time. Then start taking words away and have them use inner hearing to know when to play- you say "Let's all...", they hear "play our" in their heads, and play on the word "drum". There are other variations of this as well, which you can see in the video below:

3. Pass the Pattern

I start this by having them echo some 4-beat rhythms after me again, then having each person take turns playing that pattern all the way around the circle. Focus on keeping the beat steady and having no gaps between each person. Then explain that you are going to start passing a new pattern around the circle while the first is still circling. Have each student point to the person before them, to whom they should listen. The people across the circle will be doing a different pattern so they should NOT listen to them! My older students have been able to get up to 4 patterns going at a time. Everybody loves the challenge of this one!

4. Longer Patterns

While we're in the echoing mood, I teach the students a more complex pattern, mixing some playing techniques and using more complex rhythms, with a mnemonic device- I match the rhythm to a phrase and have the students repeat the phrase after me several times so they internalize the rhythm. Our favorites have been, "yum, yum, tastes like chicken", "Mom, I'm home, and now I want to eat", and "come and get your ice cream! come and get it now!" (yes, I like to talk about food). Once they can say it correctly, I have them echo the pattern on the drum slowly while saying it, eventually speeding it up and taking away the words. 

5. Improv Circle

This time, instead of copying the pattern of the person before them, everyone is going to make up their own rhythm! Each person gets 4 beats to improvise. Go around the circle without stopping (like the beginning of the Pass the Pattern game). For younger students I usually count each person's 4 beats by holding up my fingers towards them. I tell them that if someone misses their turn, that is a 4-beat rest- we will not give you another turn or stop for you! This is also a good time to talk about the importance of respect for yourself and others and especially focus on facial expressions. I encourage them not to make a cringing face when they improv (a common defense mechanism), laugh, or react negatively to anyone else's playing.

6. Improv Circle 2

Once students are comfortable improvising, remind them of one of the longer patterns you practiced with a phrase. Practice everyone playing that pattern together, clapping for 4 beats, then repeating the pattern. Once they can do that, tell students that the 4 beats of clapping is when one person will be improvising. Everyone will play the pattern in between each person's turn to improv. 

7. Drum Talk

Everyone continues to improvise in this activity, but this time instead of going straight around the circle, you improvise in between each student's turn. Go all the way around the circle with this pattern once to make sure students understand the new order. Now tell them that if you play 3 notes (ti-ti ta or 1-&-2) at any time, everyone needs to copy it whether it is their turn or not. After that, the order will resume as before. Eventually of course I like to up the ante and have any students who miss the echo pattern put their drums down for the rest of the round. I also raise the level of difficulty with my older students by telling students they can also play the echo pattern on their turn (and they would improvise something else after everyone else echos).

8. Free For All

If your group is focused and positive, it is great fun to get to the point where I can just tell students to watch me and play something appropriate, and just go to town jamming with the whole group. Here's an example, but you can see how if everyone is watching, listening, and comfortable in the circle, you can take this in many different ways and is a great way to culminate the drum circle time:

You can find all of the sources linked here, plus many other great drum circle and world music ideas, on my Pinterest board called Music Teaching: World Music and Drum Circles. If you have other great resources for drumming circles, please share and I'll add them to the board!! Leave a comment here or share on my Facebook page!

Looking for teaching ideas and tips for other instruments like recorder, xylophone, ukulele, keyboard, and more? Head to this post:

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mommy Monday: favorite on-the-go items to foster independence in preschoolers

Fostering independence (without anyone getting hurt) has to be one of the most important and difficult parts of raising preschoolers. Last week I shared my favorite items to have around the house for this purpose. Today I'm back with my favorite things when we're on the go!

1. Travel Potty

Travel Potty Chair

Potty training is obviously a key feature of hanging out with preschoolers, and also one of the biggest setbacks to outings at this age. Having a travel potty for them makes such a huge difference! This one that I have is awesome because it folds up like a briefcase, making it a little less conspicuous, you use it with any gallon-size bag, and it has storage compartments on the sides! I keep spare underwear, pants, and socks, wipes, and when the girls were training I kept raisins (my treat of choice for successful potty ventures) in there as well. I keep mine in the car trunk so I always have it with me. When they were first training, they also liked to use it when we were out somewhere that had a bathroom, because it was more familiar to them. 

I wrote about how I organize and store my pouches in this blog post. Basically, they are pouches that you can fill with your own baby food, yogurt, smoothies, or whatever, wash and reuse. The great thing about pouches is that preschoolers don't need much help to eat them on the go- my girls can take off the top, eat, and put the top back on by themselves. A lot of other food that we take with us- granola bars, string cheese, etc- requires my help with the packaging (which is never a good thing for them). The other great thing about the reusable pouches is that the girls can choose exactly what they want in them, and help me make them! Sometimes it's just straight yogurt or applesauce, but other times we make smoothies together. They love picking out the ingredients and putting them in the blender. 

So these are technically snack bags or sandwich bags, but I use them for so much more than that- magnets for a game in the car, colored pencils and paper to use in the waiting room, hats and sunscreen... The great thing about these bags is that they have velcro closures so the girls can open them themselves but there's little risk of spilling, and because they are dishwasher safe I can let them handle whatever is inside without worrying about keeping the bag from getting too dirty. Since they come in fun patterns and colors, the girls can also pick which design they want- any time they can pick something is a plus! It also helps if I have several bags for each child- like a sandwich and grapes, or paper and pencils- because I can color-code the bags and tell them that "all the blue bags are yours" and they can find their own things.

4. Backpacks/ Purses
There are a gazillion different types out there, but putting the kids in charge of (at least some of) their own stuff is a great way to develop their independence! My girls usually have a water bottle, a small toy or book, and maybe a snack when we go out. I have recently started giving them a small grocery list of their own when we go grocery shopping together, and I put 2-3 items on each of their pieces of paper. I've seen people who have lists with photographs of the items for pre-readers- I don't go that far. My girls can't read yet but they know starting sounds so I usually tell them what is on their list and they can remember based on the first letter of the word after that. They are responsible for finding and remembering those items at the store. I usually pick things that aren't essential to my weekly meal plan, and if they forget their items, we will go home without them. They take more pride in it when they know I am actually counting on them for their items, not just pretending!

What are your favorite items for fostering independence when you're on the go? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Twinkly Tuesday – May 19, 2015

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: lessons for the end of the year

Well, we are approaching the middle of May, which means the end of the school year is drawing near (some of us sooner than others) for many of us. Keeping students engaged and doing something worthwhile can be challenging in those last few classes! Here are some of my favorites:

1. Hula Hoop Conductor

I got this idea here last year and my students and I loved it! Basically one person is the conductor and the rest of the class follows them, usually on instruments. But instead of waving their arms to conduct, the conductor moves in and out of hula hoops laying on the floor. If they are inside the hoop, they play. If they step out, they stop. I used 3 hula hoops in different colors and assigned groups of instruments to each hoop (green is metals, red is skins etc). The best part is getting the class to intuitively follow the conductor's movements while they are in the hoop, like playing softly for tiptoe, one big sound together when you jump, or loud when you reach up high. I always conduct the class first so they can get some ideas, and I get a good workout doing it! The only thing I tell them is which hula hoop is for which instruments, and I let them figure out the rest. I start slowly by stepping in and out of one hoop at a time, then I start mixing it up by jumping in and out of two or three at a time, running across, tiptoeing, and doing crazy dances. Once they get the idea I start having students come and conduct and see what they come up with.

This activity is great because it keeps students focused, there is an element of silliness, and it involves playing instruments, which students always appreciate. One way to have students play more than one instrument is to have the conductor take the instrument from someone to become the next conductor.

2. Going Downtown

I like to do lots of dancing and movement games at the end of the year but "Going Downtown" is my favorite. I took an activity I saw at a conference and modified it. To set up the game, separate students into two lines facing each other, with at least 5 feet between the two lines. Try to make the lines even but if there is an odd number of students it will still work. The students are the sidewalks, and the space between them is the street. I tell students to imagine they are on their way to a really awesome party. They are walking down the street with their friend to get to the party. If they're really excited about the party, they aren't just going to be walking calmly down the street- they would be skipping, jumping, doing cartwheels, dancing... One person from the front of each row will be going from the front of the line, down the middle, and joining the back of the line, but they won't be just walking. One person, whose name I call, will be coming up with a fun way to go down the street. The other person (from the other row) will copy them. But they are going to the party together, so they will be going down the street at the same time- not watching the first person and then copying after. Everyone else on the sidewalk moves forward as soon as someone leaves their row to make space at the back of each row. Keep taking turns until the end of the song (I used to have a CD with a song called "Going Downtonwn"- hence the name- but now I use "Walking On Sunshine", which is equally appropriate!).

These are the rules I give my students when we play: wait until I call one of your names to go, keep the street wide, only do things your partner can physically do, and if you can physically do something you should go for it. I remind them that we don't want any traffic jams, so I make sure the next pair doesn't start going until the previous one has gotten to the end of the row. Often the people waiting get busy watching the others walking past them and they start to move in, making the space too small. To avoid injuries, make sure the space stays wide! For the person picking the movement, I give the example of someone who can do back flips and another cannot. If the leader chooses something that their partner can't do, they are disqualified from the game. If the person copying can do something (like maybe a somersault) and chooses not to, they are disqualified. Obviously you as the teacher will have to be the judge of whether something is truly too difficult or not, or if someone is trying to embarrass someone out of spite rather than fun (I've never had that happen, even in my most challenging groups, but it is theoretically something that I am prepared for).

3. Soundscapes

Soundscapes are, as I tell my students, like landscapes (a visual representation of a scene) with sound. We are trying to evoke a certain image with a combination of sounds. There are so many ways to use this concept, but I have used and love the following versions:

Kindergarten/1st: Introduce a set of classroom instruments (at least one more different kinds than there are students) and have them listen to each one. Read a poem, and assign a word or phrase to each student, and have them pick an instrument sound to match the word. Practice having them play the instrument at the same time as you read the word, then see if they can "play the poem" without you reading. Having them sit in the order they play will help :)

2nd/3rd: Assign small groups to a specific location (like the playground, zoo, downtown city, airport, etc) and have them come up with sounds they would hear in that location. Then they need to figure out a way to recreate each of their sounds using instruments, found sounds, voice, or body percussion. You can make it slightly more challenging by telling them they have to have at least one in each category of sound source. It's really fun to have groups draw a scene out of a hat and practice secretly, then have the class close their eyes for the performance and guess the location.

4th and up: The basic soundscape activity for 2nd and 3rd graders still works well with the older students, but for more of a challenge you can extend the concept to less concrete subjects. Since we have an emotional literacy curriculum in our district, I like to give each small group a "feeling word" to describe with sound. You can also connect it with writing by having them write a short story and then tell the story with sound (no speaking words!).

4. Silly Songs

There are some songs that I save for the end of the year because they are just pure fun. Others from the beginning of the year are great to bring back for an encore! "Kobuta" is a fun song from Japan that is fun and easy because it has very few words and it is an echo song. I do silly motions for each animal (like push my nose up for the pig). The best part is when you start creating variations- I have students suggest different feelings and do the song in that feeling. The all-time favorite is always the very, very sad one!

"Pizza Daddy-O" is one that I use at the beginning of 2nd grade to experience call and response, and I love to bring it back at the end of the year. You can have students come up with new dance moves for the ending to make it even funnier.

The list of songs goes on and on, but I'll share one more favorite: Miss Julie Ann Johnson. In the link you'll find the sheet music for the tune, but scroll down to the bottom and you'll see the suggestion from "reader Elizabeth C" (me! that's me!) for how I use the song to make up ridiculous stories and reinforce good singing tone and posture.

Update: if you're looking for end of the year lessons that take up a bit more time (over several class periods), check out this post!

What do you like to do at the end of the year? Share your favorites in the comments!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mommy Monday: top 5 household items to foster independence in preschoolers

Today I'm sharing my 5 favorite household items for fostering independence in preschoolers. Some of these are obvious, some are more specific products that I just really love. All of them are items that make it easier for my 3-year-old girls to take care of things for themselves (which makes all of us happy!). 

1. IKEA Kalas dishes

I've raved about these already in my post about how I store the girls' dishes, but it bears repeating that these things are awesome! They are so easy to use, easy to wash, and easy to store. The colors are fantastic and the girls love picking out their dishes for each meal. They even make great toys- the girls pull them out to sort things, or lay them out on the floor to "make a rainbow". My life is so much easier having these, because the girls can take care of their dishes themselves and they get to pick their color.

2. Storage bins
Storage bins are a great way to give preschoolers more independence by making it easier for them to find, get out, and put away their things on their own. I use bins in the girls' closet (right picture) and their toy storage (left picture). The canvas ones especially are easy to move and see into. It's also easy to label the bins with a picture of what should be inside, so the kids can see what goes where when they are cleaning up.

My girls went through a phase a few months ago where they started waking up anywhere between 4:00 and 5:00am and insisting that they needed to get out of bed, even though they were obviously still tired. I tried everything I could think of to convince them to stop getting out of bed before I told them, but nothing worked... until I got this alarm. I have all the sounds turned off, but when it is the time I have set, the owl's face turns green. It's gentle enough that they have slept through it if they are really tired, but if they are awake they see it right away. I was afraid it would just be one more rule for them to fight, but they love coming out and telling me that the owl has turned green! 

4. Step stools

Obviously being able to reach stuff is important for short people who want to be more independent, What wasn't so obvious to me at first is that being able to carry the step stool around wherever they want by themselves is equally important for my girls! I have a fancy wooden 2-step one with storage that I got first, but the cheap plastic one I got later gets used 10 times as much because they take it everywhere (the wooden one stays in the bathroom and serves its own purpose, but the plastic one probably would have done almost the same thing while being more versatile)! The rubber feet on the bottom are also great for the bathroom and other tile floors.

5. Rags

Image result for dirty towels
They may not be glamorous but they definitely are a necessity for life with preschoolers! Having a stash in an easily accessible area has made a huge difference in encouraging my girls to clean up their own messes. Whether they have an accident, spill their milk, or get marker on the table, my girls can grab a towel and wipe up the wet or get it wet to clean up a mess, then throw it in the laundry basket.

Well, that's my list! What are your must-have items around the house with preschoolers? How do you foster independence in your young children? Share your thoughts below!

* I am not being compensated for this post nor am I affiliated with any of the companies that make these items- I just like them :)


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: tips for drumming circles

I love doing drum circles with my students in the spring. The students are so motivated by the instruments, and having a different formation (sitting in a circle) is a great way to break out of the normal routine and keep things interesting as the end of the year approaches. I am planning to share some of my favorite drum circle activities in a future post (update: see that post, with all of my favorite lesson ideas and activities for drum circles, here), but today I wanted to talk about the logistics and organizational side of things for those who would like to try a drum circle in your own elementary music classes.

1. Set up enough chairs for each student, you, and one extra in one big circle.

Part of the point of a drum circle is that everyone is looking at everyone else and there is no one person leading. Having an extra chair next to you will serve 3 important purposes: it gives you a place to set down the things you might normally keep on your music stand or nearby desk (like your clipboard, keys, clock etc), it gives a little space between you and the students so they are facing you a bit more without taking you out of the circle, and it gives a nice spot for any troublesome students to move to if they need some extra reminders.

2. Have the drums already set up (bigger ones in front of the chairs, smaller instruments under the chairs) before the students come in.

One of the most magical moments is when the class comes in and gasps at the sight of a drum circle set up and waiting for them. Don't waste a chance for magic like that (not to mention all the headaches you will save yourself). If you have students assigned to smaller groups in your normal setup (like the color teams I use), you may want to think about finding a way to assign spots by those smaller groups. In my case, I have djembes in each of the 6 colors I have for the groups of students in my classes, so I have students go to a chair that has their team color's djembe. That way I can plan for any assigned seats I need for specific students but also give students a sense of choice.

3. You don't have to have a class set of drums to have a drum circle!

If you don't have enough drums, add small percussion to the mix. Shakers, scrapers, cowbells, and whistles are all great and still fit with the genre. Make sure you alternate instruments when you set them up around the circle, and then have students rotate through the instruments by switching chairs throughout the class period.

4. Always establish ground rules before you start

Before they even go sit down in the circle, I always have the class sit off to the side while I give them the first rule: don't touch the instruments, even by mistake, until I give you permission. After we are all seated quietly, I go over the rest of my rules:

  • Because we are in a circle, it is very important that we not only think about what we say and do but also about what we show on our faces. Your facial expressions need to communicate appreciation and respect for each other when others are playing. When you are playing yourself, your facial expressions need to communicate confidence.
  • Knowing that every person in the circle is being held to a high standard of respect, it is important for each participant to be creative and take risks. Don't just play what you already know you can do. Try something new.
  • If you play your instrument when it is not your turn, even if it is by mistake, you will be asked to put your instrument down for a few minutes. If it happens repeatedly, you will be asked to leave the circle. In order to be able to play together as a united group, we need to be able to listen to each other even more keenly than we usually do.
5. Don't talk too much

Demonstrate and have them copy back (just point to them and they'll get it). You'll have to explain some things but most cultures that incorporate drum circles regularly practice a master-apprentice style of learning anyway. The less time they have to sit and listen to you talk without playing their instruments, the better :)

I think that's it from me! I'd love to hear other tips you may have to share as well- leave a comment!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Mommy Monday: Dear Newly-Single Mom

Dear Newly-Single Mom,

Hi there. First, here's a hug. I'm so sorry that you're going through this. This stinks.

It has been almost 3 years since I first became suddenly single with 2 little babies. Let me tell you, it was rough. I cried. A lot. Questioned everything I ever believed. A lot. I'm writing this letter to you because when I felt really alone, one of the places to which I turned for solidarity was the internet. If you've found me, I hope you find some comfort from this.

Here's what I want to tell you:
  • You're not alone. I promise. My situation that landed me here was pretty "out there", but with a little online digging I found a lot of people who had been through very similar experiences. No matter what it is that you're going through, I'm betting that you can find someone who has been there and can help put words to what you're feeling and experiencing. You may not be ready for advice yet, but having someone else express what you can't even fathom yet can be life-changing.
  • You need real-life groupies. The internet is a great way to find people who can relate to your specific situation, no matter how obscure, but it is not the place to find the practical help you need right now. If you can, make it a priority to get you and your family as close to close family and/or friends as possible. If that's not an option, reach out to local people any way you can. You could try local churches (whether you share their faith or not), charities and social work organizations, or any sort of social group you belong to- gyms, book clubs, mom groups, whatever. Tell them what's going on and tell them exactly the kind of emotional and practical support you want. If you are too overwhelmed to even know what kind of support you need (that was me!), just keep being honest about where you are. Allow yourself to lean on them, and allow them to support you.
  • Use your single mom card. Now. This is not the time to try to prove that you can do it all. Three years in and I have no shame using my "single mom card" to get help or as an excuse. Someone wants to get together for drinks and all you want to do is see your kids after being gone at work? "That's so nice, but I've been away from my kids a lot this week- I want to have some family time tonight". Someone wants to get together for drinks and you want to go but you don't have child care? "That sounds so awesome but I don't have anyone to watch the kids... (insert meaningful glance here)". Feeling overwhelmed? "Hey, can you come help me with dinner and bedtime?". I have learned that people want to help but they also don't want to be constantly asking or seem condescending. They will be happy you spoke up.
  • You can do this. You may not know where you're going to live, how you're going to support your family, or even how you're going to survive, but you will because you have to. Moms have this built-in drive and you'll find that when you think something is impossible, you will figure out a way to make it happen. 
  • Start writing. You've got way too many feelings and to-do lists to keep them in your head without exploding. Find a place to journal, and a system to write down to-do's and calendars. It could be digital or paper, but you need to get it out of your head and store it somewhere else.
You are going to be stretched in ways you've never imagined, but you are going to make it and your kids are too. If you don't know where else to turn, I'm here and happy to listen and help any way I can. You can comment on the blog or message me on Facebook.



Note from the author: I have started writing this post at least 20 times and it has taken me this long to finally write something I feel comfortable posting. If you know someone who is in this situation, I hope you will share this with them and offer them your support. Single parenting is not easy and should never be attempted alone!