Monday, January 31, 2011

A Day Off

My girls have worked through each of the numerous public school snow days. 
I called today an official snow day.
No "work" was done.
I can do that since I am the Teacher, Principal and Superintendent.
That is pretty cool.
playing with a camera and a paper towel roll.  Cool shot Lilah!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weekly Accomplishments

Lots of things have been happening here.  For starters a home improvement project we have been dreaming about for 12 years is finally being brought to life.  Our home was built in 1931.  The woman we bought our house from lived here for 50 years and raised six children.  I marvel at her organizational skills given our kitchen is the size of a modern day closet!  When we bought the house in 1997, the market was on fire.  Homes in our neighborhood were selling (with bidding wars) the day they went on the market.  We walked in our home, loved it, offered to buy it, and were blessed that our offer was accepted.  This was before we had children and realized how critical an efficient kitchen is.  We are finally taking down the wall between our kitchen and dining room and building a breakfast bar between the two.  Our kitchen will be larger, more efficiently organized and as a result, the quality of our home life will be greatly improved.  I hope the quality of our homeschooling does not suffer in the meantime!

this is the wall that is coming down....

So rather than having a three week time frame to prepare as was our original estimate, the contractor was actually ahead of schedule and the work is beginning tomorrow!!!!!!  Despite this, we had a very productive week and accomplished many things.
Lilah completed the trial of Aleks math.  She loves it as much as Grace does.  I did not plan to switch from Singapore but she was feeling like she wanted to learn at a faster pace than Singapore was moving and she wanted to have the same computerized experience as her sister.  She did more math this week then the past few combined.  She now has her own graph paper notebook for her paperwork and her own account.  She has her own pie chart and is proud of what she already knows.  She is looking forward to learning more about perimeter, area, and fractions.  
“I love my new math program!” ~ Lilah
In history the girls wrote about which Greek city they would prefer to live in; Sparta or Athens.  Grace was required to write a 5 paragraph essay.  Lilah was also given the framework of an essay but her writing was less detailed.  Both girls decided Athens was their preferred city.  I had to agree with them!  I ordered The Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Maestro Classics.  We talked about the composer Paul Dukas, the original author Lucian and the German poet who wrote the poem on which Dukas composed the music.  All three were put in the Book of Centuries.
Lilah's book of centuries

We met at our local library for botany this week.  All six girls and the three of us gathered around a table and pulled out many children's books on gardening, herbs and flowers.  I printed about a spoke concept wheel to help organize their thoughts.  Our purpose was to find herbs they wanted to grow in their light hut.  Based on medicinal purposes, uses for cooking and crafts and beauty, they decided which herbs to purchase.  This week we also did some journaling on our own.  We researched angiosperms, gymnosperms, vascular and non-vascular plants.  They sketched pictures of each in their journals.  I am enjoying the process of combining book learning with journaling and weekly cooperative learning.  We have completed chapter 1 and will be moving on to chapter 2 this week.
“I really want to plant mint because I want to be able to make my own tea.” ~ Grace
“I want to try to grow vanilla to see if I can make vanilla extract.” ~ Lilah

six spoke concept wheel

Lilah's journal

my journal

Grace's journal

Back in October we began a cooperative story telling project.  My girls plus 10 of their friends took turns writing a story via email.  Grace began the story and it was passed around to each child, who added on, and emailed it to the next person.  It took months to complete the story.  This week the final email was sent!    Our next step is to have a publishing party.  Each child will illustrate their picture on an index card.  12 copies will be made.  I will provide each child with a report cover.  They will illustrate their own cover and paste the illustrations into the story.  It was a fun project that I hope to do again.
That wraps up the highlights of our week.  Next week will be interesting as we try to homeschool while demolition and construction is underway...... 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Even We Can't Roll Through This.....

Yesterday we rolled. 
We swam, frolicked and played.
We went to bed safe and snug, warm in our beds.
We woke to this.
Even with 4 wheel drive...we could not roll through this.








Thursday, January 27, 2011

How We Roll

Snow day? 
 Pish...that does not apply to us!  
We have 4 wheel drive.  
This is how we roll on a snowy day...










Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Free Therapy



Call it serendipity, fate, or divine intervention.  I believe that God has a hand in my life and yesterday he definitely guided me towards what I needed.  It was a hard day.  Some battles were fought over reading and writing.   At times I panic that the reading and writing has been a little lax lately.  I worry that if I do not assign certain books they will never be picked up and read by choice.
Today I dropped my girl off at a lesson and headed to my friend’s house to return a pair of mittens.  As I pulled in I realized a play date was taking place with another dear friend.  I was invited in, offered a beer (scandalous on a Tuesday afternoon) and I was given the opportunity to vent my feelings on sympathetic ears.  Not only did my friends listen, but they offered priceless words of wisdom.
Could this be hormonal?  It sure could given the fact that we seem to spiral into a period of emotion and confrontation every 4 weeks or so......  Can we diffuse the situation and prevent escalation by stopping and doing something else, like playing the Wii, watching a video or looking at a new app on the iTouch?  Can I let go of reading for a few weeks or a month?


Stepping back and looking at the situation objectively, I realize that the issue is mine.  My girls are both reading enough.  Lilah reads for pleasure and reads often.  Grace reads for information and knowledge.  She finds novels tedious and often boring.  Right now she is reading the American Girl book about internet safety.  She also has two other shorter novels in progress.  Rather than stress her with reading during the day, I will make time every night before bed for her to choose one of her books and read it aloud to me.  She loves that.  I do too. 
I think I am going to build some daily journaling in to increase both girls writing stamina.  Start easy with lists.  Write down ten things that make you happy, or write about your favorite character from Harry Potter.  Easy things.  I will not critique or offer suggestions.  Just let them write freely.  We will continue on with our writer's workshop structure for writing, with some lessons from Ralph Fletcher, and Write Shop thrown in.
I needed that short time today with my friends.  I needed to talk and have someone other than Greg listen to me and give me advice.  The beer sure was nice too!  Now I am relaxed, reassured and ready to move forward.  I feel like I have a plan and it is a good one.  
To my therapists -- how much do I owe you for the session today?  Thank you.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Logical Consequences

I wish all consequences could be natural........


My 8 year old daughter pointed out my parental inadequacies this week.  Without going into details, we had a conflict in our house this weekend.  I imposed a consequence for behavior which I felt was disrespectful.  My 8 year old said to me, “Mom, your big thing lately has been Logical Consequences.  How is what you did logical?”  Gee.....let me think......it wasn’t.  Hmm.  My bad.
My bad.  I am willing to admit that I am far from perfect.  I wish so desperately that I had an instruction manual to parent my girls.  This time I had to take some direction from my child.  Upon reflection I decided that my consequence was not a consequence, it was a punishment.  I returned the material item that I have taken away and decided that a logical consequence would be to take on a chore that is not normally done by my child every day for a week.  It seems logical to me that the result of disrespecting a parent would be to help that parent out in a very meaningful way.  
I first heard of logical consequences when I was teaching.  It was how our school handled classroom management.  The theory is that some consequences are natural.  If  Lilah leaves her Polly Pockets on the floor and Jake (our dog) chews the legs off one, she may be reluctant to leave her toys on the floor again.  But some natural consequences do not come quickly enough to have impact, like not wearing a seat belt or not looking both ways before crossing the street.  Sometimes parents have to impart a consequence.  If it is closely tied to the action, I perhaps the child will actually learn something from it rather than just be annoyed, angry or hurt.  Is the consequence respectful?  Is the consequence relevant?  Is the consequence realistic?  These are things I try to keep in mind.  
For example if our bedtime routine takes so long that bedtime goes past 9:00pm, then the next night bedtime will begin earlier.  Or if I don’t get any help cleaning up the mess that does not belong to me, when we have an opportunity to have friends over, I will have to say no.  My goal is to teach the girls that being part of our family has rights as well as responsibilities.  At times it is not easy.  At times we screw up.  The constant is that love remains the same.  This time it was my mistake.  Tomorrow it may be Greg’s or Grace’s....we apologize, we accept the consequence, we try to do better the next time.  God willing we will be given a fresh day to try it again and try once again to do better.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Social Network

Homeschooling is easier with a good social network.  There are times when you as a parent have to do something and don't want to bring your children, armed with a bag of schoolwork, along.  This may be okay for a general doctor’s visit, but I certainly don’t want to tote them to my yearly mammogram appointment.  I try to schedule as much as I can for Saturdays, when Greg is around to help me.  But since his commute keeps him away until long after normal business hours, sometimes a Mom needs help!
I am so grateful for my network of friends.  People may be scornful of a early morning playdate because after all....aren’t most children in school working away at 9:00 on a Monday morning?  Yes they are.  But  amazing things happen during these “playdates”.    My children have explored creeks, made ice sculptures from the huge hunks they dragged up from the creek.  Since we don’t have a creek in our yard, this exploration of a new ecosystem is learning for them.  At another friend’s house they have curled up on a cozy couch and read - together -with their friends.  I love love love hearing that Grace and her friend read together.  It was so unexpected, my child who so rarely slows down!  At another friend’s home my girls have access to unlimited art supplies and plenty of space to create.  I will never forget the time they used a younger sister as a model and put on a fashion show complete with styled outfits, styled hair and makeup.  This was not simply dress-up.  These outfits were not Disney store costumes.  They were artistically created ensembles.  This was the dramatic expression of something that could be a possible career choice for Lilah.  She loves all things fashion.
These playdates give the Mom’s a chance to have privacy while at doctor’s appointments.  They give Mom’s a much needed break to get the things done that we simply put aside in favor of teaching our children.  Don’t assume our children are just on a “playdate” because after all....isn’t play a very valuable aspect of learning?

I believe it is.

We played Blokus while our friends were here today.

We learned to make 3-D snowflakes with really big scissors!

We blogged by the fire.

Our friend taught us how to make duct tape bags.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Weekly Accomplishments - A Bit Off....

Our week was a bit off.  No one’s fault really.  Greg was traveling and usually this does not bother me but for some reason this week I had a hard time sleeping.  I would fall asleep on the couch, wake up for the 10:00 news and remain wide awake until after midnight.  So when the alarm would sound at 6:30 I wanted to throw it out the window.  I turned it off and rolled over.  Big mistake.  Things still got done this week but not with our usual joie de’vivre.  
Math - We are rolling along in our math studies.  Grace is loving Aleks.  I love that she loves it.  This week we reviewed how to divide larger numbers like 3600 / 90.  We worked on drawing angles in geometry.  She reviewed multiplication using three and four digits.   This week she also faced some multistep word problems - similar to the ones she balked at in Life of Fred.  Now there was no fuss, no fight.  She just solved the problem!  She is now easily doing at least 30 minutes concentrated math per day.  Lilah is feeling a little envious that Grace has this cool computer program to do her math on.  For now we are going to stick with Singapore but  Aleks may be something I look for her next year.
History - this week we read two more chapters of Percy Jackson.  I loved that the girls were able to figure out who Aunty Em was from their other readings.  They also used the clues from the mythological story of Perseus to figure out how Percy would slay Aunty Em.  
Reading/Writing - Grace is reading the American Girl book The Smart Girl’s Guide to the Internet.  She is still pestering her father and I for a gmail account.  I am very reluctant to give into this request.  She is not allowed on Facebook, does not have a cell phone and I do not see why she cannot continue to share my email when needed.  She can text through her itouch and I receive a copy of every text sent on my blackberry.  I like this set up.  I told her once she finishes the book, she can write an expository essay on what she learned about internet safety and then her father and I will revisit the discussion.  I stressed that this does not mean that she will be given email.  It means we will listen to her points and come to a decision on what we think is an appropriate age.  So far she has one chapter left and she has begun to work on her essay.  Lilah did a fair amount of writing this week but it was not fictional writing.  She is eagerly planning her second annual Valentine's Day Party.  She has researched recipes, listed ingredients, made shopping lists, created to-do lists, all very neatly detailed.  She has designed her own invitations and is ready to begin creating homemade valentine cards.  We have to pick a day as our home may be a bit hectic around Valentine’s Day (more on that to come).  
Science - love love love Botany.  We met for our third lesson as a group today.  The girls  are finishing up chapter 1 and built the light huts.  They are researching herbs to plant.  I am purchasing a great book for them to make their own products from the herbs they grow.  I have also emailed a local herb farm to see if our girls could come since it is off-season for a tour and some additional instruction.  I love watching them meet in a group.  Listening to their conversation gives me insight into their likes/dislikes/interests/wonderings.  I love that the mom’s are not tied to a time frame.  We are under no pressure to finish this book in a certain amount of time.  In my mind I see us working on botany through the spring, while setting up our garden at the community garden and into early summer.  We can take one week from the planned activities and spend it researching herbs if we want.  And we want to!  I am always looking forward to our botany lessons, whether it is just my girls and I, or as a group on Thursdays.
Strawberry/oatmeal masque anyone? I really love my girl!
making our light hut!

cutting the hole for the light bulb!

Piano - Grace is working on several challenging pieces.  Most notable is Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter.  Every day she sits and pushes herself to learn it better.  I think of Amy Chua’s interview about her Tiger Mothering book and how she would make her child sit at the piano for hours a day practicing.  Then for hours more to perfect a piece.  I have never had to make Grace practice the piano.  It is her passion.  She loves to play day after day and is pleased with her progress.  I think how devastating it would be to take the process away from her and make her perfect something in one sitting.  Ugh.  Not my style - or my daughters.  The end result is the same -the piece sounds beautiful and she is able to play it competently.  The bonus is she keeps her love of the instrument.
Sewing - Lilah’s quilt is taking shape.  She has the first and second row sewn and pinned together.  She is discussing choosing a backing material soon.  I suggested we all go to the craft store together and I will purchase whatever they feel is best.  They are also debating whether or not to add a boarder.  This is an amazing project that has given Lilah confidence and pride in learning a skill at such and early age.
 I am glad that Greg is home.  I am glad that I am back to rising with the sun.  I need that time to organize my day, consult my flylady schedule and give time to my house.  When I am up, caffeinated, showered, dressed and have done two loads of laundry by 8:00, it just follows that we get more done.  A few things were omitted this week like cursive writing/poetry, SOTW textbook work and work in our botany notebook.  I am not worried about these.  We will get them done this upcoming week, plus a whole lot more!
Oh...anyone have suggestions how to homeschool while undergoing home renovations?  Things are about to get real interesting around here.............

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

I am getting the winter blues.  I long to see my toes in bright blue nail polish sticking out of flip flops rather than covered up in my favorite fuzzy slippers.  Today, when I was daydreaming of warmer days, sitting by the pool sipping an ice tea instead of bundled on the couch under my comforter, sipping steaming hot tea, I found myself humming the tune, 

"When the dog bites
when the bee stings
when I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
and then I don't feel so bad"



These are my favorite things right now that get me through these cold, dreary winter days.



Perfekt Lotion.  No words can do this miracle gel justice.  My face is naked without it.  In the summer it soothes sun-kissed skin and during this dry skin weather, it provides moisture and smooths away fine lines.  Love it!

Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Soap.  This is a new find and I love its creamy texture and mild fragrance.  Not only it is a great body wash, it is mild enough to use as a face wash as well.

My Henri Bendel cashmere sweaters, sadly these are no longer available in stores.  I have a theory that everyone should be able to wear jeans that look great on them paired with a soft cashmere sweater.  This is basically my winter "uniform".


Ugg slippers.  Mine are dingy pink and stained with coffee spills.  They are old-old-old and I love-love-love them!

My girls and I get wicked chapped lips.  Our pockets are stuffed with lip balm.  My favorite is by Origins.

 What is going to get you through the next 60 days until spring decides to grace us with her presence?  

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Right To Privacy


My tween daughter regularly reads my blog.  I hate to say that a 10 1/3 year-old child is a “tween” but that is how she is acting....like a child caught in the tricky age between little girl and teenager.  She made a comment yesterday that has made me think.  She asked me why I blogged about being called the meanest Mom ever.  She did not like it.  Not that I was/am mean because she is not a fan of the changes I have made and am continuing to make.  She would like to see her life go back to the way it was when sugar had unlimited access to my children and with a few whines and pleades the tv might just stay on a half hour longer. No, her complaint was not that I shared with the world that my children think I am mean, but it was that I shared something that she found embarrassing.  “Family stuff is family stuff”, she said.
I think she makes an excellent point.  I began this blog to share my homeschooling experience. I did not see many blogs to read about families who chose to homeschool after their children were well established in public school.  Most of my posts are about homeschooling; our curriculum, our choices, our struggles, our successes.  Part of the process of homeschooling for us has been to closely examine the choices we make.  Homeschooling for us is not just about schooling but about learning to live together with kindness and respect, improving our health and finding joy in our learning.   To keep it real, I blog about the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I try very hard to write about the issues that face our family but approach them in a way that would not cause embarrassment, hurt feelings or concerns that private family issues were discussed in a public forum.  
But I am not a tween.  I am not looking at my blog through the eyes of a ten year old who sees herself and her family’s experiences in print for all to read, judge and comment on.  So tonight I am left questioning the course of my blog.  I enjoy blogging.  I enjoy connecting with other families across the country who are homeschooling as well.   I have made new friends.  My blog is also a way for my husband, who works crazy hours, to feel like he is a part of what we are doing.  He reads it daily and “sees” what we are up to, what the girls are learning, what is going well, and what is a challenge for his family.  I don’t want to close my blog or keep my writing just in my journal.
However, I am going to refrain from some of the “family stuff”... pull back a bit on some of the issues that my girls and I are experiencing as we continue to transition to a healthier lifestyle.  I am going to keep the focus on our homeschool, our activities, and our curriculum.  I will share our trips out and about, our favorite activities, classes and learning moments.  I may add some reviews about what books and curriculum we like and dislike.  For now I am going to read and re-read every post I write through the eyes of a ten year old child.  I don’t ever want the girls to feel like I am compromising their privacy or am insensitive to their feelings.  
Winnie - I know you are reading this.  I hear you and I respect your wishes.  I am glad you told me how you feel and you gave me something to think about.  I love you.

Monday, January 17, 2011

WInter Survival Skills

Note to self:  after spending so much time creating a beautiful nature/botany journal that is the perfect size for travel - take it on a nature hike!  


learning to identify dry wood

building our fire
On Sunday we participated in a fabulous Winter Survival Skills class taught by Lilah’s instructor from Two Coyotes Wilderness School.  It was a perfect day for a hike through the snowy woods.  With lots of layers and good snow boots we were happy and warm. Since I forgot to bring my journal, I am going to recount what we learned from memory and the details may be fuzzy.  Not that I wasn’t listening....because I was, but I was also trying to take pictures while keeping my eye on my two children plus my friend’s child who we brought along with us.
We learned that hemlock trees make great fire wood.*  You can use their needles for tea.  We chewed on the branches of a wintergreen tree that tasted just like wintergreen gum.  It has medicinal value similar to aspirin without the side effects....  We learned how to tell dry wood from wet wood - hold it to your lips.  If it feels cold it is dry.  It it feels warm it is not - the moisture is still evaporating from it.  If we had to sleep outside we now know not to lay on the snow, it pulls the warmth from out body.  Building a platform from branches is best.  We learned how to identify animal pee.  Did you know deer pee has little odor but fox pee has the odor of skunk? I did not know this!  We gathered birch bark after thanking the tree for its generosity and used it as kindling to start our own fire with the wood we gathered.  Even though my friend and I were with the children, we left this task to them.  They found, gathered, and built the fire.  Justin, the instructor, provided us with matches, although we learned which trees make good friction fires.  Our fire took some effort.  It started slowly but then caught on and just as it was looking good enough for s’mores we had to smother it with snow and ensure it was completely extinguished.
did anyone pack s'mores??
It was a great afternoon.  Classes like this teach so many things.  Independence, survival skills, botany, nature studies, respect for one another and respect for one’s self.  If you live in CT, I would highly recommend any class taught by instructors from Two Coyotes.  I credit them for helping Lilah become the person she is today.  For that I will always be grateful.


* 1/18/11  I received a comment from Justin correcting some errors in my posting.  I will never forget my journal again!
I noticed a few of the details in the blog were off. Amazing memory considering you were making sure the kids are safe and talking photos of the day all while wading in knee high snow.

Hemlock trees and fire: makes great tinder but not larger fire wood. It burns quick with lots of sparks. this is good for fire starting. also it makes a nice bow drill fire. Oak and other hard woods make a much better fuel for keeping a fire going.

measuring the degree of dryness in a twig: break it and listen for the snap or put it to your lips. if it is warm and feels dry it probably is. Also dry wood tends to be standing and not on the ground.



Saturday, January 15, 2011

Botany

Each week as I sit to write our accomplishments, I reflect on how well things are going in this New Year.  Not perfect, but really, really good.  One part of our studies that is going especially well is Botany. 
My goal this year was to take my girls’ natural interest in Nature Studies and expand on it with a formal curriculum.  I have tried other science programs over the past year and they have been pushed aside because we “have no time”.  I have come to learn that that is never true.  We have the time but the program I was using does not hold their attention long enough to make them desire to spend the time on science.  That has changed since we picked up the Apologia Botany book.  
I blogged a while ago that I wanted to share science with another family, partner together and make it a collaborative experience.  My good friend answered my plea for company and joined us.  Then another friend asked to participate.  Now we have our Botany Bunch - three adults, six children meeting once a week to do the suggested activities.  We rotate houses and share ideas.  We plan via email.  The reading is done prior to meeting.  We are taking three weeks for chapter one but that is okay.  My girls know what taxonomy is now.  They know why Latin is used for science and why it is called a dead language.  They know what vascular and non-vascular plants are.  They have begun to keep beautiful journals.  They are having fun!  I am having fun too!
This week we met (minus one family who was traveling) to work on vascular plants.  We brought with us our Magiscope which the girls received for Christmas from Greg and I.  The girls went outside to find winter samples of vascular plants.  They also took samples from indoor house plants.  Looking under the microscope it was easy to see the midrib and veins that carry the water to all parts of the leaf.  Beautiful sketches were made of these leaves.  Colors were carefully chosen, texture was added, even the water droplets or specks of dust were added to the drawings.  My friend and I are keeping our own Botany journal and enjoy working alongside our children.  
I highly recommend the Magiscope. It is reasonably priced and very durable.  Meant to be a field microscope, it will travel with us to the Audubon, to the beach, anywhere our interests take us.  The children use this microscope independently.  It is self-lighting.  I bought two lenses to increase the magnification but for now we are using the lowest magnification.  I am so glad my friend over at Frog Creek recommended it to me.
Back to Botany.....this week we will finish chapter one and build our light hut in which herbs will be grown.  Eventually the herbs will be used for homemade soap.  My friends have a great deal of knowledge of plants, herbal medicine and gardening.  They are going to add their knowledge to our program.  We will become herbalists and grow our own remedies.  Lilah can grow the herbs she needs to make her spa products.  Can you tell I am excited?  I am.  Hopefully our herbs will then be transplanted to our community garden plot in the late spring.  My goal is to have a defined area of our garden be herbs.  Mint, lavender, cilantro, basil, and many others I have not thought of yet.

The enthusiasm for this study is contagious.  Listening to the girls talk and learn and share and reflect on their learning reminds me of why we chose to homeschool.  This study epitomizes what I believe homeschooling can be - learning based on personal desires and interests, shared with others, and tailored to the needs of the child.  Love it!


*I was not paid or compensated in any way to endorse Magiscope.  








Friday, January 14, 2011

Labels

I listen to talk radio when I can.  Now that my children are home with me I don’t have the opportunity to listen from 1:00 to 3:00 to my favorite host, Andrew Wilkow.  I was able to catch some of his shows here and there this week. He is talking about the political nastiness that has been slung back and forth by members of political parties.  When I checked yahoo for some quick news updates I saw Sarah Palin is getting slammed again for something she said regarding how we talk to one another in different parties about various political and social issues.  Even President Obama spoke to the nation regarding the way we talk to one another and what we are saying.  Is anyone listening to what everyone is saying?
Can we for one moment put aside our political affiliations, right or left, conservative or liberal, progressive, libertarian and any other I have forgotten?  Does our label define us or do we define it?  Can we put aside our religious affiliation, whether Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Anthiest, Agnostic, Mormon, or Jew and see one another without the filter of preconceived ideas that are inherent in labels?
One thing that Andrew said this week stuck with me.  He mentioned that we now live in a society that absolves itself of personal responsibility because of the labels and groups we feel we must assign everyone to.  The person who took the lives of innocent people last week is not simply an evil person, making evil choices, he has become a liberal atheist pothead supporter of Hitler.  What are we supposed to then think?  Well then....of course....that explains it?  I believe who we are, how we act, and how we speak to one another defines us.  How we vote and the religion we practice are secondary.
President Obama can speak before a nation of citizens, preachers can give heartfelt sermons at the altars, politicians can promise to reach across the isle,  but will that change the direction of humankind?  Human-kind.  I think in order to make a change we need to begin at home and begin young.  My friend has a bumper sticker that says Change The World: Be Nice to Your Kids.  This is where it needs to start.  Can we all recite the Golden Rule?  It seems to transcend political and religious affiliations.  The Golden Rule: treat others as you wish to be treated.  It is so simple, yet so profound.  
Would we kill indiscriminately if we followed the Golden Rule?  Would we sling insults back and forth “harmlessly”?  Would we bully our classmate?  Would we tease someone about their sexual identity?  Would we forget to care for our elders?  Would we?
Have you noticed how parents speak to their children lately?  I have.  I’ll admit raising my voice and losing my temper at times but my number one priority is to treat my children with kindness.  I have busted my butt this fall getting them to treat each other with kindness.  Yet it means nothing if I do not model it myself.  Parents are the biggest influence positively or negatively in their children’s lives.  In many ways parents define who we will become.  I may be a Catholic Conservative Republican Woman.  But guess what?  One of my best friends is a Non Practicing Protestant Liberal Woman.  Another friend is an Agnostic Liberal Woman.  Oh and I have some friends who are Republican Veteran Catholic Entrepreneurs.  And I have some Muslim and Catholic Immigrant friends who happen to also be Turkish and Mexican. 
I could go on and on with the labels me and my friends assign to ourselves.  But we never define ourselves that way to one another.  To me they are mothers, fathers, friends, teachers, mentors, guides, inspirations, and sources of joy.  I look at their families and see children being raised by kind and gentle parents and think to myself, this is how we will change the world.  We will seek to change the systems that are not working in our lives and redefine our labels and in the process raise children who learn to speak and act and treat one another with kindness, generosity and a welcoming spirit.  

If we look back over the course of human history it is filled with just and unjust wars, persecutions, plagues, and crusades.  There has been much triumph and much tragedy.  We will always have mentally unbalanced unstable people walking among us.  In a free society we will trade our complete security for the lack of restrictions.  But what if one person who clearly recognized the signs of a person in trouble takes the time out of their lives to seek assistance?  What if the teachers, administrators, parents, friends and parents of friends who see a problem, see a child struggling, seek council and ask for help?  Can we change the course of a human life?  Perhaps.  
I dislike Hillary Clinton’s phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” because not all in the village are meant to be child rearers.  I want to choose my children’s “village”.  I think my circles of family, friends and faith have given my girls a support system to see how the Golden Rule Applies in real life.  Does your child have a village?  
As parents let’s build that village together oblivious to our labels.  Let’s put the emotional and physical development of our children first so that we can raise men and woman who are not only intellectually developed and physically capable of continuing to run this great country of ours, but ones that can demonstrate how to treat one another with kindness and compassion, regardless of labels. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Air Traffic Control

my chalkboard wall this morning!



When I was in graduate school for education I remember learning that the teaching profession followed air traffic controllers and doctors as a profession with the greatest amount of daily decision making. I have no reference to that study to give you, so just go with me that it may be incorrect, but you get the idea.....

I remember coming home, after being surrounded by twenty-five 8 year olds completely and totally wiped out.   Should I spend one more day on addition with regrouping? Can I give them 5 more minutes of recess? Should I send a child to check on Johnny who has been in the bathroom far to long?  Oh no!  There is an assembly?!  When will I readjust read aloud and writer’s workshop?  Fire drill!  Coats on!  Let’s quickly review the routine.  Do you remember the routine?  And so it would go on and on and on.  Until I would come home tired from hearing my own voice inside my brain.  
But my day was far from done.  I had an infant to deal with.  Meals to make.  Baths to give.  Stories to read.  Snuggling to be had.  And then after her bedtime which was generally around six pm for the first three years of her life, I moved on to my third job of the day....correcting papers, planning for the next day, writing lesson plans, reviewing journal responses, etc.
Now combine the two jobs: teaching and motherhood.  I think this new job of mine may beat out air traffic controller for the most decisions made daily!  Instead of 25 children with 25 unique needs to be met, I have only two children now, but the two I have are my own.  My own children to teach, guide and help grow into the young ladies they are becoming.  That is an awesome responsibility.  As a homeschooling Mom the decisions are never ending. They are made with speed and decisiveness at times.  Other times they are pondered and questioned and reviewed at times ad nauseum!  I can’t pass the decision making off to anyone else.  I can seek advice, educate myself and give myself permission to make mistakes but the ultimate responsibility falls on my shoulders.  
There are days now where I am exponentially more tired than I was when I was teaching.  But there are days when I feel I have made the right decision, chose wisely, and I feel invigorated and energized.  This past fall I had days where I wondered and prayed if I made the right decision for both my girls to chose this life of homeshooling and now when I look at the results of that decision, I pray that this way of life continues for a very long time.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Am I the meanest Mom EVER?

I have been accused of many not-nice things lately.  I have been called mean.  I have been accused of creating a family that is “not like ANYONE else’s”.  I have been yelled at.  But the best was being accused of trying to harm my daughter.  Who have these accusations come from?  No other than my very own daughter!  I have to smile through the drama because I know I will look back on it and laugh....someday.
Why the drama?  Gee -- I am just trying to make some more changes.  This is a “family under construction” isn’t it???  
Last week was week 1 of improving the family (especially Lilah’s) diet - hence the outbursts from said child.  Gone are the bagels with cream cheese (oh how I miss you).  Gone are the days where I will just present veggies but not insist that she eat them.  Gone are the frequent trips to local restaurants when we are running late to a lessons.  Gone. 
The fallout has been harsh.  The reason for the change in her diet is quite reasonable to me.  Acid reflux in an 8 year old!  This is her body’s way of saying something is not quite right.  I began her on a dose of 1/2 tsp of apple cider vinegar mixed with a bit of ginger ale or apple juice.  It worked to calm the production of acid in her stomach while I went to work on her diet.  Now with breakfast she gets apple slices.  With lunch, carrot sticks or raw green beans.  With dinner broccoli.  The dreaded broccoli.  This is what she used to accuse me of “killing her”.  The broccoli was “killing” her.  I think I have said before Lilah has a future in the arts.  It might come sooner rather than later.  BUT the result of just one week is that she is no longer on the vinegar.  Her reflux is greatly diminished.  She discovered she loves oatmeal - not Quaker oats, which are also yummy, but pinhead oatmeal that I affectionately call porridge, because of it rich, creamy texture.  She discovered she can tolerate raw green beans.  She tried a red pepper for the first time (and hated it) but she tried it!  She also tried chili (also hated it) and discovered she loves my homemade spaghetti meat sauce (which is just like chili minus the beans.....).  We are making progress.......wait till she gets a load of the cantaloupe in the fridge!
Another change that has been met with equal disdain is the reduction of sugar from our diet.  Last year I eliminated all products with HFCS (high fructose corn syrup).  I don’t buy the sugar industry’s claim that sugar is sugar and our bodies can process it just fine.  Trader Joe’s has become our friend for items that they girls really enjoy (like chocolate syrup and caramel sauce).  But now those items are under attack.  Not for the HCFS, but the plain old sugar!  It is too much.  Sugar in yogurt, sugar in cereal, sugar in peanut butter, it has invaded our diet and so it must go.  I bought Stonybrook Farm yogurt to replace the Breyers.  (Lilah hated it).  I now want them drinking plain old white milk.  (this is mildly acceptable).  The carmel with apples is a treat. 
Which leads me to the biggest fight on my hands....cutting out dessert.  I am not sure where my girls got the idea that dessert occurs nightly.  But somehow when I was not looking, it happened.  Ice cream nightly?  Not anymore.  Again.....this was “killing” them.  This was when I was accused of doing things to our family that “no other family does”.  How cruel of me.
Not only was the amount of sugar in the girls diet a concern healthwise, I felt it was causing problems at bedtime.  Generally we head upstairs at 8:30, ish.  Lately it has been 8:45 so the girls can be up when Greg gets home from work.  But by 9:00 they are not ready for bed.  Lilah has been taking at least an hour to wind down and fall asleep.  This is causing some hard mornings.  She will sleep to 8:30.  I wonder how she made it when she was in school.  Sleep has always come hard for her.  Her natural body clock seems to be set a bit later than her sister’s.  Waking her up is a disaster.  Then it is a grouch-fest at our breakfast table.  So I wondered was it the sugar.....or something else..........
My last major change.  Reduction of tv time.  This must officially make me the worst mom - EVER!  I am not taking tv away (although at times I would like to).  I am just shifting the time when we watch it.  I feel that Lilah may be over-stimulated from tv before bed. I want to get to a place where our nighttime is a time of peace.  Of game playing, reading, knitting, and talking, rather than sitting in the same room listening to the laugh track of iCarly repeat over and over and over and over.  Yeah....you get it!  I have had enough.  Last night we put the tv reduction plan into action.  It was off at 7:00 pm.  The fire was blazing, the blankets were spread out and we were all reading.  It was wonderful.  Then at 7:30 Greg and the girls decided to play Would You Rather, a card game they got for Christmas.  Out came the Wii microphone and this game was turned into a mock-game show!  They took out their flip camera and recorded the antics of Greg a.k.a Bob Barker and themselves as contestants on the Would You Rather show.  It was creative, funny and heartwarming.  I sat on the couch under my comforter and my dog Daphne and assisted as head videographer.  An hour went by.  An hour of quality family time.  We would not have had that experience if the tv was on.  Before bed, Grace came to Greg and I and thanked us.  She told us how much fun she had and what a great night it was. Yes....it was.  God willing, it is only the first of many more.
What is the verdict?  Am I the meanest Mom in the world (as accused?)  I wonder how long the revolt will last?  I pledge to stand strong in the face of 8 year old adversity.  This is only the beginning.......

Revive Conference 2017

One of the questions homeschoolers get asked ad nauseam is “will they be ready for the ‘real world’?”  Homeschooling is a world free fro...