Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Herb Fairies

I try not to post too much about what we have in progress because sometimes we don’t finish the program or we choose to stop and then I am left feeling like I was not authentic in my posting.  

But I am going to share this, even though we just started it, because it is cool and I like it very much.  Herb Fairies was just re-released for a short time.  I have waited a year to purchase this curriculum and in hindsight, I am glad we did not get it a year ago.  It would have been out of context.  Now is the perfect time to begin this study considering our intensive study of  health this year and the  increase in awareness we now have about holistic health practices, and the fact that we are now well aware of the medicinal value of herbs and plants.  I have been a distributor of Pure Herbs for over a year.  We use these herbs on a daily basis in our home to treat everything from back pain to cuts and scrapes. I cannot tell you the last time I used an over the counter product in our house. 

Bringing Herb Fairies into our homeschool is a natural continuation of our learning.  2014 will see the full implementation of Obama-Care, which I fear.  We have already been dropped from our primary care physician’s practice due to the insurance we have (they admitted this was Obama Care driven) and Greg’s company is making major insurance changes in the next 6 months.  The President lied to my family.  We lost our doctor and we do not get to keep the health care we currently had.  I stress to my girls the importance of self healing.  I believe that the changes in our nation’s move to universal health care will push us all into a single payer system and our access to quality, innovative health care will be in jeopardy.  For things like cold, flu, minor infections, first aid, allergies, and other ailments, we must learn to treat ourselves and rely on doctors only when truly medically necessary.

Enter Herb Fairies.  This program is a compilation of 12 chapter books introducing the medicinal values of 12 different herbs.  The stories are juvenile but packed with information that is presented in a memorable way.  Every month we receive an e-bundle of the story, herb identification sheet, recipe cards, a zine, and worksheets.  I learned that there may be a better way for me to make my vodka/thyme facial spray!  Herb Fairies recommends Everclear 180 proof as the base of an infusion.  To be honest, I had to clarify with Greg that this is “grain” alcohol and that I could buy it at a liquor store!  I can’t wait to do a comparison with the thyme I will grow in my garden this summer.

This month’s herb is Chickweed, which as luck would have it, we do not have in our yard or anywhere nearby that I can tell.  I am hoping to grow some.  Growing weeds.  Hmm....I few years ago I never would have believed it.

It would be easy to keep all this information in a three ring binder but it is much nicer to art journal the information.   We bought new sketchbooks for this purpose.  I estimate that we will need two sketchbooks to record the information over the year.  

We needed some new programs to inject a sense of fun into our day.  I am excited to begin book 2 soon!

* I wish I was compensated for this review.  I do love this project and the cost is reasonable if payable on a monthly basis but since that option is not available, at $100, it is an investment.  I wrote this review because I love the curriculum, not because I was solicited to do so.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Work in Progress....stream of consciousness

From the outside looking in it can seem that everything is simple, it is easy,  and that it just comes together.  However, there are times in our homeschool experience when nothing is simple, or easy, and in fact, everything is so disjointed that they magical flow of learning ceases and some large questions have to be asked.

We are at a point like that now.  I have one girl who is struggling to find things that interest and captivate her.  I have another who is at a point where I question how well I can provide her with what she needs.  

When the learning seems to stall and the anxiety seems to build, we have to take a look at what we need to fix or change, add or delete from our lives in order to restore the balance which allows the flow of learning to begin again.  

I have a tendency to go back to basics.  For me that means putting on my teacher’s hat and doing some planning.  I conferenced with each of my girls about what they liked, what they did not like, what they want to learn and how they want to learn it.  

Grace is researching the care and keeping of backyard rabbits.  She is going to pursue this research and write a report to persuade us to allow her to own a rabbit.  This is working for her. She loves to learn about her interests and spin a curriculum of reading, writing and art around it.   We are in the process of finding a math tutor or teacher to guide her through the upper level math courses she will need in order to apply to a college level meteorology program if this is still what she wants when she is ready to apply to college.  We are also excited to meet a new potential guitar teacher.  This gentleman is an accomplished classical guitarist.  I am crossing my fingers that this is a match.  It will be our third guitar teacher in six months.  

Lilah expressed a need to slow down and dig in.  Her favorite memories of homeschooling over the past three and a half years were the projects we did around the study of Egypt.  She would like to slow down history and dig deep, like we did with the ancient Egyptians and the ancient Greeks.  She would like to return to our study of grammar and memorization of poetry.  

From our conversations I had the realization that my girls need more hands-on guidance from me than what they are getting.  I thought they were organizing and managing their projects well.  But the last few weeks our involvement in 7 Cool Homeschoolers was called into question because of the conflict that arose every week around the planning of the weekly video.  This gave me great pause.
Perhaps my girls were not as organized as I thought.  Perhaps they need guidance.  Perhaps my 10 and 12  year olds are not as independent as I thought.   I explained to them that I am happy to step in and act as a project manager.  I explained that there are steps we can take to learn how to move through a project and focus on communication and collaboration.  

We began by listing the steps involved in making a video.  Once they saw the steps laid out, they identified where they have conflict.  Once I understood this, I was able to help them with strategies to plan and help mediate conflict before it became a crisis.  Their next video is due Wednesday.  Hopefully this week will be more peaceful.

This strategy of project management was also applied to Lilah’s magazine.  Her first magazine was created entirely on her own.  For some reason she struggled with her second issue.  She had ideas but seemed to get lost in translating them from her mind to the paper.  We recalled our recent trip to Brooklyn and the project boards that lined the walls with each layout of the catalog posted for viewing and easy editing.  She took this concept and began a project layout in her notebook.  Each page is a sketch of what the issue will contain.  This helped her to get out her thoughts and to know what she has and what she needs to complete a ten page magazine.

Homeschooling is not easy.  There are days, weeks even, when it is very very hard.  While the girls were watching a movie with their friends, I went back through my planner of our 2012-2013 year. Even when I thought we were not doing much, we were in fact, doing very much!  We got stuck when we came back from Tennessee.  We got into an early spring rut.  I think I have pulled us out of the rut.  There are still decisions to be made and curriculum to work through.  My girls are asking for a bit more from me as a “teacher” and I am always willing to give them what they need.  

I spent hours planning and getting excited over things I have wanted to try -- like personification vocabulary journals and digging out our analogy workbooks.  We got away from these things.  The beauty of homeschooling is even though it is the end of April, we can pull out those things and pick up wherever we left off, for there is no end date to what we are doing.  It is all a work in progress.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

literacy, language, laughter and life

When I posted an email on our homeschooling Yahoo group looking to start a writing group, I had no idea where it would lead.  All I knew was I wanted to give my girls a shared writing experience with older girls who enjoyed writing and sharing their writing.

  • I never imagined they would start a blog.
  • I never imagined they would start a traveling journal.
  • I never imagined they would want to write in the park and at the beach.
  • I never imagined they would begin emailing each other.
  • I never imagined they would become such close friends.

Part of me thought this would be a group of girls who wrote together much like the writing groups I used to belong to.  I enjoyed my time and I learned from their tutelage but I never opened myself up to friendships.  Writing and friendships were very separate for me. 

Once the friendship switch was flipped, there was no turning back for this group of girls.  They range in age from 10 to 14 and while writing provided the connection, their friendship was by choice.  

They call themselves Notebook Girls and they met this week to celebrate their new found friendships.  During our Friday morning writing time, they altered an old composition book into a decorative journal.  They got this idea from the book The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.  They wanted a journal that they will share, like the jeans were shared, and their weekly memories will be captured within the pages.  Each week a different girl will get the journal and add to it whatever she wants.  

To kick off the traveling journal, they came together at our house for pizza and popcorn and the movie, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.  This is as close to perfection as learning gets.  I want to hold onto this moment and remember that this is why I chose to homeschool.  This is what I want my girls‘ education to look like.  This is the intersection of literacy, language, laughter and life.    

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


All winter I look forward to the feeling sand between my toes.  This thought sustains me as I pile wood in to the wood stove in November, when I am shoveling out from a blizzard in January and when I am watching the dirty snow melt in March.  By April I am sick and tired of wearing jeans with Ugg boots and turtleneck sweaters.  I long for skirts and flip flops and toe rings.  

We are almost there.  Days like this let me know that one season is ending and another one is beginning.  I like beginnings......

Monday, April 22, 2013

Counting My Blessings: Making the most of what we have

What do you do when your desire for something else is so great that you lose sight of what is right in front of you?  I have been longing for something different.  A different set of scenery outside my kitchen window.  A different town to call my own.  A different set of responsibilities and a different home to call my own.

The Housatonic River along Route 34

Perhaps this will happen.  Perhaps it won’t.  It occurred to me that I can either become weighed down by what is not, or I can embrace what is and make it the best I can until God leads us in the direction we are meant to go.  I am counting my blessings.

I have a home that I truly adore.  I love the nooks and crannies of our home.  I love the inlaid wood floors that were nailed in by hand almost 100 years ago.  I love the arched doorways, the sun room and the three season porch.  I love the smell of the full attic and the gleam of our wooden staircase.  Over the next month we will be giving our old home a bit of TLC.  I am embracing the concept “be the change you wish to see”.  Some rooms need repainting.  Doors need replacing.  Outside steps need rebuilding.   Light fixtures need replacing.  I am so grateful that we are in a position to be able to make these changes and help our home look fresh and clean.  

Squantz Pond State Park, New Fairfield, CT

Rather than concentrate on the 1+ acre of land I so desperately want, I can work on making our yard the best it can be.  New gardens can be dug.  They may not be as large as I would like, but their yield will be fresh.  It is time to start planting seedlings, turning over land and tending to new life.  I can wish for the land I do not have, or I can choose to make the most of what I do have.  Hopefully next weekend, we can begin to construct the garden I want to see when I look out my window.

Barn, New Milford, CT

Looking out my window has made me sad lately.  We live very close to a major highway, close enough to the train to hear each whistle and close enough to an industrial center to see the steam rise from the stacks on cold days.  When I drive through the hills of Connecticut every Wednesday my heart aches to have those views in my life every day.  I did not expect to feel so differently than I did 15 years ago when we bought this house.  I never expected to want different things.  I can choose to ache when I drive through towns that can give us both commutability and country living, or I can try to have what I want here...for now.  I can take comfort in the sound of the train pulling into the station, knowing that Greg is on that train soon to walk in the door.  I can appreciate the fact that commuting is simple.  So simple in fact, sometimes I wonder why we don’t go to New York more often.  I can embrace our neighborhood, make the time and effort to get to know our neighbors and try not to get so annoyed when dogs bark and when the ball field lights are left on and when teens drive too fast by our house on their way to baseball practice.  

My friend's duckling that we get to play with every week.

There are some things I cannot change.  I cannot change that crime in our town seems to be on the increase.  I cannot change that the population density of our neighborhood can be suffocating at times.  I cannot change that graffiti is becoming more prevalent around town or that there are more people asking for spare change at the highway ramps and outside grocery stores.  Or can I?  Can I begin to attend town council meetings and speak about the concerns I have?  I could, but I feel like the political process in our town is divisive and disrespectful and I don’t know if I would even want to interject my voice into it.  Can one person really affect change?  While my head knows that answer is yes, at this moment my heart does not.  I am grateful to have a home to call my own, which keeps me safe and contains love and laughter and light.

At the station waiting for Daddy.

I can drive through my town and my state and take time to appreciate beauty.  Rather than just drive by paying more attention to the lyrics of the song on the radio than on the rolling hills bursting with blooms, I can pull over when I see something that catches and holds my eye.  Like the river on a glorious day.  Or a state park that we would like to visit.  Or the beach on the first 80 degree day.  Or baby animals that I am lucky enough to hold and visit with every week.  I must be the change I wish to see in my life.  If I want beauty, I can move to find it.  I can also add beauty to my life in the place my life is at this moment.  

Many conversations have taken place in our family about what we want and where we will find it.  We have looked at several homes in a town about 20 minutes from here.  The decision to move is a difficult one to make, especially when you do not have young children.  Even though my children are not tied to a school, and will not have to change their educational environment, they would be making a huge change.  I would love to give them more land to play on, a town to drive through that does not have litter and graffiti, where crime is low and backyard animals are plentiful.  For now I am going to make our home the absolute best it can be.  If we find what we are looking for somewhere else, it will be ready to sell.  If we don’t, we will enjoy it even more. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Lately Lilah has been complaining that she is bored.  Bored?  I asked myself how she could possibly be bored.....we are busy every day with activities.  We see our friends often.  She is outside almost every afternoon.  She has her art products, her books and her toys.  Bored.  Hmm.......

......after much thought about this, I realized that she is not bored with how we are living.  I think she is bored with what we are learning.  I think our lessons have become routine and uninspiring.  We are pushing to get things done and that always takes the joy out of learning.  I think it is time to shake things up a bit.

It is hard to admit that I constantly have to remind myself to not get bogged down by what I feel we must do.  Like we must finish Story of the World by May 31.  We must complete the geography page on Africa.....today.  When I get like this, I close the door to the spontaneous learning opportunities that the girls love so much.  No matter how hard I try, there are times when I slip into my old way of thinking that new curriculum is meant for September and we should be finishing up now, not starting something new.  

This got me to thinking...when was the last time I strew things around the house to be discovered by my curious daughters?  When was the last time we went to the library?  When was the last time we took a hike?   This got me to thinking.....why don’t be bring our audio books into the house?  Why do they only live in the car?  Why don’t we play more music while making dinner and doing laundry?  Why don’t we jump on the train one day with no where to go and have an adventure?  Why don’t we empty our bookshelves and discover what gems we have that have yet to be discovered gathering dust on a lonely shelf?

So at 6:30am, I began to tear through our material.  I was completely and totally inspired to make a change.  Hopefully it will be the change that Lilah is looking for so she no longer has that feeling of “boredom”.   

  • I ordered Herb Fairies.  I have been waiting a year for this to be re-released.  Beginning this in spring is just perfect. 
  • I found art an art kit on Matisse that is unopened.  
  • I pulled out our the study of our town that we abandoned when our friends (who we were doing this with) moved away.
  • I pulled out the girl’s Bibles, since Grace commented she would like to make her Bible look like mine.  That could be a fabulous project!
  • I loaded up a basket with books on calligraphy, doodling, and a biography or two that I think they would find interesting.  I left in in the living room to be discovered.  
  • I added a trip to the library to our calendar this week.
  • I took our microscope out of its case and displayed it proudly.  It is begging to be taken outside.
  • I took some suggestions from Mary and Theresa and ordered a book by Richard J. Maybury about politics which is a natural extension of Grace’s government class this past fall.  I ordered a $15 kit on the solar system from Thames and Kosmos which will deliver next week and we will complete while we wait for Candy Chemistry, which is on back order.  

I am glad that Lilah complained of boredom.  It gave me a new perspective on our learning, on what is working and what is not.  This is par for the course of a homeschooling family.  Unlike in school, where the curriculum is set for the year, ours is constantly morphing to meet the needs of developing children.  Because we do not work on a 180 day calendar,  we have the ability to stop, reflect, and refocus.  Our learning has no start date, no end date and is constant.  It flows from season to season.  It lingers on some topics and swiftly passes others by.  

I am excited to launch into new explorations and revisit some projects we began but never completed.  Who knows where this will lead us.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Gummy Bear

Here is this week's 7 Cool Homeschooler's video featuring my two silly gummy bears......

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

4 Dozen

48 cupcakes.....the most Lilah has ever made at one time.  This is what she offered to donate to an interfaith community dinner our church was sponsoring for families in need.  Actually, she offered to donate 7 dozen since the last dinner served 80 people, but the organizers said that 4 dozen would be perfect.

Baking 4 dozen cupcakes from scratch takes time, especially when you are 10.  Lilah baked from 9:30 in the morning until 3:30 in the afternoon.  She measured, sifted, beat and scooped until her arms were sore.  The result was one dozen vegan chocolate cupcakes, one dozen traditional vanilla, one dozen vegan chocolate half with peanut butter chips and half with white chocolate chips, and one dozen traditional orange flavored cupcakes.  All had homemade vanilla cream cheese frosting (which negates the "veganess".....) piped from a mechanical pastry bag and topped with beautiful edible sprinkles.  

These were her best cupcakes ever.  I consider our family to be cupcake connoisseurs.  We have sampled cupcakes from Crumbs, Magnolia’s, The Cake Boss’ bakery Carlo’s Bakery, Sugar (winners of the Cupcake Wars) and more.  These were as good, if not better.  At 10 years old, she could sell her cupcakes and satisfy a growing niche of customer’s with food allergies.  

I do not help, other than take someone out of the oven if her hands are full or answer questions if she is working on a new recipe.  I offer to help wash dishes because my anxiety level rises when I see the mess she makes while cooking.  She is a bit like me that way......  I drive her to deliver her cupcakes, sometimes to the VFW, or to the fire station,  the senior center or even the pet shelter!  This was my favorite delivery so far - to a congregational church that served people in need regardless of their faith affiliation, if they even have one.  

I encourage my children to share their talents and gifts with others.  Grace plays the piano at a local assisted living facility.  Someday she may play professionally.  But for now, the joy on the faces of the elderly residents is payment enough for her performance.  Someday Lilah may own her own bakery or catering facility.  But for now, the joy her cupcakes bring to someone who may not have flour in the pantry or eggs that can be dedicated to a dessert is payment enough for her baked goods.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

Look for the helpers

 photo file_zps6b8b2d4b.jpg

*This photo was posted on Facebook.  I have no idea the original source.  

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Time For Every Season

My children have a completely different lifestyle now than when they were  learning in a classroom.  Back then in order for Grace to skate competitively, she had to come out of school early every week.  She would skate until the evening, come home tired and sore, drop into bed, and wake up tired to start her next day at school.  Now If she has a piano performance or festival coming up she can spend hours in the morning when they are most alive and energetic giving the neighborhood a concert. If Lilah wants to bake 7 dozen cupcakes for an interfaith dinner for the needy, she can spend all day doing this in order to deliver fresh cupcakes at 5:00pm.  Grace can spend 4 hours every Wednesday at the university working among college students developing her interests and connecting with mentors that can guide her education in this area. They have the ability to use the time when they are most energetic to devote to their talents and passions rather than the time when they are worn out and tired from the hours spent in school.

But....there is always a but....it comes at the expense of something else, after all there are only so many hours in a day.  My girls choose to keep themselves very busy.  Our week contains lessons in piano, guitar, an internship, electronics, writing group and art journaling.  The weather is finally turning and this week we are expecting weather in the low 70s.  When Grace’s friends are outside playing with chickens and rabbits and floating boats they spent hours constructing down a creek, she will leave, spend an hour driving, and 4 hours in the weather center.  Recently, she told me that sometimes her desire to be in two places at once is so strong it makes her sad that she can’t do it all.

We are given a set amount of time every day.  We are constantly making choices about how to best use the 24 hours.  There will be time for floating boats down a river and a time for classroom studies at the university. There will be time for play and time for rest. Time for family and time for jobs.   Time for baking and time for reading.  There will be time for bike riding and multiplying fractions.  There will be time for lazy days at the beach and time for busy days too.  We just can’t do it all on the same day.

This is such a hard lesson to learn.  I learned it when I was 30.  She is learning it at 12.

Ecclesiastes 3:1
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rights and Responsibilities

These are the results of my first visit to the range.  Shooting a gun for sport is something I never thought I would enjoy.

Living in Connecticut puts my family in the bull’s eye of the gun control debate.  While we do not live in Newtown, one of our town’s residents was killed in the Sandy Hook Shootings.   You cannot escape the debate right now, especially here.
I have been hearing the words of Rahm Emanuel in my mind over and over again.  "You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."   Through the tragedy of Sandy Hook, the government has seized the opportunity, through crisis, to take away more of our constitutional rights.
We should not deviate from our founding father’s documents.  The Constitution is not living and breathing.  It is not meant to shift and morph with changes in public opinion and social standards.  It is our guidepost, our beacon of light that keeps Americans free.  My children have already seen a huge shift in the American way of life.  The America I see now, looks very very different to me than the America of just a few years ago.  
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.  It is very clear.  We have the right to keep and bear arms.  We also have many, many laws already passed that affect our right to keep and bear arms.  I have read them.  They are mind numbing.  They also are very clear in outlining what we can and cannot do with our weapons.  The current wave of regulation will do nothing to stop the tragedy that happened in Sandy Hook.  Connecticut already had very strict gun regulations, I know this because I read them line by line.  People who break these laws are not being prosecuted, therefore, there is no deterrent to prevent guns from falling into the hands of criminals.  Sentences act as deterrent to crime.  WIthout strict prosecution and sentencing, there is nothing to deter a person with an evil heart from doing harm.  
I am part of a family that exercises our 2nd Amendment right.  I have a brother and a brother in law enforcement and my brother is also a Marine.  My biggest fear is not that they will encounter a law abiding citizen who happens to be a legal gun owner.  It is that they will encounter a citizen (or non-citizen) with criminal intent who may be on mind altering medication (like the majority of mass murders were or were withdrawing from) and be placed in a position to defend themselves with their weapon.  
My girls have been present during conversations about gun control.  Many of our friends and acquaintances took place in recent protests in Hartford advocating for even stricter gun laws.  They have also sat at kitchen tables where discussions were taking place about the decision whether or not to exercise our 2nd Amendment rights.
Grace, my 12 year old, said to me that she sees that most of the stories on the news are not about regular people shooting each other.  The stories that are told are about drug related, gang related shootings where innocent people are often caught in the crossfire.  The mass shootings that have taken place often involve young men who have recently been on or were actively taking anti-depressant medications.  Why don’t we seek justice from big pharma who is literally poisoning the bodies of a whole generation of our youth?  Why are we not having this conversation? 
This blogger has explored this very issue and has posted video clips from the both Fox News and Michael Moore: http://www.cheeseslave.com/school-shootings-linked-to-pharmaceutical-drugs/
Rather than feeling part of the solution that addresses the real causes of gun violence, I feel part of a scheme to make the most of a crisis.  Families lost children.  That is incomprehensible to me.  It is also incomprehensible to me for the government to use their pain and loss for a political purpose.
Recently I began to exercise my 2nd Amendment right.  Whether or not I choose to become a legal gun owning citizen remains to be seen.  My education began by attending an NRA course on pistol safety.  Once I have my permit, my education will continue as I learn more and practice not only my shooting skills but also gun maintenance and operation skills.  Thankfully my brother has agreed to by my instructor.  I never would have imagined myself doing this 20, 10 or even 5 years ago.   As I watch the news of my area and realize that our judicial system is not keeping us safe from armed criminals, we must use the rights we have to keep our  families and properties safe.  
That's me on the left.  I look forward to visiting again with my brother as my instructor.  
When I learned that looting took place in my town during Hurricane Sandy it became even more apparent to me that we must be able to protect what is ours in times of emergency.   I am part of the new wave of legal gun owners, females, mothers, wives, who are educating themselves in the safe use of a weapon.  It is both empowering, much in the same way that making it half way to my black belt in karate was, but it is also sobering.  It is an enormous responsibility and must be treated as such.  
My girls, who are reading, need to understand how to formulate their own opinions and justify them to others who are in opposition.  Like the abortion debate, this is a conversation that is rarely entered into with civility and respect.  My hope is that as they grow and mature and formulate their own opinions, they come back to the core of their beliefs, the ones that have been formed through our faith and our conservative values and use them as a benchmark against which all others are measured.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Giving Up to Get Much More

Why do we think we can have it all?  That must be the biggest lie that has been sold to us.  I realized this when I was trying to balance motherhood with a full time job while supporting my husband and his full time job that included a 4 hour commute and travel.  I could do this.  I just could not do it all well.  I could not give the best part of myself to other people’s children 8 hours a day and have the same level of engagement with my own children.  I could not enjoy family time on weekends when I had a pile of papers to correct and tests to grade.  Something had to give.  I gave up my full time teaching position in favor of spending my days with my child.  I have never regretted this decision.

Homeschooling websites and how to books often espouse the same idea that we can have it all.  Can we really have it all?  Of course not. We can’t have the security of an A+ on a report card or a diploma.  We don’t have the external feedback from a teacher conference and we don’t have honor roll.  We give up the opportunity to play team sports (at least in CT), the opportunity to participate in Student Council, play in the orchestra and eat lunch with friends every day. There are many things we don’t have, or can’t have.  

However, there are many things that we can have.  We can be apart from the system of public instruction, away from the indoctrination, away from mandates and schedules. We are not subjected to standardized testing and common core.  We gain freedom to travel, to wake up at 9am and go for a walk on the beach, to do school in our pajamas and take as many field trips as we want.  We can spend hours on one subject and skip over others that we already know.  The world is our classroom.  

When I see videos like this, I take great satisfaction in knowing that for all the things we homeschooling families give up when we choose to educate outside the system, we get so much more: to exercise our freedoms as families, as parents and as our child’s primary educators.  Even on our hardest days, I take comfort in knowing that they are not part of the collective.  They are my children.  They will always be my children. So while I may not have it all, I know that I have all that matters.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Geography / Story of the World

This is the time of year when I look at what we have been working on and what needs to be accomplished before we break for summer.  Because of our hectic Destination Imagination schedule last year and the time required for projects, rehearsals, and fund raising, not to mention the trip to Tennessee, we ended up working until August.  

This year I want to be done with bookwork and enjoy the moments of spontaneity that happen in the summertime.  After this long cold winter, I want to wake up on a warm summer morning free from responsibility and commitments.  I want to enjoy mid week camping trips, weekly beach nights, and swimming in waterfalls.  I don't want to say "we can't" because we have a class, or a workshop, or a lesson to complete. 

In order to have this happen, we need to work hard over the next few weeks to finish up with our book work.  Last week we completed 4 chapters of Story of the World.  We learned about the ongoing battles between France and England, and we read about the bubonic plague.  The girls already had knowledge of this through independent work and from watching Little House on the Prairie.  Although the flea born illness in the episode we watched was not the bubonic plague, it has many similarities.

I have switched out the mapwork from the Story of the World Activity Book for the mapwork in Color Yourself Smart Geography.  Last week the girls completed the page on Europe and this week they are working on Africa, which we will be revisiting in SOTW this week.  

This was also timely because my brother is about to deploy to Morocco for a month.  I hope he is able to take pictures and send emails like he did while in Afghanistan.  We learned so much from his personal accounts of what life in Afghanistan is like.  

Over the next few weeks we will finish up our history book.  Grace enjoys this study so much she said we could start book 3 over the summer if I wanted to......

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Baptism Gift

It has taken me weeks to complete a gift for my soon-to-be Goddaughter’s baptism.  I knew I wanted to do something special, something unique.  I wanted to do something that would actually be from me, not from a store.  Playing around on Pinterest, I came across a unique product called The Child’s Training Bible.  It is a compilation of scriptures that pertain to different experiences a child person will have such as jealousy, anger, stealing, laziness.  

The guide works by using color coded tabs and matching Sharpie highlighters to highlight passages in the Bible and tab them according to the topic.  When complete the Bible is brightly colored, highlighting God’s words urging us to forgive, to share our talents and our gift with others, and to respect one another.  

My only criticism of this product is that it approaches raising children from a negative point of view and refers to the Bible as a disciplinary tool.   Those of us with young children know that if we are looking for negatives we will find them fast.  If their room is a mess, does that mean they are lazy?  If they refuse to turn away from a video game the second we ask, does that mean they are disobedient?  I don’t think so.  I think that we all have moments of laziness, of disobedience, and of jealousy but those moments do not define our character or establish our personality.   

Looking at my own parenting experience, most of the topics in this guide could have come in handy as my children relate to the world around them.  When they were struggling with friendships I sure could have used the passages about staying true to yourself while in a friendship.  When they were struggling to give away unused or outgrown items in their closet, perhaps the passages on sharing could have helped.  I don’t look at this as a “child training” Bible, but a Bible that helps us navigate life according to our faith and God’s plan.

I modified it a bit........

I turned the negative into a positive.  Rather than paste the guide page onto the title page of the Bible as recommended, I rewrote the topics from a different point of view.

  • When you are angry....
  • When you feel like complaining.....
  • When you don’t feel like doing what you must do....
  • When you are discouraged....
  • When you are disobedient......
  • When you are afraid.....
  • When you feel like arguing, or someone is arguing with you....
  • When you are impatient or someone is being impatient with you.....
  • When you feel jealousy or someone is jealous of you.....
  • When you are feeling lazy.....
  • When you are tempted to lie or have been lied to.....
  • When you make an excuse or someone makes excuses to you.....
  • When you are not listening or someone is not listening to you....
  • Choose your friendships carefully.  They matter!  You matter!
  • Forgive.
  • Be true to yourself.
  • When someone has taken something which does not belong to them...
  • Share your talents, your gifts and your belongings with others.
  • When you are arguing and need to know what to do.
  • Be humble and kind.

I used Modge Podge to adhere them to the first two pages of the Bible.  I am very pleased with the way this project turned out.  It took hours but I enjoyed every minute.  So much, that I plan to buy myself a new Bible and do this for our family.   I also have a Confirmation coming up and I would like to give this gift to my sister’s son, my first Godchild....

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

7 Cool Homeschoolers: Video #3

Learning that took place for this video:

  • addition of background music
  • adjust speed of video
  • add special effects (shutter sound)
  • add photographs
  • add text to photos

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Dear Doctor

Dear Doctor,

Not every child is alike.  Please do not assume that because you treat children you know my child.  You may know her name and know her medical history but you don’t know all there is about her that makes her wonderful and special and unique.  You don’t know the effort it takes just to have her appear in your office and appear to be relaxed.  If you knew her, you would know that she is not relaxed or calm...she is a child who is anxious and needs kindness, patience and understanding.

Please do not tell a child what he or she is feeling.   If they tell you something hurts, please don’t tell them it is just pressure, not pain, for that is when I lose my mind just a little bit.  That is when you need to be reminded that there is no benchmark for human emotions and feelings. One child’s pressure is another child’s pain.  Stop and listen.  Administer your doctoring accordingly.  Ask yourself if you would treat an adult in the same way. 

Your skills may be exemplary.  I have full confidence in your ability to care for and treat my family.  This is why I sometimes must endure your complete lack of the ability to nurture.  Perhaps it is because you are a father, not a mother, and that role does not come naturally to you.  Perhaps it is because you lack the patience to deal with a scared child. Perhaps you simply don’t like treating children.  

Perhaps you need a reminder of what it is like to be helpless in a chair with an adult so close about to perform a procedure on your body that you wish they would not.  Ask yourself, when was the last time you had a procedure done?  Did you feel any anxiety?  Does the sight of a large needle cause your heart to flutter just a little bit?  How about the sight of large tools in your mouth? Is it just pressure you feel as your tooth is ripped from your gum?  Perhaps it is.  

Perhaps you are superhuman and can go through life without feeling.  But imagine how amazing you would be if you could feel empathy for a child to whom pressure is pain, and needles are scary, and pliers cause her to shake involuntarily.  If you had empathy for this child who has had more dental work done in her 12 years then you probably have had in your entire life, you may be more willing to understand.  To give her a moment to catch her breath.  To squeeze her hand and reassure her that yes, this is scary, yes there may be feelings that she does not like and yes, you will help manage her pain.  This would transform you from a great doctor, into an exceptional one.

Your patient

Don't You Just Stay Home All Day?

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