What is equality? A Thought from The Count of Montecristo

I’m reading classics to discuss with my 12-year-old son as part of our lifelong home-based education (homeschool), and the first book we’ve selected for this school year is The Count of Monte Cristo. As my son’s mentor, I have to model the example of lifelong learning and self-educating. In this case that means not only reading along with him but also writing daily about what we are reading.

For today the nugget that stands out to me from the book is this description, referring to the difference, in one character’s mind, between Napoleon and Robespierre: “The only difference consists in the opposite character of the equality supported by these two men; the one advocates the equality that elevates, the other professes the equality that depresses; the one brings a king within reach of the guillotine, the other elevates the people to a level with the throne.”

Quite a powerful contemplation, especially in thinking about our current political climate in the U.S. Many of us say we want equality, but yet we want our own priorities elevated and dissenting voices depressed. Be honest now. I wonder if we will ever approximate an equality that truly elevates every one of us human beings to our very best selves. What a world that would be. I’m not sure if it’s possible, but I desperately want to believe that it is. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I’m sure I’ll revisit this topic again in future posts.

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Seizures and Sugar: A Simple Lifestyle Change That is Working for Us

Hello friends! I wanted to take a moment to share a simple change we’ve made recently to improve our health, particularly for my daughter, age 10. She has been struggling with occasional petit mal seizures over the past 2 years. They only last 30 seconds to a minute, and she is fine right afterward — thankfully they have not caused any brain damage. I have not wanted to use any medication for her, because according to my research, the cons far outweigh the pros in her case. Instead, I have taken careful notes every time she has had a seizure (typically once every 2-3 weeks, with occasional clusters in the same week), recording when they happened and what she was doing/eating/drinking immediately prior as well as the day/night before. I noticed that every time she had a seizure, she either had very little sleep or had eaten more sugar than usual or a food/drink with artificial dyes or flavors. So naturally, I tried to help her avoid these foods and excessive sugar, which was/is not easy, since she has a serious sweet tooth.

The latest change, which we made two months ago, seems to have been the most successful. She has not had a seizure since we started, and it’s been a relatively easy change: We stopped eating cereal for breakfast. I had been buying various, supposedly healthy, usually organic cereals with “less sugar” thinking they were fine for us — things like peanut butter puffs, cocoa crisps, and granola, often to mix with multi-grain squares or plain O’s. Since I was kind of at my wit’s end, I decided to try replacing all of that with only plain oats or toast (we only buy bread with 3-4 ingredients, no preservatives). The kids can add a little honey or organic raisins or bananas to sweeten the oatmeal, but that’s it. Everyone seems pretty content with this change, and we’re saving money as well.

I realize this is a very specific issue and it may not apply to many of my readers, but I wanted to share in case any of you are having similar struggles, and also to encourage anyone searching for natural, holistic solutions for yourself to continue experimenting. Try one small change at a time and pay attention to the results. Take charge of your health and don’t accept someone else’s prescription (medical or otherwise) if you’re not comfortable with it. I’m not anti-medication in every case, but I do believe we are generally over-medicated as a society, and we need to be extra cautious especially when it comes to our children. I’ll continue to share our progress on this as well as other positive lifestyle changes we make. (While I’m on that topic, if anyone has a fool-proof method for making yourself drink 60+ oz. of water every day, please share in the comments!)

 

 

Neurological Reorganization… Life Changing!

59684_1524221838850_7579784_nI have a feeling I’m going to be blogging on this topic A LOT this year. I am totally fascinated by this field and am about to begin a program with my daughter and possibly my two older sons as well. In a nutshell, neurological reorganization is a way of treating a whole host of learning and behavior disorders without medication and with permanent beneficial results. The goal is to identify gaps in development that occurred from birth onward and take advantage of our brain’s neuroplasticity and go back and bridge or eliminate those gaps. At least that’s my understanding so far. I can honestly see  this being the single most important discovery of my life as a mom to date. If you have an hour and fifteen minutes to spare, and even a mild curiosity in what I am talking about, I highly recommend you watch the video below.

 

Back to Education

It’s “Back to School” time for many students around the world, and even in our homeschool we use this time of year to make a fresh start. I’m always excited to start a new “school year” because I love to learn and I love the opportunity to change things up and hopefully inspire my 4 students to become avid readers and lifelong learners. I am currently enthralled with a new book called A Thomas Jefferson Education and all that it means for our homeschool journey.

As the book explains, there are often major differences between modern schooling and classical education–the latter being accomplished through mentors and study of the classics. It asserts that the only true education is self-education and that it comes about when great mentors inspire their students by their example. I am all over that! My favorite thing about homeschooling, which absolutely has its challenges, is how much I get to learn myself, and that my kids automatically absorb so much just by being around me as I struggle and persevere along my own path.

I am far from a perfect parent. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know. And I can honestly say that I have had a pretty great Catholic school and liberal arts education with some amazing mentors all along the way–I shudder to think what would have been if I had not! I feel I have much to live up to. And I believe that’s what makes me the ideal mentor for my kids. I have to pass on the lessons I have learned and the character I have developed–and I need a lot of time and opportunity to do that. True education can never be forced or rushed. It must be willingly received… patiently and passionately pursued. So that is what I will do, and I’ll trust that my children will follow my example, and eventually surpass it.

Thoughts going into year 6 of home schooling…

We’re about to officially begin our sixth year of home schooling next week, the day after Labor Day. All four of my kids and I will be part of a new co-op that meets once a week. Our home school style has gone from strictly classical to much more eclectic over the years, and this new co-op encourages self-directed learning and unschooling. Kids and parents are invited to submit proposals for classes, group studies, and independent studies with mentors. I joined the programming committee so I get to help decide which classes/studies are held when, for how long, and with what facilitators or teachers. There have been so many creative and interesting proposals submitted already–everything from building Leprechaun traps to Entomology to Coding to Philosophy to Claymation. I’m completely confident that we will enjoy many rich learning experiences together as we connect with this new community.

That’s a nice segue into my latest meditations on why I am home schooling and what my priorities are: the #1 answer to both is community, which is just another name for extended family. I’m reading a great book called A Thomas Jefferson Education and it brings up some excellent points about socialization that remind me why I started on this whole journey in the first place. Unlike most people, who worry about socialization when they think of home schooling (which is worth noting and pondering – why do they immediately think of socializing and never worry about academics when it comes to schooling?), I was actually very impressed with the social skills and overall character and poise of the home schooled children I had known prior to making the decision to home school. I noticed that these children seemed much more articulate and comfortable communicating and interacting with all ages than their peers in public and private schools. They had a strong sense of self, close relationships with their family members, and were less vulnerable to peer pressure.

When I then had my own children and it was time to send my first born off to Kindergarten, I did so with some serious reservations, even though we were in a “very good” school district. It was a full day program, and I worried it would be too big of an adjustment for him. Still, I was hopeful that all would go well and my child would thrive, and he did, mostly. He had a truly wonderful, loving, and capable teacher who gave him an excellent start, socially and academically. He did have a lot of energy to burn once the school day was over, and the homework assignments seemed pretty robust for such a young child, but we managed, and all was well.

Then came first grade, and things began to decline gradually throughout the year. My happy, extremely confident and creative boy began to doubt himself, just a little. He started to think school was “boring” and he just HAD to have the latest, coolest toys that his classmates loved to play with (even though, he admitted, he didn’t think they were really that cool). He would come home from a full day with sometimes 15 minutes of recess or less, and turn into Taz from Looney Tunes, bouncing off the walls and spitting gibberish. His teacher said he took too long on classroom assignments. That was her only feedback about him when we met for parent-teacher conferences. She didn’t love him — he was just another kid in her class. And that was all it took for me to be convinced: I needed to at least try to home school. I didn’t want my child to learn how to sit in a classroom all day and hurry to finish his assignments “on time” regardless of whether he had learned anything. I didn’t want him to learn how to fit in with “the cool kids”, who were all his age and lived in the same small town. I didn’t see what any of this had to do with a good education — and even though I loved my traditional Catholic school education growing up — I was over it in a heartbeat.

I hope that none of this comes across as judgmental or condemning. I know that there are some really great schools out there, and I would never presume to tell another parent what educational choices they should make for their child/ren. I am simply sharing my experiences and my reasons for home schooling my own kids, for consideration by myself and anyone else interested.

I am doing my best to ensure that my kids know how to interact and engage with people of all ages and backgrounds.

I am trying to teach them the discipline of working out their differences with each other productively (all strong personalities together all day long often equals fireworks) and then how to apply those same principles and techniques to be able to get along with other challenging personalities and situations they come across.

I want them to know themselves — what they genuinely love to do and learn about — and be confident enough to lead by example in the communities and interest areas that are important to them.

I want them to be free to explore and open to learn, but not waste time trying to bend and twist into anything that doesn’t resonate for them.

I want them to be fully connected, which for me right now means that I need to be fully connected to myself and my own progress, as well as to how each of them are growing and developing, so that I can lead the way.

I’m sure there will come a day when I entrust that responsibility to someone else or to my kids themselves, but for now it needs to be me. I admit, I’m a little weary and a little leery at this point. But mostly I’m excited. We are finding our groove. We are doing the heavy lifting, and it’s starting to get lighter. We are forging our path, and some will follow. Others will be inspired to forge their own. Still others will think we’re wacko, and that’s okay. As I frequently tell my kids, “Do what you think is right, and do the best you can, and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.”

 

 

 

 

The Secret to a Sustainable Marriage

marriagesecret

It really is this simple. Every marriage has its ups and downs. Every married person questions at least once whether they chose the right person. Everyone married for any length of time has had that moment when they convinced themselves that their marriage was doomed. Guess what? Love is a decision. You made a commitment to each other, and that means you both need to be able to snap out of it when you have those hard moments. Don’t let those morbid thoughts destroy the life you’ve built together. Choose each other today. Then choose each other again tomorrow. And the next day. And so on. Will you always be head over heels in love? Of course not. Feelings change. We all have bad days. But even on our worst days, when we don’t feel like it, we can all choose love.

Love & Pride Don’t Mix

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. – 1 Cor. 13: 4-10

 

When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom. – Prov. 11:2

By pride comes nothing but strife, But with the well-advised is wisdom. – Prov. 13:10

Easy Vegan Organic Energy Bars

vegan energy barsYesterday I had a craving for a high-energy, chocolatey snack, so I decided to make my own all-organic, vegan energy bars. I have seen various versions of these online lately so I had a basic idea of what goes in them and in what quantities. I made this recipe up myself as I went along and I was very pleased with the results. There’s no baking involved, but I did stick them in the freezer for 45 min. to set before I cut them. My two-year-old wasn’t crazy about them but the rest of the family gave rave reviews.

Ingredients:
1 c. dried fruit (I used a combination of apricots & raisins)
1 c. almond meal (if you use almond butter you can reduce the amount of water you add)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (plus about 1/4 c. more to sprinkle on top just before freezing)
1/2
cup water
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tbs. maple syrup
1 tbs. walnut oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice blend
2 cups raw nuts and or seeds of choice (I used pumpkin and sunflower seeds)

Blend all ingredients except the 2 cups of nuts in a Vitamix or food processor. The mixture should be moist but not soupy, kind of like chunky nut butter. Scrape into a bowl and stir in 2 cups nuts and seeds. Press into an 8″ x 8″ square pan and sprinkle the additional shredded coconut on top. Freeze for 45 min., then cut and enjoy.