Category Archives: Family

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!)

 

 

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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.”

 

 

 

 

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

Slowing Down to Speed Up

“I don’t want my children’s education to be so fast-paced and so abstract that there is not time to meditate on the fantastical. I do not want them to treat glorious facts as mundane.”
–Leigh Bortins, The Question

I was just meditating today on the concept of slowing down to speed up, and then I got this quote in a Classical Conversations e-mail, validating my thoughts. The slowing down/speeding up concept is that if you stop and think about what is really important to you and just focus on that one thing… or maybe one or two simple goals related to that thing, you’ll soon end up leaps and bounds ahead of where you’d be if you had a checklist of 10-50 things you’re trying to accomplish all at once. It’s so easy to get distracted and over-schedule these days, yet this “busy-ness” is getting us nowhere.

To share a personal example, last year all I really wanted to focus on was home schooling my children well. I just wanted to be a good mom, and a good teacher, and in a good mood, more often than not. Pretty simple conceptually, although all moms know that this is far easier said than done for nearly all of us. As I focused on just this one main goal–whereas I normally have a minimum of 6-7 challenging goals going simultaneously–I started to feel so light and unencumbered. I actually had time to think, and read for pleasure (!), and just sit and enjoy my kids. I was so unaccustomed to these luxuries that I kept feeling guilty or lost at first. I had a sneaking suspicion that I was forgetting something and that my bubble would be burst at any moment. But instead, what happened was that eventually other goals that I had not previously been able to accomplish when I tackled them more directly and distractedly, began to come to fruition as well. Consequently, not only are my kids and I now enjoying home schooling immensely, I am also in my best physical shape in more than a decade, and I have my own business that is actually bringing in money! And those are just two of the bonus goals–there are several other “lesser” goals that would never even have made my top ten list in the past that I am also making progress on.  WOO. HOO.

Slowing down is such an important thing to do. As much as we like to identify ourselves by our occupations or bodies or reputations, we are in fact vibrant, creative spirits that long for beauty and truth and love. In a world that constantly tries to suck the meaning out of everything, we are yearning to make our lives meaningful. For most of us, I’m willing to bet that our dreams are pretty much just sitting there beside us, waiting for us to turn and pick them up, but we’re just flying by, too oblivious to notice. If you think things are moving too fast, or you’re frustrated that you haven’t been able to accomplish things despite putting them on your “list” for years, try slowing down for awhile. Breathe, and assess your values and priorities. And then if you’re really feeling courageous, try organizing your life to actually support those top priorities, at the expense of lesser ones if necessary. I can almost guarantee it won’t be easy, but it will definitely be worth it.

Classical Conversations Practicum & Foundations Tutor Training

It’s been a while since I’ve written about home schooling, so I thought I’d give an update on the latest. We’re just winding down to our summer schedule, which includes reading more great books at our leisure, practicing Spanish conversation, and lots of time in nature. We also just attended a Classical Conversations Practicum, which is a fabulous three-day, free training for parents (kids’ camps available at a very reasonable price) on classical education as well as the CC theme for the year. This year’s theme is rhetoric. I love these events because they are so encouraging and thought provoking, and I meet the most wonderful people. I can’t resist giving a little plug here, so if you’re interested in attending one near you, check out this link for more details, times, and dates: http://parentpracticum.com.

For CC tutors and directors, there are afternoon trainings during the Practicum for Foundations, Essentials, and Challenge. I attended the Foundations training at this Practicum, and I was really impressed. The trainer had brought a posse of extremely talented, close knit tutors from her community and incorporated lots of demonstrations of ways to present the content in the classroom. Even with a year of tutoring already under my belt, I learned so much from them! It was inspiring to see what good friends these tutors have become. They’re obviously helping to elevate one another to the highest standards of excellence while keeping it lots of fun. I hope to foster this same kind of environment as I direct my own community this year.

Another great thing about the Foundations tutor training was that issues like discipline and classroom management were brought to the forefront and plenty of ideas shared from experienced tutors. I hadn’t had any experience leading a classroom when I started tutoring, and I was primarily focused on creativity in presenting the content rather than setting classroom expectations and having a plan of action for disciplinary issues. I thought that since parents are usually in the classroom with their children, I could leave that entirely up to them, but I’ve since realized that every classroom needs clear expectations and some form of discipline in order to run smoothly. I later found lots of great classroom management ideas on Pinterest, but I wish I would have used them from day one. If you are going to be a CC tutor in the coming year, be sure to spend some time thinking about your strategy for maintaining order. The kids quickly become good friends and are excited to see each other every week, so it’s normal for them to be energetic and chatty when they come together. It’s important to keep things fun, but also to emphasize the importance of respect for others, respect for the property, following instructions, etc. for the benefit of everyone participating.

Review games was another topic we spent a good deal of time on, including more great demonstrations. This was an area I hadn’t anticipated spending so much prep time on as a tutor. Every week, I’d agonize over finding the perfect review game, and I felt like I had to come up with a new one every week (at least for the first half of our year). There was a lot of trial and error. Again, I found tons of stuff on Pinterest, but it was hard to gauge what would work with my kids until I actually tried it. I had kids who were very competitive, and kids who were not at all. I had a couple kids who rarely wanted to play any game, no matter what it was. I was tempted to take it personally when a game didn’t work out. At the training I found out that most of the tutors struggled with these very same issues. It would have been great to hear this last year just so I’d know I wasn’t alone or doing something wrong. Turns out I really only needed 4-5 good games for my class and there was one they requested almost every week. I had a fantastic first year as a tutor and I LOVED my class dearly — these are just little things I wish I’d anticipated to make the year even more amazing. I have no complaints — I just mention these things here to help others who may be preparing to tutor for the first time.

Our new community is growing nicely and I’m excited to see who the Lord brings to join us over the year. We have more Info Meetings to hold over the coming months, and it seems that more and more people are hearing about CC all the time. We had 70,000+ students nationwide last year! It’s really exciting to be part of this dynamic community, which is stretching my whole family on so many levels. I look forward to reporting more as our journey continues to unfold.

 

 

Fortified (I’m Turning 40 Tomorrow!)

Tomorrow is the much-anticipated big day… the day I happily wave good-bye to my thirties (not that it was a bad decade, by any means) and turn to greet a fresh new decade ripe with possibilities and full of the promise of great ongoing progress. I guess we all love fresh starts, and although we can theoretically have one any day we choose, it always helps to have the momentum or pomp and circumstance of an appropriate event like a milestone birthday to take full advantage of the opportunity.

So, I keep getting asked what I am going to do to celebrate. In fact, I began celebrating at the beginning of the year and will continue to do so for as long as possible…hopefully forever. My gift to myself for this year and this decade, at least, is unprecedented health and balance. For one thing, I decided to get back into athletic shape, similar to when I was in high school, playing sports year-round and setting school and local records left and right. I want exercise and athleticism to again be part of my daily regimen, and even identity. I love the discipline and the connection with my body, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with working out regularly. So, as I’ve blogged about before, I signed up for a Spartan Race and am enjoying the training immensely.

I’ve also been pampering myself a lot more. I’ve never been much of a girly-girl, so for me one of the ultimate luxuries is making time to read, for pleasure and for my own education. Sitting down with a cup of organic decaf coffee and a great book for even half an hour is the equivalent of a spa day or a week’s vacation at this point in my life. On a similar note, writing just for the sake of writing is another guilty pleasure of mine, which is why I began this new blog earlier this year. In fact, at this very moment, I should be cajoling my children to do their math work (we home school), but since they’re playing happily together outside and the baby is napping, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to flex my fingers and reflect on how I’m feeling. Math can wait, especially on a beautiful day like today.

I like to keep things simple and natural, and every so often I have to remind myself to shed the unnecessary and get back to the basics. I’m feeling more comfortable in my own skin than ever before, somewhat as if I’ve been rediscovering what I’ve always known and loved about myself. I’m so grateful for everything I’ve been through and everything I’ve been given. Are there things I want that I can’t have right now? Things I regret? Sure, a few. But overall I am in a really great place, and it feels very solid and secure. I certainly didn’t get to this place by myself, but I’ve worked hard to get here nonetheless, and there are things I’ve learned along the way that can’t ever be taken away from me now. In short, I have so much more than a birthday to celebrate, so it’s hard for me to plan a day, or a week, or a party that could possibly capture who I am and how I’m feeling this year (especially on my budget – ha!). Instead, I will do my best to celebrate my Life, and all it includes, to the fullest, each and every day. Cheers!

Loving My Strong-Willed Children

Setting Limits bookI’ve been reading several parenting books lately and wishing I had accessed the wisdom in them long ago. The one pictured here, “Setting Limits With Your Strong-Willed Child” was really great. When I picked it up, I was just thinking of my daughter, who is very stubborn but also has so many wonderful qualities. I wasn’t having any particularly difficult challenges with her, I just wanted to be prepared should any arise. As I read this book, however, I realized that my four-year-old is also a strong-willed child, and that was why I WAS having so many challenges with him. I am also pretty sure my youngest will be just as intense. Yay.

What I love about this book, though, is the way it talks about the children, describing them as “aggressive researchers” and explaining that they are just wired to learn the hard way most of the time, and that they need to collect a lot of concrete data/evidence in order to know what their boundaries are. I felt so much relief and compassion as I read, because I realized a) that there are LOTS of kids like this out there, b) the parents didn’t do anything wrong to cause the kids to develop these intense personalities, and c) they’re not little anarchists, but rather just determined little scientists trying to figure out how things work in their world.

I got a lot of tools to implement in this book, and I’ve already started using them regularly (and making mistakes with them, too). I realize how inconsistent and vague I’ve been with my discipline and instructions over the years, and am trying to be much more focused going forward. Even with the mistakes, I’ve already had a significant breakthrough in my relationship with my daughter, which I believe was set in motion by this book.

This all started with a goal of yelling less at the beginning of this year… who knew there was so much more to it than just that. Yelling was a symptom of much deeper and more complex issues lying beneath the surface. Although I wish I’d seen them sooner, it feels great to be dealing with these issues so productively now. Better late than never. Yet another lesson in agile mothering!