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.”

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.

 

Paleo Vegan Blueberry Lime “Cheesecake”

2015-03-01 14.19.47My family LOVES dessert. Being the health conscious mom that I am, I usually serve dark chocolate or one of my homemade frozen banana ice creams, but today I decided to go for something a little different. This dessert is a recipe I adapted from Vegan Family Recipes. I didn’t have all the ingredients called for, so I substituted with a little of this and a little of that. If you have a variety of healthy fats and natural, low glycemic sweeteners on hand, it’s very easy to make healthier, or just slightly different, versions of various desserts. It’s fun to experiment, even when it doesn’t come out that great!

The first change I made to this recipe was to use a muffin tin and paper baking cups, since I didn’t have a spring form pan. Neither did I have the nuts listed. No problem! For the crust I used 2/3 cups of almond meal, a tablespoon of sunflower seed butter, 2 dried apricots, and maybe a teaspoon of maple syrup. It was a little bit too sticky after I blended it, so I stirred in some shredded coconut to help me pat down the crust. I’d say I used about a tablespoon.

Next came the filling. The only substitution I made here was to use about 2 teaspoons of sunflower seed butter in place of the cashews. And I added an extra tablespoon of lime juice just because.

Finally, the blueberry topping. I didn’t have fresh blueberries since I live in the currently Arctic Northeast, so I thawed some frozen organic ones. Didn’t have dates either, but again, no biggie. I used some raw, unfiltered wildflower honey… maybe a tablespoon? For extra protein and omega 3, I sprinkled some raw hemp seed hearts on top. The result was absolutely delish!

Immunity Boosting Spicy Lime Hummus

hummusI love to make my own hummus when I have the time. It is so much fresher and more flavorful than what you usually find in grocery stores. I prefer to use dried chick peas and soak them overnight, which also adds to the freshness, but you can use canned chick peas as well. The variety of spices in here, as well as the lime juice and apple cider vinegar, are all great for your immune system. A little disclaimer here: I find it very difficult to follow recipes without making my own modifications to suit my tastes and available ingredients. Therefore, I also have a hard time measuring very accurately and providing exact recipes, but I think this is the closest I’ve come so far. It’s almost exact, so here goes…

2 cups organic chick peas (dry, soaked overnight and cooked 1.5 hrs, or canned)
Juice of 3 limes (squeeze out every last drop!)
2 tbs. avocado oil (could also use olive or walnut)
2 tsp. organic apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. purified water (alkaline, ionized if you have it)
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 tbs. tahini
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic powder or 1-2 cloves fresh garlic
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
ground rainbow peppercorns to taste (I turned the grinder about 4 times)
dash cayenne pepper

Toss all ingredients into a Vitamix or food processor and blend away. If it’s too thick, try adding a little more of any of the above liquids (lime juice, oil, or water). If you like it spicier, add more of the cayenne. My kids don’t like things too spicy so I kept it mild. Serve with fresh veggies, chips, or if you’re like me, you may just want to eat it plain like a bowl of pudding. My four kids (2, 5, 8, and 9) and I polished this off in a matter of minutes. Enjoy!

#FridayFavorite: Duolingo

duolingoI am so very happy that I discovered Duolingo at the end of last year. As a home schooler and life long learner, I am always looking to try new things, pick up new skills, and spark interests in my kids. This amazing site allows you to learn a host of new languages absolutely FREE, and the quality is very comparable to Rosetta Stone, which we’ve also tried. Thanks to Duolingo, my husband, 8- and 9-year-old, and I are all learning German and Spanish (in my case brushing up on the Spanish, which I had been meaning to do forever) this year.

The site offers brief lessons that are easy to keep up with, and you can select the pace at which you’d like to learn so that you receive reminder e-mails at the right frequency for you. Besides the regular lessons, you can engage in discussions with other language learners, and practice translating documents, so you get a pretty well rounded language experience.

I love, love, love this site and highly recommend you check it out if you’re interested in studying other languages.