Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Is There a Synonym for Homeschooling?

I'm beginning to hate the word homeschool. There must be another word for it. One that doesn't bring an onslaught of questions about our day, our motives, our kids socialization, our finances, the makeup of our family. One that doesn't assume that just because I'm with my kids alot that they are a burden. One that doesn't assume that I don't take care of myself or have time to myself. Sometimes I'm oversensitive about these things. Other times it just bothers the heck out of me when I know they are asking not because they are thinking about homeschool themselves but just because they are questioning whether our kids will succeed. It bothers me when they question our choices without really knowing us or knowing our kids.
Even among other homeschoolers in our State-there is always controversy about which method of homeschooling to use, unschool or curriculum or somewhere in between? Don't start a co-op because it's too much like public school and we all know what public school does to kids. We all know what homeschooling does to kids don't we? Do we use a Christian Curriculum or secular? I don't much care what you use-does it work for your family and your beliefs? Then I'm pretty sure it's working. Anything beyond that is irrelevant.
So here I am. A tad bit angry and annoyed this morning. I get this way sometimes.
We learn everyday, all day. Learning doesn't happen in a box, or at a set time during the day, for a set number of hours in one place. Learning happens through living life. Just because we don't have have a textbook in front of us, don't assume my kids aren't getting a good education. My job is to teach them where to find the answers in life and that includes their education. My job is not to fill their minds with useless facts. They probably won't be playing on Jeopardy anytime soon so I'm not really worried if they don't know why the war was fought in 1812. My nine year old can balance a check book, write out her own deposit slips and manage herself quite well at a bank or at a grocery store helping me figure out total cost, price per unit and double coupons thank you very much for your concern. No we didn't do math from a book today.

We learn everyday, all day. Don't assume my kids are not socialized. We can talk about this more after we return home from our homeschool group of 30 kids, youth group, nursing home visits, church, brownies, art class, history class, sign language, science field trips, soccer practice, playdates, theater shows, nature walks, swimming lessons and volunteer work. Have you talked with my kids? They are comfortable with babies as well as adults and can handle most any conversation if you just talk to them. Socialization isn't in our vocabulary because we live it everyday. I think we need to find a new word for that too. Socialization-blech.
Our homeschool day doesn't have a set time for bookwork although we tend to start early morning so that we can have the rest of the day free for following our own interests. Somedays we spend one hour on textbooks, somedays three hours and somedays-GASP!- we don't use any textbooks. Last year we didn't even finish a book that we started. The horror of it! Placing homeschooled kids in a "grade level" is hard. We work at our own pace and if that means working on something for six minutes or six weeks than that's what we do. We learn something and then we move on and expand on what we learned.

We learn everyday, all day. Our summers are filled with nothing, which is everything.
We fill our summers with swimming, sleeping late, sitting on the deck with some iced tea and catching up on some reading. We explore fields, and hiking trails and forests and playgrounds. We take day trips, watch flowers grow, enjoy Del's lemonade and an ice cream cone. We sit by the pond, watch our chickens and visit friends often. We explore the beaches, local farms and take advantage of free performances on the village green. We go to parades, leisure at the library and watch the hawks fly above us and the ants build a village beneath our feet. We learn everyday, all day.

We don't send our kids to daycare and I don't feel a need to send my five year old to preschool or kindergarten so he can learn to stand in line, fight off bullies or spend all day being coralled to come home and drop from exhaustion. His job is to play and learn how to learn.
We are not against public school. It's just not the right educational choice for our family. Telling us we don't support public school by not sending our kids there, is a ridiculous argument. Public school is a different philosophy than what works for our family. I don't feel a need to test my kids to understand what they understand. I don't assign bookreports or huge projects. Yet, my kids have taken it upon themselves to do these things at one time or another. I don't give out grades. If they can't tell me what they've read or discuss or expand on the concept then they probably need to reread for understanding. It's not an assignment, it's a survival skill in the real world. Ask or read until you understand.
When they ask for help it expands their understanding and helps them work through to the next thought. No-I don't know how to teach all the subjects they will need to learn. But I'm pretty innovative and together we'll find the answers.
We learn everyday, all day. Being with my kids all day is what I choose to do. I don't need to find things to keep them busy or to keep them out of my hair. I don't need to send them away when I am ill and my Lyme Disease is acting up. I do this because I love them and I want what is best for them. I cannot sit back and wait for the American public education system to change to give my kids a good education. They are only young once and I choose to be home with them as much as I can. It is a choice and I will gladly sacrifice some salary to make that happen. That also doesn't mean that I don't need time alone or time with my husband because we manage to do both. Self care and marriage care is important. I've even been known to send the kids to bed early some nights so I can have a date with my husband. It's good for kids to see parents happy and wanting to spend time together. It shows them what is important.

We learn everyday, all day. Don't assume that because we homeschool we are overprotecting our kids and making them afraid to explore the world. Hasn't it always been a parent's job to protect their kids make them feel safe? My kids like being with their parents too. A trip to the grocery store or Home depot usually involves the whole family. Not because we make them go everywhere with us but because they choose to be with us and it's fun.

We learn everyday, all day. Everything we do is part of our life. Homeschooling our kids blends into everyday life. Gardening is a family affair. We may not use a textbook that day but we explored the really cool bugs we found, learned about compost, the benefits of chicken manure, compatible plantings, moon cycles, watering, soil requirements, botanical names for plants, crop rotation and building fences and trellises. I think we're good.

We learn everyday, all day. Having kids help with chores, raising animals, cook and watch their parents try to make it all work IS learning. We chose this lifestyle for a reason. We chose it to help bring our family together, to manage our finances, to celebrate our own Faith that is in keeping with our values, and to enjoy one another and all that life has to offer. Our kids may not get to travel to foreign countries, or have the big flashy wedding, or go to the Ivy League schools or even have the big executive position in a company. I want them to do what they love and be happy doing it. We've learned to live without a lot of material things and I hope we've taught our kids what is important.

Ultimately, it's not about homeschooling, or finances or defending our choices in how we choose to live as a family. It's just about love. That's all there is.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Story Time at the Pond

"You ought to be mindin' yer manners son. When I was a tadpole, just about yer age, Oh, how I loved to tease that Heron. Every mornin' I'd leap into the water just before it would try to scoop me up and come up out the other side of this here pond. Dang bird almost made a meal outta me coupla times too. But yer old Grandpaw...yep-I was much too smart...and fast fer that dumb old bird. It's all 'bout being on yer game, son. Yeah-I think that's there's the secret."
"Bein' on yer game."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

And the Thunder Rolls

We were supposed to have all of the Homeschool Group over today for a picnic. I was really optimistic that the rain would go away because the day started sunny and 82 degrees. They were predicting Thunder storms all day and by 1pm I had to cancel the party. I'm glad I did because everything was soaked in the downpours. The picnic was supposed to start at 4pm, just when the first storm hit. We were going to have a campfire and catch fireflies but with all the rain the most we can catch is mosquitos and mushrooms. I will admit...I love storms...just not at my picnics when I'm expecting forty people.

The storms moved in very quickly. I don't know why but this reminds me of God's Eye.

We watched it roll in over the trees.

Faster it came.

And then this huge mushroom cloud exploded upwards out of nowhere.

And grew larger.
And played games of lightening tag and sounded very angry.
And as quick as it came it started to disappear but it still sounded very angry.
But the day was not completely lost. We managed to get our first swim in a very cold pool but it felt sooooo good for just a few minutes.
Morgan managed to annoy her big brother with a piggy back ride.
Tae had a great time. We pulled him out when his lips turned blue.
Stewie the wonder dog had a great time on the dirt pile from the pool install-yes last year and we still haven't taken care of the dirt.
Maybe we'll leave it for him to dig in.
Stewie even has his own pool. Spoiled dog. Never met a lab that didn't love water.

Hope you are having a great start to your summer too!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Chicks Venture Out

Alright, so this isn't a picture of my chickens. It's my pond and I wanted to post it because after three straight weeks of rain, it is lush and green. The Heron didn't get as many fish as I thought he did and my prized black and gold fish is still there. The Heron was back this morning but we put up more fencing and the dog chased him away so maybe it will discourage him.

You can see a few fish congregating around the waterfall.

The new chicks are almost five weeks old and going a little stir crazy in the coop. But with the rain, chilly air and soggy ground, there was no way they could go outside. Today it was warm and they have most of their feathers so I had my son throw them out of the coop. The girls were really scared to death but quickly thought being out was pretty cool. The big girls were out free ranging for a bit while the little ones played. They are still separated right now and I'll integrate them in about another week into the rest of the flock. Sending the birds outside also gave me a chance to freshen the very stinky coop. What a mess!
At first they all huddled in a corner.
Then they started to spread out. The Easter Egger on the far left is named Ginger and is by far the friendliest. I think she's part Parakeet because she'll sit on your finger. Once again the Buff Orpington in the middle is the loudest. She's named Butter. In the far back is my favorite bird, the rusty colored wings and white head. She needs a name. Any ideas?
The White Rock and Australorps-also un-named.

Checking out the scenery. I think the White Rock is going to be huge-just look at the size of her chest already. She is very friendly and I love the snow white feathers.
I still cannot tell the difference between the Cuckoo Maran's and Dominiques yet. I ordered two of each and honestly they look very much alike. I'm wondering if they sent me all the same kind. One of these striped ones is named trouble. I can never tell which one until I reach into the coop and it charges at me an pecks my hand and then it wants to be pet.
The girls spread their wings and stretched and ran and it was quite comical to watch.
The kids gave them a taste of some fresh grass for the first time. The kids really love the birds and it's been a great homeschool lesson for them to learn about. The baby chicks thought a little salad was just delightful. A day trip and a meal out! What could be better?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Vegetarian Black Bean Burgers

My son has declared himself a Vegetarian and buying meatless products can get expensive. I purchased a Good Housekeeping Vegetarian Cookbook a few weeks ago and just love it. Most of the items are already in my pantry with the exception of the vegetables, and Patrick is able to do most of the cooking himself.
This is not the burger I made last night because my camera battery died and I couldn't take pictures. The above picture came from http://www.yumsugar.com/ who also have a very nice recipe posted. However, I found this one in the GH cookbook and the kids devoured it!
Southwestern Black Bean Burgers
2 cans of black beans, drained, rinsed and mashed
olive oil
3 green onions diced finely
1 tsp crushed Garlic
2 tablespoons Mayonaise
1/3 cup bread crumbs
4 dashes (or more) of hot sauce
3 tablespoons Parsley or cilantro
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
1/2 tsp Oregano
Mash everything together leaving some beans whole or chunky. I throw everything in a food processor but mixing by hand is no trouble. Do not skimp on the spices-black beans can be very bland if there is not enough salt and spices. If mixture is too wet, add a bit more of bread crumbs. Once mixed, shape into patties and drizzle olive oil on both sides. The olive oil adds some flavor and also prevents sticking in the pan.
Spray non-stick pan thoroughly or use olive oil. Cook patties over medium heat for 4 minutes on each side. Serve on whole wheat buns and top with salsa, lettuce, tomato and sourcream.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Meetinghouse One Year Anniversary

Our Homeschool group celebrated its one year anniversary last week. I started The Meetinghouse as a way to meet homeschoolers and it's just really been a blessing in our lives. The Mom's join me the first Friday night of each month for "Diva's Night." We've really developed some great friendships and do fun things like learn to make soap, paint ceramics...really wild stuff. But it is a chance to be without our children, connect to other mom's and support one another. Parenting and homeschooling are tough sometimes so I am grateful to have this group. The kids are pretty cool too.
This Saturday we are having a Meetinghouse Family Cookout. I have no idea how many are coming but everyone is bringing food and the weather looks like sun...a much needed treat after three weeks of rain.
Is there anything better than a homemade Devil's Food Cake with Chocolate Frosting?
I think not.

The Meetinghouse kids are phenomenal. Some weeks we have an arts and crafts project, or a field trip or free art time. During the summer, it's very low key, the kids are mostly outside playing and just being kids. We are working on forming a cooperative with lots of other families to supplement the kids education. I'm very excited about this prospect.

Cammy enjoys some Chocolate cake....and some earlier painting from the looks of her hands.

Romy was very shy and didn't want her picture taken, but didn't manage to inhale the chocolate cake like a champ.

Ohhh and sweet Shane didn't want to admit that the cake was just the best. You can't help but smile when eating Chocolate Cake. It's a rule. He even went back for seconds.

Life is good when you share Cake with friends!
Happy Anniversary Meetinghouse Family!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Visitors to My Garden

I've been in blogger slacker land. Life is busy. We've been having trouble with a Heron who has breakfast every mornign at our Koi pond. So far he has eaten three prized Shebunkins. Okay well two. One he left on the mulch for us, disemboweled, apparently from a full belly. I'm not happy. I've declared war on this bird. Koi are expensive and he will not dine at the all you can eat buffet. Larry first saw the culprit the other morning when he returned from his jog. The bird was happily grazing, finding which fish were most delicious. Larry scared him off and the Heron roosted in the pine tree outside of our bedroom. Not happy.

Beautiful bird but he needs to leave my gorgeous Koi alone.

The Heron...sort of.

So today, after working the night shift at the hospital, in my bleary eyed stupor while making coffee at 1pm, I look out my window and see the Heron sitting there. Mocking me-sizing up his next meal. I ran out in my very attractive pink fuzzy zipper up the front granny robe to scare him off. Why won't he move? Plastic-drat my husband. I asked for netting, not the tacky plastic flamingo statues to adorn my garden. Drat. Truly a video for America's Funniest Videos. Tae loves him and is thinking of a name. Even gave him a bowl of fish food to sample before the Koi got it. Sweet kid. Feeding the wildlife that is feeding on MY wildlife.
The girls have been moved to the big coop. We still haven't named most of them. So far we have Ginger, Butter and Trouble (the one who always pecks our hands and charges the door). Next week they will be able to go outside if the weather is good. We've had rain just about every day for the past three weeks and I don't want the babies to get chilled or wet. They are only four weeks old and still need the heat lamp. They are looking very dinosaurish these days as their feathers start to come in. Each day they are perching on higher levels and spreading their wings wanting to fly and be free. Just like kids-always wanting to grow up too fast.

These were two extra tomato plants that I had and no room in my garden to plant them. I couldn't bear to throw them out so they went in a planter. I'll move them to a bigger planter tomorrow. I planted 36 tomato plants in hopes of doing massive canning/preserving this year.

The Mint is doing well and is delicious in homemade iced tea, Greek pork and of course Mojitos!

Can you hear the four baby Wrens inside? Both the Mom and Dad are very busy feeding their babies but still find time to yell at me when I'm in the garden. They are very ungrateful even though I supply them with numerous bugs in the garden.

The sunflowers are starting to come up but I have to replant all my gourds. Not one sprout this year. I don't know if it is all the rain and lack of sun but the pumpkins haven't sprouted at all either. How frustrating. My Dad always grew sunflowers so when they are in full bloom I feel very connected to him. It's like his face smiling on my garden.

The visitors to my garden are many. These tiny white flowers are everywhere and you wouldn't notice them unless you got up close. I have no idea what they are but they are a pleasant surprise and seem to be everywhere.

The view off of our upper deck overlooking our garden with the chicken coop and future goat barn in the back.

Morgan and her friend Gab on the swings.

The side yard, pool and Koi pond.

I don't know what these flowers are. Someone told me they were Oxalis, but they resemble Primose so I really have no idea. They are just beautiful and the bees love them. Anyone know what they are?

My Lavender needs to be picked tomorrow at the latest. The blossoms are just starting to open and are at their peak. I will dry some and make sleep pillows out of the rest.

My Favorite Ballerina Rose.

It is supposed to be a dwarf variety but with all the rain we've had someone forgot to tell the plants that they are dwarf. Just beautiful. The weeding has gotten away from me. Three weeks of rain and weeds are everywhere and I'm not sure I can catch up.

The Ferns in my shade garden are monsters. I've never seen them this big.

The pink Astilbe is just starting to bloom.

The Wild Honeysuckle is just about ready to bloom. Next week, the heady smell will be overwhelming and the bees will buzz and the Hummingbirds will be in their glory.

We had our first Echinacea start to bloom. Our friend from church, Dan, is going to harvest a bunch of these and make an Echinacea tincture.

The Clematis is loving the rain and has spread all over my fence surrounding the pool.

Another Clematis that is stunning.

A weed that I wish I knew what it was. Very pretty. Can I eat it or make a jam?

My water lillies are blooming.

The Bullfrogs were resting in the warm sun today.

And smaller frogs hid in the mulch. Can you see me?

Even this Garden snake found glory in the day was basking in the warm sun on the rocks surrounding the pond. He seemed to have a full belly of something.
Is there any better month than June?