Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Carnival of Natural Parenting

Just a heads up for those interested....today on my other blog, This Holistic Life, I posted a piece called Not Back to School: How We Learn at Home for the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. It's my first carnival submission and I'm pretty excited about it! Make sure you scroll down for lots of great links all about this month's topic: learning at home.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Scenes from the Wilds of Suburbia

My very first attempt at a nature sketch.
This is the plant I was attempting to sketch. Not bad, right?? Anybody know what it is?
Logan took this one. All of these were taken on the trail that runs alongside our neighborhood.
Watch out for thorns!
How cool is this?? It's very viny and thorny back there.
Gypsy moth nest. I think. There were caterpillars in there.
Logan was enamored of the y-shaped stick.
Critter hole. We watched it for a while, but alas, nothing came out.
Towering pines.
The artiste at work.
Logan in a tree that I'm trying to identify. I know NOTHING about trees.
These are the leaves. Red maple, right? Or is it sycamore? According to my field guide the leaves are very similar.
And what's this tree, with the long pod-looking things?

As you can tell, I'm about as amateur a naturalist as you can get. But I'm enthusiastic and determined to learn! At the ripe age of 47, I am suddenly passionate about the ecosystem of the great state of New Jersey, where I've lived my entire life, completely oblivious to the local flora and fauna. Just goes to show, you never know when a new passion will strike, and it's never too late to learn. If anybody can help with identifying those trees, so I can properly fill out my nature journal, I'd appreciate it!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

.....Aaaaand We're Back

Hello, my lovely fellow homeschoolers! Did you miss me while I was gone, launching my new blog?

I had toyed with the idea of deleting this one permanently, but now that I've found my groove over at THL, I think I can handle both. Plus, this blog is an important record of the things we do as homeschoolers. I found myself wanting to write about our adventures today, on this, our official Not Back-to-School Day.

When September rolls around, I realize that I'm not completely deschooled, and may never be. I'm not even sure I want to be. I loved school when I was a kid, and especially loved all the preparations leading up to the first day. I was excited to buy all my supplies--the new Trapper Keeper, folders, crisp white paper and pens, and of course new clothes, too. But more than anything, I loved the feeling of a fresh start, a feeling that still comes over me like clockwork every September.

Just like last September, I'm starting this new school year (see? I'm still thinking in terms like "school year") feeling like we need more structure in our days. I'm also having math panic. Last year, I bought Logan a 2nd grade math curriculum that came highly recommended called Math Mammoth. I was thrilled when, in the beginning of the year, I didn't even have to ask him to work in it. He had always loved math, and was enthusiastic about his new workbooks. See? I said to my skeptical husband. Unschooling works. I just leave it out and he does it. (To my hardcore unschooling compatriots: yes, I'm aware that leaving out a workbook in the fervent hope that your kid will just spontaneously decide to do it is not unschooling. And, as it turns out, not realistic.)

Of course, just a few weeks in, he tired of them, and like the good unschooler I was trying to be, I put them away and never mentioned them again. Now, as any homeschooling parent knows, math and numbers are a part of everyday life. A kid doesn't need workbooks to pick up a basic understanding of math, and Logan knows how to add and subtract, keep track of his scores on video games, and do simple money transactions (thanks to Monopoly). He does not, however, know how to carry or borrow, he doesn't know his multiplication tables, and he doesn't know how to read an analog clock--all things he would have learned last year, in second grade.

So, it seems that I have now joined the camp of people who unschool everything but math. My older kids asked to go back to public school after several years of homeschooling, and because I had insisted they keep up with grade-level math, they were actually ahead of their peers when they returned to school. I really believe I'll be doing Logan a disservice if I don't ensure that he has the same option. Life learning should be about expanding choices, not limiting them. If that makes me more of an eclectic homeschooler than an unschooler, then so be it. As I began to realize last year, we're kind of a hybrid. More relaxed and radical than the other families in our local homeschooling group, but more structured and conservative than some of the families we've met at unschooling conferences. This year, I'm going to embrace our unique brand of homeschooling and let my intuition guide me to do what's best for our family.

I've also added a little focus to our days by highlighting whatever wacky (or sometimes serious) National Day it is, and using that as a jumping off point. I bought a whiteboard for the kitchen, and each day I'll write "Today is National Whatever Day". I also plan to write a quote-of-the-day. So, without further ado, here's what we did today: 

Yep, we did a page of math. After I dug out last year's workbook and had a talk with him about why I was suddenly insisting that he do at least a page of math a day, we sat down together and I showed him how to tell time. On an actual non-digital clock.

We went for a morning walk around our neighborhood. Well, technically, I walked, and Logan rode his bike. We plan to make the morning walk a daily event.

We celebrated National Grandma Moses Day! I found a website with a short kid-friendly bio, which I read aloud to Logan, and then we looked at some of her paintings together online. We talked about how maybe having discovered a new passion so late in life helped her live to be 101.

We played Oceanolopy. It's Monopoly with sea life. We played it for a really, really long time. :) As I mentioned earlier, Monopoly is great for learning about money management.

We went to the BMX track. Logan is new to BMX racing, and wanted to go to the track to practice. He rode his bike, and I sat in the shade and read.

We went to the library. We saw not one, but two, monarch butterflies today, and so we stopped at the library to find some books about monarchs and learn about their migration route. We walked out with a huge pile of books!

We baked cookies. When we came home we made really easy gluten-free almond butter chocolate chunk cookies  (from Clean Eating magazine). I burnt them a little, but they were still yummy.

Interspersed throughout all this activity was some MarioKart with friends, and a visit from the birthday boy, my oldest son Zachary. A very busy Not Back-to-School Day indeed!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I've Moved!

Hi everyone! I'm thrilled to announce that my new blog is up and running. The focus will be on holistic living, which includes natural parenting and unschooling, so I'll no longer be writing about those things here. Please check out the new blog, and let me know what you think. If you like what you see, please become a subscriber and pass along the link. Thanks, and hope to see you at This Holistic Life!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Moving Soon!

To a new blog, that is. I've really been feeling inspired lately to expand my focus beyond unschooling and write about my other passions--simplicity, wellness, spirituality--and how they all fit together to create a whole, balanced life. My involvement with our local Holistic Moms Network chapter has ignited a desire to start sharing what I've learned over the years with others. I'm so excited to have a reason to dive deeply into my favorite topics! Of course, since unschooling and natural learning are, for me, an important part of a holistic lifestyle, I'll still be writing about those, too.

Since my new blog will have a different tone and look than this one, I think it's best to move house and start fresh. Check back soon for the link to my new home, This Holistic Life.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

And now for something completely different....Oil Pulling

I'm in the middle of an experiment that is turning out to be verrrry interesting, so I thought I'd better start keeping a record of it. A while back, I was online looking for natural treatments for gum disease, and I found a site about natural remedies called Earth Clinic. I was fascinated to read about a simple therapy called oil pulling, which supposedly cured a whole range of ailments. My interest was piqued at the time, but not enough to actually try it. Instead I ended up ordering a product called OraMD, which worked miracles on my gums. But, it's expensive and I ran out, and I ended up going back to brushing with plain old toothpaste, and all my problems returned. At my last visit to the periodontist, the predictions were dire: I am in danger of losing one of my front teeth and a couple back molars due to bone loss, and they want to either yank out the tooth and replace it with an implant now (to the tune of $4000!!), or do some kind of iffy bone graft procedure on the root. I can't afford either one of those options right now, so I was in wait-and-see mode, trying to decide if I really want to go into further debt over this.

In the midst of all my dithering, this past weekend I developed an abscess behind my bad front tooth. I've had these before, and they usually require a trip to the dentist and a course of antibiotics. But, it was the weekend, and I was in pain, and something made me remember the oil pulling. One of the things it's supposed to heal is gum infections. I also remembered that the miraculous OraMD stuff was made completely out of natural oils. Soooo, on Sunday morning, as per the instructions on the Earth Clinic site, I swished a tablespoon of olive oil (mixed with a drop of peppermint oil) around in my mouth before eating breakfast. You're supposed to do it for twenty minutes, until the oil turns thin and white in your mouth, but I felt like I was going to gag and so I spit it out after ten. But still, there was a noticeable reduction in the pain and swelling of the abscess. Hmmm....

Yesterday morning, I did it again, and lasted the entire twenty minutes. By the end of the day, my abscess was completely gone. Totally healed. But there were a few other interesting things. The first is I had awakened earlier than usual feeling very refreshed. This is one of the things they say will happen. Another is that immediately after doing it, I felt really, really good. Kind of buzzed, actually. Before I even had any coffee! And the third thing is that yesterday afternoon, I started coughing up mucus--another one of the promised effects of the therapy. Okay, now I was getting really excited. I went back online and did some more research. Google "oil pulling" and you'll find hundreds of testimonials by people who swear it has completely cured them of all of the medical complaints. At the very least, people say it reversed their gum disease and made their teeth whiter. 

But the thing I am now most hopeful about is that many, many people say that it improved their arthritis. I have degenerative osteoarthritis and can barely move after a busy waitress shift. My hands, knees, feet and shoulders have some degree of pain and stiffness pretty much all the time. My rheumatologist wants me to take 4000 mg of Tylenol a day. Yeah, that's not happening, so I pretty much just live with it. But if I could get some relief with a simply, natural therapy like oil pulling? And get whiter, healthy teeth to boot? Well now, that might be pretty miraculous indeed.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Book Sharing Monday

Just finished a fantastic book that I had to share, Bloodroot by Amy Greene. This is one of those rare books in which the characters and the setting are so vividly drawn that they seemed real to me. It's a multi-generational family saga that takes place in the Appalachians. The author grew up (and still lives) in East Tennessee, and her love for the area comes through loud and clear in her descriptions of Bloodroot Mountain, the physical heart of the story. 

The novel is told in the first person by six different characters, each with a unique voice, each connected through blood, love, or violence--sometimes all three. Is there a family curse, or is it just the curse--and blessing--of being human? This is one of those novels destined to win awards for its first-time author, and will probably show up on the big screen before too long. As I read it, I couldn't help thinking about which actors should be in the movie! It will stick with me for a long time.

Friday, April 23, 2010


I found this great blog earlier, 1000 Awesome Things, and Logan and I spent a very pleasant hour reading some of the entries together. Then we were talking about writing, and blogging, and he decided he wanted to start his own blog, so with no further ado, here is Logan's very first blog entry--about his latest passion, Pokemon--at Logan 101. (A title he came up with, by the way!)

More awesomeness: Yesterday we visited Wheaton Village with our wonderful homeschool group, and got to see a glass pitcher being handblown right in front of our eyes, as well as over 7000 pieces of glass in the museum! The museum lady almost had a heart attack when she saw how many kids there were, but they were all very respectful and interested. (Of course, they're homeschooled!)

Logan's favorite part of the day was watching a man make a clay pitcher and a bowl on a pottery wheel. It was very cool. He made it look so easy! They teach classes there. I think we'll definitely be looking into that.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Love Them Like a Rock

Earlier today, Logan was NOT happy. We had been on a homeschool outing with some other families, and we had just stopped at a restaurant to eat. He was tired, hungry, grouchy, upset that we didn't go to Friendly's, and frustrated that his DS froze up on him. He was taking it out on us. When we settled into our booth, he was rude and surly, refused to look at the menu, refused to talk to the waitress, threw a coaster at me, and was just generally unpleasant.

At that point, Ely and I had a choice. We could parent him the conventional way, using some combination of reward and/or consequence. I work in a restaurant, and so I see this form of parenting every day--threaten the kid with leaving, or with no dessert, or yell, or bribe. I've waited on many, many families sitting in stony silence because of the parents' reaction to their kids' behavior.

Or, we could love him like a rock. As my boy sat there and huffed and sulked, I had this vision of myself as a solid unshakeable rock, being buffeted by a storm. The rock isn't affected by the storm, the rock can't be hurt. The rock is simply the rock, before, during and after the storm.

We were our usual cheerful selves. We didn't ignore him, but we didn't make a big deal about his mood either. I offered to order for him if he didn't feel like talking to the waitress, and he tearfully agreed. We ordered his favorites. We suggested that he take a break from the DS if it was upsetting him so, and he threw it across the table. I calmly picked it up and put it in my purse with no comment. I pointed out that it must suck to be so miserable, and I reminded him of one of my core beliefs, that he could simply decide to be happy if he wanted to. He could let go of the bad mood.

He wasn't interested in doing any of the puzzles on the kids menu, so Ely and I started the word search by ourselves. Well, before long, he wanted to do it with us. By the time the food came, he was back to his old self. He had decided to let go of his bad mood. We jokingly asked, "Hey, what happened to that other kid that was here??" Logan answered, "He ran away to Arizona," as he happily spooned up his mac and cheese.

After dinner (which he didn't finish, by the way) he had a sundae, because we always get him dessert if he wants it, no matter what. (He didn't finish that either.)

As we left the restaurant, with Logan's bad mood all but forgotten and with our happy family feelings intact, I couldn't help but think of all the parents who would have handled that whole scenario very differently than we did. I am so grateful we discovered unschooling, which has helped me unearth my inner ROCK.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sorting and Counting Hot Wheels

Earlier today, I noticed Logan was being awfully quiet in his room, and when I went to investigate here's what I found:

He had sorted all of his Hot Wheels and Matchboxes by color! Right after I took this pic, he asked for help counting them, and here's the final tally.

"Special" cars in a display of favorites that didn't get sorted--59

Grand total--485!! Wow! We knew he had a lot of cars (he gets a new one every time we go to the grocery store, plus multi-packs for all birthdays and holidays) but had no idea there were so many. I told him there are probably more around here that didn't get counted, in the couch, under furniture, outside, in my car. If we find anymore, we'll update the tally. I'm thrilled to be able to share his passion with him!

Monday, March 15, 2010

National Pi Day!

We did some fun stuff for National Pi Day. Logan would like to tell you in his own words:

It was a very fun day. We made a pi pie. We also made a pi paper chain. Each color represented a digit. Even though this has nothing to do with pi, I made a splatter paint picture. So here are some pics:

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Best. Comic. EVER.

Logan and I just read all six episodes of this awesome comic, written by a 5-year-old, and illustrated by his 29-year-old brother. Episode 7 comes out later today!

Later on, we'll be packing for our long snowy drive to the Unschool Winter Waterpark Gathering in Ohio. It'll be our second conference, and we're so excited! I'm especially looking forward to the keynote speaker, John Taylor Gatto, who wrote Dumbing Us Down (and whose title was the inspiration for the title of this blog!)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Back in Action!

Took some time off while I thought about what I wanted this blog to be. I had been focusing only on our homeschooling, while leaving out all the messy, juicy LIFE stuff and so of course the result was...well, a little dry.

Plus, what I'm finally, finally starting to really GET, deep down in my bones, is that because we are unschoolers, all that messy, juicy life stuff IS learning. Once you've been living this way for a while (and we're coming up on a year now), you realize that you can't separate out the "unschooling" from everything else. It's ALL learning, ALL the time. It seems silly to me now that we ever thought about it any other way.

Our unschooling encompasses everything we're into at the moment. For Logan, that means learning how to find shortcuts on MarioKart, making videos on his new camera, reading his Hot Wheels magazine, practicing breakdancing. For me, it means learning how to build my own website and start a business, deepening my Tarot study, honoring The Compact, and editing my novel. Even Ely, who doesn't have as much free time as Logan and I do, has been reading one of my Tarot books.

Unschooling--life-learning--is all about following our passions, so it's impossible to blog about it without blogging about all of life. I'm making a personal commitment to write here at least three times a week, and document our family's journey in all its juicy, messy, wonderful glory.

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