Friday, January 21, 2011


Larkin's Christmas present was a couple of long-tailed lizards. He wanted a snake, actually, but I talked him out of it. It's not that I have a problem with snakes; it's the weekly feeding of helpless baby mice that I have an aversion to. These little guys eat meal worms. I do not have an aversion to things eating meal worms.
So Larkin wanted to learn more about reptiles. I'm afraid the science topics he chooses are difficult for me to really make much of a lesson out of. So far, he's chosen weapons, amphibians, and now reptiles. The weapon thing was just not something I have anywhere in my head, so it was hard for me to do which made for a short lesson. Amphibians - I've got that in my head, but there just didn't seem to be a whole lot to say about them. Now reptiles - same as amphibians. Maybe if it was spring or summer, and we could do more outdoors, hands-on, go-find-some-in-the-woods type thing. But it's winter, so I feel like Larkin's getting a bit cheated on his topics.
However, I've noticed something. His topics keep coming up. Here, there, and everywhere. It seems his own interest is bringing in the opportunities and discussions from various sources despite the lack on my part. I guess it's my job just not to hold him back.
So here's what I did do with him. The usual cartload of books from the library and some printoffs from Homeschool Share and Enchanted Learning to make a lapbook. Unfortunately, Homeschool Share is no longer allowing direct links to their pdf pages which means a lot of my links no longer work and it also makes planning ahead difficult. But you can still go to their site and type in "reptiles" and find everything; it just takes more time.
I also found this fun experiment which showed the kids what a reptile egg feels like.

If anybody has any more ideas for studying amphibians and reptiles in winter, Larkin would be thrilled for you to share them with me.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rohan's First

Rohan had his teeth cleaned at the dentist's for the first time. He was such a brave boy!

Larkin's First

Larkin lost his first tooth yesterday. It's been loose for a couple months. I heard him hollering in the bathroom. He had been brushing his teeth and the tooth was just dangling there. Thankfully, he let me pull it all the way out. This was our bloodiest one, by far. And this was the least bloodiest of the pictures. I thought you might not appreciate the others.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

All Around the Cobbler's Bench

Learning about shoe repair.

Trying out the leather punch.

Sewing a leather strap.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"This is our hope."

"I have a dream that one day . . . little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."
~Martin Luther King Jr.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Silly Kiddos

Playing with twisteez.

I just wanted to spread the word about Wonder Mom's Valentine's Card Exchange. Deadline for signing up is January 27th.


Friday, January 14, 2011

The Baby, The Bath Water, and Beginning Form Drawing

We have started form drawing and I'm very excited to share this with you since we enjoyed it so much. First, though, I'd like to share my thoughts on Waldorf education.
I have within the last few months discovered another method and philosophy of education: Waldorf. Being one who loves to read about educational methods and philosophies, I explored this one. I like the natural sort of approach it brings to all aspects of learning. I like the handwork and the crafts; they sure do brighten up a home. I like that nature is an integral part of the education. I like the stories and the hands-on aspect. And I like how lovely it all looks, from art to math and everything in between. But the philosophy behind it all I found to be disturbing. It's based on anthroposophy, "a spiritual philosophy founded by Rudolf Steiner that brings the spiritual traditions of central Europe into a modern context. The philosophy postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world accessible to direct experience through inner development—more specifically through cultivating conscientiously a form of thinking independent of sensory experience. In its investigations of the spiritual world, anthroposophy aims to attain the precision and clarity of natural science's investigations of the physical world." (Quoted from Wikipedia, here.) It is claimed elsewhere that anthroposophy is not a religion and can go with any religion or non-religion. And I've read, specifically, that it goes well with Christianity. Some Waldorf teachers I've read have made some pretty outlandish statements, claimed to be "Christian" by grossly and purposely misquoting the Word of God. But let me make something clear. True Christianity is following Christ. It is based on the Truth of Jesus Christ and His Holy Word, the Bible, without additions or subtractions. Therefore, without Jesus, we cannot gain any true spiritual knowledge or any true inner development. We will never be able to build or find strength within ourselves if we are not inhabited by the One True God of the universe. There is no other way.
I felt, initially, that I should stay away from any type of Waldorf education and that I should not give it a place on my blog. However, thinking about things honestly, I can't say that I agree 100% with the philosophical views of any of the other teachers I've associated myself with: Montessori, Charlotte Mason, unschoolers, and whoever else I've gone on about. I don't necessarily prescribe to their philosophy, only to some of their methods.
So I think I can, with honesty and good conscience, do the same with Waldorf. What we're doing here with the form drawing, for example, is just drawing and narrating (just like Charlotte Mason) and play. Nothing harmful. I just feel the need to be very cautious in the parts I choose to embrace and present to my kids.

Alright, on to the fun part.
First of all, I have been inspired to do the form drawing by Ancient Hearth. On the left-hand sidebar of her blog, you will find all her first grade study blocks, including her form drawing block. Looking through her blog, you'll see what I mean when I say Waldorf education is so lovely!
I decided to buy the two ebooks on form drawing found here (top item in right-hand column.) I have to admit that my initial impression with form drawing was that it looked too simple to be necessary to teach. But the more I looked and thought about it, I realized that it would fit nicely into our day and would serve several good purposes. First, Miah loves art, and I was looking for more ways to add art into our homeschool. Secondly, I have wanted to add storytelling into our lives for a few years; I just didn't know how. And as simple as this looked, I thought it would be perfect for involving Zahana and Rohan in the school portion of our days. I've really felt the need to focus on them more. I thought Miah and Larkin might think it was too easy, but they love it.
The first form is the straight line. Easy enough, right? It takes concentration to make your line perfectly straight. The kids wanted to practice and practice until their lines were perfectly straight. We put a curvy line on the board to see if it would mess us up. Before drawing on the chalk board, we drew lines in the air and made a straight line with our bodies.

Since we have been reading Little Pilgrim's Progress, it was a natural fit to put this story with the straight line. We learned matthew 7:13,14 by singing. “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."
Here is my chalk drawing of the first part of the story. The kids pointed out all the straight lines used to make the picture.

Then they acted out the story with props.

Evangelist talking to Little Christian in the City of Destruction.

Help pulling Little Christian out of the Slough of Despond.

Talking to Goodwill at the wicket gate.

At the cross.

Then the kids made their own drawings of the story. Miah and Larkin used colored pencils. I told them they could copy my chalk drawing or draw any part of the story they wanted. The only guidelines were to use straight lines somewhere in the picture, do their very best work, and fill in the whole page. For Zahana and Rohan, I got a clean sheet of paper for each of us and directed them in a simple version of the chalk drawing, one line at a time.

This is Zahana's. She actually did pretty good until she colored the grass on top of her path, which is too faint to see in the photo.

This is Rohan's. I was absolutely thrilled with this since I've never seen anything from him other than scribbles. He did everything by himself except the yellow lines coming out from the cross. He simply said, "I cannot," and wouldn't even attempt it. So we drew that part together.

This is Larkin's. He added the Palace Beautiful.

This is Miah's. She added Help pulling Little Christian out of the Slough of Despond.

So this whole experience was really a good one. Nobody felt like it was too easy or too hard. They loved every aspect of it. And I loved how we all worked on it together. I'm looking forward to our next lesson.

Spilling My Guts

Now I'm going to tell you all about something really, really interesting - the history of my gut and the current plan of attack on its evil residents. Aren't you excited!! Then let's get started!
(Or feel free to ignore me for the present.)
When I went to college (for one whole semester), I became severely lactose intolerant. So I stopped eating and drinking things with lactose. That would include soft cheeses, ice cream, and regular milk from the store. I learned that there were dairy products I could eat and ways to cheat. Aged cheeses like cheddar, colby, mozzarella, etc. don't have lactose; it breaks down during the aging process. There's "lactose free" milk at the store. This has the enzyme lactase added to the milk to break down the lactose. It's also ultra-pasteurized and tastes weird, but you get used to it. And there are little lactase pills you can take before eating ice cream. So it didn't turn out to be such a horrible thing as I expected.
Fast forward to about three years ago. Rohan was just born, and I started grinding our own grain for bread. I couldn't handle that bread. In fact, I started having trouble with any bread or cereal. Stomach cramps, diarrhea - it felt just like when I became lactose intolerant. This time, the culprit was gluten. Great. Do you know how many things have gluten? It wasn't just a matter of avoiding bread, cereal, crackers, pizza, muffins, doughnuts, bagels, pasta - you know, the things which obviously are made of flour. All kinds of other products sneak flour or straight gluten in. Things like soy sauce, most sauces for that matter, lunch meats, the list goes on and on. It seems like everything is breaded. Eating out meant eating a salad. But I made the necessary changes and went on with life. Cooking became more difficult. I didn't want to make my family eat gluten-free. That homemade bread from fresh-ground grain was good for them. Special gluten-free foods were either really expensive or nasty. So I kept cooking for them like regular. I made rice bread or rice crackers for myself occasionally, but it was too much to cook all their food and all my separate food. So I pretty much ate the food I could that I was already making for the rest of the family. I ate fruits, veggies, and meat. But I also ate a lot of rice, potatoes, and corn products. And I always had a cup of hot chocolate (with lactose-free, ultra-pasteurized milk of course.) I love hot chocolate. It's my ultimate comfort drink. But it started becoming more than that. It became a quick substitute for making myself an actual meal or preparing a healthy snack.
Oh yes, and add on top of that the fact that I'm hypoglycemic. I have to eat about every two hours, and I know that protein sustains me much better than junk food. And I was fairly good about not eating a lot of sugar, which, after an initial high, would send my blood sugar plummeting. Except for that hot chocolate. And occasional (with increasing frequency) handfuls of chocolate chips. Obviously, I had a chocolate addiction that was not helping matters.
A couple years ago, a friend introduced me to raw milk. This was a step in the right direction. No more ultra-pasteurized, yucky-tasting "milk." I truly felt that I was nourishing my body, and it tasted SO good. Because of the naturally occurring good bacteria in the raw milk, which broke down the lactose, my stomach was as happy as my mouth.
So now we're up to about a year ago. I started having stomach problems again, cramping and diarrhea. What now?! I was getting worried that either there wouldn't be anything left for me to eat in the world or I would develop something serious, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Crohn's Disease or something like that. I also started having weird food-related crying episodes. I would eat a whole, good-sized meal and then start crying. I just felt that I could never get enough to eat. I felt like I had to eat constantly in order to not fall apart. I went to church one Sunday morning, and after taking the kids to their Sunday School classes, suddenly started crying in the hallway. A friend told me to go to the store and get something to eat. And all I ever really wanted to do was go to bed. I remember one day being at the top of the steps. Rohan was at the bottom crying about something, and the thought of walking down the steps to comfort him and walking back up was so overwhelming that I ended up crying right along with him. This was getting ridiculous!
This past summer, I discovered Nourishing Traditions. I read the whole thing and was convinced. So much of what we ate was not even food, was not helping my body, but was actually damaging it. The old ways of preparing foods that enhanced or preserved the nutritional value of food has been replaced with packaged products with no nutritional value that are being passed off as "food" for the sake of convenience and monetary gain. I highly, highly recommend this book to everybody. Everybody, whether you have health issues or not, should read this book. The introduction is the main part to read. Then in the margins of the cookbook part are lots of quotes supporting the eating of real, traditional foods. Here, also, is an accompanying website where much can be learned. While I'm at it, check out these blogs related to real, whole, slow foods:
Keeper of the Home
Kelly the Kitchen Kop
Naturally Knocked Up
Passionate Homemaking
Sustainable Eats

Then I considered reading about the GAPS diet. This involves eliminating starchy foods, including all grains and potatoes, as well as sugar and most dairy. It also involves drinking lots of bone broth, taking probiotics and cod liver oil, and eating fermented foods. I had heard of it some time before, but it sounded too crazy for me. Now, with my innards acting up again, I thought I should at least check it out. I ordered the book, and it sounded like exactly what I needed, the ticket for turning around this downward spiral of my health.
The premise of the diet is that "all diseases begin in the gut." All diseases - physical as well as mental, whether you have stomach problems or not. Healing the gut targets the primary disease instead of going after all the symptoms. I can't explain all this as well as Dr. Campbell-Mcbride. "Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride holds a degree in Medicine and Postgraduate degrees in both Neurology and Human Nutrition. In her clinic in Cambridge she specializes in nutrition for children and adults with behavioral and learning disabilities, and adults with digestive and immune system disorders." (Taken from her website.) So obviously, she's going to explain all this better than me. But I learned the reason I felt so hungry all the time and why I keep having stomach issues - a damaged gut can't process food and make it usable to the body and it also allows harmful things to cross into the blood stream more easily. We have, in our intestines, bacteria that is supposed to be there. Good bacteria and bad bacteria. We're only supposed to have a little of the bad and a lot of the good. The problem is that our SAD (Standard American Diet) of processed foods and refined flour and lots of sugar is exactly what the bad bacteria thrive on. On top of that, the use of antibiotics kills not only the harmful bad bacteria but the helpful good bacteria also. So we're left with a terrible imbalance in our systems. This can manifest itself in many different kinds of health problems. Think of it like this: if we're sick, we take medicine by mouth. It goes into our digestive system and then into our blood. It makes its way to our various organs, including the brain. Everything you put in your mouth does the same thing. That's how food or junk really effects your whole body, including your mental status. Dr. Campbell-McBride treats those with gut issues and mental issues - especially autism - successfully.
So I read the book, I read the GAPS Guide book, I started reading success stories in the yahoo support group. And I started.

(Fish head and bones for broth. Can you believe our local market gave me this for free?! Ha! I'm sure they were wondering what in the world I was going to do with this.)

I started with the intro diet, a detox diet. It was hard. I knew from reading that it would be hard, and wow - it really was. You start out drinking broth and gradually build up to the full GAPS diet. The broth helps with detox, but you've also cut out all the junk, so it hits hard. I was sick for a couple weeks on it. And I was sick of broth. With a family to take care of and cook for, a house to clean, and homeschool to teach, being sick for two weeks is rough on everybody. I needed my mommy to take care of me! But she lives in another state, and I was the one that needed to do the caring of everyone else. So I decided to go on into the full GAPS diet.

(In my fridge: beef bone broth, ghee (from a sweet friend), kefir, and kale. P.S. All that fat is a good thing.)

Then things started getting better. After being on full GAPS, I started feeling better. I had more energy - and this was significant. My stomach was feeling better. I didn't feel the need to eat all the time.

(Fermenting on top of my cupboards: sauerkraut and kefir.)

Still, it's been hard. I still need to cook separate foods for me and my family. Not that all my foods are separate, but for instance, I make broth and sauerkraut for myself and bread and potatoes for my family. It does increase the work load. I can't eat out at all, which means going anywhere requires planning and preparation. For Thanksgiving and Christmas, we traveled to Kentucky. I had to prepare all my food beforehand and take it up in a cooler. Fun. I can't eat out anywhere. Sure, I could probably have a plain lettuce salad, but what's the point? The hardest part is not eating my little frozen meal while everybody else feasts or missing out on all the yummy Christmas treats. It's not the preparing or not getting to go out to eat. The hardest part is telling people I can't eat their food. I hate that this diet has the potential to hurt other people's feelings. And nobody really understands no matter how I explain. They just keep offering me food, and I have to keep politely turning it down. I feel terrible about it, because I know some of these people are really trying to come up with food they can share with me. But I've stuck it out for four months so far. And here's why - I feel good. I mean, I really feel good! I get tempted to quit sometimes, but then I think, "What will I be going back to?" I'll still be lactose- and gluten-intolerant, which means I'll still have to turn down quite a bit of people's food. I'll go back to crying at random times because of food. I'll go back to being tired and generally down-in-the-dumps. And oh yeah! How about those stomach cramps that made me feel like I was literally going to die? Those were always fun.
So I'm going to stick with it. According to the book, two years is a good estimate for complete healing of the gut. Then, I should be able to eat a more regular diet. Not a SAD diet, mind you. I'm not planning to damage my gut again, but more of a Nourishing Traditions diet. But that means bread! And deserts even! And maybe the occasional junk for the sake of fellowship.
I pray to God that He will heal me through this diet. I know that all my efforts apart from Him will be worthless. He is the only true Healer. So if my gut is healed, I will thank Dr. Campbell-McBride, but I will give God all the glory.

A Day in Our Life

Today I'm joining in over at Simple Homeschool for their Day in the Life series. I feel like we've got a good rhythm going in our days right now, so I'm happy to share. I have a schedule that I use to make sure I'm getting done what I need to get done. Otherwise, I spend way too much time doing not much of anything and wonder why I don't have time to get everything done. But I'm flexible too. Straying from the daily plan is sometimes a good thing.
For those of you who don't already know me, I have four kids, ages 8, 7, 4, and3. We've been homeschooling since the beginning - so about 5 years, if you want to count preschool for my oldest.

I start the day by getting up before the kids. I'm a morning person anyway, and the whole day seems to flow better if I get a head start. I read my Bible, take a bath, put the dog out, eat something, check my email, just this and that to get off to a good start.
The kids come down around 7:00, and we have breakfast. I read to them from the Bible and we go over some of our memory verses and pray together, while they're all still at the table. We sing most of our verses, so it's a fun time for the kids.

After that, Miah and Larkin (8 and 7) do their charts. This involves getting dressed, cleaning their rooms, caring for their plants and animals, and cleaning their bathroom. Then they go up to
The Forest Room and do some independent work - reading, copywork, writing cards to send, or some math they need to finish up.

Meanwhile, I dress the little ones, and together we feed the outside animals and water the plants in the kitchen. Then we have some preschool time. This is not really anything formal. I have some books and activities in my closet that they can choose from or we do a craft or bake bread together. This is the first time I've deliberately added an extended special time for me to enjoy my little ones, and I'm so glad I did. We all enjoy it very much.

About 10:00, we all go up to the Forest Room. The idea is for Zahana and Rohan (4 and 3) to play quietly in their area while I have lessons with the older two. We work on math first. We use
Singapore math, but I also have plenty of hands-on materials we use too. Thankfully, Miah and Larkin are on the same level in math. That makes it a lot easier on me. Then we either do a bit of English using Ruth Heller's books and simple dictation of their copywork or we do some art or form drawing. Since Miah's so into art, I've really tried to make it a priority to incorporate that into our lesson time. We've only just started the form drawing, but we all really love it. It's an opportunity for all four kids to learn something together. I'll do a post on our form drawing soon, but for now here's the resource we're using (it's the top one in the right-hand column.)

About 11:30, I make lunch. We eat and I read aloud a good story for about an hour. Right now, we're reading Little Pilgrim's Progress. Then I spend the next hour and a half in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning.

By 2:30, Rohan's ready for a nap, which is a good time for history or science. We use TruthQuest for history and are currently learning about the American Revolution. For science, we alternate between a subject the kids pick and Apologia Botany.
Rohan wakes up around 4:30, and we go for a walk. Then we have supper and the kids take baths. The kids play or watch a video while I do some laundry or other cleaning.
7:30, we read a chapter from a missionary book and pray. This only takes about 15 minutes.
Then each evening, I spend about 45 minutes with one kid while the other three play or look at books in their rooms. The kids look forward to their individual time with Mama, and if it's Saturday, somebody gets to sleep in my bed. I love the snuggle time, but I don't get much sleep. That's why I limit it to once a week.

After the kids are tucked in bed at 8:30, I have time to craft, read, blog, or make plans for the next week.
The days vary depending on Jeremiah's work schedule or if we have some place to go. We're part of two co-ops and scouts. We have church and small group on Sundays. We like to have friends over or go fun places, and I've got errands to run of course. So not everyday goes like this, but our at-home days do.
So that's about it. I hope you enjoyed reading about our days.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My Joy, His Glory

I'm not one for new year's resolutions. I guess I don't really get it. If there's something I want to be doing or need to be doing, why would I wait until January 1st to start doing it? Or if there's something I'm struggling with, how would January 1st strengthen my will and resolve? I don't become a better or a different person just because I buy a new calendar. So I don't make new year's resolutions.

Last year, about this time, I was struggling with the gray days and my gray mood. I didn't want to fall into that same muck this year. So what could be done?

". . . be transformed by the renewing of your mind . . ." Romans 12:2
"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you." Phillipians 4:8,9

Think of the Light that is in Christ. Think of the Joy that is mine in Christ. And by remembering that which is already mine, I will be able to take hold of it and no longer suffer in the dark where I do not belong.

So instead of a resolution, I set before my face Joy as a thing to be attained and a place to be. A thing which is already given to me. Now, in the gray days of January and every day of this year, whether the sun is shining or no. Because, with Joy comes Light.

"As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." ~Jesus (John 15:9-11)

But not joy and light only for myself. There is one more thing that I must set before my face: the glory of God.
". . . whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

To God be the glory, great things he has done and will do!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Happy January!