Friday, December 26, 2014

The Importance of Beau

Five days ago while out on a long run I encountered a dying dog. This beautiful and loving chocolate lab had been reduced to wandering, scared and alone. He was staggering and his back legs were no longer function properly. He ribs stuck out and he stumbled around. He was dying. He would die alone, scared, and suffering. I slowly walked this broken dog back to my home and brought him into our family.

The difference is amazing. He is eating and drinking well. He sleeps a lot. Beau, or the more formal Beauregard, is an old man and doesn't have a lot of get up and go. But he is alert and no longer seems to be disoriented. He loves us all so much and his gratitude fills my heart until I think it might rupture.

It isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Because his kidneys were shutting down, he pees everywhere and a lot. I do many, many loads of towels and have mopped more in the past five days than the entire six months preceding. We pulled his water on Christmas Eve  to help with the nightly needs to go out constantly. First thing Christmas morning he gorged himself and vomited half a gallon of water all over the Christmas presents. But these are some of the challenge of rescuing a dog this sick and we were fully aware.

But what I really wanted to talk about is why. I think the why is incredibly important. The reason I took Beau home to nurse him back to health is because in my heart I had no other choice. My husband and I are deeply committed to animal welfare. All of our furry babies are rescues in one form or another. The suffering of an animals is like a knife to the gut for us both. Caring for animals is one of our deep and abiding passions.

Following our passion is one of the most important things we can do in our life.

I have a niggling feeling that each and everyone of us are embedded with specific passions. They are not the same but they each have a purpose of making our world a better place. If we choose to repressed and ignore these passions then we are both denying the world of the good we are capable of doing and we are denying ourselves the opportunity to live in the realm of our higher self. If each of us were to follow our given passions, I believe the world would be a very different place.

We have become so caught up in our fast pace, driven world. Our version of success is often detrimental to our own welfare and relationships. I am concerned many can no longer tune into the small,quiet voice of truth within ourselves. This voice can lead us on the path of truth and wisdom. Following this path will ultimate lead to our higher self and purpose. Living a life of doing good and spreading seeds of truth and love as we move throughout the world.  The path leading to true and non-ego laden happiness.

I believe small incidents in our life are ultimately connected. They are often lessons and teaching moments. In the life of parents they have a dual purpose, they can educated you as a person while serving as examples for our children. Watching us and how act create the most influential moments for our children. Our actions will stick with our children far longer and have a deeper effect than our words ever will. If we follow our passion then our children have a greater chance of ultimately following their own.

It is also important to understand that although you make a difference, there is a good chance you will not solve a problem alone. It is imperative to see your contribution and its relevance. or the chances of burnout is high. Do you know the story of the man the starfish? As the tide went out, there were thousands of star fish stranded to die on the beach. A man was slowly moving along throwing them back into the ocean one by one. Another man discovered him and exclaimed, "It is useless!!! You will never save them all." The first man continued his progression undeterred. As he threw the next one back into the salty deep he quietly said, "I can save this one." You must remember each one you save and help matters.

In the end,  Beau may die very soon. No amount of money spent nor care given can guarantee he will fully recover. We have been honest with the children in case this happens. I want them prepared. But no matter what, he life is worth it. At the very least, he will die surround by love, warmth, and comfort and that matters oh so very much.

If I had not brought him home to care for then I would respect myself less. I would know I did not live up to my ethics and convictions. I would not be honoring my path and passions. I would not be the person I know I can be. I would be denying my higher self.

No, I cannot rescue them all but I can rescue the ones fate brings my way. I can rescue the ones my quiet, inner voice tells me, "This one. This one is for your care. You must take this one into your heart. Celebrate his life and mourn his eventual passing. Show him love."

Besides, how could your turn this face down.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Importance of Fresh Air and Nature

Throughout the years I have tweaked and played with different variations in our lives to find our sweet spot. We all have such widely varying personalities and needs. It can be hard to find the balance leading to harmony in our family. I love harmony. I love peace. Therefore I have pursued this modern day Elysian Field with great vigor.

There are many important factors. We all need good nutrition. I am a huge believer in diet for health and wellness. If I feel off balance the first thing I examine is the foods I have been eating. Spending the time to nurture and grow our family relationships is something not to be ignored. I cannot stress the importance of this. It all goes back to the saying, "Grass is greenest where you water it.". Long story short, there are a multitude of things, small and large, contributing to our family health and wellness.

There is one thing pulling all of these individual aspects together resulting in the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, fresh air and nature. Even more important, physical activity in fresh air.

When we fail to have adequate fresh air the results descend upon us almost immediately. Everyone is cranky and impatient. Learning slows drastically. We are more tired and bored. The restless feeling permeates the house. We all start looking glassy-eyed and distracted. It just ain't good.

Years ago, children were able to get plenty of outdoor exercise with neighborhood friends. It just isn't the case anymore. We can argue about safety versus free range, being over-scheduled versus free play, the influence of technology, or really a myriad of events culminating in the change of childhood as we know it. We can argue it or we can do something about it. Our family has decided to just do something about it.

Summer, spring, and fall is relatively easy. All of the following occurs but minus the factor I am inherently resistant to going out in the cold. I admit it. Winter is not my forte. But for the sanity and health of my I have committed myself to pull on my big girl panties and DEAL WITH IT.

One of the elements that greatly eases this process is we are an active family. My husband and I love to go out and try new things. We love to be active. We are intrepid explorers. The children have just grown up with this being their normal. I truly think it helps a lot.

Trying out new hobbies together gives us a focus. 

The added benefit is many outdoor activities help my children find their inner confidence and competence. Actually, it is the same for me as well.

The exploration of unknown paths is a favorite. 

There is always the option of bundling up and walking around our small town together. It isn't exactly nature filled but it will do this trick in a pinch. Besides, it is always a lot of fun. They usually get hot chocolate at our local independent coffee shop towards the end of our wanderings. 

But our favorites adventures are through the woods alone or with friends. Brief moments in time to get out and listen to the sounds of nature and in the quiet, perhaps hear our soul a little bit more clarity. 

I love how my children are in nature. They seem to be just more, more curious, more adventurous, more engaged, more imaginative. Nature brings out a calm energy in all of us. Laughter comes more easily and love seems to flow more naturally. These moments are terribly precious to me and I am not exactly sentimental. I know when I think back to our early days as a family, these are moments I will remember the most. 

It is out in nature many of the unnecessary layers fall away for me. It is there I can best see the simple and raw beauty of life. Life is messy and painful at times but the ultimate reality is we are here to love each other and connect deeply and truly with at least a few other people. We are here to stand witness to each other's lives and stories. This is ultimately the most important reason being outside matters deeply to me. Hopefully, I am passing on this glorious experience to my children as well. 

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,
 to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, 
and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Embracing the Rhythm of the Season

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.
Winter has come early this year. According to the Farmer's Almanac, it will be a  cold, snowy season for us. Winter has always been rough for me. I struggle with Seasonal Affected Disorder and have a history of general depression. I often enter this time like a warrior prepped for battle. I have my extra B and D3 vitamins at the ready,. I bulk buy epsom salt and stock my essential oils for to baths to lift my mood and saturate myself with magnesium. I organize my schedule to include yoga, physical activity especially running, and forays into the cold, sunlight days for fresh, rejuvenating air. These preparations get me through the winter but I feel battered and weary at the end. 
This year my thoughts and focus is a bit different. What if instead of struggling against the very nature of the season, I just gave myself over to it? Oh, the vitamins and fresh air will still be important but what if I just embraced this time of year. 
This idea came to me one morning. I woke early and saw the neighbor kids.waiting in the cold and dark for the bus. You see, this is one of our favorite parts of home school. We wake up in accordance to our natural rhythms. Now those natural rhythms are pretty dang early but there is no frantic rush to our morning. Instead we snuggle on the couch wrapped in blankets as we slowly open ourselves to the day. What if I treated the coming season the same way and with the same calm deliberation? 
I am a driven and focused person. It is impossible, or at least silly, to criticize my children for their almost obsessive mindset on a given subject because they come by it naturally. Watching them has helped me know myself even better. We are driven to discover, to understand, and to succeed. Oh our success doesn't look like the model touted by the word, but it is strict, rigid and disciplined in our own minds. This all comes together to mean it is hard for me to slow down and relax. It also means it is very, very good for me to do so. I can drive myself past normal stops and burn myself out until I am just a shell. That doesn't benefit anyone or anything. 
Perhaps and extended rest is just what I need, what the whole family needs. Winter is a time for rest and reflection. All of nature slows down, sleeps, and hibernates. It is a time to turn inward. What if allowing myself to be slower, more sleepy, is exactly what I need to be rejuvenated? Taking time to read more, reflect more, focus on slow, methodical knitting, practicing slow yoga, and increasing mindful meditation. Just curling up more often to read with the children would be a benefit and a balm to my soul. 
I believe things come together for a reason. I have been interested in pursing slow education even more. I will write about hat particular subject in the near future. But it is instinctively coming together and settling into the foundation of our lives. It just feels right. I find the world is speeding up around us as I deliberately and intentional apply the brakes to our lives more and more. It is a very good thing for our family.
So unlike Frost, I think I shall divest our lives, temporarily, of extraneous commitments and instead literally and figuratively explore that woods so lovely, dark and deep.  
Here is a little something to keep you warm on these cold, snowy evenings. 
My Favorite Hot Chocolate
1 1/2 cups almond milk
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 teas of cinnamon 
a pinch of cayenne pepper

Whisk all ingredients to together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir frequently until chocolate chips are melted and liquid is steaming. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A New Beginning

I created this space some time ago with a vague idea of sharing our lives. I did not have the proper focus so I did not follow through. My tendency to over-compartmentalize also interfered. Perhaps the main underlying reason was it was just not the right time.

Well, the time is right now.

This blog is about us in all our quirky glory. I posted recently on Facebook that some days I feel like I am running a commune for brilliant but reclusive, utterly focused introverts. This is the story of our "commune", how we live, how we play, how we educate, and yes, my friends wanting my recipes, how we eat.

Since the children have been born, we have followed a very play based learning philosophy. Little ones are natural scientists and explorers. If they are are allowed freedom and space, they are their own best educators with parents playing the role of facilitator and only when needed. For the early years, this method worked well for us and they thrived. We were often muddy, dirty, tired, and happy.

Somewhere before Hannah turned 7, I had a period of doubt and decided we needed more formal structure for her education. I implemented rather minimal traditional schooling. This decision brought us to a screaming halt. She hated it. Very quickly our mornings became a struggle. I knew she was prone to perfectionism but the fear of even the smallest mistake hung over her like a shadow. Due to the loathing of a limited amount formal school work, her natural learning and exploration ceased almost altogether.

I was destroying the natural joy and desire to learn in my child. It wasn't worth it, not at all. So I tossed the curriculum and resumed our journey of child led learning. Peace and calm returned, at least as far as learning went, to our home.

So what does this look like? First off, the kids have scads of free time to do, well....whatever. All of our art supplies, even my "grown up" paint are accessible for them to use. There are days Logan spends hours working on art. He has raided my pantry to create new mediums in which to use in his projects. His ideas astound me.

There are science activities everywhere. I try to make myself available to play lab assistant/guide. Sometimes I am needed and sometimes Hannah is in her own head pursing whatever idea has taken hold of her for that day (week, month, whatever). Hannah could work with science experiments for hours.

Minecraft is a new addition to our home. Hannah has taken lead on this. She diligently searches out video tutorials to make whatever she has decided she needs in her world. I will admit, I am useless in this. Thankfully her father has experience with online gaming. I love watching her methodically find the resources she needs to achieve her goals, study and learn them, and then implement the technique.

Books are everywhere in our home. I am a voracious reader. Even though I am always looking for ways to simply our lives and embrace a personal form of minimalism, well I will always horde books. We spend huge chunks of time snuggled up on my bed reading literature, myths, fairy tales, a steady stream of science books, and whatever else strikes our fancy. It is one of my favorites things to do as a family. The coming cold of winter and early darkness beckons to us to do this even more.

The last main component contributing to our lives is nature. We spend so much time outdoors. The only thing I don't have is 10 acres of woods behind my house for the kids to explore and lose themselves in their imagination. This past weekend was a  perfect example of how I balance out that deficiency. We tramped through the a local state park searching for geodes to study and boulders to climb.

I love my kids set their own physical boundaries. Trying very hard to not helicopter parent has enabled them to know their own limitations. They tend to push themselves but instinctively, well usually, know when to back off. Yes, we suffer from bruises and scrapes. There is a very good chance someone will end up with a broke something eventually. Nonetheless, the experience is invaluable and will contribute to them being a self reliant, confident, and competent adults.

After a day of running through the woods like the wild heathens we are, nothing tastes better than homemade soup. This Creamy Mushroom Wild Rice Soup was perfect.

Creamy Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup

1 yellow onion diced
2 carrots diced
16 oz of mushrooms
4 Tablespoons of Vegan Butter (or regular butter)
40oz of Vegetable Broth
1 cup of wild rice
1 teaspoon of salt
Several twists of black pepper
3 small stalks of Rosemary pulled off stem and run through with a knife
Cashew Cream Sauce (recipe follows)

Melt Butter in large heavy saucepan. Saute onion, mushroom, and carrots with salt and pepper until just this side of tender. Transfer into a stockpot. Add in veggie broth and rosemary and bring to a boil. Stir in wild rice and simmer for 45 minutes.  Stir in cashew cream and heat through. This will thicken very quickly so stir often and keep an eye on it.. Check taste for preferred seasonings. This soup is amazing with a hot, fresh from the oven loaf of crusty french bread. You can slave all day on that or just use the handy dandy take and bake.

Cashew Cream Sauce
1/2 cup raw cashews soak in water for several hours
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
3 teaspoons of garlic
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
2 Tablespoons of nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon of salt
several cranks of pepper

Combine everything in the blender and blend for several minutes until very smooth.

This soup provided a wonderful end to a wonderful day.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


I had this great post forming in my head about nature, Charlotte Mason, and child led learning. I will get to that but something came up.

We strive to live an intentional life. We try to focus on the moment and celebrate the ordinary. Of course, we slip out of that and let concerns and the what will happen of tomorrow slip in. Recently I had a major health scare in my life. It was the catalyst for a sharp refocusing of what is truly important.

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.
                     Robert Herrick

I am not trying to be morbid or shocking but we would do well to realize we have a very limited time here in this world. Although we all need to find a way to support ourselves and care for our responsibilities, I think it would be wise to truly review our lives and decide if our wants and needs are legitimate or if we might just be mixing them up a bit. When I thought I might lose my life I didn't think of the cars I wouldn't get to drive or the homes I wouldn't own. I didn't regret the luxuries I didn't sample. Nope, all I could think of was I wanted more time with those I loved. I wanted more time to develop deeper and more authentic relationships. It was ALL I wanted. Nothing else. Crazy how it all comes together in an instant.

Last night before bed my daughter saw the age old dance of the fireflies begin in our backyard. Bedtime was pushed back so we could all go stand on the back stairs in the dark to watch this beloved memory of childhood. As we stood in reverent silence I found I watched my children's faces more than the light show. It was magical. Their beautiful faces lit up with animation as they watched.

I told my daughter some people believed they were fairies and could grant your wishes. She whispered quietly in awe, "Oh we are so lucky. We are so lucky to be here. We are just so lucky to see this."

Yes baby, yes we are.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

First of Spring and Reconnection

So you have probably heard me fussing about this past winter. It was very hard on our family. For the first time my winter blues skyrocketed to the point I was concerned. I think John was starting to be concerned as well. Since I set the mood for the family, in general, it made this season hard on everyone. But we made it through and we are okay.

With that in mind, our thoughts have been on the beginning of spring. Hannah was fascinated with the idea of the first day of spring. We talked all about it. We discussed the spring equinox and signs of spring we would start seeing.  It is a time of renewal and excitement as the long days of playing outside for hours on end rapidly approach.

In general I don't "do crafts" with my kids. Crafts are too finite for us and we all tend to chafe at the restrictions of what it is supposed to be or look like. I provide a ton of art supplies and tell them to just go to town. Art is huge here, crafting, not so much. But Hannah asked to do something to commemorate the First Day of Spring. I painted up a few trees, laid out a ton of tissue paper, scissors, and glue and let them just have it.  It was a huge hit and they both enjoyed exploring their own interpretations.

Hannah is finally coming to be okay with her lack of perfection with scissor skills. Of course, since she has released herself from those demands, she has greatly improved.

Logan doesn't care as long as he can do art every day. I am surprised there wasn't a pound of glitter dumped on top of this at one point.

The truth was this day had not been going well. We had all been fussing and sniping at each other. Sitting down together to do this turned our moods around. My children are very generous with their praise and encouragement with each other and me. I love that about them. It is such a fabulous character trait.

I think one of the main reasons there has been so much discord is the lack of harmony between Hannah and me. Let me tell you, 6.5 has hit us HARD. My normally easy going girl is well, not so much anymore. It didn't help at all when I checked out over the winter fighting with depression. Cracks had appeared in a relationship normally tight and secure. I think it is easy to let those cracks become chasms. I don't want to let that happen. So it was time for me and my kitten girl to reconnect. What better than to get out in nature?

Yesterday, we left Logan with daddy and headed out to discover the first signs of spring and our devotion and love for each other. Hannah is such my girl, nature calms and centers her. Out there with the sun warming our faces, the birds greeting each other, and wind finally warm and gentle, we mended some of the fractures.

She loves to climb so much and has little fear. I love it.

She is getting shy for the camera but will let me take her picture if I ask.

My eagle-eyed girl found the first sign of spring.

I found the second.

Momma might be a wood nymph but she is all water sprite.

It was simply an amazing day. We needed this, she and I. This convinced me we need to slow our lives down even more. I need to focus on the relationships with my children even more than I do. It is important. I think relationship is what truly matters in the end.

So we found spring and we found each other. All in all, a very good day.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Free Play and Exploration

Tomorrow is predicted to be 70 degrees. After a long, hard winter that particular sentence sounds like heaven. I cannot wait to feel the sun on my face and the warm breeze playing with my hair. The thought relaxes my soul. It also brings me great happiness and joy because it is a major reason we chose to home school. We wanted our children to have hours upon hours to play outside and explore their world and how they relate to it in an unstructured and unfettered way.

I am not a fan of over scheduled, over managed childhood. I think children need the freedom to play and dream without the imposition of an adult telling them what to play and what to dream. We wanted to provide a life of running through the woods like wild children, coming home with more dirt on their clothes then left in the wood, and hours upon hours of tromping through creeks befriending, examining, and sometimes running away from the local denizens. In these times I step back and become an adviser when then need me.  I keep record of the questions and queries they will later explore on the computer and books. But mainly I simply stand a quiet witness as they start the path to unfurl this thing that is their own lives and thoughts. It isn't about me, and yes it is sometimes hard to realize my rather lack of importance in it all, but what a wonderful joy it is to watch it all happen at the very beginning.

We do keep up with our minimal curriculum year round. It works for us. Then we aren't reviewing after months of inactivity nor trying to "get back on schedule". We really aren't into schedules so we just sort of maintain the same flow all year round, enjoying and experiencing what life brings to us.

This really is my favorite time of year. I have started putting our favorite festivals on the calendar. Days out at amazing natural locations are being written on the calendar with friends.Special days of programs and education at the local bird and wolf sanctuaries are being noted. The children, and their parents, are excited with our coming adventures.

But my absolutely most longed for days will be the ones where we just take off in a piece of nature, near or far, to explore at our whim. Adventures will emerge, battles defying the wildest adult imagination will be fought, and memories will be made. I will curl up on a grassy bank on a sun warmed blanket and read tales of beauty and intrigue to my beloved children as they rest in the dappled light with the sound of water dancing over the rocks in stream as our backdrop. Thoughts of long, slow days rambling about wherever the fancy takes us entices my soul and beguiles my heart.

What an amazingly beautiful opportunity I have to experience this life and savor its wonder. It is a very good thing. May harmony find you my friends.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Teaching Self Discipline

Cowbell Half Marathon 2013

Self discipline is one of the most important traits I wish to impart to my children. It is right up there with love, compassion, authenticity, and generosity. I think self discipline and focus pulls together all the other wonderful traits and makes them useful in a practical manner. I know it is a cornerstone of my life and is responsible for the things I have accomplished with the most pride.

But what is the best way to teach this to our children?

Well, like everything you would like your children to become the best way to teach is by example. Living out these qualities so they can see them in action will stamp them on their young lives. We all know children become what they see much more readily than what they are told. Those lessons stick with them forever.

Both of my children would like to learn musical instruments. Hannah is eager to begin the piano and violin. She has asked about it for years. Together we made the decision to wait until she is 7. Daily practice is an important part of the learning process and I wanted her to be mature enough to handle those demands. In the mean time, I have started teaching myself piano. She sees me practice 20-30 minutes a day at least 5 times a week. We have discussed it many times as she sits beside me and watches my every move. She is learning how to learn. She is discovering what it takes to master a new skill. I don't need to lecture her because she is seeing it daily unfold.

It is with this in mind I am considering running another full marathon. The training is hard and takes a lot out of me. The entire family will have to make sacrifices. Both my husband and I are long distance runners so the scenario isn't unknown. I think it is of the utmost importance our children see us challenge ourselves and fight to achieve our goals. Training for a marathon isn't easy and is so far out of my comfort zone, but those exact traits are what makes this process an invaluable lesson to my children. I want them to see me fight, struggle, even consider giving up before I ultimately triumph.

Anytime I discover a trait or characteristic I would like to see my children acquire I take an honest look at myself. Am I emulating this trait? Am I living it out daily in their view? If I am not, how am I going to change my life so that I am?

I am not saying you have to run a marathon to teach your children.No, we all have to find our own path. But I will ask you, are you living out the qualities and characteristic you want your children to have? If not, what can you do about it?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Our Homeschool Flavor

One of the first things people ask you, or well those who know much about homeschooling ask, is what kind of homeschooler are you? (People who don't really know anything about homeschooling with ask you about socialization. We grit out teeth and try to smile through that one.)  We love labels don't we? I get that. Labels help us understand and categorize. Knowing the type of homeschool philosophy someone follows can tell you simply oodles of information about them. Unfortunately, we are the totally ambiguous yet very popular relaxed eclectic.

The translation of that ever popular reply is we do what we want, when we want. We happily cherry pick from a variety of styles and resources and aren't afraid to drop whatever if it isn't working. It is very free and we love it.

However, I can describe what it means to us in a bit more detail. There are a few things I think are important. Hannah practices math, reading, and writing three times a week. We read a never ending stream of books on whatever strikes her fancy. These books are almost always non fiction heavily focused on science with a smattering of different cultures thrown in. Both of my children watch more television than they majority of other homeschooling families but it is all commercial free and mostly educational. The Wild Kratts and Magic School Bus are frequent visitors and Carmen Sandiego often steals her way into our time and hearts.

I do think musical education is important and will encourage them both to take lessons on some instrument.  Their father and I both play instruments as adults so it is natural for them to find their instrument. Hannah is fixated on the piano and violin. Logan is insistent he learn the trombone. We havespent many afternoons with the St Louis Symphony.  Another avenue we are exploring is chess. They are at the beginnings of learning this amazing game. Although chess and music are different, I think they are crucial in learning to think. They help you train your mind and your focus. That is of quite important to us. If you can learn to control your mind and focus, you can do almost anything.

We love art. It is a family passion. Recently, we have given them access to all their art supplies. Yep, that means paint, glue, glitter, feathers, and all manner of messy things. It occurred to me that if I wanted to raise independent and competent children then I needed to treat them as independent and competent children. Yes, we will have messes, big ones. But they are doing amazingly well with this new freedom and responsibility.

Okay, so that is the nuts and bolts so to speak. The book work really only takes a few hours a week. Reading aloud and art takes as much time as it takes. Now to the crucial part of our homeschool curriculum, great big, huge blocks of open time for unstructured , open-ended self directed play. This to me is absolutely the most important component of all.

Experts are coming out of the wood work screaming that our children are nature deprived, play deprived, over-structured, and over-scheduled and they are right! Play is the most important work of childhood. Through play our children learn self control, negotiation, cooperation, self reliance, how to be a friend, how to resolved conflict, and so much more I cannot even write it all down.  Children learn so much when parents will just step back and let them learn.

Let me show you how we educated our children.

A long hike in the woods.

Painting with friends.

Visiting a baby elephant at least monthly to watch how she grew for the first year.

Finding an amazing group of friends to share adventures with and a yummy way to learn about the phases of the moon. 

Taking the time to explore, play, and really enjoy life.

There are so many pictures I could share here. This journey has already been incredible.. The point is all of these pictures either come about from child interest or are completely child led with parents trailing behind giving them as much freedom and space as they need. Our children direct 90% of their learning and they revel in it.

This is what we do. We love life. We love to learn. Our lives are not busy or stressful and we prefer it that way. Will this prepare our children to be successful in life? Yes, we think so but perhaps our version of success is different. We want them to think deeply and love well. We want them to care about themselves, others, animals, and the planet we live on each day. We want them to know you can choose joy each and every day and that life can be an amazing adventure if you choose.

John and I were once on a different path. We once thought status, materialism, and a higher salary was the key to happiness and oh so important. We wouldn't have told you that but we believe it. Then one day we choose a different path and that, my friends, has made all the difference.

May harmony find you and peace reside within you at all times.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Creative Tidy

For many years now I have clung to the idea my house needed to be really clean. Secretly, I think I thought if my house was not super clean I was somehow a failure. Probably to my detriment, I was able to keep up this delusion after the birth of my daughter. She was a pretty easy kid and has always self entertained. Therefore I was able to quietly have the smug mommy knowledge I could keep up with it all.

Now you all know life is just hilarious and there is a twisted sense of humor ever present in this universe.

So then I had my son. Now I will wait a moment of those of you who know me to stop laughing. Go ahead, wipe away the tears. I will wait. Needless to say, the birth of my son turned my world upside down and made me realize that the state of my home had a lot less to do with my acumen as a mother and homemaker and far more to do with a child who could happily self entertain.

In the past few years we have fallen into a new normal. The house was still clean but it took a lot more to keep up. I did lower my standards but I still spent a lot of time on keeping everything tidy.

However recently, I am reconsidering this mindset. We are now fully into homeschooling and our brand of homeschooling is very hands on and exploratory Or we can call it what it really is, messy. Add to that chaos my new found love of art and creativity and the result is more chaos and disorder than I am used to having in my home. But here is the thing, I think I am okay with it. That is a little crazy to me.

We are already a rather counter-culture family in many ways What if I take it a step further and just not worry so much about what our home looks like? What if I put a higher value on creativity and learning? What if I spend my already limited time focused more on what is really important to our family rather than on mopping? How revolutionary would that be?

Now for many of you, it wouldn't be. You are already there. I think I am pretty much there myself. The funny thing is I have had to let myself be okay with being okay with it? Isn't that crazy? Seriously? I have to allow myself to be okay with this intentional decision? Well, yes I do. I have moved far on my journey and I have dropped many societal expectations and baggage of my past but like an onion, I am still peeling back layers.

I am sure we will maintain a foundation of clean. I doubt we get to the point where the neighbors are having a secret meeting over calling the health department. Perhaps the biggest change is my mindset. I want to be okay with leaving the intricate castle system the children built together in the living room for a few days. I don't want to stress that my current mixed media art project is spread out some place for many days as I work on it. This is good stuff. Learning is happening here. Creation is being achieved right here, right now. Is getting everything cleaned up right away really that important? No, I don't think so either.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

To Begin With

Last week I took my children to an amazing place, the City Museum in St Louis, MO. It was once a huge, rambling shoe factory. Today it is a mecca of fairly dangerous child play in a society of everything is padded and rounded so no one can possible get hurt. It is a surreal urban fantasy of upcyled old materials and architectural features lending themselves to be climbing, slid upon, and jumped off of with wild abandon. There are lots of opportunities for bruises and scrapes. My children ADORE this place.

I was going to being this blog with an introduction of me and my family. I would tell you how I pulled out of corporate America and found I actually have a heart for simple, domestic life. Perhaps I would describe how we came to homeschool. I don't know. It would have been neat and tidy and got the message across. But really, it doesn't matter to much. You will probably piece the story together and if not, well it isn't that important. Because you see it was on that visit to the not so safe museum I had a moment that encapsulated why I do what I do.

We were all sitting together watching a Circus Harmony. Circus Harmony  or the Everyday Circus is a fantastic group operating in the City Museum. Here is their mission statement.

OUR MISSIONCircus Harmony teaches the art of life through circus education. We work to build character and expand community for youth of all ages, cultures, abilities and backgrounds. Through teaching and performance of circus arts, we help people defy gravity, soar with confidence, and leap over social barriers, all at the same time.

Isn't that cool? They bring kids and people from all different walks of life together to perform. They are using this amazing tool to bring peace and harmony. I love it. 

But anyway, there we sat and I was marveling my children were watching this performance rather than sitting in a classroom somewhere. My daughter's face was lit up with joy. She laughed so easily and openly. My son is much more reserved and watched quietly but with great intensity. His lack of animation belied that fact he was soaking it all up, every last drop. He astounded me that day. My shy little guy actually went on stage in front of the crowd at a clown's invitation. I realized he is really growing up. 

They both are, growing up, and I don't want to miss it. I love going on adventures with them. I love seeing their expressions as a box of glitter accidentally explodes in the dining room and we are all covered, laughing with a sparkly mess. I adore they can become completely enmeshed in exploring a creek and I don't have to tell them it is time to do homework. 

The experience at the City Museum demonstrated so many of the reasons we homeschool and I don't work outside the home. We have the opportunity to follow their interests and learn however they best learn. That day they played so hard they staggered out later that afternoon barely under their own steam. We did art for hours with professional artists. They played and worked together with kids completely different then them and thought nothing of it. 

Now I know, you can get these experiences while using tradintional school programs but I don't see how that is possible and still maintain a simple and slow paced life At least, it wouldn't be for us. Living a slow, simple life is extremely important to us. In this age of hurry up everywhere and the worship of busyness, we just want something different. We want slow. We want to tell our kids, go ahead and look at the dandelion, we have time. We'll be over here watching the sunset.

So this is our life. We are together a lot. It is not always perfect. We fight. We disagree. But more often we love so deeply and truly enjoy each other's company. I love being with my family. Let me tell you, I am a huge introvert, so that is saying something. I am so excited to discover the adventure that is our life. I would like to invite you to enjoy our escapades with us through this blog.