Sunday, August 17, 2014

5 Things I Learned My First Year Homeschooling

The official school year is fast approaching! Every few days I find another sweet "First Day of School" picture in my Facebook newsfeed. The fresh faces full of anticipation for the new adventure: a school year!

We've continued to do "school" all summer, settling in, enjoying slow summer days of learning together. It's been a wonderful, wonderful summer!

With all those reminders of the coming seasons change, I find myself looking back over the past year.  I wanted to verbalize the things I've learned this past year.

So here they are:

5 Things I've Learned My First Year of Home Schooling...

1. Set loose Goals.
 Before the school year begins set out a SHORT (especially if your kids are young) bullet point list of the basic age-appropriate things you hope to learn together. Last year for example,I wanted to introduce these concepts and see where my oldest landed. Some of these might be too academic for some familes, and others might find my list too simple. These were things she had expressed interest in the concepts and we worked towards it and she "got it" to varying degrees.
My list looked some thing like this:
  • count well to 100
  • by 10's 
  • by 5's 
  • understand the concept of counting to 1,000.
  • understand basic addition and subtraction.
Our goals for the rest of our curriculum were...
  • to love and enjoy reading together even more.
  • to read through the entire Bible (in general stories) from Genesis to Revelation.
  • To give her a general idea of world history and the concept of time and dates.
  • To really understand Seasons, Months, and Days
Our Seasons and Months Art Project. Our boxed curriculum had a great way for teaching Months of the years and all 3 of the kids can chant the rhyme pretty well- the littlest in her own way! :)
2. Ask any one you can what they do for school and follow a few homeschooling sites on FB.
This is a pretty personal one. All personalities are different and another homeschooling Mama might find this completely AWFUL. This is just my preference, I like to know about ALL the options, have a general sense of what they are, and be able to evaluate on a gut level if they'd be a good fit for one of my kids.
I have a binder that I call "All the Things Learning" and I have a section of the Binder that is just for this information. I have a plain piece of note book paper with each curriculum or resource I find as the title. I fill the page with bullet point snippets about the curriculum (from websites and online reviews). I may never use the curriculum, but if I wrote a lot about it I probably hope to! And it's there when I'm circling around to a new school cycle and am weighting my options for each child.

For *me* this is helpful. I don't find it overwhelming and I tend to only keep detailed information on curriculums that really catches my fancy. There are probably about a hundred times that one click on the website told me it wasn't a good fit, and I only wrote it on a list of "math curriculum options" or whatever. A glance at a website can often quickly tell you if it's worth any time for your child.

3. Just DO IT. 
You don't have to know all the curriculum out there. You don't even need to have a curriculum. Set some loose goals, and search (google and pinterest are handy!) for ways to make it fun and relationship building.

4. Know your child...Guiding them to Discovery brings JOY!
This is probably my favorite part of homeschooling. These are my favorite people, and discovering what interests them and what doesn't adds this beautiful dimension to life together. I want my kids to be interested and invested in whatever we're learning together.
This year we were using Heart of Dakota "Little Hearts for His Glory" and it was great! I loved it! It was open and Go and I would advise any first time homeschooler to get a "all in one" home school curriculum.
*Not because you'll use it all.
*Not because it will enable you to teach all the things it says your child will learn.
*Not because it is the best way to home school.

None of that was true here! But it gave us an awesome baseline. It said "this is what you can introduce to your child today...give it a shot!"

A lot, I discovered, my kids didn't like. They didn't want to do handwriting. They disliked some of the hands on activities, they looooved others!! They disliked math work sheets or being given a big thick book full of un-done work (one piece of paper please!). I learned a hundred more things about how they learn, what works best and all with in the frame work of that all in one homeschool curriculum.

We made paint together and learned about mixing colors...

We took a field trip together to a local Museum and got a hands on look at local History
I discovered SO much, and I am so glad for the experience. I also learned an "all inclusive" curriculum isn't a good fit for us right now. We need eclectic! We need to be interested! We need to be asked "what do you want to learn this week?" and then head off to the library, youtube, pinterest, and google to discover what's out there on the subject!

Which brings me to my next and final "thing I learned"...

5. There is no right way to homeschool...or unschool!
It's completely individual. The awesome and awful part -as with all things in parenting- you just have to dive in and figure out what's right for your family. Read books about it. Ask older home school Mom's to hear what they're doing and what their kids have enjoyed.  Also, home schooling doesn't have to be any thing like a class room.
 For many kids and parents learning together isn't going to involve a straight path of objectives and check marks. Learning is cyclical. It's a spiral. You introduce a concept, you find creative ways to help them practice new skills. It's holistic, you're working with a whole human being here, with many other areas of life they're growing in as well. Some months new math skills aren't going to be a good thing to investigate. If it's not working, if there is refusal to get involved, if there is upset over a subject...Step back! Ask yourself, "Do they HAVE to know this NOW to survive?"
 Learning happens, really happens, when the person is wanting to learn and invested in the knowledge. No one wants to grow up and be ignorant! Just like they learned to walk, and feed themselves, and talk- they'll do it! We all want to  know things.
Balancing the "they need to know this now" pressures from the outside can be tricky. "Does your 6 year old really need to know how to write perfectly and tidily, NOW? Maybe playing some letter shape games together with chalk or on a chalk board would be a better use of hand writing practice time. It doesn't have to fit in a box, learning is learning...and it is only learning if it is really LEARNED. :)
hand writing practice: playing Doc McStuffins together...She'd copy the words or sound out her own when it came to writing the "Diagnosis" in the Big Book of Booboo's. :)

Okay I lied, there's a #6
6. Challenge yourself.
What do you want to learn more about? Are there novels you've never tried to read before? Time periods you'd like to discover? Take some time to educate yourself, for fun! It really really is fun, and it is probably the most rewarding part of home education: you get hungry for knowledge too!

Next Post! 4 Resources I found helpful to me as a Mom on this learning Adventure...

Thursday, August 14, 2014!

I am writing this to say, more to come soon! The writing bug has bitten, and I have some things to share... soon!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Vanilla Honey Tea Time Macaroons

I found a recipe in one of those free for kindle cook books. The weird thing was, when I mixed them up? They were terrible. The consistency was impossible, dry and crumbly and we were obviously heading for a huge baking fail. It was one of those moments when you have to ask if the authors of those books even attempt the recipes before publishing. So I got creative and I think *my* end results were amazing.

2 Cups unsweetened shredded coconut*
2 eggs
1/4-1/3c honey*
1tsp vanilla
1T coconut flour
A pinch of baking soda

* if you use sweetened coconut reduce honey to 1T
*I like them less sweet but if you prefer a pronounced sweetness go for more honey.


1. In mixing bowl combine eggs, honey, vanilla, flour and soda- mix well... mix  in the coconut.

2. **on parchment paper** covered cookie sheet press cookies into firm mounds and pat down into a flat cookie. This is probably the most labor intensive part of these cookies, they are quite loose and messy. But they bake into a nice non-crumbly cookie. They don't spread while baking, so what you put in is what comes out. The firmer you press them the more macaroony they'll be.

Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes (until bottom edges are golden brown and tops don't look liquid or squish when you gently tap them.

Enjoy with some Tea and some Read Aloud Time.
 (slurping spilled tea off the table optional)
4yar olds...sigh.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Grain-Free Savory Mini Burgers

One thing about this grain free adventure has been trying to balance our clean eating (we try to only consume organic meat and dairy products) with the budget. This gets tricky in a family of 5...The kids eat more individually at each meal than my husband and I do!

Thankfully, we are blessed to have easy access to abundant options when it comes to free range and grass fed meats-especially important with our youngest who has corn allergies. But how to prepare it? These Savory Mini burgers stretch to about 24 burgers from 1pound of ground beef! I used to make meat loaf with gf oatmeal... it always used an egg in the recipe and it kind of lead to some experiments in how to stretch a pound of hamburger to feed several people.

  • 1 pound hamburger 
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 T shredded onion
  • 2 cloves garlic minced or pressed
  • 1/3 C shredded *unsweetened* coconut*
  • 3 dashes of chili powder (1/2-1tsp)
  •  1T of ketchup
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1/8tsp black pepper
* another option would be to use 3/4 cup of cauliflower that's been put through the food processor so it's finely ground and sauté in butter or refined )coconut oil for 5minutes.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and knead together thoroughly. Add 1-2T oil to skillet and add meat to hot pan in small meatball sized portions. Press down into burgers when you flip them.

Serves 6-8 approx. 24burgers
Prep Time 5minutes
Cook time: 20?

They're delicious on their own or dipped in sweet and sour cranberry dipping sauce (recipe coming soon!), spicy mustard, or (my kids preference) organic (HFCS free) ketchup.

Sides: oven baked French fries!
Or pan fried Sweet potatoes with drizzled maple syrup and cinnamon.
I often add some roasted kale chips or broccoli for some greens.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sweet Chilli Hash Stew

It was one of those, "what do I Maaake???" Sunday afternoons. I threw stuff in the chefs pot and Sweet Chilli Hash was the result.

This was a delicious sweet and gently spicy stew. It got 2 giant thumbs up from my normally picky 4 year old. She and the 2 year old had 2 big bowls each!!! I really think some of the secret to it's success was the sweet and spicy pasta sauce from Wegman's...checkout their ingredients to find some thing similar! 


Sweet Chilli Hash Stew
By H. Burgett
1 pound ground beef
1 LARGE Sweet Potato (diced)
4-5 medium russet potatoes (diced)
1 medium/large onion (chopped)
2-4 cloves garlic (minced) 
1 23oz jar of Spicy-ish Pasta Sauce (I use THIS from Wegman's)
3-4 dashes of chilli powder
2tsp sea salt

We use coconut oil for our cooking oil. In large skillet or wok brown beef until nearly cooked, add  oil (if beef is lean) and  potatoes (both kinds), onions, garlic, salt.

Toss potatoes occasionally for about 10minutes if potatoes stick (we don't use non-stick pans) pan add 1/4c of water and loosen with stirring.

Put lid on and cook for 15minutes stirring often.

Add jar of sauce and dashes of chilli powder  stir well... allow to simmer (stirring often) until potatoes seem soft (5-10minutes).

8-10 servings (depending on the crowd)

Option 2: I also browned the beef, sauted all the ingredients but the tomato sauce a bit and then threw it in the croc pot, mixed in the sauce, and left it to cook on low for 5-8 hours.


Grain Free Adventure...

I have so many things I've wanted to process... but finding the time? Meh.

I have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen. We've recently gone grain free in an attempt to deal with some increasing gut and behavioral issues with our middle child. It has been crazy town.

But going grain free? So fun! Really, I enjoy cooking and coming up with some new recipes has been tons of fun. And with that starts a series of paleo and grain free recipes...

First Up? Sweet Chilli Hash Stew...

Coming soon!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Raising Girls Part Three...There *are* Differences

I recently got in an interesting discussion  (I actually didn't start) about the differences between boys and girls.

The gist of the conversation was that the Moms of boys mention all the things their boys do, but Mom of girls see their kids do this too. Then there were some who had both genders in their home, and said their daughters did some "boyish"  things their boys never considered and visa versa.

We circled this round and round. Mom's of boys said "well what's wrong with saying "you can NEVER understand?'
 Mom's of girls said, "We feel invalidated, we're not trying to compete- for goodness sake it's not a competition! But if we deal with __________ to day after day, week after week too- it can't just be a 'boy' thing. Yes they are girls...but they are all different kids... why are our struggles discounted because our kids are girls??"

So if girls do it to is it gender specific? If boys are into it as well, what does it mean? Is it nature? Is it nurture?

Both "sides", if you will, had one thing in common: The Mom's all felt strongly that their children never be shamed for being who they are. It wasn't their personal "nurturing" or encouragement- it was an organic interest or trait of their child. There were a lot of things I hadn't experienced (that both genders dealt with)- I mean I only have three children myself. There are things I don't understand. But I can respect that I don't have a child with those interests and I don't know what I would do if I did. What stood out was that my kids are not their kids: I can make no judgement.

We circled around and around, there were some big feelings on both sides.  No one wants their baby put in a box or to feel "put down" (though this is an awesome group of women, and everyone tried to word their comments compassionately and carefully.)

One interesting thing that came out of the conversation, and it's some thing I want to explore, is that there is a different energy type that can be generally differentiated between genders. Boys have a different energy from girls. They have a different *feel* from girls. I can whole heartedly agree with this. There are still exceptions, I have met a few, but this is a general rule I can get behind.

Boys do bring a different energy to the table. It isn't louder/bigger/better from the female energy... it's just different! And it explains beautifully some thing I couldn't express.

It's not that boys are automatically rougher, louder, tougher than girls. Or that girls are automatically more dramatic, quieter, softer than boys... it's a feeling when you hold them in your arms, different in each boy - but a sameness too. That touch of testosterone mixed in with the uniqueness that makes each precious person.

Apart from that though? So much does come down to the unique personality. There is not a single thing that you can point at a child and say "girls/boys don't/can't do ________" because for every rule there are exceptions.

I think what I feel most strongly about in raising my daughters is that they not ever be put in a box. This digging through gender differences is not "sour grapes" because I don't and may never have a son. It's not because I feel I am missing some thing (believe me, so in over my head with the three I have the last thing I want is to add any one else right now!). It is that that my beautiful amazing daughter. My strong alpha-type Friendly Girl never be shamed for the leadership skills, power, noise and push God put in her. There is a stigma about rough girls, especially in Christian circles. She's dynamite and if I survive parenting her through the next 15ish years I am going to see her shake the freaking WORLD.

It's not about the fact that my girls love dirt, or hate to feel it under their nails... it's not the wrestling or the abhorrence of it. It's not the loudness or the sweet quiet tea parties. It's not the colors they like or the activities they enjoy. How they play, interact with others, or their math/reading/social skills (or lack there of).

It's that when we look at children I would like the presuppositions of who they are, or what they do or can to have nothing to do with their gender.

Let's look at THEM. Let's see people for their unique qualities and gifts!

It's articles LIKE THIS (!!!!!! I could write a blog post ranting there- my point exactly!!) that are such a huge part of the problem.

It isn't fair to say each gender is the same from birth to adulthood. Or that they will face the same challenges all the way up. Because culture and society alone say it isn't.  Add in the different feel and qualities and challenges each gender faces: we known that is far from true. There are going to be different challenges- some standing out more starkly than others, depending on the individual.

 But I feel strongly that we sully the beauty of the image of God that He wrote into each of us, that we feed the curse itself ("and your desire will be for your husband...but he shall rule over you" Genesis 3:16 that's the CURSE. Which is the old, and not the New I will add more links on this later).
That we degrade  the beauty He wrote into His creation when we make a list and say "_________ is what each gender is and does. _______  are their struggles."

That we hurt people with in the church who don't fit into the boxes. We deeply wound young men who are have soft and quiet spirts, who called to nurture and serve with grace and who aren't "wild at heart". We hurt and smother women who are are called to be mighty and powerful leaders...Bringing THEIR amazing and unique energy to the body of Christ.  Women who have a God given boldness and strength and a voice that could shake the world for His kingdom.

Because each person is a PERSON, and their calling, skills, and gifts are as unique as the line on their finger tips.

We also waste precious energy when we compare genders against each other, when we say "you can never understand". Yes, I cannot understand what it might like to have boys... I don't have twins either, I can't understand that. But I have had two...three children close together. Is it the same? No. But until last month I had not slept through the night more than 3 or 4 times in SIX years. Most of those years I have had multiple children night waking many nights of the week. I can empathize.

Why does it matter if I "can never understand"? Honestly? I feel that that's a rude and inflammatory statement. It does not speak of grace and "reasoning together" in love (which especially when it is followers of Jesus talking, it should).  It doesn't bring any thing edifying to the table.

 Do you want a gold star? (sorry, not being snaky, just wondering).

I'd give you one if that would make you feel better. But believe me, I see you struggling.  I've struggled to. I struggle a lot these days. Is it the exact same? No! We have different kids, different families, and different struggles. And it sucks to struggle. It sucks to be in over your head. Parenting is HARD work. And it sucks to feel like a failure, or to even (in those dark ugly hours) hate your children-even if it's ever so briefly. To hate yourself or how you're dealing with your situation.

 I don't know what it's like to have twins, or boys, or your special needs child. I am not you, walking in your shoes. But I can understand in my own way- and I'm here to listen.  Honestly, let's be there for each other.

 I'm sorry you're having a hard time. If you feel lonely, out numbered, or scared for the future, know you are certainly not alone. And if it helps you to talk to others, do it. But let's not exclude or use "nevers" or language that doesn't help. Because no one is the exact same, and mother's of amazing and mighty girls have some thing to offer  you too.

We're all facing our challenges as best we can.

Let's hug it out.