Friday, June 30, 2006

Too Much of a Good Thing?

My children love to read. Every one of them will pick up a book, or in the case of Little Napoleon, an arsenal of books, and read during any free moment (even moments when they aren't supposed to be free). They come by this trait honestly, as Mom & Dad also have a healthy appetite for books, and the children have been read to since they could breathe.


Reading books is a good thing. If I had to choose between my children loving to read or detesting the practice, there would be no contest. It makes every part of educating them easier, even if it means you have to first censor every printed material that reaches your home.


However, I have recently discovered that there can indeed be too much of a good thing. I have had my eldest, The Literary Lady, tested by a Pediatric Occupational Therapist , a board certified vision therapist, and an optometrist to discover what exactly was happening with her vision. She would often complain that she couldn't see "straight"-that the letters would move around on her, or that she could not focus on the words she was reading. Her letters and numbers were frequently backward, and she grew to hate writing of any kind.


What we discovered was a condition that was far easier to treat than I had hoped. My Literary Lady was struggling because of a condition called accommodative fatigue, which is caused by simply reading too much. During childhood, a person's eyes are not strong enough handle the stress of shifting from reading fine print close up, to writing, or reading at a distance. The eyes get tired, and just can't focus clearly. The solution: cut back on the reading.


After a mere two weeks of restricting the amount that she has been allowed to read books, (with tons of explanation, of course), she is drastically improved! She is back to enjoying writing, and doesn't have headaches or blurred vision.


All things in moderation, right?


Well, except that I am shopping for a nice large print Bible for her, because of all things, I will not restrict her reading that.




Thursday, June 29, 2006

To Gain a Heart of Wisdom

Last summer, just before our state homeschool convention, I happened upon a teaching philosophy that has so profoundly affected my view of "homeschool" that I am forever transformed. This ideology harmonized flawlessly with both my own fledgling theories, and the children's and my experience. As I had been praying about our growing dissatisfaction and lack of good fruit in schooling, I believed this discovery to be from the Lord.


In my searching the Heart of Wisdom website, my recurring exclamation was, "Why have I never heard of this before?" In my opinion, it pulled together the best of every teaching approach into one coherent (which is what my fledgling theories were lacking) "package". I love the concept of the Trivium, with its emphasis on the certain ages and stages a child grows through, but do not love the structure of classical education. Unit studies were intriguing, but far too much work for me to develop myself. The discussion of Hebrew vs. Greek models of education is at the same time convicting and refreshing. Best of all is the absolute continual focus on God's Word, during every moment of the process.


I love this approach, but do I use it? It depends on how you look at it. In Robin Sampson's book, she outlines a sample schedule, which for elementary age children would take about six hours, five days a week. That, I do not do for several reasons. One is that I am far too undisciplined (be patient, the Holy Spirit is not finished with me yet) and I am learning that I have too much of an unschooler mentality to spend that much time on "schoolwork".  Second, is that we just have too much going on. I can just get all my work done as it is, without spending the bulk of our day "in the schoolroom".  I have cut every area that I can (including much blogging) in order to simplify life, and thereby free up time. So in a scheduling sense, no, we do not follow the plan outlined in the HOW materials.


Is God's Word the primary focus of our ever study in every subject? Yes.


Do we implement the Hebrew model of discipleship-style teaching? Yes.


Do we only use "real books" and not twaddle, per Charlotte Mason? Yes.


Do we experience delight-directed learning as we work in our unit studies, making Notebooks throughout our Lifestyle of Learning? Yes.


Per Robin's plan, we are walking chronologically through the bible this year, and making pages for our Bible Portfolios, incorporating all the language arts in the process. We are still deciding whether we will use Adam to Messiah for History. If we do, it will be an abbreviated version, without adding to our Notebooks. We have decided to not use the Science curriculum this year. That can be covered through our daily life living on a farm, being unschoolers at heart, and walking out Deuteronomy 6.  Math, phonics, handwriting and Greek will be separately covered.


The picking and choosing is about priorities. The main point that truly struck a chord with me in my reading the Bluedorn's book was that "there is only so much time in a day".  Taking into account our living on a farm (in the middle of nowhere) , having a large family, healthy eating and all that entails, and expecting a new baby in a few weeks, I am determining to focus on the basics of school discipleship-the one thing needful, and expecting by faith that all these things shall be added unto us. 


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Where Are All My Eggs?

There's a conspiracy going on around our farm. Somebody is holding out on me in the egg department. A lot of somebodies.

I got oh-so spoiled when our first group of hens started laying. I had billions of hens, and billions of eggs to go along. When you're feeding a crew three meals a day cooking from scratch, you need a boatload of eggs. Boy, did we live it up! Eggs for breakfast every morning, quiche for dinner some nights, custards for dessert, not to mention mine and the children's favorite: thick homemade eggnog.

Last spring we lost 24 hens and three roosters in one fell swoop when a pack of wild dogs came running through the farm in the middle of the day (when all the chickens were free-ranging). Now that one hurt. To make up for the loss, we picked up a few dozen pullets from a local store.

Our first encounter with hens-on-strike was last summer after the new hens had gotten integrated in to the clan. I turns out that the new ladies must have brought lice into the coop. We didn't figure out why the hens were getting so skinny until it was really bad. Since we didn't want any creepy chemicals covering our critters (catch the alliteration?), we treated the lice with diatomaceous earth. The plan was succesful, and their laying pattern picked back up again.

Our second encounter is happening now. My ladies are molting. I have never seen such ugly chickens in my life. (I know, being a city kid, that doesn't say much.) Those sweet, puffy mommas have recently become jagged, scrawny creatures that will never grace the cover of any magazine. I have been rationing eggs fiercely the last month or so, because it appears that molting and being on strike go together.

Since hope springs eternal even when grocery budgets do not, I'm on the lookout for an increased harvest from the nesting boxes. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" Hebrews 11:1.

Things not seen, huh? I think eggs qualify there.


It doesn't look like she knows, either...

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Ode to the Inner Farmer

I was so inspired by JenIG's recent post, The Inner Farmer Emerges Triumphant, that I thought I'd share our own gardening success.

Gardening Success

Our very first squash of the season (and what we eat while waiting for our green beans to grow).

Thanks for the inspiration, Jen! I'm feeling veclempt.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Live It Up Meals

The more folks you have in your family, the more variables there are. Three toddlers increase the odds of being late to church more than one toddler. Three boys sharing a room create a higher likelihood of finding crusty dried critters under the bed than one lone boy. Life is like this.

In some ways the variables make life easier. Finding a good bargain on jeans, you readily buy, knowing that, "It will fit someone". There are other challenges, however, that come with the variables, no matter what size your family is. Appetites, growth spurts, and meal planning can at times be more art than science.

Children go through growth spurts in an unorganized fashion, on again, off again, in an altogether unpredictable manner, their hunger drive paralleling their growth. Since I never quite know if they will be ravenous or disinterested for a particular meal, nor which child (or children) will be sprouting up this day, I always go with the more is better plan. Hence the leftovers.

Throwing leftovers out just goes against my tightwad, cheapskate nature better judgment. It is not just about the wasted food, but the wasted

W-O-R-K for me, so over the years I have developed a mad scientist approach knack for making leftovers interesting. At least most of the time.

We call leftover meals "Live It Up Meals". Since leftover concoctions masterpieces are never the same twice, you only get to enjoy it or, conversely, only have to force feed yourself once. Just this morning we had oatmeal apple fritters and "western omelet" for breakfast. The oatmeal apple fritters were originally leftover oatmeal and fruit salad. The omelet was originally leftover fried potatoes, corn, a smidge of green pepper and onion, and the last of a jar of salsa.

If you love it, live it will never taste like this again.

If you hate it, live it will never taste like this again.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Adam & Eve Dropped By

Some unexpected company dropped in this afternoon.  (I'm glad we had some Toll House cookie bars left. Southern hospitality, you know.)

Adam & Eve

The Flower Child & The Engineer getting back to their branches roots.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

It’s Hard Being Mean

I can't decide if this means I have done something very, very wrong, or very, very right. The reaction I am receiving is surely not an accurate barometer, as I have been , against my will, cast in the role of Wicked Mommy of the West. The weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth has to be (at least in part) pure melodrama.

A recent tradition in our family is to have pizza for dinner on Friday nights. Nothing spectacular about that except for my favorite part: the big girls (Lady Literary (11) and The Flower Child (allllmost 10) make the pizza from scratch. I'd love to tell you that I do something meaningful or especially redeeming with my time that is freed up by not making dinner, but I can't without stretching some truth.

Last night, the girls were sent inside ahead of the rest of the family to start the pizza, while the rest of us stayed out finishing yard work. The rule having always been, "If you have trouble, come get Mom", and since I heard nothing from them, I was fully expecting to come inside and praise the ladies for their hard work, increasing skills, etc.

But...the ladies had, instead of making pizza, been...(insert gasping, sucking-in-of-air-in-shock-and-dismay sound here)...reading books. Disappointed (but not surprised), I sent them to Pj's and showers while I threw the pizza together and Mr. Visionary laid down the law that the girls were "off books" for a week. Gulp.

My inner debate is between knowing it is great that they love to read books so much, and knowing that they still need to obey in a timely manner. My inner chidings stem from knowing that "someone" bought the six full-size bookshelves in our family room and stocked them with books , and that "someone" (who loves to play in the dirt) stayed outside way too late because it was more fun than coming in and keeping us on schedule.

So we'll be returning to Self-Control 101 for some remedial work.

Especially the Mommy.

Friday, June 16, 2006

So Ugly They’re Cute

***Introducing our guest blogger: The Flower Child.***


Once I had six guineas who were chicks when I got them. I held them a lot. They were very cute!

I kept them in a big box, and gave them food and water every day. I think they were happy. I was, too.

But one day I was sad because my little brother snuck into the room where I kept them. He picked one up by the neck and it died. I was so sad that I made a coffin out of craft sticks. I buried it in a deep hole and put flowers on it.

All of my guineas have died except two. How one of my guineas died was a huge black snake came into its coop. The black snake killed it, but did not eat it yet. There was a tiny door which I stuck my head in to check on them. One good look was enough for me!

I ran to the house to tell Mom. She killed the black snake with a rifle. Here is a picture of the snake (dead of course) along with my brothers and sisters:



This is after we dissected it. We didn't find any guineas in his belly.


The two guineas that I still have are both girls, and we get two pretty guinea eggs every day except Sunday.


Here is a picture of them in the rain:


Wet Guineas

They really are so ugly that they are cute. Especially when soggy.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

This Ain’t No Kool-aid

I can't even pronounce the word, and I have no idea what it will taste like, but I'm game. I'm always up for trying something new in the kitchen. Especially something that comes with so much "good press" and favorable research about it's healthful properties.

And just like any other kitchen experiment at our house: if it flops, at least the chickens will eat well.



We pulled these out of our Square Foot Garden this morning. Can you say, "Nearly free organic vegetables"? (I love gardening!)

Certain miscellaneous facts about our family life led us to a unique conclusion.  We don't drink soda, Kool-Aid or juice. We had a smidge of free time this morning. The beets were coming up well in our garden. Lastly, my hands had not been colorfully stained in a while. So,  like other normal families we decided to make lacto-fermented beet kvass.

Beet what?

There are several pronunciations going around our house. We have no idea which is correct. The good news is, your family won't either should you drop the term on them.

Back to what it is. It is a drink (I use that term loosely) made from chopped beets, whey, water and salt that ferments because of the naturally occuring lactic acid in the plant. It comes out kinda like a salty beet vinegar.  Anyway, if you want more info, check out this article from the Weston A. Price site. It has a small amount of information, but mostly what I learned came from

Nourishing Traditions.

Making Beet Kvass

We marveled at the beauty of God's creation looking at the beets. Don't the stalks look just like peppermint sticks?

Beet Kvass Mixture

This is Stage One. It will sit on the counter a few days while it ferments, then we will use it as a tonic (only drink a smidge) or as vinegar (like for salad dressings).

Many questions come to mind at this point. Did we ferment it enough? What will it taste like? Will we be able to sneak it into salad dressing without Mr. Visionary noticing (or at least minding)? Time and sampling will tell.

And if my kids get a little dopey after testing it, we'll know we let it ferment a wee bit too long.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Invaded By What?

We've been invaded. Although only having arrived three days ago, they have migrated into every room of our home. There is no escaping their presence. Apparently they have some bizarre type of mind-controlling powers as well. The children and I have been able to think of nothing else since they came.

The worst part is that I have brought this phenomenon on myself. I courted them and chose them out of thousands of others. I even paid money for them. To top it off, I chaufferred them home in my own vehicle.

What has become of us?

These visitors go by many names. The ones that have come to us go by names like: Saxon Math 54, Saxon Math 65, Writing Strands, maps, atlases, markers, graphs, etc.

Even with out that crispness and "new book smell" (praise God for used curriculum sales), they have a certain kind of hold on us, and it appears they are here to stay.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Panic and Cuteness

Two year olds can make you quickly flip-flop back and forth between panicking because of their dare devil antics and melting because of their incredible cuteness.

Doodle & The Flower Child

                                           The Doodle & The Flower Child




 1) We have recently been forced to install a cow bell on the front door, as the Doodle has taken up sneaking out of the house at opportune moments when the rest of us are distracted.

2) Whenever we hear a giggling voice scream, "Catch me", we know to run to the top bunk in the girls' room. Doodle climbs up, but can't get back down.

3) This morning we searched the house all in a panic trying to find her. She was hiding inside the TV cabinet (the TV is in the attic), looking at books.

4) Doodle did something to irritate the Dreamer (ds7), and he started fussing at her in a huff. She calmly turned around with one hand on her hip and announced, "You don't need to do all that!"

5) She often tells us that we can't brush her hair because there are "possums in there".

6) She sometimes grabs my cheeks and says, "Mommy, you're cute".

Look who's talking, kiddo.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Scoreboard for Mothering Success

I have at least one proof of my success in mothering. It happened tonight at dinner.

First, a little background. I am a crunchy type- you know, really into healthy eating: grain mill, Nourishing Traditions, raw milk and all that. I don't hug trees, I just believe in good stewardship of our health. My kids have never even eaten commercial baby food.

So, when on my last grocery trip I bought some "emergency meals" (read that packaged frozen junk food) to pinch hit on those last-trimester pregnancy nights when I just can't bear the thought of standing in front of the stove very long, my family stared in disbelief. They stuttered and mumbled something about the location of their "real" mother.

Tonight I broke out the corn dogs. Yes, I know, really, I know how cruddy these things are for you. Pork hotdogs with nitrates, white corn flour, hydrogenated oils heated to ungodly temperatures, etc. I know. But I was desperate.

On to the proof.

When I served a corndog on each child's plate, I received the exact response from each person: "What is this, Mom?" My kids had never seen a corndog. The five year old kept calling it a cattail.

So at least in this one area, I feel like a success.

Or maybe not.

Swordfighting with the corndog sticks makes me think we need to go back to Table Manners 101.