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Friday, July 25, 2014

Turtle Lessons About Living and Learning



I am a firm believer that if one takes a moment each day to observe nature, many lessons can be observed and answers given to live a natural lifestyle deeply connected with the earth in which we live. Everything from trees and plants, weather patterns and seasons, to the animals and their behavior all can act as teachers and guides.

What can a turtle teach us about living and learning?

To start :  If slow and steady wins the race.......why then does public schools take the position of the hare and not the tortoise? Why are they is such a hurry to cram more and more information into younger and younger minds and then scream how it is a flawed and broken system that needs to be reformed?  Perhaps they should reconsider the message of the Tortoise and Hare!

Some things we can learn from our Turtle friends:

1.) Keep it slow and steady and you will see progression of learning and not as likely to have periods of burnout or a frustrated child overwhelmed by too fast a pace. Kids learn, well people in general really all learn in their own time, at their own pace and that is perfectly okay. Not over scheduling activities gives us plenty of time to take a laid back approach which allows us to take in more and observe more. By observing more we can rise to the challenge of taking cues from the observations on bringing in and seeking opportunities of things that would light a fire of passion to learning.

2.) How to Shield yourself from negative energies- the outside world can be highly critical of homeschoolers, even more so to unschoolers. Their words can be hard, cold and given without thought based in information, only fear of the unknown. While the outside world can be hard, we can be soft and kind, safely tucked into an environment of love, connection and safe boundaries where natural learning can flourish. We do not need to let the thoughts of others harden us to the core, but we can keep a thick skin on the outside so we go about our lives unaffected by others opinions.

3.) Sometimes life gets in the way, stuff happens, health fails, our world gets turned upside down. Don't give up, while it is extremely difficult to right yourself, and may take great effort, it is NOT impossible!

4.) Home can literally be where ever we go, which works splendidly for gypsy souls, travelers and world schoolers. Home does not have to be bricks and sticks and permanency. Home is not a building, it is what lives inside the building that makes it a home. Where family goes, home goes. Taking our home with us does not mean keeping yourself chained within a small world, but by being able to take it with you, you can become part of a much bigger world.

5.) Develop ideas, and even though they may stay buried for awhile, allow them to hatch naturally. Fully explore your ideas, nurture them, grow them, give them light and let them expand and develop by going with the flow, naturally without rushing it.

6.) That it is okay to retreat  inside to the safety and coziness of your home, you do not always have to be out and about, visible and on the go.

7.) That some of us may seem a little cold and hard on the outside but is just our defense after dealing with too many who don't "get" it. Give it a little time to get to know us, many of us are really quite soft, loving and generous on the inside.

8.) Stay grounded and connected within our daily environment, take a moment to breath in all the goodness in the morning. Take a few minutes to meditate or yoga, breathing exercises and find your calm for the day trying to hold on to that for the duration of the day.

9.) That it is okay to be a teenage, a mutant or a ninja as one friend so humorously puts it! I will not expand on that, I will leave it to your vivid imagination for the deeper meaning!

10.)  As their are varieties of turtles, same is the number of homeschooling methods, find which one works for you. Each species of turtle has very different needs and habitats and you will find this goes for homeschool methods as well.

11.) Know it is okay to take a little longer to get somewhere but take time to always be in the present, taking in everything about your surrounds and what is going on within it. Plan accordingly so you can take your time without having to rush.

12.) Know your goals ( goes for life in general!) and do not let all the little distractions move you off course. Keep heading in the direction of your goals and you will get there!

As you can see, our friends the turtles have a lot to teach us, can you think of  lesson from turtle that is not mentioned here? Leave a comment and let us know!






Sunday, July 13, 2014

We are officially an all Teen Household Now!

We are officially a teen household now, since May and I got to tell you...... I AM LOVING EVERY MINUTE OF IT! Teens rock and it is such a joy to get to spend my days with such funny, outspoken, humorous, sarcastic, happy teens! I am making fantastic strides towards a healthier me and to where things are getting pretty much back to normal. This excites me as it means my energy is returning and I will be able to participate more and get more actively involved again with planning activities and such. 

Having 2 teenagers changes the game and is quite different than attending to younger kids but to me, this is where the real fun begins. They are coming into themselves more and more and emerging into their very beings of who they are as individuals which is so cool to witness. They are also finding common ground again to enjoy each others company. For years having a boy and girl with vastly different interests, they did not do too much together but now can come together for mutual interests and the laughter that fills the house from these sessions is absolutely joyful to listen to.

I am getting excited for this year and am already getting my creative thoughts going on how to make it a wonderful year. Cancer kind of sucked ass last year for getting to do much and now that I am really feeling pretty great, my mind is spinning with all sorts of ideas. 

My son will be a challenge as he seems to have hit a phase of losing interest but not adding to his already small selection of interests. He after all is 16 and perhaps this is a phase where he is teetering from boy to manhood as I have known this to happen to other boys his age. He has retained a few of his interests but I hope we can work together to start expanding them and igniting that passion for learning and living again this year. As he calls it, he is in a FUNK. 

My daughter is forming so many interests it is very hard to keep up with and yet with an extensive list of things she likes to do, she complains a lot of being bored! It really seems impossible when you see everything she is interested in doing but I think this has to do with creative types. But some boredom is actually a good thing, for that is where creativity blooms and grows from. 

The flow in our house is good and natural , really organic and I could not feel more blessed if I tried. Teens is truly a beautiful thing. While hormones do happen and voices do get raised from time to time, we really do not have the teen rebellion that occurs in many mainstream households. It is easy, and open communication, mutual respect and truly enjoying being around each other. 

Looking forward to an exciting new chapter in our lives...........



Monday, February 17, 2014

Creative Sprees


Cutie Cube Plushy


Latest Magna Drawing


Dragon



Cooking Pot Sewing Project

Coffee Mug ( tan piece sewn in top for "coffee" you can not see in this photo)



This winter has been LONG and COLD! Becoming bored from being cooped up inside can turn into a creative boom, a frenzy of activities that stem from internal motivation.

I have really enjoyed this frantic spurt from my daughter this winter! 

She has been working on her YouTube channel at Little Kitty treating it very much like a home business. She works really hard at getting videos made, editing them, uploading them and responding to comments. She also works hard at trying to increase her subscribers, so if you have kids that love Webkinz be sure to have them subscribe to her channel!

She also has been watching a variety of YouTube channels which is where she learned to sew the Cutie Cube Plushies that are shown in the photos above, my favorite is the coffee cup! She also made a few that she gave away as gifts before I could take pictures of them. I see an etsy shop coming up in her near future! Better start buying a lot more felt fabric and sewing supplies for her! This is incredible to me because I don't sew and I am not really crafty! She finds inspiration all the time from a variety of sources and it is really amazing to me to watch her start to flourish in her creativity.

Of course drawing is still going on too, 2 photos above show her latest that she would let me photograph, some of her recent drawings she wanted to remain private, so that is all good, I respect her need for privacy. I remember at her age, I use to write a lot of stories and poetry and some of it was very private, not for others to read.

She has been going around giggling at just how busy she is and is going to be AND she is excited about that which of course excites me! 

She also was able to send out and receive quite a few Valentine cards this year and a few pen pals will be coming out of that which is good because she loves to write letters as well as make new friends. She continues to write her older sister in Monster High characters and even in their own coded language. 

February has been a good month!

How has yours been going?



Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Picky Eater and Food Freedom: Part 2

In my last post The Picky Eater and Food Freedom: Part 1, we talked about the harms of using food with punishments, threatening or forced and coerced. In this post, I promised to offer a few tips that could make households with picky eaters a more enjoyable time, since food is meant to be enjoyed! Also by honoring each persons food freedom, it helps celebrate and trust that our bodies know what they need. While my tips may not work in every family, I am simply sharing what has worked in my own home, not only with my own picky eater but with other picky eaters that have visited too.

Remember a whole lot goes into what makes food seem appetizing from color, to smell to texture to visual appeal!

So here are the tips with no further ado!

1.) Kids do not generally like complicated meals, especially young kids! They want child friendly meals like mac and cheese, bananas, pizza, cheese burgers and fries, so first tip is keep it simple and child friendly.

2.) Even if you are on a tight budget always try to buy one thing new that you and your family have never tried before. By trying new foods, you may just find more and more your child likes. For example I learned my picky eater happens to like okra, Lima beans, clam chowder and frog legs! Also a new food you have no idea what it is can lead to all sorts of fun learning, where did it come from, how is it usually cooked?

3.) Along with trying the new food theme, calmly but firmly request that they try the new food ( any time something new is offered on their plate)  Assure them that if they don't like it they don't have to eat it but they need to at least try it. Let them try it on their terms such as touching their tongue to it, a tiny bite, however they feel comfortable trying it, do not demand they have to have a certain size bite, chew it and swallow it. The simple request is to just try it, stay calm and do not give any sign of reactions. If they try it and eat it great, if they try it and say they don't like it, fine just calmly say "Well you tried it and that is all we ask, you never know if you like something or not unless you try it!" and then drop it.  They may resist trying in the beginning, but once they gain trust that you will not make them eat it, it will become natural for them to try the new foods to decide if they like them or not.

4.) Make a list of what your family members like, if they are like mine, my 2 guys like many of the same things while I will eat anything and my picky eater daughter has a completely different taste from any other member with the exception of Pizza and Country Fried Chicken.  At the same time I cook many different things that I have never made before but I try to offer meals rotating who may like it. So I will cook my new meal, a meal the whole family likes, a meal the guys like, a dinner my daughter will eat. In this manner I know I am at least cooking twice a week a meal the picky eater will eat for sure. Plan your menu accordingly to include each members personal tastes.

5.) The Buffet Style Meals- this is one of my favorite solutions to the picky eater dilemma! While we do not go out often, when we do we always made sure we went to buffet style restaurants.  I knew then my picky eater could choose her own foods and we would not be wasting money on a meal ordered and then tossed because it was not what she thought.   I also apply the Buffet style dinner at home when ever possible, you may want to include it in your menu a few times a week. A buffet style meal 3 times a week plus individual likes taken into consideration well that almost gets you through a whole week of meals that a picky eater will eat!  Instead of mixing a salad together, put everything into individual bowls for a salad bar, you may even include soup for a soup and salad bar  but you can include things like bowls of shredded cheese, sunflower seeds, craisins, shredded lettuce, tomato wedges, sliced mushrooms, Diced apples and perhaps croutons. Let them then, fix their own plates, picking what foods they actually want to eat or try.

The Buffet style dinner can include all sorts of meals like taco night ( again have all food prepared and served in individual bowls)  build your own sandwiches ( variety of lunch meats, cheeses, tomato slices and fresh fruits offered for on the side)  Fajitas ( steak, chicken or pork cooked and then individual bowls of lettuce, cheese, sauteed onions , sauteed green peppers, sauteed mixed veggies, sauteed mushrooms whatever and have tortilla shells to put it all in!)

Even the pickiest of eater will usually eat quite well for buffet style dinners, if you offer a variety of veggies, fruits, cheeses, boiled eggs and meats, all separate and them having full control of the foods they want to include on their plate. A Buffet served meal also works for all 3 meals of the day!


Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Picky Eater and Food Freedom Part: 1

For many, the thought of giving children food freedom, is one of the hardest things to let go of next to perhaps the video game and electronic devices. Sometimes it is just so drilled into our heads that a child must eat what is put before them, without other choices given simply because that is how we were raised as children.

Fears range from "I will create a picky eater or make my picky eater even pickier " to " We are on a very tight food budget, we can not afford to give choices or let them eat what they want, when they want!" to " Oh gosh, my child would eat only junk food if they were allowed!" "A child must eat what I cook and that is it, it would be wasteful to do otherwise or This is NOT a restaurant!"

Peaceful parenting and radical unschooling is about building connections with a child in a healthy balanced way. It is respecting the child enough, to treat them as a human being and realize everyone is an individual with different likes and tastes. It is about trusting the human body knows what it needs ( the reason behind cravings, such as consuming large amounts of orange juice in the winter months or when having a common cold.)

Threatening a child that if they do not eat what is put before them, they will not get anything else the rest of the day, or no dessert, or have to go to bed early does a number of harmful things. For one, it upsets the child and when one is tense and upset their body can not digest food properly. It also can do the very thing a parent is trying to avoid and actually deepen food aversions and create a life long dislike for certain foods!

Think about it, do you like everything you eat? When do you eat, by a clock or when your body tells you are hungry?

Many things go into why we like what we do, and sometimes in children this is magnified. There are many reasons why they may be picky or not want to eat what you cook for them.  They may not like the smell, sometimes it is texture and some can be very sensitive to textures! They may not like the color as certain colors can be unappetizing! They simply may not be hungry when the parent says it is time to eat! They may not like their food touching other types of food on their plate.

As far as money being a concern, is it more frugal to make a plate for a child who does not want to eat what you created and will sit there until it is cold and thrown out anyway, or crying the whole time they are eating it ( I don't know about you but I can not eat when I am crying!) or would it be cheaper to actually let them make a peanut butter sandwich or mac and cheese or any other number of .50 cent alternatives that they WILL eat?  I found for my family it was far cheaper to let our picky eater have the cheap alternatives.

Food is meant to be nourishing and enjoyable, when a power struggle takes place, this is lost and the chance to make good connections , happy connections with our children is also lost. Here is another thing to consider, most families in the USA are eating a S.A.D diet (Standard American Diet) and this is really quite an unhealthy diet. Essentially then, your food choices that are being forced or coerced for your child to eat, is no healthier than perhaps what the child wants to eat! If they are not hungry, by pushing them to eat, you are perhaps encouraging over eating that can lead to the obesity problems that is such a huge problem in the United States.

By allowing the child choices of what to eat and when to eat, he is being allowed to listen to his own body which knows best. The parent can not tell if the child is hungry or not, but the child sure knows! By allowing them to choose the foods they like, you are acknowledging they are individuals.

Dinner does not have to be full of power struggles, fights, yelling and crying, it just doesn't , why would one choose to make meal time miserable for their child? There is no reason to guilt, shame or threaten a child simply cause they don't want what you cooked. This came from an era where you ate everything on your plate because it was the Great Depression! Now I almost gaurantee is is stemming more from a "I cooked it, you eat it" mentality and if the child does not want it, the cook and perhaps the spouse too, take it all too personally and there fore use their size from a place of resentment to bully a child into eating.

Many perents are not aware this is essentially what they are doing, they are simply using the tools that was taught to them. It is time to question where and why we use the tools of our parents. Sometimes this means changing the tools we know, learning new methods, perhaps better methods.

Making your children happy, is not spoiling them! It is building connections, learning to understand them and celebrate them for who they are, not what we want them to be. It is helping your child listen to their own bodies and trusting that the human body knows what it needs and when it is hungry.

While I am addressing the issue here of the harms of forcing children to eat, my next post will offer tips on ways to make meal time enjoyable and dealing with the picky eater.

In the meantime, don't just take my word for it, here is some further reading for you!

What Forced Eating Looks Like 20 Years Later

Forced Eating Leads to Eating Disorders

Pushing kids to eat may cause Obesity later

Mealtime Atmosphere and Eating Behavior

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Winter is for Drawing!














These are all done by our 12 year old daughter, Corin! She has certainly been developing her own style and I am sure techniques will be developing soon.  She has been drawing almost daily now and actually there are several more I need to photograph. Winter is such a great time to work on these types of pleasures as so far our winter has been way too cold to get much outside time in. I think I better stock up on some Sketch Pads, she will be done with this one soon if she keeps drawing at the rate she is!

Have a Great Weekend Everyone!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Unschooling Through Terminal Illness

Well I was going to do an art spree post with tons of photos that my daughter has been so busy drawing!  She has been on a roll and drawing almost daily, BUT blogger is being stubborn and I am having some issues with it.


So, then I thought well you know, everyone that follows any of my blogs, knows that I was really sick for 2013. But I have never really talked about how we got through the year as unschoolers and little things we did, to ensure even if learning slowed down due to me disengaging it still would continue. I am not sure if I would even call it disengaging, after all I was knocked off my feet and incapacitated. I stayed connected and engaged when and where I could but it was vastly different than when an unschool family is in top health. I am sharing here in hopes that it may be helpful to others out there, not that they necessarily will be terminally ill but also for those that perhaps suffer chronic illnesses. So here are my thoughts and a few hurdles we needed to overcome.


  • GUILT and Depression-  This was my first and largest hurdle and something I did not come out and openly talk about. Ironically I never really got depressed at all over my Stage IV Breast Cancer diagnosis, I pretty much saw that one coming and even came to terms with my possible death before my children turned 18. But when it came to our homeschooling, our unschooling lifestyle, I withdrew, quit blogging about it, quit writing articles and screamed and cried inside over the guilt, feeling like I had failed my family. I lost all trust and faith and questioned if unschooling was right for us, if it had ever been right and if I was doing a great disservice to my babies. Their care and learning experiences after all have always primarily fell on my shoulders. At any rate being involved and actively engaged, coming up with ideas, projects, games, places to visit, where to go, has always been my department. After a couple months of being very withdrawn, I realized that even if I died in 2013, that I did not fail my kids, nor did I set them up for failure, that indeed their learning would continue, just as mine has, for life.  I started connecting with homeschool and unschool groups again, reading and commented and renewed my faith in the path, and put my trust in it again. It would not look the same as an unschooling family in perfect health and that was okay. It would be unique to the new needs of our household and yet remain beautiful and organic, the way learning should be. I embraced it again, as I embraced LIFE and decided to give both, my all. Talking with others who have major health issues or chronic illnesses, I have realized when one discovers this for themselves, the guilt and depression related to their family in an unschooling lifestyle is not only quite common but a natural step one must go through in order to move forward. While this may not make it easier, just know it is a natural process and perfectly okay to go through. Those that told me to just put the kids into public school were typically those who did not agree with homeschooling in the first place. From time to time, when the doubts were strong, I did actually consider it. In the end I decided to trust our journey and take it one day at a time to see where each moment brought us.


  • Providing Enough Tools- We spent money to ensure the kids would have access to learning whether or not I could be involved. Now granted being 12 and 15 helped where they did not need me for every little thing! We already had a laptop computer and a regular computer, along with 1 television and Xbox gaming system. We purchased a Kindle Fire and was Gifted another Television with a DVD player.  We then bought a game-cube for that television set. This allowed for everyone having access to something when we were all home. The gifted TV with DVD and game cube went in me and hubby's bedroom. This way on bad days, ( which all in all were way to many days for the first half of the year!) that I could watch a movie in bed or play harvest moon. This also meant the kids would come in and cuddle with me while we watched something together and just be together. Those were some nice and tender moments that I have fond memories of. The kindle Fire provided a way for me to go to the hospital and communicate with the kids with. It also provided a way to download learning apps and books that I felt due to the audio features may help  our dyslexic daughter with reading. This also gave me something to do on days I was good enough to come out and curl up on the couch, which I spent many days on my  hubby's man chair with ottoman or couch too!  Besides electronics, we did make sure we had new books available to them as well as art and craft supplies for our daughter.   Board games and cards were increased as well.  While our budget may be small as a low income family, I found what I could used, on sale, or a small amount set aside from our tax refund for certain educational tools.


  • I'm Bored! -  Even with all the tools we made sure they had, I was told almost daily from my daughter at some point how bored she was no matter how much she had done that day. It was a huge adjustment for her to being staying home far more than normal as I was spending much of our free time being taken by hubby to all my doctor appointments, emergency room visits, testing and scans, and dentists. Not only that but my daughter was use to a very high energy mother that had spent her days all day, every day doing projects , activities and fun things with them. Even though my energy had been depleted in 2012, I was still functioning and was not until my diagnosis in January of 2013 that I became bedridden almost over night. This was a huge change for my daughter and it was hard on her, really hard! At any rate I have never met a child who has NEVER complained about being bored from time to time! You know what though? by the end of the year, it seems like she has renewed her unschooling lifestyle too. She now actively seeks out doing things on her own without requiring someone to always be there doing it with her. She finds things to do on her own, by herself and that is a good thing to be able to figure out things to do when feeling bored, something her Dad in his adult years does not know how to do! In the end she learned and grew from the experience and no longer required me to be the idea man, she was able to think of ideas for herself and creativity blossomed.


  • Ways I Found and Embraced to Connect-  Our World was flipped upside down over night and I had to find new ways of being involved and trusting the process of an unschooled lifestyle. The kids certainly had to step up and help out some, by doing dishes, vacuuming and helping keep the yard mowed, usually this was done on a rotating schedule between the two. While we have never ever had required chores for them, it became an necessity for all to pull together as a team. When they would ask for me to do something that I could not do, I would let them know the things I could do, which granted was not much, but it let them know what was possible to do together. On days I could not get out of bed, we would either cuddle watching a movie or if that was too much, while drifting in and out of sleep I was available to my daughter who would be on the computer near me to ask how to spell things. Or she would spell something off to me for me to let her know what a difficult word was she was having a hard time reading was.  Some days I was so bad, my son would wake me up on a regular basis to have a cold bottle of water for me, knowing dehydration was a large concern. During these days, they made sure to be very quiet and do everything electronic or run off and play at the neighbors.  They were invited to go with us on a few occasions to chemo sessions or blood work days in order to ask questions they may have and to understand my treatments better along with meeting my wonderful team who was eager to meet our children. On a really good day we would go for a small walk or play a board or card game of some sort. Some days I laid in bed playing Harvest Moon while one of them would sit on the bed and read a book next to me or just talk.  Some days they would want to cook dinner since standing and cooking were difficult for me to do for a long time, I found if I sat in a chair in the kitchen I could guide and help them being present, but not physically involved and we found it to be highly enjoyable to do in that fashion.  I embraced these small to many but huge achievements to me and allowed myself to be amazed by the many small ways we still found to let life unfold in amazing ways and learning so organically. I would read books to my daughter while we sat together on the couch, at lunch time we almost always watched Documentaries together. On really good days we would take them to the movie theater or out for Ice Cream and later to the beach for swimming. I found that by embracing the small moments throughout each day of the things I could do, rather than worry about all what I could not do, allowed a beautiful flow and I did what I could to help them when they needed help, and connect. While we perhaps also may not have gone out all that much, we had far more company visiting than normal which helped too.

  • Where we are at Now- With a terminal illness it can go either way, you can either get better, even if for awhile or you can take a turn for the worst. I am happy to say for us, they have certainly expanded my life and I am in a much better place than I was this time last year. I most likely will never be 100% of the woman I use to be, I have had to say good bye to that work a holic, always busy, physically strong woman.  But I am back to being able to function as a woman, wife and mother again and have shown my kids humor and grace through out this whole year. I am excited that while things crawled along for 2012 and 2013, that this year will bring back more activity, growth and learning with my renewed energy and healing.  Our motto has certainly become more of a Life is Amazing LIVE IN THE MOMENT type of living but I can tell you it feels great to be excited at what we may be able to achieve this year. After all my health could have certainly gone in a different direction and I would not even be here to type this post. When you have terminal illness though, you cant put the energies into what ifs, should haves, and can'ts.  Embrace each day for what it is, the one thing I do know is that if I had it to do all over again, I would not change a thing. We still would be unschoolers that allow the natural learning coupled with peaceful parenting. My kids had a lot to deal with for 2013 and they themselves had their own internal battles to fight knowing their mother could die. They certainly went through some depressions and emotional roller coasters themselves. In the end though we are stronger than ever as a team, as a family unit and they have both blossomed into amazing kids. This year will bring us to having 2 teens in the house, 13 years and 16 years and so far it has been a wonderful journey with them.
In closing, I just want to say, I am glad we did not give up, learning still continued and I would not have changed a thing.