Category Archives: Uncategorized

Long Time – No See

Well, so much has happened in the past few years. We had our 4th baby,  got a dog, and then I had cancer. Yeah. Life has some interesting turns.

So here I am finding myself on a parenting path I didn’t intend. This week I’ve yelled, threatened, and generally tried as hard as possible to rule my children with an iron thumb. It sucked. They looked at me with fear and sadness and disgust. How do you even begin to fix that kind of pain? That kind of heartbreak?

Let’s back-up a bit. So this time last year I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went through chemo and a bilateral mastectomy and then DH started a shutdown at work (12 on, 1 off – 13 hour shifts; straight nights). So straight out of surgery it was parenting at it’s worst. Then about 4 weeks in, I decided to completely do all the landscaping in our yard. Ummm, that wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve had).

The good news? I love my yard!!!! And it really helped me to not focus on the possibilities that could be. The bad news? Well, my kiddos really needed more than passing parenting during that time. And now they’re really showing that they’ve been neglected in so many ways.

So here I am. Trying to figure out how to support myself, my children, my husband and mange a household. I need to separate reality from desires for our family. I would love to spend every moment helping my babies, but I can’t. And then I’m faced with them not always wanting me around as well as trying to balance my own needs.

Tomorrow we’ll be at a local park for an Epic Battle (kids pretending to sword fight). I know my children will want a lot of attention. But I also know I can tell them to go play and they will. I can spend this time chatting with other mothers and recharging, but then end the day with cranky children, or I can figure out a way to balance their needs with my own. Of course, I have a 2 yr old. All needs are his needs. Sigh.

I don’t even have eloquent words of wisdom, instead I’m sitting here wondering how and why and wishing I was more capable of so many things.

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New Directions

It seems I don’t find the time to blog very often. Or rather the inclination is no longer there. I don’t want to write a blog about how to parent. After all I’m learning as I go. Each of our girls is so different something that works fabulously with one would never work with the other. There are general guidelines and I think I can sum that up in one sentence. Everyone needs to feel safe and respected. As long as both parents and kids, especially parents, remember that then for the most part how you get there doesn’t really matter.

Everyone needs to feel safe and respected

So where does that leave me?

Mostly this will morph into a record of sorts of our unschooling journey. It’s so difficult to keep track of everything we do, what each girl is individually interested in as well as areas we’d like to explore more. There will likely still be parenting and relationship posts on occasion, but I find most of my posts come from a thought niggling in my mind and certain people have taken them out of context. Or rather thought the context had something to do with them. Unless specifically asked, I have never written about you or toward you. Though as parents, it’s likely we’ll all experience similar things on our own journeys.

 

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Photography

playing with light

A few days ago I pulled the SD card out of Ella’s camera and found a full years worth of pictures on it. Some of the memories were bitter-sweet, but mostly we laughed as we saw the world through Ella’s eyes. We found tons of photos of everyone’s knees and butts. We also found tons of self portraits of her making silly faces into the camera. Her sisters featured prominently as did the television. The clarity of her shots improved noticeably over the course of the year, as did her ability to line up the shot. I’m amazed at the creative eye she has for choosing what to photograph. I can hardly wait to see what the next year brings.

more light

 

centered

 

Detail

 

imagination

If you can’t see it, it’s a knight. There’s even a head with eyes. She set the shot up, then photographed it.

beauty

She took many pictures of the trees, this wasn’t necessarily the ‘best’ but I could just see her wanting to get a shot of the trees as they looked when she rolled down the hill.

her favorite subject

Her baby sister doesn’t sit still. Elle would pick Cordelia up and bring her back to the other end of the room and quickly race back to her camera to try to get the shot lined up and taken. It actually only took three tries before she got it. After looking at a years worth of pictures from her perspective I feel as though I know her better, I also have a better idea of just how small our big girl really is. If she didn’t already have a camera, I’d race out and get her one. Instead, I’ll encourage more use and see what she comes up with next.

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Our Decision To Homeschool

The decision to homeschool is an easy – and a hard – one to make. For us there weren’t many factors to consider. We don’t like the school system. And we can’t find an alternate school capable of providing what we think is a better option. However, everywhere we turn someone questions our choice. The funny thing is that not only do people question our choice, but they seem to take it as a personal affront.

The biggest argument against homeschooling is that children won’t be socialized properly. I can only shake my head and laugh at that. Though I can understand where the argument comes from. People believe that homeschooling is school at home. In the sense that mom or dad or both parents sit their child(ren) down at the table and teach them much the same as teachers in schools teach. I’m sure some people homeschool this way, but many don’t. Home-schoolers meet up with each other regularly and their children grow up with mostly the same group of children around them. The biggest difference is that the home schooled children have a wider variety of ages and abilities surrounding them. Because we aren’t tied to particular lessons or methods of learning we also have the opportunity to spend time socializing with random people in the neighbourhood. We can spend a larger period of time at the library, grocery store, museum, or any other place that catches our interest.

I’m happy to say we socialize so much we’ve worn ourselves out and needed to take a bit of a break from all our play-dates. The girls are learning which people they prefer playing with as well as how to play with them. Parents are always close at hand to help our children navigate the tricky social interactions.

The second biggest concern with homeschooling is how children learn X, Y, Z. It doesn’t matter whether the topic is reading, calculus, biology, or some other subject. Other people are always concerned that our children won’t learn.

I’m not concerned. After all, I never took calculus. It wasn’t necessary. I also don’t think it would really add anything to my current life so I don’t pursue it now either. I did learn world history, American history, and a pile of other stuff that I don’t recall. But that’s the point. I don’t recall it at all. All I know about the world is based on actively finding the information now. Being forced to bring newspaper articles to school (didn’t it ever occur to them that not everyone buys the paper?) never encouraged me to delve into current events.

Certainly there will be things our children don’t learn. They might never be interested in the Renaissance, American or Canadian history. They might never learn about sin or cosine waves. They may not learn how to write a chemical formula. Sending them to school won’t guarantee they learn that either.  Teaching the information isn’t enough to make a student want to learn. Unless the desire is there, the information won’t stick.

If our children want to follow a path that requires they understand the finer details of the evolution of passerines, then they will find the information they need. We’ll help when necessary.

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Someone Broke Her Funny Bone

The girl’s discovered a new game – thanks to Daddy. For the past several nights we’ve had to play doctor. Before you get concerned, it’s not that kind of doctor. First someone must be injured in some way (pretend), then Mommy or Daddy give an ambulance ride on our back (Eoo, Eooo) around the house a few times. Then we diagnose the injury.

“Oh, no. Someone broke her funny bone. There’s only one cure…Tickles.”

We then proceed to tickle from head to toe, briefly. We stop and ask if they’re okay. They dissolve into fits of giggles and declare their funny bone’s still broken. This goes on until Ryan’s completely tired out and ready for bed. By then the girls’ve received enough love to allow daddy some space.

When it’s time for bed, everything runs smoothly. They ask for their story, they fall sleep. Easy. They’re secure in our love – and that makes all the difference.

We have many variations on this type of game. Another one we play quite often has been around since Agatha was about 6 months old. I’d hold baby in front of me, facing out, and we’d chase Ella around the house. When we caught her, baby would tackle Ella and we’d tickle her. Then it’d be Ella’s turn to chase us. I’d periodically turn so baby could see Ella, then with a squeal we’d turn and flee. This game helped the girls bond in such a wonderful way. It also wore them out in such a wonderful way. We now play this with Cordelia chasing the big girls. It helps put them all on even footing. It’s a game that allows everyone to play, and there’s no competition because everyone WANTS to get caught. After all, that’s the fun part.

We have many fights during our days.  “She took my toy.” “I want her toy.” “She’s sitting on me!” the list goes on. But ultimately those dissolve into nothing when faced with the many ways our girls do play together. They’ve both had moments where they don’t like the other – and that’s okay – because they overwhelmingly love each other.

If children can move beyond conflict by playing with each other, don’t you think parents can move past conflict by playing with their children?

 

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Life Learning

Homeschool. One word invokes such strong feelings in so many people. Fear, dread, anger. But for us, much stronger than any of those feelings, hope. Of course we’re planning a more radical approach than merely schooling at home. We’re traveling the unschooling road. For us, we believe, it’s the best fit.

We’re not afraid that our children won’t get into university. Partly because we don’t believe university is the answer for everyone. We know that if our children express interest in a career that requires a university degree, we’ll assist them in finding what they need in order to get in. We’ll also use a school board that both supports and has experience in the style of schooling our family uses.

Nor are we afraid that our children won’t learn what they need to know in order to lead productive lives. We already see their passion, their drive to learn. There’s no reason to believe that’ll change as they get older. Some people wonder if children will ever learn to read, write, tackle higher order mathematics, or finish ‘school’ with  a well round education.

We’re not concerned. We don’t belief someone else should decide what ‘well-rounded’ actually entails. Is it really important to learn American history? Some might say yes, but what about people living in Australia? Do they learn American history? If so, do they learn the same as Americans? Probably not. Living in Canada it might be important to learn about the Canadian political system, and at least some Canadian history, but it isn’t really necessary. But since Ryan and I are moderately interested in politics and are open and vocal about what we’re watching/reading/listening to, the girls are exposed to that. As for world history, again because Ryan and I are moderately interested, the girls are also exposed. If they choose they’ll also pursue more information. But it doesn’t matter if they choose not to. If they’re really interested in pursuing a career or lifestyle that requires them to know certain bits of history, then they’ll find the knowledge they need, and if they choose not to, then it really wasn’t something they were interested in enough to focus their life work on it. The same goes of any other subject,including math. Certainly it might be better, in some ways, to tackle math easily without the aid of a calculator, but people are perfectly capable of living productive,happy lives without knowing how to do calculus. As for basic math, we see the girls already tackling it. Adding and subtraction is necessary in order to play games they enjoy, in order to know ho much money they have/will have in order to purchase items. Math is used in day-to-day life, and as long as we don’t force it on them, they will learn it.

Even within school some subjects are left behind. There’s nothing wrong with skipping certain areas of information. There’s nothing wrong with focusing more heavily on one area, less on others. It is wrong to have someone else arbitrarily decide what areas to focus on, which to leave behind. In school, it doesn’t matter if a student wants to read every work by Jane Austen, what does matter is what the teacher wants the students to read. Some students may pursue their preferred areas of interest on top of school curricula, but not all of them will have the energy. Not all will have the drive.

Which brings me to another point of concern many people express. What about the child that just doesn’t want to learn?

Ultimately I don’t believe that child exists. Certainly there are students that hate school, that refuse to do homework, that disrupt class, that fail. Time after time. It doesn’t mean they won’t pursue what they’re passionate about. It does mean they’re not passionate about the subjects being fired down their throats. When allowed to follow their own path right front he start, students don’t lose their drive. They follow their interests and naturally learn about so many different subjects.

It so happens we were singing songs from my childhood. “Yankee Doodle’ illicit squeals, and sparked interest. Ella wanted to learn more. She wanted to know more about why who Yankee doodle was, about General Washington. She’s since been learning about the American revolution, slavery, women’s rights, and asking tough questions. These are subjects that many students don’t approach until seventh grade, yet at less than five she’s interested and wants to know more. She has the time and energy to pursue many of her interests each week. Gymnastics, horseback riding, dance, sports ball, French. All of these, plus focusing on learning her letters, writing, learning about mammals, cellular biology, earth worms and how they help the garden. These are just a few of the interests expressed in the past week by one child. Each child will be different, but ultimately if an adult allows them the freedom to learn, they will.

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Gluten-free Apple Bundt

This recipe converted to gluten-free really well the first time, after tweaking it only a small amount I think we’ve got it perfect.

The next time I make this cake I’ll get pictures for you, but for now just know that it was so good that it disappeared before my camera left its case.

8 oz cream cheese, softened

2 C. sugar divided

4 eggs (warmed to room temp)

1 C. oil (I use sunflower)

2 C. all-purpose GF flour

1tsp Xanthan gum

2 tsp GF baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

2 C. chopped, peeled tart apples

1 C. shredded carrots

2/3 C raisins

1/2 C. chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

 

In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and 1/4 C sugar until smooth. Beat in 1 egg; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350F grease and flour a 10-in bundt pan.

In a large bowl, beat oil with remaining sugar and eggs until well blended. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Gradually beat the flour mixture into the oil mixture until blended. Stir in the apples, raisins, carrots, and pecans.

Transfer half the apple mixture to the prepared pan, layer with cream cheese mixture and top with remaining apple batter.

Bake for 55-65 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, or until the pan is cool to touch. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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