5 Easy Steps to an “Old School” Summer

If you’re anything like me, you may be longing for the simplicity of a summer like the one you had as a child.  For me, it was the 80’s.  They were the kind of summers where the days were full of freedom and stretched forever into a golden sun and all you really needed to make you happy was a Slip ‘n’ Slide and a box of Fla.Vor. Ice pops.  However… if you’re anything like me today – well, the nostalgia may be a bit harder to grab if you’re the mom of little people.  You may be feeling overwhelmed and pressured to provide a summer full of All the Awesome Things to Make All the Memories – and I have totally been there – but I’m here to say a simple summer where you are truly present with your loved ones and relaxed will be so much better.  Go ahead and give a few of those Pinterest crafts and activities a try – but all those other days in between?  Well, here’s my idea of how to do it – in 5 steps – mom style.  You can relive your childhood summers while letting your kids in on the secrets to a really rad summer, too.  And even if you’re not a mom –  I’m pretty sure this list will work for you, too.

So, without further adieu:

5 Steps  to an “Old School” Summer

  • Step 1:  Turn on the radio to the local “oldies” station (or whichever station is playing the most 80’s music).  Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, and satellite radio don’t count.  You need to hear all the local ads.  It’s part of the charm.  Plus, you can do step #2 during commercial breaks.
  • Step 2:  Mix up a big pitcher of lemonade, iced tea, Kool Aid, or Tang.  Choose which childhood memory you want to relive and try not to think about the ingredients.  If you’re feeling guilty about sugar and food dyes, go organic – but not neurotic.
  • Step 3:  Go outside and stay there.  Your backyard, front porch, local park, beach… whatever.  Just get outside and even if you do nothing but sit and listen to the radio from step #1, it’s good for your soul.  If it’s raining?  Go to the mall.  Meet up with a friend for an Orange Julius there.  You know you want to.  Bring the stroller and stay away from the Disney store and you’ll be fine.
  • Step 4:  Let the kids get wet and dirty.  It’s ok, really.  This is why you have towels and bathtubs and washing machines.  Don’t have kids?  Do a friend or family member a favor and offer to babysit – and get THEIR kids good and dirty.  Or, you could just let your own inhibitions down and run through the sprinkler yourself.
  • Step 5:  Put your phone, iPad, tablet, computer – whatever electronic device you are tethered to – away.  Turn it off, put it down, and go have an awesome summer!

Repeat steps 1-5 as often as possible from now through Labor Day, and in the meantime, you know what I’ll be doing.

 

Biscuit Feet & I’m Still Here

So, my poor blog.  Oh, this poor, underused, space is probably feeling like the black sheep of my social media these days.  But what can I say?  Being a mom to a spirited 3 year old, pregnant with my 2nd, running a business, holding up a household, balancing a part-time job with a sad social calendar. . . sometimes, it’s just that the words are in my head but I have no time or desire to get in front of the computer to write it all out.  And besides, I don’t want to write fluff.  I want substance.

And sometimes substance is hard when your doing all of those other things, because those things require even more substance.

I’m digressing, I think.

So, just for today, so you know I’m alive and well, I’m just going to share a thought that is totally fluff, and pinky-swear that I’ll be back on here again soon.  With rock-hard, fluffless blog entries.  Here goes:

Six months after Honeybean was born, I went for my check-up and brought her with me.  My midwife commented that Honeybean had “biscuit feet,” and I’ve never forgotten it.  Mostly because it was cute of my midwife to notice, and because it’s true.  My daughter has high and wide feet – and as a baby, you can imagine that they might look like little breakfast biscuits.

And cute little champagne grape toes.

Nom nom nom on the baby feet all day.

:-)

These are the things that make my heart warm up – probably much like a … biscuit.

And these are the blips on my Mom Radar that give me pause to think about what makes my family uniquely us – and at the same time, what connects us to every other family and makes us the same.

This is why I love what I do – connecting with other families through our passions:  homebirth, homeschooling, homesteading (I’m sensing a pattern here).  And then, appreciating the different things that make us all uniquely part of the big ol’ puzzle of life.

Look, I didn’t promise Shakespeare … I said this was fluff.

Anyhow, while I’m working on getting things organized for this new phase of our lives (Babybean #2 is coming in soon!) just sit tight.  All the Thoughts will be hitting the blog soon.

 

 

Accidental Pumpkins

So, summer is ignoring my request to slow down and let me enjoy what I can – in light of me having walking pneumonia for the past 2 weeks immediately following a business convention – I pretty much feel like the school year is just going to pop up and start tomorrow.

It might as well, considering that I already have pumpkins in my yard.  And not green, small ones, either.

No, I have large, orange, jack-o-lantern-ready pumpkins scattered about a large corner of my yard.  And I realize they won’t last until October, which just adds to the melancholy of it all.

accidental pumpkins 1

But still, I have to smile.  Because these pumpkins totally happened by accident.  They were in the garage after Thanksgiving just rotting away and the hubs decided to toss them into the yard and turn them into the ground.  Compost, I believe, was the original thought here.

But no, Mother Nature had other ideas and now we have a large pumpkin patch with about a dozen carve-ready pumpkins.

Any takers?  Just 10c a pound!

accidental pumpkins 3

This all just makes me think about the little actions (and the big ones, too) that lead to unexpected, yet joyful, occurrences in life.  You toss a few pumpkins in the yard expecting compost, but you end up with a bumper crop of gourds.

There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, I just know it.

But it gave me pause today to just think about the little things I do every day that could lead to some serious joy in the future (or some serious pain, depending on what I’m doing).

The little things I do with my daughter – the little moments of giggles and play and painting toes and holding her a little longer when she falls asleep in my arms.  I know these have to matter.

The little things I do every day for my business – reaching out to someone who needs my services, watching an educational video, reviewing my notes, touching base with my team.  I know this will build it big one day – sooner than I think, probably.

The little things I do for my husband, my house, maybe even my dogs – these things add up – and maybe in the moment it doesn’t look so big – but then one day, you walk outside and there’s a huge pumpkin patch full of pumpkins…

accidental pumpkins 2

I think that’s my metaphor.  I’m still working it out.  But you get the idea.

So, I think, instead of making grand, sweeping plans for what remains of my summer vacation, I will instead be intentional about making small, sweet, important things happen – to build something bigger than I could have ever imagined at all.

Happy August!

The Definition of Insanity

You’ve heard the phrase before:  Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

When I’ve recognized it, I nod my head in agreement:  surely, this (whatever I’m doing at the time) is insane.  We’ve all been there, and hopefully, when we see that the same old processes and actions aren’t producing the results we want, we change course.

How is it we can recognize these patterns in our everyday lives, but not in education?

ticked off student

In a recent article, Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post quotes the work of Alfie Kohn, in which he outlines ten things about learning that are absolutely true, yet we continue to largely ignore them in our educational system.  You can read the article in its entirety by clicking here, but for your brief reading purposes, here are the “Ten Obvious Truths About Educating Kids that Keep Getting Ignored:”

  1. Much of the material students are required to memorize is soon forgotten.
  2. Just knowing a lot of facts doesn’t mean you’re smart.
  3. Students are more likely to learn what they find interesting.
  4. Students are less interested in whatever they’re forced to do, and more enthusiastic when they have some say.
  5. Just because doing X raises standardized test scores doesn’t mean X should be done.
  6. Students are more likely to succeed in a place where they feel known and cared about.
  7. We want children to develop in many ways, not just academically.
  8. Just because a lesson (or book, or class, or test) is harder, doesn’t mean it’s better.
  9. Kids aren’t just short adults.
  10. Substance matters more than labels.

If we are all talking about education reform, but continuing to ignore these naturally-occurring truths about children and how they learn, we aren’t going to change anything.  We’re going to continue to spin in this endless cycle of dissatisfaction, continue to throw money at the problem rather than real solutions, and in the generations to come, we’ll wonder why we’ve “fallen behind” – which is a another discussion in and of itself.

Let’s stop the insanity.

Class Dismissed: My Review

classdismissed

Last week, I had the opportunity to view Class Dismissed: A Film About Learning Outside the Classroom.  From their website, “Class Dismissed showcases a growing trend in alternative education strategies that are working for many families across America.”

Indeed.

Since I am speaking from the position of a public school teacher (for the better part of fourteen years now), rendering special needs services in a private setting, I can say that my opinion of this movie might surprise some of my readers.  There also exists the possibility that I’ll edit and revise my review as time goes on, since I’ve only seen the movie once, but I’m planning to host a viewing myself – so next time I may see something new.

Class Dismissed is a 90-minute documentary that follows a Los Angeles family as they navigate their approach to homeschooling their 13 and 11 year-old daughters.  They arrived at the decision to homeschool due to some of the changes they were seeing in their daughter’s attitudes, a growing dissatisfaction with their public school system (for the record, they were sending their children to the El Segundo school district, purported as one of the best in the Los Angeles area), and from being flat-out asked by their older daughter to try homeschooling.  With a healthy dose of both trepidation and excitement, the parents agree to start homeschooling, only to find they are frustrated and not sure where to begin or what path to follow.  Initially, they were excited about the change, but as time wore on, the long-lived expectation of needing to do school wore on them.  They ended up enrolling in an independent-learning charter school, which allowed them to continue homeschooling and provided some much-needed funding for extracurricular activities, but soon learned that this option didn’t work very well for them, either – as it was just busywork and paperwork.  After about a year of attempting to homeschool according to a set of rules, schedules, and curriculum, the family finally decides on a path that’s more suited to their needs and ultimately, “lets go” of the rigid expectations they set forth in the beginning of their journey.  In the end, their older daughter (at 14 years old) is volunteering at a local marine life center and studying to pursue a profession of the same, and the younger daughter (age 12) is pursuing gymnastics and paying for it through running her own business.  Everyone is happy, everyone is pursuing their passions, and everyone is learning.  Yes, books are involved.

classdismissedatkitchentable

What I ultimately feel this movie does for both homeschooling and traditional schooling is dispel any rumors about what homeschool families actually do – what they go through, the decisions they make, and the way homeschooling really works.  Which, by the way, isn’t the same for every family – or even the same for each child in a family.

The movie also touches on other forms of alternative learning, such as unschooling, the classical curriculum, and alternative learning centers, such as The Village Home, as featured in the movie.  There are a few “heavy hitters” featured in the movie, such as John Taylor Gatto, Michelle Barone,  Pat Farenga, Linda Dobson, Blake Boles, and  the amazing Dale J. Stephens, which I feel increases the film’s credibility as these education professionals know their stuff and have made successful careers from their alternative approach to education and learning.

Class Dismissed is a fascinating look at alternative forms of education, and gives both ideas and rejuvenation to those who may be dissatisfied with the traditional schooling system in our country.  Class Dismissed has been released at a time when the debate over the validity of Common Core is hot, and teacher accountability is a sore subject.  It couldn’t have come at a better time – especially since the rise in homeschooling interest has soared over the past 15 years from approximately 850,000 homeschoolers in the year 2000, to more than 1.7 million homeschoolers in 2011, with the numbers still growing in the past 3 years.*

I feel that anyone who is currently homeschooling, is “homeschool-curious,” or is involved in any facet of education (including public and private school teachers), should see this movie.  It’s informative, encouraging, and proves one thing for sure:  the homeschoolers know what they’re doing.

johnholtquote

 

*National Center for Educational Statistics

Class Dismissed

Aside

For a long time, I believed that the best way to disseminate knowledge and information (a.k.a. to educate someone) was through the recently-adopted concept of teaching at a school.  In the past handful of years, I’ve come to realize that true “education” has nothing to do with a group of same-age children reading texts and completing worksheets together in an isolated room.  For as many reasons people will divulge to support the traditional school setting, I can come up with just as many to refute it.  While I am still, by many means, beginning this journey, one thing I’ve come to know is true (after MUCH personal internal conflict about EVERYTHING I’ve ever known about teaching):  education in America is broken.

You’ve heard this before – this is not a newsflash for you.

Problems run rampant within our educational “system” today and there are simply too many to list here, though I hope to address each one individually at a later time – which will likely take me the rest of my living days.  But I digress…

Maybe you are a parent or teacher or student who disagrees with me and finds that you’ve had a virtually pain/problem-free experience with traditional schooling.  I’m happy for you, but I have two questions:  When did you/your children attend school?  Where did you/your children attend school?  Because the answers to those questions can heavily impact your opinion of traditional school and how your opinion relates to traditional schooling today, in this country.

I’m beginning to “see the light” and it is with great joy and humility that I attribute my most recent awakenings to my daughter.  As of my writing this, she is 1 day away from turning 2 years old and has taught me more about how children humans learn, than any book, college course, or professional development program.

It is an absolute marvel to observe her and speak with her.  Yes, I have conversations with my 2 year old.  And most of the time, they make sense and go well.  The other times?  Well, she is still a toddler…

crazy toddler

So, it is with great pleasure that I share with you the next piece of my educational reform puzzle…  Class Dismissed: A film about learning outside of the classroom.

classdismissed

If you’ve seen this movie, great!  I will be joining your ranks shortly.  There are two viewings coming up in the next week, and I’m planning to attend both.  Based on the trailers I’ve seen so far and the internet chatter, I’m guessing this is going to be an eye-opening movie that will likely change the course of my career and educational path for my children.

At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.

In the meantime, here is a quick teaser from the movie:

Tune in next week when I’ll give my first review on the whole film!

Killer Whales and Kids

With the holidays in full swing (yes, even now in January we continue to celebrate several things), and my house full of family, food, and fun, there isn’t much time to write. But I happened upon this article again while “cleaning out” my phone today:  A Thousand Rivers by Carol Black.

It is something I will be thinking about as we enter the new year, especially with my daughter showing signs of reading and math readiness.  And if you are an educator, a parent, a student, a homeschooling parent/student, or a human being in general, I urge you read this excerpt:

“Any wildlife biologist knows that an animal in a zoo will not develop normally if the environment is incompatible with the evolved social needs of its species. But we no longer know this about ourselves. We have radically altered our own evolved species behavior by segregating children artificially in same-age peer groups instead of mixed-age communities, by compelling them to be indoors and sedentary for most of the day, by asking them to learn from text-based artificial materials instead of contextualized real-world activities, by dictating arbitrary timetables for learning rather than following the unfolding of a child’s developmental readiness. Common sense should tell us that all of this will have complex and unpredictable results. In fact, it does. While some children seem able to function in this completely artificial environment, really significant numbers of them cannot. Around the world, every day, millions and millions and millions of normal bright healthy children are labelled as failures in ways that damage them for life. And increasingly, those who cannot adapt to the artificial environment of school are diagnosed as brain-disordered and drugged.

It is in this context that we set out to research how human beings learn. But collecting data on human learning based on children’s behavior in school is like collecting data on killer whales based on their behavior at Sea World.”

KillerWhaleSunset

Faith in Focus: Rethinking Halloween

Aside

I was 9 years old and in the 4th grade when I made my first costume for Halloween.  Because I had no money and I was an overly-creative child, I decided to be a “cleaning lady” – a la Carol Burnett.

carol burnette cleaning lady

This was my favorite Halloween costume – because I made it, and I thought it was funny.  And as handy as it was to collect candy in my bucket, the mop made for more difficult trick-or-treating – in case you were wondering.

Growing up, Halloween was a fun holiday where kids dressed up and collected candy.  It was innocent, and we never dressed up as anything scary or gory – or sexually explicit – mostly because it never crossed our mind to do so.

I think Halloween has changed a lot over the last 20 years.  It doesn’t seem to be the holiday I remember from my childhood.  It seems to be more focused on the macabre, the dark, the hopeless.  I don’t remember my neighbors decorating their houses with demonic effigies, dismembered body parts, coffins, and bloodied weaponry.  I don’t remember women dressing up in a manner that blurred the line between cute costume and streetwalker.  Friends and family almost never bought entire costumes from the store – blowing their monthly budget on an something to disguise themselves for one night.

With that said, and as a mom, looking at Halloween from a Christian perspective, I have decided that it is a holiday we will not be celebrating in our home.  At least not in the way I’ve seen it “celebrated” in recent years.

So, what do I do for my children when it seems the rest of the world is trick-or-treating and decking their front lawns with tombstones?  How do I keep my kids from feeling alienated, but at the same time abstaining from the questionable practices of Halloween?

Trunk or Treat is the first thing that comes to mind.  Typically hosted by churches in lieu of the typical door-to-door candy-collecting, Trunk or Treat is basically a gathering of families in a large parking lot with decorated cars.  Kids visit each car for a treat.  It looks something like this:

trunkortreat1

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It isn’t necessarily always hosted by churches, either.  Local municipalities have started hosting Trunk or Treat nights for families who live in rural areas, who have strict curfew laws, or for other reasons.  However, keep in mind, if you are purposely trying to avoid the “scary” stuff, you may want to choose a Trunk or Treat hosted by a church.

So, it’s basically costumes and candy and fun… and depending on where the Trunk or Treat is hosted, there could also be other activities like music, food, entertainment, and so on.  Which also sounds a lot like the parties and fall festivals that also take place, in case a local Trunk or Treat isn’t happening.  That sounds like more fun than traipsing through a dark neighborhood worrying about whether or not someone’s porch light is on.

If you are seeking alternatives to Halloween, check with your local churches, homeschool groups, and municipalities to what’s available.  And if you can’t find something in your area, take the lead and set something up!  Host a Fall Festival or Harvest Party at your house.  Get a few friends and neighbors together to do your own Trunk or Treat… or, better yet, encourage your church/youth group/municipality to host one for the community.  You may discover that other parents are seeking alternatives, too!