Biscuit Feet

So, just for today, so you know I’m alive and well, I’m just going to share a thought that is totally fluff:

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.

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.

 

 

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.

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).

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

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

I Didn’t Want to Be Brave.

Last year at MOPS, I was A Beautiful Mess – and it was perfect. Feeling that it was okay to be a messy new mom, and still be beautiful – if maybe only in God’s eyes most days – was terrific.  We had lots of fun, untidy activities where we were free to be raw and real and sloppy.  It was probably the best introduction to MOPS a new mom could ask for.

abeautifulmesslogo

Then, at the end of last year’s session, they announced this year’s theme: Be You, Bravely.

beyoubravely_logo

Oh boy.

I didn’t like the idea of being brave. On purpose, that is. I had already gotten pretty real with the ladies at my MOPS table – we’d had a few good ugly cries together and I thought it was brave of me to show that side of myself.  I don’t usually cry in front of others.  Plus, I was brand-shiny-new to this whole motherhood thing – which is brave, in and of itself, too.

udder feeding

But now I’d have to be brave – on purpose? As a theme?  In my life?

I decided that I had all summer to stew over it and so I let it go.

Until the end of the summer came and it was time to register for MOPS again.

And there it was: Be You, Bravely.

I did not want to be brave. I knew that I would be asked to try new things, dig deep into myself, take a good look at my life, analyze.  Can’t I just have the safety of my sofa and yoga pants?

Bravery, to me, is bold. It is taking a stand, speaking up, and not being concerned about what others think.  In my mind, bravery looks big, strong, and risky.  It’s not always safe, and sometimes, it might be life threatening.  And I felt like some of the decisions I’d been making all along were “brave” already.

Then I thought, “Well, I could just not participate in the activities.” And then quickly recognized how ridiculous that was.  How would I realize the fullness of the fellowship I could have with my MOPS moms if I was holding back?  I would be cheating myself, and them.  And besides, maybe a new adventure or two would be good for me…

So, instead of backing down, I’m meeting bravery head on.  And it has occurred to me that bravery wears many different hats:

What if bravery isn’t about being bold, but being humble? What if bravery isn’t always taking a stand, but stepping back?  How would it feel if bravery was more about listening than speaking my mind, and being concerned about what God thought of me, instead of everyone else?  And maybe bravery is big, and strong, and risky because God created it that way – and what He creates is ultimately good.  And maybe being brave isn’t safe (socially or emotionally), but I’m always safe with the Lord.  And as far as “life threatening” goes… well, I need to lose this life to gain my new life in Christ, right?

The New Life In Christ

Right.

And the truth is, I can’t wait to see what happens when I partner with God to be me, bravely.

Autumn Catch Up

You may wonder where I’ve been since February.  Or, maybe not.  Maybe you don’t know where you’ve been since February.

i wonder

Since my February 2014, I’ve packed up 11 years worth of personal belongings, moved said personal belongings to a new house (which is actually an old, historic house), unpacked and organized said belongings into a cohesive, functioning, household – all while still working, mothering, wife-ing, social-life-ing, and generally being alive.

This does not include the unforeseen, and oft aggravating, projects that a new/old house blindsides you with – because, you know, old houses.

Lots of cool things have happened, as well as some not-so-cool, but one thing that is literally cool is the fact that it is now Autumn in New Jersey and that means things like this:

She's growing so fast, we had to capture some prints before she gets too big.

She’s growing so fast, we had to capture some prints before she gets too big.

We celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary!

We celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary!

It's apple picking time!

It’s apple picking time!

So, it is also pie baking time!

So, it is also pie baking time!

I'm getting back to taking cool pictures again.

I’m getting back to taking cool pictures again.

And luckily, my backyard is a great place to get back to my photog hobby.

And luckily, my backyard is a great place to get back to my photog hobby.

Which is good, because I have several lovely trees that I just can't stop photographing.

Which is good, because I have several lovely trees that I just can’t stop photographing.

beyoubravely_logo

And MOPS started up again for the year!

And, most recently, we went pumpkin picking.  Which means that photos of pumpkins and other various gourds will be appearing soon.

And, most recently, we went pumpkin picking. Which means that photos of pumpkins and other various gourds will be appearing soon.

In addition to it being an awesome autumn, summer was full of all sorts of goodness, too.  Lots of trips to the beach, our annual family trip to New Hampshire, and the highlight of my summer:  my sweet little nephew, DJ, was born!  He looks just like my brother.  And my sister-in-law.  It’s funny how one person can look just like, well, two.

And I don’t know what it is about this time of year, but I get starting to feel all the feelings in Autumn and well – that gets me thinking – which then makes me want to blog.

So, I’m back!  Stay tuned… there’s over 800 photos on my phone right now, along with 22 different recipes I want to share, a zillion things to say about learning and education, and copious, gratuitous photos of my new digs that I’m pretty proud of.