Friday, January 30, 2009

Various musings

     We had a really nice week. I was really happy to find a local granary very close to my house on Friday. I was able to purchase freshly ground Whole Wheat Flour, Wheat Germ, 7 grain cereal (think oatmeal with lots of good grains) Wheat Gluten, Yeast, Raw Honey, Hydroponic Greens, Amish Butter, Farm Fresh Eggs, and Goat Milk Soap. I was in heaven. This is a sought after granary by the whole state of Alabama as well as around the world. Just down the road. I'm a happy camper! Aren't those just the most beautiful eggs you've ever seen? We had some for breakfast this morning along with some whole wheat walnut pancakes. The eggs were so creamy and yummy! 

In case your interested, they have a website and will ship their products via UPS.  It is  

     I am also going to try to make all our bread from scratch. The only problem I have had so far is the fact that our house stays pretty cool. Usually 55-65. Lately it has been closer to 55. That is just not warm enough to rise the bread. I am going to try a few tricks from an expert bread maker. She suggested to put the dough on top of the oven (with the oven on) and place a box over the bowl. This should trap the heat and help the yeast to do its job. The other suggestion she had was to run the dryer to warm it up, then place the bowl in there to let it rise. The thing I worry about with the second method is the fragrance from the essential oil I use on dryer sheets may contaminate the dough. There is no way to get the fragrance out of the dryer so I don't feel comfortable with that option. BTW..I am the worlds WORST bread maker ever. I have not had much success. Usually, I make really good hockey pucks or loaves suitable for the dog to gnaw on. I am going to start over and make sure I get it this time! It is frustrating b/c I consider myself a pretty good cook but have always struggled with bread. I'll keep you updated.

     The plants in my greenhouse have sprouted.  It is so nice to see green plants this time of year.  I am getting our cold weather veggies going for our garden.  They include: Radishes, cabbage, broccoli, carrots and spinach.  So far anyway.  I need to plant much more.  I have some flowers/bulbs started as well.  We are getting my garden plot ready but it is taking some time. We need to finish clearing out the massive tree we cut down.  We also need to till, fence it off, fertilize, and build the rectangular mounds.  So, yeah..pretty much everything needs to be done.  : )  It should not take too long though.  That is a project that should only take a few weekends. 

Lexy enjoys letting the goats out to play during our lunch break.  She really loves the baby, Sassy.  Sassy decided she wanted a taste of Lexy's hair.  I guess her beautiful golden hair somewhat resembles hay. Oh well, off to trim her hair.  : )

It was such a beautiful week our cat, Jamie even went outside to enjoy it.  I guess she thought she'd wait by the birdhouse and see what flew by. I just hope she does not bring me another "present".  1/2 of a bird and feathers all over the place is not my idea of a gift. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Companion Garden

Well, Spring will be here before we know it. I am especially excited to get started on my flower and vegetable gardens this year. I have my greenhouse set up and have my cold weather veggies started. My wonderful DH cut down an old tree and is clearing the land for my garden plot.

I am going to try planting a companion garden this year. I discovered this concept while researching different gardening methods. It utilizes a common sense approach to gardening using natural methods to enhance flavors, offer pest protection and produce a higher yield and growth.

Many plants have natural substances in their roots, flowers, leaves etc. that can alternately repel (anti-feedents) and/or attract insects depending on your needs. In some situations they can also help enhance the growth rate and flavor of other varieties. Experience shows us that using companion planting through out the landscape is an important part of integrated pest management. In essence companion planting helps bring a balanced eco-system to your landscape, allowing nature to do its' job. Nature integrates a diversity of plants, animals, and other organisms into every ecosystem so there is no waste. The death of one organism can create food for another, meaning symbiotic relationships all around.

By using companion planting, many gardeners can discourage harmful pests without losing the beneficial allies. Below is some basic information about what plants grow best together and what benefits they may have.

Plant Companion(s) and Effects

Asparagus, Tomatoes, parsley, basil

Basil, Tomatoes (improves growth & flavor); said to dislike rue; repels flies & mosquitoes

Beans ,Potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, cabbage, summer savory, most other veggies & herbs

Bean ,(bush) Sunflowers ,(beans like partial shade, unless you live up north, sunflowers attract birds & bees for pollination), cucumbers (combination of heavy and light feeders), potatoes, corn, celery, summer savory

Bee Balm, Tomatoes (improves growth & flavor).

Beets, Onions, kohlrabi

Borage ,Tomatoes (attracts bees, deters tomato worm, improves growth & flavor), squash, strawberries

Cabbage Family (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi) Potatoes, celery, dill, chamomile, sage, thyme, mint, pennyroyal, rosemary, lavender, beets, onions; aromatic plants deter cabbage worms

Caraway, Loosens soil; plant here and there

Carrots, Peas, lettuce, chives, onions, leeks, rosemary, sage, tomatoes

Catnip, Plant in borders; protects against flea beetles

Celery, Leeks, tomatoes, bush beans, cauliflower, cabbage

Chamomile, Cabbage, onions

Chervil ,Radishes (improves growth & flavor).

Chives, Carrots; plant around base of fruit trees to discourage insects from climbing trunk

Corn ,Potatoes, peas, beans, cucumbers, pumpkin, squash

Cucumber, Beans, corn, peas, radishes, sunflowers

Dead Nettle, Potatoes (deters potato bugs)

Dill ,Cabbage (improves growth & health), carrots

Eggplant, Beans

Fennel ,Most plants are supposed to dislike it.

Flax, Carrots, potatoes

Garlic, Roses & raspberries (deters Japanese beetle); with herbs to enhance their production of essential oils; plant liberally throughout garden to deter pests

Horseradish ,Potatoes (deters potato beetle); around plum trees to discourage curculios

Hyssop, Cabbage (deters cabbage moths), grapes; keep away from radishes

Lamb's Quarters ,Nutritious edible weeds; allow to grow in modest amounts in the corn

Leek, Onions, celery, carrots

Lemon Balm Here and there in the garden

Marigold The workhorse of pest deterrents; keeps soil free of nematodes; discourages many insects; plant freely throughout the garden.

Marjoram, Here and there in the garden

Mint, Cabbage family; tomatoes; deters cabbage moth

Nasturtium ,Tomatoes, radish, cabbage, cucumbers; plant under fruit trees; deters aphids & pests of curcurbits

Onion ,Beets, strawberries, tomato, lettuce (protects against slugs), beans (protects against ants), summer savory

Parsley ,Tomato, asparagus

Pea ,Squash (when squash follows peas up trellis), plus grows well with almost any vegetable; adds nitrogen to the soil

Petunia Protects beans; beneficial throughout garden

Potato, Horseradish, beans, corn, cabbage, marigold, limas, eggplant (as a trap crop for potato beetle)

Pot Marigold Helps tomato, but plant throughout garden as deterrent to asparagus beetle, tomato worm & many other garden pests

Pumpkin Corn

Radish ,,Peas, nasturtium, lettuce, cucumbers; a general aid in repelling insects

Rosemary Carrots, beans, cabbage, sage; deters cabbage moth, bean beetles & carrot fly

Rue Roses & raspberries; deters Japanese beetle; keep away from basil

Sage ,Rosemary, carrots, cabbage, peas, beans; deters some insects

Soybean Grows with anything; helps everything

Spinach Strawberries

Squash, Nasturtium, corn

Strawberry, Bush beans, spinach, borage, lettuce (as a border)

Summer Savory, Beans, onions; deters bean beetles

Sunflower Cucumber

Tansy,Plant under fruit trees; deters pests of roses & raspberries; deters flying insects, also Japanese beetles, striped cucumber beetles, squash bugs; deters ants

Tarragon Good throughout garden

Thyme Here and there in garden; deters cabbage worm

Tomato,Chives, onion, parsley, asparagus, marigold, nasturtium, carrot, limas

Valerian Good anywhere in garden

Wormwood As a border, keeps animals from the garden

Yarrow, Plant along borders, near paths, near aromatic herbs; enhances essential oil production of herbs

Resource: The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, J.I. Rodale (editor) .

I am also learning about year-round gardening. It is possible to have a year round garden with lots planning and care.

I can't wait to get my hands in the dirt. I'll keep you updated on how it goes.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New School Room

I finally have our school room presentable enough to share some pictures. (still needs some organizing) It took me longer to settle in after this move than any of the others. Completing a full DITY across almost 5,000 miles, moving at the start of the school year, buying a house and sheer exhaustion contributed just a little bit. : )
I wanted a more comfortable school room than we had previously. I wanted it to be a place warm and inviting. Not too traditional or sterile. I used many of the kids projects to decorate. Lexy's insect collection is now in a shadow box with her hornet nest displayed close by. I framed some precious flowers the kids picked for me when they were little and hung them on the back wall. They are the first things I see each morning upon entering and it just puts joy in my heart. Their rock and crystal collection is displayed alongside their microscope and nature keepsakes. A stained glass butterfly (the first stained glass piece I ever made) is floating above the table. There are just a few bookcases (yep, 4 is just a few for me, lol) in the home school room. These hold just the kids reading books and binders with their finished work in them. The bulk of their curriculum and resources are stored in bookcases in my office.

I'm happy with how the room turned out. The kids are comfortable and not distracted. The muted tones and soft light really help us all keep calm and relaxed. Now I just need to stop buying so many books before I run out of room.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


What better way to learn about microorganisms and decomposition than composting?  Plus I get free kid labor to  further the health of my garden. (lol)  Lee was kind enough to make a bin for us with left over wood from some crates he built.  We started by adding a thick layer of oak and pine on the bottom.  Then we layered the compost with "green" and "brown" plant material to get it started.  We have been saving and dumping all kitchen scraps (minus fatty foods or meat) to the compost almost daily. I turn it over every two weeks to speed up the process.  It has been about a month now and we can see that everything is breaking down and turning into a nice healthy fertilizer that will benefit our flowers and vegetables greatly.  We found the process of decomposition very interesting, especially the tiny microorganisms that do most of the work.

In the process of composting, microorganisms break down organic matter and produce carbon dioxide, water, heat, and humus, the relatively stable organic end product. Under optimal conditions, composting proceeds through three phases: 1) the mesophilic, or moderate-temperature phase, which lasts for a couple of days, 2) the thermophilic, or high-temperature phase, which can last from a few days to several months, and finally, 3) a several-month cooling and maturation phase.

Initial decomposition is carried out by mesophilic microorganisms, which rapidly break down the soluble, readily degradable compounds. The heat they produce causes the compost temperature to rapidly rise.As the temperature rises above about 40°C, the mesophilic microorganisms become less competitive and are replaced by others that are thermophilic, or heat-loving. At temperatures of 55°C and above, many microorganisms that are human or plant pathogens are destroyed. Because temperatures over about 65°C kill many forms of microbes and limit the rate of decomposition, compost managers use aeration and mixing to keep the temperature below this point.

During the thermophilic phase, high temperatures accelerate the breakdown of proteins, fats, and complex carboydrates like cellulose and hemicellulose, the major structural molecules in plants. As the supply of these high-energy compounds becomes exhausted, the compost temperature gradually decreases and mesophilic microorganisms once again take over for the final phase of "curing" or maturation of the remaining organic matter.


Bacteria are the smallest living organisms and the most numerous in compost; they make up 80 to 90% of the billions of microorganisms typically found in a gram of compost. Bacteria are responsible for most of the decomposition and heat generation in compost. They are the most nutritionally diverse group of compost organisms, using a broad range of enzymes to chemically break down a variety of organic materials.

Bacteria are single-celled and structured as either rod-shaped bacilli, sphere-shaped cocci or spiral-shaped spirilla. Many are motile, meaning that they have the ability to move under their own power. At the beginning of the composting process (0-40°C), mesophilic bacteria predominate. Most of these are forms that can also be found in topsoil.

As the compost heats up above 40°C, thermophilic bacteria take over. The microbial populations during this phase are dominated by members of the genus Bacillus. The diversity of bacilli species is fairly high at temperatures from 50-55°C but decreases dramatically at 60°C or above. When conditions become unfavorable, bacilli survive by forming endospores, thick-walled spores that are highly resistant to heat, cold, dryness, or lack of food. They are ubiquitous in nature and become active whenever environmental conditions are favorable.Once the compost cools down, mesophilic bacteria again predominate. The numbers and types of mesophilic microbes that recolonize compost as it matures depend on what spores and organisms are present in the compost as well as in the immediate environment. In general, the longer the curing or maturation phase, the more diverse the microbial community it supports.Actinomycetes

The characteristic earthy smell of soil is caused by actinomycetes, organisms that resemble fungi but actually are filamentous bacteria. Like other bacteria, they lack nuclei, but they grow multicellular filaments like fungi. In composting they play an important role in degrading complex organics such as cellulose, lignin, chitin, and proteins.Fungi

Fungi include molds and yeasts, and collectively they are responsible for the decomposition of many complex plant polymers in soil and compost. In compost, fungi are important because they break down tough debris, enabling bacteria to continue the decomposition process once most of the cellulose has been exhausted.Protozoa

Protozoa are one-celled microscopic animals. They are found in water droplets in compost but play a relatively minor role in decomposition. Protozoa obtain their food from organic matter in the same way as bacteria do but also act as secondary consumers ingesting bacteria and fungi.


Rotifers are microscopic multicellular organisms also found in films of water in the compost. They feed on organic matter and also ingest bacteria and fungi.

We used Cornell as a source for our project and information for this topic. It was very thorough and helpful.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Frog guts.....

I do not know of any other girl who would ask for a dissection kit for Christmas. I think she is such a neat kid. (I am just a little partial) She dissected her frog on Monday and did a great job!
The frog was a female and was just filled with eggs. She was just about ready to lay them when she was caught. (Poor thing) Lex went step by step and learned about each organ and function and how they worked together. What a neat project! We still have a fish, worm and crawdad to dissect. I'm sure they all will be as fun as the frog.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Home school

Every home schooling mom longs for the days when their kids will appreciate all the hard work and dedication it takes to teach them at home. Some days can be such a struggle and we wonder if what we are doing really matters.

Every once in a while, we get a nugget from our children. A kind word, a hug or even a thank you. This morning, my sweet daughter made me cry. That is not easy to do. I am usually stone-faced and tough. Not a lot gets to me, emotionally speaking. Her letter melted my heart and reassured me that I am indeed doing the Lord's will.

Here is her letter:


Thank you so much for helping me with math today. Thank you for goofing off and being patient although I took up a good part of your day. Thanks for not giving up on me even when I give up on myself. You lighten my load and inspire me all the time.

I love you.

P.S. You probably don't want to mess with the black sweats in the laundry because I think Keri peed on them. (our cat snuck in the house, she is SUPPOSED to live outside but keeps finding her way in)

Excuse me while I grab some tissues.

And wash the same load of laundry 20 times.

I am so blessed with this child.

You Can Do It
Tuesday / November 17, 2009

"Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Have you been experiencing setbacks lately while homeschooling? Are your children rebelling or acting bored? Do friends continue to harass you about your decision and worry that your children will be socially inept by the time they graduate? Is all the hard work of balancing time for your spouse, your children, and yourself just too much? Are the unpaid bills or unfinished chores keeping you awake at night? Maybe God never really wanted you to homeschool in the first place? After all, if He did, things wouldn't be so hard, right?

Are you interested in a printed version of this devotional? Then check out the new Daily Focus devotional book, perfect for your own Bible study or as a gift. Order your copy today!

Those are the experiences and thoughts I felt homeschooling four children. Second guessing myself, I was ready to walk away and experience the "good life" of corporate reward and fulfillment. Anything had to be better than the frustration I was going through now. But each time I determined to give up and send my children to school, a wonderful day of homeschooling blessings would encourage me again. My spiritual and homeschooling journeys became intertwined, and I learned that any success I had when teaching my children was dependent on my closeness to God's heart.

My days of looking for a way out eventually ended when God gave me my own homeschooling life verse, "Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (2 Timothy 2:10). I knew I could endure any homeschooling negatives for the sake of my children's salvation and growth in Christ. I was ashamed and humbled before God with my foolish fears and doubts. Even though I had been faithless and ready to quit to avoid suffering, God had remained faithful and encouraged me when I needed encouragement most (2 Timothy 2:13a).

God is waiting to encourage you today, too. He wants to meet you right where you are and give you the strength you need to be a faithful teacher. Learn from His sacrificial and loving example to faithfully teach you. "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds" (Hebrews 12:2-3).

Jesus, your love for me amazes me every day. My life is not my own, and I recommit my family and homeschooling to You today. Use me to be a blessing to these wonderful children. Help me stand against the temptation to feel sorry for myself. In Your precious name, Amen.

Chicken Mummy

Cody has waited for weeks to make a chicken mummy.

He has been learning all about mummies and how they are made.
He learned all about how decomposition happens, the different ways mummies have been made over time, and the traditions and religious beliefs that go along with it. There was only one thing he did not expect.

Say what? I have to stick my hand where???

Mom! Your joking. Right? Right mommy? Why aren't you answering me, mommy?

(I apologize in advance for the wording used in the video. I usually don't like that word but was too busy laughing like a freak and traumatizing my son to correct him.

After we simmered down, Cody's big sister came to the rescue. She agreed to hold the chicken so he could just spoon the salt mixture in cavity.

After he added the salt mixture, he added herbs and spices so it would not smell so bad.
We have to check on the chicken every few days and replace the salt mixture until the chicken is completely dried out. The whole process can take up to 6 weeks. At which time the chicken will be properly mummified and we will wrap in in linen.
This is our last chicken mummy, as Cody is the youngest kiddo. Makes me sad.

No one else to traumatize.

Good Times.

Quick, What do you call small rivers that run into the Nile River? Juveniles.

Cody checked on his replication of the Nile River and the "crops" that surround it. He had sprouts everywhere! He flooded the Nile last week and his crops are thriving. He had to flood it again to make the crops grow even more. He also made a model of pyramids and made an Egyptian scene to go along with it.

So, now he has Egyptian pyramids right next to the Nile. Hmmm, what do do next? Maybe a shaduf by the river? No, actually he will be making a chicken mummy. Yes, with a real chicken. We are a little strange around here.

There is so much to learn from doing projects like this. Science, math, history, following directions, creativity and it gives such a good visual example of how things may have looked long ago. What better way to learn than a hands on, fun project?

Making the pyramids was a great reinforcement to learning perfect squares, beginning multiplication and addition facts. The first layer of the pyramid was made with 25 sugar cubes, the second with 16, the third with 9, the fourth with 3, the fifth with 2 and the last with 1. We put the cubes into several groups to represent many different facts before we glued them down.

Most of all, this project made learning fun, and that is what I want the kids to think.

Learning is fun.

Back to it....Again
So, we are back from Florida. Back from our breaks and vacations and spur of the moment trips. Our start to the school year has had a few interruptions but I think that is one of the great things about homeschooling. We can pick up and go when we want without having to worry . We school year -round and that enables us to be pretty flexible.

Now that we are back, it is time to hit school pretty hard. It will take us a few weeks to get into a good routine again. My kids are just like any other kid when it comes to school. They whine and complain and try to bargain their way out of school after a break. Until they realize that there is no escape and they might as well give in. It is hard having your mom for a teacher and dad for a principle. And a little weird when the administration hugs and kisses a lot. That's another story though.
Cody is studying about The Nile River and Egyptians. His project this week was to make a model of The Nile River and then flood it to make his "crops" grow. His model is made from soil from our compost, pebbles, rocks, aluminum foil, and grass seed. He has to flood it every week to simulate how The Nile River floods every year. We'll post an update in a few weeks when it greens up a little. He really enjoyed making this project.

May I get something off my chest?

Homeschooling my children is a personal family decision that was not taken lightly. It is a decision we made because it is the right thing for our family and children. I do not think homeschooling is a good choice for all families.

Our family is not in competition with public or private school children or even other home school children. We do not think we are better than others because of our choice to home school. I would not be condescending or rude to other families who chose to send their kids to public or private school.

There seems to be quite a few people who assume that home school families really don't do anything. These same people make inaccurate assumptions and feel the need to quiz home school children and ask them questions based on what they think that child should know. This in intrusive, insulting, offensive and singles out the child making them feel less than.

There are so many different methods and curricula that homeschoolers use. Most of the time it is completely different that what public schools use. Maybe your fourth grader is studying The Civil War so you think that all fourth graders should know everything about The Civil War. So, of course, if my fourth grader (who is home schooled) is not studying the The Civil War and does not answer your question right, he must not be getting a proper education.

I can not tell you how inaccurate and frustrating this is. It would be the same thing as me asking a public schooled child if they know the Latin Declensions, The first Sumerian Dictator, the components of formal logic, or how to apply the Pythagorean Theorem all while raising my eyebrows and thinking they are not educated if they can not answer. Maybe they know these things, maybe not. What an uncomfortable situation for a child to be in.

The point is that when others go out of their way to single out a child and ask them questions like this it is really just a person who is not properly informed on home schooling trying to prove their bias. It is rude and hurtful to the child.

Most home school moms I know would be happy to talk about their curriculum, method, and lessons. If you are curious, just ask her. You would be surprised what you may learn and how your perception may change.

Daily Focus

Every day, I get the home school version of Daily Focus delivered to my inbox. This devotional starts off my day right and is usually spot on with how I am feeling and what I struggle with. Today's was really great so I thought I'd share.

Had Known
Wednesday / August 26, 2009

Looking back over your homeschooling experiences, what would you do differently? Enjoy these reflections gleaned from other homeschooling parents just like you:

Are you interested in a printed version of this devotional? Then check out the new Daily Focus devotional book, perfect for your own Bible study or as a gift. Order your copy today!

  • If I had known that teaching my children would be so much fun, I would have started homeschooling sooner.
  • If I had known my children were going to grow as fast as older women said they would, I would have treasured our time together even more.
  • If I had known that my son was going to become an archeologist and dig in the dirt for a profession, I would have never worried about removing the stains when washing his clothes.
  • If I had known that all my children would go on to receive college degrees, I would have never second guessed my curriculum choices and teaching abilities.
  • If I had known how unimportant it was to keep a spotless house, I would have gone to bed on time instead of spending countless hours cleaning, organizing, and tidying up for the next day.
  • If I had known how living on one income would build a solid faith in God, I would have gladly lived with less without all the complaining.
  • If I could only experience the thrill of one job to last an entire lifetime, I would homeschool my children all over again.
Whatever lessons you’ve learned from homeschooling so far, you’re incredibly blessed to teach your children. Praise God for the wonderful opportunity to be both your child’s parent and teacher! “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Lord, I lift up a grateful heart of praise and thank You for all my homeschooling joys. As we begin a new school year, please help me appreciate the benefits of homeschooling even more. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

August 12, 2009


I am currently planning our curriculum, lessons, projects, activities and
field trips for the entire school year for three different grades.
Then, I am putting every day of planning in my online home school
If you don't hear from me soon, send help. I'm probably buried under
books and papers and can't find my way out.

Or my brain exploded.

One of the two.

August 2, 2009
Keeping it Real.

I know this will come as a huge shock but I'm actually going to be serious for a bit. No jokes or sarcasm........just real.

Bear with me now, it won't be that bad.

Before I left for the convention this weekend, I was feeling very burdened and overwhelmed. Don't we all feel that way sometimes? I guess it has been my turn this month. I almost did not even go, thinking I had way to much to do and it was selfish of me to go away for the day.

Moms in general have a lot of pressure but homeschooling moms have even more. We want to succeed. We want to tailor the curriculum to each child. We want to be productive, efficient, fun, and bring out the best in our children. On top of that we want to challenge them, socialize them, and provide every opportunity we can for them to excel. We pour over curriculum, methods, schedules, and supplemental activities. Those decisions alone are enough to make any homeschool mom lock herself in the bedroom closet and eat an entire bag of chocolate. (ok, I lied, I can't be 100% serious)

On top of all that, we have so much pressure. Not only self-imposed but also from family, friends, and the wonderful woman at the checkout counter who grills you with questions about laws and socialization and how will they ever learn to stand in line or wait their turn or deal with bullies and what about the prom for goodness sake?

Well, some of the worst pressure can come from

wait for it....

other home school moms. You know what I mean. The grilling over methods, styles, rigorous routines, instruments, how many grade levels ahead their little Johnny is compared to your little Sally and let's not forget how their children all sing merrily while doing their chores and rebuilding computers while your child has their finger up their nose.

It is so easy to listen to all the voices around you that fill your head with doubt. You may see other families that look like they have it all together. Let me tell you, not one of them do.

Not one.

They are second guessing everything they do every bit as much as you are. There is an undercurrent of competitiveness and an impossible standard to live up to. It is unspoken but it is there.

Logically, we know this. We also know what nonsense it is. Even so, there can still be a pulling in the back of our head that we are not doing enough.

For our family, the decision to homeschool was one that was prayed about a great deal. I felt convicted by God that this was the path for OUR family. (I am emphatic that it is not for every family) I felt confident and happy that we were doing the Lord's will and felt blessed to be able to do so. Part of every Christian's life are spiritual battles. It seems like the closer you get to doing the Lord's will, the more intense the spiritual battles become.

Lets remember where doubt, fear, second-guessing, competitiveness, isolation, striving, feeling defeated and wanting to give up come from. It is not from God.

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:29-30
Anything that comes from God does not feel like a burden. If you are feeling burdened and defeated, like we all do at times, remember it does not come from the Lord. Lies come from one place and have one purpose. To defeat you. To break you down. To make you throw in the towel. To make you turn away from God.

Going to the convention this weekend was the best thing I could have done. I realize now the guilt I was feeling beforehand was just another spiritual battle. If I stayed home I would have missed out on hearing exactly what I needed to hear.

I listened to a wonderful speaker, Todd Wilson. He delivered such a wonderful message about the lies we listen to every day. The pressure we put on ourselves because of those lies and how they can destroy us. He reminded us of the above verse (Matthew 11:29-30) and gave us permission (and ordered us) to live in the truth. It took such a heavy load off my back. It brought tears to my eyes and after looking around the room I realized I was not the only one.

How many of us feels burdened and defeated? How much of that originates in lies and guilt?

I want to live in the light and the truth. I do not wish to be fake.

I homeschool for my children and for them alone.

Not praise or accolades.

Not approval.

And certainly not to impress anyone else.

At the closing of the seminar, Todd made us say the homeschooling mom pledge that he made up. I am going to print it out and put it on my computer so I can be reminded of it every day.

I, ___________(Name), do solemnly swear to plug my ears, refusing to believe the lies that ALL homeschooling moms believe. I will believe the truth and remind other homeschooling moms of the truth as well. I refuse to pretend to have it all together. I will be open, honest, and REAL with at least one other homeschooling mom. I will remember what's most important and forsake the rest. I will love my children, even if they never get "it". I will not give up. I will not wish it away. I will not throw in the towel. I willingly sacrifice my free time, my leisure, and my life for my children, my husband, and my God because it is worth it. And I swear to BELIEVE the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.


So, in closing, I just want you to know:

My boys run around in their underwear 1/2 the time.

My children do not sing merrily while doing chores.

Sometimes, I hide in my closet and eat a whole bag of chocolate.

Keepin it real.

July 8, 2009

Oooey Gooey.....

Oooey Gooey was a worm.
A mighty worm was he.
He stepped upon the railroad tracks,
The train he did not see!
Ooooey Gooooey!

We could not do our worm study without remembering Ooooey Goooey.
For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, check out the book, Linguistic Development through poetry memorization by Andrew Pudewa. It is a wonderful program.

Anyway, we moved on to the phylum, Annelida. Annelida is pretty much a catch all group that includes any long and thin and more or less legless creature that is not a snake that has segments. Annelida means, "little rings" which, of course, is referring to the segments these animals have.

There are only three large groups or phyla of real worms, which are only distantly related to each other.

One group is the flatworms, which includes tapeworms. They're more or less flat and are not all parasitic like the tapeworms.

Another group (or phyla) is the roundworms. They're all round in cross-section and smooth-bodied. Some are parasitic, some are thin and live in the soil (nematodes)

The third group, to which our wonderful earthworms belong, is the segmented worms or annelids. They are round in cross section too, but their bodies are ringed, or segmented. This distinguishes them from the roundworms.

The children dissected an earthworm this afternoon. They learned about the digestive, excretive, and reproductive systems of the earthworm.

They balked and gagged and acted like a bunch of hoodlums, then they settled down and became interested in the different organs and their functions.

The boys especially liked the digestive system. What boy does not like talking about bodily functions? The word I hated teaching them about the most was.....anus. Ugh. That word just makes me want to gag. Yet, I have to teach the anatomy. Why could they not come up with a better name? That just sounds.....wrong. I'm going to start inventing my own words for things I don't like to say. Yes, then I will sit back and watch the mayhem and confusion it creates.

After the digestive system, Cody fell asleep. Laying on a chair, with his feet planted on the floor. I guess when you have gone through all the potty humor, what is left but to sleep? It wears a boy out.

Well, the children (the one's who were still awake) continued to learn about the reproductive system of an earthworm and also the excretory system. They found the fact that an earthworm is an hermaphrodite....interesting, as well as hard to wrap their little brains around. Even though an earthworm is an hermaphrodite, it still needs a mate. It can not reproduce with itself. It just needs another worm and an exchange of...........secretions that will settle into an egg capsule.

Um, can I just say, earthworms are gross? Thank you.

I think we all found the earthworm fascinating. They have much more organs and anatomy than suspected. The kids were surprised to learn earthworms have an esophagus and a gizzard. (like chickens) They have the basic structures that most life forms have and it was a wonderful introduction to anatomy. They also learned why mommy wants them in her garden and were instructed to bring each and every one they found home so I can put them in the compost bin.

We still have a craw fish and a perch to dissect. Good times!

I need to order more animals to explore. We are almost out!

Hmmmmm......starfish, shark, cat, pig.....What will be next????

Are you grossed out yet?

June 26, 2009

Okay, okay back to work.

We had a nice break. Had a lot of fun and now we are on our summer schedule.

Our summer schedule is a little more laid back than our regular school year schedule. We do 4 subjects a day with a focus on two subjects. So, for example, on Monday we focus on Math and Science, allowing an hour and a half for each subject. We will also do supplemental activities like creative writing, devotions, projects, experiments or art. On Tuesday we would focus on Language Arts and History and then throw in some of the activities already mentioned. This pattern is repeated throughout the week. Friday is when we will go on field trips or do a fun activity.

For science this summer, I thought it would be fun to focus on animals and insects while we have an opportunity for hands on learning. We will add to our insect collections and study the insects specific to this area. We will also focus on animals and try to observe, take nature walks, and experiment whenever possible. I'd also like to throw in some sketching and journaling. We have a worm, craw fish and perch to dissect. It should be fun!

I also wanted to cover a few areas they have not covered yet. One of those areas is learning to classify animals. We have started with Mollusca this week. They have learned about the different animals included in this group, picked one to write a report about, did supplemental reading and research and did a sketch. We will continue this for the other phyla to include:
Annelida, Ecinodermata, Cnidaria, Chordates, Arthropoda and Crustacea.
Brandon and Lexie's sketches and narrations.
Brandon did his on the Atlantic Giant Squid. He could not believe they get as big as 44 feet.
Lexie did hers on The blue ringed Octopus. This is the only Phalopod with a deadly bite.
This is Cody's. He chose the Vampire Squid based only on the name. He thought it was funny. This squid has connective tissue between the tentacles that looks like a vampire cape. Plus, it is black or dark red and has a bright blue eye. Cody loved learning about it. His handwriting is really coming along and his pictures are getting more and more detailed.

We are on break. Please enjoy the pretty picture above while we go on field trips, go berry picking, have water fights, go to the beach, read, and take naps on the front porch bench swings.


August 7, 2009

On my way home from town I pass this old house. My Dh calls it a shotgun house. Because the cracks between the slats are large enough to put the barrel of a gun through. The house is old and falling apart but something calls to me every time I pass it. I love old buildings. Old barns. Old houses. It speaks to another time and place, tells a story, and has its own history.

I softened the colors in this shot to a bare minimum. I love the pale gray colors of the house with the light green from the grass. It almost has an antique feel to it.

The sun started to set and it cast a brilliant red hue behind the trees. I love the dark contrast of the house against the sun-lit sky.
Black and white photos are my favorite. I think it takes all the busyness and distraction out of the photos and spotlights the subject better.

The sun is always brighter just before it disappears for the day. I love the last drops of sunlight right before nightfall.

July 10, 2009

Swan Mosaic for my dear friend, Ann

One thing I have not talked about in a long time is my passion for art.
I am a self-taught artist. My favorite medium to work with is glass. Mosaics and stained glass are my addiction. I also love to paint and draw and create ceramics.

This is a stained glass mosaic table I made with left over pieces from teaching students how to make stained glass mosaics.
This was my first attempt at making a stained glass piece for my good friend Marti.
(Notice how I use my friends as guinea pigs for my art pieces?)

My interest started around age 5 or so. I would go out in my front yard with a plastic yellow bowl, a metal spoon, and the garden hose. We had a spot by the garden that was just a patch of dirt, my favorite spot in the yard. I would mix water and dirt to make mud of different consistencies. I could create a clay consistency and form different things, I would create a
runny consistency and draw in it, I would mix grass, rocks and flowers in it to play with texture
and yes, I would make mud pies and give them to my dad.

From then on my interest grew. I taught myself to draw and paint. I made mixed media pieces. I made happy pieces, sad pieces, and downright depressing pieces. Maybe I'll share some of those later on. I got to the point where I could look at most things and just draw them. I have painted murals, painted on canvas, dappled in watercolors, acrylic, and oil. I pretty much love it all.

This is a mixed media piece I made for my sweet friend, Jamie. She was in Alaska for several years and did not have one art piece to remember it by, so I made her a native blanket toss piece in watercolor and ink. This was one of my favorite projects. Simple, colorful, symbolic.

I did quite a few murals as well. My husband is Air Force. I have to state that outright. He wanted me to do a mural for him but we could never figure out exactly what he wanted and where, so I never completed one for him. But, our good friend, the Marine recruiter wanted a mural and knew exactly what he wanted so I made one for him. This is how it turned out. I have a more detailed picture somewhere but can not find it at the moment.

This mural was in my boys room in Alaska. This is when my middle boy was 6 or so and my youngest was 3. Perfect super hero age. They loved it. Until the older boy thought he was too old for super heroes. It just about killed me to paint over this before we moved. The US flag was on the other wall and the whole room was red, white, and blue.

Picasso. Reminiscent of his 1907 piece. It is mask like and similar to his obsession with mask art.

While in Alaska, I taught art. I had about 50 students and taught for one year. I had home school students as well as public school students. Pre-school to 12 years of age. I really, really enjoyed teaching art. I was able to watch the kids blossom, see them express themselves, and even see a few sparks of budding life-long artists.

We dabbled in every medium I could think of. My favorite and I think the kids favorite was our mosaic project. We took 2 months to focus on mosaics. The first few weeks were spent on learning about mosaics. The history and different types. Then they drew their own design, cut their own pieces, placed, glued and grouted. They were so proud of themselves. I was pretty darn proud of them too.

Here are several projects the students completed:

Butterfly MosaicPirate Ship mosaicSumi-EMandalasAndy Worhal style portraits Pointillism
Glass Fusion Wire SculptureImpressionismClay Faces after Edvard Munch...The Scream

PrintingPreschool Collage class after Eric Carle's style

Pre school still life...Oranges.

I am far from being a professional artist and still have a lot to learn. I miss teaching but simply do not have the time or space right now. I have had a few parents ask if I could do lessons over the Internet. That is something I am trying to wrap my head around. A lot can be done with a web cam. I am just not sure about the logistics and time I would have available. I would love to do it though. I had thought about offering lessons here, step by step, for those who may be interested. We'll see how that goes.

I have not had a lot of time for art this past year. We have done so much work on the property and have pretty much changed our whole way of life. We are starting to get use to it and I hope things will settle down enough for me to work art back in.

I am taking time to work on a piece right now. I have a dear, sweet, wonderful friend whom is the would-be recipient....if I ever, ever, ever, get it done. I started this project way back last summer before things became so chaotic. It has been on my heart and mind to get it done, so I am focusing on that today and this weekend. I worked on it for 6 hours today. I have a lot of detail work to do but hopefully will finish it soon.

My dear friend is Eastern Russian Orthodox. She has a saint that she is named after, Saint Irene. I will posts links later on as I am link-challenged at the moment.

I asked her before I started painting this if it was okay for me to do so. Usually, Iconoclasts paint icons and it is a religious process. There is fasting, and prayer and a spirit of creating work for the glory of God, not pride or compliments.

I did not want to be disrespectful to her or to the process. She assured me it would be okay and she would have it blessed when completed. That just touched my heart. So many things about her religion touch my heart.
I have a lot more work to do. I saved the hardest part (for me) for last. The face and hands.
It always takes me a long time to get the right facial tones, shades and tints.

So, here it is, months and months later, I am finally making some progress on it. I hope to have it completed and sent off to her soon.

I hope to use this section to keep track of my art projects and goals. We'll see how much time I can actually devote to it.

If you have read this far, you either have a passion for art like I do or are just really bored. Either way, thanks for reading my dribble. Maybe we can inspire each other.