Saturday, February 28, 2009

Local is Best!

What could be better than driving through the rolling countryside for 10 minutes to buy local honey from a kind man at his beautiful farm?  Nothing!  That is just what I was doing this morning.  I used to buy "Walt's Swarmbustin Honey" 
at our local dairy or natural food store, but then I noticed that Walt's address is West Grove, the same as ours.  I gave him a call and have been to his farm twice to pick out my own honey.  Much better than a store!  I have had the chance to chat with Walt, see where he produces his honey, and become a part of my honey experience!  Most importantly, my children and I can enjoy Walt's Fall Wildflower honey (the best!)  on our fresh bread in the morning!  YES!  

I decided to write about this fun experience as I think about buying our food locally.  I have always been interested in buying at farmer's markets and local farms, but now it has become a passion of mine.  For the last 6 years, I have bought a lot of our produce from a local Amish family, Mary and Abner Stoltzfus.  It is truly wonderful to wait while Mary goes and picks the vegetables that I have requested.   Strawberries still warm from the June sunshine can't be beat!

In our new home, we now have Mother Earth organic mushroom farm right around the corner.  I often pick up a box of fresh, organic mushrooms grown a few miles from our home.

But, of course, the most local food is that which we produce ourselves!  Organic gardening has been a great joy for me.  NOTHING beats seeing my children picking food from our garden and eating it on the spot!  Maddie grew and ate so many tomatoes last year, along with beautiful flowers which she would cut and bring into our home, as well as gift to others.  Ben could not get enough peas and is currently counting down the days until he can plant his own (finally almost here!).  Leah grew her own carrots last year, which she really enjoyed harvesting.  It is so much fun to pull up a carrot and see how big it is!  And Amelia grew so many cherry tomatoes that some rotted on the plant because we had trouble finding them in the jungle that it became!  For me, this is IT!  The absolute best!  I felt overwhelmed with joy when I could fill a basket with what would be our dinner right from my garden.  This year, I will add potatoes, onions, and strawberries to our list of food that we grow.  So, the list will include peas, spinach, lettuce, chard, kale, green beans, tomatoes, peppers, basil, onions, garlic, potatoes, strawberries, blueberries, asparagus, squash, pumpkins, corn, broccoli, ....and maybe some more!  So far, I have little broccoli, lettuce, and kale seedlings growing in our spare room. Fabulous to see this beginning of the growing season right in our home!

As a sticker on the back of my car says, "Buy Fresh, Buy Local!"

Friday, February 27, 2009

Labrynth Reflections....

Today, Maddie, Amelia, Leah, Ben, my mom and I went to the DE Museum of Art and walked the labrynth that is outside.  It was about 60 degrees...fabulous for February in Pennsylvania!  Ben and Leah RAN around the beautiful rock maze trying to get to the center.  Maddie was concentrating on finding the center in a more peaceful way.  Amelia walked with me, and I told her that I was going to walk very slowly and try to concentrate on how I breathe so that I could relax.  While it was not completely RELAXING ("Ben, be careful with that stick, please!"), it was a fun time and gave me some thinking time.  

I started thinking about the beautiful weather outside today and how I'm glad that my children could enjoy it!  I'm so glad that they are not inside, staring out a window in a classroom, wishing it was time to play.  Instead, they can PLAY, whenever, wherever, and for as long as they wish!  I feel so glad that they were laughing at each other and planning what they would do when they got home this afternoon....and that they left the museum with their arms wrapped around each other.

I am so grateful that I have found my place in unschooling!  Finally, it all feels right to me.  Last year, I worried about what I was doing (and not doing) and contemplated sending them to school often.  It felt like a roller coaster ride of uncertainty.   This year, by contrast, I feel confident about my decisions.  I feel so sure that I am doing the right thing for my children at this time in our lives.  And, I feel so grateful to share each beautiful day exploring our world with my children!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I am a part of a wonderful online community, Radical Unschoolers.  I have learned so much by reading what all of these very enlightened women have to say every day.  Recently, Dayna Martin at Sparkling Martins and Unschooling America, said something that really stuck with me.  She said that she helps her children with their passions, whatever they may be.  She went on to address that some people might feel uncomfortable supporting a child who is engaged in video games all day long, but if that is their current passion, she feels strongly about supporting it in any way that she can.  I love this!  I am trying to also practice this in our family.  Right now, each of my children has many passions!  An easy example, however, is Amelia.  She is very interested in learning Spanish (along with My Little Ponies, princesses, fairies, ballet, reading, woodworking, .....).  So, to help fuel her passion, she took many Spanish books out of the library; I helped her find the section of books that are completely in Spanish.  She also selected  3 videos and a cassette tape about learning Spanish.  Yesterday, she searched the web for Spanish recipes and then made one....yummy Spanish baked apples!  I helped her order a CD from Amazon to help her learn more Spanish.  Tonight, I am taking her to a program at our local library for people who are practicing their Spanish.  It feels wonderful to support Amelia (and my other children) in their passions everyday!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Swashbuckling Fun Time!!!

......a phrase Ben yelled as he and Leah ran into the bathroom to play with bath toys in the sink!  Glorious fun, apparently!!!  I love it.....

And, what a day of swashbuckling fun it was!  Book club with friends, a trip to the library, cutting snowflakes from paper, tons of computer time, reading about a million library books snuggled on the sofa under a warm afghan, watering our new seedlings (can't wait for Spring!), watching a dance performance that Maddie and Amelia worked on all afternoon, sewing napkins with Amelia, .........

Swashbuckling Fun!!!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Some thoughts on learning.....

Today, while at church (the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Newark...a wonderful place to explore new ideas, accept ALL people, and celebrate this beautiful Earth that we all live on!), I saw a great poster.  It read, "Learning that is enjoyable will be remembered always."  So true.....

It made me think of all of the learning that we don't choose and we don't enjoy, and therefore, we don't remember.  What do we get from such forced "lessons?"  Not much, except a negative attitude.   It reminds me of a dear friend of our family, Beni.  She teaches Spanish at an elementary school.  She is always talking about how the children don't REMEMBER anything! This seems obvious to me.  Why should they remember something that they didn't choose to learn? 

Our daughter,  Amelia,  is the opposite of this.  She has taken to Spanish lately.  She WANTS to learn the language, so she is!  She can now count to 39 and say various phrases.  I imagine that if I had said to her, "OK, we are going to sit down and learn our Spanish lessons now," that she wouldn't be very interested at all.  (In fact, that was my original approach to reading, and boy did that backfire!  Though it really did lead me to my current unschooling approach, so not a bad thing after all.....SERENDIPITY!)

I love this unschooling life that we live!  It gives my children the chance to CHOOSE what they do on a daily basis.  And, in doing so, I know that they are learning that LIFE  IS LEARNING!
Learning is fun and natural, not forced and artificial.  Learning rocks!

Friday, February 20, 2009

A New Experience....

Today, for the first time, we went roller skating!!!  What fun!!!  It was the homeschoolers' "unskate" at the roller rink.  Ben, Leah, Maddie, and Amelia, along with their sweet friend Kerry, had so much fun!  I was truly amazed by their confidence and their willingness to try and try and try and .....try again.  Even after falling SO MANY TIMES, they stood up laughing and tried again!  What spirit!  By the end of our 2 hours, Amelia was off on her own around the rink.  Maddie was not far behind.  Leah and Ben were also gaining confidence and trying it on their own.  

I wish that I had pictures to post along with this message, but I forgot my camera!  Instead, you will have to visualize the smiles that come from having an afternoon of pure FUN!!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Our Beautiful Day......

I want to celebrate our day...full of fun, learning, laughing, loving, exploring this beautiful world that we live in!

Today, we raised about $46.00 for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation towards eventually CURING my dear daughter, Amelia, of this dreadful disease.  (We have so much hope now that Obama is president!  I am definitely a "mama for Obama!!!).  All of my children spent time yesterday making beautiful bookmarks to sell, and I baked yummy chocolate chip muffins.  And, the people who came to the Rachel Kohl Library and saw us selling things were so very generous!  

While Ben, Leah, Amelia, and I were having our diabetes sale, Maddie was enjoying her day at Open Connections. Please visit their website to see how wonderful this place is. In a nutshell, it is a place that honors young people and treats them with the respect that they deserve. It is also full of wonderful activities to explore! And, it is FUN!!!   While there, she used a hammer to turn chalk into colored dust, added water, and created a new medium to paint!  When we all finally arrived home late this afternoon, Ben, Leah, and Maddie had to try it for themselves!

To end our day, Amelia was on the computer for about 2 hours! This would have upset me a few months ago, but I now realize that this is her passion! And, I always want to support my children's passions. She spent this time adding to her blog, To Amelia.
She wrote a story, posted comments to friends' blogs (which she inspired), and even wrote to her pen pal who also has diabetes.  I admit that I used to try to force my children to write, though I would usually try to disguise my attempts by having them write letters or some other "authentic" piece of writing.  Now, with no attempts on my part, Amelia is writing like crazy!  She just had to do it on her own, in her own way, and because SHE decided to do it.  No more will I try to control my children's activities.  They know exactly what they need to be doing.  I trust this and will support them in all of their explorations!

Monday, February 16, 2009


In our family, we have been having the discussion of what to call ourselves (as I had explained in a previous post).  I really have a problem saying we "homeschool," when what we do differs greatly from other homeschool families that I know.  Tonight, Amelia came up with the best idea!  She said that what we do is "EXPLORE."  I couldn't agree more!  She went on to say that she explores the computer, she explores her camera (she is my technology girl!).  I added that we explore museums, parks, the sewing machine, the art supplies, our kitchen, friend's houses, etc......

Let's go exploring....

The Beauty of February Days...

What a beautiful day!  I feel immense gratitude that I have found the path that I am on.  I LOVE that I can set out with my children any morning that I choose and go wherever I want.  Our schedule is OURS! 

 This morning, we went to the Chadds Ford Historical Society for a program honoring our presidents.  It was a really fun time!  Lots of colonial costumes and games.  Also, there were lots of other homeschool families that we know there, which was great fun for my children!  It's funny....the day was for all families (as children have off of school today for President's Day), but the place was only filled with homeschooled children.  I was thinking about it, and I'm sure that it must be because if you attend school all week and then have a day off, you probably just want to chill at home!  I'm so glad that chilling is part of everyday for us!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I was recently tagged by April at Flow of Love to participate in the 4-4-4 meme. It goes like this...

“go into your photo archive, pick the 4th folder in the archive, select the 4th picture in the folder, and write about it. Then tag 4 other people to do the same”
I am going to tag my daughter, Amelia, at her blog, To Amelia

This is a picture from a few years ago when Maddie and Amelia were at preschool. We were getting ready to go to a holiday concert that they were participating in. This was a very important year for us (as they all are!). It was when I decided to keep them home the following year instead of sending them to kindergarten. I had every intention of sending them prior to this year. But, as I saw what they were "learning" in preschool and also what I saw when I visited the local kindergarten, my decision was fairly easy (except convincing my husband that this was the right thing to do!). For me, my visit to the kindergarten class was a perfect example of "Serendipity." My reason for going was to see what their class would be like the following year, and when I left, I knew that I would homeschool them. Unschooling came later, but that's another story....

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ben and Leah's Half Birthday! Happy 4 1/2....

In our family, we celebrate half birthdays. That is because Maddie and Amelia's half birthday is on July 4th. Ben and Leah's half birthday is the same as Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin's birthdays! So, my little ones baked a cake! (That is all that the celebration presents, no singing....but baking is always good!).

Ben's Photography....

Ben loves exploring my camera. He takes such interesting pictures. I love his perspective and especially his photos of himself! Here are a few that he took this week....

A visit to a museum...a lesson for mama....

It is so easy to believe something, and quite another thing to actually live by it...... 

 We went to a Natural History Museum today.  It is a wonderful gem in Lancaster, PA...the North Museum.   I really love it there (and most museums, in fact).  I love to explore the different displays and try to learn as much as I can about things.  Of course, some displays are naturally more interesting to me than others.  I'm very interested in dinosaurs and the Arctic but less interested in the florescent room (a strange room with florescent lights....check out my teeth!).  So, I was excited to show all of these exhibits to my 4 children, thinking that they too would find them very interesting and LEARN something from them.   I was a bit disappointed, then, when the kids raced past all of the "cool" exhibits, especially those that I was trying to EXPLAIN to them ("Look, guys, the skull of homo's evolution!!!").  

"Where are you going?" I asked.  

"Look!  A computer...," Amelia answered.  

They all made a beeline for some sort of monitor that they could manipulate.  For Ben, it was a show about whales that live in the Arctic.  He was able to move the mouse to choose what whale to spotlight.  It was really neat, and he especially liked the Narwhal whale and its large tusk.  Leah was watching a video about polar bears and their cubs (so cute!).  Maddie was doing an arctic quiz on a different computer, and Amelia was viewing icebergs on yet another manipulative display.

I was pretty upset that all they seemed to care about was the technology, but I tried to go with the flow.   At one point, I was trying to show Amelia the replica of the planets which is set up so cool with their distance from the sun and size in scale when my mom said to her, "Look.  Mommy is trying to teach you about something." Oh No! What was I doing?   I was, yet again, projecting my ideas onto my children.  Amelia didn't want to be shown anything; she wanted to EXPLORE!  I need to let them lead the way!!!  After all, I don't enjoy learning about things that don't interest me (certain required college courses come to mind here).  

I am working towards shifting my thoughts away from "What are they learning?" to "Everyone is always learning, all of the time!"  This is definitely a belief of mine.  Yet, having gone through the system and being surrounded by that same system, it is easy to doubt yourself and your young people.  But, I will continue to work towards TRUST!  Trust that they are learning exactly what they need to be, Trust that they will make their own path through life, and Trust that they will continue to love learning in its many different forms.

In the words of John Holt, "....teaching that has not been asked for will not result in learning, but will impede learning."  I believe this's remembering it that sometimes can be hard.  Thank you, Maddie, Amelia, Leah, and Ben, for reminding me!  

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Sweetie.....

This is our sweetie, Leah!  She wanted this picture to be posted.  Here you go, Leah....

Doll Making

Maddie, Amelia, and Leah (and their sweet friend who was visiting for the afternoon) were busy today making dolls.  What fun to create using art supplies of their choice.  I love seeing what they come up with on their own!  Here are a few of their beautiful creations.

The Many Faces of a Cardboard Box....

Back in Dec., Ben (age 4) wanted to make a fire engine.  So, we brought up a big, cardboard box from the basement.  Ben painted it red, and he and Leah (his twin sister) added Christmas cards to make it festive!  Well, since then, this has become a prized possession!  Ben has made his box into a snow plow, a house for his stuffed animals, a fire engine again, and many other creative play places.  In fact, when people come over to visit, we usually put the box away, because Ben does not want to share this sacred space with others!  

Today, Ben and I made the box into a 2 story room for his stuffed dog, complete with an attached string for pulling his dog to the 2nd floor!  Very creative and FUN!!!  Who needs expensive play things?  Give me a box!!!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Spring Whispers!

I love this....Spring Whispers!   The term was created by my daughter, Amelia, using our new magnetic poetry words for the fridge.  What fun!!!  Amelia spent much of her afternoon creating a long poem using so many of the words.  In doing this, besides just HAVING FUN, she was being so creative, reading, spelling, creating poetry, etc.....  

I also just love the term, Spring Whispers.  It seems to me that Spring is doing this very thing, as we get a warm "teaser" day followed by days that are cold.  Soon, I know, Spring will be beautifully loud with blooming tulips, daffodils, and tasty, new spinach leaves, but for now, we'll enjoy every small whisper that comes our way!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Question of Semantics

I have been struggling lately with the word, "Homeschooling."  To me, it implies that our family is at home hitting the books instead of doing the same thing at school.  This is the furthest thing from the truth!  Actually, we do "hit the books," but they are usually library books of my young people's choosing.  :)

It happens often when we are out and about, as we so often are.  Someone will ask how old Maddie and Amelia are and then say, "Is there no school today?"  They reply, "We homeschool."  That is met with different replies depending on the person, but generally it is something like, "Oh, your mom is your teacher."  (No, the world is their teacher.  They LIVE!)  Or, "You must have been a teacher in order to know how to teach your children."  (Yes, I was a teacher, but it has nothing to do with what goes on in our daily lives).  Or, "I could never do that!  You must be so patient." (No, I'm not always patient, but I do LOVE being with my children and I am GRATEFUL that we can spend our days together!).  

I would love to think of another term besides "homeschooling" or even "unschooling."  Unschooling is fine to say in the homeschooling crowd; they know sort of what you mean.  The outside world has no idea who John Holt is or what I mean by "life learning."  

So, if anybody has any advice, I'd love to hear it!  For now, we will continue to muddle through the questions....and enjoy our life of learning together!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Our beautiful, creative day....

Publishing time for Amelia's book!

Amelia is creating a book about her type 1 diabetes.

Maddie is our family's fashion designer.  Here she creates clothes for her princess!

Ben is creating another masterpiece on Paint Shop!

Leah is sewing her own pants, that is the holes in the pants!  (I wanted to use these very worn pants to make a quilt, but she insisted that they could be she saved them!).

Baking with my kids is so much fun!  Here we are making biscuits.  I always wonder about people who buy the Pillsbury biscuits in the market (no offense, if it is you).  It is so easy and fun to make biscuits from scratch!  Really, it was only an hour from start to finish...and best of all I know exactly what did and did not go into our food!  YUMMY!