Friday, May 22, 2009

For those who think that "homeschooling" has to involve sitting around reading textbooks and completing workbooks, I offer you a different picture.......or pictures............

"Unschooling," by the Rehrman family............

Sewing clothes for a Webkinz puppy
Blogging, pen pal writing, and of course, Webkinz!
Watching a "Ms.Frizzle" video
A little more Webkinz.....
Reading while waiting for breakfast Creating.....
Mixing up the OJ while Leah looks in
Bubbles by Ben...all before breakfast
Mixing up the raisin bread

Of course, there was also running in the yard, gardening, instrument playing, making and eating ice-cream (so cool!), making pizza dough which was then cooked on the grill for dinner, cutting lettuce for dinner, watering, playing Sorry, taking stuffed animals camping, making a mud garden (and then of course cleaning off with the hose), reading, .......whew, I''m making myself tired just thinking about it.  Time for bed..... :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


"I'm free to do what I want any old time 
I'm free to do what I want any old time"
rolling stones

This song, though I don't even really enjoy it on the radio, keeps popping into my head.  And, I know why.  We are so free in this life that we live.  I remember this feeling when I had to stay home from school growing up.  Oh my gosh....a whole world exists outside of school.....people go shopping, cars are on the road, there are shows on the tv!  I really liked school but I couldn't wait to become a part of what goes on outside of the school during school hours.  Then I became a teacher.  I was still within those four walls for the majority of the day.  I would be envious of my husband who could leave his job to have lunch out.   It was not until I became pregnant with Maddie and Amelia that I discovered the world outside of the school!  

And now, we have FREEDOM every day!   Tomorrow, we will explore the Philadelphia Art Museum.  Today, we went to buy seeds for our garden at Agway.  We wake up when we want and go to bed the same.  We bake, read, play games, create art work, invent, make believe.....all because we want to....not because someone has told us that it is time to.  

A woman at Ben and Leah's soccer practice was telling me how she received a letter from her daughter's school due to some absences.  The letter threatened to take her to court because of the missed school days.  WHAT???  I do not want someone else telling me what to do with my children.  I am so glad that we are not a part of that game.  

There's a land that I see where the children are free
And I say it ain't far to this land from where we are
Take my hand, come with me, where the children are free
Come with me, take my hand, and we'll live

from Free to Be YOu and Me

Monday, May 18, 2009

Real Work/Real Tools

Ben loves to cook these days!  Tonight, he was making pancakes for dinner.  Mike walked in the house while Ben was pouring batter into the pan and urgently said, "Ben, be careful.  Back away from the stove; it is hot!"  I assured him that Ben is fine!  More than fine, really.  He knows that the stove is hot and he is careful.  He is confident and trusts himself because I trust him.  

A few weeks ago, I put our play kitchen down the basement.....I couldn't get rid of it entirely...too many memories.  All of my children used to like to play with it.  But, it hasn't been used for some time now.  Part of it might be their ages, but I think that part of it is that they are allowed to use our real kitchen.  Almost daily, one or more of my children can be found using the stove, baking bread or pizza dough, running the mixer (the best job around), using real ingredients to create real food....the real deal! 
 And, oh, what fun we have!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"It is the simplest, most natural of acts, akin to breathing and walking upright.  We sit down at the dinner table, pick up a fork, and take a juicy bite, oblivious to the double helping of global ramifications on our plate.  Our beef comes from Iowa, fed by Nebraska corn.  Our grapes come from Chile, our bananas from Honduras, our olive oil from Sicily, our apple juice - not from Washington State but all the way from China.  Modern society has relieved us of the burden of growing, harvesting, even preparing our daily bread, in exchange for the burden of simply paying for it.  Only when prices rise do we take notice.  And the consequences of our inattention are profound."
Joel K. Bourne, Jr

This is the beginning of an article that was in the latest issue of National Geographic.  It really hit home for me.  The article might be the subject of another blog post for me because it was heart wrenching with many profound pictures, including one that is haunting me of a young child, obviously starving.  He and his mother live (if you can use that term)  in Ethiopia, and he is starving because his mother is being fed sorghum porridge at a refugee camp and it is not enough fat and protein for her to produce breast milk for her baby.  It makes me want to scream, the inequality in this world.   But, as I said, another time.....

Today, I want to write about our food and where it comes from.  As for me,  I want the "burden" of knowing where my food comes from.  And, I want it to come from my backyard....and if not, I want it to come from a local, organic source.  Food is what nourishes us.  It is the source of our well being.  So, today, with that said, I want to share my Sat. trip to a local, organic Amish farm.  I was so excited to go to the stand that I usually frequent during the growing season.  This, though, was the first time EVER that I didn't need to buy any produce because everything that they had that I wanted was already growing in my backyard, in soil that I placed there, that I know is healthy.  It was grown with love and respect.  And it will be eaten with the same consideration.....

Though a foggy morning, our beautiful landscape here in Pennsylvania is a feast for the eyes.
The only thing that I did buy at the farm stand was local cheese and eggs.  Oh, and we had a nice chat with the Amish farmer.  We plan to buy some of his organically grown straw to use as a mulch in our garden.  

Now, here is a glimpse at what is growing in our backyard garden..... far so good.   Last year's crop was eaten before we could eat it.  Hope that groundhog enjoyed it!
Newly planted strawberry plants.  Hopefully next year, we will have a lot of these wonderful berries!
Yummy asparagus!  The first veggie of the season. Maddie's peas are so tall!  
Amelia's lettuce is ready for cutting.
I love mint!!!!
Beautiful blueberries!  If the birds don't get them, Ben will!
Spinach.  So beautiful.....
Leah's dinosaur kale.  She is very proud of her crop!
Ben walking towards home after a visit to the garden with me to take these pictures.
And, of course, the beautiful, wild dandelion!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Happy Webkinz Day!

The other day, Ben said that we should celebrate, "Webkinz Day."  He also wanted to make cupcakes.....all in honor of our newest Webkinz, Cinnamon Sugar, the sweet dog that the children gave me for Mother's Day.
So, today was the day!  

But first, we had time for.......

Riding in the car to our monthly "Unskate." During the ride, Amelia (who is our resident Tinker Bell) tinked with my camera and figured out why the pictures weren't turning out right.  (By the way, Ben and Leah LOVE to tinker with the menu key!).
Roller Skating Fun! (And some time falling too!) 

Amelia and her friend, Natalie helping each other out!
Back at home......
The Mommy and Ben Bakery produced these beauties (vegan too!)

A special Webkinz meeting to end the day!  Every pet stated their favorite thing to do on Webkinz.  "Zacky's Quest," says me!
Good night and Happy Webkinz Day!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

May 13th, in words only

Not feeling too well today, a cold and very little sleep....stayed home from Open Connections....and spent time......
playing Monopoly, reading stories, watching "The Heffalump Movie," playing Webkinz and Bella Sara (a new love), making new paper fashions for Kit and Samantha (American Girl Dolls) and then having them leap through time to play together, eating the last of the Carrot Raisin muffins that Leah and I made yesterday (excellent recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance), taking a well needed nap....
Hopefully, we'll all feel better tomorrow.

Beautiful lyrics from "The Heffalump Movie"
Little Mister Roo
From "Pooh's Heffalump Movie"
Composed by Carly Simon

Little Mister Roo
Reaching for the moon
So many things you've got to do
And no time for dreaming

Little Mister Roo
Let the stars shine over you
Don't grow up too fast too soon
Save some time for dreaming
Settle in, settle down
Let me see that sleepy yawn on your face
Close your eyes
I will love you completely
And always

Little Mister Roo
The moon shines silver over you
No one knows you like I do
And little Mister Roo
Reaching for the moon
Don't grow up too fast
Too soon

Sunday, May 10, 2009


My "word of the year" was confidence. I wished to be more confident especially in regards to the education of my children. I feel so certain, at times, of my choice to unschool. Yet, at other times, I am unsure of what I am doing and wondering if I am doing the best thing for all of them.

Well, again today, the universe helped me out on my quest for confidence. We were celebrating Mother's Day at my mom and dad's house with all of my extended wonderful! My fantastic Aunt Harriette was telling a tale about my cousin's son, Cole. He attends kindergarten. Apparently there is a reward system where they get a certain number of cubes and then they lose them for not being their best. So, at home, he has done the same thing for his mom, taking away cubes when she doesn't act her best, according to him. This is cute, I agree. But...and this is a big BUT, I do not think it is cute that we are treating our children like Pavlov's dogs. I am so glad that my children are not learning to conform to a teacher's keeping quiet, raising your hand, standing in a straight line, etc. There are much better lessons, I think, for them to learn!

Then, I was talking to a dear friend of our family, Beni. She is a foreign language teacher in NJ, who teaches elementary age children. I casually asked how her school year is going. She replied that right now they are in the middle of standardized testing. And, it wasn't going well for the children that she was assigned to because they don't speak good English! How can we expect children who don't speak the language to do well on a test written in that language and geared towards that culture? That is ridiculous! Furthermore, I do not wish my children to spend time learning how to take standardized tests, which in our district they start in FIRST GRADE! Give me a break! What is the use of this?

Beni continued by telling me a story of a fight that took place in her classroom, between 3rd graders! A fist fight! No wonder....the children have to rebel against this system that is outdated, unfair, at times boring, and always focused on the wrong outcome, as I see it.

I proclaimed, after all of her stories, that this is why my children are not at school. She said that she thought that was fine, as long as they were still young. But, in her opinion, they should be in school when they get older. I said that I disagreed and asked her why she thought so. She thinks that they have so many more opportunities by being in school, so I asked her specifically what she meant. She mentioned theater, music, art, etc. I told her that we get all of these things outside of school and will continue to follow Maddie, Amelia, Leah, and Ben's passions, wherever they take us. I then asked my dad to put on the tape of Maddie's recent theater performance. She was a part of a wonderful group, KATS (Kennett Amateur Theater) and loved every minute of it! She intends to perform again in their annual show next Jan. The whole family was amazed at Maddie's performance and that she had been a part of this wonderful theater group. I felt so proud again as I watched her up on stage, the smallest one in the children's chorus. How brave she was and is! And, how wonderful that we realize that you can follow your passions in many other avenues besides school! There is a whole world out there ready to explore, beyond any four walls!

So, for the moment at least, my confidence has been restored. I'm excited to start the week with my children, ready to explore! It will be a week full of friends, books, Webkinz, family times, ballet, soccer, art, pinata making, baking, gardening, park playing, fairy finding, ....... awesome!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Exploring Fridays!

One of the great advantages to HOMEschooling (or exploring, as I definitely prefer) is not always staying at HOME. I love to go exploring with my children! Often we can be found at local museums (and those in Philadelphia), parks, stores (our current favorites being an Amish natural food store, Millers, and the Amish fabric store, Zooks), local festivals, libraries, book club, park day, ballet class, soccer games, .....

Friday is also one of our favorite days to explore because my mom takes off of work to spend the day with us. It is often a fun day to travel somewhere new....or loved. Yesterday, we went to the "Please Touch Museum" in Philadelphia. We used to go there a lot but they have since changed locations and it is AMAZING! It is quite the place to explore and love being a young person! Everything is geared towards young people....little sinks that children can actually reach, real tools to explore (a shoe store with shoes, measuring devices like you find at the store, the same stools that are used at the mall), fun shows, water play, and even an inside carousel!

As we were watching the pirate puppet show, Ben was getting tired of sitting and he turned and said to me, "Can we go exploring again?"

Yes, Ben. Absolutely!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

New Title: Wild Dandelions

I decided to change the name of my blog. This time of the year is always full of beautiful dandelions. We LOVE them! They are so beautiful, especially when you see a field full of their yellow faces. They make lovely jewelry. They are yummy to eat. And, I use them as an indicator. If they are present in abundance, I can tell that no chemicals have been applied to someone's yard that we are visiting or to a local park's grassy areas.

Last week, we visited our local park and there were thousands and thousands of dandelions. We had a ball picking them, making bouquets and jewelry, and even finding fairies on them. Anyways, I was so happy to spend our lovely morning in the company of these wild flowers, that we decided to visit the township office and thank them for not putting down anything to kill the dandelions. The woman who heard our "thank you" replied that they never had so many dandelions and they were contemplating what to do about them. I quickly replied that the mamas are happy to see them and the children are all loving them....PLEASE leave them alone! :) (If they decide to do otherwise, they will find a lot of mamas organized by me at their township building ready for a dandelion fight!):)

So, I've decided to change my blog name to reflect our love, passionate LOVE, of our favorite wild flower....the dandelion. I hope that my family can remain as wild and free as the beautiful dandelion!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


WHY??? Why do I hear, quite frequently this time of the year, homeschooling moms (our social circles are largely made up of HOMESCHOOLING rather then UNSCHOOLING families) getting excited about the summer when they can lounge around, play games, read books with their children that haven't been dictated by a curriculum? Aren't they home all day??? Why don't they see the freedom that is inherent in being at home? How much school work could they possibly need to do???

WHY??? Why do some HOMESCHOOLING parents tell their children what books to read rather than letting them pick their own books? What is better than visiting the library and choosing your own books...still a thrill for me after all of these years!

WHY??? Why does everyone that I meet have to ask my children why they are not in school? And why can't I explain to them in a neat, concise, quick way that I don't HOMESCHOOL but EXPLORE, LIVE LIFE, PLAY, .......UNSCHOOL? Instead, my daughters answer that they are homeschooled and I imagine the questioner picturing my children neatly lined up at a table doing workbooks, when they are actually crowded around our computer excited about their Webkinz, playing games, putting on shows, creating recipes in the kitchen, gardening, reading under a blanket on the sofa for hours, .......

WHY??? Why do I have to keep questioning what I am doing in terms of my children's education? I know what I believe and I feel strongly about it, but off and on throughout the year, I doubt myself. I wonder if I am doing the best thing for my children. I wonder if they might regret not having attended school someday. I wonder if they will have enough friends. I wonder.... I want to stop wondering and feel the confidence that I feel RIGHT NOW. :)

"What children need is not new and better curricula but access to more and more of the real world; plenty of time and space to think over their experiences, and to use fantasy and play to make meaning out of them; and advice, road maps, guidebooks, to make it easier for them to get where they want to go (not where we think they ought to go), and to find out what they want to find out."

~John Holt~ Teach Your Own


Our car is notoriously messy!  But for good reason.  We go lots of places.....and if there is no better place to picnic or if it is winter or if it is raining or if we are late (you get the idea), we picnic in the car.  So, it is generally full of crumbs and other picnic fallout.......

Last week, our car had to be in the shop for a few day and the mechanic had to take out our car seats.  I warned him that it would be quite messy.  He said, "Oh, don't we all have kids?"
When he called me later in the day to tell me about our car, he said, "Oh my gosh!  You weren't kidding about the mess!"  And, he vacuumed up our mess!   How sweet!  (We intend to take some treats over there as a THANK YOU).

Well, today, we got into our unusually clean car.  We had one doctor appointment for Ben (a trip to the homeopathic dr. for his bad eczema) and then we had some time before all of the children had their cleanings at the dentist.  So, we stopped at this really cool book store.....huge old stone building, tons of little rooms crammed with old books, little wooden chairs to sit in, the smell of wood burning throughout.....awesome!  But, before we went in to explore, we had a picnic.  And, guess what?  It was too wet to eat on the grass outside of the beautiful bookstore.  

When Mike took Ben and Leah to soccer tonight, he said, "What did you do?  Did you smash crackers into the rug of the car so that it would feel more like usual?"  Ha! Ha!

So, here are some pictures of our car picnic and also playing in the wet grass afterwards.  I am so glad to spend my days exploring our neck of the woods with my four children!  What a gift....

This face is for you, Uncle Adam and Aunt Jen!

The whole gang in our increasingly crumby car!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cinco de Mayo.....and my self directed children!

Ben playing Webkinz......their biggest passion of late.
My pinata making mess.....good, creative time for me.
Ben was first.
A new passion for Amelia and me....chess!

I had mentioned to my children that tomorrow would
be "Cinco de Mayo," and I very briefly described what that holiday is.  Then I had a brilliant idea (or so I thought).....we could make pinatas!  Maddie and Amelia and I had done this several years ago and I also had done this with students when I taught Spanish many moons ago.  I enjoy it a lot!  I then thought we could have a "fiesta" with some friends where we would break the pinatas, have some Mexican food, and speak a little Espanol.  All good so far.  The kids were into the idea and excited to have the fiesta.  

This was over the weekend.  So, I bought some cheap white flour (no need to use organic for pinatas, I think) and brought out the balloons.  I was ready.  

Today, after our weekly book club, I thought we could begin.  I mixed up the papier mache because Maddie and Amelia were busy on Webkinz and Ben and Leah were watching a "Maisie" video that they picked up at the library this morning.  After the video, Ben and Leah came running in excited to begin.  We blew up the balloons (Leah's lungs are powerful!) and then I showed them what we would be doing.  No way!  They were outta there like a flash!  Too messy, I guess or maybe Webkinz held more appeal.  Well, I really enjoy the feeling of using papier mache so I started myself and just enjoyed the time alone.  

After they were done with Webkinz, I thought that Maddie and Amelia would be excited to join me.  Well, again, I was wrong.  Maddie was interested and covered one balloon.  Amelia was only interested in playing chess, which Mike had taught her yesterday and she taught me today (no, I never learned how to always bothers me and I'm so glad that Amelia was able to finally teach me today!).  So, I enjoyed covering the remaining balloons alone and then joined Amelia for a game of chess.

As always, the children are teaching me.  They have their own ideas about what they want to do.  I am always being reminded of'd think I'd learn this particular lesson by now!   When they are excited about something, they are so motivated.....these days, Webkinz comes to mind.  But, today, they were also excited about chess (Ben and Amelia and me),  making My Little Pony clothes (Maddie), playing with marbles (Leah), reading books from the library (everyone!), photography (Ben and me)........

p.s.  Though they didn't want to make pinatas today, I feel fairly certain that they will still enjoy decorating the finished pinatas, inviting over some friends, breaking open the pinatas and running for candy, and sharing in some bunuelos and chocolate (which they will most definitely help make!).  :)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Brothers and Sisters......

"Sisters and brothers, brothers and sisters
Ain't we, everyone
Brothers and sisters, sisters and brothers
Every father's daughter, every mother's son"

        from Free to Be You and Me

This is one of our favorite songs from "Free To Be You and Me."  But lately, its been a lot of fighting and talking meanly to our sisters and brother.  It's so hard to see them fighting....mostly my two 7 year old daughters.  They are best buds some days/moments and really talking meanly to each other the next day/moment.  I am feeling very upset by this at times. 

 It is especially hard because I wish that I had a sister!  A lifelong friend.  Someone to talk to when it seems that no one else is around.  My mom has two sisters, and she is spending this weekend at the beach with one of lucky she is to have this companionship and connection.....for life!

I have one brother, Adam.  He is 6 years younger than me, celebrating his birthday today....Happy 30th birthday, Adam!  He is a great guy, but we really didn't have a lot in common growing up.  He is so much younger than me.  I wanted to give my children what I didn't have....lots of children around the same age.  And so we did.  Two 7 year olds and two 4.5 year olds.  I wish for them a lifetime of friendship together!

So, what to do about the fighting....?????  Well, today something occurred to me.  My children are almost always together, as we "homeschool" (or "explore" as I prefer to say).  This is a gift.  Though it does lead to fighting at times.  So, in all, I am grateful that our lives are spent exploring this beautiful world together, instead of in different classrooms in a school all day.  I'm glad that they create shows together, swing together, find fairies in our yard together, eat meals together, travel in the car together, play in the park together....and yes, fight together. 

 I'll take the "TOGETHER" with a little fighting over lives spent apart any day!

Sisters and brother.....and Webkinz pose for the camera!
Amelia and Leah, during a loving moment last week.
Ben and Amelia on an Easter hayride a few weeks ago.  Exploring our world together on a weekday in the Spring...perfect!