High School Biology, CM-style

This next school year (2017 – 2018), I’m teaching 2 classes at one of the local co-ops. We meet once a week, on Friday from Sept through April. I’m teaching high school Biology and jr high general science. For both classes, we are using the Apologia text, which students are required to obtain for themselves.

I plan to run this class as Charlotte Mason-esque as I can muster. I’m familiar with CM philosophies when it comes to teaching, but this is the first time I’m teaching a high school class and applying those philosophies. So, there will be some muddling through, because I still need the class to be rigorous enough to prepare these students for an AP-Biology class or a entrance level college class. I don’t think CM means it can’t be this, but when she was writing 100 years ago, science was a different animal. (ha! pun intended!)

I have set up a page that you can find the link to at the top that will have links to all my CM science class notes.

There are some supplies that are high dollar, but are also for long term use. Like a microscope. Really, you gotta have a microscope. You can get one on amazon for between $100 and $200, you can get a nicer one for $300 to $400. And this is the sort of thing you will use through out jr high and high school. This one is a good beginning scope, as you can use it for a greater variety of objects, and its less than $150.

I also have a sets of slides (for microscope use) purchased in previous years. Homesciencetools.com has slides specifically for Apologia Biology. They have sets designed for other curriculums also.

In fact, Homesciencetools.com has bundles with the basics of what you need to do the Apologia Biology. I’m not getting those for my co-op because I already have slides, and because of our schedule, I cannot just get all the dissection specimens at once. If you order the bundle, e.g. the dissection bundle for Apologia Biology, you will get the dissection kit (nice!) and the 4 specimens all in one bag (ooky!). Unless you are going to dissect all 4 in 1 month, you will want to get stuff separately. And don’t buy dissection specimens until you are within 6 months of using them. Yes, you get stuck with more shipping charges, unfortunately, but this is science. And you don’t want your child or students dissecting a partially decayed specimen. Of course, if you are doing this just within your family, you can schedule your time so that you do the dissections all in one month.

I will link to the items I’m getting for my class. I compared prices and availability between homesciencetools.com, amazon.com and carolina.com.

The advantage of doing a class like this in a class is that the cost of some items are shared across the class. I will (or have) purchase a set of petri dishes, agar (2 bottles), corral, sponge specimen, pond jars and protozoa mixture that the whole class will use. Scalpel blades and pins for dissection come in numbers for the whole class.

I want to get, for the whole class use, a frog hatchery kit, a root viewer kit and a carnivorous fungi kit. I think the supply fee will allow for these 3.

Per set of 2 students, I will get these items. Frog, crayfish, earthworm, perch, scalpel, probe and dissection tray. As funds and time allow, I’ll also get grasshopper, clam, starfish and pig. The pig is a higher priority than the others, so if it turns out that time or funds are tight, I’ll skip grasshopper, clam and starfish and just do a pig. And if I need to do it more as a demonstration, we can do that.

The ‘as time and funds allow’ items are things not specifically talked about in the book, but I think would add to the students understanding of the biological world. And should add to their ‘wow’ factor for the biological world. Because the biological world is just crazy awesome and worth going “wow” for.

And, of course, a nature notebook. I found ones I liked better on amazon, but the one offered here is a better price and still good enough for the beginning nature journaller. I have basic colored pencils, which I know are not ideal, but I’d rather spend more on the biology supplies than on the colored pencils. Yes, I know my CM priorities might be off, but we will deal. This will serve as their ‘lab notebook’ as they draw what they see in the microscope or on the dissection tray. This is another reason to have students work in pairs… one person works the specimens, the other draws, then they switch.

Don’t forget to get gloves. Any time you work with a live specimen or dead one, wear gloves. The formaldehyde that dissection specimens are in will stink up your skin horribly, and, really, you don’t want some random whatever on your skin. And always wash hands with soap well after dealing in these things.

There are books that will help along the way. There are dissection guides for anything you might dissect. There are good books and articles to round out the reading. I will talk about these as we reach that part of the year.

Are there supplies you’d add to this list? What is scary or overwhelming for you? How can I help you be a better biology teacher?

Advertisements

schedule adjustments and help sleeping

Ah, I missed getting this post up as I had scheduled in my mind. Sure, a sick baby doesn’t help, but really, I am my worst enemy on these things.

Adjusting the schedule

I realized very quickly, that although my laid out schedule was well received, due to various factors, we rarely get through one whole day’s worth of stuff. Laying it out like this made sure I got the weekly subjects in on a reasonable schedule, but we couldn’t just start at the top for the new day. Yes, Little Man might like that, but we would miss much of the feast that comes later in the list. So, Loop it, I did. This changed nothing but my own thinking on this, really. I have a little sticky arrow that I stick on where-ever we happen to stop when we do stop, and that’s where we start up the next time we start up. Yes, we want to be more consistent, but with swim parties and park playdates… and sick baby brother, life happens. This is something I love about homeschooling, and about Charlotte Mason and AmblesideOnline, if something ain’t working, adjust and try again.

Sleep

Did you know that sleep is the “little death”? I think this is a philosopher’s thing, for when we need to talk about what it is to be a person and other ethical arguments¹. But in our house, the littles seems to think that sleep is something to be avoided at nearly all costs. At least, this is what Little Man’s 6 years of life has been like. I was reading an ad-disguised-as-a-blog-post about ‘weighted blankets’, and thought this might help him sleep well (and longer). Commercially, these blankets are over $100, and I was not about to drop that much on a ‘it might help’. So, what does this mama do? She looks up how to make it! It’s not complicated but it takes a bit of finesse to stitch the rows after filling will the beads². And after 2 nights with it, Little Man slept a bit later both mornings! He says he likes it, which counts for a lot. Hubby wanted one and now I want one, too. Weighted blankets all around!

 


¹ I would be happy to talk more this, but this section wasn’t the place for it. Consider such questions: What makes someone a person? As in, they have personhood? This has impact on how we might treat them and what rights they have. Does someone in a coma have personhood? Does an embryo have personhood? Is consciousness needed for personhood? What about when you are asleep, do you still have personhood? This drastically simplifies the issue, but I am not a philosopher… I’m just married to one.

² I’d be happy to point you to where I figured these things out. Start with this link. Let me know if you have more questions.

Timelines and Schedules, CM style

I am so proud of myself! I got our timeline up and got a schedule laid out for our school time. I have felt so busy with a lot to do, and I’m struggling to keep the important separate from the merely urgent. But, in my struggle, I’m overcoming, so feeling some success.

Timeline

IMG_0639

Charlotte Mason talks about helping children gain a sense of history:

Once Intellect admits us into the realms of History, we live in a great and stirring world, full of entertainment and sometimes of regret; and at last we begin to understand that we, too, are making History, and that we are all part of the whole; that the people who went before us were all very like ourselves, or else we should not be able to understand them. (Ourselves, pg 37)

Plan to work with Little Man to create a personal timeline of a sort, but I think our timeline on the wall will help put all the various things we read about into perspective. As we come across something in our reading, I’m creating little 2 inch pictures (images gleaned via an online search… you’ll have to go find your own) that we can tape on the timeline in the appropriate spot. And I have a picture of us, as a family, to also go up in the appropriate place.

I chose a format that has it out in the open, as opposed to in a book, as I think it’s something that will get looked at more often. We often stop and look at the maps we have out on the wall, but sometimes getting a book out to look is just too much work, or a guest might not know we have that in a book. This timeline, however, is free for anyone to inspect, and will likely start some conversations, just as our maps have. And this is for the next few years. I know I’ll want my own book of centuries and timeline book for my own use soon enough. (yeah, I’m a nerd.)

A Schedule

IMG_0644

Well, it’s not a “schedule” with times on it, but it does give an order. We found that Little Man works better have a clearly defined set of tasks, though he does argue if it’s not an ordering he likes. Having “free read” last is not something he would choose.

‘Content Read’ is a reading that varies each day, and I wasn’t sure what to call it. Today we read “The Brave 300” from Fifty Famous Stories Retold and yesterday the reading was from The Burgess Bird Book.

I wrote out, on index card, each subject for a week’s worth of school. I did this for 4 days a week, since (1) I’m not worried about finishing all of Year 1 in one year and (2) when co-op starts in Sept, we will only have the 4 days, assuming we do school every weekday. Yes, I’ll have to figure out doing our errand running and doing school both on one day. Others have figured this out, I can, too.

I color coded each subject by the ‘type’ of work it required. For example, those subjects that require oral narration*, I coded blue. I grouped all the music study, picture study, poetry and free read together (red) since they are a lot of input type work, and less output. Copy work, nature study, drawing, timeline (which has replaced recitation), and geography were grouped b/c they require some kind of hand work (writing, etc). Bob Book (phonics/reading) and Chinese are group because they are both strongly language learning focused. Recitation got moved to the bottom, and timeline was put in its place, as I feel it will happen outside of school time most weeks.

My laying out of the subjects in the order they are in is designed to separate like subjects. When I was happy with the ordering, I taped them to the poster board.  I’ve seen this type of scheduling in other places, and you can even buy cards from at least one place. I’m more happy with the index cards… I didn’t have to buy anything new to do, and it also means I didn’t feel bad when Little Man decided to draw an arrow on one in an attempt to trade 2 subjects. He wanted “Free Read” to come earlier in the line up. This affirms my thought that the free read is a motivation to get through the other, less loved things.

I like doing stuff with my own hands, so both these items were right up my alley. I hope the ideas help others figure out what will work in their homes. What ways have you done a history timeline? How do you organize your school time?


*narration, at its simplest, is telling back what you read or heard. This is a central part of the student both showing that they were paying attention and giving the student the chance to process the ideas he heard/read. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. At this age, in year 1, students do oral narration, such that they tell about what they heard or read. Later, students will begin written narrations, such that they write down about what they heard or read.

Reviving the comatose blog

Yeah, okay. My last post was December 11, 2015. It’s been 20 months since I’ve written. In that time, we transferred 2 embryos, found that 1 had implanted, gave birth to that one baby boy, did school, graduated Hubby with his PhD, got to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, got the Lego business running at a higher level, and started Year 1 for Little Man’s schooling. It’s true, the days are long, but the years are short.

In the past few months I’ve found that I want to start writing again, but starting writing after not writing for so long is hard. What will people think? What explanation should I give for not writing? Can I keep it up this time or will I flake out again at some point?

And when you don’t know exactly what to write about, you write shorts. Yes?

Year 1

This is how we label the year of school a child is in when using a Charlotte Mason method of education. I’m using Amblesideonline.com, and I’ve been delving deep in Mason’s philosophy of education. We started back on July 5, as it was just too hot to be outside much. I plan a longish break come mid-Sept so we can do lots more outside than the minimal 30 minutes in the morning.

Mr Wigglesworth

IMG_0631

Oh, my, this last year has gone so fast! He is now 11 months, and has gone from an awkward army crawl to pulling up, without doing any classical crawling in between. He’s working on lots of words and is all over the place.

PhD

IMG_2705

graduation!

Finally! We got Hubby graduated. It was 8 years to finish a 5 year program, but he had successfully defended the dissertation in March of 2016 (which was only 7 years). The department head was able to be generous and let him stay on that extra time which allowed us to do the small business thing….

Younger and Son LLC is up and running!

IMG_0460

Me playing with Lego Printing

Mostly…. We’ve got some work to do on the website and blog before it is uploaded, but we have many ideas brewing and hope to bring them to the wider public soon. We are creating Lego Mosaics, Busy Bags, Printing kits…. oh, it’s so exciting!

CM Biology

I am teaching a high school biology class this next school year at the co-op we participate in. As I’ve been delving into the CM (Charlotte Mason) philosophies so deeply, I so very much want to do this class as CM as possible. I have plans! I have ideas! I want to write about it so others can do the same, particularly for all those homeschool moms who are fearful of dissection. So, we will see how this pans out.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

IMG_0078

I cannot leave this out. We had such a wonderful time, and it was the first time to take Mr Wigglesworth camping. The night was so cold (mid 30s), and we were not fully prepared for camping with a baby over a cold night. He didn’t want to sleep with me in the sleeping bag, which is what we had planned. So, it was the car seat to the rescue. Luckily, we had brought a blanket to go under us and a comforter to go over us, so we could put that over him and there he stayed warm enough, even if he did wake every hour or two to nurse.

The dunes were a ton of fun, and it was great to get out camping again.

Any fun things going on for you right now? I’d love to hear about it!

Personhood, babies and embryos

written by Hubby

With the thaw date for our children having suddenly arrived, I (Hubby) am making these remarks on somewhat short notice, but I hope they are clear regarding our reasons for approaching that landmark in the way that we do.

We affirm the following truth claims. We’ve got arguments that have convinced us of the truth of each of these truth claims, though some of those arguments will have to wait for a future date. I’m presenting here only very brief summaries of the arguments. None of these are our “opinions” – all of them are claims we make about the way the world is. We might be wrong, lots of other folks disagree. But based on the arguments both for and against these truth claims, this is way we believe reality to be. We’d seriously enjoy talking about any and all of the truth claims and arguments for them, so don’t hesitate to ask.

First, that all human life has a particular kind of value. The value we’re talking about here is sometimes called “human dignity” or similar. This kind of value is inherent to all human life, regardless of whether or not the human is sleeping or awake, conscious or unconscious, regardless of racial or ethnic background, the ability to feed or otherwise care for oneself, etc. When this value is present, but the person with this value is treated as if they didn’t have it, a grave injustice is committed. Examples include the treatment of Jews during the holocaust or those subjected to chattel slavery such as was practiced in the US until the civil war. The Jews under Hitler and the slaves were not treated according to the dignity present in all human life, and this poor treatment is why these horrors are horrific. The difference between the slaughterhouse where cows are turned into sides of beef and Auschwitz lies in the fact that the victims of Auschwitz possessed human dignity, and were treated as if they did not. Many people from vastly different worldviews believe in something of this sort – theist or atheist, scientific or not, Eastern, Western, secular, religious, etc. As an aside, our account of where this value comes from happens to be a Christian one – we claim that this value comes from humanity being made in the image of God, their creator.

Second, that human life (and hence this value) begins at conception. Because in the fertility industry conception has acquired a variety of different meanings (think of how literally is now commonly used to literally mean non-literally), we think it’s worth being specific. By conception, we mean fertilization (when the sperm penetrates the egg)– not syngamy (when all the chromosomes are first united in the nucleus), not implantation (when the embryo begins to receive it’s sustenance from the mother instead of from the reserves in the egg), and not from quickening (when mom first feels the baby moving). At fertilization, the resulting thingy (to use a totally non-technical, non-biased term) begins working as a unified organism. Prior to this, there are clearly two separate things (sperm and egg) each carrying out their own separate processes – neither of which is inclined to grow, divide, mature, be born, etc. on its own. At fertilization, there is a single entity working towards unified ends. At first, it works towards the end of achieving syngamy – the pro-nuclei don’t just bounce randomly into each other, rather syngamy is the result of a process which is ordered to achieve syngamy. The cell begins dividing, a process aiming towards eventual cell differentiation into separate tissues, organs and systems… all of which are ordered to living a complete human life.

At implantation, the embryo obtains a steady supply of vital nutrition, oxygen, etc. But if we were to accept that access to nutrition, oxygen, etc. is what makes a person have value, then victims of famine suddenly cease to be human beings. We reject the consequence that victims of famine cease being human – lack of a steady source of nutrition does not make something non-human, so we also reject the premise that human life begins at implantation. We reject the idea that life begins at quickening because movement – making oneself felt by another human being, is likewise not a condition for personhood. Victims of paralysis or some in vegetative states may not make others physically feel their presence, but this does not make them inhuman. Many other conditions for human personhood have been suggested, I will simply sum up by stating that any condition for human personhood that makes infanticide permissible, we immediately reject on the grounds that it makes infanticide permissible.

As a result of these two truth claims, we are lead to a third. If any of those thawed do not survive, a human person has died. And we bear a special relationship to these particular human persons – they are our children. If necessary, we will mourn their deaths in many of the same ways we would mourn the death of our 4-year old son Samuel. We will not have the specific sorts of thoughts, memories, attachments, etc. to these children that we currently have to Samuel – but our love for Samuel is not based on the fact that we’ve held him in our arms, or the fact that Rachael carried him for nine months, or any of our memories of him. Our love for him, and for the five embryos we have adopted is based simply on the fact that he is our son. Those memories can come or go – they are conditional, but our love for him is not conditional. Likewise, these other five are our children, our sons and daughters and if they die, we will mourn for them in many of the same ways (though certainly varied in strength, intensity, duration, etc.) that we would mourn if Samuel died. As we go through this process, whatever the Lord has for us, please keep us in your prayers. Statistically, we are told to expect to lose many of these children this weekend. So we approach the thaw date with fear and trembling, anticipating the probability of deep loss and grief in the coming days, alongside our hope that these children will live full lives. Whatever the Lord has for us, both joy and sorrow, we will accept from his hand. Our charge is to be faithful to the commitment we have made as adoptive parents, to care for these children placed into our family with everything we have, and to give them the best chance at a flourishing life that we are capable of.

How many children do you have?

Usually when someone asks, “How many children do you have?” they usually mean to ask how many children are you feeding, caring for, dressing, etc right now. But since you become a parent when that baby is conceived (aka fertilization), and that parent-child relationship isn’t changed by the unborn-status or death of that child, it is far more accurate for me to talk about the 7 children God has given me.

We have Little Man, who is 4 years old, and Ananias is in heaven with Jesus. We lost baby Ananias in June 2013, and it was an early miscarriage. But since we believe that life begins at fertilization, and even the single celled zygote is a person, our child, we openly claim that child. Just as if someone lost their baby during infanthood, or childhood, that parent-child relationship doesn’t change, so it is the same when the baby dies at the early stages of pregnancy.

In the same way, now that the contract phase is done, we are now the parents of 5 more babies, even in the frozen, very early developmental stage. So, if you ask me now, I’ll tell you I’m the mother of 7 children. God has given us one, so far, to raise, and he has taken one, so far, home to be with him. We don’t know what God has for those other five, but we are eager to find out. Yes, even if it means he is taking some or all home to be with him, we want to know.

Embryo Adoption, questions and answers

We started the journey of embryo adoption in March 2015. When we tell someone that we are doing embryo adoption, most often, the question is “What is that?” It is a most reasonable question, so I hope to answer it a series of blog posts answering the most common questions we are asked.

What is an embryo?
The word “embryo” describes a stage of development. In non-technical language, an embryo is the unborn or unhatched offpsring. In more technical language, the embryo is unborn offspring from the 4th day after fertilization through 8 weeks. During this time, the human baby goes from being a single cell with 1/2 its genetic material from mom and 1/2 from dad to being a fully formed baby with heart, lungs, legs, arms, brain, eyes, ears, nose, mouth. Human babies at 8 weeks of development very much look like a baby that has just been born, though many of their body systems are still immature.

Where do these embryos come from?
During in-vitro fertilization, eggs are harvested from a woman and fertilized with sperm collected from a man. In the United States, several IVF embryos are usually created at once, since the cost is in the fertilizing of the eggs and its not that much more expensive to fertilize many eggs at once (bulk discount of a sort). And since there is no guarantee that any single embryo will implant and gestate to full term, many couples find they need to do multiple transfers to get 1 live birth. A couple might have 1 or 2 embryos transferred immediately and any other embryos will be frozen so that they can be transferred later.

Why do these embryos need to be adopted?
Sometimes, a couple has all the children they want, but have embryos they never transferred. Or, perhaps due to any variety of circumstances, its determined that a woman can’t carry a baby. A couple then has a few options as to what to do with these embryos. They can discard the embryos, donate them to research, leave them frozen indefinitely or donate/make an adoption plan for the embryos. Both discarding the embryos and donating them to research means death to the babies. Some couples don’t want to take those options, so they either continue to pay the storage fees or find another couple who will accept the embryos.

Will you transfer them all at once?
No, we will transfer up to 2 at a time. Yes, this opens up the possibility of twins, but we accept and welcome that possibility.

How many children will you have?
7! Little Man, who is 4, Ananias, who died at about 6 weeks development, and these 5 frozen babies makes 7 children. Why do we talk about it this way? Because the parent-child relationship doesn’t change with death. I will talk more about this in the next blog post.

Any more questions? Please ask! You can email me at the [dot] china [dot] lady @ gmail [dot] com (change all [dot] to periods, and remove spaces) or leave a comment here.

Having it all together

I wrote this draft in February of 2014. On reflection, I realize how very much was going on. I was dealing with ‘weening blues’… Little Man had started weening the fall before and it was wrecking havoc on my hormones. We were wanting to try to get pregnant again, which meant we needed Little Man to finish weening, give my hormones a chance to settle down, then we could see what would happen. With that in mind, here’s what I wrote:

My dad gave me a great compliment the other day… he said “I’m so proud of you. You’ve really got it together and you don’t get overwhelmed, stressed out, or depressed over the business of life.” I felt an odd need to defend myself in that I don’t have it all together, I do get overwhelmed, stressed out and grumpy over all of it. But the Hubby-man is amazingly able to help me pull it together, get a few things done, and move on.

I’ve had several projects recently (as in late 2013) that I reached an “ARGH!” point where I stressed, freaked out, and verbally vomited all over Hubby-man. He is so effective at helping me deal in these situations that those outside our family rarely see the moments. And they are short lived, as in less than an hour usually.

It struck me, though, when Dad complimented me, that others might see me in the same light. And I desire that people know I don’t always have it together, but I try to be proactive about living life intentionally and living life in a state of peace and joy. As I thought over this, I realized my general ability to get back on track comes from three different areas, and I thought I’d discuss each area in turn. Today, the practicals of getting a handle on life at this point in life. Tomorrow, the foundations of having the right perspective on getting a handle on life. Day after, how knowing yourself helps a ton in getting a handle on life.

The practicals of getting a handle on life at this point in life
In light of the many flopped 2013 goals, my primary ‘goal’ for 2014 was something to the effect of ‘get a handle on life’. I flopped on so many of my 2013 goals that I decided to not make any such goals for 2014. For those who know me, they know that this is revolutionary and very out of character. I am a goal setter, list maker achiever. But before you start to wonder who this is and where did the Mom-mom go, I did decide to work on 1 or 2 habits each month this year to help me ‘get a handle on life’. And there were several things I decided to stop doing. So, here’s how 2014 is different…

  • No goals. Having a 2 1/2 year old (who turns 3 in May) around means less time for projects of the ‘no, you can’t be involved’ sort. My goals tend to be oriented in this way. Yes, I’ll still do some sewing and other projects, but I take them on as I have time and inclination. I’m not setting out a set of them as goals to do in 2014. Its just the right time of life to work like this. At least for me it isn’t.
  • Work on establishing good habits. For example, for January, I focused on daily routines and regular exercise. And, I’m working on the same habits in February since I felt that I didn’t really establish these as habits yet.
  • Not gardening. I love getting out in the soil, planting, watching things grow. I don’t like getting up early to water and weeding. I certainly love the idea of canning and preserving and having a store of food that we raised ourselves. But really, this is a family project. I’m so thankful I have the freedom to just buy my fruits and veggies and meat from the store and be done with it. I will garden again, just not in the near future.
  • Sometimes laundry stays piled in the living room for a day or two (or three). Sometimes the floor of the dining room gets a bit grimy. In other words, I’ve figured out what things I can live with and when I need to slack on something, I have a few things I can slack on without feeling guilty.
  • Remind myself often that most tasks are not huge tasks that take a long time to do. They are relatively quick. Rotating laundry. Wiping off the table. Putting books away (goodness, I’m as bad about having stacks of books around as Little Man is!). Making the bed. Vacuuming. Sweeping. Flylady teaches “You can do anything in 15 minutes (except whine).” Sometimes, I have to verbally remind myself, “this is a 5 (or less) minute task”.

I figure that as life progresses and our situation changes, I’ll have to make more adjustments. It might be that in 2015, I’m ready for goals again, and that might not happen till 2016. And I’ve decided I’m gonna be good with that. It helps that I know what’s important.

The key here is that I stepped back from what wasn’t working (making goals) to consider why it might not work (full time caretaker and Mom-mom of a little, sleep deprivation at times, general natural tendency) and how I might still get to where I want to go.

I’m inclined to say that if you feel like you don’t have a handle on life, work on some simple routines first. Simplify your general expectations (any other perfectionists out there?). Cut out extra projects/tasks (simplify!). Figure out what is truly important and focus on those things. (more on that tomorrow)**

**I didn’t end up doing more on this series. I might pursue it, especially now that I’ve come through that time, found my feet and am finding myself *feeling* rather stable. Just remember, no matter how together someone seems, they probably aren’t *that* well put together.

‘unschooling’: faith and academics

What is ‘unschooling’? I can see this question in people’s faces regularly when I mention it. A young man stopped by at one point to try and sell us books “designed” to keep your child interested in reading and learning. When I said, “well, we prefer to have living books around here that we learn from. So, I don’t think your books are a good fit for us right now.” I also name dropped “Charlotte Mason” in there, and the poor young man was very quick to leave at that point. I never mentioned ‘unschooling’ to him, but that might have made him run from our home even faster.

I had a friend write me what ‘unschooling’ is and how its different from self-directed learning and traditional schooling. That is a huge question, and I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer it…. yet.

Here is the beginning of an answer.

In the book “Unschooling Rules: 55 ways to unlearn what we know about schools and rediscover education”, Clark Aldrick argues that we must first teach children how to BE. Then, we can teach them to DO, and after that we can teach them to KNOW. (Generally, these days, education seems to be all concerned about what children KNOW, but doesn’t address the first two.) I think he’s got something very right here, but as he expands the idea he sets the bar awfully low. Aldrick states that learning to BE is about learning what you love, what you are good at, what you dream, and your role in a group (or larger society, even?). Really, though the question(s) could be much bigger… ‘Who am I?” “Who am I made to be?” “Where do I find my worth?” “From what place do I interact with others and how does that affect how I should treat others?”

Who do I want my child to be? I want my children to grow to be upright, God-fearing members of society (moral development!). I want them to be emotionally healthy members of society (emotional development). Whether any of my children got to college, or beyond, is more about what they choose and I will strive to provide the foundation so they can go in whatever direction they want, but, really, that is secondary (intellectual/academic development). I think ‘unschooling’ addresses the intellectual/academic development properly, letting children work in a way that is more self-directed, at their own pace, and according to their own interests.

How does this work in real life? Seriously, what three (or four or five) year old actually has any idea of what they want to learn about? If he had his druthers he’d sit around watching movies and eating peanut butter and candy canes (and starbursts and chocolate chips… you get the idea). Really, he isn’t going to learn to be a God-fearing, upright member of society on his own. Some teaching of some kind is needed, I think. There are certain things that I think are necessary things for a child to learn, and other things that are truly optional. Character is necessary, academics are optional.

It all comes down to being intentional. I don’t expect a child to just pick up good character and faith in God, especially not if I’m not living it. And I can’t expect my child to listen to my words if my life doesn’t reflect the same message. The book “Sticky Faith” discusses this extensively, and its not my purpose to retell what that books has to say (its worth reading as a parent or grandparent who desires to see an active faith passed on). A very simplified version is “live it out, talk about it, invite them along for the ride”.

Academics work the same way. If I’m not living a life of learning, how can I expect my child to? The best way to educate my child is to live it out, talk about it, and invite him along for the ride. No, this doesn’t mean I have to be all into mud like my child is. But it does mean he should be seeing me read, seeing me study, watch me be a learner. Then, I can talk about what I’m learning (no, he’s not interested in the history of the Renaissance era), and how I’m enjoying it. I can also talk about what we might do, like build a fort, blow bubbles or do paper mache. And then I invite him to do it with me. We practice taking turns as we take turns with the different items used to blow bubbles. We learn to work together as he wields the glue and I put down the craft sticks. Honestly, I’m not sure I’m brave enough to invite him to do paper mache with me, that will be very messy (we did do paper mache together… it was so messy he didn’t want to do much).

This is unschooling. Live a life of learning. Talk about it. Invite others along for the ride. This is how faith is passed on. Live a life of faith. Talk about it. Invite others along for the ride.

Sweet Nut Butter?

The other day I found a recipe for “Cashew nut butter cookie dough”. I thought, ‘woot! something that is like cookie dough and not totally bad for you.” The Hubby is more sceptical of I am when it comes to these things. He is wise that way.

Basically, I blended roasted cashews with a bit of oil, sugar and flavoring.

DSCN5426

It’s not that much like cookie dough. The texture is sort cookie dough like, and its a great idea. But the cashew flavor is still quite strong and the sugar didn’t really dissolve into the nut butter. And I added a bit too much almond flavoring, which can be quite overwhelming. Its a nut butter, not cookie dough. So, now we have a sweet nut butter….. and it just struck me that if I blend it all together, again, with the chocolate chips, we have a sweet chocolate nut butter, which, when its hazelnuts, is quite the hit around here. (nutella, anyone?) And peanut and chocolate is quite the hit also.

I posted last July with the words ” Since I can’t seem to keep myself writing on any regular basis, I’ll stick to publishing shorts.” But apparently, I’m struggling with posting shorts, also, since I’ve not posted any more since July.

It was a good summer. Hubby got a dissertation cranked out (yeah!), and we went camping in the Rocky Mountain National Park and Little Man did the Junior Ranger program. And, best of all, we were matched with a set of 5 embryos that we are working to adopt. We’ve been in the adoption process for a little over 2.5 years. There has been some back and forth (getting pregnant in the middle of applications will do that!), and we switched from domestic infant adoption to embryo adoption last March (2015). We are super excited that this genetic mom chose us as the family for her pre-born children. I hope to talk more about what embryo adoption is and why we are doing it. We will see if I can keep up my writing!

Little Man has found his “project”. He builds Knock Stuff Down Videos (KSDV). This involves setting up dominoes and citiblocks, then knocking them down. Many times, we video the KSDV (yes, do you see how that bit of language works?). I get roped into building parts, which I usually enjoy doing. Here is a video, as an example of what happens: KSDV Video

Little Man lost interest in climbing when it turned out what he liked was climbing just high enough so he could drop and swing on the rope. :::sigh:::

I did “Work the Plan” (http://www.simplifiedorganization.com/worktheplantraining/) with my sister. The philosophy of time organization that Mystie, the author of this blog, presents is not different from what I’ve seen before, but her methodology or application is a bit different and I like it. It involves regular reviewing of the tasks you have laid out, and planning by the interval (a time frame of 6 to 12 weeks long).

I really do hope to write and blog more regularly. There is something very releasing about putting words to ‘paper’ (okay, screen… keyboard?) and it really helps me organize my own thoughts. And I’m not even an introvert!

Summer Shorts

Since I can’t seem to keep myself writing on any regular basis, I’ll stick to publishing shorts.

-We are staying busy swimming, swimming and swimming. And now climbing. Yeah, every time we’d go to the university pool to swim, we had to stop and watch who ever was climbing. Yesterday, one of the guys working that area asked if Little Man wanted to climb, and he did! We went back today and he worked really  hard at it. He never got all the high, but he’s figuring it out, and working all his muscles to fatigue. This is the first thing we’ve found that really pushes him that hard.

DSCN5049

DSCN5051

 

-On July 5, we got to join the youth group to set off firecrackers. Little Man really enjoys them and found that the little smoke bombs he could light himself, until he got a spark on his hand. That reduced his enjoyment some.

DSCN5035

-What, you don’t watch someone else on the computer while sitting on their shoulders? This is the preferred watching position of Little Man these days.

DSCN5029

-I was told on this day, “I am an artist.” And when he had finished he said, “I’m done being an artist.” I had always assumed ‘artist’ was a more permanent descriptor, but I guess I was wrong.

DSCN5033

 

Spring time shorts

Yes, I’m wearing shorts more often, but this is more short blurbs about life right now. And no pictures of me in shorts because it might blind you. Its still somewhat early spring.

Little Man is still totally in love with water. He is all about water play, which means turning on the hose and watching the water flow. We shut down our raised beds a year ago, and they’ve over grown with grass, but I did dig up a 2’x2′ square so he would have access to loose dirt to play in. Yes, and mud. Since the area was ‘raised’, there is an incline to watch the water flow down as it floods the dug up area. He would stay at that for hours if he didn’t get cold. Yes, the boy has found the ability to get cold… when its 70′, cloudy and he is wet.

2015-04-07 13.42.22

We are doing more ‘science experiments’ these days. Little Man is interested in different things and I’m just going for it. We made Oobleck (even made it green!), a paper mache volcano (we did make it errupt!) and we have three Forest Tent catepillars in a big jar on the table, and a Swallowtail butterfly catepillar also in a big jar on the table. No we aren’t doing any kind of worksheets, but we are learning and talking about the natural world.

DSCN4678

I mentioned life being unpredictable lately in my last post. I thought I might offer more explanation of it. For the past year, we have been ‘approved and waiting’ for domestic infant adoption. About 6 months ago, God started working in our hearts to consider embryo adoption. After losing a baby to early miscarriage in June 2013, we are starkly aware of the emotional risk and the resulting grief of losing a baby. We reached a point recently where we realized we were ready to take on that risk and the possibility of such grief. And so, right now, we are in the midst of the application process for embryo adoption.  Of course, we are also doing all kinds of thinking on the ethics of IVF, fertility clinics, and our society’s attitudes towards babies in the embryo stage. Hopefully, I’ll be able to more fully articulate our thoughts, but its such a deep, intense, and sensitive set of topics, its rather scary to approach.

I got a hair cut today. This is monumental because I’ve cut my own hair for the past 5 years. I decided this was what I wanted. My goal is to grow and donate my hair for as long as I can, and this is the 4th time I’ve been able to do this. A before picture….

DSCN4808

and after….

Apr 16, 2015 8-17-38 PM

I do think my hair is getting curlier as I get older.

What are you up to?

back to blogging… maybe

I’m finding that I have a love-hate relationship with a wide variety of tasks… blogging, vacuuming, laundry, goal setting. I find that these things I have this love-hate relationship with are such that I dislike doing it, but I *love* it when the task is done. I don’t really like to vacuum, but I love freshly vacuumed carpets. I don’t like sweeping and mopping, but I love freshly swept and mopped tile floor. Also, I love posting my stories and my ramblings, but getting them to a postable stage is an arduous task. And its hard to remember, at times, that things worth doing are often hard things to do. Yeah, I dislike vacuuming and laundry (and most other household chores) because they are dull and boring to do. That can be remedied with a podcast or audio book.

However, I’ve not completely figured out how to remedy this love-hate relationship with blogging and goal setting. And they are intimately connected, unfortunately. I love to set goals so that I can feel purposeful and intentional about my activities and course of daily life. I want to know what needs to get done, what I want to get done, and what I did get done. But I don’t want to have to set goals, nor look at them when I don’t meet them. I’m not thinking of writing out goals right now; life is just too unpredictable. And if I set goals and don’t reach them, that leaves me feeling blah… so I’m not doing “goals”.

But blogging is an outlet, a chance for me to declare to noone in particular “hey, look at me, I vacuumed this week!” And if I’ve set goals, I get to declare “I not only decided I was going to vacuum this week, but I actually did it! Look at me!” And, of course, if I don’t meet my goals, I just don’t blog about it. Blogging is also a creative outlet, yes, but I don’t want my blogging to be just about me getting things done, or merely me expressing my own creativity.

I would love for my blogging to have such focused purposes as encouraging women to love their husbands, or challenging the reader’s thoughts on this or that deep topic… alas, to choose one such area is not for me. Being a stay-at-home-mom suits me quite well, because the general topics I cover in any one day vary tremendously. And so, my blogging will reflect this diversity. For better or for worse.

During this 8 month hiatus, I didn’t write. In fact, the last draft of a blog post I have is from last September, so you see, I haven’t written in quite a few months. But I did do a lot of other things, from several work projects, reading a slew of books, enjoying the time with my family, and thinking deeply about a variety of topics. I hope to start writing again about all these things. I want to start writing again. I’m ready, I think, to do the hard thing that is worth doing.

So, expect a variety of posts. Some about day to day life, some about deep issues. Sometimes I have conversations with friends and family that I want to write about. Sometimes I read something I want to write about. Sometimes, its an idea that came out of the blue. So, I’m going to work on this discipline of making time, sitting down and writing.

Pursuing Projects

I’ve been reading a lot about “project based homeschooling” (PBH). The basic idea is that you let your child pursue topics as their interest takes them, and let them create as their interests prompt them. It fits well with ‘unschooling’, which is also all about child-led learning. The website I’m mostly working from is Project Based Homeschooling. I’m in the facebook group, also, and its been a ton of fun interacting over these ideas. I did the journalling class and the drawing class in June, and found myself quite inspired.

Of course, I’ve also realized that this is how I normally pursue my ideas. Its really bugged me in the past that I’m crazy into some topic, then the interest wains, and then I’m into another topic. But then, in talking with my Dad, we determined that I’m doomed… he’s that way, too. I have a few lasting interests, but what might be my overriding interest of the moment can vary.

Little Man hasn’t found his topic to pursue yet, unless sand + water counts (it very well might, he’s very interested in putting a ‘lake’ in his sand bin currently, and its taking some thought on how to keep the sand sides up and the water from soaking into the sand).

On the other hand, I have found my new topic: wood working. A friend who was moving gave me a fine particle compressed wood board that struck me as the perfect top to a small table for Little Man (for whom I’m considering the nickname of ‘Young Grasshopper’ — he loves jumping). This prompted me to start thinking about if I could build a table. It helps that my Dad is a carpenter, so I have a source of advice and information at my cell-phone-fingertips.

One of the things that is a big deal in PBH is journalling or documenting the project and learning. I’m still figuring out how that works. I might just use the blog…. then I don’t have to get pictures developed (if I worked in a paper journal), and its something I (sorta) already do.

All that said, here’s a bit of the woodworking that’s been going on…

designing. This challenged my math.

designing. This challenged my math.

My Dad sent me some chisels and a plane. Young Grasshopper was really excited to try them out.

My Dad sent me some chisels and a plane. Young Grasshopper was really excited to try them out.

Sometimes you just gotta jump.

Sometimes you just gotta jump.

I got him a little hammer, and he really enjoyed tapping nails into wood scraps.

I got him a little hammer, and he really enjoyed tapping nails into wood scraps.

Working. Part all cut out. Sanded. Next to cut out notches and put it all together.

Working. Parts all cut out. Sanded. Next to cut out notches and put it all together.

My first attempt at creating a 'notch'.

My first attempt at creating a ‘notch’. Not so great.

I’m actually using a design my Dad put together. He added a support piece and a different way of attaching the legs and table top.