Friday, September 28, 2007

Why Homeschool

An On Point show this week on innovators and entrepreneurs, which prompted me to think again of why I choose to homeschool. The show featured some innovators, mostly scientific, I believe (I missed the beginning). As I listened I was thinking of what I want for my kids. At the same time I am trying to define my own goals, and I'm reading I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What It Was. This book encourages the reader to discover why they are not following their gifts, and one step is to consider what those who know/knew you want/ed you to be.

To take this back to homeschooling, I have multiple thoughts. One is not to have expectations of what my children will do as adults. On the other hand, listening to the show on innovators, I want them to have the education to do whatever they wish -- I would hate for them to be held back by choices that I make about their education -- although, if I set the level of preparation at the same level as our public school, perhaps the bar is lower than it could be. And a point that seems difficult for non-homeschoolers to grasp is that I don't want to damage our family relationships in my effort to provide the education that I think is required. Although I do expose them to topics, and I do strongly encourage handwriting and math and I do not push to hard. Some exposure may be important, but force isn't required for them to find and follow their gifts.

We have a small high school at a local technology institute. I would like for them to be equipped to go to that high school, if that is what they wish. But I don't wish that for them if that is not their interest. It may be that my eldest will want to pursue some aspect of film, or some as yet unfound interest. I want to remember that for all of them to pursue a livelihood that uses their unique gifts is the most important gift I can give them. It is most likely to lead them to the happy life that I wish for them.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Eating Right: Local and Organic

I've recently read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, and I'm thinking more about the way we buy and eat. It's not easy to do the right thing! Here are some of the things I'm thinking about.

I would like to stop buying factory farmed meat. Although I've toyed with vegetarianism, Kingsolver makes a good argument for omnivorism, and then, as always with this issue, there are the practical concerns -- such as my husband really likes meat! So I need to find local meat, and I can. There is a farm about 20 minutes away that sells their own pork, chicken, lamb, and beef. These animals are locally and humanely raised, but I don't know if they're fed pesticide-treated grain. There is a turkey farm another 10 minutes away that has pretty good practices, but could probably not be considered organic. So if I can do the trip just once a month or so, I can probably meet that goal. I am concerned about the cost, but so far the prices are somewhat reasonable, and if I save extra trips to the supermarket, I will probably save some money.

Produce is more difficult for me. I shop irregularly, and try to shop without the kids, so working Farmer's markets into my schedule is more difficult than it should be. There is a farm (not far from the meat farm) that sells in season produce, and they use IPM, so I feel comfortable buying from them. I am not an expert at planning my menus around what I found. I like to choose a recipe then get the ingredients. Also, my husband calls our crisper drawer in the fridge the "rotter drawer" which is sadly too accurate! Frozen organic produce may be my best choice. I'm just not seeing myself buying up all the in-season organic local produce I can find and canning it or otherwise processing it for use the rest of the year. I've considered joining a CSA, but have so far resisted, because I'm afraid that only I would eat what we got, and I'd feel guilty about any waste. As I've said before, I may have gone wrong way back in terms of what my kids will eat!

After reading Kingsolver's book, and with my newly raised conscienceness about pesticides, I find trips to the supermarket excruciatingly frustrating. What's safe? Everything has pesticides or high fructose corn syrup! Of course you know this, but there are whole aisles of junk -- an aisle of cookies and crackers, an aisle of sugar cereal, an aisle of corn syrup salad dressing, and aisle of crunchy pesticide chips. There is no organic bread in my supermarket. I realized that of the healthiest foods I buy, I eat most of them, and my kids get the SAD (Standard American Diet) stuff. (Medium SAD only -- I have some standards!)

I'm getting ready to make our bread. I have a Bosch Universal on my Christmas list, and I think I'll get the Family Grain Mill package from Survival Unlimited with the Bosch adaptor and the hand base. They have the best price I've found. I don't have much of a plan for food stores in case of an emergency, so I figure some wheat berries (which last for years) and a hand mill would be part of that plan. The trade off between time and healthiness is very clear to me. I think I'm willing to take on bread, especially if I'm making 6 loaves at a time. There is the worry that my family won't like what I make, but I've been making bread off and on for a while, and it generally gets eaten. I might not be able to go to 100% whole wheat, but I think it will be healthy bread, and I can buy organic wheat berries. There is a store about 50 minutes away that carries organic whole grains -- worth it if I go only once or twice a year.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Kindergarten thoughts and links

While I mostly unschooled P for Kindergarten, I enjoyed having some structure for first grade last year, and I’m afraid that M (who is five) may not demand my time if I don’t schedule anything for him.

I appreciate the attitude that less is more, especially for this age group. Here are some articles along those lines: (linked in the first article)

I’m already seeing that self-direction will take him where I want him to go – he’s asking to write words every few days, and I help him with that, and today he expressed a wish to read (perhaps the first time I’ve heard that from him). So I’m looking for a gentle structure. I’ve found some great booklists – too many maybe! Some activities that fit with the way our family works would be a good addition (that is, non-twaddly, and of interest to my kids). At some point during the year, when he seems interested, I’ll help him make a calendar with holidays and birthdays on it. I continue to hope to get outside more. We watch Between the Lions mainly for him, although I’m not sure if he gets any literacy education from it – enjoys the stories, though! I may buy Teach a Child to Read With Children's Books.

These are some of the curriculum/book lists that appeal to me, and that I'll draw from this year: