Friday, February 27, 2015

Koru Naturals - A Review

Koru Naturals Review
I have a secret to share.  It's not really a secret with my close, personal friends and my family, but here goes.  I have had scalp psoriasis since like forever.  I literally have no memory of life without it.  It was torturous as a child when my mother would painstakingly part tiny sections of hair to apply this tar based medicine to my entire scalp every-single-night.  Nothing we did ever worked, or even helped for that matter.  As an adult I learned the impact of my diet on the psoriasis, but nothing has ever made it go completely away, and up until now I never really found anything that helped with the scaling and flaking.  That is until Koru Naturals came my way.  I am so glad I took the opportunity to try Koru Naturals Pure Emu Oil and Koolpurrie Restoring Balm and share with you my experience.  To say I'm impressed is an understatement.

Koru Naturals Review

Have I told you lately how wonderful my friends are?  If not, I am super blessed with a small group of amazing women in my life.  My BFF of over 30 years gave me a divine gift for my birthday.  I got to go to her house and take a long, luxurious, HOT bath.  (Getting a hot bath at our home in the winter is pretty much impossible.)  I love baths, and prefer them over showers immensely, so this was no little deal to me.  She even fed me and took care of my children.  BIG BONUS!  This was the first time I tried the Pure Emu Oil.  Koru Naturals Pure Emu Oil is a traditional Australian Aboriginal natural oil that is fully refined.  It is milky white indicating that it has not been clarified and has retained all the naturally occurring essential ingredients.  Let me just say that it is a wonderful addition to any spa experience.  I ran the bath with some mineral salts (I knew I would be rinsing my hair in the bath, so I didn't add the oil directly to the water), turned on some relaxing music, and applied the Pure Emu Oil throughout my hair and over my entire scalp.  I allowed the oil to stay on for at least a half hour, just because I could, and my hair and skin is always SO DRY in the winter.  Can I just tell you how AMAZING my hair and skin felt after that bath.  My hair was more soft and healthy feeling than it has been in years, and my skin was so smooth.  It really felt great!

Koru Naturals Review
Winters here in the country have been something for my city hair and skin to get used to.  We have well water which started taking a toll on my skin and hair as soon as we moved here.  Winter provides the added challenges of dry air and dry heat.  We heat with wood, and for anyone that has never experienced wood heat it is wonderful, but it is very drying to the skin.  Despite keeping a huge pot of water on the wood burner, and occasionally running my diffuser/humidifier,  My skin pays a toll.  Having the Koolpurrie Restoring Balm, a healing blend of Premium Grade A Emu Oil and Pure Lanolin, to use this winter has been a real blessing.  I am still amazed at how fast it absorbs into my skin and how quickly it heals.  It is not wrong for me to say that results are near instant.  The backs of my heels were terribly dry the first time I applied the balm.  I just could not believe that one application made such a difference!  There has never been a product that I've used on skin that was that dry that made any kind of difference after one application, let alone immediately on the first application.  Again, I was super impressed and can easily see how those that suffer with chronic dry skin like the elderly would greatly benefit from using this pure and additive free balm that is rich in skin lipids.

My 2 ounce bottle of Pure Emu Oil and my 1.4 ounce container of Koolpurrie Restoring Balm are like little treasures sitting on my desk.  I keep them on hand all the time.  I regularly use the balm on my hands.  The dry, winter heat makes my hand red and sore.  The balm relieves this instantly.  The Pure Emu Oil gets rubbed behind my ears, where my psoriasis is most bothersome, on a regular basis.  I have even put a tiny bit on a cotton swab and gently applied it just inside my ears as the psoriasis can even present there, and it has been a tremendous help.  There is still no flaking in my ears since I started this a few weeks ago.  I have also given myself another oil treatment on my hair and scalp since my spa day.  This is something I will continue regularly.  I think one of the best things about both the oil and the balm is that they are not greasy.  It's difficult to wrap my brain around how an oil can not be greasy, but it isn't.  Each time I have used the Pure Emu Oil as a treatment for my hair and scalp it has absorbed into my skin and hair very quickly.  What a difference from the traditional hot oil treatments I grew up with!  It has never stained my clothing or my pillowcase.  I literally slept with the oil in my hair overnight, and there wasn't a mark on my pillowcase.  That was simply amazing to me.

I am super excited about the product line at Koru Naturals and look forward to trying more from them in the future.  My skin is so much happier today than it was before the Pure Emu Oil and Koolpurrie Restoring Balm.  You can learn more about the Koru Naturals product line by visiting them online, or following them on  Facebook and Pinterest.

Koru Naturals Review
Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

In Freedom's Cause - A Review

Can I just tell you how much I LOVE Heirloom Audio Productions?  Seriously.  After discovering and enjoying their first production released last year I was so excited to learn of their second title that I actually purchased it for my children for Christmas.  Imagine my excitement when I saw the new story come up for review.  I just had to jump on board!  It is an honor to share with you a piece of history published by a company so dedicated to providing a sincere and true account of the lives of real heroes that have gone before us.  Knowing that I have access to an ever growing resource of true accounts of honorable figures to share with my children and grandchildren is exciting and uplifting.  The passion behind the production of these audio dramas is very evident, and I am so thankful that the team at Heriloom Audio Productions has answered the call to bring real history to life with such dedication and determination.

In Freedom's Cause Audio CD Review

Our family has been enjoying the experience of listening to the story of Sir William Wallace and King Robert the Bruce and their fight for freedom.  The In Freedom's Cause Single Package will continue to bless our family for years to come.  This story is told with such fire and passion that you are effortlessly transported Scotland at the beginning of the 14th Century at a time of great turbulence.  We enter at the point of history that would eventually lead to Scotland's freedom from English rule.  For me, there is no better way to learn history than to be completely immersed in it, and the stories of G.A. Henty told through Heirloom Audio Productions come to life in such a way that you feel part of the story.

Our family circumstances have changed a bit since the first production was released.  We used to spend a lot more time in our vehicle traveling to a distant destination on a regular basis.  Praise God, that is no longer the case.  With the young ages of my children this meant that I had to get a little more creative with our listening time.  We enjoyed coloring, putting together puzzles, and working with homemade busy bags either in our family room or at the dining room table while we enjoyed the story.  After we had completed the first CD, I did a general search online to locate Scotland specific coloring pages.  We located Scotland on the map and colored a map of Scotland as we began the second CD.  This allowed us to already have a nice foundation in place to build their understanding and comprehension of the story.  We later colored a Scottish bagpipe player, Sir William Wallace, and Maid Marian.

The CD Set and Study Guide provide wonderful opportunities for discussion no matter the age of your children.  With mine being younger I picked out the portions that I thought were relevant and helpful for their age group.  There is plenty of material for the beginner as well as the more advanced student.  There is so much potential here to expand on the story further cementing this part of history into our consciousness.  I love the way the Study Guide is so simply presented with it's three focus points; listening well, thinking further, and defining words.  We primarily focus on listening well and defining words at this stage in the game discussing the questions and terms verbally together either during or after our listening session.  I look forward to building on this as the children get older.

The story of Wallace and Bruce is one of heartbreak, tragedy, and pain.  It is also an empowering lesson in faith, determination, and the value of freedom. Through its telling Heirloom Audio Productions wonderfully achieves their mission " engage our listeners imagination by taking them back in time and immersing them in the story."  I have so enjoyed the first two releases that I am overjoyed to learn that two more new releases are expected this year!  The first title, With Lee in Virginia, a tale of the American Civil War, is slotted for release on Memorial Day.  You can follow the progress on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

In Freedom's Cause is a valuable piece of world history.  It will forever hold a prominent place in our homeschool.  You can learn more about In Freedom's Cause via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.  It's never too late to learn our history, and there's no better way than through Heirloom Audio Productions CD sets.

In Freedom's Cause Review
Click to read Crew Reviews

Monday, February 23, 2015

Creative Date Ideas Revisited

I originally shared these ideas back in 2009 after my husband and I attended a marriage retreat.  We've been a few times over the years and will be attending again next month.  Any excuse to visit Camp Au Sable is a good one.  It's been a long time since we've been away together for a weekend, and even longer since we've been to Camp Au Sable together.  We are very much looking forward to it.  In the meantime, these ideas truly stand the test of time.  I don't know about you, but we could stand to review this list, as more often than not we end up at the grocery store on our evenings out.  There are definitely more interesting ideas than that listed here!

Ideas for Creative Dates

  • Pick up a book of local walks and choose one where you have never been before.
  • Take a day course together and learn to do something new like make stained glass, fix car engines, paint watercolor, make baskets, cook a cultural meal, etc.
  • Go out to eat changing restaurants for each course.
  • Meet in the park with a packed lunch. Pretend you've never met before, and spend time getting to know each other while you feed the ducks.
  • Go to a place where there are street performers, and enjoy the show.
  • Try a new type of restaurant that you never before have explored like Thai, Cantonese, Tuscany, Vegetarian, Polish, etc.
  • Share a spa day together.
  • Visit a card shop. Read the funny cards together. Choose one that you would like to give to the other person, and either share it there or buy them and take them home.
  • Charter a boat for an hour or two. Take a picnic lunch and a book of poetry or a humorous book about marriage.
  • Take a blanket to the top of a hill. Lie on your backs and view the night sky. Bring along a book of constellations so that you can try to locate them. Take a thermos of hot cocoa or soup to share together. You might even see some shooting stars!
  • Learn to ice-skate together, try go-karting, or buy a kite and fly it together.
  • Find a free concert to attend or special evening at the museum.
  • Visit a cathedral together and ask for the children's guide to the building. They often give a lot of unusual facts about the building and interesting details to look for. Stay for evensong for a peaceful and ethereal experience. Enjoy a meal in the cathedral cafe', or a nearby restaurant.
  • Go out for dessert and coffee. Take your time, and enjoy the experience savoring your treat and your conversation with each other.
Ideas for Evenings Indoors
  • Choose a menu together and cook a meal for two at home. Try cooking an Indian meal and serve it wearing an improvised sari, or a Japanese meal, to eat sitting on floor cushions around a low table. Find some music to suit the culture and enjoy the evening. If cooking's too much for you order takout. You could even watch a relevant film or play regional music to add to the mood.
  • Compile a list of videos you'd both like to see together so you know which ones to rent when you have the opportunity. Don't forget the popcorn!
  • Play your favorite childhood board games.
  • Surf the Internet together for ideas for your next outing or holiday.
  • Find or buy some crayons and drawing paper and have a go at drawing each other's portrait.
  • Buy some child's modeling clay and try to sculpt a model of each other's head.
  • Find a piece of old furniture that needs refinishing and remodel it together, or finish an unfinished piece of wood furniture giving it your personal touch. Sign and date your creation.
  • Share five special memories you each have about your relationship and five special hopes or plans for the future.
  • Borrow a book about massage from the library and learn how to give each other a massage with fragrant aromatherapy oils.
  • Find a modern Bible and read the Song of Solomon to each other. You may be surprised at what you find!
  • Make a scrapbook of memorabilia of your fun times together. Jot notes of ideas for more fun times together in a notebook so that you're never short of new ways to have fun.
  • Make something nice to drink like lemonade or hot cocoa, depending on the season, and curl up with old photo albums or family films.
With a little time and thought you can begin to put some of the fun of dating back into your marriage.  Try these ideas out for size:

  • Think about the things you did together for fun before you were married.
  • Think about the things that you always wanted to do but never had the time or the opportunity to try.
  • Write a list of 10 places you'd like to go or things you'd like to do on a date together. Swap lists with each other and see what you've each written. Take turns choosing a date idea from you spouse's list. Keep adding new ideas to the list.
  • Do all you can to make the dating occasion enjoyable, even if it is not the sort of thing you'd normally do. Focus on your spouse's enjoyment and find little ways to add delight and surprises to the experience, such as secretly buying him or her a special souvenir that they said they liked, or finding a new place to eat lunch, or meeting them with a bunch of flowers.
  • At the end of each date, make sure you know when and where the next date will be. Looking forward to something is half the fun!
  • Have a list of fun things to do at home too for those times when you don't feel like going out or when you cannot get a babysitter.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day - A Family Tradition

The heritage I was raised with growing up was to know and embrace my Irish roots.  It is with pride that I think on the land from which my family came.  There are fond memories of my Irish family members, their ambitions, their struggles and their triumphs.  My paternal grandparents did a wonderful job of instilling us with Irish pride.  Above everything, it was the greatest thing they gave me; my identity as an Irish American.

Growing up we celebrated St. Patrick's Day in a big way.  There was always wonderful food, stout, and the Chieftans on television.  I have vivid memories of gathering around the television in my grandparents basement, fire blazing, cozy blanket, and the lively Chieftans performing on screen.  Those memories are all happy.

As I got older I continued the tradition with my own family.  Mostly I did it for my dad, as few of my children even like corned beef.  What I didn't realize is that this is something they would grow to enjoy and look forward to as they got older and ventured on their own.  Imagine my surprise when some of my older children were still at home, and some of them were on their own, and I started getting phone calls asking what we were doing for St. Patrick's Day.  Over time our traditions have developed as such that we gather as a family twice a year; once at Christmas and once at St. Patrick's Day.  Since our family is so large we now make traditional Irish Stew instead of corned beef, which is rather costly to feed 30 people.  Sometimes I make Irish Soda Bread or Scones, and we keep it simple as it would have been at its origin.

Do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day in your family?  Are you Irish by birth, or just Irish at heart?  Is there a different celebration that takes place in your family based on your cultural heritage?  I would absolutely love to hear about it.

Here are some of my favorite recipes and resources for making St. Patrick's Day special with family and friends:

The Food

My niece shared this recipe with me a couple years back, and I have been making it ever since.  It was a huge hit right from the start, and it is SO simple to make.  I make it in the crockpot, though.  It takes two large pots to feed our big family, with no leftovers!  Maybe I'll make three this year.

This recipe is very similar to how I make my corned beef.  I am inconsistent as to how I prepare it.  Some years I make it in a large roasting pan in the oven.  Other years I do the crockpot method.  It just depends on my schedule and my mood.  Both are simple and tasty.  My husband likes his served with horseradish, and I like mine with stone ground mustard.  No matter what I always make enough for leftovers.  It makes great hash, bubble and squeak, and sandwiches; on rye bread of course.

As a kid it was always something to look forward to getting a Shamrock Shake from a certain fast food restaurant.  That was before the state of our food system was in question, and most of the food we still ate was actually real.  As an adult I got a Shamrock Shake for old time sake, after which my name for it became "chemical spooge".  It's vile stuff that bears no resemblance to its former self.  This recipe from Your Homebased Mom is a refreshing alternative minus the chemical storm provided by the fast food industry.

Another one of my favorite St. Patrick's Day foods is Irish Soda Bread.  My family doesn't all like it.  However, making just one loaf is super simple, so I often make it just because I like it.  We all need those little things that we do just for us, and making soda bread is one of those things I don't mind doing just for myself.  I mean, it is only once a year, people.  This is one of those little effort equals big pay off kind of things.  I love things like that!  If you can get it, Gooseberry Jam is perfect on Irish Soda Bread, and Cooking Melangery dishes out the perfect recipe.

A Little Irish History

Fun Crafts and Activities for the Kids

A fun craft using free paint chips from the hardware store via the Child Care Land Blog.

Being Creative has a fun recipe for St. Pat's Day Play Dough.

There's a fun treasure hunt printable over at Oopsey Daisy.

For even more fun ideas for celebrating St. Patrick's Day with your family 
you can visit my Pinterest page.  

Don't forget to leave me a comment and share how you celebrate St. Patrick's Day, or your own personal cultural heritage, with your family!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Mourning - A Path Diverted

It's been said in a circle or two of my closest friends and family that if we knew what we were getting into when we got married there'd be far less married couples in the world.  The business of carrying on a healthy relationship with anyone over the course of a lifetime is a challenge to say the least.  Not to mention the complexities of the baggage we bring to the partnership and the reality of living in the same home, sharing the same bed in the same room day after day, night after night, week after week, month after month, year after year, and even decade after decade.  Getting along with someone, anyone, in those circumstances over that period of time seems darned near impossible.  Some of us succeed, but many of us fail, and plenty of us are just crazy enough to try multiple times.

I'm going to step out on a limb here and say that, if we are really honest with ourselves, the very same thing could easily be said about having children.  Don't get me wrong.  I love my children; all 10 of them.  However, this parenting thing isn't really turning out the way I envisioned it at all.  The one thing I could have never prepared for is the potential heart break.  I can say without hesitation that raising children has caused me more heartbreak than any relationship I've ever had in my entire life, and I've had some pretty devastating experiences in my lifetime; in my short 44 year lifetime, that is.  I can only imagine what I will have to share if I am fortunate enough to make it another 44 years on this planet.  I'm almost frightened of what I might have to share. 

I have a new found respect for my elders.  That is without question.  I respect the challenges faced to earn wisdom, and I respect that it quite certainly came through painful experience.  Wisdom is rarely gained easily.  More often the most valuable experiences come at the greatest cost.  True, valuable life lessons are not easily won.  We must work hard, be brave, and appreciate the value of failure in order to truly grow as individuals.  There are no guarantees.  There is no "magic" formula for the perfect family.  We can seemingly do everything right and come up with negative outcomes.  Conversely, we can do everything inherently wrong and come up with positive outcomes.  It's just the reality of living and loving.  Failure, despite our best efforts, is always a real possibility.

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, 
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, 
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 
yet I will rejoice in the Lord, 
I will be joyful in God my Savior.  
The Sovereign Lord is my strength; 
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, 
he enables me to go on the heights."  
~ Habakkuk 3:17-19

What is failure?  Failure is defined in two ways.  One - lack of success.  Two - the omission of expected or required action.  When we begin our journey as a parent we are so optimistic and hopeful.  We imagine great things for our children, and we pull out all the stops to assist them in achieving success; whatever that may look like.  It never dawns on us that things may not turn out as we expect.  What do you mean my child may not be successful?  What do you mean we may experience life altering, heart breaking, mind blowing circumstances that forever alter the course of our lives and the lives of our children?

Somewhere along the way we realize that we are not the only influence in our children's lives.  We are not the only guiding force.  We are not the only ones sharing wisdom and providing guidance to our children; both wise and not so wise.  Our children are not the only ones learning lessons.  As parents we will be learning some big lessons on the heels of the choices of our children.  Our lives will never fully be the same, and we have no way of anticipating just what our existence will look like after 15 or 20 or 30 years of being a parent.  

"A foolish son is a grief to his father 
and bitterness to her who bore him."
Proverbs 17:25

No one ever tells us just how hard it is to usher these young people into adulthood.  No one tells us the power they have to just shatter every perception we ever had about parenthood and relating to our offspring.  No one ever tells us the amount of sleep we'll lose, not when they're young and require more hands on parenting, but when they are older and require more hands off parenting.  Only an experienced parent knows that the newborn stage is the easiest it will ever be, and can speak so with gut wrenching honesty.  The challenges only increase over time.

Don't get me wrong.  It's not all bumps and bruises and tears.  There are times of joy and celebration.  It isn't the same for everyone.  Maybe your joys far outweigh your sorrows.  Praise God!  However, there are those of us that experience more challenging seasons; more winters than summers.  Some of us get rocked by the stormy seas more than we sail on the calm waters.  That's just life, and it really is normal; maybe more so than we'd care to admit.

I think it's safe to say that real life, for the vast majority of us, is not the sum of our well orchestrated Facebook and blog posts.  Real life is messy.  There is pain; more than we ever thought possible.  In real life we mourn a lot more than we share.  We mourn in ways we never dreamed. like the loss of a child that is still living, or the shattering of lifelong ambitions at the hands of the poor decisions of our children.  Nothing can prepare us for these things in life, but love can sustain us.  Hope can lift our spirits and strengthen our hearts to persist for another day.  Faith CAN move a mountain, and we can find joy within the trials, even when they belt us one after the other.

Sometimes it is difficult to maintain perspective when we are thrown blow after blow after blow after gut pounding blow.  We don't always feel like picking ourselves up, and it may even take us longer than we imagined to pull ourselves off the floor and rise again to face another day.  When we put our faith in God and truly learn how to hand over our burdens, then we can embrace our reality more openly.  We can take the bad with the bad and find that little bit of good to focus our attention and energy.  There is not a moment we are alone in our struggles, even when we can't necessarily feel it.

Here are some bible verses that encourage me.  Maybe they will bring you a bit of peace as well.

"He gives strength to the weary 
and increases the power of the weak."
~ Isiah 40:29

"My soul is weary with sorrow; 
strengthen me according to your word."
Psalm 119:28

"Finally, be strong in the Lord 
and in his mighty power."
Ephesians 6:10

"God is our refuge and strength, 
an ever present help in trouble."
~ Psalm 46:1

"As you do not know the path of the wind, 
or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, 
so you cannot understand the work of God, 
the maker of all things."
~ Ecclesiastes 11:5

"Just as a father has compassion on his children, 
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him."
~ Psalm 103:13

Thursday, February 05, 2015

5 on the Fifth - Favorite Blog Posts - February 2015

Participating in the Five on the 5th has been a real blessing to me.  Knowing that I'll be sharing five blog posts with you each month forces me to pay closer attention to what I am reading every day.  I am more thoughtful about what I share on a day to day basis, and I ponder what I've read for a longer period of time.  Being more aware helps me to get more out of what I read and make connections between the various sources of information that cross my path each and every day.

This month I seem to be focused on just what it means to be a homeschooler and all the positive things it brings into our lives.  Lots of serendipity happening over here at The Zoo Crew.

Have you ever thought about all the good about homeschooling?  It's been heavy on my mind this month, and look what I stumbled across.  Here are 100 good reasons!

This is VERY exciting for me!  This gentleman actually invented a font that is easier for people with dyslexia to read.  This has wonderful implications.  We currently don't have anyone struggling with dyslexia in our home, but I can't help but wonder how different things could have been for my brother had something like this been around when he was younger.

This is a very well written post that was shared by a good friend on our local homeschool group's facebook page.  Conviction vs. Condemnation gives us great insight as to the source of our feelings.  Very thought provoking.

I absolutely love this post!  What a great reminder for us about where our worth really comes from and where we should be measuring our motherhood.

Lastly, our local homeschool group has started a new blog post series titled A Day in the Life where local families share what a typical day in their homeschool looks like.  Such a fun idea!

5 on the Fifth

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

It's a Privilege

One question we get asked in fun each winter, since we live in an area that receives snow, is:

"Do your children get snow days?"

We homeschoolers even ask each other that out of curiosity.  Generally speaking, the simple answer is, "no".  However, if we look a little deeper we find that we get so much more than the occasional snow day.  In fact, viewed through the proper perspective, I would go as far to say that as homeschoolers we actually live a life of privilege.

There are many privileges of homeschooling.  Here are my top five:

1.   The Freedom to Sleep When it's Needed - At first I was going to say sleeping in, but there is so much more to it than that.  Even though my kids don't allow me to sleep as late as I would like compared to the alternative we are sleeping in.  Thankfully, my hubby is a morning person, and he's up and at 'em by 5:30 each morning, but the rest of us get to continue in slumber until about 7:30 when the house slowly comes to life.  We take our time waking up, cook breakfast, and wrap up the very beginning of our day by 9 o'clock.  Talk about a privilege!  I can guarantee you that at this point we've not even gotten out of our pajamas.  We're in the country, but we do happen to live on a public school bus route.  I can personally attest to the fact that none of the local kids that ride that yellow bus have that luxury.  That bus has long since driven past our home by the time we're wiping the sleep out of our eyes.

The privilege of sleeping in isn't the only way we are blessed.  What about when we're sick?  Both the parents and the children benefit in this regard as well.  There are no worries of missed days, piling up of assignments, loss of pay (if you were a paid teacher at the school), or sharing of germs.  It's a lot easier to cancel a get together or reschedule a meeting than it is to miss even one day of institutional school.  We can continue on with our routine while sipping hot tea, stopping to blow our nose, and breaking to medicate.  No doctor's note.  No prescription.  No penalty for taking the time to rest that we so desperately need.  No validation needed from anyone.  We simply listen to our bodies and act accordingly.  Being sick may not be fun, but being free to deal with it on our own terms is pure bliss.

This goes even further when the family faces a crisis or major life change.  We're honored with the privilege to take the time we need to grieve the loss of a loved one.  We can welcome a new family member, be it a new baby or other circumstance, without worrying about pressing on at the same speed.  We can adjust our routine to give us the time we need to ease into our new circumstances without the outside pressure of adhering to a schedule we did not create for ourselves.  I cannot begin to express just how beautiful a blessing this actually is for us.

2. The Freedom of Lifestyle Choice in Many Areas - Since we've moved to the country I appreciate our many differences even more-so.  Homeschoolers come from all different lifestyles.  There are homesteaders, RV travelers, world travelers, urban dwellers, commuters, small business owners, missionaries, the terminally ill, those suffering with chronic pain, multi-generational families, divorced families, military families, multi-cultural families, adoptive families, classic educators, unschoolers, single-income families, two-income families, single parent households, and on and on and on.  All of the different lifestyles we live make us unique.  As homeschoolers being unique is celebrated, not criticized.  Despite our differences, we are a community brought together by the simple fact that we home educate.  Being unique and different is encouraged and supported.  The freedom to live our life as we desire is not hindered by the artificial framework of institutional education.

We are in charge of our time to the fullest extent possible.  This means that milking the cows holds the same importance as wrote lessons.  The value of living, really living, is honored and even capitalized upon.  There is freedom to integrate learning into our life building our education around the lifestyle we live.  We are not forced to try to live around an artificial lifestyle created for us.  Having lived both within the confines of institutionalized education as well as with the freedom of homeschooling (using various methods over the past 18 years), Being able to take a vacation anytime we want, being free to set our routine around dad's work schedule, and seeing a movie in an empty theater or visiting a museum while everyone else is in school, I now recognize this freedom as a privilege not afforded to all.

3.  The Freedom to Set Our Own Pace - Have I told you lately how much I love this?  We actually have the privilege to choose how fast or slow we progress through any given learning experience.  My most recent "personal object lesson" in this area would have to be my nine-year-old and her struggle with understanding money and place value.  She really "should have" learned this by now, right?  Well, when I was trying to teach her last year I tried every method I could think of.  We used manipulatives, worksheets, computer programs, apps, and board games.  It just wasn't sinking in.  Once I had exhausted all of my avenues it finally clicked, "Hello!  She's not ready to learn this.  Back off, lady!".  Fortunately, I had enough experience with how children learn by this point to actually trust my instincts, and guess what?  Here we are six months or so later, and guess what I noticed?  She's understanding money and place value now.  I didn't notice it by giving her a test or forcing her to just keep at it until it had been drilled into her.  I noticed it by paying attention to her, by conversing with her, and providing no stress opportunities for her to experience money and place value outside the confines of intentional instruction.  She is now ready to take it to the next level, and it happened without my interference.

Another way I see the benefit of learning at our own speed goes in the opposite direction.  When I planned out our school year for 2014-15 I prepped a ton of preschool material for the then three and four year old.  It just so happened that once I started implementing the various resources and activities in my bag of tricks I quickly learned that everything I had planned for the four year old was not challenging enough.  We chucked everything.  At this point it didn't matter the time and effort I put into preparing it for him.  What mattered was meeting him where he was at, and this kid knew things at a level that I didn't even realize.  Since we are in charge of our pace he wasn't forced to just trudge along participating in activities that didn't stimulate or challenge him.  We were able to take a step back, regroup, and begin again.

4.  The Freedom to Learn What We Want To - That's not to say that we don't have certain obligations as homeschoolers.  Of course our children need to be taught the same core subjects offered to the public school students here in Michigan.  The difference?  What we teach in those broad categories, the length of time we spend exploring those topics, and the method we use for learning these subjects is up to us.  Our extracurricular activities are determined by us.  The elective courses we decide to explore are our choice.  What a privilege it is to be able to go super in depth in a subject that interests one of our children, and to have the freedom to abandon a subject when it no longer is of interest.  There is nothing better in the real of learning than a custom tailored education, and that is exactly what I am able to provide for my children.

We have the freedom to freely talk about God and the bible.  Things relevant to our lifestyle can be incorporated into our homeschool.  Things like entrepreneurship, animal husbandry, horticulture, astronomy, puzzles and games, art, 4-H, photography, music and singing, acts of service, morals and manners, hospitality, and home economics.  Our children can be gently guided in areas of moral and spiritual growth in the safety of our family and friends.  It is a privilege for them to be actively raised and guided by those that love them and have a vested interest in their success and safety, as well as a privilege for us as adults to be able to have the freedom to be afforded the time and opportunity to truly build relationship with our children.  Through the process of educating and guiding our children our family is made all the stronger by the time we spend working together toward ultimately ushering them into independence.

5.  The Freedom to REALLY be Ourselves - In today's culture we here so much about bullying.  I'm not that old to have forgotten the pressures that accompany spending all day with 1200 plus people all in my same age group.  In real life we do not only associate with people our own age.  I don't know about you, but I have friends and acquaintances of all ages.  I enjoy the company of my friend's nine-year-old (and the fact that she's not too intimidated or bored of my presence to carry on a real conversation with me) just as much as my fellow church members in their 80's.  We associate with people from infants to senior citizens, and my children can feel comfortable around them all.

We don't have to worry about the clothes we buy our children being in style, and even more important is that they don't have to worry either.  They can dress how they like without the worry of being picked on, ostracized, or being made to feel "less than".  There's just something different about these kids that makes them more accepting of each other.  Does that mean that everyone gets along with everyone, and no one is ever mean?  Well, of course not, but the instances are MUCH, much less within our community of home educating families.  This lack of need to fit in is a relief to both the parents and the children.  As a result the kids are more themselves, and the parents are freed the financial stress of school supply lists and back to school clothes shopping.  Instead, we purchase things as they are needed, and that is a wonderful privilege.

I know there are many, many more privileges associated with homeschooling.  I encourage you to share your thoughts.  I'd love to know what privileges and freedoms you are thankful for in your homeschooling life.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Lessons in Nature

I love my community of friends.  I love their willingness to share the knowledge that has been imparted on them.  I love those I know in real life as well as those I've only blessed with via social media.  All are important to me.  Despite my resistance to technology and the challenge I face daily of creating balance with it in our lives on a daily basis, there are many blessings poured into our lives through its presence.

Technology has so much to offer the homeschooling family; free e-books, free printables, free curriculum, free advice and guidance, access to information instantly without leaving home and too much research, and on and on the list could go.  As a product reviewer for The Old Schoolhouse I am growing more and more appreciative of my blogging friends.  Some I only know virtually, and others I am blessed to know personally.

A recent post from a good friend of mine got me thinking about all that winter has to offer educationally as well as spiritually.  You can read her original post here.  Inspired by reading this, I decided to take a peek at what the bible had to say on snow.  Did you know that there are over two dozen verses in the bible that directly reference snow?  There is a lot to learn on this subject.  With a quick overview, I picked a verse that spoke to me today and will be meditating on it throughout this week.  Here is is coupled with a picture I took this morning after the snowstorm at our home:

After searching snow in the bible, I decided to look up what is said about birds.  I have been enjoying watching all the varieties happily visiting our feeders today.  There is a seemingly endless amount of references made to birds in the bible.  Oh the amount we could learn on numerous subjects just by studying the bible's reference to birds.  Here is the verse I picked to focus on after my search on birds:

Today's visitors!

All around us nature is waiting to teach us and guide us to our creator.  If we only pay attention, there is a lifetime of curriculum right at our fingertips.  The possible references and lessons are endless.  Are you paying attention to what's around you?  How do you incorporate the lessons presented by nature into your homeschool?  I'd love to hear all about it!


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