Monday, October 28, 2013

Balancing All the Extracurriculars


Horse Riding, Tap Dance, Swim Lessons, Chess Club, Basketball, Music Lessons ... the list can go on and on and on.  Add in some field-trips to pumpkin patches and museums (either with your local homeschool group or on your own).  Add in a casual social life, so you have a few playdates and birthday parties and so forth, and your life as a parent becomes a juggling act of running around all over town and spending more time in your car than you do at home.

I don't want to live like that.  I don't want to spend more time in my car than I do in my home.  And yet, I do want my kids to have some of it.  Some lessons, some social life, some field trip adventures.

We were trying to limit it to 2 extracurriculars per child.  Pick your two things you want to do - is chess club more important to you or is basketball?  But then things came up that I wanted them to stick with - music lessons can not just be started, stopped, and then started again because you wanted to try out a 6 week pottery class.  That isn't fair to the teacher and it's not a disciplined way to learn an instrument.  So we ended up with more than 2 activities per child.

And that rule wasn't helping me with field trips and play dates.  What is the right number there?  And is it fair to my kids to homeschool them and then deny them a chance to see their friends?

So I'm going to try something different.  Instead of putting limits on outside the home time, I'm going to lay out what I want to accomplish at home.  In other words, I'm starting with the positive vision of what I want rather than the negative vision of what I don't want.  I'm putting my time at home on my calendar.  How much time do we need for chores, schoolwork, family time, and resting?  I'm writing that all down on my calendar as though it were an appointment.  And then if there is space left on the calendar, it's fine to schedule all that other stuff in.  But at least I protected the time for what needed to be done at home.

How do you balance it all?  Share your ideas here!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I'm Back!


I've been off in the land of Charlie Brown (St. Paul) attending a conference for work (I blogged about the conference over on my other blog).  It was a great week, with lots of professional networking, inspiring ideas and presentations, and time by myself in a hotel and eating out a lot.  As much as I love being a mom and a cook and a radical homemaker/small scale homesteader (while also working full time), it's still a nice break to go stay somewhere and have others clean up after me and feed me.

But what did I do with my kids for this week?  Well, this is one of those times that it's really good to have some other homeschooling mom friends.  We paid a friend to watch the kids during the days that my husband worked, and I left them for the week with frozen meals and activity bags packed and with a lot of worries and lists and all the laundry done and instructions for when kids needed to be where ...

And my husband ignored a lot of it and did things his own way and some of my prep was useful and they didn't get any schoolwork done and took an impromptu weekend trip away with my in-laws to the beach in Oregon ... and they were just fine without me.

Don't get me wrong - they were still very happy when I got home and I still feel needed.  My daughter said "thank goodness you're home because I need laundry washed!" and my son said "please make a salad for dinner because Daddy didn't feed me any vegetables all week!", but they also said they had fun and they obviously had some good bonding time with their dad, without me there to be the automatic first responder.

Absence may not make the heart grow fonder, but it really does give you some perspective and more appreciation for things often taken for granted.  Taking time away from my family does them no harm, and gets increasingly easier as they get older.

So don't be afraid to take some time away from your kids.  Your partner can handle it.  Really, they can.  We may want to be needed, but we should also let others go without us every now and then.  It gives them a chance to unfurl their wings and discover what they are capable of, and it gives everyone a chance to see you as more than a reliable caretaker.

Monday, October 14, 2013

In my Kitchen this week


As we continue to eat seasonally, this week has been busy with making dehydrated apple chips from the apples I harvested (we don't really know all the varieties we have).  I was gifted a very nice dehydrator for Christmas last year, but this is really the first crop I've had enough to dry some of it.


I have about 6 of these that I grew this year, and then I was also handed a bag of already peeled and chopped sugar pumpkin that was left-over from a church dinner.  So, it's time to bake with pumpkin!


My kids requested pumpkin muffins with cream cheese filling, and so I made a double batch this weekend, and then froze half of the muffins for later.  I had enough left-over pumpkin puree to end up freezing some of it too, so there is plenty more pumpkin in our dietary near future.

Going with the seasons and mostly cooking what needs using up right now. :)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Weekly Book Post: The Song of the Lioness

I don't have any pictures of books this week, but you'll forgive me a boring picture-less post, right?  It's like reading a book instead of watching a multimedia presentation. :)

An interesting article on the benefits of reading was posted to Huffington.  One of the claims is that reading literature may help you "read" people as well.  But not pop-fiction, it claims.  Hmmm.

But that article really has nothing to do with what I really sat down to write about, which is the current audiobook obsession going on in my household.

The Song of the Lioness Quartet  are four books by author Tamora Pierce, which I loved, loved, loved when I was a kid (I think I was about 9 or 10 years old when I read them).  This year I enjoyed reading them out loud to my kids, and there is nothing quite as sweet as having your children join you in loving something that you loved as a kid.

This is the story of Alanna, a girl living in a magical medieval type world, who dreams of being a knight and having great adventures (even though only boys can be knights).  She wants it so much that she and her twin brother switch places when it is time for them to go off to school, and she lives disguised as a boy in the palace, training to become a knight someday.

She doesn't just manage to meet the challenge - she is actually a great swords(wo)man and becomes the right hand (wo)man to the Prince.  She has to learn to balance her femininity and warrior-identity, she has to learn to love, and she has to find her place in the world.  There is an arch-villian to overcome, as well.

The first book covers her time as a page, and the second book covers her time as a squire culminating in her being revealed as a girl after she earns her knighthood.  The third book is her time as a wandering knight and spent mastering her magic, and then in the fourth book she quests and then returns to court as King's Champion.

Pierce says the books are for teens and adults, and there are mature themes (Alanna gets to have three love interests in her life, and although there are no explicit "sex scenes", you do know she's having sex.  And then there is, of course, violence, and some dark magic.)  However, my two kids were just fine with it.

So we read them earlier this year, and then they discovered that the library had them on audio CD.  That has been almost the last I saw of my daughter this week, as she spent days in her room just listening to the books straight through.  So fun!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Learning about the Moon


I'm using the Real Science Odyssey Earth Science Level One with my daughter (originally I thought it would work for both kids, but it was too basic for my older son).

We are crawling through it pretty slowly, because I like to enrich the basic program with lots of extras: extra library books (it's a weakness of the curriculum that no books or resources are recommended, despite only very basic content in the program itself), extra documentaries, extra kits and experiences.


For those extras, I turn primarily to the library and my netflix account (free is good when homeschooling).  After that, I have found Home Science Tools to be a great company for supplying me with my science tools.

For the moon study, there is a lot of fun stuff for us:

Moon in My Room can be programed to light up at night corresponding to the phases of the moon. A fun twist to a nightlight (although, of course, there will be no light when there is a new moon).

The Space Exploration Kit is proving fun so far.  My kids love a good science kit with fun experiments and things to build.

And we got a telescope to look at the moon through.


Fun and learning all at once!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Weekly Book Post: Over-Dressed


We've been hearing the story of sweatshop labor and outsourcing in the clothing industry for a very long time now.  And it's not that this story isn't important - it's very very important but we've mostly stopped listening. Every now and then something shocking happens that makes us pay attention to it again, but then we quickly go back to the status quo.

I borrowed the book Over-Dressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion from the library because it was featured on The Non-Consumer Advocate, and because I have been mulling over ethical clothing choices since the latest Bangladesh factory tragedy.  I expected there would be talk about sweat shop labor, but the book covers more than that.

Cline covers the story of how we became addicted to fast fashion, how design and retail has become more generic, and what happens to all the clothing we discard (68 lbs of textiles per person go into the landfill in the US every year!), and what the environmental impact of manufacturing all that clothing is in the first place.

I found this book disturbing and compelling.  If you haven't even thought about how your cheap, fast, almost disposable clothing impacts the world, this will be eye-opening.  If you have been thinking about it, as I had been, this will add further breadth to the issue for you.  Overall, I think everyone who wears clothes should read at least part of this book.

(If you don't have time/inclination to read the book, there is also a good list of What We Can Do on the book's website.)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

In My Kitchen Right Now


Homemade yogurt from milk we got from our next door neighbor's goats.  Sadly, it turns out I am the only one in the family who likes the taste of it, so I'm eating homemade yogurt with granola and homemade strawberry syrup for breakfast every day for a while, I guess.


Pears I harvested from a tree that was completely hidden by the blackberry bramble in the back field.  I worked hard to cut back blackberries, harvest the pears, and now I'm not sure what to do with them.  The kids don't like the taste of them as a raw snack .... Thinking we might make pear cider or maybe I'll make a pear crisp.