National Park Service Centennial

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Yesterday, the US National Park Service turned 100 years old. There were celebrations all over, I am sure. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park had their own celebration, complete with a visit from our Congressman Phil Roe and Senator Lamar Alexander.

Boy and girl taking a break from hiking

Taking a short break on the trail

I took the kids on a hike in the late afternoon and stayed away from the morning ceremonies. We avoid crowds, as people who live in a tourist area. We thoroughly enjoyed the hike.  Continue reading »

We did the Gatlinburg Trail, which stretches for about 2.1 miles one way. We obviously have to return, so we get a good four mile hike. It takes us two hours – just about the parking limit at the trailhead.

Yesterday was tough in terms of their attitude in school. We did have some disruptions, like international Skype calls I had to take during our school hours because of time differences etc. So once they got into play mode, it was virtually impossible to bring them back to formal learning mode.

The hike helped give us time to talk about what happened. Nothing like walking and talking, you know? Sure, we looked at nature and saw insects and fungus and flowers and birds. We noticed the word “neotropical” at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and decided to look it up. My son also stumped me with the question, “Is there any type of grass that has flowers?” – another one I promised to look up when we got back home. So yes, nature observation or nature study did happen.

Boy and girl playing on the Gatlinburg Trail

At the half way point, on the dirt hill – that’s why we do laundry

But the main goal of the expedition was to calm down together, move muscles so they sleep better, and talk. Talk we did. My daughter wanted to hold hands with me on the trail, which she usually does not. It told me she knew she was in trouble and wanted to make sure she still had my love even though she misbehaved.

There’s the challenge for all parents: when you love your child and hate her behavior, how do you communicate it? Because you certainly want to let your child know that you love her even when she misbehaves. Love is not conditional. Love is indifferent to circumstances and behavior. Love just is.

But then something must be done about the behavior. Nothing really of substance came of the discussion during the walk, but it removed some of the outer layers of the motivation behind her behavior. It was later in the evening, when I was tucking her into bed, that the tears started coming and she explained some of her fears – of which I knew nothing.

As a girl, she has layers and layers of consciousness. At her age, it is difficult for her to peel them off and describe them to me. But loving efforts on my part, even though sprinkled with parenting mistakes, pay off.

So this centennial will be memorable to me for as long as I still have a brain. My daughter taught me a huge lesson in parenting and hopefully she learned the importance of obedience even more.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 2

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The second chapter of volume three had two stories about Protestant Rebellions: first in the Netherlands, then in Scotland. We got introduced to the many times over great-grandfather of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, who reigns today with his lovely Argentinian wife, Maxima. The royal couple have three cute daughters and he is the second youngest reigning European monarch.

William The Silent Coloring Page

William The Silent Coloring Page

But let me not get carried away with modern-day monarchs. Back to their ancestors. So William of Orange or William I, or William the Silent, or William the Taciturn are one and the same person – the ancestor of the monarchy of the Netherlands. He was a Protestant who lived in a Catholic world until he could not take it anymore and he lead some serious rebellions against the Catholic king of his country.  Continue reading »

From the Netherlands, we moved to Scotland, where we got introduced to the parents of King James I, of KJV Bible translation fame. Queen Mary of Scotland returned a widow from France, where she had been sent to grow up and get educated. She got remarried to Lord Darnley and they had Baby James who was destined to become King James I of Great Britain and Ireland.

I could talk about monarchy all day but this is not a history encyclopedia. It’s a blog post about how our children interacted with this history lesson. First off, there were beheadings in both stories; mentioned, not described. Even so, it was shocking to the six-year-old, who was coloring Queen Mary. She asked several times if she was coloring the lady who got beheaded in the story. She was very sad for her.

Secondly, they enjoyed the story but it was rather hard to keep all the details straight. I don’t expect them to, at their age. Again, we are simply introducing an approximate timeline, names, places, concepts – history gives everybody a foundation. I even gave up on narration for this chapter.

History repeats itself and if we don’t know it, we are bound the repeat the mistakes of the past. Homeschooling allows us to not repeat the mistakes of our educational past, for instance, right? We remember what it was like going to school and being bullied or misunderstood. I remember how traumatic sixth grade was for me socially – and I was one of the good students in the class.

I showed them pictures of the kilt-making craft but we did not make one. I don’t have Scottish ancestry and I do not want my son to wear a kilt any time soon. To make one for my daughter seemed bizarre, so no kilt craft for us. But it sure explained a lot about the way the clans chose their colors and patterns.


How to Memorize the Fruit of the Spirit

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If you are a Christian, you might be familiar with Galatians 5:22-23, also known as the Fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

The Fruit of the Spirit

I recently learned how to memorize this text. It works in the Bible version you see above, which is the New Living Translation. It’s very close to the New King James Version, actually. Continue reading »

First, let me tell you where I found this, so that I give the source proper due: in my daily devotional, called “Help! I’m a Parent!” On page 275, which corresponds to the day of September 19 (I like to read ahead), Verna Reinbold shares that she noticed the fruit of the Spirit could be split into three categories by syllables.

Now, here’s the trick. The first three words have one syllable each. The next three have two syllables each. The last three words contain – you guessed it – three syllables. How cool is that? It made it so much easier to remember the verse. Also, it made it so much easier to mutter it through the day when small irritations threaten to become big irritations unless I get a hold of “love, joy, peace, patience etc.” all over again.

So there you have it. I hope you put this one to memory if you have not already. Your homeschool experience will be smoother as you recite it when you feel your temperature rise. I know I have wanted to memorize this verse a long time ago and I just could not do it. Now I have no excuse.


Tuesday Tome Week 34 – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the second volume of The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis and, probably, the best-known and the most read. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy spend their summer in the country because of the war (this was World War II England – a chance to discuss some history with the kids), in the home of an old professor. There, Lucy walks into a wardrobe and, from there, into Narnia, a magical land.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

C. S. Lewis wrote about Narnia and you could just enjoy the story as it is, of course. But the writer meant it all as an allegory of the Christian walk and a human’s relationship with Jesus Christ. Aslan, the lion in the title, represents Jesus. The Witch represents Satan and, at times, our fallen nature. The Wardrobe is the actual “door” used to go between our world and Narnia.  Continue reading »

There are so many double meanings to what the characters say and do. Every time I read this book or listen to its radio theater version, which I highly recommend, I see something new. It’s the mark of a good writer and somebody who understands the Christian walk through his own experience.

The most memorable quote for me from volume 2 is when Mr. Beaver talks to the kids about Aslan, the lion. They have never met him so they are wondering what he is like. Is he safe? Mr. Beaver replies, “Safe? Who said anything about being safe? But he is good.”

I tear up every time I read or hear that quote because I have experienced this with the lion, Jesus, in my own Christian walk. Aslan will take you places where you will hurt. He will make you meet people who will hurt you. You will feel unsafe in places and relationships where you know He placed you. But it’s all part of His good plan for your life. He knows what you need to get ready for the “big journey” as He calls it.

After I read the book out loud to the kids, one chapter a day, sometimes two, we listened to the Focus on the Family radio theater version of it (as mentioned above). Then and only then, did I allow the kids to watch the BBC production of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I pointed out to the kids how the movie just cannot give you all the details you find in the book and why they should always read the book first.

It’s not that hard to finish the book in 10 days actually. If you read one chapter in the morning, right after breakfast and devotional, as a way to usher in your Language Arts for the day, and then another chapter in the evening, after dinner, you can get it done. It has 17 chapters. You can definitely read it in two weeks if you should slow down a bit here and there.


Back-to-School Walmart Commercial and Socialization

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During the Olympics, Walmart ran a back-to-school commercial using “Here I Go Again” – a song from the 80s by hard rock band Whitesnake. As I listened to the lyrics, I could not believe my ears. Walmart was making my point for me: going to school is a lonely road. You are alone even though you may be surrounded by a group of children. What ABOUT socialization?

Walmart back-to-school campaign

School socialization is focused on clothes, loneliness and pairing up.

Socialization is used as an excuse by many parents who send their children to school. In fact, I heard it put this way: “For the rest of their life, they will live surrounded by people. So we must send them to spend several hours a day in a place where they are surrounded by people.” The French go as far as sending their babies to daycare at three months in the name of “living in a collective.”  Continue reading »

This song perfectly explains how lonely it feels to go back to school and, apparently, cool clothes from Walmart will help you deal with that issue. Seriously?

Let’s see what the song says first:

I don’t know where I’m goin’
But I sure know where I’ve been
Hanging on the promises in songs of yesterday
An’ I’ve made up my mind, I ain’t wasting no more time
Here I go again, here I go again

Here I go again on my own
Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known
Like a drifter I was born to walk alone
An’ I’ve made up my mind, I ain’t wasting no more time…

The Walmart commercial does not go any further than this in the song, but if you read the rest of it, you would know it is a song about heartbreak. Singer-songwriter David Coverdale wrote this song as he was dealing with his divorce from his first wife. I feel for the man.

One of the things I don’t appreciate about socialization in schools is the peer pressure to pair up and have crushes. It starts early, folks. Really early. This summer, my son attended soccer camp with some public school kids and the girls teased him mercilessly about having a crush on a particular girl. The thing is, he did not.

Boy starts third grade

My son wore a gray T-shirt on his first day of school this year.

The girl did and she asked her girlfriends to tease him in order to find out how he felt about her. My poor innocent eight-year-old son was so confused and even angry. Not fun. It only reminded me why we stay away from these buildings called schools. So yes, Walmart, you got school socialization pegged: it’s all about pairing up and breaking up, just like the song you chose for your back-to-school campaign.

“I don’t know where I’m going” starts the song. Well, what can I say? Nobody knows the future. But it sure would be less scary for a child if he knew where he was going and if he did not have to face new teachers and classmates every fall. It would be so much easier on a child to know that he is at home with people who love him and his teacher is his mother (or father) – a person who loves him infinitely.

The commercial’s theme is “Own the first day.” It’s all about clothes. Yeah, some school supplies get two seconds of face time, but everything else is about clothes. You know children compare each other’s clothes and feel the pressure to wear specific brands, right?

Thanks, socialization in schools, for transforming us into robots programmed to keep up with the latest fashion trends and for making us feel that our bulging-at-the-seams closets do not contain anything worthy to wear unless we have what is deemed hot by the fashion experts. That’s why Walmart is trying to break that (otherwise bad) concept and market their merchandise as cool (even though it is not).

“On my own,” “like a drifter” and “alone” clearly paint a sad picture: going to school is a lonely endeavor which requires closing oneself up. God forbid that you should show your true self and expose yourself to merciless teasing and bullying. At the end of the day, a child who goes to school faces life’s challenges alone. Thanks again, Walmart, for making my points for me.

Last but not least, the grammar in this song reminds me that going to school is not a guarantee my children will learn better English than if they were homeschooled. Great choice of song, Walmart! Homeschoolers around the world thank you for telling it like it is. Going to school is not socialization. It is over-socialization which stresses out the kids and confuses them and their parents, sometimes for life.


Oven Fries

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French fries are not exactly the healthiest thing you could eat. In case you did not know, they were invented in Belgium. Want more trivia? McDonald’s fries are not vegetarian. Nope. They are not.

Oven fries taste just as good and, because they are baked, they will not load you with fat your body cannot process.

Oven fries

Oven fries are healthier than their fat-laden country cousins known as French fries.

Besides, oven fries are very quickly washed, cut up, and tossed with oil and condiments, while the oven is pre-heating. It is an easy food to make and a healthy side dish to any entree.

 

Ingredients

6 medium potatoes

3 Tbsp olive oil (more if desired)  Continue reading »

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp parsley flakes

1/2 tsp garlic powder

salt to taste

 

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 375F. Scrub potatoes and remove any dark brown spots. Do not peel the potatoes. The skin gives them a nice texture and it keeps the nutrients in.

Oven fries

You do not have to cut them really thin unless you want to.

Cut each potato lengthwise into 16 or more pieces. Put them in a medium size bowl. In a small cup, mix the oil with the condiments. Pour the mixture over the potatoes and toss them with a spatula until they are thoroughly coated.

Oven fries

Leave some room in the pan so you can turn them over easily if you like them crispy.

Spread them on a baking sheet in one layer. Bake at 375 F for 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven. Enjoy with veggie burgers or any other entree of your choice.


Veggie Burgers

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Veggie burgers are low in fat and sodium, high in fiber and thoroughly delicious. I have shared my oat burgers with a lot of meat eaters and the vast majority of them were pleased. In fact, many people have asked me for this recipe and I have shared it over and over again.

Homemade veggie burgers and oven fries

Homemade veggie burgers and oven fries

You can make these oat burgers ahead of time and freeze them. To defrost them, I pop them in the toaster oven or the microwave.

You can call them veggie burgers or oat burgers, it does not really matter. By the way, they are completely vegan, so they contain no cholesterol. Continue reading »

Once you make them, treat them like regular burgers or like patties. If you go with the latter, make a gravy for them and serve them with mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables (broccoli, carrots, peas, green beans etc) and then add a salad or at least one raw veggie (tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower etc).

Veggie burgers

Veggie burgers or oat burgers are a healthy alternative to burgers made out of red meat.

To serve them as burgers, put them on whole wheat buns (or toast) with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and a slice of cheese or any combination of fixings you prefer. To keep this meal vegan, use Daiya non-dairy cheese slices or any other brand of vegan cheese. You can find non-dairy cheese on Amazon or at your local health food store.

For a healthier side, use corn chips (we love Fritoes) instead of potato chips. Or bake your own oven fries.

 

Ingredients

 

4 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

3 Tbsp. olive oil

4 1/2 old-fashioned oats

1 cup pecan meal (any nuts like pecan, walnuts or almonds, finely blended in a food processor)

2-3 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 Tbsp. chicken-style seasoning

1/4 c nutritional yeast flakes

1/2 tsp. oregano

1/2 tsp. rosemary

 

Directions

Heat water, Bragg’s and oil in a big pot on the stove. When it boils, add the oats and turn the heat down. Way down. On the lowest setting you have. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. While it’s cooking, blend your pecans in the food processor, unless you purchased the meal itself.

When your five minutes are up, turn the heat off and mix in the pecan meal and seasonings. Mix well. The mixture will be stiff, so you might want to use your hand instead of a spoon.

Form into patties, using a round 1/3 cup measure to make round, uniform patties, which you should press down with the bottom of the measuring cup. Dip the measure in a bowl of cold water before forming each burger, to keep the mixture from sticking.

Place on PAM-sprayed cookie sheet, and bake at 350F for 30-45 minutes (turn after 15-20 minutes), until nicely browned. You should get about 24 burgers.


Our Fourth Homeschool Year Begins

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The other day I took the kids to the pool and an acquaintance asked if they start school soon. I knew that question implied that she thought they attend the local public school system. So I replied, “We homeschool, so we start whenever we want. But yes, we started Monday.”

Boy Starts Third Grade

Our son starts third grade.

She said, “Oh, cool. You homeschool. Is this your first year?” I said, “No, it is our fourth.” She said something positive about it again.  Continue reading »

I never know with people if they are positive just to be nice or if they really mean it. And I am aware that homeschooling can be done poorly. Teachers in public and private schools have shared with me that some homeschooling parents do not do anything with their children. After a few years, they put them in the school system and the teachers have to deal with the results of a bad homeschool.

Homeschooling can be done in many ways. There’s a homeschool flavor for everyone. But not teaching your children how to read, write, and do basic math is not acceptable. And money should not even factor in. Public schools ask for money at every turn of the semester, but they fail to produce results.

I have shared here several times about free homeschooling curriculum or inexpensive homeschool curriculum. The library is a treasure trove of living books which homeschoolers should prefer anyway over dry textbooks.

Girl Starts First Grade

Our daughter starts first grade.

Homeschooling does not have to take all your energy and time, either. When children are small, they can only do phonics for 10-15 minutes at a time. As they get older, they require less and less supervision from mom. Sure, it’s a commitment, but it does not have to overwhelm you because it is so efficient.

Homeschool schedules are flexible because you don’t depend on a committee to make changes. Also, because you want to give your children the power to make decisions to an extent, especially as they grow older and develop preferences.

So I encourage you to start your new homeschooling year with courage. Set your goals and write them down. Research shows written goals get accomplished more often than those we only think about.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 1

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Here we go again. Another school year means we go on with history. It’s hard to believe, but we have reached the year 1600 in our studies. On our first day of school this year, we read Chapter 1 of Volume 3 in Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer.

Story of the World Volume 3

Story of the World Volume 3

 

I don’t know why the layout is slightly different but it does not matter. It’s the same basic format:

  • I read a chapter out loud from the main book, which contains the actual “stories”
  • They color a picture which I copy from the Activity Book
  • We work on the map provided for that chapter in the Activity Book
  • We do a craft suggested, if I feel up to it
  • We read a suggested title, optional

Continue reading »

This first lesson was a bit longer, because I read the Introduction and then Chapter 1, which had two stories. But they liked it.

And, truth be told, as soon as they saw the new curriculum and realized it was “history,” they started squealing for joy. A homeschooling mom’s dream come true: children who love to learn.

My six-year-old gets bored at times through longer chapters. And, lately, she has embraced two expressions: “I don’t get it” and “I can’t.” Well, I told her I will not accept “I can’t” and that’s the end of that conversation. She may say, “This is hard,” or “It sounds challenging” but not “I can’t.”

Two other teachers in her life tell her the same thing: her violin teacher and her tae kwon do instructor. So I am on the same page with other adults in her life and hopefully we can get her out of that habit.

When she says “I don’t get it,” I stop and explain. But I noticed that she does get it. She just says it because she thinks it is a cool thing to say. I am not sure where she picked it up (a book? a movie?). But we are working on fixing it and yes, history is one area where she uses it.

The first chapter was a bit convoluted. We had lots of opportunities to get lost in the story. So I just stopped and repeated what she was missing and we moved on.


When They Disobey

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When children disobey, parents have a choice to make. Do we react or do we respond? I have been so emotionally spent by my children’s disobedience sometimes, that I just went to my room and knelt with my face on my knees. Better that than screaming.

It’s not the disobedience itself, the action, that bothers me, as much as the attitude behind it. I want their hearts. Just like God wants my heart.

Romanian architecture

The view from one of the places we stayed at in Romania. Those were good times.

And it reminds me all over again about the great battle going on over me. Do I choose to love God with all my heart? Or do I slip away and do my own thing now and then, because it’s so much fun?  Continue reading »

Besides walking away when I feel angry, I also know that I need to address their behavior later plus give them consequences (no privileges, for instance). Words are not enough.

They apologize and I say “I forgive you” but – again – words are not enough. We just read the story of Eli and his two disobedient sons for our devotional this week. What a stern reminder to apply consequences when children disobey, not just words. I don’t want to fall in that trap.

I am all about talking and discussing what happened. But tempers must be under control and many times it is better to say, “We will talk about this later.” And then you go calm down further before you talk to them and before administering consequences.

One point that deserves consideration: Are they tired and overstimulated? Maybe they just need quiet time, if not a full-fledged nap. Some days I know I cannot function anymore after 3pm. How much more a small child?