Monday, May 31, 2010

Meal Plan Monday

Breakfast and supper options

Lunch, served with kombucha, swedish bitters and fermented cod liver oil for all:

Monday: Leftover Roast over Salad
Tuesday: Canned Salmon Sandwiches
Wednesday: Liver and Onions
Thursday:  Fried Potatoes and Roast
Friday: Cod Sandwiches
Saturday: Cobb Salad
Sunday: Roast Chicken

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Knowledge Deficit, by E.D. Hirsch, Jr.

I heard about Core Curriculum from TJE and really liked it.  I managed to get a copy of 'What your First Grader Needs Know' at the thrift store for $2 and then the 'What your Third Grader Needs to Know' for 10 cents at a garage sale. Woo hoo! :)   I'll keep my eyes out for the whole series.  I don't think they are worth full price for us, but definitely a great resource to have for $2 or 10 cents! :)   I also bought 'Books to Build On' through for $6 including shipping.  I think they are great resources for the kids' and I's education through classics and mentors.  The Books to Build on is a list of books for grades kindergarten to 6th grade.   I was hoping it was for adults also-but it was not.

Having bought a few books by E.D. Hirsch and really being impressed by them, I decided I should try to learn more about the author and his views on education in general.  So I found 'The Knowledge Deficit' by E.D. Hirsch, Jr at the library and read it. 

I really enjoyed the first part of the book.  His views on why a well rounded education is important in regards to reading was very eye opening for me.  He makes a really good point.  He differentiates between decoding the printed marks and decoding the actual language. 

"It is not mainly comprehension strategies that young children lack in comprehending texts but knowledge-knowledge of formal language conventions and knowledge of the world."

"Children are not less intelligent then adults, they are just less well informed."

He postulates (I've taken a fancy to that word for some reason-I hope I'm using it right)  that while phonics are of utmost necessity, they only help in sounding out words.  Actual reading comprehension can only happen as one learns about the world around oneself, history, etc.  You can be the fastest reader in the world, but if you don't know what hockey is, you could read a whole article on the sport and comprehend nothing.

He gives a number of examples of printed words, followed by a list of necessary pre-existing knowledge necessary to understand it.  Little things that we take for granted, but many people, esp from different cultures, would not know and therefore would not be able to make sense of the paragraph. One example "Jones sacrificed and knocked in a run."  To someone who does not know about baseball, that would be a completely useless statement.  It could be taken, with some stretch of the imagination, to mean just about anything.  A lot of pre-existing knowledge has to be already present to understand that sentence.  Obvious, but fascinating to me.  Trying to read about Cricket completely baffles me.  I can read the words, but have NO idea what they mean.  Whereas most people from England would be confused by the above statement on baseball, but fully understand a similar statement on cricket.  Ability to read phonics, while necessary, is not helpful in those circumstances.  A general knowledge of the subject, however, is of utmost importance.

One point he makes is that most 'language' taught in schools today is a Standard English that is very simple and practical.  We use a much more varied vocabulary in writing then we do in speech.  And that is so true!  I will write things even here (like postulate) that I would not generally use in speech.  And when you read older 'classics' that becomes even more true.

I have to tell you, since starting to read 'classics' (Moby Dick, Black Beauty (both Illustrated Classics), Ms. Pickerell, Peter Burgess and Shel Silverstein lately), my children's vocabulary has definitely increased.  I love hearing them use words and phrases not generally heard from children. And they are most often used correctly. It's too cute and makes mama proud. 

He also made the point that learning phonics does not come 'natural' to a person.  I think some ways of teaching phonics are better then others, but it's not like learning to walk or talk, where it comes naturally without any prompting.  It must be done intentionally.

Where I disagree with him is his politics and social agenda.  To be fair, he sees a public school system that is badly failing it's students, and the negative social impact that is having on the country.  And he has spent much of his life researching how best to remedy that.  And on a large-scale, he may have come up with some fabulous solutions.  However, I personally believe that large-scale reform is seldom how God chooses to work. I believe that what must happen for America to become strong and great again, is for families to raise up children who are intelligent, thinkers, problem-solvers and people of high moral standards (preferably Christian, but history has shown that not to be of utmost necessity).  So, I do not agree with his social agendas, but I am able to take what he has learned and use it to help me best educate myself and my own children.

That is how he happened to come up with the 'What your __ Grader Needs to Know' series.  He thinks it should be required basic knowledge for each grade in schools across the US.  They do seem to give a good, thorough glimpse of classics in all subjects, as well as general info.  They really read much like a text book, but are meant to be used as guides. I think they would make a fabulous curriculum for a homeschooler.  Except I would (and plan on) using the original works as much as possible rather then the brief synopsis he gives in the books. He states in the beginning of the books that if you were to read it for 20 minutes a day, 180 days a year (the typical school calendar), you would read through it 3 times and the child would have an excellent education.

What I take from his book(s) on a practical level, is that I need to continue to give my children the liberal, classics-based education that I already desire and intend to give them (and myself).  However, I also realized that reading books that are too far beyond our scope of knowledge is not helpful. I need to work up to them.  Reading books on subjects that are at our own level and continually working our way toward more difficult, advanced and comprehensive books on all subjects.  I shouldn't feel guilty for not being able to read and understand Isaac Newton, but rather to make it my goal to get to where I CAN read him and not only understand, but enjoy what he has to teach me.

It was a good reality check for me.  I was trying to read a book on mathematics, Infinite Ascent by David Berlinski.  It was totally beyond my scope of comprehension and current math knowledge. At first I was determined to push through, but then I realized it was a futile effort. I was not learning anything from it and my time would be better spent reading through a less involved, less 'assumed knowledge necessary' mathematics book (so I started 'How Math Explains the World' instead-so far, so good).    But, I do hope to be able to read that book someday and have it make sense.  Boy will I be proud!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Crunchy Cons, by Rod Dreher

This was my second time through Crunchy Cons, by Rod Dreher.  I read it about this same time last year for the first time and really enjoyed it.  My parents were visiting in April and my dad read it and really enjoyed it also. 

How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, and their divers tribe of countercultural conservatives plan to save America (or at least the Republican Party)

This is the first book on politics I have read since I was in college I believe.  I do not understand the government at all (I look forward to remedying that through my own reading and mentoring of my children), and I know that the government is not the answer to the world's problems.  At the same time, I know that God has ordained the government as a means of leading society.  And the government needs good, moral leaders if it is to do the job God intended.  Basically, it's such a mess, I get overwhelmed and simply vote for who my husband tells me to vote for.  Not the ideal I confess, but an uninformed opinion is not ideal either, so the only answer is to study history and start to understand the roles of government to get a better grasp of how it should be done.  For now, I push the buttons for GOP and pray. :)

Drew ran across Crunch Cons last spring and knew from the cover that I'd be interested in reading it.  While it didn't fix my dismal lack of political knowledge, it did light a fire under me that change was possible, and it had to start with me.  With parents who are raising up the next generation of leaders.  I CAN DO THAT!  Right now, without further study (granted, I am not absolving myself of that responsibility, I just know it will take me a long time to thoroughly understand it-and meanwhile I hated the idea of sitting around doing nothing), I can be a 'crunchy con' who raises thinking, moral (Godly), conscience children for the next generation of government.

Rod Dreher is a political journalist who used to live/work in NYC and now is in Dallas.  He considers himself a conservative (one who wants to conserve what is truly important-namely family and society), but has issues with the political agenda of the GOP.  The political left, is greedy with personal rights and the political right is greedy with money, growth and power.  My sentiments exactly.  Damned if you do, damned if you don't! 

In his own life, he started looking for what was right and good, instead of either or.  And he was surprised with how much he had in common with the tree hugging liberals.  Through a series of articles, he found he was not alone in his thinking.  He coined the term 'Crunchy Cons', crunchy for the granola-eating health-conscious side, earth friendly, and the cons for the conservative.

I could so identify.  I've come to realize that the earth's resources are not something to be wasted.  They were given to us by an Almighty Creator God who gave us the mandate to be stewards of and to have dominion over the earth.  Not to treat it like crap and take away without replacing.  We have no idea when Jesus will return, and until then, the earth needs to be inhabitable.  Dominion is meant as a taking care of, not dominating out of greed.  I was definitely crunchy!  And conservative just made sense from a Biblical standpoint.

Each chapter is a discussion on the Crunchy Con reaction to various facets of life.

Consumerism: "The tragic flaw of Western economics is that it is based on exploiting and encouraging greed and envy.  Because an economy grown from these poisonous seeds is bound to destroy the community of which it is a part."

Food: (my favorite *grins*) He quoted Wendell Barry and Joel Salatin.  Enough said. :)  He was, naturally, in favor of smaller, local food systems, less processed foods, more home-made meals and less fuel being spent to get it to our plates.  Saving the earth while saving our poor, sick bodies.  Win win!

Home:  The concept of true beauty in architecture was new to me. Yet I can look at some houses and almost want to cry, but never knew why.  And others, McMansions as he calls them, are huge and I know are supposed to be beautiful, but I find them repulsive.  I guess that is a natural connection in a lot of people.  Phew!  Glad I'm not insane...  He talks about he and his wife's quest to find the right house in the right neighborhood.  "Since about 1945, we've been building neighborhoods not to suit authentic human needs for beauty and community, but to move product as cheaply and quickly as possible."  Did God really create humans to need beauty around them?  Does God love beauty and surround himself with it? It would certainly appear so. 

Education:  Another favorite of mine.  He and his wife decided to homeschool their boys as a result of thinking through their own 'crunchy con' ideals.  Raising leaders for the next generation of government and leadership.  Quoting a homeschooling mom "The time is past when parents could sort of hand their children over to a school system and expect that the system could form their children to be part of the same community that the children live in.  The parent has to take on the primary responsibility for forming the child into an adult-and not just education about geography, math, and so forth, but their sense of right an wrong, their sense of justice, and how they should relate to other people."  AMEN!!

Environment:  While he confessed to being an 'avid indoorsmen', he also acknowledge that the thought of 'environmentalist' brought up visions of 'sanctimonious cultural elitists who seemed to have such worshipful regard for trees and owls, but so little concern for people.  The animal-rights people were the worst."  After reading Matthew Scully's 'Dominion' however, he came to realize that the earth's resources needed to be 'conserved' to serve humankind.  And that there was a moral factor in how we treat the land and animals.

Religion:  "Scratch the surface of a crunchy con, and you'll usually find a serious religious believer.  Why?  Because it gives crunchy cons the impetus to orient their lives and their efforts toward an ultimate end: serving God, not the self." He discussed various religions and their effects on families and societies.  While I do believe there is only one way to Heaven (through Jesus), it was fun to hear how other religions work towards a morality.  A reaching for the real purpose of our existence-to worship God. 

He ended with this: 'Hope is memory plus desire.  Given how things are these days, it's hard to be optimistic about the future.  But if we are to find our way to a future worth having, we will have to return to the wisdom of the past.  If we conservatives dare to rediscover and reclaim our authentic traditions, and seek with cheerful hearts and generous spirits to make the old ways live anew in our everyday lives, well then we have every reason-every reason to hope.'

Monday, May 24, 2010

Meal Plan Monday

Breakfast and supper options

Lunch, served with kombucha, swedish bitters and fermented cod liver oil for all:

Monday: Tacos
Wednesday: Taco Salad
Thursday:  Cod and Rice
Friday: Nacho Spuds 
Saturday:Afthan Liver
Sunday: Roast and Veggies

Friday, May 21, 2010

Summer Meal Plan/Template

This is a part of 'Fight Back Friday'

Every few months or so, over the last 5 years, I have revamped my menu plan.  Trying to make it more simple and inexpensive.  And when I started learning about nutrition, I added that to my criteria.  It started out as a power point document with the calendar months.  I made a menu for all 3 meals every month.  It was really overwhelming, but I knew I had to start somewhere.  So every month I'd take out all of my cookbooks and my calendar and start writing down meals, along with page numbers, etc.  It took me a few hours, but I somehow knew it would get more simple over time, but I had to start at the bottom and work my way up. And I have, ever so slowly. 

Eventually I simplified breakfast and supper.  And lunch has been simplified as well.  But, I'm ready to simplify a bit more, and to add more fresh veggies from our garden and the farmer's market to our weekly menus.

I've gotten so I spend closer to $600 a month on food, and that extra $200 really should be spent on our debt.   I have come to the conclusion that the 4 of us have gut dysbiosis and we do not receive the necessary nutrients from most 'harder to digest' foods, such as beans and grains.  Which means that we are especially in need of animal products.  I would much rather spend more money on food then insurance and doctors/medicine.  But I need to find a balance, esp while we are trying to pay off our debt. I am hoping to start buying a pig and cow by the side with our tax return, but we are not there quite yet.  So for now I buy at Whole Foods and will start buying at the Farmer's Market as soon as it opens in June.  Woo hoo!  I only started doing that some last year, but now that I have a better idea of how much meat we eat a month, and how much it costs at WFM, I can make better choices at the Farmer's Market.

My weekly overall meal plan the last 6 months has been: one roast chicken, one chicken leftover meal, one canned salmon, one white fish (cod is the cheapest at WFM, but still expensive!), one liver meal, one 'other' meat like ham or roast or hamburger, and one usually with eggs or leftovers.  It's worked well, but I have to be home every day for at least an hour before lunch to cook.  Which hasn't been a problem.  But, I would like to be able to enjoy the great outdoors some, go to the beach once a week, have picnics, etc.  Which means having more freedom from the kitchen.

So... I want to cook less, enjoy more raw veggies, eat more picnic-friendly foods and spend less money.  All without giving up animal products and good nutrition.  Soups were great for the winter, but now that it's getting warmer, I can't really justify that, and salads seem a great switch.

I have worked out a new 'template' that I want to try. It's not going to be a big change for us, but it gives me something to work with to try to accomplish my above stated goals/desires.

For every week I want to buy approximately 8 pounds of one type of meat - hamburger, chicken, roast, pork or ham are what we prefer. I want to cook all 8 pounds at once.  I don't have a crock pot or oven right now, but I will hopefully have an oven someday...  And then use that meat for 3 family meals (lunch) and 5 meals for Drew to take to work (dinner).  Weekly, I also will continue to have us eat a meal of liver, canned salmon, white fish and eggs/bacon.

Meat options: taco meat, meatloaf, hamburgers, meatballs, hamburger, chicken, roast, steaks, pork chops, pork shoulder, sausage, ham.

Meal options for meat meals: Fried potatoes, potato pancakes, soup, pasta, sandwich, salad and dressing (I hope to find and post a bunch of salad and dressing options as I collect them), rice and salsa, rice and sauce, potatoes, tortillas. 

I plan to chop up some veggies at the beginning of the week for a salad and then use them throughout the week for a few more simple meals.

Specifically, I am leaning towards:
Saturday, a cobb salad with leftovers, bacon, hard boiled eggs
Sunday, a meat and veggie meal after church
Monday, some of the meat of the week added to a chopped salad (from Saturday) with appropriate dressing
Tuesday, liver
Wednesday, some more leftover cut up veggies/salad with meat
Thursday, canned salmon
Friday, white fish

The days can and will change around, depending on when I cut up the veggies I bought that week, our schedule, etc.  But I find it really helpful to have it written out that I can just rearrange.  Plus it makes getting groceries easier.

I'll buy 4 cans of canned salmon, 4 fish frozen fish fillets, 4 pounds of liver and 4 cuts of meat, 8 pounds each, and the usual incidentals.  Nuts, cheese, olive and safflower oil, veggies, tortillas, butter, rice, milk and eggs, salt, spices, etc. 

So, that is the template I hope to work with for the next few months.  Hopefully I'll save time and money, while continuing to heal our guts.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Our First Family Camping Trip

Drew and I had camped a few times before the kids.  Actually, we camped before I hurt my back in 2001.  And we've talked about doing it with the kids for the last few years.  My mother-in-law even bought us a tent big enough for the whole family and a nice big sleeping bag.

My back is finally doing better and the kids are old enough.  Plus, Drew's cousin is getting married in upstate-NY in June, so we decided we would like to do a close trial-run to see how it went.

We finally went Sunday night.  It went really well!

We went to Harriman State Park, which is about an hour away. Far enough away to not see the NYC lights (well, maybe some, but not too bad), but close enough to go back if it didn't work out.

We played at the 'beach' and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows.  We decided to do s'mores, even though they are evil.  :)  Myia would eat them until she threw up if she wasn't stopped.  She's my girl. *sighs*  poor thing!  Samuel had 2 and he was over it, like his daddy.

Drew and I used our blow up mattress, so I had no back problems whatsoever.  The kids slept all night. I was the only one who had to get up to pee.

The most annoying part was that the kids woke up at 6:30 in the morning.  But otherwise, I was happy with how it went.  For some reason we came home Monday morning absolutely exhausted, as if we'd hiked a mountain or something.  Kind of strange.  And I must confess, we were all glad to be home.

I hope we can get used to the camping thing. It's so much cheaper then hotels and I'd like us to be able to have vacations as a family.  We don't do nearly enough 'fun things' together.  We must remedy that!

For breakfast, we had nut bars and granola and cheese and milk.  We brought bacon and eggs, but the fire would not start and we were supposed to be out by 11. 

So, here's hoping that next month's camping trip will be even better!!!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I love being a Sunday School Teacher!!!!

I have the honor of leading the 1st Grade Sunday School class at Hawthorne Gospel Church in Hawthorne, NJ.  I've done so for 3 1/2 years and have truly come to believe I am blessed to be able to use my gifts for the Lord in this way.  My most important ministry is my family, by far.  But the Lord saw fit to allow me this one other outlet to serve him and I so appreciate it!

We have had a missions-focus the last month.  Two weeks ago we visited 'Olpiro', a village in Tanzania that our church has had the honor of helping to spread the gospel and build a church-first of souls and now of real wood and brick. It's very exciting!  The 1st graders were given passports and plane tickets and we transported the Sunday school room into an airplane and 5 stations that depicted the life of the children in Olpiro. I don't know if the kids or teachers had more fun. :)  I was giddy with excitement the night before.  You'd think I was going on a real trip to Africa! 

And then last week, we were given a special assignment to create a banner for our missions pastor to take with him to Olpiro next week, to hang up for the dedication of the new church building.  What an honor!  The kids had so much fun putting their handprints on the banner.  And it looked fabulous!

I just had to share my special blessings.  Good things are more fun when shared. :)

Here is a picture of our banner in Tanzania.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Meal Plan Monday

Breakfast and supper options

Lunch, served with kombucha, swedish bitters and fermented cod liver oil for all:

Monday: Hot dogs over our campfire (impromptu camping trip Sunday night)
Tuesday: Leftover roast and Fried potatoes
Wednesday: Canned Salmon and Salad
Thursday:  Chicken Tacos
Friday:  Liver and Onions with white sauce
Saturday: Fried Cod Sandwiches
Sunday: Cobb Salad

Friday, May 14, 2010

My Journey to Educational Eureka, Part VI

Part I, Part II , Part III, Part IV, Park V, Park VI

These are some things I learned from 'A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion', by Oliver and Rachel DeMille and Diann Jeppson

The Home Companion is just what it says-a companion guide to help you implement the TJE method at home.  It has a lot of stories in it to get you started on your own schedule for working yourself and your family through the phases.

It has quotes on the sides through the whole book quoting George Trumbull, 1742.  I want to read that book now also.

Core and Love of Learning is the time when kids learn necessary daily living skills.  Most of that is done through chores and classes.  It should be a gradual process, with them doing the chores along side the parents until they are able to take them on themselves.  It's also the time when they learn a hunger for knowledge and a joy of learning. 

The bookshelf should be full of good quality books for the kids to read and have read to them.  Scheduling times for it, or just when the desire comes.  There should also be a lot of educational games and good quality play items for them to choose from during their free time.  This is different with each family of course, and even different with each child.  Many parents, myself included, should also be getting their own 'scholar education' at this time, spending a few hours reading their own classics.  The children should not be 'entertained', but rather have the option of choosing how to fill their time with the items that are provided for them around the house.  It's amazing to watch Myia or Samuel pick up a book on animals and start studying the pictures, asking me questions, often recreating them on paper or with blocks, legos, etc.  It's so fun!  It really does work.  I am finally getting the 'brain candy' out of the house and filling the house instead, with high quality learning tools.  And the kids use them, and love them!

The details are what I am finally figuring out, slowly, but surely.  This book was great for that.

Diann wrote about her '6-point approach to inspiring love of learning in my children'.

1.  Example
2.  Frequent Exposure
3.  Plentiful Choices
4.  Accountability
5.  Follow Through
6.  Environment

 They talk about group discussions and suggestions for starting up and leading groups.  That is an important part of the later Love of Learning phase.  Helping the students to think through what they read and see that others are excited about reading as much as them. 

Chapter 7 was really eye-opening for me.  It talked about the role of women in every child's life.  "Something that was lost with the feminist movement in America.  How very sad to have lost that role.  "Every great-grandchild is directly raised by twelve people.  There are others who will influence the child, but twelve who directly raise, mentor, teach, lead, counsel and help the child reach adulthood. The power of womanhood is to directly train all twelve of these people, so that when her great-grandchild is raised, he or she is raised correctly and well. Those twelve people are: father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, grandpa, grandma, uncle, aunt, church leader, teacher, friend and mayor (government). I found that an interesting thought, esp in regards to the other children that God has put in my life, besides my own two.

They stressed that your own education is your most valuable asset. Yikes!  I'm in trouble.  They also gave some great examples of amazing women who saw their roles as mothers as truly important.  It was very inspiring.

Chapters 12 and 13 were also very inspiring. He talked about how we must have a long attention span if we are to learn anything of value, and most Americans, myself included, simply do not.  That is not an option, it must be developed for any real education to take place, and consequently for real freedom to be maintained in a country.  His answers for increasing your attention span: discipline and hard work, hours and hours and hours of studying.  It may not be easy, but it is certainly do-able. The least educated among us can accomplish that!  Chapter 13 was an incredibly inspiring list of people, with just such values and long attention spans, who changed America's history.

The end has some great chore sheets, lists, class ideas, etc.

So, that takes us to the end of my 'Journey to Educational Eureka', but it's just the beginning of the 'education' of myself and my children.  I have worked hard to lay the foundation.  To see where we are going and how we are going to get there.  Now I must work just as hard to educate us.  And I'm very excited to do it!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Journey to Educational Eureka, Part V

Part I, Part II , Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI

I said it was a journey, not a quick trip. ;)

This is a synopsis of what I learned from 'Leadership Education, The Phases of Learning'  by Oliver and Rachel DeMille.


The Leadership Education was an awesome overview of how human beings learn in all the phases of life.  They broke the ages down into 'phases'.

1.  Foundational Phases
     A.  Core Phase,  birth to approx. age 8
     B.  Love of Learning Phase, approx. 8-12

2.  Learning Phases
     A.  Scholar Phase, approx. ages 12-18
     B.  Depth Phase, college age generally

3.  Application Phases
     A. Mission, building a family and career
     B.  Impact, grandparent/retired/changing the world by mentoring others

How succinct is that?  And it is so applicable to each age and stage of life.  How amazing to go with the flow of how God made us rather then to work against it?  And rather then have our final goal be retirement and 'the good life', have it be simply to have more time to mentor and share our hard-earned wisdom with others who are looking to change the world.

A little more detail on the Phases:

They listed 55 ingredients in the Core and Love of Learning Phases. I'll point out some of the details of them that I plan to utilize.

Structure time, but not content.  I have found that to work so well with us.  Give general blocks and types of things to do and let them move within that framework. I hope to structure our time even more as time goes on.  But that is the general format we have been using and that works well for us.  So much can be accomplished, using the mentoring format, with this scheduling.

They are keen on simplicity, in the house and schedule.  The more free time at home, the better.  The less junk, the better.  Keep good, quality items around the house for learning, create a 'vacuum' of time when they will naturally reach for those items and let them do the rest. 

Family relationships are of utmost importance, as is reading aloud together daily.  Here here!

They encourage using 'clubs' and other such outside activities carefully.  Do not let them get i the way of the 'vacuum' or family time.  They should simply complement both.

They describe the family bookshelf in detail.  Placing mismatched books for toddlers on the bottom.  The messier the better, as that will catch the little guy's eye.  As the shelf gets higher, put appropriate books.  I started doing that as we started collecting 'classic's that I needed to read to the kids.  It's fun for the kids to look at the 'big shelf' and pick out a book they want me to read to them.  It's their choice, so they are more excited to listen to, and they feel 'big' as the books are just out of their reach.  It's worked great for us!

They give ideas for creating and implementing regular chores, how to use technology appropriately and how to set up 'classes' for learning necessary life skills.

One thing that really struck me is how much importance they place on getting your own education. It must be done if I am to mentor my own children appropriately.  I must stop saying 'do as I say, not as I do'.  It's never worked, and it never will!  I am determined to get my own scholar education as I take my kids through their core and love of learning phases. I can do it!  He considers a true scholar education 5,000-8,000 hours of mentored study of the great classics. Yikes! But if I don't put the effort in, I simply can not expect my children to. Even Deuteronomy 6, the classic parenting text of the OT makes it clear that the parents are to teach the children what they already know. There is no getting around it. It must be done.  And I will conquer....

The Core Phase Curriculum:  Right and wrong, true and false, good and bad.

Some ingredients for teaching that: example, environment, opportunities, work, play, study, projects, field trips, the library, family room, inspiring parents, mentors, the bookshelf, exploring, freedom, fun, personal attention, family meals, chores, siblings, parents, grandparents, questions, discussions.  

That is what I have been trying to teach my children for 5 years now.  It's what they can grasp at this age. It's age-appropriate and of utter necessity to learn. 

They speak a lot about the transition from love of learning to scholar.  This must only happen when the child is ready, and when they have a true passion for learning. It can take a few years before the child is ready to engage in full scholar studies.

As the child transitions into full scholar phase, they relinquish their daily chores, which they know have the skills down-pat, and they transition into full-time, self-lead learning.  They generally study 8-12 hours a day, 5-6 days a week, 10-12 months a year.  Wow!  Imagine how much learning can take place during that time. No other responsibilities except to follow their passions in learning from those who have gone before.  Sounds like heaven to me! 

This typically leads a child to Depth Stage, generally between 18 and 24 years of age.  Adults, but without a lot of responsibilities yet.  "The student who has acquired a scholar education is ready to personalize and submit his instruction to a mentor who will provide increased opportunities for study and refinement of skills and knowledge that will allow the student to begin to implement his personal mission."  Generally this is college, be it liberal education or more specific training for an intended job/role in society.

The Mission Phase is where a person generally gets married, has a family who he/she raises in their own mentor/classics education, and also where they build up their career.  He calls it, building your two towers.  Family and career.

The Impact Phase is where the two towers are mostly complete. He gives a list of roles that I thought helpful in understanding that 'phase' of life (that most people look forward to for retiring and letting go of their influences).
1.  Mentor: build protegees (I want one!!!!)
2.  Scholar: Fill in gaps in your education, and go deeper in your areas of expertise
3.  Citizen: Increase freedom
4. Entrepreneur: add value
5. Sentinel: Warn upcoming generations
6.  Philosopher: make classics of your own
7.  Philanthropist: Selflessly increase happiness
8.  Disciple: Let go of baggage and discipline your life
9.  Artist: Create Beauty
10.  Statesman: Change the world for good
11. Healer: Change the One
12. Elder: Never retire, but get out and serve, serve, serve
12. Grandparent: Leave a legacy

Monday, May 10, 2010

Meal Plan Monday

Breakfast and supper options

Lunch, served with kombucha, swedish bitters and fermented cod liver oil for all:

Monday: Roast with Veggies
Tuesday: Leftover Roast over Salad with Asian Dressing
Thursday: Fried Potatoes and Roast
Friday:  Fried Cod Sandwiches
Saturday: Canned Salmon Sushi
Sunday: Cobb Salad

Friday, May 7, 2010

My Journey to Educational Eureka, Part IV

Part I, Part II , Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI

 I 'd like to highlight some of what I learned from A Thomas Jefferson Education, by Oliver DeMille.

"In crisis, leadership determines direction and our level of success-or failure. Unfortunately, in such times it is too late to prepare leaders.  They must be trained, educated, and gain the needed experience before crisis occurs.  Yet it is precise in the years and decades before crisis that peace and prosperity convince the world that such leadership is needed-making a living takes hold of society and material goals drive schools, teachers, parents and students alike.  Professional training and job skills are all that people seek from 'education', and the concept of leadership education is considered quaint, outdated, frivolous, or absurd."

The Thomas Jefferson style (based on Thomas Jefferson's own mentor-lead education from George Wyeth) is one that is based on the assumption that it is not possible for one human being to educate another.  Teachers teach and students educate.

TJE believes there is two types of teachers-mentors and classics. Both must be used to truly motivate the student to educate himself.  "All education boils down to two things: the student putting in the work to educate himself, and the teacher getting the students attention long enough and deeply enough to get him started and help him keep going."

He mentions how he was in college, but he knew he was not getting an education. He graduated, but realized he did not have a 'real' education.  I made the same realization at some point. Well, it was more a gradual realization for me.  I remember nothing from high school or college.  I knew, even then, that I was not learning anything. And I had a lousy memory, so even the short-term memorization necessary didn't work for me.  And I had a passion to understand.  I was relatively motivated to know and understand life.  I knew I'd never get by with memory, as I have NONE.  But if I could really, truly understand something, then I'd be ok. I remember answering questions in high school and simply looking through the text trying to find the same words.  I knew, I knew then, that I was not learning anything. But I had no idea how to learn.  Sadly, that didn't come to me until I was almost 30 years old (I'm 32 now).  And what an exciting thing it was for me to finally realize I could learn and understand and truly grasp. It just took time, caring and lots and lots of work.  But I'm willing to do that!  And so wish I had done more of it when I was young and had more time.  Rather then waiting until I was 30 with many more responsibilities and claims to my time.  But, I'm going to do it now, so my own kids can have that opportunity.  I'm so excited!  (Can you tell?)

DeMille discusses 3 types of education:

1.  Conveyor Belt Education: trying to prepare everyone to fit into society and find a job, and teaching them what to think.  Almost everyone in America today is getting this kind of education-which used to be reserved for those who simply had no other options.  

2.  Professional Education: from apprenticeship and trade schools to law, medical and MBA programs.  They create specialists by teaching them when to think. 

3.  Leadership Education: (TJE Education) which teaches students how to think, and to be leaders in their homes and communities, entrepreneurs in business, and statesmen in government.

Essentially, I want for myself and my children, a leadership education, followed by a professional education if any of us feels we want to pursue a specific role in society that needs specific training (i.e. to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc.).

And why does that matter?  "The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next."  History does seem to teach that. 

His 7 Keys to Great Learning:

1.  Classics not textbooks
2.  Mentors, Not Professors
3.  Inspire, Not Require
4.  Structure Time, Not Content
5.  Quality, Not Conformity
6.  Simplicity, Not Complexity
7.  You, Not Them

I love it.  I can so relate to those keys.  Those are the very keys I found most useful in teaching my children simple things like their colors, potty-training, numbers and letters.  Everytime I got panicy and thought they were not learning fast enough, I'd start to try and push them.  It never worked.  Never!  But when I decided to just lead and let them follow at their pace, they have always learned, in their own time, what they needed to know.  But the key was for me to lead by example, provide a reason for them to want to learn, and have the information available for them to internalize when they were good and ready.  I never had to teach them again when they REALLY got it. If they had just memorized any of it, it failed when I most wanted to show it off.  :) But once they knew it, I knew they knew it, and breathed a big sigh of relief.

It just makes sense that such a logical way of learning should continue after 5 years of age instead of turning them loose into a 'classroom' to socialize and learn the way everyone else is expected to learn. 

I always wondered what made a book a 'classic', but never could get a clear answer from anyone.  He had some great thoughts on classics, as well as some lists in the back of 2 of the books.  But essentially, a classic is something that draws a person out of themselves, makes them really think and eventually want to be a better person, in a broad, moral sense.  I'll have to do a post with some of my current favorite classics-old and new.  The Bible is by far, the most important, classic, life-changing book in this family.  But, there are many, many other books that have guided me, and hopefully will guide my children over time as well.

The Five 'Environments' of Mentoring:

1.  Tutorial-a teacher and 1-5 students discussing something they have read.
2.  Group Discussion-Group Tutorials-6-30 students
3.  Lecture-should be used the least, but valuable when used appropriately.
4.  Testing-used to make sure the student really understands what he is learning. 
5.  Coaching-the coach stays on the sidelines, teaches, demonstrates, watches the student try and then responds.  The coach arranges appropriate field trips, lessons, etc.  (sounds a lot like a parent to me).

He gives a list of objectives for a good education:

~The ability to understand human nature and lead accordingly.
~The ability to identify needed personal traits and turn them into habits.
~The ability to establish, maintain and improve lasting relationships.
~The ability to keep one's life in proper balance. 
~The ability discern truth and error regardless of the source, or the delivery
~The ability to discern true from right.
~The ability and discipline to do right.
~The ability and discipline to constantly improve.

Come on, admit it.  It makes you want to scream and jump up and down and shout 'Eureka!'.  :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cutey Patootie

She is almost 7!!  Where does the time go?  

My Journey to Educational Eureka, Part III

Part I, Part II , Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI 

For some reason I can't just hear something and make sense of it and apply it.  I have to hear/read it over and over again until it becomes a part of me.  Strange maybe, but it's the way it is.  I was excited to have some direction for how I wanted the kids to learn, but still knew there was a lot of holes and gaps that had to be filled in before I could implement it in our daily lives.  But I was on the right track and I was excited!

Shortly after reading Sproul and the Moores, a friend loaned me her copy of 'A Thomas Jefferson Education' by Oliver DeMille.  Instead of being a humanist, he's a Mormon.  *sighs*  But he's a genius!  He gets it, so I ignore that aspect of it.  :)

I read that book and was in awe, much like the others I guess.  He had the picture of what an overall education should look like and I loved it!  And his education started with the parents and used mentors and classics instead of textbooks.  And the final product is someone who is capable of thinking, truly thinking, and who has a vision for the future-patriotic, spiritual, family, etc.

It got me to reevaluating my desire to make my kids live a better life then myself.  Instead of trying to lift them up above my level of intelligence and caring, I need to put the work into my own life and mind, and encourage my kids to join me.  It makes so much sense.  And I love the long-term of it.

After reading TJE, I got lost even more into nutrition and laid off the education for a time. During that time, I bought the TJE book, along with 2 companion books, and some Charlotte Mason books.

I really enjoyed the Charlotte Mason books (I've only read 2 so far-Formation of Character and Parents and Children).   I look forward to reading the other 4.  I had read about Charlotte Mason's philosophy earlier and loved the concepts and I was excited to read her actual works to get more ideas for how it should look.

Mason, like the others I'd read and loved, believed that children needed their characters developed through discipline, chores and schedules.  And they needed to not have book work until they were at least 8 years of age.  Mason was big on being out of doors, getting exercise, fresh air and interacting with nature.  She was also big on using classic books of all subjects to train children.  She does think a child should go to a formal school sometime after 8, but she agrees that the parents can not trust the school to build their character, that must be worked on when the children are home.  A point I do not agree with. :)

After reading Mason and really getting excited about education, I read TJE again and was once again 'on fire' but still didn't know what it was to look like-the details were escaping me.  After that, I read the two companion guides:  'Leadership Education, the Phases of Learning'and 'Home Companion' and it finally fell into place.  "Eureka, I've Found It!!!"

The Thomas Jefferson series seems to take all of the books I've read and put them altogether into a 'format' that makes sense.  And it provided examples that I really needed.  I still need to work on the schedule, but I feel that is more a matter of time and trial and error then needing to read more 'how to books'.  Woo hoo!!  Did I mention how excited I am?  Eureka!

I'm ready to start my own 'Scholar Phase' and learn and grow.  And as I do that, also to help my children to follow in my footsteps.  The way a parent ought to guide and train.

Deuteronomy 6: 5-9
 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.
You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Meal Plan Monday

Breakfast and supper options

Lunch, served with kombucha, swedish bitters and fermented cod liver oil for all:

Monday: Chicken Salad on Buttermilk Biscuits
Tuesday: Salmon and Rice (Sushi style?)
Wednesday: Liver with peanut sauce
Thursday: Chicken Tortilla Pizzas
Friday:  Cobb Salad
Saturday: Fish
Sunday: Potato Salad and Roast Sandwiches