Kids Doing Useful Things


Posted on : 8:30 PM | By : Anonymous | In : ,

I found this on YouTube and I loved it and the girls were fascinated.  It's not made for adults... it was made by the two little homeschooled girls to show other kids that they can do useful things.  I loved it because the girls are the same ages as my girls.  I think this type of video is a great example of giving kids responsibility.

Totally Scored on Curriculum


Posted on : 1:47 PM | By : Anonymous | In : ,

I bought all my homeschool "curriculum" type books today, via Powells.  I couldn't believe it, but I found a classic KONOS Volume 1 on there for $30.  When used they are still around $50, and new they go for at least $100, I feel like I got a great deal.  There was only one copy, so sorry anyone else, I got it.  

I also got the other three books I talked about yesterday all at great prices, good enough to make the $20 of shipping to Canada worthwhile.  They have a whole homeschooling section in their stores and their website.

There is not much that gives me a bigger thrill than buying a book, but buying a used book of something that I really wanted is just a huge adrenaline rush for me.  Just being in a library is like being a kid in a candy store, and the epitome of that experience for me was being a kid and going to Powell's books in Portland.  It is so huge, and I found so many things that I wanted and I just never saw anywhere else.  Not to mention they have the best customer service around.  I think that at 12 years old, going there was better than our trip to Disneyland.  At least it stuck in my mind more.  lol

Rethinking Science


Posted on : 11:46 PM | By : Anonymous | In :

So I was going to go with R.E.A.L. Science, which is appropriate for grade 1 or 2, and has lots of hands-on projects, but after reviewing the content of some more advanced programs I've realized I need to challenge Annie even more.  She already knows this stuff.

So instead...after reading a chapter excerpt from Apologia Exploring Creation with Botany, which is written at about a fourth grade level, I realized that we need to look a little farther.  I'm not sure we'll go with Apologia which seems interesting but speaks in a voice that sounds a bit condescending.

The new solution, the respecting of children solution, is DK's The Way Science Works and The New Way Things Work.  The science book has science experiments and answers questions in an in-depth way with good pictures, and the other one explains all the other questions I get asked all the time.  They will also last forever.  The when she does an experiment I can get her a good notebook for record keeping.

I want to get the abacuses still, but I'm not satisfied with the book I chose.  I am looking at some other books like Math Wizardry for Kids. 

I also really need to get notebooks together for subjects.  I would love to have an individual blank bound book for each subject... Math, Nature Notebook, Science, Writing, Art, etc. But I may have to get a binder.

Bright vs. Gifted


Posted on : 4:18 PM | By : Anonymous | In :

Comparison of Bright vs Gifted

Bright Child Gifted Child
Knows the answers. Asks the questions.
Interested. Extremely curious.
Pays attention. Gets involved physically and mentally.
Works hard. Plays around, still gets good test scores.
Answers questions. Questions the answers.
Enjoys same-age children. Prefers adults or older peers.
Good at memorization. Good at guessing.
Learns easily. Bored. Already knew the answers.
Listens well. Shows strong feelings and opinions.
Self-satisfied. Highly critical of self (perfectionistic).

Source: Janice Szabos as quoted in "The Gifted and Talented Child," Maryland Council for Gifted & Talented Children, Inc. P.O. Box 12221, Silver Spring, MD 20908

Unschooling Portfolio of the Week


Posted on : 11:04 AM | By : Anonymous | In :

This week was a busy errand week, with the kids running around helping us with shopping, getting a new phone, etc. So I suppose in that way that had to help us do grown-up things and with some work that we did.

They both played on which has a new design that is much easier for little kids to maneuver and figure out, as well as classic Sesame Street clips that play in a 'player'. It's my favorite kid's site since the games are all focused around categorizing, life skills, numbers and letters.

Annie made scrambled eggs for us again, with rice milk this time and they tasted great.

Today we took apart a cell phone and looked at all the parts and they connect together. Our favorite part was the buttons, which are fun to play with since they are really just a single rubber form on top of a little electronic connection board.

They played Sounds of the Seashore, from the Cranium people, which wasn't working and Annie figured out why and fixed it, and then taught her sister how to work it.

I had a bit of a homeschooling panic attack this week, realizing that I was unschooling and had absolutely nothing 'planned' for the year. Last year we did a structured preschool for about half the year, where I planned every day and recorded it all. When I get KONOS we are going to focus on the character traits and do what we are interested in. It's still really hard to let go though, and trust the learning process. I should know better too, because I've done it and been that child.

The only things I did this week to get ready for school (besides make my list) was to organize the house and clean up so that we have a kind of learning-conducive room with an art corner with a drop cloth, and make a notebook in Pages to put our family mission statement, a daily routine and other notes for myself.

Super Fast Yummy Vegan Pancakes


Posted on : 9:53 AM | By : Anonymous | In : ,

This used to be a recipe for supposedly 2 people, but I've tripled it to serve 4 as many pancakes as they can eat plus some for a snack for the kids later.

3 cups whole wheat flour

3 tablespoon sugar (I used brown sugar)

6 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups soymilk or rice milk

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

Mix the dry ingredients, then add the milk and oil and mix until it is just a bit lumpy (don't overmix). Cover the frying pan in vegetable oil and fry on both sides. I tend to add vegetable oil between each panful of pancakes so the edges get crispy.

More Organization is Necessary!


Posted on : 4:52 PM | By : Anonymous | In : ,

After the chaos that we have descended into this summer and the relative chaos of our children's behavior as a result, we are still unschooling but it in a much more organized way.  I realized that we have a daughter that can't function without a routine of some kind and we need to go with that.  I also go braindead when faced with a day in which we just go with life willy-nilly based on whatever my kids are asking me, often at a dizzying pace.  They often don't think of stuff to keep occupied or constructive of course, and I have a type-A personality that can't stand sitting around.  I am always busy and my kids are even more so, and when there's nothing planned they strip naked and run around screaming.  Which is fine sometimes, but not 24 hours a day.

So here's our tentative homeschool (technically, classical unschooling) plan, which gives me plenty of project ideas and allows my kids to branch off in all kinds of directions based on their interests.  Through elementary school my mom used KONOS, a huge unit study program that is like the motherload of all unit study programs.  Out of everything I did in school, I remember that.  Alternatively, we could use Five in a Row, which is more scheduled and focuses a little more on literature rather than character traits and history.  FIAR is cheap and simple and adequate.  KONOS is expensive, comprehensive and with all three volumes lasts until high school, but possible to find on eBay for half price.  This website has a great list of what is covered in KONOS, and it's easy to pick and choose, either following it chronologically or by character trait.  

We will also utilize the computer, the library, and the great outdoors.  We will be getting a bursary for homeschooling through the Wondertree SelfDesign program, which starts coming after September 30th.  At that point we will are considering getting the whole family into Judo, getting an electronic keyboard, and some professional acrylic paints, paintbrushes and canvases for the girls.  I'm going to start getting back into oil painting again and they can paint alongside me with real stuff.

So here's my shopping list for the Kindergarten year:
More acrylic paints, canvas, brushes
More watercolors too
Chess and checkers
Collect old buttons for counting
Origami paper and book
More card games (I have an Impressionist Artist one, but I need more)
More board games
Puzzles (from the thrift store probably)
Sewing boards/shoelaces
Pencils/pencil sharpeners
Nature journals
Plant/animal identification books
Classical music Mp3's
KONOS Vol. 1
KONOS Compass
Lots of PAPER!!!
Misc. Glue and Other Supplies
Two small learning clocks

Software to Get for Kid's iMac:
Spore Creature Creator and Later Spore Full Version (even my 2 year old loves it)
Mia's Math Adventure (and other Mia games as well)

I already have: 
An Acorn in My Hand (lucky me... out of print and hard to find)
Lots of Usborne and DK books from used book sales
Lots of books from This List, one of the best book lists I have found (although here is a List of Lists that is equally good)
The Farming Game
Snail Race

And my wish list:
More music books 
Knitting corks
I really want Genevieve Foster books, even if they kids are too young for them yet
I also really want the Minimus Latin books
The card game SET
Math flash cards
McGuffey Readers
The Settlers of Catan
Pick Two
Labrynth (and more Ravensburger games)

Goals are a really necessary part of life.  Maybe not for everybody, but very much so in our house.  Not so much as a requirement for achievement, but as a method of travelling.  We recognize that goals change as much as for ourselves as for our kids.  So rather than having goals for the kids, I've got goals for myself.

Every week I want to put up a Latin word or phrase on the wall.  I thought at first I'd start them on French or German, and we have been learning some Japanese phrases, but learning Latin roots really helped me, and most of that learning was through Rummy Roots, a card game.

We have plenty of dictionaries, including one on the computer.  If the girls don't know a word, I want them to help me look it up with them.  When they start writing, if they misspell a word I will add it to an ongoing spelling list.  There won't be a formalized spelling program, but we will have oral spelling bees of the list once a week.

I want math as much as possible to be from real-life experience.  My kids have already learned to count, and are beginning to add and subtract but need some more practice with some more abstract concepts.  Consumer math needs to be from managing a personal bank account and running a small business.  I do love flash cards because I love memorization, but in the later years I want my kids at least exposed to calculus and trig without feeling overwhelmed.  I had a bad experience with Saxon math.  We'll use games like Monopoly and Yahtzee! too, but more is needed. We're going to start out with two Abacuses for playing around with and a book of hands on activities for all the math principles from AL.

For Pre-School last year, I used the Singapore Science 1A with Annie, and she loved it.  But it also shows me I really need to challenge her in science since in preschool she was doing first grade topics.  She loves looking at mineral and shell identification books and anatomy books.  So we're going to use a very rigorous hands-on, classical science program called R.E.A.L Science which has tons of experiments and has her record her results like a scientist.

So that's the plan so far... fairly inexpensive if bought used, child-led, real world stuff. :)

Traumatic Birth Syndrome


Posted on : 3:44 PM | By : Anonymous | In :

I have been researching the possible medical symptoms of traumatic birth, especially the use of the vacuum suction (which is what happened with Annie).  Surprisingly, I learned that many of the symptoms in children who have been through this type of birth have been reversed by chiropractors by simply repairing damage to the spine caused by doctors pulling on a baby's head.  Pulling just puts too much pressure on an infant's spine.  Reading about it all made me sick, but this Montana chiropractic center had a nice evaluator for children (read the description and then click the link at the bottom of the page) and gave me some hope that perhaps her behavior has a solution:

It makes sense to me, because often Annie sleeps in a very distorted position with her head thrown back and back curved as far as possible, and she has a hard time sitting on a hard surfaces, and sometimes she walks funny, on tip-toes for very long stretches of time.  I did the evaluator and one of her shoulders DOES sit higher than the other when she is in a relaxed standing position.

One of the links below has a list of 'symptoms' of this kind of injury, and Annie had so-called colic, she has more allergies, she is always incredibly irritable (she is angry more times than she is happy), she has a hard time sleeping and gets nightmares and even night terrors.  What a relief it would be if all of this had a reason.  I don't like to blame my own parenting troubles on outside causes, but sometimes it's important to double check these things.  And it can't hurt. :)


5 Huge Ways to Be More Green


Posted on : 11:22 AM | By : Anonymous | In : , , ,

So I went on a little rant the other day about ways people think they are being green and doing earth friendly stuff, but really aren't.  So it's only fair to give my top 10, easy ways to be green, things that I do all the time list:

1.  Recycle EVERYTHING, and if it can't be recycled, don't buy it.  Suppose you wanted a new sweater.  Should you go out and buy a new one?  Nope.  Get on Freecycle, ask your stylish friends and relatives if they have cleaned their clothes out lately, and get yourself down to your local thrift shop and find yourself a used one.  At this point all of my clothes are recycled, and most came from family members. Some of these clothes were bought from a thrift store, then passed on to me, so at least three people have used them.  That's recycling.  The same goes for things like glass jars.  I reuse glass jars I get from the grocery store and use them for herbal mixtures or buttons and other things.  If I have a choice between glass or plastic in product packaging (such as juice), I pick glass.

2.  Make things you need, or buy them from someone who made them.  Want to redecorate or get a new couch pillow?  Sew it, or buy it on Etsy.  I have even made pillows from old clothes that had nice fabric that I got from the thrift store, or from fabric remnants given to me.  Be a pack rat and save things to be made into other stuff later.  Use labeled baskets (not plastic bins) to stay organized.

3.  Find your local farmer's market or whole foods store.  Almost every town has one now, support it and buy local and organic when possible.  For many people this seems very expensive, and it really can be, but if you're smart it can be very cheap.  The trick is to only buy whole foods rather than anything that has been processed.  Don't buy cereal... eat toast and free range eggs.  Instead of snacky treats and crackers, buy apples and baby carrots.  When planning meals, our culture tends to center the recipe around a rather large piece of meat.  You can still eat meat, especially free range meat, but instead focus the meal around the vegetable, and use meat as the accent.

4.  Energy use is a big problem for our culture as well.  It really does help to replace bulbs with fluorescents, but it would be lame if that was all you did.  Get rid of your small appliances that use electricity (even leaving them plugged in is an energy drain), and your dryer.  We have gotten rid of our television, our microwave, coffee or tea pot, mixers, food processors, etc.  We do have a dishwasher (I wish it was a Miele, which are more energy efficient than even washing by hand), stove/oven, washing machine and dryer, and computers.  Eventually we won't have a dryer.  Our computers are Macs, which are the most earth-friendly energy efficient computers you can buy.  

5.  Make it a goal to use less petroleum.  Since almost all store-bought products use petroleum, and your car uses it as well, this is a tough one.  Get bikes and if you are going somewhere close, pedal there.  Be a one-car family, and only use it for long distance trips.  Avoid plastics and petroleum based products, which means buying less and spending a bit more on some things like deodorant.

I Saw a Renoir In Person Today


Posted on : 11:38 PM | By : Anonymous | In : ,

I am an artist.  I paint, I draw, I've worked professionally as an artist for many years and gave it up for a while because it takes (a)spare time in which you don't care about making money and (b)an emotional state in which you can empty your mind and give creatively to a project.

I love the Old Master's art, and I love modern art.  I'm not one of those artists that looks at other people's art and says, "Oh I could do that better..." unless I really could, or if the artist sold out in order to mass produce a style to make a buck. I appreciate good creative effot. Old Masters are immune to selling out.  They invented new forms of painting and style, especially the Impressionists.  

Today I had the privilege of cleaning a gorgeous home, and while it was an amazing house and all of that, what was incredible was the art collection.  Original Andy Warhols, crazy sculptures and paintings of modern artists that could be in a museum, and an original Renoir sitting on a table.  It was a tiny painting, in a gold painted wood frame, of a landscape.  I only got a glimpse because you're really not supposed to stop and stare at the famous art when you are cleaning.  

It's funny, the people who owned the house could have been equally amazing... obviously they've achieved so much.  But who gets an opportunity to see an original Old Master in person, and gets paid for it? lol

Quote of the Day and You're Not Green When....


Posted on : 9:04 AM | By : Anonymous | In : , ,

Friends, books, a garden, and perhaps his pen,
Delightful industry enjoy'd at home,
An Nature, in her cultivated trim
Dress'ed to his taste, inviting him abroad -
Can he want occupation who has these?
- William Cowper, The Task, 1780

I'm in Vancouver this week, working at cleaning.  It's tough for me to leave the girls for a few days, but at the same time, once a month it's good for them to stay at Grandpa's and they love it.  They like going there, but I miss them, even though it's nice to spend time with John.

Vancouverites are very eco-conscious, and I see it all the time when I clean their homes.  Here are some things that are NOT green:

1.  Just because you bought soap or Q-tips and take them out of the packaging and put them into a glass jar doesn't mean the packaging doesn't exist.  You still threw away the packaging.

2.  Buying organic food that comes in lots of plastic packages is also not earth friendly.  Also buying organic food that was shipped in from Mexico and China doesn't really help that much.  Spend the time to buy local.

3.  Being vegetarian and eating tofu is great, but it's not a badge of honor.  Buying locally grown free range meat is about the same.

4.  If you built a green home, but that home is 5000+ square feet, it's probably still using lots of resources to heat it and the quantity of materials was still more than you needed.

5.  Don't wear organic clothes that LOOK organic or say it on it.  I have organic clothes that you would never know, and I do tell people because it's better to convince people to buy that stuff if it looks good.  It's sort of like those older model electric cars that they tried to make LOOK electric.  It's just not convincing to people.  

A to Z of Homemaking


Posted on : 3:40 PM | By : Anonymous | In : ,

I saw this at Lizzie's Home World:

A ~Aprons--y/n If y, what does your fav. look like?
I am usually in jeans or a skirt and a t-shirt, but I have an apron I made. It is a light green cotton print with white flowers and vines scrolling around on it. It ties around the neck and has a curved hem at the bottom... very 1950's.

B ~ Baking--Favorite thing to bake?
Pie. I make bread too but I haven't really been able to get into the zen of kneading dough. I just have this love of pastry that makes pie my favorite.

C ~ Clothes line?
We're renting and can't install one but when we move I plan to get an indoor clothes drying rack as well as a clothesline, because we are going to eliminate our dryer use.

D ~ Donuts--Have you ever made them?
I LOVE donuts, and I used to have a deep fryer and realized if I taught myself to make donuts then my dedication to healthy eating would be shot.

E ~ Everyday--One homemaking thing you do everyday?
I tidy up every day. I also do all that other stuff like cooking, but in the late afternoon I zip around the house and straighten it up so that everyone feels comfortable and cozy for the evening.

F ~ Freezer--Do you have a separate deep freeze?
Someday. No room yet.

G ~ Garbage Disposer?
Nope, we compost instead.

H ~ Handbook--What is your favourite homemaking resource?
My own book, lol (see top right corner). When I wrote my book it started out as a notebook of all the things I read about and wanted to do, and I refer to it all the time for home remedies or if I need to make something we need. Second up would be The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery.

I ~ Ironing--Love it or Hate it? Or hate it but love the results?
I don't believe in ironing, but it is a necessary evil since we try to avoid synthetics and sometimes you just have to look nice. Actually my husband does his own because he's better at it than me. I only do it for a white linen skirt I have if I really need to dress up.

J ~ Junk Drawer--y/n? Where is it?
There used to be, and now it's all in a plastic bucket. It's quite useful actually... rubber bands, screwdrivers, tape, Post-Its, lost keys, screws, pencils...

K ~ Kitchen--color and decorating scheme.
I haven't ever gotten to decorate in that way. However, the items in my home are always natural materials like wood or glass, and we are kind of minimalist so there's not much laying around. The art in my home is either my own paintings and drawings or from someone else in my family.

L ~ Love--what is your favorite part of homemaking?
I wish I could say cooking, but my favorite part is being home, lol. Once I've done my work I can work on craft and writing projects. I consider home education part of my homemaking too... it's just a natural extension of the things I do around here during the day.

M ~ Mop--y/n?
No... I use a rag with water and organic orange oil. Hands and knees and lots of elbow grease.

N ~ Nylons, machine or hand wash?
Nylons are not only uncomfortable and impossible to take care of, they are made of a form of plastic, and I get allergic to them. My legs get cold though, so sometimes I wear black tights (like the kind little girls wear), but now I've started wearing long skirts in the winter and can get away with leggings.

O ~ Oven--do you use the window or open the oven to check?
I have to see it in person. In fact, I'm a bit of a compulsive oven door opener.

P ~ Pizza--What do you put on yours?
I love artichoke hearts and spinach. Since my family isn't big on that, the other half is just pesto and cheese.

Q ~ Quiet--What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment?
I surf the internet, or read.

R ~ Recipe Card Box--y/n? What does it look like?
I don't keep recipes anymore... I had a collection and got water spilled on it and molded, so now the only thing I have is a couple of favorite bread recipes on paper scraps tucked into my favorite cookbook. Otherwise they come from the internet.

Style of house--What style is your house?
If I could have my own house, it would be either an old 1920's bungalow or a Victorian farmhouse. OR, a cob house. Right now it's just a normal fairly new house and eventually it will be a townhouse.

T ~ Tablecloths or Placemats?
Nothing. What's the point when you have kids? Someday I would like to, but I am messy too so maybe it's still not worth it.

U ~ Under the kitchen sink--organized or toxic wasteland?
Organized and not much is in there. Just baking soda, some towels, orange cleaner.

V ~ Vacuum--How many times per week?
We're not home that much in the summer, so maybe once every week (or two weeks). We don't wear shoes in the house and we only live in two rooms so it's not that bad. In the winter it's once a week.

W ~ Wash--How many loads of laundry do you do per week?
At least four. We each only have enough clothes to fill a laundry basket heaping full, and we wear clothes until the armpits smell, instead of changing every day. This saves me lots of work, and lots of water.

X's--Do you keep a daily list of things to do that you cross off?
Sometimes. Not as much as I used to, but if the list is greater than five I have to write it down. Sometimes just writing it out helps me remember.

Y ~ Yard--y/n? Who does what?
We haven't really ever had yard work to be done, but gardening is usually me, and mowing is John.

ZZZ's--what is your last homemaking task for the day before going to bed?
Nothing... when we get tired I just stop what I'm doing and leave it for the next day. I try to clean up a little in the afternoon, so the house isn't really messy. Usually the last thing we do is have a cup of herbal tea together.

The Cheapo Easy Way to Compost in the City


Posted on : 12:10 PM | By : Anonymous | In :

Our current composting method is nothing like what I would like to do, but fortunately compost is not rocket science. There is such a thing, however, as a compost pile that doesn't stink. For now we are using two of those tall skinny black plastic bins like this one:

We use someone's old Neopolitan ice cream plastic bucket in the kitchen, and we have to empty it at least every other day. As long as we keep the lid on it doesn't stink or get flies, and the same goes for the outside bin.  These big bins were bought on sale... normally about $100, I think they were about $30.

BUT, if you want to do compost in a big way, build a wooden crate at least 8 x 4 x 4, which will hold enough for a family of four.  An average person makes 2 pounds of garbage per week, so if you need more, make a second bin next to it.  The wooden slats should be one inch apart to allow air flow.  

Then start throwing in food scraps, except for animal products.  The exception to this is eggshells, which are very good for the soil.  I have to confess I've thrown whole eggs in there but you're not supposed to do that.  You can also throw your garden waste in except for weeds with seeds, and diseased plants.  If you do add grass, add straw to help it decompose.

In order to make your compost go faster and stink less, you can do some routine care.  Every now and then, maybe every few weeks, stir it up, mixing in manure and even some rich dirt if you have it.  You could also introduce worms to the bin, as long as you have a steady supply of dry material to throw on top of the pile.  In dry weather it's a good idea to water the pile and cover it, although as you can see, the black plastic bin is covered all the time so it stays extremely moist inside.  A big pile is open to the elements unless you tarp it, so it doesn't stay a constant temperature.  It takes about three months to make something that is composted enough to throw in the garden.  

My pile is cool and dry!  Add water until the center is evenly moist, and if it's going to be dry weather cover it.

My pile is cool and wet! For optimum composting, it needs to be warm in there.  The pile needs to be 3 feet square and 4 feet tall at least.

My pile is big, but it's still cool and wet! Add alfalfa meal, manure, or fresh grass clippings and stir.

My pile stinks really bad and is really wet! Add shredded newspaper or straw and stir it up.  Cover it to keep off the rain.

As you can see, you can really get technical with the composting process, but like I said, if you want a low maintenance, low stink way to compost then the plastic bin above is the best.  Right now our compost is a horrible stinky soup with fruit flies the explode out if you open the lid, but as long as that lid is shut, we are fine.  The one thing I hate about this bin is that it's made of plastic.  It's nice that it's black because it holds heat, but we live a very plastic-free life.  If you live in an apartment this would still be a great solution, but in a backyard a wood or wire mesh bin is much better.

This is Where You Come From


Posted on : 12:00 PM | By : Anonymous | In : , ,

Notice the breastfeeding moms? Isn't is strange to think that this is us, so long ago? This is the Korubo tribe who live in the Amazon basin. Actually that's not their real name, as 'korubo' is insulting, their actual name (Caceteiro) means something along the lines of 'man with a club'. All the tribes in the region call themselves after the weapons they use. What if we still did that today? Would we have little groups called, 'People of the Computer' or 'Man with SUVs'?

Living History... or a Way to Live Deliberately


Posted on : 3:08 PM | By : Anonymous | In : , ,

I have a real fascination with living history, especially people who 'do living history' full time.  There is such a thing as a living history farm or museum, in which paid reenactors demonstrate history by living it 9-5, and then go home to their modern home at night.  Or maybe they were on a reality television show like 1900 House.  But what if it didn't end?  That's why I'm such a fan of Tasha Tudor, and the Amish, among other groups.  I found a few videos on YouTube of people who have made it a lifestyle:

Part of a documentary about Tasha Tudor. The video is in Japanese but if you wait Tasha starts talking and it gets interesting.

This couple just loves the Roaring 20's:

Here is some video of Mennonites who live in Belize:

The Birth Survey


Posted on : 8:44 PM | By : Anonymous | In : ,

I took The Birth Survey today (I started it this morning and 12 hours later completed it).  I wish I could have contributed more to the results, but I like the organization conducting it.  They are trying to fight for mother's right to information about birth intervention.  For those of you who don't know what that is, if you had pitocin, or an episiotomy, or a fetal monitor strapped to your belly, or if the doctor tried to hurry the delivery of the placenta by pulling on it, then you've experienced an intervention.  What most women don't realize in a hospital situation is that you have a right to choose whether or not to have those things done, and that statistics show that interventions hurt you and the baby more than they help.  They may be 'routine', but they are not what's best for mom or baby, they are measures of convenience for the hospital.

I tried for a homebirth for my first, and because her heart rate dropped we ended up at the hospital.  I came very close to having a C-section after 24 hours of labour, but instead had the experience of a catheter, a vacuum suction on my baby's head, an episiotomy, and the baby was not immediately put on me skin-to-skin after she was born.  For a baby, it was traumatic.  I wholeheartedly believe that this traumatic birth made my first born the tense, ultra-sensitive to sounds and touch, slightly OCD child that she is (some people have told me to get her tested for Asperger's, which is a scale of autism).  

The second child had the vastly different experience of a quiet, meditative delivery, being put on my chest immediately, her umbilical cord left intact, and never got whisked away for eye drops.  It shows in so many ways in how comfortable she is with herself and the world, and she feels no stress from simply being in her environment.

Anyway, it's an important survey. :)  Take it if you've had a baby (CORRECTION: within the last three years), and help other moms.

Unschooling Portfolio of the (Month)


Posted on : 5:07 PM | By : Anonymous | In :

So what's a better classroom than a roadtrip?  All things considered, we actually didn't do very much in Montana, at least none of those touristy things that people do there.  The girls have been on quite a few long car rides and although they complain, they are able to sit for a while without too much trouble with plenty of books and drawing supplies.    

Things we did in Montana:
We drove around Flathead Lake and wondered if large lakes experience tides.  As far as we could find out, they do not, although we didn't look up the Great Lakes.

We stayed up late and watched the stars and identified the Big Dipper, Little Dipper and the North Star.

We built fires and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows.  We gave Annie the responsibility of a large hot metal rod for hot dogs and she loved it until we had to take it when she barely missed branding my cousin in the face, who fortunately has quick reflexes.  Later we drew a picture of fire and discussed the colors and what they mean (blue is super hot, etc).

Annie practiced reading on some things and she's gotten much better at remembering what she just sounded out.

Annie learned to use a toaster and made us Eggo waffles.

We hiked the Trail of the Cedars and learned about how the root system of the trees only grow the depth that they need to get water.  We saw the trees that had very shallow root systems and had fallen over because it had been so wet.

We went to the Amazing Maze, a giant wood maze structure that takes about an hour find your way through.  We also did go-carts and bumper boats.  It's funny, in Montana the tourist attractions are always "The Amazing Montana Vortex" or "The Great Grizzly Bear Experience".  It has to start with Awesome, Amazing or Great or it just isn't good enough.

They played with the kids of a couple my old friends who had also come up from wherever they had been, my sister's kids and my cousin's baby, and so that took care of plenty of 'socializing' with all kinds of ages.

When we came back we spent the night in Vancouver and went to Granville Island, where we looked at the farmer's market, had lunch and then took off for Pacific Center and had to stop in the Apple Store just to see what it is like.  

So that's what we did, along with reading a few books, and playing and messing around.  One thing I am looking into is classical unschooling, which is something I kind think we do although I just found out that other people do that too.  I'm not sure quite how to describe it... I kind of think it's the way that Louisa May Alcott was educated.  Her dad had her memorizing poetry and learning languages and reading great literature, but at the same time she was free to satisfy her own curiosity and go at her own pace and lead the discussion.

Home From Montana


Posted on : 9:25 AM | By : Anonymous | In : , , , ,

We got back from Montana last night, and we crashed at John's sister's.  We called her cell phone from her house phone to let her know we were staying the night, and it completely freaked her out, which was hilarious. 

While the trip to Montana was pretty uneventful, the trip back was not.  The first thing was that we woke up early enough that John's sedative for sleeping was still in effect but he told me he was fine.  About an hour in on our way to Plains we passed a forest fire which was amazing to see (it must have been a large one because there was a helibase set up nearby), but not long after I would try talking to John and he couldn't answer me very well and was wandering towards the shoulder.  So I told him I was going to drive.  It was a good thing because we had a McDonald's bag that leaked apple juice and he couldn't figure out what he was doing with it because he was so sleepy.  

So I started driving and about an hour after that Autumn threw up her McDonald's hash browns.  I felt kind of sick after my breakfast burrito, and we hadn't had that in a long time so we thought maybe it was the awful food combined with car sickness.  I cleaned that up and drove a total of five hours into Moses Lake and we went through a drive through for lunch - at McDonald's.  I got a parfait and we got chicken nuggets for the girls.  She ate one nugget and once we were well on our way again, she threw that up.  Then I gave her some natural banana/strawberry juice and she kept that down, and she ate the rest of my parfait and was fine.  

The rest of the drive was ok except for a general breakdown in parenting skills because everyone was tired and grouchy and 12 hours after leaving, we made it to Burnaby.  One neat thing that happened is that we were talking about the situation in Georgia and Annie asked, "Who is she?"  We explained (I suppose in a very biased way) about gas pipelines and how one country had an interest in controlling the other because they need gas, and they couldn't work it out without blowing each other up.  To a child it sounds ridiculous.  

I have more to post about our decisions about the farm.  We've been changing our minds a great deal about what we plan to do... we started out saying, 'We're going to live in a tipi!', then we said, 'We're going to buy land!' and then it was, 'We're going to Montana to start a farm!'  None of these are going to happen, partly because they aren't practical for us and partly because this vacation was more like a retreat were we got back to our center and were able to figure out what is the most important in our lives, and how we should live that would help our family and others the best.  

One of the things that I have always wanted to do was allow my lifestyle to educate and help others.  I don't want to be part of the problem, but I also want to help others who are searching for ways of changing the way they live to be simpler, happier, and closer to the earth.  I used to get emails every week from someone who sounded so desperate, wanting something more out of life and wanting to get out of the city.  I have finally now learned that getting out of the city isn't the answer at all.  Cities aren't these evil places that will destroy us.  They are communities of people and businesses trying to coexist in the same place.  We do this very poorly, but there are better ways and this is a change that is within reach of everyone.  

I have more to say but I need breakfast. :)

Quote of the Day


Posted on : 9:50 AM | By : Anonymous | In :

Live free, child of the mist,
-- and with respect to knowledge we are all
children of the mist.

Is It Possible to Live on 1 Earth?


Posted on : 5:41 PM | By : Anonymous | In : , ,

So I'm a bit bored and I started wondering what it would take to have that ecological footprint come out as 1 earth only? How would we have to live, with a family of four, in a small 2-3 bedroom house with 1000-1500 square feet?

Our house would be powered with electricity, and that would be offset with solar panels or by purchasing green power through the power company to the equivalent of 100%. The house would be in a newer suburb and be built of sustainable or recycled materials.

We would not own a car, and instead would use bikes and keep our bus rides to 100 miles per year. We would like to travel, and we would keep that to traveling by train 2000 miles per year.

We would have to have all compact fluorescents, energy saving devices, extra insulation, insulating blinds, storm doors and solar panels on our home. We would never use a dryer, and would have to unplug electrical devices when not in use.

We would have to be vegan, grow a little bit of our own food and buy the rest from organic farmer's markets.

All of our furniture would be second hand, and all our cleaners would be green.

We would have to have a rainwater catchment system and a grey water recycling system, as well as an energy-efficient instant water heater. We would not use water excessively, and we would have a compost pile.

We would be frugal spenders and buy things only when needed. We would fill less than one garbage bin a week and recycle everything possible.
If we did all these things, we would use .85 earths. Even if we had to live in an older suburb in a home not made of earth-friendly and recycled materials, and if we were vegetarian rather than vegan, we would use exactly 1 earth.

Making Life Choices Based on Global Footprints


Posted on : 10:41 AM | By : Anonymous | In : , , , ,

So lets suppose that we had an opportunity to let John go back to school in Utah, but we had to live in a suburban neighborhood to do it, instead of being here in Montana for a few years running a sustainable farm. What would our ecological footprint be like in comparison?

I used the calculator at, which is quite detailed and accurate for many geographic locations.

Living in Utah we would not have to have a car because of the extensive transit system in the area and we would also use bikes and trailers extensively. There are also many farmer's and organic markets and food is cheaper so our diet would be very sustainable.

In Montana we would have to have a very large vehicle, probably a Suburban, so we would be using way more gas.

Both state's power companies offer a renewable energy option (Rocky Mountain Power through their Blue Sky program, and Northwestern through a Green product), which allow us to purchase as much or as little green power as we want. It doesn't actually go to our house necessarily, but we pay for solar or wind technology credits.

The results of this comparison were very surprising. In a suburban neighborhood in Utah we would have a global footprint of 2.22 earths or 86 acres (the national average is 246 acres). If you're not familiar with this, it's a calculation based on your consumption and energy use of how much land it takes to support your lifestyle.

In Montana, if we had a rainwater catchment system and our farm, we would be using 1.94 earths, or 75 acres of land. So the difference between living in Utah and living in Montana on a sustainable farm is only 11 acres, and still more than it should be (everyone should only be using 1 earth).

It's a good thing we came to Montana on vacation because we've been able to work out all the issues. The biggest issue is that we don't own this place and they could very well sell it. Also we probably shouldn't be living off the graciousness of my family for more than a few years, and so we would be right back where we started. I have also become much more aware that most people can't buy land. Land is expensive, and it's not practical for many people. I have come to believe that urban homesteading is the most self-sufficient and feasible way to solve several problems: preparedness in case of disasters, reducing dependence on petroleum, and climate change.

The other thing that we became aware of is how little land is needed to support our family. The garden plan we created could theoretically feed 100 or more people with vegetables and herbs for the year. We only really needed at the most 10-20 boxes for ourselves. Everything in my homesteading book, besides large livestock like cows, can be done on less than an acre.

Book Review: Organic Farming


Posted on : 11:55 AM | By : Anonymous | In :

I got a book yesterday at Borders called Organic Farming: Everything You Need to Know.  It's by Peter Fossel, who started an organic farm when he lost his job, and now makes a living from the earth.  While relatively short compared to some farming books (158 pages), it has full color photos of examples and farms which make it a nice read.

What we bought it for is the invaluable information on greenhouse management and running a farmstand.  For example, what vegetables sell the best and how to display them from the author's personal experience.  It would have never occured to me that when a basket of apples gets emptier, to put the apples in a smaller basket so it looks like you still have a lot.  But at the same time not to have too many varieties of apples or customers get overwhelmed.  It's got some excellent tips and practical farming information about organic methods that are invaluable.

One thing that made an impression on me is that the author sort of equated the soil to a plant's immune system.  If the soil is unhealthy, the plant will become more susceptible to pests and disease.  I had assumed (I'm not sure why) that an organic farm is just going to get a certain amount of bugs and sick plants because that's what happens.  But if the soil is healthy, the plant will be healthy and better able to fight those kinds of things off.  Another amazing thing I learned is that plants need to fight these things or they won't have as much antioxidants, which is something that we humans need.  

Some of the things I already knew and have other books that go into more detail but if you are wanting to sell your produce, this book is an excellent resource.

Free Date Idea: Go Out and Count Shooting Stars


Posted on : 10:01 AM | By : Anonymous | In : ,

We went outside at about midnight last night (partly because our sleeping schedule is pretty far out of wack and we wake up at about 10:30 am) and watched the stars and talked.  It's far enough away from town that you can see one of the arms of the Milky Way, and you are pretty much guaranteed to see a few shooting stars, so we had a little contest to see who could see the most.

We realized when we were talking that our ultimate goal on our little homestead, besides supporting our family with our farm products, is to get to the point where we don't produce any waste at all.  Everything needs to get recycled back to the earth or reused until it can be.  We're thinking that a small herd of sheep will help us with that process, and would use our back pasture very nicely.

The highlight of our 'date' was when we saw my cousin and her husband through the basement window playing video games.  We sat there watching them for a minute and it was so dark they couldn't see us.  So then John hit the window with his hand and made them scream.  Hopefully they won't find an opportunity to get revenge, lol.

Making Your Own Insect Repellant, Toothpaste, Mouthwash, Deoderant


Posted on : 9:40 AM | By : Anonymous | In :

The following are some recipes from my book, some of which I have needed lately since it's hot so I stink and there are lots of mosquitoes.  Mosquitoes aren't quite as much of a problem to the girls and I because we use very little fragrance on our skin.  Just a non-perfumed soap, so I have two bites while everyone else six or more.

Cedar insect repellant:
3 cups rubbing alcohol
1 1/2 cups red cedar wood shavings
1/2 cup eucalyptus leaves
Mix together in a large bowl or jar.  Cover and let stand five days, then strain and store the remaining liquid.  Store tightly sealed, yields 2 cups of repellant.  Use a spray bottle to lightly coat the skin.

Citronella repellant:
Mix aloe vera gel, essential oil of citronella, tea tree oil, and lavendar oil.  Stir it all together.  The mixture will become opaque.

Garlic juice repellant:
Mix one part garlic juice to five parts water. Put into a spray bottle and put it on your skin before you go into the woods.  Repels chiggers also.

How do I make yummy toothpaste?
1/4 teaspoon peppermint oil
1/4 teaspoon spearmint
1/4 cup arrowroot
1/4 cup powdered orrisroot
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon ground sage
Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add water until it is a paste that is thick enough to spread but not to pour. Store in a tightly covered jar.

How do I make tooth powder?
Mix three parts baking soda with 1 part salt, and add a few drops of peppermint oil.  Dip your brush in and scrub thoroughly.  Tooth brushing is less about the paste and more about the brushing.  Scrub at least three minutes twice a day.

How do I make mouthwash?
2 cups water
3 teaspoons fresh parsley
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
Boil water and remove from heat, then add all ingredients and let steep for 10-15 minutes.  Strain, put into a tightly covered container and store in the fridge.

What if I don't have a toothbrush and toothpaste?
If you don't have a toothbrush or toothpaste, you can use soap, salt, or baking soda and a green twig.  Chew the end of the twig until it kind of has bristles.  You can also drink an infusion of green tea after meals to prevent tooth decay.

Alfalfa: Eat some alfalfa which may help neutralize odor.
Apple cider vinegar:  Coat underarm with vinegar, which kills the bacteria.
Baby powder: Use in areas of heavy perspiration.
Baking soda: Apply powder to dry armpits.
Cornstarch: Use alone or mix with baking soda.
Parsley: Eat some parsley, which may help neutralize odor.
Radish: Juice 24 radishes and add 1/4 teaspoon of glycerin.  Put in a spray bottle and use as deoderant.
Rosemary: Put 8-10 drops essential oil in water and apply as deoderant.  
Sage: Use 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried sage, steep 10 minutes and drink in small doses throughout the day.  Or blend fresh sage in tomato juice and drink.
Tea: Put 2 drops essential oil into 1 ounce water and apply as deoderant.

The Garden First Draft


Posted on : 10:18 AM | By : Anonymous | In :

Click this to make it bigger... this is the first draft of the garden.  I haven't put the rows in the first half.  I still need to plan out what's in each box but there are 203 so it will take me a while.



Posted on : 10:14 AM | By : Anonymous | In : ,

I posted the following on the Continuum Concept email list and thought it would be valuable:

Socialization is the number one concern for people, and one I can comment on because I was homeschooled in the US for eight years, from fourth grade until I graduated just before I turned 15. My family was extremely isolated and I had very few friends, and pretty much only socialized with my own family much of the time. There were a couple of years where we were involved with a religious homeschool support group that provided socialization and activities, and we also lived with my extended family for a while (cousins and uncle and aunt) which gave us even more, but for the most part we were alone.

You would think that this would have caused me to be stunted socially in some way, unable to talk to a variety of people or maybe make me a hermit. I went to college when I was 16 and had no problem talking to people or dealing with my teachers but often found my biggest social problem was from people treating ME differently. They had all been conditioned to only deal with people their own age, and they were unable to treat me as an equal. I see this as a result of being in a classroom and getting most of their interaction with their peers. Even though I talked only to my parents and my brother and sister, I see everyone as an equal and I treat them as such. I have almost no trouble with preconceived notions of people or passing judgements on individuals. In fact I only became aware that people did that much later in my early 20's, so perhaps homeschooling only made me a bit naive.

One thing we also did was volunteer and visit nursing homes so we are comfortable being around the elderly, and when I was 12 we become library volunteers and managed some of the children's programs that encouraged reading. So even though I didn't necessarily hang out with kids my own age, I hung out with adults all the time and this was a huge benefit to me. It's not to say I don't have my problems and I still get nervous sometimes but I still think I have an advantage other people didn't get.

In the end it's not the socialization that is the danger in homeschooling, its the brainwashing, for lack of a better word. I was exposed to a variety of ideas but the outlook on life was very programmed into me and I was so naive that when I went into the world I questioned everything I had ever been taught. Now as I homeschool my own girls I teach them to question everything and make that decision for themselves. They are exposed to things that I would never have been exposed to and was unprepared for. Dealing with people is the easy part.

Garden Planning, Hiking and Wood Stoves


Posted on : 10:00 AM | By : Anonymous | In : , ,

The other day John and I walked the garden and figured out how big it actually is. We didn't have a long enough tape measure so we used John's foot, which is about 12 inches. As it turns out, the area is 285'x 120', a total of 34,200 square feet. An acre is 43,560 square feet so it's not quite an acre. It's still way more garden area than we expected. We plan to cut it in half. The front half will be raised beds built with non-pressure-treated wood. There will be 7 rows of boxes with a 5' walkway between and a 10' driveway in the middle if we need to get a truck in. Each row will have 28 boxes, and each box is 4'x8' or 32 square feet. The total raised bed area is 4,416 square feet. They will have veggies and herbs, all of them non-hybrid, all organic, and we will plan them out so that they will be companion planted. So each box is going to have a variety of plants (which means we will have to have a very detailed map of each box as well). The first year we are going to try just about everything... lots of green veggies like kale, and many herbs for cooking, teas and medicinal. We are going to have plenty left over to take to the farmer's market and give to family and friends.

The back half of the garden will still be rows, but it will be corn, pumpkins, and root vegetables like potatoes. On the north side of the garden we will be putting in a greenhouse, hopefully about 200 square feet. The greenhouse is vital in extending the growing season, which is only about 5 months. If we can get two more months, we can do the tomatoes and other long-season plants much better. We will also extend the season by putting plastic hoop houses over the raised beds to warm the soil, and doing succession planting. I'm doing a big graph paper picture of the whole thing and it should take a while but when it's done I'll post it (although it might change over time).

The other thing I was wondering is if we could replace the wood heat stove in the trailer we will live in, with a wood cookstove. My book has a huge section on cooking on a woodstove, building the fire, etc. The problem is, and something I hadn't really considered, is that in the summer gets really hot in Montana. Cooking on a woodstove in the summer would be miserable, but I suppose I could do all my summer cooking on a barbecue or solar oven. If we could eliminate our electric stove, we would be down to a washing machine, lights, the pump for the well, and charging the laptop. That's probably the mimimum we could live with comfortably, and feasible to power with solar and wind.

Besides garden planning and staying up late playing board games and contemplating living without electricity, we went on a little hike yesterday with my dad and new stepmom. We built a fire and cooked veggie burgers, sat around and then went on the Trail of the Cedars. It's a handicap-accessible hike with a boardwalk through the forest. They have little observation places to see different features, like cedars that fell over and waterfalls off the rocks. It also goes past the Avalanche Creek gorge which is a neat waterfall that has cut through the rocks. Bears are still a concern even on such a well-traveled hike, so it was tough for me to just let the girls run on ahead and tell them once to stay where they could see me. I kept reminding them even when they weren't out of sight, and of course eventually they disregarded the whole thing and took off. When will I break those habits? lol

Chinese Flowering Tea


Posted on : 10:02 AM | By : Anonymous | In :

We went to the health food store the other day and bought a little glass teapot and a set of different kinds of Chinese flowering tea by Numi.  Most of them are white teas, and one is a black tea.  White tea is made of the same stuff as green tea, but hasn't been fermented.  They just take the young leaves and dry them, while green tea is roasted and black tea is fermented.  White tea has more anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties than the other two kinds, and I have to say I like the flavour better too.  

We got the Numi Dancing Leaves teapot, and you just pour the hot water in and watch it slowly unfold.  I would love to try doing this myself with other kinds of teas.

All of these teas come from the Camellia Sinensis plant, which is also the source of tea tree oil which I use all the time. It's easiest to start these from cuttings and needs warmth and humidity (it can tolerate Zone 8). It's not that difficult to care for but you have to wait three years before you can start harvesting the leaves, and prune carefully in the spring if necessary.

More on Raised Beds.


Posted on : 3:49 PM | By : Jack | In : ,

More for our discussion on raised beds.

A neat point that is shared in this video is the use of PVC pipe in tandem with the raised beds to lengthen the growing season by creating a mini greenhouse. I also liked the use of the beds as cages in the off season.

Raised Bed Video


Posted on : 9:39 AM | By : Anonymous | In :

Dave gives a great instructional video on raised beds and why they are great. I'm leaning towards this no till method still, despte all the great comments to the opposite, partly because I'm a big fan of Masanobu Fukuoka, author of Natural Way of Farming (it's out of print so if you have one, count yourself lucky!).