Sunday, March 12, 2017

Spring Assessment

I'm still here...It occurs to me that the first blog post ever published on this site was in December, 2005. It is now 2017. More than eleven years later, and I have had seasons of real consistency, and seasons when I had much less to say. This has been one of those seasons. Looking back it seems like 2010-13 were my most prolific blogging years, and then things got tough for my mom in her journey with Alzheimer's and she passed away in 2014. Her death changed me. The way I think about my family changed, I became more quiet and private than I had been previously, and my son, who was growing more self-conscious in his teenage years became more private about what I posted. Then another blow struck that caused me to really pull in. My closest friend and I parted ways, and I was left with another lump of grief to deal with. This situation turned our homeschool in a very different direction. We no longer had the core group of friends to do co-op with, and so our Tapestry of Grace group disbanded. I have tried continue to use Tapestry with my dialectic / logic stage daughter, but I confess it has been a bit of a flop--a homeschool mom failure. We have done fine in some areas, but in history and TOG-related things, we have not begun to cover what I had hoped we would cover this year.

Here is what has worked well for us:

1. Math U See: This has always worked well for us and math generally just gets done because I'm afraid not to get math done. We will continue through zeta and then use Mr. D Math for pre-algebra.
2. Jr. Analytical Grammar: Gets done because we're grammar geeks and we don't mind doing it.
2. Apologia Anatomy and Physiology: This works great for us because we have partnered with a friend and have a weekly co-op to get this done. That weekly point of accountability is so helpful.
3. US Geography: Again, we are co-opping with this.
4. The Fallacy Detective:
5. Art: because I teach it
6. Violin lessons via face-time with our beloved teacher who moved away. Who knew this could be a thing? It is working out very well.

first landscape paintings

And for the high-schooler in my life:
7. Well-Trained Mind Academy: Son is taking Chemistry, History, Rhetoric and Literature through this online school. It gets done because I'm not his teacher. He has straight A's. It is rigorous and demanding, but the teachers are excellent, and having the pressure of having to meet someone else's expectations has been a very good thing.
8. Mr. D Math: Wow! I cannot say enough good about Mr. D Math. Why? Because he is a great teacher. It has been A's in math for my son and he doesn't hate it. That is huge progress from a kid who despised math until this year.

We have done some history and literature, just not as much as I typically cover. We have covered primarily the period from Napoleon through Queen Victoria, and are currently working on a lap book that will contain mini-books and reports about various aspects of that era.

So the year has not been a flop--far from it in fact. We have learned a lot about what we need to motivate us (extrinsic deadlines are extremely helpful!) and we have three months left to finish well. Upon finishing well, we are looking forward to our third Carribean diving trip! We will return to Roatan, Honduras to dive. We could not be more excited.

Below are some of our adventures from this school year so far.

testing the effectiveness of "cerebrospinal fluid"

giving Thomas Jefferson the thumbs-up

deep in conversation at the National Gallery of Art

NGA: what's not to love?

learning the process of mixing colors

cold and windy day in Colonial Williamsburg

dressed for the occasion...

happy golden years...

getting outfitted for Colonial Williamsburg

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Whole 30 2017: Day 1 - Cooking Extravaganza

We started our planning and preparation for Whole 30 a few days ago, and mentally over a month ago. That is the first thing anyone taking this on should be advised of--this is not just a "okay I'm going to eat healthy for a month" schtick. Taking on Whole 30, or any kind of dietary change such as a switch to more paleo style eating, vegetarianism, or even just eliminating sugar, takes a lot of attention to detail and some planning for success. If you fail to plan, plan on failing--especially in this case. To get us started and make sure we didn't go hungry the first couple of days, I made a huge pot of hearty beef vegetable soup to have for lunches or fill-in meals. Glen made clarified butter / ghee since we can't use regular butter according to Whole 30 rules. 

Today I cooked. A lot.
Planning for us means stockpiling a few key ingredients that will help make meal preparations easier, and today was the day. I hard-cooked eggs to have for quick dinners or snacks, marinated lamb chops to have for dinner tomorrow night, cooked a whole chicken for meat to throw into salads, stir fry or whatever quick recipe might call for it, and I will use the bones to make bone broth. I made Kalua Pig and cabbage (from Nom Nom Paleo) to have over sweet potatoes tonight. Tomorrow morning I will prep a giant bowl of salad greens and make a nice dressing so that we can have salads for lunches or sides at dinner.

Greek-style lamb chops

Kalua Pig

I am remembering now...this takes a lot of work on the front side. Meal preparation is something that we are so often tempted to phone in, shortcut or whatever with food that is quick easy, half done for you already, or even eat out. To make food that is whole, complete and full of nutrients takes time and energy. It will be a challenge to make this work this month and balance it with school and all the things that must be done along the way. 

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Whole 30 for 2017

I'm doing it again

I've done something called the Whole Life Challenge once before, and Whole 30 before once, and loved it. Let me rephrase that. I didn't "love" it. I thoroughly, deeply appreciated it. I lost weight, felt awesome, slept like a big, hairy bear in deep hibernation every night, and cooked every single day. That was the part I didn't love, come to think about it. The cooking.

But that was almost two years ago, and now I am ready to do it again. The things I learned from Whole Life and Whole 30 helped me to improve my lifestyle and diet by leaps and bounds both times. Since I feel I have slipped back quite a bit in the latter half of this year, I am going to take it on again, recenter myself, and reclaim those healthy habits.

This time my whole family, including the kids, are doing it with me. We each have our own reasons for doing it. Glen's and my reasons have much to do with weight loss and self-discipline when it comes to eating, as well as the reduction of inflammation which causes me in particular joint pain and fatigue. Molly is 11 and facing the normal physical and hormonal changes that every kid goes through, and she is hoping to start developing good eating habits and figure out what her ideal body composition should look like. Matt is hoping to eat healthy and get "cut" and strong. My sister and BFF are also jumping in with their families this time! I'm excited, because we have a group of families that have big reasons for wanting to do this and can support each other in the process.

Today is January 1, 2017, and I'm using this as a transition day. We have eaten up most of the off-plan foods and done some preparatory cooking. I have cleaned the pantry (hallelujah!) and gone through my arsenal of hip cookbooks in order to plan menus for the month. Tomorrow I will start on plan. While I like the new Whole 30 cookbook, I really think that Danielle Walker of Against All Grain is the queen of grain-free cooking, and I can find so many appealing recipes for meals that will be Whole 30 compliant that I hardly feel that this is going to be a sacrifice!

So far I have made a huge pot of vegetable soup that includes no grains, or legumes (I usually have beans, corn and peas in the soup, but these are not part of the Whole 30 protocol). Glen has made a couple of jars of clarified butter, or ghee, and I have a stockpile of hard boiled eggs, almonds, apples, and cooked chicken for quick meals, salads, and snacks.

While on Whole 30 I hope to also reset my fitness goals and get back into the gym. I have been out for a while as my shoulder is rehabbing from an injury, but I am excited to get moving again. I feel a bit like a slug.

Please follow along! I plan to post what meals I am preparing, how the journey is going, and offer some encouragement and help to anyone else who thinks they are ready to take the Whole 30 plunge!

Happy New Year, 2017!

Happy New Year 2017!

I'm ready for this new year. 
Many are saying 2016 was the "worst year ever" It wasn't. It was a tad stressful, mainly because of the election, but the drama-babies that feed on social media and media in general are way overblowing things. I had some personal challenges, indeed. One of the biggest I've ever faced, to be honest, but it's past and time to move on.

Our family had some beautiful, unforgettable moments in 2016. Taking the kids on two different SCUBA diving trips to Roatan and Bonaire were some of the best times we have ever had together. 

Molly started horse-back riding and found a new happy place this year. It has been so good to see her in an activity that is all her own. It has grown her confidence, and she loves demonstrating her skills and teaching us about the things she is learning.

School has been a brand-new challenge so far. For the first time I am not Matt's primary teacher, but have taken more of a role of "coach." This is a very good step for him. The time had come for me to let him stretch his wings and see what it's like to not have Mom or a friend of Mom teaching him. He is doing very well and maintaining all As, but his classes are quite tough. Well Trained Mind Academy is not for sissies! The teachers are very qualified, their teaching is thorough, and their grading is fair. At the same time that Matt has been taking on this new challenge, Glen has been attending graduate school to earn his MBA. The timing could not be more perfect, as Matt has had the opportunity to see how to study effectively, see what a heavy course load actually demands of a student, and also to learn how to manage his time and resources effectively. 

Molly's co-op with her friend continues, and is a highlight of our weeks. We do science, geography, art, logic and ASL together every Wednesday.

We enjoyed some lovely time with family in Florida for Thanksgiving, which has become an annual tradition, complete with gambling lessons.

And Christmas, just the four of us was quiet and delightful. Through the course of the month we all managed to spend one week with a cold, starting with Matt, then Molly, then myself, then Glen. Par for the course. We all managed to be well for Christmas eve service and day, though! 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

I'm Glad Donald Trump isn't a Christian

You heard me. I'm glad Donald Trump is not a Christian.

He is a businessman. His name is everywhere, and he has built an ostentatious empire of his own making with a branding that has nothing to do with politics. He doesn't strike me as a particularly nice guy. He is not the embodiment of class and dignity. He has a foul mouth and an attitude toward women that turns my stomach. I don't know if he is racist in his heart or just incredibly inarticulate about the subject, but whatever it is, it's not attractive.  I even wonder, did he ever mean this candidacy to go as far as it did and did he ever mean to be the nominee? Did he really want to be President, or was he just making a point? Is he going to really build a wall or is that a metaphor? How literally are people taking this guy? I hope he means what he says when he says he can help bring jobs back to this country.

I have so many questions and so many reservations. 
But there is this one thing that I have been thankful for--Donald Trump did not pander to evangelicals. He did not call himself a Christian. In fact the one time in which he did attempt to speak at the perceived Evangelical Flagship known as Liberty University, he was almost cute in his ineptitude. Almost--when I was done rolling my eyes and then laughing my head off. Then fearing that he would actually succeed. Nevertheless, he did not pretend to be something he isn't. He could never be accused of misrepresenting himself. At times the evangelical right was appalled that other evangelicals could support this guy! He even divided Christians against themselves, not that it takes much to do that. (Predestination? Free will? Wait, no. Transubstantiation! oooh, here's a good one: sprinkle or dunk? Wait, here's another one. Gay rights. Did you stop reading yet?) Oh, and by the way, Liberty U does not represent all evangelicals. Not even close. Just in case you thought I actually think that. Just, no. 

But here he is. He won. No recounts, no contested ballots. He won. And I could not be more thankful to Hillary Clinton for her gracious concession. It was spot-on. Funny that the people who say they're with her aren't much heeding her appeal.

So here we are, Christians with a heathen for a president. 
Yes! Finally we can stop the pretense that we follow a man who calls himself a Christian but is anything but. We as Christians have the opportunity at last to be Christians in a clearly non-Christian world. We have the chance to reach across to those who are different and LOVE them without political attachments or because of an agenda. We can prove to the world that we are not about parties or laws or offices but we are about the love of God and the hands and feet of Jesus. It is possible to be a Democrat and a Christian. It is even possible to be a Republican, independent or Libertarian and be a Christian. Or preferably, none of those things. What is important is that we are following in the footsteps of Christ. "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 5:16) (Thank you for that, Jesus. So many of us have forgotten.)

The founding fathers never intended for us to elect people because they were church men. They intended us to elect representatives who would defend the constitution. They themselves were racist, sexist, bigoted ideologues full of sin and hypocrisy whose lifestyles in today's society would never be tolerated. Slavery, anyone? Indian policy? Nevertheless, together they built something that is nothing short of amazing. Flawed men worked TOGETHER to build a nation that has led the world, for better or worse, and provided a better life for countless people from every continent.

I do believe that we need to elect men and women who will defend our religious liberties, but insist at the same time that they not legislate morality.
We need to elect representatives who will uphold the rule of law and allow the free space it requires for people of faith to flourish, because when faith grows, so does peaceful order, morality, and abundance. We do it in spite of who is elected, not because of them. Certainly no mortal man can provide the impetus for us to be faithful and righteous.

In an orderly society in which all rights and liberties are cherished, it is then our responsibility to be the Church. To ask ourselves what Jesus would do. To pray for revival, and then to carry it out. To call sin what it is without compromise, and to love unconditionally, without judgement. To walk without fear and be ambassadors of peace. We can leave Donald Trump out of it. We can make it all about Jesus and nothing about politics. We can actually play the role of peacemakers, and not some weird amalgamation of Christian-politician-do-gooder. Just Christians, because that is who we are.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. (Matt. 5:9)

Sunday, September 04, 2016

The 2015-16 School Year - Here We Go

With one warm-up week under our belts, it's time for the traditional start of the academic year. Every year on the first day back to school social media is flooded with photos of all the kids in their new stuff headed out, holding signs "Some Grade" or scowling with displeasure because they are really to old for this and mom won't let go of the tradition.

I always feel a little strange on that day because we're doing the same thing we always do, and in fact, I have tried to minimize the notion that school and the life we live are separate entities. It doesn't keep me from getting very worked up about having everything cleaned up and prepped and some new system in place for keeping us organized every fall. There is still a necessary return to a routine that we inevitably lose over the summer.

But there are things this year that are different. I no longer have a child in grammar level studies. I have one middle-school girl and one high-school boy, and it seems strange even to call him a boy because he is such a young man. I have been going through books and find that toys and children's books that we have held on to and cherished have fallen into disuse and are no longer needed. I have a LOT of old curricula to sell. I figure it's a project I'll work on gradually this year, but it's time. 

Matt has exchanged legos for computer parts
The thing that has changed the most is that Matt will no longer be my student. I have entrusted him to the capable folks at The Well-Trained Mind Academy, established by Susan Wise Bauer, author of the Well-Trained Mind. 

Matt's coursework will be:

Rhetoric I
US History
World Literature
Math through Mr. D Math 
Latin II through Dwane Thomas (who was the creator of Visual Latin, a video-based curriculum that we enjoyed and learned of through Compass Classroom.)
CrossFit / PE

This big change leaves Molly and me on our own, and we are both excited about the possibility. Without the co-op situation we have had for so long, we have decided to deviate from Tapestry of Grace this year, while staying on course with the same time period schedule we have been on so as not to backtrack, repeat, or leave holes. We are going back to our roots and will be using Well-Trained Mind (WTM) methods for her work as well. Her workload will increase by virtue of the fact that she can't slip through the cracks, not to mention I know just how capable she is of doing more! I don't know if she's excited about that. We will still be meeting with a friend once a week for science, logic, art and lunch. 

Molly's course work will be:

Math - Math U See, Epsilon, Zeta
Grammar - Analytical Grammar
Writing - The Complete Writer and beginning Writing With Skill, writing across the curricula, some creative writing.
French - Duolingo 
History - Story of the World, beginning with the early American Republic and French Revolution through Modern Times.
Science - Apologia Anatomy
Logic - Fallacy Detective
Art - Coursework designed by Mom from various resources

And so it begins. Again.