Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What Time Is It?

Not too long ago I heard a wonderful sermon at a Catholic church about being a good steward of one's time. Since tomorrow is my 43rd birthday, it seems a good occasion to meditate upon what this means. The tab on the Yogi tea bag I just opened reads, "Wherever you go, go with all of your heart." Does this include going down to the basement to face a mountain of laundry? Yes, because all of life is connected. I personally fritter time away every day for the reason that I don't know where to begin. "Do the next right thing" is a popular saying in Al-Anon Family Groups. But what is the next right thing? I started taking ornaments off our Christmas tree awhile ago but did not finish the task. This seems to be my standard operating mode lately. The time has come, my friends, to once again focus on paring down and pulling focus.

Here are a few suggestions I am planning to follow for the new year. Get your body moving again! I am on a long break from teaching my belly dance classes, but last evening I began working on a new choreography to teach in February. This gives a structure to my exercise. It doesn't work to vow vaguaries such as "I will get in shape" or "I will lose weight" or "I will eat healthier." You must be specific! I am determined to walk our dog for at least 15 minutes each day. In winter it is imperative to get out of the house every single day, breathe fresh air, get your vitamin D from sunlight, and do something active. Cabin fever does not settle in so easily if you regularly step outside the cabin.

What kind of food do you want to eat? For me, the time has come to make a hearty soup every week. Eating in season means root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, yams, onions, and turnips. Immunity boosting foods such as mushrooms, garlic, thyme, parsley, oranges, pomegranates, and grapefruit are especially satisfying. Being a vegetarian, I have to make a conscious effort to incorporate protein, such as peanut butter on whole grain bread, yogurt, beans, a few eggs a week, and whole grain rice. I have given my husband the task of making seitan weekly, which is a wheat gluten and soy sauce based meat substitute. Tempeh sandwiches, from soy beans, are another of his specialties. With more protein, I notice less cravings for sweets. Ginger tea is beneficial for the respiratory and digestive systems and is an invigorating substitute for coffee or black tea, although in moderation these are fine.

Sleep! Take advantage of the early darkness and go to bed when you are tired. Take time to wind down. Praying the Rosary while I lie in bed calms my monkey mind, and often I can barely stay awake to finish it! Turn your troubles over to Father God and Mother Mary. People, however you do it, just pray. Pray every day. Light naturally scented candles or incense and listen to music you enjoy. Center yourself by reestablishing daily routines once the holidays have passed, and once focused, go about your daily round in a spirit of reverence. Alternate doing something you don't want to do with something pleasurable. Try something new!

Go through your closet and dresser drawers. Whatever doesn't fit, doesn't look good on you, doesn't suit your personality or lifestyle, and doesn't make you smile goes to charity. Don't save it to sell on Ebay. If you want to keep it for sentimental reasons, lovingly store it away. Make room for clothing that fits the person you want to be, the person God created you to be. Recently I watched the Audrey Hepburn movie, "Breakfast at Tiffany's." I was always inspired by Audrey's simple, chic style as a single woman and had the advantage of a thinner body and vintage clothing stores in the city in which I lived. But as a homeschooling mother I need comfortable, functional clothes. I was surprised when I watched the movie again that Audrey's style could still work!

The little black dress, which Audrey made so popular, is not actually so little. A sleeveless black dress in a fabric that stretches a bit, in a length at least to the knees, is a perfect mainstay for the chic mother's wardrobe. Ballet flats and feminine shoes with a short heel are so Audrey. Casual clothing that is fitted rather than baggy is flattering, and sticking with mostly neutral colors is mandatory for easy dressing. This is the French way to dress. French women have less clothing than Americans, but their wardrobe foundations are in classic styles and are high quality. They change it up with accessories--jewelry, scarves, hats, shoes, belts--adding a flash of color and individuality. They keep it simple. So where can you find Audrey style? In a brilliant stroke of memory I flashed back to the Ann Taylor Loft store I used to shop at. I went to Ebay, and hurray, lots of Audrey Hepburn type pieces.

So settle back on a cold winter's night and watch "Breakfast at Tiffany's," "Roman Holiday," and "Funny Face" and remember how whimsical and creative you once were, how you spent your time dreaming and following your passion, how you delighted in just being you. Visualize, maybe even in the form of an artist's sketch book of magazine images you use to create collages, exactly how you want your hair, makeup, wardrobe, and home to look. Then visualize how you want your life to be. Do you want to get married? Travel? Write a book? Start a business? Meditate? Live in a well-ordered home that is a sanctuary? See it in your mind and feel it in your heart first, then take a step each day toward the goal. That is doing the next right thing. Take the time to take care of yourself, and love the person you see in the mirror every day. Then spread the love.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Art and Spirit of Giving

One of the best things I ever heard about Christmas shopping is to honor the person to whom you are giving in your choice of gifts. This single concept is revolutionary in its simplicity. It helps me to focus not on just getting it done, but on contemplating before I shop and pondering as I shop what would honor a particular person. But what does it mean to give honor?

Some people are easy to shop for. They have hobbies, they collect things, you know what they like. Other people seem to have everything. Like my dad. If you ask him what he wants or needs, he will tell you to save your money, because he knows you don't have much. He doesn't read (such people are particularly tricky!). He loves golf, but he buys himself all the necessary paraphernalia. He may appreciate something unique, like a gumball machine for his office, but he won't actually use it. My dad, however, is a clothes hound. It might seem boring to the giver, but a nice sweater or a snazzy hat will make him happy.

There is a key in that to honoring your loved one. What will make him happy? When I was in my 20s I had a boyfriend who asked me what I wanted for Christmas. What I wanted more than anything was a VCR. This was back in the 90s when they were still kind of expensive and not everyone had one. He fussed and said he did not want to get me that! He argued that we could watch videos at his apartment. That was the point. I wanted to be able to rent a video and watch it at my own apartment, with or without him. Although he did eventually acquiesce, his resistance to honoring me in the area of gift giving was reflective of his general lack of honor. So put the recipient of the gift ahead of yourself. While you may not adore images of Justin Bieber or his music, if your child loves him, you know what you need to do!

I read a Dear Abby column once in which a woman complained that she gave meaningful, handmade gifts and that a member of her family never displayed them in her home. The giver equated the gifts being handmade with more intrinsic meaning than a store bought item. And she evidently was more concerned with what she valued than she was with the taste and interests of the person to whom she gave her gifts. While I do not advocate compromising your own morals and ethics, if the person on your list, for example, hates primitive handicrafts but loves mass produced products by a particular company, to honor her you need to buy what she prefers, not what you want to give her.

You can honor someone with a practical gift just as easily as you can with a luxurious one. I noticed one year that my grandpa's slippers were worn out, so I got him a nice, new pair. They could be worn outside, which I thought would be great when Grandpa went to get his newspaper. I never saw him wear the old pair again. There was a time when I didn't have enough money even for the basics, so gifts of underwear and socks surely honored me!

There are also the gifts of time, service and attention. A young cousin of mine has for years made it a tradition to decorate our grandparents' house for Christmas. She digs everything out of the basement and gives the gift of her time, energy, and creative talents. Inviting a friend to bake Christmas cookies at your home, helping to organize a church bazaar, and singing carols at a nursing home are all a part of the spirit of giving. This is the time of year to reach out to family and friends who live far away. A card, phone call, or invitation to Christmas dinner can go a long way in re-establishing a personal connection, repairing estranged relationships, and getting you out of yourself.

In the Japanese tradition of wabi-sabi and the ancient tea ceremony, the guest is all. If someone comes to stay in your home, remember that preparing for a trip and traveling can be exhausting, and the willingness to do this to spend the holidays with you is a gift in itself. Put the comfort of your guests ahead of yourself, nurturing them not only as family, but as brothers and sisters in Christ. They may feel left out of the family if they live a distance away, so make the effort to reassure them that they are honored and included. Most of all, set aside your expectations this holiday season for how things should go, how children should behave, what food should be served, how the house should look, what someone should know that you would or would not want for Christmas. "Should" is a 4-letter word! Meditate instead on how you can honor one another in the art and spirit of genuine giving. Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

To the Twilight Fans

Grave Beauty
Innocent monster
Eternal, beatless heart--

Her blood is your sweet siren song,
Her body, the rocks--

How much hunger can you swallow
Without consummation?

Edward, your venom,
Her salvation--

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Modern Homestead, Part 2

I am beginning to formulate the idea that reinstituting the concept of the homestead could be one way to counter the malaise, obsession, and addiction that I attribute to our modern society's overuse of technology. My grandma made a very good point yesterday. She thinks the internet is trouble, because people will write something on Facebook or someone's blog that they would never say in person. A friend of mine says that's like blaming the gun rather than the person holding it. They are both right.

There's no doubt in my mind that we are too plugged in. TV is largely to blame for the fact that kids don't play outside much anymore, and both excessive TV watching and disassociation from nature lead to depression. Add the plugged in time of video games, cell phones, and internet use, and what have we become? People are notoriously too busy to get together in person, and I think they often make themselves busy on purpose. Real relationships and intimate, face to face, or even voice to voice, interactions are just something people have largely lost the ability to handle.

Just having a gun in the house presents a danger that would not exist otherwise. And it has been proven that TV and other technology easily become addictive. In our instant gratification society, blasting an online comment at someone without thinking it through (hello, attention span, where are you?) results in all kinds of drama. If you at least sit down and write a letter first and get your reactionary emotions out of your system, often times you get enough therapy in the process and don't even end up sending the letter. Or you take the time to revise it. With technology, it is too easy to forget that there is a living, breathing human being with feelings on the other side. Recently a family member half my age who lives across the country chastised my comment to another Facebook friend and told me what I should have written instead! I was posting on my own wall, and the subject had absolutely nothing to do with her. This is the risk with a social network.

So how can the homestead help? If you read the Little House on the Prairie books, you will know that pioneer people had no such time for idle gossip and the frittering away of hours upon hours of life that can never be retrieved (except maybe Mrs. Olsen!). Farmer Boy tells the story of Almanzo Wilder between the ages of 8 and 10. He helps sow and plow the fields, haul wood with his own team of oxen, shear sheep, make candles, cut ice from a pond, train his oxen, gets up in the middle of the night with his family to save a crop from freezing, and all manner of such hard work. He also sometimes goes to school, and after all of the other things I mentioned, he does his chores. I don't imagine anyone in his family was obese or nature deprived. Laziness was not an option. Getting up after the sun rises was not an option. And harrassing your sister was cause for a whipping.

Not everyone can be a farmer or even live out in the country, but homesteading is becoming popular even in urban areas. Gardens are grown on rooftops and abandoned parking lots. People grow food and raise chickens in very small yards. (Ironically, in my rural village, one cannot raise chickens inside the village limits!) Even if you live in an apartment and you don't have a yard, you can grow plants, flowers, and herbs in pots. Anyone can feed the birds and have a birdbath in the yard. Plant flowers that draw butterflies and hummingbirds to them. Encourage the livelihood of bees, without whom the planet would die. Live with a pet or two. Cook most of your own meals. Make contact with nature in some way a priority every day.

Ah, priorities. If television viewing is a priority, I believe such a person has largely lost sight of what is important. Please know I have been guilty of being too plugged in and zoned out. But we don't watch television in my home (but do watch video movies). I have no idea how anyone has time to watch TV now that I have not had it for over 4 years. I am going to take a sabbatical from the computer as of today, when I finish writing this, for more than a week. I need to detox. I challenge you to do the same!

If you center your day with the homestead idea in mind, you know what needs to be done. Feed your family and sit down together for meals. Plant seeds, weed the garden, harvest what you've grown. Water the flowers. Walk the dog. Spend time with your child, reading, playing board games, homeschooling, doing household tasks together. Invite a friend (by friend, I mean a real one, not the "friends" you have on Facebook who aren't actually friends) into your home. Visit your grandmother, write a friend a real letter in your own handwriting, donate things you no longer want or need to charity, learn a craft you can do with your hands, or to play an instrument or dance. Pray, meditate, read something edifying to your spirit. Write a poem or your memoirs. Dance with your daughter. Walk instead of driving your car. Bake cookies for the neighbor kids. Clean out your refrigerator, drawers, and closets. Pursue your passion! Oh my, where has the time gone? You are pleasantly exhausted from physical exertion and spending your day in meaningful activities, focusing on your priorities, and you haven't turned on the TV or your computer once! Now we are living, people, living our own lives, taking care of our own business, too sane to poke our noses where they don't belong.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Blog Purpose and the Personal Essay

When I began Organic Mothering, my first post was basically a mission statement regarding the purpose of the blog and the topics that it would focus on, so readers can refer back to that entry if necessary. What I want to do now is to clarify my intentions for this space and the format in which it is written. First of all, I am a writer, and put simply, a writer must write, just as a dancer must dance and a painter must paint. Except for my poems, the literary format of my posts is the personal essay. What this means is that I write about a particular topic or theme as seen through the lens of my life. While I do quote outside sources to enhance or support my topics, my writing is primarily subjective. Objectivity is not a requirement of this literary genre.

The topics of a personal essay are typically those of great interest or passion to the author, and she shares her thoughts and opinions in light of personal experiences and real events. In this way the personal essay is a work of creative nonfiction. I rarely give the names of people, including my own, so as to keep a certain level of anonymity and to allow a broader range of expression. The element of telling a story is intrinsic to this format, so while the information is autobiographical, the real people are also characters in a story.

In a personal essay, the topic may be an issue such as a political or social concern, or a conflict of some kind. The point of the essay is to present the topic using personal stories and opinions and to end with a type of resolution--a point made, an insight gained, or a lesson learned. The events described may run the whole gamut of human emotions and experiences. The purpose of my blog is not to report events like a newspaper journalist. I do provide a great deal of information that is factual, but that is only a small aspect of what I write. Usually written in first person narrative, the personal essay is ultimately a conversation between the author and the reader.

While no one needs any special credentials to write a blog, I have a great deal of professional and educational experience that has honed my skills. I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature, and I did study poetry, informational, and magazine writing in college. I had poems published by The Ohio State University and the Jawbone Poetry Series of Kent, OH. I have been paid as a featured poet at a professional forum in Columbus, and I placed in a poetry contest through that forum. I worked as a freelance writer and editor for the McGraw-Hill publishing company and created marketing literature for a nationally known talent agency. Currently, I teach poetry classes through Keystone Co-op. I produce my blog with the highest integrity and excellence in writing that I am able.

I am grateful to all of my readers. I have always received the most help from other people's stories, and my hope is that readers will recognize their own feelings and experiences in mine. The personal essay extends to universal themes, and I want my blog to be a space for ideas, information, contemplation, artistic outlet, and entertainment. If I were to write in fear of possibly offending someone, I would not be able to be effective in this work. As my grandmother said, "Keep writing." As a writer, I have no choice. I must write.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Modern Homesteading, Part 1

Who would have thought that the first of November would be a sit-on-your-front-porch kind of day? Yet here it is, sunny and 60 degrees, with a mild breeze blowing. Sitting on the front porch is arguably an old-fashioned pastime. In some neighborhoods, the kind with strict rules and regulations, such behavior is even considered a detraction from the quality of the neighborhood!

An architect friend of mine, who used to live in New York City, told a story about how a person living in such a place was limited in the size of porch he could build onto his house so as to deter any temptation one might have to sit on it! "Do we want to see people sitting on porches here?" was the question. And an emphatic "No!" was the answer. Oh the horror of the idea of neighbors being able to see one another on porches! What if they smiled at each other? Worse yet, what if they talked to one another? What if they had barbeques and friends and relatives come to visit and they played music and horseshoes on the lawn? Yes, this is what America, sadly, is coming to.

What must be reclaimed, for this reason and a multitude of others, is the concept of the homestead. In his national best-selling book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv describes the modern phenomenon of Nature Deprivation Disorder, which stunts the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual development of children (and also has adverse effects on adults). Children are over-scheduled with organized programs, as well as the fact of being constantly "plugged in" to technology, leaving them no time to play freely outdoors. This disassociation with the natural world greatly contributes to the rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.

And front porches aren't the only casualties of snobbery and a profound disconnection from nature. In some communities, outdoor play is actually criminalized. Partially for fear of lawsuits, climbing trees is outlawed, and building a tree house is illegal on one's own property, lest a neighbor think it detracts from his view, or because it violates building codes. Thankfully, I live in just the sort of backwards, antiquated small town that allows porch living and tree climbing!

I do sometimes fantasize about living in the country and having a small family farm, which is definitely a lifestyle choice that is making a comeback. However, I love my historic 1908 home in town, and it is nice to be able to walk our dog and stop to chat with neighbors (who are outside on their porches, for heaven's sake, or doing dastardly deeds like gardening or yard work!). It is also convenient to walk to places such as the post office, grocery, drug store, church, gift shop, pharmacy, library, and bank, or to ride bikes to visit my grandparents. Less need to drive a car, so more sustainable than living in the country in that respect. I have been reading a lot lately about urban homesteading, so I will continue to write on this topic in a short series. In the meantime, turn off the TV and shove your kids outside to enjoy the last, glorious days of autumn. And you get out there too!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Poems to the Virgin Mary

Ah, Great Mother, there
you are, climbing the rose bush
Reddest of roses

She comes to the garden
Dropping dew on the flowers
Dancing like fire
The Morning Star

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cookie Jar

Today is burnt out sunshine,
leaking chimney--
familiar as familial disapproval

I am not my golden sister-girl
in her waveless seafoam,
counting calories, being counted

Eating cookies all day is all I can do:
Wild oats folded in sweet domestic batter,

a chocolate chip resting on the

by dancingmommio

Monday, October 17, 2011

Relaxed Homeschool Series, Day 12

It is the time of year for going inward. Re-evaluating what is working in life and what isn't. Paring down to the essentials in order to decide what is truly important, especially before the flurry of the Holidays hits. In this spirit I have decided, just this morning, to take a break from this series. Writers need time to fill the well in order to have something fresh to offer. There needs to be time for adequate sleep, for taking care of oneself and those you love. Busyness is not the same as being productive. It is not a status symbol for success. Even "getting things done" is over-rated. In the still center of Being is where Wisdom lies.

Surely I will keep blogging, but for now I am on hiatus from writing about relaxed homeschooling. I have experienced a difference in the way I am doing things since beginning this series, and the results have been good and positive. An even dozen seems a good place to pause and reflect. So don't go away. Check back weekly and I'm sure to have something to say!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

R.H. Series, Day 11 (Wabi Sabi)

Last Saturday was a perfect Indian Summer day. I clipped 3 immaculate hydrangeas from the bush in my front yard and placed them in an elegant, clear green glass vase and set them in the entryway on a vintage serving cart where they could be seen by anyone from the open front door. I was having guests on my porch, so I thought the flowers would be a nice touch. I prefer to allow blossoms to live, so I rarely cut them.

In just a week it has turned much cooler, although today you could still feel the warmth of the sun if you paid very careful attention between strong gusts of wind. Yesterday the lawn was uniformly covered with a blanket of orange leaves, and I thought to take a picture but didn't. Today all of the leaves were blown to one side and heaped onto the porch steps, leaving the lawn asymetrical, imperfect. This is the time of Wabi-Sabi, the Japanese aesthetic and philosophy of imperfect Beauty. Because nothing lasts, there is bittersweet perfection in the fading of the flower.

I love hydrangeas. They were the primary flowers in my wedding bouquet. A tangled web of vines had grown over my bush, and I had intended to cut it back, but I guess I was just lazy. Today I had to admit that though all of the rain we got a few weeks ago extended their glorious blossoming, they were just beginning to fade, and I suddenly found myself with a pair of scissors in hand, cutting away at the vines, which were on their way out anyway. The largest hydrangea remaining, once freed from the weight of the vine, rebounded majestically. Except for the slightest beginnings of browning, it is still in the fullness of its bloom, and I did not cut it.

I felt in awe of these flowers, which despite the oppression of greedy vines had held their own, used to bowing their heads naturally, daring to peek out in their lushness of awesome shades of pink and pale green, unconquerable. Their beauty was too profound to be hidden. Like that children's church song, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine... Hide it under a bush--oh no! I'm gonna let it shine." I cut several of the browning blossoms but left a few to tough it out to the end. I may bring that big one in soon and dry it, keeping it as a memento of what I learned today.

What or who is weighing you down? What has you all tangled up inside? Are you hiding your beauty underneath, afraid to cut out everything in your life, and yourself, except for what you know to be beautiful, useful, good, or necessary? I am the hydrangea. You are the hydrangea. Remember. Never forget.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

R.H. Series, Day 10 (What's in a Name?)

This past Saturday my friend Renee from Keystone Co-op came to my house to share information on homeschooling with my chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), one of whose primary functions is to support education. Renee noted that she prefers the term "home education" to "homeschooling," which is a topic on which I have recently been reflecting.

Education is something that happens neither exclusively at home nor in a school building, though homeschooling is surely based in the home. Education is an integral part of life, from birth to death. Understanding it in this way allows the homeschooling parent to relax into the process of educating her children. Renee affirmed that attitude and character must come into place first, and then the academics follow.  This idea brings to my mind section 18 of Charlotte Mason's synopsis of her educational theory:

"We should allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and 'spiritual' life of children; but should teach them that the divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their continuous helper in all the interests, duties, and joys of life."

I have decided to try out my own term to reflect this philosophy, as I continue to explore the lifestyle of relaxed homeschooling, and refer for the rest of this series to "Home-Life Education." This term will encompass the broad curriculum of my educational goals for my child. As Maria Montessori instructed, we must educate a child for Life, and the edification of her spirit is the primary focus.

So that Beezy might come to understand such a broad view of education, I am no longer going to use the word "school time" to refer to our formal learning of the day, but rather call it "book learning time." For indeed, that is exactly what it is. The time spent learning from books, though perhaps a central element, is only one aspect of education. All of Life is the curriculum.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Relaxed Homeschool Series, Day 9

"Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform."  - Susan B. Anthony

Today we had a reading breakthrough! Following Charlotte Mason's advice to incorporate "reading at sight," Beezy was able to read the first 10 words from Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit, a real story rather than the twaddle of modern books designed for children learning to read. Up to now, when I incorporated sight words, they were written on note cards and learned using the Montessori "three period lesson." This is a valid technique as well. However, last week Beezy said with wistfulness, "I want to read." I knew what she meant. She had randomly been sounding words out that she came across but would become discouraged, for example, when she read "seen" for the word "sheen." Plodding along at sounding words out gets boring, and while learning to read phonetically is important, Charlotte Mason believed that "...his progress in the art of reading depends chiefly on the 'reading at sight' lessons."

According to Ms. Mason, once the child has a good handle on the sounds of the letters and the process of making words, he should begin to read literature, never books with only 3 or 4 letters in each word. The story or poem is to be taken only a couple lines at a time, 10 or a dozen words. The adult puts her finger under each word, going slowly and pronouncing clearly, and the child repeats along. The interest and intense focus this exercise of reading a real book inspired in Beezy was surprising and wonderful! She didn't yawn, like she often does reading BOB books. She was determined to master the lesson. Finally, reading was truly exciting! There were a few words she knew or could sound out; otherwise, she learned to read by sight, "Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and..." We worked on the whole sentence, which continues, "their names were--Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter." The 1st 10 words Beezy could read fluently, not merely by memory. Thank you, Charlotte Mason!

We are continuing to work through Dr. Christman's Learn to Read manual, and Beezy loves the Starfall online reading program. Slowly and surely, we will work through the Peter Rabbit book a couple of lines at a time, also searching for those familiar words elsewhere in the text so that they can be recognized and read anywhere. It may seem a slow way to go, but Charlotte says, "Not so slow, after all: a child will thus learn, without appreciable labour, from two to three thousand words in the course of a year; in other words, he will learn to read, for the mastery of this number of words will carry him with comfort through most of the books that fall in his way."

The above quotes and entire outline of Ms. Mason's reading technique can be found in volume 1 of her series, Home Education.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Montpelier Belly Dance Classes Now Available!

Montpelier Belly Dance Classes

Rita Helena, Creative Director of the Parvana Moonfire Dance Collective, is offering belly dance instruction in the Egyptian style at her home studio, 321 Empire St., Montpelier, OH, available immediately.

“Create Your Own Class” sessions will allow students to take private lessons or bring up to 3 friends together in a fun, supportive environment. Belly dance is a feminine art and exercise form, enhancing the grace, rhythm, and beauty of women of all ages and body types. No prior dance experience is necessary. The benefits of these Montpelier classes include a higher level of individual attention and scheduling flexibility.

Please call 419-485-0524 to schedule your class. Two payment choices are being offered:

Pay As You Go: Each class is $15 per hour.

Economy Punch Card: Purchase a punch card for 5, one hour classes for $50, valid for up to 3 months from the purchase date (a $25 savings).

Upcoming Belly Dance Schedule

Fall Belly Dance Schedule—Bryan, OH

Learn to belly dance with Rita Helena, Directress of the Parvana Moonfire Dance Collective. This art form and feminine way to exercise enhances the grace, beauty, body image, and rhythm of women of all ages and body types. The focus of classes this fall is on the Egyptian style, particularly the Baladi, known as the mother of belly dance. Students should wear a scarf or belt tied around the hips and comfortable clothing that is not too loose. You may dance barefoot, in socks, or in ballet slippers. Ages 15 and up. Classes are held at the Community Center on Buffalo Rd., upstairs. Please call the Parks and Recreation Department at 419-633-6030 to pre-register. Pre-payment is highly recommended to reserve your space, as classes fill up quickly, and will ensure that the instructor has enough students to run the class and that the limit of 15 is not exceeded. Please have your payment in via the mail or drop it off at the Parks and Recreation  office by Monday, Oct. 31.  Classes will run for 5 weeks on Thursdays, and the cost is $40.

Basic Belly Dance—This class is open to both new and continuing students and will provide a solid foundation in posture, isolations, and basic steps, putting it all together in a series of combinations. History, theory, music, and costuming will also be covered.
Thursdays, 6:00-7:00 p.m. – begins November 3

Technique Intensive—This class is open to students with at least 3 prior sessions of experience. Solo technique as well as a unique form of group improvisation will be explored, including playing the zills and using the veil, as well as an in depth emphasis on responding to the music, personal styling, theory, and creative use of combinations.
Thursdays, 7:10 to 8:10 – begins November 3

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

R.H. Series, Day 8

Charlotte Mason's six-volume series, written in Victorian English, is more than a bit daunting to approach. If you were to wait to begin homeschooling until you had read the whole series, you would most likely quit before you started. I do think that reading Charlotte's philosophy and method in her own words is very important, but gratefully others have already read the books and written their own in a pared-down, more accessible format. I highly recommend For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay and A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola to get you on your way. A friend told me that the series is also available in modern English. Mason's original books can be read as you proceed, giving you spiritual nourishment, encouragement, support, and a thorough explanation of the ideas, as from a trusted friend.

Since I don't use a pre-packaged curriculum, I can't say whether it would lend itself as well to a relaxed homeschooling style as the CM method. I hear homeschooling mothers who use such curriculum lament about "falling behind." For me, having a curriculum dictate to me what exactly I have to cover each day in order to complete the material that school year would be pressure I don't want or need. It seems as though the danger would exist of handing my authority over to the creators of the curriculum, manifesting as a duplication in some ways of public school at home. I imagine that for the mother of multiple children, who may also have babies and preschoolers to care for, having those decisions made for her would be a godsend, so I understand the appeal. If you do use a pre-packed curriculum, utilizing it as a guide and resource for materials rather than as a dictator to your homeschooling program would still allow for a relaxed atmosphere.You could certainly use the CM method in tandem with your curriculum, too.

I have vacuumed and mopped two of my downstairs rooms and vacuumed another so far. My wonderful husband actually cleared the clutter in most of the downstairs and caught up on the dishes when the dishwasher was not working, so it was a huge relief that I could easily begin the heavy duty cleaning. That brings up another good point. Ask for help! Last year I hired a teenage mother's helper to play with Beezy, and sometimes do some of her school with her, while I worked on the time intensive housework that goes beyond the daily chores. Since she was a person who loved to organize, I even had her rearrange Beezy's room and help her go through her toys. Other family members need to get into the habit of picking up after themselves and sharing housework. Chore charts work well for some families.

As a final note, I have decided that there needs to be an end to the housework for the day. Perhaps once dinner is eaten and the clean up afterward is accomplished, you can make a vow to do no more housework that evening. This way you will have an incentive to get as much done as possible before dinner, and your evening can be free to take a walk, read, watch a movie together, or listen to Pa play the fiddle. And you can get bedtime started early enough that it becomes a relaxing experience to wind down the day, putting the children in the habit of preparing for sleep. Getting the children to bed early enough that you have some time and energy left for your spouse is important, too. I still have to put the dog's cover, which I washed today, back on her bed. But after dinner the only housework I did was to vacuum the dining room, and then I told myself that was it. Tomorrow, the deadline will be set! After the dinner mess is cleared, I am off housekeeping duty!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

R.H. Series, Day 7 (The Habit of Attention)

Yesterday we had Keystone Co-op, followed by a fire safety program. Then Beezy and I went to visit my aunt who babysits for Beezy's 2nd cousin, a boy 3 years younger than her. They play together so well! By the time I got home I had to make dinner, so it did not work out to write a post for this series yesterday. I think I will aim for 4 posts a week. This will allow me time to write on other topics, as well as have a couple of days off. After all, I am writing about relaxed homeschooling!

In my opinion, the Charlotte Mason (CM) method works remarkably well with a relaxed homeschooling style. A key component is establishing the habit of attention, which is accomplished in a couple of specific ways. The first is the idea of short lessons. The exact length will depend on the child's age, building up to longer periods spent on a particular subject. The time will also vary according to the child's interest. You may plan on a 10 to 15 minute math lesson, but your child may indeed wish to continue past that, which I think should be allowed in most cases. Keeping the lessons short (beginning with about 10 minutes in kindergarten) helps the child stay focused on the task at hand. Last year when Beezy was reading her BOB books, it could take her 20 minutes or more to read one book. I found that this was way too long. She would be yawning and getting tired, frustrated, and discouraged. The simple solution was to divide the book in half! We would do other subjects between readings.

Narration is another key tool to the CM method. This is the process by which you read something to your child, and then she tells it back in her own words. For example, today I read about two animals from a book about Mammals for our natural sciences study. There was only one page about each animal, so Beezy told back what she heard after each one. Since she knows she will be required to narrate, she pays close attention. This process allows you to find out what the child knows, which can take the place of testing. It also helps to avoid patronizing the child with boring questions which may also squash her enthusiasm. With narration, the child makes the information her own, and she will therefore more likely retain what she has learned. Beezy does not like to do narration when I am reading literature to her, as in a novel like those in the Little House on the Prairie series. It seems to interrupt the wonder and enjoyment of the story for her. And besides, if the book is richly written, paying attention to it is not likely to be an issue. When the child is older, she can read a chapter herself and then write a narration from it.

Distractions are sure to be a problem in any homeschooling situation. Today the weather was nice enough to do our school on the front porch, but we did have to contend with a lawnmower and some loud vehicles driving by. Inside, the phone rings sometimes annoyingly frequently. I try to remember to turn the volume down on the answering machine while we are doing school, and I don't answer the phone. I also have to make sure I am not getting distracted myself by emails, Facebook, housework, etc...

Today we began at 10:30 and did not finish until 2:15! I wanted to be done by 1:00, which was Charlotte Mason's tradition. This leaves the afternoon free for running errands, playing outside, visiting with friends and family, and the solitary time that all children desperately need to nurture their spirits and intellectual lives. However, I allowed Beezy to spend time with a neighbor's cat that frequently comes into our yard, and we walked our dog. We also ate lunch, which of course was necessary. I have to remind myself that just because a cat chooses to wander into our yard does not mean it is a convenient time to let it distract us from our purpose. Ultimately it is more relaxing to get school finished, without rushing, in as timely a manner as is possible so the rest of the day can be spent as one chooses, and for getting other necessary things done that may sometimes be sacrificed in the effort to "keep up" with the academics.

Today I wrote having Beezy clean her room into my lesson plans. I intend for this to be a regular part of our routine. It is also of the utmost necessity, as part of Beezy's ceiling fell to the floor as a result of a chimney leak, so her room must be dealt with in order for someone to be able to do the repairs. In Montessori terms, cleaning one's room would fall under the category of Practical Life, which shares a space in my lesson plan book with math. Well, the sunny day calls, and Beezy wants to play bat and ball. The neighborhood kids will be getting home from public school soon, so hopefully Beezy will have friends come over to play, and I can move onward in my housework project!

Friday, September 30, 2011

R.H. Series, Day 6 (Sorting It All Out)

It is only 7:39 p.m., and the sun is almost all the way down. The sky is a lovely violet-blue. I think I have been in denial about the end of summer all the way through September. But tomorrow October begins, and soon my favorite holiday, Halloween, will be upon us. Also, I have a bi-annual ritual that signals the end of my denial. Today I began putting my summer clothes away in their storage tub, where they will reside in the attic until spring. I had already begun to tuck Beezy's into a large bag as they came out of the wash. No sense putting them back into her dresser drawers! I am leaving a few things out for both of us in the event of some warmer days likely left, and I won't take everything to the attic until I have made sure there is nothing left in the laundry. This is also the time that I set items aside for the See and Do charity that I no longer want to own.

The most daunting thing about laundry is that one adds to it each and every day. Even with keeping up on my one load a day, it seems like the mountain in the basement will not cease to exist for a very, very, very long while. When there is too much rain, the basement floor gets wet, so I had to attend to wet laundry this morning. There is too much to fit into proper baskets, and besides, the baskets are usually full of clean clothes waiting to be put away! So most of it stays on the floor. I know, dreadful, awful, shameful situation...

I have misplaced Set 2 of Beezy's BOB readers, so for that reason, but primarily because I want to try something different, we are going to work through Dr. Christman's Learn to Read manual, borrowed from the library. We used it some last year. It seems to use a good method, and I like that there are lots of word lists as well as sentences. Beezy still needs a lot of practice sounding out words. Sometimes she labors over each word in a sentence, and other times she reads most of the sentence without sounding out words at all. I am hoping that by the end of Dr. Christman's book she can read real books, with good stories, something that qualifies as literature! While not as senseless as the Dick and Jane readers, the BOB books are still, by necessity I suppose, completely lacking in literary merit.

I imagine that Charlotte Mason would be horrified by modern books designed for children first learning to read. I am going to study her method in the 1st book of her six book series, Home Education, and find out exactly how I might proceed. Ms. Mason despised what she called "twaddle," which basically means a silly, dumbed down book lacking in literary value. But most children seem to need books with 3 to 4 letter phonetic words when beginning to read, with very few sight words. The BOB books are good considering the limitations. I am having Beezy read sentences I have written out in broken lines for her to copy, which she first traces and then writes out herself. I think this is a good way to reinforce reading, spelling, and sentence structure, as well as the fine motor skills of printing.

Tomorrow morning Bee has her last soccer game. It is getting chilly, and I will be glad to have it over with, though Beezy enjoys it and I love watching her play. It will be one less thing in our busy fall schedule. Busyness is one of our modern afflictions and has strangely become a badge of importance, producing martyrdom, over-scheduling, over-structuring, and the further alienation of people from having meaningful, satisfying contact with one another. But that is another topic for another day, and rest assured, I will explore it in depth!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

R.H. Series, Day 5

The sun is shining right now, but Beezy's soccer coach called to cancel practice this evening due to a big storm that is supposed to be coming. I guess I can just put my plants out to be watered! I am feeling very tired today, and I still have to teach my dance classes this evening. Maybe Bee and I can rest awhile and watch Tom and Jerry cartoons on video. I think the busy week, beginning with the death of Mittens, is catching up to me, so tomorrow we will take it easy, just do a little school before we go to the library. We have a weekly play date there on Fridays with some homeschooling friends. The truck comes in on Fridays with deliveries from other libraries in the system, so we go and pick up items we have ordered and visit with our friends.

Many of the materials we use for homeschooling come from the library, and it is free! Right now we are doing a unit study on ancient Egypt. Charlotte Mason believed in using living books rather than dry textbooks. Living books include classic literature and those written by a person who is passionate about his or her field, and that are preferably written in story form. We read three picture books recently that were excellent and depicted elements of life in ancient Egypt in this way. Temple Cat is told from the perspective of a cat who is worshiped in the temple, as cats were in those days, and how it just wanted to be a regular cat. The Egyptian Cinderella is based on the true story of a Greek slave girl who married an Egyptian pharaoh. And Seeker of Knowledge is the biography of Jean-Francois Champollion, who deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs.

I found the titles of all these books from a Google list and ordered them from the library! Most of the books I find on such lists have been available through our library system. I got the idea to do this unit from the chapters on ancient Egypt in A Child's History of the World, which we bought used on Ebay. Using books from the library is obviously a much more sustainable practice than buying them new, and it really is not all that time consuming. Also, homeschooling parents qualify for a teacher card, which has the benefits of extended check out times and no late fees!

There were a couple of math workbook activities I had planned to do with Beezy today dealing with money, but on closer inspection, she will need some lessons to prepare her for them first. While the Charlotte Mason method does not use textbooks or workbooks, or at least uses them very sparingly, I have found the BrainQuest series to be very useful in putting things to be learned in a logical progression, so I will simply go back in the workbook and work up to the money section.

Today we did some phonics pages out of the BrainQuest book in which Beezy colored the pictures of words with particular short vowel sounds in them. She extended the activity by pulling color groups out of her box of 64 crayons. She would find all of the shades of blue, green, purple, and orange and was interested to know the names of each shade. So there we had an informal study of color and vocabulary!

I am progressing well with the laundry, but as far as the project of working on one room at a time goes, well, I think my house is actually messier than it was at the beginning of the week! So I am off to do the dishes that can't go in the dishwasher and throw in a load of laundry. One thing at a time, one day at a time, and easy does it!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

R.H. Series, Day 4

Beezy just showed me copy work she decided to do from one of her BOB readers, all of her own volition! We had a homeschooling field trip to the Spangler Candy Company this morning, taking a trolley tour through the factory. Along the way were various video presentations showing the whole process of how the candy is made and packaged. I did not realize that the stripes on a candy cane are made by hand, not a machine! It is actually an art form requiring a great deal of skill. My grandmother, Veda DeWitt, worked at Spangler from 1955 to 1991, so it was especially meaningful to me to see where she worked all those years.

We did some school at home this afternoon. What I am finding with my new approach to doing a schedule for the whole week is that I can pick and choose from whichever activities fit in on a particular day. I don't necessarily have to do Wednesday's work on Wednesday. And if we don't get to a subject one day, we can pick it up the next. I realized too late that I had scheduled too much for today considering the field trip.

For the next few days, I think I will focus on curriculum. I know that many homeschooling families use a particular packaged curriculum, such as Sonlight. Since I only have one child and would not be able to pass it down to younger siblings, this seemed too cost prohibitive to me, especially since, so far, I have not found it to be at all necessary. This is partially thanks to my Montessori training and Montessori materials available to order from Ebay. But as equally influential is the English educator Charlotte Mason, whose method focuses on what she called "living books" and the process of narration. She also believed quite strongly in the necessity of great amounts of time spent outdoors and keeping nature journals.

I will write a little on Charlotte Mason each day and some of the ways that we incorporate her brilliant philosophy! I will not be posting on this Relaxed Homeschool Series on the weekends, but I may be inspired to write on other topics. If you do follow along, please sign up as a follower or leave a comment. It inspires me to know that my blog is being read!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

R.H. Series, Day 3

Still sad about the loss of Mittens on this rainy day. I lit a Lady of Guadalupe candle in honor of our kitten, with a couple of her toys at its base. I think we need more ceremonies and rituals to mark events in our lives, great and small. Beezy wants to stay in her pajamas, and that sounds good to me. We are going to read in bed for awhile. She initiated an activity for herself already this morning, arranging her magnetic ABCs in order on the refrigerator, singing the song out loud to figure out what comes next. Just the encouragement I needed!

Last night before going to bed, I made a list of the things I want to accomplish today. I used to do that regularly. In fact, before I bought a proper lesson plan book, I used scraps of paper from the recycling bin to write out a list of homeschooling activities each day. I got out of the habit of making a "To Do" list. It is satisfying to cross things off, and you don't have to try to keep it in your head. If you are like me, you are likely not to remember something important if you don't write it down! So I am reinstituting the list. It is a good idea to write out upcoming events, activities, projects, errands--anything you want to get done--for the whole week. I also keep a wall calendar and check it regularly.

Today  I am catching up with laundry to get to the point of some semblance of control. From here on out I will do a load a day, including folding and putting away. It is not uncommon for me to have 3 baskets full of clean clothes sitting around for days! Dishes will be kept up daily (thank goodness for the dishwasher!). The plan then is to work on one room of the house at a time, including sweeping, dusting, and mopping as needed. Once the visible areas are finished, it will be on to the hidden areas--closets, drawers, cupboards, etc...

To stay sane, balanced, happy, and whole, I believe that every woman needs to have something just for her. I teach belly dancing classes and practice regularly at home. I was able to practice today while Beezy was playing with a neighbor friend. Some days I put in a video for her to watch, or have her do independent homeschool work. If her dad is home, he is in charge of her while I practice. This also gives me exercise! And I bought a Romantic Country magazine today to inspire me while I work on my house.

My intention is to practice Mindful Housekeeping. In some cultures, including our own, homemaking tasks are a sacred way of being in the moment, doing one thing at a time, with reverence. This attitude can transform drudgery into contentment. No multi-tasking! Beautifying one's home is an act of love. Make your home a sanctuary for you and all those who live in it! The key is in developing good habits. I have been in awe for many years of my friend Harriet. When we were single, for example, Harriet would make me dinner. Immediately after finishing, she would get up and wash all the dishes. Astonished, I asked her once, "Harriet, do you always do this?" She replied, "Well, I don't want to have to look at all this tomorrow." Harriet carried her habits on into marriage and motherhood. You can drop in on Harriet anytime, and her house will be clean and comfortable, though not white glove perfect. We must not be fanatical about this. People LIVE in their homes. That is the point.

So let us follow Harriet's Way together to a more satisfying style of living!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Relaxed Homeschool Series, Day 2

A very sad day today. After Keystone Co-op, Beezy and I took a walk around the neighborhood to look for her missing kitten, Mittens. A sweet, fluffy striped kitten that we think was a girl, Mittens followed Beezy home while we were out walking our dog  three or four weeks ago. She came off someone's porch, but no one was home, and there was no response to the note I left in the mailbox. So we happily adopted her, although I am allergic to cats. She had to live outside, with a nice bed in the garage. She was well-fed, loved, and flourishing, and she usually stayed in our yard or nearby. It was unusual, then, that we couldn't find her last night. Today we did find her on the curb across the street, having evidently been hit by a car.

I couldn't bear to go actually look, so I sent my husband. Beezy and I did not want to see her, so he wrapped her up and buried her in the yard. David read Psalm 23 and said a prayer, and Beezy topped the grave with a couple of rocks from her collection. I told her we would plant flowers to come up in the spring. I realize I am grieving for both myself and my child, as well as the kitten and her suffering. We did have a bright spot in the day. Thankfully, a friend offered David a surplus of Concord grapes, so we drove out to the country in Bryan. Beezy got to meet 3 goats, a horse, and two dogs and chased after some Guinea hens. The sun was shining, and it took our minds off the tragedy at least a little.

I did manage to change the sheets on the bed, but otherwise no housework got done, and we didn't do any homeschooling after co-op. But thank goodness for co-op! Two moms told me they liked my blog this morning, so that made me feel really good and gave me something to cheer me when I thought about it later today. So many blessings in every day. My neighbor, who is a great friend, and her 3 boys came over to play this evening, so I had her support at the end of this tearful day.

Adieu for now, and pleasant dreams to all. It is getting dark earlier, which makes it easier to wind the day down. Tomorrow is another day, as Scarlet O'Hara said. I am going to take this month-long project through the end of October. That gives me an extra week, leaving room for days like today, when life happens despite our best plans. Good-bye, sweet Mittens!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Relaxed Homeschool (R.H.) Series, Day 1

The above link is another good article on relaxed homeschooling and how it differs from unschooling. For the next month, I am going to endeavor to post every day on the topic of relaxed homeschooling (R.H.) in my home, hoping that by being accountable to my readers, I will accomplish some of the goals I am setting for myself! It may seem counterintuitive, but structure, order, and organization are crucial to homeschooling in a relaxed manner. To this end, I have already made a change.

I have a teacher's lesson plan book for planning out each week, with the following categories at the top:
Language Arts; Reading/Spelling; Literature/Poetry; Calendar/Seasons; History/Culture; Fine Arts/Movement; Math/Practical Life; Natural Science/Geography. Typically I make my plan day by day, so I can base what I am focusing on each day on the previous day's activities. For example, if I notice when Beezy is reading that she is having trouble distinguishing between letter "d" and letter "b", the next day I might do a three period lesson (Montessori Method) using shaving cream to focus on those letters and words that contain them.

Today I decided to try something new. It is Sunday, and I  have the entire week planned out so that tomorrow after co-op we can do what is on the schedule, and each day I can immediately proceed with the lesson plans without having to stop and figure out what to do next. I have most of the boxes filled in under each category, leaving a few empty for spontaneous activities. The key to being relaxed is that the schedule is not written in stone. It can be modified as needed. We may do more or less than planned each day. At the end of the week I will evaluate whether I have planned too much, not enough, or just about the right amount of work.

Mary Hood's article referred often to having a flow to the day, regular routines and ways of doing things. We begin our homeschooling day with a Melissa and Doug magnetic calendar. We sing a song called "Days of the Week" and fill in the number for each day, reviewing the date, including the name of the day, the month, the year, and the season. There are magnets to mark special things about the day, such as a holiday, a party, or a soccer game.

What I want to do is keep the formal learning, or "school" time, to no more than 2 hours each day over the next month. I want to begin a nature journal and spend more time outside, going hiking, drawing pictures about what we see, collecting leaves, etc... I also want to get my house in better order. For the next two weeks we will work on the things we can see, and for the two weeks after that we will work on the hidden places--the dreaded closets, drawers, and inside the refrigerator! By the end of a month the whole house will be clean and organized! And Beezy will be part of the whole process. Laundry is one of my worst tasks to keep up, so I will do a load each day, including folding the clothes and putting them away!

I'm going to begin by putting away some of our summer clothes and getting the cold weather clothes out and washed. It is not relaxing to not be able to easily get dressed in the morning! Then I can evaluate what we need and plan a trip to Goodwill and wherever else we can get the necessary items. I have a feeling Beezy is about to outgrow her shoes...

So stay tuned, and day by day I will alert you to my progress, or lack of it, or whatever interesting events unfold each day. After all, John Lennon was very wise when he sang, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Relaxed Homeschooling

The link above is an article by Mary Hood about the relaxed homeschooling style. I'm sure there are other related articles online to give you a better idea of what the definition of relaxed homeschooling is. For this post I will simply share some thoughts, ideas, and experiences to reflect my goal of becoming a more relaxed homeschooling mother. For it seems that to have a relaxed learning atmosphere, the parent who is teaching must herself be relaxed!

Although I was not homeschooled myself, my own mother's parenting style gives me a good foundation to the approach. I am the oldest of six kids, and we are all highly creative people. Some of this may be inherited, but surely my mother's high tolerance for creative endeavors was instrumental. Once when I was an adult visiting my parents, and my youngest brother was still little, I was astonished to find that Mom had allowed him to nail holes in a wall in the dining room to make a tent! She said that he asked her first, and she was planning to paint that wall anyway, so she thought it was a fine idea.

When I was a kid, Mom made us sleds out of cardboard boxes. When a TV movie called "The Apple Dumpling Gang" was on TV, she made us apple dumplings to eat while we watched it! For a grade school project, she created Handsel and Gretel dolls out of wooden spoons. We could play anywhere in the house, we could be noisy, and she didn't complain about us making messes while creating anything that I can remember. We were allowed to just be kids. Back in those days, I remember walking to and from school when we lived in town in Bryan. I imagined all sorts of things along the way, such as that a bee from my yard was following along with me. I don't remember ever having homework until the 6th grade, and we certainly didn't have government mandated, standarized tests in elementary school. Things were different then. I don't recall feeling stress or pressure at school at all until the 4th grade.

I sometimes get impatient and frustrated as a homeschooling mother. The pressure I put on myself comes from things people have said or just generalized fears that my child might not be at "grade level" in a particular area. This is not a relaxed frame of mind, obviously. I don't want my daughter to feel any stress or pressure about learning, only joy.

When I get wound too tight, I know it is time to back off. So yesterday I took Beezy and our dog to the Rosary Garden next to the Catholic Church. On the way walking there, she said, "I love this day!" After we had been there awhile and she had gotten some of her energy out she said, "This is peaceful." She discovered that red berries growing in the garden have sticky juice inside. She spread it on a leaf to make a "leaf band-aid." We brought toys for the dog, and Beezy played with her. She collected acorns. We spied on a stealthy squirrel. She became a "nature girl" who turned the garden into another world. I read a book to her, but it was difficult to hold her attention because she just wanted to play! I was still hanging on to the pressure to get a "lesson" done, forgetting that the entire experience was learning.

A couple of weeks ago a kitten followed Beezy home from a dog walk, and we have since adopted her as an outdoor pet. She has a bed in the garage, and we bought her food and toys. I have been more relaxed about when we start the formal time of "school" to allow Beezy to be outside on the gorgeous Indian summer days and let her take care of and play with the kitten. This too is education. That doesn't mean we have neglected our studies, but rather that this informal time with the cat has its own importance and does not have to be less of a priority than, say, doing addition problems.

A story about another homeschooling family who practices the unschooling method also helped me put things in perspective. One of the kids was not interested in learning to read until age 11, so his mother did not teach him! But in 6 months he was on target for his grade level, and now at 13 is an avid reader. I don't think I could be quite that relaxed, but that story does encourage me to trust the process. Preserving the too brief experiences of childhood is crucial, those days of profound wonder and fascination with the world, so I endeavor to emulate my mother's own great example and relax!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Homeschooling: Dealing with Doubters, Part 3 (Trusting the Process)

The best way to deal with people who express doubt in the wisdom of your choice to homeschool is to provide yourself with spiritual fortification. Many of the tools I have acquired in this respect come from the 12 Steps and slogans of Al-Anon, a support group for family and friends of alcoholics. I recommend the daily readers, One Day at a Time in Al-Anon, Courage to Change, and Hope for Today to anyone who needs spiritual encouragement. And of course the well-known "Serenity Prayer" applies in any situation:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.

Much serenity comes down to acceptance. You may just have to accept another person's lack of acceptance of your lifestyle choices. However, you do NOT have to accept unacceptable behavior. This is where learning to draw boundaries comes in. You don't actually owe anyone an explanation. You are not obligated to engage in arguments. It has been unacceptable to me for other people to tell me how to educate or discipline my child, what diet I should be feeding her, how long I should breastfeed, where I should live, how many children I should have, or when she should be potty trained. Each person must decide what for her is acceptable and what is not.

On the other side of the equation, it is none of your business what anyone thinks of you! Isn't that liberating? If it isn't any of your business, then you don't have to do anything about it or worry about it. Easier said than done. When you are struggling with a particular feeling or experience, you can look in the index of one of those Al-Anon daily readers and find the page numbers for topics such as doubt, acceptance, boundaries, self-esteem, serenity, detachment, keeping the focus on yourself, and so on.

Much time and emotional energy can be wasted worrying about what someone said or what you think they are thinking about you. Releasing your need to control, or change, what another person thinks or feels will unload an enormous burden. You are not responsible for other people's thoughts, feelings, or reactions!

Naturally, this letting go and letting God is hardest to do with those in our lives with whom we are closest. For example, a pattern with certain family members attacking me and criticizing my child via email had developed, and their comments amounted to unacceptable behavior for me. Problems were brought out after they occurred and were not dealt with in person, and then not being aware of anything being wrong, I would receive these hurtful email messages. I contributed to the problem by responding with anger and hurt feelings and allowing the arguments to escalate, and nothing was ever resolved in a positive way. My well being was seriously threatened, and I even became physically ill. Finally, a light bulb went on, and my husband helped me change my email address, and no one in my family has it now. This is an example of changing the things you can.

Ultimately, I had to figure out my part of the problem. You can't be responsible for another person's part. You can only keep your side of the street clean. What it came down to was that I had to let go of my need for other people's approval. The very nature of some of my relationships had to change, and yours may as well. For example, sometimes parents behave as if they still have authority over their grown children. In such a case, you may choose to no longer accept such a parent-child paradigm and instead learn to be your own authority, in line with the will of God. This takes amazing courage. How might you change the nature of inappropriate relationship circumstances?

If someone wants to pursue an argument, possible ways to end it are to simply say, "I understand that's how you feel," or "You may be right," and change the subject. If you are on the phone, just say you aren't able to talk anymore, say good-bye and hang up. This isn't to imply that you should avoid a conversation or conflict that is really necessary to deal with. But in many cases trying to defend yourself only gives credibility to someone who is way out of line in the first place. Express yourself simply and concisely, and let go of the other person's response. Practice detachment, or removing yourself emotionally from another person's toxic stuff.

Even if the other person refuses to change his or her attitudes or behaviors, if you change your own, the relationship will have to change, and you can find healing. Keep the focus on yourself and your own family, and if self-doubt creeps in, talk to another homeschooling parent. I am amazed at how prevalent the interference of parents is in the lives of their adult children. So break your isolation and realize you are not alone, by far.

I entered adulthood having been intensely affected by what was diagnosed as alcoholism in a younger sibling. This had a profound effect on my love relationships, causing co-dependency and my tendency to take care of others and try to "save" them. I had a happy childhood until my teen years when these issues occurred. As a young adult, I was dysfunctional financially and had difficulty keeping an orderly home. I worked at jobs below my level of education, skills, intelligence, and creativity. I was never paid what I was worth, and I did not manage the money I did make very well, being prone to bouncing checks and being charged late fees on credit cards. I was one of those people who guiltily dodged the telephone calls of debt collectors and secretly felt bad about myself.

My Bachelor degree in English sometimes helped but didn't serve me well enough financially, and at age 30 I found myself working as a nanny. Realizing I needed a career path with a future, I enrolled at The Spa School through the Ohio State Schools of Cosmetology and earned my license as an esthetician. I had a job at a prominent day spa before I graduated, and for the first time in my life I made enough money to comfortably support myself, even more than I needed. I enjoyed my work and paid off all my debts, and today I have an excellent credit rating! But when I was given this job and knew how much I could expect to be paid, I wondered whether I deserved it. I doubted my worth.

What does this have to do with homeschooling? I can tell you that at the age of 12, I was a bright, capable, confident, fearless person. I was strong and wise beyond my years. And then something happened. I betrayed myself. People betrayed me. For years as an adult I searched for my lost Self. I diluted my personality to try to make others happy. That 6th grade girl had not doubted herself.

So if you wonder whether you are doing the right thing by homeschooling, ask yourself if you got what you needed at home and at school to prepare you for the adult world, whether you were able to function well in the most basic ways--to balance a checkbook, cook yourself healthy meals, change the tire on a car, maintain stable relationships, manage your household, respect yourself. This is not to blame anyone, but to reflect on your life and what worked and what didn't. If, like me, the answer is no, determine to provide a better preparation for your child via the lifestyle choice of homeschooling, if that is what works for your family. You will need no other purpose, and there will be no room for doubt.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fall Belly Dance Classes

Fall Belly Dance Schedule—Bryan, OH

Learn to belly dance with Rita Helena, Directress of the Parvana Moonfire Dance Collective. This art form and feminine way to exercise enhances the grace, beauty, body image, and rhythm of women of all ages and body types. The focus of classes this fall is on the Egyptian style, particularly the Baladi, known as the mother of belly dance. Students should wear a scarf or belt tied around the hips and comfortable clothing that is not too loose. You may dance barefoot, in socks, or in ballet slippers. Ages 15 and up. Classes are held at the Community Center on Buffalo Rd., upstairs. Please call the Parks and Recreation Department at 419-633-6030 to pre-register. Pre-payment is highly recommended to reserve your space, as classes fill up quickly, and will ensure that the instructor has enough students to run the class and that the limit of 15 is not exceeded. Please have your payment in via the mail or drop it off at the Parks and Recreation  office by Monday, Sept. 12.  Classes will run for 5 weeks on Thursdays, and the cost is $40.

Basic Belly Dance—This class is open to both new and continuing students and will provide a solid foundation in posture, isolations, and basic steps, putting it all together in a series of combinations. History, theory, music, and costuming will also be covered.
Thursdays, 6:00-7:00 p.m. – begins September 15

Technique Intensive—This class is open to students with at least 3 prior sessions of experience. Solo technique as well as a unique form of group improvisation will be explored, including playing the zills and using the veil, as well as an in depth emphasis on responding to the music, personal styling, theory, and creative use of combinations.
Thursdays, 7:10 to 8:10 – begins September 15

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Learning and Retention

A public school teacher friend of mine was recently telling me that there is talk of eliminating summer vacation, going to year round school with more frequent, shorter breaks. The idea is that children forget what they have learned over the summer, and teachers have to spend a lot of time in review. Eliminating summer break may or may not be a fine idea, but I question whether it will solve the problem with retention. My guess is that the break, which is less than 3 months, is not actually the cause of this forgetting.

Thinking back to things I learned in school, I still remember much, and I am 42 years old. For example, I still know my times tables. In the 5th grade I learned the sign language alphabet, and I still know it. In my 20s I worked at a department store and had a hearing impaired customer. I was able to spell out words well enough to communicate with her! I know the ABCs song from kindergarten. In high school I memorized a passage from Shakespeare that I can still recite. And I can tell you that on Moe's Scale of Hardness, diamonds are the hardest mineral, and talc is the softest. Am I a genius? Why, of course! But seriously, why did I retain this information and much more without any review from a teacher and despite years (and years and years) passing since I learned these things?

My theory is that I really, actually learned this information, I was interested in it at the time that I learned it, and in some cases I have had occasion to use what I learned in a practical way. For example, I like to bake. In 8th grade home economics, I learned that 3 teaspoons equals a table spoon. When one measures brown sugar, one packs it firmly. However, when measuring flour, one does not pack it, but rather over fills the measuring cup and levels it off with the straight edge of a butter knife. I use all of this information on a regular basis.

Teachers today must focus on preparing students for proficiency tests, and students have the added stress of passing the test in order to move on to the next grade. Information is packed into students' brains, and the methods used must result in the regurgitation of this knowledge for the test, so there are considerable limits on a teacher's creativity and responsiveness to individual learning styles. What results is memorization, which is not the same thing as learning, and what has been crammed into the brain is quickly forgotten.

My experience as a Montessori classroom teacher gives me valuable insights. I worked primarily with preschool and kindergarten aged children, 3 to 6 years old. The key to Montessori education is what is called "the prepared environment." Children are allowed to freely choose activities, called "work" in Montessori lingo, as long as they have been presented the correct way of using the materials by a teacher. Children through the 6th grade do not sit at desks. They can work at tables, or sit on the floor with a work space delineated by a rug, or they can sit on a couch to read. They are free to move their bodies, and movement has been linked to better learning. Through the 6th grade, children stay in the same classroom for 3 years. This provides consistency, and older children are role models for younger ones. There is team teaching, with at least 2 teachers to a classroom. Children do have some whole group lessons, but most presentations are made to individuals and small groups. Kids follow their interests, and they have many choices of concrete materials with which to work.

One of my most poignant moments as a student teacher occurred when I held a square of five rows of five beads and realized that this was "5 squared."  Five squared is an actual square?! Why didn't the teacher mention this in algebra class? I felt cheated and mourned the insufficiency of my own math education. I still well up with tears when I think of that five squared moment. In Montessori, the concrete comes before the abstract. Children learn math by touching it, seeing it, and manipulating the materials. By the age of six, many Montessori students know their place values, can identify geometric solid shapes, and can do multiplication and division in this way. They can learn the concrete basis for algebra in kindergarten!

My memory is a bit hazy, but from what I understood during my training, Maria Montessori did not think high school students should even be spending time sitting and learning in a school building. She would have them riding horses and caring for them, building houses, cooking meals, apprenticing to a blacksmith, learning to make shoes, and other real world experiences where they learned their subjects by doing them. And speaking of subjects, I had another revelation in college. During one of my quarters at Ohio State, I had classes in English, history and mythology. These 3 classes happened to have a lot of overlapping information, and I loved learning that quarter! The mythology related to the history, the history to the literature, the literature to the mythology. Isn't that how things should be learned, with their connections to each other, not as separate "subjects" in little boxes? Baking cookies involves reading, math, the senses of sight, touch, taste, and smell, using tools, and creativity. Creating a dance choreography involves musical interpretation, math, rhythm, physical movement, and visual artistry.

Another note about college. My husband teaches composition at IPFW and has taught English at many colleges in different cities and states. He laments that his students do not know how to think for themselves! They stare at him blankly when asked to choose a topic to write about. They want to be spoon fed. When I took college history, I noted the extreme difference between the focus of history in high school. High school history is about MEMORIZING facts--who, what, when, and where. Who remembers the year of the Battle of Bull Run, where and when it was fought, and who the generals were? I don't. In college, history focused on the question of WHY. What were the social attitudes? The underlying political agendas? How do the circumstances that lead to the fall of the Roman Empire compare to what is happening in the United States in modern times? In a liberal arts education, students must give their opinions and support those opinions with the text. They must think! In American public schools, children are not prepared for college. By and large, they are not taught to think for themselves, and this is having a tremendous negative effect on college education.

Let's look at the issue of needing to review after summer vacation. Should this be considered a problem? When I teach my belly dance classes, I always review the steps. Even as we progress, we revisit basic steps. We put them together in different ways. I have had many advanced level students who come back and take beginners classes. Continuous practice is necessary to retain the steps and to grow and develop as a dancer. Mastery comes from years of study and the deepening of knowledge until it exists on a cellular level, and the dancer becomes the dance. Review, repetition, and practical application are necessary for the learning and mastery of any subject. Repetition is especially necessary in early childhood. When a child learns to read, it is common for him to be able to read a particular word on page 1, and by page 4, when he sees the same word again, to have forgotten it.

So does summer vacation cause a deficit in learning retention, or was the information not solidly learned in the first place? Can you still ride a bike? Do you remember the words to your favorite Christmas carols? Can you divide M&Ms evenly among 12 children? Can you recite the Preamble to the Constitution? I can. You know why? Because I learned it on TV during School House Rock on Saturday mornings, set to music and with great cartoons. Here's another School House Rock I can give you right now, with no review, over 30 years after I learned it, really truly, on a cellular level and because I was interested, learned it: "So if you're happy--hurray! Or sad--aw! Or frightened--eek! Or mad--rats! Or excited--wow! Or glad--yeah! An interjection starts your sentence right!! Interjection, for excitement, or emotion, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!!!  Darn! That's the end." If you are of a certain age, I know you are singing along!

I'll leave you with this consideration. For every single Montessori lesson plan, there is a section called, "Points of Interest." What if every teacher had to identify what was potentially interesting about every single lesson she taught, and then what if she had the freedom to teach it using her creativity, reflecting the learning styles of individual students? What if she had 3 years with her students, really getting to know how they learn and what methods work best with each child, giving them the freedom to pursue their interests and the opportunities for real world, practical application? Would retention be an issue at all?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fall Fashion & Flashbacks

Looking at Glamour magazine this evening, I saw that biker jackets are in for fall. Not that they ever go out of style. They are basically a classic, whether you are a motorcycle mama or not. I bought a black, "pleather" one in the 90s that everyone thought was so cool. I wore it with everything, even a vintage 60s, plaid wool mini dress. I paid $50 for it and walked out of the mall feeling sorry for myself, because I only had enough money to buy that one item. While walking back to my car, I passed a homeless woman asleep on the sidewalk. Children were yelling things like "Eew" and "Yuck" at her, but the woman seemed to be out cold and didn't hear them (I hope). I immediately realized how spoiled I was in my self-pity and changed my attitude to gratitude. God works like that. No coincidences there! I put a $5 bill in her hand and hoped she would hold onto it until she woke up. Obviously, I never forgot her.

The last time I wore the black pleather jacket was to hear a live band when I lived in Columbus. I left it at the club, and by the time I realized it and called the place, it was nowhere to be found. I grieved. I also had an awesome, butterscotch suede biker jacket that was one of my favorite vintage pieces. I still have it, in the attic. I "outgrew" it, so to speak.

So looking at Glamour and seeing some affordable choices, I thought, hey, maybe I'll get another biker jacket! It's so easy to be lured into a mild panic--Fall is coming! Am I prepared?!--that you don't stop to think, "Is this trend really 'me'?" I also saw that argyle (incidentally my husband's favorite "color") is back in style. Not that it ever goes out, being a classic... Didn't we cover this with the biker jackets? My first day of high school, I wore a new outfit--a grey wool argyle sweater and grey corduroys. Oh, and my penny loafers, of course! Also saw pics of those in the fashion forecast. It was still technically summer, like it is now, and I was uncomfortable all day. But in style!

And once again, for what seems like the 100th time since I've been conscious of fashion, the mod 60s look with boxy, color blocked dresses, mini skirts, and jackets are all the rage, complete with go-go boots. I used to wear go-go boots out dancing in my single days, zipping my driver's license and money into them so I didn't have to carry a purse. I was once thanked at a night club by a young man who appreciated the unzipping of my boot! My mod clothing was, of course, vintage--the real thing. My boots were new, shiny black vinyl.

Another often-repeated trend: western. Cowboy, prairie girl, American Indian. You know the drill. I do have some Native jewelry, which coincidentally I wore today, not even aware of being right in style! Ah, now we're on to something. I wore my Zuni animal fetish, beaded necklace and similar earrings because I FELT LIKE IT. Not because some fashion editor told me it was not only okay, but necessary. 

I do wish the butterscotch biker jacket still fit. I would wear it. But fringe? Maybe the flapper kind on a belly dance costume. And argyle? I really haven't been preppy since the 80s. And penny loafers are Mom shoes. Seriously. When you really are a mom, the worst thing you can wear is a trend like penny loafers, along the same line as mom jeans. I actually saw bandanas tied around the neck in Teen Vogue and remembered actually doing that over 20 years ago. It scared me.

Every so often I like a look in a magazine, and I add a new piece or two to my wardrobe. But ONLY if the look works with my figure, my style, and my life. And, I hate to admit, it must be reasonably comfortable! When it comes to fashion, there really is nothing new under the sun. And you can never, ever buy style.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Homeschooling: Dealing with Doubters, Part 2 (the public school crisis)

Homeschooling is the fastest growing educational demographic in the United States. There is no question that homeschoolers fare better academically than public schoolers. Standardized tests bear out this fact, including college entrance exams. The specifics of this information are readily available online. Yet many people are not aware of the statistics, and favorable toward homeschooling though the studies may be, statistics do not measure the intangible benefits of a home education.

My grandma recently asked me if my daughter, getting ready to start the 2nd grade, will be homeschooled all the way through high school. As I tell anyone who asks, I am doing this one year at a time. She asked if I thought Beezy would be prepared for college. I mentioned that homeschooled kids all over the world go to college, and in fact, Ivy League schools are actively seeking out homeschooled children due to their academic excellence. Aside from this facet of simply not being aware of homeschooling's success, as in Grandma's case, there is certainly more to the strong resistance that I and other homeschooling parents have encountered.

Some of it comes down to misconceptions. The other thing Grandma spoke of was whether Beezy would be ready for college after being in "an adult world the whole time." This struck me as a curious thought, considering that Beezy will be an adult when she goes to college. The real, underlying concern is a familiar one to us homeschooling parents, that is, the dreaded "s" word--socialization. One woman even told me that she was concerned about the "socialism." I knew what she meant, and I didn't have the heart to correct her, but that is an interesting avenue to ponder. What most people seem to mean by socialization is really socializing.

Since homeschooling is by far more successful educationally, the only other advantage public schooling could have is in the social sphere. The misconception is that homeschoolers are isolated from the rest of society and won't be able to function in the so-called "real world." Being in the real world involves active participation in one's community, being able to function in society and make a positive contribution where you live. Conventionally schooled children are segregated away from their communities for about 8 hours a day, including bus rides, 5 days a week for most of the year, for 13 years. At some schools beginning at the elementary level, kids have an additional 2 to 3 hours of homework, plus more on the weekends as they progress. At school, they are surrounded exclusively by peers their exact same age, race and socio-economic background (see John Taylor Gatto on the issue of tracking), with very few adults, who have unquestioned authority, even sometimes openly usurping the authority of parents.

Does this scenario mirror the real world? I have never in my life had a job in which I worked exclusively with people my exact same age, race, and socio-economic background. Like our senior citizens who are shoved off to nursing homes, our kids are sequestered away from the rest of the community. When they finally get out, they often don't know how to function in the real world. (My own adult dysfunction in society will follow in Part 3).

I listed some of Beezy's preschool activities in Part 1. Beginning with kindergarten, we joined a homeschooling co-op called Keystone. For two 10-week semesters a year, area homeschooling families get together on Monday mornings at a church. Parents teach various classes, so children get to learn from other adults, and yes, socialize! We also go on field trips together. Such cooperative learning groups are quite common these days, so homeschoolers can be part of a like-minded community and share each other's expertise. Even if one does not belong to a co-op, there are many other opportunities, from scouts, church groups and 4-H to sports and any number of lessons. When people ask me about socialization, I usually remark on that being one of the reasons to homeschool--to avoid negative socialization!

Now back to "socialism." That woman I mentioned earlier was closer to the truth than she realized. In John Taylor Gatto's tome, The Underground History of American Education, the foundation he exposes of American public education is chilling. It was founded on a Prussian model to create a working class of obedient drones who are not prone to individualism or critical thinking, to be controlled by a superior, elite class with all of the money and power. Incidentally, this Prussian model is where Adolf Hitler got all of his grand ideas. If you are interested in getting to the heart of what's wrong with our public schools in a shorter form, go online and read Gatto's articles, such as "Against Public Schools" and order his book, Dumbing Us Down from the library. Gatto taught in public schools for over 30 years and was a NY state and NYC Teacher of the Year winner multiple times. After retiring, he dedicated his life to speaking out against public schools.

The ultimate reason that public schools keep doing what they do, despite the fact that they are progressively failing, has to do with big business. Teachers easily get tenure, which means they can never be fired, regardless of whether they do a good or bad job (see the documentary film, "Waiting for Superman"). Large corporations, such as McDonald's, sell curriculum to schools in order to advertise their products. Children in American society are primarily seen as consumers, socialized to be the unthinking, vulnerable, consumerist, controlled masses! The two largest teachers unions have among the strongest political lobbying power in the U.S., more so than the NRA and other big lobbies. Teachers in Washington, D.C., home of the nation's very worst schools, had the opportunity to vote to be able to receive a six figure income based on performance if they were willing to give up tenure. They refused even to vote, unwilling to give up being stuck with their mediocre salaries or allow systems to be able to fire bad teachers.

Too many people profit from the system functioning exactly as it is. The only reform possible seems to come from charter schools and similar programs, but the kids who need them most have only the chance of getting in via a lottery system. Public charter programs such as SEED and KIPP have proven that the most disadvantaged, at risk kids can flourish if they have excellent teachers, regardless of the nature of their home lives or what neighborhood they come from. The difference is, very specifically, in the quality of the teachers and methods used. But the tenured, unionized system makes universal, high quality public teaching impossible to achieve. There are many wonderful public school teachers, but even the most brilliant often have their hands tied from being able to teach to the best of their ability due to preparing students for standardized tests, which has become the priority in public education. Also, in some schools behavior problems are such an issue that classroom management must take the place of real learning. A friend of mine in an inner city school was applauded by her principal for simply getting her students to sit at their desks!

Surprisingly, "Waiting for Superman" did not even mention the option of homeschooling as a solution to the crisis in public education; and it is a crisis, with the U.S. scoring at the bottom of developed countries in key areas such as literacy and math. This country hosts several hundred high schools known as "drop out factories." However, homeschooling is simply not a viable option for many families, with parents who have to struggle just to make ends meet at low-paying jobs because they, too, received an inferior education. The plight is worst for blacks and Hispanics. I heard on NPR just today that by the time they graduate high school, these kids have only the skills sets of 8th grade white kids. By 2040 it is projected that half the U.S. population will be black or brown, so this educational trend has tremendous consequences for the whole of society.

Considering all of the evidence, how can anyone think that public schools are the superior choice over homeschooling? I think it is because they went to public schools themselves. They may be conformists with tunnel vision; or they are idealists who can't let go of the once promising dream of equal opportunity education for all children. They are simply in denial that the dream has faded and all but died. Free thinkers, parents who reclaim their authority, are threatening to those who are afraid or unable to take the responsibility for the education of their children into their own hands. One of my friends was worried that her children's school was going to close due to the levy failing. When I suggested homeschooling, she said, "I'm not that brave." I had never before considered my choice to homeschool as brave, but yes, you really do have to be just that.

Homeschooled kids do equally well regardless of the parents' educational level. In other words, a mother with a high school diploma is statistically as successful at educating her child as a certified teacher with a master's degree. Do you see the threat? Teacher colleges are big money. Homeschoolers have proven that teacher colleges and certification are not necessary to an excellent education. A stay-at-home mom with a GED can be just as effective.

Unfortunately, some people aren't really curious about why I homeschool. They are defensive, and they wish to pick a fight. You can recommend books to people and print off articles that show the facts in black and white. You can invite them to programs at your homeschooling co-op. You can refer them to this blog! But the short answer will usually suffice, save you a lot of grief, and avoid accidentally offending a public school teacher or parent: "We are able to do it, we enjoy it, and it's what works best for our family at this time." Then change the subject and get on with your life, feeling confident and guilt-free in the validity of your choice!!