Friday, November 15, 2013

Homemade Elderberry Syrup, A Recipe for Wellness

It is super easy to make Elderberry Syrup. It is a wonder of wellness against cold and flu symptoms!

All you need:
Filtered water

Boil down the elderberries (rapid boil) with a ratio of approximately 1 cup of berries to 4 cups water. Mash them up, strain them, and FINELY strain it, either through a jelly bag or very fine mesh. (I use a tightly knit spice ball and funnel), because the stems are actually poisonous. Once you have all the stems and pulp removed, add in about 1 cup (or more) of honey and bring it back to a gentle boil. Pour it into canning jars and can it. Keep refrigerated. One batch is good for 3 months.

If they are sick, give 2-3 teaspoons twice a day, at the FIRST onset of symptoms for best results. If just for daily immunity building, then 1-2 teaspoons once daily is fine.

It works wonders! My kids absolutely LOVE it. They ask for it continuously. I love that we can make our own medicine and remedy their colds from the comfort of home. I have my friend Melissa to thank for knowing and trying Elderberry Syrup---she makes it and gifted us some when we were sick a couple of years ago, and I couldn't believe what a difference it made in their symptoms after 24 hours. Now I pick them fresh and freeze them, for when I need to make another batch. You can also order dried elderberries in bulk. With their natural antioxidants, they truly are a wonder of wellness. May you be blessed by this simple recipe, and may God bring you healing and peace.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Week in the Life of our Homeschool

Highlights from our Homeschool week:

We hosted an impromptu "God Created Earth Day" with some of our homeschool friends. It was such a beautiful day for it!! We did activities around the 3-R's, read from our Apologia's Exploring Creation with Botany Science book, and the kids planted trees, sunflower seeds and took home strawberry plants. It was wonderful.

After some morning school, we baked cookies (math measurements!) to take to our friends' house to play.

Cookies baked and ready, off and out the door to our friends' we go!

Hmmm, we may not always stop to smell the roses, but we DO stop to watch the magnificent hawk stop to grab his road kill lunch. God's amazing circle of turning tragedy into useful, not-wasted blessings.

Fun with friends

Wednesday was an awesome day. We had quality learning and chores, then the kids and I enjoyed some fun board game time. They get great math practice with counting the money in various combinations in Junior Monopoly, and good strategy-logic-sequence use with checkers.

Wednesday night, we noticed how awesome the moon was, and did some activities based on that, including the new Moon Journal we just started in our Nature book. Our Apologia Astronomy science also has some great lessons on the moon that we'll be touching back/following up on this week.

The kids read and did some math in the morning, then we headed over to our friend's house for coffee and a playdate. They each spent the night at different friends' houses Thursday night, and both had a fantastic time sleeping over with their friends! What a blessing we have with friends we hold so dear!

We had a blessed day at our homeschool co-op on Friday. One of the families brought their pony and horse for show and tell- the kids loved it!!!

I'm teaching a class on the book, The Secret Garden. This week we did some fun Robin crafts and activities while listening to the story and robin songs on my friend's phone. Additionally, we were to the part of the story where Mary found the key to the garden, so I brought in a dozen old, random keys for the kids to pick out their own from, and we made necklaces with yarn. We used some simple brown felt to make "earth" pockets for them to keep the keys in when they weren't wearing them. What a fun day!

Saturday was the perfect family day at home. We spent the entire day outside. My husband thawed and boiled down sap for maple syrup, and the kids initiated a Rock Hunt. They brought out all the materials we have on rocks and geology to the picnic table. We explored in the woods and they each picked two rocks from their day's collection to paint (their idea).

Can you find the chickens in this picture?? (Hint: at least 8, no more than 13) :)

In the afternoon, we planted more trees and all had a picnic in the yard on a blanket, reading books. My daughter had a tiny, tiny baby ladybug crawl on her hand and rest there for 10 minutes before flying off. It was so cute. Afterward, she ran inside to get her life-cycle of a lady bug model-set, and the kids played the different stages of a lady bug's life in the dirt into the evening. What a blessing this journey is! Hope you have a blessed week, too!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Less is More: Why We Choose Quality Over Quantity, for our Lessons and Life

My friend, who public schools her kids, said to me, reflecting: "It's weird that, all the people I know who homeschool-- their kids are way above where they need to be... for instance, your [6-year-old] daughter is, what did you say? Third grade reading level or above? Yeah, it's weird that the kids are all way above, and yet, all of them that I know, spend way, way less time each day on school work or formal lessons than kids in public school."


Me, smiling, with patient love: "Well, it is not a puzzle. And it's no coincidence, or a happy accident. It's the simple truth that QUALITY is far superior to QUANTITY. When kids have the free time to truly and authentically absorb what it is that they are learning, they retain more of it."

It can't be that simple, can it? But it is. Less is more. Truth, at it's core, really is always that simple.

It's not her fault. We've been programmed in all areas of life to assume the rubbish that more is more. More hours each day, more homework, more drilling, more programs, and of course- more money, more money, more money.

Pure rubbish. Plain and simple.

Kids need less.

Less over-stimulation, less cramming, less artificial and unimaginative entertainment with toys or screens, less hours away from their homes and families.


Do you know what they need more of? Time.

More time outside than inside, no matter the season. More time with their families. More time to explore, imagine and create. Time to build quality, authentic friendships... with no restrictions of the school yard bell. Time to get good and dirty and feel the wind. More unrushed time to rest. More time to read, and be read to. Time where they can think and question for themselves. Where they can learn HOW TO WONDER. So many kids these days are just told what to know. Constantly. They are not taught how to think, they are taught what to think.

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” ―Margaret Mead

But, how, you may ask, do you teach them how to think?

By giving them space to wonder. And absorb.

When kids have constant stimulation, constant activity, constant shuffling from one place to the next, constant something-happening... how much of that is absorbed? What a waste. It's all surface, nothing sinks in deeper. Nothing has time to take root.

“Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education.” ―Charlotte Mason

“One of the main things we’ve learned is that interests develop with time and freedom to explore. Kids need big chunks of time to play, create, read, and question. They need the freedom to discover their interests. We have to make room in our days for exploration in order to pave the way for more meaningful projects.” -Michelle Hulse

So yes, it is true. Less is More.

Allow me to repeat: less, is more.

Do people even question or recognize what quality time is, anymore? I know they've lost sight of what authentic play is. But the truth is, you get more out of 2-3 hours of quality lesson time than 10 hours of overdrawn, exhausted, pushed-on, forced drudgery- My kids aren't the only proof. There are millions of homeschoolers across the country proving it, too.

Enough with pushing full-time, stressful, coordinated schedules onto these kids!

"I don't want them to miss out on anything," one public school mom fretfully explained to me, as to why she was cramming, overbooking and frantically double-booking her kids with trips and birthday parties, scouts and soccer and....

Enough! On top of a public school calendar? That is madness.

In the attempt to "not miss out" you are, in turn, missing everything. You are missing the point of it all. You are missing PURPOSE.

“Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I've ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing.... Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.”
―Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

Where did this notion come from, anyway? That our kids shouldn't miss out on anything? Really? Constantly distracted, not centered on anything. How sad. And does that teach them how to make purpose-filled, intentional, mindful choices throughout their life? Should we, as adults, scatter ourselves thin over every available opportunity that presents itself to us?
Furthermore, if we are demonstrating to our kids, through our actions, that constantly being occupied and accumulating stuff is the path to happiness, well, then, we are setting them up to have a pretty unhappy life.

"People ask me how I will teach the kids math. How will I socialize them? How will I continue working? But what people should really be asking is how parents manage to teach their kids how to make important, value-laden, emotional decisions when there is so little time together as a family." ~ Penelope Trunk

Don't misunderstand. I completely acknowledge there are families utilizing government schools who value this time for their kids and carve out time for family. I'm not saying this is exclusive to non-homeschool families, there are- indeed! - families within the homeschool community who burden their kids with over-programing and lack of time, as well. I'm guilty of it at times myself. However, have we asked ourselves, what do we gain?

It's not an accident that we spend less time on formal school lessons each day than a public school does, yet our kids flourish. It is not lazy luck. It is our intention. We want our kids to love learning. Our school knows no limits, we live and learn all the time. We learn because we like to, therefore, we spend our free time learning.

And do you want to know the best part? You can, too.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday

palm sunday from littlealtarseverywhere56 on GodTube.

"Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

Donkey and Palm crafts from dltk:

Here are some great ideas for lesson plan ideas for kids on Palm Sunday:

And a funny, informative skit on Palm Sunday to give you a chuckle:

Skit Guys - Palm Sunday from skitguys on GodTube.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A week of homeschool lunches

It's been a while since I've done a weekly lunch post. Here are some simple at-home lunch combos to throw together. Nothing out of the ordinary here, but homeschool lunches do save on the pocket book AND allow for more nutrition and leftover options. I find we take up much less time in our school day when mom already has lunch planned or made! For more simple lunch ideas at home, click my lunch tab below.

Chicken, baby spinach, cucumbers and mixed nuts

Baked Oatmeal with strawberries

Venison and Rice, green beans and corn

Grilled ham and cheese sandwich, apple, spinach and goldfish crackers

Hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese, snap peas, apple, carrots and sliced almonds

Saturday, January 19, 2013

“Detachment Parenting”? You might as well punch me in the face

I just found out this week that apparently, there's such a thing called, "Detachment Parenting".

Yep. I could have happily gone through my entire life not knowing that existed.

As if there's not enough detachment and misguided lack of human connection in this broken world, we now need to ponder a trend of people consciously making the effort to intentionally detach, and push their babies and children from them. Embrace selfishness and reject sacrifice? Well, that is what many people do anyway, so I guess putting a name to it finally, makes no difference.

There comes a point, when it’s not a matter of accepting what works for someone, because it’s nonsense. I don’t need to accept lies. We need to reject lies and accept truth. Some things can be true for one person, and different for another. And other things, are just simply not true. For anyone. And they shouldn’t be accepted.
I don’t accept that it can be okay for someone to choose to not bond and build a sense of trust in their children. There can be different ways to go about that, yes. For instance, while I breast-fed and co-slept with my babies, because it worked for us and I believed in it, I’m not going to tell my friends who bottle-fed and crib slept that they are not nurturing parents, or that they are not finding other ways to bond with their children. You certainly don’t have to do those things to form a relationship with your child and meet their needs.

However, to say bonding and attachment in any form is to be opposed… well, that’s not a difference of opinion. That’s crazy nonsense talk.

These “detachment parents” are not saying to not love your children. But they are saying to care for them less, and care for yourself more. The focus should always be, they say, on you, not on your kids. Wow. Because self-centeredness is what we should be fostering in ourselves and in our kids? This isn’t a matter of wearing your baby vs. using a stroller 24/7. This is, actively detach. This is, don’t breastfeed because your boobs could sag, don’t hold your baby because they may learn to love you too much (or vice versa!). Reject attachment. You might as well punch me in the face.

In her piece on Detachment Parenting for the Huff Post, Nicola Kraus wrote, "Parenting is really f---ing hard. So don't make it harder. Set your life up so it can be full of sleep, sex, movies, dining and travel...." Umm, that's not what I was called to set up my life for, I can say that much. And, while many parents may not be as out-spoken to say it like she has, they DO make those choices and priorities over anything that has to do with self-sacrifice for their kids. My friend just told me about how celebrity Jillian Michaels announced in Women's Health that she chose adoption---not because she necessarily had a heart for adoption, which is an incredibly beautiful, self-less experience and choice... but because she didn't want to ruin her body with a pregnancy. That. That is what I'm saying has to stop. I don't accept that. I don't accept that we embrace a focus on selfishness over sacrifice. That's not motherhood, that's nonsense.

Then again, regarding J.M., I can't be impartial in that regard because I made life-altering decisions due to chronic disease to choose to have kids and I knew it would forever give me the struggle of a ruined body with no natural metabolism again. But through all of that, it taught me what matters. And I'm sick of seeing parents not care about their kids. They just don't care. They don't care who has them, what they eat, if they sleep, etc. as long as they don't miss what's on t.v. or their manicure. Kids aren't accessories. They're human beings. And when we actively treat them as detached objects, we aren't teaching them how to connect or care for others or themselves.

Lets have a look at these two, simple definitions:

Attachment - A bond between an infant and a caregiver, usually its mother. Attachment is normally formed within the context of a family, providing the child with the necessary feelings of safety and nurturing at a time when the infant is growing and developing as a human being. This initial relationship between the infant and his caregiver serves as a model for all future relationships.”

Detachment Disorder - A condition in which a person has difficulty forming lasting relationships. Children with detachment disorder often are unable to be genuinely affectionate with others, have an underdeveloped conscience, and are not able to trust.”

Case and point. End of discussion. Check and mate.

I can leave it at that. But lets go deeper. Only by meeting their needs of dependence, can we give our children the foundation and confidence to build authentic independence!

We are programmed by society to push our children away, because we are led to believe, truly believe, it’s what is best for them. That’s why we leave them crying with strangers.

“They need to learn to be away from us.”

“They need to learn they can have their needs met by others.”

“They need to learn independence.”

“They need to learn how to adapt to situations and have their own life.”

I agree with all four of those statements. I really do. In fact, these were the statements that held me back from our decision to homeschool for awhile. Kids can’t learn to tie their shoes if you are always there to tie them for them. They need independence. But then I started to ask the real question, of, HOW do they learn those things? I mean, authentically learn them, without abusing their sense of security in a typical “swim or drown,” “kill or be killed,” “fight or flight” way.

I believe children need to test the waters themselves. They need to learn to fall and get back up. They need to have the space to gain their own confidence, the space to fail and try again, the space to grow. To accomplish that best, they need a solid sense of security.

Believe it or not, you can both protect and prepare your children!

I also believe, that those who climb the highest, those who dream the biggest, are the ones who have the most trust inside, the most faith in what is bigger than them.

How about this?

They need to learn trust.

They need to learn compassion.

They need to learn to make good choices.

They need to learn respect.

They need to learn empathy.

They need to learn to make authentic connections.

They need to appreciate and create beauty in the world.

Protecting your kids is looked down upon. And if you so much as inch your way toward “over” protecting them, look out!! People frown on "sheltering" children. It's this nasty thing to do to kids. How dare you shelter them. Almost as though sheltering them is abuse. Here is the truth. They are children! They NEED shelter! This world is going to throw junk at them the rest of their entire lives.

Giving them comfort and security is not bad. It’s teaching them that comfort and security exists.

Nurturing them doesn’t harm them, it heals them.

By denying their natural-born need for their parents, you don’t make their dependence go away. You simply demonstrate to them that being scared, or having needs, is to be ignored. Or that their emotional needs are insignificant. But, their needs are still there. You may be unintentionally (or if you are a “detachment parent” then, intentionally), telling them their needs don’t matter, but that doesn’t destroy the existence of their needs. Instead, they learn to meet their needs in INSECURE ways. (i.e.: Acceptance from peers, materialism, cultural values.)

Honestly, we have enough narcissistic people in the world today. And enough sociopaths. Let us not actively build more.

You are the one who demonstrates to your children what to value. There are lessons that are important. And then, there are lessons that are MORE important.

And, get this. Are you ready for this?

By instilling a strong sense of shelter… of security… of HOME, in your children, you are in turn giving them the tools they need to truly engage in and explore the world at large. To become stable, independent adults, who think for themselves, and are secure in who they are and what they stand for.

As long as you are not trying to make them need you more, as long as you don’t foster dependence, but encourage independence… then please, yes, offer them shelter.

Show them love.

And please, please, please don’t strive to instill a sense of detachment in them.

Our society can’t withstand much more detachment. Not from the things that really matter.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What does PLAY look like for kids today?

Thankfully, this picture is not the case in OUR social circles!!! Our kids know how to PLAY.

Which picture of childhood are you providing for your kids?

Our co-op and frequent play days with homeschool friends definitely look like 1984. And we intend them to.

In fact, it's one of the driving forces behind our choice to home educate. Children truly need a healthy balance of unstructured time! Kids need time to run, race, climb... to explore. To imagine.

I'm often befuddled by how "mainstream" families find the SPACE needed for real, authentic play. It's sad to think that maybe, they don't. And they don't care to. I'm not at all saying children who are not homeschooled don't know how to play. But our society is so much caught up in the nasty habit of RUSHING children. Our culture doesn't invite time for children to play. And we, as adults are "plugged in" too much. Do we set an example for kids to use their imaginations? To just... be?

When I worked full-time at the newspaper and there would be a snow day, or a really hot day, I would grab my camera and head out---in search of kids to take pictures of. To capture the weather-related news. I would drive through town, and neighborhoods, looking for families. Outside. Enjoying life. I was always hard-pressed to find any. Where were the sprinklers with kids running through them? Why were the pools in people's backyards so often empty? Where were the bike-riding, fort-building, sled-toting children?? I'm telling you, when I was a kid you couldn't KEEP US INSIDE!! If there was a snow day, that meant sledding. That meant snow fort building. My mother had to have at least two pairs of snow pants and gear for each of us, because for hours in the snow we'd soak them through before we were ready to come back in! So we'd stop playing just long enough to get dry gloves and snow pants, and head back out. In the summer, you couldn't keep us out of the pool or the slip-n-slide, or the swing-set, or just tag!

My kids and their friends, KNOW what it means to enjoy fun and fresh air, in all seasons.

The answer to where the kids these days had all gone saddened me. They don't play outside anymore. On hot days, they are inside, in the air conditioning, playing video games. On snow days, it's too cold to want to go out. Electronics and stuck-up climate control had essentially stolen the American childhood. And parents had become conditioned to think they need to provide entertainment for their kids. Something to DO. An event or activity to attend. Suddenly, fun, and play, weren't simple things that kids could create on their own. They had to be scheduled, and shuttled to, and structured about.

The balance, or lack of balance, with the schedule of public schools doesn't help, either. I'm sorry, but recess at public schools is a joke. Fifteen minutes, if the weather is nice, and if you pretend to eat your lunch fast enough, isn't long enough to hang on the monkey bars 'til you feel dizzy or engage in a proper game of kickball or four square. If their after-school time is then filled with a couple hours of homework and/or soccer and swim practice... then WHEN?! When do they have time to just be kids and play? When do they have time to discover? Because you can't get lost in your world of imagination in 15 minutes. Creating the world of play takes hours of quality time. And that time is not valued by our culture. Not enough for parents to claim it and demand it. If quality play time was valued, people would see that the more time kids have to explore, create and imagine, the more purpose-filled and quality becomes their time for structured lessons and learning. They absorb more and retain it, when they have the non-rushed space to do so.

Sure, we have extra-curricular activities in our family. We enjoy soccer, gymnastics and scouts, along with our co-op, field trips and sleepovers. But that's because we homeschool. Our days are at home. We enjoy a slower pace. My kids wake every morning at their leisure, when their bodies are rested and ready to rise.
Our days are filled at home, with plenty of rest and play. We paint and draw. We bake and we pray. We feed chickens. We read on the couch with cats in our laps. We play in the yard with our friends for hours at a time. We play dress-up. We make-believe. We carve out time, every week, to DO nothing. To just be. To go absolutely nowhere. To process and find peace from whatever we did the day before, and find harmony for what the next day will bring.

We live! To every purpose. And play... real play, should be a priority. It gives us purpose. Take a stand against the culture that wishes to steal that purpose from your children. Give them the gift of authentic play. They only have one childhood. Unplug, slow down, and let them live it.