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And So We Begin!

Tomorrow morning we will officially throw open the doors to our little homeschool. I thought a fresh painting for the wall would be a nice inspirational gift to ourselves. We've also decided to include a Chai Latte stop on our walk tomorrow morning, a festive treat for celebrating the day... here we go!

Give the Girl a Power Tool

A power drill to be specific. Add to that some measuring devices, throw in a few brackets, screws and one long and unscheduled Sunday morning...

... and wouldn't you know it, the bookshelf I've been hoping for years would reinforce itself is finally as stable as can be. Now, to figure out who is more satisfied... the girl or the mama?

(sorry the last photo is so dark, can you see the bookshelf in the back!?)

Thanks for the musical recommendations last week! There are some incredibly good ideas within the comments of that post. Certainly take a look for inspiration!

From the Farm

In addition to the late August usual suspects, we picked up a dozen collard and kale plants for a late autumn/early winter green smoothie garden. Now if I can only keep the bugs away - they really like greens too!

From the Farm

A nice surprise this week, melons!

I think it's going to be a good weekend. Wishing the same for things on your end!

Getting Ready

There were so many considerations that came into play when thinking about the best school choice for us. Among many things, I was concerned about sending my very light breakfast eating daughter off at 8:00 in the morning knowing she would not see another bite of nourishment until four hours later. (Unless she kept snacks in her locker to have quickly between classes, which she would get in trouble for if caught.) I think it is reasonable to say that quite often, children, pre-teens, and teens alike, battle the staring off into space, bored out of their minds, blah school blues, because they are hungry and crashing (as we call it). I know for my girl, she doesn't always know she is hungry. When she starts to drift, droop, and get a little moody, it is past time for fueling up. She is getting better at identifying this (with support) and taking care of it herself as she gets older. It's a process, but she is learning. I have such strong memories of being hungry, truly hungry during my middle and high school years. I couldn't pay attention or stay alert to save my life. I also had my share of problems in school those years. What I was eating (or lack thereof) was a large part of it, I can see that so clearly now. Of course, it took me nearly twenty years to make the connection.

So yeah, we are homeschooling... and partly, we're in it for the food. ;)

We haven't officially started school yet, even though my girl is eagerly waiting. Coming to our decision just two weeks ago has put me a tiny bit behind as far as ordering materials and organizing spaces and supplies. We are getting there very quickly though! September first is our official start date (Emily's choice), but we have dabbled in a few warm up assignments just for fun. First was a simple biography to include in the beginning of her portfolio for the year as a snap shot of who she is right now, what her interests are. Nothing too serious. Second, we discovered the world of lapbooking! This is such a new concept to me and one that I will surely write further on once we gain a little more experience. But so far? Total fun! Believe me, I will be writing much more about this and how it fits into our learning experience. 

Homeschooling will now be quite a large part of our life, and I'd like to share some of that here. I don't really have the time or energy (remember, I am in school too!) to officially keep another blog just for those thoughts, so it is likely the topic will show up here once a week or so. I hope it will flow nicely.

As our books and supplies continue to roll in, I remain focused on preparing for the year ahead, making sure to leave plenty of space for things to develop organically, as they always do. And soon enough, we'll begin! I'll be around over the next few weeks, but posting will likely be sporadic and on the light side. Nothing to worry about if things feel a little quiet here during this time of transition... we're just busy finding our groove and having a good time. 

All the Colors of the Rainbow


That is what came home from the farm this weekend. The most beautiful spread!

I have a busy day planned today... soccer starts tonight and we need new cleats and shin guards. Then I meet up with a friend later on to dream a little about our homeschool vision for the year.

Yesterday, in the late afternoon, Adam and I sat on the deck with mugs of hot herbal tea. It feels like tea weather again today. I love that seasonal change is in the air. A good feeling for a Monday.

Summer Studio Tour

Putting the final brush strokes on my first mandala. It took awhile, but it makes me feel happy and super relaxed at the same time, a feeling worth waiting for. It is also my first piece that fulfills my crazy desire to create and offer original artwork for under $100. I'm not sure why I am drawn to this idea, or how I came up with the amount... but for now, it's something that I just need to put out there. (A limited number of prints are being made too, available soon.)

Tell me, what is happening in your studio this week? I'd love to see. I think this will be the last week I officially run this Summer Studio series, many of us are (reluctantly) winding down the season and bidding a temporary farewell to wide open spaces of creative time. It was wonderful to capture and share what we have been up to though, I really loved this little series. Thank you for being a part of it, care to play along one last time?

Our family's Decision to Homeschool

Oh yes we are! We feel so excited (and liberated) about our decision. For months now we have struggled with the next step for Emily, as she graduated from her Montessori school of eight years in June. It is a hard act to follow. To be brief, our public schools here are in a very sad state. I'll say no more. Outside of spending nearly $30,000 per year for a private middle school, Parochial schools are the only affordable option.

I entered the building of such a school near us for the first time in the early spring. It was a bit like entering another dimension. I still don't know if that was good or bad, it was just so different. I'm not afraid of different. I asked if they had a printed seventh grade syllabus I could take a look at. They did not. They did give me all of the forms for enrollment.

I did not sign her up that day.

She went back on her own a week later to "shadow" for the morning. Not to make her feel too different, I reluctantly allowed her to have the hot lunch during her visit, just like everyone else. With the help of the other children she was able to identify what she ate, and did so as fast as she could given that they had only ten minutes to dine after waiting in line to get their lunch. I think cattle probably have a longer lunch period.

I did not sign her up that day.

Two weeks later she returned again with a friend who was shadowing and wanted Emily to come along for company. They were able to go outside for 15 minutes of fresh air. I know some would suggest that is a generous amount of time, that usually by middle school age there is no outside time at all (PE aside). I don't agree. Every human needs fresh air throughout the day, it's fundamental.

I did not sign her up that day.

I went back not too long ago to meet the new principle for the coming school year, it is normal for the nuns to get moved around (from post to post so to speak), regularly. We had a pleasant conversation. I wanted to see all of the seventh grade text books, and I wanted to take them home with me to review. I'm kind of pushy like that. Judging by the look on her face, this was not a common request. Possibly, it was a first. They accommodated my groundbreaking ways, then Emily and I headed out the door with teetering stacks in hand. I am now a Prentice Hall seventh grade expert. And I got a refresher course in religious ed!

I did not sign her up that day.

Emily and I went back to return the books, thanked them and said we would be in touch. As you may have guessed, I did not sign her up that day. This was last week. Something was still holding me back, I needed to shut the societal chatter up in my mind and listen to that whisper. A mother knows what is right for her own child.

Eight years ago when I entered the doors of her Montessori school for my first visit, I knew. I needed nothing more than a pen and a dotted line to sign on. We had found our home. And now, now what? I want that same feeling, I want to know I am making the best choice for her. I have never settled when it comes to her education, adolescence seems like a pretty foolish time to start.

I have a very studious young lady on my hands. She is exceedingly bright in many areas, and works her tail off in others that don't come so naturally. She likes rhythm and accountability. She wants to measure her success. These things have little to do with the intention of her upbringing or the collaborative, exploratory learning method of her Montessori experience. They are simply her own true nature revealed. Of course, had the proper foundation not been laid, would we have such a clear picture of what she is made of?

That is the million dollar question.

I believe in good use of my daughter's time. Life is short. Her days should be meaningful and fulfilling far more than they are not. Such radical thinking, I know.

Of course we will be criticized. There will be opinions. 

I like to believe every parent puts tremendous thought, research and energy into choosing the right school path for their children. We make the best choices we can based on individual circumstances, nothing is perfect. There is a lot to consider when sending our children off to school each day, more so right now than at any other point in history. It is a deeply personal decision, right alongside religion and politics if you ask me. It is nothing short of ignorant and cruel to criticize the educational choices and practices of another family. What works for one family should be respected. I read a great quote recently, I can't recall where, that reads, "You're opinion of me is no business of mine." Love that.

We are not fleeing from a bad experience, Emily was not crushed by the system. Quite the opposite, Emily loves the idea of school, as she knows it. For eight years she's been admired for her intellectual gifts and revered as a leader in her school community. Give that girl a microphone and a podium and she will address the entire student body (and parents!) like no other. Will this be easy to duplicate because we won't go to a school everyday? No. Impossible? No. Are there a thousand opportunities that await her outside the confines of the school choice available to us now? Absolutely. It's a big wide world out there.

We talked about unschooling, which would have been so appropriate for my own education, in hindsight. But as I expected, Emily gave it a big thumbs down, for her. She thinks it's a really cool idea, but again, she's very familiar with the structure of a fantastic school, she "would like more of that please, with grades!!..." So hard to believe sometimes she is my child.

Here's the really cool part... more and more of "our people" are homeschooling now! Presently, I count six children (various ages) that at one time were part of our school community, and now they homeschool. We are a tribe! Included in this group is Emily's best friend, who lives right across the street. Amazing.

On Wednesday of this week Emily and I, along with her friend and her mom (who is my good friend - withholding names), packed ourselves and a big picnic into our car and headed to Vermont for the day. Destination: Oak Meadow Homeschool offices. They welcomed us with open arms offering tea, cozy couches, and stacks and stacks of books to look through, plus their undivided attention and understanding. Their website is great and you can view many lesson samples, but we wanted to see even more. And you all know, nobody needs to twist my arm to take a drive to Vermont! We spent three hours at Oak Meadow. My friend and I could have stayed longer, but the kiddos were starving!

As I walked into Oak Meadow, I knew. They too, were my people. Their office was in an old mill building, the space flooded with natural light from the ten foot windows. Plants were scattered about. There were no cubicles to speak of, only beautiful antique desks of various styles, many with stained glass lamps on top and oriental rugs underneath. There was a kitchen in one corner, and they used real dishes. Nobody laughed at us when I led the kids through some invigorating pranyama (breath of joy, for my fellow yogis) when they began to wilt two hours into our visit.

I've actually followed and researched Oak Meadow's curriculum and approach to learning for years with great interest, but meeting the staff and experiencing their environment first hand was somehow the final puzzle piece I needed.

I knew. A mother always knows.

Will we always homeschool? Who can say. For now, definitely. And we feel filled with boundless possibility.

As an aside, this choice for us also supports my secret belief that every child from the age of 12-14 (or so) should just stay home. It is so hard to be a human during those years. The world, the media, dare I say the government, Disney, the pace of our culture, and more, continuously act so stupidly on behalf of raising our young people. And then we throw our collective arms up in the air feigning disbelief when "teenagers misbehave." Seriously?

Thank you for hanging in there for this lengthy post. That's our story, and we're stickin' to it. ;)

(I'll return next Friday with the Summer Studio series, join us!)

Have a beautiful weekend!

pretty ~ peaceful ~ tasty

Oh dear. It appears I may have worried some of you with the tone of my last post. So not my intention. Yes, I did have a few heavy thoughts weighing on me last week. Suffice it to say that we were witness to some rather crazy events recently that felt a little too close for comfort. It just shook me up a bit. I'm not cut out for crazy. I'm awesome when it comes to warm summer breezes, gentle rolling hills and century old trees. I'm so good with those things.

Thank you for checking in on me, on us. You know what I decided to do after I last spoke with all of you? I gave myself permission to sit inside of the miserable funk and fear I was experiencing for 24 hours. I timed it! Then, I grabbed hold of my bootstraps, packed what remained of those feelings away, (mostly I just let them go) - and I went about seeking pretty, peaceful, and tasty moments for the reminder of the days since I've last been here. 

Have you ever done that? Given yourself permission to seek, collect and celebrate beautiful, blissful moments for a period of time? What a gift to work within the confines of everyday life to create a sort-of retreat. It reminded me of the two week, at home, art retreat I designed for myself many months ago. Only this time, my focus was on collecting (with my camera) the pretty, peaceful, and tasty moments we experienced as a family. These photos are a handful of examples found as I uploaded well over 100 pics from my camera last night.

We have a saying in our house - "ignore the negative, celebrate the positive." This is a great little mantra to have for the minor everyday upsets we all experience. It is an especially wonderful nugget to throw out there for children as a reminder to not sweat the small stuff. What had me upset last week however, was too big to ignore, but I don't have to dwell on it either. It is certainly within my power to constructively move on and work toward making changes that will support a life for my family that is more aligned with our own values. And that is that.

So... how are you all doing? It is great to be here this morning, hello!