- Choosing Your Words: A lesson for parents and children May 4, 2013
- F is for Freedom April 6, 2013
- Tell the U.S. Government to leave the Romeike family alone March 22, 2013
- Homeschooling Moms: Do you feel the pressure? February 20, 2013
- Homeschool is not just the 3 Rs February 9, 2013
Sometimes, being a parent is not all that it is cracked up to be. When we see two of our children engaged in fisticuffs; we pull them apart and tell them “Unacceptable, use your words, not your fists.” Conflict is a part of the human experience and everyone needs to learn conflict resolutions skills. We teach “use your words,” but how often do we teach “choose your words.”
Words are powerful. They can move us to action or they can hurt like a fist. Teaching children to choose their words is the one of the most important gifts a parent can give to a child.
Why this post? I realized that I failed in my attempt to teach my daughter to choose her words; or maybe I taught her too well. She has always been my challenge. Her teen years were a constant battle. Now, as she enters her 30s, nothing has changed. I had hoped that she would grow and become an amazing young woman. Instead, her life choices continue to bite her time and time again.
Since my diagnosis with breast cancer, I try to focus on the positive and to see the joy in everything. While I still take joy in my daughter, I realize that we can no longer have the relationship I wanted us to have. Our relationship will have new boundaries that cannot be crossed. I will always take joy in her accomplishments and be saddened by her failures. Her pain, physical and emotional, will always tug at my heart strings.
No longer will I be her enabler. I cannot be the dumping ground for her emotional baggage nor will I continue to be the target of her misdirected anger. My job is to step back. She, in turn, will have to learn a hard lesson—she needs to take responsibility for her actions. This includes the things she says to others. It comes back to choosing your words.
I will not share the details of the ugly scene that took place between my daughter and I. However, I will share what it taught me—choosing your words. The incident opened my eyes as to how I have enabled her to push the blame for her failures onto anyone other than herself. She has made poor choices as an adult. Now, she needs to learn that every choice has consequences.
Verbal abuse, cursing, and personal attacks never bring you to a good place. Words like that poison your soul. As a parent of adult children, I find that I am still teaching them well past their primary years. This time the lesson learned will be a difficult one. My daughter will learn that words alone can change a relationship. She chose the words she used. It changed me and how I view our relationship. The words she spoke hit me like a brick shattering a window. Gone is the protective veil of motherhood. She made it clear what she thinks of me as a human being, a parent, and a woman struggling to regain her life after breast cancer treatment.
One of the joys of parenthood is that you constantly learn from your children. This time I learned about setting careful boundaries and limitations. The new boundaries are set in stone and cannot be crossed. This time the lesson for me is bittersweet, but it should improve our relationship over time. I know that even perfect parents (if they exist) have conflicts with their children. Hopefully, this post will remind you to teach your children to choose their words carefully. Once words leave your mouth or are published in some form, they can never be taken back or undone.
With words, you do not get a do-over, there is no Mulligan. So think before you speak or write. If angry, take a breath, count to ten; decide if it is better to win the argument at all cost or if it is better to preserve a relationship. Choosing words—it is a skill set children and adults need to learn.
Freedom is a something that cannot be measured in concrete terms. For me, I am thankful that I have the freedom to homeschool my children. I am also thankful that I am now free from chemo and treatment for breast cancer. Now, I have the freedom to take back my life from the doctors and drugs and move on to a better place. My cancer is gone, and I am free to return to a normal life.
Homeschoolers understand freedom better than most Americans. For years, many brave parents fought to get the right to homeschool our children. Now, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, although requirements vary greatly from one state to the next. We enjoy our right to homeschool because case after case has ruled that the right exists under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This right is now facing a great challenge.
The Romeike family from Germany came here in 2010 seeking political asylum. They homeschooled their children while living in Germany. To make a long story short, homeschooling in Germany is basically illegal with some very strict exceptions. The Romeike family faced fines and they were in danger of the German government removing them from the home. So, the family came to the U.S. under political asylum. They were granted asylum and two months later, everything changed.
The family is currently fighting a deportation order. They lost their asylum and the Obama administration is deporting them on the grounds that homeschooling is not a fundamental right. This is where we should all be concerned. It is possible that ruling the Romeike family cannot be granted asylum because homeschooling is not a fundamental right, jeopardizes the legal status of homeschooling in the United States. If parents do not have a fundamental right to educate their children as we see fit, then we have lost everything the homeschool movement fought so very hard to gain.
This is not about whether the Romeike family should stay or not, it is about whether homeschooling is a fundamental right and as such protected under the U.S. Constitution. If the court rules it is not a fundamental right, start looking for the gradual erosion of homeschool rights throughout the United States. It all starts with a court decision and setting precedence. This case can tip the scales against homeschooling in a major way.
What is up with the U.S. Government? In a case that I find mind-boggling, the Department of Justice is looking to deport a German family who came here under the promise of political and religious asylum. After being granted asylum in 2010, the Romeike family moved to rural Tennessee and continued to homeschool their children. They are law abiding people. The kids are good kids and they don’t get into trouble. Uwe Romeike supports his family by giving piano lessons. And yet, the Government says they should go back to Germany. Wow.
This is not a political blog. I have enough on my plate dealing with breast cancer and getting my high school senior ready to enter community college in the fall. I really am not in a mindset to take up a cause. But, this situation should scare every homeschooler in the United States. Why? If the Romeike family is deported, we all could lose our right to homeschool our children.
Is homeschool a fundamental right?
The U.S. Attorney General’s position is this situation is that the right to homeschool is not a fundamental right. That is why the Justice Department is trying to deport the Romeike family. Our Government is claiming that the Romeike family does not have the right to raise their children as Evangelical Christians in a homeschool environment. They say that in Germany that homeschoolers are not a recognizable group because not all homeschoolers are Christian and not all Christians homeschool their children. Since when do you have to be part of a group to seek asylum?
What happens to homeschoolers if the Romeike family is deported? It sets legal precedence that homeschooling for religious reasons is not a fundamental right. Get that–not a fundamental right. It removes the protection under the Constitution for us to homeschool our children.
Michael Farris and the HSLDA have an alternative agenda
Many people, especially those who are not Christian, feel that Michael Farris does not always have the general homeschool population’s best interest at heart. Sometimes this is true. He follows his path of very conservative Christianity—he is not secretive about that. Other times, he is dead on and this is one of those times. This is all about the possibility of losing our rights to homeschool and to raise our children as we see fit. Check out Glenn Beck on the Romeike Family situation
A brave new precedence
Our legal system is a set of laws that are interpreted by precedence. We get to homeschool legally because judges across America interpreted the U.S. Constitution to protect homeschooling under personal freedoms and fundamental rights. This case, brought against the Romeike family says that homeschooling is not a fundamental right. That overturns precedence and sets a new one. The next time a school district says that parents allowing their kids to be truant or that a divorced parent says their kids must attend public school against the other parent’s will, our homeschool kids will be going to public school if the Department of Justice has its way.
I am still confused as to why the U.S. Government would force a family back to Germany where they are sure to lose custody of their kids to the German Government. How is ripping a family apart a good thing. Got to the HSDLA’s website and sign the petition. Yes, it is that important.
–off my soapbox now
Can you do it all? We see examples of perfect homeschoolers. They rise by 6:00 a.m., cook breakfast for 10 kids, get all of the lessons done, clean the house and have dinner on the table at 5:30 when Dad gets home. Their children are always perfectly groomed and entered high school at age 7. But really, who lives like that? Not a single homeschooler I know is that together, and I know some very together moms.
As moms, we feel the pressure. We are expected to do it all. When it looks like we don’t accomplish everything we think we should, we call ourselves failures. Stop being so hard on yourself. One person cannot do everything.
Cancer rocked my homeschool world
Breast cancer has taught me a lot about life and homeschooling. When I received my diagnosis of stage-two breast cancer in November 2011, it rocked my world to its very foundations. I have 3 kids at home and a husband to take care of. I did not have time for breast cancer. But, I had to take time because my life depended on it.
A mastectomy, 5 months of chemo, a year of biological therapy, and ongoing reconstruction surgery has changed my homeschooling schedule. I travel once every three weeks for treatment at a cancer center that is two hours away. I spent an entire day there–when I had chemo I spent the night. This disrupted my homeschool schedule completely. But, it became a learning process.
I learned that my teenage children are very capable and I can depend on them to do household chores and to keep things running somewhat smoothly when I am not home. My oldest son is not homeschooled; he is a legal adult with a job and college to deal with. However, he took a break from college to help out while I underwent chemo—his choice, not mine.
My kids are also capable of completing lessons when I cannot teach. Side effects from chemo and the drugs used to treat the chemo side effects took me out of commission for two to three days after treatment. I still deal with debilitating bone pain and on bad days, I cannot accomplish much. We changed our homeschool schedule to allow for me to heal, and to allow for the kids to heal too. Cancer touches their lives just as much as it does mine, just in a different way.
Now, if I cannot get to every household chore, it will wait. Instead of daily lessons, we do huge semester projects that involve all of the disciplines. The kids must create something wonderful and useful. The project must be complicated enough to encompass an entire semester. So far, we have built a solar food dehydrator and are in the process of setting up an aquaponics system.
I learned not to sweat the small stuff. It is the precocious child that reads at three, and seven-year olds cannot do calculus. Ask for help when you need it. Dads need to be involved too. Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect homeschool family. If your kids are learning and everyone is happy (most days,) you have an amazing homeschool. Consider yourself a success.
Reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic–the 3 Rs. Sometimes it seems that we as homeschool parents focus too much on them. Granted, reading, writing and arithmetic are extremely important. Our children must learn to read and write and calculate. But what about the other things they need to learn. It seems that we spend so much time focusing on the core subjects (especially when our children are being less than cooperative) that the fun stuff seems to take a sideline. We’ve come up with a system that keeps things fun while covering the basics. In our homeschool, we do quarterly projects.
The projects do not have to be elaborate or something that will win a national science fair, but the project should be complicated enough to challenge your children and to last an entire eight weeks. Since we implemented quarterly or semester-long projects in our homeschool, the basics get covered as they are included in the project.
This school year we started with a solar food dehydrator project. The first one we made was constructed out of cardboard boxes, plastic wrap, tape and window screening. We added the tray from a broiler pan to dry the food. This went well but it certainly did not qualify for a quarterly project. The kids and my husband built it in a couple of hours. But then, the magic took over. The kids got a kick out of dry hot peppers. We use them a lot on pizza. Fresh ground dried peppers are so much more flavorful than store bought. Our cardboard version of a food dryer did not last long. Early morning dew and moisture trashed the boxes in a couple of weeks. The kids wanted something sturdier, so I went looking for plans.
That is when I found the book:
The Solar Food Dryer: How to Make and Use Your Own Low-Cost, High Performance, Sun-Powered Food Dehydrator
Our next project is definitely a semester-long undertaking. We decided to start an aquaponics project. This is where you raise fish and food in a symbiotic system. Waste from the fish is run through growing beds. Plants in the growing beds feed off of the fish waste and the clay pellets the plants grow in filter out the solid fish waste. Clean, oxygenated water is returned to the fish and the cycle starts again. So far, we have built a small system in order for us to understand all the concepts.
Again, we turn to books and the internet for help. A plethora of aquaponic videos are available on YouTube. The book we used to get started was:
Aquaponic Gardening: A Step-By-Step Guide to Raising Vegetables and Fish Together
After doing research the kids decided on a modified barrel system. They found an inexpensive source for food-grade 55 gallon drums and they have built several different models of bell siphons. My boys have shopped around for pumps, growing medium, PVC pipe and tubing. We are currently in the process of putting everything together and deciding where we want to put this operation. Space in our suburban backyard is very limited. Once we get it up and running, I will post pictures.
Mesh your project to your children’s interests. If your kids like crafts, try a woodworking, quilting or needlework project. Perhaps you could create something to enter into the state or county fair. The object is to create something, it could be a garden, a craft, a piece of music or a short-story. You are only limited by your imagination. Start a project this quarter and see how it brings excitement into your homeschool.
I love teaching using quality books. True stories bring history to life for our kids. One book in particular I found very interesting. Across the Plains in the Donner Party, edited by Karen Zeinert, is one of the few books I found that is suitable for middle school aged kids and up. The Donner Party resorted to desperate measures in order to survive a winter in the high Sierra Mountains, in an area now known as Donner Pass and Donner Lake.
The Donner Party
The Donner Party headed out on the Oregon Trail toward California. Along the way, they came across information about a short cut called Hastings Cut-off. At the time, the party had no way of knowing that taking this uncharted and unproven route would lead to their demise.
The Kindle Version of Across the Plains in the Donner Party
I borrowed the Kindle version of the book from my local library. At the Bentonville library, I can borrow up to five Kindle books at a time. Each book has a 14-day rental period. The book is properly formatted for the Kindle and I did not notice any glaring typos or grammatical errors.
This book, unlike many others on the subject, does not base the story around cannibalism. Although it is noted in the book that this occurred, it is a very minor part of the story and it is downplayed. This is what makes it suitable for children in middle school and up–the lack of gory details.
The book, is a compilation of letters, writings and diaries from Virginia Reed-Murphy, James Reed, and Patrick Breen. All three were members of the Donner Party. The majority of the book is from a magazine article Virginia Reed-Murphy wrote about 40 years after she was stranded at Donner Lake. Virginia was 12-years old when the Donner Party was stranded for the winter in the Sierra Mountains. Her accounts are somewhat child-like in description, but she remembers the ordeal as any child would. Virginia is the step-daughter to James Reed.
James Reed was a founding member of the Donner Party. He and the Donners put together the wagon train that headed west. His diary, written after he was banished from the Donner Party, is an account of everything that happened to him. It is the account of a man who did not believe he would survive his ordeal. This account was left so that those who found his body would know where he came from, what he went through, and who to contact.
Patrick Breen joined the Donner Party later on down the trail. His diary starts when the group is stranded at what is now Donner Lake. Like James Reed, this diary is written by a man who is convinced he is going to die.
This book gives a look into the mindset of a child, who managed to survive impossible circumstances. Virginia Reed-Murphy made a deal with God while stranded at Donner Lake. She said if he got her through this and she survived, she would convert to Catholicism. She kept her promise.
Let me know if you find this review helpful
We had a few set backs with the project. It was more expensive to purchase all of the materials than we first calculated. Then work and cancer treatment schedules got in the way. Finally, the battery to the cordless drill died, so we had to replace the battery – the drill worked fine. So now that things are back in swing, here is where we stand.
Last time, all we had accomplished was painting the heat plate. That was easy enough to do and we have progressed to cutting the wood. Under the direction of my husband, my 12-year old son is learning a lot with this project.
Measure twice, cut one. Measuring all of the boards and pieces to cut took some time. But, my boy took his time and we did not waste any of the wood.
This is where the project is invaluable. My son has learned the proper way to use power tools. Now he has experience with a table saw and circular saw, as well as a cordless drill. He has self confidence knowing he is capable of handling dangerous equipment.
Video: Learning to use a table saw
Our first cardboard dryer was a lesson in solar energy. This project will show a similar lesson on a much larger scale. We will be able to compare the outdoor temperature with the temperature inside the dryer. Doors and screens will allow us to control the air-flow better than the cardboard model. This model has a different air-flow pattern. As the heat panel absorbs the sun’s rays, it radiates heat into the unit. The warmed air starts to rise and exits out of two holes in the top rear of the dryer. This upward movement of air, pulls cooler air in from underneath the unit. The cooler air is warmed by the heat panel and continues to rise past the items we are drying before it exits at the top of the unit. Here is a lesson on air currents, heat, and solar radiation.
Stay tuned as we continue to assemble the solar food dehydrator.
We have started to build the wooden solar food dehydrator for our homeschool science project. Those of you who follow Charlotte Mason’s teaching methods know that she feels older kids should have a project that requires the students to use their hands. This is the first of several woodworking projects we planned for the school year.
All materials were purchased at either Home Depot or Lowes. We did not need to purchase window screen to cover the vents, because we had that on hand already. We purchased the screens for the food trays from solarfooddryer.com.
One important note: if you plan to build your own solar food dehydrator, do not use regular window screen for the food trays. You must use food safe screen. We purchased ours online, it is food safe poly screen.
Today my son and husband created the metal shelf used to help hold and conduct heat through the dryer. It is a single piece of sheet metal, bent along the sides, with notches cut out so it will fit around the legs. The guys sanded the surface of the metal to get it ready for paint. We used black, heat safe, spray paint. It is the same type of paint you would use to repaint your grill or stove.
After the metal was sanded, the first coat of paint was applied. It dried and then we added a second coat.
We plan to finish painting the other side tomorrow. Then the boys start to work on the wooden cabinet and frame for the solar food dehydrator.
What the kids learned today with this homeschool science project:
- working with sheet metal
- preparing metal for painting,
- proper use of spray painting
- measuring, cutting sheet metal
- bending sheet metal
I’ll keep you posted on how this project progresses.
Several months ago we embarked on a homeschool science project which took on a life of its own. What started as a couple of cardboard boxes turned into a major undertaking. There were many issues with the original solar food dryer plans. So we decided to take it one step further. Now, we are building a wooden food dehydrator that has an electric backup.
Our First Solar Food Dryer
We constructed our original solar food dehydrator from a couple of cardboard boxes, plastic wrap, black paint, old screen and a rack from an old roaster. Duct tape held everything together. This food dryer presented many challenges.
It is not very sturdy. To preserve the structural integrity of the dryer, you have to bring it in every night. Otherwise, morning dew gets the cardboard wet and it becomes too weak to hold the rack. We left ours out 24/7 and found after a week, the boxes started to deteriorate. If rain threatened–we moved the dryer indoors.
Another issue was the loss of critical heat. The original plans called for screening over the top of the dryer. This allowed too much heat to escape. We replaced the screen with plastic wrap and added screen-covered vents on the sides of the box. This helped marginally.
The cardboard dryer was a great first attempt at solar food drying, but with so many critical problems we decided to look for a sturdier model.
Bigger and Better
We loved the idea of preserving our garden harvest without incurring the cost of electricity. Canning works beautifully in many situations, but dried foods take up less space. We love ground cayenne peppers on pizza and other foods. Canning cannot replace drying and vice versa.
Our new project is building a solar food dryer out of wood. While it is possible to reduce costs by using recycled products, we decided to purchase everything we did not already have. This is not an inexpensive homeschool project. To date we have invested about $250 in materials, tools and supplies.
Once the new dryer is built, it will be used outdoors as much as possible. Two incandescent light bulbs supply backup heat when it is too cold or lack of sun prevents solar drying. I will keep you up to date on our progress so check back often–especially after the weekend.
Our first project made for a wonderful solar energy experiment. It was a good lesson in recycling, as the cardboard solar dryer was made from items we had at the house. We didn’t have to buy anything to make it.
The new project becomes more involved. In addition to the obvious food preparation and storage, and solar energy; we are learning about woodworking, safe use of power tools, comparison shopping, wiring electrical circuits, following plans, math, budgeting, project management and team work.
Stay tuned, I’ll keep you posted on how this progresses–we may turn it into a video blog. Let me know what you think.
Homeschooling with cancer is tough. This year I have a high school senior that must get ready for college. Unfortunately for him, most of my attention over the past year has been on my health. I’ve been through a mastectomy, chemo, tissue expander and now revision surgery to remove the expander and swap it out with a breast implant. The other side got a lift and an implant so now I have “symmetry.”
I haven’t posted in a long while and for that I apologize. Once again surgery knocked me on my ass–I think that age is catching up with me. It is three weeks out and I am still in pain and still don’t have my energy back.
Homeschooling my two kids is difficult but I would never put them back into a traditional school, especially now that I am dealing with cancer. I don’t need the added stress of nosy school officials and teachers sticking their noses into places they don’t belong. My health is my business and what I share about it is on my terms. I don’t need or want the school’s psychology department getting to my kids to help them cope.
Unfortunately for my high school senior, I have spent more time with my cancer than I have getting him ready for college. This has to change so, I am biting the bullet and getting him ready. We need to get him his drivers license ASAP and we need to get him ready for the COMPASS exam which he can take anytime.
The decision not to take the SAT or ACT was not entered into lightly. The community college has the best rates per credit hour and we do not qualify for government aid. There is no reason for him or I to go into thousands of dollars in debt to send him to college. We can manage the costs of the community college. Once he gets his associated degree we will see what options he has.
My other son is in the 7th grade. We are moving along slowly, but again it has a lot to do with my energy levels and overall well being. I am thankful for our homeschool co-op, it helps to have a day off and I know he is learning a lot.
Today is park day so I am off to the park with my youngest son and the Nerf guns. Breast cancer has taught me not to sweat the small stuff and even the not-so-small stuff. In the big picture my kids will learn what they need to know, the older one will get to college and I will kick cancer’s ass, although I may lose an occasional battle due to treatment side effects. Every day that I wake up is a good day, if things get better then I have an awesome day.