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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Years Eve

It is New Years Eve. I had planned on my boyz coming home to celebrate. We usually get together with another family. They wanted us to come over this year but I have all these pups to care for (did I share about the pups yet? If I didn't, I will). I am not comfortable leaving them for long lengths of time.
We were also invited to our friends annual party. They make egg rolls and hot wings and take the kids out....hmmm, what would you call it? They take the kids out on sleds behind the 4 wheeler and go crazy up and down the road. They go from snow bank to snow bank on either side of the road. Don't worry. They live way up north and you see a car coming 2 miles up the road.
This family has 8 children, chickens, goats, great danes, old english bull dogges, chihuahuas, 100-something acres to play on. It is just a blast to go there in general and they put a lot of effort to make sure their New Years Eve parties are super special. I wanted to go there but I just made a trip up there the 26th to get my dogs and have to make another trip up there on the 8th to get "Z"s dog. I don't want to spend that money on gas. (they live over 3 hours away)
So, I will be staying home alone. Don't feel sorry for me, as you see this is a choice. I also have other friends and family I could hang out with if I wanted. I prefer to stay home. I have plans to paint the trim in the living room, a chore I have been putting off for a long time. Or, I may chose to do nothing instead.
When the boyz go with their father I tend to clean and do nothing. It is wonderful to have a quiet house, to do what I want when I want to do it, to think or craft or read or watch tv. I would not like to make this a lifestyle, but it is a nice break. Sort of like a mini home. LOL

Friday, December 26, 2008

This Christmas I...

Peanut disguised as a girly lion. Haha

Christmas was different, but nice.
The boys were with their father and will stay there until New Years Eve, when they will come home to party with me. :D
It was Gayles first Christmas Eve alone. She needed help doing some last minute wrapping so I stopped in and finished that with her. Then we came back to my house.
After Shayna got out of work she headed over to my house also.
The three of us spent the evening drinking strawberry daiquiris and eating that nacho dip made in the stack cooker and watching movies. Well, we talked and had fun more than watched the tv. Shayna and I decided to exchange gifts that evening instead of waiting for morning, we are night people ya know.
Around midnight Gayle went home (she only had one daiquiri)and Shayna stayed the night. We slept in on Christmas morning.

Sissy and Peanut.

Papa(Dad) and Judy came after 1pm (the previous night I had invited them to come open presents "first thing in the morning, you know, around noon") Dad gave Shayna and I cash. He didn't realize he was out of tens so Shayna got a big wad of ones in her envelope. That was funny. Judy got Shayna and I a neat nail kit. It has a foam block with different textures on different sides. After buffing your nail with all sides it becomes really shiny. It also came with a nail file, lotion and cuticle oil. Shayna and I have super shiny nails now. they look pretty!
Shayna had to go to her dads family before work so she got up and showered and pretty shortly after Dad and Judy left. I was home alone for the rest of the day. I know you are wondering if I set crazy traps for the goofy robbers, well no cuz that was just a movie. Instead i fell asleep on the sofa and slept all day. I didn't realize I was so tired. When I got up later in the day it was dark. I watched tv and ate too much pecan pie (thanks for the pie Judy!)
I really enjoyed my quiet Christmas but missed my boys. They had lots of fun so it was worth it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ronald Was In Israel

I just got a letter from Ronald sharing his latest Naval adventures. Of course he cannot share any info regarding his location until they have left for security reasons.

He writes:

We got to visit Israel.

Had the best chicken wings in my life at a little hole in the wall bar…

I went on an all day tour of Jerusalem…

Got to see all the places where Jesus went…

Gethsemane, The path he walked with the cross (Via Delarosa… (I think), The Mount of Olives…

It was pretty awesome…

Went to a place called Massada, And ancient palace/fortress of King Herod that overlooks the Dead Sea…

Went swimming/floating in the Dead Sea…

That was a blast…

You could stand up in the middle of the water and float about chest deep…

Or you could lie on your stomach or back on top of the water…

Like a cork…

There is no animal life whatsoever…

The water is so clear no matter where you were you could see the bottom as if you were inches from it…

That’s another thing…

The bottom of the Dead Sea is a block of salt…

White salt with little black balls of salt periodically…

No sand, No rocks…

Just a rough block of salt.

It was the most awesome tour I’ve ever been on.

As with every where else…

When I get to some good internet places I’ll post some photos.


I still miss him terribly. I suppose a mom always misses her kids.

Make Your Own Silly Putty and Slime

My son uses Silly Putty as a tool to minimize nervous tics. He carries an egg full in his pocket just about everywhere we go. If he is having difficulty sitting still or quiet he will pull it out and play with it. He has even been kind enough to share it with younger children in church who are having difficulty sitting still.

"B" letting it stretch.

Yesterday I was inspired to learn if I could make a Silly Putty substitute at home. I found many recipes and decided to try it. Actually, my older son wanted to do it. Who am I to interfere with initiative? He located all the necessary tools and made it. It was real neat and I have to admit that I had a hard time not getting in on the action of squishing that fantastic gooey stuff.

The recipe we used was:

1/2c water
1/2c Elmers Glue
Mix well.

In a separate container
1c warm water
2tsp. Borax
Mix until dissolved.

Add 1/2c Borax solution to the glue solution and mix, mix, mix. It will immediately begin to change.

Initially we did not know the proportions to use and used equal amounts of each solution. It was much slimier.

My son asked if we could us a gel glue to create a transparent version. I learned that you can use Elmers Gel Glue which has a very light blue tint.

The boys played with it most of the day and were interested in learning how two liquids become a liquid/solid. They stretched it, pounded it, bounced it, spread it, broke it, cut it, rolled, flattened it, molded it, watched it flatten slowly into a shiny pool of gunk and more. It changed shape much faster than Silly Putty which made it more interesting.

The putty became more firm and less jiggly after it sat in a zipper bag over night.

Click here to watch a great video and quick explanation by Steve Spangler of the science behind polymers and linking molecules to create this awesome substance.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Why I Love Unschooling, Natural Learning or Whatever You Want to Call It

I have a confession. I am a closet unschooler, natural learner, delight led learner or whatever you may choose to call it. I have 100% faith that if I never forced my child to pick up a text book again they would still become productive, intelligent, happy adults. The ONLY reason I continue to "force educate" my children is because my ex-husband demands a quarterly progress report of the work they have accomplished.

Seriously, I believe that if left to learn what they want, when they want my children (and every other child) will learn what they need to know, when they need to know it and become productive citizens. When a child wants to or has a need to read or do math or cook or ...whatever, they will seek out a resource (person, book, movie, internet) and figure out how to do it. They will also learn the material quickly and easily. It is difficult to learn something when you are either mentally or emotionally not ready to learn it. Also, it is difficult to learn under duress. It is absurd to force feed a child, but our country force feeds education. Not everyone learns the same, not everyone needs the same skills or information. The entire education system is absurd.

In my gut I always knew that every human has a natural drive to learn and explore their world and things that interest them. My children learned to walk without me nagging them. They learned to talk without textbook lesson or forced, unwanted homework. Learning a language is an extremely complex process and most children master it before they are three years old. They learned to dress and tie their shoes, cook, do laundry and many other things when they had the need or desire to do them. I did not have to force them to WANT to learn. It came naturally. What makes us think that we can improve on that natural drive to learn and master our environment? In my opinion, this "forced learning" that is required of our children is harmful. It squashes that natural, God given drive.

My youngest son learned complex math completely on his own while studying nature and amazed me to already understand beyond most of what his first grade textbook taught. Also he regularly shared information in our nature studies that he had learned through his time spent observing nature. He often shared much more than our text had in it. (our nature text was "Nature Studies" by Anna Comstock, an amazing resource!)

My oldest struggled with his math text books and was told that he was terribly behind in his math skills but when he was training for his military career was able to confidently grasp the complex mathematical material presented and even tutored several of his classmates and now has a career that uses math on a regular basis.

My other two children have different learning styles and their strengths are more social and artistic. Most people do not consider those skills to be "educational". They have been able to organize a party, have a quality conversation with a child or senior citizen, nurse an ill person back to health and more at a young age. They are also avid learners but prefer to learn in spurts and in social settings rather than through long hours of quiet study and contemplation. My daughter did however attend high school as a senior so she could attend prom and other social events, even though serious study is not her strong point, she graduated with honors after being allowed to learn mostly in freedom her whole life.

OH, by the way, for those of you who feel that home educated children become social misfits, she was readily accepted by the "popular" and "unpopular" kids, she had regular dates, a very busy social calendar and even made the cheer leading squad. My son attended first and second grade only and has always had an easy time making friend with people of all ages, including his own age. My youngest boys also make friends with all ages easily. I have always received (and still do) compliments from adults commenting how impressed they are with my children at how comfortable and respectful they are and that they able and willing to look adults in the eye and carry a meaningful conversation.

I have loved to learn all of my life but hated school. School interfered with my learning. Seriously. I learned very little that has been useful at any point in my life (except to pass a test or class in school). Everything that I have learned I either taught myself or found people, books or other resources to teach me. I read for hours after school. School would make us memorize useless information that had no meaning in my life. (I am not against people having a broad knowledge base but am against the policy of forcing a person to memorize useless information to get money for numbers on a test) School would force us to get involved in a project and just as I was really enjoying it would tell us that we had to stop and move on to the next topic that we MUST learn. It was frustrating.

I loved studying nature. I took nature walks every day and was continually amazed at the changes that took place through all of the seasons. I loved to read, anything and everything. Some of my favorite books were encyclopedias and dictionary's. Amazingly my children love to spend much time lingering over these same books.

Actually, I hated school so much, and was a rebel, that I dropped out. I felt it was a waste of my time. I attempted to return to high school through adult education courses and found those to be an even bigger waste of my time. We had to spend a certain amount of time in the classroom. We turned our assignments in at the beginning of class and sat in a room with no instructor for an hour or so and were not given the next assignment until the end of class. I had babies at home with a crappy babysitter and I was sitting in a class with no teacher twiddling my thumbs! The material, other than civics/citizenship and finances was completely useless unless I intended on pursuing a career in one of those fields of study (such as science).

I do not regret dropping out. I did make better use of my time doing and learning other things. Well, the ONLY reasons I occasionally wish I had continued my schooling is that it brings credibility to a person. Unfortunately it is too easy for a "educated" person to blow me off as "just a mom" because I dropped out of high school and did not get a college degree. I did get my G.E.D. and was told that I could attend university with those high scores. Also, I cannot legally teach in the state of Michigan because I do not have a teacher certificate. I did not know I was a natural teacher when I was younger and would NEVER have chosen a teaching career so a college education would have been wasted and I would have had to go back anyway.

While on the topic of our country's educational system I have another complaint. Where in our society are we forced to spend 8 hours a day with people exactly our own age? It is unnatural. Where in our society are we forced to put up with bullying and teasing and extreme peer pressure to do what others do? Where are we forced to go exactly where we are told when we are told? To eat and go to bathroom only with permission? To move from place to place by the ringing of a bell? School and prison! and the military, but a person is not forced to be in the military.

This topic is bothering me right now because I am in the process of creating an educational resource/service adventure which will assist parents home school who feel they are inadequate teachers, don't have the time because they work or worry that their child will not get a good education outside of the standard American school system but know that system is not what is best for their child.

I hope to create a center that offers curriculum guidance and support, record keeping tools, will assist students and parents develop and attain their personal and educational goals, host and organize discussion groups for the students on topics of their choosing that is covered in the Grade Level Content Expectations developed by the Michigan Department of Education if they feel it is important, show parents that much of what our children do is real life learning and how to record it so it will count toward educational credit in Michigan, support and facilitate group projects and chat rooms, and host various other social and educational projects. I think I will call it REAL LIFE Educational Resource and Natural Learning Center. REAL stands for resources for education and leadership. LIFE stands for learning in freedom everyday.

Basically I hope to help others legally unschool their children and create an educational and social network of students and parents. My grown children had friends who were somewhere between unschooled and relaxed schooled and they had amazing conversations that really stretched what they knew and who they thought they were and encouraged one another to do things they never thought they would.

I loved observing the kids "jamming" and singing, while stopping to tell an extremely clever joke. Then later one would decide to make cookies (or bread or dinner or some other wonderfully delicious treat) and they would all help make it, and even clean up and somewhere in all this busyness the conversation would turn to some complex conversation about the laws of physics and if a certain law were different how would it affect another law. Maybe they would decide that they wanted to build a water fueled engine, or tweak a computer program or some other crazy idea. They were willing to try to do just about anything they could imagine to do. These kids had no fear of failing in a project. They knew that if whatever they tried didn't turn out the way they hoped they could walk away knowing something new or try again later. (thank GOD they never had any "big" explosions or serious fires LOL) They had no boundaries of where their minds and conversations could go. Anything was a possibility. They were dreamers and dreamed in reality. They were doers too and tried out many of those dreams.

I hope to find others who are willing to have this same confidence (or at least be willing to learn to) in their children and allow them to really LIVE life and LIVE learning. I hope that my younger children will be able to find a similar camaraderie that my older children had. I hope they can find fellow students in this life of natural learning to share in all the amazing adventures, jokes, projects, conversations and anything else their minds and spirits inspire them to explore.

I also hope to eventually be a part of a school modeled after Sudbury Valley School. If I have to I will eventually start one myself. You can learn more about this school model at Be sure to check out the articles in the "about us" and "articles" section.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Sailors Christmas

My oldest son is serving our country in the US Navy. He has been out to sea for many months. He will not be home for Christmas again this year. We will miss him. He sent this poem in an email to me today. It is a bittersweet reminder of how much he loves his job and his country. I am proud to call myself his mom. (I love you Ronnie!)

A Sailor's Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, the ship was out steaming,
Sailors stood watch while others were dreaming.

They lived in a crowd with racks tight and small,
In a 80-man berthing, cramped one and all.

I had come down the stack with presents to give,
And to see inside just who might perhaps live.

I looked all about, a strange sight did I see,
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.

No stockings were hung, shined boots close at hand,
On the bulkhead hung pictures of a far distant land.

They had medals and badges and awards of all kind,
And a sober thought came into my mind.

For this place was different, so dark and so dreary,
I had found the house of a Sailor, once I saw clearly.

A Sailor lay sleeping, silent and alone,
Curled up in a rack and dreaming of home.

The face was so gentle, the room squared away,
This was the United States Sailor today.

This was the hero I saw on TV,
Defending our country so we could be free.

I realized the families that I would visit this night,
Owed their lives to these Sailors lay willing to fight.

Soon round the world, the children would play,
And grownups would celebrate on Christmas Day.

They all enjoyed freedom each day of the year,
Because of the Sailor, like the one lying here.

I couldn't help wonder how many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas Eve on a sea, far from home.

The very thought brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees and started to cry.

The Sailor awakened and I heard a calm voice,
"Santa, don't cry, this life is my choice."

"Defending the seas all days of the year,
So others may live and be free with no fear."

I thought for a moment, what a difficult road,
To live a life guided by honor and code.

After all it's Christmas Eve and the ship's underway!
But freedom isn't free and it's sailors who pay.

The Sailor say's to our country "be free and sleep tight,
No harm will come, not on my watch and not on this night."

The Sailor rolled over and drifted to sleep,
I couldn't control it, I continued to weep.

I kept watch for hours, so silent, so still,
I watched as the Sailor shivered from the night's cold chill.

I didn't want to leave on that cold dark night,
This guardian of honor so willing to fight.

The Sailor rolled over and with a voice strong and sure,
Commanded, "Carry on Santa, It's Christmas, and All is Secure!"



My Son Has Been Battling Pirates With the US Navy

My oldest children. Aren't they beautiful!

My son sent me an update a while back regarding what he had been up to. For security reasons he is not permitted to share sensitive information (which is pretty much everything when you are on a ship) until they have completed their mission. Please continue to pray for his and his shipmates safety and well being while they selflessly defend and protect the seas, our country and our freedom.
Here is what he wrote:

I sent the boys pretty close to the same message…
Told them I stopped in Spain…
Show them on a map…
Look for the towns, ROTA, and PALMA DE MALLORCA…

This is the pirate story…

We are an independent ship over here...
Which means we get tasked to do odd jobs all over the place...
A few days ago we received a distress call that a cargo ship was being attacked by pirates...
We rushed over to help them of course...
By the time we got there the attack was over the pirates had left...
But we tracked them down...
They were in two little boats...
So we followed them for a little while...
Then we pulled up beside them...
Then 500yds.
Best part was...
I was manning the forward most. 50 cal. Machine gun the whole time.

Talk to you later…

As his mother I sat there and cried for a bit and off and on for the rest of the day. I was a bit happier living in ignorance thinking that since he was a brainiac he would somehow be shielded from battle. I am better now, but do not let myself spend time thinking about it or I would be a mess.

He sent each of the boys great letters.
"B"s letter reads:

What is up buddy?
Happy Halloween!
(I know I’m a little late.)
We are across the Atlantic Ocean.
We stopped in Spain for a few days…
Got to have some fun there…
Didn’t take too many pictures though…

I got to see some real life pirates…
They wear normal clothes…
and use boats like Darren’s…

Not as cool as if they had big boats with sails and eye patches and peg legs…
But it was still pretty exciting…

What’s going on with you?

Talk to you later…

"Z"s letter reads:

What is up Zee Wee!
Happy Halloween!
(I know I’m a little late.)
We are across the Atlantic Ocean.
We stopped in Spain for a few days…
(Have mom show you on a map where that is…)
I took a few pictures…
But not as many as I wanted to…

I got to see some real life pirates…
They wear normal clothes… and use boats like Darren’s…

Not as cool as if they had big boats with sails and eye patches and peg legs…
But it was still pretty exciting…

What’s going on with you?

Talk to you later…

The boys have always had a fascination with pirates so this was quite exciting news for them. Ronald is such a wonderful brother to share that story in a way that is exciting rather than scary.

I am so proud of him. He has grown to be an amazing man.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tics/Tourette's: Things That Have Helped Us

My 10 year old son recently developed serious tics. He has always had tics that were quite mild not noticeable to the average person. These newly developed tics affect his entire body. He also has vocal tics. He finds this quite distressing, embarrassing and exhausting. These tics were so bad that they were interfering with everyday activities including falling asleep and cause muscle fatigue. When his tics are acting up he seems to have a much difficulty with impulse control, has a terrible attitude and exhibits many "ADD" type behaviors.
Our pediatric neurologist suggested eliminating dyes and preservatives from his diet. We saw an immediate reduction in the tics but they came back after a while and were much worse when he was stressed or excited.
We have totally eliminated all artificial colors, flavors and preservatives and greatly reduced, but not eliminated the tics. Chamomile tea often reduces and calms the tics. We have learned that calming and soothing things seem to help.
While experimenting how to reduce the effects of the tics it occurred to me that there may be a homeopathic remedy that will help. We purchased a product for restless leg symptoms because the tics have the urge to move and jerk around. It did not help much.
We also purchased the homeopathic remedy chamomilla in the 6x dosage. This comes in the form of a sugar pill or tablet that you put under the tongue and let it melt until gone. It worked! Within minutes of the first dose his tics were significantly reduced. We continued giving three tablets every 4-6 hours (not while sleeping) for several days and the tics gone! He no longer takes them on a regular basis but asks for them when the tics start acting up, for example he asked for them about half an hour before guests were expected to show up for his brothers birthday party because the excitement got them going.
Maintaining a strict diet of absolutely no artificial colors, flavors and preservatives is essential. Consuming these things cause the tics to come back, although they may not show up until the following day.
Stress also causes the tics to come back, so we maintain regular bed and wake times, we are careful to be very choosy about the social events we attend to prevent this.
My mother used many homeopathic remedies when we were children. The procedure for taking the little tablets is simple. Do not eat or drink 15 minutes before or after taking the remedy. Place the pill(s) under your tongue and hold it there until it is fully dissolved.
I do not know if this will continue to work. I have read that tics come and go so it is difficult to know if a certain treatment works or not. I will follow up on this. This treatment can cause no harm and will only improve our health by avoiding things that are potentially harmful to us anyhow.
I have discovered that artificial colors have a negative effect on me. After eliminating them from our diet I can often taste them (sort of a bitter aftertaste) and find that I have a very difficult time focusing and processing information and feel very out-of-sorts after consuming them.