Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Gluten-Free Honey Oat Sandwich Bread

So almost immediately after learning I had celiacs disease, I decided to tackle bread.
It was ambitious, but I needed to know that on a cold rainy day, or after a tough day at the office (for Travis) or a sad sick day (for children), I could provide myself and my family with that ultimate comfort food: warm homemade bread. The kind that makes your house smell like the completely celestial afterlife. The kind that is thick and soft, flavorful, doesn't "taste healthy" (you know what I mean) and is downright delicious.
And Yammie's Gluten Freedom Bread NAILED IT. I made {this} bread and it was killer. It didn't taste gluten free, it tasted like it would make bad things happen to my bowels.
Which, believe it or not, is a bizarre compliment.

But I can't let good things keep, I gotta mess them up a little. So I tweaked the recipe. I'd like to explain every change I made in the recipe, so you can understand why I did it and decide which changes you want to keep yourself.

First, Yammie uses A LOT of oat flour, and oat flour is delicious and tastes similar to wheat flour, so it behaves well in this recipe. BUT, oat flour is way more expensive than rice flour- and I wanted more rice flour in my recipe to cut down on costs (and to make the bread a little less dense). I used brown rice flour instead of about half of the oat flour.

Second, I wanted to make several loaves at once so my family can sit down and gorge themselves on one loaf immediately, stick one in the cupboard for sandwiches and toast tomorrow, and stick one in the freezer.
So I made one and a half of the original recipe. Why not double or triple the recipe, if I wanted double or triple the loaves? Read on!

I also wanted to cook the bread in a smaller loaf pan. I've found, with gluten free bread, the smaller the pan- the better the turn out. The bread can rise more easily, cook more evenly, and stay a better texture. (Remember how infuriated you were when you first purchased a tiny 8$ loaf of GF bread? It's small for a reason. Gluten free baking likes tiny pans.)
I like to use these pretty-tiny Pyrex loaf pans. They're only 8.3 inches by 4.5 inches. And the pans are clear, so you can see when the entire loaf is actually cooked to perfection. This recipe makes three small loaves of bread (or two regular) loaves.

And lastly, I changed the recipe to weight measurements instead of volume measurements, because with gluten free recipes, the weights of flour differ so vastly that it's otherwise hard to make sure your recipe will turn out exactly the same every time.
So here you go.
Three loaves of white, delicious, house warming, honey oat bread. You can be eating this in two hours, so stop whatever else you are doing and start baking.

(The Best) Gluten-Free Honey Oat Sandwich Bread

2 1/4 cups warm water
1 tbls yeast
"Heaping" 1/2 cup honey (basically, a 1/2 cup + 1 tbls) 
300 g oat flour
260 g brown rice flour
150 g white rice flour
112 g corn starch / tapioca starch
3 tsp xanthum gum 
1.5 tsp salt
6 eggs
6 tbls oil (or 1/4 cup + 2 tbls) 

Combine the yeast, warm water, and honey and let sit while you sift the flours together. 
When the yeast is foamy, combine all the ingredients together and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy and creamy (like cake batter). 
Then separate the batter into three small loaf pans (or 2 regular loaf pans. I think my loaves hold together better when they're smaller, so I use the smaller ones that are about 8.5x4.5"). 
Smooth the tops and let rise for about 45 minutes or until doubled in size. 
Sprinkle with oats and bake at 350° for 30-40 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from the pan or it will collapse. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Reading Poetry With Children

A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.  -W.H. Auden

**You all know that I cannot help myself with the excessive typing in book roundups, so if you just want to skip ahead to the poetry suggestions, go right ahead. And if you even want to skip that, just go to Amazon and buy a bunch of books from the Poetry for Young People collection. Now, on to my post:**

I love words. I revere, respect, fear, glory in, and am blown away by the uses to which words can be put.
It's for this reason that I refuse to eat at Chick-Fil-A.  I do not think that they give words the respect that they deserve.  (Obviously there are many advertisements that upset me,  but Chick-Fil-A is seriously the worst. They treat their potential customers like idiots. I would like an establishment to assume that I am intelligent before I spend my money there. But now look, I've gone on a tangent. I'm afraid there may be many more of these to come throughout this post.)
I obviously am not an elegant writer. I do not always obey the rules of grammar or syntax. I use made-up words like thang, and sometimes I use curse words. But I use them as the occasion calls for, because different situations call for different words, that is why we have so many of them.
Now, before I start a new tangent, let me start in on my main topic!
I love poetry. Poetry is words being used the way they ought to be. 

I was raised in a home where poetry was read and cherished. I wrote poetry often, and from a young age. I studied English in college, which blissfully enabled me to take many courses that studied, dissected, and forced me to write poetry.
Just a few weeks ago, my dad and sister visited me. On a hike, my sister asked what the difference is between birch trees and aspens. My dad immediately said, "Birch trees are bent over from little boys swinging on them," a reference to Robert Frost's poem Birches. 
I think it was only natural then, for my children to be exposed often and early to poetry. Grey and Micah are four years old and have a love and familiarity with poetry already.
In the Charlotte Mason curriculum, educators are encouraged to read often from A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson.
But here's the thing: A Child's Garden of Verses is only one small collection of one poet's work. And frankly, I don't even love Stevenson's poetry that much. When the boys and I first started reading poetry together, I very rarely pulled out that book.
Originally, I was going to call this post "Teaching your child to love poetry," but there's only one step in that process: Read [good] poetry to your child. 
So instead I wanted to share a collection of favorite poets for children.

First, some thoughts on poetry for children:

1. Funny is okay.
I don't know who first decided that in order for something to be important, valid, and good it needs to be serious- but it doesn't. Let your kids laugh at silly poems. Goofy rhymes and hilarious punch-lines will encourage your kids to enjoy and even write their own poems.

2. Your kids are smarter than you think.
Two year olds deserve more than The Cat in the Hat. Dr. Seuss is rubbish "poetry." E. B. White wisely said "Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth. They accept, almost without question, anything you present them with, as long as it is presented honestly, fearlessly, and clearly... Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words, and they backhand them over the net."
So don't just read them poetry "for children," instead, give them poetry for people. Kids are people too, and they can enjoy Robert Frost as well as you can.

3.  Find opportunities to share poetry together, a little at a time.
As with everything, start small and show that you're genuinely interested. When we first started reading poetry, it was because it was too late for stories before bedtime.
I would find myself saying, "We don't have time to read the Diggingest Dog. Can I just read you a poem?" Poems are short and poems are (often) silly. My kids would settle in, listen to a single poem and then go to sleep. Now I keep a book of poetry in our hiking backpack, so we can sit at the top of a mountain and read a few together, I keep one on the kitchen table so we can read some poems together while we eat breakfast, and I keep one on my bedside table so that I can read to myself, and share with my kids when they ask "What are you reading?"

Now if you love the idea of reading poetry with your kids, but don't know where to start- I included a poem from each of the ten authors I suggest. Read them, decide which ones you don't hate, and go check out 3-4 books from the library. Read a poem or two every morning over breakfast.
Suddenly, you're poetry people.

A. A. Milne:
“But it isn't easy,' said Pooh. 'Because Poetry and Hums aren't things which you get, they're things which get you. And all you can do is to go where they can find you.”

Milne, the author of Winnie the Pooh, also published multiple books of poetry for children. His books When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six are both widely accessible, and often come with the Winnie the Pooh books. I have a copy of The World of Christopher Robin that I've had since I was a little girl and is the first book of poetry I can remember sitting and reading by myself.


She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight 
and shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor,
"Winter is dead."

A.A. Milne

Roald Dahl:
Did you know that Roald Dahl wrote poetry in addition to his many books? He has published at least three books of poetry: Revolting Rhymes, Dirty Beasts, and Vile Verses. Another cherished book from my childhood is the Roald Dahl treasury, which contains dozens of poems, all so irreverent and hilarious that they hold my children's attention for an hour at a time. Most of his poems are long; short stories written in rhyme and rhythm. But here's a short one, written long ago to a child that wrote him a fan letter:

My teacher wasn't half as nice as yours seems to be.
His name was Mister Unsworth and he taught us history.
And when you didn't know a date he'd get you by the ear
And start to twist while you sat there quite paralysed with fear.
He'd twist and twist and twist your ear and twist it more and more.
Until at last the ear came off and landed on the floor.
Our class was full of one-eared boys. I'm certain there were eight.
Who'd had them twisted off because they didn't know a date.
So let us now praise teachers who today are all so fine
And yours in particular is totally divine.' 

Roald Dahl

Shel Silverstein:
You knew he was coming, right? Good ol' Shel. I think almost every child in America had a Shel Silverstein book on their shelf at one time, even if they weren't from poetry-loving families. Silverstein is so funny, and he uses words just the way that they should be used. In my experience, Silverstein is the author on this list that will convince your kids to write their own verse. Might as well buy them a rhyming dictionary now.


I made myself a snowball
As perfect as could be.
I thought I’d keep it as a pet
And let it sleep with me.
I made it some pajamas
And a pillow for its head.
  Then last night it ran away,
  But first—it wet the bed.

Shel Silverstein

Lewis Carroll:
The Jabberwocky is the first poem that the boys memorized. Okay, fine. They didn't totally memorize it. But they were definitely only three when they were begging to have it read over and over, and they would often shout while playing, “And hast thou slain the Jabberwock? Come to my arms, my beamish boy! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” Again, another hilarious author- one who uses words beautifully- even inventing many of his own, something three-year-olds are really into.

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale! 

How cheerfully he seems to grin
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in,
With gently smiling jaws! 

Lewis Carroll

Ruyard Kipling:
The author of The Jungle Book also wrote many poems throughout his books, in Just So Stories, The Jungle Book and elsewhere. I recently snagged a copy of his poems for children at a thrift store and I've been excited to read these exciting adventure poems with my boys.

The White Seal 

      Oh! hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us,
        And black are the waters that sparkled so green.
      The moon, o’er the combers, looks downward to find us
        At rest in the hollows that rustle between.
      Where billow meets billow, then soft be thy pillow,
        Ah, weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease!
      The storm shall not wake thee, nor shark overtake thee,
        Asleep in the arms of the slow-swinging seas!

Ruyard Kipling

J.R.R. Tolkien:
Okay, you probably don't love Tolkien as much as I do, but if you happen to have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as many times as I have, you probably have a few good poems memorized! Tolkien told stories with his poems, and while there are many that focus around the mythical world he created, there are also dozens that are just plain funny or thoughtful and don't even have any elvish words in them!

The Road Goes Ever On

The Road goes ever on and on
   Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
   And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
   Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
   And whither then? I cannot say.

J.R.R. Tolkien

Robert Frost:
A poet that is easy to understand, Robert Frost delighted in images and stories of nature. His poems are always very thought-provoking and beautiful. He's one of the most famous of "recent" poets for a reason; Frost is a good poet for the average human being. Most of us can't get through Shakespeare, or even Walt Whitman - but almost everyone can read and enjoy Robert Frost. He is accessible, without sacrificing beauty of language.

Dust of Snow 

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part

Of a day I had rued.

Robert Frost

Carl Sandburg
My favorite poet, I love Sandburg and was very excited recently to find a collection of Sandburg poems for children. Often funny, sarcastic, beautiful without being flowery, Sandburg (like all other poets)  loved people and loved this beautiful world. If you are an adult with or without children, you should also pick up a book of his work. Get ready to be blown away. (I love him so much.)

Summer Stars

Bend low again, night of summer stars.
So near you are, sky of summer stars, 
So near, a long-arm man can pick off stars, 
Pick off what he wants in the sky bowl, 
So near you are, summer stars, 
So near, strumming, strumming, 

                So lazy and hum-strumming.

Carl Sandburg

Emily Dickinson
The first poem that I ever memorized was I'm Nobody by Emily Dickinson. I don't remember why I memorized it, if it was for a class at school or just because I loved it so much. Frankly, I think it's because I read all these books wherein the protagonist had poems memorized (Sam Gamgee, Anne Shirley,  even Robin Hood!) and I wanted to be included in this very diverse (but seemingly small) club of poem-memorizers.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you Nobody too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d banish us you know!

How dreary to be Somebody!
How public like a Frog –  
To tell one’s name the livelong day  
To an admiring Bog!

Emily Dickinson

Robert Louis Stevenson
Okay, I've already mentioned that I don't love Stevenson nearly as much as A. A. Milne or Lewis Carroll- but the truth is, his poems for children are sweet, well-written and easily accessible. We do read them regularly, we just try to brach out a bit, too. (Ironic, maybe, because I LOVE his novels.)

The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing,
   Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
   Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
   Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
   Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
   Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
   Up in the air and down!

Robert Louis Stevenson

One last word on poetry: Buy your children some beautifully written picture books. Where the Wild Things Are, The Owl Who Became the Moon, and The Little Blue Truck are all really just illustrated poems. I even was given a copy of When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer illustrated as a children's book and it's one of my favorite books of the boys'. It's so beautiful, that I'll end with that poem and a call to action:

Please, please, please: read your kids some poetry. I recently discovered the collections of Poetry for Young People and I want to buy every single volume. If you don't know anything about poetry, that's okay. There's not a lot to know. Just find authors that speak to you and that you can understand and never, ever read a poem inside your head if you can read it out loud.
These words are aching to be spoken aloud, theres a rhythm and dance to them, even when they don't rhyme. (For example...)
We are growing into a world that doesn't care about words, *enter emoji of a shrugging smily face* and we are creating children who think that "Hotline Bling" has acceptable lyrics. I legitimately believe that it won't be long before our kids can't even read Shakespeare, because it will be a different language than the one they speak. And truly, I do not love Shakespeare. I don't. But man, I love words- and he was the wordsmith. Don't let your children grow up without a love of words- and if you don't love words yet- start by reading poems aloud, the way that they're meant to be read.

(And remember what I just said? Read this aloud!)

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Walt Whitman

Monday, October 5, 2015

Black and White

Now that we live in a new house with lots of wall-space, I've been aching to put up "new" pictures. Except that the pictures I want to put up aren't new. They're old! 

I've always felt a deep love and connection to my grandmother "Babalou," whose name sake I am (she was Louise, I am Rebeccah Louise). When her husband, my great Grandpa, celebrated his 90th birthday party a couple years ago- dozens of old photos were gathered together by my relatives and scanned into a slideshow. I loved all of the photos and wanted to hang them on all my walls (of which I had very few, at the time). 

In the past two years, Travis' grandparents have both had similar birthday celebrations that resulted in black and white photos being gathered and then distributed. 
I love feeling such a connection to the past of our family members. I am so excited to have wall-space to finally display some of these beautiful photographs, and I wanted to share some of my favorites here. 

Above, my great-grandpa Jim and great-Grandma Louise with my grandma Marcie (the toddler) and her little sister Linda. 

 Above, Travis' Grandpa Decon in the flat that he lived in during his church mission to the Philippines.

 Above, my Grandma Marcie with two of her siblings, all chubby cheeked and bundled up in the snow.

 Travis' grandma Bob and Grandma Mary Louise on their wedding day! How sweet is this picture? It looks like it's straight out of a magazine!

Travis' grandpa Decon again. I seriously wish I had a copy of every Steinbeck book with this picture as the cover. 

My cute great-grandparents again. I've always wanted my hair to look like this, but even when it was long, I could never, ever do it. Isn't she adorable? I love her!

 Travis' grandparents again at the beach. Travis' grandma was a serious looker. I love knowing my kids have such good genes coming in from both sides of the family.

Travis' great-grandpa lived (and lives still) up in Canada- he grew up poor and hardworking. And tall, and goofy. And I love him. 

 Another picture of Travis' grandparents that looks like its from an old movie or magazine- it's just so perfect and sweet!

Isn't this picture of my grandma Mary sweet? She and her big sister are wading in Minnesota, and yes- her sister is wearing lederhosen! I snagged this right off the wall from my grandma's house (Don't worry! I left the original!) after I saw it two summers ago. It's just been waiting to have a home on my wall. 

Travis' Grandma Mary Louise in the flowers. I think this might be Travis' favorite in the bunch, it's so artistic and sweet. 

 Check out my cool great-great grandma Bessie! She rode a motorcycle and my grandpa... rode in the side car!

How handsome is Travis' grandpa Decon? Seriously, what did I say about good genes!

I'm excited to print and frame the above two photos as Christmas decorations. The first is of my great-grandparents and their family and the second is of Travis' grandma having a Christmas tea party. How perfect! I love them. 

I love seeing these old photos so much. Sometimes I just need a reminder that human beings are all the same. I love seeing that my grandmothers did the same things that my children do- pull each other on sleds, wade in overflowing ditches, read stories, kiss babies, have tea parties. Any relatives of mine or Travis that are reading this? Email me more photos! I love them so, so much. They bring such a sense of comfort and peace to me when I look through them. 
I love knowing that families can be together forever, and I seriously can't wait to see some of these wonderful men and women again and in the prime of their lives (as it were). 
In the meantime, those grandparents of ours that are still around (okay, most of them! We are pretty lucky) should come and visit me in my new house. There are pictures of you going up on our walls and a mediocre guest bedroom waiting for you. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

An Apology

*Note: I wrote this to be hilarious and facetious, the eye-rolling rant that I say to myself during tantrums. But almost everyone I've shared it with so far has had the same  reaction: "I'm sorry today was so rough!" No. Wrong. Your reaction to this should be laughter and eye-rolling and the clinking of imaginary glasses, followed by cries of "To Motherhood! To marriage! To leaving husbands to take care of bedtime, so we can go to Target alone! Etc!" Also, Travis and I are very happily married, due in part to our ability to forgive each other. (I forgive him when he is a baby, he forgives me when I post about it online.)*

An Apology (poetically):

I am sorry.
I did not realize that your
total, current, and future happiness
depended so entirely
on the size and shape of your graham cracker.

Now that your cracker is broken
into two squares, it must
taste and look repulsive.
Its perfect, golden rectangularness
was the only thing keeping you
from spiraling into the darkness
or eternal depression.

And I broke it.
So I deserve this forty minute tantrum.
It is my punishment
and it is not enough.

I am sorry.
I wish ALL the seats in the car
were middle seats.

I know you will die now,
forced to sit near the window.
Not from a crash,
nor even the blinding sun in your eyes-
but from grief.

Sharp, acute, extremely real misery
that cannot be assuaged by the knowledge
that in 1.3 miles we will arrive at Home Depot
and you can trade places
with your brother
for the ride home.

I am a terrible mother.
I know this.
One cannot expect someone
as wonderful as you to love them,
when they are as flawed
(and evil) as I am.

I am sorry our children
lost your spare motorcycle key.
No, I do not understand what this means,
how could I?
I am not as wise and organized as you,
which is why
this is obviously my fault.

Please, explain to me again
how old your bike is,
so I can grasp that keys like these
are no where to be found.
It is fine, spend the evening
in the garage, muttering
and trying to fix your broken key.
(NOT YOUR FAULT, I know this!)

There is literally nothing in our home
-Nay! The world!-
more important than the lost key.

Don't worry.
I understand.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Finding our Homeschool Style {Pitchers Do School - Part Two}

As I discussed in a post last week (Read That HERE), I decided ages ago that I wanted to homeschool. And over the last year (or more, probably) I've been slowly finding my way to the homeschool style that I think best suits me.
"But Becky," you may be saying, "Shouldn't the homeschool style you choose be one that suits your children?" Well, yes and no.
The truth is, I will not be able to be an effective and passionate teacher if I don't fully believe and stand behind what I'm sharing- but I also honestly think that a mother who knows her individual children will be able to change and adapt to suit her children's needs to any style of teaching- and I have not decided on a set "curriculum," so much as a style of teaching.

(Strap yourself in, because this post is crazy long. If you want to go ahead and skip to the end, when I actually FIND my homeschool style, no judgments here. In the meantime, this will be a discussion of different homeschool methods and what I liked and disliked about each.)

There are many different methods of educating your child at home, and I wanted to share brief rundowns of what I gleaned on the topic of each one. Some of the first styles of homeschool that everyone seems to find and try are:

Classical - a method of homeschooling that uses classic books and literature over text books. The teaching/learning methods change as a child ages and their cognitive abilities develop from concrete thinking, to analytical thinking, to abstract thinking. It teaches children to understand and reason for themselves.

Traditional - Basically, this is school-at-home. You follow a set curriculum in several different topics, studying textbooks, taking quizzes, writing book reports.

Montessori - Based on my knowledge from Pinterest, I thought Montessori was all colorful wooden beads and shape-puzzles, but my understanding of this type of education has evolved- as has my confusion. Is it just fancy unschooling? I believe that Montessori is very hands-on for children, hands-off for adults, lots of play (both educational and unsupervised) with child-led learning.

I knew immediately that I wasn't interested in any of those approaches. Classical and Traditional seemed like too much.  Both stressful and demanding to teach and to learn, when what I am seeking is a feeling of peaceful learning in my home. And yet Montessori didn't seem like enough.  I googled around, I did some Pinterest  searches and felt even more overwhelmed.
I thought I might be interested in the following:

Unit Studies - Still my second-favorite method of teaching, I think we might fall back into this later. Unit studies take a unit or topic and bases all the learning around that specific study. For example, if you are studying Vikings, you would read Viking folktales and legends for your language arts, study their pillaging routes and learn about Iceland, etc for Geography. You could do math based on figuring out and measuring the sizes of Viking ships, miles traveled, or money exchange rates. Your science could be about Vikings also... somehow. I don't know that much about Unit studies or Vikings, obviously.

Waldorf - Believes in educating the whole child- his body and spirit in addition to his mind. There's a huge focus on art, music, nature, movement, and not delving into academics too early.

Thomas Jefferson Education - This seems to be a style of classical education (which uses great works of literature to teach, and evolves with a child's cognitive ability, remember?) but which allows children to learn at their own pace and focuses on teaching a child to love learning. It also focuses on discipline, but rather than parents being terribly disciplined, it helps children develop discipline over themselves. (Classical Conversations is another similar method of Classical education.)

Again, these were my three favorite methods. I loved and still love the idea of Unit Studies, because I could see many ways to include the books and art that I love into each Unit. I love the idea of teaching children practical math and science, like how to irrigate fields or double a recipe, while also giving them a broad range of topics- woven together from subject to subject like real knowledge is.
I like the Waldorf focus on art, but frankly I think they're a little pretentious (no plastic, no technology, dinner by candlelight?) My kids are really into sticking their fingers into hot candles so they can get wax on their hands, they love their light sabers, and using computers is a modern-day skill that everyone needs. So. Not quite. The Thomas Jefferson method looks really good, and I was also leaning towards it, but again, I felt frustrated that there wasn't a method that combined these powerful works of literature and actual educational discipline with a love of and focus on art and nature.

So, overwhelmed by the internet, I went to the homeschool section of the library and grabbed a random section of books. I started with Home Grown, a book by an Unschooling Dad of two. At first, I found the book enchanting- stories of children free to learn and grow at their own pace. And then the author mentioned that their friends and neighbors were worried that their seven year old couldn't read yet. "It's totally fine," he said, "He's learning other important life skills like knitting and bailing hay, and crafting bows and arrows."
Um. No. READING IS A LIFE SKILL. Knitting is not. I started to read with a little more skepticism. A bit further on, he mentioned that his son said if he could have any two wishes, he'd wish for traps and a donkey. He then said something like this: "I was worried, what would the world do with my child that wanted traps and a donkey?- but then I realized I was asking the wrong question. What would my son do with the world?" 
Nope. Nope. No. He would do nothing with the world. He would live in the woods like a homeless tramp that cannot read or use the computer. Unschooling wasn't for me. I threw that book aside midway through and picked up the next one.

It was called For the Children's Sake. And it changed everything.
It was exactly what I was looking for! The author wrote about the style of learning developed by Charlotte Mason, a name I had seen used online to describe a very Waldorf style of teaching. Playing unsupervised in nature, not learning to read until you were seven or older, doing art and going on hikes. But the more I read about Charlotte Mason and her aims for a child, the more I realized that she was being misused. Charlotte Mason is not a step above unschooling. Charlotte Mason believed in discipline, full education, and independent (but vigorous) learning.

Charlotte Mason Education-  (a note: CM is MUCH MORE than I am sharing here. These are just some of my favorite aspects of this style of teaching.)

Focuses on ideas over facts: so rather than reading a text book about World War II and memorizing lists of dates that countries were invaded, students will read a Diary of Anne Frank, maybe letters written by soldiers in the trenches, a biography of Winston Churchill, and more. They might listen to Jazz music and discuss why it was banned in Nazi Germany. They would read poetry or view art inspired by the depravation, obedience, courage, and fear of those years. And then, after a passion and interest has been ignited, they will learn and delve into facts- something they now care about. (Similar to unit studies, but with a focus on classic, living books and art over textbooks or worksheets.)
Teaches habits and discipline: Charlotte Mason believed that children should develop habits, not just of brushing their teeth or clearing the table, but habits of obedience, attention, kindness, cheerfulness, faith, etc. If we always rise and make our beds in the morning, it's not really a constant conscious decision and battle within ourselves. We just do it. We can build those sort of habits in our children, but about deeper and more important things than bed making.
Focuses on art, nature, and music: It's true. Charlotte Mason believed that children should be exposed to good and beautiful things, which teach them to love the world and be creative. But she didn't believe in letting children run wild and free. When children are young, she suggests taking an afternoon a week to hike or visit nearby wildlife, and spending a few free hours unfettered after formal education in the morning. But even hiking is not merely being out in nature. She encouraged detailed nature journals and studies, to help children recognize the plants and animals around them, their habitats and food sources, their patterns of migration or hibernation. This, my friends, is a biology course. Her focus on art and music is in-depth and focuses on masters through out time, teaching your children to recognize the composer of a classical piece or the artist of a painting in a museum based on their style. They aren't just fingerpainting and taking piano lessons. They're becoming engrossed in the masters.
Short lessons and time for imaginative play: I think one of the reasons that CM has the reputation of being practically-unschooling is because she focused on having short lesson plans. She believed that a child develops the habit of attention by paying attention. So when children are young, you don't talk and talk and talk until your child zones out. You focus their attention for a short period of time (for a six year old, this might only be 5-20 minutes) and then you let them go. This amount of focused attention will slowly increase as your child learns to learn. She might allow children to have 5-10 minutes of poetry memorization, followed by 15 minutes of math, 10 minutes of copywork, followed by a break. Then French, music, art, all lesson-plans only a few minutes long. By lunchtime your child is done for the day, (when they are young, at least. As they get older, their lessons are longer- but they have learned how to pay attention and work, so no time is wasted.

Those really are my favorite things, although Charlotte Mason believed in so many beautiful things, like "narration" over test-taking to determine how much has been learned, like treating a child as a human being with an interest in their own education (and the child's motto: I am, I can, I ought, I will.) Memorization of poems and scripture, reading aloud together "living books," which are books (unlike textbooks) that capture and delight the reader. Like the idea that a child's mind is not a sack to be filled, but a living organism whose diet is ideas. Stop it. That's beautiful, right?

I would recommend For The Children's Sake to any mother, whether or not you are planning on home schooling- it's very lovely and inspirational in its methods to interact with children, and it encourages beautiful methods of teaching your children, whether it's in the mornings and evenings or throughout the day. A few weeks after reading it, I stumbled upon a free online resource of curriculum and ideas to educate your children using the Charlotte Mason style. I am excited to delve further into it over the next few months and years and will hopefully share our plans and successes (and failures!) here.

If you were going to homeschool, what method appeals to you? Or do you already homeschool and use a different method? I'd be interested to hear what has worked for you!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Portraits of my Boys 38

The photos this week really crack me up. These are evidently children that take care of themselves. They dress and clean themselves, they entertain themselves. They no longer care to listen to any of my advice or opinions. They're just their own little people. I guess that's fine, I just thought I had until middle school to prepare for this. 


 Grey made himself "a beautiful necklace and two beautiful braclets" this week. He wears them always. Also, those are baby socks, but he likes how bright they are. And he insists on shorts and long-sleeve almost every day. He's a fashionable young man.


A t-shirt I hate and a beanie that's too big. And oh, yeah. That's his new face for photos. Nothing like a sensible sleepy-eye and closed mouth grimace to make mom take the camera away. 


I did dress the baby, but it was actually against his wishes. August has recently decided that he hates wearing clothes and will scream for a half hour every morning and evening after I dress him or put him in pajamas. So obviously, he ends up naked for much of the time. And oh, no wiping his face. Obviously. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Willow Heights Trail + Some favorite hikes with kids

This morning when I woke up, I could see the beautiful fall leaves covering the mountainside outside my window.
An hour later, lunches were packed, boys were buckled in, and we were mountainbound! I love living so close to so many hikes.
I've made it a goal to take the boys on at least one hike a week during the warm months of the year, but this week we actually made it on three hikes! I want to spend as much time in the mountains as I can before the snows strike and the canyons are unhikable (without snow shoes, that is!)
We went on Willow Heights Trail this morning and it was perfect. The hike itself was short, but surprisingly strenuous, but there was no whining or complaining- except from the baby, who didn't want to be carried, but to scramble up rocks by himself. I'm so proud of what good hikers the boys have become. I remember that I read a blog post about hiking with kids a year or so ago, and it totally changed how I tackle hikes with the kids. She said to let your kids take as many breaks as they want, stop and play, carry (light!) backpacks, and have a bunch of different snacks to stop and eat, even on a short hike.
For some reason, none of those things had ever occurred to me. Now we always have at least three different snacks on each hike, and I almost always bring a sandwich for everyone. It's such a treat for the boys to get to the summit and triumphantly have a picnic. And whenever they get whiney or tired on the way, I say "Find a good spot to take a break and we can all stop and eat a fruit leather."
And everyone cheers up.
I wanted to share a few pictures from our hike today and also share links/directions to a few of the hikes we've really enjoyed this summer.

Some favorite hikes:
All of these are up Big Cottonwood Canyon, which is easily our favorite canyon to hike in. And When I rank these, I am not ranking them for normal, fit adults carrying Camelbak backpacks. I am ranking them for mothers, holding hands with their toddlers and hauling a baby on their backs. All of these are hikes are hikes my four and a half-year olds can walk themselves, but that doesn't necessarily make them easy.

Willow Heights Trail- This hike was gorgeous and quiet. There weren't very many people on the trail, so we often felt like we were alone on the mountainside. This hike is split into thirds: 1. scrambling up a steep, rocky "stair," 2. slight easy incline through aspens, and 3. a flat walk over the prairie on top. Don't give up when the hard part is first, it is totally worth it and it doesn't last forever! But little kids (like August) will need to be carried for one to two-thirds of the hike. *Moderate*

Twin Lakes- Easily the most beautiful hike I've ever been on, we went in late July when the mountain sides were covered in two dozen different kinds of wildflowers. This hike is difficult, but really satisfying.  And my kids LOVE scrambling up rocks more than they love just walking, anyway. Bring a picnic and stay awhile. *Difficult, but doable.*

Lisa Falls- Short! This "hike" is not really a hike, it's more like a strenuous walk to a really cool natural playground. Just a quarter of a mile up from the road to the foot of a very small waterfall, with lots of places to wade, climb, throw rocks and spend all day. This is my kids' favorite hike and we go here a couple times a month during the summer just to have playgroup! *Easy*

Donut Falls- Probably the most popular hike for families in Big Cottonwood, this is an easy hike to a really cool waterfall. And if you go later in the summer, you can climb up the waterfall itself as the flow is little more than a trickle. My kids love "forging the river" on fallen logs, and climbing up to see the waterfall close-up as it falls through a hole in the roof of a cave. Wear water shoes, but picnics are hard since there's nowhere awesome to sit when you're actually at the waterfall. My baby can do a lot of this hike, except the last third or so, once you're down forging rivers and climbing waterfalls.  Don't go on weekends, parking is insane and the rangers are pretty ticket-happy in this area. *Easy*

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Behind the Scenes

So Travis is the favorite parent. Like 100%, no denying it, "I wish mom could get a job so Dad could stay home with us" kind of favorite parent.
I have never, ever been the favorite to Grey and Micah - not even when they were 6 months old. I have been August's favorite for a good 15 months- but the last few months, the scales have slowly been swinging out of my favor. Travis isn't definitely August's favorite, but he's at least tied with me. And all. day. long. August repeats "Dada? Dada?" And he screams every morning when Travis leaves for work.
This is okay. I mean, at one in the morning, when they're screaming his name and not mine, or on long hikes, when they insist he carry them, then I begrudge Travis nothing. But on regular days, when the kids say "You're the worst mom ever," or "We wish we could always be with dad, and you had to go to the office," then I'm sad.
And I try not be selfish.

Travis has been spending a lot of time at work lately, and Grey and Micah have been aching for Dad-time. This week Travis said, "I think I'll come home early, and take the boys camping overnight on Wednesday." And this morning when he left, he said, "Please try to get everything ready so we can just go right after I get back from work. "
I don't begrudge him this, I am at home and can do it- so don't think I'm complaining or mad. But as I rolled up the last tinfoil dinner, and went through the mental checklist (Extra socks, wet wipes, beanies, roasting spears), I found myself thinking:
I'm a facilitator. I'm enabling Travis to be the favorite parent. He gets to swing in "Hey boys, let's go camping!" and everyone grabs the pillows and duffel bags waiting by the door and races out, never once thinking "I wonder if there are matches in here. I wonder if mom found my missing water bottle. I wonder who mysteriously placed these items here for me to grab the moment that I thought of it."

And isn't that how it always is? At least for us stay-at-home parents? We aren't the come-home-and-wrestle parent, we're the here-all-day-enforcing-naptime parent.

And sometimes I feel frustrated that I facilitate a lot of fun. Whenever we decide to go on a picnic, I pack dinner. When we hike to a waterfall, I bring snacks. When the boys go camping, I buy marshmallows beforehand and wash stinky socks afterward. And if we are going to grandma's for a late-night watching fireworks, I'm the one enforcing naptime beforehand so that no one bites grandpa out of exhaustion and confusion.

But I'm not the favorite.

After watching the Prince of Egypt recently, Grey asked me, "Mom, are we your slaves?"
"No," I said. "I think I might be your slave."
Even after I explained the joke, they didn't agree.

The truth is, I generally don't care that Motherhood isn't glamorous. I don't care that I don't get a paycheck or recognition. I don't mind that I'm not employee of the month.
And frankly, I don't want to be the parent that swings home after a day working and heads out camping. I'd rather just be here all day, walking across my extremely sticky kitchen floor (it's getting a mopping tonight when I'm home alone!) and then gets to sleep in her own bed at night.
It's just hard to remember, sometimes, that this is in fact what I want. This is what I chose. This is what makes me happy.

So tonight, I am going to watch that "new" Cinderella movie by myself, while eating caramel popcorn and drinking a Mexican pineapple soda (because those things go very well together) and I am going to iron open quilt blocks for a baby blanket I'm working on, and I will toast to the unglamorous behind-the-scenes-ness of motherhood. And I will try to remember, that I almost definitely the boys' second favorite person in the world.
And that's not a bad place to be.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Why I Want to Homeschool {Pitchers Do School, Part One}

Growing up, I knew - just as all of you know- that homeschooled kids were weird. I only actually knew one family that was homeschooled, and they weren't weird- but that was definitely an exception to the rule.
Just like all kids that went to public school were totally normal and never awkward, all homeschool  kids were strange, unsocialized, overly religious, and did I mention weird?
And I'm not being sarcastic. I believed this to be true.

And yet, somehow- in the five years since I first starting feeling my little boys kick me in the gut, I've slowly and steadily realized something.
I'm homeschooling.
I have to homeschool.
I am compelled to homeschool.

When my mom started homeschooling my littlest sister last year, it cemented what I'd always known somewhere- I'm a home school mom, too.

A lot of bloggers and instagramers that I follow also homeschool, and while they may post samples of their schedules or links to their curriculum- they very rarely (if ever) write about their reasons for doing so. I am left to assume, as I usually do, that they homeschool for some bizarre religious reason. And when I tell people that I'm planning and hoping to home school, there's almost always a pregnant pause, and then "... Really? And why on earth would you want to do that?" or "Wow! What a great mom, I couldn't wait to get rid of my kids!"

So I wanted to talk about my reasons for homeschooling, share them with you so that people (including perhaps my own family and husband) can understand why I feel so compelled to have my children at home.
Just to be clear,
It's not for some bizarre religious reason.
It's not because I think the school system has failed.
It's not because I'm a really great mom, because I too feel regularly overwhelmed, exhausted, and ready to send the boys to grandma's house for the rest of the week.

The reason, is this:  Time is fleeting.

That's silly isn't it? I guess that's not the entire reason, but it's a big part of all the little reasons.
I just don't have enough time.

Let me try to explain:
I often tell people that in college, I studied Children's Literature. This is technically a big fat lie, since what I really studied was English and there's no children's lit emphasis. So I made one. Every optional course I chose was a children's lit course. My film class was a study of children's films, my writing courses were based around writing for young adults, and the american lit class I took was actually called something like American Coming-of-Age Novels.
I know what I love, what I'm passionate about and that, my friends, is children's literature. My budding library downstairs is over half-filled with children's chapter books, books I loved as a child or discovered as an adult. Each time I found another copy of The Secret Garden or Little House on the Prairie tucked between vampire romances at a used book store, I would bring it home and find a safe place on my bookshelf, imagining the day that I would read it to my children. When I finally decided that I loved and wanted to marry Travis, it broke my heart to give up a vision I'd created of my perfect future. That perfect future was this: Sitting inside my cozy home in Minnesota, snuggled up by a bright fireplace with all my dark-haired babies, reading Little Women aloud to them while a blizzard raged outside.
Of course, having given up that idealized vision, I have gained a new and better reality. Now I get to sit, snuggled up in my bed in Utah, with my little white-haired boys listening to me read Peter Pan while the rain patters against the windows.
It is the best and most perfect vision and experience of motherhood. It is everything I could possibly want. And I am not ready to give that up. 

I am not ready for them to leave every day at 8:30 to catch the bus, and to trudge home every day at 4. (Those are the actual times that our next door neighbor kids leave and arrive home each day.)
I can't do it. I love them too much. I want them too much.

If my children are gone from me from breakfast to dinner, when do we get to snuggle and read Charlotte's Web? When do I get to teach them to love Aslan and fear Voldemort?  When do we read and discuss the scriptures as a family? These books are important to me. They are significantly more important to me than anything that they will learn at school. Yep. I said it.
Okay, now my husband and Alissa are both panicking that I am going to read books to my kids all day instead of teaching them about the imports and exports of Botswana and the names of the different chambers in one's heart. Before I continue, let me say this: I promise to teach my kids all the things they would learn in school.

BUT, I am not just afraid of giving up reading together. I'm afraid of giving up family trips to Kenya when Travis has a month-long job there. I'm afraid of giving up piano lessons to homework. I'm afraid of giving up the chance to teach my children right and wrong when they make mistakes throughout the day.
I'm afraid of giving up hikes to the canyon on early fall mornings, and of imaginative play on snowy afternoons.  I'm afraid of letting my child learn about bullying and sex from their peers like I did.
I'm afraid of letting someone else teach my child the right way to apologize, work hard, sit still, treat their friends and show respect.
I know that I could teach them these things on the evenings and weekends, and I know many families successfully do. Please, please don't think that I believe I am a more dedicated parent than anyone who sends their child to school. I am not. I am normal and flawed and my kids drive me insane on the regular. I am not choosing to keep my kids home because I think I will do better job teaching than someone who went to college for teaching.
I am keeping my kids home because there are only a few short years when they are small, and I don't want to miss it. I want to fill up these years with watercolor paintings, and collecting eggs from the henhouse, with snuggling, and caped crusaders. With chores, and gardens, with making homemade jam and then eating it on everything. With reading together and browsing the library, with snowmen and homemade popsicles, and spontaneous trips to the seaside.
And if the only way that I can have those things is to homeschool? Then my children will be schooled at home, thank you very much.
Time is fleeting and so, I am compelled to homeschool.

Because I am new to this and because I am slowly preparing to start school - I am going to post semi-regularly (for a while) about homeschooling things and I hope you'll bear with me.
Next up (I think): types of homeschool curriculum and my plans for teaching my kids all the things.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Portraits of My Boys ... Um. 37?

The last time that I posted weekly portraits of the boys was week 30.
But according to Dr. Google, it is the 38th week of the year. I am a serious slacker.
So to make up for it, here are five pictures of each of my children (which, to be fair, still leaves us two weeks short.) Ah me. I'm not perfect, I guess. If only for this, I probably would be. But I made this mistake and it's a big one.
Okay. Whatever. I know you don't even want to read this babbling, right? So here are pictures of my children. They are cute. I love them. Those pictures at the top? They melt me.


Grey has spent a lot of his time writing journal entries, letters, and lists of people he loves. To be fair, all of those things are basically a confusing jumble of letters.

I don't remember exactly what's happening in this photo, but I'm pretty sure it had something to do with him insisting on wearing Saltwaters instead of Keens on his hike and then being unable to climb up a very steep hill with Micah. It's fun to say "I told you so" to children, because they take it really well.

My handsome boy at the apple orchard. He is such a serious, thoughtful guy that photos of him smiling huge and cheesy are the ones that look least like him and least natural.


Micah got a frisbee in his face. In true photographer style, I requested "Can I take a picture of you?" seconds after it happened. He actually stopped crying, said yes! and was excited to look at this very pathetic picture. Yes, he tried to look extra pathetic for the picture. He's his mother's child after all. Also, yes. I'm covered in blood.

Micah helped me make peach jam, and was a very helpful chopper. I love as they get older, their "helping" is starting to actually be helpful!

 Unlike his brother, if Micah isn't smiling (or crying) in a photo, it hardly looks like him. He is my happy, passionate boy!

 Almost every picture of August here is the same! Messy-faced in nature. I guess we know what he likes.

 Just running around in the his pajamas, trying to escape bedtime. (And succeeding admirably! I never want to put this cute boy to bed when he's so nice and happy!)

Just reading to himself. Which sounds like this, "Book, Book, Duck Book. Baaaa, Neigh, Duck, Duck, Doggie (panting) Book, Baaaa, Meow, Duck."
He's so good at reading, I could explode. 

So handsome. So nice.