Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Hens and Chicks"

I have been frustrated that because our house didn't sell, that I am limited to the 1/2 acre suburban lot that we are on. I can't have livestock, not even chickens because we have the neighborhood wellhouse on our property. I dream of a day that I can have some laying hens, broilers for my freezer, and a fiber flock of colored angora goats, sheep, a few milk goats, and a horse for my daughter.
Today while visiting the Kingston Arts Fair, I came upon a vendor selling these! Not quite the same thing, but I couldn't resist! These little succulents are so darling, and it was a ball to assemble a little collection of them. "Hens and Chicks" are just the right kind of plant for me. I can put them in the sun and neglect them, and they'll still multiply happily in their container!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

How Has Your Homeschooling Changed?

Our Homeschooling Journey

If you have homeschooled for more than a few years, you've probably changed your philosophy or methods at least once. Over the 20 years that we have homeschooled, our "school" has changed ALOT. I can't say that I have arrived, by any stretch of the imagination, but it sure has improved. I have a longer term goal - raising up a family that sees that they were created for God's glory, who are building His kingdom, and who are mandated to take dominion over every aspect of their realm of influence. How we implement it may be adjusted, but that is the long term goal.

That is not how we started though. When my oldest child was approaching "school age", it was clear that she was not ready for kindergarten, nor was I ready to let her go. She had been a premie, growing along at the 5th percentile, and was developmentally just barely ahead of her sister, 17 mo. her junior. Homeschooling seemed to be my answer and I found myself so relieved not to send my children away all day. My goals initially were simple. I just wanted to help my small children remember the alphabet and be able to count to 2o+, let alone read and do arithmetic. I was assured that they would get it by osmosis - I hung out with an "unschooling" crowd. For the most part they did learn the basics, but I also discovered that I had 2 children that were struggling. I constantly wondered if I should be getting them extra help, or if I was just impatient and needed to wait for their development to catch up. My children were pleasant, obedient, and well mannered. We had alot of fun with friends, exploring beaches, going to parks, and reading to them aloud.

When I was expecting my 6th child we got involved with a small group of homeschoolers who were exploring what services the schools might be able to offer us in terms of a meeting space for parent led classes, art materials and library access. It was the beginning of a growing trend for public schools to open "homeschool resource centers". It seemed innocent enough, and I could use some suggestions for my more challenged children. I met other moms like me, and we met other homeschooled kids for playmates. I was encouraged, and the teacher running it homeschooled her own kids, and was a great advocate for us. Services included tutoring, classes, and a growing library of resources, as well as a computer lab. As the services expanded, so did our obligation to record keeping, and then eventually the decision to enroll part-time or FTE (full time enrollment). Then there was more curriculum mandates, and more testing, and more questions, and mandatory meetings with advisors. It became cumbersome, and as my family grew, if each child just took one class each, we were either camped out there, or going back and forth which was interruptive to those at home. We weren't home enough to "homeschool". Ironic. I threatened to pull out several years in a row, and finally did after 10 years in the program. By that time we had made the decision to let the older kids go to the public high school. They struggled and were overwhelmed by the rigors of their college prep high school. It was an intense change for which they were unprepared. There were two solutions that made it work. One was the trade school connected with our district that allowed my boys to spend half of the school day learning carpentry and automotive technology. The other solution was our local alternative high school which allowed contracts and smaller class sizes, and advisors who cater to a more creative way to learn, and offered my learning disabled son an opportunity to get special services. My last public school student will graduate this June from that school.

Two years ago I felt the impending doom of sending my next daughter into the system. I had seen how I was losing my children's hearts. The last straw was hearing my older children recall daily chastisement for being part of our large family. I will not send them to the wolves anymore. I am more confident than ever that there are a miriad of ways to get an education. We have never lived in a time when so many resources are at our fingertips, if we only would look. I have used every curriculum under the sun. Some were duds, but I have learned that some workbooks keep us progressing sequentially through some basics. I like Explode the Code for phonics, Spelling Workout, Abeka grammar, Wordly Wise for vocabulary and Singapore math for younger kids. We are using a combination of Saxon,, and Teaching Textbooks for older kid's math. I have used several history programs, like History of the World, and Alpha and Omega for a time. I like reading biographies and even primary documents aloud, then supplementing with library books, although we do that in spurts too. Does anyone else struggle with returning library books? Seems we are always missing one or two. I hate fines! I would rather own books we love anyway. I have also discovered which is a Charlotte Mason website that is chocked full of resources that can be found on the internet or at the library. I love the out of copyright books available as audio books ( while we look at the illistrations from Project Gutenberg ( or the Burgess Project( I especially enjoy this with my younger children for nature science, as Thornton Burgess has two great books on birds and animals. There are even early readers available on the web. For older kids I love Apologia science books. Outstanding and very good apologetics too. This year Katherine and I have been participating in a humanities course studying Antiquities through a Christian worldview with another family that is yet unavailable to the public, but is so outstanding that I will commit to it for the next 3 years! I am learning as much, maybe more than she is. Lest I forget, the Bible, we are working our way through Proverbs for our half hour a day of copywork, and are reading the Bible through.

What I know is that although our "school" is far from perfect, we are mandated as Christian parents to instruct our children - not the church, not the government. Although my older children may feel like guinea pigs that I practiced on, they have grown into responsible, respected adults who are reliable and hardworking employees, spouses and parents and most importantly, they're walking with the Lord. Ultimately they belong to Him and we are lent them for just a little while.

My latest goal: teach better communication, both written and spoken, so that my children may be arrows who will be able to "not be put to shame when they speak with enemies in the gate".
Psalm 127:5

What are your goals?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Reading List

I thought I would write out my current reading list:

All Flesh Is Grass by Gene Logsdon
Small-Scale Grain Raising by Gene Logsdon
Handspinning - Teach Yourself Visually by Judith Mackenzie McCuin
My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers
My Bible, particularly Proverbs, Psalms, and Philippeans
Katherine and I are reading The Portable Greek Historians for our humanities class.

I'm also listening to a weekly class by Victoria Botkin about biblical womanhood.

I lurk mostly on these Yahoo groups when I have time:
fiber traditions
spinning community
colored angora goats
angora goats the northern way
water buffalo
mule sheep (blue faced leicester crosses)
nutmeg notes
patriarch wives
above rubies

Spinal Column Radio
Lainie Sips: A Tea Podcast

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

St. Patty's Day Socks

I have a sweet daughter-in-law, Nicole, who was born on St. Patrick's Day. We have a silly tradition at our house of green pancakes and syrup on St. Patrick's Day, and Nicole usually shows up to enjoy them with us. Sometimes she and Kellen even come for corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots and Irish soda bread for dinner.

So this year I was trying to figure out a good birthday present for her. I've been knitting my way through Cat Bordhi's "New Pathways for Sock Knitters", and I found a pattern for some ankle socks with sort of a Irish sweater look that I thought would be perfect. I also found that I already had enough green Alpaca yarn to make them. So here is the result. They knit up so cute. Can't wait to give them to her!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Spinning My Own Yarn

I've been a knitter since I was expecting my first child. My SPU friend Marti taught me. Over the years I have knitted mostly for my kids, but I also have knitted a few sweaters for me, and many more socks. Socks and baby sweaters knit up fast, and can keep my attention. I have always loved textile arts, but find less time for the tedious, slower projects and soon they are out of sight and out of mind. Knitting somehow has always fit into my busy suburban life.

With our plans to move to the midwest when our house sells, I have been researching all the things I will need to know to have a spinner's flock and other livestock/poultry for raising more of our own food. I have read lots of books on the subject of grass fed livestock, raising sheep, pastured poultry, raising Angora goats, value-added products, marketing farm products, etc. One of the first things I did when considering these things, was make a list of all the products I thought our family could market managably. I got on at least seven yahoo groups that discuss animal husbandry for the specific animals that interested me, as well as three on the subject of fiber arts, and spinning wool. I know I would love to knit with my own sheep/mohair, but I also have rugs in mind. Not weaving rugs, but hooking them...with yarn. I had seen some, and they really appealed to me, and intrigued me as a unique product that my children would enjoy dying and packaging into kits with our own wool.

So I have gotten the spinning bug after realizing that if I am going to market wool to others, I had better know what I have, and how it spins. I also wanted to have a better idea of what breed to raise for this. I took a spinning class with two friends in November and determined to buy a wheel of my own. I attended the Madrona Fiber Arts retreat last month and asked lots of people about their wheels, to help me make a better decision before buying one. My grandfather had left me a wonderful cash gift that I had determined to spend on something special, and this was to be it. After trying out different wheels, and learning about all their attributes, I settled on a single treadle, castle style, double drive wheel. Now that may not mean anything to you, but that narrowed down my choices. Quite a milestone. Heidi at the Artful Ewe in Pt. Gamble, my local (sort of) wool/spinning store told me that she had a used wheel that fit my description, a Shacht Matchless. So after a bit of a personal crisis, I finally got over to her store two weekends ago to try it out. She offered to let me bring it home, supplied me with wool, and off I went! Oh, what fun I had, creating my first full bobbin of homespun yarn! So Saturday I went back, paid for my wheel, and Heidi graciously poured herself out to help me ply, wash and whack my first skein of yarn. Now it is ready to knit, or rug hook with. So, it may take me a while, working backward toward my goal of being a shephardess, but in the meantime I am learning some of the skills I will need for my new life. The biggest bonus? Into the shop walked the former owner of my wheel, a wonderful Titus 2 older woman that I know. What a surprise for both of us. Thank you Susan!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Milking A Cow

This week I took on the responsibility of milking a cow on the weekday mornings for a family that has a 2 year old going through treatment for Leukemia. It is a blessing to be able to help in this unique way. Seems God uses every experience we have for His glory and service, even the most obscure!
My experience with milking is very different from what I'm now doing. First of all, I milked goats, by hand, and they were mine. I had 4 in milk at once at one time, and that was probably the maximum that I would want to do that way. One thing I loved was that it did make me have a very predictable routine, and it put me outside into the fresh air, while most of my other responsibilities have me inside most of the day. Since we live on an island, there was always this funny coincidence early in the morning. Fog would be floating over the pasture, and I would be quietly seated next to my doe, milking rhythmically away. Deer might wander near and munch away at some branches, and then look up at me and just continue with their browsing. Other times I would hear the sea lions barking while they rested on a buoy out in Rich Passage just over the hill. That would catch me as a funny and unique scenario out there in my milking shed. I really enjoyed it. I also loved the way my goats were such creatures of habit, and would fall into line, knowing which of them was next to be milked. They looked for me to show up, and would be waiting for me at the gate. Such great memories. I had them for 7 years, but found that because they weren't on my property, being an absent farmer was too difficult. So I have waited for a day when I could have a place that where I could have my menagerie right out my door.

This cow milking routine is new for several reasons. First the cow isn't my animal, and I don't really know her yet. Second, she is milked with a portable milking machine. Although I get to be "hands on" washing her and preparing her for milking, the mechanical part of it is very cumbersome and impersonal. I'm just a little intimidated by this big strong cow too. Although she has behaved perfectly, and confirmed my knowledge that she too is a creature of habit and knows her routine perfectly, her strength demands some respect. Perhaps after some time, I will know her better and she will yield more to my requests, and I will understand and predict her habits with more comfort.

When I am done milking her, I carry what is now at least 30lb. of milk and stainless steel to the house to put the milk in jars, cool it in a ice bath, and then wash the milking equipment for the next time. I think these things were built for men. Bulky and heavy. In my humble opinion, it is not worth the "convenience", but I know that it was what the cow was used to when she was bought, so that being already established, dictated the necessity of it.

So, I am making several observations in these first days of my new routine. Cows are big and intimidating. They make ALOT of milk, and they eat just as much, whether in milk or not. If I were to ever consider a family cow, I would have to either raise one from a calf, and establish her by hand milking her, or buy one that is already used to being hand milked. I have to say, I prefer hand milking. Then there is the question of what to do with more milk than a family can drink, since you can't sell it. I know that some people feed it to pigs, chickens, etc. Some people keep a calf on the cow, and milk only once a day. I have made cheese, and yogurt and that actually condenses the milk, but honestly I think I will stick with goats. Goats are friendly, and of a managable size. If I need to make them move, I could muscle them wherever I want, if need be. You can not do that with a cow.

I feel privaledged to be having this experience. I am so glad to be able to do something that is a real help to this family. And I get the benefit of learning a new skill, getting used to being around a large farm animal, and it's helping me understand the realities of having a family milk cow so that I can make an educated decision about having one myself or not.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Restarting my blog

I have to say, I was so pleased to see that my blog was still in existance when I clicked on my favorites. It was like going down memory lane!
So much has happened and changed since I posted last. God has been so good. My Meghan, whom I was so worried for back then is now walking with the Lord, married to Joey, a marine, and is expecting her second daughter in June! Our granddaughter Courtney is a delight. Such a little thing, but developmentally on top of her game at 2 1/2, talking up a storm, and keeping her momma hopping. She loves to sing, and just chatters her entire waking moments! They live far away in Virginia, but it is so easy with FB and all to see regular photos of her and to hear all the latest. Meghan calls almost everyday, which is precious.
My second daughter Amber was married to Jared in September and by the beginning of November had announced a new grandbaby on the way! Efficient! We are so excited for them! Baby is due in July and will be delivered at home by my midwife!
Our son Kellen is married to Nicole now for 2 1/2 years. It is so wonderful to see what a mature young man he is, and what a good provider he is. They were able to purchase a home this last year, which has been really exciting for them. God has been so good to have him working for a great employer, who is keeping him busy with construction projects, which in this economy is pretty incredible. They are even paying for his construction management certificate program that he is taking through UW. Nicole is a nanny. They have a cute Siberian Husky named Chloe.
Meanwhile since starting this blog, Emma and Nolan joined our family. Emma is a 3 year old spitfire! She is a strawberry blonde curly top, who definitely keeps us on our toes! She is always up to some mischief or another. Nolan is 23 mo. and is such a little love. He is so smart. He has a bunch of those Melissa and Doug wooden puzzles of trains, fire engines, and even the alphabet. If you dump them all out into a big pile, he can put them all back together in record time! He is very observant and just rotates the pieces until they match and then puts them in. Emma still doesn't have the patience for puzzles. She is so distracted! She has other skills though!
Our biggest adventure is that we are selling our house. It hasn't been easy to get it ready and maintain "ready to show" status at all times with 11 children living at home! They say the market is picking up, so we hope to have a buyer soon, but meanwhile there have been lots of reasons why the Lord has kept us here. Lots of crisis in our community that have needed our attention. It has been a joy to be His hands and to bless our friends and neighbors. When the Lord wills, we will be relocating to the midwest, where Louie's job needs us more than here. I am excited to start a more rural life, and a farming adventure. Anticipating a "spinner's flock", some milking goats, some poultry for meat and eggs, and a big garden. This is the life I've pined for, for a long time, so it will be fun to get to it! It will be equally hard to move away from our parents and adult children, a new grandbaby and our community and church in which we are deeply rooted.
One new pursuit of mine, anticipating our own supply of wool, is spinning. I have been a knitter for years. I took a spinning class in November, and now am researching spinning wheels. Very excited about making my own yarn! Right now I am knitting a cardigan sweater for me. I rarely knit for myself, unless it is a pair of socks now and then, but I saw this pattern and some wonderful alpaca/cashmere/marino wool in a deep teal color, and decided to treat myself. I am working on the last sleeve! It has a fun bellflower pattern around the bottom, collar, and wrists. This wool is a dream to knit up too!
Well, that seems like enough news to get me started! Thanks for checking in.