Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tangled in loose ends...

It's that time of year where I am starting to go into hibernation mode. Especially on foggy, cloudy days like this. I want to curl up and just sleep. But... I have sweater sets to finish, stories to write. Oh, yes, and some homeschooling to do.

I've been reading some Steiner lately, starting with his book, Kingdom of Childhood. I find his thoughts fascinating, and I'm very happy to see that what I read so far can be easily reconcilable with some of the important parts of leadership education. I may do posts from time to time summarizing what I read and sharing my thoughts about Steiner's lectures.

Husband made apple butter over the weekend from the cortlands we picked at the orchard. We'll have a plethora of good things to put on our bread this winter. He also made a pie and some bread. What a handy husband!

For school thus far we've been reading, practicing some form drawing, and working on times tables. I have ordered the things I need for the beginning part of the school year, and so hopefully we can get organized over the weekend and really get into things next week for our morning learning time. We've been out of it for way too long.

I'm in the middle of two crochet projects. One is a custom project for someone who has already ordered it (thank you!). The other is a "sleep sack," a one-piece sack with sleeves that zips up over baby's pajamas. I'll post pictures of both when I am finished. I do take custom orders, so if anyone sees anything they like, but they want a different color or size, please feel free to shoot me an email or ask away on my Facebook page (link is to the right on this page).

Monday, September 26, 2011

The circle of life... a writer, that is, goes like this: write, edit, submit, repeat. Or write, edit, submit, submit, submit, submit...

I guess that's not really a circle. More like an endless spiral. I just got a story rejected. This story has never received any accolades or anything, and it is one I wrote a few years ago. I believe I am going to try it out a few more times to professional markets, and then if no one accepts it, I will self-publish it. Another option could be a major rewrite. The story might be too short. Readers might not be spending enough time with the characters to really sympathize with them. Who knows.

I'm exhausted today. I need to do a bit more school planning and figure out a plan for the year (looking at the timing of festivals and other things in the big picture), but I really don't think I will be able to accomplish much unless I lie down for a couple minutes and have a quick rest...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Let's see, where were we?

Husband and I have been going over our Master Plan slowly. We are trying to capture just what we hope to accomplish with our lives and our family. A mission statement, if you will. And since I am in the midst of reading The Letters of John and Abigail Adams, who happen to be personal heroes of mine, I'm sure you'll be seeing more quotes on here from them, such as this one:
Let us, therefore, my dear partner, from that affection which we feel for our lovely babes, apply ourselves, by every way we can, to the cultivation of our farm. Let frugality and industry be our virtues, if they are not of any others. And above all cares of this life, let our ardent anxiety be to mould the minds and manners of our children. Let us teach them not only to do virtuously, but to excel. To excel, they must be taught to be steady, active, and industrious.
--John Adams, 29 June 1774
I found that this quote captured much of what I wanted to say myself, so I stole it to put into our Master Plan.

We picked apples yesterday, and are going to be making apple sauce and apple butter, along with the requisite pies and bear claws and all those fun things. We'll be canning the sauce and butter, to go along with our raspberry and blackberry jams we've already made. Oh, and the canned peaches :). They are such a lovely color, we picked the white variety rather than the yellow. Husband made a peach blush pie, which is a peach pie with raspberry syrup inside.

The next couple of weeks will be filled with getting garden beds made, spreading compost, hopefully having a few trees taken down; basically getting ready for next spring. Since we did not plant this year, we've been going to farmers' markets around town. My favorite so far is the one on South Main in Worcester. We bought squashes and potatoes, scallions, little tomatoes, honey, beans, plums, pears...I know there was more. Oh, yes, HUGE cucumbers. I love knowing where my food comes from. I like shaking the hand of the guy who actually picked the potato I'm going to eat for dinner.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A look at simplicity

This morning I was running around the house, looking at all the things I had to do and thinking, "My gosh, what do I do first?" Then at breakfast time, "What should I have?" "How should I cook it?" "What dish should I use?" "What should I clean the counter with?" Decisions, decisions...

That was when it hit me. Back in the day, I think we'll all agree, things were simpler. Why was that? Well, I will put forth the hypothesis that it was simpler because there were not as many choices to make in the course of the day! People ate what was in season, they washed with the soap they made, they had the dishes they got when they were married. They had a routine of things to do that changed very little day to day, because they had nothing else to do. They didn't have to make the decision, "Should I check Facebook first or should I have my coffee?" They didn't have to worry about the internet sucking them in when they should have been doing their housework. They didn't have the guilt of food going bad in the fridge, because that was the only food they had--they ATE it.

So I would like to propose a method of simplicity (I have no idea if this has been addressed in a book somewhere. If it has, lead me to it!): make less choices. Create a home in which there are, simply, fewer choices to be made. Only have the food that you need, and eat that. Have a routine where everything has a time and place. Keep the clothes you need, and donate the rest. And the clothing you keep should be simple enough where you don't have to agonize over which top you want to wear with those pants. I'm not an expert on how to make fewer choices, but I'm sure with some practice I could come up with more ideas. The gross-ery store has completely spoiled us. Eight brands of chicken broth. Honestly. Make your own and save that choice. Ten brands of pasta, four brands of flour. Really? Even APPLES have brands now, not just varieties. Too many choices. What does the nearest orchard have? Simple, choice made. And if people would stop throwing out half of what they buy, they could actually afford to pay the price to have local food. The amount of waste this country makes is astounding. And every bit of that waste costs money. Money to buy, and money to dispose of.

Cleaning products--there are like a million things to choose from. Why not just use the simplest things--vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice--and forgo that choice as well?

Can't decide what to do with your time (and therefore end up staring at the computer for hours?)? Why not set a schedule, as loose or tight as you want. Then you are not rushing at the last minute trying to get things done, and at other times, moseying around in a haze. You'll know what to do when. And you won't have to go around making decisions all day.

I believe during the years of our Ford, a lot of research was done in order for people to work more efficiently. I can't remember the guy's name, but this man came up with things like "touch each thing once." When you put your hand on something, make one decision about it, and do that thing. Don't just put it off so you have to make yet ANOTHER decision about it later.

Any other ideas?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Who's the (wo)man with the master plan?

This past week I had a freak out over "kidschool" or what we call "learning time." Put simply, it is the time in the morning when we do a little structured learning. It is the part of our day that looks the most like school. My problem was... well, the usual. What if I screw my kid up forever? What if I don't teach him what he needs to know? What's the best program, what are the best books? I do this about once a year. I don't know why. This time, however, I did not act rashly (like buying tons of curriculum or overhauling everything...). Instead, I pulled out A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion in the hopes that I could find some guidance there. An right there, in chapter 8, I found my answer.

Chapter 8 is entitled, "Seeing the Whole Picture." On page 78, Diann Jeppson starts talking about a "master plan," and how to create one for your family. I realized that was my problem--I was feeling out of sorts and chaotic, like a chicken without a head, because I had no path to follow. A while back, before Last Year (which threw everything into craziness), we had developed a family master plan, but things changed so much that it got lost, we just completely lost our vision. Now, we are starting to get that vision back, but we need to get more specific.

Mrs. Jeppson lists nine key elements that an effective master plan must have. They are 1) Classics (your list, not someone elses. These are the books YOUR family thinks are classics); 2) Cultural Literacy, breadth and depth (you can look at E.D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge series to get a good feel for topics you can cover with your kids, and make a list from there); 3) Academic Programs (specific materials, books, curricula that will help your family); 4) Adult Skills (think--life skills, things like cooking or auto mechanics or folding laundry, that will help your child when he is an adult); 5) Organizational Programs (Scouts, 4-H, camps, etc.--these don't have to be what the kids are doing TODAY. In Core phase you want to limit these things a bit. But think about what will be important to the family in the future); 6) Experience (these are things you want your child to be able to do before adulthood, like public speaking, or speaking a foreign language, or anything that you feel is important); 7) God (Whatever your spiritual background or practices are, whatever your religion, even if you feel you have no religion, think about how you care for your spirit in you home, and ways you can help your kids to do so); 8) Family Relationships (what are your family traditions? what's important to you, to keep your family connections strong?); 9) Places to Go (What do you want your kids to experience in their lives outside the home? Trips, adventures, etc). I encourage you to read this chapter of the book, because it really is helpful and insightful.

When we look in depth at our family values in this way, it can help us see what we need to expose our kids to. For example, I know that to us, self-sufficiency and homesteading are important. So we will look at ways we can teach these things to our son. I know I love the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I expect I will be drawing from them a lot along the way (I just finished re-reading the series, and was surprised to see how much I had not picked up on before, the difference in what they are to me now versus when I first read them in the 2nd grade). Almost every academic subject can be touched upon just with the idea of taking care of yourself, supporting yourself, and loving the land on which you live.

Having a master plan makes it easier to say yes or no to things. If I feel pressured about something, and I worry about it, I can just ask myself, "Is this important to us? Is this a part of our family's mission, our plan?" If not, I can set it aside. If it is, I can make room for it.

Everyone's family is different. Some families think everyone should be well-versed in taxonomy, others think children should be service oriented, still others want their family to be athletic. Every family is different, which is why you should write the master plan of YOUR family, not anyone else's. If you rely too much on someone else's plan, I think you run the risk of constantly feeling like you are missing something, or that something else must be better, or constantly second guessing yourself.

So, at today's FEC, we'll be working hard on writing our master plan. Wish us luck :).

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Change is in the air...

I've been trying to figure out what to do with my blog/s. I have more than one, and I am thinking of merging all of them (or at least, merging their purposes, not all of their content). I want one blog that covers everything that matters to me, rather than one per topic. What this means for readers is that the address might change, but I will keep everyone updated and I will post the new address, if indeed there is one for this particular blog.

We've been very busy around here these past few months, trying to make our vision of life a reality. Mostly, we are trying to work on self-sufficiency, and trying as much as possible to control our money and destinies, rather than having the supermarket or other outside bodies control them. It is very disheartening to compare how much a basket of groceries costs today to even just a couple years ago. We own a very small amount of land, but there is no reason we can't make that land work for us, no matter how small it is. I think people have lost that sense of value people used to have for their land. Now, people have these huge yards, and just cover them with grass. Is that really having respect for that land? Think about how much that land could give you, if you gave a little back.

We've also been hiking a bit, and I've been making things which I want to start selling. My writing has been going slow, but I think that is just part of this season.

More later!