Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

When my daughter Nga was 15 we went to Dexter, Michigan and found the house I lived in when I was 3. I took the picture below in an attempt to recreate the photo of me that is sitting (or was sitting) on my father’s desk for as long as I can remember.N at Dexter House

The photos were taken at approximately the same place along the road. A lot changes in 40 years.
Road to DexterHouse
Dexter House had been an antebellum mansion outside Ann Arbor in the small town of Dexter; it was divided into university housing for nearby U of Michigan and had supposedly been a stop on the underground railroad.

I have known this fact my entire life although I don’t remember when I first heard it. I think it must have been when we lived there, and that my mother explained what that meant.

I doubt I understood the concept of slavery, or escape, or race for that matter. I know that when I was in 3rd grade I did not understand what “colored people” were (that was the term used then). I know this because I can remember my friend Dodo (yes, Dodo, short for Dorothy) talking about someone’s “colored” gardener and the image that invoked of a person with skin like a book’s endpage– a swirling kaleidoscope of color.

This is not so much a beautiful evocation of the natural tolerance of children as of the rigid segregation in which we lived, inasmuch as I never ever encountered people of other races. I can remember vividly in fact, because it was so rare, the few non-whites I met growing up. The housekeeper at my school, the Hindu girl in fourth grade (also the only handicapped child I encountered), the three black girls at Haverford Junior High.

My kids knew from a very young age that there were different races, but they didn’t exactly understand what that meant. They knew their father wasn’t white, but since Asian people are essentially invisible in our society, and you never really encounter the terminology, they used to tell people that their dad was black, which people found very confusing. When Nga was about 6 she asked me one day, in her high piping voice, why we were the only white people on the train we riding. Everyone on the train laughed, especially since Nga is not, in fact, white.

I believe I told her that it was smart people who ride the train, and has nothing to do with the color of your skin.

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Education at Home


For the past year and a half, I’ve been homeschooling my daughter. She’s now eight and in “second” grade. Most days we don’t follow a strict routine, and that works well for us. We manage to fit in all that we need to and I try not to stress about missing something that will impede her scholarly growth for the rest of her life. For example, last year we studied Martin Luther King Jr. for the entire week leading up to MLK Jr. Day. We went on virtual tours, watched him speak, and talked about the things that have and haven’t changed since his famous speech. But when I asked her this morning if she remembered who he was, she couldn’t recall. I know she knows – that the moment I pull up a photograph of him or play “I Have a Dream” that it will all come back to her. Maybe not in detail, but the important concepts.

The amount of information that children absorb is amazing. There have been those days that I feel are a complete failure; that I’m positive she hasn’t heard a thing I’ve said, but then she’ll do something like recite a poem we’ve read word for word. At this point in her education I’m not so concerned if she can’t remember the word “adjective”, but that she understands how they are used in a sentence.  The things I do worry about have more to do with the fundamentals: can she write her numbers in the correct direction, or can she tell the difference between a “B” and a “D”. I worry if she understands the concepts of basic math like addition and subtraction, or that she can pick up on the main ideas of a story. I love that she wants to know everything about a skunk (and will gladly teach most people many things they don’t know all about them) or that she’s passionate about science and art. And while I don’t necessarily worry that she’s 100% on track with what the common core, I still make sure she’s learning what she can, at her own pace, about all those subjects.


Using a stopwatch app for a race to write properly

To me, that’s what homeschooling is about: finding a way to teach your children at a pace that’s comfortable for them while trying to make it enjoyable. I like to think of education less like a checklist or a puzzle and more like a montage that can be put together from different angles. I want her to have a love for searching for information. I hope that teaching her in a more creative manner compared to a linear approach will give her a better chance to find answers to the world’s problems. I want to help her become a thinker.

While public education can be effective and wonderful (both Hubby and I went to public school and I think we turned out just fine), it’s just not for us right now. I want to be more involved with and in control of my daughter’s education to be able to tailor it to her needs. How do you help your children achieve a love for learning within or outside of public or private school systems? What educational styles and techniques do you embrace?

I can also be found at Unearthing this Life, Twitter, Pinterest, and a smattering of other places around the interweb.

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peppermint 2

The holidays used to be rush, rush, rush for me. It wasn’t unusual to find me shopping during the last few days before Christmas for last minute gifts. While I wasn’t a devoted enough planner to shop on Black Friday or a good enough procrastinator to wait until Christmas Eve, I was still great at getting a lot of shopping completed. Since my daughter came into my life I came to view the holidays completely different.

She was born 3 days after Christmas, and I have to tell you that the Christmas she was born was the best ever that we celebrated. We didn’t do any of the traditional stuff. We didn’t go visit family or plan a big meal as I was hesitant to travel an hour away from our hospital just days before our due date. And so, the Christmas day was spent with my lovely husband, and only him. Presents were opened leisurely and dinner was served when we were hungry. Phone calls were made and well wishes were given. I don’t recall exactly now, but we probably napped or played video games. One thing I do remember is taking photos of my pregnant belly and being full of bliss.

That day put it all into perspective. The season leading up to the holidays aren’t for procrastinating or shopping for the perfect gift. And while family will always be dear to me, having to rush to three different households in one day is just no fun. Regardless of religion, the holidays are about quality time with loved ones. Not this rushing about stuff that we’ve all come so accustomed to.

The next 8 years have only reinforced my opinion. Thanks to my daughter’s birth I became unwilling to travel to each and every in-law and distant relative’s home between Christmas Eve and Christmas day. It was too much stress for the three of us. Sleep schedules would get out of whack as well as my own sanity. We learned to spread out the well-wishing of the holidays over the month. The Kid’s birthday would have a small celebration on the day of, between the three of us, and a bigger party after the first of the year.

The month leading up to Christmas and New Year’s Eve has become a slow-down time for us. I focus more on her needs as well as making memories for her. She and I make crafts together to celebrate winter and the holidays. We cook, watch old holiday specials, look at holiday decorations, and school less. We also spend long dinners talking to friends and family, but not out of obligation – because we want to. I’ve limited my budget as well as the number of people I buy for. Fortunately the people near and dear to me seem to enjoy the things I make for them. They understand our point of view of the holidays, in part because I refused to try to keep up with the status quo. Making a month–long holiday makes for a lot less stress and for a lot more appreciation.

For now I’ll be holding my baby girl’s hand, looking at the marvels of the season, and enjoying our time together instead of rushing around trying to buy the best presents for all those that I love. And later on when those long, cold, pensive days come knocking on all of our doors we’ll be wishing for the sparkle that the holiday season brings to winter, and recalling them with our own little twinkle in our hearts.

Jennifer can also be found blarging at Unearthing this Life.

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Now that the heat is going away, we are spending even more time outdoors. I find it extremely important to teach my daughter about the environment around her, and how to take care of it. This morning we went for a hike on the nearby Natchez Trace. This is the second official “hike” she’s gone on with me and I was afraid we’d already taught her poor lessons about nature. Thanks goodness my sister came to the rescue. She’s been going to school for, well, years – I call her the tenured student. She’s studied geology, teaching, and biology; she’s worked as a tutor, homeschool teacher, nanny, camp counselor, nature guide; and she’s more patient than I have been as of late. If it wasn’t for my sweet sister, I’m not sure I’d have the desire to take my daughter back on a hike anytime soon.


So what could be so hard about taking a six year old hiking on a nature trail? She got upset when I told her she could not take home some leaves and sticks to save in her nature box. The girl talked and talked and talked, then talked some more, as we were hiking – interrupting all the conversations we older gals would have. She wanted to stop at every water crossing for snacks and drinks. It was a special treat for her, but it was frustrating to stop every 15 minutes for a break. We quickly learned that we’d have to work around the Kid’s desires. I don’t feel the need to leave her at home for these shorter hikes, but we quickly found some tools to keep her interested in the world around her instead of the “plans” she’d made. Ahh, it’s tough having a perfectionist as a child, but even more difficult when you’re a perfectionist and idealist yourself!

rock table

My little sister, she who is seven years younger than myself, she without her own children, she who’s been going to school for just this thing for, well, forever… she showed me how to manage my own daughter on a hike and I love her for all of it! In my excitement to spend time out in nature, exercising my tired bones and spending time with my sister, I’d forgotten that part of the reason of taking my daughter with was to teach her something.


  • Get them thinking about the world around them by engaging their brains.
  •  Ask children about what they see.
  • Why would a plant grow in one place instead of another?
  • Why should we cross streams on rocks instead of tromping through the water, overturning every rock we come across?
  • Why is it important to stay on the trail?
  • What can your children see that is significant of the season?
  • Count the different sounds you hear.
  • birds, bugs, water, wind through trees, raindrops, sticks breaking, nuts falling.
  • Have the children guess what could be making those sounds. What type of bird do you think is singing? Do you think that squirrel is angry with us? And so on
  • Can you imagine why it would be so important for an animal to have good senses?
  • Why is it important to take only photographs and memories with you?
  • Imagine someone coming into your house and moving all of your food and furniture around. How would that make you feel?
  • Even items that aren’t food for animals can be food for other things like mushrooms, trees, and so on. The circle of life affects all organisms.


Having my sister with us on our hike today gave me insight of how to teach my own child about the world around us. What techniques and tricks do you use with children when out in the wild?

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I have four sons ages 24 to 3

I am the mother for the first time of a 7 year old daughter.  She is my one and only girl…she is so precious to me.

I have found myself increasingly aware of the real pressure our society is trying to place on my daughter.  As I see magazines in the check-out lines out the market, see programs on tv, or read the women’s catalogs that come to my home, I am dismayed by the pencil thin women that stare back at me.

Did you know that the average girl teen girl gets 180 minutes of media exposure a day of media exposure as opposed to 10 minutes of parental interaction?  I personally find the completely disturbing and disheartening.

I find it strange that with what seems to be an epidemic of children who are now overweight that all that is thrust into our faces are women the size of a stick.

What ever happened to moderation?

Why are there not more women in the media that are of normal healthy body proportions?  Even the toys little girls play with have unnatural and unattainable proportions.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40% of nine and ten year old girls have attempted to lose weight!


When I was nine all I thought about was getting home from school so I could go outside and play!  I didn’t even know how much I weighed as we didn’t have a scale.  My mom made sure I ate healthy food and I made sure I got enough exercise on my skates, bike or climbing my tree…of course it wasn’t labeled exercise back then, just a kid playing.

When I watch PBS with my kids there are monsters on Sesame Street that come on and tell kids the importance of exercise.  Since when did kids in the Sesame Street age demographic need to be reminded to get off the couch and play?

I know this is a rambling post and I wish I had the answers…I do not. Just concerns at how out of whack we have become as a society.  Just concerns I have for my daughter’s generation.

As a mom I can not possibly hope to shield her from every young bone thin starlet.  I cannot cover her eyes in the grocery store from every magazine.  I cannot even control all that she watches on tv once she is old enough to see it at other people’s houses.

All I can do is make sure I offer her healthy food choices.  Give her lots opportunities for active and healthy play.  I can model good behavior and not obsess over my own weight.

And make sure the she knows that God makes women in all shapes and sizes… that the body He gave her is perfect for her.

There are countless articles, books, and resources about girls and body image.  I found this one at WebMD particularly interesting.

Kim can also be found at the inadvertent farmer where she raises organic fruits, veggies, critters, kids, and…a camel!

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There is so very little that I enjoy about Winter but one of my favorite things to do is to star gaze during Winter. A few Christmases ago, my family got a telescope. The kids’ name was on it but everyone knew it was really for me (is that wrong of me? Wait…don’t answer). I grew up in the middle of nowhere in a place where there was almost no light polltion, whatsoever. I looked up plenty and, I suppose, appreciated the variety and sheer number of stars that one can see from a dark location. But I never really appreciated that viewpoint until I moved to the city where viewing the Milky Way or even seeing the Big Dipper can be a challenge at best. The fact is, though, I live in the city. While we try to do many things as if we live in the country, some realities are inescapable.


So viewing stars is not easy in the city. But, it is certainly possible. Not only is it possible, it can still be prety awesome if you work at it. One thing that makes the Winter particularly appealing for stargazing is that the typical Summer-time haze is not an issue. Although the air is crisp, it is incredibly clear. Without haze, light pollution has a less significant effect. Just don’t lick the telescope in Winter.


One of my most favorite things about Winter viewing is that a number of planets are available for viewing without waiting until the middle of the night. It gives us a chance, as a family to spend time together, gazing into space and pondering life, all before the kids’ bedtime. Well, I probably do more of the pondering than my kids do, but they will follow suit in time I am sure. So, back to the planets…Saturn is spectacular in the Winter-time. My telescope is not terribly powerful, but it is plenty strong enough to allow us to gaze upon Saturn and see, very clearly, its rings. Of course, our view of the rings is nothing like that you will see in the magazines, but I was in awe the first time I saw it with my own eyes. It takes quite a bit for the kids not to run a mile a minute, but when they saw Saturn, they were silent.

I am no astronomer and I do not have all sorts of star charts mapped out in my head. Rather, I use a most excellent program called Stellarium. Stellarium is a free program and is written for Windows, Mac and Linux. Within the program, you set your viewing location and the program shows you the “current” sky. You can alter the time setting within the program to find when a particular planet will rise or explore stars and nebulae visible right where you are located.

If you are looking for an excellent way to spend time with your family this Winter, consider spending a few dollars on a telescope (mine is from Orion and was under $200). Download Stellarium and prepare to be dazzled by the wonders you will find!

Warren can also be found at My Home Among the Hills writing about the adventures of life in WV.

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hands3As I was posting about our grape harvest on my blog last week I was drawn to the pictures of my children’s hands…

These hands were busy picking…

And then popping grapes into mouths…

It got me thinking about all the things my childrens’ hands do each day…

All the wonderful things they have learned to do on the farm…




My kids’ hands know that grapes grow on vines, planted in the ground, tended and harvested in the warm sunshine…

eggs shirt

They know how a warm egg feels fresh from the nest…and know to be quick to avoid an irate hen!



They know that bunnies are ohhh so soft…and camels…well not so much!

blackberry picking6

Those hands have been scratched by wild blackberries…but have found that their mouths thought it was worth it!


They have dug potatoes that they themselves had planted…

tomato napper3

Those hands have snuck tomatoes from their mama’s bowl right in the garden…and felt no guilt whatsoever!

pumpkin soup6

Little kids hands are good at gutting pumpkins…especially when the pumpkins are from their very own patch!

eat watermelon9

My childrens’ hands have learned to care for animals…and that camels like watermelon!


They have learned that the sweetest gift can be a wildflower…both to their mama and all the beneficial insects that they hold in the garden.

blue breakfast1

As little as they are these hands know that blueberries do no grow in cartons on the grocery store shelves…


And if you hold really, really still you can watch a tree frog breath as it sits on your thumb!


Yes it is amazing what little hands can learn…

It will be even more amazing what these little hands will do in the future to nurture and take care of the earth that they have grown to respect and love…


And sometimes eat…

Yummy, dirt good mama!

If you say so Baby Boy!


Kim can also be found over at the inadvertent farmer where she raises organic fruits, veggies, critters, kids…and a camel!

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