Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Videos and movies like Race to No Where and Waiting for Superman and other similar media have painted a very vivid and clear message that the system is broken. But, what is the solution?
One possible solution is private schools. Sadly not many families, like ourselves, are not in the financial position to put our kids in a private school. Yes, if I could afford private school the Kiddos would be there in a heart beat.
In the mean time what do we do?
Several years ago I picked up a book called Last Child in the Woods Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. It was a powerful and eye opening. It also started my path towards holistic education. Based on his research and observations about having too much technology in the classroom and at home I started to limit technology in my classroom. For every computer there was a plant in place that students took care of. For every video or movie we did an outdoor activity that involved painting or movement. I saw a huge difference with many of my students in their social and emotional behaviors.
My journey in holistic education led me to Waldorf education. Many parents are led to Waldorf Schools looking for the same answers I am looking for. They too have watched Race to Know Where and Waiting for Superman and they too are struggling with keeping their children healthy.
A book that has been introduced into the Waldorf School community is called Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. This book has the answers to Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods.
What I admire about Kim's writings is his real life and practical approach to raising children in an healthy environment. He's a practicing therapist who has been working with children. Some of the children he's been working with have been dealing with severe trauma of being refugees of war torn coountries.
Here is an audio expert of Chapter 1 of his book Simplicity Parenting. http://simplicityparenting.com/audios/The%20Family%20Stream%20edit%20and%20music.mp3
You may be asking, "Why Simplify?"
Here is Kim's reason: http://www.simplicityparenting.com/2011/10/book-study-part-1-why-simplify/
I really like Waldorf Schools and I feel like we have found a nitch for our family. But, like many they have been good at pointing out the problems of our society but haven't given any solid solutions.
Finally, Kim John Payne and his Simplicity Parenting and Richard Louv's follow up book The Nature Principle give at least some directions.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
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Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. It is the beginning of the New Year or the beginning of the end.
I was asked the other day by some Waldorf parents how I encouraged my Viking Kiddos to use their imaginations when creating their costumes and not tempted by the materialism of the modern 21st century.1. We really limit what they watch on television. What shows we allow the Viking Kiddos to watch reflect our values and beliefs as a family. I wrote about finding the “Soul in Educational Television” in a previous post. I think this value has allowed our Kiddos to create an extensive imagination.
2. We have been reading to the Kiddos since they were inutero. Like television we also pick books and literature that have souls, morality and clear pictures of right and wrong/evil and good. I want our Viking Kiddos to see and read about heroes that over come obstacles and limitations. Viking Dad and I want them to have a strong ethical and moral code based on a strong foundation. The one way we have been able to establish this is through literature, the Sagas, fairy tales and legends.
Viking Dad and I are self proclaimed comic book geeks and we are having a great time introducing Teen Titans, the Justice League, the X-men and Avengers to the Viking Kiddos. One of the powerful elements that make comic books so appealing is being able to tie the story lines to classical literature. It was one of these comic book heroes that our Son picked to be this Halloween. Our daughter is still living in Fairytale land which is just fine with me and Viking Dad. She still loves all things Princess and animals. So, this year she is a Princess Kitty.
Costumes created from imagination are not easily found in the stores during the Halloween seasons. So, Viking Dad and I have become creative and excellent costume designers. This year, I lucked out when my favorite knitting site, Raverly.com, had kitty paws and ears to knit. It is designed by Lions Brand Yarn. Add princess accessories and poof! A Princess Kitty. Check out the pattern here.
Our Son’s choice for his costume is rather interesting. He has grown up listening to the stories and legends of Viking sagas, myths. legends, and history. He loves watching and reading about the Teen Titans and Justice League. So, when he asked to be Captain America and I had a surge of pride but was curious why this particular character. He hasn’t read the comics or seen the movie. When asked why he explained that, “Captain America is cool and he’s a pilot.” Our Son is obsessive with planes and pilots so to us this seemed a reasonable answer. The costume is very basic and will be used afterwards in different portions. We found a T-shirt with the Captain America iconic design and we will match them with blue pants. He has the gloves, the shield and mask already and now he’s ready to go. Captain America is your typical hero. He is motivated by his ethical and moral beliefs and he overcame many obstacles to become the Man and the Hero he is today. I know that Captain America is a fictional character the elements that Stan Lee used to create this character are elements I would gladly use as a model for my Son. Plus, put Captain America in Viking/Anglo-Saxon clothing and he could be Beowulf, Leif Erikson, Prince Ottarr, etc. etc.
This is how we have developed the imagination in our Viking Kiddos. Each family needs to examine their own values and goals to determine if this is the path for them. There is plenty of time for reality. Lets let out children be children for a while longer.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Monday, August 15, 2011
It is August! I used to hate August. August meant that summer was about to end and I would have to return to school soon. Now, I view August differently. This is Canning Time! This is the time where the fruits (and vegetables) of our labor are starting to ripen and are ready to be harvested. Last year was our first attempt to can tomatoes for our spaghetti and pizza sauces and it was a huge success. Now, I have to give credit where credit is due. Last summer I was recovering from a broken leg and surgery, so Viking Dad actually did the canning. He did an amazing job!
I was eager to get into the canning this year.
I actually learned to can from my Mom and Grandma. I was fortunate enough to acquire my Grandma’s huge canning pot with accessories when she passed away. I think she would be proud. I also learned that the best instructional manual available is from Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. They have been successfully instructing homesteaders for the last 100 years with time honored recipes, knowledge and tid-bits and hints. In Ball Blue Book there is now a section on freezing foods. I don’t think this would have been an option 100 years ago, but it is nice to see a modern update. Did you know you can make “freezer jam?” I haven’t tried it yet. It’s on my list to try.
I use Ball glass jars and lids for all my canning. I have found my jars and lids in the most unlikely places. Ace Hardware store has the best selection so far. There are other brands, I am sure, but I am bit old fashion. Ball has been around for over 100 years. Part of the procedure of canning is to boil the jars in hot water for processing; the last thing I want is broken glass.
Don’t you find it funny that it is called canning but glass jars are used instead?
As of right now, I have canned 10- 8 oz jars of apricot preservers. and 4 -16oz of Italian tomato sauce. There is more planned like more tomato sauces, salsa, jams, preserves, corn, beans, peas and anything else I can harvest or trade for with our eggs. August has only begun.
Okay, ready….. ready for it …. Chicken Butt!! I haven’t said it for awhile.
Our chicken flock has grown from 11 to 14 with one rooster. One of our Mama’s has successfully raised three new hatchlings that are now almost full grown. We usually get between 6-8 eggs a day. I have been using the eggs to trade for produce, especially fruit that we don’t grow on the Homestead. I have even found a place where I can sell them so the chickens can pay their rent.. I have my Ma Ingles moments. It has been amazing and fun.
The adventures continues......
GMO- Genetically modified organism
One of my bits of frustration when shopping for non-GMO foods is trying to translate the ingredients lists or finding information on the company to determine how GMO free the product is.
Now, let me take a step back and explain the deference between GMO and cross pollinated plants.
Yes, many of the plants we eat like tomatoes and corn have been cross pollinated over the years to be more palatable for human consumption. Carrots were not originally long and orange. Man had a hand in changing these using cross pollination. The difference with GMO is companies like Monsanto actually changed the plants, like corn, at the genetic level. In Monsanto's case they have actually inserted toxins into corn varieties to kill insects that pray on corn. Ummm ewwww! On another soap box day I will explain why these plants won't grow past one season.
Now, recently Monsanto has been reporting that their genetically modified Bt corn, that is present in virtually all non organic corn, is safe for humans because the toxin used to kill the insects can not survive in the human digestive system. However, in a Canadian study published in Reproductive Toxicology, in blood samples of 39 pregnant women who ate conventional diets, 93% of the women and 80% of their fetuses (aka babies) had the toxin in their systems. Pretty sobering statistics for a "safe" food source.
Non GMO Project is a non profit third party that uses a strict verification process to determine what is GMO safe to help consumers empower themselves and make informed choices. For more information, including a complete listing of 1,000 of participating products check out their site.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Sunday, July 17, 2011
I could sit here and tell you why we chose Waldorf, why we believe it works and what inspired me to take this path to become a Waldorf teacher but instead I am going to tell you a story.
I have been teaching public high school for about fifteen years as a Special Education teacher. In the last eight years I have seen a rise in the number of students who have been placed on the Autism Spectrum. These students range from mild autism (aka Asperger Syndrome) to severe text book autism. To be honest, the public school systems have been ill-equipped to handle these unique students. Unlike other disabilities where there have been text books written on the education of these students; the text book for students on the Autism Spectrum is still being written. I personally believe that the focus has also been researching the cause and the universal "magic bullet" instead of focusing on how to educate these students. I felt as a teacher that I had failed many of these students and the current system seemed to only pass the buck onto the next teacher or educational institution. I searched in vain for a solution to meet the needs of these students. Many of these students are highly intelligent, gifted and focused but needed help understanding the crazy maze of our social structure. What has been available were designed for students with classic mental disabilities and seemed insulting to the autistic student.
This was the case during a parent/teacher meeting called an Individual Education Plan team meeting or classically called IEP team. I had a student arrive into my classroom with all the classic signs of autism. He was withdrawn, non-communicative, sensitive to sound, sudden movements and hated any sudden changes in routine. I don't think he knew my name and refused to leave his corner of the classroom. The Mom was not pleased with what was being offered at our school and was requesting more appropriate social structure education. She liked what I was offering in my classroom but wanted more, which I agreed with her. I later found that the school district agreed to let her send her son to a non-public school. Life went on and I took as many workshops, classes and read books on autism I could find. I was blessed with a forward thinking Speech Therapist who had the forward thinking of creating a social structure class that combined social skills and speech skills. These classes worked, but only if everyone bought into the program. Everyone means, other teachers, instructional assistants, psychologists, school staff and the students. We had some success and at least it was something more then what had been previously available.
Then the student returned. I didn't recognize him. He stood tall, his eyes were bright, and best of all he was talking. He even spoke my name. I know that sounds weird but for many students with autism personal relations is a difficult skill to master. He was able to attend outside classes with great success. He still maintained many of the quirky autistic qualities that make these students unique but he was finally out of his shell. In a meeting with his Mother I asked her what she did and what school did he attend. She cryptically said that he had been attending eurythmy therapy and eurythmy speech therapy while she home schooled him in the Waldorf method. What a dramatic and profound change! I had to learn more. What little I could glean off the internet and in books about eurythmy and holistic education I introduced into the classroom and incorporated them into the social skills class. I saw and witnessed huge improvements. It encouraged me to find and learn more about Waldorf and holistic education.
In a moment of pure frustration and needing a mental time out from the chaotic craziness of the classroom I happened to Google "Waldorf education." About this time I had become a Mother myself and was inspired to find a better form of education for my own children. I am blessed with a very patient and supportive husband. It was in this moment where I discovered the philosophies and biographies of Rudolf Steiner and his development of the Waldorf schools in Europe. Rudolf Steiner happened to have also educated a student with disabilities and had a special place in his heart for students with special needs. This student of his eventually went to college and became a doctor. Rudolf Steiner's approach to a more natural and holistic life and education really resonated with me and my husband. A time came spiritually, emotionally and professionally I took the leap of faith. I started my teacher training this last January here in San Diego.
To be honest I do still have my WTF moments. But, then I have moments, like recently, where I had the opportunity to watch from start to beginning an Eruythmy routine.The whole concept of Eurythmy finally made sense and I can see why it worked so well with that student.
Waldorf education is a life long learning experience and because it is life long there is no rush or time line to learn.
For more information check out:
Why Waldorf Works http://www.whywaldorfworks.org/02_W_Education/index.asp
Waldorf Education http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldorf_education
Monday, June 20, 2011
It is just a thrill and exciting to see Mother Nature in the raw. I am truly blessed that we have the opportunity to share this experience with our children and friends.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Since we free range our chickens poison is not an option. We have Kiddos so certain traps are not an options. So, how does one humanely rodent proof the house and garden. It is pretty involved, but I am going to follow the recommendations in this article and see what happens. I have also read that peppermint and cider vinegar are also nice deterrents.
I am open to any other suggestions that do not involve poisons.
Rodent-proof Your House
Sunday, June 12, 2011
I love having a variety of different colored eggs. Each of our hens lays a different colored egg. We have two that even lay greenish/blue. These are perfect around Dr. Suess's birthday. Green Eggs and Ham anyone?
The chickens are free ranged so each day is an Easter egg hunt. However, we discovered that hens are creatures of habit and will often lay in the same spot if undisturbed.
Have a good week!
"Cedar Ring Circle is a community of Waldorf-inspired mothers in Upstate NY who meet weekly to provide our children with an opportunity to learn together. Out of this initiative, we have created a Waldorf Supply Co-op to meet the unique needs of homeschooling families across the US seeking to educate "the whole child" in the Waldorf tradition." Items ordered from their Co-op are American made and hand crafted. Many items are made within the Amish community, so you know that they will be well crafted.
Check out there link....
Saturday, June 11, 2011
At the recent Mother Earth Fair, I noticed that Willie Nelson's Farm Aide was still active. Willie Nelson started Farm Aide to help the family farms survive during a time when big produce companies like Dole, Monsanto and others were buy huge tracts of land and putting the small farmer out of business. Many that survived deversitified and became micro-farms. We know many as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
To add insult to injury now. Monsanto recently acquired the ability to sue farmers for "Patent Infringement." The seeds Monsanto created are legally protected as a patent. Any alteration of the seed without Monsanto's permission is illegal. Now, corn for example, is pollinated by the wind, birds and bees. If a Monsanto field is planted next to a non-Monsanto field the cross pollination genetically alters both fields. Hmmm! That doesn't seem right! Many CSA farms in the mid west are not growing any corn for fear of the cross genetically breeding and for fear that Monsanto will sue them. Or worse, have them arrested.
This really angers me! I also take it personally. I don't want some huge produce company telling me or my family what variety of corn to eat or feed to our animals.
Finally, families and farms are speaking up against Monsanto's monopoly. Please read the article found in Mother Earth News.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
I grew up in a farming community in Central California. My Dad worked for a two major produce companies, so I feel a bit rebellious and traitorous going organic and speaking against big corporate produce companies. However, I do feel that it also gave me a front row seat to what actually goes on within these companies and the "research" that is behind many of the genetically engineered foods. I am not sure how many consumers are aware of how genetically modified our food really is these days. I am not speaking about cross pollinating cauliflower with broccoli to make it more frost resistant. But, the adding of Round Up in corn to keep weeds out of the fields for easier harvesting. Fish DNA in strawberries to keep them frost resistant. Heavily, used herbicides and insecticide used in the fields to prevent weeds and bugs. Growth hormones and antibiotics in milk. The continuous cross breeding of Cornish chickens to make them grow so fast that they can't live past 9 weeks. Beyond 9 weeks they die of lung diseases and broken bones. This is the variety of chicken found in the grocery stores. Do I need to go on? Where are all the bees?
Bottom Line: Produce companies are not growing food to feed the nation or the world. They are in the business to make money. Growing produce is a risky and expensive process. Anyone who has tried to coax a tomato plant to produce a juicy tomato knows how much energy and time goes into this process. Now times that by several hundred acres. Speaking of tomatoes; tomatoes are harvested green and then "gassed" to turn red. That is why there is such a huge taste difference between home grown and grocery bought. The produce companies also acquire huge incentives and deals to grow produce for other countries. The cherries grown in Oregon and Washington are mostly shipped to Japan and Asia. Produce companies like, Dole and Monsanto, create genetically engineered produced for quick growth so they can sell it overseas.
This is the scarey part... Dole and Monsanto are behind the Round-up engineered corn and wheat grown for forage. But, that forage grain isn't solely used here in the United States. It is sent to Mexico and else where. I am sadden and angered to hear that many Community Supported Agriculture (CSA's) in the Midwest are not growing the heirloom corns and wheat for fear of cross pollination with genetically modified corn and wheat. In addition to this insult, Monsanto has "acquired" the legal right to sue farmers for "patent infringement" if the fields are cross pollinated. Now, keep in mind that corn is pollinated by the wind, so is wheat. If an heirloom field is planted in the vicinity of a genetically modified field the pollen of the two fields could mix in the air and created a whole new variety. This changes the worth of the grain and the potential worth. Many of these CSA's are "Mom and Pop" farms or small family farms and can't afford to fight against a huge corporation like Dole or Monsanto.
Current research is starting to show that genetically modified produce is having an effect our people. Research is pointing to the increase of Autism, allergies, and other health impairments as the effect of these genetically modified produce.
This is where "We the People" need to step in and support our local CSA's and CSA's in other states. Money speaks louder then words at times.
Support your local CSA's, buy only heirloom variety plants and produce and animals, and if you can or inclined to, support your local meat farms. Write letters to the politicians and activists in support for research in long term safety of genetically modified produce and animals. We should push for laws, like the ones successfully passed in Ohio, to label products containing genetically engineered ingredients. Support through, as one farmer friend of mine put it, the "pocket book" is a loud support.
Lets not let Dole and Monsanto dictate what we can and can not eat.
"If we have a dead ocean, we have a dead planet."~ Paul Watson
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Monday, May 30, 2011
I am working on at least three or four projects at one time with about three more in the planning stages.
The 10" purple doll is going to be the "Sister" doll to Pinkalicious. She will have equally crazy hair when she is done.
I am kinda of known for my Little Wee Fairies and Folks. They tend to pop up around birthday parties, as gifts, seasonal give away and "just because" gifts. One is always being created or birthed. I originally got the ideas and patterns from a book called Felt Wee Folk. I had picked it up at Michael's Crafts. I was a bit frustrated when I found that the store didn't have any of the supplies listed in the book. I went home and started surfing the internet. This Viking Type A Hippy Mommy was determine to find the yummy supplies shown in the book. That is how I found Wee Folk Art who had an advertisement for A Child's Dream Come True which had ALL the supplies. The author of the Felt Wee Folk has her own studio. It is fun to explore.Check out Wee Folk Studio.
This last fall Viking Dad taught me how to knit. I needed something to keep my hands busy and mind alert while I recovered from breaking my leg last summer. I am actually knitting a hat in the round. I found the pattern Lion Brand Yarn.
I like their site because they have projects for novices, like me, to advance. They have great tutorials and a "oh my Gods I have this mass of knots what now!" help page. Well, it's not exactly called that but they do have a section to help untangle those massive knots.
Aircraft Carrier in the works.
The truly creative person in the house is Viking Dad. I love having the ability to say, "Honey, I want something like this" (making hand gestures and troglodyte level drawings) and Viking Dad will build Herot. Our Son has picked up his Mom's talent of saying "Dad I want...." and the two will sit down in an afternoon and create what ever idea he's comes up with. This afternoon was no exception. Our Son loves airplanes. Last year Viking Dad drew out an accurate airfield. This year their will be an aircraft carrier in an addition to the airfield.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
In the Waldorf schools parents are encouraged to unplug their children and themselves from the computer and television. How does one balance that in the 21st Century?
Thoughts to follow.
Monday, May 16, 2011
I feel rebellious today. I have felt rather rebellious all day. Maybe it’s something in the wind. Maybe it was the newest article in Mother Earth News, "Backyard Chicken Basics" that inspired the rebellious nature within me.
We have been raising chickens on our humble suburban homestead for about a year now. Ask me two years ago if I would be raising chickens and I would have probably said "Ah, NO!" However, two things changed my mind on that idea. 1. We started keeping bees. Yes, we have had up to three hives on our humble suburban homestead. 2. I discovered that in the factory chicken farms the poor hens are injected with arsenic to induce more egg laying. That arsenic is then passed onto into the eggs. YUCK!
Having the bees on the property has been a delight and fun. However, the use of any insecticide, even organic, to kill; the summer pesky ants, biting fleas and ticks, abundant earwigs (pincher bugs) and numerous sow bugs (pill bugs) that seem to become rather plentiful during the spring and summer became problematic. I feared that anything we use would harm the bees.
Last summer’s salmonella scare from a chronic chicken factory abuser didn't build my confidence in store bought eggs. We had converted to local and “free ranged” eggs already. But, I found that the interpretation of “free range” was rather open ended. Chickens are supposed to be free to walk and eat grass, bugs, scratch in dirt and play in compost. Not all chickens are raised equally apparently.
Being the Choleric Hippy Mommy that I am I did my research using Mother Earth News http://www.motherearthnews.com/ and Back Yard Chicken http://www.backyardchickens.com/ as my resources. A very patient Bill from City Farms Nursery http://www.cityfarmersnursery.com/ answered my 1001 question regarding raising chickens. His motto, “They are chickens” finally gave me the confidence to start out with five. We decided to have fun with variety and get a chicken to represent a variety of different colored eggs. Let’s have fun! Our original five were Araucana (green-blue eggs), Road Island Red (brown eggs) and a Leghorn (white eggs). I discovered rather quickly that once you become a chicken owner one becomes a member of a rather eclectic and fun club. By the end of Spring of last year our five became fourteen with an addition of three beautiful Australorps and four dingy Leghorn Standards. We also inherited a re-purposed playhouse turned coop. Taking plans from Mother Earth News Viking Dad also built a Chicken Tractor.We soon discovered how easy it was to raise chickens. They are very self managing. The best part and huge benefit; they loved sow bugs and earwigs. Problem solved! Another surprise benefit they are great weeders. They will eat just about anything green and pull it up for you. The added benefit is that there poop is great for the garden.
Soon we began getting eggs. The eggs these lovely ladies gave us were yummy, rich tasting and had a golden yoke that can’t be found from store bought eggs.By January 2011, we inherited four more chickens. A tragic accident during the summer brought our count to ten and these four newest ladies brought the count back to fourteen.
In the old tales, myths and legends of our Viking Ancestors, January is called the Starving Times. This is the dead of winter, no matter if it is San Diego County or Sweden, and brings out the primal nature of the wild beasts (yup, coyotes.) Tragically, one January morning as our free range girls were walking to greet us for their breakfast scratch the coyotes dined on ten of our fourteen chickens. The four that survived had been housed, originally as quarantine, in the armored chicken tractor. This was a tragic blow to our family since many of the ladies had become more like pets and partners then just chickens. It also became a teaching moment for our children. (cue Circle of Life theme). Viking Dad has explained to the children that when a pet dies “they drop their physical body and their spirit rises to heaven.”
By the end of the week the family had what we called “Chicken Therapy.” We went and bought seven more chicks. These included: 1 Road Island Red, 1 Production Red, 2 Araucana, 2 Bard Rocks and 1 Mix (we know it is a chicken and not a monkey.) After a month in the living room, the chicks were relocated to a coyote proofed pen. I had to restrain myself from electrifying the fence.
We know have in addition to our “Girls” and “Ladies” we have also an “Organic Alarm Clock” aka a rooster named Royalty. The chickens are still free ranged but under closer supervision when we are home.
Let me start the rebellion!
Top Ten Reasons to Own Chickens…. And join the rebellion!
Eggs from hens raised on seeds, grass and bugs aka truly free ranged are far more nutritious……
- 1/3 less cholesterol
- ¼ less saturated fat
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene
- 4 to 6 times more vitamin D
- NO ARSENIC
- You can control the feed and raising of the chickens and know exactly what they eat.
- Stress management! The humor of chickens. After a stressful day one can not take a chicken seriously. Chicken Butt! Just look at a chicken butt. It’s funny!