5.23.2010

johnny cakes and cranberry sauce

The decision of whether or not to home school my children has pretty much been made without much deliberation on my part. The time to register Smootch someplace for the fall is upon us, be it grade one in a public school or with a home school board, and what I could do, or give myself permission to do for based upon the notion that we are home schoolers made it a no-brainer. My own first and primary passion in life is for learning. It also happens to be the primary occupation of my children. We get along pretty well in this way. Plus, I really, really do not want to have to get up and out of the house everyday by eight o'clock in the morning to take Smootch to class. Home schooling it is.

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But, how to do it? I am familiar with a number of different educational philosophies (I have done my homework), but at this time of decision I made a departure from my typical modus operandi. I did not consult any books or look up any information online. It felt risky, but I asked myself: what do I think is the most important things for my children to know and how can it come to be?

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This question sat at the back of my mind for several weeks before my brain finally presented me with a coherent answer. At the base of my response is an emotional desire. I want my children to trust themselves. I want them to be able to think for themselves. I want them to be brave and competent and ethical. I want them to feel lovable and connected with their community.

And how to do that?

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I don't know.

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But, hey, it's a start anyway. To fill some time until I figure it out, I decided that competence was as good of theme to run with as any. Smootch is pretty young, and Birdie just likes trains, but I know that both are very curious about how the things they use in their daily lives come to be. The soap they use on their hands, the steel the pots are made of, the plastic of their toys, the cloth of clothes. Where did all this stuff come from?

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Good question. Because I don't know. If marooned on a deserted island, could I provide for myself? Feed, clothe, make shelter? Wellll, most likely I'd be tiger food.

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Obviously, that has got to change.

So, our first tentative steps into home schooling will be to find out how to provide for ourselves the basic tools of our survival, both physical and cultural. I'm thinking about making soap, making clothes (ha, one step up here), making cloth (uh-oh), knitting, shelter, providing heat and cool, growing and preserving food, making or growing extra for markets to trade for what we can not make ourselves.

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Competence at survival. Who we are and what we do every day. I'm thinking that that is a good place to start. We'll get to the rest of the world later.

Learning about the pioneers and homesteaders is a natural leap from this point. I've begun reading Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder to Smootch at before bed. The descriptions of the tall grass and treeless horizons has us desperate to visit Saskatchewan's Grasslands National Park to see what the prairie may have actually looked like before it was plowed.

Almost incidentally, I ran across Great Pioneer Projects You Can Build Yourself at our local library. I love this book. It has so many great craft and project ideas, everything from sunbonnets to newspapers. While flipping through it, wishing I had a few extra hours in my day, a Johnny Cake recipe caught my eye. Johnny Cakes are a simple unleavened bread made with cornmeal and not much else. I have made it before in the oven, much like a cake, but this particular recipe was cooked similar to a pancake, much like they would of been fried over an open fire. I'm usually up for pretty much anything that is fried, pancake-esque even more the better. To top the Johnny Cakes, I decided to avoid using my precious supply of maple syrup and make up a cranberry sauce - my first time - from the frozen cranberries procured last fall, which through a wintering a my mother-in-law's house, managed to make it back to our coffers despite all of our wacky wanderings.

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Yum.

This is what education looks like to me.

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20 comments:

  1. Another very insightful post. You sure seem to have your head on straight. It's nice to hear someone speak about these important skills for our children as opposed to the more modern values that North America embraces.

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  2. In today's age of modern conveniences, supermarkets and fast food, it is so easy for kids to take the things around them for granted and to not know the values and skills that we knew as children or that our parents or their parents knew as children. Here in the UK, they had a reality show which took 12 city kids and threw them into a farm camp where they had to grow, harvest, in some cases process and put food on the table. It was an eye-opening experience for them and for my 7 year old son who watched with real interest. I think you and your two lovely children will have such a wonderful time learning and exploring.

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  3. Have you heard of the Foxfire books? Lots of tutes that would be useful in Survival mode. Also just a very interesting series of books.

    You can download the first three in PDF for free here: http://www.thesurvivalistblog.net/2009/06/foxfire-books-free-downloads.html

    "With nearly 9 million copies in print, the foxfire books stand memorial to the people and the vanishing culture of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, brought to life for readers through the words of those who were born, lived their lives, and passed away there—words collected by high school students who wanted to be a part of their community and preserve their heritage."

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  4. I think it's wonderful that you're thinking about and starting to teach your children about how to do/make things.

    If I may suggest, Smart Soapmaking by Anne Watson is a fantastic resource for the beginning soap-maker (cold process soap - from raw ingredients) and explains soap-making in a very approachable manner. Knitting is easiest if you start with something that you *want* to make, and not borng (scarves are evil!). Easiest foods to grow are radishes, leaf lettuce, peas, green beans and cucumbers. Pumpkins are fun but slooow.

    My life has been heading in the same direction as yours, too (thus the soap making and growing/preserving things). I want my kids to know what real food tastes like and how it looks when it's growing and unripe. If we're lucky, hubby will find a job closer to family and we'll move somewhere that I can have animals, too.

    I wish you luck and look forward to seeing how you explore this with your kids.

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  5. The Charlotte Mason companion might be a great book for you. She was an educator of very long ago who wanted to let children learn in their own natural way. Through play and exploration.

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  6. My bf was home-schooled. His family used to move a lot and it was very tough for him and his sister when it comes to making friends. It will be a good idea to let them join some other classes like dancing, sports, etc to make friends.

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  7. a lovely post with beautiful pics, thank you for sharing.

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  8. Congrats on your decision. We're heading into our 8th year of homeschooling. Your adventurous spirit will serve you and your little ones well. Don't listen to nay-sayers. This is the best decision will make for your kids. The Charlotte Mason companion is a great book. For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macauley is another gem. Both women are so inspiring.

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  9. Love this post. I have a deep wish to homeschool, but I don't think I have what it takes. Sounds like the perfect fit for you.

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  10. Your philosophie sounds like my teaching philosophie:), although I'm not thrilled with the idea of homeschooling (it means enrollement declines which means less teachers are needed, and right now I need a job), however it works best for some kids, and if the kids are outgoing (what you say Smootch is shy;), it works, you can always check into the local school, here the homeschooled kids have access to the library, gym, etc, so it might be worth a look into it. Also if you want any teacher stuff, just ask i have lots that I'm always willing to share. Good luck and have fun!

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  11. You've made a great choice! We're just starting out on our home learning adventures here but I'm so excited about what the future will bring. When you don't have to plan your activities around school times and your children are free to follow their interests the opportunities to learn are endless!

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  12. good luck with your home schooling adventure! I am so glad that you have spent time thinking about what YOU want for your family, so many of us waste the first few years home schooling by someone else's rules because they seem so happy or sucessful or whatever when we know really that it's just not right for us!

    And those Johnny cakes look divine... am off to look for a recipe!

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  13. My A. James is just now two and I have been struggling with the same decision since birth. I want her to love learning and it seems that most children really dislike learning after going to school---sadly enough. Also, I want her to have more freedom than "sit down" "be still" "stop talking"---in a classroom.

    Good for you.

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  14. this subject is always very interesting to me because in my country, croatia, children cannot be homeschooled.

    i live with my sister and we sew and knit and cook and she can fix almost everything and knows how to make out dish soap and cosmetics! :)

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  15. What lucky babies you have. Best wishes on your homeschooling journey :) .

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  16. coming out of lurker status here to commend you on your decisions. I agree with T-Bird Annie that is it wonderful you have decided what is best for your family. We have homeschooled for 6 years and I wasted so much time trying to fit into a mold of other people. Don't box yourself in either. It is totally ok to change and grow. I used to feel like I was flighty if I did one style for a subject and then switched to another. What really helped is when I someone at our church used to hound me about preparing my kids for college and "the world" I finally sat down and listed my goals for my kids and college was way down one the list. Being good citizens, friends spouses, christians, parents were number one and then just having the craving for learning and giving them the tools to learn things is awesome.
    Funny, we started with Little House books too. You may enjoy lapbooking since you are so creative. If you google lapbooking you will find a ton of fun stuff.

    Best of luck to you but sounds like you are on the right track already

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  17. i know this is totally off the subject but that 2 color shirt your boy is wearing rocks where did ya get that? could you comment on my blog and let me know? PLEASE. thanks corri

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  18. I love your blog... so much so that I gave you a blog award here http://westbrookedrive.blogspot.com/2010/05/my-first-blog-award.html.

    Have a great day!

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  19. "I want them to think for themselves." A great idea and one that definately needs alot of work over the 15 years or so that you are able to influence your children. Cooking is a great way to learn that. Experiment with cooking, those johnny cakes can be made again with slight changes so the children can see what works and what doesn't -- remember that mistakes are as important as other forms of learning. Don't always follow the recipe -- establish a basic rule, such as 2 teaspoons of baking powder to 1 cup of flour to 3/4 cup of liquid... create from there, add sugar, salt, berries, or instead of', add whole wheat flour, or a combination of such as flour and oats... keep going, Im sure you will get it right!

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