Monday, December 29, 2008

Holiday Hike Reflections

The day after Christmas, my three mostly grown children and I rode our bikes about three miles down the road to a local nature park. I’d never gone there by bike before, but they’d enthused about the experience, so I went along for the ride on a beautiful Florida winter day.

As I peddled along a ways behind them, the dawdler now, in our gradually reversing roles, I marveled at them, and at the last 20 years of child rearing. Seeing them ahead of me appearing and disappearing from view along the country road unwinding ahead of me was a remarkable sight, and a sweetly amusing one, as my big, purposeful and independent children, kept glancing back occasionally to see where the old lady was, and waiting up for me at one point.

When we reached the park and embarked on our hike there, I felt immensely happy and content. An old feeling returned to me in a new way, a feeling I recalled from when my children were very small, of being a lioness with her cubs, as I lay on a blanket in our yard with my tots tumbling about me. It was a warm, delicious feeling. I felt it again that post Christmas day, except now, my mane showing some white, we were all lions together and the contentment came from feeling them strong and mature beside me as we strode together in our little pride down the piney wooded trails.

We talked as we hiked, geocached and placed a travel bug, took pictures, bird and wildlife watched and generally had a lovely time together, taking obvious pleasure in one another’s company.

I remembered all those years so long ago – was it really only 10 or 15 years? They were so little! – hiking along the trails of the nature preserve near our old home; working together at the nature center there, where everyone loved their youngest volunteers; watching the dolphins in the Indian River; collecting flowers and leaves; keeping tadpoles and watching butterflies emerge from cocoons. All that early love of nature and the outdoors has stayed with them, even with my 16 year old son, my youngest and least outdoorsy child, preferentially and perennially a tech geek, who manages to combine high tech and hiking with a camera and a GPS and to enjoy the outdoors on his own unique terms.

But all of them still enjoy a beautiful sunset, the tawny colors of late season marsh grasses, the reflected blue of a crisp winter sky in still lake waters. The sight of a turtle or armadillo delights them as much now as when they were tots. They still hush one another when they come across deer on the trail and soften at the sight of rabbits on a lawn. A good time for them is still a walk in the woods.

How lovely is that?

We have raised beautiful young people. They are good and kind and caring. They are intelligent and curious and open minded. They live intentionally, meaningfully, thoughtfully. I am in awe, feeling deeply undeserving of the remarkable good fortune of their good nature and kind hearts, even as I recognize that it is both nature and nurture that has brought them this far.

And homeschooling. I am so grateful that I’ve been able to be at home with them, to help them come this far, and to enjoy the experience of how far they’ve brought me, as well. I’m stepping back from their lives now, slowly, gradually, sometimes reluctantly, if only because my curiosity to see into their futures is piqued, to see where their lives and visions take them at this most remarkable point of embarkation in their individual journeys.

I’ve got plenty to keep me busy, fortunately, enough ideas, visions and curiosities of my own, and enough confidence in their abilities to follow their own paths with courage, common sense and wonder, that I can let my course continue to slowly diverge to pursue the journey I started nearly 50 years ago, beside the one I chose to trek with first.

And I know that as long as I can hike, I’ll have partners on the path now and again, and other paths to enjoy in the company of the lovely people my children have become.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Different Kind of Normal

A Different Kind of Normal

I attempted to make cookies with my three children yesterday. But first I had to clean off my kitchen counter. If your kitchen is anything like mine, it becomes the dumping ground for all things going on in your house and in your life.

My counters may be just a little bit different than the “normal household”. Before I could reach the sugar I had to push multiple jars to the side. The jar with the snake skin was first, and then came the jar with a mole skull, owl droppings, a butterfly wing, a Praying Mantis cocoon and a dead June bug. Not to mention the mold experiment, ant farm and seedlings growing in egg shells. These are lined up next to the home made compost (complete with earth worms), algae water from the pond and a jar of polliwogs.

It is the afternoon. We have finished our morning lessons, and my seven year old daughter just came out of her bedroom with a box on her head to complete the robot costume she constructed from paper towel tubes, yards of masking tape and tons of paint. She is in full armor and delightedly tells me exactly what the “motherboard” controls are used for. She informs me that there is even a button to rehydrate dried up clay. I ask her if it will work for dry, stale cereal also.

I’m cleaning up from lunch, look outside, and notice the beautiful pioneer hut that the kids constructed from tree limbs lost in a recent storm. They worked for hours last week finding just the right Y shaped branch to support the sides of the hut. When the hut finally collapsed they borrowed an old sheet, propped up the branches and made a tee-pee. As a final ode to creativity, the branches endured a final calling as homemade crutches.

My twelve year old has just completed an experiment on Magnification and even made his own magnifying glass out of a Ziploc baggie and water. Tae, my four year old is happily chatting away using cookie cutters with his play dough.

This past September we started our third year of home educating our children.
Home schooling was not our first choice and the details that led us down this amazing path are long and cumbersome. A child with learning disabilities, too many labels, a public school that didn’t understand him, four years of trying to get him services, state mediation, some chest pain, lots of crying (mine-not his), and ultimately……the best decision that we could ever make. We are a home schooling family and life is so good.
Deciding to home educate my children was probably the scariest thing I have ever attempted and also the most rewarding.

In public school, we were told that Patrick didn’t know how to write, could barely do Fourth grade math and “never completed his work.” Since we started home schooling, he has had two papers published on the Internet, is now at grade level in Math and has blown me away in working on his High school Biology even though he is in seventh grade. Home school allows us to move ahead when a concept is understood and spend extra time on areas that need more attention. There is no “cookie-cutter factory production” learning in Homeschool. It is child paced and child led and provides a wonderful foundation when moving on to harder skills.

Recently, a fellow adoptive mom who was considering home schooling her children called me and asked, “But how can you know everything to teach them?” The answer is we can’t and neither can public school or private school or any other educational venue. Years ago, finding information to help our children excel might have been difficult. But we are living in an age of technology that is readily available at our fingertips. The truth of the matter is I often don’t know something that my kids should be learning about. The greatest gift I’ve received this year is the gift of honesty. If no one knows the answer, we find it together. It’s a learning experience for all of us. At a time when I should be going back to school to earn my Master’s degree, I’ve somehow ended up back in Elementary school and it is awesome. I have been stuck many times teaching the kids, but it is knowing where to find your resources, be it other Homeschool moms, the internet, the local college, online support groups and yes, even the local school department, that helps to round out our day and make learning fun again.

This mom was also concerned about the “socialization issue.” It is the number one concern I hear from most people when questioning home school. Since we started home educating our children, I can honestly say that socializing is not an issue. I think it gives non-homeschoolers, those so used to the failing public school system way of thinking, something to talk about. Homeschoolers are seen as hermits never to socialize with anyone. If they only knew! The children can interact with people of all ages and not just their segregated age group as it would be in public school. My children are quite comfortable speaking with a 9 year and a 99 year old.

Patrick and Morgan are learning Sign Language, Soccer, Karate, Brownies, youth groups, science fairs, play dates with the Homeschool support group, church activities, Spanish lessons, music lessons, art classes, community service projects, play dates, Nursing home weekly visits, multicultural lectures and performances and a whole host of other activities. We have been on whale expeditions (where the kids were invited to steer the ship and talk with the marine biologist on board), we have visited fish hatcheries, birthed kittens, cared for goats, attended lectures at the Boston Museum of Science and learned of Rhode Island State history through various field trips. We have visited Planetariums, Aquariums and had our backyard certified as a Wildlife Habitat. They have made models of lungs, cell structures, and built scale models of Pyramids. Patrick and Morgan have taken part in classes in animal enrichment at the zoo, built electromagnets and visited a Geologist at a local college. Our kitchen has turned into a laboratory chock full of experiments, critters, hermit crabs and art work. My children learn by living life and absorbing it all in.

Patrick and Morgan have taught me patience and understanding but mostly they have taught me how to listen. To really listen to all that they need. They have taught me to accept their “disabilities” not as a hindrance but as a completely wonderful, insightful, dynamic attribute of learning.

Our lives have changed dramatically this year. We focus now on the gifts of the child and not the challenges. It is a life directed by our own desire for knowledge, of learning exactly what you are capable of and what you find challenging.

When we first started homeschooling, I was not confident in my own skills despite a college degree in Nursing. What made me think I could tackle this? What made me think that I could be totally responsible for my children’s education?

They do. Plain and simple, these three glorious children give me the confidence every single day to nourish them and provide an education that is meaningful and enriching. Patrick and Morgan have learned so much these past years. I have learned much more.

This week there was no formal schooling as we traveled to Connecticut for my mother- in- laws funeral. The kids stayed home with a friend of mine and I spoke to them frequently. They kept me grounded as we attended the funeral and wake. While they didn’t have book work this week my kids learned a tremendous amount about life and death. They saw their parents cry, they saw us comfort one another and they saw us grieve. They knew it was ok, that it was part of the process of loving and letting go. We had lots of hugs from them and comforted them when we returned home. Losing a grandma is never easy. These aren’t lessons that we could ever teach them. They are life experiences that must be learned, no matter how difficult to bear. It too, is a part of homeschooling.

Is home schooling for everyone? Of course not. But for those whose children do not and will not fit the public school norm, for those struggling within the system, for those who want to expand their horizons and bring their family closer, it is an amazing journey of hope. Homeschooling is “a different kind of normal.”


Monday, October 6, 2008

PeaceJam's Global Call to Action

PeaceJam , Penguin Young Readers Group , and the Pearson Foundation have announced a new initiative, the PeaceJam Global Call to Action Challenge. The challenge offers young activists everywhere the chance to work directly with a Nobel Laureate in their own school. The Global Call to Action Challenge is an extension of the newly-published Penguin Young Readers book, "PeaceJam: A Billion Simple Acts of Peace." Through PeaceJam's Global Call to Action, Nobel Laureates such as the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Rigoberta Menchu Tum are asking young people around the world to commit themselves to creating a billion community-serving projects in the next decade.

About Peace Jam:
Ten leading Nobel Peace Laureates (The Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Oscar Arias, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Prime Minister José-Ramos Horta, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Máiread Corrigan Maguire, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, and Betty Williams) launched the PeaceJam Foundations Global Call to Action with the youth of the world on September 15th, 2006 as a part of PeaceJam's 10th Anniversary Celebration. This is a decade-long, worldwide campaign, and we invite all of the people of the world to join this global effort.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Reverse Trick or Treat - A Fair Trade Halloween

A neat Fair Trade effort -- combined with Trick or Treat for UNICEF and you've got a great community service project!

This Year it's Time to Reverse Trick-or-Treat!

On Halloween night, young people across the US and Canada will unite to:

END poverty among cocoa farmers

END abusive child labor in the cocoa industry

PROMOTE Fair Trade

PROTECT the environment

by giving Fair Trade chocolate back to adults…while Trick-or-Treating door-to-door in their communities on Halloween! Each piece of chocolate bears a card with information about social and environmental justice issues in the cocoa industry and how buying Fair Trade certified chocolate provides a solution. Parents of last year's youngest participants raved about how Reverse Trick-or-Treating transforms Halloween into a meaningful event when youth activists give back to their neighbors and to cocoa growing communities.

This year Americans for Informed Democracy is partnering with Global Exchange and others to increase our impact! Join us, and together, we will reach nearly a quarter million households this year!

Costumes optional…having fun while making a difference guaranteed!

Reverse Trick-or-Treating kits are FREE

Thanks to the generous donations of Fair Trade chocolate companies

Equal Exchange, Alter Eco, Theo Chocolates, and La Siembra (in Canada).

Participate as an individual or organize your classroom, school, congregation, youth group or social justice organization to participate by distributing multiple kits to participants!


Groups (schools, congregations, youth groups, etc): October 1

Individuals: October 13

Order yours TODAY! Last year, we ran out before the deadline, so hurry!

Visit for more information!

Willing to volunteer to be trailed by a print, radio, or television reporter while Reverse Trick-or-Treating? Send an email to or, with "RTT media volunteer" in the subject line.

Receive a very special prize! Post a photo or video of Reverse Trick-or-Treating at and Then, email with your mailing address to let us know you did so by November 15! Our favorite 50 postings will receive a limited edition lapel pin designed by renowned artist Shepard Fairey's Studio Number One, thanks to the partnership between Global Exchange and Battle in Seattle (, the feature film about the 1999 WTO Seattle protests…in theatres NOW!

Reverse Trick-or-Treating is an initiative of Global Exchange and is a collaborative effort of countless children, youth, and adults supported by nonprofit organizations including Americans for Informed Democracy, Green America (formerly Coop America), International Labor Rights Forum, Slow Food, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, United Students for Fair Trade, and many others.

Please forward this email broadly! The more the merrier! Let's spread the Fair Trade love!


Sarah Frazer
Global Development Campaign Coordinator/CARE Fellow
Americans for Informed Democracy
701 Cathedral Street, Suite L3
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: 410-962-8773
Fax: 410-962-8771

Awareness. Advocacy. Action.
Leaders of tomorrow creating change today.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I have two homes. I'm not wealthy but my second home is filled with people that work very hard every day. They receive no pay and keep coming back for more. My second home caters to my every need, the people inside provided meals this summer, cared for my children and are my kids "other teachers" when I am not homeschooling. It is my church-Westminster Unitarian in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.

My husband and I found this little sanctuary going on three years ago. We made our first visit just as the new minister was settling in and unpacking her boxes. She pushed some boxes aside, reached for some toys for the kids to play with and she listened to our religious experiences and why we were now coming back to a church after a lifetime of not feeling like we fit in anywhere.

Rev. Barbara gave us the tour of the church and the sanctuary. The buildings are separated by a patch of lawn but joined in much love. The sanctuary reminds me of Noah's Ark. It sits on a large hill and when you approach it from the main road the Ark magically arises out of the rock. It is surrounded by a dry moat and huge boulders that are covered with seafoam-green lichen and the brick sidewalk that leads to the door is in a pattern to mimic waves. Inside the sanctuary, when it is very quiet, you can hear the leaves rustle outside and the rain spattering on the roof. The glass windows overlook the rock cliffs where it is thought Native Americans often had signal fires. It is one of the highest places in East Greenwich. Holy Ground perhaps. There is a magnetic energy to these rocks and many of us go there to meditate.

The church building has been well loved-I think it is mostly held together by love and a glue stick. The building has been patched and loved many times, much like my son's stuffed rabbit that provides him safety and comfort regardless of outward appearances. Plans are underway to someday build a new church building so that we can continue the wonderful work of so many hands at Westminster. That building will be filled with love too.
My children thrive here. Our family thrives here. Our hands are busy here and the work fills our hearts. Sunday RE classes are truly a part of our homeschooling. It is difficult at times for us to find curriculum that fits in with our UU beliefs. Recently, we started our own homeschooling group that is welcome to everyone. I wasn't sure how it was going to work with so many different homeschooling philosophies and religious beliefs. Amazingly, it's been great and has provided yet another sanctuary for us. The kids have all made new friends, I've met some great parents and we have newcomers attend almost every week. It has really provided an opportunity for our family to live our UU values. We welcome everyone, provide support to the new homeschoolers, do service projects and learn how to learn together.
As I sit in my office/classroom this morning, I am surrounded by things that remind me of my UU faith. Things that keep me inspired. There is a chalice on our work table, Tibetan prayer flags, a copy of our UU principles, a picture of the church sanctuary, my meditation CD, photos of my family, some Emerson writing as well as poetry that speaks to me, a crocheted cross that was my mom's, a birdnest, and a copy of the hymn-"A Prayer for This House". They are all things that surround me with love much like my spiritual home does. Maybe that's the key-to keep those things, places and people that mean the most to you, very close to your heart.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

UU Tube

I don't know how I've missed this one!

UU Planet TV

On UU PLANET TV you can find the best UU videos and television the web has to offer.

What a treat!



Welcome to the UU Homeschoolers Blog!

We've got so much to say and so much to think about, that we wanted more room to speak and think about it all!

UU Homeschoolers with over 1000 members, continues to grow steadily. Our members are thoughtful, compassionate, curious, funny, insightful and provocative. Some of them are Ministers and Religious Education Directors. Some of them aren't even UU -- Unitarian Universalist. But all of us can get behind the idea of a:

"UU principles centered-philosophy that we will always respect and honor one another, encourage and help one another,join our strengths to create a more just and open minded educational community and build a supportive online community that brings us camaraderie and opens our hearts and our minds in ways we hope our children's hearts and minds will always be open."

Now more than ever, we need open hearts and minds. Our new home on the blogosphere will strive to continue the spiritually uplifting culture of peace, compassion and community that we've created online for so many people for the last 7 years.

So come on in and consider the world with us. It's an amazing place to live and learn!

UU Planet TV Blog