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Another Good Reason to Unschool…

Just read this and you’ll understand why my kids don’t go to public school anymore!


Frugal and Green Tip of the Day – Lose Your Antibacterial Everything!

What? What do you mean lose your antibacterial everything? But bacteria is gross…

Well, some bacteria is gross – but not really.

Look, I used to be of the mindset that if it wasn’t sprayed with bleach it simply wasn’t clean. When I had my first child 15 years ago, I bought antibacterial hand soap dispensers at every sink in my house and my parents house.

But after doing a little reading, I realized that those little bugs are what keep us from getting worse bugs – superbugs if you will. For example, when my daughter was severely mauled by a dog at the age of 3, she required IV antibiotics. The doctors were shocked by how quickly she responded to their use. “It’s almost like she’s never had antibiotics before,” they said. “She hasn’t,” was my reply. Antibiotics are powerful – if we use them for every little thing, they make us more resistant to them – and as evidenced by my daughter’s injuries, I want them to work well when they are needed! Nothing convinced me more about laying off antibiotics use than that hideous experience. And in my research I discovered that other antibacterial – and antimicrobial products with triclosan – are also doing more harm than good.

According to the New York Times: “Some recent laboratory studies suggest that antibacterial products containing triclosan may not be the best way to stay clean. Instead of wiping out bacteria randomly, the way regular soap or alcohol-based products do, triclosan may inhibit the growth of bacteria in a way that leaves a larger proportion of resistant bacteria behind.” They recommend instead “basic hygiene — washing hands or using alcohol-based sanitizers, keeping scrapes covered until healed and refraining from sharing personal items like towels and cosmetics.”

Besides – all of that triclosan stuff is wicked expensive…you’ll be frugal and green and healthier if you just buy regular soap – and wash often!

Frugal and Green Tip of the Day – Cloth Diapers, not just for a baby’s butt…

Although that’s the first thing I’m going to suggest you do with it – put a cloth diaper on your baby or toddler’s butt. As you can see from this post, there are many reasons to do that. Not the least of which is that potty training is easier!

You can also use a cloth diaper…

…as a cleaning rag. They don’t leave streaks and are great for polishing furniture (not that I really ever do this).

…in place of a paper towel – they are superabsorbant, after all.

…as a baby spit-up cloth.

…as a breast pad when nursing – just cut them into little squares or circles.

…in a first aid kit. They are great for stopping blood, padding splints, or rolling up behind someone’s head.

…for craft projects – they are great organic batting. I have a great kneepad for the garden made with a few cloth diapers sewn inside some pretty, waterproof fabric.

…as dishtowels.

…as a pad under a baby’s butt in the bath.

That’s just a few…have another idea? Let us know!

Unschooling Your Teenager

Warning: This is not an instruction manual as to how to unschool your teen.

I get a lot of questions about “how” I homeschool (which is the preferred method of thought about what we do) my oldest son, Matt, who is 15. I also unschool my almost 3 year old and 9 year old and my 11 year old will be coming home from public school soon. The newborn isn’t really ready for anything but looking at my chest just yet…although she’s getting there. And my 14 year old daughter prefers high school. Not sure why, but I don’t push it!

Matt has been in and out of school for most of his life. I always give my children the option to go or stay at the beginning of the year – and depending on what the school has planned for the year – or what they want to accomplish, they choose accordingly. This year, Matt has decided to leave high school for good – after giving 10th grade a month. He was fed up with the micromanaging and has decided instead to study philosophy, religions, politics and music. He also plays goalie for the school’s varsity soccer team. He writes songs, started a band and recently shocked the hell out of me by playing the piano by ear, something he’s never done before.

He does all this by himself.

I say this because I often hear from my friends that they can’t imagine how difficult it must be to have all of these kids at home, with a newborn, a farm to run and a writing career of my own to keep up with. But it’s not. I don’t have “school” at home. I do not ring a bell in the morning and drag all the kids down to the dining room table and then “teach” them for hours. If I wanted their lives to be like that, I would send them to school.

Instead, I usually spend my morning working on writing projects in the winter and farm projects when the weather is nice (and nursing) and helping Liam (the 9 year old) with his math or whatever research project he is working on at the time (Liam likes to research things). I do projects with Liam and Jack (almost 3) like knitting or spinning or music or housework.

Sometimes we go on “field trips.” Or we run errands. Matt usually helps me out with moving sheep or yard work (although he won’t be caught dead in the garden).

And Matt does his thing. Sometimes I suggest books or activities. But not often. He is his own person now. He is in charge of his own life. Now, that’s not to say that he’s completely independent. He still needs rides to practice and to his friends houses. He still asks permission to get on the internet or go out. And he’s still responsible for mowing the lawn once a week, washing the dishes after dinner, stacking firewood and babysitting his younger brothers once in a while – after all, he does live here and we all have to do some work just to make this large community of ours run.

But when it comes to how he spends his day, I only have two rules. Between the hours of 7 am and 4 pm, no one is allowed to watch movies (unless it’s a sanctioned documentary) or play video games (we do have a video game system that comes out on weekends or when friends are over). Other than that, do what you will. He can play his guitar all day if he wants. Or he can read. Or he can run five miles. Or he can debate politics on a couple of geeky websites he likes. I honestly don’t care.

And I’ll tell you something else. Matt has always been a kind, generous person. While he’s not always nice to his younger sister (who is 14 and not always very nice to him), he is good-natured and very patient with his youngest brother (who is not yet 3) and his newborn sister. He even helps his younger brothers quite often – although not always and not always nicely!

He has become much more “human” since leaving school. He is funny, thoughtful, respectful (most of the time) and much nicer to be around than when he was in school.

I think that once kids are shown respect by being allowed to direct their own lives, they stop being on the defensive all the time and realize that the world isn’t always “out to get them,” with extreme discipline and overreactions. But that’s just my little old opinion.

What Matt has learned, I think, is that what he thinks matters. And what he wants to do matter, whether it’s socially acceptable or not.

A New Blog…

I get a lot of parenting questions and have a lot of thoughts just on parenting issues…so I created a new blog as a forum for that – http://zenmomma.wordpress.com

The first post is a just for fun essay called, “Yes, They Are All Mine,” about the looks I get when I travel with my six children.

This is a work in progress – I hope you enjoy it!


Hope you enjoy it.

Deaths Associated With HPV Vaccine…

I am not a huge fan of vaccination, and have waffled on it for many years. However, when I saw the news about the HPV vaccine, my grizzly mama instincts shot up…particularly when I saw how vehemently the TV docs were pushing it. And then I was confronted with the issue in person when my 14 year old daughter went in for her sports physical. Did I want her to receive the vaccine?

I was unsure. I hadn’t done a lot of research yet, but something just didn’t feel right about it.  I do however, suffer from goodpatientitis. I always want to be a good patient. I want my children’s doctor to like me. So, I usually cave when he pushes something (to be fair, he doesn’t push a lot, and he’s a very good pediatrician – supports co-sleeping, breastfeeding, etc…). But he’s very pro-vaccine and the Gardasil was no exception. But I stuck to my guns and told him I’d like to research it more before I subjected my daughter to it. I may not be a “good patient” anymore, but I feel like I am protecting my daughter once more from the forces in the corporate world that will have her believe that it’s better to take a pill or a shot than protect herself through behavior or other natural methods.

Please read this: http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2007/sep/07092004.html

And check out Mothering Magazine’s vaccination articles to learn more.

Needless to say, so far, I’m glad I’ve avoided consenting on that vaccine. One just has to remember the  “morning sickness pill”  – also FDA approved!