Monday, February 1, 2016

We Really Want Weird Kids; Or, Why We have Decided to Home School


We are homeschooling at the Hepworth house, and I figured today was as good a day as any to talk about it on the blog.

I have had some experience with both home school and public school in my own life. I was home-schooled until the middle of 2nd grade. I was reading at 4 and writing little stories and hiding them under my bed at 5. Homeschooling definitely gave me a superior leg up in the realm of learning. Though, I hated to see my next door neighbor friend, Kristin, go off to school while I stayed home. I begged and begged and begged my mom to let me go to school with my friend, and so she enrolled me. I thrived in public school classrooms, and kept on thriving on that education through college to my graduation. Today my thirst for knowledge and learning continues on, in all sorts of interesting, different ways. Socially though, public education brought tears. Oh, so many tears. More tears throughout the process than tears shed asking my mom to let me go, for sure. Bullying, alienation, loneliness, and dealing with being the outsider of cliques were all mine with public schooling. A handful of dear friendships were mine by the end of high school. And, I had the opportunity to serve as my high school drum major for three years, and to serve in student council my Senior year. Overall a mix of both positive and negative experiences. I’m not sure if some aspects would have been better or worse if I had been home schooled as I don’t have a time machine. Essentially - I don’t long for anything other than what I had, but I don’t feel an obligation to recreate it for my children, either. 

Several years ago, though, I watched this TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson on the question, “Do schools kill creativity?” before I had conceived any of my own children. 

The message that they do, rang true, and I made place for it within myself. While I find comfort living “in my head” as a more academic-type myself, I respected the idea that perhaps not all my children would be like me. Ken’s message was influential in opening my mind to the educational possibilities I would want to offer to my future children, and some of the limitations of public schooling in that regard.

Several years later, reading this book certainly put a stain on the idea of public schooling in my mind, for my children, as well. (If Common Core has been of interest to you, I recommend you take a look at this book. The issue is so much bigger than this one policy!)

About two years ago, I started to seriously consider Lincoln’s schooling. The thought of sending him off to school all day did not sit well with me. So I prayed about it. I studied education in the scriptures. I thought about it some more. I started some research on educational methods. I listened to mom friends talk at play groups and story time about their children’s experiences in public, charter and private schools. I read blog posts from home school moms. All things considered, I told God I felt best about home schooling. I felt His approval of my choice with a confirming warmth in my heart. And that’s how I got to my decision, today! 

Currently, I home school Lincoln (almost 5) and Atley (3) for a couple of hours, two or three times a week more formally. The rest of the time is unstructured play time around, here. Knowing that I am my children's main educator has encouraged me to make every experience an opportunity to learn and explore and I find teaching moments come up all the time in every place and moment imaginable.

I asked Squire when he came home from work tonight why he thinks we are homeschooling, without letting him see any of my blog post, here. I thought it might be interesting to document  how we each view the issue.

We are homeschooling (according to Squire):
  • For our kids to spend more time with their mother.
  • Our kids will enjoy learning more than at public school.
  • To avoid indoctrination by increasingly liberal teachers and the government’s influence.
  • To have that self-sufficiency if it becomes necessary.
  • To teach with a Latter-Day Saint Christian influence in all of the teachings.
  • To avoid the influences that hundreds of teenage kids around each other brings (drugs, sex, swearing, etc.)
  • No danger of children being shot at school with the increasing number of school shootings.
  • It is good for Jami, too – continuing to learn and be with the kids.

We are homeschooling (according to me) because:

  • Our children will receive an education that is in line with my beliefs, values, and research about education and learning. Answers to the questions, “What is education?” “What is the purpose of education?” “What is a good, quality education?” “What constitutes educational success?” “What is worth learning and studying?” are ones I have pondered for years, now. And our children’s education will be tailor-fit to my answers to those very questions. Therefore, they will receive a higher quality education.
  • I can tailor our children’s education to their individual personalities, learning-styles, gifts and passions.
  •  I want our children to learn proficiency in skills not being taught in public school (homesteading, handicrafts, gardening, cooking, building, sewing), many of which require them being able to spend much more time outside.
  • I want our family to spend as much time together as possible. Childhood only lasts so long and I won’t miss a beat of it. My children won’t miss time spent with each other, either.
  • I love the flexibility. Schooling can take place any time, any where in the world, and can be as involved, or long or short as we need it to be each day.
  • Our kids’ education will not be stunted by learning in a large group. It will be tailored to their skill-level. They certainly won’t have wasted a quarter of their life on busy work.
  • I don’t want to waste days of my life driving our kids to and from school everyday, or be beholden to whatever assignments they are given to complete within our precious remaining hours of the day.
  • I look forward to the challenge of developing teaching skills as well as furthering my own educational/learning pursuits as I work with our children on theirs.
  • By rejecting participation in public education, we are claiming freedom in a substantial way – with all the responsibilities and benefits that go with it.
  • Most importantly - I felt led to this route of education for my children. And if God tells me in the future to change course for our children’s education, I’d be willing to do that, too.

Whenever it comes up that we are homeschooling our kids, I get a lot of common responses. I consider them straw-man anti-home school arguments/comments. I’ll just address the top three today, because I can:
·         “I knew a home-schooled kid once. They were weird. Like, really, really weird.”

o   Great. What does that have to do with my children? Are you saying they are (or are going to be) weird (from spending too much time with me?!) I don’t care if you ever were to are say that, by the way. I just like to act offended to make others uncomfortable from time to time. What is bad about being “weird?” What constitutes weird? And how was that home-schooled kid weird, specifically? Most of the home-schooled kids I have met are definitely different, but I find it is usually in really delightful ways – they are happy, curious, respectful, engaged, polite, driven, intelligent, able to look me in the eye and hold a real conversation . . .

·         “What about socialization?”

o   This is the most easily and widely debunked straw man against homeschooling. But let’s go there for one paragraph I suppose. For those who ask this question - Do you send your children to public school to socialize or to get an education, anyways? If to be socialized, then, is their social experience in public education adequate? And by the way, how do you feel about socialism? I abhor it by-and-large, and that seems to be the product by-and-large of public education (which isn’t really Constitutional by the way . . .) The discomfort and often disdain people express when you inform them of an out-of-the-mainstream choice (like homeschooling) is real, people! Why? Well, a large part of public education is about conforming to the needs of the group. In school we learn to raise our hand and wait to answer until we are called on, get in line, sit quietly in our chairs, accept the food at the school lunch counter, and finish our worksheets and tests in time with our peers. Homeschooling presents something so varied and eclectic in approach, philosophy, and actual application it is no wonder why discomfort and rejection is the knee-jerk reaction of so many to it. I believe that society would be improved if we all could get along, not only with peers our own age, but if we felt comfortable and confident interacting with people from every age group, belief system and background on the spectrum. Homeschooling for many, presents more, not fewer, opportunities to do just that! Is there value in peer relationships, too? Sure! Especially when it comes time to form a family, knowing how to get along with others within our age group is crucial. Happily, the research on home-schoolers' outcomes show no deficiency in that area. I believe that socializing is more effectively and efficiently done outside the walls of a traditional public classroom setting. I also believe society would be improved if we were all a little less focused on acquiescing to group think, and more focused on meaningfully developing our own individual potential and seeking Truth. Imagine the dynamic, real conversations we could have with each other then!

·         “I could never do the routine, the structure. I don’t have the patience. I don’t have a good space for it. I am not qualified to do the teaching, etc. . .”

o     I’m not making an argument for anyone to choose homeschooling, here. Whether that is something within your realm of possibility or even something you want to pursue is totally up to you. I just hear a lot of comments like this and I want to answer with something of an informative rebuttal – homeschooling looks really different for a lot of people. It is anything but a one size fits all approach to education (like public schooling so often is!) Homeschooling a couple of your own children is totally different than being an educator of a large classroom of other people’s children - each necessitating totally different skills, approaches, and things to juggle, one a degree in education, the other not so much. Homeschooling can and often does involve other educators, mentors, or groups of kids in co-ops. The location can be at the dinner table, a dedicated school room, out in the community, the backyard, or even traveling the world. Some people choose homeschooling because they want absolutely nothing to do with the routine, testing and structure of traditional schooling. Ever heard of unschooling? The truth is, whatever you brand as “homeschooling” there are whole swaths of home-schoolers overcoming those obstacles in all sorts of creative ways. Something I’ve learned, is that owning our choices instead of using excuses for them in our language, is the first step to finding out if obstacles are worth fighting to overcome. I personally reject phrases that start with “I can’t” or “I could never,” not because real challenges don’t exist in mortality that limit our ability to make all the choices we would like to make, but because --- Who am I (or you!) to place limits on what a person can or can’t accomplish?!

Ultimately, I don’t really care, nor is it my stewardship to decide what people choose when it comes to their children’s education. My hope for a better world, would be that whatever we do choose, is carefully, honestly, and prayerfully considered.  

Conforming for the sake of conforming, is a really lame excuse to be turning out a whole lot like every one else. Not conforming for the sake of not conforming, is also just as lame a reason to stand out. The key in all of this, is to discover what we want to achieve and why we want to achieve it. If we honestly assess our personal circumstances in light of those two answers, the how will become more clear. 

If you are wanting to explore the homeschooling route, I will gladly share the resources I have found in a future blog post. 

The important first step for any parent on this path, is finding out what you think about education. This site has a great quiz that can help you answer the question, “What kind of homeschooler are you?
Here are my results:

I hope you’ll share your results and thoughts with me in the comments section!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

"Life Sucks, and Then You Die."


Whenever I feel down, I recall the wise words of my mother, “Life sucks, and then you die.” And then I laugh. Partially because it’s kind of absurd, but more so because there’s some real truth in there.

Life can be so hard sometimes, not only because of external circumstances which come our way, but also because of the spiritual, emotional, hormonal and psychological struggles from within. 

Lately I’ve been dealing with a little bit of both. Forces from without, forces from within – and I’m tired. Really . . . tired. Unmotivated. Drained. Lacking.

But, it’s supposed to be that way, right?! (Difficult.) What kind of a testing ground would life be if it was easy? What kind of physical – or spiritual – strength could we develop without facing resistance?! 

Flat words to hear while in the depths of a struggle sometimes, though. Not untrue, or unrobust, just flat-feeling for the deflated heart and mind.

I thought I might share a few of the things that are keeping me going right now. Things that have given me lift, and I hope won’t feel flat to you either. (Maybe, if you feel so inclined, you can share the things that have given you lift, too, and we can rise a little bit more together?)

Ironically, my mom’s advice actually ties in to something I recently found in the scriptures that have given me a whole lot to ponder and implement.

I’ve been praying to find answers to my lack of joy and God recently directed me to the words of Paul to the Philippians (Philippians 2:1-8). I'm going to write these out as I understood them as I read them to myself:

Feel free to download and print this for your personal *not commercial* use, Here.
"If there be therefore any consolation in Christ,

Basically, if you want all you’re trying to do be worth it to you, if you are to find any of the encouragement, comfort, fruits of the gospel that are promised to Christ’s disciples:

if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,

(i.e. Love, really feeling the love God has for me, and the feeling of love for others, the companionship of the Spirit which can teach and show me all things that I should do, Bowels meaning “tender affections of the heart and compassion,” and Mercies – obtaining mercy or forgiveness for my own sins, forgiveness and compassion in my heart for others, and the ability to see the tender mercies God already blesses me with all the time . . .)

Fulfil ye my joy,

Make important to you, the things that are important to God. Make His joy, YOUR joy. A very important rhetorical question for myself and all: Is His joy MY joy?

that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

Build Zion. Become a person fit for Zion. More unity and peace with yourself, your family, your faith family, your neighborhood, your community . . . Your cause will become great because it is mine.

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory;

A key to this working and to finding the great promised fruits is our attitude. Don’t serve half-heartedly, while murmuring, complaining about how hard it is, OR with self-deception - as a martyr or to bring glory to yourself.

but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Be humble. Be meek. Have compassion for others’ concerns. Give freely of your time, your heart and mind.

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Concern yourself not with what your own struggles, but with the struggles and heartaches of others. Look to support them in their trial.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Let the goals, heart and mind of Christ become your own.

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

Christ taught and showed us how to be perfect like God and to strive for this.

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant,

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, wrote: “In heaven, Christ’s lofty name was determined to be the only name on earth offering salvation to all mankind (see Acts 4:12; 2 Nephi 25:20; see also Abraham 3:27), yet the King of kings, the Mortal Messiah, willingly lived modestly, wrote Paul, even as a person ‘of no reputation’ (Philippians 2:7)” (Men and Women of Christ [1991], 63–64). (Source.)

Surely if the Savior of the world and all creation could do this, I can see myself more comfortably and properly as a servant of my fellow beings as well?

and was made in the likeness of men:

Christ knows what mortality is like. He took on himself all that that comes with it.

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death,


even the death of the cross."

A symbol of the giving up our lives to find them. A symbol of death for others that brought life - Eternal life and all the joy and glory of God with it.

Or in other words:

Life sucks – mortality is hard (*Wah wah wah!*) Living for ourselves is a drain. Self-preservation leaves us feeling empty.

And then you die. – Our joy only begins when we whole-heartedly give up our own ego and concerns (without any self-deception) in the service of others.                                                                                                                                                                                

This is a teaching of Christ’s that goes in direct opposition to the philosophies of the world (a.k.a. Satan, the father of lies’ philosophy . . .) The philosophy which hangs on phrases like, “You deserve it.” “Do it for yourself.” “Just take care of yourself.” “You need ME time.” “Be true to you.” “Only do it (usually service of some kind) if YOU want to.” “Find your authentic self.” “Be your own best friend.” These are the lies which our society has largely bought (often literally with our commercially-obsessed culture) . .  and which I am anticipating will make their way to the comments section of this blog post. These though, are NOT the words of Christ. 

Jesus Christ was everything but self-serving! His identity was so mixed up with God’s as His literal Son, and because of His sinless life and because of His perfect submission to God’s will that He and Heavenly Father are so one, so united in their purpose, that massive debates still rage about whether they are the same or separate beings. I’ve got opinions on that, obviously, but a doctrinal debate isn’t the point of this post. It is the principle. The principle of acquiring the countenance and mind of God and becoming a true disciple of Christ with which I am concerned in this post. 

The words of Christ are true. I know they are. I have proved them before and I can implement them again.

I just realized, too often, these days especially, I’ve been throwing a pity party for my ego alongside it’s funeral and that just doesn’t work! I can pretend it works, but I won't get the joyful fruits if I don't do it God's way.

No more pity parties. Just acceptance. Just submission. Glorious submission to God’s will. That is the answer. That is where joy and peace are found. With Christ holding my hand, and His Spirit speaking to my heart, and my willing ear and feet and hands to do His work, I will get there – each moment of each messy, glorious struggle of each completely ordinary day.

Talk to me. What words of the gospel have helped you find joy and strength in your mortal sojourn? What have you done, or has God shown to you, that helps you submit your will to His?

Monday, December 21, 2015

FANTASTIC Holiday Meal Plan! (You're Welcome.)


My mom is one seriously gifted party-thrower and hostess and her food is just out of this world! So guess who I called first when it was time for me to make dinner for 40+ people for our residency applicant dinner thing? Yep. Mama. Because Mama knows best. Well, I hosted that dinner last night and everyone raved about the food and requested recipes, hence this handy dandy blog post.

Perhaps YOU are you sitting around thinking, WHAT AM I GOING TO MAKE FOR CHRISTMAS EVE and/or CHRISTMAS DINNER (OR fill in the blank with whatever fancy/important meal thing you will be hosting)?!?!?! Put those worries to bed. Make this and everyone who is graced to sit at your table will go to bed very, very satisfied - including yourself.

Meal Plan:

Tri-tip (1/3lb. per person)
Mandarin Orange Salad
Roasted Red Potatoes (1/4lb. per person)
French peasant bread
Quinoa apple Freekah Salad
Red Grapes
Artichoke dip w/ veggies and pita chips
OR
Cheeseball with crackers
Peppermint Ice Cream Cake
Bottled Water

**Hostess (Mom) Tip #1: Everything that can be done early should! (For example, washing and cutting grapes, cutting up the romaine salad and storing in gallon ziplocs with a paper towel, making salad dressing and candied almonds, cheeseball, quinoa salad, artichoke dip layered and sprinkled with cheese)
**Hostess (Mom) Tip #2: Make a master plan on paper for the day of the meal. Plan out exactly when you will put what foods into the oven and when so that you don’t have to waste energy worrying about what to do next. For example, 3 hours before the meal, start to make the bread. For example, here is an abreviated version of the plan I used to have dinner ready by 6pm. I outsourced the potato roasting, quinoa salad and grape washing and cutting to friends, whose fridge and oven space was much appreciated in preparing this meal. If you only have one oven like I do, and you are doing all the cooking, probably the potatoes should go in after the meat, so the bread is the freshest out of the oven.:

3:00pm – Make Peasant Bread
4:15pm – Preheat oven to 350*F
-          Pull out meat from fridge to warm to room temp.
4:30pm – Form Peasant Bread into loaves
-          Wash all the dishes
4:40pm – Put meat in oven
5:25pm – Check meat (155*F – 160*F)
-          Take out and let rest for 15 min.
-          Turn up oven to 425*F
-          Pull out artichoke dip to warm to room temp.
5:30pm – Brush bread with melted butter and put in oven.
-          Bake for 10min. at 425*F
-          Put artichoke dip in with bread.
5:40pm – Turn down heat and bake for 15min. @ 375*F
-          Meat can be cut up into thin slices. Covered back up with foil in own juices.
5:55pm – Pull out bread and brush with butter
6:00pm – Slice up the bread loaves and put on table
-          Time to eat!!
6:25pm - Water bath the fudge jars on low
7:15pm – Take out Dessert
7:25pm - Cut up and serve the ice cream cake

**Hostess (Sister) Tip #3: Put all the master plan stuff in your phone as alarms so your phone can remind you of what to do next as you go along! :

Mom’s Famous Tri-tip

Ingredients:
Tri-tip (I got my meat from Costco)
Montreal Steak Seasoning
Chili Powder

Mix 1 part Montreal Steak Seasoning to just under a ½ cup chili powder. Rub all over the trip tip so it is well coated. Discard any extra. Put rubbed meat into a 9x13 glass casserole dish and cover with foil at least overnight.

The next day, pull out the meat from the fridge 30 min. before cooking. Preheat oven to 350*F. Back for about 45 min. or until the meat is between 155*F-160*F (check with meat thermometer through the foil.) When up to temp, pull out the meat. ***VERY IMPORTANT: DO NOT take the foil off the casserole dish yet! Let the meat rest, covered, for 15min. until slicing up in thin slices. Put back in dish with own juices and serve. This meat freezes well once cooked, too. Just make sure you have some of the juice in the bag with it.

Mandarin Orange Salad

Salad Ingredients:

2 heads of romaine washed and chopped
1 small can of mandarin oranges (in own juice) drained
1 ripe pear, diced
1/3 cup craisins
1 ripe avocado, diced
½ bunch of green onion, chopped small
½ candied almonds
Feta cheese (optional, but delicious – amount to taste)
Homemade Sweet Vinaigrette Dressing (to taste – a little goes a long way. Don’t use a full recipe of dressing for the salad. Less is more for oil based dressings.)

Right before eating, toss all the ingredients together and serve.

Sweet Vinaigrette Dressing:

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 TBL. raw apple cider vinegar
2 TBL. sugar
1 TBL. chopped Italian Parsley (optional, but delicious)
½ tsp. sea salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Dash of Tobasco sauce

Mix all the ingredients together. They will separate, so make sure to shake it up each time you use it. Can be refrigerated to keep longer, but know that the oil will harden, so make sure to pull it out 10 min. before you need it if it has been refrigerated for a while.

Candied almonds

¼ cup sugar
½ cup almonds (sliced or slivered)

Melt sugar in skillet over a medium heat until melted to a light brown liquid. Quickly stir in almond slices. Stir until incorporated and move to a ceramic or glass plate to cool. Then break apart and toss with the salad.  

Roasted Red Potatoes

3lbs. red potatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

Adjust rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450*F. Toss potatoes with oil, salt and pepper. Arrange cut side down on a large lipped cookie sheet or 9x13 pan.
Roast until tender and golden brown, about 30 min. (check after 20 min.) Transfer to a serving dish.
**VERY IMPORTANT: JUST SAY NO TO FOIL!! I repeat - DO NOT COVER WITH FOIL!! If you do, you will steam the potatoes and lose the yummy crispy outer texture and soft potato insides and get soggy potatoes instead.


(No-Knead) French Peasant Bread

1 package dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1 TBL. sugar
2 tsp. salt
4 cups all-purpose flour (unbleached, unbromated)
Oil
Corn meal
Melted butter

Place yeast, water, sugar and salt in a bowl and stir until dissolved. Add flour and stir until blended. Do not knead. Cover and let rise one – one and a half hours or until doubled in size. Flour hands. Remove dough from bowl and cut into two pieces. Form into rounds and place on an oiled cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. (If using a baking mat, you don’t need the oil, but you will still want some cornmeal.) Cover and let rise an additional hour. Preheat oven to 425*F. Brush with melted butter and bake for 10 min. at 425*F. Turn down the heat to 375*F and bake for another 15min. or until golden brown on top of loaves. Remove from oven, and brush again with butter. Serve warm.

**IMPORTANT: The double butter brushing is what gives this bread a fantastic flaky crust. Don’t skimp on this important step!**

Mom’s Cheese ball Recipe

2 packages Philadelphia cream cheese (original, full fat)
Tillamok Medium Cheddar Cheese, sliced thin and then diced into little squares
½ package of Ham (I like Applegate uncured black forest ham), diced into squares
1 bunch of green onion, chopped

Mix the cheese, ham and green onion with cream cheese until incorporated. Do this step with ziploc bags on your hands. Form into a ball. Serve with your favorite crackers and/or sliced cucumber.

Peppermint Ice Cream Cake

½ gallon of Dreyer’s Peppermint Ice cream
1 tub of cool whip
1 standard package of Oreo’s
½ stick butter
1 jar of Mrs.Richardson’s Hot Fudge

**VERY IMPORTANT: At least one day before serving, prepare the cake!** Pull out ice cream and cool whip soften a bit. Crush up package of Oreos, and stir in melted butter until incorporated. Press into the bottom of a 9x13 pan. In a large bowl, mix ice cream and cool whip together until incorporated. Layer and smooth out over the Oreo crust. Cover with foil and freeze overnight. 30 min. or so before serving, warm the fudge in a water bath on the stove top until warm and easy to stir. Pull cake out 10 min. before serving. Cut up into 15 pieces. Serve with scoop of warm hot fudge on top.

Other Sides to compliment the meal:

-Costco’s Spinach artichoke dip. Just layer in an oven-safe dish, sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and warm up @350*F until cheese is melted and the dip is warmed through. Serve with Sourdough or pita crisps, and a veggie tray. Do this or the cheese ball - or both. Unless you have objections to creamy cheesy goodness. In that case, I can't help you.
- Red grapes, washed and cut into bunches.
- Costco’s Organic Quinoa, Apple, Freekah salad. Serve warm or cold. Prepare according to package instructions on stove top.

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