Intuitive Homeschooling | January 2017

Intuitive Homeschooling

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This is a new homeschooling series to share what I’m learning through teaching at home. What’s become apparent to me through this first year or so of homeschooling is the need to focus less on my own idea of what it should look like and more on what my daughter needs. This idea of intuitive homeschooling–discerning what my daughter needs educationally and meeting those needs without my own agenda interferring–reminds me so much of what it’s like to parent a baby. Perhaps I have babies on the brain right now, but when they’re little we learn how to respond to their needs. Is she crying because she’s hungry? Needs a diaper change? A snuggle? Intuitive homeschooling, in my interpretation, is an adaptive, responsive form of schooling that has similar values to the unschooling movement.

In this series I’ll delve deeper into what we’re learning in our home and how my idea of homeschooling changes as we all grow together. To read more on our homeschooling journey so far, head here.

First semester this year was fairly rocky. I unexpectedly found out I was pregnant at the beginning of August with the onset of the worst case of morning sickness I’ve had with all of my kids. I tried to keep up with homeschooling, but most days I didn’t even get out of bed.

My self-imposed guilt over this led us to take V to tour a local elementary school, but ultimately we decided to continue with homeschooling. With that decision I gave myself an extra serving of grace and reminded myself that everything is a season. Including morning sickness and exhaustion!

By October and November we were back in our groove, learning to read and flying through math. She and her little sister became engaged in hours-long imaginative play, and I did not interrupt for school. We simply schooled around those bursts of creativity because I believe there is value in letting that unfold organically.

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We continued to meet weekly with our nature exploring group on Wednesdays, attend storytime at our library, and the girls started ballet lessons. V even participated in our local ballet company’s Nutcracker and was the most adorable mouse.

And now to January: I noticed over the winter break that V was restless and occasionally had these bouts of wild energy. Part of that is from weathering the winter months, often indoors, and partially from lack of social engagement. We decided to be proactive with her need to learn more, be around more kids her age, and learn from another teacher by sending her one day a week to a local homeschooling school a few blocks from our home.

I was surprised to find out when we moved here that such an option actually existed! A local woman, who taught for years at the Montessori but grew a heart for homeschoolers, offers classes in her home. V will attend one day a week  this spring from 8:30am-2:30pm and join a book club course, math, and a quasi-ethics/civics/environmental course for elementary kids.

My hope is that this experience will work in tandem with what we’re learning at home and provide her with another avenue of learning. The rest of the time we’ll continue working through our Charlotte Mason style math book, which she loves, and develop her reading fluency. We began the semester with The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, and it’s okay. I’m planning to order Reading through Literature Level 1, but would love to hear others’ thoughts.

Other than dialing in on math and reading, we spend most of our day following her interests. Right now we have checked out from the library a stack of books on maps, a few books on the national parks, a U.S. history book for elementary kids, and a National Geographic US maps book. These lessons unfold naturally and are unplanned. So for example, this week we read a story in the history book about the early French and Spanish explorers battling over Florida in the 1500s. We learned some new vocabulary, used our world globe to trace the path of their ships from Europe to Florida, studied the current day map of Florida and located St. Augustine, and then looked at national parks in Florida.

Since our state doesn’t require evaluations or a portfolio for homeschooling, I’m relishing the opportunity to go with her interests. I know our methods of homeschooling will change as she grows older, but for now this is working well. Today is her first day of homeschooling school, so I’ll let you all know in February how that’s working out.

Do you homeschool? Have plans to? Would love to hear in the comments.

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How We Cut Our Grocery Budget by 40% and Still Eat Healthy

Small House Living

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Oy. I wondered if I should actually tackle this topic as there are more blog posts on saving money on food on the interwebs than you can shake a stick at.

And yet, I’ve been asked about a dozen times over the past month (and especially after the last Cohesive Home podcast) how we keep our grocery budget low and eat healthy while also having several allergies and food intolerances in our family. So here it goes.

A little background: Kirk and I have been eating paleo-ish since 2008. We aren’t control freaks about it and love our dairy and occasional gluten. My oldest daughter has a severe gluten intolerance, and she and I are both allergic to peanuts. Thankfully, our youngest daughter has not shown any allergies or intolerances yet. Hallelujah!

We actually went vegan for about 4 months early this spring, and I loved it! I was totally surprised by how good I felt. I love that my body seems to flourish on different styles of eating healthy, and I bet many of you have stories of doing well on a variety of diets as well. Your idea of what’s healthy may vary from mine, and that’s okay. I think the human body does well with fresh and unprocessed foods, regardless of the (diet) label. Believe me, I don’t plan on writing the manifesto on the ideal diet; instead I’m sharing what works for us.

But whenever I get in baby-growing mode, I tend to gravitate toward a Weston Price style of diet. This means making many foods from scratch, including bone broth, fermented foods (sauerkraut, sourdough bread, and kombucha), and eating weird stuff like liver. My pregnant body does exceptionally well on this sort of diet, but your mileage may vary.

So what do we actually eat?

I spend about $90-100 per week at Aldi’s on all of the staples: nuts, almond butter, olive and coconut oil, kalamata olives, coffee, some fruit and veggies, grass-fed ground beef (3-4 lbs), black beans, rice, frozen fruit (for smoothies), and butter. I will occasionally buy their “premium” wild caught frozen salmon and ice cream (because it’s beyond yum and this mama needs sweets once in awhile!)

And then I head to our local farmstand, which has a year-round store. Yes, I know we are beyond lucky to have them, and I tell the owner that nearly every time I see her! Every week I spend about $50-60 and buy: 2 whole pastured chickens, 4 dozen pastured and soy-free eggs, 1 lb chicken livers, honey and lard (probably every couple of weeks), and some fresh herbs or veggies as available.

Then I may run to our town’s nutrition store for local milk at about $5 per quart. It’s expensive, my girls guzzle it down, and I wish there was a better alternative. Some weeks I don’t buy it, especially if our budget is running tight. The farmstand is hoping to add pastured, raw and organic milk in glass bottles in the next year, and I practically kissed the owner when she told me. If they do, I will start making homemade yogurt and kefir again.

And finally, I pick up fresh flour from our bulk store for making bread for a cost of about $8 every other week.

All that rambling aside, I spend around $150-$170 per week for a total of $600-700ish a month on groceries, and I pay using the cash envelope system. This means I pull out all of my grocery money for the month in cash, record EVERYTHING, and do not buy if I have no money left. Which, when you have kids, means you must be conservative so you don’t run out of money at the end of the month. So far it’s working extremely well. If we were vegan or vegetarian I’m sure we would spend even less, but I’m happy with where we’re at.

When we lived in Oklahoma City, I did most of my shopping at Whole Foods or Sprouts because it was 1)convenient and 2) it was my retail therapy to buy fancy foods. Since moving to a more rural area, I’ve kicked that habit and cut our grocery budget by about 40-50%. It was bad, I tell ya…

So how do we actually feed ourselves on this?

  1. meal plan for an entire week
  2. focus on fats to satiate
  3. buy (almost) nothing packaged and DIY our snacks

There isn’t much I can say on meal planning that I bet you don’t already know. I’m not a stickler, I just plan about 5 meals for a week and we stretch those meals out.

We use fat liberally throughout the day: I drink butter coffee in the morning, cook my morning eggs in lard, drink warm bone broth, snack on nuts, and cook with plenty of butter and olive oil. And no, fat doesn’t make you fat.

And then I bake sourdough bread every couple of days, chop up raw veggies (broccoli, bell peppers, carrots) for snacking, and try to make one green smoothie per day for all of us. We also tend to buy cheaper fruits (apples, bananas, kiwi) and only in-season ones to save money. No blueberries in January (and besides, they taste terrible anyway.)

After I cook my chickens, I use the bones to make broth. And I drink about half of the broth throughout the week (warmed with sea salt) and use the other half to make a creamy veggie soup like this tomato one. We also eat a few vegetarian meals per week to further save on the moolah. A weekly favorite is this Brazilian beans recipe (although I do use a few slices of chopped bacon in it for flavor.)

In general, I look for simple recipes that have a limited number of ingredients and use cheaper pastured meats. If it’s not an ingredient I typically already have in my kitchen then I skip that recipe. We stick to tried and true recipes like egg bakes, gluten-free pancakes, soups and stews, and butternut squash shepherd’s pie. Yes, our meals are fairly basic and some may say boring, but it makes my days easier and my wallet happier, to do so.

My final pieces of advice? Don’t have any untouchables on your grocery shopping list. Closely examine it for those expensive splurges and experiment with getting rid of them. Make your grocery list and do not buy anything that isn’t on it. Add up your total as you shop to avoid surprises in the check-out line. Get busy in the kitchen, DIY your snacks, and eat more fat.

What’s your favorite tips for saving on groceries?

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