“Better than Co-op”

So, it would appear that my children prefer being unschooled in a kind of Charlotte Mason-y way to belonging to a co-op. Even a fun co-op with their friends. They had been pretty upset about not being able to be in co-op this year and I was worried about how they’d do once the school year started more officially for other children, but my fears were apparently unfounded.

We were at the park last week, learning about leaves, when one of my daughters piped up, “This is better than co-op!” I said, “Really?” Apparently co-op had been “too much like school.” Upon further questioning more things just tumbled out of all three girls, things like, “We only got five minutes of break to play.” and “They didn’t let you teach enough and we loved it when you taught music!” (unexpected ego boost there!) and finally: “We didn’t get to choose what we learned. The teachers got to choose and that’s not fair!”

Oh. Well. They have a good point there. After all, I have always encouraged my children to find what they’re interested in and then I help facilitate that learning by making sure they have the resources available to learn about whatever it is. I read to them, we watch documentaries, they read, explore, create, and play-act things out.

When there are things that I believe are important enough for them to really need to learn, it’s part of my job to make that topic interesting and exciting to my children. I love to read so transferring that love to them hasn’t been very difficult. We found a math curriculum that I love, so again, they love it (I’ve questioned them several times about it). I found a history curriculum that I enjoy reading to them, so they enjoy hearing it (in moderation – not every day).

To my mind, if it’s worth learning, it’s worth being excited about. People don’t tend to retain information that isn’t relevant or exciting or interesting to them in some way. It’s often more of a challenge to help a child find a passion for a topic than to simply feed them information they aren’t interested in, but it’s infinitely more rewarding in the long run because they are much more likely to actually retain the information.

We’ve been so much more relaxed this year without having to worry about getting to co-op on time and trying to teach something that the other parents don’t seem to appreciate (or care to help their children appreciate). It’s been much nicer since my children have been able to take turns choosing the topics of interest that we’re currently studying and if a topic ends up *not* being interesting for whatever reason, we can just switch topics as easily as not.

We’re just over a quarter of the way through the school year and I’m greatly looking forward to whatever the next three quarters bring us!

Currently we are studying: Vincent VanGogh, John Philip Sousa, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Leaves in addition to Life of Fred math, Story of the World history (in moderation), cooking, painting, computer programming, and whatever else we fancy to learn more about.

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A New Look!

Oh my goodness. Has it really been two and a half years since I last blogged? Time flies, as they say, and like most sayings, it has a great deal of truth in it. I’m not entirely certain where the time has gone, but it has, and here I am.

In the past three years I have become an apprentice midwife, started a doula service, helped to found a chapter of BirthNetwork National in my town, started midwifery school, learned how to encapsulate placentas, written two first drafts for two novels, taught two children how to read, and had a new baby. I’ve been involved with groups to improve birth options for women in my part of the country and I’ve learned more about birth politics than I ever could have dreamed there was to even know in the first place. I have become quite active on a wonderful message board with members who encourage me in Grace Based Parenting every single day that I read there and I have made a wonderful circle of friends locally, in real life, who encourage me in the same way.

There have been a great many other things that have happened, of course, but I don’t think I could even begin to remember them all, let alone write them all down in the amount of time I have right now.

So, in honor of coming back (really, I’m going to try and stick with it somewhat this time around!), I’ve chosen a new theme for the blog and I hope that this will help with my motivation a bit more as well.

It’s been a busy last few years, but it’s been a very good sort of busy! The very best kind of busy – the kind that involves children, reading, births, babies, friends, and good food (that last one is extremely important, of course).

Here’s to a new look!

~B.

The Augusta Downtown

Saturday was a very enjoyable day. The day started off with a lovely breakfast of eggs and bacon wrapped in tortillas and then we hit a great children’s rummage sale at a local church. Nayna got her heart’s desire of a new bathing suit ($2) and each girl got one summer outfit consisting of a tank top and shorts ($3 total). Not bad.

Then we headed to downtown Augusta, GA to get some seeds and soap from the organic gardening store. After we parked (a little ways away since our reverse lights aren’t hooked up so we can’t really park right off the street in front of the store itself) and crossed the street, we passed by a little booth with a bunch of reusable bags and coupon books on it. A nice gentleman on a bike asked us if we’d like to buy a coupon book ($5) and/or a bag ($1) and we decided on one of each.

The coupon book deal was pretty nice! In the book were at least 25 coupons for free or reduced items from participating downtown businesses. It was wonderful for us in particular because, being new to town and not having much money at the moment, we were able to actually check out some of  the locally owned businesses without having to spend any money immediately.

We first checked out a lovely coffee shop called the New Moon Cafe and sampled some of their delicious scones. My husband sampled some of their coffee and pronounced it to be quite decent. He’s very much a coffee snob so that’s saying a lot.

Our next stop was the Book Tavern which is a place in which I could easily spend a million dollars or countless hours perusing. They sell some new books, some used books, and some rare books. They also sell the awesome little moleskin notebooks that are so handy to carry around in a purse or pocket. We found a book we liked for free and my husband also bought a book he’d been thinking about ordering off the internet. Saving on shipping while supporting a local business for the win!

Next we stopped by T-Boys Po-Boys for a free sample of Jambalaya. Oh man… it was heavenly! Pork and rice with just the right amount of spice. We savored it while it lasted, which wasn’t very long…

Then we were off to Oasis Garden next door to pick up our nasturtium seeds, Dr. Bronners soap bar, fresh salad mix, and free basil start! The owner of Oasis Garden is a wonderful lady who is extremely friendly and knowledgeable. We were able to meet her fiance that day who runs an organic garden in the Hammonds’ Ferry development in North Augusta, SC. He gave us some pointers about the climate and garden pests in the area and was also just a very nice person.

At this point, the children began to run a little amok since it was getting very close to their naptime. So we exited Oasis Garden and quickly stopped by Cloud 9 which is a soap, jewelry, and other nice scented things store. We picked out a free sample of handmade travel soap and my husband got some pointers for shaving with soap – both the hows and the whys – from the soap-maker/owner.

Nayna was very hungry at this point so before heading back to our VW bus, we stopped by one of the bars for a free hotdog. The girls and I had to wait outside in the cold, but it was worth it! The bun was a little stale and there weren’t any condiments, but the hotdog itself was delicious! The four of us shared it and then headed back to the bus.

All in all, it was a great time! We met so many nice store owners and the shops themselves were just incredible and very reasonably priced even. Augusta has more to it than meets the eye at first glance – there’s a lovely stretch of Broad Street where all the cool stores hang out. We didn’t even get to go to all the stores we wanted to visit so we’ll definitely be going back! Next time we’ll be armed with some spending money and will arrive well before naptime.

~B.

Addicted to Fresh, Local Food

Hello. My name is Betsy, Barefoot Betsy, and I’m addicted to fresh, local food.

It all started nearly four years ago when my husband and I went to the local farmer’s market and stopped to buy some fresh, local vegetables from one of the farm stands there. I don’t remember what we bought, but I do remember the conversation we had.

Us – What does that sign behind you mean?
Farmer – This sign? (points to the sign that reads, “Ask us about our CSA!”)
Us – Yes. What exactly is a C-S-A?

The farmer then explained that CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture” and that becoming CSA members meant that we would get a box of fresh, local vegetables weekly for four months during the summer/fall and then we could extend that for two more months if we wanted a winter share.

I was pregnant at the time with my older daughter and getting so much healthy food without having to go to the store and pick it out myself sounded like a great deal! The price was reasonable so we decided to sign up and become CSA members.

I must admit with a bit of shame that the first year we were CSA members… we wasted a lot of awesome fresh, local food. It took a while for us to get the hang of using up what we had in the house instead of running to the store for ingredients while most of the food in our fridge began to slowly turn to mush. I was working full-time so my husband was doing most of the cooking and I couldn’t even make rice without following a recipe.

By the second year I had learned how to cook from scratch instead of needing to follow a precise recipe every time. Not needing to follow recipes made using up what we had already in our house so much simpler and cheaper! We were still wasting at least 1/8 of the food we were getting from our CSA share, but we were learning and it was getting easier and easier every week to use up the food before it became too old to eat.

The third year was the charm and it was also the year that I got irredeemably addicted to farm-fresh vegetables. Finally we managed to use up 99% of the produce we were getting! I figured out a system to keep track of what we had gotten in what week and I also knew how long most of the produce would keep in the fridge or on the counter by this time.

In the end, I believe it was the practice of eating fresh, local vegetables every single day that did me in. I could resist them when we were only eating them 4-5 days a week, but once we got in the habit of preparing just a little every. single. day. Well… that was my downfall.

Now that we’ve moved across the country, I’m about to apply to a new farm CSA program in this area. I’ve been several months without my fresh, local produce fix and I’m jonesing for some good locally-grown herbs, vegetables, fruits, and eggs. The best thing about all the CSA’s I’ve looked into around here? They all will deliver to my door!

Home delivery has to be the best way ever to satiate my desire for food as fresh as it can get – other than having my own garden, of course. However this year is a learning to garden year since it’s a completely different climate and we’re new to the whole gardening thing to begin with. The CSA will be our backup until we learn how to grow our own home-grown fresh food!

I could quit anytime though. Really. I could. If I wanted to. I just don’t want to. Fresh, flavorful food that makes everything I cook taste gourmet – why would I ever want to give that up and go back to the dry, tasteless veggies in the grocery store?

~B.

Driving in a New Town

Learning to drive in a new town is… interesting. We moved to the Augusta, GA area in the middle of December, but I didn’t start driving around until about a month ago because we also have a new car and we weren’t able to move the seat  forward which meant I couldn’t reach the pedals. Eventually we bought a cushion from the Salvation Army so I can sit forward enough even though the seat still doesn’t move… and I digress…

I was very nervous about learning to drive our new car (a ’78 VW bus) in a brand new town. I’m a good driver, but I’ve never regularly driven in a large city or in a town where most of the roads are 4+ lanes wide. I learned to drive in Kitsap County, WA – Land of the Two Lane Roads. Driving on two-lane roads is nice and I really like it, but I found myself at a serious disadvantage when we moved here and I realized that I have virtually no experience driving on large roads.

Over the last few weeks I’ve gotten more practice and am gradually getting more comfortable on the larger roads here. I’m rediscovering that I *am* a good driver and that I can do this! I’m finally starting to feel as though I know where I’m going sometimes without having to print out a long list of directions from mapquest. I’m learning the names of the roads and which roads to avoid during rush-hour (pretty much all of them in Columbia County…).

I’m also getting comfortable with the VW clutch again after having driven an automatic for the last year and a half. I’m more used to having such a large vehicle behind me and virtually nothing in front of me. I’m discovering that VW busses are incredibly fun to drive and almost as fun to drive as a VW beetle – which was my first car.

I’m beginning to enjoy driving again. Life is good 🙂

~B.

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