Before I continue posting about what's going on in our homeschool - let me offer some empathy to those of you adjusting to sending your child off to college for the first year (and all the years after).  It's NOT easy, is it?  While my tears didn't last as many days this year (it's my daughter's third year), there were still lots of tears and it still wasn't easy.

I recall that first time.  UGH.  It was SO HARD!!!  Driving away- leaving her there?  Sure, she was just fine.... excited, happy, feeling joys of independence already - but I was a mess.  And I guess I didn't help myself by playing my Mamma Mia CD over and over....well, not the whole CD; just this song:

Slipping Through My Fingers - Mamma Mia

Geez..... I feel myself tearing up and getting a knot in my throat now.... ...continue reading "Tips for Dealing With the Emotionality of Sending a Child Off to College"

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 Someone asked me recently if I had children...and if so, how do they handle a restricted diet?

Well, yes.  I do have children.  Three.  

And I guess the answer is different for each of them.

About 7 years ago, when we began our journey towards a more whole foods diet, eliminating artificial additives and preservatives from the Standard American Diet we were then eating and thereby transforming our health (See Our Food Story that I posted on   ), we then had 2 children.  At that time they were 12 and 8.

My children saw the reactions we had to the artificial foods when we added them back into our diet.  They saw themselves.  My daughter's skin turned the brightest red I have ever seen on a person that had NOT just spent an entire day at the beach without sunscreen.  My son itched and itched until he cried.  Both felt ill and uncomfortable.  My daughter's mood was anxious and irritable.  My son was agitated as well - possibly from the itching or another symptom - hard to say.  They saw our reactions.  My husband was nauseous and itchy with a rash.  I was moody to say the least, itchy, anxious and could not sleep most of the night. This of course, only summarizes the reactions we had that week.

My children did not enjoy feeling that way.  They understood,for the most part, why we were never taking part in those artificial ingredients ever again.

Now was it easy to transition?  Certainly not.  But we did what we could to make it fun or at least as easy as we could.  We homeschool...  so that made it easier.  It was easier to say, "Well for health class this year, we are transitioning to a more whole foods diet.  We will be exploring the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables and learning about reading labels, artificial ingredients and what they do to the body/brain and for Home Ec, we will learn to cook more foods with wholesome ingredients from scratch".  I think because we homeschool, this made the transition easier.  But I am certain one does not have to homeschool to get your kids on board to a healthier diet or make them a big part of it.  I hear public school families can have deep conversations and discussions at the dinner-time  as well!!  And I'm sure our way is not the only way to make a transition work!

My daughter loved the recipe and cooking part.  Life in my kitchen, though, did NOT look quite so glamorous as the picture above!  😉

At that time, we found Christina Cooks on television and would watch her show and bought two of her cookbooks.  Now Christina used macrobiotics (an approach to physical and emotional wellness through consuming foods that are balanced energetically      (between yin and yang) and nutritionally. It is typically a well-balanced  diet with high fibre, low-fat, lots of vegetables and grains, vegetable protein, and limited meat, with an emphasis on eating  seasonal organic food)  and was also a vegan.  I was not, and still am not, totally convinced of the macrobiotic vegan approach (though I do believe that macrobiotics play an important rule in health to a degree and think that veganism, if approached correctly, can be healthy for SOME people though perhaps not ideally...) but what attracted us to Christina was the wealth of information and cooking techniques her show offered.  And my daughter loved the cooking techniques and ideas that Christina presented.  So the three of us, my children and I, would watch this show and come up with great ideas for meals and create them!  My daughter preferred making the desserts but did help with other things too.

My son became my instant label reader(as did my husband).  He was instantaneously intrigued by what was in his foods and what he didn't want in his foods!  He would help me read labels of our old favorites in the grocery store and point out the things we couldn't have.  He would also help me compare these items to the items in the 'natural' section of the grocery store or health food store, assisting in finding easy or sometimes not so easy replacements for things like salad dressings, mayonnaise, ketchup, cereals, etc. He would also express his dismay when he found that a past favorite was off-limits, especially if it were because of only one or two unnecessary ingredients!

So that is ,essentially, how we approached incorporating the new foods into our healthy diet plan.  But this doesn't exactly address restricting them from foods they normally ate out or socially, does it?

My son was easier with this.  Oh, he still wanted things laden in white flour and sugar.  But he did want to avoid anything that contained an obvious artificial ingredient that he knew would cause an immediate reaction (other than a little hyperactivity) or was a known carcinogen as we were learning (You'd be amazed at how many food additives are known carcinogens but are still labeled by the FDA as GRAS/Generally Regarded as Safe in our processed food products...but that's another story for another day).  Since most of those things laden in white flour and sugar also contained such ingredients, most were easy to avoid.  But not all.  As I said in the previous food post, life is hard and we're not perfect. So yes, there were (and are) things we give into to make life easier for our kids (and ourselves).  We know that pizza is not healthy... but if we can find a kind that does not have an artificial ingredient that will cause instant chemical changes in our brain and thus cause an allergic type reaction, we will, on occasion, eat it.  The same with a glazed donut or, often, you could find my daughter baking up some yummy concoction in our very own oven.

Over the years we took this decision a little too liberally in my opinion...but that led also led us to learning more which is what has us experimenting with the Paleo/Primal diets which eliminates those processed foods even more.  Actually, if we followed the Paleo diet 100% it would totally eliminate the unhealthy (yes even the organic ones!) processed foods from our diet.  But again, we do not do this 100%... more like 90%.... and we do allow our older son to choose one processed snack a week... because he's a kid... and this transition is hard.  Some (from the Paleo world) may fault me for letting him have the processed food ...  but this is my family and this is the choice I'm making for him (while secretly hoping that in time his cravings for this will lessen) at this time.  My choice could change...next week, next year or possibly never. (Of course he didn't like reading this part when I asked him to read it over and see if I left anything important out of the post!)

When our daughter is away at college, we know that, at least for the most part, she follows what we have taught her.  A family member once said to her that since she was going away she wouldn't have to follow our food rules anymore...  and no, she doesn't... if she wants to go back to having bipolar disorder.  She does not want that.   She knows what can befall her if she strays.  She wants her college education.  She wants her independence.  She wants her health.  She's already been the one to experiment here and there with things in previous years and saw the results...  yes, sometimes natural flavors CAN make you feel awful.... No, that one candy bar was NOT a good idea.  So while she may be ingesting way too much processed grains, she is, I believe, at least staying away from the obviously toxic stuff that her peers are practically inhaling all around her and would cause her horrible consequences.  So she says, 'no thank you', picks up her coffee and plain bagel and away she goes.

My son, still at home, tells me what he wants to take with him on his camping trips, sleep-overs and the like.  Our close friends totally understand what we do and why we do it.  We've had no problems there and they let us know if he'll need his own snacks when he visits or if they have enough available for him.  He doesn't seem to care either way.  I probably worry more about the impact of him being 'different' than he does! That is what he tells me.

My younger son is only 3.  He doesn't know anything different.  And he loves practically anything that we put in front of him. Sure, he goes through a day here or there where he says he doesn't like something.  All kids do. That doesn't mean they won't ever eat it.  I  know that it's normal for tastes and moods for certain foods to change.  I shrug it off and a few days later, what do you know, he loves it again.  Being away from home is a little more difficult now.  He sees the treats on the coffee hour table at church and wants cake...or a cookie...or 'that'...  And what does one say to a 3-year-old?  I've been known to say , "No, that's yuck" to him but walk away wondering, 'Hmmm....he sees other people eating this stuff... so what is he thinking?  When will he either not believe me or tell someone else what their eating is yuck?"  I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to handle that one yet.  I believe though, I have seen such discussions held on other blogs I've followed in the past... time to do some research on some ideas for that!

In closing, I would say that for my older kids, being part of the elimination diet at the ages they were and seeing the results for themselves played a key role in how they have adapted to what others would call a restricted diet.  My youngest will have an easier time simply because he doesn't have the cravings established for Doritos, KFC or McDonald's.  I think sometimes, parents don't give their children enough credit... that given enough information and time to adapt... kids can come to the decisions to make these healthy choices for themselves even surrounded by a world still eating the chemicals that are heavily laden in the Standard American Diet.

Today marks day 64 of the school year for my oldest boy.  This is his 9th grade year, his first year of high school and his first year of keeping grades for a transcript.

Some parts of planning for this year were difficult.  Others not so much.  You see, I've been through this before and have sent my daughter off to college already.  She is in her first year and doing quite well! I'm really proud of her.

My other boy is only 3!  There's not so much planning for the three-year old...though my eagerness has kept me exploring and I have peeked at several preschool and kindergarten curriculums but am heavily leaning towards a Charlotte Mason approach for him.

But back to my oldest!

This year we determined to start with 5 major classes:  English 9, Biology with a Lab, American History, Algebra II, and Russian.

English is always my favorite subject to plan!  I love reading and I love writing so what's not to love about planning English?  I do not like curriculums that lay everything out for English because I like to fiddle with things too much and make it more personable and meeting the needs of my child.  But I have dealt with such curriculums in the past for various reasons.  This year, I again chose a mixture.  For Literature, we are using the Gold Book of the Learning Language Arts through Literature Curriculum.    I chose the Gold Book because it ties into American History.  In the beginning, I was all for having him do the whole book and was excited about him being introduced to short stories.  But then I read some of them....   🙁     I knew darn well these were not going to be his cup of tea.  Classic literature or not, if he wasn't going to enjoy it at all, he wasn't going to learn.  So I fairly quickly ditched that part of the set-up.  (We'll try short stories another time, perhaps, if I can find some modern stories that he could relate to.)  Instead, I made a book list (oh how I LOVE creating book lists!).  In addition to the three books that the Gold Book incorporates (The Pearl, The Old Man and the Sea, and The Red Badge of Courage), I decided to introduce him to at least one Shakespeare.  We will be reading The Tempest.

Selecting which Shakespeare play to begin with was probably the hardest part of the book list!  But with much researching and asking of friend's opinions, The Tempest it will be! I'm looking forward to it as this is one I actually have not read myself yet. Additional required books on his list are:  Rifles for Waite, The Outsiders, Johnny Tremain (we read this one a long time ago as a read-aloud but I felt it fit with his American History and he may enjoy it more now that he's older), and My Side of the Mountain.  In addition to these, he gets to choose 8 for himself with the only rules that one must be about our Orthodox faith and they all must be pre-approved by myself.  I have a feeling he will be reading the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book soon since it was just released, but this one will NOT count towards the required reading!!  The Gold Book, in addition to providing background information and questions for the three books it covers, also has a poetry unit.  Three poems are assigned for reading for each poet the book covers along with comprehension type questions.  It seems to give a good overall view of the elements of poetry and develops skill for analyzing literature.

For the writing part of English, we are using IEW.  My son watches the video lessons presented by Andrew Pudewa and follows through with the assignments.  I think his writing has improved a great deal.  We are also using IEW's Fix It Grammar program as a nice review.  My son completed the Analytical Grammar program last year and,quite frankly, that program covered things so well that I truly  don't think he will ever need much in grammar ever again!

Biology was another easy choice.  It's his 9th grade year and the local co-op provides a lab for biology every few years....this being the year for it!  The course is through the Apologia Curriculum.  I love Apologia. It truly prepares the student for college level science but keeps the Christian worldview focus.  Science does NOT have to be all evolution.

American History was a little bit trickier to choose.  My son is not a lover of history.  He doesn't hate it.  But it's not a huge interest.  So I wanted something that may present things differently... not a typical dry textbook and not something that was only going to quickly go over the basics without grabbing any interest.  After much debate, we chose Exploring America by the Notgrass Company.  Of course, we've done some adapting.  The curriculum is cumulative in that it incorporates reading and bible into the history.  We are only using it for the history.  This means he's not doing the literature books they recommend, primarily because I knew they would never be books he would choose for himself and it wouldn't have left room for me to select books I felt he should read.  In addition to skipping the literature, we skip the bible lessons as well - they are of a protestant nature and I don't feel they are necessary to comprehend the history lessons.  We are Orthodox Christians and we read plenty of bible and faith related material without adding this aspect to it.  I here that part of the curriculum is actually done quite well.  I just decided there wasn't a need for it for our particular needs. We are actually reading the history lessons together and I am enjoying this.  We then answer the questions orally together and I help him study for the quiz that he takes every 5 lessons. I like the detail that the author put into the history lessons.  I've covered more American history in the past 2 months I've been reading with him than I think I covered in all my history years in the public schools.  And it's interesting... not just boring factual stuff.  I like it.

I am a HUGE fan of Teaching Textbooks!  We've been using it for our math since my daughter was in 6th grade!  It is AMAZING!!!!!!!  I am not a math expert.  While I got through math and actually got an A in my last semester of high school Algebra, it is not a subject I prefer teaching.  Teaching Textbooks does it all for me.  It's a computerized program and every single problem is on the computer.  If the student plugs in a wrong answer, they can watch the entire problem worked out step by step and see exactly where they made their mistake...and NO arguments with Momma!!  🙂  How can you not love it?? So this year he is doing Algebra II. He knows that he is to watch the explanation of any problem he misses.  If he scores below an 80, I delete the lesson and he does a do-over.  This way, we meet mastery before going on to the next lesson.

My son chose the language he wanted to learn.  My husband's heritage is Russian so it seemed a no-brainer to him to pick Russian.  While my husband recalls a few words and phrases taught to him by his grandparents in his youth, he is not ready to teach the language and I know nothing....sooooo......    CurrClick.Com offers a variety of online courses for homeschoolers and one of them is Russian!!  Mr. G does a fabulous job and my son really loves the course.

Well, that's the main courses.  In addition to these, he practices typing with a Mavis Beacon program as well as types out his final papers for IEW and Fix-It-Grammar.  We haven't seen dramatic results yet, but there are signs of improvement! He also uses Vocabulary.Com to practice SAT vocabulary and does the SAT question of the day two times a week to help prepare himself for that test in the future.

We've also added a bit of geography to the day.  I've been reading a lot about that Charlotte Mason approach and have learned a bit of how she approached geography with outline maps.  I liked the idea and thought it would be a really easy thing to start covering with him.  There's actually no set law that a course HAS to be completed in the same year it's started, so we decided to start out slow and add to it bit by bit like it's presented by the CM Approach... so right now we are covering North America since that's what he is most familiar with.  He did a bigger course last year that covered land forms, environments, etc.  so right now we are only focusing on learning names and locations of countries, major cities, bodies of water, etc.  It's only North America and I've already added to my own geography knowledge!! We'll see how we do the rest of this year before deciding whether to add to it and actually make it worth a partial or whole credit course.

Well, that wraps up what we are doing this year for my son's 9th grade year.  It's actually been a good year so far.  He seems to be doing well.  It's been an adjustment getting used to the amount of reading material and higher level questions and balancing that with Boy Scouts, hunting and pretty soon the ski season will start.  But for a 15-year-old boy who also helps out with chores and is a great big brother, I'd say he's doing a really good job!