This icon is on my computer desktop.  Oddly it's one of my absolute favorites and yet we don't have one for our walls.  So every year I add it to the desk top and it stays there for quite a long time.  A visual reminder of what this week and what our faith is about.

So it's Holy Week already.  Wow-  and I thought Lent was hard.  Today has been full of difficult challenges- emotionally and physically,  but I keep looking forward-  knowing the resurrection is coming- knowing there is light at the end of these dark tunnels and God can pull us through anything.  But there are moments, difficult moments, in which it is very hard to keep the eye on the One Thing Needful.

 

This week will be a light week as far as homeschooling goes.  Really there are no lessons planned.  Just a pile of materials.

 

Though these will be our focus.

 

And all the days go like today even these may not be consumed in the entirety as I hoped.

But there is church services.  And there is Pascha.  What else is truly necessary?

Our Little Icon Wall in our dining room

 

 

With Great Lent coming up, I always try to pick a particular book that is connected to my Orthodox Christian faith.  This year I've selected Thirty Steps to Heaven by Vassilios Papavassiliou.  It directly pertains to understanding the Ladder of Divine Ascent and applying the lessons of the monastic text to our everyday lives.

I don't know whether it's because I homeschool or because I'm an Orthodox Christian mother or both--  but I always think 'what can I do for my child during this season?'  as well.  It's probably more just the mother in me than anything.  My older children are old enough now to decide for themselves.  They have an understanding of what Lent is about and know what things we have done in the past during the season to prepare ourselves for Holy Pascha and place extra focus on our relationship with God during this season- even more so than usual.  They know Lent gives us a chance to enter fully into that relationship and focus on the upcoming Passion and Resurrection of our Lord. They know it's a chance to get back on track and remind ourselves of what we should be doing all year. They know it is a season filled with extra church services, prayer and fasting.

But my youngest is six.  So he needs more guidance. And while he will of course be going to those services, I've  pondered over thoughts of what we could do this year to make the Lenten season more meaningful to him and focus on his own relationship to God, I came to wonder what books we could use - if you know me in person or by my blog- you know I have a tight relationship with books!  I view them as friends and they are a wonderful way to deepen our children's knowledge and begin a wonderful conversation about what is important in our lives!    I wondered what others use.

Below is a list of books I have found on my internet searches, on my own shelves and what others have shared with me as good sources/books to use during Lent.  Of course, many of these, if not all, can be used any time of the year and should be.  But if you are wondering what some good books are to add to your collection or to use during this season in preparation for Holy Pascha, perhaps this list can help you.  I'd love to add to it-   so if you know of others, please share with me so I can add to the list !  I have tried to order them in terms of age, interest levels, etc.  Of course, you know your child or children better than me or anyone else.  So review the links (I'll provide them if I have them) and make your decisions accordingly.  I will mark with an * those that I have indeed read for myself.  Hopefully , at some point, I can add some book reviews on these for your use.

Happy reading and God Bless!

The Story of Easter by Patricia Pingry  -  a lovely picture book for small ones, ages 2-5.

*Getting to Know God by John Kosmas Skinas  - another lovely picture book for small ones, ages 2-6,   that accentuate the sense we use in our Orthodox Faith.

*Rechenka's Eggs by Patricia Polacco  - a lovely folktale picture book telling of Ukrainian eggs for 4-8 year olds.

In The Candle's Glow  by Elizabeth Crispina Johnson  -  A beautifully illustrated picture book tells of Felicia taking the fruit of the bee and the beekeeper's efforts , lighting her and how she prays.  This story is for ages 2-8.

*The Hidden Garden by Jane G Meyer - A picture book parable encouraging children to open the gate to Christ and tend to the garden their heart.  It is suitable for ages 4-9.

The Blackbird's Nest: Saint Kevin of Ireland by Jenny Schroedel  THis lovely book tells of Kevin who learned an unforgettable lesson from an unforgettable teacher.  This book is suited for ages 6-10.

*Catherine's Pascha by Charlotte Riggle  With delightful intricate illustrations and a lovely tale, children will learn much about the celebration of Pasch with this book geared for ages 4-10.

*The Miracle of the Red Egg by Elizabeth Crispina Johnson  For ages 4-10, this picture book shares the story of St. Mary Magdalene and the miracle that occurred in the presence of an unbelieving Roman emperor.

*Pictures of God:  A Child's Guide to Understanding Icons by John Kosmas Skinas  A lovely picture book for ages 5-12, explaining in simple  terms what each icon means and the importance of these people and stories in our lives.

Holy Week and Pascha by J Euphemia Briere  The book takes will take the child, ages 5-12,  through the period in the life of Christ starting at the raising of Lazarus to the Resurrection, as reflected in the Divine Services of the Church.

Lent! Wonderful Lent! by Debra Sancer  This book offers a summary of the weeks of lent for children, ages 4-10.

Glorious Pascha by Debra Sancer   This book offers a nice summary of the days of Holy Week. for ages 5-12.

*From God to You:  The Icon's Journey to Your Heart by John Kosmos Skinas     This book, a nice addition to the library of 6-12,  is a nice follow-up to  Pictures of God,  introducing children to ancient icon archetypes and encourages children to "mindfully consider icons and their stories as windows of inspiration and doorways to prayer."

St. Seraphim's Beatitudes: Blessings for Our Path to Heaven by Priest Daniel Mar  This book contains short sayings patterned after the Lord's Beatitudes  in clear, memorable phrases.

*From I-ville to You-ville by Mersine Vigopoulou   Wonderfully written and appropriate for ages 6-12, this best selling Orthodox Christian children's book of Greece, is a Christian allegory reminiscent of Pilgrim's Progress.  A young man makes his way from I-ville to the unknown, long-for kingdom of You-ville, a kingdom where humility and kindness have their home and people put the good of others first.

*Journey To Pascha: An Explanation of the Holy Week Services by Ayman Kfouf   This book was recommended to me as a lovely guide to older children as it offers a simplified explanation of the theological and liturgical themes of the services of the Great and Holy Week.

The Zacchaeus Tree: A family guide through the season of the Great Fast by Lynne Wardach   While seemingly written for Byzantine Catholics from what I can tell,  it seems to offer a nice prepatory discussion of the season and daily meditations for children and adults for throughout Lent.

 

 

 

 

 

Wrapping It Up

Christ is Risen!

My readers haven’t heard from me much this past month. In fact, the only posts I made were these: Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday; Holy Week Part One and Part Two; and Glorious Pascha. Part of that was due to the attempt at really taking time only for the one thing needful - Christ – during this holy time of year and part of that is due to just not having time for anything else.

It was a busy month – full of church activities, homeschool activities and planning, a birthday, book reading and more….

My Writing World

The posts I listed above are about the extent of it. I didn’t even pull out a manuscript let alone work on one. I’ve come to the conclusion I may need to give up my critique groups – this leaves me saddened as I’ve spent a bit of time with these people and have enjoyed and benefitted from their feedback; however, I barely have time to work on my manuscripts, let along critique several others.

I still have not gotten beyond week 3 of my class with Emma Walt Hamilton which I signed up for back in February….    Thank goodness it’s NOT a correspondence course with deadlines!

I’m not sure what May will hold for me… I’m really wanting to focus on finishing the organization of the house since we’ve been here for 9 months and there are still large areas that are highly disorganized. There is, in fact, a couple of things I haven’t located yet in the boxes still piled in my husband’s newly finished work space area we have dubbed as his ‘man cave’ and I’d like to have all of next year’s general homeschool plans finished before the official begin of our ‘summer’ time-   it will be summer eventually, right?

My Book World

While I didn’t read half as much as I had wanted to, I did do quite a bit.

Most of it’s been online reading…. Ambleside has caught my eye! (Ambleside is an online source for Charlotte Mason Homeschooling)

I am keeping up (barely) with the book I’m reading with my book club- Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. While a few things are of definite protestant nature, I am still benefitting quite a bit by the content of this book and am easily able to skim over anything that does not apply- which really isn’t much at all. The concept of self-differentiation keeps coming up in this book as well as several other sources as of late….this is a concept I think I really need to delve into and spend some time on.

I finished The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle and began a fiction book by Anita Shreve…. Testimony… it’s a bit more risqué than her other books and caught me offguard- but I think I’ll still finish it.  Once you get beyond the first three pages or so, it simmers down to Ms. Shreve's usual brilliance in writing and telling a tale that shows the consequences of one's behaviors...

I finally finished Love & Respect (I didn’t have much to go)This book is one that I will definitely keep rereading either with the book or in it’s audio form. My husband has listened to it twice already! If you want to learn more, check out Love&Respect.com.

And of course, there’s been lots of picture book reading! Here's a small sampling.

Our Homeschool World

The best part of our homeschool world this month was attending the St. Emmeilia Orthodox Homeschool Conference held at Antiochean Village in Ligonier, PA. We attend this conference faithfully every year, with the one exception of the year my youngest son was born. There are speakers for adult sessions as well as children’s workshops. Our keynote speaker this year was Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick and he was, as usual, wonderful to listen to. My own husband gave a presentation this year for one of the sessions offering wisdom to homeschool dads. Once again, it was an awesome year and my ‘hats’ go off to the wonderful women who made it happen!

It’s been a calm, relaxed month for actual academic work but a busy month of planning, especially this last week or so. My older son is steadily working at completing his work for the year. He probably won’t be done until the end of May, but has completed Grammar and Vocabulary, and will be finished with Chemistry today! That leaves Geometry, World Studies, Keyboarding, the rest of English 10 ( Literature & The Lost Tools of Writing) and Russian. He went far beyond his 180 hours in Physical Education a long time ago!

My youngest is just going with the flow. We haven’t done a whole lot of academic work lately, but I’m glad the weather has finally turned so we can at least resume our nature walks.  Other than that it's been a little math, bible reading and reading in general.

When we have time, he LOVES the Math U See program I bought a couple of months ago. We started with the Primer Level even though he knows quite a bit of it already but it’s a nice introduction to doing worksheets and working with the manipulatives. We keep the lessons very short but he’s flying through them as I don’t have him do ALL the worksheets for the concepts he has already mastered as that would be wasteful of our time and boring for him. But even math has gone by the wayside in these last few weeks….. and about the only thing we’ve done much of is our bible reading and story reading as much as possible.

Most of my ‘school’ time has been on the planning stages. I’m preparing materials and ideas for NEXT year…. Planning my older son’s 11th grade year! My, how the time has flown! I’m also reading a LOT about Charlotte Mason- mostly online at Ambleside.com and perusing Simply Charlotte Mason and other blogs, etc. that are focused on this methodology of homeschooling. I am HOPING to be able to share a lot of this with you in the future if my writing time will allow……

Our Food & Health World

My husband and I completed our Whole30 (really it was more like a Whole50) at Pascha. We didn’t test as many foods this time…… raw dairy, wheat and corn were about it.   I can’t really count my dairy day and will need to restest it at some point as I was under the weather that day. I didn’t really test wheat either for the same reason. Corn seemed to give me some digestive issues but nothing major.

My husband is motivated and wanting to continue. He’s not being QUITE as strict as the whole30 guidelines but he’s not exactly splurging either! He’s probably following the whole30 guidelines about 97%....and is definitely seeing the results. He’s the lowest in weight that he’s been in a very very long time. I’m so very proud of him. Motivation is key and he really is motivated.

Our Faith World

We celebrated the Lord’s Resurrection at Pascha on April 12th. That is the most glorious celebration for Orthodox Christians. It is the feast of feasts! And our joy doesn’t end there. We are still, for the 40 days following Pascha, greeting one another with our victorious “Christ is Risen!” It is the heart of the gospel. It is what Christianity is about. It is what makes our salvation possible! I am truly blessed to have found the Orthodox faith and to be able to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord in such a passionate manner each and every year.

I’m trying to reestablish my reading/devotion time in the morning. If I get up between 6 and 6:15, I can fit in about 10-15 minutes of reading. This is not necessarily bible time, as my goal is to do that in the evening. Right now it’s a toss-up between finishing An Introduction to God by Fr. Andrew (keynote speaker of the conference I told you about) and the new Introduction to Orthodoxy Book by Frederica Mathewes Green- one of my favorite Orthodox authors. I try to accompany this with a few minutes of quiet time, reflecting on what I’ve read and God’s love and mercy- though that part doesn’t always happen….

Other Parts of Life

My daughter celebrated her 20th birthday this month .   I’m so proud of the fine young lady she has grown to be. She has the best smile but I’ll respect her probable wishes NOT to show it here.  My sister came up from Virginia to share Thea's birthday as well as having some great game time and seeing the new house!

It’s Spring! I’m sooo glad to see the sun shining (at least occasionally) and the flowers blooming and the buds on the trees getting bigger every day! This is truly my favorite time of year as far as seasons go.

So that about wraps things up for me.

What did YOU do during the month of April?

4

So we are on the other side now.... of Lent and our Whole30.  I can say that I'm glad.... and maybe not so glad(easier to resist temptation DURING it!!)

It was a wonderful (though sometimes excruciating) experience.  And I think we've learned a lot.  Since this topic today is really the Whole30 I'll try to stick to the food part of it... (though spiritually, it was the best Lent I've had in a while as well--- challenging but uplifting and the makings of much progress!)

We celebrated Pascha in our usual fashion after the Paschal services at 2:00 in the morning.... with white bread (Traditional Russian Sweet Bread - Pascha), ham (even baked with a little pineapple, cloves and a bit of brown sugar), pickled eggs and beets (yep, sugar there too), horseradish (for the ham), hrutka (egg cheese my husband makes - I skip on this tradition), salt, cheese (I at least stuck to only raw cheese this year and only had a small piece), Wilbur buds (super wonderful chocolate chunks), and a small glass of wine.  My older kids had a little extra candy and sparkling apple cider.

In the morning we feasted on Easter Basket contents....though I must say, I did not have as much as usual!  I did have a couple Wilbur buds, jelly beans and the ears of a chocolate bunny (hollow....I was so sad I couldn't find solid bunnies this year that we could eat 🙁  )

I also had some ham, Pascha, and fruit. AND  a delightfully hot cup of black tea with 2 teaspoons of sugar. (I added the sugar a half teaspoon at a time...trying to use as little as possible...yes, I still went to 2 teaspoons for black tea...BUT...I still consider this a HUGE success as I use to literally put 2-3 heaping spoonfuls in every cup...even herbal teas which I now drink without any sugar at all.)  Not necessarily a Paleo breakfast by any means...

For dinner we had a semi-traditional meal....though certainly not the "Easter" meal I grew up with.  We had Ham, Mashed Potatoes, Mixed Vegetables, and corn.  I meant to serve the pickled eggs and beets but totally forgot them as they were in our refrigerator out in the garage.... 🙁   Oh well.... more for me today!  I also had a half glass of wine.  Later we had cake....it was my daughter's birthday last week and she came home for the weekend.  I actually made two cakes.... a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting for her and a gluten-free cake with a semi- paleo chocolate glaze for us.  Our cake was dry 🙁  but the glaze, though it did not whip up frosting like as I wanted it to was still yummy.

The results of this feast?

Well, I believe I experienced a few sugar spikes/highs through the day....  a bit strange...  it was like every once in a while feeling this sort of woozy fuzzy feeling in my head... almost like having a full glass of wine which I hadn't...  They occurred here and there for a few minutes at a time.  Then they would go away and come back an hour or two later.  Really strange.  And of course, I've visited the bathroom a bit more often....  enough said.  No one else seemed to experience the 'fuzziness' that I did....but there have been some extra bathroom experiences (again, enough said) and my son didn't want the cake that evening as he felt too full and not altogether right....  he said he didn't feel sick but sort of felt like he might be....

The results of the Whole30?

I feel transformed.  Yesterday, though both cakes were still on the counter, I had no desire for more.  I had no desire for chocolate through the day but felt soothed that it was there if I wanted it 😉   I did have one cup of black tea (with 2 teaspoons of sugar) and I have one this morning as I write this.   But as I look around my kitchen with "Easter" baskets sitting about and items that haven't been in the house for the past 48 days, I do not feel the pull to consume them that I once had.  I really feel being away from them that long, ESPECIALLY the sugar, has positively influenced my taste buds and assisted in curing a sugar addiction.    I also lost about 7 pounds and have more energy than I have had in some time.  I am getting better sleep.  My digestive system is working better (whew! I will really have to learn to stay away from the dairy). I've had less severe PMS symptoms.  Furthermore, I appreciate real food even more than I did before and find the delights in the natural sweetness of the foods God has provided to nourish our bodies!

My husband lost over 22 pounds and is feeling really positive and motivated.  You can really see the difference as he goes around in clothes he hasn't worn in a while and they don't even look tight on him.  He smiles more 🙂  And he's noticing the ill effects of the foods he once loved thus giving him all the more motivation to stay away from them.

My son, though he doesn't want to admit it, improved in his mood/temper.  He seemed to have a more even temper through the month, more patient and wasn't as quick to over react to emotional upsets.  He also seemed to be appreciating  the natural foods more than he had.  And he did seem to be better focused on his school work during the day. I'm not that positive that he will resist certain foods on his own accord at this time in his life, but I do think he has learned a lot and it may benefit him in his future when he has to make healthy choices on his own.  He's a teen.  He wants to fit in right now...  I can't blame him for still wanting his processed snacks and sugar.  He will not be consuming as much of those things as his peers, but I will allow him to indulge a bit.

My littlest guy is... well... going with the flow.  He doesn't ask for the processed snacks we used to have around with the exception of occasionally asking for yogurt.  (I just may have to experiment with coconut milk yogurt...)  He enjoys his candy treats from his basket but easily accepts when I say, "No, that's enough candy for today".

And we are all healthy.  🙂   That's the bottom line.  With our health we can focus on the other IMPORTANT things in life.... God, love, family..... without the hassle of medications, doctor appointments, etc.  We'll be sticking to a more PALEO menu overall....still having a few things that are 'non-paleo' here and there - for several reasons - but allowing Paleo to be more our lifestyle than not.

So I think the Whole30 was worth it.  I think it has set us on the right course for better health and better lives. I think it has broken some really nasty unhealthy habits.  I hope that we will stay on this path...  it's what I foresee.  And I hope that it will lead others to a better path for good health as well.

Let Food Be Thy Medicine and Let Medicine be Thy Food         ~Hippocrates

 

 

 

This past Monday marked the first day of Great Lent.  Lent is a spiritual journey leading us to Pascha (Easter).  At Pascha we celebrate Christ's resurrection not as a mere historical event but as something that not only happened, but something that continues to happen to us!  In Christ's resurrection, He enables us to walk in the newness of life.  All of us received the gift of new life and we each have the ability to accept the gift and live by it.

While there are 6 weeks and Holy Week to prepare us for Pascha there are also 5 weeks to prepare us for Lent - each dedicated to a fundamental aspect of repentance:

  1.   Sunday of Zacchaeus  (Luke 19: 1-10) - focusing on the desire to do the right thing
  2.  Sunday of the Publican & The Pharisee  (Luke 18:10-14) - focusing on humility
  3.  Sunday of  the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) - focusing on return from exile or repentance
  4. Meat- Fare Sunday (Matthew 25: 31-46) -  focusing on The Last Judgment & Christian Love
  5.  Cheese-Fare Sunday (Matthew 6:14-21) - focusing on Forgiveness

Lent actually begins during Vespers on Forgiveness Sunday, also known as Cheese-Fare Sunday.  This is one of my favorite services of the season.   It begins with a solemn Vespers service, but when the announcement of the evening Prokeimenon is made (usually symbolizing the end of one day and the beginning of another), it is also the beginning of Lent. At the end of this service, all of the faithful go up to the priest, one by one, and the priest and each person ask one another for mutual forgiveness, and continue around the church asking each person present for mutual forgiveness.

Each Lent I make goals for the Lenten Season.  Last  year, I didn't fare so well.  Hopefully this year will be better.  My personal goals involve reading -  I had actually started the reading during the two weeks prior to Lent beginning so hopefully I will attain the goals! The books I am reading for Lent are as follows:

1.  Help! I'm Bored In Church : Entering Fully Into The Divine Liturgy  - I'm not sure that I would say I am bored in Church, but I do feel that the last year or so have taken its effect on me and that I am not as attentive as I should be.  I'm hoping this book, written by an Orthodox Priest,  will help refocus me.  I'm not that far into it but am enjoying it thus far.

2.  Forgive Our Fathers and Mothers: Finding Freedom from Hurt and Hate - I saw this book 'advertised' on a blog site and couldn't resist.  It is said to help forgiveness with all relationships, not just parental figures.  So far, I'd say it is well written.

3.  One Thousand Gifts Devotional - I read One Thousand Gifts a couple of years ago for Lent and began my own gratitude journal.  I have not yet reached 1000 but am working on it!  This devotional covers 60 reflections including one on anxiety that really spoke to me!

4.  Great Lent:  Journey To Pascha -  I have tried to read this one several times...for some reason I never seem to get through it- another reason I started early this year!  I am already through the parts I've read before so it's looking good! 🙂

4.  The Scent of Holiness: Lessons from a Woman's Monastery  -  Assuming I finish the first two on the list, this is the next in line for me.  It's been on my Amazon wish list and I finally bought it.  Apparently, the author,  Constantina Palmer made frequent pilgrimages to a women's monastery in Greece and writes of the nuns' particular approach to their spiritual life.  It sounds magnificent!

5.  The Gospel of Luke: Good News for the Poor - I doubt that I will finish this bible commentary by Lawrence Farley during Lent but I haven't read one in a while and decided Lent was a good time to do so!  I only read a few segments a day because I like to mull it over before going on.

What goals or activities do you like to do during Lent as you prepare for Pascha (Easter)?

8

With Christmas coming up in a few days, I've read up a bit on Russian Christmas Customs.   Although we ourselves are an Orthodox family and my husband is Russian, we don't necessarily follow all these customs. However, I enjoy reading about them and occasionally take part of an old tradition when it sounds appealing and doable for our family.

Thirteen days after Western Christmas, on January 7th, the Russian Orthodox
Church celebrates its Christmas in accordance with the old Julian calendar  (Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6th and several Orthodox families exchange gifts on this day). We have talked many years of doing part of our gift celebration on Russian Christmas but it just never happens.  We do leave our tree up until the day after Russian Christmas though and I always wish my husband a Merry Christmas once again.

We, as most Orthodox in America, celebrate Christmas according to the western calendar on December 25th.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Christmas is the third most important feast (Pascha, or Easter, and Pentecost are the most important).

The 12 days from Christmas Eve to Epiphany are called Christmastide  (traditionally falling on January 6th, Epiphany  marks the revelation of Jesus Christ as God - though of course that manifestation occurred in the womb - and is the day we celebrate the baptism of our Lord in the Jordan).  These holy days have been called the 12 Days of Christmas and are usually celebrated by visiting friends and relatives.

The Holy Supper, apparently, is comparable to a Carpotho-Rusyn and Ukrainian meal and is served on Christmas Eve. A white table-cloth symbolizing Christ's swaddling clothes cover the table.  A white candle symbolizing Christ as the Light of the World adorns the center of the table. There are traditional ethnic foods served including Kutya, a special porridge made of wheat and other grains served with honey and poppy seeds.  The dish symbolizes hope and immortality while the honey represents happiness. Other dishes include: Sauerkraut Soup, Parsley Potatoes and Red Wine.  There is no meat as this meal, though festive in nature, still takes place during the fast.

There is typically two services held in the Orthodox Church at Christmas.  One is a vesper's service held on Christmas Eve while the Liturgy service is held on Christmas morning. The traditional Christmas Greeting"Christ Is Born!" can still be heard exclaimed by Orthodox Christians everywhere and can often be seen on Christmas cards. (It's always written in ours!) The traditional response is "Glorify Him!" We use this greeting in Church and in public throughout the Christmas holidays and for several weeks after it.

Children usually go Christmas Caroling on Christmas carrying an eight pointed star (also a Romanian tradition) and an icon in the center.

On the Sunday after the Nativity (Christmas) a Yolka (Christmas party) is held.

And there is the custom of Babouschka.  Babouschka, according to old tales, was inhospitable and did not offer food or shelter to the Magi as they were traveling and searching for the Christ Child.  Because of this inhospitable behavior, she still wanders the countryside in search of the Child Jesus.  Along the way, as she has learned her lesson, she stops at homes of children and leaves them gifts.

Sources For More Information on Russian Customs:

Russian Crafts

Advantour

The Treasured Traditions and Customs of the Orthodox Churches by Mary Paloumpis Hallick

2

Our story is a personal story.  Why anyone chooses to homeschool always is.  There could be a single or mixture of reasons given:  religion, health, curriculum choice, academic failure in the public schools, and school violence just to name a few I hear the most often.  But each  makes a decision that is personal to them.

We pulled my daughter out of the public schools in her 5th grade year. (We kept our son in public school for the rest of that year, despite his yearning to be home with us to try to meet our daughter's needs at that time.  The following year, we were glad to keep him home with us as well.) She desperately wanted to be homeschooled at that time for various reasons.  It was a decision that changed our family....  little did I know at that time how much it would and that I would be truly grateful for God leading us to do that.

Our family is closer.  We talk often. Not just at meal times, though our family dinner hour is always sacred, but here and there throughout the day.  It's an advantage most families don't have. And we spend lots of quality time together - time we simply wouldn't have if we had to obey the public school schedule and our children were whisked away by a bus early in the morning and not brought home until late afternoon with their backpacks full of homework for their evenings.

We have flexible schedules.  While my years of teaching in the public schools have lent their dent on me in still trying to maintain a bit of a 'typical school day schedule for academics', my kids don't have to get up in the morning until the public school kids have already been on the bus allowing them more sleeping time and they are typically finished with their work before these kids get back on the bus!   And if we are sick.  or want to go somewhere?  We just don't have school. (Yes, we DO fill the 180 days required by law, but we do it according to OUR schedule, not someone else's.) And if we want to take a full week off for PASCHA?  We do!  We can attend more church services, more field trips that are of interest to us (not another entity) and visit family a little more leisurely.   Now this flexibility IS harder in the higher grades with more inflexible choices we make such as volleyball, piano lessons, gym classes with the local homeschool co-op, online classes, etc. but it still remains more flexible than the public schools schedule.

Flexible Curriculum/Classes: Naturally we teach reading, writing and math but we are not held to the rigidity of particular curriculums or particular classes for particular years.  If my child would rather study zoology in 8th grade rather than general science, he can.  If he wants to take Russian rather than the typical French or Spanish, he can.  If he wants to do two histories in one year, he can.  If he wants to take an online class or even an online college course or a college course at a local university, he could!

We teach our children according to OUR beliefs. We teach them God is first, ALWAYS.  We are human, of course, and sometimes fail in demonstrating this.  I have. in the past, missed attending a feast day at church or other event because we are behind in academics.  But in this too, we are teaching God forgives.  But we must always, ALWAYS strive to do better.  This year I blocked out the feast days first on the calendar when I planned school days. So we teach them our faith.  We teach them the teachings of the Orthodox Christian Church.  And we teach them to love and forgive.

We maintain our HEALTH. My family has completely eradicated illnesses that conventional medicine claims there is not a cure for through eliminating MSG, other neurotoxins, and artificial additives and preservatives from our diet.  Because of homeschooling, my children were an integral part of our conversion from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to a more whole foods approach and eliminating dangerous toxins from our daily consumption in food products and other sources.  They enjoyed finding new recipes and trying new foods.  They learned to read labels and make determinations on what to consume and realized the detriment these food products had been causing us.  Because of homeschooling, my children were able to delve deeply into our learning process and do not need to be fed nonsensical information in a public school health class.  Nor do they need to fight school policies on school cafeteria food that is full of the very toxins we avoid.  (More on our food habits and our food choices in posts to come!)

These are the highlights of why we homeschool.  I wrote this, I have realized, as though I'm still homeschooling both my older children.  It's a hard habit to break.  My daughter is actually not at home this year because she is attending college at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. (Yes, homeschoolers CAN go to college - this in answer to an actual question my husband received recently from a well-educated man.)  Currently, it is only my older son that is being homeschooled.  Of course, while he's only 3 1/2, my youngest is also being educated...but in a much more relaxed, fun approach and not really 'school'.  We are enjoying just exploring his world and teaching the concepts that come up as they come up.  He actually has learned a few words already!  Nothing like GOOD BOOKS to captivate a child and give the desire to find out what those letters on the page are doing!

My older son is in 9th grade... his first year of 'high school' and keeping track of credits.  It's a challenging year but he's keeping up well and still active in Scouts and got a doe while hunting the other day (while public school kids were confined in a brick building).

So again, these are the highlights.  I'm looking forward to sharing more about what we do and what we have learned.  There's so much to tell!  🙂

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Well, it's been awhile since I posted anything. This past week has been rather busy with our Church schedule during Holy Week and Pascha. And we all seemed to come down with some minor cold symptoms (which is rare but then I realized we have slacked off on our vitamins and then had more contact with the outside world than we usually do so ......) But it wasn't anything major and didn't stop us from attending services so that's good.

I finished my books that I was reading towards the end of Lent. Now I have FINALLY read Twisted, a book by Laurie Halse Anderson that I've had on my Amazon wishlist for over two years. So I finally bought it for myself and read it in just over a day. It is my third book to have read by her and I am a huge fan. Her characters totally pull you in. I have also started a book about anger. I think, after this Lenten season especially, that I have dealt with a lot of my anger issues - and boy did I use to have a lot of them - but someone close to me was reading this book and expressed a lot of interest in it (Dancing With Anger) and so I thought, why not. I always cringe at self-help books because they can sort of go against a lot of Orthodox Teachings and obviously stress too much SELF SELF SELF....but I thought I'd give this one a shot and I try to just glide over the whole part of putting yourself completely ahead of others part of it and see what she has to say about dealing with anger.....I'm only into the second chapter so far, so we'll see. I'm also reading One Thousand Gifts...it's written by a woman with some sort of protestant background but is being read by a lot of Orthodox people. She seems to have some major Orthodox percepetions and I can't help but wonder how her life would be even more complete if she were to find the Orthodox Faith. Besides, these two books I have a huge stack of books in my room that I have not read yet of all varities and it's so hard to choose which is next. Which is why I'm usually reading at least three if not 4 or 5 books at a time. Sometimes even more. Nuts, I know, but it works for me most of the time. I haven't decided on what my current Orthodox book will be yet....I have several calling my name...

So now I thought I'd post a few more random things about me:

1. We just celebrated PASCHA. Pascha, to give an understanding, is Eastern ‘Easter”. I don’t really like giving it the name Easter because it does have some pagan connotations but I do use the term among my Catholic and Protestant terms simply so they understand what I’m talking about. We stayed up all night…or should I say morning? The service starts at 10:30 and ends around 2:30 with lots and lots of feasting afterwards. I’ve had a sleep deprivation headache most of the week but it is so TOTALLY worth it! I love the way we worship our Lord. The way we go all out for Him. The way we understand Salvation and Theosis!. I am so thrilled to have found Orthodoxy.

2. I LOVE LOVE LOVE to read. I read a vast array of materials too. I’m thrilled to have a toddler again so I have an even bigger excuse to read picture books and classic fairy tales and nursery rhymes again. And I’m looking forward to reading the Junie B. Jones series again someday. But I also love middle grade, young adult, and of course adult fiction as well. I love reading about Orthodoxy and learning more and more about my faith and its history, its saints and its perspective on today’s worldview. I also, of course, love reading Holy Scripture, though I prefer reading it with Orthodox Commentary so I have a better apostolic understanding of what I’m reading. I also read things on whole foods, natural living, and things that pretty much go against the usual American Diet. I sometimes read things related to history and science, but those are usually connected to our home schooling rather than a random book I select on my own. There’s other things too….but I’ve realized I could make this a whole blog piece on its own! LOL

3. I don’t do well with dairy. During the fast we gave up dairy of course. I was the most ‘congestion free’ that I have been in the last two years - since the last time I gave up dairy completely. This week already, after just three days of non-fasting, I have already awoken with some congestion and , I’m afraid, been having more digestive issues. I really should let the dairy go, but….it’s so yummy.

4. I have freckles. I use to hate my freckles. I mean, they are like, all over and I used to get picked on about them so I hated them. But then my sister got me this mug that says ‘These aren’t freckles, they’re just a whole bunch of teeny tiny tans.” I just love that mug and I love that freckle philosophy. So I’ve adopted it as my own and shrug off my freckles now with a chuckle.

5. Our dog is a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. She is a cousin to the Burmese....most people know that one if they are a dog lover. But the Greater Swiss has shorter hair and, supposedly, sheds less. HAHA. She's a good dog, but is very hyper when people visit, which makes her not so popular with some of our friends. She's not mean, just jumpy and wants to be in their face. We have tried several tactics. But since we live in the country and don't have visitors so often, its sort of hard to do any type of real training method consistently. Well, we love her. She is a devoted animal, that's for sure. 🙂

That's all for today. I really need to figure out a schedule for me again and try sticking to it. I do much better with a schedule. There's just too many things pulling me in all kinds of directions and I really need to find a balance. I don't want to give up on the blogging. I love it so. But I need to find a way to fit it into a bunch of other things too.