What We're Doing for Home Education This Year, and 3 Gluten-Free Pumpkin Recipes for Fall
Why do we need an education, anyway? Well, it’s not to “get a good job” or “be successful,” whatever those mean. It’s not to “get smart” or “fit in,” whatever those mean. There is no “rat race.” There is no universal scale of success. Life is not a contest!
We all have unique dreams for what a happy fulfilled life will look like. Do you think the people with the most degrees are happiest? The most money saved for retirement? The most well-recognized face on a magazine? (Sounds awful dry and sad to me.)
Or is a happy life one in which you influenced others deeply? Where you sacrificed something huge for the benefit of someone else? Where you came up with a new invention that improved people’s lives? Came up with a way to change a pattern of poverty? Took something ugly and made it beautiful? Used God’s gifts in you to love someone nobody else would love?
All children are PERSONS with unique purposes in life, that there’s no way I can plan for them what they need to know. My children’s minds are not an empty page on which I’m supposed to write — they get to decide what to pursue! The only education is SELF education. Which is why as a home educator, my role is to give them access to great ideas — wonderful literature, history, theology, philosophy, art…! I’m not trying to prepare them for a job, I’m preparing them for a LIFE.
I don’t want this to be “School” at home! I don’t want desks and bells and subjects and lists and isolated “science" projects and memorizing all the things everyone else has to memorize. My kids aren’t computers, and they don’t need lots of little disconnected fragments of information! I want their education to be learning through living! It’s a BIG difference! I don’t want my kids to compartmentalize math as separate from history as separate from food as separate from interior design! They are all inter-woven together in a LIFE. Dry bones “curriculum” and textbooks removes them from the real world. They deaden the inherent CURIOSITY of kids!
I don’t want to create winners on the show Jeopardy or fantastic test-takers or people set to play Trivial Pursuit the rest of their lives. But growing up in school (AND in university), I felt like I wasn’t being trained in reality— I was being trained in trivia. Dates and names and events were memorized instead of learning to question WHY these things occurred, whether these things were right or wrong, how we could prevent them from repeating, and whether they added meaning to our own lives!
Instead of urging my kids to memorize trivia, my job as a home educator is to:
- Encourage and train my children in Writing, Argumentation, and Public Speaking. If you cannot clearly communicate a point through words, your life on earth will be a difficult one. You must be able to share your ideas with others for your life to have meaning!
- Teach them to be Deeply Analytical. School teaches you to memorize the dots, but not how to connect them! I want my children to question everything, think independently about the deep questions of life, never to just accept things as they are. A creative mind is always looking for a new way to see things, a more effective way of doing things! This is how we leave a legacy on earth — not by doing things the way they've always been done!
- And they need to be Knowledgeable. By giving my children exposure to broad ideas, and freedom to dig in, they begin to become deeply knowledgeable about the things that interest them!
So, how do we accomplish that?
Though I’m a free-thinker, it’s still a little scary not having a pre-planned curriculum or check-list!
My children are all young — ages 1, 4, 6, and 8 — so much of our time focuses on and prioritizes freedom to play and create. I see so much communication, story-telling, and imagination being developed in those hours upon hours of uninterrupted pretend-play every day! This time is invaluable to their mental and spiritual development, and their ability to interact with the world in creative new ways! They invent movies they act out together, they make costumes/props/puppets, pretend starting a business and selling things, they imagine new symbols and words, they have a whole separate world from that of adults where they can try out so many different roles.
Our second priority is Reading Aloud.
Every night year-round, either me or Jeff reads from a book to the entire family. This is how they become introduced to great literature, profound ideas, history, and excellence in communication. I read almost obsessively my entire childhood through all of the classics and more, and I believe that gave me a firm footing in vocabulary and writing! We are currently reading the original Heidi by Johanna Spyri.
Previous whole-family read-alouds were:
- Little House in the Big Woods
- Farmer Boy
- Peter Pan (the original, which challenged even me!)
- The Green Ember
- The Penderwicks
Next, we plan to read:
We also read straight from the Bible aloud in the morning at breakfast-time, and I plan to add afternoon reading of poetry (Robert Frost and others).
Priority Three: Individual Grammar & Math Time
Each child will do individual reading aloud to me each day, they'll read a different book alone, and they'll spend 20 minutes a day practicing writing selected words from the books they read, in print and cursive.
After reading alone, they will tell back to me the story/chapter in their own words — practicing narration.
Felicity, age six, is reading these: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Charlotte’s Web, Who Was Thomas Edison, Who Was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Who Was Leonardo Davinci, and The Tuttle Twins Learn About The Law.
Heidi, age four, is learning to read with me, using the book that I used (with great success!) with her older siblings. Instead of memorizing word lists, this book teaches reading phonetically: How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.
I also prioritize basic arithmetic in a somewhat systematic way, using the Horizons math books, which I love because they make math FUN. Felicity plows through these books like they're more entertaining than a video game! Most importantly with math, I want my kids to see its usefulness in solving problems in real life, and not see it as a way to be "rated." I want them to feel the thrill of solving the puzzle, not the let-down of not solving the problem the way the teacher wanted them to!
Priority four: Nature walks, and outings
Once a week on a beautiful day, me and the four kids will go outside to a meadow, stream, farm, hill, woods, lake, or mountain, and enjoy God's creation. This gives them time to encounter the wonder of the world, and allows them to follow their curiosity. They bring nature notebooks and bring back specimens to inspect and draw when they get home!
We've got lots of additional outings planned, including trips to the Gari Melchers historic home and Art Studio, the State Fair, the Bible Museum, and get-togethers with our local Wild & Free homeschool group!
Priority five: Arts and Foreign Languages
Art is a way of life, and we never really stop creating here! I give my children access to fine art supplies like professional Prismacolor pencils, real canvases and high-end paper for paintings — avoiding coloring books and "twaddle" that's designed for kids. They choose to spend most of their free time doing art, Lochlan especially. He is constantly writing books and illustrating them, never needing any prodding to finish the projects that he passionately completes on his own!
I'm also introducing each child to several famous paintings from great artists of the past, allowing them to draw their own impressions that they got from each one.
Felicity has chosen also to learn French, and is voraciously devouring lessons from Rosetta Stone. She not only does the lessons but decided on her own to make a notebook of everything she learns. She also wants to take singing lessons and sewing lessons, so we're following her lead!
Beyond this, our home education is so open-ended! Much of our time is spent talking about friends, God, nutrition, health, church, businesses we'd like to start, stories we're writing, things we think are beautiful... Sharing life together.
For more reading on the topic of homeschooling, two great books that closely reflect my own views are:
Here are some of my best gluten-free, nutrient-dense Pumpkin recipes for your family!
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pancakes
- 2 cups Pamela's Pancake & Baking Mix
- 3 T brown sugar
- 2 organic pastured eggs
- 2/3 cup pumpkin (canned or home roasted and pureed)
- 1 1/8 cups raw whole milk
- 2 T melted unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp ground ginger
- pinch of ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Heat a griddle on the stove-top to medium. Meanwhile, whisk together the spices and Pamela's, and then add the rest of the ingredients, whisking well. Add milk as needed for desired consistency. Pour batter on griddle, making 3.5" circles. Flip when little bubbles start popping up. Makes about 20 pancakes. Serve alongside warmed organic maple syrup, sausage, scrambled eggs, and fried apples for a perfect fall breakfast!
Pumpkin Chicken Rice Soup
- 1 medium sweet onion, finely diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 T butter
- 4.5 cups homemade unsalted chicken broth
- 1 T himalayan pink salt
- sprinkle of pepper
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 large sweet apple, like braeburn/fiji/gala, peeled and chopped in 1/2” chunks
- 1 can pumpkin, or 1 3/4 cups roasted mashed pie pumpkin
- 2 T organic maple syrup
- 1/2 cup raw cream
- 4 cups cooked shredded chicken
- 2.5 cups cooked (in broth) wild rice blend
Cook rice according to package instructions, using broth as your liquid. Melt butter and add onions and carrots, and cook over med-high for 5 mins. Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add broth, pumpkin, apples, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and bring to boil over high heat. Turn to low, and cook for 30 mins. Stir in chicken, cream, maple, and rice, until all are well-warmed. Serve alongside grain-free bread.
Grain-Free Pumpkin Muffins
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 6 local, GMO-free, pastured eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
- 1/2 cup pumpkin (canned or home-roasted and pureed)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp allspice
- 1/8 tsp ginger
- 1/8 tsp cloves
- 1/4 tsp Himalayan pink salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 cup organic coconut flour
Preheat oven to 400. Fill muffin tin with 12 unbleached liners. Melt butter. In a big glass mixing bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients (spices, salt, soda, flour). In another bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla, honey, pumpkin, and finally butter. Pour wet into dry ingredients, and whisk well. Pour batter evenly into muffin liners, and put into oven for about 17 minutes. If they look wet, you can cook longer, up to 19 mins. Great when cooled to room temperature, alongside scrambled eggs and bacon!