Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hindsight Hazards

The harvests at Colvin Family Farm are still
bountiful! Come for a farmhouse visit and
see how our family melds farming with
home schooling the final 6 of our 13 

Greetings from the farmhouse!

~If you are new to our family farm's blog, "Hello!" I'd encourage you to begin with last week's blog found below. ~

The rain has finally ceased, and the cool fall breezes are rustling the leaves here on our mountain. It looks and sounds like fall!

We've had a productive week on the farm and in the farmhouse school this week. I'm one to make a list, and check off projects as they are completed, so this week feels good compared to our first week of school!

 Has it been a perfect week? NO, and I want to continue to be perfectly honest with you. It's easy for bloggers to paint a rosy picture of their lives, especially if it helps their profits. Our lives could be easily blogged as on a picturesque farm, lots of happy children scrambling to work and learn, Pintrest meals each evening, and the list could go on. But in reality, our family is a lot like yours...just multiplied by 6.5 if you have 2 children. We are learning hard lessons, working hard to get ourselves onto a winter schedule, my 13 year old washer LEAKS, and I too have to figure out what to cook each evening for supper. (That's the hardest part of cooking for me!) So please, don't idolize my life. Instead, ask God to show you who He wants you and your family to be and delight in His direction. 

I guess that would be my first "hindsight hazard" to share this week. Looking back over the past 29 years of home educating my children, I would read about or 
 see another family that appeared to "have it altogether", and wish I could have live as victoriously as they appeared to live. In reality I saw them a few hours a week at church, read a book about them where they wrote only about what they wanted their audience to know about them, or just caught a glimpse of them at a good moment. satan knows if he can get the Momma to mentally swerve away from God's direction for their family's lives, a lot of time and emotional energy could be drained from God's vision for the family. If I could go back and serve God better I wouldn't daydream about becoming the perfect family, having a farm, or my husband coming home from a corporate job to work with the boys, etc. All of that was in God's plan to begin with, and He laid it all on my heart so I'd be prepared to be the proper helpmeet to Steve when the time came for HIM to lead us in that direction. There was sooo much for me to quietly pray about and learn in the ensuing time! I wasted a lot of time in retrospect.
Adam harvesting fennel on Friday for the markets this weekend. Come visit him and Luke (11) at the Main Street Farmer's Market in Chattanooga on Wednesdays (Pastured chicken and jams available at this market), and the Franklin Farmer's Market on Saturday!

Back to the farm...the men have been cleaning up the sheds and workshops, scheduling next year's plantings, and harvesting in the rain. Since it rained most of the week,they are getting into their fall/winter schedule too. Thankfully today (Friday is our largest harvest day) the sun came out and the cool breezes began to dry out the fields they were working in. But by the looks of their boots when they came in for dinner, the fields are pretty muddy!

This is a rare good picture of Noah. He's our 10th grade field hand and works with Isaac (20) at Market Square Farmer's Market in downtown Knoxville on Saturdays. Pasture raised, Non-GMO fed chicken available at this market.

Farmer Steve works 3 markets...Oak Ridge Farmer's Market on Saturday, Crossville's Cumberland Sustainable Farmer's Market on Thursdays, and the Ebenezer Farmer's Market on Tuesdays. He's offering our pastured chicken at his markets, so try it out!

Kale, Fennel (below), several kinds of lettuce, sweet turnips, potatoes, Swiss Chard, snap peas, radish, cilantro, pie and decorative pumpkins, garlic, and many other vegetables are still being harvested.

 Each day at least one of the boys would come into the dry farmhouse and say, "Oh it feels good, and smells good in here!" We've  been having fun experimenting with comfort type foods again. The bounty of the winter squash crated in my pantry led me to try creating a new stuffing for acorn squash. In the past we've used a wide assortment of ingredients such as sausage, apples, walnuts, and brown rice to "stuff" the center of a winter squash. This week I used chicken. Don't limit yourself to this recipe! Look in your cupboards and refrigerator and concoct your own stuffing!

There are 4 components to a good vegetable stuffing,whether you are stuffing peppers, zucchini, or winter squash.
1. "Starch" ~ brown rice, mashed potatoes, or bread to name a few. Since I'm on a restricted diet, I have been using Millet, Couscous, or Quinoa.
2. Meat ~ Optional, but an essential in our home. I usually use some kind of sausage until I tried chicken this week in this recipe.
3. Vegetable~ This is a good place to "hide" a vegetable that is eaten slowly in your home...eggplant was used in this recipe to multiply the chicken, but I didn't list it in the recipe below. I like to use greens because they give the dish color and pack a great nutritional punch.
4.Seasoning~ I use a lot of garlic as it's so good for us. I put cheese under this category too as it is mostly for seasoning, texture, or garnish.

 I know there looks like a lot of steps, but it is real easy to make. This serves 6-8.

Stuffed Acorn Squash
1/2 Acorn Squash per person
4-5 boneless chicken thighs
(breasts would work too)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 C. chopped pecans
1/4 C. chopped almonds
1/8 C. chopped sunflower seeds
4 large Swiss Chard leaves (or other greens)
1 small zucchini
4-5 cups cooked brown rice or Quinoa
sea salt/pepper

1. Wash the outside of each acorn squash and cut in
half. Remove seeds.

2. Place upside down on a baking sheet with a lip. Place in 350 degree oven. Pour water onto the pan until there is about 1/2" on the entire surface. Bake while preparing the filling.

4. Meanwhile, cut chicken into cubes. Place in a hot skillet with 2- 3T. of olive oil. Stir.     

5. Chop zucchini into small cubes. Set aside. 

6. Cut the Swiss Chard into ribbons, then in half lengthwise. Set aside.

7. Chop nuts in food processor or hand chopper like mine from Pampered Chef. 

8. When the chicken has lost its color, add zucchini. Stir.

9. Next add the nuts and Chard to the frying pan.

10. Cook, stirring often until the begins to go limp. Add the rice until it "looks right". Remove from heat.

11. Remove squash from the oven and carefully flip over. Using an ice cream scoop, fill the cavities with filling.

12. Optional: Top with mozzarella or Parmesan cheese.

13. Cover with foil and place it back into the oven.

14. Bake until you can insert a knife easily through the squash. 

Safe inside the farmhouse this week school took it's more familiar role in our day. Let me introduce my little schoolhouse to you. Again, let me say that my children are children. A work of God in progress.

Titus is 18 and working diligently to graduate in December. He's only studying Government, 1/2 semester of English, Bible, and U.S. History along with Personal Finance. Soon we'll graduate our 8th child.

Noah is in the 10th grade, and quietly digging into his studies. We use Listen My Son which is a high school unit study based on Proverbs 3. Since I have used it and Far Above Rubies (a unit study for high school girls based on Proverbs 31) with all but one of our young adults we use a comfortable blend of the advanced assignments from both curriculums that allow independent study.  Noah purchased a muzzle loader rifle this summer with part of his earnings, and is eagerly awaiting deer season.

Faith Anne was eagerly waiting for school to begin! She's our new high schooler, and began Far Above Rubies this summer. She's been studying what it means to be a "virtuous woman" by reading about godly women in history, looking up words that Scripture defines a godly woman as, writing letters to older Christian women asking for wisdom in the coming years, and MUCH more. After studying the skills of the Proverbs 31 woman, she's decided to concentrate on her sewing skills this year. We bought You Can Sew! DVD curriculum since she's been struggling with it. I've met the instructor and she's great! She'll never know that the seam's been torn out 3 times and the lesson replayed 10 times! Faith Anne enjoys embroidering, and has begun making and embroidering aprons for friends, and a small bakery that sells at several of the markets we sell at.

Luke decorated his "study nook" in a safari theme this year.

Luke is my laid back 11 year old in 6th grade. I prayed over his curriculum a lot this summer as we need to motivate him past the preteen slump. With only his math text in hand I sought the Lord for the rest. One evening, out of the blue came His direction! I had never even heard of The Father's Books before, but within the hour I was assured of God's direction. I purchased "Book Reports" by faith, which is very unlike me...I plan, pray, research, mull, and make lists for months! We need to motivate Luke, and I'm convinced after only 2 weeks that God chose right without any help from me! ha ha! Luke loves to read, so this curriculum takes that love and motivates it to express itself in writing. Of course he'll have to understand grammar and form to do this, so there is just enough instruction in each unit to further polish his writing without assigning page upon page of  blahhh "circle the nouns in each sentence" type of assignments. A big plus to me is that it teaches the same high standards for selecting godly books that we have as a family! They boldly teach God's standards for choosing literature which is like taking a highlighter to our teaching and standards! After only 2 weeks he's working independently and cheerfully! The learning center is another answer to what to teach Luke...I'll explain what we do there later.

Levi is my sweet little boy (but growing sooo quickly!). At 9 he's my 3rd grader. He's ready to dive into any study I aim him for! (Well, not the spelling test today.) He is Charity's other teacher as they are buddies. We're still reinforcing the basics while broadening his horizens. Like all his older siblings, he's using Teaching Textbooks for his math, and feels real grownup to use a laptop!

Charity practiced her spelling words using Wikki Sticks. It soon turned into an art and nature lesson when they began fashioning bugs.

My baby, Charity Rose is our 1st grader. It's very odd knowing she's our last child! I've had babies, preschoolers and kindergartners for over 30 years! She's not one to be left behind in the dust though! She had all the phonics songs from Sing, Spell, Read, and Write memorized by 3 years, finished her A Becka kindergarten math book by 5 1/2, and wants to do anything Levi is into. I'm slowing her math down a bit so she can fully understand the concepts, not just memorize them. She's reviewing her Italic handwriting, and hopes to leave those exercises behind, and just do copywork the rest of the year. She's almost reached her goal in just 2 weeks. She too loves her learning center time...

One change this year is to add some fun to our spelling lessons...This day we spelled our words with tongue depressors with letters on them. It's a great way to introduce consonants and vowels.

On Monday I introduced this week's words by writing them out larger than usual. Then Charity had the fun of painting the letters over mine! After this activity alone she only had to work on 3 words!
Charity lost her first tooth this week! Now she's a real big girl! In our family we give a 1/2 gallon of ice cream for each tooth lost. It's amazing how this helps the children learn generosity. They willingly hand out small spoonfuls of ice cream to each person in the family at a meal each day. It's not much, but they are in the position of sharing for the first time in a major way.  Her favorite color is green so she chose pistachio almond ice's green!
Before I go on in this lengthy post, let me share another "hindsight hazard". In the first 10 years of home educating our children I felt like I HAD to teach every subject so the children wouldn't miss anything they NEEDED to be productive adults. After that I gradually saw that some subjects were best left until the child matured a bit, and they wouldn't be stunted in a way to wait. For instance, in the government schools children begin learning 


in kindergarten and first grade. I tried this with my oldest son Matthew...tears...wasted time...lesson learned. I now wait until 6th to 7th grade to teach grammar formally. An English Professor friend confirmed my assessment by adding, "Why teach the same thing every year when you can teach it once in the middle grades and be done with it?!" So all my younger children write a lot, but we concentrate on handwriting, spelling, and form. An exciting essay will come without knowing the intricacies of grammar. I've concluded that grammar prepares my children for the advanced writing assignments in high school. This same concept could be applied in many areas of our children's education.

So, while I wanted to stimulate Luke I was unclear on how to do it. God directed me bit by bit to return to the unit study method and modify it to fit our family. The learning center idea has created the wonder and excitement only God knew he had. (It's odd, but I didn't take any pictures of him in all that he did!)

Levi turned to a field guide to help him know the leaf colors, and to learn a bit about each tree. Soon Charity tried to use it too. He taught her about looking up tree names and finding what page they were on...a bit above her? Yes...but she's learning, and he verbalized a skill he had learned. The best way to fully learn is to teach.

What is the learning center?! Well, it was fashioned out of our old dining room table that had been in storage since we grew out of it about 18 years ago. It seats only 8 with the leaves in it, but at its smallest size it fits cozily in the corner of our family/school room. Next I took a science fair tri-fold board and decorated it with our current theme of autumn. I posted a few teaser topics and pictures to get their minds engaged, and to create mysterious excitement. I'm sure the topics we delve into for a week or so at a time will be varied, but to introduce the center I picked the basic topic of autumn. We're focusing on fall leaves this week. We've gone on hikes gathering specific kinds, and later specific colors of leaves. We've made leaf collages by copying them on to paper, coloring them in their true fall colors, then using an xacto knife they cut the intricate leaves out and glued them into their nature journals. We've extracted pigments of the leaves and identified which were chlorophyll (green pigment), Carotenoid (yellow and orange), Taninn (brown in color), 


Anthocyanin (reg pigment). We also experimented with two methods of preserving the leaves they found on the leaf-color scavenger hunt. We're making mobiles from them to hang over the center to replicate falling leaves.

We didn't have "learning center time" the first week of school. (See last week's blog and you'll understand why!) What I was doing in the corner each day was a big mystery! Questions flew as a specific time in thier schedule was set apart for time there. Excitement built until one morning there were manila envelopes with posti-note instructins on them were on the table at the center; with a tub of scissors, leaf stencils, and other fun looking tools. I used the center as an encouragement for the children to manage their time (our Biblical focus) well so they could have their full center time.

Textbooks for science and history don't fit our style or schedule well. This varied approach will keep interest high and we'll study many areas that traditional texts only mention lightly....robotics, coin collecting and the U.S. Mint, and art are a few of the the topics we'll delve into together as a family. The beauty of this idea is that I can easily become read aloud time if a living book fits our upcoming theme well. I'm excited, and that's what we all need.

In years past I've tried to keep up our regular school pace after starting to farm full-time. This did not work well. I should have backed off then, but pridefully plowed ahead with a full schedule of unit studies and high school work. The tension the overly full schedule created wasn't worth it. "Hindsight Lesson" learned: It's okay to create a school schedule to meet the unique needs of your family. If your children are excited about life, they'll be learning even without structured instruction. Mine read, write, create, build, and work hard all  year long. Life is school. (I'm not advocating not having school...too many families are opting for this. Just make a flexible school schedule.)

My last "hindsight hazard" for now is one that I've learned about myself over my "season apart" healing during the last 6 months. I'm seeing the importance of being a balanced home school Mom. I'm a slow learner and it's taken over 30 years for me to see the difficulty I have balancing two of my roles in our family...Momma and teacher. I've always seen them as one role, and they are functionally.

"...and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou riseth up."
Deuteronomy 6:7

These have been my guiding words as we were blessed with one child after another. One word rung especially clear in my mind through the years..."diligently".

I am a born in my zeal I lean towards the side of teaching rather to the nurturing side of being a mother. The teacher side of me continues teaching at every moment of the day and has difficulty seeing past the character/educational/occupational goals that I'm striving to instill.

The Momma side of a woman is her tender, nurturing side. They are emotionally involved, and see the gift yet unopened in their children. They love them towards maturing these gifts.

One way I'm working to apply this balance in my life this week is through seeing each child's true needs. We've begun a new fall/winter schedule and we're using it as one of my important "tools" to train the children to use time wisely. (During farming season we teach flexibility, as that is what the season calls for!) By learning to follow the given flow of the schedule it is shaping the children towards being wise stewards of their time during the "off season". 

One downside for a teacher is if a younger child gets off schedule from being out late to a market and sleeps in a few minutes. It throws their early morning off schedule, and they fail to complete their chores before breakfast. The teacher in me is tempted to "teach" about being disciplined in getting up instead of being sympathetic that the younger child is just worn out. 

There is a balance that I'm still working on, for in the real world, adults must be disciplined in getting up to work despite how late they are up the night before. We expect this of our young men, but we can't expect an 11 year old to be as mature as a 24 year old either. Becoming the Momma that encourages towards this goal instead of the teacher that stretches (ouch!) her pupil towards maturity is my goal. Type A (Martha) personalities like myself must see this hazard as they train their children for Christ.

I apologize for the length of my blogs...I'm too wordy. I'll learn and grow in this! I also apologize for the tardiness of this post. The Internet "ate" my blog last night and I've had to redo the wholllle thing in "spare" moments today. I'm constantly learning!

I'm so thankful that the Lord is so patient with me as I learn and grow. All of my hindsight was learned at Jesus' feet as He gently pointed out each painful lesson over the years. One day I pray I'll have learned each lesson well and hear "well done thou good and faithful servant..."

Abundant Blessings,
The Farmer's Wife,