Friday, December 15, 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Priorities and the Little Things

One of the best things about home learning is the fact that it is home and family-based. Learning can seamlessly blend into living and you eventually find that they aren't two separate entities.

The downside is that you can get so caught up in the little things that days pass without getting to the big things. For instance, T-Guy can offer to read me a book, but as I mentally check my to-do list I conclude that I don't have time and that it will have to wait. It's easy to say that I shouldn't do that, but sometimes I am stirring a pot, wiping up a spill, or knee-deep in the finances.

We're not total unschoolers, just relaxed learners who do some structured learning within the vast hours of unstructured life. I like the structured stuff - reading stories, drawing pictures, doing arts and crafts, singing seasonal songs, playing math games.... It may sound like school in the minds of most radical unschoolers, but in reality it is more like home-based education was a century ago, and my boys thrive on it.

I struggle though, to make the structured parts a priority. It's easy to fall back on the fact that the boys are learning all of the time, and to let the story go untold that day because we really need to go buy bananas. Or to skip the drawing because I felt inspired to blog or answer an email and the boys are playing outside happily.

It's fine to do that some of the time, to be flexible; that's one great thing about opting out of the traditional idea of schooling. For us it is a problem when it happens day after day, sometimes week after week. Suddenly a month has passed and we haven't practiced reading at all, and I'm not talking about the month where the reading skills are supposed to be in the sleep cycle. No, T-Guy needs to practice reading - it's how we learn. Without practice we can't reach mastery, which is why I can't knit even though I did learn how to 10 years ago. I did it for a week, didn't practice, and forgot it. When I pick it up again I will have to go back to the beginning...the skills didn't hone themselves while I didn't use them.

Often, I write about juggling the various aspects of home life. I think that in the past I have misjudged the order of importance. I ranked cooking and laundry right up there with focused time with the boys, because they are things that have to be done. Only recently have I realized that the focused time is more important. Everything else will get done, I know it, whether it is done by me or not. No one else is going to plan and execute lessons. No one else is going to read through 20 fairy tales to find the 5 that best fit my children. No one else is going to try to draw roosters and foxes and dragons. No one else will put down her handwork to explore dinosaurs, trains, place value, or any of the thousands of other topics the boys bring to me, wanting to know more. Papa, he has to work his 45+ hours each week, and spending this holistic learning time with the boys isn't his calling. He is, however, more than willing to pitch in and do laundry and cook.

I don't want to create this misconception that focused time spent with children is time consuming. It's not; that's why it seems so easy to push it aside here and there with the idea that we'll get to it soon. Sometimes it just takes a bit of creative thinking; this morning we read our nature story snuggled up in bed while Papa showered. We would have snuggled anyway, so adding in the story just took advantage of the time the boys are focused on me while waiting for breakfast.

I don't think of what I do as a job. It's life, it's my and living are not separate things. That doesn't mean that the old managerial me can't assess the situation and assign some priorities. So now I raise the focused learning time with my boys (planned by me or introduced by them) the top spot on my list. I still want to be ultimately flexible and not ensnared in a rigid schedule. I have to figure it out; is organic circle really working or do we need more structure? How do the boys respond when a story lesson it at 9 a.m. one day and 2 p.m. the next? What do they need? They aren't infants any longer, but they still benefit from having someone in their every waking hour who is keep their well-being in her mind at all times.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Getting Back Into The Groove

Okay, today we start easing back into a more structured learning environment. My surgery forced me to completely do the observation that is recommended in the Enki guides, and my biggest observation is that the boys don't thrive on pure freedom. When I am in bed all day I am not acting as the container for the day. The get tired of doing things that only they can come up with and orchestrate. They miss having me as their guide.

I posted about a holiday block late last month. Thursday I finalized our plan. I based everything around The Seven-Year-Old Wonder Book by Isabel Wyatt. We started the book months ago and never finished it. I would have just let the book go, but T-Guy in particular has asked to finish it. The book has many Christmas stories in it, so it is a good fit and makes the task of finding Christmas tales less difficult for me.

Based on where we were in the book, we read one story last Friday. We'll read and work with 3 stories a week for 3 weeks, then the week between Christmas and New Year we'll read the final 3 stories without actually working them (I want to keep the momentum and finish the book, but don't want formal lessons during the week Papa is home).

Each morning we'll walk around the block, sing some holiday songs, then do our main lesson work. We're simply reintroducing the three-fold cycle of intake-sleep-output. Each lesson morning we'll recall the previous story, draw a picture from it, and write a short sentence or verse. Today we drew Sylvia's fairy tree and wrote the words SYLVIA'S FAIRY TREE. We were transitioning to using lowercase letters during grade 1, but this month the focus is getting the writing done and not having to contract so tight to write in lowercase.

Quiet time has been going well, so we'll add on cleaning their room for 15 minutes after quiet time, and we'll formalize a small snack at this time, if needed. I've noticed that they usually grab a snack before quiet time, even though they had lunch 30 minutes prior.

For practice we will do handwriting and reading, as well as simple math manipulatives and games. Since we'll be writing during the main lesson our writing practice will be numbers. We have 9 lessons planned for the block, so we'll combine 0 and 1. We will be working on remembering the verses as well as the actual writing.

For crafts we'll make holiday gifts and cards, model with beeswax, bake, and do handwork.

I've settled having structured lessons 3 days a week. We probably could buckle down and do more, but I want us to have more unstructured time for real life living and learning. If it doesn't work out we have Thursdays free to add lessons to. We will read our nature story on Tuesdays, during our normal practice time.

I still have a lot of planning to do. I need to plan the next block. Since Enki doesn't have all of the sage stories ready I will either have to change my choice (MLK Jr.) or go it alone. I haven't decided yet what to do.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Grade 2 Blocks - Block 2

One thing that I find very exciting about grade 2 is the more formal move into multicultural studies. The grade 1 fairy tales do come from all over the world, however, you don't spend 2 months immersing yourself in another culture like you do in grade 2.

Our second block will be our first full multicultural cycle. Because we are starting in January and ending in February I have chosen for us to study Martin Luther King Jr. as our sage, and to immerse ourselves in African/American culture. Harriet Tubman is also offered as a sage in the Enki materials. I chose MLK Jr. because T-Guy was born on his birthdate, and J-Baby was born on the anniversary of his death. It is a unique coincidence.

For those accustomed to Waldorf block cycles, each cycle (which I am calling a block for my own simplification) consists of a language arts main lesson block and a math main lesson block, within the container of a specific culture.

Week 1 we will use an African trickster tale as the basis for our language arts work. Weeks 2 and 3 we will use the MLK Jr. sage story (I do hope it is ready by then!). The skill we will be introducing during this block is syllabication ( as well as the sage process). During weeks 1-3 our practice time will consist of reading practice (sight words and word families), handwriting numbers, and math games.

Week 4 we start the math portion of our cycle, and will review the four processes Weeks 5-6 we will introduce Fact Families. We're a little behind the standard for Enki math because we switched to Enki midway through grade 1, and I decided to take it slow and redo some of what we had done with Christopherus. Because of this we are doing more math blocks than are indicated on the Sample Grade Two Core Content Work sample in the grade 2 teaching guide, and I expect us to fully get through place value by the end of our formal academic year. It's not so much that I feel the need to catch up as it is the fact that J-Baby is grasping complex mental math very early (he is 6.5 and is already catching on to place value) and I want to give him a solid grounding through developmental-immersion-mastery. So where the sample has only 3 full math blocks, we're going to do 5 blocks of 3-4 weeks each, spreading place value over 3 blocks to accommodate our 3 day week.

Our practice time for weeks 4-6 will consist of handwriting letters, reading practice, word families (using the town board and stories), and a few other word games we have.

Throughout this cycle we will be immersing ourselves in African/American culture. Our music, crafts, and even some of our foods will reflect the culture. It isn't a teaching of a culture, it is an immersion in a culture. We'll be doing what we do anyway; singing songs, playing circle games, cooking and baking together, doing crafts. In addition, as J-Baby is still young for grade 2 I intend to use some of the grade 1 fairy tales from each culture we immerse ourselves in as stories (not worked with), either at bedtime or during our other reading times.

Grade 2 Blocks - Block 1

Kyra wants to hear about the blocks I am planning, and rather than lose them on the comments page I thought I'd do a proper post (actually, this has now morphed in 6 posts as I will detail each block in its own post). Remember, this is still very preliminary planning. I don't even have most of the Enki grade 2 resources or the instruction guides.

Block 1: Winter Holidays and the Christmas Tradition

This is an easing-in block, just 3-4 weeks to start moving us back toward the rhythm of structured learning. Compared to our other learning blocks it will be short, and will not focus on any new academics nor immersion in a different culture.

The plan is to choose 3-4 stories (1 for each week),and to take each story through the intake-digestion-output cycle. I think we might read The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader, The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens, and perhaps the story of the three shepherds as told in Donna Simmon's Practical Waldorf at Home: First Grade Syllabus. However, we're just getting back into Isabel Wyatt's The Seven-Year-Old Wonder Book and make take all 3-4 weeks from those stories.

We will stay within our own culture for this mini-block. The underlying goal is to firm up the daily and weekly rhythms with crafts, songs, and stories. I want the boys to get familiar once again with hearing a story, recalling the story, drawing the story, and writing a sentence or verse.

Honestly, I see no reason to step outside our own culture during a season that is full of tradition. I also do not believe is taking on other people's religious traditions as my own, so we won't just jump in and light a menorah. If we are invited to spend an evening of Hannukah with our Jewish friends that is within the context of community and is integrative, but doing so without connection makes no sense. We do celebrate the solstice in a non-religious manner, as I believe the turning of the seasons is something that all people in all times have found meaning in.

We'll reinstate practice time, alternating between reading skills and math manipulatives, along with daily handwriting practice. I'm ordering this lovely Christmas pop-up book to use with J-Baby and his alphabet sounds.

Crafts and art come easily at holiday time. There are gifts the boys can help to make, a tree to trim, cookies and treats to bake. We're planning to roll beeswax candles, to make bath salts and soaps, and to make olive oil lamps (we bought the basics from Lehman's and will use jars we save from food). We're searching for some good gluten-free,vegan recipes to make treats (I'll probably have to concoct my own). We can definitely make vegan GF rice crispy treats and vegan GF Fudge.

Holiday and seasonal songs abound. We'll listen to old favorites and pull some from the Enki materials as well. One thing we love is making music, and Papa has gotten very good at playing many holiday songs on his guitar.

I won't be released to full activity until right before Christmas, so we'll probably focus on fingerplays for our movement, along with slow, easy stretching movements. I'm hoping to talk the doctor into letting me take an easy walk around the block each morning starting the week after Thanksgiving.

My goal is to use this time of holiday, when we do so many integrative activities, to act as a springboard for the rest of our grade 2 year. I'll be slowly moving the boys back into rhythm, but gently, much like warming beeswax and then softly pressing here and there to create shape.

Okay, so this probably isn't the block Kyra was most interested in. However, my point was to illustrate that the holiday season is a great time to ease into Enki, whether it is for the first time or just transitioning to a new grade after a break.

I'll add a post for block 2 later this afternoon.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I Lied...

Papa seems intent on enforcing 2 weeks of bed rest, and already I am going insane. So today I did a little more grade 2 planning. I filled in the dates, finalized cultures, and added our health curriculum (a California thing, and we've always considered it an unschooled subject, but I want to focus more on nutrition and on emotional health).

Some cultural blocks end perfectly; ie. our African/American block ends during black history month, so we should find events in Los Angeles to wrap up the block. We've planned a trip to Yosemite and other natural areas of California to follow the Scottish/John Muir block. Our Mexican/Aztec Indian block will end just in time for Mexican Independence Day, which will surely be celebrated throughout Los Angeles. We might even take the train straight to Olvera Street.

Others may be more problematic. There is a Jewish holiday that coincides with the end of our Israeli block, but it isn't exacly a festive holiday and I try to be very careful when it comes to co-opting other religions. Tisha B'Av has been described as the saddest day of the Jewish calender. Perhaps there will be a commemoration at the Museum of Tolerance.

Our Native American block ends less than 2 weeks before the summer solstice, so although we will have just moved on to our Israeli/Jewish block we will hopefully find a solstice celebration to participate in.

This is the nuts and bolts kind of planning that my brain can handle right now.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A Long Break From the Blog...

Don't expect to see anything here for a few weeks. In fact, if I write anything here before 11/27 you have permission to email me and tell me to get off the computer.

Surgery is 11/8. I'm hopeful, and terrified. I've decided that I should stay off the computer for the full 2 weeks that I am not allowed to drive (with the exception of occasionally checking email from my laptop, in bed). After that we have Thanksgiving and I do not want to spend family time writing in the blog. So Monday 11/27 I give myself permission to think about blogging and homeschooling again.

I should be able to report what it is like to go through recovery when you spend 24/7 with your children. I think it will be fine. T-Guy is really sad about losing co-sleeping privileges for a couple of weeks, however, he is equally excited about using his recently acquired kitchen skills. He can now pour his own cereal, make toast and frozen waffles, and use the microwave to make popcorn (microwave popcorn was purchased in anticipation of my recovery). Although I have written down my basic recipes for Papa, it is T-Guy who plans to show him how to make beans, rice, etc.

J-Baby is having a tougher time of it, because he doesn't release his emotions as easily as he exhales (T-Guy swims in his emotions). He's been asking a lot of questions. He snuggles me more and keeps getting in as many double hugs as he can (a hug in which we pick him up and he hugs us with his arms and legs). It seems that his stuffed dolphin is also scheduled for surgery, which is one way that J-Baby processes a lot of things.

So farewell for now. Papa will be sending out a surgery update via email to a few people, so there will probably be updates at Amity's, as well as on HF and IEAWL. I gladly welcome all good thoughts that you might want to send my way....

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Big Pieces

When you strip away the academics and try to build your foundation for life (not just homeschooling, but living), you'll find that certain things are important for your family. Taking a break from the academics I've learned a few things about what makes things work for us.

Number one is environment. It comes before rhythm, before nourishing meals, before snuggling, singing, and stories. In Enki, environment is a warp thread on the web. For me, right now, I prefer the analogy of the womb.

Before we were ready to create life, the environment had to be prepared. For most of us, that is our homes. They need to be welcoming, nurturing, warm...not necessarily perfectly clean and organized, but liveable. For me personally, things need to be fairly well decluttered and in their places. I function better when I am not looking at visual chaos (okay, I also function better in the absence of aural chaos...I don't do chaos very well). I don't need bare surfaces, but I like things simple and not cluttered. My kitchen needs to be clean.

There are homes you walk into and you just feel the warmth. The style may not be yours, but you feel welcome. I love a home where you can curl up on the couch. I love eating spaces that are small and intimate, and obviously used. I love a big bed that the whole family can pile into. I love warm colors, golden wood floors, and candles that actually get burned. I love front porches and open doors, and garages in the back.

When my environment is sustaining me, I can move on to other things, such as rhythm and health. I'm not sure if one has higher priority than the other; health is necessary to sustain rhythm, rhythm is necessary to sustain health. I suppose though, that health follows close on the heels on environment (and really, it is all can I create the environment if I don't have health?).

At its very core, health is simple. Physical health requires good nourishment, moderate exercise, clean air and water, sunshine, and rest. We approach nutrition with whole foods, lots of fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, and fish. The more simple I make it, the easier it gets. Some people are going to eat beef, chicken, and/or pork. Some will be vegan or vegetarian. I believe that the focus on whole plants foods is what contributes to health, not whether or not one eats meat. Someone who eats steak, whole grains, vegetables, and fruit is probably going to be healthier than a vegan who lives on French fries and soy ice cream. Not that people can't eat those things...just that for us nutrition is a big part of physical health. I don't want to accept diabetes, stroke, or heart attacks as part of aging. I want to do what I can to prevent the preventable cancers.

Our family needs to be active, and for the most part that needs to be uncontrived exercise. Walking and riding bikes are the cornerstones of our fitness. I've spent my time working out at the gym and it isn't for me. I like exercise that takes me somewhere, especially exercise in sunshine, fresh air, and nature. I like activity that has purpose, such as riding to the grocery store or walking to the post office.

Emotional health is something that has been harder for me to find and sustain. At the core, I need close relationships as well as more casual friendships. I need community, which I finally found in my homeschooling group. I need time to pursue things that make me happy and fulfilled, such as reading (head), crafts (hands), and singing or other artistic pursuits (heart). These are the same things that keep my husband and children emotionally healthy as well.

Spiritual health is individual to each person. I think the important thing is to be content with whatever beliefs you have, and to question them if need be so that you can know they are yours and not something you believe because that's what you were taught.

Rhythm ties together health and environment. It is the container that holds our lives. When I was a child our year moved through familiar patterns of ordinary days intermixed with birthdays and holidays. Children naturally look ahead to the next festival without losing the here and now.

Not only do we have an annual rhythm of festivals (be they holidays, birthdays, observances, etc.), we also have seasonal rhythms. As a child I was attuned to the seasons, however, as an adult I got on the treadmill and lost that seasonality. With a full time job I didn't have time to savor the seasons. Central heat and air conditioning, as well as an air-conditioned car, meant it didn't matter if it was 40 degrees or 110 degrees outside. The ability to purchase melons and tomatoes year round also dulled my perception of the seasons. It was only after I had children and slowed down that the seasons gained importance once again. The long nights of December, which used to bother me because I had to drive home in the dark, instead become a time for candles and fires, homemade soups, and fresh-baked bread. The long days of summer give us more time for outdoor activities as well as our beloved summer music series. Spring sends us searching for nestlings and tadpoles. Autumn brings falling leaves and pumpkins, the harvest moon, and basketball.

There is a monthly rhythm as we observe the moon, and then the weekly rhythm of the days. Park on one day, the farmer's market on another, weekdays and weekends. Nights that we have certain meals, a Friday family night, the weekly BMX race. These little things anchor us in time. Even household tasks weave into the weekly rhythm: laundry days, baking days, cleaning days.

Each day is a container itself, filled with waking and sleeping, eating, playing and resting, laughing, loving, and learning. Our lives are not merely chaos; they are an empty musical staff, waiting for us to make the music. Each day is different, yet they all contain similar motifs, half notes and whole notes, staccato and legato, measures of rest. We read, we have focused learning times, we sing, we move, we cook, we clean, we play, we rest. There are hurts to soothe, a dog to quiet, a floor to mop. There are friends to talk with, errands to run, hats to be knitted. We pour all of these things into the container of our days.

Sometimes it really helps to sit back, observe, and discover the foundations of your life. I did the Enki family web exercise months back, and pulling out my web just a moment ago (after writing this entry) I see that what I identified in theory is what works for us when we stop trying to do and just live. Family and Community are our outer ring, our threads are health, rhythm, nature, travel, learning, music, environment, and relationship.

I have said it before:

Wisdom, Vitality, and Compassion are my birthright.
They are the core of all humanity, in all times and in all places.
They may be clouded over, or tarnished, but the brilliance is there,
Unchanged, to be discovered again and again.
May I constantly seek these things in myself,
that I might find them in everyone.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Making Enki Your Own

There are many ways to start homeschooling. Some people will research and plan for months. Some will jump right in and barely stay a step ahead each day. Some will combine the methods. And some, some will change their minds...

Not about Enki, no. The philosophy is amazing and multiculturally it moves into a place that isn't a "multicultural method" is a way of life. Developmentally it meets the children right where they need it. To me, it is the premiere holistic education curriculum.

I did jump into Enki with both feet, with almost zero planning time. I was up each night planning the next day; choosing stories, reading guides, etc. It was right, it was what we needed to do. Educationally my children were served well. As a family, however, something wasn't quite right.

It was as though we had laid an Enki mask over ourselves, thinking that doing it would make it real. I mean this as no criticism of Enki Education, but even adapted for homeschoolers it can be too rigid; it is not a criticism of Enki because I don't think Enki means it to be rigid. But still, you have to hit certain points throughout the day. You are encouraged not to go out much. Sometimes the suggestions are pretty strong "shoulds".

Over time we did make Enki a part of our lives, more than just a mask. But it wasn't by lighting candles and singing developmentally appropriate seasonal songs. The biggest change has been how I see people, and how that affects everything I do with my children. The concept that wisdom, vitality, and compassion belong to all of us has changed me profoundly. Not only because I acknowledge those things in other people (both now and in all times and places), but because I acknowledge them in myself!

Now that I have spent some time working with the Enki philosophy, and also have a couple of years of homeschooling under my belt, I am seeing things more clearly. Certainly my experience with the Holistic Family and Enki Experience groups has also influenced me. I see that there is this desperate desire to do things right. I see people who are afraid to tweak even the littlest things. How many people try to set up their days exactly like the Pretend family? How many people are afraid that they won't do the watercolor painting right?

We can't parent out of fear, and we can't educate our children out of fear. Heck, we can't live if we are afraid of everything. We need to find our wisdom. It's there, perhaps hidden, but always present.

Certainly, there is a point where you veer off so far from Enki philosophy that you are no longer following the blueprint. However, I do see that there is room within it to make Enki a living, breathing part of your family.

Now that we are on break I am able to sit back and observe who we really are. I can clearly identify that we don't want to limit ourselves to one social outing once a week. I can tell you right now that I don't want to be held so firmly to a rhythm that we can't be flexible and join friends for tea and a romp in the park.

Away from Enki academics, we are far more relaxed, easy-going family. We can pick up and do a spur-of-the-moment "field trip" whenever we want. We can get together with friends. We have far more time to read aloud.

Okay, so that sounds a bit like unschooling. I'm not bashing Enki - I love Enki! The break has just given me a different perspective. I don't want to recreate school at home, not even an Enki school. It is highly unlikely that we'll start our main lesson at 9 a.m. everyday. I'm not going to devote the hours of 8-2 to educational pursuits.

This is still unformed; I still have plenty of time to think. My goal is to take this wonderful philosophy, the materials, the methods, and make them uniquely ours.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Other Blog...

In case you didn't know, I am writing two blogs right now. I'm trying to keep this one focused on homeschooling. The other blog is more about life in general...sustainability, cooking, happiness, etc.

Red Dirt Life

Not Much Going On...

I'm waiting for resources from Enki. One CD didn't come, and of course the materials from the printer take weeks to arrive.

On the homeschool front, I'm working on an article for the state homeschooling newsletter. Okay, I'm not working on it...but I'm jotting down ideas and thinking about it. It's going to be about holistic homeschooling...I figure we need all the exposure we can get.

I'm also going to volunteer as a local contact for the state group. I already answer questions informally and try to help people with the homeschooling choices. All this means is that my name will be listed as a contact. I am planning to attend and volunteer at the CHN conference next summer.

I try to keep things going with the local support group. So far mom's night out has been a moderate success. The group isn't growing; I think we've become a bit too specialized, as all of the families that attend regularly practice attachment parenting. I think new families can be put off by hearing that the children aren't all vaccinated, or by seeing a 2YO nurse in public. Of course, I am fine with it, and I would rather be small and true than large but unauthentic. What I mean by that is that I don't want people to not talk about AP and NFL topics just to appeal to a wider audience.

The Roots & Shoots group just isn't happening. I need to get more organized. At this point it might have to wait until January. I did schedule a hike, but no one was able to attend except my family.

Friday, October 13, 2006


After 1 week of challenging gluten, it appears the J-Baby is definitely gluten intolerant. We don't know if it is celiac or not. We're still in the middle of IgE scratch testing, which J-Baby finds very invasive (sensory issues)...I think working with a gastroenterologist and nutritionist would be a good idea, but I don't want J-Baby's life to become a round of doctor and lab visits.

I'm glad we homeschool! I can't imagine sending him to public/private school with his food allergies . So far we know he reacts to:

stone fruit
green beans
black pepper

He may or may not react to dairy; he has never had enough for us to know. Since T-Guy is allergic to dairy it is best to just keep it out of the house. Soy and gluten often cross react with casein anyway.

T-Guy and I are also food allergic. Unfortunately for T-Guy and Papa, I think we need to take the kitchen/house gluten free. It is too hard to have separate containers of Earth Balance, separate toasters, etc.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Grade 2 Planning

What should I post about while we are on break? I could post about planning, except that I haven't really been planning. I read the Grade 2 Guide while we were on vacation. I planned out dates and blocks. I ordered some materials from Enki, and now I am waiting.

Actually, I was writing to a friend and I mentioned that I wasn't even sure that planning everything 100% makes sense in the home learning environment. Afterall, one benefit of learning at home is the ability to tailor everything to your child(ren)'s individual needs. How can I know now which religious sage will resonate best with the boys in July? So I am planning in broad strokes. It is easier to plan the math, and to choose which culture we will immerse ourselves in each session. I will have to gather resources, but I don't see much point in rushing now to plan songs and crafts when it is possible that the Enki grade 2 materials will be ready by the time I need them. So really, I am relaxing about it all. I know where I want to go and I have a basic map.

Here are my basics so far:

I'm planning 5 sessions of 7 weeks each; 3 weeks for L.A./Humanities and 3 weeks for Math with a 1 week break between sessions. The break is flexible; if we're nearing burnout we'll use it as a break, if we need more time for math we'll use it for math.

Session 1:

Week 1: African/American Trickster Tale
Weeks 2 and 3: African/American Sage (MLK Jr.?)
Weeks 4 through 6: Reawaken Four Processes, Introduce Fact Families

Session 2:

Week 1: Trickster Tale
Weeks 2 and 3: John Muir
Weeks 4 through 6: Reawaken Fact Families

2 Week Vacation to Yosemite and California Coast

Session 3:

Week 1: Native American Trickster Tale
Weeks 2 and 3: Stalking Wolf
Weeks 4-6: Introduce Place Value

Session 4:

Week 1: Israeli Trickster Tale
Weeks 2 and 3: Hebrew Sage
Weeks 4-6: Reawaken Place Value

Session 5:

Week 1: Mexican/Aztec Trickster Tale
Weeks 2 and 3: Benito Juarez
Weeks 4 through 6: Expand Place Value

Mexican Independence Day Celebration at Olvera Street

We'll actually ease into our "school year" starting in December, with holiday stories, songs, and crafts. This will be our time for word family review and expansion. I haven't decided if it will be a full L.A./Humanities block with a European trickster tale and a Christian sage, however I am leaning that way.

Another friend is planning by the seasons. This makes a lot of sense as well. In grade 2 the focus is more on cultures, but the process is the same. I may work on planning each 2 month session as it comes around.

This week has been much like the "vacation at home" study Beth mention, except that we have gone several places. Many things, such as BMX and park day, are part of our rhythm and it would not be integrative to eliminate them. All in all, I've been making a lot of observations, especially about the times when the boys seems to need more contraction.

I'm working on our environment; we've been decluttering and deep cleaning. My goal is to get the house to a place where it doesn't take so much time to maintain it. My observation on that is that old houses are never clean, no matter how hard you try. Sometimes I really just want to rent a dumpster and toss out half of what we own. I don't want to worry about whether is has value or if a friend might want it. I just want to let it go.

My focus is also returning to the Foundation Guides. I realize that even though I have read most of the guides three times now I am still such a neophyte when it comes to the Enki philosophy.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Our Best Outdoor Season

When I was making our plans for grade 1, I read that we should plan our break for the time of year that we naturally want to be outside enjoying nature. Combined with a few other things, taking our break in the fall seemed to make the most sense. We slogged on through summer; okay I slogged, because although I have been conditioned to think of summer as "summer vacation" my boys have no such preconceived notions. It was tough to completely give up the lazy days of summer and stick with word families and the four processes.

Fall arrived, as best she does in Southern California. The days are topping out around 80 degrees, and the evenings and mornings are cool. We put the comforter on the bed, and actually had to close some windows the other night. It's confusing weather; we need long pants and sweatjackets in the morning, but by midafternoon we're ready for sandals and short sleeves.

Saturday we finally got to experience the bounty of fall. Oh, we had a teaser Friday when we went to Oak Glen for apples, but Saturday we drove up the mountain and hiked to the Aspen Grove and then along Fish Creek. It was gorgeous, and I was fully reminded of why I thought autumn would be our best outdoor season. In winter it is cold and there might be snow on the trail, in spring it is humid and buggy, and in summer it is just too hot. But fall, well fall is perfect. The aspens were golden and quaking. Although the forest is mostly pine and fir, we did get glimpses of other fall colors.

Fall is pretty nice down here in the valley as well. The days are warm, but not too hot. It's cold enough to need a jacket when we walk at night, or to light a fire. J-Baby delights in the Halloween decorations we see everywhere, and his delight is contagious. The first winter squash arrive at the farmer's market, along with pomegranates and persimmons. There is fresh cider at the local market, and apples just up the hill.

It's my favorite time of year. I love buying lots of pumpkins and scattering them around the house. Our fall nature table was up a week early! As much as I look forward to the return of evening light each spring, in the fall I love the way the days grow shorter, coming to the time where we eat dinner in candlelit darkness. In the last weeks of fall we light the candles as soon as it gets dark and sing while we wait for Papa to come home from work (at least, we do on the nights that supper is prepared and doesn't require a lot of last minute preparation).

Perhaps, for most of you, summer truly is your best outdoor season. For anyone else, I encourage to break out of the box and truly consider which season would be best for your break.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


...waking up at 6:15 isn't going to happen easily until after the time change. The mornings are dim/dark at that time and our bodies haven't gotten enough daylight to feel alert.

We can force it, but I don't know if that is best. Still, we really want to ride in the mornings with Papa.

Another thing - both boys are showing the stress of our rhythm breaking down (the basics are there, but there are long stretches of unplanned time) as well as the chaos in the house. So I will work on rhythm, environment, and health.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tinkering with the Rhythm (Again)

I suppose that the only absolute about rhythm is that there is no absolute. Just as a conductor can rearrange musical scores, so do parents arrange and rearrange the day.

One of the toughest things for me is where to place my daily bath. If taken at night I am nice and clean in my pajamas and sheets. The warm bath is relaxing, and the gradual cool down of my body is conducive to sleep. The morning goes more smoothly because all I need to do is dress and take care of a few short personal hygiene tasks.

It seems like a no brainer, right? Wrong. The nightly bath takes away from partner time, which is essential to the well being of the family. Also, if morning movement is vigorous (a long brisk walk or a bike ride) then a bath is needed afterward. Finally, morning bathing eliminates the need to blow dry my hair on all but the coldest and dampest days. This should be a small concern overall; however, I am finding it difficult to keep the length healthy with frequent blow-drying.

I've tried scheduling the bath for early evening, but it rarely happens.

For now, we've decided that morning movement/exercise is imperative, so once again the bath is moving to morning.

An ideal day:

6:15 Wake and snuggle
6:30 Breakfast and clothing
7:00 Bike ride
8:00 Daily chores (while Papa showers)
8:45 My bath (boys have free play from about 8:15-9:45)
9:45 Snack
10:00 Morning Lesson (incorporating a short movement circle with SI activity, the main lesson, and perhaps recorder or foreign language)
11:30 Lunch preparation
12:00 Lunch and clean up, play time with Papa
12:45 Quiet time
1:45 Room clean up
2:00 Snack
2:15 Practice time
3-ish Projects or family activities
3:45 Free play/computer time
4:45 Dinner preparation
5:15 Settling-in time
5:30 Dinner
6:00 Clean up (boys clean room)
6:15 Family time (including reading to boys, games, snack, etc.)
7:45 Boys in bed/quick tidy
8:00 Partner time
10:45 Lights out for parents

All times are is more about the flow than the time.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Enki Update

We've started our break early. We missed two drawings, but have worked the four processes pretty well through conscious effort in our daily lives. We'll keep that up, and we'll practice reading skills, but that is it for academics. Heck, we may do the drawing in the near future, just because the boys like to draw. But mentally, for my sake, we are on break.

There's too much going on. I've held it together, planning late into the night, always trying to stay one step ahead. We've introduced everything I wanted to introduce in grade 1. We're also tired and burned-out. All I am really doing is making official something that happened a couple of weeks ago; making it official eliminates the guilt.

I need to slow down with Enki, take the break, connect with my boys, read, absorb, plan (slowly). I need to add things in a bit at a time, building the melody of the rhythm (we have the basic container in place). I need to make Enki part of my life, but not the main focus.

Friday, September 01, 2006

What Was I Thinking?

Really. I must be certifiably insane.

I wanted the white dishes unpacked. There were several reasons for this. One, I've been using the same dishes for 18 years. I replaced some of the plates a few years back after realizing that new serving pieces would cost me an arm and a leg if I ever changed dishes, but after a few more years of hard use even the new plates are very scratched (stoneware isn't exactly forgiving). I still have 12 unused plates stored, but I didn't really want to get those down.

I'm not the kind of person to buy new dishes just because. Not that I think it is wasteful, because I am sure someone would use and love the old dishes. No, I'm pretty much just too frugal to buy new dishes. The thing is, I'm not even sure I don't want my old dishes anymore. They are my wedding dishes (though not the pattern I chose), and I spent years scouring outlets and eBay to add many unique pieces. So good memories are attached to them, as well as regret (in hindsight I sure wish I hadn't bought all the accessories).

No, I had another plan. I want to make things easier for my children to participate in the work of our family. I want them to set the table without me having to get down the cups and plates. Growing up we had Corelle dishes with green flowers around the rim (referred to as Crazy Daisy and then Spring Blossom). Corelle dishes are cheap and fairly hard to break; I know my sister was setting the table by the time she was 5. I actually spent a couple of years looking for Crazy Daisy at thrift shops and on eBay; then I found out that my mom bought new dishes and gave all of the Crazy Daisy to my sister. Uugh!

(There is an even funnier component to the Crazy Daisy dishes - Mike grew up eating off the same Corelle. When his parents moved (after we were married) my parents bought all of their Crazy Daisy at the moving sale. Altogether my parents had more than 40 dinner plates, some plain white, most Crazy Daisy.)

I knew I had this set of plain white dishes for 12, bought in some fit of House Beautiful "I must have service for 12 when the family comes for Thanksgiving dinner (which they did once) and the set must have rimmed soup bowls." I bought them at IKEA in 1994, for $13 per service for 4, probably on a credit card. I bought flatware too, for even less, and recently unpacked that and put it in the trailer.

So Mike got the white dishes down for me today, and we unpacked them and started the dishwasher. Then he mentioned that we would need to pack up the old dishes. Okay, that's the part I forgot in my hormonal stupor. Dinner plates, salad plates, luncheon plates and rimmed soup bowls (but only 6 of each), platters, serving bowls, mugs, saucers, butter holder, casseroles, pie plate, vase, canisters, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!

Might I say that I rarely use any of those serving pieces now? I almost always grab a glass serving/storage dish. I have never baked a pie in the pie pan, nor a casserole in the casserole dish; I always use Pyrex. None of the decorative pieces, such as the napkin holder (we don't use paper napkins anyway), butter holder, etc. look that great in my white and yellow kitchen, as they are cream with pink flowers.

The cheap white dishes are clean now, stacked on low shelves in the pantry so that the boys can access them without help. They were so cheap that it won't matter if they get broken piece by piece (and heck, we can save the broken pieces to make mosaics!). Mike remarked that we didn't need so many coffee cups. Thomas, in his magical way of thinking, declared them soup "nogs" (mugs) and he is right, they are the perfect size and shape for a cup of soup (or a bowl for a child).

Really, I think that white dishes and glass storage/serving pieces seems really simple. Think of all of the money we would have saved if that had been our strategy all along. Even cheaper would have been to go with whatever free dishes came our way, no matter the color or pattern. Of course, with kids some things get broken, so for cereal and snacks we use stainless steel bowls made in India, and the boys drink from Coleman enamel-over-steel camping mugs.

More insanity? The food that was on the pantry shelves is now scattered around my kitchen. It's after 4 o'clock, and I am no where near having a kitchen that I can cook in.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Looking Forward...

All afternoon I have been thinking: fall is coming. You wouldn't really know it by the 100 degree heat and the hum of the A/C, but certainly the calendar heralds its approach. Today is the last day of August, tomorrow is September and many children are heading back to school. The sycamore trees at the park have lost just a touch of their brightness, the green beginning a slow fade to yellow and brown. This weekend brings Labor Day, with the last BBQ party of the season (not that is makes any sense, as we will grill year round but not attend another BBQ until Memorial Day).

Across the web, people post about a chill in the air, as fall arrives in places like Vermont. Friends are harvesting and canning apples, peaches, and more. Gardens are bursting with produce. People are thinking about long woolens, corduroy, and boots.

I feel unsettled, ready to either nest or do the fall cleaning. I straighten the breakfast nook and put the cheery yellow and blue checked cloth on the table, just to remind myself that summer is still here. I put the pillar candles back on the table after unsuccesfully searching for the brass taper holders I had so many years ago. I try to pull down the white dishes, packed away 6 years ago and not used since. I resolve to use the silver at dinner, even though it means I have to wash it by hand.

As if in agreement with my discontent and my forward gaze toward autumn, I find the boys outside stringing paper Halloween garlands across the trees. They are disappointed when I tell them that Halloween won't be here for two months; somehow Jake thought it would be at the end of September.

One room at a time I seek and create order, harmony, beauty. A candle here, a rock or shell there, a pastel drawing on a blackboard. We find a rose and put it in a vase on the dining room table, enjoying its scent and color. We pick more roses and cut off the dead blossoms, so that October will once again bring us armfuls of flowers. I note that the lavender flowers are spent.

My head is full of Autumn's songs; the songs we started our lessons with last year. I hear the refrain of "Summer Goodbye" and think that soon we will sing it again. We'll pull out the garlands, the cornucopia, the little wool gnomes dressed in the colors of the turning leaves. We'll have a fire, and pick up our woolen handwork again.

Already the days are shorter, and we are in bed earlier and awake earlier as well. I look forward to the time change. Summer may have her last hurrah, but she cannot stay.

Round and round the earth is turning
Turning always round to morning
And from morning round to night

So also are the seasons. Summer, once dreamed of, then anticipated and finally realized, is wished a happy good-bye, and we go round and round and round...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Long Weekend

We went away last weekend; camping for 3 nights at Doheny State Beach. Sunday was our wedding anniversary, and we've made it a time to travel. We don't travel every year, but we did for our 1st anniversary, our 3rd, 4th and 5th, anniversaries, a few more here and there, and every anniversary from the 15th on. The only difference between the early years and now is that we have boys to bring along with us.

We had a wonderful time. Friday we set up, did our grocery shopping, made dinner, got the boys to bed, and then we played games (Rummikub and Mancala). Saturday we spent most of the day at the beach, went for a bike ride, made a great dinner, and had a campfire. Sunday we went to the farmer's market in San Clemente, and to the used bookstore. We made lunch, and then set off on a biking adventure. We set off on the bike trail, stopped at a fantastic park to play (why the heck doesn't Redlands have parks like this?), and then rode to my IL's new trailer. We toured the park, then rode into downtown San Juan Capistrano, locked the bikes, and walked around. Then we had to ride back to Doheny from downtown SJC; it was close to 5 miles but was enjoyable.

When the ILs realized it was our anniversary they offered to take the boys to Wahoo's while we went out to dinner. T knows really well what J-Baby can have, so I felt good about it. We went to an Italian place in SJC, sitting outside on the patio on what was a perfect evening, weather-wise. Then, in an odd coincidence, as we got ready to pay our bill Papa realized that people sitting at the next table were the people who bought our Prius last May! We chatted for a few minutes, and when we got to the parking lot they had parked right next to us. Weird!

After we got the boys to bed we sat up on the picnic table and watched the moon set. It was lovely. We talked so much over the weekend; probably far too much about the boys and the ILs, but still, it was nice.

I realized when I came home that I hadn't thought about Enki at all. What a nice break! My grade 2 book arrived (sent via media mail 8/21) while we were gone, and while I knew it was on its way I didn't even think about it coming.

I have a basic plan; this week we get the house back in shape, the laundry caught up, etc. Then we spend 3 weeks finishing out the math block, and we keep up reading practice. That will end grade 1. We have a week of vacation planned, which I intend to be as peaceful and relaxing as this past weekend was. Then I'll plan grade 2. Over the fall we'll add back in the pieces of our rhythm that have fallen by the wayside, but only after doing the "vacation at home" study and reviewing essential energy.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I Give Up!

I have had this child gluten free and casein free for 6 months. If you know me, you know that there are no mistakes, no cake for a special occasion, no ice cream just because everyone else is having it. I cook, I bake, I pack food to take everywhere.

Wasn't it just 3 weeks ago that my sister and I were talking about how wonderful and happy he seemed? Wasn't I mentally patting myself on the back, thinking that I finally had it figured out? No casein, no gluten, no citrus, no soy. More protein, more fats.

I shouldn't have talked about it, because for 3 weeks he's been pooping his pants again. I can't take it anymore. You aren't supposed to get angry, but that is advice from people who aren't scrubbing poop off a 6 year old (stuck to him because he ignored it until his brother pointed out that he smelled) and dunking underwear in the toilet. I am not angry at him, I feel bad for him, but I am so sick of doing this.

He had no problems at all from age 2.5 to 4YO. Something happened, something changed, and poop accidents became part of our daily routine (often more than once a day). Nothing dramatic happened at home, there was no divorce, no new sibling, no change in home or school. No one died, no one moved away.

Last year, in October and November, we had 6 weeks of no accidents, without needing hourly reminders to sit on the toilet. I thought we were past it. Then the acidents started again. In January it seemed to me that it might be irritable bowel, and we decided to eliminate gluten as he had reacted to it as a baby, and he was so itchy all of the time that it must be an allergy to something.

I thought we had progress. He'd start to have an accident, then control it and finish on the toilet. He was still itchy. We took out citrus, and the itchiness and rashes went away. Still small accidents, although much better. We eliminated soy. Victory! He had almost 2 months of no accidents at all. He was happier, less stubborn, more cooperative.

Here we are again. Still gluten, casein, citrus, and soy free, but unhappy, combative, and having accidents. Was I wrong? Are the moods related to his unhappiness at having accidents? What am I doing wrong?

I don't want to do this anymore. Honestly, if he is going to poop his pants everyday then I would just as soon feed him gluten and not have to bake and cook everything from scratch. I'm tired of food allergies and restrictive diets.

There isn't anyone who can help. If there was a doctor close by that had any experience with alternative medicine I wouldn't be able to pay out-of-pocket anyway. I will not start my child down the allopathic path to lifelong medication.

I don't know what to do. I am not going to get any support for following a GF/CF diet if he is just as combative and uncooperative as when he did have gluten in his diet, and if he is pooping his pants everyday.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What's Going On Now?

Time and time again I come to crisis. It is trial by fire and I emerge changed and seeking. Because of Enki, however, I know that wisdom and vitality are inherent within me. I do not need to look outside of myself, I need to look within, and I need to clear the clouds.

I am rather vulnerable right now, but oddly strong. The things that are important to me are clearly in focus. I embrace what I have and hold it dear, and I reach a place of acceptance about the losses in my life. There are things that I want, that I don't have right now, but what I do have is mine and it is good.

We're taking it really easy this week in terms of actual lessons. We're snuggling and reading, singing, riding our bikes, eating good food, and enjoying the weather that is more like April than August. We'll walk to the library tonight, and enjoy a big band concert.

Our brother-in-law and two of our nephews are leaving this weekend to live in Europe, so we are spending time with them and just soaking in who those boys are right now, for certainly they will be quite changed the next time we see them. We are finding it within ourselves to infuse the parting with joy and not sorrow. There is loss, but also growth and change.

I think our Enki will change as well. As I study the guides I find myself far more interested in the heart of the matter (essential energy) and not so much skills and methods. No more will I cram so that I can present lessons. We will finish this block and then take a long break. I will take my time planning, using the Enki web and essential energy as my guides, and not a list of skills a second grader should acquire. I will let go of being "behind" and just accept where we are. I want my children to live fully now, to experience their wisdom and vitality. I'm ready to paint, to sink into the color, and to stop trying to find the paint-by-numbers picture that is not there.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

And The Walls Came Tumbling Down....

I am taking a break.

I want to write, I think writing it good for me, but I am ignoring so many other facets of teacher health that I need to go on hiatus.

I need time to read and time to sing and listen to music. I need sunlight, moderate exercise, healthy food, and good company. Unfortunately, I don't get that from the computer (although some of you are great to talk to, I think I could use some interaction with people I can actually see and hear). Tomorrow is park day, and that will be a good start, and then I think we'll plan a day trip to the beach this weekend.

There are only so many hours in the day. My reality is that my children take up a large chunk of those hours, but I also squander what I have left. I'm not setting a good example, which means everything else I am trying to teach them means nothing.

Peace to everyone...I'll probably end my exile next week if I have sufficiently recovered my spirits.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Thrifting For Books

With my favorite used bookstore out of business, and the other used bookstore in town being very unfriendly toward children, we have to hit the thrift stores to find used books. Right now is perfect, as many teachers are cleaning their classrooms in preparation for the school year. Between Goodwill and The Salvation Army this afternoon we brought home 30 books for $18.

Some of these are for us to read to the boys, some are early readers, other will be for them to read later (such as A Cricket in Times Square which we already read to them). A few are books just for us grown-ups, and a couple are for our homeschool lending library.

Rootabaga Stories (Part I) by Carl Sandburg
Tales from King Arthur edited by Andrew Lang
Cinderella and Other Stories from "The Blue Fairy Book" (unabridged) by Andrew Lang
The Trolley Car Family by Eleanor Clymer
Ronia, The Robber's Daughter by Astrid Lindgren
The Cricket on the Hearth and Other Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens (unabridged)
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan (HC)
When We were Very Young by A.A. Milne (HC)
The Foot Book by Dr. Suess (HC)
The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
Our First Pony by Marguerite Henry (HC)
Andy and the Lion by James Daugherty (Caldecott winner)
The Big Snow by Bert and Elmer Hader (Caldecott winner)
Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
The Strange Disappearance of Arthur Cluck by Nathaniel Benchley, illustrated by Arnold Lobel (HC)
Andrew Henry's Meadow by Doris Burn (HC)
Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and MaryLamb
The Breastfeeding Answer Book published by La Leche League (1997 edition)
Living, Loving, and Learning by Leo Buscaglia
The Mother Trip by Ariel Gore
Joshua Firstborn by Frances Karlen Santamaria (1st edition, dust cover intact)
The United States of Walmart by John Dicker
Better late Than Early by Raymond S. Moore and Dorothy N. Moore (2 copies, one for me and one for the homeschool library)
A Star Wars book (pre-Episode 1)
A Chimp in the Family by Charlotte Becker
The Lamb and the Butterfly by Arnold Sundgaard, illustrated by Eric Carle

Homeschooling vs. Unschooling vs. Homelearning....

I was reminded that in the early days John Holt didn't use the term unschooling to refer to the radical child-led method of learning that it is considered to be these days. He meant taking your kids out of school and having them learn in a more organic way outside of the constraints of the public system (or perhaps private system). As late as 1998 the editors of GWS still wrote of an unwillingness to divide the movement. In 1998 Susannah Sheffer (then editor of GWS) wrote, "I'm still concerned about the consequences of suggesting that unschooling and homeschooling are distinct and separate movements and practices...."

Papa and I were talking about radical unschooling, and even most people who consider themselves unschoolers don't just turn their children loose after breakfast and gather them up again at dinner time. Beth writes that even choosing homeschooling/unschooling is a momentous choice you make for your child. We make choices for our children all of the time: choices about where they are born, what kind of medical care they receive, the foods they eat, the toys they play with, etc.

It seems to me that at some point the concept of unschooling (as it applied mostly to older children) got heavily influenced by the Taking Children Seriously/Non-Coercive Paretning movement, and suddenly you have 4 year olds who are supposed to instinctively know that they are tired and that they need to go to sleep, or that eating a whole bowl of candy is a bad idea.

I was very interested in TCS/NCP when my boys were little, and I took much from the movement, but in the end my instincts told me that my children needed me to be their guide. They need me to make the big decisions so that they can feel safe. I know that I would be fooling myself if I tried to believe that they could do everything based on their own will. As Beth pointed out, no one is letting toddlers play in the street (okay, unfortunately this isn't entirely true, but as a society we believe that adults should stop toddlers from playing in the street).

I like to think that there are really only 2 things going on out there - schooling or unschooling. Homeschooling as a term is ambiguous at best. If you are doing "school at home" then you still buy into the educational philosophy of schooling. If you choose something else, something alternative that takes away the structure and rules of school and school-based learning, then you are unschooling. Or call it home learning, life learning, holistic learning...the point is that we aren't schooling. We may use the term "homeschooling" so that other people understand what we mean, but for most of us home is not school. We aren't ringing the bell at 8 a.m., saying the Pledge of Allegiance, and then spending 30-45 minutes per subject, breaking for lunch, and finishing at 2:00 p.m. Yes there are people out there doing that, but it is schooling, and the fact that it is at home probably doesn't mean much.

Words have power. I learned that many years ago as I found the feminist movement. Back then we struggled with professors who would grade us down for gender neutral language, especially the singular use of "their" instead of "his" or "her". To write "A person much decide what to do with their life" was absolutely incorrect, and now I see it all of the time. Enough people chose to use gender neutral language that we created change. Now so with learning I see that I must make a choice to eliminate the word "school" from our educational vocabulary. We don't "do school" as my children like to call it, so let's eliminate that! Remember I was struggling on what to call the room we use for focused learning? Forget "school room", because it isn't one! Homeschooling? I will make an effort to change that to, starting with my blog title. (Don't worry, I won't change the URL right away).

Sure, we aren't unschoolers they way most radical unschoolers would define it, but John Holt, the founder of the movement (unschooling, not school-at-home), didn't want the division to exist anyway. If I use Enki to "strew the path", and my son takes off with word families and wants to learn to read, doesn't that still have some element of child choice in it? If he says "I like word families" and I buy a set of word family flip books and he practices them because he wants to, then isn't that child-led?

So for now, I think I'll name the blog Holistic Learning, if the title is available. If not, I'll come up with something else.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Alive and Obsessed

I am feeling so alive lately, which is strange considering that once again I am facing health problems. I am just so happy to be me and to be sharing life with my man and my boys. Over the past year I have really come into a place with being content with myself and with my life, and I rediscovered that strong young woman I was so many years ago. It is exciting to be using alternative medicine for my boys, and to then recall how I bought herbs and made my own mite remedy for my cat 15 years ago. I remember when the health food store I go to now was a tiny little hole in the wall store in a bad neighborhood of San Bernardino, with no produce at all, and now they are in an old supermarket building that is probably bigger than most small town grocery stores.

I'm also absolutely obsessed with Enki and homelearning right now. I say that in a positive way, because immersion learning is great for me and that is really what this is. I just immerse myself in whatever it is that I want to learn or do. Enki has added depth to our homeschooling, and some back issues of Growing Without Schooling have inspired me to think about our lives in the present, instead of thinking of homeschooling as something we are doing now to prepare for the future.

It is a radical shift in thought. I mean, I have always thought of us as doing this now because it is right for us and seems to be a good way to "grow" children, but the future was always part of it. I suppose it always will be, but from now on I intend to think much more about the quality of the boys' lives now, and making sure that they have the chance to live a happy and fulfilled life now. They are really joyful children, and I want them to stay that way.

I'm just excited about all parts of my life right now. Pursuing health through nutrition and alternative medicine, decluttering and simplifying, loving my family, creating community....this season of my life is fantastic right now.

Friday, August 04, 2006

We Made It Through The Week

I wasn't sure we would! There's nothing like coming down with a cold the day you start a new block. It's a yucky one too, with painful ears and a really sore throat, which I just hate. J-Baby came down with the cold 7/23 and was still coughing today, and T is still snotty more than a week after developing symptoms, so it definitely hangs on.

To top it off, I finally started my cycle, and although it isn't much of anything I am jittery and easily frustrated. Typical PMS symptoms. I may find myself rethinking my decision to take my body off hormones, but really, I think the benefits of being hormone-free outweigh the evenness they provide. In the end, though, if I can't control my endometriosis and extremely heavy bleeding with diet and supplementation I will have to reconsider hormones or opt for a hysterectomy.

Still we accomplished a lot this week. We did 4 morning main lessons, and the boys already seem to have a solid grasp on subtraction (but they weren't starting from nothing). Practice time went well, with T finally making it all the way through Hop on Pop, and both boys taking initiative with their handwriting practice. T loves practicing sight words and word families.

The funny thing is, "practice" has taken over a lot of our time throughout the day and evening, and also on the weekends. Once you have an emergent reader you practice a lot, and pretty much whenever they want to. T is thrilled every time he learns a new sight word and can add it to his ring.

Circle has been hit or miss, but mostly a hit. Today we lost J-Baby during our number quality verses, but he's been off for a few days, not feeling well. I can't figure out exactly what he had, but suspect some hidden gluten or casein. He also has this darn cold.

We didn't do as many projects as I had hoped for, but we did do wet-on-wet watercolor painting, which was a big plus.

We had our "settling-in" time every evening, with some recorder practice (until my throat was too sore). I read to them each evening during this time. We are reading the original 101 Dalmations by Dodie Smith, and as they haven't seen the movies or been over-exposed to the Disney version they are really enjoying it. I loved the novel as a young girl; I bought it for 10 cents at a yard sale, minus the cover. That was an old mass paperback version; now we are reading a snazzy hardcover Barnes and Noble edition, picked up at a used bookstore.

Most of all, I have happy, inquisitive children. They love the rhythm, they love learning, they have plenty of time to play and have fun. I've even been making more of an attempt to involve them in meaningful work, and they vacuumed the front of the house for me Thursday. T has taken an interest in folding laundry, and they have always loved to help me cook and bake.

Next week will be a chance to try again, to see if the dance steps come more easily now that I am feeling just a bit better.

Epsom Salt Baths

I really like epsom salt baths. They are calming and they help detoxify your body via your skin. Because I am losing weight I am in a constant state of detoxification. I also in the process of clearing casein and gluten from my body, and I have gone off several medications over the past year and have to eliminate those chemical residues as well.

I have a large bath tub and add about 1 pound of salts per bath. Epsom salts are 50 cents a pound in the 4 pound box at Target; I looked to find them online in bulk and couldn't beat that price. Epsom salt is a U.S.P. product and chemically the "therapeutic epsom salt" sold online doesn't differ chemically from what I have found at Target and various drugstores.

I use epsom salt in my bath about 4 times a week. If I can't soak for 20 minutes I usually skip the salts, but I do use them at least every other day.

Reading more about Epsom salt, I think I'll start having the boys take epsom salt baths as well. Usually their baths are very short and are administered by Papa, but I think I could manage giving them 1-2 therapeutic baths a week. If not, I'll make an epsom salt spray or lotion for them.

Now, I never take a bath without essential oils. When I am ill I add whichever essential oils would be most beneficial for that specific condition, be it a bladder infection or something else. When we have mild colds I add thyme and eucalyptus. To my evening bath I add a synergistic blend of lavender, bergamot, and geranium essential oils (synergistic blends are essential oils that have been blended together ahead of time to allow them to work together, the sum of their parts being more than each added individually). This blend is calming and uplifting, and is particularly good for low mood. My new favorite morning bath has geranium and tangerine essential oils.

A great place for bottles to blend your essential oils in or for storing sprays and lotions is Specialty Bottle Company.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Not as Bad as I Thought

After despairing over my lack of time in terms of homekeeping, a few things woke me up to the fact that things really aren't that bad.

1) In 10 minutes time Papa and I tidied up the living room while chatting.

2) When I went into the front bathroom to take my bath last night I noticed that it was clean and uncluttered. Afterwards I noticed that the master bathroom was similarly clean and free of clutter.

3) At the same time Papa was helping the boys tidy their room, which gets restored to order every evening.

4) When I prepared the boys' bedtime snack I noted that the the dishes were done, all surfaces wiped, and the floor swept (we did this together after dinner).

5) The boys had their story time in a tidy and uncluttered breakfast nook.

So the biggest area of concern is my bedroom. I pondered why it is that suddenly everything is piling up in there. And it hit me - we used to use the school room as our "holding area" before we started using it for lessons. We'd pile things in there for a couple of months, then I would clean it out and we'd start over. This method wasn't an issue for us, because we didn't use the room often and could just shut the door. Now that we use the school room the stuff piles up in our room because we didn't change the system.

Just those realizations make it far easier to tackle the clutter that does exist, because it isn't as overwhelming. I predict that I will always be dropping a ball here and there, because I am human, but that overall I am going to figure out how to juggle it all.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Keeping the Balls in the Air

Okay, I think of myself as having 4 major tasks to manage. Homeschooling, homekeeping, cooking/meal planning, and laundry. I know there are others, such as parent time, me time, finances, etc...but they can be fit into smaller blocks of time, and honestly, if one is dropped for a few days there isn't a huge impact.

Now I have always been able to keep 2 balls in the air at a time, say homeschooling and cooking, or cooking and homekeeping. Laundry is one of those things that is so close to being integrated, that I would say that I juggle that as my 3rd ball successfully most of the time. I am rarely more than 10 minutes away from being caught up on laundry.

Right now cooking and homeschooling are going well. Laundry is okay. But I have dropped the housecleaning ball. Beth writes in Book III of the foundation guides to set aside a certain amount of time for household tasks and only work for that time. I've been doing that, but usually that just means that I put away clean dishes, load the dirties, wipe the counters, clean the sink and stove, and sweep the floor. On the weekends we'll get the bathrooms clean, and perhaps the front of the house dusted and the floors cleaned.

But suddenly, clutter is a huge problem. It's not all clutter, but there is an awful lot of stuff hanging around in my bedroom that doesn't belong there. Stuff that belongs outside, stuff to eBay, stuff to return, stuff that belongs somewhere, but we just don't know where that somewhere is. Too much stuff! I declutter and declutter and it is never enough.

The front room piles up with things that belong elsewhere. We have no entry, so sweatshirts, keys, sunglasses, receipts, etc. are tossed onto the dining room table when we walk in the door. I had a basket for this purpose, but it was recommissioned as a cradle bed for a stuffed animal. Games and toys are scattered across the living room. Books, CDs, and magazines are strewn here and there. We definitely live in our living room.

All week I tell myself that I'm doing what I can and we'll catch up on the weekend. By the weekend I am exhausted, and do just the bare minimum (if it is a weekend we are at home at all).

I hate it! Having a clean, uncluttered house is important to my state of mind. I like being able to tell people to go ahead and "drop-by" without being embarassed. I have to figure out how to juggle that 4th ball.

Homeschooling can be tough. Unschooling or a relaxed Waldorf style was far easier than Enki. Grade 1 is a lot more work than kindy was. I know that I am asking a lot of myself, to learn an educational philosophy and methods in such a short time, and to put them into action right away. But at some point you have to stop telling yourself that you "can't get behind", because you have a 7.5YO who isn't reading but is ready to learn, and it isn't in his best interest to wait 6 months while you get everything figured out. Last April, when we first started with Enki methods T wasn't interested in reading. The Town board and Word Family stories got him to a place where something clicked and he is excited about learning to read, and I have to keep going with that, dust be damned!

Last night we walked out the door and away from the mess, and had a fine evening at the Redlands Bowl. First we joined in the community sing, which I think fits perfectly with the essential energy of circle. We went to the library (across the street), then walked back over just as the Marine Corps was playing the national anthem. The boys loved it! I thought we would leave at intermission, but they wanted to stay and this was the first time ever that they made it through an entire bowl performance. They were tired at the end, but didn't act up or talk. In fact, J-Baby practiced conducting through several numbers, and he clapped and swayed and had a grand time.

And so, after an exhausting day yesterday, I was mentally revived. The evening was delightful and cool. The Bowl is beautiful, especially as twilight falls, with the moon and Venus setting in the southwest, and the 17 stars that make up the Inland Empire's night sky. Even the walk home was pleasant, with a tired J-Baby's little hand gripped firmly in mine as he chattered away about the evening and postulated as to how many steps it would take to get home.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Wiped Out!

Now I remember why I kept putting off watercolor painting; the set up is so time-consuming. I basically had to mix 21 jars of paint; 7 colors each for all three of us. I had to drag the table from the garage and clean it. I had to get all of the stray crayon marks off of our painting boards (we use the back sides for drawing and they always end up with a few crayon marks on the painting side). I had to tear the paper to size. I had to clean the paint brushes, even though they had seemed clean when put away last (this always happens). I had to find boxes to put the paint jars in. Note to everyone else: make preparing for your first day of painting a project for the week before! I thought I would get it done during quiet time but it took longer than that.

The boys were so excited; hopefully once painting becomes part of the routine they won't get as excited because it made it hard for them to wait until project time (although T was able to focus on reading during practice time, which we did while I mixed paints). Also, I felt like I talked way too much. They weren't watching me or taking cues from me. It was as if we had never done this before and they didn't remember anything. This is tough; T is so verbal (to the point of needing help learning to keep his self-talk internal). He wants to talk about every little thing we do, all day long. It really breaks the mood to even have to stop and say "watch me".

I watched the first painting section on the Enki DVD, and decided to use that color character story with the boys. I told that story while I painted, then I took my painting away and told the story again while they painted, so they wouldn't just look at my painting and copy it. That was a pretty good tactic and all 3 pictures are different.

The boys really wanted to paint "pictures" with form (before we started, that is). We do so much crayon drawing that it was difficult for them to sink into the color without requiring that it become a form. That is why I decided to use the story.

The boys enjoyed painting, but it is really hard for them to remember all of the rules about cleaning the brush between each dip into a paint jar, drying the brush, not rubbing the brush into the paper, etc. By the time he was done with his painting T wasn't very interested in cleaning up the supplies.

Next week won't be so tough. The paints are ready to go, and hopefully we can just leave the table set up outside.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Our Last Big Block of the Year

Today we started our final math block of grade 1. We'll have one block after this, a nature-themed adventure block to wind down grade 1, but this is the last block with new academic content. Well, it is somewhat new - we introduced the four processes earlier this year using the Christophers 1st Grade Syllabus, but I want to do it again, using Enki this time. I don't think I was prepared to teach it last time, and we kind of rushed through. It was also before we set up the schoolroom, and J-Baby was't comfortable in the breakfast nook and balked at any writing.

We'll go a full month, 7/31 - 8/30. We have a Friday and Monday we are taking off for a camping trip, so the block will go 4.5 weeks. We're doing 4 days of focused work a week, because we don't do anything academic on Thursdays other than read a nature story. Really, I don't see how this block could be finished in 4 weeks following a 3 day week.

Our practice work will consist of handwriting practice, sight words, word families, and reading (BOB books and Hop on Pop). New this month we will start tidying the schoolroom together each afternoon before moving to our projects.

I moved our projects around to see if I can find a better fit for our days. I had originally planned watercolor painting for Thursdays since it is a light day academically, but we were always so wiped out from park day that we didn't do it. So I moved that to Tuesdays, and decided on modeling for Thursdays, as for now we use plastalina and beeswax, which don't require much preparation. I switched handwork to Fridays; right now it is rather intense, but eventually I see handwork as a relaxing activity that will be a nice way to wind down the school week.

One thing I did differently this week was to plan the painting and crafts, instead of just thinking I'd do it the weekend before (which I wouldn't do, and then I'd scramble to come up with something that was fun but not nourishing). So we'll read a painting story on Monday afternoon during our "settling-in" time, and we'll paint Tuesday afternoon. Each story has been chosen and put into the active binder. I chose 5 crafts from the kindy craft book, mostly working with tying knots and braiding. I think this will be good work for us, as finger knitting has been difficult and the boys need more work with their hands. For modeling we will do some of the beginning exercises from Learning About the World Through Modeling by Arther Auer.

I thought about movement, music, and sensory integration. We're going to resume our morning walk, but make it shorter. I like the walk because it gets us into the fresh air and it seems to be the best way to incorporate rhythmic counting. Today it was nice and cool and so refreshing to get outside and walk. I personally enjoyed the yoga DVD we bought earlier this month, but it didn't seem to be a good format for the boys. I will learn some of the movements myself and then lead them without the DVD. That will be a nice alternative to the walk when it is either too hot or too rainy to go outside.

We definitely need to work on sensory integration, so I chose one new SI activity to learn each week. That's a bit ambitious, but we can always back off if it doesn't work. Today we did Cobra (from the kindy base sense activities) 3 times. What child can resist pretending to be a snake? I just modeled it 3 times and they caught on to what I was doing. I much prefer not stopping and explaining what I am doing, although T will ask. I just whisper "watch me" or even just point to his eyes and he quiets down.

I also planned a circle. I have gone around and around thinking about this. In some ways the essential energy of circle is being met organically throughout our day, but I do want to spend some time with academic verses/games and foreign language. Also, T and I really enjoy circle, and I don't see that we should deny ourselves that just because J-Baby doesn't always participate. Anyway, here is our circle, although I'm not going to type out all of the songs and verses. The starred (*) items are new material; they are familiar with the rest.

Opening verse
Opening stretch and verse
Ring Around the Rosy (1st stanza - this usually bring J-Baby into what we are doing if he balks at the beginning)
Lirum, Larum (finger exercises from a Kindermusik CD, done lying on our bellies)
Ring Around the Rosy (stanza that ends in "we all stand up")
*Number Qualities verses
*(Even and Odd dance to be added week 3)
Pito, Pito Colorito (from Cante Cante Elefante!)
*Buenos Dias (from Cante Cante Elefante!)
Closing verse

Being the dreamer that I am, I also planned a weekly recorder lesson, and daily recorder practice as part of our "settling-in" time. Of course, "settling-in" is something we haven't successfully worked into the rhythm before, so we will see how it goes. My plan is to use the recorder to gather them in, do a short (5 minute) practice, and then read to them. At that point dinner should be nearly ready, so they will wash their hands and set the table while I finish any last minute preparation.

I did leave form drawing until January, as I really think J-Baby is too young. We aren't gardening yet, because of time and weather. I have to accept that there are are many things that I would like us to do, but to do them all wouldn't be nourishing to us as a family.

I spent all day Sunday doing the planning, although I had been thinking about it for some time. Papa kept the boys busy and also took them on an 8-mile nature hike. They came across a rattlesnake with a mouse in its mouth on a narrow portion of the trail, and after waiting quite a while for it to leave Papa finally had to get a long stick, hold it between the path and the snake, and tell the boys to run (for those unaccustomed to rattlers, it would be highly unlikely for the snake to drop its kill and attack the boys). It was a big adventure! Papa says he's never seen a rattler in that area, and he rides there almost weekly. Now for Papa, seeing rattlesnakes is pretty common, as 2 of his weekly rides go through rattler habitat. But the boys were thrilled with their first rattlesnake "in the wild".

Anyway, my Enki day was exhausting! I participated in both conference calls and did all that planning. By last night I was thinking that I had overdone it and that there would be no way to accomplish everything we want to do each day, but this morning I felt better and I reminded myself that my plans and schedules (based on our natural rhythm) are maps and not prisons.

My time is up. Quiet time is over, and it is time for a snack and our Monday project, which is actually running errands.


Rain, on the last day of July, in Southern California. Of course, it will warm up and then it will just be hot and muggy, but this morning it is 69 degrees, which feels pretty cool.

Sorry about the lack of posting last week. I went instrospective on you and then I stopped writing. I think of things I want to write about all of the time, and turn the words and phrases around in my brain, but I was too busy this past weekend to have any blog time.

I'll catch up this week, to the best of my ability. We have an ambitious block planned and there just won't be as much time for the computer.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Did you notice the template change? My old blog was green and blue and I really loved it, but when I started the second blog I wanted it to be different. I must have been very tired when I chose that pink scheme. Funny thing is, I didn't pay much attention to it, but tonight I logged in and it was staring at me with its glaring Pepto Bismalness.

Speaking of the old blog, I've noticed that more and more lately I write about life, and not just homeschooling. The old blog was titled "Simplicity in the Suburbs", and my self-criticism at the time was that I wrote too often about veganism, food, and cooking. So perhaps I don't really know what to call my blog. I'll stick with the current title, and hopefully the rest of you won't mind that many of the posts aren't about homeschooling per se, but about life, learning, laughter, and love.

Another change was our transition away from veganism. We all eat small amounts of organic pastured eggs and wild salmon, as well as other fish occasionally. No beef, pork, goat, chicken, turkey, lamb, or any other flesh except fish, and no dairy. We wouldn't eat the eggs if we couldn't find them locally and humanely raised.

We have done this for our health. Now, please spare me the lecture on how everyone can be perfectly healthy following a vegan diet, because I spouted it for years. But right now we can't. Food allergies have taken their toll and we need lean, concentrated protein to aid in our healing. A vegan diet is fantastially healthy, but not optimal for healing a leaky gut and putting some weight on a skinny 6 year old. Nothing is the way it used to be, and we can't get the same nutrition from our factory-farmed grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits as we did 100 years ago before the advent of fossil-fuel based pesticides and the depletion of our nation's topsoil.

You know, I used to worry what people would think, me going from vegan to vegetarian, back and forth, then adding in fish (after 12 years of no flesh at all), then taking it out, and so on. Now I don't care. I remember meeting a woman 14 years ago who said in a very knowing way, "I was vegetarian for 10 years". At the time I couldn't fathom how a person could make an ethical decision like that and change their mind. Now I see that there are so many shades of grey, and that even a vegan diet and lifestyle do not exist without harm to some creatures. The fields are pretty bloody after the harvester goes through, littered with the carcasses of the small animals that make each field their home. The earth is polluted with the exhaust of trucks and ships bringing us produce from around the world. To exist as a human being, as least as a human being in North America, means that others will be harmed by my existence. There is no perfection, and you can drive yourself insane trying to be "good" in every area of your life. Ask me, I know...I've been to the edge and back. I struggle with it still.

There may very well come a time when we are back to living in local communities with local economies and local food sources. While right now I can't imagine eating my friend the cow, I do know that in the end I will do what I have to do to survive, and if I have to humanely raise and slaughter an animal to keep my children and grandchildren alive I suppose I will. I hope it doesn't come to that.

Anyway, I'm not going to change the part in my profile that says I enjoy coming up with plant-based meals for my family, because I do. Most of our meals are completely free of animal products. I understand that my position isn't good enough for staunch vegans, because I've been in their (leather-free) shoes.

Other changes: I've slowly backed away from 99% of my message board and email list participation. My computer time is now focused on writing in my blog and moderating a homeschooling Yahoo! group for Enki users. I haven't time for much else. The writing feeds my soul; I have always loved writing and I have finally found that blogging allows me to share my words with the world. It is enough for me: I need to write - I don't need to be published or paid.

So the blog may take a different direction. I'll still write about holistic homeschooling, because it is a huge part of my life. But I'm also going to write about all of the other things that I think about, things that catch my fancy, things that bother me, things that bring me great joy. And maybe, just maybe, I'll figure out how to post pictures without it being a huge time consuming task.


Did I get your attention with that title? Well, this isn't about parents and children.

I've been thinking about discipline in regards to myself. Why do things work sometimes and not others? What is it in my attitude that helps determine accomplishment or failure? Why is it that one day I can give the kitchen a good cleaning, do the laundry, make the beds, homeschool the children, and cook the meals, while the next day I don't "feel" like doing anything?

I need rhythm and routine. Without I fall into laziness. There, I said it. I can be lazy. Oh, I make up for it by being incredibly productive for a few hours or days at a time, or during a week here and there where I go through the house top to bottom and declutter and organize everything in sight. However, there is no balance in working like this. I feel fantastic on days when I have worked like mad, but tired too. On days I don't think I have done enough I have a nagging sense of guilt.

Rhythm and routine help me find balance, as long as I stick more to rhythm and less to a schedule. When we stop following the rhythm the bathrooms don't get wiped down. If I try to do them everyday I just don't have time for other chores, and I get stressed. I think if I wiped down the bathrooms 2-3 times during the week, the rhythm would work.

Bathrooms are just one example. If I know that every day after quiet time we are going to have a snack, then practice time, and then do a craft/project, then my afternoon is well planned. But this is where discipline comes in. If the boys don't want to practice, do I let them off easy or just sing and get it going? Because I know if they skip it the rhythm will fall apart and I'll spend all afternoon on the computer, and maybe dinner will get my full attention, but maybe I'll just throw something together. How does dinner figure in? When we are doing projects in the afternoon some of them are self-guided, so I stand and chop vegetables and do early dinner prep while the boys do whatever project they are doing.

After that I should have free time for the computer. After practice, and projects, and dinner prep. Discipline. The computer itself isn't an addiction; I thought at some point maybe that word could be used, but I can go away for weeks on vacation and not miss the computer at all. I can just as easily lose myself to reading a book or crocheting, or any number of alternate activities. It is discipline. It is teaching myself that there are things I need to do before I can take that break - after all, my home and my children are supposed to be my vocation, and the other things my leisure. How easy it is to let my leisure fill up my work time, and to do homekeeping during my breaks!

There are things we know we should do. Discipline determines whether or not we do them. Eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep...they aren't hard things to do. I would wager that most of the time, if we have determined the heart of the matter in our lives there is plenty of time to do what needs to be done. When I say I didn't have time to mop the floor, I'm really saying that I chose to read my new magazine. Some days discipline requires that I set down the magazine and mop the floor. And isn't the magazine that much more satisfying to read if my work is accomplished and I am taking a well-earned break? I can give it my full attention, without the underlying knowledge that I "should" be doing something else.

Discipline. It's been sorely lacking in my life.