Being Present

Jack Frost
Jack Frost

All is full of love. All around you.” ~Bjork~

Jack Frost paid a visit this morning. It is cold here. Near 0 degrees Fahrenheit. The trees, naked for lack of leaves, moan in protest as they sway in the winter wind. Aside from an occasional crow or vehicle sputtering by they are the only ones willing to break winters loud silence. The cold takes your breath away. My beard has frost in it and my fingers are red and numb after taking care of the animals with my oldest daughter. She is bright and beautiful as the morning sun. In truth she shines brighter than the sun who rarely shows itself during the long northern winters.

At night when it is time to lock the chickens in their coop I venture out by myself. I stop every night after they are safe behind their walls and I search the sky for the stars and moon while breathing in the cold winter air. Trying my hardest to be present and thankful for my life. By all accounts it is a beautiful existence.

My little sunshine
My little sunshine

The past year has been trying. A number of deaths, some close , some distant, all very painful. Chasms in the family tree that seem like the mouth of a great canyon opening to swallow logic. Bills to pay or more appropriately juggle and still through the rapids of life I find myself searching for the calm waters rather than enjoying where I am at. In fact as I write it reminds me of a Wendell Berry quote, a man and poet whom I respect very much, he said,”the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our feet and learn to be at home.”

Tomorrow is a reality for some yet an illusion for others and to think that we ourselves dictate the pace is purely the mythology of ego. I say this not as someone who is more enlightened than you the reader, because I am not. I say this as someone who is making a concerted effort to exist in the moment. I can see the great migration taking place all around me. Pushing onward toward the time clock to pay the bills, rushing in a frenzy from here to there, in all truth no where. Nose down we plow ahead forgetting the beauty that surrounds us every waking moment.

023 That is one of the things I find interesting about homeschooling and being a parent. It is also one of the things I find most difficult. I am speaking of providing a healthy day to day existence when stress and anxiety are at its peak. I have no real answer or solution I suppose. I find people rarely want to discuss this side of life. So, in an attempt to find a remedy, I am making an effort to be present. It is the best I can do for myself and my family.

I am trying to eat healthier to respect my fragile vehicle. I am focusing on my yoga routine and breathing. Just breathing. I am allowing myself to be vulnerable and wrapping myself in the warmth of my children’s laughter. It will pass me by far too quickly. It already has. I am sincerely trying to find the pleasure in their childish arguments and tantrums because someday I will miss those moments dearly. I meditate on their filtered voices as I hear them telling off color jokes to one another upstairs while I am downstairs, what I imagine must be the child’s equivalent of a Richard Pryor joke because someone dared to use the word “turd” out of ear shot of old Dad.

I am trying to capture photographs in my mind of each of my children at this very stage in life. My oldest daughter who is creative and forgetful. Possesses a humor far beyond her years and an empathy I would be proud to display. My son whom I wake with before the sun rises so that we can spend our weekends at hockey practice together. Both of us members of the gym rat clergy. Still, he is one of the gentlest young men I know and that makes me proud. My youngest daughter who speaks for all of us with her wide smile and sensitive eyes, her eternal youth and tiny hands, her desire to drink straight from the source of love. My wife, my lovely wife, eight months pregnant with our fourth child. On occasion through the chaos of life we are able to find a quiet space and look into each others eyes, her fluid and alluring brown eyes, and we hold one another hands. In this silence, this silence of winter, I am reminded of how much I love them all and that life is cyclical. All the pain of those around me will pass but so will the pleasure so I must try harder than ever to be present and inhale deeply the sweet scent of my beautiful life.

Kellen Thomas or Eloise Fey? We shall soon see!
Kellen Thomas or Eloise Fey? We shall soon see!

Tobias Whitaker also blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine.  You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad .  


Defining Family

Exif JPEGMy parents separated when I was 12 years old. Eventually as my father drifted out of my life so did his relatives. In turn my mothers side of the family was reasonably involved in my day to day life. They were and still are a rather eccentric bunch but I can proudly say that they are some of the most interesting people I know.

They do however have problems just like any other family. Though it is unfair to solely focus on their negatives as they do have a number of positive traits it is those negatives that tend to have the deepest claws and seem to take forever to remove from deep within ourselves as maturing adults.

The extended family reminded me of the clans from the old country. Constantly at war with one another. Creating alliances out of a mutual dislike rather than genuine friendship and then when illness or serious cause for alarm would arise everyone would rally against the common enemy only to fall back into rituals of bad behavior as soon as the storm had passed.

I remember very vividly sitting around a campfire with my cousins and my own brother and sister discussing the sad state of affairs within our family and finding it difficult to relate to such behavior. Fast forward twenty years and here I am in the same turbulent waters.

My goal with this piece is not to specifically call anyone out because truth is I am far from perfect myself. But rather to define what family truly is and how I am attempting to remedy this situation.

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under one roof.” Richard Bach ~Illusions~  

As a single person I was far more willingly to put up with the bad behavior of others. As a parent of three young children I am far less willingly to do so. The delicate balance, that which Somerset referred to as the “razors edge”, is the ability to discern ones own prejudice in comparison with that which is truly harmful. We all have conflict or arguments among family members. Overreacting to naturally arising frustrations is a negative in and of itself. But eventually when bad habits are displayed for years, decades even, and they begin to affect the mental health of ones household it is time to put the false notion of family aside.

The difficulty that I am experiencing is that as a homeschooling family the family structure is extremely important. I have lost count of all the homeschooling books that I have read that speak of having a grandparent share a hobby or an aunt spend a day with your children. For some of us that is simply not a reality.

Though children should not be involved in the direct confrontation of adults for any reason they do recognize something is wrong when Grandma or Grandpa no longer stops by. When aunts and uncles no longer visit. When their birthday is ignored while other children in the family have very public celebrations. They quickly catch on when conversation is cut short in regards to missing relatives. They recognize the awkward hostility when relatives meet in public places. They are sensitive to the sadness that develops when adults feel the need to remove toxic relationships from their own lives.

So how do we define family when our family is broken? If we continue to nurture negative relationships we are teaching our own children a very unhealthy lesson, are we not? We are teaching them that abuse and disrespect are acceptable ways for family to treat one another when resurrecting the notion that blood outweighs all else. This is simply not true.

It is painful and even frightening to admit that ones family does not provide a solid foundation in their own lives. But when one begins to recognize the bond that exist among families with similar values a level of strength, understanding and true appreciation begins to bloom.

Within family structures there is a tendency for familiarity to breed contempt. I would hope that it is obvious that I am not addressing the trivial frustrations that exist within every family structure but rather the deep rooted multi-generational behaviors that destroy trust and most importantly love. Your family , your children , are at the mercy of your decisions to a certain extent. When it comes to creating a supportive , nurturing , caring and loving network one must make the right decision, not the easy one.

Tobias Whitaker also blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine.  You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad .  


An Often Overlooked Solution

Social networks are ablaze with conversation revolving around “Common Core Curriculum” especially since testing took place yesterday. My goal is not to negotiate the pros and cons of the newest canned educational format but rather to talk about parents following their instincts. Admittedly I may slip and give an example or two dealing with the cons from my perspective if only to make a point.

I think that it is obviously very important to gather as much information as humanly possible in regards to subjects that have a direct impact on your life or the lives of those you care about. With that said I tend to be a person who allows my instincts to merge with knowledge and in turn set the pace for decision making. I am an elected official (please don’t hold that against me). After taking into account the “facts” I attempt to blend my decision with what my gut is telling me to do. I am a passionate gardener. When working in the dirt I allow instinct to direct my decision making. The point being it is a voice that speaks not only to me but to all of us if only we are willing to listen.

Now when you take that into consideration and you read direct comments from parents, teachers, school board members and state level officials who express great reserve over common core you begin to question why so few of them look toward legitimate alternatives. People , as we all know, get very touchy when you address their politics or their religion. Since education in some unique fashion actually serves both of those notions it is no wonder folks get so bent out of shape when it is discussed. It has now become bad etiquette to bring up education with guest at the dinner table.

001So I tread lightly. Knowing most people already have their guard up. But I feel it is important to tell parents, trust your instincts. If you feel there is something wrong with public education, maybe there is. This does not mean there is something wrong with teachers but rather the system they are being swept up in just like the students. I will use my local school district as an example (told you I would slip up and give you one). My local school does not teach social studies or science to early elementary aged children. This is done to focus on math and language in preparation for the test that will occur. That is startling and concerning to say the least. We all know the statistics in relation to the U.S. when compared to the global community. That is the sort of thing that should bother parents and it does. But just as important is the reality that school is not a place of interest and learning but instead seems to foster a number of unhealthy physical and mental responses to the institution and its core curriculum. How many of you know a parent who has commented on the horrible stomach aches or anxiety their young child is experiencing attempting to prep for exams? It is creating a culture in which we are signaling to our youth it acceptable for you to feel that way and if you do simply take medication to alleviate it. I suppose that is another topic for another day though.

My children are 3, 5 and 8 years old. Today for “school” we did not test, let me say that first. We started the day off writing fan letters to our favorite MLB teams (language and handwriting/computer skills). We walked in an old cemetery looking specifically for Civil War veterans (social studies/history). This lead to dialogue dealing with economic classes, “Why does that person have a larger headstone than that person?”. We then played at a public playground (recess!). We to the grocery store saw the friendly clerk who always greets the kids and bought items for lunch (math/health/economics). We then came home and prepared a chicken noodle soup with artisan bread (home ec. remember that archaic class?). We will be listening to PJ Harvey and Brown Bird on vinyl while finger painting in a few minutes because art is important contrary to what they say! There will be reading time and play time and so on and so forth. You get the picture. On occasion we are far more structured. Sometimes we use a curriculum of our own and use workbooks for reading, writing and arithmetic. The point I am trying to make is that homeschooling allows you to follow your gut instinct. It is flexible. Not always easy but geared for individual learning. That is why I find it a bit sad and curious as I watch from the side as families express utter frustration with the public education system and then try to bend the machine to fit their individual need. Public education is not about individual need. The answer exist beyond the scope of public education. It is homeschooling.

This is a solution that is often overlooked. People have been conditioned to believe that they lack the ability or time to educate their own children and that is simply not the case, for the most part. Homeschooling is a sacrifice, without a doubt. We live in a society that has a crippled economy which in turn has forced most families at the very least to rely on dual incomes. Financially speaking homeschooling has been a burden on our bank account, but as we all know somethings are worth way more than money. I am aware of and sensitive to a variety of reasons that cause people to hesitate when considering homeschooling. For some people it is simply not a reality. I do believe it is far more obtainable than most people would admit though. It is a lot of work. It requires a hands on investment in regards to your time as well as your children’s but that feeling deep in the pit of your stomach that something is wrong eventually disappears and is replaced by. . . .get ready for it! Learning!

I am friends with a number of public ed. teachers. I am friends with University professors who are educating the next crop of teachers. I’m friends with school board members. I have immense respect for them. They all went into the profession to touch lives and open minds and now are being faced with every obstacle imaginable. I sincerely hope that one day they are able to focus on their primary purpose rather than the distractions of test scores. But I am not willing to sacrifice my children’s education in the process. Truthfully you do not need to either. There are far more options available than taking the test or not taking the test but then spending the rest of the year preparing for it. Homeschooling is an umbrella term that in turn has as many options as there are families. But don’t take my word for it investigate it! Because that’s what homeschooling is all about, education!

Tobias Whitaker also blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad .  

Change of Direction

Parenting is not easy. Everyone from comedians to psychologist have covered the topic. When you add homeschooling to the mixture you increase the oddity of child rearing a hundred fold. There is little time away from one another and you are exposed to the positives and negatives of each other’s personalities on a regular basis.

Just like parenting there are as many methods of homeschooling as there are families. What works for one family, scratch that, what works for one child does not necessarily work for another. I have slowly come around to the fact that there are going to be failures just as there will be success and that one can only exist along side the other.

In my attempt to break the unhealthy cycles that have plagued my own family tree for a few generations I attempt to digest each and every situation in an effort to do the least amount of harm as a parent so that in turn my children feel loved and safe in their youth. In turn this will hopefully lay the foundation for happy and responsible adults. I have always found it odd that so much of youth is spent preparing for adulthood in the sense that happiness is overlooked for long term character. Being happy in ones youth is far more important than our culture is willing to acknowledge.

I have to admit that even in my own home I have dealt with my childrens feelings through humor rather than facing it head on. Recently we purchased a bunk bed. While putting the bed together I found some graffiti on the wall. “Bad Dad” it said. Actually my mother found it while helping and in some bizarre fashion she took great satisfaction in seeing me struggle to gain full credit with my kids. Of course we all had a good laugh over it. In fact my oldest daughter blamed it on my son who cannot write yet. This resulted in a deep belly laugh from everyone in the room.

I shared the story of when my oldest daughter was just learning to write and I found the word “Sophia” scribbled on our living room window sill. When confronted with the evidence she blamed it on her younger brother. Looking at the infant lying on the floor in his diaper I had a hard time buying the story. The next morning I found “Liam” written on the same sill. Turned out according to my daughter her brother had written that as well. I began to think I should try a different approach. I would meet fire with fire. I did what any other responsible father would do.  I wrote the word “Dad” on the window sill. My daughter found it and immediately ran into the kitchen and told my wife what I had done. Epic fail.

Those of us who homeschool know that there is no line between being a parent and being a teacher. It is a lifestyle that consumes every moment of our lives. When everyone is happy things run smoothly. When people are upset this is not necessarily the case. When people are distracted it can turn into a circus. As the parent it is our role to find what works best over the long haul. Though I initially made jokes about the “Bad Dad” graffiti I knew why it was there. I was not engaging my children in a manner that they were receptive to. I was allowing the imagined deadlines of curriculum to create tension in my relationship with my children. My deadlines with our local school system created a level of anxiety that I was in turn allowing to spill over onto them. My fears became their fears. My temper was short because I was blinded by my own fear. In short I was a bad dad.

The turning point came when I overheard my children saying that they were going to “fire” me. They wanted a dad who laughed more. I tried to laugh this off but realized all the issues were on my end. My children are perfect in their approach to life. I was falling short and needed to make a change. I went in and apologized to my kids. I explained why I had been acting the way that I had. Needless to say I was able to keep my job.  Though it turns out I won’t be getting a raise.

Since homeschooling is so intertwined with our daily approach to life I decided that I needed to change my method of instruction. For years we used a canned curriculum inspired by the Waldorf method. I still think Waldorf has so much to offer and that it is a beautiful and empathetic approach to life but I have known deep down inside for some time that it is causing more stress than it is worth. It is simply not for us. For a number of years I have been slowly incorporating elements of unschooling into our day to day learning and have found that this really seems to be when our entire family shines. The impromptu opportunities that arise tend to be the moments of enlightenment. I can only liken unschooling to jazz music. You rarely know which direction you are going but somehow you end up creating something lasting, something memorable.

It is a bit overwhelming to change direction mid-stream and to admit that as a parent that you may have had it wrong. But that is one of the most amazing aspects of homeschooling, the ability to slam on the breaks and make corrections. Homeschooling allows the privilege of putting your family first. Our entire family is involved in this journey and should have a voice in which avenues we pursue.

Tobias Whitaker also blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad .  

When Dad Homeschools

I was recently asked to write about being a father who homeschools his children. I have been rolling it over in my mind for days now. On some level there is little difference between myself and homeschooling mothers in regards to the daily struggle and success involved. We probably both find ourselves staring in bewilderment at the organized chaos taking place around us. All evidence would suggest we both survive on coffee and pray for the occasional opportunity to use the restroom without a child pleading their case with the door wide open. How is it that the bathroom in our home has turned into a Federal courtroom where accused toy and candy thieves try to stack the jury in their favor?

Most likely we both stare at the dark ceiling of our bedroom in the early morning hours wondering where the immediate energy of youth comes from as we hear distant sounds of children leaping from one piece of furniture to another in the yawning light of dawn. I feel pretty confident that we both find crayon murals on our window sills, balance dishes and laundry between mathematics and wonder where the time went as we stare at the aftermath of a long day cleverly disguised as piles of toys, pencils and socks.

On the other hand I do believe there may be some slight differences worth writing about. Just as homeschooling mothers face obstacles I lack the experience to address there are circumstances unique to my situation. Truthfully they may even be results of a homeschooling father living in a rural area because I do wonder if fathers teaching their children at home who happen to live in a city have the same experiences as I do.

There are positives and negatives. Let us start with one of the perceived negatives though so that we can end on a good note. For me personally the feeling of isolation is a major obstacle both creatively and emotionally. Now the interesting thing is that my isolation has not really had an impact on my kids socialization and I say this for those of you considering homeschooling or who are new to it and still buy into that myth.  I will give you a recent example. My two oldest children recently started taking ice-skating lessons. I took my kids to the first two lessons. Though I smiled and attempted to engage the mothers who would approach my kids I was largely ignored. On the third lesson my wife took the morning off of work and joined us. She was in turn approached by other mothers wanting to know which child was hers. Conversation was easy. Interaction was safe. Now of course these were the same children I had been showing up with for two weeks but there is some sort of social taboo in my neck of the woods that does not allow married male/female interaction to take place as readily. Now I realize that that may seem like a very small and insignificant situation to some but when you multiply this by every social situation whether the library, kids sporting events, dance classes, or any number of organized homeschool field trips it leaves one feeling isolated. That is not to say no one speaks to me or avoids me altogether  but there are no real relationships being developed. Luckily my children do just fine. They laugh and play and learn but I spend a lot of time alone.

The really interesting thing is that some of my strongest relationships and most trusted support networks have developed over the internet. In an attempt to find pen pals for my two oldest children I eventually found a wonderful family from southern Australia whom we interact with somewhat regularly. The friend who asked me to write this is from the U.K. I have even had the good fortune to interact with a homeschooling author who really inspires me. Although not in my immediate vicinity these are very important relationships to me. A network of support is important in any aspect of life especially when it comes to the education of ones children. I suppose the positive twist is that those relationships really expose the true value of homeschooling not only for the children but for the parent as well. Though barriers exist in my own community globally speaking I have been able to find individuals and families who are more interested in the pursuit of truth than social taboos. Further I realize those same minds must exist locally it is just a matter of locating them.

Now with that said I have always been comfortable with myself. I can spend large amounts of time reading and meditating simply put daydreaming. But it is always nice to know that if you need to interact with someone you can and that has been my biggest obstacle as a homeschooling dad.

My life is far from gloomy though. It is too hectic and too entertaining to be anything but wonderful. Though I go weeks without a haircut or shave and I rarely know what day of the month it is I do have the amazing opportunity to watch my children grow on a daily basis. I am so blessed to see the spark behind their eyes as knowledge from the days lesson takes root. I imagine what it would be like to be an astronaut or a dinosaur with young minds. I wipe tears and put Band-Aids on cuts too small to see. I dig in muddy creek beds in search of crayfish and salamanders. I comb hair and put in crooked ponytails. I color with crayons and introduce Neil Young on vinyl to my kids. I have barrettes put in my beard while I work on social studies activities. Most importantly I listen when they ask the serious questions in life,

“Where do we go when we die?”

“Why was that man yelling?”

“Why are your teeth so yellow dad? Don’t you brush?”

Though some aspects of a homeschooling father are unique overall I would humbly suggest that it is an extension of parenting which finds its common ground in the bizarre, unscripted situations that can only arise with the developing curiosity of youth. Though my family and I are no different from any other family in that facet we are entirely unique because of that fact.

Tobias Whitaker also blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine.  You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad .  

Homeschooling, A Parents Perspective

At the LibraryHomeschooling. Where to begin? As I prepare to write this I realize that the subject itself cannot be confined to one paragraph, let alone one blog entry. Though I am naturally a cautious and slightly pessimistic person I tend to make an effort to focus on the positive, especially when communicating publicly. With that said I can honestly say that our family initially began homeschooling in an effort to remove our children from the perceived negatives of institutionalized schooling. Now we homeschool for the numerous positives associated with providing an education at home.

As any parent who educates their own children knows there are a number of stereotypes and myths that surround our chosen lifestyle. With most things in life that are misunderstood it usually comes down to education on any particular subject, ironically enough. In regards to homeschooling there are a couple of common questions that seem to come my way. Now of course there are the common “socialization” questions and such but the two I want to focus on for this particular piece are in response to when we homeschool. People seem to want to know if we take a summer vacation and how long our days are. These questions upon first glance seem harmless enough. Usually I respond rather briefly that we enjoy our summers or something along those lines. But as the years pass and I gain more experience in this particular lifestyle I realize the root of the question is buried well below the surface.Frog Pond Farm

Simply put if one is properly homeschooling it forces you to redefine your concept of education. Education is not something that takes place between the morning and afternoon bell. Education is existence. Knowledge, regardless of how subtle or profound, is gathered every moment of our life. Initially I wanted to say every waking moment but dreams are a whole other avenue worth exploring at a later date. Homeschooling shatters the rigid constraints presented by government run education. Which is nothing more than an “education” that prefers conformity, consumerism and competition.

When someone ask these seemingly harmless questions in essence they are asking you when your children stops learning. At what point during the day or season do they just float through life? It is kind of frightening to think that some people see learning as being so laborious. Something in which they simply ignore for hours or months at a time. If one takes a moment to think about it that is not case. Humans , especially children, are sponges. Information is constantly being presented and digested in a number of different ways. Filtering that information through specific time periods and seasons obviously creates more harm than good if ones goal is indeed education..

Once the process of redefining education takes place the world suddenly becomes your classroom. Libraries, grocery stores, fire departments and nature trails become your place of study. Socialization is conversation with the elderly gardener down the street, the other kids in your dance class, the chance meeting of a like mind at a local museum. It suddenly becomes obvious that you are not an isolated individual walking single file down a hallway from class to class but rather a vital part of your community. A community that is alive and breathing and can only function with the constant interaction of its members regardless of age. Barriers of fear and prejudice are taken down. Hands on education allows a level of learning to take place that could never be reproduced in the sterile petri dish of public education. Suddenly learning , education, wisdom, knowledge has no limits. No imaginary boundaries presented to create the illusion of control. Education is then a gift born of curiosity.  Homeschooling, if done properly, places that seed of curiosity in fertile soil and allows the childs mind to bloom and stretch toward the heavens unknown.

The true beauty of homeschooling may be hidden in the fact that it is not only the child who receives an education. Suddenly the parent is face to face with the boundaries presented by their own education as a youth and they must then make the choice of hiding in the shadows or redefining their own concept of education and stepping into the sun light for the benefit of those they love most.

Tobias Whitaker also blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad .  

Book Review (Free Range Learning by Laura Grace Weldon)

free range

I am a parent who homeschools. In an effort to provide the best education possible for my children I have developed a ravenous appetite for literature promoting this particular lifestyle. There are a number of fantastic books out there on the subject, some better than others of course. One book has really taken center stage and become the foundation for my philosophy and approach. I am speaking about Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything by Laura Grace Weldon. Free Range was published by Hohm Press in Prescott, Arizona.

I am going to cut straight to the chase on this one. This book is hands down the best book I have read in regards to homeschooling. It is difficult for me to imagine a more comprehensive collection of work on the subject. This 304 page book is arranged in two distinct portions. The first section of the book delves into the philosophy and benefits of homeschooling. I suppose this description is extremely general in nature. Free Range covers everything from an overview of natural learning to the importance of play. For me personally when I stumble in confidence or approach this section tends to be incredibly uplifting and inspirational. It reminds me why our family chose this particular path and to embrace the entire journey as a success. It helps me recognize the positive results in all of our actions.

The second section of the book deals primarily with breaking down specific avenues of education. Everything is covered from field trips to business and critical thinking, the arts and volunteerism. There are literally hundreds of hands on activities included as well. One of the aspects of the book that I really appreciated is that the vast majority of the ideas can be accomplished on a limited budget. Another real benefit is the author is able to find an educational moment in all aspects of daily living. Catch is she points out some things that I could have been doing that I simply overlooked on occasion due to the day to day hustle of life such as learning how to vote with your dollar or taking math to the store. Now our family does both.

I hope I am not painting this book as a dry educational manual because it is not. One beautiful aspect of this book are all the testimonials by homeschooling parents and their children which are delicatly woven through out the text. It displays a sense of humor and connection when you find yourself relating to some of the very specific issues presented by the families who provided their input. On some level it may be the most important contribution of the book, which says a lot since the entire book is a valuable tool.

I cannot say enough positive things about this book. It has really become the backbone of my technique. I read and reread Free Range Learning and every time I pick it up I find myself inspired to do more for my children. One of the hidden gems of homeschooling is the education of the adult working with the children and this book is a must have in that regard.

I purchased my copy on If you prefer to go directly to the publishers website you can find it at Laura Grace Weldon also has an interactive facebook page called Free Range Learning that I highly recommend as well.

Tobias Whitaker also blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad .