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Monday, December 31, 2007

Too cute

I'm always getting addicted to some food or another..I remember doing this from the time I was little.....I'll never eat another bologna sandwich again!

So the addiction du jour is...Burger King Chicken Fries dipped in Zesty sauce. I can't get them out of my mind! 

Tonight, on my way to BK, my 6 yr old says, "Mom, get me a  6 pack."

So innocently, so cute...I almost died laughing! "Ok, honey, I'll get you a 6-piece."

And Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A small vere

For 14 years I have been pretty confident about my son and his education. Literally...since he's been little I have loved helping him learn, seeing the spark of interest, watching "the wheels spin" and watching him "get it".

I haven't had many bumps in our Unschooling journey, yet recently we hit a mom-made crater. I'll admit it, it was my fault.  I vered for a moment. I'm glad we're out of that hole now! It wasn't very pretty and cast all sorts of ugly doubts. of our homeschool groups offers teen co-op classes. This year I decided  (do you already see the problem?) to sign Brian up for 2 of them that sounded cool, photography and history.  Ok, he likes photography and he's always loved history..what could go wrong?!?!?

Before I go any further, both teachers are beyond excellent, and wonderful women, besides! This has nothing to do with them, nor their teaching styles. It has to do with the fact that I decided something and then didn't "listen" to my son....something he's not used to. class was more about art and art expression....poor Brian..he's not very artistic. He had to do an altered book, using various techniques shown in class. He would sit there for hours looking at all his "stuff" spread out over the table, try this and try that, and end up with NOTHING. It was driving me CRAZY!  I'm a scrapbooker. I love altered books. I admit, sometimes I get no vision, it takes some time to get going, but this poor kid sat there day after day staring at these things like they were vipers, and all the while MY frustration level was growing! Just slap something on and move on to the next page already!!!!

This struggle between him and his lack of ability to DO it, and between me and him for not JUST DOING IT became crazy!

Meanwhile he was simultaneously taking the history class, which is a fun, hands-on class, with tons of homework, papers and class presentations.

While I could get over the art thing, the history thing left me with doubts. AM I doing him wrong by not MAKING him do reports? He can't even handle doing this?!? Do I make him persevere and stick the class out because he's already in it? He did learn a lot. More, doubts, more doubts.

On his end, he was left feeling pretty stupid and with a quickly deteriorating relationship with me. No wonder we had awhile of tears and overly emotional behavior!

I pulled him from Art first, thinking "he doesn't really need this". A few more weeks of History went by and things were off and on again ugly.

Finally, one night my husband called me from work (Husband who has not always been supportive of homeschooling) and told me he thought I needed to pull Brian from the History class. He said, "This is not his interest, all these years you've let him go according to his interest, he's GREAT at computers, and now you're making him do something he doesn't want, why? He doesn't NEED history"  Why indeed?!?!  This is my husband speaking to me! This is a big deal!

Needless to say, I immediately drafted an email to his history teacher, thinking all the while, she's going to think "Those unschoolers...don't they know he NEEDS history?!?!"

Below are our emails:

It is with utmost sadness that my family has come to the conclusion that Brian needs to be taken out of History class. My husband and I had a long talk last night and it was the first time he's truly embraced my Unschooling Philosophy, encouraging Brian in the things he is interested in instead of conforming and taking classes "because he needs to".

While Brian loves the class, he doesn't love the topic. It's become somewhat a source of frustration between him and I that I'd started to move away from my convictions to unschool him, trusting God to lay interests on his heart, that I can then follow up on within the community or just within our own home.  Instead, I saw this class and thought it'd be reality it'd be cool for ME! Id love to take it! I'd ace it :) I'd learn and I'd love it..because it's of interest to me.

This is in no way a reflection on you. It's just our family returning to our ingrained beliefs.

Thanks for understanding..
Elissa Wahl

Dear Elissa,

While I am deeply saddened to be losing such a brilliant student, I do respect your decision and his interests. It is refreshing to see parents so concerned about their student and I know that this concern will show in his future endeavors. My hope is that what I was able to teach him will stick with him and maybe one day he'll find some part of history that interests him. Brian is a wonderful young man and it has been my utmost honor to teach him; please let him know that he will be truly missed.

Brian IS extremely intelligent, and given the reign over his education, he steers towards computers. All of my friends call him for tech support, he has torn apart and rebuilt 3 of our computers, he is SO knowledgable and always learning more....why did I question the need for history?!?!?! Why did I allow doubts into my beautiful son's head about his own intelligence?

If, at some later point, he decided he isn't going to enter a computer field (Fat chance) , he will then do what is necessary to learn what he needs.

While he "can't" do an altered book, he can run GIMP and play with his tablet pen and alter digital images using layer after layer and technique after technique until he creates these beautiful images.

While he struggled over writing a report on James Madison, he can research various operating systems, take notes on them (in whatever computer language it is...doesn't look like English to me!) and then install the alternative operating systems AND then make them work!

I had a brief moment of worry, but seeing the outcome of it was worse than the worry!  It's gone now, done, hopefully forever! Cast the fears and doubts aside and live happily!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Red Rock Canyon Field Trip

While most people think of living in Las Vegas as living in "Sin City", we know there is so much more to it  than that!  We have some of the prettiest sights within an hour's drive!  We are always out and about looking at nature, and while it may not all be green grass and trees, it's beautiful in it's own way.

Most of the cool places also have either Jr Ranger programs, and/or ranger led educational programs you can avail yourself of. And we do!

Red Rock Canyon  (  And here's it's more official website..both have great info Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area) is known throughout the world for its spectacular rock climbing. For those of us who are lucky to live close by, it's well worth the $20 yearly car pass!  There are great hikes with Petroglyphs and pictographs, waterfalls,  caves, birding, you name it, they have it!  Their Ranges also do Educational Programs, which homeschoolers can set up! So, we do!

We did a recent trip on "What's A Desert?"   While it was geared for K-2nd  grades, Red Rock, like most places, understood we don't always "do" grades, and that there are often older and sometimes younger, siblings along.

This educational program was about the 5 senses. Their website quote is, " Through multi-sensory activities, students will learn about desert animals , plants and rocks."...and they did!

They got to TOUCH all sorts of animals and pelts  (below is an owl)

They got to HEAR all sorts of animal sounds.
They got to SEE many animals and plants on a scavenger hunt around the Visitor's Center
They learned about TASTE, what desert plants are edible and what tastes BAD
And they got to SMELL a very cool plant, a Creosotebush, which smells like rain when you breath on it!

It was a fun hands-on class, and the Ranger was great with the kids!

After the class, many of us caravaned out to various scenic points. Here's Elias out in the beauty of nature!

We ate lunch at a neat little picnic area, complete with a cave that you have to climb to....and climb we all did...repeatedly! That spot is always a hit! Not too hard, not too easy and just high enough to get a spectacular view  (or scare mom's socks off when you get close to the edge of the ledge!)

Then a couple of families took a nice hike. before heading home. Remember the TOUCH/FEEL part of the lesson? What else can one TOUCH or FEEL in the desert? You got it, a CACTUS!  And my 6 yr old sure FELT it when he barreled down a trail and ran right past a cactus, inserting about 20 quill like needles into his knee! Luckily a well-prepared dad had tweezers with him and "operated"

Much better after that rough patch! I'm sure Elias will always remember his impromptu "surgery" while on a hike!

It was a beautiful day, perfect autumn weather and lots of fun and learning!

We have many beautiful areas around us, Red Rock is one of many that we frequent. Check some of these out if you are ever in our area...and if you live sure to set up some educational field trips (and invite us along!)

Red Rock Canyon
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Death Valley National Park
Valley of Fire
Mt Charleston

Friday, December 28, 2007

Previous lessons learned..Africa

I am "transcribing" my handwritten journal from my experiences in Africa as a teen, onto the computer. It is so amazing to go back and read and re-live the experience!  I haven't done this in forever!  I haven't even viewed my tons of pictures in over 15 years, as they are all slides, not photos. I need to get them onto a cd.

When I was 17 I was part of a missions trip, from the United Methodist Church, to Zaire. The purpose of our trip was to view different living situations and come back to the States and report on how our donations and how the UNICEF money was being spent.

I learned so much! We stayed in Lubumbashi, Mulunguishi, Kafabumba Pastor's School, Luena, Mulongo, Malemba, towns in between...(I haven't finished my notes yet for all the names) We stayed in bush villages, in cities, on a  river barge, visiting villages that had never before seen a  white person.

We visited a TB clinic, a leper colony. We traveled a bush pastor's church circuit, we swam in the river, caged off to protect us from Crocodiles, we had to take pills to ward off malaria.

Everything was foreign to my existence in middle class, suburban America. Not just the surface things like language, but foods, ways of life, cultural differences and overwhelming poverty and sickness.

I saw black children with yellowed hair from malnutrition, so many distended bellies from kwashiorker, held a premature baby that weighed less than 2 lbs.

Yet, everywhere we went, we were met with SINGING! Masses of natives would meet us as we landed, or arrived by car, at each destination. And they would sing to us for more than an hour, joyously.

The love of the Lord, as expressed by the missionaries and also through the natives, was astounding. These people lived solely by faith for provisions, for health, for everything...even the missionaries!

Looking back on my trip, I may not have been the best ambassador of the information upon my arrival home. But I assure you, that trip helped create the person I am today.

Some of the missionary families that we stayed with are lifelong 2nd and 3rd generation Missionaries. You can read their stories here: John and Kendra Enright & Kafakumba Training Center
David & Lori Persons, Llowell and Claudia Wertz.

I would encourage you, if you want to "adopt" a missionary, do a "good deed", support missions, etc, that these long term missionaries are THE REAL DEAL. Their work has touched thousands of lives directly, and by influence hundreds of thousands.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Freudian Slip?!?!?

1st I must say, I LOVE BLOGGING!! I've sent all my family back east the's cool to be able to include pics and funnies throughout our the one below....

We were recently at Homeschool Skating and I did the most embarrassing crazy "mom" thing!

You know how you'll be at the grocery store, "rocking" your cart, or swaying while you're standing somewhere, JUST BECAUSE?!?! Those types of mom things are automatic. For me, I have an additional one, plugging the binky in the baby's mouth!

Sebastian has an oral sensitivity. He puts very little in his mouth but he LOVES his binky! HE sucks on it all the time and if he ever starts to fuss, it's automatic to just shove it in and he calms down.

So, I had Sebastian's binky in my hand, he was sitting in his stroller next to me, and I was talking to a group of moms. Elias comes up to me all excited about skating and starts interrupting and talking. I initially told him to wait, and put my hand on him to stop him, while still trying to give the other moms my attention. He kept going. Now, this is all happening really fast, and just instinctively I reached the binky towards his mouth while still concentrating on the other moms. Yes, you read that right, I aimed the binky at my 6 yr old!! He pipes up, "Mom, I'm not a baby!!!". ACHH!!!! How embarrassing! I just wanted to quiet him down! Guess we need to work on interrupting so I don't embarrass myself anymore!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What's Your Sign?

In this season of remembering Christ's birth I thought I'd re-share the meaning of the fish symbol from my first issue of Seedling.

The fish has been a symbol of Christianity for a very long time. We must look to the Greek language for the explanation. In Greek, the words "Jesus Christ God's Son Savior" look very different than they do in English. The first letter of each Greek word was taken (a game called acrostic) and the letters formed the word "fish", or "ichthys"in Greek.

You can look to the book of Acts to find some times in the Christian church where it was unsafe to openly proclaim a belief in Jesus. As such, the symbol of the fish took on an important job of identifying other Christians. If you were to meet someone, u could just nonchalantly swipe 1/2 the fish, an arch, in the sand.....if the other party were also a Christian, they could finish it off. If not, no harm..the other person would not recognize it!!

What's Your Sign?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas, to you and yours!

I'll share the coolest link with you...NoradSanta   it's a Santa Tracker!! This is a family tradition for us!  Since we're on the west coast it's cool to watch how far away Santa is, the time zones he's traveling through to get to us, when he will hit relatives houses etc. Have fun!

Sunday, December 23, 2007


On the way home from our lovely time in Boulder City, riding the Santa train (see previous entry)  and eating greasy food, we had to take a highway, a very highly traveled highway. I am not one for speed, nor switching lanes like a lunatic, I really want to continue to live...know what I mean?  It was a beautiful day, nice weather, and lots of motorcycles out there coming back from Boulder City, just like us.

Anyone guess what's coming? Uh-huh, the reason for my title.

All of a sudden I see lots of brake swerving into shoulders trying to avoid hitting those in front of them, and pieces of debris on the roadway. A few car lengths in front of me a motorcycle was down, and so was its rider.  I let some cars merge in front of me from that lane, and by the time I got to the accident I was hysterical. Yes, not the most "mommy" thing to do, but I couldn't seem to help it.

Mr. Motorcycle man was laying in the arms of his friends, while pieces of his bike were all over the road. His bike was quite a good ways up ahead of him..leaving it to the wild imagination what a fly through the air would have been like.

I was already praying aloud in between sobs, "Please God, let the ambulance get here soon, please let his friends be peaceful and helpful, please help this man know You if he doesn't already, please help his family as they deal with whatever is happening or going to happen...."

UGH! Even as I write this it makes me shaky.  Yes, I know we are all going to die..I would just prefer if it was all in natural order, like grow old, get sick (or not) and die peacefully...not die on the side of the road after a beautiful day out with friends while still young enough and cool enough to ride a motorcycle. this led to the topic of Motorcycles being more in danger due to their small size, fitting right into a blind spot, and the propensity for ER docs to call them  "donorcycles". Which, of course led into a discussion on organ donation.

For the record, I am EXTREMELY PRO organ donation. Please take anything of mine that you can use and if, God forbid anything happens to my kids, I've already made it known (Ha, and now even more publicly) what my wishes are.  Elias still doesn't grasp the concept, Brian is another story.

When Brian was very young, about a year old, there was a young boy who was shot in Italy, and his parents donated his organs. You may remember, the Nicholas Green story.  Brian was a very empathetic child, and one day, he must have been 5, maybe just about 6,  the story was re-airing..I don't know why, another organ donation story, an anniversary, anyway...Brian heard it and wanted to totally delve into this topic. So we did. After a lot of talking about it, BRIAN decided he wanted to do that if he ever died.

I am always glad to revisit topics we once learned about.  I love to relearn things later, maybe more deeply than the first time, maybe from a different perspective this time. Sorry for Mr. Motorcycle man and his tragedy, but he will always be remembered by our family as Mr Donorcycle. Maybe that was a purpose of his revisit this conversation in my family, and maybe now in yours. Donating doesn't hurt the dead, but NOT donating hurts those who are barely living on a waiting list.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Santa Train

Elias LOVES trains! We do as many train related activities in our travels as we can. One year we went to the Train museum in Balboa park, while in NJ we rode the Black River and Western train, both the Christmas Train and their Great Train Robbery, and recently we saw the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City.   This year we finally made plans to ride the  Santa Train in Boulder City!

We caravaned out with our neighbors (6,2 and infant) and had a nice time! Luckily we had planned to go early in the day, because the later it got, the sooner the next train and even the following train, were selling out!  We had perfect timing. We got the tickets for the next train, departing 50 minutes from then and found out they had a little engine ride!  So we got in line and did that!  It was short and sweet, but still neat!

Then we got in line for the loading of the Santa Train. Boy, did they pack the people in!  It was a good thing we only paid $2 a ticket because it was WARM in there, but the kids didn't seem to mind.

We were finally on our way, listening to Christmas Music. The train goes up maybe 7 miles and then switches and goes back to the station.  As we were heading back Santa finally made it to our carriage. Again, good thing this wasn't an overpriced ride, because Santa really didn't have much time to be personal with everyone due to the MANY people on board! But, the kids still had fun seeing him.

After we got off, we made our way over to a steam engine. The owner, just a regular ole private person, brought it down to display for this busy season.  This was REALLY cool!  The owner had built a few hundred feet of wooden tracks so we could see it move and poof out the steam! First we had to watch the men gather the wood, then stoke the engine, and then we had to back up FAR FAR away because the steam came billowing out. It was something I hadn't seen before, and the kids were as enthralled as I was.

To make the day even better, we stopped at A & W for lunch, got rootbeer floats and chili fries, YUMMMMM, good greasy food!

Here are some cool train toys:Figure Eight Train Set
Train Floor Mat
  Stacking Train
Train Sound Puzzle
Alphabet Train 27pc Floor Puzzle

What's In An Eye?

I have a progressive eye disease called Progressive External Ophthalmoplegia  It's an annoyance that has me often at the eye dr's office. Recently I was getting up and ready for an appointment and Elias asked me, "What's in an eye?"  I knew 2 things, 1) I was in a rush and 2) amidst all my STUFF I have a model eye kit. So I told him, "I'll show you later."

With Unschooling....the kids really do ask all sorts of things and I help them find the answers. Sometimes that interest may last 5 seconds, sometimes 5 years. Maybe this could be the start of him wanting to be an eye dr..who knows?!?!

Sometimes though, life gets hectic and I forget all the millions of things they ask. So, 2 mornings later I was hit with, "Remember mom, you're going to show me what's in an eye!!"

So, our impromptu mini lesson on an eye begins. I find our eye kit and we begin assembling it. Keeping in mind he's 6 the conversation wasn't too in depth. He really wanted to know what hurt on ME and why. So I showed him the cornea and also the muscles surrounding the eyes.

All in all he thought it was pretty gross...holding and throwing the eyeball, looking through the model's pupil, but now he knows what hurts on Mommy!

I'm pretty sure this will be one of those 5 second interests, but you know what, he learned something! He didn't need a textbook, or a scope and sequence, he was interested, we grabbed the moment  (well, he reminded me this time, but you know what I mean) and he learned! That's what our Unschooling lives are all about.  Accumulated learning, on their timeframe, and when God lays that interest on their heart.

You can find Educational kits at: Educational Toys Planet

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Party 07

Yesterday we participated in one of our local homeschool group's Christmas Party. This one was actually hosted at our house!  Every year a group of us gather and have the kids make Christmas crafts. This year we thought we'd incorporate that into the party!

So, for the party we :

  • Ate of course! What's a party without a Potluck?!?

  • Played!

  • Did a Santa Shopping Day...all the parents brought some items $5 or under and the kids all got to shop for mom and dad. An older sibling helped them each wrap their items for a beautiful and special gift giving!

  • Did Christmas crafts!

Elias making a glittery Christmas Ball ornament


First, you have to play with GLUE! And get MESSY!! What fun!

We had a good mix of teens and "littles". The teens even got into craft making

Brian's Christmas Tree

Elias and Cassandra making snowmen ornaments

Even little fellow was happy!  All dressed in Christmas gear!

Brian won't ever knowingly look into a camera! Here's side view!

Our Christmas crafts aren't expensive and they certainly aren't fancy, but each year the kids have a blast! And, it makes it fun while we're decorating the tree to go back and look at the ones we've done over the years.

Here's a cool link: DLTK's Crafts for Kids.  It has not only cool crafts, but coloring pages, recipes and worksheets!

And, where would we be without Enchanted Learning's website?  With all their knowledge on every topic, the Christmas Crafts for Kids is always awesome!

And, the most well known of all....Family Fun's Christmas 2007

Hope these get you started on an annual tradition like ours!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Modeling Behavior

I'm so bad about sitting down and blogging...although I love writing! So, I'll try better.  I also need to get the hang of how to add cool features here. I want to add some pics to this entry...if you see them it means I did it!!  If you don't, well, I tried :(  My techy son is at a friend's house, when he gets home he can teach me!

So, this entry came to mind because of something my  6 yr old innocently said.  In our house I am the primary "homeschooler" , while my husband works crazy hours. Often when he is home he is sleeping or watching tv, or playing with the kids.  I'll tell him what I need done so he can help out, "Honey, can you take out the kitchen trash", "Honey, bring this upstairs", you get the idea. 

Well, one day I must have been busy and so I said,  "Elias, have Daddy read you your Bible story."

My child looks at me with wide eyes and says, "Mommy, Daddy can't read."

I was flabbergasted! What was he talking about?! I read a LOT, but Daddy, well he reads 2x as much as me! Just look at all these bookcases!

We have 18 bookshelves WITH books on them, throughout the house!

Well, when I thought about it, yup, we have lots of bookshelves, but where does Daddy read? At work. He's a limo driver and in between jobs, or when he's sitting outside an event waiting for his clients, he reads! He reads so much at work that he never reads at home. He doesn't read TO the kids and he doesn't read IN FRONT of the kids. This major oversight was pointed out very innocently (and very quietly)  to me.

So, food for thought, not only what ARE you modeling for your children, but what AREN'T you modeling for your children?

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Review of Unschooling Journal/Calendar: "The Plan"

Review of Unschooling Journal/Calendar: "The Plan"

Review of The Plan: Unschooler’s Edition 2008 by Julie Forsythe

Let me give you a little bit of background on me before I give you my honest critique. I am a homeschooling/unschooling mom to a teenager, a Kindergartener and I also have a special medical needs baby. Like most unschooling moms, I am very busy! Always opening some learning door, always looking for the next cool experience, and always out of time!

So, while the title may seem like an oxymoron, an Unschooler, with a Plan?!? I can tell you, I am a firm believer in trying to make things work more easily and more quickly, by organization. Everything has a “home” in my house, even the littlest of guys can get the bouncy balls into the “ball basket” or the blocks into the “block basket”. Training them is harder than the organization!

I am also a lists person. You may not be as adept at list making as I am, or as thrilled as I am to check things off, but I guarantee, if you have not found a helpful system before, you have now! Right off the bat, I knew this was a keeper! The cover alone is stunning and so my style! Now, in case it’s not YOUR style, Julie has graciously included a few more to choose from…what a gal! Thoughtful is the theme to this planner.

Each month has, of course, an appointment book section (monthly planner), but the additional things Julie has included are a sure way to help you organize not only your life, but your TIME! A teeny bit of planning and it will save so much time in the long run! And, Julie did all the “thinking”, we just have to fill in the lines! Things like: a budget planner, monthly menu, grocery lists broken down by staples, meat, dairy, household (you get the idea!), medical records, birthday lists and, the piece de resistance... journaling pages to write down some cool Unschooly things your family has done that month! Luckily, because this is printable, you can print extra sheets of whatever you need, as you need them! (I was eyeballing the journaling sheets thinking, “we might need more than 1”)

Regarding the “journaling pages”…I am very happy to tell you, they don’t go from Sept-June...they are year-round! Unschoolers are Always Learning, and this author sure knew that and kept it in mind.

Now, if all that isn’t doing half the work for you, this planner starts AND ends in December! (07 and 08 included) In each December year Julie includes many extras that are so helpful! She includes Holiday Planning pages with family traditions and activities, gift lists (you can checkmark when you’ve bought the item!), Christmas card list, menu and even Suggested Advent Readings.

The last 40 or so pages are dedicated to, you got it, more lists! This gal has thought of EVERYTHING that could be useful in my daily life! Address book section, Books to read, Important info (mortgage info, utilities, creditors such as cars, etc) and the most thoughtful of all…Items Borrowed and Items Loaned sections. How many times have you loaned out last years teacher’s math book and forgotten who you loaned it to? Or borrowed someone’s favorite Inspirational Read and months later found it sitting where it doesn’t belong? These sheets are a welcome addition to my home, and I bet to yours also!

Now, lest you think I am all praise, The only thing that would make this better would be an assurance that Julie will keep creating them for future years! Ok, ok, kidding aside, I would LOVE to see this pdf become type-able…so that some of these lists can be typed prior to printing. I think that would ease in the transfer of all the info into next year’s book!

Thanks Julie, your time and effort making this will cut down our wasted time.

Sincerely submitted,
Elissa Wahl