Today I hope to share with you where I started on my unschooling journey. I didn’t always consider myself an unschooler. I always have taught my kids at home, I started my career in the public school system as a sign language interpreter. I worked in the Lincoln Nebraska Public School System and the Jefferson County Tennessee public school system with some amazing children. However, those experiences were enough for me to whole heartily decide that I would educate my children at home.
So when Big Z was born I started like most parents that start homeschooling, I began to research what options were out there. I fell in love with Charlotte Mason’s teachings. So when Big Z was ready according to public school standards to be a kindergartner I started with the Charlotte Mason (  curriculum. I loved it for many reasons. It was free and filled with lots of time in nature and reading living books. I knew workbooks and being planted at the table for hours a day wasn’t for me.
As time progressed, and with the birth and death of my sweet Bella.  I found the amount of book reading to be overwhelming. Though we stuck with it, sometimes lightening our load.  I had the support of my then husband, Ian. He was a large key to the Charlotte Mason program working for us. He handled subjects like Math and History. Which gave me time to tend to our daughter, then later, our third child, Lil’ Z.  I was also researching and reading about the philosophy of unschooling, though Ian wasn’t on board with all of the ideas, we became more relaxed in our homeschooling in the process. Sadly Ian died suddenly when Big Z was 10 and Lil’ Z was 3, leaving me overwhelmed yet still needing to provide an education for my children.
A few months after Ian passed away a homeschooling list posted about an unschooling conference in Kalahari waterpark in Sandusky, Ohio. I asked my mom to join me and I looked at it as a way to give the kids and myself a break but at the same time to be inspired in my way of educating my children. It was truly an inspiring experience for me. I had the chance to meet such wonderful role models such as David Albert and Cindy Gattis. The way they educated their children was so encouraging and enlightening.  I also found the people that I met really lived a life that was in general in line with my own philosophies of attachment parenting. This experience sent me on a new path… and as they say,the rest was history.


Safety Sense and Self Confidence

Welcome to the September 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Staying Safe
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and tips about protecting our families. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Are you the kind of parent that sets back in what Charlotte Mason refers to as  “masterly inactivity”? Here’s what Charlotte said on the topic: “(Parents) try to dominate them too much, even when we fail to govern, and we are unable to perceive that wise and purposeful letting alone is the best part of education” (Vol. 3, p. 27). I love that! “Wise and purposeful letting alone is the best part of education.” It can be easy to feel we need to jump in to protect our child from any discomfort, but is that wise?
We live in a different time, we may look back at our childhood and remember long days outside playing with our friends in the neighborhood. We didn’t come home until we heard the call for dinner, maybe we climbed trees and played in the river all without a care in the world. Our parents did not follow us around and watch our every move. My husband told a story of him running around the streets of Paris as a young boy. That isn’t something that would happen in our day and age.
It’s all about balance. Kids need time to explore on their own. Of course, it wouldn’t be safe to let our child run free in the streets, but we need to allow them time to find their own sense of security. If we are overprotective and help our child with every hurdle they face, we are actually undermining their development. Take the playground for example, would it be best to hold onto our child’s body every step they take, or would it be best to allow them to find a way to hold on and balance themselves; maybe offering a reminder to hold on if we feel necessary. If we give our little ones the chance to take small risks and chances, they’ll learn self-confidence. This helps them develop a sense of safety and manage their fears.
Show them a safe way to take risks. Worrying, hovering and being overprotective does not help our children. It doesn’t solve any problems or make our children any safer, it just sucks the joy out of everything.

This idea can even be applied to infants. In her new book, “Peaceful Parent, HAPPY KIDS” Dr. Laura Markham explains “Help your baby develop his emerging safety sense. For instance, as babies become mobile, most will scoot to a stairway or the edge of a bed to look over but won’t crawl off. Instead of scooping her up to prevent her going near the edge, we can spot her so she can’t actually hurt herself and observe her as she explores. Babies who feel “in charge” of their own safety learn more quickly how to keep themselves safe. “- Page 211 So by following this advice, from an early age our child will learn to take safe risks and develop self-confidence. We all want our children to be safe, none of us want our children to be hurt. But how do you find that fine line between keeping your child safe and giving them space to explore? Balance. We can not remove every germ and obstacle from the way of our children. But we can be there to help them lay the foundation to develope their own safety sense and safe risk taking.
How do you help your child develop their own safety sense?
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon September 10 with all the carnival links.)

  • Stranger Danger — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her approach to the topic of “strangers” and why she prefers to avoid that word, instead opting to help her 4-year-old understand what sorts of contact with adults is appropriate and whom to seek help from should she ever need it.
  • We are the FDA — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger makes the case that when it comes to food and drugs, parents are necessarily both their kids’ best proponent of healthy eating and defense against unsafe products.
  • You Can’t Baby Proof Mother Nature — Nicole Lauren at Mama Mermaid shares how she tackles the challenges of safety when teaching her toddler about the outdoors.
  • Bike Safety With Kids — Christy at Eco Journey In the Burbs shares her tips for safe cycling with children in a guest post at Natural Parents Network.
  • Spidey Sense — Maud at Awfully Chipper used a playground visit gone awry to teach her children about trusting their instincts.
  • Watersustainablemum explains how she has used her love of canoeing to enable her children to be confident around water
  • Safety without baby proofing — Hannabert at Hannahandhorn talks about teaching safety rather than babyproofing.
  • Coming of Age: The Safety Net of Secure AttatchmentGentle Mama Moon reflects on her own experiences of entering young adulthood and in particular the risks that many young women/girls take as turbulent hormones coincide with insecurities and for some, loneliness — a deep longing for connection.
  • Mistakes You Might Be Makings With Car Seats — Car seats are complex,
    and Brittany at The Pistachio Project shares ways we might be using them improperly.
  • Could your child strangle on your window blinds? — One U.S. child a month strangles to death on a window blind cord — and it’s not always the obvious cords that are the danger. Lauren at Hobo Mama sends a strong message to get rid of corded blinds, and take steps to keep your children safe.
  • Tips to Help Parents Quit Smoking (and Stay Quit) — Creating a safe, smoke-free home not only gives children a healthier childhood, it also helps them make healthier choices later in life, too. Dionna at Code Name: Mama (an ex-smoker herself) offers tips to parents struggling to quit smoking, and she’ll be happy to be a source of support for anyone who needs it.
  • Gradually Expanding Range — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook explains how she is increasing the area in which her child can walk alone, a little bit at a time.
  • Safety Sense and Self Confidence — Do you hover? Are you overprotective? Erica at ChildOrganics discusses trusting your child’s safety sense and how this helps your child develop self-confidence.
  • Staying Safe With Food Allergies and Intolerances — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is sharing how she taught her son about staying safe when it came to his food allergies.
  • Don’t Touch That Baby!Crunchy Con Mom offers her 3 best tips for preventing unwanted touching of your baby.
  • Playground Wrangling: Handling Two Toddlers Heading in Opposite Directions — Megan at the Boho Mama shares her experience with keeping two busy toddlers safe on the playground (AKA, the Zone of Death) while also keeping her sanity.
  • Letting Go of “No” and Taking Chances — Mommy at Playing for Peace tries to accept the bumps, bruises and tears that come from letting her active and curious one-year-old explore the world and take chances.
  • Preventing Choking in Babies and Toddlers with Older Siblings — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now gives tips on preventing choking in babies and toddlers along with Montessori-inspired tips for preventing choking in babies and toddlers who have older siblings working with small objects.
  • Keeping Our Children Safe: A Community and National Priority — September has many days and weeks dedicated to issues of safety; however, none stir the emotions as does Patriot Day which honors those slain the terrorist attacks. Along with honoring the victims, safety officals want parents to be ready in the event of another disaster whether caused by terrorists or nature. Here are their top tips from Mary at Mary-andering Creatively.
  • A Complete Family: Merging Pets and Offspring — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares the ground rules that she laid out for herself, her big brown dog, and later her baby to ensure a happy, safe, and complete family.
  • Be Brave — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about helping her kids learn to be brave so that they can stay safe, even when she’s not around.
  • Catchy PhrasingMomma Jorje just shares one quick tip for helping kids learn about safety. She assures there are examples provided.
  • Know Your Kid — Alisha at Cinnamon&Sassfras refutes the idea that children are unpredictable.
  • Surprising car seat myths — Choosing a car seat is a big, important decision with lots of variables. But there are some ways to simplify it and make sure you have made the safest choice for your family. Megan at Mama Seeds shares how, plus some surprising myths that changed her approach to cars eats completely!
  • I Never Tell My Kids To Be Careful — Kim is Raising Babes, Naturally, by staying present and avoiding the phrase “be careful!”

The Beauty of Earth and Heavens

Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Growing in the Outdoors
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they encourage their children to connect with nature and dig in the dirt. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Charlotte Mason strongly believed in spending time in nature. As part of our weekly nature study, we spend time outside learning about what we find and taking notes and sketches in our nature journal.

I thought I’d share a few Charlotte Mason quotes in regards to nature study along with some photos we’ve taken of our recent nature studies.  It’s spring and new life is budding everywhere you look. It’s the best time (achoo!) to get outside and learn about the world around us.
It’s so easy as parents, especially parents who are also teachers, to feel like they need to teach all day long. I love the idea of allowing the children to take in what they can of God’s creations all on their own.

We’ve recently had some closer than normal encounters with wildlife. Two weeks ago our dog started barking in the yard and would not stop. We noticed he had something on the ground that he was gently poking at with his paw. We went outside to discover an injured squirrel.


The squirrel grabbed onto a stick and we placed him in a box and took him inside. He was unable to move his back legs. We frantically started searching the internet trying to learn what to do next. It had rained very hard the night before, so the first thing we did was get him dry and warm. We found some great resources online that immediately sent us a list of steps to carry out when you first find an injured squirrel. This was a learning experience for all of us. We placed a hot water bottle inside a box, then covered it with a cloth diaper and placed the squirrel on the diaper.

We found a local wildlife rehabilitator. I called her on the phone and we drove the squirrel to her home, field trip! This lady was amazing! She had cages on  her back porch of squirrels that were previously injured and were recovering. There were opossums, birds, owls, and a roly-poly raccoon baby. She showed us the opossum babies that were rescued from inside their mother’s pouch. There were nine of them! She explained that the opossum was the only marsupial in our area and it was also the mammal with the most teeth, 50 in all! She showed us another  baby opossum that was just brought to her care, it died while we were there. It was too small to live without its mama. She also showed us baby birds that she needed to feed every half an hour. She is one busy woman!

My daughter also noticed some caterpillars on the porch, the lady said she could take all of those she wanted. Big Z was so excited to take a caterpillar home. That then led us to research more about caterpillars and what they eat, what kind of habitat they live it and identify our specific caterpillar.  As for our squirrel friend, she thinks he was hit by a car. She was going to start him on steroids and give him an X-ray later in the day. If it was a small injury he’d be okay if he broke his back, he’d be put  to sleep. This clearly was not the homeschool day I had planned. However, we also walked away from the day with more than I had originally hoped for. It was a win the whole way around.

Another spring time adventure happened when we were weeding the front corner of our yard. We have a picket fence that was being overtaken. I asked my husband to pull down all of the vines on the fence, he started then called our attention to a small robin’s nest with three little blue eggs inside.

 We clearly decided to leave the nest alone and leave the vines around it. Each day we’ve been able to take a small peek at the nest, they hatched the very next day. It has been amazing to watch how quickly they grow. We often would spend time in the yard working on the garden and see the mama and papa birdies flying around bringing worms to their babies. Yesterday the nest was empty. Another lesson learned in the beauty of earth and heavens.
Here are a few of my favorite Charlotte Mason quotes relating to Nature Study:

They must be let alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens.

(Vol 1, II, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children, p.44 )

This is all play to the children, but the mother is doing invaluable work; she is training their powers of observation and expression, increasing their vocabulary and their range of ideas by giving them the name and the uses of an object at the right moment,–when they ask, ‘What is it?’ and ‘What is it for?’ (Vol 1, II, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children, p.46-7 )
Children should be encouraged to watch, patiently and quietly, until they learn something of the habits and history of bee, ant, wasp, spider, hairy caterpillar, dragon-fly, and whatever of larger growth comes in their way. (Vol 1, II, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children, p.57 
The Sense of Beauty comes from Early Contact with Nature. (Vol 1, II, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children, p.68 )
Nature Knowledge the most important for Young Children.–It would be well if we all persons in authority, parents and all who act for parents, could make up our minds that there is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in. Let them once get touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things. (Vol 1, II, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children, p.61)

But what about the wet days? The fact is, that rain, unless of the heaviest, does the children no harm at all if they are suitably clothed. (Vol 1, II, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children)

***Why not hang around some more? Subscribe to our RSS feed, join us on Facebook or find us on Twitter @ChildOrganics****

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Get Out!Momma Jorje gives reasons she doesn’t think she gets outside enough and asks for your suggestions on making time for the outdoors.
  • How Does Your Garden Grow?The ArtsyMama shares her love of nature photography.
  • We Go Outside — Amy at Peace 4 Parents describes her family’s simple, experiential approach to encouraging appreciation of nature.
  • My Not-So-Green Thumb — Wolfmother confesses to her lack of gardening skills but expresses hope in learning alongside her son at Fabulous Mama Chronicles.
  • Enjoying Outdoors — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine describes how her children enjoy the nature.
  • Five Ideas to Encourage the Reluctant Junior Gardener — For the rare little ones who don’t like to get their hands dirty, Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers tips for encouraging an early love of dirt (despite the mess).
  • Connecting to NatureMamapoekie shares how growing your own vegetable patch connects your child to nature and urges them to not take anything for granted.
  • The Farmer’s Market Classroom — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction shares how the Farmer’s Market has become her son’s classroom.
  • Seeds — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment‘s hubby Ken shares his perspective on why gardening with their kiddos is so important . . . and enjoyable!
  • Toddlers in the Garden — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares her excitement as she continues to introduce her toddler and new baby to the joys of fresh veggies, straight from the garden.
  • Nature’s Weave — MJ at Wander Wonder Discover explains how nature weaves its way into our lives naturally, magnetically, experientially, and spiritually.
  • Becoming Green — Kristina at Hey Red celebrates and nurtures her daughter’s blossoming love of the outdoors.
  • Little Gardener — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis looks forward to introducing her baby girl to gardening and exploring home grown foods for the first time.
  • Cultivating Abundance — You can never be poor if you have a garden! Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on what she cultivates in her garden . . . and finds it’s a lot more than seeds!
  • Growing in the Outdoors: Plants and People — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reflects on how she is growing while teaching her daughter to appreciate nature, the origins of food, and the many benefits of eating home-grown.
  • How Not to Grow — Anna at Wild Parenting discusses why growing vegetables fills her with fear.
  • Growing in the Outdoors — Lily at Witch Mom Blog talks about how connecting to the natural world is a matter of theology for her family and the ways that they do it.
  • A Garden Made of Straw — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares tips on making a straw bale garden.
  • The Tradition of Gardening — Carrie at Love Notes Mama reflects on the gifts that come with the tradition of gardening.
  • Gardening Smells Like Home — Bethy at Bounce Me to the Moon hopes that her son will associate home grown food and lovely flowers with home.
  • The New Normal — Patti at Jazzy Mama writes about how she hopes that growing vegetables in a big city will become totally normal for her children’s generation.
  • Outside, With You — Amy at Anktangle writes a letter to her son, a snapshot of a moment in the garden together.
  • Farmer Boy — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares how her son Joshua helps to grow and raise their family’s food.
  • Growing Kids in the Garden — Lisa at Granola Catholic shares easy ways to get your kids involved in the garden.
  • Growing Food Without a Garden — Don’t have a garden? “You can still grow food!” says Mrs Green of Little Green Blog. Whatever the size of your plot, she shows you how.
  • Growing Things — Liz at Garden Variety Mama shares her reasons for gardening with her kids, even though she has no idea what she’s doing.
  • MomentsUK Mummy Blogger explains how the great outdoors provides a backdrop for her family to reconnect.
  • Condo Kid Turns Composter and Plastic Police — Jessica from Cloth Diapering Mama has discovered that her young son is a true earth lover despite living in a condo with no land to call their own.
  • Gardening with Baby — Sheila at A Gift Universe shows us how her garden and her son are growing.
  • Why to Choose Your Local Farmer’s MarketNaturally Nena shares why she believes it’s important to teach our children the value of local farmers.
  • Unfolding into Nature — At Crunchy-Chewy Mama, Jessica Claire shares her desire to cultivate a reverence for nature through gardening, buying local food, and just looking out the window.
  • Urban Gardening With Kids — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares her strategies for city gardening with little helpers — without a yard but with a whole lot of enthusiasm.
  • Mama Doesn’t Garden — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life is glad her husband is there to instill the joys of gardening in their children, while all she has to do is sit back and eat homegrown tomato sandwiches.
  • Why We Make this Organic Garden Grow — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares her reasons for gardening with her three small children.
  • 5 Ways to Help Your Baby Develop a Love of the Natural World — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama believes it’s never too early to foster a love of the natural world in your little one.
  • April Showers Bring May PRODUCE — Erika at NaMammaSte discusses her plans for raising a little gardener.
  • Growing Outside — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers how to get her kids outside after weeks of spring rain.
  • Eating Healthier — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey talks about how she learns to eat healthier and encourages her children to do the same.
  • The Beauty of Earth and Heavens — Inspired by Charlotte Mason, Erica at ChildOrganics discovers nature in her own front yard.
  • Seeing the Garden Through the Weeds — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro talks about the challenges of gardening with two small children.
  • Creating a Living Playhouse: Our Bean Teepee! — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares how her family creates a living playhouse “bean teepee” and includes tips of how to involve kids in gardening projects.

  • Grooming a Tree-Hugger: Introducing the Outdoors
    — Ana at Pandamoly shares some of her planned strategies for making this spring and summer memorable and productive for her pre-toddler in the Outdoors.
  • Sowing Seeds of Life and Love — Suzannah at ShoutLaughLove celebrates the simple joys of baby chicks, community gardening, and a semi-charmed country life.
  • Experiencing Nature and Growing Plants Outdoors Without a Garden — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares some of her favorite ways her family discovered to fully experience nature wherever they lived.
  • Garden Day — Melissa at The New Mommy Files is thankful to be part of community of families, some of whom can even garden!
  • Teaching Garden Ettiquette to the Locusts — Tashmica from Mother Flippin’ (guest posting at Natural Parents Network) allows her children to ravage her garden every year in the hopes of teaching them a greater lesson about how to treat the world.
  • Why I Play with Worms. — Megan of Megadoula, Megamom and Megatired shares why growing a garden and raising her children go hand in hand.