Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Very Quick Answer to Leigh's Question and Our Tasty Dinner...

Yet another post, and it's not even the last one! :-) I guess this is my final furious flurry.

In the comment box, Leigh asked this (don't feel selfish about asking, Leigh!):

"Speaking of "three little things" :), I remember you commenting on one of your posts that there were three things you wanted your kids to do each day. Would you mind sharing what they were? Actually, I guess it would be the two other things :), since you already mentioned writing."

I've long wanted to address this kind of thing because it's been asked more than once, and I've felt remiss in not responding. It's not that I haven't tried, though; it's that I get bogged down every time I try to write about this because there's a whole philosophy behind this, so it's not as cut and dried as my answers seem. (A good part of the philosophy behind this is in my learning posts, especially the ones on a learning atmosphere. I never did finish those and that pained me a great deal.)

This is not yet the answer to Leigh's question, but, just to let you know, the last three topics in my learning atmosphere notes were going to be:

1. The great importance and value of chores and doing good, hard, physical work and having real responsibilities.

2. Do real things. John Senior talks about this in his wonderful book The Restoration of Christian Culture. Read it if you can get your hands on it. :-)

3. Um, um, um... Oh, my goodness, I can't remember the other one, and all of my papers are packed! :-) It must not be important...

Anyway, a very quick, unwieldy (because I'm not taking the time to think and edit-- cringe-- but I have thought much about this over the years, and I have lived it with my kids), off the top of my head response to Leigh is this:

The three things I expected my kids to do daily besides living a full and intersting life of learning in our free time--

1. Reading

Whatever they wanted as long as it was quality, well-written stuff. And there's much of it out there for children (especially older books), so no one was ever-- or ever felt-- deprived! They were supposed to read every day, but it's almost a joke to list this because reading was their favorite thing to do. They loved books. They read alone. We read together. For hours. Sometimes I had to tell them to stop reading and do something else. The most common topic of conversation in our home was books. It's still that way.

2. Writing

Whatever they wanted. Anything. It was open-ended! Journals, essays, letters, copy-work, dictation. They created newsletters. They had their own little writing club. They made lists and plans and all sorts of things. I have boxes and boxes of journals the kids kept, and they did a prodigious amount of other writing. Andrew Pudewa says that reading (and memorizing) good poetry is one really great way to learn to write. I believe him. My kids did read and memorize poetry for fun and wrote and wrote. They wrote in their own way. I didn't correct it or grade it, but I did read it, and if I saw patterns of things they were doing wrong, I'd mention it to them. Honestly, most stuff self-corrects if they are reading well. Doing that and then writing, writing, writing, brought it all together nicely. All of them eventually really wanted to be good writers, so they took it upon themselves to work on it. We had loads of good handbooks and helps for writing on our shelves, and the kids used them often. I absolutely mean it when I say that all four of my kids are much better writers than me. I'm glad I didn't dumb them down by trying to teach them. :-)

3. Math

Making progress every day, at their own pace, which was most often fairly accelerated. We selected materials together. Different kids needed different programs. I wanted them to like and "click" with what they were using. From 4th grade on, the kids completely taught themselves math.


These were our basic, everyday things. On top of this, we explored our natural world and appreciated the world of the arts with great enthusiasm. We delved into many hobbies and interests. We did real things. We tried to avoid things that kept us from the real things, the good things, a true education. The kids were enthusiastic doers, creators, thinkers. It was lovely watching them fill their days with learning and creating. Unless something else was on the agenda, the business of our days was to get an education. And we all took it seriously. It didn't fit within any particular hours. It went on from wake-time to bed-time and on the weekends. It was what we did, and it is what we still do. Even my college kids pursue their own life and education along with their school assignments. They get it.

I think this worked for us because of the kind of atmosphere and expectations we had in our home. We kept a lot of distractions out of our home environment, like media and too many activities, and not everyone will want to do this. That's okay. This is just what we did. We lived in the country where the kids roamed and played and explored. We read together and worked together and talked an awful lot. Learning was fun for us. And I think our enthusiasms rubbed off on each other.

Other kids and families played a part in our lives, too, and people were in and out of our home often, but we had an awful lot of long, quiet days at home to work and go about the business of learning. If one wants to create a learning lifestyle atmosphere, it takes a lot of work to do it. And, as we go along, we realize what works and what doesn't, and then we make a choice as to how we want to proceed because we have to work within the reality of our situations. If we are home educating, then education is not to be shrugged off. If a natural course of learning isn't working, and if we have tried to adjust our environment to make it work, and it's still not working, or if we are unwilling to make the necessary adjustments, then we need to reevaluate what we're doing. Not everyone's family will thrive in the same way, but, hopefully, we can all love to learn and make it a natural, everyday endeavor, not limited to certain hours or certain days or a certain part of our lives.

(Another home education book I really like is Educating Children at Home by Alan Thomas.)


Okay, there. Now for dinner.

I didn't intend to post this (neither did I intend to answer any questions, but here I am), but it was so good that I had to write one last bit about food. Cooking is so relaxing and enjoyable for me. I'm trying to eat whatever meat is in the freezer and whatever food remains in cupboards this week. There's not much left, but this afternoon I did have a few Yukon potatoes, a couple onions, and four organic chicken thighs. There are always lemons and olive oil about the house, and there are currently lots of fresh herbs in the garden. Beautiful gobs of oregano and sage and tarragon, with other herbs coming on nicely. I chose to use oregano because it would work well in a Greek-flavored lemon-chicken-onion meal.

So, that's what I made-- a lemon-oregano potato, onion, and chicken dish that looked so pretty before putting into the oven that I was wishing badly I could photograph it. It looked just as pretty and tasty when it came out. And it tasted just wonderful. A dinner with my very favorite kinds of flavor. It makes me thankful for so much good food.

I turned the oven on to 375 degrees.

I sliced one yellow onion.

I cut three or four smallish-medium Yukon potatoes into big, bite-sized chunks.

I wish I had thought to add a whole bunch of whole cloves of garlic to this.

I chopped a whole bunch of fresh oregano.

I squeezed the juice from one small lemon.

I fried the chicken thighs, with skin on, in butter to brown well and begin the cooking process. I sprinkled the tops with salt.

When the thighs were nicely browned, I set them in a parchment lined baking dish.

When I finished frying the chicken thighs, I set them in a parchment lined baking dish. I placed the potatoes and onion into a bowl and tossed them with some sea salt, the lemon juice, most of the oregano, and some olive oil (a few tablespoons?). Then I placed this around the chicken pieces. (The size dish depends on how much you're making. You'll want the potatoes and onions to fit in, if not one layer, in close to it. You don't want a deep mound of vegetables or they won't get that nice roasty look and taste.) I sprinkled the rest of the oregano over the chicken and the potato mixture. I drizzled any juice that remained in the bowl over the chicken and then the potatoes and set it into the oven to bake. For how long, I'm not sure, but it was over an hour for sure. I just kept checking. When it looked done enough, I let it cook even longer. I wanted it to be really done! I let it go until the chicken skin was lovely crispy brown and the meat was fall-off-the-bone done and melt-in-your-mouth tender and the potatoes were nicely browned, too.

When it came out of the oven, Michelle and I oohed and ahhed, and when we ate it, we oohed and ahhed even more energetically. We loved this. I hope you will, too.

That's all for now, but I'll still try to respond to recent comments before I go to bed tonight. Last little post coming in the morning.

I'll leave comments open for about a week, and then I'll close them. I'll leave the blog open so people who want to catch up on older posts can. Eventually, but not right away, I'll "hide" the blog so that it can't be accessed. If you want to make copies of anything for your own use before that, you are welcome to. Please, though, do not republish anything I've written. While the blog is still open to the public, you are welcome to link to it. Thank you!