Spring Garden Surprise ~ A Bunny Tale

Gardening is full of surprises. Many years ago while spring cleaning, I moved some debris within the chives and suddenly my eyes were focusing on some little pink things. My first thought was rats, but then I realized that I was looking at newborn cottontail rabbits.

Carefully, I covered them back up, trying to leave the hidden nest as I had found it. Every day when I was out in the garden I would gently uncover it to see how they were doing, and watched as they grew their hair and began to look more like rabbits.

I couldn’t believe the audacity of mama cottontail who made her nest right smack dab in the middle of my fenced garden! It reminded me of Beatrix Potter’s stories of Peter Rabbit and Mr. McGregor’s garden.

I never saw the mama rabbit. From reading on the internet, I learned that they visit their young for only a few minutes during dawn and dusk to quickly feed them. Baby rabbits are often thought to have been abandoned because the mother is nowhere in sight, but that usually is not the case. You can watch a YouTube video of a mama cottontail feeding her young here.

One day, as suddenly as I had found them, they were gone. Now every spring when I’m preparing for a new season, I’m reminded of that fun little surprise. Nature is so entertaining!

I’ve been busy visiting with family, but I wanted to share my little story with you, and remind you that our giveaway for a collection of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is nearing its end. At midnight on Sunday, February 26th, the contest will close and a winner will be automatically drawn. If you haven’t already done so, you can follow this link to enter now. It doesn’t cost anything, and you might just get a gardening surprise of your own!

Homegrown Salads ~ A Simple Pleasure

 

Spring Garden Surprise

Homegrown Salad ~ A Simple Pleasure

I’m excited to be a part of a Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Collection giveaway! For details and to enter, scroll to the end of this article.

There’s nothing like a homegrown salad! Picking fresh greens, plus other goodies, straight out of the garden and combining them into a healthy and beautiful dish is a simple pleasure. It’s fun to make use of odds and ends, and maybe even some edible weeds or flowers. No two salads are exactly alike – each one is a little work of art. I haven’t yet built a cold frame to grow them throughout the winter, so I’m really looking forward to having homegrown salads again.

Lettuces and Other Greens

Salads with a mix of colors are most appetizing to me. For many years, I’ve ordered the Rocky Top lettuce mix from Baker Creek. I also bought some Australian Yellow Lettuce seed for the first time last year. It’s a pretty chartreuse color, and claimed to be more heat-tolerant than other lettuces. I enjoyed it last year so I plan to grow it again. Spinach is another cool-weather crop that makes a delicious and nutritious salad green.

Swiss Chard Seedlings

Swiss Chard is beautiful in salads. If I need to thin them, I throw the thinnings in, or I’ll steal a few small leaves. Did you know that Swiss Chard is basically the same plant as beets? Chard is propagated for its leaves, while beets are developed for their roots.

This and That

Once you’ve got the greens, it’s time to add some other colors, textures and flavors. Last year I grew some Pink Beauty radishes for the first time. I was excited to finally find a radish that I liked! They didn’t have the spiciness that I’ve experienced with most. As a member of the cabbage family, radishes grow best in cooler temperatures of spring and fall. They are fast-growing, maturing in about 29 days, so they’re one of the first harvestable crops. They’re so pretty – radish slices really perk up a salad.
Homegrown Salads ~ A Simple PleasureI like to grow carrots just to add them to salads. It’s very rocky where we live, so I experiment with shorter varieties. Sometimes I’ll pick a few asparagus spears to chop up and throw in.

Magnolia Blossom Tendril Peas

The Magnolia Blossom Tendril Peas were great to include for their sweet crunch.

Walking Onions

Walking Onions and chives are available in early spring, too. Chive flowers are a pretty lavender and are edible. You can also use them to make a flavored vinegar.

Edible weeds

In early spring, when I’m cleaning out my raised beds, many of the “weeds” are edible, and very nutritious. Purslane is the first to come to mind. Baker Creek has two varieties of seed listed in their catalog, and I have a wild one that takes over my garden all on its own. Lambsquarters grows wild and is related to spinach. I sometimes use its small leaves. Just because something grows on its own doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. I’m trying to rethink weeds, so yes, I occasionally add them to my salads.

Edible flowers

In early spring, dandelions and wild violets pop up around our yard. I plant Nasturtiums every year and they bloom in late spring. There are many edible flowers, but these are a few that I’ve used to adorn my  salads.

Dressing

What better way to dress a homegrown salad, than with a homemade dressing?! Our favorite is Buttermilk Ranch that I make with my own mix. The mix is made using as many of my own dried herbs and seasonings as possible.

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing Mix

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Black Pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups Parsley Flakes
  • 1/2 cup Garlic Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 cup Granulated Garlic
  • 3/4 cup Granulated Onion
  • 2 Tbsp Dill Weed
  • (To make dressing you will need additional ingredients found in "Instructions.")

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container.
  • Makes about 3 1/2 cups of dry mix.
  • To make dressing, combine 2 tbsp of mix with 2 c mayonnaise, 2 c buttermilk, 1 1/2 c sour cream, 1 tsp lemon juice.
  • Tips:
  • I keep powdered buttermilk on hand. When using it, I add the powder in, and then add the water to the desired consistency of the dressing.
  • This recipe makes a lot. For smaller families, you might want to halve the recipe.
  • 1 Tbsp mix can be used in recipes calling for one envelope of ranch dressing mix.
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Great for Beginners

You don’t have to have a green thumb or live on a big farm to grow your own salads. Salad greens are easy and can even be grown in containers. Just sprinkle the seeds over the soil. They need cool temperatures and part to full sun. When it gets too warm, lettuces get bitter. You can just cut some leaves as you need them (“cut and come again”), or harvest the whole plant. If you’re gardening with children, plants like lettuces and radishes are great because they grow quickly and are easy to plant and harvest. When children are involved in the growing process, they’re more likely to eat their vegetables. If you’re homeschooling, then it counts as science and there are all kinds of things to be learned through it.

Flea Market Style

I think it’s fun to use a variety of dishes that I pick up at garage sales and thrift stores. Serving with family heirlooms or thrifty treasures, makes salads even more appealing.

Cute little salad plates

Salads are so good for us. Raw foods have nutrients and enzymes that cooked ones don’t. Add the extra freshness and lack of pesticides and there are some great reasons to grow your own. Salad season will be here soon! It’s one of spring’s simple pleasures.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Collection Giveaway

Homegrown Salads ~ A Simple Pleasure

I’m teaming up with some of my blogger-friends to give away ten packets of heirloom seeds valued at $49, courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds! We’re all writing about gardening, so be sure to check out their great posts by following the links to them below.

This giveaway will begin on Monday, Feb 20, at 1:00 am Central time and end on Sunday, Feb 26, at 11:59 pm Central time. Open to US and Canada residents age 18 and over. Please note that seed varieties will vary from the photo.

Enter below by signing in with your email address and following the directions for each entry. We’ve given you a free entry to start. After completing an entry’s requirement, use your browser’s back button to return to this page and move on to the next entry.

One winner will be randomly chosen by Giveaway Tools after the giveaway ends, and we’ll notify the winner with an email sent to the address they used to enter. Winner will have 48 hours to respond with their mailing address. If winner fails to respond, another winner will be chosen. We’ll send the winner’s mailing address to Baker Creek Seeds and they will ship the prize package directly.

 

For more great garden reading, be sure to visit these blogs:

Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead

Michelle at Souly Rested

Kacey at Rustic Ranch Wife

Angela at The Inquisitive Farmwife

Crystal at Homemade Happiness

Nadine at Making Her Mama

Homegrown Salads ~ A Simple Pleasure

The Power of Music Festival Spotlights Songwriters

Songwriters will be in the spotlight during the first annual Power of Music Festival to be held in Bentonville, Arkansas, April 27-29, 2017. There are few festivals that feature the writers behind hit songs, and Northwest Arkansas will be the home of this newest one. The creation of Betsy Brumley-Bernier, granddaughter of Albert E. Brumley, and her husband, Kevin Bernier, the Power of Music Festival will bring songwriters from all over the United States, as well as outside of it, representing all genres of music.

Betsy Brumley-Bernier and husband, Kevin Bernier. Photo courtesy of I’ll Fly Away Foundation.

Betsy says it was Kevin’s idea – he said they knew songwriting, why not have a festival?! Since she grew up in the music business, Betsy was able to reach out to writers and sponsors. She just called the people she already knew. It was a way to honor her grandfather’s memory, as well as benefit the region where she grew up and now lives.

The festival will be composed of both entertaining and educational events. The presenting sponsor for the festival is Coca-Cola. Roger Cook, the writer of “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” which you probably remember from Coca-Cola’s advertising, is appropriately among the songwriters that will attend.

The Mission

The Power of Music Festival is a fundraiser for the I’ll Fly Away Foundation. Named for Albert Brumley’s well-known southern gospel song, the mission of the foundation is…

…to inspire youth with the power of music by imparting the fundamentals of songwriting. The artistry of songwriting provides youth with a means of self expression, a creative outlet to explore, and a voice to reach out to others.

The foundation works towards its mission by providing a songwriting program called “You Can Fly” to schools. Students attend special daily sessions for one week where they are taught the art and creation of songwriting by an accomplished songwriter. By the end of the week they have collaborated on writing two songs. The program started in public elementary schools in McDonald County, Missouri, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. With the proceeds from the festival, the program will be expanded so that students in Northwest Arkansas can experience its many benefits. The I’ll Fly Away Foundation website lists some amazing statistics that underscore the importance of music to students’ overall achievement. To learn more about the programs and even listen to a few of the songs, visit the “Programs” page of the foundation.

Songwriter Shannon Wurst leading the “You Can Fly” Program at Pineville Elementary 3rd Grade. Photo courtesy of I’ll Fly Away Foundation.

 

Entertainment

Entertainment will take place at venues around downtown Bentonville. Two or three songwriters on stage will take turns telling the stories behind their songs and then singing them. The performances are all acoustic and will last 60-90 minutes.

To see the complete list of attending artists and their bios, follow this link. You may not recognize some of the names, but chances are that you would be familiar with some of the songs they’ve written.

Education

Informational panels will be offered on different topics related to the music industry. Some of the intriguing titles are “How to Build a Music City,” “Music as a Real Job,” and “Cash for Your Songs.”

A few of the notable guests are:

  • Tom Schuyler, whose songs have been recorded by over 200 artists, will have a workshop with local songwriters where he will work with them on their songs.
  • Barbara Cloyd has been associated with Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Tennessee, for over thirty years. Their famous “Open Mike” nights were her idea and have been credited with the discovery of many well-known artists, including Taylor Swift and Garth Brooks. Open Mike nights have become one of the “go-to” places for aspiring performers and there are more people in line to sing than there are seats for patrons.

A full listing of the panels can be found on the festival website.

Ticketing

All events are open to the public. Some are free and others are ticketed. Free performances will take place at Lawrence Plaza.

  • VIP tickets are $299 for all three days. VIPs are seated first in ticketed events and also have access to the Green Room, a hospitality suite for the songwriters and featured speakers. Hurry, as there is a limited quantity of 100 VIP tickets available!
  • A weekend pass is $199, but Early Bird rates offer savings if purchased before deadlines.
  • Day passes are: Thursday $75; Friday $85, and Saturday $95.
  • After ticket holders are seated, remaining seats will be sold at the door.

You can purchase tickets here.

Big Goals

The Power of Music Festival aspires to become the biggest festival of its kind. It’s not too late to become involved, and there are still opportunities for sponsorship. For more information, visit The Power of Music Festival website.

The arts scene in Northwest Arkansas has really changed in recent years. Crystal Bridges museum brought international attention to the area, then a few years ago the Bentonville Film Festival brought celebrities, and now The Power of Music Festival will boost the music industry. If you haven’t visited Northwest Arkansas, you may be pleasantly surprised by all it has to offer.

Helpful Links

The Power of Music Festival Facebook Page

The Power of Music Festival website

I’ll Fly Away Foundation

The Power of Music Festival Spotlights Songwriters

The “S” Word ~ What about Socialization?

What about socialization?

I, too, asked that question while investigating homeschooling. Reading what homeschool veterans had to say about it really helped me to see socialization from a different viewpoint. I’ve helped many people get started in homeschooling and I can tell you that almost every one of them has asked me that question.

Just so that we’re all on the same page, let’s start with a formal definition:

Socialization: : the process by which a human being beginning at infancy acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training for adult status

“Socialization.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 27 June 2016.

Early Observations

At the first homeschool park day that I attended, I watched intently while the children played. There were a range of ages from about four, to a big-boned thirteen-year-old boy. The kids started choosing teams to play “Red Rover” and in my mind I revisited my school days when that was one of the games I dreaded most of all. The kids would form two teams and line up opposite each other holding hands. Then they would chant, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send _____ over, ” inserting the name of one of the kids from the other team. Then that child would run as fast as he or she could and attempt to break the clasped hands of the team on the other side. I was very small and scrawny at that age so it was common that they chose one of my “links” to break through. Remembering that, I grimaced, wondering how a range of ages and sizes could play that game together. I was so surprised by what I saw! The team with the thirteen-year-old boy called one of the small children from the other team. That small child ran as hard as he could towards the clasped hands of the big boy and a kid next to him, and the big boy let him break through. Then he scooped him up and playfully swung him up in the air. All the kids laughed and joined back up to continue their game. I continued to watch as the kids cooperated, and compensated for the differences in age so that everyone had fun. That was one of my first impressions of homeschooling, and it was a big one!

I witnessed other interactions, such as big kids pushing smaller kids on swings, or helping them climb ladders. Once, when a little one tripped and began crying, two older girls rushed over to help her up and brush her off.

During my first visit to a homeschool convention, I attended a workshop. The small room quickly filled with families, including their children. They were going to record the guest speakers so that they could sell CDs. I wondered how, with so many children in the room, they could make a recording without too much noise. Again, I was amazed at how quiet the room remained. Parents had brought books or quiet activities and the kids either sat quietly beside their parent, or in the aisle nearby. Once when a baby started to cry, the father immediately got up and left the room to take care of it. That was another example of homeschooled socialization.

Homeschool Culture

Before I started homeschooling, I had the “kids will be kids” mentality. I didn’t know that it was possible to train children to sit quietly and have good manners. Again and again I witnessed such situations.  After awhile I began to be able to detect homeschooled children by the way they conducted themselves, and the way the family interacted. There really is a difference in the culture of homeschooled children, and it’s a good one!

A Good Kind of “Weird”

On one occasion, while grocery shopping with my kids, I asked my 8-year-old son to get something for me. He walked over to some older ladies and said, “Excuse me, ma’am. Would you hand me some butter?” Both of the women turned and looked at me with one of those looks we homeschoolers become accustomed to. They had odd expressions, like they had seen a ghost, or an alien. Then one of them exclaimed, “He’s so polite!”

Not too long ago I had to take my teen daughter to the doctor. While checking out, the office staff started asking me questions about her. Then they commented that they would have guessed that she was older because she looked them in the eye, had self-confidence, and spoke maturely. There was just something about her.

Research

In his report, Research Facts on Homeschoolers, Dr. Brian Ray, of the National Home Education Research Institute, has published the following findings related to socialization1

  • The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem.
  • Homeschool students are regularly engaged in social and educational activities outside their homes and with people other than their nuclear-family members. They are commonly involved in activities such as field trips, scouting, 4-H, political drives, church ministry, sports teams, and community volunteer work.

The research based on adults who were home educated is growing; thus far it indicates that they:

  • participate in local community service more frequently than does the general population,
  • vote and attend public meetings more frequently than the general population.
Sticks and Stones

We’ve all heard the taunt, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” and we all know that it isn’t true. The ugly things that were said to me as a child are still alive and well in the back of my mind. Even as an adult that knows better, they still affect my self-esteem. I wanted to limit those ugly voices in my children’s heads as much as possible. I’m not going to assert that ugliness never occurs within homeschool circles, but it pales in comparison to what kids experience in schools. My experience was, that any time we gathered with other homeschoolers, most, if not all, of the other kids were accompanied by at least one parent. In the event that ugliness erupted, it immediately became a teaching opportunity for the whole group.

The Socialization Myth

If you’re reading this, chances are that you are in the research stage of homeschooling, or perhaps a new homeschooler with young children. The socialization myth is just another one of our enemy’s lies to discourage you from homeschooling. He’d love to help you socialize your children. It’s up to us to consider what we want for our kids, and then make decisions accordingly.

Although it’s tempting to laugh when asked the socialization question, we need to realize that the asker has been misled by the enemy just as we once were. Maybe that will help us to patiently give an explanation and point out the misconceptions behind it. Socialization occurs from any type of interaction, whether it’s between family members or strangers in public. Kids are socialized when visiting with grandparents, running errands, or participating in sports and clubs. The truth is that you’d have to try pretty hard to prevent your kids from being socialized.

Related Reading

Homeschool Graduates in College ~ From the Professors’ Perspective

The Miracle of Homeschooling

There’s often a push for legislation that would require homeschooling parents to be certified teachers. I think the assumptions behind it are that only certified teachers are capable of teaching children, and that a student’s learning ability is limited by what the teacher knows. I want to share through personal examples, scripture, and research, why they aren’t true, and why I’ve begun to think of it as “the miracle of homeschooling.”

Personal Experience

We started homeschooling when our son was beginning second grade and continued all the way through to his high school graduation. My son, now 22 and a business owner, knows a lot of things that I don’t know. I’m using him as an example because our daughter’s skills are more in line with mine and so they don’t illustrate this point as well. However, my son’s are very different. Homeschooling allowed him the time to pursue his own interests, and he taught his self many things. As I wrote in “Homeschooling and Entrepreneurship,” early on he demonstrated an aptitude for electronics and technology. Here are some examples of things he learned without any help from me:

  • When he was about ten, Hayden showed me a robot he had built and told me about gear ratios. He learned that, programming, and many other things by playing with Lego Robotics.
  • He was about eleven when he started taking computers apart. By the time he was in his early teens, he had a definite opinion about which brand was superior. He also advised me which brand of batteries to buy, and why.
  • The Miracle of HomeschoolingWhen we moved into our current home, Hayden was about thirteen. I remember him examining one of the light switches and exclaiming, “Oh, cool! A mercury switch!” I had never heard of that, so I asked him what he’d said. He proceeded to demonstrate and explain the mercury switch. I still don’t know how he knew about that.
  • When Hayden was seventeen a neighbor was selling some antique motorcycles that didn’t run. My husband bought them thinking that he would decorate our family restaurant with them. Hayden begged for one of them. We really didn’t want him riding motorcycles, but since it didn’t run, my husband let him have one. To our amazement (and dismay), Hayden used the internet to find out how to totally rebuild that motorcycle. He got it running and was riding it.

I can assure you that he didn’t learn any of that from me! The reason I’ve shared these examples is to demonstrate that our children’s learning is not dependent on, or limited by, us.

Scripture

The following passages are among the ones that offered me the most reassurance in homeschooling. When I found myself worrying about not doing a good enough job, or was tempted to compare my kids to others. I hope you’ll see them in a new way, too.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7 NIV)

That verse was one of our homeschool mottos. Notice that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge…” We started each school day with Bible study. It was the foundation of our school because without the fear of the Lord, we couldn’t have the beginning of knowledge.The Miracle of Homeschooling

“For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6)

God has a plan for each of our children’s lives and He knows best how to prepare them.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

The following passages are evidence of God giving knowledge. Insert your child’s name and imagine what special skills and knowledge God might bestow on him/her:

“Tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest.” (Exodus 28:3)

“Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship. And behold, I Myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of testimony, and the mercy seat upon it, and all the furniture of the tent, the table also and its utensils, and the pure gold lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering also with all its utensils, and the laver and its stand, the woven garments as well, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, with which to carry on their priesthood; the anointing oil also, and the fragrant incense for the holy place, they are to make them according to all that I have commanded you.’” (Exodus 31:1-6)

“He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers–all of them skilled workers and designers.” (Exodus 35:35)

When you feel inadequate as a teacher, read this one:

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Cor 12:9)

Research

Dr. Brian Ray, of the National Home Education Research Institute, has done extensive research on homeschooled students. I have always found his results fascinating and encouraging. I’d like to reference two points from his report, Research Facts on Homeschooling, which are directly relevant:

  • Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.
  • Whether homeschool parents were ever certified teachers is not related to their children’s academic achievement.
    (Ray, Brian D., Dr. “National Home Education Research Institute.” Research Facts on Homeschooling | Research. N.p., 23 Mar. 2016. Web. 29 Jan. 2017.)

Isn’t that amazing?! Parents who didn’t attend college have homeschooled their children just as successfully as those who did! Furthermore, being a certified teacher doesn’t make a discernible difference.

You’re Not Alone

Scripture tells us that God equips those He calls, so I believe that by being equipped as parents we are also equipped to “train up” our children. If God has called you to homeschool, He has already equipped you to carry out that task. All you need to do is to be willing to let Him work through you. It’s scary to take on all the responsibility for your children’s education, but I hope that you feel reassured that you are equipped to handle it and that you aren’t alone. That’s the miracle of homeschooling!The Miracle of Homeschooling

Related Reading

Homeschooling and Entrepreneurship

The Birth of Curren Christian Academy

Research Facts on Homeschooling,” by Dr. Brian Ray

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5 Easy Ways to Brighten Winter Days

I love having the four seasons to mark the passing of the year, to give variety in the weather and in my daily tasks. Each season brings joys and challenges, much like life itself. I have heard that there is a high rate of depression in the winter months, and I can understand why. The days are short, and most are cold, cloudy and gloomy. When I look out the windows, all I see is brown and gray. There are some things that I do to make the most of them and lift my spirits, so here are 5 easy ways to brighten winter days.

*This post contains affiliate links and I may be compensated for this post. As always, my opinions are all my own.

1. Counting My Winter Blessings

Focusing on the positive always helps to make things more pleasant. Some winter blessings are because of what it doesn’t have: snakes, ticks, and chiggers. I can go walking around the farm or in the woods with little regard to any of them.

The view from our back porch.

In winter with the leaves off the trees we have a better view. From our windows we can see the valley, and our farm, down below. When driving through the country we can see things that are usually hidden such as homes or geographic features. When it snows, it highlights the lay of the land and we’re able to see the creeks, ravines, and bluffs.

No matter what winter brings, I have a warm home, plenty to eat, and a good husband. What more could I want?

2. Enjoying Nature

When we do have pretty, sunny days, I try to get outside to absorb the sun and allow my body to replenish its Vitamin D. Deep breaths fill my lungs with the cool fresh air and that makes me feel good, too. By taking a walk, I get some exercise which releases endorphins that make me feel happier and healthier at the same time. If I’m alone I sing and talk to God.  A real treat is when we’ve had a beautiful snow followed by some calm and sunny days. Once I’m bundled up they really don’t feel that bad, and it’s awe-inspiring to walk through pristine snow in our quiet countryside. Our rocky hillsides have a lot of springs that you don’t realize are there until crystal icicles form along the bluffs.

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3. Nesting

On cold, windy, dreary days I prefer to stay inside. I love scented candles and have bought Yankee Candles for over twenty years. Lighting them fills the house with a nice scent, and I believe the flame helps to purify the air. It puts me in a nesting mood so that housekeeping is enjoyable. Right now I’m still using a pine scent for winter, but soon I’ll switch to a spring flower scent. I get so excited about spring and the flowers coming up, and I can hurry it up a little that way.

Baking and cooking warm up the house and I get to use the foods that I spent so much time growing, harvesting, and preserving. Being able to take those fruits and vegetables out of the freezer, and season them with my own herbs, brings a taste of summer to every meal. I also love baking bread. Who doesn’t love that aroma?! I have a book called “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” and I love it! I still haven’t tried all of the recipes because I like the basic “Boule” recipe so much. I can take out a little bit of dough, shape it like a bun or hoagie and have bread fresh from the oven. It really kicks up an ordinary sandwich or bowl of soup! Scott and I have enjoyed having some simple suppers by the fire together in the evenings.

4. Resting

God even gives rest to the plants and animals that hibernate through winter. I take advantage of this slower season by giving myself some rest, too. I refresh myself by pursuing new interests, such as blogging and photography.

5. Spring Dreaming

Just a few days ago I got out my seeds, took inventory, and made a list of the ones I need to order. I’m also starting to study my Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog, looking for a few new things to try this year.

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” – Audrey Hepburn

I’ve also started making a list of gardening chores that I’ll want to start on soon. Among the first will be replacing the landscape fabric in my garden walkways, and cleaning out my garden beds.

The buds on my fruit trees are swelling and I’m beginning to think about spring and wonder if my pear trees will blossom for the first time, and if the Blue Jays will get all of my cherries. (Or will we get a late freeze and not have much at all?)

Libby Snow-Bathing

I wish I enjoyed winter as much as Libby does. I think it’s her favorite season. Winter has its own charms, though, so I try to focus on those while I await the first signs of spring. If winter gets you down, try some of the things that help me. I hope they’ll help you, too!

5 Easy Ways to Brighten Winter Days

This post has been shared on some of my favorite blog hops.

Related Reading

Angela just recently started blogging from her farm in north Kansas. In “My New Winter Attire,” she talks about the importance of having the proper winter gear.

 

 

Kathi writes about the difficulties she faced at her homestead in central Oklahoma after a big snowfall in “The Big Snow.”

 

 

Deb takes you for a walk around her homestead in Southern Manitoba, Canada, in her post, “First Snowfall.”

 

 

Another Michelle lives in an 1800s farmhouse in New England. She writes about the first big snow on their new homestead in 3 Lessons I Learned in My First Winter as a Homesteader.

 

Nadine lives in Duncan, BC Canada, and she’s conducting a Winter Nature Study with her kids.

Homeschool Graduates in College ~ From the Professors’ Perspective

In my pursuit to encourage homeschooling parents, I thought it would be interesting to get an idea of how homeschool graduates perform in college as experienced by the professors. I made an appeal to professors through Facebook posts, and with the responses that I received I’m going to give you some insight into what they’ve seen in homeschooled college students.

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This is not meant to be scientific, in that I didn’t poll hundreds of professors. I was looking more for personal experience, and an idea of their overall attitude towards homeschoolers. In fact, I received only seven responses. I could have pursued more, but I felt like this was a good sampling, and that by being a small number I could present their answers in their entirety. They are employed by both public and private institutions and teach a variety of subjects. I know one of them personally, but he didn’t teach either of my children. For scientific research on homeschoolers, I’ll refer you to Dr. Brian Ray of NHERI, the National Home Education Research Institute, who has done extensive polling, and compiling of that information. His reports, especially “Strengths of Their Own,” were very encouraging to me when I was raising our children – they gave me a vision, and courage that helped me face the mountainous task of homeschooling through high school.

Most of the professors preferred to remain anonymous, so I will honor that. However, one respondent specifically asked me to share his identity. When I publicly asked for college professors who might be willing to answer a short survey, someone suggested that I contact Dr. Jay Wile. In case you aren’t familiar with him, he writes science textbooks especially for homeschoolers, published by Apologia and Berean Builders. I consider Dr. Wile to be somewhat of a celebrity, so I have to admit that I was amused by that suggestion when I first read it, but then I thought, “Why not?” Not only did he agree to answer my questions, his response was the first one I got back. I was so excited, that I told my daughter about it. I asked her if she remembered using his textbooks for science and she replied, “Yep! Especially animal science, that’s what started my love for science.” Dr. Wile suggested that I add that he “experienced homeschooled students at two different universities: a secular one and a Christian one. In both cases, they were (on average) my best students.” If you would like to learn more about Dr. Wile, you can visit his website at www.drwile.com.

I’m grateful to all of the professors who took time to respond, especially since I hit them up right during finals. They all gave such great responses that I’m going to relay them verbatim. This really is everything that they said – I didn’t leave anything out.

The survey

My survey consisted of four simple questions:

1) What are homeschooled college students’ strengths in college classes?

2) What are homeschooled college students’ weaknesses in college classes?

3) What suggestions would you give homeschooling parents who want to prepare their students for the demands of college classes?

4) Is there any other information that you would like to offer?

I’m going to restate each of these questions as a sub-heading and then follow them with the professors’ responses. Dr. Wile’s will appear at the end of each section.

What are homeschooled students’ strengths in college classes?

“Most are respectful of me as the instructor and of what I am trying to teach them. Most see the value in what I have to share with them rather than seeing my classes as something they “have to” take.”

“I teach English, and I have noticed most of the homeschool students I have had are better prepared for writing assignments than the typical public schooled student is. This is obviously related to the curriculum used at home, but I think most were still exposed to grammar and mechanics in their middle school years when most public schools don’t emphasize this as much in middle school.”

“Generally speaking it’s been my experience that homeschoolers take the assignments seriously and are willing to actually work on them, and to persist working on them until they’re finished. They are also not afraid to ask for help when it’s needed and/or to work with peers and/or adults. They are also much more respectful.”

“Although home schooled students’ abilities are varied, my impression is that homeschooled students generally have good reading skills, can think critically, solve problems, and have independent ideas. They seem to be good at project based learning as well. In general, their effort and work ethic is better than average. They seem eager to learn. I have had a 16-year-old homeschooler that never had any science class before in my plant biology class (for biology majors) that was by far the best student in the class.”

“Homeschooled students have several strengths. Academically, they are more prepared for college studies. They have better English skills than government educated students, in terms of both spelling and grammar skills. They communicate better both written and orally. They are also better prepared mathematically. There seems to be a big difference between homeschooled and government educated students in both attitude and perspective. Homeschooled students are less likely to expect things to be given to them for little effort. They also tend to be more respectful, mature, and open-minded.”

“In my experience, homeschooled students are hard-working, polite, engaged students. They are not afraid to ask questions and engage with the instructor.”

“They usually can read the text and gather information from it.”

Dr. Wile: “They are the most serious about class. They always attend, ask questions, and respond when asked questions. Outside of class, they learn better on their own. When I ask questions that are covered in the reading but not in class, they are the ones most likely to answer the question correctly.”

What are Homeschooled Students’ Weaknesses in College?

“I wouldn’t necessarily call this a weakness, but some are so used to quick grading and feedback from parents that they forget that it takes time for instructors to get work graded. (This is also an issue with public schooled students, too, but homeschool students seem to expect essays back the same week they are turned in.) Sometimes the lack of immediate feedback can become a de-motivator.”

“Sort of a funny issue – but I get several homeschool students who forget to put their names on their work. They just forget that this is something I need from them.”

“Yes, I have had the awkward student who hasn’t been socialized much, but this is the rarity. Most are some of my best communicators because they were exposed to adults through volunteering, traveling, projects, 4H, Scouts, church, etc. Those who are reserved typically come around soon enough and find their niche.”

“Some of them (surprisingly to me, a homeschool mom myself who’s learning what she needs to be sure to incorporate in her own “academy”) don’t seem to have much experience taking notes in a class setting where the instructor just keeps moving along. At least one of them didn’t even realize he should copy down the examples we worked in our college algebra math class.”

“It is hard for me to identify weaknesses, especially when I compare homeschooled students to government school peers. Academically, they always do well in my courses in comparison to government school students.”

“In my experience, a great deal of homeschooled students do not know how to properly research, using electronic databases. This means they depend mostly on the internet for research, which is not where real research can be found. This also means they do not know how to properly format a bibliography in MLA or APA style. In fact, those terms are foreign to them.”

“I didn’t really see many weaknesses that differed from other students. Perhaps they were not as used to exams.”

Dr. Wile: “A perfection syndrome. Homeschool graduates are less likely to understand that there is an appropriate trade-off between efficiency and 100% accuracy. They tend to work on assignments too long in order to make them perfect.”

What Suggestions Would You Give Homeschooling Parents Who Want to Prepare Their Student for the Demands of College Classes?

“If their child is already working independently most of the time, their son or daughter is on the right track. If not, try to help the student to be as independent as possible. Let the student follow a schedule and only intervene for help. Put off grading for awhile to see how motivated the student can be without immediate gratification of feedback.”

“Do they know how to study and manage their time? Most students (both homeschool and public school) struggle here. Many students do not learn how to study for a test or know how to juggle “fun” with the time required to get homework assignments finished. Again, I see this more with public school students because they are given multiple choice tests and they often don’t do much homework. However, some homeschool students are not expecting the load they are given in college and expect it to be not much different than what they are used to doing at home. Again, this depends on the student and the curriculum used at home.”

“Read, read, read, read…encourage lots of reading. College success comes from lots of reading and independent studying.”

“Help them learn to manage their time well. In our Tuesday-Thursday math class, waiting all the way through the weekend until Monday night to start the homework discussed during Thursday’s class is too long. Waiting until the one-month mark to start studying for a unit test it too late. Math (and foreign language and music and sports, to make an abbreviated list) is better learned and longer retained when it is practiced every day. Every day. Daily. Even if/when they don’t like it. It will be incredibly, exponentially more difficult if they don’t. Schedule a time to do at least a little bit of it, new stuff, old stuff, something, every day.”

“Prepare them to strictly follow schedules, manage their time for study, and get them up to speed on academic literacy. Make sure they have their student take advantage of all of the orientation sessions, especially those designed just for homeschoolers.”

“Obviously, make sure they are academically prepared for the demands of college study. I think it is also imperative students be prepared spiritually for what they will experience. They will be exposed to atheistic/humanistic worldviews and all kinds of evils on a college campus. Parents need to make sure their child has a sound Biblical worldview that will enable them to stand strong in the faith. Students must know truth from a Biblical perspective.”

“Homeschooled students must know how to use electronic databases, have regular access to them, learn how to properly document their research, and utilize critical thinking skills in assessing whether research is credible/quality or not.”

“Work on math, writing, and reading comprehension skills.”

Dr. Wile: “Give them rigorous courses, and do not fill their days with homeschool co-ops and online classes. The strength of homeschool graduates is their ability to learn without a teacher. They can have some classroom experience, but most of their learning should be done on their own, especially in high school.”

Is there any other information that you would like to offer?

“I have been so impressed by my homeschool students that I pulled my son from public school. He started in 7th grade and is now in 8th. We have joined a once-a-week group, but we mainly did this to offer him additional socialization. Most of my homeschool students are in similar groups that we have in the area.”

“My homeschool students are some of my “favorite” students. I hate to put it that way, but they are well-mannered, respectful, almost always have their work done, are attentive and ready for class, and typically have a good work ethic. I find them to be ready to learn in a way that I don’t see with public school students. I don’t know if this is because they are excited to be in the college classroom, or if it is something else. In fact, I had a student this semester tell me she enjoyed my writing class and that she liked being in a classroom. She was nervous about it, but it turned out to be fun to hear so many points of view on various topics.”

“Another thing I think worth mentioning is that I also like it when students who are homeschooled let others in the class know. I don’t share this information with the other students, so sometimes they go through a class without anyone knowing. However, I like it when the students say something about being homeschooled. This often becomes a teaching moment for the other students who have preconceived stereotypes about homeschooling. I enjoy seeing their attitudes and ideas shift to see homeschooling in a new, different way.”

“I have always said, even as a young, public high school teacher, before I had my now-teenage kids, that “those homeschool students make the best students.”

“Most of the time, we don’t know which students are homeschooled or not. It only comes up if the student volunteers the information. It will sometimes come up in an introduction session at the beginning of class, but not always. Therefore, my observations are only about the students that I know were homeschooled.”

“I encourage homeschooled students to connect with others who are like-minded in the faith when they arrive at college. These like-minded others may be students, but may also be university faculty and staff. If a student will get connected to like-minded others, this will serve as a source of support for them.”

“I have taught at the college level for over 20 years, and I can honestly say that homeschool students are now much more prepared for college than ever before. I really enjoy having them in my classroom.”

“I could also see the importance of working on note-taking skills. Be able to write down the important discussion points from a lecture.”

Dr. Wile: “I started working with homeschoolers specifically because my very best students at the university level were homeschool graduates. That’s still the case today. Generally speaking, I can tell if a student is a homeschool graduate by the middle of the semester, because he or she is serious about class, interactive in class, and does very well, especially on those things not explicitly covered in class.  I wish I could fill my classes with homeschool graduates.”

On a More Personal Note

The professors’ comments reminded me of some of my own children’s experiences. Here are a few that I can share:

In one of our daughter’s first college classes, the teacher was addressing the students and said, “someone in our class has already taken the next test, even though we haven’t covered the material yet.” And then, looking at my daughter, she asked, “Was it you?” After Margaret sheepishly nodded her head, the teacher continued with, “Well, you did pretty well, so I guess that’s okay.”

When our son took an English Composition class, the professor asked if he could keep one of his essays to share with future classes.

Both of these examples are from when they were taking dual-enrollment classes at a community college to finish their high school requirements.

Encouraged?

When I was a new Homeschool Mom reading about homeschool graduates, I was amazed at the unique paths that they took, and the things they accomplished. Their stories encouraged me and that was what I wanted to do for you. I hope that by reading what these professors had to say about their experiences with homeschoolers that you hold your head a little higher and feel confident that homeschooling really works!

Post Script – Dr. Wile wrote about this post on his own blog! College Professors’ Impressions of Homeschool Graduates

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This post has been shared in some of my favorite blog hops.