Talking about Unschooling with Barb Lundgren

Barb Lundgren

I recently had the opportunity to attend a free talk about unschooling by Barb Lundgren, a mother to three (now) adult unschoolers. Barb is also the founder of the Rethinking Everything Conference and the editor of Home Education Magazine, devoted entirely to unschooling.

The talk was at the co-housing community of Nyland in Lafayette, Colo., and was facilitated by Leslie Potter of Pure Joy Parenting.

Barb Lundgren and Leslie Potter

I took some notes and would like to share a little bit about what I took away from the evening. It may seem a little disjointed, but I just wanted to put these thoughts “out there” for anyone who is interested in learning more about unschooling and/or how children raised with unschooling might “turn out.” Some of my thoughts which expand on Barb’s may be interspersed.

Regarding whether kids need to learn to do X, Y, or Z at a certain age

Traditional parenting assumes there is a certain time for each thing to happen in a child’s life. Unschooling, on the other hand, relies heavily on TRUST. You have to trust that your children will learn what they need to learn, when they need to learn it.

  • It’s not uncommon for unschooled kids to learn to read later than kids who go to school. One of Barb’s sons didn’t learn to read until he was a teen. Once he did, however, he read the Lord of the Rings trilogy twice in about six weeks.
  • A boy attended a Sudbury School, where children are allowed do pursue whatever interests them. This boy was very interested in fishing and spent all of his time fishing and learning about fishing until he was 17. At age 17, his interests shifted. He left fishing behind and moved onto computers. He started his own computer software business and by age 21 sold it for $1 million.
  • John Holt, an educator and author who coined the term “unschooling” was asked, What do ALL kids need to know (in terms of academic measure)? His answer: Nothing.
  • This isn’t about academics, but is one of my own examples of kids learning to do something when they are ready. My kids were never interested in learning how to ride bikes. While many kids are on two wheels by age 5 or 6 or even 3 or 4, mine had no such interest. They rode their scooters and were plenty happy with them. Then all of a sudden this summer (at ages 7 and almost 10) they decided they wanted to learn to ride bikes. We got them each a bike (because they’d long outgrown the ones we got when we *thought* they’d learn to ride) and within about 5 minutes of my husband running up and down the street with them, they were doing it on their own. We’ve since gone for many a family bike ride.

Family bike ride
Like I said previously, unschooling is based on trust. It is about living life on our own terms. Barb said, “You have to believe your child is here to enjoy his life.”

Being free leads to responsibility and accountability.

On Control and Anger

The number one reason people experience anger is that they feel like they are being controlled. This applies to children as well as adults. Think about it this way: If someone (your spouse, for example) told you it was time to get off your computer and go to bed and you were in the middle of something that was important to you, how would that make you feel? You would want your spouse to support you, not tell you what to do when and how to live your life. Your child probably feels similarly. Try to put yourself in your child’s position. Think about how you would want to be treated. Perhaps there’s a way to talk about it kindly without demanding they follow your orders ASAP.

Irritation opens the door for communication. If one member of the family is doing something that bothers another, have a family meeting. Involve everybody. Discuss it. Come to consensual solutions.

On Video Games

Video gaming used to stress Barb when her children first started playing them, but then she made it into a challenge of sorts. Could she do better than the video game? She’d ask her kids questions like, “Who wants to go camping?” or say, “Let’s have a party.” That way she was still getting quality time with her kids.

If you miss your child because they are spending so much time on their computer, Xbox, etc., let them know. The next time they aren’t playing a game, tell them you miss them.

It may be reassuring to some parents that Barb’s kids no longer play video games or watch TV as adults, but they watched a lot of TV as teens. Of course that’s not to say that all kids will stop playing games or watching TV as adults.

On College

Because there is so much information available on the internet — between Google and YouTube, one can find the answer to most anything — the only reason college would be absolutely necessary is to become a traditional physician, an engineer or a lawyer.

Many unschoolers seek out entrepreneurial opportunities.

How Do Unschooled Kids Turn Out?

As mentioned previously, many unschoolers choose to forego college in pursuit of entrepreneurial opportunities.

In Barb’s case, one of her children is now a business owner, one is an organic farmer and one is the founder of a sustainable community. Barb pointed out to me, however, that it’s impossible to duplicate another’s unschooling experience. She said, “Unschooling is successful and deeply satisfying when deeply listening and connecting to one another. That will produce radically different experiences for each.”

Interested in learning about what other grown unschoolers are doing? The blog I’m Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write has a page called Unschooling Grows Up: A Collection of Interviews by grown unschoolers.

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Final thoughts

Unschooling is based on TRUST. I can’t emphasize that enough.

You don’t have to feel secure in unschooling. You just need to “feel secure in loving your child.”

Barb’s book and website recommendations

  • Connection Parenting: Parenting Through Connection Instead of Coercion, Through Love Instead of Fear by Pam Leo
  • Partnership Parenting: How Men and Women Parent Differently–Why It Helps Your Kids and Can Strengthen Your Marriage by Kyle Pruett, MD and Marsha Pruett, MD
  • Summerhill School: A New View of Childhood by A.S. Neill
  • Enjoy Parenting by Scott Noelle

More thoughts from Barb can be found here:

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I am a runner, but I wasn’t always…

If you want to become the best runner you can be, start now. Don’t spend the rest of your life wondering if you can do it.Priscilla Welch

Loathing Running from an Early Age

Over a year ago, when I was considering adding some form of exercise into my life, my well-intentioned friend Rebecca — a runner — suggested that I start running. I told her I’d only run “if someone was chasing me with a knife.” And I kind of meant it.

I’d hated running since high school freshman gym class when — at the end of the semester — we had to run “the mile.” The distance of a mile seemed impossibly long and I dreaded it for months. After grudgingly completing it, I remember getting terrible shin splints, probably due to running in my Keds. They were very painful and took a long time to heal. So yeah, it was easy for me to decide running was NOT my thing. I’d rather do just about anything than run.

Catalyst for Change

Fast forward 20+ years (OMG) to July 2013. My local unschooling group planned a moms’ night out that included a hike of Mount Sanitas in Boulder. Hiking is something I usually enjoy so I was up for it, even though I was a little nervous since it was a 3.1 mile moderate to strenuous hike with +1,323′ net elevation gain. While I eventually made it to the summit that evening, that hike showed me that I was in terrible shape. I had to stop to rest several times along the trail and even felt light-headed and needed to sit down and eat an energy bar along the way. It was kind of discouraging to find out I was so out of shape, but it was also the kick in the pants I needed to start doing something about it.

I decided that come what may, I was going to give running a try. If other friends could do it and enjoy it, maybe I could too. I wasn’t sure how due to my history, but I was open to it. Instead of doing a couch to 5K program (which I had tried and failed at in the past), I decided I would just put one foot in front of the other and follow my body’s cues. If I felt like I could run, I would run. If I needed to walk, I would walk.

My daughter Ava helped me pick out a new pair of tennis shoes — black with bright pink laces. My previous pair was white (blah) and who knows how old since I never actually used them to run — they could’ve lasted forever!

My First Run

Exactly one year ago, on July 24, 2013, I went for my very first run. And guess what, I didn’t hate it! I ran, I walked, I ran, I walked. It was hard, but it felt good. And, most importantly and surprisingly, I wanted to do it again.

I started going for runs a few times a week. I’d get dinner ready for my husband Jody and the kids, then when he’d get home from work, I’d pop out for an evening of running. It helped that I found a few really pretty places to run near my house. Granted I needed to drive a few miles to get to the pretty spots to run, but I figure if I’m more likely to run if I drive somewhere first, then it’s worth it to do so. The distance I could run without walking became longer and longer and what initially seemed impossible — running a WHOLE mile without walking — became a reality. I was on my way!

Races!

In October 2013, I did my first 5K (3.1 miles) race, along with my husband Jody and friend Heather. I pushed too hard in the beginning up a hill and ended up having to walk part of the course, but I finished.

In November, while in Kansas visiting family for Thanksgiving, I did another 5K race — this time on my own. It felt good and I was able to run for the whole race. I didn’t run as much over the winter, but tried to get at least one run in a week.

Somewhere in there I also went to a running store to get fitted for shoes. The ones I had weren’t good for my running form (I’ve been experiencing some pain during my runs) and after they checked me running on a treadmill, they were able to get me in shoes that worked for me. I got a shiny new pair of Brooks and they’ve been awesome.

In April 2014, I did another 5K race with my mom, followed by my first 10K (6.2 miles) race — The Bolder Boulder — with my friend Sarah in May. Aside from stopping at the aide stations to drink, I was able to run (albeit slowly) the entire race. I was pretty proud of myself.

The last race I’ve done to date was on July 4 in Crested Butte, Colo. The family and I were planning to go there for Independence Day week, and I saw there was a 1/3 marathon (8.56 miles) race (the Gothic to Crested Butte 1/3 Marathon) happening, so I signed up for it. I’m not sure I would do that race again, but I’m happy to have completed it. There was a lot of elevation gain on the first half (not to mention the altitude was 4,000 ft. higher than where I live) and I definitely did a fair amount of walking on that one, but that was OK with me. My only goal was to finish it and I did!

Looking Ahead

I’m setting my sights on a half-marathon (13.1 miles) trail race next, maybe in November so I won’t have to train through the heat of the summer. After doing the 1/3 marathon, I feel confident that I can do a half, but I also know I have a lot of training ahead of me to get to that point.

The crazy thing for me has been how much I enjoy running. I’m not setting any speed records and I have no desire to, but I am running for me and doing it on my terms and I think that makes all the difference.

I love this quote my friend Heather shared with me when I was first getting started and someone asked me if I was a runner now. I said I didn’t feel like one yet, but I hoped to be one someday.

“If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.” — John Bingham

I never in my wildest dreams would have expected to be a runner. And yet, I am. I am a runner. And I like it.

I hope to write about running again soon so I can share more about what has worked for me on this journey. Stay tuned.

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Computer Programming for Kids

I recently heard from a homeschooling friend about this site called Code, which encourages people of all ages to learn computer science by completing an “Hour of Code.”

Learn the basic concepts of Computer Science with drag and drop programming. This is a game-like, self-directed tutorial starring video lectures by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies. Learn repeat-loops, conditionals, and basic algorithms.

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After a busy day of art and parkour classes, jumping on the trampoline, Minecraft, playing and more, my husband Jody and the kids sprawled out in the middle of the living room this evening and started working on it.

Ava was reluctant to start at first, but once she started, she loved it. She’s already completed 352 lines of code! After seeing some of her coding in action Ava declared it, “Epic!” She said her favorite part was the drawing.

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Julian did about 50 lines of code as well, but wasn’t as interested in it at this point as Ava and that’s OK. That’s the beauty of unschooling. He might want to do it now or later or never at all. He can decide.

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I think it’s awesome that this free program exists and gives kids as young as six and adults the opportunity to learn how to code. Both of my children are interested in creating mods on Minecraft (their favorite game) and this gives them an idea of what it might be like to do that someday.

If you or your kiddos want to get started learning how to code, check out Learn an Hour of Code: Tutorials for Beginners. I’m excited to get started on it myself as well!

Related posts from around the ‘net:

A Day In The Life: The Taste Test Challenge

Hey friends! I decided to start a new series on my blog to give you an idea of some of the things the kids and I do in our unschooling/life learning journey. It’s called “A Day In The Life” and this will be the first installment.

Yesterday Ava was watching YouTube (one of our favorite resources) videos from a group of girls who do different “challenges.” One of them was a “taste test” challenge, where one girl is blindfolded and the other gives her a variety of foods to eat and hopefully figure out what they are by taste alone.

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Ava asked me to set up some foods for her to try, so I arranged several different things on a plate — a banana slice, carrot, piece of a hot dog, a pinto bean, pickle, a Cheerio, ketchup, a frozen blueberry, seaweed, a pistachio, barbecue sauce, mini chocolate chips, and some nutritional yeast.

Then I blindfolded her and then challenge began! I fed her them one by one and she figured out all 13 without a problem, although she made some faces for some of them and asked for a bowl to spit out the ketchup and barbecue sauce. Hehe.

Julian was next and he missed just two of them, but Ava had fun feeding them to him. Unlike Ava, Julian ate them all happily.

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I’ll need to think of some interesting/challenging foods to add to the mix for the next time, because I’m fairly certain the kids would happily play that game again. And again. And again.

Some other things the kids did that day include: playing Minecraft (which is pretty much a daily activity in this house) while talking with friends over Skype, playing with our week-old chicks (Peep! Peep!), rediscovering their old magnetic chore charts and set them back up with daily chores they want to complete, examining things with their new magnifying glasses, playing with make-up, smashing rocks in the yard, practicing parkour, and playing with Littlest Pet Shops. Although we never left the house other than to go into the backyard, it was a very full day.
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More Day In The Life posts sharing our activities and adventures will come in the weeks ahead.

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Longmont carjacking/abduction prompts question: Is it safe to leave kids in the car?

This morning a car was stolen from a Longmont, Colo. gas station with 4-year-old Allen Chavarria-Rodriquez inside. An Amber Alert was issued and thankfully the boy was safely recovered later as the suspect ditched the car and jacked two others until he was apprehended in Parker. This event prompts the question: Is it ever safe to leave kids in the car?

carseat

A recent Mothering article written by Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids, titled Okay to Leave Kids in the Car While Popping into a Store? made me think about my own practices when it comes to running into the store days before the carjacking/kidnapping occured so close to home.

According to Mothering, it is against the law in 19 states to leave a child unattended in a car.

The laws differ in their particulars, but basically they state that a child under age 6, 7 or, in Utah, 9, cannot be left alone in the car for more than five or 10 minutes. In Nebraska, having your 6-year-old wait in the car is an offense in the same category as allowing the child to be “deprived of necessary food” or “sexually exploited.” In Louisiana, a second kid-in-car infraction carries a sentence of not less than one year in prison, “with or without hard labor.”

These laws seem extreme and the examples Skenazy provides of them being carried out are a little maddening. Moms separated from their children and hauled to the police station? The intention behind the laws is in the spirit of protecting the children, of course, but there is a big difference between leaving a child in a car in 90 degree heat and running into a store where you can see them to grab a gallon of milk.

Martha Rodriguez, the mother of the boy in the Longmont carjacking, will not face charges for leaving her child in a running vehicle said Longmont Police Department spokesperson Jeffrey Satur, “as law enforcement did not feel she had been negligent in regards to her child.

“’It is not like she left her kid in the car for hours on end,’ Satur said. ‘She just parked outside the business and walked in and the guy jumped in the car. So, we’re talking maybe 15 or 20 feet.’”

I have been known to leave my kids (7 and 9) in the car on occasion while I run into a store to grab a few things. I always lock the car and take my keys with me. I often leave my phone with the kids as well. I feel OK doing this or I wouldn’t do it. Would I leave my sleeping 6-month-old in the car while I ran into the store? Probably not. That just doesn’t feel OK to me.

I don’t like to live my life in fear of the what-ifs. Statistically speaking, the risk is still very small that a child will be abducted by a stranger. You can read more about crime statistics on the Free Range Kids page.

I think common sense is key.

Always lock your car doors. Always take your keys with you. If you don’t feel safe doing it, DON’T.

What do you think? Is it ever OK to leave kids in the car unattended? Do you do it?

RELATED POSTS:

Photo used with permission.

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In his own time

One of the many things I enjoy about unschooling is that my kids get to work on a skill when they are ready, not at an arbitrary time when someone says they should.

Up until last summer, my son (who was six at the time) had shown no interest in drawing. This was in stark contrast to my daughter who has loved to draw since she was very young. I wasn’t really concerned about it, but one day when I was at the store I decided to pick up a few pads of drawing paper, crayons and markers to bring home and strew*, if you will.

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After arriving home with the supplies, I announced to the kids what I had bought and set the supplies out on the table. I honestly thought my daughter would dive right in, while my son Julian would shrug and go off to play Legos or Minecraft.

However, Julian came right up to the table, opened up the fresh new pad of paper and markers and immediately started drawing. And drawing. And drawing. He literally sat at the table for a good hour or two, filling each page with a new creation. And getting progressively better at his drawing.

He ended up filling the entire drawing pad with pictures that day, even turning much of it into a story which, when asked about it, he narrated aloud. He later said to me, “When I started this book, I wasn’t very good at drawing, but I got better and better.” And it’s true. He improved a lot that day. The beauty of it was that it was all at his own pace and in his own time. He was never asked to draw against his will before he was ready, therefore was never turned off to drawing.

I loved that he could see his improvement and that he took pride in his work.

Unschooling isn’t always easy — it involves so much trust — but it’s moments like this that reaffirm my decision to do it. I believe my kids will learn what they need to learn in their own time. It’s my job to trust them and help them along the way.

“All I am saying … can be summed up in two words: Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.” — John Holt

*Strew: to place objects in the path of kids without any expectation, coercion, or force of use.

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Play Matters

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We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. – George Bernard Shaw

It’s 11:41 p.m. on a Thursday as I lie in my bed listening to the murmur of my kids from the next room. They are very involved in their play — something that often occurs in the late hours of the night when one might typically expect children to be sleeping. But they play so well together in these late-night moments, creating elaborate stories, developing characters (tonight it’s a city of talking Matchbox cars), working through conflict, working on their communication skills, developing dialogue, and more. Who am I to interrupt them just because the clock says it’s nearly midnight?

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Play is the work of the child. – Maria Montessori

According to Dr. Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College and acclaimed author:

Human children, who have the most to learn, play far more than any other primates when they are allowed to do so. Play is the natural means by which children and other young mammals educate themselves. The most important skills that children everywhere must learn in order to live happy, productive, moral lives are skills that cannot be taught in school. Such skills cannot be taught at all. They are learned and practiced by children in play. These include the abilities to think creatively, to get along with other people and cooperate effectively, and to control their own impulses and emotions.

Additionally, counseling psychologist Gayatri Ayyer says,

Research shows that playing is paramount to our physical, intellectual and socio-emotional development. The play I’m talking about here is the unstructured, spontaneous and imaginative escapades that we had in our childhoods; not the structured and organized sports of today. The benefits of playing are immense. They learn different academic concepts, the rules of behaviour with peers, manners, friendship, decision-making, conflict resolution, cooperation and competition.

Eventually I may ask them to wrap up their game for the night, but for now I am grateful that tomorrow (like most days) we have nowhere we must be in the morning. For now I will enjoy the sweet sound of my children getting along, the sound of imagination, the sound of play.

Play matters.

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Essential Oils Safety and FAQ

essential oils

Essential oils safety info:

Keep Out of Reach of Children. Treat essential oils the same as medicine. Oils can be painful or harmful if used in the eyes or if large quantities of the wrong oil are ingested.

NEVER put essential oils in the eyes, nose or ears. Essential oils are too strong for the delicate tissues in the ear drum and canal. If you have an earache or ear infection, it is best to apply around the ears or drop the essential oil on a cotton ball and put that in the ear.
After application, be attentive to things like rubbing the eyes, areas around the eye, eyelids, handling contact lenses, or touching the interior of one’s nose. The skin is most sensitive and prone to irritation around the genitals and mucous membranes.

Irritation. If you experience any irritation with an oil, DO NOT wash it off with water. USE a carrier oil (any vegetable oil) to dilute the oil. Water will drive the EO in deeper, while a carrier oil will dilute it.

“HOT” oils. There are certain oils that are considered HOT oils and can/will cause skin irritation if not diluted. Oregano should ALWAYS be diluted heavily and even then, only applied on the soles of feet. Some other hot oils include: cinnamon, cassia and marjoram. For children: Protective Blend and/or Peppermint may feel hot as well. Peppermint is actually cooling, but it may feel uncomfortable for kids unless diluted.

Some Essential Oils Are Photosensitive. Some oils are photosensitive meaning they react to radiant energy or light such as natural sunlight, sunlamps, or other sources of UV rays. An adverse response appears within minutes, hours, or days after first application and exposure. These oils are primarily citrus oils and include angelica, Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Orange, Wild Orange, and Tangerine. The result is a dark pigmentation or a rash on the skin. Bergamot contains bergaptene, a dominant photosensitizer, and can cause severe reactions. When using photosensitizing oil, wait a minimum of six hours before exposing skin to UV rays. The stronger and more lengthy the UV ray, the longer the wait should be.

Use care when applying oils to infants and children. After application the child should be supervised and areas where oils were applied should be clothed until the oils have been sufficiently absorbed to protect from cross contamination. A baby might easily grab their foot after oils were applied and then rub his or her eyes.

Pregnancy. Aromatherapists generally agree that no oils topically (externally) applied at ordinary amounts have ever proven harmful to a developing fetus. However, pregnant women might want to consult a physician or licensed aromatherapist prior to using essential oils. If there are specific oils that pregnant women should be concerned about, it will be noted on the oil bottle from most reputable suppliers.

**Much of the information above was taken from Everything Essential.**

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Should essential oils be diluted?
I think it is wise to always dilute essential oils when applying topically. There are certainly times when I don’t, but most of the time I add a carrier oil and think it is best to do so! I really like the fractionated coconut oil because it doesn’t leave my skin greasy. EOs are volatile, which means they evaporate quickly, so when you don’t use a carrier oil, you will lose a lot to evaporation. The carrier oil holds the essential oil to your skin so you can absorb it, like a slow release tab, if you will. Using a carrier oil also helps to avoid reactions from the intensity of the essential oil or sensitization from over exposure. EOs are really potent and little bit goes a long way!

What is considered a dose in essential oils?
1-3 drops is a dose for adults. Less than a drop (a finger swipe over the bottle) is often sufficient for children. With essential oils, less (more frequently) is more than a large dose one time.

What is a carrier oil?
A carrier oil is any vegetable oil. Olive, coconut, jojoba, almond, etc. Essential oils are not true oils (no fat content), but they mix with oils, not water. I prefer to use fractionated coconut oil which has the fat content removed and stays in liquid form even when it’s cold. It absorbs really well on the skin.

Essential oils aren’t TRUE oils?
No, they aren’t true oils. When they were being classified (a long time ago), they were a lot like oil with their properties, but they contain no fat. They are simply aromatic compounds!

Why are *these essential oils expensive?
This brand of oils does cost more than some brands, and there are several reasons why. It’s a pure product — you use less of a pure product than one that is full of fillers, so there isn’t any savings there from buying less expensive oils. Also, the chances of having a reaction to other brands is a lot higher because of the fillers (including synthetics!) in those brands. That is how they keep costs low; synthetic essential oil is a lot cheaper than the real deal, and they don’t have to put on the label that it contains synthetic ingredients or components! With these oils, you get the assurance of a pure product with amazing customer service, support as you learn how to use the oils as well as truly an amazing product. They wouldn’t be the company they are (the largest EO company in the world) if they weren’t putting out anything else but the best. And there are ways to get the oils discounted and even free, and that certainly helps when on a budget!
*Due to recent FDA-regulations, I can no longer list on my blog the brand name that I use, but I’m happy to share if you contact me or subscribe to my newsletter.

How long do you find the oils last? Not in terms of using them up, but staying fresh? I assume they expire at some point.
There aren’t any impurities in *this brand of oils so they last a REALLY long time (years — like, decades)! The thing to watch for is oxidation, so it’s best if oils are kept out of the sun and with the lids on. Our oils have expiration dates on them to be in compliance with the FDA as they are considered supplements, but that doesn’t mean that they “go bad,” if that makes sense. The citrus oils are cold-pressed so those tend to oxidize the fastest, so you’ll probably want to use the citrus ones within about 2 years.

What is the Modern Essentials book and where can I buy it?
Modern Essentials: A Contemporary Guide to the Therapeutic Use of Essential Oils (a third party resource guide) is perfect for anyone looking to know more about essential oils and how they can be used in everyday life. Whether you are a beginner or a long-time essential oil user, this book is designed for you. It covers all of this company’s single oils and blends, as well as many, many medical conditions and the suggested oils, and really is the only book you truly need to use your oils safely and effectively. I get my Modern Essentials book from Aroma Tools: http://www.aromatools.com/Default.asp.

Where does this company’s oils come from?
They source their essential oils from around the world and believe in sustainability and humanitarian efforts. Just to give you a few examples: Vetiver comes from Haiti, Lemon and Bergamot from Italy, Lavender from France, and Jasmine from Southern India.

What happens to all of the plant leftovers from lemons, etc.?
This company purchases the essential oils from those families that have been growing those citrus fruits for generations, but the families can utilize the other parts of the fruit as well. the farmers can use the rest of the product for other purposes like compost or what have you. For arborvitae, for example, the leftover shavings are used for compost and the water used for the distillation process is reused as well for other purposes (not for distilling more oils). The farmers and our company are really in this to be good stewards and make it possible for oils to be around for ages and ages to come!

What if I have an allergy to a certain plant in an oil. Can I still use them?
I would do a patch test on the inside of your elbow to make sure you don’t have a reaction. A tiny touch (not even a full drop) on the inside bend of the elbow and wait at least 12 hours to make sure you don’t have a reaction. Many people that are allergic to certain plants don’t have reactions to the essential oils because the proteins in the plant are not present in the essential oil, but that doesn’t mean that one should start dousing themselves in an essential oil that they have a known allergy or intolerance to the plant or family of plants without doing a patch test first.

— To read more about essential oils — including why I use them and some of my favorite oils — click here.

— Due to recent FDA-regulations, I can no longer share on my blog what brand of essential oils I love and trust or the many stories of how these oils have benefited my family and friends, BUT I can email that information to you. If you’d like to learn more about the certified pure essential oils that my family uses daily, subscribe to my newsletter below and I’ll fill you in on all the details.

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New Unschooling Blog by Zen Habits’ Leo Babauta

OK, I admit it. I’m a bit of a slacker when it comes to reading blogs. I’m all “hey, look at me! I have a blog. Read *my* blog!” And yet, <gulp> I rarely read anyone else’s. There are a handful that I try to keep up with, but unless someone specifically shares a post with me or I happen to stumble upon something that piques my interest on my own, I just don’t see it. I’m a little embarrassed about it, but I’m guessing I’m not alone in this. Am I? I have a hard enough time trying to keep up with the happenings under my own roof. 🙂

I guess that’s why I feel compelled to tell you about a blog that I actually AM reading — like every day even! Leo Babauta, creator of zen habits and mnmlist, recently started an unschooling blog called Unschoolery. My husband is a big fan of Babauta’s and told me a while back that he’d posted a bit about his family’s experiences with unschooling on zen habits. I liked what I read then and was even more excited when Jody told me the other day that Babauta dedicated an entire blog to unschooling. (So much so that I shared it with several unschooling friends and now I’m sharing it with you.)

leo-babauta-and-family

Why is it exciting that Babauta is writing about unschooling? #1) He’s intelligent. #2) He and his wife Eva have been unschooling four of their children for the past five years. #3) He’s passionate about unschooling and sharing the philosophy with others. #4) Thanks to his other blogs he’s already got a huge following. #5) He’s a best-selling author. #6) He’s a man. This might seem a little weird to point it, but most of the unschooling blogs I’ve come across to date are written by women. Perhaps more men/dads will be more open to the idea of unschooling as a result of this blog.

In addition, Babauta writes clearly and concisely about his family’s experiences with unschooling, yet does not claim to be an expert on the subject. In fact he even says, “We have a bit of experience, but we’re still learning. We still don’t know what the hell we’re doing. We love it.” I think that’s a sentiment many of us unschoolers can relate to. I feel like we are always learning, half of the time not knowing what we’re doing, and all the while loving it.

Some of the Unschoolery posts I’ve most enjoyed include:

Because Unschoolery is only a month old, I’m expecting a lot more great content from Babauta. If you are at all interested in unschooling, this is a great blog to read. I plan to keep up with Unschoolery – for information, encouragement and inspiration.

Photo by Eartha Goodwin

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Encouraging our Kids to Dream Big (Despite our Fears)


My friend Jill recently posted a link on her Facebook page to How to Mentor a Kid with Big (Possibly Unrealistic) Dreams by Lori Pickert from Project-Based Homeschooling. The article touches on something that I’ve struggled with in the past. What’s the “right” way to respond to your kids when they have dreams that are beyond what you think they can accomplish – either now or ever? Do you encourage them even though you *know* it’s not going to work? Do you attempt to let them down gently to avoid disappointment and tell them you don’t think it’s possible? Maybe we are trying to save them from embarrassment or even save ourselves from embarrassment. Maybe we are afraid of failure — either for ourselves or our kids.
What’s a mom to do?

For example, my 6-year-old son has often said when he grows up he is going to invent a machine that makes him become a kid again or he’s going to time travel or become a super hero that does X, Y, or Z. When he first started voicing these lofty goals, I wasn’t sure how to react. My first thought was, “that’s probably not going to happen, buddy” but I didn’t say that out loud. Instead I’d try my best to encourage him, even if I felt like his ideas weren’t based in reality, but it was a struggle for me. Was I doing the right thing?

Pickert says:

Before you move to stop your children from trying to do the impossible, take a breath and remember what your job is: to mentor and support, to brainstorm and listen, to remind and reflect. Your job isn’t to step in and tell them their ideas won’t work and their plans are doomed.
Remind yourself:
You don’t know what your kid can do.

One example shared in the article is about a child who wants to write a novel and have it published by a real publisher. Something similar came up for my daughter a few years ago. Unfortunately, I hadn’t figured this all out yet and rather than encouraging her and then (potentially, but who knows?!) see her fail, I thought I was being a good mom and tried to prevent disappointment by explaining how hard it would be to do or something along those lines.

Pickert points out that when you respond that way, “You haven’t prevented disappointment — you’ve only brought it from the misty future to the right now, and you also killed all the learning and skill-building that would have happened in the interim.

Choose to deliver your bad news — that her dream is statistically unlikely — and what will happen to her ambitions? What will happen to her idea of herself as a writer? Will she wait and start her writing career at 15? At twenty? Never?”

Had I encouraged her, who knows what would have happened. But I’m not beating myself up over this either. I live and learn, just like the next person. All I can do is hope to do better the next time.

There are a lot of great examples and quotes in Pickert’s article (and comments following it). So many that I want to quote here, but I will just recommend that you click over and read it yourselves. If you have a big dreamer in your life, it is worth the read.

You cannot predict the path an authentic, self-motivated learner is going to take. When you guess — and then decide to go ahead and pull the plug because you know it won’t work out — you eliminate all the learning that happens along the way.

It really goes along with the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” The journey is all about the learning, the trials and tribulations, the mistakes and the triumphs, the tears and the joy. When we tell our kids, “This just isn’t going to work,” we remove the opportunity for them to experience all of those things.

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