Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Herbalism - The Study of Herbal Medicine

I have had the opportunity to take a North American Herbalism class at our homeschool co-op this spring. This has served as a catalyst for me studying all manner of herbs both medicinally and culinary. The world of plants is fascinating. Plant signatures have held me captivated for the last few weeks. It is like Heavenly Father has left us clues in the form of plant signatures so that we can know how to use the beautiful creation of plants on this earthly home.

Over the weekend, I had some brave girlfriends accompany me to Mountain View, Arkansas. While there, we attended a field trip and workshop focusing on medicinal herbs, as well as wild edibles put on by the Ozark Folk Center. It was amazing and eye opening. The weeds that 75% of Americans try to eradicate from their lovely lawns are actually FOOD. Wonderful, nutritious food in the form of greens and blossoms.

On Friday, we were taken by shuttle bus to the scrumptious bakery, Serenity Farms Bread, outside of Leslie, Arkansas. They had all sorts of sour dough breads and pastries. I had biscotti, a chocolate eclair, and an almond croissant to nibble on during our trip. They also had several organic food choices including cheeses, drinks, and other snacks.

We went down to the little Red River flowing nearby to check out the plant life. We found wild carrots and other edibles. Our guides were very knowledgeable.

Next, we went to the Buffalo River, which is a national river here in Arkansas. The river was very high, so we didn't get down too close, but walked in the lower woodland along it's banks. We found ground ivy, elderberry, garlic mustard, violets, river cane, and other valuable plants growing there in the understory.

The little ground ivy plant can stop bleeding while used as an astringent or poultice. In a pinch, you can chew it up and spit it on a wound or mash it up and spit on it and apply it to wounds.

After lunch, we checked out Tyler Bend Visitor Center in the Buffalo River National Park. We drove down the road from there a bit and hiked down a trail passing by the old Collier homestead.

At the end of the trail, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the Buffalo River from on high.

It was a beautiful spring day! Good for the soul.

After the hike, we went back to the Ozark Folk Center to gather herbs from the gardens for our lunch the next day.

Dandelions, chickweed, dock, sorrel, wild carrots, Jerusalem artichoke, corn salad, wild onion, wild garlic, and wild violets can be delicious additions on one's diet in the spring time. Believe me, I've eaten them all!

The knowledgeable ladies who put on this workshop at the Ozark Folk Center were fabulous. Susan Belsinger and Tina Marie Wilcox brewed some delicious, savory Wild & Domestic Greens and Bean Soup, as well as a yummy salad with wild greens and homemade buttermilk and vinaigrette dressings - with herbs, of course. Karyn, from Bean Mountain Farms, introduced us to the gorgeous world of herbal breads, butters, honeys, vinegars, and drinks. We enjoyed a spectacular lunch on Saturday prepared using their recipes. It was truly delicious.

Tina and Susan have co-written a book called The Creative Herbal Home, which is great. Susan also wrote a book called Not Just Desserts, Sweet Herbal Recipes that I have enjoyed this week. They also have written articles for the Herb Companion magazine. Coincidentally I subscribed to it last month! I'm looking forward to reading more from them.

I'm also looking forward to catching a plant sale put on by Bean Mountain Farms. They grow organic herbs here in Arkansas. They will be having a couple of plant sales at Ozark Natural Foods on April 10 and May 8 this year.

Ground ivy, plantain, yarrow, jewelweed, and mullein are good medicinal herbs that grow locally, as well. I now know how to positively identify them in the field. I also know how to use them, which will prove valuable in the future. I can make salves and tinctures now, thanks to my herbalism teacher, Michelle! I can also make poultices and astringents.

The quaint town of Mountain View was lovely. I would like to go back and spend a couple of days exploring that area, as well as the Buffalo River area, some more. The Ozark Folk Center was also a gem I would like to take my family back to when it is open for visitors. It was sad to leave, but I'll definitely be going back!

Now for a nice cup of herbal tea...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Our Nature Journals

Lap Books & History Pockets

To make our history studies more interesting, we decided to do some projects - individually and as a group - in our homeschool.

For individual projects, each student is making a "history pocket". I got the idea from an Evan-Moor book detailing History Pockets about Colonial America. So, as we move through our study of Colonial America over the next few months, the kids will do different projects and handouts to add to their pockets.

For the group project, my students are putting together a lap book about 17th Century America. We have never done lap books in our homeschool, but I always think they are neat when I see them. My kids have done them individually in co-op classes.

I found a FREE downloadable one at about 17th Century America. Currclick is a wonderful resource for downloadables, as well as LIVE classes online offered to homeschoolers.

For this lap book, my kids have to read an article, then complete a booklet about what they have read. My oldest daughter is supervising putting it all together. The lap book is made from three file folders that we have re-folded and will glue together.

Here is the first folder so far:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Basketball Rock Stars

My two older boys - ages 9 and 12 - played basketball this winter. We are their parents so we think they are pretty great.

Our oldest has had a great season. Tonight was a play-off/tournament game. The winner of the game plays in the championship game this weekend.

It was hilarious thinking about what various parents probably told themselves before the game tonight:

"I will not yell too loudly and embarrass those around me"
"I will not yell at the refs"
"I will not say "crap"
"I will not tell the refs their calls are crap"

Mine was the first one. I did yell, but everyone else yelled, too, so I didn't embarrass anyone!

The score was so close through the entire game. The teams tied in the end and went into overtime. They scored a free throw, and then my son scored a free throw. Then, with 9 seconds left, another one of our team players scored a free throw shot and we WON by 1 point! Every parent leapt into the air and burst into cheers. It was awesome. We were all so relieved none of us had heart attacks.

Way to go team!!!

We gushed over our kids and eachother's kids. They were rock stars.

Monday, March 15, 2010

All Better

Well, R is all better. Wednesday at 8:30 am was the last time he barfed. Yippee!! He didn't really EAT again - like REALLY EAT - until Friday. Since then, he's eaten non-stop. Yep. I think he will make a full recovery. He's getting his tummy pudge back.

Our weekend was super busy - 4 basketball games and baseball tryouts for one boy. Today we have soccer practice, baseball tryouts for the other boy, and basketball practice for that same boy.

We started The Lists today. I gave them an allotted time and told them to go through their lists.

My youngest roamed around the house, had a fit, threw stuff, and kicked his sister. So, he got to scrub the kitchen floor Cinderella-style. We filled a bucket with warm soapy water and I gave him a rag and he was busy for a good 20 minutes in there in humbling reverie. He is now helping clean out our truck with his brothers. He will have to do some handwriting when he comes back in. Tomorrow we'll try again.

My older two did OK with the lists. My son, C, who is 9, didn't like the list and decided he was going to pick and choose what to do on his list when I wasn't paying attention. Hmmm. He's finding the loopholes...

My oldest boy, A, actually asked me to buy him a spelling book today. Ha. He is started to understand the importance. He hasn't had an official spelling book in about a year, and I let it go. He hated it, and his spelling was naturally improving significantly by him reading more. I noticed this and thought his brain was finally picking it up, so I didn't get him a new book. Sometimes when he is careless, though, or in a hurry, he doesn't take the time to think about what he is doing and he'll have 10 misspelled common words in a paragraph - like there/their. That happened today, and he asked if he could go back to a spelling book to help him remember spelling rules. OKAY. I put in an order right away. Books are on their happy way. He asked for it.

He also just forgets to use punctuation and capitalize sentences. Still. He knows what to do! Just being careless. I think I should start charging him a quarter everytime he slips.

Now, on to finishing chores. Break time is over.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Magic Popsicles

My 7 year old is STILL sick! We are on day 4, now. Hopefully he'll start eating today. He is keeping fluids down.

We are "tricking" his stomach by having him eat some popsicles that I made. Maybe if he licks these, he'll get some fluid without startling his stomach. A friend gave me the idea after I told her on the phone last night that everything he drinks he barfs right back up. I'm concerned about dehydration and do not want him in the hospital with an IV.

The popsicles I made have:

1 cup of red raspberry herbal tea to soothe the tummy
1 cup of gatorade to provide electrolytes
1 tablespoon or so of honey because honey fixes everything
1 tablespoon or so of acidophilus to give him some good bacteria

Another friend gave the acidophilus to my husband at scouts last night. I didn't have any on hand. The pops are in Mickey Mouse shaped ice cubes. We bought those trays and have never used them over the last 5 years. We finally have a use for them!

Here's hoping the popsicles help. I even tasted one and it was yummy.

The Lists

OK. Here is a list that I made up after the manner I posted about yesterday. For one of my oldest, their list looks like this:

Wordly Wise
Language Arts
Nature Study

So, he'll get through as many subjects as he can in his allotted time. Then, he'll pick up where he left off tomorrow. When he gets to the bottom, he starts again at the top. We'll see how this could fail if he only does one or two things per day just to be a punk. I'm hoping they will get through about 1/3 to 1/2 of their list every day. I am trying to mix up their subjects so that a fun one (for them) gets thrown in between their not-so-favorite ones. Just to be nice!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring Fever

Literally - My littlest one has a fever and has been throwing up for more than 48 hours.

So, we're hunkered down today watching Where the Red Fern Grows on Netflix instant streaming. Why is it when one kid is sick, everyone else gets thrown off kilter, too? My older two think it is perfectly OK to sit around in their PJs today. My teen and pre-teen act like they haven't slept even though they did for more than enough time last night. My oldest boy did have 3 1/2 hours of basketball practice last night, but still. They must be doing some serious growing.

I have a friend who says she is awesome at making up schedules and shopping for curricula, but not so great at following the schedules and using the curricula! Humans are creatures of habit, and it is hard to form new habits.

I've been thinking about all of this, and wondering what I can do to motivate us into a better routine. We are super busy this spring with everything going on, and if we don't manage our time better, we won't be getting much done here at home. I'm mostly concerned about keeping our home picked up...

I saw something on the new Latter-Day Homeschooling blog about making lists and "rolling over" the subjects we don't complete one day to the next day. What a great idea - I think I am going to try this for us. I always feel like we HAVE to start doing Math and Language Arts/Reading every day and sometimes we don't get to the other subjects. I don't lose sleep over this too much since they take so many classes at our co-op that the holes do get filled in, but there are some things I want to cover with them here at home that we don't always get to.

Off to make our lists... Will share later!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sweet New Website!

Sugardoodle on Facebook posted a link to a pretty sweet new blog today for LDS Homeschoolers. What a great way to unite more LDS Homeschoolers! There aren't very many LDS who are homeschooling in Northwest Arkansas. Only about half of the families I know of are on our Yahoo Group, where we sometimes have discussions. We get together once per month. The other half aren't interested in getting together socially or don't do email or whatever. It is always great to find an additional resource for us! Yippee!

Check it out!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spring is in the Air!

March 1 - I can't believe it is already March. Things are super busy for our family...I'm starting to see a pattern, here. Every spring is so crazy busy for us! I think it is the population boom we have every spring at our homeschool co-op, spring sports, and going out often since we are sick of being inside from the winter. So, as mom, I feel like I'm treading water. Hopefully I don't sink!

My kids are taking some great classes at our homeschool co-op including Creative Writing, Native American History, gardening, cooking, drama (and a big play production at the end of April), Space, Guitar, Yearbook layout, and Art. I'm teaching Papercrafts and Set Building (for the play). I'm also taking a class this term - North American Herbalism. It is fabulous. I've already made a tincture for the first time (agrimony), and I'm in the process of making a salve with comfrey, lavender, grape root, and calendula.

I was talking with my husband last night about how I wonder if I should buy some boxed curriculum. He said I must be joking since our kids are learning SO MUCH on their own right now...more so than they would in school. He asked me how much I was learning along with them, and I answered, "Tons." What does that say about my own public school education? Well, I was a "gifted" student. I was always in gifted or honors classes. I made good grades. I paid attention. I didn't learn very much! How did that happen?

Our kids get language arts, math, history, and art regularly. Science not so much. That is my fault since I'm not a science fanatic. We have had many nature study lessons, studied various animals, and we have done some astronomy. Last night while venting this all out to my husband, we decided perhaps I should get some general science book or curriculum so that they are least exposed to it. If they take interest in an aspect of that, we'll run with it. We both agree that exposing them to vital information is important, but if they aren't interested in it, they aren't going to want to learn about it. They all love stories, so naturally they are all history buffs. Hopefully we can get them to be science nerds this year, too.

I think we are going to start using our Apologia Exploring Creation through Botany textbook. It has been collecting dust on one of our bookcases for some time. I also decided to go ahead and buy the Apologia General Science text. It is written for 7th grade, but good for 6-9th grade. That will fit my oldest son and daughter, at this point.

I like the conversational text of the Apologia books we have used so far. The books we have gone through so far are the Exploring Creation through Zoology volumes 1 and 2, which cover flying creatures and ocean life.

I have also tried to get my kids to keep nature journals. It seems we start this every spring and then fizzle out the middle of summer some time. I have 2 children that enjoy it and 2 who do not. The ones who do not enjoy it have to at least sit and be quiet and observe and take notes if they do not want to draw something. Sometimes we go out with a goal to sketch something specific. Sometimes, I let them choose what to sketch. I encourage them to date their work and describe the weather and what it is they are drawing on the page of their sketch. I sketch along with them. I LOVE this book about nature journaling:

Keeping a Nature Journal by: Clare Walker Leslie

I'd post a handy link, but I haven't figured out how to do that in a blog post, yet!

It is available on Amazon, and it is beautiful and inspiring.

For our nature journals, I get a piece of textured cardstock for the cover and several pages of blank white paper for the inside. I stack this together and use a long-arm stapler and staple them together in the center. The kids decorate their covers. They are small enough to fit in a backpack when we go hiking, too. We have taken them to botanical gardens, on hikes, and always in our yard.