Never Stop Learning!

I want to learn screen printing! 

I first learned screen printing techniques in high school and really loved it. Unfortunately, I haven't really done anything since. I received a screen printing kit for Christmas last year and have yet to make time to use it. It sits on a shelf gathering dust because I always have something more important to do. Also, I wonder how many YouTube videos I'll have to watch in order to use it properly.

As a homeschooler, I'm always practicing a plethora of skills and learning new things. Of course, all this brain food usually revolves around the learning needs of my primary student. As the new homeschool year begins, I am making a commitment to learn things just for me and I'm starting with screen printing!

What "grown folk" things do you want to learn?
Photo: Five in One Social Club, Wine Bottle Wednesdays

I signed up for a workshop at Five in One Social Club. Located on Broad Avenue in Memphis, Five in One Social Club is a self-described "Kindergarten for Grown Folks."  I love browsing the goods from local artists and crafts people that are sold in their storefront and now I'm ready to be a student! I'm so excited! Maybe next I can find someone to teach me how to reupholster furniture.

Check out Five in One's workshop calendar here.  

...And send me a message if you know where I can learn upholstery skills!


The Buzz About Bees

*This project group will meet on the first Wednesday of each month, beginning September 2nd.

Members who participate in this project will explore the biology and behavior of honey bees and learn about their vital role in our food supply. Upon completion of this project, members may choose to continue investigating honey bees by examining colony structure, the process of rearing bees, and honey production in year two of the 4-H Honey Bee Project.

Participants will practice 
  • Learning through observation, problem-solving, and critical thinking
  • Logical thinking, deductive reasoning, and decision making
  • Relating to others and working together by cooperating and communicating
  • Planning and organizing, gathering information, and keeping records
  • Conducting research, making comparisons, drawing conclusions, presenting results

The project includes activities that connect honey bee biology and behavior to human dependency on bees and participants will keep a project journal detailing what they learn.  All participants will have multiple opportunities to engage in a variety of optional 4-H contests and/or demonstrations, including the Poster Art Contest, Beekeeping Essay Contest, Photo Search Contest, and Demonstration Contest.

Participants will gain an understanding of 
  I.  Human Dependency on Bees 
  • Pollination
  • Monetary value associated with foods aided by bee pollination
  • Healthy and ethical food choices
  • Consumer products associated with bees
  • Energy consumption related to bee-derived products
II.  Biology and Behavior 
  • Scientific classification
  • Anatomy and life cycle of honey bees
  • Health and decline of bee populations
  • Helping honey bees survive and thrive 

Meeting topics can be found here. Please contact me if your child is interested in joining 4-H and/or participating in this project.


The Ugliest Principle of Our Society

I started to write this a year ago.
I was trying to decide how to address with my child the death of Michael Brown and the uprising in Ferguson and was told time and time again, "You shouldn't introduce her to such things. Preserve her innocence." Every time I'd hear these remarks, I'd think to myself, "If my child was black, I'd have no choice but to explain warn her about what was going on. I'd have no choice but to teach her how and why these things happen so that they might not happen to her. How can it be that the innocence of some children is protected, while others have to know the cold hard truth?" I would think these things, but I didn't say them out loud. Parenting is hard, everyone does the best they can and they don't need to feel judged.

I quietly ignored what I felt was naive advice. I pulled back the curtain, revealing to my daughter a glimpse of society that, for most of her peers, is almost always categorized as history. After all, if I left it with what she learned in school, she wouldn't even know the term racism and she'd go on believing that equality is real and the inequities of society died with Dr. King. I share these things with her, but I never share them with others. Parenting is hard, everyone does the best they can and they don't need to feel judged. Who am I to share my teacher-mom, soapbox advice about such things? It fits into the same etiquette box as religion and politics, right?

It's been more than a year since Ferguson... Since answering the question, "Black Lives Matter- What does that mean, Mama?" There have been so many other conversations. So many other perspectives on what is really happening in our country. And still, I privately teach my child the truth that I know. There are people who are filled with hate. And there will always be those who try to excuse it or explain it way. It's a disorder or disease, the product of poor parenting. It's the fault of Big Pharma and the side effects of their drugs. It's the fear instilled in people by the media and entertainment industries. Maybe all these things are true, but the truest of all is that the hate and the excuses can be summed up with one explanation. Racism. The ugliest principle of our society. I identify this for my child, but I do not point it out to others. Parenting is hard and...

Sometimes parents perpetuate racism by ignoring it, by calling it something else, by hiding it from their children. And sometimes we perpetuate it by not confronting it with others, so that our children might be able to do the same.

As I'm once again trying to decide how to address another racist tragedy with my child, I read and hear so many different perspectives. I didn't think I would encounter anything truer than Jon Stewart's monologue following the horror terror in Charleston, but then I read these words from my friend, Lisa Anderson:
"I have to say that to read time after time after time post all over Facebook from white people that cannot stay on the subject of the root issue that caused him to commit these murders would be offensive to me if I were African American and is offensive to me even in my white privileged skin. When I ask myself why we are not making progress it seems to me to be this very thing. People cannot simply sit with the reality of the culture and societal evils that raise persons like this young man so we change the subject to the issues we are comfortable with like the abstract evil in the whole of humanity and what went wrong with his 'raising'. We have raised him by defending him as having free speech to spout hate, we have raised him by declaring that he should have a weapon to defend himself against 'those' people, we have raised him by segregating ourselves from each other and we have raised him with our empty prayers of concern. I have raised him every time I have not spoken up for people who are victims of hate. God help us stop rationalizing and begin to act as Jesus acted in that temple that had lost it's purpose. Praying is part of our very breath but breathing alone will not keep us well and fit for the Kingdom."
Lisa's words helped me acknowledge my own culpability. Her words give me hope that it is possible for people to address racism, in all its forms, in a real and lasting way.


Lisa Anderson is the pastor is at Colonial Cumberland Presbyterian Church and Director at Room in the Inn-Memphis. 


Old School GPS

I've made the decision to go old school when it comes to navigating our outlearning adventures. Besides the obvious reasons- fostering map skills for Janie Kathryn and GPS isn't always accurate and can be a dangerous distraction- there is compelling research that suggests that GPS isn't good for our brains.

I mentioned that we used maps for navigating a recent trip in the Missouri Ozarks and I've had several really engaging conversations about this over the past year. So, I thought I'd share some of the information I've come across. Here are two articles to use as jumping off points, if you are interested in reading more about brain-based research.

Lazy Brains and Fewer Memories
In this Boston Globe article, Leon Neyfakh writes:

"With the arrival of personal GPS devices in cars or phones, the tough cognitive work involved in mental mapping was suddenly rendered less necessary. Gary Burnett, an associate professor in the engineering department at the University of Nottingham in England, wanted to know what effect that actually had on people’s ability to navigate. In 2005, he set up an experiment using a driving simulator in which test subjects were asked to complete a set of four routes. Half of them were given step-by-step instructions that guided them right to their destination, while the other half were given traditional paper maps. Afterward they were quizzed on what they’d seen, and asked to sketch a rough map of their route. The drivers who had merely followed instructions did significantly worse on all fronts. They even failed to recognize that they’d been led past certain places twice from different angles."

"When we use GPS, the research indicates, we remember less about the places we go, and put less work into generating our own internal picture of the world. Often referred to as mental maps, these schematics tell us where things are in relation to each other and allow us to navigate among them. They are as powerful as they are mysterious, even to specialists who have devoted their careers to studying how they work. 'They are very individual,' said Julia Frankenstein, a researcher at the Center for Cognitive Science at the University of Freiburg in Germany. 'The things which matter to you might be completely different to those that matter to your wife or your children.'"

Building Gray Brain Matter
In this New York Times article,  Julia Frankenstein writes:  

"The psychologist Eleanor A. Maguire and her colleagues at University College London found that spatial experience actually changes brain structures. As taxi drivers learned the spatial layout of London, the gray matter in their hippocampal areas — that is, the areas of the brain integrating spatial memories — increased. But if the taxi drivers’ internal GPS grew stronger with use, it stands to reason that the process is reversible after disuse. You may degrade your spatial abilities when not training them, as with someone who learned a musical instrument and stopped playing."

"Navigating, keeping track of one’s position and building up a mental map by experience is a very challenging process for our brains, involving memory (remembering landmarks, for instance) as well as complex cognitive processes (like calculating distances, rotating angles, approximating spatial relations). Stop doing these things, and it’ll be harder to pick them back up later."

The Magical Missouri Ozarks

I've shared about our adventures in the Missouri Ozarks before. I always describe the area as a magical place, with geological features you won't find anywhere else in the world. My counterpart is always quick to correct me, pointing out that there is actually a scientific explanation for all of these wonders.
 "It's not really  magic, you know."

 This boulder weighs 8,500 lbs. or about the same as 2 cars!!
This was our second visit to the Elephant Rocks and while we may have changed a bit, the landscape hasn't changed much in only five years. The landscape of Elephant Rocks State Park began to take shape 1.5 billion years ago. Yes, that's BILLION... as in before dinosaurs... as in before any multi-celled life forms! These rock formations pushed through ice ages and mass extinctions. Maybe it was the slow-cooling effect of magma and the forces of wind, ice, and water erosion that formed these geological giants. But what are these things, if not Mother Earth's magic? I stand by my statement. The Ozark Plateau is a magical place! 

As the Earth's forces continue to grind against the colossal rocks, rainwater fills dimples in the surface (called tinajitas), offering a fleeting opportunity for new life to begin. We found tons of tadpoles and perhaps even the mama toad. This region offers a multitude of opportunities for science exploration. During this trip, we spent as much time herping as we did climbing rocks.

During a day trip to another destination, we stopped to help this little turtle cross the road.
We examined him closely to check for injuries to his carapace (top shell) and plastron (bottom shell). Once we confirmed he was okay, we did a little research for World Turtle Day and then released him in the woods near Rocky Falls, close to where we rescued him. As much as Janie Kathryn would have loved to make him a pet, her research showed that Ornate Box Turtles do not typically thrive in captivity when they are caught in the wild.  He was very photogenic and not at all timid around us. I can see why this breed of turtle is captively bred for the pet trade.

See more of our turtle friends below!

Have I mentioned that we brushed up on our map skills too? During all of our day trips in Missouri, we put the GPS aside and went old school! You can read more about it HERE.

 That last one is a strange-looking turtle, eh? Who's ready for a road trip to Missouri?


Good Business

As our first year of homeschooling is rolling into our next year of homeschooling, economics learning is in full swing! We're learning the basics of running a business by selling the eggs our chickens lay. With ten chickens and a duck, we collect a lot of eggs! Even so, we consistently sell what we have, after reserving what we need for our own use. Helping a nine year old understand the difference between revenue and profit has been quite interesting. Who knew we could learn so much from chickens?!

We track which birds are laying, eggs that are accidentally broken, dozens that are sold, eggs that are cooked... Every single egg is accounted for. As it turns out, our brood pays for itself... with a little funds left over. Tracking these numbers are important for any business, but for some entrepreneurs it is especially important- it offers important insight into how much can be given away.

When we started this flock, the hatchery from which our chicks were purchased, donated one extra chick, called a "meal-maker." The purpose of the meal-maker is to feed a family in need. So, in accepting the free chick, we agreed to donate her eggs to help a family in our community. Since my business partner and I are such meticulous record-keepers, we know exactly how many fresh eggs can be donated.

This is Dorothy. We named her after Dorothy Day because Janie Kathryn wanted our donations to go to The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality. I had wondered how we could actually help a family with a chicken, but JK's idea was perfect! The Dorothy Day House helps families who are experiencing temporary homelessness stay together during hard times and the eggs of Dorothy-the-chicken could be given to the residents.

Dorothy is all grown up, now. And we are ready to donate her share of the inventory. Though we aren't actually donating eggs that come from Dorothy, we are donating the equivalent number of eggs she adds to our inventory. It's just good business!

If you're interested:
This is the curriculum we have enjoyed, while learning about economics. If you are interested in reading more about The Dorothy Day House, check out other posts about service learning or visit their website.


Farm-to-Table Recipes

Learning about food sources and buying local has been a central learning theme for us lately. We have a garden, ten chickens, one duck, and just became CSA members with Roots Memphis. No. I am not a foodie or a food blogger. Ha! I'm barely a blogger at all. With that disclaimer out of the way, I wanted to create a post for sharing and pinning our farm-to-table recipe successes!

What do you get when you combine duck eggs and mizuna? Quiche!

This recipe {from Crazy for Crust} for pie crust is my go-to recipe for quiche. It's so easy and it's delicious. I rolled out the dough and JK pressed it into a quiche pan.

Quiche Filling:
3 ducks eggs (or 4 chicken eggs) 
1½ cups milk
1½ cups cheddar cheese (from a block)
 1 bunch (1-2 cups) of sauteed mizuna (or other greens)

Mix eggs and milk together. Season to taste. I used salt, pepper, and a little fresh green garlic. Spread half of the cheese over the crust. Spread greens evenly into the dish and top with remaining cheese. Pour egg mixture evenly over the dish. Bake for at 400° for 40 minutes.

A Twist on Falafel + Humus 

This recipe {from my little celebration} for humus with this recipe {from Minimalist Baker} for falafel made with collard greens was so good! I used wheat flour in mine and topped them with sunflower sprouts! 

The beans & greens recipe came from Martha. I substituted my Roots Memphis kale for the escarole and vegetable instead of chicken stock.  
What can I say, I live with vegetarians!

We love trying new recipes, so please feel free to share yours here or on Facebook!