Home School Burn Out-Coping- part 1

Burn-outMaybe it will take a year, maybe it will take a decade, but one day it will probably happen. You wake up and simply realize that you can not face one more day of home school. Maybe it’s the school work, or it’s not having the energy to do fun stuff with your kids, because you used up your daily quota during the school day. It can be just the sheer exhaustion of having your kids in your house, and messing it up- all-the-time, or the exhaustion of being final arbitrator of all things scholastic.  Maybe it’s time to explore other options, there’s no shame in that, but what about when there aren’t other options?  Or  maybe you are committed to homeschooling, but your heart just isn’t in it anymore?  There is no magical cure, that I’ve found, but there are some effective coping strategies.

Coping strategy number one. Breaks

Take a Mom Break.

“If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children when these are overdone, we should have happier households. Let the mother go out to play!”  -Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason wrote a long time ago, to class that considered a nurse, a cook, and a maid to be standard issue. Even without this level of domestic help we, the moms, still need to clear our brains and play.

What would you do for a whole day without the kids if you could do it?

If you’re a fun person and you come up with something fun easily, good for you. If you’re like me and you think “Read a book without anybody talking to me” that is okay too. Just figure it out and do it when possible.

Take Daily Breaks.

Usually big fun breaks without our kids are infrequent, therefore carving out some planned alone time each day is important. Having a few minutes alone for my quiet time before the kids get up can really make or break my day. A regular ‘room time’ where your kids are all in there room (or you are in yours, whatever works) is another practice that can be a sanity saver. Now that my kids are older, I feel like I’ve spent the day with people, instead of children, so this hour is just as important to me now as it was when they were two. Figure out what daily rituals you need to keep yourself sane, and try to work them into your routine. Coffee with your spouse, a quiet time, a cup of tea with a little British television, a soak in the tub, they don’t need to be expensive or complicated, if you pay attention and enjoy them.

Take a School Break.                                                                                                                                                                  

 In “The Well Trained Mind” Jesse Wise says she learned to take a week off when she felt like quitting. For mild burn out this is an excellent strategy. It may mean an extra week or two of school this summer, but it’s usually worth it. Use this extra time to take care of any household organizational issues that may be making your life inconvenient. Few things sap your energy and focus faster than having to fight your space.

Hang in there, and start by giving yourself a break! Home school burn out does not a failure make.

So, what would you do with a whole day to yourself?

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Parenting is quite the journey. You begin armed with opinions that fit right along certain rails, you know your destination and you know what train to board to arrive. There are plenty of travel guides with all of the answers.

But somewhere along the track you’re thrown for a loop. The train breaks down and you see how useless the time table issued  is when you are dealing with individuals. Sometimes this realization is gradual, sometimes it is sudden.

A noticeable shift toward uncertainty occurs in most parents of teenagers. We now offer each other more empathy and listening than advice, our troubles no longer fixed by a timely potty training tip. The stakes have been raised on us,  the consequences greater. Those early years were just a trial run. We suspect that we’ve either messed up our kids by following the rules or by not following the rules.

Those teen years. You can deny that they exist, it’s been insisted that they’re an artificially created era. A body could use this argument as an excuse to treat  teenagers as children or adults. One can combine the two by giving them the responsibilities of adults with none of the privileges of adulthood or all the privileges of adulthood and none of the responsibilities. My goal is to do neither. I want to embrace these teen years with all of the beautiful uncertainty and to make the most of them . These years seem to shape our lives as few other years do. In our memories these years stretch into long formative years, in our experience they take forever. These years are challenging. Your children still need your guidance but they also crave  independence. They need firm boundaries, but lots of room to explore. They need room to make mistakes, but not enough room to ruin their lives, yet. You may be able to control their behavior, but their hearts are not so easily swayed. As parents, we know that the decisions that truly matter are now their own, and that terrifies us.


There is a wonder and joy is seeing the almost magical emergence of an adult from a child, yet there is also the sorrow of seeing the child disappear. Not to be too depressing or anything. I’m not sure that joy and sadness have been separate emotions for me since beginning on this particular journey. There is a susceptibility to  being carried away by these emotions and missing the yesteryears, instead of embracing, even celebrating these years.

Yes, these years have unique challenges, but we should not dread them or fall into the trap of ‘ugh, teenagers’ Why do we do that? I get tons of ‘stranger sympathy’ about having teenage girls, as if they’re more trouble than puppies and bound to make your life difficult. I want to embrace these teenage years. I want to affirm the people that they are becoming and guide them, mentor them. As our children transition, so must I. We move from being an authority to a mentor, and relationships must grow to survive.  It is undeniably awkward at moments, because we must walk that line, we must ‘be the adult’ but it is also time to be friend and equals. Sometimes, walking that line feels as awkward as the teen years themselves.  Walking this balance is so much more than a list of do’s and don’ts. It requires relationship, it requires involvement.  Transitions are never easy.

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Review of Ivanhoe 1982 movie

Just for fun, I thought I’d occasionally review our weekend movie, especially if it is old or forgotten or good or stupid and I just want to tell my opinion without being interrupted.

Last weekend it was a blast from the past, Ivanhoe. I’m pretty sure that seeing part of this movie is what made me read the book when I was a kid.

Ivanhoe returns from one of the crusades with the ‘Good King Richard’ to find his name sullied and his girl betrothed to another. Right behind him is Brian De Bois-Guilbert. This name is pronounced differently by all the actors in this film; our household settled on Sir Brian de Boogeybear as being the most accurate entertaining pronunciation. De Bois-Guilbert  is a Knight Templar, you may note that Sir Walter Scott’s opinion of said group doesn’t quite jive with the National Treasure version.

There’s a bit of fighting, they fight to defend their honor, the honor of their favorite ladies, the honor of the Saxons, and evil John is killing people left and right to maintain his grip on the English Throne, the usual medieval stuff. The violence is regular and wide-spread, with many stabbings and a high body count. All this violence was stagey enough to leave my kids unconcerned.                          The leading ladies are Rowena and Rebecca. First, De Bois-Guilbert makes some eyes at Rowena, bringing the ire of all the Saxon men upon his foul self. Then Rebecca, a beautiful Jewish girl, happens on the scene accompanied by her father. De Bois-Guilbert pursues her relentlessly, kidnaps her and is, according to him, determined to possess her soul. Right, her soul. Because that’s what they all really want you know.  Then we have this scene.


At this point can you hate De Bois-Guilbert anymore? Here he suddenly is not the villain anymore, sure he’s going to get her killed and is trying to make her accept him under duress, but  he’ll buy her books, that makes up for it all. This is the moment Rebecca herself, a paragon of virtue, falters for a second, but no, she is made of sterner stuff than the rest of us.

Ivanhoe sweeps in and manages to rescue Rebecca, and then returns, although not completely happy, to the rather boring Rowena. De Bois-Guilbert of course, dies for his crimes, but he dies a changed man.

It’s been quite a while since I read this book, so it’s a little hard to try to compare the two. In a couple of ways the movie was superior to the book; First because it purges the story of any anti-Semitic tone lingering in the book. Secondly, it adds complexity to De Bois-Guilbert. His character eclipses Ivanhoe’s in the movie as Rebecca eclipses Rowena in the book. Not being a dissertation of any sort  this flippant review is certainly not going to cover the symbolism between the Saxons and the Normans. Nor shall we discuss the ‘Good King Richard.’ (Snort)

Non-nerdy children may not enjoy this movie, but if your family enjoys complicated period adventures combined with a generous dash of melodrama, this one may be worth digging out of the dusty ‘80s.

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How to use a whole chicken: The Chicken Tortilla Soup Edition

ChickentortsoupIt’s kind of a dumb show, but have you watched Eureka? (Don’t run out and watch it if you missed it, this isn’t a show I’d recommend to normal people.) We watched a couple seasons of it, but probably only one episode sticks in my mind. The one where the whole town loses its sky high IQ because they’re eating cloned chicken breast.

Anyhoodles, with my freezer full of home grown chickens, boneless skinless chicken breasts are not on the docket. It’s made me realize how ubiquitous the boneless skinless chicken breast has become.

Whole chickens have a huge advantage; they taste better. Their only drawback is that they can be a little more trouble. They take a little planning, and very few modern recipes start out with the whole bird. This is my go to “recipe” it tastes delicious and it doesn’t take long to get started. It is a great company dish or a great weekend soup, I’ll make it Friday or Saturday and we’ll eat it all weekend, it tastes better the second day. This is a super forgiving dish, so start out here and see where it takes you. I don’t think I make it exactly the same way twice, but I paid attention and made notes just for this occasion.

Whole Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • Servings: makes 5- 7qts
  • Print

  • 1 whole chicken, skin removed
  • 2 cans (15oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can(15oz) diced tomatoes with chilies
  • 15 oz salsa (Yes, I hate dishes, use the tomato can.)
  • 2 cans black beans,
  • Water or chicken broth
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 3 to 12 cloves of garlic, or just lots
  • 2 TB chili powder (I use mild.)
  • 2 TB oregano (or more)
  • Oil for sautéing      
  • Any or all of the following for garnish
  • Limes (must)
  • Cilantro (must)
  • Fried tortilla strips
  • Tortilla chips      
  • Cheese
  • Avocado
  • Sour cream or yogurt (Especially if you have kids around.)

Saute onions and garlic in oil, add chili powder and oregano.  Place in an eight quart crock pot.Add all tomatoes, salsa, and beans, and give it a stir. Add  the chicken with breast side down and add enough water to fill pot and cover chicken.  Cook on low 6 hours. Pull the chicken out of the pot carefully, it will probably come out in pieces. Allow chicken to cool enough to handle comfortably. Pick the meat of the bones, shred and salt the meat and return in to pot. Taste for seasonings. You can add heated chicken broth to the pot if you prefer a thinner soup.

Serve with garnishes on the side with warmed tortillas and chips.

Notes: Watch the heat, heat gets stronger in the crock pot, medium salsa works well and if I’m throwing in a stray jalapeno it needs to go in toward the end. I often use a cup of soaked dried black beans instead of canned beans, but they do add cooking time to the soup.

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Let’s talk some chicken…

Beware the Internet. Anything you desire can be bought in a click. Procrastination is usually a good protection for this, but this defense failed me one day last spring, as I was browsing the McMurray hatchery website. You don’t have to order chickens from this hatch date, you can pick a hatch date that is weeks in advance. A brilliant trap. Gleefully, I placed my order for 50 (or so) meat  chicks. Marcus’ glee did not match mine when I broke the cheerful news, but he took it in stride – after all it will result in meat on the table and our lodge will not go hungry.

On the appointed day, the post office called to inform me that my chickabiddies had arrived. We were ready for them. The idea of 50 chickens and the reality of 50 chickens are two different things. One smells better and the other eats more.

Then they just kept growing and eating, and eating and growing. It was shocking how quickly they went from cute little babies to ugly adolescent chickens.Image

Cornish Cross chickens are different from my lovely laying hens. They’re a hybrid, bred to eat and grow. They are like the chicken undead, Zombie Chickens. I had to give a real chicken the unpleasant task of moving in with them to teach them how to be proper chickens, my good tempered Americana embarked on this duty, and it did help. I’m not sure they could catch any fast moving bugs but they did move away from the feeder and get a little exercise chasing earthworms.

Typical North Idaho weather means virtually no rain in July and August;  Typical North Idaho weather is a chimera, a delusion and a snare.

Upon hearing the pelting roar of rain on the metal roof above my bed, I knew that as a responsible keeper of dumb clucks, I must check on my charges.  As I feared,  Zombie Chickens lack the sense to come in from the rain and must be scooped out of puddles and mud, like rank wet living laundry, and set inside their despised shelter. Every rainy night this thrilling event was repeated, and there were several. I think they started waiting for me to move them, but something you’re intending to eat is entitled to a certain amount of payback.

letstalkchicken2Butchering day was not met with sorrow – we were ready to see those things go. We set up an assembly line and assembled away. We told the girls it was family togetherness day, and they fell for it. They’re great sports. “It’s amazing how fast they go from chickens to chicken,” observed one of my cheerfully plucking daughters. And she was right, although it wasn’t fast enough to tempt us to quit our day jobs and start a mobile chicken butchering business.

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This is Othello, he is not the brightest goat in the world, either he knocked over his manger, climbed in and got stuck, or he climbed in the manger which fell over with him inside. What you can’t see is the smell. Othello is a good tempered buck, but the nicest word to describe his smell would be rank, pungent wouldn’t quite do it justice.

He could have done this any day of the week, but no, this had to happen when we were on our way out the door to the girls’ 4-H presentations. We were all dressed up with someplace to go.

Rule #1 with goats: If they can do it, they will do it, and at the least convenient time


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