Thursday, April 28, 2016

City Mouse, Country Mouse

When the city mouse visited his cousin in the country, he thought for certain that his cousin would adore the luxurious life of the city, so much more. I can just picture the city mouse walking through his cousin’s property, spending the day foraging for food with his mind daydreaming about the hot turkey, gravy and stuffing he could be feasting on back in the comfort of his own home. When you are used to one way of life, it is hard to appreciate another... Read More at Our Homeschool Forum

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

5 Ways I'm Prepping For This Year's Homeschool Convention {plus a GIVEAWAY!}

Set a Budget
I already have a specific amount of money set aside. A certain amount for hotel and parking. Another set aside for food and gas and finally the big one, curriculum! If I don't plan ahead on this one I most likely will get sidetracked and spend way more than I need to.

Plan to Eat In
We certainly plan to eat out one of the nights there, but honestly, the rest of the meals are  going to involve us crashing in the hotel room. The hotel that we are staying in has a microwave and fridge in the room so I am planning on stocking up and planning ahead. Simple snacks, easy salad fixings and some precooked foods that can easily be heated up- maybe hamburgers or homemade chicken fingers should work just fine.  

Comfortable Walking Shoes
I've already been eyeing my children's shoe collection and have been trying to figure out which shoes will be the most comfortable for them to walk around the convention center in. I'm pretty sure I've never heard them complain in their New Balance sneakers so we'll go with that! One isn't walking yet so he will be pushed in a stroller (until it is not filled with books, of course, then it's the Moby Wrap for him!)

A Rolling Cart or Suitcase
Ha! The first year I attended I did NOT even know that this was a thing. Obviously I was planning on making purchases, but thought my arms would suffice. Needless to say, they were black and blue by the end of the weekend! I am soooo bringing a rolling suitcase (or two!)

Backpacks for the Kids
Again, this is my first year bringing kids but I can picture it now. Running into the Exhibit Hall, collecting random goodies from the vendors and then pouring them all into my arms. Yes, they are bringing backpacks for their own treasures that they find!

Join us at the 33rd Annual Home Educator's of Virginia Homeschool Convention!  

Check out my interview's with convention speakers Kirk Martin and Joel Salatin!

Enter To Win 

Enter Below to Win a Pass For You and Your Whole Family!

Friday, April 22, 2016

HEAV Convention Pass Giveaway

JUNE 9-11, 2016

This will be my third year attending the Home Educators of Virginia Association's annual homeschool convention held in Richmond, VA. What makes this year stand out from the rest is that this year, I am going as a convention blogger! How awesome is that? And, the icing on the cake? My whole family is coming along for the ride. I am beyond delighted about this considering the last two times I went it was nice to get away but I missed my family to pieces. Every time I would pass by a vendor that I knew my kids would love, all I could think was, "I wish they were here to see this!"
Sciexperience was directly across the booth I was working in last year and all the kids that went over seemed to love it! It was hands-on, entertaining and fun. Dr. Callentine simplifies the most difficult topics and breaks it down for little minds to understand. Not only is she a pediatrician but a homeschool mom as well. She also is on the board of directors for  I highly recommend heading over to her booth.

Now that my husband has agreed to take time off from work and I've hyped up the convention to the kids, I have to ask myself, now what?

What are my kids going to find to do there, for three days?
Let me share some options with you since, as I'm learning this year, planning for the convention with kids takes much more thought and preparation. First, I looked at my options and picked out which activities fit my children's interest and age level.I found two from the list below that will work for us!

Children's Program (Fri & Sat)

Art Camp (Thurs)

Photography (Thurs-Sat)

Young Entrepreneurs (Thurs-Sat)

Robotics Camp (Fri & Sat)

I made sure not to go overboard since perusing the exhibit hall and the ever so beloved used curriculum sale will take up some of their time as well.  

We also plan on taking it easy in the evenings. Relaxing in the hotel and enjoying each others company, (and not having to do the dishes!) Some of the sessions begin quite early. Some as early as 8:30 in the morning! With kids, I am not so sure we will try and attempt to make it over to the convention hall that early. I love ambition and everything but we don't want to stress ourselves out in fear that we are missing something. 

I suggest taking a look at the schedule ahead of time and be sure to plan to see just a few speakers, then go from there. So many different things are happening at convention and if you try to do it all, you will most likely get overwhelmed. Just like grocery shopping, enter with a list but be open to straying from that list if you find a product that suits you better or offers an amazing deal! It's always best to have a plan, even if you don't entirely stick to it. What homeschool day goes completely as planned anyway?  So yes, I do suggest making a plan, for sanity's sake!

Since today is the first day that I am running this giveaway, I am making it super simple! If you want a quick, easy and painless entry, then simply Pin it, to win it! Follow Heav (/heavpinterest) on Pinterest and then pin the image below. That's it! You are entered!

Hungry for more? If you have a few minutes to spare, go ahead and enter for more chances to win below. And be sure to stop by between now and Thursday for more opportunities to win!


Disclaimer: This post is brought to you by HEAV. All opinions stated here are my own. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

7 Ways to Welcome Spring

Bunnies. Baby chicks. Fresh green grass and budding trees. Spring is a refreshing time. It certainly an exciting season around here for many reasons. This is when we reevaluate our livestock and consider any new purchases. Goats? Chickens? Rabbits? We have to see if this coming year is a practical time for milking goats, or if we want to pass this year. It’s also the time that we figure out our gardening situation... Read More at Our Homeschool Forum

Saturday, April 16, 2016

6 Hobbies Your Child Can Do At Home

Ballet class. Karate. Soccer practice. For some parents, it seems like all they ever do is drive their child from one place to the other. It’s no wonder that America is struggling to keep the tradition of family dinners alive. The family structure is falling apart on so many levels and we have to ask ourselves, why? Even in the homeschooling world... Read More at Our Homeschool Forum

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Interview with 2016 Convention Speaker: Joel Salatin

I am pleased to share with you, an interview with Joel Salatin, one of the HEAV convention speakers this year! Be sure to visit Joel Salatin's Sessions while at the convention, you will certainly be challenged and encouraged.

I remember hearing that your son starting breeding rabbits for profit as a child. What other farm based businesses would you suggest for a pre-teen or teenager?

The list is virtually endless, but of course it is age dependent.  A very young child can make pot holders with those colored elastic cloth bands stretched across those little square holders with pegs all around the sides.  I’ve met children who offered pet sitting services, lawn care, grew vegetables and sold them.  Goodness, teens can do virtually anything an adult can do, both mentally and physically.  It all depends on interest and skill.  Some children and teens adept at mechanical ability can fix appliances, small engines, or become a general handyman. Certainly culinary opportunities are myriad, from fixing meals to baking to offering cake decorating.  If it’s moral and ethical, go for it. Legal?  Don’t worry about it, children have a lot of public relations equity.

 What advice would you give someone who knows nothing about farming but wants to start taking steps to regain control of where their food is coming from? Where is a good place to begin?

Sell the TV, get rid of the video games, and put down People magazine.  Take that entertainment/recreational time and money and invest it in a treasure hunt in your community for food that will actually feed your body.  All breakthroughs start with a break with.  I wish I could snap my fingers and see everybody’s situation improve without any personal change or commitment, but life doesn’t work that way.  

First, you have to recognize that it is important enough to occupy some time and money investment; until then, you’ll never get started. Once that’s done, start visiting local farmers who sell directly to customers.  Very soon you’ll develop discernment and skill, an ability to pick and choose between integrity and charlatans.  I view regaining control of integrity food as a 3-step process:

  1. Get In Your Kitchen.  Start preparing, packing, processing, and preserve real whole food yourself.  We’ve never been blessed with so much high tech gadgetry to make this easy, precise, and safe.  Just like you’ve decided to take control of your children’s education by actively informing yourself and participating in it, taking control of your food will take an active participation requirement.
  2. Grow Something Yourself.  From gardens to patio pots to beehives on the roof, even something as simple as an under-sink vermicomposting kit can get you connected viscerally to our ecological umbilical.  You need to see both the wonder and difficulty of physical stewardship.
  3. Find Your Farmer.  Take one year and instead of going on vacation or watching Netflix, spend that time, money, and energy finding your good farmers.  Many of them are desperate for just a few more customers to enable them to quit their town commute and farm full time.  You can be that facilitator.  Stocking your pantry with locally-sourced fare will change your relationship with food in remarkable ways.

 What about the hobby farmer who wants to go full time? What steps could he take so he can quit his day job and farm for a living?

Think Like A Business Record keeping, gross margin analysis, time and motion studies, and enough scale to pay the salary and taxes.

Think Like An EntrepreneurDo what you love to do, what are you good at, and what do you know how to do?  That intersection is your sweet spot of opportunity.  

Think Like A Team Builder: Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.  Find partners (family, friends, neighbors) who can shore up your weaknesses and let you leverage your strengths.  Take a course to bolster your weaknesses, repair, maintenance, how-to.

Think Like A Marketer: Develop customers; what do people need and what could you sell to them?  

Think About Scale: Stack enterprises, create additional income streams, rent more land and add value and income. Turning your eggs into quiches, for example,  enable you to create more income from a given space.

How practical is it for a small scale farmer to get certified to sell organic meat?

I don’t recommend playing government games, so I don’t fool with certification.  In the time and effort it takes to comply with licensing, you could find a hundred customers and build a decent business. Certification is only for people who don’t know their customers.

What was your biggest challenge in getting Polyface Farm up and running and to the place where it is now?

Government regulations.  Had it been legal to sell raw milk to neighbors, I could have begun years earlier and launched immediately.  Today, our single biggest impediment is still regulations that either criminalize or hamper our ability to sell things that we’d like to and that our customers crave.  The arbitrary additional costs involved and reduced choice combine to keep local food in a niche and protect the big players from competition.

Could you share a brief testimony of someone who visited your farm and left completely transformed? 

Probably the most dramatic was Michael Pollan, author of New York Times bestseller, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  He was working on a book with the working title, Food Chains and saw three:  hunger-gatherer, organic, and industrial.  When he came to Polyface, he suddenly realized there was a fourth:  grass-based.  That epiphany eventually led to four meals and the new title, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. 

What would your ideal food system look like for America and do you see a plausible means of reaching that goal? 

So much is wrong that it’s sometimes hard to know where to start, but I’ll give a couple of ideas.

  1. Integrated.  Currently, everything is segregated.  What we need is an integrated system where food is produced and consumed in roughly the same place.  This is partly local food, of course, but goes further.  It includes having laying hen flocks next to every restaurant and kitchen to eat the scraps and produce eggs on site.
  2.  Carboncentric.  Rather than being petroleum-based for fertility, it needs to be carbon driven.  If all the money currently spent by Virginia for chemical fertilizers who instead spent on silviculture management to cull out junk and diseased trees, thin out the forests, release high quality dominant specimens, and chip the biomass for composting systems, we’d grow soil, jobs, and fresh air exponentially.
  3. Local.  America has 35 million acres of lawns and 36 million acres housing and feeding recreational horses.  That’s enough to feed everyone without a single farm or ranch.  Instead of ecologically-debilitating suburban mono-species lawns, these could all be highly productive mini-farms, and they would be far more productive than the most advanced industrial farm in the world.
  4. Perennial-based.  The current system worships at annuals. But perennials are far more productive per acre with regenerative energy cycles (fewer inputs).  Herbivores would not eat dead chickens and corn; they would fill their ecologically-important ministry as biomass pruners and soil builders.
  5. Hydration. Currently, everything incentives depletion of water resources and depletion of the commons.  Rather, we need to rebuild the 6-8 percent of the American landscape that was covered by beaver ponds 500 years ago, but do it one step better by using excavation equipment to situate them higher on the landscape, permaculture fashion.
  6. Integrity Food Desire. Right now, the cheap food policy creates an axiomatic societal benefit to cut corners, externalized costs, destroy the environment, and deplete nutrient density.  Rather, we need a populace dedicated to nutrient density, willing to pay for higher quality and correctly balanced nutrition, realizing that health doesn’t come from a bottle of drugs; it starts on the plate.
  7. Domestic Culinary Arts.  Currently, we have a universal notion that domestic culinary arts are barbaric and unnecessary. But, you can’t have an integrity food system in which all the players have not a scintilla of understanding of how the game is played. What actually constitutes integrity food.  The food/farm ignorance in our country is profound, and the quality reflects this profound disengagement.

I’m looking forward to your session, Ten Threads of Success for Starting a Farm! What do you think is the biggest setback that hinders zealous families from making their farming endeavors successful?

Lack of agreement on what they envision for the future.  You’ve got to get on the same page and not be at cross-purposes.  

What can attendees hope to gain from attending your Family Fiefdoms workshop? 

A pathway to stimulate businesses among their children.  This teaches economic skills, good money handling discernment, and an appreciation for how hard earning a dollar actually is. Rather than losing their kids to fantasy games and Monsanto, I’d like to see thousands of families embrace cottage industry, entrepreneurism, self-reliance and a working-together household.

You’ve written several books, which book would you recommend for someone who wants to learn more about your methods?

You Can Farm is the most eclectic one, although my favorite is, The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer, describing the philosophical and logistical underpinnings for our kind of farming.
Thank you for taking the time out of your day for this interview. After hearing you speak a few years ago, my family came and visited Polyface Farm. It was an amazing experience. We look forward to hearing you speak again this year!
A Note From Heather: I certainly have come a long way since I visited Polyface three years ago, and I still have a ways to go. The pictures above are from our trip back then.

The picture below?
That was dinner this week.
Pot roast to be exact.
Raised locally, processed locally.
There is a certain comfort in knowing exactly what I'm serving my family.
You have to start somewhere! 


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

It's a Great Big World

Pen pals were a big deal when I was ten. Literal pen pals. Envelopes, stamps, the whole nine yards. Our fifth grade class was connected with another school clear across the country and each student would have a fellow student to write letters back and forth with, via snail mail. Fast forward six years, in high school, we had the technology to video chat with exchange students from Ireland. This was a big deal. There were no smart phones, no Facetime, no Skype. A special room was dedicated in our library for video calling and the call was watched by dozens of students at once on a large projection screen. Communicating with people from all over the world, in mere seconds still blows my mind. To think there was a time in history when even the most educated people didn't know that the land we now call America even existed. Now, we can message, text or talk to people all around the world with a simple click of a button.

The technology is there. But is it being used? Are we allowing our children to spend hours upon hours trying to conquer Angry Birds or are we using this amazing technology to our advantage in the realm of education? We have the ability to connect with the rest of the world but are we? Or are we content to live in the same small town, talking to the same people about our local sports teams our entire lives? 

I guess I'm pretty adamant about making sure my kids are cultured since by the time I graduated high school I had already traveled overseas, three times. I truly consider myself blessed and am thankful for these educational opportunities. The travel bug hit me at a young age and I didn't stop traveling for many years. Since I've had kids I haven't traveled but I am determined that my children appreciate other cultures. I am thankful that my children are starting to fall in love with other cultures. My oldest son wants to visit Mexico and two of my children hope to go to China!

5 Easy Ways To Introduce 
Your Children To Other Cultures!

Skype Tutoring- Our children did this one semester to learn Spanish. They were able to be taught via Skype with someone in South America!

Host Visiting Foreigners- We have had both missionaries from China and visitors from China stay at our home on different occasions. This was a wonderful opportunity for my children to learn that not everyone lives the same way they do.

Rosetta Stone- If you want your child to learn a language but don't know the language yourself then Rosetta Stone can teach your child for you. This CD-Rom based program is best for kids who already know how to read. 

Unit Study: Nations of the World- This summer, do a unit study on different nations of the world.

Expand Your Palate- Make cabbage rolls when studying about Russia or go to a Japanese restaurant when learning about Japan. If you live near a big city then you are golden! Visit little Italy or China town!

How Do You Share About 
Different Corners of the World With Your Children?   

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Rainbow Resource Center. 
All opinions stated here are my own. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Mustard Seed {Book Review & GIVEAWAY}

The Mustard Seed by Peter Szondy is based on an original story by G. M. Mercier.  Though the story is a work of fiction, the creator, Mercier wrote this story in response to a difficult circumstance that he faced in his life. His eight year old granddaughter was diagnosed with a life threatening disease. The events that followed, inspired the creation of this story. 

In The Mustard Seed, we are introduced to a friendly, well-liked, church-going eight year old girl named Sara. She lives with her parents and ten year old brother, Danny. Her family is your average small town family, who knows everyone and is known just the same. Every so often, to relax, they visit Sara's grandfather at his ranch in White Dove. It's a peaceful place, enjoyed by the children especially because of it's lake. 

During one visit, Sara finds a dead bird. It breaks her heart to see what has happened to it. She remembers hearing in church that God can heal, so she prays. And prays. And prays. She continues to pray, for hours. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the bird came back to like and flew away. During the time of this miracle, Sara peers across the  lake. She sees Jesus, and he speaks to her.

What happens next is unexpected. Sara prays for a young boy who is in a wheelchair. A simple prayer. A simple, please heal him Lord, prayer. Shortly after, he could walk. The doctors could not explain it. Quickly, word gets out and is broadcast in the news. Kids mock Sara at first but then parents begin to show up at her doorstep with their sick children, all expecting a miracle. 

This story continues to follow Sara and the members of her community as they try to make sense of what is going on. Did Sara really see Jesus? Is Jesus the one who healed the ones that came to see Sara? 

The characters in this story are genuine, down to earth and likable. Immediately you will fall in love with Sara and have a soft spot in your heart for her family. You will enjoy reading as the author brings you into the minds of Sara's mom, grandfather, doctor, pastor and visiting catholic priests. You will be challenged on your take of miracles, faith and Jesus. 

Since I know my audience primarily consists of homeschool moms, I feel the need to share that the word hell is used several times. It is used simply to show strong emotion in a time of difficulty. I personally don't use that word in that context and generally don't allow my children to watch movies or read books when it is used as a curse word. I know some parents would want to be advised of this. 

Overall I found this book real, challenging and quite an adventure. I enjoyed the author's writing style as well. The subject of spiritual miracles can be controversial. Catholics recognize those who perform miracles with sainthood. Pentecostal evangelists travel the world laying hands on the sick and see some recover. The question presented in this book is, is what we are seeing simply mass hypnosis, or does Jesus really appear to people and heal people today? Regardless of your current stand on this issue, you will enjoy following Sara and her journey throughout this book!


I'm giving a copy away! Enter the Rafflecopter below to win your own copy of the e-book, The Mustard Seed!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. All opinions stated here are my own.