thankful thursdays 04.07.2016

With each page, statistic, and tidbit of information I absorb from Most Likely to Succeed (see last week’s Thankful Thursdays), the more confident, and convinced, I become in my decision to unschool our girls. Previously, I viewed the term unschooling as a bit radical, for the more secular, “let’s break all the rules” parents. As I delve deeper into thinking about what I want their learning experience to be like, it turns out unschooling is exactly my goal. The picture painted by Wagner and Dintersmith of our country’s current education goals, both public and private, is startling and familiar. Familiar, because it is everything I’ve felt was wrong with the system. Startling, because, well, I’m not sure true change will ever be achieved. I’ll elaborate on my thoughts about this at another time. I need to be careful and thoughtful with my words since this is a touchy topic.

A little kitchen project I did with Virginia this week emphasizes how learning math, science and even language arts, in a project-based, experiential way is not only more relatable and palatable, but more likely to be remembered. Virginia loves kale chips. I’d bought a bunch to make a fresh batch, but rather than simply do it myself, I decided to do it with her. We stripped the leaves from the stems, tore them into bite size chunks, and then weighed them before baking. If you’ve made kale chips before, you know that at the start it seems like a plentiful, almost never ending yield. After 20 to 25 minutes in a 375ºF oven, you realize you’ll be making kale chips again in two days if your little one devours them as steadfastly as mine. It makes sense, right? You’re removing something, the water from the kale, through a method of dehydration.

Virginia went “wow, mommy”, when we weighed the kale post cooking. It went from 171 grams to a mere 44 grams. She was excited to subtract her before and after numbers to see how much water weight was lost in the cooking process. As summer rolls around, we’ll continue this discussion of dehydrating, and how it relates to the human body. Why do we sweat in the summer? While the kale provides a yummy snack after being dehydrated, why is dehydration a bad thing when it comes to the human body?

This is a simple example, and one you might likely find in an elementary classroom, where project based learning is given more value. When you get to middle school, where Isabella is now in the seventh grade, the value in project based learning erodes greatly. The most crucial years where we should be preparing them for life with real-world life experiences, we put them in a vacuum of tests that drain them of the true skills necessary to be successful—a love of learning, innate curiosity, how to take risks, and understanding that failure is not a negative word. It is simply that—a word, to interpret as you see fit. I see failure as the path to new knowledge. Failure is not an end; it’s a beginning. The proof in that is quite evident for me as a recipe developer. These are the skills I want our daughters to master, and I know Mikey would be in agreement. So, today, I’m especially thankful to have found clarity and courage to set out on this journey. It can feel a bit lonely and isolating when you feel like everyone in your immediate circle doesn’t quite understand, and perhaps even think you’re a bit crazy for your choices.


  • Rebecca

    Love this! Although I may be slightly biased as a food scientist, this is such a great activity to do with kids in the kitchen!

  • Liz Schmitt

    Best of luck to you. My experience working with parents who elected to educate their children themselves was that it was an extremely demanding job – but very rewarding for both parents and kids. It might be helpful to seek out other like-minded parents who are homeschooling, just to share experiences and add to your girls’ socialization skills and fun with peers.

  • Kate

    It can be isolating when you have different ideas and don’t want to follow the same route as the majority – doesn’t mean your ideas are wrong just because they are different. I was told I would ruin my daughter’s education by more than one set of people when I made the decision to give up TV when she was about 5-6. We kept the TV and she had a cupboard full of videos and dvds to watch, but we both stopped watching broadcast/commercial television, and I never regretted this decision – she read more, we did more, I passed my degree in English and she passed all her GCSEs with flying colours, and is sitting for her A’levels. Go for it Jennie x

  • Jen

    Kudos to you for beginning your unschooling journey. I couldn’t agree with you more about the state of the education system in our country. As a homeschooling (often unschooling) mom to twins, I am loving it more and more each year. So many opportunities out there to learn and experience life with total freedom. Best of luck to you! – and as for the whole “socialization” thing, your girls will be learning alongside children of all ages and adults alike. They’ll be richer for it.

  • Michelle

    This post makes me so happy – both because you have found a path that you look forward to, and because you are using your passion to teach!

    Of course, I am totally biased, because I am developing cooking with kids curriculum that integrates math, literacy, and science into healthy cooking activities 🙂 My goal is to combine my classroom experience and my cooking school for kids and create a teaching tool for homeschoolers, educators and parents – that doesn’t feel like an “extra” thing to add to their already overflowing plate (forgive the pun) but makes it easy and engaging to play with kids and have them learn at the same time!

  • Radhika

    I felt ostracized and like an outcast in my community for not putting my kids in Kumon and such other activities. I am glad I stuck to my gut that kids have to enjoy what they learn and not do repetitive tasks like Kumon makes them do. I am glad I went with my instinct. my kids are doing just fine.
    Go with what you feel is best for your girls.

  • Angela

    Congrats!!! We’re homeschoolers and are loving the journey. Our friends who unschool lead amazing, passionate, and loving lives. It’s such a rewarding experience. Wishing you all the best!

  • Connie

    I have followed your blog for many years and have admired your courage in the face of adversity. I so enjoy your recipes and your commentary. I am not moved to comment on many blogs because I do believe that much of what is negative and dis-spirited in the US today is propagated put out there by a lot of people who just like to spew bile out into the world. So please know that I say this with forethought. Please reconsider taking your kids out of public school. We as a society have to learn to work together to reach a common understanding and a return to civility. I understand the frustration with public schools. My husband and I seriously considered doing this in the year 2000 or moving out kids to private schools. However, we chose to become heavily involved in our children’s schools, often much to the chagrin of administrators. My husband actually ran for the school board and has served for the last 16 years. I implore you to consider keeping them in public schools and enlisting the help of other parents who are as passionate as you are. If you feel that the curriculum is being dumbed down and that they are “teaching to the test”,join the curriculum committee for the school or district, lobby the board to reconsider their decisions but I truly believe that the moral fabric of our society can be strengthened thru community involvement and participation. Sorry for the length of this post. I wish you all the best.

  • Jennie


    I appreciate you putting yourself out there, and sharing your thoughts about this subject (and I agree in the lack of civility in so many comments on other websites). I have thought long and hard about this, and even toyed with it when my husband was alive. I’m a veteran of public school, as both a student and a parent. My oldest daughter is in seventh grade, only one of which was in private school. At the elementary level, I was quite involved with my daughter’s classes, although not on the curriculum committees. The problems is many-fold.

    Change is slower than molasses. A perfect example is the work I did on the Wellness Committee of my daughter’s school. I knew back when she started in Pre-K the energies I put forth might not even come to fruition until after she’d graduated 5th grade, but I believed in the overall betterment of school lunch program. It took four years to get a salad bar installed all because of red tape and bureaucracy from the janitor’s union. I still believe in the work I did there, and see now seven years later all the strides that have been made. It is in no doubt due to active parents, and an amazing Science teacher who made the school garden one of her top priorities.

    All that said, the stakes are much bigger with the rate of return when it comes to the overall education of my daughters, and how it affects their abilities to lead meaningful, productive, and happy lives. My oldest daughter is going to be graduating high school in five years. The changes necessary to have her intellect and skills properly valued will not come soon enough. The current state of education only values how well students can do on memorizing subject matter and regurgitating it in a set period of time. Just because you’re an A+ student academically doesn’t mean you’re an A+ human being.

    I, too, believe that the moral fabric of our society can only be strengthened through community involvement and participation. That is why I want to raise my daughters to be strong women who can think independently and not be afraid to take risks. My experience with public school has been the exact opposite. Again, I thank you for opening this conversation, Connie.


  • Connie

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply! I share your frustration, trust me. High school is often an angst-ridden, stressful time even for high achieving students. I wish you all the best with your decision and look forward to reading about your family life (along with your delicious recipes). 🙂