Here is a neat video on evolution narrated by Carl Sagan, it is a little less than eight minutes long, but extremely informative.

For more Secular Thursday bloggers click here!

Copyright(c)2011 Rayven Holmes

I know every homeschooler has posted or seen a post about how homeschoolers generally aren’t homebodies. Instead we are out and about exploring and embracing the world whenever and however we want. In our case this is true, we do spend a great deal of time out about in spurts, and then we have times where I snuggle the pillow and smile because I don’t have to be out of the bed before T.B.M. I’m coming to the conclusion that if people want to assume that homeschoolers never leave their homes then I will be completely fine with that assumption. Let them crack their jokes and make their uninformed snide remarks, why? Because I love my home, partly because those people aren’t there!

This weekend we spent nearly twenty hours out and about. It was a busy weekend; there were a couple hours of park time, lunch with friends, some first-hand life experiences, cultural experiences, and plenty of exhaustion. It was an insane weekend, followed by our usual manic Monday. I know we lead a busy life no matter how ideal it would to never leave our home, and I’m ok with people thinking otherwise. I love being at home and if people assume that is where we always are then more power to them. Our home has all of our stuff; it has warm beds to sleep in, good food to eat, and plenty of ways to keep us entertained. I miss being in our home when we have a particularly hectic day, it is our domain, and I take comfort in knowing that on any given day I can wipe the calendar clean and just be in our home.

Plenty of people would love the opportunity to just be in their homes, I have that opportunity. If I happen to be screwing up my kids because I feel it’s good to be home and just be, then so be it. They will be able to embrace the beauty of blanket forts and afternoon naps on the couch, simple pleasures we adults seem to forget. And I feel that is far more important than being pushed through the hustle and bustle day in and day out.

Have you taken the time to embrace how good it is to just be home with your kids today?

Copyright(c)2011 Rayven Holmes

As a heathen family we are in a unique position when it comes to holidays. We can take part in the ones we want to take part in and we can ignore for the most part the ones we don’t want to be a part of. Generally, we see all holidays as a learning experience, so we usually read about them, do an activity, etc. Easter though has been a dwindling holiday in our home, it wasn’t first acknowledged until General Disarray was about 2 ½ years old, that year I put together a small Easter basket of goodies and hid a few eggs. The following year since The Spouse was deployed I tried to make everything as fun as possible with an indoor hunt due to it being extremely cold where we were living at the time, egg dying, and plenty of sweets and treats. They even meet the Easter bunny for the first time that year.

After that though? Well, it has become all about what they are going to get, candies and cheap toys, and that is it, we usually don’t even know for sure what day it will fall on until we see the store displays. We haven’t seen the Easter bunny in two years since the last visit resulted in General Disarray *who was at the beginning of a very long line* pointed at the bunny taking its seat and exclaimed “Hey mom that’s someone in an Easter bunny costume!” Thankfully all the kids right behind us were too young to even understand what was going on so their parents just ignored what they heard, probably thinking the same thing I was, couldn’t they have found a better bunny costume!

Since then we have done egg hunts, given T.B.M. baskets usually bought pre-assembled and ready to go, and that is it. I have no intention of discussing the Christian aspects of Easter with them until they are much older; going over why people celebrate the brutal beating of a man is just not my idea of need to know information before the age of ten. My recollection of Easters from my childhood all center on Mass, a very boring Easter Mass and the Palm Sunday Mass before it. I actually liked those because we would sit in the pew making crosses out of our palm leaves and that was far more interesting than the service. I vaguely remember Easter egg hunts, there were the forced Spring dresses, and a thrown together Easter basket, but Mass was the most important thing. As a non-believer Catholic Mass only pops into my brain as disturbed flashbacks of old white men in orientate robes sing-talking in monotone voices, making the one holiday I directly related to it something I tend to want to ignore and watch pass quickly from store shelves.

Lately, as the store shelves have become even more overrun with Easter throw-up I’ve been discussing with The Spouse the idea of actually ignoring Easter all together. All T.B.M care about are the baskets of candy and trinkets, and I personally don’t want to focus on a day strictly for material gain. Even Christmas in our home is about love, caring, giving, and being thankful for what we receive. The Spouse though doesn’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater so to speak. He loves watching the kids hunt for Easter eggs and enjoys helping them eat their way through their candy. He just doesn’t care about the religious aspect of the holiday. I feel while those things are fine we still need to actually have something we are focusing on other than the goodies.

Spring is a wonderful time of year and I would hate to watch the season pass without some sort of celebration. Since we do Spiral Scouts and are working our way through the Sabbats, I’ve been learning about Ostara for our lessons on it. It deals with renewal and rebirth, and a celebration of the Earth being at equilibrium. There are religious aspects to Ostara, and while I intend to discuss these with T.B.M. we wouldn’t actively take part in those aspects, but I do feel for our family focusing more on the time of year and what it brings will give Spring more meaning. We won’t “do” Ostara or Easter, but instead celebrate the Spring Equinox.

The Sabbats Almanac has a great article on kite making and flying as a family/friends activity to bring everyone together which I think would be a great tradition to start. Instead of dying eggs we would work together constructing a family kite, and then head out into the first Spring day with kite in hands, and watch as it flies high above our heads, soaring in the Spring breeze.

Would we completely dump eggs? I don’t think so, eggs are a figure of symbolism for Spring, and we really do love watching the boys hunt for them. We just wouldn’t wait until the “traditional” Easter to have our hunt; it would be a Spring Equinox event. We would discuss the symbolism behind eggs, and then set out in search of our brightly colored eggs. Instead of each egg being filled with candy, half will be filled with encouraging phrases or traits to focus on to help us achieve balance, move past old habits, and grow.

I think this would be a nice compromise for our family. We still get to enjoy egg hunting and goodies, but we also get to focus on family, and reverence for the season of renewal after the dark, cold winters.

Copyright(c)2011 Rayven Holmes

Well our family vacation is over and we are slowly getting back into the swing of things. This always seems to be the hardest part, readjusting to schooling when we’ve had so much time off to relax. I blame myself for this, because the boys are eager to learn and I find I’m handing them workbooks, instead of having detailed lesson plans to work with. I would prefer to have detailed plans so I know we are getting things done instead of just doing “busy work”.

My goal for the 2011-2012 school year is to work on the level of detail I put into plans. Instead of just saying I’ll cover two math lessons on a given day, I will actually put down what I aim to do that day, items to teach, worksheets, and other activities I want to use/do. I also plan to sit down and write out a detailed plan for the whole school year. Up until now I have just wrote down blocks of time, for instance in March I would write Lessons 90-100 in Math, Ancient Rome in History, and so forth for each subject.

Which sounded great on paper but when actually put into effect it causes more work and headaches then I personally need, because I then I have to sit down before the 1st of each month and write out my plan and what I’ll be using. I don’t always have time at the end of each month to do this, and we aren’t always right where my original block put us. By having detailed plans before our new school year even starts I’m hoping to achieve a smoother school year, by getting rid of a lot of work before the year even starts. Then we can just move through our plans knocking off assignments as we get to them. I’ll still break our year down in months to see what we will be covering month to month, I’m just adding in week to week, and day to day ahead of when I usually do them to allow me to get a better handle on what we are learning.

So when we encounter our next break we will be able to pick right up where we left off, without me having to go “Now what am I going to teach?”

Copyright(c)2011 Rayven Holmes

Hello my name is Rayven and I’m just a parent. One thing I’ve noticed on this parenting journey, which has become even more obvious since I plunged head first into the homeschooling world, is that there are labels for everything. You are either this or you are that. I swear cruising parenting forums is like taking a seat at a well-stocked bar. Your liquor choices include*but certainly aren’t limit to*:






Gender Neutral

Tiger Mom

TTAC *I will not directly link to that groups website on this blog EVER!*

And those are honestly just the ones that come to my mind first. Then on top of the groups you have the list that go with them, Ten Things Every Parent Should Do, Free-Range Don’ts, How To Ruin Your Child, Ways To Ensure Your Child’s Happiness, Top Ten Dangers Lurking In Your Home, and well…you all get the idea. By the time you’ve made your selection and read through the various lists, suggestions, and how-toes for that choice the bartender is shouting last call. You’ve spent your whole night stressing the selection that you forget to enjoy what brought you there to start with.

What brings us to the bar of parenting? Why it’s the very beings that make us parents, our children. No child in the history of mankind has ever come with an instruction manual, and so far none of the “this is it!” guides have had the same results with every family that has implored their use. Children aren’t stereos or pieces of furniture from Ikea. They are individuals with individual needs, wants, desires, and predispositions. It would take an ingredient list over a mile long just to scratch the surface of the children in our two-child home. So why sit down and try to find one that fits before we have even had a chance to see the various individual flavors alive in our children?

Yes I enjoy reading various thoughts and opinions on the subject of children and raising them, but I don’t take all of those as the end all and be all of my parenting selection. I don’t have to lock into one drink; in fact I personally prefer water. Why? Because you can add the flavors you want as you need them, and start over with a fresh batch if the situation calls for it. Allowing you to always have your own fresh perspective, instead of the haze created by stacks of “parent tested methods”, plus it’s very refreshing and never goes out of style.

Some of these methods I have tasted and enjoyed and some I avoid like the worm at the bottom of a tequila bottle. At the end of the night I have to remember one very important detail that no matter what the books may say I am still a parent, and more importantly the parent of General Disarray and Professor Chaos. No one else can claim to be their mother that honor lies solely on my shoulders, and with that honor comes the knowledge that I know them. I know them better than someone sitting thousands of miles away writing a book ever will. Yes there methods may seem interesting, and sure some of it may work, but what exactly do I as the mother of these two children need to add to my glass of water to get these two boys to adulthood? And more importantly can I even use the same glass for both?

For now I’m going to be a parent running on instinct and a few pieces of advice to give me a pinch of extra flavor. I’m going to be too hard for one group, too leant for another, depriving of the “finer things in life” *designer threads and a brand new car* according to one group, and spoiling them rot according to the other side. I’ll be sheltering them because of our homeschooling and my stance on the influence of individuals over my children, and at the same time I’ll be too permissive because I will allow them to stay home alone during the day when I return to the workforce.

No matter where I turn at the parenting bar I will be screwing up, so I say fine! Let me screw up! I’m going to stumble through this parenting thing sober and focused. I’m going to do my job as their mother, and will they come out perfect because of it? Hell No! Why would anyone want a perfect concoction though? It loses its’ personality when it’s all the same. I want a little more of something and a little less of something else. I want perfect imperfection. Will my children reach adulthood with plenty of stories for their therapist? Probably. Does it make me a horrible parent because I don’t think one size parenting approaches fits-all and I have no desire to force myself into one? No, I don’t think so; I’m sure someone somewhere does. But they aren’t on this journey with the people I’m on it with. Embracing this journey and letting it mold me instead of molding it into some prepackaged ideal, is what makes me human. It’s what makes me their mother and no one else’s.

So when we sit down at the parenting bar tonight and I order a glass of water with two shots of lemon and a dash of sugar, instead of gazing helplessly at the selection on the wall, you all will know why.

Copyright(c)2011 Rayven Holmes

This post is going to serve two purposes one to inform everyone in the blogsphere who know where we are stationed that we are OK! Second, for those looking to help and donate you can do so through FBB.

Copyright(c)2011 Rayven Holmes

March marks Women’s History month, for tons of Women’s History information check out the Library of Congress.

"The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation because in the degradation of woman the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source." ~ Lucretia Mott
Copyright(c)2011 Rayven Holmes

I’ve talked before that we do Spiral Scouts as an alternative to Boys Scouts since we don’t agree with their policies, but we see value in scouting. This school year I wanted to establish some sort of plan of action when it comes to our Spiral Scouts activities. So I’ve decided to focus on not just certain badges/patches/awards, but an overall theme for each school year. We would then work on the badges/patches/awards that would qualify under that theme.

For this year our theme is camping and hiking *since I figure they both go hand in hand*. We will start with learning about compasses, the parts of them, how they work, when they may not work, and other things that will meet the badge requirements. After that we will learn how to make various knots, what their uses are for, and when they would use certain knots while outdoors. From there we will tackle hiking safety and what one needs to take with them on a hike. Finally we will spend time learning about the ins and outs of camping, camping safety, and then we will put all of our knowledge to use.

We school year round with us acknowledging a new year in July, so I’m planning to tackle each piece over the course of a school quarter.

July-September: Compass Knowledge

October-December: Knot Knowledge

January-March: Hiking Knowledge

April-June: Camping Knowledge and Camping Trip

This should allow us to spend plenty of time working on each piece of the puzzle, that way when we embark on our camping trip we will be fully prepared. I’m aiming for our camping trip to be in early May to beat out a lot of the heat that we encounter here and hopefully not get hit by a lot of rain either.

I’m still in the resource gathering stage but so far I have found the following:

Camp Out!: The Ultimate Kids' Guide

Let’s Go Hiking

If you have resources to share that would help us with our theme please share.

Copyright(c)2011 Rayven Holmes

I know it's not Thursday yet, so just consider this either a late or early Secular Thursday post. :)

There is really no other way to put it. Rock Beyond Belief has been cancelled and this is very upsetting to me. Granted I wouldn’t have been able to make it to the event, I was still encouraged by seeing it take off. Then it gets dealt this blow which, honestly I’m not shocked about, but it still sucks. 23.4% of our armed forces fall under the “none” label, our household obviously falls in this bracket, and there was this flicker of light at the end of the overtly Christian tunnel for something enjoyable.

Something that could have taken off and inspired other events at different bases, which would have increased the chance that we would have something enjoyable *on base* to go to as a family. Something where we didn’t have to worry about addressing the music that would be played, who would be speaking, and more importantly who would be there enjoying the event.

I don’t think people realize the vast reach of Christianity in the military, to the point where even other religions get treated like garbage. During the holidays the music is overtly Christian despite the other holidays that take place around the same time. The bookstore only displays Christmas themed books and when I inquired about them possibly having some in the back that weren’t Christmas themed I was told all they had was what was out there. No Hanukkah, no Kwanzaa, and no Yule/Winter Solstice. The little bit of lip service that was paid to the Jewish community at the base exchange was pathetic, and I’m not even Jewish yet I could see the obvious slap in the face. Honestly, how can you have a Jewish display for Hanukkah WITHOUT a menorah?!

The Couples Retreats are Christian, the ceremonies/dinners/events only feature Christian prayers *which is a big reason why The Spouse only goes to the ones he absolutely has no choice but to attend*. Shockingly, we *and most people for that matter* wouldn’t have an issue if they actually acknowledged the other groups in our armed services. It might even be a chance to LEARN about another group. We’ve had Christianity shoved down our throats our whole lives and we’re rather SICK of it. A chance to learn about how another group does their prayers/blessings/whatever might actually be good for some people to be exposed to.

Yet…it doesn’t happen. Even though our country has an establishment clause in our Constitution…you know that piece of paper our armed forces swear (or affirm) to protect. No other groups get attention, I expect them *sadly* to blow off Atheist/Agnostic/Humanist/and the like, but the other religious groups get the same cold shoulder.

I commend Sgt. Griffith for his efforts. And maybe one day there will be something none religious families can attend, but I won’t be holding my breath for it.

Copyright(c)2011 Rayven Holmes

Our schedule has been hashed out a million and one times since we officially started homeschooling. It will probably get a facelift every school year until T.B.M. reach a point where all I have to do is present them with a checklist at the start of each day. That is the end goal in my mind; we just have to reach it.

So our schedule for 2011-2012 is as follows *we will still do a four day school week*:

Formal “Regular” School Days: Tuesday - Friday
Off Days “Or Non-Formal “Light”” School Days: Saturday - Monday


-Music Lessons *four Mondays a month.*

-Social Time/Field Trips *once a month, unless there is a month with five Mondays*

-Kitchen Chemistry
*goal is to tie what we cook into what we are learning in our Chemistry lessons as well*.

-Crafting Hour *this is when we will do art, Kitchen Chemistry and Crafting Hour will alternate so we will do them once a month, which should give me plenty of time to plan out what we are going to do. The craft/art project will tie into our artist of the month.*

-Spiral Scouts *once a month we will do our Spiral Scouts stuff, I think including it during the week instead of trying to do it over the weekend will have better results than what we are getting now*.

-Etiquette Lessons *This is the day I’ll handle those since they don’t seem to be something that will require a lot of time, we can work them into our day while still keeping the day light*.

-Day Of Play *once a month we will have NOTHING *aside from music lessons* on tap for Monday except to go out and play, then enjoy lunch somewhere we all like, followed then by MORE play! Life is too short to not devote a day to just playing around*.

So our Mondays will break down as follows:

Monday #1: Music Lessons, Social Time/Field Trips
Monday #2: Music Lessons, Kitchen Chemistry, Spiral Scouts
Monday #3: Music Lessons, Day Of Play
Monday #4: Music Lessons, Crafting Hour, Etiquette Lessons
Monday #5: Social Time/Field Trips

Tuesdays-Fridays we will have the following on tap:

830am - Morning Meeting/Boards
900am - Outdoor Time *weather and health pending*
930am - Reading/Writing/Language Arts/Japanese *I’m still formulating my plan for teaching Japanese pulling from the various resources at our disposal*
1030am - Playtime/Centers/Discovery Bins
1130am - Lunch
1230pm - Quiet Time
130pm - Math
230pm - Science or History *Science will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays, History will take place on Wednesdays and Fridays*

I’ve taken Social Studies off of our schedule all together since it doesn’t seem necessary. T.B.M. will have a far more enriched education by focusing on learning the culture/language/etc. of the country we currently live in. A set of lessons for Social Studies seems pointless when the greatest lesson is right outside our door.

I don’t expect to spend an hour on each subject, but this gives us the time should we need it. Usually, General Disarray can get through two math lessons in less than 30 minutes, at which point he is free to do as he pleases. I’m thinking I won’t do a formal handwriting lesson every day. Instead I will alternate it with Japanese. Tuesdays I will introduce a Japanese phrase that they will need to memorize and be able to write. This will give us Tuesday and Thursday to work on that phrase as well as a formal Japanese lesson, then on Wednesday and Friday they will have some English copy work or formal English handwriting lesson.

I’m hoping that by focusing on just some core subjects *Language (English/Japanese), Math, Science, History* during these early years they will establish a great foundation that will help them as they advance in their schooling. This should also ensure we don’t hit burnout and are able to still enjoy our studies. Versus feeling like we have to do them and that they are a chore. Things like social studies and geography can make their way in unscripted, for instance when we talk about a country during history we will naturally locate it on a globe/map, allowing us to still learn them but minus the pressure of a formal lesson for them.

T.B.M. are only in the Pre-K to Early Elementary block of their schooling. We still have plenty of time to learn the capitals and political leanings of various countries. For now we are going to work on building a solid foundation for them to grow their futures on.

Copyright(c)2011 Rayven Holmes

I’ve wanted to have a day where the boys and I cook up some fun in the kitchen. Since we will be covering Physical Science *a blend of Chemistry and Physics* this year, I want to try to work in some of our Chemistry with our cooking. Cooking is itself a lab experiment. You mix in various elements in order to produce a *hopefully* tasty outcome, but there are also actual chemical reactions taking place. In everything from dough rising to melting butter there is a plethora of chemistry lessons to be uncovered.

Most of what we will cook up in the kitchen will be edible items, like homemade applesauce, butter, and rock candy, but we will also do some fun crazy stuff like slime and play dough.

Here is a list of links with more info on Kitchen Chemistry and some fun recipes:

Link One

Link Two

Link Three

Link Four

Copyright(c)2011 Rayven Holmes

I always start the year off with various goals. I don’t make resolutions because they seem too…final. You either make it or you don’t. There is no room for wiggling, messing up, and rethinking. Sometimes goals don’t come at the start of the year either…sometimes they pop up at a random moment causing you to rethink previous actions.

The current goal I’m working on is a result of The Spouse and his choice of reading material when he was on “The Throne” yesterday. We all have various products in our home, but how often do we read the labels on these products? I know there are those who read every single label of every single item they buy…we aren’t them. Yesterday The Spouse grabbed the lotion product we use for T.B.M. and proceeded to read the ingredients. After exiting “The Throne” he comes into the living room with the item in his hand and asked “How many letters are in the alphabet?” General Disarray gave him the answer at which point The Spouse looks down at the bottle and states “This has a word with 28 letters…and the word has “TH” twice…I can’t even pronounce this! This can’t be good!” At which point he sat down at his computer and started typing in the unbelievably long word. If you are wondering what this word is and what we found you can click HERE.

After our little discovery I thought for a bit about the products we use. They are great, but there have to be better *safer* alternatives out there. Now there are some I may never part with, my automatic liquid hand soap dispenser comes to mind, but there are some that need to be tossed. I already don’t use harsh chemicals to clean. They give me horrible headaches which usually lead to nausea and vomiting *what more proof does one need that something is bad for their home then that right?*. If I can get away with hot water and elbow grease I’m a happy woman *cue steam mop*. Kids can’t be cleaned with a steam mop though, so that leads me to my question:

What products do you *those who are into green, organic, natural products* use for your children and yourself?

What am I looking to replace?

Body wash *the boys both suffer from eczema (which is not a result of what we currently use, this we know for sure) so we already use things for sensitive skin that are dye and fragrance free*

Lotion *their skin dries out VERY quickly so whatever we use has to LAST!*


Toothpaste *I’m not sure if I would give up the current mouth related products we use, but I would like to investigate what others are using*

Hair Care Products *we already use natural products *aside from shampoo/conditioner*, so I’m curious to see what else is out there other than what I can find at our base exchange*.

I haven’t found one site that has a comparison list of products, so if you all know of a site that would be of use to me please pass it on as well. My goal is to remove the unnecessary, unhealthy products from our home by the end of the summer. It’s a short term goal that I think is doable especially, with the help of my wonderful readers. :)

Copyright(c)2011 Rayven Holmes