Posted on October 19th, 2015

​​Eating candy after a fun night of tricks and treats can make any kid a little sick to their stomach, but for kids with food allergies, Halloween activities can be far more serious. For those who experience anaphalaxis, the risk of contacting allergens while trick-or-treating can be deadly.

At our house, thankfully, food allergies are NOT life-threatening, so it's not too big a deal to go out on the annual candy grab and just keep a close eye on the kids to make sure they don't sneak in a little taste-testing before we get home. Still, it can be difficult for them to visit house after house, politely thanking our generous neighbors for brightly wrapped treats in which they know they'll probably not be able to indulge.

Last year, FARE, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to food allergy research, education, advocacy, and awareness partnered with Becky Basalone, a Tennesee mom who had been decorating with teal pumpkins and handing out non-food treats since 2012. More than 100,000 households across the US and around the world took the pledge to create a safer, happier holiday experience for all kids by passing out non-food treats for Halloween. Pumpkins painted teal or pictures of teal pumpkins were used to let trick-or-treaters (and their parents) know they could find allergy-friendly items at those houses.

Although our family has always offered non-food treats, I only heard about The Teal Pumpkin Project™ a day or two before Halloween last year, not in time to paint a pumpkin. This year, however, I'm excited to put one teal pumpkin out among our decorated jack-o-lanterns so that our neighbors know they can collect stickers or erasers or glow sticks (or whatever we buy this year) at our house. 

Do you want to participate in The Teal Pumpkin Project™ with us? Visit FARE's Teal Pumpkin Project site to learn more about the program, get some great treat ideas, and help spread the word!

The Teal Pumpkin Project and the Teal Pumpkin Image are trademarks of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).

by Amy on August 17th, 2015

​Last year my daughter announced that she wanted to learn French. I was cool with that. One small problem: I never took French and I barely felt able to pronounce it!  I had several choices. I could hop on the internet and instantly download Rosetta Stone French for a mere $500. Alternatively, I could choose the Foreign Service Institute's French course for just $100. Or I could be realistic about our language budget and admit we didn't have one.

Enter Siouxland Libraries' access to Mango Languages, available for free to anyone with a library card. 
​​Mango Languages is an interactive and conversational approach to acquiring a second language, offering 70 foreign languages for English Speakers and 19 ESL programs for non-English speakers. Includes voice comparison technology to help assist patrons in their speaking skills.

We had a blast working through lessons together! In addition to vocabulary and phrases (all pronounced with a proper accent by native speakers), there are grammar and cultural notes for each topic--and review of previous material is built right in. All the lessons are narrated, so even a non-reader can use the program. Plus, as if all this weren't enough, you can download the app to your favorite mobile device and learn on the go!

So, if you ever wanted to brush up on your high-school Spanish, or if your kids have been itching to study Japanese, Scottish Gaelic, or Tagalog--Mango is a great place to start.

Note: I have no affiliation with Mango other than as a happy language learner. This post is not sponsored and I have received no compensation for providing my opinion of their program. :)

by Amy on August 3rd, 2015

​​I woke up this morning to a loud buzzing sound in my room. It wasn't my alarm clock. Instead, a dragonfly longer than my finger had somehow gotten caught inside the window and was trying to break out through the glass.

Before I even considered googling the species, taking a photo, or calling the kids in to share my discovery, my entire focus was to GET THIS GIANT BUG OUT OF MY HOUSE!

I've always wanted to be one of those moms who makes the best of any educational opportunity presenting itself. I imagine my kids poised for success when they are continually curious about the world around them, so I try to facilitate that whenever I can. 
Honestly, though, sometimes I just want the bugs out of the house. 

Just because I happen upon a teachable moment, doesn't mean I'm required to grab hold and wring all the learning value I can out of it. As a homeschooler, it can feel like a tragedy when I let something slip past without exploring its full educational potential.

And yet, there is so much to learn. The libraries, the internet, and even our back yard are bursting at their virtual seams with new ideas to encounter, discover, and digest. If I truly attempted to encourage my kids to learn from each and every one of those moments, it would completely overwhelm them. Rather than expanding their horizons and preparing them more fully for a rich life, it would overwhelm and paralyze them.

I remember a particular comic from Gary Larson's The Far Side. A student in algebra class raises his hand and asks, "Mr. Osborne, may I be excused? My brain is full." Our kids are already poised to learn. That's how their brains are wired. Most experiences are new and different for them, and they're working all the time to sort out what happens and why. And sometimes, they need a break.

Some days at the beach need to be just days at the beach--not lectures on animal habitats or comparisons of various shell and seaweed samples. As important as it is for kids to learn as they play, it's just as important to play as they learn. That's important for me, too. If I am continually focused on trying to educate my children about the world, we'll all miss out on the opportunity to experience life in the world. And that would really be tragic.

​Photo © Chuck Evans, used with permission.

by Amity on February 4th, 2015

​​Well yes, yes I plan to, but let's not forget I am soooo new at this I have spent hours upon hours and possibly even a week of just hours researching this very topic. Credits, transcripts and science labs, OH MY! Where is a homeschoolin' mama to start? Well it just so happens I recently stumbled on to a great resource 
Wow! From her absolute beginners guide to her high school transcript template I was in "fist pumping" mode! "Yes"!

This is a fantastic page that even gives you a clear picture of what homeschooling could look like for you and your family. In my experience, which isn't "a lot" I feel connecting with your "style" is an important guide for creating harmonious success. I love this website for not only the high school info that I didn't have to prepay for, attend a conference to understand or order a book that has guarded secrets for sale, but that it easily lays the idea of homeschooling out for you with no strings attached.  That is important especially because homeschooling has become rather popular and information seems to come from all places.

Also the credit thing had me feeling like marbles were rolling around in my head. This graphic that they freely share explains it without worry. Super simple and to the point. The only thing I would add is I have been in research mode now for almost a year and that it is very important to have a clear idea of what your teen's goals and interests are. My oldest for instance is college/conservatory bound so I have reached out to a few of them and asked them what they are needing from homeschoolers to be considered for acceptance. This, I feel was super important because now we know what they want and we can meet those needs so she can seek her greatest purpose.

So to make a long blog short, homeschooling through high school can seem extremely daunting but there are plenty of free resources out there to help guide you along your way!