Why Don’t You Tell Her?

Shortly after the birth of our baby girl last July, a friend visited.  We got to talking.  As we dove deeper into conversation, my ‘tween (In case you don’t know, that’s a term for pre-teenager.  Too old to be a child.  Too young to be a teenager.) daughter came and stood behind me, listening.  Fidgeting.  Breathing in my ear.  Piping in.  Basically just driving me crazy.  She eventually wondered off as we got boring.

I expressed to my friend how this habit bothered me.  She replied:  Why don’t you tell her?

To which I replied:  I don’t want to hurt her feelings.  I used to listen to my mom a lot, and I really learned a lot from what my mom had to say to her friends.

She then said:  No.  I don’t mean tell her to leave, but why don’t you tell her to sit down?

My friend had such a lovely voice and inflection–very matter-of-fact, very admonishing, very wise–when she said it.  I wish you could hear it.

Huh, I thought.  What a novel idea.  Have her sit down with us if she wants to join us and listen.  Well, I liked that idea.  So now, that’s what we do.  You don’t have to leave, but you do have to sit down.  I know, most people are like, “Scoot.  Split.  Get outa’ here.”  But I look back at some pretty intense conversations my mom let me listen in on regarding marriage and religion.  Some of her ideas made great impressions on me, and I carry what she said deeply in my heart, even though they weren’t to me–and they were probably filtered a little because of me.  Maybe that’s what made them mean more, that they were her important thoughts shared with a good friend and not directed at me at all.

Thought I’d pass this on.  We all parent differently, and this may not fit your style.  But if it might, chew on it a bit.  Let’s leave the world a better place through our children.

Happy Thursday!


Go Kill the Cow

I am trained as a family doctor, and the journal called American Family Physician that is put out by my academy, American Academy of Family Physicians, ran a nutrition article this month:  Nutrition Myths and Healthy Dietary Advice in Clinical Practice.  Gasp!  I was shocked beyond Mars, I was!  And super excited.  The authors hammered home that we need to get our patients eating whole foods in a form that is as close to what occurs in nature as possible, and they dispelled several nutritional myths which people accept as gospel.

What myths are you hanging on to?  Let’s check

Nutritional MythAnswer true or false.

1.  Patients need to supplement or drink dairy products to get enough calcium for bone health.

Calcium supplementation and milk consumption don’t seem to offer much benefit to bone health.  They may cause detrimental effects, like an increased number of stokes, heart attacks, and even increased hip fractures!  What?  Yes!  Our studies are very conflicting, so we’re not sure.  But there is just no good evidence to support the use of calcium supplements or extra milk intake, despite what we have been told for years.

What then is a person to do, Terri?  Great “real” sources of calcium include kale, broccoli, sardines, salmon, almonds, unsweetened yogurt, and cheese with no additives.  Focus on food sources as close to nature as possible.  Calcium supplements, fortified non-dairy milks (soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, as well as others), and even cow milk dairy available at the grocery store are highly human-processed products.  (Grocery store milk has been pasteurized, homogenized, and fortified.  Fat-free dairy has been further violated.)

Bone health depends on a lot more than just calcium!  Bone strengthens with use, so move!  Bone needs vitamin D so play outside!  Bone loves vitamin C, magnesium, zinc (this is usually low in children and often low in adults), and silica (this is one of the first nutrients to go in processed foods), so please eat vegetables, fruits, nuts, and meats.


2.  Americans have some of the highest calcium intakes in the work, and some of the highest rates of osteoporosis (brittle bones).

Despite fortified orange juice and vitamin D fortified milk, Americans are still getting cracked hips and crumbled spines.  What we are doing with milk and vitamins just is not working, people.  How long do you bang your bleeding head against a wall before you decide to make the journey around the end of it?  Yes, eating and making whole foods is not as yummy as chocolate milk and ice cream, but osteoporosis is not a lack of calcium.  It is a deficit of all that goes into a bone:  zinc, boron, phosphorous, calcium, collagen (needs vitamin C), manganese, potassium, positive response to use (as in exercise), and more that I’m leaving out.  These are micronutrients in real food that is destroyed with processing.  Look at your food.  How much of it is as close to nature as possible?


3.  Patients need to cut down on saturated fat to help lower clogged arteries and heart disease.

We were wrong.  Saturated fats are probably not the culprit behind clogged arteries, heart attacks, and strokes.  Butter, cheese, and coconut oil are off the hook!  However, butter mixed with flour and sugar is NOT off of the hook.  Butter on your broccoli?  Go for it!  Here again, keep it real to keep it healthy.  Any oil or fat that has been tampered with beyond a heat and pressure you are capable of producing in your own kitchen is off-limits.  Could you churn butter?  You betcha’.  Could you stomp olives?  For sure.  Could you make a pot roast and skim off the fat to use for later?  Absolutely.  Could you mash a soybean or sunflower kernel to get its oil?  You’d be “hard-pressed,” so don’t use it.


4.  Dietary fat leads to obesity.

Fat does not turn into fat!  And eating fat can actually make the brain feel full because of the hormone cascade it brings about, so people eat less.  Eating carbohydrates, like whole grain breads or crackers, increases insulin–which then does pack on fat!  So the idea that in order to be skinny and healthy you need to cut fat from your diet is a myth.


5.  There are many kinds of fibers.

Fiber implies something that you eat that you cannot break down and absorb.  There are so many types found in nature, and please, it goes WAY beyond soluble and insoluble fiber.  These different kinds of fiber feed the bacteria in your gut which make LOTS of important nutrients for you!  When you eat “fiber,” you’re eating for “two.”  (Actually, you’re eating for billions!)  They don’t just like the outer shell of seeds or the peel on fruit, they love all kinds of humanly indigestible products which are abundant in vegetables, fruits, seeds, and truly whole grains.  Eat plant matter for two (or billions).


6.  Fat people just need to cut calories to lose weight.

A body responds to food and weight loss by changing its hormone production.  These hormones can change the body’s metabolism, preventing further weight loss and promoting weight gain.  Losing weight really is tough!  (But life is tough–you CAN do it!)  Help reset the body with lots of whole, real food.  Don’t cave to its sugar or grain-laden demands.  That is what prompted the problem in the first place.  To keep our kids from obesity with healthy eating habits is the best cure for obesity.  Once obese, it really, truly is harder to lose weight.


7.  Supplements are not a substitute for picky eating.

The list of micronutrients that we need for the chemical reactions in our bodies to proceed is unbelievable.  Processed food is stripped of these fine, little nutrients, and adding back in only certain ones upsets the balance.


Go Kill The Cow

When I shop, my goal is to have nothing in my cart with a label.  I usually don’t have 100% success, but my goal puts me a lot closer to eating as close to how the food was found in nature as I can.  I like to call it my “Go kill the cow” rule.  I know that’s brutal and I apologize to vegans, vegetarians, and sensitive spirits, but it evokes the image of nothing processed.  That’s the goal.  Whole, real food of the kind that makes YOU feel and function best.

You can do this!  Nothing worth doing in life is easy.  Easy paths lead to hard falls.



Source:  Nutrition Myths and Healthy Dietary Advice in Clinical Practice.  Lesser L, Mazza M, and Lucan S.  AFP.  May 2015.  Volume 91, Number 9.  pp 634-637

Our Fifth Grade Curriculum: Spelling

PhonicsI couldn’t find a lot out there on How to Teach Spelling and How to Spell, so hopefully if someone is searching, this will help!  I just like this program.  Nobody asked me to review it.  If you want a logical and progressive spelling curriculum which answers “Why?”–then this may be for you and your students.

How to Teach Spelling

How to Teach Spelling (by Laura Toby Rudginsky and Elizabeth C. Haskell) is not your typical spelling curriculum.  I suggest it for teaching in-depth English spelling and phonics with an emphasis on understanding.  Most kids don’t need this program, although struggling readers and spellers may benefit from it greatly.  If your child is progressing fine in reading and spelling and you’re content with your child being able to spell good enough so that spell check gets them by (and there is NOT a thing wrong with that), this is not your curriculum.  Spend your time and energy elsewhere.  I chose it probably for myself and my own curiosity in understanding our language.  Plus, I had a late reader and wanted to make sure we were proactive in her spelling and phonics foundation.

Early on in elementary school we tried other spelling and phonics curriculums; I just didn’t like any of them.  So I have put together a core of texts that I like and I circulate among them, using them to complement How to Teach Spelling and its workbooks called How to Spell.

Parent Prep Time Minimal But Participation Essential

How to Teach Spelling doesn’t require much teacher preparation at all.  One can even read the lesson on the spot and teach it adequately.  However, it requires a lot of teacher participation (but not necessarily much time), and I do not recommend it for teachers who cannot devote interactive time together with the student.  With a child who is not reading and spelling challenged, it doesn’t take much time, maybe 15 minutes on average, but it requires the teacher to at least orally quiz and assess knowledge.  Because I am one-on-one with my learner, I can move more quickly and don’t require lots of the writing the text recommends.

Tell Me What You Bought

  • The main manual where topics and concepts are presented in an orderly, linear fashion:  How to Teach Spelling  This is not a manual for the students.  It is written for the teacher.  There are 49 chapters, and they progress forward sequentially, with the most complex, difficult topics at the end.  For example, letter sounds and syllables come at the beginning, and more complex suffix rules and letter combinations come at the end.  How to Teach Spelling is based on, and meant to be piggy-backed with, an intensive reading and spelling program called Orton-Gillingham.  I am not trained in the Orton-Gillingham method, but I have still found How to Teach Spelling to be great.  It succinctly marches out all the topics needed to master English spelling and phonics in ONE text.  I don’t have to buy a new one each year!  There are many recommendations for drills, flashcards, and writing exercises.  My girls seem to catch on quickly to the rules and patterns, so I have not needed to do the intensive writing and memorization drills that How to Teach Spelling recommends.
  • The four workbooks:  How to Spell  There are four workbooks.  Workbook 1 is intended for grade one.  Workbook 2 is intended for grade two and three.  Workbook 3 for grades 4-6.  Workbook 4 is for grades 7-12.  My daughter started Workbook 3 last year, and we continued with it through much of this year.  Near the end of the year, we moved into Workbook 4.  The workbooks repeat themselves, as is customary for cumulative type materials, but the higher the level, the more that is expected with each topic.  In addition, more topics are covered.  The workbooks are black and white and pretty dry.  They do a great job listing the “rules” of our English spelling and phonics system, and they expect the students to learn them.  Then, practice work is provided.  Some of the work pages are just phenomenal, and others are just average.  Sometimes, I have to go on-line and find some extra practice pages.  There is a lot of writing required if the student does the workbook thoroughly.  I have found that we can escape the writing if I am willing to sit and quiz my child, only having her write what she doesn’t understand.  In this way, we also avoid “tests.”

Pros and Cons:

1.  It is not expensive.

2.  I can buy one text and four fairly short workbooks, and they will last me through all the years of teaching spelling.

3.  It is black and white.

4.  It requires lots of teacher participation and assessment.

5.  If the teacher cannot sit and assess, the curriculum will require lots of physical handwriting.

6.  It relies on learning rules for the English language (Yes, we do have rules.) and does not rely on simple memorization of word lists.  (For example, a student will understand when to use -ck versus -k at the end of a word.)

7.  It does supply sight words for those naughty, non-compliant words.

8.  All phonics and spelling topics are laid out in an orderly fashion in the How to Teach Spelling manual.  They are not arranged by difficulty level–but by topic.  However,  the manual tells you what is appropriate to teach to each grade level.  You have to pay attention as you teach from the manual.  However, the workbooks are by levels, and do not present more than is appropriate for each level of learner.

9.  The workbooks are succinct.

10.  I cannot find the answers to the workbooks anywhere.  Usually I know the answers, but I’ve had to look up a few.  I’m sure there must be answers somewhere!


Due to the new addition of a baby to our home this year, spelling occurred in cyclical fashion.  We’d do it for a few months on and then a few months off.  Most of it was by oral assessment based on the sequence laid out in the How to Spell workbooks, which my daughter completed on her own.  We pretty much just stuck to this curriculum for this past year.  However, near the end of the year, I assigned supplemental reading from Uncovering the Logic of English (I love this book.)

Please see last year’s spelling and phonics write-up for more!



I Remember You, Mr. Bremler

wpid-IMAG0463-1.jpgHe was 89, and I was 18.  But I followed the tinkling tune of a piano, oh I was homesick for my piano.  I was homesick for anything that reminded me of home, six hours away.  I followed the tune from 8659 Apt. C down the stairs to 8659 Apt. B.  I knocked, and he let me in.  A little bald-headed man.  In a cardigan.  Yes, yes, do come in.  Oh, you must play for me, he said.  You must be much better than I.  His little gray-haired wife sat there, smiling, nodding.  Do come in.

I came into their lives that day, and they came into mine.  I received matzah bread spread with jam each Passover.  And halva.  I loved chocolate covered halva.  I received books on German and books in Hebrew.  I received rights to a piano any time my pharmacy studies would allow.

He a German Jew.  She a Russian Jew.  She giggled when we talked about eating pork.  She’d never eaten pork.

He fled Germany when Hitler was rising to power.  He left his family behind.  They had a little shop.  His family, they were all killed.  He told me you must forgive to move on.  One time our apartment complex’s newsletter listed the famous people born in the month of April.  Hitler was one of them.  Mr. Bremler was not pleased at the inclusion of Hitler as famous.

In America, he entered the Army.  He became a translator, fluent in German.  He ate pork.  You eat pork in the Army or starve, he told me.  Letters kept us in touch as I moved around the country.  I always remember the large black and white photo of Mr. and Mrs. Bremler, too large somehow for the walls of their tiny apartment.  Their faces young.

One day I was pulled up out of sleep sobbing.  This I have never done before.  I’m not privy to the supernatural.  But this night in my dream, Mr. Bremler died.  Mrs. Bremler had died years before.

Today is our American Memorial Day.

Memory requires you to look back.  But it is what allows you to move successfully forward.

Look back.  Move forward. Treasure and learn.

The Loud Voices

This week has been a discouraging week for me. Life is teaching me that the loudest, most authoritative voice wins the masses.  I guess I knew that, but it is still disappointing.  Three times in the last week I have spoken with people who have been to the doctor for gastrointestinal complaints, and three times over I listened to the same line emerge:  “Diet doesn’t matter.”

But please listen to my quiet fighting voice.  I don’t have a name for what I support.  It’s dogma-free, and I hope it will always be.  I call it “eat real food and watch for side effects.”  I call it “choose deeply nutritious foods most all of the time.”  I call it “don’t give up.”  I call it “vegetables are important.”  I call it “kids deserve a chance to be free of obesity and autoimmune disease.”  I call it “forget the cliques and take care of people and their needs.”  I call it “find your own best diet using some basic principles.”

There is so much science to explain.  I know most people probably don’t really care about the “why to eat.”  They just want to know the “what to eat.”  But I HAVE to have you understand that any medical doctor who tells you that diet doesn’t matter is full of egotistical brainwashing handed down to us all by the doctors who trained us.  They scorn without cross-referencing.  They either don’t have the time or don’t take the time to apply the science they know and to follow particular new studies.  Very sadly, I have become aware of studies twisted to obtain a specific desired outcome.  So even if an altruistic doctor tried to keep abreast of studies, some are so contorted so as to not be reliable for application.

I am convinced that complete overhaul of a diet and lifestyle can lessen disease, possibly eliminate it in many cases.  It’s just that the people who have what it takes to overhaul their diet are very few and far between.  It is hard work, and it can alienate you and your family because nearly ALL people eat food that has been processed.  Even the purest white milk sitting in most people’s fridge has been processed to make it improper for our bodies, aside from the fact that milk has very difficult sugars and proteins for any body to digest to begin with.  The yogurt you buy too rich in sugar.  The cold meat you buy stuffed with potato starch and wheat protein.

So today I am discouraged by the loud voices, the authoritarian voices, filling your ears with falsehood.  Diet DOES matter.  Each bite counts.  For every nutrient that you see fortified on a label, go find the equivalent unprocessed real food source of that.  For the vitamin D in processed, fortified milk, head for egg yolks.  For the folic acid in fortified wheat products, head for broccoli and dark colored greens.  For the iodine in iodized salt, head to seafood.  If what you put in your mouth doesn’t matter, why is your food supplemented?  Why aren’t you told what to eat in the first place and then to fill in with fortification?  Where are the billboards telling you how to fight childhood obesity by eating real food and not eating processed food in boxes?  Where is the billboard that says type II diabetes can be controlled by minimizing carbohydrates?

Where?  Where,  I ask.  And I am discouraged.  Because you listen to the loud voices.  The aggressive voices.  The dogmatic voices.  The voices with something to lose if you change.  Change is hard enough without backing.  Nearly impossible if you are listening to the voices that say, “It doesn’t matter.”

But it does.

Signing off.  You can do this.  It is hard because of peer pressure and those loud voices which really need to go learn and sit down and be quiet.  Go homeschool themselves, I say.  But you can do this.  Find YOUR diet.  You can.


Why Can’t I Keep a Lesson Planner?


UntitledHave you ever considered whether you’re a cyclical teacher (or learner)?  Is your lesson planner embarrassing, but somehow you keep your kids moving forward and digging deeper in a subject given enough time?  Do you teach to a point (or learn to a point), realize you’re hitting too many roadblocks in a subject, and choose to put it aside for a few months– or even a few years?  Do you often track and assess your child’s learning to see what has been retained and forgotten, re-teaching as needed?  If so, you may have a strong cyclical teaching style!

Cyclical Teachers May Beat Themselves Up

Cyclical teachers may beat themselves up because their lesson planners have gaping white spaces and they can’t keep with certain subjects more than a month or so at a time.  They cringe as they listen to other moms’ computerized lesson spreadsheets–because no matter how organized they are in so many areas of their lives, they just can’t follow that blasted planner.  And intuitively, they know it doesn’t matter, and they know their kids are learning–LOTS!  But what if the authorities come in and demand to see that steady, linear progression expected by the Western model of education?  What then?  And how do you explain your stop and go methods to another mom asking how  you do things?  I’m not talking unschooling here.  I’m not talking unit studies (although these probably fit well into a cyclical teacher’s methods).  And I’m definitely not talking about failure to have educational diligence and discipline, although until you recognize the cyclical pattern, it definitely feels that way.

Our Cyclical Style

Much of my homeschool curriculum is cyclical.  By this I mean we learn a lot in pre-determined, core subject areas for a time, and then we naturally wander away from them.  Because they are the core of our curriculum, we are always disciplined and return to them later. They are not forgotten or allowed to disappear indefinitely.  However, marching out a yearly, or even quarterly, lesson plan is difficult for me because teaching is attuned to our lives, schedules, interests, and development.  If fall festivals and Thanksgiving crowd out writing exercises, and I feel it is an appropriate lull, writing slips out until cold, snowy, winter days allow it to snuggle back in.  If I buy a Latin curriculum (which I did), but it’s not working in like I want (even though we love it), I save it for later.  I know I want my kids to be exposed to Latin, and they will be.

With a preference for this cyclical method, I selectively choose texts and ideas that can grow with us this way.  Texts and materials that I can scale up or down to my learner.  That I can put on the shelf for a year, pull them back out, and still have them offer us information and guidance–and get my money’s worth.  I actually prefer it if I don’t have to pore over choosing new core materials and books each year.  I desire a curriculum that can span years.  A cyclical method seems to fit my children’s natural learning tendencies, my natural learning tendencies, and my teaching methods.  (That  being said, our math, grammar, and Spanish flow on a more traditional linear method.)

Pillars of Cyclical Learning

I love our cyclical method, but I think there are a few pillars it requires.

  1. Pillar one:  Goals for all time ranges. (Short term goals, intermediate term goals, long-term goals, and final goals delineated for our selected core subject areas.  I almost want to say that my long-term and final goals are the most important here.  But that would neglect the short-term goals required to meet our long-term goals.)
  2. Pillar two:  Continuity.  (I could not ever entertain sending my kids to school because I function with a long-term vision.  I don’t shake my hands off on June 1st and say, “Well, I’m glad fifth grade is over.”  I have trouble thinking that way at all.  Right now my kids may have gaps in spelling and writing, but in two years, they will have hopefully caught up–and even surpassed what is taught traditionally.)
  3. Pillar three:  Dedication and commitment to always return to core subjects to learn more and delve more deeply.  (For example, one of our cyclical cores is poetry.  As young children, the kids memorized poems.  We continue to add more poems to our repertoire AND review our old poems for retention.  This year, we have added some discussion and texts to help us understand poetry elements.  We dabble lightly in writing poetry.  Eventually, I want the girls to study poets themselves.  We return to poetry cyclically, always adding more.)


I used to sheepishly listen to other moms describe their meticulous lesson plans and planners.  I bowed out of intense curriculum discussions.  I’ve kind of hung my head in shame sometimes because I can’t keep our writing and spelling lessons going all year-long.  Or poetry or history.  Now, mind you, I haven’t studied this cyclical learning thing, but I have definitely observed in our six years (long or short years, I’m not sure, haha!) of homeschooling that LEARNING IS CYCLICAL.  After finally recognizing my teaching (and learning) style as I prepared my series of posts on “Our Fifth Grade Curriculum,” I feel validated.  Linear learning has its place, but mostly I thrive on cyclical.  Up next in the “Our Fifth Grade Curriculum” series will be writing, a cyclical subject in our curriculum.

Are you mostly linear?  Are you mostly cyclical?  Are you neither?  Do you have another term to describe your methods?  Have you felt abashed at your lesson planner?  Have you felt undisciplined because you can’t finish the Latin or history book in a year?  Tell me!  Let’s share!  I know homeschooling is unique for all, and I love to hear about it!



Green Cream

green cream edit

Dear Guest to Our Little Spot Here:

Today my daughter and I are sharing our green “cream” recipe.  This green “cream” recipe is very good over berries (strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries). It’s kind of like whipped cream but still very different.  It is super, SUPER yummy.  We recommend it for people who do not tolerate dairy or for those with adventurous spirits.

This makes a nice breakfast or a pretty dessert.  We served it for Easter and made a trifle out of it, layering fruit, green “cream,” and crumbled gluten-free, dairy-free cake in a pretty, clear glass bowl.  We watched our unsuspecting guests’ responses closely as they ate their sweet ending, but their dessert plates indicated our success!  Whew!

Although we think this is a fabulous recipe to have, there are some things you must know for success.  We want you to have success.  Like bananas turn brown, so too does avocado.  Green cream does not keep well.  Serve promptly.  (Tips for using green cream in a trifle are at the end of the post.)  Just like you can’t mash under-boiled potatoes, so too can you not whip green cream.  Use soft, ripe avocados which yield to gentle pressure.  And lastly, this requires a food processor or very good blender to cream up nicely of appropriate size for your batch.


Scale the recipe accordingly.  One avocado makes about 3/4 to 1 cup of cream, depending on the size of the avocado.  Be sure to use the proper sized appliance according to how many avocados you will be creaming.  We use a mini-food processor for a batch of one or two avocados and a large food processor for more than two.

  • 1 soft, ripe avocado (hard or even mildly hard avocados will not work) 
  • Maple syrup, quantity varies from 1 tablespoon to about 4 tablespoons, depending on taste and consistency needed
  • Vanilla, 1 teaspoon


  1. Peel your avocado and place it in the food processor.  (Do you know how to easily peel most avocados?  Score the avocado in half all the way to the seed, lengthwise.  By lengthwise we mean from the stem to the bottom.  You can’t cut the avocado in half because of that huge seed.Then, after the avocado flesh has been scored all the way around, you can twist the avocado and it usually comes apart in halves.  Cut into fourths and then easily peel the green peel off.  Make sense?)
  2. Add a tablespoonful of the maple syrup and the  vanilla.
  3. Blend very well, until smooth and silky.  Then, ask yourself two questions:  One, is it the consistency I want?  Two, is it the sweetness I desire?
  4. Add maple syrup until you get the consistency and sweetness you want.


That’s it!!! This is super, duper simple so give it a try!

green cream collageFamily “gustar” report:  Complete success.  6/6 of us like it.  When making a trifle, make sure to put the berries and cake as the top layers, not the green cream.  This actually allows the avocado cream to keep and not turn brown for hours because it is protected from air.  Once the avocado is exposed to air when serving, though, there’s no stopping the oxidation.  Taste is not affected, just the beauty.