The View From Our Table: What’s Cooking at 10 Garden Street

The view from our table will be a feature where we look at some fun things we have done in our homeschool.

We are the kind of homeschool family that homeschools in the summer. It is less formal and much shorter, but we are a family that is constantly learning together. One our favorite times is “Morning Time.” We often start our homeschool days at the dinner table with our basket of books. Mama reads while the littles keep their hands busy with handicrafts. We love it.

This summer we decided to read, What’s Cooking at 10 Garden Street by Felicita Sala (can be purchased here – non affiliate link). This book was given to us by a dear friend who thought that we would have fun with it. We had so much fun!

Each page introduces the reader to recipes from all over the world. Salmorejo (a cold soup served with ham and boiled eggs), Little Trees (stir fried broccoli), Sole Meuniere, to name a few. Each day, we reread the book and then we chose a recipe we wanted to try. (I even discovered a mild allergy to pine nuts lol).

We had a such a blast trying flavors from all over the world and felt like we were joining the neighborhood for their pot luck feast at the end of the book. The illustrations are lovely and recipes rich and flavorful. So far this is one of the tastiest and fun books we have chosen for our morning time adventures.

If you are looking for something fun that will introduce your palate to flavors from many cultures, we highly recommend this favorite from our table. It has been a great way to try foods and cook with the three wild and three free and me!

Our View from Home

Last year was our very first year (like many families) homeschooling. As we prepare for our Summer Home School I am caused to reflect on the last year.

First and foremost I am incredibly grateful that we have the blessed opportunity for me to stay home with the 3wilds and to homeschool. Homeschool as I have mentioned before, had always been in the back of our minds and hearts but never took the leap. COVID gave us that leap.

As much as we loved being home together, and as much as we drove each other barking mad, we definitely experienced some ups and downs along the way. The number one lesson we took was be flexible. I am not the person to set up desks and assignments and mimic school the institution. No way. However the curriculum that we chose made us be more at the table than I would have liked. For our 5th grader we went with a free online program which required more screen time than I anticipated plus all of the supply lists. I ended up with lots of surprise lists too which was frustrating and led to us skipping some lessons altogether.

Another aspect I struggled with was consistency of scheduling. We love morning time, it is our favorite part of the day where we all gather around the table for read aloud and the kids get to do quiet handicrafts. Morning time is the best! We struggled with the follow up and continuation of the day. Constantly being pulled from and very parent involved kindergarten curriculum and an online program that just was not a good fit for my fifth grader.

We made it through the year, all of us feeling like we barely did so. We ended up having a morning time meeting where we talked about the whole year, our likes and dislikes and what could be different and then my fifth grader said, “if we do online again, I would rather go back to school.” I felt like a failure with 12 words. I failed, ugh. It took some time to reflect and see where it went wrong, when I discussed it more in depth with him, it turned out he simply hated being online (I did not like it either) and so when I offered a different approach/curriculum he was quick to tell me with that change he would rather stay home.

As much as we struggled, I was so thankful for the ease in which our days continued, no phone calls from principals or teachers, no crying kids off of the bus because they were teased, taunted and even physically hurt like we experienced in years before. I am grateful that the whole bully issue does not even touch our door step and we are free from the worry of our children being hurt or harmed by their peers for no reason other than to cause pain. Our kids of course experience their own squabbles, teasing and regular sibling interaction – but we are in control of the problem solving and discipline that comes with it.

All in all, we are ready to take on a new school year from home. With a new curriculum that is created on a scaffolding scheme and a family style approach, the kids are already LOVING their summer mini unit (more to come when we are finished and we can give an honest review).

And Bless All of Those in the Battles.

Today was November 11th, in Canada it was Rememberance Day and here in the US, Veteran’s Day. Our homeschool focus was on Flander’s Fields and poppies. Growing up in Canada poppies were a regular thing every November – toss a loonie or two into the can at Tim’s and get your poppy for the month (my fellow canucks, you get me here). To my children this was a whole new world.

We took the time from our read aloud morning time to listen to Flander’s Fields (we used the recording here, by Leonard Cohen), then watched this historical video for the kids about how poppies were chosen, when they started being used for Remembrance Day and how they help so many today. We followed with this beautiful short animation released by BBC a few years back about the war from the animal’s perspective. To end it we waited until 11:00 am and had our two moments of silence while we viewed the Royal Canadian Legion’s Two Minutes of Silence video that allowed us to see the faces of many who were fallen, wounded and survived the past wars.

I was a bit nervous at first, worried that they may not fully understand or even take it seriously because, well, I am mom and sometimes mom just does weird stuff! They were so engaged, interested and then to see the faces of service men and women on the video as we sat in perfect silence for two minutes, they were moved. They immediately wanted to start making their own poppies (which we were not prepared for but will be done another day since poppies keep popping up all over our home learning journey – maybe in water color, but I digress), they also wanted to know more. We listened to another rendition of Flander’s Fields, looked up images of Flander’s Fields and then researched how poppies grow and why they would grow after battles. Our poppy adventure took us “off course” for the day, but I followed the natural instincts of my children’s interests and we learned so much together.

Tonight as I tucked my middle little into bed, ended her prayers with “and God, please bless all of those in the battles, now and before.” I was shocked, she was actually absorbing what we were learning! In this home school gig – I am constantly being amazed. There is no “behind,” we are where we are, there is no “off track,” because we are exactly where this journey is leading us. We are engaged, joyful and interested in what we are learning every day. I did not know it could be like this, I did not know how blessed home schooling could truly be!

We Are a Read Aloud Family.

What is a read aloud family you ask? Just as it sounds, we read aloud together. Every morning as a part of our daily rhythm we read aloud while the kids do handicrafts. We have scripture reading then we read a chapter book. Last month was the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, this month we are reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (of course to be followed by their very first viewing of The Chronicles of Narnia movie). They love read aloud time, in so much that they often request it goes longer or happens again later in the day. They even like the voices that I do, even though I feel silly, they only feel the magic of a character’s voice speaking to them.

I have always been a sucker for literature. I remember loving storytime in early elememtary grades, and with a sixth grade teacher who was obsessed with William Shakespeare (shout out to Mrs Matheson of Amherstburg Public School, you literally changed my life) I had read the entire works of Shakespeare by the time I was 13.

Every year at Christmas Little Women is a book I consume, and every January I follow Little Women with Jane Eyre. It is incredible how I can read these books over and over and I still cry in all the same places; marriages devistated on the alter, hidden secrets, and the death of a beloved. The aches from the first times my tears fell turning page after page ripples back up like an old friend that I had forgotten about until the sting of the words reveal the emotion again.

I love being read to; in full disclosure I have to admit that the last two years both of my favortie books listed previous have been read in audiobook form. No wonder I love sharing read aloud time with my children, I have it all the time for myself. While I fold laundry, wash the dishes, go for walks and even traveling – I am constantly being read to. This year is the 100th Anniversary of Agatha Christies’s Hercule Poirot and I am slowly making my way through the whole series. During the past COVID quarantine, I had been more on a self improvement book kick with an occasional “Agatha break” but as of June, I began The Mysterious Affair at Styles in honor of Poirot’s 100 years I have stuck to this egg-headed detective.

When I think of the adventures I have been on, the people I have met and the countries I have been. Through literature I have experienced life and death, marriages and ruin, love and loss; never having to leave the pages before me. I get so excited watching my children head out on those same adventures to the sound of my own voice. Reading aloud has been something we did informally all the time, but with home learning we now make it a part of our day. It is a daily family adventure that often leads to the hope of “just one more chapter before we start school.” We love it.

Deadly Poppy Fields…and other anecdotes.

We are six weeks into home schooling. During that time I have had surgery, 3wild3free-dad’s work schedule has had him gone 10 hours daily, we brought home a little pup and I quit coffee (this last item being a huge deal for me since coffee has been a great love of mine for decades, alas health trumps in this instance). We also read The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum followed by the movie; as I am a firm believer of reading the book before watching the movie, went on a field trip to a horse ranch, had the Young Thomas Edison video call us for a biographical lesson (thank you to my amazing brother for that!) and had my three year old ask Alexa to play Bach! So far, this has definitely been a wild ride.

To be honest, most days I feel like I am winging it. I have a planner, I have daily plans…then life sweeps in and we end up rolling with it. Homeschooling has been so liberating, stressful at first but now that we are getting into the groove of things – there is so much freedom in being able to do our own thing.

It so happened that while we were reading the Wizard of Oz, we ended up studying Claude Monet in our art lessons. Claude Monet is one of my favorite artists and I have a print of Poppies framed in our hallway, that same week we read the chapter The Deadly Poppy Fields in the Wizard of Oz. As we researched and made our own Monet sketches, I brought the kids into the hallway to see our Poppies print. My eldest exclaimed, “We have an actual Monet?!” and my middle little cried out, “Poppies?! Are the deadly?!” So far this has been one of my favorite moments; just like that, not only did they actually see an artist’s work that has hung in our homes for the last 12 years – but they also were able to connect the Wizard of Oz to it. This evolved into asking many questions of poppies which led to discussions and research from the flowers, to the seeds we have in the spice cupboard, to why we wear poppies on November 11 in Canada (yes, we are in the USA but I am a Canadian and observe a moment of silence at 11am on 11/11 every year).

This learning happened so naturally, so easily that it helped me to see that homeschooling is a constant. We are continually as parents, taking our life and applying it to where they are in their curriculums. This was an unknown element to me until a few weeks ago. I am now looking at planning from a completely different angle: how does this correlate into our current family life? I am thrilled to have this freedom.

We are now incorporating the women’s vote since it is the 100th anniversary plus an election year; we have a family field trip to Kentucky to see the Ark so the water cycle plus the book of Genesis are in our lesson plans; with family in Canada and no schoolmates to present to – my eldest will be doing virtual presentations on his science, geography and history projects to family we cannot see but online. My kids have recently watched The Greatest Showman and are obsessed, so along with our Edison era history studies I have included a study on the Barnum family and how the circus began. They learn so much more when they are interested and enjoying what we are doing. I feel like I am having as much fun as they are because I am learning too.

We do have our off days, as most do but that is life. We have the freedom to hit the brakes, enjoy tea and cookies in our jammies with extra read aloud time, and make up the math lessons later that week! When I feel like maybe we are not doing enough, I walk past our Poppies print and remember how much they are learning, even when I am not seeing all the dots connecting.

Many of the worries and fears that I had going into homeschooling are slowly fading into the background. I am leaning more on our life, values and experiences to lead our learning versus trying to fit us into some mold that resembles what school the institution says it should look like. This homeschool journey is growing me, taking me places I would have never expected; and it is incredible.

Rest Among the Sunflowers.

Yesterday was hard. This was our first full week of home school, and it was riddled with doctors appointments, surgery scheduling, new medications and an unexpected medical diagnosis – and that was just for me! Yesterday was Friday and I have scheduled our home learning to happen in bulk on Mondays through Thursdays with Fridays as a catch up and field trip day. This Friday was tough.

We started the day out smooth and things were well, until I used out reminder boards to write the “finish up” work left from the week. The minute I wrote the reminders (which were literally; math, science, history and backgammon) my eldest shut down. Immediately there were tears, clenched jaw and fists and frustration. Not understanding what had happened I was quick to stop everything and address his immediate need. He would not talk, he just cried. Pulled a blanket over his head stood at the dining room table and cried.

I was baffled. So I enlisted the help of my husband with the younger two so we could work through what ever this was that had infiltrated my son. I squeezed him close, got to eye level and asked what happened. He pointed to the reminder boards and said “Those are too much pressure. Last year at school Mrs “Teacher” would write our names, the list of work that we needed to get done and if it was not done we would lose things. We would lose recess, we would lose game time or even iPad time. I always lost out because I could never finished in time.” He sobbed. I could not help it, I cried too. While I completely and utterly respect traditional school, this felt like we needed to detox and shake off the old “school expectation” pressure and hand in hand, walk into home school expectations together.

I walked him over to the little reminder boards, held him close and said “Buddy, please know I am not your teacher – I am your mother. We are safe, learning at home and this school work will never, ever be a threat over you and losing out on anything. The amazing thing about learning at home is we do not have to be restrained by overwhelming deadlines, timetables and keeping beat to someone else’s drum. We are in this together, all of us at home. It is safe here.”

The rest of the afternoon called for a break – early day this Friday. He hopped in the truck and went to a work run with dad, then in the middle of the run they stopped to explore the sunflowers. The huge blue sky above, the reassuring foundation of earth beneath their feet at the cool breeze blew the sweet smell of sunflowers on his face. The deadlines, pressure and frustration all blew away on that same breeze and he found joy in the pure simple beauty of the sunflower field.

Home learning this week was not exactly as I had hoped, we had our ups and we had our downs but we also had the power to take any break needed and literally stop to smell the flowers. I went to bed excited to see what this year has in store for us, as we learn at home, together.

A Light Unto My Footsteps.

It is the end of August, home learning begins in one week and I have to admit, the last 4 or 5 nights have been disrupted by the whispers. The whispers that creep into my mind when I wake and cannot fall back to sleep at 3 am. The whispers that begin to remind me of my failures, my incompetence and my often repeated mistakes. I cannot stand those whispers. Some nights I can push them down, say a quick prayer and fall back to sleep. Recently, on the heels of this change in my child rearing, I cannot shake them.

You will fail, they say.

You made the wrong choice, they say.

Just send the kids to school, they say.

There is nothing like these middle of the night conversations I have with myself, they always leave me shaken, upset and full of doubts. Last night I had to physically get up, out of bed and kneel to pray. I needed a voice of truth in the midst of my battle. There with my knees on the cool hard wood planks alongside my bed, I found it. The reminder of who I am, I am a simple woman called to be a wife, a mother and now a teacher. In my mind I have this impossible measure that I must be SUPER at all of these, then love speaks to my worried heart: You do not have to be super because you serve a super God. There it was, in the twilight of the wee hours in the morning. Cold, clear truth; I do not need to be perfect, He already is.

Psalm 119:105 speaks to how God’s word is like a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our paths. That brings so much into perspective for me and this home learning journey we have begun. I am doing all I can, reading, writing, printing, planning, trying to be as prepared as possible yet – it is so new I am absolutely struggling to find confidence in my abilities.

A lamp unto my feet, a light on my path.

Have you ever been camping and had to go to the bathroom that one last time before you fall asleep? You grab the flashlight, slip on your shoes and into the brisk summer night from the safety of your tent. It is dark, it is quiet in the noise of nature and you shine the light just in front of you so you can see your path. The flashlight does not light the entire path from the tent to the toilets, but you can see enough to keep your steps safe and quick, occasionally looking up with the light to see you are headed in the right direction. That is the light that I have going into this unknown. I have the strength to keep stepping forward because the light in my path is not my own, it is His.

As the scripture speaks I must have faith. Not in my abilities, but faith in what God can do for my family and I. I cannot see the finish line, I cannot envision what the end of next week will look like, yet I can see the lighted footsteps below me and I know that I find all confidence in God’s abilities. I find so much peace. Just keep stepping forward, one lighted step at a time.

Tonight, if I wake, I will have that beautiful truth to remind me. He has this, He is in control, and He will guide my footsteps so long as I keep my focus on Him. What a blessed truth to know.

De-Schooling. Shaking Off All We Knew.

We have been learning from home for just more than a week now. The days go by so fast but one thing that I am loving is, I am not getting that wild post-school day struggle that would happen the moment they walked off of the bus. The fight to get homework done in the midst of getting snacks, supper ready and answering the phone calls for our home business. The fight is gone because the homework is gone.

It feels odd, good but so different to what I have ever known from my own childhood and also from what he have learning in our oldest’s first five years in the formal school system. We get up, take our time with breakfast, get some chores done and come together at the table for morning time. During “Morning Time” we set the tone of our day with the days of the week and date, weather and how we are feeling today. We move easily into read aloud time where I read and the kiddos get to do quiet handicrafts or relax with some tea and listen along. So far we have covered the first four chapters of Luke, and we are three quarters of the way through the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Our home learning is quite Charlotte Mason with some online math and science for Sam, RLA is steeped in McGuffey’s Eclectic readers and lesson books from Mom Delights. Our morning reading and copy-work includes scripture and we are able to spend time in open discussion and reflection. Eden’s curriculum is play/nature based for Kindy and she is loving it (we purchased Blossom + Root Kindergarten curriculum). Animal fables, nature journaling and modern art/music in the mix. With that we are getting American History, swimming for PE and field trips every other Friday. Our school days are ending well before 4 pm and no homework.

By no means do I intend to make this sound easy at all because they are my children, and I know them. I am mom, they are safe with me and they are definitely open about their emotions and feelings – hourly sometimes but I am so thankful that they feel safe enough to express themselves as they do. We are only a week or so in and we are in this strange in-between feeling like maybe we need to do more to be busy like they are in classrooms and then I have to remind my self, this is HOME learning. As it turns out, I was worried that this would all be way harder than it really is.

We do not have mini desks, daily calendar charts, “centers,” or assigned reading corners. We have one shelf dedicated in the dining room to our school books, one cupboard that houses the handicrafts and art supplies for specific projects, and picture frame “dry erase board” that we can write out daily tasks to keep us on track. Other than that we have book shelves lined with literature rich books, an outdoor classroom in the backyard (which is simply the backyard) and one at the gorge we visit every other week. Math lessons happen online and in the kitchen, STEM and science projects happen weekly with a learning center we “zoom” in to and reading aloud happens all over our home.

A few weeks back, I could not see how this would look, I was nervous going “all in” on this home school thing but then I remember…I was called to this. My children are learning new things already, and I love seeing the glimmer of excitement when they see the dots connecting in the deeper learning we are doing, together.

Together. I love that. There is no place like home.

Three Wild. Three Free.

Our journey to find learning at home.

Rewind ten years ago April when they placed this tiny, crying and most delicious thing I had ever seen into my arms and said “Congratulations, you are a mom.”  I was forever changed, this little being that called me to the incredible life that is motherhood, he was perfect, and I was terrified.

Are they going to let us just take him home? I asked my husband on the day of our release.  And yes, they definitely did.  Since I crossed the threshold cradling perfection, into that darling little ranch of a home in Michigan, I felt a small, quiet pang in my heart.  This baby had just lived closer to my heart than any other being for nine months and now, I never wanted to be separated from him.  I wanted to run with reckless abandon into staying home full time – alas being so young and newly established our household depending on two incomes it could only be a dream to be home with my child.  We got our finances in order and 3 months later jumped right back into 2 parents working while our little one was going to a great Early Learning Program in the same building I worked.

Five years later, we had our middle little and felt the call to move to Pennsylvania to be a part of the church we belong to, there.  In the plan we decided when we moved, we would change our lifestyle so I could stay home with our children.  I could not go through leaving my wee one while I worked and struggled to pump and keep up with two wild littles.  We moved, began our life in PA and we were immediately faced with choosing a school for our oldest, Sam.

We chose a Kindergarten that had roots in Montessori, and we liked it (except for clip charts – which I do not blame any teacher, I mean they have 20-30 kids to teach and keep in line; and then that tug at my heart that he should be home with me).  I struggled a bit.  The thought of my busy, brilliant, and wild little guy being forced to sit and only enjoy 20 minutes outside time per day.  Everyone around me would assure me I was just feeling mom jitters and that kids need school, kids need structure…kids need clip charts.  By the end of the year I could not shake it, I wanted him home with me.  Doubting all my abilities to teach at home, we finally stopped considering home-school and sent him back in the Fall.

Again, year after year, Sam was great in school his brilliant mind allowed him to excel academically with ease, but his busyness did not go unnoticed.  They said have him tested and we had him tested, they said try therapy and we tried therapy, they said see his doctor and we saw his doctor.  However, every avenue ended with the same result: he is busy, he is smart, and he is absolutely fine.  But we knew our child needed more that what school, the institution could give him.  He needed breaks, he needs to have his bare feet in the grass, he needs the sunshine on his back as he watched ants carry 10x their weight.  He needed to be wild, he needed to be free.  Every year once summer commenced, there was that voice in my heart…whispering home-school.  And every year, I pushed it back.

In 2019, my youngest (Jacob) was 2, our middle one (Eden) was 5 and Sam was 10.  We were gearing up for 2 in school and only one home.  You will love it, I was told, to have time with my youngest and enjoy the quiet.  To be honest, I did enjoy those quiet slow mornings of block building, book reading, and couch snuggles.  I also missed my older two children.  They would come home, exhausted from the school day and I was in a place of struggling with my 4th grader who was done to get all of his homework done, keep the younger two from fighting over the same toys and get dinner ready.  It was frustrating, exhausting, and overwhelming.  I had to fight to get homework done or accounted for, and it was hard.  Being assured that this was normal, and it only gets harder, I tried outside play as soon as school was over, I tried less TV or more TV.  Still, it was a fight and it felt wrong to struggle school all the time.

Then arrived, COVID 19, quarantine and schooling from home.  Just like that, the homework fights were gone, there was an adjustment to online work and assignments but the kids had the freedom of sleeping until they liked, getting work done at their own pace (guided but on their terms too) and we found opportunities to do so much, at home with three kids.  Quarantine forced us all into our home, but it also made me realize that home was just where we belonged.  Learning with me and our family.  That voice began to stir again; you are capable, you are brave, you are the very one who was made to know and love your child the most in this whole world, you are the one who knows what they need.  Then there came the day when I realized, as Ainsley Arment writes in her book The Call of the Wild and Free: “and that voice was mine.”  When we made the resolve to home-school, my heart has never felt such peace in the education of my children.

This summer, Three Wild Three Free was born out of the desire to learn at home with our children, from the realization that I was made to teach my children, the God given right to keep these wild ones with me as we explore and learn from the wild world around us.  We are still learning our new rhythm as we shake off the formal education set-up we have known and embrace a more wild, a more free one; but together we are learning.  Welcome to our journey as we go!

Review + Giveaway: Stewie BOOM! And Princess Penelope: Snowflakes, Handprints and Playdates.


April is National Autism Awareness month and this month I really wanted to focus on being inclusive, and gaining more understanding and sensitivity with my earnest littles about Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Many children that have Autism can go undiagnosed for a long time and the spectrum is so broad that even a diagnosis is not the full answer. I wanted to be sure we learned that no matter the behavior we see, every child deserves a friend. I found this exact message in Stewie BOOM! and Princess Penelope: Snowflakes, Handprints and Playdates by Christine Bronstein.

This book highlights what it means to play with someone new, making friends, understanding differences and every character is completely relatable for adults and kids. Following the story there are some stellar tips on reaching out to new friends, being accepting of differences and starting a conversation about Autism with kids.

When asked what her inspiration was to write Stewie BOOM! And Princess Penelope: Snowflakes, Handprints and Playdates; Christine said:

It is a book I wish I had when my kids were younger.  One of my children had some special needs and I know how isolating it can be.  Too many families with children with ASD are struggling with isolation and bullying and these are two things that are actually solvable if we all work together to embrace these families and children into our communities.

This book speaks to me on so many levels and would be the perfect addition to any home or classroom library to help open dialogue on all of the points that Christine listed above.

GIVEAWAY: Want to win a book of your own?! Comment below if you have been or plan to be involved with Autism Awareness this month (or longer!!). Examples could be you did a community walk, changed your Facebook frame, bought cookies that will benefit the Autism society, or maybe simply talking to your children about what the spectrum is and how we can be more kind, outgoing and accepting. Please share your plans, ideas and activities below! Giveaway now CLOSED. The winner has been announced here in the comments and on earnest mom’s Instagram (@earnestmomblog), be sure to be following to find out if you have won!

x. earnest mom.