Lazy Hippie Mama

One woman's attempt to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort

Homeschool, Virtual School, Un-school, Co-Op: What does it all mean? (Part 2)


Homeschool, Virtual School, Un-school, Co-Op: What does it all mean? | LazyHippieMama.comIn Part One of this post I talked about what Virtual School is and a traditional method of homeschooling I refer to as “curriculum-based homeschooling.”  That is how our own homeschool adventure began but, in time, we moved on to a more eclectic approach.

Eclectic schooling is taking bits and pieces of everything and creating a unique style for yourself.

I imagine our school year like a cross country trip. We’re in Michigan now. We need to get to California. The goal is to get there by June, but there’s always some leeway if needed. We can drive, walk, bike, fly or sail. We can go fast or slow. Take breaks or do marathon stretches.  We can veer north, south, east and west and visit as many stops as we like along the way… as long as we eventually get to California.

Our “California” is based on the Michigan State Grade-Level Expectations.  We will use some online tools and games, library books, local clubs and classes, Khan Academy has been a lifesaver for us when it comes to math so we will stay with them again this year. Our daughter will continue her music education through the homeschool association’s band and she will also be taking band as a “drop in student” at the local public school (one of those perks of living in Michigan, I mentioned earlier). She’s in a theater class at a nearby college and she’ll do archery through the local conservation agency. Art and volleyball are through the homeschool group. No doubt there will be numerous field trips. Those are always the whole family’s favorite days.

There is a ton of freedom in eclectic schooling. Our daughter drives her own education. We set some parameters and goals for her and provide her with the tools she needs but she figures out how she wants to get there.  If she wants to read, she can read. If she wants to watch documentaries that’s OK too. If she decides halfway through the year that she has a burning urge to learn about the human skeleton she is welcome to follow that bunny trail as far as she would like.  Last year she spent November writing a book (which she actually published!) and then caught up with her other subjects again in December. She hates worksheets.  HATES them. Loathes may be a more appropriate word. So she does her math online and on scraps of paper.  You know what… she can multiply and divide and has a basic grasp of fractions. As long as she keeps moving forward I couldn’t care less if she never fills in another blank for the rest of her life.  Whatever works.

Homeschool, Virtual School, Un-school, Co-Op: What does it all mean? (Part 2) |

My best friend has a wild passion for color coded spreadsheets and 3-ring binders. I’m pretty sure that she would absolutely lose her mind trying to school her child the way I school mine.  And that’s OK.  The joy of homeschooling is the flexibility it provides to create the ideal educational environment for YOUR family.  Keep in mind, as I said in part one, that each state has its own requirements regarding testing and reporting. In some places you may find that the further you move away from the more conventional models the more difficult it is to provide the proofs of education that the state requires.

Our eclectic school definitely has one toe in the unschooling pond, though we are not “true” unschoolers.

Unschooling is allowing your child to learn through living life. Period. You don’t provide a curriculum or lesson plans. You don’t make them sit down and do math lessons.  They choose what to learn and when to learn it and your job is to help them find the tools they need to teach themselves the skills they wish to have.

Homeschool, Virtual School, Un-school, Co-Op: What does it all mean? (Part 2) |

Look at a child from infancy through pre-school. In those 4 years or so a person learns an extraordinary amount of information and they master new skills almost daily, even though there is no formal instruction. The idea behind unschooling is that people will continue to learn in just that way if you don’t put artificial boundaries on them.  As the student grows and develops and their academic needs become more complex, so does their desire to learn and so they will seek out knowledge and teachers and find ways to learn.

It sounds counter-intuitive to everything we consider “normal” in our society but, in 2012, Dr. Peter Gray did a large-scale study*, published in Psychology Today, of grown unschoolers. The concept first became a trend in the 1970s so those children are now adults with families of their own. Of the Unschoolers surveyed, 83% went on to some form of higher education. Most of those who went to college did so beginning at a Jr. College around age 16.  Dr. Gray notes that, “The most frequent complaints were about the lack of motivation and intellectual curiosity among their college classmates, the constricted social life of college, and, in a few cases, constraints imposed by the curriculum or grading system.”

In the same study, Dr. Gray shares that, “we found that most of them have gone on to careers that are extensions of interests and passions they developed in childhood play; most have chosen careers that are meaningful, exciting, and joyful to them over careers that are potentially more lucrative; a high percentage have pursued careers in the creative arts; and quite a few (including 50% of the men) have pursued STEM careers.  The great majority of them have pursued careers in which they are their own bosses.”

These men and women, schooled in an unconventional manner, often went on to unconventional careers. They became circus owners, aerial wildlife photographers, Greenpeace organizers, owners of engineering companies, inventors, community organizers and more.  Interestingly he notes that almost none of them worked in “middle management.”  They earned a living on their own terms. They became creators and bosses, hardly ever “regular” employees.

I’m sharing all of this because, of all the homeschool routes, my experience is that unschooling is the most misunderstood and widely criticized.  There seems to be a belief that it’s just lazy parenting.  The reality is that unschooling parents are just as much, if not more, involved in their children’s lives than other parents. They are constantly aware of the environment they are creating – and that creation is very intentional.  I’ve heard unschooling parents talk about “strewing:”  Purposely leaving something such as a Monopoly game on the table so that the kids will find it and say, “Hey! Let’s play this!”  All of a sudden their children – through their own choice and with no text books involved – are learning to count and add, make change, read and so on.

In it’s most “radical” form, unschooling reaches into every part of life. The child eats what they want, when they want. They sleep when they are tired and get up when they are rested, etc.  They will learn to wake to an alarm when there is an activity they want to participate in that requires them to do so. They will learn to eat healthy when they realize that a carton of ice cream gives them a belly ache.

Again, just as with the other types of homeschooling, those who unschool rarely fall into the “all or nothing” categories.  Most homeschoolers have SOME aspect of their lives that is “unschoolish.”  Only a tiny fraction of unschoolers fall into the “radical” category.  I indicated that my own family “dabbles” in unschooling. Our lack of designated curriculum and willingness to follow the lead of the children’s’ interests are distinctly an unschooling thing.  Forcing our daughter to do math even though she hates it… not so much.

At the beginning of this whole series I made the statement, “Ask 100 homeschoolers what their day looks like and you’ll get 100 answers.”  When trying to figure out what YOUR homeschool is going to look like, keep that in mind.  It’s YOUR homeschool.  You need to make it work for your family.  Does your child crave structure? Test boundaries? Love to be around other people? Thrive under pressure? Crumble when pushed?  What about you? Are you the kind of parent who takes great joy in finding cool craft projects on Pinterest and then sitting at the table and showing your little ones how to re-create those projects? Do you love to dialogue with your kids about what they are seeing or experiencing? Do you enjoy reading to them?

If you don’t find a rhythm that works for YOUR family then you aren’t going to succeed. Also, keep in mind that what works when you are teaching one first grader is probably not going to work when you are teaching 2 middle schoolers and a 4th grader.  Your homeschool will need to evolve as your family moves forward and your children grow.  Don’t be afraid to be flexible and change and “try on” different styles.  You may be surprised what you fall in love with!

* This is the link to the post that I originally read from Dr. Gray. Some of the statistics mentioned came from the other posts he released, based on the same study. All links are available within this article.

Homeschool, Virtual School, Un-school, Co-Op: What does it all mean? (Part 2) |

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Is It Victim Blaming?

I was told, this week, that I am a promoter of rape culture. I was called a victim blamer.

If you know me at all, in person or through this blog, you can guess that I was a bit blind sided by that. I spend my life cheering for the underdog and seeking ways to help the downtrodden. It’s not just that I feel it’s the right thing to do. I truly feel it is my calling from God.  So when those words were said to me I examined them very closely.

The conversation in question was about the following scenario:  A young woman gets very drunk and finds herself alone in a parking garage stairwell with a man she’d only just met. The next day she is claiming she’d been raped. He’s saying he scored. That’s all the information given. We don’t know if she asked him to stop or if she was passed out cold.

You can probably imagine the rest of the conversation.  It basically boiled down to me saying, “young people need to know that the idea of “drinking responsibly” includes more than just not driving drunk and the other person telling me I was being an insensitive jerk.

It seems to me, in our society, that there are two camps, drawing up sides.

Is It Victim Blaming? |

One side takes a strong stance of, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”  Quit whining that you were raped. You shouldn’t have been drunk/dressed that way/hung out with that crowd/danced at that party/shown your ankles in public/etc.  Quit crying about being poor. Get a job/a 2nd job/go back to school/spend more wisely.  Throw “the race card” out the window. Everyone has the same rights now so being a minority is not an excuse for anything.

Basically, the people on that side of the aisle are tired of hearing excuses. They feel like there are too many people who feel too coddled in this country. They are sick of those who have made poor choices claiming that they are entitled to the same life as those who have been a bit wiser.

The other side is appalled at the lack of sensitivity. The girl was sexually assaulted! For Heaven’s sake, give her a break!  People can’t find a second job. There are NO jobs to be had!  And who will care for their children while they work 80 hours a week?  Those who are minorities are often discriminated against in a thousand ways, big and small, each day. Without special rights and protection they will never be able to reach true equal status.

These folks will argue that we’ve all made poor choices at some point. And maybe showing a bit more compassion will rid the world of a few of its ills.

I tend to be in the 2nd camp more often than the first.  Maybe because I’ve made more than my fair share of stupid moves in life and only through the grace and kindness shown to me by others have I been able to recover from any of them.

Is there no middle ground?

Is It Victim Blaming? |

In the case of the story at the beginning of this post, is it not possible that the man acted hurtfully, unethically, and perhaps illegally AND that the young woman acted unwisely?

Yes, we should teach our sons to be compassionate and kind and chivalrous.  We should hold men accountable for their hurtful actions toward women.  A man should know better than to have sex with a woman who is too drunk to make an informed choice. Here’s a crazy thought. Maybe we should be teaching our sons they should know better than to have sex with a woman who isn’t their wife.  Hmmm…. that’s a can of worms for another day.


We should teach our daughters to act with wisdom and discretion. There will always be bad people in the world. Don’t go drinking alone. Take some girl friends with you and stick together. Don’t allow yourself to be drunk and alone in a dark parking garage staircase with a man you don’t know.

That’s not taking the responsibility off the rapist. It is putting some power into the hands of the victim.

The same could be applied to all of the scenarios above and countless others.

Yes, we need to take care of those who are hungry, homeless, sick, addicted, and generally downtrodden.


People who have been given a hand up need to put some effort into getting their feet under them and standing on their own. Only in that way will they ever be able to give a hand to the one behind them.

We need to recognize that discrimination is real and we need to create systems that work toward eradicating it.


We need to teach our children that everyone gets pushed around in their lives. That is not an excuse for doing or being less than their best.

It seems like such common sense to me.

Drive safely. Wear a seatbelt. You might get in an accident anyway, but at least you’ll have done everything you can to minimize the damage.

Lock your doors. You might get robbed anyway, but you’ll have lessened the chances.

Keep a fire extinguisher in your house. It may still burn down but there’s a chance you could stop that from happening.

It’s “What Do You Think? Wednesday” and I really want to know your take on this.

Where do you draw the line between victim blaming and personal responsibility?

Is It Victim Blaming? |

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Homeschool, Virtual School, Un-school, Co-Op: What does it all mean?

Homeschool, Virtual School, Un-school, Co-Op: What does it all mean? | LazyHippieMama.comI can’t tell you how many times over the past few years I’ve been asked some version of this question:

“You’re homeschooling now? How do you know what to teach? And how do you know how to teach it?”

We are entering our third year of homeschooling. There are a LOT of people out there with a LOT more experience than me.  I’m just sharing a bit of what I’ve gleaned from those wiser and more knowledgeable than myself.

 That said, I have developed two standard answers.

The first is the short answer for people who seem to be just vaguely curious.  It goes something like this:

“Yup. There are harder days and easier days but I’m sure that anyone who is determined to make it work could find a way. There are, literally, thousands of resources out there to draw from.  It’s easy to know what to teach because the states post their grade level expectations online.  Once you know what your child is supposed to be learning you just need to match the kid to the resource.”

Easy and true enough, but some people are genuinely considering doing what we’ve done and those folks desire a little more detail.  For them, I break it down like this:

If you are seriously considering homeschooling your child you should know that there are more pathways than you can even imagine.  Ask 100 homeschoolers what their day looks like and you’ll get 100 answers.

First, you need to know that there are no federal regulations on homeschoolers.  Each state has its own laws. We live in Michigan, which is an EXTREMELY friendly state to homeschoolers. We have more freedom and resources than most.  Most states require some testing, submission of progress reports, or other “proof” that the child is being educated.

Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is an extraordinary resource. They have oodles of information on their website about state laws and regulations.  

After you’ve figured out what your state’s requirements are, consider this: Homeschooling is a scale.  It can be as structured (or not) as you want it to be.

Homeschool, Virtual School, Un-school, Co-Op: What does it all mean? |

Virtual (online) public schools, such as , are exactly what they sound like.  They are public schools that come into your home via your computer. Because you are enrolled as a public school student within that “district” the school will provide everything you need including text books, manipulatives and a computer. I believe (if anyone knows otherwise, please correct me in the comments) that you even get a small stipend to cover the cost of things like paper and printer ink.

The student signs in each day for attendance purposes. They are instructed via online lectures, discussion boards and other media. They have assignments to complete and are tested on their knowledge, just as they would be in a public school.  There are certified teachers on-hand to guide them through anything they need extra help with and the school organizes certain events and classes, such as physical education, in a central location for the area so that the children have opportunities to interact with their peers.  There is some leeway as to how quickly they move through the classes.

I’ve only personally known two families who have used a VPS.

Homeschool, Virtual School, Un-school, Co-Op: What does it all mean? | LazyHippieMama.comOne LOVES it.  The mom feels like her child is free to move at her own pace and free from the concerns over bullying and other issues that caused them to want to homeschool in the first place.  She doesn’t have to worry about coming up with lesson plans or keeping records. She just has to generally keep an eye on her daughter to make sure she’s focused on what she’s supposed to be doing during “school time.”

The other HATED it.  Total opposite end of the spectrum.  This mom felt like their whole life revolved around the computer school. It was too structured. Too many “pointless” repetitions of the same work. Not enough freedom for her child to explore their own passions.

As in so many things with homeschooling, you need to figure out what will work best for you.

Curriculum-based homeschooling is choosing a course of study such as Abeka, The Ron Paul Curriculum, Saxton Math and Core Knowledge,  are a few of the common choices.  You then base your student’s learning time around the material and lessons in the book.

There is A LOT of variance in what that looks like depending on teaching and learning styles and the type of curriculum used.  You and your child might spend a portion of each day at the kitchen table, “doing school.”  There could be work sheets. If you’re doing a “unit study” curriculum everything from math to science to geography and language arts will all tie in together.

Curriculums may be very religiously conservative, very close to what the public schools in your area teach or take an approach you’ve never even considered.  Know what you are buying before you buy it! Do you want your child to learn about evolution? Creation? Human sexuality? How do you want to approach topics like the environment? Politics? Current events?  Different curriculums teach about things in very different ways. The books and accompanying materials are often expensive but can almost always be bought, used, at a significant discount.

The advantage to this style is that you know your student is covering all of the material that their grade level is “supposed” to cover and you don’t have to try to come up with a zillion lesson plans. You just have to guide them through the material.  If you or your student are the type of person who gets terribly stressed out when there is no plan, curriculum-based homeschool may be just the ticket.

Why does she have a net on her head? I don't know. Sometimes homeschool is like that.

Why does she have a net on her head? I don’t know. Sometimes homeschool is like that.

Co-Op learning tends to be a version of this type of schooling where you work with a group of homeschoolers and work out a rotation to help spead out the teaching duties.  Perhaps Mrs. Smith teaches math and science on Monday and Mr. Jones teaches art on Wednesday and so forth, with parents guiding their own children through lessons between the class times.

Curriculum-based homeschooling is how we started with at the beginning of our  journey. We knew pretty quickly it wasn’t going to work for us even though, like I said, it’s perfect for a lot of our friends.  We felt like we were tied to this uber-expensive textbook we’d bought.  Our daughter desperately wanted to learn about space and we were studying dinosaurs. She was struggling a great deal with the way the math lessons were written – she didn’t understand the instructions and would become so frustrated that she couldn’t solve even the simplest problems.  She was reading and writing at a grade level higher than we were teaching and she was bored out of her mind.

For half a year or so we fought and screamed and threatened and the whole thing was a misery.  I was beginning to doubt our choice to homeschool. I felt like a failure. Then, somewhere along the line we tossed the whole plan out the window and all of a sudden the house was peaceful and learning started happening.

We moved on to what I’ve heard referred to as “eclectic schooling.”

Friday I will share what our eclectic school looks like and discuss “unschooling” as well in Part 2.

Homeschool, Virtual School, Un-school, Co-Op: What does it all mean? |

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Today Is A Good Day

Today Is A Good Day | LazyHippieMama.comI don’t go out of my way to read my horoscope but on Monday I happened across mine for that day. It promised me I would feel happier and luckier that day than I ever had before.  I joked about that with Handsome Hippie Hubby. What would we do with all those lottery winnings? What could make me happier than holding my newborn babies or hearing the love of my life say, “I do?”  And then we went on with our day.

It was a fairly average day. I did some writing. I went to work. We took the kids to the park, which was very nice, and then we decided to try out a restaurant some friends had recommended. Apparently the place is “super cheap with the best tacos in the universe.”  That’s worth a try, for sure!

So it was that we buckled our children into the back seat of our tiny little Ford Escort and headed the 3 miles or so across town to get dinner.  We were driving down the road at about 30 MPH. We had the green light so I never even tapped the brake. The woman driving 30 MPH on the cross street in a Ford F-150 never tapped hers either and we hit her – our bumper to her running board – at full speed.

The front end of our car literally folded in half.  The second the car stopped moving I spun in my seat to look at the kids. They were both looking back at me with wide, startled eyes. I looked at my husband and there he was, safe and sound looking back at me.  Fluids of every sort were running out of the car and we were in a busy intersection. “Get the kids out of the car. I’ll call 911,” he said.

We all climbed out and I headed toward the nearest business – a tow truck service, as it turned out. By the time I got to the parking lot a friend of mine was standing there! “Are you OK?” she asked.  “I saw you get out of the car and thought you might need some help.”  She had just happened to be in the neighborhood at that moment. She took my kids to her car where they immediately climbed in and started playing with her two little cuties.  I thought the truck had driven off, but she pointed it out to me, across the road in another parking lot.  The other people were OK too (and their giant truck was a bit dented but in significantly better shape than our crumpled little shoebox!).

Today Is A Good Day |

“We are all OK,” I said. Then I looked back at my poor little car; now just a heap of scrap metal and broken glass.  “I can’t believe we all just got out and walked away from that. I’ve never felt so happy and lucky in my entire life.”


My horoscope was right!

I have been thinking about that moment all week.  The “happiest moment of my life” was not at all pleasant.

How many times do we hear (or say), “today was a great day!” And what we mean is that today was fun. It was a pleasant day. We visited loved ones or laughed hard with friends. We basked in the sun or raced downhill in the snow. We ate good food or made good love or napped without interruption.  “It was a good day.”

But what about the other days?

What about the days when you drag your exhausted butt to work only to be yelled at by demanding customers for 10 hours straight?  What about the days when we are worried about where the money to pay this month’s bills will come from? Or the days when our loved ones snip at us or our kids are throwing up or things just generally suck?

We call those “bad days,” but…. are they?

Perhaps a change in vocabulary is called for. Difficult days, sad days, unpleasant days are not necessarily “bad.” In those days we are taught our greatest lessons. We are allowed extraordinary opportunities to shine as a beacon of hope to our fellow man. We are blessed with the miracle that is the gift of love, given by friends and family who share those times with us.

I think that Americans, in particular, were sold a bill of goods, somewhere along the line, that told us, “You should always be happy. You deserve to have everything you want. You have a right to be 100% comfortable, 100% of the time.” But the reality is that just isn’t healthy.  Have you ever known a person who gets everything they want 100% of the time? They tend to be selfish, greedy, unkind, unhappy, dissatisfied people that no one really likes to be around.

No one enjoys the flavor of their food as much as a person who is very hungry. No one revels in a great shower like a person who was truly dirty. No one finds blissful rest in a good night’s sleep like a person who is truly exhausted.

Those things that bring pleasure are just not as much fun if we never have the chance to long for them.

Pleasant days would not be nearly as wonderful if we never have the chance to experience days that are tedious or painful or sad or exhausting.

Today is good because you are alive.

Perhaps it will be an enjoyable day for you.  I hope so. It’s Friday. It’s the end of summer. It’s a great day to have fun.

But if today is hard, if you are at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on tight. Times may be hard now but easier days will come. They will! I promise. And they will feel SO AWESOME after this battle is behind you. And you’ll be able to look back and say, “That day was difficult, but it was good.”

Today Is A Good Day |

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I Don’t Understand

I Don't Understand | LazyHippieMama.comI recently overheard a conversation that went something like this:

Elderly, white middle class guy from the Midwest #1, “I don’t understand those people in Ferguson. What does rioting have to do with justice?”

Elderly, white middle class guy from the Midwest #2, “Maybe they think the tax payers will build them all new houses and increase their food stamps now so they can keep on being unemployed and having babies with no daddies.”

Here’s what I thought at first:

How could they even think that way?! I don’t understand!

But as I pondered it I thought, you know… that’s a powerful statement.

I don’t understand.

You see, there are a great many things I don’t understand.

I don’t understand how two well educated, reasonably well traveled men could speak that way about another ethnic group in the year 2014.  I don’t understand because I didn’t grow up in their generation. I didn’t witness the chaos in Detroit in the 1960′s or the changing of the local economies during the time of “white flight.”  I wasn’t raised in a time when black children and white children were not even permitted to use the same restrooms.  I don’t understand.

Furthermore, I don’t know the answer to the man’s question.  I don’t understand what drives a population to riot. I suspect that, in a city of nearly half a million people there are probably only a tiny fraction taking part in such dangerous and criminal behaviors. But the underlying tension, the desperation and frustration, the panic and anger and distrust… it seems clear that those powerful feelings that are the driving forces behind extreme actions are very wide-spread. I don’t understand what it is to be that powerfully frustrated or frightened by the society around me because, whether I knew it or not, I grew up and have lived most of my life under the relative safety and security of “white privilege.”

The trail had been blazed and my thoughts ran wild.

I don’t understand how any woman could ever abort her baby. I don’t understand because, even though they weren’t both planned, my pregnancies were both wanted and I had a kind, loving, gentle man by my side who would go to the ends of the earth to make sure that my children and I have a safe place to live and food on the table. I had medical care and I was finished with school and I wasn’t being abused and… I could go on. But it all comes to the same thing. I don’t understand.

I don’t understand why anyone would choose to drink or abuse drugs every day when the substance in question leaves them feeling sick and miserable and, in time, strips from them everything from financial peace to the love of family. I don’t understand because I’ve been lucky enough to escape the black chains of addiction. My own personal battles lie elsewhere, and so I don’t understand.

I don’t understand why someone would risk their lives and the lives of their children to cross a desert and live illegally in another country. My own country provides unlimited access to emergency medical care, free education for every child, food stamps and community food pantries for those who can’t buy their own food and so much more. So, truly, I don’t understand what drives a person to such a choice.

I don’t understand why someone would ever take part in a plan to fly an airplane into a building killing themselves and thousands of innocent people. I’ve grown up in a land where I was free to practice whichever religion I chose, pursue as much education as I desire, work in whatever field I like and achieve any financial status I set my mind to. I have lived my life free of the fear of one faction or another setting off a bomb in my neighborhood or bursting into my home to drag one member or another off to Heaven-only-knows what kind of torture. I was raised in a time and place where I never really had a real concern that another nation would come in and tell me that my property was no longer my own or that my nationality had suddenly been redetermined. My world is so far removed from the world of the people who commit such acts as to be nearly unrecognizable and so I don’t understand.

There are so many things that I don’t understand. As I get older I realize more and more how very many things in the world I don’t understand. I can strive toward understanding. I can read and research. I can engage in dialogue and ask questions. I can watch and see… truly see… my fellow humans and learn from them.

I can learn to sympathize and I can strive toward justice. But sympathy is not empathy.  I cannot know, with 100% certainty, what I would do in your shoes because I’ve spent my entire life in my own shoes and, while they might have similarities, they are not the same.

One of the beautiful women of advanced experience in my life, who is kind and gentle and extraordinarily loving once told me, “A few years ago I had a moment that changed me forever. It was the moment I realized that there is nothing… nothing… of which I would not be capable given the right set of circumstances. I can never look at another person and say, ‘I would NEVER do what they did.’ I don’t know what I would do. I haven’t ever lived their life.”

This woman has a clear sense of right and wrong. She doesn’t say that every choice that every person makes is a good choice. She has never, in any way, implied that she thinks morality is subjective. She simply acknowledges that the humanitarian, the successful business person, the loving mother, the terrorist, the drug dealer, the murderer, the thief… they are all humans. And, but by the Grace of God go I.

We all need love.

We all need forgiveness.

We are all broken creatures and we all need to acknowledge that, sometimes, we don’t understand and sometimes we aren’t understood.  Maybe, in some way, acknowledging that  will help us be open to knowing one another better and working more meaningfully toward finding solutions to the problems that lie beneath the desperate choices that others make that we just can’t understand.

I Don't Understand |

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Common Crunchy Phrases That Make This Hippie Chick Cringe

It’s true. I have strong feelings about what’s best for my family regarding breastfeeding, baby wearing, discipline, school, our food choices and more. I think the “granola lifestyle” is a great way to live that will bring you personal health and peace and I truly believe that those benefits ripple through our society as more people choose this path. Our lifestyle choices are carefully thought-out. We’re not just jumping on a bandwagon.  For that reason, it’s frustrating when people immediately dismiss us as “fruity” or “fringe.”

On the other hand, sometimes I get why many people look at “the crunchies” with skepticism (at best) and harmful to society as a whole (at worst).  Sometimes, we hippie-leaning folks say things that are just ridiculous!

There are 5 common crunchy phrases that make this hippie chick cringe.

“Even the animals won’t eat it.”

Is that an ORGANIC stinky sneaker you're snacking on?

Is that an ORGANIC stinky sneaker you’re snacking on?

I’ve heard this in regard to GMO plants, conventionally grown crops, meat raised on large-scale farms and more.  It needs to stop.  Yes, in one sense humans are animals but… really? Apples and oranges, you know?  My dog won’t eat organic rice or zucchini but he’ll lick his own bum and drink out of the toilet. He’s a big fan of chicken poop. He’s a reasonably clever animal but not really my go-to guy when it comes to food choices.

“Women have been doing it forever.”

Yes. Women have been giving birth for as long as there have been women.  And they’ve been dying, as have their babies. They bled to death. They succumbed to infection. The babies got stuck or tore them open on the way out. Bad things happened in childbirth through history.  They happened frequently.  I am all for natural child birth. I’ve spoken out against excessive medical intervention in pregnancy and birth multiple times on this blog and in private conversations. AND I think it’s a wonderful thing to live in a time and place where doctors have the knowledge and the skill to remove the vast majority of the danger from pregnancy and childbirth.

“This therapy is valid because the ancients used it.”

The ancients had some great wisdom. Warm broth made from the meat or bones of animals has been given to those who are ill for thousands of years. Modern day science can tell us that such a broth is a perfect food for a weak person in need of maximum nourishment. The ancients knew that. On the other hand, the ancients tried to bleed tuberculosis out of people and drilled holes in the skulls of depressed people so the sadness could escape.  Just because “medicine” is ancient doesn’t make it valid. There’s a reason people got really excited about the invention of penicillin.

Here. Let me wave these feathers over you. That ought to clear those smallpox right up in no time!

Here. Let me wave these feathers over you. That ought to clear those smallpox right up in no time!

“Nature shows us that this is normal behavior.”

In nature, we find the male seahorse, who carries and births the babies. I could maybe get on board with this concept.

In nature, we find the male seahorse, who carries and births the babies. I could maybe get on board with this concept.

I have heard this in relation to everything from co-sleeping to chewing a babies food for them. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying either of these behaviors are bad. I’ve done them both. But I didn’t do it because “nature” showed me that it was normal. Parents in nature eat their young, abandon the disfigured and weak and mate to produce offspring as frequently as possible. “Nature” is not always a great teacher.

“It’s healthy because it’s organic.”

My family eats a lot of organic food, even though we often have to make cuts in other parts of our lives to afford it. I’m a big believer in the benefits of keeping close to nature. However, GMO corn with pesticides on it is healthier than organic chocolate chip cookies (not as delicious, though). Organic has to do with the method of farming, NOT the nutritional value of the food.

Are there any crunchy phrases that make you cringe?

Common Crunchy Phrases That Make This Hippie Chick Cringe |


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Homeschooling With A Side of Public

Homeschool with a side of Public | LazyHippieMama.comTwo years ago, we thought long and hard about pulling our daughter out of public school. When we’d lived in the city we had a lot of choices as to where she could attend but when we moved to a small town the choices dried up. There was the local public school, there was the option to drive her 15+ miles one way every day throughout the Michigan winters, or there was homeschool. At first, we chose public school and it really wasn’t a bad experience.  Most of the teachers and the staff were super kind and loving folks, some of whom became personal friends. They were very skilled at their job and worked hard to give our child a great education. But…

we just felt it was a flawed system. Too few teachers, too many government restrictions, not nearly enough time for a kid to be a kid. We had lots and lots of small frustrations that added up to a big deal.

We started seriously considering homeschooling. A friend told us, “Make a list of 100 reasons. If you can’t come up with 100 you’re not serious enough about this. If you can, keep the list because there will be days (months, years) when you are asking yourself, ‘why in the world am I doing this?’ and at those moments you’ll be thankful for the reminder.”

It seemed a daunting task but we sat down to do it and, to our surprise the first 80 or so simply rolled off our tongues, one after another and the rest were quick to follow.  (Our list can be viewed here). One of those reasons was that our daughter had a passionate desire to learn music.  Music curriculum had been all but scrapped from the local elementary school and band didn’t start until 5th grade (she was in 3rd at the time).

Of course, many children study music through private lessons but we didn’t feel like we had time for that when she was in public school and we really didn’t have the money, either.  As a homeschooler, she could join the National Homeschool Music Ensemble and begin learning an instrument right away.  The cost was a fraction of what it would be to enroll her in private lessons. We jumped on it.

Homeschooling with a side of Public |

She began with the clarinet, but switched to trombone a few weeks in and she spent one year with the homeschool beginning band, learning the basics.  The second year she moved to the concert band and Handsome Hippie Hubby began playing with her. Parents are welcome to play with NHME, which creates a very cool environment where it’s not unusual to see a 7 year old instructing a 40 year old on proper finger positions.

Homeschool with a side of Public |

At the end of the school year her director approached her and said, “I remember in the beginning what you really wanted to play was French Horn.”  She nodded, enthusiastically. She’s wanted to play French horn since she saw one as a 3 year old but they are terribly expensive instruments. We didn’t have the means to buy one and the band only had 2, both already being used by older students. He told her to go look in the closet and, there it was: A shiny brass tangle of pipes with her name on it. Joy of joys! A double French horn just for her!  She was one happy kid!

Homeschool with a side of Public |

So the plan was hatched: she could play French horn with the beginning band and trombone with the concert band for the duration of 5th grade and, when she gets to 6th, we’ll determine which direction we are going to go.  But then…

Musical Cousin marched in the Rose Parade.

rose parade

It was beyond cool. We all sat around the TV watching for him and crying proud tears, texting and Tweeting with family far and wide.  His band did an extraordinary job.  Not long after that we were able to see his band’s award winning field performance.  The kids had worked for hours, nearly every day for months and it showed. The performance was jaw-dropping.

Sweet Hippie Daughter, wide-eyed, said, “I WANT TO DO THAT!”


Handsome Hippie Hubby and I glanced at each other. The homeschool band is a concert band. They don’t have the numbers, the space or the money to support a marching program.  Our local public school, however has a stellar marching program. Smaller than Musical Cousin’s set-up (the difference between a suburban school that graduates thousands each year and a rural school that has about 1,000 students in K-12 combined), but extremely well done and well supported by the community, none-the-less.

We discussed it for a while. We love homeschooling. It may not be right for every family, but it has been a super fit for us.  One of the things we love most is the ability to let our children spend as much time as they like pursuing those things that spark their passions most.  If that means our school weeks end up revolving around learning 3 different instruments then so be it. She can play trombone with the concert band, French horn with beginning band and percussion with the public school band. Math work can be done in the car on the way to rehearsal.

We contacted the local band director and asked him if he would be willing and able to allow us to participate in his program under Michigan’s “Revised School Code.”  This law says that, if you are homeschooling in Michigan (not virtual schooling or attending a charter school), you have the right to request permission from your local public school to attend any non-core class.

The teacher was very helpful and, with the help of the school administration, we figured out how to make that work.  So, beginning just after labor day, Sweet Hippie Daughter is headed back to public school. Sort of. For an hour a day, a few days each week.  She won’t learn to march in 5th grade, but she’ll be laying the foundation to move forward within that program in the future, if she chooses to do so.

Now we are homeschoolers with a side of public school and I think I’m OK with that. I am very aware of how rare and wonderful it is to live in a time and place where we have so many options for educating our children and I am humbled, as always, by the kindness and willingness of others to help us find the path that works best for our family.

Have you ever tried anything like this, as a homeschooler?

I would LOVE to hear about your experience!

Homeschool with a side of Public |

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Is Everybody Doing It?

We Hippies live near Toledo, OH and Handsome Hippie Hubby works there.  Last week we witnessed what happens when world comes to a screeching halt for nearly half a million people when an algae bloom on Lake Erie contaminated the city’s water supply.  Residents of the city and many surrounding communities (thankfully not ours) were told not to drink, or even touch, the water coming out of their taps.

image from WTOL Toledo News 11

image from WTOL Toledo News 11 – a water sample taken from Lake Erie during the Toledo water emergency.

This was the first time Toledo was shut down in that way, but the underlying issue with Lake Erie has been a topic of concern for environmentalists for years. Harmful algae blooms are becoming an increasing issue around the world. They are toxic to humans and cause immense damage to the ecological balance of the area they grow in.  Algae is a natural thing, of course, but this is nature run amok.  It is caused by a variety of issues from sewage in the water to chemicals from industrial dumping but the primary problem is run-off from industrial agriculture and lawn chemicals.

When the news broke and we began learning what was happening and why, Handsome Hippie Hubby made a comment that went something like this, “How can this be happening? Everyone seems to be becoming so much more aware of the importance of mindful living and then you hear about things like this.”

I didn’t have an answer. But it caused me to start thinking.  Is it true that everyone is becoming aware of the importance of mindful living?

Is Everybody Doing It? | LazyHippieMama.comA few months ago I heard the term, “confirmation bias.”  This is the idea that you tend to find support to back up the ideas you already have. The more deeply entrenched your beliefs are, the more likely you are to find reasons to keep believing.

Taken a step further, we create a world for ourselves that supports our beliefs. If you are a Protestant and a Republican you will go to church and meet other Protestants. You will work with other Republicans to support your candidates. You make friends within that framework. You build networks within those groups. It begins to feel like EVERYONE is a Protestant and a Republican.  Confirmation bias such as this can be so powerful that it can be baffling, or even offensive, when you meet someone who is of a different religious or political belief system.  How can they believe THAT when it’s SO CLEAR that everyone else believes something else?

So I began to wonder. Is it true that “people” are becoming more aware of the importance of mindful living or have there always been a group of people who felt that it was important and now that our family is beginning to think as they do we are being assimilated into that tribe?

Because WE think it’s vitally important to consume less and tread lightly upon the earth, to seek peaceful resolution to conflict, and to live in right relationship with our Creator and our neighbors are we simply surrounding ourselves with others who believe as we do? Or is it possible that little ripples of change really are coursing through our society?

It’s “What Do You Think? Wednesday” and I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Do you think that, as a whole, people (Americans? “Western” cultures? Humans everywhere?) are placing more importance on the environment and our connection to the planet and each other? Is the human race just plodding along as it always has with some feeling one way and others following a different path? Or are “the crunchies” the weird minority?

Is everybody doing it? |

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Talking To Kids About 9/11 – A Book Review of “Eleven” by Tom Rogers

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It’s hard to imagine, but school-aged children today either weren’t born yet when 9/11 happened or they were too young to remember it.  How do you talk about such a tragedy with young kids?

Recently, I was asked to write an honest review in return for a free copy of the young adult book, Eleven, by Tom Rogers.  I agreed, thinking that it might be a good book for Sweet Hippie Daughter to read in September, as we get the school year rolling.

The book has 40 chapters, many only a page or 2 long and it’s a quick read. I finished it in 2 days. It moves quickly and never loses your attention for a moment.

The story is told from the perspective of Alex, a little boy who is turning eleven on September 11, 2001.  For the most part, the entire book is about that one day in the boy’s life.  I think that most any young reader would find Alex to be an extremely relatable character. He wakes up, the morning of his birthday, full of hopes and expectations. He struggles a bit to listen and follow the rules the way he knows he should. He encounters bullies and friends on the way to school and then he’s sent home early for reasons none of the kids understand.  He finds himself swept into a series of events as he realizes that The World Trade Center has been attacked and his father, who works there, might never be coming home.

Along the way he meets and befriends Mac, an elderly man whose son also works in the Twin Towers and Radar, “The World’s Best Dog.”

I felt the author did an extraordinary job of presenting the human side of what happened on that day. You can almost feel the confusion of the children as they are sent home from school for “no reason,” the fear of the parents when they send the kids out to play in the yards with a strict “no TV” rule, and the powerful bonding of the citizens of New York as they came together to face something unlike anything they’d known before.

The book is honest in depicting the violence of what happened and the reader, at more than one point, finds themselves in the midst of the destruction, surrounded by the wounded, dead and dying. That said, at no point was the story overtly gory or sensationalist. The focus was put on the thoughts and feelings of the survivors, their will to help one another, and their longing to get home and embrace their families.

There is little, if any, mention of politics. It is the story of what happened on that one day and, if memory serves, on that day none of us really knew or understood why the bombers carried out their acts of terror.  We only knew that we’d been attacked and we were frightened and seeking answers – just like the characters so vividly brought to life in the book.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Eleven to anyone for themselves or their child. It’s an interesting book to read but I think it would also serve as a great platform for opening up a discussion about 9/11 and all that led up to it and followed it.  I intend to have my 5th grader read it this September.

Talking To Kids About 9/11 - A Book Review of "Eleven" by Tom Rogers | Lazy Hippie Mama

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