I named her Mary. The little baby chicken that hatched on our front porch days before Christmas followed me everywhere. Her mother had no interest in raising her, so I gladly took over. I researched food, kept her warm, cuddled her and cheered her on as she learned to run around pecking at the ground on her own. My older brother was obsessed with building houses to code, and our backyard was often full of such projects. When we painted one bright green, Mary trailed closely behind me and soon became green as well.
The older I get, the less room for childhood memories I seem to have. There are a few lingering ones from early childhood: a tiny patch of garden with tall corn, hours upon hours of reenacting the Civil War (complete with authentic outfits sewed by my mom), learning how to spell by swinging while my mom shouted words at me and I spelled them. Thanks to my mom selflessly homeschooling my brothers and I until we left for college, my education experience has always been full of exciting, mostly positive memories.
I’m a kinesthetic learner. Probably one of the biggest, strongest ones you’ll ever meet. I struggle with learning from reading or listening. I learn best by doing: I have to be moving, experiencing, discovering, feeling, tasting. Kayaking is a natural fit for me: it’s all about feeling the water and knowing how to react. If I had gone to “traditional” schools, I would have been labeled as “difficult”, or “hyperactive”. I would have been prescribed ADHD medicine (someone tried once, my mother yelled and stormed out). If I had been in “real” school, I would have been drugged into compliance.
Twenty years ago, my mom bravely forged ahead in a path that is just now becoming popular. As unschooling (a hip word for homeschooling with a cooler image, not so many jean jumpers and socially awkward perceptions) grows in popularity, I am happy to see other children get the same chance I did to be a kid and learn how they are designed to learn, not in a way a money driven society has decided is best.
Right now I’m reading a book about children and the outdoors. In “Last Child in the Woods”, Richard Louv talks about how a “nature deficit disorder” exists in our current society. Children are increasingly exposed less and less to nature, and as a result issues like obesity and depression are growing. This is fascinating. A major example he gives is the one where children are now lulled into a quiet zombie-like state thanks to head rest TV sets with headphones, instead of getting to press greasy noses against the windows looking for bears, or counting cows.
I recently read an article about a bear researcher in Alaska. He said he had grown up just like that: a sticky nose pressed against the car window trying to find any animal he could. What if his parents had turned on a TV in the car? Desperate for a few minutes of quiet, they may have discouraged an interest that turned into a life passion.
My mom encouraged us to bravely chase our passions, our dreams. If we couldn’t sit still and listen to lectures, we learned how to spell while swinging. If we wanted to join a local 4-H club and hang out with “weird” vegetarian group that cleaned the beaches, she drove us. As an adult, I try to hold on to that feeling still. As society tells me I need to find a job with benefits, or be focused on building a savings account so I can buy a newer car, a new jacket, a new computer, I try instead to focus on doing what I love. I want to change lives through kayaking and the outdoors. I don’t want to buy a new paddle every season; I want to transform a new paddler every season.
Last summer, as kids were yelling incessantly in the van, and asking questions about everything (are you dating Andrew? Is Sara dating Andrew? Are you married to Andrew? Is Sara married to Andrew? Are you and Sara dating?), I struggled to remain calm. After weeks on end of the constant questions, I buried my head in my knees and tried to tune it out. Andrew squeezed my shoulder and said, “We want them to question. Everyone in life is telling them to be quiet, to get in line, to conform. We want them to learn to question. Then, they will question their lives too.”
Craving Chocolate? Raw Cacao has some of the highest antioxidant levels in the food world. Try this variation on my chia pudding recipe to satisfy your craving and boost your health!
Chocolate Chia Pudding
½ Cup Milk (I used hemp for this recipe, but you can use whatever kind you like best!)
2 Teaspoons raw cacao
1 Teaspoon maple syrup (or honey, or whatever kind of sweetener you prefer)
2 Tablepsoons Chia Seeds
OPTIONAL: DASH of cayenne for a little kick
- Mix milk, cacao and sweetener and whisk with a fork vigorously. Add chia seeds and thoroughly mix.
- Place in the fridge or at least 30 minutes.