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Documenting Interest-Driven Learning as a High School Course

Smoking the Bees

Although we use standard textbooks in many courses, there are times when our teens follow their own rabbit trails and just learn things they want to learn.  This interest-driven exploration is one of the most effective ways to learn, but it leaves me scrambling at high school record keeping time.

It is easy to document the learning in a formal course with a textbook, defined assignments, and purchased tests and exams:  You just note down the text, make a course description based on it, list its contents, record the marks, and calculate the final grade.

But what about a course that starts as a hobby and expands into academics?

One of our teens loved historical fashion coloring books, so we got her more and more of them.  At first I thought it was just an interesting hobby but then realized that this was becoming a serious academic interest.  I was able to retroactively design a course which we called “History of Fashion” based on ten Dover coloring books by fashion historian Tom Tierney and a handful of library books.

Of course, it is impossible to give percentage grades for such a project and constant evaluation is not conducive to deep learning.  However, I read somewhere that if a teen focuses on something out of pure interest and puts in the time, they almost always deserve at least an A.  I have found that to be true.

How about a course that starts off formally and then dissolves into a pile of library books and a deep distaste for the textbook?

One of our teens started Apologia’s Biology but became less and less motivated.  Such situations are always a quandary.  If it had been math, for example, there would have been no option but to be tough and move on, for so much depends on math and each math course builds on the previous one.  Biology, however, being more content-based than skill-based, could be treated as optional if it wasn’t a prerequisite for any of her areas of future interest.  (And if that ever changed, a solid few months of study could easily take care of it.)

As I was looking through her reading and movie list, however, I noticed that she had listed five significant adult books about topics such as disease, food flavorings, dietary fat, and inflammation, as well as five BBC nature documentary series.  A lot of serious learning had happened on her own time, and I realized that, together with the completed work in the textbook, this could easily be a course.  I decided to call it “Topics in Biology.”  For the textbook chapters she completed, I listed test marks and for the books and documentaries I gave an A, for the reasons discussed above.

If she reads a few more relevant books in her remaining high school time, they will be added to the list.  If she reads twenty more, however, I may need to rearrange this course and perhaps assign all the books to a new course like “Readings in Biology” or “Introduction to Disease” or whatever seems most relevant, and keep the formal textbook part of the course by itself, giving her a half credit for that work.

How about a part time job or volunteer position that involves an enormous amount of learning?

It could be treated as a co-op course, at least here in Ontario, and I am contemplating a horsey credit for one teen.

Or it could be treated as an academic course with the job itself being treated like lab work.  For example, one of our teens worked with farmers and veterinarians. She assisted with veterinary procedures and post-mortems and provided much routine animal care.  She also read a university level animal science text, Anatomy and Physiology of Farm Animals, and I put that all together into a science course, using the title of the text to name the course.

General Tips for Documenting Interest-Driven Learning

  1. In the course description note that it is a self-directed or student-initiated course.  Often such courses cover several years, in which case I also note that it is a multi-year course.
  2. Always keep a reading (and film) list.  Besides recording memories, which is always fun, it can add significantly to a high school record, and some of it can applied to courses after the fact.
  3. Be flexible in how you think about courses.  If you look at the course calendars of a few nearby high schools, public as well as Christian, you will discover all sorts of course options.  Your teen’s interests, too, can be noted in their high school records as a course.
  4. Be traditional in naming your courses as you apply to universities.  If there is a similar public school course available, use that title for your course.  If your teen is very focused on something and has done advanced learning, you may want to look at university course lists for titles as well.  And if no similar course is offered anywhere, then be bold and make up your own title, as we did for “Western Literature and Thought,” which was a crazy-intensive course based on Veritas Press’s Omnibus series and included works from Gilgamesh, Virgil, the Bible and Augustine to Machiavelli, Calvin, Marx, and Tolkien. (It was actually worth two or even more credits, but we already had enough other credits so we gave it only one.)
  5. Non-standard courses need good documentation in a university application.  For one of our teens, three faculties at a university combed through the course descriptions I had provided before awarding a large scholarship conditional upon successful completion of the non-standard course, “Western Literature and Thought,” mentioned above.
  6. If there are outside validations of your teen’s effort, such as competition prizes, be sure to record them. Such things are also learning experiences in themselves.
  7. If teens focus on something out of pure interest and put in the time, they almost always deserve at least an A for their work.
  8. Not all interests need to be recorded as courses, although if they related to a potential field of future study they could affect scholarship chances.  It is perfectly fine to keep some as hobbies, as we did with beekeeping, especially if there are already enough high school courses listed on the transcript.
  9. All nonstandard courses based on a teen’s interests will likely far surpass the normal number of hours required for a high school credit, which range from about 100-180, depending on whom you listen to.   That is fine.  Let your teens continue to enjoy themselves and keep on learning while you keep on documenting, just in case.
  10. Upon request, I once posted some examples of high school records for several multi-year, literature-based history courses.   Our teens chose what to read with very little input from me and they learned an enormous amount.

Above all, let your teens continue to explore the world around them, following their own interests.  That possibility is one of the great benefits of homeschooling during the high school years.  With time, opportunity, and exposure to different possibilities, the sky is the limit.  Then, with a bit of effort, you can document their learning in a way that university and college admissions officers can appreciate.

Meanwhile, your teens are having the time of their life learning–engaged, excited, and enthusiastic, which is good in many different ways–and discovering how they can best serve God in this world.

Acknowledgements:  I read most of the available books on homeschooling high school when we started high school many years ago and they have undoubtedly influenced my thinking on this topic.   Especially helpful were Barbara Shelton’s  A Home-Designed Form+U+La and Lee Binz’s record keeping advice

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up, or connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read. 

This article may be linked to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

Thoughts on A Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlund

Juliana Wessex’s people, peasants that her uncle has taxed into poverty, are starving, so she robs the rich to provide for them. But what is she to make of the arrogant Lord Collin who gives her more than she steals from him and invites her to rob him again if she ever needs more?  And then kidnaps her?

A red-headed bandit with a notorious reputation and a dangerous secret, a bored knight come home to claim his inheritance, and a thoroughly evil uncle combine to make a fast-paced teen novel of treachery and heroism.

Jody Hedlund’s skillful writing turn this improbable tale into a gripping story that leaves the reader replaying scene after scene.  A Daring Sacrifice celebrates heroism, skill, and good.  It also includes unbearable evil, and a self-sacrificing savior who, in turn, needs to be saved.

There are many, especially in the West, who question the need for God’s judgement.  Never having personally faced atrocity, they feel no personal need for justice to be done or for evil to be punished.  Books like A Daring Sacrifice, stories of persecution, tales of abuse and evil, examples of people ‘grinding the faces of the poor’ as the prophet Isaiah says—these sorts of things remind us that evil exists and is very, very real.  A just God cannot face evil without punishing, and thanks be to him that Jesus died for sins!

But there are stories, like Job in the Bible, Corrie Ten Boom’s Hiding Place, Darlene Deibler Rose’s Evidence Not Seen, and Cathy LaGrow’s The Waiting, that display how, even in trauma, God reveals hints of his magnificent work, both in victims and, sometimes, in perpetrators. We puny humans cannot think God’s thoughts, see behind the scenes, or understand his good plans—we just need to acknowledge and trust that the Creator of the world can manage everything in the world in a good and just way.  In some ways, A Daring Sacrifice hints at all of these things.

In this book evil is overcome, a subtle retelling of the story of the ultimate Overcomer of evil, who then had to leave for a while to continue his work.  The evil in the daily news will also be overcome, something we can count on because God is both good and great.

As an added bonus, the discussion questions at the end of the book encourage the reader to think about wise romantic relationships, Christ’s sacrifice, and biblical sacrifice.

I highly recommend A Daring Sacrifice for teens who enjoy adventure, love archery, or campaign for justice, as well as for anyone who enjoys a fast-paced, thought-provoking story.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

Disclosure: We borrowed this book from the library and are not compensated for our honest opinions.

This article may be linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook  as well as to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

Living Off the Clock as a Homeschooler

We all feel so busy.  There is so much to do and often there seems to be so little time.

Time.  It’s one of life’s mysteries.  Sometimes it slips away much too quickly, other times it is painfully slow.  We try to stretch some hours but to compress others.  We aim to manage it hour by hour, yet we squander vast quantities of it.

I remember how, long ago at the start of our homeschooling journey, all the empty years stretched out endlessly in a complex mixture of enthusiasm, hope, and terror.  Now, nearing the end of that journey, I look back and then forward to the remaining few years, trying to gain the wisdom I need to use them well.  Similar concepts can apply to each of our lives.

In Off the Clock:  Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done Laura Vanderkam turns her attention to this matter and asks a life-changing question:

Can we alter our perception of time by interacting with it in different ways? 

When Vanderkam’s research turned up busy, productive people with both jobs and children, who felt that time was abundant, she studied their hour by hour time use to see what they did differently than folks who felt time pressure.

The resulting book approaches this matter of time pressure systematically, with research, stories, discoveries, and practical suggestions.

It begins by numbering not only our days but our hours—168 a week, probably only a few hundred thousand left in our lives, and many fewer in our homeschooling days.

But then, rather than leaving us sad or frantic about the limited amount of time left, Vanderkam points out how we can maximize that time calmly and realistically, with joy.  There’s no penny pinching of hours here, but extravagant spending of them in fulfilling ways.

To live in this way we need to remember a few things:

  • Time needs to be tended carefully.  If we accept responsibility for it and plan its use thoughtfully, it will seem to expand.
  • Fun often requires planning, memory-making takes effort we hesitate to expend, and memories must be intentionally cultivated, but they all expand our sense of time.
  • Bliss is possible in the past and the future but rarely in the fleeting present.   In the present we are often preoccupied with the inevitable problems that anticipation and memory can ignore.
  • Few activities are fun for the whole family for their entire duration.
  • Paradoxically, people who get a lot done choose not to pack their schedules.  Instead, they think through their days ahead of time, planning to use their time rather than merely fill it.
  • Self-imposed suffering happens when our expectations are unrealistic.  In most cases ‘good enough’ is good enough, and anxiously striving for perfection uses up enormous amounts of time and energy. Accepting that no person or experience is ever perfect and learning to find the good in them anyways is not only wise; it can also save a lot of time and anguish.
  • In our individualistic culture and our busy lives we sometimes forget that ‘people are a good use of time.’  We need to be as intentional about relationships as we are about anything else.  Yes, this can take up large chunks of our schedule; the phrase ‘love is patient’ implies many things, one of them being that love is generous with time.  On the other hand, Vanderkam points out that that time spent cultivating relationships generally expands the time we seem to have.
  • She also points out that we often foolishly rush through pleasant experiences rather than lingering and enjoying them to the fullest.  Savoring the good times, something we can learn, stretches time; becoming good at suffering, another thing we can learn, can make endless moments of pain feel a bit shorter.  In this sense, joy is a discipline closely allied to our sense of time.

Although Vanderkam studied people with both outside jobs and children, not homeschoolers, we can adapt these ideas to our homeschools.

  • Numbering our weekly hours can help us use our time more wisely; changing our attitude to time can give us the joy and energy to make learning more exciting and effective.
  • Our goal as homeschoolers is learning, not time-consuming ‘educational clutter,’ impressive and validating as it may seem. Mary Pride wrote about this in her valuable book Schoolproof (link to my review).
  • When we have a golden moment or when someone is immersed in a topic, we need to allow time for that.
  • Memorable learning takes effort, even if only in the planning.
  • We should not overwhelm ourselves and our children with unrealistic expectations but instead be satisfied with doing a decent job every day.
  • It’s important to teach children to notice their blessings and be grateful for them.
  • We also need to teach them that filling time online correlates with time pressure and less joy, and to encourage them to invest in real life instead.

Of course, these ideas have long been discussed by Christian homeschoolers but Vanderkam’s approach helps us see them in a fresh light.

I had expected Off the Clock to help me manage my limited daily hours more effectively and joyfully but also found a whole lot more.  I found a handful of deep ideas about time and living that expand on truths I also find in the Bible, concepts I have tried to apply over the years but have rarely seen others wrestle with. Unexpectedly I, a tired, ill, middle-aged homeschooling mom of five, found myself looking at Vanderkam, a youthful, energetic, thoughtful bestselling author of several books and mother of four little ones and thinking, “What!  You too?  I thought I was the only one.”

This is not a standard time management book, but a personal, research-driven look at how our mindset affects our experience of time and, hence, life.  Many of Vanderkam’s ideas can give fresh, practical insights to Christians.  If we add a solid understanding of God’s providence to the insights in Off the Clock, many of us will unexpectedly find extra time and joy in our personal lives as well as our homeschools.

It is ironic that, because of postal issues, I actually did not have adequate time to read and ponder Off the Clock before starting this review. Also, the past days have been the fullest ones in months.  Yet reading in spare moments helped me look at things so differently that I felt peaceful and even savored several memorable mini-vacations despite the time pressure.  When I think of this book in the future, I will likely also think about the firefly blinking on my excited daughter’s hand, the soothing greenery beside various parking lots, and the field of scented wildflowers I spent a blissfully long five minutes photographing.  In fact, I was able to Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done.

If you, too, feel time pressure, I urge you to read Off the Clock.  It could change the way you experience time, both in your personal life and your homeschool, and equip you to live with more love, joy, and peace.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I show up once in a while and am still a newbie, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

Disclosure: Laura Vanderkam sent me a review copy of this book.  All opinions are my own and I have received no compensation for them.

This article may be linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook  as well as to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

Zeal Without Burnout for Homeschoolers

At this time of year most homeschoolers are feeling a little bit burnt out.  That’s no wonder after an intense ten months of teaching some of the most important people in our lives some of the most important things they will ever learn.  Or perhaps vainly trying to teach them without actually succeeding, which is even more tiring.

And then there are all the other things we do as well.

Recently I realized that, for the past few years, I have been trying to do more than I can physically manage.  Although some of the biggest energy uses have been unavoidable and completely necessary, I should have given myself more downtime to refresh afterwards.  Christopher Ash’s book Zeal without Burnout is helping me come to terms with the fact that zeal, while important, must be tempered with wisdom in order to last (Rom 12:11).  Few of us are called to overwork ourselves for more than short seasons of our lives.  In general, God calls us to be wise, not foolish, burning out our lamps without having extra oil to spare.

Sometimes, however, we do not realize when we are doing too much.  What’s more, at one time or another many of us deal with the temptation to choose to do more than we should and we occasionally foolishly set ourselves up for burnout without even realizing it.

And that’s where Zeal without Burnout comes in.  It shows us how to live lives that are both effective and sustainable. Yes, there may still be all kinds of sacrifice, but it is sustainable sacrifice so that we can continue to serve God zealously for the long term.  This is a message that most of us moms, especially homeschoolers, need to hear.

Ash’s Seven keys to a lifelong ministry of sustainable sacrifice are so simple—and also so obvious—that we really should not need such a book.  However, one of the signs of approaching burnout is that the person often does not realize what is obvious to others:  the pressure he or she is under.

So, here is a quick list of the seven points that Ash discusses with gospel wisdom, practical advice, and stories.

  • We need sleep, and God does not.
  • We need Sabbath rests, and God does not.
  • We need friends, and God does not.
  • We need inward renewal, and God does not.
  • A warning: beware celebrity!
  • An encouragement: it’s worth it!
  • A delight: rejoice in grace, not gifts!

We all repeatedly need be reminded of the biblical truth that we are finite and that therefore our service has limits.  We also need the reminder that God has no limits and is ultimately in control.

As homeschooling parents, then, we need to remember that our children are God’s children and that he loves them.  Of course, we need to care for them, read the Bible with them, teach them math, insist on completed schoolwork, supervise cellphones, and so much more.  But even more, we need to trust God.  We need to remember that we cannot give them learning and, especially, we cannot give them faith.  While we obviously need to do our best, we need to trust God, not our own intense efforts, for results.

When we forget this in our everyday lives, we put ourselves at risk for burnout just as surely as the workers in Christian ministry that Ash has written this book for.

If all homeschoolers, indeed all parents, would read Zeal without Burnout and take it to heart, the world would change for the better.  Of course, this little book is also helpful for anyone else who loves God and is tempted to serve him with more zeal than wisdom.  I highly recommend it as summer reading for homeschooling mothers and everyone who wishes to serve God sustainably for a lifetime.

Note:  These ideas are not for lazy people and this is not a plea for taking it easy.  It is a plea for wisdom in serving God.  Ash’s book helps us understand what that means.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I show up once in a while and am still a newbie, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

Disclosure: We borrowed this book from the library and are not compensated for our honest opinions.

This article may be linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook  as well as to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

Review: Fundamentals I from Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS

For the last few years, my kitchen has been rather boring—there has been good healthy food, especially when the garden is producing, but very little excitement.  That is changing now that I’m studying Fundamentals I:  The Basics of Traditional Cooking.

The course ebook is appropriately subtitled Make your kitchen healthy one task at a time, and that is what I’ve been doing.  One task at a time can make an enormous difference, it turns out, because the tasks add up.  For example, at one point there were two jars of water kefir on my counter, nearing the end of their brewing time.  On the far end of the counter I put the milk kefir I just started, and beside it a little bowl of pecans, soaking in water.  On the stove a large bowl of oatmeal muffin mix was soaking in milky-yoghurt, waiting to be baked the next morning for breakfast.

I’m very pleased with that memory, because it was a major accomplishment as well as a major improvement in health value, even though everything took less than half an hour to prepare.  Even better, all these projects represent traditional ways of healthy food preparation whose health benefits are only now being understood.

Over the past three decades, I had dabbled in traditional foods—yoghurt, milk kefir, sauerkraut, sprouts, bread baking, and even cheese making, but only one at a time and usually with a sense of uncertainty and worry about my methods (except for the bread and yoghurt which I learned from my mother).  My husband and friends shook their heads good-naturedly and the kids enjoyed almost all of the foods I made, but when illness struck a decade ago I quit almost all of these practices, except the occasional batch of yoghurt and sauerkraut.

Recently I have become determined to make traditional foods a routine part of my life since they seemed to offer the health that I am searching for.  So I started Fundamentals I from the Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS to bring health back to our family, especially me, and to give my children healthy skills and tastes.  Wardee Harmon, who turned her family’s health around with these techniques, is so full of enthusiasm and knowledge in this course that she helps me to keep on going even though I do not have much energy.

What’s covered in Fundamentals I?  It’s an amazing array:

  • Soaking whole grains, nuts, and seeds
  • Soaked whole grain muffins and pancakes
  • Soaked whole grain biscuits and pasta
  • Soaking and cooking dry beans
  • Sprouting beans
  • Cooking chicken and making chicken stock
  • Skillet dishes—a dinner formula
  • Water kefir
  • Dairy kefir
  • Soft, spreadable cheese
  • Sourdough bread
  • Sprouting whole grains and sprouted flour baking
  • Natural pickled foods

Wardee’s self-paced, online course does an excellent job of explaining each of these processes.  She gives video lessons for those of us who really need to watch something to feel confident about doing it ourselves.  All the little things that can’t be written down are obvious in the videos, so there is no guesswork.  The course also includes audio lessons (which I ignored) and a detailed, organized companion ebook (totalling 178 pages!) full of data, tips, explanations, background information, answers to common questions, and links to related articles on the enormous website.  It is all very user friendly.  For example, Wardee included detailed lists of supplies, with explanations and discussions of alternatives, for the entire course as well as a schedule checklist so you can plan when you want to tackle each project.

How has Fundamentals I changed my life?  Well, our counter is a busier place, and our fridge is filled with ‘new’ foods, many of them in mason jars.  Right now, cheese curds are slowly draining on my counter; there are two bottles of yummy milk kefir, as well as whey from the cheese and left-over pancakes made from soaked flour, in the fridge; I’m making sauerkraut in a jar this afternoon; and I plan to soak some beans today as well.  Each day I look forward to my enormous cup of milk kefir and I’m thrilled to be able to turn ordinary milk into such a delicious, healthy treat with so little effort.  Our kitchen is exciting again and, at no extra ingredient cost, it is also much healthier.

More importantly, after incorporating some of these new foods into my life, how do I feel?  It is difficult to be certain, at this stage, how much traditional cooking is benefitting my health, especially since I started it in the spring when we were finally able to obtain truly fresh produce again.  However, I am no longer getting worse and it seems I’m getting slightly better.   On top of that, my tummy usually feels good these days and that is a big deal.

Unfortunately, much of the healthy eating world is based on the theory of evolution which has its flaws, to put it mildly.  I am so thankful that Wardee bases her convictions on the Bible.  As just one example, many health conscious people these days say that grains are bad to eat because we all evolved from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and have not yet adapted to eating grains.  Wardee rightly points out that at creation God gave mankind every plant that bears seed as food; we’ve just forgotten how to prepare them for optimum nutrition, something traditional cultures do as a matter of course.

Here is some more information about Fundamentals I from the Traditional Cooking School.

Tips for taking the course: 

  • Look at the supply list and immediately order what you will need, especially if you do not live in the US. As a Canadian, it has taken me several months to obtain the required cultures and I’m still waiting for a sourdough starter.
  • Print out the ebook chapters as you use them and put them in a binder with sticky tabs to mark the ‘how to’ sections.
  • When you prepare a recipe, write notes about exactly what you did and how you did it. I found myself tweaking certain things—like making the recipes gluten free by using our favorite flour mix and adding guar gum, or adjusting the water kefir recipe to help the grains to grow.
  • Read the FAQs at the end of each ebook chapter—they are so helpful!
  • Also, do join the Facebook group if you do Facebook. I am not a regular there, but it is a helpful and active community.
  • Use the suggested schedule form on page 12 of the ebook to plan your learning and keep track of what you have done.
  • Take Wardee’s advice: see this process of learning to improve your family’s health by traditional cooking as a part time job, and just make it happen.  It’s easy to be intimidated by all the newness and ‘forget’—we all know how that goes—but with just a bit of determination you can make quick, simple, inexpensive tweaks to your family’s diet that will make a real difference.
  • Your goal is to get into a rhythm of preparing these foods. It doesn’t take much time.  If you are like me, it just takes regular reminders.
  • Each technique is easy to learn, but making them all part of your life takes a bit of persistence. Be patient with yourself as you work on this.
  • Reread “13 Tips for Maintaining and Establishing New Routines” (p 27) regularly as you work to develop these new habits.
  • Do not serve your family kefir until it is cold. Warm kefir, especially warm water kefir, is not a pleasant experience.
  • It is worth trying each of the techniques for a while, but not all of them may suit you and your family. For example, we currently eat almost no sugar, so the water kefir increased my sugar consumption enormously, and I decided to give up on it. On the other hand, if your family regularly drinks pop or juice, water kefir would be a healthy and tasty improvement.   (On that note, if you are local and would like some free water kefir grains, please contact me.)
  • As a strictly gluten-free household, we have not been able to try all of the lessons but our gluten-free flour mix did work well in the soaked baked goods with the addition of a bit of guar gum.
  • We found it easy to adapt the recipes to our low-sugar lifestyle by just reducing or eliminating sugar in the recipes. In fact, the soaked oatmeal muffin recipe (with our gluten-free, low sugar adaptation) has become a staple at our house.
  • My kids occasionally shake their heads at all the kitchen adventures, but in the meantime they are observing the techniques and seeing that it is both possible and worthwhile to prepare healthy foods traditionally. If, eventually, they want to take a high school credit in traditional cooking, the quiz at the end of the course will be helpful in assigning marks.

Potential Problems

  • Obtaining supplies.  Depending on where you live, obtaining supplies may be a major bottleneck as it was for me, so the first thing you want to do when you start this course is look at ‘Getting Started’ to source supplies.  Those who live in the US should be have no problems, though.
  • Trying to do things too quickly.  If you want to add all these skills to your life, it will take time, because you are not only adding skills but also developing new habits.  I was planning to rush through this course in a month, and that was absolutely not possible.  Wardee wisely includes a schedule that is much slower, allowing time for one major learning project a week, and this is a sensible pace for lasting adoption of the techniques.  As she points out, it’s a good idea to treat this course as a job and commit to working on it regularly, even though life may be busy and will always have unexpected surprises.
  • Feeling that you have to try everything (I wanted to but couldn’t) and permanently adopt everything (I decided not to).  Some things will work for you now, others will be possible later, and some may never suit you.  At least, with this course, you can make informed decisions. And, if you want to try something at a later date, do make a note in your calendar so you won’t forget.

So, the bottom line—is this course worthwhile for you?  If you are looking for a more natural way of eating/healing, one that is much less expensive than taking supplements and much safer than many medical options, one that seems to have health benefits that are only now being understood,  then absolutely, yes.  This course will make a difference.  And in the long run it will save both time (you’ll have more energy and less doctor visits) and money (less supplements and medications).

In fact, Fundamentals I basically takes many of the whole foods you eat already and uses traditional methods to make them healthier.  Although Wardee eloquently recommends organic, locally grown foods (and also suggests which ones are crucial to get organically and which ones are less important), I currently can only manage non-organic ingredients.  However, their food value can be hugely improved by traditional cooking methods.  So, no matter whether organic is an option for you or not, by fermenting, culturing, soaking, and sprouting, you can quickly improve the health value of the whole foods you already eat.  All it takes is a bit of knowhow.


If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I show up once in a while and am still a newbie, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

Disclosure:  I have received a free membership to Traditional Cooking School in order to review several of the courses.

This article may be linked to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

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