Monday, October 24, 2016

Love of Learning Phase: Age 8-12

This post is the third in my Back-to-Homeschool series for 2016.

In my recent back-to-homeschool posts, I've been discussing the phases of learning and how applying them can improve children's education. In the Leadership Education philosophy (also known as TJEd), the three phases of learning in childhood and the early teen years are:
In this post, I will discuss the Love of Learning Phase in more detail.


Transitioning into Love of Learning Phase

According to Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning, when the foundation of Core Phase has been achieved, students will naturally progress into the Love of Learning Phase at around age 8 (or a little later for boys) [1]. Because Core Phase is the foundation for all subsequent phases, the Core Phase should still be nurtured even while the student is in Love of Learning Phase. As described in For the Love of Learning (by Amy Edwards), "it will not harm your children to spend a little extra time in Core Phase rather than rush into Love of Learning too early" [2]. The transition into Love of Learning phase will happen on its own when the child has a solid Core Phase foundation and has reached their own developmental age for Love of Learning. 

Signs that a child is transitioning into Love of Learning Phase may include:
  • the child choosing to spend less of their free time in imaginative play, and more of their time reading and working on projects,
  • the child having "many interests, all of which seem to run very hot but often burn out quickly" [2], and
  • the child having learned well the lessons of Core Phase (including good character, readily achieving household responsibilities, and strong family relationships) so that Core Phase issues occur infrequently.


Love of Learning Phase "Curriculum"

The "names of the phases [of learning] do not describe what is happening during the phase, especially not in the beginning of each phase. The name describes what the end result will be. Children in Core Phase will have a solid foundation in core values by the end of Core Phase. Children in Love of Learning Phase will love to learn by the end of the phase" [2].

In the Love of Learning Phase, the "curriculum" is essentially giving the student the opportunity to "freely fall in love with the joys of learning and to experience first-hand how wonderful learning can be." [1] This can be accomplished through:
  • giving students the freedom and support necessary to explore and pursue their interests in as much depth as desired,
  • helping the students develop the habit of studying on a regular basis, wherein the focus and schedule of the study time is determined by the students themselves, 
  • leaving enough unstructured time for the student to be in the "space of discomfort/boredom that impels a young person to exert himself to accomplish something worthwhile" [1], and
  • parents conscientiously working to create an environment that inspires learning.


Academics in Love of Learning Phase

There is more focus on academics in Love of Learning Phase than in Core Phase, but the Love of Learning Phase still does not include forcing the child to accomplish academic tasks. The academic pursuits in Love of Learning Phase are based largely on the child's own interests, and the parents' task is to inspire the child to want to learn rather than trying to force learning upon the child.  This is an important distinction, because forcing a child to do academics is more likely to cultivate a hate of learning instead of a love of learning.

Parents can purposefully inspire the child to love learning by making their own educations a priority (and thereby setting a good example that the kids will naturally follow), by making sure there are plenty of interesting academic resources available, and by creating an environment where there is plenty of time for exploration and learning to happen (through limiting such things as media, electronics, and structured classes/activities for the children).


Examples of Love of Learning Phase Activities

To help readers get a better idea of what the Love of Learning Phase looks like in practice, below are some examples of Love of Learning Phase activities.
  • Continuing to nurture the Core Phase:
    • Focusing on character development as a fundamental aspect of education
    • Nurturing family relationships such that the child has strong, positive relationships with their parents, siblings, grandparents, etc.
    • Working together as a family to maintain the home and yard
    • Doing service for others as a family
  • Unpressured exploration of academic pursuits:
  • Helping children learn to set goals and reasonable expectations:
    • Helping children create a homeschool compass every 3-6 months wherein the children set their sights on their overall areas of interest over the coming months
    • Meeting with children regularly to help them in setting their own goals for the coming weeks, and to help them learn accountability in meeting their goals
    • Being supportive and positive in teaching these skills to children so that they feel confident in their abilities
  • Enabling the children to reach mastery in household responsibilities:
    • Teaching basic life skills to children, such as the following:
      • cleaning
      • laundry
      • gardening
      • budgeting
      • grocery shopping
      • cooking
      • yard and home maintenance
  • Creating a home environment that inspires learning:
    • Parents leading out by focusing on their own educations; when the children often see the parents reading, writing, and discussing their own passionate interests, the children will naturally imitate that example
    • Limiting electronic distractions in the home (such as computers, TV, movies, and video games) so that there is plenty of time for the children to pursue their own projects and interests
    • Parents purposefully limiting the number of outside-the-home activities and classes so that there is plenty of time available for interest-led learning
    • Having tools available that aid in the exploration of math, science, history, geography, handicrafts, and workshop skills; examples of such tools include wall maps, microscopes, measuring tools, woodworking tools, etc. (I can post more information about tools that aid the childhood learning phases if that is desired)

My Experience with Love of Learning Phase in Our Homeschool

When my daughter was transitioning into Love of Learning Phase, I observed that in her free time she was playing less and instead focused more on self-directed craft projects, drawing, and poring over books about her favorite subjects (horses, folktales, and Native Americans). Over the last year or so that she has been in Love of Learning phase, the time she chooses to spend playing has continued to diminish, much to her little brother's chagrin, and meanwhile her interests have continued to expand into many different areas. She is often seen toting around large science encyclopedias or our (totally amazing) Ultimate Visual Dictionary.

Because I have a history of pushing too hard, too fast with her education, even though I could tell that my daughter was moving into Love of Learning Phase, I spent months just continuing to focus on nurturing her Core Phase. Over the last few months, I have been purposefully digging deeper into Love of Learning activities with her.

For example, she has a long-term goal of having a blog some day. We've talked about how she will need to learn spelling and typing in order to achieve that goal. For quite a long while, she has been choosing to practice handwriting regularly by tracing over letters that I either handwrite or print off the computer, but she has rarely wanted to write without having something to trace (probably because that was one of the subjects that I pushed too hard on early in our homeschooling). Because she wants to start working towards her goal of blogging, she has decided to work on spelling and writing-without-tracing on a regular basis.

(Initially, she was setting goals to practice spelling and writing-without-tracing, but she kept bumping into a lack of motivation to actually put in the time.  By knowing her energy type and listening to Carol Tuttle's series on motivating each type of child, my daughter and I have been able to brainstorm ways to help her keep up her motivation to achieve her own goals, and that has been working very well.)

Besides helping my daughter with working on her long-term goals, her journey into Love of Learning Phase has necessitated that I carve out more time when her brother can be otherwise-occupied so that she has some time to pursue her own interests independently as well as with my assistance. Additionally, because I can tell that her maturity has increased, I have been giving my daughter more responsibility in having authority over when she does her chicken chores, taking over more aspects of managing her chicken egg business, and trusting her to self-govern other aspects of her day-to-day life. Her Love of Learning Phase is progressing beautifully.

References and Resources for Learning More About Love of Learning Phase

Want to learn more about Love of Learning Phase? Check out these resources:


    Have you heard of Love of Learning Phase previously? What are your favorite methods for inspiring your children to love learning?

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    Tuesday, October 11, 2016

    Beef Liver and Mushroom Paté (nutrient-dense : grain-free : gluten-free)

    Liver is a true superfood, providing abundant iron, vitamin A, all of the B vitamins (including folic acid), CoQ10, and trace elements such as copper, chromium, and zinc. Yet, when liver is unadorned, many people find its flavor to be overpowering and unpleasant. Beef liver is especially strong-flavored, but this nutritional powerhouse can still be a welcome addition to our diets with the right preparation techniques. A great example is this recipe for Beef Liver and Mushroom Paté.

    I start by soaking the beef liver in kefir overnight. This mellows its flavor considerably.  Then I combine it with some great flavor additions in the form of grassfed butter, caramelized onions, and mushrooms. I also lighten the liver flavor by including ground beef in the recipe. The results are a delicious paté that can be enjoyed by many.

    Beef Liver and Mushroom Paté
    • 3/4 lb grassfed beef liver, sliced
    • ~3/4 cup whole milk kefir or buttermilk, just enough to cover the beef liver
    • one large white or yellow onion, chopped
    • 1/2 pound brown mushrooms, sliced
    • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, preferably grassfed
    • 1/2 pound ground beef
    • 1&3/4 tsp celtic sea salt
    • 1/2 tsp freshly-ground pepper
    • 2 Tb heavy cream
    • 2 Tb sour cream
    • Equipment needed: large, heavy-bottomed skillet and food processor
    The day before you will make the pate:
    1. Carefully trim any membrane from the beef liver. 
    2. Place the liver in a glass container with a lid and add enough milk kefir or buttermilk to cover the liver. Stir as needed to ensure that all of the liver is in contact with the kefir/buttermilk. 
    3. Put a lid on the container and refrigerate 12-24 hours.
    The following day:
    1. Melt 2 Tb butter in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and a tiny sprinkle of celtic sea salt.  Saute the onion for ~5-10 minutes, stirring as needed but not too often. Let the onion get a bit of browned color, which indicates that it is caramelizing and releasing its natural sweetness. In the meantime, slice the mushrooms.
    2. Add 2 Tb butter to the skillet, and then add the mushrooms. Sprinkle with a little salt and saute the mushrooms for 5-10 minutes, until they have released their moisture and cooked down a bit.
    3. Crumble the ground beef into the skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook ~5 minutes until it is mostly browned.  
    4. Add the remaining 4 Tb butter to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium. Add the liver to the skillet and cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring and flipping the liver slices occasionally. Season with the remaining salt and pepper. The liver should be browned on the outside with a slight hint of pink remaining inside.
    5. Turn off heat and allow to cool for ~ 10 minutes.
    6. Transfer the meat and veggie mixture into a food processor. Add the heavy cream and sour cream. (I have a 7-cup food processor. If you have a smaller food processor, you may need to process half of the mixture at a time with half of the heavy cream and sour cream.) Pulse the mixture a few times and then turn the processor on until all lumps are gone and everything is thoroughly mixed.
    7. Scoop the paté into a storage container and refrigerate several hours.  I also like to freeze some of the paté for later use.
    8. This paté is excellent when served as a dip for veggie sticks, or spread on bread or crackers with a little mayonnaise. I love to top it with coleslaw and fresh tomatoes for a superb meal. Fermented bread and butter pickles also complement the flavor of this pate nicely.


    Does your family eat liver? What is your favorite way to eat this superfood?

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    Sunday, October 2, 2016

    Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (grain-free : gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

    Although my daughter's tolerance for grains has improved to where she can now eat several servings per week of non-gluten grains, I still like to create grain-free recipes that she can enjoy without limitations.  My latest grain-free recipe is Chocolate Chip Banana Bread.

    This recipe includes coconut flour, nut butter, plenty of eggs and butter, and a touch of sucanat (unrefined sugar).  The bananas and chocolate chips give this bread a moist punch of yummy flavor. We all loved eating this bread, and devoured over half the loaf in one sitting.

    Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
    1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
    2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  Turn off heat and let cool for a few minutes.
    3. In the meantime, combine the sucanat, eggs, salt, baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
    4. Add the butter to the bowl and blend it all together well using an immersion blender.
    5. Add the coconut flour and almond butter.  Blend well with an immersion blender.
    6. Stir in the mashed banana and chocolate chips with a spoon or spatula. 
    7. Pour the batter into a well-buttered loaf pan.  I used a 9X5 glass pan.
    8. Bake at 325 degrees for about 40-50 minutes.  It will be done when it is set in the middle and no longer wet-looking.  You can check for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the middle; when the toothpick comes out with just some tiny crumbs, the bread is done.
    9. Remove from the oven and let cool a few minutes. Then you can use a trick I learned from my days as a baker that helps ensure that bread loaves will be easily released from the pan: let the loaf cool while the loaf pan is lying on its side, and switch it to the other side about halfway through cooling.  This allows gravity to aid in the process of liberating the bread from the side of the pan. 
    10. Once the bread is no longer hot, use a spatula or knife to go around the edges of the pan. Cool completely and then invert the pan to release the bread.
    11. I like to slice the bread with a Rada bread knife, which works superbly for this type of bread. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. I place parchment paper between the slices, and store it in the freezer. 
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