Why We’re Not Homeschooling This Year

In the past, I’ve posted numerous times about the values of homeschooling, my passion for it, and some of the lessons our kids have learned through our homeschool experiences. I remain a passionate supporter of homeschooling. I believe in it 100%.

But we’re not homeschooling this year.

This year, we passed our 4th anniversary of life here in China. While JavaMan and I have been working hard toward fluency, we felt that our kids hadn’t made the kind of language-learning progress we expected when we moved here.

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And looking at things practically, we realized that the best way for our kids to not only reach fluency, but also to feel more at home in the culture in which we live, would be to attend a year at Chinese school.

Our kids have only known homeschool. They love homeschool (almost) as much as I do, and being homeschooled has become part of their identity. Facing the rigors of the Chinese school system–and entering beyond the first grade–wasn’t a challenge that any of them really desired to take on, so it has been a tough decision–on all of us.

We have now, however, survived our first week. They have each entered at a grade level below their Canadian grade, but since Pumpkin would otherwise be entering middle school–an even more difficult task than primary school in China–we felt it gave them each the best chance for success. They have each begun to make friends and to sort out the daily routine.

Were we not in this special set of circumstances, we would very likely be settling in to another year of Mystery of History, Latin, and Life of Fred. We will miss all of that this year, and we will miss each other. But in the end, we believe it will be worth it.

I plan to post udpates from time to time on A Year in Chinese School. Stay tuned for their further adventures.


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Taking Back the Ice Bucket Challenge

Living abroad is interesting for many reasons, not the least of which is the sense of detachment one can often feel to life “back home.” So it is that over the last few weeks, JavaMan and I have watched friends’ videos of the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” and laughed along with the rest of you at their reactions as icy water met warm bodies, but we never thought it would reach out to us here. We were wrong. Now, I’ve been nominated.

We’ve watched friends take the challenge from the southern United States all the way to a woman standing on a chunk of ice in Resolute Bay, Nunavut. We’ve seen the famous join in, from Kermit the Frog to George W. Bush. And perhaps my favorite challenge of all, done up big by Dave Ramsey.

According to the ALS Association in the United States, about $70 million dollars has been raised toward the cause of finding a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Pretty impressive for a rare disease that few people knew much about before the summer of 2014! (The statistics for the ALS Canada are somewhat more modest–coming in at around $5.6 million.)

The image of ALS that we’ve seen in social media over the last number of weeks is a sobering one, indeed. Many have seen the story of Anthony Carbajal as shared in this YouTube video (note: parental guidance recommended for suggestive scenes and profanity)

But Ramsey in his video alludes to a concern I’ve had as I’ve watched–about where this money is really going and the kind of research it may support. Ramsey says his donation will be designated so that it won’t fund embryonic stem cell research–research that has the potential to take human lives. Both ALS organizations (in the United States and Canada) have issued statements regarding their position on embryonic stem cell research. Both appear to have limited their research in this area for the time being. More information on the ethics concerns can be found here (though this information pertains mainly to the US organization).

But to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure they’re barking up the right tree. Take a look at the following video, an interview with some people who have developed a potential treatment, currently being researched at the University of South Florida:

Furthermore, did you know that the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” actually started a lot longer ago than the summer of 2014 and wasn’t originally designated exclusively to ALS? At one point, it was simply a challenge to donate to the “charity of one’s choice.”

So, JavaMan and I will be donating funds to www.winningthefight.org which is funding the Deanna Protocol research mentioned in the video above. Researchers are hopeful it will eventually help not only those who suffer from ALS, but also other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and Multiple Sclerosis. We will also be donating to another charity of our choice. We are taking back the Ice Bucket Challenge!

Ultimately, however, I’m sure the friend who nominated me is interested in seeing me pour a bucket of ice water over my head. She’ll have to be content with a bucket of cold water, since we don’t know of anywhere we can buy ice here (they don’t drink beer cold here in China, let alone soft drinks or water), and all I can supply is the bit of ice in our ice cube tray. So here goes…


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Gluten-Free Apple-Blueberry Crisp

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This is a recipe I long-ago adapted from the Pilsbury Cookbook. The original recipe didn’t have enough topping-to-fruit ratio to satisfy JavaMan, nor was it gluten- or dairy-free. And the addition of blueberries is our own as well. (It’s also delicious with peaches instead of apples.)

We enjoy this version so much more than the original. Humble as it is, I’ve taken it to dinners and pleased crowds, and we’ve made it a regular breakfast treat as well. It’s delicious just as it comes out of the oven, but my kids also enjoy it with some coconut milk drizzled over the top. Oooooh, decadent!

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  • 6 cups fruit (I tend to use about 5 cups apples, and a cup of blueberries)
  • tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 cups gluten-free rolled oats (like these)
  • 1 cup gluten-free flour blend (I use 1 part rice flour, 1 part sorghum, 1 part arrowroot or tapioca starch)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup grapeseed oil


Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place fruit in ungreased 2-quart casserole. Sprinkle with cinnamon, water and lemon juice. In large bowl, combine remaining ingredients; mix with pastry blender or fork until crumbly but moist. (Depending on whether you use old-fashioned or quick-cook oats, you may find your mixture absorbs more or less of the moisture. Add additional oil if it is not moist enough.)

Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over fruit. Bake 25 to 35 minutes until fruit is tender and topping is golden brown. Serve warm or cold. It’s yummy both ways!


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