Monday, November 23, 2015

Illumination Giveaway WINNER

Congratulations to Kelley Savy.  You are the 9th comment and the winner of the Family 4 Pack.

My kids would love to see the colors!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Illumination Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum FLASH GIVEAWAY - Family 4 Pack {sponsored}

*the opinions are mine alone.  I received 4 passes to attend Illumination with my family in exchange for this giveaway and any posts I do regarding Illumination* 

Mr. Mailman just showed up with these

And, I'm so excited!  Illumination opens TONIGHT at The Morton Arboretum.  Oh, can you imagine what that'll look like with the almost 6 inches of snow that we are suppose to be getting overnight.


So, here's your chance to win a Family 4 Pack of tickets.

Information from The Morton Arborteum website - 

"Declared a "must-see destination" by the Chicago Tribune, this annual display returns this year with even more lights, sights and sounds that will transform a Chicago-area wintertime walk in the woods into a colorful, inspiring experience like no other.
From November 20, 2015 through January 2, 2016, The Morton Arboretum glows with dazzling LED lights and trees that respond to your touch and voice, as Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum returns for a third  year.
See trees in a different light.
  • Stroll over a mile of innovative lights and projections.
  • Hug or sing to trees, and they respond.
  • Enjoy new music from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
  • More music, motion, and magic fill the winter woods!
  • Create memories your family will cherish for years.
  • Share the perfect holiday date night."

Details -

  • Illumination runs November 20, 2015 - January 2, 2016
  • Doors open at 5pm with the last entry at 8:30pm.  Lights are turned off at 9pm. *I'd strongly suggest NOT showing up at 8:30pm to see this*
  • Illumination is a one mile walking loop, outdoors.
  • For a full list of events being held during Illumination, click here
  • The Morton Arboretum is located at 4100 Illinois Rt 53, Lisle IL 60532

How to enter -

  • This is a FLASH GIVEAWAY - you have until SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 22 AT 11:59PM to enter
  • You can enter one time per day (Friday, Saturday & Sunday), for up to three chances to win.
  • To enter please tell me why you would like to experience Illumination in your comment below (you're going to have to do this via a computer, mobile devices will not comment)
  • Winner will be announced on Monday.  
  • Please, also, consider showing me some love and liking the Educational Anarchy Facebook page here 

Good Luck!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

ChiTAG Family Weekend Pass WINNER

Congratulations to Meggan Sommerville on winning the ChiTAG Family Weekend Pass!

Since the kids were just old enough to understand, checkers (or the original name draughts) has been a family favorite. It has taught my kids to never give up and look at the big picture

Monday, November 9, 2015

ChiTAG Family Pass Giveaway {sponsored}

I am attending ChiTAG as a Blogger. I was offered this giveaway for my blog.  All opinions are mine.

It's that time of the year, again

Chicago Toy & Game Fair Time!

Affectionately known as ChiTAG, this yearly event really is a must do if you are in the Chicago-land area.

Last year was our first time attending and it was AMAZING!  And, we are eagerly looking forward to attending this year as well.  My 11 year old is counting down the days until we go.

To find out more about ChiTAG, you can click here

North America’s Biggest Toy & Game Fair Open to Kids of All Ages!
Come join the fun!
Preview and play with toys and games from around the world and meet Toy and Game Inventors! Meet Chase and Marshall from Paw Patrol and see the Paw Patroller! Also see the Lifesize Tonka Truck, Giant Jenga, Settlers of Catan Tournament, Star Wars Lunch, GameTruck, Stage Events, Magic, Giant Bubbles, Contests, Giveaways, Maker Stuff, Game Café, Mascots, Laser Tag, Ride-on vehicles, Adventure Sandwich, Characters, ChronoBomb, Electronic Petting Zoo, Puzzle Hunts, Robotics, Young Inventor Challenge, and so much more!

And…. The Worldest Biggest Unboxing Event! Not to be missed! 
I'm giving away a FAMILY WEEKEND PASS which entitles the winner to free admission to the Chicago Toy & Game Fair for them and their family.  
Here is how this is going to work
  1. Comment below with your favorite board game and why you enjoy it
  2. Deadline for submission is Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 11:59pm
  3. Winner will be drawn on Monday, November 16, 2015
Best of luck to you!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

City Mom - Mom's Choice

I was chosen to participate in the Illinois Farm Families City Mom program for 2015.  I have chosen to write about my experiences while taking part in this program. 

So, I was thinking last night about marketing and farming.  Marketing is such a powerful vehicle because in the end it influences what I think to be truth and how I spend my money.  

Antibiotic free

Hormone free



...and on and on and on.  

What do these claims really mean, though?  

I signed up to share a blog post at the end of this year's City Mom program because I wanted to do a re-cap of what I learned while participating in it.  

I shared about what I learned on the Spring Planting Tour HERE, and what I learned on the Beef & Harvest Tour HERE.  Both were focused on agricultural technology mainly because my misconception of what I farmer is, that of being some guy in overalls using the Farmer's Almanac to figure out when to plant his crop and then doing so in such a way that lacked education and resources to do so as a steward of the land, totally got shot out of the water, quickly, after my participation in the Spring Plating Tour.  

The thing, though, is why isn't the farmer's voice as loud as his opponents?  There are documentaries about how farmers and agricultural business are destroying the American food supply, monopolizing it, trying to control it, don't care about us as consumers, that it's all about making lots and lots of money and at any means.  So, lets spray this, mutate that and push the limits here. 

The one thing that has come up over and over and OVER again in these tours is the "Open Door" policy that all of the farmers have.  "Have a question?  Here's my contact information and the contact information of every other farmer and/or agricultural representative here today."   

Here are some "touchy" topics that I feel should be explained in more detail - 

So, what DOES "Antibiotic Free" mean?

NO ANTIBIOTICS (red meat and poultry):

The terms "no antibiotics added" may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if sufficient documentation is provided by the producer to the Agency demonstrating that the animals were raised without antibiotics.

The USDA requires all beef, pork, poultry or milk destined for grocery stores or restaurants be tested and inspected by the Food Safety Inspection Service to ensure there are no antibiotic residues. Farmers also are required to follow strict withdrawal periods for animals given antibiotics.

Learn More about the role antibiotics play on the farm.
(Illinois Farm Families website)
What does this really mean?  The milk and meat that you are consuming is antibiotic free regardless of what it says on the label.  
So, what DOES "Hormone Free" mean?
NO HORMONES (pork or poultry):

Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry. Therefore, the claim "no hormones added" cannot be used on the labels of pork or poultry unless it is followed by a statement that says "Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones."

The term "no hormones administered" may be approved for use on the label of beef products if sufficient documentation is provided to the Agency by the producer showing no hormones have been used in raising the animals.

(*Specific to the question "Are hormones in food making girls develop early?" & highlighted text to note)
There is no science-based research linking food to early development. Higher body weight has been suggested as a contributing factor. You might not realize it, but all living things contain hormones. Watch this video as Illinois farmers talk about hormones in dairy and meat compared to other food items.

I learned on the Beef & Harvest tour that there are 8.5 nanograms of estrogen in a 1 lb. steak that came from cattle that has not been treated with hormones.  There are 11 nanograms of estrogen in a 1 lb. steak that came from cattle that has been treated with hormones.    

Do you eat a one pound steak in one sitting?  I know that I don't.

Also, there are 25 nanograms of estrogen in a potato.  

Oh, and by the way, there are 1 billion nanograms in one gram.  I didn't know that which is why I wanted to pass that information along.  

"People have lots of estrogen, too. An adult male will produce 136,000 nanograms of estrogen every day. A non-pregnant adult female will produce around 513,000 nanograms of estrogen a day. And a pregnant woman will produce 19,600,000 nanograms of estrogen a day." 

Oh, and check out the packaging on your next chicken purchase.  Does it say "Hormone Free"?  It doesn't need to.  All poultry is hormone free.  Again, marketing to influence what you think and how you spend your money.  

So, what DOES "Organic" mean?  

For information about the National Organic Program and use of the term "organic" on labels, refer to these factsheets from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service:

Organic Food Standards and Labels: The Facts
Labeling and Marketing Information

Standards-Related Fact Sheets

Can GMOs be Used in Organic Products?
Organic Livestock Requirements
Organic Production + Handling Standards
Labeling Organic Products
Allowed + Prohibited Substances in Organic Production + Handling
Introduction to Organic Practices

While organic and non-organic foods are produced using different farming methods, nutritionally they aren't different.
(Illinois Farm Families website)
And here is a blog post regarding organic labeling

Personally, I don't buy organic anything unless it's the least expensive option.  And, mostly, it's not.  I have chosen not to make food purchases in this manner because I see no difference in the food.

So, what DOES "Natural" mean?

A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as "no artificial ingredients; minimally processed").
(US Department of Agricultural website)

Then why does my package of split chicken breasts say "natural"?  Why does my carton of soy milk say "natural"?  Aren't they by nature, natural? 

It took me about an hour to write this blog post with all the research to link out all the above information.  The best suggestion that I can give is to educate yourself.  Knowledge is power.  And, if you have a question about your food, ask a farmer.  Here is the link to ask a question at the Illinois Farm Families website. In the end, it is a choice.  Educate yourself so that you can make a more informed decision, and not one based on fear or marketing gimmicks.    

Monday, October 26, 2015

City Mom - Beef & Harvest Tour

I was chosen to participate in the Illinois Farm Families City Mom program for 2015.  I have chosen to write about my experiences while taking part in the Beef & Harvest Tour, which happened in early October. 

Let's Talk Analytics!

No, really, let's talk data sets and analytical analysis.  

I shared about agricultural technology when I went on the Spring Planting Tour, and I'm going to share a bit more about technology in this post as well...but, also data sets.  

I know - thrilling!

Also, really?  Farming. Agriculture. Data Sets??  Yes!

I have to qualify here, my husband is a data scientist.  Our dinner table conversations revolve around data use and analytics and dash boards and plot graphs and all that jazz.  I find this particularly interesting from a PR and marketing standpoint.  How can I take that data and market growth or positive output with what I do?  

But, farming and THAT?  

Like I've shared in the past, my mind is being blown open with the technological advances that farmers are using to help better run their operations. And, where my mind opened a bit more on this past trip to Larson Farms, a feed lot (or "Hotel") in Maple Park where they are in charge of the daily care of cattle and grain farm, was when Linda (of Larson Farms) said "This is a Family Farm, it's a business."  It's a business - of course it is and also, there's nothing wrong with that.  I know that I can attest that when I think of farming and business in the same sentence my visual is often warehouse like farming where little to no care is being contributed to the animals and it's about "more" - more animals, more meat, for more profits..and however that needs to be accomplished. That's not the case, though.  And, it has not been the case on any of the tours that I've gone on this year with the Illinois Farm Families.   It definitely was not the case at Larson Farms.  


Let's Talk Tech, ... first

Larson Farms has utilized Temple Gradin's designs for their ultrasound barn.  I knew of Temple Grandin from my subscription to Mother Earth News Magazine as she was a speaker at one of their tours.  I note this only to illustrate that Mother Earth News isn't all that into animal cruelty and harming the, if a farmer is implementing the barn designs of a noted professor of animal science who is known for her stance on animal welfare, then I kind of think that this farm (and many others) care about the livelihood of their animals.

What the ultrasound allows Larson Farms to do is determine back fat and marbling in their cattle. The genetics of the animal (as in what breed of cattle it is) determines the meat grade cut.  Prime is top, then Choice, then Select. Since Larson Farms is a cattle feed lot, the middle point of the beef cycle, individualized care of the cattle is what's being stressed, and technology allows that to happen because everything is computerized.  From what the cattle are fed, when and how much, to checking the cattle for marbling prior to slaughter via the ultrasound.  This ensures that nothing is wasted, whether it be feed or resources...or manure.  Larson Farms is a self contained farm.  Their bar has an 8 foot basement where manure is collected and then used on their grain crops.  The application of manure on the crops allows for less chemical applications.

Let's Talk Data Sets  

On the grain side of Larson Farms, trucks of corn are brought in from the fields where the corn is tested for moister (prior to being dried) and the truck load is weighed to determine how much product is being brought in.  

In the weight station at Larson Farms

Computerized system in the weight station 

Measures the moister in the corn prior to being dried

Weight scale

About 25% of what is being harvested is being used on the feed lot. Everything else is being sent to an ethanol plant to ship overseas.

Everything that is happening on this farm is not only computerized, but also being filtered into software to produce data sets so that variances can be managed and to determine what needs to be done the following year.  Not only is data being generated and analyzed, but its findings are being applied on the farm to make sure that cost-benefit analysis is utilized to drive the family business, which is farming  

What's new, what's better?

This was the very first time that I was told "if you have an idea, please let us know because we may utilize it here."  The fresh eyes, people who are seeing the farm from a different perspective, we were being encouraged to contribute in an effort to help them.  Not only were we encouraged to ask any questions while there, but to be told that our input was encouraged?  That was fascinating to me.

I heard on this tour that "fear trumps science", and this has been true in my case.  Being someone who works in marketing I know how words can be used to sell things, like food.  What I have learned over and over again on these tours is that farmers want to answer my questions regarding what they do.  They are transparent.  There is nothing to hide.  They do the best to produce what we consume because they, too, are consuming it as well.  Advances in agricultural technology allows for a more streamlined approach so that this can be achieved, better.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Slinging Words, Bearing My Soul - I'm a Storyteller

I'm a storyteller

That seems kind of weird, still, to write...let alone say out loud.  But, I've been sharing bits and pieces about myself in a public setting for well over 13 years.  Though I'm comfortable doing so, because I'm usually exposing my vulnerable, it can still be emotionally and mentally draining.  I do it, though, because I'm a firm believer in the redemptive qualities a good story can have.  And, I know,  KNOW, that what comes from the heart, goes to the heart.  And that, that is a thing of beauty.

My very first public storytelling performance was in May of 2012.  AND IT WAS AMAZING!!  The entire experience completely changed me and I am so indebted to the producers (whom I now count as friends) and the founder of Listen to Your Mother.
Here is the video (with, sadly, bad audio - so crank that volume up).  If you still can't hear it, here is a blog post with the story that I shared .

My next public storytelling performance was in May of 2015.  And that, well, that was even more amazing.  I was able to return to the stage as a Listen to Your Mother Alumna and got to share another little piece of me.
Here is the video (with fabulous audio).

And then, well, it just kind of large part and with gratitude to, David Slattery, fellow LTYM Chicago 2015 cast member and complete know-it-all regarding storytelling events in Chicago.

I went on to take the stage at Second City at the Sunday Morning Stories and was able to stretch a little  >very little<  and try my hand at something a bit funnier by recounting a story about "The Party".

*I've self designated myself as the wet blanket of storytelling, and I'm pretty good at it*
Me on stage                      In front of the banner

Me with LTYM Chicago Alumni & fellow Sunday Morning Story storytellers,
Pamela Valentine & Kathleen Buckley; Group shot of storytellers on stage
(David Slattery is in the front and was one of the hosts of the event);
Pamela Valentine and I at Second City

From there I went on to Uncommon Ground to share a little something about Postpartum Depression on the topic of "Unhinged" at TenX9.

Me on stage                         Group photo of storytellers

The most recent performance I did was last month at Homewood Stories.  I absolutely love what Karen O'Donnell is doing over there and am so grateful that she is bringing storytelling to the south suburbs.
Fellow LTYM Chicago Alumni came to support me at Homewood Stories,
Kathleen Buckley, Tracey Becker & Pamela Valentine; Me with my husband
and father (who came up from Texas)

Here is an audio file that I recorded of the story that I shared at Homewood Stories on September 15, 2015.

And...I'm owning that whole being a storyteller thing.

I'm always reminded of some pearls of wisdom, sage advise, common sense...that a fellow cast member of the 2012 Chicago Listen to Your Mother show shared with me as I talked about being nervous about taking the stage - "Just image you and me sitting at a table, sharing a drink and talking."  Because when I share honestly and am open to the process and am willing to let go of my fears, what comes from the heart, goes to the heart.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sorting! Through Stuff, Grief & Loss

After my Mom passed away my younger brother and I went to our parent's home in Texas to be with our Dad.  Even though he told us not to.  Even though he told us that everything was taken care of. Even though he said no.

And he thanked us for coming down when we were leaving.

Though everything was in fact taken care of, he needed to go through stuff.




Her Car


And, that's some tough shit right there, people.

But he NEEDED to do it.  He couldn't go into his closet because her clothing and shoes were still in there. He didn't need a second vehicle.  And the momentum of that lead to going through her jewelry and then the food.  There was a lot of food.  Food he wouldn't eat or make.  Twenty-five bags of food that was donated to the local food bank.  Clothing and shoes that were donated to the thrift store that helped with hospice care for cancer patients.  She specifically wanted her clothing to go there.

And, when I left I told my Dad to bring up whatever he didn't know what to do with, that I'd handle it.

He came up a few weeks ago with a mini-van full (FULL) of stuff.  My Moms stuff, stuff he doesn't want or need anymore and, just stuff.

And, now, my office is full of stuff.  Stuff that I need to sort through and decide what to do with.

I thought that this process would be easy.  It's not.  I started the process this past weekend.

It hit me like a ton of bricks when I found my baptism gown in a shoe box plastic container with a card from my Godparents.

It rolled on as I found a yellowed recipe card for Blanket in my Moms handwriting, complete with phonetic spellings of English words and German words that I think I may know. And then, then I found the mustard jars.

Many glasses of Banana Quick was consumed from these glasses

I clearly remember every year going up to "German Town" in Chicago right before Christmas.  It now only consists of a handful of shops on Lincoln Ave., but back in my day there was more.

We would go to Meyer Delicatessen for deli meats only found there.  For cookies and candies and pickles.  For mustard.

The old Meyer's sign hangs in Gene's at the same location

And when I found the container of empty glass mustard jars, I lost it.  Because it's more than those jars.  It's the mustard, being smeared on liver sausage.  It's Christmas-time.  The jars being washed and used as drinking glasses.  Stored in the deep corner cabinet of the kitchen in my childhood home. The cabinet was orange, and I needed to jump up onto the counter top to reach the glasses.

As I was going through the books I found all of my Moms herbal and natural remedies books.  We never went to the doctor as children.  We had to be loosing blood or broken before we went to a doctor.  Everything was handled by Mom with teas and steams and baths with herbal infusions or sticky medicines that came from label worn brown bottles.  And sleep.  And soup.

The thing that got me, though, as I was going through those books and pulling out scraps of paper and photos used as place holders, was what was being marked in those books to remember for later times.

Digestive Issues


Head Aches


When I saw that last one, I put my Moms book down and looked over to the side table next to the recliner in my front room.  The chair I sit in to read.  The chair that is next to the side table that has my own herbal and natural remedy books about menopause and digestive issues.  And I thought, holy shit!

I mentioned these findings to my husband who said "herbals can't fix everything".  And, that's true. But what was more shocking to me was that these books, they are old.  Beyond the past two years where she lived with cancer.  Before that cancer spread.  My Mom was a medical professional.  This is actually something that her oncologist spoke about with great regard.  How she could pin-point the pain, the issue, the symptom.  She's always been able to do this.

It's an interesting view into my roots.  Why I make my kids take Cod Liver Oil and a shot of Apple Cider Vinegar.  Why I use steams and tea and bone soups.  There is nothing wrong with preventative health.  The question, then, is when is it time for modern health?

This past weekend was tough for me all around.  I felt compelled to regain my office.   But, that came at a cost.  I'm recovering from my own medical issues right now.  Having had surgery a few weeks back and still healing from that, and being handed a diagnosis I wasn't expecting by my doctor. Beyond physically being spent, the emotional and mental strain was taxing as well.

It's been an interesting lesson on the value of things.  My Mom grew up poor, post WWII in Germany.  I understand why she bought the things she did and kept the things she did.  In the end, though all of our things, hers, mine and yours, will either get donated or thrown out.  This process is making me look at the things that I'm choosing to keep and really evaluate why.

I'd love to be able to pass those glass mustard jars on to my kids.  The thing is, they are better used now so that we can enjoy them and remember and I can share stories about them, my Mom and my childhood.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sharing a Meal Will Lead to...

There has always been something very genuine about sharing a meal with people.

It leads to great conversation!

My husband and I had the absolute wonderful opportunity to attend the inaugural Illinois Harvest Dinner last Wednesday in Pontiac, Illinois.  Actually, on  Mackinson Dairy Farm, which is a 5th general dairy and grain farm in central Illinois.  At our table that evening was Don Mackinson (4th generation) and Kolton Kimpling, a Future Farmer of America member who is planning on going into Agricultural Business.

Oh my goodness!

Those of you who have reading this here little blog for any length of time know that we are not dairy drinkers.  We choose to drink soy milk and our middle son, who has a casein allergy, drinks almond milk. We do, though, love cheese.  I only point this out to illustrate that though we choose not to consume dairy milk, we do consume dairy products.  It's just what works for our family right now.  

There's something a bit more calming when you are able to break bread with a dairy farmer and an FFA member who are willing to not only answer any questions that you may have about dairy farming, but also encouraging you to ask the hard questions. 

My raw milk questions

My pasteurization questions

My milking, sanitary and animal safety and health questions...

My fueled with sensationalized mis-information questions...  

Here, right here, was my golden opportunity to ask them all and get them answered.

And, you know what.  I believe everything that Don and Kolton shared.  All of it!

Beyond the amazing food, great company (we also sat with a reporter from Farm Week, the superintendents from the local primary and high school and their guests) and beautiful setting, I got clarity.  I received the information that I have wanted to know from the other side of the coin. 

I also ate asparagus for the very first time.  

I am that person, you know, the one who has watched Food Inc., The World According to Monsanto, Forks Over Knives, Hungary for Change, Fast Food Nation and Food Fight.  I've read the articles, the books and follow the Facebook posts. 

And, my decisions have been effected by it all.

But, I only had that one side.  And, I'll admit, the sensationalized side.  The side that said that ALL farmers were evil and mistreating their animals and the land.  It's all about money, you know!  The side that said that seed companies were trying to take over our food supply.  It's about world domination, you know!  The side that said that dairy was bad for you and that GMO's were even worse.  Because, the phloem and chemicals and poisons and antibiotics and on, and on, and on...

But, you know what?  I'm not really buying it anymore.

I'm still skeptical.  I'm skeptical about fricking everything, though.  I still ask a lot of questions and don't take anything at face value.  I still want to learn more and become more informed and weigh my options to make the choices that are right for me and my family.

I'm also a hands on learner.  I need to see it with my own eyes, too.  This dinner, it allowed me to sit and see and hear and ask.  This dinner has impacted the way I will choose foods for my family in the future.  Does that mean I'm going to run out any buy a gallon of milk?  No.  It means that I'm more aware.

There has always been something very genuine about sharing a meal with people.

It leads to great conversation!

Friday, September 4, 2015

It's Not All Good News - But, It Doesn't Mean That You Have to Have a Shitty Attitude

What's that saying?

No news is good news

Attitude is everything

Having a negative attitude is a waste of time

Every day may not be good, but there is good in every day

You get the idea, right?

I got some not so great news today.  Not like end of the world, life is over as I know it kind of news. Just, not great news.  And, I'm not going to allow it to take over my day.  I'm not going to allow my mind to wonder to all the "what if's" or go there...wherever there is.  I'm not going to make my life hard.

I had gone in for my yearly OB appointment about a month back and was talking to my doctor about some changes that have occurred in my cycle.  Changes that I assuming pre-menopausal.  I may only be 39, but I've been cycling for a long, long time.  And, it's typical for women in my family to start menopause a little early.

There was concern and I was sent for further testing.

I found out today that I am not starting menopause a little early.

It's not bad news.  It just wasn't the news that I was expecting.  I wanted to be told that I was right, that I was in fact starting the next stage of womanhood, that I was menopausal.


So, in a little under two weeks I'll be going in to have my left ovary and left fallopian tube removed in addition to some other stuff.  To be honest, by this point in my conversation with my doctor I was responding with a lot of "uh, huh", "yep", "totally".  Words like pre-cancerous and endometriosis will do that to me.

But, through the blessing of modern technology, things like scans can be done.  And what those scans show is of enough concern that coupled with my family's medical history, surgery is needed.

I just reassured him that I was in fact done having children.  That whatever needed to be done, I was fine with.

I think we both breathed a little easier after I said that.  I needed to say that out loud, validate it, own it.

This, whatever this is, this is my next stage.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Chicago-land Homeschooling Resources from an Ex-Homeschooler

Just because I am currently not homeschooling any of my children doesn't mean that I am not a part of the homeschooling community.  My oldest is a high school junior this year, while my middle son is in sixth grade.  My youngest, he's two and half and doing the chicken dance in the front room in Halloween pajamas.

When we embarked on our Homeschooling Journey back in 2010 (and when I started this blog, btw), what we came to realize was this

We had been educating our children the whole time

Just because they went to brick and mortar buildings (prior to homeschooling) didn't mean that my job as their parent, their mother, as one of their main educators, was over.  We were constantly doing things and going places and learning new information.

Don't ever think that a teacher knows something that you, as your child's parent, doesn't inherently know about them.  We are and will always be their first teachers.  *says the stubborn and cocky wife of an professional educator and Educational Anarchist* is my list of Chicago-land Resources for Homeschoolers

Reading Programs:
Open to homeschooling families in Illinois, these reading programs yield your child a free ticket for admission PLUS a free ticket for the teacher (you).

Six Flags Read to Succeed

Chicago Wolves Hockey Read to Succeed

Fitness Programs:
Open to homeschooling families in Illinois, this program offered by Raging Waves Waterpark will yield your child a free ticket for admission.

Educator Open Houses:
Did you know that many museums offer Educator or Teacher Open Houses?  This is a great opportunity to see what the museum has to offer and get additional resources to assist you in teacher a specific subject.
These require you to register online and are only open to adults (aka teachers or educators).  These are open to homeschooling parents.

Museum of Science and Industry - not scheduled yet, often occurs in October.

The Field Museum 

Lincoln Park Zoo

LegoLand Discovery Center

The Shedd Aquarium 

Your Forest Preserve Districts:
They are slowly getting onto the supporting homeschoolers bandwagon.  I will caution all of you reading this - these programs often cancel due to low registration.

Cook County

Will County

Museum Adventure Pass:
Your library is a wealth of resources!  First, take a moment and call them to see if they offer homeschooling activities because many do!  If not, propose that they do.  Now, back to the Museum Adventure Pass - did you know that you can check out museum, zoo and park passes with your library card?  Yep!  Here is the link with more information.

Get Moving!:
Like the forest preserve districts, suburban park districts and recreation centers are starting of offer homeschooling enrichment and social opportunities.  Bolingbrook Park District offers Homeschool PE classes and has a Homeschool Swim at their pool.  Joliet Park District offers classes through Pilcher Park Nature Center.  While Aurora Skate Center offers a Homeschool Skate.  These are just a few in a long list.  Are you no where near any of these locations?  No worries, check out your resources for opportunities.  

I love free.  If it weren't for free admission or free days we wouldn't have been able to enjoy many of our homeschooling field trips.
Here is a list (not a complete one) of Chicago museums that are ALWAYS FREE:
This historical landmark hosts hundreds of free programs year-round. The building has two unbelievable stained-glass domes, which you can see on your own or on a free building tour. The many halls regularly hosts free events, from weekly classical music concerts to blues, jazz and more. Also look on the daily Chicago Cultural Centerschedule for free dance performances, film screenings, seminars and theater events.
This unique institution celebrates Cambodian community and culture in the United States. The museum draws awareness to the Cambodian genocide and offers an ever-changing rotation of exhibitions and original art.
The Chicago Architecture Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring people to discover why design matters. In addition to their popular architecture river boat cruises and docent-led tours, CAF pursues this mission through free exhibitions, special events and youth/adult education programs. Visit their Loop headquarters to see their impressive 3D model of the city, try to catch a lunchtime seminar, or plan your trip around their marquee event Open House Chicago each September.
The Chicago Greeter program pairs knowledgeable locals with Chicago visitors for an informal, insider's orientation of the city and its many, vibrant neighborhoods. Through customized, guided walks you can sightsee all across the city based on interest topics of your choice, from public art and architecture to food to films.
Chicago has hundreds of free public parks that cover over 8,000 acres of Chicago. Many feature wildlife havens like Northerly Island and North Pond Nature Sanctuary; incredible landscape designs such as Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool and Jackson Park's Osaka Garden; and athletic facilities such as the kayak boat house in Ping Tom Memorial Park. Hit the Lakefront Trail for some free outdoor recreation with a view or spend the day at one of the free public beaches, open Memorial Day to Labor Day.
The treasured landmark on The Magnificent Mile has been turned into a beautiful showcase for rotating art exhibits from local photographers and artists.
As one of the largest public libraries in the world, the Harold Washington Library encompasses close to a million square feet filling a whole city block and houses more than 13 million published works. Enjoy a look at the architecture — giant owls perch from the roof, Roman goddess of grain Ceres on the facade, the sunny 9th floor Winter Garden — or explore the art collection of over 50 artists, both local and internationally known, displayed throughout the halls and reading rooms.
As one of the nation's premier displays of rare plant species, the Garfield Park Conservatory has a half dozen greenhouses and two large exhibition halls.
If you're looking for open to the public gallery talks, poetry readings, musical performances and art classes, HPAC offers free cultural exhibitions for visitors of all ages.
This museum is dedicated to providing free to the public exhibits and programs that focus on policy efforts. The tribute to Jane Addams serves as an educational conduit to addressing issues that affect the sociological conditions of underserved communities.
Located in stunning Lincoln Park, this conservatory displays some of the most stunning flowers and rare plant life. No matter the season, a walk through this storied green house will always feel like a stroll through paradise.
As one of only a few free zoos in the country, Lincoln Park Zoo covers over 35 acres and features tigers, polar bears, lions and more than 230 other species of animals. The Farm in the Zoo and Nature Boardwalk bring you up close and personal with the animal world.
Meet Grant Park's newest addition, located immediately east of Millennium Park. This play park for kids is an imaginative 20 acres designed in the spirit of Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It comes complete with its own mini-lighthouse, a life-sized ship, two climbing walls (fee starts at $15), 30-foot tall Suspension Bridge Towers, a quarter-mile long skating ribbon, an Enchanted Garden of upside-down trees, plus several Picnic Groves.
One of the state's most popular tourist attractions features larger-than-life public art (don't miss Cloud Gate for a mirrored look at the skyline or splashing in Crown Fountain during warm weather months); a cutting edge performance stage (the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Prizker Pavilion) featuring free concerts all summer; and the all-seasons beauty Lurie Garden. Be sure to check the Millennium Park schedule for a listing of upcoming events.
As one of the only museums in the region devoted exclusively to photography, this cultural center aims to communicate the value of still images, artistic expression and human thought.
Located in the cultural epicenter of the colorful Pilsen neighborhood, this museum is focused on celebrating Mexican culture and is the largest of its kind in the nation.
One of Chicago's most recognizable landmarks boasts gorgeous lakefront views — take a stroll and enjoy the breezes, admission is free to the pier's boardwalk. Summer features free weekly fireworks Wednesday and Saturday evenings as well as free outdoor concerts in the LandShark Beer Garden.
Trek this stunning new 2.7 mile elevated park trail set above city streets and explore its five interconnected neighborhoods. With its linear walking/bicycle/jogging paths, as well as ample green space, it boasts scenic lookout points, public art murals and an outdoor observatory.
This stunning library contains more than 1.5 million published works and often features special exhibitions.
Focusing on the rich history of the ancient Near East, this museum displays artifacts recovered during Oriental Institute excavations.
The society offers exhibitions and programs that aim to provide insight and educate on the wonders of art history.
The name kind of says it all. This museum features works from some the world's all-time brightest minds like Goya, Frank Lloyd Wright, Degas, Rodin, Matisse, Picasso, Rivera and Ansel Adams.

Here is a list (not a complete one) of Chicago museums that OFFER FREE DAYS throughout the year (September 2015 dates are listed):

September 1-3
September 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29
September 3, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 20
MSI (if you don't want to deal with their new online registration for homeschooling families)
September 8-11, 14-18, 21-25, 28-30
Admission to the Art Institute of Chicago is free to Illinois residents every Thursday evening from 5-8pm.
Additionally children under age 14 are always free
*You can also sign up for an Educators Pass. Info for this is on their website, but you have to physically go to the museum to sign up*
None this month
Admission is free for Illinois residents on Tuesdays year round.
Thursdays are suggested donation days for Illinois residents year round.
Admission is free to all on each Sunday of the year.
Admission is free for all visitors every Tuesday, year round.
Admission is free for all visitors on the second Tuesday of the month, year round.
Tours are free on Wednesdays, year round (not applicable to groups of ten or more).
Tours are free on Wednesdays, year round (not applicable to groups of ten or more).
Tours are free on Wednesdays, year round (not applicable to groups of ten or more).

Beep-Beep, Vroom-Vroom:
Transportation via METRA is discounted for homeschooling families.  Follow this link for more information.  Here are the specifics from their website:

  Home-Schooled Students

All fare policies concerning standard student fares also apply to home-schooled students. To meet documentation requirements, the student must present a letter with the name and address of the person providing the home schooling as teacher/principal at the top, signed and notarized. Click here to download form.

National Parks:

No joke!  New this year and open to 4th graders only, get free admission into any US National Park. 

And, here is a list of Illinois National Parks

Please, for the love of history - don't forget your local history museums!  I'm a firm believer in this - how is my child suppose to understand American History or World History if he cannot place his local history in the same timeline?  

Know this - ANYTHING offered to a brick and mortar school 

is available to YOU as a homeschooling family as well.