I'm daughter to Lissie, sister to Jess, wife to Brien, mom to Hannah, Lily and Eleanor. I am a stay at home mom to my girls, and my free time is dedicated to gardening (I confess I'm still a novice and look to Lissie and Jess for advice), baking and cooking, and card making. I'm doing my part to make the earth a bit greener, trying hard to avoid processed foods and HFCS, and find the "slow food" movement intriguing and inspiring. I love visits to my local farmers' market, fresh produce, reading, getting out in nature, and spending time with my family.


Catholic, homeschooler, lover of books and great wine and an amateur gardening addict.


I'm Melissa aka "Lissie", mother of Rachael and Jessica, and grandmother to a passel of the sweetest children on the planet. I'm a semi-retired public educator and professor who works from home for a small publisher. I am a lover of all things beautiful ... flowers, the mountains, nature scenes, the innocent faces of children, and my rock and fossil collection, to name a few. I enjoy shopping at the farmers' market for fresh foods and then experimenting with new recipes. Good food and good wine delight me. I love to travel so my suitcase is always packed. Like my daughters, I take pleasure in simple things ... clothes drying on the line, tomatoes so fresh they are still hot from the sun, good books, and interesting movies. I'd like to know everything before I die.
The Element

I first saw Ken Robinson's TED talk about a year ago and I have watched it a few times since because I love his ideas, I do believe that we need to begin to value intelligence outside of the mainstream respected areas of maths, sciences and languages and begin to allow students to have more freedom in directing their own curriculum based on their strengths and interests (within reason, of course!). Tailoring education for each human being from early childhood makes sense and technology is at a point in which this could really begin to happen if we can collectively let go of our need for measuring all human intelligence and knowledge by such narrow standards.

I suspect that I feel strongly about this because while I managed to successfully navigate my way through the K-12 public school system I had zero desire to continue my formal education further than what was required of me by society and my parents. I did complete an AA degree in my early 20s because I felt the pressure to continue once I got married but frankly, it hasn't done anything to improve my life aside from introducing me to one of my best friends and also allow me to tell people at dinner parties that I do indeed have a little college education and I am not just a hairstylist. I've found that my formal education level matters a lot more to other people than it does to me. (Believe it or not I once had a client at my salon ask me what I wanted to do for a real career someday.)

I purchased Sir Robinson's new book, The Element, on audio recently and I am not quite finished listening to it yet, but so far I've found it to be really enjoyable and a "quick" listen (read: not boring). In the book he talks extensively about human capability, valuing all types of human intelligence, and encouraging people to find what they are not only innately good at but also passionate about to become their life's work. I know as a parent I would be nervous if one of my children fell in love with fencing, for instance. It seems like a hobby more than an avenue to financial stability and success as we currently measure it. A couple years ago my brother in law and his wife quit their jobs and hiked the entire Appalachian Trail over a 6 month period. I admired their bravery at stepping off the traditional path for awhile and trying to complete their goal which they were so passionate and excited about. What I love about K. Robinson's book is that he makes you realize how much happier we would collectively be and how much more quickly we could advance in all areas of life if we were each inspired to contribute our best because we were doing what we love.

I've made no secret in the last several years that I am a huge Lord of the Rings fans, both book and movies and I watch the movies and reread the trilogy almost yearly. To think that Tolkien took his interest in medieval poetry, lore, and an obscure Scandanavian language and created such a deeply layered and intricate history and story with multiple created languages is really remarkable. What drove him to do that? He had no dream of being published when he began, he simply started on the project because he was interested and thought it was a fun thing to pursue. I have been recently watching the Appendices that were sold with the extended versions of the movies again and I am struck by how closely the documentaries on the making of the LOTR and the points made in The Element coincide. For instance, the two main creative artists for the LOTR movie project were Alan Lee and John Howe. Both are very gifted artists who had previously drawn extensively images from the books as they imagined them. They produced artwork for calendars and other obscure LOTR gear and were contacted by Peter Jackson when he began working to develop the films to help him design sets and other conceptual art. These two artists, in their niche area of LOTR artwork were able to provide expert and pivotal material to bring the books to life. The movies required the expertise of all manner of people who had chosen work in specialized crafts areas - weapon-smiths, historical reproduction tailors, set designers, artists like sculptors, pencil artists, painters, hair design, make up, etc. were all required to pull of the project.

For another example, K. Robinson mentions a brilliant billiards player in his book. This woman was supported by her parents from an incredibly young age to devote herself to perfecting her game play and she is now a world champion. I can see myself talking my child out of a talent like that - will it be marketable, provide an adequate living for her lifespan, etc.? But then again I tell myself daily that we are losing collectively social arts that were once integral to the livelihood of humans everywhere - how many people do you know that can card and spin wool, or grow grain and mill it into flour that can be use for baking, or find food in the wild, or even know how to care for a basic vegetable garden, mend a sock, sew garments or make food from scratch? Not too many, at this point. I dare you to try and go completely processed food free for one month. Frankly, I'm not sure I could do it. My point here is that we do not place value on knowledge in a lot of areas that maybe we should.

I look at Ella and I realize that she is just beginning her formal years of learning. And I do not want her to lose her joy and wonder and excitement at learning new things. If I canvas the adults I know in my life for the most part we are all too busy to be actively learning new things and we are too tired to do much more than flip on the TV after the kids have been bathed and put to bed. Most people I know work at jobs they don't particularly like, run around all weekend doing chores and getting kids to sports events and lessons, tutoring and whatnot and never take the time to really continue to grow intellectually themselves. We are too busy, too stressed and really disinterested because our memories of formal schooling really suck. This includes me.

Imagine our world if more people were able to find work that was inspiring and invigorating for them instead of a grind? Imagine if we could choose work for the joy of it rather than the economics of it. I see my husband so tired and stressed most of the time because of the demands of his job. I hope my children become passionate life-long learners, are readers and artists and search constantly to experience life instead of just surviving it. I think I model adult self-motivated learning at times, though my excuse is that I am really in the trenches with little ones right now so that makes it harder. The first 7 years of parenting another human being is a bit like indentured servitude - you don't do anything without considering that little person first and there is a lot of hands on manual labor that takes an enormous amount of time that doesn't leave a lot left over for pursuing ones interests. It really is a great design by God to help adult humans gain some humility, to be honest.

With that said, my job right now is to cultivate an environment in which my children retain their excitement and natural born capacity to learn. Babies come right out of the womb all ready to master new skills like breathing, latching on for breastfeeding and they just keep going from there at a rapid and wondrous rate over the first 3 years of their life. And the interest in learning new things seems to hang on for awhile but begins to taper off around middle school. It is almost like years of school begin to erode their self-directed interest in learning and I suspect this is because children are given very little freedom in traditional school settings.

A couple places that I find interesting as a parent of young children:


Charlotte Mason




Rach said...

Well written and said, Jessie. I find it interesting the number of people I know who are *horrified* at the thought of their children NOT going to college, who place significance on the traditional school subjects and overlook their children's natural talents and interests in other areas.

allie said...

Aww thanks for the shout out! You're the best thing I took away from Nova too. I do greatly miss my history classes at Mason though. So much so that I sign up for random classes just for fun whenever I have the chance. Through Nova though, Mason is too expensive for "fun learning". I think it's great that you're supportive of your kids strengths and desires whatever they may be. Although, once I explained to Ella that there is more to dentistry than pop gloves she didn't seem as enthused. :)

(C) 2010
Blog design by Splendid Sparrow