The Top Five Benefits of Going Gluten-Free (For the Modern Family)

One of the most popular areas of contemporary interest for modern family health surrounds the benefice of a gluten-free diet. I first discovered the health benefits of a gluten-free diet after the birth of my daughter. According to Forbes, over 3.1 million people were on a gluten-free diet in the USA in 2009. However, just over 70% of these people did not have coeliac disease but instead chose a gluten-free diet for the additional health benefits.

Gluten is a protein that occurs in grains such as wheat and barley. Some people have coeliac disease. This means that their body has an autoimmune response to these proteins which is not normal and can cause serious illness. It is also possible that rather than having coeliac disease you are have what is called a gluten sensitivity. This means that gluten may cause your digestive system to become irritated or inflamed. Either way, consuming gluten causes sickness and/or discomfort.

Every sensation in our body, whether we are aware of it or not, has the capacity to affect our day to day life. For example, an irritated gut has the capacity to trick our brain into thinking we are anxious, thus, causing stress. This is because anxiety’s effect is also largely felt in the gut and is commonly known as the feeling of butterflies in your stomach. My test for coeliac disease came back “borderline”. My doctor erred on the side of a “positive” which is why I simply choose not to consume gluten. Here are some other benefits of eliminating gluten from you diet:

1-Going Gluten-Free Improves Gut Health

Modern families are increasingly adopting a gluten-free diet to improve their collective health. But are there real benefits to going gluten-free if you do not have coeliac disease, or is it all just a fad? Should you eliminate gluten from your family’s diet?
Gluten can cause inflammation in the gut lining, especially in those who are sensitive to gluten. Inflammation itself is a sign of a problem. However, inflammation in the gut also means that the proper absorption of nutrients from our food cannot take place.
Going gluten-free can help to reduce inflammation and improve the overall health of the gut. The health of the gut can also be improved by taking probiotic products.

2- Going Gluten-Free Can Aid Weight Loss or Gain

Ok, so largely this benefit isn’t directly a result of going gluten-free! It’s a by-product. Most foods that contain gluten are processed foods that contain a lot of fats and sugars that cause us to put on weight. So, put down your cookies and your cupcakes – it will be kinder to your gut and your waistline!
For some, going gluten-free can help with gain and/or maintenance. Leaky gut syndrome (intestinal permeability) can cause essential nutrients to “leak” out and cause some to become undernourished.

3- Going Gluten-Free Can Improve Our Energy Levels

Opting for a gluten-free diet can reduce fatigue and improve energy levels. Studies conducted by The University of Aberdeen also found that adopting a gluten-free diet also improved concentration in its participants and found that they were able to think more clearly.
Gluten-free diets have been popular in celebrity culture for a long time now. Gwyneth Paltrow and Novak Djokovic are among stars who have gone gluten-free as a means of improving their physical and mental health.
Why does it lead to higher energy levels? Because going gluten-free reduces inflammation and bloating. This, in turn, improves the bodies capability to absorb the nutrients we need from the food we take in.

4- Going Gluten-Free Is Essential for Treating Auto-Immune Disorders

There is a major link between gluten and auto-immune disorders. In fact, to adequately treat an auto-immune disease it is imperative that you cut gluten from your diet.
If you have an auto-immune disease your body is trying to protect itself from toxins or even foods, it considers being harmful. However, your body fails to differentiate between your own body cells and the substance it is trying to defend you from.
So where does gluten come into it? The gluten we eat today is not the same gluten consumed by our grandparents. Wheat has been modified over the years to create fluffier bread, cakes, and pantries. It has also been altered to give it a more uniform structure and color.
We are being increasingly exposed to more gluten that our bodies are not naturally programmed to process. Our bodies can not tolerate this. Therefore, we experience more inflammation and poorer health of the gut along with auto-immune disorders.

5- Going Gluten-Free Helps Kids Who Are on The Autistic Spectrum

Research has found substantial evidence for a link between the brain and gut. Both adults and children who suffer from autism are much more likely to suffer from gastrointestinal problems. The Autism Research Institute has found that as many as 70% of children with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder also suffer from gastrointestinal distress.
These gastrointestinal problems cause the gut’s lining to become more permeable. Partly digested gluten and protein particles pass more easily through the more permeable membrane. The then travel to the brain and bind to opioid receptors. This affects the neurochemistry of the brain and causes symptoms of autism to worsen. For example, mood swings can become more frequent or intense.

A Few Extra Tips for Going Gluten-Free

  • Firstly, concentrate on what you can eat. Not what you can’t eat! Habit is a tricky thing to break. Everyone who goes on a gluten-free diet finds it challenging to begin with.
  • Buy a gluten-free cookbook.There are so many grain-free cookbooks that we love! Cookbook’s showing mouth watering pictures have the amazing ability to get us excited about food. They will also present you with ideas on how to create interesting meals that you will love on a gluten-free diet.
  • Don’t cheat! Little bits of gluten here and there might not seem like much, however, they can cause your body distress and make you feel worse. If you are trying to change a habit you want to see progress. But progress is hard to see when improved health is clouded by little bits of distress due to cheating.
  • Make connections. Join Facebook groups dedicated to sharing gluten free recipes and motivating each other to maintain the change of diet. Follow inspiring Instagrammers and / or create a Pinterest board to fill with new meals to try.
  • Check labels on food packets and tins. The easiest way to break a gluten-free diet is accidentally! Check whether food contains gluten before consuming it.
  • Reflect on how far you have come. Reflection and taking time to notice a difference will make it easier to maintain a gluten-free diet.
  • Praise yourself. Rewarding positive actions is used in psychology to reinforce a desired behavior. Eventually, reinforcing a desired behavior creates a habit.

So, after reading this post how do you feel about glutens place in the modern family diet? Do you think you will be adopting a gluten-free diet in the future? Do you feel able to implements a family gluten free diet? If not, then why? Let us know, you might get your questions answered in a future blog post!

 

The Charlotte Mason Method for Your Homeschool

The Charlotte Mason Way

There are so many different homeschooling philosophies and approaches that it can be overwhelming to decide which one to choose. The Charlotte Mason method may be just right for your homeschool. Take the quiz below to find out.

Charlotte Mason was what we might call a “lifelong learner”. She loved education for education’s sake, believing that education was not simply a means to an end such as a job, a good grade on a test, etc. Here are a few of the essential elements in a Charlotte Mason homeschool.

Living Books

Many homeschoolers love the “living books” idea which are simply good, quality literature which our homeschooled kids can engage with and learn something about the world and themselves through the characters. This is very different than typical “textbook learning.”

Retelling or Narration

An important part of comprehension is the ability to retell a story. An integral part of the Charlotte Mason method is narration, where the students will read a passage or portion of a passage and retell the story.

Dictation

A Classical approach, dictation is simply having your student rewrite something that you have chosen. It may be a passage from a story he has read, or a quote or Bible verse. The idea is that the act of reading and writing will help the student learn spelling, vocabulary and grammar.

Rooted in Nature

There is a lot about the Charlotte Mason method for the homeschool that I love, but this may be the biggest draw for me. Charlotte believed that children should interact with nature and the outdoors. She believe that this was integral to their learning. I wholeheartedly agree! Unfortunately, our public school system in the US doesn’t agree, and I believe that children are suffering for it.

Music and Art

Children who learn about the creations of great works of music and art are only more apt to become creative people themselves. We must not leave this out of our homeschool! The key to a well-rounded, educated person is that they learn to appreciate all the things listed above.

I am not a Charlotte Mason expert by any means. We incorporate a lot of this intuitively and naturally, but we do not follow a strict Charlotte Mason method.

If you are intrigued by this, you can take this quiz and find out if this homeschooling style is for you!

How to Choose the Best Chicken Breeds for Your Flock

Here is Dex with Stella, our Speckled Sussex

 How to Choose the Best Chicken Breeds

Choosing chicks for your flock can be exciting whether it is the first time you are raising chicks, or whether you are a seasoned chicken owner. Baby chicks are cute and it’s hard not to be tempted to take some home when you see them for sale at your local feed store. Before you do, there are a few things to think about.

Laying Hens vs. Meat Birds

Why do you want chickens? Do you want egg layers? Meat birds? If you slaughter and try to eat your laying hens, you will be in for a big disappointment. Chickens bred to be layers and chickens bred to be meat birds are very different. If you want to raise chickens for meat, you will choose either a pure breed or a hybrid breed. Some breeds have been altered so that these birds can be slaughtered for meat in only 44 days. We are skeptical of any type of “enhanced” anything around our homestead, so when we choose meat birds, they will be pure breeds.

Some good breed choices for meat birds include:

  • Leghorn (think of the white chicken “Foghorn J. Leghorn” from the Looney Tunes cartoons)
  • Houdan
  • Jersey Giants
  • Cornish Cross

Do your research because these breeds vary in “hatch to table” time.

Practicality vs. Aesthetics

Do you want birds to add to your food source on your homestead? If so, you will choose breeds for your flock that are “good layers” versus breeds that look fancy. There are so many different breeds out there that it can become quite addicting purchasing, raising, and getting to know the personalities and characteristics of each breed.

When looking to choose the best breeds for your flock that will be consistent laying eggs over time, you will want to look into the following breeds:

  • Australorps
  • Rhode Island Reds
  • Orpingtons
  • Sussex
  • Plymouth Rocks
  • Wyandottes

Personality vs. Practicality

Annika with our two newest Americauna birds, Earl the Pearl and Clara

This sounds funny but it’s true: we have noticed over the last decade that the different breeds have different personalities. Americaunas generally are very intelligent, personable and inquisitive birds. Our bird, Clory (named by our daughters) was the hen that was always by my side as I worked on fencing, coop upgrades, or other homestead maintenance projects. She would inspect my work and “talk” to us with her approval. Our other Americaunas have been, and are, the most intelligent birds in our flock. A bonus for owing Americaunas is that they lay the “Easter egg” colored eggs, which many people are amazed by.

Our Speckled Sussex birds are very similar to the Americaunas and they, too, lay about four to five light brown eggs a week. Our hen, Stella (pictured above) is the most intelligent, bravest bird we have. She is the last to roost at night and is the matriarch of the flock.

Rhode Island Reds are very good laying hens and are fairly intelligent birds, however, our Rhode Island Reds seem to be the most prone to broody behavior. We once had a hen go missing and we thought she had been taken by a predator. Weeks later we saw her emerge from underneath my workshop. After a check with a flashlight, we noticed that she had built a little nest of sorts and had laid almost 30 eggs before we noticed that she was there. Apparently she only came out to eat and drink when no one was around, and went right back to sitting on her “nest.” Sometimes broody hens don’t understand that those eggs won’t hatch!

If you are only looking for hens to produce eggs for you, and you aren’t really interested in having a chicken who will supervise your work or hang out with your children, we have found that these breeds are a a good choice:

  • Black Australorps
  • Speckled Sussex
  • Orpingtons
  • Wyandottes
  • Plymouth Rock

Quiet vs. Noisy

It is amazing how some breeds can be quite vocal, whereas other breeds are very quiet and hardly make a sound. When we had our first flock, we technically lived inside the city limits although it was quite rural, and were not really supposed to have hens. Our neighbors had hens and no one minded, so we went ahead with the purchasing of our chicks, promising not to get any roosters. We wish knew then what we know now!

While we love our Buff Orpingtons because they are very beautiful and friendly, they seem to want to shout from the rooftops whenever they lay an egg. When you get a chorus of them going at once, it can be heard for miles around!

If you are interested in getting your first flock of backyard chickens and don’t want your neighbors to be bothered by the noise, then Black Australorps are the hens for you. While not the smartest hens in the coop, they are quiet birds and very consistent layers.

You can get into all kinds of fancy breeds, and even create breeds of your own, given the right rooster and hen. We will discuss roosters at another time. For now, you can learn more about the pros and cons of many of the more popular breeds here. 

Here’s Kate with her first Rhode Island Red named “Red, Red, Red”

What are your favorite breeds, and why? If you don’t have chickens yet, what breeds would you like to start with?

Tell us a below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Simple Things You Can Do Today to Help Your Kids Become Amazing Readers

Five Simple Things You Can Do Today to Help Your Kids Become Amazing Readers!

One of the questions I hear most from parents of young students is, “I don’t know how to teach reading!” Teaching a child to read is not all that difficult, and it’s important to remember that reading/writing (and spelling) all go hand in hand.

I am going to talk about five simple things that you MUST DO to help your kids become proficient readers, writers and spellers. I have used these methods for years, both as a public and private school teacher, and as a homeschooling mom.  Some links below are affiliate links.  When I link to a product, you can be sure that I have used it myself and highly recommend it, or that I have heard such wonderful things about it, that I have to recommend it to you.  As always, any proceeds made from my affiliate links go toward the upkeep of this site.

Five Simple Things You Can Do Today to Help Your Kids Become Amazing Readers

​1. Read Aloud to Your Kids

Do this as soon as, and as often as you can.  The benefits are endless. If you are the kind of person who wants to learn more about the research, this book by Jim Trelease is amazing.

2. Model Reading Yourself

Countless studies have shown that children from families who read, ENJOY reading. These children do not see reading as just “another subject” to tackle.

3. Label Things in Your Environment

Place a sentence strip like this one on every-day objects around the house.  For example, you might want to label the “door”, “table”, “books”, “bathroom”, “bed”, etc.  Post a color chart and a number chart in a visible place where your child can see them every day. Before you know it, your child will know how to spell these important words without you ever having to give them a spelling test! (I am not, and never have been, a fan of spelling “lists” and tests.)  The research proves why.

​4. Teach Phonics

Yes. Do it.  There is a continual debate among educators about phonics: whether to teach in context or in isolation; to teach in the early years only, or continue through middle school; to not teach at all and use a “sight word only” approach instead…  Here’s my experience as an educator for over twenty years: Teach phonics.  Teach phonics, BUT do NOT leave out steps #1, #2 and #3 above.  The simplest of approaches when you teach phonics is often the best.  We loved the BOB Books, and these little readers from CHC. I have also heard good things about the Life of Fred readers (link below.)

We used the All About Spelling program and loved this.  It is a fun, multi-sensory program which teaches phonics and spelling patterns. We did not use the All About Reading program, but I have heard absolutely wonderful things about this, which is why I am adding it here.  The product links are above. Check them out.  These were created by an educator and mother of a son with severe dsylexia.

5. Make it fun

Please, I beg of you, do not treat reading as another “subject” that you “have to do every day.”  Nothing can turn a kid off from reading like that.  Play with letters and words and create stories together using fun table-top pocket charts like this one which focuses on beginning sounds, this one which is all about word familiesor this one which focuses on ending and vowel sounds.  After you have fun with these, you can create your own stories together using story strips like these. When I was teaching in the elementary classroom, I used large versions of all of these types of pocket charts.  They even sell these for math concepts, which I’ll post about another time.  Kids love being active learners!  Let them move about, manipulate objects and learn to read and spell all while having FUN!

What You Need to Know Before Your Homeschool Portfolio Evaluation

What You Need to Know Before Your Homeschool Portfolio Evaluations

I will not ask your child to jump through hoops for me. A few years ago, in my local area, it was common to hear from homeschooling families that their evaluator “tested” their kids during a portfolio evaluation. My initial reaction? SAY WHAT?! During a portfolio evaluation with me, I will not ask your child to read aloud to me, do math computations for me, or recite the dates of the major battles in the Civil War. There are, however, certain things that all homeschool evaluators must look for according to FL law, and a portfolio evaluation does not include any of those things listed above. We are so fortunate in our state to have several options to choose from when it comes to providing evidence that our students have made progress each year. The benefits of using the portfolio evaluation option are many. Just take a look at this article to read more. I feel so strongly that the portfolio gives you and me a much more comprehensive picture of your child’s progress than any standardized or nationally normed test, that I do portfolio reviews exclusively.  Testing has its place. I have my girls test every year in addition to reviewing their portfolio and I often recommend that my clients do both as well.  Portfolio assessments provide an authentic way of demonstrating progress, skills and accomplishments. If I ask your child to read aloud to me, in order to assess his/her fluency, what would I be basing that day’s progress on? I would not know how your child’s fluency was at the beginning of your homeschool year in order to compare. Similarly, if I ask your student to take a math test for me, or any other one-time summative assessment, I would need a standard or benchmark with which to compare.

Let’s Look at the Difference Between Formative and Summative Assessments

A portfolio should include any type of formative or summative assessments that you, (the teacher) have done throughout the year.  The difference between formative and summative assessments is that formative assessments are given by you (the teacher) and help you monitor progress and provide feedback as you go along. For example, you are reading a great work of literature with your student, and you pause at the end of every chapter in order to assess comprehension.  You provide feedback and identify any areas of strength or weakness which will help your student improve their learning. Summative assessments are assessments that come at the end of a unit or course, and will examine your student’s learning by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.  For example, you may make up your own grading rubric after doing a unit study on Shakespeare.  You then ask your student to compare Romeo and Juliet to Julius Caesar by designing a multimedia project.  Your grading rubric shows your student details of what you expect out of their paper or project which you will later use to “grade” it. During a portfolio review, I like to see YOUR formative and summative assessments included in the child’s portfolio.  I am happy to listen to your child read so that I can assess fluency if you would like me to, however, I never include this as part of my portfolio evaluation process, nor does the Florida law ask me to.  I am concerned that if homeschool evaluators who conduct annual portfolio reviews continue to ask their students to do these types of activities as a general rule, that they will be setting a precedent for this, and eventually our homeschool-friendly State of Florida will be adding these requirements to the law so that all homeschool evaluators will then put your child to the test As a homeschooling parent myself, I rather enjoy my freedom to be able to decide whether or not I want another person to administer (any type of) test to my children.  I certainly wouldn’t want my children to have to be subjected to it during a portfolio review.

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