I am really excited about this giveaway for a couple of reasons. First, the Jones family is a fellow Christian unschooling family, and they are a family that I really respect and admire. Second (and perhaps even more importantly) their chocolate is CRAZY delicious! It is raw, organic, and vegan, and it's made with just a few ingredients. If you're a lover of good quality chocolate, you need to try it.
Mandy took some time out of her day to answer some questions, and it's my pleasure to introduce her and her family (and her chocolate ;))
Tell me what unschooling looks like in your family, and how it has changed over the past several months.
For our family, unschooling used to mean a lot of field trips, spending time with a ton of friends, going to our fun co-op, hosting a monthly show and tell at the local library, playing baseball in the spring and in the fall, and then squeezing in some lazy time whenever we had the chance. Since my oldest child, Hunter, was diagnosed with leukemia, all of that has come to a screeching halt. Now we are home most of the time (with an exception of Tuesday and Friday mornings when we take a trip to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital for Hunter's check ups. Over the past few months, our "unschooling" has depended upon what phase we were in with our treatment. When Hunter was in the hospital, I had him occasionally working on his Math U See Primer and keeping up with an occasional episode of Headsprout. Otherwise he spent his time resting, watching television, playing video games, building Legos and listening to his dad read aloud to him the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. My daughter got to hear me read a lot of great picture books but that was about all I could handle during those times. She and I watched a lot of television and simply tried to stay distracted until the boys came home.
Now that Hunter is home, we have settled in to more of a productive routine. We plan our days around the toddler's naps. When he lays down with daddy, we know that means reading time. We look forward to this time each day. We read so many different things and we are trying to remember to pray aloud before we start reading every day. We also keep up with Headsprout and Math U See, going at whatever pace the children prefer. Some weeks they want to do those things, some weeks not so much. We watch a lot of television. We get out the art supplies. We cook and bake a lot. And we are making plans for out of doors activities that we'll be able to safely do once the weather becomes warmer... like geocaching, hiking, camping, and watching dad play baseball for our church on Monday nights. It's been an adjustment trying to get used to staying at home so much but to be honest, I actually prefer this part of our new lifestyle. And I will carry what I've learned about staying home and not being overly committed into our life after leukemia.
What role does your faith play in your homeschooling, and in dealing with Hunter's illness?
This question might better read "What role does leukemia play in your faith?"
I feel like watching Hunter's illness and all of the miracles that have happened along this journey have strengthened my faith in so many ways. I've never had the opportunity to watch God take care of me and my family quite like this before. It's like everything we have needed has just been handed to us from all directions. It's blown my mind. I am so thankful for the amazing way that people have stepped up to provide for our every need. This experience has helped me believe in the power of prayer and the goodness in people. I'd never had to depend upon prayers and people like this before.
As for the role that faith plays in my homeschooling... I unschool because I believe in living life authentically and trying to avoid being motivated by fear. Thanks to faith, I don't worry about tomorrow. I know that it will take care of itself. So I don't worry about my children... I believe that whatever they need to know and experience, God will lay before them. I just need to step back and not get in their way. After all, He knows best. I realize that this is a pretty radical concept but when I take a look around at the world we are living in, I figure the results of my choices couldn't be any worse than what would happen to my children if I followed a more "traditional" method of parenting... and it might just work.
How do you decompress and take time for yourself in the midst of everything that is going on?
Barely! I strongly depend upon about twenty minutes of quiet time when I lay down in my bed at night next to the crib and wait for the toddler to drift off to sleep. During those moments, I pray, breathe, and soak up the quiet. I try to squeeze in exercise occasionally. I like to play Just Dance, Just Dance 2, and the Michael Jackson Experience on the Wii. I also consider cleaning and cooking to be very relaxing so I spend a lot of my mornings bustling about my kitchen doing laundry, cleaning floors... I stay connected to the outside world via Facebook and my blog. I hope that in the near future, I can start enjoying a little more down time because I do feel pretty overwhelmed and exhausted these days.
Tell me a little bit about your chocolate business. Do your kids help out (or will they when they are older)?
Basically, my husband makes it, packages it, sells it, etc. I just eat it and promote it online. My kids do not help out because legally he is the only person allowed in the kitchen while making Ridiculous Chocolate. I'm sure if we find commercial kitchen space and as the business grows, however, the children will help. I look forward to those days. I have a vision for our chocolate and I have every reason to believe we will get there... it just might take a while. Hopefully the next time we catch some speed, we'll be able to keep that going and no other crazy huge life event will slow us down. We are at an exciting point in growing the business... discussing possible partnerships, experimenting with new packaging, playing around with new flavors. It's a fun time to be starting a new, successful business. With the economy so sketchy and the job market being so tough, it's the perfect time to move forward towards self-employment. What do we have to lose, right?
Thanks Mandy! You can read more about Mandy and her family over at her blog, a bona fide life. You can also like her Ridiculous Chocolate page on Facebook, and show your support for Hunter by liking his Help Hunter Jones Blast Leukemia page.
And without further ado, the giveaway...
I am giving away one pound of Ridiculous Chocolate (40 pieces), a $20 value, to one lucky reader. The original flavor is delicious all on its own, but the winner may choose their own flavor (awesome, right?!) In addition to original, they offer:
The chocolate comes in a special cooler, and it must be kept in the freezer once you get it. It has a great fudgy texture, and I'm not kidding when I say that this is GOOD CHOCOLATE.
1) You need to live in one of the 48 continental states. Sorry.
2) Enter once by commenting on this post. Any old comment will do.
3) Share the link to this post on Facebook or Twitter, come back and comment again to let me know you've done it, and you'll be entered twice.
4) I'll randomly choose a winner in one week, and announce it on my blog on Monday, March 14th.