Thursday, September 17, 2009

I think this woman is just AMAZING. Amena Brown. I love everything I have listened to, this is one of my favorites, entitled YOU

I also love Resurrection

She has a blog, a myspace page and you can easily search up her videos on YouTube! I find her truly inspirational!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

AMAZING PLACE: Heaven's Corner Zoo and Animal Sanctuary Tour

This is by far the most AMAZING zoo I have ever visited. Just an hour from Cincinnati in West Alexandria, Ohio this little known treasure is an absolute jewel. I can't believe the number of things I had never seen at another zoo or how close we could get to everything, but at the same time feel so very safe.

The kids had such a great time. I still can't believe I had never heard of the place before my brother mentioned it to me over the summer. It was so funny, the woman at the front desk/gift shop (I am thinking she is Kord's wife??) was going on and on about how thrilled they were that they had 5000 people through the zoo the WHOLE SUMMER....I am thinking.....the Cincinnati Zoo
would be PISSED if they didn't get that many people in one weekend and Heaven's Corner is so much cooler. They seriously need to do some more advertising or something. I can't believe he can keep the place open on such low
attendance, that in and of itself is amazing. Our guide mentioned that they need 900 lbs of chicken alone to maintain the animals for 2 weeks.

There are so many cool animals at the zoo, but I think that the white tiger is just AMAZING....I got quite a few good shots of him. The animal that cracked me up was the new Bengal tiger they had, he was totally STALKING Luke (the only toddler in the group) he would just pace and follow him and watch him, like he was picking out the "weakest" one in the group, figuring he would be an easy target, it was really quite hilarious! Luke was running back and forth in front of the cage and the tiger would just run back and forth with him. Of course Luke was blissfully unaware that he was being hunted by a wild beast that was a mere 3 feet away from him!

My kids all LOVED the capuchin monkeys, I think they would have brought one home with them if they could have gotten one out of their enclosure. Emily even managed to shake the hand of the one that had been trained as an assistant animal.

Scott was our guide and he was amazing, so full of INTERESTING stories, not the normal boring crap you get from other guides! You can tell he just loves his job and is passionate about animals and their conservation and welfare. The kids loved when he relayed that his close "call" with one of the animals when when a tiger peed all over him!

Luke also LOVED the one wallaby (the male) he kept petting him and trying to
hold hands with him.

Definitely worth the drive and price of admission....during regular hours, adults are $7, kids over 3 are $4 and parking is always free. Picnic tables out front encourage you to pack your lunch and spend the day. Small gift shop offers candy and softdrinks ($1) as well as animal themed merchandise!


What: Heaven's Corner Zoo and Animal Sanctuary Tour
When: Friday September 11 10:30 AM
Where: 385 Quinn Rd. West Alexandria, Ohio 45381 937-839-5005
Who: Homeschoolers of all ages. Keep in mind that diligence is
needed in watching small children during the behind the scenes tour!
Cost: $6 adults, $3 children 12 & under, 3 & under FREE
RSVP: Laura

My brother's friend Bill Cacciolfi (who trains animals for Jack Hanna) is friends with Kord, the owner of Heaven's Corner and has arranged a tour for us including a special behind the scenes tour. We will get closer to the animals and learn more about their care than the public does on a regular tour. Keep in mind these are wild animals and that diligence will be needed in watching toddlers and young children during the behind the scenes portion of the tour. All of the money raised through admissions and merchandise sales goes to support the animals.

Please pack a picnic lunch and plan to have a great time! They sell drinks, but you will want to pack food, of course you are welcome to pack drinks as well! Don't forget your camera!

NOTE: Please look for Preble Memory Garden Cemetery on US-35 to help find our sign. Quinn Rd. is located right after the cemetery.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A fellow homeschooling mom send me the following email yesterday titled "Would you give me some advise" and I thought I would share it and my response here. This is the second of this type of email I have received in the last month, boredom being a key issue in that email as well. I never really know how to respond, but this was what I came up with. I removed her name and her son's name.....but I wanted to share because I thought my response was a decent one, maybe you don't agree?

From K: Hi Laura,

We're thinking about giving unschooling a try with S, age 5, this year. If I remember correctly, you've almost always unschooled with your kids. I was wondering if you had any advice for someone who is pretty much clueless about this?

My biggest concern so far, is that he's often prone to complain about being bored. When I suggest reading to him, or doing something with him of his choosing, he just tells me he doesn't want to ever homeschool again. If I try to do something more organized, I get basically the same reaction.

I'd really appreciate any advice you'd have to offer.

Thanks so much,

My response:
Yes, we have pretty much always unschooled. The older 3 went to school through 4th, 3rd and 1st grade, the younger 6 have never known anything but unschooling. I don't know that I have any advise, but I can share some thoughts with you.

I guess I should start by saying that I don't see unschooling so much as an educational choice as much as a lifestyle choice. It is about living as if school doesn't exist and therefore not valuing any one activity over any other activity. Shooting wadded up pieces of paper into a trash can or playing a video game is as valid of a choice for filling ones time as reading or learning multiplication tables. Yet it doesn't mean not exposing your child to a rich variety of opportunities, because after all, how do you know if you want to learn more about an artist like Jackson Pollack if you have never seen one of his painting or if you want to study ancient Egypt if you are never exposed to a mummy (either in real life, through books or the internet) or study karate if you have never gone and done an introductory class or at least watched a video about it.

I don't know how to address your issue of boredom. I have never had any of my children complain of boredom on a regular basis. On the rare occasions that I have heard it (honestly between the 9 kids, I bet I haven't heard the phrase uttered more than 30 times) I usually suggest an activity that needs to be done that they could work on....matching socks, cleaning the bathroom, doing dishes, they usually decide something else is far less "boring" that those tasks...although sometimes they do go and do what I suggested, gives them time to think and figure out a new plan of action. I guess because there are so many of them, there is always someone to keep them busy. They are all really good at self occupying their time, but again, since I don't limit tv, video games or computer time that is always an available option. Of course they love creative play (building forts, playing dolls), legos, art, playing outside to occupy their time.

Does S see you being passionate about things or are you just going through the motions? I think one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is embracing our own passions and having our children see us living, learning and loving life. To realize that my everything isn't wrapped up in them and what they are doing....even though I am passionate about what they like and love to share it with them, I am my own person, not just mom, I think it takes a huge weight off their shoulders! If you aren't passionate about anything, I encourage you to find something that you love and consider sharing it with S, so he sees you being HAPPY and occupying your time. Sewing, quilting, scrapbooking, stamping, reading, hiking, cooking...learn something new, revisit something old, you might be surprised at the example it sets.

Does S say he doesn't want to homeschool because he is lonely? Does he like being around other kids? Is he around other kids on a regular basis? If he likes other kids and isn't around them often, have you considered seeking out activities he might enjoy, basketball, baseball, storytime at the library,an art class, karate, regular playdates with another boy his age? We spend a lot of our time out and about (often doing free activities) with other homeschoolers, so my kids have a sense of community with other children.

Have you done much reading on unschooling?
John Holt (try to get the originals, not the newly republished copies) personally I don't think Farenga gets unschooling!
John Taylor Gatto
Raymond Moore: Better Late than Early

Websites (I don't agree with everything these woman say, and feel some, since they aren't Christian, hold differing views than I do, but the websites as a whole offer decent information)This is by no means an exhaust list, but just the first ones that come to mind:
Sandra Dodd:
Kelly Lovejoy:
Joyce Fetteroll:
Danielle Conger:
Dayna Martin:

Have you ever visited my blog? It was recently listed as one of the 50 most eye opening unschooling blogs by some unschooling website: probably not anything too revealing, but it gives you a glimpse into what our lives look like!

Did I even address any of your questions?

Does it work? I say yes. Brett at 18 is employed, working hard and trying to find his path. Hannah at 17 just got her first "real" job (although she has been teaching dance since she was 13, but this job has a real paycheck!), Emily is passionate about ballet and is studying about 10 hr a week at Ballet Tech Ohio. The boys are happy...they have learned to read without any program or workbooks and can do math in their heads better than most adults, they can certainly make change quicker and more accurately than most cashiers we encounter. The youngest 3 are happy, living, learning exploring. And me? Well, I am blessed, I couldn't ask for a fuller life!


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

09-09-09 at 09:09 PM

OK, not as historic as this morning, since in miliatary time 9 PM is 21:00 but I thought I would snap away again...this time I got the whole gang....just imagine me with a camera to my face and you have me too! Technically these aren't very good pictures, but heck, to snap off a series in less than a minute in 4 different rooms in the house wasn't an easy task! No one knew I was going to take them, so hence the rather startled and glazed looks on everyone's faces! Guess it was a good thing no one was entertaining their boyfriend or girlfriend in their room this evening, who knows what I might have captured!

09-09-09 at 09:09 AM

I realized driving home from the grocery store that the clock was quickly approaching a historic would soon be 9:09 AM on September 9, the time would be 09:09 09-09-09. I drove a little quicker than I should have and pulled into the driveway as the clock changed...leaving all the grocery in the car, I flew into the house grabbed the camera and snapped 2 pictures before the clock changed....forever recorded in history are the youngest 3 Riesenberg children at 09-09-09 at 09:09 AM! The rest of the Riesenberg children (less Hannah who is babysitting this morning) were still in bed!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Photo Shoot with Darrel Booth

A friend of my friend Nancy saw some pictures that Nancy took of Emily and asked her if she would see if Emily would model for him. We spent 3 hours with him at Ault Park on Wednesday morning and here is just a sampling of the photos he took of her. These are pretty much straight out of the camera with no photoshop work, the only one with any work is 'seeing double' you will know which one I mean!

Friday, September 04, 2009

FEARLESS or Will's Day at the Beach

Will had such an exciting day at the Beach, he wanted to share these pictures with everyone! I can't believe he is only 5 years old and has not a fear in the world! I should probably also note that on August 9, 2009, less than a month ago, Will could not SWIM AT ALL, he really blossomed over the past few weeks, it was so exciting to watch. Unschooling at it's best!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

My friend Nancy's friend Darrel (OK, I realize that sounds like the way my grandmotehr always started a story she was going to tell me!) invited Emily to come and model for him. He took over 300 pictures of her during the 3 hour shoot, this one was one taken towards the very end and I just love it! Once he gets the images to me I will have plenty more to share! He wants to do another shoot with her in studio (vs outdoors) sometime soon.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Should I be impressed....

Or scared, to find my blog listed here amongst the 50 eye opening unschooling blogs?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Can you believe it is September already?

Where has 2009 gone? I can't believe it is the first day of September already! Today was the final SUMMER PE DAY, set up by a homeschooling mom from the local Catholic homeschooling group. We joined them when we could throughout the summer. My boys enjoyed the fact that there were older boys there to play with and Sophia loved the fact that she had girls close to her age to play with, one great thing about those large catholic families! It was always great fun watching the kids interact, to see them include the younger kids in their games or to watch the older kids play on the playsets like they were 4 rather than 14. I believe that the ability to play is one of the many freedoms homeschooled children have, to not be told they are "too old" for such foolish things and told to sit still at a desk, but to be able to play and enjoy the waning days of summer!

As we sat at the park, surrounded by homeschooling families, I realized just how different we were from the others sitting there. As they talked about curriculum and grading papers and what subjects they "had" to cover this year, I sat quiet. The mom sitting next to me whispered to me "you unschool right? even your highschool kids?" I looked at her and smiled and answered "yes, even my highschoolers". She commented "I wish I could do that". I just smiled. I have had that discussion before. It never proves to be very fruitful. I don't know why I was able to make that leap of faith and embrace unschooling. I don't know why so many, who admit that the education system has so many flaws, are so quick to replicate that model at home. I don't know why they are so convinced that if their child doesn't learn everything listed on the world book outline for what a 1st grader should know by the time they are 6 years old that they will never be able to learn it. Why are they so fearful? Or maybe a better question would be why am I so fearless?

Admittedly my boys have been late readers. Grant probably didn't read at all until about the age of 10, But now he reads anything he wants, which happens to be more myspace and facebook or video game cheat codes than anything,or so I thought, but just the other day he asked me if I had heard about a recent news story about a boy dying while playing football and I commented yes and asked where he heard about it. His answer "Oh, I read it on roadrunner's homepage". He then told me that he usually reads all the news story on the homepage every day.

Jacob has just recently mastered reading and he is 11, he amazed me the other day when he read something that I figured he didn't know most of the words in. Again, his main motivation was video games. Honestly I NEVER worried that he wouldn't read. Sometimes I wonder if that means I am a bad mother. Somehow I know they learn in spite of me!

Today was bittersweet, park days are done for the year because our fellow homeschoolers relegate themselves to a schedule that doesn't allow time for play once the school buses for their district have taken to the streets. Maybe we will be lucky and see them again next summer, when they emerge again from their "home" school. We certainly will miss them!

Here are a few pictures, one of the other moms took some wonderful ones, but I was too content just sitting to go and get my camera and I don't think I should share her pictures since I don't have permission from the other parents whose children were there.....
One of Luke enjoying the slide:

and one of Sophia!