from the bERNSTEINS


Yeah, we get it.  There’s nothing like handcrafted paper cards with handwritten notes arriving in your mailbox to say we love you.  I’d say that we would if we could, which has an ounce of truth to it mid-holiday-scramble, but the real truth is, this is our 3rd year of doing the e-thang, and it suits us.  We get to simplify, capitalize on technology, conserve a few trees and postal fuel, and use the funds we save to purchase carbon offsets for our 2 vehicles for the upcoming year.  There’s nothing like a little clean air to say we love you, right?  May the ghost of holiday future redeem us. 

Other than a few 40th birthdays creeping in at the close, 2009 was a relatively tame year for our family.  We had a lovely extended family gathering over the summer in beautiful northern Michigan, and a great experience in our first season as gardeners with a community plot.  Despite some pretty demanding hours this year, we are grateful for Andrew’s vegan-bacon-earning job – he survived several rounds of layoffs at Trans Union and is in his 5th year as a Data Management Architect (or whatever his job gets renamed after the latest round of reorganizations).  Julie took on some project work early in 2009 that launched her into full time and then some, and is grateful to be back to a more balanced part-time load, particularly in light of our family’s biggest life change this fall...

Most of you know of this adventure already, but the short version is that despite having invested much in a private, progressive school for her first several school years, we felt that Alli hadn’t been getting everything that we had hoped for her from school – at least not consistently (and perhaps it’s also true that she had been getting some unwanted things that we hadn’t been hoping for).  This, combined with Julie’s frustration in finding the kind of teaching job she sought, led to what feels now like an easy conclusion – although one that we spent nearly half a year mulling over. 

So, after some summer “proofs of concept”, we jumped in headfirst to home schooling in September.  It has taken some time to find the right balance of things, and is a pretty big life shift for all 3 of us, but there has already been tremendous payoff.  Alli is engaged, challenged, joyful about learning, and happy.  While it’s a heavy commitment for Julie, she is finding a level of fulfillment that she has yet to have found in any other job.  We are extraordinary fortunate to live in an area with a large and active community of other homeschoolers, and our very social child is fully engaged in a variety of group classes and play with others during her days.  School for us is often held out in the world, as we are able to capitalize on the vast number of great museums and other learning opportunities available to us in the Chicago area.  Alli also remains active in dance (electing to abandon ballet in favor of modern and, shortly, hip-hop), music (piano and choir), and sports (soccer, softball and wants to start basketball). 

Fulfilling one of Andrew’s wishes, we even took school on the road for 2 weeks in November, and explored a little of the Southeast US.  We drove nearly 3,000 miles (plus another 900 on the auto train); hit 12 states plus Washington, DC; got to spend time with family and friends; and had some great family bonding and learning experiences.

Our hopes for 2010 and beyond are to continue our path to living more simply and healthfully; to love, learn and laugh together as often as we can; and to always seek ways to give more back to the world than we take.  Many thanks to you, our friends and family, for the love and support you give to us.  We wish you a season filled with warmth, joy and peace.

-- Andrew, Julie & Alli