Monday, November 4, 2013

Better Late Than Early

If I wasn’t already a decisive member of the “better late than early” camp of formal lesson presentations, this conversation pushed me well past the mark.

I was starting to feel a little guilty about the lack of structured time I spend exclusively and intentionally with my 3-1/2 year old. He joins my older kids and me for our Morning Time together (sometimes) before independent lessons start; he gets read to by all of us; he gets to build all kinds of inventions and structures side-by-side with his older brother; he gets all the standard exposure of merely being a bystander in the way of a homeschooling household. But I don’t really sit with him and do the standard “preschool” fare, which seem like it should be pretty fun with for a 3-year old. I’d want to do it if I was three.
So, in order to assuage my guilt, I devised a pattern lesson for him one morning. I brought out the teddy bear counters – it was officially a “lesson”. I ordered them: red, yellow, red, yellow.

“Hey Andrew! Look at your bears! They’re in a pattern – there is a red bear, then a yellow bear, then a red bear, then a yellow bear. Which one comes next?”

(sucking in an excited breath and eyes lighting up) “My bulldozer!! I need to plow them down! I’ll go get it!”
And that was the end of the lesson. He was off, running to fetch the perfectly obvious bear successor.

Why would I want to put his little mind in a box to see only plastic bears in some predetermined order, and train him to see only one solution to a problem, when his little imagination instinctively goes to all kinds of creative places that I don’t even consider? Yes, son, plow down the bears because your mind is not limited to a four-color set of plastic bears yet. Next time I’ll let you set the pace and I’ll perhaps learn from you.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bone Broth - Step #1 in Nourishing Traditions

I've been reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. It makes sense to me, it really does. But being a product of the 90s "low fat" diet mentality, it's hard to really come full circle and embrace "healthy fat is good" camp. And frankly, some of it sounds kind of gross to me. Raw dairy? Fermented vegetables? Kombucha? Blech.

And so I come to baby steps.
Bone broth is supposed to be so healthy. And since I'm convinced I'm mineral deficient in a lot of ways, I think it's a good first step for me.

I already order grass fed beef once a month, so I just ordered those parts I couldn't imagine that people actually buy: marrow bones, soup bones, oxtail. Actually, they were out of oxtail, so I had to make due with just the marrow and soup bones for this batch.
I followed Sally's recipe pretty much to a T. And after 30 hours of cooking and an overnight chill, I scooped off the fat on the top and was left with a huge bowl of gelatinous brown gravy looking stuff.

Some people say to save the fat and use it to cook with. Can't go there quite yet.
So I froze my finished product and it's all ready to be used in my next pot of soup. Which, judging by our 105 degree weather, might be just a little ways down the road.

Baby steps. Excellence doesn't come in a day.

Next up maybe chicken broth or fermented carrots?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Putting Up Lots of Peaches!

Have you ever had peaches picked straight off the tree? Ripe?
It was the year for peaches at my parent's house, let me tell you. This is 2 days worth of peaches off of one of their 4 peach trees. No worms this year and amazing flavor! I've been busy using up these beautiful luscious pieces of fruit so that we can enjoy their yumminess all year long.

But before I started that I had to get a peach cobbler on my cabinet.
 I couldn't concentrate without that important step under my belt. It wasn't as good as my mom's, but it was just one teeny step shy of divine. Especially warm with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream on top.
I had to go buy a new water bath pot for this project. It was either that or try to can in the pot sitting next to it. I was kind of intimidated when it showed up. Definitely a smart purchase.
Here's what it did for me -- 6 quarts of peach jam and 5 pints of honey-almond peach syrup. Would you believe these peaches are so sweet I actually didn't need at add any sugar to the syrup? Just about 1/4 cup honey for some flavor and so I could officially call it 'syrup' instead of 'puree'.
I tried two different kinds of muffins. We were divided in the house as to which recipe we liked better. The boys preferred this first one.
The girls thought this recipe by Emeril was better. It had a more spongy texture than the first set, and wasn't quite as sweet. (By the way, there is an error on that recipe -- it calls for 1/4 cup butter or 1 stick. I opted to use the whole stick because what's not better with more butter? I think it was the right call.)

But honestly, in the end I decided peach muffins weren't a good use of these gems. It just didn't highlight the actual fruit enough for my liking. But, again, I'm comparing everything to the standard of a peach cobbler. 
Most of them ended up getting cut into slices and frozen individually. After they were solid I stuck them in freezer bags. We ended up with a few bags...
We'll definitely use these in our green smoothies that we have each morning.

Mom sent me home with several pie and cobbler fillings, so I didn't have to make any more of those.

And as you can see, we still have a few left to eat...
Straight and unaltered has been our favorite method of consuming!
I think my 2-year old has eaten his weight in peaches.

Thanks for stopping in to see what is making me feel so accomplished this week. These peaches will taste extra good this year knowing what went into preserving and preparing them!

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012


We love our timeline! It helps us tie what we're currently studying to things we have previously studied and bridge relationships between them. After seeing lots of examples that I really loved, and then making various attempts resulting in inconsistency, I finally tweaked something that works for us in keeping up with our family timeline.
We use a 9x12 sketch pad with spiral rings on top so when opened we have a continuous linear flow. The span of each page spread is a little different depending on the era of history. Ancient history has a lot less detail than modern history, so a 2-page spread may cover 200 years instead of 25. The general rule I used per 2-page spread was:
Creation to AD 400: 200 years
AD 400 to AD 1600: 100 years
AD 1600 to AD 1850: 25 years
AD 1850 to Current: 10 years
As we're reading through our history books, or studying a significant person, I jot down the names or events that we will add to our timeline. We add figures and events from our history, composer studies, artist studies, biographies, poetry studies, Bible name it. I love tying these relations across the breadth of our education.
Once a week, usually on Friday, we add these names and events to our timeline book. This ends up also being a natural review of what we covered that week, plus a review of any other previously recorded events that correspond with our weekly addition. For example, when we added in Ivan the Terrible a couple weeks ago, we found that he somewhat aligned chronologically with Michelangelo, one of our artists we studied a few semesters back. It was fun to tie the connections of these two individuals who were living and impacting at somewhat the same point historically, but in very different parts of the world.
I think Mom may enjoy these connections as much or more than the kids.
We love the History Through the Ages timeline figures. I purchased the CD so I can print whatever figures we need. I keep my own timeline book as well for my own readings, so this way I can also print copies for me. I'm telling you, I'm getting the education of my life through schooling these kids! I printed off all the pages from the CD and put them in page protectors in a binder. This way I can see all the figures that we have through that program without having to load up the disk every time.
When we use one or two figures from a page but haven't encountered others yet, I just slip those extra figures into the page protector until we need them.
Sometimes when we don't find an event in the History Through the Ages pack, we'll just shrink down an image we find in our Story of the World Activity Book or just draw our own.
The only regret I have is not keeping a separate book for each of my older kids. (They are ages 9 and 10.) It works well right now to keep a family book, but I think as they get a bit older and start to own their education a little more they will want their individual books to continue to add to. Maybe I'm projecting!

Do you have a way to keep a timeline that works really well for your family? I'd love to hear.

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Friday, June 1, 2012


Not from my trees, unfortunately! These are from my parents' tree. This is a teeny tiny fraction of what they have produced in apricots this year. And they are so sweet and flavorful.

I peeled and pitted and froze a pie filling.

Some pieces were too ripe and not firm enough to hold together in a pie, so I froze those individually on a wax paper coated cookie tray, then put them in a bag to save for smoothies.

Maybe one day my baby trees will produce, too! I'd love to have enough to try my hand at dehydrating.

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Solutions for 2012-13

I've been reflecting on the past year and evaluating what changes need to be made for a more effective learning atmosphere as we come to the close of this spring term. I have solutions....and still a few Iingering issues.

  • I made a decisions on our math problem for my daughter! Can you believe I found this for $5 at our local used book sale? All clean pages, too. Score!

  • I mentioned copywork has been inconsistent. That falls on me. Here's what I've been doing for the past several years for copywork: I like to cater the assignment day-to-day, so I can focus on a passage from a book they have been reading, a character trait we need to work on, or just lots of practice with a particular letter that seems to be troubling to them. But, that falls on me to have lessons prepared and to keep a stash of lined manuscript paper available, or to make sure the daily assignment had been printed from a copywork generator. I was at a book fair a couple weekends ago and ran across this from Simply Charlotte Mason. I'm using only the copywork book. I love that the size of the font becomes smaller as they gain experience. Yay, done.

  • Written narrations: it's simply just going to have to be scheduled. That's just the only way to make it happen. My oldest son will be "5th grade" and my daughter "4th grade". We'll schedule him for 2 written narrations per week, and from her 1. My plan is to pick one narration for each kid every couple of weeks to edit and revise together.
  • We're picking Latin back up. We did Prima Latina a couple years ago, but did nothing this past year for this language. I picked up Latina Christiana I for my son and my daughter will repeat Prima Latina in the fall. She was less than enthusiastic her first time through Prima Latina, so by about mid-way through she was going through motions at best. Repeating it will not be a bad thing.
  • At the book fair I picked up sketch books for all three of us. This summer we're breaking out Drawing With Children and focusing on sketching simple things we find outside. Maybe we'll get adventurous and dabble in dry brushing. Hopefully this will get them started with their own notebook that they will be motivated to continue with indefinitely. Who knows, maybe I'll take a liking to it, too.
I'm still contemplating math for my son. That one has been a difficult decision for me.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Contemplating Next Year Part 2: What I'm Keeping

I hit the high points of the things that need to be tweaked, or just aren't working for us altogether. There are several things that I absolutely love or have crafted to the point that I think they're working optimally for our household for the stage we are in right now. These practices will be staples for the next term - at least a few items I don't have to make decisions on. Have you noticed that making decisions requires more mental effort than almost anything else in the day?

Some of the great things to our days:

  • Our picture study. I just love it. It couldn't get any better or any easier.

  • Our Fine Arts Co-op that we belong to. My words just cannot do justice to the blessing this group has been on our homeschool. No longer do subjects like composer study or Shakespeare or Folk Songs get tossed aside from lack of time and know-how by mom. This group is made of like-minded mamas who each take one of Charlotte's Fine Arts subjects they would like to teach and then we meet every other Friday and get it all done. A blessing many times over.
  • Our Bible study. We've settled into a fabulous routine incorporating self study, narrations and family sharing.
  • Our timeline. Everything we study gets put on here and it has been so fun to start to see things overlap. The other day we were reading about Ivan the Terrible and as we put him on our timeline we realized that he was a contemporary of our term's artist, Michelangelo. Love the connections!

  • Our literature and history readings. Love them so much that I won't change a thing about them! We're finishing up our Medieval study this term and will be on to the Renaissance next.
  • Of course, narrations, which are at the heart of the CM way. Whatever your educational methodology may be, if you are not doing them, narrations are the absolute most valuable tool you can use with your kids. We've seen invaluable payoffs from being diligent with our narrations.
There are many other things that work pretty well, and a few other things that are OK, but these are the absolute "I will keep no matter what" practices in our home for the next year.

Next on to the changes to be made.

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