Thursday, September 29, 2011

Food Fun with the Preschooler

My Hubby has his own business, so if things are busy, he must stay late, and lately he has been stuck at work till around 10-11 every night but Sunday. Dinner with just the kids & I has become much less formal. I had the bright idea to involve the kids in the dinner choices a couple nights ago. Mark usually gets to decide between square or triangle sandwiches at lunch.   So I asked Mark what he wanted for dinner, and he promptly piped up "Need soccle sanish!"  (circle sandwich)

Mark has begin using NEED in the morning quite  a bit lately.  He usually upon waking, shouts with emphasis from his room, "Need Up Mom! Need up!"  Sometimes this changes to "Need cracker", or "Need breakfast Mom!"   On one memorable morning though, we heard with much amusement, cries of " NEED APPLE PIE!!!!  Need Apple Pie Mom!"

Friday, July 22, 2011

School Setup #2- Curriculum Choices

  • Our church, Reformation Covenant Church, has a great Sunday school program that goes through the whole bible if you start at the beginning.   I have the kids do their bible reading for Sunday school first thing every day, and we work on the memory verses during school time as well. 
  • WSC-A friend found this study, Catechism for Kids going through the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and I plan on working through it with the kids beginning this fall.

Language Arts
I have had quite a rough time of it with teaching language arts.  I am not a writer, nor do I know why things are spelled the way they are. I just know when they look "right" to me.   Because of this I didn't realize that my son needed MUCH MORE instruction in spelling until about 3rd grade.
Here's what I have tried that didn't work for us in grammar:
  • Waiting till 3rd grade for formal grammar( very bad idea if you ever MIGHT use a private school) 
  • Abeka 
  • Misc. free online grammar workbook that we were doing for a while, then realized that there was no answer key!
I finally Settled on First Language Lessons for elementary grammar.   This was just the right approach for kiddo & myself. Sadly, I realized that this was the best fit for him just before we decided to put the kids in a private school for last year.  My son was placed a grade lower than I had thought mainly because of the weakness in the LA areas.  They were using Shurley English, so this was completely the right decision for us. So, here we are again, homeschooling.  I am going to use Shurley English.  If I were starting again from the beginning I would definitely use FLL again, but he has now had a whole year of Shurley, and he is doing well in it.

Spelling... GACK!   I used TATRAS for reading instruction/phonics.  However, I stopped when DS#1 was reading well.   I didn't even think about the impact this might have on his spelling.

I don't know how to spell. I just do it.
Remember, I just use my very accurate visual memory combined with my reading addiction love for reading.  This means that most of my spelling issues are things like "Which version of the word colour/color should I  use?   Grey or gray?  This meant that I had no idea of how to TEACH spelling. I was surprised that although DS could read well, he couldn't spell very well.
Sequential Spelling did nothing for him.  He could only spell the words by figuring out the pattern, and the base words were often completely wrong.   A couple friends had been talking to me about Spell to Write & Read.   I was semi interested, but the teachers manual is very hard to work through. It is NOT open & go, so flipping through the book was a turn off.   I was surprised when Levi came home from private school with a spelling rule chart from the SWR program. Charlotte was in 1st grade there, and was doing very well with her spelling.   Levi was ok with the newer rules that were introduced, but the spelling lists that the school used were designed for those students who had already done 3 years of SWR.

I was able to hear Ms. Sanseri speak at the OCEAN homeschool conference in June. This was very helpful with the reasoning why she taught what she does and when.  The book is still hard to figure out, but hearing a few of the spelling rules explained in the lecture on how English is a logical language was just amazing.  Starting SWR at the beginning with an older reader is just fine, and he will move upward at the rate he learns, not based on grade level/age. So, I am now using the Spell to Write and Read core kit for phonics and spelling.

I prefer to keep on the same time period with all my kids, and I only have 2 in school.   I imagine that teaching more kids in several different time periods would be frustrating.  My parents used Bob Jones,  Abeka, Rushdoony's World History Notes, and America, the First 350 years, along with lectures from Dad.   A few of my siblings used Sonlight.  I was and am an avid reader.   I remember much of what I read from actual books, and the lectures Dad used. However, I don't remember a lick of the textbooks.  A few pictures from the textbooks stick in my brain, and I could pick out the book we used by its cover, but not what they were about.

All this led me toward Tapestry Of Grace.  I couldn't afford it new when I found it.  Thankfully, Exodus Books had the last 2 units of year 1 classic. I was able to get a good taste of the way TOG worked without spending a ton.  I love it.  I then bought year 2 used from homeschool classifieds, and I was happily working along through it, and then disaster struck! I was missing a week. (it's a 3ring binder product,so the seller lost some of it)  I really didn't want to skip that week, it was the week comparing and contrasting Islam and Christianity. I decided to buy the redesigned unit to compare the two, since I was missing a whole week, and I could get the digital version that day.    It was so spiffy that I have been saving up for the redesigned ever since then.  I am currently finishing up our first pass through Year 2, (it's summer, we're reading only)  and will start year 3 in LG & UG in September.

Fine Arts
  • Charlotte Mason style Picture Study  I have great hope of spreading this out to match our TOG weekplans. 
  • Meet the Masters   This is artist study & hands on art projects-Homeschool buyers co-op had a 3 year subscription for about 1/2 price, so I bit.    
  • Composer study - Again, I am weaving this in with Tapestry.  There are composer & artist listed in the TOG teachers notes, but no comprehensive listing of artist or composer by week plan.   I want that so I can file my prints by the week we will use them.  This means more work for me, but I'll only have to do it once for each year plan.
  •  Music Lessons- I would love to pay for piano lesson for DD, and something else for DS, but the $ just isn't here right now.  I am toying with the idea of buying the Alfred piano kit & teaching them at home, but that too requires money not currently available. 

I need to figure this out more, so I am currently doing Writing With Ease for 2nd grade DD, and I am a bit in flux with DS.  I am currently having him do a report using a cluster diagram on  Killer Bunnies, a silly and fun game he loves.   We are going to do Imitation In Writing  this fall, and while we work through that, I need to get in depth with the IEW teacher training. 

DS started Latin for Children  last year in school, and we will continue that.  DD wants to learn Latin too, so she is doing Songschool Latin.

  • Saxon older grades are the best for us, but k-3rd is way too scripted for me.  DS is a math kiddo, he likes to read the chapter, work the problems and go. He is currently in 5/4 and will be starting 6/5 in the early spring.
  • I prefer Horizons for the younger grades of Math.

 Links for help:

Some of my favorite places for information on curriculum choice are Exodus Books, a lovely LOCAL homeschool bookstore with great service, the Well Trained Mind Forum, and curriculum fairs.  Of course, if you know other homeschoolers, (I do, almost a whole church full :-D )  then they can be of great assistance in evaluating different choices.   Just don't get swept up in a large wave of "Everyone likes it so you should try it" if what you have is working.    The hs curriculum fairs are worth going to just to be able to look at particular things you may not have access to in real life.   The OCEAN conference allows you to buy an exhibit hall only pass so you can browse & research without going to the expense of doing all the lectures.  This can be a great option for a more seasoned homeschooler, or a non christian. 

Anyhow, sorry for the lengthy post, but it's nice to get all my thoughts down in one spot.  :-)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

School Setup #1- the plan

OK, I've been BUSY.... very, very, busy.

We are homeschooling again this year, and that means lots of preparation for me.

I spent the last couple months working on planning, and getting everything set up for the current year.  Hopefully this will provide a framework for all the home school years to come.   I hate reinventing the wheel each time I set up a year plan.

I had several steps to my planning this year, and hopefully I won't have to be redoing it all the time. If I don't have a well thought out and on paper plan, I get distracted and can't remember which step I was on.
In the middle of the process I realized that my gazillions of post it notes stuck all over the kitchen weren't very helpful, so I wrote all that I still had to finish on the white board.

 Here's the rough outline of my planning process.  

1. Deciding on subjects & curriculum
2. Buying Books
3. Book storage
4. Library tracking/setup
5. Lesson planning
6. File set up
7. HST setup for all non TOG subjects
8. HST setup for TOG  by unit
9.Print/Copy/File all that paper (I hate trying to remember to print things out the day I want them)
10. Prep the working environment  both static and on the go!

I didn't exactly do these in this order, but I wish that I had, it would have been much simpler. Next year I will have to look back at this post to see what I wanted to do differently.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cloth Toddler diapers #2... Big Kid, long waist.

My son is a solid boy.  He has a long waist and is a nighttime supersoaker.  Huggies size 6 good nights are not up to the challenge.

With the kids getting out of school, I am cloth diapering again.  This is tricky since the regular Gerber prefolds are too small to pin on, and they need to be doubled for DAYTIME.  :-P   The rise is the most important fit issue for us.   Mark is a boy, and needs lots of absorbency up front.  If he has a leak,  it is always at the waist.   The low rise style diapers just don't work for him. 

Here's what we are trying for more absorbency currently:

Peanut Butter and Ellie Larges
RISE: 19"
SOAKER: Rectangular Lay in
SUPER ABSORBENT!   When you stack these next to the regular Gerber prefolds they are much thicker! I can get away with 19" rise because the waist is super stretchy, the legs aren't elasticized, and the COVER rise (L thirsties) is long enough.  I can still pin/snappi these, but I usually just lay them in the cover.
Amy is no longer sewing diapers, but you can still snag them off DS used sometimes.  I loved the set she gave me when Mark was born, but I need more larges, so I'm looking pretty regularly on DS for them.
See how thick they are? Here are 5 pbes and 5 gerber prefolds side by side. 

Meg A Roo's L Extrended Tab Prefolds
 RISE: 19"  after washing ( bought them used)
SOAKER: none
These are bamboo fleece, so I would expect pretty good absorbency.  :-)   These pin on well.

Piddle Poddles TODDLER size OBV/ AI2 Cadillac (ai2 and obv fitted =same rise. )
RISE:21.5 Stretched  YIPPIE!   this is the best rise for Mark
SOAKER:  shaped,  1" below waist snap in
Might need a doubler for car trips/etc.  The AI2 performed well the first time we used it without a doubler or washing a ton to prep.

Holden's Landing Toddler size AI2
RISE : 19" Stretched

SOAKER:  2 layer shaped, snaps in about 1/2 below the back waist, so too close.. might stick out when on... :-P  Great absorbency though!   There are 2 layers to the soaker, and a lay in doubler. 
I missed the fact that they are coming out in a larger size, the junior.  This would probably fit Mark a tad better. Oddly enough, the rise is listed as 20", but I could only get it to 19" before washing.   The JR size will be around 23"

Here is the HL laid out on top of the PP.  See the size difference without stretching?

HL snap placement for the soaker.. too close to the edge!  The best placement I have seen is on Little Boppers , they have snaps about 2" down from the top edge.. perfect.   I would prefer a snap in the front.  If you did that, when you are using with a boy, the absorbency is where you want it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fun with bread dough

There is something about shaping dough that I like. I remember well how much fun it was to get up early and make bread art. I did a giant shaped turkey for thanksgiving one year when I was growing up.  Whimsy Bread was the recipe I used then.  I believe it is from a 1970s sunset magazine issue...

I wish I had a picture of that giant Turkey bread loaf! This is a bear along the same lines, but not as cool...

Whimsy Bread

Source: Ask .com


1 pkg yeast
1/3 c milk
¼ c warm water
¾ c soft butter
½ c sugar
½ tsp salt
5 eggs
About 4 ¾ c flour

In a mixer, blend yeast and water. Let stand 5 min. Add butter, sugar, milk, salt, and eggs. Add 2 c. flour and beat on medium for 10 minutes. Mix in 1 c. flour on low until thoroughly moistened. Stir in 1 ¾ c flour (do not knead). Cover air tight and let rise 1 ½ hours. Beat to expel air, turn out onto a floured board.

Overlap two baking sheets, cover with foil and butter.

Tips on shaping: The dough will expand, so make the shape skinnier. Butt pieces close together if joined, leave 2 inches if separate. Snip dough for surface detail. For attached stuff, set into holes in punched dough.
Cover shaped dough, let rise 30 min. Brush w/1 egg + 1 tsp water mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 min. Let cool on pan 10 min. Slide onto wire rack to cool or tray to serve warm. Cool completely before wrapping. To warm: 325 degrees for 20 minutes.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dinner Rolls... the easy way

In an attempt to fill my family's bellies with less expense, I have been messing around with breads... This was the best success yet.

I stumbled across the recipe on Nancy's Recipes and had to try it.... EL YUMMO!

Awesome Bread Machine Rolls
1 cup water
2 Tbs butter, softened
1 egg
3 1/4 cups bread flour (start with 3 cups and see if you need the extra 1/4 cup ~ I always need it)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp yeast
Put all ingredients on the pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Use the dough cycle.
When finished, pull apart into 15 (or more) balls. Place on greased cookie sheet 2″ apart and brush with melted butter. Cover and set in slightly warm place to rise for about 30-40 minutes or until nearly doubled in size.
Bake at 375ยบ for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove and brush with butter again.
Makes 15 or more depending on size.
This dough was LOVELY straight from the machine... All I did was shape it in to a strange version of Parker rolls, rise again, and bake. They were fabulous.

I found a nice place ( Bread Machine Digest ) with all those spiffy "how to form rolls" instructions. I have been fascinated by these diagrams since I was a kiddo leafing through my mom's Betty Crocker & Tassajara Bread cookbooks.

Friday, February 11, 2011

After school snacks.... Pretzels!

I was shocked by how much more food my children need now that they are not being taught at home. Since they have PE (hockey, volleyball, tumbling, dodge ball) twice each week, and twice per day field recess, they come home each day from school ravenous.

My car just after pickup sounds like this:

Mom: Hi kiddos! How was your day?
L & C overlapping: , Mom! I'm hungry! Can we go to McDonalds?
Mom: NO!!
L&C I am thirsty! Can we have a snack?
Mom: YES, but only when we get home.
L&C: But we're STARVING!!!
Mom:I think you'll make it home before dying...
L& C: I did good on my quiz, so can I have a candy bar?
( I did this for the first month if they did well on their Bible verse test, and now it is coming back to haunt me)
Mom: NO FOOD TILL WE GET HOME!!! You may have a healthy snack then...
L& C: We're/I'm soooooooooo huuuuunnnnnggggrrryyyyyy...!!!!!!!!!

I inform them of the punishment that will occur if they speak about it again until we get home, and after chatting briefly about school, I turn up the radio and enjoy the clouds & birds on the way home.

We didn't really eat many snacks until school started. For C's first grade class, they asked me to send 2 snacks per day for her. I began packing lunches that included a juice drink, sandwiches, and 2 other snacks. The class policy was no sweet snacks, so the oatmeal cookies I had planned were out. We then switched to store bought snacks which although SUPER yummy, were a bit more than I would like to spend... 2 bags of chips, per kid per day = way too much money on chips.

Lately I have been sending maybe an apple, and a slice of homemade bread. Today I began learning a new addition to the snack arsenal... Homemade pretzels...! I prefer to buy snacks, but this is MUCH cheaper (about $1.54 total) and not that hard. The most time consuming part is the kneading and rolling of the pretzel dough into ropes that makeup the pretzel shape... plech!

We'll see how the starving students like them....

Soft Pretzels
2 1/4 tsp Yeast
1 1/2 C. Warm water
1 Tbs. Sugar
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
4 1/2 C. Flour
1 egg (lightly beaten for glaze)
Coarse salt

1. Mix yeast, water & sugar in bowl. Allow to stand till foaming (about 5 minutes)
2. Stir in flour & salt. ( I think slowly is better)
3. Turn out onto lightly floured board or counter and knead about 8-10 minutes till smooth and elastic
4. Divide into 16 pieces (cover & keep the ones you aren't working with yet from getting all dried out... )
5. Roll each bit in to a 20" rope , and form into a pretzel shape ( or letters, etc.)
6. Place each as you make them onto a lightly greased baking sheet, cover and let them rise for 20 minutes.
7.Preheat the oven to 425 and brush the egg onto the pretzels, sprinkle with salt (or something else, like cheese, etc)
8. Bake for 15 minutes or till lightly brown. Cool on rack

OK, I messed this up and they still came out yummy, I just dumped all the flour in the bowl at once. This meant I couldn't mix it all into the dough properly, and it was REALLY hard to knead. Sometimes the amount of flour in bread recipes needs to be tweaked. I have a dry cold house, and I usually need less flour than called for.

Anyhow, this made kneading a nightmare.... I did it though, and then when I was doing the rolling out, I forgot to keep the balls of dough moist... I had to use water on my hands to roll them out, and used the counter with a bit of moisture on it.

Then to get the dough to rise well in our icebox house, I heated the oven to 170, left it on for 5 minutes, turned it off, let it cool a bit, and popped in the rising dough. I am not sure how long to hold the door open for, but this is the only way to get the dough to rise here. Well, the only Mark proof way.. (Our radiators are too close to the ground for safe dough rising) I have also heard of using a heating pad, and a couple towels under the pan, but we don't have one.

So you can flub it up a bit, but the pretzels still are yummy!

Just before baking:

My cost per batch is about $1.54, or about 10 cents per pretzel. (40 cents per day) The cost of the single serving chips is about .36 per bag, or 1.44 per school day

You could lower this by using different toppings. I figured the cost using roughly 2TBS coarse sea salt, but you could use regular salt, or just use cinnamon sugar, Parmesan, etc