Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Schooling 2014-2015

We started schooling last week! Week #1 went  well, and the basic plans I came up with in June finally have the details in them.
First of all--our school room had to change a bit to fit in three new students.
One thing that I've wanted for years was a chalk board. We could use one even bigger, but this one does pretty well.
It came from a salvage store nearby and cost an inexpensive $15. Sometimes the oldest uses it to leave little messages for the rest of us. : )
We definitely needed more space at our table, and thankfully, Ikea had the Jokkmokk table and four chairs on sale (for $99.99!) this summer, so I purchased another one of them. 

I ran across the idea of covering school tables with dry erase contact paper, so I purchased some of that from Amazon and covered the two tables with that. I use it all the time and LOVE it.

I bought a some pails from Ikea (I think they were $.75 a piece.) and found an old lazy susan in the garage--this is our centerpiece and craft caddy.

We are using the reading comprehension sheets that I designed for any reading done throughout the year. The two big kids are the only ones using them so far, and they get a prize out of this prize jar if they fill out three sheets a week. They can use any school reading and any outside reading to fill them  out.

We have notebooks! Lots of notebooks! 
Each child has a notebook for
filled with this Fruits of the Spirit curriculum plus some extra coloring pages
Daily Sheets
Just a notebook for the older two and 6yo girl and printed copy work for the other two
This is where we write our "Today is..." sentences. The older two also list everything we're going to do in the day and write a sentence or two using a writing prompt.
We're studying the United States. I used several different sets of states worksheets and coloring pages, systematically printing them off for each kiddo. We're using Kathy Troxel's geography songs for learning the states, and the big kids are also learning capitals and postal abbreviations. Each week we're covering two states--talking about state flags, state birds, etc, exports, when they joined the union and a little bit of history.
I'm roughly following this living history unit from Guest Hollow. I've added lots of activities and coloring pages, but it's nice to have all the reading suggestions. We studied the Seminole Indians last week and this week we're covering the Iroquois. My goal is to make it to George Washington by Christmas. And in the spring I want to visit a friend who lives near D.C. Hooray for homeschooling!
Seminole dancing with handmade head dresses.
We're following the big kids' tutorial with their science, so we're using 
and the notebooks that go with it.

For math we're using Saxon 1 with the two 6yos and Saxon 6/5 for the 8 and 10 yo (soon to be 9 and 11yo!)

I usually do all of the notebook work with everyone, but usually the 3yo leaves the table to go play blocks sometime during history. After the big kids do their math lesson, I send them off with their tutorial homework and their math while I teach the math lesson to the 6yos. The 3yo has been joining us for math. The fact that we use the dry erase table and blocks and stuffed animals and lots of other manipulatives is just too attractive. I love it! 
After math, the 6yos do writing from these fun writing books:
(the boy 6yo is using the one that is just letters right now.)

After writing we eat some lunch and then I do reading with the 6yos individually. It's worked out to make the front porch our reading spot for now. We are using 
The boy 6yo is right at the beginning and loving his "ma, me, mi, mo, mu"s. I've started the reading 6yo with digraphs and it seems to be right where she needed to pick up. The boy is reading the beginning BOB books and the girl is doing some easy reading human body non-fiction reading after she reads a few pages from Phonics Pathways.

That's all there is right now. It's simple, but when you add in soccer for the two 6yos and the older boy, horse back for the oldest, and Wednesday night clubs at church, you get a plenty full and enriching schedule. AND we still have time for afternoon rest.
That makes the teacher happy.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Low Carb Recipes

About six weeks ago, the hubby and I began to discover that a lot of our mutual health concerns could be linked to something that could be helped by eating fewer carbs.
Let me be clear, we have never EVER dieted before, but the benefits were too alluring and we set off on our diet--
A diet that allowed almost no carbs to begin with and then tapered on to just good carbs.
So we cut out bread and pasta and rice and all sugar.
And for the first weeks we cut out quinoa and oats and even fruits and some veggies--It is incredible where all those carbs can lurk!
So what did we eat? Well, I felt like I ate all the time. LOTS of salads and meat. The hubby, evidently, normally eats a lot of carbs because on this diet, he's lost 15 pounds already! That's really too many which is why we've begun the second phase of our diet already. We're already back to eating healthy low carb meals but including a few starches and grains--quinoa instead of pasta, brown or black rice instead of white, a dollop of honey instead of sugar. As you can see, we're not super strict with ourselves, but I think we have experienced enough benefits to keep going.
Back to that question: what did we eat? Well here are some amazing low carb things that kept our plates and our tummies full.
Pork with strawberry-spinach salad.
See, I'm already cheating! Here is fruit! But at least it is berries, which are relatively low carb.
The best part of this salad was the homemade strawberry vinaigrette.
Strawberry Vinaigrette
1/2 pound fresh strawberries
1 T honey
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 T melted coconut oil
1/2 t lemon juice
1/4 t salt
1/4 t black pepper

Serve vinaigrette over spinach, sliced strawberries and sliced almonds.
Serve salad with a slow-cooker pork roast basted in Italian seasoning and olive oil.

Stone soup
 Add chicken and veggies to chicken stock and bouillon. Season to taste. Cook until vegetables are tender.
Serve with salad.

Chicken, sausage and vegetables
Stir fry link chopped chicken breast in olive oil until all pink is gone. Remove chicken from skillet. Stir fry link sausage, add chicken and frozen vegetables to pot. Sprinkle with favorite herbs.
Best recipe so far!! This was amazing! It has quinoa, so it has a lot more carbs than most of these other meals, but they are good carbs.

Quinoa Caprese
2 pounds lean ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. fresh spinach, chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
8 oz. mozzarella
Thinly sliced tomato from your garden

Cook 3/4 cup quinoa with 1 1/2 cups water according to package directions. 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. 
Saute ground beef until cooked through. Add minced garlic, spinach and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Stir until spinach is cooked. Add cooked quinoa and basil. Reduce heat to medium and cook until heated through. 
Transfer quinoa mixture to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle mozzarella over the top, and place tomato slices in an even layer over the cheese. Sprinkle a little more basil over the tomatoes. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the tomatoes, and sprinkle remaining ¼ c. parmesan over the top. Bake in 9 x13 pan in preheated oven for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and tomatoes are thoroughly cooked.

Fried Cheese
Slice cheese thickly and lay gently onto heated skillet. When bottom is firm, flip and cook the other side. This makes a great low carb alternative for croutons or a great "cracker" to use for dips!

Yes, there were groans when I put it on the table, but it tasted great and some kiddos even had seconds!
Green Soup
Two heads of cauliflower
4-6 cups real chicken stock
(I boiled a chicken the day before with onions and garlic and then strained the stock)
chicken bouillon to taste
1/2 bag fresh spinach
4 T butter
1 C milk (dairy or non dairy)
Cut, wash and steam cauliflower. Saute spinach. Cool each ingredient. Blend cauliflower and spinach with a small amount of stock in your blender. 
Melt butter in large pot. Blend in a a teaspoon of coconut OR 4 T AP flour
When flour is slightly brown, add 1 C milk and 1 C chicken stock and stir until thickened.
Pour the rest of the chicken stock, bouillon, and blender mix into the pot with the roux and stir until heated through and thickened. 

And have we had no dessert, no snacks? Not at all. I have found that a little goes a long way now, but I love these satisfying add-ons to my day:

Power Balls
(All amounts are approximate)
1/3 cup chia seeds
1/3 cup hemp hearts
1 cup finely ground almonds
1 cup ground oats
a handful of not ground oats (maybe 1/2 cup?)
1/3 cup ground flax seed
1/4 to 1/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup (+ or -) peanut or almond butter
A big squeeze of honey
(1 or 2 tablespoons depending on how sweet you want them)
Mix ingredients together.
It should be sticky enough to scrunch together and roll into balls. If it isn't, add a few drops if water. Roll into balls, place on lined tray and freeze. Then put hard power balls in a bag and keep in the freezer.
Coco-Chocolate Bites
(A bit like a granola bar crossed with healthy fudge)
1 cup almond butter (or peanut butter)
2 T  honey
1/2 cup unrefined coconut oil 
2 cups rolled oats (not instant oats)
1/2 cup chopped almonds (any nut would do)
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Melt the almond butter, honey, cocoa and coconut oil in a medium size saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir frequently as the mixture melts. When it has melted, remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Stir until ingredients are well combined.
Pour into an 8x8 pan (9x13 is fine well). Refrigerate until the chocolate hardens, at least 3-4 hours. Slice into 1"-2" square pieces. Store in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer Reading Series

I highly recommend this book! It is the simple story of an influential Muslim woman becoming a Christian through dreams and the help of some (very astonished) missionaries.  Bilquis became a woman of amazing faith partly because she was from a society that is particularly sensitive to the spiritual. She could feel when the presence of the Lord was receding and through that learned how she was to walk as a Christian--through obedience and in community. Her trust in God through adversity has certainly been a witness to me lately!

We are studying the solar system as part of our science this year at home. We've drawn the planets on a huge piece of paper and hung them high in the kids' room (and since the two readers both sleep on top bunks, they have a great view of it in the night light before they fall asleep). We've been talking of star dust and supernovas and the amazing properties of our sun. Crazy thing we learned today: Mercury (closest planet to the sun) may actually have ice on its surface in deep craters. It is amazing how scientists can even write of things such as our planets being formed without saying, "Wow! There must have been a Creator!" It is an undercurrent in every book we've read but never stated. We've said it a lot though. Our God is truly amazing!

The kids never tire of pouring over a new Calvin and Hobbes treasury. I just picked up a new one at a used bookstore and it's already missing pages because they were fighting over it. (It's put away for a few days while they cool down a bit!) They love the wry humor and the fact that Calvin is so like the boy in our house. They love how Hobbes comes to life and the adventures that he and Calvin share. They love the exasperation of his parents that is so clearly also love for their "different" son. And I love to see my two readers sharing a book and giggling together!

I picked up The Invention of Hugo Cabret at the library after seeing a trailer for it at the theater. I wondered what kind of story it was exactly and if the kids might be able to see it when it comes out. {edit: we did see it and liked it, but not as much as the book. Though I did feel like this book was meant to be a movie; it is definitely as much about the images as it is about the words.}
It also is a tried and true story of the friendless orphan who uses his skills and ingenuity to survive. Throughout the story is woven a beautiful and not very subtle theme of living life out to one's purpose. Oh! And reading the book is like taking an early film class! The kids and I learned a lot through the fact that is woven in with Selznick's fiction. We even watched some of the old films that the book mentions (and I'm sure some of the scenes from those will make it into the movie). The kids loved it, and I give it highest marks for beauty of language, ingenuity of illustration, and a great message. By the way, it is quite thick, but half of its pages are illustration, as if you are watching actions transpire on a screen without sound.

The Hobbit is the prequel to the hubby's favorite books ever. He was a bit skeptical when I suggested that he read it to the kids, but once he got started, we've all loved it. He often reads it while I'm cooking dinner and everyone hangs out in the kitchen, and it is definitely extra motivation to get those showers and pjs done quickly so that he can read more before bedtime.
I'm sure you know the story--the unlikely hero, the fearsome and wily dragon, the cocky and greedy dwarves, the wise and mysterious guide. To me, it is only more poignant knowing that the small trinket that the dear Hobbit so innocently finds becomes the trilogy of all trilogies. Tolkien wrote the Hobbit for children (of all ages) and out of the Hobbit was born something bigger than he ever expected. That makes reading his lovely children's fantasy more beautiful to me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Few More Books: Summer Reading Series

I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't know this book existed before I saw it in my father-in-law's library. I snagged it and gobbled it up in a few sittings. In the postscript Lewis says

"[Some people may suppose] that allegory is a disguise, a way of saying obscurely what could have been said more clearly. But in fact all good allegory exists not to hide but to reveal; to make the inner world more palpable by giving it an (imagined) concrete embodiment.” P208
and I couldn't agree more!
This is the story of a pilgrim who begins in what could be interpreted as a Christian home and understands very little of the Rules given to him. So he journeys away from home and then finally comes to "Mother Kirk" who then has him led back to where he began--much older and wiser. Throughout he is meeting people whose “labor saving devices multiply drudgery; their aphrodisiacs make them impotent; their amusements bore them; their rapid production of food leaves half of them starving, and their devices for saving them have banished leisure from their country.” p186 and other sorts that I'm sure you would recognize as I did.

I enjoyed Twilight--it was entertaining. Yes, there were some things about it that annoyed me, but I mostly forgot them as I worked my way through the series. This novel from Stephanie Meyer is much more for adults. There are aliens who view humans only as hosts, but when an alien comes into the main character, we get to hear the inner conversation between the two and the result is a sci-fi book geared towards relationships and inner struggles. Again, I found it entertaining and very interesting.

I have read Jane Eyre, oh, maybe six or seven times. This read was as enjoyable as all the rest. It's been at least 7 years since I read it last, so I couldn't remember what came next, but each scene was an old friend while I was reading it. If you've never read it, I definitely recommend it! Little Jane becomes a young woman through hardship and friendless-ness learning social graces and humility without losing her unique personality. I never fail to fall in love with Mr. Rochester each time I read it, even if he is the proverbial "older man." : )

I enjoyed this fun and thought-provoking book. It's a engaging book that has all the greats in it: sacrifice, adventure, overcoming fear, love, twists and turns. I know that it's gotten tons of press lately, and maybe it's not as good as all the hype makes it out to be, but it's definitely worth a read!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

BOOKS!: Summer Reading Series

Who doesn't love an old classic? I read to the older kiddos before they have a little afternoon "rest time" (in quotes because there is really no resting going on--this is just a fancy way to say that they play quietly in their room for a while). When the oldest requested that we read this one I realized that I have never read it! And to shame me more, she says (and she's 7, mind you), "I've read it twice and I love it!"

This is a heavy book about how we learn, or as the subtitle says, "Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation." The author makes the case that we are what we love, and this is something I have believed for a long time: our passions must be stirred before we can learn anything. He also talks about learning through liturgy. It's interesting. If you're in to education at all, you'll enjoy this one. Sneaky inside tip: If you "click to look inside" the book, you can read it right on Amazon. It's one I think I'll want to own, though.

When a friend's mom was getting rid of some old books and let me look them over, I was pleased to find old Mrs. Pepperpot among the freebies. I immediately brought her home and shared her with the kiddos. They were enamored, and we will continue to look for her in used book piles.

I am writing the curriculum for our church's VBS this summer. It's going to be quite a show--one of those where everyone is in costume and the church courtyard looks like a Marketplace from Jesus's time. We are going to be studying the four spring Jewish feasts: Passover, The Feast of Unleavened Bread, The Feast of Firstfruits, and The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost). It is truly amazing how these feasts were fulfilled by Jesus on the exact day of each feast. This author outlines this beautiful planning by God in a very clear and understandable way. I am so in awe of our God!

For mothers and daughters everywhere, this book and its sequel, Her Mother's Hope, are must reads. I have long thought that one of the best ways to learn is through fiction (it pulls at your heart more!) and these books are a great way to learn about relationships. When written by such a gifted author, the struggles and pains of five generations of women are certainly inspiring!

This book is just a fun read. It had me guessing just a wee bit more than Christian fiction usually does. The protagonist can't prove, even to herself, that she didn't commit the murders. And since I read part of this in a court house, it was all the more real and eerie!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Lee: A Life of Virtue: Summer Reading Series

Reading has and always will be my favorite frugal way to entertain myself and my children. Here's another review of a book that will frugally entertain!
Growing up in the Heart of Dixie, Lee was always a name revered in my house. But I never got to know him really 'til I married a (southern at heart) boy who is fascinated with all things about the "War Between the States." There is so much misrepresented about this time period in our country's history in our public school history texts. That statement may get me in trouble with some of my readers, but think about it! It's true! A history text can't possibly cover everything, and what is left out is sometimes calculated and very important. Lee: A Life of Virtue fills in some of the gaps that a normal history text would never fill.
Lee was definitely a man to admire! He was a man of faith, a man of family, and a man of country. When his own state desired to stand apart from the nation, he had to make a difficult choice. He was against slavery, but also understood that the emancipation of slaves must, for the sake of the slaves being able to learn trades and independence, come gradually.
I definitely recommend his story for those high school home schoolers who would like to dig deeper into a real man who lived with his own real beliefs and choices. Unlike some history texts, this one will give you plenty to think about from a moral standpoint!

Monday, August 4, 2014

More Book Suggestions: Summer Reading Series

I love fiction! There are many reasons I could give: it's a very inexpensive form of entertained and  hey, I even have philosophical reasons for reading fiction! But really, fiction is a way to escape into a world fueled by my very vivid imagination. There are problems with me reading too--From my Grandaddy I inherited the ability to shut out all else while I am reading. Now, the good part of that is, that I can almost not hear my 2yo screaming at me when I'm deep into a chapter. The bad part of that is that the laundry, dishes, cleaning, etc. do not get done. But I have been a much happier camper this looong snow week knowing there is a book waiting for me during the kiddos rest time! Here are the books I got for Christmas and have read since then.

**Artemis Fowl The Atlantis Complex
 and Artemis Fowl The Time Paradox These are book 6 and 7 of the Artemis Fowl series. I recommend them especially for kids around age 12 or 13. These are well-written, creative books teaching a great lesson (At 12, Artemis is a child genius criminal. He learns friendship and family values by getting to know a vast and intelligent fairy race). These later books have Artemis dealing not only with science and time, but also with loving siblings and parents.
**Karen Kingsbury's Unlocked I've enjoyed most of Karen Kingsbury's novels (who wouldn't love her Baxter family?) This one focused on a son with autism, and it is beautifully written.
**Her Mother's Hope and Her Daughter's Dream by Francine Rivers. Rivers is on a totally different plane in Christian fiction writing. I have devoured and adored every single book she's written (since her conversion). She has a way of developing a character that is so real, you expect them to come through your door at any minute. You love her characters and you mourn with them as they make real life decisions and mistakes. My favorite books of hers were theMark of the
Lion series
 (please read them!) andRedeeming Love. I'm not sure that many other writers out there are letting their characters be as real as Rivers does. Her characters are mostly Christians, but just like real Christians, most of them make complete messes out of their lives in one way or another. Where a lot of Christian writers write to communicate a message, Rivers writes to communicate life. She doesn't tell you the lesson straight up, she lets you read and learn it from the real life experiences of her characters. Her characters sin, have life-long estrangements, get in trouble with the law, get killed in war... She is an artist with character development!  I am really enjoying Her Mother's Hope and Her Daughter's Dream and the things they are teaching me through chronicling four mother-daughter relationships

With the kids, I am reading an abridged version ofKidnapped. And the oldest has been reading a great series called The Secrets of Droon. In these kids' fantasy books, a group of kids are whisked away to a magical land called Droon through a closet in the basement. After each trip battling the evil but quite tame Lord Spar, the kids return safely to Eric's basement. The oldest says that her favorite aspect of the books is, "That when something from Eric's world goes into to Droon, something from Droon has to come into Eric's world. Lord Spar's goal is to get himself into Eric's world so that he can take over Eric's world." She has been devouring our three volumes of these this snowy week.
So head to the library, order a few books for your kindle or your ipad, or take a family trip a bookstore (do they still have those??) and have some Happy reading!