Tuesday, October 31, 2006

School with Ponytails and Crayons (and a math game)

News from the homeschool front:

In Bible lessons, we have just killed off King Saul (and ended the book of 1 Samuel). We are studying seeds in Botany (we've been cutting apart some of the dried beans from our garden), and continents in Geography. Since Ponytails just read a chapter of Hillyer's History about the Trojan War and Homer, we also read the story of Circe's Palace from Hawthorne's Tanglewood Tales. That took us three readings, but it's a great story (Ponytails and Crayons both liked the pigs). [Update: Ponytails says she liked the bird, and sort of the pigs. Crayons doesn't want to be quoted at all.] I remember reading it with The Apprentice too, maybe six years ago.

There's a fun connection there with Crystal Mountain (which we just finished), because the governess in the book, Miss Dunbar, carries a copy of The Odyssey around with her in her pocket, and she tells the children a bit about Ulysses too.

We also just finished watching "As You Like It," a 1978 BBC video with Helen Mirren. We read Lamb's story earlier in the fall, and since we were at a library last week that has good videos of Shakespeare's plays, I brought it home to watch. It's filmed mostly outdoors (Ponytails was amused to see Rosalind having to deal with occasional insects flying in her face). Thumbs-up.

Ponytails is reviewing addition and subtraction in math, and Crayons and I are trying some new math things. Here's a game we found in Ruth Beechick's Arithmetic booklet:

"The Greatest Number"

You need cards numbered from 1 to 9. We used Dutch Blitz cards, but found it was too easy to cheat if you remembered what colour backs the different numbers have, so we played a different way: instead of each person just having nine cards, we each took a whole pile of cards. It doesn't make any difference to the game--it just makes it harder to cheat!

Anyway, you put all your cards face down in a pile, and take three (or two or four) cards out. You each make the biggest number you can from them, so if you take out a three, a four and a six, you can make 643. Whoever has the biggest number gets a point (we award a checker). We play that the first one to get ten points (or checkers) wins the game.

Crayons was uncertain about reading 3-digit numbers, so we played for awhile just taking two cards out at a time. Later on, though, we tried it with three, and she caught on to that as well. So this seems like a fairly painless way to learn to read large numbers! Ponytails wants to play too, so for her I think we'll take out four cards at a time.

School Days with the Apprentice, Fall 2006 Edition

Just to stay caught up on school...

The Apprentice and I are reading How to Read a Book (for the third year!); Are You Liberal, Conservative, Confused? (from the Uncle Eric series on law and government); and parts of Writer's Inc. (for composition). She's also working through Jacobs' textbook Math: A Human Endeavor, and reading Walk Across America for geography and Sophie's World for literature and worldview. Sophie's World is a book I might have saved for a couple of years because it has some fast-forward parts in it as well as some fairly heavy philosophy topics. I will have to ask The Apprentice to post her thoughts about that one.

Besides that, she's taking grade 9 science and drama at our local high school, and even drama has a fair amount of homework: monologues and dialogues to write and memorize, and now a major assignment on playwrights (including an oral report, NO NOTES) that has to be completed within the next couple of weeks. The Apprentice and her partner have to report on Molière and also act out something from one of his plays. Gee, and you thought homeschool was hard...but better Molière than Neil Simon, I guess.

But tomorrow is Take-Our-Kids-to-Work Day, so The Apprentice will be spending the day with Mr. Fixit. Just like old times.

In the spirit of the day

The Treehouse Squirrels have taken a middle ground on October 31st celebrations. We have never gone all out with decorations, but the Squirrelings do dress up and visit a few neighbours and Grandpa Squirrel's house, and we have been known to screen a slightly-scary movie or two during this week. October 31st is the Baptism Birthday of two of the Squirrelings, and also Reformation Day in parts of the Christian world, and we have been as likely to stick up pictures of Martin Luther on the door as we have had pumpkin pictures. (What's on the door is mostly for our own entertainment anyway, since we get very few trick-or-treaters where we live. Last year we had one kid come to the door, besides the Squirrelings.)

But since the serious stuff sometimes gets forgotten in the fun of putting on makeup, we usually have a kind of double celebration: fun pumpkin stuff on October 31st, and an All Saint's Day dinner (the kind with a tablecloth) on November 1st. I'll post about the tablecloth dinner tomorrow.

But for today, I have a puzzle for Treehouse readers who enjoy this sort of thing (and apologies to the rest of you, because it's not meant to offend anybody). This is tonight's dinner menu, which we will eat by the light of an oil lamp flanked by two large pumpkins. Can you figure out what we're really going to eat?

Intestines with Sour Cabbage
Ears Stuffed With Mashed Potatoes
Green Warts


Dessert: Mooshy orange stuff baked until congealed in an old crusty pan

Monday, October 30, 2006

I thought I was the only one this demented

I found this blog post by accident. Very Pink says
"Some members of my family have been given a gift (yeah, right) that allows us to remember every word to every song or jingle we have ever heard in our lives. As nice as it is to sing along to the radio in the car, it is also cumbersome to walk down the grocery store aisles and have ten thousand jingles pop into your head."
Indeed, Mama Squirrel recalls a recent argument with The Apprentice in which it was claimed that Mama Squirrel had said that some product other than Alka Seltzer was featured in the Plop Plop Fizz Fizz commercials. Mama Squirrel denies that she would have made any such mistake, especially since she actually had to SING that jingle once with her high school choir.

Well, she does admit she got the GWG Scrubbies commercial (Pomp and Circumstance, otherwise known as Bum Bum Bum-a-bum Bum Bum) mixed up with the Wear a Moustache milk commercials (Patches on jeans and handpainted scenes, Wear a moustache).

So this article about Canadian TV ads of the 1970's did bring back some memories. (Sorry that it comes up with a print box--that's the way Google took me to the site, and I don't think you can get to that page otherwise without registering at Marketing Magazine.) Were all these ads unknown to Americans then? You mean you didn't have the big A&W bear waddling down the road, or the Mona Lisa Caramilk ad, or the old geezer saying "Only in Canada, eh? Pity."

Only in Canada, eh? Pity.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Carnival of the Recipes

The Oct. 31st Carnival of the Recipes is up at Morning Coffee and Afternoon Tea, and includes our favourite pumpkin recipes. And we still like pumpkin butter too. I made a batch of that earlier this fall with a butternut squash, but I couldn't get the texture smooth enough; I'll have to try it again with some leftover canned pumpkin.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Fabulous Friends Friday

I keep seeing these different weekly themes on peoples' blogs: things like "Use-it-up Mondays" and "Great Idea Wednesdays." Today I followed a link back to a "Fabulous Friends Friday", and look at that--we're one of the Friends.

("You like me! You really like me!")

So I thought I would extend the idea by highlighting a few of the Treehouse friends. But oh dear--this is like inviting just six third grade classmates to your birthday party--then it's seven, then eight, and somebody's going to get left out no matter what.

Well, here we go anyway.

Donna-Jean at Liberty and Lily: hosts fantastic ladies' events at her church, helped collect boxfuls of Christmas gifts for Katrina victims, and is the first Ambleside Advisory mamma to be a mother-in-law! (She also does a great Charlotte Mason portrayal.)

My chat-night friend Tootle. Well, that is until Yahoo ended java-based chats, so now we're limited mostly to blogging back and forth. Check out the Mustang restoration photos.

Another chat-night friend, Javamom at Take Time to Smell the Coffee. Javamom is a bookbinder, a Spanish teacher, and a traveller; but I'm having trouble getting her page to load tonight so I can't add links yet.

And then there are Marsha, Firefly and School Marm. To all the Friday Friends and those I didn't get to mention: your friendship, thoughts and advice help make the blogworld a brighter place.

Happy Friday!

Get me some more of them pork rinds, Bubba

Another ick story about how homeschoolers are a bunch of well-meaning but misguided amateurs. (Thanks again to www.HomeschoolBuzz.com.) From the article:
Critics of homeschooling say it is impossible for a parent to know how to teach a wide array of subjects without training.

"We are professionals," Dianne Birdwell, a high school history teacher, said.

She responds to the idea that public schools do not teach enough about faith or religion by saying that parents need to teach their children about those subjects after school.

"We know how to teach and you need to be their parents," she said.
Well, then I guess that there schoolmarm must know what she's talkin' 'bout. 'Scuse me while we get back to our story from the Odyssey. And our bag of pork rinds.

More on German anti-homeschooling laws

Thanks to www.HomeschoolBuzz.com for posting the link to this update.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What's your favourite homeschool tool?

The kitchen walls.

Really.

I mean, where else are you going to put the timeline and the contact-paper-posterboard-leaf constructions and the map of Israel and the memory work? Not to mention the calendar.

Open concept? No way, I need my walls!

Two pumpkin recipes (yes, The Pie Recipe)

First, Pumpkin Cake. Or Pumpkin Loaf. Or Pumpkin Muffins, if you're so inclined.

This appeared, with an appetizing-looking photograph, on our newspaper's food page today. When I looked at the recipe, it was the same Canadian Living recipe I've been making forever. So feeling inspired (and having a can of pumpkin), Ponytails and I made a batch. This is the recipe as originally written, with my notes in brackets.


PUMPKIN GINGERBREAD SNACKING CAKE

1 1/2 cups (375 ml) granulated sugar [2009 update: we have been cutting back on the sugar in this, down to 1 cup, and it still tastes fine]
2 eggs
1 cup (250 ml) pumpkin purée
1/2 cup (125 ml) vegetable oil
1/2 cup (125 ml) buttermilk (or sour milk or thinned yogurt)
1 3/4 cups (425 ml) all-purpose flour (we used part whole-wheat today)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) salt
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) each ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice (We use only 1/4 tsp. of cloves and allspice)
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) baking powder

Icing sugar (optional--we skip it)

1 In a large bowl, beat together sugar, eggs, pumpkin, oil and buttermilk until smooth. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, ginger, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and baking powder. Stir dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture until blended.

2 Pour batter into lightly greased nine-by-nine-inch (2.5-litre) square baking pan. (Or an 8-inch square pan. Or a casserole dish if all your other pans are dirty. Mama Squirrel did not mean to imply that she has a kitchen full of dirty dishes, only that some of her pans are currently holding food in the fridge.)

3 Bake in a preheated 350 F (180 C) oven until top springs back when lightly touched, about 35 minutes (or longer--test to see if it's done). Let cool in pan on rack. Dust with icing sugar.

Makes a nine-by-nine-inch (2.5-litre) cake.

SOURCE: CANADIAN LIVING'S BEST MUFFINS & MORE, BY TELEMEDIA COMMUNICATIONS INC., ADISON PRESS BOOKS


Okay, now that Wicked Pumpkin Pie. This is not the solid-packed version that everybody makes from the pumpkin can label; this is fluffy and lightly spiced, and we look forward to it every year.

There are very similar recipes for this in two of Edna Staebler's cookbooks (Food that Really Schmecks and Schmecks Appeal: More Mennonite Country Cooking). I've made them both and the only real difference (I think) is in the amount of filling that the recipe makes. So here is the Schmecks Appeal version, and if you happen to want a little more (extra company coming), you can look for one of the reprint copies of Food That Really Schmecks.

"Glorious Golden Pumpkin Pie"

2 cups pureed pumpkin (canned is just fine)
2 egg yolks, beaten
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp. rum (optional) or 1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
2 egg whites, beaten stiff (I use the food processor whipping attachment to get them good and stiff)
Pastry for a 9-inch pie (I use pat-in pastry because I'm lazy)
Whipped cream for garnish if you want

Mix the pumpkin, egg yolks, milk and rum or vanilla. (We use vanilla.) Add the sugar, blended with the spices and salt. Fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites. Turn the mixture into the unbaked pie shell and bake at 400 degress for 10 minutes (I start it at 425 degrees instead of 400 though), then at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes longer or until a knife comes out clean.

Mama Squirrel's reading list

Working on:

Paradise Lost. (You didn't think I bought it just to class up the coffee table, did you? I am in Book II and thoroughly ENJOYING IT. I don't think I enjoyed it so much in university; funny what twenty years will do for you, post-pregnancy idiocy aside.)

Breathing Lessons. (Re-reading. Maggie's off-to-college daughter asks her, "Mom, was there a point in your life when you just decided to be ordinary?" Ouch.)

Done:

Erewhon. (Krakovianka, I'm sorry, I dutifully worked my way through this and even read most of the weird boring parts about unborn babies pestering potential parents so that they could get born; but I still don't really get it.)

Peter Pan and Crystal Mountain, with Ponytails and Crayons.

Tales of Little Grey Rabbit, with Crayons.

Red plus white equals green

If you understand this t-shirt, then you must have used Cuisenaire rods.

I've still been waiting for someone to design an "I love Miquon Math" shirt, but that one comes pretty close. The comments below the design are funny too.
"This reminds me of the towers we used to build and then drop the little white ones down the middle. Did someone say you can do maths with these things??"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Some things we did today, by Crayons

We went to Peter Pan today. It was funny. It had Tinkerbell and Wendy and John and Michael. Michael was the silliest. He got knocked over by a door because he was near the door and when somebody opened it he got knocked over. It was funny because he was wearing a baby costume! They had some volunteer kids up. One was Wendy, one was Peter Pan, and one was Captain Hook. He was a man! I was surprised because I thought it was only for kids.

We had Big John Subs after the play. But before that we went to the library. We got Hansel and Gretel from the library, and we watched it tonight. It was fun.

For school we went for a walk and got leaves. We made placemats out of them. And I made a tube doll! It's a doll with string hair that's made out of a wrapping paper tube. Her name is Sara and she's three years old. And that's the end of my post.

P.S. I love her!

Quick: what kite-flying library founder also fought fires and was in the Chess World Hall of Fame?

The Benjamin Franklin edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Homeschooling.about.com .

Monday, October 23, 2006

A great story for homeschoolers

The only place I'd ever seen Belle Dorman Rugh's Crystal Mountain mentioned was as a fifth-grade reading choice in Diane Lopez's book Teaching Children. Our library didn't have any of her books either. But when a copy came up on a used books list, I ordered it out of curiosity.

I don't know why this book went out of print! My fourth grader has thoroughly enjoyed listening to it this term, and even the kindergartener looks forward to another chapter of "Boadie" (one of the characters in the book). It's the somewhat-true story of American and English children living in Lebanon sometime after World War I (some reviews mistakenly say it's set during the 1940's). The American brothers "do lessons" on their own, and their friend Dorothy, nicknamed Boadie, has a tree-climbing governess who might have stepped right out of Charlotte Mason's training college. There's a bit of a mystery involved to thicken the plot, but mostly it's a story of kids doing the things kids do, mostly outdoors, whenever and wherever they live and in whatever languages they happen to be speaking at the time. Although it isn't a book that really deals with Middle Eastern issues, it could also be an introduction to life in that part of the world.

I can't help comparing this book to several others of the same vintage I've read recently by one particular Christian author who has been widely recommended, and who also wrote a book set in a Muslim country. I prefer Crystal Mountain, for several reasons, and I know it is the kind of story that my children enjoy as well. Although it's not an overtly Christian book (the fact that the father is a missionary doctor is not stressed), there is a strong Christian feeling of caring and respect in the way that people treat each other. (Yes, I know people of other faiths or no faith at all can treat each other with caring and respect, but in this case it seems that these are people living out their Christian faith without making a lot of noise about it.) I think there's a time and place for both kinds of books; but I can't help wondering why Crystal Mountain is the one that's gone out of print. Used copies are available inexpensively online (and there is a sequel which I haven't gotten hold of yet), but it seems the kind of book that would sell well among homeschoolers if it was reprinted.

Another recipe carnival is up

NerdMom hosts this week's Carnival of the Recipes. There are several kinds of quick breads (Keewee's Banana Oatmeal Bread sounds good) and even an omelet made in a rice cooker.

Kincardine Marina



The cafes are all deserted, the streets are wet again,
There's nothing quite like an out of season holiday town in the rain,
When the tourists go and the cold winds blow....

(From this weekend's trip to Lake Huron. Virtual souvenirs if you can identify the song lyrics.)

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Queen has spoken

Recently some of our Treehouse members (all right, mostly Mama Squirrel) have really wondered about whether things were...well...going all right over at the Beehive. After all, these folks consort with people who seriously think squirrel would taste good in chili (see the comments). (Dewey shivers and tries to hide behind the door.)

But we forgive her for the aberrations of her friends since she posted this lovely post about singing and music.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

On frugal groceries

The Hillbilly Housewife has a blog post here with a rundown of some frugal grocery basics.

Here's one of her tips, for the visual types out there:
"If you are new to "from scratch" cooking it might help to find clip art pictures of foods you like to make like tacos, cake, muffins, pizza etc. and print them out on your computer. You could also cut pictures out of magazine if you don't want to use up your ink. Then paste all of these pictures on a large sheet of paper and tack it inside your cupboard door. Then everytime you go to look for something to cook, you can gaze at your "homemade visual menu" and you won't have to rely on box pictures to tell you what you can make today. You'll have your own alternative to box pictures. When you see the picture of tacos you can think "Oh, tacos, I can make tacos for dinner tonight." Or if you see the picture of muffins or pancakes you can say "Oh, I have flour and baking powder, I could make muffins OR pancakes for breakfast. Hmm, which one would I rather eat?" Especially in the beginning, when you're learning to think differently about food, these pictures may be just what you need to stop leaning on convenience foods as a crutch and start using your own good mind instead."
Preach it, sister.

Not a hack job

Check out the Carnival of Homeschooling #42--which is, of course, the Answer to Everything.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Carnival of the Recipes is up now.

Peggy at Blabberheads hosts this week's Carnival of the Recipes, here.

Two down

Crayons' second tooth fell out this weekend.

And like the first one, it disappeared. Well, at least she got to hold this one before it got lost...somewhere.

Somewhere there's a tooth fairy with a migraine.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Of old books and great-grandmothers

(Reposted to include the photos, now that we have a faster connection and can get them uploaded!)

October 1st was a rummage sale at one of those churches that always has good rummage sales, and usually a big book table.

We got there fairly late in the morning, which doesn’t usually matter much. We have odd enough tastes in old things that what we like is usually still there by the time we get moving on Saturdays.

But there didn’t seem to be any books. Strange, but maybe books were too much of a hassle to deal with? So I asked, and they said, “There were lots of books! But someone just came in and bought them all!” Every single book at a church rummage sale? “It’s never happened before! But we couldn’t say no!” Well, it saves repacking all those books that didn’t sell!

But Humph. And I was hoping to post something in response to all those lovely posts of the DHM’s about her library-sale-to-end-all-library-sales. Not the-book-to-end-all-books, of course. Just one or two interesting finds?

Well, I did get an abridged cassette version of David Copperfield. (I guess Mr. Buy-them-out missed that one.)

But since I don’t have else anything brand new (or should I say old) to post about, I’ve employed The Apprentice and her digital photography skills to show you some books that we already had.



I really like the old Everyman’s Library editions “bound in cloth with gilt design and coloured top,” but they don’t photograph well, especially when the covers are a bit faded.





I have my grandma’s childhood copy of Tales from Shakespeare, so that’s my favourite; the rest have mostly been picked out at used book sales.




These are some old books that will be familiar to Ambleside Online users. The yellow book is To Far Cathay, by William C. Bagley Jr., a story of Marco Polo (published in 1935). My schoolteacher great-aunt had it on her shelf for forty years and then gave it to me; both The Apprentice and Ponytails have used it for school. The brown book is Canada’s Story, by H.E. Marshall, part of her Empire Story collection. And the green one is Volume 1 of Anna Botsford Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study (published in two volumes, this printing from 1924). The inscription in it says “Jennie M. Gaskill, Bryn Athyn, Pa.” Jennie Gaskill was an author as well (there are scattered online references to her), and Bryn Athyn is a bastion of the New Church (the Swedenborgians). But how did the book get all the way up to a used bookstore in Ontario? I was browsing in the nature section (this was several years ago) and thought, wouldn't it be amazing if...and there it was. I pulled it off the shelf, not knowing what it was (the spine is unreadable). (I did look for the other volume too, but it wasn't there.)


And this is a collection of small books that belonged to the mother and grandmother of that great-aunt. The largest one, Abiding in Thee, is 5 by 6 inches, and the smallest is 2 by almost 4 inches.


Abiding in Thee reminds me of The Country Diary of An Edwardian Lady, except that it’s all Christian verse, illustrated with watercolours of flowers. It was printed in Toronto and has an inscription from 1900 (my great-great-grandmother’s name).



The smallest one is a Book of Common Prayer with metal edges and the findings for a clasp (the clasp is gone though). It was printed in England and it has very small print (I feel sorry for older people trying to make that out in poorly-lit churches!).

The other small book, the dark brown one, is older; it’s A Selection of Psalms, Hymns and Anthems, with a really interesting inscription: the same great-great-grandmother’s maiden name, and then “Pew No. 30, St. Paul’s Church, Yorkville, C.W.” Do you know what C.W. stands for? Canada West; that’s the pre-Confederation name for Ontario. That date’s confirmed by the book itself: it was printed in Toronto in 1861.

















The fourth book is only about sixteen pages long. It’s called “I Am the Way,” from the “I Am Series” published by the Toronto Willard Tract Depository. No date given, although there’s an inscription in the front cover, to my great-grandmother from her cousin Lizzie, so I’m guessing from that and from the style that it’s from around the turn of the last century. It’s meant to be a month-long devotional, almost like a copy-book. Each day’s saying or verse is separated by scrolls and borders that make the verses look like framed mottoes in Victorian parlours. One page says, “Fifteenth Day. The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way. Prov.14.8. Sixteenth Day. I will go before thee and make the crooked places straight. Isa. 45.2.”

Then on the facing page there’s a verse decorated with drawings and borders:

“If the way seem puzzling,
And we long to know
Which would be the pathway
He would have us go,
Then the promise shineth
With its golden ray,
‘I will go before thee,
I will show the way.’—A.F. Purdon.”

Prayers for the Common Room crew

The Squirrels send out their prayers and best wishes to the DHM and her children who were involved in a car accident while camping this week. You can read their updates here.

I'm so glad to know that the hairs on our heads are all numbered.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Beatific photography

One of the Beehive inhabitants, Beatrice, has begun a blog of her photographs. I thought that might interest a couple of regular Treehouse visitors. I especially liked the egg photography in this post.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Chef Earl's Soup (and Ruby Red Rutabagas)

In February 2003, Canadian Living Magazine published a story about chef Earl Johnson's way-better-than-your-average-cafeteria-food at Gordon Bell High School in Winnipeg. They followed up that October (after many requests) with some of his recipes. We've been making his Potage Paysanne ever since, on cold days and when we can manage to get turnip (we use rutabaga), parsnips, leeks and parsley all in our fridge at the same time. (Sometimes we leave one or the other of those things out.)

Now Mama Squirrel must be unflinchingly honest: she hates rutabaga. Rutabaga crumble, rutabaga casserole, rutabaga disguised with apples and spices--it's still rutabaga. Rutabaga raw and sliced is tolerable; and Earl's soup makes it taste...well, about as good as you're going to get a rutabaga to taste. We figured if Earl could convince the teenagers in Winnipeg to eat this, it must have something going for it.

And it gives us one way to eat our ruby-red rutabagas with a smile.

(I'm not posting the recipe, in case you wondered or missed the link; Canadian Living did it nicer than I can, here.)

Let it snow?

It snowed today after lunch for about 10 minutes, and now (3 p.m.) it's coming down again. Not nice flaky flakes either, but miserable, wet, bouncing-off-things stuff.

Funny thing is, right after Thanksgiving last year, we had a heat wave.

Paradise Lost arrived!

My afternoon spent talking about breakfast cereal paid enough to cover the cost of the Paradise Lost book I really wanted. Here it is, and it's gorgeous: big heavy hardcover, large print, about 9x12-inch pages with full-page engravings.

So it was worth sitting through all those commercials.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Boo

Carolyn at Guilt-Free Homeschooling posted a rundown of "People Who Nearly Scared Me Away From Homeschooling." (Found through this week's Carnival of Homeschooling.)

While I think it's funny, I'm not sure if I've met that many scary homeschoolers! I've met homeschooling families who seemed to be polar opposites from us in every way, but I didn't find them scary; I just didn't hang around with them much. There were a few that I knew wouldn't last, and they usually didn't (and once in awhile they did, just to prove how little I know). Sure, there are people who are more paper-prone than we are, who do way more field trips and extra-curricular things during the day; but I don't find them scary. Maybe they find me scary.

Bwa ha ha ha.

This is really, really good

I found this recipe a long time ago in an ad for Nabisco 100% Bran Cereal (Nabisco's version of All-Bran). The ad called it Coffeeberry Loaf, which makes no sense at all since it contains neither coffee nor coffeeberries. Since I don't usually bake it in a loaf pan either (takes too long), it definitely needs a new name. Cranberry-Apricot Cake isn't imaginative, but it will have to do until we can think of something better.

When you take the cake out of the oven, it will smell like a piece of orange cranberry heaven--especially if you use orange-flavoured dried cranberries. The leftovers are very good for breakfast.

Cranberry-Apricot Cake (or Loaf)

2 eggs
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup butter, melted (I used soft margarine and I didn't melt it first, just beat it around with the other ingredients)
1 cup Nabisco 100% Bran Cereal (or another brand)
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots (I left them out this time and the cake was still good. I love apricots, but the almost two cups of dried fruit is almost too much for the amount of batter here; too many extras tend to make the cake fall apart. You might try 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped apricots and the same amount of dried cranberries, if you find that's a problem.)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup cranberries: fresh, frozen, or dried (I use Craisins)

Whisk together eggs, orange juice and butter. Stir in cereal and apricots; let stand 5 minutes.

Mix flour, brown sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. Add cereal mixture to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened. You may find you need a little more liquid.

Fold in cranberries (do not over-mix). Spread evenly in a greased 9 by 5 inch loaf pan, OR an 8-inch square pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 55 to 60 minutes (in the loaf pan) or less (in the square pan), until a tester comes out clean. (You can bake it in a toaster oven too.) Cool in the pan 10 minutes, and then turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool completely. (If you bake it in a square pan, you probably wouldn't bother turning it out.) If you eat it before it's cooled, it will taste good but be very crumbly.

Homeschooling is an education

Things I’ve learned from homeschooling

1. How to get laundry in and start lunch between math and geography.

2. That there's no such thing as too many bookshelves.

3. That the thermosphere is hot but it's not.

4. That hymns are a good way to start the day.

5. A lot about my kids, my husband, and myself.


Things I’ve learned about homeschooling

1. Trust your instincts and your memories. If your gut reaction to something is “ugh” or “why?” or “I would never inflict this on my kids,” you’re probably right. I’ve felt an instinctive “no” about many things. One was a kindergarten math outline that consisted of making a booklet for One, a booklet for Two, a booklet for Three…a booklet for Seventeen…uh huh. Another was the long vowel-short vowel reading approach—that gave me some BAD flashbacks to a first grade class where we circled pictures of pigs and pails and pins and and pens (always fountain pens, for some unexplained reason). The Squirrelings seemed to approach learning better by getting a good running start and then jumping over as much as they could at a time.

2. But stay open minded, too. A book that a bad teacher ruined for you; something you think is too hard for kids; a subject you never thought you were good at—those things can become real and fascinating when you read or study them with children who come without those prejudices. Sometimes opening the door to a new passion is all it takes; sometimes you need a little more perseverance; but the rewards are great. You may witness the beginnings of the world’s next great artist or scientist or missionary.

3. It's okay if every school day isn't perfectly balanced. Most homeschoolers expect and deal with interruptions; and some days you just get more done than others. But you can also plan things to be a bit unbalanced so that you get other things done. The Hillbilly Housewife touched on this in something about menu planning:
"Monday is a big work day in homeschool, so something relatively easy is in order. Dirty Rice with ground turkey or beef will be nice, but I'll have to use celery instead of green pepper because it's out of season and outside of my budget. Wednesday is a slow day at school and I'll be baking anyway so beans will be good. While I'm at it, I might as well make enough for chili the next day. I have time for making chili on Thursday morning while the kids are doing their independent reading."

4. You are always adjusting and retooling, because your children and learning and changing; because you have more or fewer of them to teach as they grow and graduate; because new books and materials come your way; and because you are learning and changing too.

Spunky couldn't answer, so 71 others did

Someone asked Spunky how homeschooling could possibly work for any students past elementary school. How can homeschoolers presume to provide secondary-level education if they're all not experts in physics, French and American literature and if they don't possess equally impressive credentials in coaching football and teaching band?

Spunky's computer has been giving her problems, so she turned it over to her loyal readers. Their 71 comments (at this posting) are here.

P.S. Spunky, I'm sympathetic to your limited computer time and hope it's fixed soon. We are very, very thankful that as of yesterday, we have a new upgraded Internet connection that doesn't tie up our phone line.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

After Thanksgiving

Things we did over Thanksgiving weekend:

1. Crayons lost her first tooth, and she has another one ready to go (both middle bottom). If I could post a photo of her mouth (I can't while we're on dialup), I would, because it's very cute.

2. The Squirrelings and Mr. Fixit went for a bike ride to find horse chestnuts, brought them back, drilled holes in them, and put them onto old shoe laces for a chestnut fight. (You don't hit each other, just someone else's chestnut.)

3. We went to the Oktoberfest parade. It was about the warmest it's ever been for this parade--I guess that's not so good for sales of hot chocolate, but it did mean lots of people came out to watch! There were bands from as far away as New York State. The Apprentice says she thinks some of the floats are getting just too tired (how many years can you get excited over the fire department's smoking house? ;-)), and we all think the Shriners need to learn some new tunes, but overall it was a very good parade.

4. We ate lots. Enough said.

5. We also opened a can full of slips of paper of things we're thankful for. All that Crayons had managed to write (on about a dozen slips of paper) was IGOOD. When asked, she wasn't sure what it meant. But it did add some levity to the evening.

6. We watched the Masterpiece Theatre DVD of Pollyanna on Sunday--NOT the Hayley Mills version (blech). But this one was fairly watchable.

7. And we watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving last night to end off with.

8. All in all, it was a good weekend.

Carnival of Homeschooling

It's hosted by NerdFamily this week, here--simple and to the point. Themes are fun but sometimes simplicity is nice too.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A quick trip to the thrift shop

It was one of those quiet, sunny afternoons when nobody wanted Mama Squirrel around...sniff. So she quietly sneaked away and caught the bus downtown to her favourite thrift shop to check out the back book corner.

And came back with a few things. (A bag of books and a pink shirt, all for six dollars.)

(There, now I get to list some finds too.)

Alison Uttley, Tales of Little Grey Rabbit

Cyril Davey, Lady with a Lamp. This is a biography of Florence Nightingale, one of the Stories of Faith and Fame series published by Lutterworth Press, I think in the '50's, although this printing is from the '70's. (I think they must have been common as Sunday School prizes at one time, going by the inscriptions inside them.) We have four others from this series: Elizabeth Fry, Martin Luther, Robert Moffat, and William Carey. The ones we've read are well-written and interesting, and just right for upper-elementary students.

The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds, just because I know we are getting to a seed chapter pretty soon in the botany book.

Donald B. Kraybill, The Upside-Down Kingdom. Our own Sunday School teacher recommended this one.

Meindert De Jong, Shadrach. (Illustrated by Maurice Sendak.) About a boy and a rabbit. "A real, live rabbit! A little black rabbit, if possible. In a week, if possible. And this was in the Netherlands." I thought this might be one that Crayons could read to herself.

Gavin Maxwell, The Otter's Tale.

Janice VanCleave, Math for Every Kid. Lots of stuff here for Ponytails.

Walter Buehr, Knights and Castles and Feudal Life. You can't lose with Walter Buehr.

Two books for Mama Squirrel: My Name is Asher Lev (Chaim Potok) and Breathing Lessons (Anne Tyler). Mama Squirrel has read Breathing Lessons before (and watched the movie), but it has been awhile. Her favourite Anne Tyler novels are still Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and Celestial Navigation...and Saint Maybe. And Ladder of Years.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Update from Krakow

Krakovianka has a report on her weekend homeschooling conference.
"They were universal in their appeal that I would speak to them again some time, but gatherings like this will probably be infrequent--these families had come from every corner of Poland and few of them live near each other. I hope within a year or two these folks will be sharing their experiences and successes with even more Polish families who desire to homeschool."

Using Hillyer's History

The Deputy Headmistress posted some lesson plans (here, here) that she wrote for her girls to use with one of the Draw Write Now books. I made up something similar for Ponytails to use this fall along with chapters from V.M. Hillyer's A Child's History of the World. Like the DHM's guide, this is meant only to show what might be done; it includes books that we already had, and there are sure to be others that would be just as good for maps and pictures. (Usborne tends to show a bit more violence and unclothedness than I would sometimes like.)

So when I say "Read these pages in Usborne's Ancient World," it isn't heavy reading at all; the Usborne books are heavily illustrated, with many double-page spreads; one page, for instance, might have a detailed drawing of a group of Egyptians having a party. I've tried to fit those pages in AFTER the reading on that subject in Hillyer's book, except where I thought the picture or map needed to be seen ahead of time.

The lessons here go only from the beginning of Hillyer's section on Mesopotamia. We read the chapters on Egypt too, but I started the "study guide" at about the time we were finishing them. She doesn't have a large timeline book to work in yet, so she is just adding drawings and occasional comments to a blank notebook as she goes along. We have a timeline in the kitchen and we're adding occasional sticky notes to it to mark events; Hillyer's dates for ancient history are sometimes questionable, but we'll stick with them for now.

One other thing is that we are using a reproduction of Hillyer's original book, which means that the pages and chapters in updated editions won't match exactly. The point of posting this is just to show the sort of thing that Ponytails is doing.


Extra books used:

Usborne Book of World History (Update: One of the reviews on Amazon points out that World History is VERY choppy and sparse, and I agree; the reviewer says she prefers the Ancient World book, and I agree with that too! But we are still using this book here and there for pictures and bits of information.)
Usborne Ancient World
History Detectives: Ancient Greece
D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths
The British Museum Timeline of the Ancient World
The Bible, Tanglewood Tales, and poems

MESOPOTAMIA (includes Sumer, Assyria and Babylonia)

Find a map showing the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (see Mom) and the Fertile Crescent.

Read Hillyer p. 42 and 43 (top), looking at the map
Read Ancient World p 6-7
Read World History p 8-9

Learn the ABC of Mesopotamia: Assyria, Babylonia, Chaldea. (Chaldea was part of Babylonia.)

Read the rest of p 43 & 44, and half of p 45.

Talk to Mom about Mesopotamia and the other names from the book.

What is a ziggurat? In your notebook, draw a Babylonian building.

Read the rest of the chapter (pages 45-48).

Read Ancient World p 8-9.
Read World History p 10-11, 12-13, 30-31.

Check the timeline in the kitchen to see how far back Mesopotamia goes.

Add anything else you like to the Mesopotamia and Babylonia page in your notebook.

Find Ur on a map (check with Mom).

Look at Ancient World page 28.

Mark the timeline: “Ur to Canaan, 1900 BC”
Read Hillyer pages 49-51

Divide a notebook page into three sections, and draw or write something about each section of this chapter.

Mark the timeline: “Canaan to Egypt, 1700 BC”

Read Ancient World p 38-39

Read Hillyer from the bottom of p 51 to the bottom of p 54.

What was the Exodus? Talk with Mom about who the Pharaoh was then. (Was it Rameses or someone else?) Talk about when this might have happened.

Mark the timeline: “Egypt back to Canaan.” Use the date that you discussed with Mom.

Finish the chapter (page 55).

Finish the notebook page for this chapter.

SOME STORIES FROM ANCIENT GREECE

Find Greece on the globe.

Read Hillyer chapter 10, pages 56-61, about the names of some Greek gods.

Look up their pictures in the D’Aulaires’ book of Greek stories or in History Detectives pages 14-15.

Find Athens on a map of Greece.

Start a notebook page for this chapter.

Finish reading the chapter (p 61-63)

Finish the notebook page.

Read the chapter “A Fairy-tale War”, up to the bottom of page 67.

Use half a page in your notebook to show the Trojan War (maybe the wooden horse?)

Read the rest of the chapter, about Homer’s poems.

Find the picture of Homer on our timeline.

Read the story of Circe in Tanglewood Tales (with Mom).

Ask Mom for more information about Homer (who was he really?).

Use the other half of the notebook page for Homer.

BIBLE STORIES ARE REAL

Read Hillyer chapter 12, Kings of the Jews.

Ask Mom why the last paragraph of the chapter is no longer true.

Make a notebook page for the Temple, including the date.

PHOENICIANS

Read pages 74 and 75, about the “Phenician alphabet.” Find out how we usually spell “Phenician” now.

Look at the Ancient World, pages 40-41. What were the Phoenicians famous for?
Read World History pages 50-51.
Read the rest of the Hillyer chapter.

Find Tyre and Sidon on a map (Ancient World page 41).
Make a notebook page for the Phoenicians.

ATHENS AND SPARTA

Find Sparta on a map of Greece (Ancient World page 50 or World History page 67).
Read Hillyer chapter 14, pages 79-81.

Write in your notebook some ways that Lycurgus tried to make his people hard and strong. (Use half a page for Sparta.)

Read the rest of the chapter.

Use the other half of the notebook page for Athens.

Read chapter 15, about the first Olympics.

Read History Detectives pages 24-25. Look at the British Museum book, page 24.

Make a notebook page about the Olympics. Include the date.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Carnival of Homeschooling 40 Goes Retro

Here it is, hosted by HomeschoolBuzz. Seems like a lot of people were in a reflective mood this week!

Monday, October 02, 2006

It's the heart part

This is another of those posts that I’ve been trying to pull together for awhile, and it’s been even harder and slower to write than the frugal post. What’s made it hard is trying not to say exactly the same thing I’ve said so many times in different places: in homeschooling, simpler is better not only because it saves money and space, or because it’s more creative or more flexible, but because of heart.

I could write at length about how you teach with a bagful of yard sale stuff, or about how many math games we can play with a pair of dice and some file cards, but in the end, it comes down to heart. I kept circling around with ideas, trying to figure out what the “heart” of what I was trying to say—and I realized, that’s it. The best part of homeschooling is the heart part, and without that, nothing matters.

That’s why Crayons and I can just be sitting on the floor together finding numbers on a hundred chart and then reading “The Jumblies” for the umpteenth time, and I suddenly realize (for the umpteenth time) that this is exactly the way it should be. It’s about the neighbour we barely knew inviting us into her back yard to see her twenty different kinds of pterophyta (if you missed that one, pterophyta literally means “wing plant”—ferns). It’s about The Apprentice offering to help Ponytails put one of her birthday-present craft kits together. It’s what I wrote last year about coming home from somewhere and seeing dad legs and girl legs sticking out from under the car. It's about sometimes letting lessons go because Crayons is busy with Rhymes for Annie Rose and Ponytails is exploring an old adding machine that was given to us yesterday.

It’s about the Squirrelings’ growing familiarity with the photos on our ancient-history timeline; by the end of the year, Cleopatra and Homer and the Rosetta Stone will have become friends instead of strangers.

It’s about thinking through an education that is based on the knowledge gained from a wide reading of the best minds, in knowledge of God and His world, past and present. It’s about nurturing an educated conscience that is able to make moral decisions, act with wisdom, and show leadership. It’s about growing as good speakers, listeners, writers, thinkers; learning to follow a logical argument and discern a poor one. It’s about gathering all those little practical skills and bits of knowledge that help us function in daily life.

It’s about taking what you know and sharing it with others.

It's about knowing that there are bad days and even bad years and that it's still worthwhile.

And if you think this is on the short side for a post that's been percolating for awhile, let's just say that simpler is better.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Not a hymn

Just a song for Sunday.

"We Bow Down" by Twila Paris.

I'm not sure if I'm supposed to post the lyrics, so here's a link instead.
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