Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Quote for the day

"An education that does not teach clear, coherent writing cannot provide our world with thoughtful adults; it gives us instead, at the best, clever children of all ages."

Richard Mitchell, Less Than Words Can Say

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rosie Backstage: neglected Shakespeare gem?

Some things are just hard to figure out.

Kids Can Press is a very popular Canadian children's publisher.  Non-fiction books they've published have become standard resources in many classrooms.  Their craft books are particularly well done.

Tim Wynne-Jones and Amanda Lewis are decent writers.  Bill Slavin has illustrated over sixty children's books. (Although I think he could have made Rosie look a bit more appealing.)

And, especially in southern Ontario, you would think that a book designed to open up Shakespeare and the Stratford festival would be an instant classic, especially with classroom teachers and homeschoolers.  (Think field trips.)  Lois Burdett's "Shakespeare Can Be Fun" series is one example of something that has been very popular for the past decade. So why is it that Rosie Backstage came out in 1994 and immediately went out of print?  Wouldn't any resource that makes Shakespeare more accessible be enthusiastically snapped up?  It seems like the sort of book that teachers would have designed unit studies and stuff around.  Maybe they did, but online searches for the title+unit study and +lesson plan didn't uncover anything.

Rosie is set up much like the Barbara Greenwood Pioneer Story books (in the U.S., the first book is A Pioneer Sampler).  A story chapter, some facts, another story chapter, and so on.  The book is packed with information about all aspects of theater production:  a page on what a costumer does, a props person, a stage manager, a lighting person, and so on; there's also basic information about Shakespeare's life and the Globe Theater.  The Rosie story itself is okay--not thrilling, but it works as a vehicle for the rest.  Stuck backstage while her mother works on props for the Stratford Festival, Rosie meets a "mysterious man" who--wow, who'd have thought--turns out to be Shakespeare.  This particular Shakespeare seems to be at the theater in order to cause mischief (more like Puck or Ariel?), but in the end it all turns out okay.  (Some parents may not like the section about theater superstitions, particularly regarding The Scottish Play.)

So--a well-designed book with some useful information about the theater, in a format designed to attract kids' attention, seemingly lost in book oblivion.  Like the missing jewels on the duke's costume--it's a mystery.

Monday, May 23, 2011

How not to write about writing (book review)

Is it churlish to write a negative review of a twelve-year-old book?

I don't want to be mean about a book I didn't like; but I didn't like this one.

The book under review is The Children's Writer's Reference, by Berthe Amoss & Eric Suben, authors of Ten Steps to Publishing Children's Books.  "An At-a-Glance Guide to idea, characters, plots and settings; children's skills and interests; formats and word selections."  The authors are teachers of children's literature, editors, a former director of the Children's Book Council, and writers themselves.  In other words, their credentials for writing this guide are impeccable.

And yet the book is so bare-bones as to be almost useless.  It's made up mostly of lists and white space.

Are you writing a farm story?  Well, you need to know that on farms you might find horses, cows, barns, fields, tractors.  A sports story?  You might include elements like a school playground, pick-up games, trying out for a team, rivalry with teammate, rivalry with another school, a tough coach.  A story set in fairyland?  Include a hollow tree, ferns, bracken, cobwebs, flower beds...

And you probably don't want to know what's included in the list for "the age of rebellion."

Yes, that's most of the book.  How that's supposed to inspire you to write like the lists (included) of excellent picture books and novels, I'm not sure. Particularly because many of those excellent books break the rules.  If William Steig had followed the advice given here, we would never have had a picture book with the line "The secret formula must first permeate the dentine."

The book also contains at least a few inaccuracies, and even some questionable grammar advice.  Every grammar website I can find says that it is correct to say, " A number of books are on the table."  But according to this book, "A group is singular although it is made up of plural individuals," so we're told to write "A number of books is on the table."  According to the rules of "a number of/the number of", it would be correct to say "The number of books on the table is three," but not "A number of books is."  Even if it might be technically justified by some high-falutin' grammar book, it's pretentious.

Why would Homer Price be included in a list of "chapter books," meaning something slightly beyond early readers but still fairly short and simple, but Beverly Cleary's Ramona books be listed in a higher age/difficulty grouping?

I'm also curious as to why crocodiles are in the list of animals that have worked as protagonists in stories (along with donkeys, toads, gophers, and prairie dogs), but alligators are in the list of "animals that are unfamiliar or repellent" (including fleas, weasels, rats, and worms) and so do not make good anthromorphic characters.

All I can say is, I'm glad I found this one at the thrift store and didn't buy it new.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

From the archives: The stuff of nonsense

Originally posted 2006; reposted May 19, 2007.

My friend the DHM at The Common Room quoted Charlotte Mason today:
"There is absolutely no avenue to knowledge but knowledge itself, and the schools must begin, not by qualifying the mind to deal with knowledge, but by affording all the best books." --Towards a Philosophy of Education (Vol. 6) , pg. 347
Did she mean the most serious books? The hardest books? The longest books? Just before Miss Mason gets to that point in the chapter, she has been describing the sad case of two young men who had a half-baked education (in her view), who "laboured indefatigably" at making sense of the books they picked up as young adults, but who admitted themselves that "You and I go at a subject all wrong!" What was one of the books they couldn't make sense of? Alice in Wonderland.
"Deeply impressed he bought the book as soon as he returned to London and read it earnestly. To his horror he saw no sense in it. Then it struck him that it might be meant as nonsense and he had another try, then he concluded that it was rather funny but he remained disappointed.Here, again, is another evidence of the limitations attending an utter absence of education. A cultivated sense of humour is a great factor in a joyous life, but these young men are without it. Perhaps the youth addicted to sports usually fails to appreciate delicate nonsense; sports are too strenuous to admit of a subtler, more airy kind of play...."
So we have to give our children more than facts, more than vocabulary drills. Knowledge, yes...the DHM's post points that out well, along with the sad fact of our culture's anti-knowledge bent. But also another kind of knowing...an understanding of laughter and nonsense that goes beyond the usual nose-picking humor found in childrens' books. They need to meet characters like my aged Uncle Arly, sitting on a heap of barley...and the Humbug...and the White Knight, one of my favourite characters in any book.

They need some silliness, some furry squirrel puppets, some knock-knock jokes, some James Thurber, and eventually some Wodehouse and Chesterton. They need to let their brains learn to play and dance and jump around with all the wonderful connections that a sense of nonsense allows. They need some nonsense so they can understand inventiveness...and a mandatory credit in inventiveness and creativity will not substitute.

I found this posted on the Catholic Culture Blog:
"A friend said all this reminded him of the scene in The Chronicles of Narnia where Aslan (God) creates Narnia, including an odd little bird which, like all the animals, can talk. The bird says something ridiculous and all the other creatures laugh. Turning to Aslan, the bird says, “Oh, Aslan, have I made the first joke?” “No,” Aslan replies, “you are the first joke.” My friend says there is a moral here."
I think he's right.

What we bought at the flea market

Rhubarb Crisp, in a flash (and some use-it-up ideas)

Well, more or less of a flash.

Mr. Fixit had the afternoon off, and we picked up Grandpa Squirrel and went to a flea market.  So I had about half an hour when we got home to get supper on the table.

This was helped out by the fact that we had Reuben Chicken going in the slow cooker (chicken breasts, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing), to which I quickly added a bit of cornstarch and water (you knew I was going to say that).  If I'd had some dinner rolls, we could have just eaten it as hot sandwiches, but we didn't have any, and we'd had a lot of on-a-bun meals lately anyway.

What else was in the fridge and freezer, on the day before grocery day?

A few frozen perogies, a bag of Asian-style frozen vegetables, a package of whole mushrooms.  I started the perogies going in a pot of hot water, and added the mushrooms plus about half the bag of vegetables.  (Mushrooms rinsed but not cut up.) I drained the whole thing before the veggies got mushy, added some margarine to the pot, and let it stay warm while I set the table, put out a bowlful of Triscuits, a jar of applesauce, and a few other things.

In the meantime, I was thinking about the fresh rhubarb that Ponytails had brought in the day before, and the cupful or so of homemade strawberry sauce that was sitting at the back of the fridge.  I didn't want to turn on the big oven, but the toaster oven would do fine to bake a dessert, if I could get it in quickly enough.

So in a small casserole I put a good layer of applesauce, the remains of the strawberries, and the quickly-chopped rhubarb (cut it fairly small if you want it to bake quickly).  I gave it all a good sprinkle (I mean a GOOD sprinkle) of cinnamon-sugar mixture.  I mixed a cupful of rolled oats, half a cup each of flour and wheat germ, a bit more cinnamon-sugar, and a bit of brown sugar (end of the bag), and added what should have been half a cup of oil but turned out to be a lot less since that was the very last of a jug, and I couldn't be bothered to go to the basement and get a new one.  I made it up by dabbing some margarine over the top before the dessert went in the oven.  It was done after about 40 minutes in the toaster oven (check and make sure the rhubarb is soft).  Good with yogurt or vanilla ice cream.

Punctuation Rant

I opened the weekly "shopper" paper yesterday, looking for yard sale ads.  Our "shopper" has gone to a mostly-articles format, since few people want to pay for print ads these days.  The headline that caught my attention said something like this:

"Prom and Grad, call for true elegance."

Did we learn this in school?

Were we ever told to write, "Pugsley and Wednesday, are playing with their octopus?"

Were we ever told that it was correct to say, "You and I, could make beautiful music together?"

Of course not.  So when did people start doing it?

The composer of such titles should write on the blackboard one hundred times:

I will not separate the subject of a sentence from its verb with a comma.  Even a plural subject (two nouns joined with "and").

That's it.  I'm done.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What's for supper? Beef-sausage tortilla filling

It was a busy day and Mr. Crockpot did the supper again. This "recipe" is proof that it's really okay to try out your own slow cooker ideas.

Improvised Beef-Sausage Tortilla Stuffing

1 lb. ground beef
Leftover sausages, chopped or sliced
The end of a jar of mild salsa (maybe half a cup?)
1 cup beef broth or water (use to rinse out the jar of salsa)
1 can no-salt-added kidney or other beans, rinsed and drained
Cornstarch--optional
Tortillas and toppings (cheese, sour cream, shredded lettuce)

Brown the ground beef. Add to the other ingredients in the crockpot. Start on High to get things going well, then cook on Low all afternoon (you are just heating things through, so Low is okay). I added just a bit of thickening at the end because I didn't want it to be too sloppy in the tortillas.

You could also serve this mixture over rice, or combine with cooked pasta. Or just leave it a bit liquid, eat it in bowls, and call it sort-of chili.

Monday, May 16, 2011

What's for supper? Back to our veggie roots

When we were first married, we had more vegetarian meals than meat ones; especially quick things we could make after work. Green Spaghetti and Chickpea Patties were two of our standbys. We found the Chickpea Patties recipe in a 1991 Vegetarian Times article; there's a recipe for Green Spaghetti in the same article, but we make ours differently--more cheese.

So that's what we had tonight:

Green Pasta (we used fusilli)
Chickpea Patties
Carrot sticks.

Green Pasta

I measured out the ingredients tonight as I went, so that I could write it down; but the amounts are really variable. I happened to have a whole block of cream cheese (bought on sale), but it's not necessary to use quite that much. We had enough leftovers to fill a casserole dish.

1 8-oz. block cream cheese
1/3 cup cottage cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
5 oz. mozzarella, cut up
1 tbsp. margarine (probably not necessary with all that cream cheese)
1/4 tsp. or more black pepper (or grind some on at the table)
bit of garlic powder
leftover cooked broccoli (entirely optional)
1 6-oz. package fresh spinach (but frozen would work too)
Approximately 1 lb. hot pasta

What you want to do is have hot drained pasta, hot just-cooked spinach, and the blended mixture of cheeses all ready to mix at the same time. You don't have to cook the finished mixture; the heat of the pasta and spinach warms up the sauce ingredients.

I started the pasta cooking, had the spinach rinsed, and then put everything else into the food processor and got it pretty much blended. When the pasta was done, I let it drain in a colander and cooked the spinach in the same pot for a few minutes, steaming in its own rinse water. When it was wilted, I ran it through the food processor with the rest of the sauce mixture. Then, in a BIG bowl (or you could use the pasta/spinach pot again), I mixed everything together. If you think you might have cooked too much pasta, mix it into the sauce mixture gradually until you have the proportions you want. Serve as soon as possible.

Linked from 4 Moms Share Vegetarian Recipes.

"Prophets in the home": habits and tendencies

This week's Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is based partly on "Early Tendencies in the Child: How to Check Them or Develop," by Mrs. Edward Sieverking, Parents' Review, Volume 14, 1903, pgs. 495-505.

"It is the business of education to find some way of supplementing that weakness of will which is the bane of most of us as well as of the children.+--Charlotte Mason, Home Education
"The fallacy of equivocation occurs when somebody walks up to you...and punches you in the nose.  Now, this isn't normal behavior in civilized society, so you ask the offender about it: 'Ow! Why'd you do that?'  He responds: 'Today is Tuesday, and I can't stop myself from doing that on Tuesdays. I have a habit.'  You, not satisfied....say, 'So, what does that have to do with anything?'  'Well,' he says, 'everybody is in the habit of doing something.  You are probably in the habit of brushing your teeth in the morning....So, I see nothing wrong with my little habit.'"--"Lesson 15: Equivocation," in The Fallacy Detective, by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn
"...These prophets in the home—these tendencies in our children—speak—very plainly sometimes, so that outsiders hear them, though parents are often deaf to them—and we don't grasp the message until, having lived on the land for the requisite number of years as undisputed possessors, they can claim it incontrovertibly in the end, and we ourselves wake up some day to find ourselves evicted and powerless before them."--Mrs. Edward Sieverking

Reading through Mrs. Sieverking's two-part article on "Tendencies," I notice two things in particular--more, of course, but two that stand out.  One is her continual returning to the big picture; how our whole outlook comes out of our early experiences; how we may become, if you'll excuse the expression, nincompoops for life (or not), based on whether or not our formative years gave us sound habits and moral tendencies.  The other is the idea that positive parental action is not all about scoldings, discipline, and reining in the youngsters; it's also about the wholesome things that we provide.  A current word might be "healthy alternatives."

Mrs. Sieverking complains about jaded-looking schoolboys; children that have too much pocket money and so many toys that they abuse or do the Sid-thing on the ones they have; children that grow up into selfish, materialistic adults.  (Some things haven't changed much since 1903.) Her remedy? True parental involvement! Not materialistic spoiling, but paying real attention to a child's artistic efforts; taking him along on errands, particular those that offer the chance to spend some time outdoors together; encouraging interests and hobbies. Her contention is that when children are taken out of whatever environments actually encourage their bad tendencies--for instance, getting them outdoors, away from the computer/games/TV/whatever--that that offers a natural and non-patronizing way to work out some of their knots. Working outdoors together might be a more motivating way to combat lazy tendencies, for example, than by lecturing or forcing children to do extra chores indoors.

It all takes time. Time together. Time that most people don't have. Not time to chauffeur the kids to more structured activities, but to go out and look for things, or at things, together; to have occasional surprises and adventures; to find shared interests; to "make a memory," as Gloria Gaither and Shirley Dobson wrote.   Charlotte Mason wrote a bit disparagingly of our desire for excitement (in Ourselves), but Mrs. Sieverking points out that some of us, at least, will find life without any excitement rather stultifying, and it's then that we may start to look for it in unhealthy rather than healthy directions.  And that, I think, it where she puts the responsibility on the parent, to provide as many healthy interests and opportunities as possible.  Even if it's just taking a walk to look at the snow or the stars. I read recently about a parent who put all the "can you do this with me" requests in a jar, and set aside certain days a month to say "yes" instead of "later" or "maybe." But I'm not so sure that's the best way. Of course not all such requests can or should be answered "yes" right away, but not all of us will ever have that full day to catch up on such things...nobody's even guaranteed that we will ever have that day. So maybe today is the day we get to say "yes."

Just a thought.
"What we all need more in our households is a sense of direction: to check and divert certain tendencies, and to encourage and pilot others. Still there is, as Anthony Hope says, "such a lamentable gulf between feeling that something must be done, and discovering what it is"; and really to find out the truth in children's tendencies is a difficult matter indeed, and practically needs as much thinking out and exercise of right judgment as we are able to give."--Mrs. Edward Sieverking

Today's homeschool freebie: for frugal housewives

The American Frugal Housewife, by Lydia Maria Child.  Today only, at Homeschool Resource of the Day!

What's for supper? Vietnamese Baked Chicken Thighs

Last night's dinner menu:

Vietnamese Chicken Thighs, adapted from this recipe on A Year of Slow Cooking,which was adapted from a post on Sunday Nite Dinner
Baked potatoes, broccoli, carrot sticks, chow mein noodles
Watermelon slices, brownies, and pie (thanks, Grandpa Squirrel).

I was hesitant about making this chicken dish, because I've never cooked with fish sauce before.  I had a Vietnamese housemate during university who pretty much lived on the stuff (fish sauce, not chicken), but I wasn't sure how it would go over here.  Also, Mr. Fixit is not crazy about bone-in thighs, because they do tend to be greasy. But I bought some fish sauce, and we tried it (in the oven, not the slow cooker), and it was very good--the skin browned nicely (probably the sugar?), and the thighs stayed together enough after baking that they could be lifted out of the grease, so that was a plus. We'll probably make this again.

Steph's recipe calls for 4 to 6 thighs, and our package had 8, so I doubled all the sauce ingredients except the pepper and the garlic. 

Here's our version.

Vietnamese-style Baked Chicken Thighs

8 bone-in chicken thighs (ours were still partly frozen)
3 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
3 tbsp. fish sauce (we used Taste of Thai brand)
1 tbsp. white sugar
1/2 tsp. black pepper
4 cloves chopped garlic
2 tbsp. canola oil

Place the thighs, skin side up, in a large casserole dish.  Mix the seasonings, garlic and oil together and pour over the chicken.  Cover and bake until done; the temperature and time can vary depending on the size of the chicken thighs, how frozen they are, and how much time you have.  I started it at 350 degrees and then turned it down to 325 degrees for awhile.  It was Sunday afternoon and we had lots of time.

Allow at least one thigh per adult eater and more likely two.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Church sale morning

It was too rainy for much yard saling today, but there were some rummage sales. Crayons brought home some additions to her horse collection (not in the photo). Mama Squirrel found science kits, books, a roll of knit fabric, a new pack of notecards, and a useful tin for putting things in.

"Explore the science of magic with Bob Friedhoffer, the mad scientist of magic!"
I'm impressed with that Magnetism kit--I didn't expect all the parts to be there, but it's pretty close to being intact. The only thing really missing is one large magnet that's used in a couple of the experiments.

Is anyone else out there familiar with picture books by Bettina Ehrlich? The covers usually just say "by Bettina." I've come across a couple of them lately, including The Goat Boy today; they remind me a bit of Edward Ardizzone's style.

Mr. Fixit's Easter Buddy


I saw this lamb pattern in the April issue of Crochet World, and decided that we needed one.

Here's our version (front and, uh, back).


Baaa.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Where'd that post about Crayons' Grade 5 go?

Blogger is still working on restoring posts (here and on other blogs) that were deleted during the recent problem.  If they can't find it, I'll repost it myself.

Lentil soup isn't so bad

I don't have anything against lentils.  But some of the Squirrelings, in spite of my cajoling that Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of lentil soup, have remained unconvinced, especially when it comes to soup. (Sprouts are okay.)

If you have reluctant lentil eaters, here are a couple of tips for improving your soup score:

Reduce the overall lentil content.  Aim for more of a vegetable soup than a straight lentils-with-liquid thing.  It helps if you cut the vegetables big enough so that they don't disappear into the lentils; the idea here is variety.

Work out a lentil-compatible flavour that your family already likes.  Might be Italian, pizza-flavoured; might be Middle Eastern; might be Tex-Mex.  Even a hot-dog, wieners-and-beaners kind of thing.

Here's a sample recipe that went over pretty well today.  The amounts are vague since I was just throwing things in the pot.

Lentil-Vegetable Soup with Salsa

3 cups chicken broth plus an equal amount water
Some green lentils--maybe half to two-thirds of a cup dry;
2 carrots, sliced
1/2 bunch celery, including some leaves, sliced
Salsa!

Rinse the lentils and check for pebbles. Bring the broth and water to a boil, and add the lentils and vegetables. Turn down the heat and simmer until the lentils are soft enough to eat and the vegetables are cooked. I poured in some mild salsa partway through--maybe half a cup, just enough to season it up and add a bit of onion and tomato.  Add more water if it needs it as it's cooking.

Serve with bologna sandwiches and Coffeemamma's Rhubarb Muffins.  Or whatever else you have.

What's for supper? Diner-style spaghetti sauce

Last night's dinner menu:

Diner-Style Spaghetti Sauce, with wholegrain spaghettini
Green salad with apples and sunflower seeds
Canned green beans

Peanut-butter-cereal squares

I know there are lots and lots and lots of recipes for spaghetti sauce, so who needs another one?. But this is something I adapted from the Hillbilly Housewife's Easy Seasoned Italian Sauce, and the way it came out reminded me of the way one of our favourite diner-style restaurants makes their spaghetti. More American-style than authentic Italian; but still good. It tastes like spaghetti and meatballs, only with broken-up meatballs, if that makes sense.

Mama Squirrel's Diner-Style Spaghetti Sauce
 1 lb. ground beef
About a cupful of sliced mushrooms (optional)
1 28-oz. can diced no-salt tomatoes, undrained (you can substitute two cups of homemade tomato puree)
1 small can tomato paste
1 tbsp. dried onion flakes
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
One or two slices slightly dried (or toasted) bread, diced (optional--my kids didn't like this addition as much as I did, so I have been leaving it out)
Fresh parsley, chopped and added near the end (optional but pretty)
Hot pasta, Parmesan cheese, etc. for serving

Brown the ground beef, breaking up the meat as it cooks; add the mushrooms just before it's finished browning, and let them cook a few minutes. Drain the fat if necessary. Add all remaining ingredients except for the bread, and simmer until slightly thickened and it smells good. I added the diced bread near the end because I thought the sauce was still a bit liquid; it turned out to be a good addition (don't overdo it, though). Parsley too, if you have some (I just grabbed a bit from the garden).  Serve over hot spaghetti.

We had quite a bit left over (I never know where to stop with spaghetti), so tonight we're having Spaghetti Pie.

Blogger is Back

With explanations.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Carnival of Homeschooling #280: Ten and Counting

Welcome to the 280th Carnival of Homeschooling!  This is our tenth time to host the Carnival of Homeschooling! You can see the other nine down there on the sidebar, including #253: Singing a Happy Song Edition, #226: Wrinkly Superhero Edition, and #162: Identity Crisis Edition.

And we have a special reason for celebrating the number 10 this week:  Crayons, the youngest Squirreling, is turning double-digits.  In Crayons' honour and for your edification, we have scattered a few choice thoughts from her younger days throughout the carnival.


So with that in mind, we open the carnival with some posts about Number Ten.

COUNTING TO TEN

Mama Squirrel: Now it's time for memory work. We're going to say the Ten Commandments.
Crayons: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick... (2007)

Parentella presents Top 10 Myths of Homeschooling.

Parenting Squad presents 10 Household Items to Help with Sensory Integration.

Dewey's Treehouse presents 10 Good Things for Homeschoolers.

COUNTING THE BENEFITS

Why is the sky blue?
Because green wouldn't look right in the sky. (2006)

Candid Diversions presents "30 Benefits of Homeschooling."  "As a homeschool graduate (K-12) and now a homeschooling mother of 4, it wasn't hard to come up with a long list of things I consider benefits or advantages to homeschooling."

Children Grow Children Explore Children Learn presents Why Homeschool?

Mothers of Boys presents Mondays with Miss Mason--On Bringing Up.  "On "Bringing Up" kids rather than just educating them."

Taking Time for Things that Matter presents What Does Education Look Like? Part III: Immune to Elephants.  "Why does institutional education so often inoculate students against further learning? Here are a couple of scenes that might help you visualize the difference."  Funny, we had a similar experience once visiting elephants.


COUNTING THE HOMESCHOOLERS

I handed Crayons (age 4) a partly-used printing book while we were doing some tablework...I thought the page about making numerals might amuse her for a few minutes. "Mommy, are these numbers capitals or lower case?" She didn't want to write numerals, though, and flipped to the back of the book where there was an introduction to cursive. "Oh kewwwwl! Cursive!" (2005)

Parent at the Helm presents Crowded Classrooms Have Families Embracing Homeschooling.  "Public school budget woes are growing the homeschooling community!"

No Fighting, No Biting! presents What happens when public schools run out of money.  "Recent proposals in Michigan and California cut weeks out of the school year rather than trim waste from the education budget."

COUNTING THE COSTS

Crayons stuck some stickers all over a piece of construction paper, and told me that each sticker was one place on the map: Russia, Australia, Niagara Falls, New York, the kitchen, heaven, where the devil lives, and where the treasure is. (2006)

The Thinking Mother talks about this season of lacrosse and a request to quit homeschooling to attend school in order to play on the high school level.

Our Curious Home presents How much Money do you have to spend on educational stuff? And Homeschool?  "A pie chart I made of my last year's expenses: because it was more fun to play with last year's banking spreadsheet than to wash the dishes, or make someone else wash them."

COUNTING THE DAYS

Crayons: This is a very fun day.

Mama Squirrel: Uh huh?
Crayons: I have nothing to do but sit back, relax, and read books. (2006)

Pjsallday.com presents What's Going On in the Burg?  Communities have lots of free events that are also lots of fun.

Why Homeschool muses on time management in Better Coordination.

Pamela presents a trip to Beautiful Bandelier at Blah, Blah, Blog.

WildIris presents A homeschool year in review.

COUNTING THE YEARS

The Legacy of Home presents Creating a 1950's- like Childhood.

COUNTING THE PAGES

Crayons and I were reading James Herriot's Moses the Kitten for school.  She snuggled against me and said, "I want to be close to you. Like Bertha."  (Bertha is the mother sow in the story.) (2008)

The Mommy Earth presents In Praise of Living Books.

Read Aloud Dad presents The Best Kept Literacy Secret: How To Double Read Aloud Time. "You know the mantra. Boost your children's exposure to books. Can you really double the read aloud time for your kids? Magically? No special programs. No 31-day tutorials. No specially "tailored" products."

Delightful Children's Books presents Read Around the World.  "My kids and I have been taking an imaginary trip around the world. We have been reading books set in countries around the world and cooking and eating many new foods. This year I compiled booklists of stories set on each continent -- Africa, Europe, Australia, The Arctic, South America, and Australia -- as well as booklists about maps and children around the world. In addition to the booklists, I created a new resource page for parents and teachers with information about an international postcard swap, read around the world book challenges, and great educational resources for learning about countries around the world: . Note: I finished these booklists up quickly when my local children's librarian informed me that the booklists could be a valuable resource for librarians. The kids and I are actually still reading about The Arctic. Also, I submitted this page once before when we first began our imaginary trip in case families wanted to join us. The page now includes a complete series of Read Around the World booklists."

Sage Parnassus presents Narrating Our Way Through Julius Caesar.

COUNTING THE TIMES YOU'VE BEEN ASKED THAT SILLY QUESTION

 Crayons, after watching Harry and the Hendersons:
"What is a Saskatchewan, anyway?" (2007)

Jot's Lunar Adventure presents Homeschool Myth #1: Lack of Social Skills.  "Upon learning that my daughter is homeschooled, a rude customer proceeds to tell her how inept homeschool students are at social skills. I found his hypocrisy rather amusing."

COUNTING ON CREATIVITY

Crayons' account of a fracas she got into with Ponytails: "I was just colouring nicely, and she hit me. And after that we took turns hitting each other."  Well, at least they were polite about it. (2006)

Adventures in Mama-Land presents Back to Homeschool… and another family election! (updated with results).  "How (not?) to hold an educational family election!!! With a rather unfortunately screamy video of my homeschoolers and teens."

Barbara Frank Online presents Video Games and the Developmentally Disabled.  "Homeschooled parents might want to consider allowing their children to play video games, especially if they have a child with special needs."

Baby Steps presents Owl Puke Pellets & a Giveaway.

Nirvana Homeschooling presents Field Trip: Indiana Medical History Museum.

Consent Of The Governed presents Kill Your TV. "Many homeschoolers have already "cut the cord" - it's a wise move. Get your kids out into the world, garden, bike ride, whatever... it's better for their minds.. and it also allows for more time to read and do other useful things."

Crayons narrated, "There were all kinds of delicate foods: pastries, jelly, and meatloaf."

When I laughed, she said indignantly, "What's wrong with that? Meatloaf is nice." (2007)

And that's the end of our carnival.  If you participated this week, have a look to make sure I linked up properly and got everything the way you wanted it--and please link back! Next week's carnival will be hosted by The HomeSpun Life.  As always, you can submit entries here or here.  Many thanks to the Cates for continuing the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Ten good things for homeschoolers

1.  Hold-It.  Or sticky tac, or whatever you call it.  Mama Squirrel has been in love with this stuff ever since first grade, when Mrs. Koenderman used it to hold up word strips and chart stories.

2.  Index cards.  Many uses, including bookmarks, flashcards, Concentration games, vocabulary, and Cuisenaire rod tubes.  (Cut a piece of index card to a 10 cm length and wrap it fairly tightly around an orange rod, trying to crease the edges as you go (to keep the rectangular shape). Secure each end well with tape, and there you go. The purpose of the tubes is to play hidden-rod sorts of games. The simplest version would be to insert two rods that add up to ten, show the child one end of the tube, and ask what colour should appear at the other end. A more complicated version would be to use three (or more) rods, show both ends and ask what is hidden in the middle.)

3.  Children's magazines--cheap ones from yard sales are preferred so that you don't mind marking them up.  Many uses, including reading lessons, finding spelling patterns on a page, circling punctuation, making up a story from a picture, and cutting out pictures.

4.  Cassette player and blank tapes.  Scrounge one from a yard sale or older friend, and get someone who's electronically gifted to clean, replace and make it work.  Many uses, including narrations, memorization help, and interviews.

5.  Sidewalk chalk.  Turn your driveway into a blackboard.

6.  Kitchen timer.  For more than cookies.

7.  3-prong folders.  Cheap binding for e-texts.

8.  3-hole punch, to go with #7.

9.  Manila folders.  Besides holding things, you can use them as storyboards and charts, print out all kinds of file-folder games, and re-fold them to make triangular stand-up signs.

10.  Pens...for the teacher!  Get some sort that are easily distinguishable from those used by the students--then you can cheerfully round them up when they stray.  The Squirrelings gifted Mama Squirrel with some nice striped, patterned, and funky ones in an Easter basket.

11.  A bonus for reading to the end:  a very large piece of light-coloured felt, for making a felt board.  Mama Squirrel has been downright shocked at the prices listed in teachers' catalogues for self-adhesive felt-board material.  All you need is one big piece of felt, some safety pins, and something big and flat to wrap the felt around.  A TV tray or a lightweight board will do.  Or an old kid's chalkboard.  Wrap the felt around and pin it across the back with the safety pins.  If you don't even have a board, use the felt on a table or lay it across the back of a couch.  Or hang it from the edge of a table.  Or tack it to the wall, or to a big box like  a toy box.  (I don't think Hold-It will work here, you'll need real tacks, and don't let little kids get them.  If you have littles around, you might prefer Velcro or strong tape.)

Out of season but still cool



My sister and I each had a pair of these...many, many years ago. Was it as easy to slide on them as the commercial said? Well, that depended on your level of general klutziness. Let's just say that they weren't calling US to be in the next commercial.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

We are hosting this week's Homeschool Carnival

Help us celebrate the tenth Carnival of Homeschooling at Dewey's Treehouse! Actually it's Carnival of Homeschooling #280, but it's the tenth time we've hosted. (Dewey is such a party animal.)

The deadline for submissions is Monday night, 9 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). Help us make it a great carnival!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Neat thing from a yard sale

Found at a yard sale this morning:  a science kit from about 1990 called "Mechanics Kit," similar in concept to this kit but without the battery-run parts.  It was designed by "Tree of Knowledge (1979) Kibbutz Yasur, Israel," and I think it's a very clever and versatile concept--especially for a quarter.  I think this is something that Crayons could use for science next year.

It's all plastic; you get two sizes of wheels, some small plastic pins, a propeller, a chassis for a vehicle, a couple of triangular supports, and a few miscellaneous things.  Using rubber bands and a balloon, you can turn the parts into various kinds of simple machines, make a rubber-band motor, build a wagon, demonstrate tensile strength, build a cantilever bridge using strips of cardboard, and more.  I don't think the kit is still in production, though--too bad! 

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

And what's for dessert? Raisin squares, with one frugal addition

Tonight I made a pan of the Raisin Bars from the More-with-Less Cookbook.  These are not the same as the Hillbilly Housewife's Raisin Bars, which are also very good but which are more like flat muffins.  The MWL version is just date squares but made with raisins.  You make a filling on top of the stove by simmering raisins, water, cornstarch, a bit of sugar, and lemon juice until thickened and soft; then sandwich between two layers of oatmeal-based dough, as for date squares.  Bake for half an hour at 375 degrees, or until the top dough is the right shade of brown (the recipe says 400 degrees, but that's too hot in our oven).

The frugal twist?  I had a bit of cranberry jelly in the fridge, left from Easter, so I mixed that into the raisins at the end.  I also sprinkled the mixture with a spoonful of cinnamon-sugar before adding the top layer of dough.  It made the bars taste a bit like mince pie, but I kind of like it that way.

If you cut them and eat them while they're still warm, you'll probably have to use a fork.  If you let them sit longer, they'll cut better.

Hollering down from the treehouse...and what's for supper?

We have been busy up here--just haven't been blogging about it.  All the extra-curricular stuff has been winding up (with year-end recitals, festivals and such), plus we've been dealing with some on-again-off-again viruses (the germ kind, not the computer kind) that have thrown a wrench into schoolwork.

And today Mama Squirrel volunteered to be a styling head, to help The Apprentice finish up the few things she has left to do before she becomes a  licensed stylist.  That was fun.

So Mr. Crockpot is handling the bulk of the dinner preparations.  Mama Squirrel adapted a cookbook recipe and came up with this:

Beef and Pork Chili Mac

1 pound ground beef, browned in a skillet with a chopped onion and two cloves garlic
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup no-salt tomato sauce
1 tbsp. chili powder (the recipe called for two tbsp., but some of us here are wussy about hot stuff)
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 can baked beans, since we didn't have any cooked or canned plain kidney beans or chickpeas
1 cupful cut-up cooked pork from last Sunday's dinner
Hot cooked pasta
Cheese, optional

Combine hot ground beef plus onions and garlic with the other ingredients (not the pasta and cheese) in a slow cooker (we used a 3 1/2 quart size).  Cook on low for the afternoon while you sit reading recipes under the hair dryer.  Serve with hot cooked macaroni or other pasta.  Top with cheese if desired.
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