Friday, September 29, 2006

A Friday morning

I'm finding Fridays are our more-relaxed homeschool day this year. Wednesdays are our sort-of-different day because we do some once-a-week subjects, but Fridays are more laid back.

After breakfast, Crayons was immersed in Rumer Godden's The Fairy Doll. She was most of the way through it by 9:00, when The Apprentice had headed off to school and Ponytails and I were ready to start lessons here. So the book was put down (reluctantly, with the bribe of a pretty bookmark) and we sang O Canada and some hymns from the Mennonite Bicentennial booklets. (Come We That Love the Lord; Unity (Ponytails' choice); and For God So Loved Us.) (Here's the German version of For God So Loved Us; I'll have to hunt online for the English.)

We read some of Proverbs 29 (since it's the 29th), from The Message. (We have a small copy, just Proverbs.)

Ponytails studied for dictation (and then wrote it) while Crayons went back to her book (and finished it). This was the dictation, from Peter Pan:

"I wish I had a pretty house,
The littlest ever seen,
With funny little red walls
And roof of mossy green."

Then we finished chapter 2 in A Child's Geography, mostly about the mesosphere. Ponytails drew herself out there with an oxygen mask on, surrounded by shooting stars. I'm not exactly sure what Crayons drew.

The girls wanted a snack and we had eaten up all the cookies, so I let them make peanut butter balls. After the mess lovely snack, we played the Sum What Dice Game from Family Math, and read a couple of poems and a chapter from Crystal Mountain. And that's it for this morning...After lunch we're planning on taking the nature notebooks outside and looking for Gymnosperms and Pterophyta. Do you know what those are? (Google is off limits!). Virtual coloured pencils for right answers.

Crayons on Rumer Godden

"I wish I was the Fairy Doll. Look, she's having a nice time. She's sitting on a toadstool!"

(We have the ex-library hardcover pictured on that website, with illustrations by Adrienne Adams. It's the same edition--although not the same copy--that I remember reading at my grandma's when I was young. We found it at a yard sale when The Apprentice was small--right after I'd been remembering that book and wondering if I could find a copy of it somewhere. Those things do happen! Ask me about Anna Comstock sometime...)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

No moss growing under our feet

Our blogging has been a bit slow this week (combination of limited time on dialup plus school plus...). I know.

These are some things we've been doing:

1. Looking at moss as part of our Botany study. Did you know that moss is a non-vascular plant? Probably you did, but my knowledge of Botany is not great, so I'm learning along with the squirrelings. And we never knew that we had so much moss in our backyard until we went out with a magnifying glass to look for some.

2. Looking at angiosperms in our backyard, ditto. Did you know that rose hips have little fuzzy things inside of them? We cut one open, along with an unripe grape tomato, to see if their insides looked the same; but they're quite different.

3. Mama Squirrel is going to a focus group about breakfast cereal this afternoon (two hours' easy work, and yes, we admit we eat our share of cold cereal in the Treehouse, although not for dinner). The Apprentice will be home from school by that time, so she can sister-sit for awhile, and then we'll blow some of the proceeds on takeout food since Mama Squirrel isn't here to make dinner.

4. We made mummified apple slices as part of an Egyptian history lesson. You mix equal amounts of salt and baking soda, slice some apples, and put the apple slices into the mixture for a week. The slices are supposed to get leathery and dried out (like mummies) instead of rotting, if you put enough mixture on top of them.

It worked, sort of. The apples didn't rot...they were just very strange.

5. The Apprentice has been doing very well in her classes and on her assignments. The only trouble she got into last week was for playing with a yo-yo during lunch break. (The hall monitor didn't think she should be doing it over a stairwell...)

The strangest way she's spent a class period so far is watching Mrs. Doubtfire.

6. There's more, but I'm on dialup, remember? I'll be back later.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

This is tofu? (Chocolate Pie)

This recipe was created by Jennifer McLain and was printed as a “Recipe Redux” (makeover feature) in Vegetarian Times, January 1994. I’ve found it in a couple of places online without any credit given.

Jennifer explained her need to create something wonderful (and somewhat healthier or at least lower in fat than other chocolate pie recipes) for a family special occasion: “it would have to have the taste and appearance of one that was spectacularly unhealthful.”

Well, it does! We’ve made it twice, once for Christmas when a vegan relative was coming, and once this year for dinner with friends. It’s very chocolaty (think mousse?) and very rich, and it really does serve 12 (because you won’t want a big piece. Well, maybe you will.).

This is the recipe as published, with my notes in brackets. (It took me longer to track down the right tofu and preserves than it did to make the pie.)

Chocolate Pie After Redux

(It can be made up to three days in advance.)


*7 oz. chocolate wafer cookies or graham crackers
*2 tbsp. canola oil or melted margarine.
(My note: I just make a graham cracker crust following the directions in the Betty Crocker Cookbook. You can use any crumb crust recipe you like.)

* 8 oz. unsweetened chocolate (a box of the supermarket kind is fine)

* 2 10-oz. packages silken tofu
(The first time I made this, I bought a 19-oz. box of aseptically-packaged silken tofu, because Jennifer insisted that the tofu be the silken type. The second time, I had to use what the supermarket offered, which was soft (but not silken) tofu in 300 g (about 10 ½ oz.) water-pack tubs. I used two tubs, and it worked fine.)

*10-oz. jar blackberry preserves
(Jennifer says that preserves made from any red berry (strawberry, raspberry or cherry) will work. You don't taste the particular fruit, it just adds sweetness and texture. The first time, I used a jar of black cherry preserves. The second time, I was again limited to what the discount supermarket had, and I had trouble finding anything in the jam aisle marked “preserves.” I settled for a cupful of E.D. Smith Triple Fruit Wildberry spread, which is thinner than normal jam and seemed to work well.)

*1 tsp. vanilla extract

*1 cup liquid honey
(You may think you need to cut back on the honey after putting in a cupful of preserves or jam. However, we tried cutting back, tasted it after blending, and agreed that it did need pretty much close to the whole cupful. Remember, you’re adding a lot of unsweetened chocolate.)


Crust (if you’re following the recipe here): Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In blender or food processor, combine cookies and oil or margarine and pulse to make fine crumbs. Press into bottom of springform pan or pie plate. Bake 10 minutes and cool.

Filling: Melt chocolate in double boiler or over very low heat. Put remaining ingredients in bowl of food processor or blender and add melted chocolate. Process until very smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides.

Pour filling into crust, smooth top, and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours or overnight. Serves 12. Per serving: 409 calories, 17 g fat, 57 mg carb.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Birthdays, frugal and otherwise

The Deputy Headmistress has posted about her family's frugal birthday traditions. We do some things that are frugal, some that aren't, and some things that are just traditions. Some years the Squirrelings have had kid-parties, and some years they've opted for a family outing. Some years the birthday has extended over a weekend or a couple of days as we've celebrated with other relatives.

This week is Ponytails' birthday, and I should really be baking a cake right now instead of blogging. She's invited a couple of friends and her sisters to go mini-golfing with her tomorrow afternoon, and then they'll come back here for hamburgers and cake. Her birthday is sort of a Groovy theme this year; the girls are going to wear anything Groovy they can find, and we're making this Groovy Jeans cake. I don't do cakes that take a lot of skill with an icing tube; I like cut-up cakes or the kind that we can decorate with candies or plastic people or animals (NOT the kind from the cake decorating aisle--we usually use what we have in the toy box).

The best parties we've had are for Mr. Fixit--and they're almost always just for our own family, which is kind of a shame since they're usually very creative (if I do say so myself). The theme is always a surprise (unless he guesses), and it's usually based on whatever he's watching or doing that year. We've had a Dr. Who party (the Tardis was our hall closet), a time-travel-through-your-life party, a records party, a Junior-Monopoly-come-to-life party (when you landed on the Puppet Show, you got a real Puppet show and so on), and I can't remember what else. The most unusual was a Marvin the Star-Nosed Mole party which would only mean anything if you've seen the 13-episode run of the '80's TV series Four on the Floor with The Frantics. (Want to sign a petition to get it put on DVD?) We thought Marvin was wonderful so we made Mr. Fixit a board game starring Marvin and our own Dewey Squirrel (it was based on a Barbie Prom game I used to have), and a brown-dirt cake with a marshmallow Marvin coming out of a molehill. And brown streamers, of course.

Parties should be fun and have a bit of surprise to them, even if the presents are from the dollar store and we forgot to get balloons. That's pretty much the way we do it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Better late than never

I have been so busy this week that I forgot about the homeschooling carnival (it usually goes up on Tuesdays). Dana at Principled Discovery hosted this week's carnival.

Friday, September 08, 2006

End of the week (phew)

It's been a very good first week of school here. We've actually gotten through most of things that I had planned to do! And everybody's still smiling. Yesterday we started "As You Like It" from Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare, and "Florence Nightingale" in Armed with Courage. And started the book about music and composers that goes with our Leonard Bernstein record set. (That was fun. The chapter we read (just part of it) is based on this script , "What does Music Mean?")

Today will be a bit shortened because we're going to the library after lunch. The lineup looks like this:

Read from Proverbs
Ponytails, work on math page; Crayons, do the usual math routine with Mama Squirrel (next week's math will be a bit more varied)

A Child's Geography, the second part of chapter 1
(Mr. Fixit kindly got our e-text printed out and comb-bound this week)

Memory work: the Canadian provinces

Folk songs: the same ones as before

Read about garden snails from Anna Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I think Crayons would like Chesterton

"Lying in bed would be an altogether perfect and supreme experience if only one had a coloured pencil long enough to draw on the ceiling."

--from G.K. Chesterton, "On Lying in Bed," in Tremendous Trifles

Why we love Crayons

"I am a snowflake in the Waltz of the Nutcrackers." (Said while dancing.)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Another process post: Wednesday's work

I'm going to do here pretty much what I did yesterday, just because Wednesday's schedule is quite a bit different from Tuesday's. Wednesday is our "different day" of the week--no Bible, no regular math, and it's the only day where I've scheduled computer time in for both Crayons and Ponytails.

After our regular opening (usually a hymn and prayer, often an extra like reading a Psalm together), Crayons will get 20 minutes of computer time while Ponytails does a grammar lesson (one of the Peter Pan lessons I posted about previously). Then Ponytails can use the Carmen Sandiego math CD-Rom while Crayons has her math time and probably time to read a story with me.

Next is the week's second history lesson. Since Ponytails finished her chapter about the beginnings of Ancient Egypt yesterday (some of them will take her two sessions), we're going to take a few minutes to look at extra books--Usborne's Ancient World has a good double spread about life along the Nile. She'll make an entry in her notebook--just a little writing and then enough time for a picture.

Then French. I don't have a commercial curriculum this year for French. I do have a couple of storybooks that were originally written in English and translated into French--they each have about a hundred one- or two-page stories in them. This is going to be an experiment in following some of CM's French-teaching ideas--reading a very short story (or part of one), working with snipped-apart printouts of the words and phrases (making new sentences), with the goal of learning to narrate a little too. I've done this before with a couple of easy-reader books in French, but this is the first time that I've tried to base a term's work on it. The first story is called "La devinette" (The riddle), and it's about two children arguing about what colour they think their father's new car is--blue or green? (It turns out to be turquoise, a word that's as easy to understand in French as in English!)

Folk songs: A la volette (to continue in French), and A Paper of Pins.

Snack break...

Then copywork. One perfect line for Ponytails, a couple of letters for Crayons. [Update: we did this with dry-erase markers on small-sized white boards.]

And last thing in the morning: Breugel (or Bruegel or Brueghel or Breughel), Peasant Wedding. That's Picture Study.

After lunch: An Emily Dickinson poem (we read a little about her life yesterday too), Peter Pan, and a nature walk before the Apprentice gets home from school. [Update: that was fun, and we had good weather for it. We just went around the block and checked out our favourite gardens and trees. We noticed that the catalpa tree that used to be covered with flowers now has big bean pods all over it. The leaves on the one oak tree that we know of are still mostly green--no acorns on the ground yet. Some of the summer flowers are gone, but most of them are still brightly coloured.]

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

New school day

What do you do to get ready for the next school day? Just open the book? Make up lesson plans? Somewhere in between? This is a process post...

We're still so new at this school year that I'm making up "lists of what we have to do today," even though Ponytails' and Crayons' work is in my binder, supposedly there to be drawn on. So I go through my list and think "how will I do this? What books do I need? Where are the Scrabble letters?" This is what I'm doing right now.

[Updates after we've done this. I forgot to say that we started by reading Psalm 24 (we have a nice copy of it from an old Sunday School paper), by singing "Day by Day" (see our last Sunday hymn post), and by praying.]

Bible: 1 Samuel chapter 9, the story of Saul and the lost donkeys. Remember last year when we read about the Judges? Now Samuel is old and Israel wants a king. Picture the scene: Can you imagine the day when Saul's donkeys got lost and he was wandering around searching for them? Read the chapter. Take turns narrating. See what other points come up: maybe that God is behind all that happens, even lost donkeys and which way Saul went.

[Update: I should have known we couldn't read a story about runaway donkeys without some references back to Bert and Ethel and the pig search.]

Spelling: Ponytails find words that start with anti- , and put them into the Personal Dictionary she started last year. Crayons make words that have "an" in them, using Scrabble letters, and copy some of them on paper.

[Update: there are very few good grade 4 spelling words that start with the prefix "anti-." However, we did find one classic: antidisestablishmentarianism. Ponytails added it to her dictionary.]

History (Ponytails): read A Child's History of the World, chapter 5 ("Real History"), for 10 to 15 minutes while I do math with Crayons.

Crayons' math: put one popsicle stick in our "100 days" container. (That makes two!) Do a little work on the hundred chart with me (What is 2 more than 52? What is 2 less than 32?). Trace numerals in a dollar-store math workbook (she still has trouble with reversals).

[Addition: while Ponytails was reading her book on the back porch, Crayons and I also had time to read "The Jumblies" and "The Dong with the Luminous Nose." She likes Edward Lear a lot.]

History: Ponytails narrate back to me.

Memory work: Ponytails work on one Emily Dickinson poem. [She chose "My river runs to thee."]

Writing: we usually have handwriting scheduled here for Ponytails, but we're going to skip it today.

Math for Ponytails: work on the first couple of worksheets in Making Math Meaningful (about place value through the hundred thousands). If Crayons wants some of this math too, show her how to use Base 10 blocks to show tens and ones (like her popsicle sticks). So: remember to get out the blocks (for Ponytails too, if she wants them, although they only go to 1,000, and maybe the abacus we made a few years ago).

[Ponytails let Crayons use her spelling puzzle set during math time.]

Music Theory: this is less intense than it sounds. I bought the introduction-to-music pack to go with our Music Maker harp, and we're going to work through it a bit at a time. The first lesson teaches words like treble clef and bass clef. So: I have to get that out.

Crafts: Morning crafts are the non-messy kind. Since Ponytails is really interested in doing some crocheting (she did a bit last year), we'll review making chains and single crochet. I have some ideas for simple (small) things she could work on this year, like a Barbie hat and poncho. Ponytails has much bigger ideas, like a girl-sized shawl or a pet net. So: I have to go round up some crochet hooks and decent-sized yarn.

Lunch break! Lunch break!

After lunch readalouds: Emily Dickinson poems; "Ra and His children"; Crystal Mountain.

And then some time with the Apprentice, who will be home before lunch today because the high school kids only go for an assembly and to meet in their homerooms and find their lockers and that stuff.

And then we're done.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

So far this weekend

Things we've been doing:

1. The Apprentice and Mr. Fixit are out shopping for a backpack for her for school, since we suddenly realized her on-hand choices were between Franklin the Turtle and something that looked like she was ready for the High Arctic.

2. I've been doing updates to our support group's library database all weekend, plugging in ISBN numbers and trying to fix all the mistakes that our otherwise conscientious librarian (Mama Squirrel) has allowed to slip in over the past couple of years.

3. We had some excellent end-of-summer corn from our favourite vegetable stand, cooked in the pressure cooker--and that's almost as good as barbecued in the husk. We learned how to do this awhile back from Lorna J. Sass's book Cooking Under Pressure. You put a cupful of water and a vegetable steamer basket (we use the kind that folds up like a flower) into the bottom of the pressure cooker; husk and wash the corn, and put a few of the husks into the steamer; and stack the corn cobs, log-cabin style, on top of the husks. Put the top on the pressure cooker, turn on the stove, and bring the cooker up to full pressure. Then turn it off and let the steam out. That's it.

4. The Apprentice is planning another girls' knitting night, so she's been phoning around to everyone she can think of who likes to knit, crochet or cross-stitch. Ponytails would like to crochet something this fall too, so she's been looking at library books--she just has to decide what and get some yarn.

5. Mama Squirrel made a batch of the Hillbilly Housewife's hot cocoa mix, and sprang for a package of mini marshmallows from the grocery store this morning. We had some after we got the groceries put away. "I loved it, but it could use more marshmallows, a whole bag of them."--Ponytails

6. Crayons has her first loose tooth two loose teeth.

Friday, September 01, 2006

School for the Apprentice

I have a few more things to post about what Crayons and Ponytails will be doing this year, but I have also neglected The Apprentice. So this is All About Her.

After waiting all summer for an appointment, The Apprentice, Mr. Fixit and Mama Squirrel squeezed ourselves into a guidance counsellor's office at the local high school (Mr. Fixit's old school) and talked courses. It ended up that The Apprentice is going to take two courses there each semester this year: science and drama in the fall, and French and vocal music in the winter. The best thing about it is that she'll get to play in the labs (MUA HA HA HA)...the worst thing is that it takes a big chunk out of the day, what with getting there and everything.

And it's changed what's fair to expect from her other work, especially this fall when she'll be gone for a longer stretch of the day (the winter courses will just be during the afternoons).

So after The Apprentice gets home from school and fortifies herself, she'll work with Mama Squirrel for half an hour on English, logic, citizenship, and a bit of French to make sure she's ready for the winter course. Then she'll also work on poems, math and/or her Christian studies reading list before she gets to relax for awhile. After dinner (besides science homework) she'll have time to read some of the other books we had planned for literature, life skills, geography, biographies...maybe even science. I'll post about those later today.

But now I have to go and START SCHOOL!


Farewell, summer.

Books for The Apprentice

Math: Mathematics, a Human Endeavor, by Harold R. Jacobs (text & workbook)

Literature: The Battle of the Books (Swift)
Pride and Prejudice, or another Jane Austen novel, or Jane Eyre
"She Stoops to Conquer" (play by Goldsmith)
"School for Scandal" (play by Sheridan)
An Anthology of Verse (edited by Charlesworth & Lee)
The Count of Monte Cristo

Citizenship, Government, Economics:
Are You Liberal, Conservative or Confused? (Maybury)
How Canadians Govern Themselves (e-book)
Economics, essays by Jane Haldimand Marcet
Ourselves, Book II, by Charlotte Mason
"Common Sense"

Biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Anton Lavoisier, Marie Curie, Abigail Adams

Science Reading: The Physics of Star Trek
Inventing the Future
, by David Suzuki
The Case for a Creator, selected chapters
Darwin's Black Box, by Michael Behe
The Sea Around Us, by Rachel Carson

Life Skills Reading: Books by Don Aslett and Edith Schaeffer.

Christian Studies: The Hiding Place
The Fight, by John White
Know Why You Believe, by Paul Little
The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis
One other book by Paul Little or C.S. Lewis

Geography: The Walk across America, by Peter Jenkins
Heidi's Alp, by Christina Hardyment