Monday, October 29, 2007

Last call for CM Carnival entries

The deadline for this week's CM carnival is tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. You can find the link to submit entries here.

I'll do my best to get it posted as soon as possible tomorrow morning. See you then!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Spanish with Kim, Latin with Ann

Ann of Holy Experience is always inspirational, but she also posts many a helpful homeschooling post. Here's one: resources for getting started with Latin.

And Kim continues to post about the CM approach to teaching Spanish.

Eruditio domi est sapiens!

(A virtual coin marked 40 B.C. if you can figure that one out. I'm not sure the online translator gave me the best word order...wouldn't "Eruditio domi sapiens est" sound better?)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

More Google frivolity

Most unusual search terms today:

how much milk does a mama squirrel produce a day

Google sent them here.

The answer?

None, but I can produce a couple of pints of yogurt if I need to.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Lasagna Without Recipes

I love lasagna and, like Garfield, I've hardly ever met one I don't like, with the exception of a Montreal version full of dried chili peppers, and one that was supposed to be "vegetarian" and had these huge hunks of half-raw vegetables and whole spinach leaves spilling out of it.

I love making lasagna too, but I hardly ever stick to a recipe. It's so easy to improvise this (especially with oven-bake lasagna noodles) that I'm always trying to convert people who tell me "I want to make lasagna but it's too expensive" or "my recipe calls for ground pork or something else I don't have or can't afford."

In the last twenty years or so I've made shrimp lasagna, overnight brunch lasagna [Update: our version], white mushroom lasagna, tofu lasagna, tofu-with-no-cheese lasagna (a very interesting Vegetarian Times recipe), chard lasagna (chard from our garden), and "regular" ground-beef lasagna. And we've made lasagna roll-ups, and stuffed shells which are almost the same thing. About six years ago I wrote an article for an online newsletter called "Iron Chef Lasagna." (I know when it was because I remember mashing some of it up for baby Crayons.) And tonight I made leftover-sausage lasagna.

So I can't give you a recipe but I can try listing some pointers; then you can use "what you have in your hand."

1. For a lasagna that serves about 4 to 6 people, you will need about 4 cups of canned pasta sauce; that's a 680 ml can plus a little bit. I pour the can of sauce into a 4-cup measure and then top it up with water. If you're using pre-cooked noodles (that is, you've cooked them soft in a pot of boiling water before using them), you might not need as much sauce. By the way, you can experiment by using regular lasagna noodles as oven-bake ones; whole wheat noodles (even if they don't say oven-bake) will usually cook just fine even if you don't pre-cook them. Saves a pot and a bit of time; just make sure you have enough sauce in the casserole to cook them well.

2. You will also need some version of a cottage-cheese/ricotta-cheese/tofu filling layer, which can incorporate fresh or frozen spinach or chard. (If I'm using fresh spinach or chard, I steam it and then drain (squish) it dry before chopping it into the filling.) I usually beat an egg into it and add some seasonings like salt, garlic powder or nutmeg (good with spinach). If it's too wet, add breadcrumbs. I often make this filling in the food processor, processing some dry bread first and then adding the rest. Tonight I had some leftover frozen chopped spinach (not cooked) and I just stirred that into some cottage cheese/egg/breadcrumbs, making sure it had enough crumbs in it to allow for extra moisture coming from the spinach.

3. You will probably want some grated cheese; mozzarella is good, of course, but you can use other kinds too. The amount is up to you; I've had some restaurant lasagna that seemed to be half cheese, but most home versions don't need that much.

4. And you can incorporate ground meat (browned), cooked sausage, canned shrimp, pepperoni, or other things like zucchini and mushrooms (just make sure they're going to get cooked and that they're cut small enough that nobody ends up with a huge hunk of vegetable). Add the meat to the sauce if you want, but I like making a separate layer of it. You can add in anything else you want too, like a layer of sliced tomatoes.

5. Try using a big lidded casserole instead of an open lasagna pan; you can take the lid off near the end if you want. Covering the casserole works especially well with oven-bake noodles, and the oven doesn't get as spattered. You can always put the casserole on a cookie sheet too.

6. Start and end your layers with sauce; otherwise the order is pretty much up to you. Something like this: sauce, noodles, stuffing, noodles, sauce, meat layer, cheese, noodles, sauce. Three or four layers of noodles are fine. You'll probably have to break them shorter if you're using a casserole instead of a flat lasagna pan. Leave lots of room between noodles so they can expand. And make sure there's enough sauce on top (even if you have to open another can of sauce), because otherwise you'll get that yucky dried-out layer of noodles on top.

7. Don't put cheese right on the top, it gets tough. Under the top layer of noodles is usually a good place for a layer of melted cheese. I like to sprinkle the whole thing with Parmesan when it comes out.

8. Bake the whole thing for about an hour at 350 degrees. Check the noodles gently with a fork to see if they're as soft as you want.

9. Let it sit about 10 minutes before you try to cut it. Leftover lasagna always cuts better (and tastes better the next day too, if you can reheat it without drying it out).

And that's it!

Another Child's Garden of Verses

Remember all our copies of A Child's Garden of Verses?

We picked up another one at the library sale last weekend. This one is also from the 1970's and it's illustrated by Erik Blegvad. But I can't find an online picture, so I guess we'll have to take our own. I can't even find a good website that shows a lot of Blegvad's illustrations (you have to search by "Eric" as well as "Erik" to find much). But he illustrated piles of picture books along with the Miss Bianca series and The Gammage Cup, so it's not hard to find something that shows his style.

This version is not all that exciting, maybe, but it's very nice, if that makes sense. It includes 24 of the poems, with pictures of children in Victorian clothes (lots of sailor hats). The one we like best is for "Pirate Story." It shows three children in a basket in the middle of a huge field of waving grass; it's perfect for "And waves are on the meadows like the waves there are at sea." Crayons is fascinated by their Jolly Roger flag attached to an upside-down broom in the basket; she wants to know where they got the flag, how they're keeping it upright (she figured out that one of the children is holding on to it), and how they attached the flag to the broomstick (and if they've permanently destroyed the broom: should I be worried about our cleaning tools now?)). The only issue I have with that picture is that the text is hard to read in the middle of all that grass; but the other pages in the book don't have the problem.

I still like some of our others better, but this one, even though it again doesn't have a large selection of the poems, is a good one to get started with.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

It's a book, book, book, book world

Yesterday was a day full of books.

It started with a quick visit to one of the city libraries while Crayons was having her dance lesson (the library's across the street, more or less)--we needed to take several books back anyway so we stopped in there. Mr. Fixit found a couple of Glenn Gould videos, The Apprentice found some things she wanted, and Mama Squirrel found a whole lot of booklets on countries of the Middle East on the discard shelf. And Paddington Goes to Town (also discarded).

So we got out of there, picked up Crayons, dropped off Ponytails for her lesson, made a quick run for groceries (the store's five minutes away--gee, you'd think we did this on purpose?), picked up Ponytails, and collapsed at home with some lunch. So far, minimum book damage (especially because there weren't any yard sales or rummage sales worth going to this weekend). Mama Squirrel planned to spend part of the afternoon psyching up and finishing the wording to a support group talk she was scheduled to do last night: on books, of course. And do all the coloured laundry that's been piling up (homeschoolers can theoretically get away with pajamas but public high schoolers can't).

Then Mr. Fixit got a bright idea. Mama Squirrel had mentioned that the BIG library downtown, the one we don't get to very often, was having its annual book sale, and he needed to drop some used motor oil at that place where you take used motor oil, and the big library is sort of on the way there, so he offered to take Mama Squirrel and anybody else who wanted to check out the library sale, drop us off and then pick us up an hour later on the return trip.

Note this was Mr. Fixit's idea. Mama Squirrel, as I have said, would have settled for a quiet afternoon of puttering and writing. But there were a couple of other errands that could get done as well if we went back out, and the laundry could wait a bit longer. And Mama Squirrel had missed this particular sale LAST year, and it was too good a chance to pass up--so with a promise not to get TOO many books, Ponytails and Mama Squirrel went hand in hand down to the very noisy library basement full of tables of books and people squirreling through boxes.

To make a long story very short, we filled up a carton (33 books, mostly children's non-fiction; you pay by the box) and hauled it home. Ponytails was a great helper and found some good stuff to put in. Mama Squirrel was very happy because she found three of Edwin Way Teale's nature seasons books (we already had two of the four, so there was just one overlap to pass on to somebody else); The Winged Watchman; Amelia Mixed the Mustard and several other books of funny kids' poetry; a Mary Poppins cookbook; two Charles G.D. Roberts animal books (this is the other one); Carl Sandburg's poems, his memoir Prairie Town Boy, and another book by him; and some other things I can't remember but will get to in another post. Oh yes--while we were there and waiting for Mr. Fixit, I did a quick run into the children's room (borrowing, not book sale) and borrowed Rumer Godden's Little Plum for Crayons and Jean Little's Look Through My Window for Ponytails--both books I hadn't been able to find at the other library. (Crayons just finished Miss Happiness and Miss Flower (by herself), and Little Plum is the sequel. Ponytails just finished Spring Begins in March (by herself), and although there isn't another book about Meg--which makes her sad--I thought she might like to try another Jean Little book. We do have a paperback copy of Look Through My Window, but it doesn't have Joan Sandin's illustrations.)

We brought the books home--it was almost suppertime by now--and deposited the box in the middle of the living room where the Squirrelings pulled out books and Ponytails played "bookstore" with a calculator. Mama Squirrel reheated Friday night's potato casserole, put in some frozen chicken wings to go along with it, and hid downstairs with the computer until the garlic timer went off. She also pulled a couple of dozen favourite books from the shelves to take as examples for the meeting: so by this time we had library-sale books all over the living room floor, and books from our own shelves all over the rec room--not to mention a big box of support group library books that other people had returned here and that had to go back to the meeting too.

We got all that in the car and Mr. Fixit dropped Mama Squirrel at the meeting, where in addition to giving the Book Adventures talk she also picked up several Hampstead House books from a friend (we did a joint order; some of these are for Christmas presents) and several new Scholastic books for the group library. So they all came back in the front door along with that basket of favourites. And there was Paddington still languishing where he'd been left as well, without even one marmalade sandwich.

It's a book, book, book, book...floor.

But that gives me something to do this afternoon besides laundry and enjoying the sunshine and appreciating the Lord's Day. No, not reading them--making the Treehouse habitable again, or at least not dangerous.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What I'm reading...trying to stay up to date

A couple of weeks ago I had a mom-at-the-library night and took out several newer-than-I-usually-read books that I'd had on a list of "I've read the review, now see if I can find it." I usually read a lot of older and/or kid-appropriate books, with the hope of eventually sharing them with the Squirrelings. This time I threw caution to the October winds and picked up some more recent "grown-up stuff." Some of it I like, and some I don't; some of it makes me want to go back to Sir Walter Scott.

So far I've finished The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, and Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, by Shyam Selvadurai. Neither are young-maiden reading--sorry. The Thirteenth Tale is a page-turner (and has a fun website too) but hinges on some decidedly unsavoury plot elements; Monsoon Sea has a cool setting (Sri Lanka in 1980; the references to Olivia Newton-John and Shaun Cassidy were bang-on) but overall it wasn't my cup of chai.

Still reading: Court Lady and Country Wife, the true story of the two Percy sisters and their times (the 1600's). [Update: why does every recent biography have to have the yuckiest stuff mixed in with the rest? Seems inevitable.]

Just started: Grief Lessons: Four Plays by Euripides, translated and with commentary by Anne Carson. (Assuming this will also be fairly adult in content, but so far I'm fascinated by the introduction to "Herakles.")

And not even dipped into yet: Margaret Avison's poetry collection Momentary Dark.

I have other things I should be doing besides reading...oh yes. But every so often I need a book refuel.

Some things you just can't do at school

Crayons and I sat down this morning to do "Grade One." That's what we call the half hour or so where I read her some of whatever's up in this week's Ambleside Online Year One. (The subjects we do with fifth-grader Ponytails don't count, in her mind, as Grade One.) One day it's Paddle-to-the-Sea, another day it's a fairy tale or Just-So Stories. Usually we read something from A Child's Garden of Verses and either a fable or one of the Fifty Famous Stories Retold as well, since they're pretty short.

Today we read the poem "The Land of Counterpane" and then we were about to start "Alexander and Bucephalus" from Fifty Famous Stories. But first I asked her to go over to the bookcase and pick out a book: Start in the middle. Now higher! To the right! Count five books over! What's the name of the book?

Stories of Alexander the Great, by Pierre Grimal. I love this book; the Apprentice and I read most of it the summer Crayons was born. "That's who this story is about," I said. "Alexander the Great."

"Okay, let's read the story out of this book," Crayons said.

"Well...okay." So I read it in Grimal's version (it's translated from French).

"So, my son, you think that you know more about horses than your father! Do you really think that you could break this one in?" he asked.

"This one, yes, of course," replied Alexander. "I am quite sure that I can deal with him far better than your squires."

"Well," replied Philip. "Why don't you try? If you do not succeed, what penalty do you deserve to pay for your presumption?"

"I will pay the price of the horse," replied Alexander.
And we read the ending:
"My son, it is time for you to find a kingdom worthy of your talents. I am afraid that Macedonia is too small for you."
Crayons started narrating it all back to me:

"Once upon a time...there was a king who was going to buy a horse for a famous price. [She meant fabulous.] Famous price now means that it's really cheap, but a famous price then meant it was really expensive."

Ponytails had wandered in after finishing her own assignment, and she kept saying, "I remember this story. This is a good story." (Pick up jaw from the floor.)

Crayons by this time had really gotten into her narration.

"Alexander said, 'I can ride this horse.' His father the king made a deal with him. If he couldn't ride the horse, he would have to pay the whole price of the horse himself."

"Do you want a horse?" Ponytails offered. "I'll be the horse."

Crayons considered the offer and then took Ponytails by the "bridle" and continued.

"He took the horse and turned him so he couldn't see his shadow. Then he got on and rode the horse. Then he galloped the horse."

(Ponytails: "Ooh! ow!" But she was a good sport.)

Crayons finished her narration, Ponytails got up from her knees, and we decided that one story was about enough for Grade One today.

Only in homeschool.

In whose best interest?

Mr. Person at TextSavvy posted some interesting stuff that you should read if you're unaware that there are people out there who would like to deny that you even have a right to homeschool. Not Mr. Person, of course.

And you might want to check out his math game Fact Xylophone too.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

How you know it's fall

Northern Spy apples. (Time to make a pie that really schmecks.)

The temperature dropping four degrees in half an hour.

The sound of leaves blowing.

A pair of very cold little Beavers selling apples at the door of the Giant Tiger. (No, not the animals; the littlest Scouts.) We bought a couple out of sympathy.

Glenn Gould playing Brahms' Intermezzo in A major (opus 118 no. 2) (featured on CBC's Sound Advice today while we ate lunch)--this is bare-trees music for sure, as moody as the end of Tchaikovsky's sixth symphony.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Better math, better learning (John Mighton and JUMP Math)

Do you know what neuroplasticity is?

What do you think about recent discoveries about the way our epigenetic system helps us process information?

University of Toronto professor Dr. John Mighton slung some of this around last night to a roomful of teachers and interested others, in between demonstrating why we invert and multiply when dividing fractions, and giving some hints about teaching the nine times table. (Funny, I just reminded one of my own Squirrelings about that yesterday, the fact that the digits have to add up to nine. Teachers don't know this?) He also shared the (to me) appalling information that, according to his research of provincial math curricula across Canada, there is not one province that specifically, in its curriculum guidelines, says that children must be taught to solve questions like "what is 2/3 of 9."

What he had to say went well beyond pushing his math program or his books, although he was there specifically to promote his book The End of Ignorance. As I listened I kept mentally hearing quotes from Charlotte Mason overlapping with some of the scientific findings Dr. Mighton was describing along with his own experiences tutoring children. (You can read the appendix to his book here.)

The most recent discoveries about our brains show that they can develop new abilities, rewire themselves and learn material beyond what was previously expected. It's not so much that you're born a math genius or not. The evidence points to the fact that most kids can learn anything.

So why don't we all learn way more than we do?

Dr. Mighton mentioned a Scientific American article, "The Expert Mind," that points out that you can learn the rules of chess, and play chess as an amateur for the rest of your life, not ever getting any better than a beginner. (Yep, he's got my chess-playing style nailed.) On the other hand, players who are taught small groups of powerful moves and so on become very good, very fast. (Wouldn't the same thing also apply to those who are taught to bang out songs on the piano but never go beyond that?)

He also described being inspired by a volume of letters by Sylvia Plath, in which she explains how she learned to write: by imitating great writers. He pointed out that Plath developed one of the most original voices in 20th century American poetry, so it obviously was no handicap to begin with imitation.

The problem in schools today is that kids are often expected to do without some simple training in basics that they need if they're to seriously develop their abilities--specifically in math, but in the other areas as well. The issue of whole language vs. phonics is one example; spending too much time on discovery-based math learning (including overuse of manipulatives) without teaching the needed basic skills is another. (Remember Mr. Person's blog post, Hands-On, Brains-Off?) Just because kids can work with models or manipulatives doesn't mean they can generalize enough to answer questions that are given in another context; and conversely, just because they haven't been able to learn something by playing with pizza pieces or whatever doesn't mean they can't learn those concepts if they're presented with a more "guided discovery" approach. (Some people apparently read The Myth of Ability and get the idea that John Mighton completely eschews manipulatives; this isn't so, he does use chocolate bars and other concrete examples when it helps to demonstrate a point.)

Add to this the fact that our working memories aren't always that great; you might "discover" something during a lesson, but forget it later. And this is not limited to children; Dr. Mighton mentioned (I think it was in The Myth of Ability as well) that he was once impressed by some mathematical discovery, and then realized that he himself was the one who had published the article some time before.

We need to pay more attention to the ways that kids learn and behave in groups; this might not apply so much to homeschooling (and might be a reason we're homeschooling), but it's still important to understand. Actually most of us know it instinctively already: when you were in school, didn't you have a pretty good idea who the "smart ones" and the "dumb ones" were? And if you thought you were one of the "dumb ones," the odds are that you started to limit your own ability to learn because you thought you couldn't.

And in our culture...as most of us also know...it's socially acceptable to laugh, wince and say "I just never could do math."

So we need to change that.

We need to find ways to increase students' confidence in themselves--no matter what their background, no matter how they've been labelled. [UPDATE: sorry if that sounded a bit too much like the I'm-so-special-boost-my-self-esteem thing. I'm talking only about helping students understand that they do genuinely have the ability to learn.] We need to avoid making the faulty assumption that certain parts of the population are born with less ability to learn than others. (Charlotte Mason's methods were used with children of all classes and backgrounds, blowing the Victorian idea of only-wealthy-children-can-learn to pieces.)

We need, according to Dr. Mighton, to have more confidence in teachers' reports of success with these methods. He talked specifically about the fact that his JUMP Math program has been accepted more in Western Canada than in Ontario, in spite of the fact that classroom teachers who have tried it have been more than satisfied with the results they've seen. Bureaucracy rules and change is slow.

We need to use "guided discovery" methods, especially in cases where manipulatives did not work well; where it would really make more sense to just teach what needs to be taught rather than expecting students to keep reinventing the wheel. We need to teach subjects such as mathematics in short, progressive steps, always "raising the bar" (a favourite Mighton phrase) just a little--or even just making the next step seem a little harder; never rushing ahead or adding in a lot of extra clutter. Dr. Mighton talked about one special-needs student who understood 1/4 + 1/4, and then 1/7 + 1/7, and then 1/36 + 1/36 and so on; but got agitated when asked to add 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4. However, after being given more opportunities to add things like 1/400 + 1/400 and 1/855 + 1/855 (my examples), he suddenly asked to go back and try 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 again; and this time he was successful.
"Here we may, I think, trace the solitary source of weakness in a surpassingly excellent manual. It is quite true that the fundamental truths of the science of number all rest on the evidence of sense but, having used eyes and fingers upon ten balls or twenty balls, upon ten nuts, or leaves, or sheep, or what not, the child has formed the association of a given number with objects, and is able to conceive of the association of various other numbers with objects. In fact, he begins to think in numbers and not in objects, that is, he begins mathematics. Therefore I incline to think that an elaborate system of staves, cubes, etc., instead of tens, hundreds, thousands, errs by embarrassing the child's mind with too much teaching, and by making the illustration occupy a more prominent place than the thing illustrated."--Charlotte Mason, Home Education
Is this just a return to rote learning? No. Even Charlotte Mason had her students practice times tables, and insisted that learning in subjects such as mathematics and grammar must be continuous--that each bit must build on the next. As Charlotte Mason said--look at the evidence. I have personally seen our 10-year-old's success with Mighton's JUMP Math fractions unit this fall, at a time when she particularly needed to rebuild confidence in her math ability.

If kids stumble through school not being able to read, to spell, to do basic math--then is it their fault for being stupid, or our fault for not teaching them properly, or for making them think they are incapable? (I don't think Dr. Mighton blames classroom teachers but rather the system in general.) If we have astonishing success with children who were thought unable to learn--how did that happen? (Some educators could learn a lot from homeschoolers.) If we discover, or rediscover, some method that works well for a wide range of students--can we put down our prejudices and simply use what works? Don't we want all children to be good readers and writers, to go beyond the minimum, to enjoy all learning including mathematics? Shouldn't we be doing whatever it takes to reach those goals?

You can decide.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Upcoming CM Carnival

Thanks, Donna-Jean for posting this information:

"The Third CMCarnival will be hosted by Harmony Art Mom. The theme is "Potpourri" - which can be Nature Study, Picture Study, Narration, Habit Training, Living Books, Short Lessons - the list is (nearly) endless. Here's how to submit a post for the third one. The deadline is October 15th."

And the Fourth one will be hosted--here.

Things to make with pumpkin--for real this time

2010 Update: Looking for pumpkin recipes? See also our newer pumpkin post here.

The Expatriate's Kitchen presents Carnival of the Recipes: The Great Pumpkin edition.

It looks like a great carnival, but I'm finding the blog itself is very slow to load; so be patient. (Maybe your computer's faster than mine.)

One entry I noticed wasn't about pumpkin at all. MotherLoad: The Mom Advice Blog posted an enthusiastic review of a homemade alternative to nonstick spray. That, I could use. I hate depending on those aerosol cans, and some brands don't even work that well, but I find pans stick a lot if I just use oil.

And I liked this one too: Your Guide to Planning Your Tea Party--Autumn Edition. George Winston's Autumn and cranberry-walnut scones? Sounds good to me.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

This mustache music stuff is too funny

But educational too. I'll look into sending some Vaughan Williams in the direction of Youngest Squirreling Nephew. Thanks, Melissa and Scott...er, Mr. Stossel.

(When you're done with this post, check out the ones that came before it, if you need some explanation.)

Even peas need love

What Mama Squirrel found on the discard pile at the library: Sandra Boynton's Rhinoceros Tap, book and cassette set. (Click that to hear samples.)

What Mama Squirrel did with it: gave it to Crayons and let her listen to it with Mama Squirrel's Sport Walkman.

What Crayons did: listened to it and tried to sing along with the book, while wandering around the house. The Apprentice and I had to shoo her out a couple of times because we were watching The Apprentice's Canadian History Video and it was kind of hard to follow the story about Great Depression Riots while listening to Crayons singing something about "Oh Bad Babies, why can't you be good?" (Remember we couldn't hear the music either.)

Why The Apprentice and Mama Squirrel laughed: during the "Lonely Peas" song, Crayons was overheard to say reassuringly: "Poor peas, I'll love you."

Friday, October 05, 2007

Turkey and Turkey

Last year one of our Squirrelings' favourite school days (the one they still talk about) was our Hundredth Day of School, when they were kept busy ALL DAY with a long list of things to do that related to the number one hundred. (The snack, as I recall, was something like a carrot stick and two round crackers or cookies on a plate to form 1 0 0.)

So this year we're having something similar about once a month, and I'm calling it Activity Fridays (one time it's going to be on a Thursday, but that doesn't matter). Each one will have a theme--or two themes mixed up, and each one will give us a chance to incorporate some of the fun or messy extras that just don't fit into a regular school day. This month's was a windup to our study of Turkey, and also a preparation day for Canadian Thanksgiving. So--Turkey and turkey.

These are my notes, with some comments afterwards in brackets.

A Day of Turkish Delights (and getting ready for Thanksgiving Monday)

9-9:30 Bible reading (Acts 20-13-38, Paul visits his friends from Ephesus and says farewell for the last time)
Prayer needs for Turkey (A Child’s Geography)
Turkish folk song

[This all went pretty smoothly. We ended up putting in some of our own words (in English) to the Turkish song which had a lot of "ay ay ay's" in it. Our version went something like this: "Ooh, I ate too much turkey, I ate too much stuffing, ay ay ay my stomach hu-u-urts." Apologies to those who do speak Turkish.]

Rakkas geldi meydane
(Rakkas came to the dance square)
Al bastý ak gerdane
(The white throat became red) [Our library book translates this differently]
Ay ay ay ay ay ay canlar
(Ay ay ay ay ay ay friends)
Böyle dilber gördün mü
(Have you ever seen this kind of beauty)
Ey meclis-i þahane
(Ey people)
Ay ay ay ay ay ay canlar


9:30-10 Look at weaving website
Draw designs and start weaving activity (yarn and fabric on foam-tray looms)

[Um...this was meant to be an open-ended art activity, but it ended up being a little too open-ended because we had a lot more process than we did product. But fun anyway.]

10-10:20 Make and eat Fruit Kebabs (short break)

[Cheese, pear cubes, and dried apricots on toothpicks]

10:20-10:50 Turkish Concentration Game

[This went over pretty well. I made up twelve pairs of index cards with things we had learned like "Ankara," "the capital city of Turkey," "kilim," "a Turkish carpet" and so on, and we played Concentration with them. Ponytails is VERY good at this game.]

10:50-11 Mix up popcorn (popped earlier) with molasses-spice syrup and put in to bake

[Popcorn Mix from the Seasonal Delights e-newsletter]

Continue weaving (and stirring the popcorn mixture)

11:30-12—Outdoor Games: Hopscotch with Turkish Numbers; Whirling Hula Hoops (those who have done the study will know why). Quia also offers a fun site for practicing numbers.

[They played hopscotch in the driveway (not sure what the neighbour lady thought of them yelling "Beer!" (what the Turkish number one sounds like), but anyway...)]

12-1 Lunch Break; Visit the Library at Ephesus (in the dining room)

[This meant all the library books we'd taken out about Turkey, including the books of folk tales, arranged on the dining room table.]

1-1:20 Put out Thanksgiving Decorations

[We got out the box of little pumpkins and scarecrows to decorate the front hall, and stuck up some fancy saved-up church bulletins that we use as Thanksgiving posters]

1:20-1:40 Turkish Folk Tales

[A library book--they really enjoyed these stories]

1:40-2:10 Make paper cones from scrapbook paper and fill with popcorn and candy corn in sandwich bags

[Also from Seasonal Delights; we're going to use these for Thanksgiving favours]

2:10-2:40 Turkish Checkers and/or colouring tile printouts (link from Geography book)

[Ponytails and I had already been experimenting with Turkish Checkers; I figured Crayons would probably settle for colouring. Actually we never did get time for this--making and filling eleven paper cones took us most of the rest of the afternoon, especially when we decided to teach Crayons how to braid yarn handles.]

2:40-3 House cleanups for the weekend

[20 minutes was just enough to take the top layer off, but we eventually got things looking fairly normal again.]

3-3:20 Teatime—sitting on the floor with cushions

[Self-explanatory!]

Pan pizzas

I don't make homemade pizza too often, even with a food processor around to mix the dough. Whatever I do or don't do to it, it never seems to turn out with the right "heft," or to be baked just the way I want. (And no, I don't own a pizza stone or any of those things that assure great pizza.)

But last night we made individual pizzas from the Hillbilly Housewife's Pizza Page. I made the Make-Ahead Pizza dough (you mix the yeast dry with the flour) and was pleased to note that it Was Not Sticky--that's a nice change. I rolled out and par-baked five pie-pan-sized pizzas as she recommends--don't overdo this, the last one I put in got a bit too toasty. When Mr. Fixit came in he thought I had gone out and bought pita bread, because that's what the crusts looked like when they were cooling.

I also made up a double batch of the Almost Instant Pizza Sauce (there's a little typo in the sauce--you only put sugar in once), grated some cheese, sliced up some mushrooms and salami, and opened a can of pineapple; then let everybody decorate their own pizzas. And that was it; and "YUM- honest," as Coffeemamma says.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Fraser Institute is hot on homeschooling

The Fraser Institute, an independent research and educational organization based in Canada, released its latest report on homeschooling today. Its conclusion?

"Home schooling appears to improve the academic performance of children from families with low levels of education."

"Poorly educated parents who choose to teach their children at home produce better academic results for their children than public schools do. One study we reviewed found that students taught at home by mothers who never finished high school scored a full 55 percentage points higher than public school students from families with comparable education levels."

There's more, too, and quite positive. Go check it out if you need to reassure someone.

When to buy an iron that costs as much as a plane ticket

When you're being frugal but not cheap. (Janel on Frugal Hacks.)

Oh--you mean rice and beans are meant to taste good?

Well, I guess the "rice and beans, beans and rice" guy can eat his words. (grin)

Marsha of Hot Water Bath combined a post of frugal thought with instructions for actually making good rice and beans. As she says, it was never intended to be punishment food, and it's no less frugal or financially virtuous to eat well cooked and served food (even if it's inexpensive) than it is to slop up some "Minute Rice and a can of store-brand beans, doled out to the miserable hoards looking forward to the day when mom is allowed by [that person's] advice to buy a steak (with cash!) and they can all be happy again."

Not being in the U.S. or maybe not in the right church circles, I must admit I had never heard of that particular financial advisor until fairly recently. Fascinating, though--these things do seem to go in and out of fashion. I remember two girls in my Guide company (ca. 1978) saying to our leader, "Oh, our Mom's doing the More with Less Cookbook thing," and the leader nodding her head. As always, there's the freedom, exhilaration of feeling like you've done the right thing, but also the danger of ascetism, the struggle between external and internal purity, the feeling that if you give in and do such and such, buy such and such, eat such and such, you have just lost the Battle Between the Dark and the Light forever--oops, got a bit out of hand there. (Think hair shirts, right?)

I was always most impressed by the story that Buddhist vegetarian cook Edward Espe Brown told about visiting his grandmother, and eating her M&M cookies because she'd made them with love. It would have been so easy to hurt her feelings because of a principle...and look at the more recent story that Brown himself tells here about food--I just found this accidentally while I was looking up his name. He ends it this way:
"Come to your senses. It is not the things of this world, be they chocolate or brown rice, that lead you astray. Losing your way comes from giving no mind to what is present while chasing after imaginary pleasures which are illusive and unobtainable. To wake up is to know what is already yours."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Apple Butter Pie...or Pumpkin Butter Pie

I made one of these old-fashioned pies last night for a dinnertime treat...I had wanted to make apple pie but most of the apples had gotten eaten (need to stock up at the farm stand), so this was a good second choice. If you don't have apple butter (which is thicker and sweeter than applesauce--it's like cider cooked down to a spreadable consistency), you can use homemade pumpkin butter for a different taste.

Lotvarrick Pie (Apple Butter Pie), from Food That Really Schmecks by Edna Staebler

Pastry for a 9-inch pie (pat-in pastry works fine)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple butter
2 eggs, beaten
4 tbsp. butter, melted (I used margarine)
1 tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 cups milk
1/4 tsp. nutmeg for sprinkling

Mix the sugar, flour, soda and cream of tartar; blend in the melted butter, add the beaten eggs, apple butter, then the milk. Pour carefully into the pie shell and sprinkle with the nutmeg. Bake 10 minutes at 425 degress, then about 40 minutes at 350 degrees or until the custard is set (check with a paring knife). Although it's pretty when it comes out all puffed up, the pie is actually better if it's allowed to chill for awhile or even if you can make it the day before--like some pumpkin pies, it seems to slice better once it's had time to set.

Now a couple of warnings, from my own experience. First of all, this amount of filling will fill a good-sized deep-dish shell. If you have a small 9-inch pie pan, you might consider making two crusts and dividing the filling to avoid overflow. Another good idea is to put the whole thing on a cookie sheet before filling, just in case.

Also, if the filling does swish around the crust too much, you might end up with a bit of too-dark pie around the edges. Just slice off any black edge, and savour the rest--maybe with a small blob of whipped cream on top.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Crayons reinterprets Aesop

Crayons was narrating from Milo Winter's version of The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse.

I read this: "When they reached the mansion in which the Town Mouse lived, they found on the table in the dining room the leavings of a very fine banquet. There were sweetmeats and jellies, pastries, delicious cheeses, indeed, the most tempting foods that a Mouse can imagine."

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."

At the end I read, "The Country Mouse stopped in the Town Mouse's den only long enough to pick up her carpet bag and umbrella."

Crayons narrated, "She stopped to pick up her sleeping bag and umbrella."

Well, it made more sense to her!

Art AND Nature Study

The multi-talented Barb at Heart of Harmony has started a new blog specifically for her family's adventures using Anna Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study. She also has a good photo post at Heart of Harmony showing some of their recent finds and their notebooks.

PLUS: today is Sketch Tuesday at Heart of Harmony, so you can go see what everybody found to draw in their kitchen cupboards. Not posted quite yet, but sometime today.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Homeschool Blog Awards has some homework for you


Check in at the HBA site to see what your assignments are. There's also a graphic you can use for this year's awards.

And stay tuned.

Bean Dip?

Again, not a recipe--sorry! "Pass the bean dip" refers to a quick technique for deflecting too-personal questions from people who have no business asking them. Like the lady you've never met before at your husband's company party who asks you if you aren't concerned that your kids aren't going to get into college. To which you give a quick reply and then ask if she wants some...

Hat tip to Sebastian who links to The Happy Homeschooler's essay on the merits of bean dip.

Got friends?

Or cooking for the youth group weekend?

You can get some tips from the Deputy Headmistress, who will be sharing her recipes-for-twenty (family plus guests) all week.