Saturday, January 30, 2010

January Grocery Challenge: Windup and Blessings

Our grocery calculator: Mr. Fixit spent another $106 at the supermarket a couple of nights ago (how does he manage to spend exactly that much?--you'd think he was watching the gas pump), and I threw in $6 yesterday for some dessert treats from the Portuguese grocery near our homeschool co-op. I found it somehow appropriate that we just finished off a big bag of powdered milk (finished it making hot chocolate mix)...it seemed to say that it was definitely time for a grocery run.

So today we headed for the discount supermarket. I guess we'd count that in with January's food costs, wouldn't we? Even though we'll eat most of it after January. Anyway, it was an amazing trip. We spent $112.58 for a lot of food, including the big bag of milk powder; there was even an unexpected $5 discount for spending over a certain amount. I felt like what we got today was an unexpected blessing--maybe you'd call it a benediction on the month. A reassurance.

Jan. 2: 60.38
Jan. 7: 100.00
Jan. 9: 107.88
Jan. 13: 117.24
Jan. 21: 106.00
Jan. 23: 25.00
Jan. 28: 106.00
Jan. 29: 6.00
Jan. 30: 112.58

TOTAL FOR JANUARY: $741.08.

Total failure to eat from the pantry? Too many bad choices? Actually, no. I'm looking at it like this: we spent between $140 and $170 (Canadian) a week to feed the five of us, counting in non-food items but not counting meals or snacks eaten away from home--there were a few. That's better than some weeks last year when we were averaging more like $200 a week. This isn't an apology for not keeping up with the likes of Gayle, but it's not an admittance of defeat either. We did all right this month. We "used things up" as creatively as we could. I even got back to sprouting lentils.

And you know what? I'm going to try to keep it up during February--cook and eat from what we have first, even if we continue to restock some things. I won't be blogging about it as often, but I'll still be trying.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Coming Up: Treehouse Review Week

Treehouse Review Week
Since I have a number of Review Crew reviews all coming up soon, I'm going to post as many as I can over the next week, starting Monday morning. What did we like? What didn't work so well? Watch for the Review Week header.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Charlotte Mason blog to visit

Restoration Place: books, books, CM, crafts, nature, narrations, family life--did I mention books? A good place to visit.

Don't forget, we'll be hosting the CM Blog Carnival here next Tuesday. I've been getting a ton of educationalish spam, but there have also been a few REAL posts--thank you, keep them coming!

First pork rinds, now fish heads--yum, hOmSkoolR lUnch

The Deputy Headmistress responds to an ongoing conversation about what it means to homeschool for religious reasons--and if that should be any concern of anyone outside of the family involved. In other words, it's about picking on the conservative Christians again. Never mind that people of OTHER faiths homeschool too.

You'll have to read to the end for the fish heads part.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Solved our peg problem

Remember our problem of the missing pegs?

I was cleaning out some school stuff and toys this week, and found a solution:

Mastermind pegs.

We had a whole bagful of them, and no board. The pegs shown in that article are pastel-coloured, but ours are from an old game that used primary colours--the same as the ones in the game-board box.

I was glad to find something a little less dangerous than push-pins.

Groceries and Menus: January Grocery Challenge

I thought we were supposed to be close to the bottom of the pantry by this point in January. Somehow, like a mysterious multiplying jar, the freezer and the cupboards have ended up with more in them than I expected. I think the only point to that is that, even when we think we're buying just the basics, we still often have more food than we need. Sometimes that's a good thing--there are always weeks when someone's sick or the weather's too bad to want to do much grocery shopping. But it does make you think.

Monday's dinner: Sesame Seed bread, frozen fish, broccoli, half a bag of perogies. Canned pears and leftover raisin bars.

Tuesday's dinner: A Year of Crockpotting's Sloppy Joes, on homemade rolls. (We have a late-afternoon errand and I do not want to have to come home after that and cook.) Frozen green beans.

Ideas for the rest of the week...

Meatloaf...I like the idea of this cheese-stuffed meatloaf (seen here), but my family is partial to the regular old Betty Crocker recipe. Pancakes and bacon? Chicken? Tuna wrapup? I'd make a pizza or pizza rollups, but we've had a lot of bread lately, so maybe not. I'm thinking spinach lasagna, maybe with homemade ricotta cheese. Or quiche and baked potatoes.

I guess we'll figure it out as we go along.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY... Monday, January 25, 2010

Outside my window... It's been rainy, cold, damp, distressing, but there was snow blowing around this morning.

I am thinking... about a particular Treehouse we're considering. Treehouse-hunting is a bit like single people going out and hoping that the next one you meet might be "the one." Because it could be--you never know. On the other hand, we've looked at a lot of places, and a lot of them have turned out to be in the wrong kind of trees or to cost more acorns than we have piled up. Or other rodents have moved in before we had quite finished making up our minds. So that kind of tempers the "could be" with "wait and see."

I am thankful for... not having had to take or send kids to school in the wet today.

I am wearing... jeans and a sweater. (But you could have guessed that.)

I am remembering... Christmas. A Month Ago Already.

I am going...to find some more stuff to send to the thrift shop or out to the curb. Because it's been That Kind of a Week around here, and once you get started you keep seeing more stuff that really isn't earning its keep.

I am currently reading... Hannah Coulter, by Wendell Berry

I am hoping... that my kids will get over their recurring viruses and assorted yuckies soon and that we can get caught up with school. That I can get finished last year's afghan in the next couple of days (almost there, it got put on hold for awhile).

On my mind...the lady the DHM posted about who survived the whole Haiti earthquake and then came home and broke her arm. A homeschool mom of eleven who broke her leg in a car accident on the weekend. People with a lot bigger things to worry about than I have.

Noticing that... the breadmaker is making noises like a machine gun, even when I add more liquid--I wonder how many loaves it has left in it.

Pondering these words...
"The epiphany came the day of a dinner party I'd been planning. First thing that morning I set out for our local farmer's market, picturing in my mind the delicious ratatouille I would prepare. But at the market I couldn't find what I wanted: both the eggplant and the zucchini looked wilted and beat-up. Feeling cross, I was forced to abandon my shopping list and take another look around. When I did I saw fresh lettuces, mushrooms, goat cheese, watercress, scrumptious flame-red and yellow tomatoes, herbs, crisp radishes, crusty loaves of newly baked bread. I realized that all the makings of a wonderfully fresh salad extravaganza were right there in front of me. Even now, years later, my friends rave about the meal I served that night."--Sarah Ban Breathnach, The Simple Abundance Companion.
(Note: I'm not a real fan of those books, and this one--from a yard sale--was about to go out the door again, but I started flipping through it and found a couple of passages I liked.)

From the kitchen... Sesame Seed Bread. Last of the bag of sesame seeds.

Around the house... well, it's just a bit emptier than it has been.

One of my favorite things... Mission Impossible, six old episodes we have on VHS. We've seen them before but it's been long enough that I forget exactly what's going to happen next.

Visit our hostess at http://thesimplewomansdaybook.blogspot.com/.

Frugal Roundup for Monday

Five frugal posts you might want to check out:

Mrs. White at The Legacy of Home wants to be a Waltons Mom.

The Sweetbriar Patch found a fun way to involve her kids in grocery planning.

Not Just Leftovers has leftovers on top of leftovers.

Old Days Old Ways attempts a Thrift Store Quilt Rescue.

A Soft Place to Land is Decorating WITH Children. (That includes Star Wars guys.)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Grocery Challenge Continues

Grocery trips this week: Mr. Fixit spent $106 at the indie supermarket Thursday night, and I added another $25 worth this morning. If that still sounds like a lot of money, I think we actually have been cutting back on overall amounts, and we have been thinning out some of the back-of-the-cupboard stuff.

Last night's dinner (we had a guest): Applesauce chicken, brown rice, raw zucchini and carrots with dip, homemade bread, raisin bars, and leftover lemonade gelatin cubes for anybody that wanted them.

Tonight: it's mild enough that Mr. Fixit is planning on barbecuing. Yeah!

Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting (TOS Review)

Today, January 23rd, is National Handwriting Day.

Do you enjoy writing by hand?


We have been reviewing three products from Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting.

But let's go back for a minute to a turn-of-the-last-century couple named Bridges. Robert Bridges was a poet laureate. Mary Monica Waterhouse Bridges (otherwise known as M.M. Bridges) was an expert calligrapher who wrote A New Handwriting For Teachers. You can read some of her notes and see images from her book on the Ambleside Online website.

Charlotte Mason appreciated what "Mrs. Bridges" was trying to do in both simplifying and beautifying the handwriting that children were being taught:
"A 'New Handwriting.'--Some years ago I heard of a lady who was elaborating, by means of the study of old Italian and other manuscripts, a 'system of beautiful handwriting' which could be taught to children. I waited patiently, though not without some urgency, for the production of this new kind of 'copy-book.' The need for such an effort was very great, for the distinctly commonplace writing taught from existing copy-books, however painstaking and legible, cannot but have a rather vulgarising effect both on the writer and the reader of such manuscript. At last the lady, Mrs Robert Bridges, has succeeded in her tedious and difficult undertaking, and this book for teachers will enable them to teach their pupils a style of writing which is pleasant to acquire because it is beautiful to behold. It is surprising how quickly young children, even those already confirmed in 'ugly' writing, take to this 'new handwriting.'"--From Home Education (Volume 1) by Charlotte Mason, pages 236-238.
Although I know there are many styles and systems of handwriting out there, and that several of them have worked well for CM homeschoolers, this is the first one that has appealed to me enough to want to take it on with one of my children, and the first one I've seen that seems to have both the sense of "beauty" that Charlotte Mason wanted, along with an acceptably contemporary style. That may sound funny considering that the Barchowsky style is less "loopy" than even my school-taught cursive, but a simpler style can have its own gracefulness. And who's to say that every letter in a word has to be hooked up to every other letter? (The Barchowsky method suggests a break after every four or five letters, to increase legibility.) There are a lot of handwriting ideas that I've taken for granted ever since my own school days, but they're not necessarily the only way to do things.

Years ago, The Apprentice tried out an italic system of printing; her handwriting still shows the scuff marks of that battle. Since then the Squirrelings' copywork has been rendered in their version of Mama Squirrel's best "painstaking and legible" fifth-grade-style cursive. For actual handwriting instruction, we've used a very standard workbook series and some online freebies. Still, our results have been something short of "beautiful," especially outside of handwriting lessons.

But it was time to try again.

I have to say that Barchowsky isn't an open-the-book-and-teach program. And what makes it especially difficult to start a whole new handwriting system is that most of us already write some other form of cursive--so when you're first checking out the program, you're having to retrain your own brain as well as figure out what your student is going to do. At first it seems that there are no set lessons--it's designed that way so that it can be useful to students of all ages and be used at your own pace, which makes it flexible but a bit confusing at first. The teacher has to do some homework ahead of time; but there are ways to get started without too much pain--see below.
We received all three Barchowsky products, and at first I wasn't sure what to do with the BIG package of wipe-off practice sheets. (They're coated so you can use them with a wipe-off marker.) My youngest is in the third grade, after all. But one of last year's Review Crew mentioned that she had used them with an eight-year-old, so I decided to give them a try along with the main program. We use the suggested little chants (things like "down, bounce up, down, bounce up") to get the feel of the letters, and we're just working through them, one per lesson. (We're a bit beyond the suggested cornmeal and shaving cream activities, but they'd be helpful with younger ones.)


This manual is the key to the whole program--especially the CD-Rom included in the back of the book (one each for Windows and Mac). The theory of the program is all in the manual; but the worksheets--a great variety of them, some of them customizable--are on the CD-Rom, and we've been combining those with the large Beginners sheets. There are also brief videos of students' hands--both right and left handed--writing, holding pencils, etc., along with comments about what they're doing correctly and what could be improved. The book itself contains lots of ideas and examples for continuing handwriting practice, which will probably make more sense once you've gotten started. You can also order a download of the font itself, which would allow you to make your own worksheets.

So although you'd have to buy both the Beginners and the main package to get this combination, I think it's a good option if you have a mid-elementary-age child AND you need a kickstart to begin teaching with the program. Younger children would probably be fine with just the big sheets--you do get a helpful little teacher's guide with them, and I've been using that more than I have the main book.

We also received the "adult" or "remedial" package, Fix It Write. The Apprentice had been asking me if I could find her something that would help her write her high school notes faster and clearer, and this sounded like a good possibility. Between end-of-semester exams and everything else lately, she hasn't had much time to do more than look through the package; I think I'm going to have to write a separate review for that one. She did comment that she also would have liked to see more reproducible pages instead of instructions to draw lines so-far-apart on paper and then practice patterns on those. I told her that there were probably some sheets she could print out from the CD-Rom that would make it easier--but again, this is going to have to wait until chemistry and physics are done. UPDATE: there's a special Fix It Write site with sample pages and some interesting animation.

The price of all this: BFH Fluent Handwriting Manual with CD-ROM (the main package) is US$65.95. Beginners' Handwriting with Teacher's Guide (the booklet I mentioned) is $29.95. An extra set of large sheets, sold only with the purchase of a complete Beginner's set, is $20.00. (One comment--I don't understand the reasoning behind that. If our sheets were worn out after one child and I wanted to buy another set a couple of years down the road, why couldn't I buy just the sheets?) Barchowsky Exemplar Fonts (Download) are $25.00. Fix It... Write (the adult program) is $19.95.

Final Take: I'm happy we got to try this--this seems to be the year of improving our spelling, improving our handwriting. I wish Crayons would have had the chance to start it a couple of years ago, but since she is still only partway through learning the "regular" cursive letters, I don't think she'll have a problem trying to relearn some of them--and in fact, the hard ones are the ones that Barchowsky simplifies (like lower-case S). I'm not sure how I feel about the price--it sounds high, but it's probably comparable to other complete programs out there.

For more reviews of this product, see the Review Crew Home Page.

Dewey's Disclaimer: These products were received free for purposes of review. No other payment was made. The opinions expressed in this review are our own.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

I have posted this before, but Katie wanted to know.

Here's the link to the homemade mix we use most often: Hillbilly Housewife's Hot Cocoa Mix.

Hey, Tina, that wasn't very nice

The Tina's Groove comic strip for today contains a nice insult for homeschoolers everywhere.

Shall we all go out and complain? Oh, that's right, we can't find our front doors. Okay then--how about emailing Rina Piccolo? (Link fixed.)

MCC Collecting Relief Kits for Haiti

Something you can do, especially if you live near an MCC office.

Contents (NEW items only)
•4 large bars bath soap (leave in wrapping)
•1 plastic bottle shampoo (380-710ml / 13-24oz; place bottle in a re-sealable plastic bag)
•4 large bars of laundry soap (Some stores carry Fels Naptha, Sunlight or Zote brands; contact your local MCC warehouse with questions)
•1 squeeze-tube toothpaste (minimum 130ml / 6oz; leave in box)
•4 adult-size toothbrushes (leave in packaging)
•4 new bath towels (medium weight, dark or bright colors)
•2 wide-tooth combs(6 to 8in / 15 to 20cm)
•1 fingernail clipper
•1 box adhesive bandages (minimum 40, assorted)
•1 package sanitary pads (18-24 thin maxi)

Place contents in a box or bag and deliver to one of the drop-off locations in Canada or the U.S. The kit will be re-packed in a new 5-gallon plastic pail with lid.

For more details, see the MCC website.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Squirrel Appreciation Day

Did you know that was today?

Now you do. (Thanks, Debi.)

Getting a bit low on groceries (January Grocery Challenge)

Mr. Fixit will probably be going out for the midweek grocery run tonight. We did pretty well this week--didn't have any food trips since last Thursday.

Tonight's dinner: Leftover chicken/salsa from last night; hot dogs; peas. (Thursday is our light-cook night anyway since The Apprentice isn't home for dinner.) Also making: bread in the bread machine, pink lemonade gelatin cubes (from an idea in the Tightwad Gazette).

Have you heard of Liping Ma?

Denise at the Let's Play Math Blog posts about a new edition of Ma's book Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics. She also provides links to a number of related reviews and articles, including "What Do You Need to Know to Teach Your Child Elementary Mathematics?" by Jennifer Dees.

This is must-read, must-think stuff for homeschoolers--especially if we're feeling caught up in that question of whether our math teaching is just "shopkeeper arithmetic." On the other hand, a certain amount of "shopkeeper arithmetic" might not be a bad skill to have. (If all kids learn how to do is combine socks, we may be in trouble.)

The Common Room on conditions in Haiti

The Common Room does a fantastic job (as usual) rounding up information.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Around the Treehouse

January Grocery Challenge: Last night's dinner was reheated Perogy Lasagna, sausage and sauerkraut from the Crockpot, carrot sticks, and no-bake brownies. Tonight: A pound of ground chicken baked with salsa and the one green pepper in the fridge--I'm also planning on using a few leftover flour tortillas, cut up--they'll probably go on top to get crispy near the end. There's also a casserole of brown rice in the oven, and a pan of orange-cranberry bread made with some end-of-the-bag dried cranberries and coconut that I found at the back of the cupboard.

What Crayons has been/is doing: Stringing a necklace of food-colouring-dyed navy beans. (From the Science Book for Girls.) Playing in the snow. Making a bridge out of building blocks to go with her geography lesson. Listening to Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. Learning about Roman numerals.

What the Apprentice is doing: Taking a voice lesson. Getting ready for end-of-semester exams.

What Ponytails is doing: I'll let her do her own post.

Define frugality

Jenn at Frugal Upstate offers a well-considered definition.

Here's a frugal blog you might not have seen: Living the Low-Income Life.

And here's a bonus: the first Tightwad Gazette editorial by Amy Dacyczyn, free online. (And more frugal stuff on that site.)

In memory of Kate McGarrigle

Canadian singer Kate McGarrigle has passed away.





New Baby in the Blogworld

Welcome to the new arrival at A Year of Crockpotting!

To quote Steph: "Labor and delivery was easy, although it felt as if I had been in labor for weeks and weeks. I think she may have been taking the term "slow cooking" a bit too seriously. :-)"

Figures.

Congratulations!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Another blog I like: Home.Kids.Life

Home.Kids.Life: storage, family, frugal stuff, this and that.

"Come for an idea. Stay for a laugh. Find articles, product reviews, tips, steps, a little of this, a little of that, and some fluff. It's everything that happens with home.kids.life."

Sample post: Christmas Storage Without a Basement. Photos too! Another good post: Frozen Balls of Dough (about making cookies).

Hard to say, but worth the visit

Blog of note: The Recycleista has a blog featuring her frugal finds. Sample post: A hanky-a-day Mother Goose book. (Two of our favourite things!)

On carnivals and spammers

Holistic Homeschooler hosts this week's Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival.

As noted at the end, we'll be hosting the next one (in two weeks). You can send CM-related submissions here.

In the few hours I've already received five submissions for the carnival. Four of them are obviously spam.

They're getting better and better at it, aren't they?

Sigh.

At least maybe that will take care of them for this round.

When the essential is invisible

Books and Bairns posted a gem recently: "If you have eyes to see."
"Before long, you are looking at your old couch--which has hosted some of the best moments of your family's homeschooling history on its worn, welcoming lap--and wondering how it looks to eyes that don't see the beauty of a thousand read-alouds, of sick babies comforted, of anxieties soothed, of 'Momma, can I get a cuddle?'"

JUMP Math Scores Again

We posted before about John Mighton and his JUMP Math program, back in 2007.

It's not a program we're currently using, although I was very impressed with the downloadable Fractions unit that we tried out at that time. It seemed like a great way to teach kids whose math anxiety makes them shut down before they've even really looked at the problems. They're sure that they won't be able to do whatever it is, but then you show them that, on the first page of a lesson, all they have to do is identify which subtraction problems would need regrouping. Oh--okay. I can do that. Then you build up, step by step. Ponytails also used some JUMP materials last year (when she was at public school) and liked them.

The Globe and Mail ran a good article this past weekend about JUMP. The contrast between a public school teacher's idea of a good problem and the JUMP approach is almost scary:
"[The] curriculum co-ordinator....says research shows that the best way to help kids understand a concept is to come up with a rich, conceptual problem that everyone in the class can help solve.

"Last year, for example, she visited the class of a primary-school teacher who had noticed that all the kids were wearing odd socks. The teacher came up with the concept of a sock factory, and the kids all brought in socks. Each child was given a different number of socks and their task, as a group, was to find a strategy that would combine them."
Teachers get rewarded for coming up with that stuff. It's like that teacher's magazine example Mary Pride used in Schoolproof about suggesting that the teacher find a great big pair of shoes (colourful if possible) and having the children measure feet to see who might fit them, write stories about the shoes, and so on. As Mary pointed out, what the children learned from that experience was probably not worth the trouble of finding the big shoes.

But you know what? I don't even understand that task, as it's described there. Much less what it has to do with primary-school math. Or why all the kids were wearing odd socks--is that a fashion thing, or is that neighbourhood so impoverished that we had better start paying as much attention to underclothed schoolchildren as we do to their math learning?

Contrast that with one of John Mighton's classes:
"Every hand in the class shoots up. The number 121,252 is not divisible by nine, one student tells him, and the remainder will be four.

"'You are brilliant,' he tells them. 'You are all brilliant.'"
Mama Squirrel's take: I would rather be brilliant in John Mighton's class than fool around with strategies of socks.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Treehouse Suppertimes (January Grocery Challenge)

Where were we...Saturday's supper was leftovers. And ice cream with hot fudge sauce.

Sunday: Swiss Steak (Mr. Fixit made that), mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, and a pie that Grandpa Squirrel brought.

Tonight: Leftover meat and gravy from Sunday; Perogy Lasagna; peas.

Tuesday: Probably going to be something in the Crockpot, since we have some late-afternoon errands.

Who was Alice (Sally) Rebecca Brooks McGuire?, and an online books treasure trove

She was a children's librarian who started the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books in the 1940's. You can read more about her here.

I also found some information about her in Pioneers and leaders in library services to youth: a biographical dictionary, by Marilyn Lea Miller, which comes up on Google books. It says there:
When she died suddenly in 1975, Alice Brooks McGuire left a rich professional legacy built on her intellectual acumen and her uncompromising sense of values. She also left a host of friends who remembered her zest for life, her animation and enthusiasm, her contagious laughter, her wit, and her lively interest in new scenes and new activities, and above all, her integrity and great respect for all people. One close colleague, Sara Fenwick, said in In Celebration of Alice Brooks McGuire (p. 22), "To all of us she exemplified an approach to the continuity of living and learning and giving that we would cherish."
If you're into vintage book stumpers or just like to read about mid-20th-century children's books, you can read quite a few of the early (hand-typed!) bulletins online. Some of the reviews are quite blunt! They kind of remind me of Anatole the mouse's cheese notes: "Excellent. Not so good. Put in cucumber seeds." Maybe they'll even help solve some long-lost book questions.

UPDATE: I figured out a way to make the bulletins searchable: use Google's site-search function along with whatever author, title or key word you're looking for. For example, "site:ideals.illinois.edu mcswigan" (no quotation marks) will bring up all the books on the site by Marie McSwigan.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Should have read the e-notes first

One book I'm not going to hang onto: Waterland, by Graham Swift. I found it at a thrift shop and picked it up for the dumb reason that the binding reminded me of a couple of other good novels I have.

How come all the good stories have so much heavyduty STUFF in them?

I guess I should have checked the e-notes first. (So this means that this book is being read in schools? Oh. my. goodness.)

Thrift shop wanderings, and a peg problem

We went to a different thrift store this morning--one that has been known to jack up prices but which sometimes has surprises.

Surprise! Crayons found an adorable stuffed raccoon for a quarter. Mama Squirrel found a 48-pack of chalk pastels ($1), a box of art charcoal ($1), a Paddington book we didn't have (50 cents), a Madeline CD-Rom ($1), and an Amazing Game Board Book. One of those kits that has some version of every game you've ever thought of, only this set is all magnetic/pegs for travelling.

Surprise! It's missing a couple of magnetic checkers (not hard to fix), the die (easy to fix), the wipeoff pen (easy to fix), and all its plastic pegs.

Those little coloured things have to fit into very small holes in a board. They're like those little teeny pegs I've seen in dollar-store travel games, but we don't have any of those around to scavenge from...what could we substitute?

Not recommended if you have little ones around, obviously...or anyone who gets seriously annoyed over losing at Chinese Checkers...and yes, the sharp ends are going to poke holes through the cardboard bottom of the board, because they're longer than the real pegs...but in a $2 thrift shopped set, who cares?

If anyone out there has a less lethal idea for replacing the pegs, let me know. (Remember, they have to be small and fit into a very small hole.) I'm thinking about keeping my eyes open at the dollar store, or maybe at upcoming rummage sales--we might find a cheap travel game to use just for the pegs.

UPDATE: we found a solution.

Blog Wanderings

Visit and ponder: when necessity "forces" a better lifestyle, at Coffee Tea Books and Me.

Haiti earthquake updates at The Common Room.

Jeanne muses on geography, literature, and Trivial Pursuit.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Groceries and keeping perspective on things (January Grocery Challenge)

Last night's dinner: leftovers and hot dogs. Canned pineapple. A new version of run-it-through-the-food-processor balls, made with dates, hot chocolate mix, graham crackers, orange juice, and marshmallows that were getting too sticky.

Planned tonight: spinach-beef-salsa tortillas. (Easy to make after co-op.)

Grocery trips: Mr. Fixit went out last night for the midweek-with-Grandpa trip to the indie supermarket, which will also count as our weekend trip. He spent $117.24. I'm not really in the mood to boast or grouse about the good and bad deals there. We have food. This week that seems more than enough.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti earthquake and Mennonite Central Committee

This Canadian nurse was among the victims of the earthquake.

There are many ways to contribute--MCC is one of them.

Supper tonight? (January Grocery Challenge)

Applesauce Chicken Thighs with leftover sweet potatoes added in; Blender Popovers; spinach.

One thing the popover recipe doesn't mention, that I do because that's how I learned to do it, is heat the greased muffin pan in the oven as it heats up and as you're mixing the batter. When both the oven and the pan are hot (but not smoking--if it starts to smell, take it out), CAREFULLY take the pan out and CAREFULLY fill the holes with batter. Then bake at 450 degrees until the popovers are about as big as they're going to get, and turn it down to 350 until they're finished (maybe not as long as the recipe says--depends on how big they are).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

Week's Work for Ponytails and Crayons

Oops--I had this timed to publish and didn't get it all fixed up quite right. I've made some corrections to Ponytails' work for this week.

Group reading: 101 Famous Poems, Bible stories, Mr. Pipes, The Adventures of Don Quixote, Swiss Family Robinson, The Pond on My Windowsill, Edvard Grieg: Boy of the Northland, and health (skin, hair and nails unit).


Week's Work for Crayons:

Monday:

Keyboarding: Keyboarding for the Christian School, Elementary level.
Math: Starting addition review with Math Mammoth Grade Three
Spelling: All About Spelling, Level 2
Handwriting: Continue working on Barchowsky pre-writing exercises
Literature: At the Back of the North Wind; Mom reading, Crayons drawing narrations.
Science: Continue reading The Science Book for Girls
Extra reading list

Tuesday:

Math
Geography: Continue the lessons about rivers.
Literature: Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare, continue The Taming of the Shrew
Math drill: FactsFirst website
Memory work: Carl Sandburg poem
Handwriting: Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting
Music: Kinderbach on the computer. (We tried again with this at the end of last week, but had some problems getting the lessons to run. Time for one more go with it.)
Extra reading

Wednesday:

Spelling: Lesson 15
Canadian History: chapter 12, with Mom
Math: continue addition
Math drill: MathScore
Literature: At the Back of the North Wind, chapter 4
Keyboarding: Lesson 4
Handwriting
Extra reading

Thursday:

Math drill: FactsFirst
Math: continue addition
Kinderbach
Literature: Continue Shakespeare story
Science: continue reading the book
Memory work
Handwriting
Extra reading

Friday:

Math drill: MathScore (trial ends this weekend)
Math: continue the Math Mammoth work
Spelling: Lesson 16
Handwriting
Geography: Rivers chapter 3
Literature: At the Back of the North Wind, chapter 5
Keyboarding: Lesson 5
Extra reading
Afternoon co-op

Ponytails' Week

Monday:

Math and science as assigned by Dad (watching DVD math lessons (those are going faster than I expected), doing experiments)
History: Continue Abraham Lincoln's World
Composition: Continue lesson on personal letters
French: working on verbs with Mom
Memory work: choose poem to memorize
Extra reading list

Tuesday:

Math, science, history
Logic: The Fallacy Detective
Math drill: MathScore
Keyboarding: Keyboarding for the Christian School, Lesson 3
Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting: looked at the lessons for older students, but wasn't too interested--decided to use Presidential Penmanship for awhile instead.
Extra reading

Wednesday:

Math, science, history
Plutarch's Life of Poplicola
Composition: Write with the Best, lesson on writing letters
French: Moving on to some new work!
Math drill: MathScore
Handwriting: Presidential Penmanship
Extra reading


Thursday:

Math, science, history
Composition: continue the lesson
Analogies Book 1
Math drill: MathScore
Keyboarding
Analogies
Composition
Extra reading

Friday:

Math, science, history
Composition
French
Free computer time
Memory work
Handwriting (working on Presidential Penmanship copywork)
Extra reading
Afternoon co-op

Two from Harmony Art Mom--and a giveaway

Barb at Harmony Art Mom has a couple of good posts up: a review of Prismacolor pens (plus a giveaway), and "Who says high schoolers don't use crayons?". That last one has a link to Ellen McHenry's Basement Workshop--a site I like too. Ellen has just amazing downloadable, printable games and models for all kinds of school subjects.

Thrift shop differences

Like the DHM, I like shopping at thrift shops.

But as I've posted before, there are thrift shops and then there are thrift shops. The name of the store or the church denomination running the place isn't always enough of a clue. You just have to get to know the shops in your area--and what a "reasonable" thrift shop price is.

We went to two different thrift stores yesterday--it's still too early in the year for rummage sales. At the first one, I spent so much on two books and two videos (not checking the price carefully enough before I got to the cash) that I had to leave the blouse I'd found behind. The books were still relatively cheap--that is, no more than you'd pay for similar books from a chain bookstore's promo table--but in thrift shop terms, they were marked up too much. The blouse was also more than I was really happy with, so I was just as glad to leave it. That's the store where we found the makings for the glass hurricane lamp, and the nutmeg jar, so it's true we have found nice things there--but the kinds of things we happen to like best are often too expensive.

The second store, though--it's been one of my favourites for about the past year. It makes me a bit sad, in a way, that people get rid of so many great craft supplies, and almost untouched needlework kits (I buy them just for the embroidery floss), and bags of beads obviously picked out and bought specially for some project that never got off the ground. But it's good for the thrift shoppers, anyway--I got a roll of lace, bias tape, a bagful of daisy appliques and other small oddments, and a couple of balls of crochet cotton. Each of those things was 25 or 50 cents. And I found a Cherry Ames book for 50 cents, and Ponytails found me a red sweater.

You can get in and out of there and feel like you've found something unique and wonderful, for a couple of dollars--rather than feeling like you've just bought some else's mistake. I can't put my finger on the difference, exactly--but you'll know it when you've found it.

If you don't like thrift shops--at least the ones you've been in--go out of your way a bit and see what else is out there. You might strike gold thread.

A Frugal Site to Bookmark

Not Just Leftovers--Brand New Meals

Recent post: "Dinner from the 'Remains.'"

My mind, my acorn pile: Trying out Math Mammoth

The third (final) year of Miquon Math is always the hardest here--and it doesn't seem to matter exactly how old the Squirreling is. Possibly it's the year with the oddest assortment of topics, coming at an age when more typical third-grade math programs concentrate most on operations (along with some time-telling, money and measurement). As I described earlier in the year, I broke down the year's work by weeks and topics, wrote each week's work on a file card, and added notes of possible supplements. It hasn't been bad--we're on track with the cards, and the Mathemagic book is a real success--but I've still been feeling that, even with computer drill games and Calculadder work, there are still some holes in Crayons' math understanding. Not that anybody needs to panic at this age, but I get the impression from her too that math lessons are somewhat less than delightful. I wonder too if, in one sense, she really does know what she thinks she doesn't know, simply because it's not all straight in her head. I think that's what made All About Spelling a success over the past couple of months: she needed to gain some confidence but also to organize some of the knowledge she had stored up so that she could pull it out and use it. It might be that Timmy-Tiptoes part of being a Squirrel: dropping those nuts down deep through the hole in the tree, but not being sure exactly what went down there, or how you're going to get them out again later.

And besides, I know that, one way or another, we're going to be looking for another curriculum for fourth grade and up, because Miquon will be done. There are so many things out there to try now: Math-U-See, Right Start, Life of Fred, Saxon, JUMP, Mathematics Enhancement Programme--everybody has their favourites.

So when the Review Crew offered us the chance to try out one of Math Mammoth's full-curriculum workbooks, that didn't sound like a bad thing at all. We decided to go with MM's Light Blue series for third grade--starting today with an addition review.

This isn't a review yet, but there will be one when we have shaken up the acorns enough.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Week's Groceries (January Grocery Challenge)

No photos this week, you'll have to use your imagination.

Last weekend we spent about $60.

Mr. Fixit went out grocery shopping with Grandpa Squirrel a few nights ago, and brought back about $100 worth of freezer meat, milk, bananas and a few other things.

Today we went to the discount supermarket and spent $107.88. If you wonder how we spent that much, it's not that hard...sigh. And they were having a sale, too.

This is what we brought home. Some of it's frugal. Some of it's not. That's what you get when everybody goes shopping.


5 lb. whole wheat flour $2.97 (pretty good price)
Flour tortillas $1.99
2 loaves bread @$1.47 ea.: $2.94
Hot dog buns, $1.99
2 bags bagels @1 ea., $2

1 pomegranate $.99
Blueberries $2
Bananas $1.68

Baby-peeled carrots .99
Sweet potatoes $1.75
Celery $1.99
Spinach $1.67
Broccoli $1
Mushrooms $1.52

Tomato soup, $.59 x 2, $1.18
Canned soups (the kind Mr. Fixit can eat), 4 x $2, $8
Can of baked beans .69
Salmon fillets, $5.99

Generic oati-o's $1.99
Generic coffee whitener (to use in drink mixes) $2.79
Molasses, $2.99
Kraft peanut butter, on sale, 2 kg at $2/kg $4
Bag of lentils $1.69
Whipped white stuff we use instead of mayonnaise because of egg and soy sensitivities and not because we think it's good for you: $2.79
Bottled salad dressing $1.49
Hot chocolate mix for emergencies $1.99
Coffee filters $1.79

Shredded cheese, 200 g $2
Parmesan cheese .99
1 bar mozzarella, $5.99
4 L milk, 3.97
Cottage cheese $1.99
Butter $2.97

Frozen lemonade $1
Carton of blueberry juice $1

Potato chips $1.79
3 frozen pasta meals for The Apprentice, 3 at $1, $3
1 frozen pizza, $5.99
Ice Cream, $2.87

Dish soap, $3.49
Shampoo, $2.29
Laundry soap, $3.99

Tax, about $2

Friday, January 08, 2010

What I like about homeschooling (and a thought on instant potatoes)

What I like about homeschooling: that you can CHANGE things if you need to.

It's Friday, we've had a full week, and since I planned out the term's work by days instead of dates, Day 5's work will keep till Monday. This morning we're only going to do math (Ponytails has a DVD lesson to watch, Crayons is doing a placement test) and get ready for this afternoon's co-op. Mama Squirrel has volunteered to do music and a quick craft with the littlest ones, and the Squirrelings will be doing gym and other things with the kids their own ages.

(What's the craft? Take six large, sparkly, star-shaped beads, and seven translucent pony beads. String them on a pipe cleaner and twist the ends together. If you're three years old, leave it at that. If you're old enough, pinch the pipe cleaner in six places, where you put the big beads, to make the points of a snowflake. Use for singing snowflake songs, or hang in the window.)

We're also supposed to be tackling Mount Laundry and putting the rest of the Christmas decorations away (this morning in the Treehouse, not at co-op), but the morning is already going by fast. There was snow to shovel today too.

What's for supper? A pound of stew meat, the end of a bottle of barbecue sauce, and a package of mushrooms. Frozen french fries if we get home early enough, instant mashed potatoes if we don't. (There is only one brand of instant mashed potatoes that I like: Idahoan. It actually tastes like potatoes. I've tried a few others since we temporarily had trouble finding Idahoan, and now I understand why nobody likes instant potatoes. I didn't get paid to say that, it's just one squirrel's opinion.)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

What's for supper? (January Grocery Challenge)

Reheated curried chicken, baked spaghetti squash, reheated baked potatoes, and gingerbread made with the end of the molasses (it dribbled out to about a third of the required cupful) and the end of a jar of honey (the other two-thirds), and oatmeal stirred in instead of our usual wheat germ. (I reduced the baking temperature a bit because of the honey.)

Tomorrow afternoon is our first co-op of the year, so I will probably put something in the Crockpot for supper.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Supper tonight? (January Grocery Challenge)

Thai-style Curried Chicken with broccoli, green peppers and green beans added; basmati rice (the last cupful in the package); condiments (applesauce, cottage cheese, cashews); vanilla pudding (instant, I had a package that I was going to use for vanilla coffee mix).

This chicken dish is one thing Mama Squirrel makes that everybody here likes--even young Crayons, who would happily live on acorn cookies and eyes all vegetables with suspicion.

And we have enough left for tomorrow.

Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is Up

Adventures on Beck's Bounty hosts this year's first CM Blog Carnival.

Back to School

Towards the end of last term, we weren't using the workbox system very much. Ponytails knew pretty well what she had to do each day, and Crayons was working so much with me that it made more sense for me just to gather up what we'd be working on as we needed it.

This week, though, I'm glad to have the boxes back in place--and glad to have the week's work plotted out for each Squirreling. It's very nice to look at the chart each night and think "Box 1--Geography--work with Mom--need the book and the small notebook I made. Box 2--Spelling--need all the tiles and stuff. Box 3--Lassie-Come-Home--okay, we did finish that yesterday, so let's make it Play Dominoes With Mom instead. Box 4--FactsFirst on the computer--just put a copy of the site's home page in the box." And so on. I will admit that this system does save on arguments such as "you didn't tell me I had to do that." And the funny thing this week is that we keep getting done earlier than we expected. Some first-weeks-back are just the opposite--everything takes longer than it should.

We have quite a few things to review right now (for the Review Crew)--most of them are math-related, and I wasn't sure how I was going to work those in. But we're giving most of them a try along with the regular work.

There are things we'll be picking up over the next couple of weeks (like Math Tutor DVDs), as well as a couple of things we're using only for a short time (MathScore, Keyboarding for the Christian School, Kinderbach).

We're also doing reading and other work together: 101 Famous Poems, Bible stories, Mr. Pipes, The Adventures of Don Quixote, Swiss Family Robinson, The Pond on My Windowsill, composer and artist studies, and health.

Here are the schedules for this week. Crayons is doing a somewhat modified Ambleside Online Year 3. Ponytails is doing some of the work from Year 5 but incorporating seventh-grade books as well.


Week's Work for Crayons:

Monday:

Math: We played a Concentration game I made using geometry words.
Spelling: All About Spelling, Level 2, lesson 12.
Reading: Lassie-Come-Home
Math drill: FactsFirst.
History: we skipped this as when I looked at the chapter I realized we'd already covered the story.
Literature: At the Back of the North Wind; Mom reading, Crayons drawing narrations.
Keyboarding: Reviewing Keyboarding for the Christian School, Elementary level.
Extra reading list: finished Mickey Compere's Thomas Edison.

Tuesday:

Math: Played Concentration again, did a couple of Miquon pages about area and perimeter.
Tall Tales: Read about John Henry.
Reading: Lassie (finished the book).
Math drill: MathScore website.
Science: Reading to self from The Science Book for Girls.
Memory work: Picked a Carl Sandburg poem to memorize.
Handwriting: Starting Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting (working with Mom)
Music: Kinderbach on the computer. (Crayons didn't actually get this done yesterday--she seems to have lost some of her enthusiasm for the program.)
Extra reading

Wednesday:

Geography: Starting the "Rivers" section from Play Story Geography (an old textbook). The children in the story make their own "geography notebooks," and I have the Squirrelings do the same.
Spelling: next lesson.
Diversion: Play Muggins with Mom (using big foam dominoes)
Math drill: FactsFirst
Handwriting: Second pre-writing exercise
Literature: At the Back of the North Wind
Keyboarding: Lesson 2
Extra reading
Go to the library

Thursday:

Math: work with Mom
Shakespeare story
Practice the recorder
Math drill: MathScore
History: Canada's Story
Memory work
Handwriting
Kinderbach
Extra reading

Friday:

Clock flashcards
Spelling
Handwriting
Math drill: FactsFirst
Science
Literature: At the Back of the North Wind (we haven't started The Jungle Book yet but when we do, we will be alternating)
Keyboarding
Extra reading
Afternoon co-op

Ponytails' Week

Monday:

Math and science as assigned by Dad (finishing a book from Key to Geometry, doing experiments)
History: Continue Abraham Lincoln's World
Logic: The Fallacy Detective
French: working on verbs with Mom
Math drill: MathScore website
Memory work: choose poem to memorize
Extra reading list

Tuesday:

Math, science, history
Plutarch's Life of Poplicola
Practice the keyboard (musical one)
Math drill: MathScore
Keyboarding: Keyboarding for the Christian School, Lesson 1
Extra reading

Wednesday:

Math, science, history
Composition: Write with the Best, lesson on writing letters
French: practice the same verbs using a Quia activity
Math drill: MathScore
Memory work
Extra reading
Library

Thursday:

Math, science, history
Composition: continue the lesson
Analogies Book 1
Math drill: MathScore
Keyboarding
Extra reading

Friday:

Math, science, history
Composition
French
Free computer time
Memory work
Extra reading
Afternoon co-op

Monday, January 04, 2010

We are still here

Deep in school. Deep in cold (you can hear things snapping; the main consolation is it's too cold to snow much). Deep in getting some other real-life small responsibilities ironed out.

Tonight's dinner: Wieners baked on a combination of baked beans, kidney beans, ketchup, molasses etc.; baked potatoes, salad, and you're on your own for dessert. Mama Squirrel was busy all afternoon making sense of the desolation formerly known as our school room/rec room.

Book most recently finished: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (borrowed from Grandpa Squirrel). Melissa Wiley had a whole discussion about this several months ago on her blog, and of course I missed it at the time, but you can still enjoy the comments. Not for kids (lots of horrors of war), but otherwise awesome--how could I not like a book revolving around Charles Lamb's Essays of Elia? If you liked 84, Charing Cross Road, you will like this, maybe even more.

Watching: Quantum Leap, Season One, with Mr. Fixit. Again not for kids (at least the couple of episodes we've watched so far), but enjoyable--I used to watch this show a lot when it was on, but it's been awhile.

Waiting: to see if The Apprentice gets her G-2 license tomorrow.

Of course she will.

There was a reason we videotaped her at six months playing car in a cardboard box.

(Good Luck!)

Saturday, January 02, 2010

What's for supper?


Homemade beef-vegetable soup; Sesame Seed Bread; cheese, fruit, this and that.

I'm not that troubled

Trying to save money in the kitchen this month?

Here are some yummy menu suggestions from Thrift for troubled times, published by the National Training School for Cookery (Great Britain); London, England: W. Clowes, 1917. Available online at the Human Ecology Collection.


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