Thursday, September 27, 2012

What's for supper? From the freezer

Tonight's dinner menu:

The last of the enchilada pies, with sour cream, chopped green pepper, etc.  (I need my big pie plate back....)
Butternut squash  (because I want to make squash pie with the leftovers.)

Sliced pears, oranges, and banana chips

From the archives: are homeschool parents prepared?

First posted November 2007. I reposted this without checking to see if Jacci's post was still available; unfortunately, it's not.

Jacci M at The Educational Life has a thought-provoking post about the naïveté shared by many new homeschoolers (green as grass, right?): how can we, without formal teacher's training or experience, dare to say we are prepared to teach our children? Her solution is a good dose of Charlotte Mason's books, and I'd go along with that.

However, I'm not so sure that we, coming into homeschooling, are necessarily as unprepared, or as different from any other new teachers, as her scenario suggests:
She [your child's imagined teacher] smiles a cheerful smile and explains that this will be her first year teaching. Although she went to college, she really has very little actual training in education. Her degree was in history. She did very well academically, though, and has always loved children. She babysat a lot as a teenager and was the oldest of four children. She's looked through teacher catalogs a lot, too, so she feels that she's fairly ready. Understandably, you're a little taken aback. Has she ever taught a child to read? What about handwriting? Does she have experience there? Or math? Did she receive any training in teaching math to young children? What are her thoughts on children's literature? Does she know how she will make sure the children are processing what they are reading? Her answer to all of your questions is, basically, "no". She seems very relaxed about it, though, and very matter-of-factly says that she has the curriculum the school system provided, and she will just learn along with the class.
Yeah, I know, that's how the school system and a lot of non-homeschoolers see us. As if we hadn't yet penetrated the mysteries of learning...as my husband's grandmother used to say darkly, just wait, you'll see.

However, is this hypothetical homeschooler much different from any other first-year teacher? Where I live, a B.Ed. is a post-grad degree, so every new teacher has a bachelor's in something or other--same as this story--plus One Year of Teacher's Ed. Is that long enough to make you an expert in teaching? If lacking one year of university classes and a couple of practice-teaching sessions is all that separates me from a first-year "professional teacher," I don't know why I should feel much behind. In my own pre-homeschool experience (that's up until The Apprentice was four), I would include all the babysitting and so on (and don't make light of that) plus several years of Sunday School teaching, volunteering in what was then called a TMR class, tutoring a special-needs student, directing camp arts and crafts for a summer (yeah, me), doing library music and movement programs for a summer (yeah, me again), volunteering at my toddler's weekly community-centre program, and taking several relevant university courses (developmental psychology, children's literature and so on). Had I ever taught anybody to read?--not from the ground up, unless you count playing school with my little sister. (Did that end up mattering?--well, no, all my Squirrelings have learned to read, with or without my help.)

But even more important than that--I had the luxury of a couple of years of "apprenticing" before I jumped in myself. I went to homeschool meetings and at least two conferences during that time, and I listened. And yes, along with talking to the real-life homeschoolers at the meetings, at church and down the street, I had the privilege of "meeting" Charlotte Mason, Ruth Beechick, Gayle Graham, Valerie Bendt, Mary Pride, Cathy Duffy, and other teaching parents who had written down what they'd learned. Oh, and John Holt. By the time I was ready to, figuratively, take my place at the front of the classroom, I had a very good idea of what was and wasn't going to work for us, and even some idea of why.

And you CAN learn a lot by browsing teacher catalogues--both the homeschool-friendly variety and the other kind. The best homeschool catalogues have detailed and sometimes critical descriptions and comparisons of the products (does anyone else in Ontario still miss Lifetime Canada/Maple Ridge Books?). And the other kind...well, as I've said before, you can at least learn from them what you don't need.

Besides, you're not presuming to sit in front of a class of thirty, waving your catalogue as qualification; you are planning to provide the brain-food for your own children. This week, this month. You do not need a teaching degree to follow Ambleside Online's Crisis Plan, to read them a chapter of Understood Betsy and play "Cup of Twenty." Homeschooling methods are, and should be, somewhat different from public school ones; remember that we don't have to slice bread with a chainsaw.

So while I would strongly agree with Jacci's advice to new homeschoolers (learn from the best parent-teacher-education resources you can get hold of, including Charlotte Mason's works; strive to understand what and why you do what you do; learn the best methods you can and base them on solid educational and spiritual philosophy), I would also like to reassure those who want to homeschool and maybe feel like they're not qualified (didn't finish college or whatever). Understand that being your children's parent, in at least one sense, qualifies you. Yes, you can learn more; and no, a browse through a catalogue is probably not enough to get you going. But you can learn, and much better and faster than the teachers' unions and other naysayers would like you to believe. (Feetnote: Jacci's not a naysayer, just to clarify that.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thrift store Wednesdays: stack of books

Only in a thrift store, maybe: you sort a pile of books that includes four Trinny and Susannah (What Not to Wear) books and one on Lyric Philosophy.

Sometimes the same person buys both.

So on that eclectic note, here's what we brought home: three Nancy Drews and a couple of small things for Dollygirl, one yellow t-shirt to make a top for Jo Doll, and these for school and/or Mama Squirrel:

The Birth of Britain, by Winston Churchill

Northrop Frye: a Visionary Life, by Joseph Adamson

Falling for Snow: A Naturalist's Journey into the World of Winter, by Jamie Bastedo

Landscape and Memory, by Simon Schama

Clean Sweep Conquer the Clutter: Reclaim Your Space, Reclaim Your Life. Mostly photos, but sometimes that's just what you need.

What's for supper? Pancakes

Tonight's dinner menu (afternoon out):

Buttermilk pancakes (I used yogurt)
Reheated sausage
Blueberries, syrup, etc.

Dollygirl's Grade Six: homeschool things we're doing

Things we've done already this week:

Basic Bible Studies:  completed study 2, about God's sovereignty

Hymns

Mensa puzzle cards

French:  continuing Monsieur Perrichon, we're up to the introduction of The Commandant (another traveller along with the Perrichon family and two possible suitors for their daughter), but we still haven't gotten everyone on the train yet.

Math:  measured another tree outside and played with cubes

Nature study:  brought a big garden spider inside (in a magnifying jar) to get a closer look. (And let it go again.)

Monday night swim class

Citizenship:  read Uncle Eric chapters 2 and 3, about the importance of having good models in place before you load up with facts, and of having a high standard of proof for things that matter a lot to you.  (Don't just take my word for it...)

Poetry:  read two chapters of the Robert Frost biography, and listened to him read "Birches."

The Hobbit:  rescued Bilbo and the dwarves from the Wargs and gotten them up into an eagle's nest.

Science:  we finished a chapter from The Great Motion Mission, and got a spoon out to prove that when you look at yourself in a convex surface, you turn upside down.

A few pages of geography

Canadian history:  read a bit about life in the 1920's, about bush pilots and Emily Murphy (women are persons).

World history:  read about the Long March in China.

Cymbeline:  Iachimo's first meeting with Imogen.

God's Smuggler:  Brother Andrew's early days as a Christian and his "missionary post" in a chocolate factory.  (For anyone reading this with a Year Six, I recommend some parental editing for this chapter.)

In the midst of:

reading chapter two of the Einstein biography and doing a written narration

sorting through some embroidery floss

getting ready to go spend the afternoon at the thrift store

Next things to do:

The Aeneid of Virgil:  still need to finish the chapter we're on.

Bible study:  start study 3, "God and Man."  "What does it mean that man is made in God's image? Well, among other things it certainly means this: man is moral...Also, man is rational...It also means that man is creative...It is also the reason why man loves."--Francis Schaeffer.

Copywork and dictation

More poetry

Folk songs

Math: review questions on page 53

Read about the Depression in the Canadian history book; compare this description with what you already know of the 1930's from American sources such as Kit's Story Collection.

A few more pages of geography

Read Story of the World Volume 4, the part about Black Tuesday etc. and the rise of Hitler.

Continue with French

Probably more of The Hobbit

Crafts:  actually START the felt doughnuts--we've only talked about them so far

Picture study and art project (Emily Carr)

Natural history:  read a few pages from School of the Woods

Read a magazine article about light, then play a board game

Go to the library and do some activities on the Dewey Decimal System

Work on the personality notebooking pages already started, start a couple of new ones

Work on ideas for the history term project (designing a historical doll)

Friday afternoon drama class

Make a grapefruit globe, when we can get a grapefruit (or maybe we could try an orange)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What's for supper? This and that

Tonight's dinner menu:

Barbecued sausage
Cheese tortellini
Steamed carrots
Cucumber slices

Tapioca pudding and blueberries

Festival of Frugality #355: The What, We Worry? Edition

Welcome to Festival of Frugality #355: The What, We Worry? Edition.

This week's festival takes its inspiration from the post Why Do We Worry About Money?, at Watson Inc.  Roshawn gives five reasons we worry about money, and offers suggestions for dealing with our anxieties (while still managing money wisely).

ONE: LACK OF CONFIDENCE WITH MONEY

"One reason we worry is because of our lack of confidence managing money. Consequently, we shy away from investing, eliminating debt aggressively, and maintaining adequate solvency and insurance. Lacking confidence with money often stems from incompetent education. Many of us are not being exposed to solid financial teachings."

Saving Without A Budget presents Create Good Financial Habits By Being Responsible.

Make Money Make Cents presents A Quick Guide to Bank Accounts

Passive Income To Retire presents Understanding Mutual Fund Classes.

Start Investing Money presents What are Fidelity Mutual Funds?

20s Finances presents ETFs vs. Individual Stocks.

Financial Footsteps presents How I Use ETFs to Save on Fund Fees.

Free Money Wisdom presents What is a Title Loan?

Free Money Finance presents How to Save Money by Keeping Good Records.

Married with Debt presents Be Wary of Corporate Personal Finance Advice.

The Penny Hoarder presents Making Money Is Also About Cost Cutting and Not Losing It. "If you would prefer to try your luck with weird investments, then that is fine, too, but at least take a moment to look below the surface of your current financial situation and determine what cost drivers are at play with your personal finances."

Debt Free Blog presents Debt is Cyclical.

ReadyForZero Blog presents The True Secret to Paying Off Debt.

Free From Broke  presents Payoff Mortgage Faster – How Do I Do It? – Four Ways

Money Q&A. presents How To Use A Budget To Help You Set Priorities. "You can use a budget as a tool to help you save your money and set your financial priorities and financial goals. Budgeting also helps you establish a plan of attack on how to reduce your debt."


TWO: FEAR OF MESSING UP

"Closely related to lack of confidence is fear. Fear of failure can be logical, but we often lose perspective. For example, anyone over 12 years old has made financial mistakes."

Simple Finance Blog presents Money Lessons Learned On Vacation. "I thought I'd budgeted for our family's trip to Disney World; obviously, I thought wrong. Here are my top 4 money lessons learned on vacation."

Master the Art of Saving presents Don't Be Fooled By No Spend Days.  "The only way to actually benefit from “no spend days” is to not spend that money at all, not even on a different day."

Modest Money presents 7 Considerations for Buying A Cheap Car. "The thought of buying some freedom with a cheap car can be quite tempting. Do not let that emotion cloud your judgement and result in buying a vehicle that costs too much to keep on the road."

Good Financial Cents presents The Top 10 Cheapest Cars of 2013

Another perspective on cars: PT Money Personal Finance presents Saving Money by Buying a Gas Guzzler.

One Money Design presents  Can You Justify Purchasing the iPhone 5?

Fanny has one suggestion for dealing with phones: Trade In Your iPhone for an Amazon Gift Card, posted at Living Richly on a Budget.

One Smart Dollar presents Gangnam Style in America. "Most people associate material items as a status symbol. This isn’t entirely false because most wealthy individuals will be driving a nice car and wearing designer clothes. This doesn’t mean the average individual needs to live that way if they can’t afford it."

Simply Investing presents Your Friend Just Gave You a Hot Stock Tip. What do you do?

Sustainable Personal Finance presents 5 Financial Planning Mistakes to Avoid. "While there are far more than 5 Financial Planning Mistakes you can make here are a few that are easily avoidable."

THREE: CONDITIONED TO WORRY

"One reason worrying about our finances is so common is because there is comfort in the familiar. When we are conditioned to worry about money, intense focus on the bad becomes very familiar territory. We begin to see evil even in the most innocent situations."

Money Talks Coaching presents A Tiny Piece of Plastic Cost Me $125.  " My van broke. Terrible thing! Car repairs can be scary things, but if you own a car then you WILL have car repairs. It just comes with the territory."

Saving Without A Budget presents The Open Financial Market: A Global Concern in 2012.

Financial Ramblings presents Best Airline Seats: Exit Row vs. Economy Comfort.

FOUR: WORRYING FEELS LIKE YOU'RE DOING SOMETHING

"Worrying also makes us feel like we are doing something. This is why it is vital to distinguish between busyness and productivity."

"Are you going to sit around waiting for wealth to fall in your lap? Do you believe in pixie dust? Or are you going to go out and make or get it? Life is short, make a 5 year plan and go out and do it!" Growing Money Smart presents Building Wealth Takes Time... Or Does It?

Broke Professionals presents The Psychology of Saving. Simple Budget Blog presents Simple Retirement Plan.

Investing Money presents Do You Need the Money You're Investing?

 Life Insurance By Jeff presents Cheap Life Insurance for Moms.

Squirrelers presents Use Auto Insurance Discounts to Save Money .

Sweating the Big Stuff presents Why Doesn't Homeowners Insurance Cover Floods?

FIVE: SOMETIMES WORRY "WORKS"

"As much bad as worrying brings, I admit it occasionally “works.” For example, that uneasy feeling that you overspent can cause you so much discomfort that you choose not to spend other discretionary funds."

Credit Card Smarts presents How to Use the Debt Snowball to Pay Off Credit Card Debt. "The debt snowball is a way of systematically paying down your credit card debt, while remaining enthusiastic about the process.

One Money Design  presents Can You Justify Purchasing the iPhone 5?

Living Richly on a Budget considers a different phone option in Trade In Your iPhone for an Amazon Gift Card.

BECAUSE YOU DO HAVE TO EAT, AND STUFF

Studenomics presents How-to Eat Out Properly… Without Going Broke. "I enjoy eating. I also happen to enjoy saving money. This can be a tough balancing act at times."

Green Panda Treehouse presents Back to School: Eating in College on a Budget. "A budget friendly cooking idea is to cook with filler foods. Foods such as potatoes, bean sprouts, rice and pasta keep you feeling full and will also help you stay within your budget."

Reach Financial Independence presents How to make your own sushi.

Your Personal Finance Pro presents How To Really Save Money at Chipotle.

My Family Finances presents How to Save Money Without Giving Up Your Social Life.

Penny Thots presents Throw a Cheap and Easy Cocktail Party. . "Throwing a cocktail party is one of the most impressive and fun ways to entertain and although even the word sounds glamorous, hosting a cocktail party needn’t bust the bank."

Steadfast Finances presents How to Have Fun For Cheap.

Financial Highway presents 6 Frugal Exercise Tips.

Dewey's Treehouse (that's us) presents some frugal crafting in Aunt Sarah Scrap Challenge: the smallest fabric stash around?
FAMILY AND FRIENDS

Money Life & More presents 5 Reasons We Won’t Separate Our Finances When Married.

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff presents How I Helped my Mother Stop Working Overtime with 15 minutes of Planning. "75% of her normal income was being eaten up by her debt, not to mention exhausting her from all of the work that she needed to do to support the load. Right away, I knew that she wouldn’t be able to keep this up, and that something had to change."

Miranda presents the 5 Pitfalls of Cosigning a Loan  at Wallet Hub.

Provident Plan presents Lending Money to Family and Friends.

Card Hub presents What You Need to Know About Joint Credit Card Accounts .

RANTS AND BEEFS

Finance TUBE presents The Energy Sucking Monster: Air Conditioning.

 Work Save Live presents Have You Been Scammed With Payment Protection Insurance?

Add Vodka presents Is It Ethical to Buy at Flea Markets?   "A few weeks ago, I was watching some late-night TV and a show about shoplifting in the US was on...Obviously not ALL discounted goods come from career criminal shoplifting rings, but lots do."

Funancials presents Buying a Car Won't Help You Reach Your Dreams "I was flipping through the pages of Money Magazine when an advertisement caught my eye. The ad was promoting the All-New 31 MPG Highway 2013 Honda CRV...My problem isnt with the car itself, but instead with the Money Magazine advertisement."

Lazy Man presents Rent-A-Center's Crazy Commercial Promoting Fiscal Responsibility Fails at Lazy Man and Money.
OH, BABY, AND BEYOND

Frugal Rules presents How to Save Money For a New Baby .

The Money Principle presents Children and money: are we teaching our future the wrong things? "We teach our children mainly how to save. But the relationship between children and money is better developed by teaching them how to spend."

Young Family Finance also posts about How to Teach Children About Money.

Your Finances Simplified presents How to Save For A Child's Higher Education.

LEARN FROM THE BLACK BELTS

My Dollar Plan presents How to Make Money on Amazon.

Bible Money Matters presents Swagbucks Review: What Is It, How Does It Work and What Can You Earn and Win?

Creating a Passive Income presents Passive Income: The Secret of Making Money While you Sleep.

Frugal Confessions presents Waste Not Want Not: Leftover Orange, Lemon, and Lime Peels.

Invest It Wisely presents Freelancing Revenue Report: Out of the Trenches and Climbing Up the Mountain.

Money Reasons presents Saving Money Repairing Your Own Dryer.  "Read and watch how repairing your own dryer can be accomplished for 9 dollars."

Tackling Our Debt has lots of advice in 101 Frugal Tips to Help You Save Money.

My Broken Coin presents What I Wish I Knew About Life and Finances In My 20s. "If we could turn back time, I wish I could go back to when I was 20 and do it again!"

The Outlier Model presents It's never too late.

Finance Fox presents The Secret to Success in Life is Investing in Yourself


That's it for this week's Festival of Frugality.  Next week's host will be See Debt Run.

(All T.V. images belong to their respective studios and copyright holders.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

"Jo Doll" comes to life

This is the "Jo Doll," made from the peach pillowcase that I brought home Wednesday. She is done except for her hair, because I didn't have any rug yarn. I'd still like to make her some clothes of her own, but didn't have the fabric, so I had to borrow some duds from one of Dollygirl's dolls.

She reminds me of "Margaret" from the Dennis the Menace comics.



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thrift store Wednesdays: purple, pink, peach, and P&P

Found at the thrift store today:

One purple t-shirt for Mama Squirrel

One peach pillowcase to make a Jo Doll (I was serious about making one!)

One pair of pink pillowcases, because I wasn't sure if one pillowcase was going to be enough fabric

One Scholastic book, possibly to re-sell

One set of Pride and Prejudice videos, for Ponytails.

The big pile of books has suddenly been reduced to a few boxes of fiction, so I spent most of the afternoon just filling the store shelves from what we had ready to go in the back.  Dollygirl found a chair and some other small dolly things--I think she's going to put them into a post on her own blog.

In which Ponytails chooses the menu (plus another frosting recipe)

Ponytails had a birthday this week.

Since she has not worn ponytails for some time now, she is trying on other possibilities for blog names. Stay tuned for that.


This was the birthday dinner menu she chose:

Barbecued pork schnitzel on a bun, with hamburger toppings
Stuffed eggs with lots of paprika
Carrot sticks, mushrooms

White cake with chocolate icing "but not as thick as that icing Dollygirl had"
Ice cream
Cocoa Fudge Rocky Road Icing

I adapted the Cocoa Fudge Icing recipe from More Food That Really Schmecks. Here's my version.

1 cup brown or white sugar (we used brown)
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
About a cupful of butterscotch chips
About two cupfuls of mini marshmallows
9-inch cake to frost

In a saucepan, combine the sugar, cocoa, and milk.  Add the butter or margarine, and stir over medium heat until it comes to a boil.  Boil for one minute, then remove from heat and cool as quickly as possible, by putting the pot into a bowl of ice cubes or a sinkful of cold water.  Add the vanilla and extra additions (butterscotch chips, marshmallows), and stir hard with a wooden spoon until the frosting has thickened  and looks like soft candy.  The marshmallows aren't meant to melt completely.  If the cake is still too hot to ice, you can put the frosting into a bowl and leave it in the fridge until you need it.  We left the cake in the pan and just covered the top of it with the frosting, then added some sprinkles and candles. 

Photo of Dr. Who and Romana found here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Carnivals this week: updated to include the CM Blog Carnival

The 350th Carnival of Homeschooling: Ideas You Can Use is up at Janice Campbell's blog, and she's done an especially great job this week organizing the posts.

Festival of Frugality #354 is up at the Festival of Frugality blog.  It's pretty short and simple this week--FoF has had a couple of glitches over the past couple of editions, but they're getting things straightened out now.  And we are hosting next week!  So send us all your frugal stuff.  (Deadline is Monday night at 9 p.m. Eastern time.)

The Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is at Charlotte Mason in the City, with a theme of "The syllabus and lots of links."

Elsie Cressman, 1923-2012

Elsie Cressman turned our lives around.  Literally. 

When we were expecting our Apprentice, and had decided that Dr. Friendly wasn't working out for us, we turned to a group of midwives in our area.  Midwifery, at that time, wasn't regulated in Ontario.  It wasn't against the law; it just wasn't within the law.  You paid for it privately (now it's covered by provincial health insurance), and midwives didn't have hospital admitting privileges.

Elsie, a former missionary and somewhat legendary midwife, was on the verge of retirement.  But she was still working with a group of other midwives, including her niece, who was our "primary" caregiver for the Apprentice's birth.  Elsie was our backup, so she did some of the examinations and gave lots of advice. ("Eat more eggs" was a favourite.)

A few weeks before the Apprentice's due date, both of our midwives were puzzled by her orientation.  The baby definitely wasn't in a good head-down position.  She seemed to be somewhat breech, or even sideways.  They had hoped that Baby would get herself into the right position naturally (babies often do), but she still didn't seem to be getting the message.  Elsie recommended "turning" the baby (external cephalic version, ECV).  ECV can be a bit controversial, but we knew that Elsie had had a lot of experience, and so we agreed, and she went to work and gently moved the baby around.  At least she was pretty sure that the turning had "taken."  Sometimes it doesn't.

A few days later, for a couple of different reasons, I had an appointment with an obstetrician.  It's complicated to explain why, but it was mainly because our first doctor didn't deliver babies, and in case I ended up at the hospital, it was a good idea to have seen an obstetrician at least once.  Also my legs were a bit swollen and the midwives were concerned about that. Anyway, this doctor couldn't get a positive take on where the baby's head was either.  "Well," he said cheerfully, "you'll either have a perfectly normal birth or you'll end up at the hospital with an emergency C-section."

Okay.  Good to know.  (?)

The Apprentice's birth went fine, at least as fine as first births usually go, which isn't to say that it was a piece of cake, but there were none of the predicted emergencies or other complications.  We gave Elsie's "turning" a large part of the credit for that.

And shortly after that, midwifery gained legal status in Ontario, largely due to Elsie's efforts.

This post is a thanks to all the midwives who have cared for our family and brought our Squirrelings into the world--and it is specially in memory of Elsie, for her wonderful care and hard, hard work.
 


Full video documentary available here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Frugal homeschooling: let me count the ways?

Now that we're a couple of weeks into this fall's homeschool term, and I'm pretty sure of what we're going to keep using this year (vs. things that, like bad sitcoms, disappear after one viewing), I thought I would try adding up what this year's homeschool materials cost us.

I didn't get very far with it.  Besides, it would be pretty irrelevant.  Most of our stuff came from the thrift shop or was already on the shelf...and out of the books from the thrift shop, I priced a lot of them myself, so I suppose I could have engineered a higher or a lower total.  I could have, but I didn't--I try to put fair prices on all the books, even the ones I'm planning on buying myself.  Just so you know.

And the other slightly misleading thing about saying that we're using a thrifted math book, or whatever, is that usually we didn't make the choice based on cheapness, but more because we found something secondhand that looked like it would both meet our goals and fit Dollygirl's learning style and our current homeschool situation (Mom teaching Dollygirl, and Dad usually working in the next room).  I wanted to use a more "out of the box" approach to math thinking this year, and if I had had to buy something new to make that work, I would have.   But I found Minds on Math already on our bookshelf, and that seems to be a good choice so far.  If we hadn't had that, there were a couple of alternatives we could have tried, such as buying new workbooks for the Key To series that Dollygirl's older sister used..  But we just picked one and went with it.

With all that said, here are some of the frugal ways and means we've found helpful so far this year.

1.  Craft materials:  we are using up some of our own stashed yarn and fabric, and buying carefully when it seems we can't find what we want.  We went looking for "fat quarters" at the mill outlet store, thought they were a bit expensive, but then discovered a huge box of bandanas priced at a dollar apiece.  Did you know that bandanas are about the same size as a fat quarter?  Dollygirl picked out a few that she thought would make good doll clothes, and she's already made Crissy a bandana-print blouse.

 Dollygirl pulled out her old weaving frame a few days ago, along with some thick, fluffy yarn, and decided to weave her dolls a living room rug.  She's almost done.

This week's planned project will be stuffed felt doughnuts. We already have felt, stuffing, and embroidery floss, so we're good there. Maybe we'll make them doll-sized (call it a math exercise in scale).

2.  French:  Although I did spend money last spring on the next level of the curriculum we were using, I just didn't have the interest (and neither did Dollygirl) in jumping right back into nouns and verbs.  I found a school copy of Le Voyage de Monsieur Perrichon at the antiques market, I think for about a dollar, and I also made paper people to go along with the story.  We read it, and sometimes I have Dollygirl narrate it or re-read a simple part with me. (I have posted about that before.)  We are also singing French children's songs out of a library-discard book we've had forever.

3.  Poetry:  I've already posted about the two books we're using for Robert Frost, and about the Graphic Poetry books we found.  Poetry is not hard to find, and it's not hard to teach, honestly: mostly we just read it.  Today I read "Birches" out loud, and then I had Dollygirl pick out and re-read her favourite pair of lines, and I showed her mine.  Dollygirl got a cobweb in her face yesterday when she went outside, so she could relate to that part, about wanting to swing on birches, somewhere up above the ground and not where nasty things hit you in the face.  Next time we do poetry, we'll use You-tube to let Mr. Frost read it himself.

4.  Literature:  Dollygirl tried reading The Hobbit when she was too young for it, and I think she got stopped at about "Out of the Frying-Pan."  This time around, she can't get enough, and we are going to be done with it way before the term is over.  We have a junior LOTR fan in the making.  So what's frugal about that?  Just this:  for the first time in history, probably, we are in a position where books, books, books are all around us, at the click of a button, at the dropping of a few coins at the thrift store, at the flick of a library card.  And the large number of North Americans (and others) who admit that they Don't Read and have No Interest in Reading is appalling.  Abraham Lincoln used to walk miles to borrow a book-when you have that much footwork invested in reading something, you make the most of it.   But these days there is almost no such thing as books costing too much or not being available.  Most of us, most of our kids, don't need fancy reading curricula and lesson plans; we just need to spend more time reading.

5.  History, geography, science, and all that:  we bought ONE brand new book in those areas, and that was The Great Motion Mission for science.  And two DVDs, if you count them, about Marie Curie and Albert Einstein.  The real key to what we're doing frugally here is not the books we're using, but the variety of ways in which I'm trying to use them.  We read out loud, sometimes, often discussing and questioning as we go.  (Why was the Kuomintang's idea to get help from the large, powerful Soviet Union probably a bad idea?  Because somebody large and powerful can help you at first, but then they just want to take over.  Right...)  Sometimes Dollygirl reads to herself and reports.  Sometimes I have her do something unexpected like re-read a point three times in a row, until it really makes sense.  Or make a grapefruit globe.  Or go outside and measure a tree (that was for math this morning, but it could have been from the science book).  When it's just you, me, and the books, it's important to keep things stirred up a bit.  And it also helps when grandpa or somebody asks, "what did you do in school today?" 

I could mention other frugal things we've done, like re-using school supplies, but everybody knows that stuff already.  The point here isn't what you have.  It's what you do with it.  It's a clean, re-organized desk space for Dollygirl, and also one for me.  (To quote a Mary Engelbreit saying we have posted, everybody needs their own Spot.)  It's the routine of starting school mornings with a hymn and Bible verses, but jacked up a bit with the addition of (thrifted) puzzle cards--and the additional motivation of trying to solve them along with Dad.  It's the freedom we're trying to achieve this year to take a bit longer on some activities--to throw in a math game or a craft that might take a good part of the morning.  (And it's okay, because we don't have other students waiting.)  The schedule is there, but it's not bossing us around too much.

Frugal?  Yes.  But it's not about the money.  It's about making sure we keep on caring about what we're doing.  Cost of that: priceless.

Linked from Festival of Frugality #354.

In which we remain stubbornly attached to our squiggly lines and paper pages (Response to "Literature is the new [dead] Latin")

So Michael Reist says that "literature will never die, but if we keep force-feeding it to the kids of cyberspace, its integrity will certainly suffer."

And since he has thirty years of classroom experience, and has written and lectured extensively on the problems of both teenagerhood and education, we assume that he does know what he's talking about.  The tone of the editorial made me think at first that he was actually cheering the demise of English literature; but after reading some other quotes, I think he sees the situation more as sad but true; lamentable, but inevitable.

His conclusion?  "There are two ways to resolve this tension: Lower the standards in English class so the poor kid can go and make video games, or stop the mandatory study of English at, say, Grade 10. For many kids, the only thing they learn in Grade 11 or 12 English class is to hate it even more."

Those alternatives sound like the equivalent of "you don't get a real dinner tonight, but you can choose between fries, candy, and vitamin-mineral supplements."  Or, more closely, since the diners refuse to eat "real" food, we will no longer bother to cook and serve it.  Let them find their nourishment as best they can.
“But I’m going to be a video game designer!” protests one of my Grade 10 English students. “I don’t need to be able to read novels or write essays.” --Michael Reist
Need to be able to?

Would anyone dispute the idea that human bodies still need to eat? Public school lunches are all about enforced nutrition, these days. So don't human minds still need to think, and to know what has been thought?

Around here, school IS, largely, reading.  If you search this blog for the word "subversive," you will find that every occurrence, with the single exception of a tuna recipe, has been in connection with books and reading.  In our view, the immeasurable value of Real Books has not changed and will not change. 

But in Michael Reist's opinion, the rest of the world has stopped caring, and there's no turning back.  The occasional Matilda is simply an odd exception; the other "students" are shut out.

Prove him wrong.
"All the reading she had done had given her a view of life that they had never seen. If only they would read a little Dickens or Kipling they would soon discover there was more to life than cheating people and watching television."--Roald Dahl, Matilda

Linked from Carnival of Homeschooling #350: Ideas You Can Use.
Also linked from the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival at Charlotte Mason in the City.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Where do you even START? ("Literature is the new Latin")

This kind of editorial just leaves me gasping for breath.

When English teachers with thirty years' experience propose that we make the last two years of high school English optional, I know that we really are in Ray Bradbury territory.

I think I need to sleep on this one and come up with some kind of semi-coherent response tomorrow.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Dollygirl's Grade Six Homeschool week: already changed

This week we will have only four days of school, because of a public-school holiday on Friday.  I also forgot that Dollygirl is going on a tour of the local airport on Thursday morning.  Also I think a couple of the days were a bit overloaded, so we'll probably have to pick and choose a couple of the readings.  Here's where things are at now.

Monday

Opening time: Bible verses, hymn, prayer, Mensa puzzle cards

Bible—Schaeffer, Basic Bible Studies. Finish verses on page 13, about the Holy Spirit.

Poetry: Robert Frost, America’s Poet, chapter 4, “Searching.” Read “Birches.”

The Hobbit, chapter 5

Math: Minds on Math pages 44-45. First, construct a clinometer using a photocopied protractor, straw, string, and washer. Go outside and use the clinometer to measure a tree (see instructions in the book). Come back inside and construct a scale drawing to determine the height of the tree. Answer questions 1-3 on page 46.

French: review the two songs we did last week. Le Voyage de Monsieur Perrichon, Act 1, Scene 6.

World history: Story of the World Vol. 4, chapter 25, first half. Explain about Manchukuo. How was this an early test case for the League of Nations? (See also Usborne Illustrated Atlas of World History, page 69.)

Computer time

School of the Woods, chapter 2

Copywork

Skills and crafts: probably start felt doughnuts, from Stitch by Stitch.

Free reading

Tuesday

Opening time

Bible—verses on page 14 (end of study 1). How do we recognize the Christian God? Reminder: “the Bible sets forth God as one God but in three persons.”

Geography: Read pages 13-15 in Hammond Discovering Maps, and narrate. Read Cool Geography, pages 10-14. (Keywords: gazetteer, atlas, marine chart.) Do Cool Geography Activity 3 on page 20: map questions about the United States.

Shakespeare: Cymbeline, Act 1, Scene IV. What is the bet that is made in this scene? What are the “prizes?”

Math: Read the description of geometric models on page 46 of the textbook. In your notebook, write out a definition of a geometric model (what is it? What is it used for?) Get out four cubes (building blocks) and set them up as shown. Compare your cubes with the drawings of top view, side view, front view. Answer questions 5 & 6 on page 47.

Copywork

Computer time

The Aeneid of Virgil. Read from page 31 to the end of page 32 and narrate what has happened to Andromache since Hector’s death and the fall of Troy. Read to the top of page 35, stop, and narrate the first part of Helenus’s instructions to Aeneas. (Who are Scylla and Charybdis?) Read the rest of his instructions, and the rest of pages 36 and 37.

Skills and crafts

Science: Read The Great Motion Mission, page 23-top of page 26. Narrate orally: what is going on at the art gallery? Read this out loud three times: “Visible light is radiation in the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum.” Take the blue sidebar on page 26 to your father and ask him to explain it to you.

Teatime

Free reading

Wednesday

Opening time

Bible—start study 2. What is God’s sovereignty? When we speak of His sovereignty, what two thoughts must we keep in mind? God’s work of creation: Look up the first few verses on page 15.

Poetry: Robert Frost: listen to Frost read his poem “Birches.” Read “A Young Birch.” Robert Frost, America’s Poet, chapter 5, “It’s a Funny World.”

Science: 1. Read “Light Color Optics” by John Grunder, in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Winter 2008, pages 72-74. 2. Play the “Light Race” board game from the Eyewitness Action Pack “Light & Illusion.”

Canadian history: Read Story of Canada, pages 230-233

Folk songs

English: Write Source 2000, “Library Skills.” 1. Read the introduction and section 290. 2. Sections 291-293 show you how a "card catalogue" works. What are some reasons that most public and school libraries now use computerized catalogues instead of actual cards? Would there be any advantages to a card system? Disadvantages? 3. Review of the Dewey Decimal System.

Thursday:  Field trip morning!

Thursday afternoon:

The Hobbit: continue. Written narration chosen from several suggestions I will give you.
Computer time

French: Act 1, Scene 7.

Science biography: First, read the mini-biography of Einstein on page 27 of The Great Motion Mission. Then read chapter two in Cwiklik’s biography, and narrate.

Free reading

Next Monday:

Opening time

Bible—finish study 2.

The Aeneid of Virgil. Finish chapter 2. Study for dictation later.

Citizenship: Uncle Eric, chapter 3, “Sorting Data.” “Without good models, or paradigms, students have no way to know which facts are important and which are not.”

Math: Use the clinometer you made on Monday to measure one other object outside (p. 47, question 8). Also answer questions 9 (views of an object), 10 (matching pairs), and 12. Weekend homework: p. 49, question 16: construct an object using 8 cubes; draw the front, top, and side views of your object. Give 8 cubes and your drawings to someone else. Challenge him/her to construct an object using the drawings. Is the object the same as the object you created?

Dictation

Canadian history: Read Story of Canada, pages 234-235. Narrate.

Picture study: read about Emily Carr’s breakthrough in 1927. How did her meeting with the Group of Seven change her life as an artist? Compare Lawren Harris’s painting on page 32 (of Anne Newlands’ book) with Carr’s 1928 painting "Skidegate." Also compare "Skidegate" with her 1912 painting on page 25.
Poetry: read these poems from Florence McNeil’s Emily: “Home” (p. 36); “Discoveries II” (p. 41); “Discoveries III” (p. 44); “The Group of Seven” (p. 46).

Art Instruction: Choose something outdoors (maybe a tree?) to paint or draw in Emily Carr’s later style. Try and paint its “inside” more than its “outside.”
Free reading

From the archives: CM and Us and the Great Outdoors (a sort of apology)

Originally posted September 2007.
The Muddy Puddle
by Dennis Lee

I am sitting in the middle
Of a rather Muddy Puddle,
With my bottom full of bubbles
And my rubbers full of mud,

While my jacket and my sweater
Go on slowly getting wetter
As I very slowly settle
To the Bottom of the Mud.

And I find that what a person
With a puddle round his middle
Thinks of mostly in the muddle
Is the Muddiness of Mud.
Unlike some of our nearest dearest CM friends' offspring, our Squirrelings have grown up with mud and dirt restrictions. Call it overcaution. Call it urban life. Call it the parental ick factor. Whatever. We just don't do a lot of mudpies and backyard earthworks. Certain large squirrels in our treehouse grew up surrounded by nasty stories about what cats do in sandboxes and what toxins might be in this stuff we call soil, and the effects of that early training have not been diminished by the years. The Squirrelings' experiences with muddy puddles, wading in creeks, camping out, dogs, horses, and farm animals have been at somewhat of a distance. (Have you heard what kinds of things are passed around in petting zoos?...ugh, just another thing to cross off the list.)

However, when I start thinking about it, I realize that we have done our share of getting dirty, wet, snowy and/or buggy over the years; and a lot of it has been right in our yard. The Squirrelings can recognize most of our backyard birds: robins, crows, finches, mourning doves, robins, cardinals, and occasionally a hummingbird, a flicker, or a grackle. They love taking care of the occasional caterpillars that crawl across the patio (even one that we found on a cob of corn), and examining even the icky bugs under a magnifying glass. They know our maple trees very well, and the neighbourhood evergreens. They've played games with horse chestnuts, watched ants, and watched the variety of small mammals that show up in our yard: squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and occasionally the nocturnal visitors like raccoons. (We have a big window just above ground level that lets squirrels and birds get right up close without realizing they're onstage.) They've been bothered by bees and bitten by mosquitoes. They've picked tomatoes, transplanted geraniums, and raked leaves. They saw a big tree come down and two more planted in its place.

Occasionally we do get further afield (I think of nature walks around the block as just an extension of our yard). They have had opportunities to get to know the beach, the sand, the pebbles, the water, the sky over Lake Huron. They've been to the woods--not as often as we'd like, but enough to get an idea of the quietness and the bigness of a hundreds-years-old kind of place. They've been outside at night to look for Orion's Belt, and we're hoping to get the younger ones to a local observatory a couple of times this year as part of their astronomy study.

And we go on all kinds of trips through our books. We've been in the blazing sun, poking at a badger and chasing prairie dogs with Laura. We've been in a beaver pond with Paddle. We've even been in the Secret Garden.

So, while I truly envy the abandon of those who don't mind their bottoms full of bubbles, maybe we're not so badly off either.
I Never Saw A Moor
by Emily Dickinson.

I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.

I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven;
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the chart were given.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What's for supper? Salmon and sauce.

Tonight's dinner menu:

Baked salmon fillets with honey-yogurt-mustard sauce (the recipe was on the fish package)
Brown rice
"Nature's Balance" frozen vegetables (Giant Tiger had them on sale for a dollar a bag)

Sliced pears.

Tomorrow night:  frozen enchilada pie and acorn squash.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Thrift store Wednesdays: a vintage homeschooler, tea parties, and Gen Y

Found at the thrift store today:

Forever and Ever, by Janet Lambert.  Scholastic T713, 1961.  Back cover:  "A high school junior--and she's never gone to a real school before! [Can you imagine?] Josie Campbell, growing up all over the world, has never gone to a 'real school' in her life!...Another delightful story about the irrepressible, unpredictable Campbell family, by a favorite teen author."

Simply in Season: Recipes that celebrate fresh, local foods in the spirit of More-with-Less, by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert

Getting Them to Give a D--n: How to Get Your Front Line to Care About Your Bottom Line, by Eric Chester.  Why would I want a business-oriented book like this?  Because I'm interested in how "Generation Y" views the world.  Because our Apprentice, statistically, is at the tail end of this group.  Because whether it's younger parents who are or might be homeschooling their children, volunteers at the thrift store, young people involved in our church, or my own kids and their friends, I come in contact with a lot of younger-than-me people and it's always good to try to understand each other a bit better.  Besides, in a sense, children being homeschooled can be thought of as "kidployees" too.  If you're a teaching parent, you are trying to find honest, respectful ways to motivate your students and not drag them down--right?   Sample from the book: "Some of your younger employees have grown up with doting parents and expect praise for even the slightest achievement.  Others, who never received the recognition they deserved, desperately look for anyone to take notice when they perform admirably.  So which of these two types of kidployee require positive reinforcement?  They both do."  Something to think about.

The Twelve Teas of Friendship, by Emilie Barnes with Anne Christian Buchanan.  This is missing its first couple of pages, so it would otherwise have gone into the recycling, but I rescued it.  Like it sounds:  monthly themed ideas for tea parties.

Mary Engelbreit's Crafts to Celebrate the Seasons.  There are only a couple of ideas in this book that I would probably actually try.  I like the idea of a decoupaged suitcase to hold "mother's treasures," and I also like one of her snowman ornaments made from air-dry clay plus beads, pompoms, and other things we would probably have already.  Other than that, I got the book (half-price, since it had been out for a couple of weeks) mostly for the M.E. pictures.  Maybe I"ll use them for decoupage...

What's in our yard today? Flickers

This is so cool...not just because flickers are colourful and fun to watch, but because this is the THIRD time we have posted in mid-September about them appearing in our yard.  It's definitely one of those "family nature calendar" things to watch for.  There are several of them outside this morning, including some babies.
Photo found here.

What's for supper?

Tonight's dinner menu (afternoon out):

Swojska sausage, done in the slow cooker with carrots and sauerkraut
Perogies.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dollygirl's School Corner


I think that would be a "no."

Dollygirl, doing copywork:  "Albert Einstein says that imagination is more important than knowledge.  So during math time I'm just going to doodle in my notebook.  Okay?"

What's for supper? Pass the pizza pasta

Tonight's dinner menu:  pizza pasta, a very flexible skillet/casserole meal.  This one is going to incorporate a container of frozen spaghetti-meat sauce, part of a can of diced tomatoes, a few mushrooms, green pepper, a piece of pepperoni, and some cheese, served over pasta bowties.

Plus lettuce salad and carrot sticks, and some oatmeal-raisin cookies that we're going to make this afternoon if we get time.

Monday, September 10, 2012

What's for supper? Shepherd's Pie

Tonight's dinner menu:

Shepherd's Pie, made from a thawed hamburger casserole plus additions
Lettuce salad
Toasted garlic pita bread triangles

Blueberries, or yogurt, or leftover sweet potato cake

Saturday treasure hunting, re-posted with p.s.

Saturday morning was rainy, so the only yard sales were indoor ones.  We stopped at two church sales and found some cool vintage stuff:  electric scissors and a pair of '70's broadcasting-style headphones (Mr. Fixit), a '50's Snowflake-pattern casserole with an aluminum lid and some '70's craft magazines (Mama Squirrel), a Christmas-green pillowcase with hand-knitted edging, and a bunch of mid-century kids' paperbacks, mostly Puffins.
Book titles:

The Family from One End Street (we did have a copy of this, but sold it awhile back)
Bush Holiday
The Little Grey Men by 'BB'
The Fair to Middling
Snow Cloud Stallion
The Young Detectives
Auntie Robbo
The Story of the Amulet
Lad: A Dog, a fairly worn 1940's Pocket Book edition
Two Against the North, by Farley Mowat, Scholastic T145

P.S.  See the McCall's Crafts magazine, with the rag doll with glasses on the cover?  My mom had a copy of this in 1976, and I always wanted one of those dolls.  Maybe I'll collect up the materials to make myself one.  It's only been thirty-six years.

Aunt Sarah Scrap Challenge: the smallest fabric stash around? (Re-posted with more photos)


You've heard the saying, "she who dies with the most fabric wins?"  I've read a variation that says, "she who dies with the most fabric...wasted a lot of time."

I tend to go with the second choice.  Although I like to sew when I do have fabric, I don't keep a lot on hand.  I don't have a handy, inexpensive source of new fabric (even the mill-ends store can be very expensive); I'm not a quilter, or much of a clothes-sewer, so I don't have ongoing large needs for fabric; so it wouldn't make sense for me to stockpile much more than we can easily use.  One carton, maybe.
Lately I've been trying to get even that "stash" down to the minimum.  I used up three large pieces that had been in the bottom of the box for a very long time. 
One was a maternity skirt that I sewed so many years ago that it qualifies as "vintage" fabric.  One was Dollygirl's baby sling.  One was just a piece of flowered fabric that had been there so long that even I didn't remember where it had come from.  All of those became cloth napkins, because we're trying to be frugal like that.  (I think I made about fourteen--I lost count.)

A pair of red corduroy pants, three red and blue placemats, and a piece of calico became Crissy clothes. (More about that in another post.)

I used a piece of fancy pink fabric (from that yard sale back in June) to make a ribbon bulletin board.  If you think it looks a bit lumpy, you're right.  I wanted it up so badly that I kind of jerry-rigged it together with a lot of safety pins.  But I'm planning on taking it apart and straightening it up a bit.

A thrifted piece of red print, plus some white sheeting and eyelet, became a new dress and pinafore for Dollygirl's Abby. 
The rest of the red print, I made into gift bags.
The fabric carton is now about one-third full, and most of what's left, I don't think even Aunt Sarah could make much use of.

All photos by Mr. Fixit and Dollygirl. Copyright Dewey's Treehouse 2012.

When life hands you handmade green, knitted-lace-trimmed pillowcases

As I cashed out of the rummage sale with my pile of Puffins and one handmade green, knitted-lace-trimmed pillowcase, the lady behind the table asked, "Are you sure there was just one of these?"  "I saw only one on the table," I said.  "That's right, there was just one green one!" called over another worker.  The first lady looked at me with an "are you sure you want this?" face.  Don't people sometimes want just one pillowcase? "I want it for the fabric," I explained.  Ohhh...well, that was all right then.

I still wasn't sure exactly what I'd be doing with one handmade green, knitted-lace-trimmed pillowcase (other than putting it on a pillow), but I was open to ideas.  When I measured it, I realized that there was more than enough fabric there for two MCC school kit bags, and it was in great shape, hardly used at all.

The strip that was left, with all its handmade trimming, might make a fancy doll skirt.  I looked at one of our 18-inch doll patterns for the amount of fabric required for an elastic waist skirt: my piece was twice as long as that, but not high enough.  Rather than make an extremely bunchy mini-skirt, I cut the strip in half and overlapped the two pieces to make a "taller" one.  I folded the top over, sewed it to make a casing, threaded some elastic through, and sewed the skirt up the back.  That's all I had to do.
(Dollygirl won the t-shirt in an online doll photo contest.)

Photos by Dollygirl.  Copyright 2012, Dewey's Treehouse.

Scenes from a dollhouse





All photos by Dollygirl.  Copyright 2012 Dewey's Treehouse.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Sixteen pounds, what do you get? (E-book Review)

"You buy sixteen pounds of black eyed peas, a dollar's worth of Gold, a dollar's worth of beans. You got no money to pay your bills; if the landlord don't get you, then the taxes will."--Patsy Montana, 1908-1996
Freezer Meals from The Common Kitchen (Cooking in a Common Kitchen) [Kindle Edition], by Deputy Headmistress US$.99 on the Amazon Kindle Store

I am not a dedicated freezer-meal cooker.  My friend the DHM at the Common Room is, and when she put her step-by-step September plan into an e-book recently, I thought it would be fun to try it out and write a review.  We are in a bit of food transition this year again, since our Apprentice is now living at university  (bringing most dinners down to four servings, or even three, since at least one Squirreling has a small appetite); we're also trying to get our food costs down even more than we have done previously.  So new ideas are always welcome.

The 16 pounds of ground beef required to make ALL the beef meals in one sitting (clarification: there are chicken and meatless recipes as well) might as well have been 16 tons, around here.  But we did manage to buy a four-pound family pack of beef, and I did manage to make three of the ten recipes, all by myself, in one afternoon.  Three recipes, meaning three Enchilada Pies, two Hamburger Broccoli Alfredo casseroles, and three bags of sauce for Chicken Adobo.  Also a few assorted leftovers (such as chopped tomatoes and peppers) that got used in soup and/or frozen. Not bad for four pounds of meat, a few extra ingredients, one food processor, and several foil pans and freezer bags.  If you had more helpers and more food, you could probably do even better.

What I like about the DHM's freezer method:  most of it doesn't involve actual pre-cooking (unlike one stove-intensive "community kitchen" cook-a-thon I once got talked into attending).  I browned the ground beef, adding a package of diced onions and some garlic, in the slow cooker; it was done and ready to go in about three and a half hours.  After that, most of the work was just putting things together.  The food processor helped a LOT:  I did all the vegetables (including carrots for the chicken sauce), then two types of cheese.  The Alfredo sauce did require heating on the stove, and I will admit there were a lot of bowls and plastic containers to wash afterwards--so don't forget to leave time and energy for that.

The meal we liked best was the Enchilada Pie.  I wussed out and put in only one can of green chilies instead of three, but it was still good.  Also, I was a bit short on grated cheese by the end of the session, so I put what I had into the pies and planned to add a bit more to the top when I'm actually baking them.  We had one the night I made the meals, and it made enough for three of us plus leftovers the next day.  This is a fun sort of meal that I could imagine serving if one of my kids had a friend over for supper.

I made the Chicken Adobo last night, and thought it was pretty good.  Since I'm very unfamiliar with Filipino food, I don't have any kind of reference point for saying anything like, "wow, that was the best Chicken Adobo I've ever made."  But other than picking out a lot of small bones, we didn't have any complaints.  Last night I served it with mashed potatoes, and tonight we had the rest of it layered in a casserole with flour tortillas, chopped green peppers, and some chicken broth.  (I think I liked the leftovers version even better).

The meal we liked least of the three was the Hamburger Broccoli Alfredo, which I made with a mixture of frozen vegetables as suggested in the directions.  I think the problem was mostly the visual aspect of the meal: grayish hamburger plus frozen broccoli and cauliflower plus a whitish sauce all came out looking pretty unappealing, even served on pasta shells.  (I did heat it in a skillet rather than baking it in the oven--I don't know if that had anything to do with its lack of success here.) It tasted better than it looked, but we didn't eat a lot of it.  I think what I will do with the casserole that's still in the freezer is make it into Shepherd's Pie, for my potato lovers.  A little beef broth, a little paprika, and we're in business.

Would I try the whole thing again?  Well, although I can see the advantages of freezer cooking...for instance, it definitely saves time on having to brown ground beef...and I know it's nice to have a casserole or two in the freezer...and it's a great way to use up a large amount of meat at once if that's what you do have...and I think the DHM's ingredients and recipes are very manageable and, for the most part, sound pretty tasty...I don't think freezer cooking in general fits our style enough to be a mainstay here.  We use our freezer a lot, especially for baked goods (like the granola bars I made and packaged this week for school snacks) and for storing (smaller amounts of) meat that Mr. Fixit picks up on sale and that I chuck into the slow cooker with some sauerkraut--my version of a freezer meal.  But other than pre-shredding the carrots, for example, I don't think having the chicken sauce made up ahead of time really saved me much time, especially because I'm not likely to be leaving it for someone else (such as an older child) to put together.  For us, it makes more sense to freeze only parts of meals--say, the browned ground beef with onion, in small amounts--rather than having it all made up into specific dishes.

But that said, I still don't think you can lose by ordering a copy of the DHM's plan.  Take what you can use, learn from it, and then adapt it, as we did.  The Enchilada Pie alone is worth the ninety-nine cents.  Well recommended.

Free for Kindle right now, or, Zen and the art of frugality

The Deputy Headmistress lists some of  her recent free-for-Kindle finds on this week's Frugal Hacks column.

My most recent free find is The Inspired Shopper: Effortlessly Finding the Things You Truly Need, by Catherine Magree.  Some readers may not like her extensive Zen-style touring through concepts like intuition and mindfulness, as applied to shopping; but I'm willing to overlook it for what seems like a good combination of humour and commonsense advice.  Free for Kindle right now, but no guarantees how long that will last.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Homeschool things to do for Friday

Dollygirl is asking for some extra time today to clean out and organize all those doll clothes she's been acquiring.  Yeah, it's Friday...there may come a point where we just decide to call it a short day and be done.

Opening time: similar to other days, including folk songs

God's Smuggler: read together, narrate.  I think this is one book we will keep reading together as it often does get a bit intense for an eleven-year-old  (i.e. factory workers being verbally harassed; wartime experiences).

Math: see schedule; mark weekend homework in assignment book

Picture study: Emily Carr's early paintings

School of the Woods: read several pages (at least half the chapter) and narrate

Study for dictation

French: lesson 2

After lunch: Dictation; review Grammar & Composition assignment due next week (mini research project)

Sewing: continue doll blouse. We got it measured and cut out yesterday--today we have to make a casing, thread elastic through, stitch the back seam, and then stitch and cut the sleeves.  (They're cut OUT of the sides of the blouse, which you can see if you're brave enough to click on the Tripod link I sent yesterday.)

Virgil's Aeneid retelling:  read the next section and narrate.

Timelines and history pictures: take time to start at least one "person page" for notebook

Extra reading:  write a reminder in assignment book.

Next Friday Dollygirl will be starting an afternoon drama group, so we will have to adjust the schedule a bit.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Homeschool things to do for Thursday

Today's schedule seems kind of long, but we'll see how it goes.

Morning:

Opening:  prayer, hymn, Mensa puzzle cards.  Robert Frost: America's Poet, chapters 1 & 2 (they're short).  "Going for Water," by Robert Frost.



Bible:  Basic Bible Studies, continue Study 1.  (Verses showing that there is more than one person of the Trinity.)  Sing "The Lord Our God is One" from Judy Rogers' Why Can't I See God?

Citizenship:  Uncle Eric Talks about Personal, Career, and Financial Security, chapters 1 & 2 (they're short).

School year discussions:  Introduce The People Notebook Project.  This is an alternative I came up with to a formal Book of the Centuries or timeline, for this year.  Historical, literary, and other people and/or characters each have a page with a few key questions, such as "best known for," "hardest times," and "beliefs about God."  There is also room for pictures--hand-drawn or pasted in.  The choice of which people to include is going to be up to Dollygirl, but I will give her a minimum for the term.

Math:  see schedule.

Copywork:  choose an Albert Einstein quotation.

History: we finished the chapter in Story of the World Volume 4, about the rise of Stalin.  This is of personal interest to us since the famine in Russia in the early 1920's led to the creation of the Mennonite Central Committee, and the conditions there also brought many Russian Mennonite immigrants to Canada--some of whom we know.

Lunchtime activities:  helped drill a hole in the wall for one of Mr. Fixit's new clocks.  Helped make lemon poppyseed muffins, mini-size, for our hobbit teatime (a tribute to the hobbit's "seed cakes").

Afternoon:

Albert Einstein biography--read chapter 1 and narrate.

Crafts and skills:  sewing a peasant blouse for a doll.  (Note: it's an old Tripod site with pop-ups, so be warned.)

(French:  lesson 2--I think we'll leave this until tomorrow.)

English:  begin first unit (see previous post about English).

Teatime:  "An Unexpected Party."  Dwarves are invited (come in your cloaks).
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