Wednesday, October 31, 2012

More Hallowe'en Flash from the Past: The Jeffersons

It took me awhile to find this 1979 two-part episode online, because in my very confused brain I had mixed it up with an episode of Happy Days.  This clip is from almost at the end of the second part, where Louise is trapped in the apartment with a murderous man dressed in a rabbit suit (really!), and a trick-or-treater comes to the door.  She tries to stall for time by offering the kid candy...then fruit...except it's plastic fruit...then groceries...then butterscotch (without the butter)...

Frugal costumes: doll-sized creations

Abby's cat costume:  One pair of super-stretchy black child's tights, snipped off at the shins and with armholes cut just below the waistband--no hemming or sewing required. We used the cut-off parts for sleeves (did sew those on), and added a snap at the back. Paws:  black mittens, crocheted for the occasion. Felt ears made by Dollygirl.  Sneakers: Springfield Dolls.

Crissy's Gypsy outfit: skirt and shawl sewn from yard-saled fabric.  Scarf: vintage handkerchief.  Jewelry made by Dollygirl.

Crystal's Princess dress:  sewn for Abby last summer.  Shoes: Springfield Dolls.  

Block calendar:  family heirloom.

Photos by Dollygirl.

Not-too-scary with The Flintstones

Forget the Great Pumpkin. THIS is the real Hallowe'en classic. "Len, what have you done?" Although the first-season episode of The Addams Family with Don Rickles comes close.

What's for breakfast?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Taking a short blogging break

Dewey is busy raking leaves, and the rest of us have real-life stuff to do, too.  We'll be back in a few days.

Photo: Mr. Fixit.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The why and how of frugal homeschooling, Part Two

Part One is here.

One part of frugal homeschooling is making better use of the books and other materials that you have.

Another part is to take resources--or things that you've never thought could be resources--and use them in ways that they weren't originally intended.  Like this summer when our cutlery box became my jewelery box.  Or the bits and pieces of the Aunt Sarah Scrap Challenge.  Or a Chinese-style sauce made with ketchup.

How does that work for school?

We've had a thrifted copy of Kids' Magnetic Poetry Book and Creativity Kit (Workman Publishing) for years.  Originally I had great ideas for incorporating the included poetry suggestions into our language arts time, but that never really happened.   We did use the magnetic words that came with the book, but mostly on the refrigerator rather than on the shiny blue fold-out panel inside the cover.

This week I was looking for a white board to use for some math review with Dollygirl.  I found a small magnetic board stuck to the washing machine, but I wanted a bigger one.  I thought there was a larger one somewhere in the school cupboard.  When I went to look for it, I saw the Magnetic Poetry Book, and thought of the shiny blue fold-out panel.  It worked!   What a great resource for math, or for other wipe-off work like spelling words!  As a bonus, it's already marked into centimeter-sized squares:  good for graphing, or geometry, or Cuisenaire rods.

We've used many resources for French lessons that weren't intended as curriculum--but they happened to be in French, like magazines bought from the library's discard rack.  We've also used real stuff from around the house:  toys, fruit, and so on...and not just for French, but for math and other subjects.

Magazines in general can be a great learning tool.  A few years ago we subscribed to Canadian Geographic, and that became the core of our high school Canadian geography course.  What could be more current and more relevant?--plus the magazine has a website with expanded articles, maps, and other resources.  Also we had a two-subscriptions-for-one coupon that we shared with another family, which made it even more frugal for all of us.

Recently I came across one of Emilie Barnes' Twelve Teas books.  This would make a great resource for young ladies (even very young ladies)--there are recipes, crafts (such as invitations), suggestions of ways to acquire basic "tea party equipment," thoughts about keeping friendships strong, and illustrations that, while slightly overdosing on lace tablecloths, show ways to make your house homier.  It wasn't written as a "home ec" book, but you could do worse than spend a season trying out some of the ideas.

What else do you have that you could use in an unintended way, or for a subject other than the obvious? 

Dollygirl's Grade Six: plans for Friday

Plans for today's school:  as Miss Maggie says, "all the good leftovers."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dollygirl's Grade Six: Plans for Thursday

Opening time:  hymns, puzzle cards

Basic Bible Studies:  Read Galatians 3:24, Hebrews 11:1-21:2 “Thus through all the ages, before Christ and after Christ alike, there is one way of salvation.”

Math:  Fractions in real life.  Guided Example (number of boards needed to build a deck), Minds on Math 8, page 95. Page 97, questions 1-4.

Citizenship: Plutarch's Life of Pericles

Composition:  see Tuesday.

French:  we haven't done any French yet this week, so we need to make sure we include this.

Handicrafts:  continue doll-making project.

Story of Canada (Lunn & Moore), start chapter 10, "The Flying Years."  After World War II, "more prosperous times had come."  What were some changes in Canadian life at that time?  Who was Tommy Douglas?  (maybe somebody to add to your People notebook).  What happened at midnight on March 31, 1949?

Thrift store Wednesdays: from God to devils

Found at the thrift store:

Finding God in The Lord of the Rings, by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware

Don't Waste Your Life, by John Piper

The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure, by Hans Magnus Enzensberger

The Charge of the Light Brigade and Other Story Poems, Scholastic TX1325

A vintage copy of Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies, one of my favourite books, published by Home Book Company, with an 1897 signature inside by a lady in Boston

Hitty, Her First Hundred Years, for Dollygirl

A VHS of The Sound of Music, because Ponytails wanted to watch it

A three-episode boxed set of BBC Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, for Mama Squirrel and Mr. Fixit to watch.

And all for under ten dollars.

Biggest mystery today: a whole box of gluten-free cookbooks, all different, at least a dozen.    Why would somebody clear out their entire gf library at once?  Trying to come up with a scenario!  Here's one:  she had a celiac sweetheart but gave him the heave-ho?  We will never know.

What's for supper? 4 S's

Tonight's dinner menu:

Smoked Sausage with Sauerkraut
Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans

Strawberry-Banana Soft Serve (frozen bananas, strawberries and yogurt put through the food processor)

P.S.  Green Beans don't start with S, but they count because they were Schnippeled.  But I didn't schnippel them, Green Giant did.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why I try not to mess with peoples' heads: a serious story

Homeschoolers worry about public schools telling kids what to think, about light bulbs and global warming and political correctness.  But it's not only schools and teachers that threaten to mess with kids' heads.  Certain churches and Christian organizations do it as well. 

I just finished reading The Heretic's Apprentice, a Brother Cadfael mystery which is, so far, my favourite of the series; and a good part of the book is about a man being harassed for daring to ask too many questions about God and sin.  But it's not usually the theological questions that get us in trouble these days; it's the personal.  In an age when everything is personalized, focused on the individual, so are our classes, our group sessions, the questions that come at the end of lessons.  Our culture encourages us, constantly, to "share"; why else would we all have started blogging and using social media?  In a class where once you might have recited your Catechism or answered a couple of questions on John the Baptist and gotten out the door with your private thoughts intact, now you leave wondering if you've let out too many bits of your mind and yourself.  Which is not all bad; relationships are good. Concern for other people is good...prying is not.  When you choose to "unpeel" yourself, to quote Ann Voskamp's blog, that's your own choice; but going where you have no business is not. 

I've been thinking, with a shade more resentment than I realized I still had, about some of the ways I was messed with as a young person. Most of this came through involvement in times of well-meant but destructive "Christian" teaching, not just through our church but through a particular mission group that had a base nearby.  Some of the students from the mission base used to come to our church, so there was a lot of back-and-forth, and never much question about whether it was really good for us.  It was a fun, lively place to go; they offered concerts, worship times, teaching sessions.

One series of videos in particular encouraged participants to really open up about unhappy past experiences, with the intention that they would get all their mess out into the open, pray over it, and move on.  In theory it was simple:  get us all cleaned up and repaired in one nice easy photocopied package. What happened instead was that already-vulnerable, fragile Christians who were most attracted to taking these classes (and I remember the whole circle of them, face by face) had their most private soul-spaces invaded by those who had no business there and who were not qualified to deal with the major issues that people did bring out.

It took a long time afterwards to figure out that it was the whole thing that was wrong...not me.  It does not follow that Christianity is evil or useless, although, after several experiences like this, I found it difficult to trust group situations.  I don't think Jesus ever asked most of us to spend that much time worrying about why we weren't better Christians and what might have twisted us around in the first place. Brother Andrew, according to his book, preached one of his first sermons on the text, "Going, they were healed." Just going--not after countless rehashings of why we were unhappy, or after loud group scoldings of the devil. We should have been going somewhere and maybe doing some good, without letting somebody else tell us that we couldn't until we all had our acts together.

So beware what you get into.  And teachers, beware what you may be asked to ask.  That is one reason I appreciate it when Charlotte Mason tells even parents not to interfere with what God is teaching their children, and not to use more than the three tools of learning.  The way I've tried to phrase it before is that she was "respectful of a young person's moral rights," and some of the ways of parenting and teaching she knew of were not.  Those classes I took, and some of the Christians I knew as a young person, were not. 
"I'll answer that question for one person only, the King.  Aye, and that in private too."--Sir Thomas More in A Man For All Seasons, by Robert Bolt

Dollygirl's Grade Six: Plans for Wednesday

Dollygirl has been under the weather with a cold the last couple of days, so we didn't get everything done--some catching up tomorrow, probably.

Basic Bible Studies, page 26:  Read Romans 4:1-11, 20, 25. "No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God"  (English Standard Version)

Picture Study:  Emily Carr, "Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky," 1935.  One of my own favourite Emily Carr paintings!  Why are we doing so much picture study this week?  We are hoping to make a long-delayed trip to an art gallery, where there is a special exhibit of Carr's work, including this painting.  The exhibit closes this weekend, so if we are going to get there it will have to be in the next few days.

The Story of the World Volume 4,  chapter 32,  "Africa After World War II" and "Two Republics of China."

Math puzzles

Poetry:  two poems from Emily, about Emily Carr

Shakespeare:  Cymbeline, see TuesdayWe didn't get to this

Composition: see Tuesday.  Still haven't gotten to this one!

Handicrafts:  continue dollmaking project.  Didn't get anything done on this today.

Volunteer Afternoon for Mama Squirrel--Dollygirl stayed home.

What's for supper? in which we do convenience food

Tonight's dinner menu:

Salmon Cups, made with Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
A free sample of microwave rice-and-vegetables that came with some junk mail (verdict--okay, but definitely not homemade; at least it didn't have MSG or a terrible amount of sodium in it)
Tossed salad with salad bar options (nuts, Craisins, chopped apple)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dollygirl's Grade Six: Plans for Tuesday

Basic Bible Studies, page 25: Yesterday we read what the prophet Isaiah said about the coming Messiah.  Today, read Luke 2:25-32, 36-38. What did Simeon and Anna say when they saw the child Jesus? Listen to “Simeon’s Lullaby,” by Wendy & Mary.

Shakespeare: Cymbeline, continue Act II, Scene IV.  Iachimo reports back to Posthumus.  Oops--we forgot about this one.  Dollygirl was fighting a cold today and we didn't get to every subject.

Dividing fractions: Work through this word problem found here: "Cassie's bird feeder holds 1/2 of a cup of birdseed. Cassie is filling the bird feeder with a scoop that holds 1/10 of a cup. How many scoops of birdseed will Cassie put into the feeder?" Minds on Math 8, page 89, word problems 16, 17, 18, 19.  Now write your own problem.

Science: see Monday.

Copywork:  Einstein quotes.



The Hobbit:  Chapter 10, "A Warm Welcome"
"The lands opened wide about him, filled with the waters of the river which broke up and wandered in a hundred winding courses, or halted in marshes and pools dotted with isles on every side; but still a strong water flowed on steadily through the midst.  And far away, its dark head in a torn cloud, there loomed the Mountain!"

Skills & Crafts:  work on Dollygirl's dollmaking project.

Grammar & composition:  Write Source 2000, sections 311 and on.    As an example of recalling information, list in sentences the six levels of thinking.   No?  See the example in the book about the 1985 Live Aid concerts.  What is the difference between recalling and understanding?  Your writing assignment for today:  write a paragraph describing what Grandpa told you about V-E Day in 1945.  Use as many concrete details as you can remember.  We didn't get to this, since we read extra in science and did extra sewing as well.

What's for supper? 4 C's

Tonight's dinner menu:

Carrot Sticks

Chocolate pudding

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dollygirl's Grade Six: Plans for Monday

Basic Bible Studies (page 25): Review Trick #1 from Pack of Tricks. Read Exodus 20:24, and Francis Schaeffer’s comment about it. Read Isaiah 53.

Picture study:  Emily Carr, "Old Time Coast Village,"1929-30.

Minds on Math
Dividing fractions: what is the rule? See examples on page 87. Division problems 7, 8 on page 88. Question 13, a) and c): copy and complete the patterns.

The Story of the World Volume 4, chp 31b, "The Marshall Plan."  We have not yet done the earlier chapters about Israel, India, and Egypt, but this chapter leads directly out of what we have been reading about World War II, and also relates to Brother Andrew's Iron Curtain travels in God's SmugglerSome interesting (British) activities here.  Also BBC History: A Wartime HomeAlso here.
"Finally in 1945, when you are fifteen, the war ends.  Everyone in England is ecstatic.  There are even parties in the streets!  No more bone casserole, no more ration books, and no more bombs.  You can go home!  Your parents greet you at the train station with big smiles.  Now, they say, everyone can go back to normal.  But, after six years of war, what is normal?"--Susan Wise Bauer, Story of the World Vol. 4
On our large world map, find:  the United States; London, England; Berlin, Germany; France; Russia (referrred to as the Soviet Union).  (We tried to stump each other on other places as well.)
French:  continue Le voyage de Monsieur Perrichon.

Literature:  Independent Reading.   The Aeneid of Virgil, chapter 4, "Dido, Queen of Carthage."  Read pages 66-half of 71. Narrate orally.

Skills & Crafts:  work on projects.  Dollygirl cut out all the fabric pieces for a mini-doll-making project (her idea).

Science: The Great Motion Mission, chapter 5b pages 58-65
Sub-atomic particles.
Why don’t atoms just fall apart?
What do stars have to do with anything? (how stars are formed)   We skipped science and spent the afternoon working on the craft project.  Science will keep for tomorrow.

After supper:  swimming lesson.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

How you know this is 2012: when pie isn't just pie

According to the cover of a popular Canadian women's magazine, it isn't enough these days to bake a good pumpkin pie, or a delicious pumpkin pie, or even a moist, fluffy, spicy, tangy, mouth-watering pumpkin pie.

Now you have to bake a s--y pumpkin pie.  (This is still a family-friendly blog.)

Thank you, but I'll stick with adjectives I can use in front of my father-in-law.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Time's running out: go nominate your favourite blogs

Nominations for the Homeschool Blog Awards close October 22nd at midnight. Have you sent in your choices yet?
Join Me at The Homeschool Post!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What's for supper? Ham quiche

Tonight's dinner menu:

Quiche, made with leftover ham and green beans

Acorn squash

Pan-fried potatoes with mushrooms and smoked paprika

Canned pineapple, store wafer cookies

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Thrift store Wednesday: puzzles and logic

Found at the thrift store today:

Two balls of tan yarn, for amigurumi projects

Alice in Puzzle-Land: A Carrollian Tale for Children Under Eighty, by Raymond Smullyan

To Mock a Mockingbird, and Other Logic Puzzles, including an Amazing Adventure in Combinatory Logic, by Raymond Smullyan

Penrose Tiles to Trapdoor Ciphers...and the Return of Dr. Matrix, by Martin Gardner

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv

Discover the Bible for Yourself, by Kay Arthur--something maybe to hang on to for future school years

Dollygirl's Grade Six: Plans for a short Wednesday

Opening Time, hymns

Basic Bible Studies:  (page 24) Jump ahead to Genesis 12:1-3. How is God’s promise to Abraham both for him (and his family), and for his nation?  Jump ahead again to Genesis 22:1-18. When did Abraham live, approximately? When did Jesus live? When are we living? Where, exactly, did this story take place? Where did Jesus die? Memorize Trick #1 from Pack of Tricks: Adam (around 4000 BC), Noah (around 3000 BC) (fixed!), Abraham (2000 BC), David (1000 BC), Jesus, William the Conqueror (1000 AD).  (Yes, I know there are arguments for and against giving literal dates to Bible characters, especially Adam and Moses.  In this case we will use them as given.)

Math that we didn't do yesterday

Go spend twenty minutes writing a quick note or card for someone (on paper, not email). Make sure you mail it.


"Uncle Eric" study as outlined here

Volunteer afternoon at the thrift store

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

One more plug for The Church Pianist

For the past couple of years, I have been playing offertories, occasionally, for our church, and sometimes also the pre-service music. When I first posted about that, I linked to Jenifer Cook's blog and website. I am still using her music, especially the free downloads, and I can't say enough good things about them.

I am comfortable with what you might call an "intermediate" level of piano music--and let's just say I'm very aware of my limits. But even Mrs. Cook's easier arrangements sound good. For last Sunday's offertory I printed out Jesus Paid It All. It was simple to read, simple to learn, but it didn't sound like just a "made easy" arrangement. You can hear an audio of it here.

Worth checking out!

Dollygirl's Grade Six: plans for Tuesday

How did the plans for Monday go?  We got through most of the planned day, except that Dollygirl asked if she could listen to more of Number the Stars on audiobook, instead of doing the history lesson.  So we'll have to work that one in later.


Opening time--hymn, prayer

Geography--we are about a week behind on our schedule, but that's all right.  Read Cool Geography, the first half of chapter 2:  "Cool Explorers: They Came, They Saw, They Discovered the World."

Make the geography-lesson grapefruit globe that we have never gotten around to doing yet.

Snack:  eat the grapefruit.


Folk songs

Poems:  Robert Frost, read some of the biography (we should be almost finished that)

Math:  keep working on the fraction word problems from yesterday

Literature:  finish "Aeneas Comes to Carthage"

Go spend 15 minutes cleaning something up

Science:  start chapter 5 in The Great Motion Mission, about the laws of thermodynamics

Teatime:  maybe use the Little Dipper to make a warm dip

Monday, October 15, 2012

Making kaleidoscopes

Awhile back I found a copy of Workman Publishing's The Kids' Book of Kaleidoscopes, by Carolyn Bennett with Jack Romig, published in 1994. The book was originally sold with a kit of materials to make kaleidoscopes.  Occasionally you can still find the package intact (on Ebay or Abebooks); more often it's just the book.  I like the book; it's not too long, it's colourful, it has some good science in it.  But if I want to use it (without actually re-ordering a kit from somewhere), I am going to have to come up with the materials ("three high-quality plastic safety mirrors, tube and turning end, a plastic eyepiece and tube cover, colored gels, and a starter set of plastic beads, gems, chips, and other objects") to do the experiments, and at a reasonable cost (preferably free).  Otherwise I may as well send the book to the thrift store, because it's meant for hands-on use.

Children's books and teachers' websites occasionally have directions for making "kaleidoscopes," but those don't usually involve mirrors.  Some of them are just pretend toys:  put some colours or sequins into a cardboard tube, cover with plastic wrap, and hold it up to the light.  Fun for kindergarten, maybe, but not much good for older kids.

If you're brave and have good cutting tools, you can cut shiny strips from old CDs, and tape them together to form a three-sided mirror. There are directions for this on various websites--just search for kaleidoscope and CDs. Here's a tutorial for a variation of this, using a safety mirror taken from a baby toy. 

Another CD version (see the video at the end of this post) uses the clear plastic case, rather than the CDs themselves.  One of the differences between cheap dollar-store kaleidoscope toys and good ones is that the cheap ones don't have any turning mechanism--you just jiggle the tube to change the "picture." So I think this one is pretty ingenious:  no mirrors, but the coloured objects themselves turn, from the outside.

The book itself also gives suggestions for making your own "scopes," using things like potato-chip cans and flashlights as tubes, and improvising mirrors with cardboard, black paper, and clear plastic.  Looking through our available materials, we do have tubes, transparency film, and even some shiny silver plastic from old science kits.  I'm pretty sure we can come up with something that works.

What's for supper? Almost-free brownie bites

Tonight's dinner menu:

Hamburger-tomato-mushroom sauce with pasta
This and that on top and beside

Brownie bites, made from a bag of Bob's Red Mill gluten-free brownie mix donated by a neighbor who's changed her diet.  Not bad, if you top them with a few chocolate chips. (The package directions say to use 2/3 cup butter or margarine; I used 1/2 cup of canola oil and they turned out fine.)  UPDATE: Dollygirl says that these are her New Favourite Dessert, especially with the chocolate chips, and she wants me to make them again.

NOTE:  Amazon reviewers note that this brownie mix is not a good gf choice for people who are sensitive to commercial gf products. But it is not an issue here; we were just trying to use what we had.

Dollygirl's Grade Six: plans for Monday


Basic Bible Studies, by Francis Schaeffer: God’s Grace, part 2 (page 23)

After the man (Adam sinned), he tried to cover himself with the works of his own hands (how?). God took this away and gave him a covering of what? So this shows that people could not come to God by their own good works, but by what? (page 24) Look up Genesis 4:3-5. How does God ask Adam and Eve (and their children) to worship him? What picture does this give us of the promised Messiah?

The Hobbit chp 8: Flies and Spiders (continue)

FRENCH: Continue Le voyage de Monsieur Perrichon

Minds on Math 8, page 76 and 77.   Application problems for fractions 

Science biography: Albert Einstein, chapter 4.

Write Source 2000:  Last week we read about the "Planet of Bad Thinkers," a place where the inhabitants never set goals, never ask questions, ignore evidence, believe whatever they read, and so on.  We tried to turn those ideas around to list ways of "Becoming a Better Thinker."  Section 309 describes how your mind circles around from simple to more complex tasks while you work on a project.  Section 310 shows a chart of thinking "moves" from simple (observing, gathering) through more complex (rethinking, evaluating).  Choose a real or imaginary problem similar to the examples in section 308 (How can I...Should I...Is doing this activity worthwhile...I've got to convince my parents that...), and try to come up with a solution by tracing your way through the chart.  OR choose a picture book or children's story from our shelf, and show how the main character tries to solve a problem by using this kind of thinking process.

Put the books down and go for a walk.

Folk songs

Canadian history, using Story of Canada: World War II


Poems:  Robert Frost, You Come Too

Friday, October 12, 2012

"Uncle Eric" study guide for chapter 8

Book studied:  "Uncle Eric" Talks About Personal, Career, and Financial Security, by Richard J. Maybury

Why a study guide for chapter 8, when I haven't posted any for the previous chapters?  This is where we're at in our term's work, and it's an important chapter.  Plus it shows you both why I both appreciate Uncle Eric (or Richard J. Maybury) and occasionally disagree with him--or at least want to raise a few questions about where he's coming from.  Which just shows that I've read chapter 8.

Dollygirl and I last read chapter 5 of this book, and discussed why the storytelling model is an effective one, especially for children (it's something our minds can more easily grasp than a list of rules).

We will skip chapters 6 and 7 for now--they're important in Uncle Eric's overall plan, but they don't make especially compelling reading at this point, at least for a sixth grader.

Chapter 8 is "A Model for Selecting Models."

"How do we know we have a good model?" Uncle Eric asks.

What are some ways you can make up your mind about which belief (about a given problem) makes more sense?  Flip a coin?  Ask a celebrity (the "prestige" model)?

Ask a specialist?  Uncle Eric points out that this is at least better than asking someone famous who doesn't specialize in that area, but, on the other hand, some specialists may be reluctant to give up their own accepted models, even if new evidence brings what they believe into question.  For example, read about Ignaz Semmelweis (we like the chapter in Exploring the History of Medicine).  Uncle Eric also uses Galileo as an example.

Sidewinding questions:  Does the Bible teach that the earth is the center of all God's creation?  Uncle Eric says that today we honour Galileo and regard his opponents as "closed-minded tyrants."  Are things different for scientists today?  What about Christian scientists?

Back to the main issue:  what is the final problem with the "prestige" model, that Uncle Eric points out at the top of page 52?

A third method of choosing which model is true:  do your own research.  What are the pros and cons of this?

Why does Uncle Eric say that if "everybody" believes something, then, mathematically speaking, there's a good chance that they're wrong?  Do you agree with this?

What is the scientific method?  What is a working hypothesis?  Watch this excellent, if somewhat silly, demonstration of the scientific method at work:

On page 54, Uncle Eric explains his beliefs about certainty/uncertainty.  Why does he feel it is safer to stay "uncertain" about many things?  Is there anything we can be certain of?  See Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 25:9; Isaiah 33:6; Matthew 27:54; Matthew 28:20; Romans 6:5; Hebrews 6:13.  Does that certainty contradict the point that Uncle Eric is making?

For further thought:  does science also demand an element of faith, or does that contradict the definition of science?  "In science, one must commit oneself to the belief that the world we see and touch is real, that nature is uniform, and that it operates according to the principle of cause-and-effect.  Without these prior 'leaps of faith,' reasonable though they are, one cannot undertake science."----What Does the Bible Say About...The Ultimate A to Z Resource

The why and how of frugal homeschooling, Part One

The why of frugal homeschooling is the easier of the two to answer.  The why is that you (if you're frugal-homeschooling) have limited funds, your family is probably living on one income, or at least less than two full-time incomes, so that somebody can be home to homeschool.

Or maybe you just like a challenge.

The short answer of "how" is "don't spend much money."  But since that's also a silly answer, I'll try to expand that into something more useful.

1.  Use what you have.
2.  Use what you have creatively.
3.  This is the hardest part to explain:  stay aware of your "big picture."  Unless you're naturally serene about letting the unschooling chips fall where they may, you need to keep evaluating, planning, trying to keep in mind whatever educational goals or philosophy you steer by.  Plus whatever family circumstances, special needs, etc. you have to deal with.
4.  In other words, you can use what you have, or what comes your way, as long as it fits into your overall education plan.

In Lloyd Alexander's book Taran Wanderer, the main character Taran meets Llonio, a father who supports his family by taking hold of anything that fate throws in his net--literally.  The family never knows from one day to the next what will float down the river, but they cheerfully take whatever comes, and eat it or wear it or use it.  As Taran stays with Llonio's family, he appreciates their generosity and their creativity, but he also eventually realizes that their way of life is not exactly for him.  He wants to do a little more purposeful seeking, instead of just catching what comes his way. 

I think there's room for both, even in a frugal lifestyle and in frugal homeschooling.  When I wanted to make a particular doll from a particular pattern, I kept my eyes open for certain colours and fabrics.  I never did get to the outlet store that sells rug yarn, but I found something pretty close that also worked.  When I crocheted monkeys last Christmas, I bought yarn in the right colours.  On the other hand, I've sometimes started with a piece of fabric or a ball of yarn, and asked "what could this be? How big is it, how much of it is there, is there enough for this or that?  What else would it work with?  And what do we need right now, who still needs a Christmas gift?"

The same principles apply to menu planning.  What's available? What's the weather like?  What sort of meals does your family eat?  What do you need to add to the shopping list to turn wieners and cauliflower into a meal?  What's still a favourite, what's getting old, and what new things have you been wanting to try?  Sometimes you go shopping intending to buy chicken thighs, because somebody gave you a new recipe, and that is what you bring home.  Or you look in the freezer, and that's what's there.  Or it could happen that chicken is too expensive, so you buy something else. 

One useful exercise to strengthen frugal homeschool muscles is to pretend you are (or maybe you really are) in a situation where, for whatever reason, you are suddenly limited to a few books and resources.  It could be a Bible, dictionary, telephone book kind of thing; or you can go with a more random choice, like the stack of books you just brought home from the library.  From very loose planning ("read the book"), to more structured copywork and dictation, notebooking, dramatizations, or complete unit studies, how many ways can you think of to get the most out of this resource?  If it's a map, are there ways you could add tags or markings to illustrate something you're studying?  If it's a math activity book, which activities can you honestly imagine doing, and (just as important), which ones will provide the strongest learning experiences for your children? 

If it's a book of poems, how will you get the most of out of it?  Have any of the poems been set to music?  Have any actors recorded them?  (Check out anything you can find by the First Poetry Quartet.)  Are there possibilities for acting them out?  (Never underestimate the potential for this--I still remember the Apprentice dramatizing Blake's "A Poison Tree," including the enemy's death throes.)  Can you use any of Ruth Beechick's suggestions, such as turning verse into prose?  Or can you use a poem as a jumping-off point for something original?  Or you can just read a poem slowly and carefully, maybe taking turns on stanzas, copying or memorizing favourite lines.  It's also educational, or just entertaining, to group certain poems together, maybe in combination with art, music, or other readings.  Our church music director once did this as part of a holiday program:  several people of different ages read winter-themed poems by Robert Frost.  Can your students plan a "poetry concert," just for your family or for others as well?  You can see where I'm running away with this...but that's the point, that you can take any worthwhile book as far as you like, use it as far as you can, and it won't cost you any extra.

Linked from the Festival of Frugality #357, and from the Carnival of Homeschooling: End of the Road Edition.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What's for supper? Kind of Philippines-Cuban fusion

What's for supper tonight?

Chicken Thighs Adobo, which includes carrots and onion (from our freezer experiment)
Reheated sweet potatoes
Homemade Cuban bread (Dollygirl and I baked some this morning)

Oranges, bananas
Dangerous Chocolate Cake in a Cereal Bowl

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Quote for the day: on church, classes, Charlotte Mason, and real life

One of this week's thrifted books was This Beautiful Mess, by Rick McKinley.  I am not an adherent of the emergent church movement, so I am cautious about this kind of book; but I did find one passage in it that said more to me about homeschooling and Charlotte Mason than it actually did about church.

Here is the quote:
"Our dream at Imago is that one day you would come to church with your kids and travel through Learning Labs as families.  Think about it:  What if you walked into a church and instead of seeing a sign that says "Sixth-Grade Girls," you saw signs inviting your family to the garden, a science lab, an art studio, a media room, and on and on?  If the kingdom is being expressed in all of life, why wouldn't that kind of "church school" make perfect sense?"--This Beautiful Mess, page 109
Well, what we do when we spend time with other believers on Sunday mornings is worship. Mostly. Our church has Sunday School classes too, but I'm thinking we are there because it's a time of corporate, formal worship, not a time to work in the garden or do science experiments. However, I do like what it says about how we might do life and learning together aside from that time of formal worship. Your thoughts?

Thrift store Wednesday

Most mis-sorted book seen today: Future Tense, shelved with the dictionaries and language books.

Most interesting and/or weird book that came in: a 1947 University of Toronto yearbook.

What we brought home:  Samantha's Craft Book, for Dollygirl; a couple of Christian-themed books with possibilities for adult Sunday School; Extending the Table (a sequel to More With Less); and a guide to local birds.  A fold-out Anne of Green Gables house, missing all its people but still good otherwise, for Dollygirl.  And a small ball of orange yarn, for one of the amigurumi projects I was looking at on Monday.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Jo Doll, finally done

First you need an idea...
Then you need some stuff...and some stuffing...
Partly done...

Finished! (She still could use some shoes.)

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

Thanksgiving in our Treehouse: photo post

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

From the archives: Homeschooling IS an education

First posted October 2006.

Things I’ve learned from homeschooling

1. How to get laundry in and start lunch between math and geography.

2. That there's no such thing as too many bookshelves.

3. That the thermosphere is hot but it's not. [That was from A Child's Geography, by Ann Voskamp.]

4. That hymns are a good way to start the day.

5. A lot about my kids, my husband, and myself.

Things I’ve learned about homeschooling

1. Trust your instincts and your memories. If your gut reaction to something is “ugh” or “why?” or “I would never inflict this on my kids,” you’re probably right. I’ve felt an instinctive “no” about many things. One was a kindergarten math outline that consisted of making a booklet for One, a booklet for Two, a booklet for Three…a booklet for Seventeen…uh huh. Another was the long vowel-short vowel reading approach—that gave me some BAD flashbacks to a first grade class where we circled pictures of pigs and pails and pins and and pens (always fountain pens, for some unexplained reason). The Squirrelings seemed to approach learning better by getting a good running start and then jumping over as much as they could at a time.

2. But stay open minded, too. A book that a bad teacher ruined for you; something you think is too hard for kids; a subject you never thought you were good at—those things can become real and fascinating when you read or study them with children who come without those prejudices. Sometimes opening the door to a new passion is all it takes; sometimes you need a little more perseverance; but the rewards are great. You may witness the beginnings of the world’s next great artist or scientist or missionary.

3. It's okay if every school day isn't perfectly balanced. Most homeschoolers expect and deal with interruptions; and some days you just get more done than others. But you can also plan things to be a bit unbalanced so that you get other things done. The Hillbilly Housewife [that is, Miss Maggie] touched on this in something about menu planning:
"Monday is a big work day in homeschool, so something relatively easy is in order. Dirty Rice with ground turkey or beef will be nice, but I'll have to use celery instead of green pepper because it's out of season and outside of my budget. Wednesday is a slow day at school and I'll be baking anyway so beans will be good. While I'm at it, I might as well make enough for chili the next day. I have time for making chili on Thursday morning while the kids are doing their independent reading."
You are always adjusting and retooling, because your children and learning and changing; because you have more or fewer of them to teach as they grow and graduate; because new books and materials come your way; and because you are learning and changing too.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Homeschool Blog Awards: The nominations are open

Nominations for the 8th annual Homeschool Blog Awards are now being accepted.

All the details, including this year's categories, are in this post.

Go nominate a homeschool blogger you know!  Nominations end October 22nd.

Showers of blessings (what's in your hand?)

This is sort of a Make-it-from-Scratch roundup, with a list of things we have here that need using, or using up.

1 cup of molasses:  Vegan gingerbread for a family Thanksgiving potluck tonight.

Package of brown paper lunch bags (nobody here takes lunch in a paper bag):  homemade paper-lunch-bag albums (there are tutorials on You-tube as well).

About two pounds of navy beans:  cook them in the pressure cooker, freeze them, and use some to make soup or a casserole.

1 small chicken and 1 small ham in the freezer:  Maybe Mr. Fixit will make his grandma's chicken soup.

Frozen "Nature's Balance" vegetable mix, bought on sale:  white vegetable lasagna, when I get some mushrooms.

Six square foil pans and a stack of foil pie plates:  I know you can string up pie plates to scare critters away, but we're in the wrong season for that.  I also don't have a birdcage that needs lining, or any need for a homemade tambourine.  I guess I will just keep using up the pie plates for sending cookies and so on, and as freezer containers combined with foil.

One springform pan we don't use much:  I am looking at this recipe for stuffed pizza.

Cinnamon, ginger, cloves & nutmeg:  homemade pumpkin pie spice mix.

Rolled oats, coconut, honey, and wheat germ:  granola, granola bars.  Ponytails really likes the Chewy Granola Bars recipe on, especially made with butterscotch chips.

Enough long bamboo skewers to make a lifetime of shishkabobs and fruit bouquets:  some food ideas here.  I'm thinking fondue.  And some craft ideas here.

A lot of cornmeal and a package of cornbread mix (gifted from a neighbour who couldn't use them):  well, I guess we're going to be eating corn muffins.

A mess of old Easter baskets:  I found a bunch of recycling ideas here.

Cream cheese, bought on sale:  Baked Potato Soup.

Non-alcoholic beer:  Beer Breadto go with the soup.

Sweet potatoes, because I bought too many:  baked (or oven fries), puree the leftovers to make muffins or doughnuts

Library card:  Go explore the Dewey Decimal system.

Basket of yarn:  Go explore some amigurumi sites, thinking Christmas?  I like this one (link fixed!), and also this oneAlso this egg carton, although the pattern isn't free.

From the archives: Thaksgiving hymns

First posted October 2007

We went for too many years without being able to sing "We Plow the Fields and Scatter" and "Come Ye Thankful People Come" at Thanksgiving. Last Thanksgiving, our first at our current church, it was an incredible blessing (and a bit of a nostalgia trip?) to be in a congregation singing the "proper Thanksgiving songs" and to be surrounded by the same old pumpkins and wheat and gourds and leaves...

Maybe that means more to me than to some other people, and again not because of the spiritual significance of thankfulness and God's provision, but because my Dad Squirrel was, for many years, the guy in our church who put out the pumpkins and wheat and gourds and leaves...and sometimes we got to help him too. I remember the quietness of being in the sanctuary with hardly anybody there, most of the lights off, and having everything ready for the next day. I remember my dad and my uncles being in the adult choir, singing Thanksgiving hymns. I remember being in the Junior Choir, somewhere around age nine, and singing "When we walk with the Lord, in the light of His word, what a glory He sheds on our way" up there at the front, surrounded by the pumpkins...I always connected that hymn, for some reason, with a couple of evening trips we had made to friends' farms--something to do with the image of lanterns (or headlights) lighting up dark cornfields, shedding "glory" on our way (or at least keeping us from driving into the cornfield). (I think there was some Holman Hunt mixed in there too.) I remember even being out there IN the field at dusk for some reason--I think we were playing hide-and-seek with some cousins--and it getting darker, and the different earth and plant smells (we were city kids, remember) imprinting themselves on my nose.
All that comes back every year; I suppose I don't need the physical pumpkins and wheat and gourds and leaves to remind me. But they do anyway.

We plow the fields, and scatter the good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand;
He sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain.


All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above,
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
For all His love.

He only is the Maker of all things near and far;
He paints the wayside flower, He lights the evening star;
The winds and waves obey Him, by Him the birds are fed;
Much more to us, His children, He gives our daily bread.


We thank Thee, then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seed time and the harvest, our life, our health, and food;
No gifts have we to offer, for all Thy love imparts,
But that which Thou desirest, our humble, thankful hearts.

Words by Matthias Claudius

Available on

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Dollygirl's Grade Six: Plans for Friday including a woodland teatime

Opening:  O Canada, Thanksgiving hymns.

Basic Bible Studies (we read God's Smuggler yesterday instead of doing this)

Citizenship: Plutarch's Life of Pericles

Math:  continue with spreadsheets and repeating decimals

Study for dictation
School of the Woods teatime:  Bring as many woodland-type stuffed or toy animals as you can (including Uncle Dewey), and we will have hot chocolate and "woodsish" snacks, read a couple of Robert Frost's tree poems, play Beaver Ed's Nature Card Game, and read the next chapter of School of the Woods(I have to admit that this is a shameless attempt to interest Dollygirl even a little bit in School of the Woods.  So far I think she just finds it tedious.)

After lunch:  Dictation.  Work on "people notebooking" pages.  Drama club.

Dollygirl's Grade Six: plans for today

Homeschool plans for Thursday:

Basic Bible Studies: God’s Grace (A), part 1 of 2 (page 22)

Citizenship:  Uncle Eric, chapter 5: How to Learn or Teach Models. A sure way to keep people from learning:  teach them all about the thing, but don't let them touch it, play with it, or otherwise form any kind of relationship with it. Example: when we play a new card game, do we have to go over every single rule first?

Math:  start working on pages 64-65, Repeating Decimals. (working with spreadsheets as described in the textbook)

Copywork:  finish this passage from Leigh Hunt, quoted in Charlotte Mason's Home Education:

"Suppose," says Leigh Hunt, "suppose flowers themselves were new! Suppose they had just come into the world, a sweet reward for some new goodness... Imagine what we should feel when we saw the first lateral stem bearing off from the main one, and putting forth a leaf. How we should watch the leaf gradually unfolding its little graceful hand; then another, then another; then the main stalk rising and producing more; then one of them giving indications of the astonishing novelty––a bud! then this mysterious bud gradually unfolding like the leaf, amazing us, enchanting us, almost alarming us with delight, as if we knew not what enchantment were to ensue, till at length, in all its fairy beauty, and odorous voluptuousness, and the mysterious elaboration of tender and living sculpture, shines forth the blushing flower."
Einstein and The Theory of Relativity chp 3: Learning in Spite of School. Read pages 24-top of 30.

French: Le voyage de Monsieur Perrichon, lesson 8. Review folk songs.  Je Veux Chanter #30, “Alleluia.”

Finish a picture in Je gribouille!   (French equivalent of the Doodle Book series.)

We were supposed to go to the library this afternoon and look for Dewey Decimal books, but there are some life-interrupts conflicts, so it will have to wait.  Also I wanted to have a real tea time this week, but the afternoons have been busy, and tomorrow afternoon is drama club...and Monday is Thanksgiving.  So maybe Tuesday or Wednesday. Or...whoever said you couldn't have teatime in the morning?  That would work...

Carnivals this week

The Festival of Frugality was going to be at See Debt Run, but it's been moved to the carnival's home page for this week.  See Debt Run will be hosting next week.

North Laurel Home & School hosts the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival, part of the continuing series on Charlotte Mason's numbered principles of education.  This week's focus is on narration.

And this week's Carnival of Homeschooling comes from Mrs. Mama Hen in Alaska.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Thrift store Wednesdays: poems and dinosaurs

Found at the thrift store:

One ball of red-and-other-colours heavy yarn that I think might work for Jo Doll's hair

One kid's denim outfit from the clearance corner, to make a skirt and vest for Jo Doll.

Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle...And Other Modern Verse.  Scholastic TX868.  A classic of my schooldays.

Cavalcade of Poems, Scholastic TX577

The Educated Imagination, by Northrop Frye.  I loaned mine out and I'm not sure if or when I'll see it again, so I picked up another fifty cent copy.

Time as History: CBC Massey Lectures 1969, by George Grant (the Canadian George Grant). The Educated Imagination is part of the Massey lectures series too.

The Science Class You Wish You David Eliot Brody & Arnold R. Brody.

The Dinosaur Hunters, by Deborah Cadbury. This is the same book as Terrible Lizard, just a different title.
Most expensive thing I priced today: a book of Annie Leibowitz's photos for $10. I figure somebody will buy it. Most out-of-place thing I found: a book of daily affirmations called Seeds of Change, sorted with the gardening books.  Coolest thing I priced last week but it's gone now:  a biography of Edward Gorey.

What's for supper? Reheat and thaw

Tonight's dinner menu:

Leftover chicken lasagna
Lettuce and carrot salad
Garlic toast triangles

A bit of thawed cake (a birthday cake layer that broke coming out of the pan) with vanilla yogurt and thawed blueberries.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Enough, already

I heard the tail end of a news item on the radio this morning, something about a study concluding that a lot of people have too much clutter and stuff.

Leaving aside the question of who gets paid to study that (what a world), and the comment that we all know that anyway, they may have been referring to researchers at Princeton who say that living with clutter has a negative effect on peoples' brains.

The Princeton study is cited in a post by Marlene Alexander at Walletpop Canada, "How Having Too Much Stuff is Costing You."  Marlene writes, "[The study] found that disorder blocks your ability to focus and limits your brain's ability to process information. Clutter wears you down mentally so you're more likely to become frustrated and stressed."

But there's also a September 29th article in the St. Catharines Standard, by Thane Burnett of the QMI Agency, "Our ancestors would be impressed, but being buried by all our stuff is not making us happier."  From the article:  "We don't just use shopping buggies, we push flatbed carts.  Children in North America make up a small percentage of the world's population but play with at least 40% of all the world's toys -- many which are ignored in their closets.  We cling to sweaters that aren't worn, cookbooks never stained by buttery fingers, photo albums eclipsed by digital files we also don't keep in order, piles of sports equipment growing fatter from sitting idle, and on some hanger [sic] a ski jacket from 1983."

I plead...only semi-guilty to consumption and clutter.  I try not to hang on to what I can't possibly use, even among my beloved books.  I download Kindle freebies, but if I haven't given them more than a few minutes a month later, I delete them.  This summer I added a few extra shoes to my closet, but that's because I was down to a worn pair of church shoes and a ratty pair of sneakers.  We've parted with no-longer-useful gifts, even those that held memories of their donors. We've used a lot of the older things (furniture, tools, dishes, toys) that have come our way; in fact, finding and restoring now counts for a good chunk of our family income.

However, compared to a lot of people in the world, our family is still overloaded and wasteful.  It doesn't matter how many loads of stuff we take to the thrift store, how many cloth napkins I sew.  It's more a matter of the huge gap between those of us in North America who think we live fairly simply or on small incomes, and a lot of other people who lack even clean water and a safe place to live.  So what motivates us?  Increasing guilt, refusing to enjoy what we do have because there are many who still need?  I should, what, refuse to make lasagna with cheese and meat, or refuse to make it with cheese, or refuse to make it at all, or refuse to eat it at all, or refuse to eat at all?   If it's hard deciding how much stuff is enough, how do we decide how much un-stuff is enough?

Sounds a bit like the sermon on John the Baptist that I heard at church this weekend. Repent, he hollered, all you people who find yourselves part of systems that hurt instead of heal. Do what you can to change what's stuck.  Live as honestly as you can, sharing where you can and trying not to support or excuse abuse and injustice.  As the Princeton study says: live in a way that doesn't wear you down or drown you in a sea of stuff, whatever that means for you and your family: big house so you can have lots of company, tiny house so you can live with less, whatever.  Make your home welcoming; preserve the past without stumbling over it.

How else can we then live?

Ironically, I do have a 1980's ski sweater that my mother knit for me.  It's a great colour, it's warm, and it reminds me of her every really cold day when I wear it.  I'm keeping it.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Dollygirl's written narration: Albert Einstein, chapter 2

A written narration from Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity, by Robert Cwiklik

Albert’s father and uncle were doing the lights at the Oktoberfest. Albert and his sister walked around the grounds making sure the lights were on. Albert took Marta into the beer drinking contest and afterwards Marta made him swear to never ever drink beer like that. Albert hated school. All you did was sit there while teachers talked about things you didn’t understand. Albert didn’t get any of it, so he just sat there daydreaming with a silly smile on his face. “Mr. Einstein I wish you weren’t in my class, all you do is sit there, daydreaming and smiling.” His teacher often remarked. Albert did love watching the stars though. He would stand in the backyard for hours just looking up at the sky finding the patterns. One day he was walking home from school and he saw the soldiers having a drill. He hated seeing them standing with their bayonets shining in the sunlight waiting to hurt people. There were other people standing and waving and smiling at the soldiers as they drilled. Albert did eventually take violin lessons at the insistence of his mother, and became a very good player.
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