Saturday, July 31, 2010

It followed me home, can I keep it? (book finds)

I have had a couple of chances to search through used book bins over the last couple of days...this is what made it home, more or less.

Shop, Save, and Share, by Ellie Kay (about saving money on groceries--unfortunately a lot of her strategy depends on Sunday coupon inserts and double coupon stores, neither of which we have here)

Felicity Saves the Day (American Girl)
Josefina's Surprise (American Girl)--our girls are into American Girl stories right now

Rob Roy
, by Sir Walter Scott (just a paperback, but we didn't have a copy)

My Little House Christmas Crafts Book
Making Dolls and Dolls' Clothes, by Lia Van Steenderen (I was so happy to see this on the library discard shelf--we've taken it out several times over the years and I would have been sad to have it disappear)
Sew the Essential Wardrobe for 18-Inch Dolls, by Joan Hinds and Jean Becker (another book I was very happy not to miss--it even has its envelope of full-size patterns)
Hearthstrings: How to Make Decorative Garlands for All Seasons, by Carol Cruess Pflumm
A partially-there book of Dover birthday invitation postcards
Skills for Survival: How Families Can Prepare, by Esther Dickey, 1978. Includes such wonderful meal suggestions as cooked beets stuffed with greens.

Sally Go Round the Sun, a book of songs by Edith Fowke. My Squirrelings are too old for this vintage book, but I thought it was worth bringing home.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Pool of Fire, by John Christopher (one of the Tripods series)
One Tintin book
One Happy Hollisters book
Teddybears ABC, by Susanna Gretz (also too young for our girls, but we like Gretz's teddybears books) [Note: this one was recommended for tiny ones, but we looked at it and don't like it quite as much as Teddybears stay indoors. The Apprentice thinks it's too much like Alligators All Around.]
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain, by Alice Dalgliesh

The Bug Game, by Ampersand Press (not a book, but it came home with the books)

Apprendre à Ecrire Sans Faute (Write Without Mistakes--a language workbook)

Wild in the City, by Jan Thornhill (picture book about urban wildlife)
The Kids' Science Book, by Robert Hirschfeld and Nancy White
Science on a Shoestring, by Herb Strongin

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sugar, sugar: improvised butterscotch sauce

We had some maple icing in the fridge, leftover from Mr. Fixit's birthday cupcakes (which were really banana muffins). Actually it was more butter than sugar--I got the proportions a bit off. I had the idea of thinning it down and using it in rice pudding, but we were out of rice.

We also had some leftover butterscotch pudding, the instant kind--something Crayons had asked for, but we didn't eat the whole package.

I combined the chunk of icing and the pudding with a bit of water in a large measuring cup, microwaved it for a minute, stirred it, and microwaved it for another minute.

Instant warm butterscotch sauce. Good over plain cake, muffins-in-a-pan, or something else not too sweet.

Not that I'd expect that everybody (or anybody) out there would have leftover maple icing and leftover butterscotch pudding, but when you have potentially compatible leftovers, it's always worth a try.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Why we are not good mall material

We haven't been to the big mall here in awhile. It was rainy this morning (i.e. no yard sales), and a couple of us were looking for shoes and other things, so Mr. Fixit suggested we go shopping.

Crayons and Mama Squirrel went to the discount department store and bought a pair of summer shoes for Crayons marked down from $10 to $5 and then they took another 50% off at the checkout, so the final price was $2.50.

And we found an Algebra Adventure DVD for Ponytails, in a clearance bin for $2.99.

Then we went to the bookstore. Mama Squirrel spent a gift card on a book about staying out of debt. (Note: I respect this author's financial expertise, but she does use some language that some people would find offensive. Just saying.)

Other than that...well, Mr. Fixit and Ponytails found a couple of things they wanted as well (Ponytails got a tank top, a shirt, and a pair of church shoes). One store was offering a discount to "students and teachers with i.d." so Ponytails used our support group's membership card (the clerk asked "what is that?" but accepted it anyway). They saved about $15 overall. The shoe store offered a discount to Canadian Automobile Association members, which at least helped with the sales tax...and then Mr. Fixit got another 20% off Ponytails' shoes because the cashier said that if he texted a certain number and typed the name of the shoe store, he would get an instant coupon over the phone that he could use right there. So he did.

We did pay full price for a box of Timbits. :-)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

An addition to Crayons' Grade 4 Literature

I forgot we had a copy of this: Life of Robert Louis Stevenson For Boys and Girls, by Jacqueline Overton. I think we can fit that one in, or at least part of it. There are so many Stevenson books and poems that are part of our school that it's good to be able to connect them a bit.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How do you spread out a school year?

Day by day, like Cindy?

Listed by chapter or page but undated, like the Deputy Headmistress?

I have settled on a middle place: I have a year's plan divided up by months. I like to know how many chapters we are supposed to be into a book by the end of October, or roughly when we're going to get to a science or craft project that requires supplies, or when a library book needs to be put on hold. That way if we miss a Monday for Thanksgiving, or someone's sick, it doesn't mess the schedule up too much to have to put the week's work off till next Monday. The idea is just to get to where we're supposed to be by the end of the month.

I take into account things like really only having three workable school weeks in September, two in December, and three in March (we take March Break).

I can always sit down on Sunday night and figure out how big a piece of the month's work we can reasonably chew off in the coming week...but I'm not doing that this far ahead. I just like to have a rough idea at this point.

It helps to go into enough detail to include chapter titles and topics--you sometimes see connections and patterns that you might have missed. Whatever Happened to Justice? mentions Thomas Paine, and one of the Write with the Best lessons uses an excerpt from Paine. I don't usually try to jiggle them closer together--but it's nice to have a note that we'll be returning to a person or a topic later on. Or if there are chapters covering almost identical material in different books--I make notes on what to skip.

It also helps when you can see where a book's probably going to be done before the year's end, or where you're going to have to double up on readings. One of Ponytails' history books will be done in May; luckily, that's just where we're going to have to pick up the pace with the other one.

It also helps if you look at the month's work and feel either motivated or exhausted. Exhausted probably means that you need to stretch something out or cut it out altogether. I cut out a few things after looking at the year's plan...I had hoped to read a book about Alexander the Great with Crayons, but it's just not going to happen with the rest of the history we have to do. Maybe next year.

Here's a sample of the plan for the upcoming year. I don't bother to include things like Bible reading (unless there's a specific place we're trying to get to) or daily grammar pages. I also don't have a lot of details included about Ponytails' science lessons, since she does that with her dad. My plan's in a Word table, but this is a text version.

Ponytails, September:

Christian Studies: Mr. Pipes: Clement; Hail, Gladdening Light; Gregory of Nazianzen; Prudentius. Lewis readings 1-3.

History: Justice: Cause is Law, Higher Authority, Higher Law (refers to Thomas Paine). Foster: Intro (Janus), Under a Lucky Star, Ides of March, Cleopartra, Caesar's Son, Cicero, Conspirators. Bauer: 6, 7, 8. Story of Canada: chapter 7, Confederation Days, to top of page 178.

English: Elements of Style, 8 lessons. Begin writing Unit 1: Free Verse. Weekly Wordplay Cafe.

Literature: Watership Down, 2 chapters/wk so approx. 6 chapters. Read Bulfinch chapters 2-4 (skipping 1 for now). Start reading Shakespeare play. Poetry as assigned.

Science and Geography: Richards: Universe & its Origins, Dead Planets Living World, The Odd Planet. (May not get that far if we're doing map work.) Biography chapter 1-3. Readings from geography list. Nature readings together.

Math: Start work with Dad. Weekly group math time (3 times).

Languages: Latin lessons 1 (Days 1-5), 2 (Days 1-4). Learn Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in Latin. Learn "In Nomine Patris." French 3x/wk (approx. 9 lessons).

Fine Arts and Citizenship: Streatfeild: The Six, Mr. Fosse. Music and picture study. Ourselves chapter XII. Start Plutarch (should get to lesson 2 or 3 of 12).

Gracious Arts: Alcott chapters 1-3. Schaeffer chapter 1 The First Artist, chapter 2 Hidden Art.

Crayons (some of her books are the same so I won't repeat them):


Christian Studies: Bible studies, 3-4 lessons.

Language Arts: Daily work with Mom, still to be planned. Weekly Wordplay Cafe.

Math: Daily work with Mom, weekly group time.

Literature: Poetry, start Stevenson. Kidnapped--start and see how far we get.

Science and Nature: Read How to Think Like a Scientist. Start some Franklin experiments (still to be chosen). Start Story Book of Science if time.

History: Read book about Franklin. Start GW's World, through "The Friendly Printer." Also read Seventh and Walnut (it's short). Writing/narration activities as planned.

More on this fall's homeschooling (Part 3)


I already mentioned briefly what we're doing: Ponytails is finishing off Key to Geometry and Key to Decimals, and then will be starting Key to Algebra, and probably doing practice Gauss competition tests at the grade 8 level. She's planning on doing most of her math with Mr. Fixit again this year.

Crayons will be finishing Math Mammoth Light Blue Grade 3, because we got into it late in the year, and then we'll download Grade 4. I've been very interested to see where/how the Miquon Math she'd always used fit in to this newer curriculum; where we can go fast because we've already covered a topic, and where we have to slow down for math potholes. Not surprisingly (if you know Miquon), she has a very good sense of place value; she has a good understanding of how numbers work, and she's probably a bit ahead in multiplication, since Miquon starts that early. She's great at money math, not so good at telling time, but we'll keep working on that.

We'll be doing a weekly joint math time--I'm still working out the details on that. Some of what we'll be doing will be coming out of Critical Thinking's Math Detective book (the gr 5-6 level), since we have it on hand; but I don't want to do exactly the same format every time...the goal is to get a bigger sense of mathematics, to learn about the really interesting parts of it, not just "what you get in school." (If you've never checked out the Living Math website, there's lots of inspiration there.)


Otherwise known as Home Economics or Family Studies...but it's more than that. We are going to read through The Hidden Art of Homemaking (maybe just parts of some chapters), and supplement that with Marmee's Sugar N Spice Studies (nice around the holidays), a book on teatimes, a book on making basket gifts for people, and other books on crafts and creativity. We'll also read Louisa May Alcott's novel Jack and Jill, since a lot of that book is about "brightening the corner where you are" and finding the beauty around you.


A catch-all category. Whatever Happened to Justice? could fit in here, but I'm counting that under history this year. We'll be reading Plutarch's Lives (probably just Ponytails the first term), some of Charlotte Mason's book Ourselves, and Noel Streatfeild's book The Fearless Treasure. (We've never used that last one yet, so it will be an experiment.)


We'll probably follow the Ambleside rotation for picture studies and composer studies, except that I want to include Tom Thomson in this year's's a good year to do this since at least one museum within reach will be hosting a Thomson exhibit.

Art instruction: this is pretty much open. Crayons, although she loves to craft, is going through a spell of thinking that she can't draw, so it's not something I'm going to push right now. Ponytails has her own artistic interests she's working on. We will incorporate narration drawings and other activities into the year's work and leave it at that. (I was pretty happy, though, to find tins of watercolour pencils and charcoal pencils at Dollarama this weekend for $1.25 each.)


We'll be following the lessons in Our Roman Roots, probably three times a week.


I had planned to have Ponytails start one of the Mission Monde levels, and work something out myself for Crayons. When I got started working on Crayons' curriculum, I realized that we could probably do at least the first half of the year together, and then maybe get MM for Ponytails after Christmas. I looked at the Ontario ministry guidelines for grade 4 and grade 8 French, and they're really not that offense to anyone who might be offended by that, I just mean that, for a ministry of education outline, it's pretty simple and clear what's supposed to be taught, and we can cover that with our own books. Our theme is going to be Les Insectes, based on a Canadian activity book (from a used book sale) called Les Insectes (surprise). We'll learn bugs along with verbs.

I think that's it for now...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What's ahead in the Treehouse homeschool?

Up in the Treehouse, Mama Squirrel has been hunched over a desk with a pen in her furry paw, post-it notes stuck to her tail, and a look in her eyes similar to that of a determined but frustrated suitcase-packer.

However, that's not a very leisurely place to be, for either Mama Squirrel or the Squirrelings. And the answer, of course, is not to cram everything in tighter, but to let go of what most likely won't matter on the trip. Or afterwards.

Leisure is having the freedom (time, space, opportunity) to discover what makes you fully human.


But we are still going to fit in a travel-sized package of Latin this year. And work on French, in which we have gotten unavoidably but sadly behind.

Crayons, going into Grade 4, will be doing Ambleside Online's Year 4, more or less, which covers mostly American history of the 1700's. (We won't be reading This Country of Ours or Abigail Adams.) Geography, nature, and some of the science will be different. However, we're at a very interesting point with the two Squirrelings that are left homeschooling, since some of the Year 4 books also appear on Carol's Pre-7 book list, which we like very much and which gave us a base for planning Ponytails' Grade 8. So this year we'll be doing Age of Fable and It Couldn't Just Happen together, along with Shakespeare and some of the usual other together-things.

Ponytails will have two strands of history: Augustus Caesar's World by Genevieve Foster, and world/Canadian history from 1865 to 1965, using The Story of the World Volume 4 and The Story of Canada which covers, in this squirrel's opinion, too much too fast to be a favourite CM resource, but which is good for a middle-school look at Confederation, the World Wars and so on.

Math will be mostly Math Mammoth for Crayons and Key To books for Ponytails, although we'll also be doing some math journalling. Crayons will be reading Jean-Henri Fabre's The Story Book of Science and doing some Benjamin Franklin science experiments (maybe these, maybe these). Ponytails will be continuing to study science with Mr. Fixit (a.k.a. Dad) but will also have a (short) science reading list.

I'll post more details as I pull them from my tail notebook.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Cooking without recipes: Summer Edition

What's for supper?

Pizza Pasta. I had thought of making Pizza Roll-ups, but it was too hot to turn on the oven. So this is what I did: browned a pound of ground chicken in a non-stick skillet, added some cut-up pepperoni, a few mushrooms, a chopped green pepper and a bit of canned pasta sauce, and let all that cook while I cooked a potful of fusilli. Just before the end I melted some mozzarella and cheddar over the top of the skillet.

BTW, one of the best frugal and energy-saving tips I've tried recently from the Tightwad Gazette books is the pasta method from the late Mary Leggewie of Bring the water to a boil, add pasta, bring it back to a boil, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and cook for about twenty minutes, stirring a couple of times to keep the pasta from sticking. It really works!

Raw vegetable plate: cucumbers, zucchini sticks, a few carrot sticks.

Chocolate Microwave Cake with Raspberry Sauce. (our post about microwave cake) The raspberry sauce was made like this: I partly thawed some frozen raspberries (a couple of cupfuls?). In a saucepan I combined two cups of water, two tablespoons of cornstarch, and a couple of good spoonfuls of raspberry fruit spread; I cooked that until bubbly and then added it to the berries, and we drizzled the sauce over slices of chocolate cake.