Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Curriculum Changes

'Tis the season for curriculum changes!

School is pretty much done here in my house. My youngest is definitely finished with his kinder work but I plan on maintaining a "light" daily school schedule; an hour at most for reading, light math work, and some phonics. My 3rd grader has some work he still needs to do in math and history. Taking most of April off for a vacation put him a little bit behind. I am so thankful he has fallen right back into the school routine without any balking.

With that said though, I am knee deep in curriculum choices and considerations. Throughout this past year I have gravitated towards classical methods of teaching. I like the structure and rigor that the classical method encourages. And while I don't plan on following The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (TWTM) to a "T", I want to implement many of their ideas into our routine this coming year. So, here I sit with a borrowed copy of TWTM organizing the curriculum I have already purchased, taking notes of what I still need, and then it hit me. BAM! I want to supplement the history I have planned for my oldest next year.

As many of you know I also use My Father's World for our curriculum base. MFW is a mix of classical and Charlotte Mason approaches. Because this is the first year my oldest will be using MFW, they recommend I start with Exploring Countries and Cultures (ECC). Basically, ECC is heavy in geography and non-existent in history as I am coming to find out. So what do I do? I want my son to keep learning history and not take an entire year off to do just geography. On top of that conundrum. . .this past year we studied ancient civilizations. TWTM and Charlotte Mason both advise learning history in a chronological order. Which I wholeheartedly agree with, for lifetime homeschooled kids that is. My oldest though is a product of the public school system for 3 years. 3rd grade was his first year at home with me. If he was still in public school and entering the 4th grade this fall he would be learning American History 1850 to present. He most certainly wouldn't be focusing on just geography. Now, taking that all into consideration please know that I in no way feel like my kids need to keep up with public school or study the same things they are studying. I homeschool for many reasons including the freedom to do what is right for my kids concerning their education.

I have been praying about this curriculum change for quite some time. I even thought of trying to squeeze it in during the summer and progress as normal with the standard MFW ECC curriculum this fall. But 1850-present American history is so rich in material, I do not want to short change my son or myself in this exciting learning period. Even though, it will be out of chronological order I have decided to add The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 4: The Modern Age: From Victoria's Empire to the End of the USSR to our curriculum for the 2010-2011 school year. I am looking forward to all the interesting biographies and activities that go along with this time period. I suppose if my son wasn't easy at "rolling with the punches" then I would have stayed with the chronological order of history that we started here at home. But he has always been easy going and I know he will do just fine with the jump in time periods from this year to next year.

Anyone else knee deep in books? My entire dining room table is covered right now with books. I am sorting by subject and child. Taking notes on what I have and what I need. The bad part is that this is only the beginning. I have bookcases of stuff 2000 miles away that I need to organize and sort for this coming year. I just pray that we find a house near a library. . .buying books can get expensive.

I am beyond excited for this coming school year. So many fun things planned and exciting things to learn. I pray I can keep it all together and organized though. My workbox system will help with that immensely I'm sure. :)

Friday, May 21, 2010

2010-2011 TOS Younger Crew Member

I am excited to be able to announce that I have been asked to join The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew for the 2010-2011 school year. Specifically I will be reviewing products for young children; ages preschool to 6. Stay tuned for exciting and helpful reviews on curriculum and products for your younger homeschool kids. I am truly looking forward to this wonderful opportunity and all that I will be able to share you my readers.

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A Pie Crust Recipe for the Pie Crust Challenged

Pies oh my!

I can handle my own in the kitchen. I can comfortably concoct new recipes that are healthy and tasty. I also frequently try new cooking methods and ingredients. There is very little I won't try in the kitchen.

Very little I say. One thing that has been the bane of my baking existence is pie crust making. As I told my Mom this morning, I can not roll out a pie crust to save my life. Honestly, I promise. Must be something in my female genes because my Mom can't roll out a pie crust either.

So what was I supposed to do last night at 9pm when I wanted to make a rhubarb swirl pie? Answer: make a pie crust for the pie crust challenged. Otherwise known as the Mazola Pie Crust, I have since made 3 of these easy smeasy crusts in just 12 hours; 2 last night and 1 more this morning.

If you are pie crust challenged like me here is a crust recipe to save your baking career!

Mazola Pie Crust
1.5 cups flour
1.5 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt

Sift these 3 items together into a pie pan.

In a glass measuring cup, mix 1.2 cup oil and 2T. milk and pour over dry ingredients. Mix together with fork and form your pie shell. Bake 425 degrees for 12 to 15 min.

Viola! Thanks to my Mom I now have a pie crust recipe I can use in a snap. I loved this recipe because while the crust is baking I can prepare the pie recipe and the crust is done in no time. I now have 3 rhubarb swirl pies; 2 to share and 1 for my family to enjoy.

Happy baking friends!

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Reason for Midwest Living

As I have indicated in previous posts, my family and I recently moved to the midwest after living in sunny Southern California for well over 30 years. My husband and I are both CA natives so we rightfully expect a culture shock and adjustment period this winter. The sun, beach, and life-long home was not enough to keep us in CA though. We wanted a simpler life for our kids, more room for them to play and be themselves, and more time together as a family spending quality time making life-long memories. The mid-west also affords us more time with extended family on my side, something I desperately wanted for my kids as they grow and mature.

After years of praying God finally afforded us the opportunity to make our dream a reality. Praise Him! And while my husband is still packing up our house and preparing to move our material things out here I am trying my best to assimilate my kids into the neighborhood and community activities. Today my kids got to experience just one of the many things that living in the midwest affords them; playing baseball. Yes, they could have played back home in CA but the cost and time commitment was prohibitive. Here not only is the cost next to nothing but the playing atmosphere is laid back and we only meet once a week for games or practice. Cheap and once a week was unheard of in CA. Today was practice for my youngest son, what a blessing he was given. He had a blast and has already started making new friends. What else could a Mother ask for? After we got home this afternoon my son asked me if he could play baseball for a long time, he said he loved it and wanted to play until he was really old. How can you not feel happy inside after your child tells you something like that? Especially knowing that in your old home that experience would not have been possible. The sense of blessing I feel after today is overwhelming, there are not words in the English language to describe the joy I feel knowing that my kids are going to have the life that I have always dreamed about for them. For so long, this reality seemed so far off, so unattainable. But look at us now! Our dream of raising our kids in the heart of America with all-american values and life experiences is coming true. God is great!

Tomorrow is practice for my oldest son. He has asked to play baseball for such a long time. Our answer was always, sure some day. Which in adult speak meant "sure someday when we can afford it". My son's chance has arrived though and I suspect there is no looking back. Yeah!!

My CA friends ask me all the time why we moved. This is just one of the many. . .

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Kaleidoscope Giveaway Winner

After all the delay and chaos of moving and being without internet for over a month, I am happy to announce that Amanda is the lucky winner of my most recent giveaway; Kaleidoscope by Patsy Clairmont. Amanada has 48 hours to contact me with her information otherwise I will give the book away to another random generated winner.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Helped a little bird today

My Mom and I did a good deed for nature today. . .

A poor little sparrow fell into the grape jelly feeder that we put out for the Orioles. We tried just letting it go but quickly realized that it was going to die if we didn't help it. It's poor feathers, feet, and wings were all sticky with jelly. While my Mom gingerly held it in her hands I wiped the jelly off of it's body. Funny thing is that as I cleaned off this sadly chirping bird I conjured up visions of gracefully releasing this bird into the air. Oh how was I wrong. . .while trying to check it over for more jelly the bird fought to get out of Mom's hands and flew off without a second glance. Apparently the little wiping down I did helped it out enough so it could fly. . .hopefully it lives a long healthy life and knows now to stay out of the jelly feeder.

Oh and we hit more garage sales today. . .I picked up an awesome desk for my 8 year old to use next year in school; $3. I plan on refinishing it just because I want another finish on it, but it is in amazing condition and is solid wood from the 50s, not that particle board stuff you get now.
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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Spring is in the air!

Even though it is unseasonably cold here in Iowa for Spring, the feeling of Spring is nonetheless in the air. Mr. Cardinal is feeding Mrs. Cardinal, the male Orioles returned this week to scope out nesting sites for Mrs. Oriole, baby sparrows are everywhere, lilacs are blooming, rhubarb is in abundance, and the garden is starting to sprout. I'm sure we will get another cold snap or two before the warm weather is here to stay. Regardless of the temperature, the plants and animals all tell us it is springtime.

Tonight on my walk I found a beautiful robin's egg shell. I looked above in the trees to locate the nest to no avail. I know my kids will enjoy seeing this little treasure so I have set it aside for their viewing pleasure in the morning. Hopefully they won't destroy it within the first few seconds. Nature is amazing, truly a blessing. In San Diego we really only had 2 seasons; 9 months of summer and 3 months of fall. Here in the midwest we have already seen our share of crazy weather. While I have missed the sunshine this week, I have also enjoyed the thunderstorms. Weather brings change, much like my life right now. My family and I are in the beginnings of a major life change. We had two options and we made a decision. Our life will never be the same. But that is the beauty of our decision to move, we were feeling led to leave status quo and raise our children where the good Lord has blessed; the midwest.

But I digress. . .spring denotes change, rebirth, new opportunity. My family and I are experiencing our own springtime here in Iowa.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

My Mother's Day Gift From Above

For Mother's Day yesterday my Mom took my kids and I to a local Nature Preserve center. It was a wonderful day of playing, exploring, and being together as a family (although we miss Daddy very much and hopes he joins us back here very soon). As my kids played by the creek that runs through the nature preserve I was thinking about my husband. When we are out in nature he frequently takes pictures of trees and leaf landscapes against the sky. So while thinking of him I looked up and immediately saw the scene above. I couldn't believe that I had found a perfect heart outline in the tree tops. I like to think it was my husband sending me love from 2000 miles away.

I pray that you all had a blessed Mother's Day filled with love, laughter, and family.

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Glorious Garage Sales

One thing I am truly enjoying about our new Midwest home is all the glorious garage sales. If there is something you are looking for at a cheap price chances are you will find it at a garage sale if you look long enough. While you are looking for that sought after item you are sure to find other things that you can use at amazingly low prices. Clearance racks, sale prices, and discount coupons hold no water next to the prices you will pay at a garage sale. If you are conscious about your spending and could use a little money in the bank at the end of each month then start heading out on the weekends (or even as early as Wednesday in some areas) to your local garage sales. The weather is warming up around the country and people are purging, spring cleaning is upon us. What a wonderful time to explore some glorious garage sales.

Some of my recent garage sale finds include clothes like new for my children for .25 to .50 cents, like new brand name sweaters for myself for just a few dollars (all less than $3), a Columbia jacket for my husband in amazing condition for $10, books for home school for as little as .25 cents, 2 sets of BOB books for $1, 2 sets of lace curtains for my house for $1, and the list goes on. There isn’t a day that my Mom and I head out to garage sale that I don’t find a deal.

The first time I took my 3 kids garage saleing I was a little nervous. I thought for sure they would be a handful out of sheer boredom; much like they can be at the mall or other store where I have to do some shopping. Much to my surprise they did amazingly well. Every garage sale was an opportunity for them to play with new toys that were for sale. Every house had new things to look at and sometimes tough. My kids and I soon started calling our garage sale outings “treasure hunting”.

If you are looking to cut costs form your clothing, household, education, or entertainment budget I highly recommend hitting your local garage sales!

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