Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Quick Takes

(1) It's been a few, ahem, days since I wrote anything. Life, homeschooling, the garden and other things intrude on my computer time. The past few weeks have been really, really busy and I haven't even been able to stay home and keep up with my routine as much as I like.

(2) What life do I have outside of homeschooling and gardening, one might wonder. For one thing, sucker that I am, I agreed to co-chair the Women's Group at my parish. For someone who hates meetings as much as I do, not to mention hating responsibilities and generally feeling incompetent, this is a lot of hard work. I have to call people! And schedule things! And be in charge (though I did tell my co-chair that she's the one who is really in charge). I know the need was there and there was no good reason for me to turn down the job, but part of me thinks I probably got this job based on my husband's competence at everything. If they only knew how bad I am at handling these sorts of things...but I'm going to try.

(3)On the homeschooling front, one of the best things I've implemented this year is a circle time at the start of our days. It has really helped me accomplish a lot of my goals for the school day in a short amount of time and I think the kidlets like it a lot. If we only got circle time and math done in a day, the kids would be getting quite a bit of education. Although my plans are not as elaborate as many people's out there that one can find, I'd be happy to share them if anyone has interest in taking a look at what we've been doing.

(4)On this past Monday, I took the kids on a field trip to the Belle Meade Plantation for a Civil War lesson (complete with the firing of a canon). I've never been on a tour there before, but they do an excellent job and the price was very affordable. We're definitely going to try to go back for more of their homeschool days throughout the year.

(5) Speaking of the garden, I know it is incredibly juvenile, but this carrot I pulled out of the garden makes me giggle.

(6) Last weekend was rather hectic, with a big homeschooling party at our house on Saturday. As a result, I never got to the store for a real grocery trip (although I had stocked up on milk and a bit of fruit last Friday). I decided to see how long I could go without hitting the store. I'm happy to report that we made it through the week. It was helpful, of course, that our garden is still producing lots of stuff. We're out of several things like eggs now. Today's breakfast of Sue Gregg's waffles made with a banana instead of an egg, were not as successful as I would have liked, but at least we had something to eat.

This has been a good reminder to make use of what I have before heading out to the store for something new and different.

(7) Also in the past week of frequently eating hyper-local food, I was also thinking about how glad I am to have grocery stores to provide all the things I do not make and do not care to provide for myself. I am glad for the fact that all my food does not have to come from my own garden nor for a 100-mile radius around me. Last night I made chicken gumbo. It included okra, peppers, celery, tomatoes and thyme from my back yard. But I still needed oil, chicken, flour, rice, an onion, and a bay leaf from the outside world. For all that I like to garden, I'm glad I'm not a subsistence farmer!

Quick Takes hosted by Jen, as always.

Monday, August 17, 2009

150 Years and Counting

On the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, my parish celebrated its sesquicentennial anniversary with a solemn mass con-celebrated by two bishops. Before the Feast came nine days of holy hours and a public novena to the Blessed Virgin. Many, many people worked very hard to make it all happen and even those of us who were mostly just there participating were very busy (especially those of us with extra long hours of single parenting so our husbands could be busy helping out).

Especially as a convert who never gave the Mother of God a thought before beginning on the path to conversion, it still all seems a bit foreign to think of being part of such a Marian parish, dedicated to the Assumption, which is something I had never heard of three years ago. Yet, what better example could we have than she who said, "Be it done unto me according to your word." And in making the mother of our Lord our example, what hope we have in heaven.

My family is fortunate to worship at such an orthodox and beautiful parish church, with a long history, a lack of wreck-ovation. We are fortunate to have holy men to guide us and fellow parishioners to strengthen us in the journey.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Simple Spaghetti Sauce

When the tomatoes are plentiful, you have to do something with them.

This is a simple way to use up a bunch for now or frozen for later. I don't can, so I don't know if any alterations would be necessary to make it shelf stable.

Simple Spaghetti Sauce
Makes about 2 cups, and can be doubled

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs tomatoes, cored, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 teaspoon of salt
extra grated vegetables (if desired) -- I often throw in some yellow squash or zucchini
pinch of sugar (if desired)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
pepper

Add olive oil and garlic to a large, cold skillet. Cook on medium until the garlic is fragrant and starting to sizzle (but not brown). Add tomatoes, salt and extra veggies, if using. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat, add in basil and season to taste.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Breastfeedng Baby Dolls

As many of you know, I'm a breastfeeding mama. I now have 89 months of breastfeeding under my -- ahem -- shirt, and no plans to be finished any time too soon. Naturally, all of my children are used to breastfeeding and what they are used to, they play.

It's been very common around here to see a child (and I say child because the boys and girls both do or have done this) walk by first with a baby doll (or stuffed animal) shoved under their shirt, that when "born" is held to their chests to "feed." My kids see nothing weird about breastfeeding their dolls and toys. It's how babies get fed around here.

And I think it is not only just fine, it's also pretty darn adorable.

Now there is a breastfeeding baby doll on the market. You'd think I'd want to run right out and get one for my breastfeeding little Nipple Nazis, huh?

I think it is one of the stupidest things I have ever seen. Not because I think it "promotes the sexualisation of young girls."

Girls (and boys) play house. They pretend to have babies. They feed their babies. Duh. No big whoop. No "sexualization" there.

Both the feeding of infants at the breast and the playing of "mama" with dolls are perfectly natural. What is most ridiculous about this toy is how unnatural it is. Why would anyone need/want to pay for a battery powered, sucking, mewling infant doll? If you want to promote breastfeeding, nurse around children so they think it is normal. Give them a rag doll and see what they do with it.

The doll isn't going to warp any little girls that get it, but it sure would be expensive, annoying and stupid.

I Heart Tomatoes

This heart shaped Kellogg's Breakfast Tomato from my garden weighed in at a whopping 2 lbs 4 oz. And I didn't do anything to encourage it. My favorite kind of garden plant.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Friday Quick Takes: Homeschooling edition

1. We started school this week and I have been making a concerted effort not to get on the computer until the main work of the day is done. It sometimes makes me a bit twitchy, but I think it has helped all of us keep on track better and finish the school day earlier, which is after all one of the best things about homeschooling.

2. Our morning circle time is going really well. It is doing what I want it to do. Bringing a coherent beginning to the morning, setting the right tone, giving us some prayer and story time together and all that sort of thing. I'm very pleased and plan to keep it up. Specifically this week during circle time, our hymn has been Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all and our poem was The White Clover Fairy by Cicely Barker. We read Pelle's New Suit, Tom Thumb, The Story of the Grand Canyon and Jenny Wren Gives Peter Rabbit an Idea.

3. My second grader is having lots of math troubles. She just doesn't seem to catch on. Even +1 facts seem too hard some days. Flash cards only seem to work in the moment, but are forgotten immediately later on. Any suggestions to help her out?

4. My oldest reads way too fast for me to keep up. I gave up a long time ago on reading everything he reads. I've assigned him one novel to read per week and do actual schoolwork on. He actually grabbed the one for the first week of school (Journey to the Center of the Earth) off the shelf last week and devoured it in about an hour. And he's been perfectly able to handle the work I throw at him. Maybe I should give him two assigned books per week.

5. My pre-K/Kindergartner is doing great. So far it is mostly reading lessons and math around here. She loves Math-U-See primer and would do a lot more lessons in a row, if I'd let her. We're supplementing with counting everything in the house, finding shapes inside and outside, and making big numbers, little numbers and all sorts of numbers on all sorts of surfaces. She doesn't love reading quite as much, but I think that's mostly because she hasn't realized she can read actual books yet. I've been showing her all the words in books that she can sound out by herself.

6. Probably the kid's two favorite things we've done this week?

Art: studying Carl Linnaeus and pulling up our own plants from the yard to sketch and paint.
History: acting out the history lesson about Sir Walter Raleigh with Legos.

7. It is a family tradition, of German origin (as is all of my family), that the child starting Kindergarten gets a big cone filled with school goodies, toys and perhaps even a little candy to make the first day a bit less intimidating and even more exciting. Being homeschooled may not be as intimidating, but my aunt has been making school cones for every niece and nephew since we started going off to school (I still have mine) and she is still making them now for her great-nieces and nephews. So here's the latest little one to get a cone:

Many thanks, as always, to Jen for hosting.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Planning the Days

I have come to the realization that I am not an "unschooler." I am also not capable of buying a nicely laid out curriculum and calling it a day. Some times I wish I were one or the other, but instead, I believe I am a tinkerer, but I am also not a natural teacher and curriculum creator, so I do need some help with making school run smoothly.

I spent much of May or so considering the books we've used in the past, deciding what worked and what did not. I ordered the some new stuff for the areas where I thought I needed work and stuck with books that the kids have done well with. In June, I ignored the book stacks sitting around, but in July, I started working on my plans for this new school year.

First I downloaded some of the lovely lesson planning pages from Donna Young. Then I wrote a list of the subjects to cover and books I wanted to use for them (which I mostly already had developed when back in May). Originally, I had grand plans of writing a whole year's worth of plans before school started. Ha! Well, a semester? I settled on four weeks. I'd love to have more than that, but truly after a month, things will go wrong. Someone will get sick and I'd have to revise it all any way (which is also why I've typed it all in Word instead of handwriting everything out).

My basic every day plans are not complicated:

Monday, all three school kids will be working on English (spelling, grammar, reading and writing -- at the appropriate levels). They will also begin a math lesson for the week and we'll do some history.

Tuesday brings math games, flash cards, geography and spelling reviews as well as science.

Wednesday, I plan to make a light day with Latin, art and formal religion work, as well as a trip to the library or the park with other homeschoolers in our neighborhood.

Thursday will be the day to do more English, a spelling bee (which if the kids can spell all their words correctly lets them out of a spelling test on Friday), continuing their math lessons and more history.

Friday will also be rather light, completing math (assuming they are clearly grasping the concepts and don't need to work on the lesson for more than a week), finishing up English work and more science.

In addition, to that plan, the two oldest have a book or story to read each week and do some additional things with.

That's the basic, weekly schedule, which is not much different from what we've done in past years. However, one thing I tried last year that went well and then died out from lack of planning on my part was to start the days with "circle time." It's a great way to make the school day a bit more formal and remind the kids that this is not the part of the day where we can run off to play Legos or dress-up and remind myself that this is not the part of the day where I can go play on the computer.

I used these lovely plans as a springboard for my own, figuring out what I wanted to cover and accomplish in the 30 minutes or so that we will spend together to begin the day. While I was tempted to just borrow those plans outright, I can't leave well enough alone don't have all the books she uses and anyway had a few things I wanted to do to make things suit our family and my own style better.

Our circle time will follow the pattern of a morning offering and daily intentions, followed by a hymn, followed by the kids filling out a blank calendar and marking the weather, reading the story of the saint of the day, a poem (which stay the same all week), sometimes a simple craft or finger activity, a story or an art appreciation lesson.

I loved the idea of making each week seasonally appropriate, but I also knew I would tear my hair out figuring those details out especially if I had to make sure I always had all the books I wanted checked out on time. Instead, I wanted a simpler plan that relied only on books I own. A rotation system will work better for this time of the year, though I think we will switch to something more seasonal for Advent, Lent and Easter. I'll be rotating through 5 different books each week. On Mondays, we'll read from My Book House, volume 5 (if you run across these out-of-print treasures in a used bookstore, buy them!), Tuesday's stories come from The Children's Book of America, Wednesday Children in Art, Thursday The Illustrated Treasury of Children's Literature, and on Friday we'll read from The Burgess Animal Book. Some of these books contain a lot more stories than others, so as we finish one up, I'll put something else into the rotation.

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