Friday, September 24, 2010

Charlotte Mason.

Man, I just LOVE this woman! I have been reading, or re-reading as the case is, a book written by a mom who has studied her work intensely called "A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning" Now, it is for sure heavy on the religion, but asy enough to filter out if that isn't your thing. She was just amazing in the way she felt kids should learn, and bringing her into the present and realizing that CM is a way of life, not just an education system...sweet. I have always LOVED her idea of living books and we use living books almost exclusively for History, Literature even Science when appropriate. Through her, we found the wonderful author Thorton Burgess. He is long gone by now, but in my opinion his books are timeless. We first read the Peter Rabbit 'novel' last year as part of our Nature Study, where we learned at Mother Nature School all about different animals and what families they belonged to. I was lucky to *inherit* about 20 of Thorton Burgess' books from a friend of ours who read them as a child (these books have a copywrite date of 1921...not even sure if I could find these at the Library...) I have enough of each of the collections for us to read for some time. They are great stories with hidden moral lessons and teach kids about how different animals live in the wild. My kids are the perfect age for these books and I am enjoying reading them to them.

We are using The History of the World book for History right now, and have started at the begining, learning about evolution. The kids are fascinated. I taught about the Big Bang Theory last year, and I also told them the religious account of what evolution was believed to be. I told them they could choose which *theory* hey wanted to believe. Jeffrey AND Lilly picked the scientific explanation because you could 'prove it'. :) We learned about Darwin and the 'survival of the fittest' and could apply it to our little world in the backyard...the kids know if we did not 'save' Cookie our special needs chicken, she would have died/been killed as she is too weak to keep up in the *wild* ...this was a great real-life way to explain what we were learning about Darwin's theory.

Science and Nature involves learning about Habitats, protozoas, and different plant kingdoms. We will be taking a BUNCH of hikes and collecting 'samples' of different plants by way of rubbings and pictures or leaves that have already fallen from the plants. We have done the parts of plants and leaves as well as my annual talk about why leaves change color, which is accompanied by the book Why DO Leaves Change Color? which is part of the Let's-Read-And-Find-Out-Science Series. We usually do some sort of craft involving leaves and this year the kids want to press leaves for their nature journals.

We are reciting the poem The Woodpecker, by Elizabeth Madox Roberts which the kids have pretty much memorized inside a week. I am very impressed at how much quicker they are at memorizing the poems since last year! I should challenge them to recite some of the old ones ;)

Spending lots of time outside, exploring and just general runnin' around :) There has also been an increase in Lego creating going on in this house! All three kids, together, have created some amazing vehicles to use in their 'world'...this is amazing on many fronts- first, Jeffrey does not usually play well with Lilly and Max, and he is not one for imaginative play. He not only has 'tolerated' his siblings, but has not tried to micro-manage them...too much. He is also participating in their imaginative play as much as he is able...which isn't much in the grand scheme of things but more than he ever has in the past. I'll take it!

In other news...
I froze 18 eggs worth of beaten eggs in smaller containers, hard boiled at least a dozen and we still have a dozen in the fridge...some of which will be used tonite for peach waffles. We know why we haven't been getting eggs from we found we have ANOTHER rooster! Pickle is not only NOT a Bantam Dominique, HE is not a she! I was suspicious when SHE sprouted a beautiful tail, as girls tend to be a little light on the tail feathers of beauty. Then I checked her neck and sadlde feathers...pointed. :( Sure sign of maleness. He has not crowed yet, and is still getting along with everyone so...we'll just have to wait and see how it goes. He is a mutt, and will be a BIG chicken. He looks like the kind of chickens my neighbor up the street has...maybe I will stop by and ask them what they have sometime...

Well, apparently waffles don't make themselves! I better get on it!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Fall!

Fall is by far my favorite season of the year. The air is dry and cool, there is usually always a breeze blowing and the sky is crisp. Add some colorful, crunchy leaves on the ground and I am in heaven. I don't know if its the colors, or the cool air but I just LOVE it.

It has been getting cooler here at night which means the end of my gardening season is close. Hopefully next year I will have some sort of a greenhouse set-up(I found a how-to tutorial on making a greenhouse for $150!) but for now...I need to plan for the end. Potatoes had to come in due to some dadgum bug eating the plants, which leaves greens and tomatoes. I know the greens are fine for a while, but the tomatoes will have to come in. I will probably wait until this weekend to harvest as we are going to have great weather this week and I want the tomaotes to get as close to ripe and as big as possible before I gather. I am done making sauce, so these tomatoes will either be dried or simply cut/frozen for cooking...not sure which yet. A dear friend gave me a great tomato soup recipe so maybe I will just make up a big batch of that to freeze.

Its also time to clean out the other gardens one last time and get things ready for winter...I need to weed the herbs one more time, clean out the Medicine Wheel garden, and once the deck is done, I hope to t least prep the garden that will go in front of it.

Home Improvement 2010 is almost done...I have 2 more painting projects and general putting-of-things-back-together that needs to be done and then maybe I will do a virtual tour, lol :) I will say, Hubby's idea of a copper sink? Best. Idea. Ever. I absolutely LOVE how it looks, love the way its 'aging', and it looks fantastic with the counter.

Our chickens are finally starting to get back to laying...we are getting 5-6 eggs a day now...I am going to start freezing some for when they decide its too cold/hot/windy/sunny/insert chicken excuse here, so at least I have a back-up supply. I have plenty now to give away, and use/freeze. We don't eat eggs ALL that much though I do cook with them. Lilly and Max aren't huge fans of eggs as a meal-food, I don't eat eggs, so that leaves JD and Hubby...and they can't consume 3doz a week! (nor should they) Everyone is still getting along pretty good, though I have seen Sam and FancyPants get all up in each other's faces, it never amounts to much. My FancyPants is a pretty docile boy, and is nice to the girls, protective and generally just a perfect rooster. Sam is...well, Sam and Cookie are my *special* babies...Sam is doing well, and is pretty sweet. Angel Cookie is...such a sad case. We just love her so...Lilly would have her living in the house with us if I let her. Sigh...

Homeschooling has begun. The kids had a week of review, to see where they were at and get them back into the swing of things and then we jumped back in. They are enjoying being back at work learning, and did not forget nearly as much as I thought they might, lol :) Actually, they are doing really well. JD has been AMAZING me with his reading! It has always been a struggle, and we knew to expect this and the woman who was helping me from the Autism Center told me it could be YEARS before he could read a simple book. Well, he not only remembered his sight words from last year, he is easily learning new ones! It still takes him a bit to remember them, and he REALLY has to focus, but he has completely taken to reading! I can see the 'light bulb' has gone on and he is getting the concept. I am SO proud. He has been working on Frog and Toad books, and he is able to read AND understand what he has read. Narration is a big part of Charlotte Mason and I am a huge fan of her style. I have always used narration wih the kids as we do quite a bit of reading (I read, they listen) on various subjects. Since I do not test, nor do we do much written work (yet) the only gage I have for if they are learning/absorbing what I have read is by what they can tell me. Sometimes I will ask them to talk to me about what we just read, other times I will tell them to 'catch me up' on what we last read. For JD, this ability to narrate is a HUGE improvement over last year as it was such a struggle for him to red anything that by the time he got through it, he could not remember the subject matter, and he was spending so much energy on figuring out each word that the meaning fell by the wayside. Not so, anymore! AND he is excited about reading as he has made the connection that reading opens up his world to all sorts of information. :)

Lilly is doing well with her reading as well, but she always has been more at ease with reading. She loves to sound out words, write and talk about books. She is getting more confident with Math, as we are sticking with basics and repitition. Max is working on letters, sounds and basic sight words as he is desperate to read as well ;) He is taking after his big brother with his interest and skill in math, he likes to work in a first grade math book...and I let him. He can do it, so I am certianly not going to hold him back!

This week we added History and Nature Study into our routine and next week we will add Art and handicrafts. I found an awesome art book that will go along with our unit studies of different artists and I am hoping that after soccer is over we can hit the museum some saturday mornings as it is free :) I am also hoping to get to some of the art classes they offer at another local museum. Its a neat program for homeschoolers, once a month. Its a bit of a hike, but I think it will be worth it. Lilly and Max love all things art and crafts, and though JD could care less, I would like him to at least be exposed to it. He does like handicrafts though...he started to learn to knit and he likes to sew, but I think he will continue with his model building that he tried out last year.

I have yogurt brewing, and plans to make my favorite 'Breakfast Cake' shortly. Want the recipe? Its super easy, and you can put whatever you want in it...versatility...gotta love it :)

Breakfast Cake

1c brown sugar
1/2c melted butter or oil of choice
2 eggs
2/3c yogurt
1/2t vanilla extract
1c unbleached white flour
1c whole wheat flour
1t baking soda
1t baking powder
1/2t salt
1/2t cinnamon
1/2t allspice
1/4t nutmeg
1/4t ground ginger
1 1/2c rolled oats
1/2c OJ or milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Beat brown sugar and melted butter together in a large bowl.
Beat in eggs one at a time.
Add yogurt and vanilla until well blended.
In separate bowl, whisk together flours, soda, powder, salt and spices until well blended.
Add oats to flour mix and blend well.
Slowly mix dry ingredients into wet.
Mix in OJ/Milk and any optional ingredients you have chosen.
Put batter into a well oiled 9x13 pan and add topping option if you like.
Bake for 25 mins or until a knife comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the cake.
Enjoy! Freezes well, and can also be baked in muffin pans, try 15 mins then start checking for done-ness.

*optional...1/2c raisins OR 1/2c cranberries OR 1/2c chocochips OR 1c chopped fresh fruit or berries, really you can add anything you want to this cake.
**optional topping...once cake is ready for the oven, top with sliced apples on top of which you drizzle 1/2c melted butter mixed with 1/2c brown sugar...mmmm...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Busy Bee...

I have been trying to 'get it all done' but sometimes I fall short...well, that and I love to create impossible to-do lists that are hard to get done, lol. Ah, well. Lessons, my all about the lessons. Right now I am being handed lessons on patience, moderation, and manifesting. They are old lessons, but ones that like to come along and kick me in the behind every once in a I have to take a step back and 're-learn'...such is life
I have been a busy bee in the kitchen as of late...I have canned, to date:
7qt tomato sauce

12pt blueberry preserves, 7pt peach preserves, and 5pt peach chutney
6pt tomato-apple chutney and 5pt mango chutney

8pt apple butter
...and I baked 3 apple pies with my new secret recipe pie crust. This is alot of canning for a gal who has never canned before this year! And let me tell ya...there is no better sound than the POP of the jars sealing :) I am hoping to get about 6pt of salsa canned and another 6-8qt of tomato sauce. I figure we use about a qt. a week and 14 qt.s would get me through the winter. Pretty cool! I still have a half a bushel of apples that I will probably need to freeze...I will bake with some but most will be cooked down to applesauce and frozen for winter baking. I also have POUNDS of zuichinni frozen for that purpose, along with lots of greens. Not bad!
Secret recipe pie crust? PIZZA DOUGH. For real. I am a sad excuse for a baker, and me and pie crusts share no love. I know many people who make fantastic pie crusts but me....not so much. I was about to go back to the store bought rollout crusts when a friend of mine said to me "why don't you use pizza dough? Just don't let it have the second rise." Now, I LOVE to make bread, and I have a tried and true recipe that I use for all things bread product, including pizza dough. I had my doubts but ANYTHING had to be better than the wretched pie crust I made for last week's peach pie...which ended up in the compost pile. I put the bottom crust in the pan, pricked it and baked it for about 15 mins at 425. Then I added my filling, popped it back in the oven for an hour at 350. When it was done...I gasped. They were gorgeous! They looked like pie shaped turnovers!!! Beautiful. That will be my new crust for future pies. Plus, since I make a quadruple batch, I had enough for 3 pies with tops, a batch of biscuits this morning and I can probably get 2 loaves of bread or a batch of bagles if I am feeling really motivated :) Wanna see?

We have started school, and I am very much planning on following the Charlotte Mason curriculum this year...minus the religion piece. In reviewing the website and reading over the book it is just such a good fit for us. Everything CM says it is a way of life, not just a curriculum, involving lots of time spent in nature, and pursuing personal interests. This is not to say she is not promoting kids learning *school stuff* it is simply stating she likes do I :) So, we spend 2-3(usually closer to 3) hours on actual sit-down-and-work school stuff, and the rest of the day is more experiential things...I have a couple GREAT books I am going to implement this year, a fantastic art book, and 2 great science books. History will start off with us reading out of the American History book and see where that takes us. I like to start with that, and if something catches their interest we can read biographies, etc. CM is HUGE into 'living books' which are books about real things and real people, along with a heavy dose of classical literature. We do several poems a month which we will continue, and I am thinking of doing some fables this year as well. We did finish the Peter Rabbit book aka Adventures with Animals by Thorton Burgess and the kids loved it. I have the actual individual novels as well, so we may read some of those this year too. I am planning on the Little House on the Prarie series, along with My Side of the Mountain and its sequels...I read it last year and LOVED it and it would go along superbly with our Nature Studies.
We also get to start the most ginormous Nature Study book this year. It is an amazing book I was able to download off the CM site, and I absolutely love it. We will be spending at least one day a week on the mountain until it snows, so I expect the book will come in handy. I will most likely plan our lessons around chapters that apply to us geographically and seasonally. Fun times ahead! As far as the rest of the curriculum...we will be skipping the Bible pieces, though I may substitute that with something of a spiritual bend...we'll see. The math they use is a little lacking in my opinion, especially for JD, so we are following a different math path :) Everything else is a go, and the kids are super excited. As is their mom :)
Want some links? These are my favorite CM sites...
Speaking of school....the kiddos are waiting! :)


Sunday, September 5, 2010

My Nephew is here.

Therefor, all things life in general are on hold so that I can simply smell his head. For realz. He is so dagum cute I cannot be bothered with anything else. I get to hold him, sing to him, snuggle him...and though I have had a few moments of ovary ache, I have been ok. I would have continued to procreate until I could rival the Duggar's (minus the tater-tot cassarole...that's just not right)but Hubby saw to it that we would not go there :). So, 3 kiddos it is. And, I must say that though I do love giving birth and all things baby, I am pretty happy to be where I am wrt to kid rearing.

So now, I patiently wait while other's in my family get to doing their own birthing of babies so I can get my baby-squee on. Note to nephews...get on it. Time's a wastin'...

Just look at how cute my Ben is!

Yeah, those other kids are cute too. ;) There are no pis of Lilly and Ben as I keep missing the fabulous opportunities of cuteness. I will get some though, as Lilly simply cannot get enough of her cousin. Takes after her mother when it comes to babies...

In other goings-ons...and there are some...Fall is decending upon us which means my garden is starting to fall apart. Eh, that's ok. I m bound and determined to get my fall greens planted this weekend, as well as cover the part of the garden that will not be in use anymore. Most of my tomato plants are on their last legs, with the exception of the plants growing out of my compost pile...they look GORGEOUS and I really hope the tomatoes have a chance to turn red as they look wondeful. I have a good 30+ pounds of tomatoes to make sauce with today, and I also have at least 40lbs of peaches to make preserves thanks to my neighbor, who let us pick all her peaches fo' free. I am going to give her some blueberry preserves, and eggs for now and maybe take her some peach preserves later. I also need to get Hubby to make some modifications on the chicken coop before winter. Seems early to be thinking of this but we had snow in October last year so...we need to winterize and figure out how we are going to light the coop. I am thinking solar as it would be tough to get electricity out to the coop without a lot of hassle and expense. Its on the Honey-do list...
I am so happy with my new-to-me kitchen. There are still some things to come but yay, the counters, sink, and dishwasher are done. I am going to do the 'big room' and the office over the next week or so and then, for the most part, the downstairs projects I can do will be done. Well, except for the floors, curtains, etc.... :)
Well, I must be off for my run...Hubby is going on an all-day motorcycle ride so I need to get my run on before he leaves. Yep, I am running again. Nothing too crazy, but the antiviral is starting to make a dent in my symptoms and I am feeling remnants of me filtering back in. This is a good thing :)