Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thinking Towards Fall and Winter Recipes

I am starting to think about fall and winter recipes that are rich and delicious yet not too difficult to make. This one I am sharing has a lot of steps, but is not hard to do and tastes sooo good. If you have a hankering for something a little exotic, you might like this, Moroccan Chicken Pie.

I usually pair this with three or four (if I am doing this with another family) salads that I find HERE. I especially like the green bean one, the potato salad, and the tomato cucumber salad. I have yet to master a truly Moroccan lentil soup, but that is on my list of things to do some day!

Here is my recipe.

Moroccan Chicken Pie

2-3 pound boiling chicken cut up (or equivalent parts - I have even used skinless breasts)
1 t salt for boiling chicken

2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
4 T butter or oil
shredded peal of one orange
1 t ground cardamom
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t turmeric
1 cup white rice (brown will be too thick)
salt and pepper to taste

One package filo dough
1 stick butter

Put the chicken pieces in a saucepan, add 4 cups water and salt and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that forms, reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer until the chicken is done and tender, but not mushy. :)

Remove the chicken from the pan and cut off the lean meat. Discard the fat, skin, and bones. Reserve the stock in the pan. In a large frying pan sauté the onions  and carrots in the butter or oil until the onions start to brown. Stir in the orange peel, spices, and rice and season with salt and pepper. Stir and fry for two minutes. Bring two cups of the reserved chicken stock to a boil and pour it into the pan. Cover and cook over low heat for 25 minutes or until the rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed. Once completed, remove from heat.

(See pictures below for help in visualizing!) Open package of filo dough and spread out on counter. Melt stick of butter in small separate bowl. Set out a medium-sized bowl to use to lay the filo in to make what will eventually be an inverted pie. With the dough spread out, use a pastry brush to spread the butter onto each piece and layer it around to make it even and thick enough with filo that it will have a nice crunchy covering once you flip it back over. Make sure some of the filo is hanging outside the bowl to use to cover the filling once it is put inside. After the layering of the buttered filo is complete, take the filling and pile it into the filo in the bowl then cover the filling with the filo hanging over the bowl. This is not at all as complicated as it sounds in the writing. :)

Once this is done, you will need to invert the pie out of the bowl onto a cookie sheet with a lip. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes until browned and crispy.

Adding the filling to the bowl lined with filo dough:

The pie inverted onto a baking pan and brushed generously with butter - NOT margarine.

The finished product! Enjoy!

YUM. Now I want to make this again. I don't think I will make it to fall! :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

2-1 of What I Wish I Believed...

This is the last of the series, What I Wish I Believed When I First Began Homeschooling...

2. Enjoy the journey!

Homeschooling is a process and not a product! So often we get bogged down in the process and forget we are working with living breathing creations of God. These are His children, not just vessels to be filled with bits of knowledge, instruction, math facts, and grammar. We are entrusted by our very Creator to teach them diligently as we walk by the way.

Deut. 6:7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.

This means SO much more than just teaching them the basics. It is living with your children, day in and day out, and being there for them. It is learning together the things of God as well as the things of knowledge. I appreciate what the 1930 Calvert School Head Master, Virgil Hillyer, explained more than eight decades ago, School is not the preparation for life. It is life. We are always learning.

If we teach our children to love the process of learning, perhaps they will not be eager to abandon it. Education does not have to be drudgery! (Although there are definitely subjects that are not always fun to teach, that is true!) Homeschooling does not have to replicate public school in the home. Love your children and enjoy them; learn and grow together! The time goes SO very fast. In a few short years your children will be grown and gone, married maybe with children of their own. Those of you who are surrounded by only little ones, relish this time because it goes so very fast. ENJOY this time with them and LOVE them. There is a lifetime of learning ahead of them. You will only be the beginning.

1. For Christians, the Bible and communicating the love of our Savior should be of primary importance to us. 

How often have you said to your children, "OK, time for school! Get out the math!" (or grammar, or reading, or - you get the picture), but you forget the most important? The Bible gets left behind. It happens here. I am not a perfect parent, but it is such a rich blessing to be in the Word of God with your children!

How do you incorporate the Bible into all of your learning? Here are a few suggestions. You will come up with more, I am sure, but here are just a few that we have used off and on over the years in different circumstances:

Reading:  Incorporate children into whatever Bible time your family practices.  Help them follow along during Bible reading, catechisms, and hymns at home and in church. Allow your children to be a part of Bible reading and learning. We give them their own real Bibles so they have their own copy of the Word of God. We choose not to give children's versions.  Yes, they will struggle with the meanings of difficult words sometimes, but it produces the most beautiful fruitful conversations! Don't talk down to them about God's concepts. Children are so bright! They see through hypocrisy and silly talk. Be real with your children during these times and humbly and appropriately share what God has done in your life. Our children need to know that God is Who He says He is and that He works in our lives.

Memorize Scripture: Then add on anything else you feel is important: poems, songs, catechisms, historical leaders, famous speeches, etc. With God's word at work in their minds they will be able to know what is true when they read the works of those who may not know Him.

Writing:  Make handwriting and copywork worksheets using Bible verses and catechism questions. (The StartWrite Software program I noted in my first post is a useful program for this.) Once children are writing well, have them copy or dictate longer passages right from the Bible. We also incorporate other works of fiction here too, but try to be mindful that it is beneficial.

History:  For year one (Ancients) of the four year history cycle, my friend used a simplified story Bible (The Child's Story Bible, by Catherine Vos) as her history spine, breaking for short studies of Sumer, Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome as they met them in the Bible. Our first time through the Ancients we studied them using The Greenleaf Guide to the Old Testament, the Bible, and Ruth Beechick's, Adam and His Kin (a fictionalized version of what might have happened in the beginning), along with other creation resources. I have since discovered The Mystery of History where the author blends the history of Scripture with the coordinating ancient history that was happening at the same time. In other years, the history of the church is a beautiful addition to your study as you understand the place of God and His hand through all of time. The Medieval to Reformation times can be very exciting because there are so many godly people who paved the way for our religious freedom by their sacrifices. It was an amazing study when we did it and we used Christine Miller's book, The Story of the Renaissance and Reformation along with many read-aloud historical fiction books on people such as Martin Luther, William Tyndale, etc. This set of books is exceptionally great for this kind of study, History Lives. They also come in individual titles as listed on the website.

Science:  We choose to view science through the lens of Scripture and not the other way round.  Remember that every scientist (Christian/atheist, creationist/evolutionist) begins with basic presuppositions that influence how he interprets data.  We believe the Bible in Genesis in its clearest reading so we use resources that reflect this. Master Books has some great resources and so does Creation Ministries International. We do not hide from the teaching of evolution and do not ban it in our home. It is what the majority of the world believes as fact so we must be able to give them the truth of God's amazing work in the natural world. We were not created to be mindless animals, but were created in the image of God. We were not born without purpose! We were born for such a time as this and are accountable to a Creator. What wonderful knowledge! We prepare our children with the knowledge to help them discuss these things in the world because they will be in it some day.

Worldview: Use read-aloud books and movies as a springboard for discussion about your Christian worldview. Ligonier Ministries has some excellent worldview materials for the later years that will not only challenge your children, but will likely challenge you! All of our life we will face questions and challenges to our faith and our children will too. Equip your children to stand firm in the knowledge and faith of God.

In our homeschools, in our lives, may we live Coram Deo. 

This phrase literally refers to something that takes place in the presence of, or before the face of, God. To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God.

To live in the presence of God is to understand that whatever we are doing and wherever we are doing it, we are acting under the gaze of God. God is omnipresent. There is no place so remote that we can escape His penetrating gaze. To be aware of the presence of God is also to be acutely aware of His sovereignty. (Source.)

But while we were dead in our trespasses, He made us alive in Christ. Through Christ, God forgives our sins, cleanses us from our unrighteousness, makes us holy, and gives us access to Him. The glorious forgiveness and mercy of God is for those who believe in His Son. This is what we must communicate to our children as we homeschool. May He give us the grace to do it to His glory.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Super Duper Publications - Seriously Great Coupon Codes!


The Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed three really great products from Super Duper Publications. They have offered three excellent (30% off!) coupon codes to share with you. They expire in ten days so definitely check them out!

HearBuilder Auditory Memory Home Edition

Coupon Code:       BLGAM30
Save 30%   Expires 8/31/12

What it is:

HearBuilder Auditory Memory teaches key strategies for remembering numbers, words, sentences, and stories. This research-based software includes five essential listening activities:

Memory for numbers (3–7 digits)
Memory for words
(3–5 words organized by syllable)
Memory for details (1–4 details)
Auditory Closure (Sentence Completion)
Memory for WH Information
(2–3 sentences/2–4 questions)

HearBuilder Following Directions Home Edition

Coupon Code:        BLGFD30
Save 30%   Expires 8/31/12

What it is:

Webber HearBuilder Following Directions is the all new innovative, evidence-based, interactive software program that gives students a systematic way to improve their auditory and following directions skills. At the same time, students will learn how to become Master Toy Makers while building their own Toy Central factories.

Students follow increasingly difficult directions
Demonstrate knowledge of 40 basic concepts in five areas:
Basic Directions
Sequential Directions
Quantitative & Spatial Directions
Temporal Directions
Conditional Directions

Jeepers Peepers

Coupon Code:    BLGJP30
Save 30%   Expires 8/31/12

What it is:

Am I a monkey? A hamburger? An astronaut? How many questions will it take to find out?

That’s the question on everyone’s minds—or glasses—in Jeepers Peepers, The Ask and Answer Question Game that builds questioning skills, describing skills, categorizing skills, problem solving skills, and more! Have one student put on the glasses. Place a photo card in the Peepers slot without showing it to the student. Have the student face the other players and ask yes/no questions to find out what he/she is! Then, have everyone play!

Jeepers Peepers comes with 101 photo cards in five categories: Animals, Food, People, Things, 
and Transportation.

To check out the Crew reviews for these products and to see how they work, click the link HERE.


Monday, August 20, 2012

4-3 of What I Wish I Believed...

What I Wish I Believed When I First Began Homeschooling...

4. Reading widely covers a multitude of educational “gaps.”

Don't read only one type of book. Fantasy, classic literature, fairy tales, myths, tall tales, historical fiction, science, history, biography, animal/nature stories, real-life people stories (Laura Ingalls, etc.) all have really great value. Your children will learn while they read living books in a way they will not learn by reading only textbooks. Living books make learning come alive. Read all types of books with and to your children.  Discuss them and ask your children questions about what they have learned, and how this book compares to another on the same subject. Engage them and they will learn by sharing with you.

Some books suggest you read and tie it to your history cycle, but this is not always possible to do with great success. There are only so many books on Ancient Egypt a young child can handle! (Unless they are completely fascinated by Egypt of course!) Reading widely and frequently, will enlarge their knowledge base and will help them develop other interests.

It is sometimes funny things that will interest them, but just roll with it. You never know where it will take them! Whether it be someone with their same first name, a penchant for owls, or a fascination with all things medieval, there are so many books out there to read and enjoy--both fiction and non-fiction. By reading widely they are learning and growing on their own. I do like the suggestion of one homeschool author of choosing a biography, a science book, and a reading book from the library each time you go. We are not exactly like that, but we do read plenty of all of these and the children can discuss all sorts of interesting facts that they picked up just from reading. What do your children like? Capture that!

3. “Academics” are only a small portion of your child's whole life education.

This is NOT an anti-education/anti-intellectual post. However, I cannot tell you how sad it makes me when I read that mothers are “not finding the time for play” in their busy school day–and this for very young learners! I honestly find it appalling that play is not viewed by parents as just as important for a developing child as academic learning. Will these children look back at their early homeschool lives with happiness and joy at all the math and grammar they were forced to do for hours and hours? I have read of mothers schooling their children from 9 until 4–and we are talking 1-3 grades! I am not saying that academics are not important for I believe they are.

Balance work, service to others, and play with your academics. Let there be balance in all of life and do not view the “down time” as a negative. We all need to rejuvenate and we all need to recharge. Our children need that time too. Remember that play time *is* education and that your children are learning all the time.

Consider some of the ideas that have come from Charlotte Mason:

“Time outdoors, with little to no intervention from an adult, provided what Mason felt were educational necessities:  use of the child's senses, play, learning from “things,” and the opportunity for keen observation of nature.”

“To sum up this first key idea, the importance of the child's early “atmosphere of environment,” Mason wrote:”

“..my object is to show that the chief function of the child- his business in the world during the first six or seven years of life- is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge got in his way; and that…the endeavor of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects; that, in fact, the intellectual education of the young child should lie in the free exercise of perceptive power..and the wisdom of the educator is to follow the lead of Nature in the evolution of the complete human being” (Mason 1886:  96-97).” (Source.)

It is my opinion that we not neglect the physical and spiritual in pursuit of the mental. Make sure they have time to create, to laugh, to build, to climb, to play in the sun. Make sure they have time to be children.

Friday, August 17, 2012

a lively and a steadfast trust...

I have been trying to finish a most interesting book, King Alfred's English, but have had little time. Insomnia helped me to find this gem quoted within it the other night.


Faith is then a lively and a steadfast trust in the favor of God...
and such trust, wrought by the Holy Ghost through faith, maketh a man glad, 
lusty, cheerful, and truehearted unto God and unto all creatures: whereof, willingly and without compulsion, he is glad and ready to do good to every man, to do service to every man, to suffer all things, that God may be loved and praised, which hath given him such grace; so that it is impossible to separate good works from faith, even as it is impossible to separate heat and burning from fire.

~William Tyndale
(From his prologue to the Book of Romans.)

If you have not read about William Tyndale, this book bears witness to the incredible legacy he left us in the English Bible. Indeed, he gave his life in the heat and burning from fire so that we might have it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

6-5 of What I Wish I Believed...

Continuing the series I began last week, (numbers 10-7 are below this post), here are numbers 6-5 of:

What I Wish I Believed When I First Began Homeschooling...

6. Curriculum is a servant and not a master.

How many of you have said to yourselves, “I can't skip that lesson! It is in the book!” or “We have to finish the book!” Guess what? You can skip that lesson and you don't have to finish the book! YOU are in charge–embrace your freedom as the teacher of your classroom. Most teachers never finish their books because there is simply not enough time in the year to do so. In many textbooks the beginning is review of the previous year, and often the end is introduction to next year's material. I you want to finish a book, you can, but as the teacher, this is your choice. If your child understand that lesson, or mastered last year's material already, you can skip it, or test out of it, or only do the odd problems, etc. I think you get my meaning-you have the freedom to use the curriculum to suit your needs.

You can also tweak assignments to suit your child's interests or personality. My friend's son loves sailing ships from the 19th century. She utilized this interest to help him learn to write. He read all about the ships on his own so she tailored some of his writing assignments to this interest. He enjoyed sharing what he knew about the ships!

The biggest thing to remember about your curriculum is that you are teaching your child, not the book!  We teach them because we love them, and we teach them where they are--where ever that might be. The book is a tool in your arsenal of education.

5. Each child learns at his own rate. Not all late bloomers have a learning disability.

As I stated before, I am not an expert on learning disabilities. If you have serious concerns, you can go to NATHHAN for more information.

With that said, while my friend and I have not had any children with learning disabilities, we have late bloomers–and yes, they do exist! We hear a lot about how all homeschoolers are so far ahead, but I think that is discouraging to those that have those that are not. Between our two families, we have all sorts of different kinds of learning styles and some of our children really struggled in different areas. I already told you about my friend's son, who needed three phonics programs to read well. He might have been labeled with a disability in public school, but he just needed more time, patience and attention from mom. He is now a brilliant reader and highly intelligent to boot!

Some children just need more time--this is OK. Give it to them.

As I also wrote above, capitalize on your children's interests. This will help so much! My dear friend's son was interested in knights and castles and all things medieval. So she utilized that and bought books he could read on those subjects. She knew he would struggle through them because of his love of the subject–and she was right. Children can learn so much through the study of a subject they love because almost all subjects will blend into others. In many ways, it is like a unit study, but one they enjoy!

Flexibility is more helpful than a label. I *do* recognize that there are learning disabilities out there, but do not be quick to label your child, and certainly do not communicate to them that you feel they are behind, not getting it, or worse, that they are stupid. It just takes some children longer to learn certain things.  It is important to remember that each of your children is unique and will have their own strengths and weaknesses. Flexibility and creativity are two of your greatest assets as a parent and a teacher–especially when your child is struggling.

Praise God we are not all the same! I love seeing the strengths and weaknesses of each of my children. What a blessing to see how God has gifted each one and what a blessing it is to see their inner person come out in their work. We are blessed to have the privilege of homeschooling--love those children!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Ten Things I Wish I Believed...

Then Things I Wish I Believed When I First Began Homeschooling...

I wrote this with a friend many years ago and I think it is worth sharing again. As I age, and my years of homeschooling increase, I can't say I disagree with it yet! I hope it blesses some of you.

10. Don't buy too far ahead.

I had a friend who had young children, but was nervous about the future. She decided to purchase all the remaining years of her child's curriculum! Now I don't know about you, but when I first started homeschooling there were things I saw that looked great to me, and some I even bought and planned to use over time, but as the years passed and my style of homeschooling changed, I just did not want to use them anymore. I also have a dear friend who felt buying all the years to a particular program was a good idea. Once she started using it, she discovered it was not a good fit for her family. She was then left with a lot of curriculum that she was not going to use. It is not always easy to recoup that money!

9. In the beginning, math needs to be concrete.

Manipulatives! We are the household of math manipulatives. Some are used to sort, some are used to count, some are used to help us with fractions, and some are used to understand the vital concept of place value. Young children need to see math. They need to understand the “why” of math. Why do we cross out that ten and carry the one? What does that mean to a tiny person? Do we want to teach them math rhymes, “Divide, multiply, subtract, bring down, divide, multiply, subtract, bring down.” But what does that really mean at the end of the day? Will they understand it at the end of the year, or will they mix it up because they have never really learned it? Math needs to be concrete, visual, and hands on.

We feel so locked into grade levels and books sometimes. I know I do! What if your child is not getting the concept? What if you have a child that struggles? Don't move on in math until they get it. I have another friend who has a child in third grade who is doing a first grade math workbook. Now, is this because the mother has been neglectful? No. The mother is brilliant. She used to work for NASA and helped to build a space shuttle. She understands the “why” of math. However, she also understands that her daughter's brain isn't “getting it” yet. She knows that if she moves on her daughter will remain lost so she patiently stays where her daughter needs her to be. I fully believe that she will, at some time, understand it and she will move on, but that may not be for a while. What a blessing it is that she has a mother who can wait with her without panic and stress!

That is exactly what happened with my own daughter. She is now at the age where her brain is “clicking” and she is finally understanding the “why.” Did she have a brilliant mother who used to work for NASA? Absolutely not! Did she have a mother who made lots of mistakes on her first guinea pig child? Oh yes. I made a LOT of mistakes that I really don't want to pass on! That is why this portion is in this list! We made a lot of mistakes and didn't teach them correctly at first.

Don't let yourself get bogged down with the number of lessons in a book. I used to fall into this trap, and still sometimes stuggle with it. It is the child that matters, and their ability, not finishing the book.

8. Copywork and dictation are simple yet effective ways to teach writing. 

When they are young, copywork and eventually dictation are great ways to get your children interested in and accomplished in writing. Copying small portions of works of literature that your children like or are interested in can really open up a whole world to them. They see, hear, and copy, correct grammar, spelling, and sentence structure over and over.

When they are very young, don't push writing too much because for some little ones, writing is sincerely a chore and their little hands have a difficult time doing it. I begin writing by having my children trace copywork I have printed out for them with my StartWrite software. I have used selections from Scripture, from favorite books or poems, catechism Q & A, or silly sentences that grab their attention. I watch them as they trace the letters making sure they are learning how to write correctly. When they have mastered their letters and are reading, we move onto more thorough selections for their copywork. I do use a grammar text later on, but for beginners, copywork is a wonderful place to start!

A helpful resource is, The Three R's, by Ruth Beechick. It is very helpful and I highly recommend this for beginning homeschoolers! It will encourage you in the beginning of your journey and reassure you – yes, you can do it!

7. You can't force reading.

This is quite possibly my biggest message and the one that I see homeschool parents freaking out about the most. Between my friend and I, we have ten children. Out of those ten children, all ten are now reading, several of them well beyond their grade levels. Each and every one of them learned at a different rate. This cannot be stated enough.

I was reading a homeschooling board the other day and a mother posted that she had been trying to teach her five year-old to read for three years. Right there a red flag went up for me – five years old and learning for three years? She then went on to say that she realized that she had started too early and took a break and began again when her oldest turned five. She said they have been progressing very slowly and that they have reached a point where they are not progressing in combining the letters and the mother is frustrated and concerned that her daughter is stupid. I will be honest and say my heart broke for this child as I read this, but for many reasons. Some of which involve my own failings teaching my firstborn. Looking back can be very hard, can't it? We see the mistakes very clearly sometimes.

Many many children do not learn to read until they are late 6 or 7, and sometimes 8 or 9 depending on the child and their brain. Two of mine did not learn to read until fully 9. This does NOT mean they are stupid. They are completely normal – for them. Start when your children are showing ready-to-read signs, and don't force it. One of my biggest fears as a new homeschooler was not being able to pass on a love of reading. Reading is central to so much of life and how else do we get to know our Lord? Reading is also the key to any future learning on a large scale. Don't create a hatred or fear of it!

Many new homeschooling moms really struggle in this area and face the very real fears of, “Will I fail to teach my child to read?” It is usually their first child and they are in a panic. I know because I lived it! I struggled when my firstborn was six and didn't read! What I learned and what I tried to impart was that she did and yours will learn, but it will only come in time. I used and love and highly recommend, Phonics Pathways, because it is systematic and thorough. Not only do you learn all the letter sounds and blends, and see how it all comes together, you also learn the WHY. I don't know about you, but when I went to public school I was one of their guinea pigs who learned to read with the "Look Say" method. Guess what? I never really knew, until much later in my life and after some self-teaching, that there were such things as digraphs and diphthongs, or why the "a" says its name instead of its sounds in the word "game." Phonics Pathways opened a lot of doors for me and for my children and I have used it successfully with three of my own children who are reading now. There are a lot of great resources for teaching reading to your children, but this was one of the best for us.

* You can't force blending or combining. It will only "click" when their brains are ready for it to.

* Make learning available to them in small increments (15-20 minutes maximum), regularly, with no stress involved. Make it fun and easy with games, phonics magnetic tiles on the fridge, songs of the phonics sounds, DVDs, etc. There are tons of things like this out there and much available at the library.

* Not every child is learning delayed or learning disabled. Some are, but many are just late bloomers. More on this in number 5 on another day. Suffice it to say that if you have real concerns, www.NATHHAN.com is the place to begin.

* One of my friend's children needed three complete phonics programs from start to finish, lots of time spent with mom in practice, and mom buying books at his level in his interests to do it. She was patient and knew he would learn over time with effort and growth, and he did!

* Read to them a lot. Hearing stories, book tapes/CDs (again, library is a great source or Library and Educational Services) and understanding that words are an opening to another world make that real.

* NO ANGER. Blending will happen when their brains are ready and not before. Your anger and frustration will not help, but can actually harm the situation. I know because I lived it. It humbles and saddens me to think that I got angry at my tiny six year-old firstborn because she was not blending when I thought she should. Oh, parents, love those little ones!

Homeschooling and teaching our children is a part of life, not life itself.

Our children are special creations with their own needs, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. They are precious, and any perceived weaknesses should be dealt with in love and patience.

More to come in future posts.