Long Summer

January 2, 2014

2013 Year in Review

Filed under: about — by dbmamaz @ 10:53 am
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This year started off with a bang – the kind of bang which leaves you picking up the pieces and wondering what to do next.  

The first week of January, my (adult) daughter had a bit of a breakdown and it was NOT pretty.  The final outcome was that my mom and I drove to a midway point between our houses (about 2.5 hours of driving for each of us) and I handed my daughter off to my mom.

Since then, my daughter and I have had light communication, but my mom keeps me informed of the general happenings in her life.  It’s not ideal, but it’s a lot better than living in a war zone, and she seems to be doing well.  So, over time, I’ve come to see it as all good.

So, you might recall that Feb of 2012, I had an injury to my knee.  I worked my way through 2 doctors, 4 images, a physical therapist and an acupuncturist, who finally recommended a third doctor, a surgeon.  He agreed to cut me open Feb of 2013 (almost exactly a year after the injury.)

The good news is that the surgeon was able to fix two problems.  First of all, he kept telling me, you know how when you drop an apple, it gets all brown and mushy?  And if you don’t want that to spread,  you need to scrape it out?  Well, that was my kneecap.  Ewww.  So he scraped it out.  But while he was in there, he also discovered that the synova was stuck up in the knee where it didn’t belong, and was getting pinched when I moved my knee.   So he also did  a partial synovectomy.

Recovery took much, MUCH longer than we had anticipated.  I managed to bruise my rib on one side and sprain my wrist on the other, leaving me unable to use crutches while still unable to walk.  My husband worked from home and drove the kids to their classes and did all the grocery shopping for three months?

6 months after surgery, in August, I could finally walk up AND down stairs, and take long walks to the park, and had only minimal pain.  After 18 months of limited mobility I was ECSTATIC . . . until the dumb dog ran straight in to my knee at close range, all 74 overweight pounds of him.  That put my recovery back about 3 months.

All of this put a big dent in school.  We did not accomplish much in the winter at all, and with the limited mobility, I had become quite the hermit.  We stayed home and focused hard on academics all spring.  I intended to start going to the river every day over the summer, and inviting all the homeschoolers we know  . . . but the river stayed at flood level all summer!  Instead, I introduced the boys to Doctor Who, with great success!  Raven even asked for his 10th birthday party to be doctor who themed.

We also tried to do a chemistry kit over the summer, but no one much liked it.  I had also put up chemistry posters, and found Raven making up stories about the periodic table poster.  I managed to explain the periodic table to Raven by also using the Bohr Model poster of the atom – he suddenly yelled “Why cant the chemistry experiments be this interesting?!”  Definitely a theoretical, not an experimental scientist.

So, this fall, things have been going well!  Woot!  No new crises, and everything has been smooth!  I always love that.  Hubby still hates his job, and is slowly looking for a new one.  And these last 2 weeks, hubby had off of work so we even got a few projects moving along!  All in all, a good upswing in the second half of the year and lets hope for a great 2014!

Academics summary and plan:

Both boys have continued in martial arts, despite me no longer participating.  Dh actually started attending the same school this fall, when the location moved closer to us.

Orion:  Last year’s chemistry program turned out to be a dud.  We made it most of the way through it, threw in some physics resources, and cut our losses by calling it ‘physical science’.   English, history and math all stayed steady as expected.

2013/14

  • History is continuing as previously, he reads/writes essay about Zinn after we read similar timeframe in Hakim.  Zinn is a lot more dense in modern times, so that’s been keeping him busy.  When he’s done with that, we’ll either do politics (most likely) or more world religion
  • Math: He’s taking a self-paced MOOC aimed at helping kids pass the community college math entrance exams.  It is mostly review, but a review he really needed.  I’m hoping a very solid understanding of algebra will help him succeed in pre-calc at community college next year
  • English: He started off with a MOOC about LOTR, a great follow-up to last year’s English.  He is now working through the second half of Bravewriter Help for High School, which is about essays, and then will do a science research paper in the spring.  He’s also doing assigned fiction reading.
  • Science is primarily watching videos on advanced topics of biology and taking notes, with the intention to find a subject to do a research project on in the fall. He did take a MOOC on genetics, which was interesting and challenging.
  • Drivers Ed: he’s also taking a drivers ed online portion.  (My new years resolution is to get him in the car!)
  • We will be visiting local community colleges soon.  He has been doing his own assignments organization for the MOOCs, which I find very encouraging.  We are still not entirely sure what he’ll major in.

Raven:

  • English: Raven’s spelling program, Logic of English, was AWESOME.  I am officially in love with a spelling curriculum!  Raven still frequently  throws on-the-floor crying tantrums over it, but in the end he will do the work and he is learning a lot.  Its even improved his reading. This is all we’ve been doing for English for a full calendar year, and we are almost done.  We will probably do some combination of Bravewriter, other lit studies, and maybe some Igniting your Writing
  • Science: Raven has continued with free reading science, but we may move on to LOF prealgebra/science combo books.
  • Math: Raven finished up the online math, some more murderous maths, and LOF decimals, but  Zaccaro scared Raven by introducing 2-variable algebra too quickly.  We ended up doing a review with Spectrum 6th Grade, which Raven is doing mostly independently.  We will move on to LOF prealgebra/science combos.  (and maybe the econ, I’m not sure)
  • History:  Almost done with Hakim, finally.  We watched several documentaries this fall – he didn’t like many of them.  Will move on to either Canadian history or world religion.
  • Programming: I bought a years access to a programming course to teach kids how to make minecraft mods.  We will probably start this when math and science combine in LOF

February 13, 2013

A week in the life of our homeschool

Filed under: Home School — by dbmamaz @ 1:57 pm

Recently I saw a call for a day-in-the-life post, but I did one of those 2 years ago.  Then a friend of mine wrote a week-in-the-life post.  Hers was pretty cool, because her days are all different.  I thought I should give it a try.  I kept notes for a whole week . . and came to the conclusion that our homeschool is pretty boring.  OK, this was one of the more ‘ordinary’ weeks . . no special projects, no doctors appointments.  But still . . . ugg.

Honestly, I wish you luck getting through it . . but here goes.

Monday:

The day started like most Mondays.  At 10:00 I told the boys it was time to start school and Raven started screaming and whining and moaning, saying he hated school.

After letting him sputter for a minute or two, I told him I’d make his breakfast while he got dressed, and soon enough we were all sitting on the sofa.  I read the preface and first chapter of a book about the Battle of Antietam.  Several times, Raven jumped up to pet an animal and I had to call him back to the sofa.  I asked Raven who Jefferson Davis was and he had no idea, despite the poster behind his head.  At least Orion correctly identified the president of the confederacy.

The boys wrestled for a few minutes and then I got Orion started on his English paper.  I told him to write the intro paragraph and he wrote a sentence.  I gave him some more ideas and he wrote a paragraph.  By now Raven was complaining of a headache. I gave him a snack and some ibuprofen.  They walked the dog.  Orion ate a first lunch.  Growing teen, hobbit, whatever, he eats several times a day.  It was time to go to home school martial art.

When we arrived, Raven was crying, saying he felt too sick to participate. But the instructor, my personal hero, got Raven to participate the whole hour.  I was trying to do some chemistry lesson planning, but occasionally noticed Orion pushing Raven off of him or trying to correct his behavior . ..which he’s not very good at.  Poor teacher – she had 10 kids at 6 different levels, all on her own, and I think 4 of them are what I would call easy kids.  After all, this IS the homeschool class.

We get home and ate leftovers.  I ran out to grab gluten free pretzels at the supermarket and a book we had reserved at the library.

When I got back, Raven is off petting the cats and Orion can’t do the single problem assigned for chemistry.  I made him re-read the samples, but he’s got nothing.  Together,  we get through how to calculate the weight of a molecule, the relationship between the relative molecular weight and the weight of a mole, and the ratio of a solution, how to convert from cubic decimeters to cubic centimeters . .. and by the time we have arrived at and checked the correct answer, Raven comes in with a pillow over his head, declaring the pillow is his eye.  Wrestling ensues.  Its 3 in the afternoon. And we still have a lot to do

Raven and I did a Logic of English lesson without him crying.  That is noteworthy.  Now he is reading his science.  Orion did two of the three math problems I assigned.  The second one I helped some and it’s still wrong.  I tell him to do chores and review his English paper and be done.  Raven still has to do his math, but its computer based and he usually only does about 10 minutes a day.

I’m fried.  The day is cold and cloudy.  It 4 and I get a 90 minute break before I make dinner.

Tuesday:

I swore I would start on time Tuesday, but I have hard time without the Martial Arts class deadline.  I slept in and updated some curriculum plans and let the boys have a lot of time on their beloved electronics and we finally started at 11.

We cleaned the table, got Raven breakfast and Orion an orange, and I read 2 chapters from the book about Antietem.  Raven said several times that if he was a rebel soldier standing behind the Union general, he’d shoot him . . .and then just a few minutes later was asking “Who is McLellan?”  He did seem interested in understanding the ways McLellan was a good and a bad general, but I’m not convinced he’ll remember much.

It was a warmer day and the boys played with the dog in the front yard before walking him.  Then lunch, then some chemistry on khan academy for Orion, to reinforce what we did yesterday, and Raven decided to explore as much free content as he could find on Brainpop.

Orion couldn’t focus so he took a jog around the block.  Next he made chocolate flourless cookies, which I put on his checklist last week, somewhat jokingly.  Raven is STILL on brain pop.  I’ve been trying to get us registered for the World Education Games with no luck.  Its 2.

Its 3. the cookies are yummy!  I read a few pages about Australia to Raven and had to sit next to him without commenting as he did the associated puzzles.  Orion is trying to get out of working any more on his paper because he wrote 2 sentences already.  Nope.

Did I mention how yummy the cookies are?  Orion finished a rough draft and hid in the bathroom for a while.  Raven and I finished up three logic puzzles and started on spelling, as Orion came in and started on math.

Raven is highly motivated by humor.  “Clock.  I want to clock you in the head with the clock” got a lot of laughter out of both boys.  I did have to remind Orion that a2 – b2 = (a + b) (a – b).  And that must have distracted me.  I started to ask Raven how many syllables in ship, just as Raven announced he was petting Charlie . . and I ended up asking how many Charlies are in ship.  The boys stared at me as it sunk in, and we all laughed until we were in physical pain!  Finally we finished spelling and Raven moved on to his math as Orion finished up his.

4:30 . . . Orion has been done for about 10 minutes.  Raven just finished his math and argued over the laundry/dishwasher chores.  I finally told him to just do the dishwasher.  He’ll do laundry later.  I finally got the registration working, with help from one of my online homeschooling boards . . see, they AREN’T a waste of time!  Need to start working on dinner in 30 minutes . ..

 Wednesday:

Wednesday is our light day.  Yes, I know,  you thought the first two sounded light.  We started fairly promptly at 10:05, cleaned the table, fed Raven, read a chapter of history.  Then I got the boys to log in to World Education Games to set up their avatar and play some practice rounds – they loved it!  Then walk the dog, a 20 minute break until martial arts.

So, Mondays’ martial arts class went relatively smoothly.  Not this one.  As soon as we arrived, Raven announced that he felt sick.  I pushed him to go in and change.  Orion came out promptly, in his dobak, and announced that his legs ached.  I pushed him to go for at least the warm-up exercises. Raven had not gotten dressed yet, and eventually he came out, still saying he was sick.  I told him to TRY . . . but about that time, Orion said he needed to sit down.  Soon he said he was having a panic attack due to the noise, and went to a quieter space.  Raven did make it through the whole class (minus the first 10 minutes) but his behavior was terrible . . . wriggling around, playing with younger kids instead of paying attention, etc.  Orion never came back in. By the end of it, both boys and mom ALL had headaches.

Fish sticks and apples and leftover cookies for lunch.  No more complaints of headaches . .. so off to the park – its sunny and 50 in January!  Park day went well – everyone found someone to play or talk with, including me.

We passed a school on the way home and Raven talked about how it would be nice to ride the bus home with your friends after school.  Hmm. I really want him in public school for high school, but I’m not as sure about middle school . . . we’ll see.

 Thursday:

I SWORE I would be quick this morning, and grade all of Orion’s papers, and start us by 10:30.  It’s now 11:15 and I’m just making the assignment checklists.

We read a chapter of Antietam, which I’m enjoying even if they aren’t   The boys walked the dog and we all had lunch.  Orion has moved on to doing work – studied his driver’s license material for about 3 minutes (!) and now is watching the religions videos I assigned.  I’ve got a load of laundry in and plan on making the pie crust for dinner shortly.

Its 1:30.  Orion finished his videos and is eating fruit.  Raven is back on Brain Pop.  I am making crust, second load in the wash, and promising Raven we’ll start geography and English soon.  Orion said he was tired, so I sent him up to his room to lay in bed while reading his chapter of LOTR.

Raven and I got through the Australia adventure pretty easily, but he balked at the idea of writing plurals in his language arts.  He laid around moaning for a while, and got back on brain pop.  I called Orion downstairs from his room.  He finished up the LOTR worksheets, but started to lose it over chemistry.  I helped him work through the first problem, and he was able to work through the second problem with an example from the book.

I did more prep for the pot pie, and got Raven back to the table where he’s still crying over his LOE lesson.  Orion tried to get out of math and I told him to finish 2 complex word problems as it’s already past 4.  We still need to clean the house for the junior Lego team, and Raven has yet to do math or science.

Orion spent 10 or 15 minutes on his first problem and got it wrong.  I looked over his work and could not find the error.  I told him to just do his chores and stop.  Raven finally did his English without too much drama, read 10 minutes of science instead of 15 (because its late and he probably did some science on brainpop) and yes, you have to do math, because this is a 90 day subscription program and I want you to finish it before it runs out and we already took off 3 weeks over xmas . . don’t ask.

Its 4:55.  ugg.  I just put the pot pie in the oven and the junior Lego team gets here at 6:30.  Raven is just finishing up.

 Friday:

I wanted to start promptly this morning because we are supposed to have a ‘play date’ with two girls around my boys ages, who love video games.  Well, 10:25 is less than half an hour late, right?!  I read another chapter of Antietam – the troops are now lined up for the big battle – but my boys can’t seem to take any more of this book, so we’ll move on next week.

Since the dog was restless and the boys were fidgety, I told them to go ahead and walk the dog, but Raven got distracted by a cat while getting socks out of his room.  We only have 3 hours until we need to go . .. and a lot to do.  Harrumph.

The dog was walked, the lunch was eaten.  I graded several of Orion’s papers while they were walking and sent him feedback.  Orion watched his religion videos, then went upstairs to lay down . . . uh .. with his hand held.  Oops.  Raven was willing to do geography right away when Orion went upstairs, and we finally finished Australia.  He wanted to look a tiny bit at Peru . .. which he thought was Perry, and then par – roo . .. PUR like a cat . . .PUR ROO.

Raven started on free write (of course, about another video game he wants to make) and I called Orion down.  Orion read his LOTR and did about half of his chemistry end-of-chapter test, which was all I was demanding, as it was getting late.  He played some World Education Games and did a few math problems.  Raven did not want to do math or World Education games, but in the end, he did both – and we were OUT of here by 2:15 to go to our play date

We had a great time!  They had moved from . .. Wyoming?  Montana?  I can’t remember . . about 3 mo ago.  The older daughter is 3 years younger than my older son and the younger daughter is 1 year younger than my younger son, and they are all really in to video games and web culture – they had a blast ! the mom and I also really hit it off, talking about all sort of things under the sun.  What a great end to the week!

booksontable_feb2013

January 1, 2013

Year in Review: 2012

Filed under: about — by dbmamaz @ 1:14 pm
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Well, 2011 was celebrated as the year without crisis.  And celebrated with good reason, as that is certainly not my norm.  This year we are back to crisis mode.

First crisis happened in February.  The boys and I were testing for our blue belts (having already earned yellow, green and purple).  I slipped while attempting (for the 4th time) to break my board, and couldn’t get up.  At first the injury seemed relatively mild – no damage to muscles or tendons.  The tests were all clear: x-ray, MRI, bone scan and CT scan.  But 10 months out, I still can’t use my knee.

Well, the months of Feb and March went by in a haze of pain.  Come spring, I decided I needed to start getting up my walking stamina so I could do some field trips when I visited my mom in the summer.  Since we had been studying the revolutionary war, we wanted to take advantage of the historical sites near her home outside of Philadelphia.

First we visited the National Constitution Center.  There were reenactors, a play about the revolution, all sorts of displays, and statues of the signers standing around a recreation of the meeting room where they signed the constitution.  Unfortunately, the play was too loud, and Raven was begging to leave the whole time.  The only thing he liked was the plaque which showed how many US troops died in each war we’ve been in.  Little statistician.

Then we visited the Philadelphia science museum.  Sure, it has nothing to do with history, but it’s a HUGE hit with my kids!  Well, until Raven stuck his hand in the elevator door.  They were really sweet with him, though, at one point giving him a plastic glove full of ice!

Finally we visited Valley Forge.  Luckily you can drive around most of it, because it was in the upper 90s that day . . . still, it was a big hit.  There were historical story tellers who gave out stamps to put on a map – they were very funny, too!

Unfortunately, I developed tendonitis, from limping around so much.  The doc sent me to more PT for pain relief, but the PT still insisted he can’t help unless the damage is fixed first.  After my doc thanked me for ‘the intellectual challenge of trying to care for your knee’ I switched to a knee surgeon for another opinion.

At this point it looks like I dislocated the knee cap, bruised the bone of the knee cap and the top of the tibia.  And, the gift that keeps giving, damaged the ‘white’ cartilage that lines the inside of the kneecap – NOT the meniscus, but the lining of the kneecap itself.  The doc says if that IS the problem, he has a 75% chance of being able to fix it.  However, while there is swelling under the kneecap, he has a 10%  chance of making me worse without fixing anything.  So I’ve been resting to try to get the swelling down, but its not working.  I started acupuncture, but if 4 sessions don’t take down the swelling, I’m back at square one – my knee does not function.  I can stand, I can limp around, but I cannot bend the knee while putting any pressure on it.

For homeschool, over the summer we focused heavily on science.  We worked through a lab kit about light, did some Lego kits about pulleys and gears, hatched butterflies and learned a bit about insects, and did a study on the human body ending with the body exhibit at the science museum.  I was pleased how well it went, as it felt like we had been a bit too light on science.  Orion also continued with math and did Scratch programming, and Raven did a typing tutor.

As summer drew to a close, I approached homeschooling with the confidence of a veteran.  Even my husband commented that I finally seem to be on top of everything.

Orion’s Junior year:

  • English: literary lessons from Lord of the Rings, a full year study – very easy for me as its all planned out!
  • History: continue w US history as before, plus some Intelligo World Religions
  • Math: review algebra with LOF and then continue with Singapore, switching to Discovering Math level 3 (since our previous series had been discontinued) – both went very well!
  • Science: Chemistry Matters – ok, this is a bit of a PITA – I have to figure out daily lessons, find supplemental videos since we cant do the experiments, and still I make him look stuff up on google if there are things he doesn’t know – because some material is apparently only covered in the experiment book (which I actually bought . . and lost . . .)
  • Robotics – this was through First Lego League, and took up a lot more time and stress than expected.  Orion still does not like robotics, but he did pick up the programming very easily.
  • And some French which is going very badly

Raven (4th grade):

  • English: some Bravewriter-inspired freewriting, copy work, poetry and random supplemental books about language.  Spelling Power did not go so well, and we’ll be trying LoE in January.
  • History: continue w US History
  • Math: We started with Murderous Maths measurements, did a bit of long division and multi-digit multiplication review, plus some facts reviews, did a bit more of LoF decimals, and got side-tracked with Elements of Mathematics.
  • Science:  for now, Raven is just reading science books and doing a sentence of copy work each day – but he hates the copy work and I will drop that when we start LoE.
  • Legos: Raven is also doing FLL, coached by his dad.  It is . . . well, we’re not entirely sure its worth the trouble.  But we’ll follow through with the commitment.

This fall I went back to church choir.  At first, I even managed to drag Orion along with me, but he kept falling asleep!  So I ended up bringing the boys to the kids  . .well, I thought it was choir, but it was a mixed performance – some bells, some signing, and a little singing the first go-round.

Heron seemed to be doing well this year as well.  She finished up strong at the local Community College, and was accepted as a transfer in to VCU.  She also FINALLY got a job – in the copy center at the local Staples.  This was a good fit for her background in graphics, and also a reasonable place for her to find contacts for advertising, which was her chosen field.  Unfortunately they would not cut her hours below 30/week when school started.  She had a fibromyalgia flare and had to quit the job.

She was feeling sick all fall, and her mood started deteriorating too.  Then she went on a trip with some friends to NYC to go to a conference, but they drove overnight and went to the conference with no sleep, so she got REALLY sick.  About 2 weeks later, she ended up in the hospital in crisis.  She was kept 3 nights and let out with no plan.  She seems convinced living in my house is root of her problems.  She was threatening to quit school until my mom offered to pay her rent so she can move in to town.  She is barely speaking to me so I have no idea what is going on.  Except that my house is super tense.

Oh, and last but not least, the husband hates his job.  No, that’s not news, it’s almost always been the case since I’ve known him.  But he’s job hunting again, which always brings a bit of hope.

Lets hope for a calmer, happier, healthier year in 2013.

December 8, 2012

What is the inspiration I need?

Filed under: Uncategorized — by dbmamaz @ 2:11 pm

What is the inspiration I need?

 I need to know that this season of parenthood is not finite

 I need to know that its ok that I don’t feel joy in my work as a parent

 I need to know that I AM a good enough parent, even if my children are nothing like other kids

 I need to know that I AM a good enough parent, even if my children are mentally ill

 I need to know that I can still travel back to those quiet woods, cold waters, streaming sunlight that made me feel so free and happy in my youth . . even if only in my mind . . and it WILL be enough

 I need to know that there is still time to fulfill me

 I need to trust that I am doing my best to balance the needs of my kids and my own needs, even if the needs of my kids seem to outweigh mine . . . sometimes they really do. 

 I need to trust myself without judgment.  It is only in accepting the world as it is, including myself as I am, that I am free to move and change

March 1, 2012

Declaration of Independence from Public School

As a wrap-up for our study of the Declaration of Independence, I decided we should write our own declaration.  I used this website for some questions to ask the boys.   The three of us brainstormed the list of complaints together, and Orion and I did most of the ‘what are you going to do about it’ questions.

Then I sent all our notes and a link to the original text to Orion . ..and he put together the first paragraph and the list and sent it back to me!  I did cut the list slightly  (to make it fit on a page!) and I wrote the last paragraph.

We think it came out pretty well!  Click on the image to see it full size.

(image has been updated to remove 4 typos, 3/4/12)

January 10, 2012

2011 Year In Review

Filed under: about — by dbmamaz @ 2:13 pm
Tags: ,

2011 – WOW!  This has been the calmest year I’ve had in a LONG time! We did have some transitions, but I think this is the first year in over a decade with not a single real crisis.  It’s really weird.  But in a good way!

In January, hoping for some calm sailing, I put together a regular schedule for our homeschooling.  It takes some planning work, but results in more accomplished, less stress, and less chaos.

The biggest family transition was really my husbands.  By the end of January, we agreed that he would quit his hated job.  The second week of February he was ecstatic, but then he buckled down to the hard work.  While it was nice having an extra set of hands for homeschool help, we were all happy to have him employed again in May.

The next transition was my daughter’s.   After spending 7 mo living with her bf’s family in CA, she decided to move back home. We are getting along better than ever before.   Work was as hard to find here as it had been in CA, tho, and in the fall she returned full-time to the community college.  She was inducted in to the honor society, and is now in process applying to VCU for fall of 2012.

This year brought a few good field trips.  In the spring hubby was able to come with us to the National Museum of Natural History, a good followup to our fall evolution unit. In the summer, the kids and I visited my mom, including a wonderful trip to the Franklin Institute. In the fall the four of us visited the historical recreation of the original town of Henricus, which was how our county, Henrico, began 400 years ago.  This coordinated with our study of Jamestown.

The fall brought even more structure to our homeschool, with more outside activities than ever before. Orion, who had taken sax lessons over the summer, joined newly formed homeschool band and choir classes. I joined with 2 other families to create a grade school science coop. We continued with martial arts and the home school video game club, and added an ongoing D&D group.  Raven is reading more and more on his own, choosing to read to himself at bedtime instead of having dad read to him. Orion’s patience for board games has been a big growth. Hubby has renewed his interest in board games, which makes it good timing.

With the busier schedule, I’ve had to get much more organized with my cooking and menu planning. I’m in love with Paprika, a recipe app for my iPad  (a birthday present from my mother!).

Yes, this has been, for me, an amazing year. No crisis, no horrible news, no big adjustments. Just steady improvements! I hope this becomes the new normal around here!

October 16, 2011

Fall of 2011, home school status report!

Filed under: Curriculum,Home School — by dbmamaz @ 9:52 pm
Tags:

 This fall’s curriculum is going very well!

The only adjustment I’ve had to make so far was for Raven’s writing curriculum. Our schedule is VERY busy. Here, let me explain. 

Things we do outside of the house:

  • Monday: martial arts (including me!) from 12-1
  • Tuesday: Parent-taught science coop from 9:30 – 11:30; Orion choir from 3-4
  • Wednesday: martial arts 12-1, park day 3-4:30-ish
  • Thursday: Orion band from 11-12
  • Friday: every other week, home school video game club from 3:30-5:30

Subjects we are studying:

  • Joint History: We are reading about 2 chapters of Joy Hakim’s History of US, together, on the sofa. This is a 10 book series, and I hope to finish it in 2 years! This is supplemented with appropriate selections from Chester Comix, and occasionally other books or videos. We generally have the map of the US, a World History Atlas, or a blow-up globe with us (the dog is TERRIFIED of the globe). Oh, and I sometimes pull up Google earth on my iPad, too!
  • Orion:
  • Raven:
    • English: We are now using Language Smarts from the Critical Thinking Co. It’s a great fit because it is more like logic work based on language. The last thing we tried was Spectrum Writing workbook, which was a total failure. Before that we tried having him write to pen pals. Yeah, like pulling teeth. He is willing to do this one (so far, 2 weeks in), and I know he’s learning something. He is also reading for fun, finally! Mostly Garfield books, and some Stink books. Dad also continues to read to him at bedtime – this month its books in the Time Warp Trio series.
    • Math: We were lucky enough to get chosen to review a chapter from an upcoming math series. Raven LOVED the textbook, which is comic book style. He resisted the exercises at first, but was able to see for himself that doing the easier problems first helps him to do the harder problem. This was a major breakthrough for him! Now that we’ve completed the chapter, we are back to what we were doing over the summer. We are reading Murderous Maths books, and doing problems from Zaccarro’s Primary Challenge Math. When we first started this combo, he would only do the level 1 and 2 problems in the Challenge Math book, but now he’s doing level 3 and ‘Einstein level’ problems, mostly in his head, with only the occasional hint from me. We may continue on to the next level of Challenge Math, or we might try out Problemoids – in fact, the owner of a math website is trying to get us a free copy of that to evaluate as well!
    • Science: in the coop, we are using Real Science Odyssey Chemistry. Raven seems to think its ok, and I only have to teach every third week. He’s also reading a lot about the planets, which is still his biggest area of interest.

This schedule is exhausting for me, but the boys really like getting out of the house so much. The academics may be slightly on the light side, but my philosophy is to meet them where they are. I don’t want so much work that they get panicky or scream and cry or learn to hate school. I try to come up something they are interested in with just enough challenge, and a format that works for us all.

Year three of homeschooling feels good (most of the time!!)

October 15, 2011

Pizza!

Filed under: Food,Gluten Free recipes — by dbmamaz @ 12:09 pm

Making excellent pizza has always been a source of pride for me.  Years ago, I tried several dough recipes before I settled on one from the Tassajara Recipe book, which used white, wheat, and rye flours.  After working at Pizza Hut, I learned to use an uncooked sauce made from paste.  And I was always creative with my toppings.  I won a pizza bake-off at college once, and my mom called my pizza ‘gourmet’ – which was a huge compliment from her.

When I went gluten and dairy free, after a few utter failures in bread making, and not finding the cheeses very satisfying, I did not expect to be making pizza again.  But then, the boys went gluten and dairy free, too.  They LOVED pizza!  So I had to try.  At first, I tried the pizza crust recipe from my trusty Gluten Free Baking Classics.  I was not really impressed.  It’s supposed to be a crisp crust, which you bake before topping – but I’ve never liked crisp crust, or pre-baking (they don’t do that at real pizzerias . . . ).  I was feeling pretty  hopeless about pizza again. 

Then Pizza Fusion opened in our town – a restaurant that offers gluten-free, dairy-free pizza!  Of course, I still couldn’t eat it, as I’m allergic to some of the staple ingredients in commercial gf breads. But the boys RAVED about how good the pizza was.  But, er . . . it was so expensive!  The boys shared a gfcf pizza and my husband and daughter shared a regular pizza, the only leftovers were 2 pieces of my youngest’s pizza . . and it was $50!  The boys were asking if we could go back every week . . . $50?  There HAD to be a way to make pizza as good as that.  Maybe even that _I_ could eat?! 

So i went back to the drawing board.  I remember that, as much as I hated the pizza dough recipe in the cookbook, I loved the foccacia recipe – so why not use that as the pizza dough?  I actually called up Pizza Fusion and asked what cheese they used – they used the same cheese I did, Vegan Gourmet!  They said maybe their melted better because their oven was so hot . . . so, my oven can go pretty hot!!  The first time I made my ‘new’ gfcf pizza, one boy liked it better (because of the toppings) and the other said it was as good as Pizza Fusion – success!!  Then I altered the dough so I can eat it – and the whole family is still happy to eat it!

So, this is how I make my gfcf pizza:

First off, you make the sauce, so the flavors have time to merge.  Very simple – take one 6 oz can of tomato paste mixed with enough water to make the texture you like – spreadable but not runny – 1 to 2 cans, depending on the brand.  Add generous amounts of italian seasonings – i use about 1 tsp basil, 1 tsp thyme, 1.5 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp of onion powder, 1/4 tsp black pepper, and a dash of cayenne.  use garlic powder, too, if you can.  Let it sit for at least 10 minutes, then taste and add additional herbs, and some salt, to taste.  It should taste pretty strong, as it will be spread thin, but remember, the cheese is salty.

Next, prepare your toppings.  Mine are numerous:
cooked, crumbled italian sausage
fresh spinach lightly wilted in olive oil (with garlic if you can)
sliced black olives
diced tomatoes
thinly sliced red onion
sliced sweet pepper
pineapple tidbits
sliced mushrooms
halved, sliced zucchini
whatever else you and your family like!

Cheeses:  we use a combination of vegan gourmet and Daiya mozzarella (ok, and ‘real’ mozzarella for my husband and daughter).  Sometimes I also use some vegan parmesan.

When everything else is ready, its time to start the dough.   This recipe should make two 8-10 inch pizzas.  This recipe is changed only slightly from the original, mostly just by subbing in flours I’m not allergic to.  I highly recommend you get buy the book – its only $12 on amazon.

Rustic Flat Bread, which I use as pizza crust:
 * 1.5 cups bread mix
 * 1 tsp gum (xanthan or guar)
 * 1/2 tsp salt
 * 1 TB sugar
 * 2 1/4 tsp yeast
 * 1 tsp olive oil
 * 3/4 c water, 110 degrees
Mix dry ingredients in mixer bowl.  Pour in liquids.  Mix briefly, scrape bowl, and beat at high for 2 minutes.  You may allow the dough to rise and beat it down again – this seems to make the crust rise better, but is not necessary

Dump dough on to greased pans. Using non stick spray and the back of a spoon dipped (repeatedly) in water, spread the dough very thin.  Note, if you are using a pizza pan with holes, you should line it with foil. 

Spread a thin layer of sauce on the crusts, top, and bake at 500.  PIzza is done when cheese is melted and crust is lightly browned on the bottom – or when the crust is threatening to get too dark around the edges.

Note, I have been using 4 times this recipe to feed my family of 5 for 2 meals, and its almost enough . . . we’re big eaters. 

My standard flour mix is 1 cup each:
 millet flour
 corn flour
 bean flour 
 corn starch
 potato starch
 arrowroot starch. 

More recently, instead of the bean flour, I do a combination of buckwheat cereal, hemp protein powder, quinoa flakes and rice bran.  My family prefers this flavor.

Feel free to use whatever flour mix you use for bread – we can’t do rice, tapioca or sorghum, so I get creative!

July 20, 2011

My Gluten Free Artisan Bread

Filed under: Gluten Free recipes — by dbmamaz @ 9:20 am
Tags: ,

I was never a big bread eater, but the bread I liked the best was sourdough, and even better, a multi-grain sourdough.  Of course, when I went gluten free, I assumed those days were over.  It got even worse when I realized I was allergic to tapioca flour, the go-to flour for flavorful and chewy gluten free baking.

Then a few weeks ago, the Gluten Free Goddess posted her Olive bread recipe.  I was curious, and I tried it.  It was . . .ok.  I ate it dunked in oil, and it was a reasonable accompaniment to my dinner salad.  My gf 15 yo son loved it, tho, and ate most of it.  Which was fine by me. 

So then I decided to take another look at a recipe I had found on the web over a year ago.  I can’t find the exact recipe, but this is the closest I’ve found.  I started with that basic recipe, using my sweet bread flour mix.  I let it rise overnight and by 10 am, it was fragrant and bubbly and just lovely!  But by the time I baked it, around 2 pm, it was flat.  It didn’t rise in the oven, either.  The flavor was wonderfully sour (too sour for my son), and the crust was nice, but it wasnt quite right.

I looked around the web some more, taking notes from this recipe and this one.  I played around with my flour mix.  And after a few tries, today I made a most wonderful bread!  The flavor is complex, the crust is hard and chewy, the bread is tender but not crumbly.   The only thing I might want to change is that the bottom crust seems slightly overcooked, but i cant be that picky.  I LOVE this bread – so I have to share!!

Some notes: 

  • Different flour mixes require different amounts of water.  I did best with a dough just too soft to hold in your hand, but stiffer than most muffin batters.  When the dough was too dry, it didn’t rise as well, and when it was too wet, the bread actually seemed soggy.
  • I found that beating the dough in a stand mixer for a minute or two seemed to help the rise. 
  • I don’t have a dutch oven, so I am using a covered casserole.  I rise the bread in a duplicate casserole lined with parchment.   I smooth the parchment out as best I can, but cut it long enough so that some is hanging over the edges.  I preheat the other dish, with the lid, and then gently lift the dough up by the paper edges to transfer to hot pan – but trim carefully before returning to the oven.
  • When I left the bread out overnight during the summer in Virginia, it rose too fast, and fell when baking.  Instead I left it in the fridge overnight, and then let it rise on the counter from about 8 am to 2:30 pm.  This seemed to give me the best rise.  I will try leaving it out overnight in the winter, though. 
  • You know the bread has risen enough when the dough looks puffy and spongy, and smells very yeasty.  (This dough was too wet, so your should look slightly drier)
  • I havent tried, but the original recipe said that the texture would be poor if you sliced it before it was completely cool. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups GF Flour Mix
  • 1 1⁄4 tsp. Guar (or xanthan) gum
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. yeast
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup water, or slightly more to make soft dough or stiff batter

Directions:

  • Mix all dry ingredients in a large mixer bowl.
  • Add olive oil and water to the bowl; mix well and add more water if the dough seems too stiff.   Beat a minute or two on high.
  • Line rising bowl with parchment paper, leaving some overhang. Pour/scoop in batter and smooth with the back of a spoon dipped in water.
  • Cover bowl with a light cloth or plastic wrap and let rise 12-18 hours at room temperature, until light and yeasty. Note, in summer in Virginia, I found I needed to let it rise overnight in the fridge, and then about 5 more hours on the counter.
  • Preheat the oven to 450°F with a cast iron dutch oven with lid (or a Pyrex casserole with lid) in the oven.
  • After 30 minutes, take out the hot pan. Lift dough gently by the paper, put in hot pan, and trim off edges. Put the lid on the pan, and put the entire thing in the oven.
  • After 20 minutes, remove the lid and then bake 20 minutes more.
  • Cool completely before slicing.

Notes from the original recipe (i havent tried this): For a faster version by using 2 tsps of rapid rise yeast and let it rise 2 hours. For a double recipe, turn the heat down to 400 degrees, and bake it 30 minutes covered, and then continue baking uncovered until it’s a nice light brown color.

The flour mix the recipe came with was equal parts sorghum, cornstarch, potato starch, and tapioca starch/flour.  I’m allergic to tapioca AND sorghum.)  The original author said she had used several mixes with success.

the flour mix I use is: 

  • 1/3 cup millet flour
  • 1/3 cup corn flour
  • 1/3 cup potato starch
  • 1/3 cup arrowroot starch 
  • 1/3 c quinoa flakes
  • 1/3 cup combined rice bran, hemp protein powder, and uncooked buckwheat hot cereal

(edited to add:  really, I don’t do 1/3 cup of those last 3 items combined . . . i do 1 TB of each of those, and fill in the remainder of the 1/3 cup in more quinoa flakes .. . otherwise it’s slightly bitter)

July 2, 2011

Come as You Are

Filed under: Home School,Inspiration — by dbmamaz @ 2:07 pm

This week I saw two things which really spoke to me about homeschooling. I have not blogged much this second year of school. Some of it is due to various external issues making it harder to get around to writing. But some of it is about how things change after that first year.

The first year of homeschooling, everything is new and exciting. You are trying to pick curriculum, trying to find a style, and then you are amazed each time your child actually learns something . . . you know, without being in school! But after a while, you just get into your zone. There are fewer questions to ask, and the learning moments become less surprising.

So what did I see which was so inspirational?

First one was a post in a Homeschool group on Facebook by some one I don’t know. She said that after years of experience and networking, her standard advice to homeschoolers is this: “Look at your kids. Do what seems to make the most amount of sense at the time (easy) and if it’s not working, stop. (surprisingly hard.) It’s different for everybody, but it all works.”

The next item was a blog entry from a woman I met when she stepped on to a sudden void and became the minister of my UU church for a year.

Here is my reaction to her post: ” There is a big part of this in learning how to homeschool. I have to learn to teach AS I AM, in way which reaches my kids AS THEY ARE. What a lot of learning I had to do in the first year! Not only that, the darn buggers keep CHANGING. You know, like growing older and developing new interests? I used to complain about them no longer liking their favorite food once i got used to stocking it in the house . . .but now i have to keep changing curriculum.”

I think that, to a great extent, this year I started to really hit my stride. I started to accept that it’s ok if I work better with a schedule than without. I started to feel like I knew what my teen needed to be focussing on. I started to trust my 7 yo to know what he wanted to learn next. I learned how and when to push each of us, and when it was time to just let things slide.

I look at the kids. I accept myself and them as we are now. I do what makes sense to me. When it doesn’t work, I take a fresh look and do something different.

Really, I highly recommend it!

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