Saturday, November 29, 2008

Considering Advent

I grew up in an Evangelical home, celebrating Christmas every year from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day. I was in medical school when I first came in contact with the concept of Advent. Our church did the traditional Advent wreath during the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. In addition, they published an Advent reading/study guide for families to use during the holiday season. Our church now is very Evangelical and doesn't follow the church calendar except for Christmas and Easter, but does have and Advent wreath every year.

Over the last few years, I've learned more about Advent and how spending our time before Christmas pondering our need for a savior makes for a more meaningful Christmas time. I've become more concerned in the last couple of years about my family's (along with society's) materialism, particularly at Christmas. The last couple of Christmases in our house have become more simple because of our changing economic situation. This year, we're trying to focus more on others than ourselves by not putting Christmas gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve and by making most of our gifts this year. I've always been a fan of giving more than usual to charity at this time of year, and we will continue that tradition this year.

None of this means that I think that our society's Christmas traditions are inherently bad Christmas trees aren't evil, Santa Claus myths won't ruin your kids, and there's nothing necessarily wrong with giving gifts. The problem is that we are completely out of control. What used to be a fun season to give some extra gifts to people as we celebrate the greatest gift of God's love has become a stressful time of feeling obligated to give more than necessary, eat and drink too much, and neglect the important things in life. We've lost the time to focus on the birth of Jesus. I really like how Michael Spencer (the internet monk) says that we need to focus not on Jesus' birthday but on the incarnation of God. That's so much more profound than thinking only of a baby in a manger.

Our family isn't going to quit celebrating Christmas by any means. We love our traditions and we love to give gifts. But, we are simplifying things this year - buying less, doing less, and enjoying our friends and neighbors even more. I'm going to be looking at how we can incorporate some of the traditions of the church year into our family's life and make our celebration more meaningful.


Our Week in Review - November 29, 2008

Our-Week-In-Review-3 Holiday weeks are notoriously short on "school" work, but I'm finding that they can be pretty heavy on learning.  Here's the highlights from this week - even with some photos!

Monday - I had a migraine.  The kids did mostly reading and other independent work then went to dance class and AWANA.  Their Christmas dance recital is in 2 weeks, so they're pretty excited!  Ga'hoole Girl wrote a short summary of the organization of the books of the Bible.

Tuesday - Mr. Math Tutor took the kids to piano and shopping while I stayed home and worked on Christmas presents, etc.  The kids picked up some books from the library.  That evening, I made the cake, buttercream, chocolate ganache, and fondant for our Thanksgiving cake.  We also watched "Good Eats" on the DVR

Wednesday - We watched a TV show about nebulas which got Ga'hoole Girl thinking about the electromagnetic spectrum.  She did a little internet research and then wrote a short, but very good, paper about the spectrum and how it is used by people today.  Wild MaDSCN0009n didn't get as much from the show, but enjoyed it anyway.  During the afternoon, Wild Man and I filled the cake layers with ganache and frosted the whole thing with buttercream.  Then, I rolled out the fondant and put it on the cake (successfully!).  Ga'hoole Girl then piped a design onto the fondant with colored buttercream.  After that, she used piping gel to paint the design to give it a stained glass effect.  She also piped stars around the top and bottom of the cake.  Pretty cool, huh?  I think that counts as sSANY1006omething educational on everyone's part!

Thursday - We got to talk to Grams and Grandpa on Ga'hoole Girl's webcam.  We watched  part of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and, later in the afternoon, watched a History Channel show on the background about the parade.  Ga'hoole Girl and I made Rock Cornish Game Hens with gravy, stuffed tomatoes, steamed broccoli, and hash browns.  Wild Man and Ga'hoole Girl set the table with our best china for a lovely meal.  After dinner, we all worked together and put up our Christmas decorations.  We all feel so festive now!!

Friday - I woke up with a migraine that is persisting through today.  The kids stayed busy, DSCN0021 though.  Ga'hoole Girl has been reading The King's Fifth and some of her science book (about deserts since she recently read a book that was set in a desert).  Wild Man has been doing lots of general playing!  Last night, I read the last of the week's History to them, which sparked some good discussion.  After they went to bed, Mr. Math Tutor and I watched part of "Lady Jane Grey" on DVD.

Saturday (today) - Mr. Math Tutor and Wild Man went to church this morning to help with Christmas decorating.  Ga'hoole Girl and I slept in.  Ga'hoole Girl and I watched the rest of "Lady Jane Grey", which Ga'hoole Girl understood because we just finished studying Tudor England.  Throughout the week, we have been reading Brisingr.  Just a few more days and we'll be all finished with it.  After Brisingr, we move on to our traditional Christmas reading of Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkein.

So, how was your week?  Check out Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers to see what other homeschooling families have been up to!


Friday, November 28, 2008

Holiday Traditions

DSCN0021 'Tis the time of year for holiday traditions to start!  Our family, like all families, I'm sure, has some traditions that we brought from our families of origin, while we have others that we started after we got married.  Still other traditions are still rather new.  Here are a few of my favorites.

1. Decorating the house on Thanksgiving weekend.  When I was working, we did this because I would usually have a little time off.  If I was on call, though, we had to put it off for a few days.

2. Christmas reading.  Since the kids were small, we have always adjusted our night-time reading during the holidays to include lots of Christmas materials.  Several years ago, we got a copy of Letters from Father Christmas by Tolkein.  Since then, we read as much of that book as we can through the Christmas season.  It is rather sobering to read the letters written during the war years where Father Christmas explains to the children why they are getting just a few gifts.

3. Our newest tradition is starting this year.  We put my favorite Nativity set under the Christmas tree instead of gifts.  We will keep the gifts in a closet until Christmas Eve.  The idea is that not having the gifts to stare at for a month will, hopefully, keep us all focused more on Jesus, and less on stuff.  It will also not be near as obvious that there are fewer packages under the tree this year.  So far, I'm very happy with this tradition and hope that it will continue.

4. Christmas Eve festivities.  Mr. Math Tutor usually goes to all of the Christmas Eve services, either because he's playing bass guitar, because he's doing sound, or just because he wants to be there.  The rest of us come to the late service (usually has fewer people there).  We come home to have a light dinner and then open one present each before bed.

What are some of your Christmas traditions?  Are there any that you would like to start this year?

Whatcha Think?!

So, whatcha think about my new blog look?   I debated trying to do something Christmas-y, but decided not to since I probably won't get around to redoing it again for six months or so.  Anyway, the template is a freebie from Amy at Split Decisionz.  Check our her site for free, pre-made, or custom blog templates.  They're great!

Black Friday

Today is "Black Friday". Even when I loved to shop, I was never a big fan of "Black Friday". I mean, some people take their shopping waaaaay too seriously. It got so bad today that a Wal-Mart employee was actually killed in an early morning stampede. We really need to rethink our priorities, folks.

For the last 8 or 9 years, I have had most of my Christmas shopping already done before Thanksgiving. Of course, I would always pick up a few more things between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which wasn't at all good for the budget. For the last five years or so, I haven't even shopped in stores, preferring to do my shopping online. Talk about convenient! When I was working, I didn't have much time to get in to the city to shop, so it was easier to sit down at 11pm at the computer to order what I wanted. Of course, that could also wreak havoc on the budget.

This year, though, is different. The kids, Mr. Math Tutor, and I are making almost all of our gifts this year. We did purchase some gifts for the kids a good six weeks or so. I ordered my yarn 2 months ago, and am feverishly working to finish gifts. I took the kids to Hobby Lobby a week or so ago and we purchased what they needed to make gifts (some people on their list read my blog, so I won't give any more details than that!). Mr. Math Tutor is in the basement working with his scroll saw. I'm not sure what all he's up to since he won't let any of us in to "Santa's Workshop".

The real advantage to this is that we are all more focused on giving, and less focused on getting. And, we're having a great time! It's been just amazing to watch my kids sit around for hours at a time making presents. This was less a response to the overall economic situation and more a response to our own personal economics as well as a spiritual need to get away from materialism. And, it's working. We're having a blast this Christmas season!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Homeschool Moment

I walked in to the sun room this morning to hear 13 year old Ga'hoole Girl explaining the concept of Avogadro's number and mole (from our chemistry discussions) to Wild Man. Wild Man didn't quite get it: "Wow. That's a big number, like a billion!" Ga'hoole Girl was trying to tell him that there aren't even 6 times 10 to the 23 power number of people on earth - that it's a huge number. He didn't quite get it since he's still so concrete in thinking. But, what a great homeschooling moment!!

Works For Me Wednesday - November 26, 2008

WFMW I mentioned earlier that we have done a better job this month of getting chores done.  I thought I'd share one thing I've used to help my kids.  I actually learned this from a mom I knew when we lived in Kentucky, even before I had kids.

For each room, this mom had typed out "This room (bedroom, bathroom, whatever) is clean when" . . . and then listed all the things that have to be done for that room to be clean.  About a month ago, I posted the kids' chore lists on the dining room wall instead of putting them just in the binder.  Then, I made "Your room is clean when . . ." lists for their rooms.  I plan to make lists for the bathroom chores as well - "The toilet area is clean when . . .", "The vanity area is clean when . . . ", and "The bathroom floor is clean when . . ."  The bedroom list includes the following: clean clothes put away, dirty clothes in hamper, everything picked up off floor, floor is clean (swept once a week), the bed is made.  Now the kids don't guess about whether or not their room is clean enough for my taste.  And, frankly, even with the list, I'd be happier if things were a little more tidy on the desks and in the drawers, but the list gives us all a reference.

Check out Works For Me Wednesday at Rocks in my Dryer for more great ideas!


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tempt My Tummy Tuesday - November 25, 2008


Now that it's getting cold, it's time for traditional fall foods. Today, I'm going to share with you my gingerbread recipe. I made it last week and it lasted all of two days! We eat it for breakfast, snacks, and dessert.

  • 1 cup shortening (I use butter-flavored Crisco. In a pinch, butter will work)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (Alton Brown says to always sift your flour, but I don't always.)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • smidge of ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup boiling water

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Cream shortening and sugar till light.
  • Add egg and molasses; beat thoroughly.
  • Sift together dry ingredients. Add to creamed mixture alternately with water, beating well after each addition.
  • Baked in greased and lightly floured (or sprayed with non-stick spray) 9x13-inch pan at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or till done.
  • Last time I made this, it seemed to bake rather slowly and took about 55 minutes to bake. It is done when a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Enjoy this yummy recipe! Check out Tempt Your Tummy Tuesday for more great recipes. Happy Thanksgiving!!

I'm soooo funny!

We've been laughing a good bit this morning! I'm not known as a comedienne, but I think I did have a few funnies.

While talking to my dad on the phone:
Dad - Just a piece of info. Your mom and I have been married for 43 years as of today.
Me - Great! (to Wild Man who was sitting with me) Grandpa and Grams have been married for 40 years!
Dad - No, it's been 43 years.
Me - Oh, yeah. I'm 41. Yikes, I think I just shredded your reputation!

While talking to my daughter in the kitchen:
Ga'hoole Girl - I wrapped my best friend's Christmas present last night.
Me - Great! So, have you wrapped my gift yet?
Ga'hoole Girl - Oh, yeah! I wrapped yours a couple of weeks ago.
Me - So, there's no point in snooping while you're gone to piano lesson.
Ga'hoole Girl - Um, no!
Me - Well, that frees up my afternoon. (Mr. Math Tutor proceeded to berate me for even thinking about snooping for presents. He doesn't seem to believe that I was totally and completely joking. Really. Honest. Would I lie?)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - November 24, 1008

mpmfall1 My menu plans for last week worked out really well.  The 40 Cloves and a Chicken was delicious.  On Saturday night, Ga'hoole Girl made some yummy steaks.  Wild Man actually liked the gravy with roast beef on Friday night!  This week gets a little complicated because of Thanksgiving.  I'm going to try to plan some easier menus for some of the other days this week because of the special cooking we'll be doing on Thursday.  So, in no particular order (except Thanksgiving Day), here are the menus for the week:

1. Thanksgiving Day - Rock Cornish game hens (preparation method to be determined after watching "Good Eats" tomorrow night), hash browns, stuffed tomatoes, raw cucumbers, cornbread, decorated chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling

2. Mac and Cheese with ground beef, V8 juice, raw veggies.

3. Cheddar cheese soup, broccoli, rolls or bread

4. Grilled cheese sandwiches, raw veggies

5. Tacos

6. Leftovers

7. Sandwiches (on Monday for dance and AWANA)

Check out for more great menu plans!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Our Week in Review - November 22, 2008

Our-Week-In-Review-3 We had a highly "artistic" week this week! Overall, I'm pleased with how our week went, although I would have preferred to have gotten more Sonlight stuff done. It would be easier to get the Sonlight done if I could find the Story of the World CD! The thing I am most happy about right now is that the house is clean and has been for about a month. I have been more direct about making sure the kids get their chores done properly every day. We have also all been very good about making beds and cleaning rooms, something that was a lower priority until recently.

On Monday, the kids did mostly math, reading, and some science. Ga'hoole Girl woke up early that morning and made breakfast, did her chores, and started schoolwork, all before I woke up! They had dance in the afternoon, followed by Wild Man's first drum lesson! We're not sure what we're going to do about further drum lessons, though. Wild Man wants to play a drum set, which is expensive. In addition, we will need to find another teacher since the teacher he went to on Monday teaches percussion, not drum set. But, he did say that Wild Man is clearly left-handed for drum playing, and that he's ready to learn. After drum lesson, was AWANA.

Tuesday was our weekly trip to Appleton. Unfortunately, I was getting a migraine, so I was feeling pretty yucky by the time we got home. We went by Hobby Lobby and picked up some crafting items so the kids can make Christmas presents. We also listened to a good bit of The People of Sparks on the CD. One thing that was encouraging was the Wild Man didn't want to listen to the CD on our way to the grocery store because he was reading a book he got from the library. That's does a mother's heart good.

Wednesday and Thursday were serious crafting days! Both kids did a bunch of Sculpey work. Ga'hoole Girl has been making figurines for friends. Wild Man is doing something that he won't let me see. While they were working, Mr. Math Tutor or I would read to them. We watched several Food Network shows and a show about the Sears Tower on the DVR.

Cooking was the order of the Day on Friday for Ga'hoole Girl. She did all of her chores in quick order so she could get to making her lemon meringue pie, which turned out wonderful! Wild Man did more "school" type work on Friday, including Explode the Code, handwriting, reading, and narrating a letter.

Both kids have been quite excited about the appearance in our neighborhood of a white crow. The temperature was well below 20 degrees yesterday and Thursday mornings, but the kids went out with the video camera to take a picture of the crow. Sadly, they haven't yet been successful.

Ga'hoole Girl and I had a good discussion of burns and burn care after I got some small (thankfully!) steam burns on my knuckles from opening the pressure cooker without mitts. While I stood in the kitchen with ice on my fingers, she and I discussed how to treat small burns, the function of the skin, why large burns are serious (dehydration and infection), etc.

Check out Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers to see how other homeschoolers have spent their weeks!

What kind of ornament am I?

You Are a Tree

You love every part of the holidays, down to the candy canes and stockings. And you're goofy enough to put a Christmas tree ornament on your tree!

Friday, November 21, 2008


Lagniappe is a Creole word that means "bonus" or "a little extra".  It is used mostly in the Deep South, such as Baton Rouge and New Orleans, where I spent my college and medical school years.  I'm using it now to refer to blog posts with just little thoughts about life, tidbits of what's happening around here, and interesting links I've come across.

Some of my favorite books to read are social histories.  I'm currently working on a biography of Mendeleev (made the first periodic table) which is really a social history of late 19th century Russia.  I'm also reading a book about the history of homeschooling in America.  One of the reasons that I got a bachelor's degree in Sociology was because I enjoy learning about society and how it changes over time.  I'll put up reviews of these books when I get a chance.

Ga'hoole Girl made a yummy lemon meringue pie today.  For Thanksgiving Day dessert, I'm going to make a stained glass cake (with Ga'hoole Girl's help).  It will be a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling, covered with a light covering of buttercream then a layer of rolled fondant.  The top is decorated by piping the outlines from a stained glass pattern onto the fondant.  When the piping is dry, Ga'hoole Girl will paint in the spaces with colored piping gel.  The last time I made a cake like this was 15 years ago.  I'm pretty excited.

We are loving reading Brisingr, but I have to say that Christopher Paolini is pretty detailed in his descriptions of fighting and injuries.  Ugh!

I realized that I ordered the wrong kind of yarn for one of my Christmas projects.  I debated for a couple of days about whether to change the project or buy more yarn.  I think I'm going to buy yarn.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Single Digits - BRRRRRR!!!!

The low temp tonight is forecast to be 9 degrees! It's a little early for this kind of serious cold, I think. Of course, it makes it easy to feel Christmas-y, I suppose.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Don't Try This At Home!!"

Should I be worried that my family's favorite TV shows (Mythbusters, Time Warp, etc.) all start with "Don't try this at home!"?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tempt My Tummy Tuesday - 40 Cloves and a Chicken

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know that my family is addicted to the Food Network.  One of our favorite shows is "Good Eats" with host Alton Brown.  About a year ago, he did a show about garlic and featured a dish called "40 Cloves and a Chicken".  It is now one of our family's favorite meals.  I usually make it with chicken thighs (cheaper than a whole chicken) then serve it with homemade french bread.  We spread the cooked garlic on the bread and then dip it into the oil.  Yummy!


  • 1 whole chicken (broiler/fryer) cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 40 peeled cloves garlic
  • Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Toss with a 2 tablespoons olive oil and brown on both sides in a wide fry pan or skillet over high heat. Remove from heat, add oil, thyme, and garlic cloves. Cover and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove chicken from the oven, let rest for 5 to 10 minutes, carve, and serve.


Enjoy!  Check out Food Network for more great recipes!  And, don't forget to see what others are saying on Tempt My Tummy Tuesday!

Sprint Shopping!!

During Ga'hoole Girl's piano lesson today, Wild Man and I went grocery shopping at Woodman's.  We had an hour to get to Woodman's, get everything on my list, and get back to the music academy.  We made it with nine minutes to spare, but it required some serious running.  Of course, we didn't get much that wasn't on the list and only spent $130 (compared to $160 at Pick'N'Save where I bought lots fewer groceries).  It was definitely sprint shopping!!

Telling Our Story - Update

The mp3 of Sunday's sermon (including an interview with me and Mr. Math Tutor) is up at Here is the direct link to the mp3 page. Click on the 11/16/08 sermon to download.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - November 17, 2008

mpmfall1Last week was not a great one for my menu plans.  I had a four=day migraine which puts a damper on life, the universe, and everything.  We did have the 40 Cloves and a Chicken, but never got around to making lasagna.  Here's hoping that this week's menu plans go better than last week's!

1. Lasagna with salad or raw veggies

2. Leftover lasagna with broccoli

3. Meat and barley in the pressure cooker

4. Pan-fried steak with pan sauce, mashed potatoes, and veggie

5. Roast beef, rice, and gravy

6. Leftover roast beef

Because of my migraines last week, I didn't shop Woodman's like usual, but went to the closer Pick'N'Save.  EEK!  I spent $161 and didn't even fill up my cart!  With gas back down to $2/gallon, it probably makes sense to make a special trip to Woodman's just for weekly groceries.

Check our for more great menu plans and ideas! 


Bells Mr. Math Tutor and Ga'hoole Girl turned on the CD player in the car a few days ago and discovered my little secret: I have been listening to Christmas music for the last week.  They were not happy.  We have an unwritten rule here that we don't listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving.  We don't want to give short shrift to such an important holiday as Thanksgiving.  The problem is that there is entirely too much good Christmas music for just four weeks of holidays.  The family has decided to give me a pass this year and let me have my music.  Who knows about next year?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Telling Our Story . . .

This morning, Mr. Math Tutor and I were interviewed at church for a sermon series called "Case Studies in Faith". Actually, I was interviewed on video on Wednesday because we were concerned I would have a migraine today if I was scheduled to be on stage. (And, indeed, I did have a migraine, although I was able to at least by at church for a while this morning.) Our pastor interviewed Mr. Math Tutor on stage (pre-discussed questions) and interspersed my answers on video. The interview focused on life the last three years - headaches, quitting work, financial changes, etc. Afterwards, our pastor preached a short sermon on what we have learned through all this. Starting tomorrow or Tuesday, the mp3 of the interviews and sermon will be here. I hope that others can learn something from our lives over the last several years. Check out the mp3 to hear how it went!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Our Week in Review - November 15, 2008

From an academic perspective, this week was definitely a success.  Unfortunately, it was marred by three pretty wicked migraines.  Here's how it went:

Our-Week-In-Review-3 History/Social Sciences - We started Core 7 (World History from 1500 to the present)!  We are almost done with the Tudor family now.  We watched a National Geographic DVD called "The Madness of King Henry VIII".  I do plan to show another DVD next week about Queen Elizabeth.  Ga'hoole Girl read about the Robie House in Chicago in The Wright 3, so now she's interested in Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.  She found a house in Wisconsin designed by Lloyd Wright that she wants to visit in the Spring.

Math - Both kids are doing well with ALEKS math.  Ga'hoole Girl just finished listening to Chasing Vermeer again and has gotten into playing with pentominoes.  Apparently, there are thousands of ways that you can arrange them to make a rectangle.  Ga'hoole Girl has found 10 or 12 so far.

Science - Wild Man and I read from his Mythbusters science book.  Both kids explored a weather for kids website to learn about the relationships between pressure and temperature.  We watched a couple of shows that related to Earth Science this week, the most memorable of which was about a volcano in Ethiopia.  Not only did we learn about volcanoes, but we got to review the geography of East Africa.  We also watched a show about domesticated cats and another about platypuses.  After we watched the show about platypuses, we also reviewed the geography of Southern Australia and Tasmania.  Wild Man played with Snap Circuits last night.  We also watched Mythbusters and Prototype This on Wednesday night.  Ga'hoole Girl and I are still doing chemistry at night a couple of times a week.

Language arts - Wild Man is still working on Explode the Code and All About Spelling.  He also signed up for the reading program at the Appleton Library.  Four days after he signed up, he had already read two full hours.  This morning, he and Mr. Math Tutor played "Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit" which required Wild Man to read.  He did a great job!  Ga'hoole Girl did two writing assignments this week, one called "The Pope's Problem" (about Pope Clement VII and Henry VIII's request for a divorce) and another about the volcano in Ethiopia.  She needs to correct the spelling and capitalization as well as review the proper use of colons, but they were overall well done.  Ga'hoole Girl is also working through Painless Poetry.  Ga'hoole Girl and I played Scrabble this week.

Bible - As a family, we are reading Exodus.  Wild Man has been working on his AWANA verses as well as reading for his Sunday School assignment.  Ga'hoole Girl just started Don't All Religions Lead to God? and The BBC Manual (Turning Your Bedroom Into a Bible College).

Cooking - Wild Man make french bread on Wednesday while I was gone to the grocery store.  And, he cleaned up afterwards!  Ga'hoole Girl made some pasta for dinner last night.  The kids have been planning Thanksgiving dinner over the last week, as well.

Life Skills - This is probably the most exciting area for this week.  The kids' rooms have been clean for an entire week!  They are also doing a great job of keeping the living room, kitchen, and dining room clean.  Now, if their mom could just keep the office/sunroom straightened up!

Despite the headaches, it was a really good week.  The kids are now independent enough that they can do their assigned work even if I don't feel well.  They are also able to entertain themselves, often with things that are educational.  It's getting easier to relax about the whole schooling thing these days.

We are planning out our Christmas activities now.  I'm working feverishly on Christmas presents while the kids are planning Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.  Sometime after Thanksgiving, we're going to make a gingerbread house (more on that later).

Check out Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers to see how others fared in their weeks!

Friday, November 14, 2008

How Our Family is Unique!


Today's Heart of the Matter Online meme topic is "How Our Family is Unique".  What a great topic!  Every family has their own quirks, foibles, and individual characteristics.  Here are some of ours:

  • We love to read aloud as a family.  We read the Sonlight read-alouds plus several other books every year.  Right now, we are reading Brisingr by Christopher Paolini.  When we go on vacation, we always make sure to have books with us for reading aloud in the hotel room as well as audiobooks for the car.
  • In the morning, we often do "sofa time" where we cuddle up on the sofa for a half hour or so before we get going with chores and schoolwork.
  • We used to be a family with a Doctor Mom and Stay at Home/Homeschooling Dad.  Now we are a family with Disabled/Homeschooling Mom and Tutor Dad.
  • We are a geeky family.  We had a blast earlier this year watching the National Spelling Bee on TV.  Some of our favorite TV shows are from the Food Network and Discovery Channel.

So, what about you?  How is your family different from everyone else?  Check out Heart of the Matter Online for more responses!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thankful Thursday - November 13, 2008

TTButton Mr. Math Tutor's mom, Grandma, visited us for a week last week reminding me of how thankful I am for my mother-in-law.  I know some people complain about their in-laws, but I am blessed to have a great extended family.  For one thing, my husband is the man he is partly because of his parents.  His dad died about five years ago.  Since then, his mom has traveled a lot.  She usually visits us once or twice each year.

During this last visit, she helped make Halloween costumes for the kids as well as making the pillows for the living room.  She has been very supportive of our educational endeavors.  When she is here, she teaches the kids about sewing and quilting.  Last year, she took the kids for a visit to Door County to see the lighthouses.  Not only did they have fun, but they all learned a lot.

Mostly, I am thankful for my mother-in-law because she is an encouragement to me.  I love having her visit, and I'm thrilled that she loves to spend time with her grandkids.

Check out Thankful Thursday to see what other people are thankful for.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday - November 12, 2008

WFMW I love plastic page protectors!  Mr. Math Tutor and I use them for all kinds of things around our house. 

  • Mr. Math Tutor keeps an accordion file of his music for church (he plays bass guitar).  Each week, he pulls out the music that he needs and puts it into the plastic page protectors in his binder.  The pages stay nice and clean and are easy for him to read.
  • My homemade cookbook is a binder with page protectors to protect the recipes.  Originally, all the recipes were printed from the computer and everything looked nice and neat.  Now, though, I have some recipes that I cut from the newspaper, some printed from the web, and some handwritten.  The concept is great, though, because I put the binder on the counter for cooking and don't worry about spilling on it.  The pages are really easy to clean.
  • Last year, I was having the kids do notebooking.  I had them write a paragraph or so and then illustrate it.  I put the completed pages into page protectors in a binder.  It really works well if the kids do scrapbook-like activities for their pages, with decorations, stickers, etc.  The only time we did that was when the kids did a feather activity and put the pages with feathers glued to them in the page protectors.
  • My household notebook is a binder with pages in page protectors.  This notebook has a printed address list, our weekly menus, and everyone's chore lists.  Unfortunately, we don't use it the way I intended because I don't leave it sitting out on a table.  But, it was a great idea.
  • I printed the kids' chore lists and put them in page protectors and hung them on the wall of the dining room (since we don't open the household notebook every day like I planned).  The kids check off their chores with dry-erase marker as they are done.  Wild Man really loves checking things off lists.

When purchasing page protectors, you can get flimsy or more sturdy protectors.  I prefer the more sturdy version for things where we will be using dry-erase markers.  The surface is more smooth, so the marker goes on and off very easily.

Check out Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer for more great ideas!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Am Blissfully Domestic - Kids in the Kitchen

Today, I'm participating in the "I am Blissfully Domestic" feature at Blissfully Domestic.  This morning, the kids and I watched an episode of "Good Eats" that was about cooking with kids, so I thought I'd share some of our family's kitchen experiences.

Since the kids were little, they have been helping in the kitchen.  They have been setting and clearing the SANY0819 table since they've been able to hold the dishes.  When they expressed interest in cooking, I started to let them help cook.  At first, they poured ingredients that I had measured into the bowl.  Later, they started to do the measuring themselves.  We then moved on to them using the mixer, then later cooking on the stove.  When they were reading, I had them read recipes and follow the recipe directions.  Now, they are both pretty independent in the kitchen.  In fact, Wild Man has been getting very frustrated that I want to help him bake.  He's ready to go it alone.

Over the last few years, I've learned a few thing about letting kids in the kitchen.

SANY0536 1. Safety first!  One of my kids had a bad habit of forgetting to turn the burner off when finished cooking.  We've talked about that as well as having some consequences, so it's not a problem anymore.  Both kids know where the fire extinguisher is as well as how to use it.  They also know how to smother fires if they are ever without a fire extinguisher.  They also have been taught how to use knives, etc.  While some injuries are inevitable, I have done my best to make sure the kids are doing things safely and in an age-appropriate fashion.

2. Clean up!  Basically, if I have to clean up after someone else's cooking, that person doesn't get to cook again for a week or so.  I don't expect them to get everything quite as clean as I do, but I do expect that the ingredients are put away, the dishes are in the dishwasher, and that the counters are wiped off.  Their cooking should not create much extra work for other people.

3. Eat what they cook.  One of my best memories of my teen years is my dad eating chicken and rice that was crunchy since the rice wasn't completely cooked.  And he didn't complain.  Talk about unconditional love!  I try to do the same with my kids.  Unless it's dangerous, I eat it.

4. Be encouraging.  My kids are both rather perfectionistic and they get really uptight if their creations don't measure up to their incredibly high expectations.  I am happy to encourage their efforts and remind them that only God is perfect.  I try to help them see that even failures are a great learning experience.

5. Allow for failure.  When my kids make something that really is not good, they have the freedom to throw it out.  I try to make this possible by having them cook with inexpensive ingredients.  So, if Ga'hoole Girl wants to make something with salmon or shrimp, I'm more likely to supervise than if she's making something with ground beef or venison.  Throwing out $15 worth of food is pretty tough, but I'm happy to call $2 worth of food a learning experience.

6. Hands off.  As my kids have gotten older, they have requested less and less help from me.  Now, they prefer to work completely on their own and kick me out of the kitchen.  It's hard for a control freak like me to let go, but the lessons they learn from working independently are truly worth it.

What do you do in the kitchen with your kids?  Leave a comment below!  Check out Blissfully Domestic for more great domestic ideas. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bedtime Chemistry

Ga'hoole Girl expressed interest in learning some chemistry a few months ago.  Since she and I are both nightowls, we have taken to doing about 30 minutes of chemistry right before bed.  She's quite intimidated by the subject, so she thinks she's doing elementary school level work.  Actually, I'm teaching her pretty much what is taught in a high school chemistry course.  Shhhh!  Don't tell her - I don't want to scare her!

molecule2 We're using some Usborne books and other books from the library.  I explain things and show her pictures while she takes notes (in multicolored gel pen, of course) and draws pictures.  We started with atoms and the periodic table.  So far, she's drawn hydrogen, helium, lithium, oxygen, and fluorine.  Tonight, we talked about covalent and ionic bonding.  She calls the covalent bonding "sharing" and the ionic bonding "steal and stick".  Making up her own names for the processes shows me that she has internalized the concepts.

I really think this is one of the most fun things I've done in homeschooling.  Ga'hoole Girl really wants to learn this stuff.  I already understand it, so it's pretty easy to teach.  If we keep this up long enough, she'll have high school chemistry (minus the lab) out of the way.  And, we're enjoying each other's company.  Does it get any better than this?

Menu Plan Monday - November 10, 2008

mpmfall1It's a dreary Monday around here, so I'm glad we still have some tomato soup left from last week.  I think that this week I will make some lasagna and freeze one pan's worth for sometime closer to Christmas.  The kids and I have been talking about Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the kids have requested Rock Cornish Game Hens with hash browns for Thanksgiving.  Not exactly traditional, but I think it will be fun.  Now for this week's menus:

1. Lasagna, garlic bread, salad

2. Lasagna, broccoli

3. Meat and barley in the pressure cooker.

4. Grilled cheese sandwiches

5. 40 cloves and a chicken, raw veggies

6. Leftovers

Check out for more great menu plan ideas!

Published again!

Check out Heart of the Matter Online today where the featured article is by - drumroll please - ME! It's an adaptation of my post called "Simple Schooling". Enjoy!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Our Week in Review - November 8, 2008

Our-Week-In-Review-3 Sometimes, I look back on our weeks and think that we didn't do any "school" for the week.  With Grandma visiting and Ga'hoole Girl being sick, I was tempted to think that this was an educationally useless week.  One of the nice things about writing up the weekly review is that I get reminded that the kids have been learning quite a bit, even if it wasn't part of our curriculum.  Here's what we did this week:

  • Math - Wild Man did some of his math on Friday.
  • Bible - Wild Man went to an AWANA event last Saturday and AWANA on Monday, so he got his Discovery 1 finished.  We started reading Exodus as a family.
  • Science

On Tuesday, we took Grandma to the Bergstrom-Mahler museum.  The museum's permanent exhibitions are paperweights and other glass pieces.  Their current special exhibit is also glass.  They included information about how the different pieces were made in the exhibit.  The museum also has some really old glass, with some pieces dating back to the 1500s.

On Thursday, Wild Man and I had a talk about babies, umbilical cords, and placentas after he asked a question from a commercial he had seen on TV.

The kids watched "How the Earth Was Made" on the DVR on Friday.  Wild Man and I then read in a science book about plate tectonics.

The kids watched Mythbusters and several Food Network shows.

We watched the Disney movie, "Roving Mars" and then watched the Science Network show, "Mars Rover, Five Years Later".

Ga'hoole Girl and I discussed tonsillitis, antibiotics, and mononucleosis on Thursday and Friday.  Ga'hoole Girl's throat was our visual aid!

  • History/Social Science

We looked at pictures Grandma took from Ireland and her cruise around the Baltic sea.

Friday, we read part of a book about William Shakespeare.

The kids stayed up Tuesday to watch election returns, which was accompanied by discussions of the Electoral College and other interesting topics.

  • English/Literature

We finished reading Prince Caspian and started Brisingr by Christopher Paolini.  Both kids have been reading books from the library.

  • Cooking

I made tomato soup on Wednesday, but the kids didn't really help too much.

Ga'hoole Girl and Grandma made candy on Wednesday and Ga'hoole Girl made some pasta and sauce from a new recipe today.

Wild Man and I are making a chocolate pound cake today.

  • Sewing/Fiber work

Ga'hoole Girl has been cutting out quilt squares and sewing her quilt.  She also helped Grandma make my pillows on Wednesday.

Wild Man started on a loom knitting project this week.

  • Physical Education

Grandma took the kids swimming on Monday.

The kids both had dance on Monday.  Ga'hoole Girl, unfortunately, missed her Thursday tap class because of her sore throat.

Now that I've gotten it all written out, it's pretty clear that the kids did learn a good bit this week.  Ga'hoole Girl is feeling better today.  Wild Man is avidly watching LSU play Alabama (Geaux Tigers!).  Next week, we'll start Core 7 as well as watch several Earth Science shows that I recorded on the DVR.  Check out Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers to see what others did in their week!