Saturday, October 27, 2012

Lessons Learned

I got a new computer!! You cannot even begin to understand how happy I am. I got a laptop so I can take it with if I need to. It has been a search, that's for sure. Hubby and I have become research people. Before we would just get what we wanted and if it broke, oh well, get another. Not anymore. I finally got what I wanted. The keys feel great under my fingers, they're spaced right, and it's easy to navigate. Love it!! But that's not what this blog is about. When I got the computer home and got it set up all I could think about was how I couldn't wait to blog. So, here I go.

This has been a school year. We aren't even half way through and I am tired. I'm not tired of homeschooling. I'm just tired. Come the end of the day it's all I can do to not pass out on the couch at 7 pm. Some nights we aren't even home at 7 and I still want to sleep. I have to admit I fell asleep at piano lessons the other day. I was sitting on my friend's couch, and there I went. Good grief, I hope I didn't snore. The big girl and her friend were standing right next to me talking. That didn't stop me. The baby had about 15 minutes left and my body decided to take advantage of it.

I used to lesson plan for months at a time. I planned from the beginning of school until Christmas break. Why? Because I was a lunatic. It was also much easier then. I was only schooling 2 kids. The baby was still a toddler and played in her room or colored while she sat at the table with us. The curriculum was easy to plan. 2 pages a day in every subject. Just follow the book. We also didn't have as many activities as we have now. We only had 2 dance classes, park day, and church. We were done schooling by 11, 12 at the latest most days. Oh, how things change. Now when I lesson plan, I plan 2-3 weeks at the most, but not more than that. Things change in this house too quickly for that. Now we're at 7 dance classes, park day, piano, veggie co-op, church, field trips, girls club, book club, Pokemon club, and I know I left something out, but I have no idea what that would be. I fill out our schedule before I even start planning. I had to get a copy of my menu planning paper and fill it out with activities and what subjects we would do on what days so the load would be school light on activity heavy days and school heavy on activity light days. It takes me at least an hour to lesson plan.

One reason for the time consumption is the curriculum we are using. The big girl is using A Beka for everything but bible. I used to despise that curriculum. It was boring and dry and not for us. Amazing what you'll use when it's free. I have to say, though, it is not what it used to be. It is engaging and detailed and the big girl likes it. The hardest part is the detailed part. There is so much information. I do have the lesson plans that came with each subject, but they are made for school. We aren't school. We don't have homework. All of our work is homework. I mostly follow the lesson plan, but there are some things I have to change. You should see the chapter review in geography. It would take the big girl at least 2 hours to complete. In school, that would be class time, then homework. We don't have that kind of time. I broke it up over 3 days, then test day 4. We are 5 day a week schoolers now. We only do math and bible on the 5th day, but anything that didn't get finished has to be done on Friday. If not, that means Saturday school for whoever didn't finish. Yuck!! Nobody wants to do that. They do sometimes, but nobody wants to.

I sit with everyone for almost every subject. Bible we do together. The boy and the baby have history and science together, so that gets knocked out pretty quickly. Then I sit with everyone, one at a time, and we go over math. When math is done, it's time for language arts. The baby is using Rod and Staff for grammar. Oh, how I wish we would have used this so much earlier! I cannot say enough great things about Rod and Staff!! Since the baby hasn't really done alot of grammar, she likes when I sit with her. The boy and the big girl are doing literature based studies this year. I have found that if I don't sit with them and talk about the story or go over the questions, things don't stick in the brain like spaghetti to the wall. And I need to add grammar to the mix for the boy. Ok, fine. Then there's geography and science with the big girl. I know that she's smart enough to do the work on her own, and she does. We do the reading together. I do try to assign just the reading part to her on busy days and then the question parts on not so busy days. Most of the time, that works.

We still have to get chores done. Saturday has become errand day and Sunday has become chore day. The exception is those chores that have to get done every day. Feed and water the chickens, gather eggs, and unload the dishwasher get done every day. Every couple of days, someone needs to get a load of laundry in there. Whoever does their laundry then has to get it folded and put away. Lunch is important. We break every day for chores and lunch, which takes about an hour to an hour and a half. Some days work goes with us when we go to activities. It either gets done in the van or at the activity.

 One reason we gave up science co-op was because I felt like I had to shove a week's worth of info into an hour I didn't really have to shove it into. I had to make sure they were familiar with the info and they were ready for co-op day. It was too much. Now I feel like I have some control. I can spread the information over a week. We can take our time and get it done. I know that the big girl understands hers and the boy understands his. I don't have the pressure. We don't have to make that a priority unless it has to be. If there's something that's more pressing we can focus on that. It's like the weight of the world. Well, at least I feel like one world is lifted off me.           

By the end of the day, I am exhausted. My brain is mushy. Poor hubby thinks I've forgotten who he is. I really haven't. I'm just tired. We were talking about it tonight. School is a priority for us. Gone are the easy days of done by noon and sleep til 3. Not that I ever got to nap that long, but still. The big girl is a 9th grader. It is very important to us that she do well with her school work. I have cut out all I can for her. It's as light as it can be. The boy is now in middle school. His work isn't going to get any easier from here on out, either. The baby is asking for more work and she's about to get it. BUT, it's work that she can do independently. I like that. She's going to start some critical thinking activities and handwriting. All I need to do is grade it. Yea!

I am already planning curriculum for next year. I wish it was something that I could do over the summer. No it isn't. Who am I kidding? I have an addiction to curriculum. I enjoy the lesson planning. It's like a puzzle. It keeps my brain moving. That's why I like loading the dishwasher. How much can I get shoved in there without overloading it? Crazy, I know. But, what did you expect? It's me. I have some guidelines for high school I have to sort of follow, but I still have lots of leeway for the boy and the baby right now. And really, this is just a stage of life we're in right now. It won't be this way forever and I am embracing every second I can. I may gripe about it, but I'm hanging on for dear life.

Have a great day.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bees Knees

I don't know if bees have knees or not. I know the saying is supposed to mean that something is really great. I think my blog is great, but that's just me. I just had to use a bee reference, though. You'll see why in a minute. Ready for the journey?

  • We are taking a field trip to our local enough zoo to take a beekeeping class. We aren't going to keep bees, but it would be great to know what makes them tick and how do we attract more of them to our garden. I'd also like to find out what the beekeeper's views are about hive collapse. I think it's pesticides. Poison is supposed to kill things so why not bees. And the larger the colony the better chance of spreading it to the rest of the bees. That isn't why we're going, either. We're going because we like honey and we think it's way cool. We have to wear long sleeve shirts and long pants, they supply the helmets. That's gonna bee a funny pic. I made a funny. In honor of our field trip, we are going to forgo most of our schoolwork and do a bee lap book and unit study. We are still going to do bible and math, but how fun. I checked out a bunch of books from the library. The baby has read all but 1. Guess who's going to teach the bee unit study? Not really. I even checked out a Magic School Bus movie just for fun. 
  • Speaking of watching movies, we watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for our family movie night. I haven't seen that movie in probably 30 years. The kids and I had listened to it as a book on CD. It was completely different from the book, but we all enjoyed it. Hubby had only seen parts of it. We were singing the CCBB song all night. It's very catchy! I had no idea Roald Dahl had written the screenplay. We heart Roald Dahl. I am waiting for Mary Poppins to come in. I also haven't seen that one in years. My kids haven't seen it at all that I know of. I am a bad mama. It's in transit, so hopefully we'll get to pick it up come Monday or Tuesday. 
  • We did a pretty good cleaning of the house before my dad and step mom came to visit. Believe it or not, except for the kitchen, which is the hub of our home, everything has basically stayed that way. If I can keep ahead of the hand washing, my island stays clear. I've even mopped a couple of times since they left. That, in and of itself, is tantamount to a miracle. The baby's room, however, may be the downfall. That poor room. 
  • I make our own broths. One of my favorites to make is veggie. I keep a gallon size baggie in the fridge in the crisper drawer. When it's about 1/2 full, I make stock. I save the peels from my garlic press, the ends I cut off the onions, potato and carrot peels, zucchini ends I cut off, and spinach leaves and stems. I also save some of the cabbage leaves I pull off the plants in the tower. I normally make it in the crock pot, but I changed my mind last time. I pulled our big stock pot out from under the cabinet and made it on the stove top. I let it cook for a few hours. I like it much better. My house smelled amazing! It smelled like veggie soup, only better. I used it to make brown rice and a couple of other things. It was so good. That has now become the way I prefer to make veggie stock. 
  • We had our first ever tailgate party at youth tonight. It went very well I think. There was some last minute stress that required us taking our little table top grill, but it was all good. We had grilled hot doge, brats, and hamburgers. We also did chicken wings, but we baked those since the grill was small. We had a pretty good turnout. 
  • We are looking for some trick or treating options. We normally trick or treat at my in-laws with the rest of the family, but that is not happening this year. My MIL said she cancelled it. Funny since I'm not sure anyone will be there this year anyway. I already have a bead on some fall festivals we're planning on and some trunk or treats planned. We aren't keeping the candy we get this year. Our dentist has a program where you can turn in your candy for chances to win prizes. I wonder what the prizes will be this year. We're hoping for a Kindle Fire, but we'll see.   
  • I am trying to be grateful for the loaner computer. I really am. When I have to print, I get extremely frustrated. There are only 2 USB drives that work. I have 3 things to plug in usually: my mouse, my flash drive and the printer. The process is mouse and flash drive, click what I need to print, unplug mouse and plug in printer, after printing unplug printer and plug mouse back in. Pain in my butt! But, we have a computer, we have a computer, WE HAVE A COMPUTER. Sorry, I didn't mean to yell. I think I was trying to convince myself. Gift horse, gift horse, gift horse...
  • I have to write everything down or I'll forget. You have to email me, text me, or social network me. I use the notes feature on my phone like it's going out of style. If I can set an alarm to remind me as well, then bully. I have lost my mind. Wait, I think I already knew that. Let me check my notes.
And there's my alarm. Well, not really, but I did mark stuff off my list. Now to fill it up again.

Have a great day.       

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sweets For the Sweet

There are 2 veggies I really like. They are probably my favorite. Brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes are my thing. They are not favorites for anyone else in my house. That's kind of depressing. Hubby grew up eating meat and potatoes. His mother is German and his dad is from Minnesota. Yeah, there isn't a lot of seasoning going on there. He has eaten more strange food since we've been married than he ever would have thought. The kids grew up on canned veggies. I am so glad that isn't what we do anymore. I don't remember the last can of veggies I opened.

You can probably tell from the title that this blog isn't about brussel sprouts. I think they're pretty sweet, but no this about that orange tuber-like veggie. Are sweet potatoes tubers, like potatoes? I don't know. Research project for someone (just not me. I could Google it, but I won't.). I like my sweet potatoes just about any way you cook them. I like them baked, roasted, french fried, candied, cake, and as biscuits. Cinnamon butter over a soft, hot sweet potato always sounds lovely to me.

There are two ways my family will usually eat them without a fuss. The first is sweet potato chocolate cake. Hubby was giving me grief because I wouldn't write down the recipe for a customer of his. Here's the deal. It is my original recipe and as it is posted on my blog, just like everything else, including but not limited to comments, it is my property, intellectual and otherwise. That means you can't take it and claim it as an original recipe. Pretty sneaky, huh? If I write it down and give it to someone, that means it is no longer my property. Forget that, Mister.

The other way is as biscuits. I have posted on the social media site that I wished I had made a sweet potato so I could make biscuits. I've been asked for this recipe before, so here you go. I have no idea where this recipe came from originally, so if you know, I would like to give credit. For now, though, here's the directions.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

1 cup of mashed sweet potato
2 cups sifted flour
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk

Sift the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder into a bowl. Mix oil, milk, and sweet potato until well blended. Add sweet potato mix to flour mix. Use fork to mix until just combined and mixture will hold together. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead until smooth. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thick and cut into rounds with biscuit cutter. Place biscuits on baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 10-20 minutes. 

As soon as these babies come out of the oven, butter them! Oh my giddy aunt! They can be a little plain, so I would suggest adding a little cinnamon to the flour mix. Maybe 2 tsp? I don't measure, I just add, sorry. That makes them so freakin' good. If you don't want to add cinnamon to the dough, then sprinkle them when they come out of the oven after you butter. I would not suggest using whole wheat flour. They are not nearly as good. And for my gluten free friends, if you have a baking flour you prefer, please share. I am very interested in that info. Use whatever oil you use. I would be interested to try this with grape seed oil. That's my next foray into eating better. I also use honey instead of sugar, but you could use agave I'm sure. Just a little dab will do you.          

These are really good if you don't mess them up like I did tonight, darn it. For some reason I used baking soda instead of powder. DON'T do that. I didn't realize why they tasted so funny until I was listing the ingredients. That'll teach me to pay attention. Enjoy these little gems of sweetness. I have half a potato just calling my name.

Have a great day.