Tuesday, June 26, 2012

R is for Royal Rangers

When we first moved to Missouri I was looking for any opportunity for Schnickelfritz to meet and make new friends--there aren't many on our rural road and he wouldn't be going to school.  He was only six years old and too young for Cub Scouts, and 4-H.  One day, at the local community college's International Fest, I spotted a fellow homeschooler's son in a red shirt and vest with badges.  He was on his way to a Pinewood Derby.  The rest is history.  Fritz is starting his fifth year of Royal Rangers.  Last year he advanced from Ranger Kids to Discovery Rangers (earning his Gold Trail Award in the process).  Next month he's off to Camporama, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Royal Rangers with  6000 other boys in southwest Missouri (it help's that we live in the same state as the National headquarters!)

Presentation of Gold Trail Award
 This scouting program was started by the Assemblies of God in response to leadership concerns that young men were leaving the church and the few remaining were inadequately prepared to live life as strong followers of Jesus Christ.  While the boys learn typical scouting skills ( starting fires, first aid, etc.), there is also a Biblical componant.  In Ranger Kids Fritz had two memorize dozens of verses, the names of the Disciples, and hymns like Amazing Grace and Trust and Obey.  I wasn't sure about a first grader having to learn the whole 23rd Psalm, but he did it.  To advance in Discovery Rangers, the boys must complete two Bible merits (using 5 weeks of studying a specific book of the Bible) for every skill merit they earn.

I've been pleased how many merits have worked into our homeschooling.  Fritz made his own book of Presidential facts (history),  learned sign language (foriegn language), and first aid (health).  Next fall's science classes will include the requirements for Astronomy and Space Exploration.

For full disclosure, we are not members of the Assemblies of God church.  There are some areas where we have to "agree to disagree" in the church's teaching (Baptism of the Holy Spirit for one), but so far this hasn't been an issue.  When he needed to learn that doctrine we had the option of reading material from the handbook or reading the passage in Acts about the day of Pentecost. 

Schnickelfritz has every intention of sticking with Royal Rangers until he's eighteen and earning his  Gold Medal of Acheivement.  I'm hoping that when he's old enough he'll join the offshoot organization--Frontiersman  Camping Fellowship.   In it, he'll develop advanced camping and leadership skills but also have the fun of re-enacting the age of the fur-trappers and mountain men.  He's on his way having already earned his Compass, Tool Craft, First Aid and Ropecraft merits. 

This post is part of Band and Me's ABC Challenge.  You'll want to check out what the others chose as their "R" topic by clicking here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

New Life for an Old Bench

I just have to show off what The Toolman did for his Saturday project.  This bench was left behind by the previous owners of my parents home.  They asked if my husband could use his pick-up to haul it off to the dump, but he had other plans.

 Here it is after a day with a wire brush drill bit, a can of spray paint, and some new wood.

 True, this was not a freebie (check out Nice, New?...Not Necessarily  for those scores) --we had to buy the wood and bolts.  Still the sense of accomplishment is priceless.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Queen Anne's Lace

It may be classified as a "noxious weed," but the Queen Anne's Lace I pass on my daily walks makes me smile.   The road to town is decorated with it--with bright punches of blue Chicory and the yellows of Black-eyed Susans.  I'm certainly a distracted driver.  Still, it's the wild carrot that's the quaintest flower along the fence row.  My mother wrote this poem about it.

Lacy Weed

Country roads are edged
in regal grace
by an exquisite weed,
Queen Anne's Lace.

Uncultivated, untamed
it thrives, tall and free.
Such delicate strength
challenges me.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Review: Pearson Homeschool

Recently I participated in an exercise of thankfulness by writing down the blessings in my life.  One of them was that math class goes so well in our homeschool.  Both teacher and student enjoy math and can pick up new concepts quickly.  There's no whining or cajoling.  My Schnickelfritz didn't even put up a fuss when we had to review a math product on what would normally be summer vacation.   Pearson Education has recently opened a new website geared towards homeschoolers and given us access to their publications.  We chose the Level 6 of enVisionMath.

The $99.99 package included a hardback Student book,  a CD-ROM of the Teacher's edition and a CD-ROM QuizShow (re-enforcement and drill disguised as a competitive game).

The student book is divided into 20 topics, each topic having 5 to 11 lessons.  The table of contents are color coordinated so you'll know if the lessons involve Numbers & Operations, Algebra, Geometry, Measurement, Data Analysis & Probability, or Problem Solving.  Each lesson begins with a sample problem and how it should be solved using pictures to make the learning as concrete as possible.

A second example usually follows, often with a second way of teaching or perhaps expanding the concept.

A guided practice follows these examples asking the students if they know how to solve the problems and asking a question that can't be answered with a "yes" or "no" to see if they understand the concept.  If they need further teaching they are referred to the end of the chapter to the Reteaching section.

Finally comes the Independent Practice and Problem Solving sections.  Most lessons are done in a two page spread.  After all the lessons is a Topic test.

Although not part of any lesson, you should also check out the Problem Solving Handbook at the beginning of the book.   There are twelve pages full of strategies on how to solve word problems--drawing a picture, looking for a pattern, etc.

The second component of the package is the Quiz Show CD.  Students may play as individuals, against other students, or as teams.  With only one student Schnickelfritz had to choose to play against the clock or the computer--he usually chose the clock.   As Instructor I could set difficulty levels and view student reports.

Rather than encourage guessing at problems he didn't know how to solve, there was a Skip Question button.

The final component was the Teacher's Edition CD-ROM.  I had access to teaching strategies,  copies of the student pages with answers printed in red,  test answers, etc.  There was also a tab for printable resources: a problem of the day, practice sheets, etc. but I wasn't able to get my computer to open the pdf files through the enVision software.  I could access the files by exploring the CD through Window's My Computer but the file names didn't have any correlation to the lesson numbers.  Obviously if we were going to use this math for the entire year I'd need some help from tech support to see why Adobe wasn't opening the files as designed.


Disclaimer: I received a free package of enVisionMath for the purpose of completing this review.  There was no other compensation for my opinions.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Review: Creation Illustrated

One of the things I love our home in the country is the how much nature we can enjoy in our backyard.  Schnickelfritz and I have sat on the back deck listening for coyotes howling.  Our list of visitors include deer, groundhogs, foxes, skunks, snakes, turkeys, skinks and pileated woodpeckers.  At night the skies are dark enough to see all the stars in the Little Dipper and the Pleiades cluster.  Of course, no matter how much we search outside our door, there are some aspects of nature we'll never see--giant redwoods, painted deserts, snow-capped mountains, creatures of the deep.  In these instances we have to rely on photographs by others who appreciate the wonders of God's creation.  Since they've arrived we've been making plenty of "eye-tracks" in our Creation Illustrated magazines.

Sometimes referred to as the "Christian's National Geographic,"  this quarterly publication is filled with breathtaking photos from sweeping landscapes to close ups of insects.  Just look at the beauty in this cover shot of a red-veined darter dragonfly...

The magazine is offered as "a reprieve from the daily rigors of life"  Many of the articles are written in first person and seem more like reading a letter from a friend (with pictures included).  We read about a volunteer park ranger and her encounter with five Iranians that ended with her opportunity to share her Christian faith.  Another issue shared a couple's awe when camping out under a canopy of stars.  I appreciated the fact that the editors keep advertising separate from the stories and articles.  There are no ads to distract the eye from the nature photographs.

Each issue also reaches out to younger readers. Of course they can enjoy all the pictures, but there is a children's story written in a slightly larger font, a word search puzzle, and a photography contest for ages 5-15.    There is an Instructor's Guide with discussion questions for each article.

Based on the letters from readers, Creation Illustrated has a world-wide audience.  I found subscribers from Bolivia,  Australia,  Switzerland, and South Africa.  (Canadians must add $5.00/yr  for postage, other foreign countries add $10.00/yr).

A one year subscription is $19.95, two years is $37.95, three years is $53.95.  You can save $5.00 per year per subscription by paying with a credit card .  You may also request a free sample issue of the magazine.  If you want to enjoy nature but not worship it,  if you don't want to have to pre-screen text for "millions of years," then Creation Illustrated may be the subscription for you.


Disclaimer:  I received four free issues of Creation Illustrated magazine for the purpose of completing this review.  There was no other compensation for my honest opinions.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

P is for Persimmon

I love my morning time walks with the dog...it's when I do a lot of my blog planning.   We took a field trip to watch naturalists catch bats in mist nets,  we got two new Science of Disney Imagineering videos to watch, Fritz just went to his first Royal Rangers Pow Wow.  There's a "P" for Pow Wow but I wasn't in attendance and hardly felt qualified to write about the experience.  Then I found myself  carefully observing my neighbor's trees for signs of fruit and it hit me ---Persimmons! 

Ever since we moved to Missouri we've been reaping the harvest.  Actually, these was a giant persimmon tree in the field where The Toolman's astronomy club met in Indiana, but I didn't appreciate the fruit yet.   It can be a little intimidating to try for the first time, especially if you're familiar with sayings like "he's a puckered old persimmon."   Let me assure you that in real life it's only the young or unripe fruit that can put a pucker on your lips.  The mature fruit is sweet and citrus-like.

Persimmons mature from a green color to orange, even slightly purple.  (The ones below came out of the freezer--hence the frosty appearance). The easiest way to tell a persimmon is ripe is to wait til it falls to the ground. 
Of course this means you'll need to pick early and often before local critters carry them off -- I've heard possums like persimmons.  And I'm rather picky about what I pick up--some fruits split when they hit the ground and I leave those for the ants.

I have seen persimmon pulp sold at a local apple orchard.  Originally I balked at the price, but having processed pulp myself now I realize how labor intense the job is. 

Persimmons contain a number of large seeds--remember the folk lore that persimmon seeds can predict the severity of winter?  If you cut open a seed and see the image of a spoon it means a lot of snow, a knife predicts a cold, cutting wind.  All I know is that it means a lot of work removing seeds--they're too big to run through my Squeezo processor so I have to do it by hand with a sieve and potato masher.

I consider the finished product worth it though.  I usually end up with close to 20 cups that a freeze.  I've never found a tested recipe for canned persimmon pulp and since their funding has been cut, the National Center for Food Preservation isn't likely to come out with a method soon so freezing is the way to go.

I've posted my favorite recipe before, but I'll repeat it here--a delicious Persimmon Orange-Nut bread that I've given as Christmas gifts. 

3 cups flour                                                                   1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar                                                                1/2 cup milk
1 Tbs. baking powder                                                   1 cup persimmon pulp
1 tsp. salt                                                                      1 Tbs. grated orange rind
1/4 tsp. baking soda                                                      2/3 cup orange juice
3 eggs                                                                           1/2  cup chopped nuts

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and soda. In separate bowl beat together eggs, butter, milk and pulp. Stir in orange rind and juice. Stir pulp mixture into flour until moistened. Fold in nuts. Pour into two greased loaf pans and bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until it tests done.

While writing this, I've thought of several other great "P" topics--pizza for one which is cooking in the oven right now.  I'm sure the other folks participating in Ben and Me's alphabet challenge have come up with others so be sure and check them out.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Books for Boys

Last month we held a garage sale.  The biggest table was filled with boxes of books--one's that we've already used for school or that Schnickelfritz had outgrown.  There were some real treasures there: hardback collections of Thomas the Tank Engine (yes, it was a book before it appeared on PBS), Curious George, Babar, and Dr. Suess.  I'd taken the time to sort everything into history, science, young readers, art, hobbies, etc.  And you know what happened?  I couldn't give the books away!  I sold maybe a dozen (and those to a fellow homeschooler) out of hundreds of titles.  And I don't think it's because they've all switched to e-readers.  One mom tried six times to get her 5 year old to okay the purchase of a picture book of Disney's Little Mermaid but it was no sale.  "Why read when you can watch it on DVD?" asked the girl.  In my mind I thought "Why give her the choice mom? "

I'll admit having struggles with getting Fritz to read as well.  While he can read chapter books quite well, he prefers listening to me or audio versions.  At least his still letting his imagination put the pictures in his head instead of the boob tube.  So here's what were reading this summer....

Hank the Cowdog series by John R. Erickson--Even our little library has the complete set of 59 titles.  Okay, they haven't received #59 yet and Fritz got so tired of waiting he used his lemonade stand money to purchase his own copy.  That's probably the highest recommendation a 9 year old boy can give.  Hank lives and works on a Texas cattle ranch and he's appointed himself  "Head of Ranch Security."  He investigates chicken murders, fights coyotes, exasperates the rancher's wife, and falls in love with the neighbor's collie.  The audio versions of these books have made travel by car much more pleasant.  The author reads the books himself and has come up with distinct voices for everyone from J.T. Cluck, the rooster to Missy Coyote, daughter of the chief.  

The Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald--This set is one I received for Christmas when I was in first grade but the books are still in print.  All the stories are based on the author's childhood in Utah growing up with older brothers Tom and Sweyn.  Tom was often using his mental prowess to make a fast buck--like the time he sold tickets to see the new water closet installed in their home, but Mamma was always there to make sure justice prevailed and no one got swindled.  Other times the Great Brain used his powers for good like helping find the Jensen kids lost in Skeleton Cave.   One word of caution:  The final chapter of The Great Brain deals with a boy who wants to commit suicide rather than live with a peg leg.  The two attempts are done in a rather blundering way and eventually the Great Brain helps the boy to see he still has much to live for.  Each chapter stands on its own so you could just skip it if you don't wish to expose your kids to the topic (assuming you're reading it aloud).

Freddy the Pig series by Walter R. Brooks--talking animals again,  perhaps the original talking animals.  The author is the one who came up with the famous Mr. Ed.  These books deal with Freddy as he becomes a detective, runs a bank, edits a newspaper, learns to fly a plane, and more.  Of course these books require a lot of imagination to assume that no one is even surprised to hear a talking pig.  Perhaps it says something about the intelligence of the town because they can't even recognize the pig when he's wearing one of his disguises.   Some of these are available in audio version--read by John McDonough (the latest Captain Kangaroo). 

Centerburg Tales and Homer Price by Robert McCloskey--I wish there were more than two books to this series.  Homer lived in the age of Saturday serial matinees.  When kids would put down their tops and jacks and listen to one of Grampa Hercules'  tall tales.  Homer stops a band of armed robbers with a pet skunk,  and helps find a diamond bracelet that accidentally fell in the automatic donut making machine. See how long it takes your kids to figure out how Mrs. Terwilliger wins the largest ball of string constest.   If you like the illustrations in Make Way For Ducklings you're in luck because this is the same author/illustrator.   John McDonough does a fine job on the audiobooks of these as well.

Be sure to see what others are reading this summer on the Blog Cruise (on Tuesday morning). 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

O is for Orienteering

Internat'l symbol for Orienteering
Last April Schnickelfritz and I rode the Metrolink downtown to see the FIRST Championships in St. Louis.  Seated behind us on the commuter train was a lady who worked with public schools to fight the growing problem of childhood obesity.  It didn't take long for Fritz to present his solution, "You should take them orienteering."  The women had never heard of the sport and perhaps you haven't either so this week's ABC post is on Orienteering.

While Americans were inventing basketball and volleyball, the Swedish military thought a little competition might help their officers improve their land navigation skills.   In 1919 the first public competition was held.  

A traditional course
 In a traditional race contestants are given a very detailed topographical map. The background colors indicate the denseness of the brush.  The distance between contour lines shows how steep or flat the terrain is.  Even man-made objects as small as a drinking fountain will be symbolized.  Each numbered circle on the map represents the location of a control (usually a windsock or flag with the orange/white triangles) that must be found IN ORDER.  Once you locate the control you'll find a paper punch attached with which you can punch your race card.  Each punch has a unique number of pins to make a shape or letter to prove you found the right one.  In fact our club is now switching over to electronic thumb devices so you really can't cheat.  The start is often done in staggered intervals and the fastest to complete the course wins.

A second popular race format is an O-meet is sort of the inverse of a traditional race.   These races have a time limit and you decide the course you will take to find as many controls as possible.  Controls that are farther away may have bonus points for the extra efforts you'll need to make.  You may also been penalized points if you return after the deadline.

The winner is not always the fastest person, but the one who can best keep his or her head.  Last year Schnickelfritz and I were neck and neck with a group of Boy Scouts.  When it came to the last control the scouts took off in one direction because he'd seen a control earlier that day.  However there were multiple courses being run in the same areas (some even using the same controls but in a different order).  They headed toward the river but I could tell the last marker was further south and on the opposite side of the road (#9 in the traditional course map above).  By the time the scouts realized their error they couldn't catch up. 
These two formats can be used for bike races or cross county skiing, they can be short sprints or last 6 hours.  Our favorite versions take place at night when everyone wears or carries flashlights.  While Schnickelfritz and I are drawn to the competition, others simply like to take a stroll in the state or county parks.  I've seen grandparents and dads carrying kids on their shoulders.  The O-meet map above is of a sculpture park.  Now if I'd tried to get Fritz to go observe some art with me, he'd have a fit.  But the clever organizers placed many controls on or in or around the statues so he had to interact with them.

If you like to this a try, check the Orienteering USA  website for a club in your state. Most clubs offer a training session for beginners before races.  I've also seen state and county parks offer classes/races in conjunction with a local club.  Start up costs for this sport a minimal--a good pair of shoes and a $3-5 compass (and perhaps a can of bug spray, this year the ticks are bad). 

But before you head off into the woods, be sure to check out the other O blogs at Ben and Me.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Nice!...New?...Not Necessarily

With the exception of Memorial Day weekend when our typical hot & humid summer weather decided to crash the party, we've been enjoying a really beautiful spring.  Fritz and I wrapped up our school year by taking class outside to our deck.  As I sat under our pergola  in a comfortable, cushioned chair it occurred to me that everything on our deck we got for free.  That's right--even the new gas grill.  Now that's some news to share.  And I might have a few thrifty tips to throw in too.

Let me say that this is the first season our deck has been so bedecked even though we're on our fourth year living in Missouri.  THRIFTY TIP --Patience is a virtue.  Patio furniture is a want, not a need so it comes after normal bills and home maintenance.  We passed up numerous end of season sales because we hadn't saved up for the expense.  A bargain isn't a bargain if you use debt to pay for it.

Shortly after we moved to Missouri our neighbor lost his home in the housing crisis.  We had struck up a relationship during our brief time and when he left he said "Help yourself to whatever's left behind."   On his back deck was a glass top table and a stand-alone porch swing the dog used to sleep on.  THRIFTY TIP--Dirt is temporary.  Both pieces looked terrible but their structure was sound.  A little quality time with a pressure washer did wonders.  We began using the table immediately with a few plastic chairs.  The swing cushions had to be thrown out so it went into our barn until replacements could be had.  (Cushions are a want too).

Step forward to last fall when Schnickelfritz's grandparents finally followed us from Indiana to Missouri.  Their backyard had a small concrete slab to which  the previous owners had added a deck that appeared to be made out of pallets.  It was covered by a pergola that had seen better days.  Some of the overhead bars had trapped water and over the winter they had bowed and buckled.   We found the tarp in the garage but the ties had been torn and the seams were rotting.   We helped my parents remove the wreck and took it to our home (we live outside city limits and have a barn to hold "junk").  The keen-eyed Toolman found a name on one of the vertical post footings.  A little Internet search helped us get the number for customer service.  Now we made clear to the company that we weren't the original purchasers of the pergola and just wanted to know if replacement parts were available.  I guess we weren't the first to bring the trapped water and ripped ties to their attention.  They sent us a new set of overhead poles that now had seep holes in the ends.  The new ties were separate from the tarp and wrapped around the poles that weighted down the ends rather than tug on the fabric.  And they sent everything for free.  THRIFTY TIP--Customer service can be your friend, even if you're not the original owner.

A big change came to the deck when we were offered first dibs on a set of chairs and end tables before they ended up on the curb for pickers.  They were replacing their patio furniture after 25 years or so based on its dusty rose paint.  We found some evidence of retained water freezing and distorting the tubes again and once again the mold had a date with the pressure washer but most of the cushions were in good shape this time.

The Toolman banged out the tubing into its original shape and drilled his own seep holes to prevent a recurrence.  Then he picked out a lovely can of Hammered Gold paint.  Look at the results. THRIFTY TIP--You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear, but furniture can always be restored, recovered and repainted.

Our final piece arrived on the eve of our neighborhood garage sale.  While helping a single lady down the road bring up some furniture from the basement,  my husband The Toolman spotted the 6 burner, stainless steel monster with the sale tag on it.  She had won it in a raffle at work.  He wanted it badly to replace the ancient grill we'd been using (I won it in a contest when I was 11 years old, believe it or not).  Of course we had already agreed that our profits from the sale were going to repaint the house so he sent me down to negotiate.  Now what did we have that Miss Brenda wanted?  Turns out she was in the market for lawn furniture herself.  Now I wasn't going to give her any of our new (at least new to us) pieces, but do you remember the swing we had stored in the barn?  I'd purchased outdoor fabric (on clearance + a 50% off coupon) but had never found a bargain for weather-resistant cushion material so it still sat out there collecting cobwebs.   Both of us we satisfied trading our free items that we didn't need for free items that we wanted.  THRIFTY TIP--Bartering is a lost art, it's time to find it again.

So is our deck perfect now?  Well, I'm not crazy about the white plastic table with everything else looking so posh but I can live with it.  It's becoming a game now to see how its replacement will arrive and in the meantime, we're trying to figure out if we can spray paint it without taking out the glass. 

Now before I close, I want to be clear that we aren't  nice to people just so they'll give us things.  We practice kindness and courtesy because our Savior taught us the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.  The final THRIFTY TIP--Sometimes you can find yourself being blessed when your bless others.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...