Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Review: Abraham's Journey

Although the United States of America is over 225 years old, the phrase "the American Dream" wasn't coined until 1931 by James Truslow Adams.  In his book The Epic of America,  he defines it as "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement."   That's an concept I want my Schnickelfritz to take to his heart so I was excited to review a book by a company named Inspiring the American Dream.

I received the soft-cover edition of Abraham's Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream ($14.99).  The 32 page, full color book also has definitions of key terms and brief character biographies in the back.  The gist of the story is that young Abraham's parents have lost their jobs and won't be able to afford Christmas presents for the kids. While searching for a way to earn money and "save" Christmas, Abraham is taken on a journey through cyberspace to meet and be encouraged by men and women of the past and present who have realized the American Dream.

Here are a few high points from the story.  When Abraham learns about the bleak Christmas he still has hope and the initiative to try and find something he can do.  (I'm also please that his parents didn't choose to rack up debt on a credit card but that's not the focus of the story). 

The first journey through cyber-world is illustrated with words swirling around:  friendship, charity, innovation, faith, courage, imagination, compassion, self-reliance, and responsibility.  These are all character qualities I'd like my son to develop.

Not to spoil the ending, but after providing gifts for his family, Abraham donates blankets, books, and money to a local homeless shelter.  One of the characters Abraham meets is Bill Gates, who shares "...there's more to the American dream than simply amassing wealth...We can offer others the education, tools, and resources they need to become self-reliant, taking personal responsibility for achieving their American dream."

On the other hand, I had a lot of problems with the story as well.   You see, I watched my father begin his own company in our basement.  As a kid, I stuffed the envelopes sending out sales fliers to potential customers.  When he could finally afford to rent space for the company, it was in the basement of a music store.  But he persevered and eventually earned a patent for his invention. Now he  has his own building and employees to build his machines and sell them around the world.  I saw him sacrifice in the beginning hoping for (and thankfully receiving) a payoff down the road.

Abraham never had that struggle..on his first stop he discovers a God given talent for painting.  All right, I'll give him that one.  But painters need to buy paint and brushes and canvases, they need  practice to perfect their craft, they need to wear out some shoe leather trying to find someone to give them a chance with an art show.  This book skips over all that--Abraham's imagination spontaneously generates these vivid paintings and "Just as suddenly, they were on display at an art show!"  (At this point my son said "Why didn't he just imagine Christmas presents?  He could've had an Xbox.)  His struggle to sell a painting lasts only "several hours" before Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook fame offers the power of social media to publicize the paintings, one of which is bought by Bill and Melinda Gates--thus saving Christmas. 

I realize this book is geared towards 7-12 year olds who may believe that all problems can be solved in a half-hour sitcom, but I really think this book is setting them up for disappointment and discouragement if they don't succeed quickly like Abraham. It might be more helpful to read in depth biographies of some of the folks Abraham meets (Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Amelia Earhart, etc) and see how they met adversity, persevered, and achieved the American Dream.


DISCLAIMER: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review: College Common Sense

As a mom of an only child (and since he's homeschooled I'm with him the majority of his day), it's difficult to think ahead to the day he goes off to college.  And yet if I don't think of it he may never get to go because we won't have saved up the money to pay for it-- I certainly don't want to saddle him with student loan debt.  So even though my son is only 10, I looked forward to reviewing College Common Sense.  This resource service is the brainchild of Denise Ames, who has worked in a college financial aid office for more than a decade.

I received  access to the Going to College and Paying for it Online Video and Workbook ($25 for 12 months of log-in membership).  There is also a DVD/workbook option available for $50 plus $5 shipping.  If you have two or more  kids spaced several years apart, this may end up being the more economical option.  To follow the program as directed you will also need a three-ring binder and a spiral notebook. The program has instructions geared to four different audiences:
  • Parents OF elementary age students
  • Parents AND middle school age students
  • Parents AND high school age students
  • Parents AND college age students
Each group has an assigned letter and as you read through the workbook you'll find the activities coded with the letters to know which are appropriate for each group.  I fall into the first category and it was left to my discretion whether or not my son would watch the videos with me.  He did not.  While the information is extremely important, it's not very exciting.  Even I had to pause and "rewind" as I caught my mind wandering or my eyelids drooping.  There was only one workbook exercise for elementary students-- starting and keeping an All About Me spiral notebook.  He was asked to write down his likes & dislikes, what he truly believes and what he stands for, and what he wants to do with his life, etc.  All this in preparation for essays required with college applications.  My son struggles with penmanship, so I asked him to just take 5 minutes a day to write about likes and dislikes. 

The program is divided into Six main sections (written to the student unless stated otherwise ).
  1. The Big Picture: Preparing for and touring campuses,Getting accepted to schools, determining the cost of attending, getting offers of aid, comparing schools and making a commitment.
  2. How Financial Aid Works: the Financial Aid Office at college and FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) website
  3. All About Free Money: Need-based, Merit-based and performance scholarships come from schools, governments, businesses, non-profits, foundations and individuals. Determine which are you likely to win can and concentrate on those.
  4. The System the Works: Building a binder of scholarships applied for and scholarships won. The goal is to apply for one per month.
  5. You in the Process: Applying to schools and for scholarships is really about selling yourself as a product.  The All About Me notebook will help you identify likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, goals, etc.
  6. Pull it All Together: Success in college and a career is about recognizing opportunities and taking advantage of them.
You should read the workbook pages for each section before watching the video.  The video segments are 15-20 minutes long (another reason to consider the DVD option if you have dial-up service like me). 

One of the things that most surprised me was learning that scholarship are available to kids long before they're graduating high school.  In one of College Common Sense newsletters it described a six year old earning a scholarship from Kohls.  I emailed Ms Ames about this practice and she replied the same day.  She said that if a child receives a scholarship the donor will likely require that a 529 account (college savings account) be set up and the money deposited there.  That way the donor is assured it will be spent on higher education.  If your child decides not to go to college you would need to contact the donor but it may be able to be used for technical school.

In addition to the online membership (or DVD version) College Common Sense has a weekly emailed lesson plan with activities for parents, students in all school levels (with emphasis on high school seniors).  These same lessons (and an archive) are available to members of   I barely remember when I applied for college (and I did get a scholarship) so I'm certainly thankful for someone to guide our family through this process.  It is certainly a small investment that can lead to a great deal of savings.

Disclaimer: I received a free online access to this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Pressure Cooker Chili

There's snow on the ground and it should remain for several more days looking at the weather forecast.  That makes me think of chili!  With my pressure cooker, I was able to put some on the table in less than 30 minutes after church but it tasted like it had been simmering on the stove all day.  This is an adaption of a recipe from Bob Warden's cookbook Slow Food Fast.  I highly recommend it or his other cookbook Great Food Fast.

2 pounds            ground beef
1 cup                 chopped onion
1 T                     minced garlic
14.5 oz can        diced tomatoes  DO NOT DRAIN
14 oz can           tomato sauce
2 t                      chicken bouillon base
2 C                     water
4 or 8 oz             mild green chiles   DO NOT DRAIN
1 t                      sugar
1/2 t                   cumin
2 t                      chili powder 
2 T                     cornmeal

Optional garnishments:  cheddar,  pepper jack cheese,  sour cream, onions, jalapenos, oyster crackers   

Brown the ground beef, breaking it up as it browns.  A potato masher is great for this job.  Drain off excess grease.

Add the onion and garlic and stir for 2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir.  Incidently,  I found I didn't have any cornmeal when I started this recipe.  I took some popcorn kernals and put them in my Magic Bullet and the results weren't half bad (see below)

 Securely lock on the pressure cooker lid.  Bring it up to high pressure and cook for 8 minutes.  Let the cooker release naturally for 10 minutes before quick releasing the remaining pressure.   My family prefers chili without beans, but you could certainly add a can or two of beans and heat them through after you release the pressure.   I wouldn't try adding dry beans to the beginning of the recipe because I don't know enough about adjusting liquids and time to make that work.

Linking up with the Recipe Share Blog CruiseTry a New Recipe Tuesday, and Soup Swap.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Digi-Scrap for School: Egypt

I've been having a blast making lapbooks and mini-posters for our history curriculum.  I thought I'd share some resources if you'd like to do the same.  We'll start with an early one--Egypt, for studies of the Pharaohs or the Exodus, etc. I've listed the regular prices, but you can always be on the lookout for sales or coupon codes.

Egypt Collection Mini  $7.59

  • Six background pages
  • 15 embellishments including gold pyramid, an Ankh, a Pharaoh's staff, and a scarab
  • Word Art for Egypt, Artifacts, Egyptian cities, The Great Sphinx and more

Walk Like an Egyptian  $5.50
by ViVa Artistry

  • Nine background papers
  • 34 elements including:parchment drawings, cartouches, scarabs, and an Ankh
  • 1 alphabet
  •  A hieroglyph brush set
There is a related brush set for sale that looks like figures in Egyptian art.

                                                       Ancient Egypt $4.99
by Digi Scrap Delights
  • 19 Background papers
  •  26 elements: mostly clip art and cartoon images
This is the website that first convinced me that I could combine school and scrapbooking.  She also has a coordinating scrap/lapbook set with 30 templates.

Egypt $4.00
by DitzBitzKitz

  • 20 Background papers (including some photographs)
  • 80 elements: clip art figures, camels, scarabs, frames
This kit is okay for commercial use, so if you can sell any lapbooks, etc. you make using it.

Of course, you'll need some fonts for page titles.  You can also use the pictorial fonts to make brushes for Photoshop and then try making your own background pages.  I found all these fonts for free on FontSpace.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Butternut Squash Soup

I always associate butternut squash with my grandmother.  Whenever we would visit her in New England, she would mash up the squash and serve it with butter, brown sugar, salt & pepper.  So this one's for you Gram--I'll see you in Heaven someday.

Butternut Squash Soup

1              Medium butternut squash
2 T           Butter
1 t            Minced garlic
1              Small onion
1              Medium carrot or 6-8 baby carrots
1              Baking potato
1              Sweet potato
32 oz       Chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1/4 t         Curry powder
                 Salt & pepper to taste

Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds.

Place cut side down in a roasting pan and add 1/2 inch of water.  Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes until the a fork punctures it easily.

 In the meantime chop the onion, carrot and potatoes. 

Melt the butter in a large dutch oven.  Add the chopped vegetables and garlic to the butter and stir until they're browned.  Add the chicken broth, cover and simmer 45 minutes until the veggies are tender. 

When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the pulp and add it to the dutch oven. (Note: I bought a really big squash so I only used half in the recipe)

 Use an immersion blender to get a smooth consistancy (or transfer in batches to a food processor or blender).  You may also leave some of it chunky for a different texture. Add the curry, salt and pepper for the final blend. 

This soup is great with a little garnishment of sour cream or I used kefir.  The tang and the sweetness play well off each other.  I had planned to serve this with sandwiches but actually ended up thowing some chopped, smoked turkey and corn in here to make it a delicious chowder instead.

Linking up with Try a New Recipe Tuesday .

Friday, February 15, 2013

Weight Loss Journey Week 2

Well I've walked another 18 miles since I posted last week!  That doesn't even include the distances from walking the dog every morning (all the stops to sniff  don't make for aerobic activity).  The scale only shows me down a pound this morning.  I am choosing to see the glass half full though:  I've lost 1 1/2 inches around my gut and I can tell I have a lot more stamina this week.  I made it through 50 minutes of karate class before I felt fatigued--it's that last ten minutes of jumping kicks that wore me out.

Good Things--I've been keeping up with the exercise.  Whenever I feel like "Oh I'll just take one day off" I pull out my goals sheet and read how I want a good self image when I take Schnickelfritz to the water park this summer or that I want to lower my blood pressure at my annual  check up in April.  Those are real deadlines coming up and I can't get this opportunity to exercise back if I choose to skip it now.   I was especially please with myself for getting in my three miles on Thursday.  That's the day we have Homeschool co-op and were away from home from 10 am till 5 pm, fix and eat dinner and then head back out the door at 6:30 for Upwards basketball.  I could have rationalized that we barely have time to get through our normal schoolwork before we have to leave.  That would have been the easy route and the easy route is what got me in this predicament in the first place.  Instead, I outlined the things Fritz could accomplish on his own (read the Bible, do a sheet of Math, read his Science book) and went to my room with my Walk Away the Pounds DVD.  I was still available if he needed me, but I was not going to let the excuses win.

Things That Need Improvement:  I honestly thought that it was just a lack of activity that was keeping me from losing weight but I've added an hour of aerobic exercise six days a week now.  I feel I need to turn my attention to food.  I haven't changed my diet or prepared separate meals for myself yet because I didn't think intake was my problem.  This week I'm going to keep track of what goes in my mouth and see if if all the gains I've had in exercise are being washed out by snacking and unhealthy food choices-particularly carbs.  When I was pregnant, I developed gestational diabetes that had to be controlled through diet and exercise  (this is when I first started using the Walk Away the Pounds DVDs so if I could do it nine months pregnant, any one can).   I met with a dietitian and had to limit my carbs to 15-30g for breakfast and 45-60g for lunch and dinner with a 15g snack in between meals.   I gained 26 pounds during my pregnancy but was back at my pre-pregnancy weight the week my son was born.  So I know this system works for me.

For Your Information:  Last week I shared some news about water and I think I'll make an informational section part of my weekly post.  Knowledge is Power!  This week I'm including a list of activities and how many calories a  person can expect to lose in an hour. I chose the things that we like to do around our house. Okay, not the sky diving--I just couldn't believe you expend calories falling from the sky.  I figure any weight I'd lose from skydiving would be of the liquid kind if you get my drift.  You can see the complete chart with 250 activities here.

Activity, Exercise or Sport (1 hour)130 lb155 lb180 lb205 lb
Cycling, <10 mph, leisure bicycling236281327372
Cycling, 10-11.9 mph, light354422490558
Aerobics, general384457531605
Basketball game, competitive472563654745
Playing basketball, non game354422490558
Football or baseball, playing catch148176204233
Martial arts, tae kwan do590704817931
Jumping rope, moderate590704817931
Jumping rope, slow472563654745
Roller skating413493572651
Sky diving177211245279
Playing soccer413493572651
Backpacking, Hiking with pack413493572651
Walk/run, playing with children, moderate236281327372
Walk/run, playing with children, vigorous295352409465
Hiking, cross country354422490558
Bird watching148176204233
Children's games, hopscotch, dodgeball295352409465

Review: God's Great Covenant (OT2)

Last spring Schnickelfritz and I had a wonderful time using a Classical Academic Press New Testament study to read through the events of Holy Week on the days of the week they would have happened (You can read about it here). This year,  I was thrilled to have another opportunity to use one of their Bible Studies.  I requested and received the second Old Testament course covering 1 Samuel to Malachi since this was the most neglected part of my own Bible study.  The course is designed for students from 3rd-6th grades, but I think older kids and even adults can learn from this, especially if they incorporate the side notes in the teacher's manual.  Our God's Great Covenant: Old Testament Book 2 package consisted of three items...

The God's Great Covenant, Old Testament Book 2: STUDENT BOOK ($22.95) softback, 298 pp

The thirty-two chapter/lessons are organized into five units. Each unit begins with an overview and introduction to the theme by Tobias, a fictional character who works as a scribe in the king's palace.

Unit I: The Early Kingdom...The God Who Anoints
Unit II: The Glorious Kingdom...The God Who Blesses
Unit III: The Divided Kingdom...The God Who Reigns
Unit IV: The Remnant Kingdom...The God Who Judges
Unit V: The Exiled Nation...The God Who Restores

The chapters begin with a memory page covering the  theme, memory verse, key facts, etc.  The top will also list which books and chapters of the Bible from which the lesson story is drawn and which chapters are to be read aloud.   Next comes Story Time--but that title is a bit deceiving because it's not always a story.  For example, Chapter 23 is called God's Voices of Judgement to the Nations and the 3 page story time summarizes  Habakkuk 1-3, Zephaniah 1-3, Nahum 1-3, and Obadiah 1.  Another lesson explains the types of poetry in the book of Psalms.  Each lesson ends with Review Worksheets, using T/F and fill in the blank questions to go over the memory verse, key facts and story facts.

In the back of the book, you'll find Chapter Quizzes, a Glossary, Appendices, and Maps.

The God's Great Covenant, Old Testament Book 2:  TEACHER'S EDITION ($24.95) softback, 298 pp.

It shouldn't be surprising that the Teacher's Edition has the same number of pages as the Student book.  This landscape formatted book has a reduced copy of the student manual on each page.  The remaining space is filled with notes providing further insight into the text.  Pages of the Worksheet reviews have the answers filled in.

Page taken from Teacher's Edition Sample (available online)

The God's Great Covenant, Old Testament Book 2: AUDIO FILES ($9.95) MP3 format

This downloadable product has separate files for story time portion of each chapter.  They can be burned to a CD, loaded to a music player, I even put the audio on my Kindle.  It can be a great resource for students too young to read to themselves when Mom is working on other things.  For this particular volume, it's also handy to hear the pronunciation of names because none of these kings and prophets are called "Joe."  You can find an audio sample on the web page linked above.

The Teacher's edition has no helps as far as scheduling lessons but I found a suggested five-day lesson plan on the Classic Academic Press Website. 

The 20 minute time frame didn't work for us, especially on the days when we were supposed to read from the Bible.  The lesson on Esther assigns us ten chapters to read!  Not only does that take more than 20 minutes but it exceeds my son's attention span.   Instead I developed my own schedule...some lessons we finished in a week and some took longer.

  • The night before a new lesson I would read the notes in the Teacher's Edition, marking those I wanted to be sure and share with my son. 
  • Day One Schnickelfritz would read the story out loud. For him, this was the fun part of each lesson. It fits his reading level and the "action" of the story moves at a good pace.  I sat nearby with the Teacher's Edition so I could help him with pronunciation of names and bring up the interesting facts I'd marked in my notes.
  • Day Two Schnickelfritz would tell me what he remembered about the story and we would go over the Memory Page and Key facts. 
  • Day Three through .... We would read one or two chapters of the assigned Read to Me scripture passages and continue this for as many days as needed. 
  • We moved on to the review worksheets when the scripture reading was done.  This was an open book review so Fritz could refer to the Student book and the Bible as he needed.
  • I didn't make Fritz take the quiz.  Christianity is more about our relationship with Christ than about the facts we memorize.  I was more interested in having discussions about what we were reading/learning and how we could apply it to our lives. I could tell from our conversations what he comprehended. 
I felt that the pace of this study went much faster than the New Testament one we did last year but that only makes sense.  The new testament had 36 lessons covering only the four Gospels.  This had 32 lessons covering more than half the Bible.  But I'm at a different place in Bible study than my son so this overview was probably enough introduction to the Psalms, Proverbs, divided kingdom, major and minor prophets.     Along these lines, there are some real gems in the Appendices that shouldn't be missed: How to use the Psalms, How to understand the Proverbs,  and a timeline chart of the Kings and Prophets for Judah and Israel.  There is a glossary with succinct descriptions of each person as well,  I only wish they had included a pronunication guide for all their names.

Before I end this review, I'm sure there are some parents wondering how some rather sensitive issues are handled in the lessons--David & Bathsheba and Amnon & Tamar for example.  My son is still an innocent in that area and while it's in the Bible, I'm not ready for a discussion on adultery or incest.  The Story Time mentions that  David "wanted to love [Bathsheba] as only a husband should...What David wanted was against God's law, but he didn't turn away from his own desires." Amnon, on the other hand  "fell in love with his own half-sister, Tamar.  Instead of loving her properly, Amnon sinned against her and hurt her badly."

 I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Reuben Soup

I love Reuben sandwiches so when I saw this recipe in an old Taste of Home magazine I had to give it a try.  If you're not sure about the sauerkraut, trust me when I say the flavor doesn't overwhelm the dish.

Reuben Soup (1 1/2 quarts)

1/2 C               chopped onion
2 T                   butter
2 C                   hot water
1 t                    chicken broth base (I use Better than Bouillon brand)
1 t                    beef broth base
1/2 t                 baking soda
2 T                   cornstarch
2 T                   cold water
3/4 C               canned sauerkraut
2 C                   Half&Half cream or whole milk
2 C                   cooked & chopped corned beef
1 C                   shredded Swiss cheese

Before I started, I had cooked a corned beef in my pressure cooker for 10 minutes less then the recipe called for (to keep the meat firm in the soup) and chopped it into 1/2 inch cubes.

In a large saucepan, saute the onions in butter until tender.  Dissolve chicken and beef bases in hot water.  Combine cornstarch with cold water and shake or stir until a slurry is formed.  Add broth, baking soda and cornstarch slurry to saucepan.

  Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat.  Rinse and drain the sauerkraut, then add it, the cream or milk, and corned beef; simmer and stir for 15 minutes. 

Add Swiss cheese; heat until melted.  You may garnish with rye croutons if desired.

This soup is definitely hearty enough for a meal.  I wished it had more of the sauerkraut tang so I may try adding it at the end of cooking next time.

I'm linking up with Home to 4 Kiddos' Try a New Recipe Tuesday and Milk & Honey Mommy's Soup Swap.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Favorite Subject: Do I have to pick just one?

Normally I'm a very decisive person.  Ask me my favorite ice cream flavor, my favorite pizza topping, my favorite color and I can answer instantly.  Yet when I stopped to consider my favorite subject to teach...well that's like asking me to pick my favorite child.  No, it's harder because I only have one child but you get my drift.  So bear with me while I go through a typical day of school and see if I can't come up with something.  We always start the day with....


For the last two years our main Bible study has been Kay Arthur's Discover 4 Yourself series.  Schnickelfritz likes it because he's given permission to color in his Bible.  I love it because I can see some really intelligent thinking going on in that little mind.  Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis says one of the reasons kids leave the faith when they get to college is because they've only been fed a diet of Bible stories: Jonah and the Whale, David and Goliath, Zacchaeus the Wee Little Man.   How can they defend their faiths when confronted by evolutionist science teachers or belligerent philosophy professors?  When we studied Genesis, Schnickelfritz learned that Cain's wife must have been one of his sisters (the Bible says he lived for 930 years and had other sons and daughters).  More impressive to me was our study of Daniel.  Through inductive reasoning he was able to recognize the four-headed leopard in Daniel 7 and the four-horned goat in Daniel 8 were representing the same kingdom but the Little Horn in Dan 7 represented a different leader than the Small Horn in Dan 8.  Before I started homeschooling, I'd have never thought a nine year old could grasp such difficult prophecy but I saw it happening before my eyes!.

So I love Bible, but is it my favorite?  Better look at some more subjects first...


I'll be honest and say this was my least favorite subject in school.  Your typical textbook condenses a person's lifetime into a paragraph at best.  It seemed like and endless list of facts to be memorized for a test: name, date, name, battle, general, name, date.  After the test there was nothing about a list that would make me want to save it for future reference so I'd flush it all out to make room for the next chapter's test.

When we studied Missouri history I used a fellow home schooling mom's self published book A Guide to Studying Missouri History Through Literature.  No more short paragraphs packed with facts but very dry to read. As we read each living book we became engrossed in the characters.  The Explorations of Pere Marquette tells the story of the French priest who discovered the Mississippi and Missouri rivers (and as a bonus it's a very God-honoring story).  A Boy for a Man's Job is the story of a 13 year old boy who led the party that founded the city of St. Louis.  How's that for a story to inspire my own young man that even the young can do great things.  Of course, the best part of Missouri history was getting to go visit the places where it actually happened.  We love events with re-enactors who are passionate about their history and willing to share what they know. It's so much more captivating than touring a museum or historic home filled with items we mustn't touch.

A front row seat at the Battle of Wilson's Creek

This year we've been using Mystery of History ...because we're not reading whole books we can cover time much more quickly and yet  each chapter is an in depth study of one person or one event.  We've turned our hallway into a giant timeline and we're able to see how events on different continents are chronologically related.  And I've supplemented our study with a great new lapbook/notebook product from Homeschool in the Woods called Project Passport but you'll have to read about that here because I need to keep searching for my favorite subject. 


I loved science when I was in school, in fact I was the physics teacher's aid my junior year and wrote his tests for him.  The best part are the experiments and hands-on activities.  And our main curriculum, Apologia's Exploring Creation series is loaded with them.  We've had plenty over the years from our paper clip model of the relative distance of planets to our Skittle Scavenger hunt to demonstrate how some creatures use camouflage to avoid being eaten.  In fact I went a little overboard on that last one psyching the kids up that they were Skittle predators on this timed search through a box of multi-colored paper.  One girl started popping them in her mouth as fast as she found them and I was yelling "Wait, we need to count them first!" (Incidentally, the TOS crew is currently reviewing Apologia's elementary science books so you may want to check that out.)

One of our favorite resources is Disney's Science of Imagineering DVD series.  What could be better for a kid than using amusement park rides to demonstrate physics concepts.  After Schnickelfritz and I went through them all I ended up using them to teach a co-op class last fall.We made electric circuits with food, transferred energy from basketballs to tennis balls, (and launched them way into the air), did our own version of jerking a tablecloth off without disturbing the place settings (Newton's first law of motion). 


Okay this definitely wasn't my favorite subject as a student.  I was one of the last ones picked for dodge ball or kickball...and don't even mention rope climbing, I couldn't make it five feet off the ground.  But now we can pick our favorite activities and count it as PE time.  Schnickelfritz and I both take karate.  He's actually a purple belt and mine's yellow so he's been able to teach me for a change.  Our other favorite thing is the monthly orienteering events in our neck of the woods.  Of course I'm not really teaching here, just participating so let's continue our search for favorite subject that I teach.


Math is a subject that came easy to me and comes easy to my son.  Often we see it more as a puzzle to solve rather than a lesson to learn.  This was especially true when I cut out shapes to represent the variables to solve for the unknowns in our Balance Bender math.

 We use math to play some of our favorite games...Muggins for example.  My son has an interest in magic tricks and there are a lot that involve math to appear to read minds or manipulate the outcomes.  (You can read more in my post It's Math-magical). 

Well I'm not getting any closer to determining a favorite subject.  I always thought learning was fun and I'm trying to get my son to feel the same way.  Games, field trips, videos, living books, whatever it takes.  If we're both enjoying what we're doing then it's one of our favorite subjects. 

Of course you're encouraged to check out some other blogs from other Crew members who may not be as indecisive as I am.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Weight Loss Journey Week 1

A week ago I shared my goal/desire to lose weight starting on my birthday.  Week One: I lost 3 pounds.   Not a lot by Biggest Loser standards, but I'm not living on a ranch exercising 7 hours a day.. I'll take it.  

Good Things:  I walked 2 miles every day mostly with my Walk Away the Pounds DVDs.  Rather than just sitting and talking at home school gym or Upwards basketball practice, I walked around the second story track at a 4 MPH clip.  Karate class started this week and let me tell you that's a calorie burn.  I participated in the first hour of class and when my stamina improves I may join my son in the second hour advanced class.  I know my limits though, last year I tried to do two hours but my legs were too tired.  I fell on a traveling jump kick and hyper extended my knee.

A few weeks ago I told my husband I could eat a chocolate chip cookie the size of my head.  He didn't forget so one of my birthday presents was just that.  I broke the cookie into pieces, shared some and saved some.  I didn't deny myself entirely because that's the quickest route to self pity and falling off the diet wagon.

Things that Need Improvement:  I need to drink more water.  Drinking water can help suppress appetite and reduce calorie intake. A twelve-week study at Virginia Tech revealed that dieters consuming two cups of water before meals lost five pounds more than those who did not drink additional water. Drinking ice-cold water rather than water at room temperature can also increase your calorie burn. Researchers estimate that consuming four to eight cups of ice-cold water a day can burn between 50 and 100 calories, according to course I recognize that weight loss is a multifaceted journey.  It's not just the will power to say no to snarfing down cookies, the motivation to get off the couch, or the gathering of knowledge.  I'm sure in the coming weeks I'll face emotional and perhaps spiritual battles.  To help me stay the course, I'm turning to one of my favorite authors and speakers--the late Zig Ziglar.  In his book, See You at the Top I learned four characteristics of goals.

1. They must be big: In order for goals to be effective they need to be big.  It takes a big goal to create the excitement necessary for accomplishment.  There's no excitement in mediocrity.

2. They must be long range:  Without long-range goals, you are likely to be overcome by short-range frustrations or obstacles.

3. They must be daily:  If you don't have daily objectives, you qualify as a dreamer.  Dreamers are fine, provided they build a foundation under their dreams by working daily towards realizing them.

4. They must be specific:  It doesn't matter how much power, brilliance, or energy you have, if you don't harness it and focus it on a specific target and hold it there, you're never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants.  The hunter who brings back the birds doesn't shoot at the covey, he selects one quail as a specific target.

I also learned that less than 3%  of Americans write down their goal.  I received a free copy of the Performance Planner when I ordered Zig Ziglar's How to Stay Motivated set.  (I listen while I walk).  So now I've written down my weight loss goal, the benefits of reaching the goal, major obstacles, skills or knowledge needed to reach the goal, individuals & groups to work with to reach the goal, and my plan of action.  The only thing missing is the completion date--and that's coming!  You can find an article by Zig Ziglar on Goal Setting and a link to your own worksheet download by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cheesy Chicken Tortilla Chowder

My neighbor served this chowder at her bonfire/hayride last fall and I begged for the recipe.

Cheesy Chicken Tortilla Chowder

2 cans          Cream of Potato Soup
2 C              Milk
14 1/2 oz     Chicken Broth
1 can           Mexicorn, Drained
1/2-3/4 lb    cooked, chopped chicken
4 oz             green chilies
3                 flour tortillas, cut in 2" strips
1 C             shredded cheddar cheese.

In a saucepan, combine soups, milk and broth.  Add corn, chicken and chilies; bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Stir in tortilla strips.  Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.  Stir in cheese and cook until melted.  You may have additional cheese, tortilla chips or Fritos  for garnishment.

My neighbor used a crockpot to keep this chowder warm and the last bowlful was as good as the first.  When I made it for my smaller family we couldn't finish it at one meal.  I was not please with the texture when we warmed it up for lunch.  The tortillas continued to soak up liquid and just turned to mush.  In the future I would divide the chowder into meal-sized portions and add the tortillas to the pot during the reheating process.

I'll be linking this recipe to Home to 4 Kiddos' Try a New Recipe Tuesday and Milk & Honey Mommy's Soup Swap.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Ignoring it won't make it go away

Before I tell you what "it" is, I need to share a story with you....

This is Della the Dog, my walking companion and a Mama's girl for sure.  If she decides to go left at the end of our driveway, we'll end up walking past our neighbor's horse pastures.  My imagination always takes over and I wonder what the horses think of such a little horse on a leash. The horses were a real draw when we first moved to Missouri.  Schnickelfritz and I would take apples and carrots to his new friends: Gus, Apache, Patches, Midnight, Duke and a mule named Minnie Pearl!  One morning the neighbor stopped by to let me know that he'd turned on the electric fencing in an effort to keep the horses from popping boards--he didn't want Fritz to get shocked.   I passed the warning on to my son but not to my dog...curiosity may kill the cat so Della got off easy with a just a zap on the nose, but she's never forgotten. 

Funny thing about that dog-she doesn't accept any responsibility for the incident.  She doesn't even steer clear of the fence line.  No, in that canine mind the blame rests solely on the horses.  When ever they are near the fences she refuses to even look at them.  She'll walk to the other side of the road if I'll let her.  If we stop to pull grass or pet the horses she'll sit with her back to the fence and her nose in the air and I'm sure she's saying "I'm not're not really there."  Silly dog,  just ignoring the horses won't make them go away.

So now to the "it" of my title.  It will be different for everyone.  Maybe you've been ignoring the piles of clutter in your home or you just let the answering machine handle all the collection calls so you don't have to deal with them.  For me, the "it" is my weight.  You won't find many photos of me because I hate to see that double chin.  I'm wearing ten year old clothes so I don't have to spend uncomfortable time in a store changing room.  I'm not looking at the problem but I'm also not doing anything to make it go away.

Well, today is the day for change.   It's my birthday and now is as good a day as any to start living the rest of my life.  I've joined up with a group of Homeschool Crew friends to challenge/support each other to lose those extra pounds.  I've dusted off the exercise equipment in the basement and reclaimed it from clothes-hanging duty. My son and I have started Move Across Missouri with our 4-H group where we'll take our weekly activity.   I've bought carrots and other veggies to snack on instead of my usual carbs.  And I'm sharing this with you to hold myself accountable. 

Now it's up to you to figure out what you've been ignoring. 
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