Saturday, August 29, 2015

Canning with Tattler Lids

A neighbor sent out a Facebook message that his apple trees were ready for picking.  This fellow does most of his business in Christmas trees, but he’s got a few dozen apple trees near the road and he let’s people pick them on the honor system.  The aren’t sprayed so they aren’t the prettiest things in the world, but I don’t care.  I got a bushel of practically organic Gala apples for $22. 

tattlerLast year I did a little experiment when it came to canning applesauce.  When I stopped to buy lids, I saw a box touting reusable plastic lids.  I bought a set of 12 and tried them—and they worked!  I got seals with all 10 jars I canned.  I even managed a seal when I accidentally used two of the rubber rings on the same jar.

This year I invested in two more boxes of Tattler lids—one wide mouth and one standard.  Last weekend I canned 23 jars of applesauce and all but one sealed on the first try.  The one remaining, I stuck in with another batch and it sealed on the second go.

The Tattler seals are a little more expensive than metal—mine were $9.99 for a set of 12 lids and rubber rings.  But by the third time I use them they will have paid for themselves.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Books to Read this School Year

I’ve always like to tie my son’s reading books to the period of history we’re studying.  This year we’re headed all the way back to the beginning and going through the crucifixion.  Here are the books that’s I’ve pulled from our shelves—most of these are old books that I’ve rescued from sales.

Dinosaurs of Eden by Hen Ham—This is the one book I bought new, when Mr. Ham was speaking at our church  It covers the creation (not evolution) of dinosaurs on Day Six, explains how dinosaurs could fit on the ark, and how dinosaurs and man lived at the same time.  Clearly a biblical worldview.

Men and Gods by Rex Warner—I just picked this up last weekend at a YMCA sale.  It’s Roman mythology as the gods have names like Jupiter and Venus.  I see Jason and the Golden Fleece, the Labors of Hercules, Midas, Echo & Narcissus, and more.  I’m interested in one chapter called the Great Flood—to see how it correlates to the Biblical account.  We probably won’t read all the stories, just get a good sampling.

The Iliad and The Odyssey of Homer retold by Alfred Church.  I know one Mystery of History lesson covers Homer and another covers the legend of the Trojan War.  Church has taken the epic poems and rewritten them as prose for boys and girls. 

Archimedes and the Door of Science by Jeanne Bendick---The book is part history and part science.  It covers Archimedes’ famous buoyancy discover (remember he ran outside naked and yelling “Eureka!”) buy also his work with math and measuring a circle ( pi ).

Pyramid by David Macauley—We have a whole slew of Macauley’s books: Castle, Cathedral, Mosque, etc. We’ve got some that have been reissued and redrawn in color, but I really love the original black and white line drawings. This year we’ll use Pyramid.

The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt by Elizabeth Payne—You didn’t think I was going to get through this list without a Landmark Book title, did you?   This is one of the few books in the series with photographs of many ancient sites.  The book covers Cheops, Hatshepsut, Thutmose, Akhnaton, and Ramses, but it also covers the archeologists that uncovered the treasures starting with Napoleon’s army and the Rosetta stone and of course Howard Carter and King Tut’s tomb.

Alexander the Great by John Gunther—my second Landmark book.  We obviously won’t be watching the Hollywood film so I’m glad to have my copy of this book.  If you enjoy used book sales NEVER PASS UP A LANDMARK BOOK!

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George—This Newberry Medal winner will round out our year since it takes place at the end of our time period. 



Friday, August 7, 2015

Mystery of History Memory Cards

After spending two years on American history, we’re cycling back to the beginning with Mystery of History Volume 1.  Since we did this originally when Schnickelfritz was in first grade I’m fairly certain my son will get more from each lesson and need to fill out new memory cards for each lesson.  Normally, I use Photoshop Elements or Graphic Toolbox to make our printables, but I was able to do these with just Microsoft Word.


First I put in the CD for Home School in the Woods’ History Through the Ages timeline figures.  Next I opened up Word and set up the page for 3 X 5 index cards (under the Page Layout tab choose Size and look for the 3 X 5 Index card option.  You’ll need to resize your margins as well—I uses .2 inches for all edges.


Then I found appropriate image for each lesson in Mystery of History.  It’s helpful to print out the list of images in chronological order as this will match the closest to MOH.  Then for each page I’d choose Insert>Picture> browse for the disc drive and then type the name of the image. The name will match the MOH list so if the title in the list starts with “The”, you’ll need to start with that.



Usually I centered the image on the page, but in some cases the lesson referred to more than one person.  In that case I made one image right justified and the other left justified.  You can see a few examples below.


I loaded my printer with multi-colored index cards.  I resorted the pack so I had three cards of each color together so the entire week would match.  Then down the road when I ask Fritz to review cards I may say he only needs to go through the green ones.  If I’m really clever I’ll come up with a game to go with the colors, but nothing comes to mind yet.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Book Review: The Conversation

We’ve now reached the halfway point in our homeschool journey (actually past half way if you consider kindergarten).  I hesitate to use the term “over the hump” because that implies an easy downhill slide to the end and with middle school and high school still ahead I think we’d all agree we’re not going to be coasting to graduation.  In fact several of my friends are too intimidated to continue teaching their kids at home.  That’s why I was thrilled with the opportunity to read The ConversationAuthor Leigh A. Bortins, founder of Classical Conversations, has packed this book full of tips and encouragement for teaching you own high schooler.  The book went with me on vacation and while I waited for my son at scout meetings and baseball camp.

The opening chapter covers becoming Confident Parents.  This is for those people considering homeschool for the first time or homeschooling parents wondering if they will be able to teach high school.  A key issue is the role of parental authority and how it looks when dealing with teenagers.  Then the author answers a series of questions: How can I teach my kids when I didn’t do well in school? Can my kids get into college?  What if my child is gifted or has special needs?  I didn’t need convincing that I want to homeschool all through high school, still found some hidden gems buried in this chapter.

If you picked up on the “Classical” part of the vendor name, Bortins does use a classical approach to home education.   I was very thankful for Chapter Two--Rhetoric Defined chapter to help me understand the lingo of classical education.

You may be familiar (as I was) with the three stages: Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric.  While it’s true that students naturally progress through these stages as they age (young children spend their time learning the vocabulary of their language and naming things they see in their world , as they get older they begin asking questions to further their knowledge), any time they begin a new course of study they will begin back at the Grammar stage. 

New to me was a second list of classical terms having to do with the Five Canons of Rhetoric:

  1. Invention—Discover ideas, research, and plan.
  2. Arrangement—Arrange ideas in a logical and organized manner.
  3. Elocution—Express ideas in the style that is most persuasive in appealing to the audience.
  4. Memory—Add memorable features to your essay or speech. Commit ideas to memory.
  5. Delivery—Deliver ideas in oral or written form.

 The next nine chapters help you to understand what high school subjects look like in the classical approach. 

  • Reading
  • Speech & Debate
  • Writing
  • Science
  • Math
  • Government & Economics
  • History
  • Latin & Foreign Languages
  • Fine Arts

Each chapter has a similar format: there are articles (some republished from Classical Conversations Writer Circle), a chart on how the five canons apply to the particular subject, and examples of conversations (remember the title of the book?) that might take place between teacher and student. It was the sample conversations that intrigued me most. They are written like a script with ME being the author/teacher and a student name.  The teacher is asking open ended questions, guiding the students yet still forcing them to think for themselves—in other words, the Socratic Method in action.  It’s a meaningful dialogue.  This is what I dreamed of when I started homeschooling seven years ago.  How different from traditional schools where the teacher does all the talking.  How different from where everything is compartmentalized and separated by the ringing of bells on the hour.

Finally the book ends with a Graduation Conversation where the author shares the secret to college admissions and life after college.  Another hidden gem was the “Am I Too Late” section.  We haven’t been following a classic approach to school.  With all our review materials, we’re eclectic at best.  As I read though I want to take the path that will lead to the types of conversations I read in the previous chapters, but could I redirect our course at the half-way point?  That’s when I read the following….



While researching for this review I learned that Leigh A. Bortins  has a degree in Aerospace Engineering—she’s literally a rocket scientist!.   The Conversation helps you understand that you don’t have to be one to teach your high schoolers at home.

Classical Conversations Review

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