Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Kumon Workbooks Are The Bomb

Years ago when I was a much younger mom, I would draw straight, zigzag, and curvy lines on paper -- hand my youngsters a pair of scissors and have them cut on the lines.  It took a few minutes to prepare, but it was an inexpensive way to have them practice fine motor skills.  I'm older, have more kids, and have more grab and go curriculum items.  Kumon workbooks are awesome!  Each workbook focuses on one skill.  In this case, it's cutting.  The book is progressive in nature, starting with straight lines and working up to more complicated curves and start/stop/turn cutting pages.  The variety of pages is great for my age range of kids.  I tear out an appropriate page and let them begin cutting.  The paper is a nice weight -- thick, yet pliable.

Peter is using 5" Fiskars scissors.

One thing to keep in mind is choosing appropriate scissors for each child.  The scissors Maria's using are spring loaded.  The action of squeezing results in a return action of opening.  They work OK for toddlers, however, I originally bought them for Joseph.  He already had experience of me trying to teach him to use regular scissors, so he struggled with the use of these.


Joseph is using a medium sized scissors.  They have an easy action; he does well with these.



Take a trip back to 2011 and see Joseph working on the My Book of Pasting.

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Monday, February 08, 2016

Homeschooling.....(sometimes it actually looks like school)

One of the benefits of homeschooling is being able to tailor the education to the student.  Kids who like to move, can move.  Kids who like to sit and learn, can sit at a table.  Kids who like to lounge, can lay on the floor while doing math.   It works really well for us.

I get questions all the time about how our day goes.  People are curious about homeschooling and what it looks like.  To tell you the truth, it looks like life with books.  Lots of books.  And computers and apps and earbuds and games and notecards and............

Here's a glimpse of one morning at Camp Homeschool.  To set the stage, morning jobs have all been done (bed making, dishes, laundry piles, chickens, horses, dog, breakfast, teeth).  Emily has already left for high school.  She takes Symphony Orchestra and Spanish 3; she'll be home by 10:45.  Everyone else is at home living life and here's what it looks like most mornings.

Sam works on All About Spelling Level 5.  He's writing sentences containing words with prefixes and suffixes.

Sam also works on The Young Scientist Series set 5.

In what we call our school room, Amber completes lessons from Teaching Textbooks.  This year it's been pretty easy for her, so to advance her along more quickly I have her doing 10 lessons per week.  

On the other side of the school room, Nick is reading from A Patriot's History of the United States.  He sums up his daily readings in a written paragraph.  

Maria hunts/scares away the birds.  She's 2 and holds a gun like a pro....watch out!

Joseph occupies himself with car and train tracks.  He's taking a break before his reading lesson begins.

Sam still works on The Young Scientist Kit.  He's learning about the needs of fire:  spark, fuel, and oxygen.

The flame under the smaller glass goes out first because there is less oxygen present, therefore, getting used up faster.
 **If you haven't done this experiment with your kids yet, do it now.  Even the teenagers flock to the counter when fire is involved and it's a quick review lesson for them, in case they've forgotten the requirements of fire.  We had fun with this one and tried it under a large glass bowl.  It took about 3-4 minutes for the flame to die.  It's such a simple experiment with big impact.

Peter received a book store gift certificate for Christmas.  While shopping he found this Melissa and Doug animal puzzle set.  Quickly, it became a favorite.  He sets them over and over.
So there you have it another morning at Camp Homeschool.  It's different than regular school, yet we accomplish the same things.

Do you have questions about homeschooling?  I'd love to answer them!  
(leave a comment here at the blog or at my facebook page and I'll do my best to put together a question and answer post soon)

Outside my window it's snowing and blowing.  Actually looks lovely for a February day.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Broomball Craze Has Hit

Broomball is the poor man's hockey.  Well it is, the way we play.  Expensive equipment can be purchased, but we've found it to be more fun with cheap kitchen brooms and a small playground ball.

How do you play broomball?
Simple.  Gather a group of sturdy people.  Ice is slippery.  Ice is hard.  A broom to the face hurts.  Make sure the players are sturdy!  Head to the ice.  Hand everyone a broom.  Pick teams.  Choose a goalie.  Toss up the ball, let the centers take it from there.  Any somewhat intuitive person can figure out that the goal is to get the ball into the opposing teams goal.  A point is scored and the game continues.  We usually play to ten.

The players go down.

The players come back.
The ball is out of bounds; a little broom fight breaks out to get it back in.

We let the little kids play.  It keeps us from getting too violent.

Broomball is an excellent cardio workout.

There's always a lot of smiles and crazy faces.  Running on ice does that to a person.

The game is heating up.

Defending your team's goal is serious business.  Everyone has their own style.

Time for a break.
If broomball is done right, a snowball fight should break out after a couple of games.










Smells like Teen Spirit - these kids are going to sleep well tonight.

If you're looking for a great way to get your kids some fresh winter air, tire them out and maybe even a couple victory bruises......BROOMBALL is your game.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Wisconsin With Kids ~ Standing Rocks Park {Portage County}

 Winters in Wisconsin can get long if you don't embrace winter.  We had an awesome opportunity to use the Standing Rocks ski area through a nearby homeschool coop.  For $5 a person we were able to rent any and all equipment needed for downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.  Some of us took advantage of this opportunity and had a great day skiing with fellow homeschoolers.


This was Peter's first time on skis.  His favorite "hill" was just outside the warming lodge.  He skied around the tree many, many times.  I did get him down a gentle, short bunny hill, but he screamed the entire way, so back to "his hill" he went.  He loved it!


After trying cross-country skiing, Amber helped Peter for a bit.



Sam's a snowboarder and really got some speed this year.


Taking a rest.

I didn't get any pictures of the girls downhill skiing or cross-country skiing, but I do have one us eating lunch in the warming house.  No matter how cold it is, the warming house - with two fireplaces - is toasty warm.  As you can tell from the picture we took bread, PB & J, cheese, carrots, crackers, some nuts, water......a very basic picnic lunch.  I overheard a conversation between a mother and son sitting next to us which reminded me just how similar families are.  A boy of about 12 came in and told his mom he was starving.  She pointed to the table and said, "well, we have bread, PB, cheese, carrots, Vitamin waters."  Her son cut in saying he didn't want any of that.  Guess what her response was?  "Then you must not be that hungry."  And back out to the slopes he went.  I smiled and thought how familiar that sounded.


Standing Rocks doesn't have the biggest or most hills in the area, but for beginners like us, it's just perfect.

For more of our travels around Wisconsin With Kids click here.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Simple Planner

I know we're coming up on the third week of January, so I might be late to the "getting organized for 2016" party, however, I still want to share my planner with you and encourage you to KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid......or silly......or scruffy).  I'm not calling you stupid; it's just a phrase and if you don't like being referred to as stupid, then substitute silly or scruffy, your choice.  Anyway, I've seen many elaborate planning notebooks around the web.  Some are homemade and boy do those look like they took hours to complete.  The fonts, the graphics, the quotes, the washi tape.  It's all too much for me.  Then I found the traditional day planners.  Too many pages.  Too many calendars.  Too many lists of tipping percents, states and capitols, stuff I simply never refer to.  I've also found some beautiful Catholic planners, but again all the different calendars:  daily, weekly, monthly.  I don't have time to enter my appointments that many times.

I've tried each and every one of these planner styles.  And you know what?  My favorite is a $3.00 notebook from Walmart.  We have a giant master calendar on our refrigerator, so I don't need another one.  Again, I find adding info to multiple calendars a waste of time.  The three things I need to keep track of are:

1.  my shopping list
2.  my to do list
3.  the menu plan


It's very important that my planning notebook fit into my purse.  Trying to hold hands, carry a purse, and a notebook gets a bit tenuous and I've dropped mine in slush before.  Yuk.  Learn from my mistake.  Make sure it fits in your purse.  Since I have 3 categories, I found a notebook divided in 3 sections.  I simply labeled the tabs, and can easily open up to the section needed.


The first section is Shopping List.  I think it's self explanatory.  I make two columns.  On the left I keep a running list of food/grocery store items we run out of or need.  On the right is the miscellaneous list.  Things that make this list include:  stamps, clothing items, animal needs, gifts, etc.  I think you get the picture.  I just grab the notebook before heading to the store and cross off what I buy.  I don't always buy everything on the list in one shopping trip, so I continue adding to this list, buying, and crossing off until the page is used up.  Then I rip it out.  One huge benefit of having one single, identifiable notebook is that when the kids use up the last of ________, they know the exact notebook and list in which to add the item.


The second section is To Do.  I keep a running list of things to do, obviously.  This includes home repair/improvement, blog post ideas, calls to make.  Anything that I have "to do".  I cross off and add until the page is used up, then rip it out.  You might notice this is not a daily to do list.  I've tried that before, but it seemed silly to write laundry, homeschool, prepare lunch, etc. just to cross off.  Over the years I've fallen into a daily schedule that works for me.  I keep a mental note of daily tasks to do.


The third section and the most important to my family is Menus.  If the notebook is open, most likely it's open to this section.  Here is where I plan our lunch and supper meals.  I plan for about 10 days at a time.  Even though we rarely have the meal planned for Tuesday on Tuesday, I still plan this way.  Sometimes I've forgotten to thaw the meat or sometimes other plans come up.  So this is a loose plan.  It's a list of available ingredients (if the teenagers haven't eaten them yet) for these meals.  I also note where to find the recipe, if needed.


Once a meal has been made, I cross it off the plan.  Easy peasy.

If you're feeling a bit overwhelmed with all you have to keep track of, I urge you to start simply.  Buy a cheap notebook, maybe one with dividers and start making some lists.  Even Santa, as magical as he is, makes a list and checks it twice.

But all things should be done decently and in order.
1 Corinthians 14:40

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Making of Cranberry Sauce....(in pictures)

Did you stock up on cranberries in October?  Did you toss them in your freezer with big plans for using them in muffins and breads and salad fluffs?  Are they still there?  Right where they landed?

Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Since we grow cranberries, my idea of stocking up means 225 pounds of cranberries fill my freezer(s).  It was time to use some up, so I pulled out the stockpot and Back to Basics Strainer and Berry Screen.  Time to make some cranberry sauce.  I like making a large batch of cranberry sauce.  One, because we like it.  Two, because there's a lot of us.  Three, because I don't like washing the food strainer very often. 

 Here's what I do:

Bring 8 cups water and almost 8 cups sugar to a hard boil over high heat.  Boil for 5 minutes.  Now, I understand that 8 cups of sugar is A LOT, however, when it comes to fruit gelling, sugar is a necessary component.  If you do want to cut back on the sugar, do so in 1/4 cup increments and expect your sauce to be softer set.  


As the sugar solution is boiling, measure out 16 FULL cups of cranberries.  I always use frozen fruit.


Add cranberries to sugar water.


Stir in the fruit with a wooden spoon.  The frozen cranberries will be coated in sugar water and be very shiny and beautiful.  Return to boil.  Reduce heat to a slow boil and cook for 15-20 minutes.  


 The berries should pop (skins are split) and the mixture should be slightly thickened.  It will also look frothy.  This is completely normal.  I don't bother with skimming this off, even though many recipes call for it.  Stir once every 5 minutes or so.


While the cranberries are cooking, set up the strainer.  If you don't want to invest in a food strainer, a mesh strainer and wooden spoon work well, albeit much slower, but less to wash up in the end.  I'm able to fit half of the sauce in the hopper at a time.  Strain into large bowl.
  

Repeat with remaining sauce.  Stir well to combine liquid and pulp.


 Pour prepared sauce into wide mouth canning jars.  


Place lids and rings on jars.  Place in rack.  Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.  The cranberry sauce is now shelf stable and can be stored in a cool, dry location for up to 1 year (or more).  Or, even easier is to just store jars in your refrigerator.  This will stay fresh just as long as any jelly. I'm guessing 3-4 months.


There's always a little sauce that can be scraped from the bowl.  Don't waste this warm, sweet, yet tart, goodness.  Spread it on a slice of buttered bread and enjoy.  I had freshly made poppyseed egg bread on the counter.  Yum!


My sauce if fully gelled by the next morning.  Ready to enjoy!



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