Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bread, bread and more bread

I have been making my own bread for many years.  However, I have never been able to duplicate a soft and fluffy loaf with mostly whole wheat flour.  I can make the most fluffy bread imaginable with white flour, but the addition of wheat always produced a dense, heavy bread.  This past month, I have finally found a little time to get back to baking my bread from scratch and I found this new recipe.  It is absolutely the best bread recipe ever.  It does use a small portion of white flour, but I am so willing to use the white flour and get such fabulous results.  This recipe is best made in a Bosch mixer and makes 4 fluffy loaves.  I will also link the recipe that I use for the dough enhancer.  For my bread, I am grinding hard red wheat and having just as good of results as when I used hard white wheat before. I hope that if you are looking for the perfect bread recipe you will give this a try.  If you don't need 4 loaves and also just want to use your bread machine, you might try the Oatmeal Honey Bread.  It isn't wheat, but the wheat does add some whole grains and the taste is wonderful.  I often put it in the bread machine before church or at the start of a school day for hot, fresh bread at lunch with minimal fuss.

Chef Brad's Basic Whole Wheat Bread

Dough Enhancer Recipe

Oatmeal Honey Bread for the Bread Machine (uses white flour)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Yummy Beef Enchiladas

Just a little review of a Pioneer Woman recipe I tried last night.  I am no longer afraid to try homemade beef enchiladas!  The sauce is easy and delicious!  The enchiladas are fresh and delicious.  I will add that I only used one can of green chilies since I have littles who don't care for things to be too spicy.  This is one pinterest pin that did not disappoint!

One tip- use the 9 x 13 pan.  I used a jelly roll pan because that is what I always use for my chicken enchiladas.  These fit in the jelly roll pan, but as they cook and bubble the sauce also bubbles over and makes a mess of the oven.

Simple Perfect Enchiladas

Why the big switch from CC to Tapestry? Plus a flour recipe...

Food Storage Made Easy Healthy Flour Recipe

Now that certain babies sleep all night, most nights, I have been able to spend a little more time in the kitchen.  Once upon a time, I made about 98% of our food from scratch and probably a good 75% was grown or raised on our farm.  Then came babies #4 and #5 and they really did me in.  I am now able to spend time in the kitchen and it makes me so happy!  Today, I plan to mix up this healthy flour recipe (above) in my grain grinder in hopes of weaning the children off store bought white flour that I had reverted to over the last couple of years.  And then after we eat some healthy cookies I will get back to work on lesson planning!

Why would someone who was queen DIY revert to processed food, non-sprouted grains, and store bought milk?  Choices.  There are only so many hours in a day and new babies take up a lot of hours (both night and day).  In the daily duties of mom and teacher, I had to make choices.  I also decided at that time to tutor Classical Conversations Challenge program.  While it was a rewarding job with a nice compensation, it did eat up any tiny bit of free time that I had once enjoyed limiting my choices even more.  Even without new babies, it was a very time consuming job.  At the training we were told to plan for 20 hours a week of prep and to just stop after that even if we didn't feel prepared because our family would need us to spend no more than 20 hours a week.  So if you are wondering why the big switch in curriculum companies after 5 years of CC, this is it.  The last year I tutored Challenge 2 and before Christmas, my two oldest kids (who LOVED CC) begged me to please not sign up for another year.  This led to the great curriculum search...and all sorts of "Oh Dear" moments trying to find another curriculum that would match up with Miss A's first two years of high school and still manage to graduate her with the required credits and desired classical education.  Luckily I found Tapestry and she will graduate with all necessary credits and a classical education in the summer of 2016!

Flash forward to today.  I have one year of Tapestry of Grace under my belt.  We used it on a trial basis last year.  I pulled the oldest two out of CC and they only did Tapestry.  The middle two went to CC with me, where I tutored the Essentials Class (MUCH less demanding than Challenge).  These two did a blend of Tapestry and CC.  Once CC was over in the spring, I switched them to full Tapestry and I LOVED what I saw.  It all came together.  We could have great family discussions since we were all on the same page in history.  My 5th grader literally devoured all of the reading.  She read everything on the Upper Grammar list plus the books on her brother's Lower Grammar list.  In addition my 13 year old reluctant reader even found some books that he devoured.  And after the first 6 weeks of Miss A wishing she was in CC, she began to see the reason Tapestry is such a great curriculum.  For once in her life, she had time to actually digest the literature.  Tapestry is a 36 week curriculum and CC is a 30 week curriculum.  For a student with severe dyslexia those 6 weeks are HUGE.  She had a true history course, rather than a debate strand.  I switched her to Math U See and she was able to finally progress in math.  We hired a tutor for science and writing instruction was well thought out and improved her writing more in one year than the improvement I had seen in 3 years of CC.

So what are my plans for 2015-2016?  Tapestry of Grace for everyone and I am in the process of beginning a co-op.  As of this week, we have 30 children signed up.  We are looking for a facility because we have outgrown my house where we met last year.  Teachers are all in place.  Curriculum is all bought and we are all working on getting the first 9 weeks planned together to lighten our load by working together.  It is an exciting time, but also busy.  Still it isn't as busy as before.  I just can't tell you how much easier life is when you sleep uninterrupted for days at a time.  They are little still, so I still have at least 1-2 nights a week where duty calls and someone has a bad dream or wets a bed.

So below, I will outline a few of the major benefits of Tapestry that made me choose it over other classical curriculums available to homeschoolers.

Literature- uses great books, alternate books list allows for choices if you have already read the selected text, thorough literary analysis, weekly recitation/read aloud practice, philosophy work ties into literature as you see how philosophy affected types of literature written, nice mix of poetry, drama, prose, novellas, novels, etc,  SCRIPTED socratic discussions, Scripted! with page numbers in the text to back up the literary analysis so you can easily show the student how to find the answers, organized weekly evaluations and student activity pages you can print out or buy.  Did I mention scripted?  Meaning, if I am sick any other parent can fill in for me with ease.

History/Geography- Uses college level texts along with living books, included map work and government to tie it all together into a complete social studies program, student activity pages and maps, writing assignments are aligned with history content each week, scripted socratic discussions, weekly evaluations, 4 year history cycle and more.  (can you tell that I was the literature teacher and my friend taught the history?  I'm sure she could expand it even more!)

Writing Aids- Writing is wonderful.  My kids have been IEW kids for years now.  I love IEW, but I am so happy to have instruction for more variety in our writing.  The writing covers all types of writing from essays to debates to powerpoint presentations.  Each writing type has a rubric.  You just print it out at the beginning so that the student can see their expectations.  It includes lesson plans for grades 1-12.  Writing is aligned with history so they write each week about history.  In addition there are 4 classical literature papers to write in the rhetoric level.

Arts/Activities- Someone else has already searched pinterest and listed tons of crafts and activities for my kids.  I only have to look at the list and choose one or two each week.  In the older ages arts/activities is a fine arts credit, studying art of that time period.  Everything is aligned with the history as it is your spine.

Worldview- From studying missionaries to current trends in philosophy there is so much richness here.  In order to streamline even more, I just choose one level and do the worldview as a read aloud.  The older kids have their own books for their fine arts, but they still sit in on the younger world view read aloud.

Others: This post is not even doing justice to all that is included in the Tapestry curriculum.  It also includes a timeline, vocabulary, people, lapbooks, weekly audio CD's, and unit celebrations.  The teacher notes are thorough and don't require any extra research.  All you need to teach is in the guide. The other great thing is that I can still implement a lot of the things I love about the Charlotte Mason method.  I add in a little tiny bit from the Ambleside Online curriculum for my kids, especially the citizenship and science/nature study readings.

Price: A curriculum that includes all of this must be expensive, right?  Well it isn't cheap, but it isn't anywhere near what I paid for CC.  I look at it this way, I am spending most of my school budget on books instead of paying tutors.  I don't need a tutor with the thorough teacher notes and because they are so great, it is so easy to get together with a family or two to have your own tapestry co-op.  I also look at it as an investment.  Once I purchase all 4 years, I will then rotate it with the other kids and there is very little to purchase at that point, since I will own all of the books.  Last year, I spent about the same on curriculum and books as I would spend on ONE student in the CC Challenge program or 2 kids in Foundations and 1 in Essentials, which is what I did last year.  The difference, of course is that I was able to teach ALL of my kids for what I had previously paid to teach ONE student.  Also, I am able to purchase books one unit at a time and that spreads out the expense over the year instead of needing all the funds on one day of the year.

If you want to know more about this curriculum, check out this page of the website.  It has a great discussion of all that this curriculum is in short videos.  I'm currently working toward being a Tapestry Advisor and I will post my advisor code once I complete that training.
Explore Tapestry

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Patriotic Breakfast

Need a quick breakfast with unprocessed food?  Want it to be colorful and patriotic too?  How about healthy?  Here is an answer to those breakfast needs...  I'm sure it isn't unique to me, but it is what I had on hand for a quick and easy breakfast.

The Red, White, and Blue Parfait

In a half pint mason jar, layer....

a dollop of plain greek yogurt
cut up red strawberries
a smidge of maple syrup or honey
another dollop of plain greek yogurt
a bit of chopped, fresh banana
another smidge of honey or maple syrup
last dollop of plain greek yogurt
topped with blueberries or blackberries 
and drizzle on a little more maple syrup or honey

You can vary the layers with other treats like chopped crispy nuts or crunchy granola.  My little A kept digging out her strawberries and Little C was quizzing me on how many seeds a blackberry has.... so it is an entertaining breakfast as well.  I served it with a slice of whole grain toast and a glass of milk.

Friday, June 12, 2015

A simple menu plan for a busy season

We just arrived home from the full week at the Texas 4-H Roundup and now are moving into another busy week.  It is the week of the 4-H Recordbook.  I have 3 kids working on recordbooks and did not need any sort of complicated meals.  This is my plan.  It is both frugal and simple.

Breakfast- instant oatmeal
Lunch- sandwiches, chips, fruit
Dinner- spaghetti with meat sauce, rosemary garlic bread, salad from the garden, green beans

Breakfast:Eggs, Sausage, Toast
Lunch: 7 layer Tostadas, rice, fruit coctail
Dinner: Taco Soup in the crockpot, tortillas, shredded cheese, sour cream, and avocado

Breakfast:Boxed Cereal with milk (no judging...it's hard enough to get to church)
Lunch: Roast Beef with carrots, potatoes, green beans, and bread
Dinner: Leftovers

Breakfast: Oatmeal with butter, sausages
Lunch: Easy Chicken Pot Pie
Dinner: Ham and Scallop Potatoes

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs on tortillas
Lunch: Salmon Patty, peas, raw veggies and ranch
Dinner: Beef and Barley Soup, Bread in bread machine

Lunch:Grilled Chicken on Caesar Salad (buy the kit and add grilled chicken)
Dinner: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, squash from the garden

Breakfast:Scones and eggs
Lunch: Grilled Cheese and Vegetable Soup (from Sue Gregg's lunch book)
Dinner: Sloppy Joes, chips, apple slices

Breakfast: Breakfast tacos
Lunch: Pizza and salad
Dinner: Eating out

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Learning those pesky math facts

  So here is a "Day in the Life" kind of story.  Imagine if you will 3 of my 5 kids with dry erase boards and dice ready to play the game SNAKE.  At the time of this event my children are:  Miss A - age 16, Mr. C- age 12, Miss J- age 10, Baby A- 15 months.  Buddy C is at his grandmother's house.  We start the Snake game and Baby A is in charge of throwing the dice.  In fact she is sitting on the counter.  In my world, it isn't great to sit on counters, but it is infinitely better than her being on the loose to play in toilets and draw on herself or eat cat food.  Not that she has every done ANY of those things.  Miss A begins with a typical teen comment of "this is stupid" (translate that into, I have Chemistry and other subjects to do that take hours, why do I have to play math games?)  Mr. C is fiercely competitive.  He shouts at the top of his lungs every time he scores points.  He also throws things and stomps when he loses points, which delays the game as I correct these attitudes.   I really can't imagine where my kids get their competitive nature. (Hint: it ain't me, but it might be Daddy C).  So as a bonus, this math game has character training too!  SWEET!  Who doesn't need more character???   Miss J is just thrilled that EVERYONE is playing her game with her and totally oblivious that to a stranger our "day in the life" looks a lot like chaos. 

   As the game progresses, Baby A gets a bit wild with the dice and it turns into part search for the missing dice and part all three running to make sure the dice finder doesn't tell a fib and call SNAKE EYES.  ;-)  I could have videoed this, but I will be honest.  I don't need that kind of evidence to prove my real mom skills.  It's enough that I write it down.  Maybe I should reconsider "sharing" so much.  If you are super organized, then just this image of baby on the counter is enough to mortify you.  However, if you are a mom with 5 or so kids (who happens not to be Type A) and you are struggling to fit it all in each day, then this may encourage you. (There is a house even more crazy than mine!)  You may never have considered having a toddler throw dice in order to add excitement to the game (keeping them out of the potty and eating cat food is just another BONUS).  The kids are learning their multiplication facts and the older kids are learning things like the squares and cubes.  For example, if I roll the dice, Miss J will add or multiply, but Miss A will have to find the square or cube of just one die.  It's my attempt at the one room school house.  In the end, all of the kids are having fun.  Good review and preview has been had by all.  Now if I keep this up, I'm hoping the last two will just know those facts cold by about 1st or 2nd grade from simply hearing them said aloud so many times every single week.  I'll have to let you know how that turns out.  It might just be wishful thinking.  Either way, below I have linked my favorite resources for family math  games.  I can't say enough how much kids LOVE the buzzers.  Beware though, they will drive you insane, so you may want to also purchase a lock box to store them in between games.  Have fun with your kids playing games and learning math facts.  

Mrs. P 


Monday, December 1, 2014

Simply Classical Advent

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
Isaiah 11:1-2
     Advent has come.  Last night my family and another family lit the first candle of HOPE and read the verses above.  My older children explained the advent candles to the visiting family.  My youngest smiled and listened carefully too.  The classical model was playing out in my humble kitchen.  My kitchen, with floors and windows in need of a mopping and shining was a classroom.  My kitchen table, that was too small for everyone to sit down was a classroom.  My kitchen, filled with warmth and love and hot chocolate, was a classroom.  Leigh Bortins says in training for CC, all you need is a stick and sand to teach.  It is so true with the classical model.  This is probably the 6th or so year that we have celebrated Christmas with the Advent candles and the Jesse Tree, so my oldest are familiar with the 4 candles lit for 4 Sundays before Christmas and my paper ornaments that I downloaded from Ann Voskamp's website years ago.  They know that the Jesse tree always starts with the creation of the world and reading of the root of Jesse.  Just like in our memorizing of the timeline in Foundations classes, we visit the Jesse tree each year and each year my kids become more dialectic and rhetorical about Christmas through the simple daily activities.  We hang up the ornaments, read the short devotional and they hear and learn the timeline of Jesus.  I love to see the 4-6 year old group take an ornament and tell a younger sibling about it.  I love seeing the one room school house even when some of the children are too little to sit still and listen, others want to boss everyone else, and others might think they are too old.  In reality, it is just those times that the one room school house works.  The too littles are gleaning more than you know, the bossys are practicing review work and grappling with being dialectic while teaching everyone else the "right" way to tell the Jesse tree story.  Even the bigs that think they might be too big?  They get in on the review in a dialectic and/or rhetorical level as they are sure to jump in and correct a bossy, or explain it once again to a too little in words or actions that they can understand. 

       It is the same way with our Foundations and Essentials work.  As a family, we all work through the weekly memory work.  There are too bigs, too littles, and bossys in every home.  Even an only child can exhibit all of those personalities and sometimes, all in one day.  When you think that this thing called home school isn't working, remind yourself that it is working exactly as it should. When I directed Challenge, I had a saying that it was a safe place for messy conversations.  Our home school is a safe place for the students to work through the memory work from the grammar stage to the rhetorical stage.  We see them daily go from grammar level to dialect and back to grammar as they take the information and make it their own.  Some days we are proud of our school day and how it went off without a hitch.  Other days we want to crawl back in bed wondering what were we thinking.  It is likely that on those days, the messy days, that our students are gaining the most with their learning as they wrestle and make the learning their own.  We are just providing the information and the place for learning.  We can trust that we are bearing fruit in our schools, because of the Branch that first bore fruit and guides us in our homes.  

Many blessings in your home school or after school because we all home school to some extent, even if it's only in the after hours when we help with with their home work.  Moms and Dads at home make all of the difference in the world in the lives of their children.

Mrs. P