Friday, 28 November 2008

Days at home at home with kids

I love getting a day at home at this time of year. Yesterday we had the whole day at home and it was lovely. It wasn't just a regular quiet kind of day at home - there were "Big Doings" going on. We all had something we were working on and some of those things were secret too. Closed doors now mean knock and wait for permission before entering. I have been finding little notes here and there throughout the house - Santa's coming, Only 28 days left, and other such things. One note was taped onto my sewing machine yesterday. I spied it when I went to work on another artist tote.

I love that my boys find this time of year magical. I love that they want to hide away and create gifts all on their own to give to loved ones. I love the ideas that they come up with (some of which are secret from me as well).
And I love that at the end of a day of crafting and working E can make us all dinner. Yesterday he learned how to make a roux properly. He added some "secret ingredients" to his homemade cheese sauce. With E, even a simple dinner can become "Big Doings" too...and why not? If we celebrated more of the little things of life wouldn't we just have that much more appreciation for the small stuff? Those little bits of goodness that happen throughout every day? Like kids' notes on the light switches, a game of soccer with the dog, pets and kids in the kitchen and secret ingredients in the cheese sauce. After all, life is made up of mostly small bits - our daily round - if we wait to celebrate only the big things in life then the day-to-day can become something that we take for granted.As you can see all the animals in our house like E's cheese sauce too. ;-)
Pssst - wanna know his secret ingredients? A hint of mustard, a dash of Frank's hot sauce and a scoop of Romano cheese along with the cheddar...but you didn't hear it from me. ;-)

Thursday, 20 November 2008

A fun experiment

Amanda, this is your three pounds of chocolate. How well do you trust me with it?
(I expect to see her knocking on my door within the hour) ;-)

Math resources

There was a time when I used to get a little annoyed when people would ask what curriculum we use as soon as they found out we were homelearners. I think the reason it bugged me was because I knew that they wanted to hear a list of purchased "school" books that we were using. That isn't the way that we choose to learn and so I would find myself stumbling for an answer. Did I really want to try to explain life learning/natural learning to them? Would it be easier to just tell them the name of the math program we use (the one workbook that we do purposefully buy) and leave it at that? And why were they even asking? I would never think to ask my school friends what curriculum their kids were using.

My answer to this question (after all these years) still depends on lots of things - who is asking and why I think they're asking, if they are a homelearner or not, and even what mood I am in when they ask. ;-) Most of the time my answer will simply be that we don't use a prescribed curriculum; I'll say that Life! and the library are our "curriculum". Most people know that I am a huge fan of our library system and this is the time of year when we really get into taking full advantage of all they have to offer. I thought I would share a sample of the books we are enjoying right now for part of our "math curriculum". W loved these a few years back and so now we are reading them with E.
We also like Sir Cumference books. There are so many things that I love about learning at home but I think one of the main ones is that my boys actually love learning. They don't ever think of learning as something that only happens in a particular place or at a particular time; they know that learning can happen anywhere, anytime and in many different ways and I think that is because they have come to think of Life as their "curriculum" too.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Simple and Delicious Pea Soup

This is one of my families favourite cool weather meals, and it really is simple to make.  I have altered the recipe so that there is no chopping involved (making it super simple) but it's a basic recipe that can be played with and new things added in for variety.
Pea Soup
4 cups of vegetable broth (or chicken broth if you prefer)
2 cups of water
1 cup green split peas
1 cup long grain brown rice
1 bay leaf
sprinkle of thyme, basil, chives, and parsley (or 1 tbsp each of fresh but don't add until final minutes of cooking)
little sprinkle of pepper

Put everything into a pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer (giving it the occasional stir) until rice and peas are cooked (approx 50 minutes).  Remove from heat, remove bay leaf and stir in:

2 tbsps of miso dissolved in 2 tbsps of water (but I leave this out when I don't have any miso and it still tastes great)

Some options you could try are carrots added during the last 15 minutes of cooking, or else kale/spinach/other leafy green added with the miso.


Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Start with the book...

The book I'm recommending to you today found its way into my reading list by an act of serendipity (one of my favourite ways to meet a great read!). There are times as a homeschooling parent that I wonder if I'm doing all that I can to nurture and foster a love of learning in my sons. I wonder how to broaden their understanding and at the same time have it start from their own motivation. At just such a time of inner questioning, I met this book at the library. Interestingly, the title also grabbed my husband's attention and had him enthralled with the real life experiences of a new teacher, Erin Gruwell and her students before I had the chance to get more than a couple of dozen pages into the book myself.

Teach with Your Heart is more than a story of a woman and the teenage students she was to teach. In my opinion, it is a moving and inspirational account of what can happen when you are willing to learn - which applies to the teacher every bit as much as the students in this book. Erin may have been the catalyst to reconnect the students with their dreams but she also experienced the power of what happens when you take action towards your dreams.
Once both my husband and I finished the book, we suggested it to our sons to read. Before they could get to it, we relocated. After moving, I borrowed the movie, Freedom Writers Diaries , which is based on Teach with Your Heart from the library.
The movie is well done and is an abridged version of the book. I highly recommend reading Teach With Your Heart first and then watching the Freedom Writers Diary as the book contains more details than they could include in the movie.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Back to School U neck vest is done!!

Yesterday I finally finished my back to school u neck vest from the Fitted Knits book. I wanted to look back to see how long it actually did take me and found my blog post dated Nov. 13 2007. didn't quite take a year. ;-) This has been quite a year for me - there hasn't been a lot of knitting or crafting time until recently and it was with a real sense of gratitude that I finished off this vest. I am so pleased to have time and energy to devote to handcrafting again.

Somehow it seems that all of a sudden it is November and I am realizing that I would like to get going on making gifts for our family for the upcoming holiday season. I don't want to leave everything until the last minute...I want to enjoy the process. I'll have to put my thinking cap on (or browse some blogs) to come up with some new gift ideas, my family is all stocked up on felted slippers (my favourite thing to make the last two years). I know what I am making for E thanks to Knitting Iris' post about knitted chainmail. Many people will be getting handmade shopping bags - produce bags and big shopping totes - made out of re-purposed fabric. Hmmm, I guess it is time to get going on some projects and see what other ideas we can come across.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

The Eleventh Hour

This is the time of year for my family when we have time to watch movies and documentaries. The past few weeks we have had time to watch a few different ones. Yesterday W wanted to watch Journey to the Centre of the Earth but it wasn't available at our video store so instead we all watched The 11th Hour (not quite what W had in mind for a Saturday night).

It is an interesting documentary, in some ways (O.K. in many ways) it is hard to watch because much of the film is spent explaining and showing how dire our situation is. Towards the end of the show many solutions are offered and it tries to end on a positive note. It is always interesting to hear from Paul Hawken, David Suzuki, Bill McKibben, Ray Anderson and a host of other experts.
I love the motto on the website - Consume Less, Live More - it is similar to the motto that I have had for about 13 years - Have Less, Do more (meaning do more of the fun stuff that life has to offer ).
Here is a trailer for the documentary or you can also watch the whole thing on Youtube.