Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What Homeschooling Has Taught Me

After reading a blog-friend's post about what she has learned through homeschooling, I thought I would make a similar post as well.  (thanks Nancy!)

Here's just a partial list of what I've learned as a homeschooling mom:
  • Kids do not have to be surrounded all day by 25 imperfect kids their same age to learn how to behave socially (in fact, the very opposite is true)
  • Doing what God has called me to do gives me great peace, even when it's particularly challenging or difficult
  • Children can live a full and well-rounded life even if they're not involved in every activity and sports opportunity that comes along
  • History can be fun!  It doesn't have to be boring. I now love History.
  • Swimming against the flow of a typical American life may be difficult, but the hard work has had more blessings than we expected and has been worth every minute
  • A "good education" is not defined by getting good grades and passing tests
  • Siblings can actually enjoy being with each other, instead of just tolerating each other
  • Kids really can learn a lot in just a couple hours a day
  • Playing with Legos is educational
  • Having the freedom to teach and learn in the way that works for us results in a happy mom and happy students because we don't have to fit into a state-mandated "box"
  • There is no ONE perfect curriculum, no matter how hard or long you look! (I've tried!)
Homeschooling is so much more than a school alternative. It's a way of life.  I don't think our family would be who are without homeschooling. God has blessed us!
* I'm not in any way claiming that homeschooling is the only good schooling option for everybody.  I'm just sharing what that choice has meant to our family.  :)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Making Maple Syrup

A friend of ours who's "yard" is about an acre and mostly wooded invited us over to see how maple syrup is made.  She comes from a long line of maple syrup makers; her Dad's family up in Michigan's U.P. makes and sells it as a business.  Her dad comes down each spring to help her with their trees and he gave us a great maple syrup lesson.

Only certain types of maples are used for good quality syrup.  I bought some real Michigan maple syrup in the store last year, only to find it very dark and bitter tasting.  I was wondering what all the hype was; it tasted awful!  Now I know that sap from less desirable types of maple trees, and sap that is collected late in the season, will be darker and not very sweet.  Sap that sits too long before being boiled can also turn bitter.  That type of syrup should be marked as B Grade, but mine didn't specify that.  So, don't buy really dark or B Grade maple syrup!

Okay, first the trees are tapped to obtain the sap.  Did you know that sap is clear? It tastes like lightly sweetened water.  I always thought it was brown!  It takes 40 gallons of sap to make just 1 gallon of syrup!  Sap flow is the highest after a hard freeze, after which nights are below freezing and days are sunny and in the 40's.  Sap flow only lasts for 3 to 4 weeks.  So the right temperatures at the right time highly affect how much syrup can be made each year.

Next, the buckets of sap from the tree are poured into larger containers until it's ready to be boiled.

Finally, the sap is boiled for a few hours until it is reduced down to the brown, thicker liquid known as maple syrup.  That's it!  Our friend boils it in a huge, rectangular stainless steel "pot" over a wood fire outside.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Messed Up Title Box

**  Fixed!!  And grateful that my 14-almost-15 year old son could help me figure out how to put a newly designed title in the new header!! Thanks Noah!

Well . . .  I changed to a new spring background yesterday, and a new title box (called the header), which were free from thecutestblogontheblock.com.  But now I can't get the Blog Title to center in the middle of the Header.

Looks like I still have some spring cleaning to complete on my blog, so please ignore the odd-looking Title Box until I figure out how to fix it!  

And if you happen to know how to help me, please comment!  thanks.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick - Missionary to Ireland

Okay, another history lesson!

I never really knew the background of St. Patrick's Day.  I thought it was just a secular, Irish holiday, when you're supposed to wear green.  But there's much more depth to this holiday.

Patrick was born as Maewyn Succat in England in 389 to Christian parents with a strong faith.  Patrick though didn't have any interest in Christianity and was known to instead wander around with his friends, looking for adventure.  One day, at the age of 16, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates.

He was sold into slavery in Ireland.  During his first year as a slave, he began to consider God and the faith of his parents.  Patrick later wrote that the Lord opened his eyes to his sin and youthful ignorance, and he converted wholeheartedly to God.  After six years of bondage, he escaped and returned home to England. 

About 27 years later, after being trained as a minister in France and taking the name of Patrick, he returned to Ireland.  He felt led to return to the country where he had once been held captive.  He ministered and preached the gospel in Ireland for 30 years, with compassion for the Irish people who were mostly pagan and superstitious.  Because of his 6 years as a slave, he understood the Irish people and culture, and was well-liked by many and effective as a missionary.

Patrick used the three-leaf clover (shamrock) as a symbol of the Trinity.  He performed miracles, started at least 300 churches and baptized about 120,000 people.  It's unknown when he actually became known as "Saint" Patrick, but regardless, he had a huge impact upon the history of Christianity in Ireland.

He died on March 17, 461; after which the Irish celebrated his life every year on March 17th.

* Most of my information came from our homeschool history book "The Mystery of History".  There are some differing stories about history of Saint Patrick, including the exact year he was born and died.

SPRING ! ! !

I can't believe that just 2 weeks ago we still had several inches of packed snow on the ground, which took a week of temps in the upper 40's and then a couple days of rain for the snow to disapear.  Now that we've reached the 50's for a few days, it's finally feeling like spring.

Everything is waking up and coming out of hiding.  People are out taking walks, it's staying light out later, birds are chirping happily, bikes and scooters have emerged from the depths of the storage shed, and our cats have been allowed out again.  They're having a blast exploring again.

I love how spring makes everything seem new.  It makes me feel victorious for making it through another long winter.  The gray, dark, cloudy winter days make the bright spring days seem that much brighter!  The darkness has gone, the sun is shining; time for a new season and new possibilities!  (and a new blog background!)

Happy Spring!

Friday, March 12, 2010

From a 6 Year Old's Point of View

Although Aaron, at 6 years old, can certainly try my patience and sometimes irritate every cell in my body, he can also be hilarious and make me laugh.  A few humorous things he's said or done recently . . .

Tuesday night while watching a little bit of American Idol with me, I asked Aaron "do you think you could do that?"  (meaning sing in a competition like AI.)  He replied, "Yea, but I can't go right now, my knee hurts!"  (he actually does have some signs of a good singing voice.)

Aaron has a bad habit lately of hugging Isaac too hard in a way that resembles tackling more than hugging, which bothers Isaac, understandably!   One day after Isaac not-very-gently pushed Aaron away after repeatedly asking him to stop "hugging" him, Aaron got mad and yelled "You just lost a LOT of love!" with his arms stretched out wide to represent just how much love!

Last Saturday we had a great time with our homeschool group, enjoying our own version of Winter Olympics.  One of the competitions was snow ball making.  The Gold went to the person with the biggest snow ball after one minute.  Aaron was so proud of his that he carried it around in his arms for a few minutes and then, after posing for a picture, told me "let's go put this in the van now, to take home!" 

I love the innocence of youth, and how small things are so important.  Wish I could have some of that back sometimes.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Swedish Pancakes

I'm trying to reduce the number of mornings that my boys eat cold cereal for breakfast.  In addition to oatmeal, toast, and french toast, our favorite is Swedish Pancakes.  They're much thinner than regular pancakes, with more egg and less flour, raising the protein content and lowering the carbohydrate content.  I think they're somewhat similar to crepes, but I've never made crepes so I'm not sure.  Give these a try - I think you'll love them!

Swedish Pancakes
3 eggs
3/4 c. flour
1 1/4 c. milk
2 Tb. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

In a bowl, whisk eggs, then mix in flour and blend until smooth.
Whisk in milk, sugar and salt; mix until smooth.

Melt butter in a medium-sized skillet over med-high heat.
Pour batter in a very thin layer, tilting pan to spread the batter out to the edges.
Turn over when top starts to look "dry" and bottom is lightly browned (about 2 minutes), then cook second side until lightly brown.
Roll the pancake over a few times and transfer to a plate.
Serve with choice of toppings (syrup, fruit, powdered sugar).  Our favorite is butter and blueberry syrup.

(makes about 8 seven-inch pancakes)


*This recipe also works just as well with a gluten-free flour mix or dairy substitutes.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow . . .

It's still winter here in Michigan, and will be for a few more weeks.  I'm getting a little tired of the snow, which has been on the ground for 3 month straight now.  I'm looking forward to being able to just wander outside, without putting on boots and coats, searching for mittens and snow pants.  But the boys have just recently started being more adventurous outside - partly due to the fact that the temps have been milder, in the 30's, but also probably due to my insisting that they go out to play, or they don't get computer time!  That seems to be working!

Last week we had snow every day - just an inch or so each day - but a continuous fresh supply. 

One day, Isaac and Aaron made a little "fort", just Aaron's size:

Another day, the snow was perfect for packing, and looked so pretty falling down lazily and gently:

And another day, burying each other was the order of the day:

Even our milk farm cows don't seem to mind the snow.  They just eat and stand around, as calmly as always, seemingly without a care in the world.

Spring, please show up soon!!