Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Harry Potter Unit Study

Morgan came up and requested a unit study, which isn't a normal thing. We listen to many audio books, and he requested Harry Potter. He's only permitted to hear/read/watch the first two, but after listening to book one he wanted to know if we could do it for school. Considering it was the first time he requested a book, I told him I'd think about it. I managed to hold him off for about 2 months because he wanted a specific time as to when he was going to do this book for school. Thus began our current unit study... I found a few resources and had to brain storm the rest of it for myself. So this past week we've done a variety of different things:

  • Located England On the map
  • Read a biography about J.K. Rowling (the boys are now convinced Nana must know her)
  • we discussed bullying
  • we played a homemade contractions game
  • read about bran owls and filled out a notebooking page
  • tracked a few characters from the book
  • learned about reptiles, specifically a boa constrictor (a tad creepy)
  • located Brazil on a map and noted (visually) the distance between Brazil and England
  • Made doughnuts (seriously)
  • Made Knickbocker Glory's
  • Reviewed home address
  • we played with our teaching clock and discussed time (Morgan made the correlation of needing to count by 5's! Hooray!)
  • Math facts based on the number 36
  • We talked about turning the other cheek
  • loving one another
  • being picked on even though you're doing the right thing
  • We learned how to address a letter
  • we added up how many letters Harry received (it's over 100) via addition
  • we mapped our neighborhood
  • discussed lots of new vocabulary words and notebooked the
  • keeping a map of England and noting places mentioned on it
  • Northern and Southern Hemispheres
We also have a few crafts coming up, not to mention a bunch of fun science experiments. We'll also take advantage to learn about many of the herbs growing in the yard, start our own herb garden, and will be doing some star gazing this winter. We've not gotten very far in the book either.

Just for fun the boys made doughnuts as Harry's Uncle retrieves one for lunch. They had a lot of fun eating them. (I'll post the recipe since it's a yummy sugar-free one.)

Honey Doughnuts

We also happen to live in a house that has a cupboard under the stairs. Because, in the beginning of the book, this is Harry's bedroom, I had the boys retrieve their sleeping bags and try out the cupboard out. Jayden was all about it, but Morgan isn't fond of the cupboard. He was willing to crawl in so long as he could take his flashlight with him. (Thus the picture at the top of this post!)

Morgan, in the doorway of the closet

Jayden back in under the stairs, pretending he's asleep..

The boys had a lot of fun making Knickerbocker Glorys, which is kind of like a single serving ice cream trifle.. We used our Honey Ice Cream, homemade Raspberry jam (sweetened with stevia), whipped cream, and topped off with chocolate shavings. They were highly impressed.

Morgan's Knickerbocker Glory..

I also made the boys some recipe notebooking pages where they can take a picture of their concoction and paste it on, as well as rate the recipe with stars provided. They love coloring in the stars.. silly boys! We'll see if they enjoy eating Pumpkin Pasties as much..

Old-Fashioned Spicy Doughnuts

1 1/4 c milk

1/4 c butter

1/2 t salt

1 package yeast

1/4 c lukewarm water

about 5 cups sifted flour

1 1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 nutmeg

1/8 t mace

3/4 c honey

3 eggs

Directions: Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Scald milk add butter, honey and salt, cool to lukewarm. Add year and 2 1/2 c flour. Beat until smooth. Cover and let rise until bubbly Mix spices and add to above mixture. Add remaining flour to make a dough that can be kneaded, and knead until smooth. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. Roll out 1/2 inch thick and cut with floured doughnut cutter. Let rise on board until doubled in size. Fry in deep fat (375F) 3 minutes, or until lightly browned, first on one side, then on the other. Drain on unglazed paper. Makes about 3 dozen doughnuts.

Notes: This recipe came from a VERY VERY old cookbook. I don't use mace or nutmeg, I just add extra cinnamon or mixed spices. These are NOT sweet. As in they have a hint of sweetness, they are NOT overly sweet like a normal doughnut. We like them, we aren't use to SWEET anymore. If you want them sweeter try adding another 1/4 honey or perhaps a 1/2 t of stevia. I drain mine on a paper bag. I also freeze the dough after the final rise because this makes up a LOT. The "day old" doughnuts can be a bit tough, just zap them in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Good as new. I promise.

Breakfast Without Sugar..

One of the very hardest parts of going with no sugar is finding acceptable breakfast foods. It's not as easy as you think, check out the label on most cereals and you're going to see sugar in it. In Australia I can't purchase mini wheats (mini shredded wheats) without them being presweetened. Nor can I get Cheerios that aren't rolled in some kind of icky sugar coating. I can get big shredded wheat biscuits with no sugar, but the kids weren't as fond of them because they fell apart in their bowl. I do still let them have cornflakes, their world might end if they didn't get an occasional bowl full, but really it's very difficult to find a cereal without sugar. We did find some very yummy spelt flakes at our local health food store (#4 on the list of ones I visit) that are sweetened with grape juice instead of sugar. I was highly disappointed to see that the other cereals in their product line (corn flakes, brown rice puffs (think rice crispies with brown rice), etc.) were all sweetened with some form of sugar. Kinda made me want to go up to the counter and complain, but the women would have smiled sweetly and said what she normally says, "Oh I just love listening to your accent. I could stand here all day and listen.." Which means my rant would go over her head, and besides that she doesn't work for the company so... Truth be told it's probably best that those cereals are made with sugar because the Spelt Flakes were pricey enough!

I do buy puffed corn (no sweeteners) and puffed rice. Jayden especially loves the corn one (no surprise he's got a huge corn addiction going on right now) and thinks it tastes like popcorn and milk. Which means I gave him the long story of how Gram-Gram once let us have popcorn with milk for breakfast. He was highly grossed out, even when I confirmed that the super cool Uncle "D" indulged in it too. Oh well, probably for the best or he'd have dragged out our popper...

Anyway, back to breakfast. We tend to eat a lot of "porridge" in the winter. Also known as oatmeal or oitmeal in this house. I pour 2 cups of oatmeal, 3 cups of milk, and about a 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of stevia in the rice maker and let it set over night. (I honestly do three scoops of stevia PER cup of liquid, but the scoop is VERY tiny. I'll have to take a picture of it next to something else small so you realize just how small it is.) This is our basic oatmeal recipe. The kids love it with frozen raspberries, strawberries, blue berries. Anything goes really, except apple. Don't ask me why, but if I put apple in it then Jayden gets very distressed and won't eat it. He will, however, eat a bowl of oatmeal and then an apple?!

Another way we like it (the adults a bit more then the kids, Morgan alone is FIRMLY against this variation) is to mix up 1 cup of oats, 2 cups of milk, 1/2 t cinnamon, 1 t orange peel finely chopped (I keep orange peel in the freezer if I am just juicing the orange or if I know I need it in the near future I snag it before I cut the orange for the kids), 2 T (or more) of tart cherries or cranberries chopped, and 6 "scoops" of stevia. I let it sit overnight in my rice maker and heat it up in the morning. You could do it on the stove top.

Other good options are Jayden's favorite Muffles. I make a double batch and keep the extras in the freezer. All though, according to Jayden, heating them in the toaster is horrible, and they should only be heated in the microwave so they can be soft. Personally, I like mine crispy.. Either way, they are a good breakfast topped with fruit and syrup. Some of us like ricotta on them, then fruit and syrup (100% maple syrup!)

We also like scrambled eggs on toast with fruit. OatBran (I do 1 cup of milk to a boil, add 1/3 c oatbran, & 3 "scoops" stevia (about 1/8 teaspoon or so). When it's done we put a half teaspoon or less of butter in it and a tablespoon of syrup on top with some sliced banana. You can also eat it plain with fruit or whatever.. I think we might be on a maple syrup kick right now..) Then there's Pancakes. I use a variety of recipes (and have a new one to try that uses whole wheat flour and honey), but you could easily use any recipe and omit the small amount of sugar and use honey or stevia very easily. Jayden is a straight up Maple Syrup man. He'll revolt if we offer him anything else, so I often give him a smoothie with his pancakes. Other's (read Morgan and Lawrence) prefer theirs with jam on top and the occasional bit of whipped cream. I'm for either syrup and fruit or the ricotta, syrup and fruit.

For smoothies I tend to dump frozen berries in the blender (usually strawberries because they are what we have on hand), a banana (occasionally, as in when it's looking kinda like someone should eat it, but no one wants to and it's not enough for banana bread..), 1% milk (until it covers the fruit and then a pinch higher), yogurt (if we have some about a 1/4 c per person or so), and then stevia or honey to sweeten it. For all four of us I generally have 4 cups of berries and either 1-2 T honey (lime goes REALLY well with raspberries, lemon goes AWESOME with strawberries, but plain is just as good), or 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of stevia. If we have it I occasionally chuck in some whey powder for extra protein. Anything left over gets put in popsicle molds, and if those are full I put it in a baggie in the freezer so I can use it when popsicle molds are empty.

Then there's Morgan's favorite breakfast, Baked French Toast (of sorts!). I made up a double batch and popped it in the freezer and he ate it all, not in one go though! However, there's no photo of it because he consumed it all before I got one. Just pretend you can see it, okay? I don't recall where I got the original recipe, but it's really super simple and it was fairly easy to convert to sugar-free. It really is tasty, and it's great for saving up the scraps of bread no one will eat. I just pop those poor bits of bread (you know the ones screaming, eat me before I mold!) into the freezer and when I have enough I make it up. Or, if requested or craved we make up some with bread from the bread basket.

Baked French Toast With Apples

3 eggs
1/2 - 3/4 c milk (I use 1%)
1/4 t stevia (or less)
1 T vanilla extract
1 t cinnamon (dutch cinnamon is beautiful in this)
8 slices of whole wheat bread (I use homemade, and sometimes I use more)
2 small apples, peeled, cored, and diced
6 T all-purpose flour
2 T butter or margarine (reduced calorie is fine)
1 T honey

Directions: Mix the eggs, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and stevia in a bowl. cut the bread into cubes (I use an electric knife and it's a very quick process..) Toss the bread into the milk mixture and toss to coat. Let sit until mixture is absorbed (sometimes, depending on the size of my slices and height of my loaves, I feel the need for an extra egg or splash more milk.) Spray either 2 loaf pans, 2 8x8 pans or one 9x13 (or slightly smaller) pan with non-stick spray. (I sometimes do two smaller pans so I can freeze half of it for another week of breakfasts.) Pour the bread mixture in. Crumble the butter and flour together (I find this easiest to do in a food processor, whirling it until it resembles crumbs), then mix in honey. (Again I find it easiest with the food processor and while it's running I drizzle it in and it will clump up. If it doesn't add a teaspoon of water.) Crumble the mixture on top of the bread mixture. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

Notes: I lay foil in an 8x8 pan and put one batch in like that. Then I pop it in the freezer. When it's frozen I pull the foil to pop the whole thing out. Wrap the foil around it, drop it in a large zip bag and freeze. I pull mine out the night before (if I remember) and then can bake as normal in the morning. If it's frozen I keep foil over it and bake longer. About 5-10 minute before it's done I take the foil off.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lentil Joes

I tried a new recipe today for dinner, a very tasty sugar-free lentil recipe. It was super tasty, and since the guys all ate our traditional meaty sloppy joe recipe, I ended up putting a few servings worth in the freezer for upcoming lunches. No picture, I was busy eating it instead!

Sloppy Lentils
(you could use beef in place of lentils)

2 cans of lentils (or you could use dry, but canned are quicker, and I had them on hand)
1 medium sized onion (about a half cup), diced (I used my "magic chopper" thingie)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
6 oz tomato paste
1/2 c ketchup (you can use bottled, but you'd have to read the label to know if it has sugar)
2 T bbq sauce (read label for sugar content..)
1 t mustard powder
1/2 t chili powder (or to taste, I was hoping the zing would be down enough to lure my kids in, but this was to zippy for them)
2 T molasses
1 T honey
1.5 t Worcestershire sauce
1/2 - 1 c corn kernels (I used canned ones)

Directions: Using either non-stick spray or 1 T olive oil spray a non-stick skillet and saute the onions & garlic until they are soft and translucent. Add tomato paste, ketchup, bbq sauce, spices, molasses, honey, worcestershire sauce, and some salt & pepper to taste. Mix well. Add lentils and corn, mix well and let simmer until heated through.

Notes: I drain and rinse my lentils, and I simply drain my corn. This was a nice and thick sauce. and I ate it on a roll like you would a normal Sloppy Joe. The sauce would be super tasty on meat as well, but I was more then happy to eat it on lentils. (I used regular brown lentils.)

I thought they were outstandingly delicious! Lawrence was busy making regular Sloppy Joes (yes, seriously, and no the kitchen did NOT catch fire!) and he tried my recipe because I swore he wouldn't notice the lentils. He agreed and said that considering there was no meat in it they were good.

HomeSchool Library Builder

We are a book loving family. We frequent too many library branches to disclose publicly for fear of making you all pass out! In fact, it's pretty much guaranteed that our library will never ever close because we keep the circulation numbers up, very up. So high up, that our 15 card limit is often maxed, and exceeded, thanks to the wonderful librarians in many of our library branches. Our librarians know us by name and face, and some have memorized our library card numbers just like I have. Yes, yes laugh all you want, but I know my library card number by heart. It comes in very handy too! It's far easier to just type in that number when I put books on hold and in wishlists then having to go retrieve the card all the time. My kids cherish their library cards as if they are gold. In fact if they act up in the library I can simply say, "Right, I'll just take your card away for a week." That pretty much whips them back into shape with plenty of please to "Please don't!"

We love books so much I've always said we need to live in one of those houses that has a room made for a home library. You know with those fancy pants ladders that you can swing around the whole room. Yes, my husband thinks that may be going a tad over the edge in house hunting, but one can dream right?

The point is, we love books. We can't get enough of them. I scan places like ebay, amazon (including the used section), half.com, ebay australia, Amazon Uk, FishPond, and of course Homeschool Library Builder. All of these places are terrific for finding good books. There are other sources, such as Albris and Abebooks. Or just popping into your local used book shop, Goodwill (I don't have one of those), City Mission, Vinnies, Red Cross, etc. You're getting the point now, right?

However, one of the best sources is most certainly Homeschool Library Builder. They have awesome sales, and if you register over at their website they'll send you frequent emails telling you of their sales. Nearly everything I've ever purchased from them came from the $1 and $2 bins. Quite often they have "bin" sales ranging in price from $1 - $5. The only thing better then used books is getting them on sale!

They only ship, as far as I can tell, to the US. However, their shipping is quick and CHEAP. They used media mail, but within days of informing me that my books have shipped I'm also informed that the books have reached their destination. You can't beat quick and cheap shipping in this day and age!

Right now Homeschool Library Builder is currently running one of their great Bin Specials. You'll have to hurry though because it's only good until March 31st!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Menu Planning

It was menu planning time around here again, and my gang can be a tiny bit boring about their food. They find comfort in eating many of the same dishes. This means that often times we have one or two new meals with lots of regulars rotated around. I usually have one week to prepare the menu, do the shopping, and get it all in the freezer. Sounds simple, I know. Only, in that week I have to make a months worth of school plans, make library runs, and find time to catch my breath before we jump into another three weeks of school. My plan has always been to print them out and just grab one of three or four menus, which is what we do, but I tend to copy it over by hand on another boring blank piece of paper. I went hunting for some menu planning sheets, which are out there, but they were pretty boring too. I rather like color and country and all that hoopla so I was hoping for something a bit more exciting. I wasn't that lucky.

I decided to make my own using some fun graphics from over at PcCrafter. (They sell some amazing graphics over there! My wish list is usually pretty full of great little things. Keep an eye out for "Free Project Ideas" over there as well.) I also used Creating Keepsake's Scrapbooking program to make them. (Which, despite the bad reviews at Amazon is very easy to use, and the only downside to it would be that you have to run it in Windows..)

Here are the results:

Menu 1, you can print the pdf form here if you want.

yes I know mine at the top all ready filled out says 1 even though I used 2..
Menu 2, You can print a copy here if you want.

Menu Plan 3, you can print it here if you want.

Yes, I'm crazy, but I'm quite happy with our menu now hanging on the fridge. I won't bother trying to hide it with the kids art work anymore... Quick note, it's a rather large PDF file to open, so it may take a minute. The same link works for all 3 menu plans.

Olga Da Polga

Have you met Olga? She's a very funny little guinea pig who captured our hearts a year or so ago when we spent a very rainy wintery week house hunting and listening to her very first adventures. We found on cd at our local library and popped it in right away. Morgan has been a guinea pig freak for some time, and I was delighted to find a book with stories about one for him.
Olga is a huge story teller, and the book opens with her telling a big amusing story to all the other guinea pigs at the local pet store before she is swept away by Mr Sawdust and joins the rest of the Sawdust family. She quickly becomes friends with Fangio, Graham, & Noel. All of which she meets in a semi accidental way.
We learn through some very funny stories why guinea pigs don't have tales, why rosetta guinea pigs have rosettes (my personal favorite piggie cause they don't shed and it doesn't bug my allergies!), and that guinea pigs can't swim. We laughed so much with Olga, and I'll admit there's a rather sad chapter for young listeners, and I will not tell you how it ends or it may spoil the surprise. I will say that for days, weeks, months, and even now, a year later, we still retell the stories of Olga Da Polga.

The boys loved the story so much that not only did the debate renaming our own little piggies at the time, that they begged to go to the library so we could find more. Our library has many copies of the books (one we recently purchased in their sale), but only one audio. It mattered not to the kids, we simply checked out the paperback copies and took them home to read. They were very delighted when the girl at the counter exclaimed, "Olga! Oh I love Olga, my mum use to read Olga to me when I was a little girl. The stories are so good, and funny..." They agreed with her, and it was a cute conversation that followed.

So, when we finished up yet another read-aloud the boys demanded (seriously) that I read Olga Da Polga next. As it turns out we own the second book in the series entitled Olga Meets Her Match. It's another funny story all about Olga and a "Russian" guinea pig named Boris. Olga truly does meet her match in story telling when it comes to Boris! We are truly enjoying the book, yet again.

Funnily enough, after discovering the Peanut is a boy (the name no longer seems as fitting for some odd reasno), I've found myself referring to Peanut as Boris. I peeled an apple and asked the kids to give Boris the peeling. They laughed and said, "Can Olga have some too!" Lucky for us, as long as we have fresh fruits and veggies in our hands our piggies aren't too picky what we call them.

There are many books in the Olga Da Polga series, and I'd love to treat Morgan to the set for Christmas. The problem is the books were written in 1975 and are a bit harder to come by these days, at least the entire collection. We will have to see what we can find here and there.

If you haven't enjoyed a good dose of Olga Da Polga, you are REALLY missing out. We love listening to audio books in the car, and we've started reading a chapter book (one chapter each night) to the kids before bedtime. They've fallen in love with Nim (the book is just as good, if not better then the movie) and Plop, and now they are back to Olga. Olga is one of those books where you can read it a million times and still laugh each time. She's a great old friend, and we truly enjoy her wild imagination.

Audible Kids has Olga Meets Her Match up for grabs to listen to. It's very worth it. You can also check out the other books in the series here. (You'll have to scroll to the bottom for the Olga info..)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Meet Peanut

Meet Peanut. Peanut is a guinea pig. Peanut is suppose to be Cookie's Friend. Cookie bit Peanut. Peanut cried. Peanut's owners felt bad for Peanut and scolded Cookie. Cookie got cranky. She snubbed her owners and wouldn't come out of her box even for a lettuce leaf. She stole the lettuce leaf and ran back into her box. Peanut went back to Cookie. Peanut sniffed Cookie. Cookie bit Peanut. Owners checked Peanut, Peanut is not a girl. Peanut is a boy. Naughty, owners. Naughty staff who said he was a girl. Naughty wildlife park. Sad owners. Happy Peanut as he dances and sings for Cookie. Cookie laughs and hides.

Seriously, this is a joke, right? No. Sadly, it's not. We noticed over the past week that Cookie took a firm dislike to Peanut. We thought this was odd, but not abnormal. You see, Cookie use to be on the bottom of the totem pole until the unfortunate, and undisclosed, departure of her mother and her mother's friend (we've always called her Cookie's Aunt. Not that it matters, so back to the point at hand..)

Cookie was now at the top of the totem pole, and she didn't hesitate for one second to let Peanut know where "she" stood. Because Cookie has been surrounded by guinea pigs and people from the moment she was born (Easter Morning 2008, when, in fact I strongly mistook her and her brother as two cookies laying in the bottom of the cage and nearly told two unfortunate little boys off for giving guinea pigs said cookies, but again this isn't part of the story I'm trying to tell!)

So here we were at an animal wildlife park who seemed to have an unusual outcry of guinea pigs, and we had a guinea pig who needed a friend badly. The wildlife park was all to happy to help us explaining all the needs and requirements of a guinea pig. After we explained that yes our piggies get veggies everyday, they get dry food, they get hay, they go outside, they come inside, etc. They acknowledged that we did need a younger female so as not to cause problems.

They had none on site at the park. Okay, fine, we were willing to come back if they had more, which i was pretty sure they would because one looked VERY pregnant. It turns out that the lady who cares for them had some at her home, and she brought up a girl. Or so she thought.

February passed with little incident, other then odd behaviors of our pig. The new big tended to scrounge around and eat off the ground rather then eat our of the bowl. Peanut was also far more hesitant to eat from our hands, all though can eventually be won over, especially now. The oddest behavior that we noticed was the total panic Peanut would go into if not next to Cookie. We presumed they were just best buds.

Along came March. Peanut has grown, the name Peanut may not be entirely fitting once full grown. We noticed Cookie becoming distant to Peanut. Not permitting Peanut in the guinea pig house. Giving out nibbles, for what seemed no reason at all. We opted to buy another piggie house and throw make their one house super big. Cookie, pig that she is, took the whole house for herself and peanut was left out. We split the house up and made two.

Cookie went a step farther and started growling, smashing her teeth together, and chasing Peanut. Now, that's a full fledged, "I'm going to get you!" guinea pig war. I'm much more into the docile ways of nose wars, where one pig raises it's nose and the other does so as well until one nose is at the top and that piggie is leader of the pack. Those kind of fights are amusing and funny to those of us who aren't trying to be "top nose".

When we saw how relentless Cookie was being we instantly separated the pigs by throwing a set of grids down the center of their cage. Which is when common sense took over and snatched up Peanut and flipped the poor unsuspecting pig upside down to check private areas of the poor things body. I sat there with my jaw open convinced it was a male. How could I be dubbed?

How could a women who understand the needs of her "g. pigs" as she called them get something so important wrong?! Then I said, out loud this time, "You know, I could be wrong." No one truly paid attention to what I was saying, after all who listens to a women in dire need of a shower holding a guinea pig, who was squealing with annoyance, upside down while inspecting his nether regions? No one in their right mind, that's who!

Most people would think, "My word save the pig and lock that women up!" My children, on the other hand, would giggle, point at me and say, "Gee Mom you stink!" My husband, who was most likely snoring away, would have assured them that I didn't stink without considering the fact that I'd yet to bathe for the day. I'm getting off track again though..

The point was, I wasn't sold on his boyishness. I was pretty sold, but when our pig had babies last time I'd rightfully suspect one boy and one girl. I'd even pinned them down properly, but then doubting myself I thought perhaps they were both boys. So there I was in the middle of the emptiest living room you'll ever see holding a squealing guinea pig, when I decide more research is needed.

I look up more guinea pig pages for pictures of telling the difference between boy and girl. I wait a few days. I lament over how I'm probably worrying for nothing. My kids complain that the guinea pig cage needs cleaning and I'm thinking, "Right, but I have to figure this out first.." All while getting pouty eyes from Peanut at his new demise and frightfully gleeful looks at Cookie as she is lounging about in her house and poking her tongue out at Peanut from her side of the grids.

So today I buck it up and clean the cage, this is our normal cage cleaning day anyway. I let the kids play with the pigs. I notice how the pigs behave while on the floor. I put them in the cage and notice how they sniff each other. It dawns on me as Peanut sings that it is he who's been singing the same song Oreo use to sing to the girls. So I rip him up out of the cage (gently of course) flip him over and low and behold, he's 100% boy.

I return him to his cage where he gives me pouty eyes and Cookie prances around with that, "FINALLY!" look in her eyes. What to I do? Pray with everything I've got that I don't wake up on Mother's Day to pups in the cage. All I can say is that if I do, I promise not to think my children have given them bits of chocolate this time.. For now, I think I may give that wildlife park a strong lecture...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Whole Wheat Bread

Sunday afternoons is normally bread baking day. We go through too much bread. Seriously. So finding a recipe that made three loaves at once is great, except I can't make it in my nifty breadmaker. It's worth it though, because I've yet to find a good recipe here for making nice 100% whole wheat bread. Don't get me wrong, we've found some great recipes. We really liked this one, but it goes stale too quickly. On the upside it requires no kneading. On the downside it's texture is icky when it gets moist, which means french toast is kinda out. I also tried this one, but found the recipe too heavy, and the loaf was too small to be able to last us more then a few hours. I've also used a whole wheat (known as wholemeal here) bread mix where all I had to add was water and yeast. It's flavor was pretty bland, and again, it was rather heavy. Last, but not least, I stumbled upon this recipe. I really like it, but I wanted my loaf to be 100% whole wheat/meal.

Simply changing the recipe to be 100% whole wheat wasn't working because the bread wasn't rising high enough, which annoyed me, greatly. I played around and made a few changes, and am pretty happy with it. I'd still like to see it rise a bit more, but my loaves aren't flat and they last us about a week (sometimes less depending on if we have sandwiches or not through the week), so I can't complain too much! Here's the modified recipe:

100% Whole Wheat Bread

mix together:
4 c whole wheat flour
2 c whole wheat bread flour
1 c oat bran
1 c wheat bran
3/4 c gluten
2.5 T yeast

5 cups milk

2 T oil (or butter)
1/3 c of honey

make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet in. Mix well.

4 c wholewheat bread flour

mix well, you may need to dump it on the counter to knead it in. Once fully incorporated knead for 7 minutes. It's well worth the effort! Leave the dough on the counter and cover with the bowl. Let rest for 20 minutes. Then,

1.5 T salt

Knead well. Dough may "sweat" and separate a bit, but it will all go back together and make a nice round ball once all the salt is incorporated. Continue to knead for another 7 minutes. Your arms will get a great workout doing this, I promise!

Grease your mixing bowl well, and plop the dough in. Cover with a wet towel. Let rise until doubled in size, this takes about an hour. Plop on the counter and cut into three equal portions (I weigh mine to be sure I've got them reasonably even). Shape into loaves and put in greased bread pan. Let rise, covered, until doubled in size. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Turn out onto a cooling rack.

Notes: I get my whole meal/wheat bread flour from a local health food store. I found that 2 tablespoons of salt was just too much for us. It was a highly salty bread and we didn't like it. I add extra gluten because wheat bread isn't as glutenous as white bread, this encourages it to rise more. I upped the yeast content because of using pure wheat flour. I use oil instead of butter. I wrap my loaves in foil, stick in a LARGE ziplock bag and freeze until we're running low. Keeps them nice and fresh!


Jaydism's: v. a word or saying spoken from the mouth of Jayden.

"Just call me Pinocinose!"
"For peace sake!"
"I can't put the dishes away I'm shaking my booty!"
"If you're the one who uses all the dishes, how come I have to put them away?"
"I want something to eat. Something brown. Something that tastes like chocolate, looks like chocolate, but doesn't have any nasty sugar in it!"
"I can't go to bed yet, I forgot to tell you something. I wanted to go to the park, the good park. The park not by our house. The park by the beach. You know what park I mean?"
"Is today the day I'm getting a rabbit?"
"Just call me Jack, because my letters are J-A-C."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One Week In: Workboxes

So, last week was our first official week using the workboxes. We didn't have school on Monday due to the car being in for it's physical. We schooled Tuesday through Friday, and had a really good week. We walked away accomplishing a whole lot, and the kids were excited at using some games we haven't played with in a while.

Our Tuesday was a tad rocky. The kids were excited about using the boxes, and I gave them a quick rundown of how it would work. Using the boxes in the order they were given, what the various tags meant (like work with mom, or a timer, etc.) I especially made sure Jayden understood because he can't read and I didn't want him intruding on a lesson over knowing what to do with a workbox.

I tried a few different ways of setting up our boxes, in regards to subjects. For instance, Morgan often has 1 reading game, 1-2 reading songs, a reading book, and a reading paper. This seems like a lot, but the songs are done in 2 minutes or less, and the game is usually a family affair. However, to break it up I put the games and songs in one box, the papers in another. I put them one right after the other, with three math boxes following each other. That was Tuesday.

We had some minor tears. Part of it was due to frustration on his part. My child can count, he can count like crazy. He can skip count, he count backwards, he can count forwards. However, give him a number and ask him to count FROM that number and you'll freak him out like nobody's business. I'm not joking around. (See here for more details..)

On Wednesday I moved things around a bit and put reading, math, reading math, game time, reading, Bible. After that it's mostly our unit study and extras. The change was huge. We had no tears, we advanced through each box with little problems. Even the dog bones didn't seem to phase him.

It also took a bit of "playing" with the boxes to see how to set them up so that they were each timed to "perfection" (Morgan isn't the only one with perfectionism problems..) so that each child was busily working and not waiting on me to finish up with another child. They each get Leapster time, and Morgan often gets computer time as well. Jayden prefers to double up on the leapster as most of his educational games are still in America.. Anyway, if we had an over lapse I'd have them advance on to the next box. I think that happened once and I rotated boxes again.

It looks like we finally have a pattern down pretty well, and I'd like to start putting a few more of our fun things into the boxes. We're currently working on a larger unit study that requires a bit of writing, so breaking that up a bit would be a welcome relief for the boys. Mostly Jayden who'd rather not spend his time writing, tracing a vocabulary word is more then good enough for him.

All of this said, I know that one of the things that worried me a bit about the system was the boxes themselves. I'm a neat freak, and while I should, I won't apologize for it. My family suffers through it, with a few grunts of "oh no she's coming quick make sure our room is clean!" That'd be the day.. There's more then one reason I had a handful of legos to use as weapons against those mice! Not to mention how often the tooth-fairy has nearly fallen and broken her neck attempting to deliver goodies.

Back to the point at hand.. I was worried about the boxes all over the schoolroom floor. I despise tripping on things it just drives me bonkers. It may delight my children to see their mother sailing through the air screaming, "Who left that toy there.." but it does not delight their mother. It leaves their mother looking like she could slay a dragon, and that's not even taking my hair into consideration!

As it turns out, the boxes don't make a mess. I have the kids stack each box up with any leftover items going in the top box. Some items they are required to put away (leapster) as the other one may need it later. Sometimes the item is just a slip of paper to tell them what to do (such as piano practice/lessons). Other times they use the items and there's nothing left in the box when they are done (craft projects, math papers which go into their notebooks), etc.

By the end of our school day we have two neat piles of boxes sitting next to the shelves. I get up from time to time to stack up boxes that went askew, or rather were chucked on the floor because we have a strict "no workboxes on the school table" rule. It's just not big enough. I'll also put things away that they can't, like string from craft projects, or games that we won't be playing tomorrow. (I try to swap them out each day with a new one.)

In any event I'm really pleased with how it's working for us. I was a little bit worried about this week, as we had a short day on Wednesday, we'll have a field trip tomorrow, etc. Yet, oddly enough, because the boxes were filled up on Wednesday the kids managed to get through everything before we had to leave the house. They won't manage it on our field trip day because we leave horribly early, but I'm willing to bet they'll be eager to dig into a small amount of boxes when we get home.

One of the rules of workboxes, if you follow the manual, is to never allow them not to finish them. I don't abide by that rule for a variety of reasons. First off, life happens, and it's more important that my children learn to accept that and maneuver themselves through obstacles without panicking. Unlike their mother who goes into a full fledged panic when things go crazy on her. So, if things come up and we don't attend to them all fine, if they don't get to them due to laziness that would be a different story.

Wednesday, due to what I knew would be a no-school afternoon, I only assigned seven boxes. We went with the flow. They managed reading and math, plus a few fun extras and were more then ready when their mother leapt up from the table and screamed, "OH NO!! THAT'S NANA'S PLANE!! WE'RE LATE, WE CAN NOT BE LATE!!" In fact they were so done and busy playing an extra science game on the computer that they sat there and laughed at me. I suspect they would have remained there had I not run for the door with their father close on my heels screaming, "THE PLANE, THE PLANE!" For the record, he was so not mocking Fantasy Island! However, back to the point at hand.. We really like our workboxes!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dog Bones

Meet Dog Bones. It's not a dog treat, you see I never have any of those because our overly smart dog knows how to break into the treat barrel. I'm pretty sure he'll have chewies buried in the yard to last him a lifetime, but I'm so getting off track here.. This set of dog bones is a math game. It can be played in many different ways. The idea and templates are a resource from The Mailbox Magazine. (It's a great magazine and you get many of the templates and resources free online to print off.. Super cool!) Anyway the idea is to help with numerical order. Something we have a small problem with, in an odd and freaky way.

You see Morgan can count forwards, he can count backwards, he can count by 2's, 5's, 10's, 100's, and so on, but ask him to start counting with say number 3 and continue by 1's and he'll go crazy on you. I'm talking completely over the edge crazy!

Morgan's mind works on a one way track. He has to know how and why before he completely understands something. He can then fully understand the entire concept and use it. He has to know every minute little detail and then he has to think about it and mull it over and then he can put it to use. You can't just show him how to do something and have him walk away fully grasping it. So, when I say what's 5+2, he can't say 5, 6, 7. He'll start counting at one and count clear up to 7. I've tried holding up 5 fingers for him, it's still a no go. He must count each and every one of my fingers. The other day he ran out of fingers and made the dog sit still so he could borrow a few furry toes, it was highly amusing and disturbing all at the same time..

Nothing annoys him or freaks him out more then seeing _ _ _ _ 14 _ _ _ _ 19 _ _ _ 23 _ _ on his math paper. I mean NOTHING. He'll sit there staring at it with looks that say, "I wish my eyes could burn this paper up." He knows what to do, but that's not the point. They've taken something systematical and they've messed it up. He can't stand it. Not only that he can't fully understand it.

This means that he can't look at number 14 and know instantly that 13 comes before and that 15 comes after. He has to sit and think a minute, and often times start with 1 and count it out. Perhaps it's the lack of speed in this particular area that throws him for such a big loop, I'm not sure. All I know is that he hates this particular math problem.

Enter Dog Bones. I started by giving him 4 bones to work on last Tuesday. They were met with scowls and "Oh rats, I was really hoping it would be a better game then this!" and "GRRR, I can't find the right number." "I hate blank numbers!" The end result was tears. He retrieved his 100's chart and filled in the blanks.

You know what else bugs Morgan? Preteens. I'm not talking people of that age, I'm talking the numbers. 10, 11, 12. These three numbers have always given him problems, even from the time he was a toddler learning to count the library stairs. They are teens, but you don't say teen, and that takes another perfectly good mathematical system and ruins it. Thus, the preteens mess him up. It took a lot of patience and counting and tears to help him understand those three numbers, and that was just me! I can't imagine what he suffered through!!

So, a double whammy meanie pants dog bone is _ 11 _ . Cruelty hath no bounds. Funny thing is, day one with dog bones was tearful. Day two, was a grumble. Day 3 was peaceful. Day 4 was a total success. Day one this week, tearful. The fact is that Morgan works systematically, and asking him to work outside of that comfort zone freaks him out.

I respect his zones, I do. I have my own form of comfort too. I want to see his as a flaw, but I am constantly reminded this week that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made." Which also makes me fully aware that it's not a flaw. It's a process his mind goes through. My mind might work differently, and thus I don't care how or why I just want to know that it can be done. Yet, as his mother and teacher, I want to be sure that he can move outside of that comfort zone and still accomplish the task at hand. I want to know that even if the numbers are missing he won't panic but remain calm and place the missing ones in order.

In his own way, he'll figure it out. I just have to find a mathematical pattern or code to explain it in, until then.. he'll be seeing a lot of dog bones in his future..

Owl Moon

Last week we did a unit study based on the book Owl Moon. The kids were really excited by this, and we had a very enjoyable week despite dental appointments and a few other minor interruptions. Like their owl masks? I had to air those black circles (foam) out for a day before I'd let them wear them. Do you have any idea how much that stuff stinks when it comes out of a sealed package? We did a few extra owl projects this week as well, but the kids didn't seem to care. They were really gung-ho for our owl week. Which is good, because owls tie into our studies this week too.

The boys enjoyed making a book about owls, and in true style and form, Jayden added grossness to his, which Morgan opted to carry on with as well. Jayden isn't a big huge fan of coloring unless it REALLY hits him. By the time we were putting together the last book for his lapbook, he was worn out and ready to be done. He kept at it like a real trooper though, and since the book was suppose to be colored, I thought he'd enjoy using glitter instead.

Now, if you know Jayden, and especially the incident involving his homemade Christmas ornaments for the FIAR swap, you'll understand just how brave of a move this was. Plus, remember those Christmas angels he made? I cleaned up glitter for a month. However, I figured with shaker tops on I was probably safe.

I showed him to just scribble some glue on with his glue stick and shake the glitter on his paper. He thought this was a great idea, and then it happened.. I left him to it while I cut out a burrowing owl for Morgan.

I turn back and he's got the red glitter in hand.. "Jayden, why red glitter?" "It's the blood Mom. It's the blood. You might not want to look, I know you don't like mice." Check it out:

Yes, that's red glitter over the gray glitter..

Here's some grasshoppers with "blood".. he's such a boy!

Yup, they enjoyed their owl week, they had a lot of giggles reading the book Owl See How They Grow, which included some AMAZING photos of an owl from egg to 5 months. It came with free stickers, which they each used to adorn their lapbooks with.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ahoy There Matey!

A while back the boys checked a book out of the library all about pirates. Pirates is an on again off again fad around here. Upon arriving home they wasted no time in setting up the living room (lucky for them there's never any furniture in it) into boats. It was really quite amazing so I snapped a few photos. You'll have to ignore the spaghetti sauce all over their faces, after all pirates don't wash very often, right?

The sock is not a random addition to his costume, it's his peg-leg.. and yes, he made me take him to K-mart like that.. They are also completely convinced they scared someone with their get-ups, they are very proud of that fact. Personally, I think she was hungry, but...

his boat is considerably smaller then his brother's, but he has a map, don't ask me why he's standing on a library book. Let's pray the librarians never stumble upon our little blog!

I believe he called himself Pirate Hook.

This is an overall view of Morgan's boat. Notice the candle? That was because pirates didn't have electricity and he needed "light" to read. The stick was his fishing pole and the brown container would have had spaghetti in it, all pirates need a snack, right?

He is such a packrat! Notice all that stuff in the corner of his boat? He knew exactly where all of it was, and when I suggested he pick up the empty spaghetti container and the corner got bumped, he was pretty put out because he had to put it all right back again. Notice the small bird? Yeah, he took it out of the tree from the bathroom, and used it as his Parrot. I found it highly amusing!

They were a mixture of pirates and Columbus, as we'd just read an outstanding book about said sailor. It was very descriptive in how a boat runs, etc. Thus the map, they were navigating their way around the West Indies. There was some serious detail put into this playing. The conversations were just as funny. I heard one of them shouting out, "Don't hit the ice!" and the other one lecturing his sibling about "the natives".