Wednesday, March 30, 2011

April Fools'?

Oh, how I wish this was a joke.  Maybe it is, but it's one Mother Nature is having on us!

And that's 7.9 inches in Worcester, in case anyone was wondering. . .

Monday, March 28, 2011

Book Sharing Monday - Easter

While we're desperately waiting for spring to arrive here in the Northeast, I have two spring-y books to share today: The Bunny Who Found Easter by Charlotte Zolotow and Helen Craig and Jan Brett's The Easter Egg.

There's something about Charlotte Zolotow's writing that is captivating to me.  There's definitely a poetic quality to her words, and her books have a gentle feel to them.  The Bunny Who Found Easter pairs the author's lovely story with illustrations by Helen Craig (Angelina Ballerina).

I was thrilled to find that Jan Brett has an Easter tale.  This author's books never fail to delight me on a visual level, and this one has a particularly creative storyline, as well.  Jan Brett has a website filled with excellent resources.  I highly recommend taking a look.

Book Sharing Monday is hosted by Canadian Home Learning.  Alex has a post about a spring book today, too!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kitchen Kismet

Every once in while I'll experience a bit of serendipitous activity in the kitchen.  You know the drill.  You went shopping, only to find certain items not in the store, or you forgot to pick them up, or the freaking foodie store you planned to go to is CLOSED ON TUESDAYS.  Ahem.

So I had this recipe for Greek-style vegetarian stuffed peppers, and ended up with the following recipe, instead, having substituted what was on hand, which turned out to be absolute delight for the taste buds.  I'm having the leftovers (what little bit there was) for lunch tomorrow, and no one else had better steal them (the warning is meant for DH, who is working from home tomorrow.  Are you reading this, dear?).

From-the-Fridge-and-Pantry Greek-style Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers


1 medium sweet onion, diced
3 oz. or half a bag of baby (or other) spinach (washed if not already cleaned), sliced into ribbons
salt and pepper
2 cups cooked Israeli couscous, prepared according to package directions
grated zest from about a half a shrunken lemon
juice from same
5 oz. feta cheese (if you actually shop for this item and don't go with what's in the fridge, get good, imported Greek sheep's milk feta in brine), (drained if need be and) crumbled
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. dried thyme
1 t. dried Italian parsley
16 green olives (I happened to have some French-style green olives without pimentos on hand)
4 medium bell peppers (I had 1 HUGE and 2 medium tri-colored peppers from Trader Joe's--the red pepper tasted best)
1 cup water


1. Heat oven to 375 or so.  Higher if you're in a hurry (but not much higher or you'll have crispy-on-the-outside-raw-on-the-inside food), or about 350 if you've got an hour or so until everyone is ravenous.
2. Cook onion in about a tablespoon of EVOO on medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes.  Add spinach and cook until greens are wilted, about 2-3 minutes.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper (remember the feta and olives you'll be adding later), and set aside.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the cooked couscous, lemon zest, lemon juice, feta cheese, herbs, olives, and onion/spinach mixture.  Taste to correct seasonings.
4. Cut off the top 1/2 inch or so of your peppers.  Save them to use as a lid once your peppers are stuffed.  Using a paring knife, trim away all the ribs and seeds from the peppers.  If necessary, trim away a small slice on the bottom of any peppers that will not stay upright in your baking dish.  Try not to make a hole to the inside, or at least not a very big one (she says with the authority of experience).
5. In a smallish baking dish, place peppers and fill with couscous-spinach mixture.  Put the caps back on the peppers.  (Save leftover filling, if any, to heat in the microwave for lunch the next day or the day after that.  If you can resist eating it up with a spoon immediately, that is.)  Pour the water into the bottom of the pan.
6. Bake for 45 minutes at 375, or until peppers are soft and slightly browned, and filling is hot.

Next time I'm going to double the recipe so that there are leftovers for several lunches instead of just one.  Maybe I'll feel like sharing then.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Book Sharing Monday - Me. . . Jane

New book alert!  It's supposedly not out until April, but Amazon shipped my copy this week.  We really enjoyed this brief look into Jane Goodall's childhood and absolutely adored the charming illustrations by Patrick McDonnell (creator of the comic strip MUTTS).

Jane Goodall currently travels the world to inform others about animal welfare and conservation in general and about chimpanzees and their habitat in particular.

Book Sharing Monday is hosted by Canadian Home Learning.  Stop by and see what books others are blogging about today, or add a book that caught your eye this week!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bitesize science, math, English

I came across a link to Bitesize from BBC Schools today (thanks, Secular Homeschool and Free Technology for Teachers).  Looks like there are fun educational activities for elementary through junior high here.  Example of a science activity I would expect Jane would enjoy below.



Monday, March 07, 2011

Book Sharing Monday - Hanne's Quest

Olivier Dunrea has been a favorite in our house for some time.  His Gossie series is not to be missed for young children, and Bear Noel is a perennial Christmas read-aloud for us.  But the first book of the author's that we ever came across was Hanne's Quest.

This dense picture book tops out at about a hundred pages, so it's not one we've gobbled up in one setting.  But the story of Hanne and her adventures is rich and well worth diving into!  All ages will enjoy this tale.

Book Sharing Monday is hosted by Canadian Home Learning.  Drop by and share what caught your eye this week, or get some new titles for your library queue!

Friday, March 04, 2011

What works for Jane. . .

Here is, finally, part two of the Winter 2011 version of What's Working at Our House.  In part one, I focused on what is working best for my seventh grader.  This one will feature Jane, whose summer birthday puts her in Waldorf grade three, or PS grade four.  

Jane has two great loves: animals and art.  She is our go-to font of fauna-related facts, and is never happier than when she has a paintbrush in her hand.  Her learning style is similar to Jazz's--like him, she needs to see the big picture before things make sense, and prefers to get her information visually vs. aurally.

Jane is finishing up First Language Lessons Level 3, and the program has been good for her, even though she doesn't really enjoy it.  It lays everything out very plainly and I feel like she has a good grasp of grammar as a result.  But what's missing is a love of words and a playfulness with language that is important to me, even at this stage of the game.  My plan is to transition her to Michael Clay Thompson's Language Arts in the fall.  If, for some reason, she doesn't do as well or needs extra work for reinforcement, we'll utilize whatever parts we need to use of First Language Lessons Level 4.

We finished up Writing with Ease Level 2 early in the year, and haven't yet gone on to WWE3.  I need to take a look at the next book before I decide if she should continue with it.  The style of the series feels a little artificial to me, but perhaps we need the deliberateness of the program to keep going with narration.  Jane still does copywork almost daily, using Penny Gardner's Italics, Beautiful Handwriting for Children, supplemented with the Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting program and, when the time is right, holiday-related passages or quotations I find for her.

I admit to some bouncing around with math curricula.  Sigh.  We have never quite found one that meets everyone's needs.  Right Start Math is a good match for visual-spatial learners, but with three children I found that I couldn't make the time to sit down with each child every day for the length of time it took to complete this one subject with this particular curriculum.  Combine that with the fact that we find it to be a hard series to pick up and do after a break, and we've fallen a bit behind.  Jane is currently doing a combination of Singapore and the self-directed Math Mammoth (on sale through the end of this month through the Homeschool Buyers' Co-op), but I plan to take a closer look at Teaching Textbooks for her soon.

Oh dear, this is turning into a "what doesn't work" post, isn't it?  Or rather, what is okay but I wish could be better.  Let's see if I can put a positive spin on the rest.

Along Came a Dog (Harper Trophy Books)While Jane usually chooses her free reading (Puppy Place books being her favorite of favorites, even though they are "too young" for her), she is willing (most of the time) to take a look at my suggestions, as long as animals are central characters.  Books by Beverly Clearly, Meindert DeJong, Walter Farley, and other authors of classic children's literature have made it to her bedside table.  I'm still waiting for her to pick up Harry Potter, but I guess Hedwig doesn't play a central enough role for her taste.  The literature selections from our secularized Sonlight Core 5, Jane's required reading titles, have been just right.  She never would have voluntarily picked up any of these books (most, if not all, of them have had human protagonists), and yet she has read, enjoyed, and learned from each one.
Animals Marco Polo Saw (Explorer Series)
For other learning in relation to Core 5, Jane does map work, which she does neatly and about which she doesn't complain (hurrah!), reads non-fiction books about the country we're "in," and usually finds out something about the animals from that area of the world, as well.  We use Schlessinger Media dvds toward the end of each unit to wrap up.

Energy Makes Things Happen (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)
Jane isn't too old to enjoy the Let's Read and Find Out science books, so we've been using the ones having to do with energy, motion, force, etc. this year, and plan to do the experiments in Physics Experiments for Children, which recommendation came from The Well-Trained Mind.  I've looked through the book, and it seems very doable.  She also enjoys the free monthly Science in the News pdfs from Science A-Z (look in the left-hand sidebar of the main page) and both National Geographic and National Geographic for Kids magazines.

While she doesn't mind learning about art, Jane really prefers to do art.  We've done some lessons from How to Teach Art to Children, and we both love the kits we've gotten from Hearts and Trees.  But most fun of all seems to be when I clear the table and put out paper, brushes, and paint, and let her go to town.  Our valentine exchange families (via Secular Homeschool) saw the fruits of her labors, and family members often benefit from them, as well.

Peter Tchaikovsky (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers)
Jane's continued music education involves Mike Venezia's Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers series of books (Jane loves the humor in the cartoon-like drawings that appear in the books.  Note to self: I should really get some of the Artists books for her, as well), Classics for Kids podcasts, and listening to her mother blather on about whatever happens to be on the radio that strikes a chord. ; )

My plan for Jane for the remainder of the year is to finish FLL3, master (or at least not melt down during) multiplication and division and other 3rd-4th grade math-type subjects, continue her journey through the Eastern Hemisphere, not injure herself while doing the experiments that go along with all that science reading she's done, tolerate some new music, and keep enjoying art.

Up next: what works for JJ, in which I attempt to justify "trickle-down" homeschooling.

My pal, Alex, has been posting about what works for her kids, as well, over at Canadian Home Learning.  She's got reviews of some fabulous-looking resources, some of which have already made their way into my Amazon cart or onto my Rainbow Resource wish list.  

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born on this day in 1904.  JJ and I unknowingly celebrated the birthday of one of our favorite children's authors last evening, when we watched the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra's Notes Alive! production of My Many Colored Days.  While I found the animation (from 1999) dated, we both enjoyed the text as read by Holly Hunter and the music, which was composed by Richard Einhorn.  You can hear two of the movements from the piece here and here, but I highly recommend finding the dvd at a library and enjoying all the "days" in their various moods.

My Many Colored Days

What is your favorite book by Dr. Seuss?