I Made Cheese!

I love to learn new kitchen skills and I have been wanting to make cheese forever and finally found a simple recipe to start with. I was watching YouTube and one of the channels I subscribe to “Living Traditions Homestead” had a video on how to make farm cheese with three ingredients. In this video she uses raw milk to make her cheese but I ran to the store and grabbed a gallon of whole milk and her recipe still worked out perfectly. With three ingredients milk, vinegar or lemon juice, and salt you can make homemade farm cheese that is so tasty. I am going to link her video here if your interested in giving this a try, this is a great skill to have.

Even if cheese making isn’t your passion this would still be a great activity to do with your homeschool. Hands on experiences like these are invaluable.

** Helpful Note**

In her video she uses 1/2 cup of vinegar and I noticed after using the 1/2 cup of vinegar that my whey hadn’t fully separated from the curds. I did a quick search on the internet and found that you need to keep adding a little vinegar at a time letting it sit a little at a time until you see the whey fully separate. I ended up using a full cup of vinegar to make this happen.

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The One Thing They Forgot…

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Last night Northwest Ohio was gifted several inches of fresh snow and my kids were itching to try out their new sleds they received at Christmas time. This afternoon with the sun shining above we set out to our local metro park to test out the sleds. We weren’t the only ones inspired to try out the sled hill and found ourselves surrounded by dozens of families outfitted for some winter fun. These parents took great care to prepare their kids for the winter weather so that they could stay safe and warm. Each child had on a nice winter coat, a cozy hat, mittens and snow boots. Some had fancy snowboards and some had old fashioned flying saucer sleds like my own three and a few had some homemade sleds that were quite impressive. Everyone was having a great time but then I began to notice that something had been forgotten. Something very important had been forgotten a lesson that all parents should teach their children so that they can participate in society productively….consideration.

When we initially arrived at the sled hill I reminded my children to pay attention to those around them. I advised them to walk up the side of the hill and stay out of the way as others were sledding downhill. We also discussed how to handle a situation in case they accidentally bumped into someone. Our discussion wasn’t new and to be honest I really don’t need to remind them at this point because over the years they have caught on how to behave in public (at home is a different story), but as a parent I feel obligated to remind them before setting them free on the public just in case memory fails them. Apparently, I was the only parent who had this conversation with their children as we saw children walking up the hill and even stopping in front of others who were attempting to sled downhill. We saw kids purposely aiming for other kids and unfortunately there was a group of young teens who decided that yelling expletives downhill was appropriate. I looked around at the smiling parents who seemed to be oblivious to how this type of behavior could cause injury. The only time I heard parents call out to their kids was to remind them to zip up or put their gloves back on not once commenting on their actual behavior.

As I was pondering whether I was over reacting or not I saw the most horrific incident. A teenager on a sled aimed himself at a three year old who was trying to get up from her sled. He hit the toddler’s sled in such a way that the three year old literally went airborne flipping up and over her sled and landing on her face. As I am running and inquiring if she is okay I hear the strangest noise behind me, laughter. Not only was the teen laughing but most of the parents and teens at the bottom of the hill were laughing as well talking about how funny it was that this little girl went flying up in the air. One 13 year old girl started yelling that it was worthy of “Funniest Home Videos”. The teen who had hit the young girl was busy getting high fives from his friends and parents yet never once stopped to find out if the little girl was okay. Luckily she was bundled up pretty good so despite the face full of snow she received she is okay but I can’t even imagine how scary that had to have been and then to have so many people laughing adding insult to injury.

My kids made me very proud when they rushed down the sled hill to see if the little girl was okay. Maybe I am over reacting but watching young and old delight in an accident that could have ended very badly was troubling. Parents take so much care making sure their kids are dressed warmly and that they are fully stocked with hot chocolate and snacks but never once thought to outfit their kids with kindness, compassion and consideration. I find it more than troubling that we live in a society where people are forgetting to be kind, compassionate and considerate. That we live in a society where parents model inappropriate responses to real life situations. As parents we have a duty to society to raise our children to be the productive members who will positively impact the world we live in.

What do you think? Am I over reacting? How would you have reacted if your child laughed while another child was injured? Let me know in the comments below because I would love to have others chime in on this issue.

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Math: A Review of CTC Math

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Recently, we started using a new math curriculum and after using it for a little over two months I decided to give it a review. Before I continue with my review I do want to state that I am not being sponsored by CTC Math and this is a completely unbiased review. For the past few years, we have bounced around through a few different math programs primarily using Modern Curriculum Press workbooks and other supplementary worksheets. This has worked pretty well but now that my oldest son is getting into pre-algebra I wanted to find something that would allow him to work independently and at his own pace.

Originally I wanted to set him up with Teaching Textbooks but after doing their free trial realized that this particular program wouldn’t work well for our family. First, the cost was much higher than I could afford and my son really struggled through the content not because it was too hard simply because it was not engaging enough. Looking for an alternative I stumbled across CTC Math and we signed up for the free trial. Not only did my oldest son love it my youngest two wanted to try it out as well. That day I signed up for the family homeschool membership which is $15.97 a month and now all three of my kids are enjoying this curriculum.

I highly recommend CTC Math because not only is it affordable, my kids can work through the lessons independently, but the content is amazing too. When they log in they click on the next available topic and watch a short lesson. The video lessons are short and concise and then they have questions to complete. When you set up your students profile you can choose how many questions they have to answer as well as what percentage they need to score to pass the topic. Once a week I receive an email from CTC Math with a look at their scores and an overview of what they worked on throughout the week. I can also log in at any time to see how they are doing and I can also print off additional worksheets for them to complete.

If you’re looking for a math program that is affordable and allows your children to work independently then I recommend that you take a look at CTC Math. Teaching Textbooks is an awesome program as well and while it didn’t work for my kids it may be a great option for your family. I love programs that allow you to test drive the material before investing so you can determine if it will work for your family.

 

CTC Math

https://www.ctcmath.com/trial

Teaching Textbooks

https://www.teachingtextbooks.com/v/vspfiles/tt/free_trial.html

 

**Disclaimer- This post reflects my own experience and opinions and is not being sponsored by anyone.

Reading Shouldn’t Be A Chore

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When I first began my homeschool journey with my oldest son we continued a practice from his public school days which involved reading for 20 mins a day. It sounds like a great way to inspire literacy but I quickly began to realize that by forcing my kids to read 20 mins a day I was killing their desire to read. Every time I would say it’s time for you to sit down and read my kids would start to groan and complain. I love reading and I couldn’t understand why my kids weren’t enjoying a hobby that has given me hours of pleasure. I began to notice that they were complaining the same way they would when I would ask them to clean their rooms; I had inadvertently made reading a chore.

I didn’t want reading to be a chore. I wanted my kids to find reading an exciting activity that would whisk them away to far away places where they would have grand adventures. I decided to do away with the 20 mins of reading and I was worried at first that they just wouldn’t read and for a few weeks this did occur. I of course continued to read to them and they were reading their school work but not one of them cracked a book independently. Just when I was about to give up and add reading back to their chore list the most miraculous thing happened, they began to read independently. At first it was just my oldest who came down with the reading bug but within a few days my other two children had also caught the bug. Now it is a common occurrence to stumble across them not only reading a book but enjoying the experience.

Not all kids are created equal and what works for mine may not work for your’s but if you find reading has become a chore it might be time to try a different approach. Here are a few suggestions that have worked for my kids….

  • provide access to a large variety of books
  • do away with scheduled reading times
  • seek out content that you know will interest your kids
  • read as a family and share what you reading at dinner time

Even though I no longer assign reading I do take an interest in what they are reading and always make time to answer questions or help them with a word’s meaning. I often read through the books in advance and will ask questions to see if they are understanding the context of the story. While I have taken a more hands off approach with independent reading I am always ready to jump in when they need me and it is really working. The last tip I have for encouraging literacy is to read to your kids even when they are able to read chapter books independently. There is nothing better than curling up together and reading through a beloved classic and your kids are never too old to hear a story.

 

Are they socialized?

 

Oh, you homeschool... are they socialized_ _They haven't peed on the floor and nobody has been bitten so yeah they are socialized_ (1)

Ugh, the dreaded socialization question. While I enjoy talking about homeschooling the one question I abhor is whether or not I socialize my kids. The answer to this question is always a polite yes and I explain how we are engaged in community activities and that we attend church where the kids belong to a youth group. The response I often want to give is not as polite and sounds something more like “well they haven’t peed on the floor recently and nobody has been bitten so I think they are okay”.  I swear one of these days this will be the response that accidentally slips out when asked this frustrating question.

What exactly is socialization? The definition from Merriam Webster basically states that it is a process where individuals learn how to interact in society observing societal norms. Why do people think that the only way to achieve this process in children is to have them immersed in a traditional brick and mortar institution? I agree that children need to learn how to act appropriately in society. This is why we take our kids out into the community to learn how to behave in a variety of different venues and how to communicate with not only their peers but with all people. I disagree that “schools” are the only place where children can receive this type of education. In fact I am not sure how well schools do in this area but you won’t catch me asking a public school mom if her child is socialized.

All parents not just homeschooler’s need to take an active role in teaching their children how to interact and communicate in society. I have had moms ask me the question about socialization while their “socialized public schooler” has her face buried in a phone in an attempt to avoid any and all interaction. It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children how to behave through dialouge and by modeling the correct behavior. The issue of socialization needs to be addressed by all parents not just those who homeschool which is why I find this question so frustrating. Perhaps, the reason today’s society struggles so much with “appropriate” behavior is because the vast majority of children are not being taught by their parents how to behave and communicate.

I am confident that my children are learning how to behave in society and that they will one day be productive adults. Each one of my children is able to make friends, communicate with people of all ages and they all behave well in public. To be honest this is a realtively easy thing to instill in children who are homeschooled because we do not have the issue of peer pressure to deal with and thank goodness. Are homeschoolers unsocialized? No they are not, this is simply a misconception and a negative stereotype often used to undermine the decision to break away and take a different path in educating our children. Instead of undermining eachother lets have a real dialouge where we discuss and learn from eachother how to raise children into productive members of society. That is a conversation worth having!

 

 

 

 

 

Cookie School

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I know that I have mentioned this before but one way to get kids excited about learning is to incorporate food. I love getting my kids in the kitchen because there are so many learning opportunities available. Reading, writing, and arithmetic can all be taught while preparing fun meals and/or baking scrumptious desserts. I have unofficially enrolled my kids in “Cookie School” without them being aware that our baking sessions have really been learning labs. Here is how “Cookie School” works for us…

•First I present a recipe for them to read and then I ask them to write down the ingredients required.

•Once the ingredients have been written down they work together to collect the ingredients and bring them to the table.

•I will present the kids with the measuring tools they will need but I never give them the exact measuring cup. Instead, I will give them a 1/3 cup and 1/4 tsp. The reason I do this is so they have to use their math skills to determine how to turn the 1/3 cup into a cup and the 1/4 tsp into a full tsp. ( I switch up the measurements with each recipe)

•Then they will prepare the recipe according to the written instructions and preheat the oven for the cookies.

•Now it’s time to bake our cookies while practicing kitchen safety.

Sometimes I will take these learning sessions a step farther by giving them an approximate value of each item used in the recipe and ask them to determine the cost of each cookie. This is a great way to get them to understand basic home economics which is a valuable skill for when they become independent adults.

“Cookie School” is not only a great way to learn but it is a lot of fun especially when you can celebrate the end of the lesson with a freshly baked cookie. If you haven’t gotten the kids into the kitchen yet this is a great time to do so and below you will find a link to some of my favorite cookies.

 

All Recipes- Peanut Butter Cookies

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/10275/classic-peanut-butter-cookies/

 

Sugar Spun Run- The Worst Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever (best cookies ever I promise and the article here is so fun to read)

https://sugarspunrun.com/worst-chocolate-chip-cookies/

 

My Sequined Life- Italian Anise Cookies

https://www.mysequinedlife.com/italian-anise-cookies/

 

 

 

Best way to start the day!

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We have all heard the old adage that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. I remember rolling my eyes when my mom used to announce this fact every morning.  While I may not have fully appreciated this when I was a child my mom was right and breakfast is definitely the most important meal of the day. Not only is it the best way to fire up your metabolism and create the energy you need to tackle the day but it also sets the tone for the day.

In my family, I have noticed that a quick breakfast of cereal leads to a lack of energy, chaos and emotional breakdowns all day long. Some days the quick breakfast of cereal can’t be helped but the majority of the time we slow down for a nice hot breakfast. Having a hot breakfast of waffles, eggs or even oatmeal sets the day up much better. We have the energy, the patience and the motivation to get through the day and we are much more productive individually and as a family. I am not sure if it is the food itself or that a hot breakfast sets a slower pace and allows everyone to wake up gently. Whatever it is I like starting the day off with a hot breakfast. One of our personal favorites happens to be the waffle recipe I share below.

If you are rushing through life and slinging bowls of cereal every morning and noticing the same thing I did with my kids then I challenge you to institute a hot breakfast. I know how busy and hectic life can be and the idea of waking up 15 mins early to make the hot breakfast seems like torture but I guarantee you will reap the benefits all day long.

 

Quick Tip:

The Waffle Recipe I share below calls for buttermilk and I rarely have this ingredient in my fridge. I learned that you can substitute by adding 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a 1 cup measuring cup and then filling it to the top with plain old milk.

If you’re out of milk you can substitute buttermilk for sour cream.

 

Super simple

Baby, It’s Crazy Outside!

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A radio station in Northwest Ohio recently yanked “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” a song written in the 1940s that has become a popular Christmas classic because it supposedly promotes rape culture. If you haven’t heard this song it is a romantic skit involving a couple enjoying some time alone and the hour is getting late and the young woman announces that she needs to go not because she wants too but because she is worried about impropriety. The gentleman uses every excuse he can think of to get her to stay a little longer and in the end, he convinces her to stay. He doesn’t physically force or coerce her to stay and in fact, the tone used throughout the song suggests that the woman is enjoying the attention and open to staying.  When you look at the history of the song it was written by Frank Loesser and he wrote this for his wife and they performed this song as a duet, it was meant to be a love song.

This song has nothing to do with rape culture and it doesn’t illustrate a sexual assault. This song is really nothing more than a window into the past illustrating the societal norms applied to young men and women of the day. While I don’t believe in censorship I can list quite a few modern songs that have offensive lyrics that promote violence and sexual assault but no one is going after those songs. What is happening to this world we live in? We live in a society where people are okay with casual sex, abortion, and violence towards those they disagree with yet a Christmas song written 74 years ago triggers outrage.

The real problem here is that society has gone crazy. The feminist movement is no longer about gaining equality for women it is about stripping men of their power. As a mother to boys, I worry about what the future looks like for them. Do I have to worry that their first kiss will be classified as a sexual assault? I sincerely hope not but if we keep going down this path I am afraid that this fear will become a reality. All I can do is raise my own children to be respectful and mindful of their actions. I know that a lot of people are going to disagree with me on this but I really think that banning a song from 74 years ago is crossing over a line. Soon we will have to censor everything and what will we lose in the process only our first amendment rights.

 

http://frankloesser.com/news/213-baby-its-cold-outside-the-real-story-of-the-song

https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/ohio-radio-station-stops-playing-baby-its-cold-outside-amid-me-too-movement

https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/shehim/babyitscoldoutside.html

 

 

The Homeschooler and the Interloper

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Let me set the scene we are at a birthday party with a group of family members and everyone is having a good time. There is a gorgeous cake on the table, laughter in the air and kids of all ages are running around enjoying themselves. I see my youngest two playing with friends and when I look to see where my 12 year old is I find him cornered by an adult who is quizzing him on everything from states & capitals, timetables to the world of politics. My son has that deer stuck in headlights look as he looks to me for assistance not because he can’t answer the questions but because they are being fired at him like bullets from an AK-47.  I immediately step in to release my son from the interloper’s stronghold. I spend the rest of the afternoon keeping one eye on the interloper and the other eye on my children; not really a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Over the years I have encountered a number of these interlopers some are family members, some are friends while most are strangers. They all have good intentions and I know that they do not mean any true harm but it can be pretty stressful dealing with them. I am always open to dialogue and if these individuals want to discuss why and how I homeschool that would be great. Instead, they choose to quiz my kids in an effort to find something they may not know so they can have evidence that homeschooling doesn’t work. I disagree with the way the public schools teach but I don’t walk around quizzing public school students in an effort to prove I am right. My kids should be afforded the same respect as any other child and they should be able to enjoy a fun activity without being bombarded with questions. I do my best to intervene in these situations by distracting the interloper with conversation and that usually works.

If you are a homeschooler who has dealt with an interloper let me know how you have handled these encounters in the comments below. I would love to see how other moms and dads manage these types of scenarios.

 

Keeping Christmas Spirit

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Christmas should be a time of joy, happiness, and celebration but all too often it is a time of stress, financial burden, and chaos. Years ago I recognized that Christmas had become too stressful and I was losing my Christmas Spirit earlier and earlier every year. I decided to reevaluate what Christmas meant to me and how I wanted to spend this special time with my family. I wanted to avoid the commercialism of Christmas as much as possible and focus on building memories and traditions with my children. 

When I was little my favorite part of Christmas was gathering together at my grandparent’s house with the entire extended family. I will never forget the feelings of love and comfort that those gatherings brought me. Since my grandparents have both passed away we no longer gather together as we once did but I still make an effort every year to bring my family together for an annual Christmas Eve party. My kids enjoy these gatherings as much as I do and we always choose a fun theme for our party. This year we are hosting a pajama party which should be pretty silly. Our focus is less on gifts and more on time spent with family and this has made all the difference. 

This doesn’t mean we don’t partake in the giving part of Christmas because we absolutely do but we keep things simple and festive. The best gifts are the ones that are thoughtful and that is what we strive for and thoughtful doesn’t mean expensive. When it comes to gifts for the kids we keep the number of gifts to a minimum. They each get a big item from Santa and then a big item from mom and dad. We always include a few books, some art supplies, socks & underwear and a smaller item for them to unwrap. We usually get them one gift to share from us as well for instance last year they received a Karaoke machine and I think this year it will be a microscope. 

Keeping Christmas simple allows me to keep my Christmas Spirit all season long because I can focus on the things that matter. The memories that we build with our children will outlast any toy or doodad they might get under the tree. Christmas shouldn’t be a time of stress and chaos it should be a time to celebrate the birth of Christ and to celebrate the love and joy of family. 

 

view of christmas decoration

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How do you keep the spirit of Christmas throughout the season?