Friday, August 12, 2011

Home School Plans for 2011-12

We have school year around, but since we don't try to maintain a full time schedule through the summer, the fall is still a time for getting into a routine again and beginning new curriculum.  Last year my three year old started doing "school stuff" while I worked with her sisters in the mornings, but this year she'll be learning her letters as well as doing her usual painting, peg board, counters, modeling clay, etc.  She's excited to begin doing some "big school stuff" with Mommy!  Here's what we've got planned for this school year.

My 9 and 11 year old together:
My Father's World:  Creation to the Greeks  (this multi-age core curriculum includes Bible, history, science, art, and literature)
Learn to Cook
"Growing in Music" from Rod and Staff Publishers

The 11 year old:
Saxon Math 6/5
First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind:  Level 4

The 9 year old:
Saxon Math 5/4
First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind:  Level 3
Explode the Code, Books 3 and up

The 3 year old:
Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve

Read Alouds:
We're down to the last two books in the Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  We've been reading these books for over a year (maybe closer to two), and I admit I'll be sad when it's over!  I haven't decided what we'll read next, but we've talked about the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery.  I'm open to suggestions!

Like most plans around here, these are not written in stone.  I'm liable to add to/take away from these as we find what works, what doesn't, or if I just come across something interesting that I want to try.  With the exception of Saxon Math and Learn Your Letters, though, these are materials we've used before and I expect that they'll continue to work for us.  I do intend to get a spelling curriculum for my 9 year old at some point, so that's at least one addition that will be made.  All in all, I'm very excited about this year's line-up!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cloth Diapers: Some Lessons Learned

A friend's little girl enjoying nature in her cute is that?

We've been using cloth diapers for about two years now, and I'm so glad we made the switch.  It hasn't always gone so smoothly, though; a lot of trial and error was involved in finding a cloth routine that works for us.  Here are some lessons I learned along the way.  This isn't meant to be a complete usage and care guide, but maybe you can avoid some of the trial and error (and a few leaks and rashes)...

    BabyKicks Prefold Diaper 3-Pack, Small (newborn 11.75" X 16")
  • Prefolds and covers work best for us.  Maybe I never tried the right brand(s), but AIO's and pocket diapers are harder to wash and leak more in my experience.  I have had more success replacing the microfiber inserts that come with most pocket diapers with hemp inserts instead.  Even then, I much prefer prefolds and covers for durability, ease of washing, affordability, and reliability.  I'm sure this is one of those personal preference things and others will differ, but that's just my two cents.  
  • Speaking of microfiber, it stinks.  Natural fibers, like cotton prefolds and hemp doublers, are easy to keep stink-free, but I haven't found a way to de-stink microfiber (if you have, please let me know).  
  • Velcro allows for a more customizable fit, but snaps last longer.  I do love velcro for ease and fit, but after a while, even if I'm really careful to always fold in the tabs before washing, they begin to get un-sticky.  If you need your diapers to last through multiple children, snaps might be the way to go.
  • While we're talking about velcro, do make it a habit to fold in the tabs before washing.  They will definitely stay sticky longer if you do.
  • I love Snappis!  Snappi'ed diapers keep covers clean so they last through more changings, and that makes my life easier.  
  • I've always used homemade laundry soap for my dipes just because that's what I use for everything else.  To prevent soap build up, I use a scant 1/4 cup of soap (along with a 1/2 scoop of oxygen cleaner) and I run several extra rinses.  I imagine how much you need to rinse will depend on what you wash with and your local water, but err on the side of caution; soap build-up causes a nasty chemical reaction with your baby's urine that will result in a red, blistery rash.  If you ever do experience build-up, pour a pot of boiling water into the rinse to strip your diapers (you may need to do this more than once).
  • Most baby clothes nowadays are not made to fit over cloth diapered bums.  This wasn't actually a problem with my daughter; her hiney is so narrow that the cloth actually helped her clothes to fit better.  My son is a different story.  He's extra husky and his church clothes (khaki shorts/pants and the like) do not fit over his cloth diapers, so we've resorted to using sposies for services and have been doing this for a while now (we use these Earth's Best TenderCare Chlorine Free Diapers, if you're interested).  It's a compromise we're willing to make, but if you've got fit issues and are adamant about not using sposies, you may consider getting this Big Butt Baby Pants pattern that's specifically for cloth diapered babies and tots.   
I hope I haven't made it all sound more complicated than it is.  Cloth diapering really is simple and rewarding.  There are so many advantages other than just saving money (and that's a big one!).  Cloth is cleaner and healthier, in my opinion.  I feel better about putting pure cotton on my babies' skin rather than the who knows what kind of chemicals that are in disposables.  Since I figured out what soap build-up is and how to prevent it, our babies have experienced fewer rashes in cloth than in sposies. If you breastfeed, you'll be happy to know that diaper blow-outs are much less likely to occur in cloth than disposables.  It's also worth mentioning that modern cloth diapers are really, really cute.  I just love a soft, fluffy cloth diapered bottom!  This is certainly not and exhaustive list of the pro's, but I think you get the point...I'm a fan.             

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Build Your Wall

This is a little plug for a wonderful Christian edification website maintained by a friend of mine called Build Your Wall.  The site includes a daily blog (that I contribute to on occasion) where many, many topics relevant to the Christian homemaker are covered.  You'll find practical, Biblical applications for Christian living, parenting, marriage, financial stewardship, etc., and her husband contributes on Fridays with a "Father Friday" post just for dads.  Check it out!  

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Theme for 2011

I've just been introduced to the concept of a New Year's theme.  Instead of setting lots of individual goals, a theme is larger, umbrella goal that would direct one's decisions in the coming year.  Does that make sense?  It did to me, so I've set my mine for this year.  My theme will be PRESENT.  

I don't want my kids to remember me as distant and distracted, so I resolve to be more present in 2011.  In the past, my resolutions have focused more on productivity.  I'm sure I'm not the only stay-at-home mom who tends to overcompensate in the productivity department.  You know what I'm talking about, right?  Never mind that I accomplish more before breakfast than most people do all day, I "don't work."  I've come to realize, though, that the most important thing that I can produce on this earth is a love for God, His Word, and His church in my children.  I have to be present to do that.

The Dilemma and Some Proposed Solutions

How can I get everything done and still be present?  My commitments to God and my husband are preeminent.  I'm not willing to compromise on nourishing meals.  Home school must go on.  The house needs a keeper.  It seems like a daunting dilemma, but here are some steps I've taken so far:

  • Waking up earlier.  Getting up earlier allows me to get the big stuff out of the way.  I start the day with Bible study and prayer, and getting up an hour earlier allows me to get my daily household chores done before the kids get up.  This way, I'm more relaxed during our group time in the morning.  Instead of hurrying through school so that I can get to my housework, menu planning, bills, or whatever, we can cover material more thoroughly and can enjoy more discussion on topics that are especially interesting to them.  I never thought I'd be a before 6am riser, but I've enlisted an accountability partner to text me at 5:30, and it's working out well so far.  (I recommend the Maximize Your Mornings blog series and free eBook at Inspired to Action.)
  • Continuing with FlyLady.  If you're not familiar with FlyLady's system for creating housekeeping routines, I highly recommend that you check it out.  I started in October and I'm baby-stepping toward a home that practically cleans itself.  An ordered house means a cool, collected mom that has time to have fun with her kids!   
  • Speaking of fun, I'm really trying to seize more opportunities to just be silly and have fun with my children.  I tend toward "all business," and I'm pretty sure my kids think I'm way too serious.  How hard could it be to lighten up and have some "fun mom" moments?  
  • Prayer, study, and more prayer! 

In case you're wondering, I do have some food goals, too, but maybe that will be another post...
What are some of your goals for the new year?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Two for One Menu Plan

Sourdough Pasta

My menu plan last week never made it from my brain to cyber space, or even paper (I did have one, mind you).  For the sake of record keeping and future menu planning inspiration, I'm listing our evening meals from last week before I get into my usual randomness and this week's plan. 

Sunday, 10/31
Leftover chili and pinto beans

Monday, 11/1
Chicken Divan, sourdough artisan bread

Tuesday, 11/2
Beef pizza on sourdough crust, fried cabbage

Wednesday, 11/3 
Beef stoganoff with sourdough pasta, baked sweet potatoes

Thursday, 11/4
Canada Day!
Sourdough crepes with yogurt cheese, strawberries, and maple syrup
Tourtiere (meat pie; my version had a sourdough crust, sprouted lentils & shredded carrots), poutine (french fries with gravy and cheese), and sugar pie

Friday, 11/5
Bible Study Night!
Roast beef sammies on homemade bread with homemade lacto-fermented mayo, gingerbread with spiced whipped cream

Our very first yard egg
Thursday, we finished up our two week study of Canada and marked the occasion by enjoying some really yummy Canadian cuisine (or at least my version of it).  We've also been having tea since apparently they still do that in some provinces.  We've quite enjoyed it; I imagine we'll continue to have afternoon tea whilst using our best manners (and worst English accents) every chance we get.  I guess the most exciting event of the week, though, was my husband picking up our new backyard flock of chickens Friday morning.  We're now the very proud owners of nine Rhode Island red hens and one rooster.  Yes, very soon there will be lots of fresh eggs on the menu!  Speaking of menus...    

Sunday, 11/7
Soaked oatmeal
Lunch out with friends
Beef, lentil & potato stew, sourdough honey whole wheat bread

Monday, 11/8
Toast and eggs
Chicken and dumplings, baked sweet potatoes

Tuesday, 11/9
Lasagna, baby limas

Wednesday, 11/10
Soaked oatmeal
Fried rice with beef & veggies

Thursday, 11/11
Skillet pancakes
Crock pot ragout, sourdough artisan bread

Friday, 11/12
Eggs, hash browns
Crock pot soup

Saturday, 11/13
Sourdough waffles
Leftover buffet 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Captain Sourdough's Menu Plan for 10/24-10/30

Yep, that's me.  My 8 year old dubbed me "Captain Sourdough" the other day and cracked herself up quite a bit (she KILLS herself sometimes).  I am pretty engrossed with sourdough these days, but it's just SO fun!  I love that my 2 year old has been "making sourdough," too, or at least that's often her answer when asked what she's doing.  I mentioned last week that my older two girls started their very own, real live sourdough starter, so I thought I'd share some pics of their success.  The pictures above are on Day 3, and look how bubbly and active already!  If you're interested in the health benefits of sourdough, but haven't yet taken the plunge, let this be an encouragement to you; even an 8 and 10 year old can get a healthy starter going!  Check out the Sourdough eCourse at GNOWFGLINS if you haven't already and get started!  Did I mention that it's SO fun?  (In case you're wondering, I am not an affiliate GNOWFGLINS and have nothing to gain by recommending the eCourse...I just really love what they're doing over there!)

Sunday 10/24
Soaked oatmeal
Chinese cabbage & rice (this was on the menu last week, but we ended up having leftovers that night), baked sweet potatoes

Monday 10/25
Sourdough biscuits, fried eggs
Pork chops, macaroni and cheese, baby limas

Tuesday 10/26
Breakfast cake
Chicken & rice soup, cornbread

Wednesday 10/27
Soaked oatmeal
Pizza with sourdough crust, broccoli

Thursday 10/28
Banana sourdough muffins
Beef brisket, potato salad, squash, sourdough bread

Friday 10/29
Sourdough cinnamon rolls
Fall party with weenie roast!

Saturday 10/31
Sourdough waffles
Leftover buffet

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What's Been Cooking and Menu Plan for the Week

Long time, no menu plan...

We've been kind of off routine and out of sorts since our trip a couple of weeks ago, and I've just been moseying along with no menu plan.  Even so, I thought I'd let y'all know what's been cooking lately.  I'm still loving the Sourdough eCourse at GNOWFGLINS, so of course we've had lots of sourdough goodies!  My 8 and 10 year old daughters even made their very own sourdough starter last week per Erin's instructions and they cooked up some delicious apple muffins with it over weekend!  Some other things I've made from the eCourse in the past week include:

Cheese and Herb Crackers
Ready to go into the oven
My toddler could live on these things.  They are SO addictive.

 Roast Beef and Cheese Crepe Cake
Mmmmm...beefy, cheesy, melty yummness
Cinnamon Rolls
Before turning them out
Here they are turned out with all the ooey gooey goodness from the bottom of the dish!

Artisan bread


German Pancakes (a modification of the skillet pancakes shared by an eCourse member)

Pumpkin Muffins

Chicken and dumplings were requested for last week, so I made the dumplings from rolled and cut bucket dough from the eCourse.  Sourdough dumplings!  They were really good!  Also on the non-menu last week was Homemade Pizza RollsI followed the sourdough cinnamon roll recipe, omitted the sweeteners, and filled with pizza sauce, ground beef, and cheese!   I also kneaded some herbs into the rolls.  Delicious!  These were a hit!

So, that's what's been cooking in my kitchen during these weeks of blogging silence.  Here's what will be cooking in the week to come! 

Sunday, 10/17/10
Sourdough coffee cake
Leftover Buffet (we've got lots of leftovers this weekend!) 

Monday, 10/18/10
Grass-fed beef sausage, soaked whole wheat biscuits
Nourishing chicken nuggets, french fries, broccoli 

Tuesday, 10/19/10
Soaked oatmeal
Sausage, veggie, and pasta soup 

Wednesday, 10/20/10
Sourdough cinnamon rolls
Slow cooker lentil brown rice casserole 

Thursday, 10/21/10
Lemon muffins
Chinese cabbage & rice 

Friday, 10/22/10
Mexican Fiesta Day*
Breakfast burritos
Homemade tortillas, various fillings, sopapillas   

Saturday, 10/23/10
Sourdough Waffles
Leftover Buffet for lunch
Hamburgers at TrueFields' Farm Day for supper...yes, we're Southern and we have supper : )

*For school we're using My Father's World Exploring Countries and Cultures this year, so we'll be having a different ethnic feast every other Friday as we work through the countries!