cooking

7 Great Resources for: Young Chefs

7 Great Resources for: Young Chefs

Want to make cooking a regular part of your homeschool routine? These resources will help your kids get hands-on in the kitchen.

Stuff We Like :: 4.15.16

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

This week, Shelli's got the scoop on what's lighting up her April homeschool. 

spring

We’re a birding family, so we love the spring weather and watching the birds nest and fly about in our yard! My six-year-old especially loved this interactive website that lets you explore bird anatomy, and in the evenings we’re also enjoying watching some wild bird videos too.

 

at home/school/iife

in the magazine: Subscribers can download our free meal planning sheet (with spaces for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks because homeschoolers need spaces for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks!) when you log into the subscribers-only portal.

on the blog: Amy shares what she's learned teaching homeschoolers creative writing

on instagram: Why yes, our Friday nights are pretty thrilling

 

Homeschool

This month we’ve been learning about the Cherokee Indians because our local art museum has a Cherokee Basketry exhibit I want to attend, and this is an important part of our state’s history the boys should understand. (So, yes, this is a Mama-led activity!) I began by reading The Cherokee: native basket weavers by Therese DeAngelis, Sequoyah by Doraine Bennett, and The Cherokees by Jill Ward, which were all short (elementary level) books I checked out from the library.  Then we read the (middle school-ish) book Only the Names Remain by Alex W. Bealer, a sad account of the Trail of Tears. These were all good books.

 

My New Adventure

It’s not always about the boys’ projects around here. This spring I have been delving into the world of bread baking, and not only that, I have captured my own wild yeast, too! The series Cooked (exclusive to Netflix) inspired me. I am using the book Classic Sourdoughs, but it hasn’t answered all my questions, so I’ve frequented YouTube and friends on Twitter as well! (Thank you, Twitter friends!) After four loaves of bread, I’m still trying to get it right! (I did have great success with pizza dough, however.)

 

Books

The boys are constantly looking at our collection of Calvin and Hobbes books, which I keep on the kitchen table with the weekly newspaper. At least my nine-year-old is reading something without being told!

A couple of years ago, my nine-year-old lost interest in the Little House books when we got to By the Shores of Silver Lake. Now we’ve picked it up again, and he’s enjoying it. I think we’ll finish the series now!

For myself, I just finished reading Taking Lottie Home by Terry Kay. It’s a Southern novel, and I thought it was going to be predictable, but as the story gained momentum, I realized it was not! It was a very good read and a meaningful story.

 

T.V.

Our most current beloved documentaries: 

--NOVA’s Rise of the Robots (PBS)

--Nature’s Wild France (PBS)

--Cooked (Netflix exclusive)

--Chef’s Table (Netflix exclusive) (These last two were insanely great.)

Just for me: Mr. Selfridge (Masterpiece Theatre PBS; available on Amazon Prime)


Monday Pep Talk No. 17

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

Let the holiday rush begin! I don’t know about you, but in our house things kick into high gear just before Thanksgiving and don’t slow down again until January—and a weekly kick-in-the-pants of inspiration is pretty essential.

3 fun things to do this week

What better way to celebrate Homemade Bread Day (Tuesday) than by whipping up a loaf of bread in your kitchen? This no-knead recipe is designed for preschoolers, so it’s virtually impossible to mess up.

Take a virtual field trip to the first Thanksgiving (in 1621) at Plimoth Plantation. (Download the application first, and it will run faster than streaming it.)

Find out how much energy is stored in a single peanut with this simple (but fascinating) peanut power science experiment.

 

3 ideas for this week’s dinners

Warm everybody up with bowls of this 15-minute Greek chicken soup. It’s the perfect dinner on those grumpy, sniffly nights when everybody needs the food equivalent of a hug.

This easy shrimp-fried rice is an ideal one-pan dinner. (Sub tofu or chicken if your gang is anti-shrimp.)

This crunchy, spicy autumn salad with horseradish vinaigrette is exactly what a cold-weather salad should be.

 

one great readaloud

To gear up for Thanksgiving cooking next week, read A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat, a delightful picture book describing how four different generations of American families prepare the same blackberry fool. (This book is definitely on my list for best picture books of 2015.)

 

one thought to ponder

in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration

hard cider sangria


4 Easy Ways to Homeschool Lunch

Great list of easy lunch ideas for homeschoolers.

One of the biggest practical challenges of homeschool life is feeding everybody all the time. And lunch — right smack in the middle of your day — can be the biggest challenge of all. These four strategies won’t make lunchtime hassle-free, but they will free up your brain enough to worry about what you're going to do for dinner instead.

Solution 1: Lunchboxes

  • Pros: lunch is ready to go whenever you are
  • Cons: requires nigh􏰁t-time prep; not always the most budget-friendly option

Take a cue from the school set, and simplify lunchtime by packing it up the night before. Stick with the classics — we like hummus, quinoa, cucumber, and grated carrots on a spinach tortilla or peanut butter, honey, and banana on oatmeal bread for easy sandwiches, with little containers of yogurt, fruit, veggie chips, and a cookie for dessert. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can steal some cute bento box ideas, but kids who don’t pack a lunch every day are likely to be just as excited about a plain sandwich and apple combo. (I get all my best sandwich ideas from the Saltie cookbook.) Make a lunchbox or brown bag for each kid, stash it in the fridge, and lunch is ready to go even before you start your morning coffee. 

 

Solution 2: Freezer Meals

  • Pros: easy on the budget
  • Cons: gets boring; does require some advance planning

Once-a-month freezer stocking ensures that you’ll always have a hot lunch at the ready. Our freezer faves include macaroni-and-cheese bowls; black bean and butternut squash burritos; soups and chili; and chicken potpies. There are lots of freezer meal cookbooks out there, but I’ve splattered and dog-eared Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbook enough to recommend it. Freeze meals in individual portions (so you don’t have to listen to a 10-minute argument about whether you should heat up spinach lasagna or kale, sweet potato, and lentil hand pies), pop them in the fridge at bedtime, and they should be ready to heat up for the lunchtime rush.

 

Solution 3: Snack Plates

  • Pros: great for picky eaters, no cooking needed
  • Cons: assembly required; can be expensive

The beauty of this cheese plates-inspired lunch is that you can assemble it with all the random bits and pieces in your fridge and cupboards. Presentation is what makes a snack plate like this feel like lunch, so take the time to arrange small wedges of cheese, little stacks of chopped vegetables or fruits, cured or smoked meats, leftover tuna salad, and other hearty nibbles. Add crackers or vegetable chips — homemade or store-bought — and spoonfuls of mustard, jam, chutney, and purees to the plate. Set it out, and the kids can assemble their own lunches from the ingredients. It’s nice to give each kid her own plate, but you can also set up a fancy spread on a serving plate or cutting board for everyone to share.

 

Solution 4: Emergency Pizza

  • Pros: versatile; easy to customize for picky eaters
  • Cons: requires last-minute stove time

Until a genius friend introduced me to tortilla pizzas, I always thought pizza was too much hassle for lunchtime. But using a tortilla for a base makes a quick pizza as easy as a grilled cheese sandwich. The usual tomato-mozzarella-mushroom combo is great, but you can get adventurous with pesto topped with leftover grilled chicken, veggies, and fontina cheese; butternut squash puree topped with goat cheese and bacon; or even hummus with crispy chickpeas, avocados, and roasted garlic. Lay your tortilla flat in a cast-iron skillet, layer on toppings and cheese, and let it bake in a 375-degree oven for about 13 to 14 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned and crispy.

 

This article is reprinted from the fall 2014 issue of home/school/life.


At Home with the Editors: Amy’s Homeschool (7th grade)

At Home with the Editors: Inside Amy's 7th Grade Homeschool

Shelli and I both passionately believe that our magazine should be inclusive of lots of different homeschool motivations and methods. We continue to strive to bring you a variety of resources that will inspire you as you consider what is best for your family. Because we know most homeschoolers enjoy sharing the resources and insights they have learned through homeschooling, we thought we would start a series on our blog about our own homeschools. If nothing else, you will get a behind-the-scenes look in the homes of the editors of home / school / life, but if something here helps you, all the better!

Because there’s a pretty significant age gap between my kids (six years), I decided to do two separate posts to make things easy for myself. Today, I’m sharing some of the resources I use with my 7th grader. (You can see what 1st grade looked like for us here.)

Seventh grade is very different from 1st grade. In some ways, it’s easier — after years of learning together, I know my daughter’s strengths well. I know how she learns best. I know what’s likely to frustrate her. In some ways, though, it’s harder. This is new territory for us. I’ve never homeschooled a college-bound (at least that’s her plan right now) teenager, and I spent a lot of last summer worried that I was going to mess up something important. Honestly, I still worry about that. But ultimately, this is my daughter’s education, not mine, and letting my worries get in the way of her learning — well, that’s pretty silly. So we’re sticking with what works.

And what works for us is a pretty collaborative process. Every summer, my daughter and I have a little “planning retreat.” (Ice cream and My Little Pony movies are usually involved.) We talk about what she’d like to focus on in the coming year — usually her list is way too long, and we have to pare it down. I also bring a couple of lists — usually one of books I’d like her to take a look at and one of those “What your X-grader should know” lists so that she can see what other kids at her grade level are working on. (Next year, I’ll add a list of college entrance requirements because we’ll be doing short- and long-term planning for high school.) Together, we come up with a plan for the coming year. Here’s what we ended up doing for 7th grade:

Latin

My daughter started Latin in 3rd grade, and at this point, we have a good rhythm down. We use Ecce Romani as our Latin textbook. It’s unorthodox, but we’ve been using the first two books since 3rd grade — every year, we just start over at the beginning and work our way through again, getting a little further each time. We’ve gotten to the point where we just breeze through the first book, but I feel like it ends up being a good review and a confidence-booster. Ecce Romani has you working on translations from the very first chapter, which I know goes against the methodology of some Latin purists. For us, it works. We start each chapter by making cards for all the new vocabulary words and doing an oral translation of the new passage. The next day, we do a review of all the vocabulary cards in our stack, and my daughter copies out the Latin passage in her notebook, leaving space under each line for the translation, which she does the following day. We spend the rest of the week (and the following week, if we need it) doing the exercises in the book for that particular passage, and finish up with another oral reading and translation of the passage.

 

Literature/Grammar

We don’t do grammar as a separate subject anymore because, honestly, I think studying Latin is one of the best ways to learn English grammar.

This year, my daughter wanted to focus on poetry for literature. She’s been writing a lot of poetry and was curious about what made something a great poem rather than just a good poem. I rooted out my old high school copy of Perrine’s Sound and Sense, which I remembered helping make that difference click for me, and we’ve been working through it together. I think the book might be just a little advanced for her, so we’re just taking our time with it, and if something feels frustrating or too difficult, we’re comfortable just moving on to the next topic. She keeps a notebook where she copies down poetry she particularly likes and occasionally answers some of the questions in Perrine. (I don’t assign her questions to answer or anything — she just sometimes likes to answer them in writing.)

She’s an avid reader, and at this point, I let her read what she likes and don’t worry about it. (If we were doing more traditional literature this year, I’d probably assign her a few specific books to read. I let her assign me books, too.) In the past I’ve done things like reading bingo cards or scavenger hunts with book recommendations, but she doesn’t really need me pushing reading these days. I do still keep a notebook for her with a running reading list, and she’ll jot down titles and authors in it as she finishes them.

I also cruelly force my children to memorize and recite poetry every week or so, so my daughter has been choosing a lot of pieces from Perrine and from The Rattle Bag (edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes and probably my all-time favorite poetry anthology) for her recitations this year.

At Home with the Editors: Inside Amy's 1st grade

History

My daughter’s want-to-study list started with the history of fashion this year, so we kind of cobbled together some resources for that, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 100 Dresses (a gorgeous compilation), What People Wore When (a bit dry but informative), lots of Dover fashion coloring books, and some intrepid Google-fu. We’ve had some great conversations about how fashion may have shaped women’s roles at different points in time. She keeps a notebook, where she sketches dresses and makes notes about the time period or construction details. If she’s inspired, my daughter sometimes tries to make a historically accurate-ish dress for her American Girl doll. She’s a decent sewist, but we often work off an existing pattern. Probably our most fun project this year thus far was making gigantic hoop skirts.

This is the last year my kids will be doing the four-year history cycle together. (Next year, my daughter and I will do state history, then start back over with the ancient world for 9th grade.) So we’re all studying medieval/Renaissance history this year. My daughter still likes to sit in on Story of the World readalouds with her little brother. I’m always impressed by how much she remembers! We use Medieval Europe: A Short Sourcebook by C. Warren Hollister as a spine of sorts. I like this book because it includes primary sources but makes them easier to swallow with detailed introductions that give lots of context. (We’ll do medieval history again in high school, and we may well use this book for that, too.) We’ve done history different ways — this year, we take turns “leading the discussion.” One week, I’ll read ahead and do a mini-lecture before we dive into conversation; the next week, she’ll do the reading and the mini-lecture. She keeps a notebook where she takes notes, jots down questions and rabbit trails she wants to come back to, and copies maps. (She loves drawing maps. This is not something she inherited from me.)

 

Math

I did something a little controversial with math and let my daughter take two years off from studying it. I know! But she just hated it so much — it stressed her out way more than any kid should have to be stressed out. So I told her we didn’t have to do any more math until she wanted to. She didn’t live in a math vacuum — she still halved recipes and figured out if she had enough money for new headphones and a Totoro plushie — but we didn’t do any structured math. This year, she said she wanted to try math again, so we eased in with Life of Fred Fractions, and it’s going great. She’s had no problem working on the assignments, and when she has run into problems she couldn’t easily solve, she’s been relaxed enough to try different approaches to solving them. I don’t know that I would say everyone should skip two years of math, but for us, it worked out better than I might have hoped. (I wondered, and you might, too, how skipping math would affect her test scores: It didn't. She scored well in math both of our math-free years. I'm not sure what that says about learning math, math standardized testing, or anything else, but I thought it was worth sharing!)

 

Science

We had a pretty intense chemistry class last year, so this year, we opted for fun science, and we’ve been making our way through Janice VanCleave’s Science Around the Year. My daughter is probably at the tippy-top of the age range I’d recommend this book for, but she’s really enjoyed it. It’s not the most challenging of our classes, but she’s getting good practice writing lab reports, and it’s a lot of fun. She also keeps a daily nature journal (she is our resident cloud-noticer!) and usually participates when we do activities from The Nature Connection workbook.

 

Etc.

My daughter does handwork pretty much every day — she’s a good knitter and enjoys sewing. She’s pretty self-directed with these things now, so I just let her take the reins. (She likes to watch Mythbusters while she’s working.) She likes to cook, and she’s trying to make all the recipes in Nigella’s How to Eat. She enjoys drawing — I’ve mentioned it before, but she has loved the Manga for Beginners series this year.

She also is part of a Destination Imagination team that meets every week (and which I love because all the other parents involved with the team are so fun to hang out with), and she takes a creative writing class at our homeschool group.

One thing that’s important to me is that my daughter not feel like learning happens in some kind of discrete compartment — I want her to feel like it’s just part of life, like making dinner or watching anime. I try to model this by making learning part of my own everyday life (maybe that’s easier when you edit a magazine that forces you to brush up on Napoleon or learn about the history of NASA), but I also try not to get too attached to getting things done at a certain pace (or even at all). I want my daughter to feel like her education is hers to direct, and I’m there to offer support, input, and direction when she needs it. We have monthly check-ins, where we sit down over tea to make sure things are going the way she wants them to and make any changes she thinks we need to make. (This year has gone pretty smoothly, which may be because we’ve started to figure out generally what works or which may just be because of luck.) One thing that’s been a big change this year is her schedule — my daughter has turned into a night owl, so she often doesn’t emerge from her bedroom until almost lunchtime. That’s fine with me, so we adjust accordingly. Like everyone, I worry “Am I doing too much? Am I doing enough?,” but my daughter genuinely likes learning, so I figure I’m at least doing something right.