Thursday, December 3, 2009

Shrimp and Corn Chowder

A few months ago at church, we had our annual homecoming service and dinner on the grounds. For any of you who have ever been to a homecoming dinner, you know what a huge table of food is always out to be served. Ours, of course, was no different. There were casseroles, vegetables, meats, breads, and many other sumptuous dishes. I, not being a huge fan of everyone's cooking, opted to stick with the foods I could plainly decipher. Everything I tried was delicious.

When I was finished eating my plate of food, I swapped baby duty with my husband, so he could go fix his own plate. He always amazes me at these type of eating functions. Things he would never try at home, he is more than willing to pile on his plate. So, true to character, he came back with a plate of home cooked goodness. Many of the foods he pushed aside after trying them and realizing he wasn't crazy about it. But there was one thing he ate, and he just couldn't stop talking about it. In fact, he would have gone back for seconds, except that the pot was now empty. He bragged to everyone about this dish. It, in fact, was a soup, which was even more of a shocker, because he's not a big soup person.

After awhile, the preacher came up to talk to Brient. Brient, of course, began to brag about this soup he was enjoying so much, and the preacher said, "Oh yeah. I know exactly which one you're talking about. That's my wife's recipe. She made that."

So a few weeks later, while we were at the preachers house for dinner, Brient began to brag to her how delicious he thought her soup was. She said, "Wait just a minute, and I'll copy it for you." She pulled out a cookbook that, I think, was put together by some local people. When we left that night, I had a copy of her recipe in hand. Now, I can make it any time I want, and my husband just LOVES it!!

Today, I am making this soup, because it's a great comfort food on these cold fall (almost winter) days. As my house is filled with the wonderful smells of this chowder, I wanted to take a minute to share this recipe with you.

Shrimp and Corn Chowder

1 stick butter
1 can potato soup
2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 C chopped onion
2 lbs. shrimp
2 cans cream style corn
1 can whole kernel corn
1/2 C grated provolone cheese
1 qt. milk
1 tsp. worchestershire sauce
1 small container whipping cream
Slap Yo Mama seasoning (or whatever seasoning is common to your area)

Blend together the flour and butter over low heat. Add onions and saute until wilted. Add the remaining ingredients and cook on medium heat for 45 minutes. Serve hot over about 1/4 C cooked rice. (You only want a little rice to add to the flavor and texture. Too much rice takes away from the soup.)

Thanks to Rena for sharing her recipe with me. This is now a dish that I make often for my family. I hope you enjoy it, too!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Holiday Pie Anyone?

It's that time of year again. Time for lots of yummy holiday sweets and goodies. And that, in turn, means time for lots of extra pounds! Well, for me, the holidays are especially tricky. I'm not so much worried about gaining extra weight, but I'm more worried about My Man's blood sugars.

Sure, I could just tell him, "No, you can't have that. You're diabetic, and it will make your blood sugar go way too high. Now where are your sisters, so I can cut them a piece?" Now what kind of mother would I be to do for all three of the girls and not My Man? A TERRIBLE ONE!

So instead of saying "no", I say, "Let's find a better alternative." And it's an alternative that can be used for the entire family, and not just my diabetic. No one needs all the sugar that we are so willing to eat this time of year, and yet we eat it anyways - and in LARGE quantities.

So what's my alternative? STEVIA! Stevia is a plant that has been used for centuries for its sweet taste. It has been used to sweeten many different foods in many different cultures. I won't make my case for stevia today. I'll save that blog for another time. But I will tell you that you'll find a WEALTH of information at and Go check out those web sites and see what a great natural sweetener this is!

But being that this is the holiday season, I wanted to share with you my chocolate pie recipe that I have made with stevia. It tastes every bit as delicious as a full sugar pie, but it is very low carb, and you don't have to worry about an insulin spike in your body. (Yes, even non-diabetics need to be careful, because, when eating too much sugar at one time, your body will cause an insulin spike to cover that sugar. Too much of that and you're playing around with insulin resistance.) I actually found this recipe somewhere online, but I cannot remember exactly where. But I can't take the credit for it. All I can say is that I make it, and it's GREAT! Here's the recipe.

Stevia Chocolate Pudding Pie

1/2 C cocoa powder
8 Tbsp cornstarch
3 slightly rounded scoops Stevia powder (found at a health food store or online at
2 C milk
1 C whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp butter
2 egg yolks, tempered
cinnamon to taste

Combine the cocoa, stevia, and cornstarch in a saucepan. Whisk in the milk and cream, and cook on medium high until just boiling. Cook until you have it as thick as you want it. Add the vanilla and cinnamon. Remove from the heat. Temper the egg yolks. (To do this, you beat the egg yolks a little in a separate bowl. Then, slowly add about a spoonful of the hot pudding to the egg yolks while you're still stirring them. Then add another big spoonful. This helps to bring the eggs to the temperature of the pudding mix more slowly before adding it in.) Add the tempered eggs back to the pudding mixture and add the butter. Stir really well. Pour into a pre-baked pie shell. You can cover it with wax paper to prevent a "skin" from forming on the top. Or, if you like, make a meringue to go on top. You can even add a few scoops of the stevia to your meringue in place of the sugar. It does cook a little differently, but it still tastes wonderful! Another option is to top it with whipped topping.

If you cut this pie into 10 pieces, each piece will be 26 grams of carbohydrate. (I don't figure anything else, like calories or fat, because, with diabetes, this is all I really ever keep up with. If you want to figure more nutrition facts, visit

This makes a DELICIOUS chocolate pie! All my children LOVE this recipe, and especially my son, who knows this is on his "OK to eat" list. Quite honestly, I don't want any of my kids to think that it's OK to eat lots and lots of sweets, even if it IS the holidays. I want them to have good, healthy eating habits, and, instead of eating lots of sugar or artificially sweetened foods, to know how to make good alternative choices. Stevia is an herb that helps me to be able to make alternative choices. I hope you'll give this recipe a try. I PROMISE you will LOVE this recipe. And if you don't, I promise to take it off your hands!!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Work = Money

There is a terrible state of mind in our country today that says, "I don't need to work. The government will take care of me." And people say this with good reason. Politicians everywhere are trying to give out more money to anyone and everyone with their hand out. Our country has welfare, food stamps, government funded bill paying, and the most recent, a soon to be government run "free" health care system. The money is flowing out and seems to have no end in sight.

But the Bible, God's Holy Word, tells us a lot of truth about money. One is that "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." (2 Thessalonians 3:10) Another verse says, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Timothy 5:8) So apparently, God believes in the "work for your money" idea.

In our homeschool, I put a lot of emphasis on teaching my children everything they need to know about money. This includes how to earn it, how to save it, good ways to spend it, and how not to waste it. My children do not earn an allowance. They never have and they never will. The jobs that most people pay an allowance for are things that my children are required to do simply because I allow them to live under my roof with nice clothes on their backs and warm food on their plates. They are required to help out with any of the chores that are needed to keep our household running smoothly. And I require a cheerful attitude in doing these things.

But, I DO offer my children numerous opportunities to go outside of our regular chores and work to earn money. There are a few odd jobs around our house that I don't always have time to do (or just don't feel like doing), so I offer these to the kids as a way to build up their savings. (My favorite pay job is weeding my garden! It's a hard job that I don't always have time to do, so I am willing to pay them to do it for me!)

So for the last several weeks, Britches and I have been busy at work making all sorts of crafts and preserves. There was a craft sale that was to be held at my mom's church, and Britches saw a chance to make a little extra money, so she wanted to go. We made strawberry fig preserves, pinecone ornaments, and pinecone wreaths. I added to the booth with some homemade banana nut bread and a few crafts I had sewn myself. Along with what my mom brought, we had enough for a good booth!

Today was the big day. We got up early, and headed to the church to set up our table. Britches helped with setting everything out, talking to the customers, and taking the money due for the purchased items. (She did spend quite a bit of the day browsing around at everyone else's booth and buying a few Christmas presents - with her own money.) She worked hard! And when the craft sale ended, she kept going and helped to load up all the items that didn't sell. For a nine year old, she was a real trooper! And by the time we made it home, she was worn out! Lesson learned!!

In order to have things you want, you need money. In order to have money, you work. Work is hard. Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's not so fun. But at the end of the day, when you're worn out and tired, you can sit back and count your earnings and know that it was worth it.

I do need to add something else to my story at this point. In helping Britches to learn this lesson, I actually came out in the hole on this craft sale. I bought her ingredients and any supplies she needed, and I contributed the bread without taking any of the profits. But the thing that I remind myself is this. She is nine. You cannot teach ALL lessons at once. We start out simply learning that work equals money. Later on, we'll add to that lesson a new lesson that says you have to set aside enough money for product. And even later, we'll learn about paying in your taxes on what you sell. (You don't have to pay taxes on the little bit of money made at small craft sales, unless you work a lot of craft sales and are actually making a living off of that!)

So I ask you this. Are you teaching your children that it's OK to sit on their rear ends and hold out their hands so that someone can drop something in it every time they go by? Or are you teaching your kids the God given truth, which is "Work = Money!"? Think about it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A New Adventure

This past month has been absolutely crazy and STRESSFUL! There has hardly been a day to go by that wasn't filled with kinks! Babies, homeschooling, diabetes - you name it, it has happened! So with everything going on at our house, I have hardly had a moment to myself with which to put two good thoughts together to form what resembled a blog post! BUT, this last week has been so much better, and I can finally see a light at the end of this LONG, very LONG, tunnel.

So today, I wanted to take a few minutes to tell you about something VERY exciting that's in the works! And YEAH HOORAY, Chelita announced it today on her blog (, so that means I have the go-ahead to tell on my blog! This has actually been in the thought process all month, but with no time to devote to it, it has been pushed to the back burner. But no more! My sweet friend, Chelita, and I are putting together a lapbook all about Gypsies, and when finished, we will be offering it for sale. Gypsies are a group of people that fascinate us! But there are no lessons that teach about this unique culture. In fact, there are very few books that even talk about them.

That made us think. Hmmmm... How many people have wonderful ideas they would like to teach to their kids, only to find out there is no planned lesson to go by. So, our idea is to make lapbooks of "out-of-the-ordinary" lessons for those people who don't know how, have the time, or have the desire to make their own.

If you have an idea that you would like to see turned into a lapbook, please let us know. There are many places that you can buy lapbooks of all shapes and sizes. But if you find that you simply can't find what you are looking for, let us know.

Since we are both homeschooling moms, we, of course, will be using these first with our own kiddos. And since I am also working on "baby time", it will take a little while to get it all polished up and ready to be offered for sale. But I assure you, it will be worth the wait.

Chelita and I are SOOOO excited about this new adventure. We homeschooling moms just love a challenge! And even if this is a big FLOP, this is great fun just putting this first lapbook together with her! And after the last month of stressfulness, I have been in need of some GREAT FUN!

So soon and very soon, look for our BIG ANNOUNCEMENT that our first lapbook is finished, and get ready to go on a GREAT ADVENTURE as you teach your kids about the amazing story of The Gypsies.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fall Days

In the last month in North Central Louisiana, we have had rain nearly every day. And I don't mean just a little sprinkle. There are flood warnings out all over. It has rained relentlessly. The kids and I have been stuck inside getting all kinds of school done.

But Monday, the day started out cool and clear, and the report was that it would stay that way for the day. The high was only going to be about 70. So as soon as we finished up our morning chores and a quick spelling lesson, out the door we went. They played most all day.

When I first came out to check on them, Little Sister's arms were deep in a bucket of muddy water. They all three told me of how they were using the water and some mud they had dug up to make rocks. They were going to let them dry in the sun, and one day, years from now, people would find them. Wow! I was impressed. And then when they tired of playing in the dirt and digging, they headed to the front yard to rake leaves to jump in.

Tuesday promised to be a great day as well. So again, as soon as morning chores and a quick reading lesson were finished, out we went. This time, though, I told them to steer away from the water, because I didn't really feel up to the mud in the house again. So they headed, instead, down the hill to the woods. My husband cleared out our woods enough that the kids are able to safely play in them, but they still are full of trees, mud holes, treasures, and all kinds of other things. They built a fort to begin with. All three of them pitched in to make it just right. Later, I saw My Man and Little Sister gathering acorns and piling them up. At one point, Big Sister came in and asked me where her nature book was, because she had found a really cool new plant, and she needed to look it up to find out what it was. I saw her for a LONG time walking around with her book looking up all kinds of plants and trees. Also, Big Sister and My Man decided to each get a sack to fill with all kinds of things - pinecones, pinestraw, acorns, holly leaves, and anything else they came across - because My Man wanted to make a diorama with his, and Big Sister wanted to make fall wreaths to sell at an upcoming craft fair. Later in the afternoon, when we had come in, My Man set to work putting his diorama together. It's still not quite finished, so I'll post a picture later. (In case you're wondering, a diorama is a miniature scene of something - woods, city, bedroom, house, just whatever.)

This morning, I informed the kids that this would be our last day to be outside for awhile. This evening, there is a 70% chance of rain again, and it will last for a few days. So once again, after morning chores and a quick math review worksheet, the kids headed out the door. They have been swinging from pine trees, running through the woods, trying to catch falling leaves, collecting more things for their projects (which we will work on more tomorrow while it's raining), and all kinds of other fun things. Again, they have been finding all kinds of cool unusual plants, and they have been trying to figure out what they are. And since our woods are full of mushrooms, we took the time to study a few of them, talk about what they are, and how we are to NEVER eat them in the wild. We came in long enough to eat lunch. Big Sister and I tried a new recipe of dandelion pesto over pasta. It was absolutely terrible! But the point was not necessarily to make a prize winning dish, but to experiment, practice our measuring skills, and talk about the many uses and qualities of the common dandelion plant. (I still consider it a great herbal remedy, but, hey, medicines aren't really suppose to taste good. But it wasn't my favorite as food. We'll probably try it in another recipe before giving up on it as a food.)

After lunch, I sent Little Sister to take a nap, while the two older ones did some reading. But as soon as they were each finished, they came running wanting to know if they could head back outside. There was a vine out there that they found, and they wanted to go swing from it. So out they went. The day isn't finished yet! There is much more to do and see and play before the rain comes. And they will probably be out there until that time.

(Let me put in here that I did not just SEND my kids out each day. I was with them most of the time. Being that it was a little cooler, I stayed inside with the baby when she was awake. But as soon as she went down for a nap, I was back outside spending the day with the other three. I wanted to spend time learning and having fun WITH them.)

In the last three days, my kids have learned so much in their school time! And I'm not talking about the few worksheets that I made them do each day just to say that we "did school." I'm talking about the time they have spent outdoors exploring nature, researching the things they found, exercising their muscles, using their imaginations, being creative and constructing things from what they found - the list goes on and on. Being in nature is science at its best! It has been a fun three days.

And tomorrow, when the rain sets in again, we will be back inside with our books and pencils and computers. We will be doing the fun learning that is awaiting us inside. But until then.....

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Big City Studios

Let me start out by saying this - I am NOT an artist! I can't draw, I didn't take art in school, and I do good to color a picture with my 3 year old that looks somewhat acceptable. My husband, Brient, is a "jack-of-all-trades", and he can generally pull off anything he puts his mind to. But he's not exactly an artist, either.

So a few weeks ago, when I realized we needed to pull together a backdrop for our new Sunday night children's program, I got a little, shall we say, STRESSED!! I had no idea where to start on such a huge project. I did know what I wanted! That was something, at least. But how to get from nothing to where I wanted to be - well, that was going to be a challenge.

What I wanted was to steal the idea for the backdrop from our previous church, because theirs was GREAT!! A few ladies there had pulled together and made it absolutely amazing! So the first place I started was sending an e-mail to my good friend (one of the very talented ladies from the church), and asked her advice on where to start with ours. Tracy gave me some great advice on paints and how to get going in the right direction, and I was SOOOO thankful.

But with all her great advice, I still AM NOT an artist. So I put the call out to anyone who wanted to come lend their artistic abilities to help get this thing off the ground. Quite honestly, I didn't really expect anyone to offer help. Nowadays, people are just too wrapped up in things with their own families and lives to have any time to give to someone else. Occasionally, you might be able to bribe someone to help you - if there is enough in it for them to make it worth their while. But....

Within just a few hours, my dear, sweet, wonderful friend, Chelita, offered to come with her husband, Matt - as soon as we needed them - and help us paint this huge mural. WOW! These two people are VERY artistic, and I could not have asked for better help!!

I need to stop here and explain a bit about this family. First, they don't go to the same church as we do. What that means is, they offered their help, and their 2 boys would not even be in this class to enjoy the product of their work. Also, they live nearly an hour away. It cost them a lot in time and gas just to meet up with us. There was nothing in this for them - except, of course, some great red beans and rice that I fixed for supper. These people have a LOT going on in their family and lives right now, but that didn't stop them from wanting to lend a hand. And for that, I am SO VERY grateful!

So, the plan was made. We would meet up on Friday at our church to pull this backdrop together. With a lot of preliminary help from Matt, Brient had our canvas prepped and ready to go by the time Friday rolled around.

We started from square one - hanging the canvas. Brient measured everything, and he and Matt attached it to the wall with some blue latches. Then, we sketched out the picture using the overhead projector and some artist charcoal.

Now, we were ready to really begin! Chelita and I started with the big parts. I wanted to make sure I had a job that I COULDN'T MESS UP! So I got the words!

We kept working all afternoon filling in all the little parts and pieces of this scene. At any given time, there were three of us painting. The other one was either taking care of kids, getting a drink, or washing out paint brushes. Because of the number of hands working, it came together MUCH quicker than we expected.

Since we are homeschoolers, both of our families get to take our kids everywhere we go. We don't have the option of leaving them with someone so we can take care of business. But that's JUST how we want it!! Matt and Chelita's two boys and our three kids had the best time playing in the big gym together. We brought all kinds of toys, video games, and movies, and they had the whole place to run and play tag. But there were a few times when they wanted to be up in the middle of what we were doing. They needed some paint to make their own masterpiece. So, Brient pulled out a HUGE piece of cardboard, gave them all a piece of artist charcoal, some paint, and some paint brushes, and they went to town. Later, two of them came back wanting to do more, so we gave them plates to paint. They all had such fun!!

When we arrived at the church to begin this project, it was about 2:00 in the afternoon. We took a few short breaks here and there, and we stopped for supper. But, for the most part, we worked hard for the whole afternoon. It was 9:15 when we left the church. We left tired, worn out, and ready for bed. But we were all so proud of our accomplishment. And all the way home, Little Sister kept saying, "It was a good day. But I'm not ready to go home yet."

This was a HUGE undertaking, and, had we not had any help, Brient and I never would have finished this in an afternoon - or a month. But thanks to this sweet, wonderful family, we finished the backdrop for our new class. The kids at our church are going to be so excited when they come in on Sunday and see it!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fried Tacos

All afternoon, my house has been filled with the aroma of homemade taco sauce. Earlier today, I set it simmering on my stove, because tonight we are having one of my favorite dinners. Tonight is FRIED TACO night!!! Yeah hooray! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE fried taco night!!

In our family, fried tacos are a tradition that started back when my grandparents lived in South Louisiana. They met some friends who taught them this new way to cook tacos, and it has been the way we do it ever since. In fact, the way most people make tacos, to us, is cheating. You're not REALLY getting tacos, unless you get them fried!

So you may be wondering right about now just how in the world to "fry a taco". Well, I'm so glad you asked! Favorite recipes aren't meant to be kept secret. They should be shared, so everyone can have a chance to try it, and maybe even make it a family tradition of their own. So get ready, because when you finish reading this, you're going to want to run out and get your ingredients so you can cook and eat them yourself.

First, you need to make your sauce. It needs to cook for AT LEAST 2 hours, but preferably more, so you want to get it going early. You need:

Two large cans of diced tomatoes
One onion chopped fine
One can V-8 juice (optional)
Salt and pepper
Jalapenos finely chopped (optional)

Put it all in a big pot, cover it, and turn it on low so it will simmer. Let it cook at least 2 hours, or more if you have time. The longer you cook it, the better it tastes. Likewise, the less time you cook it, the more likely it is to just taste like tomato juice. Here is what it should look like.

Now for the tacos! You want to have all of your ingredients ready before you begin frying, because it goes really fast once you start. You don't want to be trying to find things in the middle of frying, or they will burn! Believe me, you do NOT want that to happen! So start by grating your cheese and chopping your lettuce.

After you get them ready, put them aside or even back in the refrigerator until you need them.

Next, you need to have some corn tortillas. You can use white or yellow - they both taste just as good. Take your thawed hamburger meat, and patty it on one half of your tortilla. You don't want to patty it too thick, or the meat will not cook as quickly. You need it to cook in the same amount of time as the shell.

After you have all your tacos ready, you're ready to fry. I use my large electric skillet, because I can fit 7 or 8 in at a time. Since there are so many in our family, we have a lot to fry, and I want to get finished as quickly as possible. But, you can use any kind of skillet to fry them in. When my husband and I were first married, I used my cast iron skillet, which only held 3 at a time. But since I wasn't making many, that worked well.

Pour cooking oil into the skillet to about an inch deep. You will need your oil to be very hot for them to cook correctly. Drop the open tortilla in the oil, and when the oil softens it enough to bend, use a fork and fold it over. If you try to fold it too quickly, it will break the shell.

Cook them for about 4 minutes on each side. What you want to end up with is a nice, browned, crispy taco shell. When you are ready to pull them out, use 2 forks on each side of the taco. Hold it on its side for a few seconds, while the extra oil drains out. If you don't drain them well, you're going to have REALLY greasy tacos. But be careful, because you don't want it to drop from between the forks and splatter you with oil. VERY PAINFUL! Drain it in a paper towel lined pan upside down. Putting it upside down for a few minutes helps to drain a little more of the oil out before filling them.

When they are cool enough to handle (don't wait until they're cool, though), flip them right side up, and stuff them with lots of the shredded cheese and lettuce.

Serve your fried tacos to your hungry family with a big bowl of taco sauce on the side. You can dip your taco in it, or just spoon it on top. Use the spoon to finish off the sauce at the end. It's good enough to be a meal on its own.

Here is my happy crew chowing down on theirs. Even my 3 year old loves these.

I hope you will give these a try. And if they don't turn out quite right the first time, don't give up. Try them again. It took me awhile to figure out how to make these turn out just right. But now, they are great every time, and it's something my family looks forward to with GREAT anticipation. It's a family tradition. You never know. They may just become a tradition in your family, too.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Blueberries for Sal

About a week ago, Little Sister and I started our next lapbook. I just LOVE the Five in a Row books and lessons. Well, yeah hooray, they have a Before Five in a Row set of lessons, which means it is right on Little Sister's level! So that's what I decided to do with her for our next learning fun.

O.K., first I should probably back up and explain a little. For some of you, you have no idea what Five in a Row or Before Five in a Row even is. The concept is this. You take a book, usually a classic Newberry Honor or Caldecott Medal winner, and you read it every day for five days. Each day, after reading this great book, you do some fun activities that go along with the story. Each activity is a wealth of learning fun! Before Five in a Row is for children ages 2-4, Five in a Row would be for older children, and they even have Beyond Five in a Row for much older children. So really, this way of teaching your kids could carry you far into their schooling. And it covers so much information, you will be amazed at what they learn just from one book. We don't do this way of schooling all the time, but it is a fun way that I like to use from time to time in our eclectic learning style. My older kids always enjoy it. And with Little Sister, it was no different.

So I pulled a book off her bookshelf the other day, and we sat down to read. We began reading the book Blueberries for Sal by Robert McClosky. The first time we read it, Little Sister was nothing but squirmy! But after we finished, we headed to the kitchen to pull out some hands on learning - my big bag of frozen blueberries.

In the book, Sal, the little girl, is putting blueberries in her "small tin pail" and listening to the sounds it makes - kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk. So I let Little Sister experiment with making those same sounds. I didn't have a tin pail, but a glass bowl worked just as well making the same sound.

We talked about different things you can make with blueberries, and decided to experiment with blueberries with Whipped Topping on top! She loved making it, and it was DELICIOUS!

On another day, Little Sister and I decided to try our hand at blueberry pancakes. Usually, I make the pancakes for breakfast without letting her help much. There just isn't time for helping first thing in the morning. But about 11:00 was a good time for us to get started on these, and it was a time that she was able to help. So this was what we ate for lunch that day! And they were soooo good!

First, I let Little Sister help measure out the 1 cup of blueberries. However, her hand got really cold, because they were still frozen, so I poured in the rest. Then we defrosted them in the microwave, and she got to help push the buttons.

I added the other ingredients, and she had the job of stirring it all together.

We poured them into the cast iron skillet, and then, after they were all cooked, we started eating!

In order to make our lapbook, I looked to one of my favorite web sites for purchasing curriculum online - In the Hands of a Child - and I purchased the lesson plans and printables for Blueberries for Sal. It was about $15 (roughly), and I was able to immediately download all the information right after check-out through Pay Pal. It is a very simple thing to buy from these people, and it is a wealth of good "stuff" already put together. It kept me from having to make each printable myself.

We worked on each topic a little each day for the week, as we were still reading the book once a day, and finally our book was ready to be assembled. Here is our finished lapbook. Little Sister did each of the activities with me, she did all the coloring and painting, and she helped glue each piece into the book. It is great fun for her to permission to use the glue stick!! But all the scissor jobs I took care of myself!

So there you have it - Little Sister's school work for the week. It was a fun way to learn with this little ball of energy! She wants to be big like her brother and sister, and she wants to do school just like them. But since she's just too little to do the same things as they do, this is a great way to start her off on her learning journey. The main goal with a preschooler is to teach them to love learning! If you can do that, the road is much easier!!

In another week or so, Little Sister and I will be starting our next Before Five in a Row book. Look for more of our fun times soon!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Life is School, and School is Life

Often, I have people ask me what we do for school. Usually, when someone asks me that, what they really would like to know is what curriculum I use, what kind of schedule do I keep, what kind of hours do we "school" - that sort of thing. When you ask me that question, be prepared to hear anything but what you were expecting.

We start school around 9:00 each morning - that is, if Baby Girl and Little Sister are cooperating at that moment. Then, we work until lunch. Well, we do have to stop for Little Sister to go potty, get a drink, turn on her movie. Then there are the stops for any phone calls I get that interrupt. And most work stops when Baby Girl wakes up from her nap, because she thinks the world revolves around her and her stomach. There are also interruptions due to low blood sugar (generally right as we're getting ready to start spelling), so we need to stop and have a quick snack.

In the afternoon, we work around the two little one's naps, and we try to actually get a little more accomplished. But more often than not, I find I MUST take a short nap in order to make it through until bedtime, because the baby rarely sleeps more than about three hours at a time at night. So we stop for quiet time, and by the time I get back to them, the baby is crying and ready to get up from her nap. Some quick schooling before time to fix supper, and then we're stopped again for a couple of hours of eating and clean-up. Usually, dad is home in the evenings, so we try to spend time with him, or at least wind down from the day and begin bedtime chores - like pajamas, potty, book, blood sugar check, snack. Before you know it, the day is gone. What happened to all my time?

So how, you may ask, do I get ANYTHING done with the kids by way of learning, when our schedule is start-stop-start-stop-start-stop. I'm so glad you asked! With our crazy "kid-friendly" schedule, we need something that works FOR us, and not AGAINST us.

First, I want to point out something very obvious, but something that most people miss completely. School is not an 8am-3pm deal. Life is school, and school is life! Every day, all day, your children are learning. They are learning as they are going about their day - that is, if you take the time to teach them as you go about YOUR day!

My children help me cook, at which time I teach them math as we learn fractions and doubling recipes, chemistry as we watch what happens with baking soda or yeast, and home economics as we plan meals that are healthy, inexpensive, and will feed everyone. As we are taking care of Baby Girl, we are teaching parenting skills and child care. When we grocery shop, I teach my children budgeting skills, basic math, nutrition, government business - by way of taxes (a real shocker for my kids when they first learned they had to pay taxes!!) - and people skills as they speak to the cashier and pay for their own items. Every time we go to the park, we are learning nature science while walking the trails and looking at the flowers and pond, and as we visit the zoo, we learn animal science while talking about each animals characteristics, eating habits, habitat, and whatever else. As we go together out to our garden to prepare our raised beds and plant our seeds, the kids learn earth science as they watch and study ladybugs and earthworms, nutrition as they are planning what we will be eating in a few weeks, math as they calculate how much needs to be planted to feed all of us, and physical activity.

We talk about everything we do. We talk while we are doing each activity in our day, and I tell them the hows and the whys about every part of it. I want my children to understand the real life reason for learning what we learn. I don't want them to think that school is punishment that I make them do each day. I don't want them to be forced to sit at a textbook for six hours just to think that the reason for doing it was simply to fill up a notebook. I want them to be allowed to use their imaginations and be creative in every aspect of learning. I don't want them to be boxed in by a curriculum that tells exactly what they are to learn and when. Which brings me to another part of our schooling.

We are very eclectic! What that means is this. I pull from many sources, take what I want to use, and leave the rest. We have no textbooks - at all. If I were to try to have my kids finish a textbook in a year, I would absolutely pull my hair out from stress! But I do spend quite a bit of time at the library and on my computer. I decide what it is that I want my children to learn, and I go to work finding books that fit my criteria for learning that subject. Then I find a way to incorporate it into our day and our life.

I do lapbooks with some of our learnings, which is nothing more than a scrapbook of your child's work. Also, I have three-ring binders for each child and each subject for notebooking. Notebooking is simply doing a page on a subject, three hole punching it, and adding it to your three-ring binder. With either of these methods, you are free to add any amount of information you like. Do only one page if you just want to touch on a subject, or go much more in depth and have lots of pages to add to your notebook or lapbook. I like both ways equally as well. The reason for doing this is, not to be bound to a book, but to simply have a way to keep your child's work and have something for them to look back on and see what they accomplished. No, we don't only TALK about the things we are learning about, but we do lots of activities with each thing! One thing I DON'T do is busy work. I don't bore my children with worksheets of problems just to give them something to do so we can say we filled out a page today. But we do many fun, interactive, creative, complex projects that give them lots of hands-on time with what we're learning.

Now, I'll bet right about now you're thinking that you wished you hadn't asked me how we school after all! You're probably more confused now than if you had just continued to wonder. Not too many people school like we do. There are many who are afraid to go without worksheets, workbooks, and textbooks. They need the structure of what someone else has already put together. And then there are others who simply think that the way we school just isn't school in the first place. And I would say this to you. For those who are afraid to step out of the norm, you can do it! It can be done, and it can be done well. But it all depends on your level of dedication to teaching your children every minute of every day in every detail of life. And for those of you who think it's not really school, I would invite you to spend a few hours with my children. You will walk away amazed at the things they know - things that most children their age would never even be exposed to. Because of the way we school, I have time to spend with each one of them individually learning things that most books don't have the pages enough to cover.

Life is school, and school is life. Go live it!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Five Red Apples

The kids and I have been hard at work with our homeschooling these past few weeks. Britches an My Man are learning tons of things and having a great time doing it! But...

Lately, I have had a time with Little Sister, because she is always asking to play with My Man and Britches. I send her to go play or watch PBS Kids, but in no time, she's back under our feet. After sending her away several times, I begin to feel really guilty that she is all alone in there and we're having all the fun. But she's just not old enough to do what the older ones are working on.

But she IS old enough to do her own "school." So I dug into my memories of days gone by, and began to think of the things I did with the oldest 2 when they were her age. When they were small, we did all kinds of learning together, and we had so much fun with it all! One of the things I did a lot of were lapbooks. It was always something Britches and My Man liked, so I decided to start one with Little Sister.

Lapbooks are really nothing more than scrapbooks that are put together using your child's school work. My friend, who originally introduced me to lapbooking, is EXTREMELY creative with her kids lapbooks. But being the un-creative person I am, mine usually stay pretty simple. The point is, if you're a creative and crafty person, make it more elaborate. But if you're like me, keep it simple. The point is to have a cool place to store your child's work, so you aren't just stuffing it in a box in the top of a closet somewhere. Also, it is something tangible that your child can pull out any time, look at it, and remember the things they learned.

So I told Little Sister one morning that she and I were going to learn all about apples. (Amazingly, my 2 oldest - who think she is a "baby" - stopped what they were doing and wanted to participate. I told them they were out of luck. This was our project, and they were working on the project they needed to finish that was more age appropriate for them!) Little Sister was so excited. I didn't send her to go play by herself, and I didn't sit her in front of the TV, so I was pretty excited myself. Here are some pictures of our fun.

To begin a lapbook, you need one manilla folder, legal or letter size depending on how much stuff you have and how big you want it, and in any color. We used a letter size red folder. Open it up flat on a table. Then, fold each side in to the center. Use a ruler to crease the folds. You now have a folder that looks like 2 shutters opening. This is your book. Then you can begin the fun stuff!

First, she colored a picture of an apple with a worn in it. If you notice, she decided to color the worm with 3 colors at once. Very pretty. I helped some, because she wanted me to, but I tried to get her to do most of it. I wanted it to be HER work.

We made a game that I printed off a web site that I came across. It was called "Five Red Apples." I used contact paper on the game pieces, so, as she was playing with them, they wouldn't get bent or torn. Then I let her glue the tree to the back of our book. She had so much fun playing this game over and over and over.

I glued the poem inside on the top left hand side, and I made a pocket to hold the game pieces under the poem. The pocket was made out of a piece of card stock that was held on with packing tape. I taped one side down, and then I stuck my finger under it a little to be sure there would be room for the pieces. Then I taped the other side and the bottom down.

I had given Little Sister a piece of paper to draw an apple. But when I came back to check on her, she told me she had drawn a cloud, like the cloud in our apple game. So I wanted to include that in her book.

Little Sister learned that there are 4 seasons, and she made a book showing the differences in an apple tree in each season. She also learned that apples are ready for picking in the fall!

We also made another similar circle picture chart - or whatever you want to call that thing - that we glued in the center of the book. It showed the apple tree in each of the different seasons. Also, at the very bottom center of the book, we taped down the seeds that we counted from an apple we cut. After we cut the apple for our lunch, she learned what a half and a whole are, and she was able to tangibly learn that it takes 2 halves to make a whole apple.

And these are the pictures of our finished book. She was so proud of her work. On the front cover, I cut her apple picture in half, and I glued half to each side. Also, I let her take a bingo dot maker, and she made red "apples" all over the cover. I came behind her with a green marker and made stems and leaves on them.

Just to be clear, she and I did not try to make the entire book all in one day. We worked on the different parts for a few days, and then I came back, while she was playing one day, and glued part of the book. She helped with the dots on the front and gluing the game on the back. She also glued in both "tree" books. The glue stick was a BIG hit!!

So if you have a pre-schooler who just isn't big enough for "big school" but still is underfoot, try making a lapbook with them. It is a fun way to learn on their level, and it can include anything you would like to teach them. The biggest point here is this. Don't teach only to your oldest children. The younger ones will feel left out and neglected. This project really helped Little Sister to feel like she was included with "the big kids"! And I haven't decided what our next lapbook will be about, but I know it will be fun, and we will be starting it soon!

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” ~Dr. Suess