Thursday, February 25, 2010

The C Word, part one

I've been obsessing over Curriculum lately.

Why, exactly, I have to decide right now which, if any, curriculum I'm going to order in six months, I don't know. Maybe my sinus infection has gone to my brain. Maybe I'm just too tired to do anything but shop online stare blankly at compare and analyze book lists and lesson samples.

But, since the shot the doctor gave me today has cleared my sniffer enough to know that I really need to clean tomorrow, I thought I might as well put my thoughts down for you all (or maybe 2 out of 100?) before I have to get back to real life again. The one that requires me to clean the bathroom, and cook real food, and close the laptop and get off my bed.

So... here's a little peek at the lovely collections of ideas and books and schedules that await the new homeschooler overwhelmed by the idea of putting it all together for herself...

Oak Meadow
was one of the first curriculums that caught my eye way back when my Eldest surprised me with his request to cut back on the unschooling. I liked its thoughtful, Waldorf-styled, slow approach to academics, its emphasis on music, art and nature, and yes, its choice of fonts and illustrations for the Teacher's Guide.

Elizabeth Foss's free online curriculum at Serendipity, while a work-in-progress, took my breath away with its beauty and creativity. Her ideas are perfect for the larger family with story-loving littles, and older children who still enjoy visiting fairyland.

If you're already a Charlotte Masonite, you've probably discovered Ambleside Online -- another free curriculum, without the beautiful visuals, but with a detailed reading list for all grades and an online forum to share ideas with other users. Just grab your library card, and go for it!

I was more drawn to Simply Charlotte than Ambleside, partly because it was so easy to navigate! Sonya Shafer also offers a free curriculum guide with book lists and schedules, a discussion forum, as well as an online planner, lots of how-to articles, inexpensive Bible study and literature guides, and even homeschooling seminars to purchase. Schafer's free e-books are AWESOME.

I began this year thinking SCM was the way I'd go. I downloaded Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education, which was very helpful. Then we jumped right into "Genesis Through Deuteronomy & Ancient Egypt ." (Unfortunately, when I jump into something too quickly, I usually jump right back out. I'm more likely to stay in the pool if I warm up on the steps for a while...) More about that later.

Trouble was, I was also oggling Tapestry of Grace. Again, the imagery tempted me. I wanted to buy it for the Map of Humanities alone! I love the idea of searching for the threads of Truth woven through history and recorded in literature. I also like that it's multi-level so you can coordinate your different aged kiddos. But it's a little more expensive, and requires a bit of homeschooling experience, in my opinion, and we're not there yet.

With ToG, I was bit by the Classical bug. CMers make it look so easy -- was it too easy?

And... not to leave you hanging, but because I really need some sleep, and I doubt you have time to read this in one sitting anyway, I'm going to call this Part One. And pray I actually manage to write Part Two tomorrow. Or the next day.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Observing Lent

Lent is the season before Easter when we prepare our hearts to remember Christ's Death and celebrate His Resurrection in full awareness of our need for Salvation. We observe Lent for 40 days just as Jesus spent 40 days in the desert resisting Satan before beginning His ministry.

We have been sick the last two weeks -- the boys got better, then I got sick, then they got sick again. We are definitely feeling in need of salvation.

God's timing is always perfect, of course. He knew I'd need a kick in the pants to keep my promise to spend this time killing off my sugar cravings and caring for this temple. And He's helped me every moment -- I haven't craved it.

I had one last chocolate cupcake at the skating rink on Tuesday, and it didn't even taste good. (Though I hope no one else thought that!) I weaned myself off Starbucks with a plain ol' decaf soy latte -- no more pumpkin spice, no more cinnamon dolces.

My dad picked up lunch for us today, my parents' first day home after a week in Florida. He brought cookies -- and I didn't even look at them. That wasn't my self-control -- that was purely the Holy Spirit!!

Please pray He continues to help me.

And, if you like, you can print off a Lenten calendar to use with the kiddos, or make a nature-inspired calendar, or a use a Greek-style coloring page. Lacy at Catholic Icing has lots more great ideas to use during Lent.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Feasts and Fun

Well! I think we did just the right amount of celebrating this weekend to last us through the quiet, contemplative season of Lent. (And we still have tonight's Pancake Supper for Shrove Tuesday!)

Friday night the boys helped make heart-shaped "Greek" pizzas to go with my garlic chicken and asparagus. The Ancient Greeks didn't have rice, potatoes or tomatoes, and they didn't use butter. But they did make bread and use olive oil. They also used lemons and garlic. Who knew we eat Greek all the time?!

We took the feast to my parents' house, hoping to watch the Opening Ceremonies, but they started too late for us! We watched them recorded on Saturday -- until the boys got bored and begged to forward to the actual sports! We did love the fiddle-playing.

The boys spent Sunday afternoon finishing up their valentines, while I baked cupcakes for not one, but two Valentine's parties!

On Presidents Day, we headed up the hill to visit friends and celebrate Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day. (Who's idea was it to have so many holidays in one weekend?!)

The kids decorated bags to hold their valentines, cut out Chinese dragons to play with, ate too many sweets...

...and spent most of the afternoon enjoying the warm weather and exploring the field behind the house.

This morning we bundled up for another party -- this time close to home at our local ice skating rink. It was our last winter fling -- despite the scraped-ice "snow" outside the rink, it's pretty clear spring has arrived here!

I hope you all had a sweet, celebratory, extended weekend!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Warm food, finally... and Julia Child

My head has been a little obsessed with homeschooling lately, and I've neglected other aspects of this blog -- like the warm food quest I was on. Several of you generously shared your ideas for warm, nourishing snacks, and I never got back to the subject! So, here I am, trying to make it up to you.

The fried parmesan broccoli and cauliflower topping for this Giada DeLaurentis recipe was a hit with two out of three of my kids. (The third doesn't like cheese, go figure.) Cut the veggies into bite-size florets, dip in egg batter, then cover in grated parmesan. Crisp up in hot oil in your frying pan, and salt to taste. Yum! (Put the fried veggies over baby spinach with a little lemon vinaigrette for less guilt.)

Roasted sweet potato fries (or russets, if that's what you've got, for some reason I took a photo of the russets, but not the sweet). Preheat oven to 450. Peel and slice 2 medium sweet potatoes into strips. Dry the slices. Put in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil until coated. Sprinkle with pepper. Spread evenly on a baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes. Flip over, and bake another 10 minutes or until browned. Sprinkle with salt.

Easy nachos. No veggies here, but they're a yummy, warm treat! Spread a few handfuls of corn chips on a baking sheet, and shred cheddar cheese over the top. Bake in the oven at 300 degrees for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Here are some more warm treat ideas from my helpful readers!

Herbal tea, warm vanilla milk or hot cider instead of hot chocolate.
Fruit breads instead of cookies.
Hot fruit sauces with granola topping instead of smoothies.

And, just in case you wondered... Julia Child's recipe for Beef Bourgignon from "Mastering the Arts of French Cooking" is just as fantabulous as Julie Powell said it was.

I saw "Julie and Julia" with my mom in the theater, and then we watched it again as soon as it was out on rental. LOVED it. Of course, I had to make the highlighted dish. I just took a while getting around to it, as usual.

It's a four-hour recipe, so it took a little planning. Plus, I had to save up for my first enameled casserole. (Its pretty French blue has decorated my stovetop ever since.) As soon as I brought my Le Creuset home, I stole the cookbook from my mom's house, and got to work. I made the sauteed mushrooms and braised onions just like Julia directed. (Can you believe I'd never braised anything before?)

When it was done, I wanted to eat the whole thing straight from the pot. Luckily for the boys, they got home from kung fu just in time...

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