Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Problem With Stuff...

So, I'm bad at taking before pictures.

Here are a few pictures that show the progress I've made, but I've come to a conclusion...

STUFF in and of itself is a problem for me.  Honestly.  You know how much space I actually NEED for the materials we are actively using?!  Not much.

I have too much stuff.
I've been trying to remedy the problem I'm having, but I am organizationally challenged.  Big time.  But here are my meager efforts - in progress.

Click images for BIG versions!
See the two bags under the desks?
Those are large enough to hold
ALL the books we use in a week.
This picture shows the part of the
room that is *mostly* finished...
I was elated to find this black cart on
the curb recently!  I'm considering
storing all the current curriculum
on the white thing.
Cozy couch and some more junk...
I'd really love for this to feel more inviting.
Here you can see the main "problem".
And the rest of the problem.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bread Experiment 1

After successfully making a few different bowls full of dough using the standard recipe, this time I tried something new...

I picked up a bag of White Whole Wheat King Arthur Flour today!  I mixed up a batch of dough with 3c KA AP Flour and 3 1/2c WWW.  Then I decided to see what would happen if I also added a half cup of ground flax seeds...  this is what it looks like after a few hours of sitting on the counter:

Friday, July 8, 2011

More Bread!

So, here's the post I promised.  The other night I decided to mix up a batch of pizza dough instead of what I've been doing and the kids and I are in <3.

I'll share the recipe here, but if you need the method please go here.

3C warm water
1 1/2 T kosher salt (1 T if you're using table salt)
1 1/2 T yeast (one packet will work if you don't have a jar, it's a little less but still rises fine)
1 T sugar
1/4C olive oil
6 1/2C flour

Mix it all together, let rise for two hours on the counter, then move to the fridge.  I really felt like this one needed the time in the fridge.  The recipe that I used initially said to sub 1/4C of water out for the oil, but I accidentally just ADDED the oil instead of subbing - my conclusion is that this is a forgiving recipe.

To make the flatbread pictured at the top of this post I did this:
Preheat to 450.  Tear off a hunk of dough and drop it onto a well-floured counter top then squish it flat with a rolling pin (flip it over now and then, makes the process easier).  I rolled it stretched it, then tossed it a few times (kids thought that was really great) because I think it's fun (and it really stretches the dough better in my opinion).  I put it on my silpat covered baking sheet and brushed it with olive oil, then sprinkled on some garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil and dried oregano.  Bake for 15-20.  If you eat dairy, sprinkle a (very) little mozzarella on during the last few minutes.

Also, just to see what would happen...  I formed a boule and baked it as well.  It needed less time than I expected, but this little experiment resulted in something I didn't expect: a more loved loaf than the original.  You see, the only complaint over the original is that Princess Spritely had a difficult time with the crust.  It was too... crusty.  THIS one, however, made her a very happy girl.  Jupiter agrees that the much softer crust is preferable, so it appears this will be our regular recipe.

I'm excited to tinker with this.  I think it will be fun to make some stuffed breads and I have ideas for rolling it out pizza crust style and covering it with the stuff I used for the flat bread then rolling it up pinwheel style to make an herb bread to serve with warm olive oil.  Ultimately, I hope to sub out some of the AP flour for some whole in order to increase the nutritional value...  King Arthur Flour has a whole white wheat that I'm really interested in trying, I've read that people are subbing that cup for cup with good results - perhaps I'll pick up a bag when I'm at the shops next.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

I've never made bread before.

Okay, that was a lie.  I have a breadmaker and have used it a handful of times - growing up, my Mom used.hers.a.lot.  I thought I would too but here's the deal, the loaves that I turned out were just *okay*.  Here's the other deal, cleaning that thing was just a hassle.  If you know me, it doesn't take much for me to feel like something is a hassle.  While the little stir knob thing in the bottom of the breadmaker might not be a big deal for someone else but for me that was just a deal breaker.  I don't even KNOW what is so irritating about it, but it just makes me crazy.

I've also made some pretty great Olga's-like flat bread (sweet and soft and oh man what a recipe!).  Beyond this though, I've not ventured into bread making.

Until now.

Well, until a couple weeks ago.

About two years ago I stumbled across a post talking about bread on Mother Earth News.  I thought, "Wow, that looks so easy even I could do it!" and promptly filed it into the part of my brain labeled "Stuff that is cool and looks fun but will never actually get done" and called it a day.  A couple weeks ago, I accidentally stumbled on the same recipe on a foodie forum and felt like kismet was knocking.  So.  I looked around my kitchen and lo-and-behold I had everything to make the bread (even yeast, which is weird because I never have that...).  I mixed up a batch after the kids went to bed, let it rise a couple hours (when it tried to escape my bowl and have a party on the counter I decided it was bakery time) and then tossed a hunk of dough in the oven for 40 minutes while I worked on a website.  The rest of the dough got a layer of plastic wrap and found itself nestled onto the bottom shelf of my fridge.

The rest is history.  My house smelled SO. GOOD. and the second it was cool enough to touch I tore a piece off and ate it.  Talk about amazing.  Talk about easy.  I saved enough for breakfast (so WHAT I ate half the loaf, I was HONGRY!....... okay, it was just that good) and the kids promptly requested that I never buy a loaf of pre-sliced again.  Now, if I could only be as successful with slicing as I am with baking, and we'd be good to go!

While I did use this exact recipe to make a pizza one night with the most delicious results I've ever had in a pizza (also made my own sauce for the first time that night - I think that made a huge difference), it produced a SERIOUSLY crunchy crust.  I'll be posting a modification of this recipe that I used this week and we all devoured in short order.  It's stellar.

Basic Bread Recipe

Into a 4C Pyrex Measuring Cup:
3C warm water (just warmer than your body temp is perfect)
1 1/2 T kosher salt (if you use regular salt, please reduce the amount!)
1 1/2 T yeast (If you're not measuring from a jar, this works out to be a packet and a half.  One packet is sufficient, that's what I've been doing and the results are equally delicious.)

Into a 5qt bowl: (I use a stoneware one that was my Mom's but I'm stealing it for good mwahaha)
6 1/2 C Flour (Apparently I like to add notes in parentheses.  I don't have anything special to note here, but I didn't want the flour to feel left out.)

Now, dump the water/salt/yeast mixture into the flour.  Grab a large wooden spoon and stir until you don't see any floury areas, then rinse off the spoon and cover your bowl with a loose piece of plastic wrap or something (not tight because you need to let the gas from the yeast escape) and walk away.  Really.  Just leave it alone.  If it helps, pretend the dough is cranky and needs a nap - just leave. it. alone.

Depending on how cranky your dough is warm your kitchen is, your dough should be happy and ready to use anywhere from 2-5 hours.  Generally, I set a timer for 2 hours and then toss the whole thing into my fridge.  You COULD rip off a hunk and bake it right away if you want, but the flavor will be better tomorrow.  Promise.

Inpatient aren't you?  Okay - I usually can't wait either, so here are the baking instructions for those of you who camp with me in Needbreadnowville.


Grab a small handful of flour and dust over the top of your dough, this will help prevent sticking- to you and your choice of sharp implement with which you will sever said dough.  Grab a nice, big handful of dough and pull straight up, then use a serrated knife (or kitchen scissors if you, like me, also prefer to run with scissors) to separate the oven bound from the fridge bound.

Form a boule.  If you don't know how to do this, watch a quick video on Youtube.

Set a timer for 20 minutes.  When that time is up, toss a metal pan on the lowest rack of your oven, make sure there's a rack in the middle to put the bread on, and preheat your oven to 450.  Set the timer for another 40 minutes.  When THAT time is up, score your dough (I use scissors, but by now you know why) after sprinkling a little flour on top if you like the looks of that and toss it in the oven.  Pour a cup or so of water into the pan on the bottom rack, the steam does nice things to your bread.

I bake mine for about 30-40 minutes.  When it's done let it cool on a wire rack.  I store mine on the counter with a floursack towel wrapped around it.  A loaf in our house only lasts a day, maybe two if it's lucky - I bake almost daily.  Dough is happy to hang out in the fridge for up to two weeks and the flavor develops as it ages.  ALSO - Don't bother washing the bowl in between batches of dough!  Scrape all the remaining stuff into the new dough and the flavor will have a head start (a la sourdough).

If you have a difficult time imagining what's going on here, a simple Youtube search will provide a wealth of visual learning opportunities - that's what finally got me going, I couldn't seem to just look at the recipe and imagine it working.

This method and recipe results in a VERY crusty loaf.  If you want softer bread, wait a little bit and I'll post that recipe too.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Meeting Goals

We have met a few goals this year, I thought I would share.  :)

Goal 1: Met
Language Arts - Phonics Road, Level 2
Jupiter finished Level 1 of Phonics Road!  We are currently in "Week 6" of Level 2, but have only been doing these books for two weeks.  He "gets" phonics and the practice is wonderful - he's really spelling well on his own now and he seems to be actually enjoying writing now that it's not such a process to get his thoughts in order.  Much is the same in this book, plus a few new and exciting things that he really loves.  The words are longer, and more difficult - but now he's learning about parts of speech and everything it takes to make a whole sentence.  Just today, he correctly (verbally) defined for me the things we have learned thus far and they include: homophone, idiom, synonym, compare, contrast, subject and simple subject, predicate and simple predicate, object, noun, verb, adjective, simile, and metaphor.  Whew.  To top it all off, the kid enjoys - enjoys diagramming sentences.

Goal 2: Met
Math - Right Start, Level C
Jupiter has completed Right Start Level B and just did lesson 25 in Level C today.  He's moving right along at this point, as it seems to be reviewing a bit of what we have already done.  I did flip ahead a bit to see what's coming up, and let's just say there are lots of little x's in his near future.

I'm sure he is more than ready to being learning multiplication - today we did an Astronomy lesson which involved measuring how high he can jump here on Earth and figuring out how high he could jump if he were on the moon...

Goal 3: Revised
Science - Exploring Creation, Astronomy (Apologia)
Incidentally, you just multiply your jump height by 6.  He started with 8.5" and correctly figured out (using the method he thought of on his own, he first did the whole inches, then the half - "8 doubled is 16, and two 16s are 32 so another one would be six and 32 plus 16 is 48.  If I had six halves, it would be three wholes...  so I could jump 51 inches!").  Then we measured out 51" using a tape measure and first showed that his hand would be higher than the ceiling, that his head would be awfully close, and that he could jump over his own self... but not Mom.

Measuring between his natural reach and jump reach.
I say revised because we are *not* going to meet any time that I had previously mentioned.  We're taking our time and really enjoying these lessons, we also spend time checking out stuff on NASA and I recently installed the Astronomy Picture of the Day app on my phone which daily provides a new image to get excited about.  Not only do you get a new picture, it's saved into your images file, it automatically updates your background, AND (best) it gives a brief explanation of what in the universe you are viewing.  Cool points, all around.

Goal 4: Revised
History - Mystery of History, Vol. I
I have also decided to slow down on History for the year, and possibly extend it part way into next.  We repeatedly listen to the text regularly and sit together and read it less regularly - the current hold up, however, can be blamed on no one but me: I need to compile the timeline stuff for Quarter 2.  I should just sit down and do it, it's not hard and it's fun.  Today, J asked if he could maybe help me do it so we could put more stuff in our folders lol.

Self-paced school using www.time4learning.com
Princess Spritely has been growing in leaps and bounds mentally!  She is READING!  Not long ago, my husband asked me for an early reader and sat down with her...  He said, "Will you read to me today?" to which she replied, "I can't read Daddy!  I only know letter sounds!" "Okay, tell me these sounds then..." and off she went.  She read the whole book.  We had no clue she could read.  YES, I have been working with her on most days with the sounds (sometimes many per, as we all know) of the letters.  YES, I realized that she knew them quite well.  BUT...  I'm using a new approach with her that is gentler than the one I used with my son so I had planned to wait until the fall to have her really get going - guess she's ready!  <3

Things are growing!
She has continued to use Grade 1 Odyssey materials as mentioned before, but recently she found the demos for the paid area of Starfall and has requested I sign her up for those lessons instead.  I probably will do so this week...  She showed each of the lessons she has been repeating over and over (only one per section is available to non-members) to me in earnest, and I have to admit - she gave quite the convincing little presentation for a 5yo.  Am I in for it or what?

We haven't begun any sort of formal math, despite owning Right Start Level A (purchased last year in anticipation of beginning Fall '10) and it turns out I may as well have just saved money and started her in B like I did with her brother (much of B is a review of A).  We have been singing lots of songs that are about math and playing lots of games that are about math.  She's learning to use the Alabacus (which helps teach "seeing" in groups of 5 and 10) and seems to be getting it, she is learning pairs that equal ten.  Her attention span for math is short, so we only play until she says she is done.  Then, her brother and I finish the game out while she sits with us and we move on to something else.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Classroom Setup

New Perspective

This week I re-arranged our class room. Seems to be much more functional for all of us! During class I place my chair by both desks, sort of in between so I can work with both kids. So far, Jupiter has been less distracted and has been getting more done with less prodding (so nice).

I've moved the wall art since taking this pic and plan to utilize the space behind my chair for our time line (Mystery of History Vol. I). I might also hang a shelf on the wall between the desks too.
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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Value of Fun

Disclaimer 1: I don't do affiliate links because I am too lazy. Disclaimer 2: I like to post things on my blog so that when I forget the name of something I can find it again easily (in other words, my blog is sort of like public bookmarks).

Now then. This site comes on recommendation of a member in the home education group I read, I thought this was a pretty nice site, and wanted to share it with my un-schooling friends out there: ELGames.com: Offering over 4,000 EDUCATIONAL GAMES for Teachers, Home Schoolers, Parents, & Children and just for FUN!

Have a glorious day!
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Monday, January 31, 2011

The Best Part of Waking Up

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Discovering Eighths

J has discovered eighths on his own, he even figured out what they're called by noticing the pattern in this project (which stopped at 1/4 but he wanted to continue).
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Monday, January 24, 2011

When The Books Are Good

This is how you know your kid likes his curriculum... He was doing this when I came down stairs this morning!
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Fine Motor Development

Sprite had been showing some readiness for writing, so here she is practicing is an activity suggested by a member of a local homeschool group.
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

It's like this...

Let me begin by explaining that we don't school on a traditional cycle by any means of that word.  Not only do we choose to school year round, but I do not stick to any grade level of any kind with either of my kids.

For example:
Jupiter (my son) is about four weeks away from finishing his current Language Arts text, so this means we'll have to find something for him to continue with.  He is also about one week from completing his "Level B" math book, good thing I bought "Level C" last year when I thought we would school through my summer displacement and our move from MI to CT (what the heck was I thinking?).  To further complicate things, if we can actually stick with some sort of schedule, we (the kids do Science and History together) will be done with Astronomy in the end of April and History in the middle of May.

Sprite (my daughter) has already completed the entire "Kindergarten" year through the program she uses online, so I have allowed her to continue to 1st grade.  A lot of repetition is involved, and I have to explain concepts more than once...  but she eventually gets it and she's doing quite well!

At least this situation is timed well this year re: tax return.

Our Curriculum Goals for 2011
Language Arts
Complete Phonics Road Level I
  • We are only on Level I despite his age because even with completing Sing, Spell, Read and Write (also known as SSRW), while he is an excellent reader he can could not spell.  He is doing about two weeks for every week that is scheduled in the text because he can handle it, and I'm proud to report that his spelling ability and general understanding of the English Language has improved immensely.  In related commentary, we are not using SSRW with Sprite.


Complete Apologia Astronomy and accompanying Notebook and Labs
Begin either: Apologia Zoology I or Apologia Botany.  Can't decide, might do both.  No matter the decision, we will also have him complete the Notebook and Labs - the enrichment provided by these activities is astounding to me.

Complete Mystery of History Volume I and construct a detailed timeline
Begin Mystery of History Volume II and construct a detailed timeline

Language Arts
Completed Time4Learning "K"
Starfall.com as desired - we use the free stuff
Working through Phonics Road Level I at readiness

Completed Time4Learning "K"
Right Start A at readiness
Introduce Zillio Math Mountain

Complete Apologia Astronomy No Notebook for Spritely, but she does do the labs alongside her brother.
Begin either: Apologia Zoology I or Apologia Botany.  Can't decide, might do both.  

Complete Mystery of History Volume I and construct a detailed timeline
Begin Mystery of History Volume II and construct a detailed timeline

I've decided to maintain a separate tab which will archive these posts as I write them.  I expect to add to it as we add to our curriculum.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bad Apple

Jupiter was biting into a slice of apple today and it slipped out of his teeth...  He picked it back up and brought it to me, telling me, "This is a bad apple - something is wrong with it!"  I looked at it and told him it was fine, but he was so insistent that there was a problem, so I asked him what made him think something was wrong with it.

"When I bit it, it felt like it was making my teeth go wowowoOOOoOOOoah or something!"

I immediately wondered if it was his teeth, so I asked him to show me his mouth and I touched the teeth he pointed to - sure enough, loose, loose.

I'm not sure how long it will take, but those little teeth aren't going to be part of my little guy much longer!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Vacation Destination

Today's assignment was to design an advertisement to convince aliens that Earth is a good place to visit. I allowed inventive spelling, because right now we are in a period of trying to make writing less of a frustration... Seems to be working, he giggled all the way through this project!

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Enjoying the Last Bit of Snow

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Flip Out

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Sunday, January 2, 2011


Originally uploaded by angecrwfrd

1/2/11's 365 snapshot. I giggled at this, just as I do every time we go here (our favorite coffee shop in New London).

Saturday, January 1, 2011


I'm trying to do this whole Project 365 thing, let's see how long I can stick with it ;)

Happy New Year!

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