Thursday, October 31, 2013

I {heart} Homeschooling!

Continuing my mini series about getting to know me and the things that make me happy... one of the greatest blessings in my life right now is homeschooling.  I get a lot of the same comments and questions.  Mostly "You must be so patient" and "Why do you homeschool?".
So here are a couple little tidbits into what we do and why we do it.  I've been homeschooling a very short time and know hardly anything about it.  But I have learned a lot and really am enjoying this journey.
First of all... I am not always so patient.  It's a habit we're all working on.  Homeschooling is not just me dumping info into my child's empty brain-box.  We are all (dad included) learning and growing and becoming better humans.  It's part of the program.  We pick a habit and work on it.  Sometimes it's patience and when that is mastered (or close enough) we pick a new one.  For my middle (only 4 years old) I've been working on not dawdling.  For the baby (2 years old) it's obedience.
This comes from the wisdom of Charlotte Mason and her emphasis on cultivating good habits.  

So the infamous question I dread most: Why do you homeschool?

Well, it's not because of the public school system.  It's not horrible and it's not amazing.  I really am pretty neutral on public schools.  There are pros and cons to every decision (homeschooling included) and it's up to each family to make the decision that works best for them. 

It's actually Charlotte's philosophy that hooked me.  Her focus was on effort and character.  The goal is always growth and that is something that each child can attain in their way.  Some grow faster in mathematics, some in handiworks.  It is all about taking the next step. 

Isn't that half the battle when we are down, dear friends?  Taking the next step?  Ugh, I know when I am just not feeling it on a given day and need a little umph that it feels so very good to accomplish something.  Clean the bathroom, cut some fabric, plan the dinner for that night. 

When my kiddos are breezing through a certain subject or lesson, life is good and they are feeling encouraged.  I am so happy to be there and see those light-bulb moments and share in a high-five.  Ice cream for lunch after getting everything correct on a math test!

But they also have those days of just not feeling it.  Where we slog through a reading and meet limitations head on.  Those are tough.  There have been tears.  But what a blessing it is that mama is there to comfort and encourage.  My hope is that we have built an atmosphere that fosters love and learning.  Those habits we've worked on (patience, endurance, effort) really kick in at these times and the fruit of our labor is intense. 

So in answer to the question WHY, it is all about effort and character.  God has blessed me with these three little people to grow and train up.  A typical school day consists of your normal subjects but a lot also happens in the periphery.  When the baby is getting potty trained and I just can't get there in time, the two big sisters are expected to jump in and help out.  They prepare simple snacks and even get their own breakfasts at times.

They have learned to problem solve on their own and seek an answer to their curiosities.  Sometimes that answer comes weeks later.  Charlotte advised the mama not to supply an answer to every question.  Let them ponder.  Let them explore.  So much happens when a child is able to think on their own.

One of my favorite aspects that is special to a Charlotte Mason education is her emphasis on nature study.  She suggested 4-6 hours of outdoor time every single day.  We do not get near that but it is a goal to get outside.  Period.  Once we're out we have no problem staying out.  But like running, I have to make it my goal to put on my shoes and go out.  THEN take the next step. 

Today... take the next step!  Put forth good effort!  Do your best!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Yogurt and Granola

My absolute favorite breakfast is Greek yogurt and granola.  Crunchy, smooth, salty, and sweet.  It's everything I'm looking for all in one little bowl!

Here is the deal on making Greek yogurt.  It is amazingly simple, but does take time to come together.  Like if you make it today, you will not eat it until tomorrow. 

Here are my gadgets:

Yogurt maker
Strainer (only necessary if you are making Greek yogurt)

Using one of the glass jars that come with the yogurt maker, I fill that with milk 7 times and pour the milk into a large pot on the stove (This is roughly 5 cups of milk).  Watch it ever so carefully because boiled milk sneaks up on you and can boil over in a second.

Just let it come to a boil and then remove from heat.

I use a ladle to scoop some out and let cool in a separate glass.

To this I add a packet of the yogurt starter after it has cooled, like an hour or so.

For vanilla yogurt:
 I add about 3tsp of vanilla and a 1/3 cup of sugar.  Mix everything so it is all dissolved and pour back into the large pot of boiled milk.  Give it a good stir so it is all mixed together.
Then pour it all into a large glass bowl that fits on the yogurt maker.  Some people just skip the maker and warm it in the stove at a really low temperature.  Never tried that but I'm sure it would be fine since yogurt existed before the Euro Cuisine came to town.

Turn on the maker, cover with the lid, and let it sit and warm for about 6 hours or until it firms up.

After it is firmish pour it into the Strainer should you want Greek yogurt.  I usually have to do this in 2 or 3 phases since the strainer is a bit smaller than the amount of yogurt I make.  Put the lid on the strainer and keep it in the frig overnight.

When you wake up, you will notice the yellow whey in the bottom of the strainer and the lovely creamy yogurt (also called yogurt cheese for some reason) in the top.  I usually spoon out the yogurt into a plastic container and pour the whey over my acid-loving plants.  (A whole lot of research is needed in order to make the most of this by-product.  I also read sourdough bread can be made with this whey.)

Any-whey (HAHAHAHA!) there you have it!  Greek yogurt!

Here are my favorite granola recipes:

Alton Brown's Granola
The CHOW Basic Granola Recipe
Chunky Granola

I found a recipe a while ago that added egg whites to the granola mixture just before popping it in the oven.  It was supposed to make it super chunky.  I can't find it now, but that's a good idea too.

Sometimes I actually remember to add in flax seeds (They're always being left behind when I bake bread.  I always intend to use them and forget as soon as it's too late.), but everyone seems to like crushed almonds and dried cranberries added in the granola just before serving.

I've also added bran flakes (Grape Nut Flakes cereal) to Alton Brown's version and loved it but my oldest did not.  They don't even have a taste, it's just texture and crunch.  Which apparently isn't a thing for 7-year-olds.

Granola hardens as it cools.  I like big chunks (and I cannot lie) so I just take it out of the oven and leave it alone for hours.  Mostly because I'm lazy and don't feel like going into the kitchen.  Thank you for being low maintenance, granola.

Let me know your favorite recipes and hints on the process.  I always love to try a new spin on something.  Especially if you have ways to make it chunky!

Show me the money!

I just did a bit of math and found that it turns out this super awesome Greek yogurt is about $0.16 a cup.  Umm... we used to pay $1/cup of the Oikos yogurt at the store.  I'm shocked it's that much of a difference! Wow, that's pretty exciting.  Well... enjoy! Save your money and spend it on fabric.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Kind of milestone

I'm about to be 35 years old. 

I think I'm ok with it.  Actually I really am very ok with it.  I finally feel like I know who I am.  This wife-mother-quilter thing is really feeling good. 

For a long time I wasn't comfortable in all these new roles.  What's it like to be a wife? How to live in a house with someone 24/7 and not get completely irritated with all their junk?

And then this baby comes along and well... talk about junk... I'm totally not a fan of clutter and enormous baby items.  But it all evened out when I found the Goodwill donation center.

At the storage unit where we store all the... stuff

So now here we are at 11 years of marriage, 3 sweet kiddos, 1 loveable doggy and I think I finally found my groove.  My favorite things right now:

*Making bread for my fam (a batch of 4 loaves usually get us through the week)
*Making yogurt and granola (kinda making this every day right now)
*Getting a new cookbook and going bonkers making everything in it (Really losing myself in Smitten Kitchen right now)

*Waking up early and sewing.  As Christa Wells said: creating in the margins doesn't make you a marginal artist. 

*Running on Saturday mornings with my good friend
*Starting to attend calligraphy meetings with my oldest daughter (she's so talented at just 7 years old!)

Life is so exciting and God has blessed us with so many opportunities.  None of them earth-shattering.  I mean, cooking, running, and sewing are not new to anyone but pursuing them alone and with friends make life so rich. 

I have a friend who doesn't really have any hobbies or interests.  It drives me crazy.  I want her to see this life so full and abundant.  It doesn't have to be crazy or death-defying.  We're healthy and young-ish (some would debate that) and able to learn something new. 

So if you have been thinking about taking up the fiddle (also on my list), learning a new language, or going for your first run: go do it! Get out there! Create, pursue, LIVE!

I tried to make pajama pants at Sewing Summit last month and failed miserably.  I will try again.  But it was cool to realize that I'm not good at all sewing (or even a lot of sewing).  Pretty much just quilts.  And that's ok!  It's good to find a niche and settle in comfortably, right?  Just find something you like and go do it.  Some will work out and some won't, but for goodness sake get moving and explore this great big beautiful world!

What are you waiting for?!