Friday, January 31, 2014

Chicken Pies at Church

We've recently started attending a small Moravian church, and we love it. We attended a large, contemporary church for years and loved it, but I've realized that my children do better in a small church environment, and so do I.

One fun thing our church does is make chicken pies. They make a lot of them, usually more than 200 every time. This past weekend, my children and I were able to help them. One of the best things about homeschooling is the ability to take a day or two and do some things we wouldn't be able to do if we had a traditional school schedule.

The entire process for making chicken pies at our church takes 3 days. We were not able to go on Thursday of last week, when they cut up vegetables to cook with the chicken (carrots, celery and onion) and pre-measured ingredients for the pie crust. On Friday, when we joined them, the first thing we had to do was put on hair nets! Aren't we lovely? ;-)

Then, we set to work assembling the boxes for the pies once they were ready. Emma and I folded them, while Abbie helped put on stickers and keep count so we knew when we'd done enough.

We also had people making dough, and cooking chicken outside in a tent. It was SEVEN DEGREES F that morning - that is COLD for North Carolina! Those men were champs, though, and just kept bundled up while they worked.

Once the chicken was cooked, we had to shred it to get it ready to put into the pies. Also, someone was in the kitchen making gravy from the broth. When a batch of dough was finished, it was divided into sections and weighed so that each pie would be uniform. 

On Saturday, we finished up shredding the rest of the chicken, and got to work assembling pies. There were some crusts that had been made before hand and frozen, ready to be separated and put to use. They also have this amazing pie machine that flattens the dough into top-ready crusts, and will also put it into pie plates with nicely crimped edges. That is quite a piece of technology! It certainly made the work go more quickly. Some of the ladies told me that before they had the machine, they would have to stand and roll out dough for 200+ pies. I can barely manage to do crust for one pie competently. Wow.

It was fun to participate in this activity that is so important to our church. They measured chicken for each pie, added gravy, butter, and pepper, and then put the top crusts on. Emma, Isaac and I worked with our friend Thelma to cut out little shapes from dough to decorate the top of each pie, too.

We even got to bring one home for dinner!

    Thursday, January 30, 2014

    Bookish Inspiration

    I joined an online book club via Facebook, and someone posted this lovely snippet from the poem, "Despondency Corrected":

    Books are yours,
    Within whose silent chambers treasure lies
    Preserved from age to age; more precious far
    Than that accumulated store of gold
    And orient gems which, for a day of need,
    The sultan hides deep in ancestral tombs,
    These hoards of truth you can unlock at will.

    William Wordsworth

    Thursday, January 23, 2014

    Co-Op Update

    This last week at our little Charlotte Mason co-op, we started some fun things. First, we started a new Shakespeare play: The Tempest. I'm looking forward to this one! I like them all, but this is a great story. I think it will be less. . . disturbing than Macbeth. Ha! I told the girls we might need to make our own stop-motion video. I see peg people being involved. They were less excited by this idea than I was. I don't get it.

    Our latest hymn is one that was new to me, called "My Anchor Holds," written by William C. Martin and Daniel Turner in 1902. My friend Sara, who is in charge of our hymns, told me it should be in every hymnal and we should all sing it every week, she likes it so well! The meter is a little different from most hymns I'm familiar with, but it's fun to sing, and it's hard not to sing with gusto. It feels like a marching tune. Here's the first verse and chorus:

    1. Though the angry surges roll
      On my tempest-driven soul,
      I am peaceful, for I know,
      Wildly though the winds may blow,
      I’ve an anchor safe and sure,
      That can evermore endure.
      • Refrain:
        And it holds, my anchor holds:
        Blow your wildest, then, O gale,
        On my bark so small and frail;
        By His grace I shall not fail,
        For my anchor holds, my anchor holds.

    We're using this video on YouTube to learn it. It's not a professional recording, but the congregation sings really well and you can hear all the parts being sung!

    Our most recent folk song is "Green Grow the Rushes O," and we're enjoying that very much, too. It's not "Green Grow the Rashes O" by Robert Burns; lots of people sing that. This is an older song, with unclear origins, and is a counting song, similar to "The Twelve Days of Christmas." The verses have some religious references, and some astrological references, and some things that are simply unclear. Here are the lyrics, starting with twelve, because otherwise it would be REALLY long:

    I'll sing you twelve, O, green grow the rushes, O!
    What is your twelve, O?
    Twelve for the twelve apostles,
    Eleven for the eleven who went to heaven,
    Ten for the Ten Commandments,
    Nine for the nine bright shiners,
    Eight for the April raiders,
    Seven for the seven stars in the sky,
    Six for the six proud walkers,
    Five for the symbols at your door,
    Four for the gospel makers,
    Three, three, the rivals
    Two, two, the lily-white boys, clothed all in green-O,
    One is one and all alone and ever more shall be so.

    Some of the references seem obvious to me. Others of them seem rather strange. I did an internet search, and didn't come up with much definitive information. For example, I found lyrics that said "Eight for the April rainers," which, according to Wikipedia, could refer to the "Hyades star clust, called the 'rainy Hyades' in classica times and rising with the sun in April.' " However, in the video below, they say "April raiders," and that made sense to me, too, because I've read that people used to watch for raiders to visit their shores when the weather improved in the spring. If you know where I might find out more information on the song, I'd love to know! I've checked in my folk song books, but it's not in any of them.

    I found this video on YouTube of two gentlemen who seem to be bards performing it with motions and everything. (If you're interested in the bards, check out this website. There are some great songs.) It's a great deal of fun to watch. I'm hoping to convince the kids to learn the motions and perform it at the end of the year. 

    I love sharing our music with you. It's probably my favorite part of co-op.

    And, one more thing, just for fun. We worked on our dry brush skills last week, and we each made a "splotch book" in our nature journals by blending colors and seeing what effects we created. You can read a bit about that, and see a picture of a splotch book, here. My middle child, Abbie, painted this lovely sunflower for me this morning using dry brush. I'm going to make it into a bookmark.

    Isn't it pretty? I love when she paints things. :-)

    Follow my blog with Bloglovin

    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

    Hangout with Shirley TOMORROW!

    I posted recently about Shirley Solis and her new parenting program. I have been so very blessed by Shirley's free videos, and the information she's shared in the two Google hangouts I've attended. As a mom of 6, Shirley has learned a lot about parenting, and her heart is to share what she's learned with parents everywhere. Her approach is child-honoring; it sets kids up for success, and gives them tools to help them remember to what they need to do and do it well. She trains her children to make a positive impact with their lives. Her tips are good for parents and kids, and designed to help your family life run smoothly.

    On Thursday, January 23, at 8:30 pm Eastern time, Shirley is offering another Google hangout. The topic is "The Twelve Most Life-Changing Tips I Could Give Any Parent." I'm excited to hear what she has to say! Click here for all the details and to sign up for the hangout.

    I want you to know I do not promote things for the sake of promotion. Shirley is wonderful, and I know you will be blessed by her teaching. Come over and join us!


    Thursday, January 16, 2014

    More from our Mantis

    Our praying mantis is still alive, much to my surprise. A couple of weeks ago she laid a second egg case, and it looked to me as though she were dead at that time. The next morning, though, the kids saw her move a leg, so they took her out of her cage and she was still with us. We misted her with water and got to watch her drink, and then fed her a cricket, which she consumed with gusto. She's still hanging in there! She's lost a couple of her feet, so she has a harder time holding on to things, but she still climbs to the top of the cage and seems to enjoy coming out to be with us. As I type, she's sitting on my shoulder, watching the kids lower stuffed animals on a rope over our bannister. She thinks they're quite silly, I can tell.

    She had an experience this week I thought I'd share. Because she's elderly, she doesn't try to escape anymore, so we can set her someplace and find her there later. We like her to have a bit of freedom, you see. We had just come home with a fresh box of crickets, so we put her on the lid of her cage and fed her one, and let her stay there to eat it. We went about our business, putting things away, and honestly, I forgot she was out.

    All of a sudden, I heard Abbie hollering at one of the kittens. This kitten, to be exact:

    The kittens are fascinated with Scipio. They are all excellent bug hunters, and Scipio is easily the largest insect they've ever seen. They spend a lot of time on top of her cage, gazing at her, wishing she would come out to "play."

    Percy discovered the mantis on top of her cage and decided to hop up and investigate. I am not quite sure what he did to her, but she was not impressed and went into her fiercest stance. Check her out!

    Aren't her wings magnificent? I'll tell you what: I have been stabbed with one of the hooks on her front legs, and it HURTS. I found this picture on Wikipedia of a mantis' front leg:

    See that spike on the tibia? She uses those to hold on to her prey, and also to defend herself. They provide an effective defense, that's for sure! 

    We managed to get Percy away and rescue Scipio, who did not, in spite of her advanced age, have a heart attack. It was fascinating to see her defensive display. It took her several minutes to calm down afterwards, too. She would turn her head at any motion (mostly Isaac), ready to strike if necessary. This was the first time we'd seen her wings all the way out. Praying mantises can fly, but they usually don't, and she has never tried in the house. 

    In the kerfluffle, the kittens knocked her first egg case off the lid of the cage where she'd laid it. We have it in a mason jar with a lid made of an old nylon stocking. This will hopefully allow air into the jar and keep the babies from escaping if and when they hatch. We will have to get her second egg case out and put it into another jar, but it's attached to her favorite stick and we haven't found a replacement yet. We need to get on that - I do not relish the thought of hundreds of the little beasties running amok in the house. The kittens would probably have a field day, though.

    I never knew having a bug for a pet could be so much fun! If you have the opportunity, I encourage you to try keeping one for a while and observing the behavior.

    Thursday, January 09, 2014

    Always more to learn, yes?

    A good friend told me she tries to start every new year reading something about parenting. To be honest, that had never occurred to me! I'm not sure why not - I can use all the help I can get. It seems that just when I think I have my kids figured out, they throw me a curve ball. It does seem appropriate to read something to refresh myself on my parenting: what I know to do, what I may have let slide.

    For 2014, I'll be watching these free videos from Shirley Solis. I've already started, and I'm impressed with what I've seen so far. The tips she gives are already making a difference in my family. I hope you'll check out what she has to say, too.

    Are you frustrated with your children's attitudes? Do you wish the children helped around the house a little more? Would you like some creative ways to train your children?

    Building Character with Children

    Building Character with Children is a brand new video-based program with homeschool mom, author, and speaker Shirley Solis. In these short, 7-minute videos, Shirley shares her experience as a mom of 6 children, with tips and tricks to build strong, desirable character traits in your children!

    In Building Character with Children, you will learn:
    • How to train your children to learn a new habit in just a few minutes a day (so you won’t have to keep repeating yourself!)
    •  The 3 reasons why your children don’t do their chores AND what to do about it!
    • What to do about sibling rivalry and how to resolve conflicts easily and peacefully!
    • The #1 reason why children are lacking character today and how to change that!
    • disclaimer

      Wednesday, January 08, 2014

      New Year, New Plans

      Happy New Year! Are you glad to see 2013 leave and 2014 come in? I certainly am. There were many wonderful things in 2013, to be sure, but there were also some less fun things, and I am glad those are behind us.

      January always brings change, doesn't it? Resolutions, of course, and I'm revising our homeschool plans, evaluating what's working and what isn't. We had a rough start to our school year, and didn't really get going until October. Top that off with a lack of motivation that has run rampant through my house, and we are 3 weeks behind where I'd hoped we'd be at this point, which means we will finish our current school year in the middle of September, 2014 if we keep to the same schedule. I am hoping to be able to move things along a bit, but if that's what happens, the world will not end. I keep telling myself that. There is no point in panicking, right? It is what it is.

      We've been plugging away with Ambleside's Year 7, and for the most part, it's been great. Here are some of our favorites:

      • Watership Down - the girls both enjoy reading this, and I've been listening to the audio book to keep up with them, and it's been great.
      • The Brendan Voyage - What a FANTASTIC story! We're reading this as part of our geography studies, and it's an amazing book. I highly recommend it. I'm looking forward to exploring other books by Tim Severin.

      What has been less fun:
      • The Birth of Britain, by Winston Churchill - This book is no one's favorite. We tried reading it aloud, and we tried having the girls read to themselves. Abbie says it puts her to sleep. We're going to switch it out for The Middle Ages by Dorothy Mills. 
      • Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott - The girls are having a difficult time with this book. I've been listening to the audio book, which is excellent, so I'm going to have them listen to it as well. I know they will get more out of it that way, and I do want them to get into the story.
      I'm also going to implement more read-alouds. I purchased the TruthQuest guide for the Middle Ages last summer, and spent quite a lot of time collecting books to go along with our studies. I don't feel the girls have extra time in their school day for more reading at this point, but they're always up for reading with mom, so I'm going to read at lunch, I hope, and perhaps in the evenings as well.

      When we started our school year, I gave the girls their own planners, along with a copy of the PDF schedule printed out from the AO website. For the first month or so, I sat down with them and showed them how I would schedule the work for the week, and then let them try it on their own. They haven't done very well with that. I'm in the process of entering everything into a homeschool planning program, which has an app that will allow me to push schedules to their iPads, or print them out for them. I am hoping this will help them get more work done. Also, they know they don't get to do any fun things until school and chores are finished. 

      Another thing I've found is that we need to severely limit their time on their iPads. They were birthday gifts a couple of years ago, and we have let them have free access to them, with limits on internet connectivity. What I should have done is keep them with me until I saw proof of finished chores and school, so we're now backtracking and setting those boundaries. I wish I had been more savvy about the need for limits in the beginning, because taking them away at this point makes them feel as though they're being punished. However, it needs to happen, and I am setting the same limits for myself - my internet access will be very limited until all the kids are in bed in the evenings. Hopefully that will help me stay on track with things I need to do, as well.

      Isaac and I are going to start working together on a more regular basis, too. I have a confession: he is so very difficult about doing any school work that I haven't pushed getting into a routine with him at all. We need to start working on some things, so I've gone over a book list for a Year 0.5 which was put together by some of the lovely women at Ambleside Online. I have several of the books - certainly enough to make a great start, so I'm going to put together a little schedule for him with lots of fun things, some handwriting and reading practice, and some math. We were using MEP, but I think we are going to change over to Arithmetic for Young Children by Horace Young. It's in the public domain, and has the student do lots of active things, as well as mental math. I think that will go over better with Isaac at this stage than MEP. He was capable of the work, but not very interested in coloring things in a particular pattern. He loves to teach things to me, and I think this book will allow for that nicely.

      I got some great ideas for Year 0.5 at the Wise Owl blog. That's also where I found the link to Young's math book. She has a daily schedule typed up in the post I linked, and I put it into a table so I could see how it looked on a weekly basis. If you'd like to see that document, click here

      Have you made any changes in your homeschool? I've heard lots of talk about reevaluating and reworking among my homeschool friends. I'd love to hear what you're doing too!