We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

Monday, January 28, 2008

Baked Ziti with Ground Turkey

This is just a made up recipe, but it is REALLY good - and so easy. I do not have a recipe, so most of this is done without real measurments. If it is in italics, I don't have a precise measurement, so use your best judgement!

1 lb ground turkey (go for the higher fat content if you can, the taste will be richer)
1 box Ziti pasta (cooked and drained - don't rinse, but if you are worried about sticking, pour a little of the sauce over it and stir to coat)
2 cups (or more - however "saucey" you like it) Barilla (or your favorite) Marinara sauce
1 c ricotta
1 c mozzerella
1/4 c parmesan
1 T Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper to taste

Brown the turkey and season with the Worcestershire, salt & pepper.

In a greased 13 x 9 in pan, spread cooked pasta and browned meat. Pour on sauce (you don't want it soupy, but moist is good). Dot picotta in spoonfulls around the dish, then gently fold the ricotta into the pasta-turkey mixture. Top with a little more sauce, parmesan and mozzerella. Cover and bake at 350 for approximately 30 minutes, until bubbly. Remove foil and bake for 5-10 minutes more. Let sit on the stove (recover to keep in the heat) for a few minutes before serving.

Of course, this is excellent with a fresh salad and a crusty bread!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Where there is smoke there is fire...

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."
- William Butler Yeats

Heart of the Matter has posted this quote for today's meme reflection. It is a great quote and one often used in homeschooling circles to describe our goals as homeschoolers. We desire much more than just stuffing them full of knowledge, we want to enliven them with the spirit of curiousity, experimentation, and investigation. There is almost an implied promise that homeschooling will deliver these results, too. During the last 5 years of homeschooling, there have been many days that promise has kept me going when the "little yellow school bus" was very tempting!

Obviously, no system or philosophy of education can deliver a promise like this perfectly everytime, for every student, nor in every situation. Homeschooling is no magic bullet. But, as I observe my children, I see their eyes brighten and their minds turn with some new idea or thought. This is not in response to a need to perform, but in a true thirst for learning.

This used to be a very occassional occurrance, but now it truly is daily. It is not always the subject on which I am teaching them, but that is OK! Something strikes them as fascinating and they are off- experimenting, researching, trying, drawing, recreating and learning. Times like these I have to put aside my lesson plans and go with the flow. It can be frustrating...but it is rewarding. Sometimes, it feels a bit like a wildfire.

Why does homeschooling seem to enhance this process? I think it has to do with the intellectual freedom inherent in homeschooling. Our children have so much more time to digest what they are learning. They are not hampered by classroom politics. Their independence in thought is encouraged. And they just have more time to ask questions, think, and investigate.

So, I encourage you - if you are new to homeschooling or feeling a little burned out (no wonder with all that fire-starting!), keep reminding yourself that you are lighting the fire - not merely filling a pail. Keep looking for signs of the smouldering fire - the spark, the sizzle, the small waft of smoke. That kind of fire will warm your soul!

Monday, January 21, 2008

5 Questions about Classical Conversations answered

Updated April 24th, 2009

Megan (from Half Pint House) asked me to explain how Classical Conversations worked in our homeschool. Instead of posting, I just emailed her. However, on second thought (and because I've gotten some Google search hits), perhaps it might benefit others to share our experiences with Classical Conversations. So, I'll answer some common questions about the program.

Please keep in mind I am not a CC tutor or group leader and each group can be different. Please refer to the website or your local director for OFFICIAL information! This is just one homeschool mama's experience.

1) What does a Classical Conversation day look like?

We start with a group assembly (starting at 9:00) that includes: general announcements, prayer and Pledge of Allegiance. Then the tutors gather their classes and head off to thir classrooms. Once in their classes, the tutors introduce the week's memory work and lessons. These include: Bible study, Math, English, Latin, Geography, Timeline cards, History, and Science.

At noon, the Foundations class is over and we break for lunch. Those who are not staying for an afternoon session of Essentials stay for lunch or head on home.

Of course, each group will be run a bit differently.

2) What am I expected to do during my child's Classical Conversations class?

As a parent, I am expected to attend the classes with my child. Since I have three kids in the program, I float between their three classes. While in the classes, I sit and listen, help my child or others when needed, give the tutor a hand when she needs it (passing out supplies, helping a student to and from the bathroom, etc) absorb the information presented and learn some new teaching techniques from my peers (the tutors). The parents often compare notes a little in the back of the class, too.

We are expected to be there - it really isn't optional as this is not a "drop off" environment; however, if you have to be away for some reason (other kids are sick, appointment that couldn't be scheduled for another day, etc) you can have another parent act as your child's "guardian" while you are gone. Most directors are pretty understanding if you just let them know of your plans ahead of time.

Some other areas of involvement:
Our group also requires any parent using the nursery to serve in the nursery on occassion. And some of us who do not use the nursery also help out in there sometimes.

During the afternoon session (Essentials - a Grammar and Writing program for older elementary kids), parents are in the classes again with their children. Childcare is offered for younger siblings - this is fee-based.

3) How do you use Classical Conversations during the week?

What does the rest of the week look like...well, that really depends on what your goals are for your kids. Some families drill, drill drill the memory stuff. Some don't do any of it and just let their kids absorb whatever they can on CC days. We probably fall somewhere in the middle. Here is what we do (our CC meets on Wednesdays) - this does not include the basics (reading, writing, arithmatic) nor other areas of our school such as literature:

On Monday, we review last week's memory work. We briefly go over the memory sentences and facts. This takes about 15-20 minutes at the most. Sometimes we just listen to the memory CD once or twice and that only takes about 5 minutes. This is the day we do Christian Studies, so I often go over their bible memory work a bit, too.

On Tuesday, I introduce the upcoming week's lessons. Really - very briefly (because that is what we are paying CC for!) Mostly, I just want the info to be a bit familiar the next day at CC. There are two areas I concentrate on a bit more: the timeline cards and geography. We pull out the map and spend a few minutes finding the countries or geographic features. And then we look at the timeline cards and try to come up with some buzzwords to help us remember the order they go in. We shuffle and sort a few times.

Tuesday is our History and Modern studies day (thus the emphasis on geography and timeline cards). I also do some reading to flesh out the history sentence for the week. The timeline cards and the history sentence do not necessarily correspond with one another. At first it was confusing, but we've got it worked out in our brains now. We just think of them as two different things. I use Story of the World, Usborne history books, Child's History of the World...and sometimes other fiction or picture books.

Wednesday is CC. We go and come home - that is it for our school day. If we didn't have Essentials in the afternoon, I might come home and do a little more work or review in the afternoon.

On Thursday and Friday, we go over the memory sentences/facts - often just using the CD. If we don't get to that one of those days, I keep a copy of the CD in the car and we listen some there, too.

Fridays are Science days: we read more about a subject (in our books or online using an Usborne Internet-linked encyclopedia) and/or try an experiment. CC on Wednesdays to help demonstrate the science memory sentence, but I am going.

4) What does it cost?

I hesitate to answer this, because fees may be different from place to place. But I know it can help to have some idea of what is expected.

These are the fees we paid for our Foundations classes this year are: Registration is $50, Supply fees $50, Facility fee $25, and Tuition is $312. That is per child, of course. It may seem pretty hefty, but it is for the whole year and I have found it to be WELL WORTH it!

5) What do you like most about Classical Conversations?

The fellowship for the kids and me has been HUGE! They love CC and look forward to it every week. I've really enjoyed getting to know some more moms in the HS community. And it has helped me a great deal with accountability.

Classical Conversations is very adamant that YOU are the teacher (the CC teachers are called "Tutors"). I make the decisions about what we do and when we do it...and there is no pressure to meet some standard. The drill parents and the absorb parents are equally supported in their goals for their kids. But, knowing that the class is moving along in the material has definitely helped me stay on track this year!

If you have any other questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer!

Also, if you are interested, I have begun adding some books that I have found helpful at my Amazon Store. I do get a (very) small percentage of any purchases made through these links, so if you appreciate my blog, that is a really helpful way to say "thanks". And I thank you, too!

Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to subscribe via email or RSS to receive my blog updates.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage

This is super quick!

2 T packed brown sugar
2 T vinegar
2 T water
1 T oil
1/4 tsp caraway seeds
1/4 tsp salt
dash of black pepper
2 c shredded red or green cabbage
3/4 c. chopped apple

In a large skillet mix sugar, vinegar, water, oil, caraway seeds, salt, and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in cabbage and apple. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat about 5 minutes or until cabbage is crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Serve with a slotted spoon to drain off the liquids.

Makes 3-4 servings. I served this with sausage and roasted potatoes.

Purple Cabbage and Green Beans with Green Curry

This is a recipe original to my dear "Chef Hubby".

1 sm head of purple cabbage, shredded or chopped
4-5 handfuls of green beans (fresh)
1 T (or so) olive Oil
1 T (or so) soy sauce
1 tsp (or so) green curry paste
salt and pepper to taste

Heat up the olive oil and green curry paste in the pan (a big heavy one - we used our cast iron skillet). When it is warmed, throw in some garlic clove - chopped. Toss in the cabbage and green beans. Saute for a few minutes and then give a dash of soy sauce. Continue cooking until veggies are tender - don't over cook! You want it to be a bit crispy.

YUM!!! It's got a little heat from the curry and good saltiness from the soy! And SO pretty!

Roasted Winter Vegetables

Roasted Winter Vegetables

from Simply in Season

6 - 8 cups of winter vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips, rutabags, beets, winter squash (peeled and cut in 1 inch pieces or 1/2 inch slices)
2 T oil
1 T dried (or 2 T fresh) herbs such as: rosemary, thyme, parsley, oregano

Toss ingredients together. Spread in a single layer on greased baking pans. Roast in a preheated oven at 425 degrees until tnder, 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 8 as a side dish, 3-6 as a main course. Use any mix of vegetables you like, but it is suggested you use one sweet (carrot, sweet potato, parsnip) and one with a stronger flavor (turnip or rutabaga). I used rutabaga, parsnips, and carrots when I made this recently.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

6 great books for families celebrating the Christian Year

Are you interested in reading more about celebrating the Church Year with your famiy? Here are some books I've found particularly helpful:

Celebrating the Church Year with Children
Lots of crafts and hands-on learning activities

Rings, Kings, and Butterflies
Includes a CD with printables. An excellent resource for the classroom, homeschool, sunday school, or family worship.

To Dance with God
In depth reading for families of all sorts and ages. Great if you have older kids, too.

Christ In Easter: A Family Celebration of Holy Week
A gentle guide to observing Holy Week in the family.

Living in God's Time
Wonderful guidance for family worship with the church year.

A Continual Feast: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family and Faith Throughout the Christian Year
Great traditional recipes and more

FYI - if you purchase these books via one of the above links, I'll earn a small credit. Thanks for supporting my book habit! :)

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Ahhh - a SNOW DAY! Last night as DH and I were climbing into bed, we noticed it had started snowing, as predicted. Big, fluffy, wet flakes - and lots of them! Of course, in true Carolina fashion, it began to warm up just enough to turn to rain by the morning. There is still snow on the ground (at 9:30), but it is looking quite slushy.

I was hesitant to do it, but I let the kids go out right after they wolfed down some breakfast (eaten in record time, as you might guess). They managed to have a great time despite the fact that it was raining. They even built a snowman and had a snowball fight. Down here in the sunny south, we are not picky about our snow - we'll enjoy it no matter the conditions!

Oh, my, they came in totally drenched, red-cheeked, frozen-fingered and quite happy. Look at the pile of clothes!

Then they snuggled up on the couch under a warm, toasty down comforter while I fixed the requisite hot cocoa. It just wouldn't be a snow day with out it, would it?

I do love snow days. They are a little different when you are home-schooling, however. Even when other schools may be cancelled, we can still get some work in. It is hard to concentrate when there is all that lovely snow out there...but it is best to atleast try...

Now, to convince them we still have to do school. Heck, now to convince ME we still have to do school.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Carnival for Lent: An Anglican Family Lent

How do you observe Lent in your personal and family life?

What traditions do you find most meaningful?

What new spiritual disciplines might you undertake or which ones would you commend to others?

How do you bring young ones on the path with Jesus through the desert-season of Lent?

Lent will be the subject of the next Anglican Family Carnival (hosted, here, at A Ten O'Clock Scholar with help from Jeanne of At A Hen's Pace). We hope you'll join us, here, on the first day of Lent (Ash Wednesdy, February 6th, 2008) for "An Anglican Family Lent".

Bloggers: If you are an Anglican blogger, we'd love for you to share how you observe Lent: fasting, special meals, prayers, activities, etc in your family. Or perhaps, you'd like to share some devotions or thoughts on the Lenten season. Please send a link to your submission post by midnight on Sunday, February 3rd to me at: kerry.wmson@gmail.com . If you have more than one post, that is fine, just make sure either they can all be accessed from the link you send OR you list each link seperately in your email.

Please feel free to announce this carnival on your own blog or email this link to friends who might be interested. (Also - you are welcome to use the graphic above to advertise this carnival.) If you have any trouble with the graphic, email me and I'll send you the .jpg file.

Non-bloggers, we'd love you to participate, too! You may leave your contribution in the comments section when the Carnival opens on Feb 6th. If you have a lengthy submission, you may email it to Kerry by Sunday, February 3rd and I'll do my best to post your submission as a "guest" spot.

For those of you who are not Anglicans, but who follow the liturgical year and observe Lent, please join us if you would like--we'd love to have you! Just mention the church you attend or your upbringing or whatever makes you a "kindred spirit."

We appreciate it if you can help spread the word now...to give everyone time to put together those inspiring posts!

Friday, January 11, 2008

What do you do all day?

Every wonder what your homeschooling friends do all day? Now is your chance to find out! The Heart of the Matter blog has a fun meme today - "A Day in the Life" of homeschoolers.

Below is my submission:

I'm up at 6 or 6:30 (depends on the bedtime the night before) to shower and dress. I hate getting up that early and I hate getting showered and dressed right away, but I've found that it is the best way to make sure I stay on top of my day. So, I do it.

Next, I make tea or coffee, read my Daily Office, and spend some time in prayer. The kids are still sleeping while I look over my day, chores, errands, meals, etc. I often get a chore or two done (laundry, a bathroom cleaned, etc).

Around 8, I wake the kids up. They take care of getting themselves up, dressed, beds made, teeth brushed, etc. When they come down, breakfast is waiting for them. I have one child who must have a good breakfast, so I make a full breakfast almost every morning. After they are done with breakfast, they do their morning chore (only one - any more than that and we never get to school): DS 11 feeds and waters the dogs, DS 8 cleans up the kids' bathroom, and DD 6 feeds and waters the cats.

On Wednesdays, we have Classical Conversations. We are there from 9 until 3. But during the rest of the week our days look like this:

I try to get the kitchen cleaned up while and school books out while they do chores. But sometimes the dishes wait until after lunch.

School starts at 9ish.
  • First we have family prayer and bible reading. I'm using a wonderful book: The Anglican Family Prayer Book by Anne E. Kitch. We do "Morning Prayer" - part of it and use the weekly prayer cycle to guide our prayers. This is really quite informal.
  • Next is Math. We all do math together. I give the eldest his math practice problems (review) and do math instruction with the other two. Then I give them a table activity to work on (puzzle, drawing, etc) while I teach eldest his math lessons. While he works on that, the younger two and I play a math game.
  • Then we read a poem or two (or three) and whatever family reading we are enjoying. Right now it is "The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew". This we enjoy while snuggled up on the couch.
  • Next we pull out our Veritas Press timeline cards. We do a few different things with them: shuffle them up and put them in order or make up buzz words that cue us to the title, or read the backs and learn a little something to flesh out our history a bit.
  • Back to the table to work on English, Grammar, Writing, Phonics. How this goes each day is a bit of a toss up. I often get the eldest started on some grammar work (from Classical Conversations "Essentials") and then play a game with the younger two. Then I switch off working with either my 8 or 6 year old while the other one plays on Starfall.com (a great FREE online phonics program). My eldest needs more help in writing, so we often have to do more of this in the afternoon. I'm working on adding copy work for the youngest two. They could do this while I work with the eldest.
  • Then we pull out our Classical Conversations memory work. We just spend a few minutes looking at this. I often skip this, because we have a CD we listen to in the car quite frequently with good results.
  • Finally, we spend a little time reading aloud in our subject of the day. Monday is Christian studies, Tuesday is history, Thursday is folk tales/literature, and Friday is science.
Now, we break for lunch and a bit of relaxation (the time is around 12:30).
At 1:30 we all retreat to our rooms for "Read or Rest". I expect the kids to sit quietly on their beds and either read (or look at books) or rest. My eldest LOVES this time - the other two often balk.
At 2:30, we start our afternoon session. This includes chores, individual reading, and soon will include family lessons of French or Latin. Then we finish with a snack at 4:00 and they spend the rest of the afternoon playing outside.
I get to enjoy some time catching up on emails, phone calls and such.
I'm thinking about making Friday into "Fine Arts and Fun Science" Friday. These are things we often don't get to. My eldest son would still do some math and grammar, but then we'd enjoy a day of Picture Study, art lesson, science experiment, etc. It sure would be fun! We'll see...
Now, go by The Heart of the Matter and check out the rest of the submissions!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Tuna Tetrazzini

This is a stand-by in our family. I keep all the ingredients on hand (most are pantry items). It also makes a great casserole to share with a friend in need. When doing this, I mix it all up and deliver it ready to be baked.

2 7oz cans of tuna
1/2 lb of pasta (spaghetti is traditional, but rotini works well, too)
2 7oz cans of sliced mushrooms, drained
2 cans cream of celery soup (most any cream soup works well)
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 c bread crumbs (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drain and flake the tuna. If using long spaghetti, break into 3 pieces. Cook pasta until tender. Combine mushrooms, cheese (reserve a little for topping), pasta and tuna in casserole dish.

Blend soup, milk, nutmeg and stir into pasta mix. Sprinkle top with reserved cheese. Bake for 35 minutes or until thoroughly heated and cheese lightly browned.

Henerakaa (Finnish Split Pea Soup)

This is a great winter meal. It uses lots of winter vegetables and dried yellow split peas are an easy pantry item to keep around. You can use any combination of the winter root vegetables you (turnips, parsnips) like, but do try to find and use some rutabaga. The flavor really makes this soup delightful, I think.

This makes a large amount of soup. I like to freeze half for another day. The other half is enough to feed my family of 5 for two meals with a good hunk of bread. I recommend a dark rye - especially sour rye if you can find it.

2 c dried yellpw split peas
8 c. veg or chicken stock (or water)
2 medium potatoes
2 large carrots
3 celery stalks
1 large onion
1 large rutabaga, peeled
2-3 tsp. dry mustard
dash of allspice
1 tsp dry marjoram
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
1 tsp dry thyme
2 tsp salt
a good dose of pepper (to your "heat" level)
croutons (optional - I like to make my own with pumperknickel bread)

Rinse the split peas. In a large soup pot, bring the peas and stock to a boil. Coarsely chop vegetables and add them to stock as it comes to a boil. Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until peas are soft and disintegrating. Puree the soup (an immersable "wand"-type blender is great for this, or just do it in batches with your regular blender) until quite smooth. It will be a thick soup. Add the spices and herbs. Reheat as needed and serve. Top with croutons.

When reheating leftovers, you may find it necessary to add a bit of water or stock to thin out the soup just a bit.

Friday, January 4, 2008

A Family Epiphany

This Sunday is the Feast of the Epiphany, the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of the season of "Epiphany". This Feast and Season commemorates the visit of the Wise Men or Magi to the Christ Child. Contrary to popular imagery, they most likely arrived in Bethlehem when Jesus was a toddler. Whatever the case, we recognize this also as a season that looks forward to the Gospel being shared with the whole world.

A lovely way to celebrate Epiphany is with a traditional home blessing. Below is a simple service for families. Start with Chalking the Door. Gather your family at the front door with a piece of chalk and say the following prayer together:

God bless this house,
From door to door,
From wall to wall,
From room to room,
From basement to roof,
From beginning to end.

God bless this house
and who enter here,
All who eat here,
All who work here,
All who play here,
All who sleep here,
All who visit here,
All who abide here.

(from a wonderful little book: The Anglican Family Prayer Book by Anne E. Kitch)

Then make the marks on your front door: 20+C+M+B+08. Each person can write a small part of that, or you can let an adult write the whole thing with the kids each making their own small cross somewhere on the door. (We find this easiest with little kids.) The C,M,B traditionally stands for the legendary names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazaar); however, I like the alternate: Christus Mansionem Benedicat which means "May Christ bless this dwelling." The numbers are for the year (2008).

Now, you can walk through the house with lighted candles (or just the adults) and Holy Water, if you wish, saying prayers for each room's occupants and activities. Perhaps end your "tour" in the kitchen or dining room with a candlelight dinner, tea or dessert of "Three Kings' Cake".

We don't wash off the marks and they've stayed up as a reminder almost all year long!

A very blessed Epiphany to you!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Favorite books of 2007

I'm enjoying reading the many "favorite books" lists on various blogs and forums (or is that forii?). Thought I'd jump on the bandwagon. Perhaps you'll see something that interests you and join us on the Day Of Reading!

Riding the Iron Rooster - Paul Theroux
He traveled through Communist China by train (just a little before Tianamen Square). I enjoyed this because he appreciated the Chinese people and yet didn't miss their foibles. Helped prepare me for my trip to China.

Brave New World - Aldous Huxely
A classic from 1930's. Shockingly prophetic look into the "future". Here are some posts inspired by reading this book: here and here and here and an excellent article. (The edition I've linked to has some contemporary responses in the back, which I enjoyed reading, too.)

A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Houseini
I liked this one even better than Kite Runner, which was good.

Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortensen
Excellent true story of one man's life mission to villagers in the high Himalays/Hindu Kush around Pakistan and Afghanistan. I should say his was not a Christian mission, but he was doing missionary-type work. He began his mission before 9/11, but has been able to continue it after as well. (In fact, he was there at the time of 9/11 and had a hairy escape from the country.)

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - Bill Bryson Laugh out loud funny memoirs of his life growing up in the 50's. Some other greats by Bryson that I've thoroughly enjoyed: A Walk in the Woods(Bryson attempts the Appalachian Trail) and In a Sunburned Country(Bryson visits and writes about modern-day Australia). In fact, I'd confidently purchase any book by him. Be warned - he does use some bad language; however, it is not gratuitous nor frequent.