Thursday, November 17, 2011

No butter? No problem....

A few hours away from home seemed to be at odds with my desire for a chili dinner, until I pulled out the old crock pot. Gotta love'em. Really, you do....

I weaned myself from spaghetti sauce in a jar a while ago (more on that later), so after browning the beef, I tossed the sauce fixin's, spices and veggies into the pot, put a few taters in the oven and left to run errands.

You're probably thinking 'why didn't she just pop the taters in the microwave when she returned?' Well, we don't own one. Haven't for years- five, maybe six, I honestly can't recall. When the one we owned stopped working, the fact that I didn't mind using the stove for warm-overs coupled with the instant elimination of microwave popcorn, pizza and other foodstuffs that are clearly not the healthiest fare resulted in a microwave-free home. We get the occassional 'what?!' from visitors, but they usually get over it. Usually.

Back to our story. Our return was perfectly time: the crockpout chili and the baked taters were done and our stomachs were ready.

Then it happened: no butter. When it comes to butter, I'm the African American Paula Dean. That's right, y'all. The only reason I can explain the absence of butter in the house is that is had to be the day or two before shopping day. You know how that is. Anyhoo, we were ready to eat with no butter for the taters when I got an absolutely genius idea.

*cue singing*

That's right. A dab (or two) of parmesan ranch dressing along with the prerequesite salt and pepper did the trick. Hubby loved it, the girls didn't complain. This is a stop-gap we may use on purpose next time. I know someone else has surely used this, it just excited me. I'll share my chili and homemade spaghetti sauce recipes in a later post. Bye, y'all.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Our homeschool year - What works for us (Part 1)

We've just completed the first quarter of our 2011-2012 homeschool and things are going very well. We're pretty much on track, haven't suffered any (teacher or student) meltdowns and intellectual, emotional and spiritual progress has been noted both in and out of our homeschool classroom, important to us as we believe true education encompasses all three.

Education is the knowledge of how to
 use the whole of oneself.
Many men use but one or two faculties out
 of the score with which they are endowed. A man
 is educated who knows how to make a tool of
every faculty--how to open it, how to keep it sharp, and
 how to apply it to all practical purposes.
Henry Ward Beecher

We've been teaching at home for more than a decade yet every school term offers a new lesson. It seems this year's theme is FLEXIBILITY. School started in September, but we've already made three major changes to our school.

The first change involves the hours we homeschool. The typical 'begin at 9/end at 3' (or similar) schedule just doesn't work for our family. For starters, my hubby works from 3pm to midnight.  Spending the time he's home with school work just didn't sit right as the chance to enjoy and enhance our family life is one of the (many) reasons we chose to educate the girls at home in the first place.

 I work from home as a weekly columnist for our local paper and have regular freelance gigs in addition,  so it's imperative that I have fixed time to focus on those assignments. My editors, kind as they are, won't suffer a missed deadline because my ninth grader's interest in history resulted in an extra hour of work or because my ten year old came up with a cool game to help prepare for our local spelling bee. Not gonna happen....

In addition to our work schedules, our family is one that volunteers for causes in which we believe. Hubby serves on our church's visitation ministry on Mondays. We join him alternating weeks. Gracie and I help out at the library every other Saturday afternoon. A local church operates a thrift store to raise funds for its outreach programs and I give them a few hours on Thursday mornings. 

We're currently a one-car family, and that car is hubby's 5 speed, which I don't know how to drive. Please, no emails telling me how easy it is; I've tried and it ain't. Two hands + three pedals + 1 gear shift = hubby is my driver until we can afford another car next year (more on that in another post. Shout out to Dave 

This means shopping, errands, and anything accomplished away from the home happens during the hours before hubby leaves for work. We've changed our weekday schedule so that it supports our lifestyle without detracting from our educational goals.

Our homeschool day runs from 1pm - 6pm, though it occassionally starts later and/or runs longer. It's odd but it works for us. Mornings are spent either volunteering, running errands, reading or relaxing. The girls have learned that if their morning chores are done (their bedrooms, their bathroom and the upstairs den), they basically have all morning to themselves on the days when appointments or volunteering isn't on the schedule. My teen uses this time to complete homework from the once-a-week co-op she attends. Our state requires 4 hours of weekly class time per subject for high schoolers and this downtime allows her to get this work done without affecting our homeschool schedule.

Though it may seem a bit unorthodox, this schedule is a total win/win for our family: Dad gets quality time with the girls before work, I have time carved out for my writing and the girls have the benefit of easing into their homeschool day (they are not- I repeat, are not- morning people).

In my next homeschool post, I'll share the curriculum changes we've made thus far.