Tuesday, August 30, 2016

School Days

One of my yearly late summer rituals is sorting through books for the upcoming school year.  To be completely honest, homeschooling is one of my greatest challenges.  I feel woefully inadequate and am pretty sure everyone is a better teacher than I, however, I revel in this amazing opportunity to teach and shape my children. 

Most of my friends are done or nearly finished with their homeschooling careers, but I will continue on for years to come.  With an nineteen year age gap between Maid Elizabeth and Master Calvin, I will have schooled my children twice as long as I attended school!

I have never used a complete curriculum, rather I have pulled from many sources, depending on what worked well with each of my children.  I've never paid much attention to grade level either, always being more concerned with the kids having a very solid academic foundation with few "holes" in their education.  I intersperse real world skills (hunting, canning, cleaning, animal husbandry, cooking) with academic pursuits (reading, writing, arithmetic, poetry, history, geography) in hopes of raising well-rounded, useful individuals. 

Going through the books

Piles everywhere!
Over the years I have worried over every "real world" test my children have taken.  When Maid Elizabeth took her hunters safety test, I was sure she would fail and everyone would know what a terrible teacher I was!  She passed with a 98%.  When she took her drivers test, I had knots in my stomach.  Again, she passed with a 98%.  When she took her EMT test she finished it in record time.  I was sure she had failed and the computer had kicked her off early - but no, she had passed with flying colors.  She passed her Ham radio technicians test, her CPR instructor test and her Neonatal Resuscitation test - each time with ease.  As each child has gotten older and been required to test for various reasons, I've felt those familiar butterflies, and each time, my kids have passed their tests and exceeded my expectations.  And still, being a teacher is my great challenge.

Organized into stacks for each child

Over the years I have found a few textbooks that have really made a difference in the way I school.  Math has always been a challenge.  It is not my strongest subject and a majority of the texts I have found teach math very differently than the way I was taught.  Few years ago I discovered Teaching Textbooks - and have never looked back!  They were designed for homeschooling students and their parents and my children love them!  They build a solid mathematical foundation and continue on through geometry, algebra, calculus and physics.  They consist of CD's (for your computer) and a workbook and answer key.  The kids do all their own work.  They listen to the lecture (it's fun) and work through the problems on the computer and then write them in their workbooks.  Each lesson is graded (on the CD) and there are regular quizzes and tests, which are also graded.  The only thing I have to do is look at the grade book (on the computer) and verify that the kids are doing well!  I love it!  Not only does it take the pressure off of me, my children feel confident in their mathematical abilities.  Totally a win/win situation!

The kids and I are enjoying our last week of freedom before the start of a new school year, but we are ready to knuckle down with our fall schedule.  The kids are anxious to crack open their new books and I am ready to embrace the steady routine of the new school year.

Tidy and ready to begin!
Let the school days begin!

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Dog Days of Summer


Our summer has been bizarrely mild, with only a handful of really hot days tempered with cooler and even rainy spells.  Now a distinctive nip in the evening air hints at the coming of refreshingly crisp, cool fall days. 

This time of the year, as autumn swiftly approaches, life becomes increasingly hectic.  We are fully immersed in preserving the garden harvest and getting firewood split and stacked as insurance against winter's cold embrace.  The apple press is awaiting the first apples of the season and my pressure canner has taken up permanent residence in the kitchen in anticipation of quart upon quart of bountiful garden produce.   I have school books spread across the kitchen table as I sort through curriculum and write lesson plans for the upcoming school year.  Our shouse is bustling with activity as we enjoy the simple rhythm of life on the homestead.

Freshly canned green beans

What's left of our log deck

Sawed wood ready to be split and stacked

One wood hut almost full

The log splitter ready for the next batch of wood
During the these warm, productive days of late summer I often try to come up with ways I can prepare meals for my family with a minimum of effort.  This past Sunday I didn't really want to cook a big meal and I wasn't feeling particularly inspired to come up with a creative, no fuss, hot weather meal so I fell back on an old world favorite, the Ploughman's Platter. 

Ploughman's Platter

While I heated water for tea, I laid out a tray full of cold cuts, cheeses, crackers, bagels, fruit and herbed cream cheese.  It was a perfect meal for a quiet Sunday - light and simple, but somehow inherently filling.  It was just the thing for the dog days of summer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Our Summer in Pictures

So sorry for the silence!  Between domain problems and general busyness, I have neglected this poor little blog horribly.  I hope your summer has been delightful.  Ours has been going at a frantic rate, with our children going in so many different directions, our garden growing well for the first time in 15 years and our current lack of generator, adding to normal homestead challenges. 

To catch up a bit, here is our summer in photos.....

Raspberry's ripening on the vine

Raspberry Custard Tart

Garden Fresh!

Potatoes, freshly dug

Green beans, almost ready to harvest

A positive food forest!

Bell peppers



Tea Cakes with Devonshire Cream and Raspberry jam

Tea Time!