Sunday, February 27, 2011

Recipe: Fish Taco

They sound weird, but fish tacos are the best!  If you've never tried one, you really need to.  My whole family gobbled this up and I'm drooling just thinking about it.

1/2 C Sour Cream
1/2 C Mayo (not salad dressing)
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Coriander
1/2 tsp Dillweed
1/2 tsp Oregano
1/2 tsp Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle Seasoning (you could substitute red pepper, plain chipotle seasoning,  another spicy flavoring, or a finely diced hot pepper of your choice.  As I make the sauce, it is not spicy because I'm a fire wimp.)
1/2 tsp Capers, finely minced (these are optional, but add depth to the flavor)
1-2 Tbsp fresh Cilantro, finely chopped
1 Lime

Whisk all the ingredients, except the lime, together.  Add juice from the lime until you have the consistency of an easy-to-pour salad dressing.  Refrigerate for at least one hour, overnight is better.  (Lime tip:  roll the lime around on the counter under your palm until it gets soft.  You are trying to break up the "innards."  Then toss the lime into the microwave for 15-20 seconds.  You'll get a lot more juice this way.  You can use this technique with any citrus.)

Slaw Filling
Toss together:
1/2 head Cabbage, very finely cut (you can use a bag of pre-cut coleslaw if you want.)
4 Green Onions, sliced, including whites & greens
3 Carrots, shredded
1 bunch Cilantro, less what you used in the sauce
1 Red or Yellow Pepper, finely diced

Here's the embarrassing part; I used frozen fish sticks because they are easy to make &  they were 50% off at Albertsons.  Any fish that you like will work.  A white fish grilled on the BBQ with a bit of butter & lemon pepper would be tasty.

Serve by adding a generous portion of the slaw, a bit of fish & sauce to taste in a white corn tortilla.  I'm not usually a fan of the texture of corn tortillas, but it's just right with these tacos.  We use the smaller sized ones.

Book Review: Lemon Tart

Lemon Tart is a sweet little mystery for fans of the "cozy" sub-genre of mysteries.  Widowed Sadie Hoffmiller is a baking, cooking, and housekeeping whiz who takes a young, single mom under her wing.  Sadie is also a bit of a neighborhood busybody, a like-able one, but a busybody none-the-less.  When the young mother is found dead & her toddler son missing,  Sadie can't help but run into clues.  Along the way, Sadie learns more about her fiancĂ©e, her family, and the neighborhood cops than she wants to know.

In the tradition of good "cozies", this story is a light read.  There's a bit of romance, some good cooking (along with recipes), and some mild tension.  While published by Deseret Book, there is no mention of religion, faith or God.  Lemon Tart should appeal to any "cozy" fan, not just LDS readers.

I appreciate that there is no profanity, no sex scenes, and no gore.  An extra-marital affair plays an important role in the plot, but the characters express regret and admit it was a mistake.  Sadie isn't perfect.  She makes mistakes, but also tries to make amends.  This is a book that even a conservative Mom can safely share with her teen-aged daughter without worry.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Homeschool Schedule

I've been asked about our homeschool schedule.

First, let me say that there are almost as many homeschool schedules as there are homeschool families.  No one way is the right way.  That's one of the joys of homeschooling; you can adjust and customize to meet your and your kids needs.

Second, I subscribe to the idea that public school kids get less than one and half hour of new learning every day. The rest of the day is taken up with lunch, standing in line, waiting on others, getting ready, moving from one area to another, cleaning up, problem kids, recess....  There really is research that shows this.  So, we only average about two hours of book work a day.  We meet the rest of  the minimum education hours (plus some!) required by state law, through more experiential, hands on, and creative learning.  (As an aside, I'm not knocking school teachers.  They do so much with so little.  I have a huge advantage in that I'm tutoring only five children, who I know very, very well and I don't get a new crop of kids each year.)

Third, I have five kids ages 13, 10, 7, 4, & baby.  Because of their various ages, disabilities and learning styles, they each have different needs and learn differently.  Each is unique and the range of what we are learning is broad.  That means that I'm not able to easily sit them all down to do a lesson together.

Fourth, I don't believe that I am teaching them.  They are learning.  I just facilitate and help.  The best teacher can't force learning into a child's head.  I try to provide a broad range of supplies, books, equipment and other learning helps. (And a LOT of duct tape.)

So, with those four points in mind, I'll explain our schedule:  We don't have one.  No, that's not really true.  But, it's flexible and fluid.  Each child's schedule is somewhat different.

The baby, obviously, doesn't do any special homework.  :-)  He just does what babies do.

My four year old, goes one day a week to a special-education pre-school through our local school district.  While there she gets speech therapy.  At home, she is learning to read using "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons."  We also use several basic pre-school and Kindergarten type work books.  She does homework in the morning while her seven year old sister does.

Sometimes one of her big sisters will help her.  This is a good way for the older girls to review things they learned.  And, I can observe what the older girls have mastered.

Cute four-year-old daughter doesn't do homework every day and she probably only does a half hour when she does.  I don't force it when she isn't interested.  But, I do find ways to work with her at other times.  We count things.  We make rhyming words.  We find letters on milk cartons and cereal boxes.  We talk about why leaves are falling off our trees.

Pre-schoolers can be the hardest or the easiest to teach.  They are naturally curious about everything.  They require a lot of one-on-one if they are doing book work.  But, when you just slide teaching into everyday life, it's pretty easy & a lot of fun.

My 7 year old likes to get up, eat & start homework because she knows that she can't play Wii or Webkinz until homework is done.  She's in first grade and still requires a lot of help.  Most kids do until they can read independently.  She does Math-U-See, which is a video driven program.  And she is learning to read with a mix of Headsprout (online) and "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons."  She has eye tracking problems, so I don't push her finish a complete lesson at a sitting.  Sometimes, she just can't.  As long as she is making progress, I'm happy.

My 10 year old is lazy.  She also is bright with an above average IQ, but several learning problems including dyslexia.  And, she has been diagnosed with high-functioning autism.  When she learns something, she learns it.  A lot of repetition just irritates her.  So, while her older sister uses Saxon Math, which has *lots* of repetition, this daughter uses Math-U-See.  MUS uses lots of manipulatives and while it does do some repetition, there isn't as much of it.  There's just enough repetition to keep the idea fresh, without boring her.  

Anyway, her schedule is to avoid doing homework as long as she can.  She needs me to help her quite a bit.  I will read & write for her while she does the thinking work.  She usually does her homework in the afternoon when the two smaller girls are done.  A lot of extra noise bothers her.

My 13 year old knows what she needs to accomplish each day.  She's pretty self motivated and does what she's supposed to.  She tends to spread her homework out all day long.  She also does quite a bit more "bookwork" than the younger ones.  Some of this is because of her learning style.  But, a lot of it is simply because she's older and in middle school.

Often, she waits until evening to do Latin after the "littles" are in bed & it's quieter.  She doesn't want people to know that she likes homework, because that makes her "weirder than [she] already [is]."  I'll catch her through out the day doing odd projects, like building a catapult.

A few tips.  1)  Most text books spend part of the time reviewing material that was supposed to be learned the year before, but forgotten over the summer.  We don't take summers off.  And my kids don't tend to finish a text at the end of the year.  So, I've let my kids "test" out of some work and skip initial chapters.  This is especially true of math.  2)  I use WA state standards to make sure we cover everything we need to.  We actually learn lots more.  I think it's good to let kids follow their interests when they are interested.  3)  Don't stress too much.  Some times it takes a while for a new topic to get through.  Try another tact, if one doesn't work well.  Sometimes, you need to back off for a while.  Eventually the learning will happen.  :-)

Anyway, I know it's not really a lot of help, but it is what we do.  Good luck with whatever your educational journey includes.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Homeschool Book Review ~ Rachel: The Story of Rachel Carson by Amy Ehrlich

I believe in using and defining "big words" for little people.  However, each page of this book had phrases or long words that aren't in your typical 5-8 year old's vocabulary.  These included truly wonderful words like "elongated paramecium" and phrases like "a woman ashore" (meaning that she was out of her desired place.)    It is clear that author carefully chose words that have just the right sound to them and the book is lovely to read out loud.  However, stopping to define these words and explain these phrases halted the progression of the story and breaks up the flow of the words.

My other criticism of this book is that it never really gets moving.  The story line seems to believe that you already know who Rachel Carson is and are just looking for a few snapshots of points in her life.  Each "chapter" stands alone and doesn't connect to the prior one or the next.

On the positive side, in addition to having wonderfully chosen words, the illustrations are beautiful.  My children spontaneously commented on the illustrations.

While recommended for children ages 5-8 and being laid out like a typical picture book, this book isn't well written for children. If it is one that interests you, I suggest checking it out of the library before purchasing a copy.

One of the Wa State learning objectives for first grade is to learn about Rachel Carson.  Her book "Silent Spring" is generally considered the mark of the begin of the environmental movement.

And the winners are...

Yes!  Both of my readers are winners!  Whoo hoo!  CTR Books wins an aluminum free bottle of Dove Go Fresh body mist in Pomegranate & lemon verbena scent.  And, her Majesty will receive nectarine & white ginger scented Dove Ultimate anti-perspirant deodorant.

We wish we had prizes for all of our readers.  Oh, wait we do.  :-)

CTR books your prize will be sent via "Mom mail" next time I see her.  Your Majesty, we will drop it off at your place on Sunday (assuming I remember.)