7QT: Mom, we don’t have anything to eat

One: My kitchen is full of really, really great food.  I have a rainbow of tomatoes.  I have three  gorgeous, shining eggplants, one of which looks just like Cyrano de Bergerac.

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Two: Just naming this eggplant Cyrano made me look for the scene from Roxanne in which C.D. tells all the nose jokes in the bar.  After watching it, I remember exactly how I felt the first time I watched it: sad that he had heard it all before, and that that scene wasn’t nearly as funny as the rest of the movie.

Three: Anyway, as I was saying, my kitchen is full of all this incredible food, but my children can’t find a single thing to eat.  Seriously.  Jonah went to pack a lunch the other day and said he couldn’t make a sandwich because there was no cheese. (We did have turkey, bread, bagels, peanut butter and four kinds of jam (seriously:4!), tomatoes, pesto, pears, grapes, and leftover pasta with homemade sauce. Not that all of that could have gone on one sandwich…)

Four: On my run the other day I listened to a great podcast from Another Mother Runner, in which Sarah and Allison interviewed a registered dietician about healthy snacks for families. It was good inspiration to come home and prep for a bunch of easy-to-eat snacks. I instapotted (verb, past tense) several pounds of beets to freeze for future beet smoothies and Can’t Be Beet Hummus (recipe from Eat Slow, Run Fast), hardboiled a bunch of eggs, and peeled five pounds of carrots (which I store in jars of water to keep them from getting dry and ashy), and froze about twenty pounds of peach halves, also for smoothies.  Then the children proceeded to eat all of my hummus and carrots in about seven minutes. (Seriously?)

Five: On the AMR podcast, the R.D. guest mentioned she had a free downloadable chart to hang in your cupboard to help your kids pack their own lunches, to encourage them to select foods from more than one food groups.  What a great idea! I envisioned a list of proteins one might keep in the cupboard or fridge: hard boiled eggs, cheese sticks, beef jerky, and individual packs of hummus and PB. I thought this amazing printable might have a list of quick-to-grab fruits and veggies, and a selection of grains.  I have to have that list!, I thought.  It will save me hours of pain and hassle every week, if my kids will just look at it and make themselves a balanced snack out of all the amazing food in our kitchen!

Six: So I looked up the name of the RD, found her blog, signed up for her mailing list and opened the email with the Free! Downloadable!  [insert unicorn glitter emoji here] Magic Cupboard Printable to Teach Your Kids How To Pack Their Own Lunches!

Seven:  Guess what? It’s blank. It’s just a piece a paper with the different food groups on it, and you have to write your own list of foods.  Back to square one.  Who wants some fried eggplant noses with purple hummus?

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Check out This Ain’t the Lyceum for more quick takes!

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Hey there! Did you know…

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Did you know that I have another blog? I’m transitioning my chatter about writing and books over to my book blog.  I would love to connect with you there, if you’re interested in books (instead of the homeschooling and gardening and daily life that I share here.)

I’m also posting more photos on Instagram (link in the sidebar), or @momco3, and I’m sharing medical articles and thoughts on Twitter @AnnDominguezMD.

And just because we both know there’s not time to do it all, I’d love your thoughts on “work-life balance.” I shared mine here, on my other blog.

Daybook: mid-September

Outside my window: Today is the first day in a few that the air is clear again.  The smoke from the fires has meant I’m seeing lots of asthma in my office, and terrible allergies at home.  Y’all know how it kills me to run the A/C, but it’s hot enough in the afternoons still that keeping all the windows closed is unpleasant. First world problem, I know. At least I have windows.

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It didn’t occur to me until well after I took the photo that perhaps this wasn’t the healthiest air in which to run.

In the garden: It’s time to bring in the 13 butternut squash we grew.  I say we, but of course I mean the soil and sun and water.  All I did was prune the vines when they tried to take over the lawn.

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said vines, said lawn

In the kitchen: The farm has been giving us lots of tomatoes and corn, good summer food.  We’ve been freezing lots of marinara (anybody have experience using their Instant Pot as a pressure canner?) and peaches.  I’m going to be so grateful for those peaches when we finally remember to use them in my smoothies and crumbles.

In the school room:  We have been taking field trips.  It wasn’t my intention to start in so early with field trips, but I couldn’t pass on the eclipse, or on MSF’s Forced from Home exhibit last week.

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We were pretty impressed even with the partial eclipse leading up to totality.

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And then we were blown away. Midday darkness, cold, and the corona… it was incredible. Even my skeptical husband was impressed.

The MSF exhibit Forced from Home is absolutely worth a day. (Find the upcoming stops here: Forced from Home.)  The exhibit begins with an introduction to the work of MSF (a.k.a. Doctors Beyond Borders) and then allows you to walk through the refugee/IDP experience in an interactive fashion, forcing you to make hard choices with inadequate information.

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I hoped the exhibit would give us all a better sense of what our refugee friends went through, and it did that in a small way.  The bigger, more surprising impact it had was the opportunity to show my kids and dad what my experience in the Cholera Treatment Center was like. (NB: I did not work with MSF, but with Samaritan’s Purse which was working in the same area of Haiti.)  The MSF volunteer led us to a model of a cholera treatment center, and talked about the gritty details of it: the cots with holes cut in them for patients too weak to make it to a toilet, the IV poles, the buckets used for toilets… My family were able to see some of what I had done, and what was a transformative experience for me.

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Forced from Home is a great exhibit, staffed with actual MSF volunteers who are articulate about their work and why they do it.  Definitely make time for it when it comes near you.

Grateful: that our school rhythms are beginning to become habits.  For Sam and Phoebe’s good trip to Chicago. For meaningful work and the inspiration of others who are so brave. For my friend Lori & her crew’s coming up to go to Wonder Woman with us. For a weekend walk with Christy.

Praying for: refugees, IDPs, asylum-seekers, migrants and others forced from home, and those who work alongside them. For families who lost loved ones on 9/11. For the ability to listen to one another.  For many near to me who are hurting and afraid.

2017-8 School Year Plans

These are our plans for school this year, with a 12th-grader, 9th-grader, 8th-grader and 4th-grader. A copy of this will remain under my pages (found in the sidebar and in the tabs under the header photo) for future reference, though I will update it at the end of the year to take out what we didn’t like/do or what we added.

History: US History. In the past I have wrapped US history into our world history by period, but I recently discovered that didn’t count for Colorado’s high school graduation requirements. This year, we will study US History and add in what’s happening around the world at the same time for context.

Our 12th-grader is taking US History at the community college. Depending on where he decides to go to college next year, we will either take the in-state guaranteed transfer credit, or have him take the AP exam next spring.

For 4th, 8th and 9th grades I’m shaking things up. Instead of reading the spines we’ve used in the past (The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer, and Genevieve Foster’s The World of George Washington, etc.), I’m using investigative strategies I learned from Yohuru R. Williams’s excellent book, Teaching US History Beyond the Textbook.

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I purchased an assortment of collections of US history primary sources called Researching American History (found at Rainbow Resource Center) for the kids to use in their research.  I don’t expect my 4th grader to pull from multiple sources, but for the older kids, I have asked for at least 4 sources per project.

I’ve assigned US history books (biographies, autobiographies, novels and picture books) for them to read independently, and they will present their findings (travel brochures, PowerPoint presentations, reports, posters, comic books, movie trailers, plays) to each other every 2-3 weeks.  We will also play Timeline regularly to help us cement a mental timeline. We have a list of US history movies to watch. My older two will participate in National History Day in the spring.

Geography:

For 12th-grade, Jonah will be reading Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography and Woodard’s American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures in North America. Then, with the idea in mind that the natural resources and paucities of a region help determine the political struggles of that nation/region, he will do a series of case studies of different regions in the world.

For 8th and 9th grades, we are studying US geography in the context of history, incorporating historical maps and states’ geography.  For my 4th grader, we will work through 36 states week by week, hopefully incorporating some out-of-state travel. We like these coloring books and games for geography.

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English (Composition/Grammar/Spelling/Punctuation):

My 12th grader will be doing an essay-writing intensive (aka, writing tons of college and scholarship essays).  His US history class also has weekly writing clinics and lots of assigned papers.

For 4th, 8th and 9th grades, we will use Spelling Power for the first time. Additionally, they each have a daily grammar review with a one-page grammar exercise. I’ve tried lots of Charlotte Mason-esque “gentle” or “natural” grammar reviews, and they don’t seem to work for us. I think the problem is me. Anyway, this year we’re trying something less oral and more written (and formal).  The Spectrum series of test prep books works well for us to teach writing concepts in small chunks, which we then try to reinforce with writing assignments.

English Literature:

Shakespeare: This year we will read The Winter’s Tale. It’s one of my favorite Shakespeare plays and seems to flirt the line between tragedy and comedy. It covers serious ideas of betrayal, suspicion and grudge-holding, but it has a happy ending. Something for everyone.

Poetry: We will read Emily Dickinson, Claude McKay, Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot, Edna St Vincent Millay, and Langston Hughes. My older son will read some Gwendolyn Brooks, Bob Dylan and Tupac Shakur.

Read-alouds: We have a limited time all together as a family for reading now that my oldest has two days each week on campus, and the kids are still attending their once-a-week school.  We began by rereading Because of Winn-Dixie, but I haven’t entirely decided what our other read-alouds will be.

Independent Reading: A significant portion of my younger kids’ literature will be historical reading, including Phoebe the Spy, Little Britches, Steve Sheinkin’s The Notorious Benedict Arnold, The Port Chicago 50, King George: What was his problem, Lincoln’s Grave Robbers, and Most Dangerous; the Little House on the Prairie series, Elswyth Thane’s Williamsburg series, Elijah of Buxton and The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis, and Gary D. Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now. I also have a collection of other MG and YA literature on the list.  More booklists to come.

Picture (Art) Study:

Our picture study will focus on Normal Rockwell and Edward Hopper. But I’m also planning a unit on Native American textiles and pottery, and a unit on the quilter Harriet Powers.

Math:

12th grade: AP Statistics. 9th grade: Singapore NEM Level 2 (continuing). 8th grade: Singapore NEM Level 1 and the Life of Fred: Geometry. 4th Grade: Singapore Primary 4A and 4B.

Bible: Everyone is doing some Old Testament reading to improve our Bible literacy, and we will finish the Gospel of Mark (again) and some epistles (yet to be determined).

Science:

12th grade: Chemistry with Lab

9th grade: Veritas Academy’s online Chemistry and Biology through the enrichment school.

8th grade: We’ll be using biology modules from Science Fusion, including Cells and Heredity and Diversity of Living Things.

4th grade: We are planning weekly nature study with a focus on plants, although we started with the total eclipse.

Foreign Language:

12th grade: he is taking a year off FL.

4th, 8th and 9th grade all are taking Spanish through our enrichment school. Hooray!

If you have any resources you think I should include to make this a better year, please shoot me an email. Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

7QT: Instead of the news

One: It’s been hard to write this year. There is so much terrible news, and all of it is much more important than anything I have to say about school or local food. When I finally get over it to write something and schedule it to post automatically Monday morning, something terrible happens (looking at you, white supremacists who overran Charlottesville, and nutcase in Barcelona) and then my response appears to be some links about the upcoming eclipse.  There are many thoughtful, wise responses to the state of our nation and world.  I’m sorry that you won’t find them here.  Read them first, and then when you can’t take reality any more, you can pick up some sheet cake and come back here to read about something less distressing.

Two: Welcome back. While you were gone, I’ve been organizing our books.  Every year I  pull out the ones I want to have handy to assign for school.  I’ve been putting it off this summer because… well, see #1 above.  (It’s not just writing that’s been hard.)  But school starts on Monday, and I’m running out of time. I began yesterday by going through all the shelves and pulling out the books I need. Now I have to make room for them in a convenient spot, which involves moving those books somewhere else.  Anyway, it quickly became overwhelming.

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Three: So instead of finishing the task, I moved on to the abundance in the kitchen.  It’s August, which means melons and corn and tomatoes and peaches. Hallelujah. A God who made the peach is Someone I can get behind.

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I used to spend a hot, August afternoon sweating over the canner with these beauties. No more. Now I wash them, slice them in half to remove the pit, and freeze them on parchment paper. (The peaches, not the pits.) It takes about 10 minutes and involves no heat. Then, when the peaches are frozen, I throw them in bags.  In the winter they are perfect for the cobblers and smoothies that are the antidote to the February blues.

Four: While I’ve been working hard (or running to escape the news), the children are struggling with boredom. Poor things. I feel so sorry for them.

Five: Phoebe has taken to writing a newspaper.  I was nervous about this at first, until her first two articles were Tips about the Eclipse and Tips for Going Back to School. A girl after my own heart.

Six: Moriah has been coping by baking. Alas, that enables my coping by eating. After days of double chocolate chip cookies, lemon bars and flourless chocolate cake (she has been limited only by the egg production of our hens), I begged her please to make something that could count as lunch.  “Here,” I said, “use all these gorgeous tomatoes to make some sauce.”

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Seven: Teenage boredom for the win. Now if I could only talk her into helping me with the books…

When you can’t take the real news any more, check out Kelly for more Quick Takes.

Eclipse resources

Just a quick check in today with a few resources about the total solar eclipse happening next Monday, August 21.

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For my favorite essay about the eclipse, here’s a link to Annie Dillard’s Total Eclipse. (I wonder why she named it that?) I read this essay (again) last fall after I made us reservations in Wyoming. I came out from my room with tears in my eyes to tell my family we were going to the eclipse. They all looked at me in bewilderment until one of them asked, “Um… Mom, are you crying?”

No pressure, but the Atlantic reprinting will expire the day after the eclipse, on August 22.  After that, you can find Annie’s Dillard’s essay in Teaching a Stone to Talk, and in her more recent anthology, The Abundance.

It might be too late to buy eclipse glasses, but if you already have some, double check that they meet the requirements necessary to protect your vision. For a list of vendors who have certified their filters and glasses, check here.  The glasses should say “Meets the requirement for ISO 1231202:2015.” Don’t ask me what those numbers mean. I have no idea.

If you can’t get glasses in time, you could still use the eclipse as an opportunity to study the retina and how light causes vision. Here are some resources for that: how sun damages your eyes, a 47-second video on how the retina works, and a Crash Course video on vision.

For more information on the eclipse’s path, check NASA’s site of maps, both interactive and state-by-state. NASA also has links on to how to build a safe solar viewer (for anyone who can’t get their hands on safe glasses), eclipse art projects, and educational resources, including ones specific for homeschoolers!

The Atlantic has all sorts of articles on the eclipse.  Here’s a link to their coverageSpace.com had a great article explaining why the eclipse moves west to east, instead of east to west.  The L.A. Times addressed what sort of behavior we can expect from animals during the eclipse.  And if all of that is just too much, here is a link to Space.com’s beginner’s guide to eclipse viewing (with a video from NASA).

Here’s hoping we can plant and water the seeds of wonder and curiosity in the next generation.

 

 

Countdown to school: T-7 days

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I have seven days till we start school.  This is my 13th year homeschooling, and my last year homeschooling my oldest.  Granted, things may change, but at this time it’s looking like I have a few years more to go.  No matter how many years I’ve been doing this, every year feels like a new, distinct challenge.  Here’s how I’m talking myself back from a precipice of anxiety.

We don’t have to start everything all at once.  When my kids were littler (and for the one who’s still little) I don’t start everything all at once.  I begin with a favorite subject (or two), and one that is new to us, sandwiching the new between the old.  Then when those are rolling well (which might be a few days, or in a harder year, a few weeks), I add the next.

We’ve got good books.  Much of our schooling is based on books, and if all else fails, we can retreat into our living room and read books for a week or two until I figure out where to go from here.

We take advantage of early-fall weather.  I love the fall as a time for hikes and nature walks and family bike rides.  There will be plenty of time come winter to hunker down at home for longer lessons.

“Important things will be repeated.” I stole that quote from my favorite medical school professor (Dr. Wood), and it’s true.  We can repeat and refine as much as we want, so why am I so worked up about every moment being critical?

“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”  I take this quote to mean that we are learning together all the time, in the attitude (atmosphere) of our home: we ask questions, we pay attention, and we are curious; in the habits (discipline) we practice, and in all aspects of life.  Thank you, Charlotte Mason.

Our aim in education is to give a full life. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking – the strain would be too great – but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest. –Charlotte Mason