It’s a Watery World

We watched a movie called Stranded at Sea recently. I’m not sure I would recommend it to anyone, but it was interesting and made me think. It was the true story of three men in World War II who survived a plane crash and being “stranded at sea.” Although as homeschooling parents we might sometimes feel as though we also have crashed and are trying to stay alive, that is not what this post is about!

As you can imagine, most of the scenery during the whole movie was the ocean. Seeing all that water reminded me of the next letter in the NEWSTART acronym: W. Here these men were, surrounded by water but dying of thirst. Are we in the same boat?

I remember my husband’s aunt telling me how they use to have to fetch water for all their needs when she was growing up in Italy. I often think how blessed I am that I can just turn the faucet on and abundant waters flow. Helping my child (and yours too) receive those blessings is the subject today.

As homeschoolers, we can monitor if our child is drinking enough water each day. It is another one of the blessings that being home brings. Our children have access to water all the time, whenever they want it, making it easy to provide their bodies with the necessary amount.

However, if your child is like mine, a reluctant camel, preferring juice and soy milk to water, here are some ideas to make the water go down easier!

My son loves Legos, so he uses a magnetic brick that will hold eight smaller Legos to keep track of his recommended eight glasses of water each day. Other ideas could be eight dimes stacked on the counter and the child gets to keep one for each glass they drink. Eight straws in the glass, removing one each time your child drains it, makes a fun time of it. The possibilities are endless; just pick something that holds your child’s interest.

How about a water bottle with marked off increments of ounces? Every time the student finishes a subject for the day, they need to drink to the next line. Of course, a fancy new water bottle always makes the task more pleasant. Adding lemon or lime increases the taste appeal here at our house. Or, how about some fancy ice cubes to swirl around? Speciality ice cube trays or the plastic refreshable ones are cheap enough.

As parents the world over know, it’s not just a battle to get water into a kid, but also a battle to get the kid in water! It is important, though, to use that water on the inside and the outside, so make sure part of the homeschooling day happens in the shower!

My mom used to always talk about a doctor whose cure for everything started with prescribing plenty of water. It’s good advice for all of us and an important part of our homeschooling day, so drink your eight today!

E is for Exercise

Continuing with the NEWSTART acronym, we run along to the letter E which stands for exercise. My family is on vacation right now, a wonderful relaxing trip to the beaches of Florida. Even though we didn’t bring any school books along, homeschooling is life, so it continues. Discussions, historical sights, science lessons in nature, and definitely PE! Our favorite beach to go to is in New Smyrna because it has an outdoor racquetball court that we always take advantage of before diving in the ocean. Of course, there’s ball playing and boogie boarding and walks along the beach — all great exercise and loads of fresh air.

Having an active only child has ensured that I get my exercise. I have been his playmate all his life. Never one to excel in sports, anything having to do with a ball suddenly became my new life. Countless hours at the baseball field, hockey in the driveway, football at the park, and various games in the yard keep me in shape. In fact, as he gets older and plays more with his friends, my body shows it. Luckily for me, when he doesn’t invite me to the game of kickball, his friends do! Obviously, I have never had any trouble fulfilling the PE requirement for him for homeschooling!

How do you incorporate exercise into your homeschooling day? Towns often offer sports programs that homeschoolers can join. But, if your child isn’t as sports minded as mine, there are plenty of other options. Nature or neighborhood walks and bike rides would be at the top of the list. Many homeschoolers get together for park days or even hiking clubs. Audubon or local parks often offer programs that will get your child moving and experiencing nature at the same time. Fun activities like sledding, skating, or skiing are great in the winter. Have your child join you in exercising along with a video, and then join him in scootering around the block. The possibilities are endless for exercise!

My favorite part of the homeschooling journey is that we are traveling it together as a family. Enjoying exercise together is not only fun but good for every BODY! So, let’s get moving!

N is for Nutrition

When my son was turning one, we went to Iowa to visit my family. While staying at my sister’s house, my husband brought a Subway sandwich home for lunch one day. He removed some of the vegetables and placed them on the tray of the high chair which my son occupied. My sister walked by as our child’s chubby little hands reached out to enjoy his lunch, and in astonishment said, “I can’t believe how he just eats those vegetables!” Ah, but his nutritional education had begun nine months before, when he was only three months old! As I conducted a cooking demonstration at our church, he slept in his car seat that was placed on the floor beside me, hidden by the table. It was a surprise to the attendees when he suddenly awoke towards the end of the class and let everyone know it with a cry! He may have been the youngest one in the audience, and he may have slept through most of the presentation, but I think the principles of good eating had stuck!

In our home, we subscribe to a plant based diet and try to live healthfully. We believe that God has given us instructions for better living. The acronym NEWSTART sums these up in eight healthy laws of health. Let’s start today with the letter N, which stands for nutrition. As homeschoolers, we can take better charge of what our children eat, because we are with them most of the time. But even better than that, we can teach them the reasons for and benefits of our food choices and how they can pass this knowledge on.

Here are some ideas for incorporating good nutrition into your homeschooling days.

Of course, the obvious way is to feed our kids good food. Our days are busy, but taking a little time to plan and shop for healthy meals is well worth the effort. Attitudes, behavior, learning, physical health, and relationships with God will all improve. Including your children’s imput on the menu plans, letting them help with the grocery shopping, and having them assist with meal preparation are good ways to show them the importance of eating right. My son was only three or four when he asked me to stay in bed and proceeded to make pancake batter by himself, remembering the recipe by heart because we had made it so many times together. Now his favorite way to help in the kitchen is to mix up exotic sauces of his own creation to go with egg rolls, stir fries, etc.

Planting a garden and reaping the harvest makes trying new foods fun. If space isn’t available, some towns have community gardens where one can rent a plot and grow their own vegetables. Even shopping at a local farmer’s market makes produce more appealing. We used to walk to ours each Tuesday, and all the way home my little boy would eat ground cherries, popping them out of their papery skins. Shopping at neighborhood and ethnic markets is always intriguing. Bring something home you have never tried before!

I mentioned my son’s early involvement in my cooking class. Later on he would participate by demonstrating recipes of his own as part of his Pathfinder Cooking honor. This not only reinforced good nutrition, but gave him opportunity to spread the message and gave him good practice in public speaking and interacting with the audience. He would also hold bake sales at my classes. The classes were free for the participants, but he raked in more than $50 with his vegan goodies! His handmade sign with prices was not only a good lesson in writing and math, but a keepsake I cherish.

These days we are planning how to get to the next Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Those of you who are involved in Pathfinders know there are funds to be raised in order to attend this exciting event. We are thinking of selling homemade food as one of the ways to achieve our goal. My son is helping with ideas of what foods to include in our sales. He has also helped figure out how much our costs and profit margins will be so we will set our prices accordingly — good lesson not only in math, but again involving him in good nutrition, because of course we want to sell only the best food to people, thereby selling our health message along with it.

Measuring ingredients, figuring out serving sizes and costs: all wonderful math lessons. My son loves to check serving sizes on food packages to see how much he can have of a certain food to meet the requirement. It has become his personal joke when it’s something sweet, and he wants to make sure he gets to the serving size to obtain all the sweetness he can!

Letting your child leaf through your cookbooks, gazing at all the beautiful food pictures is a great way to whet his/her appetite for good food. Books or videos from the library explaining how food is grown or made are excellent resources. Field trips to food businesses are even better! Bakeries, grocery stores, farms, food processing plants, etc., usually offer tours. Even the tours that don’t necessarily apply to your lifestyle are informative and fun, a good learning experience. For us, these have included a dairy farm, a potato chip factory, and a candy factory. Apple picking in the fall is a great experience. Look around, and you might find a variety of food festivals. In our area we have an annual veg fest touting the vegetarian lifestyle. We have even attended a garlic festival with friends who live in a small town.

There are so many ways to incorporate good nutrition into homeschooling days. You will be giving your child a great start in life, plus handing him the tools to teach others the wonderful diet plan that God has provided for us. Nutrition, the N in NEWSTART: start with it today in your lesson plans!

Tang Hulurs

imageWhen my son was small and we were just beginning our homeschool journey, my good friend, Tanya, loaned me her Sonlight curriculum for grade 1. Although I chose not to use it, I did read most of the books to my little boy. I have wonderful memories of sitting under the big maple tree in our backyard reading one of our favorites, “Little Pear,” by Eleanor Frances Lattimore. In this enchanting book, the main character’s favorite treat to buy is a tang hulur. My child liked this book so much that we borrowed the others in the series from the library. Our favorite part that has stuck with us all these years (he is 12 now, but still likes to be read to!) is the fascinating idea of a tang hulur. We have our own idea of what they look like, and when we see a resemblance of our conception, whether it be in a store or picture, we always exclaim, “Look! It’s a tang hulur!”

In this blog post, I share with you the day we made tang hulurs, better known as rock candy. This is a fun activity to go along with a science lesson or unit on rocks. We actually made the rock candy with our small Pathfinder group as part of the Rocks and Minerals honor. We had attended a gem and fossil show the week before, a first for all of us. A day or two later, I received an email to sign up for a free online science class to learn about rocks, including experiments to do at home. Thinking this was perfect timing, I bought the necessary supplies for the experiments and showed the video to the Pathfinders. To be honest, the video wasn’t a big hit, but everybody loves an edible experiment so that saved the day!

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Here is what we did to create our version of tang hulurs. This makes a big batch, so you might want to reduce it. We added eight cups of sugar, which was a small four-pound bag, to three cups of water gradually, and then heated it on the stove. Do not let it boil. We did not use a candy thermometer, but you can. The mixture should change into a cloudy yellowish color with all the sugar dissolved, and should be hot to the touch. Let it cool enough to pour into a glass container. We used mason jars. You can add flavorings and/or colors at this point.

imageThen position a skewer in the middle, holding it in place with a clothespin laid across the top.

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The skewer should be moistened and rolled in sugar to give the crystals something to adhere to.

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Now you just wait for the crystals to form. That can take hours or even days; we just kept checking ours.

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Break up the edges and pour out the excess liquid after it has crystallized, and set the jar in hot water to remove your creation. It’s not the healthiest treat, but fun to make to demonstrate crystals when studying rocks. Enjoy your tang hulur while reading a good book, like “Little Pear,” or even a book about rocks.

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Oh, and by the way, here’s what tang hulurs really look like! Much more tasty to me!

 

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Fun in the Sun and the Kitchen

My blog posts this year center around the theme of homeschooling in the kitchen. I want to share some of the things that happen in our kitchen that are connected to learning. In science, my son was learning about solar power, so we decided to make solar ovens. To increase the fun quotient, we decided to do this project with friends that also homeschool.

In order to make these solar ovens, I went to Bertucci’s Pizza to get some pizza boxes. I asked if I could buy some, but when the manager heard what we wanted them for, he offered them for free. He also asked if I would share pictures of our project with the restaurant.

We made two different kinds of solar ovens, both very simple. The first one was made with a regular large, square pizza box. We cut a square flap into the center of the lid of the box, and covered the open area with plastic wrap and the underside of the flap with aluminum foil. We lined the bottom of the box with black construction paper to absorb the heat. We filled the boxes with a variety of food to see what affect the solar oven would have on each of these items. These included grilled cheese sandwiches, open-face cheese sandwiches, a veggie hot dog, a tomato, and quesadillas. Then we propped the boxes open with rulers and set them on the back of our truck in full sun.

The other solar oven we made consisted of a smaller box; I believe it is a box meant to carry your leftovers home in. We pushed the lid of this box into the box itself and covered it with aluminum foil. Then we pushed wooden skewers containing marshmallows and a bit of hotdog through the box. This was also placed in full sun.

Now the wait and…voila! Lunch is served!

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This was a fun learning project with a great end result — something to eat! My son loved it and cooked many other meals in it, experimenting with different foods. He also tried it various times of the day and in different types of weather.

So on the next hot day, get out of the kitchen and make your meal in a homemade solar oven. Bon Appetit!