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!

Spring Fever

Here in New England, Spring is taking its time arriving.  Cold, rainy weather greets us everyday and there’s no chance of putting the winter attire in storage. My heart longs for warmth and sunshine. But even though the weather doesn’t show it and without looking at the calendar, the instinct is still there-spring fever! And with it, the end of the school year is in sight! Can’t you just hear it in your head? “School’s out, school’s out! Teacher let the monkeys out!” Well, I have to admit, I can hear it, loud and clear, Summer is calling my name! I’m ready for camp meeting and family camp and beach days. My son has completed his math book and the other subjects are dwindling away. Field trips, baseball and fun are taking their place. Dear School, we shall see you in the Fall.

But wait, my ever active, planning brain is busy. Sure, summer is laid back, take it easy kind of days, but we need to plan for back to school. What books are we going to use? Do we need to buy some or do we already have them? What changes are we going to make? How are we going to do things differently? What do we need to include this year? All these thoughts keep me awake and sleep won’t come until I ponder them. I love planning. I love a fresh start. I love thinking of the endless possibilities!

So here are some of my musings:

~Bible class, not just family worship

~Foreign language

~More of a scheduled routine

~More writing

and the list goes on! Time to make yours too. Before you know it, the back to school sales will be on,summer will be over and time to roll again. Happy planning!

 

 

Pleasant Surprises

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It was a day for surprises! We were celebrating my husband’s birthday by walking the cliff walk in Newport, Rhode Island. On our way there, we passed a visitors center. My husband stopped, so that my son and I could run in. The woman behind the desk greeted us with a smile as she asked if she could help us. I told her we were doing a state swap as part of our homeschooling, and needed some materials. She looked at me and said, “Can I ask you something?”

“Why did I say homeschooling,” I thought. “I didn’t mean to say that. Now she will want to know how I am qualified to teach and how my son will be socialized and a million other things that I am tired of hearing and answering.” But wait, she’s smiling as she asks me her question: “Why did you decide to homeschool?” I answer as honestly as I can: “Because we were enjoying my son so much, we just wanted to keep enjoying him. That’s the biggest reason; we just like to be together!”

She told me how sweet that was, and as we talked she was very interested and encouraging, but it wasn’t until I was walking out the door that she told me the reason for her question. She has a special needs child and doesn’t feel that the school is providing all that he needs, and she has almost definitely decided to homeschool. Wow! I was meant to say “homeschooling” in my request. I was meant to just “happen” to see the visitors center sign. My husband was meant to take a different route than we usually do. Even my son was meant to be on his best behavior that day as he impressed them with looking over the brochures and choosing the ones he thought would be good for our project.

Yes, I think God had a surprise for me that day. In our homeschooling journey, I’ve learned that my son isn’t the only one learning, and I’m not the only one teaching. Many a day our roles are reversed. How true that “a little child shall lead them.”

Just that morning, it was Children’s Day at our church. The 12-year-old speaker encouraged us to speak out for Jesus, to keep our eyes on Him. I felt like I was on God’s mission. Yet, just a moment before I had wondered if stopping to get the brochures was appropriate for Sabbath. I’m still not sure of that, but I am sure that I was where God wanted me to be, encouraging someone to enjoy their child through homeschooling, walking the path of life together. Pleasant surprises await us at each turn of that path when we walk with Jesus!