Saturday, October 30, 2010

Alex's Kitchen Science Lesson #1 ~ Braising

Braising = cooking with liquid

Recipe: Grandma Shari's Pot Roast with Peas

Chapter 3 "Braising" in Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for the Food

Searing the meat.

(This was our last pot roast from our half a cow we buy each year. What an awesome way to use it!)

Cutting the veggies. He got a little knife lesson in here too and did a wonderful job! Uniform potato bits is not the easiest trick to learn.

Making the cooking liquid. First, he added a Bullion cube to the water...

And the finished dinner! Man, it was good! I am going to keep this recipe in our stocks so we can try 'braising' again!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Around our City ~ Farm Tour #3

Today is a beautiful day! In fact, it is the ONLY beautiful day we have had in over a week now. And, unfortunately, the only one in the forecast future. So we decided to take advantage of it. Don took the day off and we headed out on our Pumpkin Patch farm tour. The first farm we visited Picha's farm in Puyallup, was closed until 3pm (which is during nap time in this house)... so we decided to look for another one. And we found Scholtz Farm!

They had all sorts of features out for the harvest season. Their animals were all ready to be petted and watched, and one of the hands told a story about one of the pigs escaping into the corn field (which is a maze) only to come home a bit late for dinner when they were sure 'Mrs Piggy' was gone for good.

But of course, what fun with animals can be complete without Cyan having a close encounter or two:

The pony nibbled her hand pretty good and although it was scary, he was looking for apples, not little girl fingers, so she was fine. After a brief hug from mom and then dad, she was able to go make up with the pony again and feed him some dandelions she found in the pumpkin patch.

We picked up some beautiful pumpkins and quite a few of my favorite squash.

The Delicata!

It was a great sunny day trip!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Science Everywhere

Alex is starting up with a good dose of Science this year and that had me searching through books and cookbooks, looking for kitchen chemistry concepts on which to base future lessons for him. Which led me to find a book I had stashed away: Janice VanCleave's Biology for Every Kid.

This book is a gem for those Science impaired homeschoolers like me. She has laid out 101 experiments that are simple, easy, and take mostly household items. And best of all, most of them don't make a mess!

I paired it with this wonderful simple science ditto:

which can be found here (there are two pages) and were super easy for Cyan to translate her experiment this afternoon to the sheet. On the second sheet, there is a place to draw a picture of what she had done or the results of her experiment.

Today we did the experiment "Limp Spuds" and we talked about Osmosis. Both my kids are excited about doing more Science this year. Alex actually was able to set up Cyan's experiment for her before he moved on to his written briefing about kitchen safety for his Grandma on Thursday. He says to me as he is reading about osmosis and setting out the table salt "Haha! This is fun!"


Creative Writing and Poetry Class ~ Similes

Today we did a big review of what the kids had learned in the previous three lessons. I was thrilled with how much they have remembered and are able to use in real writing applications!

The second half of the class was dedicated to Similes. Comparison sentences using 'like' or 'as'. Our enrichment project was to take a rainbow, and for each color, create a simile. We had what colors looked like, felt like, smelled like, sounded like, and even tasted like. The sentences were awesome! "Purple tastes like a ripe plum bursting in my mouth on a warm summer day." These kids have a heck of an imagination. Even the youngegest in the class really enjoyed this activity and were able to bring some really great sentences to the table.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Cyan and Tucker the squirrel

Tucker is still around. And now he brings his friend 'Hank' over as well. They had another friend for a couple weeks, but Tucker chased him away. Big family drama, apparently.

Alex decided to film Cyan feeding and petting Tucker... and although she hardly got to touch him here, you can see how comfortable he is with her. It's just amazing!

Please try to ignore the mouth breathing of the videotographer... he's new. ;)

Some of our recent drama of our own... my poor daughter is going through some dental issues. But she is well on the mend and we are currently canning away!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Alex's kitchen science inventory

My mom, Alex, and I are starting to implement the Alton Brown science stuff we have worked out over the past few weeks. My mom had two fantastic ideas which have taken up our first week with this science curriculum. #1: a kitchen inventory and #2: a kitchen safety briefing

Here is Alex's inventory:

I think he did a fantastic job! He said he wants to take pictures of the toaster and coffee maker too, but I told him that was unnecessary as long as he remembered he had them to use if he needed to.

(Just for my own sanity, I feel the need to point out that we had just made pizza with the mixer when he decided to do this. It doesn't just sit that dirty. ;) )


Friday, October 22, 2010

Around our City ~ Farm Tour #2

First stop is the chickens. We get to feed them the scraps from the farm...

And perhaps get to see a few eggs being collected.

Next stop, hay ride to the apple orchard. This took much longer than we could have walked it, but it was super fun for the kids to get pulled by a real working tractor!

At the apple orchard we picked enough for two gallons of cider to take home. One to freeze and one for right now.

And of course, what is cider, without a toddler bitten apple or two between the tree and the press?

We carried the apples back to the farm house to be cleaned, pressed and bottled.

Terry's Berries is a wonderful farm and only 7 miles from our house. This is where I go when my shares at the CSA stop coming in the winter. They have a little farm store open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays year round that provides food from local vendors as well as some imports that are organic. Their staff are friendly, their products are AMAZING, and they have lots of things to see and do during the Autumn months.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Grains of the World ~ Corn

You can very clearly see which direction the wind was blowing in my garden. On one hand, we have a nice full corn cob... on the other, we have a nearly completely unpollinated corn cob that was just on the other side of the stalk from the nice full cob.

Corn, I will not be growing again. It is very clear to me (and the kids) why corn is grown in huge fields. The wind can carry the pollen of one plant to many of the other plants at one time. And because they are in such large groups, they all drop pollen on each other. With only 4 corn plants in one small spot, we got these two ears that didn't rot the entire season. And one of those was very underpollinated.

In other GOTW news... the rest of the grains have rotted completely while curing in the carport. This was more frustrating for me than it was for the kids. They really enjoyed the project even though I consider it only 'mostly done' without my loaf of bread to show for it. But Alex did point out that we could get all of the grains again from the same places we got our starter seed from and make bread from those. They don't HAVE to be the ones from the garden for us to have the experience of grinding them for bread.

I am raising a problem solver. :)

The rest of our experiment with the Grains Of The World.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Around Our City ~ Farm Tour

Over the last few years of me being in the 'beyond organic' marketplace, I have discovered tons of local farms that deserve recognition. It is hard to take kids to places like this most of the time... except during harvest season. So this month, we are visiting at least 4 farms (have feelers out for more).

The topic of food is so amazingly important to me that it is very hard to move my homeschooling away from it. Buying local, organic, cruelty free food has led me on a path of understanding of our food systems that I never even thought possible. The egg industry alone has opened up hundreds of opportunities for learning for my children as I debate organic vs local vs pasture fed. I can not help but teach my children about my passions and hope that they develop some good questioning thoughts about the food they eat for themselves when they get older. I know that I have livestock animal cruelty conversations with my daughter often, and my oldest is very interested in baking (and also quite good at it!).

Our first farm: Lattin's Cider Mill

What a wonderful little spot! It is about 40 miles from me now, but we still find ourselves there this time of year. They specialize in cider (of course) and get all of their apples in season (being right now) and from just the other side of the mountains (100 mile or so away).

This time of year they have many products that come from their own gardens around the mill and they sell those in a barn set up to be a market place. They make their own doughnuts and you can feed the chickens (and buy their eggs) while you share a cup of hot cider and a freshly made apple fritter with your tots. It is the most magical spot for children to go. They nearly always have baby something... currently it is pheasants and bunnies... and you are allowed to feed, pet, and play with the goats, walk the pumpkin patch, and pet the cows.

I miss being closer to such a wonderful resource for education as well as food, but as you will see... the Farm Tour goes on (and to much closer locations!).


Monday, October 11, 2010

Creative Writing and Poetry Class

(My class. Two of the kids are missing in this picture, but I thought it was super cute!)

We had poetry class #3 today. It was amazing! I am so thrilled to be sharing this program with my homeschool kid friends!

So far, what we have learned has been back-boned by the ideas of Small World's Wordsmithery, with a nice healthy dose of my own ideas.

Wordsmithery; if you haven't already, please check it out (link here). The lessons she writes are easy to understand and complete all on their own. Anything you bring is a bonus that will bring more understanding of the material, but if you do nothing extra, you can consider Wordsmithery a group of lessons that your children will reference back to every time they write until they are in college.

First lesson:

(poems Keep a Poem in Your Pocket by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers and Jabberwocky by Lewis Carol)

What is creative writing? Fiction and nonfiction. What writing is made of (words). The kids favorite words. Making up your own nonsense words. The poem "The Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carol (which has a lot of nonsense words).

This class spawned some interesting discussions. When we were making up and defining our own words, for example, one little girl made up the word 'beautifulicious' and defined it in her own way. It was wonderful to see their creative minds come alive with the freedom of being able to use language so openly.

Second lesson:

(poem September by John Updike)

Parts of speech review. Nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs. Define these terms. Then use them to make sentences.

This was a little harder. Most of these kids could say what nouns and verbs were... but adverbs and adjectives are a little harder to pin down. Especially due to the changing nature of the words themselves. If you change the ending of many of the words, it changes the entire meaning of the word and thus which part of language it is. For example; take the sentences the quick fox and the fox ran quickly. In the quick fox the word 'quick' is a adjective used to describe the noun (fox), but in the fox ran quickly the word 'quickly' is an adverb, used to describe the verb 'ran'. This concept caught the kids out a few times... and that is on top of just the new ideas of parts of speech being so important in the first place. It was an AMAZING lesson, that was tons of fun... but the kids spent more time getting to know the definitions of the parts of speech, than the actual words that those definitions represented and I allowed them to run with that portion of the lesson because they seemed to be getting SO much out of it.

In the end, we made a table on the board in different colors, then I asked the kids to pick a color and a letter and I would add that letter to a column ("noun, the letter k!" and I would put a K in the Noun column). After we had all our letters in the columns, I had them choose words for each of those letters, and then we put them together in silly sentences: "The crazy lion ran carefully." and "The horse carefully skipped the gross noodles at dinner." and so on. You could imagine that this could go on for quite some time. ;)

Third lesson:

(poem Blood-Curdling Story by Shel Silverstein)

This was today. And what an amazing lesson it was! We were still reviewing parts of speech, but we also moved on to create more interesting sentences with the addition of synonyms, antonyms, and more interesting adjectives. I decided to take iPhone pictures of the board because the words the kids were coming up with were just brilliant!

First, I made up a simple sentence. "The girl read a book." and then I asked the children to help me make the sentence more interesting by adding adjectives and adverbs to the sentence. We ended up with two totally different sentences (above). We chose one, and continued to work with it, using synonyms of the nouns and verbs we had chosen (below):

I continued the color coding (although it is hard to tell here, but there are 5 different colors on the board) to help them identify the parts of speech visually. This really helped when I would pop little review questions on them from the last lesson. And they thought it was great fun to watch me use every pen on the white board. lol!

Finally, we took a simple sentence from a Wordsmithery example and we expanded on that. After this, I wrote down 5 examples on the board of simple sentences, and had each child pick one and expand on it on their own in their journals.

We talked a little bit about a thesaurus and how you can find synonyms and antonyms for your favorite words there, but considering I didn't have one in hand, that is something that has to be reviewed again next week.

I can't say enough great things about this class. Really. The backbone is strong, the children are enthusiastic and curious, not to mention excited about writing. It is just such a perfect way to start my week each week!