Monday, May 5, 2014

SURVIVED MY FIRST YEAR OF HOMESCHOOLING

Ok, I've survived nearly 9 months of homeschooling and although I've doubted myself A LOT throughout the experience and needed the reassurance from good friends like Teresa to keep me from throwing in the towel, I have found I really enjoy it. There is this immense satisfaction knowing that when my child learned to read, tell time, do fractions and tell me all about Egypt, etc... that I am the one who taught her all of that and not someone else.  I know what she's learning, when she is learning it, how well she's doing in each subject and in what areas I need to teach more. 

I want to use this blog post to talk about curriculum since that is the one thing that gives me the most headaches but also happens to be the most fun.  Odd right? To give me a headache and be fun? 
Well... I'll explain.

Finding the right curriculum is difficult since there seems to be plenty of a particular subject and almost nothing at all on another. Searching for curriculums on history or language arts you'll find more than you'll want so how do you choose? Searching for a curriculum on Spanish and art, infuriatingly impossible to find so you are reduced to putting it together yourself. 

Everyone's experience on finding a curriculum is different. In my opinion, it all depends on four things:

1. Your state requirements. 
2. What you want as a parent
3. How best your child learns
4. Cost! If you don't have a lot of money to work with, some curriculums, although perfect for your child, are just not in your price range. 

When I began homeschooling in September I started using the Oak Meadow curriculum for first grade.  I love Oak Meadow! I like the way the curriculum is laid out, the amount of hands on projects brought into every subject, how it all flows nicely and keeps my daughter interested but... I had to supplement quite a bit and around mid December I stopped using it altogether.  Not using it has been a huge mistake because it kept me focussed and on track and with that came a lot less anxiety.  Since I started jumping all over the place is when all of the doubt crept in. I'm getting a handle on it now and feeling more confident as I find other curriculums to supplement with but for a while there I didn't think I was going to continue teaching my daughter.  Now, I'm finding my footing and feeling I've made the absolute right decision by homeschooling my child.

What has helped me stick with it and where are we now?

#1  A friend. If I didn't have Teresa  I would have given up. I've met people in the homeschool co-op we attended this spring but no one has been as open, honest and helpful as my friend Teresa. 

and

#2  Seeing my daughter share what she learns.  Twice now we've been out and about and someone has asked my daughter why she wasn't in school and she'd tell them she is home-schooled. Immediately they'd start in with a list of questions about some random subject. Once we were having lunch with a friend and the waiter started quizzing my daughter on panda bears and the other time my daughter was getting her hair cut and the beautician wanted to know if she knew anything about Johnny Appleseed.  Ironically, we had studied pandas and learned all about Johnny Appleseed. 

Where are we now?

Well... I still haven't gone back to using Oak Meadow but I will. I also intend on purchasing their 2nd grade curriculum this summer.  I realized the problem with their curriculum (for us) is it just doesn't fit my daughter 100%. It was weak in some areas (for her).  When we started, my daughter already knew how to read well and she had already been exposed to many of the science topics so she became easily bored when I'd repeat things.  I'm also not a fan of jumping all over the place when studying history, I like order and there wasn't much for order on that subject.

To make sure my daughter was learning the same, if not more, than her sisters are learning in public school I purchased the book Home Learning Year by Year:

Home Learning Year by Year has been the most valuable book I've picked up.  Each chapter is divided into years. Chapter 1 - preschool, Chapter 2 - kindergarten, etc... and under each year is a complete list of what your child should know in every subject for that particular grade level.

After looking at dozens of different curriculums I settled on the following to supplement some of what is in Oak Meadow...

Write Shop. I haven't used this yet, it just arrived today.  Based on what I've read about it I think it will be good for my daughter but I'll have to update readers on that later.  I chose this writing curriculum when I started having difficulty explaining sentence structure and helping my daughter understand the meaning of complete sentences. 

Money Bags. The most awesome game ever for teaching money. I ordered this when my daughter had a difficult time remembering the names and amount of coins. I think we played the game 3x's and she had it all down perfectly. Now she is mastering making change, exchanging coins for dollars, etc...  My daughter learns much faster when we do things "hands-on" so educational games are a must in our household. 

Monarchs and More. I picked this up at the University of Minnesota.  They have a great entomology department over there and everyone is extremely helpful and excited when you want to learn about insects.  I just happened to come across this when doing a search on "ordering" monarchs. We'll be using this over the summer to learn more about butterflies. 

Nature Seeker Workbook. I am giving you the Amazon link for the workbook but I actually found this at the local bird supply store.  It was written by someone from my state. It contains a wealth of information on wildlife from midwest. We'll be using it to learn about nature this summer.

The Story of the World.  I wanted a history that took more of a timeline approach than just skipping all over the place and someone at the homeschool co-op we attended this spring told me about this curriculum.  I really like it.  Each chapter is very short, between 2-4 pages and there is a map to go with every chapter.  In addition to the stories and maps there is an activity guide that ties in with every chapter and it makes history fun and interesting to study. 

Real Science Odyssey. I just found this a few weeks ago and haven't started using it yet. I was waiting for the weather so we could start doing some of the projects outside. I searched high and low for a science curriculum and I think I'm really going to enjoy this one. I like that it has everything written out step-by-step.  When it comes to science I like to do as little thinking as possible. This book tells me exactly what to do and how to teach it.  It is nice to have the option of a less expensive ebook to download instantly over just purchasing the books (which are always more costly). 

I also downloaded this cute art history lessons booklet put together by someone on Teachers Pay Teachers. I've found so many useful projects and ideas on the TPT website.  Most of their downloads are reasonably priced and once you've downloaded anything you can use it again and again. Our favorite things to download are math games.

I am still on the hunt for a good Spanish and art curriculum.  I am thinking I may write my own for Spanish and post it on TPT but when it comes to art I need all the help I can get :D
So...

Homeschool won't end for us in May or June like a traditional year, we'll keep going throughout the summer but spend most of June, July and August on science and just studying nature.  If you have any tips for this new homeschooling mom, please share.  The more I know the better :-) 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

PROCESSING WOOL: PART 2

I finally moved on to washing the raw wool. The first bag was pretty clean. I wish I knew who I bought that particular bag from because that person takes immaculate care of their sheep. The second bag was pretty awful in terms of lanolin - maybe it has to do with the type of sheep??? I have no idea.

So... part one: pick through raw wool to get rid of particles like hay or poop. Part two: wash wool. 

I thought I ruined my first bag of wool because it looked felted when I removed it from the wash basin but once it dried it was absolutely fine. A few felted spots but not too bad.  The second bag I didn't poke at as much so it didn't felt at all but I have to admit that I really don't like the color. I wanted wool I could dye and the second batch doesn't seem suitable for that.

First bag of wool washed


I used a mesh bag to put the wool in. I learned quickly that I put too much wool into the mesh bag, should have just used a few ounces or else a larger bag. 

I filled the basin with water at a temp of 130 F and added the fleece scour solution.  Lastly I added my little bag of wool and watched as the water turned fro clear to a yucky yellow. The whole house smelled like sheep butt thanks to the steam coming off the water. That's ok though because I love sheep butt :-)

I turned the bag a couple times in the 30 minute soak and then transferred the wool to another basin full of clean water and fleece scour and turned once in 15 minutes. To finish I put the wool in a clean rinse basin and pushed it around a few times until I felt the wool was free of the fleece scour solution.



When done I just let the bag sit in the sink and drain out, when it drained as best as it could I dumped the wool onto a towel and let it sit until it was no longer wet. Once dry I pulled it apart. Now, I have no idea if pulling it apart will make it difficult to card since I am new to all of this but I'll soon find out.

Carding will be part three :)




Friday, April 11, 2014

I DID IT! I MADE MAPLE SYRUP!

After 30+ years thinking about it, I finally made some maple syrup. Don't laugh but here it is:
This came from a silver maple tree in the city so we get the added taste of pollution too. Haha!
I boiled down nearly 2 gallons of silver maple sap and what you see above is what I ended up with (there would have been a little more but I ruined the 2nd half I boiled by getting distracted on the telephone - note to self: don't answer phone when boiling sap). 
My husband drilling a hole for the spile.  If you look closely you can see the clear sap rushing out of the spile as soon as we put it into the hole that was drilled.
I don't really care about the quantity this time around I'm just excited that I was finally able to do it. The syrup came from a single tap of my sisters silver maple so if I were to tap that thing several times I'd probably have had a whole bottle. This year was just a little experiment to see how the whole process went, next year I'll be on the hunt for sugar maples and I'll extract much more.
It took one week to get the bag as full as you see it in the picture. It would run ok for a few hours in the day (mostly dripping) but it was just too cold of an early spring to really get going. On the right I'm boiling it down. Next year I'll do it outside.
Since I only had about 2 gallons to work with I boiled the sap inside the house on my electric stove. It took a couple hours but it was fun. Aiyana was the first to sample the end result and her response was "it needs more sugar." My husband was the second person to sample and all he said is "it sure tastes different than the high fructose corn syrup version." LOL! 
This is my disaster. I'm starting to think disasters are a common theme of my blog. LOL! Of my life. LOL! With every new adventure I start off with a disaster. I thought today was going to be perfect, I should have known it was too good to be true. Second batch of syrup smelled good but turned out yuck and I wasn't sure how to keep going with it to turn it into maple sugar. For the record, I've learned to love disasters... it helps me learn quickly what not to do next time ;) 
I'll be eating it (not the burnt stuff) over french toast this weekend :) 
Happy Friday Everyone!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

RAW FLEECE: PART ONE

I admit it, I'm a fiber hoarder.

I'm also a book hoarder, a yarn hoarder, a soap supply hoarder, a card supply hoarder and... ok, you get the point. 

Problem with raw fiber is you really can't hoard it for very long or else the moths move in so... after stashing this stuff away for nearly a year I decided it was time to deal with it.


Now... just in case you didn't know, this is my first time working with raw wool. I've been spinning fiber for a few years and decided last year while shopping around at the Shepherd's Harvest Festival that it was time to learn to process wool on my own.  It's fun buying fibers that are already prepared for you but I think doing it all myself will give me a whole new appreciation for sheep.  

Luckily, this batch didn't have any moths fluttering around inside.  Being the squeamish person that I am I begged Maya to take the bag outside and inspect it before I'd even touch it.  Yay! No moths! In fact, the wool had lost most of its sheepy smell and took on the scent of our house and that's nice, now I'm just working on picking out the poopy parts, which is called "skirting the fleece".  This batch of wool isn't very dirty so I'm thinking it was cleaned up pretty good before they sold it to me but it still needs to be plucked over, the short fibers removed and then washed to get rid of most of the lanolin. So when I call this "raw wool" it isn't anywhere near as raw as the stuff that would come straight from the skirting table right after the sheep is shorn.

Once I'm done picking through this batch I'll separate out the good stuff and then wash, card and dye it.  Stay tuned :D

Anyone reading this post ever process raw wool? Tell me about it! I want to know what your experience was like. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

YUM! PASTAAAAAA

I am not one to share a lot of recipes, only because I really don't know how to cook that well.  I pretend I know how to cook and my family pretends to like what I cook but I'm really not that awesome.  BUT... I do have this one meal that I cook pretty well, the entire family loves it and we eat it way too often so I thought it was the perfect meal to share :-)

I got it out of the Food Network Magazine back in 2011 and I love it because not only is it super easy and fast to make it tastes wonderful!  You can make it into an almost all organic meal for very little cost.  I say almost because I'm not sure if there is organic vodka (???)

Just know that my sloppy cell phone picture taken in my dimly lit kitchen doesn't do the meal justice.



Ingredients

Penne Pasta (Bionaturae Organic Penne)
2 Shallots (from our garden)
Butter (organic valley)
Garlic (from our garden)
Crushed Tomatoes (we use whatever  organic brand Valley Natural Foods has available).
Vodka (whatever brand is the least expensive - can you tell I know nothing about vodka)
Heavy Whipping Cream (organic valley)
Parmesan Cheese  (organic valley)
red pepper flakes (optional since I've tried with and without and not noticed their contribution to the taste) 
Basil (on the list but I don't add it because my hubby hates basil)

Cook 2 minced shallots in a skilled with butter over medium heat until slightly softened, 3 minutes.  Add 1 minced garlic clove and a pinch of red pepper flakes; cook 30 seconds.  Remove from the heat.  Add 1/2 cup of vodka, a 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes and some salt.  Simmer, stirring, 7 minutes.  Stir in 2/3 cup heavy cream and simmer until thickened, 3 minutes.  Stir in 1/2 cup grated parmesan and a handful of torn basil.  Toss with 12 ounces cooked penne.

I've changed the recipe a little, I add about 4 small shallots and I use about 4-5 cloves of garlic (we love shallots and garlic), which creates a stronger taste and a chunkier sauce but either way (my way or the original recipe) it tastes very yummy!


Friday, September 27, 2013

DNR BLAMES THE WOLF ONCE AGAIN - JUST IN TIME FOR WOLF HUNTING SEASON

This article represents a very weak attempt by the DNR to blame the wolf, once again, for the decline of moose in Minnesota.  Of course, they don't come right out and say it because then it wouldn't leave room for them to defend themselves from what is very obviously a bias but they suggest it and for those who don't know the facts, the bias is believable.

Pay close attention to some of the quotes from the article:


Minnesota’s dwindling moose herd has a year off from human hunters in 2013, but that doesn’t mean life for the big north woods critters is a walk in the park.
Moose are still being hit hard by disease, injury and parasites, and they are still prey for four-legged hunters that don’t need licenses.
 
Of 49 calves fitted with GPS-transmitting collars in May, just days after they were born, 11 died from complications immediately after the capture. Most of those were caused by the cows abandoning their calves, not from stress or harm. Four other calves slipped out of their collars, said Glen DelGiudice, lead moose researcher for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 
Of the remaining 34 calves being tracked in the study, 24 already have perished in less than four months, a 71 percent mortality rate that has researchers shaking their heads.
On average, in studies worldwide where predators are present, about 55 percent of calf moose die in their first full year.
 
“It varies a lot based on the predator-to-prey ratio … but we would hope to have about a 45 percent calf (survival) rate after one year,” DelGiudice told the News Tribune.
Predators have been the leading cause of death for moose calves. Bears killed 4 of the 24, most in the first few days after birth, and wolves have taken 16 calves. One calf drowned, two were abandoned later by their mother and one died from unknown causes.
 
“They are just very vulnerable the first few days and weeks. Since then, the mortality rate has been slowing … but we are still losing them,” DelGiudice said, noting there has been one calf killed by predators in September. “As they get bigger, their chances get better. But they still have all of winter to get through.” 
DelGiudice noted that Minnesota had a thriving moose population 10 to 15 years ago when the state’s moose range had roughly the same number of wolves. Wolves clearly aren’t the cause of the steep decline in moose population, he said. But they may now be helping to push the decline a little faster. 
“When we had 9,000 moose and the same number of wolves, the number they took was far less significant and likely not impacting the population,” DelGiudice said. “But with fewer than 3,000 moose now, and roughly the same number of wolves, that predator-to-prey ratio has changed. They (wolves) aren’t the driving factor, but they may be having an impact.” 
The state DNR and tribal resource agencies have, for the first time in decades, canceled this year’s moose hunt after aerial surveys showed moose numbers had plummeted 35 percent in just one year, with only 2,760 estimated this year, down from 4,230 in 2012. The Northeastern Minnesota population was more than 9,000 as recently as 2006.
Even if calves were surviving at a higher rate, researchers note, too many adult moose have been dying to sustain the population.
 
The Northeastern Minnesota crash mimics that of Northwestern Minnesota, which saw its moose population decline in the 1990s from about 4,000 animals to just a few dozen. Scientists studying the northwestern moose decline concluded that a warmer climate has compounded multiple other problems, such as disease, malnutrition and parasites.
IN OTHER WORDS, IF WE WANT TO SAVE THE MOOSE WE NEED TO CUT OUR WOLF POPULATION.

Interesting how the DNR leaves out their own statistics on how many moose have been killed by hunters.


In 2012, State hunters harvested 46 moose in northeastern Minnesota (Figure 1). No season was held in northwestern Minnesota. Of the 1,460 parties that applied for this year’s moose hunt, 76 (5%) were drawn and purchased a license (Table 1). Additionally, 11 hunting parties which returned permits last year (2011) prior to the hunt, because of access restrictions caused by the Pagami Creek wildfire, were offered the opportunity to hunt the same zones (20, 24, 25, 62, and 64) in 2012 and all accepted. So a total of 87 licenses were purchased this year (Table 1). Table 1 also lists the number of permits offered by hunting zone, chance of being selected for a permit, and hunter success. The 1854 Treaty Authority issued 49 permits and band members killed 16 moose (11 bulls and 5 cows). The Fond du Lac band issued 64 moose permits (bulls only) of 72 available. The final harvest was 20 bulls (18 by hunters and 2 subsistence/ceremony animals). The Fond du Lac season closed on 31 December 2012. 


In 2011, State hunters harvested 53 moose in northeastern Minnesota. No season was held in northwestern Minnesota. Of the 1,963 parties that applied for this year’s moose hunt, 105 (5%) were drawn, and 103 purchased licenses (Table 1). Access to portions of hunting zones 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 61, 62, 63, 64, 77 and 80 were restricted beginning in September because of an ongoing wild fire (Pagami Creek fire) and hunters in these zones were offered the option of returning their license for a refund. Subsequently, 11 hunting parties returned their license. Table 1 also lists the number of permits offered by hunting zone, chance of being selected for a permit, and hunter success. The 1854 Treaty Authority issued 59 permits and band members killed 10 moose (10 bulls and 0 cows). The Fond du Lac band issued 67 permits and hunters harvested 18 moose. An additional 3 moose harvested by Tribal Conservation Officers for a total of 21 (16 bulls, 4 cows, 1 bull calf). The Fond du Lac season closed 12/31/2011. 

FOND DU LAC MEMBERS AND THE WOLF TAKE PRIORITY WHEN IT COMES TO HARVESTING MOOSE!!!  Fond du Lac band members are allowed to hunt moose according to treaty rights, something the DNR is now trying to prevent also. See the correlation between the wolf and Native Americans again?  Let's blame the wolf and tell the Fond du Lac members they cannot hunt moose anymore because the moose numbers are dwindling but let's not talk about all of the non-tribal members that were issued a hunting license all the way up until 2013 even though the DNR WAS FULLY AWARE THE MOOSE WAS MYSTERIOUSLY DISAPPEARING.


The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is asking the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to reconsider plans for an off-reservation moose hunt. 
The DNR's ability to stop the hunt is limited although Merchant says a lawsuit is an option.  The band's secretary-treasurer says moose meat is a staple for the diets of band members.
The DNR wants to violate treaty rights and blame the wolf for the loss of moose in Minnesota but never once acknowledges that not only did the DNR issue hunting permits so we (non-tribal members) could continue to hunt moose up until 2013 when the state was aware of their dwindling numbers but they also don't mention that non-tribal members were harvesting more moose than tribal members.  There is also no mention of how tribal members and the wolf rely on the moose for survival or how the DNR's own mismanagement of wildlife has caused this vast imbalance in our (Minnesota's) ecosystem. 900,000 deer and a now suspected 2300 wolves? Now that's an imbalance!

The DNR manages our wildlife purely for hunters and hunters alone.  Their concern for the moose now has to do with their inability go about issuing permits to hunters so instead of looking at the entire picture and trying to really figure out why the moose numbers are REALLY dropping, let's worry about wolves and tribal members.


Let me conclude with some REAL statistics:


Since 2002, Minnesota DNR specialists have put radio collars on 150 healthy adult moose; 119 subsequently died, most of them from unknown causes, according to wildlife officials. Car and train collisions accounted for 12 mortalities, while wolves were culpable in just 11 deaths.
Findings from Minnesota's Interagency Climate Adaptation Team show the state has experienced a 1.5- to 2-degree-Fahrenheit average surface temperature increase over the last 100 years, with the greatest rise in the northern reaches of the state, including primary moose habitat.
 Such changes are minimally felt by humans and other native mammals such as black bear, lynx and gray wolves, but scientists note that even minor temperature shifts can affect moose, which are adapted to live in the harshest cold and deepest snow.
The cause of our loss of moose is a mystery but to point to our wolf numbers as a cause of concern is irresponsible at best. Wolves will kill the sick and if our moose are sick then the wolves are doing what nature intended them to do.  It is the DNR's interference with nature that causes most of our wildlife imbalance to begin with.   As for how the DNR is approaching this issue...killing the wolf or violating treaty rights won't solve our moose problems and suggesting it will is ridiculous.  Next time, and there will be a next time, maybe the DNR should stop issuing hunting permits for an animal that is clearly struggling to survive.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN HOWLING FOR WOLVES PETITION TO PUT AN END TO THE SLAUGHTERING OF MINNESOTA WOLVES

Articles quoted in the above blog post:
DNR asks Fond du Lac to reconsider moose hunt

More bad news for Minnesota moose

DNR statistics on moose harvest












Wednesday, September 25, 2013

FALL BUCKET LIST

My husband thinks I am a total dork for jumping on the whole "bucket list" band wagon but it actually motivates me or at least reminds me of the things I want to do so I am starting a whole new bucket list trend (hee hee)  This time my bucket list is seasonal.  I saw this list on one of the sites I subscribe to for homeschooling worksheets and I thought it would be fun to recreate it, post it here and ask others to jump on board too.

Aiyana and I have decided we're going to try and accomplish everything on the list except for mushroom hunting (because I have no idea what an edible mushroom looks like in the wild and I don't want to poison my family), going to a football game (because I hate football), and feeding ducks (because it isn't good for the fowl.  It is better for them to get their food from natural sources).  We're pretty sure we can accomplish all of the other things on the list and we plan on doing it in pictures so stay tuned :)