Save Seeds…Save Life…Spread Some Beauty

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the critical importance of SEEDS.  It’s not something we think much about, but our very lives depend on seeds.  Without them, we have no food.  And we all know how important food is.  If you hold seeds in your hand…you hold life.  Monsanto and other companies hold patents on seeds.  Think about this: THEY CAN CONTROL THE WORLD’S FOOD.  If we want to ensure biodiversity and ample food for future generations, we need to preserve seeds and all the abundant varieties of foods they represent.  How can we do it?

Saving seeds was common practice for our ancestors, to ensure that there would be food even during lean times.  As mechanization and hybridization took over farming in the 20th Century, the practice was lost….but thankfully, not forgotten.

SEED BANKS are popping up in an unusual place…your local library.  There are more than 600 seed libraries in North America.  These collections will provide a free packet of seeds, information on gardening and seed saving techniques.  SEED SAVERS is responsible for much of today’s seed library stock.  It has 25,000 varieties – many of them rare or exclusive – dating before WWII. These seeds belong in the public domain and cannot be patented. The goal is to get these seeds into as many people’s hands as possible.  Why not visit your local library and plant some seeds?

For more information on this important program visit: http://www.seedsavers.org

http://www.libraryseedbank.info

You can spread some beauty in your own backyard by making some wildflower SEED BOMBS. 

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Seed-Bomb

For more garden crafts visit:  http://www.redtedart.com/garden-crafts-challenge-get-crafty/

How to See More Rainbows by Marilyn Ostermiller

Would you like to see more rainbows? You must be in the right place at the right time.

It’s not just a matter of luck when we look into the sky on a rainy day and spot a glorious arc. The sun has to be shining behind you and rain or mist or spray must be in front of you. That’s when you are in the perfect spot to enjoy one.

Rainbows occur when sunlight and rain combine in a very specific way. When a beam of sunlight travels toward Earth, the light is white. But, if the light beam happens to hit raindrops at a certain angle on the way down, the different colors that make up the beam separate so that we can see them as a rainbow.

The angle for each color of a rainbow is different, because the colors slow down at different speeds when they enter the raindrop. The light exits the raindrop in one color, depending on the angle it came in, so we see only one color coming from each raindrop. Light at different angles coming through many raindrops form the rainbow that we see.

The spectrum of colors is always in the same order with red at the top, followed by orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. (ROY G BIV is an easy way to remember the order)

April, with its famous showers, is a good time to be on the alert for rainbows. But if Mother Nature doesn’t provide one when you are in the mood, you can create a miniature one for yourself with a garden hose. Meteorologist Joe Rao suggests you simply stand with your back to the sun and adjust the hose to a fine spray. Rainbows can also be seen against the spray of a waterfall.

There are even ways to use water, mirrors and windows to form rainbows in the house. For instructions, visit www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Rainbow

Rainbows are the subject of several children’s picture books including nonfiction books that explain the science behind the beauty and fictional story books. 

Among them:

Ready-to-Read Level One Rainbow. Newbery Honor recipient and New York Times bestselling author Marion Dane Bauer teaches beginning readers about rainbows in this one. It is illustrated by John Wallace.

A Rainbow of My Own, by Don Freeman. A small boy imagines what it would be like to have his own rainbow to play with.

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.

 

 

 

My Path to Home Schooling by Teresa Robeson

The paths that different families take to homeschooling are varied and unique. Even within a single family, the decision to home school each child can be drastically dissimilar, as was the case with us.

Our older son was precocious. He knew the alphabet around the age of one and was reading by two.  

One time when Son1 was about three years old, while watching my husband garden, a strange worm wriggled out of the soil. My husband wondered aloud what it could be. Our son replied that it was a wire worm. Hubby naturally thought he was making it up and so, as adults do, nodded indulgently and said, “Oh, is that right?” After returning to the house, hubby looked it up in the “The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insects and Disease Control” book and sure enough, that’s what it was.  

Son1 had been perusing the book and we assumed he was only looking at the pictures but he was actually reading the text.                              

By the time kindergarten rolled around, he was reading proficiently and counting up to 100, doing simple adding and subtracting. We figured that he would be incredibly bored with kindergarten and decided to keep him home for the year, putting him in grade one after that. We didn’t want to skip him up to grade one at that point since, in maturity, he was more like his kindergarten peers.

My younger son, on the other hand, was at the opposite end of the spectrum. He had language delay and exhibited symptoms on the autism spectrum (he has since been tested and is determined to be not autistic though he has a learning disability). He attended a public school speech preschool program and blossomed under their tutelage, but he had sensory integration issues that made him highly sensitive to noise and chaos. Since most kindergarten classes are the epitome of noise and chaos, we decided that the best option for him was to not send him to kindergarten, but to home school him until he outgrew his aversions and to take him to occupational and speech therapy on our own.

When each of them arrived at the stage where we thought they could happily integrate into the school system–around grade two for Son1 and fifth grade for Son2–we gave them the option every year of going to public school or continuing to home school. They always chose to continue with homeschooling.

Thanks to a wonderful, large, and diverse home school support group in our town, we were able to have the kids participate in group activities–everything from music to art to language lessons–in addition to doing lessons at home on our own. The support group, by holding parties and playgroups as well as the more academic offerings, also ensured that the kids interacted with other children in multi-age gatherings rather than just a narrow subset of their same age peers.

We’re nearing the end of homeschooling. A few years ago, Son1 won a National Merit Scholarship and entered university with nearly perfect SAT scores. He is currently in his junior year and plans to go to graduate school. Son2 is finishing up the twelfth grade and plans to take a gap year to assess his interests.

We have been pleased with our homeschooling journey. It’s not an educational path suited to everyone but it worked out for us and we’re happy we could provide it for our children, both with their own special needs. 

Teresa’s family has been homeschooling since 2000. This is their last year of home-learning and she’ll have more free time to write, do art, knit, make soap, bake, and can jams and jellies in the future. She can be found online at teresarobeson.com

 

 

Irish Soda Bread…AGAIN…Because it’s Delicious!

I first ran this recipe in 2014 but everywhere I go, people comment on the moistness and light sweetness of this bread, so here it is…in time for ST. PATRICK’S DAY.

This recipe for Soda Bread is more moist than many thanks to the buttermilk.  If you can’t find buttermilk, use regular plain yogurt (NOT Greek).

Irish Soda Bread

4 C flour (I use 1C whole wheat)       ½ C sugar       1 T baking powder

1 t salt               1 t baking soda         1 C. raisins plumped (see note)

 4 T melted butter        1 ½ C buttermilk      1 lg. egg

  1. Preheat oven to 375.  Grease and flour a round pan or cookie sheet.
  2. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, powder and salt.
  3. Pour melted butter into dry ingredients and mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in raisins.
  4. In a separate bowl beat buttermilk, egg and baking soda.  Add to flour mix until blended.
  5. Turn dough onto floured surface, and knead until smooth – about 1 minute.  If dough is sticky, flour your hands as you knead.  Shape dough into two round loaves.  soda bread 1
  6. Place dough in prepared pan. With a sharp knife, make 2 crisscross slits in dough.
  7. Bake for 45-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.  Let rest for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.
  8. Serve sliced with butter or jam.  Bet you can’t eat just one piece!

soda bread 2

NOTE: Pour boiling water over the raisins and let them stand for 5 minutes to soften.  Drain and pat dry.

 

Heated Political Battle Led to Frosty Dessert: by Marilyn Ostermiller

Looking for a romantic treat for special someone? You might want to consider whipping up a Baked Alaska, the classic dessert that’s fiery hot on the outside with a melting heart and richly delicious all over.

In it’s traditional form, Baked Alaska is concocted with hard ice cream on a base of sponge cake and covered in a shell of toasted meringue. Plan ahead because the cake must be baked and cooled before topping it with layers of firmly frozen ice cream. Just before it’s time to serve dessert, whip several egg whites into a stiff meringue, spread it completely over the ice cream and cake and place it in a very hot oven for a couple of minutes, until the meringue begins to brown. The trick to making sure the ice cream doesn’t melt is to seal the cake and ice cream with the meringue. Here’s a recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/baked-alaska-recipe.html

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If the classic form is daunting, consider a small version made with brownies that children with some experience in the kitchen can help assemble. This version with easy-to-follow directions comes from Baking Bites, a food blog written by Nicole Weston, a pastry chef, food writer and recipe developer based in Los Angeles, CA http://bakingbites.com/2015/07/brownie-baked-alaska/

Baked Alaska Day is commemorated nationally in February.

According to the National Day Calendar organization, Baked Alaska was created by a celebrity Victorian chef, Charles Ranhofer. The Frenchman was the chef at the swanky Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City in the mid 1860s, where he became notorious for naming new and renaming old dishes after famous people and events.

In 1867, a political debate was raging over the potential purchase of Alaska from Russia. Secretary of State William Seward agreed to a purchase price of $7 million and Alaska became a United States territory. Those who were of the opinion the purchase was a giant mistake referred to the purchase as “Seward’s Folly”.

Capitalizing on the heated controversy surrounding the purchase in the frozen north, Ranhofer’s Baked Alaska fit the bill. It was cold, nearly frozen and quickly toasted in a hot oven prior to serving.

Who knew!?       Marilyn Ostermiller

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.

Anyone out there “daring” enough to try making your own BAKED ALASKA? If you do, send me the photo and I’ll post it here on the blog!

 

Home Schooling Ins and Outs: Things to Consider by Maureen Lasher Morris

Last week Maureen talked about how she came to be a home school-er with her children and grandchildren.  Today she will share her tips for what to think about if you decide Home Schooling might be for you and your family.  Here’s Maureen with part 2 of her series.

  • There is a plethora of information and support available for homeschooling families. It has become commonplace within many groups. Some home school for religious reasons, while others do not want their child going to the local school for any of a variety of reasons. Some schools offer a duel enrollment where your child attends school for certain classes and is home for others. Many districts provide enrollment in the community college paid for by the district. Some school districts are more supportive of homeschooling than others. The district I live in provides many resources for home schoolers. I would suggest that you check with your local district to see what they offer. The requirements vary from district to district also so it is a good idea to check and see what they are for your area.
  • With homeschooling, the program can be tailored to fit each individual child’s needs, abilities and interests.
  • There are many curriculum choices out there. Online schools are one way to start if you are nervous and unsure of how to begin (K-12 is a very well put together program that works within local school districts, just for an example). These programs provide ongoing support from an actual teacher. They provide the required testing for each state and also offer special education services if needed. They follow the school year and are considered a part of the school district not home school even though all the work is completed at home.
  • Many religious affiliations offer curriculum that corresponds to their specific beliefs and teachings. Some programs have a specific emphasis on science or math. The choices are many.
  • Some prefer to put their own program together. I would not recommend this but it does work for some. It is a lot of work and one thing to be aware of is the requirements that colleges and universities have regarding homeschooling. The program I used was an accredited one that was very rigorous in its materials. The accreditation is important because those schools provide a school number used in ACT and SAT testing and college applications. Without the accredited school number, the homeschooling provider needs to account for each class by giving the text used, date of text, author, etc. for high school. Hours of schooling needs to be regulated as well and documentation is important to show proof of what was taught. As a teacher, I felt that I did not need to reinvent the wheel and picked a curriculum that fit with my beliefs and standards.
  • I would recommend joining a support group both for your own help, and also for socialization for your child. These groups often provide classes, field trips, and fun activities. Colorado Springs has a very large home school presence. One of the support programs offered provided classes for specific higher level subjects such as chemistry and calculus. I took advantage of these since there were several areas of content that I was not comfortable in teaching. It so happened that Colorado Springs is home to the Air Force Academy and my son’s chemistry teacher was a retired chemistry teacher from the academy. My children also took classes in dance, puppet-making, acting, rock climbing, among others.
  • I also hired a private tutor for some of the higher-level math classes. She was very reasonable and worth every penny. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Another thing that I was able to do was trade for services. I taught sign language in return for help with physics for my son.
  • One of the most important things for me with homeschooling is keeping a schedule. We start the same time every day. The routine is helpful to both my children and myself. It gives a sense of importance to what we are doing. Another thing I feel strongly about is that my child get dressed and ready for school as if he/she were going to an actual brick and mortar school.  If they stayed in pajamas, with uncombed hair, etc.… then their schoolwork was not taken seriously.  
  • It is also good to have a designated area for school. I use my dining room which contains several bookcases, a chalkboard, a whiteboard, work table and 3 computer stations. On the rare occasion that I actually use the room for dining, the table is adjustable and works fine. Any space works fine, but try to make sure that the distractions are minimal.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
  • I also have what I called non-negotiables. These were what we did regardless of what was happening or going on that day. My non-negotiables were reading, writing and math. School is the priority but occasionally things come up at home the same way they come up at school. Many days while a teacher there were events that occurred and prevented a normal day of teaching.
  • There are many resources available online. There are also several places where you can get extra materials. Teacher stores are an excellent resource. Colorado Springs has two teacher supply stores which are filled with a variety of materials that are helpful to the home schooled family. I enjoy browsing through these and picking up colorful charts, flashcards, etc. even though the program I use sends me everything I need: books, workbooks, answer keys, science kits, even handwriting paper. Some of the online programs provide computers and a stipend for internet access.
  • Another resource that I use regularly is the library. Our library has a special program specifically for home schooled students. They offer something different each month.
  • Home schooled students are also eligible to participate in sports from the school that they would be attending if they were at school. My daughter swam for all fours years in high school and received a scholarship to swim at college. My son played baseball at the high school.
  • One of the criticisms that I often hear is the lack of socialization. This always makes me laugh because my children who home schooled were much more sociable and equally comfortable with adults as their peers than my children who attended school. They have become well-rounded adults, articulate, poised and confident in their abilities.
  • Do not be afraid to take on this challenge if you feel that this is right for your family. There is so much support available and it will be worth the hard word and challenges. It is a great way to develop close bonds with your child that will last a lifetime.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The following are some resources for homeschooling families:

A resource from PBS – http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/homeschooling/homeschooling-resource-list/

This site has resources available state by state – http://www.homeschool.com/resources/

This one is from Parents Magazine with many resources listed _ http://www.parents.com/kids/education/home-schooling/best-homeschooling-resources-online/

This site from The Pioneer Woman has links to printable materials such as flash cards and worksheets – http://thepioneerwoman.com/homeschooling/free-online-educational-resources/

 

 

Why I Home School by Maureen Lasher Morris.

Today’s post is courtesy of my friend Maureen Lasher Morris – who I’ve known since our days back in high school.  We haven’t seen each other since then, but have kept in touch thanks to social media.  Maureen has been part of the HOME SCHOOLING community for many years.  I asked her to share her thoughts about it and also to share some tips for those interested in becoming home schoolers.  Here’s Maureen.

I was a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing for 22 years before I came a homeschooling mom. It was not something that I actually planned;  it happened as a result of several things that occurred around the same time.

In 1996, my husband and I adopted a three-year-old girl, Maggie, from China. She became our 5th child as we had four biological children already. Since we were supposed to go to China in late August of that year, I applied for a year’s leave of absence from my teaching job. I thought it would be a good idea to have her well established into the family before I went back to work. At the time, my oldest daughter, Kristen, had just graduated from high school, Patrick my second child was a high school junior. My son, Tim had just finished 7th grade and my youngest son, Sean, just completed 1st grade. Tim and Sean asked if they could stay home, too and I thought it would be a great way for us to bond with our new addition. So, I ordered a home school curriculum for each and began our new adventure in learning.

Shortly after our return from China, my father was diagnosed with leukemia. Since my youngest boys were home schooled, I was able to pick up their books and materials and go help my mother though this difficult period of time. My mother was a retired elementary school teacher.  It was good therapy for her to help me and keep busy while she took care of my father. We went back and forth every couple of months from Colorado Springs where I reside to Southern Arizona where my parents were living.  

When my leave was up for the following year, we decided that my place was better at home than working so I sent in a letter of resignation. My son, Tim, decided that he missed his friends at school so he went back to school for high school. I continued to home school Sean and Maggie  through high school.

My daughter, Kristen, married and has 6 children. I home schooled her oldest son, Joe, through 8th grade. He is extremely bright but struggles with learning disabilities. He has severe dyslexia and even the experts in reading at the university here in Colorado Springs were doubtful that he would ever read. He is also dysgraphic which means that he can’t physically write. This has had a huge impact on his life and it is something that he will always struggle with. He does however,  read well.  He has a fabulous memory and if he hears something once he remembers it for life. We worked together for 9 years and I mean together. We sat in a big double chair and I read everything to him with him joining in sharing the readings once he was proficient enough.  I became his scribe and basically his right hand. I am still scribing for his college work (not at school, but his home assignments).  I do not aid him in any other way except to type for him. His level of knowledge has surpassed mine and his vocabulary is excellent. 

One result of him being home schooled through his elementary years was that he knew he learned differently from most, but he also knew he was very bright and never had any self-esteem issues that could have occurred.  He attended one of the top ten high schools in Colorado. The school was excellent at providing him adaptive materials and he was able to take advantage of programs such as Dragon Speech which is a program that types what the persons dictates.  

Dragon Naturally Speaking Speech Recognition. The link for this is http://www.nuance.com/for-individuals/by-product/dragon-for-pc/index.htm.

I am currently homeschooling my 11-year-old grandson, John.  It is a temporary arrangement for this year only as he will be attending a new school next year that teaches technical skills while maintaining the requirements for college entrance. I am enjoying this opportunity to have this special time with him. He is as bright as his brother, Joe but does not have the learning disabilities.    

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If you’re looking to get into to home schooling, there are some things you might consider.  I will discuss these in my post next Friday.