30 May 2009

Homeschool Update 30 May '09

I think homeschooling my younger son is the best decision I could have made. This has really enriched both of our lives.

Yes, I have a generic curriculum on CD-ROM that I purchased in order to cover the basics, but the additional exploring and learning that we have been doing above and beyond the standard curriculum has been wonderful! We are following topics that we both find interesting, and allowing ourselves to be guided to the next topic from there.

Paddy is very interested in the Titanic, so he has been learning about the history, the tragic event, and new information that continues to surface. He has also learned about the Lusitania and the comparisons (and contrasts) to the sinking of the Titanic. He is absorbing the information and is making further connections. E.g., he perked up to hear that both ships were from Liverpool.

He has been reading a lot. He first read "Singing Wheels" by Mabel O'Donnell (illustrated by Florence and Margaret Hoopes), pub. 1957. This is a book from which my maternal grandmother taught elementary school. I then had him read a related book that I had written as an elementary school student, called "Getting Ready". Both are about the western pioneer movement. He is currently working on the 7th Harry Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" by J.K. Rowling. He is using the dictionary on a regular basis to look up words, and is learning the differences between my different dictionaries (1993 American Heritage College Dictionary vs. 1910 American Dictionary of the English Language).

His dad has been working with him a lot on math. He spends Mondays and Tuesdays with his dad. We are finding that he is at Grade 7 and 8 level math (as opposed to Grade 5, where he was bored silly). He is working on mean, median, and mode (statistics); cost vs. profit; and other topics.

I am also working with him day-to-day with simple math in his head, but to have a working comprehension. When we are gardening, we discuss many topics, such as history. When we talk about the different years that events occurred, I ask him how many years apart they were. 1623-1635, 1776, 1867, 1949, 2009, etc. This is similar to time I spent with my dad in the garden in my childhood.

Speaking of gardening, we have been working on a variety of plants, and the list keeps growing. In our bricked-in patch, we have (so far) rhubarb, nasturtiums, cilantro, Brussels sprouts, celery, and artichoke. We have 2 hanging tomato plants (the new upside-down planters that are the rage this year). We've also been working with decorative flower planters. He likes succulent "rock plants", such as "hens and chicks" and sedum, and so has his own collection going outside in the back patio.

We were cutting up a store-bought pineapple the other day, and he asked me whether pineapples grew "right-side up" or "upside-down" off the trees. I told him that I honestly didn't know. I had him go look it up on Wikipedia, and then to come report back to me what he found out. He found directions on how to take the top of the pineapple (the sharp stems at the top) and plant them in a shallow dish of soil to grow another pineapple out the top. So we did just that... planted it, and now we'll see how it does.

I find that I am researching and reading more than usual in order to meet his learning needs. With our recent introduction to "Amish Friendship Bread" (see previous blog entry), I've been reading up more on various yeast recipes and researching vegan alternatives. Most recently, I am reading "Wild Fermentation" by Sandor Ellix Katz and am fascinated by "the flavor, nutrition, and craft of live-culture foods". We are now experimenting with different yeast starters for breads, and considering our own homemade sauerkraut (choucroute), kimchi, miso, vegan yogurts, and more. The most recent addition to our projects is a sourdough starter from potato starch water and unbleached flour. The potato starch water is from cooking local Ozette potatoes (a native species).

Paddy enjoys the process and the interaction of baking the friendship bread. We do it a little different each time, and in turn learn more each time.
Unbleached flour vs. "live" spelt flour...
2/3 c. hemp protein powder vs. only 1/2 c. ...
currants & coconut vs. no fruits or nuts (forgot to add any on one batch) vs. raisins, fresh pineapple, & almonds... etc.
He is also learning practical application of fractions and conversions. Ex. doubling recipes and doing 1/2 recipes...
or that if 3 tsp = 1 Tbsp, then 1/2 tsp x3 = 1/2 Tbsp.

Paddy keeps in contact with other kids, too. He has his older brother still attending Grade 10 at public school. He also spends a lot of time with his cousin Leo (who is in Grade 7). He goes to Sunday School at church. He also participates in activities with the local DeMolay chapter. With DeMolay, he helped this morning with washing local law enforcement cars, trucks, and vans as a community service / civic engagement activity.

Starting today, he is also taking part in activities through the Olympic Park Institute's environmental education program. Today is an "Insect Hike" through the woods of the national park.

During relaxing times, we have been watching the series "Life After People". He finds it fascinating, and it is another way in which information is brought together from multiple disciplines in order to show a more complete picture.

We have been hiking in the woods and walking on beaches. We visited the local "Art in the Woods" exhibit, where you have to really search to notice some of the artwork. We've walked along the Elwha River and discussed traditional tribal boundaries ("usual and accustomed lands"), esp. between Makah and Klallam Nations. We've even had fun serving as "Twilight" tour guides to friends from out of the area.

There are so many other topics we have covered, but I'm not taking the time to cover here. Some include beekeeping, music, poetry, photography, art projects, and geography. Even though I've taken on additional responsibilities -- as both "Mom" and primary teacher -- it is an amazing adventure and is incredibly rewarding. Just think, it's only been 7 weeks so far!!

08 May 2009

Amish Friendship Bread

My friend Donna gave me a ziplock baggie of goo and a piece of paper, detailing the directions for "Amish Friendship Bread". This had me laughing. Especially at the end, where it says "Only the Amish know how to create the starter, so if you give them all away, you will have to wait until someone gives you one back." Told Donna it's a good thing she knows someone that's half (Amish) Mennonite [me]! :)

Anyway, the goo is a yeast/milk/flour/sugar mixture that is the perpetual product of this bread. The yeast starter becomes large enough for 5 portions... one to bake into 2 loaves, 3 to give away to friends in baggies to get them hooked, and then 1 to keep for yourself for your next batch (10 days later after baking the 1st batch). Donna had followed the directions, but substituted soy milk for the regular milk. So the dairy content had been diluted significantly

As I proceeded with my baggie from her (a product of her soy batch), I used hempmilk, unbleached flour, and organic cane sugar. So although this began as a dairy starter, the amount of dairy has been diluted even further. By the time I've finished with mine, the dairy content is probably negligible.

Here is the original recipe/directions, along with my notes [in brackets] for changes.


*Do not use metal spoon or bowl for mixing
*Do not refrigerate
*If air gets in bag, let it out
*It is normal for batter to rise, bubble and ferment

Day 1: Do nothing. This is the date you received the batter.
Day 2: Mush bag
Day 3: Mush bag
Day 4: Mush bag
Day 5: Mush bag
Day 6: Add to the bag 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk then mush bag [Use non-dairy milk (soy or hemp) for vegan version. May consider organic sugar, unbleached flour, etc. as other healthier substitutes.]
Day 7: Mush bag
Day 8: Mush bag
Day 9: Mush bag
Day 10: Follow the instructions below:

1) Pour the entire contents of the bag into a NON METALLIC bowl
2) Add 1 ½ cups flour, 1 ½ cups sugar and 1 ½ cups milk. Mix well. [Once again, substitute unbleached flour, organic sugar, and non-dairy "milk".]
3) Measure out 4 separate batters of 1 cup each into 4 gallon Ziploc bags. Keep a starter for your self and give the other 3 to friends along with a copy of this recipe. Should this not be passed onto a friend on the first day, be certain to tell the friend which day the bag is at when presented to them. It is helpful to mark the bag. When you pass this onto a friend the new Day 1 will be the day that you baked.
4) Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees
5) Add the below ingredients to the remaining batter in the bowl. Mix well

3 eggs [substitute equivalent of 3 eggs in egg replacer, such as Ener-G]
1 cup oil (or ½ cup oil and ½ cup applesauce) [I opted for the split with applesauce.]
½ cup milk [non-dairy]
1 cup sugar [organic cane sugar]
2 tsp cinnamon [to cut acidity, I do 1/2 cinnamon and 1/2 nutmeg.]
1 large box instant vanilla pudding [I substituted 2/3 c. vanilla spice hemp protein powder]
½ tsp vanilla [always add extra!!]
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 cups flour [unbleached is better]
You can add nuts, dates, whatever!

6) Grease 2 large loaf pans and mix additional ½ cup sugar and 1 ½ tsp cinnamon. Dust the greased pans with half of this mixture.
7) Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and sprinkle the remaining sugar on top.
8) Bake 1 hour. Cool until bread loosens from pan evenly (about 10-15 min). Turn onto serving dish. Serve warm or cold.

* If you keep a starter for yourself, you will be baking every 10 days. The bread is very good and makes a great gift. Only the Amish know how to create the starter, so if you give them all away, you will have to wait until someone gives you one back. ***Enjoy***


So if you want some of my vegan starter, let me know. We'll see what we can work out (distance/transportation-wise). My friend TinaMarie stopped by from out-of-town today, and she took all 3 baggies with her that were left over from this batch. She has people she is eager to hand it out to! :)