Saturday, October 27, 2012

The GI Tract Revealed to Middle Grade Students

We are currently studying Apologia: Anatomy and Physiology. This week's topic was the digestive and renal systems. We did not have an experiment in the book that was ideal for a group of kids so we went online to look for something that would illuminate the process of digestion a little better. We did find an interesting demonstration here, and it goes something like this--each part of the demonstration is supposed to simulate what is going on in the digestive process. This is what it looked like. The photos speak for themselves.

Food enters the mouth (a mixing bowl)
adding saliva
the bolus moves into the stomach through the esophagus
food is mashed up in the stomach with...
bile to break down fats
and stomach acid
at this point, it's getting a little stinky
Okay, here we go...
into the small intestines

eww...this is kinda' gross...
Oh, gross!
Girls, wait! Don't you want to see nutrients be absorbed?
So the boys are left to handle the absorption of nutrients.
Grossed out, but still having fun with it...
Look out, guys! We have a gag-er!
I present your lower intestines!
and the final product...

If you would like to do this experiment, you can find it here on squidoo. It was extremely gross, but we laughed so much it was well worth it! I don't think the kids will soon forget the experience.

Week 9: Enjoying Fall's Last Beauty

This week my husband took Monday off to extend our weekend and take us all hiking in Shenandoah National Park. We didn't want to miss the color that is always so spectacular in October, so we drove out in the morning, hiked, drove some of the skyline drive, took in a sunset, and came home, exhausted! It was a gorgeous "October Skies" kind of day, though the leaves were perhaps a tad past peak color, and definitely past at the higher elevations, but it was still gorgeous. Molly hung in there for the whole 5 miles. I won't say that she didn't complain at a few points, but she was a trooper, and I'm pretty sure that more family hikes like this are in our future.

The sky really was this blue and the leaves this yellow--no Photoshop!
Dad and his hikers
A rare instance of me in front of, not behind, the camera
Explorer extraordinaire
This is my Father's World

The rest of the school week was fun. In science we talked about digestion and all its implications, which of course the kids find both humorous and gross. We finished our studies of WWI and will pick up with prohibition and the roaring twenties next week.

Matty and I took a bold new step and went to visit  a Cross Fit class with a friend. Holy Moly! I have never been so sore after a workout of any kind, but in this bizarre kind of way I am enjoying the feeling. Matty absolutely loved the Cross Fit Kids class and is dying to go back. He is also very sore. I went back today for another "beat down" (as my bff calls it) and, being the glutton for punishment that I am, signed us up for a year. I won't deny it--I really hate exercising, but I hate feeling fat and lazy even more. I figure if I am going to be miserable, let me be miserable for a short time, get the job done, and pass the extra time enjoying the results.

I am posting our science experiment photos in a separate blog post. They're just too gross--funny, but gross--so if you are not into the gastrointestinal tract and all its amazing features you I will not subject you to looking at the experiment and it's lovely results. If you love seeing kids have a great time doing science, then pop over to that post. I know for sure it is an experiment the kids will not soon forget.

Well, happy weekend. Time to batten down for hurricane Sandy.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Week 8: The Week in Pictures, with a History Focus

This week we were playing a bit of catch-up in history. I have allowed ourselves to move a bit more slowly this year with Tapestry of Grace than last year, and by doing so have been able to get other things done such as science and more geography. Writing has been a leap-ahead in terms of skills development, so this has taken more time. This being the case, we decided to take a week and work all of our lessons around a history theme, that being the final years of WWI and America's involvement in the Great War. Matty wrote a chronological narrative of some of the events in which America was involved, and Molly completed lap book mini-books about the things we have read concerning the topic. We took a day for a Kennedy Center NSO concert and afterward took a short jaunt up the road to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. Friday we took the day to go visit my Mom and sister's family, and picked up some fun new experiences there, as well!
Matty's WWI timeline page
Molly's Unit 1 lap book so far
Molly's 3-D mini-book depicting the Christmas day soccer game between Germans and British soldiers in WWI, as described in the story War Game.
The serendipitous Kennedy Center picture for which my friend was reprimanded by the ushers!

Graffiti wall in the American History!
Legos are more fun when they aren't your own. (also at the American History Museum)
A pit stop at Starbucks--waiting for treats.
Learning to drive Uncle Mark's boat!
She'll have her captain's license next week...
Spending time with Nanny!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Week 7: Short and Sweet

After last week's post about reflecting on the first part of this term and how much more at ease we are, we were further blessed to have an extra-long weekend and some wonderful time with family and friends.

Last Friday evening we "christened" our new patio with a fire in the fire pit and invited friends over to make pizzas. They settled in and stayed late and we laughed and joked and laughed some more. On Saturday morning when I woke, I felt refreshed and happy and wonderfully content. It struck me that as we are working hard on doing all that we should to care for ourselves and our families, that time of refreshment and fellowship with friends is as vital to our well-being as good sleep, food, and time to play and reflect. The weekend continued with cleaning chores and laundry, church, Sunday afternoon football and a family movie night. The boys made us girls the most delicious nachos I've ever tasted! Monday we went on a hike in chilly, overcast weather. Once home I made homemade hot chocolate for my kiddos, and their satisfaction was evident!

We had a visit from my bff and godson this week, so that left us only two days for lessons and one for co-op, so we focused on science and reading this week. We learned about our muscles and how to keep them healthy, and read our history assignments, but will cover the discussion questions on that next week.

It has been a good week. I am learning that real rest and relaxation leads to more productivity during the working hours. Even though we only worked three days this week, those working hours were focused and well-spent!

Learning how to use the microscope
Looking at muscle tissue under the microscope
After a productive day of school--clean up time!
Molly completed her first cursive assignment!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Fast, Delicous, Kid-tested Lunch...

When the weather cools, I love to make soup. I could eat soup every. single. meal. but my kids would not put up with it. They like soup, but not every meal.

Anyway, today I made this super-fast, delicious soup. I served it with quesadillas on jalapeno and lime flavored tortillas from Trader Joe's.  The kids could either use the quesadilla wedges to dip into the soup, or eat them plain. My son ate 5 bowls of the soup. No you did not read that wrong. I said 5 bowls. I had hoped to have leftovers for tomorrow, but no. He emptied the pot. Oh, and yes, he still ate meatloaf for dinner with second helpings.

I found this recipe years ago in Cooking Light magazine, and I don't even know if I have the original paper anymore. My current version of the soup is the almost exactly the same, so I'll give credit there, just in case. Anyway, it goes something like this:

Instant Black Bean Soup
2 cans black beans (I used homemade crock-pot black beans that I had frozen)
1/2 jar of organic salsa (I used spicy--that's how we roll)
1/2 bag of frozen corn
1 TBS chili powder
1 cup chicken stock (I used 3 cups stock because my daughter loves broth)
leftover cubed chicken (optional)
green onions, cilantro (chopped, optional)
shredded cheese
sour cream
(Cooking Light calls for fat-free stuff but I don't believe in fat free food. There. That is a discussion for a different day.)
Simmer all the ingredients together for about 15 minutes, serve topped with shredded cheese and sour cream. Present with quesadilla wedges or organic chips and guacamole, and you have a delicious and healthy lunch!

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Gluten-Free Pancakes

Gluten-Free Buckwheat Pancakes

Makes about 12 pancakes

6 eggs
1 TBS honey
1 tsp vanilla

6 TBS melted coconut oil

coconut milk or whole milk (approx. 1 cup)

1/2 cup buckwheat

1/4 cup almond flour

6 TBS coconut flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1. Using a wire whisk, mix together eggs, melted coconut oil, milk, honey, and sea salt.

2. Continuing to whisk, add the dry ingredients until thoroughly mixed.
 (I found that I needed to add extra coconut milk because the batter was too stiff.)
3. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter (or coconut oil) in a skillet on a medium flame.

4. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of batter onto skillet making pancakes about 3-4 inches in diameter.

5. Serve with lots of butter and real maple syrup, or honey! Yum!

This was my first foray into grain-free cooking. I started with a basic coconut flour recipe for reference, and by the time I was done I had made my own completely different concoction, and (perhaps it's beginner's luck) it turned out perfectly! I have at times found there to be a sort of bitter aftertaste to many gluten / grain - free baked things, but I think this may be due to garbanzo flour, so I did not include any garbanzos. There was absolutely no bitter taste at all. The pancakes were denser, of course than nutrition-free buttermilk pancakes, but they still turned out fluffy due to the baking powder, and the flavor was nutty, buttery, and very filling. Everyone gave it a big thumbs-up!

Week 6, Already? Pausing to Reflect...

Wow. I cannot believe we have been doing lessons for six weeks already. I am usually ready for a break at the six-week mark--it seems to be the point at which I teeter on some form of burn-out, but thankfully, that is not the case right now. This year I spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to homeschool MY children. I have given considerable attention to our reasons, philosophies and methods of educating our kids, but these always have had the effect of leading me into the trap of striving to meet some schedule set out by a curriculum or comparing my kids to others who seem to be further along. I have to remember what it is exactly that I am doing for MY family.

As I look around the world in which we live, I see lives that are completely out of balance. There is a particular tendency toward striving and busy-ness here because we live near a major city. Everyone here wants to pad their resume. There is this intensity that makes you feel you will never succeed unless you are running in the same rat race as everyone else, even amongst homeschoolers. This year I decided not to participate in the race at all.

Despite all the plans, all the philosophies, all the methods I have contrived for my kids, they don't address the heart of what I really want to do, and that is to raise healthy, whole individuals who love the Lord, each other, and His people. It really doesn't matter if for some reason they don't finish every week of their TOG curriculum or complete their grammar on the same schedule as the experts say it needs to be done. And yet, it seems that the more I let go the more we get accomplished.

One of my favorite verses says this:
What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil--this is God's gift to man.

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it so that people fear before him. (Ecclesiastes 3:9-14)
In my children I want to establish a heart of rest and joy and goodness--that they can enjoy this gift God has given to man. I want them to be participants in the "whatever God does," not the rat race to D.C. power and politics.
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
Psalm 127:1-2
So, we accomplished a fair amount in lessons this week--science and writing and geography and grammar, etc, but what stands out to me more this week is that we made it to the pet store for some new fish. We also enjoyed a wonderful dinner with friends and a hilarious time on the new patio, enjoying a fire and roasting marshmallows. We did not strive. We worked, but we played, too. We ate all our meals at home in fellowship with each other. We prayed. We marveled at God's ways in the life of Amy Carmichael and those she touched. We pondered the uselessness of war. We butted heads, overcame challenges, tried again. It was a good week. A very good week.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

A New Take on Oatmeal

I have one oatmeal lover and one who is not so big on it, but in the fall and winter when a hearty, warm breakfast is called for, there aren't too many things that satisfy quite as much. I've been feeling inspired to try some new things by the food network, so in an attempt to make oatmeal more appealing, I gave it a new twist. I think it's the best oatmeal I've ever tasted! I'm sharing the recipe, but if you try it, give credit to my little ol' blog here, please.

2 cups water boiled with a pinch of salt
1 cup oats
8 oz. pumpkin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
maple syrup to taste
vanilla stevia (to reduce the amount of maple syrup needed)

Cook until oats are tender, serve topped with butter and milk. YUM!

Toothless Wednesday

Monday, October 01, 2012

Beautiful Feet Giveaway

I'm a TOG lover and a Beautiful Feet Admirer. I look forward to using some of their curriculum next year with my daughter, as my son moves deeper into middle school and my daughter moves firmly into the heart of the elementary grades. Meanwhile, I signed up for their Medieval Studies giveaway. You should too!