Monday, January 28, 2019

Homeschool Advice that Saved Me

Homeschool Advice that Saved Me
Homeschoolers often debate: Mastery or Spiral Curriculum?

When I first began homeschooling, I read a wide variety of articles, books, an advice. Some of it was great, much of it was a waste of time.

A few gems sparkle in my memory as earth-shaking, life-changing, wonder-working bits.

One was a short passage I read in (if I recall correctly) this book. I can't be sure if it's even the same book, as that's been a number of years ago. And I don't remember anything else about the book except this one concept.

It introduced the incredibly important concept of "Over Learning." 

I had heard of "Mastery" and "Spiral" learning - but this concept truly brings the best of both worlds. It is not enough to "master" multiplication, then never look at the facts again. It is also not enough to keep touching on the principles, concepts and logic of multiplication, do a few sums, and look at them again a few months later -without ever truly mastering them.

REAL learning - especially with essential concepts, basic skills, and foundational knowledge means knowing it inside out, backwards, forwards, and being able to do it in your sleep.

Missing this concept explains one of the reasons so many homeschool parents say things like, "My son mastered addition. He knew all his facts in seconds. Then a few weeks later he was back to counting on his fingers." or "My daughter knows all of her letter sounds pretty well, and she knows her sight words, but I think she might be dyslexic. She really struggles with reading." (this is not to say that some children don't have a severe inborn dyslexia - just that there is also "acquired dyslexia," and dyslexia is also sometimes misdiagnosed.)  or "We learned all about the skeletal system last year, but now he acts like he's never seen that before." or "We did letter-of-the-week, but at the end of the year, my daughter didn't recognize half of the letters!"

Other Moms tell me that their kids don't have to "do all those boring, repetitive math problems." After all, that's not fun! Once they understand the concept, they just move on to the next concept. All too often for these kids, math really isn't "their thing."

Traditional schools - public and private - and online teaching services introduce calculators to very young children. Once they've "learned the basic facts" (which often means simply being able to figure out the right answer in any length of time) they never really use them again. It's all done on a calculator for the rest of their math education.

This explains why a professor-friend of mine noted that many of his graduate university mathematics  students could not spot mathematical errors on the board. Only a small handful were able to "think" mathematically, and truly follow along well enough to see an obvious error on the board.

Needless to say, the calculator-dependent students were not the ones who really "got" math.

This has led me to have a lot more emphasis on LOTS of coverage of the basics.

  • Reading not just ONE Bible story book, but a stack.
  • Reading the Bible itself, not just once, but over and over.
  • Doing basic math facts by hand, or in the head, EVERY DAY - not using a calculator when it's not approprate. (we DO use a calculator for things like the square root of 792 ; )
  • Going "deep" with history and science, rather than reading some boring textbook's 3-page summary of the Revolutionary War or a three minute summary of the Periodic Table of the Elements. 
  • Drilling the skill of sounding out words until a word like "anthromorphism" or "Melchizedek" begins to look simple.
  • Practicing Typing until you can think and write at the same time, rather than having to think about typing while you type.
etc, etc, etc.

How does this play out in real life? We often work on two different levels -one very challenging, and other super-easy. My daughter loves playing behind grade level on educational games (where she frequently wins ; ) , and reading easy, fun books. I indulge that. But we also have a part of the day that is hard work! She often uses a variety different resources in the same subject that would be considered to be in multiple "grade levels" in a traditional school.

The hard work becomes easier as the easy work becomes more and more automatic : )

For us, this one concept has made a huge difference. Next time someone says, "Mastery or spiral?" reply "Over Learning!" 

If this interests you, you might also enjoy these posts:

Teach Reading with Confidence

Bible Memory Music, Our Favorite   

Rethinking Learning Styles  

How to Start Homeschooling - TOMORROW! 

What Creates a Love of Learning? 

Divisibility Song, Easily Memorize Divisibility Rules 
Fractions Rules Memory Song 

Math Videos, Homeschool Fun Video Day 

Multiplication Quick Tricks Memory Song 

Teaching Math: Home School for Cheap or Fre

Great Ways to Homeschool History 

History & Geography Videos, Homeschool Video Fun Day

American History Fun Parody Songs

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Practical Ideas for Homeschooling Moms

Monday, January 21, 2019

Copycat Skinnygirl Honey Dijon Salad Dressing

Copycat Skinnygirl Honey Dijon Salad Dressing
Finding a good, healthy, low fat salad dressing is a challenge. It's great to eat more fresh greens and other veggies, and even better to see our kids enthusiastically indulging in salads! But finding a salad dressing that is fat free and still tasty, without a lot of artificial thickeners or other yucky ingredients, is a challenge.

I was delighted when I found Skinnygirl Honey Dijon salad dressing at the grocery - and watched my daughter (with a little help from the grown ups ; ) devour the whole bottle in about a week - with copious amounts of greens and veggies to accompany it.

Of course, I immediately wanted to design my own version! It turned out to be SO easy to make - and quite inexpensive, too : )

I usually make a small batch at a time, using Tablespoons, but if you want a bigger batch, just use a bigger measure - like a 1/2 cup measure - in place of the Tablespoons.

Copycat Skinnygirl Honey Dijon Salad Dressing
2 Tablespoons Seasoned Rice Vinegar *
1 Tablespoon Honey Dijon Mustard
1 Tablespoon Water
Shake in a sealed container, or whisk in a bowl, and serve.

*Seasoned Rice Vinegar is a special kind of Rice Vinegar that is seasoned with sugar and salt. There are sugar-free versions on the market (with artificial sweeteners) if you prefer. If you can only find plain Rice Vinegar, you can "season" your own: Substitute Seasoned Rice Vinegar

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Monday, January 7, 2019

Teriyaki Stir Fry Beef (Or Grilled Tofu) Freezer Meal

Teriyaki Stir Fry Beef (or Grilled Tofu) Freezer Meal
Teriyaki Stir Fry Beef (or Grilled Tofu)

Teriyaki Stir Fry Beef is a super-easy freezer meal for beef that is very well received when I make it.

I buy Beef from the butcher section of the grocery that is labeled "For Stir Fries" and is precut to shape.

I toss the Beef & Marinade into a freezer bag, label, and toss in the freezer.

The day before making it, I pull it down to the fridge and thaw it in a plastic box (to prevent any yucky leaks).

Preparation is easy.

First I start a batch of rice - because this is one of those great recipes you can make while the rice cooks!

Simply Marinated Grilled Tofu
I heat a nonstick skillet, and remove the Beef from the marinade with tongs, and saute it in the skillet, reserving the marinade. I cook it well, till there are little browned places on the Beef.

Meanwhile, I add water  (a volume about equal to the marinade) and the reserved marinade to a saucepan and boil it for 5 minutes. This is for food safety reasons.

I Dissolve 1 Tablespoon of Tapioca Starch or Cornstarch in cold water, and stir well.

Then, when the Beef is done, I add the boiled Marinade to the skillet, and let it return to a boil, which flavors the sauce with the beef drippings.

I add about 1/2 the Cornstarch mixture to the pan, and return to a boil. If the sauce is thick enough, I'm done, and I can serve it over the rice that's just finishing. If it needs to be a little thicker, I add a little more of the mixture to thicken it a bit more. 

Teriyaki Marinade for Beef (or Tofu):

1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
1/4 Cup Sherry (or other Dry Wine, or Rice Wine)
1 Tablespoon Oil
2 teaspoon Fresh Ginger (I use the kind from a jar sold in the grocer's produce section)
1 teaspoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Garlic

Tip for dining with Vegans:
This marinade can be used to marinate tofu. Follow these directions:

I like to serve this dish with one or more of these:

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