09 January 2013

Unofficially Beginning Homeschool

On Monday of this week we began unofficially 'homeschooling'.  Well that doesn't really make sense because we've been homeschooling from when we brought Possum (4yr 10mo) home from the hospital.  Really.  I sat with Possum on my knees at a week old singing 'Play School' songs, thanks to our Aussie Granny.  

Now Possum just seems ready for ... well, something more.

Last week I prepared a  "Circle Time" schedule for our girls. I envision "Circle Time" to be a time that all three, and eventually four, children can participate in.  Over the years it will expand to include more of "anything homeschooling" that we can do together, as our official homeschooling journey grows and develops.  This is a most wonderful part of homeschooling; doing things together as a family.  Of course, I copied the idea of "Circle Time" from my friend.  Why reinvent the wheel?  Although I must confess, I'm not sure this is what Circle Time is supposed to be, but it works for us for now, in these pre-school years.  I want something that is easy and a little carefree but with structure (and guidance) for me, getting both me and Possum (4yr 10mo) ready for the official leap into homeschool.

And so our day on Monday began.  My girls loved it.  All it did for me was schedule the time in to sing with them, read with them, and have fun with them.  We have, in the past, had "Bible Time" where we learned a new song or hymn and sang it for the entire month and read from The Big Picture Story Bible.  When we began family devotions at the breakfast table (about 3 months ago), somehow our morning "Bible Time" which happened anytime after brekkie but before lunch (when Daddy was working) got dropped.  Even though I was missing us singing together, I couldn't get us back in the groove of "Bible Time".  Perhaps it was because I was a little more preoccupied with Handsome (4mo) since his arrival in September.  Even so, to set aside time each day to spend with my girls is a treasured time.  I'm loving it just as much as they are!

I plan to do six weeks on and take the seventh week off.  (Another idea copied from my friend.) During the week off we'll still do our family devotion time around the table at breakfast but we will just take a break from Circle Time for the week.  Just to see what happens.

Our morning schedule currently looks like this:
7:30- devotion at the table (we are currently using Long Story Short and loving it!)
7:45- set the table (see our weekly chore chart)
8:30- finish breakfast; Dad & Mum do their devotion together (we feel it is so important for our children to see us doing what we require of them- having time in the Word of God and praying together). At the same time, the girls are to get dressed/brush teeth/brush hair/chore of the day (see weekly chore chart)
9:00- Dad to work; Mum to help with finishing touches of chores
9:15- Circle Time begins. I have an ending time of 10:30. Our Circle Time takes us a little less time than an hour fifteen minutes, however, we didn't end til 10:30 as I  am getting Handsome up from his morning nap just before 10, as well as feeding him, thus stretching out the time. (I must say my girls are so very patient.)

I would label these mornings thus far as successful.  I was very pleased with how it flowed and the girls seemed engaged from beginning to end.  The two older girls, at least.  Sweetness (2yr) joined in from time to time and then would get down and go off and play. This was fine and without seeming like it was interrupting us any.  My goal is to aim at Possum (4yr 10mo) and cater to her growing and maturing.  While Twinkle (3yr 5mo) doesn't quite take in everything I'm saying, she's eager to sit and participate at her own level.

My girls refer to our Circle Time as Homeschool!  They are excited to learn, and excited to be doing Homeschool, for real.

I have been very surprised at how fairly easily Possum (4yr 10mo) has been able to memorise Psalm 23.  On Tuesday I did add in "Lesson One" in teaching Possum to read but it was not part of my original schedule.  I will make it part of the schedule for next week though.   She is wanting to read on her own so badly; it is almost painful for me to watch her agonise over not being able to read yet, and knowing it takes some time to be able to.

The wonderful concept of this Circle Time is that on any given day we can skip if we had company or something else we wanted to do outside the home.  But for now, it feels like a wonderfully perfect addition to our mornings.  And, especially this time of year, it gives us a little extra time for the cold, nippy air to warm up slightly (if at all) before the girls go outdoors to play.  Also, in the hotter months, we may change our "Circle Time" to the afternoon when it is too hot to be outdoors anyway.  Who knows?  This, I am quickly (and joyfully) realising, is the art of homeschooling.

27 December 2012

Pea Soup

Serves 6

2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons butter
2 pounds freshly shelled or frozen peas 
1½ quarts chicken stock 
½ teaspoon dried green peppercorns, crushed
sea salt and pepper
piima cream or creme fraiche

This delicious soup can be made in less than 15 minutes and will satisfy the most exacting gourmet. Saute onions gently in butter until tender. Add peas and stock, bring to a boil and skim. Simmer about 15 minutes. 


Puree soup with a handheld blender. Season to taste. Ladle into heated bowls and garnish with cultured cream. Good with round croutons.


Recipe from "Nourishing Traditions" cookbook

25 December 2012

Happy Birthday, Jesus

Our goal in the Christmas decorations in our house (aka Chrissy decs in Australia) is to remind us constantly that Christmas is all about Jesus.  Everywhere we turn we hope that the nativity toys, magnets, scene all around us continuously point each of us to Jesus.  It's easy to get lost in "traditions" or in our case, making traditions. Or perhaps get distracted by so many other things happening in December.  Every moment of every day we desire to keep striving to point our own hearts, as well as our children, to Jesus.  December is a great opportunity to do that.

Last night before bed, I was able to put "Baby Jesus" in our manger, which has been empty all month long.  It seems perfectly fitting for the girls to wake in the morning to find Jesus in the manger.  Yes?

We have also been singing "Happy Birthday Jesus".  The words are:

Happy Birthday, Jesus
I'm so glad it's Christmas
All the tinsel and lights
And the presents are nice
But the real gift is You.

Happy Birthday, Jesus
I'm so glad it's Christmas
All the carols and bells
Make the holidays swell
But the real gift is You.

Happy Birthday, Jesus
Jesus, I love you.

The girls picked it up within a day and we've been singing it all month long.  It's been a sweet time to hear them singing that the presents are nice but the real gift is Jesus... except that's not quite what they believe yet. :)  They do believe that the presents are everything, and could they have more?!

It was also a special moment this morning after breakfast, instead of doing our usual family devotion, we read the Christmas story, directly from the Bible (Luke chapter 2).  And then sang "Angels We Have Heard on High" which fit in perfectly, giving the two oldest girls a greater understanding and depth to the songs we sing at Christmastime.

 I forgot to make a birthday cake for Jesus this year.  Me oh my, how did that happen?  Couldn't possibly be because of having four children ages four and under!  Especially that we had the joy of staying home and relaxing all day without having to dash off anywhere.  In fact, I'm not sure all of my children even made it out of their pyjamas today.  Next year, I tell myself, the cake will be more meaningful anyway.  So, stay tuned for Christmas 2013. :)

08 December 2012

Christmas Countdown

This year I found a wonderful idea here that I decided to quickly throw together. Having four children, and one of them being an infant, it is challenging to put much time into anything... at least for me. I think about something for a time, and before I know it, the day is upon me-- leaving me feeling as though time came upon me faster than I had anticipated.

So while I *loved* this idea I knew ahead of time that I was not going to be very creative and fancy with it at all.  It was going to be the thought that counts. 

It is a Spouse Christmas Countdown.  I printed the free printable from the link above to make 24 cards, I wrote the days from 1 through 24 on the back and began to write something for each day.  It was either something that I love about my hubby, or something I would do for him, or something that we would do together with our children.  I hung up some ribbon that I bought last year from the Dollar Tree and pegged 24 cards.

Each morning sometime either before breakfast, during, or immediately as we finish I have him read the card.  While we haven't bought gifts for each other in a long time this was a perfect way for our children to see our love for each other.  I coincided the days to go along with certain things that I knew were more possible-- driving and looking at Christmas lights would happen on a Sunday night a lot easier than perhaps during the week.  A favourite meal for my hubby on a certain night.  A wrapped gift. Or just a compliment.

I'd like to take a little more time next year and make it a little more creative, and seeing as I have a year to prepare, one might incorrectly think that I will have ample time.  We will see.  I'd love this to become a loving tradition in our home as we countdown to celebrate Jesus' birth, and our children being witness to our love as husband and wife.

Squash & Sundried Tomato Soup

Serves 6

1 butternut squash
2 mdm onions, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil
1 quart chicken stock

¼ teaspoon red chile flakes
2 tablespoons finely chopped basi
sea salt or fish sauce and pepper
piima cream or creme fraiche

Cut squash in half lengthwise and place, cut sides down, in a class baking pan with about ½ inch of water. Bake at 350°F (180°C) until tender, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, saute onions gently in butter until tender. Add tomatoes, stock, and chile flakes. Bring to a boil and skim.

Scoop cooked squash out of skin and add to soup.


Simmer about ½ hour. Puree soup with a handheld blender.


Thin with water if necessary. Add basil and season to taste. Simmer gently about 5 minutes, ladle into heated bowls and serve with cultured cream.


Recipe from "Nourishing Traditions" cookbook

07 December 2012

December 2012

For our Christmas season, we are learning the song "Happy Birthday Jesus" and we are listening to this rendition to learn it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rur534Yzb-g.  It's a little different than I had imagined we would be singing (a traditional Christmas hymn) but it's a lovely, easy tune with wonderful words for Possum age 4¾, and Twinkle age 3½, even Sweetness age 2 is "singing" along quite easily.

Our favourite storybooks to read are:

Next year, I'd love to start a "tradition" of wrapping 25 books in Christmas paper, and each day opening one, and reading it that day.  Well, our Christmas library currently has 3, and I doubt I will have 21 books added to our collection by next year.  But we can at least start.  These books really are my favourite so far, all pointing to Jesus.

On that note, we do not incorporate Santa into any of our traditions.  We have felt for a very long time that for our family it is important to focus on Jesus during the Christmas season, pointing our children to Him, making everything we do about Jesus' birth.  We felt very strongly about this before we even had children, and felt even more strongly after they arrived in our lives.  However, I learned from a friend a great idea that we may begin doing next year, and that is to recognise exactly who Saint Nicholas of Myra was, and to celebrate St. Nicholas Day (which is 6th of December thus getting this out of the way to allow us to continue to focus on Jesus the remainder of December), teaching our family about St. Nick, and able to address why Santa is everywhere around us, opposed to my first inclination which is to avoid the topic altogether-- not so easy with inquisitive young minds.  Last year Possum then aged 3 thought that Goliath was the man in the big red suit.  We never corrected her.  This year, however, we have had some explaining to do.  Ahem.  The twisted story of how "Santa Claus" actually came about is really a s-t-r-e-t-c-h from St. Nicholas, and so we will still not do anything to incorporate Santa Claus but in fact concentrate on Nicholas of Myra, his life, and add some fun traditions to remember him.  This will be the day that our blossoms will receive their Christmas stockings, and chocolate coins in their shoes!

And in my looking up ideas for celebrating St. Nicholas Day, I read about a tradition on a friend's blog that sounds fitting... because Jesus received three gifts have our children receive three gifts on Christmas morning.  I have an entire year to solidify and plan how these new "traditions" can begin and bring good solid teaching to our family.  What fun!

We began a tradition that we have just loved from the moment Husband and I heard about it- to give gifts on Thanksgiving morning and share why we are thankful for each other.  This has been absolutely one of our most favourite times of the year. And for us, it feels like a beautiful way to kick off the Christmas season.  This, we felt, was fitting to keep December more about Jesus, and especially Christmas morning itself.  And thus, adding new "traditions" as we grow as a family is going to bring such fun and fulfillment, and just as we strive to do with everything, point ourselves and our children to Christ- whether that be at Christmastime or the rest of the year.

04 December 2012

Truly, *The Best* Cinnamon Rolls

Here is a family favourite.  We have these on birthdays and Christmas morning.  I have the pleasure of making them the night before, popping them in the fridge before they rise, then pulling them out the morning of and leaving them to rise about 60 minutes before I bake.

Makes 12-15 in an 8x13 baking dish

1⅓ cups warm water
2 Tbsp. yeast (2 packets)
⅔ cup sugar
⅓ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. salt
about 5 cups bread flour, divided

cinnamon sugar: 
2 tsp. cinnamon mixed with ½ cup sugar

caramel glaze: 
 ½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ cup whipping cream
1½ cups packed brown sugar
½ chopped pecans (or more to taste)(I omit these)

1. Sprinkle yeast over warm water in mixing bowl and allow to soften for a few minutes.
2. Add sugar, oil, salt and 3 cups of flour, beating well.
3. Switch to dough-hook on mixer (or by hand) gradually beating in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
4. Knead dough until smooth & springy, about 8 minutes.
5. Put dough ball into an oiled bowl and turn to oil top of dough.  Set in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

 6. Stir cinnamon and sugar together.
7. Prepare caramel glaze by melting butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring in brown sugar & cream.
8. Pour glaze into 9 x 13 baking pan and sprinkle with nuts.
9. When dough has doubled, roll out on a lightly oiled board to a large rectangle, about 12 x 18”.
10. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar & roll up from long edge.
11. Slice with large serrated knife into twelve or more 1” to 1-1/2” slices and arrange rolls in the glaze in the pan. 
12. Allow rolls to rise until doubled, about 30 – 60 minutes, OR cover pan with greased foil and refrigerate overnight.  After being refrigerated, it is best to allow pan of rolls to return to room temperature and rise about 30 minutes before baking.  However, this can be accelerated if you’re on a tight schedule.

13. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C) and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until  golden brown and rolls in center no longer look “doughy”.  
14. Remove pan from oven and invert onto a heatproof serving tray, if desired.  The caramel glaze will be fluid, so they may be served directly from the baking dish.  
If transporting, loosely cover with aluminum foil and do not seal or the rolls will steam themselves soggy.  These rolls are best served warm.  Enjoy the treat and be prepared for rave reviews!