Category: Untraditional Education

Our Favorite Breadmaker Bread

I posted this recipe in my original site: The Kitchen, and later on Graced by Christ. We still use this recipe often, in fact it is the recipe I use more than any other. My girls both know how to make it themselves and Issac is well on his way.

This recipe is our favorite breadmaker bread recipe. We use it for everything from the standard loaf to bagels to pizza dough.

My kids love to help measure for this, get out the ingredients, and watch the bread “dance” as my middle child calls it.

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A Day in the Life 11: Sisters

It has been a rough week for my girls. Issac has been little helper boy and helping anyway he could “so I would feel better”. The girls, on the other hand, were stressed and showing it by hitting, punching, biting, snarling, shrieking, and whatever other nasty behavior would allow them to release their frustration at each other.

Shamus and I do not come from families with two girls. It comes as a bit of shock to find that girls are nastier to each other than boys. Mind you all three spend most of their time together, you may even call them best friends, and in general they get along. Just not this week.

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A Day in the Life 10: Chaos Central Revisited

Welcome to Chaos Central, please hold on to the railings lest you go sliding across the ice and land in the puddle under the computer desk. Also, please be wary of the mommy because she is rather uncomfortable and liable to bite your head off on the way out the door. Oh, and no sled riding because it is so icy you may slide into a tree.

Um yeah. Things are crazy around here. The roof is leaking immediately over Shamus’ office desk–where the huge tangle of wires can be found. It is also leaking over his chair, dripping on him as he tries to work.

Outside all is ice. Everything is covered in half an inch of ice with a puddle on top.

I am rather uncomfortable due to the “issues” I have been having and the doctor insists I go and get bloodwork done, today.

We need to move Shamus’ desk out from under the drips but can’t because it is old and falling apart, not to mention the issues I am having which mean carrying heavy things is bad.

So, we are off to get my blood-work and purchase Shamus a much needed new computer desk so we can put it up in a spot where there is no evidence of previous water falling from the ceiling plus put the check in the bank which, praise the Lord, came today.

The kids have been out helping spread ice melt while Shamus stood on a ladder with me holding it, pouring boiling water down our ice encrusted gutters and freezing his hands off trying to remove the slurry of leaves and slushy. When finished, Issac attempted to sled ride and ran into a tree doing it. The girls each fell at least three times each trying to walk across our ice encrusted yard. It was very educational.:)

How is that for an untraditional home?

Pictures to follow.

A Day in the Life 9: Bento Kids

My kids LOVE making bentos. Ours aren’t quite the traditional rice, fish, veggies but they are fun.

Today they were inspired by some cute artistic bentos and decided to make some of their own. They weren’t in thew mood for rice so we went with the traditional meal in our house, peanut butter and honey with almonds, cheese, and carrots. I made them each one then they made their own. (Rachel’s was Tetris with a flower, the other two had smiley faces with cheese and almond hair and accessories.) Here are the kids’ versions (beware of the blur–the kids took the pictures). This is also a very frugal way of making kids meals–use what is on hand–even if it is something the kids don’t like, and get creative (they ate the whole thing, and Issac doesn’t like cheese, Esther doesn’t like almonds, and they all ate the crust.

A Day in the Life 8: Deep Fried Brains

As mentioned I have been feeling “off”. In other words my hormones have been very confused, enough that I finally went to the doctor and now have a slew of tests to have done by next Thursday. (I, in general, don’t go to the doctor so this is a big deal–in fact I had to find a doctor to go to.)

Anyway, my brain has been fuzz for two weeks now. This means the kids have been doing more fending for themselves in the kitchen than usual. That’s fine–all three know how to make basic meals that are healthy and the older two both can follow recipes (well, at least try–dyslexia makes that interesting, I let them make mistakes becuase that is how I learned the difference between a cup and a Tablespoon, confectioners sugar and regular, flour and powdered sugar. Making mistakes in the kitchen is a great way to learn, especially when it doesn’t get you in trouble. )

So, this morning Rachel was making eggs. Usually they make fried eggs and destroy all my pans. However, all the skillets were in the running dishwasher and the kids are afraid of the dishwasher when it is turned on. 🙂 Issac suggested that she make hard boiled instead.

She came to me and asked how instead of consulting a cookbook. This is a bad idea. I can make many things but hardboiled eggs is not one of them. I wracked my brain for the times, remembered, and told her.

Ten minutes later I realized my mistake. I had given her the recipe for corn on the cob not hard boiled eggs! Start with cold water, bring to a boil, cover, turn off heat and let sit for 8 minutes. Gack!

I caught her and told her to bring the water back to a boil and let boil for 5 minutes more. Oops–those were soft boiled eggs. She decided to let the rest boil a little longer and let Esther eat the soft boiled one–she likes them that way.

Sigh. Yes, when it comes to eggs don’t ask me. I don’t eat eggs. I got sick of them when I was Rachel’s age and wasted tons of eggs while making mistakes.

A Day in the Life 7

Still feeling cruddy which means trying to find ways to keep the kids entertained that do not include me specifically so I can crawl off and read a book or watch a movie.

Yesterday we made a trip to the library and picked up 8 interesting educational movies–two IMAX and a pile of PBS. We are WQED around here and the library has tons of Pittsburgh made WQED movies including Kennywood Memories, Things that aren’t there anymore and the sequel. We also got Lewis and Clark and an Annie Oakley story for kids (Rachel’s choice.) Rachel also chose a book which she started reading as soon as we returned home–YEAH! Esther is usually the one who does the reading around here and insists on a book at the library. We had to cut back because she kept misplacing them. I swear that we pay at least one of the children’s librarians salary with our overdue fines.

I spent yesterday evening watching the Pittsburgh history movies as the kids wandered in and out. This morning I woke to find Rachel devouring Kennywood Memories. Later I put on Lewis and Clark and Esther spent the next few hours enthralled.

“So Esther, is this a good movie?”

Esther slowly shakes her head, eyes glittering, smile wide.

“Have you learned anything?”

“Wow Mom,” she looked up ginning, “they did all sorts of stuff. Did you know they found an antelope type creature with a hairy butt?”

“Um. Yeah. “

This morning all three cleaned their rooms then the girls cleaned the kitchen and folded laundry for me while Issac and I went shopping for our once a month groceries and daddy’s meds. While out Issac spent quite a bit of time in the pharmacy trying to read what was on the bottles–I had to redirect him a few times as Rite Aid keeps their feminine hygiene and intimacy products right by the pharmacy line. This meant it was time for “can you look on the other side of the aisle and find the medicine you take when your stomach hurts, etc.” in order to redirect his attention and keep him from sounding out T-r-o-j… and then asking what it was. He also helped me buy groceries, deciding how much of each item we needed to last us a month.

After we returned home the kids put the groceries away and made off with the boxes I had used to pack the groceries from Aldi. There were two boxes and they had to decide how to make those two boxes work amongst the three of them. After some battle they painted an ice cream truck and a race car and found another box for a train. Later I heard them upstairs playing burrito with a new twist. (Burrito is a family game inherited from their daddy and uncle. It consists of rolling one person inside of a blanket and pretending to eat them.) In this case the new twist had the filling of the burrito calling out for other ingredients–Simon Says style which the other players had to find and then say a rhyme to include. For instance tomato meant find something red, mustard find something yellow, etc.

They then decided to make carob candy. This meant a lesson in not burning carob when it is melting in the microwave. The second batch worked. They also made peanut butter filling for them and shaped them in silicone heart shaped ice cube trays. I guess they are good (I don’t eat carob, blech.)

Issac has been spending a lot of time trying to figure out the harder Hooked on Phonics books because he doesn’t feel like working through the work book. He will get back to it eventually or figure those big words out with all his trying.

Now they are all hyper and running around like loonies and it is cold and rainy and dark out so I can’t send them outside.

Esther’s take on the new pencils

Esther is having a rough couple days.  I am not feeling just right and she, being my empathetic child, is taking it very hard–which results in much hitting and kicking and in general beating up on her siblings.Sigh.

The one thing I have found that really helps her is asking her to draw something.  When she draws she gets all the feelings out and treats her brother and sister better.

After my own experiments with the watercolor pencils I thought I would let her give them a shot.   She is an artist at hear, always drawing or singing, and her drawings are full of little stories that she can tell, always very entertaining.  The following image is what resulted from her experiments with the pencils (the paper, not being a block, warps pretty easily but I will iron it later. :))


After this I told her she was welcome to use them anytime.

A Day in the Life 6: The Snow Fort

It is still a work in progress. The kids have been working on it over the last few, very cold days. Today it was warmer but we got lots of snow–now Rachel is out there building it up more so she can add a sled roof.

The hobbit-like door was pretty cute and now everything is covered in a carpet of white. (These pictures were taken yesterday when it was 7 degrees outside. Brr.)

Hummingbird Cake

Two weeks ago Esther, my one who LOVES to watch cooking shows with me, asked if we could get out a cooking show DVD at the library.  We all like to bake so we picked Martha Stewart’s baking DVD–assuming it would have someting more than the dozens of varieties we already know how to make.  We were right.  We watched two thirds of the DVD (the rest being things that were nearly impossible to adapt for our food allergy needs).  The favorite was the Hummingbird Cake–not so much for the inside–which had to be heavily adapted but for the outside–pineapple slices dried so they looked like flowers.  With Rachel’s birthday on the way and edible decorations for my preservative and dye allergic child rather hard to come by this was a winner.

They have been reminding me almost daily since then, asking when we would buy a pineapple.  Two days ago I finally did (too expensive for every day but no more pricey than  all the decorations for cakes).  The day before yesterday I sliced the pineapple and the kids laid them out to dry in the over overnight.  Yesterday we made the cake (we adapted even more than usual since Rachel can’t have cinnamon and I can’t eat pineapple–in fact in the end we went for a organic gluten free cake mix I had picked up instead although I have promised to try the original recipe–adapted of course. )  In the end it wasn’t really a hummingbird cake at all, more like a regular cake covered in icing, dried pineapple flowers, and walnuts but it was very much enjoyed (in fact all that remains are a few pineapple flowers which the kids have been nibbling on.)  We will definitely using the dried pineapple slices to decorate again, and likely trying some other fruit drying to see if we can get any other flower like decorations.

The slices were easy.

  1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or wax paper.
  2. Peel pineapples and remove “eyes” using a very small melon baller. Cut crosswise into very thin slices and place in a single layer on prepared baking sheets. Bake until tops look dry, about 4 hours. Using tongs or chop sticks, flip slices over and continue to cook until completely dried out, 25 to 30 minutes more. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

Confessions of a Homeschool Mama


I have been thinking a lot about homeschooling and our style lately. Because of Stumbleupon I have met a lot more homeschoolers than I typically meet in Bloggyland. It is fascinating how meeting all these lovely ladies (because so far they are all ladies sharing their experience) has caused me to redefine our style–not because we have changed our style but because I have met more and more people who school like we do. I didn’t know that we weren’t the only ones who avoided curriculum, who did what worked with each child based on when they needed it instead of on set standards. I have always considered us Charlotte Mason with a twist, or maybe eclectic. I have come to a realization, however, I realize that our lack of formal studies except where needed (for instance Rachel desperately wants to learn piano so I am working through a book with her, she found she needed to learn to spell and do multiplication so we are studying those, and Issac desperately WANTS to read–so Hooked on Phonics works for him) makes us not quite either of those. We do have a school room but that is for Rachel’s sake–she needs to know it is thee so she can focus when she needs to. But really and honestly, if I am being totally truthful with myself, most of their learning comes because they are interested and they choose what they are interested in. There are a few things we require and otherwise we go with the flow. Dare I say that we, despite our plans and ideals, are unschoolers? I am not sure I am ready to give it such a name but judging from the unschoolers I have met I am finding that they are the ones I am most comfortable with, they are the ones who train their kids the way I do, and I have an inkling that maybe, just maybe, that is where we fit in. I say this with trepidation–because, you know, I am a former public school teacher and I never would have thought I would consider myself an “unschooler”.


That confession out of the way, I would like to share something with you, some of our experiences which may explain what I mean. Over the last few days, since I have been under the weather I have allowed the kids freedom from their few workbooks (what they call their official homework but which is only a tiny bit of their school day.) Saturday they don’t do those books anyway unless they want to (sometimes they do). However this Saturday they opted not to. Instead they had an elaborate game of dress up and some other pretend play, played with Only Hearts Kids, watched daddy play a computer game–discussing physics and how it work sin the game engine and solving elaborate puzzles that stump adult gamers, they then went with me to pick up some paint brushes at Michaels. While there they discovered a lady demonstrating cake decorating with Fondant. They stood for 45 minutes watching her and asking all kinds of questions about how she was doing what she was doing , what fondant was made of, etc. They then planned to try the experiment with Play-doe and later to et some Fondant to try it on. They were the only ones in a full store interested in stopping and learning. They were so interested that after helping me pick the best brushes for the best price they went back and watched her work while I checked out.


After we finished there we headed to Target to buy a new CD player for them –they had saved up and decided to go together–trying to choose the best one for their money (they listen to audio books anytime they are in their room, that and Beethoven or swing praise). Instead of going for the fancy ones they went for a better one and chose some cell phone decoration stickers to decorate it (Target had them on sale). When that CD player didn’t work they decided to try the cheaper one instead of buying the same one or one of the cutesy ones.


Sunday they played all day after we had church together, doing many pretend games, so many that I couldn’t keep track of them all. Today they helped me clean up the yard (we are supposed to get snow tomorrow and needed to get all the summer toys into the basement.) When my mom showed up needing help (her car battery died) we stopped, ran her to

Walmart where we returned the broken CD (Rachel explained to the lady what was wrong with it and asked for their money back so she could decide on a different one) and chose a new cheaper one and some more cell phone stickers. We also perused the 75% off Halloween stuff looking for Christmas presents for each of them (cheap dress up clothes are a great Christmas present).



When we returned home we attacked the back again, burning all that needed burned and putting the rest of the stuff away. This prompted an impromptu lesson on fires and how they burn. The kids spent most of the afternoon trying to figure out how best to keep the fire burning without making it blaze. If you recall earlier this summer our neighbor died in a huge gasoline fire that took his house-sized garage as well as all the equipment he stored there. Since then the kids have had a great fear of the house burning down (they saw the fire–they couldn’t help it, our yard was full of onlookers and the firefighters were everywhere). However, they used this fire to experiment, testing to see how long it took different types of sticks to catch fire, what worked best, what caused a blaze, what smothered it, how to put out a fire (kick sand on it–just like on Rescure Heroes where they learned quite a bit about fire safety including how forest fires worked–you wouldn’t believe what they explained to me about forest fires during the California fires). They collected fire fuel from from our yard, from our garbage bins, from the neighbors yards, from the collection of cardboard boxes they had stored in the basement (they used them to build all sorts of buildings, race cars, whatevers). They kept at it for several hours until it started to pour down rain and thunder. Now they sit drinking hot carob and listening to Adventures in Odyssey and eating some supper they made themselves. I know Rachel plans to work on her Young Nanowrimo this evening, as does Esther. They also paused a bit to peruse the Target toy gift catalog, found a doll house that was perfect for their Only Hearts Club dolls and called Grandma, telling her they had a $10 off coupon and would she consider getting it for the two of them as their only Christmas present from her and Pappap–they knew about how much she usually spent on them and that if they shared it would be about right. They had already made a request for another Cabbage Patch doll to add to their collection from the other grandma.


They also played several board games, including Scategories, Blockus, and Perpetual Notion in there somewhere, built several projects with their wooden marble game, last night we practiced swing dancing to Benny Goodman, read part of a Wishbone book and part of William Bennet’s Treasury of Heroes, and they did a whole lot of drawings and wrote several letters to friends. They also carried clean and dirty laundry to where it belonged, sorted the laundry, helped put the clean laundry away, cleaned up the kitchen, and did several other normal chores. These kids lead busy lives. 🙂


Occasionally it is tempting to feel bad that they aren’t doing “real” school, that our classroom in the basement sits unused. If they are working in their books they would rather do it by the fireplace or on the floor of their rooms. And when they aren’t, they are learning to use real money, to cook real meals, to buy groceries, to clean up after themselves, to love the Lord, to love each other, to serve one another, to help their neighbors, to deal with uncomfortable situations maturly, to perevere if they want to learn how to do something, how to get over their fears and solve problems. It might mean the house is messier than it would be if they spent their time working at the school desks doing “real” school, but all of our lives are richer and fuller because of it, they get to learn by living and grow in the process, they learn things you can’t get out of books–especially problem solving, how to be social in different settings, and develop character. They learn how to stay out of smoke, how to smother and build a fire, how to serve one another. Is my house a mess, more than likely. Is it worth it, absolutely.