Summer has officially set in; it’s been a weird week. So, I offer you a short, curious, and (hopefully) fascinating hodge podge of interesting homemaking and homeschooling how-to’s.
1. How to keep homeschooling all summer. My intent, whenever anyone asked, was that we would keep homeschooling all summer, just on a more laid-back schedule. Diva was supposed to get through the first forty lessons of Saxon Math 2, which appear to be almost entirely review. Crash was going to start Saxon Math 1, in order to reduce the lessons per week required during the “normal” school year. I was even going to pull out the letter-a-week program I had done with Diva for Empress… ok, you can laugh now. I have managed to get precisely none of that done. We have, however, done a lot of reading, especially on the American Revolution, Constitution, and associated historical people. We’ve discussed the eating, hunting, and sleeping habits of bears (complete with fully interactive learning environment with cave and fish).
I’m calling it a lesson learned, for the kids and for me.
2. How to get free books. Always a popular topic in our house. If owning twenty books is an excellent indicator of future success, my kids are going to take over the world. (Yes, someone did a study… so they started giving away books, ignoring the fact that it was probably more a question of the parents who would bother to get books than the books themselves).
Our preferred method this summer for free book acquisition is the public library reading program. Diva filled in her entire summer’s worth of reading in under a month. We went to the library, she got a scented pencil and a new book: The Princess Gown by Linda Leopold Strauss. Crash was so excited about the possibilities about a new book, and especially one particular one I mentioned that was in the pile, that he bugged me until I offered to read to him for an hour and ten minutes to finish out his sheet. Slightly hoarse, we were back at the library before lunch. Fortunately for my sanity, the book was still there, waiting just for Crash: Chee-Lin: A Giraffe’s Journey by James Runford, about a giraffe born in Africa who eventually ends up in the Chinese emperor’s animal park, seen by the Chinese as the mythical Qilin (pronounced chee-lin), predictor of peace and prosperity.
3. How to introduce your children to great literature at a young age. Specifically, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. We have been reading about a chapter a night, out loud, everyone together in the living room. (This is also how we read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Winnie the Pooh (the original version), and Desperaux (better in the book, I think, from what little I saw of the movie)).
My husband does a truly convincing impression of Gollum. So convincing, in fact, that Empress mimicked it back to him, then ran off to find two plastic swords, shoved them into her shorts, and waltzed back into the living room to pull them out simultaneously with a menacing, “Argh!” She at least got the point that Gollum was dangerous, and that this story required swords. Preferably, multiple swords.
The older two kids are just eating this up. They were a little jumpy, expecting to see the dragon in the next five pages, but elves, trolls, and goblins have kept them occupied for the last few chapters.
4. How to make yogurt easily. Fill a lidded bowl with milk. Heat to 100 degrees F. Separately, mix some of the warm milk with three tablespoons of active culture yogurt. Mix into the larger bowl of warm milk. Leave in the sun on a warm (but not too hot) day. (Worked well today, at 79 degrees, in the sun.) Pour off liquid, leaving yogurt. Refrigerate.
5. How to thresh wheat. This was coming to a head (pardon the pun). I had a bag of wheat heads from last fall sitting on the kitchen counter that I still hadn’t threshed, plus a new harvest. It was past time to figure out what to do with it. (Why? a) Because I can. b) Because fresh wheat is supposed to be more nutritious. c) Because I like to bake bread and was interested in the process. But mostly because of a).) I saw several suggestions online on how to do this without much (or no) equipment.
What I ended up doing was putting the wheat heads (snipped off the stalks, which went into the compost bin) in an old pillowcase, holding the end shut, and beating the living daylights out of it with the sharp edge of a yard stick on the kitchen countertop. Every so often, open the pillowcase and check to see how it’s going: you want to burst open the heads and shake out the heavier, dark brown wheat kernel. (If the kernels are still in the head, it will still feel heavy, and you can get them out by twisting it in your fingers.)
When you think you’re about done, shake everything into the bottom of the sack. With the right kind of shaking (smoother is better), the large chaff will work its way to the top. Take out the biggest chunks. Using an old sheet, take what you have left (wheat kernels and small chaff) outside. (A day with a light, fairly steady breeze works best.) Slowly pour the wheat stuff into the middle of the sheet. The heavier wheat kernels will fall more or less straight down, and the chaff will blow off to the side. Regather the stuff in the middle, put it in a clean bowl, shake the chaff off the sheet, and do it again. After a few times, your wheat should be pretty clean. (Sorry, I thought I had a picture of that step…)
This also serves as a great illustration for kids about all those Biblical references about wheat and chaff, winnowing fans, etc. And my kids love eating it straight.
6. How to enjoy your summer reading. Mostly, I’ve done this by avoiding the “summer reading” fluff. I’m working through Democracy in America by de Tocqueville and a variety of other not-so-light reading. I find that my brain, as my body, is always happier and healthier, long-term, for devouring solid, nourishing food instead of empty calories. To quote G.K. Chesterton, displayed on one of my lovely new magnets from Dale Ahlquist’s booth at the homeschoolers’ conference:
The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.
See the Library page, with the nested links to What I’m reading now, and, coming soon, what I’ve just finished, suggestions for adopting parents, suggestions for kids books, etc. Of course, on top of all that, the New papal encyclical just came out, so I want to get to that, too.
7. How to improve your blog. Jen at Conversion Diary (who is also the generous host of 7 Quick Takes Friday; go browse the other bloggers’ thoughts), wrote two articles (part 1 and part 2) on how to make your blog more appealing and attract more traffic. Well, I don’t know about attracting more traffic, but I would certainly like to make The Political Housewyf more readable and pleasant to look at. So, I took several of her suggestions: the re-design to a lighter scheme, doing something to make the blog more unique (Mistress Housewyf, just under the blog header, sort of a blog version of a mood ring), being more aware of what shows up “above the fold”, trying to remember to comment on other blogs, etc.
(Of course, I also ignored the parts about keeping the blog mostly focused on one topic.)