Thursday, March 29, 2012

a month in the life

Ironically one of the biggest thoughts family, friends, and complete strangers pelt me with on a regular basis concerns not the school part of homeschooling, but the home part. Thanks largely in part to television and sensationalism (oxymoron!), they envision us sitting around 24 hours a day isolating our kids from the rest of the world. Many people now understand that homeschooled kids are often academically ahead, but still we're accused of "not socializing our children," as though a typical school classroom is the answer to everyone's problems.

To better illustrate some of the social opportunities my kids were given this month, I thought I would list them out and include some photographs. Our lack of isolation is boldly apparent. This month included the local public school spring break with which our P.E. programs coincide, so the number of classes attended was a little less than usual.

As homeschoolers we had eighteen official gatherings in March:

we participated in seven homeschool P.E. classes

we visited a park with P.E. classmates seven times

our homeschool co-op hosted three book club meetings

we attended one field trip to a Civil War reenactment camp

As 4-H members some or all of my kids took part in three events in March:

we attended one club meeting

we participated in one county-level club meeting

Alexei competed in the (one) 4-H state air rifle competition

As a family:

we watched one Civil War battle reenactment

we witnessed the miracle of life when one of the kids' 4-H show rabbits had babies

As regular old kids living in a busy neighborhood:

we were guests at two parties

the kids played with their neighborhood friends on numerous evenings and weekends, interacted with siblings, went on shopping trips, took care of our leased horse, etc., etc., like any regular old kids do.

One thing my kids don't seem to lack is social opportunity. Contrary to belief, there's not really a lot of staying home involved in homeschooling!

Monday, March 19, 2012

homemade granola bars

I've been on a bit of a rampage lately trying to straighten out our eating habits. It seems like I can't get away from the horror stories online about preservatives, processed foods, the dangers of soy, and genetically modified grains. I've always been great about making desserts from scratch (my waistline bears testament to that) but I would buy whatever was on sale for the kids to snack on. Then I started reading ingredient lists and it all sounded kind of gross! I'm taking baby steps to healthier snacks, and granola bars were one of the easiest things I found to make; they are delicious. Like I have to restrain myself and remember that these are for the kids. And then I eat them anyway.

I found the basic recipe here for chewy granola bars and then read through a bunch of the comments and followed the ones that sounded credible. Less butter and melt it, add crisped rice for texture, cut the chocolate in half. I made a test batch and decided to cut the flour in half also, and the end result is almost identical to pre-packaged granola bars but I can spell what's in these. This version is soy and dairy free (less chocolate chips); my youngest is sensitive or allergic to soy and the boxed kind contains soy three times in the ingredient list.

I'm a very visual person and I actually wanted to see what was in each snack-sized portion, so this is exactly the amount of what's in each bar; I added chocolate chips to these but next time I want to try dried apples. I'll probably replace half the butter with applesauce and add a little cinnamon. So many possibilities!

Here was my final recipe:

1/2 cup butter
4 cups quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup crisped rice
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup honey
1 cup chocolate chips (or other add-in, if desired)

1. Preheat oven to 325º and lightly grease 9 x 13 pan.
2. In a large bowl, melt butter in microwave. Stir in oats, crisped rice, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, vanilla, and honey until well combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
3. Press tightly into pan and bake for 17-19 minutes or until just starting to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately press bars down with the bottom of another pan until compressed down. Cool completely before cutting into 18 bars.

I roll each one up in a bit of plastic wrap so they're less tempting to eat like cookies (you know, by the handful ;) and then stack them in a sealed container in the pantry.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

the child to travel ratio

We used to enjoy traveling quite a bit. It wasn't all luxury cruises, jaunts in our RV, and fancy day spas (okay, it wasn't ever any of those), but we loved exploring and tried to swing a trip as often as possible. These were the states we visited and/or occupied when we had one kid:

Clearly we're not cold weather people, but we got around. 

Then kid #2 came along and here's where we went:

Still not bad. A little closer to home but fun times were had by all. Everyone survived. 

Then kids 3 and 4 were born and here's where we went:

That whole travel thing just doesn't work anymore.

you can play with your own travel map here :

Saturday, March 3, 2012

trügen schmügen

I hate IKEA. Yes, I know, I can hear all the gasping from my throng of IKEA-loving friends right now, but I'm not ashamed to admit it. IKEA and I are incompatible. Fighting with the half-assembled loft bed snickering behind me on its smug little Swedish-exclusive parts has something to do with it, but there's more.

1. Once you enter IKEA, you are committed to IKEA. I've only been one time and it was with three small children in tow [see above], and a stroller. BIG mistake. It was like being trapped in a weird Groundhog Day-esque series of tiny little houses for years. I thought Ibis wasn't going to make it out alive. Call me claustrophobic.

2. We were there to purchase a cutting board. In spite of IKEA's Swedish claims, the cutting board we bought was made in China. I could have gone to Wal-Mart for that.

3. Yesterday we bought a cute little IKEA loft bed for Coral, and I figured we were okay on the whole I hate IKEA stance since it was "pre-owned" and we didn't have to go there. Got the thing home and it was missing six of the special dowel nuts that hold it together. Guess who uses dowel nuts pretty much exclusively? IKEA.

4. I hate meatballs.

update: we went to IKEA today and they gave us the replacement hardware for free, which was pretty cool; thankfully we had a store within driving distance

update update: I still hate meatballs