Sunday, January 29, 2012
Last weekend I spent my Saturday afternoon on the computer. That's not out of the ordinary, but what I did was a little different than usual. Instead of writing for one of the blogs, or researching recipes, gardening techniques, or homeschool resources, I watched TED cover "Changing the Way We Eat".
I didn't get to watch the talks in their entirety, but what I did see got me really excited. Excited about eating local, making local better available for urbanites, eradicating food deserts, and changing people's perception about food. So far I haven't been able to find the rebroadcast online, but I'll try to post the links here when they do become available.
In the meantime, you should really check out some of the fabulous speakers from the TEDxManhattan event. Those that got me most excited included Stephen Ritz and his "Edible Wall". He's helped to motivate and initiate a program (The Green Bronx Machine) that's produced more than 25,000 pounds of fresh produce in the Bronx and improve the lives of the over 2,200 kids in one of the poorest areas of the country through education and motivation. This guy is truly motivating.
I also liked the funny Cara Rosean, one of the people who brought us RealTimeFarms.com. It's something like Google Earth with user updated information about restaurants, farms, and markets. What's really great is that it's integrated so that you can know which restaurants and markets offer which farm's produce - and then go on to learn more about the farmer's techniques through links to their websites. I was recently introduced to Real Time Farms through our Dark Days Challenge and have used it on several occasions to locate farm stands and restaurants offering local food.
AmpleHarvest.org's Gary Oppenheimer who's mission is near and dear to my heart also made an appearance. Over the past several years I've tried to donate a portion of my excess produce to someone, or some place, that could use it. When I was in Tennessee I offered some of my veggies to a local women's shelter. Ample Harvest is an organization that supplies local food pantries connections to gardeners that want to share their excess food.
I think the most shocking presentation was given by Stefani Bardin who is studying the comparison of whole versus processed foods and how they affect our bodies internally. This clinical study makes use of a camera in pill form and shows how food is digested. This one's not for the squeamish, but I highly suggest watching it: M2A: The Fantastic Voyage.
There's more information available on the other speakers and organizations from the TEDxManhattan event here. I highly suggest taking a few minutes to check out the speakers because they are, and will continue to be, making a huge impact on the way that we eat.
Friday, January 27, 2012
This week I got my annual supply of meyer lemons from the Lemon Ladies out in California. No it's not local, but neither is the rice that I use on a regular basis. They are, however, fed with organic fertilizer and grown here in the States - as opposed to being imported from Asia, the Mediterranean, Africa ....
In spirit of all this lemony goodness, I thought I'd revisit some of my previous posts. You see, I'm trying to use up as much of these while they're fresh. Seriously fresh - they were picked on Sunday! So I'm going through all of the lemon recipes I've listed, posted, and saved. I've even got a board devoted to lemon recipes over at Pinterest! I've got my zester and graters at the ready and my ice cube trays cleaned out. The only question is: cake or muffins first?
And there will be lemon curd. Lots and lots of it.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Last week at Not Dabbling in Normal I posted about our choice to educate our daughter at home. I thought I'd share some of my resources because, well, homeschooling can be expensive. I'm starting off this short series with some online resources, which I'll follow with a list of some wonderful blogs and then some really, really great iPad apps. All of these resources are something that I or my daughter use regularly. Most are free while some may require small purchases for additional resources like books or experiment ingredients. I'll also include the curriculum we're using as well as the textbooks and workbooks that we have purchased in a later post.
For most of those of us who homeschool there's usually a specific reason we've left the public school system. It could be dissatisfaction with teaching techniques, or religious differences, or you may have a special needs child. Whatever the reason for leaving, I find it interesting that many homeschoolers still try to model their educational styles after public schools. It's almost inherent if we, as children, went to a public school. After all, it's what we know. I try to remind myself regularly that I can make my own guidelines and schedules - or go completely without. (But first you need to be aware of your state laws.) One thing I do try to keep up on are the state or core standards. While I don't necessarily follow them line by line, I reference them as a general guideline. I find by keeping my daughter involved with as much educational material possible that she usually exceeds the common core standards.
I won't lie - I do stress and worry about my daughter's education on a regular basis. I go through bouts of feeling overwhelmed or that I'm not doing as much as I can. I honestly think that's healthy because it forces me to re-evaluate what may or may not be working. The key is to remember what your focus is and build on that, but not to be so rigid that you can't look outside of the box. Last year my focus was to "undo" the thought patterns that public education instilled in my daughter by reducing some structure and proving some stereotypes wrong. This year we're working on proving that learning is fun - that it's not always about sitting down in front of a boring workbook and that you can make any moment an opportunity to learn. Finding your focus can be helpful in reducing excessive spending as well as to streamline your resources down to what you'll use or need.
For today's installment, here's some of the most helpful websites we've come across. Feel free to add some of your favorites in the comment section.
Math and Science:
Kahn Academy - "Learn almost anything for free" - and they mean it. Whether it's developmental math, calculus, chemistry, art history, the GMAT, or if you just want a brain puzzler, this is the place to go! This awesome website includes instructional videos for so many themes that you almost don't need a teacher!
MSNucleus for elementary science. A fabulous free resource for teaching all types of science to elementary age students. We started with applied science and have since moved on to physics and life sciences. What's great about this site is that it's designed for each age group so that every year you're adding to existing knowledge instead of repeating the same information every year. This is also a free resource, however some of the experiments require items that you probably won't have around the house. I usually make do with what we have as there are plenty of options for each experiement.
Other fun science sites:
SpanishTown - A really awesome site that focuses on teaching Spanish to all ages for free.
Salsa - We found Salsa last year. After we fell in love with the PBS-style episodes, the host disallowed non-members access. Now it's back and available and free to all!
A Year in Art: The Activity Book - Not a website, but it is one of the few "textbooks" that we use. I picked it up at our art museum in Nashville, but you can find it online here. It uses simple techniques to help anyone - any age - think about art. It uses images of famous works of art to teach art theory, outlines of famous works to encourage creativity by allowing the user to color the images, and it's got smatterings of art history on just about every page.
While I'm no musician I can still play a few songs on the piano. What I can't really do is teach music to my child well enough beyond a simple appreciation. I'll leave that to music teachers (if she can ever settle on an instrument). In the meantime, I can promote that appreciation for music by allowing her to listen to the same music I listen to and to introduce her to a few cool and free sites like these:
Teoria - Teaches music theory and "ear training skills" without the boring repetition of music lessons.
High C - Create your music visually by drawing it. Definitely a fun site.
I also defer to Ambleside Online for their curriculum for musicians and artists when I feel the need to teach about the history of classic musicians and visual artists. I'll add more on them a little further down the list.
Curriculum and Administrative Resources:
Our main curriculum is historically-based using Bringing up Learners Mosaic program. It thoughtfully incorporates reading, poetry, and history with a few experiments thrown in to give a pretty well-rounded education. What I like most about it is that you can choose to incorporate a religious or secular theme based on your desires. I've omitted a few books, like Winnie the Pooh, and opted for something my daughter would appreciate more (Charlotte's Web). We did purchase the big history and poetry books as well as the activity books and few smaller readers. Most can be found at even small libraries and some are even available on Kindle. You can also purchase the maps, however they have been updated and don't correspond to the pages listed in the older curriculum. I haven't minded spending the money on the resources as they're something we'll return to over and over again - and being our main curriculum this is one of the biggest educational finances we have this year. This is a freely accessible curriculum that you can mold to your needs.
Homeschool Buyers Co-op : a cooperative of homeschooling families with a plethora of deals on educational services, curriculum, books, and pay for use websites. We've gotten great deals on services like Explode the Code online and Discovery Education as well as discounts on books. You can also find and sell used books and tools as a member. I highly recommend accessing the suggested pages for local field trips!
Donna Young - A website with a comprehensive list of planning and administrative printouts. Includes scheduling and planning pages, handwriting worksheets and several different styles of ruled paper to print at home. She's also got links, tips, and suggestions for teaching individual courses. This site puts to shame all of those resources that ask you to pay for their services. It's huge and it's mostly free!
Ambleside Online is a completely free curriculum based on Charlotte Mason's style. As I mentioned earlier I mainly use it for teaching about musicians and artists, but refer to it on occasion for Nature Study.
Apples 4 the Teacher - a great free resource for elementary age worksheets, calendars, holiday information, and games.
Dance Mat Typing - in this computer age I feel it is extremely important that my daughter learns to type young. This is a free site dedicated to younger kids, thanks to the BBC. /schools/typing/
Poisson Rouge - A really awesome conceptual site. Great for kids under the age of 8, especially younger children. It's en francais, which makes it even nicer so that kids don't feel they have specific rules or goals. This is just one of those sites that's completely charming and a "game" I don't mind my girl playing during school time.
Come back later in the week for the next installment when I'll include some awesome blogs. I'm sure I'll have updates to add to this post, so keep your eyes peeled!