Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Determined to Master: Sponge Cakes

As a child and teen I attended country 'do's' and dances, at each of these events the tables would groan with home baked goodies carried in by the farmer's wives. Caramel, chocolate and jam slices, scones with jam and cream, a variety of cakes, layered sponge cakes, goodies upon more goodies.  

My brother and I spent many holiday's at our Great Uncle and Aunty's dairy farm, Uncle would rise early to milk the cows and we'd help. We were back at the house by 8 o'clock eating breakfast on a pretty tablecloth, jam in glass dishes and creamy milk in pretty jugs, our Aunty certainly had the knack. Ah and the morning and afternoon teas, scones with jam and clotted cream, golden pikelets sprinkled with sugar, homemade biscuits and huge slabs of sponge cakes!  Our holidays were a wonderfully endless round of milking, horseback riding and eating, for two children whose mother believed fruit was healthier than baked goodies (she was correct) we were feasting royally indeed.

My Dad's family were farmers and farmer's wives can all bake, (at least that's how it appeared to a child, as a women I'm not so sure) my Grandmother baked mulberry pies and Christmas puddings and other goodies. As I come from a long line of farming women one would assume baking would just be something I'd know, sadly it is not so, perhaps one needs to grow up on a farm to imbibe this knowledge, or certainly to be hanging around farming women.  My friends and I do excitedly discuss all things cooking and baking but ours tends to be more of the nature of gluten free baking, sourdough breads, fermented foods, good fats, and healthy sugar options, all wonderful knowledge but deep down I would still love to be able to bake like the farming women of my childhood.

When we were first married I was determined to master bread making, I baked so many duds PC dubbed them bricks and joked I was rivaling our village's local brickworks.  Eventually after much perseverance I finally managed to master bread making.  I christened this 'The Year of the Bread'.

Fast forward to several years later and I was then determined to master scone making, my many duds this time became affectionately known as hockey pucks. I tried many 'no fail' recipes to no avail, eventually my friend Deanne took me step by step through the process and finally I had arrived!:) Instead of rolling my dough out I now just press and cut and always am successful. This became christened 'The Year of the Scone'.

Jelly Bean (10) has been expressing a desire to bake more and last week I suggested we try lamingtons.  First step for lamingtons involves making a sponge cake and that is were I met my 'Waterloo'.  Our first attempt resulted in a rubber 'cake', our second attempt was a slight improvement in texture but it certainly lacks height and tastes like a five day old cake. I'm sure the 'folding in' is where I'm going wrong but just what am I meant to be doing!? There are so many contradictory suggestions on just how to make the perfect sponge cake; some say the secret is the oven temperature, others say the order of ingredients, other recipes call for throwing all ingredients in together.  

Have any of my readers mastered the sponge cake? Bring on your recipes, tips and suggestions. 
By golly I'm determined this will be 'The Year of the Sponge'.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

This Week in Learning: October 17th, 2014

Our second week back, though despite my plans it turned out not to be an ordinary week, but then is there such a thing as an ordinary week with a houseful of children and a homeschooling lifestyle, I think not. One morning I spent a couple of hours with one child as they talked and talked about D&M topics (remember D&M? - deep and meaningful, 80s code word), always a precious gift to share a child's heart and time must always be made to listen. Unexpectedly the School Dental Clinic rang with appointments (no cost!) for the younger children on Wednesday morning and the older children shopped and packed for their trip, so there went one day. On Thursday the four older children set off on their adventure South, ten days away, attending a Ball and then the Christus Rex pilgrimage, a 130km walk over three days.

Friday I settled down with just the younger children, determined to 'hit the books hard' when an unknown car drove up, with shock I realised I had mixed up my weeks and it must be our local AP, approved person Greg, from the Board of Studies coming to approve my study plans for Jem (who has just turned 6). Fortunately I had written up his plans back in January when I wrote plans for the older children and was able to settle Greg down in front of the computer where I had posted them, even more fortunately PC was home for the day so was able to entertain the children.  Thankfully the house was halfway decent as we had put in some solid time cleaning the afternoon before. An hour chat with Greg, he is a lovely chap who is sadly retiring next year, approval for Jem granted and we went back to lessons.

In amongst these interruptions Einstein spent time registering and applying to attend a Summer Study program at our local (80km away) University.  As a homeschooled student he doesn't have a HSC so we are looking at alternative pathways to gain entry to University.  The University of his choice won't consider the STAT test (some Uni's do) as he is under 20, however they have suggested he enroll in Tafe and undertake Certificate 4 (6 month course) which will be sufficient to gain entry. We'd decided on that path when the thought of entry through a Summer Study program occurred to us. This would mean an intensive study period of 13 weeks, but he could then enter university at the beginning of 2015 with his peers.  So we spent hours over a couple of days, filling out forms to only be knocked back on the grounds that he didn't have a HSC and was under 18. Grrr, whilst we could take it further and pursue it, a University that doesn't think 'outside the box' probably isn't a good fit and we're feeling Peace, He has it under control. Lots of learning occurring, just different to 'my plans'.

Due to the unexpected, the older children and I didn't do any writing/grammar together, and though I know they were busy working on their independent work, the truth is I don't know what they actually achieved as we didn't get to discuss it. However I do know they set off on their trip with a copy of Beowulf to read and a huge tome of The Count of Monte Cristo, plus untold they packed their lesson books. Even if they achieve none of their academic goals in the next week they'll be learning other lessons; not only Australian geography but cooperativeness, adaptability, social skills, spirituality and endurance to name some.

The younger children did achieve more this week than last despite the interruptions so that was heartening. Solid maths learning is continuing, it does work much better when I am in the Study with them whilst they work on the computer. Had an interesting chat with Greg regards Jem's ability with maths (Kindy toggling between Grades 1 & 2 Maths) he suggested to be certain Jem's knowledge it is not all theory but practical too, some children are brilliant but can't always apply their knowledge practically.  Tossing around plans to have a day away from the more formal and to be more hands on, which would be beneficial for all the younger children anyhow.

Fell in love with All About Spelling all over again, the children aren't always so thrilled but I can see the depth of learning in this program. Most of our learning this week centered around our Leaping into Literature time.  Hours and hours of reading towering piles of picture books, longer texts and shorter, books on art, libraries, upcycling, Venice, Australia and lots more. We found some keepers and duds, way too many duds, most had come from online reservations, so Friday I headed into the library and browsed the shelves in person, hoping next week will be more a keeper week.

Still focusing on strengthening reading skills for Jelly Bean and Jack Jack.  JB is consistent in reading an hour a day!! JJ manages 15-20 minutes a day. The biggest issue with JB is finding reading material for her, she has only one Mercy Watson book to finish, so what to read next? She has definite ideas of what she will read or rather won't read, sigh. So to find early chapter readers for a 'selective' child.  Currently she is reading a variety of picture books, some harder than others, so a good solution.  I've reserved several early chapter readers from the library and frankly 99% of them are utter rubbish with attitude! I'm very particular about allowing attitude in books.

Bass continues to astound us with his total focus, he has continued this week to be all consumed with scissor cutting for hours and hours, though broadened his horizon to include colouring and drawing. He is most particular about holding his pencil correctly and comes each time to ask me if he has it correctly, at the beginning of the week he didn't, but he more often than not he does now. Today he has progressed to a fascination with letters and puzzles.  He bought a letter puzzle piece to me and wanted to find the letters on the keyboard, he sat there and kept 'matching' the letters on the puzzle to the keyboard.  Contemplating whether I should begin to teach him sounds, whilst I've usually begun around five, I'm wondering about the benefits of teaching a younger child. Bass would possibly be rather quick to pick it up.

So not really an ordinary week but then again the unexpected is probably our ordinary these days/years.

Linking up at The Wine Dark Sea's Guilt Free Learning Notes.

Friday, 17 October 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol 207)

Our five oldest are off adventuring, gone for ten days! Attending a Ball and then a pilgrimage. Princess (13) was very excited to be joining her older brothers and sister on the pilgrimage this year, not sure how excited she will be after walking 130km though;) Please pray for safety, Anna Maria (21) and Einstein (17) are sensible drivers but three days travel is a long trip.

Having only five children at home and all of them under 10 years is very strange. Enjoying it thus far, certainly it is a much slower pace, is quieter, less housework and cooking to do and everyone is in bed hours earlier than when the teenagers are home!  PC and I are pretty excited to be able to converse without teen ears perking up!  Definitely a whole different focus to our days, hoping to chat about it all later in the week.

The 2014 homeschool blog awards are open for nominations! Pop on over and nominate blogs you would like to see receive recognition. I always find the blog awards a great way to discover new blogs I hadn't previously discovered.

I was contacted by a newspaper reporter this week to discuss homeschooling, in particular homeschooling in our region. Is it on the increase? Why do most people homeschool and why do we homeschool? A little nervous as to how it will be received but I think it sounds okay.

Spent a couple of hours in the dentist surgery this week, check ups for the four youngest (those with teeth that is). As I knew we'd be there for that long I lugged along a huge pile of books to read.  I ended up sitting on the floor of the reception area reading to my children and five others.  Had a discussion about books with the other children and was astounded to discover that they haven't yet been to our new town library! Very hard to fathom that in a town our size there are still people who haven't visited just on 'sticky beak' value alone.

I have changed my settings to allow anonymous commenting again, hopefully I won't be deluged with too many unsuitable comments. Turned the anonymous comments back on for my Number One fan PC as he prefers to comment that way. Though comments lately have dropped way down or are non-existent, not sure if that means everyone is once again reading on iphones and not commenting, or if no-one is reading.  I'm assuming you're still out there:)

On another learning curve, trying to work out how facebook can be used to promote blogs, not real comfortable there yet. Also checking out Bloglovin' so that you can follow my blog with Bloglovin if that is your preferred feedly

Visit Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes

Leaping Into Literature: A Tradition

Last year towards the end of 4th term we immersed ourselves in literature, reading our way through towering piles of books, christening this time, Leaping into Literature. It was so popular we've decided to conclude our school year this way once again, thus a tradition has been born.

As per our approach last year we are focusing on literature and the 4Rs although this year our Leaping into Literature is more for the younger children. Our teenagers' focus is more of an intensive writing/grammar nature, so they aren't joining us other than reading as per usual, which translates to a a couple of books a week for each teen. Our first week back saw us settling into learning after a few weeks break and this week has seen more of the same, today though I wanted to chat about books.

This week we've managed to read our way through a slew of books, finding some 'keepers' and 'duds', actually thus far more of the dud variety than keepers. Our library allows us to reserve 30 books per card, thus with twelve family members you can image we're keeping our librarians busy this term;) Sharing our finds here, more detailed reviews on some titles to follow and for my local readers, all the books listed can be borrowed from our regional library.

I asked Jelly Bean (10) and Jack Jack (8) to give a star rating as a quick guide regards the keepers and duds, they considered interest when rating and were tough critics, I would have rated a couple slightly higher than they did.

Katie and the Bathers - Jame Mayhew 4.5 Star
Katie and the Spanish Princess - James Mayhew 4 Star
Katie and the British Artists - James Mayhew 3.5 star
Katie and Scotland - James Mayhew 2 Star
Art Collector - Jan Wahl 3 Star
A Bird in Winter - Helene Kerillis 2 Star
Art & Max - David Wiesner 0 Star

The Emu that Laid the Golden Egg - Yvonne Morrison 4 Star
There Was an Old Sailor - Claire Saxby 4 Star
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed A Mozzie - P Crumble 3 .5 Star
Fire - Jackie French 3.5 Star
Warambi - Aleesah Darlison  3.5 Star
My Two Blankets - Irena Kobald 3.5 Star
The Treasure Box - Margaret Wild 3.5 Star
Banjo and Ruby Red - Libby Gleeson 3 Star
Coming Home - Sharon McGuinness 2.5 Star 
Come Fly With Captain Kangaroo - Mandy Foot 1.5 Star 
Today We Have No Plans - Jane Godwin 1.5 Star
Little Cat and the Big Red Bus - Jane Goodwin 1.5 Star
The Dream of the Thylacine -Margaret Wild 1.5 Star
Ebi's Boat - Claire Saxby 1 Star
No More Kisses - Margaret Wild 0 Star
Moving House: The Queenslander a House for Life - Sasi Victoire 0 Star

The Library - Sarah Stewart 4.5 Star
Library Mouse a Friend's Tale - Daniel Kirk 3.5 Star
The Bush Book Club - Margaret Wild 2.5 Star
The Children Who Loved Books - Peter Carnavas 2.5 Star
Babies Love Books - Catherine & Laurence Anholt 1 Star 
Lola at the Library - Anna McQuinn 1 Star

The Dumpster Diver - Janet S Wong 4 Star
The Room of Wonders - Sergio Ruzzier 2.5 Star

Oscar and the Bird: A Book about Electricity - Geoff Waring 2.5 Star
Let's Go Rock Collecting - Roma Gans 2.5 Star (Read and Find Out)

Short Chapter 
Sarky Puddleboat - Eve Branson 4 Star

Olivia Goes To Venice - Ian Falconer 1.5 Star (I thought rating a little harsh for both)
Chase Through Venice - Sally Gould 1.5 star

Ahmed and the Feather Girl - Jane Ray 4 Star
That's What Leprechauns Do - Eve Bunting 3.5 Star
Moonbird - Joyce Dunbar 3.5 Star
Town Mouse Country Mouse - Jan Brett 3.5 Star
Alfie Wins a Prize - Shirley Hughes 2 Star
When Dads Don't Grow Up - Marjorie Blain Parker 1 Star
Around the House the Fox Chased the Mouse: Adventures in Prepositions - Rick Walton 0 Star
Stretch - Doreen Cronin 0 Star
Dooby Dooby Moo - Doreen Cronin  0 Star
Necks out for Adventure - Timothy Basil Ering 0 Star
I Am Pangoo the Penguin - Satomi Ichikawa 0 Star
Oddly - Joyce Dunbar 0 Star
The Book Book - Nathaniel Lachenmeyer 0 Star
The Little Dinosaur - Catriona Hoy 0 Star
Parachute - Danny Parker  0 Star
Betsy Red Hoodie - Gail Carson Levine  0 Star

Sharing at The Wine Dark Sea's Guilt Free Learning Notes Linkup

Friday, 10 October 2014

This Week in Learning: October 10th, 2014

This week was our first week back studying, our last term of the year, I'd be less than truthful if I said it was all plain sailing.  I wrote an email on the first day to a new homeschooling mama encouraging her, words that are true for myself too, "... never expect too much your first day, usually a few tears all around, so hugs and prayers today." After nearly two decades of homeschooling I have finally learnt to tone my hopes down to realistic bites. When PC asked how our day had gone, I was able to answer happily, "really good" and it was, even though we had only put in two hours of study, over the years I have scaled back my expectations for first days.  Planning is another area in which I've finally learnt moderation, I used to spend days and days planning units that never happened, these days I've scaled back on how many hours I spend planning, always knowing it will need a tweak here and there for a few areas over the first week.  All this 'wisdom' I hasten to add has been hard won.

This term Anna Maria (21) has offered to undertake teaching our younger children their maths, reading and Faith. This frees me up to focus on teaching the older children.  As it is Einstein's (17) last term learning with us:( there are several areas I'd like to strengthen before we call "it a day". Our plan is, that I spend a couple of solid hours daily with our teenagers, studying various Language Arts; grammar, writing, literary analysis and for some; spelling and handwriting. We managed to spend 2 days out of the 4 this week, putting in several solid hours on grammar and writing skills. Studying the various types of nouns and pronouns, and the purposes of writing and different styles of writing. Aside from undertaking their Language Arts block with me the older children also have independent work to do.

Einstein's studies consisted of reading more from the Beginning Apologetics Set and devouring at least five of the Louis de Wohl books we own.  I totally understand as Louis de Wohl is worth gulping, he writes SO well.  Einstein and a friend still have their Physics teacher coming out each week; currently the boys are studying the history of atoms and the periodic table, they have achieved so much with him, he has been a real blessing.  Einstein also spent time researching University courses and then ringing the various Universities in regards to their entry requirements, and also enrolled in the STAT test which he takes next month. This has been a whole new steep learning curve for Einstein and I'm very proud of how he has gone about researching and communicating with the Universities. He continues to be popular with his work (local green grocers) and is one of the first employees they call.

Michelangelo's independent studies included solid progress with his maths, and he also made great progress with his readings; beginning Science Matters and Modern Times and continuing with Brenda Runkle's Geography and Beginning Apologetics Set. Reading is a favourite pastime of his a fact which always brings me pleasure when I recall how he didn't become a reader until eleven. He enjoyed a couple of novels this week too, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the newly released book The Blood of Olympus.

Princess has decided to study the Early Middle Ages this term, I'm slowly putting together a plan of books to read, maps to draw and timeline dates to note.  I'd also like her to attempt an essay or two and a couple of projects.  For this week though we had a discussion about 'all things medieval' an introduction to the topic.

Princess also worked hard on her maths as she wants to finish the level she is working on by the end of the year.  For science she is focusing on various nature studies and thanks to our Language Arts studies she has expressed an interest in brushing up on her knowledge of correct punctuation.  looking through the various resources sitting on our shelves, I really think the best are the older school text books, their approach really was excellent.  Princess pleasure reading was a re-read of Prairie Thief, and she is also enjoying being back at her ballet lessons, lots of study there as they prepare for the end of the year concert. 

Our young lady turned thirteen this week and received her first ipod, also her brother uploaded Singstar onto her computer so there has been lots of singing happening.  It is rather odd listening to people sing when they can hear the music and you can't.  

For this term I wrote on the children's 'expectation sheets' that Jelly Bean (10) and Jack Jack (8) were to read for an hour a day, breaking the hour into 15 minute segments, they just need practice. JB is an independent and diligent soul and was determined to do her reading 'on her own' which she has done! So heartening to see her become enthused about reading again, re-reading a Mercy Watson book in one sitting! We've been at a plateau stage since March so hoping we move forward.  JJ hasn't been quite as diligent at reading, more hitting the 15 minute a day time frame, still happy with his progress though.

All three younger children; JB, JJ and Jem have powered ahead in maths, the boys particularly amaze me at their comprehension and quickness, the both certainly play with numbers in their heads.  Jem (6) decided today to tackle the Grade 2 maths and it's still within his capability. 

Last year in Term 4 we began our Leap into Literature focus, whereas the younger children and I delved into piles of quality picture books, learning about a variety of topics in a most enjoyable way. Well it appears that it is now 'a tradition';) We're enjoying a Leap into Literature term again, the piles of books are arriving from the library and we've begun diving in already:) I'll be sharing booklists over the next several week, and am so excited with finds already:)

Bass was completely single minded and focused this week, he set out to master using scissors.  He kept asking me to place his fingers in the correct hold, then he would struggle to move the scissors, I would have to manually move his fingers together then apart.  He persisted for days, hours at a time, finally he began getting the 'hang of it". He is sooo proud of himself, as he should be:)

Outdoor learning has been all about the pool with the advent of the warmer weather. Though with Princess receiving movies for her birthday there has been a bit too much screen time. Having the influence of older children has long created a struggle to find a balance regards screen time, and this need for balance is not just for the younger children but for the older ones too, and dare I say for parents too, I've been thinking this week about what we are modelling to our children in relation to screen use, but then that is 'a story for another day.'