Black Bird

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Green Smoothies - mmmm

Right after Christmas I decided that I would start every day with a green smoothie.  I did this for a couple reasons - 1 is I want to loose more weight and this is a good way to do that, and 2 I'm not a breakfast eater so this was a good compromise for me.  So why a green smoothie?  Well why not!!! They are yummy, they are nutritious and shhhhh you can hide things in there and get your kids to drink them.  

Here is my simple recipe for a delish smoothie every day.

1 handful of Kale
1 handful of spinach
1/2 cup of fruit - fresh or frozen
2 cups almond milk*
1/2 cup kefir or yogurt**
1 fresh banana OR 1/2 frozen banana***
1 whole avocado
1 scoop Juice Plus Complete powder

Add your milk and yogurt - blend.  Add your other ingredients one at a time and blend in between.

*You can use another kind of milk if you like but I wouldn't recommend real milk.  If you want to add juice then do 1 1/2 cups of milk and 1/2 cup of juice.

**I recommend Greek yogurt if you are going in that direction.

***I have found that when you freeze a banana the flavor gets stronger.

Some might ask about the price on this.  Well let me explain how I do this.  I look for sales on things.  I get Kale in huge amounts when it gets to be about 99 cents or less a bunch.  Same thing with the spinach - stock up when it's cheap.  For fruit - Aldi's!!!  I get my pineapple for $1.49 for 1 and chop it up myself.  Strawberries are 99 cents.  Banana's I get as low as 33 cents a pound.  Almond milk and kefir I get a dollar or more cheaper at Aldi's. 

Now next question - what do you do with all that fruit and veggies when you get it home and can't use it up in a few days.  I freeze it.  I clean it all when I get home.
I strip the kale off it's stem.  I then bag it in baggies, squeeze the air out and then freeze it.

This preserves my kale and spinach and extends the life.  I also do this with all my fruit except the bananas and avocados.  You don't have to do anything special to it except freeze it.  This makes it so easy to buy in bulk and use it later.  It's also nice because in the morning I grab a bag of kale, spinach and fruit and toss them in the blender.  Since everything is done before hand it makes it fast and easy. 

Now I do use a lot of baggies to do this, but instead of throwing them away after each use, I get a gallon bag and put the baggies inside and stick them back into the freezer.  This way I can reuse them the next time and I don't have to worry about washing them out.  This saves money and time.

This recipe does make a lot, enough for 2 nice sized glasses.  So what do you do if you are the only one eating it - well what I do is make them into Popsicles.  Healthy yummy Popsicles.  Such an awesome healthy treat for a hot summer.

So there you go - a delish easy way to have a yummy green smoothie every morning.

Healthy hugs,

Monday, June 9, 2014

Gluten free cornbread

My family loves corn bread.  Especially when paired with chili or taco hot pot.  So when cutting out the gluten and wheat it was one thing they missed the most.  I enjoy it too just not as much as they do and when I have it I want it hot with real butter and honey mmmmm.

On my search for a gluten free corn bread I found a couple mixes that I thought would work so I'm going to do my review of these 2 mixes.  I do have a third that I haven't tried yet but will here soon.

The first GF mix I tried was Glutino Yankee Cornbread & Muffin mix.  We loved this one.  It was moist and tasted a lot like regular corn bread.  I had nothing left after dinner which is a good indication that it was loved.  The mix requires a few extra ingredients besides what is in the box but it's worth it.

Picture from the WWW

The second mix I tried was Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Cornbread Mix.  Now this one required less added ingredients but it was not near as good.  It was on the bitter side, not cornbread bitter but like something was added that shouldn't have been.  It was also very dry.  Now when I say dry I mean really dry.  When I was mixing up the batter all I could think was wow this is really thick and sticky.  I reread what to add several times thinking I had missed something, but alas I hadn't.  When my family tried it they commented on how dry it is.  I had left overs - never a good sign.  It could be that I did something wrong but I did follow the instructions and it was still dry.  

Picture from the WWW
Now I'm not expert when reviewing products but I do know what I like.  Would I use Glutino again?  YES!!!  Would I use Bob's Red Mill again?  Maybe, with a few changes like more liquid.  I have one more mix to try and it's the Aldi's brand.  Once we try that I will post a review of that as well.  So that is my review of the two mixes I've tried so far.  I will also be seeking out recipes and will critique those at some point.

Healthy hugs,

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Homeschooling what not Part 4

I do believe this will be the final installment of this set of homeschooling segments.  I've kinda jumped around a bit and probably should have done yesterdays today and today's yesterday but this is how it worked out.  There are 2 subjects I will be talking about today.  Science (oooooh the dreaded experiments) and Language arts.  Both of which send most people over the edge, but I'll break it down for you as to how I do it.

So the first one is Science.  Now really folks how hard is this?  It's not hard at all.  Baking soda and vinegar is all it takes - it creates a chemical reaction and bubbles form and oh yea fun.  But it's also practical as you can read here.  So in one fail swoop you have taught science and a life skill.  It doesn't seem like much but it really is.  Now pair that with a scientific method worksheet and you have curriculum.  At the last homeschooling conference we met a guy that teaches science - Mr. Science.  Now we love this guy - he takes simple household items and turns them into science.  We were looking at another kit that was over $200 and yes it had lots of nice things and software and a book, but when me son stood and watched this man do his experiments with simple things it clicked and he begged for the $20 kit till we bought it.  Science doesn't have to be expensive or stressful to succeed.  Check out his website, there is a ton of free stuff on there for you to use and counts as a full curriculum.

OK so now we are down to the last subject - Language arts.  Now I have to admit this subject used to make my palms sweat until I figured out what it was - it's READING people.  Yes that is simplified, but essentially that is what it is.  Does a child in 4th or 5th grade need to know how to diagram a sentence? NO.  When is the last time you diagrammed a sentence?  Is it something that needs to be done before graduation?  Yes.  Now when I was in school it was called English.  When I figured THAT out it helped as well.  This is how we do ours.  We read lots and lots and lots of books.  That's pretty much it.  Now you are probably thinking yea but what about writing and cursive and and and.  IF they are reading quality books by quality writers - this will come.  We do do cursive practice - only 1 sheet a day - nothing that is going to stress him out since he HATES to write.  And writing?  Well here's the deal, if the other subjects have some kind of writing, no matter what it is - I count that as his writing.  Now I don't make him sit down with worksheets and write, if he wants to do it on his computer - that is where he does it.  Remember we are in a technology driven society.  If you are anti technology, just remember it's not going away any time soon and you are hurting your child keeping them away from it.  Zach does his writing in Word on his laptop.  We does the answers to his questions on his computer, is it writing? Yes, just not as it's own subject.  It still counts and think about how much less stressful things would be if writing was wrapped into another subject so you and your child aren't stressed out.  Let me give you an example.  My son HATES to write like I said earlier, but he still has to as we know this is a skill he will use the rest of his life.  In his history lesson there is a writing assignment, this assignment was to take the story he just read about (the Epic of Gilgamesh) and write his own fairy tale.  So I told him to use his imagination and that he could write about whatever he wanted.  Then I told him if you want to start another Minecraft world and illustrate your story in there.  Then I will send it off to get it made into a book that you can keep.  His eyes lit up and guess what, my son who HATES to write wrote a 4 page singe spaced story in Word.  Is grammar perfect - nope.  Is spelling perfect -yes.  Why?   Because he reads - lots.  But good literature, things like Sign of the Beaver and The Chronicles of Narnia.  He also read books that interest him and those I let him choose.  But every time he reads guess what he's getting?  He's getting grammar, and spelling, and vocabulary, and history, and and and.  Now don't get me wrong there are times that we do more structured things.  He takes classes in Skrafty where he has vocabulary words, a small writing assignment and then a fun building assignment.  So far he has taken a just for fun Dr. Seuss class, Sign of the Beaver class, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian classes.  He's also gearing up to take Little House in the Big Woods next.  In the fall he will do The Borrowers.  But he reads lots outside of this.  His history alone has 3-4 books a day to read so yes reading is very high on our list of things to do.  It's that simple folks.  Break it down to what is simple and you will come away much happier with a much happier child.

So that is what I have for you in this series.  I am also going to do some reviews on products that we have used and don't like or do like so be on the look out for that.  Like I said we've been through a lot of curriculum so you can read what I have to say and take it for what it's worth.

Healthy hugs,

Monday, June 2, 2014

Homeschool what not part 3

For my 3rd and (maybe) final post on this I'm going to start things a little differently.  I'm sitting in a quiet house by myself contemplating things.  What would I say to a mom who is thinking about starting homeschooling?  What would I say to a mom who is thinking of giving up homeschooling?  What would I say to the mom that hates homeschooling but doesn't feel like she can quit?  I've been in all 3 positions, trust me NONE of them are easy. 

Lets address the mom that is thinking about homeschooling.  If this is you let me ask you a few questions (my answers will be from a Biblical perspective).  What's stopping you?  Is it fear?  Is it ridicule?  Is it bad experiences with "homeschoolers you know".  Is it because it isn't the "norm".  Well let me wrap this up for you - all of those questions are rooted in fear.  The Bible has a ton of verses on fear, probably because God knew it was the number 1 emotion in people.  The verse that I recite quite often is 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."  Why do we fear anything?  It's human nature but its when we let that fear dictate our actions that it becomes a problem.  Now I'm not talking about healthy fear of sin or running out into traffic - that we should have.  There is a lot of stuff I have never done because of fear and it saddens me now as I get older.  So if fear is stopping you from homeschooling and that is the ONLY reason take a moment to reflect.  Do you want that fear to run your life?  Are you going to regret that you didn't at least try when those babies are grown?  If God is telling you to homeschool and you are disobedient what do you think the consequences of that will be?  This is not being said out of condemnation but from experience. 

To the mom that is thinking of giving up homeschooling.  Think about your reasons.  Is it because your child and you are at each others throats?  The please read the previous 2 installments of this topic - I hope it will help even to a small degree.  Are you thinking about quitting because of other people and their pressuring you to do so?  I hope the paragraph above will help you.  Are you thinking about quitting because you feel that God is telling you to?  For me this is the only legitimate reason to quit, the other reasons will fall into place if you are being obedient.  What is your reason?  Think about it and I would love comments so that I could possibly help you.  Again this series is not meant to condemn but to encourage and uplift and maybe reinforce your reasons for homeschooling in the first place.

And to the mom who hates homeschooling.  Make a change.   Take a break.  Choose a different curriculum, unschool for awhile, just don't do school for awhile at all, go to a homeschooling conference or get some tapes of sessions for a conference and soak it in.  Take school outside in the sunshine.  Throw a blanket in the grass, pull out the school books and do school outside.  It is utterly amazing how a change of where you are doing school will change your outlook - and of coarse your kids.  Take days off.  Switch to a 4 day school week making day 5 a life skills day where you teach your kids how to clean the house, do laundry, wash windows, vacuum, cook, do dishes, clean the yard, work on the pool, prune plants - the list goes one.  Not only will this make your life easier, but their future spouse will thank you as well.  Go on lots and lots of field trips - right now it's spring.  Have your kids start field journals or nature journals.  Take them on long walks with a camera, a clip board and their journals.  There are lots of places to get free print ables for this or you can do like this blogger and just use a blank journal or sketch pad.  Here, here, and here are some great print ables that give prompts or not on them for those journals.  If you don't like those, do a search there are tons of links to print ables and ideas.   I choose to print mine, he has an area where he can sketch what he sees (counts as art), write what he observes (counts as English and science) and observe things in there environment.  My rule is simple, he gets 4 pages to do when we go out, 2 must be some kind of plant or tree the other 2 must be some kind of animal or insect.  If after making changes and you still don't like it, pray about your next step, it maybe that homeshooling is just not for you.

I'm still not done with this topic so tomorrow I will have a part 4.  I'm starting to feel like C.S.Lewis who only meant to write The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe but ended up with a whole series.

Healthy hugs,

Friday, May 30, 2014

Homeschooling what not part 2

So as a continuation of my post yesterday.  I want to go into a few more subjects and if it gets to long there will be a part 3 to finish up (maybe lol).

When we started our homeschooling journey we started out doing lapbooks and unit studies, which we still do and still love.  But we don't do them as much for several reasons which I will go into in a bit.  If you are looking for an inexpensive way to do school this is it.  It's fun, it's hands on and there are TONS of free ones out that.  With a free lapbook/unit study and a library card you are GOLDEN.  Think you can't ever do them - think again.  All they require is a little time to cut things out, and time to check out library books.  Now if your library stinks like mine does, then it will take some time to order those books through the library so think a head a bit.  My FAVORITE place for getting FREE (yes FREE) lapbooks is Homeschool Share.  They have their lapbooks and notebooks organized into levels that go all the way through high school.  In addition to Homeschool Share there is a ton of other websites that have free lapbooks and notebooks.  Doing a search will find you more than you can ever imagine.  If there is a book or subject I'm interested in doing and I can't find it on the Homeschool Share site, then I do a search.  For example, right now Zach is into Egypt so I would go to my search engine and type in Egypt lapbooks and the list is huge.  

This segues into what I wanted to chat about next - history.  Now this has been a struggle for me since I dislike history with a passion, the memorization etc for me was awful.  But this is homeschooling who says we have to do that?? NO ONE.  YOU make your own way.  So what do we do for history.  Well we started with lapbooks and unit studies and that was working fine, but again absorbing what Nancy said we asked what she recommended for history and she pointed us to 2 different curriculum.  The first was Mystery of History, and we liked that except for it was centered around Biblical history.   And really there is nothing wrong with that but I wanted something a tad more rounded.  So the 2nd one was The Story of the World - same lay out as Mystery of History but more rounded.  This one does both Biblical and secular world view.  Zach is thoroughly enjoying this history a lot, but there is an addendum to that - we have combined it with Minecraft (more on that later).  If you are thinking of getting The Story of the World, you need to get both the text and the activity book.  The activity book has maps for every lesson, a coloring page for every lesson and sometimes either a crossword or a word search.  For each chapter there is a TON of activities, but I pick and choose what we do.  Think of this curriculum as both your history and geography rolled into one.  And if you do the art activities then you have 3 subjects in one.  We choose to do the art activities in Minecraft instead.

Which moves me into my next topic.  Use what your child loves when it comes to school.  What is your child into?  Don't know?  Well it's time to find out.  Observe your child, what do they like doing the most?  Are they constantly wanting to play on the computer?  Xbox? Outside? Do they like to dig in the dirt?  Do they light up when you do science experiments?  Would they rather read that "do school"?  Getting to know YOUR child is one of the best ways to know what direction you need to be going.  My child?  Well he's a mixture.  He loves being on his computer playing.  He loves the Xbox, but he also loves being outside.  And science experiments - well lets just say Backyard Ballistics is a must.  What I mainly want to talk about here is Minecraft.  WOW what a gift to homeschoolers.  This is an AMAZING game people.  No matter what you think of gaming check this game out.  It's basically Lego's online, with some combat against bad guys.  We quite by accident found this homeschooling Minecraft server - Skrafty - that has a safe server for homeschooled kids.  It is fully monitored and strictly inforced.  No cussing, bad mouthing and meanness.  We LOVE it.  I especially me - I know he can go on there and be safe.   So you might ask why Minecraft - well why not.  My son loves it, it's a GREAT educational tool, he's met some amazing kids all over the world that he loves to play with, his typing skills are at times better than my husband, his spelling had improved greatly and he's learning team play.  Skrafty offers classes as well and we've been able to take quite a few and Zach loves them.  For history though they use Mystery of History so I've chosen instead to create my own world for him and he does his work in that.

How do I do this?  I created a super flat world.

 Then I take fences and sign posts and I fence in the lesson, take the sign and put what lesson on the out side of the fenced area.  I then put a chest on the inside of the fenced area.
Inside that chest I put book and quills.  I ask all the questions for that lesson in 1 book.  In the next book I add the assignments - his coloring pages, his map work and his building projects go into this book.  The 3rd book is for any writing assignments he has.  I have him do his writing assignments in Word so I can print them out.

His "art" projects are done in Minecraft.  Pictured are his recreation of Josephs coat of many colors, Hammurabi's temple, his pyramid and sarcophagus.

Then to do the next lesson I create an arrow with torches pointing to where to go.  The reason I do this is because he wasn't able to find the next lesson before I did this.
So that is how we do our history in Minecraft.  Now does this entail some work - absolutely!!!  Is it worth it - YES!!!  History is fast becoming my sons favorite subject and hey guess what - I'm learning too.  We don't memorize dates, we read and learn facts.  It's great for all of us.  

Now do I think this is for everyone - no I don't, but it's worth a try.  Try Skrafty, the classes are set up for you and some of them go along with curriculum - like Inventions and Technology.  Some don't - the content is all there for you like Plants or Animals and their Habitats.  If you aren't sure you want to create your own lessons in Minecraft then don't, but wow does it work for us.

Once again this has gotten long, so look for part 3 soon.

Healthy hugs,

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Homeschooling what not part 1

In an effort to come up with a title to this blog entry I was stymied.  I've been contemplating this blog for awhile but a recent conversation with my wonderful cousin has prompted this post.

First off let me say that I have been told several times that "I have it all together" and that "you are the homeschooler we hate".  I DO NOT feel like I have it all together.  There are times I want to quit and just send him to public school, but then I take a step back, do some deep breathing and say a prayer and I'm back to being alright.  

First step in a successful homeshooling endeavor is write down your reasons why.  If your reasons are I hated school WRITE IT DOWN.  If they are more profound like I don't want my children indoctrinated or taught and unbiblical view of sex WRITE IT DOWN.  If you have a laundry list of reasons WRITE THEM DOWN.  On your bad days - pull out that list, pray over your reasons and press on.  God didn't give you this will to homeschool for nothing.  And if you are an unbeliever - you sill have a will to do this - don't give up.

Which brings me to the next thing - is it working?  By that I mean how is what you are doing working for you?  Is there a constant fight?  Do your kids hate you and you hate your kids?  Is learning fun for them or do they hate it?  These are all questions you need to ask yourself.  They are not to discourage you but ENcourage you.  What I mean by this is this.  You are homeschooling for what every reasons, but homeschooling you are.  If it isn't fun then something has to change.  To quote my favorite speaker "if your kids hate you and you hate your kids it's time to change what you are doing:"  There is a TON of curriculum out there and just because you have paid for it doesn't mean you should be using it.  Your kids education is more important than that $40 you spent on that history, science, math or what ever else.  Now this is where I explain myself.  I may look like I "have it together" but let me tell you it hasn't been without heartache, tears and multiple unused curriculum tossed aside for my and my sons sanity.

Lets start with math - we use Life of Fred ONLY.  Why? Well let me tell you.  First we started off with worksheets - they worked for awhile - a whole month or so till my son started having melt downs at math time.  Yelling, bribery and tears ensued and then I was done.  We took a break and I switched to online for preschool and Kindergarten.  Again it worked - for that season.  Then I found Saxon math and it was like a ray of sunshine and this was going to be AMAZING.  NOT!!!  6 weeks in again the melt downs followed by nausea and refusing to comply.  It was time for a change again.  I bought simple books with small worksheets, that didn't work.  Then I found Mammoth Math - yup again didn't work - he hated me I hated him - time to move on.  Again a ray of sunshine came cascading through my computer as I found Teaching Textbooks.  Now at this point I pause - this did work for a whole YEAR, and probably would have been still working today if a life changing event hadn't happened.  We went to a homeschooling conference (more on that a little later.)  At this conference we met this lady who has this amazing store.  She has the experience of homeshooling 4 kids all the way through so her life experience is what mattered to me.  I stood in her booth and absorbed all she had to say.  I sat in her seminars and absorbed what she had to say.  And this dear lady introduced us to Fred.  Now let me say this I had had NO intention of switching math curriculum's at ALL.  TT was working for us, Zach was enjoying it and math was less of a battle of wills.  So what changed?? After chatting with Nancy and hearing what she had to say and realizing what KIND of learner son is I asked for suggestions.  She immediately pulled out Fred.  So hubby and I bought the first book - Apples and took it back to the hotel room.  Now this is about 8 at night, we had a long day at the conference, Zach had been at the kids conference all day, we were all very tired, but I handed him the book anyway.  It didn't take long and he had the whole book done, giggling and mommy daddy listen to this the whole time.  We were hooked.  It's been a year and a half and I have to say he's still going strong.  He's interested in what he is doing and he's engaged in his math.  Not something I would ever have thought would happen with him but very glad that it has.  His discussions are now about "when can I start calculus mom" or "I think I want to be a mathematician/scientist/preacher/comedian."  Whats the point of this?  Find something that works and use it, don't be bound by "oh I paid money for this we ARE going to use it".  It's not worth it, it's not worth YOUR sanity, it's not worth your CHILD'S sanity and it certainly isn't worth your child's education if it isn't working.

Well this post is longer than I thought it would be so I'm going to end here and do another one later about our other subjects.

Think about what you have read, don't despair - there is many groups out there on facebook that sell used curriculum - use them to get rid of your anchors and free yourself from the burden.

Healthy hugs,

Monday, May 19, 2014

Gluten Intolerance

Yesterday and today I read something on facebook that was supposed to be a "new discovery in science".  This discovery was that Gluten Intolerance is not real.  I'm writing this not as a DR but as someone who suffers with Gluten Intolerance and someone who finds it interesting that these discoveries don't want to talk to people like me.

For me gluten intolerance is very real.  It started with a diagnosis of Insulin Resistance, followed by a diagnosis of Iron Deficiency Anemia.  Not to mention the IBS I suffered with all the time, the mind fog, and the intense fatigue.  All of these are classic signs of Gluten Intolerance.  So after hearing a lecture from a DR here in this area that specializes in Gluten Intolerance I decided to go off wheat and gluten just to see what would happen.  I must say the difference was remarkable.  My IBS cleared up first - I went from running to the bathroom to being normal.  The next thing I noticed was my belly - it went down A LOT.  My brain fog was much better - and that was after a week.  

So how can I be sure that gluten is the cause, well I like to push boundaries and do that quite often.  One is Chinese food.  I love Chinese, but had stopped eating it because of my allergies (soy and wheat/gluten).  This weekend I decided to push again and ate Chinese.  By the time I had left the restaurant I was in massive pain in my tummy which lasted most of the day.  Today my brain fog is the worst it's been in years, I feel like I haven't slept in a week and can't remember much of anything I'm supposed to do.  Not only that I'm running a fever, something that was regular occurrence for me before I went off wheat.

So for those out there that want to say that Gluten Intolerance is not real - go for it, but as for this chick I'm going to stay the coarse and return to my strict Gluten Free diet.  And for that my body thanks me.

Healthy hugs