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Welcome to the sometimes random posts of Gina Reynolds. Use the labels at right to select your area of interest. Comment and let me know what you think. Scroll down on the right to follow this blog. Please feel free to check out my website as well at http://ginareynolds.org
God Bless...Gina

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Going to Bless My House Today!

You know in life things get put on our plate all the time.  Many times we can just tip the plate and they can fall right off.  But other times gravy gets ladled on, it oozes all over everything and covers up the things you know God intends for you to have on your plate.  If you tip the plate to remove the gravy you lose the good things too.  It must be carefully and painstakingly removed which takes way more time than you have.

favorite place to enjoy the peace!
Seems like these last  few  weeks and even months have been a gravy season.  I can’t say the gravy is fully off the plate yet, but some mashed potato moats have been erected and I’m getting back to the items that are supposed to be on the plate in the first place.  It’s in these times that the “good” things can get neglected, and for me the one that will go first is the Home.

Like it or not, for most women their Home is supposed to be one of the main things on their plate.  Most of the time I like it, or at I at least like some of the things about the “Home” part of my plate.  I enjoy creating new decorating things for my home, making great food,  even choosing the d├ęcor and style (even if I don’t like the painting!) and yes, I do enjoy a clean orderly home!

The part I don’t seem to find time for, especially when gravy has been flowing, is the day to day upkeep and cleaning.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we’ll be featured on Hoarders anytime soon (well maybe one of the kids room, but that’s another issue) but it’s not as “refreshing” as I’d like.  I take great joy and peace in sitting down to have a cup of coffee in a clean and clutter free home.

So today my husband is off shooting for the day and I intend to Bless my House.

Bless my House?  Yes, I think it’s a term I originally found in an Elizabeth George book.  It really does change your thinking when you look at the upkeep and “chores” of housework as “blessing”.  Ultimately you are truly blessing  your family.

They will now be able to find that bill they left out in a pile somewhere, or have clean socks and underwear.  And low and behold, there are now plenty of clean towels in the bathroom closet and spoons for cereal.

I may not get it all accomplished, but I will surely succeed in several rooms, so tonight I can sit down with a cup of coffee, maybe a book , fuzzy socks and enjoy the peace and relaxation of a clean room!

Have you Blessed your House lately?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Review of America the Beautiful

I picked up American the Beautiful by Ben Carson a few weeks back and have found a lot of interesting information and refreshing thoughts coming from someone who some claim could run for president.   Now that is not to say I agree 100% with everything.  My views differ quite a bit on the healthcare issue from what Carson suggests, however there is much I agree with him on.

For instance, he does a fantastic job of going over our history and what got our country where we are today.  This is interlaced with a pretty accurate assessment of our current political and economic situation.

You may notice that the picture of the cover I chose to post was in fact my own copy of America the Beautiful.  This is because I wanted to point out all the purple tags I have hanging out the side.  These my Lincoln Douglas debate friends are all sections where he points out things that I want my debate students to note about our current economic situation.  Here's just one of his thoughts that I fully support, "The Constitution is quite clear that the government has the right to tax in order to support its programs, but there is nothing in the Constitution to support redistribution of wealth."  That's probably not even the most remarkable quote, but you get the idea.  Very worth a read for those of you debating in NCFCA Lincoln Douglas this year.

Ben Carson speaks with great candor and actually has first hand knowledge of what he speaks about.  Much of the book focuses on problems of the poor and redistribution.  He grew up very poor in inter city Detroit and shares his story with his readers.

My homeschool mom friends will appreciate the huge impact his mother had on him.  She actually could not read but realized the importance of learning so when she saw her boys failing at school she required them to read a book from the public library each week and write a report.  Carson attributes this to turning him on to learning and changing his direction.  He says, "...in the beginning I sure hated reading those books.  After a while however, I actually began to look forward to them because they afforded me a fantastic escape from our everyday poverty...Every single day my knowledge of our would expanded, which excited me to no end."  He says he didn't know then that his mother couldn't read the reports he wrote but it didn't matter.

Through literature a whole word was opened to him.  Through literature he became a better speller and had inspiration to move forward.  I just love what good literature can do for people!

Anyway, I digress...  Its been a great read so far (I have a few pages left) and I highly recommend it.  If you live near Buchanan MI you may still be able to pick it up at a significant discount as well through Library Education Services.  I was able to get it off their $2 table!  Huge savings, but even if you have to pay full price I think it's worth it.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Mystery of History IV

The year is well underway and its been a busy one.  I've not had much time to "review" what we're using this year but I'll try to catch up a bit here at least on one subject.  We are probably one of the first to use the newly released Mystery of History IV.  It has been great so far.

We started in September with the textbook and companion guide downloaded to us since the publisher was experiencing delays.  This was a bit challenging at times.  There were a few lessons I really wanted the students to have their books in class for and it just wasn't possible.  On the other hand, it came in handy with planning my syllabus to be able to switch from text to activities right on my computer and not have to have the hefty textbook with me.

Lexie doing her presentation of Civil War medicine
Thankfully though we finally got the physical book, now my girls "see" more of the pictures.  (It was a little awkward to pass around the computer screen!)

That said, we are using this in our co-op as well as at home.  We read our own lessons and have an assignment to do at home each week.  I select these ahead of time from the companion guide.  They are usually pretty close to what Linda Hobar recommends in the guide, although I sometimes "tweak" the ideas to fit our needs.  We also make a timeline card for each lesson at home on an index card.

At class we go over our timeline cards.  These should be the "highlights" of each lesson on one index card.  The students have made a timeline out of card-stock with pockets to hold the cards (we did this the first day of class.)  Most weeks we then also do the map for the week, also straight from the companion guide. Over the years I've created this method for the cards which isn't exactly like the Mystery of History books suggest but it works very well for us.  You can find my blog with a couple pictures of our timelines here.

Ariel's presentation was on Art of the Civil War
The third thing we do at class each week depends on what our homework assignment was.  The last two weeks we did our Civil War specialist presentations in class (a modification of a companion guide suggestion.)  We've done anything from card memory games, quizzes, salt dough maps, cooking, reading first source documents and discussing, watching DVDs, listening to music etc...  I love to have all the ideas in the companion guide there for you, it makes doing to class in a co-op so easy!

If you've done other Mystery of History books this will will "feel" very much like Mystery of History III in length, format and type of activities. 

For those that may be interested in MOH for a co-op I am happy to share my syllabus, only I don't have it completely done.  I will post as soon as I do but since I didn't get the entire book until December I only had the first half done to start (working on the other half this week.)  Leave me a message and I'll be happy to send you what I have or let you know when I get it all done and posted (very soon, I think!)

I was and still am thrilled that MOH IV is finally out and we are able to use it!  Highly recommend it and the whole series.  Check the history label at right for lots of other posts on history in our homeschool, many of them with Mystery of History.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Competition IS a good thing

I recently encountered an attitude that really frustrated me.  I guess I should not be surprised in this day and age of changed curriculum and tolerance.  We are supposed to applaud everyone, and there are not winners or losers, right?!!?  Seriously, this type of thinking is so flawed.

You may be able to try to take this out of the classrooms, shelter your kids from the "pain", work to suppress the natural desire to succeed, or portray an attitude that you don't care but why would you try to do this?

Competition is not only helpful, the American way and all that, but also a very Biblical principle.

1 Corinthians 9:24 ESV "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it."

The writer here is talking about a broader subject but assumes as a universal principle that if you enter a race you do so to win.  You are "competing", it is a given.   Our very nature tells us to succeed and do our best.  It's part of life.

We are to strive to do our best.  The Bible tells us in 1 Cor. 10:31 ESV, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."  I've had this one up on my kitchen wall for years.  And yes, the writer was talking about food for idols but the principle remains.  We are to strive to "glorify" God.  Does it really glorify God if we don't "run is such a way as to win?"

Got wants and expects our best.  No, we will not always "win", but if we strive for that we are constantly improving and "doing our best".  It's a principle I like to call Excellence.

It reminds me of the saying, "If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing well."

But can we do things "excellently" apart from competition?  Sure, it's may be possible. B,ut I have to tell you, if I know I'm bringing my Apple Pie to the fair for judging I am more careful that my crust looks perfect than if I'm serving it for Sunday dinner.  Maybe it's just me, but I seriously doubt it! 

I've seen it in teaching speech to students.  When it's just for a class the students are not as motivated to turn out an "excellent" speeches, but when they are required to give it at a competition their level of time and effort to do well goes up significantly.  

So PLEASE don't pretend you are not competing when you are, don't pretend you don't care, and certainly don't act like you are all spiritual for having these attitudes.  Most certainly please don't criticize others who are striving to win.  God does want us to run in such a way as to win, so go for it!

Iron does sharpen iron, so don't let yourself get rusty!  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Freezer cooking with a bundled meat pack

One of the things that brings me great joy is having meals ready in the freezer to make my life easier.  Check out the category at the right for lots of other blogs on how to do this in general.  Today I'm focusing on something new I tried to bring a new twist to my freezer cooking.
"Grandpas" meat bundle from Sheltons

Locally we have a store called Sheltons.  They offer "meat bundles" which I thought I'd try with my next freezer cooking.  The prices come out pretty well and in this case I got a variety of meats instead of say buying 40lbs of boneless chicken breast at a time when it's on sale and stocking my freezer with all chicken dishes.

For those of you not living near Niles MI, I'm sure if you check many of your local stores with butchers probably offer similar bulk buying options.

The one I tried contained 3lbs of boneless skinless chicken breast, 3lbs of ground round, 3lbs of sliced bacon, 3lbs of pork cutlets, 3lbs of boneless pork chops, 3lbs of ground sausage and 3lbs of chicken drumsticks.  With this I made 3 Chicken Chili's, 3 Bacon/Tomato pasta, 3 pans of Lasagna, 3 batches of Ziti, 1 batch of parsley Parmesan Chicken and I have the pork cutlets and pork chops to grill or bake as one meal each.  So that's 14 main meal dishes for $39 in meat cost.  And, the beauty of it is that we have a nice variety instead of chicken, chicken, chicken or pork, pork, pork etc...  It worked out so well that I think next time I'll buy two bundles.

Now, I know, some of you want to have the recipes.  Really, I recommend you take your favorites that use bacon, chicken, ground round etc... but if you'd like to try mine.  Here' you go:
Finished Meals, ready for the freezer
es (don't overcook, just have them slightly al dente) but this time I didn't have the freezer space so I just froze sauces.

Chicken Chili-This one I've blooged on before so you'll find it here.

Parsley Parmesan Chicken- This is one from 30 day Gourmet but it is a password protected one so I'll give you my version.  Just bag up your chicken pieces (in this case the 3lbs of drumsticks would make one meal for our family of 5 who eat meat) and pour bottled Italian dressing right into the bag.  I probably use about 3/4 to 1 cup of dressing.  Now in a sandwich bag put a teaspoon or two of paprika, a little salt and pepper, 1 cup of dry bread crumbs (I use Italian seasoned) and 1/2 to 2/3 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Seal the sandwich bag and put it inside the larger freezer bag with the chicken.  Now seal the large bag and freeze.  When you are ready to cook it just thaw and coat the chicken pieces with the crumb mix and bake at 350 until the chicken is done (time will depend on size of chicken pieces you are using.)

Lasagna-This one is not really a recipe either.  Just make your lasagna however you usually do, only don't precook the noodles.  Layer with the noodles uncooked.  Before you put your pans in the freezer just add water down the side of the pan (so it doesn't "wash" all your sauce off the top) until you can see the water about 1/2 to 2/3 up.  The only trick is it needs to thaw at least 24 hours so that the noodles will "cook".   I layered mine with jarred sauce, cottage cheese, crumbled cooked ground round, basil, and mozzarella cheese.  Feel free to add what you like.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Homeschool Speech and Debate Joy

Last week we were at a NCFCA speech and debate tournament in Bloomington Indiana.  My girls competed in this first tournament of the season.  We've been doing this for 5 years now so it's become pretty routine, but I have to say this time I came back just "filled".  Filled?  Yes, for lack of a better word.  Let me see if I can explain.
My daughters at the tournament with friends

Many times in January I've done blogs on what brings you joy versus what drains you.  That's kind of a tool I've learned to use to figure out what belongs in my life and what doesn't.  Well, it's a little like that. 

Over the years I've filled several roles at the tournament but this time I judged a lot.  That means I got to give feedback on ballots to lots and lots of students after listening to them debate or give their speech.  In the 5 years I've been doing this I have judged a lot and have gotten pretty good at filling out the ballots quickly so I can keep judging round after round.  This means I'll go right from judging a debate round to a speech round then a debate round again etc... all day.  It can get tiring and it does make a long day but I love giving feedback that I think the students can use to get better and even more I love seeing them improve.

Over the years you do see some of the same kids over and over.  Sometimes you judge them in the same event you have before and sometimes not.  The neat thing is to see how they've grown as a speaker.  Now, I don't even really "know" these kids but it is so amazing watching what competative speech and debate is doing for them as a speaker.

Many of the students I saw this year that I recognized from even last year have gained confidence, poise and skill.  Their speaking in their debate rounds becomes more smooth and you see them able to get their thoughts into well formed arguments.  Some of the speeches become more polished and longer as the students gain experience.  It's so incredible to "watch". 

Personally the rounds and speeches can also bring you something you need.  Often the kids competing will pray that the "right" people will hear their speech and God will use them.  I'm not sure they often "know" how this prayer is answered but I will tell you at least two of the speeches I heard impacted me.  One of them introduced me to a new subject that may be helpful in my life and inspired me to do some more research.  Another one shed some light on a relationship I have.  I may not be able to do anything with that information but it helped me gain some understanding.

So it's a two way street.  By judging you give them feedback they can use to improve and you get something back; Maybe it's some information you might need to know, some inspiration or even a good laugh.  But "fill" you it does.
Ariel placing 12th (first time in out-rounds for debate) with her good friend Ryan 13th

If you ever get a chance to judge for NCFCA jump at it!  You'll have a great time and be so appreciated!  Our region will be in several more cities this year and need lots of people in the community to judge.  You don't need any experience, they explain what to do.  So check it out.  You can get more information on their website or if you live near North Olmstead, OH; Arlington Heights, IL or Oshkosh, WI let me know and I'll get you the information (and we'll see you there!)

p.s. Oh, and another personally fulfilling thing was watching my daughter compete in out-rounds for the first time in Lincoln Douglas debate.  She did an excellent job!  It was especially rewarding to see all the ways she's improved since she was that cute little 12 year old trying to pronounce big words like "democracy"!  Very fun to watch!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Making College Work for homeschoolers

You see we have always been somewhat eclectic in our homeschooling and certainly not a “textbook” or “school-at-home” kind of family.  Most of the things and curricula we use are not found in most public, and even few private schools for that matter.  We embrace the concept that learning should be just that, learning,  or gaining knowledge rather than studying for and passing tests often to forget that information the next day or week.   So how does that look for college?

Taking a look at our values the traditional “expected” path wasn’t the best choice for most of our kids.  Three of our four are “in process” of college and for each of them it looks different.

When considering what path your children will take it’s a good idea to first examine your values and what is important to you and your family.  I recently wrote an article for Home andSchool Mosaics exploring this concept which you’ll find here.  Once you’ve determined what is important to you, you can begin looking at options.

For us staying out of debt, staying at home if possible, and getting a degree with the least amount of “hoop jumping” were top priorities.  We don’t value the “name” on the degree and do value practical work experience and skills almost as much and maybe even more than a degree at all, though we do want our children to get a degree as it’s a necessary “hoop” in our society for many things.

So what can we do?

1.      Consider doing college in high school.  You can do this as “dual” credit, meaning you count what they are doing as college classes on their high school transcript too.  This means they are not doing “double duty” or double work so to speak.  For instance when my oldest son took ENG101 (composition) at Bethel college his senior year I used that as his English credit on his transcript for high school for that term. 

 Many colleges have reduced rates for high schoolers taking classes.  It doesn’t hurt to ask.  We use Bethel college which is about 20 minutes from us and has a program called REACH where high school Juniors and Seniors can take their 100-200 level classes at a reduced rate of $100 a credit.  Take a look at a map and find all the colleges within driving distance and inquire:  you might be surprised at what you’ll find.

 2. You MIGHT want to consider community colleges.  Near us Lake Michigan College offers classes at $89.50 per credit if you’re in their “district”.  Most community college cost around  $90-100 per credit.  Be aware if you chose to go this route that your student will probably be exposed to LOTS of varied opinions, and even colorful language (and by that I DO NOT mean    good , strong adjectives.)  My oldest son was able to handle this but it wasn’t a fun experience for him and he didn’t “enjoy” his classes as much as he would have liked.

 Some homeschoolers opt to sign up as public school students to take advantage of programs where the school district will pay for your tuition.  I do not in good conscience recommend this option.  We believe that signing up with a government school as a homeschooler has the potential to undermine the entire movement and I want to protect homescooling rights for my grandchildren.  I urge you to contact HSLDA or whomever you use for your homeschool legal advice and discuss it with them as we did.  Many states who have gone to partnership programs with homeschoolers within 10 years have much stricter controls on homeschooing, and I am adamantly opposed to this.

        3.  Consider “testing” out of classes.  This was the method of choice for my second oldest.  There are several options.  You can do CLEP, and/or DSST and sometimes even AP.  We use CLEP and DSST as we have found those easiest to complete on our own at home.  You can find information on CLEP and DSST at their sites.

Many colleges accept these tests.  “Most” will accept at least 30 credits this way.  A few colleges  will not accept any and a few colleges will accept an unlimited amount.  If you have some idea  where your child will end up graduating from check out their website and search CLEP /DSST   acceptance, or contact an advisor at that school who should be able to get you the information.

The advantages of “testing” out of classes are twofold.  First, it is a much less expensive option.   Testing runs around $100 ($80 for the test and $20 proctor fee) as opposed to a “class” at a   community type college running around $300 (at $100 credit) to $800 or more at a private college/ or state university.

Besides the cost advantage you have the time and proximity choices.  With testing you control  your time.  You can go as fast (or slow for that matter) as you like and work you study and testing around any schedule.  This allows much more flexibility to work and pay for your college.    This flexibility also allows you to stay home and do school rather than having to commute to a college or even go stay at their location.

There are several college/companies that will , for a fee, help and guide you with this type of schooling.  One we used for a year with my second oldest was College Plus.  It gave him “the ropes” so to speak and sent him on the path to his degree.  Since the first year he has continued without their assistance toward his goal.  It looks like at this point he will indeed complete his bachelors completely from home through testing and online classes.

4.     That brings me to a connected option, online classes.  More and more colleges are offering classes and even complete degrees on line.  My husband is currently working on an online MBA through Western Governors.  Doing your degree online may be “somewhat less expensive than a brick and mortar institution (though not necessarily.)  The benefit here is that you don’t have to go to them.  You can continue with your home, job, and life wherever you are.

For adults this is obviously a huge benefit, but for your young people it can be as well.  Many students can maintain the same job year round and earn seniority and advancements while completing a degree this way.  It sometimes can be difficult to do this in a traditional setting.   Again, do a search for online degrees and you will find an abundance of options.

You must do a little research with online degree colleges however; Be sure you check out the institution and its credentials.  Make sure it is in fact a reputable college.  Check out their accreditation.

   5.   Commute to a college.  Sometimes you can do some of the above mixed with this option or just go this route entirely.  For us a lot of this depends on scholarships.  As I said, we are committed to no/low cost college and not taking loans.  Many of the four year institutions are much more expensive.  Scholarships do help, as well as commuting rather than living on campus.

Look around your area and see what institutions are within driving distance and start investigating.  Ask what scholarships are available and go for them.  It can be possible that God will make a way.  This is the option that looks like may be taking shape for our 3rd college attendee.  Time will tell but it looks as if this is the path so far.

 Start with the college and ask about what scholarships they offer.  Then think outside of the box.   For instance if it is a Christian institution ask if your church denomination sponsors any scholarships.  Does you or your husband’s place of business offer any?  How  about  community organizations?  The American Legion for instance offers a scholarship connected to giving a speech.  How about Chamber of Commerce etc…  You can even find scholarship opportunities on line.

 A colleague of my husband  has found great opportunities for her daughter this way.  They have  even won a few.  They are usually small, but it all adds up!  

College doesn’t have to be something to worry, fear, stress about or even cause a lot of debt.  Just be willing to “think outside” the box a little and you can keep what you’ve taught and valued and have college too!