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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

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lord of the Flies with Total Language Plus

We just finished up Lord of the Flies with our co-op class.  It was not a book that I initially picked out to do but my daughter Ariel wanted to do it so I flipped through the Total Language Plus study guide and that convinced me it that it was an important guide to do.

Lord of the Flies is not your feel good happy ending type story for those of you who have never read it or don't remember.  The basic plot is that English proper school boys get stranded alone on an Island and go from being refined, disciplined and restrained to truly savage.  It's not one of the TLP titles that I recommend as a read aloud to the whole family, unless of courage everyone is high school or above.  Aside from a couple of swear words, mostly British, which were not as offense to us the main "bad thing" is the killing of human lives.  It's not a new concept, and no this book is not "new".  Most recently you'll find this theme explored (though is a different way) in the popular Hunger Games series.

So after that glowing description why would I be suggesting it for study with your high schoolers?  The Total Language Plus guide makes the difference.  It simply does.  Each week you chart the changes in the characters both physical, emotional, attitudes and actions.  You literally "see" the progression and what got left behind in their descent into savagery.  At the end of the study guide you take the information you've collected along with some discussion and write a final paper dealing with rules of society versus human nature. 

It was interesting to me that my daughter who is doing NCFCA Lincoln Douglas debate this year had a case along the very same lines.  God just works these things out as I certainly couldn't have known or planned what the debate resolution was let alone how my daughter would chose to formulate her case.  That's just a little aside to say that it's amazing where God takes you and how He puts your curriculum together better than certainly any government or even publisher could!

In class we had a lot of great discussions and definitely had two camps of students.  We had a "Piggy" lover club and a "Piggy" whinny club.  Piggy is one of the main characters and many in the class identified with him and felt bad about the way he was treated.  Others in the class felt like he was very whinny and pathetic at times.  It sure made for interesting and sometimes highly emotional discussions!

Though the book will never be my favorite I do highly recommend the book and the study guide for high schoolers. If we don't discuss the evil sin nature and the world without God's morals and ethics where will our children get this?

For more information on Lord of the Flies Study guide check out the Total Language Plus website.  It sells for $21.95 and is an approximate 6-9 week study.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Accomplishing something-Pillow Shams

Last year one of my blog theme's was "focus Fridays".  Each Friday I had one of four "focuses" that I rotated between.  One of those was productivity. 

Productivity is one of those things that I think mom's, especially stay at home Mom's struggle with seeing accomplished.  The things we are doing are so important, especially eternally important, but in the here and now it can be frustrating. 

How many times do you wash clothes only to have to clean them again, clean the house, cook the meals, shop for the groceries etc...  All of these things that we regularly do tend to become undone rather quickly.  Now we do get to spend hopefully lots of time on shaping young hearts and guiding lives which will have lasting results though we can't always see it today.

One of the things I find great satisfaction in is creating and in this case (and many times) in sewing.  When I can get a project finished I have something tangible to show for my time and something that lasts and adds to our lives.  Yes, my new pillow and pillow shams can eventually be ruined but for a lot longer than the towels can stay clean I have a visible product of my labor!

I started these back in the January snow days a few weeks ago.  It started with an idea I saw for sewing the fabric squares onto a pillow.  First I made the pillow and then decided it was about time to have pillow shams to match my duvet cover I made years ago.  The heart pattern is called "gathering hearts".  In cleaning my sewing room (also on a snow day) I found plenty of left over scraps from my duvet cover project of probably 15 years ago.  (I remember buying the fabric when Taylor, who is now 18, was a baby!)  I used leftover squares of white on white I had for the background to give it the patchwork look.  Who wanted to go out in a snowstorm to buy fabric anyway?

So, whether you are a sewer, knitter, crocheter, painter or whatever, try to carve some time out to create and enjoy that sense of accomplishment someday soon!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Three things Thursday

Three-Things-Thursday Recently I changed some of the wording on my blog to say, "Welcome to the sometimes random posts of Gina Reynolds", so in honor of that change and to participate in my friend Heidi's theme for the day here we go with 3 random things.

To keep with the winter theme we having going around here (MI)I'm choosing 3 random winter things.

#1 Skating-Growing up my Dad used to flood our creek and we had a pretty nice skating rink every winter.  I remember spending literally hours skating.  We had a box of old skates and all the neighbor kids would come and skate too.  If you skated off the edge you sometimes go in the muck (the "water" there was probably only inches to maybe a foot at the deepest.)  I remember mastering figure eights and teaching myself to spins.  I'm sure they weren't all that good but we thought we looked like Dorthy Hamill.

#2 Snow houses-This is the first year in a long time around here where it might be possible to make the snow houses we used to make as kids.  My grandma's house seemed to be the best place for this and we'd tunnel into the snow and play for hours. I had my own house, my sister had hers and my brother had his too.  We'd take turns visiting each others and digging more.  

#3 Snowmobiling- My Dad had an old ski-do snowmobile that we'd run all around our property.  It was only about an acre but we had a little trail of sorts.  I was the oldest and allowed to drive it when I was probably 9 or 10.  I don't remember exactly but I do remember how we'd pile the neighbor kids on.  It wasn't unusual to be ridding 5-6 kids behind me.  We'd come in smelling like the snowmobile.  That gasoline and wet felt boot smell still makes me think of our old snowmobile.

Once when I was a bit older, maybe 13 or 14 we went snowmobiling with friends up north.  Because the old ski-do was the slowest I got it and was ridding single.  My Dad and his friend had newer faster ones and had my siblings ridding with them.  Off we went and almost right away they were way ahead of me.  I turned in the trail WAY behind them and keep going at full speed for about 15 minutes to try and catch them.  Finally I got mad that they left me so far behind like that and I turned around and drove back to the cabin we were staying at.  

When I got to the cabin everyone was so excited to see me.  They had everyone out looking for me, their "lost" daughter on a snowmobile.  When my Dad finally arrived in from search (along with many other fellow snowmobilers they'd enlisted) I don't think he heard the end of it all night from my Mom.  I was a little mad still that they'd left ME!

So to link yours and see some other Three things Thursday's check out Heidi's post that let to my randomness today!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Homeschool curriculum for next year

Seriously, I know it's only January but I've been contemplating our choices for next fall.  That's just how we roll around here.  Convention season will be here before you know it (starts in March for me) so it's time to start doing the preliminary research on what you need to get.

Here's what we're pondering:

For Lexie's Science -
Advanced Pre-Med Studies for High School- Actually this one is more than a pondering, it's already bought and she's excited to start it!  I found this last year at a convention.  It was brand new and since my daughter is considering a future in medicine it is a perfect choice to explore.  

Signs & Seasons Book, Field Journal and Test Manual PackFor Ariel's Science- Classical Astronomy Signs and Seasons- This is one we looked at last year while perusing the aisles and then when we went to the planetarium this fall at the creation museum the idea came up again.  Ariel briefly considered Chemistry 101 for next year because Biology 101 hasn't been "too bad" (Ariel's words there.) But so far at least Classical Astronomy is winning out, she just has more interest in the subject and thinks it will be cool.  Me too!
For History we might do (drum roll here) Mystery of History IV, that is if it's ready-  Everything I'm hearing and reading still says that MOH 4 will be ready in time to do this fall and if that is the case we really may jump in.  We are on our second time through book 2 this year so logically book 3 would be next, however we would love to jump ahead for a couple reasons.  First, experience has told me that the senior year gets trumped by college.  Both of my boys didn't do much at home and instead went forward with college.  That is all good but I would like to cover the closer to modern era a bit more thoroughly.  Why?  In some ways it has a lot more immediate relevance to today but also there are lots of useful illustrations for speech and debate to explore.  Almost all of our historical "evidence" we tend to use comes from this time period.  Things like WWII human rights atrocities, cold war "values", etc...

Understanding Geometry
Math for Lexie- Not positive on this one but pretty sure we'll be looking at Understanding Geometry by Critical Thinking company.  We looked at this before as an option for Ariel but she needed to get out of anything remotely traditional.  Lexie is having an intense year this year and is ready for a break (me too).  This Geometry done in one year is considered a high school credit and does go into proofs.


   Math for Ariel- We'll again be sticking with a more non-traditional route here and using Professor in a Box Financial Accounting.     I can't say that Ariel is excited about anything remotely to do with math but she is happier to be doing less traditional math.  This year she is doing fairly well on consumer math with Daddy and we're hoping accounting will be a useful and purposeful study for her rather than something she'll be frustrated with and see as useless.  My son Taylor who is currently clepping financial accounting is also using this course as additional study materials and finding it helpful.  It is supposed to be the equivalent of a college class.

American Literature: Poetry Study Guide For Language Arts- We have thought about Clepping some things for Ariel as she will be a Junior and I have no doubt with doing Total Language Plus all these years could quite easily Clep analyzing literature and composition.  She's however not so sure she wants to so we may do some more studies just for fun.  She's leaning toward American Literature poetry, it has Edgar Allan Poe which makes her want to do it!  I think she'll enjoy that one.  We're also contemplating Pride and Prejudice as well as The Good Earth, all from Total Language Plus, we'll see.

Hiding Place (The) NovelLanguage Arts for Lexie - For sure I would like her to do The Hiding Place with Total Language Plus.  If we get to do MOH IV this will be in the right time period for our history study too!  Beyond that we haven't decided yet.  We may do the Giver as I like all my kids to do that one and she hasn't yet.

What else...we're looking at an Economics course by R.C. Sproul Jr. that Timberdoodle offers.  We usually do Penny Candy and may stick with that but thought the Economics course which is on DVD might make a good co-op class.  I'm also trying to get them to work in the rest of their P.E. credits next year and get that over with.  Ariel is also trying to beg for her foreign language.  Daddy made a deal with her to see if she's serious, we'll see.  She wants to do Japanese and man are those disk pricey!

So what are you contemplating for next year?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Fabulous "Beef" and Broccoli recipe

This is one of my husbands favorite dishes revised.  The first time I made this original version of this he declared it , "better than he's had at a restaurant and he'd order it again and again."  That's his utmost compliment saying he'd order it out!

Well, I revised it to make it less calories and it turned out just as tasting and got the same response from hubby!  Basically trading ground turkey for the round steak and adding more broccoli and less meat saves you calories.  Switching the ground turkey not only saves you a few calories (1lb of round steak is about 840 calories as opposed to 1lb of fat free ground turkey at 640 calories) but goes further.  The ground turkey nicely mixes into the sauce "spreading" farther than the larger "chunks" of round steak would.  This way you can also "cut the amount of meat" to 12 ounces and not notice anything missing.  Add in an extra cup of broccoli and not only up the nutritional value but stretch your servings to be more filling.

So here you go, enjoy!
Forgot to take a picture until I was saving some for Taylor who was at Karate while we ate

Mock Beef and Broccoli
1lb ground turkey (or to do no animal protein leave out or sub with your favorite "ground wheat meat"*
2 T. peanut butter
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
1 cup water
2T. cornstarch
4 tsp. vinegar (I used white)
pepper to taste
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. garlic powder
4-5 cups broccoli florets (about 2 large bunches)
In microwave safe bowl combing soy sauce, peanut butter, not sauce, water, cornstarch, vinegar, pepper and garlic powder.  Mix well and warm in microwave stirring after every 30 seconds until you can blend the peanut butter in and it's slightly thickened.

In skillet fry ground turkey (if using) till pink is gone, drain.  Add the broccoli and cook till "crisp/tender", add the sauce and stir.  Serve over rice.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Easy Vegetarian Bean soup

So how's the healthy January going?  Ours has not been without hiccup's but we're still striving toward the goal.  Part of our problem has been after Christmas sales on things like gingerbread houses, gingerbread barns, caramel corn and the like.  Daddy just can't resist buying another gingerbread kit for the girls, it was only $2.99 candy and all!  And then Grandma comes and brings cookie dough cut-outs...but I digress! 

We've been obviously making more meals than I can get blogged so it may end up being more than 30 days of sharing, we'll just keep on going!  Today however I thought I'd share a really easy bean soup.

Bean soup is not my families "favorite" but they will eat in once in awhile and this recipe makes a really good and easy one if you do like bean soup.  If you have non-vegetarians you can serve cooked turkey bacon crumbled on the side for those that want to add it as "topping" to the soup.

Vegetarian Bean Soup
1lb bag of dry great northern beans
2 cups chopped (more or less)
1 cup chopped celery (more or less)
1 chopped onion
1 tsp. garlic minced 
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
Take your dry beans the night before and place in a bowl, cover with water till about 2-3 inches higher than the beans.  Let them soak overnight.  In the morning drain the water.  Put all ingredients in a crock pot and cover with water till about an inch over the ingredients.  Simply cook till done, about 4-6 hours on high or all day on low. This is so simple, cheap and healthy!  You can mix up the spices if you want, add your favorite, thyme, savory whatever you like.  Oh and don't forget to remove the bay leaves before serving.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Update on using Biology 101

We are thrilled with our choice of Biology 101 for this year.  We of course modified the instructions for using as a high school curricula but are thrilled with the results using Biology 101 at the center of our course.  Even my daughter Ariel who is not really a "science kid" might admit that it's not so bad.  I'm so glad I switched methods from what I did with my older boys!

We're using Biology 101 put out by Westfield Studios .  They graciously allowed us to use their product in our co-op setting.  This curricula lends itself fabulously to the style of learning we've been doing all along rather than being forced at the high school level to switch to a more true "textbook" approach.

What style have we been using all along you might ask?  Well, I'm not sure I can categorize it precisely but I can say for sure it is not a traditional textbook style where you read and take multiple choice tests.  Generally we keep notebooks which contain any given number of things depending on the subject.  They often include timelines, notes, book reports, copies of articles, maps etc...  Basically anything we've found of interest to add to our study.  We value "hands-on" learning and whenever we can do "application type learning".  This could mean field trips, competitions, arts/crafts type projects, collections, etc... 
Ariel cutting into her perch

You could call it Notebooking but our notebooks are not as elaborate as some.  You could call if Eclectic but we're also not as eclectic as some as we do generally have a plan and follow a book/guide.  It works for us and I've been so pleased with the results!

So for our science, here is the modified syllabus I came up with.  Along with we the DVD curriculum and guide to print out we added a "color book" which gives up lots more technical information that I thought might have been a bit lacking.  It really gives us more than we need but gives the "beef up" in that area I was hoping for.  We also added a few labs to give  that hands on thing and of course we add reports and other books to get the students digging in and finding interesting things on their own!  (Learning at its best in my opinion!) 
Lexie and fellow student Jessie making their cut

I just loved last week when my girls were trying to "narrow" down which 3-4 aquatic animals they wanted to bring to share with the class.  They ended up telling me all about them to try and make the decision on which they should share.  I just sat there thinking , "Wow, they are getting so much out of this and don't even realize it, that is learning at its finest!"  I love it when that happens.  At our house that never happens over multiple choice tests.

For the co-op I created a "check list" for each unit so that moms can check off (and grade if they like) the sections that students should have in their notebooks.  The bulk of the grade in my opinion should be that they completed the work.  From there you can give points on neatness, creativity and "extra" things they added on their own.  I do grade the reports and the curriculum from Westfield Studios has a small quiz from each unit that  I also grade.

They also offer a Chemistry 101 course.  Will we doing it next year?  No, I don't think so but possibly the year after.  The girls already had next years courses picked out.  Lexie will be doing a Pre-Med and Ariel a Classical Astronomy, at least that is the current plan.  We'll see what gets bought this convention season.  Stay tuned....