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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

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!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Thankful board

It is amazing what you can do when you get those margins in your life.  I've just had some time free up and it gave me a chance to bless my house! 

Last year in the magazine that Lowe's sends out they showed this frame with chicken wire that they had clipped "thankful" messages to.  I thought it was a cute idea and even looked at second hand and craft stores for large frames to use, but even at Good Will they wanted way more than I wanted to pay. 

The idea was still in my head and when our dishwasher died last winter and we got a new one.  This "frame" was screwed on the bottom of the dishwasher; I suppose to protect it from getting crushed in shipping.  I immediately thought, there is my "frame"!  Ever since then it's been sitting here waiting to be used.

This week I found the time.  All I did was prime and paint.  We had left over barn red paint that is on one of our living room walls and being that we own chickens we do have lots of remnants of chicken wire so all I had to do was cut to size and staple gun it on the back.

I was going to cut colored card-stock to size and allow people who live and visit here to write things they are thankful for and clip them to our board, but I found these cute "place-cards" at Hobby Lobby instead for $2.99 and on sale 40% off, so I snagged those.  The cute little close-pins were also from Hobby Lobby for a couple bucks (don't remember exactly), which I of course used a 40% coupon on.   I found the little ceramic mini "bread" pan at Christmas Tree shop to hold the cards for $1.  So for less than $6 total I have a cute little "Thankful" board to help us get ready for Thanksgiving.

It makes me happy!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Salsa Verde

This year we tried something new in the garden, Tomatillo's.  They have been prolific which lead to the question: "What do we do with them?"  The answer, salsa Verde of course!

growing in the garden
I must say I don't think I had ever tried "green" salsa till I made this recipe.  It is different but I am smitten.  Green salsa has a fresher taste.  It's somewhat like a cross between a green tomato and a kiwi.  Weird I know, but really it is good!  It's got a crisp fresh flavor but with a bit of sweetness too.  You can use it in place of regular red salsa (or in addition to if you like) on nachos, tacos etc...   Or just dip it with tortilla chips. 

The first batch I made ended up a little "hot" for my taste so I tried it over a block of cream cheese and oh, my, was it amazing! The only downside of this recipe is it only makes 3 jars!
amazing over cream cheese!  Scoop with chips...

This recipe is from my favorite canning cookbook, Put'em up!, but of course you know I tweaked it a little.  If you are buying tomatillos look for nice green color without brown or mushy spots.  It should be firm and usually "husks" are still attached.  Push on it and it should "give" slightly.  Remove the paper husks before using.
beautiful with husks removed
Salsa Verde
4 lbs tomatillos
1 T vegetable oil
1 cup lime (fresh, or partly fresh if possible)
4 onions chopped
1/2 of a jalapeno pepper (mine were red)
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 chopped cilantro
salt to taste (I didn't use any)
Take half of the tomatillos and rub with the oil.  Place them on a broiler pan and broil till parts are blackened.  While cooking place the rest of the ingredients except the cilantro and salt in the blender and blend till it's a nice "salsa" consistency but don't puree.  Add the broiled tomatillos and give the blender another whirl or two to chop those in.

3 jars of goodness!
Pour into a pan on the stove and simmer 10 minutes.  Add cilantro and salt if desired and water bath can for 15 minutes.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Getting US ready for school

It is here.  The last week of summer vacation.  I know, some of you already are back, but I have always been a summer child and I guess always will be.  I want to stretch it as long as I can and we have never gone back to school before Labor Day.

Recently I wrote an article for Home and School Mosaics  titled, "Is Your House Ready for Back to School".  Well, now I'm taking some of my own advice.  You see, we do those articles a month or more ahead, so while it gets published in August I was writing it in July.  In July I certainly wasn't actually "getting" ready for school.

What are you doing to get ready?  Here's what I'm doing....

So my thinking today is about getting food in order.  That is one of the biggest things that helps me get our year off to a good start.  If I don't have a plan for dinner things go downhill.  With new schedules, classes and just getting used to everything you have to expect that things won't always go as planned.  The idea is that this week I can get my freezer stocked and have some "back ups" in case we have "one of those days".  

I don't always do this, but for September many times I even schedule what meal we'll be having when and know that I've got it either in the freezer or on hand.  Much of the time I resist this as I like to be a little more spontaneous, but to get school off to a good start it's something to consider.  To keep it simple just take a look at what you've got, or what you're making ahead and write it in on the regular calendar for the day you want to serve it.  

One of our Chickens
The other thing for me is to try and get as much of my canning done as I can and other putting up.  Today for instance I dried Cherry Tomatoes and am trying a new egg recipe that uses 16 eggs.  Why?  Well, we have Chickens.  For those of you that have chickens that is answer enough, but for the rest of you that means in the summer I have an abundance of eggs!  We currently have 15 dozen eggs in the refrigerator and the girls will collect another dozen or more today.  So my goal as part of "getting" ready for school is to do something with all these eggs.

Take a look around the house.  What do you need to get ready?  The first weeks of school are not the time to have "extra" projects around.   Get the laundry done, cart those bags sitting there off to the thrift store, and get ahead on a few blog articles if you too do that sort of thing!  

Ready or not here school comes!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Drying Roma Cherry Tomatoes

 This is the time of year when you are reaping the benefits of all your hard work in the garden.  Or, if that didn't go so well, you are at least perusing the farmers market to reap the benefits of their hard work!  Either way, if you live in or near Michigan, it's Tomato time!

It used to be that we'd get so many cherry tomatoes that toward the end of summer I'd quick picking them as there wasn't much you could do with them.  That was before I discovered how wonderful they are dried!

Drying cherry Tomatoes is a simple process.  
#1 Start with incredibly flavorful cherry tomatoes.  I grow heirloom Roma Cherry Tomatoes that have incredible flavor.  Try to find some great tasting ones at a farmers market.  Most of the ones from the grocery store have little flavor.  The flavor will intensify with drying and you'll get a deep, rich, dark tomato taste.  

#2 Rinse them off.

#3 Slice them in half and place them cut side up on your dehydrator.  If you place them cut side down they sometimes stick to your rack.  Any dehydrator will work.  Mine is an inexpensive variety that you find at Wal-mart or Meijers for around $30-40.  We've had it for years.  There is no need to go out and buy some of these expensive ones you see advertised (at least not for this job!) 

#4 Turn your dehydrator on and let it work.  The time will vary to get them dry.  Usually I turn them on before bed and let it run all night.  By morning it's "almost" done.  You'll know because as you feel them there will be no soft or mushy spots, it will all be dry.  You don't want to go till they are hard as a rock.  The tomato can still feel "bendy" but shouldn't feel mushy at all.

#5 Lastly, place them in pretty clear jars, label and store.  They look so pretty in the jars I almost hate to use them.

So now that you have dried cherry tomato's what do you do with them?  Use them any way you would sun-dried tomatoes.  Just put as many as you want in a small bowl and cover the tomatoes with water.  Microwave for a minute just to get the water hot and then let them sit for 15-20 minutes (if you can.)  They are now ready to use.  You can also soften in oil and they will be like the oil packed sun-dried tomatoes.

We like them in hummus, on pizza, tossed in with pasta and a little oil and on bruschetta bread with some basil and oil.  You can also just toss them into soups and stews. ENJOY!