Getting homeschool organized for 2012-2013 part 2

Okay here’s where I get a little more detailed on my BPA way of things. It’ll work for other approaches too but this is my take, at least for this year. 🙂 This post addresses filing and BPA stuff in general. You can see how this system folds all of life in together.

weekly folders.Okay this is the front of the weekly folder. It has the family weekly planner stapled to the front. This has my menu plan, activities and to do list. So handy!

inside file folder. Inside the folder you can see how it holds all our life: brochures, postcard reminders, recipes to try, school handouts, it’s all in this little folder. You can see life in context each week. This is more visual for me even than a planner list. I can see what all is going on this week and only this week–each little weekly capsule. Then of course all these activities go onto my monthly planner calendar I carry with me so I can see a month at a time.

In my files I keep a folder for Masters. When I have to make a copy from the NP lessons for a graphic organizer or some such thing I will probably use again I make a few extra copies and keep them here. Then I have extras for when I forget or when I might be low on printer ink. 🙂

Up front in the top drawer of my filing cabinet (I have four glorious drawers!) I have 7 folders, one for each principle. Into these I put clippings, printouts and more that help me illustrate these principles in every day life (especially to my middle and high schooler). it helps spark conversations and  bring these principles into the everyday. This is one of my favorite things!

Now that school is starting I have taken my homekeeping notebook out of my tote. It now holds a season of folders, my Noah Plan lessons for third grade (the spiral) and my school planner (the black binder). I use these beautiful planners from Home Educating Family Association and I have removed the spiral and put the pages in the notebook so I can add things as I need to in some file pockets and such.

I hope this is helpful to you! In the next installment I’ll show you my organizational tips. I love in a small home but we don’t do without in our homeschool just because we are short on space.

Raising good cooks: part three

Just like in carpentry, you need the right tool of the right job. I don’t mean a lot of fussy gadgets to clutter your kitchen, but the basic tools necessary to create almost anything you want to make in the kitchen.

There is a skill to setting up a good kitchen. With ten basic categories you can have a well-prepared kitchen that will be ready for any dish you want to prepare.

  • cookware. Quality cookware is a must. And knowing when to use what pan is a skill in itself. A basic set with a saute pan, a skillet, a stock pot and a couple of sauce pans will get you going.
  • cookbooks. Two basic, complete books are really all you need.
  • Foil, plastic wrap and parchment paper. Having the right tool makes cooking so much easier.
  • utensils. Whisks, slotted spoons, colanders, spatulas, a non-porous cutting board and ladles make cooking so much easier.
  • bakeware. It is hard to bake without a few basic pans and baking dishes. Two round cake pans, a sheet cake pan and an 8X8 square pans are three to start with. An maybe a glass dish for casseroles.
  • measuring tools. It’s impossible to cook accurately without quality measuring sups and spoons.
  • storage containers. You need somewhere to keep your leftovers so you aren’t storing food in your serving dishes or cookware.
  • mixing bowls. It’s hard to mix a cake in a cereal bowl. Three sizes are adequate.
  • electric tools. A mixer and blender are almost indispensable. Others you may want to invest in include a microwave, a food processor, a crock pot and a toaster oven.
  • rags, oven mitts and towels. You can’t get hot food out of the oven without one. And you need rags for cleaning too.

Raising good cooks: part 2

Becoming a good cook isn’t about being flashy or complicated. I think the best cooks are a ones with a few simple techniques that they do well. There are some things that will give any cook confidence.

  • Reading a recipe. Knowing how the recipe will flow helps you be a more confident cook. And also knowing if you have the ingredients/equipment on hand is good to know too.
  • Knife skills. Learn chopping, dicing, peeling, and the right knife to use.
  • Measuring. Liquid measuring cups are different than dry measuring cups. They should not be interchanged. Learning the abbreviations for measurements is important too. And how to accurately measure dry ingredients like flour. Math is important here, because you want to try your hand at doubling or tripling recipes or seeing if you have enough of an ingredient on hand.
  • Greasing and/or flouring pans. Not hard, but useful.
  • Methods for mixing. Whipping, folding, stirring, etc. are the most basic food preparatory skills.
  • Reading food labels. Eating healthier begins with knowledge of what you are buying.
  • Planning a menu. Food choices are fundamental to good cooking. This would include a shopping list and budgeting.
  • Culinary lexicon. It is necessary to know terms such as braise, simmer, saute and soft ball. Learning basic terms will make you a better cook because you will know what you need to do.
  • Equipment. Know what basic tools are and how to use them. These are basic tools like whisks and electric tools like blenders.
  • Food safety. This is a biggie. Know when food is unsafe, how to store food properly and first aid too (treating burns and cuts, for example).
  • Cleaning up. Sanitation, or how to properly clean cutting boards, counters, non-stick pans and knives. You may want to include stain treatment/removal.

Next: Part three–the top ten tools to have for a cook’s basic kitchen.

Raising good cooks: part one

When it comes to preparing your children (daughters and sons) for adulthood, kitchen skills can be a little overwhelming. All that goes into keeping a good kitchen is daunting, especially if you are a perfectionist or feel you lack skills in this area. Pick recipes from a favorite cookbook or family album and get to practicing.

Part one in this series is a list of recipes. A good cook does not need a hundred recipes. Ten simple recipes are all you need to master. This will give your child a wide variety of menus that will serve them well. Once you master each of these recipes you are able to improvise and create an almost endless menu. And they are all easy to double or triple for crowd pleasing meals too. When you are able to cook for yourself, it opens up a whole new world. You can control what goes into your food, what you eat and how you can entertain.

  • Pancakes. Making good pancakes takes skill, and making the batter from scratch is helpful. Adding a couple of Tbsp of oil transforms it into waffle mix. You can shake things up by adding fruit or other toppings and pancakes are a winner for breakfast or dinner.
  • Soup. Knowing how to make a basic soup is essential. Whatever soup your family loves most, learning a basic soup is important. Once you do, you can vary the ingredients to make an infinite variety for any season of the year. (And your college student will never have to settle for instant ramen or canned soup!)
  • Basic spaghetti sauce. This is the basis for almost any variety of Italian dish. A good tomato based spaghetti sauce can feed an army of friends and family and it’s an inexpensive way to impress someone you love. Ladle it over pasta or veggies for a winner every time.
  • Casserole. Casseroles are another dish that you can change up a million ways. Once you understand the basics you can add any number of ingredients and always get it right.
  • Baked bird (for meat eaters). Another simple skill that will take you far in the kitchen. Start with a chicken. And when you are feeling ambitious, try your hand at making gravy with no lumps!
  • Cookies. Knowing how to bake cookies is essential. They are great gifts and snacks. They are easy to make and fun to serve.
  • Cake. There is really no substitute to homemade cake (except maybe angel food!). Basic cakes are not difficult and the results are tasty. And a college kid or newlywed can afford to make a cake a lot easier than buy one.
  • Chili. Another dinnertime staple. Vegetarian or meaty, leftovers are great too. Good chili will keep people coming around.
  • White sauce. This is a foundation for many things like casseroles, mac and cheese and some soups.
  • Bread. Again, this is a money saver. Making your own rolls and bread is all natural and you can’t beat the smell of fresh baked bread. There are tons of recipes out there to experiment with to find one that is easy and mistake-proof (most of the time). Cornbread, quick bread, yeast bread, pick something and work on it.

These ten basic recipes are things your kids can work on from upper elementary age so that by the time they leave your home they are armed with simple but tasty recipes that will save money and keep them–and their friends–happy for years. Of course, there may be things that your family loves that you wish to substitute. Optional extras to learn: pie crust, eggs of all kinds.

Next time: 10 basic kitchen skills to master

Artful Maundy Monday Oct 27

I know, it’s up a little late. My hubbie is out of town on business and I’m surprised how much his absence throws us off. We are really a team and I miss him when he’s not here. That said, let’s dive into our quote this week:

It seems to me that the marks of personality–love, communication, and moral sensitivity–which are meant to sharpen as we are returning to communication with God, should lead to an increased rather than decreased creativity. The Christian should have more vividly expressed creativity in his daily life, and have more creative freedom, as well as the possibility of a continuing development in creative activities.

–Edith Schaeffer, The Hidden Art of Homemaking

I must say that I love that book, but that is another discussion. I totally agree that as Christians, looking more like Christ includes increased creativity. It can’t be helped. It always makes me sad to hear Christians downplay their talents and dismiss the idea that they possess any creativity. It’s dismissing a part of you when you deny your creative self. Enjoy exploring your creative side. Take some risks. Ask the Holy Spirit for some inspiration and get out there and create something!

Commitment to loveliness this week

What’s not to like? I am definitely in need of some strategic loveliness around here.

My five things for this week:

  1. paint the table in my living room to match my other furniture
  2. give myself a pedicure
  3. read more of The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer
  4. complete the wedding gift for my cousin and his bride-to-be: a handmade book of course!
  5. Serve my dinners at the table, as opposed to serving from the stove (I know, I have a long way to go!)

Join the fun at Charming the Birds From the Trees.

Needlework goodness

I have been pursuing art in the paper medium, but lately I have been very interested in something more, shall we say, domestic? I have been perusing the web for some vintage patterns for my kitchen towels and other projects. Some links I have found myself frequenting include:

Primrose Design’s Stitch School has amazing tutorials on about twenty stitches and they are not to be missed. If you have wanted to teach your daughter or granddaughter some needlework, don’t miss it (check her sidebar).

Pattern Bee vintage redwork and needlework patterns. They also offer some freebies and also an embroidery primer to teach you several stitches while creating some cute projects. Your daughter might enjoy them.

One Hour Craft has lots of great things to make. Not all needlework, but fun to check out.

Nordic Needle has many types of supplies and books. I am interested in the Hardanger embroidery, as my great-grandparents immigrated from Norway and Denmark and this type of embroidery is very Scandinavian.

As for sewing inspiration, please, please visit Posie. Her little textile goodies are too yummy to miss!

Interweave has all sorts of publications for textile arts and mixed media.

I will post some great links for knitting (especially for you lefties–like me!) and other wholesome pastimes.

Individuality comes out of the closet

When we did our study on homekeeping in October we reasoned from one scripture each day as we colored from this book.  Each day they delighted me with their insight and we enjoyed the study very much. We simply read a scripture and talked about it while they colored. The girls they colored in their books had rainbow hair many days and we had a great time gently reasoning from God’s Word together. I came across some notes I had made while we were talking, my beautiful daughters and I. They are 8.5 and 5.5.

The scripture for that particular day was Proverbs 31:22 and they were reasoning about clothes and why we need them. This is their list.


  • protect us (like a coat or protective gear)
  • cover us (first by God in Genesis)
  • keep us from getting embarrassed (when we are modest)
  • get us certain things (like wearing a uniform)
  • make us unique

I could not have done a better job myself. As for the last one, my oldest daughter has quite a unique perspective on fashion. I love it because she’s comfortable wearing what she likes and not what’s necessarily trendy. You never know what she will come out of her room looking like. (Don’t get me wrong. She’s not a clown, but rather, um, eclectic in her choices.) But she thinks she looks good and her grace and confidence help her to carry off an outfit I never could have worn at her age.

She’s a modest young lady as well, so if I want to question her fashion sense, most times I just smile and let it go. She’s happy being her own person–and that makes me happy too.

Blessing our home: week one

Well I’m late with a recap because I have been pretty ill with a respiratory thing. Here’s what we did last week in our unit on homekeeping.

We defined keeping home. We looked up scriptures and discussed things needed to keep home–diligence, organization, etc. We discussed what it means to “bless” your home. 

We learned about the history of cleaning through the ages with Cleaning the House by John Mala and 300 Years of Housekeeping Collectibles by Linda Franklin.

We drew our unhappy (messy home). We will finish the unit with drawing a happy (clean home).

We read several cleaning books: Five Little Monkeys with Nothing to Do, In a Minute!, Spring Cleaning, Boo and Baa on a Cleaning Spree and Home Tools among them.

We are coloring a picture each day from Doorposts’ coloring book on Psalm 31.

We memorized Psalm 31:10.

We made a kid-safe cleaning solution with baking soda, Borax and water. Now they have a special spray they like to use.

They did worksheets for math. 

And more…

It was a fun week. We learned a lot about cleaning and God’s idea of home keeping and blessing. This week we will continue, but my health has put things on a bit of a hold so far. We will start to work on a schedule and lots more that I will post next week.

Coming home

In my last post I talked about the latest turn in my journey. I am venturing into unit studies and already I am more at home than I have ever been as a home educator. I have come home in more ways than one.

You may be surprised to learn about the topic of my first unit study. It is home keeping. You read right. (It is called home education, right?) That may seem a strange place to start, but you haven’t been to my house. It is a struggle for all of us to stay organized and orderly and it stops here. Now. Here is a snapshot of how this will work at our house.

We will begin with God’s design for women, using a concordance and Webster’s 1828 dictionary. We will also see how God intends for us to live, as children of God. We will note principles, such as God’s orderly nature, God’s Principle of Individuality and Christian self-government. These principles will be the over-arching themes throughout this study. They will reason from God’s Word for themselves what their unique roles as children and as young women are, liberating them to be what God intended.

Once the foundation has been laid and they know why we need to keep a neat home, we will move to the how. This will be things like the history of cleaning around the world, lots of children’s books (fiction and non-fiction) about the topic, samples from literature like Little House on the Prairie. We will mix our own kid-safe cleaning solutions, sew aprons, create charts, estimate task times, and by the end of the month we will have created a chart to keep a neat home together.

After this month is done, we will continue this training. Each Monday will be a sort of “Home Economics” day. We will learn all the things it takes to manage a home well, and do it with Joy. This will include meal preparation and food safety, sewing, cleaning skills, budgeting, shopping and making menus and time management. The other four days will fall into our usual lesson routine. As my son grows older we will teach him these things as well, along with some “manly things” that he will need to know.

It seems strange to say, but I am so excited to realize that it’s okay to teach my kids what I think they should know in this area, and that it can be a part of learning, just as math or history. So I feel the liberty to learn along with them as we start this new life–at home. I hope you will follow along and offer any insight you may have.