Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Finances of Eating Gluten Free

Many times in life there are choices to be made and nine times out of ten the choices are based on how financially you will tackle that choice. Buying houses and cars, where to send your kids to college, vacations, etc. Well financially speaking eating gluten free is one of those financial choices too. Granted for health reasons it has to be done, but financially it can be very daunting. Just about everything in the kitchen, pantry, and fridge needs to be readjusted. That costs a lot of money. Buying regular groceries cost a lot these days, add to that the fact of purchasing gluten free this and gluten free that and it will add up very quickly. Now that my family is eating mostly gluten free with me that also adds to the amount of gluten free food roaming around the kitchen. But that is okay because cooking one meal instead of two each night is much less hectic and easier on my brain. Over the past month there have been a few ways of purchasing gluten free food that has made my life easier. The following are choices I made for the beginning of my gluten free journey. Buying packaged food has given me time to do research. Now it is my turn to start creating my own dishes and trying out recipes I have found. In the meantime this is what has kept us afloat:

  • A friend in my community has recently started a small cottage business out of her home. Keep It Simple has kept me sane this first month of my gluten free journey. She sells mixes at very affordable prices as well as some fresh baked goods. Currently I purchase my bread, pizza crust, muffin mix, blondie mix, pancake mix, biscuit mix, and Crazy Good Granola from her. This may change over time as I get more adjusted to the gluten free lifestyle. Buying from Keep It Simple has allowed me time to figure out a list of exactly what my pantry needs. Also I haven't had to spend all the money for the different types of flour to create my own mixes. Seriously most of her mixes range in the $3.00 range which is way less expensive than the grocery store or Amazon. I did find out from her that she yesterday that she can ship mixes if anyone is interested.
  • Buying in bulk from Amazon has also been a blessing. This week I purchased a six pack of snickerdoodle cookies made by Enjoy Life and a four pack variety of crackers from glutino. I currently am also creating wishlist items to purchase from Amazon a few at a time so it is easier on the pocket book.
  • Surprisingly Wal-mart carries my favorite gluten free pasta made by Heartland. Very inexpensive for the gluten free world.
  • Also I am surprised by the amount of gluten free products carried by our local Ingles. Much more than Wal-mart.
Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon looking through gluten free recipes on Pinterest. Seriously what did we all do with our time before Pinterest came about. The saved recipes has also given me an idea of the items I need to purchase for the pantry. So far this is my wish list below that I will purchase a little a time. The one thing I am missing terribly right now is flour tortillas. I really don't care for the brown rice variety so I will be trying my hand at creating my own here very soon.

Blanched Almond Flour
Tapioca flour
Potato starch
Rice Flour
Sweet Rice Flour
Xantham Gum
Powdered Egg Whites
Tortilla press
Food processor

Grand total comes in around 190.00. I can get all of the products from Amazon with free shipping. Any of you gluten free folks out there that have great places to buy products or recipes or advice, please chime in.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Weekly Wrap Up - A Mixture of Items to Report

Currently we are only "doing" some school work twice a week. Usually on Fridays and Saturdays because that is when hubby is away at work. We treat Monday - Thursday as our weekend time since he is home. My following thoughts on this week are in no particular order:

Thursday I had 9 girls over to for our art journaling group. The theme for the day was patriotic in honor of July 4th coming up next week. Lots of laughter and creating. I love spending time with all of these girls.

This week I started planning most of Grace's upcoming 9th grade year. I wish I could say that she was a self learner and enjoyed looking up and researching things on her own, alas, that just isn't her. She wants to be more rigorous in her studies but doesn't want to put the time in to make that happen. This means I have to plan everything and hand it to her to do. Even then it doesn't always turn out well, but that is for a whole other post. You can see Part 1 and Part 2 of the planning stages so far. I still have multiple subjects to wade through, there will be a part 3, 4 and maybe even more.
This was the third week in a row that we went hiking. On Wednesday we went no further than our own town and took to the Greenways to walk a mile or two. In the process we got to get real close to ground hog/wood chuck.
We also basically finished with the review for Moving Beyond the Page. I really love this product. Since me and Grace took it real slow with this product we still have some loose ends to tie up. Even though the review is finished and we could technically stop using the product, we won't. I really love the product and Grace is okay with it. We are learning a lot about Ancient Asia and the other study is about Greek Mythology. For the Greek Mythology study it uses D'Aularies book of Greek Myths. After reading some of the stories today I told Grace that it seems like Rick Riordan (author of Percy Jackson series) must keep the same book on his desk. Just about every story we have come across has been included in the Percy Jackson books. It just makes Grace enjoy the stories that much more. We are uber excited about Sea of Monsters coming out in August. Can't wait to see that one at the movies. 

Believe it or not it is almost July and we have not gone swimming. Hubby and Grace tried the river a couple of weeks ago but it was like ice. They are trying again this week with the Kayaks for the river or lake. I know Grace is just itching to go swimming somewhere.

Grace's favorite thing from this week was probably seeing the groundhog. We are not using many educational items right now so no favorites there. Hoping everyone is having a fun and relaxing summer.

We are linking up with Kris at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Planning for 9th Grade Part 2

History for 9th grade will center around the spine book of Famous Men of the Middle Ages. I picked up the Greenleaf study guide to the Famous Men book at a used book sale a few years ago and knew at some point that I wanted to use it. I am ashamed to say that over all these years we have studied very little about the Middle Ages or Medieval Times. The study guide is broken down into 34 chapters. We will accomplish one lesson a week which should finish us up by the end of the school year. Each lesson contains vocabulary work, questions to answer, other resources to utilize, map work, and charts to fill out. I was able to snag Famous Men of the Middle Ages free on Kindle as well as two other books we will use to accompany this unit. The only other book I need to purchase for this study that is used routinely throughout the study is The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History. I will order it in late July.

To have enough work to create a whole credit for history this year I have added a few other activities to the yearly schedule. Four times during the year I will ask Grace to select a person of interest from the studies to research further and write or type a two page paper on. Also she will be required to present two oral presentations on something that was invented in the Middle Ages.
The accompanying book list for this study which will be used as read alouds are:
  • The Door in the Wall
  • Adam of the Road
  • King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table
  • Ivanhoe
  • Sir Knight of the Splendid Way
  • The Children of Odin
  • Otto of the Silver Hand
The above list of books will be read aloud by me daily Monday - Friday with the exception of Tuesday. I enjoy the books as much as Grace if not more. So I like to include at least two books a day that we use as read alouds. This year that will be history and church history. She will be responsible for her science literature books.

Another history credit we will start working on is Early Church History. I intend for us to work through the 12 books from Salem Ridge Press about early church history. We will read 4 books a year. By the end of her senior year we will have finished the 12 book series and hopefully reached close to 150 hours for a credit in the subject. I will also ask Grace to fill out a book report form after each book is finished. We originally became intrigued with this series of books when we did a review of one for the TOS Review Crew. You can find the review here - Margarethe. So the 4 books on tap for this year are:
  • Glaucia The Greek Slave
  • The Captives
  • Out of the Mouth of the Lion
  • Sowing Beside All Waters
We will read 10 pages a day from these books Monday - Friday with the exception of Tuesday to finish them all up by the end of the school year. Tuesday is co-op day and I am scheduling very little in the morning on Tuesdays. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Creating a High School Binder and Preparing for 9th Grade

Planning for high school is daunting and scary. I will be the first to admit that I go back and forth between "Hey I got this" to "What if I screw this up" to "I want to be a true blue unschooler". Most times I pick myself up by the seat of my britches and just move ahead. One of those times was tonight. I figured there was no time like the present and getting some of the logistics taken care of. You know like what items I really want to use for this year and how I want to use them. 

My first order of business was starting a high school planning binder for me and Grace to use together. In the past year I have reviewed two products that deal with high school and planning to go to college. You can check out both of those reviews Here - College Prep Genius and Here - College Common Sense. Both companies recommended some sort of a binder to create to help you and your child keep everything straight for high school transcripts and college scholarships. So I started the initial preparations for that tonight. 

First I looked at what classes Grace would be taking for 9th grade and even some extras that might be in the works. I created a page for English 101, Algebra 1, Ornithology, Medieval History, Current Events, Drama, Art, and Physical Education. Starting in August everything we do will be counted toward a 1/2 or whole credit for one of the above classes. For example - Grace currently loves watching CNN Student News and reading God's World News. Both of these would be considered Current Events. Everything time we watch an episode or she spends time reading an article the time will be added to the Current Events sheet in the binder. Once she reaches 75 hours then the 1/2 credit is accomplished and we move on to something else. It may take four years (all through high school) to reach 75 hours for that 1/2 credit, but at least with the binder I am recording the time and eventually it will be finished.

I will also include in the binder all the materials we will use for each subject Grace will be studying, as well as how she will use it each day. Tonight I sat down and created the overall theme and lesson plan for English 101 - her freshman year.

Materials We Will Use
Marie's Words - Vocabulary
Language Lessons for the Secondary Child - Copywork, Writing, Grammar Review
King Alfred's English - Read book and answer the questions and tests that are included
Story Starters - Creative Writing
Literature - 6 selected books to read
Teaching the Classics - Teach literary analysis starting with picture books and move up to the books she will be reading
Creative Writing Class at Cooperative

How We Will Use These Materials
Mondays - Marie's Words
                 King Alfred's English
                 Literature Reading
Tuesdays - Marie's Words
                 Language Lessons
                 Creative Writing Class
Wednesdays - Marie's Words
                     Literature Reading
                     Story Starters
Thursdays - Marie's Words
                  Literature Reading
                  Language Lessons
Fridays - Literature Reading
              Teaching the Classics

Once I have all the information ready for all the classes Grace will be taking I will sit down with her and go over everything. This will be a big deal for Grace. It is a fine line I am walking. I do view us as relaxed homeschoolers but for credit purposes we do need to step it up a notch.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

O is for Oodles of Nature and Wildlife

This is our third hike of the summer. Unfortunately this week we couldn't travel far to hike because we were running out of week until Scott had to return to work tomorrow. Right in the middle of our small town is a walking trail called the Greenways. This goes right by a community garden, the library, and small businesses as well as homes in town. 

This area reminds us of the coastal waterways you will see in Georgia and Florida. A few months back we saw many tadpoles and today was dragonflies.
Lots of wild blackberries ripening on the vine.

By far the find of the day was the woodchuck that let us come right up to him to take pictures.  Each hike has showed us something amazing that God created on this Earth. Snails, snakes, lizards, birds, flowers, squirrels, and even a woodchuck. This weekly endeavor has become so special we might need to push it up to two times a week.

Linking up with Ben and Me for Blogging Through the Alphabet.

Monday, June 24, 2013

TOS Review - Moving Beyond the Page - Greek Mythology and Ancient Asia

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Recently our family was asked to use and review two products from Moving Beyond the Page. The first product is a language arts unit, Greek Myths and the second product is a social studies unit, Ancient Asia. There is so much information about this company and their products that I wish to share with you. Until this review I had never even heard of Moving Beyond the Page, which is a shame, because we are now technically aged out of their curriculum. 
Ancient Asia                     Greek Myths
The educational philosophy behind Moving Beyond the Page curriculum is based on the "Constructivist Theory of Learning". This was a new term for me, but basically it means students and parents view learning as an active process to gain knowledge and apply it to the world the student lives in for continued learning. Moving Beyond the Page does believe in educating the "Whole Child", and includes many different facets of learning methods in their products. To learn more about their educational philosophy visit this page on their website. You might also find it beneficial to visit the Frequently Asked Questions Page to answer many of your own questions about the curriculum and how to use it in your home.

Moving Beyond the Page offers different study units that can be purchased as a package for the entire year or separately to supplement your own curriculum. All units can be purchased as physical copies or online versions. The packages include units for science, social studies, and language arts with options to add reading and math programs from other companies. At this time I would like to break down each product and show you what it includes.

Language Arts - Greek Myths - Online Version

Included in the package:  Greek Myths Online Study Guide
                                     D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths - physical book
                                     Icarus At the Edge of Time - physical book
                                     More Roots Card Game - physical product

Package Price:  $68.78/online version
                       $72.84/physical study guide

Recommended:  11-13 years of age

This unit includes 7 lessons and a final project. Some lessons require one day of work where others will stretch to 2 or 3 days. The authors of the products recommend for a student aged 11-13 years of age 75-90 minutes a day for each subject which includes the reading time in the language arts units. In this language arts unit your student will learn about the gods and goddesses of Greek Mythology. Types of activities included in this unit are sentence editing, learning Greek and Latin root words, vocabulary, reading and answering questions, writing assignments, creating a movie poster and script, retelling the story of the Trojan War with props, and many more.

Each lesson starts out with an Intro section that involves reading and answering questions as well as items the student needs, ideas to think about, and special items the student should know. Next up is the activities section. Different activities are available in this section such as decoding a message with the Greek alphabet or creating a family tree for Zeus and his descendents. Some lessons will have 1-2 more days of reading and activities to finish. The conclusion section will wrap everything up that the student has learned in that particular lesson.

Social Studies - Ancient Asia - Physical Copy of Study Guide

Included in the package:  Ancient Asia Study Guide
                                     Life in Ancient China
                                     Life in Ancient Japan
                                     Life in the Ancient Indus River Valley
                                     Geography of the World The Essential Family

Package Price:  $63.83/physical study guide
                       $59.77/online version of study guide

Recommended Age:  11-13 years of age

This unit contains 6 lessons with a final project at the end. Again some lessons only require one day of work while others are sectioned out to 2 or 3 days. For the recommended age of 11-13 years of age this subject should take the student 75-90 a day to complete. In the study of Ancient Asia your student will learn about peoples, cultures, inventions and more from Ancient India, China and Japan. Each lesson will have all or some of the following:  a getting started section, reading and answering questions, mapwork, timeline entries, and activities.

What I Thought of the Products

When our family was offered the possibility of this review I knew I needed to chose wisely the subjects Grace would be studying over a six week period. Grace is a tough nut to crack and I knew to make this work the subject matter needed to be something she was interested in. The language arts unit about Greek Myths was a good choice for her. She has loved Greek Mythology since being introduced to it through the Percy Jackson series of books. Reading and learning about Greek Myths is enjoyable for her, which made my job of reviewing easier. The next choice was the social studies unit of Ancient Asia. Grace will tell just about anyone that her dream is to one day travel to Asia - Japan or Korea to be exact. She loves all things Asian. So for this review I had her pick the subject areas which turned out to be the above mentioned units.

The language arts unit was the online version and the social studies unit was a physical spiral bound book. With using both through the review process I can't really say that I enjoyed one version over the other. In future purchases I would probably go with the printed copy to save on printing the worksheets at home. The printed study guide is only a few dollars extra. Also once the online version is activated you have three months to complete it, which is plenty of time, unless something comes up in life that would prolong the study. The intro video does say that you can get an extension on that time if needed. As I have mention MANY times before, I am old school and still like a paper product best.

Here are some items I especially liked about the products:
  • Handy Writing Guide - The language arts unit came with a 7 page writing and grammar guide. This guide has all the important "stuff" your student would need to write a great paper. 
  • Review Page - the language arts unit also came with a short handy review page to look over at the end of the unit to refresh the student's mind about what they learned.
  • Both units gave options for activities. Sometimes you will find studies that require the students to do everything listed. Many times in both of the Moving Beyond the Page studies Grace was given different activity options. This made her feel like she had some control in her learning. 
  • I like the timeline entries and different activities that were assigned.
  • I also thought all the books chosen for the studies were good choices.
  • This product is priced very well for all that you get in the package.
What I didn't like about the product, which isn't much:
  • We are a very relaxed family that homeschools in a very relaxed fashion. Doing one subject for 75-90 minutes is not for us. This would have to be tweaked for us to continue using and would take longer to finish. That being said, we are homeschoolers and tweaking materials to suit our educational lifestyle is a common thing and what homeschooling is all about.
  • Grace just turned 14 and will start 9th grade in the fall. Unfortunately this means we have aged out of their products.
I truly wish I had known about Moving Beyond the Page earlier. So many wonderful units to choose from. Their units could appeal to such a wide range of families and learning methods. They can be used as recommended or go slower at your own pace. 

Grace's Thoughts

Grace liked reading the stories in the Greek Myths book and comparing them to other accounts from around the world for similar world events. She enjoyed playing the More Roots card game, but thought some of the activities were a little young for her. Grace also liked reading about the Ancient Asian civilizations. It surprised her how smart the people were from that time period and what they invented. She was not too fond of the map work but found the questions easy to answer.

Please go to Moving Beyond the Page and check out all the wonderful studies and subjects they have available.

Also be sure to visit Tos Review Crew to see what other families thought of their products.

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Some Weekly Chores To Make Life More Simple and Healthy

That is a long title. Sometimes I think that the words simple and healthy don't belong in the same sentence. Everything simple, healthy, and home made takes more time. Since beginning the journey of a gluten free diet for the family I am needing to pre-plan our meals more and cook from scratch a lot more. Now it is necessary to bake muffins to have for breakfast throughout the week as well as something sweet like brownies, cookies or blondies. Other things that need to be cooked from scratch like pancakes, biscuits, bread, etc. are done throughout the week when needed for a particular meal.
Another item me and Grace have added to our weekly chores is implementing one of the recipes from Herb Fairies. This month we are learning about the herb lemon balm. Luckily we had some dried and saved from last years garden. The dried lemon balm was steeped for 20 minutes and honey as added for a little sweeter taste. I originally wanted to use the mixture to make home made popsicles but two days earlier I had already filled the popsicle molds with yogurt and fruit flavored pops. So next thought was to put in ice cube trays. This way they could be added to water or tea. We are learning that lemon balm is great for sore throats, cold sores, and many more ailments.

Last but certainly not least is the home made dog food. This has been a real hit with the dogs and they clean their plates every time.

Linking up with the Barn Hop.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Going Gluten Free

I have suffered from acid reflux for years. Many prescription medications and natural alternatives later I still have problems. Recently I have read more and more research that points to some people having acid reflux because of the grains we eat, specifically gluten. So the gluten free journey has begun. Deciding to go gluten free can be a struggle and takes lots of willpower, research, and perseverance. Just about everything you eat on a daily basis has to be changed. I started two weeks ago and the rest of my family started one week ago. In the beginning I was going to do this alone but the more it was discussed around the dinner table the more Grace and Scott got interested in trying it themselves. All the members of my family have suffered from gastric issues over the years.  My son has had problems for years with his stomach and is a prime candidate for a gluten free diet. The only problem is he is a very picky eater and has always lived off of bread and breaded items. So convincing him would have been a real issue, plus he is living on his own now and responsible for his own meals. Now over the past six months or so Grace has started developing some gastric issues of her own. Saying all of this Grace and Scott came on board to do the gluten free diet too. The biggest issue for my daughter is eating out/fast food. She loves her chicken tenders. Yesterday I told her we could go get some lunch and chose McDonalds. I eat a burger with no bun and some french fries. I told her she could splurge on the nuggets, well a couple hours after eating them her stomach hurt. This morning she realized that the nuggets probably gave her the stomach ache. A little vindication on my part and a real blow to her to discover she just might have to do the gluten free at all times (not just at home).

One thing that makes my life a little saner in the process is the fact that a friend of mine has started a small cottage industry business selling gluten free mixes at our local farmer's market. I can get many things from her and she is continuing to add to her products, and her mixes are cheaper than the store. Yesterday I picked up fresh baked bread, 4 pizza crusts, muffin mix, biscuit mix, pancake mix, blondie mix, and brownie mix as well as the Crazy Good Granola she creates. I plan on giving this a go for a good 8 weeks and hope for improvement with my acid reflux. My goal is to get off of the strong prescription medication (which is a whole other post), which impedes many vitamins and minerals from absorbing into your body. Currently I have to take supplements for vitamin D, B, fish oil, and probiotics. Again that is a whole other post.

Linking up with the Barn Hop.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Northeast Georgia Mountain Hiking - Blogging Through the Alphabet

Hiking in Northeast Georgia is a big deal. There are hundreds of hiking trails including the biggy, The Appalachian Trail. So far for the summer we have decided to go hiking one day a week. The hikes we have chosen to date are very easy,negotiable hikes. Today we drove about 40 minutes from the house to visit Brasstown Bald this is the highest elevation in the state of Georgia. The temperatures are wonderful for some outdoor fun.
This is the beginning of the trail up the mountain. Yes, it is paved, but virtually straight up. 
A view from the upper deck. On clear days you can see Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina.
Hubby has a thing for trees and thought this was a great one. So of course it ended up in the photos.
We have had rain over the past couple of days which meant snails were out everywhere. Walking along the path made you feel like you were in the rainforest. 
Coming back down the trail is like a car coming down a hill with brakes on at all times. We saw what we think is a Fire Newt on the way back down. All and all a great way to start the morning. Out the door at 9:40 and back to eat lunch at home at 12:30. Can't wait for our adventure next week. 

We are linking up with Ben and Me for the Alphabet Link Up.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mentoring New Homeschooling Families

First and foremost I want to state that I do not believe I am a professional or perfect in the homeschool world. But over the past two years I have had the opportunity to mentor a couple of families that were just starting their path into homeschooling. We starting homeschooling Grace almost 8 years ago. Over those 8 years I have done a lot of research, talked to many other homeschooling families, attended conventions and seminars, read many homeschooling blogs, and have tried an incredible amount of curriculum and materials. This doesn't make me an expert, just well versed in what is available. Occasionally I will come across a parent that is looking for guidance. Let's face it, homeschooling can be scary in the beginning. There are so many questions to be addressed.

  • What curriculum should I use?
  • How will my children develop friendships?
  • Is it legal?
  • What if my child struggles?
  • What is a letter of intent and where do I send it?
  • Do I need to go to a convention every year?
  • Which standardized test should I use?
  • What is a unit study? Do I have to use textbooks? Where do I get the textbooks?
These questions can go on and on. I have had multiple opportunities to meet and talk with new homeschoolers and address some of these questions. I belong to a homeschool support group that holds a Homeschooling 101 seminar once a year free to our community. We try at that time to answer as many questions as possible as well as let the mothers and fathers know that they can do this. That is what our support group is all about. Yes, we do have field trips, parties, etc. but the main focus of our group is to support the parents. 

A year ago I had another opportunity pop up with a young single father that wanted to homeschool his son. We met at the library and talked over many points. Over the course of a month I talked with him over the phone and met a couple more times to guide him through the process of filling out forms and choosing curriculum. Today I am meeting with another mother that has started homeschooling her high school aged son. This time we are meeting for lunch and going over a plethora  of questions she has about the high school years and what opportunities are available for her son in the community. 

My point today is I feel blessed to be able to homeschool my daughter. I want to share that with other families that are considering going down the same path. They need to know that yes, at times it is hard, but it is also so worth it. They also need to know of all the choices that are available to them. I also want to encourage the families that are homeschooling to take on a similar role in their community to do the same.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Planning Our Own Science Curriculum Part 2

As I mentioned in a previous post I am planning an out of the box 9th grade science curriculum with an in depth study of birds. You can find Part One of this post here. So far this is what I have come up with:


The five selected books Grace will read then write a 1- 2 page report.

I have selected many movies from Netflix to watch:

Owl Cam: The Hidden World
World of Raptors
Wild Kingdom: Hunters of the Sky
Nature: Birds
Nature: Birds of the Gods
Birds, Birds, Birds!
The Life of Birds
Amazing Birds of America
Home School: Birds
Birders: The Central Park Effect
Animals in the  Wild: Bird in the Wild
Penguins: The Birds that Wanted to be Fish
Bird Park
So Many Feathers: Bird Watching
Flying Free
The Legend of Pale Male
Winged Migration

This will be the first book of the study I will have her read as an introduction to birding.
This is a log she will enter information in from the different birding field trips we will take during the year as well as the birds that visit our backyard on a daily basis.

My hopes are that this activity book will give Grace some jumping off points for her reports, and ideas for the two projects she will need create during the year. The last decisions I need to make for the upcoming year are what field trips to take and field work activities to be counted as lab time. One of the trips will definitely be to the Atlanta Zoo with their small bird aviary as well as 14 other birds.