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Archive for January, 2012

Picky Eaters

Little Man is really getting aware of everything and everyone around him over the past few months. It is interesting to see. He is noticing so much more than he used to. It is a developmental growth that takes some adjusting to. It is so wonderful to see how he is reacting to what happens around him. He responds very excitedly to Daddy coming home from the trucking runs. When he sees his Daddy, he is all smiles and giggly. He goes to his Daddy to be hugged and initiates play with him. On the downside, he also notices when Daddy has to go back out on the truck. He has a day of being moody and not wanting to interact very much with others. Luckily, it never lasts too long.

While Little Man is still non-verbal, he is sure letting us know when he is wanting something. The longer it takes us to figure it out, the more intense he becomes in trying to communicate his needs. One good example is when Little Miss and Grandson go outdoors to play. Little Man loves to go outdoors and play also. If they go without him, he cries until we ask if he wants to go outdoors. He stops crying immediately and is eager to let you help him put on his jacket.

The one area where we still struggle from time to time is in meal times. He eats great, but forgets to give us notice if he has suddenly decided to not eat previously favorite foods. It is like someone flipped a switch and he suddenly only wants foods that are crunchy. One day he may only want to eat peanut butter and the next all he wants is cheese & pasta. Yet another day, he may only want foods that involve a dip. So, each meal time becomes an adventure. I am learning that he enjoys strong flavors the most. Foods that are lighter in flavor need a dip or other addition that will give stronger flavor. One example is potatoes. While he does like mashed potatoes and oven fries, he eats them better if there is a flavor added. Mashed sweet potatoes or pumpkin are best with a bit of pumpkin pie spice and brown sugar added. He prefers that to white mashed potatoes and gravy. Sometimes, I will add a spoon of crushed pineapple to the masked pumpkin or sweet potatoes also. Oven fries made from sweet potatoes also get a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice.

A favorite pasta dish that he loves is a simple recipe my eldest daughter makes. She cooks pasta, then after draining it, she cooks it with a bit of oil & minced garlic. A very easy recipe, but the garlic flavor is wonderful. Little Man eats that very well. He also loves pasta made with a bit of pizza sauce instead of spaghetti sauce. Mac & cheese is always a good choice for him also.

He still has issues with vegetables. I have learned to be creative in them though. I chop them up fine and add to pancake batter to make little “fritters” for him to dip into ranch dressing. Being a bread lover, the diced or finely shredded veggies are a great addition to a bread recipe. You can even make mini muffins using a spice cake recipe. Add just a bit more flour than the recipe calls for and the shredded carrots, zucchini, etc. Any mildly flavored vegetable would work. Bake in the mini muffin pans. They are very tasty and the kids have no idea that they are eating veggies.

Recently, I made the kids a homemade pizza crust that I brushed with olive oil and topped with a bit of shredded cheese before baking. Cut into strips, they enjoyed dipping the crust into sauce like bread sticks. You can take this idea a step further by finely chopping pizza toppings like onions, bell peppers, olives, mushrooms, and mixing them into the crust dough. If they are chopped finely enough, the kids will hardly realize what they are eating.

If you have a pasta recipe, try adding pureed beets for red pasta and pureed spinach for green pasta. Pureed steamed carrots will give you orange pasta. The kids will have fun seeing all of the colors you make. Let them help in making a sauce or make a simple pesto sauce for the pasta.

I am finding that the easiest way to get the kids to eat vegetables is to let them grow their own. With that in mind, I am planning a little raised garden bed for each of the kids to grow their own veggies in. The beds won’t be very large, but will contain a few plants that they will enjoy snacking on. Grape tomatoes, green beans, leaf lettuce, and corn are a given. There will be a small strawberry patch planted this spring. The idea is to let them grow foods that they enjoy. In a large bucket, each of the kids will have a couple of sweet potato plants growing. They all love sweet potatoes, so this will be a fun learning experience for them.

I borrowed from the library a book called, “Vegan Lunch Box” by Jennifer McCann. The book is filled with simple lunch ideas for kids. Most are very appealing for adults also! If you have little ones that are not good at eating vegetables, check out this book. The recipes are presented in a fun way that kids enjoy. Sandwiches cut out with a cookie cutter are a hit with most kids. She includes recipes for homemade corn chips, chocolate graham crackers, as well as an assortment of soups, stews, sandwiches, salads, and even fancier fare like Mini Wellingtons. From this book, I am gleaning so many recipe ideas that I am likely going to be purchasing the book.

I will share more ideas in a future blog post. Until then, I am going to be trying out recipes from “Vegan Lunch Box” and will share how they are received by the family.

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Homestead Update

I realized tonight that I haven’t posted in a while. We have been doing a lot of re-organizing here at home. Both of the kids have had growth spurts. I sorted through all of their clothing and bagged up what they out-grew or no longer need to donate to a church’s clothing closet. Even after sorting through it all, they have more than enough left over. I have been pretty good at getting clothing just ahead of their growth spurts so that I always have the next size up.

I have been looking up more vegan recipes. The library we use has a couple of really good ones. Unfortunately, once I got started looking at the recipes, I began to think it may be easier to just go ahead and buy the book. The book is called, “Vegan Lunch Box”. It is filled with ideas for kids’ lunches. This book has been a blessing to find. I am getting so many ideas on foods to make for our family that it will be well worth the cost to buy the book.

Our winter has been very mild. The apple tree is already showing signs of leaf buds developing. A facebook friend shared a link with me for a YouTube video tutorial on building a raised bed garden from old pallets. A hardware store/lumber yard in a nearby town gives away old pallets that they receive their shipments on. We have quite a few of the pallets already. Inside of the raised bed is lined with weed barrier garden plastic, which I already have on hand left over from last year. I am really excited about this method. The garden beds will end up being waist high and easier to maintain. I can use them for both the vegetables and herbs. By having the garden beds so tall, the weeds will be minimal. The weed barrier plastic will hold the soil in the raised beds yet allow excess water to drain. Mulching will help to keep watering needs lessened in a drought situation. Expanding the garden will be easy for us to do. This type of raised garden bed will serve a secondary purpose as well. We can build the garden beds to run as a fence line along the children’s play area. A gate added to the fence line is all that would be needed. In the old barn, we found a chain link fence gate that only needs a little bit of work done on it to prepare it for use as the garden gate. Overall, the full project is only going to cost us the price of deck screws and amended soil to place into the raised beds. I previously purchased the book on “Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew which has his instructions for making a great soil mix for just this type of gardening.

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My mind has been swimming with ideas. Recently, an online workbox email group started having a discussion about busy bags. I was clueless at first until I did a search on these little gems. Now, I can honestly say that I am hooked on the possibilities that they offer.

Using the TEACCH method with my son, I am seeing the opportunities for using the busy bags as a workbox task. I found on Pintrest a large selection of photos taken of busy bag activities. Many of the busy bags are preschool level, but it would not be difficult to make bags for older children as well.

One idea that I found on Pintrest was a memory game made from pictures of family members. What a great idea! The game was made up with sets of 2 pictures of various family members. All were cut the same size and laminated. This would make a cute game for little ones. This matching game had my mind stirring with variations. Here are a few that I could think of right off. Many of these can be used for older students.

Biology: matching leaves, adult animal to it’s young

Phonics: matching upper to lower case letters

Reading: picture to it’s label (i.e. a picture of a cat and the word cat)

Math: shape and it’s label, math symbol and it’s meaning

Geography: matching pictures of famous landmarks, state maps and their name, state name and it’s capital, map symbols and their definitions

History: Inventor’s picture and a picture of their invention, historical event pictures (i.e. if studying the Civil War you can make a match game using pictures from that war, the uniforms, famous generals, etc to make the game)

As I said, my mind is swimming with ideas. There is so much that can be done with this one idea alone. I am working on a unit study with our daughter for the Little House books. Making a set of match game cards for the book we are currently reading would be so simple. We can do this with any story.

I am planning on participating in a swap sometime soon to make busy bags. I can hardly wait to get started! Making the bags will be a fun activity in itself for me to do with Little Miss.

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This week I am going to be starting on a new adventure with Little Man. I have been thinking about how to teach him his alphabet. With a verbal child, it is easy to get them to repeat the alphabet letters and later sing the ABC song. When the child is non-verbal, where do you start? I was finally given a direction from the folks at Keepers of the Faith. The suggestion was to not focus on teaching him the letter names as much as the letter sounds. Of course he will learn their names along the way. The objective however is to be able to ask him which letter makes the ă sound and him to be able to point to the letter A on a chart. This would show that he is able to recognize letters’ sounds. Once he is able to learn those, we will be able to teach him to read.

One friend of mine wrote to me about a family she knows. They have a non-verbal autistic child that they taught to read using the same method I am about to embark on with Little Man. It took about 2 years to teach him all of the alphabet sounds, but he learned. They spent a couple of weeks per letter in the beginning. I don’t mind how long it takes. Teaching a child to read is vital. Once that door is opened to them, the boundaries of what they can learn are greatly expanded.

I am quickly learning that the methods of teaching my little guy will be very different than what would be used for a typical child. The strange thing I am seeing however is that the methods that I use for Little Man would make perfect sense for teaching his sister who has no learning disabilities.

I am so grateful to the Lord for placing people in my life that have the knowledge and a willingness to share that information with me. The longer that we travel this path, the more convinced that I am that we are doing the right thing.

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Choices, choices. Been looking at the option of buying more flash drives to start organizing the homeschool and other information and resources I have on my netbook. I am realizing that an external hard drive may be cheaper. Problem is that a flash drive won’t use up my battery as quickly. When you live off-grid and have limited solar power, the battery usage is a consideration. So, for now I am saving the homeschool files to a flash drive that I have on hand. Next, I will start buying new ones a little at a time and assign each one a specific subject or purpose.

I am using Homeschool Tracker Basic as my computer based record keeping system. The basic version is a free download, but I would be frustrated to lose the records. So, I am going to dedicate one flash drive for the homeschool records only.

I am finding new lapbooks, worksheets, free curriculum downloads, and more online each week. I already have these saved on my hard drive. They are organized into folders listed by subject. Some of the folders even have sub-folders within them for specific items such as lapbooks. In example, under the subject folder of “Literature” I have a sub-folder for “Little House in the Big Woods.” The “Little House in the Big Woods” folder contains all of the printable worksheets and activity pages for a lapbook written for that story. I am doing this with each subject or course. Each of these subjects will eventually need their own flash drive to store the resources on.

Often, you can find free resources for an entire subject’s curriculum. One such resource is StarFall, which is a free online phonics curriculum resource. In the teacher’s area of their website, they have in pdf format a series of little emergent reader booklets for kids. Each booklet has a set of worksheets that corresponds to that booklet. There are many additional worksheets also in addition to online interactive games. I have been saving the booklets and worksheets for this website. I learned long ago when homeschooling my older boys that some free resources can suddenly disappear and no longer be free of charge or available at all.

There are many other resources that I have. TEACCH task ideas for our son, Bible study lessons, homeschool and household daily planner forms, and so much more that I would miss if my hard drive were to fail. So, backing up all of the resources is a priority now. Once it is all backed up onto the flash drives, I will be able to simply save new files directly to the flash drive assigned for that subject. It will be nice to have it all done.

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Sweet Potatoes

We love sweet potatoes more than regular russet varieties. So, with that in mind, I am going to buy a few sweet potatoes to grow into slips for the garden. Growing your own sweet potato slips (the little plants that you later will transplant in to your garden) are simple to grow. You can cut sweet potatoes in half and place them cut side down into a tray of water. Allow the sweet potatoes to sprout in a sunny window. When the sprouts are about 4-5 inches tall, carefully break them off of the sweet potato and place in a jar of water to take root. These are called “slips” and are the little plant starts that you have to buy to grow sweet potatoes.

I am going to let the kids grow their own sweet potatoes this season. Each will have their own little slips that they have watched over all winter. When the slips have grown enough roots to be planted, we will plant them into 5-gallon sized buckets. When harvest time comes along, the kids will get to empty their bucket and see how many sweet potatoes they have grown. I will be growing some myself in the family garden also! It will be fun for the kids to see where their sweet potatoes come from.

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