Sunday, February 27, 2011

How do I teach them to sew???

Every Christmas, I pull out the Christmas tree ornament that my first grade teacher helped me and 29 other first graders to needlepoint on plastic canvas thirty years ago.  As my girls have grown, I have grown to have more and more respect for that teacher.  How did she do it?  How did she guide and have the patience to guide 30 first graders in such a project?  There were even boys in the class!  I am awestruck when I pick up the little ornament and contemplate its origins.

My girls are now 7 and 5 and I know the time has come this summer to begin introducing them to sewing and other home economics skills.  I have put it off with the thought that they were too young.  But, I'm realizing that now it's time.  And it's also time for them to learn a few other things, too...

Two weeks ago, I made a list of all the skills I want my children to learn when it comes to home economics and life skills.  I divided them up and designated some of them for elementary school, some for middle, and some for high school.  My goal was to find a book for each of the topics that would be a good basic resource that covers that topic well.  I only have so much space on my bookshelf and I wanted to find good books that would be great all-in-one resources.

The first topic I wanted to find a good resource for was sewing.  Although I know how to sew, I am a learned teacher, not a natural teacher.  I need books that will give me good directions that both me and my kids can read.  I need things to be simple.  I don't have a lot of time for prep in my life right now.  I like good, clear, and simple illustrations.

Surprisingly, I found all of those things in one book on sewing titled Sewing School by Amie Plumley and Andria Lisle.  This is a new book that just came out last fall.  It is published by Storey Publishing--which is probably my favorite publishers of good hobby books.

There is an introductory section for parents about how to teach sewing and how to approach the endeavor.  (I was very excited to know there's such thing as a needle threader!)  Then, there are the basics of knots and hand sewing stitches.  The pictures are simple and the directions below the pictures are concise and clear.  From there, the book includes directions on how to make 21 sewing projects.

I wondered what these projects would be like.  I was wonderfully surprised at what I found.  Patterns and stuffing are introduced.  Projects range from simple to more complex.  There is even one for making a skirt using a sewing machine--on the most basic level!  Honestly, that was just what I wanted.  I was looking for a book that primarily focused on hand sewing with a little machine sewing towards the end so that I can introduce the kids to my sewing machine when it's time.  The projects in this book are wonderful ideas for gifts that my girls will be able to make for others come next Christmas.  I think the best age range for this book is 5-12 year olds.  5 years old may be a little young for this book, but if you take it slow, have patience and a needle threader, I think you'll be in good shape.  12 may seem a little old for this book, but if someone was starting off sewing that has never sewn before, I would start them with just these projects.  The directions are clear and simple--and that's helpful no matter how old you are!

The authors obviously know what they're talking about.  They run a summer camp for elementary age children in Tennessee every year to teach them how to sew.  So, these projects have been tested and made over and over.  These authors are writing with experience!  Every so often I find authors who pretend to be people they're not or write about things that they have only a little experience in.  That's not the case with these two!  I am impressed.  This book has made me really look forward to sewing with my girls and now I just can't wait to introduce my girls to sewing!

We just so happened to get them new shoes this weekend and the boxes are just the perfect size to become their new sewing boxes.   So, I'm off to cover them with paper...

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Storey Publishing.

Friday, February 25, 2011

All The Other Important Stuff To Learn...

I am a planner.  Getting my master's degree in education turned me into a planner.  I was taught that you needed to know what your children needed to learn and then make a plan to cover that material.  Most of the time that meant you needed to create your own lessons because you likely wouldn't have books.

When I started homeschooling, I thought I would have more planning time--not less than I did as a classroom teacher.  What I discovered to be reality was actually that I have far less.  In my life with 3 children 2, 5, and 7, I need to be able to pick up and go with a lesson.  Formatting in a book can either make my life easy or very difficult.  I have a plan for their academics and I have been so blessed to watch God direct me to the right curriculums for my kids.  But, recently I came upon the realization that it was time to get on the ball when it came to all the other stuff besides the academics that they need to learn.  My girls are getting older and time has seemed to sneak up on me already.

So, in January, my girls began folding and putting away their clothes regularly.  Autumn took on making their beds and Sami began emptying the trash.  I have been trying to involve them more in the cooking and truly holding them accountable for picking up their toys.  Too often I had fallen into the habit of picking things up for them.  But, I knew I needed to stop--so I've mostly stopped.

Then, two weeks ago, my husband asked me about all the other things that he had hoped they would learn or have the opportunity to do because they are homeschooling.  At the top of the list were cooking and gardening.  I listened and took what he said and mulled it over.  I pulled out a book on my bookshelf called Life Skills for Kids by Christine Field, and do some research on the internet.

I couldn't find an all in one home economics/money management/manners/hobby arts curriculum.  The ones I found had a sharp dichotomy between what girls and boys were taught to do.  My husband and I do want our girls to be able to keep their home, but we don't believe in keeping them home until they marry.  I hope and even expect that my girls will go to college or receive additional education after high school.  I am preparing them to do that.  Not all girls get married and I don't know what the Lord has for them--though I do hope that he has a husband in mind for them and a wife in mind for Eli.  So, I believe I need to prepare them well--to be able to both mow the lawn, paint a room, cook a meal, garden, and manage their own finances well.

The curriculums I found also tended to be far more conservative in their beliefs about men's and women's roles than mine are.  I once was an evangelical feminist--which I am far from now.  But, I am not super conservative about my beliefs about submission either.  Dancing With The One You Love by Cindy Easley was such a blessing to me this year.  It is the first book I have read about submission that I felt is written with grace and the understanding that all marriages are different--while still believing firmly in the submission of a wife to her husband.  Since I didn't find a curriculum that covered everything I was looking for with lessons in it, I found myself in a quandary.  I decided to collect a list of resources and a basic list of the skills I want to teach my children.

So far I have the list and the resources are on their way.  I am going to post reviews of the books as they come and add a new tab to this blog that will keep a running list of the topics, my plan, and the resources.

So, here's my list of topics...
Elementary School
Money Management            Wise Purchases, Grocery Shopping, Saving
Decision Making                  Self Discipline, Wise/Unwise
Space Organization              Own Room, Clothing, Closet
Home Skills                         Gardening, Meal Planning, Cooking, Sewing, Recycling/Reusing
People Skills                        Manners, Making Friends, Phone Etiquette
Healthy Lifestyles                 Eating Right and Making Good Food Choices
Celebration Skills                 Family Traditions, Birthdays, Special Days/Achievements, Holidays,

Middle School
Money Management            Clothes Shopping, Grocery Shopping, Saving/Banking
Decision Making                  Time (Priorities), Self Discipline, Wise/Unwise
Space Organization              Home, Purse/Backpack
Vision                                  Goals/Purpose
Home Skills                         Menu Planning, Cooking, Knitting/Crocheting, Child Care
People Skills                        Email/Letter Etiquette
Healthy Lifestyles                 CPR/First Aid Class
Fine Arts                              Photography, Music Appreciation

High School
Money Management            Open and Use a Bank Account, Budgeting
Life Skills                             Getting a Job, Work Ethic
Home Skills                          House Maintenance, Car Maintenance, Painting, Wood Finishing
Animals                                Volunteer at Humane Society

I trained to teach K-5, taught Middle School, and tutored High School Students and adults.  So, I realize that I naturally keep in mind the end of the race.  I do still try to focus on what's right in front of me, but I have found that I need to know where I'm going.  I am running this race intentionally.  It doesn't confine me and none of what I've written is hard and fast, but it is a starting point.  A place for me and my kids to begin at.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Snow Day Treats

Tonight I made these Crumb Bars...

What a great snow day treat they were!  I've had bad luck with 7 layer bars in the past.  But, these worked.  I used chocolate chips instead of chocolate chunks.  Next time, I'm going to split the 3/4 cup chocolate chips in the topping between chocolate and peanut butter chips.  I'm also going to add in a sprinkling of coconut and then I think they'll turn out pretty close.

Grocery Prices

It's one of those interesting things in these times.  On Sunday, the article on the front page of the Baltimore Sun's business section was about the expected inflation estimates for food this year.

My first thought was, "Okay.  Tighten the belt a little more before I have to."

But, what really goes?

When you go to the grocery store, how do you cut?  I learned this strategy from my mom.  It's okay to put something in your cart that you're considering, but before you check out ask yourself if it's a need or a want.  It's okay to hand something to the checker if you decide that you don't want it or can't afford to get it.  Even if something is on sale or on clearance, if it's not in your budget, it's wiser not to get it.  At least that's what I've come to believe.

This week, I reminded myself of this when I was at Kohl's this week.  I bought three sets of sheets for my kids.  Eli really needed two sets.  But, I bought one.  That was what was in the budget.  His birthday is coming up and I can buy a second fun set then as a birthday gift.

The girls got new bunk beds in January that I posted about.  I would love to get them matching comforters, but I haven't.  I've decided to save that idea for their birthdays in the fall.  A few weeks ago, I saw the perfect sheets for them, but they were $25 for one set, which would have been $50 for two sets plus tax.  I told myself not to get them.  They aren't a need.

The reason I bought the sheets at Kohls, because though they technically weren't a need (they each have one set of sheets), I had $30 Kohls cash which almost covered the cost of all three sets.

But, back to groceries...
How can we cut if we need to this year?

This is my plan:
1) I'm going to start a file of especially inexpensive meals.  This week I made minestrone soup and my whole family loved it.  Minestrone is very inexpensive.  Soup and bread--vegetables, protein, and the bread group in  and easy, quick meal.
2) Stick with the milk one meal, water one meal, and juice one meal with the kids.  And water for all three for the adults.
3) Sweets are my weakness.  Make Izzes really a treat.  Sometimes I have them more often.  Keep frozen cookies and treats around instead of buying Ghiradelli as a treat.
4) Use my allowance to buy gum (always using coupons) rather than the grocery budget.  I don't spend much on it, but if I really would like to have it, I should spend my allowance on it.
5) Cut in other places...
If it came down to it, Molly's grooming every three months can go to twice a year or once a year with more frequent brushings.
Get better at cutting my husband's hair.
6) Work on letting less produce go to waste and only buy the produce I really need--even if it means shopping a little more often at first.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Computer Worms

This week I had a scary thing happen to me.  My computer avoided a worm--by the skin of my chinny, chin, chin, so to speak.  I was in my email program when my computer was suddenly taken over by this screen that started listing 5, 6, then 7, then 8+ programs affected by a worm.  Down at the bottom appeared a question from my computer asking me if I wanted to give the program access to my computer and a warning that it could harm my computer.

I paused and my heart was seized with fear.  This all happened in a matter of seconds.

Then I had the thought that I needed to check my virus program.  Just as I began to minimize the screen and go to that icon, my antivirus program showed an icon in the corner that said it had just blocked a worm.  I immediately closed the web browser that had been opened and began a full system scan to get rid of any remains.

The whole scene reminded me of the movie inception.  There's a scene in the movie where Leonardo di Caprio's character explains to the soon to be new dream designer that you can't incorporate real elements because then the dreamer has a greater likelihood of realizing that the dream is a dream and is not reality.  The creator wants the dreamer to believe that the dream is reality!

This worm wanted me to believe that it was in fact protecting me from a worm!

I wanted to share this story in case you ever encounter such a threat on your computer.  Computers simply aren't as safe as we want to believe they are.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Processed Foods

I'm in the process of reading a great book about PMS, yes, PMS.  It has been so encouraging and challenging.  One of the topics of the book is of course what we eat.  One of the superfoods recommended is blueberries.  Just beware of the fake blueberries!

I saw this video on yahoo this morning and it was pretty informative.

Honestly, blueberries aren't one of my favorite foods so I haven't added them a lot to our diets.  But, I do get the frozen blueberries from Aldis to add to our smoothies.  It sounds like that's the best way to go from the looks of this video!