Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Kitchen Chores Chart

Life is settling down and routines have returned to expected norms, albeit with holiday interruptions.  As the head chef in the kitchen most meals I have found myself becoming more and more disgruntled with the lack of assistance.  Time to revisit our Kitchen Duties chart.

This simple chart was something I created a little over a year ago and used for a period of time.  It is a huge help!  My assistants, ages 4-9, know exactly what is expected of them and who is responsible for which assignment.  In the past they actually looked forward to being assigned the different roles.

Each position is given a title and duties that would loosely be performed by those positions in any restaurant or dining venue.  This is a quick rundown of the general descriptions of each.  (You can view the specific tasks we perform in our home on the photo of my chores chart.  We use clothespins with the kids' names to keep track of resposibilities.)

Sous Chef- The second in command.  Sous is French for "under", and the sous chef works directly under the command of the head chef often directing a portion of the kitchen activity and food prep.

Host/Hostess- The personal representation of the overall hospitality of the staff of the restaurant. It is the job of the hostess to ensure that the dinner seating is prepared and guests are made comfortable.

Maitre D'- Also considered a host/hostess position.  This term comes from the French maître d’hôtel which means "master of the hotel".  This role is defined much like the host/hostess role above and serves in a similar capacity.

(Omni)bus Boy/Girl- Generally the clean-up crew.  This originally came from the term Omnibus Boy meaning "providing many things at once" boy.  It is expected for the Busboy/girl to be available to perform many needed tasks with their primary focus being clearing dishes and garbage.  

In our home these tasks are performed during the evening meal and rotated daily.  This allows my children to work each position and with each other in the various roles. There are two children in the kitchen with me at any given time - sous chef & host; maitre d' & busboy- based on the ways we have divided the various roles.  While this still involves a certain amount of assistance from the head chef, the help is greatly appreciated and the skills learned will last a lifetime (I hope =). 

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Friday, December 2, 2011

The Barber Who Wanted to Pray- By R. C. Sproul

This delightful children's book is a wonderful story of an important figure in church history, Martin Luther, and an interaction that is reported as having taken place between Luther and a local barber. The barber asks Luther to describe how to pray more effectually. In a letter back to the barber Luther outlines some simple ideas to pursue while considering prayer.

In this beautifully illustrated account, the author, R. C. Sproul, uses an engaging manner of addressing children in the matter of prayer. It is an excellent tool for any parent interested in encouraging their own child to pray and how to pray with meaning.

With young children myself (ages 4-9), the subject of prayer has been a recent interest in our own home. I am thankful to have on hand a resource that will challenge us in our understanding of prayer and some pointers of how to grow in these areas.

For more information regarding this book please visit Crossway Books or for others like it see
{This book was received as part of the Crossway Book Review Program. All opinions are my own.}

Monday, November 14, 2011

School Interrupted-Life on the Move

Over the last 6 months, since I previously posted, a lot in life has changed. Our family moved again, twice, making that 3 moves in 18 months. A lot to say the least! We are finally settled, for a while anyway, and I felt it was time to start back to the regular routine.

During this time one of my biggest challenges has been school. My role as wife, mother, and primary educator became severely redirected when moving boxes invaded and nothing was at a status quo. Over these months I have struggled with feeling that life was running me instead of me directing life. But as I reflect on these past months, and all that was happening, I am so thankful for the Lord working in mighty ways. These are some of the rich blessings we have to celebrate as a family:

Health and Safety- Amidst packing, moving many miles to a new environment, and many new encounters the Lord has kept us healthy and safe.

House Provisions- We moved across the country to live in a temporary home that was gratefully provided for us. It allowed us the time needed to find another home, that while still temporary, is very comfortable and a great place for us to be currently.

Friends- It is never easy to leave behind friends, but again the Lord has given us so many new connections that we are thrilled to have a growing number of dear friends.

Proximity to Family- We are very thankful for a new closeness to family. Everyone lives 3 hours or more away, but we are able to see each other more frequently than before.

Church- Through much prayer the Lord directed us toward a Church family that we are excited to be a part of and look forward to getting to know more. Very thankful for Truth being taught.

Activity- While it may seem silly to have this as a praise when life can be so busy, we are thankful for the wealth of activities available to us all, both in homeschooling and the community. Being near the mountains again is a personal blessing to me =)

This is only the quick list of items as I sit here and think, but it is a good reminder that while I may feel I am running through my days the Lord is sustaining in mighty ways. I can surrender the little nagging feeling I have of school being delayed, or temporarily stalled, to a Great God and instead praise His name for the miracles He is working all around and in me during these times. The school bell we can hear ringing from our newest home is not intended for me. My children will learn where and when they need to through God's providence.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Picture Study- A Charlotte Mason Approach

Winslow Homer - Waiting for Dad

While there are many things in our homeschool day that I orient around a classical education, I truly appreciate a large part of the Charlotte Mason (CM) philosophy and practices in home academics. Some time back I decided to purchase the Dover Publications Art Cards to put to use in a CM picture study manner. I have been meaning to post about these cards and how I prepared them for some time, and when I read the two most recent posts from Simply Charlotte Mason, I was encouraged to share. (If you are not familiar with picture study, please, please take the time to learn how simple and meaningful this is. Go here and here to start.)
When I ordered my art cards from Dover I loved the way they had information about each card in the books. I knew I wanted to make an "art library" using the cards, but I wasn't willing to give up the overviews of the artists while discarding the cover and leftovers of the book. So, I decided to cut out and save the parts that I could use.

My intentions were to create photo albums with the cards. I pasted the overview information to an insert for the back cover of my album and added specific information to the reverse side of the images. Then I combined all the cards and the information in 4X6" photo albums. Now I have an easy reference for finding images by artist or artistic style. While these small prints don't show the detail of a larger image, I am glad to have them available and for a reasonable price.

Now let's do some picture study!Frank Benson - Sunlight

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Memory Building

Last fall I had the privilege of gaining and sharing a wealth of information with a group of homeschool moms led by a Master Homeschool Teacher. (I call her a "Master" teacher based on her years of experience schooling both her own children as well as others.) From this time I gleaned many useful ideas that I have enjoyed implementing in my own school. Here is one of them...
Mental Memory Building

My objective with this activity is to encourage memory skills, directional awareness, attentiveness and color recognition. Each is a basic skill that is used in all areas of life and especially academics. I use this with all my kids at different levels of difficulty.
For the materials, we use what we have on hand, LEGO DUPLO, stored in the cooler you see in the photos =). We play it as a game and the kids love to do it, but they also let me know when they are done. Mental activities can be taxing, so move along when they are ready.
To start I select a series of blocks, usually 3 blocks in 2 colors, and set them in a line.

I allow my child to look at the blocks for a period of 1 second per block before hiding them and asking them to recreate the series I had with the blocks placed in front of them. When they announce they are done, we compare their blocks to mine to see if they remembered correctly. We casually dismiss errors and praise both hard work and correct answers.

After the child has shown they can easily get 3 blocks I move to 4 blocks in 2 colors, 4 blocks in 3 colors and finally 4 blocks in 4 colors. We keep adding to this until they are worn out or the level of difficulty is too great.

For my older boys I have found that creating a line alone is too simple, so I add more blocks and start moving in different planes.
This challenge can continue to grow as much as desired by the parent and child. My kids have found it is fun to test their siblings.
The best part is when they get to challenge you!
A great tool even for adults to build basic mental memory skills.

For a system available for purchase that uses this type of training, Audiblox, is a brand I am aware of although I have not used it myself and cannot give an opinion regarding it. On their site you can find a number of videos clips that demonstrate these ideas, and their use for learning disabled students.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

The Organized Home Schooler

Though there are days the above title can feel like an oxymoron, there is hope. In this inspiring book by Vicki Caruana help abounds. Each chapter is a mix of encouragement and checklists to order your life and school while building off the solid foundation of God’s Word. The author addresses all areas of concern from abstract issues such as heart matters and time management to the basic physical concerns of organizing paperwork, supplies and materials.

This book has been a welcome addition to my own library. It is an encouragement for me now and will remain on my shelf as a guide when reevaluating in years to come. I especially appreciate Mrs. Caruana’s reference to Scripture as our source for orderliness and work ethic reminding me that all that I do needs to be done to the glory of God. The checklists fit my personal style of completing tasks, though the book is written to be a source of reference for all types of personalities.

Mrs. Caruana’s insight comes from her own experiences as a former public school educator and a homeschooling mother of two. She frequently speaks at homeschool conventions and shares through workshops and her online blog, Apples & Chalkdust. For more information regarding this book or others like it please visit

{This book was received as part of the Crossway Book Review Program. All opinions are my own.}

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christmas Wrap-Up

Now that the New Year is here, I decided I should take some time to wrap up our Christmas Around the World posts. While in America most of us have begun putting away our holiday regalia, in Siberia and elsewhere the holiday season has just begun. So here's the rest of what we learned this Christmas....We can still have a fruitful year even if our wheat didn't grow 6 to 8 inches. We were amazed how quickly it grew at all.My version of the Croatian Licitar Heart is neither dough nor edible, but it does have a "mirror" of aluminum foil to reflect the soul.Babuska may be a legend in parts of Russia (La Befana in Italy), but a good friend in Siberia has never heard stories of her. She does make a cute ornament, though.

And for the food...Bolivian Bunuelos- These are a more Puerto Rican style, but I look forward to trying authentic Bolivian Bunuelos someday.Puerto Rican Pasteles- Not sure the masa I made out of pumpkin, green bananas, plantains, potatoes and yucca was quite right, but the filling was delicious. Again, I'd love to try authentic pasteles in the future.Tanzanian Green Beans & Potatoes- A yummy version of potato salad that I will have to make again, though next time I may go for smaller veggies.
Philippino Pancit Bihon- An excellent recipe and a crowd pleaser. This may become a regular at our house.Croatian Braid Bread- So good! This tangy, sweet bread is a treat I hope to make more in the future. It is wonderful breakfast bread.
Russian Tea & Cakes- Excellent and a favorite even before this Christmas, albeit not Siberian necessarily. Alex sent us some favored Siberian salads that we will have to try soon.American Green Bean Casserole- It wouldn't be the holidays without it, right?

Hope all had (or are having) a wonderful holiday season. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!