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Friday, August 31, 2012

My Week, Including a Few Bummers, and Some Yummy Homemade Strawberry Jam

We're on our second week of school, which has gone very well so far! We're having a good time, and there's several aspects I'm really enjoying:
1. All of my children are doing computer-based math, which is a first for our family. This has made a HUGE difference for me, as I spent the bulk of my time schooling the kids in the area of math. It's just time-consuming. All the boys are doing Time 4 Learning, and Hannah (my 8th grader) is doing Teaching Textbooks. So far, so good!
2. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Vintage Remedies for Tweens, as I knew I would. It's a total blast, and the kids are applying so much of what they're learning.
3. So far, I like my Bible curriculum, Bible Study Guide for All Ages. I wish I would have purchased the pieces that supplement it, though, such as the timeline and music CD. That would probably make it more enriching.
4. My kids are LOVING their new music classes at a nearby music studio, Newsongs. They are all doing very well. I'm grateful for exposing them all to music from a young age and teaching them each some foundational parts of music, as it is paying off. Their teachers are impressed with their rapid learning pace.

There's a few things I already want to tweak about our schooling:
1. I've been doing my lessons for history and science and Vintage Remedies on Tuesdays, and the projects for those lessons on Thursdays. But that is making for a very busy Thursday, hard to squeeze everything in, a bit chaotic. I may have to do my lesson and projects for history on Tuesday, and lesson and projects for science and Vintage Remedies on Thursdays, and see if that feels more balanced.
2. I tried out our state-adopted Language Arts curriculum this year for the first time. So far, I'm not impressed at all. It's just like I remembered it from my school days - boring, and somewhat pointless, and full of busy work that seems to have no value. I'll hang in there a while longer and see if I feel better about it over time. If not, I may need to make an adjustment there.

In our Vintage Remedies class this week, we did some cooking in the kitchen. We made a delicious "real food" strawberry jam with natural pectin. It was absolutely amazing and super easy!!!

1 green apple, cored and grated (this will provide the pectin)
1 quart strawberries
1 cup organic sugar (jams need real sugar because it is a natural preservative)
3 Tbsp lemon or lime juice

Begin by removing the green ends from the berries. Combine the sugar, berries, juice, and apple in a large saucepan. (When sugar boils, it expands, so make sure the pan has plenty of extra room!) Place the pan over medium high heat to bring the mixture to a boil.

As it boils, some foam will form at the top of the pan. Remove this from the pan with a slotted spoon. Keep stirring while it boils so the bottom does not burn! After 12-15 minutes, check for firmness. You can do this by dropping a small amount of the jam on a cold surface such as a plate. If it is runny, the jam is not ready. If it is thick - like a blob of jam - it is ready!

Scoop the hot jam into clean jars or containers. If you place it into canning jars, you can put them in a water bath and store the jam in the pantry. Otherwise, you can put the jam into pretty jars and keep in the refrigerator.

BUMMER #1: On the same day, we attempted to make homemade whole wheat bread in my bread machine. However, half way through the cycle, my bread machine started smoking and smelling awfully burnt. It's pretty old. I quickly turned it off. It was dead. The machine had seen it's last. I am so sad! Obviously, that bread was ruined.

BUMMER #2: Today, as I attempted to take photos of my strawberry jam for you with my Canon camera, it died. It's been acting funny for a while, always saying the batteries are dead even after putting in new ones. Now, I cannot get it to turn on at all. It tries, but immediately shuts off. SO SAD AGAIN! My Blackberry has a camera, but it often takes pictures much darker than it should. But it's all I have now. Boo-hoo.

Around the farm, the chicks are getting big and beautiful, with all their colorful feathers. There is one or two we suspect may turn out to be roosters, but still too soon to tell. They are starting to eat scraps from our kitchen, pretty much anything I chop up very finely for them. Tomorrow is coop-cleaning day. Whoopie!

The tree-house building is still coming along! They've got most of the bridge finished between the two trees. New ideas of what to add keep coming. For history this week, we had a Scottish Nationalism project, which led to the children developing their own Seiler tartan pattern, painting it on a large piece of cloth, and they plan to use it as their tree-house flag.

My father-in-law received a gate opener for his birthday this past week. We all cannot wait until it is installed. Then we won't have to get in and out of the car to open the gate every time we leave or come home. We hope to get it installed next week. Another whoopie!

And that's about it around the Seiler home. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Loving this Book, Visit from Cousins, & a New Chicken Coop

Thanks to a review from 100 Days of Real Food, I ordered a book entitled French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon. The subtitle reads, "How our family moved to France, cured picky eating, banned snacking, and discovered 10 simple rules for raising happy, healthy eaters." I'm only half through it, but I'm loving it! So far, I'd highly recommend it to anyone who wants to teach their children to eat what is served to them and enjoy a wider variety of healthful foods. We've already started implementing some of the ideas from this book in our home. Can't wait to read on!

On Wednesday, my sister-in-law and her three children visited our new home. They were in the area (they live up near Portland, OR). My children don't get to spend a lot of time with their cousins because of distance, so this was truly a blessing. They always have such a great time together.

This is my youngest niece, Adeline, playing on her Mommie's cell phone.

This is my oldest and youngest sitting together.

A little friendly cousins game of volleyball.

Coco suggesting they play badminton instead.

All the Duncan grandchildren together - yep, that's mine who is crying and refusing to take the picture.

The girls have to stick together in the midst of all those boys running around. They got away and had some girl time and laughter.

Last week, I told you we were having a chicken coop delivered. We got it on Saturday, and it's so awesome! The girls (hens) love it, and immediately went in and set up home. They were scratching here and there making it just right. They are very happy! We bought barn red paint to paint it.

This is the back, which actually opens to clean it out.

There's three nesting boxes on each side, for a total of six.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Not Feeling So Great...

This week in the Seiler household...

My husband recently left his employment with Pacific Gas & Electric. He's now working just two jobs instead of three, and that was reason to celebrate. He also turned 37 on Tuesday, so we got away to a bed and breakfast up in the hills the beginning of this week. It was a wonderful time together, as we shopped, ate, and cast vision and made goals for the rest of 2012. I love doing that with him!

Today, I'm feeling a bit under-the-weather. Since returning from Mexico, my stomach hasn't felt well. Today, I feel slightly nauseated on top of it. Ugh! I emailed the doctor, but she's out until Monday. Oh well, guess I'll have to stay in bed today. My oldest boy was so sweet this morning - he made breakfast for everyone, knowing I was ill, and then brought me saltine crackers and ice water. He will be the one to care for me when I'm old, I just know it. Love that boy!

Tonight is family night, and I got a few treats for the kids to start a new school year. My husband and I also discussed this fall's family vacation. Can't wait to share it with the kids! I love surprises! 

And guess what else? Our new chicken coop arrives tomorrow morning!!! Yippee! The girls (hens) will be so thrilled, I'm sure!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Mission to Mexico, Homeschool Plans, and Growing Chicks

We got back from Baja, Mexico almost a week ago. We had a fabulous time serving and growing in God. I took my two oldest children (Hannah, 12 and Joshua, 9) with me, and we were three of 64 people building three houses in four days.
This is me nailing together a roof piece.

My daughter, Hannah, helped roof the outhouse
My son, Josh, nailed the flashing along the roof edge
Our family (from left to right): Maricia (single mother), Alfonso (13), Maribel (21) and her baby girl, Luisa (15), and Patricia (18)

My children and I were very touched by what we saw and experienced. My son, especially, was surprised by the poverty level compared to what he was used to. He was ready to move to Mexico and help the people full-time.

Josh played sports with Alfonso every single day.
Josh playing with little 2yo Maria
It was so awesome to see the joy on the mother's face to receive this home! In America, we would consider a home like that a place to store our lawn equipment. But to her, it was everything. She kept clapping her hands, saying, "Gracias!" and, "Porque de Dios!" which means, "Because of God!" This home will give this single mother and her children the jump start they need for a brighter future!

My pastor-husband and I believe every Christian should go on one missions trip in their life. This Baja, Mexico missions trip, which we took with some good friends and their ministry, StudentReach, was the perfect introduction to missions for my kids and anyone who has never been on a missions trip before. Please check out their website for future dates and other trips they will be leading.

I must admit, I'm quite behind schedule with preparing for this upcoming school year. We moved into our new country home a month ago, then we went to Mexico for seven days, and a day after returning, my parents arrived for a visit. They just left a two days ago. I feel so disoriented and still trying to set my feet on solid ground. I'm thankful I did as much planning for the school year as I possibly could before we moved .

This year, I will be schooling all five of my children.
  • Hannah - 8th grade
  • Joshua - 4th grade
  • Luke - 2nd grade
  • Noah & Nathan - Kindergarten
My homeschool philosophy includes several approaches:
  • The main reason we homeschool is to build our children's character, guard negative outside influences, and ultimately see that they come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Academics is secondary, for us.
  • We also believe strongly that much learning takes place in everyday life, especially now that we are building a farm. Caring for newborn animals and tending gardens, building shelters and making repairs, managing personal finances and cooking meals for a large family, all are important learning opportunities for our children that prepare them for real life.
  • One of my goals for each child is to teach them how to teach themselves, therefore, moving them towards more independent learning. For that reason, I focus the first part of my day on the littlest ones, while the older ones work on their lessons independently.
  • I will work hard to manage screen time this school year. With lessons and farm work, there won't be much time to waste with computers, Wii, and TV. We limit screen time to one hour a day, and it must be used after all lessons and work are completed.

Our daily schedule will look like this:
  1. I wake before the children to spend time with Jesus and get a jump start on my day.
  2. Children awake and read their Bibles and pray independently.
  3. Personal chores: everyone showers or gets dressed, brushes teeth, and tidies their bedroom and bathroom.
  4. We work on morning chores, including starting laundry (each room has their own laundry day)
  5. Breakfast Bar (I lay out several healthy options for the children to serve themselves); do any necessary preparations for dinner
  6. Family devotions/Bible class - this fall, I am going to try something new, as I've been really looking for a curriculum I could use like an actual Bible class - going verse by verse through the Bible with my kids - I just ordered Bible Study Guide for All Ages - we'll see how it goes
  7. Kindergarten: Math - Time4Learning; Phonics - MCP Plaid; Handwriting - Zaner Bloser; Journaling; and Reading
  8. Snack
  9. Core Subjects: Math, Language Arts, Science, & History (Story of the World)
  10. Lunch
  11. Other Subjects: Health & Safety, Technology, Vintage Remedies for Tweens, etc. - (quiet time for little ones)
  12. Afternoon chores; farm/house projects
  13. Screen time - snack
  14. Extra-curriculars: all five kids are taking music lessons on Wednesdays, two boys are playing basketball this fall, the other three kids are doing gymnastics for their PE, and my daughter goes to youth group on Wed nights
  15. Dinner
  16. Family Time
That's what I have so far. I have purchased all my books, and for the most part, they're all in my lesson plan book. Just putting final touches on everything. We will start Monday, August 20th.

Our chicks are growing so fast. When I got back from Mexico, I couldn't believe how much bigger they were. They're almost four weeks old, and I'm starting to let them out to peck around in a pen outside during the day.
This is Noah, my 5yo, with one of the 3wk old chicks

Unfortunately, while we were in Mexico, a visiting friend was holding a chick and dropped it, only for it to be snatched up by one of our beagles. That particular beagle has been giving us trouble since we moved here, and this was the straw that broke the camels back. We know that, once a dog gets a taste for killing another animal, they will want more. We made the tough decision to find a new home for that beagle. It was sad, but she really was better suited for the city life.

And that's what's been happening around Heritage Farm...

Friday, August 3, 2012

My Life Has Been Changed...

We are about to end our week-long missions trip to Baja, Mexico where we built a home for a needy family. I came with my two oldest children, and we've all been severely impacted by this experience. I will tell you more about it next week, but for tonight, our last night here, our team left the mission base and headed for a beach resort with ocean-view rooms. I'm in HEAVEN! Check out the view from our balcony above!