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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!!!

Ingredients
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. 

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