Pre-Calculus the Teaching Textbooks Way

As most of you know we are a homeschooling family. My youngest attended K for most of the school year at a small private school that we were ultimately disappointed in. My oldest has attended both public and the same private school and has homeschooled in the past. It’s not that we were unsure of what we are doing, but that at that time those were the best choices for our family and our children.

Anyway, I tell you that to tell you this. My oldest is studying Pre-Calculus this year. I knew that this was something that I really didn’t want a direct hand in daily so we searched for a learner-driven program. We tried a different program, but my daughter really struggled with the explanations and so we researched some more and decided on Teaching Textbooks.

With Teaching Textbooks the lessons are presented on CDs and in the text. The student listens to the lectures and follows along. There are problems to work out for comprehension at the end of each lesson.

My daughter likes this program. Yes, the lecturer does repeat a lot of the information, but she understands what is being done and rarely do I have to step in and walk her through problems. She sometimes thinks that the lectures seem to go on forever, but insists on listening to the entire program. It is just something about her personality that she insists on not missing a single word of the lecture, I on the other hand would be fast-forwarding past the things I already understood. She just wants to make sure that she doesn’t miss a single thing.

This program is designed to prepare her for college level calculus next year. In my opinion, not that it matters for much, it is equal to the AP Calculus class that our exchange student took at the local public school last year, maybe better because she has a teacher who truly understands how to teach, which was something our exchange student lacked. She and another exchange student were 2 of only 3 students who passed the class. The teacher usually just wrote assignments on the board on Monday and gave the test on Friday.


August 31, 2010. Homeschooling. Leave a comment.

New Orleans Day 1

My family and I are  currently visiting New Orleans for the very first time. I know, I know, I live in Alabama, how could I have never been to New Orleans before? Well, I have just never wanted to go alone and the opportunity to come has never really presented itself until now. Our friends from Spain wanted to visit The Big Easy while they were this close. So, here we are.

We arrived this afternoon in 5 o’clock traffic. We came in via Lake Pontchartrain. What a gorgeous view from the bridge. For others like me who have never been here before, you actually drive across the lake. They are still working on rebuilding a lot of the bridges that were damaged, but traffic flowed at normal speeds right up until we came to the downtown area of New Orleans where the businesses and Mississippi River is.  The only problem we had was when I10 and US90 merge together and traffic bottle-necked. There were a few tight moments as we were traveling as a 2-car caravan and only we had the GPS unit telling us where to go. One other out-of-towner was trying to merge in front of us and when we were the ones to let them over I got the best laugh of the day. Once they were in front of us they held a sign out the window that read simply, “I’m So Sorry”. It was a manufactured sign made specifically for this purpose. I told my husband that it is the answer to road rage because we were both too busy laughing to get angry.

We are staying in the warehouse district at The Embassy Suites. So far it has been a so-so experience with the hotel. When we arrived check-in was slow due to only one clerk and a line of guests waiting to check in along with the evening reception in the lobby at the same time. Once we got up to our room we found that the king-size bed in the suite was broken in the middle and therefore sagged. It was probably the frame and it was just frustrating. The second room was on the same floor but instead of opening into the indoor hallway off the elevators opened into an outside walkway. Unfortunately the room smelled moldy and of smoke. Finally we settled into a third room on the same floor, but this one also opens onto an outside covered walkway. It puts us further away from our travel companions, but at least we are still on the same floor.

After settling into our rooms we walked the 2 or 3 blocks to the Riverwalk so that our friends could get their first glimpse of the Mississippi River. We only had a few minutes on the veranda before we had to leave as the Riverwalk closes at the un-heard-of early hour of 7 o’clock.  We then decided to walk the area and find dinner. We ended up on Canal Street as the sun started to set and the neons came on. What a sight! People moving everywhere, neon flashing, music drifting on the wind, and the smells of wonderful cooking wafting down the street. Halfway up Canal Street we saw what looked like a good prospect across the street and crossed the 4 lanes of traffic to investigate. In European fashion, the menus of the establishment are posted outside so that passersby can get an idea of the fare offered inside. We looked over the menu and decided to give The Palace Cafe a try. I am truly glad that we did.

Once inside we were asked to wait a few minutes while our table was set for us. As we waited we had the chance to appreciate the architecture and decor. The spiraling staircase in the middle of the dining room is the focal piece while mirrors on the back wall give the illusion of space inside. There was also a bank of windows into the kitchen and the staff behind them was hard at work.

We only waited for a few minutes and were seated around a comfortable round table that easily accommodated our group of 7.  My husband ordered the Rotisserie Chicken with White Truffle Mashed Potatoes. I ordered the Bleu Cheese Salad with Sugared Almonds. My 17-year-old daughter also ordered the chicken dish. Dinner was truly a wonderful experience. My daughter finished her dinner and then proceeded to ask my husband for the rest of his. She made the comment that it, “made my mouth happy eating it.” She is a truly picky eater and this is a high compliment from her. 

I will post pictures soon.

June 8, 2010. Home and Garden. Leave a comment.

Pecan Crusted Fish

We have had visitors from Spain over the weekend. We have an exchange student who lives in Spain and her parents have come to visit and see where their daughter has spent her last year.

After eating an awesome lunch prepared by yours truly, along with some dishes from relatives who came, we spent the better part of the day down at the pond on our farm fishing. This was a treat for our new friends, as the waters in the Mediterranean have been so overfished by commercial fisheries that there are almost no fish left.  We also have several native types of fish in our pond that my husband’s great-grandparents, grandparents, and uncle have brought in to stock the pond, including bass, crappie, and bream. Our friends had never seen these particular fish before.

In was a beautiful day to fish. The thunderstorms and rain of the morning and early afternoon gave way to blue skies and a nice breeze. My husband’s very first casting lesson for our friend resulted in a fish. It was too small to keep, but boded well for the afternoon to come. We caught several small fish and 2 bass and 1 crappie that were big enough for my husband to filet for me to cook for our friends to try their catch.  Here is the recipe for the dish that I cooked up with our day’s haul.

Pecan Crusted Fish

Serves 4

6 to 8 nice sized filets of fish (Ours were as long as my hand)

1 lemon

1 cup finely chopped pecan ( I buzz mine in the small bowl of my food processor)

1/4 cup gluten-free baking mix (I used Pamela’s, you could substitute All Purpose Flour here or any other flour you like)

2 eggs

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

Lay filets out on a plate and squeeze the lemon juice over the filets, set aside.

Mix the pecans, baking mix, and all-purpose seasoning together in a pie pan or plate. In a separate pan, beat the eggs well.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a saute pan.

Dip the filets in the eggs, then in the pecan mixture. Place in the saute pan and cook on first side 3-4 minutes or until lightly browned. Carefully flip to other side and cook another 3-4 minutes until lightly browned. Carefully transfer to a plate.

Serve with sliced lemons.

May 31, 2010. cooking. Leave a comment.

Ratatouille Casserole

My littlest one and I were watching that famous Disney movie this afternoon and she asked if we could make Remi’s dish. How could I say no. I looked up recipes, but most were for the more traditional version of this dish. So I took the ingredients that are traditional and ran with it. It turned out so good. I have been feeling a lot under the weather since this weekend and this was the first thing I have eaten other than chicken soup since Saturday. The flavors are bright and it comes together perfectly.

Ratatouille Casserole
1 medium eggplant
2 small yellow squash
2 small zucchini squash
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 cup red wine
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
1 large or 2 small bay leaves
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper

Slice the eggplant, squash, and zucchini thinly with a mandolin or knife. Place in bowl and salt and pepper each side. Set aside.
Halve and slice the onions thinly. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the onion and garlic. Saute until soft. Add the wine and reduce by half. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, and thyme. Salt and pepper to taste. Turn to low and simmer 10 to 15 minutes.
In a greased casserole dish add half the tomato sauce. Layer the eggplant, squash, and zucchini on top. Top with remaining tomato sauce. Cover and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Remove cover and cook 15 minutes more.

May 25, 2010. cooking. Leave a comment.

Making new friends

Why is it that kids can make new friends in under a minute? No matter where they are, if they see a new little person about their age they will, with absolutely no hesitation, walk up to that person and proceed to say, “you want to play?”.
Of course, the general responds is a yes. The kids don’t look each other up and down. They don’t take a moment to think it over, or ask what their religious affiliation ism or even to look at the color of the other child’s skin. They just say yes and proceed to run off together and play.
Why can’t we all play together like children?

May 21, 2010. Notebook. Leave a comment.

Gluten-Free Pineapple Cheese Bread

If you have ever been to a potluck dinner in the south, you have probably had Pineapple Cheese Casserole. It has that wonderful sweet-salty-cheesy-ooey-gooey-something that just makes you crave it. Fruit, cheese, and buttery crackers all hot from the oven is just the perfect side-dish-almost-desert to take to a potluck dinner.

This bread is reminiscent of that wonderful casserole and not nearly as fattening and much more portable.

Here’s the recipe, an adaptation from Paula Deen’s original recipe:

Pineapple Cheese Bread

2 cups gluten-free baking mix (or gluten-free flour mix plus 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp xantham gum)      

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 tbsp canola oil

1 cup crushed pineapple with juice

1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

 Preheat oven to 350. Grease sides and bottom of 9 x 5 loaf pan (I spray with canola oil spray).

In a large bowl mix together baking mix (or flour mix plus baking powder, salt, and xantham gum).

In a separate bowl mix together pineapple, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Pour pineapple mixture over flour and sugar. Mix until just combined. Fold in grated cheese.

Scrape mixture into loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes then transfer loaf to a wire rack to continue cooling.  Slice, serve, and enjoy.

May 21, 2010. cooking. Leave a comment.

Homeschoolers in Sweden need your help

If you are a homeschooler here in the US you may take for granted that it is legal. Most of here don’t even give a second thought to this privilege. We choose what is best for us and our children without a thought that someone may show up at our door one day and arrest us for this choice.

Right now about 3% of US school-aged children are homeschooled. Each of these families took the time to research what was best for their children and none of them had to think about the legality of their choice. It is estimated that 1.5 million children in the US are homeschooled today.

Some of you may remember the days, not too long ago, when homeschooling was seen as a weirdo thing that no one really understood. Now it is seen as an option right along with public or private schooling. Just a few years ago when people found out we homeschooled I would get strange looks and lots of comments or questions about why we would want to do that when we could just put our kids on the bus in the morning and send them to school like everyone else. Now when people hear we homeschool they just accept it and move on.

Right now in Sweden about 200 families have made the choice to homeschool their children. They do this for the same reasons that many of us do. They made their choice based on what is best for their children and their families. But this choice may soon be taken away from them. For no other reason than the government really doesn’t understand homeschooling or why someone would choose this method of educating their children instead of sending them to traditional government-run schools.

As a homeschooler I am asking for your help. There is a letter to the Swedish government that was written by the editor of one of my favorite homeschooling magazines. I am asking for you to “sign” this letter as a way of educating the Swedish government to the reasons why we homeschool.

Let’s support our Swedish friends and hopefully make a difference.

To read more and sign the letter just follow this link:

Thank you in advance for your help.


May 18, 2010. Homeschooling. Leave a comment.

Coming of Age

Tomorrow my littlest girl will turn 7.

This is the very last time that I will have a child turn 7.

I sit next to her now as she reads to me from one of her favorite books. I take great pride in the fact that I taught her how to read, as I have taught all my children how to read. She stumbles over only a few of the harder words in her book. She is finally starting to sound out the words she sees instead of guessing at the word based on the beginning letter and her vocabulary.

I have enjoyed giving her this gift.

I am also a little sad that this part of her learning is going past so fast. I know in my heart that she is growing older each day and that each time she does something for the first time, for me it is the very last first time I will get to experience it.

She is the baby of the family, very much wanted and loved and longed for. Gotten through extremes of medical science and at the end of a very long struggle.

We love her for who she is and for who I hope for her to become.

She is my youngest daughter and in her I see myself, my husband, his mother and father, my mother and father, and all of the generations of mothers and fathers that came before them. In her is the culmination of love and life come to fruition.

Oh yes, she is loved. By many. By me.

Happy Birthday, BoogaLou.

Mommy loves you.

May 17, 2010. Notebook. Leave a comment.

Corn and Shrimp Chowder(Gluten-Free)

I apologize in advance for the lack of photos, but I can’t find my SD card and this recipe was just too good not to share. I made this the other night and everyone in the house went back for seconds. When the six-year-old goes back for more you know it’s a hit.

Corn and Shrimp chowder

6 pieces of bacon, sliced into 1/4 inch slices

1 onion chopped

2 lbs (about 8 medium potatoes) peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes

1 bag of frozen sweet corn

1 pound of shrimp (I would get the small salad ones for this)

5 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 cups of half and half

1 tsp red pepper flakes

salt and pepper

In a heavy bottom stock pot or dutch oven, brown the sliced bacon over medium heat. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and leave the drippings in the pan. Set the bacon aside.

Add the onions and potatoes to the pot and cook 3 minutes or until the onion is softened.

Add the chicken stock and half and half to the pot. Add the corn, shrimp, and red pepper flakes to the pot. Bring to a slow boil and cook 10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through.

Remove from heat. With either a stick blender or in a regular blender puree the soup until slightly thickened, but still chunky. Test for seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve garnished with fresh chopped herbs and crackers (gluten-free, of course)

April 30, 2010. cooking. Leave a comment.

Chickens Update

I realized today that I never got around to taking and sharing pictures of the chickens now that they are grown.

They are also laying beautiful, brown eggs now. They lay about 15 eggs a day. I have eggs running out my ears. We eat what we can and sell the rest for $2 a dozen so that others can enjoy them.

So, here are the latest pictures of my girls and thier boys now that they are all grown up.

Can you pick out the free chick? Here’s a hint,  sing this song “One of these things is not like the other. One of things just isn’t the same. One of these things is not like the others. Now it’s time to play our game.”

This is the rooster doing what roosters do best, chasing a hen and looking for chicken-love.

‘Til next time.

April 3, 2010. Home and Garden. Leave a comment.

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