Monday, November 16, 2015

Snow Day!

Our exchange student is so excited that our part of Colorado is being hit by a blizzard right now because the schools have been closed for tomorrow. She literally danced for joy when she found out. She does like school and is a diligent, intelligent student. But snow days are just fun!

My children won't get a snow day from their usual homeschool studies, though. It will be too cold--high wind chill expected--for them to go outside during the morning, so they might as well be kept busy learning. They like to learn. For their recreational reading, they more often than not pick non-fiction books. At their age, I was a bookworm who read all kinds of historical fiction and fantasy. My home life was quite stressful, and I escaped into books, often wonderful books that taught me much and gave me a lot of hope. Nevertheless, I'm pleased that my children don't feel the need to escape their lives the way I did.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Baby Tears

My oldest child was born less than 2 weeks before the cutoff that would have put her in school a year later. She was socially immature and had never attended preschool. The local school district, apparently in a bid to up their enrollment, had switched to offering only full-day kindergarten. When I considered how hard it would be on my daughter to go to school all-day as an immature 4-year-old, deciding to homeschool her instead was a nearly automatic choice. I did put her in a part-time program offered by the school district to homeschoolers, and that was a good choice for her. She had some school friends and a terrific music teacher.

A year or two later, a local friend told me how her daughter came home from kindergarten each day and cried from weariness. She wished in retrospect that she hadn't sent her child to full-day kindergarten.

Last night, another friend, in a school district which does have half-day kindergarten, said that her young first grader is worn out by her day-long schedule and that she wishes she could homeschool her children.

What is wrong with our system that we send children just leaving toddlerhood into an academic environment where they are worn out and sad at the end? Every weekday? Finland, a favorite educational ideal in recent years, doesn't do that. Young children are done after a morning of school.

Young homeschooled children are fortunate in that they can rest enough and play more, as befits their physical needs and mental development. I'm not opposed to rigor in academics. Dd11 is reading Ivanhoe (definitely difficult for her), working through a high-school level grammar text, and studying German and Latin. My idea of an exciting acquisition to our home library is McGraw-Hill's Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. But she is 11 and able to tackle difficult tasks for longer periods. Her day should be more challenging than that of a much younger child.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Psychologists vs Faith (in something bigger than psychology)

The religion-hating media voices are delighted with a recent study, one article even declaring, "religious kids are jerks" (really, that's in the title). Here's a link to the study:

To sum up, 1000 children from 6 different countries were asked to help distribute stickers to classmates by an authority figure; religious kids gave an average of 3 stickers away, while non-religious kids gave an average of 4 stickers away. They were also surveyed as to whether and how a person should be punished for intentionally shoving or bumping another person; religious children were less tolerant of the shoving and more supportive of punishments for the shover.

The study shows its bias by declaring that religious kids are more selfish and punitive. Imagine if the findings had been the reverse. We'd have the media trumpeting that religious kids are more likely to try to curry favor with teachers and classmates (i.e., insecure, needy, and obsequious due to thinking there's a supreme being out there who they should please) as well as more tolerant of bullying by others. 

Religious people can't win these days. The psychologists really do hate them. As does anyone who would label a kid a "jerk" over a difference of one worthless sticker.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


I'm reading a very interesting book right now. It's called The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease. Marc Lewis, a neuroscientist with a past of drug addiction, argues that addiction is a normal process of the brain and is no more a disease than is falling love. Apparently, on a brain scan, addiction and falling in love look alike. He says,

Then why should we reject the disease model?
The main reason is this: Every experience that is repeated enough times because of its motivational appeal will change the wiring of the striatum (and related regions) while adjusting the flow and uptake of dopamine. Yet we wouldn't want to call the excitement we fell when visiting Paris, meeting a lover, or cheering for our favourite team a disease. Each  rewarding experience builds it own network of synapses in and around the striatum (and OFC), and those networks continue to draw dopamine from its reservoir in the midbrain. That's true of Paris, romance, football, and heroin. As we anticipate and live through these experiences, each network of synapses is strengthened and refined, so the uptake of dopamine gets more selective as rewards are identified and habits established. Prefrontal control is not usually studied when it comes to travel arrangements and football, but we know from the laboratory and from real life that attractive goals frequently override self-restraint. We know that ego fatigue and now appeal [the author's term for delay discounting], both natural processes, reduce coordination between prefrontal control systems and the motivational core of the brain....So even though addictive habits can be more deeply entrenched than many other habits, there is no clear dividing line between addiction and the repeated pursuit of other attractive goals, either in experience or in brain function.
(p. 163)

Some of his evidence for not treating addiction like disease is that people can get over substance abuse without medication--since when do 12-step programs cure cancer? If programs that address thoughts and habits can overcome addiction, then it's not a physical disease the way we usually think of it. 75% of US soldiers using heroin during the Vietnam war came home and kicked the habit once they were back in their usual opportunity-rich environments. Merely changing a person's outward circumstances doesn't heal a "disease."

Also, behavior addictions are often just as severe as substance addictions. Video gaming young men in Asia come to mind. Pornography addiction, sex addiction, gambling addiction, hoarding, compulsive shopping, binge eating, etc. Nearly anything that gives us temporary pleasure can take over our lives, it would seem.

How to beat addiction, according to Lewis? First, protect children from too much adversity early in their development. The more trauma they experience, the more likely they are to grow up and find solace in negative behaviors that give temporary feelings of relief. Second, "redirect" the biology of desire; simple repression is less effective because we get fatigued repressing our desires. People need a long-term perspective that gives them motivation to seek longer-term goals. "Humans need to be able to see their own lives progressing, moving, from a meaningful past to a viable future. They need to see themselves as going somewhere, as characters in a narrative, as making sense. In addiction the relentless preoccupation with immediate rewards carves a small burrow out of the potential richness of time." People need a personal, emotion-saturated story with bigger goals than just short-term satisfaction of an appetite. Cognitive behavioral methods can help people explore their choices and examine and modify their personal beliefs, but they're not enough to beat out desire. Instead, harness the power of desire to serve more ultimately rewarding goals.

One painful conclusion--which the author probably never intended to convey--that I reached from this book is that addicts don't love others enough. The heartbroken family members who cry "You just don't care about us enough to change!" might be right. Is it the addicts' fault that they don't love enough? Are they damaged from traumatic childhood experiences? Should we blame our materialistic, individualistic society that devalues loving service to family and community? What religious beliefs help or hinder the processes of becoming addicted and recovering from addiction?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Eating Well

After five children, would you believe that I weigh more than I want to? Haha. I'm an American woman. I've almost always weighed more than I want to. A 2008 study said that 3/4 of the women in the USA have "disordered eating." We simply have so much food available. Food makes us temporarily happy, and it's nearly everywhere.

I am 5'6" and weigh 180 lbs. Not super dangerous health-wise, but not particularly great, either. I would like to fit in my clothes easily--a challenge for most of my life since I was bullied in fifth grade and stopped trying to play with other kids at recess--and be a healthy weight in order to have our last planned child.

Recently I read an extremely helpful book by Judith S. Beck which applied cognitive behavioral therapy to eating-related behavior, i.e., diets. The four fundamental principles were:

  1. Remind yourself frequently of the advantages of your planned weight loss and how great you'll feel.
  2. Sit down when you eat; pay attention to what you eat and savor every bite.
  3. Give yourself lots of credit for each time that you stick to your eating plan.
  4. Practice portion control.

Other helpful principles included not having unrealistic eating plans, bodies don't care that it's a holiday (extra calories are still extra calories), remembering that hard situations will pass, distract yourself from off-plan eating with things that you really like to do, your happiness and health is more important than the wishes of a person pressing unneeded food on you in a social setting, eating because of stress doesn't make the stressor go away plus it adds more stress in the form of guilt and extra weight, and making an eating mistake doesn't warrant making lots more mistakes for the rest of the day.

Sitting down when I eat has been a big area for improvement for me. Fixing food for my family means I'm frequently in the kitchen, tasting and satisfying hunger with little snacks while preparing food. Also, our kitchen table is small, so during lunch, I often end up sitting at the computer desk to eat, which results in my eating absent-mindedly while I read news, email, and Facebook. I have ceased eating at the computer in the past week. It's hard not to give in sometimes to my old habit, but it's a good change that I'll keep.

Monday, October 26, 2015


I recently attended a presentation on mindfulness, a subject I've been intrigued by for a couple of years due to its recent use in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy. According to the speaker, the three central principles of mindfulness are "Presence," "Compassion," and "Acceptance." By "Presence," he meant being focused in the moment. "Compassion" means kindness toward all. "Acceptance" means embracing suffering and accepting reality while not judging others or one's self. He also talked about meditation, viewing one's thoughts and feelings as though a distant observer, periodic solitude, and diminishing one's worldly ambition.

He led us through a bit of deep breathing and being quiet. He shared a few anecdotes and his own thoughts, but he didn't seem to be interested in sharing any one else's insights. I appreciated some of the information he presented and the chance to think through some ideas without my little children underfoot. I did find his presentation more self-centered than I would have expected from someone who makes his living teaching mindfulness to others, and that was distracting.

One audience member objected to the instruction to be non-judgmental, arguing that judgment is a valuable attribute of being human. I agree with that objection for two reasons. 1) The term "non-judgmental" currently carries the connotation of condemning judgment, which is contradictory and negative; mindfulness is about presence, not avoidance and repression. 2) From what I've read of mindfulness--at least when used therapeutically--it's not so much that one turns off judgment as chooses to delay it while observing and accepting what is. I believe that, instead of wasting effort trying to turn off judgment, it's essential to focus on being humble, for keeping in mind one's own limited knowledge makes it easier to stay judgment while seeking new insights about the thoughts and feelings of ourselves and others.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


Today in the checkout line at the grocery store, I happily waved the DVD cover of the recently released Jurassic World, which I was buying for my husband as a surprise. He loves the Jurassic Park movies. The customer just in front of me told me and the cashier that she had already seen the movie. She said that she has a friend who downloads the movies off the internet while they're still in the theater, that the downloaded versions are of really good quality, and that her friend only charges $5 per movie.


That there's called piracy, lady. And you have no shame at all about funding and benefiting from it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Scandinavia, Socialism, and a Surgeon

Despite the media giants being dead-set on Hillary Clinton being the next president (I remember them already burnishing her public image 20 years ago when she was a president's wife who clearly wanted to be much more), some of my Democrat friends are quite excited about Bernie Sanders. He seems to be promising a lot of "free" stuff.*

From Wikipedia:
A self-described democratic socialist, Sanders favors policies similar to those of social democratic parties in Europe, particularly those instituted by the Nordic countries.

All this Scandinavia-dreaming strikes me as rather racist. The same policies, when attempted elsewhere, rarely work out well (Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, China when communist, Italy, Greece, etc.), but fans of democratic socialism keep longing to be like Scandinavia. What they're really saying--but don't realize it--is that they want the USA to be Scandinavian. Sorry to invoke Hitler and his Nazi crew, but they would no doubt feel a bit vindicated by the continuing adulation of the Nordic people.

I think I'm most favorably impressed by Ben Carson. As a man with a scientific background, he seems to be the only candidate aware of how numerical and physical realities get in the way of ideologies making good on their promises. Any experienced doctor knows that no matter how good your intentions, mortal weaknesses mean your patient might not benefit from your ministrations. Also, after what our foreign policy has been for the last long while, I'd love to see a "do no harm" approach in the White House. At the very least, we should be focusing on not doing harm to our allies.

* Nothing provided by the government is really free, is it? Unless we plan to repudiate some of our national debt down the road, which would be pathetic considering the size of our economy. From what I can see, the Tea Party movement exists because some people (but rarely politicians) quite rationally think that the federal and local government should rein in spending so that we don't overtax producers and eventually sink in a Greece-style debt quagmire. The US federal government is up to nearly 18.5 trillion USD in debt, and almost nobody in politics or media wants to mention it anymore.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Homeschool update

Here's what the girls are doing most school days--

- Story of the World – mom reads a lesson aloud
- Warriner's Grammar - 1 exercise (often done verbally to Mom)
- Spelling Workout - 1 p
- Ivanhoe (read 5 p)
- Copywork (5 lines of Ivanhoe)
- Memorization: “Verily! Allah does not like arrogance.”
            — Koran 31:18
- Outline 2 paragraphs from World Book: “Abu Bakr”
- Math – 2 p (She is working on-level in math now. Last year, she was behind, but she caught up over the summer. She usually misses 0-2 problems per lesson and can correct them when shown the error.)
- Religion – ½ p
- German Study – 2 p Tierisch Lyrisch w/ 2 words looked up
- Latin Study (2 columns from Artes Latinae)
- Music Practice (7 minutes, 2 instruments)
- PE/Tabata
- Astronomy pictures – 1 p

- Story of the World – mom reads a lesson aloud
- First Language Lessons – 1 lesson
- Reading from language arts textbook & narration to Mom (last story was about Roald Amundsen, the polar explorer)
- Math – 2 p (She is working one grade-level ahead. She could go faster but prefers not to.)
- Religion – ½ p
- German Study – 1 p Teddybär Geschichten w/ 1 word looked up
- Spelling – 1 p
- Music Practice (6 minutes, 2 instruments)
- PE/Tabata

- Astronomy pictures – 1 p

- Story of the World – mom reads a lesson aloud
- Reading lesson
- Practice printing 1 letter
- Math – 2 p
- Religion – 1 verse Book of Mormon
- German study – a bit of the German workbook obtained from the mother of our German exchange student
- Music Practice (3 minutes, 1 instrument)
- PE/Tabata

Fridays often include logic, typing, and astronomy lessons with the occasional field trip.

The oldest two can read, so they often work independently. Everybody usually finishes everything within 3.5 hours. They're making steady progress and still have time for all kinds of enrichment, socialization, and the amusements of children. Things are basically going well.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Baking soda in the washer

Why did I not hear of putting baking soda in with my laundry until a few weeks ago? I was visiting a sister, and I noticed that she had no laundry detergent. There was just a box of baking soda and a small bottle of something pleasant smelling sitting by her clothes washer. I used some of each, hoping they were what I was supposed to use to clean my clothes, and my clothes were surprisingly clean and soft afterward.

Now I use baking soda all the time in our wash. I do add a little regular laundry detergent because it's hard to shake my conviction that one should use soap to wash clothes. It's probably a bit more expensive than using laundry detergent alone, but why pay less only to have clothes that don't get as clean?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Second Amendment Defense

In the wake of another shooting rampage in a "gun-free" zone, I am pleased that only three of my Facebook friends thus far have chimed in to support more gun controls.

Two--possibly all three--work in places where they have government-funded armed guards protecting them all day while at work. One is a diplomat who not only has Marines guarding him at work (the Marines technically are there to protect the classified information, which the State Department, from top to bottom, protects so assiduously...yes, there was a criticism of H. Clinton implicit in that...yet everyone knows that the Marines are going to try to protect the diplomats, too) but also has USG-funded security that also looks after his home and family's safety. The second works at a public library that has a visible security presence. And the third works in health care; many health care establishments have armed guards, too, but I don't know for a fact that he works at one with guards.

Do they not see, from their protected places, that the world really has many dangerous places? If other people feel like they are are at an elevated risk of being victims of violent crime but cannot afford to hired armed guards, they should be able to bear defensive weapons.

My strong opinion is that we need a change in mental health commitment laws to make it easier to commit and treat people with brain issues before they crack in homicidal ways. If we're going to change our laws over the acts of a madman, the change should affect madmen and madwomen first. Also, there should be a stigma attached to acts that contribute to damaging one's brain: harmful drug use, alcohol abuse, daytime talk TV (think I'm joking? remember Jerry Springer's guests?), and avoiding therapy when disorders first start to become apparent. If football can decline in popularity over concussions, then we surely we can make it so that people are more stigmatized for refusing therapy than they are for getting help for mental illness.

We also need to stigmatize the media for over-hyping and giving fame to murderers. I find it promising that Chris Mintz is showing up so much on my Facebook feed this morning. All hail the hero! (And forget the anti-heroes forever.)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Capitalism Defense

One never hears of a nation facing famine that experiences a resultant flowering of black-market co-ops.

Capitalism organically flows out of normal human desires to enjoy life to the highest degree possible, and it doesn't need the might of the government to force it into being. Unlike socialism or communism.

Capitalism is the enshrinement of "thou shalt not steal." Someone works to create or bring about something. Then they get to keep it. Thus the motivation to work is protected, and more work and creativity will typically ensue.

If a person tries to steal from another in a free market system, the law should step in to prevent theft. The law can also can be used to prevent force or tyranny from distorting the freedom that should be inherent in a free market (mafia, monopolies, etc.).

The free market is not a free-for-all. Regulations to protect basic human health and property are good. Regulations that protect one noisy or well-connected group from its competitors, however, are government-backed monopolies, and black markets can be expected to grow up wherever such regulations have been put into place.

A capitalist system can have a social safety net, but it must be minimal. The net should not be one that rewards an idle person with a more enjoyable life than a worker, or the system will eventually implode as too many opt to be more idle (i.e., "go John Galt"). A hardworking culture can keep that implosion at bay for a couple of generations (see Scandinavia and Germany).

Friday, September 18, 2015

Not an inventor

I am weary of all the fawning attention Ahmed in Irving, Texas has been receiving.

1) He didn't invent a clock. He took apart a clock and rearranged it inside a small case. He brought it to school for no official reason. It looks like a small timer for a bomb similar to the fake ones they make for movies sometimes. He did this on the school day right after a publicized bomb scare on September 11 at a high school in Plano, which is in the same metro area as Irving.

Here's a post where someone identified the clock that Ahmed rearranged.

2) Texas law makes it illegal to have a "hoax bomb," not just a bomb. Even though his project had no explosives, if he meant to frighten people with it, he ran afoul of the law.

Here's the penal code section pertaining to hoax bombs.

3) Ahmed's father appears to be a bit of a publicity hound. As a resident of Colorado, I remember very well the balloon boy hoax, and the Ahmed situation reminds me of it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Math delay

Dd8 has been done with her homeschool studies early nearly every day for the past few weeks, while dd10 struggles to get through with her work before lunch and the drive to their charter school. Dd10 doesn't have that many more subjects, and I let her do her grammar exercises verbally most days. I think dd10 spends so much longer on her work because math facts just don't come as easily to her as they do to dd8; she seems to spend a lot of time sighing while sitting over her open math book.

Over lunch today I asked her if she sits over her math sometimes without doing it, and dd10 replied that she often looks off into space. I have challenged her to change that habit so that she doesn't let herself stare into space until after she has finished the problem she is currently doing. A little mental down time is fine, but taking it in the middle of a problem makes it so she essentially starts the problem all over after her stare break.

Hopefully, she can make this small behavior change so that her math lesson doesn't fill all the available time in the morning.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Ads and Joy

A friend lamented today that her one-year-old daughter finds joy in everything, while her six-year-old boy finds joy in nothing. She wondered what the world is doing that it steals happiness away from little children so quickly.

She is a very involved mother who takes her children many fun and interesting places. I suspect a main culprit of her son's joylessness is advertising.

The purpose of advertising is to make us aware of a product and hopefully desire to obtain that product. How do the creators of advertising manufacture in us a desire to obtain the product, though? If we, the targeted audience, are content with our lives, we are unlikely to disturb ourselves to go out and get the product. What would be the point? We're already happy! So advertisers--sometimes knowingly, sometimes not--frequently present to us messages aimed to diminish our feelings of well-being. Then we're more receptive to the idea of seeking to get our happiness and contentment back by buying their product, which they promise us will make us feel better!

If you want happy children, minimize their contact with ads. Advertisers don't love your children; they see them as market share.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Taiwan (well, food from there)

Studying Taiwan was fun, but the end of the summer was so full of back-to-school events that we really didn't do have time for much besides eating Taiwanese food, which was a mixture of Filipino and Chinese foods.

We ate steamed buns, potstickers, three-cup-chicken, shaved ice desserts, and various stir fry dishes. We ate out at a Chinese restaurant run by a man from Taiwan. We drank grass jelly and basil seed drinks.

Our exchange student from Germany thought it was odd but fun that during her first month here she learned so much about Taiwanese food. I pointed out to her that any food made in America by Americans is technically American food! After all, hamburgers and hot dogs? German-American food, actually. Hamburgers even get their name from the German city of Hamburg.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


In Luke 12, Jesus addressed hypocrisy, the practice of pretending to be holy while hiding great sin. This is what he said:

2 For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.
3 Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.

I have three words to say in connection with those verses, and then I shall restrain myself, for this is a family-friendly blog. They are "Ashley Madison hacked."

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Carnival of Homeschooling: Yes, Summer is Really Ending Already

Carnival of Homeschooling

Welcome to the Carnival of Homeschooling for August!

It's been summer. Supposedly a period of lazy, hot days of doing nothing much, right? Um, yeah.

Besides welcoming an exchange student from Germany into our home, finishing up math curriculum from last year, and tutoring a teenager in math, we've also been learning about other countries all summer. Right now, we're learning about Taiwan (the grass jelly drink is not going over well, but rice is an eternal favorite in this house). You can read a bit about our less-than-successful trip to observe competitive table tennis at my last post, "Taiwan, Table Tennis, and Toddlers."

What are you doing this summer? Better do it fast, because summer is about over. The teenager I tutor starts school tomorrow. My children are starting the new school year on Monday. The exchange student starts public school next Wednesday.

Did you know that exchange students must attend a regular brick-and-mortar, full-time school? That's one thing the Cates of Why Homeschool found out upon agreeing to host a Japanese exchange student this year, and now they are diving into the experience of being public school parents. Read about it at their Carnival submission, "We are finally going to experience public school."

Mama Laws, who is introducing her new blog, did summer schooling in math and reading with her children. She posts about it in "Mama Laws."

I am intrigued by the Star Wars math and language arts workbooks that Mama Laws mentions. I'll be looking those up on Amazon once I finish posting the Carnival. Coincidentally, last night I finished a project that seems similar to those workbooks. The boy I tutor in math is obsessed with Spider-Man and genetic engineering, so I wrote him a short story in which Spidey goes up against genetically-altered dinosaurs. My daughters helped me illustrate the story, and in each chapter I utilized an algebra concept that the boy has struggled with. It turned out rather well. I think it qualifies as fan fiction, so I'm going to make it available at this Google Docs link for anyone who'd like to download and enjoy it!

Carol at Journey & Destination submitted a beautiful and inspiring post entitled "Culture of Character." Using many quotes from Charlotte Mason, it meditates on the formation of character and helping our children develop the ability to serve others.

That's it for this month's carnival! Thanks to those who submitted, and I hope to see many more submissions in future carnivals because I look at them all and learn much from them.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Taiwan, Table Tennis, and Toddlers

We are now learning about Taiwan. We went to an Asian market and bought mochi (yes, it's Japanese, but now it's Taiwanese, too), frozen rolls for steaming, fried shallots (apparently rather fundamental as a food topping in Taiwan), 100 lbs of rice, and various other Taiwanese treats.

A popular sport in Taiwan is table tennis, i.e., ping pong. An internet search turned up a local place where people get together to play ping pong in an organized fashion. We went to check it out, hoping that not only would we see good table tennis being played, but that we might be able to play a little, too. Sadly, all the tables were occupied, and dd3 began to cry. Oops. The organizer hurried over and asked us to take her out to the hallway to prevent her from distracting the players, which we did, but then she melted down entirely as only a toddler can. So much for any thoughts we might have been entertaining of becoming competitive ping pong players. I guess it's for the best. We don't even own our own ping pong table.

Homeschool Carnival coming in just a few days!

Please submit posts to the August homeschooling carnival, which I'll be posting in just a few days.

Here are the instructions on how to do it:

You can send in up to three posts about homeschooling via with an email to:

Please include:

 Title of Post(s)
 URL of Post(s)
 Name of Blog
 URL of Blog
 Brief summary of the post(s)

Please send in the entries by August 10th at 6:00 PM PST.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Peace of Peru

We've been learning about Peru for the past week or two. Today a little Peruvian-American girl presented me with a carton of alfajores (sandwich cookies filled with dulce de leche) and informed me that yesterday she and her family were celebrating "the Peace of Peru." It turns out that yesterday and the day before were the Peruvian Independence Days, or Fiestas Patrias! What a fortuitous coincidence.

I'm going to make more alfajores tomorrow with another Peruvian-American friend. We're also going to drink some Inka Cola, a bright yellow beverage that is supposedly super-sweet. My kids should enjoy tomorrow.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Learning about France

I think I gained weight in just the past two weeks. Curse you, tasty French food!

Here are some of the things we did to learn about France this summer:
  • Learned about life in France from my niece, who recently returned from an LDS mission in France and Belgium.
  • Set up a playdate for my daughter with a French friend from school.
  • Did some ballet, taught by my talented sister who majored in dance long ago.
  • Listened to French impressionistic music while viewing slides of French Impressionists' art and painting at the kitchen table.
  • Went to a French bistro and ate croissants and snails. Dd10, dd8, and dd5 all ate the escargot and liked it.
  • Read and watched Madeline books/shows.
  • Read library books about France. You Wouldn't Want to Be an Aristocrat in the French Revolution!: A Horrible Time in Paris You'd Rather Avoid was a favorite of the older girls.
  • Ate a lot of Nutella and some French cheeses.
  • Watched non-fiction videos on Amazon Prime about children living in France.
  • Invited a college student to dinner so she could tell us about her recent study abroad experience in France and show us her souvenirs.
  • Made or bought, then ate apple galette, ratatouille, macarons (not to be confused with macaroons), croque monsieur sandwiches, French bread and baguettes, quiche, chocolate sandwiches (yes, pieces of bread with chocolate between), and several rich dishes seasoned with garlic and herbes de provence.
  • Watched Phantom of the Opera, Aristocats, and Ratatouille.
Macaron cookies. Not sufficiently cylindrical, unfortunately. 

I feel fortunate to have many relatives and acquaintances who can help me teach my children about other countries. Traveling abroad with a large family is prohibitively expensive, so I appreciate everyone that helps fill our home-bound summer country studies with authentic experiences related to those countries. 

I also greatly appreciate the food bloggers and recipe posters and reviewers who make it possible for me to cook Yemeni, French, Lithuanian, Peruvian, and Taiwanese dishes almost immediately.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Learning about Lithuania

We recently finished learning about Lithuania for 2 weeks. Among other things, we did the following:

  • Invited over a friend from church who served as a missionary in Lithuania. She showed us her souvenirs and pictures, wore traditional Lithuanian clothing, and read part of a Lithuanian children's book to us. We baked aguonu sausainiukai--which are poppyseed cookies--ahead of time so we could eat them with her.
  • Made bracelets and necklaces out of wood, shell, and amber beads.
  • Cooked lots of Lithuanian food, including cold beet soup, beet potato salad, cepelinai (blimp shaped potato dumplings filled with meat), and kugelis (a VERY tasty baked dish made of potato, egg, bacon, and milk).
  • Played a little basketball because it's a favorite sport in Lithuania.
  • Celebrated the Lithuanian midsummer day by making flower wreaths and putting them into the water (see the previous post).
  • Ate a lot of thickened yogurt (it should have really been sour cream, but that was just too fattening for me).
  • Watched versions of the folktale about Jūratė and Kastytis. It is about a mermaid sea queen who lives in a castle made of amber underwater; when she falls in love with a mortal fisherman, a jealous thunder god blasts her castle into bits, and that is why amber washes up on the coast of the Baltic Sea.

What fun we had. :) Now we're onto a fortnight or so of studying France. French food is so good, though, that I might squeeze in an extra day or two on France.

This post will be in the July 2015 Carnival of Homeschooling.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Happy St. John's Day! This is the midsummer folk festival celebrated in Lithuania right after the summer solstice. We are studying Lithuania right now, so my oldest daughter gathered grass and flowers from the yard, and we all made wreaths. The girls wore them to a park where they launched the wreaths onto the surface of a duck pond.

Joninės wreaths

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Yemen Fortnight

We are finished with our fortnight of studying Yemen. Among other things, we did the following to learn about life there:

  • Ate mangoes, saltah (national dish of Yemen, eaten with a condiment made of ground fenugreek), honey, dates, yogurt, cardamom rice, etc.
  • Listened to Yemeni music on YouTube
  • Watched a movie on Yemen from Amazon and learned about Socotra (like the Galapagos islands as to remoteness and unique flora and fauna, but located in the Indian Sea) from YouTube videos
  • Visited a spice store and did a scavenger hunt for spices used in Yemeni cuisine (fenugreek, pepper, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, etc.)
  • Bought some frankincense incense sticks and burned part of one
  • Toasted spices and ground them with a mortar and pestle to make hawaij, a Yemeni spice mixture
  • Cooked several dishes using hawaij as the seasoning
  • Recited poetry to each other (poetry evenings are a common evening entertainment in Yemen)
  • Learned about oil exploration at the Hunt energy exhibit in the Perot Science Museum in Dallas, Texas (petroleum is Yemen's primary export and approximately 25% of its GDP)
  • Imitated the Yemeni sport of camel jumping by having my kids and their cousins run and jump over each other's backs
  • Learned about social issues such as child brides and the current civil war in Yemen (we visited friends and family for a week, often sleeping on cots or the floor, so we could show the children what life is like for a displaced person fleeing civil war)
  • Learned how to say "Good appetite!" in Arabic: bil-hanā' wa ash-shifā'