Friday, August 29, 2014

Best Ever Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

We are having company tonight. Feeling a little sleepy after a ridiculously busy month and week, I slipped off to my room to take a short little afternoon siesta so I could be rested and ready to enjoy the evening. Two hours later I woke up with crease marks all down the side of my face and neck, and feeling confused as to which year this is, as well as my location.

As I stumbled around in a drowsy, confused state, I managed to find my way out of the bedroom, and a familiar and tantalizing smell wafted through the air. An unexpected drool pool formed again and I subconsciously lifted my hand to my lip, catching it before it made the dangerous leap to the carpeted floor. Mmmm.... chocolate chip cookies!

A cookie baking fairy had been working her magic in my kitchen again and as I rounded the corner to the kitchen, I caught sight of her softly padding away through the opposite kitchen door. She was just as exquisite as the cookies themselves and in appearance her soft, blonde locks and twinkling blue eyes closely resembled those of our daughter, Natalie.
I shook my head as I attempted to come out of the sleepy fog that still filled my head like a bag full of Cotten.

As I surveyed the scene in the perfectly clean kitchen, It was apparent that not only was this a cookie baking fairy, but a cleaning fairy as well. The kitchen literally sparkled and not a crumb could be found on the counters or floor. And then I spotted them. They were beautiful, perfectly formed, plump, amazing, chocolate chip cookies. I was certain the fairy had tricked me this time and whipped up gluten and egg filled cookies so I set out to investigate. In between the pages of a cook book, the miracle working fairy had left a little clue....and when I wiped the flour off that page, I knew I had struck gold for there it was; literally shimmering in the kitchen light. She had successfully tricked me into believing these were no gluten free, egg free creations and yet....there it was in black and white:
The Golden Recipe for the perfect gluten-free, egg-free, soy-free chocolate chip cookies.

***Note: The eggs in this recipe were replaced with one tablespoon of chia seed mixed with three tablespoons of water, per egg.



There may or may not be chocolate on my face and I may or may not be busy sampling cookies. 🍪🍪😇

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What Home School "Flavor" Are You?

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It's the fifth day of August already and I'm shaking my head, wondering where the summer has gone. It seems like it has literally just flown by! July had barely knocked on our door and stepped a toe inside, when it turned around and said good-bye and now it's time to start getting my ducks in a row for the new school season.

Our kids really enjoy the summer break, but they enjoy even more the feeling of a brand new school year. Since we started this home school journey 24 years ago I have found it necessary to be flexible and willing to switch things up often.

For the past three years our kids have been doing the A Beka Academy DVD program and it has been excellent. Prior to that, I did a combination of Charlotte Mason, Unit Studies and Un-Schooling. This worked very well for our kids because we did life together. It was very hands on and it offered plenty of opportunity to develop beautiful bonds of relationship with each of my children in a relaxed and fun atmosphere. They were learning and developing a strong love for learning while enjoying family fun at the same time.

What is the Charlotte Mason/Unit Study/Un-School Approach?

Well, it's a combination of three approaches to teaching. With my personality, I really need a flexible schedule. I like routine, but it needs to be flexible or I get burnt out and bored and this translates to the kids. I also do best as their teacher/mom if it's fun and very relational. These three methods in combination with each other work very well for us for these reasons.

On a typical school morning, we would wake up around 7:30 and everyone would have some time to snuggle and stretch a bit. After that each of us got busy with the daily routine of bed making, dressing, hair combing, showers or whatever each individual's personal needs were and after that we met in the kitchen where everyone helped prepare breakfast (home-ec). We sat around the table together talking and enjoying the time together and then everyone helped with the clean up. After that we all met in the living room where we had Bible time together and often one of the kids would have the opportunity to lead that time, if they chose to. This time always produced some great discussions and often provided a spring board for subjects to pursue as a family. After Bible time we often took nature walks and worked on our nature notebooks and after that we gathered in the living room, often by a toasty wood stove, and enjoyed a cup of tea or hot cocoa or coffee while I read out loud to the children from books like the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, or Treasures in the Snow, or First We Have Coffee etc. The kids loved this reading time and it sparked a some great questions and desires in them, to explore in more detail, the time frames we were reading about. We also did a three year long unit study on Ancient Egypt which was directed by the interest the kids had in studying that to such a great extent. We read books on WWII and the kids would then order more books on the subject and we watched excellent movies and documentaries as a family in the evenings to further explore this subject. One year we studied every war America has been involved in.

The only text books we used were for math and grammar. For science, we planned fun projects as a family and had family nights centered around the subject. Afternoons allowed the kids to have free time to play, explore and enjoy activities of their own choosing. Often two or three of them would join me in the kitchen to cook, bake etc.

When we made the transition to a more structured, traditional style, our kids were ready and they embraced it whole heartedly. They are thriving with this method now because they have such a solid foundation and love for learning.

We still have two younger boys that for the past two years have also done the very structured A Beka approach, and did very well with it, but this year we are going to take a break from that and I'm excited to go back to the Charlotte Mason, Unit Study, Un-Schooling combination with them. I can't wait to sit and snuggle and read living books with them by the fire and go on nature walks, do Century notebooks (for the first time) and savor the moments of their childhood while building strong relationships with them. This is the beauty of home school. You can be flexible and choose from a wide variety of educational approaches for your family.

My oldest daughter and I enjoy home schooling together and we are both having a great time planning, preparing and brainstorming ideas for the upcoming school year.  She sent me this video on The Different Flavors of Home Schooling the other day and it explains the various methods of home schooling very well by relating it to food flavors. If you don't like something, you probably won't eat it or enjoy it. It's the same with education. If you aren't motivated, you won't absorb it and it will burn you out. If you are new to home schooling or feeling very overwhelmed and ready for a change, I highly recommend watching it. You might just discover that your approach doesn't really fit you anymore or that you need to switch things up a bit to best suit your family's needs in this particular season.

Flexibility in home schooling really is key, at least for our family and that's one of the reasons we love it so much. We have options and plenty of them. Through the different seasons in life, we have explored the various methods and applied what works for that season. If something just isn't working or causing too much stress, we can try a different approach. Figuring out what your goals are is helpful for selecting the home schooling style that fits your family. For us, our main goal was to instill a love for learning in our children so that they would own their personal education and learn to set goals for themselves that they would be motivated to attain. We prayerfully considered, early on, what our goals were for our children and made a list of priorities that we wanted incorporated into their educational experience. This has helped tremendously as I continually go back to that goal list as needed, and apply whatever changes need to take place in order to stay on track with our goals.

If you are new to home schooling or ready for a change, take the time to watch the video and hopefully you will be encouraged.