Monday, April 26, 2010

Getting Used to Things

For one, my new template. Sorry about the family photo... maybe I Alie can tack it on at the bottom, and I'll set it for fewer posts per page? 

Also getting used to being blind for all practical purposes, as I lost a contact lens down the drain yesterday.   Don't ask how that happened.  I'm sure you can figure it out.  So in the meantime I am creeping along with my very not stylish ancient glasses (c.1989) that give me a horrendous headache, hoping NOT to run into anyone I know, and waiting impatiently to get a new left contact lens from  Even with a $15 charge for 2-3 day shipping, they are STILL $15 cheaper than at my eye doctor's office.  That was a small $5 compromise over the 1-2 day shipping for $20, taking my chances on getting the new lense in two days rather than the allowed three. Our homeschoolers' fine arts program is this Friday, and I just can't go there  in my 1980's frames, with a raging headache.

I'm sure that at some point I must have wisely considered buying a spare pair of contact lenses.... but probably not when the money was flowing.  In the meantime, we make do, yes?  Well, God is good.  I'm not totally blind or even close to it. And I have a right contact lens, which means I don't have to purchase two.  In everything give thanks. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Blog Makeover

Yes, this is still DiamondsintheRough!  You have come to the right place.  Many thanks to my talented daughter, Alizona, for enduring my perfectionism, and to my husband, Monocogman, for this lovely amateur photograph.  (Now he wants a new template, too.  Copycat.)   This was taken close to us, from Spirit Mountain, in southern Nevada.  New avatar to come... not sure what that will be yet.  Have a blessed Lord's day, everyone!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Well, Mom, You Asked

I was inspired by Belinda to ask my kids, in a non-threatening, non-judgmental setting , what exactly they each enjoy about their school work, and what they don't like, what they would change, and what they would rather like to learn about or learn to do, given their druthers.  I am hoping this will be helpful in choosing next year's curriculum, a chore I don't relish. 

First question, "What do you like about school?" 

Deafening silence. 

Then laughter.   We had a somewhat enlightening discussion... and then the school principal, who was eavesdropping, entered in and gave me some much-needed guidance and some goals for these girls. 

The concensus:

We will no longer be using Landmark's Freedom Baptist Curriculum, with the exception of the Bible courses that require actually reading the chapter from the BIBLE and answering the questions in the workbook.  Although Landmark is used for homeschooling, that curriculum is designed for teachers in a classroom setting. To do it right you have to supplement quite a bit.  It requires NO critical thinking.  The questions are given in the order in which the answers are found in the reading, and they are stated in the exact same wording that the answers are given in. My kids call that copy-and-paste school. I'm glad they don't like it that easy. Landmark doesn't seem to have hurt them at all, but from here on out I want more thought-provoking material.  I don't know why we stuck with it for so long -- probably because it was easy for ME.

Apologia is the opposite, requiring understanding of the concepts before you can answer the questions, and not just the memorizing of facts. We Like It. (Well, Alison is the only one who uses Apologia material right now, but I think I will be looking into more of it.)

Alison: The Fallacy Detective needs to be done as a family or in a group of some sort.

Elisabeth: It would be good to have school start at 9:00.  Math is evil in the afternoon. In fact, all school work is evil after lunch time.

Amy: Spelling lists should be made up from words we use.   And, we want spelling and vocabulary together.  (Anyone recommend a good resource?)

All: It's too noisy and there are too many distractions while school is going on.  Some want to try doing it together at the kitchen table, rather than having one or two on the floor with school books and Legos or Kinex, one at the piano, and one at the computer, and the teacher being pulled in pieces.

Amy: No Greeks and Romans!

All: School room needs to be kept neater.

Alison: Algebra is fun, but geometry takes too long and the proofs are HARD.  Likes the critical thinking involved, however.

Amy: Consumer math is wayyyyy more practical than algebra and geometry.

Elisabeth: Teaching Textbooks is fine but I want MORE WORD PROBLEMS!!  Easy Grammar is too easy. And boring.

Emily:  Speed drills are fun.  I like social studies and spelling and science.  Reading is bad and I don't like study words in a box. And I want a Bible curriculum! 

All: History textbooks are booooring.  We want hands-on stuff.

One child wants to build with bricks, make a chair out of wood, learn how to tat, and how to use her left hand as well as her right.  (Can you guess which one?)   One wants to stop the academics and learn how to cook and play the piano. (After all, two hundred years ago that would have been sufficient.) Another wants a boxed curriculum that is perfect for her learning style and her preferences.  And one wants to have the rules posted on the wall: Raise Your Hand Before Speaking, Don't Interrupt, Be Courteous. lol.

DAD:  All girls need to learn keyboarding (goal: 75-80 wpm) and basic accounting.  Also, add a good word-processing program and spreadsheet program to the curriculum, and learn how to do stuff like using lists to print envelopes, balance accounts, etc!  (Good idea, Daddy.)  Additional goal: be able to play through the hymn book on the piano by high school graduation.  These are far-reaching skills that can be used in ministry for the Lord in many ways. 

Well.  That does help  me some.  Okay, Belinda, I'm ready for you to tell me what to do with this information.

The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge:
but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.

Proverbs 15:14

Homeschooling Works

At least in the early grades, it does.

Here's Emily, at age six, an avid reader of the A to Z Mystery series.  She is learning all sorts of interesting, unrealistic things about life.   But she loves reading, and the better she can read, the more she can learn!  So, even though I fret and worry about the older kids getting what they need academically while they are at home (What do they really need academically?  That's a whole 'nother issue...), I am confident that all of my girls have the tools they need to learn if they WANT to learn.  Reading is the biggie.  By God's grace, there's no child left behind in this house, and for that I am grateful.

See that cap Em is wearing?  That is a welder's cap, Amy's my latest sewing experiment.  They are supposed to be a hot item among welders and construction workers. ??  I guess these simple caps keep their heads cooler under those helmets and hardhats. This was an adult size medium, but it didn't fit any of the big people in my house.  Good thing it was just a experiment.  I need to pick up some more masculine-type fabric patterns.  I don't think many welders want pink hearts or flowers on their caps.    But here's the key:  These caps sell for about $10 each.  If one cap takes two hours, that's not a great hourly wage.  But it's something!  Thinking on this one... more stuff for my theoretical Etsy shop.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Subtle(?) Hint and More Rambling Thoughts

Thanks, Amy! 

It's a sort of quiet morning here; Daddy has the little girls on a bike ride, and rather than getting to work, two of us girls are computerizing.  Amy is looking for an interesting history video on, and I am putzing around not accomplishing much of anything.  And this after a rousing motivational speech by yours truly yesterday morning during our Ladies' Coffee Hour.  sigh. Oh well. Alison is sight-reading piano music....

We have our spring fine arts recital coming up in just fifteen days, and Amy hasn't decided on a piano solo yet.  She will probably choose one three days before the big event and play it like she's been practicing for months.  Some people are just like that, you know? (I'm not one of them.)   Alison will be doing piano and violin solos, playing in a couple of ensembles, AND playing along with her violin students.  She feels like she is taking over the show.  It won't be quite like the first or second year, when it seemed like it was the Johnson Girls Show.  Our recital is growing!  This year we have twenty-two homeschool kids participating in music, speech, recitation, and oral interpretation.  I am both relieved and excited!

On the schedule for today: Ladies' Coffee Hour and Bedell Curriculum , cleaning zones  (it's 10:00 am and are we ever off to a slow start), school , nursing home Bible study , and church service this evening .  Maybe a bit of sewing or reading?  Speaking of reading, it has been a long time since I have read out loud to my girls.  Anyone have a great book to recommend?  Maybe a classic that wouldn't be over their heads?  Or a non-fiction survival story?

My little group is home, so it's time to get moving.  Was nice visiting with you this morning!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cooking With Emily

In recent years my meal-preparation duties have diminished substantially.  Whereas I used to make everyone's lunch short-order style (foolish mothering, I know), now it's every lady for herself. (I still do short-order for my dear husband.) Now my only responsibilities in the kids' lunch department are to provide the groceries and to make sure everything has been put away after the lunch rush.  Emily was the first in the race to use the stove today, and she made herself a quesadilla.  She asked me to video her so she could show you how to do it, too.  (Notice the sweater, Shani?!? in mid-April!!!)

Of course, you know you are supposed to flip it over in the pan and cook the other buttered side.

Eat it up, yum!  Emily says you should dip it in ranch dressing.  I say salsa!


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Double Division to the Rescue Again

Once upon a time, Amy and I were at war over long division.  She just could not get it, and I could not understand why it was so hard for her!  In desperation I finally googled "long division" for an alternate method and found this blessed site, The result was a girl who could not only divide large numbers confidently, but who was even cheerful about doing it!  Yippee!  That student is now very capable of doing division the old-fashioned way.

Forward three years.  I have another fifth grader.  She is actually way past division, but she never really got long division down well.  As a result we were having trouble with more complicated operations.  I don't like having to back up; it seems so discouraging to my students.  So instead of starting over with division again, we sat together at the interactive DoubleDivision site to learn something entirely new.  After two demonstrations Elisabeth was ready to do it on her own.  I love this method.  The guess-work is gone, it almost always results in correct answers, and it almost never brings on teeth-gritting, hair pulling, tear-inducing frustration!

Tomorrow we will go back to and learn how to divide with remainders written as decimals.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mrs. Klingelhofer's German Coffee Cake

I have had a hankering lately for Mrs. Klingelhofer's coffee cake.  Mrs. Klingelhofer was a friend of a friend of my parents, and I don't know where she got this recipe -- maybe she invented it. Doesn't her name sound like it fits a coffee cake? I can just picture this little round German lady holding a tray full of German pastries.  The cake's a bit on the sweet side, just the way I like it. I am going to make this in the next few days.  It is always a process.  If I have a cake mix, I don't have pudding. If I have pudding mix, I don't have a cake mix.  This time, after searching Google for a make-it-yourself pudding recipe*, I will have both! I am waiting for my family to go away somewhere without me, so I can bake it and eat the entire thing in one sitting.  And it's not even chocolate. Can you tell what frame of mind I am in? (I can promise you that  if   when I do eat the whole cake, I will be not be wearing trousers, and my midriff will NOT be showing.)

Mrs. Klingelhofer's German Coffee Cake

1 pkg white cake mix
1/2 pt sour cream
1 pkg instant vanilla pudding mix (4 serving size)
4 eggs
1/2 C oil

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix eggs and oil together well before adding to the combined remaining ingredients.  Beat all ingredients together for SEVEN minutes.  Stir together the streusel mixture:

1 C chopped walnuts
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cocoa

Put 1/3 of the streusel mixture in the bottom of a greased and floured (or sugared) Bundt pan or 10" angel food pan.  Add 3/4 of the cake batter, top with the remaining streusel mixture, and end with remaining cake batter.

Bake 1 hour or until cake springs back with touched lightly.  Allow to cool completely before removing from pan. (?? I am copying this off the recipe, but it seems to me the cake is ready to come out  of the pan after 10 minutes.  Doesn't it stick if you let it cool too long?)

*OH NO!!  I made all this pudding mix and realized it is NOT instant, even though the title says it is.  sigh. 


Friday, April 2, 2010

March 2010 in Review

Recapping the month of March (quickly -- I need to go to bed!):

My husband's parents came for a week-long visit early in the month.  It was wonderful.  Those two are tireless givers of time and personal attention, and we enjoyed them so much.  A trip to AZ must include a few hikes, so Daddy and Papa and Nana and the girls made several good ones.  Poor me, there wasn't room in the van for me, so I stayed home all sad and alone.  They hiked up canyons and over rocks and into caves, played in desert water and even surprised some wild burros.

It's always so hard when attentive grandparents leave.  There's nothing to do, no one to listen to your chatter, and no one to buy treats.  It's a blessing that we have big sisters here to cheer us up.

It was time to make a trip to our favorite park, the one with grass (on the Nevada side, where lo$ers pay for all the nice stuff).  Our friend, Mackenzie, came along.  She is always full of ideas.  These girls are skating for a film crew. Nothing lasts long in the desert, especially if it is made of plastic or elastic.  Our protective pads have lost all their elasticity, so we tie them on -- probably not the most comfortable way to wear them, but a little bit of discomfort is worth it for this much fun!

Bad Betsy rode into town and held us up.

But she was kind enough to allow her sister, Amy, to experiment with the camera.  That Amy is starting to take some pretty nice shots.

And, speaking of Amy, that girl has been sewing, gluing, magnetizing, building, exploding... anything you can think of that sounds constructive or destructive.  She only exploded one thing: that was a film canister filled with water and an Alka Seltzer tablet, capped quickly and shot with the camera.  The camera was too slow, so no pictures, but it was lots of fun and excitement.  Added to her craft collection we now have more pin cushions, a birthday hat, a hair band with interchangeable flowers, a jar topper, and the cutest little bag you ever did see.  It looks just like one of those Brach's neapolitain chewy candies. (See her blog for more photos of her creations!)

Alison is working hard on her world history, physical science, and hateful geometry.  She is such a good kid.  I know that while these things interest her (sort of), she would rather not do them.  But she doesn't complain.  Emily, while suffering the post-grandparent throes, sweet talked her big sister into playing Tiny Dreams with her.  Very unusual for Alie to be found "pretending".  What a nice sister.

For those of you who don't know, or don't remember (that would be me), we have been participating in a public speaking co-op this year.  My, what a change has come over this child of mine.  We started this activity with many tears, much anguish, accusations (I heard one daughter in this house say that her mother was wicked for making her do this! ), and pleas for mercy.  I said, NO, we are not quitting!  Now I am thanking God for helping me to stick this one out!  Elisabeth has really blossomed.  Last week she put together a Sunday School lesson for my class of 3-11 year olds, on how even the small things that children can do for Jesus can have big consequences.  She was well organized, articulate, and very poised.  It wasn't all that long ago that an opportunity like this would have had her hiding under her chair.  Today was our last day of speech co-op, and when it was all over, Betsy told me she can't decide whether she is relieved that speech is over, or disappointed -- did you see that?  DISAPPOINTED!!!

Math class.  Sometimes you just need your own space so you can concentrate!

Earlier in the month my mom asked me to whip up a jewelry bag for a friend's birthday.  Here is what I came up with, using my stash of virtually free upholstery samples (ew, sorry, the color is not very good here!):

Well, then I was on a roll.  Using online tutorials, I have now made four or five more jewelry bags and several cosmetic bags of various sizes, even one with a clear side, to prevent having to dig for something elusive.  (Made that one out of a fabric I don't like, in case it didn't work out.) Everything is still in experimental stages; not one thing has turned out perfect, but there is definitely potential.

OH yes, and a wallet!  It's too fat -- next time I won't interface it.  But it was fun to make.

And last but not least, my little protegĂ©, still begging daily for me to allow her to use the pedal.  Ah, no.  Patience, child.  Today Emily made a little pillow, all by herself.  I love this.  It must be very educational, for it requires lots of critical thinking, sorting, sequencing, and all that good stuff. Alison was this age when she made herself a shirt out of an old sheet, and sewed it all together by hand.  She wanted to wear it to church that Sunday... I don't remember how I talked her out of that one, lol.

Thanking the Lord for his goodness to my family and me this month, and praising him for his wonderful plan of redemption for sinners like me.

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
But now is Christ risen from the dead...

1 Corinthians 15:14-20

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