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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Learning Kid Linkup#24


The best of learning ideas on the web.  Five hosts, five homeschooling moms, five times the fun

Welcome back to Learning Kid Linkup a place for homeschooling parents and awesome bloggers!  Thank you for sharing your wonderful posts that are about educating children, homeschooling, books, crafts, and other learning ideas for kids.  
  
The hosts have been busy this week  ...






Read-Bake-Make: Apples A to Z by All day Everyday Mom
DIY Christmas Ornaments by Homegrown Adventures
Christmas Activity Craft Roundup by Wind in the Letterbox

Meet your hosts

Eva from Kid Minds 

Melanie from Tree Valley Academy


The featured post this week is from BJ's Homeschool.  In her post she shares her daughter's journey from itsy-bitsy baby to taking on leadership opportunities as a college student.  Such an amazing journey it is!


Grab a button, if you were featured.

KidMinds.org

Friday, December 11, 2015

Mathful Parent: fostering child's love of math in creative ways

teaching math, child development, homeschooling


The old question of “can I teach my kids mathematics?” that haunts many homeschooling moms never bothered me as much as “am I going to hate teaching mathematics?”  All through the school years and beyond I loathed math with every fiber of my soul. Since I was a business major in college I had to take a fair amount of math classes - statistics as a data science, college algebra, finite mathematics, calculus - I loathed them all.  I have a remarkable ability to make myself do what I don't want to do with the same level of perfectionism I apply to other areas of my life.  It was “A” or bust.  

Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University

When I first started developing lesson plans for my kids, I realized how little mathematics I actually knew.  I was always studying to get an 'A,' it never occurred to me to study mathematics to learn something.  I memorized a lot of formulas, geometric diagrams, and algebraic expressions.  I did a lot of exercises of the “do this and this and you get the answer” variety.  Once the coveted grade was in my pocket everything I memorized flew right out of my head.  So the first thing I needed to do was educate myself.  What is mathematics?  Can I find something that is fun about it? I got books.  Lots of them.  Love and Math, Mathematics: the science of patterns, Mathematics for the Nonmathematician, A Mind for Numbers: how to excel at math and science, Wonder of Numbers to name just a few.  These were all exciting books that I read late into the night.  Unexpectedly, I fell in love with the subject.  I wanted to learn more.  And I believe the best teachers are the ones who are eager to learn more about their own subject.  


math is important

I already knew I wanted to teach mathematics in the way that was completely different from the way I was taught it, but how should I teach it?  I looked into getting the most fun curriculum I could find.  Of course, you don't know what fun is until you get many different things and try them.  That's how I ended up with Singapore math, Math.U. See, Hooked on Math, Math Made Easy, Oak meadow curriculum, and a whole bunch of seemingly fun workbooks from School Zone Publishing Company to DK Math and everything in between.  (And that's why we have a library plus a bookcase (or two) in every room of the house). 

Oak meadow, a Waldorf style curriculum, was very nice.  Numbers 0 through 10 were learned through stories.  The four processes of mathematics were learned through stories.  They were very good stories, but after three years we realized that we were not moving fast enough for my son's desires and abilities.  


I decided to make a list of the concepts I wanted my kids to know and try to come up with the most fun exercises I could come up with to teach these concepts.  To assist me in making the list I used Common Core Standards.  It forced me to redefine what exactly I wanted my kids to learn.  No, I didn’t want my kids to count to 100 by a certain age mark, but yes I wanted my kids to develop a number sense.  It was not about teaching my kids to memorize that “3” is used to describe a collection of three trucks “1-2-3, three trucks, dear,” it was more important to me to teach them to recognize the pattern of “three-ness” because mathematics is a science of patterns.  Most importantly, I wanted my kids to think and to develop their own reasoning, rather than memorize a bunch of stuff related to math. 

What I like to think of myself now is a mathful parent.  According to dictionary “artful” means “skillful or clever in adapting means to ends” and "done with artistic skill."  So then a mathful parent is a resourceful adult who fosters child’s love of math in creative ways, concentrates on process-oriented math activities, manufactures positive learning experiences, takes advantages of learning opportunities, and blends facts with fun in unexpected and delightful ways.  This truly reflects the essence of my approach to mathematics.  I might not remember much in the way of formulas, but hey, I only have to be one lesson ahead of my kids.  The most important thing is my enthusiasm about teaching math, willingness to be flexible and a whole lot of daily creativity.  

love of math, math in early years, child development

What I came to learn along the way is that any parent can be a good math teacher.  If I could make a journey from “loathing” to “love,” then anybody can.  I had to do a lot of reading and thinking to arrive at this point where I like math and I am excited about teaching it.  I want to save you some time and energy by sharing our exciting math ideas with you, from decomposition with LEGOs to our favorite math literature.  In the very least I can provide encouragement and support.  Do you want to be a mathful parent?

  Coming up:
  • Decomposition with LEGOs
  • How to create math environment 
  • Counting Book for Toddlers (best selection for mathful parents)
  • Math books for Elementary Grades
  • Simple ways to fill your family life with Math (a guide to mathful parents)
  • 5 Nature-based math projects for Kids
  • How to incorporate math into daily play 
Disclaimer: For your convenience this post contains amazon affiliate links. If you click on my link and purchase something, I will receive a small percent of your purchase at no extra cost to you.  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Learning Kid Linkup #23

The best of learning ideas on the web.  Five hosts, five homeschooling moms, five times the fun

Welcome back to Learning Kid Linkup a place for homeschooling parents and awesome bloggers!  Thank you for sharing your wonderful posts that are about educating children, homeschooling, books, crafts, and other learning ideas for kids.  

This week I did a review of a cookbook.  So, if you are into healthy eating check out Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees.


  
The co-hosts have been busy this week  ...

Learning to Code for Younger Ones by Tree Valley Academy
Read-Bake-Make: Apple Farm by All day Everyday Mom
What about socialization? by Homegrown Adventures
Homeschooling Week 16: Letter K by Wind in the Letterbox

Meet your hosts

Eva from Kid Minds 

Melanie from Tree Valley Academy


The featured post this week is from Carrie from the Prairie.  In her post she shares what a homeschool day is like in her family.


Grab a button, if you were featured.

KidMinds.org

Friday, December 4, 2015

Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees (essential techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking)

Chinese cookbook



By a curious coincidence an opportunity to review this book came in the same time period as a realization that I haven’t had Chinese food in years.  And I love Chinese food.  Ordering Chinese takeout never failed to make me feel more American than McDonald's French Fries ever could.  In some ways because of the word “French” in the name but mostly because I gave up French Fries in 1997 after an innocent-looking 3-credit college course called Nutrition changed my eating habits forever.

So why did I stop eating Chinese food?  It fell victim to my college education.  I took another course on nutrition, this time the Biology and Chemistry of Food and learned that Chinese food is full of MSG, flavor enhancer that is commonly deemed “as safe.”  To my mind if the question of something being “safe” arises in the first place, I cannot bring myself to ingest it.  Why do it when there are so many other options available?


Healthy Chinese Food
I generally cook all my food from fresh simple ingredients.  I check labels religiously and don’t buy anything with any sort of preservatives.  So imagine my excitement when I realized that this cookbook fits with my cooking philosophy.  I can have Chinese food and eat it too.  Surprise, surprise, homemade Chinese food is healthy!  Most of flavor in the recipes come from spices, herbs like mint and chives, wine, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, stock but often it’s just salt and pepper.  

Here is a full list of ingredients for Chinese Chicken Soup: chicken breast, coconuts, chicken stock, ginger, goji berries, salt and pepper.  I’m sold!  I make my own chicken stock, but if you need to buy one just watch out and buy chicken stock that is labeled “MSG free” or “no added MSG,” if it doesn’t say that specifically you can be sure you stock will contain some kind of nasty additive. 


Chinese Ingredients
I thought it might be difficult to find the required ingredients for authentic Chinese meal, but so far everything I needed was easily available at Whole Foods or Amazon store, which is specifically good news if you are into jujube or tangerine peel (both marked as “healthy foods,” mind you).  For the rest of us kelp and goji berries might be the limits of our experimenting selves.  Surprisingly most dishes do not require much beyond the scope of a regular supermarket.  Here are ingredients for famous Peking Duck: duck, honey, vinegar, cucumber, scallion and sweet bean paste (red bean, sugar, water).   Sweet bean paste is the only specialty ingredients and it’s readily available on amazon. 

The most commonly used thickening agent in the book is tapioca flour/starch, which is gluten-free and available everywhere.  It was especially happy about this because I have five bags of tapioca in my pantry.  Why?  I keep thinking that I’m running out and keep buying more.  I realize it provides groundwork for a new age syndrome The-fear-of-being-out-of-tapioca.  


Recipes
There are 158 recipes in the book that range from simple to complex.  On the simple end are simple stir-fries like Garlic Stir-fried Green, Pancakes, Cucumber salad, Blanched Asparagus, and Chinese celery and pressed tofu salad.  On the difficult end are General Tso’s chicken, Red-cooked lion’s head, and all the fish and slow cooking dishes just because more ingredients and longer instructions require more time and effort in the kitchen (all in good fun, if you enjoy cooking and eating yummy homemade food).   I want to try every recipe in this book, except maybe flash-fried pig stomach and crispy eel. 



Book Layout
The book starts with detailed information about the Essence of Chinese cooking, Chinese kitchen and Chinese pantry.  It’s not just about cleavers, woks, steams and clay pots.  You will get a course on aromatics, fresh herbs, spices, starches, sauces, cooking wines, flavored oils, vinegar, cooking fats and condiments (surprise: many of these can be easily made at home without preservatives).   There is also information about pickled ingredients and dried specialties, but for me it was a bit more than I needed to know.  On the other hand, if you always wanted to know how sea cucumber looks, you will have you wish.

After you read up on Basic Ingredients preparation and how to prepare Chinese stocks, which are basis of many Chinese dishes, you get to the twelve recipes chapters divided by cooking techniques. I didn’t realize there was so many - roasting, boiling, stir-frying, steaming, flash-pouching, oil-steeping, and braising - just to name a few.   

If you like Stir-Fry then let me tell you that Chapter 6 called Harnessing the Breath of Wok consists of 5 subdivisions: simple stir-fry, dry stir-fry, moist stir-fry, dry-fry, and scramble stir-fry.  I will never think of stir-fry the same way again.  The chapter on boiling is divided into four different kinds of boiling: boiling, steeping, blanching, and hot pot.  Quite frankly it’s much more than I imagined.



Fish
My favorite part of the book is the one on fish basics.  I love fish but don’t cook it enough with the exception of salmon and tilapia fillets.  I am one of those people who stand in front of fish display in Whole Foods looking longingly at fish, and then shrug and walk away because I don’t dare to bring a whole fish into my kitchen.  What would I do with it!  This book has detailed photo-by-photo instructions on how to handle fish from cleaning up to cooking it, which definitely takes the fear out of serving fish.

If you think, why in the world would I want a whole fish when I can buy a fillet and skip the messy work, think again!  Fillet doesn’t come close to the taste of fish prepared whole.  I grew up with eager fishermen and ate lots of freshly caught fish of all sizes and varieties prepared at home whole and in parts.  My taste buds are finely tuned to the nuances of fish flavor and no matter how skillfully I prepare fish fillets they never are as flavorful and complete as they should be. 

  

Final Thoughts
Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees is a wonderful cookbook that inspires to cook.  The pages are extra thick and pleasure to handle.  The beautiful photographs, all 240 of them, are really a work of art.  I especially enjoyed the step-by-step photos.  It’s as close as you can get to taking an actual cooking class.  I like how the book breaks down classical Chinese cuisine into logical sequence of steps: aromatics, knife techniques, stocks… by the time we get to the actual cooking recipes make sense.  The book truly educates.  It doesn’t simply catalog the recipes.  There are complex and poetic descriptions of cooking techniques and detailed information on how and why it works and where the flavor is coming from.  The Chinese way of cooking differs from many other countries.  I felt positively extravagant standing in my kitchen with a star anise in hand.  I am confident that with a bit of effort the recipes in the book can be mastered by anyone, even a beginner cook.   And using this book will definitely increase your culinary repertoire.  

For more information about the author or to buy the book check Random House website or Amazon store.  

Disclaimer
I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own. This post contains amazon affiliate links. If you click on my link and purchase something, I will receive a small percent of your purchase at no extra cost to you.  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Learning Kid Linkup #22

The best of learning ideas on the web.  Five hosts, five homeschooling moms, five times the fun

Welcome back to Learning Kid Linkup!  Every Thursday a couple of awesome kid bloggers stop by  to link up their wonderful posts that are about educating children, homeschooling, books, crafts, and other learning ideas for kids.  Scroll down to check this week's ideas at the bottom of the post.  

This week I posted a healthy, yummy cold weather soup that seems to be very popular with my readers.  It's good for the body and it's good for the mind!  Check it out here!  


The co-hosts have been busy this week  ...

Read-Bake-Make by All day Everyday Mom
Live in the moment... don't rush time by Homegrown Adventures
Homeschooling Week 16: Letter H by Wind in the Letterbox

Meet your hosts

Eva from Kid Minds 

Melanie from Tree Valley Academy


The featured post this week is Christmas Learning Pack from Stella123.  I have a couple of activity pack of this kind printed out and stashed away in my kitchen.  Whenever the situation calls for it, I'm ready!  Check it out now or Pin It for later.


Grab a button, if you were featured.

KidMinds.org

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Navy Bean, Squash, Apple Soup with Pumpkin Oil

winter cooking, cold weather soups, cooking with apples


One of two choices is available to Chicagoans in November.  We can either wrap ourselves in existential depression lamenting the disappearance of warmer weather until April, or we can break out snow pants and embrace fall.  One of the things that help me embrace the cooler weather is my winter cooking folder.  It’s full of recipes for nurturing soups, cozy pies and other comfort foods that keep our kitchen warm and our bellies content.  My one other secret weapon is pumpkin oil. 


Do you cook with pumpkin oil?  I seriously don’t know how we ever lived without pumpkin oil until I discovered it a few years ago.  I’m convinced it makes everything taste super nourishing.  I add it to everything: soups, salads, side dishes, main courses, desserts … I go through a bottle a month.  I often buy my pumpkin oil at a Russian store, but I also have it on amazon subscribe-and-save.   My favorite oil brand is La Tourangelle.  Their hazelnut oil is fantastic, and so are pumpkinavocado, sesame and walnut oils.   And not just for cooking.  I massage a few drops into my hands to keep them super soft all winter.  



This is one of our favorite soups from my winter repertoire.  It came together organically and over time.  At first it was a butternut squash soup, then apples made it into the mix, later we tried it with beans just because I already had some handy, and finally pumpkin oil added a wonderful final touch.   I use homemade chicken stock and home cooked beans, but feel free to make it with store bought organic stock and canned beans. 


Navy Beans, Squash, Apple Soup 


with Pumpkin Oil 
Ingredients
Pumpkin oil  - 2 TBSP + extra for each bowl
Onion - chopped
Salt – 1-2 tsp
Garlic – clove chopped
Chicken or Vegetable broth (homemade is best) - about 4 cups 
Butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
Baby navy beans, cooked
Granny Smith apples – 2 chopped
Chilli powder to taste – about 1 tsp
Toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add onion and salt and sauté about 5 minutes.


2. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute.
3. Add squash, apples, and spices and sauté for a few minutes stirring constantly.


4. Add broth, bring to boil and simmer covered about 20 minutes or until squash is tender when pierced with fork.
5. Add beans to the pot and keep cooking for about 5 more minutes until beans are heated through.


6. Using immersion blender puree soup until smooth. 


7. Serve hot with extra pumpkin oil and a sprinkle of chili powder for extra heat.   

If it seems to you like too much work for a pot of soup, let me in on another secret.  This soup freezes exceptionally well.  Any time you come home after a long day of being out in a freezing temperatures, drop a bag of frozen soup into a pot (cut off the freezer bag with scissors) and by the time you change your comfy clothes you will have a cup of steaming, nourishing, homemade soup that tastes amazing and is healthy to boot.  

cold weather cooking, comfort soups, pumpkin oil, cooking with apples

What's your favorite cold weather soup? 

Disclaimer: For your convenience this post contains amazon affiliate links. If you click on my link and purchase something, I will receive a small percent of your purchase at no extra cost to you.  

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Learning Kid Linkup #21

The best of learning ideas on the web.  Five hosts, five homeschooling moms, five times the fun

Happy Thanksgiving!  Welcome back to Learning Kid Linkup!

Every Thursday a couple of awesome kid bloggers stop by here to link up their wonderful posts that are about educating children, homeschooling, books, crafts, and other learning ideas for kids.  Scroll down to check this week's ideas at the bottom of the post.  

The hosts have been busy this week  ...




Play-Learning Stations Setup by All day Everyday Mom
Our Jungle Experience by Homegrown Adventures
Free Printable Pigs in the Mud by Wind in the Letterbox

Meet your hosts

Eva from Kid Minds 

Melanie from Tree Valley Academy


The featured post this week is 10 Free Printable Flashcards for Toddlers from Look We're Learning.  Check it out now or pin it for later.



Grab a button, if you were featured.

KidMinds.org

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