Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Why homeschoolers laugh when you ask if we take our kids out!

I get it.  When people think of homeschooling, somehow a picture emerges of kids stuck at their desks all day with skin so pale from a lack of sunshine (you know, because they have to be in the home all day to be homeschooled.)  I am convinced that this is what people think because lately I have heard several comments along the lines of: "that's great that she can read...BUT does she get to play with other kids?" or "my child is just so social that they need physical contact with other children".  

I can hear my fellow homeschooling mothers laughing already.

Homeschooling today is TOTALLY different from that stereotype that I mentioned above!  In fact, it's more often the case that people have to turn down events because well...there just isn't time to get the school in around the social calendar.  I know people told me this before I started homeschooling but I don't think I really believed them.  I still secretly feared that I might be keeping them from social interaction with other kids.


So this is for you parents who think you want to homeschool and wonder what you'll do with your kids while other kids are at school (socializing for real).  Here are some of the fun things my girls get to do on a weekly or monthly basis:

  • Homeschool Swim & Gym class at the YMCA - Every week their "homeschool class" meets for an hour of gym class followed by a swim lesson.  This year the kids have learned sports such as basketball, soccer, and hockey.  

  • Irish Dancing taught by a fellow homeschooling mom - The added benefit of homeschooling is often times parents are willing to share a talent with the rest of the kids!  In our homeschooling circle, one of the mothers is an Irish dance teacher and is holding a weekly dance class.  The two older girls participate in this and absolutely love it!    
The girls at their St. Patrick's Day Irish dance recital.
  • Kung Fu Classes -  A couple months ago, we approached a martial arts studio about making a homeschool Kung Fu class during the day.  The studio owner jumped at this idea since his location was open during the day with no students (since they are all in school.)  Because of this, we have managed to get weekly Kung Fu classes for our kids for roughly $4 a class!
  • Violin Lessons - Ok, so this one we do at home since our lovely teacher comes to our house to teach lessons.  I included this on this list because if we didn't homeschool, we would not be able to do this since the closest school is 30 minutes away and would require me taking Sofia for lessons twice a week (with the other kids in tow.)  The way we do it now, is our teacher comes Monday mornings and teaches for 40 minutes.  We then include practice time into our daily school routine.

  • Monthly music classes taught by a fellow homeschooling mom - Once again, a gracious homeschool mother has offered to teach music classes to our homeschool children.  The first month they sang songs around Martin Luther King Jr. and also learned movements that went along with the songs!

Convinced yet that we don't lock our kids up all day away from other kids?

In addition to the regular events that homeschooled kids can participate in, our girls get to go on a field trip anytime we want to!  We have memberships to the Science Museum, Explore and More Children's Museum & the zoo (when other kids are in school, our girls pretty much get the run of the place!)  With our homeschool friends this school year we have gone to see Clifford the Big Red Dog Musical, Sesame Street Live and the Sleeping Beauty ballet.  We have Charlotte's Web and the Philharmonic Orchestra coming up before the end of this school year!  The kids have also visited a local police station (complete with finger printing and being put in a cell!), a kazoo factory, a Llama farm and a pumpkin patch.

 The majority of these activities are with kids they get to see on a regular basis.  They meet people and develop friendships just like they would at traditional school.

So, my kids may be weird, awkward and gawky (or any other negative homeschool stereotype)...but they definitely aren't unsocialized!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Buffalo Women's Conference 2012

This weekend, I was among 1200 women who attended the Buffalo Women's Conference entitled "Behold I make all things new".  I had been looking forward to this event since the Catholic homeschool conference in our area was cancelled and I so crave positive Catholic speakers to encourage me in my vocation as mother and teacher to my children.

A picture with Teresa Tomeo!
Teresa Tomeo was the speaker I was most looking forward to hearing since I listen to her talk radio almost daily on Catholic Radio (101.7 FM WLOF).  She gave two talks lasting 45 minutes each which could have easily been doubled since she is a wealth of knowledge.  I want to share a valuable list she came up with that Catholic women can put to use right away:

A Handmaid's to do list (by Teresa Tomeo) 

1. Pray and practice your faith fervently

2. Read and study the Bible and Church documents. 

3. Turn to the Church instead of Culture

4. Consider your sources of information

5. Examine your priorities in life.

6. Educate yourself on media and cultural influences especially in the area of women and life issues.

7. Establish media guidelines with your family (don't be afraid to be a mom!)

8. Let your voice be heard (in other words...VOTE!)

9. Support Catholic media

10. Join grassroots organizations that support family values.

Mother Olga blessing my new rosary

Although Teresa Tomeo was the speaker  I was most excited to meet...there was another speaker who took my breath away.  Her name is Mother Olga Yaqob.  She has recently started a new order of sisters called Daughters of Mary, Our Lady of Nazareth.  She is the real deal.  She is a native of Iraq who has been through four wars in her lifetime.  She is 45 but looks so much younger.  Here is a clip of her speaking.  I am certain that she will be someone the world will hear more about.  People were literally brought to tears in her presence.  She is such a messenger of peace when she could just as easily be angry at the world for waging war on her small country. When I met her she asked me to pray for her and for her new order and I promised I would. Won't you join me in prayer for this beautiful woman of God and for her new order?

Mother Olga praying with my dear friend Aimee. Perhaps my most favorite picture of the day.

I love attending events like these.  They always seem to come at times in my life where I am frustrated with my role or just tired of the routine responsibilities of my life.  Sometimes our souls need a little encouragment, a gentle (or not so gentle) reminder that God is with  us and "behold, he makes all things new!"

Friday, March 16, 2012

Traded blogging for cooking...

I must have been the last person on Earth to find out that nonstick cookware is bad for your health.  I had been using a set of pans that my mother gave to me on my wedding 8 years ago.  They were nonstick pans but the nonstick surface was really scratched and peeling.  They still did a great job of cooking and I had NO CLUE that once the nonstick coating was damaged, dangerous fumes can be released during cooking. 

So here I was thinking that I am cooking my family healthy meals when really I was serving them chemical laden carcinogens!  OK, a bit much, but I'm still mad that I had never heard about the dangers of nonstick!

In one swift move, I dumped my beloved nonstick cookware and have restocked my kitchen with cast iron and stainless steel.  And if keeping my family safe from the chemicals released with nonstick cookware wasn't enough....

...cooking with this new cookware has made COOKING SO MUCH MORE ENJOYABLE for me!

I have literally been spending every evening either cooking or planning what to cook for the next day.  I have been making a recipe every night from my favorite cookbook in the world.  In the past month, I have only made a recipe that wasn't in this cookbook three or four times.  Now that I have proper pans in the material and size that many of these recipes call for, my cooking is SO much better.   I used to use the same size pan for every kind of cooking I would do.  For instance, I would crowd chicken breasts into a soup pan to brown or I would "ignore" the cookbook's suggestion to use a pan with a very heavy tight fitting lid...and wonder why my recipes never came out quite right.

Now I know! 

I warn you though, this has become quite addictive.  I used to catch up on posts from my favorite bloggers at night but this month I have been scoping out forums like Chowhound or browsing the home and kitchen section of amazon.com!  I am very happy with the new collection of pieces I have acquired this month and am committing myself to get back on the blogging train and stop the insanity of researching every combination of pot and pan I can collect!  If I don't, a cookware intervention may soon be in order!

I'll share with you the new pieces of my collection starting with the pieces I use most often:

1. Le Creuset Dutch Ovens
These two dutch ovens have become a permanent fixture on my stove top (aren't they so pretty?)  The red one is a 7 1/4 quart dutch oven and the chocolate brown one is a 2 3/4 quart.  I bought the large red one first and have used it almost every day.  Le Creuset cookware is enamel coated cast iron.  It is made in France and can be used for a lifetime.  It is very heavy but not so heavy that I can not lift it while it is full.  I have used it to make sauces, soups, rice...and nothing sticks.  Deglazing is also a dream in these pots.  The smaller brown one was purchased at a Le Creuset factory outlet store for 60% off the original price.  I use it every single day to make oatmeal.  It also cooks 2 cups of rice perfectly without a single grain sticking to the bottom.  Really, it does.

2. Cast Iron Pans
These two pans are actually pans that we had purchased months ago but I hated.  I could not understand how people could rave about cast iron when I found them heavy, sticky and impossible to clean.  Well, I am so glad that I gave them a second chance because now that I know how to care for them they are virtually nonstick! 

This 12 inch skillet is made by Lodge and was not expensive at all.  After learning how to season and care for it, look at it's beautiful smooth shiny finish!  I can literally fry an egg on this and slide it right off.  I also purchased a lid for this which is very handy when I prepare skillet dinner recipes.

This is my husband's griddle which he uses to make the best pancakes every weekend.  The surface looks discolored, but is really a smooth nonstick surface now.  This is also made by Lodge.

3. All Clad Stainless Steel Cookware
In my excitement to replace my nonstick cookware, I jumped the gun and bought a set of stainless steel cookware.  Don't get me wrong, the stainless cookware is wonderful...it's just that in the end, I probably didn't need a set.  I bought a three piece set that came with a 3 quart saucepan, a 3 quart covered skillet and a 10 inch fry pan.  The last two pieces can basically be replaced by my cast iron above.  The 3 quart saucepan, however, is fantastic.  The stainless steel is so thick and heavy that you don't have to worry about watching food every 2 minutes while cooking.  The heat is so evenly distributed that it eliminates the need for constant stirring and adjusting temperatures. 


So there you have it why I had temporarily traded blogging for cooking. Logging on to my blogger account today felt good...just as good as shining my cookware after a successful dinner ;)