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Managers of Their Homes

Last month I enjoyed borrowing and reading "Managers of Their Homes: A Practical Guide to Daily Scheduling for Christian Homeschool Families" by Steven and Teri Maxwell. The Maxwells point out that mothers who are joyful are usually those who feel they can accomplish their necessary household responsibilities. They present an achievable scheduling system to help mothers stay on top of their tasks. First you are to write down all the things that you believe God would have you do in a day, and how long they take. Then you are to put them onto little pieces of paper in half hour time slots. The idea is that you can move these pieces of paper around until you find the right schedule for you. Only then do you create a final version of the schedule. The book comes with a kit with all the necessary materials, but because I borrowed it I did not have access to this. I made my own table and little pieces of paper to move around. I have not yet honed my schedule as suggested, but I have found it helpful to think about my days carefully. 

Good points about this book

* Teri continually encourages women to seek God about their days
* There is a chapter for husbands, and Teri does a good job of honouring the role of the husband in scheduling decisions (including whether or not to have a schedule) 
* Addresses the dangers of over scheduling or being inflexible
* Chapters on laundry and meal preparation
* Ideas for scheduling babies are presented but the Maxwells do not present these as biblicaly mandated or necessary for the family to have a schedule.
* Helpful ideas for weekends and holidays (options include not scheduling, or having a different schedule).
* Ideas and schedules from women in lots of different family situations and stages of life.

Personal reflections

I want to be a joyful mother, so I want to take advantage of systems that others find helpful and see if they work for us. I only have one baby, but I still think it is helpful to get into the habit of structuring in my days in ways that help my family. I struggle with guilt about whether or not I'm using my time well, and since beginning my schedule I feel much better. I now know that I am devoting the right amount of time to various things, or if I feel that I am not I can look at the schedule and think about how to change it. I am still finding it hard to change activities at the set time, as I am always tempted to do "just five minutes more" and then cut myself short on the next activity. I have found that the Maxwells are right when they say that having a schedule can actually help you deal with interruptions or unusual situations. This is because you know that tomorrow or next week you have time allotted to continue with the interrupted activity.

Have you tried scheduling your days? What works/doesn't work for you?


Zucchini makes great baby food

We harvested our first zucchini in December. I was happy when Elnathan sucked on it for a long time and cried when he accidentally dropped it! Since there are always lots of zucchinis, it is helpful to have a third person to eat them. Natey continues to enjoy his zucchini.


I often steam a zucchini for lunch or dinner and give Elnathan a piece or two. I enjoy eating the rest with a little salt. It is a quick and easy way to use zucchinis. Steamed zucchini is nice warm, but it is not pleasant cold. It is best to eat it all soon after cooking.


The joys of growing corn

Growing corn has been so much fun this year! Each year that we have grown corn it has got better and better. We still have a lot of improvements to make, but we are happy with our progress. The first year we bought a few seedlings. The second year we planted seeds, but only the first planting produced ears. The second planting produced close to nothing!

This year we made four successive plantings. The first set of 22 plants produced 24 good ears! Yay! The second planting is also producing well. The fourth planting looks like it will produce poorly. Since corn can produce two good ears per plant, even our first planting has not produced excellently. Next year we hope to try putting heaps of fertiliser in, even more than this year, as we know that could improve our yield. Have any of you grown corn successfully with two good ears per plant? If so, what are your tips?


Elnathan loves the corn husks! Everytime I see my son playing happily with a vegetable or plant I am reminded that we don't need more toys. He is much more interested in new objects like corn!


I love eating corn. I've been known to put a can of corn in everything from pizza topping to potato salad! We have all enjoyed eating our fresh corn, taken straight from the plant and then steamed. It has also been delicious in zucchini slice, on pizza, with beans, and more! The taste is much sweeter than purchased corn.


Avoiding Homeschool Pitfalls

When we think of homeschool pitfalls, choosing the wrong maths curriculum or piling on too many extra-curricular activities might come to mind. However, Reb Bradley's article Solving the Crisis in Homeschooling raises some more significant issues. He writes of having self-centered dreams, judging others, focusing on the outward, lacking a kingdom view, and much more! It is a long article, but well worth considering in detail. I read this for the first time a couple of years ago, and the story of the homeschool Mum who was dying of cancer and wished she had not spent so much of her time making bread stuck with me! Reb's point was that we need to be careful not to just "go with the flow" of what other homeschoolers are doing, but to truly know what is important for our families. I am not in a position to know if there really is a "crisis" in homeschooling here or in the USA. However, I do know that the issues Reb speaks of in this article are real in Tasmania! I grew up homeschooled, and I often used to say that I would never do it myself. God has changed my heart, and we are now hoping to homeschool in order to be able to disciple Elnathan proactively to love God and others and develop his gifts. However, I am still deeply aware of the many pitfalls we could fall into as homeschoolers. I'd love to hear your thoughts (whether or not you homeschool) about what you see as the attitudes and ways of doing things that we need to avoid.


Growing, drying and eating borlotti beans

It is the time of year for beans! As well as the butter and climbing beans, we also grow borlotti beans for drying. I don't think we will do this again, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is a hassle! They take up room in the ground for a long time if you leave them planted while they dry (which is recommended). If you remove them, you then have to take care of them while they dry. I have removed some (pictured above) to make room for carrot, beet and radish seed. They are drying on our deck, but I try to bring them in during rainy weather. Once they are dry, you have to pod them. Secondly, the yield is not great and dried beans are cheap to buy. It is fun to try to grow a staple like dried beans, and we may do it again if we have more land in future. Our inspiration for growing borlottis is a bean and rosemary risotto we enjoy. This recipe uses canned borlottis and we enjoyed substituting these for our own borlottis after last year's harvest.


Climbing beans - great to grow, eat, and preserve


This year Dave and I have enjoyed growing Purple King climbing beans. In the picture above you can see them growing up our corn plants, and the other two pictures show our bean tipi. Growing them up corn is a great use of space, and you feel very productive when you see them twirling up the stalks with pumpkin and squash vines making their way beneath. However, the beans are not quite as productive as they have to compete with the corn for resources.

I love this pic with our house in the background and the boys on the lawn. I prefer growing climbing beans in comparison to bush beans. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, they are neater. They do not flop everywhere like bush beans and they are harder to damage accidentally. Secondly, they take up less space. As well as the Purple King beans, we grow the Scarlet Runner climbing beans that have pretty red flowers.


Purple King beans are stringless when young, so they can be eaten in the same way as bush green or butter beans. They do not retain their lovely purple colour when cooked, but change to grey-green. Their purple colour does make them easier to see on the vine though. These beans do develop some stringiness as they get older, so if you want to eat the pods you have to remove the strings or chop them finely for a soup. We enjoy eating our climbing beans steamed, or in bean salad, bean dip, or stir fry. They are also great to blanch and freeze for later in the year when we don't have them fresh. In fact, that is what I have just been doing! It is easy to use up excess beans in this way.


Exploring a Charlotte Mason Education


I have appreciated exploring the "Higher Up and Further In" website. Lindafay writes about applying Charlotte Mason's educational ideas at home. I particularly appreciated the article about having an organised home, as she gives ideas of what you can expect of children of differing ages. I want to teach Elnathan to complete whatever tasks he is able to do, as early as possible. This will be hard work at first, but we will hopefully enable him to contribute positively to our home and be confident in completing tasks. The "Higher Up and Further In" blog is no longer updated, but it is well worth exploring the old posts. Many of the articles have been compiled on a new website Charlotte Mason Help. I found the quote on the "Higher Up and Further In" sidebar thought-provoking.
"We talk of lost ideals, but perhaps they are not lost, only changed; when our ideal for ourselves and for our children becomes limited to prosperity and comfort, we get these, very likely, for ourselves and for them, but we get no more."
— Charlotte Mason


Attractive salad presentation

A few weeks ago we attended an event, and brought a salad. It was full of fresh garden produce (including the last of our snap peas) but it was all mixed up together with feta and looked something like a green and white mess! This was our usual way of making salads, and so we just went ahead and did the same thing for this event. There were two other salads there, which were presented in a lovely way. I quickly noticed that these were rapidly disappearing, while ours remained virtually untouched! Due to this, I decided to make an effort to present salads attractively. It is wonderful to have organic ingredients, but it is even better to present them so they look yummy! The picture above is my second attempt at this. We have the advantage of growing edible flowers in our garden, which can be used as a garnish and eaten if desired!


Zucchini Pickle Recipe

This week I made our first lot of Zucchini Pickle for the year. I have been keeping up with the zucchinis, but with three plants producing now we ended up with four extra. This was just enough for a batch of zucchini pickle. Here is our recipe:

1 kg small zucchini, finely sliced (it does look nicer if you use small/medium ones)
2 medium onions, finely sliced
1/4 cup salt
2 cups white vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 tsp celery seeds (I don't have any, so left this out)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp dry mustard

Place zucchini and onion slices in a bowl. Cover with water and add salt. Stand for 1 hour. Drain.

Mix remaining ingredients in a pot and bring to the boil. Pour mixture over zucchini and onion. Stand for one hour.

Put in pan, bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes. Pack into hot sterilised jars and seal. Makes 6 cups. 

From Margaret Fulton's Encyclopaedia of Food & Cookery: The complete kitchen companion from A to Z

You get plenty of breaks while making this recipe! It is yummy. We are not really into pickle, so we only use it for burgers or salad rolls. We have friends who love it, though, so it is fun to be able to give it away!


Teaching Children About Australia Day

The Australia Day public holiday was held on January 26. Dave and I kept mentioning that we didn't know what it was about, so I did some research. It turns out that January 26, 1788 was the day that the captain of the First Fleet of convict ships planted a Union Jack on Australian soil. 

I began to think about how to teach Elnathan about Australia Day when he is old enough. I found a great page of printable colouring sheets, including flags, birds, flowers and animals. However, none of these sheets teach about the history of Australia day!

One idea I had is to teach the history of the day through constructing boats from boxes, and having figures made from sticks (or something similar) with paper heads to act out the story. We could have a mini flag to plant on a mound to represent the land. We could also have darker coloured stick people who were already on the land, and talk about how they may have felt about the newcomers.

Have you ever tried to teach history to tiny ones? If so, do you think this idea would work?

For older children, I thought it might be fun to find a map of the known world in 1788 and have them track the journey of the First Fleet. Upper primary and high school students could also research life at that time, including indigenous cultures. By the way, it is not my Mum's fault that I don't remember the history of Australia Day! She tells me that we made a project book about the First Fleet. Mum also taught us about indigenous cultures, and has readers about Australia that she may pass onto me. If we want Elnathan to remember the meaning of Australia day when he grows up, we may need to repeat history related activities every year. Repetition aids memory, and if the activities are fun children can look forward to them.


Growing and eating butter beans

January and February are exciting times in the garden! Each day when we are home I like to steam some fresh veggies for lunch. Today we had butter beans, baby carrots thinned from a row, purple king beans, scarlet runner beans, and a patty pan squash.

We have a lot of bush beans in the inner section of our garden. We grew butter beans because we remembered how much we enjoyed them last year. Butter beans gain their name from their colour, and perhaps also their creamy texture. You eat them like a stringless green bean.

This year, however, ours do not look like the beans in the picture! They have curled a lot, and have not formed many beans in the pod. Many young bean pods have shriveled and died, even though we have been picking the mature beans in order to promote the growth of the younger. Do any of you know about the causes or treatment for this problem?

As well as steaming the beans to go with our meals, we have enjoyed them in risotto. Last week Dave made a garden risotto with green beans, butter beans, peas, a carrot, and the usual base risotto ingredients (oil, onion, garlic, short grained rice, wine and stock). We loved it! It was unexpectedly tasty.


Map of Asia


I am printing this bright map of Asia to join our map of Africa. Eventually I want to have maps of each area of the world to aid our memorisation of the location of each country. Do you know of any good online map sources? I gained this one from Transitions Abroad.


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