Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I know this may not be exciting to you, but around here, in the Bluegrass Area, the Derby is a major event. Folks are buying hats, and making Derby Party plans. Even those who are not huge Derby fans, usually enjoy some kind of celebration with friends. It is kind of like the Superbowl in that you don't have to love football to get snacks and turn the TV on to the game/race.

At any rate, my contribution to this time of year is to pass on THE BEST DERBY PIE recipe ever. Many people who don't live in Kentucky, think of hats and mint juleps when they think of the Kentucky Derby. I have never tried a juelp, but I hear they are pretty awful. My advice--skip the julep and make a Derby Pie. You simply can't go wrong.

Also, Derby Day is when we can finally plant gardens and fragile plants outside. The danger of frost is officially over. Many Derby Days will find me planting a few flowers and savoring a piece of Derby Pie.

Let the Races begin!

Derby Pie

You will need one unbaked crust. I use a Pillsbury when I am pressed for time, but I have included my favorite crust recipes below if you want to make one from scratch.

Derby Pie

1C sugar 1C choc. chips (6oz)

4T cornstarch
1C finely chopped pecans
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 unbaked pie shell
1/2C butter, soft or melted and cooled
1t vanilla
whipped cream [for topping, canned works fine]

Combine sugar and cornstarch; beat in eggs, butter vanilla, chocolate and pecans. Pour into pie shell. Bake 350* for 40 minutes or until puffy and lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cut in SLIM wedges (very rich) and top with whipped cream, serves 8+.

This pie freezes well. Bake, cool and wrap in foil or plastic and freeze. To serve, unwrap pie and place in 300° oven to warm gently for 35-40 minutes.

Plain Pastry Recipes

#1 Plain Pastry (for a double crust or two single crust pies)

2C flour
1t salt
2/3C shortening
5-7T cold water or milk

Sift flour and salt together; cut in shortening with knives or pastry blender. Sprinkle 1/2 the water over the flour mix; gently toss with a fork. Sprinkle the rest over and toss with fork till all flour is moistened. Form into 2 balls. Flatten on lightly floured surface, roll out and put in pie pans, or use one for top crust and one for bottom crust.

#2 Oil Pastry (for a double crust or two single crusts)

2C flour
1t salt
1/2C oil [ I use canola, but any mild vegetable oil will work]
5T cold water or milk

Stir together flour and salt. Pour oil and water together and add all at once to the flour. Stir lightly with a fork. Form into 2 balls. Roll each ball out between 2 12" square pieces of waxed paper. When dough is rolled in a circle to edges of paper, it will be right thickness for crust. Peel off paper and put in pan.

Take Care,

Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's all about me...

I was really intrigued when I saw psychologist Jean Twenge interviewed on one of the morning programs this past week. I felt like she had been in my kitchen when I was talking to one of my friends. I mean, what she said has been what I have been saying for years, but she has the research and the Dr. before her name to back it up. She said that Narcissism is on the upswing. I don't think I have ever used the word narcissism--it is not really in my speaking vocabulary--but the idea rings true to my way of thinking.

In the book she co-authored with W. Keith Campbell, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, they show that young people [and not so young people] today have a very positive and self inflated sense of self. She contends this is illustrated by the preoccupation with MySpace, Facebook and YouTube. In other words,

"It's all about me."

Narcissism is defined as [from various sources]:
  1. Excessive love or admiration of oneself. See synonyms at conceit.
  2. A psychological condition characterized by self-preoccupation, lack of empathy, and unconscious deficits in self-esteem.
  3. Concerned ONLY with oneself
  4. A personality disorder in which a person is so self-absorbed that the needs and feelings of others do not matter.
This isn't like a positive self image, which is healthy, it is excessive self-preoccupation and I think what really characterizes it is that the person is not really that interested in other people or what they think or do--they are preoccupied with themselves.

So, what's a parent to do? Some of the things Twenge mentioned are things I have said again and again. When a child loses a game, instead of saying "You always be a winner to me," we should say, "Let's work on that swing and maybe we will get them next time."

Instead of every kid on the losing ball team or swim team, etc. getting a trophy at the end of the season, just have a pep talk about improving, doing our best, etc. Talk about the fun you had, the improvements the team has made, give everyone a pat on the back and go home.

The "fake" trophy makes a child think he [or the team] is great when really he [or the team] needs to do better. The trophys and fake "always a winner" talk really set a kid up for failure.

I mean, they are not always going to be winners. They may as well learn it early--you are not going to win all the time, you are not going to be the best all the time, you are not the prettiest, smartest...and so forth. We can compliment kids on a job well done, but constant affirmation does not do anyone any good and it cheapens real affirmation.

I think Dr. Seuss says it best in The Places You'll Go.

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don't.
Because sometimes, you won't
I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly it's, true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you...

And I think this is the message we need our kids to hear. That bang-ups and hang-ups happen.

That the destination is not as important as the journey. We need to stop letting our kids be the little masters of the house, stop letting them have so much control and teach them to be in service to their families and their communities. Chores are a good place to start--as well as showing kindness to others, especially younger family members.

If we can get our kids to think of others and to see that they are an important part of their family and community--instead of seeing themselves as someone who everyone's lives revolve around, the person that the parents put at the center of their universe, we will go a long way to having non-narcissistic kids-kids who have a positive self image, but are not selfish and uncaring of others.

Take care,

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My Favorite Homeschool Websites and Resources...

Helpful Websites:

My Favorite Homeschooling Books:
Click on any of these books for a more detailed description or to order:

My favorite Parenting Book of All Time:Articles
Take care,

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Truer Words...

Growing up the daughter of a history, shop, and drafting teacher and his wife, I had a wonderful childhood. My two sisters, brother and I have memories that we will cherish forever. My dad always wished he could have lived in the age of Buffalo Bill, and we were taught the meaning of holding a hand of "Aces and Eights,"(the dead man's hand) at an early age. I never thought of our extensive family trips to historical places as anything but fun, but I dare say that looking back, most of what I really know, in my heart, was a result of "homeschooling." Back in the 60s the concept was unknown.

Perhaps because of this upbringing, I don't think much of what I learned in school really stuck. What I knew of nature, or how a piston works in a car, or how to doctor hurt animals, came as a direct result of my father's innate teaching ability and his desire to spend time with us. As for history, we climbed the ancient pyramids in Mexico City and saw their marvelous construction, and horrible sacrificial sights first hand. The Alamo, Little Round Top, where Custer made his Last Stand, a Pony Express Station, ruts formed by constant traveling along the Oregon Trail, the Alaskan Highway, old gold mines, Kit Carson's grave, I've seen them all. History and a lifelong love of learning coursed through my veins, as did the love for teaching. I knew how to paddle a canoe, pack a backpack, cook over an open fire, read a map and plan a trip, build a doghouse, sew my own clothes, garden and so much more by the time I was a teen.

Because of this early upbringing I grew up thinking I could do anything. In the early 70s I was the first girl allowed in the drafting and shop class in my high school. During this time, I met my husband at church, and we were married 3 years later, in 1975, when he graduated from college. Our first son, Cris, was born in January 1978, and I graduated from Michigan State University two months later. I of course earned a teaching degree-as teaching was in my blood. Although I elected to stay home with my precious son, I have always been grateful to my husband for putting me through 3 years of school. I read once "If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a family." I think that is true.

As the years went by, two more sons, Dusty and Chad were added to our family, and off to school they went. We moved to Florida in 1982, to change careers and to change climates. I did licensed day care in my home to help make ends meet for 5 years and although it was a great way to make money and stay home with my children, it was exhausting. During this time, our daughter Kari was born. Three years later our fourth son, Scott was born and my husband and I felt he was being called into full time ministry. At our pastor's recommendation, we eventually sold our home and moved to Wilmore, Kentucky to attend Asbury Theological Seminary.

Two years before moving to Kentucky, Cris started having multiple problems in the middle school he was attending. The school had major safety issues. Cris was not safe, and he was absent with asthma a third of the time. We could not afford private school, and I was in the process of trying to get him a special permit to attend a different school when one of my close Christian friends asked if I had considered homeschool. (Is it legal? Could I do it? Sounds crazy!)

It was October 1990. I met with a friend of hers from a community Bible Study, and within one month Cris was home where he belonged. My husband had more faith in me that I had in myself, but within a month Cris was whistling, a sound I hadn't heard for months. His asthma was non-existent. He was growing spiritually. We had made the right choice.

Chad and Dusty remained in our neighborhood school that year. But the next year, because of rezoning problems in our neighborhood, and a growing conviction that God really wanted us to homeschool all the children, my little school had four students and a two year old. I used textbooks, combining Dusty and Chad where I could. It was a lot of work, but we were all happy.

During the next several years I tried many different teaching techniques. I used textbooks and prepared unit studies. For a year one son used a video homeschool program, one used workbooks for biology class, and one ambitious year, I wrote my own unit studies for a 9th, 7th, 5th, and 1st grader and a three year old. It was learning at it's best, but by the end of the year I was exhausted. Back to textbooks!

When Cris finished 9th grade, he asked to go to the local public school. We consented. He had a strong support group with kids from the youth group and we felt it was best for him. His brother's followed suit, going to the high school in 10th grade.

In the spring of 1997 a friend of mine was going to Nigeria as a missionary. She said she was going to use Sonlight, had I heard of it. I checked into it, and the rest, as they say, is history. Since I had used so many varieties of curriculum through the years, I felt that I had struck gold when I found Sonlight. The focus on history combined with great literature was like a breath of fresh air. The historic places of my youth came alive, and best of all, no more planning!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What goes around and around and around?

Educational Philosophies

I read an article this weekend entitled "The End of Grade Levels."

It is about a school in Colorado where students will be grouped into multi-age levels based on what they already know and will move up when they master the material at that level.

Some "experts" are saying that this makes sense and many districts are hesitant. One expert from New York was quoted as saying, "It's very hard to get people to believe in something new."


Have they never read Little House on the Prairie? Have they never studied early American History? I almost laughed out loud--NEW! Why this is not new at all.

When a new little pioneer kid walked into the school for the first time he was not asked how old he was, but what reader [as in McGuffy] he was in. If you were 7 or 9, it really did not matter, if you were in the first reader, that is the group you studies with. When you mastered the first reader, you moved on to the 2nd reader. This explains why sometimes there was a 16 year old teacher and 16 year old pupils.

How about Understood Betsy? Published in 1917 it is the wonderful story of a little girl who is transformed by love and understanding. There is a wonderful chapter called "What Grade is Betsy" where Elizabeth Ann [Betsy before she really became herself] says, "I don't know what I am at all. If I'm in second-grade arithmetic and seventh-grade reading and 3rd grade spelling, what grade am I?"

The teacher laughed, "You aren't any grade at all, no matter where you are in school. You're just yourself, aren't you? What difference does it make what grade you're in? And what's the use of your reading little baby things too easy for you just because you don't know your multiplication table?"

Later as Betsy is thinking this over, she ponders this thought, "She had always thought she was there to pass from one grade to another, and she was ever so startled to get a glimpse of the fact that she was there to learn how to read and write and cipher and generally use her mind so she could take care of herself when she came to be grown up."

Ahh, new indeed. This, like just about every other educational philosopy is not new--it is old and is being recycled for the 21st century.

Imagine that--starting where the child is and having him progress in his learning?? It is something homeschoolers have know and practiced for years. It is kind of nice to see the "Professional educators" finally catching on.

And, if you haven't read "Understood Betsy," by Dorothy Candfield Fisher, I think you would enjoy it-it starts a little slow, but is a very rewarding read and if you have a child to read it to, so much the better.

Take care,