Saturday, June 22, 2013

Homemade Bagels! (again...)

This is probably my 4th or 5th time making bagels. Each recipe has gotten better and better--not sure if it is because my technique is getting better or I've gotten better at analyzing the recipes. These came out the best, hands down; they were crisp on the outside and chewy and yet light on the inside.

The recipe came from The Sophisticated Gourmet (that link is where the recipe resides), with pictures from my experience. Thank you Kamra!

Definitely use bread flour as the recipe calls for; I can't help but wonder if that is part of what helped make these so delish!

Before the rise
After the rise :)

After shaping the dough, and in the boil! The one technique I just don't seem to be great at is
the shaping. I may try slightly less flour next time.

Voila! I was so pleased with the final appearance, truly looked like bagels
from a bagel shop!

The taste lived up to the look, perfect. An absolute keeper.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Math and Tears Happy Ending!

For today, anyway! That dear daughter who was so frustrated and so self-convinced she couldn't do this and continued to put off taking the lesson and unit tests until I again put my foot down today--that daughter got a 90 on the lesson test and, after reluctantly taking the unit test today, got a 95 on the unit test! Onward and forward! 

Now for one more gush on Math-U-See. I can't say enough about this math program! I never cease to be amazed at the wonderful ways Mr. Demme designed this program to complete full circles. (for any fellow math geeks reading, pun unintended). Concepts are taught as just part of the process long before they will be introduced as full subjects. One of my girls had been in public high school and had not been doing well at all with geometry, when we went back to homeschooling. She complained through MUS Geometry because he wasn't teaching it "like they did at school!" (music to my ears since she was barely making C's and D's) Steve Demme's geometry teaches students the process behind the theorems and then the theorem names. I insisted she stay with it and, as she hit about halfway through the book where the names of the theorems came in, SHE GOT IT! She was able to then know the theorems because she already had the processes and concepts of theorems down.

While learning long division with remainders, students are taught to express the answer as whatever the remainder is, over the divisor. In other words, it is written as a fraction before Math-U-See students are officially introduced to fractions. Fractions came along for one daughter and she had completed a long division problem on a systemic review page. I got to have one of my favorite moments (seeing the "I GET IT"'s happen!) as she looked at the remainder she had written and saw it not just as a fraction but saw it also in the big picture; meaning, she fully grasped that the remainder is a part of the whole. Is my daughter smart? Well yes. Am I a FABULOUS teacher? Duh, of course! ;) However I owe the math moments like these to Steve Demme. So many people avoid Math-U-See because they believe it doesn't keep kids parallel (yes yes, another unintentional geometric pun) with same age peers in public schools. I have personally seen that as the Math-U-See kids progress into higher maths with this program, not only do they "catch up" they fly ahead! Why? Because they understand not just how they solved the problems, but WHY

In case you thought I'd forgotten, I didn't--curious about Math-U-See? Go to and check it out for yourself.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

More Math Tears and Tales

"You are allowed to not understand, but NOT allowed to not learn."

Summer has arrived in our house; my college courses finished a month ago, public school and even many homeschoolers are wrapping up their school years. These things are always harbingers of the start of more formal schooling in our household. Naturally the joy levels in the house are through the roof as Mom puts her foot down and holds it down. I make sure to place it in semi-permanent cement, tough enough to hold it there but leaving just enough flexibility to wiggle out as needed.

Math has been the biggest obstacle recently: M had been creatively avoiding doing math for the past week. She had been zooming along previously; and with her requests to shower, go to the library, walk the dog, and even take her little brother to the playground, I unwittingly fell right into her avoidance tactics.

Until today. (duh duh duh duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhh—ya know, that dramatic music as the plot thickens…)

I asked her if she had taken the Lesson test yet; she replied with "yes! At least, I think I did. Wait, did I?" I asked her if she needed me to check her lesson work. She replied "I think I checked it already. Wait, I think I did."
"Hmmmmmm," thought I.

I asked M exactly where she was in her book and received equally vague answers. It was time for me to look things over. The work wasn't horrible but it was clear something wasn't clicking. This was a lesson that Mr. Demme ( Math-U-See )gives several options for solving the problems, which further increases my love of this math curriculum because the main focus—the ONLY focus—is complete understanding and mastery of each topic. I could see that even on several problems M answered correctly she took a long route that had far too many bends and curves and even got her lost a few times. The concept of "how" was missing.

As I backed her up to go back to go over a couple of the problems, her frustration flared almost immediately. She was instantly angry and insisting that she do it only the way Mr. Demme showed on the video. We've been doing MUS long enough that I knew if the teacher's manual answers were showing alternative routes to the answer, then there were alternative routes presented along the way. I wanted her to do one of the pages that included a "Quick Review" and she was furious and just wanted to move forward. Voices rose, tempers flared, and I knew it was time to defuse when I heard the dreaded "I CAN'T DO THIS, I JUST CAN'T DO THIS!" (and some typical teen "whatever" and eye rolls and, well, I’m sure you get the picture) I gave M the job of clearing the dining room table, while I defused by hitting Facebook and played Bejeweled Blitz. ;)

Tears and further statements to how she could not do this ensued, including "did you ever think that maybe this is just something I CAN NOT DO?" She did not want to look at what she was seeing as a new or different approach to tackling the problem. I kept telling her of course she could do it, and of course she'll move forward, and of course she was smart enough. This brought more tears; calmer tears, but still there. Her last outburst about math was that she just wasn't smart enough.

My response was, "You are allowed to not understand, but NOT allowed to not learn." Where those words came from is anyone's guess, though I'm certain they were heaven sent J

I had M leave the math for a bit and move on to science. She quietly and quickly got that accomplished and then moved back to math, but there was still some reluctance. I reminded her that this was not a test and not an exam—she could have me right with her to work it through, so that's what we did. About halfway through the 2nd problem the tone in her voice picked up, and by the 3rd problem there was even a hint of optimism. I got out some of the Math-U-See manipulatives to show here even more alternatives and, although she almost shut down, she stayed open and not only saw it but grasped it! I reminded M that people that are willing to learn are the smartest of all, and that she is one of those people.

I am forever grateful for days like today. I'll take all the frustrations to witness these moments of learning and understanding; there's plenty of hair dye in the world to color the grey hairs the sprout! 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Z's first PowerPoint!

This is Z's very first PowerPoint, finally one of my kids is interested in computer creations! We visited the Vietnam Veterans "The Wall That Heals" traveling Memorial Wall that came to NJ. It was such a moving experience, we visited three times and Z took lots of pictures. Zach decided he wanted to make a video presentation dedicated to the amazing people volunteering, especially our friend Vietnam Vet Bob, and to all those that lost their lives during the war.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Hope for Ella, revisited

This is the most recent Facebook "poster" I made for the Hope for Ella FB page .

While all pictures and presentations that I've created so far for Hope for Ella have been inspired and fueled by my love for this little girl and her family, this one struck me to the core. Making it wasn't easy and I kept thinking maybe I shouldn't do it--here was this absolutely precious picture Mallory took of Ella, and I was taking it apart and adding the harsh realities of this genetic disorder all over this beautiful child. It dawned on me that a picture, for all of us, is simply a a glimpse into what Terri, Chris, Ella, and Claire deal with in real life every single day. This is the reality of Neurofibromatosis: it is in this adorable child, it is always active, always on the move, always lurking, always threatening...and can not be stopped. I can not fathom living with that kind of uncertainty for your child every single day, yet Terri and Chris do it with grace, humor, and generosity. The very least we can do is look at this picture and learn about this genetic disorder that affects 1 in 3000 people. With awareness we can keep research on the rise and hope and pray for a cure.

For more information, click on the link in the opening paragraph to visit Ella's Facebook page, or you can go to . Hope for Ella is also on twitter