Friday Faves: Fall Planning

Never mind that it is literally 96 degrees as I type this. School is back in session, Labor Day has come and gone, and the calendar is flipped to the ninth month of the year. The official date of the autumnal equinox isn’t until September 23, but for all intents and purposes, fall is upon us. With the impending season change, it is time for me to kick aside the laxness that characterizes some of my habits throughout the summer months.

During the summer, we do minimal school, entertain more, and eat a hefty amount of birthday cake, as all 7 of our immediate family members celebrate birthdays during the four months between the end of school and it’s start. Family reunions, entertaining, eating out, sleeping in (if you consider 6 sleeping in) and a general relaxed approach to life has giving way to a more structured schedule.

In fact, I am far more motivated to resets, goal setting, and re-examining my whys and wherefores as September begins than I ever have been on January 1st. I never really pondered deeply why I am more motivated for kicking into high gear and resets in September while feeling militantly opposed to making changes in January, but Rachel recently wrote about her similar tendency, and it felt good to hear from a kindred spirit on the matter:

So, what to do with September, especially if one is a Southerner (possibly a Californian)? If one can ignore the protracted grasp of summer, like scorched gardens contrasted with tropical storms, and pools and lake swimming areas prematurely closing while the Costco parking lot appears as an undulating asphalt mirage, it’s a great time to do great things. Really, it is – stay with me….

September is the perfect opportunity to get ahead of the Holiday game, and to start a New Year without the burden of the Holidays on top of it all. And do most of it in the singular bliss of air-conditioning. I wrote a long while back about my New Year’s calendar not even starting until February. That worked better for my family than trying to cram our whole life plan into January, but it was still not entirely user-friendly for us and usually ended in unmet goals and a lot of aggravation. So, against my nature (rebel, though true to form, according to this model, I resent the label), I convinced myself that it was my idea to move the annual reset back to September 1.

My brain wants to already have accomplished and had my goals well under way by January 1, so Rachel’s post spoke to me. So here are some of the favorite things I have been anticipating and lining up over the past week:

  • Organizing the reading queue based on genre (Christian, fiction, nonfiction, etc)
  • More detailed menu planning for al three meals
  • Purchased the HASfit 30-day muscle building plan to supplement the HIIT training I do with my husband
  • Making a targeted but flexible daily schedule for myself and the kids for the days when they are at home
  • Strategically setting goals for all the areas that I have let lax over the long summer months
  • Resuming gratitude journaling because there’s something about mindful gratitude that enlarges the soul
  • Exploring the range of recipes I can cook up using the apples, pears, and figs which will soon be in season
  • Begin holdiday shopping in September rather than late October (aspirational)

Those are just a few of the plans and goals I have set as our family transitions from the lazy days of summer to the busy days of fall. Never mind that it’s 96 degrees out.

What are some of your transitions as fall begins?

 

 

 

 

Friday Faves: A Bibliophile’s Hurricane Necessities

Happy Friday, all!

Gonna keep this one short and sweet since those of us on the southern half of the peninsula are supposed to be super busy right now scurrying about, filling the coffers at Home Depot and Lowe’s.

And I probably would be, were I not married to the most prepared, competent man on the planet. I say that well aware of the bias which informs it. Did I mention he’s also 6’2″ and super cute? But I digress.

Even though we’re seasoned natives who are well prepared, there are a few things a reader needs to be on top of for herself. In the event of no electricity for days on end, she needs to power her evening reading. So now that the grocery is stocked, gas tanks are full, and the generator’s been tested, what does a bibliophile preparedness checklist look like?

  • Charge all e-readers: Kindle, iPad, old Kindle, and the cell phone all need to be fully charged so that even when it’s dark and the lights are out, I can still read. My Kindle Fire is backlit!

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  • Booklights: You know, those little contraptions that snap on to the top of the book and then shine onto the page, however poorly. The key to those is to have several so you can use two at a time.

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  • Homework checklist and reading schedule for the kids. It’s highly likely they won’t have school on Tuesday and possibly Thursday, so it’ll be imperative that I make sure they stay on track with their assignments. That way, when they return to classes, they are prepared to turn in all assignments as scheduled. Things can get a little loosey goosey around here between Labor Day and the upheaval of the norm that hurricanes and power outages bring with them.

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  • Instant coffee (and tea bags): When you’re running on generator power, you must be selective about which components to divert the power to, and the coffee maker doesn’t make the cut. The stove might, though, meaning you can boil water. Morning reading feels better with a cuppa, so with instant coffee (I drink decaf) or your favorite tea bags on hand, you don’t have to forgo your hot morning drink.

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Well, that’s all I can think of at the moment. Dorian isn’t due till Tuesday, as he keeps delaying his visit, so if you can think of another useful item I may have forgotten, do tell!

Preferably before Sunday.

Friday Faves Potpourri

Consider this stream of consciousness, outlining a few things this past week that piqued my interest, made me think, or sparked joy.

Inspired by Sanne @ Adventures in Keeping House, with her blackberry jam, I’ll start by sharing the peach preserves that our daughter made and canned on Saturday. Peach season is winding down, but you can still get some good ones and they are still perfectly peachy right now. Last year, I posted a few pictures of our time picking peaches and the resulting peach cobbler. We enjoy peaches very much!

While our daughter did most of the work on the preserves, we all pitched in and offered assistance. My biggest contribution was peeling of the peaches, and the Sunday morning almond flour biscuits that were the canvas on which the preserves were able to shine during breakfast. We are big on staging our food photgraphs, in case it isn’t obvious:

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In addition to peach preserves last weekend, I had the immense pleasure of joining some fellow travelers on the homeschooling journey to read Shakespeare’s, Julius Caesar. It was a wonderful time to prepare in anticipation of our junior high and high school students reading it this fall.

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I don’t remember enjoying the play nearly as much when I was forced to read it in high school. It’s always better to read something when you’re better able to appreciate not only the language, but the nuances and tone of the work. I strongly suggest considering a re-read of the books you think you hated because you were forced to read them in high school.

Next, some thoughts about fast fashion versus clothing made with real fabrics. I was recently looking for a casual, white cotton button downshirt for my husband, and as usual, I was looking for a deal. However, I ran across a really luxurious feeling linen shirt, and although it cost a bit more than I had originally wanted to spend, I bought it anyway.

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My friend Hearthie writes a lot about real versus counterfeit and in that moment I realized how often we miss opportunities to buy the thing that will hold it’s value, shape, and quality over time for the sake of a few bucks. And I was kind of proud of myself.

A note about my increasing enjoyment of sprinting, something I never imagined I could ever enjoy. At least, not since I was about 12 years old. When my husband first started challenging me  four weeks ago to forgo the long jogs in favor of HIIT training composed of brisk walks interspersed with sprints of about 100 yards, I gave him 100 excuses for why I couldn’t do it. Now? I love it, especially noting how much farther I can last and how much shorter my recovery time is after each sprint.

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

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Lastly, I am almost ready to review the book I have enjoyed most year to date, How to Be Unlucky: Reflections on the Pursuit of Virtue, by Joshua Gibbs. At about 3/4 of the way through my second reading, I’ve finally decided not to break this review up into a post of analysis as I go. There’s just too much to absorb and I wouldn’t begin to know what to focus on and how to highlight the ideas that I was most arrested by. There are just too many. I am certain I’ve said this before, but despite our very different religious backgrounds, this lifelong Protestant has found an ideological and spiritual kindred spirit in the Orthodox Joshua Gibbs.

I’ll have a proper review up by the end of the month.

What are some things that you are enjoying or have enjoyed recently?

 

 

 

Friday Faves: Articles of the Week

I’m thinking Friday Faves might be a regular installment, so if there is any topic you think might be fun to include, suggest it as a possible Friday Fave post. It doesn’t have to be reading or education related. It can include any number of things that go on in the life between the reading.

Here are a few of the posts I’ve read over the past week that have stuck with me in one way or another. Most are about reading and educaton issues, but not all, and that’s a requirement for the list. For this week, they’re among my faves.

  • Thinkspot and the Rise of Long-Tail Social Media: When Cal Newport first wrote about long-tail social media, I had to look it up. It was something I’d never heard before, although I realize that I have been a part of things like it before. The brain-child of Jordan Peterson, Thinkspot is offering a different way. It sounds a lot better as an option for discussing common interests than Twitter. I really dislike Twitter. Anything that can be used to destroy someone’s life because of what they believe needs to be usurped and tossed for a better alternative. Let’s hope long-tail social media catches on if we’re going to have social media at all.
  • The Mis-Education at Garvey’s Ghost: As usual, Sondjata cuts through the bull surrounding the achievement gap and asks the hard questions. I’m not always 100% in agreement with him about things, but I always appreciate his intellectual honesty, and I do agree with him on a great many issues.
  • Is Classical Education Just a Fad? Joshua Gibbs asks what we are to make of the recent surge in schools dedicated to the classical education model. I for one don’t think it’s a fad because it stands in stark contrast to current educational dogma and norms, but we’ll see. Gibbs offers his take in this piece.
  • This is Why Your Library Doesn’t Own the E-book You Want: Krysta at Pages Unbound discussses the tug of war between local libraries and major publishing companies which are steadily increasing the prices of electronic book offerings. It’s an interesting conversation; at least to those of us who are invested in the library system.
  • Impure Motives of Purity Culture Critics: Rod Dreher examines the harshness with which many Christians condemn so-called purity culture, and reaches a conclusion that I agree with. There are legitimate issues to be had with formulaic approaches to the faith which ignore the fact that a good many people in the current culture have no framework in which to put chastity to begin with. But a lot of Christians condemn all attempts to encourage modesty and chastity on order to excuse their own behavior.

Those are a few of the interesting links I’ve read over the past week. I’ll be moving all of these posts over to the links worth a look page where there are other interesting linked articles.

Have a great weekend!

Cookbooks and Surviving the Low-Carb Life

We are a house divided; nutritionally speaking. Two of us readily resist the pull of grains and carbs, while the rest of us eat what they like.

A while back I reviewed the book Keto Clarity after a friend asked my thoughts about it. We had a robust discussion here about the pluses and minuses of that lifestyle. At the end of the day, I rejected the plan for two reasons. The first is that I didn’t think I could sustain it long term, and the second is that I really enjoy eating fruit. Fruit is the thing that satisfies my desire for a little something sweet, and there’s very little margin in the keto life for regular servings of fruits, or many vegetables that I love, such as carrots.

Along the way to that conclusion, however, I ran across a lot of really great recipes in ketogenic cookbooks. These are helpful, for while I am not interested in living the keto life, I am fully committed to a lifestyle that restricts starchy, carbohydrate laden foods.

Among the keto cookbooks I most enjoyed were the wonderful Mark Sisson’s Keto Reset Diet Cookbook, as well as Dirty, Lazy, Keto. Both of these have great recipes, but most of my cooking and eating is more aligned with The Whole30 approach to nutrition than the keto approach. One thing from the ketogenic approach that I have really appreciated are the bread recipes. I have not embraced the rejection of bread the way many people seem to be able to do.

Last night’s dinner was a big salad topped with seared ahi tuna slices. Given that everyone in our house had been out for a run yesterday morning (and I’d done some weight training later in the day), I knew that the salad alone would be little light after a long, hard day. So I decided to make dinner rols to serve on the side and add a little heft.

For those who preferred the traditional bread option, there were yeast rolls:

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For those of us who didn’t want the yeast rolls (I wanted them but they are antithetical to my fitness goals), there were these keto rolls from a recipe I found at Kerbie’s Cravings:

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So everyone was able to enjoy a roll with their salads, and the inspiration for that came from my time perusing ketogenic cookbooks. One thing I have learned is that not all keto breads ar ecreated equal. Many taste very eggy, which I don’t like, but these rolls have a wonderful texture and mouth feel.

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I don’t often review cookbooks, and I don’t often use them despite having many on our bookshelves. However, switching from the standard American diet was a revelatory transition, as I’d never really considered how nutritionally sparse our diet had been until I began to give it more scrutiny about 8 years ago. Reading cookbooks during that time helped to spark my culinary creativity.

What role do cookbooks play in your cooking and eating life? None? Some? A lot?

 

 

Pedagogical Errors

We’ll get back to Mating in Captivity tomorrow; Scout’s honor.

In the meantime, The Atlantic has published a piece which confirms my assertions from the post preceding this one. Specifically, that the attempts to modernize instruction away from techniques that have been proven effective is yielding poor results. After describing an example the author observed in a D.C. elementary school classroom, the article begins to state its case:

That girl’s assignment was merely one example, albeit an egregious one, of a standard pedagogical approach. American elementary education has been shaped by a theory that goes like this: Reading—a term used to mean not just matching letters to sounds but also comprehension—can be taught in a manner completely disconnected from content. Use simple texts to teach children how to find the main idea, make inferences, draw conclusions, and so on, and eventually they’ll be able to apply those skills to grasp the meaning of anything put in front of them.

This is backwards, right? It gets worse, yet simultaneously gives me comfort with the fact that our kids have 1) not been subjected to this approach, and 2) always read whole books, whether they could read themselves or whether I had to read them to them. Here’s why:

In the meantime, what children are reading doesn’t really matter—it’s better for them to acquire skills that will enable them to discover knowledge for themselves later on than for them to be given information directly, or so the thinking goes. That is, they need to spend their time “learning to read” before “reading to learn.” Science can wait; history, which is considered too abstract for young minds to grasp, must wait. Reading time is filled, instead, with a variety of short books and passages unconnected to one another except by the “comprehension skills” they’re meant to teach.

As I noted, the results are in:

As far back as 1977, early-elementary teachers spent more than twice as much time on reading as on science and social studies combined. But since 2001, when the federal No Child Left Behind legislation made standardized reading and math scores the yardstick for measuring progress, the time devoted to both subjects has only grown. In turn, the amount of time spent on social studies and science has plummeted—especially in schools where test scores are low.

And yet, despite the enormous expenditure of time and resources on reading, American children haven’t become better readers. For the past 20 years, only about a third of students have scored at or above the “proficient” level on national tests.

I taught my kids to read by reading to them and also using this admittedly drab phonics book, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy LessonsIt wasn’t glamorous, as phonics instruction rarely is, but it got the job done and prepared them to be able to read content and then comprehend it.

Of course, it might be helpful if teachers, you know, actually teach kids something about the content they are expected to comprehend as well, which also seems to be missing from the current model. At least it is if The Atlantic piece is to be believed.

The passage and quiz approach leaves a lot to be desired, and I’m sure it’s easier on both the student and the teacher, but what about the long term implications? Why use it if it doesn’t work?