Substantive Education

January 17, 2010

Making your own vanilla

I make my own vanilla.  It’s very simple and much tastier, and cheaper than store bought.  All you need are 3 or 4 vanilla beans and some alcohol.  I found that the cheapest place around me to get good beans is World Market…generally about $3 for 2 beans, and they are always nice and fresh.  I stock up when I have a coupon for World market because I like to have the beans for homemade ice cream as well.

Next you need some alcohol.  At this point, your choice can flavor your vanilla in a variety of ways.  I didn’t want any other flavor or scent, so I went with Vodka…besides, it’s a good Russian choice.  I decided not to get the cheapest or the most expensive and settled for a middle of the road choice.  The last time I made vanilla I found this vanilla flavored vodka.  The ingredients list on the bottle said that all that was in it was Vodka and vanilla beans, so I thought it was worth a try.

After that it’s just a matter of cutting the vanilla pod down the center and scraping out the beans.  Once the beans are out I put both the beans and the pods in a glass jar with about a cup of vodka.  The first picture is just after I put the beans in, the second picture is after one day.  I generally wait 2-3 weeks before straining mixture.  After you’ve strained it, it’s ready to use.  Use just as you would store bought vanilla.

I generally save one of the pods…after I’ve scraped the beans out for the vanilla…and put the pod into a container of sugar.  This quickly flavors the sugar giving it a lovely vanilla flavor.  It’s great stirred into tea or coffee or used in baking.  I’ve been told that in France people often use vanilla sugar and don’t add vanilla extract to their recipes.  It’s fun to play with anyway.  You can also cut little pieces of pod and place it in your coffee, then when you brew your coffee it has a hint of vanilla in the background.  Personally, I love vanilla, so I use it in many things.  Hope this was helpful.


January 15, 2010

Making your own Laundry Detergent

We’ve been using this detergent for a while now and it’s great.  Nice clean fresh smell (I didn’t add any fragrances) and our clothes are clean.  I think i will not dilute it as much as called for next time and use less.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

So, I decided to give making my own laundry detergent a try. (Steve suggested this quite some time ago, not sure what took me so long.)  I looked through many recipes and finally settled on this one.  I got the recipe off of the Duggars website.  They had one for liquid and one for powdered detergent.  I made the liquid.  It makes 10 gallons, enough for over 640 loads in a front loading machine which only uses 1/4 cup per load.  If you have a top loader you will need to add a little over 1/2 cup.

Now on to the really complicated process, (said with a great deal of sarcasm)  gather you’re ingredients.  A bar of washing soap (details below), Borax, and Sodium Carbonate.

First the soap, all of the websites I looked at felt that Fels-Naptha was the best, but you can also use Ivory, Sunlight, and a few others.  These are bars of soap on the laundry aisle…not the ones for personal hygiene. Our Stater Bros. had a bar for 1.49 and Winco had it for $1.05, or you can order it by the case online, which would probably be enough for a lifetime supply of laundry detergent, so I just got the bar.

You will also need a box of sodium carbonate.  The most common variety would be Arm and Hammers Super Washing Soda.  NOTE:  You cannot use Arm and Hammer laundry detergent or the baking soda you find on the baking aisle…which is Sodium bicarbonate. ( Which, by the way, is also what we add to our pool when the PH gets off.)  All you chemist out there know that bicarbonate has two carbons while carbonate has only one….and it makes a difference, so purchase the correct box.  I found that Winco carries the Super Washing Soda.

You will also need a box of Borax, not nearly as complicated a purchase nor is it difficult to find.  All of these items should be on your laundry aisle, or if all else fails, they can be ordered online.

Lastly, you will need a 5 gallon bucket with lid.  If you don’t happen to have one floating around in your garage, they can be purchased at Home Depot for $2.50.  Also, don’t throw away the bottle that contained your last purchase of laundry detergent.  You can use that to mix smaller amounts to keep by the washing machine.  As you might have noticed, I said that you need a 5 gal. bucket, but we are making 10 gal. of detergent.  Confused?  Don’t be.  Once your detergent is made and is in your 5 gal bucket you will mix what you need into a smaller (leftover container) to keep by the machine.  As you need it, just fill the container 1/2 full of hot water and 1/2 with the solution from your bucket.  Shake well before each use. (And stir the bucket if the soap appears to seperate.) 

Grate up your soap bar, don’t cut any fingers.  Put a sauce pan on the stove with about 4-5 cups of water and heat and dissolve the soap in the water.

Next, fill your 5 gal. container half full with hot tap water.  Mix in 1/2 cup of Borax and 1 cup of Washing Soda until it is dissolved.  Mix in the soap mixture from the stove.  Stir.  Add hot water until the container is full.  Stir.  Let sit overnight, or until cool, it should thicken up.  At this point you can add essential oils for fragrance if you wish.  That’s it.  Just remember to dilute the mixture before using as described above.

If you want to try the powdered detergent here is the link. You will have to scroll down to it.

January 11, 2010

Elementary Science Update

In my elementary science class we are studying the weather.  To learn some of the vocabulary we have been playing a Weather Jingo (Bingo) game.  I am posting the words that we are usingso that students can study them before class.  I’ll be posting them in groups so that it is not overwhelming.  The first group is up now.  We will continue to learn more words and play the game for the last 20 minutes of class until we are finished with this unit.

January 4, 2010

January Newsletter/Teacher Challenge

Filed under: Education,Homeschooling — kbagdanov @ 10:23 pm
Tags: , ,

Homeschooling has a rather large learning curve, the first year or two can be tough. Parents have a lot to learn to take over the role as their child’s educator. It can be overwhelming. Hopefully, most of you are moving past this initial adjustment period and are feeling more confident that you have a handle on the basics.

If you are in this initial stage this article isn’t necessarily for you. You need to focus on bringing yourself up to speed on the homeschooling movement and all the options available to you. There are a wealth of resources out there, books, websites, other parents…make use of them. Educate yourself about learning styles, various approaches, and new curriculums. Read a few books on homeschooling to gather ideas and different perspectives. The more you know, the easier it will be and the more confident you will feel.

However, for those of you who have been at this for a while and have become seasoned parent educators it may be time to move to a more advanced level. My goal (and after talking with most of you) a common goal, is that we educate our children in such a way as to make them life-long learners. We want more for our children than what we experienced in school. If our goal is to have children who love to read, who question thoughtfully, who think critically, and who pursue truth, then we are going to approach their education differently than if we just want them to master a certain amount of material and take a test on it. Our tasks becomes so much more than just choosing the right math book or phonics program.

How do we go about instilling these desires and values in our children? We’ve discussed various ways in previous newsletters, but the key I believe is our example. Our children watch us and they decide what we value, not so much by what we say, but by how we live.

  • We tell our children that we want them to be readers… do they see us reading?
  • We encourage them to find the theme in a piece of literature they are studying.. but do we question and have discussions with them about what we are reading?
  • We take them on field trips to look at great works of art…but have we learned enough to appreciate what we are seeing?
  • We assign Shakespeare, Steinbeck, and Dickens for their high school reading…but have we ever read them?
  • We assign Bible and/or devotional reading to them…do they see us studying our Bibles and praying?

Are we sending a mixed message. Have our children ever heard us say…

  • I never liked history, it’s dry and boring.
  • I know you’ll never need Algebra but I had to learn it and now you do too.
  • I hate writing.
  • I just believe in Jesus, I don’t need all that Theology stuff.
  • I’m just not a reader.

We’ve all given mixed messages at some point. If there is one thing I would change about how I’ve homeschooled my children it would be how I approached math. Unfortunately, my children were well aware of and adopted my aversion to Algebra.

So as we start the New Year I’d like to challenge each of us to model being a life-long learner in a tangible and intentional way to our children. If you want to formally join in on the challenge I’m going to publish this article on the website. Post your goal in the comments section and we can help hold one another accountable. Don’t know where to start…here are a few ideas.

  • Read a classic. Here is a website with some ideas if you don’t know where to start.
  • Read a classic Christian book like Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  • Study an artist, you can do this for free on the web. Try Rembrandt, Michaelangelo, Monet, or Picasso.
  • Take a class.
  • Teach yourself Algebra (maybe before your children get that old).
  • Learn to play an instrument…it’s never to late.

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