Monday, April 27, 2015

Positive Thinking: Learning from Drama

Unexpected Homeschool: Postiive Thinking - Learning from Drama

This weekend was long and eventful with Amber's homeschool co-op drama class presenting their end of year play.  I was reminded several times over the weekend why we are part of this group. It can be easy to become frustrated with people when working on a deadline, but strangely I wasn't really stressed and Amber was more excited than anything.

For this week, some of my thoughts may not seem all that positive, instead more like a life lesson learned. These lessons actually kept me in a positive frame of mind when I started to worry. 

My Positive Thoughts for the week:
  • You can only prepare so much. Just make the best of every situation and life (or a play) will go much smoother.
  • Most people will be willing to help when given the opportunity. Those that aren't willing, you probably don't need anyway.
  • Relax and enjoy the activities you're participating in. That's why you signed up. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Visiting Narnia

This has been an amazing week for Amber especially considering the week prior.  Our weather stabilized and her body is recovering.  She is still having some trouble and more exhaustion than normal.  Her brain isn't functioning well in the evenings either, but we had a fantastically productive school week with a great attitude toward school.

After such a rough few weeks it would have been normal for Amber to fear activity since it could trigger another difficult time.  Thankfully, she understands the need to be active and keep her body going.  Some days it meant pushing much farther past where she was comfortable, but it also is contributing to her increased stamina.  We walk such a fine line here; what will increase her stamina and what will cause a flare of symptoms?

(top) An extremely tired girl, but she accomplished a lot that day.  Alpha kitty, Biscotti, doing the unheard of: asking for belly rubs!
(bottom) What's that I see under Amber's bed?  Oh... it's just Milori and Rosetta.
The majority of our lessons this week revolved around language in some format. Amber worked quite a bit with her Greek Morphemes and Cover Story writing.  She spent a lot of her free time in a creative writing project of her own.  We've finally been able to make some decent progress in German this week and we added weekly writing assignments to German along with the curriculum workbook.  Even history included quite a bit of writing; it's just the way the assignments fell for the week. 

Despite the heavy emphasis on language, Amber did get through a couple of lessons in Geology without doing the experiments.  She's not all that interested in the experiments this time around and honestly, I'm finding them a bit forced.  We'll complete some of the more interesting experiments when the weather is conductive for it, but otherwise I'm just going to let her do the book work for science at this point.

(top-left) Timeline work. (bottom-left) Engrossed in writing. (Right) New math book and beginning her first lesson.
Tuesday was an exciting day when Amber's new math book arrived.  We are giving Life of Fred - Algebra 1 a try.  I have some concerns about the completeness of this book, but Saxon is causing Amber so much anxiety that her body can't tolerate.  I really didn't realize how much stress Saxon was causing until we completely gave up on it for a couple of weeks. The change in Amber's attitude and endurance once math was taken out of her school day was unbelievable.  I so much dislike admitting it, but Saxon is not working for Amber at this point.

I'm not sure we will stick with Life of Fred and are investigating our options.  However, the first few LOF lessons went well and Amber didn't report any stress over the topic.  I guess our real test will be when she catches up to new content in Life of Fred and it's not all a review of what she already learned in Saxon.  If you have any suggestions for math programs that are not on the computer (Algebra 1 and up), then I'd love to hear about them and your experience. Amber is still not enthusiastic about computer / online math programs, but is willing to consider them on a case by case basis.

Narnia capes.  Amber's is the silver one.
Today is Amber's dress rehearsal for the co-op drama class' performance of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Please pray that Amber has the energy and strength to make it through both dress rehearsal and the play tomorrow evening.  She's playing Susan, one of the four children who visit Narnia from our world.  I spent last weekend and some evenings this week finishing Amber's costumes and the royal capes for the other characters.   I finished everything with more than an entire day to spare before the final drama class and with several days to spare before dress rehearsal.      

Yesterday was that final drama class and the last of all the co-op classes for this school year.  Amber was excited because the last class meant it was almost time for the play, yet she was also sad as it meant the end of all her classes until August.  She will have to make an effort to organize events to see her friends now and no more fun class times.  I was entirely relieved to be finished with class preparations, while sad too since many of the kids I won't have in class again next year.  I'm only teaching middle school / high school German next year so I'll miss out on the fun times with the younger group.

(left) Last day of 7th grade co-op classes.  (right) First day of 7th grade co-op classes!
This weekend is going to be entirely crazy, but thankfully its the last such one for a while. As much as I'd like to pretend we will start back strong with lessons on Monday, I know it will be a bit of a lazy, recovery day.  I'm definitely going to take advantage of having our co-op day free again for lessons at home.

Happy Weekend!

Linking With:

Weekly Wrap-Up   photo purpFFBut_zps970d6cbe.png Homegrown Learners

Monday, April 20, 2015

Gluten Free, Low Fructose, Cinnamon Buttermilk Coffee Cake

Unexpected Homeschool: Gluten Free, Low Fructose, Cinnamon Buttermilk Coffee Cake Recipe
We really struggle around here with varying the foods available.  When we had to switch to gluten free eating it was difficult.  When Amber also needed mostly fructose free foods, our repertoire of recipes narrowed to nearly nothing.  I've been learning how to adapt gluten free recipes for Amber's low fructose needs with some success.  Eventually, I decided to try my hand at an old family favorite that Amber desperately missed.

This coffee cake is what Amber requested, in days past, for every birthday breakfast and every holiday.  It was her absolute favorite breakfast food.  Unfortunately, the ingredients list did not lend itself to a successful conversion, I tried.  Then the fateful day happened: Amber tolerated pure maple syrup in small amounts.  It was the opening we needed to add in scores of additional recipes.  Not only can we substitute maple syrup for honey, but we can replace brown sugar with maple sugar.

Unexpected Homeschool: Gluten Free, Low Fructose, Cinnamon Buttermilk Coffee Cake Recipe
I usually make a double batch and freeze one coffee cake.

I've tried my hand at making maple sugar at home and it worked like a charm.  However, it was a pain and time consuming.  I found pure maple sugar on Amazon to be priced about the same as purchasing pure maple syrup locally in the quantities needed to result in the same amount of maple sugar.  I no longer make my own, but I can in a pinch.

The coffee cake uses my standard multigrain gluten free flour mix since Amber does not tolerate any of the commercially produced gluten free flour mixes.  I have a bone to pick with all of those companies that insist brown rice flour is absolutely necessary, or sneak pectin in the flour mix. 

Unexpected Homeschool: Gluten Free, Low Fructose, Cinnamon Buttermilk Coffee Cake Recipe

This recipe is adapted from one that I had on an old recipe card and was subsequently typed up in a binder my mom created for me.  We don't know the original source of the recipe, it's just always been there in our family.

Gluten Free, Low Fructose, Cinnamon Buttermilk Coffee Cake


2 cups (280 grams) Gluten Free all purpose flour *
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (if your flour blend does not contain it)
1 cup Powdered dextrose (but you could use regular cane sugar, if tolerated)
1/2 cup Maple Sugar (or 1/3 cup Pure Maple Syrup) **
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup non-hydrogenated shortening (I've also used unsalted butter, at room temperature)
2 extra large eggs

1/2 cup Maple Sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional. We don't use it)


Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 13x9 pan. 

In a large bowl or bowl of your mixer, place the dry ingredients and whisk together with a handheld whisk.  Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the remaining wet ingredients.   Beat with either the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, or a handheld electric mixer until smooth.  The batter tends to puff up some.  Scrape into the prepared pan and smooth with a wet spatula.  

In a small bowl combine the topping ingredients and whisk together.   Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the batter.

Cover and refrigerate overnight for more flavor, or bake immediately.  (I usually bake immediately).

Place the pan in the center of the preheated oven and bake until only a few moist crumbs come back on a toothpick inserted in the middle of the pan, about 30-40 minutes.

Allow the coffee cake to cool slightly before cutting and serving.

The baked coffee cake also freezes well.  I've been known to mix and bake two at a time, then freeze one for later consumption.

*My preferred Gluten free flour mix:
1 cup = 140 grams
45 grams White Rice Flour
21 grams Sorghum Flour
21 grams Millet Flour
21 grams Potato Starch
21 grams Tapioca Starch
7 grams Potato Flour
4 grams Xanthan Gum

** Most often I save my maple sugar for use in the topping and use maple syrup in the batter.