Saturday, March 26, 2011

Can, if you Can! Homemade Strawberry Jam

One thing I love about my homeschool group is that we have fun, interesting and educational field trips all the time.  Last week, Matthew and I got to go on a field trip to the Little Rock Cannery in Brooksville, FL.  We made strawberry jam!  Have you ever been to a cannery?  It's an amazing place.  There is so much interesting equipment and endless possibilities of things you can can.  It's not just for fruits and vegetables.  There were cans (well, Ball jars) of chicken, broth, pork, ground beef, herbs, and all kinds of other yummy things.  But, for the purpose of our field trip our group made strawberry jam.  Come along on our adventure...

Step #1:
Sterilize the jars and lids in the water bath.  This took 10 minutes

Step #2:
Smash the strawberries until they are pureed.  This took a lot of muscle.  Doesn't Matthew look handsome in his Chef's Cover. is NOT an apron!

Step # 3:
Simmer the strawberries.  He had to keep stirring them slowly until they boiled even when he was stirring them.  Work those arm muscles, Matthew!

Step #4:  
Measure out the sugar needed to add to the strawberries.  Add it to the strawberries on the stove while they are simmering.  Also add the gelatin to help it set.  This is Ms. Cara helping out.  She is one of the part time assistants at the Cannery.

Step #5:
Pour the strawberry mixture into the Ball jars and put the lids on.  Be careful!  It's very very hot!  That's Ms. Flossie, the full time employee at the Cannery.  She is a walking, talking encyclopedia on canning and can answer every question and help you can anything you want.

Step #6:
Play with Legos, of course.  After filling the jars and securing the lids, they go into that water bath as shown in step #1.  They are there for 10 minutes.  So, what else should a boy do?  Play Legos!  Matthew was very happy there were a couple of other young men there to hang out with.

Step #7:
The delicious finished product!  Our very own homemade strawberry jam!  They just need to sit for 24 hours before we can open them.  Then, there's no holding back!  We can't wait to eat it!

Here are the kids who joined on this field trip.  Don't forget the two ladies that made it all possible.  Right in the center is Ms. Cara & Ms. Flossie

This was such an amazing opportunity!  We loved it so much that we decided to become a member of the Little Rock Cannery.  It is only $25 to be a member for an entire year.  That includes use of the facility (every day if you want) and, probably more importantly, access to Flossie Raines and all her knowledge.  She will walk you through every step of the way.  I'll be needing that because I don't have a clue beyond strawberry jam!  I'll be heading back next week to can some chicken.  Yumalicious!

Here's some shocking news for ya!  Little Rock Cannery is always in danger of being closed.  Can you imagine that?  A place where people can go to do an age old tradition of canning food so that they can have access to fresh, locally grown fruits, vegetables and meats all year round and have a stock of healthy, naturally made products right on their shelves.  Food prices are going up every day.  Doesn't it make sense to purchase it now, can it, and have it for years to come without having to pay the inflated prices next month or next year?

For me, it was a no brainer.  I'll be glad to pay the small price of $25 for the year in order to be able to use this facility.  Do you want to be a part of this too?  Well, you can either become a member or just donate.  Any amount will help.  Truly, any amount.  If you are interested in touring the facility, becoming a member, or just giving a donation, please contact Flossie Raines at 352-540-4306.  Thanks and God Bless!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I Have To Teach What? What's That?

As I tiptoe through the breezy field called Homeschool, life just seems so simple and in order.


Let's be real here.  I've been homeschooling now for 4 years.  The subject content for 2nd-4th grade was not difficult (for me anyway).  Add, subtract, multiply, divide, parts of speech, types of sentences....I remember that stuff.  Science was more about discovering the world and how things work and react to one another and doing fun experiments.  History, well, we did a lot of reading.  Then 5th grade hit this year and some things changed.  I still have the spelling, math, science and history under control.  But, I have to be honest about Language Arts.  I haven't diagrammed a sentence in over 2 decades.  I tried convincing myself that it wasn't really necessary and we could skip those lessons.  But, I found that it really helped Matthew to understand how words relate to one another in a sentence.  So, we pressed on......prayerfully.

Now, we are diving into Latin.  What?  
"I took French and Italian in high school and college, Matthew.  Can't we do those languages?" 
"No.  Latin is cool, Mom.  It's ancient and noone really knows it and we'll sound like we are talking in code to one another.  Plus, I want to learn it so I can teach Latin to my friends in Sunday School." 
How can a mother resist?  So, we pressed on......prayerfully. 

I realize this is just the beginning.  What happens when the really "scary" subjects start to come?  Like....




I start to lose my confidence.  It's time to make a plan.  I know Matthew is only finishing up 5th grade, but it's all moving so fast and before I know it I'll be knee deep in Latin conjugations, the Table of Elements, Newton's Law and who knows what else that will make my heart skip a beat.  I stop, breathe, pray, and I can feel things calming around me.  The spinning has stopped and the "scary" isn't so scary any more.  Because I remember that 

Philippians 4:13 tells me
"I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me"

God has called me to homeschool our son.  Therefore, He will equip me with the necessary knowledge and tools to do that.  It is our job to train up Matthew in the way he should go.  That means in all areas - spiritually, emotionally, and educationally.  So, we press on....prayerfully.

Here's my plan and I hope it helps you to...
  • Pray
  • Eat some humble pie.  When I don't know the answer, or when I don't know how to do something, or when I have never even heard of something, I need to admit this to myself and my son.  Then, we will learn together.
  • Ask for help from friends and family.  We have many people in our lives with gifts, talents, knowledge and skills that I can't even begin to imagine having.  I will look to them for help and guidance.  I will even hand over the reigns in certain subjects to those I trust with my son so they can teach him the things that I can't.  I've already done that.  Our friend, Tim, is teaching Matthew guitar and, Becky is teaching my son Art. 
  • Use the resources of my community.  There are clubs to join that can teach my son about things I don't know about or I'm not an expert, chess, photography, aviation and more.
  • Look to the amazing families in my homeschool support group, Home Circle.  The Co-ops offered there include subjects that baffle me like political science and economics.  These classes even include high school credit.
  • Look to the other homeschool support groups in my area.  We have participated in these before which is where my son learned beginner sign language.  That co-op offers a multitude of other classes in the areas of science, math, history, and foreign language.  Many of which also include high school credit.
  • Dual Enroll!  Most of the high school students dual enroll at the local community college.  Not only are they taking courses that are advanced, but they are earning college credit in the process.
  • Use online classes for the more difficult subjects.  Florida offers a free virtual school where homeschool students can take one or all of their classes online with a certified teacher.
  • Pray Again

 Ahhh, I can breathe again.  I have a plan.  I have a purpose.  I have a God.  I have Peace.

 I know this won't be easy.  Things that are really worth it are rarely easy.  My son is worth it.  I know that with God leading the way this can only be an amazing journey and I will press on.....prayerfully.


If you would like to read what some other members of TOS Homeschool Crew had to say on this topic, just click HERE.