Homeschool Is an Option if Distance Learning Isn’t Working

standard May 20, 2020 Leave a response

As things unfold and uncertainty sets in about what the next school year is going to look like, I know a lot of people are asking themselves if homeschooling might not be a better option than the distance learning/half day school option that is being floated out by a number of states and counties. (Wondering what school might look like in the fall? This teacher has a few thoughts about it.)

Allow me to start by saying this. Distance Learning is NOT Homeschooling. It’s very, very different. Distance learning is teacher led and parent enforced. It is working for some and not working at all for others. Homeschooling is parent led and parent enforced. You get to decide who does what and when they do it.

People get super frustrated when homeschoolers say “Homeschool is not for everyone.” But honestly, it isn’t. You have to be willing and have the bandwidth to figure out a curriculum for your kids. You have to be willing and have the bandwidth to create lessons and teach them. You have to be willing and have the bandwidth to be flexible and go with the flow when the flow needs to shift. Not everyone has that available to them right now (or ever). THAT IS 100% FINE.

But if that sounds like something more appealing to you than monitoring distance learning, then, my friend, read on, because I’ve been doing this for two years now and I’d be delighted to share with you a few things I’ve learned.

Here’s my hard earned homeschool wisdom

So, this is a ton of homeschool information. Please know, that we started out knowing nothing and we figured it out as we went. It’s much less overwhelming than it seems. Please know, there are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers. This is a sampling of what WE do. I’m sharing it here to give YOU and idea of what you could do if you so choose. I am NOT telling you what do to, just trying to offer options. (Are we clear? Because, you know, people are touchy these days…)

I would recommend starting out by contacting the district to see what resources they offer for homeschooling. You SHOULD have access to whatever resources your public school has available to them such as library and special ed resources, but districts have different rules.

First things first,

The key thing to remember about homeschooling is that it isn’t “school” at home, it’s learning at home. It takes a while to get away from the whole “we have to do what they do at school, at home.” It’s more flexible in many ways. There’s a period of “deschooling” that can take anywhere up to 6 months where everyone learns to adjust away from “I’m going to learn what I’m supposed to learn when I’m supposed to learn it” towards “I’m going to learn what I want to learn” and from “School happens from 8-3 with these breaks and these subjects” to “learning can happen anytime anywhere and we are going to do it more intuitively and less rigidly.
(We have stuck to the state mandated curriculum for math so the kids could transition back should they eventually desire, everything else has been more fluid.)

Second

It helps to know that (at least for our school district) a day of homeschool is 4 hours of learning, including sports, kitchen science, art etc. which leaves a lot of time for hobbies and fun, which often turn out to be educational anyway. 

Now for the Resources:

There are a TON of online resources for subjects that you don’t want to/can’t teach yourselves. I know a lot of people who use this to do their own version of virtual school: https://www.time4learning.com/  (You can find the various state laws around homeschooling there. DON’T just start homeschooling without letting your district know. Your child will be considered truant.)

Math: We used to use Kahn academy for math , we have friends who use Aleks. Our kids didn’t do well with online math. For the youngest, it was going in one eye and right back out the other and the other just got frustrated with it all, so we just got the textbooks they use at the public school and work our way through them.

Science: For science we’ve been using MelScience heavily supplemented by lessons that I researched online and put together. We got a few friends together once a week and did science together. 
We also attend science lectures when we can. (Santa Cruz offers many, but there are also a ton online.)
I rely a lot on YouTube educational videos like Crash Course Kids and Crash Course to supplement lessons that I do.  There’s a wealth of information on YouTube, especially for science and history. 

Language Arts: For language arts, I mostly just have the kids read a bunch and write some kind of book report (either something about a favorite character, or the themes, or fill out a worksheet with basic questions.) then, depending on what issues I see in their writing, I do a lesson on the problem. It helps that I’m an English major and writer by trade… If they aren’t taking a creative writing class through our hybrid school, I give them prompts, which they usually ignore to write their own thing.
We also do Spelling Workbooks and Grammar Workbooks

State Standards: If you are worried that you aren’t meeting state standards, you can get them from your state’s government website to compare to what you’re doing.
Standards aren’t mandatory, but can be helpful to keep an eye on in case you want your kids to transition back to public school  eventually.

More Online Resources: This company offers a TON of really cool online classes, if you want to supplement: https://outschool.com/ 
TeachersPayTeachers is where teachers can sell their lesson plans. I’ve found a lot of really cool worksheeets and lessons here. 
The Internet, duh…there’s a TON of stuff out there for homeschooling parents. It truly is amazing.

OK, I know that was a lot. Feel free to ask me about any of it or if you need anything else! You can find me on Facebook.
If you’d like to add something, please feel free to leave a comment.

No-Knead Bread Boule With Chocolate Chips

standard April 25, 2020 Leave a response
no-knead bread with chocolate chips

No-knead bread is the easiest bread in the world to make. With a handful of ingredients and a dutch oven you can make a glorious bread boule and feel like the most accomplished bread baker in the world.

I always thought that no-knead bread had to rise overnight to come out right. This past week I discovered a version of no-knead bread that can be made in just under 2 hours and basically my life is now complete. Wait, no, once I realized I could add chocolate chips to the bread, THEN my life was really complete.

The result is a crusty white country-style bread with chocolate chips. The only way to make it better is to slather a slice with salted butter and devour it while it’s hot.

Chocolate chip no-knead bread

Wait! You need a Dutch Oven!

In order to make this bread you will need a dutch oven. Dutch ovens can run from about $40 all the way to $530 or more*. You really don’t need a fancy one for this recipe. I use a 3.2 quart dutch oven to make my bread, but you could easily use a bigger one if that’s what you have on hand. You can find a very wide range of dutch ovens on Amazon* (some which can even be delivered as early as next week). There are usually a couple options on Zulily. And some occasionally at thrift stores. I purchased one of mine at Marshall’s and another at Ikea.

PLEASE NOTE:

This recipe was originally published by Gimme Some Oven with a plethora of amazing tips to make the bread juuuuuuust right as well as a bunch of variations. Please check it out and give them some love. Over there you can also find the original, overnight version of this bread which I highly recommend if you’ve got the patience.

Looking for more tasty eats? Check out my other recipes!

*These are affiliate links. Should you purchase something from Amazon after clicking one of these links, I will receive a tiny portion of your purchase price. It will not increase the price for you.

Print Recipe
2 Hour Chocolate Chip No-Knead Bread Boule
In just under two hours you can be enjoying a warm slice of chocolate studded homemade bread. Note
Chocolate Chip No-Knead Bread
Course Breads
Cuisine Quarantine Eats
Keyword Breads
Prep Time 5-10 minutes
Cook Time 40-45 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
round loaf
Ingredients
Course Breads
Cuisine Quarantine Eats
Keyword Breads
Prep Time 5-10 minutes
Cook Time 40-45 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
round loaf
Ingredients
Chocolate Chip No-Knead Bread
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt and yeast.
  2. Add the warm water and, with a large wooden spoon or spatula, combine all of the ingredients until the flour is fully incorporated. Your dough will be shaggy and very loose. That's ok!
  3. Cover the bowl with a clean dishcloth or plastic wrap and set in a warm place for an hour. Your dough should more or less double in size.
  4. Turn your dough out onto a well floured surface. Sprinkle dough with flour and fold the edges of the dough towards the center a couple times to give the dough a little more structure. Sprinkle chocolate chips onto the dough and fold the dough again. Keep sprinkling and folding until there are chocolate chips throughout the entire ball of dough and the dough feels springy under your fingers.
  5. Shape the dough into a ball and place on a piece of parchment paper. Cover again with a dishcloth or plastic wrap while the oven preheats.
  6. Set your oven to 450F and place your dutch oven in the oven while it preheats for 20-30 minutes.
  7. Very carefully take the dutch oven out of the oven and gently place the parchment paper and dough into the dutch oven. Cover and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and cook 10-20 more minutes until the bread reaches your optimum color.
  8. Remove the dutch oven from the oven and carefully lift out the bread. Set bread on a cooling rack to cool so the bottom doesn't get soggy. Enjoy!

Coconut Macaroons Dipped in Chocolate

standard April 9, 2020 Leave a response
Chocolate dipped coconut macaroons

Let’s start with acknowledging that chocolate dipped coconut macaroons are no substitute for an overflowing Easter basket of treats. I know how hard and frustrating it is that, just about when the majority of people in the world are about to dip into a literal basket of chocolaty goodness, Jews all around the world are cleaning out anything bread or gluten related and preparing to eat cardboard bread substitute for a week. (I know, I know, Passover is about so much more, but, man, I grew up eating Peeps and Easter eggs and having to eat matzah dipped in chocolate instead is a very, very poor substitute.) But I promise that these coconut macaroons will help you forget the discrepancy even if just for a few minutes.

Next, let’s clear one thing up once and for all. Macarons (one ‘o’) are delicate little sandwich cookies with crisp and colorful shells. Macaroons (two ‘o’s) are made of delicious mounds of sweetened shredded coconut. Both are naturally gluten free, both are undeniably delicious, but only one, the macaroon, is a traditional treat during Passover.

The secret to good coconut macaroons is get the amount of sweetener just right, so the end result is not sickeningly sweet and to cook it just long enough to ensure that they’re neither crumbly nor gluey. The other secret is that you can eat these year-round, not just over Passover. Enjoy!

Please note, as with all things that require very few ingredients, the quality of the ingredients you choose is critical to the end result. My family and I are incredibly partial to Guittard chocolate, which is made locally, but easy to find almost anywhere. Can’t find it in your local grocery store? They sell it on Amazon.  (FYI, that is an affiliate link. If you purchase something from Amazon after clicking it, I will receive a tiny portion of the sale price.)

(Not in the mood for chocolate dipped coconut macaroons? Check out some of my other recipes!)

Print Recipe
Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons
Perfectly sweet chocolate dipped macaroons, the perfect Passover desert or treat!
Chocolate Dipped Macaroons
Course Dessert, Snacks
Cuisine Quarantine Eats
Keyword Gluten Free
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20-23 minutes
Passive Time 10 minutes
Servings
cookies
Course Dessert, Snacks
Cuisine Quarantine Eats
Keyword Gluten Free
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20-23 minutes
Passive Time 10 minutes
Servings
cookies
Chocolate Dipped Macaroons
Instructions
  1. Spread unsweetened coconut flakes on a cookie sheet and broil in the oven until the flakes start turning golden brown (1-2 minutes). Be watchful! Because of its natural sugar content, coconut burns easily.
  2. While the coconut is under the broiler, whip the egg whites with the salt. Sprinkle in the sugar when the egg whites are about half-way. Keep beating until the egg whites are firm.
  3. Remove the toasted coconut flakes from the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract. Add the toasted coconut until well combined.
  5. Carefully fold the beaten egg whites into the coconut mixture. It is ok if some of the egg whites are still showing. It's more important to not over-mix.
  6. Scoop little piles of macaroon batter onto parchment lined cookie sheets. Wet your hands to shape the macaroons into little domes. The macaroons will not spread much, so you don't have to worry about leaving a lot of space between each cookie.
  7. Bake for 20-23 minutes until the macaroons are golden brown. Place the cooked macaroons on a cooling rack until fully cooled.
  8. Either using a double boiler or a microwave, melt the semi-sweet chocolate until smooth and silky. Carefully dip each macaroon into the melted chocolate, scraping any excess chocolate off onto the sides of the bowl. Place dipped macaroons onto a parchment lined cookie sheet to set.
  9. Melt more chocolate and scoop into a small Ziploc bag. Snip off a tiny corner of the bag and drizzle chocolate across the top of the macaroons.
  10. Allow the chocolate to set before serving.
Recipe Notes

Macaroons can be refrigerated for up to a week. The batter can be made ahead of time and refrigerated before baking.

Easy Challah with a Stand Mixer

standard April 1, 2020 1 response

For years and years and years I relied on my sister’s amazing bread machine challah recipe. It never failed me…until it did and forced me to figure out how to make challah with a stand mixer. (Let’s be honest, I think it was more the bread machine failing than the recipe itself.)

The other day, struck by a sudden craving, I realized that I could probably tweak the original recipe to make challah with a stand mixer instead of the bread machine. After all, I use my mixer to make all sorts of rolls, no reason I couldn’t use it to make challah as well!

Took a little tweaking, but I managed to convert the recipe and, if I do say so myself, improve on it a little. This challah recipe doesn’t have much hands-on time, but does require a few hours of proofing time, so plan accordingly.

(Looking for something a little sweeter to bake? Check out my amazing chocolate chip banana bread recipe!)

Print Recipe
Stand Mixer Challah
If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, making challah is a breeze!
Challah made with a Stand Mixer
Course Breads
Cuisine Quarantine Eats
Keyword Breads
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 1.5 hours
Servings
loaf
Ingredients
Course Breads
Cuisine Quarantine Eats
Keyword Breads
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 1.5 hours
Servings
loaf
Ingredients
Challah made with a Stand Mixer
Instructions
  1. Mix the yeast with the warm water and 1 Tbsp of sugar. Let it stand for 5 minutes on until the yeast has activated and the mixture is frothy.
  2. Pour the yeast mixture into the stand mixer bowl and add the rest of the sugar, the butter, the eggs and one egg yolk, the salt, and 2 cups of the flour. Using the dough hook, let the machine start mixing the ingredients together.
  3. If the dough looks too sticky, add more flour, 1/4 cup at a time until the dough starts to form into a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  4. Allow the stand mixer to kneed the dough for 8-10 minutes. The dough will be ready when it's smooth and silky and bounces back when you press a finger into it. If you're not quite sure the dough is ready, you can always turn it out onto a floured surface and kneed it a little by hand. You want the dough to be supple enough to fold and kneed without too much strength. You don't want the dough to become tough. If you want to add chocolate chips to your challah, turn it out onto a floured surface and fold in the chocolate chips as you kneed it a few more times. (Sprinkle the chocolate chips on the dough, fold it over, stretch it out, sprinkle more chocolate chips, fold it over again and repeat until you feel your dough has enough chocolate chips spread out in it.)
  5. Cover the bowl of dough with a clean dishcloth and set in a warm space. (If it is cold where you are, you can preheat the oven to 200F, turn it off, and place the bowl in the warm oven with the door left open.) Let the dough rise until it has doubled in size. Usually takes a little over an hour.
  6. Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Cut the dough into three equal parts and roll or stretch them out into logs of equal length. Braid the three logs and tuck the ends under. Place your braided loaf onto a greased baking sheet, cover with a clean dishcloth, and allow to rise for another 30-45 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 375F and brush the top of the challah with a beaten egg yolk to give it a deep golden finish. At this point you can sprinkle your challah with sesame sees, poppy seeds, or just a sprinkle of kosher salt.
  8. Bake for 28-30 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack so the bottom doesn't become soggy.
Recipe Notes

There you have it. Easy challah with a stand mixer. Trust me when I tell you that nothing tastes better than bread that you made with your own two hands eaten straight from the oven, slathered with a healthy pat of butter or a generous dollop of Nutella.