Friday, May 31, 2013

The Importance of Teaching Geography

The Importance of Teaching Geography 

"Arizona gets snow? Isn't it all desert and cactus?"
"California has earthquakes?"
"Doesn't everyone in California surf- or have a beach nearby?"
"Oklahoma gets tornadoes?"
"Texas isn't a different country?" 
"Does Africa have an army?"

I have actually heard these questions - actually posed by adults. It kills me when basic geography becomes a source of question. It is often taught last, if ever at all. The opposite of what it should be. Like Art, Music,  and the Humanities, Geography should be amongst the first subjects to be emphasized. However, it has become lost in the shuffle due to the core curriculum of testing, and numerous budgetary offenses within American public schools today. Embarrassing.

This is our earth, our home- our community. We cannot expect the future generations to care about global needs or situations, solve world problems like global warming- if they are raised never knowing what their planet actually is.

Taking an Unschooling approach to geography is easy when one considers the fact that a single lesson in geography can include mapping, topography, social studies, reading, history, economics, agriculture,  science (astronomy, geology, or weather and climate), classic literature, and math- (yes! actually a lot of math- if one is graphing, calculating altitude, populations, or longitudes and latitudes, and distances traveled). The possibilities are endless. The necessity is dire.

Our children will face issues that go far beyond their town,  or even their state. Future geopolitical issues that most likely will require a global thinking, and understanding that what affects one can affect us all.
The rise of our oceans, the fall of our ice caps, the depletion of clean water, the death of honey bees, the rise of antibiotic resistant viruses, the contamination of basic food crops... these are just a few examples.
To understand humanity, to understand that we are all living on this miraculous rock as it floats in space- miniscule to the frame work of our vast universe, to learn the global concept of the Overview Effect is more important to humanities survival than most realize.
If you have never watched the movie Overview- I urge you to, and I urge you to watch it with your children. Amazing, and perfect to give  perspective. It's free to watch. just under 20 minutes in length. Profound, amazing and well put together. Overview the

Geography, in this light, is easy to teach. 

Maps are cheap. A Globe is cheap. Curiosity is priceless. To spark curiosity about the world= an endless learning experience.

Globes- One of the best creative sources for all ages. For little ones sitting the globe on floor and spinning it wildly - stopping it with a pointed finger and learning to identify where you stopped. Games can be played with 'name that place!'  Repetition in the game builds memory. At first you should sit with them and give all the answers, having them look at it and repeat it back to you. Slowly- but surely they do not need your help, children jump at the chance to name a place and be right. The globe itself helps them to understand the simple fact we all live on this earth together. One planet- One place; many different parts.
With older children, rattle off a series or list of places and see how fast they can them. AS soon as one is found name another. then another- mix it up from rivers to countries to seas, etc.  Make them move that ball an look. Have fun with it- 10 right answers gets a reward.

Maps- Maps should be displayed, readily available to always be looked at . In my home, one is always up.
Lessons should start with continents and oceans; Regions, then countries. Understanding Equator, poles, and climate regions.  Learning geographical features of rivers, seas, peninsulas, islands, etc.
Games after these basics can be as simple as pin the tail on the donkey- only make it a tack and pin the place to discuss. If a student has learned the basics they should be able to tell a number of things about the pin immediately- for example: closed eyes, spun around and the pin falls into Mexico. Just by opening eyes, the child should be able to identify that it's on the North American Continent. That the country also falls to the south into Equatorial ranges thus having areas of rainforest.  That Mexico is bordered by an ocean and a gulf, etc., etc.
An older child might add it's capital, the fact it has 2 peninsulas - both the Yucatan and Baja. That it holds major regions of rain forest and of desert. That the main language spoken there is Spanish. Perhaps look up the topographical maps of the country and tell you the deserts, or mountains. Highlands, lowlands, rivers and major populated areas. You might have him trace and draw the map for himself. 
A junior high student might take the day to write a two page paper on the basic facts of the country;  and a high school student  should spend several days on the history of the country or the economic or political history of the country.

An absolutely fabulous and free resource it Google Earth. Stand alone program allows anyone to zoom out to a globe view or zoom into a city or town. Shows topography with real pictures. Shows rivers, roads,  deltas,  and landscape in real pictures. Brings reality and truth into play so the concepts of geography and planet are not remaining so abstract. Download Google Earth here

Simple Online sites are fabulous! Such as: Sheppard Software , Kids National Geographic
Have a multitude of games and learning programs for children that are completely safe and reinforce basics.

The possibilities are endless!!
Teaching Geography is a huge win win for both the student and the parent!

As an example:
Geography in the car
I lived and raised my two boys for the first 10  years of their schooling in a major tourist area - (specifically, the Grand Canyon.) We played a game from our car ever so often, that was so simple it was very effective! I'd slowly drive through the parking lots and have the boys identify car's license plates from other states as we drove by. In their laps (about ages 6-9)  I had place-mats that were of the United States that I had found cheaply at Walmart. Each boy had a dry erase pen or a crayola washable marker, and when they found a new state they check marked the state it came from and called it out. I kept track with a notepad beside me- allowing me to correct their maps at home later. This also taught them many factors about the states- for example, many plates have the state bird, or fruit, or flag on them. We'd discuss if it was western state or eastern; a cold climate or hot, etc. etc.  Being inventive and thinking outside the box allowed us to have fun with the subject, and taught the boys so much more than a dry book. (Ahhh, I love Unschooling!)

As the boys grew, we never went on a trip without a map, and I never held the map. My navigators were in the back seat. Trips included many features, many roads, bridges, washes, rivers, cities, and many many questions. Also, allowing this promoted many stops, at places we would never have stopped to see- giant circular houses out in the middle of no where. Dinosaur statues, Flintstone's Bedrock Parks, Petrified Forests, Meteor Craters, and even the London Bridge- (now residing in Lake Havasu City). 

Don't allow yourself to be afraid to relinquish control of such things to the kids. The experiences can be fantastic memories and great grand adventures for the entire family. memories that last a lifetime.

Most importantly, have fun with it. Make it an adventure- not a dreaded boring subject.
Allow curiosity. Peak interest. Question everything. Curiosity is priceless. To spark curiosity about the world= an endless learning experience.

Invaluable tools: 


Overview the

Google Earth

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

DIY Homemade Seasoned Bread crumbs

DIY Homemade Seasoned Bread crumbs

I love bread crumbs. Since I bake more than fry- a good coating for us starts with bread crumbs. Chicken, pork chops, scotch eggs, what ever - a good quality bread crumbs recipe can make or break the flavor. Making my own eliminates the boxed/convenience food problems of added preservatives and or chemical flavorings. Because I'm using up day old pieces of bread, it's frugal and really promoting no extra waste.

One of the best features of making your own bread crumbs is you are not limited in what you use- Homemade bread, white, whole wheat, sourdough, Italian, rye... it simply does not matter. Flavors can pop from trying different breads! The only limit is your imagination!

I have made my own croutons and bread crumbs many times in the past- I would toast bread, and grate it. However I have discovered a new and actually easier way to make my own bread crumbs- I got my own dehydrator! Yay!!!!! Love this thing!

Seasoned Bread Crumbs using the dehydrator

I place in the dehydrator left over bread. Day old is fine- heals are fine! I put the dehydrator on 125F and leave it for a couple of hours- I have a batch going right now- they have been drying for about 4 hours now- I'll check them soon. I want them to be so dry when I pull them out that they crumble easily between my fingers. Drying times can vary depending on the weather- more humid days require more time; also varies due to thickness of the pieces you use.

Once dry, I place the bread into the food processor
 and grind them up into tiny crumbs. If you don't have a food processor- no worries! Place the bread into a zip lock or any bag without holes, and use your rolling pin to crush the bread into crumbs. It's easy and doesn't take that long to do.

I personally like to pour crumbs  into an a recycled Parmesan shaker, adding spices that I want and label it clearly. I find nothing wrong with having a couple shakers- each seasoned differently sitting ready to use!

One of my favorite bread crumb mixes is Italian seasoning (2 each cup of bread crumbs)  added to a shaker of bread crumbs. I mix thoroughly to ensure they shake evenly.

Another excellent addition is garlic and onion flakes (1 tbsp. each to each cup of bread crumbs).  I personally like a an added tbsp of dried parsley with this. Gives it a nice color.

To spice things up you can add 1 tbsp. chili powder; or a combination of cayenne, paprika, and cumin. Adding in dried red pepper flakes would be a colorful addition to the heat. Use your imagination and tastes to create!

A friend of mine mixes in Parmesan cheese with bread crumbs- 1:1 ration. When I tried this- it served as an awesome touch sprinkled over Au Gratin potatoes, baked Zitti, or Lasagna! Yay!

On an added note!
For my readers who prefer to store using only glass, I love the fact the lid to a Parmesan Shaker fit perfectly to a regular mouth canning jar!!!!! Yay!  :)

You may love the links shared at:

Frugal Days Susutainable Ways #75

You might like to try:

Disclaimer: Affiliate Links in no way affect your end price, there is no increase for you. But, they do help to support the cost of the blog. Thank you.

Using the Whole Tomato

Using the Whole Tomato

I'm tired of wasting. I am learning to make the most out of everything! Homemade anything is so awesome for the simple fact that I know exactly what is in the product I make. All natural, no preservatives or fake food chemicals.  I am loving using every part of the fruit or vegie that I can.

This weekend we canned Roma tomatoes. Love the way the cans fill my shelves, and I know I have a quality canned tomato without extra chemicals ready to use- makes awesome sauces, and soups!

A wonderful guide to canning exists on this page: Pick Your Canning Tomatoes
I could attempt to tell you the entire process, but their tutorial is so thorough that it is better to just let you know where I learned it from that try to copy cat their process. 

One thing I would like to note is: 
Be sure to always wash your produce: I use a cup of vinegar to a pan of water and let them soak in it for 10 minutes. It is so important to get the residues off the skins, you just never know- and the process is so easy.
A simple note and measure to ensure no one gets sick and your food is healthier for your family.

One of the steps taken in canning our tomatoes is to blanch them and remove the skins. In past I did this without thought- and tossed the skins!  But no more! What a waste!

Three wonderful things can come from the tomato skins! 

1. You can use them in a crock pot along with other vegie left over and cuttings and start a pot of vegetable broth.  A great blog about this is found at: My Humble Kitchen
2. You can put all the skins into a food processor and grind them into a pulp for tomato bark! Dehydrate the pulp, and yay! You have instant tomato paste later for anytime you need it! tomato bark
3. You can dehydrate them, as I did this time. The end result was wonderful flaky dried tomato,  that I whirred into the food processor for a minute until I had small flakes and poured into a recycled spice jar to add to my new homemade spices! Instant tomato flavor to add to anything! -All natural, all homemade.
I laid the tomato skins  on my dehydrator racks, set the dehydrator for 135F and let it go for about 10 hours to be sure we were completely dry. Times may vary due to weather and humidity. We had a cloudy weekend, so I wanted to be certain I got all the moisture out.

<-- this is how we started
        this is what came out ----->

<--I tossed these into the food processor

and this is my end result-
 pure tomato flakes! -->

Love it!

No waste, and a new spice jar for my cabinet! Awesome!!

You might also like the links found at:

Frugal Days - Sustainable Ways #74

Thursday, May 23, 2013

3 DIY All Natural Deodorants - and why you might want to try them

3 DIY All Natural Deodorants

DIY All Natural Deodorant -Stick  

1 Tbsp. beeswax
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 Tbsp. shea butter or coconut butter
1 Tbsp. cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 1/2 Tbsp. baking soda (aluminum free)
1 Tbsp. bentonite clay (I used Redmond)
1 /4 tsp. Vitamin E oil
10 drops tea tree essential oil
10 drops lavender essential oil
10 drops lemon essential oil

In a double boiler, melt beeswax and coconut oil first, then add shea butter (shea cannot tolerate high heat as well, and  needs to be melted last- do not boil just reach melt point and stop). Once melted, remove from heat and add cornstarch and baking soda and bentonite clay- Stir well to incorporate until smooth. Add essential oils and Vit. E oil last. I used lavender/lemon oil as it is my favorite scent, but you can change the essential oil to whatever you prefer. (A citrus fresh blend could include lemon and grapefruit oil, or lemon and orange.) Pour mixture into new or cleaned re-purposed deodorant stick. Let cool over night without the lid, 24 hours. Use as you normally would- thin layer, this actually requires less than commercial brands to be effective and thus lasts longer.
All natural  and chemical free!

- or -

DIY All Natural Deodorant - jar version.

5 tbsp. coconut oil
1/4 cup baking soda (aluminum free)
1/4 cup cornstarch or arrow root powder
1/4 tsp Vitamin E oil
lavender essential oil

In small bowl mix with spoon all ingredients except essential oil.  A small jelly jar works fantastic for this, or you can reuse any old cold cream jar  that's been cleaned and has a good lid.  Add essential oil last- 10 to 20 drops of your favorite scent will do. Lemon gives great fresh citrus scent. My favorite is lavender, but the choice is yours. Because this is mostly coconut oil, it can get liquid in heat, best to store in cool place. Take a small amount on finger and rub into arm pit area, soaks in quickly and works well!  
simple, easy, all natural  and chemical free!

- or -

DIY All Natural Deodorant - Spray bottle version.

1 small mister spray bottle
rubbing alcohol
tea tree essential oil
in bottle, fill with rubbing alcohol and add 10-20 drops of tea tree oil. shake well. Spray onto armpit area.
easiest version possible, and seems to be preferred by men, you can add any essential oils you'd like to create a scent preferred. the tea tree oil is an excellent start having antibiotic, anti fungal, anti viral and antibacterial properties.

I have tried all 3 versions personally. I am most pleased with the stick; but the jar version was wonderful. Simple and easy to make. I encourage anyone and everyone I know to try it. It's easy to get used to, easy to make, and  it works. You won't stink! Really!  You won't! :)

Why DIY deodorant? 


 Why would I, or anyone else, go to the trouble?

For me it is simple-Cancer causing Chemicals.  The statistics for women with breast cancer is constantly rising. I believe it stands right now at 1 in 5 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. My mother, my mother-in-law, and a very close friend have survived it. My step mother did not and we lost her this last year. That is 4 women I know - I can count myself as 5. That means, in that group, 4/5 have dealt with breast cancer. Not great odds. That's not a possible hypothetical statistic that mildly sounds concerning- that's actual numbers.
Commercial deodorants often contain parabens, propylene glycol, cyclopentasiloxane, chemical fragrances, talc made with asbestiform fibers (asbestos), and aluminum. Many of these are attributed to causing cancer, or other neurotoxic effects. 
New research suggests that many of the breast cancer cases today began with the lymph nodes in the armpit area. It does not take a brilliant mind to figure out that putting cancer causing agents in the armpit area in order to deodorize and smell pretty- might actually be contributing to the rise in breast cancer over the last number of  years. I am not saying they are the sole cause- but certainly they cannot be helping at all.
I personally do not see the reason to take the chance; not when I know I can naturally create an alternate that is safe to use and actually works!

If you are uncertain - don't take my word for it-  research this for yourself- PLEASE!!!   A fantastic resource for checking the ingredients in the beauty products you use is: Environmental Working Group Skin deep database

This is why I make my own deodorant- happily. I hope more and more women out there start to as well. All natural, effective and actually really easy to make.

You can find the ingredients at this site:

Mountain Rose Herbs. A Herbs, Health & Harmony Com 
you might also like the recipes and links at: 
Nourishing Treasures Make your own! Monday link up 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

DIY (Fake Comet) Cleaner

"Honey! Where's the comet?!"

My Hubby had to do some clean up last night... I handed him my DIY cleaner - fake comet version- he glanced and didn't say a word. The look was enough- a kind of  'well, if I have to'...a glare that says it all. I left with a grin. worries!

He later told me it worked fine! By his standards, that's a huge compliment. I knew it would- I'd already used it for a while! But for him- it was new. LOL
It's simple to make-

DIY (Fake Comet) Cleaner

I reused/re-purposed a shaker  bottle and added to it
1 part baking soda
1 part borax
1 part salt
1 part washing soda

and I shook it to mix.
Sprinkle it on what you have to scrub just like you do comet. Take a damp sponge or scrubber, and watch the stains go away. Rinse well.
 Works wonders on the tub and toilet! Love it! Whitens, brightens, grime is gone, cuts grease and residue, without bleach alternatives and extra chemicals.
 No noxious smell. The baking soda naturally deodorizes, borax and washing soda cut grease and residues and whitens, and the salt acts as abrasive- it's a win win.
 That's it. Done. Can't get much simpler. DIY. Effective. Frugal. Green cleaning. No noxious smells. Just clean.

This post is also shared in: (And You might also like what you find on:)

Homestead Barn Hop #114 

Frugal Days Sustainable Ways #73

You might try:

Disclaimer: Affiliate Links in no way affect your end price, there is no increase for you. But, they do help to support the cost of the blog. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ideas for younger Kitchen helpers

Little ones love the kitchen.
It's a noisy, rattly yummy experience. This is the place where magic happens! 
While they are young, there are several basics they can learn to help both you and them have wonderful experiences in the room!

Some are obvious: like always wash your hands first.   

Textures in the kitchen are amazing. If your little one wants to help, here are a few ideas they can manage and enjoy: 

Hand them a pile of lettuce and a bowl- they can tear the lettuce into pieces to start the salad.

Have them pull the celery apart and peel out the strings.
Have them fill the celery with peanut butter.

Have them butter the toast. Once older, Have them learn how to make toast. Rules are simple- show them the toaster, and the fact there is heating elements. "Never stick anything in the toaster." Wait, and butter.

Snapping fresh green beans or snap peas is a great start!

They love helping putting vegies into the sink, or the bowl of vinegar water or colander to wash! They earn what floats!

Have them rinse the beans in the colander before cooking. This is fun and a texture experience!

Have them help make sandwiches. Peanut butter and jelly or honey is great to start with!

Even if they cannot read yet, point out the recipe and have them help follow. Many mixes show pictures of the eggs and the cup of water. They can help and learn to follow directions, and starts reading skills and measuring skills.
Have them help stir the mix! Cake mix, cookie dough, pudding mix, all super yummy and all teach self control, improve dexterity,  and care in what they are doing. 

Have them help frost the cupcakes!  Or help decorate the gingerbread men

Have them help arrange the platter of raw vegies around the dip! This would involve stacking and sorting, colors, and vegie names!

The magic in the kitchen really is all about quality time and a fun experience. Any and every child, boy or girl, should learn the basics with joy -  without fear. This fosters healthy attitudes for entire family and healthy attitudes for real food. The more they know about healthy real food and how it works; the more likely they will continue good cooking habits later on in life. And, Yes!  the less likely they are to eat junk food. If a person enjoys cooking- the more real food they'll cook! 


Monday, May 20, 2013

The Most Important Lesson - Heat Control

When I talk with my boys about their cooking, I asked them what they felt was the most valuable lesson in the kitchen. Both answered quickly and simply- heat control.

My rules were simple about the stove.
Handles in. I am a repetitive teacher. I repeat until I am sick of hearing it then I say it again. But it sticks. And I believe everyone should learn- handles in. It saves so many little ones from being burned! So simple- yet so important. First time learners can saves themselves a lot of pain as well, nothing sticking out cannot get caught up in shirts sleeves or aprons. Handles in. I started saying that and pointing it out to them as early as I could. I cannot really say an age- because there is a stage where they stop being babies and told no, stay away from the stove- to growing enough to see what's actually on the stove and being curious about how to do it. I guess about 10 -ish. If that makes sense.

Beyond this simple rule- I approached the stove like their father approaches tools out in the garage. I am teaching boys after all. And it worked.  I explained the tool (the stove) and we practiced together, then on their own.
 It went something like this:

How to control the heat….

  This was an observation first lesson- Then a hands on second.  I explained the parts of the stove, and oven. Then set down a small sauce pan, a med sauce pan, and a large pot - all filled a bit of  water on each burner-  on the last burner I put on a fry pan with a dab of butter.

 I started the stove starting with the small saucepan burner- I had them look at the flames/burners in comparison to the size of the pans. Up and down. I Compared pans to pots and small sauce pans – adjust flames up and down . Turn on, turn down, turn off. I did it- then turned everything off -and had them do it. Start to finish, one at a time. I asked for high, med, low, simmer, and off.  I had them turn the fry pan to med and then to low- melting the butter. They moved it around with a spatula to spread it around, and I had them watch the areas that heated first. We stopped and turned it off after that. I asked them what they'd do if it felt out of control, or over boiled. I made sure they had handles in and were spatially aware of their body when reaching over.
 We turned everything off. I then Turned on the oven . We got on our knees  for a second and looked at the heat source. We adjusted the racks, and in turn we learned the mitts. They explained it back to me- showing they understood the oven -where the heat comes from ,what’s broil and what’s heat. 

Then we went back to the pots on the stove. I shifted them, so the front two were saucepans - one already filled with water, and we filled one with milk.  They turned on the burners by themselves. We reviewed high, and low, quickly then began: lesson 2: How to Boil water and how to Boil milk- a side by side lesson  for comparison. I did this so they could understand what liquid looks like just before boil point- on both. Then they boiled.
They understood a simmer, and compared  it to rolling boil. We covered the saucepans with a lid and I showed them the steam, condensation, and how much faster a rolling boil occurs. I let the milk boil - and didn't say a word when it started to rise and foam like milk does. This displayed the difference- (Boiling over) when temp turned up or down. By allowing the milk to scald and spit out the lid so they saw  what not to do… worst case scenario. 

After they had proven they could boil, control, and manage the water without fear-we turned everything off and cleaned up the milk mess. 

Then together we made mac n cheese start to finish. They filled the pan with water, started the stove - handles in- watched for a boil, added the noodles....and READ the directions. They st the timer.  I strained the noodles but then returned the whole venture over to them to finish. They completed it with relatively few noodles hitting the counter! And felt pride in what they accomplished. We sat down together and enjoyed a bit for lunch. Their first cooking experience was a success. 

The way I relate this may seem tedious, and repetitive, but it worked. How you walk your child through their first lesson is up to you. My hope is that in relating my experience I can help to encourage others- or take the fear out of where to start for some, and maybe give a tip or two to others. 
Just have fun with it. If nothing else, the experience is worth the smiles at the end.  :)