Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is, of course, a time for giving thanks... and for counting our blessings. I love that we have a holiday set aside just for gratefulness.

Closely tied in with that is the traditional feast that most of us Americans look forward to every fourth Thursday of November. I've enjoyed reading several threads lately on our Home for the Holidays forum with ideas for Thanksgiving dinner.

As I was preparing for this blog post and trying to decide what to write about, I read back through my Thanksgiving posts from the past few years on my personal blog. I noticed a pattern: my immediate family has usually been alone for Thanksgiving but we still like to fix our "traditional" meal for just the four of us.

tgdinnerInterestingly, our "traditional" meal does not mean we have the same menu every year. In our family traditions are flexible and always evolving. Usually we do have turkey, mainly because turkey is the cheapest meat you can buy in November. The other two dishes that never vary are "cheesy potatoes" and green bean casserole, just because those are my husband's favorite side dishes. In addition to that, I like to fix at least a couple of other vegetable side dishes and a green salad or two. Early in November I start reading cookbooks and recipe websites looking for interesting side dishes to try.

This year will be a little different for our family. We will be spending Thanksgiving Day with friends out-of-state. I can't remember the last time I wasn't the one planning the meal, but I have no idea what's on the menu this year. Maybe it will be turkey... or maybe it won't. I'm actually looking forward to being surprised.

I've put our turkey in the freezer for now. Maybe we will fix it for Christmas. Hopefully my forum friends will have lots of great ideas for creative and interesting side dishes to put with it.

What's on your Thanksgiving Day menu?

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The Limited Benefits of Testing

Finals approach in the steady march of an overwhelming, advancing army. Many of "my kids" are working hard to balance study with family for the holidays. Stress runs high. Even worse, some of the upcoming tests will fail to take advantage of the limited benefits of testing. Instead, they will be a waste of time and a detriment to the students taking them.

"Here's one example," one of my brilliant biochem kids shared. She paused to work out the simplest explanation so I could follow along. Then she quickly sketched a picture. "So, there are three double capillary networks in our bodies. One is in the brain. Basically, this piece secretes a hormone which triggers this other area to produce a different hormone. My latest test, which included the totally ridiculous 'a, b, c, b & c, and none' options, asked me to identify where the hormone would be highest. What does that even mean?"

Endocrinology
Endocrinology

She then went on to detail why the answer was obviously not this or that, but that it could reasonably be either of the other two. "The trouble is, I understand this material so well, I see issues with the questions."

She gave me two more examples, going into depth about the ambiguity of each option. She clearly knew what she was talking about (and taught the material well enough that I felt I had a solid grasp of the overarching ideas by the end).

Finally, she stopped. "I wish they just gave us oral quizzes so we could demonstrate what we know."

The Three Benefits of Testing

1. Testing Helps You Remember
Used correctly, by quickly quizzing yourself, tests help establish information in your memory. As I shared before, asking yourself to recall information helps you remember it. But this need not be a formal test. Simply asking for recall is enough.

2. Tests Provide You Outside Feedback
Tests are certainly imperfect tools, but they are tools nonetheless. It can be helpful, and encouraging, to see where your student excels and areas you may want to prioritize in the coming months. Judy has a great write up on this in her post about the second largest "hot topic" for homeschoolers.

3. Testing Benefits Those Running "the System"
There is a reason teachers, schools, businesses use tests. None of them benefit the student, but that's not the main concern for "The Man." You simply can't provide a comprehensive oral quiz for 200 students in an organic chemistry class (and not every student is going to do well with such a test either). Teachers already devote significant time to grading assignments and projects; adding the burden of grading open-response questions is impractical. Plus, without a rigid rubric for grading, teachers would be open to complaint of preferential treatment should one student be given higher marks than another. Giving students a Scantron is simply the only practical way for a classroom teacher to monitor students, however ineffective and detrimental.

Choose to Use Testing to Your Advantage

You, as a homeschooler, have the opportunity to use tests for the benefits to you and your student. You may be required to give your student tests now and again, but your children need not experience the dread of finals. You can focus on mastery of the content and the joy of learning together as family.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad

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The Coriolis Fountain Blew My Mind

Physics. I did well in that class in high school. I've long loved centripetal force, spinning buckets of water around without spilling a drop. Even today I discover things about the world that just make me stop and stare. The most recent example: The Coriolis Fountain at the San Francisco Exploratorium.

Here's a video:

I know, right!? I stood their and spun the thing over and over again. I read the description detailing why it does that. I gave the nob another turn and then read the placard again. I simply could not get over how crazy this thing was. The video is cool, but it was far more mind blowing to be there and make the water spin the "wrong" way. I rotated the nozzles once more before reading the description yet another time.

It seems like it'd be fairly easy to make one of these things using bendy straws.

I love this about learning, about discovering the world, about seeing the unbelievable as reality. It's so simple. All you need in a little hands-on science and it happens! There's so much to learn, to discover, to have your perspective shifted just enough to let another "impossibility" become real.

May we never lose that, and may we continue to give our children a chance to wonder at creation.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad

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See what you started? ...

Shirley_IanThanksgiving is just a week away ... and once again our conversations turn to trying to mesh a variety of schedules to create time for the expected family get-togethers. Six different jobs ... two different college schedules ... an infant grandson and aging parents and extended family ... all pieces to the giant puzzle we call the holidays.

I thoroughly enjoyed Jonelle's piece on family the other day. It reminded me that when I was homeschooling, and totally immersed in the dailiness of children and laundry and math lessons and handwriting, it was easy to believe that it would always be that way. But then my children grew up, starting having children of their own, and as Jonelle noted, ... our new, separate family units start our own patterns. We each establish things with our children that are different from how our parents did it, and different from each other.

I'm a firm believer in establishing family traditions. I think they are part of the fabric of family life that holds us together when the rest of the world works so hard to tear us apart. But, as I'm learning, those traditions need to be created while keeping in mind the needs of all the individual families involved.

So this year we are going to enjoy a small, quiet Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday evening ... with just some of our extended family. Two weeks ago we enjoyed a wonderful meal with most of our family (minus one college student). And next month we are making plans to hopefully have all of our family together the Saturday after Christmas.

Growing up is hard. I suspect it was difficult for my parents when my brother and I left home, got married, began raising our own families and setting our own traditions. But they made room in their planning for our schedules and needs, yet worked hard to keep some of our family traditions alive. We've now added another layer/generation to our family story, and are working together to establish some new traditions to share.

We were blessed to have my 90 year old aunt with us for our family meal two weeks ago. As she sat quietly watching all the activity around the dinner table (she watches a lot these days as she is unable to hear much of what is going on around her), she leaned over to my dad (her brother), and said "See what you started?" Her perspective was precious to me ... a room full of the noise of children and adults sharing a meal together, and in her mind, she was remembering where it all began.

May you enjoy your own family traditions this season ... revel in the fact that your holiday plans are unique to you ... and give thanks for what you've started!

Still on the journey ...
~Judy Wnuk

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More Sonlight Blog for You to Love

Yesterday, sometime around 2:30 office time, you may have noticed a deluge of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and/or email notifications coming from the blog. If you were wondering, yes, that was me.

I was running a test and failed to turn off publishing which resulted in the massive influx of unwanted posts. I'm sorry. The last thing you need in your life is more clutter spamming its way across your screens. As one of my coworkers quoted, "To err is human, but to really foul things up you need a computer." I'm so sorry for the mess.

Oops
Oops

Thankfully, the end result of my ill-performed testing was a success. I found over 100 blog posts that had disappeared and was able to restore them. Thank you, Ken, for alerting me to this issue! I had long had a nagging sense that some of my posts had gone missing, but I couldn't tell for sure; I distrust my memory far more readily than my machines.

As I manually copied the posts over, I found some of my favorites and a couple I had forgotten.

So, yeah. There's a lot of stuff to read here. I welcome you to poke around bit. Be encouraged!

And, again, thanks for bearing with me and my computer <smile>.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad

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Family

We just got back from our annual family get together, dubbed "Family Fun Week." It is a special time we take, and one I traditionally look forward to.

Except, this year I approached it with some trepidation. Last year we had some tough conversations, a bit of a rough start, and then the week ended with tears. Not at all the way you want a family visit to go.

And yet, I'm guessing we've all been there.

As we grow up, out from under our parent's wings, our new, separate family units start our own patterns. We each establish things with our children that are different from how our parents did it, and different from each other. Those without kids suddenly find themselves somewhat assaulted by the noise and chaos of 7 happy cousins running around, and maybe a baby screaming in the background. That was my baby. Poor guy hates the car seat. We are different people and, getting together, those differences can be magnified. We look forward to visiting together, but also have our friends cover it in prayer.

For us, this year was so good!

FFW14-Talking

We had a beautiful time celebrating my mom's birthday, and then many excellent conversations about walking with the Lord, as well as deep times of prayer. We made several puzzles and walked on the beach. I left feeling uplifted. Like I was glowing.

We had a similar situation a few weeks ago with another family member. Past visits had been strained and while, again, we looked forward to the visit, I wasn't sure how it would all go. It turned out to be a lovely time. Good, good conversation. Very uplifting. Times of prayer and mutual encouragement.

These visits have given me lots of hope for the future. It has encouraged me that, even when things have been strained, they don't have to stay there. That when you make time for others, it can lead to good things. There have been times with various family members where, emotionally, I want to just throw in the towel, but this reminds me why it's so good to keep going, to keep working at relationships and to push through the problems to get to something beautiful.

As we head into the holidays, I'll be praying for you as you spend extra time with family. With people who maybe make you a little bit crazy, but could add something wonderful if the Lord helps heal the things that are broken.

Hang in there friend! And may this season bring many good visits.

Until next time,
Jonelle

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Finding Happiness in Something Difficult

A self-proclaim grump and curmudgeon, I'm no expert on being happy. I resonate with the Muppet hecklers. My best friend gave me a "meh" t-shirt for Christmas last year. Like the stereotypical teenager, my response to queries about my current state is that I'm doing "fine." I shrug often.

Luke-meh
meh.

That the bleak backdrop of depressing fog, I read with interest Lori Alexander's post You're Just Not Happy Anymore in Your Marriage? Not that I'm unhappy; my wife is wonderful. Still, there is a wide continuum sprawling from actively unhappy to positively thrilled. I tend to float, like kelp dragged along the beach by waves, somewhere in the "meh" category.

Lori writes, "Being happy and joyful comes from doing what is right and what is best for others, not what feels good." The comments point out that marriage is hard work (and it can be absolutely devastating at times), but worth it.

The same is true of homeschooling.

We'd love every day to be full of "light bulb moments," of laughter, of sheer glee at all the wonderful learning going on. Alas, that's not perpetually the case. Many days can pass where you may just not feel happy; meh. Things aren't bad, but they're not unicorns and lasers either. It's hard work, this teaching thing. "Mundane" may be just right.

Lori is on to something. Do what is right. Find joy in the work you do in raising and teaching your children. Perhaps take a moment to reflect on how far they've come in these few short years. Make it a point to find joy in the little things, the daily tasks, the opportunities.

And if things go really badly today or tomorrow, just remember what Statler and Waldorf say when things go wrong, "It's either this show or indigestion." But you don't have to hope it's indigestion. Because mercies are new every morning.

How do you find happiness in the midst of difficult days?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad

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