Archive for August, 2013

Vacation #4: Camping II

August 31, 2013 Leave a comment

Camping on Mt. Desert Island or Acadia was a special treat for the family. Fortunately, we had excellent weather, and I did not need to plan for rain. We were also lucky to not have to wait in a line to get our tent site.

Having experienced campers brings not only speed in the set up but order, too. In less than 20 minutes we had two tents, clothesline, water and bedding in place. The Educator was amazed at the speed with which this was all done. I give credit to Youth 1.

After reviewing the campground map for bathroom, water and drainage areas, we were ready for camping life. What was the first thing we did? We went out to dinner at Subway. Admittedly, I was too tired to break out the stove and cook a meal. The drive had worn out the two adults. Let’s just say it was an early night to bed for two of the four (8:30). The remaining two would go to bed by 9:30.

Breakfast was a two person deal. Youth 2 prepared the sausages while I handled the eggs. Nothing like having breakfast outside with the mosquitoes. Clean up took longer than anticipated. You improve each day and as the routines are learned.

What did we do about bathing? There was no showers at the campground and the store a mile down the road had showers $2/2minutes. It was the Educator who came up with the brilliant idea of a wash basin. This method of washing is simple. You wash from head down to feet. You use a wash rag with some soap. Don’t use too much soap or you can rinse yourself. Yes, we were able to wash everything. After the wash, we washed our hair. I will proudly state we were cleaner than the other campers. We were really taking a bath in a very small bathtub.

Our campsite was nothing more than a base camp. We ate our lunches and dinners on the road while breakfast was at the site. This meant waking up very early in the morning and leaving as early as possible. Since noise time didn’t start until 8a, stealth was necessary. It didn’t always work.

As for our other meals, we packed the stoves with us. In fact, all of the non-sleeping gear was maintained in our vehicle. This is food, stoves, propane, towels and electronics. The meals were cooked at Bear Brook picnic area on the Park Loop Road. This provided us the mobility needed to see everything we were interested in. Also, this limited our need to eat out.

Planning ahead allows you to prepare tasty meals. Know what stove system you have and then plan your meals. Most of our breakfasts were cereal. This allowed a quick clean up and a quick meal. Some of our meals were steak sandwiches, beef stroganoff, hamburgers and grilled chicken salad. These meals were made at Bear Brook. Our steak and hamburgers were purchased at a farm near where we live, and they were pre-made. The chicken was prepped at home and food saved. The beef stroganoff was prepared at home as well. This saved time for us. Yes, you can cut up onion and green peppers and freeze them. The chicken marinated in Italian dressing saves well. My buying live lobster and cooking them at the site was shot down by the Educator. I really wanted to do that. Oh, think about dry ice as a way to keep items frozen. We used 30lbm of dry ice and it lasted three days. This saves a lot of money in buying ice and keeps your food frozen.

There was wood provided where we stayed. Thankfully, we overloaded on wood the first night, so we had plenty for a while. The wood was normally gone by the time we came back to camp. You CAN NOT bring wood onto the island, and you’re not allowed to gather wood on the campground. Please do not bring wood from home. You can introduce an invasive species that can devastate the island. Google or Bing Emerald Ashe Borer to see what an invasive species can do. In fact there may not be any healthy Eastern Hemlock trees in New Jersey or Eastern Pennsylvania because of an invasive species.

We were only 1/4 mile or less from the ocean. This provided some opportunity to walk along the shore. What was also nice was the campfire talks held by the park at our site. Just a five minute walk, and we were there.

The insects were there at all hours. Even the wind hindered them little. I recommend Repel. I hate insect repellents, but it was worth it.

Our campground’s bathrooms were nice except for many of the people using them. Sadly, there are people that do not take of things that is not their own. The treatment of toilets by these people is rude and makes it miserable for those cleaning the bathrooms. The sinks are not much better.

There were a few changes I could have made to our camping experience. Water was a big issue. We were using 3L jugs, and this resulted in many water trips. Fortunately, it was only a thirty foot walk. 5L collapsible jugs next time. The Educator thinks a campsite with a pool would be a good idea. I say camping without children, too. Just kidding.

If you do not camp, think about trying it. It is a cheaper alternative to a $200+/night hotel. If you plan well, you’ll have a great time.

Categories: Outdoors

Homeschool Maturity, Again?

August 31, 2013 Leave a comment

Maturity. Homeschooling parents, your children are not mature. They are not “young adults”. Please do not tell me how mature they are in their decision making and beliefs. I am being abrasive for a reason. I want you to look at your children and see them for what they are: children.

This has been mostly posted before by me, but I dread talking to homeschooled teenagers. Their discussions are shallow and not well thought out. In fact, they don’t know what they are talking about. It does amuse me when they contact me about a subject I am very familiar with and treat me as if I am the one without knowledge of the subject. I prefer the old fashioned, you are to be seen and not heard.

Decision making by homeschool children are nothing more than restricted choices. Think of a totalitarian government where your choice of candidates is the leader. This is what I see with most homeschool families. The choice is limited. If there are choices, then the choices have been narrowed down by the parents.

There is one fact about the teenage brain. It does not make adult decisions. This is why we have the statements of, “What were you thinking?” He/she wasn’t thinking. “Didn’t you know that would happen?” Nope, their brain does not process consequences very well, yet. Their brain is developing and requires some freedom to develop.

If we restrict the growth process of our children, we restrict their development. How does a teenager know what a poor decision is if we make the decisions for them? How can they experience if we don’t allow it. Yes, we need to set limits, but there is a limit to the limits we set. (Yeah, I did the last sentence on purpose.)

I have seen daughters of larger homeschool families grow up without the necessary freedom. They seem more mature because females tend to be the ones put in charge of younger siblings. They seem to grow up quickly but there is a serious catch. They are always naïve. Their decision process hasn’t changed, too. They are copying from mom or following orders. At least they have an advantage over the males.

The males seldom have the responsibility the sisters do. These guys are very immature when they graduate as if they are catching up on a lost childhood. Their belief system is undeveloped. They regurgitate dad’s talking points. There is no substance behind what they say for they do not know or understand the topic themselves.

The children of homeschooled parents mimic their parents without any understanding or development. What I see are normal teenagers that act how the parents want them to act. We homeschool parents need understand our children are mature enough to hold adult conversations with adults. The reality is, these teenagers are just teenagers.

Two Tips For The Price Of One

August 31, 2013 Leave a comment

This past week was the first week of school for Youth 1 and Youth 2. It was a difficult time for Youth 1. There are three science classes this year at the local university. These three classes presented a type of culture shock for Youth 1. There was a loss of confidence and a shattered psyche. In comes me to the rescue.

It is my job to right the listing ship and get everything on course. We went to the basics of how to do math and chemistry. You CAN NOT always do everything in your head! You need to check your results. There is the final review of what you have learned. I would do the homework and wait for Youth 1 to complete the homework, too. Here I would look over the work and point out where the mistake was made. I was able to explain to Youth 1. Youth 1 is getting up to speed and has mentioned the calculus class is becoming… easy? Youth 1 is a high schoolers and therefore it is my job as a parent to be involved when things go wrong. I am responsible for this teenager.

What happened to Youth 1 is a bit of a culture shock. I saw and experienced this when I went to college. I, too, have seen this with homeschoolers entering education outside of the home. It can be very overwhelming. If you become overwhelmed, you become discouraged and lose confidence. It is all downhill from here. Generally, you see this in the science and engineering fields in college. Students either have not been properly prepared or the maturity is not there, yet. For Youth 1, it is maturity and not ability.

I can go in two directions here instead of one. Me thinks I shall do two directions. The first concerns the work needed and the second deals with relationships. At the college level, life changes completely. Mom and Dad are not around and the teenager has to do it alone.

Math is a very different learning. Math is learned and mastered by doing. There is no other substitute. If you don’t do the examples, you can’t learn it and thus master it. If you don’t believe me then read what Youth 1’s math professor states in his syllabus; “Mathematics is learned by doing it.” Science courses contain mathematics. A common mistake I see with homeschoolers and schools is the lack of homework. No practicing. Just because you get the concept does not mean you can do the work. Think about driving a car. Without practice, you are a horrible driver. You don’t practice by taking shortcuts. It is easy to get off track and make mistakes.

English, literature and even history is a course of learning that does not require association with people. You are reading, alone. You are writing, alone. Mathematics on the other hand benefits from a group setting. Doing this curriculum alone worsens any cracked confidence. When Youth 1 was wondering about the 33 other students in the class, I mentioned that 30 will have the same problem as Youth 1. Everyone is in the same boat. My recommendation is to team up with someone. You now have a person doing the same problems as you and helping you to learn. I can remember working calculus, partial differentiation and applications as well as statistics and abstract math with two, three or even four other students. We helped each other understand the problems. Again, going back to the math professor, “You should submit 1 solution per 2 students.”

Other non-math related curriculum can benefit from this as well. In fact, having a friend is the most important part of college. I have seen students without a close knit of friends drop out. They go to a school near home and live at home. The family is the support group and not peers. This is most unhealthy. Teens or young adults need to grow. This is done by leaving the nest.

Youth 1’s ship is stable once again. There is a new friend from another state taking the same courses. This is providing the stability needed. Youth 1 is growing up.

Now what title do I give this post.

Setting The Rules

August 29, 2013 Leave a comment

As I drove through the woods this morning, my thoughts were about Youth 1 and the adjustment being made this year. The classes being taken require a discipline in order to succeed. Checking my emails, I read an email from a homeschool senior or recent graduate about tips for the highschool years. There were only four tips, but the first two resonated with my thoughts.

It is very common for homeschooling families to school when they feel like it and even extend into the summer. Indeed, I met a family whose son was not finished with last years course work and it was August 18!! This is a cause for great concern and not for the fact the teen was not finished. This is where the person’s email would do this family some good.

It is a fact that many homeschooled teens do poorly when inserted in a public or private school. Teachers tell me all of the time how homeschool students do poorly. After digging a while, I discover the students have difficulty meeting deadlines. This is very troubling. When you go to college you have deadlines. Another tidbit I gleened from these teachers is how the homeschooled students are not disciplined which leads to a difficulty in meeting deadlines.

This individual that wrote the email stated consistency and lesson plans as two of the tips. Basically, he stated homeschoolers should have a schedule and stick to it. He mentioned how lesson plans prevented the wasting of time and each child knew what they needed to do ahead of time.

Children whether they are teens or younger require a schedule. They also need to be disciplined in their study. What I am referring to as discipline is in the note taking, studying, neatness, homework and all around time management. Homeschoolers are notoriously horrible with time management. A youth may know the subject and fail because he or she is not disciplined enough to accomplish the work.

Parents need to have a lesson plan for each child. This provides not only a boundary but a comfort for a child. This lesson plan needs to be consistent. Deadlines should be implemented. Limits and boundaries in education are no different than the limits and boundaries we have for raising our children. If you do not have this, how can your child understand or learn what is right?

Success in college is less about how smart you are but more about how prepared you are. I went to public school never needing to study. I paid a heavy price in college. My time was spent trying to learn what others knew how to do. It is sad to see homeschooled student come home after a semester or two because they could not adapt. They were not dumb. They were undisciplined.

Do not allow your children to be studying last year’s course work as you are beginning this year’s work. What are you teaching them?

Categories: Education, Homeschool Tags:

Vacation #3: Camping

August 24, 2013 Leave a comment

When planning this trip back in April or May, the Educator and I decided to try tent camping. I was hesitant for the Educator is not a known camper. The camping equipment we had was for AT or PCT equipment and some cheap camp a night gear and go home not caring if it broke.

Camping equipment is not a one size fit all. There are minimalists such as those that may hike the Appalachian Trail or family campers that stay at campgrounds. There are those with travel trailers who believe they are “camping” and of course the pop-ups.

You can break these groups down even further. We have those that camp without a tent, with a single person tent. These people tend to be hikers. There are the group campers that use tents. Think Boy Scouts. Groups of families are group campers, too. Now we have the family campers. Each has a different requirement for equipment.

Where you camp dictates the equipment you need. In the bush (woods) you do not want to carry a Coleman stove or lantern. At a campground, these items are a must. All thrown in is your vehicle. Can you carry everything? Hiking in the bush is far easier than a campground. I require less equipment.

I have tiny stoves for when I am on the AT. Sometimes I sleep without a tent. One year I spent the night out in 19F weather. Don’t worry, I was rather toasty. In my possession are Coleman stoves. These I have used for the single nights of camping or when we lose our power for four days. My tent equipment consists of two cheap Ozark Trail tents. At the time, I was thinking about one and done camping.

When planning on camping, you need to find out what camping equipment you need. For my family, it is not the Minibull stove I have but the Coleman stove. You need to find the right size tent. I would recommend a roomy tent for camping at a campground. There is nothing more damaging to a family than tight quarters. You may need several tents. A lantern is a must, too. Do you want propane, white gas or battery? You need to think about what you will sleep on. Will the ground do or is a pad needed. There are blowup mattresses and cots, too. One of the best ways of determining what you need is to ask questions and search on the internet. Don’t forget tarps and rope. Learn some knots.

Research campgrounds! Know what they have and do not have. You don’t want to go to a place and find out there is no water. Speaking of water, take a water container – platypus. You may need to find out the size of the campsite. A large family may require two sites.

Research the weather. Know the type of weather at the location as well as the ten day forecast. Monitor the forecast for a week or two before you leave. This will give you an idea of what the weather will be like.

Food, glorious food! Don’t forget to plan this out. What will you take and how will you store it. We prepared our meals ahead of time and food saved them. Dry ice was great for the frozen food. Plan this out or you’ll be shopping at high priced stores or just eating out.

For my family, we packed two tents, two air mattresses and two cots, We could fit 4 in a tent with much discomfort if needed. Fortunately, it was 3 in one and 1 in the other. We used two Coleman stoves – a two burner and the other a single burner with a grill. I purchased a griddle and was it ever worth it. We almost forgot the two pots we were bringing. We had tarps for under our tents and a spare tarp for rain. We also took 4 folding chairs. The one item forgotten was bug repellent. Had to buy repel (natural version), and I recommend it. We planned our meals and still packed too much food. I will admit, we finished planning the night of our trip. A busy schedule prevented a proper planning. We only forgot two or three minor items.

Take the time to plan your camping trip. This will prevent a horrible experience. The Educator enjoyed our camping. There was a contingency plan in the event of things going south – hotel.

There is much I left out and have forgotten. Use this as a reminder of what to look for.

Categories: Outdoors, Uncategorized Tags:

Vacation #2: Slow Trudge North

August 24, 2013 Leave a comment

The interstate is an amazing path to travel in order to reach a destination is a timely manner. Lost are the quaint and scenic routes of the past. Even though the interstate offers little of culture in the area you travel through, you get an idea from the other drivers of the vehicles and the stops you make.

New England is a unique area that possesses some of the most unfriendly people. This unfriendliness stretches through New York and New Jersey ending in eastern Pennsylvania. I am not inferring these people are unkind, though I suspect those from New York City. They are just unfriendly. They are not particularly interested in you and really try not to engage you. When engaged, they will talk and smile. Unlike the South, they are not smile first and all hello. My trip North had only one person smile and say have a nice trip. Most didn’t look at me or speak. On they way home I had a few more people engage me first. When engaged, the New Englanders smiled and talked with a pleasant tone. They are not mean, just not openly friendly. I still hold reservation for New York and New Jersey. Spending time in NY and New Jersey during my youth, I really do not think they care about their fellow human unless in times of stress.

You may disagree with the preceding paragraph, but my time spent in these states during different periods of time have not changed my opinion, Now I would assume different areas of these states may have different results.

The highwayman is a legal method of procuring money in New England, New York and New Jersey. There is a catch. The highwayman is the state. The rob you of money on some baseless reason for which I can not understand. The toll roads I drove through in NJ, NY were worse than some of the dirt roads I have driven on. When you spend roughly $23 to sit in traffic and be nearly squashed by trucks and drive through potholes that can swallow a smart car, you wonder why you’re paying this money. NH and ME bleed you slowly knowing that you want a straight shot through their state. In fact you never know when you need to have money for these tolls. At least in NY, I saw outsiders routinely drive through the tolls without paying. You get stuck at the last moment because you didn’t see a sign saying this booth was E-ZPass. Think of the profit for the state when they can send the fine.

MA has the worst roads of these states. I was going to give PA a pass until my way home. These two states are in competition with each other.

NY must be the toll road capital of the world. They like to throw surprise tolls at you. At least NH and ME are polite about it. I believe NH is even nicer in the fact they separate the EZ from the cash.

Driving around NY city is not recommended, and I’m sure the locals agree. You are a hindrance to these people and it is very costly. See NY from I95 is nice, which is why I did it. Now my two youths can say they saw NY. It does have a beauty at night. Oh, the roads are always crowded around NY.

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Vacation #1: The Blueberry Pie Recipe

August 23, 2013 Leave a comment

This is the first in a series of posts about our latest vacation. It is not to be about my family’s trip but more as an information source chocked full with filler.
There is one item Maine seems to want you to think it is a king of – blueberries. They’re blueberries to be specific, and this means pie. Allow me to tell you the Maine blueberry is a myth. It is a myth to think their berries are better when they are really no different than other “wild” varieties. There it is done. Sorry Maine, you can’t own the blueberries just like you can’t own the whoopie pie. It is strictly Pennsylvanian just like the Kentucky Pennsylvania rifle. The whoopie pie is strictly a Pennsylvania Dutch creation.
What is special with the Maine blueberry pie? Well, nothing. I spent time in Maine sampling a few pies and have found my pies to be better. Actually, the one pie was slightly different that my version and that dealt with the crust. Maine pies utilize the smaller sized berry found with wild plants. How can a berry be considered wild when the environment and possibly the berry are modified? Think about that when in Maine.
I have picked wild berries since I was young and can tell you it is a lot of work for little amount. The effort is worth it for the flavor is supreme to store bought or farm picked. This goes for all berries.
I am not saying their pies are not good. They are not unique or special.


The three most important parts to a blueberry pie are the crust, blueberries and filler. I recommend you find a great homemade crust recipe. Store bought crusts are just that, store bought. They are horrible. You can try a graham cracker crust. I had this in Maine and it was tasty. The Educator won’t make one because “it is not healthy for me.” Blah, I say. A poor crust leads to a poor pie. Next are the berries. Frozen from the store are the least preferred. Next are the store pints. Nah, they are not fresh and not the best. Picking your own at an orchard is a great way to add nice flavor. These tend to be big and not as flavorful as wild. Wild blueberries are the best. They have the best flavor. Their small size means more berries and less filler. I am indifferent to most fillers. I generally know of tapioca and cornstarch. The higher the quality the better the pie.
3-4 C blueberries. (If small size, you may want another cup)
¾ C sugar. (You can reduce this amount or add more according to your taste)
2 tbsp Cornstarch
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tspn cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Combine these ingredients, stir until well mixed and let sit for 10 to 45 minutes. Pour into lined pie pan and add the top layer. Place three slits on the top to vent.
Bake for 40 – 50 minutes.
Another variation to the recipe is as follows:
3-4 C blueberries. (If small size, you may want another cup)
1/3 C sugar.
1/3 C brown sugar.
1 tbsp quick dry tapioca
½ tbsp nutmeg
½ tspn cinnamon
1 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl.
Sprinkle lemon juice on blueberries and fold into dry ingredient mixture. Do this gently. Allow to sit for 45 minutes. Place into pie shell and cover with top. Add the vents and bake for 10 minutes at 400. Reduce heat to 350 and bake an additional 25 minutes.
I forgot to mention that you need to crimp the completed pie edges with your fingers before you bake the pie.
Glazing. You brush the top with milk or better yet, heavy cream and sprinkle sugar. I have used turbinado sugar.
There you go, blueberry pie. There are many variations of this pie. You can you maple syrup instead of sugar. There is the graham cracker crust I mentioned earlier. What matters most are your crust and berries.

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