Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Schooling Our Kids in "Internet?"

Question: Why does my 12-year-old (7th grader) think he needs to go online every night to do his homework?

Answer: His teacher told him to.

I don't know about this. From talking to him, I learned that in his science class, the teacher literally uses an "in-focus" type projector to beam websites onto the screen to teach about everything they're learning. So far, I know about the cell website, and the skeletal system website, however, I know there are others!

When I asked him if they have textbooks, his answer was "yes, but we don't use them."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because the website is better."

WHY ARE WE TAXPAYERS BUYING BOOKS IF THEY ARE NOT RELEVANT? I don't know about you, but for all the talk about the school-budget being too tight, and needing to cut waste out so we don't have to lay off teachers, etc., there is something here.

#1 - WHY do teachers have infocus machines? What happened to the good, old overhead projector?

#2 - WHY do we have textbooks that no one uses? I remember how much a science book cost me when I went to college 10 years ago. Times that by how many kids are in 7th grade at our middle school - I think I just found a few thousand dollars to put back into the budget.

#3 - WHY is this particular teacher even using the internet in the classroom? This may seem crazy for me to ask, as I sit here on my laptop typing onto a website myself, but seriously. I am all for using internet in your free time. (In moderation of course...all things...) But, children need to be taught. Not shown a web page, and sent home with a link to click when they need to review notes. Pencil and paper, and WRITING information down is how people have learned for hundreds of years. Before that, people had to memorize things. MEMORIZE. Not read from a web page.

To top this off, this morning, this same 7th grader, who is 12 years old asked me to help him set up an account at a website that is an "internet-radio" type website. You know, one that plays songs on-demand, but you don't have to buy them. Yes, the website is free. I went to the website to check it out, and noticed that there is an element of "social-networking" in this particular website. So, I questioned why he wanted an account there. It turns out that in his computer class, the teacher allows this children to go to this website, queue up a bunch of music, and then listen to the music while they are doing their work. I HAVE AN ISSUE WITH THIS! Am I the crazy one? How is this teacher watching 30 or so students to make sure they are actually not spending the entire class period on this website checking out the latest and most popular songs rather than doing their work? How can she even fathom ensuring that these kids are not using the social networking features during class? Isn't it against the rules to use these kinds of websites on school-owned computers? Why not just let these kids play on Facebook for the whole class. Might I even ad that these children are now being exposed to additional ADVERTISING during SCHOOL hours. These are impressionable young minds. Is this what we are sending them to school for?

At our house, we have a very strict policy about internet/computer use. It is limited to 30-60 minutes per day (governed by a timer) depending on what activities we have that day. That is the end of it. 30-60 minutes for all of the video games, emails, homework, etc. After that, they must find something better to do with their time (playing outside, reading a book, playing with each other!). I feel like putting all of this computer time into the school day is conflicting with our house rules and that somehow we're being overruled by the teachers.

I'm not taking this lying down. I have one email to that particular teacher sent. If I don't get a positive response, the principal gets the next one. As parents, we need to be aware of this kind of thing, and work to change what's not right. Don't make these kids "grow up" faster than they already are.

*** UPDATE *** 11/22/09

I won. Well, I would like to think I won anyway. This website has been disabled in the middle school computer lab. =)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Menu Planning "Frustration"

I'm always open for new meals. My kids like to try new things. Some are hot, others, not so much. We add things to "Make again" and the "well, the recipe sounded good" lists.

Here is my rant: I search online for budget-friendly meals, and recipes. I am exasperated by people who feed a family of four on "barely $200 per week." Am I crazy? I spend WAY less than that for our family of FIVE and we eat "like kings," as my husband puts it. I generally spend about $100/week, and that includes stocking up on things, not just what we are eating that week. If you count what I pull out of my pantry each week, we are eating for about $50/week.

So, here's what I plan to do about it. I will start posting what we eat. Starting with my generic meal plan, you'll see how people who really have a budget eat and eat well.

First, we have a strict breakfast menu. My kids follow it. It's posted on the fridge. We don't vary from it.

Rotating through 2 weeks (the weeks are governed by our chore chart system, but that will have to be saved for another day...), the menu is as follows.

Breakfast - Week 1
Breakfast - Week 2

Monday Mom's Choice Monday Pancakes
Tuesday Cereal
Tuesday Oatmeal
Wednesday Eggs and Toast Wednesday Cereal
Thursday Oatmeal
Thursday Peanut Butter Toast
Friday Cereal
Friday Cereal

Notice that the cereal is not as frequent as the kids would want. What kinds of cereal do I buy? 100% cheap-y cheap, whatever is in the bag and costs the least. Often, it's generic frosted mini-wheats. Kids don't want it? Too bad. They learn to eat what's there. And, this menu has a lot less sugar than grab-and-go snack-y breakfasts like poptarts, cereal bars, and toaster strudels.

Pancakes are made from pancake mix, and the toast is made from homemade bread (from wheat that I grind myself, that I buy for roughly $.26/pound). I allow oatmeal packets on oatmeal days, but they're only the store-brand (unless by some random chance I have a coupon and the name-brand is also on sale, causing the per-packet price to be less than the generic brand). They always have the option to use regular quick oats and add bananas, walnuts, and cinnamon to make "banana-bread oatmeal."

Lunches. EASY. They pack their own. EVERY DAY. The price of school "hot lunch" is way too much ($1.75 each!), especially when you look at the quality of the food (too much sugar, not enough whole grains, they always have the "option" of the hot-dog choice...). We have a chart on the fridge again. It says:


Sandwiches are usually peanut butter and jelly, again, homemade bread which they slice themselves, by choice. Not because we don't have lunch meat. Often they will ask if I can make chicken salad for their sandwiches. How great is that?! The vegetable is usually cut up carrots (I buy one 5-lb bag per week, and peel and cut them up into a container in the fridge, which is WAY cheaper than buying baby carrots). Sometimes they even take celery. For fruit, they can take canned fruit (to rotate through our food storage), or apples, pears, bananas, or whatever fruit I can buy that is on super-sale that week. The "snack" is something like animal crackers, goldfish crackers, pretzels, etc. For drinks, they often take water. Yes, water. In their own refillable water bottle. I refuse to buy kool-aid-y sugar drinks for these boys. They DON'T need the sugar.

My Dinner Menu Plan varies from week to week, but follows the same basic plan.

Sunday - Crockpot
Monday - Soup/Salad/Sandwiches
Tuesday - Vegetarian (NO Meat)
Wednesday - Casserole/One-Dish Meal
Thursday - Fancy Dinner
Friday - Leftovers/MYO (Make-your-0wn)
Saturday - Cook's Choice

Sunday-Wednesday are pretty self-explanatory. I like all of these to be easy, cheap, and fast, but still from scratch. Thursday can be anything, but it's served at the table with full place settings, and candles, and cloth napkins. This developed out of a need for my children to "practice fancy manners." It works. Now they are pointing out flaws in each-other's manners, as well as in other people's manners (not always such a good idea...). Friday is my "day off," meaning I don't want to plan a huge dinner which causes a lot of stress. It's also a great way to get rid of what's in the fridge, that my husband did not take to work for his own lunch.

We live by the standard of "eat meat sparingly," which means that it's not the main focus of the meal. That reduces our grocery bill by an awful lot. If I make a casserole, I put in half of the meat. One 12 oz can of chicken can feed the whole family.

I hope this helps out some others that must feel the same way I do about feeding a family on a budget. I will start posting what we eat each week as well. Then my work can benefit others!

Thursday, October 15, 2009 Food Storage Analyzer Review

Things I like about this FREE analyzer:
1. It's FREE
2. It gives you the USRDA Nutrient Percentages quickly and easily so you can see what nutrients you are missing, i.e you need more calcium-containing products, or you need more iron
3. It tells you how many days your food storage would last, if everyone got exactly the serving size of each product for each meal/snack per day, and you calculated out how many calories each person was eating exactly.

Things I would like to see improved:
1. It's cumbersome. I would like to see an upload function from some of the more popular food storage inventory programs (i.e. or the FSP software from
2. In the grocery store foods section, I didn't see where I could enter things like "1 lb of macaroni." Allowing people to enter things that they have on had by the pound instead of in a can would be immensely helpful. Now, I realize that it takes a lot of programming and data entry to put all of this in, but it would make it much more helpful for people who don't have all of their food storage in #10 cans (like me!).

What I found out is that I personally have more than my 3 months food storage, and I only entered a portion of what I have (refer to that cumbersome to enter point)!

If there was anything worth dreaming about to make this the MOST AWESOME tool in the world, is that once you entered all of your food in, it took the ingredients and spit out a menu plan to follow to use it exactly up in that number of days. =) It would be a miracle if that were possible!

Thanks for reading! Click the link below if you want to try the Analyzer for free.

Gift Card Giveaway

Thursday, October 1, 2009

FREE FEMA Preparedness Course

I stumbled across this today online, and thought it worthy to pass along. There are free citizen preparedness course credits available.