Saturday, October 15, 2011

Internet Safety in an online learning world

We do a lot of online learning and game playing in our household. As a result I have a very cyber savvy first-grader. There is no bad time to teach internet safety to your child, and while we presently do not let her chat online (no matter how much her online fairy game may want to facilitate swapping of property pixie to pixie) the day will come when we eventually relent.

As a result we've been working on a Q & A format to get her familiar with scenarios that may or may not come up once she gets into a situation where she is actually interacting more and doing different actions than her fairy wand touching things.

Here are some of the questions we ask – but not all...

  • While chatting online with some friends that you know and some others you don't know, the phone rings, and its someone you were online with in the game but not someone you know in person. The person sounds pretty awesome but there's no way you gave him/her your phone number as you know Mom and Dad would kill you (figuratively of course) for giving out your number to strangers. How do you handle that?
  • You are playing your favorite game, and someone starts saying a bunch of bad words. What do you do?
  • A Stranger starts asking you personal information, like what you look like, where you live, what schools and programs do you go to... what do you do – do you talk to mom and dad or do you just tell the stranger these things.
  • You notice your cousin has her phone number in her away message, and you know its her home phone number. She's just a couple of years older than you – is this ok to do?

Internet safety can not be taught too early...take the time with your child today, and save yourself some heartache later.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Farmers Market Season and Pumpkin soup

I've written elsewhere about my love for healthy real food sources, and buying local. This year is an adventure as we don't have all the things we had last year as we're not as familiar with the area since sometime in the middle of writing these articles our homeschooling family has moved...

That said, some traditions help keep you grounded and ours include going to the Farmer's Markets and talking to the farmers that state that their products are grown organically. It's a great chance to get the little ones to actually get to make the connection on where their food comes from as well as the difference between organic and non organic food.

One of our traditions is of course pumpkins – soup, pie, family loves their pumpkins. So while you are at the Farmers Market – pick up a couple of Sugar Pumpkins, these are the best to cook with. We make Pumpkin soup first, straight from Alton Brown. He included it in his November 2010 episode on Pumpkin Pie.

  • 1 whole baking pumpkin, approximately 4 pounds, rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small apple, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Clean the pumpkin out fully and cover the outside with cooking oil. The pumpkin is then placed into a casserole dish and the other ingredients are dropped in. The only thing I leave out from the ingredients listed above is the cheese and the thyme.

While doing this we take some of my notes from earlier in the day and discuss growing Pumpkins – revisiting the August entry and discussing where our food comes from, and then discuss what health benefits pumpkin has for little bodies.

Then while the pumpkin bakes for an hour and a half at 375 degrees, we clean the seeds, pat them dry, then lay them out on a cookie sheet, cover them in butter, sprinkle a little garlic salt on them and put them in the same oven on a lower rack and cook until they are golden.

At an hour and a half, you can take the cheese and thyme and drop them in to the pumpkin. A half hour later pull it all out (if you haven't taken out your seeds already) and set the seeds to cool, while you set your casserole dish on a trivet and then break out your hand blender. This is something my first grader loves doing, but be careful to not go through the skin on the sides and the bottom. Let it sit and cool a little, and it can be served right out of your pumpkin – my kiddos love this and I love how good it is for them.