simple. practical. timeless

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A couple of months ago, our homeschool changed focus to more of a practical preparedness approach. We are loosely using the Prepare and Pray curriculum, but as usual, life has kept us busy with different twists and turns, preventing a completely consistent use of Prepare and Pray, as it’s written, anyway. The focus is still there.

With our Pathfinder Club, the boys have learned many useful skills, like knots, camping skills, and  rescue, just to name a few.  I am extremely thankful that we have a good club!  Since that’s finished for the year, the boys really have purposed to learn more of these practical skills this Summer, in the form of more honor patches.  Having a little incentive to motivate them sure makes a difference!

But last weekend, our whole family had the opportunity to participate in a really wonderful time of learning!  The whole focus of the five day camp meeting was Preparedness–with the focus being on the time, which we believe is soon, when things in our world will be very different from the way we are accustomed to.  The Bible calls it the Time of the End.  Now, we believe that Jesus is our only Refuge in the storm that is coming.  Yet, if we know that we can learn skills that will help us to better deal with what we know is coming, when our modern conveniences won’t be able to be depended upon, then we are wise to consider taking notice.

The name of the  camp meeting was Total Preparedness Camp, and was put on by Jim and Becky Buller, of Preparing to Stand Ministries.  We attended in Liberty, KY, but they hold these camps in different locations throughout the country!

Our family was only able to stay for 2 1/2 days of the time, but in those days we learned so much!  Daily, we learned from the Bible about people like Noah, who moved with fear and built an ark because he believed that God would do what He said He would do.  Morning and evening time were the Bible study times.  The middle part of each day was for learning practical skills–very hands-on!

I was amazed at how engaged our boys became in the topics being presented, even if they’d already been exposed to it before!  By the end of our time, they were actually volunteering to hurry up and clean up our camper so they could attend EVERY meeting possible!  This does not always happen with my boys.

When we came back, we compiled a list of some of the skills we focused on.  I’m sure we missed some, but here are the bulk of them:  Sabbath, we learned about finding directions in the wild, and participated in an activity illustrating that even those of us who think we have a good sense of direction just don’t.  We can’t trust our innate sense of direction, because in almost every case, it led the person off track.  Interestingly, in children, it was more accurate.  On Sabbath, we also learned how to make a solar compass, took a wild edibles hike, learned how to identify flint rock, then how to use that flint with steel, to start a fire.  Our youngest son came back from the hike with pockets bulging and pants sagging under the weight of his newly-found flint collection.  We also discussed survival priorities that first day.

The next day was designated as No Buy, No, Sell day.  In essence, we got to imagine that, like the Bible says , there will be a time, when, if we are loyal to God, we won’t be able to buy or sell.  So, in a very small way, we just practiced what it would be like to live without  some of of our modern conveniences, and used no electricity, stoves, or fossil fuel–basically nothing that we couldn’t readily obtain from the land as far as heat and power.  I was a little nervous about this, but in reality, we only practiced this for a portion of that day, in the daylight hours, and nobody really felt deprived.  We really need to practice this one on a more lengthy time period to get a better feel for it. But, it was a good place to start, since few people live like this anymore.

We started by harvesting vegetables out of the garden.  This is not a big deal for some people, but there were some others attending who really had never dug a potato or pulled a carrot from the ground!  And they were so happy to get their hands in the dirt and do this simple task!  Their excitement made it fun for all of the rest of us as we were reminded that pulling food out of the ground really is amazing!

Next, part of the group experienced cutting down a tree with no power tools–only hand-powered tools!  I didn’t hear any complaints but I’m sure it was hard work.  We then used that wood for our fire, because lunch had to cook over it!  If I had to cook every meal over an open fire, I’d not get much else done!  It takes forever!  The “Camp Kitchen Crew”, of which I was a part, all worked in harmony–each preparing some tasty dish to share.  Our family just purchased a cast iron Dutch oven so that we could learn something new.  I’m so glad we did!  As I chopped potatoes and onions, I looked around for our sweet potatoes.  Those got left at home.  Almost as soon as I realized that, someone came along calling out, “Does anyone need any sweet potatoes?”  “Yep, right here!”  Before long, another brother brought corn, asking the same thing, so I added that to our pot, remembering the story of Stone Soup.

Soon, we had three Dutch ovens all stacked up on top of each other, with good things inside cooking away!  Someone had a rocket stove, so we got to try how that worked as one family cooked hominy, and ours gave a good effort at black beans.  We decided that we need more practice on the rocket stove, and some adjustments are probably needed.  But, we got beans and hominy for supper.

How could we squeeze so much into just one day?  I don’t know how, but I do know we packed a lot into that day.  We got to observe an energetic young man till/disc the ground using horse and mules for power.  It’s funny how this is the way things used to be done for centuries, but to us, it is really almost a spectacle to see people work!   I will say that he did it barefoot, which caused me a few shudders inside.  Also, we learned about shelters and saw how to make a simple shelter from a tarp.  We still need to practice that one.  I think they probably did that when we left.  But we have plans to construct our tarp shelter soon and sleep outside in it.  The boys do, anyway.

The last day we stayed, it poured down rain!  We were supposed to take a survival hike, but things got switched around and we did more inside learning.  We learned how to prioritize in a survival situation, how to make useful tools out of natural materials, and what to take in your backpack.  We learned how to make the charred cloth that is helpful for starting flint/steel fires and how to make a water filter.  We had a good lesson on how to sharpen knives and other blades, and the boys had the opportunity to make cordage (rope) out of natural grass-type material.   It’s funny that they learned this, because we recently had to learn how to make rope, but we didn’t really know how to do it from natural materials.

Listing all of these “skills” doesn’t give a full picture of our experience at this camp meeting.  There was just something about being together with like-minded people that was an encouragement.  We came from all over, but I believe that God brought us together.  I can only speak for our family, but we really feel blessed to have had the chance to attend.

Something happened after we came back from the Campmeeting. All three boys have suddenly revived their interest in their little gardens!  With no prompting by me, they are all outside, where they’ve been for the past hour, digging away, and scouring our closets for more seeds to plant!  I’m not going to discourage our eldest, who just informed me that he planted a row of pinto beans (from the store). I don’t know if they’ll grow or not, but whatever happens, he will get a cause-effect lesson, so it will be a win. 👍🏻

The boys took notes, and I’ll just share a little excerpt, because I believe it sums up the reason we feel like it’s good to keep learning new skills.

Most old people made their own food, but the people in this time don’t.  You need to grow your own food.

I’d encourage anyone who has the chance to check out one of these preparedness camps.  Here’s a link to the site where you can find out more about them and that also contains plenty of helpful information about survival and practical living

http://www.preparingtostand.org/

Keep learning!

 

Pray and Prepare…a new journey 

We needed a change in our homeschool. Interest and attention seemed to be waning, which, I realize is kind of normal; after all, how many boys would admit that they LOVE school?  Not mine, anyway. They look at it as something to be endured, until they get to go ride bikes and play around outside. Still…I do have a desire that they enjoy themselves while learning, and I knew this was possible.

I made the somewhat radical decision to totally change up our curriculum, mid-year!  It may be a crazy experiment, but I believe that whatever happens, we will learn from our time along this new trail.

Speaking of trails, that’s really what our new curriculum is all about–blazing trails, wilderness survival, and practical approaches to everyday life that will help us to meet whatever challenges the future holds. The best preparation, as Christians, is to have our hiding place in Jesus, who is the only one who can protect us ultimately. Yet there are prudent measures families can take to deal with emergencies and unexpected life events.  Taking a first-aid kit along while hiking, anticipating tornadoes and making some basic preparations, learning how to care for illnesses from what grows around us–all of these things are really common sense skills, but we don’t always give them much attention.

So, the name of the curriculum is Pray and Prepare.  You can get it here: Prepare and Pray.  It’s not very well-know, I’m finding, and so as I’ve tried to do some research on the curriculum, I haven’t found too many users of it.  That’s why I decided to share what we end up doing with it. Because it is a unit study approach, many subjects overlap, and every home using it will have its own unique way of carrying out the projects. It’s very much pick and choose, and since we are just getting started, I am having to figure it out as we go.

This is our third week into it, with one whole week housing a sick boy.  So, there have been some bumps in the road. I think the biggest bump so far is figuring out how much to try to tackle each day. Those first days, although they had fun activities, stretched out way too long into the afternoon, which was wearying. I’d been told to not try to tackle every project listed, but I tend to want to, and that leads to fatigue and mental overload. So, a couple projects per week is all we can really tackle, and concentrate on the basics the other times.

Our first week projects included making a bear bag, which is what you’d do while camping to store your food away from bears. I read the description of how to make it to the boys, and was content with that information. That’s my tendency. But I felt a prick of conscience telling me that I got this guide so that we could learn hands-on, not just read it & regurgitate it.  So, we toon the mesh onion bag, and packed it with food, got the tape measure, and had to go outside to hunt up the right size tree, then measure and hang the thing.  I can tell you which method the boys and I will remember–the one we did, not read!!  Lesson for me, who would often rather sit on the sofa than get up and go out!  Maybe this curriculum is more for me!!!

In our wild edible portion (you get to pick your own plants research), we studied the pine tree and mullein. We ended up learning so much about the pine tree and all it has to offer in a survival situation, that we needed the whole week instead of one day.  We actually harvested the inner bark if the pine tree and cooked it–we kind of liked it!  I don’t think we will be frying pine bark in coconut oil in a survival situation, unless we happen to be stranded on a tropical island, but it was good learning.

Also from the pine tree, we made pine needle tea, which we all agreed tasted more like medicine than Celestial Seasonings. And the tea left our mouths feelin dry, like when you eat an unripe persimmon. Not really a big hit here. But, it does contain five times more vitamin C than an orange, so don’t cross it off your survival list!!

Pine sap is useful in many ways, one of which is making a torch!!  As soon as my youngest two heard that, they shot off outside to cut a big stick and harvest some pine pitch!!  I think their eagerness probably led to some skipped steps in their torch-making process, because I never did see a very long time-burning flame, but I believe that understood the process.  Do remember pine pitch for any wounds or cuts while hiking, because it has soothing and healing , as well as antimicrobial properties, and makes a pretty good glue for your cut!

Mullein, we learned, had many useful properties too. The boys remember the “Cowboy Toilet Paper”!  We finally found some right out back today, so I harvested some for tea. While the tea is fairly pleasant, those tiny hairs from the leaves do not feel good, so I would think long and hard before I’d use the mullein for TP.  I need to mention that to the boys.  Not everything has to be experienced!

Not directly from the P&P, we have been studying camping skills also. So, yesterday, youngest camper showed how he could build and start a fire with just one (almost) match. The windy day did not help his one match, but it did ignite with just one!  Also, he needed to bake bread on a stick!  He gave a valiant attempt, but since the biscuit dough was gluten-free, it just would not stick to that stick!!  So…we got biscuits the ordinary way!!

Middle Man Bro build us a nice fork thing for hanging pots on over the fire. We haven’t made any soup on that fire yet, but one day we will try.

For writing projects so far, the boys have had to create posters detailing the nine survival priorities, which is very practical. Don’t worry about food if you don’t have shelter or water available, etc. The next week was a small research project on ducks. Is week we chose our own writing project out of our Bible lesson on Naaman. We are focusing on Little Maid and the preparation her parents obviously gave her before she was carried away into captivity.  That was a sobering thought for me–we are preparing our children for an unknown future.  That’s where the Pray really comes in.

I’m leaving out lots, but for now will just hit on some of the hands-on projects, because that’s what we are trying to fit more of into our learning.

Today we took another side trip because the boys are working in a Seed honor for Pathfinders. They had to collect thirty different kinds of seeds!  That would be much easier during a different part  of the year, but even on this dreary and cold day, we traipsed around and found enough.  No, we don’t have black beans growing in our back yard;  they were allowed to choose ten from household and seed packets. I was surprised but not surprised to see which of our boys really don’t into this project–my Middle Man!  He loved it! Sometimes I am at a loss as to what will motivate him–turns out it’s Nature!  The Little Man seemed to enjoy it too–they worked together!  Big Bro–my most motivated usually, did his part, but it was not really his cup of tea.

Here are a few shots from these first weeks (Unit one).  So far so good.  The major lesson is to not over-do the projects.

Organizing the seeds

Mullein from out back!

 

The cooking fork

Freshly harvested inner pine bark

Thirty-plus seeds!

Toasting the bark!

One match fire

Inner pine bark that we toasted

Up a tree harvesting pine bark

 

What’s cooking, Boys?

Mondays…so many of them tend to be similar–a challenge!

We needed a more active approach to math today, and a lesson in practical usefulness too.

Now, I recently said that I am not a recipe sharer too much, and, although it’s true that it’s because there are already a bazillion other recipe websites, I realized that it’s mostly true because I just don’t use recipes all that often.  I like recipes, but usually look at the ones I like, scan the basic ingredients, and sort of wing it.  This can be good or disastrous.  I’ve made some flops, but usually the food turns out alright.  Just maybe not the same twice!

Well, I have one boy who is following after my pattern, without the background of experience in cooking to know which things to guestimate on, and which items you’d better get exact.  Like baking powder, or yeast.  That could be ugly if we eyeballed those items.  He thinks that I just sort of make up recipes, and sometimes I guess I do, but most often, I take something that I’ve made so many times that I just don’t have to look at the card anymore, and make it from memory.  I’ve kind of had to figure out the gluten-free thing as I went, but looked at it from a science perspective–you need such and such number of dry ingredients, such and such amount of binder, something oily, something wet, and so on.  I don’t just throw in items willy nilly.  But, to my son, I’m sure it seems like I do.  😉

Now, I wanted the boys to have a chance in the kitchen.  They really love that kind of thing.  I thought it would be them helping me make lunch, but then thought, “Why not let them do it themselves?”  I know why I don’t usually let them–I’m afraid to let three eager beavers loose in the kitchen.  Could be scary!

I did it anyway, and the pictures will show that they all three had a really wonderful time, and took their tasks quite seriously.  I wrote out three different recipes, and turned them loose!  Below are the results!

Incidentally, the soup recipe I got from someone who liked a blog post of mine, and when I went to her blogpage, I found it. We did end up liking it really well.  http://aalifemoment.com/2015/01/18/creamy-tomato-soup/

We had to tweak it a bit since we didn’t have fresh tomatoes, but it was yummy anyway!  Very easy, too!

So…Speedy made the soup, and I think he learned that chopping up vegetables small really would have made the soup cook faster–but that’s why we are doing this–so we can learn those kinds of things!  You should have seen his “chopped” onions–quite large chunks, but the blender did its job and the soup ended up smooth!

Chatterbox made the muffins–gluten free and simple.  He is very careful in his measurements–the exact opposite of Speedy.  We tried a GF flour from Costso, and it made the whole process very simple.  It really was just like baking with regular flour, because they had all the binders added to the flour.

Bam-Bam made the hummus.  Even though he makes a big show about hating garbanzos, he loved making this hummus!  He, also, measured exactly.  His hummus turned out great!

So…although the kitchen looked like a big food explosion, everyone had a great time, took hold of his task and did it up well.  I just stayed out of the way, and tried to clean up here and there.  We had a few carrot missiles that ended up in the wrong place, but if that’s all of the fall-out from the day, then I’d count it a success.

A delicious success.

Here’s what it looked like:

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