Acorn Jelly

I shocked my Korean friends when I told them we have oak and mulberry trees on our property and the acorns and mulberries mostly just rot on the ground because nobody eats acorns and the only people who eat mulberries are the kids who go out in the summer and gets sweaty and all stained pink and purple while picking and eating mulberries.
They shocked me by telling me they eat acorn jelly and dried mulberries are a popular and expensive treat.

I did try gathering and drying mulberries a few years ago- or rather, I had the kids gather, and I dried. I also have used the mulberries in muffins, but collecting enough to feed us was an awful lot of work, especially when the mulberries do not have nearly as much flavour as the other berries widely available to me at home

Here’s how to make the acorn meal:

Here’s how to make the acorn jelly using storebought acorn meal powder/jelly powder:

Here are some other recipes for the dotorimuk muchim:

I guess you can make a white or clear jelly using a bean powder:

My friend asked me what recipes I used with mulberries and I had to tell her I don’t really cook the mulberries. The kids just eat them out of hand, and occasionally I put them in muffins.

Posted in cookery, Davao Diary | 2 Responses

Leucaena Leucocephala shrub

Seems to be called ipil-ipil here in the Philippines.

The buds and blossoms and pods can all appear on this tree or shrub at the same time. Here’s a close up of one of the buds and one of the frowsy-headed, Seussian blossoms:

I’m attempting to give a sense of scale here to readers from various cultures and climates. The spherical buds and subsequent blossoms are approximately the size of marbles, acorns, or slightly bigger than blackberries, smaller than lanzones.

Above you can see one of the pods, and the leaves.  What you should be noticing about the leaves is that they are pinnate. That means the leaves are divided roughly like a feather, or the leaves feather out on either side of a dividing stem or vein.   In this plant the leaves are actually bipinnate- that is, twice pennate.  There are two feather leaved divisions- you see pairs of leaf sets up the stem, but then coming out from the stem are other, smaller rows of leaflets on each side, drectly opposite of each other.  The leaves look like ferns.


Leucaena leucocephala
Leucaena leucocephala.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
More about it here, including common names from around the world (because it really does seem to be everywhere) and when it was first noted in each of those countries.  For instance- in the Phillippines it seems to have been seen here since the 1500s, an early interloper indeed.

According to infogalactic and wikipedia, it is a small, fast-growing tree native to southern Mexico and northern Central America (Belize and Guatemala), but is now naturalized throughout the tropics.

It’s been surprising to me how many of the plants I’ve identified in my personal nature study here in the PHilippines turned out to be originally from Mexico, central or South America, but I guess it shouldn’t be.  The Spaniards colonized there and the Philippines, and they must have transplanted many of the plants.  Gardeners did some as well, as did the agricultural departments of several tropical countries. They generally imagined they found a plant that would save local agriculture, and only after importing it discovered how easily it naturalizes and becomes a pest.


Another plant with pinnate leaves here

Jacob’s Ladder, Greek Valerian, or the polemoniums also have the pinnately compound leaf pattern

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dragonflies and Damselflies

This is how you know if you are looking at a damselfly or a dragonfly; look at the wings. Each member of the dragonfly family extends both wings out like airplane wings while it basks in the sun or rests in the shadow.There is one big, white-bodied dragonfly species called the whitetail which slants its wings forward and slightly down when it rests; but its wings are still out to the sides, not over its back. The damselflies all fold their wings together above and over their backs when resting.

Before they were the lovely winged creatures you see skimming and darting through the air over the water, they were nymphs. The nymphs are the infant dragon- or damsel- flies. They are plain, usually dingy brown, and have no wings. They have six legs at the front of their bodies, looking much like a spider’s. They eat tadpoles, small fish, and insects- almost anything smaller than they are. They can live as nymphs for a few months. Some species live at this stage up to five years. The nymph may remain hidden in the rubbish at the bottom of the pond or may cling to water weeds at the sides, because different species have different habits. But in them all we find a most amazing lower lip. There are some good pictures here:
This is so large that it covers the lower part of the face like a mask, and when folded back it reaches down between the front legs. It is in reality a grappling organ with hooks and spines for holding prey; it is hinged in such a manner that it can be thrust out far beyond the head to seize some insect, unsuspecting of danger. These nymphs move so slowly and look so much like their background, that they are always practically in ambush awaiting their victims.

METHOD The work of observing the habits of adult dragonflies should be largely done in the field during late summer and early autumn. The points for observation should be given the pupils for summer vacation use, and the results placed in the field notebook.

The nymphs may be studied in the spring, when getting material for the aquarium. April and May are good months for securing them. They are collected by using a dip net, and are found in the bottoms of reedy ponds or along the edges of slow-flowing streams. These nymphs are so voracious that they cannot be trusted in the aquarium with other insects; each must be kept by itself. They may be fed by placing other water insects in the aquarium with them or by giving them pieces of fresh meat. In the latter case, tie the meat to a thread so that it may be removed after a few hours, if not eaten, since it soon renders the water foul.

The dragonfly aquarium should have sand at the bottom and some water weeds planted in it, and there should be some object in it which extends above the sur- face of the water which the nymphs, when ready to change to adults, can climb upon while they are shedding the last nymphal skin and spreading their new wings.

Questions to discover through personal observation:
Where did you find these insects? Were they at the bottom of the pond or along the edges among the water weeds? 2. Are there any plumelike gills at the end of the body? If so, how many? Are these platelike gills used for swimming? If there are three of these, which is the longer? Do you know whether the nymphs with these long gills develop into dragon- flies or into damsel flies? 3. If there are no plumelike gills at the end of the body, how do the insects move? Can they swim? What is the general color of the body? Explain how this color protects them from observation. What ene- mies does it protect them from? 4. Are the eyes large? Can you see the little wing pads on the back in which the wings are developing? Are the antennae long? 5. Observe how the nymphs of both dragonflies and damselflies seize their prey. Describe the great lower lip when extended for prey. How does it look when folded up? 6. Can you see how a nymph without the plumelike gills breathes? Notice if the water is drawn into the rear end of the body and then expelled. Does this process help the insect in swimming? 7. When the dragonfly or damsel fly nymph has reached its full growth, where does it go to change to the winged form? How does this change take place? Look on the rushes and reeds along the pond margin, and see if you can find the empty nymph skins from which the adults emerged. Wliere is the opening in them?

ADULT DRAGONFLIES: Questions to answer through direct, personal observation: Catch a dragonfly, place it under a clear glass cup or jar, large enough to cover the insect without injuring it and see how it is fitted for life in the air. Which is the widest part of its body? Note the size of the eyes compared with the remainder of the head. Do they almost meet at the top of the head? How far do they extend down the sides of the head? Why do you think the dragonfly needs such large eyes? Why does a creature with such eyes not need long antenna? Can you see the dragonfly’s antennae? Using a magnifying glass, try to look at the little, swollen triangle between the place where the two eyes join and the forehead; can you see the little, simple eyes? Can you see the mouth-parts?

2. Next to the head, which is the widest and strongest part of the body? Why does the thorax need to be so big and strong? Study the wings. How do the hind wings differ in shape from the front wings? How is the thin membrane of the wings made strong? Are the wings spotted or colored? If so, how? Can you see if the wings are folded along the front edges? Does this give strength to the part of the wing which cuts the air? Take a piece of writing paper and see how easily it bends. Now fold the paper two or three times like a fan and try to bend it. Note how much stiffer it is. Is it this principle which strengthens the dragonfly’s wings? Why do these wings need to be strong? 3.

Is the dragonfly’s abdomen as wide as the front part of the body? What help is it to the insect when flying to have such a stong abdomen?

OUTLINE FOR FIELD NOTES Go to a pond or sluggish stream when the sun is shining, preferably at midday, and note as far as possible the following things: 1. Do you see dragonflics darting over the pond? Describe their flight. They are hunting flies and mosquitoes and other insects on the wing; note how they do it. If the sky becomes cloudy, can you see the dragonflies hunting? In looking over a pond where there are many dragonflies darting about, do the larger species fly higher than the smaller ones? 2. Note the way the dragonflies hold their wings when they are resting. Do they rest with their wings folded together over the abdomen or are they extended out at an angle to the abdomen? Do you know how this difference in attitude of resting determines one difference between the damsel flies and the dragonflies? 5. The damsel flies are those which hold their wings folded above the back when resting. Are these as large and strong- bodied as the dragonflies? Are their bodies more brilliantly colored? How does the shape of the head and eyes differ from those of the dragonflies? How many different-colored damselfles can you find? 4. Do you see some dragonflies clipping down in the water as they fly? Possibly they are laying their eggs. Note if you find any clinging to reeds or other plants with their tails below the face of the water. If so, these are likely inserting their eggs into slits they have made in the stems or leaves just below the water’s surface.

Above adapted from Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study

Posted in Nature Study | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Viet Namese Adoptee Who Found His Family

This is a longish read, but it’s really interesting and captures some of the complexities of international adoption.

Tuy was left with an orphanage as a baby, and according to their records, nobody knew who his parents were. He contracted polio while at that orphanage due to contaminated water. He was transferred later to a better orphanage with better access to medical care, and then was adopted by an American family who had adopted other children internationally as well.   The stories of his life and accomplishments are well worth reading, and there are many surprises and cool twists and turns.  I hope you’ll read it.  I want to talk about just a couple things that just get a mention.

He eventually returned to Viet Nam to visit the orphanages where he had lived.  The orphanage had older children helping to take care of younger children- this is common in families as well as institutions in Asian countries, and probably others as well.   The day he was there, the adult woman who had helped care for him when she was only 7 was also there.  She had just stopped by to visit the nuns while she was in town on other business.  She remembered Tuy- and even though the record book the orphanage had of him said his parents were unknown, she knew his mother.  She was able to go get her and bring her back.  His mother told him that she had put him in the orphanage because she was very sick and couldn’t care for him and had no help.  She also says that later, when she recovered, she returned to the orphanage but the nuns told her the rules were that once you put your child there you couldn’t come and take him back.

So there’s a family disrupted for decades, for life, because a young mother was too sick to care for her baby and had no help.  The American family, of course, had no knowledge of this, nor were they in any way complicit or to blame.  Had they uncovered every stone to find his parentage when he was a child, they would have gotten nowhere themselves (it was illegal for Americans to even visit Viet Nam for many years).

It’s undeniable that the health care, nutrition, and education he received in the US were much better than they would have been in Viet Nam.  But he needed some of that additional health care because he had been in an orphanage to begin with- that’s where he contracted polio.   He’s been able to take the skills, knowledge, and education he got in America and apply them to helping his Viet Namese family, and that’s a good thing.  But international adoptions don’t always end that way.

I have questions.

How did the girl who had been in an orphanage herself, taking care of other orphans at 7, know who Tuy’s family was when the administration and staff of the orphanage said they didn’t know?  How is it that no record exists of his mother coming back and asking for him?  Why didn’t the orphanage at list write down her name?  Some of you have probably thought of the possibility that his mother is telling a story to assuage her own torment and guilt, or not.  We don’t know.  But the fact remains that another orphan knew who she was and where she lived, some 30 years later.  It bothers me.  But then again, the mother herself didn’t have his father’s name right even though she’d lived with him in some form of marriage (not being morality judge here, I just don’t know what the legal circumstances were) for long enough for Tuy to also have an older full sibling.  So I feel like there are probably cultural differences here contributing to the questions I have.

I’d like to blame the nuns at the orphanage for not letting the woman have her son back, but… the reason Tuy was able to find his mother was because one of the orphans from that orphanage still came back to visit the nuns.  They probably aren’t the villains either.

How is it that in her own culture the mother had nobody to help her when she was so sick?  Because she’s a member of a country torn apart by decades of war and poverty, that’s why.  But…

What if instead of taking children out of  the country, the same amount of money and energy had been applied toward building families up within the country, with helping to improve education, with helping to improve nutrition and standard of living from within?  That’s a bit pie in the sky- it wasn’t possible to do that in Viet Nam for many years,  at least not for Americans.  But it has been possible other places, other times, and still, so often our first inclination is to wonder if we can have people’s children.

I am not opposed to all international adoptions.  I know several where enough of the story is known to be clear that given the cultural attitudes at the time and the conditions that existed then and there, the children involved didn’t have options and they would be dead if they hadn’t been adopted.  But there are other children who didn’t hit the lottery with their international adoptions, children who ended up abused, being put in foster care, being abandoned again by their American families.  There are many more poverty orphans created by our blind zeal to respond to the pain of learning about the poverty and hardship other people live in by scooping up their children and supporting orphanages instead of building and supporting organizations that do the less photogenic work of supporting intact families.   There are families disrupted by the too traumatized children who never recover from what they’ve been through through no fault of their own.

It’s just messy, and I want clear and easy answers, preferably one size fits all, and instant fixes.  They don’t exist in this world and they won’t.   Believing they exist probably contributed to the problems with international adoptions.

Conclusions?   Cool story.  Interesting character who has done some impressive things.  Really glad I read it.  I’ll be thinking about it off and on the rest of the day.   Life is messy.  There are no perfect fixes.  What are we going to do about the messy world we live in and the messy, imperfect options available to us here and now?


Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Responses

Review in a Charlotte Mason Education

From Wikipedia: “Spaced repetition is a learning technique that incorporates increasing intervals of time between subsequent review of previously learned material in order to exploit the psychological spacing effect. Alternative names include spaced rehearsalexpanding rehearsalgraduated intervalsrepetition spacingrepetition schedulingspaced retrieval and expanded retrieval.”

This is basically the design behind SCM’s memory verse card technique.  Also from Wikipedia:

“In the Leitner system, correctly answered cards are advanced to the next, less frequent box, while incorrectly answered cards return to the first box for more aggressive review and repetition.”
You can read more about it here.  Many online programs and apps utilize the method and program the spaced repetition or graduated intervals into their system.
While listening to a Pimsleur ‘learn Korean’ program I realized that similar spaced repetition is actually built into Charlotte Mason’s method.  Unfortunately, because we don’t realize these built in review points are there, sometimes people try to pretty up the method and make it more ‘fun’ or ‘entertaining’ and accidentally make it less effective.   It’s not that one or two mistakes can ruin the whole program, but the value of these review points are cumulative so the benefits accrue over time, and when we consistently miss some of them, we are shortchanging our kids and ourselves.
  This is something I’ve thought about from time to time in a desultory fashion, but I missed many of those spaced intervals until this last week when the Pimsleur recording I was listening to really started my thinking down this track in a more comprehensive way.
Here are the recollection intervals I see in the CM method:
Narration is obvious.  Every school reading except poetry is narrated.  Skip a narration and you are skipping the first and most important of the reviews.  So much is happening in this first review, and most of it is below the surface so the observer thinks it’s boring.  But what we cannot see is happening is the brain attempting to scan and retrieve the information it has just read or heard, to look for key details, to select them on the basis of importance or interest, to organize them into a logical sequence, and then, hardest of all, to reproduce them for others to read or hear.   We may only get a single garbled sentence from that, but that sentence is not the whole, there are many little idea fishes swimming in the deep where we cannot see them.  But when we substitute our questions for the narration where the students own mind must ask and answer the questions, we hinder this review process- especially in the younger years. It interferes less with their own thought processes when they are older, but when they are younger they need to first be given the time and space to think, select, and then tell on their own.  You can ask other questions after they have had the chance to narrate as best they can.
Short Reads: Don’t keep reading. The short readings, stopping while the children are still interested is another vitally important link here, and it is, regrettably, one most often missed.  Parents assure themselves and others that their children ‘remember the books just fine’ and they ‘are able to narrate well’ so they don’t see a problem with continuing to read, or letting the child finish in a few days what should have been scheduled over a period of weeks.  How well they narrate or discuss the books is not the point.  We want them to spend time really ruminating, digesting, and thinking deeply about the stories.  When they have to stop reading a book while they are still keenly interested, they can’t stop thinking about it, so the review is a spontaneous reaction to the hunger for more that is burning inside.  They will be reviewing what happened, who was involved, the small, nuanced turns of phrase or details that seem insignificant when lost in the pleasure of devouring too much of the book in too short a time.  They are thinking about, pondering, wondering, and going over the material in their minds again and again.  This is a powerful way to review the material, spontaneous, under the child’s own power and it requires no external implements or questions.  It’s a glorious thing when a child is this deeply invested in his own education and he does not even realize how much work he is doing.Take full advantage of this and don’t trade it in for something else.
Several books are naturally reviewed each week when the children incorporate their stories and learning into their free play.  This is one area where it does help if the children can spend time with others who are enjoying the same kind of education and reading the same books.So for this type of review to happen, we need to be sure the children have free time for imaginary play, and the inclination for it.  That may mean fewer screens and more boredom, boredom is often a necessary motivator for good imaginary play.
       Spontaneous review initiated by the children is not just for imaginary games, either.  I have witnessed some young children engage in some energetic and spontaneous review of the Burgess Bird Book when a bird landed on the birdfeeder outside their grandmother’s window and there was a difference in opinion as to what type of bird it was.  A vigorous intellectual debate followed full of logical arguments and supporting facts to scaffold each small person’s point of view.  This quite serious scientific discussion was between a person of 4 and her 7 year old brother, btw, and it was an astonishingly thorough review.

We also get a bit of review in whenever we read other living books.  Living books are not one dimensional.  They are multifaceted, rich with allusions, metaphors, ideas that carry across to other situations and conversations, with connections!  Because education is the science of relations, there will usually be connections to be made. After the narration is complete, you can ask the child ‘Does this remind you of anything else?” and there is an additional review point as they quickly scan the treasure boxes of their memories, review the material inside their own minds.  Whether they pull something out to share or not, the question itself has relevance and the brain stores it away, reminded to look or similarities and patterns-which is easy since our brains are pattern finders anyway.  One book, one thought, one idea, one connection leads to another, to another, like beads on a string.

Introducing the next reading of the same book: Where were we?  What do you think will happen next? Another review interval comes when we return to the same book and introduce a reading by asking “Where were we?” and the children remind us of what we read about last.
“Keeping”– all those little tools for keeping, the timelines, the commonplace book, and even nature notebooks.   Children review their readings again when they make entries on their timelines, in century books, or on century charts.  They are to choose their own entries, and, again, in our efforts to pretty this up and make it somehow more appealing, we dilute the power of this review by providing lovely, ready made figures we’ve purchased or printed out.  When they choose the people and events themselves, they are reviewing a larger portion of the week’s work as a whole.  When they have to select and sketch the details to include, they are doing a great deal of close review in their own minds, thinking more deeply about the character or event they have chosen and asking themselves the questions about what details would best convey why this person belongs on the timeline, who they were and what they did.
Charlotte Mason says the mind can know nothing except the answers to the questions it puts to itself.  When we supply the ready-made figures, the children are not the ones asking and answering those important questions.
There is additional review whenever they do mapwork, finding places from their reading on maps, marking them on a large wall map, looking for them on a globe- as they search the maps and globes they will be reminded of places they have read about previously.  This is not the strongest of the review opportunities in their days, but it is yet another small linking bead in the chain they are building.
With Shakespeare we also often have the children work through the book by using paper dolls,  peg figures, or other objects to work through the plays.   Like the timeline figures, they will be doing more work and reviewing in their minds if they are the ones doing the work of deciding on the figures, sketching them out (however poorly), selecting the little details to add that most represent these characters.  Sometimes in our homeschool we sketched the characters on the front of an envelope and then on the back we would write out a bit of character description, adding a little more each time some new aspect of that character was revealed.
Copywork and Commonplace Books: Like mapwork, copywork is another lowkey, perhaps not vitally significant opportunity for review, but it is, nevertheless, one more small opportunity for their minds to review.  Miss Mason suggests that the children should select their own copywork. I really don’t see much harm in the parent making the selecting (particularly if  the student is inclined to dawdle or stress over choosing).  It isn’t like the work of narration or the fantastically deep thinking that happens when we stop reading while a child’s interest is still sharp.  But if you want a small additional opportunity for your child to do some extra reviewing in his own mind, midway through each day ask your student to choose something from yesterday’s reading to use for copywork.
The exams, of course, are the ultimate review at the end of the term.  I did not give exams enough attention when I was homeschooling.  They are yet another chance for the students to perform some intensive mindwork and deep review of the material, really internalizing and assimilating it.  This is why often the first few exams feel like failures- the students haven’t used this tool often enough yet for it to provide them with that motivation for deeper attention- often for perfectly good reasons.  But don’t give up too soon.  Keep doing the exams even if you think they aren’t working.
Who is doing the work? The more often your child is doing the work, selecting the details, choosing, and organizing, the more often he is doing the work of chewing on, thinking about, reviewing, and really absorbing the information in a truly meaningful way, moving the ideas from short-term to long term memory, improving his understanding.

Whatever tools we use- charts, timelines, maps, guided scrapbooks, projects, century books, colouring pages, all those pretty free or almost free printables are tools Charlotte Mason would have classified as “Disciplinary Devices.”  They are not necessarily wrong in and of themselves.  They do, however, merit some careful thought before we use them.  Some of them are fine in extreme moderation.  Some of them are always problematic, depending upon how scripted they are, how much of their use is just a template with the project designer asking the questions and choosing which information and ideas the child can write or draw about instead of the child.

Just as our lecturing and explanations of the books should not come between the book and the child, these ‘disciplinary devices’ also “must not come between Children and the Soul of the Book.–… but let us be careful that our disciplinary devices, and our mechanical devices to secure and tabulate the substance of knowledge, do not come between the children and that which is the soul of the book, the living thought it contains.”

Take full advantage of all these wonderful, free opportunities for the children to come mind to mind with the living thoughts and ideas inside their books themselves, and then to revisit those living ideas without external scripts telling them what to think, do, record, and remember.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

  • Amazon: Buy our Kindle Books

  • Search Amazon

    Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

  • Brainy Fridays Recommends:

  • Search: