Crisis schooling end-year plan includes field trips and financial lessons

Cooking In The West By Susan Metcalf
Thursday, May 7, 2020
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As we head into week 7 of crisis home schooling, we have been informed by school officials that we will not be returning to school this spring. We know that finishing out the year is our responsibility as parents or grandparents, and no one is coming to our rescue. My teacher colleagues tell me that approximately one quarter of their students are struggling with getting work completed. I think we need to spin that positively by celebrating the fact that 75% of our students are doing well under extremely difficult conditions, and we can rest easy knowing that teachers will fill in the gaps when they get their students back in the classroom.

Since this is the traditional time of year for field trips, I encourage crisis schoolers to get out and experience things while socially distancing of course. I miss fieldtrips very much, because during May we traditionally host the kindergarten Dino Dig, the seventh grade outdoor cooking and poetry fieldtrip, the high school FCS outdoor cooking fieldtrip, and adult ed Dutch oven classes here at the ranch. With my extra time this year, as those are postponed, I plan to make memories with my grandsons. To that end, we were talking one night at dinner about having our own private Dino Dig for Jasper, and he announced, “Grandma used to play with dinosaurs.” When his mother asked him who told him that, he replied, “Grandpa.” Grandpa denied the allegation, of course, but I am pretty sure I caught him shooting Jasper an evil look for spilling the beans.

Knowing that not all lessons are learned from textbooks, I watched a DVD on raising financially literate children, so I thought we would put some of the principles to practical use. I hired Alex to clean and organize the pantry. The lesson learned from that was Grandma Lesson #1: Do not pay by the hour; pay by the job. I hired Izak to detail my car. The lesson learned from that was Grandma Lesson #2: Get an estimate (on both time and material cost) before you enter into a contract with a teenager. I hired Jasper to scrub the shower grout. Grandma Lesson #3: There is a reason for child labor laws, and one of them is clearly that five year olds should not be given a spray bottle full of grout cleaner and access to a hoselike shower nozzle under any circumstances. I don’t know if the boys learned anything about financial literacy, but Grandma learned she is a terrible business woman.

Technology is the only way we have survived this home schooling crisis. We are now proficient at Zoom, Google Classroom, Seesaw, Epic, and many learning apps. Mrs. Finn, Mr. Proue, Mrs. Stenberg, Mrs. Morgan, and Mrs. Mehus probably should plug their ears for this revelation, but Alexa is my new best friend. Poor Alex and Izak struggle through a long division problem, and then I ask Alexa, “Alexa, what is 1792 divided by 36?” She tells me instantly, so I do not have to admit that I have not done long division in probably 48 years, and I really don’t want to refresh my skills, and I do not have to dig out a calculator or my phone. I love that artificially intelligent device!

We have the Alexa Show, so if you want to know what countries lie along the Mediterranean Sea, you don’t have to look it up in the textbook, she will show you. One thing Alexa is not very good at is story problems. If you ask her if Mary rides her bicycle 3 3/8 miles to the grocery store and then rides 5 2/8 miles to the library, how many miles did Mary ride her bike, Alexa gets all confused and says, “I can give you a list of the grocery stores nearest to your zip code.” Drat, the Big T IGA is not going to fly as an answer to number 6! Sometimes there is just no substitute for regular intelligence.

So hang in there, crisis school warriors – by the time this goes to print, we will only have 10 days left of the Covid-19 school year in Big Timber! I plan to take a field trip every day even if it is just to the barn!

Of course I have more Coronavirus recipes this week. These recipes are easy, and they will enrich your home school curriculum!

Easy Peasant Bread

4 C. flour

2 t. salt

2 t. sugar

1 packet instant yeast (will work with active dry also--it will just take a little longer to rise)

2 C. lukewarm water

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast. Add the water and mix until the water is absorbed and the dough comes together in a sticky ball. Cover the bowl and set aside in a warm spot to rise for 1 to 1 1/ 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in bulk.

Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 425°F. Use butter to generously grease two 1-quart oven-safe bowls or a 3-quart casserole dish (for one large loaf). Use two forks to deflate the dough by releasing it from the side of the bowl and pulling it toward the center. Rotate the bowl as you deflate, turning the mass into a rough ball. To make a single large loaf, pick up the mixing bowl, turn it over, and plop the dough into the larger casserole dish. To make two small loaves, use your forks to separate the dough down the center, dividing it into two equal pieces. Use the forks to lift each half of the dough into the prepared bowls. If the dough is wet and hard to handle, try lightly greasing your hands and transfer each half to a bowl by hand.

Don’t cover the dough. Let it rise on the countertop in a warm spot for 10 to 20 minutes, until the top of the dough just crests the rims of the small bowls, or is almost doubled in the larger casserole dish. Bake the bread for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375°F and bake for 17 to 20 minutes more for smaller loaves or 25 to 30 minutes more for a single large loaf. When golden brown all over, remove from the oven and turn the bread out onto a cooling rack. Store, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.

Rhubarb Pudding Cake

2 C. rhubarb, chopped

1 3/4 cup sugar, divided

3 T. butter, softened

1 t. baking powder

1/4 t. salt

1/2 C. milk

1 t. vanilla extract

1/2 t. almond extract

1 C. sifted flour

1 T. cornstarch

2/3 C. boiling water

Cover the bottom of an 8 or 9 inch square glass baking pan with fruit. Mix 3/4 C. sugar, butter, baking powder, salt, extracts, milk and flour together. Add a little more milk if it is too thick to pour; pour over fruit. Mix remaining sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl; sprinkle over mixture in pan. Pour boiling water over the top. ( I know this sounds strange, but trust me, it works to create a pudding around the rhubarb in the bottom of the pan.) Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

Broccoli/Cauliflower Salad

1 head broccoli chopped

1 head cauliflower, chopped

1 C. mayonnaise

1 C. sour cream

1/4 sugar or to taste

1/2 t. salt

1/2 lbs. bacon, fried and crumbled

1 C. shredded Cheddar cheese

Mix mayonnaise, sour cream, sugar, and salt together for dressing. Combine all other salad ingredients together and stir in dressing.