Lessons in Heritage and Cultural Skills

As members of the Sons of Norway lodge, we have access to a variety of cultural skills programs that are easily integrated into our homeschool curriculum. I’ve written about the benefits of the lodge in the past both here and at Curriculum Choice. In July, I shared with you our progress in Norwegian Folk Dance. As we begin a new school year, I share with you two additional heritage and cultural skills programs available to members.

cultural skillsNorwegian Cooking

Over the past few years, I have been working on developing my repertoire of Norwegian cooking skills. I achieved level 1 (favorite recipes) a couple years ago. In June, I submitted my application for levels 2 (baking) and 3 (meat dishes). At each level, applicants are required to prepare 4-5 Norwegian recipes. An elective project is also required and a variety of suggestions are provided.

  • I wrote several Hub pages: LefseBløtekake, & Smørrebrød
  • I prepared dishes for our lodge business meeting (Bløtekake and Vaflerer).
  • I taught my Barnesklubb kids how to make lefse.
  • I planned a traditional Norwegian Easter dinner.

Now that I am familiar with numerous dishes, my kids have expressed interest in earning these pins themselves. In the photographs above, they are making Almond Bars with an old family recipe.

Norwegian Literature

We have also recently began working towards our cultural skills pin in Norwegian Literature together.  Like cooking, it is divided into three levels and a pin is awarded for each. Level 1 is Favorites, level 2 is Fiction, and level 3 is Non-fiction.  Within each level we are required to read a specific number of books by a Norwegian author, and a specific number by a Norwegian-American author, write a report, and select an elective (book club, an article for the lodge newsletter, start a lodge library, etc.).

Presently, we are working on level one and thus far, we have read:

  • Race of the Birkebeiners by Lise Lunge-Larsen
  • Dr. Proctor’s Fart Powder by Jo Nesbø
  • The Klipfish Code by Mary Cassanova
  • Viking Tales by Jennie Hall (available for free!)

As an elective activity, we have started a book club within our Sons of Norway lodge whereby we meet regularly to discuss the books we are reading.  Through book club, I have come to discover other books by Nesbø, though not appropriate for young readers, provide a fascinating look into Norwegian culture.

Cultural heritage activities enrich our understanding of our ancestry and foster friendships.  Do you integrate lessons in heritage and cultural skills in your homeschool? What activities do you and your children enjoy most?

The Virtue of Contentment

A big part of homeschooling – especially Charlotte Mason homeschooling – is cultivating our children’s characters through good habits.  Some may feel that time spent on habit training is not as important as academics. I admit, I am even guilty of overlooking behaviors and attitudes that I have hoped will go away on their own.

“Here is an end to the easy philosophy of, ‘It doesn’t matter,’ ‘Oh, he’ll grow out of it,’ ‘He’ll know better by-and-by,’ ‘He’s so young, what can we expect?’ and so on.”


Yet I have come to realize that cultivating good habits is a valuable time investment.  It takes a lot for me to admit, but over the years, small anecdotes have struck me in the heart and I’ve felt uncomfortable in the presence of others because of something my son has said or done.  He is impatient, demanding, obstinate, and can be disrespectful at times.  He is never satisfied and is always wanting more.

Additionally, he does not respect the property of others and frequently gets into things that do not belong to him without permission – his dad’s tools, craft supplies I’ve set aside for school projects, and his sister’s things – and then doesn’t care for them properly or return them to where it was found.  His behaviors have escalated and ultimately broke through the blinders I had unknowingly put before my eyes this past week.

My husband is very tech savvy and he saves the boxes for all electronics, even a $10 pair of earbuds.  When we upgraded our iMac earlier this year, he repackaged the old one in its original box for resale and again saved all the original packaging for the new one.  He is meticulous and admittedly a little overzealous.

The Fatal Error

While playing with a friend recently, my son inadvertently decided that the box for our new iMac [which we had stored on a high shelf in the garage], would make the perfect target for their sword play.  Without checking with me, the two of them somehow managed to get the box down and proceeded to stab and pierce it repeatedly.  When I came out to check on the noise – my heart literally stopped. The box was destroyed.  Needless to say, Dad was furious.  This was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.  Things need to change.

“The habits of the child produce the character of the man.”

Thus, as I have made plans for the upcoming school year, along with the academics, our focus for 2013-14 is the virtue of Contentment.  The first step to overcoming his selfishness – for me – is to grasp whole-heartedly that he won’t grow out of it or know better on his own.  He won’t overcome his selfish behavior by-and-by unless we teach him better. And we are teaching, either intentionally or unintentionally.  The habits learned from us – his parents – have the greatest impact upon his developing character.

“Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.”


Fortunately, we were able to find a replacement box online (eBay rocks!) and Buddy will need to repay us the purchase price, including shipping.  It comes as a hard lesson – particularly just weeks before our departure for China.  He will have no money of his own to spend on souvenirs and keepsakes.  Undoubtedly, each time his sister makes a purchase, it is going to sting.

It is so true that punishments are often harder on the parents than they are on the child.  Patrick and I will need to stay strong on this one.

So which habits are you planning to focus on this year? What strategies have you had success with to combat selfishness?  Leave a comment and share your ideas.

(All quotes taken from Charlotte Mason Volume 1, page 118)


The Fallacy Detective: Lessons in Logic

What is a fallacy?  The very first sentence of the book defines it as “an error in logic — a place where someone has made a mistake in his thinking.” Sometimes unintentionally, but sometimes these fallacies are used intentionally to mislead others — consumers, the general public, and as you’ll see, even your family.The Fallacy Detective: Lessons in Logic - A Book Review @EvaVarga.net

The ability to recognize fallacies is important and we have thereby been working through the lessons in The Fallacy Detective as a family these past few months.  We typically bring it along with us on road trips and I read aloud the lesson, chuckling at the clever illustrations and anecdotes.  The lessons are presented in such a way that even my 8-year old son understands the material.  Let me share with a funny story relaying our lessns in logic detection.

Thus far, our favorite fallacies are the “Red Herring” and “Special Pleading”.  We have come to discover that a couple of us use these tactics regularly to varying degres of success.  Upon completing the exercises in The Fallacy Detective, we now recognize them as errors in logic and eagerly call one another it, much to their chagrin. I love it when my 8 year old, in the midst of a disagreement, yells out, “Red herring!!”

While driving north to Oregon recently, we departed early and my daughter was too excited to eat breakfast.  She thereby brought along an apple to eat in the car despite the fact that eating in the car is not permitted.  Her father is very adament about this and we’ve had many family related arguments discussions.  About forty minutes into the drive, she begins to eat the apple and of course her father (who is driving) reminds her of the rules and reprimands her gently about her failure to follow through.  She apologizes and carefully wraps the core in a tissue to discard at our first stop.

We continue on our drive and I read aloud the Lesson 6 – Special Pleading.  We work through the exercises easily and continue to the next lesson, Ad Hominem.  About 2 1/2 hours into the drive, we stop for fuel and as we are only about 15 minutes from our destination Dad suggests we go through the drive-thru at Carl’s Jr for lunch.  “We can bring it to the campground and eat there before we unpack. I know we are all hungry and we won’t want to delay eating once we get there.”  We all agree it is a sound idea and thus we order our usual as our bellies begin to growl with anticipation.

No sooner do we pull back onto the road and Dad asks me to hand him his burger.  Say what?!

“We don’t eat in the car!” we exclaim in unison as we all remind him.

“I know but I am very hungry.  I wouldn’t have suggested it otherwise. I know we all want to get there as soon as possible.”

“Well, can we eat ours then?” we asked.

“No!  We don’t eat in the car.  I am just very hungry and I’ll have to unpack when we get there,” he states.

“Special pleading!!” the kids yell out.

“You got mad when I ate my apple, Dad.  You can’t eat a messy burger!!”

Awesome!  I love how the lessons in The Fallacy Detective have come to life for us.  The Bluedorn brothers have put logic into an assessable, easy to teach, easy to learn format that has clear examples and plenty of exercises for review.  It is an excellent book to introduce lessons in logic and critical thinking.

I was not compensated for this review.  I purchased the book myself because it appealed to me and it fit our current curriculum.  The opinion shared here is honest and is solely my own.

Grandma’s Flower Gardening Tips

Is there a better way to spend Mother’s Day than at Grandma’s gardening and exploring her flower beds? We live in a rental and do not have a garden of our own – not yet anyway. To get our gardening fix, we thereby made an excursion to Grandma’s where the flowers rival the botanical gardens. She always puts us to work when we visit and we gladly dig in.


After our visit, we always walk away with the dirt beneath our finger nails, grass stains smudged on our knees, and a passion for and greater understanding of flowers. Today, I’d love to share with you Grandma’s flower gardening tips.


1. Use good soil. You want a rich, dark soil that when grasped in your hand and squeezed, will hold together to some extent. Top soil (for garden and flower beds) or potting soil (for pots).

2. Plant in an area according to the preferences indicated on the tag (in the shade, full sun, or partially sunny).


3. Water consistently. The soil should be moist about an inch down.

4. Use rabbit pellets or steer manure for fertilizer once or twice a year, applying in the fall or early spring.

peonia5. Plant when it is cool (early morning or evening). If it is too warm, the roots will dry too quickly and stress the plant. Any water added will evaporate almost as quickly as it is added.

Submitted to the Outdoor Hour Challenge at the Handbook of Nature Study.


Acorns From Harvest to Food

Sweetie and I took part in a wonderful outdoor seminar and nature walk earlier today.  Led by a local Wintu elder, we learned about the acorn from harvest to food source.  We were invited to take part in grinding the acorns on a stone with some of the same materials the natives would have used.
Once ground, the acorn meat was put into a jar with hot water to soak over night to help leach out the natural tannins.  The following day, the liquid would be drained out but reserved for use as a Poison Oak remedy.  The acorns after two consecutive days of soaking, would eventually be ground to a flour and then used in cooking.
The Wintu elder brought several dishes to share with us that he had prepared:  acorn candy (roughly ground acorns combined with honey and molasses), acorn muffins (acorn flour with Oak ashes substituted for baking soda), and an acorn bread.  To accompany the breads, he also had butter, local honey (which he preached of its natural healing abilities – in lieu of hydrogen peroxide), blackberry jelly, and manzanita syrup.  In addition, he had prepared a White Fir and Honey tea.
Everything was very tasty – though not as rich and smooth as what you would buy in a store.  After the talk, the elder led a short walk to point out to us some of the native plants and to share with us their uses for food and/or medicinal purposes.  I was proud that most of the plants and their uses we already knew.  I know I could certainly survive if circumstances forced me to live without the comforts we’ve come to rely upon.

Submitted to the Handbook of Nature Study Outdoor Hour Challenges November Carnival.

What to Do With Fresh Olives?

There are several olive trees in our neighborhood and they have recently caught our attention as they are full of fruit.  I’d read that olives could be harvested in autumn, between September and November.  We thereby opted to give it some time to allow the fruit to ripen. 
This past week, we realized that the time to pick them was upon us and we ventured out one afternoon. It took us no time at all to fill our large strainer with large, ripe olives.  There were many more on the trees but we didn’t bring down a ladder and only the one bowl.  Also, since we’d never cured olives before, I figured we had enough to give it a go.

As we were walking back home, a neighbor stopped and remarked upon our cache.  He stated that his brother frequently cured olives and that tasted great.  Sadly though, he didn’t have any other information to share.  I wish I had thought to get his telephone number.

We returned home and I looked online for recipes.  To my surprise, most all of the recipes I encountered suggested picking them when they are green.  Hmmm.  So what do I do with those we’ve already picked? Fortunately I found this one, Greek-Style Ripe Olives.  I thereby have the olives curing in a salt-water brine.

I was a little surprised, too, that many recipes require soaking the olives in Lye.  As a Norwegian-American, I am not opposed to eating lye-cured food.  I actually enjoy eating Lutefisk.  However, I am not sure I want to actually prepare anything myself with Lye.  I may leave that to others with more experience – or at least wait until they can show me – I am a hands-on learner after all.

The curing takes about three weeks, so I’ll have to save the results of our home curing experiment for another post.  If any of you have any experience with curing or canning olives, I’d love to hear about it. 🙂