Guest Post

Guest posts from fellow bloggers

Guest Post: Studying in Michigan

[notice] Today we have a guest post by  Ruth Kraut an educator who blogs at  Ann Arbor School Musings. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan where she is a mom to three children, works in public health, and blogs about education issues in Ann Arbor and in Michigan[/notice]

Ann Arbor Open at Mack,  ( By Dwight Burdette (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Ann Arbor Open at Mack, ( By Dwight Burdette (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

I live in Michigan, which is a northern state in the middle of the United States. We don’t have the ocean, but we do have our great lakes!


Students in the U.S. generally enter elementary school, starting with Kindergarten, at age 5. Elementary school usually goes until grade 5 (kids are typically 10 or 11); then they go to middle school, generally grades 6-8 (11-14); and then high school is grades 9-12, generally up to about age 18.


Class sizes tend to be smaller in elementary school (20-30 students in a class, depending on where you live) and larger in middle school and high school (25-35 students in a class).

In elementary school, students spend most of their time with one teacher who teaches English, Math, Science and Social Studies. Additional classes with “special” teachers might be art, music, gym (physical education), health.


In middle school, teachers tend to specialize in one or two subjects, and the students rotate to different teachers during different class periods. In most school districts, students do not specialize in a particular area (for instance, science, or mechanics) and career decisions are left until after high school.
In the majority of school districts, students don’t start learning a second language until at least middle school and sometimes high school, and a lot of students only take a couple of years of a second language. So very often, U.S. students graduate from high school not speaking any other language.


Education in the United States is much more decentralized than it is in Singapore. Individual school districts, and individual states, have a lot of say in how students will be educated. Depending on where you live, you might end up with more project-based assignments and hands-on learning, or more of a test-based curriculum. Students in elementary school generally are not “tracked” based on how much knowledge they already have.


That means that sometimes the classes have a wide variety of skills in them. A first grade classroom, for instance, might have students who barely know the English alphabet and students who are reading chapter books. That can be challenging for the teacher!

My own children went to a school that was a combined elementary/middle school K-8 “magnet” school. To get in, there was a lottery. For the first child, you just had to put your name in and if it was drawn, your child could go there. After that, there is a “sibling preference” so my younger kids got to go there as well. No tests are taken to get in. This school is a little bit unusual in that most of the classrooms have more than one grade in them.


For instance, right now my youngest son is in a 7th/8th grade classroom. I like this because in life, we don’t just work with people of one age. I also like this because one year he is the younger child and can get help from the older children, and the next year he gets to be the helper. I also like this school because they do a significant amount of “project-based” work, where they learn with a lot of hands-on activities and do projects.



This week is my youngest son’s last week at the school, and I’m rather sad about it. It has been a good place for all of my children to learn!

Johnny Cakes Anyone?

[notice] Today we have a guest post on blog. Let’s invite Carrie from What’s To Eat  to Dominique’s  Desk[/notice]

I am so excited to do a blog post exchange with Dominique! Today I  am sharing a recipe for making “Johnny Cake” cooked over the open hearth, something I do with students and families who visit our 1800’s Mill House at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture, where I work.  I have another recipe I do, applesauce, that you can see HERE if you wish to do.

I hope you enjoy this glimpse back in to cooking from New England’s past.  Thanks!



New England women had a difficult job before the electric/gas stove.  Long before the wood stove,  they cooked over an open fire.  Not only was it difficult, it was dangerous.  Imagine the clothing they wore: the large, layered skirts, swishing around them.  Then think about a roaring blaze, contained only by the hearth that held it.  Getting burned was one of  the most common causes of death for women in the early days.

Before we talk about making Johnny Cake, the recipe I would like to share with you, I thought you might like some thoughts on cooking on the open hearth.

About the fire… if you’ve never cooked on an open flame (camping counts – we talk about that all the time here) you take for granted severalthings: timing and amount of heat.

Timing means several things to me:
how long it takes to GET the fire going and then to have coals to work with and then how LONG it takes to cook something!  With hearth cooking you can find both of those things a challenge.  Let me just say that you will appreciate the ability to walk over and turn your oven on after you’ve experienced this!

When I am cooking for demonstration purposes, I start the fire 45 minutes before my group arrives.  That seems to give me sufficient coals to work with by the time we need them.  If you’ve never tried cooking this way, you might not realize that COALS are what you are looking for – flames, tend to scorch and burn, we need the steady heat of coals to warm the cast iron
cookware and properly cook our food.

This is important with Johnny Cakes as we cook them in a spider pan, over coals. You can see the coals building at the bottom of the photo.


This is a two step process.  Here’s how we do it:

Johnny Cakes

Ingredients for Day #1

3 cups of water

1 tsp salt

1 cup cornmeal

Ingredients for Day #2

Johnny Cake loaf


maple syrup

I do THESE steps the night before:

1. Spray a loaf pan with oil and set aside. (I was preparing this for a group who had some gluten intolerance and since I bake bread in that pan I lined it with aluminum and sprayed that.)

2. Bring your water to a boil.

3. Add salt.

4. Add cornmeal.

5. Stir constantly at this point.  You will watch the mixture go from water and dried cornmeal to a mush and then a semi-solid VERY quickly.  (GREAT for kids to watch!)

6. Once it’s mixed together (this happens pretty quickly) pour into the prepared pan.

7. Let it cool.  Once it’s cool enough to do so, cover with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator.

The next day (it’s good and solid then…much like a roll of Polenta) here’s what you do:

1. Cut the loaf into slices 1/2-3/4″ thick.

2.  Pull out a pile of coals and set your spider pan on top.  Allow it to heat the cast iron.

3.  Once the pan is heated, add a tablespoon of butter – it should sizzle, then add 3-4 slices of Johnny Cake.

4.  Let it cook about 8-10 minutes (keep an eye on it!) and then turn.  It should be golden brown.

5. Repeat for the other side.

6.  When cooked to you liking, remove and eat with maple syrup.

Like the applesauce recipe we did, you can do this on the stove as well.  Method is the same and I found the taste similar.

Finishing the loaf on the stove at home.

Those of you who buy Polenta, if you’ve never tried making your own, YOU SHOULD!  It’s so easy and costs pennies to make!  I can’t wait to try again and see about adding some interesting ingredients…stay tuned, we’ll see how it comes out!

Thanks so much for stopping by today!  Have you made your own before?  How did it come out?  What do you add?  We’d love to hear.

Enjoy your day,