Monday, August 5, 2013

Not Back to School Blog Hop: Curriculum

My oldest will be starting third grade this year. THIRD grade. How did that happen?

Here's what we're using:

Singapore Math 2B
The Handbook of Nature Study
    Fall: trees/scrubs/vines
    Winter: stars/skies
    Spring: amphibians
The Story of Our World, Vol 1
Thornton Burgess books for reading
First Language Lessons (this will be our second attempt and I'm hopeful she'll like it better or I might just have her keep doing Primary Language Lessons, I'm going to see what she thinks)
Handwriting Without Tears Cursive

My son will be starting first grade and he will work with his sister. He is still working on his printing for handwriting and not quite ready for Thornton Burgess. He'll do more easy readers and continue reading his comic books (Fox Trot and Calvin and Hobbs).

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Burn Out

I'm burned out. Tired. Stressed. Ready for nice weather. Here are recent highlights since I'm  currently unable to construct proper paragraphs:

1. We added two truck loads of mulch to the area around our swing set last weekend. Not big deal, you say? Now my children will not be bathing in the mud pit every time is rains, which, by the way, is daily for those who don't know where we live.

2. Tillie is busy. All. Day. Busy. I can't pee without her getting into something. And sleep? Well, she's too buy for that right now. This means my only down time is around 10 pm when she has finally given up because all of her siblings are asleep. Except I'm useless and tired by 10 pm so my downtime is just brushing my teeth without chasing someone.

3. Oren has an atypical mole on his head. It doesn't look like melanoma, but I don't know. He has an appointment to see a dermatologist in a couple of weeks. I'm trying not to be scared or turn this into anything, but it does give me a bit of anxiety. He was under a lot of lights for high bilirubin levels when he was a week old and I worry this is somehow related. If anyone reading this feels moved to say a little prayer, I would appreciate that.

4. I would like some sunshine. The sun came out for a bit today and it was lovely. I need to see the sun for a few days. The raining and cloudiness does nothing to motivate me. I'm behind, as usual, on house work. I've created all kinds of cleaning schedules for myself and apparently delight in rebelling against them. Or maybe I can't keep up because a certain 15 mo old has learned how to find the staircase. Either way, I need sun!

5. Church. I want to go to church. I need to go to church. I still have not found a church that speaks to me. Does that sound silly? I don't care for the Catholic church close to my house. I want a Catholic church with a smaller sized congregation. The big churches in the city closest to me are overwhelming.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bug Hunt

We went on a quick bug hunt this afternoon. I was planning for it to take a bit longer, but the car place called and we had to go pick up the van. We've had a few bumblebees in the front yard. The kids have named them Pollen, Honey, and well, I don't remember. We learned that bumblebees do produce honey, but only a teeny amount compared to honey bees. Maeve found a dead honey bee in the window sill today and we all thought it was neat to see the difference between a honey bee and bumblebee.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Bird Feeder

This is Oren's bird feeder. I would like to tell you that we worked on it together and he was super excited, but he had nothing to do with it. Nothing. Nada.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Trashy McTrashpants

I will be the first to admit that our yard is not immaculate. We are not immaculate yard kind of people. We do, however, mostly take care of our yard and the outside of our house. We apparently need to try harder because we received this anonymous letter in the mail yesterday:

"I am writing to encourage you to please tend to your yard. This little place has always been a neat member of the neighborhood. It is out of courtesy and respect to and for your neighbors that you should keep your place up. As it is now, it looks like a dump site for toys, wood, trash, etc.

You are young and able bodied so get out there, clean up your yard and be an asset to the neighborhood.

Have your children help you and for goodness sake take some pride in your home.

A frequent passerby."

Lovely, isn't it? Had this letter been dated two weeks earlier, I would have wholeheartedly agreed. There was a bunch of trash in the back yard. We cleaned all of it up and have been outside doing yard work on every nice day, which have been few and far between. I guess the passerby failed to notice. 

I don't appreciate cowards. I don't appreciate a lecture from an anonymous letter. I would be happy to keep stuff more picked up had I been confronted by one of my neighbors. We've been here 10 years and I like my neighbors.

Also, how do they know that I don't take pride in my home? As of the date on this letter, the only things in my front yard were bikes and other moving kid toys. They are not trashy toys. I have kids. Kids have toys. This is their home. We are outside whenever it's nice and enjoy being in the front yard.

I do take pride in my home. That is why we've renovated the damn thing three times. This house was a smoking, cat collectors paradise when we moved in. We've gutted everything in at and have added on.

The top of our driveway IS a dump site for wood. We burn wood for heat. My husband has not chopped any of it yet this year because it's been cold and raining. The wood pile is always going to be there and whomever wrote this letter will just need to avert their eyes when they walk past.

This whole thing makes me mad. The weather has been crappy and there is very little we are going to do outside in the rain. I'm hoping this person saw the kids and I outside planting flowers today like we do every year when it starts getting warm. I have a feeling the letter writer is just pissed because there's kid stuff in our yard and there are no other kids on our street. This is the first year I've put a climber/slide and the kid swing in the front yard and find it ironic that this is the first year I've failed to take pride in my home.

Did the grumps notice all of my new tulips coming up this year? Did they notice that the siding was fixed last fall? Did they notice the new mailbox?

Saturday, April 20, 2013


We spotted this huge, dead turtle in the pond by our house so, naturally, we shoved it into a bucket and lugged it home. And by "we" I mean my friend. My job was to watch all of our kids while she ran to get the bucket and a pair of gloves.

A hunting friend came over one morning to gut the dead turtle. The turtle's head is on a stick by our backyard and the shell is covered in salt and drying out in an unused dog house.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wrapping up Second Grade and Kindergarten

We are starting to finish some of our books. The kids finished their math book today (Singapore 1B) and I'm happy about it. We gave each other several high fives to celebrate. I'll give them a couple of weeks off (maybe) and then start Singapore 2A because I'm fun like that. The plan is to continue school daily until it starts warming up a bit in the mornings. As soon as the weather is nice all day, we'll be done with lessons until the super hot, humid days appear.

Maeve finished Handwriting Without Tears and has started cursive. Finn desperately wants to learn cursive too, but he's not ready. He has sped through his handwriting book and his handwriting still stinks. I do appreciate his love for workbooks, but I'm going to have to buy him another handwriting book.

Both kids are reading from McGuffey's readers and are doing great. Maeve is an excellent reader, but not at all confident. Maeve has started Primary Language Lessons and hates it. We'll keep at it. I see us doing a lot of reading/writing outside in the near future.

My kids are very nature focused and the last week they've finally been able to play outside. We found a huge, dead snapping turtle and are keeping it for observation. Daddy will clean it out at some point, but I imagine the kids will get a kick out of watching the turtle decompose. Yum. We've been busy planting flower seeds, re-potting tomatoes and peppers, and prepping the garden. The kids have spotted a dead squirrel, have noted the signs of spring, have been playing with the chicks, hunted for green grass and worms, and have built squirrel houses out of landscaping bricks.

Oren surprised me a couple of weeks ago by counting to eight. He's finally grasping numbers. He still has no idea or interest in letters, but counting is a good start.

Overall, I'm happy with the progress made since August. I took a less stress approach to school this year and did only the required stuff. Well, mostly. We've done bits and pieces of history, but nothing consistent. Most of science has been everyday stuff. We're like Charlotte Mason unschoolers. Is there such a thing? Learning is a constant process. There is no concrete start and finish for us anymore. I know the kids are learning a lot even on the days we don't do lessons. If they are playing a game and working together, I'm happy. My goal is not to raise the smartest kids on the block, but to raise well rounded kids who appreciate life, who love nature, and who can think for themselves. I started this homeschooling journey with super detailed plans and lists and a binder and that's just not how we work. We're more of a learn as you go and do kind of family. I used to stress about doing school at X time everyday and getting everything done Mon, Tues, Wed, or Thurs. This year, we start school whenever we're done with breakfast and do school whenever it works, which has been several Fridays and Saturdays lately.  I see great value in the outdoors and letting the kids explore their interests. I'm starting to ramble so I'll wrap up, but I've learned a lot this year and homeschooling has become more than just school at home, but our lifestyle. It's kind of neat.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Never a Dull Moment

Raising four kids keeps me busy. Here's a random and not-so-thought-out update of our lives:

1. I should never have to say, "Don't put that dead frog in the fridge."

2. We were sitting around the table talking about Jesus rising from the dead. Oren farted and Finn looked at him and with a straight face said, "Oren, did your fart rise from the dead?"

3. For the first time in the 10 years that we've lived here, I am able to consistently keep the kitchen, living room, hallway, and downstairs bathroom clean.

4. My children would rather sleep on the hard floor in my room than in their cozy beds. On the same note, Finn and Maeve sleep together every night. I'm happy that they enjoy each others company.

5. Tillie and Maeve adore each other. Maeve is always picking her up or showing her things. I didn't expect Maeve to care too much about Tillie, but she loves her. I love having some help so I can do fun things like bring in firewood.

6. Speaking of firewood, I almost started my house on fire this winter. I had started a fire like I always do in our wood burning stove. The fire went crazy and the temperature kept climbing. I shut the flu and the fire was still going crazy. As it turned out, when I had emptied the ash pan, I had not shut the door tight so the fire was getting air from beneath. I was *this close* to calling the fire department. That was fun.

7. I have no idea why people call it the "terrible twos". Two years olds are not terrible. Three year olds are terrible. Challenging. Complicated. Emotional. Tired. Cranky. Passionate? Yes, passionate. Passionate about being terrible.

8. My baby is close to walking. This is the time in my child's life when I start thinking about having another baby. I'm on the fence. On the one hand, I want to start doing things without a child attached to me. On the other hand, that has been my life for eight years and I don't know if I'm ready to say good bye to having a baby in my arms. I love my babies. I love my big kids too, by the way. I like even numbers so four is a great place to stop. If we had a fifth, I might want a sixth. Six kids is a lot of kids. It's a slippery slope. I would gladly have a couple more if I could snap my fingers and have my baby appear without having to be pregnant or give birth. Mathew is not open to adoption, but I do love Asian babies. My baby brother is from Asia and he was absolutely adorable.

9. I'm going to start taking the kids to the Catholic church by our house. I miss it and they can learn to love it.

10. We were talking about Jesus dying on the cross and I told the kids about the cross necklace that I own. I got it out, put it on, and Oren said that it was beautiful. He loves yellow and told me that gold is like yellow only sparkly. I stopped wearing my cross because I prefer silver jewelry, but since Oren loves it, I will keep wearing it.

Monday, March 4, 2013


My kids are comfortable figuring out simple multiplication so we've moved on to division. I thought it would take awhile for them to understand, but they got it!! The lesson took all of ten minutes and they were telling me the answers before I completed the word problems. My kids are amazing!

In other homeschooling news, we are talking about plants and made terrariums. Maeve's seeds are growing and she is happy. I found a bag of potatoes that had sprouted so we're observing them to see what happens when the tubers are exposed to the sun. It's interesting and neat to see the changes. The kids helped me plant all of our tomato seeds and we've already put many of the seedlings in bigger containers. I have a few other hands on plant things to do and then I'm hoping the snow melts and we can get outside and observe plants.


The remodeling is finally finished and most things have found a permanent place. It feels good. This last renovation has been a long time coming and our very old house has a layout that makes sense and functions. My kitchen and dining room are in the same part of the house and the bathroom is no longer off of the kitchen. I also have a huge pantry that can accommodate all of the yummy things I will preserve this growing season.

I Like My Kids

It was brought to my attention recently that someone was concerned because "don't I know how much easier I would have it if I sent the kids to school?"

It is intentional that my kids are usually with me. I have received so much crap over the years for homeschooling and choosing to be with my kids. I don't like other people to drive my kids around and we rarely have anyone babysit. This is not because I can't leave my kids. This is not because my kids can't leave me. It is because I put a great deal of value on this little family my husband and I have created. My kids are not completely dependent on me nor are they attached in some kind of unhealthy way. If fact, the opposite is true. My kids are independent and well adjusted. Can you believe it? It's like I'm teaching them something about being human while they are with me all day. Fascinating, isn't it?

Monday, February 4, 2013

The rest of this school year

We have our groove back, in spite of our house still being under construction.

Maeve will finish her current handwriting book
Both kids will complete Singapore 1B
We'll finish reading Little House on the Prairie
The kids will start studying seeds and plants and will help me plan the garden. We'll cover companion planting, soil/compost, and build a worm farm. We will also be spending a great deal of time outside as soon as the weather permits.
The kids will continue reading/working through their McGuffey's Readers.

There is no formal stop date and we will continue school throughout the summer because my kids thrive on routine. Summer school will be nature based and more than likely include fun chapter books, Khan Academy, and math drill worksheets.

Curriculum for 1st and 3rd grades

I'm reading Charlotte Mason's books right now and like them. She explains how to do dictation and narration and talks a lot about the importance of being outdoors. I strongly agree with most of what she has written and it's nice to put a name to what I've been doing, or at least trying to do. It also gives me some direction, which I greatly appreciate. I'm done thinking about curriculum and can move on to planning my garden.

American History Stories, Vol 1-3
American Tall Tales

I'm ordering quite a few guides like this (as an aside, I was super excited because I found two of these while reorganizing all of our books):

We will focus on nature study as long as the weather is above 50 degrees. When the weather is crappy, we will do experiments and go through Sonlight C, which we are currently using. I already have lots of science stuff so I think I'll fly by the seat of my pants.

Primary Language Lessons for Maeve
McGuffey's Readers for Maeve and Finn
Handwriting Without Tears Cursive
Handwriting Without Tears My Printing Book
Handwriting Without Tears My First School Book


Math: Singapore 2A

Art: Adventures in Art

Monday, January 28, 2013

Orange Cranberry Muffins

These are tasty. As always, I did not follow the original recipe. I also always double muffin recipes because my kids are crazy about muffins. This makes about 24.

1 cup orange juice (the kids juiced tangerines)
2 eggs
1 cup coconut oil, mine was solid
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder (It just occurred to me that I didn't double either the baking powder or the baking soda. I loved the consistency of the muffins and didn't find them dense.)
1 teaspoon baking soda

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs. Add flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Add juice. The batter was a little on the thick side so I added a bit of water. I would have added milk, but we were out. Bake at 400 for 20 min.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Photo: She is such a good helper.
This is why I keep having kids.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Fall 2013 Curriculum, Revised!

I like the Beautiful Feet books, but I don't want to shell out $200 so I'm changing my mind. I might change my mind several more times because I am exciting like that.

Confessions of a Homeschooler has a US geography/history curriculum for $18 that I think the kids will enjoy. They'll study two states every week and there are lots of activities and visuals. There also seem to be several more in depth learning opportunities and the price is right.

I think I'm happy with everything else I've chosen for this fall.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dining Room Remodel

This is the current state of my soon to be dining room. The section on the left was the main floor bathroom. I'm very excited to finally have a dining room off the kitchen and a more traditional layout. Our house was built in 1856 and the people who lived in this house before us were idiots when it came to construction. The room in this photo is part of the original house. We found the frame for an old door behind the bathroom wall and there is a hidden window in the wall behind the cupboards that you can barely see in on the right side of the picture. I am fortunate to have a super talented husband, father-in-law, and father-in-law's cousin to do all of the construction work. They are a great team and high five at the end of the day which I think it cute. I mean manly. Their high fiving is very manly. And tough.

I am anxious to organize and redecorate my space. I think I'm going to paint my hutch, buffet, and dining chairs black. I'm also going to paint all of the interior doors black because I have decided that I'm tired of seeing dirty doors and marker marks. I have no idea when or how quickly I will get everything painted, but my goal is as soon as possible. If you know me, that statement is funny because it took me years to finish painting my office and even then I never really finished it. Maybe I'll have a house painting party. It'll be like a house warming party except after admiring our new space, everyone will be handed a paint brush or can of spray paint. I can bribe people with good food, right?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Fall 2013 Curriculum

I think this is what I'm ordering:

Maeve (3rd did that happen?!)
-Beautiful Feet Books history
-Primary Language Lessons
-Sonlight C science
-Singapore 2A 
-Handwriting Without Tears cursive
-Latin (I bought the Latin a couple of years ago, but still haven't taken it out. I think she will be more interested now that she can read. I want her to learn this because she's so interested in frogs/science and this will be helpful to her one day.)

Finn (1st grade)
-history with sister
-math with sister
-McGuffey's readers
-Explode the Code
-Latin with sister (if interested)
-science with sister

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


We took off the month of December to focus on being together and making gifts. I've been trying to start school for the past two weeks, but our house is under construction. We'll be super productive for a couple of days and then the kids' work areas will fill up with tools or the house will be so loud or dusty that the kids have trouble focusing. It certainly doesn't help that Daddy has been home on vacation for two weeks. It's been great having him home, but I'm ready to get back into our routine. I'm ready to have walls in my kitchen again too, but that's another post.

We should be ready to go by Monday at the latest. Here's our new daily schedule (As a side note, I love making schedules and have a schedule for everything) :

lunch free time/nature study

Nothing is a specific time and this is basically just the flow of our days. Maeve likes to see everything written so she knows what to expect. Our school breakdown is what I have tweaked. Here it is:

Family work
-Bible (we just finished memorizing the Lord's Prayer and will move on to the Ten Commandments)
-history (Mondays): I plan to read The Little House on the Prairie and we will cover information about the 13 colonies, pioneers, and Daniel Boone. We're working our way through the entire Little House series and I'm hoping we can take a trip to Laura's childhood home when we're finished.
-science (Tuesdays): Sonlight C, we're studying birds
*I might decide to do science and history everyday, but I want to focus more on math and writing since that's where Maeve needs the most work. She's improved a ton, but is not confident in either subject.
-art (Wednesdays): I'm going to pick an artist.
-music (Fridays): I'm going to pick a composer.
*Art and music aren't going to take up much of our focus, but I do want to introduce the kids to more since there's some really great classical stuff.

Individual work (daily)
-McDuffy's readers
-quiet reading

I've started looking at stuff for next year and am considering My Father's World. I want to continue to use living books for history and might end up loosely following Sonlight. I would like something that is already planned for me, but nothing I've found so far has made me too excited and there's no way I'm paying $600 for something.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hello New Year!

Is it really 2013? I don't do resolutions, but here's my list of goals:

1. Expand the garden. I'm talking huge. I want to put up a whole lot of food for my family.

2. Paint all of the interior doors black. I have my husband's permission, but it's contingent upon actually finishing the painting. I have a problem with follow through when it comes to paint projects. It took me over a year to paint my sons' room and even then it was my mom who finished it.

3. Organize the house! My husband is building me a humongous pantry that will make most housewives swoon. I am looking forward to have extra storage and can't wait to see how it changes our living space.

4. Learn about beekeeping.

5. Get rabbits again. I think I want to do this, but I want to try to put them in a movable type of chicken tractor. We'll see about this one. I hated having rabbits, but I think I mostly hated our rabbit set up since it wasn't very user friendly.