Archive for the ‘menu planning’ Category

6
Sep

10 days down, 170 to go!

   Posted by: liz

we have just finished up the first two weeks of school here. it’s been absolutely the best first two weeks of school, ever.

perhaps it’s because i was focused a lot on the all-day 8th/9th grade class that i’m tutoring and got those first two classes down before sending my own kids to the same all-day co-op (but for their levels) this coming week.

perhaps it’s because we started every school day at the kitchen table together, and then broke out into individual subjects? i think starting at the table together makes the day feel like it has a beginning.  when you have a beginning, you feel as though you have an end to strive for.

or perhaps it was because summer finally kicked in these past 14 days, and we have spent more time in the pool these past two weeks than we have all summer (or so it seemed!). it was lovely to head outside in the hot sun after our studies were through in the afternoon and lazily bob around in the pool, or get a lot of exercise swimming and jumping, and wait for dinner.

perhaps it was because i’m back to planning our evening meals, and we’ve been able to eat well before rushing off to soccer practice and auditions (which both started this week). i always feel so much better when i’m feeding my family good stuff instead of relying on mcdonald’s to fill them up after soccer practice, or before a rehearsal. planning it out makes it so much easier.  even though our eating of dinners has become a bit more complicated since my celiac diagnosis.

and on that note…perhaps its because i’ve given up all grains and i’m finally feeling as though i’m not walking around with rocks in my stomach.  and because cookbooks like danielle walker’s Against All Grain and Meals Made Simple have really helped me be able to manage our meals so i’m not cooking two different dinners for all of us. and…grain-free sandwich bread! and an amazing chocolate protein-packed shake for my busy wednesday’s? and grain-free pizza crust!!!!

~~~~

our family curriculum is fully entrenched in Classical Conversations.  Even though I’m tutoring the 8th/9th grade level class on wednesdays, our three boys are able to partake in their own classes on wednesdays, when we meet together.  they start this week, and then i know our other school days together will be busier, but i’ve planned this fall so that we’re not rushing off to afternoon lessons or practices every day.  we have one day of gym class but the rest of the days are truly home.

in the spirit of education, here is a fun link with even more fun photos.  i’m alarmed that parents had to send their children on 4 mile-long walks to school (and home!) each day, but that explains the shorter class day, perhaps. in some ways, we do the one-room school house here and our co-op is modeled after the one-room school house.

here is another post that a friend of mine wrote comparing their experience to schooling in australia.  i find it fascinating how active the australians are in their school day compared to the american school system. and apparently the activity is a year-long thing.

IMG_3574so with that, we bid adieu to another wonderful summer and look forward to the lovely fall weather approaching.  i’m hoping fall stays around for a while this year and keeps winter at bay.  an early spring and hotter summer next year would be awfully good as well.

5
Oct

thirty one days/ day 5 ~ the kitchen table

   Posted by: liz

without thinking about it much, i wipe down, clean, set up and clear off the kitchen table several times a day. our family meal table (aka, the kitchen table) gets quite the workout on a daily basis.  i’d even go so far as to say that it is used more than anything else in our home (and with three young boys, our washing machine, dishwasher, and bathrooms get quite an amount of use, if you know what i mean!).

recently, we got a new kitchen table. it’s larger, and has two extra chairs!  believe it or not, our family of five was crowding around a small circular table with four chairs since we moved into this house. we were outgrowing it, and tearing up the cushioned seats rather quickly. regardless of its small size, we spent our days and evenings around it.

we eat at our table, it’s part of our counter top (especially when the boys are involved in cooking or baking with me), i knead bread on it, we have school at this table, we do art on it, i make lists, and plan meals on it. and every night, we gather around it together for our family meal. it is certainly the one place where you’ll find us every day.

i read once that the place where your family gathers most in your home tells a lot about your family. think about where you would find yourselves most on any given day (especially those of us that are raising young children). when i read that, i immediately knew it was in our kitchen, at the table –   a place where one would go to be nourished. so i began to take care of it more:

~ if it was stacked with books and magazines and mail at one point in the day, i’d clear it off so that we could sit down to eat our meals.
~ recently, on our busiest day of the week (tuesdays), i’d light candles, since we don’t get to eat our dinner until 7:30, due to classes at the Y and soccer practice. it’s dark, we’re all rushing in from rowan’s soccer practice hungry and thirsty. it’s a welcome sight to see dinner already made (i’m learning some crock pot recipes for days like this one!), and the low glow of the candles to usher us through the meal, into bedtime.
~along the same lines, i’m very protective of our meal times. i make it my full-time job to put good food on our plates, and we all sit down, every night together for dinner. no matter what our afternoon or evening looks like.

there are evenings when dinner isn’t so…graceful. i’d love your ideas on how you focus attention on good conversation. if kenny’s been in the office, he usually asks the boys how their days were. sometimes we ask what their favorite thing about the day was.  i’ve seen families pass around a “question of the night” box which is full of conversation starters. i think that’s a great way to get your family talking, and keep them talking.  we’re at the point in our boys’ lives where we’re constantly reminding them of table manners: “elbow off the table! don’t talk with your mouthful! too much food on your fork!” sometimes it seems like dinner is one long reprimand.

i’d love your ideas on how to keep dinner time a time of nourishment and enjoyment!

in the meantime…go to your family gathering place, and think of ways to continue to protect it as a place of nourishment of the mind, soul, and body for your family!

i hope to recap each or at least every other week of school this year so i have a better record of things we’ve done. pictures at the end of the post!  want to read more weekly wrap-ups of other homeschooling families?  check out Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers every Friday!

  • piano lessons are in full force with the older two boys. rowan is taking to it in a natural and methodical way (reading the music, knowing the note names, site-reading very well). sawyer enjoys it just as much, but insists on his own method of playing (looking at his fingers, and not the notes on the music) which is exactly how kenny played as he was learning and he’s a fantastic piano player.  so…i’m pleased with both of their playing.
  • our last co-op class of the season was this week. we are now planning the big thanksgiving party in a week and a half!  my class made hornbooks that didn’t look nearly as lovely as they probably were “back in the colonial day” since we didn’t have the gorgeous melted horns and shellacked wood and nails to work with. :) but it was a fun experiment and the kids in my class are so fun to work with. i’l miss working with them!
  • election day was this week. i’m merely stating that as a blog is journal-like, and if i need to go back and remember when it was we voted, it was week 10 of the 2010-2011 school year. and a funny fact: this year was the first year since 1996 where the candidates i voted for WON! i guess my voting curse has ended.
  • the brilliant schooling moment of the week: making polymer! it was seriously the easiest, no-mess experiment we’ve done. and the fun didn’t stop with the making of it. the boys have been playing with their “slime” most of the afternoon. just make sure you don’t let your boys put it in their hair (when it’s still setting up):

and yes, we had to cut it out!

~~~~~

Monday: Roasted Chicken, parmesan cous cous, and roasted broccoli

Tuesday: Chicken Gumbo (with leftover chicken) and sandwiches

Wednesday: Molasses brined pork chops with  roasted green beans and browned butter popovers.

Thursday: Pork Stir Fry with leftover pork (Kenny made this!)

Friday: We’re having dinner at my parents!

22
Oct

school week 8, recap

   Posted by: liz

i hope to recap each or at least every other week of school this year so i have a better record of things we’ve done. pictures at the end of the post!  want to read more weekly wrap-ups of other homeschooling families?  check out See Jamie Blog today!

two full months under our belts already!  we’ve even “done school” on a few weekend days, so we’re way ahead of schedule already! this year is definitely flying.

as i sit to type up the weeks events i can’t help but be extremely grateful and thankful for our family life.  kenny and i celebrated our 9th anniversary this week by going out to dinner at an elegant restaurant smack dab in the middle of farm country. the next morning, kenny got up and left for work while it was still dark and i sat in the dark of our house waiting for the boys to stir…we had a great day doing what we always do: piano practice (that seems to go on all day long…the two older boys fight over their piano time all day long), math practice, reading time, read-aloud time, cutting/pasting/gluing, questions and answers, playing outside, eating together.  i smile most of the day because this is a place i never planned to be – i did have other plans for raising a family, but God, having such a great sense of humor, changed those plans to something far better than i could have dreamed up.

i’m not saying that what we do as a family is easy. it’s just that it’s SO. GOOD. and i’m so thankful.

~          ~          ~

our second co-op class at the library was this week. my class made corn husk dolls and i think they are the cutest things. sure, they have no faces and are a bit primitive, but they make a great fall table centerpiece. i have one more class before our co-op’s thanksgiving day party. i would love to hear from any of you who have memories of your own childhood classroom thanksgiving parties, or have participated in recent ones with children or grandchildren. we’re not looking for totally authentic…just a fun thanksgiving party for the students to remember learning about colonial days, and the first thanksgiving. any suggestions?

this week of co-op class, a spontaneous date at the park on a sunny afternoon with another family, great learning material and seeing a progression from dreading-reading-time to enjoying-reading-time in one of my boys, was the mark of this week’s fun.

~          ~          ~

my menu planning was completely changed up a bit this week. i will list what i had planned, and what i actually made, based on how i felt that day. i recently discovered the 365 days of crockpot cooking blog and wanted to try a few of her recipes, but i’m not a seasonsed crockpot cook. in fact, i’m not a fan of my crockpot, so i was so out of crockpot-cooking-practice that i forgot you need to assemble your dinner in the crockpot HOURS before dinner, and not at the typical dinner-prep time of 4:30. so, with that in mind, here was our meal plan for the week:

Monday: The plan was to have spaghetti and meat sauce with salad. But we all went shopping at 4:00 pm and end up feeding the boys (gasp!) McDonald’s at 6:00 pm since we were all still out. I forgot to eat dinner that night as I was unpacking groceries and tired by the time we returned. Please note: I never forget to eat dinner. I love eating. This is was not normal.

Tuesday: Our anniversary dinner!  I made the kids their favorite spaghetti (“Daddy’s Famous Spaghetti” which is really Kenny’s version of alfredo sauce over pasta) and they had Mama’s Famous Applesauce for dessert. I had a lovely Roasted Red Pepper Soup, Hazelnut Chicken with butternut sqaash bread pudding with a Pinot Noir. Kenny had Snapper Soup (yes, that’s turtle), and Sausage and Mushroom Pasta with a Scotch. We were too full for dessert but got some any way and shared it with the boys the next day.

Wednesday: Chicken Parmesan in the Crockpot. I actually remembered to start this early in the day (whew!) because I added frozen chicken to the crockpot. If I had to defrost the chicken and then add it to the crockpot, I would have made this on the stovetop instead. It was easy and delicious and the chicken so, so tender! We had it with cucumber slices and homemade breadsticks.

Thursday: (We were meant to have Mollasses Brined porkchops with pumpkin biscuits. Didn’t get to the brining in time!)  Baked Cavatelli with ground turkey sauce, salad. I made this recipe up, so I have no link to share.

Friday: Tonight’s dinner I’m very excited about: Mulligatawny! I might get some bread started this morning if I’m feeling adventurous. Or we’ll have it with toast and salad. We were meant to have it on Wednesday, but the Chicken Parmesan was a faster crockpot recipe than the soup (4-6 hours on high versus a slow 8-10 hours).

Saturday: Leftovers!

15
Oct

school week 7, recap

   Posted by: liz

the leaves are so beautiful right now – we are definitely in peak season in western pennsylvania! the animals appreciate the cooler temperatures – what with all that wool on their backs and flies in their face all summer!

we took advantage of the sun yesterday and planted wheat!  the students who went on the field trip on tuesday were able to take home the wheat berries that we threshed from harvested stalks and after we were done with math, spelling, and history, we planted ours!

i almost forgot about planting it, but as the boys were journaling about the field trip tuesday night, adam and rowan both drew pictures of the weeding that they did on the field trip as being one of their favorite parts!  i made a mental note, so they weeded a small patch of our vegetable garden and we planted our berries for harvesting next year!

i have no idea if they’ll “take” but it was a fun “addendum” to to the field trip and now we have something to take care of throughout the fall!

history: we finally finished our section on christopher columbus in history and are now moving into jamestown focusing on pocohontas, john smith, and jon rolfe. after the jamestown colony study, we move into pilgrims at plymouth – my favorite part of early american history! it’s coinciding nicely with our co-op classes and field trips so far this year.

i love the literature approach to our history curriculum but i didn’t get the curriculum’s timeline because i wanted the boys to make their own. instead of looking at a picture on the wall, they color their own pictures of who we’ve studied, and add it to a generic timeline that i’ve hung in their playroom (our back porch). i think the process of doing it themselves is more interesting to them.

history class is my favorite class to teach!

bible class: we’ve been reading the joseph in egypt stories in our bible lessons this week. i can’t seem to read these stories without humming the andrew lloyd webber tunes. in fact, i can’t seem to call these stories anything BUT  “joseph and the amazing technicolour dreamcoat” so i decided to introduce the boys to the musical via youtube. there is a great british school assembly version of it online that features joan collins and donny osmond. kenny found his cd of the show, and it’s all we’ve been listening to this week. adam walks around singing, “JACOB! jacob and sons….JACOB! jacob and sons….”   perhaps it’s cheating, but it’s made the bits in the stories more concrete in their memories. i love how musicals can do that. i have to admit the whole potiphar’s-wife-seducing-joseph has been a hard one to explain to the kids.  i’m finding that there is a lot in these early bible stories that’s hard for me to explain to them this young. i’m not sure what i’m going to do when it comes to david and bathsheba!

if there are any purists out there reading this, be assured that i read the stories to them twice through before introducing the musical.

this week’s meals…

Monday: chicken pot pie with cornbread (leftover chicken from cider-brined chicken from Sunday’s dinner)

Tuesday: kielbasa with pasta

Wednesday: pork chops, homemade saurkraut (homemade by our local farm stand), leftover butternut squash soup (from sunday’s dinner).

Thursday: pakistani kima with sweet potatoes and brown rice. (i substituted green beans for the peas, and sweet potatoes for the white potatoes, and added chick peas and beef broth as we had not tomatoes. it was a great version of this staple recipe we make a lot int he colder months!)

Friday: pizza night!  our sunday school is hosting a skating party this night – the boys can’t wait! we took them skating last week and they loved every minute of it!

i’m making these cookies today as i can’t seem to get enough pumpkin yet! :) and while we’re at joy’s blog, wouldn’t love to make these?

8
Oct

school week 6, recap

   Posted by: liz

i know this blog has turned into a homeschooling blog. it morphed into it naturally because it’s pretty much what i think and breathe on a daily basis. if it’s not our family lessons i’m planning, i’m thinking about our homeschooling group’s field trips and co-op classes.

our homeschool group started a teaching cooperative this week that will meet every other week until mid December. this is the first time we’re doing something like this outside of just field trips. tuesday morning was our first gathering and i was exhausted by the afternoon!

we are focusing this semester on the colonial times of america. i am teaching the younger kids and there is an older kids class being taught at the same time by my friend jen which is a “reader’s theatre” event. we’ll close the semester with a big “as authentic as possible thanksgiving dinner,” joining the classes together and watching the older kids present their theatre piece. in my class this week, the students and i made butter as we discussed that colonial families had to make and grow and raise their food, very unlike today’s families. we then ate the butter on crackers – the kids’ favorite part of the class!

(i have very fond memories of doing a “thanksgiving dinner” in my kindergarten class and can even visualize pictures that someone took of the dinner. i think there were marshmallows and peanuts and raisins made into “turkeys” with toothpicks and dixie cups of apple cider. i even think i remember my mom was teacher’s aid that day.)

i was reminded by a homeschooling mom of teenagers this week to enjoy this time. she shared with me that she misses the days of taking her younger children to the co-op and looks back fondly on those days, even though she is enjoying the independence that her high school homeschoolers have these day. i love being reminded of such things, but i have to admit…i LOVE this time. i keep saying that each stage is my favorite, and i mean it! i love teaching and being with the boys and learning things together and trying to answer their questions about what we’re learning, diving into books and online information together. i love taking them to field trips and the co-op classes and seeing them make friends, interact with older and younger kids and adults. i love hearing what they’re learning when they tell others, and i love that i get to be there with them as they make these discoveries and learn these new things.

afterall…i’m re-learning things myself!

dinners…

monday: rosemary garlic pork loin with green beans and salad

tuesday: chickpea and spinach curry over brown rice (not memorable!)

wednesday: mexican corn and bean soup, crackers; smoked apples with vanilla cream sauce

thursday: pork chops with gravy, new potatoes, green beans

* not much to report via dinners this week. it felt great not being sick, so i treasured the time in the kitchen preparing all our meals again! we had such cold rainy days most of this week, so we were stuck inside a lot. this weekend begins the big fall clean-up around the yard. lots of leaves!

4
Oct

what we learned the week mama was sick

   Posted by: liz

(i was away for the weekend, so didn’t get around to posting last week’s recap until today!)

i went to bed last monday night with a sore throat, and woke tuesday morning with a sore throat and fever. after seeing kenny off for work, i crawled back in bed and waited for an hour and a half to when the kids would wake up. i took a deep breath and mentally prepared myself for the energy I’d need to get the kids started on the day. mornings are usually a very busy whirlwind of activity.

but the whirlwind never came.

all three boys walked into my room, saw their mama still in bed and knew there was something different. i told them that i wasn’t feeling well and that i would need their help all day long. during a typical school morning, we start around 9:00 and all the kids are dressed, their beds are made, and we start right in with bible class. today i let them watch tv while i got my teeth brushed, took some more zinc and pulled a comb through my hair. when i asked rowan to help adam get his clothes on and help him make his bed, he did it without complaining!  sawyer ran downstairs and got the bowls and spoons and cereal out. i didn’t even leave my bed. they all ate, cleaned up and then started playing with legos.

an hour later (yes, an hour! they kept themselves occupied with legos and markers, crayons and construction paper for an hour!), adam walked upstairs saying, “mommy how you feeling?” then he handed me a card that he made, one by one, the boys came up with papers that they made. by lunchtime they got all the lunch stuff out and i came downstairs to help with the sandwich making to which sawyer responded: “mommy, I can make your sandwich. aren’t you going back upstairs to eat your lunch in bed?”

i walked upstairs, crawled back under my covers and ate the most delicious luncheon meat and cheese sandwich i’d ever eaten in my entire life. even if it didn’t have brown mustard, lettuce, and black pepper. ;)

by this time, i had emailed kenny several times telling him how proud i was of them. they were building such strong characters of service. they were truly happy to help me and each other. that afternoon, the two older boys were busy making clues on scrolls that would help “someone” find a treasure chest. sawyer has been writing out words lately, but rowan has never wanted to write words on a piece of paper outside of “spelling” class. so i was surprised when he spent a good hour and a half with his paper, scissors, pen and the list of phonograms “just in case i get stuck on a word.” their scrolls were brilliant, even if they had some spelling errors. i can’t get them to write like that in school!  they might get the right spelling during our spelling dictation, but a creative fun activity that keeps their brains thinking about sounds? it was one of those moments where i was able to step back and see progress in their learning outside of lesson time.

this was the best day of unschooling we’ve ever had!

my mom stepped in a took the boys wednesday morning while i went to the doctor and slept most of the late morning. during the afternoon, we did history, continuing in our Christopher Columbus book. i love this history curriculum because doing a lesson is basically like snuggling up in bed with the kids and reading. one of our favorite activities! they did their journal coloring and we called it school!  they continued to write more scrolls, and spent most of the afternoon writing new words in them.

i learned a lot this week. my biggest teaching lesson was that a schedule is really helpful to keep us on track, but it’s not always necessary to be so rigid with a schedule. even though that’s not for everyone, it really worked for us this week. i was so glad to see relaxed learning and i’m relieved that i could get through the days when i was most sick without kenny being here to pick up my slack. they boys are getting old enough to keep themselves busy without getting into too much trouble, and i’m beginning to trust their actions without being with them constantly.

the dinner menu was scant this week – leftovers and a pork loin my mom gave us for wednesday’s dinner.  one recipe i can share is an “martha stewart oldie but goodie” we used to make back in our old house’s kitchen a lot: Almond Crusted Chicken.  I canned 9 jars of applesauce on Monday and we ate two jars already. The boys can’t get enough of it (I love hearing Rowan say, “I just love Mommy’s homemade applesauce!”  because he’s our pickiest eater!)

i hope your weeks were as productive and filled with learning fun as ours was!

22
Sep

school week 3 & 4, recap(s)

   Posted by: liz

i hope to recap each or at least every other week of school this year so i have a better record of things we’ve done. pictures at the end of the post!  want to read more weekly wrap-ups of other homeschooling families?  check out Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers every Friday!

Two weeks in one re-cap post! I’ll post this today (Wednesday), and will link it at the above Mr. Linky post on Friday.

We had a busier than normal week last week, but I’m pleased to say we stayed on track and finished all the “planned” lessons at the same time we were able to enjoy the beginning of the fall weather.

We introduced Solar System Science into our week – two days a week we have begun to learn about the Solar System. Thanks to a Leap Frog learning system we inherited from friends, the two older boys already know a lot of the introductory “language” of learning about our solar system. they are totally into asteroids and comets and i couldn’t believe that they knew the definitions by heart already!

If you have any suggestions for making or buying a solar system to hang in their room, i’m all ears…as long as it doesn’t involve papier mache. :)

Last week was the “opening” of our homeschool group’s school year. We kicked it off with a picnic at a local park shelter where the kids did their presidential fitness program while the grown ups supervised and chatted about the summer, the coming school year, etc.

This past weekend, my grandfather was visiting, which was great!  The boys had such a great time pulling him this way and that – showing him their “animals” and stomp rockets and teaching him how to fight with light sabers. My Grammy is in a home 24/7 now, and it was hard to get the boys to understand why she wasn’t with him. At one point, Adam looked up at Grampy and asked, “Great Grampy? Are you thinking about Great Grammy?” and earlier in the weekend, he asked me “When is the girl Great Grampy coming?” It was a good time for all of us to be with him! But we all missed his “girl”…Grammy!

This week, we had our first field trip at a local living history center called Providence Plantation.  We are studying the early colonial times of America, so this field trip was a good fit for us. In our homeschool co-op this fall, we’ll be focusing on children in colonial America, so it’s nice to get a field trip around what we’re learning in our home, as well as our co-op. At this field trip, the only thing the boys took away was how girls and boys bowed and said “hello” (“good morrow”) 200 years ago. We also noticed the Washington’s Trail signs all along the roads on our way to the Plantation. I wonder how much of “George Washington slept here” concept made it through their heads…these roads are where he traveled so many years ago. I also wonder just how accurate “these roads” are!

We’ve been watching the School House Rock DVD for a few years now and it’s so funny when they boys make a connection from the songs they learned from that DVD. This morning, sawyer asked why george washington was called “General Washington” in the “The British are coming! The British are coming!” song. I see why classical education is so key in pumping fun facts through chant, song, poetry in these early years. Eventually, all these puzzle pieces make sense and the student sees the value of all pieces that at one time seemed disjointed.

One other addition to our school day is having classical music on in the background. My friend April mentioned in her first week of school that she plays Bach in the background during her day. She suggested, when I asked her for Bach recommendations, that I create a Bach Pandora station, which I did. So we either have Pandora or our local classical station playing softly in the background through the day. Perhaps it’s coincidence….perhaps not, but the effect has been a calmer, more focused lesson time in all of us. The only time it’s off is during piano practice. I highly recommend doing this!

In our history curriculum this week, I wrapped up the Lief Erikson book we were going through (I got bored!) and introduced the boys to Christopher Columbus today. Columbus has such a bad reputation and our history curriculum touches on that, but also highlights some good. For this year, we’ll highlight the earth being round belief (the boys already think it’s funny that the earth was once thought to be flat…”didn’t they see the pictures of the earth from outer space? it’s ROUND!”  he he), his involvement with the Spanish, and we’ll introduce globes and compasses to our study. Fortunatley, the love all things globes and compasses and it will take away from Columbus’ not-so-finer personality traits.

Menu planning…

Monday we had friends over for dinner and we ate Red Lentil Coconut Curry with Brown Rice and Nutty Pumpkin Bread from the Simply in Season cookbook.

Tuesday was leftovers (from the weekend) with soccer practice in the evening.

Wednesday is Barley Mushroom Soup with Oatmeal Molasses Bread. Kenny has a bad cold, so homemade soup is in order! He loves mushrooms (i do NOT), so this soup is ALL FOR HIM.  Sawyer actually like mushrooms too so perhaps he’ll share.

Thursday Hoisin BBQ Chicken Breasts over brown rice.

Friday Baked Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes and Cheese with green salad

Saturday is Chicken with Green Olives, salad.

3
Sep

school week 1, recap

   Posted by: liz

i hope to recap each or at least every other week of school this year so i have a better record of things we’ve done. pictures at the end of the post!

i can honestly say this was the easiest first week of schooling that i’ve ever done!  i know it’s only my third year, but wow! i hope they’re all this fun and easy.

i think a few factors helped our success:

  • the alarm clock. this amazing invention was so interesting to all the boys for the first few days. they were very easily getting into bed on time for the first few nights because they were excited for the alarm to wake them up. so now, they are already used to the earlier bedtime, the no video-on-school-night rule, and they are getting up before the alarm wakes them for the most part (8:00 a.m.).
  • fun, new curriculum. last year, i focused on getting the two older boys reading and basic math skills. we chose really good classically-based curriculum (and we’re continuing to use them for reading/spelling/math this year), BUT…it got tedious and the joy was lost from our school time. last year was a hard lesson for me. we all got frustrated quickly and too easily. i take responsibility for stealing their joy, so i was really careful in selecting good, fun material for the subjects that we added this year: history, Bible, and grammar. each morning, all three boys are eager to start, and we’re doing a lot of coloring, pasting, memorizing with hand-motions, cutting, creating, writing and drawing. it’s even more fun for me this year!
  • heavy doses of prayer. i’ve been trying to get up two hours before the boys’ alarm gets them up. since i’m used to an early wake time, this hasn’t been too difficult, but i’ve been using this time for quiet lesson prep and praying for a good day. i want so badly for the boys’ experience in school to be a good one, and when their mama is frustrated and angry most of the day, that’s doesn’t really make for a good experience. i’ve been praying for patience and the presence of calm. it’s been a great change this year!
  • frequent recess and snack breaks. we are usually done with all of our lessons by lunch, but i’m still finding it very helpful to break frequently for snacks, drinks, or playing outside. my mom supplies our snack needs (drink boxes and snacks from trader joes!). we’ve had great weather this week, so i’ve been sending the boys (and me!) outside a lot. this helps all of us to better focus when we re-gather for the next subject. the two older boys open up the chicken coop, feed them and water the animals in the morning, so we’ve had a lot of time to be outside during the school day, not to mention afternoon free-time!

we had a field trip day on tuesday with only Bible after breakfast that day as an “official” class. october starts our local co-op class (every other tuesday morning) and all of our field trips will take place on tuesdays, so it’s good to get in the habit of tuesdays being a bit “off” of the normal at-home school schedule.

in a nutshell…this week the boys memorized a catechism question related to their Bible class, “The Butterfly” by Christina G. Rossetti from their grammar class, made several drawings of our related memory work, found their places in their math lessons, reviewed phonograms from last year’s spelling/reading work, and started their logs for history, grammar, and Bible.

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i’ve also gotten back into meal planning this week. all summer i’ve kept a lot of meat and charcoal on hand as well as fresh veggies. we grilled meat, tossed a salad and voila! a meal!  but now i’m writing meals down on the calendar and shopping in advance again to prepare for the cooler/colder months when the grill is out-of-order. here’s our week of meals so far:

monday – ground turkey with chick pea curry over rice

tuesdayfield trip day The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh: out for dinner

wednesday - Chicken Enchiladas Verdes (SO, SO good)

thursday - Spiced Pork and Apricot Stew with salad

friday - Sticky Roasted Chicken (rotisserie-like, baked in low oven for 5 hrs), fresh green beans and tomatoes

saturday – out to a friend’s BBQ

sunday – homemade pizza and salad

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sand “mover” at The Children’s Museum:

Adam with george at the Curious George exhibit:

Hands-down, the boys’ favorite part of the museum…controlling this wooden robot:

Rowan’s favorite book because of the monarch butterfly on the cover. We collected butterflies all summer and the monarch was their prized butterfly (he’s still in search of a viceroy, Uncle Dan!). we all love the lessons in this grammar book as well (First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise).

want to read more weekly wrap-ups of other homeschooling families?  check out Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers every Friday!

it was only this past year that i saw the President of the United States referred to as “POTUS” and his lovely wife, the “FLOTUS.”  you laugh, i’m sure, at my late-coming to this knowledge.

am i the only one that thinks POTUS and FLOTUS sounds like a cartoon couple? and not a cool action hero cartoon, but more like “rocky and bullwinkle.” i’m not sure what they think of their acronym titles, but it can’t be good.

if i were to give myself an acronym title it would be “WEFA” which obviously stands for “Woman Equipped For Anything.” (what you didn’t know that? where on earth have you been?)

i’m definitely a WEFA this month as our grocery budget was challenged. we’re being creative with our meals this week and next. it is a blessing that a dear friend invited us over for dinner tomorrow, so i only have to be prepared for breakfast and lunch (WOOT!). and we have our monthly dinner co-op with friends on saturday…another “free-ish” day! without further ado…here is this week’s WEFA menu:

Monday: dinner at friends (dessert in hand: Butterscotch Blondies)

Tuesday: kenny’s out with the guys from church, so the boys and i will feast on Black Beans and Rice with homemade Chapatti (my brother daniel’s recipe),  Big Ol’ Salad

Wednesday: swimming lesson night! the boys are ravished when we return, so i’m making Sloppy Joes with homemade Rolls, Raw Veggie platter with dip (aka “salad dressing in a tiny bowl”…it’s amazing how much your kids will eat when served “specially.”)

Thursday: St. Patrick’s day celebration! Corned Beef (my friend Amy’s recipe), Mashed Potatoes with butter and mace (the spice, not the weapon), Irish soda bread, Guinness Chocolate Cake

Friday: African Chicken Stew (or as my niece Sadie calls it, “that’s some goooood chicken!”) over Rice, steamed Edameme

Saturday: Dinner group at a friend’s house. Homemade loaves of bread or dinner rolls to take

Sunday: Oven Baked Chicken with Baked Sweet Potatoes and Peas