Thursday, January 30, 2014

Leftover Oatmeal Bread {for the bread machine}

I've been trying to introduce more whole grains to my family. The problem is they're quite picky when it comes to the bread they'll eat.  I've tried making my Country Buttermilk Bread with half whole wheat flour before, but unfortunately it was a no-go with Hubby and the munchkins.

I've been making hot cereal for breakfasts since it's such a nice way to warm up on cold winter mornings, but I invariably have leftovers, so I've tried my hand at making oatmeal bread.  I've played with ratios and flours and sugars and have finally come up with what we consider to be a stellar loaf of bread!  For the past few weeks it has even replaced our staple Country Buttermilk!

Leftover Oatmeal Bread (yield: 2 loaves)


2 1/2 cups leftover oatmeal*
1/2 cups warm water
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup brown sugar
3-4 teaspoons yeast


Add all ingredients to the bread machine bowl. I add them in the order listed even though my manual says to add dry ingredients first; this way just works out better.

Set it to "Dough" and press start. I usually check on it about 10 minutes in because sometimes the paddle doesn't dislodge pockets of flour in the very corners of the bowl. A quick swipe with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula usually does the trick and then it's safe to be left to the end of the cycle.

When the timer signaling the end of the Dough Cycle goes off, remove the dough from the machine onto a lightly floured surface.

Divide dough into two more-or-less equal portions and shape into loaves.

Drop into two greased loaf pans.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Cover the loaf pans with a damp tea towel and allow the two loaves to rise 30-45 minutes in a warm place.

Bake for 30 minutes.

When done, turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

I really like what vital wheat gluten does for my bread, but it is not strictly necessary to make this recipe work. You can also play around with the flour ratios. I'm trying to ease my way up to 2 cups whole wheat and 3 1/2 cups white flour, but I'm not positive my picky eaters culinary experts will go for that.

* When I make oatmeal I use either Quick Oats or Old Fashioned Oats. I boil 5 3/4 cups of water and add 3 cups of oats (or 1 3/4 cups water and 1 cup oats).  When the oatmeal is cooked, I melt 3 tablespoons (or 1 1/2 tablespoons) of butter into it.  Any sweetener or milk we add to our oatmeal is not added to the main pot.  The leftover is what I use to make this bread.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

ECC: Introduction weeks, Part 1

It's a new school year at Sycamore Hill Academy!  Miss M is now in 3rd grade and Little Guy is beginning the first of two years of kindergarten (K4 this year and a slightly more rigorous K5 next year).

I found these cute printables via Pinterest and we had a little photo shoot on our first day!

We are starting each morning with My Daily Learning Notebooks from Confessions of a Homeschooler.  The PreK one for Little Guy and the cursive variant for Miss M.  This has been hugely popular!  Both kids have gotten started on them before I'm even ready to begin school most days! And they work together on the so sweetly, Miss M lending a hand to Little Guy and he hanging on her every word. I love it!


To start off our year, we systematically went through some important concepts: where the world came from, how it got to be the way it is now (the Fall), how different languages began, and the gospel is for all the peoples of the world.  We memorized John 3:16 and were introduced to the basics of Christianity and Judaism.


Singapore Math 2B jumped right into subtraction of three digit numbers employing mental math techniques. Miss M got into the swing of things pretty quickly.  We're also drilling addition on Mondays, subtraction on Tuesdays, multiplication on Wednesdays, and  division on Thursdays.  Memorization of the basic math facts is one of our main goals for math this year.

Drilling facts doesn't have to be boring! Miss M used dominoes to practice addition facts one day and played a dice game for subtraction practice another day.

Language Arts

Our lessons from PLL have included topics such as the plural form of nouns, the possessive, prepositions, and some interesting information about silk production.

The word lists at the start of Level F in Spelling Power have had quite a few review words. So far Miss M has aced them all, but I've pulled a few additional words she misspelled in other work for her to practice. I foresee spelling being discontinued as a subject once she finishes Spelling Power.  I've also noticed she tends to misspell words more frequently when printing and less frequently when using cursive. Telling, no?


Geography and Science are going to be our two most time consuming subjects this year.  Because of that, I plan to start block-scheduling them on mutually exclusive days.  For a year focused on geography, there's only one logical place to begin…with map skills!

We started out discussing why it's difficult to accurately portray a round world on a flat map.

We discussed scale and made a scale map of the kids' bedroom. They both loved measuring all the furniture and converting the measurements to squares on our graph paper!  Miss M also drew a poster sized map of our town and created a map key with symbols for the significant locations on the map. It was quite time consuming and she really put her heart into it.

We discussed latitude and longitude and sent Pinkie Pie on a journey around the globe, investigating all seven continents and five oceans (did you know there are now five oceans?)

She had a blast and finally perched herself in pretty pink Canada!


Our science program this year is two-fold. We will be learning all about ecosystems and the biomes of the world as well as about the different animals that dwell in those biomes.  Our work started off a wee bit dry as we learned what an ecosystem is, what a biome is, and what a habitat is, plus took a look at the account of Creation in Genesis.  Luckily, both portions of our curriculum incorporate great hands-on ideas to keep the kids engaged and really bring the science alive!

The kids braving the frigid weather to explore a one-square-yard habitat in our own backyard.
Oh look! A there was a friendly cat in our habitat!

Music and Art

Our music this week consisted of an old hymn and a song from Wee Sing Around the World.

For art, we began our first Charlotte Mason style artist study of Van Gogh.  More on this in Part 2!


Our theme for the next several weeks is pamilya, the family.  Miss M reviewed flash cards, sang songs, answered questions about a family tree, and drew and labeled a filipino family.  Her favorite part of her drawing is "the kooky lolo!"

I'll write more about what Little Guy has been doing later, but have no fear, he's been tagging along in all the fun!

Books We Read (and enjoyed!)

We started reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett before starting back to school and the kids are loving it, so we've kept right on with our reading of that at lunchtime.

Other books we loved:

I was very tempted to go ahead and purchase a copy of Janice VanCleave's Geography for Every Kid for our home library! It's not one that my kids cared much about (no colorful pictures), but it's just the sort of book I would have enjoyed when I was a kid! The text is written in such a friendly, matter-of-fact tone that manages to make geography and maps very exciting and interesting.  I think it would be especially appropriate if you are doing ECC with upper elementary students versus my early elementary kiddos.

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World is an over-the-top adventurous book just the way my kids like 'em!  If we weren't already making a world cake and birthday cake this week, I'd have made apple pie from the recipe in the back.  We might just have to revisit this one for the plain fun of it in the future!

Miss M got very excited when we sat down to read Me on the Map together because she remembered it being included in her Reading text from Calvert 1st grade.  (She has a better memory than I do!)  I loved the colorful, detailed artwork and the concept of each person having a place that is theirs represented on the map.

Peter Spier's People kept the kids entertained for hours of book basket time!  Honestly, I don't even know all the things they were looking at and learning about people in the world (all the different types of noses was a particular hit!) since I was taking advantage of the time to do housework, but they were just thrilled with it and were terribly disappointed when it came time to take it back to the library.  I can see this one being another that eventually gets added to our home library.

When I picked up What a Wonderful World from the library I didn't realize it was actually the lyrics from the famous song sung by Louis Armstrong.  Of course, when I sat down with the kids to read it and made that discovery, I quickly hopped on iTunes and downloaded Mr. Armstrong's song for the kids to listen to.  It became an instant favorite and even Little Guy has been going around singing it to himself all week!  The book is absolutely gorgeous in its own right, but coupled with the song…not something you should miss!
The first two weeks will be the only two weeks of Exploring Countries and Cultures that we are taking as written in the teacher's manual.  The rest of the year (which for us will be two years) will be spaced out -- every two-week unit as three and every three-week unit as four -- with several other weeks/countries added in.  I'm glad, because these two weeks have been a bit intense with each day taking far longer than our school days last year.  It's been a blessing too though because this time of year the kids aren't able to be outside playing and they need something to keep them occupied.  Still I know if we tried to keep up this pace all year long we'd get burned out pretty quickly.  

Friday, January 24, 2014

Pajama Eaters

I bought the pattern for Pajama Eaters from Sew Fearless over a year ago, and only now finally got around to making pajama eaters for my kids!  I'm tired of finding clothes flung on the floor of their bedroom and with the recent purchase of a new dresser for each of them, I figured pajama eaters would help solve the problem.

They are a big hit! And so far they've both faithfully fed their pajama eaters each morning (as long as I can persuade them to get dressed in the first place)!

** Pajama Eaters are fun pillow friends that "eat" your pajamas each morning and "regurgitate" them each night.**

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Demonstrating Prepositions

We're using Primary Language Lessons for English this year. It's a very gentle approach to language and doesn't require worksheet after worksheet of repetition.  We love it!

This week one of Miss M's lessons was about prepositions. It was a mainly verbal lesson (fill in the blank), so to make it more hands on -- and fun! -- I gave her a ball of modeling clay and a toothpick so she could demonstrate the prepositions to me.

And I took pictures of them just for you!

How do you make language arts more hands-on?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Curriculum choices for 3rd grade and Kindergarten

Somewhere along the way I learned about a scheduling method called Sabbath Schooling.  In order to prevent burnout (for the kids or for the mama!), the idea is you schedule six weeks of school followed by one week off, the Sabbath Week!

When we first started homeschooling I didn't set out planning to make our school year match the calendar year, but both the kids birthdays are in November and we like to take off plenty of time for the holidays to be with family and attend Thanksgiving and Christmas events.  So it works out best for us to school through the miserably hot summer and have extra time off in the spring and fall when the weather is nice.

We finished our last school year just before November and took a 3 month break (our "summer" vacation).  We started our new school year a couple weeks ago, but before I tell you how it's been going, let me share with you our curriculum choices for our new school year.

Our core this year is My Father's World's Exploring Countries and Cultures (here on out known as MFW ECC) curriculum.  Here are the details.


We will be studying the book of Matthew and taking a look at the lives of some Christian heroes.


We're moving on with Singapore Math.  This year Miss M is ready for Primary Mathematics 2B and 3A.  Fridays will be math game day instead of a lesson from the book and we'll be drilling basic math facts every day!

Language Arts

English: Last year we worked through the first half of Primary Language Lessons; this year we will be working through the second half of the book.  I picked up the Teacher's Guide last year at a curriculum fair and it was helpful for answering some of the more dated questions, but I didn't use any of the lesson extenders.  This year I plan to incorporate more of them. That way we can do just two PLL lessons per week, but have English four days a week (with vocabulary copywork for our 5th day).

Spelling: My good speller will be continuing on with Level F in Spelling Power.  Folks, that's 7th grade level spelling for my 7-year-old!  I continue to be bowled over by her natural spelling prowess!  I'm stepping it up this year by incorporating the Skill Building Activity cards that are included on the Spelling Power CD.  I especially appreciate the ones that focus on dictionary skills.

Foreign Language: I've struggled with knowing how to teach Tagalog to my kids when I don't speak it. We have Rosetta Stone Tagalog, but it's difficult to switch over our computer settings and get it started as often as I'd like them to be using it.  We'll still use it -- more-so as they get older -- but in the mean time I bought a pack of flashcards that came with a pronunciation CD and vocabulary poster.  We'll just be using the blue pack this year. The other pack will be for next year.  I plan to focus on building vocabulary and engaging with the words just a few minutes per day.  The flash cards in the blue pack cover Family, Colors, Numbers, Clothes, Animals, Food, My Body, and My Day.  (By contrast, next year using the orange pack we'll learn about Nature, Weather, Opposites, Actions, Things I Like to Do, At My House, and Going to Different Places.)  Each pack also has some basic phrases like hello, yes, no, etc.

Reading: This year Miss M will be spending equivalent amounts of time reading to herself and listening to books read aloud. We're starting off the year reading The Secret Garden.  She received it for Christmas and we've been enjoying it very much!  Once we're through with that, we'll read aloud a book for each MFW ECC country we're studying as well as these stories of missionaries from around the world.  And of course any other books that catch our fancy!  Little Guy most often listens in when we read aloud, and I'm always amazed at how much he picks up or the insightful questions he asks.


Our social studies this year is focused more on geography and cultural anthropology than on history. This will help set the stage for future years as the kids will have a grasp on where things happen when we study them.  We will be taking a "trip around the world" that spans two years.  In order to accomplish this, I'm stretching out the study of the MFW ECC countries as well as adding additional countries from Confessions of a Homeschooler's Expedition Earth curriculum (plus one or two I'll have to make up on my own).  This year will take us through North & South America and Europe.  Next year we'll hit Africa, Asia, Australia, and Antarctica.

I have always loved geography and I'm very much looking forward to flinging open the doors of the world to my children!


I've heard pros and cons about the science included with MFW ECC, but since we'll be using the curriculum for two full years, I decided to go ahead and add Apologia's Exploring Creation with Zoology 3: Land Animals of the Sixth Day (the link takes you to Apologia's website, but I actually found the text cheaper on  Between the two curriculums, we'll be learning about the ecosystems and animals of the world.  The kids really love doing science experiments and hands-on learning, so I think we'll be block-scheduling the geography and science on separate days. That'll allow them to go more deeply into the activities for each without feeling pressured to hurry up and finish so they can do the rest of their lessons. (Or maybe that's me who feels pressured, either way…)

Music and Art

Music: We aren't doing much formal music study this year.  I'll be teaching the kids some hymns of the Christian faith, particularly those that relate to our study of Matthew and missionaries, and we'll be learning the songs from the Wee Kids Sing Around the World CD.  The kids and I all love to sing, so this is a fun and gentle subject that we all appreciate!

Art: Another add-on to our curriculum this year is Confessions of a Homeschooler's The World's Greatest Artists Vol. 1.  I want to expose my children to good art, but don't have much experience in that area myself, so I figured this was a good place to start!  I had some full-color prints made at Staples for our first artist and it was very inexpensive! Less than $1 per 8x10 sheet.  Of course, we'll be doing many arts & crafts projects this year; the kids just adore making things and I have fun with it too!

Alongside all of this, Little Guy will be doing Kindergarten.  I will be stretching out MFW K into a two year program, first as a year of 2-day K4 and then as a 3-day K5 program.  Since he joins in on so much of our other work, I think this will work out perfectly!  He's already so excited to be doing his own school -- he misses his playmate dreadfully when she's off with her lessons and he's left to play by himself!

I only got the Basic set of My Father's World Kindergarten.  I already had some of the other materials included in the Deluxe set, so I didn't feel it was necessary to spend the extra money on it.  More about how K looks for us later!

We are all so excited for our new school year!  And I can't wait to come back and tell you how our first week went!

Friday, January 3, 2014

We'll be right back...

I've really been wanting to compose a post outlining our new school year! We'll be starting back to school on Monday, but I just haven't found the time to write up our plans. And now I've caught the same cold Hubby and the kids have had this past week, so tonight I'm going to bed early and hoping to feel better in the morning.  But here's a heads up: school starts Monday and soon I'll have a post telling all about our plans for the new school year!

Until then…