Saturday, June 29, 2013

Adventures in U.S. History Week 17

It's our 17th week of Adventures in U.S. History!  That means at the end of the week we'll officially be halfway done with our school year.  Sometimes I get a bit jealous of other families who are taking the summer off (though my pocketbook is relieved we're not trying to participate in all the summer festivities that are available!); sometimes I get caught up in the fun of planning the next year which for many of you starts in the fall; and sometimes I get tired of hitting the books especially when everyone is all hot and crabby.  But all in all I'm glad we're schooling over the summer and we are truly enjoying Adventures!

This week I set Little Guy the task of sorting out my catch-all basket of pens, pencils, and markers.  Does anyone else ever despise the fact that writing utensils are round and tend to roll off of surfaces and onto the floor?  I am constantly picking up colored pencils and markers and crayons from the kitchen floor!  Confession: sometimes I just throw them away.  Anyway, he really enjoyed this task!

Miss M is finally getting material in math that is a wee bit challenging for her.  And she doesn't like it!  She's so used to it all being super, duper easy and obvious to her that when she has to work at it, she tends to get a bit cranky.  She does love the pages that have a puzzle to figure out once she solves the math problems.  So far Singapore Math 2A does a good job keeping each day's lesson fresh and interesting even if it's basically the same kind of math as the day before.

There was only one state to learn about this week: Kentucky.  We've found that the best way to "study" the states sheets is to hand Miss M a highlighter and let her read through the page, highlighting anything that is interesting to her.  Frankly, she loves using the highlighter and typically ends up highlighting the entire page, but at least I know she's read it, right?  Here she's using a "dry highlighter" like the kind used for Bibles.  It doesn't bleed through to the other side, making it ideal for this sort of work!

The week ended with instructions to bake a cake for Immanuel.  I'm assuming this week would fall very near Christmas if you started at a more traditional time.  Since we didn't, it didn't.  But that's okay, 'cause we had a blast making the cake together anyway!

Thanks to some baking experience Miss M has gotten when her nana visits, she really didn't need any supervision, which meant once I told her what to do next, I could actually turn my back and do another step on my own!!!  This was revolutionary for me; I have never had so much fun baking with the kids!  

Little Guy did well too!  He didn't need any help cracking the eggs into a bowl and only had to fish out one big piece of shell.  He even washed his own hands with soap and warm water afterwards.  Some mamas might shed a tear or two over their babies growing up, but I'm just glad it means less work for me. Hehe!

Knowing my writing-with-frosting skills are hugely lacking, I opted to print out IMMANUEL in large block letters on a piece of cardstock.  Miss M colored them (she chose to do a rainbow!) and cut them out and together we taped toothpicks to the back of them.  I showed her how to figure out where the center of the word is so she could arrange them on the cake in a somewhat balanced fashion.  She really enjoyed this part! 

We made the Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake and Maple Icing from the Joy of Cooking.  I'm not a huge fan of cake (and can't stand ones from a box mix), but this was very good!  I will be making it again the next time we want chocolate cake, though probably without such a sickeningly sweet icing!

I'm looking forward to next week when we get to study Eli Whitney and his invention of the cotton gin.  I ordered some cotton bolls from a seller on etsy for the kids to "explore." We may even plant the seeds!  Until then...

Our adventures from previous weeks:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

She Made It!: the Get to Work Apron

This weekend Miss M decided she wanted to sew something.  I was elbow deep in a sewing project of my own, so I told her that if she wanted to sew, she would have to do it all by herself.  I set up my old sewing machine on a little table for her and answered her questions, but otherwise she did all the work herself!

First, she picked a project from Sewing School. (affiliate link)  She choose the Get to Work Apron.  It's a cute tool apron that helps you carry your tools or supplies with you while you work.  Then she picked some fabric from my stash.  She cut out the paper pattern and traced it onto her fabric with a piece of chalk.  (We had to have a little talk about placing your pattern near the edge of the fabric and not smack-dab in the middle!)

Then she cut out her pieces and pinned them together, right sides facing.  At that point I gave her a piece of plain white printer paper to practice sewing straight lines on.  She hadn't used my old sewing machine before (just my Janome that has a speed setting so she can't go too fast).

Miss M practiced on the paper until she felt confident of her ability to control the speed of the sewing machine and guide her stitching.  I nearly had a heart attack a time or two as she was rather lead-footed at first, but we came away unscathed.  To be perfectly honest, it was a bit difficult for me not to hover too much, but I managed to pull it off.  Whew!

It wasn't long before the entire project was completed!  Miss M now has a lovely apron that she made entirely on her own!  I didn't sew a single stitch or place a single pin.  I didn't even supervise her ironing this time.  She can do it all herself!

I made no mention of its imperfections: the crooked stitching or misaligned folds.  It isn't necessary at this age to strive for perfection.  The fact that she created something on her own with her own two hands without becoming frustrated or giving up is a glorious accomplishment!

I'm proud of her! But more importantly, she's proud of herself and of her work!  Way to go, Miss M!

Have you sewn anything with your kids this summer?

I'm linking up to:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Review: Medieval History Memory Game

"Mama, will you play a game with me?"

I hear these words at least ten times every day.  Miss M loves games!  She'd rather play a game than do almost anything else.

Our newest addition to our game collection is the Medieval History Memory Game from The Classical Historian.

I'm sure you're familiar with the traditional format of the game of Memory.  You lay out tiles; one person turns over two tiles, hoping for a match; then it's the next person's turn.  The trick is to remember where the tiles you see are located so you can make more matches than your opponent(s).

In this version of the game the tiles are pictures from medieval world history for the four major regions of the world: Arabia, the Far East, Europe, and the Americas.  The game helps your child become familiar with the important people, monuments, maps, artifacts, and symbols that they will encounter in their studies of medieval history.

  • 64 matching cards
  • 2 gameplay types
  • long-lasting, sturdy tiles
  • $14.95

Our game arrived as a set of perforated cards.  After punching out the tiles, we were ready to play!  Sadly, one set of tiles was marred by a printing error, but the company was quick to respond to my request for replacement cards. After putting our patience to practice, the replacement cards got here in just a few days accompanied by a sweet hand written note.  And then we really were ready to play!

One of the damaged tiles. They were replaced hassle-free!
The tiles are beautiful, sturdy cardboard with full color, glossy images.  The box is also sturdy and just the right size to hold the cards.  Miss M and I enjoyed a challenging game of Memory followed by a game of Categories.  That was quite a bit harder for her since we haven't actually studied any medieval history yet!

Also Available from The Classical Historian

Socratic History Curriculum for grades 6-12
Online History Classes for junior high students
Other History Games, including Memory and Go Fish

I can see that this sort of history game is a great asset to a home school as a way to reinforce the people, places, and artifacts of various periods of history!  We all had a great time playing together and discussing what some of the hitherto unexperienced bits of history that we came across.  Oh, and mamas beware, my ability to remember where the tiles are is significantly stronger in the morning than in the evening.  Just sayin'!

Check out my honesty policy.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Adventures in U.S. History Week 16

We are nearly halfway through our Adventures in U.S. History!  This week we took a couple days off from learning about states to learn about Daniel Boone.  I wanted to make little coon skin caps for the kids (I remember doing that when I was a homeschool student way-back-when), but I didn't have either the time or materials on hand.

We added another name of Jesus to our bulletin board: Immanuel, which means God With Us.  We had lots of fun learning the lyrics to O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and a long discussion about why Emmanuel is sometimes spelled with an I and sometimes with an E.

The one thing I've added to our curriculum that's different than the recommendations from My Father's World is the CLE 2nd grade Bible program.  It is a walk through of the Old Testament (I intend to follow up with the New Testament in 3rd grade).  Since Adventures itself is already an adequate workload, we only do CLE Bible on Mondays and Thursdays.  We are enjoying it very much!

We've also been enjoying our read aloud book, Farmer Boy!  It's funny because as I read it to my kids, I hear my own mama's voice in my mind reading it to us when we were kids.  It was my least favorite of the Little House books as a kid because I loved Laura so much and I could hardly bear for her to not be in the stories.  But there are scenes from the book that have always stayed with me: the horror of the teacher going to face the big boys from Hard Scrabble Hill; the secret Almanzo and his siblings kept from their parents when he threw the blacking brush against the parlor wall; and the hurry, hurry as they splashed water on each frosted hill of corn before the sun came up and killed them.  It's a good thing I usually read aloud at lunchtime because the descriptions of food are enough to drive anyone to the pantry!  The kids always ask me to read just one more chapter!

Things aren't always sunshine and daisies around here, particularly when it comes to "boring" things like handwriting practice!  Miss M loves it when she writes neatly, but she doesn't like the tedium of actually practicing.  Sometimes I get dirty looks.  But usually she eventually buckles down and gets the job done.  I only have her do about a page a week and even at that rate, I've seen quite an improvement since the beginning of the year!

Thanks to Pinterest, I discovered a really catchy States & Capitals song that we listened to several times this week.  Warning: if you listen to it, it will get stuck in your head!

Our week was pretty tame.  Lots of our typical routine and nothing too extra-ordinary.  Just the way I like it!  Summertime has definitely arrived in our parts, so it's lovely to stay in the nice cool house during the day doing our lessons and reading lots of books.  Miss M has discovered Junie B. Jones after a stop at the thrift store.  They are horrible drivel, but she likes them and they're getting her reading, so I don't stop her.  I read plenty of junk books (Baby Sitters Club, anyone?) when I was young and still developed a taste for good literature, so I'm not too concerned!

Our adventures from previous weeks:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hands-On Homeschooling Column

I'm so excited to announce that my new column at Homeschool Mosaics just launched today!  It's called Hands-On Homeschooling and will be focusing on hands-on learning activities for the preK and early elementary set.

Stop by and say hi!

(Psst! That picture of Miss M with muddy hands is a sneak peek of next month's column!)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

{Book} Review: How Do We Know God Is Really There?

As a child it never occurred to me to ask deep questions about life and God and the Universe. I was content to marvel at Nature and appreciate its beauty without asking many questions about how things worked or where they came from. So when my six-year-old comes asking questions like: "Why am I here? What am I here for? How do I know I am really me?" I'm completely flabbergasted! When she recently began asking questions about how we know there really is a God, I pulled out a brand new book from Apologia Press called How Do We Know God Is Really There?

How Do We Know God Is Really There?
Written by Melissa Cain Travis
Illustrated by Christopher Voss
Published by Apologia Press
ISBN: 978-1-935495-96-3
Price: $16.00
Sample pages

This wonderful book by Melissa Cain Travis is designed to answer the question of God's existence in a way even small children can understand. It is the first in a new series of picture books that will introduce kids to the answers to important questions of the Christian faith.

In the story, a young boy named Thomas and his dad spend time together every evening in the treehouse in their backyard. They tell each other about their day and do some stargazing together. In the comfortable darkness, Thomas tells his dad about a friend who says there is no God and asks his dad how you can know that God is really there.

Thomas' dad gives Thomas some evidence of God's existence based on what we know of the Universe. He shares with Thomas about the Hubble Space Telescope and the evidence we've gathered about space. Throughout the conversation he doesn't bulldoze over Thomas with a big announcement of The Answer. No: This is the way it is, Son; you'd better believe it. (you read that in a deep, stuffy voice, right?) But instead, he gently presents him with piece after piece of evidence so Thomas can build up to the conclusion himself.

If the text wasn't good enough, the illustrations really make this book something special! Christopher Voss illustrated How Do We Know God Is Really There? with some gorgeous artwork that really appeals to kids! We all laughed at the page with Thomas running through the dark backyard with his flashlight and scaring up the orange tabby cat that was prowling around there.

Hubby, who loves a good debate and is always willing to play devil's advocate, feels the arguments presented in the book are too simplistic and somewhat weak. He'd like to see an opposing view presented (and quashed). He says a persuasive argument always presents the other side as well as its own. He also feels the kid was a pushover and would have liked to see him cling to skepticism a few pages longer before accepting his dad's logic.

I think this is a great book to introduce kids to the idea that "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork" (Psalm 19:1).

Monday, June 17, 2013

Adventures in U.S. History Week 15

We're back!  Did you miss us?
We've been gone the past two weeks as we enjoyed a Late Spring Break,
but now we're back and ready to go Adventuring!

This week we journeyed through New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, and North Carolina.  We learned about cardinals, the nation's most popular bird, and about the Statue of Liberty.

Miss M drew a cardinal and told a story about it.

The mama cardinal told her baby to eat its birdseed cereal so she can be strong enough to fly.  But the baby snuck behind the mama and started to fly by herself. The mama was worried (see the "uh oh!" thought bubble?) that the baby would fall without assistance.

We started our new math book, Singapore Math 2A.  Miss M does not like when she's instructed to do practice problems on a separate sheet of paper. She much prefers to do all her math in the workbook only.  It was only a dozen or so review problems over two different days…she'll live!

One morning this week, Miss M got up early and made some lovely mixed-media art!  She drew a garden with carrots and strawberries (not yet growing) and a cherry bush (with cherries on it!).  She built a house with popsicle sticks and drew in details with  marker.  My favorite bit is the shrub she made with pipe cleaners!  This art is now proudly displayed on Grandma's refrigerator!

We continued learning that Jesus is the only Way to God and that He shows us the most perfect way to live.

Little Guy was a busy preK learner this week, exploring shapes and colors and numbers. His favorite activity was this shape sorter I picked up ages ago at the Target Dollar Spot.

It was a bit tough getting back into the swing of things after our break.  As you can see, I didn't grab my camera as often as usual, mostly because I was so busy chasing down kiddos and attempting to get them to buckle down to business.  Here's hoping next week goes a bit more smoothly!

Our adventures from previous weeks:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hawaiian Sweet Rolls

Hubby and the kids are huge fans of King's Hawaiian rolls.  I was spoiled by homemade bread growing up, so I don't care for the processed taste/texture, but more than that, my pocketbook just can't take the hit on a regular basis!

In order to make everyone happy, I embarked on a quest to find the perfect roll recipe.  It had to be sweet (very sweet, actually!) to please Hubby and soft to please the kids.  After quite a few tweaks and trial runs, I've settled on this as the perfect Hawaiian sweet roll recipe.


  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup pineapple juice (can substitute pear or apple juice, or water for a less sweet roll)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter, slightly cooled
  • 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons wheat gluten
  • 1/2 cup sugar (white or brown, we liked it both ways!)
  • 3 teaspoons yeast (3 1/2 if planning to freeze the rolls before baking)

I made mine in the bread machine (as usual), but you can use this recipe with more traditional dough mixing methods too.

Here's what I did:

Put all the ingredients in the bread machine in the order listed.  Set for Dough cycle.  When cycle is complete, divide into rolls, put on oiled pan and freeze.  Once frozen, double wrap and store until needed.  Thaw in refrigerator.  Set in warm place to raise until doubled in size. Be patient! This step is crucial!  Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees.


You can brush the roll tops with an egg wash before baking for a nice shiny surface if you wish.

One day, after thawing the frozen rolls and letting them rise to double, I put them in the steaming basket of my rice cooker and steamed them while I cooked rice. They were a fantastic addition to our meal!

One thing I'd like to try is mixing in some grated cheese. Mmmm!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fire Drill

It's important to teach our kids about fire safety in a way that empowers them and doesn't immobilize them.  To that end, I decided we'd have a mini fire-safety unit during our two week break.  

At the beginning of the week I warned the kids that we were going to have a fire drill sometime that week and not to be too worried when I started shouting that the house was on fire and we needed to get out.

I planned to catch them at a time when they were both in their bedroom playing together.  Then I'd go in, shut the door, and tell them there was a fire in the kitchen and we needed to get out, but we couldn't go through the hallway.  We talked about how to touch the door to see if it was safe and how to block the bottom with rags to keep out the smoke.  Then I showed them how to egress from their bedroom window.  The kids loved that!

We talked about what to do if there wasn't an adult to help (throw pillows and blankets on the ground and jump).  We talked about what to do if a fireman came to help (don't hide! go with him).  We practiced where to meet up once out of the house.  We talked about the people in our neighborhood that we know and who they could go to for help if needed.  I tried to give them the know-how they'd need to keep them safe and to make them feel equipped for the future.

When I was a little girl, we lived in a trailer house in a trailer park in Arizona.  One night, the trailer next to ours caught on fire!  Thankfully, my mom listened to her nose when she still smelled something burning even after she had double-checked the iron and the oven and had gone to bed.  She dialed 911 and got the baby while my stepdad grabbed my little brother and I out of our bunk beds.  We all rushed outside and took refuge with the across-the-street neighbors while we waited for the fire department to respond.  All's well that ends well, as they say!  The trailer house was destroyed, but no one got hurt and, thanks to some quick-thinking men, the vehicles and other trailers on the block were undamaged. 

From that time on, however, fire drills always made me a bit more anxious than normal.  While my classmates celebrated the chance to get out of class, I was always trying to stave off a sense of panic that threatened whenever the fire alarms began to blare.  I didn't often suffer from nightmares, but when I did have a bad dream, it almost always was about a fire.

Have you had a fire drill with your kids?
Have you practiced going out the window?
Pick a nice day this summer to talk with your kids about fire safety and have a drill!