Friday, September 26, 2014

Week in Review: Weeks 7 & 8

Homeschool is still going great for us. The highlight of the past two weeks have been studying ancient Egypt from our Story of the World book. Bridget has become quite fascinated with it. We read from a few books, looked at some pictures on the internet of the Nile River, and got a pretty good understanding of how the double crown of Egypt came to be.

George didn't do too much with the lesson, but did enjoy taking part in the crafty/play stuff. I thought he looked quite handsome in his crown.

The SOTW activity book had a small tutorial of how to build the white crown of Upper Egypt, but I wanted to build the united double crown. After looking at a few pictures of what it looked like, I attempted to make two of them for both Bridget and George. From start to finish, it took me about an hour to construct both (this includes the thinking process). I'm not a very crafty person, but I think they turned out alright. The kids loved them and that's what counts. Next time they'll be old enough to make them with me. I took pictures of each step for later reference for myself, but thought I'd compile them for the blog as well. 
Here is what you'll need:

1 piece of white construction paper
2 pieces of red construction paper
wax paper (about the size of a standard piece of construction paper, rolled in to a ball to be used in step 4)
tape (or stapler, whichever is preferred... I used tape)

Hopefully the rest of the steps are self-explanatory for when I need them 4 years from now.

Math is still Bridget's favorite subject. I keep trying to slow her down and wait to start a new lesson for fear that we're going too fast, but she seems to be grasping it well. She wants to do more and more. Maybe I'll let her take charge and we'll do a lesson a day if that's what she wants and can handle. We've been using our math manipulatives more lately. George especially loves it when these come out. They're his little building blocks. He has fun, but me not so much. Just minutes after this photo was taken, he took the entire box and dumped them on the floor. 

We have an exciting week coming up. Bridget will be turning 5 years old! I think I'm also going to focus more on reading and spelling. I've been slacking on those subjects because they are her least favorites.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Aaron Turns 32!

While technically his birthday isn't until today, we celebrated it with his parents last Saturday. It was an enjoyable visit. The kids always love going to grandma and granddaddy's house, and they're even more on board when there's cake involved. This was also the Little Man's maiden voyage to their home.
We got there mid-morning and spent the day with grandma while granddaddy was at work. We ordered Chinese take-out for lunch from a place just down the road from their house. They had a few different types of tofu to choose from (the birthday boy has become quite a fan of the stuff) so we got sesame tofu and tofu with mixed vegetables. Delicious, as always.
After granddaddy got home, we ate dinner. Aaron wanted my version of Wendy's Chili. It turned out great. Then it was time for cupcakes. The kids were so excited they couldn't contain themselves.
At Aaron's request, I made mint chocolate cupcakes. I've never done anything mint flavored before so I'm glad they turned out and that it was just what he wanted. Even the kids loved them (I wasn't fond of anything minty as a child). In fact, the mint icing was all the Charmer ate. I'm glad they were a big hit with everybody.
Aaron also got a griddle for his birthday. He has been wanting one for a long time! He makes us pancakes every Sunday morning for breakfast and it takes him a long time to cook them one-at-a-time with our small stovetop griddle. This Sunday, he was able to make all of the pancakes and even sit down and enjoy them with us.
Last year had its ups and downs (pertaining to the children), so I hope this year is an especially stress-free one for my dear husband!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Recipe: Wendy's Chili (for vegans)

After recently giving birth to my third child, a friend offered to bring dinner over for my family. Hesitant at first because of our vegan diet, she assured me that she was willing to take on the challenge. She brought over delicious black bean burgers and also some black bean soup. Both were delicious!
In the black bean soup, she added some TVP. Previously, I had only used "fake meat" products in things other than soups, after failing an attempt early on in my vegan journey. I was so disappointed that I would not be able to enjoy that meaty texture in my food that I did not attempt it again. But this friends black bean soup changed that for me.
I thought of other soups and things that I could use TVP in. I thought of Wendy's chili, and how the TVP was just the right size to substitute the ground beef in their chili. I began the hunt for a copy-cat recipe. I found one that looked like it would be my closest bet. It was from Todd Wilbur's "Top Secret Recipes". After making a few modifications, I had an excellent copy-cat version of Wendy's Chili that was completely vegan! Now all I had to do was wait for my husband to get home so that I could serve this chili for dinner. He was very surprised and pleased with the results. So much, in fact, that he has requested it a few times since and even wanted it for his birthday dinner. I have a feeling that this chili will be a staple in our household during the coming winter months.

Wendy's Chili (made vegan)
Source: Todd Wilbur's "Top Secret Recipes", with modifications
1 cup textured vegetable protein (TVP) (can be purchased at Harris Teeter)
2 cans tomato sauce
2 cans kidney beans, undrained
2 cans pinto beans, undrained
1 large onion, diced
2-3 stalks celery (sliced into thirds, then diced)
1 4-ounce can green chiles
1 can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
2 tsp. cumin
3 Tbsp. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. sea salt
2 cups water*

Prepare TVP according to package instructions (pour 7/8 cup boiling water over 1 cup TVP and let sit for 10 minutes to rehydrate).

Combine all other ingredients in cast iron pot. Bring to a boil. Add TVP. Let simmer, uncovered, for 2-3 hours.

Serve with corn chips or crackers.

*I've always thought of Wendy's chili as being more soupy than the average chili. If you plan on eating the chili with chips rather than a spoon, 1 cup of water might work best.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Homeschool Week in Review: Week 6

We had a successful school week! We were able to get a lot done and Sugar Plum seems to be understanding and remembering what I'm teaching her. The Charmer seems to be less interested in participating and did great entertaining himself with his toys. Little Man did a lot of sleeping.
Sugar Plum's highlight of the week was finally being able to build a cave! We finished the first chapter of our Story of the World book in which we learned about nomads. We learned that they lived in caves and tents, depending on the climate. We've built many tents in our living room so I thought it'd be fun to make a cave. However, the biggest box we had was the box our globe came in. So I cut out an opening on the side and wrapped the box up loosely with some crumpled brown paper. 
The kids had made some cave drawings (with the Charmer being a bit wild these days, I didn't want to attempt having him paint anything) which I put inside the cave for them.
I thought the cave was a bit too small for Sugar Plum but it turned out to be a big hit. She and her little brother were even able to sit in there together! That's about all they could do but it was still a fun activity.
The Charmer has been channeling his inner bear lately (growling, walking on all fours, and chasing his sister around the house with his claws up in the air) so he felt quite at home in the cave.
Sugar Plum's handwriting has shown great improvement so we've continued with our math lessons now that I am able to read her numbers more clearly. She absolutely loves math. She's catching on a little too quickly and I'm worried that I may need to buy the next level before the school year is done. I'm hoping the lessons get a bit harder for her so that we can slow down. She wants to keep going after we've done the lesson and completed the work and is rather disappointed when I tell her that we're done with math for the day. I suppose I could be grateful that she enjoys it.
We're both looking forward to a new week with more learning!
For more end-of-the-homeschool-week posts, visit this link.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Homeschool Week in Review: Weeks 1-5

This is actually a review of our first 5 weeks since beginning our new school year. It has not been a consistent 5 weeks, but we did officially start during the first week in August. Sugar Plum was very eager to start. I homeschool her on Tuesday-Friday, as she has a mid-day gymnastics lesson every Monday (which finally started back this week). Sugar Plum's little brother, we're calling him "Charmer" on the blog now, wanted to be included in our homeschool. Here they both are holding their 'first day of school' signs. 

Our first week of homeschool went very well. The Little Man slept in the swing most of the morning which made things very easy for us. The Charmer was semi-cooperative. He loves coloring when it's time to color and he especially loves using the dry-erase markers. When we are not using those things, he either causes trouble in our homeschool area, goes to the play room to play, or on this particular day, I found him fast asleep in his bed at 11:30 in the morning.

Sugar Plum enjoys doing her school work. I think she might like math the most. She's always been good at counting and solving addition and subtraction problems when we present them to her verbally.
Writing her numbers was a different story. We put a hold on our math lessons recently while she practiced writing her numbers (along with handwriting in general). There has been a lot of improvement and I think we'll be able to continue with her math lessons soon.
While big sister worked on her handwriting, I thought I'd get out her old pre-writing worksheets for the Charmer. He did good to start off with, then he went a little crazy. But he's only two and I really didn't expect much from him. It kept him busy and it made him feel like a big boy with his own work to do.

We start off our mornings with a scripture story, and I've chosen to start from the very beginning. Here is Sugar Plum working on her pictures of the creation story. Daddy bought Sugar Plum her first set of markers, and that's all she ever wants to use now.

Making a booklet of our family history during our Story of the World history lesson. She especially loved learning about mommy and daddy.

Sugar Plum still tries to keep things interesting throughout the day. Here she is attempting to color with both her hands and her feet.

 As I mentioned, although we have been in school for 5 weeks, they have not been very consistent weeks. During our second week, Little Man went through a growth spurt and did not want to sleep at all in the morning. I couldn't get him down until after 11! I couldn't put him down anywhere without him fussing, which became a huge distraction. Schoolwork didn't get done until the late afternoon on these days, if we did any at all. Just last week he started napping in the morning again and we are back in action. I also ordered some new curriculum materials. It took me a very long time researching and reading reviews but I finally found what I think will work for our family.

I've also had to make changes due to Sugar Plum's style of learning. I've learned so much about her and myself in these past few weeks, and we're finally getting things together. More on all that later.
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