Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Things I Keep in My Purse {52 Lists}

This weeks list is of the things I keep in my purse. I thought it would be a short and easy list, but the list kept growing as I listed everything I also carry for the kids.

  • wallet
  • keys
  • cell hone
  • sunglasses (4 pairs--me and the kids)
  • a few pens
  • hand sanitizer
  • chapstick
  • Ghirardelli dark chocolate squares (for those low-blood sugar moments)
  • Ziploc containing 3 diapers and a package of wipes (that way I can also hand the Ziploc to my husband to change the baby when we're out)
  • small tube of Aquaphor for babies eczema
  • travel-sized package of tissue 
  • a few hair ties and bobby pins (for myself and my 6-year-old)
  • toy car (to keep my 4-year-old busy)
  • crackers or cheerios (for the 23-month-old)
  • loose cheerios at the bottom of my purse (I do not intentionally keep these, but it happens)

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Second Grade Curriculum | 2016-2017 School Year

The new school year is upon us. In a few short weeks, my oldest will be starting second grade. Curriculum has been decided on and purchased. Boxes of books have arrived. The lesson planning is almost complete. Now, let's get started.

Language Arts

Language Arts is the backbone of our homeschool. Without being able to read and write, other subjects become too difficult to understand and complete.


My daughter has enjoyed the format of Spelling Workout Level A in first grade, so we are continuing on with Spelling Workout Level B.

Each lesson in the workbook introduces a list of words, first given in context. Then the child has the opportunity to practice identifying and spelling the words before they move on to fun puzzles and activities. At the very end, the child is expected to write a sentence or short paragraph using as many of the list words as possible. We like how it makes spelling fun and my daughter looks forward to completing the puzzles. At the end of the lesson (or two lessons), I give my daughter a spelling test. The format of the workbook helps her to learn and spell the words correctly on the test.


As a busy mother of three, I appreciate the format of First Language Lessons. Each level has 100 prepared lessons. By completing three lessons each week, we are able to finish the book before our summer term. I also like that poem memorization, and narrations are mixed in with the grammar lessons so that it does not feel like we are doing the same exact thing each day. I do not know if any young child truly enjoys grammar lessons, but my daughter's favorite lessons are the picture narrations. In these lessons, a picture is presented and the artist is briefly discussed while the child is asked to search for elements in the picture and make assumptions about what is happening in the picture. It is fun to see what my child's imagination comes up with. 


I am pleased to say that my daughter has passed the stage that we will need to use "readers". She has branched out to reading story books, although she does enjoy reading Dick and Jane books for fun. This year, we will be reading story books from our family library or what we bring home from the public library. Over the summer during our read-aloud stories, I have asked my daughter to read the first sentence or two in a chapter. With so many great works of literature coming up in our study of history this year, my goal is to have her read some, if not most of the children's versions of these books.  


Writing With Ease is another excellent program from The Well-Trained Mind. The workbook shown here includes the teacher's portion of the lesson and the second half of the book includes the perforated workbook pages. I tear these out and make copies because I have two more children that will be using this book in the future. This book has prepared four lessons per week. While Level 1 includes narrations and copywork, Writing With Ease Level 2 includes dictation. While I am somewhat nervous of my daughter's reaction to this addition (she has adjusted to the narration-copywork rotation from Level 1), I am also looking forward to it. 


This will be one of the biggest changes for second grade. My daughter will be switching from manuscript handwriting to.... cursive! I cannot believe she is old enough to begin learning cursive handwriting. I have shown her the book and at first she was hesitant and not too happy. Then we looked at it more closely and I wrote her something in cursive and she thought it was "pretty" and is excited to learn.


Math-U-See is another curriculum we are very happy with. Not only does it work, but it's also very affordable in comparison to other popular alternatives. This year, we are moving on to Math-U-See Beta


We love Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer. After completing Story of the World, Volume One: Ancient Times, which we are still working on over the summer, we will begin the new school year with Story of the World, Volume 2: The Middle Ages. I am so excited!!! I have the lessons all planned out with the help of the Activity Book and this year will be the first year that I will be giving the Tests


This subject is the newest addition to our homeschool. We have done the mapwork included in our Story of the World curriculum but I have felt that it does not serve well as a complete geography curriculum. I also wanted something that my daughter could enjoy, so I purchased all four volumes of A Child's Geography. We will be covering all four volumes in the next year to year and a half. The last three volumes (Explore the Holy Land, Explore the Classical World, and Explore Medieval Kingdoms) are excellent for accompanying our history curriculum but I have other plans for the first volume, which I'll explain below.

Along with the geography books mentioned above, I will be using maps from MapTrek, which I purchased last year. They are all from the same company, KnowledgeQuest. I was able to get all four volumes above and many bonus items during a special promotion I learned through their Facebook page.


First grade has proven two things for me: (1) My daughter loves science; and (2) Elemental Science is awesome! I don't think my daughter (or my 4-year-old son) would be as interested in science if I had gone with a different curriculum. I honestly believe that. Paige Hudson did an amazing job putting Biology for the Grammar Stage together that I had to stick with her and purchase Earth Science and Astronomy for the Grammar Stage. Our entire family is looking forward to science this year because I have a few field trips planned that go right along with our curriculum.

To accompany the science curriculum, Paige Hudson suggests additional books.

For experiments, she suggests these:

I am really looking forward to learning the constellations with the children (because it's a given that the boys are going to want to participate). 

We will also be using Volume One of A Child's Geography titled Explore His Earth, as it covers a lot of earth science-related topics. 

Fine Arts

I do not have a formal curriculum planned for art or music, but we do plan on studying works of art and composers when the time comes in our study of world history. I will purchase the necessary books (or find them at the library) when we need them. My children love music and over the last year I have had classical music playing while my daughter worked on independent school assignments and the boys played. No one complained so I will probably continue it this year.

If time permits, we will use a couple of books I purchased last year but was unable to fit in to our daily lessons. The first one is this book about instruments and the orchestra. The second book is a book about drawing. My daughter loves to draw, but she could use some help with proper techniques. I hope that we will have the time (and patience) to sit down and work on this book together.


A goal I have for my daughter is to work more on piano lessons with her. She is slowly reading music and wants to learn to play well, but we always run out of time (or the youngest is taking a nap). I shouldn't keep putting it off, as it is a skill I know we will all appreciate when she is older. 

We are looking forward to beginning a new year!

2016-2017 Curriculum Link-Up:

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Recipe: Banana Blueberry Cake with Lemon Buttercream

At the official start of summer, we visited a local blueberry farm. We brought home a good amount of blueberries and my daughter has been eating bowlful after bowlful of blueberries. I managed to save a few to make one of my favorite summer recipes, this Banana-Blueberry Cake with Lemon-Buttercream.

This is so good that even my 4-year-old son, who does not care for blueberries, enjoys it!

Do not be intimidated by the long recipe. It is actually quite easy to make!

Banana Blueberry Cake with Lemon Buttercream

Recipe Source: Chef Chloe Coscarelli, Chloe's Vegan Desserts


2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 c. mashed bananas (about 2-3 very ripe bananas)
1 c. canned coconut milk
1/2 c. canola oil
1 Tbsp. white or apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries, plus extra for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. In a separate bowl, whisk together bananas, coconut milk, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into  the dry mixture and whisk until just combined. Do not over mix. Gently fold in 1 1/2 cups blueberries.

Fill each prepared pan evenly with batter. Bake 32-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out dry with a few crumbs clinging to it. Rotate the cakes halfway through baking time. Let the cakes cool completely before assembly.


1 c. non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
3 c. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
3-5 Tbsp. lemon juice

Using a stand or hand mixer, beat shortening until smooth. With  the mixer running on low, add powdered sugar, lemon zest, and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice at a time, as needed, until frosting reaches a spreadable consistency. Increase the speed to high and beat for 2 more minutes until light and fluffy.

To assemble the cake: Once the cakes are completely cooled, run a knife around the inside edge of each cake pan to loosen, and gently unmold the cake. Peel off the parchment paper and slice the dome off the top of each cake for even assembly, if desired. Place one cake on a serving plate. Spread a generous layer of frosting on top of the cake. Place the second cake on top of the first and spread a generous layer of frosting on top. Garnish with fresh blueberries, if desired, and serve.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Week in Review 2016: #25


What a week! Father's Day was on Sunday and the children enjoyed showering Daddy with affection. At church, the primary children got up and sang a song for their fathers. Bridget is a good sport and has always gone up to sing her songs with the other children in front of the congregation, but George has always been too afraid. However, this time he want up! He was so cute singing. They both were. I know that daddy appreciated it. 

The following day, my husband took off from work and spent the day with us. We made a visit to the blueberry farm and had a delightful time. My husband's parents joined us and all together we picked about 8 pounds of blueberries (for $12!). 

Afterward, we headed to my husband's hometown for lunch. While we were at the restaurant waiting for our food, I brought out my camera to see the pictures I had taken at the blueberry farm and Liam decided to start cheesing it up. Naturally, I had to take a picture. 

On Wednesday night, we had avery severe thunderstorm that came through our area. It got really bad around 11:30 p.m. as I was reading in bed and I got up to take a peek out the window. Lighting was flashing constantly (like a flash second---I'm not kidding) even though I did not hear very much thunder. The wind was blowing strong and I was very nervous. I consulted with my husband (who had woken up from the loud noises of the storm) about whether or not I should wake the kids and take them to our 'safe room'. We checked the weather quickly to see if there was a tornado warning and saw none, so we let the kids sleep while I kept an eye out. Finally, the storm passed and I was able to get some sleep.

The following morning, I took a look at the backyard to see the damage and was surprised not to find it full of storm debris. I did notice that our tomato plants had been hit and were leaning. It is too soon to tell whether or not they will survive. They are over 6 feet tall (this is not an exaggeration) and well over the height of their cages. While we were sad about our tomato plants, we were able to get our first harvest from them that afternoon. There are many more green ones left that we hope will continue to grow.

Other than the excitement of picking tomatoes, Bridget had some excitement of her very own. Her two front teeth have been loose since the end of April. Over the past week, they have finally gotten loose enough to anticipate their coming out. I took one last picture of Bridget with her full smile, as I knew one of them were bound to come out that day.

George is captivated by this whole loose tooth business that he has been following Bridget around just to keep up-to-date on her teeth. He brought out one of the Berenstain Bear books where Sister Bear gets her first loose tooth and had been 'reading' it all day. Bridget was nice enough to let George wiggle at her tooth. You can tell by his face that he didn't know what to think!

The children went about their business, played with Papa who came over for a visit, and lo and behold, an hour after I took those pictures, the tooth was out! 

Bridget had come running out of her bedroom in freak-out mode because she had been playing with a toy flute and somehow knocked her tooth backwards where it was barely hanging on. When I took a look in her mouth, I knew it was time. I got a wet paper towel and had her lay down on the couch. She was terrified. So I gave her the paper towel and told her to do it, and she did! 

I cleaned the tooth in the sink and she went running to show Papa, George, and Liam the empty space in her mouth. And here it is. Baby tooth #3. 


This week, we have been reading about the Greek gods and goddesses. As a child, I was fascinated by the stories of ancient Greek mythology. As I was reading to Bridget, I realized that this has not changed. I am still fascinated by it all. It might be time to check out a few books from the library for myself on the subject. I am especially loving this book. The stories are well written and the illustrations are great. I will need to look into purchasing their book on Norse myths for the upcoming school year.

An easier version of The Iliad that I had ordered came in yesterday. Our local bookstore had The Odyssey so I was able to get that but wanted to read The Iliad to Bridget first. We began reading a version of it that went a bit over her head, so once I found that Classic Starts has an easier version of it, I knew that it would work. I have already read many of the Classic Starts book to the children and they follow along very nicely. I hope to start on The Iliad this weekend and finish both books by the middle of next week.

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