This Month's Featured Resources...

Father's DayTravel - CookingLatin WW2

Monday, November 28

Work Song (Hozier)

How many times have you thought to yourself "WHY do I have to do everything around here???"  News flash : You don't.  While we didn't create these little people to make them work, we can teach a lot of character and ethic through chores and working around the home, and it's just as crucial to their schooling. 

Mom, you are the CEO of the home, and need to plan for your employees.  Just like you wouldn't start a new job without knowing the work expectations, they can't work without knowing what is expected of them.

Let younger children work beside you.  Yes, it's going to cause more hassle and a mess in the short term, but the pay out will be worth it!  They will learn how you do something, and (if you'll answer a plethora of questions) why you do it that way.  One of the best tools in my parent arsenal is explaining everything to my children.  Why we something is just as important as how.

Walk your children through each chore three to four times, BE SPECIFIC about what you want done, and then turn them loose.  We have a chore card for each room of the house, and the kids have been walked through each set of chores multiple times.  If they need help with something (we're out of wet wipes; the vacuum is broken; etc), they know that they can ask for help.  They may not ask for help just because they don't feel like doing it.

Setting Up a Chore System
Laminate the chore cards - they'll last longer.  We keep these laminated cards in a pocket chart alongside our laminated school day cards, and chores are a natural extension of the school day in our homeschool.

Don't expect them to do it well at first, but expect to see some effort.  Also, be sure to check behind your child and offer up a smile and positive words when they've done a good job.  If the job needs work, provide constructive criticism, but remember that they did the best they could do and may just need more practice.  (If you can tell they didn't try at all, this is a character issue...address accordingly.)

Give your children both paid and non-paid chores.  This gives them a chance to work and save up for something they have been wanting.  In our house, non-paid chores are everyday ones : feed the animals, clean your room, help clean the kitchen, fold laundry, etc.  Paid chores are provided on an as-needed basis (ie, when I needed help collating 2,000 packets for a meeting).  Occasionally, if they've been working very hard to earn something, typically a Lego set, and are very close to it, we will 'invent' a chore that needs doing, such as picking up sticks in the yard.  They are doing the work, and feel proud of the accomplishment of purchasing their own Lego set.

When you teach your children to do chores, you're empowering them.  They're learning life skills, and they're also learning about work ethics.  They can do something.  They are useful.  They are needed.  Even our special needs child knows that he has value and things that he is very good at - he has confidence!  No matter what the future brings, they will know how to work hard at anything they put their mind toward.  In our opinion, this is just as important, if not more so, than the academics of school.

Monday, November 21

Shine on Harvest Moon (Rosemary Clooney)

On a unusually empty Saturday, as we bumbled around town looking for something to do...a garage sale to crash....something to pass the time....we came across this storage box and began a new project.  If we'd been thinking clearly, we'd have taken some decent 'before' photos...but alas.
The box was made of real wood and had great bones, but someone had painted it this terrible chartreuse color...that's not a color anyone needs in their kitchen.  Or pantry.  It also had hinges that were rusted in place and needed a thorough scrubbing.  Completely do-able in a weekend.
The boys helped to break it apart into all of it's little pieces, and give it a nice coat of off-white paint.  We cleaned it well beforehand.  While the paint was drying, we soaked the hinges in WD-40 to loosen them.
A bit of bright red paint for the covers brought life to our piece and gave it a vintage feel.  We also stapled wire mesh to them, instead of the thick plastic, to open them up and let the food inside breathe.  For the top of the box, we pulled out our old Tupperware stencils and livened it up with the boys' vision of a pastoral scene. 

And voila!  A root box to hold potatoes, carrots, beets, apples, and the rest of your fall harvest.

A few Potato Recipes...

Friday, November 18

Feet on the Ground (Ruby Velle)

Do you have children who seem to notice and respond to every sight and sound around them, including those that you had not noticed? Do your children have a hard time getting homework or chores done because they seem to lose track of what they are doing?

Some children are highly distractible, noticing every sight and sound around them. When working on a task, they are often side-tracked and have a difficult time focusing. On the positive side, this trait also refers to children’s perceptiveness. Highly distractible children are keen observers of the world around them.

I'm not applying labels here....ADD, ADHD...who needs them?  We all have our own issues, and distractibility is sometimes a blessing in disguise...once you get pass the classroom setting.

As a distractible child myself, I have also been blessed with a distractible child.  My mother is amused....  

Distractible children have no filter, so we need to help them limit their distractions.
Use movement to activate learning.  Mindless and repetitive movement will help to keep the body occupied and allow the mind to center and focus on learning.

Movement ideas while learning alone :
  • Skip rope while doing times tables.
  • Hop while doing chants, like Song School Latin.
  • Walk on a treadmill while reading.  I learned to study while using an elliptical trainer, and found that I retained considerably more information.  Research shows that exercising while learning activates different areas of the brain.
Movement ideas while listening to a story or other teaching in a group :
  • Play with silly putty
  • Make a pattern with Legos
  • Organize toy cars by size / color
  • Braid a doll's hair
Understand that they may have to move.
  • "Normal" people stop and pay attention to listen.  Distractible children are no longer listening if they're stopping and 'paying attention.'  I had a professor who finally understood this, and allowed me to doodle all the way through class.  She knew that if I was looking at her, I was zoned out and gone.
  • Give them something to do with their hands, if they need to be still and listen for a while.
Have them take responsibility for their learning.
  • If they don't understand, they have to say so, rather than pretending that they do.
  • They have to try to learn, and try a different method if the first way doesn't work.
  • Ask every so often if they are understanding.
Try different learning styles.
  • Some kids need movement-centered learning (see above) and hands-on (kinesthetic) activities.
  • Others are very musical, and can learn anything put to music.  Try chants and ditties that they can sing and dance along with, such as the ones on Ditty Bugs.
  • Some kids can learn anything from a movie (audio/visual) - most distractible children are going to need to move around while watching a movie.
  • Find what works best for your child.  (You probably already know, just from observation!)
Teach them to develop focus.
  • You may have to remind them to refocus several times a day, but try to do so without anger or condescension.  This isn't a character flaw, and they don't need to be disciplined.  They just need a gentle reminder.
  • Break large tasks into smaller bits, and recognize the completion of these smaller tasks.  Even if your child is a pre-teen, they need to learn to break things down into manageable bits.
  • Use charts to help keep them focused on the tasks at hand.  We use these elementary and middle school daily charts to help remind the kids of what is left to be tackled.
Further Exploration

Wednesday, November 16

Rocky Top (Osborne Brothers)

I dare you to read this post without humming along to Rocky Top at some point.....  *giggle*

One of the coolest parts about our trip through the Rocky Mountains was all of the different geological structures we discovered!  Our son was working on his Geology Merit Badge during this trip, and so we went a little more in-depth than a typical unit study.  It was a lot of fun!  In the photos above, we are looking at a sedimentary structure and the tree line.
Having spent most of our lives at or near sea-level, the plant life zones of Colorado were fascinating to our entire family.  Seeing the timber line, seeing snow in the summer...these were new to us!  This visual helped us as we looked out to the mountains themselves.
At one of the local rock shops, the boys spent well over an hour discussing various geological samples from the local terrain.  We learned about feldspar, quart, and selenite.  The selenite towers were their favorite - as there were some that looked like magic wands!
Another neat thing about this particular store was how they provided written materials to go along with each piece they sold, and the approximate date of the rock itself.  What a cool, hands-on lesson in geology!

Geology Unit Study
Related Trips

Classroom Resources

Hands-On Resources

Sunday, November 13

Meet Me in the Morning (Bob Dylan)

German Apple Pancake
·         2  eggs
·         1/ 2 c milk
·         1/ 2 tsp vanilla extract
·         1/ 2 c all-purpose flour
·         pinch of salt
·         2 Tbsp unsalted butter
·         1 apple, peeled, cored, and sliced thinly
·         1/ 2 tsp cinnamon
·         pinch of nutmeg
·         1/ 4 c packed light brown sugar

·         Preheat oven to 400 F.
·         Place a cast iron skillet over medium to high heat.
·         Whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla, then mix in flour and salt.
·         Place butter into the cast iron skillet.  Once melted, add apples, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
·         Cook 2 minutes until apples have softened, then add brown sugar and let the apples caramelize slightly.
·         Pour batter evenly over top, and place the skillet into the oven for 20-25 minutes.
·         Turn pancake onto a plate immediately (before it has a chance to stick).
·         Slice and top with pure maple syrup or confectioners’ sugar.
To freeze :  Let cool, wrap in individual servings, and freeze up to three months.
To reheat :  Thaw overnight and microwave 30 seconds.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1/4 c oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c water
  • 3/4 c can pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 c chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Mix sugar, oil, eggs, pumpkin, and water.
  3. In separate bowl, mix together baking flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt.
  4. Add wet mixture and stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 20 to 25 minutes.
To freeze :  Let cool and put into freezer bag.  Keeps about two months.
To reheat :  Thaw and microwave 30 - 45 seconds.

Best Ever Biscuits

  • 1 3/ 4 c flour 
  • 1 Tbsp sugar 
  • 2 1/ 4 tsp baking powder 
  • 3/ 4 tsp salt 
  • 1/ 4 tsp baking soda 
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold & cubed 
  • 3/ 4 c milk 


  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. 
  2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. 
  3. Add butter and mix the cubes into the flour mixture just until crumbly.  
  4. Add milk and stir until the dough comes together. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for a minute. 
  5. Flatten the dough out in the shape of a rectangle.  Dough should be about 1/4 inch thick. 
  6. Use a biscuit cutter (or a jar will work) to cut out as many biscuits as you can.   Knead leftover dough together, flatten, and cut again.
  7. Place the biscuits on a cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.
To freeze :  Let cool and put into freezer bag.  Keeps about two months.
To reheat :  Thaw overnight and microwave 30-45 seconds.

Carrot Cake Muffins

  • 1 c all-purpose flour 
  • 1 tsp baking soda 
  • 1/ 2 tsp salt 
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1/ 2 tsp allspice 
  • 3/ 4 cup sugar 
  • 1/ 2 cup oil 
  • 2 l eggs 
  • 1 1/ 2 cups peeled, grated carrots 


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. 
  2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in a medium bowl.
  3. Cream the sugar with the oil.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and whisk into mixture. 
  4. Add the flour mixture and whisk until just blended.  Fold in the carrots. 
  5. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.  Bake 20 minutes.

To freeze :  Let cool and put into freezer bag.  Keeps about two months.
To reheat :  Thaw overnight and microwave 30-45 seconds.