Thursday, June 28, 2012

On Our Way!

After our whirlwind June, which wrapped up last night at the swim team banquet (and I use that term in the loosest way possible), we are about to hit the highway for Maine. Himself has been busy packing the van; I had another doctor's appointment this morning, some papers to be notarized and sent overnight, and a trip to the barn to say good-bye to Max. Why slow down just because we're leaving for a few weeks?

Tiny Girl is not well. Of course. She has a sore throat and a bit of a fever. She's asleep on the couch as I type. My M.D. (mama diagnosis) says that she is simply exhausted from the fever pitch of June. One can only go so fast for so long.

Gotta run! I have high hopes of blogging whilst on the road (we'll see!). But it may have to wait til we get settled in up north.

See you soon!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

It's a Carnival of Curriculum!

Welcome to my contribution to The Curriculum Choice's Carnival of Curriculum! I'm very excited you're here, and I hope you find some encouraging and informative tidbits to help you in your homeschooling adventure.

A little about us and what we do:

  • I have two daughters, both of whom will be in middle school this coming school year. I'm still having trouble coming to terms with that fact. Last week, they were in diapers, for Pete's sake!
  • This fall begins our sixth year of homeschooling, so we are no longer neophytes. I still experience moments of nail-biting anxiety or a sleepless hour or two during the night now and again. But I am sure we are on the right path for us.
  • My girls and I love to read! So it's natural that a literature-based educational philosophy suits us best. Our first year of homeschooling, I began in classical mode and quickly made the switch to a more Charlotte Mason approach. Now I blend elements of both.

My top curricula sources:

  • Ambleside Online: This FREE, Charlotte Mason-based curriculum is, in a word, astounding. So much thought and effort went into its design. I've studied the book lists through Year 11, AO's final year, and am very impressed with the selections and options offered. We will begin our sixth year with AO, Year 6, in September, and I can't wait.

Have I mentioned that I'm a life-long learner? I have an academic's desire for research, discovery, and enlightenment; ergo, I enjoy searching for other books or educational avenues. Here are some sites where I've located titles to read:

  • The Tanglewood School Curriculum is another FREE curriculum guide that offers ideas for supplemental literature and history selections. More book choices is always a good thing!
  • Heritage History offers a huge selection of book titles, many of which are in the public domain, as well as study aids, such as historical maps, and information on wars and battles. Browse the library to find books listed by genre.
  • A Book in Time is another fabulous booklist. Organized by time period, such as Early America or Middle Ages, listed books also feature annotation and age recommendation.
  • Epi Kardia, a CM curriculum, provides a book list I like to peruse for ideas and options.
  • Happy Hearts Homeschooling Library offers a wealth of information on FREE books, arranged by subject.

I also use books to help me plan a thorough education for my children:

  • A Literary Education, by Catherine Levison
  • A Charlotte Mason Education, by Catherine Levison
  • More Charlotte Mason Education, by Catherine Levison
  • When Children Love to Learn, ed. Elaine Cooper
  • The Well-Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
  • Honey for a Child's Heart, by Gladys Hunt. You can read my review on The Curriculum Choice here.

A source for other education materials that I find particularly helpful is The Critical Thinking Company. Over the years, we've used several of their workbooks, including Mind Benders, Building Thinking Skills, and Word Roots.

Although reading is at the heart of our educational pursuits, we do some math as well! One of my children has used the free MEP curriculum (Mathematics Enhancement Programme) for five years. The other has required a few different curricula, and most recently we enrolled her in our nearby Mathnasium, a math tutoring facility. Already, we've seen a vast improvement in her attitude and confidence.

So that's a description, albeit brief, of most of my curricula resources. It took me a few years to winnow through the myriad options available to homeschoolers today, and these are what suit my family. I hope I've helped you on the way to discovering what's best for your family!

For more information on what goes on around our house as well as other resources, take a look at my posts under both the "Reviews" and "Homeschooling Helps" tags.

For more wonderful ideas and encouragement, spend some time browsing other posts at the Carnival of Curriculum! The review team has a wealth of homeschooling knowledge, experience, and tips, all ready to share with you.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Little Bit About Our Life... with Photos!

This week was a tad less hectic. But we still had quite a bit going on:
  • Miss Priss spent the first few days of the week at my sister's house, helping my mother take care of my niece, who was sick.
  • Two days of helping out with pony camp for Tiny Girl.
  • Another home swim meet with the mayhem of concessions -- but it's the last this season.
  • A birthday party sleepover.
  • A day at our city's biggest theme park.
  • And planning for our upcoming junket to Maine.
That and a few afternoons at the pool, swim team practice, playdates, and iced coffee, and what more does one need?

Well, if you're me, you need some chocolate:

This is highly addictive dark chocolate filled with caramel and sprinkled with sea salt. I highly recommend it.

You also need a good book:

I highly recommend this book as well. I got it at the library and then bought my own copy on Amazon Used.

Some nostalgia is good for the soul. While the children rode the carousel in the pavilion, my friend, Eliza, and I rocked in wooden rocking chairs and talked:

It was a restful and cooling break on a hot, exciting day.

Although I declined a trip down Thunder River, the tweens had a blast:

This looks cooling as well!

At the end of the day, the caped crusaders were sweaty, footsore, damp, a tad soiled, and mighty happy.

We did absolutely no schoolwork this week, and we didn't get a whole lot of sleep, either, but it was still wonderful!

I'm linking up with Collage Friday@Homegrown Learners, The Homeschool Mother's Journal, and Weekly Wrap-Ups@Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. Come join in the fun!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer Sipper Extraordinaire: Perfect Iced Coffee

Okay. I know I've raved before about Ree Drummond's Perfect Iced Coffee. But it's worth another mention (or fifty) now that summer is upon us. Because let me tell you, this is one perfect summer sipper.

If you take the time to read all 1,200+ comments on Ree's blog, you'll see that folks have teaked the recipe to their liking. I have too, and I'll share my absolute favorite with you.

Some people are concerned about the VAT of coffee base that Ree's recipe makes. Here's my solution: freeze it. Two weeks ago, I defrosted a half gallon that I'd frozen months ago -- before Christmas -- and it was fine. Fabulous, even.

You could also revamp the recipe for a smaller yield, as some commenters on Ree's site have. But that requires math. So I make the full recipe and then freeze the excess. It keeps really well in the fridge, too.

And if you don't have the fridge or freezer space, then give bottles of the stuff as gifts for your friends. Believe me, they'll love it!

Anyway, Ree tends to prefer half-and-half and sugar. She also recommends the Vietnamese recipe with sweetened condensed milk. Those are both delicious.

But my absolute favorite iced coffee refreshment:

  • Fill a large glass 1/2 full of ice cubes. To avoid watery-ness, make some ice cubes with the coffee base and use those!
  • Pour in coffee base til glass is about 2/3 to 3/4 full, depending on how strong you want your resulting libation.
  • Add a healthy pouring of Natural Bliss creamer. I love all the flavors, but hazelnut makes my heart go pitter-pat.
  • You can also use half milk and half creamer, which I sometimes do.
  • I've made this with both decaf and caff coffees; both turned out perfectly.

I've heard that milk alternatives, fat-free creamers, and Splenda work well, too. If you're watching your fat intake and calories, or if you're dairy intolerant, those may be options for you. I bet agave syrup would also be tasty. Me, I go for the full fat, full sugar, high calorie lusciousness every time.


I'm linking up with No Ordinary Blog Hop! Hop on over for more great recipes.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Lazy Days of Summer... When Do They Begin?

Photo courtesy
I have been away much too long! No, I did not drop off the face of the planet, but I WAS nearly swallowed up with all the stuff going on.

I've been dealing with a medical issue that resulted in my having to endure three biopsies and a few days of recuperation. That Tylenol with codeine packs a punch, my friends! But it also does its job well, and that's what I needed. Although the biopsy results were negative for cancer (big praise here!), they indicated a skin condition for which there is no cure and has to be "managed." Since there's a support group for everything nowadays, I promptly joined a Yahoo group and have been learning all I can.

My church's Vacation Bible School was last week, and Miss Priss and I both volunteered: she as a pre-K walker (shepherding a group of rising pre-K children to their activities, AKA "herding cats") and me in the kitchen. We prepared daily snacks for 300+ children, but the vast majority of our time was spent in making fabulous snacks for the volunteer room, e.g., pimiento cheese biscuit pinwheels; apple slices with caramel/cream/cheese/Heath bar dip; tapenade pita pizzas; bruschetta flatbreads; hummus and pita chips; Ho-Ho cake; strawberries with cream cheese/almond flavored dip; jalapeno corn dip; fruit trays; veggie trays; and more. Not everything made an appearance every day, but everything was fantastic. I needed a nap almost every afternoon, we were so busy!

Tuesday was our first home swim meet. Have I mentioned that I am co-chair of concessions again this year? I am. And the other co-chair was out of town last week. Fortunately, she'd bought most of the items we needed before she left. But I was busier than a one-armed paper hanger from 2:00 PM until almost 10:00 PM. And Himself, bless him, did almost all the grilling. One of the parent volunteers also made some wonderful jambalaya, which we sold by the bowl. He said he'd "wimped it down," but it was spicy enough for me!

Tiny Girl has been helping out with her trainer's pony camp as a junior assistant. She loves it, but we have to be at the barn by 8:15 AM. She doesn't go every day, but when she doesn't go to the barn, she goes to swim team practice.

On Friday, we drove to my parents' house in the country for a family reunion. It was a lot of fun. We celebrated my youngest sister's 40th birthday on Friday evening. Sunday evening we headed home, except for Miss Priss, who is enjoying some alone time with Grammie and Grandad.

Betwixt and between, there have been sleepovers, a couple of birthday parties, afternoons at the pool, and other fun activities. Tonight is another sleepover, tomorrow we have another home swim meet (fire up that grill, baby!), and on Wednesday Miss Priss comes home. Wednesday evening is a birthday party sleepover. Thursday we're going to an area theme park with some friends. Friday is my sister's birthday.

Oh, and I have a growing list of things to do before we leave for Maine. Like get an oil change for the van. And pack.

Betwixt and between those activities, I've been looking for some freelance work, making plans for next year, and attempting to reorganize and straighten the study. I'm staying up pretty well with my social media activity, but my blog feel by the wayside for a bit. Blogging takes more thought and energy than pinning things to Pinterest, after all.

So that's my life for the past few weeks! I'm looking forward to jumping back into fun link-ups, catching up with you all, and writing about sundry things.

How's your summer shaping up?

I'm linking up with Miscellany Mondays, Hip Homeschool Hop, and No Ordinary Blog Hop. Come join the fun!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Poem

Daughter of Mine

“Let’s sit on the couch and talk,”
she says, taking my hand.
And I go.
Friends wiser than I
say it won’t be long
before this changes.
Soon her eyes will glide over me
when she surveys a room.
I’ll be superfluous,
too familiar to be interesting.
A static character in the narrative of her life.

It’s natural.
It’s normal.

It wouldn’t change a thing if I
decided to jump out of an airplane.
A minor blip on the screen.

I remember a reunion between the two of us.
Our first separation, a weekend apart.
When she heard my voice,
saw my face,
she crawled like lightning,
little hands slapping the floor,
to get to me.

It’s not forever.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Using VARK to Strengthen Educational Experiences in Your Homeschool

One of the best things about homeschooling is the opportunity to tailor educational experiences to a child's preferred learning style. A classroom teacher, no matter how hard he or she tries to create a multimodal environment, simply does not have the time to attend to each child individually. But I can.

I've read quite a few learning styles books over the years, but I found it difficult to zero in on my daughters' preferences. They've always enjoyed my reading aloud to them, so I chose a literary-based educational model. I added in other activities to mix things up. We rolled along.

I'm happy to report, however, that I recently discovered the VARK system, which offers both adult and young person's questionnaires. Now that my children are older, I thought it would be interesting to see their own responses to a learning-style assessment. I also wanted to discover my own preferences, just for kicks.

 The VARK (Visual, Aural, Read/Write, Kinesthetic) evaluation consists of 16 questions, each with four response choices, of which a responder may select any that match his/her perception. This particular component of the questionnaire is fantastic. I think I only checked one box on perhaps two of the questions; on all the others, I selected more than one response.

But VARK is more than just nifty, fun, and helpful in making the learning experience more meaningful for each of our children. VARK goes one step further: each modality has a helpsheet that suggests specific study skills and methods for that particular preference:

  • Intake: ideas for absorbing information
  • SWOT (Study without Tears): study skills and techniques
  • Output: performance, e.g., tests, exams, assignments, presentations, etc.

For example, the Read/Write helpsheet suggests for SWOT that someone with that preference might want to rewrite his or her notes; read those notes silently over and over; rewrite ideas using other words; and rework charts, diagrams, and the like into written statements.

I found the FAQ section to be particularly helpful. Spend a few minutes browsing around there to get a feel for the philosophy behind the VARK system. To get a better understanding of the four modalities and the multimodal preference, read over the VARK Modalities page. None of these is too long or technical; in fact, I found them informative and fascinating.

You have the option to purchase for around $16.00 US a more detailed (typically seven- to eight-page) personal report of your score. I downloaded the two-page sample report and decided that the free academic helpsheets on the website were enough information for us at this point.

Our styles, you ask? I scored a strong Read/Write preference (13), with a fairly even mix among the other three modalities (around five/six). Miss Priss came out quite strong on the Aural side of things, whereas Tiny Girl is multimodal with visual leanings.

Pop over to the VARK site and take the quiz yourself. Have your older children take it, too. And then let me know your results. Were they what you expected, or was something out of the blue?

Image courtesy of

Monday, June 4, 2012

Snafus: Life Gets in the Way of My Plans. Again.

It's been almost a week since I last posted, which I hate. But, alas, it had to be. Last week, I had to deal with a medical issue that had me on painkillers, sleeping quite a bit, and moving slowly. I'm still recuperating, but am getting back up to speed, bit by bit. We are awaiting test results, so if you're moved to do so, a little prayer would be fabulous.

My well-thought-out plans for our summer work has fallen apart in the face of reality. Tiny Girl has swim team practice at 10:15 every (yes, every) morning until 11:00. We're also trying to fit in riding time before the hottest parts of the day. One day, we rode before swim; but she's a girl who needs her sleep, and I am loath to wake her. So we watch the weather reports to figure out good riding times each day.

The girls also want to play with their friends as much as possible. Since we leave at the end of June for two months, I hate to be a wet blanket about this. And they also want to go to the pool in the afternoons/early evenings. Again, they only have this month, and they love to swim. They stay at the pool for hours, without me, now that they have their own pool cards. It's a win-win situation for all.

Adding to this mix, Miss Priss has begun lessons at our nearby Mathnasium center. I plan to post about this later. The good news is that she likes it; the other good news is that she wants to go every day. The bad news is that this messes up my afore-mentioned, well-thought-out summer work schedule.

Then there's their summer independent reading. Last week, we took loads of books to our closest used bookstore to trade for credit. Each girl selected several books, which made my heart go pitter-pat. But now they want to read them, for Pete's sake, and aren't that interested in closing their books to read school books (however good those might be).

Therefore, the girls and I discussed a new schedule. Instead of trying to finish most things up by the end of June, we're going to do fewer readings per day and shoot for a later finish line. Flexibility is good.

And you? Has summer's fluidity and opportunities exercised a siren call over you and your children? How do you accommodate all this joy and stick to your original goals? I'd love to hear about it!