August 27, 2009

What the Bakers Are Reading

Kelsea: Further Chronicles of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Ishmael: Encyclopedia Brown Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol (he just discovered that this is book 1 in a series. He can't WAIT to get more from the library)

Joshua: Tom Sawyer Abroad by Mark Twain. This book was recently given to us as part of a set or Companion Books. The boys think these are the coolest books ever. You flip the book upside down and start a new story from the other end. lol He's almost half way through this story already. I was a little concerned about the slang and southern dialect messing him up. He seems to be doing fine. This book has gone everywhere with him.

Jeremiah: Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff. Jeremiah has been my latest bloomer when it comes to reading. Last night he wanted a book to take to bed just like his brothers. One that he could read all by himself. Mostly he's just been reading his lessons. So I pulled off Danny and the Dinosaur and told him he could read it all by himself. He was very skeptical. But he opened the book beside me and started to read. You should have seen the look of surprise on his face when he read the first page with no help whatsoever from his mother. Oh, I am just so excited for him.




"Et Tu, Brute? Then fall Caesar!"

August 26, 2009

The Math Tutor

Math Tutor

Laundry Detergent

I LOVE this homemade laundry detergent!

Cast of Characters:
Laundry Detergent

Borox, Washing Soda, Octagon Soap, Essential Oil (lavender)

*Update #1: You can make your own washing soda by baking your baking soda in a 250degree oven for 1 hour.
*Update #2: Since originally writing this post, I have switched to plain old Ivory soap. It's cheaper and I'm happier with the results.

I had a Whittling Chip card carrying Cub Scout shave the bar of soap for me. I've seen the recipe done with ZOTE, FelsNaptha, and Kirk's Castile soaps. I could find none of those. I did find Octagon at Food Lion. It smells nice (sort of lemon grassy).

Laundry Soap

We dumped our shavings into a 5 gallon bucket and poured a large pot of boiling water over top and stirred until the soap was completely melted.

Then we mixed in 2 cups of washing soda and 2 cups of borox and stirred. It got nice and fizzy.

The boys poured another pot of cold water into the bucket.
Laundry Detergent

My stirrer.

Laundry Soap

While it was cooling I added about 15 drops of the essential oil. I might have been just a tad more generous than that...I'm married to a smells man.
Laundry Soap

Then we filled the bucket the rest of the way to the top with cold water.

Then end result is about 5 gallons of really nice smelling laundry soap.

Expense Report:
$3.36 Borox (whitener and deoderizer)
$2.16 Washing Soda (dirt remover and deoderizer)
$.90 Octagon Soap (stain remover)
$6.42 Total to get started. I have enough Borox and washing soda to make 4 more 5 gallon batches. It comes to about 2 cents per load, if I only use 1 cup.

The essential oil, I already had. I *think* I spent about $5.00 on it, give or take, and used so little of it.

I have washed and dried our first load and it passed Leon's smell test. I would have added more lavender if it didn't.

August 18, 2009

Popcorn Take 2

Today we experimented a bit with popcorn. Last week the kids asked if I could make kettle corn, so we looked up a recipe on google. So today I wondered if we could do the same thing to make caramel corn. It worked!

Cast of Characters:
1/2 cup popcorn, 1/4 cup of oil, 1/4 cup sugar (brown for caramel corn, white for kettle corn)

Have a cookie sheet lined with wax paper ready before you start popping.

Step 1:
Pretty much follow the first step of yesterday. Put 3 kernels in the pot with the oil. Place lid and wait for kernels to pop. Ta-da! Oil is ready.

NOW add your kernels and sugar (brown shows up better on camera).

Step 2:

With sugar in the popcorn it's very important to keep the pot moving almost constantly. Not too much or it will take longer to pop, but often enough to keep the sugar from burning. I use a towel to help hold the lid down so I can shake it. Don't shake it too hard. There is oil in the pan. I wouldn't want anyone burning down their kitchens.

Step 3:


Pour it out onto the cookie sheet and please...don't use your fingers to "help" the popcorn out of the pan. Hot melted sugar burns. Really badly. And it leaves blisters. Salt the popcorn while it's still warm.


This method makes the popcorn perfectly crispy with just the right amount of sweet. You can use as much as 1/2 a cup of sugar, but we are going for less sugar these days.

Day 2

This is the kettle corn. It's lighter in color. Some of the sugar caramelizes and it tastes delicious.

Both are the perfect blend of salty and sweet. And honestly, there isn't that much difference in taste between them.

August 17, 2009


The kids love popcorn. It's one of their favorite treats. The microwave popcorn gets so expensive and my crew can easily go through 3 bags for one movie. So this week we are going to experiment with and learn about popcorn.

You gotta love Google. Without it we would know nothing about And our existence would be meager indeed if it weren't for watching a video of popcorn popping in slow motion. This is a really cool video.

Today we are just making basic popcorn.

Cast of Characters:
paper sacks, 1/2 cup popcorn kernels, 1/4 cup oil, salt, and any mix-ins (M&M's)

My paper bags were HUGE. I had to cut off the top half of them. This is what the boys did with the trimmings.


Step One:
I put the oil in the pan with 3 kernels. Put the lid on and set the pan over med heat.

Step Two:
When the 3 kernels have popped, the oil is ready. Pour in the 1/2 cup of kernels.

Put on the lid, and shake the pan occasionally. You don't have to keep it constantly moving but it is good to give it a shake. I hold the lid down with the pot holder when I shake my pan.

Popcorn is ready when the popping slows down. Some say when they get to 2-3 seconds between popping. I don't wait that long and don't have very many old maids.

Step Three:

Pour the popcorn into a bowl (or paper bags) and shake in some salt. You can butter it at this point. Then add your mix-ins. The M&M's get warm and soft but not completely melted. Very yummy.

Please note: My bags were HUGE. The kids each got about 1 1/2 cups of popcorn.

August 15, 2009

Saturday Night Pizza

We've gone back and forth between making our own crust, buying the Pillsbury ready to go dough, picking up frozen, or ordering out.

The best is...okay I really like Pizza Hut and won't say that my pizza compares...but other than ordering out, making our own crust is the yummiest option. It is also the cheapest. I spend less than $10 for 3 pizzas, depending on toppings.

Cast of Characters:
Saturday Night Pizza
King Arthur's Whole White Wheat Flour (silver container), Garlic Salt, Olive Oil, Yeast, Honey, and Water (not pictured)

Step 1:
In a large bowl wisk 2T yeast, 2T honey, and 2 cups water.
Saturday Night Pizza
I prefer to buy my honey from local farmers, you can also substitute with brown sugar, I prefer the honey.

Let it sit on the counter to "proof" for about 5 min.

Step 2:
Saturday Night Pizza

Mix in 2 T olive oil, 1 1/2 t garlic salt, and flour. I start with 5 cups but I add more if needed until the dough isn't as sticky. It needs to be good and squashy, not too firm, but it shouldn't be goo either.

I start by mixing it in with a fork, but then I kneed it with my hands for about 5 min.

Step 3:
Saturday Night Pizza

Cover with a damp cloth and let it rise for about 45 min to an hour. I usually clean up the kitchen at this point. I also vacuumed, looked for batteries for my (now dead) camera, and organized the Tupperware cabinet. Leave out the olive oil and flour, you'll still need it.

Step 4:
Saturday Night Pizza
I separate the dough into 3 portions (2 large, 1 small). Lighly oil your pans.

Generously flour the counter and rolling pin. Roll dough out into a circle with the rolling pin, then stretch it with your hands till it's the size and shape of the pans.

Saturday Night Pizza
Add your favorite sauce and toppings.

Step 5:
Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 14 min until crust is golden and cheese is melted.
Saturday Night Pizza

The sun had gone down in the process of my baking so the color is off in the picture (lack of natural light). Trust me. It was del.ic.ious.

August 13, 2009

Job Hunting

Jeremiah: "Can I go job hunting with Daddy today?"

Me: "Do you need a job?"

Jeremiah: "You have to need a job to go job hunting?"

Me: "Umm yeah? You can't go job hunting with Daddy, but why don't you go get dressed like a business man. Lets see how you do. We'll pretend."

He lit up. Kid loves pretend play. I was expecting something much more entertaining, but he actually turned out well. Normal even.

Job Hunting

He even came downstairs with his own "application".
Job Hunt

Interview With a 5th Grader

I enjoyed interviewing the kids. Some of their reactions to the "big questions" were funny. They had a blast with this and want to do it again soon.

August 12, 2009


Meet my brand new niece who entered the world today.

Emily Madison Shaw


I don't have any details yet. I hear mom and baby are just fine. I can't wait to meet her!

August 7, 2009

Science and Foreign Language.

I'm not officially decided on science for this year. I'm considering Christian Kids Explore Physics. We did Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space last year and really had a lot of fun with it. I'm considering Apologia's Biology course for Kelsea.

The boys will be starting Latina Christiana I this year to round out a classic education. Kelsea prefers to learn Spanish, so she'll be using Switched on Schoolhouse's Spanish cd-rom.

August 6, 2009

PETA Please don't read this.

"Daddy, did you know that cow is my favorite food group?"

Writing and Spelling

Kelsea did Write Shop I with a group of friends a few years ago. I really like the way it's laid out. For each lesson the student writes a paragraph and learns a new skill. The lessons each have three tailor-made checklists: one for the student to use before they turn in their rough draft, one for the teacher to evaluate the work for the revision, and the third for the teacher to give a fair grade based on meeting the criteria for the lesson.

This year I am going to use Write Shop for Ishmael and Joshua. I'm going to schedule it over the course of two years. I'd rather take our time and learn from it slowly, especially since they are only in 4th and 5th grade.

Kelsea will start Write Shop II this year.

For spelling I am going to give Sequential Spelling a try. I like the look of it and that all of the kids will use it at the same time. Our family seems to do well with incremental studies. We've done four lessons now and so far it's going pretty well.

August 5, 2009

History and Geography

We study history as a family. I have learned so much with the kids, and have enjoyed every minute of it. Our history lessons are my favorite time of day. This year's focus is on the Middle Ages. I use two different curriculums.

Mystery of History (MOH) is fun and engaging. We finished Volume I last year. I love the Christian perspective. It starts with Creation and teaches history from a Young Earth point of view. Our B.C. timeline is complete and we are moving on. (previous blog post about this time line)
Mystery of History

I supplement with Beautiful Feet (BF). I love the literature base of this curriculum. I only picked up MOH because BF doesn't have a Ancient History series for young children. I understand and respect their philosophy (you can download a pdf of their philosophy here). However, I disagree and wanted to teach Ancient History to my crew. The writing assignments from BF are also challenging and good for my older kids.

For geography we'll pick back up Galloping the Globe. Once a month we'll "take a trip" to a foreign country and "spend the day there." This is just a fun game the kids and I play. We wake up and "pack" for our journey. We get on board "the plane" and watch our in flight movie (usually a travel video). Then when we land we have our passports stamped, read a few books, do a few crafts, have an authentic lunch, and learn some phrases. It's a day to break from the monotony of schoolwork. The kids look forward to it and will probably always remember it.

Some of my favorite geography resources are my maps from Geo Matters. They are laminated black outline maps. We usually write on them with wet erase markers. We've pulled them out for history and marked battle lines. When we studied WWI we marked off the Western Front and the trenches. For WWII occupying powers kept changing and it was really neat to be able to work it out together and see how the war progressed. These maps were worth every penny I paid for them.

For fun we've been working on Beautiful Feet's Geography course. The kids map out the stories of a few Holling C. Holling classics. So far we've finished Tree in the Trail and Paddle to the Sea.



August 4, 2009

Easy Grammar

Easy Grammar is very deserving of it's name. The child starts off memorizing the list of prepositions. He goes on to identify the prepositional phrases and crosses them out of sentences. Then, finding the subjects, verbs, etc. are a piece of cake.

We reinforce this with Daily Grams. This gives them practice in capitalization, punctuation, parts of speech, and sentence combining. They are quick and easy lessons.

Currently I am teaching Joshua and Ishmael from the 5th grade book. I write grammar exercises on the small board.

I write the Daily Grams on the big board that fits over top of the small board.
(My big board has certainly earned it's keep.)

They copy it into their folder. Then we make the corrections together. This saves me so much time.

Kelsea is taking Easy Grammar Plus and Daily Grams (Junior High/Senior High). I really like that Daily Grams has the same pattern in every book. It makes it easy to do this as a class at different levels. Kelsea simply does the pages in her book that coordinate with the 5th grade book. So we are all working on prepositions, capitalization, etc together.

August 3, 2009

Saxon Math

This is our fourth year using Saxon for math. It's an incremental program that works well for my kids. The older kids start their day with a lesson on the computer with the D.I.V.E cd's. Then they do a few practice problems followed by about 25-30 review problems. Actually Ishmael and Joshua only do odd or even problems.

Jeremiah gets a weeks worth of lessons on Monday and a "math packet" for the week. This is simply 5 days worth of math worksheets that he turns in on Friday when he takes a written assessment. So far this method works well for him.

I haven't been very strong with the flash cards. I know the kids would do better with them, so using them daily is my new goal this year.

First Day of School

Today is the first day of our ninth year of homeschooling. I am in awe to have come so far. Homeschooling started out as a temporary answer to my disappointment in our local school system. Now it is our way of life. It is who we are and what we do. We love being a part of the local homeschool community. We love the freedom and opportunities it has given us. It has truly been a blessing to our family.

I like to set up the table the night before with their new school supplies. I love school supplies. It's a sickness really.

My students woke up at 7:00 am and had our chocolate breakfast. Fresh made warm ooey gooey chewy brownies and chocolate milk. I also fried a few eggs to round it out.

Normally we don't start school until 9:00 but my students were eager. So at around 8:00 am, we started reading Misty of Chincoteague. The boys take turns reading out loud. Joshua is working hard and has come so very far. I'm very proud of him. We usually get comfortable in the living room to read. This is also how we do our history lessons.


When we are done with reading, we move on to spelling and grammar. The kids copy their grammar from our dry erase board, then we go over it together.


After lunch break, we work on our math and finish up any projects that we've got going. There are other subjects we cover but not on a daily basis. I haven't started science yet. I need to make up my mind about what we'll learn.


In honor of starting a new school year I'm going to post a review of our curriculum and favorite resources each day.