Kids in the Kitchen: Mixing a Marinade

kids in the kitchen

When my older two boys were little, I wasn’t very good at involving them in the cooking. It’s something that I knew I should have been doing, but it was just never something that “fit in” to what I was doing at the time.

Now that I have a “second chance,” so to speak, with the little boys, they get involved a lot more. Especially Small Fry (4). He absolutely love helping out in the kitchen. And if it’s a meal where there’s not much for him to be helpful with, he at least likes to stand on a chair and watch, so he’s still learning. I understand now that I really missed out in my impatience as a younger parent; having kids help in the kitchen is a lot more fun than it is work. I never expected it to be such a blessing, and I know that I’m giving him something that will last a lifetime. With the older boys, it will be an uphill battle from now on teaching them to cook. It’s something that will have to happen, because I’m sure they’ll be living on their own at some point and they’ll need that skill.

But for now, I’m going to enjoy having my littles in the kitchen with me. Even if just doing tiny tasks like dumping in the premeasured ingredients or mixing up a marinade.

How do you get your kids to help in the kitchen?

Blessings,

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Elementary Science: Growing an Avocado

avocado pit growth

Munchkin is finishing up his science class for the year this month (he’s been working double time to be able to complete the program before our subscription runs out, which is why he’ll be done in March instead of June). One of the things he was instructed to do to learn about plants and roots was to grow an avocado pit. I’m sure this has been done in countless homeschool (and maybe non-homeschool) homes over the years, but it was our first time doing it. Luckily for him, we actually eat avocados now! Until about two years ago, we didn’t eat them. Ever since I tried one a couple of years ago, though, I realized how delicious they were, and now we eat them regularly. (By “we” I mean everyone but Will and Seahawk. They just won’t be convinced.) So having a pit handy to grow was pretty painless.

It took a very long time – long enough that he’s out of that unit now and onto other studies within the course – but it was neat to see the pit grow anyway. Our only regret with this experiment is that we don’t live in a climate warm enough to support an avocado tree!

Blessings,

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Picture of the Week: Poor Sick, Unhappy Baby

Dragonfly sick

This week has been one of illness in our family. Poor Dragonfly picked something up at church (I wish people would keep their kids home when they’re sick! We do.). He always ends up with back-to-back colds, it seems. He’s sick for a few days or a week, then he gets a day or two of health, and then he’s sick again right away. He’s currently on the second round of colds (this time). Here’s hoping it goes away soon and he stays healthy for a while.

Blessings,

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From Boy to Man (Celebrating Manhood review)

Celebrating Manhood Review at Ladybug Daydreams

In case you don’t know, I have sons. Four of them. And no daughters. I sometimes feel “incomplete” because of this. I often feel sad at not having a girl to raise (to be clear: I’m not sad about having sons. I’m sad about not having a daughter). I was going through an exceptionally difficult time with my emotions a few weeks ago, when I first learned of the book Celebrating Manhood: a rite of passage guide from Home School Adventure Co. There were several e-books being offered for review, and some of them looked really neat. But at that time, I knew that I was supposed to review Celebrating Manhood. I can’t tell you why, but there was something about this book that I felt would be a salve to my soul and help to heal the pain I felt at the time. I knew that I needed to embrace my boys and love my life for what it is (a boy mom) rather than what mourn what I wished I had (children of both genders).

So even though I was quite interested in Creative Freewriting Adventure (a book full of writing prompts), I’d Rather Be Your Mommy (a storybook for moms and young children), and Walking with the Waodani (a unit study on missions in Ecuador), I had to choose Celebrating Manhood instead. (In case you’re interested, all of these books are being reviewed by members of the Homeschool Review Crew. When you’re done reading here, head over to that blog for links to other reviews. I’ll provide a link at the end of this post.)

After all that blither-blather, let me move on to what Celebrating Manhood is all about. Author Stacy Farrell opens the book with this statement:

Extensive research asserts the importance of acknowledging a young man’s entry into adulthood. However, most of Western culture does not mark the transition from boyhood to manhood in any meaningful way. Consequently, an important opportunity is often lost.

celebrating manhood coverBecause Seahwak, my eldest (13 years old), is basically through puberty at this point, I thought this book would be a provide us a good opportunity to celebrate that with him. I want him to know that we (Will and I) understand that he’s getting older, he’s changing, and we want to bestow some additional responsibility on him. As much as I wish it wasn’t true, he’s not my little boy anymore. He’s rapidly becoming a man, and it’s time to acknowledge that. Celebrating Manhood is a book designed to help parents plan a “party” with just that goal in mind.

The book (I received a PDF version) is 37 pages, but really only about half of that is “usable content.” The first bit is the stuff found in most books: positive statements about the book, copyright, about the author, etc. Once you get to the meat of the book, half the pages are blank. I imagine this is because it was a print book first, and it’s designed to have the pages cut out and written on during your son’s rite of passage party. Even though you don’t need those blank pages with a PDF (your home printer will only print on one page at a time), they were left in for the e-book version anyway.

The first thing you’ll find (once you get to the main part of the book) is a timeline of events for your party. It’s designed to be planned by Mom but actually attended and implemented by Dad. The suggested timeline is four hours or so, but that’s easily adaptable depending on your situation. The first thing you have to do is work together with your husband (or son’s father or other father-figure) to decide who to invite to the party. The guests should be men who have a strong influence over your son – grandfathers, pastors, neighbors… Once you send out the invitations (which are included as a printable in the book), then Mom works on planning the main portion of the party, including preparing a meal for the men to share. The reason it’s suggested that Mom be the one to prepare this is to show your son and his guests an attitude of nurture and love by serving them.

All of my young men

All of my young men

Once the party starts, the suggested order of events is: sharing appetizers together, a physical activity lasting roughly an hour or less, having the men eat a meal together, allowing the men to share things they appreciate about your son (blessing him with their words), and ending the evening with dessert (not cake or whatever you normally serve at birthdays – it’s important that this party is nothing like a birthday party) and questions. There are question cards included in the book that you can print and pass out to the men during this portion for them to write on. These would then become keepsakes for your son.

The final thing you’ll find in the book is a printable poster stating “Welcome to the World of Men” with 1 Corinthians 13:11 on it.

Will and I talked, and we decided that before we have this party for him, we want to have something in mind that “being a man” means for after the party. We don’t want it to be a meaningless ceremony, and until we know what that will mean for our family, we’re putting off having a party for Seahawk. I fully intend for us to have one (and will write about it when it happens), but for now it hasn’t yet. But every time I reread this book, I’m reminded of just how important this ceremony will be for my boys – I’ll get to have the privilege of planning this at least four times! What a blessing! But I want to do it right, and for now, that means waiting. Despite not actually having been able to “use” this resource yet, I’m so glad to have been able to review it today.

As I mentioned earlier, the Homeschool Review Crew is reviewing lots of different products from Home School Adventure Co. today. Click the banner below to find out more!

Blessings,

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Learning Basic Language Arts with Eclectic Foundations (Review)

Eclectic Foundations Review

I’m at an interesting place in my homeschooling career. My two older boys are in 7th and 5th grades – one in middle school, and one nearly there. And then I have the two little boys. Small Fry is 4 years old (nearing readiness for Kindergarten), and Dragonfly is just 15 months old. Because of the age gap between Munchkin (5th grade, 10 years old) and Small Fry (age 4), it’s easy to automatically dismiss review opportunities that fall between them as “not a fit based on my kids’ ages.” I almost did just that with Eclectic Foundations. I saw the information provided by the leadership team at the Homeschool Review Crew and immediately thought that my boys were beyond needing something like this. And the older two are.

But then I looked at the website and got to thinking, “You know, Small Fry is wanting to learn to read. Maybe a lower level would work for him.” Once I allowed myself to think about him instead of just the older boys, I realized that Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level A would probably be a good fit for us. And I was absolutely right.

There are 4 components to this program, and you need them all to run it successfully: the Student Workbook ($24), the Teacher Manual ($12), the Appendix booklet and word cards ($20) and the McGuffey reader (public domain book that’s available in numerous places for cheap or free). You can also purchase a PDF download of the entire program for $30. The thing you can’t do is try to get away with skipping any of the components. Some programs allow you to suffice with just the student book or just the teacher book, but this is not one of those.

Filling in the letter M/m with Play-Doh.

Filling in the letter M/m with Play-Doh.

Each of the books is a softcover, 8.5×11, spiral bound book. The Student Workbook is consumable, so you’d need one for each student, but all the other components are reusable in the event you have multiple students (whether at the same time or one a few years after the other). The Appendix workbook was something unique to this program – I’d never seen anything quite like it with any other language arts curriculum. It is a workbook very similar to the others (8.5×11, softcover, spiral bound), but every single page in it is laminated. These pages are used for some of the games in the program, and are designed to be written on in dry erase or Vis a Vis markers (when playing Tic Tac Toe or filling in letters around vowels, which happens in later lessons), or in some cases, just to have your child point to the correct image (during the “Starts with” and “Beginning, Middle, End” games – details on all of this later). We’re not at a point yet where we’ve needed the word cards (they start at about lesson 65, and we’re only at 21), so I can’t really tell how they work yet.

Because Small Fry is just starting to show interest in learning letters and reading, we started at the very beginning – Level A (there are A, B, and C), lesson 1. So far, each week follows the same routine, which is nice. It allows him to anticipate what’s coming next.

Thanks to its "open and go" style, even older siblings are able to help teach this curriculum.

Thanks to its “open and go” style, even older siblings are able to help teach this curriculum.

This is an open-and-go curriculum, which is very nice. There’s virtually no preparation required. It’s based on a 4-day school week, and each lesson takes under 20 minutes – perfect for new learners. Each day starts with a recitation of the alphabet, and then moves on to the student workbook pages. The workbook has a wide variety of activities to keep young minds interested. On the first day, they get to fill in the “letter of the week” with Play-Doh (or pipe cleaners for a mess-free experience). This day we also play the “Starts With” game. For this, there’s a list of words that you read to your child (in the teacher’s manual), and the child determines whether or not the word starts with the letter/sound of the week. The appendix book is used for this – there’s a page with smiley faces on it, and a happy face means the word does start with the sound, and sad face means it does not. The student points to the correct image.

Eclectic Foundations review | Ladybug Daydreams

A portion of one of the letter mazes. Click to enlarge.

Other days have other activities, including but not limited to determining whether the sound of the week is found at the beginning, middle, or end of a list of words, finding all occurrences of the letter in a faith-based poem, writing the letter and simple words that include it, and reading simple words using sounds that have already been introduced (so far, we’re up to “man,” “Nan,” “fan,” “ran,” and “Sam”). And then there’s Small Fry’s absolute favorite activity: the maze. This happens on the third lesson of the week (depending on our week, usually Wednesday or Thursday). The maze looks a lot like a word search, but instead of finding words, students are instructed to follow the path of whatever the letter of the week is, from a smiley face at the top to a smiley face at the bottom.

Using this curriculum was a breeze. The teacher manual spells everything out for you, and the student book is full of fun activities. We’ve been using it for just over a month now, and Small Fry (who’s not even 5 years old yet) is already able to read simple words. And he’s gone from being able to copy his name down to writing it all by himself. On top of being effective, it’s really fun. It’s not at all stressful, and my son absolutely adores having his own school to do. Every morning when he wakes up, he asks if he can “do school today.” And the days that have the maze are even better!

Needless to say, we absolutely love this curriculum. I’m so glad I looked closely at the website before just assuming it wouldn’t be a good fit for us, because it absolutely is the perfect fit for my precocious 4-year-old!

Blessings,

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Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing all three levels of Eclectic Foundations this week. Click the banner below for more information!

Language Arts {Eclectic Foundations Reviews}
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Rose City Comic Con

This post is a long time coming, but now’s the time. It will be fairly light on words because I didn’t go (Dragonfly wasn’t even a year old yet when they went, and it didn’t seem like a good thing to bring a baby to), but I do know that Will and the boys (the 3 oldest ones) had a great time. The four of them, plus Will’s dad, went. It was a fabulous bonding time for the men in the family.

Most of the pictures of Small Fry meeting different characters because it was his first time going to an event like this. Plus, he’s at such a fun age that everyone was thrilled to let him have those experiences. Others will include the rest of the family. I’ll include captions as I’m able, based on the little knowledge I have of the event.

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With Thor

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In front of the Batmobile (from the 1960s show) with Grandpa

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Meeting Iron Man

With a Storm Trooper

With a Storm Trooper

I'm not sure what this guy is lol

I’m not sure what this guy is lol

In his homemade Buzz Lightyear costume before the event

In his homemade Buzz Lightyear costume before the event

And meeting the "real" Buzz

And meeting the “real” Buzz. I’m pretty sure this was the highlight of the trip for him.

This is what Dragonfly was doing while everyone else was away for the day: "learning to knit." :)

This is what Dragonfly was doing while everyone else was away for the day: “learning to knit.” 🙂

Blessings,

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Book Club: The Girl on the Train

Book Club with Lori

For Book Club this month, Lori and I decided to do “Freestyle.” This means that we’ve read different books; I chose The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. This was one that Lori didn’t want to read, so I decided to do it on my own.

Questions come from LitLovers. Spoiler alert is in affect.

1. We all do it—actively watch life around us. In this way, with her own voyeuristic curiosity, Rachel Watson is not so unusual. What do you think accounts for this nosy, all-too-human impulse? Is it more extreme in Rachel than in the average person? What is so different about her?

I think a lot of us, even though we might be happy with our own lives, like to imagine what it would be like to lead a different one sometimes. It is definitely more extreme in Rachel than in the average person, though – others might imagine things, but she actually acts on them. As far as what’s different about her, I think it’s something as simple as her alcoholism taking its toll. She might not be this “crazy” if she wasn’t a drunk.

2. How would you have reacted if you’d seen what Rachel did from her train window—a pile of clothes—just before the rumored disappearance of Megan Hipwell? What might you or she have done differently?

I’m not sure I would’ve thought much about a pile of clothes on the ground. While it could be sinister, it isn’t automatically so. Therefore, I don’t think I would have done anything.

3. A crucial question in The Girl on the Train is how much Rachel Watson can trust her own memory. How reliable are her observations? Yet since the relationship between truth and memory is often a slippery one, how objective or “true” can a memory, by definition, really be? Can memory lie? If so, what factors might influence it?

It turns out that a lot of her memories aren’t so “false” after all. It seemed to me that her bigger problem was the inability to remember anything at all, not the fact that her memories were incorrect, especially near the end of the book.

I think memories can lie, yes. A lot of the things we “remember” from our own childhoods are actually the memories of our parents, and though they often mean well, parents will often smudge the truth to make themselves out in the best light. Therefore, our memories are lies woven by others in some instances.

4. One of Rachel’s deepest disappointments, it turns out, is that she can’t have children. Her ex-husband Tom’s second wife Anna is the mother to a young child, Evie. How does Rachel’s inability to conceive precipitate her breakdown? How does the topic of motherhood drive the plot of the story?

Rachel’s inability to have children is the entire reason for her breakdown. In a book full of lies, that much is made very clear. If she’d been able to have a child, I don’t think she would have lost her mind, become an alcoholic, and potentially been left by Tom (although, based on how he turned out, that last bit is up for debate). Outside of that one example, I’m not sure the “topic of motherhood” is necessarily a driving point in the story.

5. Other characters in the novel make different assumptions about Rachel Watson depending on how or even where they see her. To a certain extent, she understands this and often tries to manipulate their assumptions—by appearing to be a commuter, for instance, going to work every day. Is she successful? To what degree did you make assumptions about Rachel early on based on the facts and appearances you were presented? How did those change over time and why? How did your assumptions about her affect your reading of the central mystery in the book? Did your assumptions about her change over its course? What other characters did you make assumptions about? How did your assumptions affect your interpretation of the plot? Having now finished The Girl on the Train, what surprised you the most?

In a very basic sense, Rachel is successful in manipulating people’s assumptions about her. At least at the beginning. Her roommate, Cathy, has no idea that Rachel had lost her job a long time before the novel begins, for example. Her riding the train and pretending to be a commuter was a successful ruse. As far as the rest of the questions, I’m not really a good person to answer those; I don’t make assumptions about characters. I tend to read a book with nothing in mind, and I let the author take me on the journey they wish to tell.

~*~*~

Lori read what looks like a really interesting book: Giants: The Dwarfs of Auschwitz. I hope you’ll read her post to learn more about it.

This month, Lori and I are back to reading the same book. We’ll be working through The Whistler by John Grisham. He’s my very favorite author, so I’m excited about this one.

Blessings,

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Math Mammoth Review

We’ve tried a lot of different math products over the years. A lot. And there are very few that my kids don’t complain about – usually the ones that are “fun,” meaning game-like. When a review opportunity for Math Mammoth came up earlier this year, I had the older two (7th and 5th graders) take the placement test to figure out whether this would be a good fit for us. Color me surprised when Seahawk (7th grade) barely understood anything in a test below his official grade level. (I don’t remember offhand whether I had him take the 5th or 6th grade placement test.) I decided at that point that perhaps it would be a good idea for us to request this review in order to fill some learning gaps that apparently exist in our homeschool.

Math Mammoth review from Ladybug Daydreams

In order to work with both of the kids, I requested the Blue Series, which is a set of books (available as PDF downloads or physical print books) that focus on specific topics. We received

Seahawk has been working through the “Percent” worktext, and Munchkin has been doing “Multiplication Division 3.” I’m saving “The Four Operations” for later, and they will both do it when they’ve completed the book they’re currently working through.

Math mammoth explanation sample

A sample of an explanation section. This is the very first lesson in the Percent worktext. Click to enlarge.

Each day, I would take turns sitting with the boys in turn, working through the problems. The explanations were clear, and there was very little I needed to explain beyond what was actually in the textbook itself. The boys didn’t have any difficulty understanding what they needed to do, and they required minimal guidance from me. I was mostly there to keep them on task and see how the program worked for the purposes of being able to write the review later.

We’ve been using the texts nearly every school day for several weeks, but they still have plenty of work to do before they finish these. Seahawk is about 1/4 of the way through Percent, and Munchkin is about 1/5 of the way through Multiplication Division 3. Their slow progress isn’t because the concepts are difficult or the program bad, though. Rather, it’s because the concepts are taught and practiced so thoroughly that there are loads of problems in each section so that children can have ample opportunities to practice what they’ve learned.

A sample of problems from one lesson. This is from Multiplication Division 3. Notice that each problem has several problems within it. That's part of why it's taken us a while to work through this program.

A sample of problems from one lesson. This is from Multiplication Division 3. Notice that each problem has several problems within it. That’s part of why it’s taking us a while to work through this program. Click to enlarge.

Whenever I opened the PDF, it would remind me that “This PDF can be completed using the Add Comment tool.” I took that to mean that it was an interactive PDF, meaning that the child using the product would be able to fill in his answers right on the computer. I didn’t find this to be the case at all, and a Google search led me to looking at the settings on the PDF, which told me that it wasn’t an interactive PDF after all. I’m not savvy enough to know about the Add Comment tool or how that’s different from an interactive PDF, so we treated the PDFs like a textbook: the kids would read the information and problems on the screen and write their answers down on notebook paper kept in their binders. I could have printed the pages out for them (and I did one day when I wasn’t available to sit with them individually), but for the big picture, that would have been cost prohibitive to do all the time. In the end, the notebook-paper-approach was the right one for us.

I mentioned earlier that we’ve done a lot of different math curricula over the years. What I didn’t mention was that Math Mammoth is one of the best. Not only is it very thorough with clear explanations, but my kids don’t complain about doing it. In fact, quite the opposite has proven true: every time we finish a lesson, they tell me that they really like this curriculum. With the prices being so reasonable ($2.20 to $7.40, depending on what the book is), I can see us buying more of these. When used together, they make up a full curriculum for grades 1-7. Math Mammoth also offers an “official” full math curriculum for these grades called the Light Blue Series. I haven’t seen this, so I’m not entirely sure how it differs from the Blue Series. The Light Blue curricula costs $37.50 per year, and the final year (grade 7) is a full-fledged Pre-Algebra curriculum. Upon completion of that year, your student is ready to tackle high school level math.

Our official opinion: Math Mammoth is amazing. It teaches the concepts well, is very affordable even for families with multiple children, and is better than a regular textbook (in my kids’ opinion; I’m not sure how it differs other than that they don’t whine and moan when I announce that it’s math time). I definitely foresee us continuing to use this product in the near future.

For more information on different levels, from the Blue Series and the Light Blue series, click the banner below. That will take you to the Homeschool Review Crew blog where you can find 49 other reviews of Math Mammoth from homeschooling families who have actually used it over the past few weeks.

Blessings,

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Affordable Quality Math {Math Mammoth Reviews}
 

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Picture of the Week: Static!

When I came home from the hospital after Dragonfly’s birth in 2015, I was surprised to find a living room set. Will had spent a reasonable amount of time while I was in recovery working out the details for purchasing and moving furniture (sofa, loveseat, and two tables) into our home. (Before this, we had two chairs, which wasn’t very conducive to having company over.) We have loved having the furniture, but it does have one downfall: it holds static electricity very well. Dragonfly’s hair in this picture shows just how much.

static

Have a great weekend!

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Easy Costume Accessory: Cape

Easy Costume Accessory Cape

My oldest two boys have been pretty interested in capes recently, especially Munchkin (10). It started back when Seahawk dressed as Ron Weasley for Halloween last year. It was the day of, and we hadn’t found the right cape to use as a cloak yet. We were at Goodwill, and couldn’t find anything in the costume department. Then I had a brilliant idea: a long black skirt. We found one for under $5, and within just a few minutes of getting home, we had a cape.

20170223_134355A few months later, Munchkin decided he wanted his own. I asked him if he just wanted to have Seahawk’s (since he rarely wears it), but they both said that it would be better if he had his own. So we went to Goodwill again. The good thing about this project is that you can almost always find a long black skirt for pretty inexpensive at secondhand shops. And depending on the kind of fabric the skirt is made of, it could even be a no-sew project. Of the two we’ve done so far, one has been fine without any sewing and one needed the cut edges “serged” (zigzag stitched, since I don’t have a serger) to prevent fraying.

Here’s how to do it.

  1. Find a skirt the length you like. An elastic waistband is ideal. If you have one in your closet that you don’t wear anymore, this could even be a free project!
  2. Cut a straight line up the center. Leave the waistband intact; this way, the cape stays on the child quite well without the need of any pins or other sharp solution to keep it closed at the top.
  3. Finish the edges if necessary.
  4. Optional: Attach a pin (for older children) or button (for younger children, over age 3) on the former waistband (now the neck) so it looks like it’s fastened, even though that’s not necessary.
  5. Send your superhero out to play!

Blessings,

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