Recipe: Chicken Piccata

One of our favorite places to eat is The Old Spaghetti Factory. Will and I were there recently and he decided to try something new: the chicken piccata. It was really good, so I decided to try to recreate it at the house so everyone could taste it without breaking the bank. This is the result, and it’s become one of absolute favorite meals.

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Chicken Piccata (serves 6-8)

2-3 chicken breasts, cut into strips
flour, for dredging
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup white wine
1 cup lemon juice
2 jars capers
3-4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 pound spaghetti or angel hair pasta, cooked according to package directions

Season the chicken strips with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. Cook them in a bit of oil until cooked through.

Remove the chicken to a plate and keep warm. Add the wine to the pan and cook it for a minute or two until the alcohol cooks off. Add the lemon juice, capers, and tomatoes. Cook until the sauce thickens a bit.

Place the chicken back in the sauce and stir to coat.

Serve over a bed of pasta.

It takes a bit of time to make this recipe because of the frying of the chicken, but it’s not too bad. I can normally get dinner on the table for our entire family in about 45 minutes using this recipe.

Blessings,

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A Bible Study for Everyone (review)

Studying the Bible is important for everyone, not just kids and not just adults. As Christian parents, it’s a huge part of our job to raise our children to become God-fearing adults. A huge part of doing so is by studying the Bible. As part of this obligation (and I don’t use that word in a bad way), I almost always choose to review Bible studies when they come up as options through the Homeschool Review Crew. This time, we’ve been studying Genesis using Bible Study Guide for All Ages. Because of the ages of my kids, I’ll be talking about the Beginner (3-K) level and the Advanced (5th and 6th Grade) level.

The timing on receiving this worked out pretty well because we’d just gone back to the beginning of Genesis in our family reading. Each evening, we try to read a few chapters aloud as a family (Will reads, everyone else listens; those who know how to read follow along in their own Bibles). Then the next day, I go over the section again with the children in the mornings while Will is working. This way they get each section twice, which really reinforces what they’re learning during family time and prepares the boys for the next section. My time with the boys is when I pulled out the Bible Study Guide for All Ages.

Beginner (3-K)

bible study guide 3For anyone who’s read much on my blog at all, you know that I have two kids this age (well, one is 2 1/2, but close enough). We received one workbook in this level (the Unit 1 workbook) plus one copy of the Beginner Timeline. These materials are designed for “non reading children ages 3 and up.” The workbook is larger than a normal workbook, about legal size and bound on the short side so it’s long. It includes lessons for one quarter of the year, assuming you work at a pace of 2 lessons per week. We didn’t move quite that fast because we used it to supplement the reading we were already doing rather than as a standalone curriculum. Instead, I had Small Fry (6 years old this week, just finished Kindergarten) do the pages that corresponded with the section we had just read.

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bible study guide 1Each lesson is broken down right in the student workbook with instructions for the teacher/parent. It starts with showing a timeline card and asking the question on the card. The cards are in the order that the events occurred in the Bible (of course, since it’s a timeline). Each one is 8.5 x 11 and printed on cardstock in full color. They’re quite durable. This makes it a good resource for a group of small children – not only are they durable enough to stand up to reasonable use, but they’re also big enough to see without being right up on the card.

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After working through the flashcard, there are a few activities to help children learn the basics of the Bible: reciting books of the Bible in order, singing songs, answering questions, etc. Then there’s a short lesson including an “apply it” section. On the backside of the page is an age-appropriate paper activity.

Advanced (5th and 6th grade)

bible study guide 4For this level, I received one copy of the student workbook and a teacher guide, plus a set of Small Bible Book Summary Cards.

The workbook is the same size as the beginner version, but the activities are much more difficult (as suggested by the level). It starts with several memory activities to help students remember what they’d learned and read previously (it starts in Genesis 35, so there’s a lot of stuff that’s not specifically covered but is “reviewed” in the lessons so it’s not totally ignored). Activities include things like putting Abraham and his descendants in order from oldest to youngest, memorizing the book summary from the card, answering questions about the timeline of events, and then reading the Bible section and answering questions.

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bible study guide 2The summary cards are just what they sound like. Each one has color images on one side and a lot of black and white text on the other. There are also questions on each one to help make sure children are understanding what they read. The pictures represent the main events that happen in that book, and the writing on the back contains more details. It also explains the title of the book (Genesis means “beginning,” for example) and what type of book it is (history, poetry, prophecy, etc).

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This has been a really positive experience for our family. We’ve enjoyed exploring the Bible more thoroughly than “just” reading it. I’m not suggesting that simply reading the Bible isn’t enough, but it’s nice for children to be able to have some supplements to help them remember what’s been read more readily. I’m glad I’ve been able to work through this with them.

Blessings,

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Bible Study Guide For All Ages {Reviews}
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Art History for Upper Grades (review)

My kids love art. That’s not surprising, considering their dad does art for a living (he draws comics and does graphic design). But they don’t get a whole lot in the way of classical art or art history – not to say they don’t get that at all, just not as much as we’d like. So when the option of reviewing The Master and His Apprentices: Art History from a Christian Perspective was presented, I talked it over with my artist husband, and we decided it would be a good choice for Seahawk, who is 14 years old and entering his first year of homeschool high school in the fall.

The Master and His Apprentices is written by Gina Ferguson, and her story is quite fascinating. I’m not going to fully recount it here, but you can read it on the About the Author page on the company’s website. Suffice it to say that she never intended to write this textbook, but God had different plans for her life. Luckily for all art history lovers, she followed those directions and created this curriculum!

The Master and His Apprentices
There are two main components to this curriculum: the textbook ($34.99 digital, $149.99 hardback) and the teacher manual ($19.99 digital, $24.99 softcover). We received digital copies of both in order to complete this review. Because we have digital copies, the first thing I did was download both to my iPad, and a second copy of the teacher manual (which contains all the questions and answers for the course) to Will’s computer. I then printed the teacher manual from the computer and used the comb-binding machine at our church to make a book. The textbook is roughly triple the length of the teacher manual (380+ pages vs 120), so I opted to leave that one digital and have Seahawk read it on the iPad. (I try to remember to dim the screen when he’ll be reading for a reasonable amount of time to save his eyes a bit.) 

In the teacher manual, you can easily see a schedule, which is roughly one chapter per week. There is also a grading chart with space to record notes about your student’s participation, grades on their papers and exams, and final points in order to calculate a grade.

6EFAA187-B52E-4DC1-9C24-747BB5457D64The curriculum is mostly reading and answering questions, which I didn’t necessarily realize when I requested this review. That’s not Seahawk’s favorite way to learn, but it’s good for him to stretch his wings and do things that might be a bit uncomfortable, especially as he enters high school. In addition to all the reading and questions, there are also 4 term papers to complete, as well as 4 exams. Each of these projects/tests is worth 100 points, and there are an additional 200 points allocated for participation for a total of 1000 points possible in the course.

2DF503EC-C89B-4F8B-8972-53F728233D0CThe chapters are based around historical time periods, starting (after an introductory chapter) with Creation. The book moves forward in time from there, covering such time periods as Ancient Civilizations (biblical and non-biblical), the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, and ending with “modern.” I put that in quotes because that chapter covers from the 1600s and forward. Not many people would consider the 1600s to be modern, but the chapter does move all the way to current day.

Even though this course wasn’t exactly what I expected when I requested it, I do think I’ll have Seahawk pick it back up in the fall. Since he’s entering high school, we have to start keeping track of things like credits earned, and this one qualifies as a full credit for an “art history elective.” I think that’s a pretty reasonable place to start his high school career (besides the things that are easier to define, like math and language arts).

Read more reviews on this curriculum from fellow members of the Homeschool Review Crew by clicking the banner below.

Blessings,

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The Master and His Apprentices: Art History from a Christian Perspective {The Master and His Apprentices Reviews}
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Seahawk

I just wanted to share a few more pictures of Seahawk wearing the sweater I made for him. Will took them, so they’re a bit better than those I shared in this post. He’s got a better natural eye for pictures than I do 😉

Fun fact: that building in the background is where I went to elementary school. It’s now the “cultural center” in town, and the older two kids used to take a class there called Club Mud where they did pottery. (They’re so little in those pictures! You should totally click through that link and enjoy a blast from my past, especially if you didn’t follow my blog back then.) They still have a few of the projects they made in that class. Will always says that the building looks like Crunchem Hall from Matilda, and he’s glad he didn’t have to go to school there. It wasn’t a bad place at all, though; much brighter and friendlier than the outside looks.

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Blessings,

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White House Holidays (review)

Unit studies are a really fun way to learn, but it can be difficult to find those that work for a) older kids and b) a large age range of kids. Silverdale Press LLC has done just that with their White House Holidays Unit Studies. Each of the unit studies has activities for kids in elementary school and a separate section with middle and high school level activities. Holidays available for study are Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Martin Luther King Jr Day, and Valentine’s Day. Each unit study has between 3 and 5 lessons, and it’s easy to move through quickly (a whole study in a week) or take your time and get really in depth (one lesson per week). We split the difference and kept it fairly simple but still just one lesson per week.

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We focused on the Labor Day study, and even though it only had three lessons, it was the only one we were able to do. Allow me to explain… even though these PDFs arrived in my email as “attachments,” the link opened up a Google doc rather than a download. Because of this Google doc format, I was unable to download any of them to my iBooks app, and since I’ve had very limited internet access until recently (last week, to be precise), I couldn’t spend the time I needed to be able to get the download figured out. And as soon as I left Starbucks (read: internet), I no longer had digital access to the files. I was finally able to get the file printed (long story, but basically I had to have access to 3 things all together that I rarely do: computer rather than iPad, internet, and our printer). A real PDF would have eliminated this problem for me, but it’s okay; it all worked out in the end.

Back to the Labor Day study. It opens with a note from the author, explaining why she chose to write these studies (as a homeschool mom, she wanted a rich study if the holidays for her kids; as a presidential scholar, it made sense to wrap the studies in that blanket to do so). This note also gives a basic overview of how the studies are laid out. Up next is the table of contents, followed immediately by the first lesson for grades K-6. 

The lessons are well written, with an overview on the first page on each one so you can easily see the required materials, things you can expect your student to learn during the lesson, estimated time, and lesson plan. 

A073EE27-8D97-4155-9F98-AA687316E837For the younger kids, lessons consist mostly of talking, reading, and a simple craft – for Labor Day, recreating a poster for the first ever Labor Day in lesson 2 and a story in pictures in lesson 3. I talked over the lessons and read the information to Small Fry, my 5-year-old. There are quite a few pictures of child labor to look over and discuss with children as well, and each has questions to guide you through the discussion. For children at the upper end of this age range, you could also have them write their answers down report-style. We didn’t do much in the way of the crafts because my kids prefer to use their own ideas when they’re being creative rather than something that’s been assigned. I felt that they got a good understanding of the material using just the read-aloud lessons and questions and answers, anyway.

Lessons for older kids follow the same format, with the overview and lesson plan on the first page followed by the text and images for the lesson itself. Older kids can – and are encouraged in the lesson plan – to do the reading independently. Discussions should happen with a parent though. Their activities in lessons 2 and 3 are more involved than just making a craft; they get to analyze past and current Labor Day speeches given by presidents and learn how to get involved by choosing a workers rights issue and writing a letter to their local congressman. 

All three lessons for the younger kids are together, and the lessons for middle and high school follow. This makes it easier to print just what you need if you have kids in just one of the age ranges.

Overall, this has been a really good learning experience for my kids. They didn’t know much about Labor Day (other than it means “the end of summer break”), so I’ve been glad to teach them more about this national holiday and why it’s important. It will be a good one to repeat every couple of years to remind them of its importance.

Blessings,

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Persuasive Writing & Classical Rhetoric: Practicing the Habits of Great Writers & White House Holidays Unit Studies {Silverdale Press LLC Reviews}
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Traditional Logic (Memoria Press review)

Seahawk (age 14) loves to study logic. Together, we’ve gone through several different courses in the subject that we’ve found online over the years, and they’re always one of his very favorite classes. So when the chance to review Traditional Logic I Complete Set from Memoria Press came up, I eagerly asked for the set for him. Several weeks in, and I’m still glad I did. And based on Seahawk’s eagerness to do this class each day – and high performance on all of the exercises and tests – he is too.

What is Traditional Logic?

This course from Memoria Press (leaders in homeschool classical education), written by Martin Cothran, is all about traditional, formal logic – the kind developed by the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. These quotes from the “A Note to the Teacher” at the beginning of the textbook sums it up perfectly:

Traditional logic trains the mind to respect truth, and indeed assumes a Christian view of truth throughout…

And

This book discusses traditional logic rather than modern logic. Traditional logic is the study of the classical syllogism; modern logic is the study, primarily, of the calculus of propositions.

What this means is that if you’re looking to teach your child about the many informal fallacies that many other logic classes focus on (with assignments such as “find an example of this in today’s newspaper), this isn’t the course for you. If you want to teach your child to think about and focus on truth, validity, and soundness, then look no further.

The Course Components

Our package from Memoria Press included 5 items: the textbook, a workbook, a test book, an instructional DVD, and the teacher answer key. Through our use of the program, I can easily say that every single component has been absolutely essential. Here’s how we’ve been using it.

logic 2Each chapter in the textbook has corresponding questions in the workbook and a corresponding video lesson on the DVD. The workbook gives clear instructions on what to do when; that is, the series of questions is broken up into 4 days worth of work. Day 5 is the quiz/test each week. The only thing I was unsure about was the DVD; there was nothing to suggest how this fit in with everything else, which seemed very complete. But at the beginning of week 2, we put in the DVD just to see if there was something obvious we were missing by not having used it the first week. Boy, what a difference this tool made for my auditory learner! It’s nothing fancy, just the instructor giving a lecture on each chapter (broken up on the DVD for easy navigation right to where you need to be). But it made such a huge difference for Seahawk to be able to hear the information rather than just read it to himself out of the text that we will definitely not be doing any more lessons without it.

How We Use It

logic 1On Monday, Seahawk watches the DVD lesson and answers the Day 1 questions. On Tuesday he goes back to the textbook and reads a short section for review and answers the Day 2 questions. Same with Wednesday and Thursday (but for Days 3 and 4, respectively). On Friday, he does the chapter quiz. When he finishes each day’s questions (all of this work is done independently, which is great because it frees me up to work with my Kindergartener or to do a complicated lesson with my 6th grader), we go over the answers together. I have him read me his answers while I compare them to the teacher guide.

As of today, he has never missed more than part of answer on any one assignment – yes, over the whole assignment he gets every single question correct. This is how I know he’s enjoying the course – he’s paying attention, learning a lot, and even writing his answers in complete sentences (usually it’s like pulling teeth to get more than one or two words on a written assignment from him).

This class is a definite winner for us!

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New American Cursive & Traditional Logic {Memoria Press Reviews}
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Understanding Pre-Algebra (review)

We’ve used some books from The Critical Thinking Co.™ in the past, and they’ve been big hits with my boys. I like how they teach not only things that you need to know, but also how to “think out” how to get there. For today’s review, I’ll be talking about Munchkin (age 11, coming out of 6th grade) and his use of Understanding Pre-Algebra.

The Critical Thinking Co.™
The timing on our receipt of this book was perfect as he had just finished up his 6th grade (generic) math book. Understanding Pre-Algebra is a combination textbook and workbook – everything is self contained, which has been nice. The lessons are fairly short (a couple of pages of reading) followed by practice exercises. No different from a traditional textbook except that there are lines on which to write the answers so no additional paper is necessary. Because of this format, the book is quite large – 8.5 x 11 and nearly 450 pages.

It opens with a chapter on number families. The book explains the different types of number groups used in higher level mathematics (natural numbers, whole numbers, integers, rational and irrational numbers, etc). This chapter lists 5 sections in the table of contents, but they were all simple enough concepts that we (me teaching and Munchkin working) were able to finish it in just 2 days.

pre alg 1The second chapter, Working with Integers, has been a lot more new information for him, and thus is taking us longer to get through. Because Munchkin hasn’t done a lot of work with negative numbers to date, it’s a lot for him to try to grasp at a time (he’s a literature kid, not a math kid, so it’s especially tricky for him to wrap his mind around), so we’re taking it slow. I want him to understand the concepts, not just be able to fill out the worksheet today and forget it tomorrow – which he is definitely prone to do with math. But this is just one more reason I really like this curriculum for him so far – some of the questions require more than just a mathematical answer, which helps to cement the information (and its how and why) in the child’s brain. One example of such a question is is this one from chapter 1: “Joan said that 27 cannot be divided by 2. Is she right? Explain your thinking.” Munchkin correctly answered, “Yes. 27 does not divide by 2 because 27 is odd.” That “explain your thinking” part is what will help him remember concepts from one day to the next.

pre algebra 2Even though we’re not super far into the book, I can tell that it’s going to be a fantastic fit for my son based on what we’ve done so far. The information is presented well, in an easy to understand way. The chapter titles tell me precisely what he will be learning, and it’s all important as he moves through pre-algebra to prepare for Algebra I. Some of them are things he struggled with in his previous math book (specifically volume and surface area), so I’m glad they will be repeated in this book. Some of the things (inequalities, scientific notation) are in the Algebra I book his big brother (14) is working through right now, which is how I know this book will lead beautifully into that one. All in all, I’m very glad we were chosen to have the opportunity to review this book. It’s definitely a keeper for us!

Blessings,

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Critical Thinking, Understanding Math & Vocabulary {The Critical Thinking Co.™ Reviews}
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Picture of the Week: His First Self Portrait

Dragonfly drew this picture recently, and then proceeded to tell me all about how it was “Little Boy” (his name for himself as he can’t quite say his own name yet – which is a much easier word than “little boy,” but . . . kids). It’s so cute that I wanted to share it.

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Blessings,

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Sausage Etouffe (Recipe)

One of Will’s favorite past times is going to a restaurant and trying something completely new. He’ll do this in “old favorite” restaurants as well as new ones we’ve never visited before. Recently, we went to a Cajun grill, and he ordered the Crawfish Etouffe (ay-too-fay). He described it as a “spicy tomato soup with rice and seafood.” I’m not a huge seafood fan (I like many kinds of fish, but not seafood in general), so I didn’t try any. But he found himself going back again and again for this dish because it was so good. He even took the older boys once, and when they got back they raved about it too. So one night when we were at the store with no idea of what to fix for dinner, he decided to look up an etouffe recipe. It was fairly simple with easy ingredients (except the crayfish), so we decided to give it a go, with one exception: we got a kielbasa for the protein instead. It was really delicious, and I’m so glad we tried it! Today I want to share our version of the recipe.

sausage etouffe

Sausage Etouffe

Serves 6-8

6 cups water
3 cups long grain rice
1 kielbasa, cut into small pieces
1 stick butter
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup flour
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
2-3 cups water, or as needed
3-6 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp Cajun seasoning, more or less to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the rice in the water according to package directions.

While the rice cooks, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Cook the kielbasa and onions until the onions are soft. Add the flour to make a roux. Stir in the tomato sauce and water and cook to make a gravy/soup-like consistency. Add the green onions and seasonings; stir well to combine. Serve in bowls over the rice.

Blessings,

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