Archive for February, 2015

Week In The Life (Yodel-ay-hee-hoo)

February 28, 2015

So, after a week of pondering I’ve decided that I am going to continue doing what we have been doing. I needed to remember why I began this journey of homeschooling in the first place. Even though more and more reasons have been added since then, my original reason still holds true.

Sky, from the day she was born, was a very spirited child. Even in my womb she was constantly moving, making it very hard for me to sleep. My life has not been the same ever since. It’s like she has stored in all the combined energy of both her dad and I. Constantly touching everything, constantly moving. I would make jokes how when we were at an outing she had to see everything at once, but really it wasn’t a joke. If I didn’t keep a tight grip on her hand she would have been gone. She even bounces, rocks in her seat while sitting. We have gone through several couches where she has bounced right through, why she has her own swing outdoors. She has always reminded me of the horse Spirit from the movie. Actually that was one of her favorite movies as a child, still is one of mine. She still sleeps with her huge stuffed animal horse she named Rain. It’s her “Woody” like from the movie Toy Story.

I still remember taking her to be tested for Kindergarten, and them telling me I needed to work with her on knowing the alphabet. What they didn’t know was that I did. I just couldn’t get her to sit long enough. That year, that she was to start school, they had passed all-day kindergarten in our district. How in the hell was she going to sit for half a day let alone a full day? It was no longer like the kindergarten I remembered. Some said, “Oh she will grow out of it.” Guess what, she is 14 years old and though she has calmed a bit, she has not grown out of it.

When she was a baby I was lucky to get a few hours sleep. I would sleep in a recliner chair with her on my chest, sleeping whenever she did. Eventually, when big enough, she slept between Papa and I. It was a blessing when Little Sis was big enough to sleep with her in their own room. She still doesn’t sleep much.

“Discipline”, “Make her mind you.”, “If you do not do it now, she will never listen to you.” I am going, to be honest, and not pretend that there were not some pretty nasty years of me being a parent. When spanking and hitting is all you know and is around, it tends to be what you do. It’s an ugly cycle. Know what, it didn’t work. I kid you not, after getting her butt worked, she would continue with the same behavior as before. Know what else, I felt like I was breaking a horse, my beautiful child. That is exactly what it reminded me of. This is when I started to question, question everything.

Why, why does *she* need to change? Why does she need to sit still and know all the alphabet at “this” age? How do you know she won’t mind me later, she is not *your* child. Maybe *your* child didn’t mind, maybe it wasn’t because of *their* behavior. That’s the thing about being a child, you have no say in matters. You must obey what you’re told, that’s the way it has always been.

Maybe I am wrong, I have never homeschooled before. I can’t see how this journey is going to end. Maybe I made a mistake. Sky is not up to “grade level” in certain subjects. What if I failed her? This is exactly how I was beginning to feel with high school quickly approaching. Then I remembered back to kindergarten and her not yet knowing all the letters. She now knows how to read and write. She has *never* been at “grade level” and may never be, but that does not mean I failed, and it does not mean she is a failure.

She and I sat down this past week and really brainstormed some solutions if plan A doesn’t work. We came up with quite a few options, all the way to a plan F. Our goal is to aim for the academic honors diploma, needing 47 credits to qualify, but we are not going to beat ourselves up in the process. Some horses, I mean people just can’t be broken.

Language Arts:

We finished Heidi. Both girls, Little Sis especially, really enjoyed it a lot. Little Sis started MTH, Night of the Magicians and Sky made her first purchase from Japan.


(L File No. 15)

Continuing with my “assessment”, we did the spelling bee interactive from The girls made it all the way to 6-8th grade, the last challenge before they started missing any words. Where one child is not at “grade level”, the other is far ahead. Little Sis did well up to 8th grade in reading comprehension and now in spelling.

Their word of the week was: respite.


Both girls warmed up with multiplication math war, and Little Sis finished the Early Math mastery challenge from Khan Academy. Monday she will continue with 3rd grade.

Sky added adding and subtracting, with and without whole numbers, same denominator fractions to her math journal. She practiced at both and is working her way through the fraction portion at Khan Academy.

Oh and due to finally getting some snow,


made the perfect time to bust out our new puzzle.


I love Ravensburger puzzles, they are a bit more pricey but their quality is well worth it if you plan to put them together more than once, which we do. 300 is the perfect amount to finish in an afternoon but I think I will add a few 500 pieces to our collection too.


We finished Earth, the New Wild series with the episode Water.

Social Studies:

World History,

We watched a 3 part documentary, found on YouTube, about the Crimean War. The girls added notes to their timeline binders.


(Miss Sky)

I prefer having a timeline in a binder because it makes it so much easier to add any new information later that we may have been forgotten. Maybe we learn about a person that took place during a certain timeframe we already studied that we didn’t know about before, just file them in the right spot, done. I like to think our timelines are evolving along with us.


We watched Rick Steves, Travels Europe episodes about Switzerland (again found on YouTube).

I printed out a color sheet, to add to our binder where they added 10 things they learned, and the girls filled in Switzerland on their map of Europe.

American History,

We watched the movie American Pop by Ralph Bakshi.

This movie would have fit in perfectly with our Russian history study as it follows a Russian Jewish immigrant family, but it also fits in with our orphan “theme”. It is rated R for language, war scenes, and drug use but has nothing obscene or too violent. I will compare it to the Captain America movie. As a music fanatic, I really loved seeing how music evolved over time and it has a great soundtrack.

The Arts:

We watched the Japanese anime version of Heidi, found on YouTube.,_Girl_of_the_Alps

I am used to watching Japanese anime with English subtitles, thanks to Sky’s interest, but there is an English version, also found on YouTube. All of us really enjoyed this anime (release this series to the states!) and it follows the book well.


More drawing from Sky.

Home Economics:

Starting the sides portion of their cookbooks, the girls made French bread.


It turned out really good. The only changes they made to the recipe was adding in olive oil instead of Earth Balance.

One loaf they ate with cheese and with the other they made garlic bread to go along with our dinner.


The garlic bread is 2 TBSP softened butter with 1/4 tsp. garlic powder mixed in. Bake 350 for 6-7 minutes.

Both girls loved having the smell of bread baking back in the house again.


Yep, besides playing in the snow, Walk Away the Pounds 3 miles.


Peace for the journey.


Week In The Life ( Searching For A Reason )

February 21, 2015

After pondering over my last post I have calmed down a bit. I think I was letting all the excitement of planning out high school overwhelm me. I need to regain my focus, that and coming up with a plan B and C if A doesn’t work. 🙂

My brain tends to work in fast forward and not being able to see the outcome can drive me nuts, literally. I have to remind myself one day, one step at a time. I need to remember where we are right now, and what we need to do to get to there.

Sometimes I feel so out of place in the homeschooling community. I don’t limit television (though we hardly ever watch commercial TV) or video games. I don’t censor what my children watch, or read, or listen to. Sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll are part of our culture (and obviously not leaving anytime soon), I would rather them learn about them in the safety of their home from us, their parents than outsiders. There really isn’t much that surprises or shocks me, actually it takes a lot to offend me. I am pretty easy to get along with as long as you can accept me for who I am. Too long I walked the line trying to please everyone, everyone but myself. Maybe it’s a sign of maturity but I don’t have the time, or do I want to put up a fake front. This is us in all our glory.

We are not perfect, Sky yells and argues with me, and I with her. I get grouchy and fly off the handle, not nearly as much as I did in the past. I don’t believe in punishments. I don’t believe in spankings, or “sparing the rod…”, or “time-outs”, unless they want to take one or groundings. I don’t believe in my children walking all over me either. I expect the same respect they get. If I can get grouchy, so can children. I get tired and don’t feel like cooking or cleaning and just want to sit in peace and quiet. If I can get tired, so can children. My children have the right, if not more so, to model the same behaviors as adults. How could I ask for perfection from them?

I’m not into curriculum or conventions. I’m not a big follower of anything, I’ve always done things my way, which hasn’t always been the easy way(Well Big Sis, I guess you’re right about Sky taking after me  🙂 ). Yes, now it’s all becoming clear. As I type this out maybe the reason I feel like I don’t fit in is that I’m homeschooling for different reasons and the reason I am finding myself frustrated by high school is that I’m feeling the pull towards conformity. I guess there is more to ponder than I thought.

Homeschooling, yes we did do some of that this week.

Language Arts

If you didn’t already notice the girls worked on writing a paragraph this week. Little Sis’s topic was her favorite dog hero and Sky’s was Oliver Twist. Taking into consideration we have not done much in the grammar department yet, though we will be getting there soon, they did pretty well. I had them come up with rough drafts first, then edit, the best they could, then type them on my blog. I was hoping this would get them use to typing out reports. I can’t believe how fast they type. It took Little Sis 5 minutes to type hers out.

We used a worksheet from as our guide.

We also went over the last element of story, conclusion or resolution. I printed off a diagram for the girls to add in their journals and a guide of discussion questions.

We also briefly discussed those story elements.

Sky took a test on all the vocabulary words she had from the story Oliver Twist and that put the finishing touches on Charles Dickens for the time being.

Sometimes it can be hard trying to combine two grades at the same time but thanks to the Magic Tree House series we made the transition into listening to the dramatic version of Heidi. Though I could have used the whole orphan theme.

The girls have been really enjoying it and keep asking for another chapter.

Little Sis’s vocabulary words were: hamlet, tremor, crimson (along with pointing out that she already had this word), Fraulein, and fain.

She has also been reading, reading, and more reading her book.


She is now halfway through as she really likes it.


Continuing the mastery challenge at Khan Academy with Little Sis and learning what a rhombus is.

Sky continued practicing fractions with worksheets and is checking her own work and correcting any mistakes. She is ready to move on to the next step.



We watched the ocean episode of the series Earth, The New Wild and learned the importance of the predator’s job in the oceans. Also how our overfishing the oceans are causing a build up of slime around the coasts.

Social Studies

World History: I read the biography of Queen Victoria from the book Lives of Extraordinary Women by Kathleen Krull and the girls came up with 10 things they learned about her.


We also watched BBC The Victorians, Having It All documentary, found on YouTube, and PBS NOVA Petra, The Lost City In Stone.

The Arts

Thanks to the Victorians documentary we discussed the paintings Hard Times and On Strike by Sir Hubert von Herkomer and Elizabeth Thompson’s The Roll Call, which will lead us perfectly into the Crimean War.

We also watched the 2007 BBC series of Oliver Twist. The girls were glad to have read the book first as they did not enjoy the show. I actually agree with them. Again I don’t mind changes but when you change the villain and then have us feel sorry for what he, they did, kind of takes away the whole point of the so-called incident.

Sky is back in a drawing mood like Little Sis has been in a reading mood.






Home Economics

The girls tried making brownie 1 recipe, the first one they baked, again this time with oil. I just don’t like this recipe. Sky doesn’t like the recipe from last week, which is Little Sis and my favorite. Papa could care less as long as we keep them coming. 🙂


We were so glad to go for our walk last weekend because this week the temperatures dropped. So we Walked Away more Pounds indoors.

Peace, myself included, for the journey.


Oliver Twist (Miss Sky)

February 18, 2015

Oliver Twist is a novel written by Charles Dickens set during the Victorian times in London, England. The story was a protest for the poor and how hard it was to be poor during these times. The story begins with Oliver’s mother died after giving birth in a workhouse. Oliver is raised by a Mrs. Mann who is very abusive. Oliver was kicked out of the workhouse and labeled “a trouble maker” for asking for more gruel. Oliver then is apprenticed to Mr. Sowerberry the undertaker where he meets Noah who bullies him into a fight. Oliver runs away to London out of despair. With no place to go, he encounters The Artful Dodger who introduces him to “The Jew,” Fagin. Fagin takes in Oliver wanting to train him to pickpocket. While staying with Fagin, Oliver meets Bill Sikes, his dog Bulls-eye, and Nancy. Oliver is challenged on which type of lifestyle he wants to live, a life of crime or a noble one.

All and all I found the novel emotional and dark but still enjoyable. Certain parts left a big impact on me. It is a great story and if you have not read or listened to it, you should.  🙂

My Favorite Dog Hero (Little Sis)

February 18, 2015

My favorite Dog hero from the Magic Tree House Fact Tracker Companion is Shana. Shana was an adopted hybrid wolf dog that Eve and Norman Fertig adopted. Eve and Norman were in one of the buildings feeding animals, when a tree fell and trapped them. Shana stayed with them almost the whole time! She began digging a tunnel under the tree. Shana barked sometimes  to tell them to ‘follow her’. It almost took her 3 hours digging. Finally when Shana got them out, they went back into the house. Since the electricity was off, Shana lay on top of them keeping them warm before help arrived.

The reason why I like Shana the most is because Shana never gave up. She kept digging, even for 3 hours! She would throw herself before anyone she loved. Once they did get back into the house, Shana kept them warm. She never gave up. She would sacrifice herself for her owners.  🙂

Week In The Life (May I Call You Charles?)

February 14, 2015

Well, for a brief moment we had beautiful weather which lead us outdoors to feel the warmth of the sun on our skin. We went for a walk around the neighborhood breathing in the cool fresh air and I took advantage of the warmth to do a little inventory.

After several years of buying our meat from farmers I think I finally have our meal rotation down. This year I managed to use every cut evenly without running out of one. Being I do not use the oven during summer this took a bit of planning.

Using a binder I made an outline of all the cuts of meat we receive from purchasing 1/2 a steer, a hog, and chickens (we also purchase fresh caught salmon from a friend) then came up with about 2 to 4 recipes for each cut (ground beef has 8, 4 for winter like meatloaf, 4 for summer like tacos). I filed each recipe I need behind my outline.

Using my planner I make a menu for the week. It usually works out like this, 1 day meatless, 1 day pork, 1 day fish, 1 day beef, 1 day leftovers or free for all. The weekend is rotated between Coney dogs, hamburgers, pizza, or chicken.

We only get so many chickens a year and during winter use 2 chickens for the dark meat and grill the white meat during summer. So, this averages to about chicken once a month but since I also use the backs to make broth and the meat, we get more than 1 meal. For example this past weekend I made fried chicken Sunday, made broth Monday using some for minestrone soup (meatless meal), and made chicken and dumplings Tuesday with more of the broth and the meat from the backs.

When I go to make out the menu for the next week I use a different recipe from my list. This keeps our meal rotation from getting boring. Then come summer it is time for a new recipe rotation.

Speaking of broth I also make turkey broth, beef broth, and vegetable broth. We haven’t purchased broth from the store in so many years, actually this is all Little Sis knows. We haven’t purchased corn, apples, or tomato products either. This year we almost made it through the winter with our onions and have 3 heads of garlic left. Papa doubled our garlic already when he planted in the fall, so, my fingers are crossed this will be the perfect amount for next year. We are doubling our garden space this spring and hoping for a larger potato crop too.

It may seem like a lot of trouble but once I got my routine down it actually saves me tons of time now. I need to know what’s for dinner or what I need to pull out the night before, especially now that homeschooling is getting more challenging. I have SO much going through my mind all the time that not having to worry about meals is a huge relief.

Speaking of homeschooling,

Language Arts:

We finished Oliver Twist, and though I had seen the musical as a child there was a lot I had forgot. Actually I am wondering what made them want to make this story into a musical in the first place as it is rather dark. I do remember Bill Sikes scaring the dickens out of me though(I know, I know 🙂 ). The girls really loved it and can’t wait to watch the movie this weekend.

SparkNotes has a Quiz that I asked the girls once we were done. They got all the answers right.

Sky’s spelling/ vocabulary words were indispensable, exonerate, bewail, prerogative, circumlocution,  repugnance, accede, retort, adjoin, wry, quixotic, and eccentric.

Next week, I will test her on all the words from her vocabulary lists, picking out 15 random ones,  to give her a final grade.

This I am hoping prepares her on how to study for exams.

Little Sis’s words were specimen, barren, billow, bewilder.

I read Magic Tree House Fact Finder, Dog Heroes and Charles Dickens biography from the Lives of the Writers by Kathleen Krull.

We discussed element number 4 of plot denouement, falling action, and 16 literary techniques explained by Disney from BuzzFeed.


I don’t know why I had never thought before for Sky to make a math journal but this week she started one with how to compare fractions, solving improper fractions and mixed fractions.


She masters how to solve the problem but when I try to review she forgets which way goes to which. This is frustrating to us both. I know it is because we are trying to do so much at once to get caught up but I can’t keep going over the same steps, we must move on. This is where the journal comes in. Now she has no excuse and can use her journal to help study later on. We are using the lessons from and worksheets from

Little Sis is 50% through early math from Khan Academy moving right along mastering those word problems and she did the multiplication math drills from


We watched Cosmos episode 6 which was the perfect intro into Biology, which I plan to start come spring. We also watched Earth, The New Wild episode on forests. This show makes me very happy as someone who believes in learning to use nature to live along with nature. I am very passionate about the footprint our family leaves behind. I hope they add this series to Netflix so Papa can watch it with us. Sky wants to add it along with our BBC Earth collections, she too is very passionate about this topic.

I’ve never had to force “science” on the girls. Actually the only subject I need to force is mathematics (now with both girls, games are fun, word problems are not ), which saddens me. They are naturally curious about everything else we learn about. I know I am causing a dislike for mathematics as Sky, and Papa who uses measurements and fractions daily at his job, ask when will I need this?

Papa (who is a mathematical wizard and chess champion and again actually uses mathematics in his line of work daily) took the assessment math tests too and questioned why they were making mathematics so complicated, I don’t get it either. Not everyone is made to be a mathematician and saying “unless you can do this, you don’t get a diploma” is stupid. Yes, I said it.

Taxes, which I have always done myself, finances (which I am proud to say finally, with the exception of having our mortgage paid off in the next 7 years, we are debt free), civics, understanding how our government works, economics, knowing your history ( like why unions started in the first place or how I’m glad to not live in the “good ‘ol days”), grammar, being able to read and write, understanding how our universe functions, I get all that. Yes, I agree very important.  8 credits in mathematics to get an academic diploma (which the college requires where Sky wants to go), to go to art school, nope sorry.

Just because our days look more traditional does not mean my beliefs have changed. Sky wants to go to art school (and loves geometry  that she gets because she can visualize it) so, we are going through the motions, passing tests, getting grades but it still doesn’t change how I feel. I still think it’s bullshit and feel sorry for all the children who are made to feel like failures because of this. Could this be part of the reason why so many dropouts, and high crime rates? Just because of wiring in our brains? Knowledge has naturally built upon itself, whether they were properly “educated” or not.


Social Studies:

World History, We finished the BBC Radio of the Victorian times with famous Victorians. I printed off a color sheet of Charles Dickens


and the girls came up with 10 things they learned about him. I forgot to mention they watched a short animated video about him and played a can you survive in Dickens’ London game.

Now that the girls have a good understanding of imperialism, capitalism, and monopolies, we played Monopoly again.


I actually finally won. I called myself Mr. Potter as I bought out everyone’s property. 🙂

The Arts:

We watched The Sound of Music Live, with Carrie Underwood. Of course no one can replace Julie Andrews, but I wanted the girls to see it as a live show, not a movie. We probably will watch the movie eventually but this hit the spot for now.

Home Economics:

We made “Puppy Chow”, or Muddy Buddies using the recipe in the back of the Magic Tree House book.


Besides our walk around the block, twice around, we also did Walk Away the Pound, 3 miles.


Though I had a bit to get off my chest tonight, I still wish peace for the journey.

Week In The Life (Your Imperial and Royal Majesty)

February 7, 2015

Longer and longer our days have been getting. Now more than ever I need to make sure I stay on top of my time. My planner is getting a workout. What kind of planner you ask? I am a pen and paper type of gal, nothing fancy here folks. Just a simple spiral notebook and a cheap drugstore planner. I write the year inside the cover and it’s ready to go. I keep notes, track of lessons, and any ideas and resources I may have for the upcoming year. Yes, I’ve been covetous of all those neat and orderly ones you see photos of on Pinterest, and it probably wouldn’t hurt being a bit more organized, but honestly, as you can see, I’m just a simple gal and this is how our homeschooling rolls.

My “teacher” bookshelf contains several notebooks I’ve accumulated over the years and every now and again I get a kick looking back on my earlier ones, boy we sure have come a long way since then. It doesn’t really seem like it has been all that long ago really. Yet here I am planning for Miss Sky’s high school years. Enjoy those younger years, they will be over in a blink of an eye. And relax, enjoy the journey. It may not seem like it when first starting out but you can do this.

Last week I mentioned my concerns over our math results (after taking some common core practice tests) where I discovered some weaknesses ( which I will discuss in a moment). Well, I regained my confidence when the girls passed, with flying colors, all the language arts tests. Yep, all the way to 8th grade.

Read and discuss, read and discuss this has been the foundation of our homeschooling from the beginning, no matter what method we used. After all, that is what reading comprehension means. Understanding what was read and being able to explain it in your own words.

So many conversations over the years, so many opinions shared. Sky still rants off on the animal cruelty from the book Bears of Blue River. So many times we thought of not finishing it. It wasn’t that much earlier that she had wanted a fox stole like the ones she had seen in our Laurel and Hardy movies. Now the thought sickens her. What a joy it has been to be apart of their learning discoveries. I wouldn’t trade the time spent with them for anything in the world.

Even though our reading choices might have become a bit more challenging and the conversations a bit more mature, not much has really changed now that the girls are older. I still plan to continue language arts the same way we always have, obviously it is working for us.

Language Arts:

Our current story is no different, we really have been enjoying Oliver Twist (at least as much as one can considering the story). Lots and lots of discussions and Sky has commented on how Dickens “likes to break the fourth wall” showcasing his sense of humor. This week we read chapters 17-33.

Sky’s vocabulary/spelling list was: improbable, covetous, antipathy, lamentable, encomium, expend, abrupt, turbulence, bestow and complacency.

Little Sis finished Dogs in the Dead of Night and her words were: expedition, altitude, shroud, and enthusiasm. They both had imperialism.

This week we discussed the third stage of plot, climax. They also did a elements of story interactive explaining setting, characters, and sequence.


I discovered the girls were having trouble with the word problems portion of the practice tests last week, only making it to fourth grade, so this week both girls practiced word problems at Khan Academy. Sky made it right back to where she left off in fractions, at the start of the year, and worked on equivalent and comparing fractions.

Sky helped Little Sis practice her multiplication problems playing war and I found another awesome website (especially love the multiplication drills).

I will for sure be taking  advantage of their quizzes.


Social Studies:

World History,

Continuing with the BBC School Radio show, Victorian Times we learned about life in a wealthy Victorian family, the Victorian railways, or iron horses, and Victorian inventions. The girls added notes to their timeline and I printed a blank map of Europe which we will be filling in as we go.


We also watched the Crash Course video about imperialism.


This year our “theme” is animals and ecosystems preparing Sky for Biology. So I was geeky excited about PBS’s new series Earth Wild airing Wednesdays right after Nature. The first episode was about sharing the world with panda bears, tigers, chimpanzees and how predators help keep nature in balance.

(I told you I was a simple girl.)

We also are watching the series Cosmos again now that the girls have a more scientific understanding. I love that you can grow along with the series. We made it to the episode about physics and the measurement of light rays and sound waves, which led us perfectly into the Victorian inventions of the telephone and phonograph.

The Arts

We watched Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta, Pirates of Penzance live performance from the Delacorte  Theatre in New York.

The girls recognized the song Major General and it was fun to see a young Kevin Kline.

And lots of drawing


(Miss Sky)

and writing.

Home Ec.

We made my favorite brownie recipe,


peanut butter swirl brownies made with oat flour.

Sky still prefers the texture of the other brownies. I like how these are gluten free and much healthier.


Yep, Walk Away the pounds, 3 miles.

Peace for the journey.