Archive for January, 2016

Week In The Life (The Driest Place On Earth)

January 30, 2016

I finally finished A Feast For Crows, and am now well into A Dance With Dragons (Another 1100 page roller coaster of a ride. I am particularly a little pissed with a certain character’s demise in Crows, which will have a lot of influence on how fast I get through Dragons. ). I have found myself pondering what the heck I’m going to read while waiting for The Winds of Winter to be released. How does one simply move on from this series?

I’m not one to complain about having to wait for the next installment of a series. My favorite series, before reading Game of Thrones, was The Gunslinger series by Stephen King. When I began that series, I had no idea whether King was going to finish it or not. Especially, after he was hit by a car. Then, he finally did. Honestly, the conclusion felt rushed. Like he just wanted to be done with the series. I don’t want that to happen with Game of Thrones. So, until then, I will patiently wait.

I will say one thing, George R.R. Martin has spoiled me with his writing style. The girls and I just finished The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, and though I don’t want to say too much about the story because Sky will be reviewing it next week, it wasn’t an easy book for me to get through.

I’m not really a big fan of YA to begin with. Maybe, it’s because I am an adult that has no interest in reliving my teen years. Or, maybe it’s just not something I ever cared for. I went from reading Ramona to Carrie. I remember my teacher, I attended a private school through 8th grade, asked if my parents knew I was reading Stephen King. I remember thinking, why? What is the big deal?

I am a straight forward person, I have no time for drama bullshit. If you have something to say, say it. Not, “Oh I like you, but I can’t tell you”, crap. In this way, I feel sorry for Little Sis. I would rather go to the dentist than reading Twilight. However, I did sit through each and every movie, because I love her. ūüôā

I picked The Darkest Part of the Forest because I thought since we were reading modern fairy-tale adaptations, it would be a better choice for Sky and me (Sky’s and my tastes are a bit more similar). Well, I was wrong.

Language Arts


The Darkest Part of the Forest had so much potential. The story was set in modern times where humans lived among the fairy folk. The story contained some of my most favorite Irish and Scottish folklore. Holly Black did an amazing job creating this world.

The protagonist was a female that wanted to be the knight, and her brother could be the one to find his prince. Halfway through the book, it reminded me of a more mature version of The Spiderwick Chronicles. Also, it could have been condensed into a short story easily. Well, I will let Sky explain the rest in her upcoming review.

We read The Magic Tree House, Moonlight on the Magic Flute, and listened to Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid at


The girls copied the next 2 stanzas from the poem, The Haunted Castle by Poe.


Words from the poem.

luminous, lute, Porphyrogene, realm, fair, surpassing, wit

I found an awesome word list containing all the definitions of words Poe used in his poems.


Both girls warmed up at

Sky continued working on the order of operations in her workbook.

Little Sis worked on multiplying 2 digits, 2 and 3, in her workbook.



I read the Magic Tree House Fact Tracker guide, Penguins, and Antarctica.

We watched the TedEd video,¬†¬†Everything¬†you’ve ever wanted to know about penguins,

and Penguins of the Antarctic (YouTube).

We checked in throughout the week on the penguins at Monterey Bay Aquarium and was able to catch them being fed.


We also watched the NOVA episode Antarctica, Secrets Beneath the Ice.



World History/ Geography:

We watched the TedEd video on  The Arctic Vs. The Antarctic.

TED Talks The Arctic Vs. The Antarctic With Camille Seaman

I printed off a page of Antarctica for the girls to add to their world history notebooks (another continent checked off the list),

and we watched the movie Antarctica: A Year on Ice, and the Nature episode Penguins Post Office.


Then, there was Downton Abbey.


We are continuing with PBS’s new series Mercy Street. Sky is really getting in with this series. When it ended this week she was like, “What, already?”. The last series she was this into was Arthur and George.

Fine Arts

Theater Appreciation:

We watched  Faerie Tale Theatre, The Little Mermaid.


This week we attempted Ariel, from Disney’s Little Mermaid (Dramatic Parrot on YouTube).



Again, Sky took the lessons she’s learned to her own creations.






Walk Away the pounds.

Extracurricular Activities

The girls joined a monthly teen reading club. Little Sis is able to participate because she is actually reading YA novels too. The book choices, in the club for her age, are way too easy and boring to her.

This week the theme was dystopias, which the girls have plenty of experience with, and they played the game The Resistance.

Peace for the journey.


Week In The Life (Happiest Place On Earth)

January 23, 2016

No, not Disneyland.

Our second week back, and I think we are slowly finding our groove. Little by little, our days get longer preparing us for the upwards journey ahead. It also didn’t hurt that we started the year out with fairy-tales.

Last week, I mentioned our favorite and least favorite books from 2015. This week, I thought I would mention my favorite, though kids might not agree, mathematics resources from 2015. We tried out a few different ones before I found what really seemed to work for the girls.

Sky is a visual, picture, learner. I’m a reader, which makes me a visual learner as well, but through different visual mediums. It can be a bit challenging to find resources that can cater to both our needs. (Not really sure how Little Sis learns best yet, you just need to show her once and she is off.) ¬†I love the Basher book series. The illustrations used are perfect for Miss Sky, and I love the explanations. They are a win, win.

Something else that I changed this year that has helped a lot, is having the girls warm-up at (which is free). Even though both girls can add and subtract, they couldn’t add or subtract fast, very well. Sky always seemed to make a mistake here, a mistake there, and mistakes in mathematics will not give you the right answers. Since working at XtraMath, she goes days, days without making mistakes.

Add XtraMath with my favorite workbook series, Kumon, and what a huge difference they have made. I love the step building this series uses. It starts out with a review, then slowly builds up. Before you know it, you are at the end tackling problems that might have scared you before. Each step you learn helps you with the next concept you will need to use to figure out the next set of problems. I also like, that the books are straight to the point. There are no wasted “filler” problems. If Sky were to get stuck on a concept, I could print off worksheets for her to practice before moving on. I don’t need wasted pages of repeating the same things over and over again. I know this sounds like a bloody advertisement (I think it even says so on the front cover of the workbooks), but Kumon really has helped Sky gain her confidence in math.

Okay, last but not least, what was my favorite game? I want to start out by saying, all games are educational. Even Hungry, Hungry Hippo teaches hand-eye coordination. However, this is a game the girls would only pick to play during school. So, not something they would play just for fun, and not their pick for their favorite game.

I love using the game Zoom to practice mental math. Sometimes, it’s a quick game that lasts 5 minutes. Sometimes, you think you have the game in the bag, then you draw a boom card and lose all your accumulated points. The game has never taken us longer than 20 minutes to play, and our brains are awake and ready to transition into school mode.

And since on the subject of school,


Language Arts


Our next fairy tale read aloud is The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black. We read the first 10 chapters.

We listened to the Snow Queen from¬†We love BBC’s 2005 movie version of this fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson. In fact, the girls prefer it over the original story if that tells you anything.

I read the bio of Hans Christian Anderson from Lives of Writers, and the girls came up with 10 things they learned about him.


We also read the Magic Tree House, Eve of the Empire Penguin.


The girls copied the first two parts of the poem, The Haunted Palace By Edgar Allan Poe.


Sky wrote a book review on The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman.


Words from The Haunted Castle.

tenanted, Monarch, dominion, Seraph, pinion, dallied, ramparts, plumed, pallid


Warm up at XtraMath.

Little Sis, Kumon grade 4 multiplication workbook. She started 2 digit multiplication.

Sky, Kumon Pre-Algebra workbook 1. She started order of operations.

The game of the month has been Yahtzee. Little Sis has caught the fever, and we have been playing it since our winter break.


History/ Geography


We watched Downton Abbey.

We learned about the happiest country on Earth, Denmark. I printed a map of the country, and we watched Rick Steves Europe, Copenhagen and Beyond Copenhagen (YouTube).

We watched Food Safari episode, Danish Essentials (YouTube), and learned the history of Lego.


We watched a few videos on Danish folk dancing.


We listened to Danish music.


For starters, we watched the movie Our Friend, Martin (YouTube).

We watched PBS’s new series Mercy Street, which started lots of discussion throughout the week.


Our living history museum performed a dramatization, based on real letters, of two brothers separated by their beliefs during the civil war at our local library. One brother fought for the Union, and the other for the Confederacy. The performers stayed to answer questions. This led to even more discussions. We also watched PBS’s American Experience, The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

The Arts


Continuing with our pencil drawing lessons, we learned how to draw Elsa from Frozen (The same YouTuber from last week’s Snow White. We will be sticking with her lessons.).


We watched the movie Snow White and the Huntsman.

We thought it was pretty good. It held both girls attentions. There was plenty of fighting for one, not quite enough romance for the other.


Walk Away the Pounds.

Peace for the journey.



A Book Review By Miss Sky

January 18, 2016

For this post, I will be reviewing the book, The Sleeper and The Spindle by Neil Gaiman.

The story starts with a spell being cast throughout the kingdom, causing the villagers to fall asleep. Once word reaches our main protagonist, our heroine slips into her armor and sets out determined to lift it.

Neil Gaiman has cleverly put together a crossover between Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Instead, of waiting for prince charming to save the day, Snow White takes matters into her own hands.

The first thing that grabbed my attention about this book is the illustrations. They’re very stylized and pretty to look at. Some people complain that the main character is bland, I personally didn’t have a problem with her. In the past, characters in fairy tales have been left bland on purpose so we could place ourselves in their shoes. I really liked the twist at the end of the story.

I would recommend this story for anyone who enjoys illustrations, and people with an open mind for modern fairy tales.  I would not recommend it for small children, because some scenes may be a little too intense, but no worse than the original fairy tales themselves.

I give this book 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Week In The Life (Once Upon A Time)

January 16, 2016

Happy 2016!

I decided to do something a little different from my usual end of the year review. While looking back, I discovered there was just too darn much, and I didn’t really feel like writing a bunch of posts while on break. So, I am going to wait until the end of August, the end of Sky’s 9th-grade year, to add up all her credits.

I did, however, count all the literature we read in 2015 though, and thought I would make a list of our favorites, and our worst reads from the year.

We read over 50 books (not including books we read individually), 18 poems, and 4 short stories. Since this list is only composed of literature we read together, books like The Hunger Games trilogy are not included on our favorites list. Though, it one of Little Sis’s most favorite series of the year.

We started 2015 out reading Charles Dickens. Who would have thought, he would become one of Sky’s favorite authors. So, of course, Oliver Twist made the list, along with Heidi, Faeries by Brian Froud (voted best illustrations, and artwork), Little Women, Stardust by Neil Gaiman, and The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe.

Most surprising nonfiction read of the year was: The Wonderful Adventures of Mary Seacole In Many Lands. The most underrated fairy-tale, that made our favorites list, is The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. At first, you think, Oh, it’s just like every other fairy-tale, but no, it takes a completely different twist.

Favorite poems, hands down belong to the Bronte sisters. Which brings me to our runner-up, Wuthering Heights. Little Sis loves this story, Sky and I found it a bit boring after a while. It was neither terrible, or great, but it held our interest until the end. I personally, love Anne’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall much, much more.

So, what made our worst list? These, are stories the girls have absolutely no interest in ever reading again. Red Hugh, Prince of Donegal by Robert T. Reilly, and Fairy and Folk Tales of Ireland by W.B. Yeats. It’s not that they found the true story of Red Hugh boring, just this particular story. Also, they didn’t find all the folk tales of Ireland boring, in fact, they loved learning about selkies. Just after a while, they all started to sound the same. I wouldn’t recommend reading them all the way through, like a book. Instead, maybe pick one here, one there to read throughout the year.

Since, on the subject of fairy-tales, that is exactly what we started 2016 reading.


Language Arts, Exploring Genre, What are Folk-Tales?

We started our lessons, first by reviewing the differences between prose, and verse. Then, the elements of a fairy-tale, and their origin.



The girls took turns reading The Magic Tree House, Christmas In Camelot. I read The Sleeper and the Spindle. This story will for sure be our favorites for the 2016 list. In fact, Sky has requested this for her own collection. She already loves Neil Gaiman, but she loved the illustrations in this story too. I also read The Sleeping Beauty by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

We listened, to both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty (parts 1 and 2) at Storynory, and watched Revolting Rhymes, Snow White by Roald Dahl (YouTube).

American Literature


The girls copied the poem, Winter Moon by Langston Hughes.



We also listened to the poems Dream Variations, Theme For English B (my favorite), Madam’s Past History, Night Funeral in Harlem, and The Negro Speaks of Rivers (YouTube).

I read his biography from Lives of Writers, and we watch the Crash Course video about him.

The girls wrote down 10 things that they learned.


(Little Sis)



The girls warmed up at XtraMath and worked in their workbooks. Little Sis is still in the review part of Grade 4, Multiplication. Sky is working on Exponents, including fraction exponents. I think she has finally mastered fractions, and decimals (Yes!).


World History/Geography

We watched an amazing documentary, explaining how before the Romanian Revolution, American movies were smuggled in, and the impact they made. I highly recommend watching it. So many discussions, Sky couldn’t even believe that what she was watching could really happen.

Chuck Norris vs. Communism

Of course, we are watching Downton Abbey too.

American Civics/Government

We watched and discussed our State of the State Address and our State of the Union Address.

The Arts


We listened to Langton Hughes favorite Billie Holiday song, God Bless The Child (YouTube).


We watched the Faerie Tale Theatre episodes, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Sleeping Beauty (YouTube). I love this series.

We went to see the new Star Wars movie at theaters, but before we did we watched one of my favorite YouTubers, Brows Held High’s, video, Between the Lines, Star Wars. He did an amazing job telling the story through other movies.


Sky’s been busy drawing, as Little Sis and I have been busy reading (Though Sky received The Game of Thrones graphic novels for Christmas and has been reading too.)



She has been playing around a bit with a pencil (she hates using a pencil to draw because her drawings get smudgy) and drew her manga self-portrait.


Together, we followed along with how to draw Disney’s, Snow White.

Our results?


Sky has never liked taking instructions on how to draw. I explained she would need to learn in art school, so she might as well start learning now. I don’t think we did too bad for our first lesson. I think we need better drawing pencils.


The girls had homeschool gym.

Not a bad start to a new year, peace for the journey.