Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I am so excited!  Last year I finally waded into the waters of Unit Studies.  I walked in carefully using a wonderful "beginner" program called "Learning Adventures."  This has been a great program for us as it has laid out very clearly our daily activities.  It is so detailed that I could just read from Dorian's notes if I wish (and on the days that I'm experiencing fried-brain, that is exactly what I do.)  However, now that I have gotten my feet wet and I see how to do a unit study, I am ready to take the plunge into developing my own unit study for next year!

I have been very happy with Learning Adventures, but so far, the author has not had the opportunity to continue the program through the Civil War - a subject in which my children are extremely interested.  I am also not completely satisfied with the grammar section of the study.  Therefore, I have done some searching.

My cousin's wife introduced us to Evan-Moor's History Pockets this year and has allowed us to borrow 3 of her books.  If you have never used these, they can be found here.  They are filled with information and lots of fun and EASY projects for the kids to really comprehend what they are learning.  I have supplemented  our study of the colonization of America with these pockets.  The book gives some starter information about the topic and it would be so easy to use that info as springboard into finding other books to dig deeper. 

As I was preparing some more pockets for my children to do in the next couple of days, I noticed on the back of the book that Evan-Moor also offers Literature Pockets.  I hurried to the computer, went to the Evan-Moor site and I have found a pluthera of educational supplies that will make it easy for me to create a customized curriculum for next year.  Each of my subjects may or may not relate to one another, but each subject will be a fun, hands-on, and educational unit. 

If you are looking for something more interesting to do with your students next year instead of the same ole workbooks, I highly recommend this site.  I understand that the information comes from a secular and evolutional world view, however, I see that as a teaching opportunity in itself.  I plan on using their "Daily Science" books, yet when we are confronted evolution, we will see what their belief is and search out and contrast the Creationist view. 

I am so excited about this new venture next year and the fact that I have months to plan for it!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fancy That!

My mom came over for a visit this past Saturday morning.  We were not able to spend Thanksgiving together and, as she was going to be in the area doing some shopping, we decided it would be great if she came over to do some "catching-up." 

As she was due to arrive at 10:00, I just assumed I would serve her some coffee and leftover pie (check out the recipe here).  Around 9:00, inspiration came upon me - why not have a simply fancy lunch?  My children had neglected to eat breakfast, so we could eat a bit earlier than usual so my mom could still get her shopping done. 

The menu - peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, bananas, juice, cider, and chocolate ice cream (kids) and pie (mom & me) for dessert.

"Um, Victoria, I hate to tell you, but that sounds anything but fancy!"

Yes, but it's all in the PRESENTATION!

(OK - here I must apologize.  I will be discussing presentation without any pictures to illustrate as I dumbly have forgotten for the 400th time this week to recharge my camera batteries.  So sorry.)

First, my daughter made the good ole American PB&Js and then cut them into shapes - dinosauers for the boys and hearts for the girls.  I realize that cutting sandwiches into shapes leaves quite a bit of wasted bread, etc., which is why we don't do this often.  (If you have any suggestions on how to creatively use the crust "remains" please leave them in the comments.)  She then stacked the dinos on one glass plate and the hearts on another.  So pretty.

When it was time for lunch, I brought out my good dishes and peeled the bananas before placing them on the plates and serving.  Everyone got a very pretty stemmed glass from which they drank either apple cider or sparkling juice (grape juice mixed with Sprite).  An everyday lunch served on special dishes, makes for a pretty fancy meal.

When it was time for dessert, I dished up the children's ice cream in some pretty glass sundae dishes that I have tucked away and drizzled their scoops with chocolate sauce and topped it with whipped cream.  They were so happy.  Mom and I used the dessert plates from my good set and ate our delicious warmed apple pie.

Simply fancy.  It made my mother feel welcomed and my children feel special.  Having guests for lunch no longer appears complicated.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Question for You

I need some help. 

We are beginning the busy holiday season.  As most homeschool families have experienced, the daily schedule seems to get as mixed up as a box of Christmas lights this time of year.  I know the obvious solution is to not over-scheudule ourselves.  However, that often means turning down ministry opportunities, which can be more valuable than book lessons. 

I live in a state that requires quarterly reporting.  I know my kids are learning even on the days where their "formal lessons" are not possible, but try explaining that to the superintendant.  So, my question is:

How do you accomplish "real school" in the midst of many busy days of "real life"?

Please leave your suggestions in the comments.  I would appreciate it so very much!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Just Walk Away from the Lesson and No One Will Get Hurt!

Did you ever have a day when your child seems to have a total brain-block against something?  Yesterday, my almost-6 year old son just could not get the words correct on his reading page.  He was learning the "s" sound at the end of the word.  i.e. cats  However, he kept switching the last two letters of EVERY word he was reading.  i.e. cast  Talk about frustrating.  At one point, he just had a bad attitude and began crying.  I sent him upstairs to rest until he could come back down without getting upset.  When he came down, his attitude was a bit better, but those pesky letters kept switching around on us! 

What do you do?  With my first child, I would prolong the agony until the early evening hours.  "It's not that hard.  You just need to try."  However, I have learned that nothing is accomplished that way except for tempers flaring, hair loss, and an increased loathing for education.  Now, we just put the lesson aside for the next day.  Which is exactly what we did yesterday.

This morning, we opened up to the reading lesson and, lo and behold, the letters stayed where they were supposed to be!  He didn't miss a word.  At one point, he stopped and said, "Now I'm getting it!" 

We didn't fall behind a day in our lesson.  The lesson was to know when to walk away with the intention of trying again the next day.  God's mercies are new every morning - even in the trials of a 5 year old's education.  All was bright and clear today - especially his smile!

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Just a quick post to make you aware of a great website:  The Coupon Mom.  A friend of mine "introduced" me to her and she has really motivated me to save some money on my grocery bills.  Not only is her site great, but if you go HERE, you can see her in action.  Be aware:  it takes a little while to get your act together where you're really seeing some great savings.  Don't get discouraged - be persistant!

During the holiday season, it's a blessing to be able to save money wherever we can.  Happy Savings!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pocketful of Pinecones

Have you ever read this book by Karen Androla?  It's been out for several years, but I finally decided to read it.  Now that my approach to homeschooling has changed, I find this book extremely encouraging and has given me several new ideas.

Who knows?  Maybe we'll start a Nature Notebook of our own.

Give this book a read...and tell me what you think.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Great Organizational Tool

I am a huge planner.  I know that if I don't plan, nothing will ever get done - especially in our homeschool.  I have purchased The Homeschoolers Journal, made my own Excel sheets, used Donna Young's printables to make my own notebook, etc., etc.  Each of these has been a blessing to me in different season's of my life.  I must say, I loved the Homeschooler's Journal, but I now have too many children to really make it work efficiently for me.  If you have just 2 or 3 children in school, you might want to look into that excellent resource.
However, I have recently discovered Homeschool Tracker Plus.  To date, this is the best method for me, by far.  I am into day10 of my $5 30-day trial and I think I'm going to spend the $45 more to purchase the program for keeps. 

Everything is in the computer, but I can print out assignment sheets made up directly from my lesson plans.  I type in the subjects with what I want to cover on certain days and...WHALAA!  
Well, with a 300-something page user's manual, maybe not quite so "whalaa!"  Getting to learn the program is probably the biggest draw-back.  I'm the type of person who learns by doing and it's taken me a few hours to really figure things out.  However, I can go to the site any time I want and watch how-to videos or look at a pdf file of the manual.  I would also recommend becoming a part of the discussion board.  I couldn't figure out how to edit the grading chart but after going back and forth with the creator of the program, we have it figured out.  What a HUGE help having someone there who knows the program and actually answers your questions almost immediately!

If you have several children or high school students, I would suggest you give this program a look-see.  Tell me what you think.  And, if you get a chance, tell them you heard about Homeschool Tracker Plus here at Teaching Mommy.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

My Career

This week, I realized that I spend a total of 5 hours a day teaching my children. That's FIVE hours of SITTING with them, talking with them, directing & guiding them, and helping them learn.

That's FIVE hours of nothing else getting accomplished.

To some homeschool moms, this seems like a lot. This seems a bit daunting. I mean, there's dinner to cook, laundry to do, house to clean, gardens to harvest, canning to be done, dresses to be sewn, etc., etc. Trust me, I thought this was a lot of time, as well.

However, this year I have a bit of a different mindset. Something more important than a home-made quilt is being accomplished. I am spending time with my kids. I am not rushing school so that I can get the things I NEED to get done finished. What I NEED to accomplish is this: raise children who know that I love them and have an education they (& their parents) won't be ashamed of.

I look at it this way. Many of America's moms are working 40 hour weeks. That's 8 hours, five days a week. With drive-time, most of those moms are away from home 9 hours a day. That's 9 hours of no cleaning, no laundry, no baking, no gardening, etc., etc. So, if I spend 5 hours a day doing none of those things because I am TEACHING MY KIDS, why should I feel guilty? Why shouldn't I enjoy myself? After all...everyone is taught that they should strive to have a job they love.

I went to college to be a teacher. I love to teach. If I rush the teaching part of my day just so I can clean my house (a job I, well, DON'T love), I am only succeeding in creating a stressful environment and no one is having any fun.

I realize that some moms just do not have 5 hours to sit and teach. There are some exceptions (those with newborns being at the top of the list). However, the time you do HAVE to sit and teach, I challenge you to ENJOY. Don't look at it as time when chores are suffering. Look at it as time your child will treasure and benefit from for the rest of his life.

It's my career and I am loving it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

First Week - Done!

Ok - so it's been a couple of months since I've posted. But, after all, it's summer and this is a homeschool blog.

I had every intention of schooling through the summer to prevent boredom and to finish up what we didn't finish during the school year. However, by mid-July I surrendered. It was a losing battle. The kids are older which means we are a lot busier and going more places. This provides less opportunity for boredom (and less opportunity for me to get any real projects completed).

However, we just completed our first week of school today!! Most importantly, it was incredibly successful! I was able to accomplish most everything I had planned. We began last Friday so we all could get a taste of our new schedule without feeling overwhelmed. After a nice weekend, we did school on Monday, took Tuesday off to go to a friend's (planned months ahead of time) and then did school yesterday and today. As my niece and nephew are coming tomorrow, we doubled up on our work today.

The older kids are studying the Age of Exploration. We are reading through an antique textbook - Explorers and Founders of America (written 1907 - our copy was printed in 1929) - which has made Columbus, De Leon, De Soto, and Vespuci come alive. I love old history books as they tend to stay closer to the truth than modern-day books. Even some of the Christian books tend to slant history a bit more conservative than it actually was. We are also enjoying a mini-study on oceans for our science.

The younger ones are doing Five in a Row this year - Volume 1. Madeline was the book of the week. We also did a little fish project to kind of tie in with the older kids oceanography. Lots of fun. And, even though the craft was simple, it made me look like a fun mom - always a bonus! We are reading The Light and the Glory for children in history this year. I like the style of writing, but I've never been to keen on the slant. It may sound odd, but, as I mentioned earlier, it has a very Christian slant to the degree of changing facts, I believe. I am not sure if Christopher Columbus really came here to spread the gospel - any thoughts on that? Everyone in the book tends to either fight with pride and/or want to spread the gospel to the natives. The next chapter deals with the Jesuit priests who come to bring salvation to the Indians. Not to offend any of my readers, but this book uses this in a positive light and equates them with born again Christians. This makes my job a little more interesting. However, I'd rather have a book add more Christianity to history than to scorn it or take it completely out. Anyone know of an interesting book for kids that has the balanced truth?

Our schedule seems to be working wonderfully. I teach the younger children in the morning while the older kids do their independent work. Then, after lunch, I sit with the older kids doing our read-aloud, history, science, and English. This has only taken an hour, so far, each day, but there will be many days that it will take 2 hours. Our schedule looks like this:

8:30 - individual Bible reading time (I read w/ the younger children)
9:00 - 11:00 - I teach the younger ones - Five in a Row, history/science, spelling, math, penmanship, reading. The older children do their math, any english and spelling assignments, and practice their instruments. If they finish with extra time, they keep Zane occupied.

11:00 - 12:00 - finish up morning assignments, Bible memorization (yet to start), getting ready to make lunch

12:00 - 1:00 - lunch/free time

1:00 - 3:00 - younger children finish any independent work; little ones go down for naps; I do the "together-schoo" with the older children.

3:00 - 4:00 - my favorite addition to this schedule - QUIET TIME FOR MOMMY!!!!! The children go outside or play QUIETLY in the house while mommy goes upstairs to read or nap. This is a great refresher for the evening!

4:00 - 5:00 - dinner prep with dinner @ 5:00

Notice my schedule has become more flexible - it is no longer minute by minute. We often finish school for the younger ones after 11:00 and the older ones, like I mentioned, are done before 3:00. I love the flexibility our school is allowing us - so much less stress for us all!

Have any of you begun school, yet? I would love to hear how it's going or when you plan to begin. Comment away!:)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Just a Bit of Reading

William Shakespeare and Martin Luther. Two very different men with two very different purposes in life. I've introduced both of them to my children in our study of the Renaissance & Reformation. They are our read-alouds for this unit.

Leonardo DiVinci, John Bunyan, and Johann Gutenburg - these are the men my children are reading about on their own during this unit. Each is reading a different biography and they will inform the rest of us on their character in a report they will read during our end of unit celebration.

Have I ever mention how much I love unit studies?!:)

Monday, June 1, 2009

The New Bible

So, we were at a used curriculum sale the other night and my daughter's were frequenting the ever-popular "free table." My 8 year old came back to me very excited.

"Mom, I've needed a new Bible and this was on the free table!!"

I looked at the compact-sized Bible and read the front: New American Bible.

Hmm...New. American. Bible. Yep, everything she was looking for.

Well, sort of.

For those of you who don't know, we are KJV-only users. Not only was this Bible not KJV, it wasn't even our "religion."

She found the Catholic Bible. On the free table. Macabees, Judith, the works.

So, what would you do? I must admit, I originally explained to her what it was and sent her to put it back on the table.

Then, I called her back. We're keeping it.

Why? What better education than to actually see the holy book of another's religion? What better way to really learn the differences in our beliefs than to have it right in front of you? We are firm believers in preparing our children to have an answer for every man and this is a great way to help them.

I must say, that "Bible" may have been the best find at the sale!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


We're studying the Renaissance and are getting a bit of a European tour in the process. We are loving it - especially trying some of the yummy foods!

Today, we stopped over in Switzerland. I never knew that Fondu originated in that European country. The word fondu apparently comes from a French verb meaning "to melt." Usually, as they are a big dairy country, cheese is the melted delicacy of choice. However, they are known for another favorite food group...


So, guess what our afternoon project was. Oh yeah!!! Chocolate/peanut butter fondu in which we dipped and smothered strawberries, bananas, and marshmallows.

Can you say "OUTSTANDING"?!!!

The best part - the kids won't be hungry for supper meaning I can get away with serving left-overs!:)

Oh - in case you want the recipe:

6 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. milk
1/2 C. peanut butter

Mix chocoate, sugar, and milk and microwave until chocolate melts (watch carefully so chocolate doesn't burn). Add the peanut butter and blend. Pour into fondu pot. Skewer fruits, etc., dip, and enjoy!!

Next stop - France. I see dessert crepes in the menu!

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Quick Summary of the Last Couple of Months!

It's been forever!! No we haven't decided to send our kids to public school. Or private, for that matter. Though, we've thought about it at times.:)

We've just been crazy busy. And having fun.

We finished Rome ages ago and completed the Middle Ages a couple of weeks ago. LOVED our end of unit feast. We ate roast chicken, rolls, salad with herbs and fruit tarts. YUM!! We were entertained by minstrels, jesters, a couple of miracle plays, and the readings of poems and essays done throughout the unit.

Can I just say how I LOVE my husband for his participation in our craziness? These feasts are a ton of work, but we both agreed that our kids learn so much from the "doing" part of school. Eric is a huge encourager and it helps the children look forward to surprising daddy with all of our festivities.

We are now studying The Renaissance & the Reformation. I am looking forward to giving my children a closer look at some of the true heroes of the faith. We are studying astronomy for science and we are all looking forward to a visit to the planetarium & science museum in a couple of weeks.

The food is awesome in this unit. We learned about Italy last week and enjoyed a wonderful Italian meal. Not to mention we discussed that sardines were first caught off the coast of Sardinia - so, of course we had a bit of a treat that day as we delved into a can of sardines. YUM! (well, the kids loved it, anyway). That same day, we discussed the Milky Way in science. What better way to make it memorable than by washing those sardines down with Milky Way bars?

Today, we studied Germany. Dinner was bratwurst, sauerkraut, potatoes, salad, and a delicious Black Forest Cake for dessert. Who knew that Germany has the Black Forest region which is known for its cherries? I love that I am learning right along with my kids!

On top of all this fun school at home, we have been busy with our homeschool co-op. This was our first year and we've loved it! Our last day of classes is this Thursday and it will be followed by a curriculum fair and a presentation about our co-op. We are very much looking forward to that.

I have also been taking kids to the library for book discussion groups 3 Thursdays/month. The girls go to an American Girls group while Mike, Katrina, and Seth go to groups appropriate for their age groups. We have loved being a part of these groups.

FYI - I do preview the books my kids are assigned before they read. This month, I have had to turn down 2 of the books. The wonderful thing is, the kids are still allowed to take part in the group. Their part of the discussion is just why they didn't read the book. I hope they don't just say, "because my mom wouldn't let me." They have an opportunity to be a witness. Please pray that they will politely tell the truth with conviction. What a great education!

It is late and this mom has much more to do. So glad to stopped by. I hope to talk with you again real soon!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Volcano Dessert!

Yes, we're still learning about Rome - almost finished, actually. It has been quite interesting seeing how the Roman Empire parallels the history of the United States.

But, this post is not meant to make you lose your appetite, but whet it!

Our science for this unit has been geology - focusing on the 3 categories of rocks and then on to earthquakes and volcanoes. What's the connection to Rome? The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79 occurred during the Roman empire in Pompeii.

Of course, we did the age-old volcano eruption using baking soda and vinegar, but my favorite project is our volcano sundae! Be warned - the picture doesn't do it justice!

I'm telling you, one of the best things of Learning Adventures are the awesome recipes we get to try! This Volcano is made with 1/2 gallon vanilla ice-cream, 1 C. peanut butter, 1 C. chocolate chips. You mix in your mixer and then pour it into a graham cracker pie crust. As the ice cream is softened, you mold it into a volcanic shape (I had my children do this all by themselves - hence, the charming imperfection). After you finish sculpting, put it in the freezer for a couple of hours or until dinner. Then, take it out, form a crater in the top and pour hot fudge into the crater, until the "lava" begins to flow down the mountain. A mixture of powdered sugar & chocolate milk powder dusted over it makes the appearance of ash! Add a few volcanic bombs (chocolate chips) and dig in!!! YUM!!!

WARNING: By the time you finish this delicious dessert, your stomach will feel like it's about to erupt!:)

You can make this dessert without creating the volcanic shape, etc - just in pie form. This way, your guests won't think you've totally lost your mind!

Hope you enjoyed a glimpse into our science class and wishing you all a wonderful school day!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Olympic Festivities

This was the day of our Ancient Greek Finale! What a wonderful few weeks it has been studying Greek culture, myths, history, people, along with the human body (for science). There is SO much more to learn in these areas - which is part of the beauty of unit studies. We walk away knowing so much more than we used to but realizing there is so much more knowledge to gain. We have just whet our children's appetites for more.

Today, the children held the Olympic Games at Mount Olympia. Well, the Mount looked much like our hay barn, but with imagination we were champions at the place of champions! I read through the names of the participants, the athletes repeated the Olympic pledge (they each wrote one and voted on the best pledge to repeat), and I began each event with the trumpet fanfare (otherwise known as the screeching of a recorder). Races were run, ropes were jumped and tugged, relays were...relayed. Fingers and feet were frozen, but all walked away winners.

The Olympic banquet consisted of Greek pizza (pitas topped with ricotta & feta cheeses, spinach, tomatoes, & olives), Greek tortellini salad (tortellini marinated in red wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, & salt and mixed with fresh spinach, red onion, and feta cheese), and, for dessert, Greek lemon cake. A very different meal, but one that most of us enjoyed. Best of all, it was a huge success with my husband!

Once we cleaned up from the banquet, the children presented the play they wrote together based on the fable, "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." It was quite good and it's always fun to see them successfully work together. I never enjoyed doing skits or family plays, but our children seem to live for it!

Then came the awards ceremony. I presented the medals for each race, always beginning with the bronze and ending with the gold. Of course, the gold medalist stood on a stool between the other two medal winners.

We then had a group recitation of Psalm 139:1-15. There are 24 verses in the chapter, but we had a rough time with a couple different verses. It is our goal to have the entire chapter memorized soon.

We topped the evening off with a reading that concluded Book 3 of Mary Pope Osborne's "Tales From the Okyssey" entitled "Sirens and Sea Monsters." This is an abridged version of Homer's Illiad & Odyssey written for children. It has been a great evening read aloud for the family and we will begin book 4 as soon as we can check it out of our library!

I am actually sad to say good-bye to the ancient civilization of Greece, but I anticipate a great adventure beginning next week in Ancient Rome!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Raising Story-tellers

This evening, my 3 year old daughter wanted me to read her a story. In fact, her favorite phrase lately has been, "Read me a story, Mommy." My "favorite" phrase is, "Later, honey." However, even though I don't drop everything and run to read to Gloria whenever she requests a story, I do spend a lot of time reading to this little girl.

Tonight I was too tired to read. So, I took the "easy" way out and made up a story. Of course, the main character's name was Gloria. It was a silly story involving flowers, birds, toads, and jungles but she was entranced. A few more of my children gathered around to listen, as well.

When I finished, Gloria and my 6 year old daughter both wanted to try telling a story. Theirs were even more silly than mine, but I enjoyed listening to the girls develop their creativity. It's hard to make sense of a 3 year old's story, but, with time and practice (if allowed) she will become a great story-teller.

Much better than her mother.