Reading Week Roundup

Reading Week Roundup at And the Kitchen Sink!

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Time to Move…

Not houses this time, fortunately.  Just blogs.

From now on I’ll be blogging at And the Kitchen Sink
No, it’s not a kitchen blog.  Instead it’s an “everything”
blog.  Everything AND the kitchen sink? Because I am going to write
about food.  Not just about food, though.

You can read about some of my reasons for starting a new blog in the post At My Kitchen Sink

I have also declared this week a Reading Week.

I’ll continue to link new posts here for a while, and eventually I’ll
be trying to import all my Three Plus Two posts to a new Three Plus Two
on Blogger.  In the meantime, this blog isn’t going anywhere, so
if you’re coming here looking for a specific post, it will still be

And a note about link sharing and curated content… After reading Lissa’s post on link-sharing, I started using Diigo to share my links.  You can follow me on Diigo (I think) or you can see my links in the sidebar list on my new blog.  

Oh, and I’m also on Pinterest and Twitter.

Follow Me on Pinterest 

Follow AngelaBoord on Twitter 

Hope to see you at my new places!




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Plan It, Don’t Panic: Progress and Menu for Week 2


I’m participating in the Plan It, Don’t Panic! Meal Planning Challenge at Keeper of the Home.  This is Week 2.  If you’re curious, you can also read about my preparations and menu for week 1.

How did last week go?

The hardest part about this challenge seems to be… blogging it on Monday!

I have lots of ideas for blog posts that never make it to the
blog.  Sometimes (often) it’s due to lack of time, but sometimes…



It’s the lighting.

In real life, a Spanish omelet looks much yummier.  Much less… Dayglo.

(And I know what you’re thinking about this huge cooktop, because I
thought it, too, when I first saw the house. But the grill does not
work. I sometimes use it as a prep space by laying a cutting board
there. Back in 1980, though, this thing rocked!)

Anyway, having the menu plan helped keep me on track, but there was
still some unplanned pizza.  We were all sick with colds last
week, and one night every time I tried to make dinner the baby pulled
up on my leg and bit me.  He was not happy with his sisters or
brothers either.  So pizza it was.  I just readjusted the
plan and we had almond flour pancakes on Saturday instead of

I didn’t grind up any nuts and seeds for breakfast, and the
chocolate coconut bark was a complete flop.  I was trying to use
unsweetened chocolate and then sweeten the whole concoction with honey,
but it just wouldn’t combine.  We were left with a much too sweet
layer on the bottom and a bitter layer on top.  I tried stirring
my raspberry syrup in, but it didn’t help much.  None of that
seemed to matter to my 4 year old, however, as he came back for

The hardboiled eggs were lifesavers — mostly for me as snacks in the afternoon, especially on meatless days.

Menu Plan for Week 2


I’d like to have some grain-free breads made up this week to use for
breakfasts.  I also need to make yogurt. And I’ve had one request
for soaked oat porridge, which we’ll have on Weds.


Standard lunch fare.  Leftovers.  (On Monday I had a decent
salad made from leftover cold chicken sausages, romaine lettuce, and
tomatoes, dressed with oil and apple cider vinegar.  Simple, but

Monday: Chicken cacciatore over zucchini, green beans from the garden, fruit

(Ok, so the almond flour I used to coat the chicken pieces turned
mushy and my cast iron skillet was too small to hold everything, which
meant I couldn’t put it in the oven without it bubbling over onto the
oven floor.  My small wall oven has no vent and functions mainly as
a steam oven, so when anything bubbles over, even more steam comes out
the top of the door — yes, really.  In clouds.  I finished
cooking it on the stove.  It didn’t look anything like Ree’s, but
it sure tasted good! I’ll have to keep experimenting with the almond
flour. And ask for a cast iron dutch oven for Christmas.)

Tuesday: Crockpot Tacos/Taco salad (for me) using stew meat, with homemade fermented salsa, fruit

Wednesday: Butternut squash soup (enough to freeze
some)/almond flour zucchini bread (to be planned over for breakfast),
fruit… I’ll probably cook some breakfast sausage as a stir-in for the
soup, but I’ll freeze the “planned over” soup without it,

Thursday: Slow Cooker Coconut Curry Chicken (without the rice, using free-range chicken), salad, peas maybe, fruit

Friday: I’m sticking this in as our pizza night, because we are going to be cleaning for family on the weekend!

Saturday: Crockpot roast beef w/carrots and assorted veggies from the garden,  potatoes for my dad, fruit

Sunday: We have some important family events going on, so we’ll have a BBQ lunch with family and pick and snack leftovers for dinner




Posted in Achieving Organization, Food and Drink | Leave a comment

The Homeschooling Meme

Pam at Everyday Snapshots tagged me for the homeschooling meme that’s been going around, so here goes…


Well, I was going to put a photo of my homeschool book bookcase here
to point out the difficulty I might have with “one” book, but… I
couldn’t get the bookcase to fit in the frame! Actually, that’s probably
not as bad as it sounds, because it’s a tall skinny bookcase, and
there’s not a lot of room to maneuver in the little piece of hallway
where it resides, but still… I’ve collected a lot of books over the
past 10 years.  For instance, I have all 3 editions of The Well-Trained Mind.  Does that sound nutty? I use it mainly for the resources.

Since I have a hard time following directions, here is a list of some of my favorite homeschooling books:

A Little Way of Homeschooling

(I love this book.  It is like having a good friend at your
elbow telling you to relax, that it’s going to be okay, really.)

Better Than School: One Family’s Declaration of Independence  by Nancy Wallace

The Latin-Centered Curriculum by Andrew Campbell

Hard Times in Paradise  by the Colfaxes

How Children Fail   by John Holt

Homeschooling Our Children Unschooling Ourselves by Alison McKee

Pretty dang unschooly. With a little classical thrown in for good measure.


Er… one? Well… if I was stranded without all my stuff, what I
would absolutely want most would be a library card.  So I guess the
one resource I wouldn’t be without is ACCESS TO BOOKS, and lots of


Hmmm… Off the top of my head, I would say the IEW writing
curriculum.  I don’t know how I thought I could get past my deep
aversion to teaching “dress-ups.


Gee, that’s tough.  There were some good books last year, but I
think one of the “resources” we most enjoyed last year was the Lego unit I blogged about here.


Would that be this year maybe?  Because I can’t plan to the end of the week, much less know what we’ll be using next year!

A few resources from this year…

Discovering Moths: Nighttime Jewels in Your Own Backyard  

Rosetta Stone French and Japanese

Other Worlds: Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy

Fieldwork Marine Biology plans

Holling C. Holling books

Among the Night People

Seeing Is Achieving: Improve Your Child’s Chances For Success  

A really good voice teacher


Does anybody have a schoolroom/art studio/home library space for sale, cheap?


A schoolroom/art studio/home library space you could unfold and attach to your house.  Like the TARDIS — bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

(This sounds like a good excuse to stick in a Doctor Who Youtube montage.)


Actually, Doctor Who has led to some good discussions in our house,
so I guess it counts as one of my favorite resources, right? (Just smile
and nod; it’s easier that way.)


Sonlight (although I don’t like their new catalog as much as I liked the old format) … Emmanuel Books… Montessori Services… (I guess that’s technically not a homeschool catalog, but that’s what I use it for, so I think it counts.)

Ok, so — tag, you’re it!  If you haven’t already done the meme and you’d like to, consider yourself tagged!




Posted in Blogs I Like, Homeschooling | 2 Comments

Plan It, Don’t Panic: A Meal Planning Challenge

Keeper of the Home is hosting the “Plan It, Don’t Panic: Meal Planning Challenge”
for the next six weeks to give those of us who need it (ahem) some
accountability in the meal planning process.  Lately life has been
so busy that grocery shopping gets smushed into whatever time slot
happens to be available, and meal planning has been rudimentary. 
As a result, we’ve been eating way too much pizza, and I end up feeding the kids toast for breakfast every day
A low point happened at Costco two weeks ago when I bought a giant box
of packaged granola bars to feed the kids snacks in the van on the way
home.  Obviously they did not need 60 + granola bars to eat on the
way home, so they ended up gorging on them for breakfasts and snacks, at
which point it became apparent that my boys had eaten 60+ granola bars
in less than a week.  (Like — a lot less than a week.)  Granted, we were just coming home from vacation, but 60 granola bars??

I signed up with the Plan It, Don’t Panic Challenge as soon as I saw it.

Our vital stats:

  • Family of 9
  • 6 boys, ages 14-1
  • 1 nursing mom
  • grain-free diet (at least for some of us)

Since I know that people are curious about the grain-free diet, I
thought I would try to blog this challenge in a little more
detail.  I hope to post not only my meal plans, but what we (and
I, the most grain-free of our family) actually ate during the
week.  As usual, I’ll be keeping it real.  I like Mark
Sisson’s “Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good”  and 80 %  principles
when it comes to eating a grain-free/paleo/primal diet.  I am not
perfect.  I have 7 kids. Things are going to fall apart
sometimes.  They probably fall apart at your house, too.  But
that’s okay.  You don’t have to be a superhero to make changes in
the way you eat.

This what I’m hoping to accomplish with this challenge:

  •  Stop eating so much pizza for dinner just because I haven’t figured out dinner or managed any prep work.
  • Make better use of my (minimal) garden produce as well as the store produce
  • Start working in more grain-free breakfasts and lunches for the kids.
  • Make it a regular habit to have some real snacks on hand that are a
    change from the everyday fruit and cheese, which are starting to get a
    little boring. In addition, I need snacks that I can eat, with a bit of
    protein in the afternoon.
  • Start making my own yogurt and kefir again.
  • Keep the grocery budget at a decent level.  I’m not aiming for
    the lowest level, but I do want to keep a top on it by weeding out the
    impulse buys (like 60+ granola bars). 

 So how am I doing this first week?

Thursday night I sat down and got some coupons together.  I
don’t spend a lot of time couponing, and am probably one of the more
un-extreme couponers you’ll find, but I do find that coupons help us on
paper and cleaning products and our Whole Foods shopping
especially.  I wanted Andy to make a run to Whole Foods after work
on Friday, so I had to get everything together for him.  Our
standard Whole Foods run usually includes whole fat yogurt,
unhomogenized whole milk (not raw), good quality heavy cream (minus the
carageenen), and whatever organic fruit is on sale for a good
price.  We also stock up on free-range chicken and pastured butter
if we need any (we didn’t this week).  This week, in addition to
the dairy, Andy bought a little over 4.5 lbs of plums, some chocolate
for coconut bark, and got a deal on Clif bars by stacking some
manufacturers coupons with Whole Foods coupons.  (He’ll take the
Clif bars with him when he travels.  No, they aren’t grain-free.)

 On Friday night I watched the videos from the Cook More Real Food Challenge
(taking inventories of pantry, freezer, and fridge, and meal planning,
all of which are good), so I was ready to jump in Saturday morning as
long as Katydid and Andy helped by watching Leo, who was sick and
prefers to live outside these days.  (Fortunately, they came to my
rescue).  I finally got around to cleaning out the fridge, which I
have needed to do for a few weeks now.  We recently bought a
second fridge to store veggies and milk and cut down on trips to the
store, but the luxury of space brought with it a disturbing habit on
the part of all of us to disregard all former organizational rules for
using the fridge in the kitchen.

(There are some pictures of a seriously organized fridge and freezer in this post from I Heart Organizing.  My fridge does not look like that, but it’s a lot better.)

On Saturday afternoon, I finished up the grocery shopping at
Kroger.  (Sure seemed like they raised their prices again. 
Their “mega-event” didn’t seem so mega to me.)

Stuff in the fridge and freezer I’ll be using in my meal plan this week:

  • black bean salad (homemade)
  • romaine lettuce
  • carrots that are looking a little hairy
  • baby carrots in a giant bag from Costco (mainly for lunches)
  • shrimp stock (freezer)
  • chicken broth (freezer)
  • stew meat (from a side of beef, freezer)
  • gluten-free chicken sausages (from that Costco trip)
  • almond flour (which I buy in bulk from Honeyville Grains)
  • raspberry “syrup” — organic frozen raspberries from Costco that had
    thawed and refrozen into a giant block, cooked down with honey because I
    had to do something with 3 lbs of raspberries at once… a yummy and
    sugar-free topping for yogurt and pancakes

Snacks and sweet stuff for the week:

I have the Healthy Snacks to Go e-book
and am excited to try many of Katie’s ideas.  But… everybody in
the house (including me) is sick right now with a cold, so we’ll see how
much gets accomplished. 

Some simple ideas for this week:

  • hardboiled eggs
  • chicken broth (good for a cold!)
  • apples and bananas with peanut, almond, or sunbutter
  • applesauce rollups (from the Healthy Snacks book)
  • coconut bark (from Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals)

A Note on the Calendar:

Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday are Ember Days
in the Church.  We’ll be meatless for those days. Meatless and
grain-free can be difficult, especially when your family doesn’t like
beans or lentils.


I am not awake enough in the morning to cook.  What I am aiming
for this week is to grind up some nuts and seeds ahead of time in order
to make grain-free porridge, which
will be a nice change from my regular eggs.  (Our chickens are
only beginning to lay, so I’m still buying cage-free eggs from the
store.) Hopefully some of the kids will enjoy it, too.


My goal is to have leftovers.  With 6 boys, sometimes you plan
for leftovers and in spite of your best efforts, you realize what you
have left over is crumbs.  My own go-to lunch for days when there
are crumbs is a peanut or almond butter/coconut milk smoothie.   

In other words, I’m still working on lunch.  I’ll be getting up to speed on dinners first.




Sunday — Black bean soup (leftover black bean salad, stew meat from the freezer)

(I did make this and it turned out well, but the little boys
refused to eat it again for lunch on Monday and had cheese sandwiches

Monday — chicken wings with baby carrots, fruit, possibly some bleu cheese dip if I feel up to it

Tuesday shrimp bisque (I’ll be altering this recipe, since I don’t have cognac or sherry, and I won’t be adding flour) and salad

Wednesday (meatless) Spanish Omelet (I add some cheese to mine, and of course, I use more eggs!), roasted eggplant from the garden, fruit

Thursday  — gluten-free chicken sausages, green beans from the garden, fruit

Friday (meatless) — almond flour pancakes with raspberry “syrup”

Saturday (meatless) — cheese pizza out

Well!  I’m not sure how I spun a menu plan into such a long
post, but if you’re still with me, check out all the other menu planners
at Plan It, Don’t Panic! Week One !



Posted in Achieving Organization, Food and Drink, How many kids do you have anyway?, The joy of boys | 1 Comment

Labor Day Week

 As our year goes on, we are settling more and more
into the “relaxed” mode which seems to fit our family pretty well. 
A case in point is the last two weeks.  We had many committments,
Andy had to be out of town, and then we wanted to make a Labor Day visit
to see Grandma and Grandpa.  While I could have seen this as a
“break” and gotten frustrated at not being able to accomplish what I had
planned, instead I viewed it as a less academic period and we got
everything packed, social occasions were attended to, and Katydid taught
a few of our friends how to take care of the chickens while we were
gone.  When we came home, we had time to gear back up, go grocery
shopping, and help another homeschooling family move back into area
(from Alaska!)

Building train tracks at Grandma’s house

So this was not really “a break”.  It was a time simply less
bookwork-focused.  And we managed, as a family, to listen to The Magician’s Nephew, part of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and part of the Focus on the Family dramatization of The Screwtape Letters as well. (Gareth also managed some personal study of the Teaching Company’s Story of Language course, and listened with his father to a CD from The Story of Philosophy, which is what Andy is listening to on his commute these days.)

A budding musician?

Other activities from the past week or so:

  • Mass, Confession, and a class on the Latin Mass with our homeschool group, followed by lunch and play afterwards
  • Voice lessons for Katydid.  She started these in August and loves them. We’re both very happy with her teacher.
  • Volunteering at an animal shelter for an afternoon with Katydid,
    Farmerboy, and a large group of kids.  We walked and bathed dogs.
    Some of the parents cleaned kennels.  On the way home, we had an
    interesting discussion about animals and theology, and whether we could
    put an animal shelter in our barn.  (Ummm… probably not. 
    Although we are currently a halfway house for our neighbor’s escaped
    bunnies, of which they have many.  Their escapees hang out with our
    chickens.  One of them, a big black rabbit, has been christened
    “Midnight Ninja”.  I’m sure the way he lounges around eating
    chicken feed and halfheartedly hopping out of your way is just a clever

Yes, that is a little green tree frog in our coat closet.

A little serendipity, too… When we were visiting the grandparents,
we went to Mass at the little church where I grew up.  The regular
priest did not say Mass; instead, a Benedictine monk from St. Bernard Abbey
in Cullman, Alabama said Mass.  Everyone was very impressed with
his homily (although I did not hear it myself, since I was walking
around outside with a baby).  Later that week, after we were home
again, Andy was watching Life on the Rock
on EWTN with Gareth when we all suddenly realized that they were
featuring the same monks on their show!  And one of the brothers
who appeared as a guest was the very priest who had said Mass in our
little church on Sunday.  It turns out that he is the vocations
director for the abbey.

So… hmmm… what are the odds?


Posted in Faith, Learning in Review 2011-12, Unschoolers in Disguise? | 2 Comments

Seven Quick Takes – Gardens and Floods


I have declared war on crepe myrtles.  I know they probably don’t deserve it, but I have this thing about plants that everybody has.  And down here, everybody has
crepe myrtles.  It’s like monoculture landscaping, and it can’t be
good for the bees.  Anyway, the thing about crepe myrtles is that
if they are sufficiently ignored for long enough, they will create many,
many volunteer trees, most of them in places they have no business
growing.  And the other thing about crepe myrtles is that many
people regard them as bushes and plant them accordingly, smack up next
to the house in the front flower bed.  But the crepe myrtle is a tree, and if you ignore it (sufficiently), it will turn into a tree,
and there goes your gutter.  Our neighbor has a gorgeous, huge
crepe myrtle in her front yard, but most crepe myrtles are never given
that amount of space or time.  Instead, they’re planted in the
wrong places and then cruelly topped.  All of which is to say that I
spent a beautiful late summer day wielding a pair of giant pruning
shears against dozens of juvenile crepe myrtles growing in every single
landscaped bed we have.  I even bravely made a start on the two
trees in the front of the house that make eerie, creaky noises against
the gutters when the wind blows.  Those, I’m afraid, will require a


I’m working on crepe myrtles because my garden is defunct.  When
we came home from visiting my parents Labor Day weekend, one of my bean
towers was blown over and the other was leaning drunkenly.  It’s
not like I got a lot of beans out of them anyway.  Time now to get
another load of dirt for the raised beds and plant some fall crops, like
lettuce and kale.


The blackberry bushes are bearing nicely, especially considering that
this is their first year.  I love blackberries.  I often
wonder about our big blackberry bush in the garden in New York. 
Hurricane Irene devestated Schoharie County,
but our old house was not in the way of the worst floodwaters. 
Still, I wonder, did all the water coming down that hill demolish the
orchard? What about the blackberry bush?

This is the risk of planting things.  A piece of you stays in the ground, too.


Which is to say, we have been horrified by the news coming out of
upstate New York.  Some of Andy’s coworkers lost their homes. 
The towns that formed the place we called home for 5 years are some of
them completely obliterated.  It’s all very surreal when you’re
this far away and friends send you photos and videos.  You just
thank God that there was no loss of human life.


Because I am a worrier, I wondered what Tropical Storm Lee would do
if it dumped 10 inches of rain on my parents’ house.  If the power
went out, would we have enough food to feed our big family? Was there
enough Chunky Soup in the pantry?

These are the things that will keep you up at 3 AM when you’re trying
to sleep in the 6 inches of space left on the bed beside the baby.

Fortunately for us, the rain and wind weren’t that bad, although it
was cold for the second week in September — unheard of cold! 60 degrees
and raining! — and a dead tree did fall across the sidewalk. Of course
they had to evacuate again in upstate New York. 

On our way home, we drove out of the rain into sunshine.  The
rain gauge in our front flower bed held less than a half inch of
rain.  The azaelas in back look wilty and parched in spite of the
cooler weather.

And the wildfires in Texas… good night. My dad says this is how
they make averages: floods and droughts cancel each other out. 


Well, this didn’t start out as the natural disaster Seven Quick
Takes, but I guess it’s been on my mind.  I went to Costco the day
after we got back and stocked up on some things we were out of, or
almost out of: canned salmon, olive oil, paprika.  (I guess
sometimes I use a lot of paprika.)  They had tortellini, which I
should have bought more of in case they don’t have any when I go back,
and I also saw organic strawberry spread, which I haven’t seen in a
year.  So I bought 3 jars.  If we were to have to eat out of
the pantry now, our meals would consist of nut and seed butters, salmon,
canned beans, tomatoes, pineapple, Goldfish crackers, and strawberry


In case you’re wondering, I am still eating grain-free as much as
possible.  In a little over a year, I’ve lost about 50
pounds.  20 pounds was cheating because it was baby weight, but 30
pounds was baby weight x the 6 previous babies.  I am getting to
the point where I have been forced to buy new clothes.  I miss
bread and my corn allergy annoys the heck out of me because I can’t eat
corn on the cob or Chinese food at a restaurant because there’s
cornstarch in the sauces, but otherwise, I’m ok eating this way. 
My kids, however, are not.  Having enough meat on hand to fill them
up with a grain-free dinner is a real problem, especially considering
that my 14 month old has begun eating the same amount as the 4 year old
or the 5 year olds.  That said, I saw a lot of benefits to the kids
with grain-reduced eating, and I want to reduce the grains they’re
eating again, but I can’t seem to stop feeding them toast for breakfast.


Posted in Daily Life, Food and Drink, Gardening | 3 Comments

When you don’t check your blog for a while…

… weird things happen.  My blogbar module was apparently
linking to its homepage when my blog had partially loaded.   I
have no clue why it was happening, but I have removed the offending
widget and everything seems to be working again.

Apologies to anyone who was trying to view the blog!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

This Week


A cicada emerges from its exoskeleton.  Photo by Katydid.

This week we had a few “cool” days (in the 80’s) so we spent more
time outside.  The twins and Chipmunk fought ants and caught
caterpillars.  One of the caterpillars they caught may have been a
cabbage white caterpillar, and they spent an entire morning counting and
pooling their money so they could buy cabbage to feed it.  Alas,
the poor creature was “wounded” (or so I was told) and did not survive
the day.  Katydid surreptitiously dumped it outside.  The boys
were again focused on their ongoing battle with the billions of ants
that populate our yard anyway.


Farmerboy tamed chickens.  I think the one he’s holding may be
named Domino.  She’s a Dominque, a breed we remain partial to
because they’re like cats, only more useful. The chicken heading into
the hole in the stall door is a Salmon Falverole affectionately known as
“Runt”.  As a chick she developed a lot later than the other
birds, so much so that we thought there was something wrong with her and
that we might have to cull her.  Instead we fed her
vitamins.  She survived a dog attack and is now one of the chickens
with the most interesting personality. 

(If you don’t have chickens, you might not realize that they can have interesting personalities.  But some of them do.

Also, did you remember that our barn used to be a weird sort of mauve
and tan color? Probably not, considering how little I’ve posted in the
past year.  If you don’t remember the weird mauve color it used to
be, you won’t know how much improved the green is.  Just trust me.)


FB also spent a considerable amount of time working on a Lego coral reef.  We finished reading Pagoo last week and this week we moved on to One Small Square: Coral Reef,
mostly because it came in the mail finally and because when I looked
inside, the word LEGO jumped out at me.  I’d ordered it from
Winterpromise a long time ago, along with some other books, including Atlas of World History
The other books came, but the Atlas and the One Small Square book did
not.  For over a month.  (I was reading a blog post the other
day in which the writer and various commenters led me to believe that
this situation was not uncommon with Winterpromise.)  Anyway, at
least it was a nice surprise to open a box with interesting books in it
that I wasn’t really expecting.  Coral Reef suggests using
Legos to build corals, and of course that was all the encouragement FB
needed.  Here you see staghorn coral being feasted upon by a Crown
of Thorns Starfish, while a giant clam resides nearby, hiding a
pearl.  Katydid told him clams didn’t make pearls, but that didn’t
really seem to deter him.  I think he’s claiming artistic license
on this one.

Another interesting coral reef book from this week:  

It’s all about the Great Barrier Reef.  And he watched this National Geographic Great Barrier Reef video
And a bunch of the other videos on the same page, too.  And now I
have heard that he wants to be a diver.  Which means he’ll be
wanting more swimming lessons, I guess.

It was a marine biology week for Katydid (age 12/7th-ish grade now)
as well.  She seems to naturally concentrate on one subject for a
while, then move on to the next one.  Over the course of a year, if
left largely to her own devices, she usually acquires a pretty
well-rounded education.  But if you looked at it on the level of
the week, you might not see that.  This week was one of those
weeks.  It seemed like every time I saw her working, she was
working on marine biology.  She and FB played some of these BBC Sea Life games in addition to the work she did using Seaside Naturalist: A Guide to Study at the Seashore.  She told me she “accidentally” wrote a report while she was trying to take notes. 

Gareth works in a similar fashion, except intensified by several
degrees.  This week was all about geography for him, considering
that we got that new atlas and he’s reading Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies , and writing and science fiction.  He and Katydid are working on the Other Worlds curriculum together.  He’s also moving at a good pace through Jacobs Geometry with the aid of the Ask. Dr. Callahan DVDs and syllabus
I must say that this is a relief to both of us after all the wrestling
with algebra. This week was a further focus on deductive proof.


The younger boys had a “math morning” this week… I think it was
Thursday, when it stormed all morning.  It wasn’t planned; math was
just what they wanted to work on. I do try to work on math daily with
the K-3 set, but a) that’s not usually a problem with Pop, who will tell
you that he has a “math brain” and b) Thursday morning they just wanted
to keep going with various mathematical activities.



I put out some pattern squares on the table.  I made a
flower.  Nobody could guess what it was.  (Pop: “A satellite?
Radar?”) FB sat down and immediately put all the squares in a battle
array and then informed his brothers of the rules to the game, if they
should wish to play.  Of course they did, and of course they
immediately protested that it wasn’t fair because FB had all the
soldiers. So… we spent some time figuring out how many soldiers FB
actually had (beginning multiplication, multi-digit addition,
regrouping, then division when he split them up).  I only had to
break up a few fist fights before we were finished.



We are doing lots of schooly stuff every day, but it is still summer
time.  My garden this summer has become an abysmal failure — well,
“abysmal” may be a little strong, but it’s a tempting word to use when
squash bugs destroy half of everything you planted and even your green
beans don’t really bear.  Anyway, there are several Bartlett pear
trees in our neighborhood, and they’re getting ripe this time of year,
and today one of our neighbors was cutting grass for another neighbor,
who has a tree loaded with pears but doesn’t use them, and he said we
could have the pears if the kids would come get them.  So I sent
the three oldest over with the cooler on wheels, and even though one
cooler full was probably enough, our neighbor said the kids should dump
their load and come back for more.  I’m not sure how much this is
— a bushel and a half? Two bushels? Or what I’m going to do with them
either, considering that Bartlett pears tend to be hard as rocks. 
But I figure they might be good for preserves or pear butter.


Linking up!

Weekly Wrap Up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers








Posted in Homeschooling, Homestead, Learning in Review 2011-12, Math, Science | 3 Comments

A Day in Our New Year


Some of the books we used on the day I’m blogging about.

 I’ve wanted to talk about our new year for a while now.  I
keep track of school years from July 1-June 30.  That was the way
Missouri (where we began homeschooling) defined a school year for
documentation purposes, and I have just never changed how I think about
it.  This year I am trying to recover from a very chaotic year in
which I suffered a lot of burnout.  I’m trying to go back to the
roots of how we used to do things, which means lots of books and
unschooliness.  In a book on homeschool transcripts I browsed
through recently there was a chapter for “Unschoolers and the
Chronically Relaxed.”  I thought, “Hey, that’s us — chronically
relaxed!” But I have to tell you, being chronically relaxed is very hard
work!  When there aren’t as many divisions between learning and
life, there isn’t ever a time when you’re really “done with
school.”  Paradoxically, though, when we work this way I feel much
less uptight.  If the boys don’t work in a phonics workbook before
lunch, it’s ok; they can read to me before they go to bed.  If the
big kids become absorbed in writing their novels and ignore reading
history or science or whatever, it’s more than ok; I’m overjoyed. 
Let them write; they’ll pick up the reading later.  I just put some
newspaper articles on the couch where my 14 year old likes to read; I
know he’ll read them and we’ll talk about them after dinner.  Maybe
we’ll watch some science tonight, who knows.

It’s been a rocky process, coming back to this.  I’ve been
working on a post for a couple of weeks in which I try to talk about
this process of figuring out that while I have a few guideposts, I can’t
really divide up our year or our lives in the traditional way. 
But I haven’t been satisfied with that post, and I thought, well, maybe I
could just show you a day in this new year.  I don’t know if
anyone really enjoys reading about my days, but I do enjoy writing

 Wednesday, August 3

6:30 AM: My day starts a little later than it did
yesterday, when I was awakened at 4:30 AM by Pip crying that his leg
hurt.  Assuming that he was merely feeling the pins and needles of
his leg falling asleep, I packed him off to the bathroom and then back
to bed.  By dinnertime, it had become completely clear that not
only was it not pins and needles, it was something that needed medical
expertise.  So we spent part of our evening at urgent care
discovering that apparently Pip had dislocated his knee somehow
(not playing scooter demolition derby, of course) and although it had
popped back into place on its own, the joint remained swollen and
painful.  I was worried that he wouldn’t be able to sleep, and
therefore — considering that Andy was out of town — I would be up with
him all night, but no, it was the baby who was up every hour
instead.  I nurse the baby now and put him back down, hoping he’ll
go back to sleep so I can have a couple of minutes to myself before the
little boys get up.

6:50 AM: No chance. Someone has left a Duplo train
right outside my door, which makes a really loud noise when I step on
it.  The little boys are instantly awake.  The good news is
that Pip’s knee isn’t quite as bad this morning.  He manages to
limp out to the kitchen on his own. The other boys head upstairs to
build Legos, so I carry Pip up there with them.

(The upstairs room is a disaster, but I am willfully ignoring it for
the time being.  A) It’s 7 AM; B)I have not yet had any coffee and
C)I’m trying to recover from a year of burnout.  Things are not
efficient around here and I am ok with that right now. We will do a
better job in time.)

While they’re playing with Legos and the baby is miraculously still
sleeping, I write in the spiral notebook that serves as our homeschool
log, catching up on the past two days.

And I make coffee.

9:30 AM-ish: Everyone (even the teenagers) is up
now, has eaten, and the little boys have also played outside and watched
a Magic School Bus episode (on flight).  I’ve managed a shower and
Katydid has fed and watered the chickens and ducks. We say our prayers,
adding the prayer to St. Michael, which we’re memorizing, and ending up
— from a question Farmerboy asks about St. Sebastian — in an
interesting theological discussion about martyrdom, Islam, terrorism,
the persecution of Christians, and just wars.

10:15 AM: Ok, chore time. I’ve been trying to read from The Golden Children’s Bible after
prayers, but we had a good discussion and the little ones are antsy, so
it’s chore time.  And Leo (the baby) is cranky, so I sit down to
nurse him and to read through this list of basic science fiction books.
Gareth spends most of the day reading.  I’d become concerned that
he only spent a minimum of time reading and working on what I thought he
ought to be working on, only to escape upstairs to the books and work
(his writing) that he really wanted to be doing.  So, ok,
we’re making a list of classic SFF novels and I’m giving him a reading
journal.  I have to sort through the list, though, because
obviously not all of them are appropriate for 14 year olds!

11:00 AM: Math with Farmerboy, with Pip contributing from the couch, and Pop listening in.  I’m trialing Saxon 3, with
modifications.  I have him do one of the worksheets, which counts
as a little bit of language arts, too — writing dates and days of the
week.  I think we’ll be skipping some of these lessons,
though.  We didn’t do a lot of math last year, and I thought Saxon
might give us the structure to fill in the gaps along with some living
math books and our Montessori activities, and I thought FB would enjoy
the “meeting” aspect. FB runs outside to check the temperature for our
chart; it’s 96 degrees already.   He wants to keep counting by
10’s; he made it to 1000 yesterday, but today we have to do a little
review of place value to write 1010.  I make a place value chart
for him since our base 10 blocks aren’t handy, and in the process I draw
a thousand cube.  FB is fascinated by the way it looks 3-D and
demands to know how I did it.  So instead of doing the graph Saxon
says we ought to be doing for this lesson, we draw cubes and cones and
prisms, and try to fiure out how to make an S look 3-D.

11:30 ish: The boys want to read Pagoo,
which we started because we’ve been thinking about taking a Gulf of
Mexico vacation.  While I read on the couch, the twins and Chipmunk
sit at the table and draw ocean pictures.  Pop is concerned to get
the correct number of legs on his lobster, so I give him The Usborne Illustrated Encyclopedia: The Natural World and he finds a picture to draw from.  FB says, “I love barnacles.” 

12:00 or so: Break to clear the table and make
lunch. The little boys start playing a game of “lobsters attack the
hermit crab” using laundry baskets.

You’ll note the hand poking out of the laundry basket?

I check in with the big kids about their mornings.  Gareth has
spent the entire morning working on the novel he’s writing as his One Year Adventure Novel
(which is actually taking a lot longer than a year, but who’s
counting).  Katydid did some Rosetta Stone French, but mostly she,
too, has been working on her novel.  They both tell me the same
thing: “How do people write 30 page first chapters?  How do they
write enough pages to make a novel?”  I just laugh. One page at a
time, kiddos.

A couple of books arrive via UPS at lunch time:The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan (for me and anyone else who’s interested) and Paul Johnson’s A History of the American People (for Andy and anyone else who’s interested.) I try to steal a few minutes book browsing and checking my email.

1:30 PM: Time to gather in the little boys to read
before quiet time.  Katydid has been singing in her room. 
Gareth has been reading… something. The Goose Girl ,
I think.   Nobody wants to go outside today, which is good for
Pip, who can’t in any case.  FB informs me that it is 100
degrees.  He’s been upstairs building with Legos and listening to a
Hank the Cowdogbook on audio.

I read one chapter from This Country of Ours
We’re reading about Columbus.  And this is August 3, the
anniversary of the day that Columbus set out from Spain!
Excitement!  FB says we should have a party.  With cake. 
I’m not sure I can pull off cake today. But it’s a good idea.

2:00 PM: It takes a while to get Leo and Chipmunk to
actually take a nap. Actually, only Chipmunk really takes a nap. 
Leo just keeps popping up, so I’m not able to do much with the big kids
and I can’t settle into a book while I’m rocking him either, which is
frustrating, but I’m not sure it has entirely to do with Leo. 
Katydid works on her math (Life of Fred: Fractions) and Lingua Mater, reads Bernd Heinrich’s  Summer World (I am a Bernd Heinrich fan) and also Fellowship of the Ring. Then she works on marine biology using the weekly plans from Fieldwork, Theresa’s
marine biology blog.  This looks pretty schooly, but most of it
she chose. I made some “weekly guideline” charts this year, but I am
trying hard not to think of them as hard and fast requirements. 
They’re mainly to provide the structure that is sometimes necessary to
remember that you really wanted to learn French, for instance, and that
you probably need to do that every day.

Gareth spends a long time doing Geometry (Jacobs), then sits on the couch reading The Andromeda Strain
He didn’t make it all the way through Algebra last year, but by the end
of the year I was concerned that what he was learning most was how to
hate math.  So we stopped and I poked around the Living Math site and we decided that it was probably okay to take a break from algebra and work on geometry instead, and here we are.

At this point, however, I am a tad frustrated with the way naptime
has gone and unfortunately this frustration comes out as an “Is that all
you’re going to do today?” lecture because I have forgotten that I am
relaxing.  It would have been so much more productive to have a
discussion about The Andromeda Strain, but this doesn’t hit me until later. 

It also happens to be 104 degrees.  I check the thermometer when
I give up trying to get the baby back to sleep and take him out to get
the mail.  Katydid, however, has been taking pictures outside.

All the birds are panting it’s so hot, says Katydid.

And somewhere in there the little boys watch some episodes from Jonathan Bird’s Blue World, upon which they are hooked.

5:00 PM Time to make dinner.  I pick up where I
left off yesterday before we went to urgent care — making zucchini
bread.  Chipmunk helps.


It’s grain-free.  I make it from a recipe in The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook.
We have chicken sausages for dinner, and the kids get to eat in front
of the TV.  (Because I’m tired. They watch a DVRed episode of Iron
Chef: “Battle Cucumber!”)  Then we do after dinner chores, and the
kids all mess around for a while, and Gareth and Katydid pick up the
articles from the weekend Wall Street Journal that I left on
the couch (about “unwriting” and why fantasy fiction deserves more
respect, and whether or not the Easter Islanders really committed
“ecocide”) and we have some discussion about that.

8:00 PM: It’s 99 degrees.  Andy texts me that he’s in Atlanta.  Almost home.

8:30 PM: We’re getting ready for bed.  FB and the twins choose readers to read to me. FB reads part of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  His reading is improving, just slowly.  I found Writing Road to Reading in
a box I was unpacking in the spring, and so we’re using the word lists
and reviewing the phonograms.  Andy usually gets the phonogram
flashcards out at bedtime every night, and before he reads their bedtime
story, he calls out phonograms and the boys fire back words that start
with them.  This sounds like a classroom, except that the boys are
all in bed (or in their sleeping bags) and they think it’s a lot of
fun.  I don’t do this tonight, though.  Tonight the boys read
to me on the couch in their pajamas, and then Katydid reads The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor
to them while I put on my pajamas, and then we pray and have a little
theological discussion about whether saints help you themselves or if
they have to go get Jesus so He can help, and after that I am required to sing “Away in a Manger”.

9:30 PM: The house is finally quiet and I am nursing
Leo to sleep.  The big kids are still up, of course, reading,
taking showers, etc.  I read my Bible, and then I work on this post
a while before Andy gets home around 11. 

So that’s how our year is starting out.  Some of it’s planned and a lot of it isn’t, but it seems to be shaping up okay.






Posted in A Day at Our House, Learning in Review 2011-12 | 7 Comments